Nonsense At Work

Posts in category Team Work/Building

#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

#928: Fire everyone except you star performer

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Star-performerOh for Pete’s sake. Will this star gazing never end? I am so tired of individual players being worshiped as if they “built this themselves.”

If star players are really so good and the other players so useless, then fire the non-stars and let the star play on his or her own. You will save a ton of money and effort on not having to deal with all those unnecessary players.

It is not as if we don’t already know the truth about star gazing. A star player is only as good as the supporting team; the super salesperson is only as good as her admin support; the CEO is only as good as the employees holding him up; the president is only as good as the citizens who voted.

Look up at night, people! A real star only shines brightly if all the others go out.


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

#907: Let them make excuses for you, not use you as the excuse

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snakes-laddersPolitics, it seems, is everywhere. Some optimists assume that politics is about governing by building alliances to influence citizens. That’s the politically correct definition.

For us on the receiving end, politics is about power over others using smoke and mirrors. Politicians are either too polite to use naked force or too illusive to intimidate. You decide which.

The same applies at the office, where it is labeled informal politics. It is supposedly a good thing because it helps you to get things done. Actually, it is a way of claiming success without being seen as the snake on the corporate ladder. But with limited room on the ladder, climbers make space by turning others into snakes.

How can you avoid this fate? By building relationships, not alliances. By building the type of relationship where people make excuses for you, rather than use you as the excuse.


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

#885: Co-operate for shared unhappiness

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trust-dangerousBy now we should know that co-operating, especially under pressure, does not work. Co-operation is working together to achieve a common end. But what happens when The End looms large and there is still no common end to encourage co-operation?

Well, then the easiest way out is to modify the differing ends until one end shapes up to be claimed by all parties as common enough to be shared as mutual. Confused? That’s what happens when we co-operate under pressure.

The problem is that we will happily co-operate when we have no common end, because the real end is “you owe me for this.”

Collaboration is much better. Now the focus is on identical, not merely similar, outcomes. Aiming for the same outcome means that each collaborator’s best contribution is willingly offered, valued and used.

Co-operation too often co-opts the worst in us, resulting in nothing but shared unhappiness.


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

#877: When team work means specializing in nonsense

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specializing-in-nonsenseSome time ago Adam Smith explained why the division of labor leads to greater productivity. It enables people to specialize and thus become very good at what they do.

Today we take it for granted that specialization, created by the division of labor within teams, will result in productivity gains.  But should we take this for granted?

Too often, at least for my liking, I encounter teams that allow people to specialize in nonsense, and to become very good at it too.  There are two main reasons why this happens. Team members forget why the team exists in the first place and they prize team cohesion above speaking out against nonsense.

When why the team exists begins to matter less than that the team exists, you have a team which has become very good at . . . but I’m sure you can figure that out for yourself.


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

#844: When to mistrust trust at work

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trust-team-lifeOur results at work very often depend on the help of others. When this happens, our success becomes interdependent. Obvious, isn’t it?

What is often less obvious is what this interdependency really means. It means that we must be able to rely on others to do as they are told to do and for them to continue to behave as expected.

Trust at work thus involves dependency, reliability and consistency. It means that you are confident that you can depend on others because you believe that they will continue to do as promised and as expected.

However, a common mistake is to expect too much trust at work. Yes, trust others to get their share of the work done, but not with your life. You will create unexpected nonsense if you demand trust beyond what is needed to achieve team goals in line with your organization’s purpose.


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

#777: Assemble your success (reworked version)

RugbyIt’s soccer time! I didn’t play soccer or football in my younger days. I played rugby. I liked it because when I caught the ball, I had fourteen big guys backing me up. If I fumbled a pass or missed a tackle, they stepped in.

Having those fourteen guys behind me made it easier for me to take the gaps that could win the game. They gave me the confidence to take the risks to succeed.

I have not heard of a rugby player having a heart attack during a game, but it does seem to happen in golf. In golf, you’re on your own – the stress is yours alone. Nobody shares it, nobody backs you up.

So, don’t try to create success on your own. It increases your stress and decreases your tolerance for taking creative risks. Be sensible, get some help – assemble a team of experienced players. Then pick their brains.

* * * * * * *

You can listen here to the radio version of Assemble your success (10 most recent radio files)

© 2014 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#699: Piecing together the puzzle of your life

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puzzle-missingA single piece of a jigsaw puzzle makes little sense. When linked correctly with other pieces, the sense appears.

Does it matter to the picture if you attach more importance to any one piece? No, but it does matter to the puzzle because one right piece can make the job easier – it anchors the picture and serves as a frame of reference.

In the puzzle of your life, you are that one piece. Without you to anchor it, your picture will have no reference point and thus no meaning.

Even so, don’t become too self-important. As with puzzle pieces, you must fade into the bigger picture to complete it. You must be ‘part of’ the Puzzle of Life to complete your life’s puzzle. If you cop out, then you become the missing piece, the glaringly visible gap.

You might stand out by being absent, but you cannot succeed by being ‘apart from’.


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

#669: Warm team of porcupines

porcupineSo, if this is Spring, then tell me another one as you pull my other leg. On second thought, don’t make me laugh. Rather, make me warm.

Have you ever watched how kittens or puppies cuddle together to keep warm? Now imagine a group of porcupines trying the same trick. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

German philosopher Schopenhauer once asked his readers to imaging porcupines huddling together for warmth. As they move closer, their quills force them apart; but then the cold drives them closer; and then their quills force them apart; back and forth.

As Schopenhauer explained, they are at the mercy of their discomforts until they find that space which maximizes warmth and minimizes pain.

I think you should remember porcupines at work, especially when a team member irritates or a colleague causes pain. Ignore your discomfort because maybe, just possibly, they are only trying to keep you warm.

You can listen here to the radio version of Warm team of porcupines (10 most recent radio files)

© 2012 James Henry McIntosh – nonsenseatwork.com

#658: Don’t brainstorm on a cold start


cold-startIt’s cold. Again. So warm up your tires before you speed on the highway. You did not know that you should warm your tires before speeding? Come on, surely you’ve seen how motor cycle racers warm their tires before they race.

Warm rubber is softer and grips the road better allowing you weave with ease as you annoy cold-tired drivers in rush hour traffic.

Hopefully you will remember this when you get to the office to run another brain storming session. Don’t start up by saying, “Right, who has a good idea?” That’s the equivalent of a cold start. No brain can weave and swerve and speed up and brake unless properly warmed up.

If you want your team to lose mind control, then ask them to begin the brain storm by thinking good ideas immediately. Better for you and them to remember that good ideas come swerving in after a gentle warm-up.


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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