Time for a “One Life” Policy in the Workplace

There is no such thing as “Home Life” and “Work Life“.

We only have one life.

Traditional employers would like their team members to “leave your personal life at home”, while at the same time asking salaried team members to come in early, stay late, bring work home with them and check company email, read required books, or take phone calls outside of the office.

Now we’re asking our team members to help us engage in social media at all times (or at least we should be).

When does it end?

One Life Policy by Aaron Biebert

Obviously I don’t have a problem with taking work home, hence the 8pm Warrior concept. However, I do see a problem with the artificial line that some employers draw in the sand when you enter “their time.”

This often means:

  • Don’t take personal phone calls at work
  • Leave your troubles at the door
  • Don’t go on Facebook during work (unless we tell you to)
  • Don’t check your personal email at the office

…and other rules governing work life.

We only have one life, and ignoring that fact will cause problems for business leaders.

Here’s why:

  1. A “Caring Culture” is a more profitable one!
  2. Faking emotions causes major problems
  3. You can’t build a Culture of Caring if you don’t care about your team members first
  4. Caring about your team means caring about their whole life, not just work life

Yes, I practice what I preach.

In 2006 when I founded Clear Medical Solutions (Clear Medical Agency, HIM Circle, and the Clear Medical Network) we immediately implemented a “One Life” policy for our salaried office staff that stated:

“As a member of our team, we care about your whole life and recognize that we share a common journey.  Together, we have embarked on an exciting mission, and it will most definitely be a journey that goes home with you when you leave our office.

You only have one life, and even though we ask for a lot of it, we invite you to bring your home life with you to work.  Let us help carry the baggage.  One team, one dream. You are not alone.”

In practical terms this means:

  • Abolishing break time limits (i.e. one hour lunches, 15 minute breaks, etc.)
  • Flexibility with personal challenges (i.e. helping take car to auto shop, sick children, grieving, etc.)
  • Investing time to discuss home life
  • No restrictions on personal calls, checking personal email, or periodic personal use of social media.

In return, you should expect:

  • Your team will check their company emails, engage in company related social media channels, and take work related phone calls at home
  • Your team will be flexible for work challenges that arise (i.e. deadlines, crisis, product/service launches, etc.)
  • Your team will not abuse flexibility and take more than they give.

I know what some of my critics are thinking.  “What a circus!”  “I would love to see how many people abuse this type of policy.”  “How can you manage that?”

That’s the wrong way to think about it.

Bad people will always abuse things.  That’s why I don’t hire bad people.  If you adopt this policy, you have to be prepared to be better at recruiting and firing.  You will have to lead more, manage less.  Our “One Life Policy” went along with our “You Manage Yourself” policy.

At the end of the day it’s still about performance.  You shouldn’t hire or continue to employ people that don’t perform, and a one life policy only helps the responsible members of your team balance their life more successfully and openly.

Your employees have already implemented the policy on their own, they just are doing it secretly on their mobile devices, during “sick time”, and sneaking around to do what is natural.  Living one life.

It’s time you help them.

Have a great “one life”,

Aaron@Biebert

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9 Steps to Succeed in the New World (Commencement Address)

It’s May and that means graduation season.  Right now millions of college graduates are chasing a limited number of jobs. It’s a war out there and the time has come for students to turn into warriors.

Every year, I write a commencement address and here are my notes for 2011.  Please add your tips in the comment section or on the 8pm Warriors Discussion Forum on Facebook.

Here is just one 8pm Warrior’s simplified plan to succeed in the “New World” we all face:

1)  Commit to something bigger than yourself.

It’s harder to quit on something more important than yourself.  Have a goal. Be on a mission. Change the world. Save a life.

If you want to succeed, you must commit yourself to doing something big. Go big or go home.

2) Figure out what you love to do.

I guarantee you will not succeed doing anything you don’t love.  It’s just too hard these days to conquer the challenges you will face if you don’t love your work.

I am convinced that no matter what, if you do what you love, you will find a way to make money.  The internet allows passionate people to make money on niches.

3) Start doing it. Now.

If you don’t love what you’re doing, make a change.  Don’t put it into your 5 year plan.  Start today.  Even if you have to get/keep your day job, get an 8pm Warrior job and then listen, learn, and begin tonight.

4) Meet others who love what you love.

Few people can win alone anymore.  The world is too complex and we need people to pick us up when we’re tired, broken, and failing.  It’s a war out there, and you will fail, fall, and need help.  Find others, learn from them and win.  Together you are stronger.

5)  Be different.

There is too much in this world:  too much information, too many things, too many messages, and too many people.  If you’re a “One in a Million” type of person, that isn’t good enough anymore.  That means there are 6,800 other people just like you out there, and they are all connected on the internet.

