When the “Crazy Uncle” is in Charge

Posted by Richard Moran.

We all know about the crazy uncle. He’s the one who shows up drunk at Christmas and then disappears for three months. He’s the one who pulls up out front in a mobile home and wants to borrow an electrical extension cord. He’s the one who tells the same long stories again and again even though they weren’t interesting the first time. Some of us have that uncle and some of us just know of him through movies and TV. But what if the “crazy uncle” is running the organization? It can be a problem.

The crazy uncle in charge will be out of touch with what is really going on in the organization, like Nero fiddling while Rome burned. He will discuss his vision for the future while the company is running out of money. He will say things are great when everyone knows they are not. 

Crazy uncles like to talk about the old days citing times “when I was at Intel” or any other company that is more successful than the current one. Steve Jobs comparisons are often used although the comparisons don’t apply. The uncle also uses metaphors even when they don’t work or make sense either. When the uncle says, “This is our Kodak Moment”, everyone wonders if they should snap a photo or the company is filing for bankruptcy.  

There are many issues when the crazy uncle is in charge but maybe the worst is that, as the leader, he will have lost credibility and be ignored. Instead of driving change and rallying the organization, people will tune out to his messages. Nothing changes when change is probably needed the most.

Although the crazy uncle is not mean, when others try to help him or even protect him from himself, he won’t like it and will lash out creating even more damage. If the uncle makes a mistake he will say, “sorry about that” and move on leaving the wreckage behind him with no plan for repairs.

Put it all together and the crazy uncle in charge makes for a leader who is ignored and creates a void at the top when leadership is most needed.

You see it happening, what’s to do? As always, there are career choices…

  • Ignore him and hope that other senior leaders are aware and filling the void.
  • Wait and hope that some one with sense will intervene. Or, talk to others and do an intervention before it’s too late. Very risky. 
  • If you enjoy your job, keep your head low and just stay out of his way.  Create workarounds. Keep him out of everything you do to be successful.

Usually the crazy uncle surrounds himself with like thinkers and you may be dealing with an entire team of out of touch crazy uncles. In rare cases the uncle might come to his senses and let go of the leadership reins. 

Don’t confuse characters with crazy uncles. Elon Musk is a character and Richard Branson is a character. They are not crazy uncles and are working their style into the organizations success. Crazy uncles are different.

The uncle almost always makes the place more interesting, but not necessarily more successful.

The Worst Workplace Label: Unresponsive

Posted by Richard Moran.

Lots of words come to mind when describing bad traits that show up as labels at work. Sloppy, lazy, sleepy and clueless are a few that you might want to avoid. If any of these show up in your review, it’s time to hit the reset button. But there is one descriptor that is even worse.

That word is UNRESPONSIVE.

An unresponsive co-worker sends out tacit messages to others that I am too busy to respond or that you are not important enough for me to respond. Either way, neither is a response that will endear you to your co-workers. But you don’t have to act that way. The guidelines on what is appropriate for being responsive are always changing but a few rules seem to always apply.

My first boss told me in no uncertain terms: THESE ARE THE RESPONSE RULES, and they should never be broken if you want to be successful. • Every phone call should be returned within ¬twenty-four hours. Even those from people you don’t know.

• Every memo should have a response by the next business day. Even if the response is, “I am in receipt of your memo, stay tuned.”

• Each piece of correspondence received should be acknowledged and a response prepared and returned within three business days.

These rules no longer apply. Today, it is rare to make a phone call or to receive one. No one even knows what a memo is anymore, and no one receives written letters unless the letter is from the IRS. The rules have changed and are now, well, a little ambiguous. There are some general guidelines that are never written down in an employee manual but seem to generally apply:

• An e mail needs to be returned the same day. Probably.

• A text should be returned within an hour. Probably.

• And a phone call? Depends on who it is. If it’s the boss, return it the same day. If it’s the person calling about a solar panel offer, maybe never.

Some would say that these guideline response times are too slow. This group would say an e mail should be returned within the hour and a text within a minute. This same group would be forgiving on returned phone call times because this is the group that never makes phone calls or would die before posting an automatic out of office response.

Others would say e mails, texts, and calls are the source of all distractions and inefficiencies. This group would choose not to be measured by response time.

The workplace is moving so fast today that “the quicker the response, the better” is always a good rule. Acceptable and exact response times today are a moving target with lots of variables that dictate the right answer. If you are too busy for appropriate responses, a quick, “I got it. Stay tuned” might suffice.

Go ahead. Look up the synonyms for the word unresponsive. These words include: insensitive, passive, cold, and unfeeling. Some of the descriptors are worse. One thing I do know: to be labeled as unresponsive in today’s workplace means you are showing a lack of respect for colleagues.

Learning the Hustle

Posted by Richard Moran.

There is food porn where you spy on the gastronomical delights of others. There is real estate porn where you dream about having a bigger/cooler/newer/ anything but the one I have house. There is travel porn where you watch other people enjoy vacations where there are no crowds or hassles. And, of course, there is still regular old porn, which needs no explanation. (I am on the record that when it comes to the combination of work and pornography, pornography is not your friend.) Now there is hustle porn.

Near as I can tell, hustle porn is watching others work every hour of every day on Instagram or hearing a message from the workaholics on LinkedIn that unless you are obsessed with a huge goal you are a loser. Or, if you want to be rich and famous, pay attention to work habits that will turn you into an ambition driven crazy person. Like other types of porn, hustle porn can make you feel guilty for what you are not doing or achieving.

Hustle porn is a byproduct of the tech world where people grind through insanely long working hours in the hopes of becoming the next young billionaire while making the world a better place at the same time. Is it a toxic concept or a lifestyle that suits your aspirations? It depends.

One thing you can be sure of is that watching others work hard doesn’t mean you will be successful. In fact, watching others work hard might make you less successful because you are wasting your time watching them. Copying the habits of Elon Musk or Steve Jobs will guarantee only that you are tired all the time. Working the most hours is probably not the contest you want to win either.

At least a positive and subliminal message one can derive from hustle porn is that it’s ok if life is a mess. It’s ok if things aren’t working and you should expect struggles as part of your journey. Learn from them and move on.

Hustle porn aside, what matters now and always has is results. If hours lead to results, the hours are worth it. What matters now and always has is purpose. If hours help you and the organization meet the mission, the hours are worth it. If the hustle is the part of your work from which you derive satisfaction, do it.

Hustle porn is a new social media label for motivation and one must decide to accept or reject the idea working crazy hours and struggling toward a lofty goal. If hustle porn helps you to define your own idea of success and work hard to achieve your goals, maybe it’s a good thing.