Nonsense At Work

Posts in category Management

#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

#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

#889: You will be subtracted when the value you add becomes negative

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No-footprintsWhat do you do when a good employee is actually bad? Someone can be good at the job, but the cost of doing is too high. I’m talking about the emotional price co-workers pay.

We all want star performers, which is why we tend to protect them. And yet, invariably a star performer will hamper team results. Sooner or later star performers act the part to the extent that the star ego destroys work relationships.

Why this happens does not matter. What matters is that you fix it, because if you don’t, you might find yourself managing a team of one.

Your role as manager is to explain to all employees that the value they add is dependent on two main components: the contribution they make minus the emotional cost of making it. And that when the value they add becomes negative, you will subtract them from the team.


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

#887: Your promotion depends on whether you see outcomes or deliverables

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outcomes-deliverablesWould you like to be promoted? Here’s a trick that will deliver the outcome you want. The trick is found in two words used in the previous sentence, namely deliver and outcome.

In lower level positions, the focus is on completing tasks. Hence the buzz word “deliverables” – what will you deliver at the end of the day, at the end of the project? Your success is often measured in how efficiently you deliver.

At senior level the focus should be on the outcome that the strategy aims to create. The measure of success should be effectiveness – did we create the desired effect or outcome?

Consider this. The parcel at your door is the deliverable; how you feel on opening it is the outcome. The outcome, not the deliverable, determines whether you will order again.

The ones who understand outcomes are the ones who manage those who must deliver.


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

#883: Why dreams of equality trigger guilt and imprisonment

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cannot-please-everyoneDid you hear about the Seattle CEO who dramatically increased his company’s minimum salary, not wage? See if you can guess who is unexpectedly unhappy.

We evaluate fairness by comparing our performance and reward with the performance and rewards of others. But fairness is a matter of perception. We can perceive unfairness if we feel under-rewarded and, surprise, surprise, also if we feel over-rewarded. This is why an unexpected increase could lead to I-didn’t-earn-this guilt.

We also have this tricky thing called motivation. Rewards that are linked to competence will increase motivation, but rewards perceived to be bribes will do the opposite.

Bribes land you in prison. Hence the fear that a high salary will lock you into staying on when you should clearly be gone.

Okay, you’ve guessed. Some employees are unhappy with the increase.

You just cannot please everyone.


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

#857: He who hesitates is luckier than the early bird, and vice versa

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early-birdAs a manager, how do you know when the time is right to make a decision? I’m not talking about obvious decisions, but tricky ones. Sometimes when you procrastinate, it will cost you; other times you will benefit from the delay. So how do you know which and when?

This morning I watched as a car raced through a red traffic light. Luckily, the drivers who had green hesitated long enough not to become road kill.

Once again I reminded myself that it pays to leave home a minute later than planned. That way I miss the crazy lady decorating her face or dashing cowboy running late. But I do worry that my minute of delay might create enough time for the second fast fool to get me.

The point is, whether at work or on the road, he who hesitates might be luckier than the early bird. And vice versa. Who knows?


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

#848: Become a decision player by being a trusted performer

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trusted-decision-makerTell me, who gets to participate in decision-making in your organization? No, I don’t mean who sits in, but who is heard and heeded.

In struggling organizations some attendees are present not because they can contribute to decision-making. They are sitting in because of their position. And often their position is at the level of their incompetence. (If this statement makes no sense, then do a search on The Peter Principle.)

At successful organizations people who get the most respect around the table, who are heard and heeded, are the ones who deliver the most. They have earned trust by delivering on promises, exploiting opportunities and banking the results.

If you want to be a trusted and heeded decision participant, then begin by being a trusted performer. No one ever trusts your judgement based on your status, your volubility or your volume.


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

#843: How to tell if you are meddling or mentoring

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mentoring-meddlingAre you mentoring or meddling? A trick question for any parent, friend or colleague. Here’s how to tell.

You are mentoring if you use your experience to guide someone who is less experienced. The aim is to help the less experienced person play a ‘better’ role or to lead a ‘better’ life.

And there’s the catch! What is ‘better’?

Meddling happens because you don’t know. You meddle when you try to change or to control what you see as wrong or inappropriate for the other person. You mentor when you support the other person into making meaningful life choices, appropriate to her situation and circumstances, not to yours.

Can you only mentor if you have already mastered? Not necessarily. We teach best that which we have yet to learn. Therefore, to be a good mentor, what matters are the mistakes you are still making.

But only if you admit that they are mistakes.


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

#831: Before whining and firing, aim to manage wrong into right

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mastering-overWith hiring happening in the workplace, some poor manager somewhere is going to hire the wrong person for the job. If you happen to be that manager, then this advice is for you.

But first, what could ‘wrong for the job’ be? I have no idea. You decide. After all, you are the one who knows when a wrong has been done.

On the subject of you knowing, does this mean that you are to blame? I have no idea. There are many reasons why someone ends up wrong for the job – you are only one of many possible reasons.

What matters is what you do next. You have three options. Live with it; get rid of it; or manage it.

But remember this: you are a manager. You are used to managing problems into successes. So, before whining and firing, be very sure that this wrong cannot be managed into a right.


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

#823: To keep the fizz of good work, managers must minimize bad potatoes

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bad-potato3Herewith a festive true story. Once upon a holiday season a waitress struggles to juggle her many customers crowded into sports bar restaurant. One patron is particularly unsporting and sings a constant “Miss! Miss!” refrain. The waitress maintains her composure with a polite “I will be there in a moment, sir.”

When she finally catches her breath at his table, the customer complains, “Miss, this potato is bad.” The waitress picks up his fork and smacks the potato while saying sternly, “Bad, bad potato.” She then walks out of the restaurant never to be seen again.

The moral of the story is vegetable, animal and mineral. The potato could have been bad because it was a vegetable. The waitress, being animal, was not bad. However, her behavior probably was.

As for mineral, managers should always minimize bad potatoes to prevent the fizz going out of getting work done well.


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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