Friday, January 14, 2011

If I'm Boss . . . .

Michael wrote not long ago that he's at a place where he's reconsidering some things about his career and, in conducting such reconsideration, he said he will be "throw(ing) everything into the air -- all my assumptions, worldviews, textual interpretations -- and then start(ing) over and see(ing) what I end up with."

He hasn't shared any of his findings with us yet, but what he said started me thinking.

I have been in the work force full time about 28 years now. I have been blessed to have never been truly unemployed. I had about two months off between my last and current job but had more than enough severance to cover things, so I don't count that.

The longest I have ever stayed at a job is seven years and I have stayed in two that long. Apparently that's not terribly uncommon in today's business world. I know people who have had many more jobs than I have, and a few who have worked in the same place their whole career (not many).

I have done a lot of second guessing over the course of my working life but I think that's my nature. Being sure of myself has never been one of my strong areas. There are a lot of things I would do differently if I could go back and change things but I don't dwell on that. God has been faithful and has taken care of me and my family. I can't ask for more than that.

I am not entrepreneurial. I am a good worker. I'm not a genius but I have a fair amount of intelligence and after all these years, I think I know the things I do well. I work well with people and I follow instructions well. I'm a good team guy and I can effectively communicate. But I'm not a big "idea" guy when it comes to business and running a business.

After all these years working, however, I do have some ideas about how I would run a company if I ever did have that opportunity. In a totally different universe where I was in charge and "ran the show," so to speak, here are some things I would do. Now let me say, quite clearly, that this is all in theory and in my mythical world, there would be no problem with the legalities and practicalities of the principles I would propose. Here goes:

1. In my fictitious company, the dress code would be business casual. A lot of places already do this, but many male employees, including myself, still wear ties to work. In my company, men would not have to wear ties. They would not be allowed to wear jeans, but they wouldn't have to wear ties. I don't have to wear a tie every day because I am fortunate enough to get to work from home many days, but on my office days I'm usually wearing a tie and I am tired of it.

2. There would be one staff (or departmental, depending on the size of my company) meeting per week, probably on Monday mornings. It would last 30 minutes to an hour, and it would be an open forum to cover current matters at hand. Anyone would be allowed to speak and bring up any topic. There would be no hand-held devices, cell phones or computers in the meeting (or in any meetings for that matter).

3. The Human Resources Department would be skeletal. I would prefer to not even have this department but in today's environment it is pretty much necessary. My HR Director (and any HR employees) would be respectul of all employees and there would be a zero tolerance policy if he/she ever broke that rule. The HR Director would report to and be accountable to the CEO. The HR Director would have no decision-making authority when it came to terminations, relocations, advancements, etc. (You might detect that I could write another entire post on HR Directors and departments). Neither would the HR Director be present during discussion of those matters.

4. There would be no "Diversity" department. HR would be under strict orders to comply with all laws regarding equal opportunity. It would go without saying. It would be unnecessary to employ people who devote themselves to meeting quotas.

5. There would be no money spent on "retreats," "team building," "coaching" or any other such thing. At the weekly meeting, the CEO or department leader would give a brief status report on various matters affecting the company and would take questions. Employees would be assured of their value to the company by their compensation. If the CEO or the lead of the department feels the need for extended time with employees, he/she will block off extended time during the day for this.

6. Performance reviews would be conducted annually. The words used in the reviews would be spoken and/or written in plain English and words such as "quantifiable" would be avoided. Likewise, goals set for employees would also be simple, so simple that very little instruction would be required, nor would a consultant be necessary to advise the company on how to conduct employee reviews. The person handling the review would record his/her findings, again, in plain English. Any type of "grading" would be on a 100 percent scale, similar to school grading.

7. Employees would use e-mail, of course, but there would be a limitation on e-mails sent per day.

Just a few thoughts and certainly easy for me to say when we're talking hypothetically. But interesting to think about.


Kelly said...

Interesting thought, Bob.

My husband has always been in favor of the "be your own boss" rule and has been blessed to do that for most of his adult life. He would alter your No. 1 rule to read "only jeans can be worn"!

Redlefty said...

Very interesting!

Younger generations certainly work (and think) differently than the ones who came before, and some of that can be attributed to the technology they've known all their lives. This is both a blessing and a challenge.

Work in general will evolve greatly as our country continues the painful transition to a knowledge/service economy. It's no less excruciating than the previous transition from agriculture to manufacturing.

p.s. -- I'm cool with jeans too, Kelly. But we can give Bob a break; business casual is a big step for a banker. :)

Bob said...

I could be OK with jeans every day but after this long in law and banking, it's hard to fathom. My colleagues imagine me working at home in my pajamas -- they are not far off.

Yes, things will continue to evolve and they're evolving all around me all the time.

Technology is a blessing and a curse but it's here to stay, of course. I love all the advantages of computers and cell phones and it allows me to have the kind of job I now have.

On the downside, I tire of incessant e-mails where people try to sound smarter than they are and I DETEST being in meetings where people are reading and sending e-mails.

There will definitely be another installment on this topic.

Pencil Writer said...

If I need to go back to work, Bob, I'd like to work for you. I have no credentials, but I like you ideas. Especially about HR. My (vicarious) experience with those folks/situations leaves me gasping for breath, all too often. I don't remember one who was not self-absorbed, bull-headed, inefficient to a fault, on various levels, and I'll just stop there. Condensing that down a bit, Human Resource people seem not to understand the term Humane. Just sayin'. Since I've never had to deal with an employee/HR relationship personally . . .

Anyway, keep thinkin' those good, reasonable, makes-a-lot-of-sense-to-me kinda thoughts!

quid said...

Loved your post.

I worked for one employer (ok, one employer and the employer that "ate" them in a merger) for 17 years.

Since I've been in Florida, I've worked for 3 companies in the last 5 years. Sigh.

I love a lot of the business ideas. Here's a hint. No ties in Florida! I'm a believer in business casual. In office environments, stuff seems to get more lacksadaisical when we wear jeans every day.

I am a Human Resources manager. I'm confident you'd want to work with me (and Pencil Writer would too, even though I don't know her).

There's a difference. HR is my third career, after finance and customer service. It is the combination of working in the trenches that makes me a great HR professional. I like to say, I put the Human in Resources.

And remember, Shakespeare wanted to kill all the lawyers, not the human resource people.



Bob said...

Quid -- as I said, HR is necessary these days. I'm sure you are a splendid HR person. The HR folks where I work now are pretty good but my last employer -- well, that's where I got most of the ideas for the statements about HR in this post. Just full of themselves and, unfortunately, parked in HR because they could not do anything else.

At that place I took a severance package rather than move to another city. The lady in HR who handled it was one of the most incompetent people I have ever encountered. I tried not to take it personally but it was difficult.

Unfortunately that whole experience, and some others with that employer, gave me a sour taste of HR but of course it's not fair to associate that with all of you. I'm sure Pencil Writer and I would both love working in a company where you were the HR director.