You need to stand out, find a niche, and be unique.  You need to be the lone zebra in a stable of horses at the dude ranch.  Guess which one everyone will want to ride. Be the zebra.

6)  Make long-term plans, not short-term ones.

If you’ve committed yourself to something special, keep your eye on it.  Make short-term adjustments, but focus on the big picture.  It’s too easy to get distracted these days, so you need to be working towards long-term goals.  Don’t waste energy on achieving short term goals.  Everything should lead toward the end goal.

7)  Work until you drop.

Once you’ve got a focus, a method, and a plan, you need to work it until you pass out.  Don’t forget about your family, but do forget about long vacations, spa days, and “hanging around the house”.  Tick, tock, tick, tock.  You are getting older, the world is moving forward.  Rest when you make it or you die.

8 )  Don’t be selfish.

You will need to give things, thoughts, and time away before you get anything in return.  I’m not sure exactly why, other than people like nice people and are willing to help them in return.

Give, give, give.

9) Take your magic step.

If you will succeed, there will be one magic step only you will discover.  The very nature of our world is that we cannot all have the same path, the same steps towards our dreams.  You will need to take a unique step along the way, and it will be something that only you will find.

Call it magic or whatever you’d like, but you’ll need it and I can’t tell you what to look for.

It might be like the moment Bill Gates quit college to start Microsoft or when Mark Zuckerberg pushed send to share Facebook for the first time.  We all have a step in life that we will need to take to achieve our dreams.

When you see yours.  Take it!

Let me know if I can help.

Have a great life,

Aaron@Biebert
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Tactics Without Strategy

A couple months ago I asked if your organization was acting like a circus.  Now I want to tell you why it’s not so funny.

Let’s warm up with the words of one famous 8pm Warrior, Sun Tzu, and his best selling book The Art of War:

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

Why is it that you can have success following a strategy without tactics, but not tactics without strategy?

People like knowing there is an intelligent master plan behind everything.

It keeps them comfortable, it keeps them focused, it builds trust, and it’s never been more important than now.  With the arrival of social media and the expectation of transparent organizations, you can’t hide it so well when you don’t have a strategy.

(Side note:  Hiring talented people and getting out of their way is not a real strategy)

You might have talented people and great tactics, but if your team is not coordinating on decision-making, marketing, and communications, it looks like no one is at the wheel.

Ultimately, it leads to failure.

No one likes to work for, buy from, or partner with a leaderless organization.  It just doesn’t feel safe.

My advice?

No matter how painful or time consuming it might be, it is time to get the whole team together, come up with your master plan, and stick to it unless you all shift together.

Have a great night,

Aaron@Biebert

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The Year of the Underdog?

I hope this year’s Final Four is a sign of things to come for all my fellow warriors that are undersized, out-manned, or “too young” to make it.

Here’s a quick recap:

In their own brackets, VCU was the #11 seed (had to play an extra game to even get in), Butler was #8, Kentucky was #4, and Connecticut was #3, effectively making them tied for the #41, #33, #17, and #13 seeds overall.  Everyone is wondering where all the heavy favorites went…

Let’s talk about the underdogs!

Looking for the classic underdog story? Look no further than Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU).  In order to make it to the Final Four they had to play an extra game against USC and then win four games against higher rated opponents (#6, #3, #10, and #1).

On top of that, they lack an experienced “battle hardened” leader. Their coach, Shaka Smart, is the 2nd youngest coach in the NCAA tournament at 33 years old.

Butler has the 3rd youngest coach in the tournament (Brad Stevens is 34 years old) and had to beat #1, #2 and #4 in their bracket.  Talk about uphill battles!

In the business world I like being the underdog.  That’s how I know I’m pushing myself hard enough.  I like being the youngest guy in the room, competing against the biggest companies, fighting to win battles no one picks me to win.

I absolutely love it.

Sometimes I get crushed, but sometimes I get to feel like Butler right now in the championship.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So what’s the secret behind this 33 year old VCU coach from Oregon, WI?  Here’s what he had to say to his team and I think we can all take away something from it:

  • [Optimism] “The teams advancing, they don’t look at the glass half empty. They don’t look at the roadblocks in the way.”
  • [Excuses] “Concerns send you home. Excuses send you home.”
  • [Positive Outlook] “Make no mistake about it, our guys believe we can win. I know we can win.”

I don’t know about you, but I’ll be cheering for the underdogs to win it all this year.

Let’s make 2011 the “Year of the Underdog!”

Have a great night,

Aaron@Biebert

The Missing Ingredient?

  • Do you need to be picked up when you fall?
  • Could you ever use feedback?
  • Will you ever need help?

If you answer “Yes” to any of these, then maybe we can help each other.

