Why Bear Stearns is a Good Thing or, In Search of the New Poster Child

Posted by Richard Moran.

Enron became the poster child company for corporate greed, avarice and somebody asleep at the switch. Arthur Andersen became the poster child for auditors helping them. The NYSE became the poster child for big payouts to retiring executives (with many more companies to follow.) Eliot Spitzer is the current model for exercising bad judgment, marital headaches and poorly executed interstate commerce, among many other things.

Bear Stearns is about to become the new poster child of behavior gone-bad in full view, like videos of college students on Spring Break. But what will they become the poster child for? Will it be for financial statements so complicated no one knows how much they are worth? Will it be for a market cap less than the worth of one of their buildings? Will it be for the mortgage foreclosures that have a root somewhere, so why not there? Will it be for government bailouts for people who make a lot of money? Stay tuned for the poster as it emerges. In the meantime, there are at least two good things that will come out of the Bear Stearns meltdown.

1. Dread Removal – I know a lot of people in the high powered financial world who have said something like the following. “My job sucks but I am only going to do this until I am thirty five (could be forty but that is a stretch) because the money is so awesome. Then, I will do something that I really want to.” (Although undetermined.)

For all of those working in jobs that make you miserable but the pay is good, you now have the license to think differently. Bear Stearns has given you that license. If you are not doing what you want, don’t wait to do something else.

2. Real Career Awareness – I doubt anyone at Bear Stearns could have ever imagined that this prestigious, old firm could be in trouble and jobs would be lost. If it can happen there, think about where you are and whether it could happen to you too. Don’t lose sleep over it, just set your expectations. People ask me all the time if they should worry about their job. The answer is always yes. Bear Stearns and Arthur Andersen and Enron taught us that.
The real lesson from Bear Stearns is that all organizations are fragile. If it can happen in large, long established, prestigious places, it can happen just about anywhere.

Let’s make Bear Stearns the poster child that reminds us of the fragility of all organizations.

All Mistakes to Avoid Should Have Been Learned in High School

Posted by Richard Moran.

All lessons of behavior should have been learned early because they all happened in high school – that harsh reality that divides childhood from the rest of life. Foremost among those lessons is: You will always get caught.

Cut gym class? You will get caught by the Principal looking out the window.
Cheat on an exam? You will copy from the wrong source.
Siphon some of Dad’s liquor out of the bottles and put in that soda bottle? He keeps track of the liquid levels in the bottle.
Sneak in after curfew? Mom will be at the front door.
Buy some hallucinogenic substance or paraphernalia? The police will have their crack down on that very day and you will be arrested.
Have a house party while Mom and Dad are out of town? The party will get out of hand and the police will be called or the house will burn down.
Create a fake id? The bouncer will call your Mom.
Plagiarize on that Catcher in the Rye paper? The teacher uses the same source for research.
Show up at the school dance a little tipsy? You will be randomly chosen for the breathalyzer.
Cheat on your boyfriend or girlfriend? You will bump into that one person who will tell the entire world.
This is a long list but the outcome is always the same. As each of my own children entered their teenage years I reminded them of the basic truth – You will always get caught. Each has eventually found out on their own every time they were caught. That lesson from high school is -If you do a bad thing, you will get caught so be prepared to pay the consequences or better yet, don’t do the bad thing. Most of us learn that the latter strategy is more comfortable in the long run.

All of these lessons apply also to the world of work and the cubicles in which we toil. Falsify the hours on your timesheet? You will get caught. Steal office supplies? You will get caught. Harass one of your fellow workers? You will be caught. Cheat on your expense report? You will get caught. Tell a racist or sexist joke that you think no one can hear? You will get caught. Getting caught in the workforce is the equivalent of getting fired. In fact, it is not the equivalent, you will get fired. So don’t do it. You will get caught.

As I think about it, there are some other lessons that we learn from the world of teenagers and high school… Always let someone know where you are – someone is always looking for you.Leaving a message doesn’t equal permission – calling to say the project is not working doesn’t make it right.Be home when you say you will – always trueKnow what is absolutely non-negotiable, like hookers and give me the car keys.If you’re in big trouble don’t negotiate – just take the punishment.

Okay, all you high school students and newbies to the work force, I hope you listened. Eliot, I should have written this a while ago for you. Sorry.

Work Resolutions You Can Keep

Posted by Richard Moran.

