Nonsense At Work

Posts by Chief Nonsense Officer

#941: You don’t have to like it to love it

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meeting1Who is the teacher – the parent or the child? The answer is obvious, until you become a parent. Then you enter the gray zone, and not only from a lack of sleep.

Can you love someone without liking them? The answer is also obvious, until your children turn into teenagers. Love, yes, but like? Sometimes that’s asking too much.

That is when you finally understand why religions and philosophies urge you to love your neighbor instead of merely asking you to like your neighbor.

At places I have worked, I had not always liked every colleague, but I often loved what we were as a team.

Today I find myself not really liking some of my fellow citizens, based on their politics. But I am now wise enough to know that liking matters little as long as I can still love who we are collectively. And what we teach and learn together.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.
© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#940: It is safer to stretch slightly higher at goals further out

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accuracyMy son made me watch Viking movies. The gory fight scenes reminded me of something that I learned as a kid, but have failed to act on as an adult.

No, not the fighting, but the aiming higher.

Vikings liked close-up ax combat, but Anglo-Saxons preferred to shoot arrows from a safe distance. Here’s the bit that I forgot, even though kiddie-me played with a bow and arrows. Archers don’t aim at the target. They aim above it. The further away, the higher they aim; the further away, the more they stretch the bow.

Silly me. I have been aiming too low to hit my far-out goals. And when frustrated, I have chosen targets too close to make an impact.

From now on, I think I’ll play it safe. I’ll aim slightly higher at goals further out, even if it means a bit more stretching. Else my up-close goals will be axed again.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.

© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#939: We hide behind assessments to stop our authentic selves surfacing at work

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assessmentHave you ever wondered why many of your employees behave like brats at work, but as functioning adults at other times? Blame it on personality assessments, those ridiculously simplistic questionnaires much loved by many teachers, consultants, coaches and lazy managers.

These assessments give theoretical explanations, and thus practical excuses, for weird behavior. In other words, assessments give us permission to hide our authentic adult selves.

Even worse, assessments trick you into believing that you now actually know and understand us. And then, when we make the very human mistake of not behaving according to the type you have been expecting, you get angry with us.

Job descriptions already confine employee contributions to particular boxes. Don’t compound the error by restricting individuality to the meanest label. Unless, of course, you do actually employ robots to produce what has no soul.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.
© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#938: Getting fired began with Adam and Eve, but still hurts

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FiredI have joined a select club. Those fired by email. Even though it was only from a local radio station who, after 10 years, no longer wanted my twice-weekly radio pieces, it hurt.

People have been let go ever since Adam and Eve were kicked out of that garden, so why the hurt? Because they said goodbye before I did. It’s like that girl who broke my heart because she broke up with me before I could break up with her. Goodbye only hurts when we are not ready to go.

Breaking up happens for three reasons. She no longer needed me, I upset her, or a better hunk rode into town.

Unlike that girl, managers won’t tell you that they have found someone better. It’s too uncomfortable. And why should they? Job restructuring and performance reviews get you gone with less embarrassment, and look better in an email.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.
© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#937: Helpless employees come from parents who equate loving with doing

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Helpless-employeeDo you wonder where your ‘helpless’ employees come from? You know the ones — those who always wait for instructions, who never show initiative, who never volunteer, who never offer ideas, who never take responsibility.

Blame their parents. Specifically, blame their mother.

If you think I have a problem with mothers, then be disabused of that thought. I have loved more than one mother. I don’t even have a problem with mothers who love too much. But I do have an issue with mothers who equate loving with doing.

Take my wife. My wife does not know how to drive a vacuum cleaner because her mother regularly vacuum her apartment. You call that love? I don’t.

So, if you are over-helping with homework, picking up toys and clothes, doing things that Little Offspring should be doing, then know you are creating the next helpless employee.

We in management thank you very much.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.
© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#936: Not taking a decision is always a lack of courage

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DecisionsHave you ever wondered why decisions take so long in your organization? I know, I know, the obvious answer is a lack of information. Actually, that is the common excuse.

Here are the two real reasons. The first one is a lack of courage. Consider the difference between making and taking a decision. Making a decision is the whole process of reaching a point where you are ready to take the decision. When you take something, it’s yours. So, once you take a decision, you own it. Whereas if you are making a decision, well, you could stretch it out indefinitely.

The other reason has to do with the hierarchy of power and authority. The steeper the pyramid, the more people get involved in a decision, which is simply another way of spreading the risk and the blame.

Oh, you’re right. That’s also just a lack of courage.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.
© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#935: The smarter your phone, the dumber you are

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protect-from-joyDid you know that the smarter your phone, the dumber you are? I didn’t know that either until I made it up. Even though I made it up, I suspect there is some truth in it.

The more we rely on technology, the less we bother to think for ourselves. The less we think, the more our ability to reason withers away. The less we reason, the more we blindly rely on technology. The more we trust technology, the less often we do basic sanity checks. Without basic sanity checks, errors creep in, mistakes happen and failure follows.

Not so long ago technology was held in check by a skeptical generation. I once watched an older boss add a budget column with a calculator, frown, and check the result by adding the column mentally. He would never have blindly steered wherever his GPS instructed.

Do I have a smart phone? Of course!


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.
© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#934: Please pass on the leadership mantle in better shape

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lightness-spiritIn the good old days I had a company car. Company cars have magical properties. They go much faster than normal cars; they reverse faster, brake harder, and jump obstacles easier. The list goes on.

Except, that is, the company car I was given. It wasn’t the car’s fault, nor the company’s fault, nor my mother’s fault, as Freud would have it. It was my father’s fault.

My father taught me from an early age to look after my possessions. Fair enough. But there is more. He made it clear that if I borrowed anything from anyone, I should give it back in better condition than I received it. No wonder my company car lost its magical abilities.

I know this is a leap, but I wonder whether magic would happen if leaders aimed to pass on the mantle they borrowed in better shape than they received it.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.
© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#933: Failure comes from delegating what you dislike

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president-precedentWhat part of your job do you dislike? And what part do you delegate? How much overlap is there between what you dislike and what you delegate?

I once consulted to a CEO brought in to manage a turnaround. We had to be careful about what we could delegate and what we had to do ourselves. Unavoidably, a number of people had to go. The CEO would not delegate this task. He disliked doing it, which is why he would not ask anyone else to do it.

Often the parts of your job that you dislike are the pieces you should not delegate because they matter to your role, they determine your success, or because others know that it is cowardly to delegate that which you dislike doing.

Collective success is more likely if you have the discipline to delegate not what you dislike, but what others can do better than you.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.
© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#932: Why we the insecure are led by bravados on display

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emotional-intelligenceWhat do we value in a leader? Surely, we want a leader who presents himself like a leader, who makes it clear who is in charge, who makes her voice heard, who has energy and drive.

However, if you analyze those characteristics carefully, you will realize how similar ‘presents like a leader’ is to ‘ego on a pedestal’, how similar ‘in charge’ is to ‘need for control’, how similar ‘making voice heard’ is to ‘poor listener’, and how similar ‘energy and drive’ is to ‘impatience with others’.

There is a fine line between what we think a leader should be and what is mere bravado on display. The line is so fine that I am no longer surprised by how often we are led by the obviously insecure. After all, we are attracted to leaders who reflect what we unconsciously are. And it is thus that we create leaders in our own image.


Every week, and often every day, the Chief Nonsense Officer expresses his opinion on a regional public radio (NPR) station somewhere. The above podcast is the radio version.
© 2016 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

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