When I started the 8pm Warrior blog back in December, I explained that I was motivated to create a community of people that had big dreams, pushed their personal limits, and loved their work.  So far, I have failed.

Despite having hundreds of readers some days, we still have work to do if we’re going to build something that is helpful, supportive, and worthwhile.  The missing ingredient?

You!

I’ll keep at it, but I need your feedback on how we can make this work.  Maybe I need to do less talking, and more asking?  Do I post too late?  I honestly would like your feedback.

Possibly, some folks don’t realize how great it can be…how it can help us all go further?

Here are just two examples of successful community groups I’d like to recreate for people like us:

Look at how they ask for help, answer questions, like and share among the group.  There is no limit to how they’ll help each other.  It’s awesome!

Where will 8pm Warriors meet?

Here, Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter.

You’re the missing ingredient!  Post a question, comment, talk, share, grow.  Let’s help each other.

Have a great night,

Aaron@Biebert

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Is Your Company a Circus?

It’s my wife’s birthday tomorrow and I took her and my two kids to the Circus this evening.  At several points there were so many great acts going on at one time, it was tough deciding what to watch.

When I mentioned this to my wife, she kindly informed me that this was typical and dated back to early circus styles.  It’s no wonder most traditional circus companies have gone out of business while modern and focused shows like Cirque du Soleil continue to grow in popularity.  It’s about telling a great story.  One chapter at a time.

Is your company a circus?

I don’t mean this in a bad way.  The performers in the arena were absolutely phenomenal and I was very impressed.  It’s just that sometimes they had 12 people all doing their own tricks at the same time, periodically making a frustrating experience rather than one cohesive program.

Sound like your company?

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of my time in marketing leadership and branding, and while studying several companies I’ve found that the Shriner’s Circus isn’t the only one in town.  It seems to be a challenge for many 8pm Warriors that have several great stories to tell, multiple positive events happening, and so many good ideas.  Instead of synergy, we get quite the opposite.  We get a corporate circus.

Let me know if this sounds familiar:

  • Jane is sending out a mass email over here.
  • John is posting a different corporate Facebook announcement there.
  • Sue is blogging about something completely different than Jane and John on the corporate blog.

They’re all good things on their own, but from an outsider’s perspective it’s hard to focus on one story.  It’s like telling three stories at one time.

It’s a Circus.

This is something to think about if you’re in leadership trying to reach customers who only have so much time and attention to give you.

Weave it all together. Have one voice.  Tell a great story!

Have a great night,

Aaron@Biebert

The Myth of Teamwork?

I just read Skip Weisman’s blog about the “Myth of Teamwork” and was impressed.  Not because I think teamwork is a myth, but because it’s high time someone took a look at why teamwork isn’t successful many times.

It is because individual team members fail.

However, I think that Skip misses the fact that teamwork is more than just the actions associated with working as part of a team.  It is a culture, a mindset, a way of working and winning together, not just as individuals.

But it does start with individuals.

The Problem of Teamwork in Certain Cultures

A teamwork mindset requires confidence in others.  Continual failure by fellow team members creates  a disincentive to rely on someone else, the very foundation of teamwork.

Therefore, for it to be effective, members of the team must do their work effectively and earn the trust of their peers.  Otherwise, people resort to depending on themselves primarily (“it’s faster if I do it myself” mentality), a fatal blow not just to the concept of teamwork, but delegation and collaboration as well.

Organizations that hire great people and teach those great people to understand and trust each other, incubate more than just a teamwork culture.

They incubate success.

On the flip side, teamwork is a joke in organizations that hire sloppy people and then allow poor performance to continue, while at the same time preaching that people need to work together.  The second part of teamwork is “work”, and it needs to be done well for teamwork to succeed.  Otherwise, they’d be better off letting their few “All Stars” do the process or project themselves, rather than introducing broken cogs into the system.

I can’t count how many times leaders in organizations I’ve assisted have lost focus on cleaning up poor individual work performances, and have instead brought in consultants to help do fruitless team building exercises.

Without individual success, teamwork is indeed a waste of time.

One Idea for Team Building

We have to listen to our staff and actively seek their feedback.  If your team is dysfunctional, it’s time to ask your team why.  When dealing with team problems, I always start by interviewing everyone involved and asking what the problem is.

Nine times out of ten, they have the answer already figured out.  They almost always know if they should trust their teammates to finish their part correctly, and encouraging them to “work together” is frustrating and pointless.

For true team building, leaders must hold their individual team members to a high standard first (build trust in performance), then help them see the excellence they each bring to a project (understanding).  Only at that point will the handoffs  be smooth, the communication open, and synergies will begin to appear.

Have an excellent night,

Aaron@Biebert