A Primer in removing misery and being more productive in 2008

By now you are Off the Diet and Drinking Again – Here’s the new way to lose weight through work resolutions

Some of the resolutions you made on New Year’s Eve may be a distant memory by now, the middle of January. Sure you bought Quicken to get your finances organized for the year but I would bet the shrink wrap is still on the box. Those new $120.00 workout shoes still look a little too clean. Even though you vowed that zero drops of alcohol would touch your lips in January, you couldn’t help it when they were serving Silver Oak Cabernet at that business dinner. And, since the seal was broken, just a glass or two a night won’t hurt, will it?

If I could look in that planner or secret journal where you wrote those resolutions, I would wager that there is some permutation of all or some of the following promises to yourself:

o Lose weight
o Work out more
o Spend less time on the computer/blackberry
o Get personal finances in order
o Don’t over-commit or over-book
It’s not too late. All is not lost, there are plenty of resolutions you can still make and keep that cover some of the basics of your life. These resolutions are best kept to yourself and, although, they are only a few, will change your life.

Resolution One
I will stop eating in my car.
If there is a stack of empty Starbucks cups behind the passenger seat of your car, you are in trouble. Think of how many times you cursed out loud because the burrito you were eating in your car got all over your shirt. Plus, when you get to those meetings after eating in your car, your potential customers can’t help but notice the ketchup stains on your fingers from opening those little ornery packages. Not to mention eating in your car makes you gain weight because of what you eat in your car. Even though you might not get caught eating that Whopper and fries while going 65 MPH, it will show up in your back side.

Following this one resolution will help you lose weight, look better when you get there and keep your car cleaner. It is safer too since you are not chatting on driving while talking on your cell phone, drinking a latte and eating a scone.

Resolution Two
I will avoid technology addictions and recognize that my Blackberry (or other PDA) is similar to crack cocaine.
If your thumbs are getting bigger than your big toes, you are addicted. If you sneak out into the hallway at 2 am while on family vacations to check your email, you are addicted. Not only are your thumbs getting ruined, your life is going down the technology 24×7 drain. Re-think your life and how you manage your “in-box” and how you use your PDA. Avoid PDA addictions.

Following this resolution will help you lose weight because you can spend more time on finding healthy food instead of worrying about what you are missing. Your cell phone addiction may be too far gone already. If you regularly answer your cell phone while you are in the bathroom, it is too late for you. We will work on that addiction next year.

Resolution Three
I will travel only if absolutely necessary and only to good places.
“Road Warrior” is not necessarily a good title or one that makes you a hero. The one with the most frequent flyer miles is not the winner. Plus, it is becoming increasingly expensive as airport security continues to take away that 5 oz. tube of toothpaste and tells you that only 3 oz. tubes are allowed but it doesn’t come in 3 oz. tubes. Traveling is difficult and will age you before your time. There are other tools to use and you will find that the only people that care that you stopped traveling are at the airline. If you do travel, resolve to see a friend while you are there. Following this resolution will help you lose weight because you won’t be eating Gummi Bears at the airport.

Resolution Four
I will improve my communications skills
-PowerPoint is a presentation tool, not a language. It is possible to have a meeting or conversation without speaking in bullets. AVOID DEATH BY POWERPOINT.
-Email is one of the most efficient and effective communications tools of all time. It is not necessarily a management tool. BE A MANAGER, NOT AT E-MAILER.
-Conference calls are a way to keep you off airplanes and are not the time to allow people to work on their emails. LEARN HOW TO CONDUCT CONFERENCE CALLS THAT PEOPLE WANT TO JOIN.
-Meetings can transform from a habit into a vice and often occur only because they are scheduled. Meetings can get in the way of meeting goals. TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT THE EFFECTIVENESS OF MEETINGS.
*Even if there are twenty people sitting around a meeting, the one person that calls into a meeting can be the most disruptive. CALL-IN TO MEETINGS ONLY WHEN NECESSARY.
*Everyone is scheduled too tight and can go into a stress spiral when always late. Meetings are a big culprit of schedule stress. END MEETINGS WHEN YOU SAY YOU WILL.

Improving your communications skills might allow you to lose weight because you will be less stressed and less likely to eat that doughnut.

Resolution Five
I will stop saying the word “whatever”.
Saying “whatever” means you are not making decisions. Make decisions, large and small, and live with them. It is possible to go to soccer games and be on a conference call at the same time and be a good manager and a good parent. It is not “whatever”. You made the decision that the mute button is your best friend. It is easy to spend days just saying “whatever” and draining email and voicemail and a sitting in on a constant stream of conference calls. That’s probably not what you are supposed to do. Resolve to be more productive and stop “whatevering”. Eliminating “whatever” will help you lose weight because you won’t say, “Quarter Pounder? Dunkin Doughnuts? OK, both. Whatever!”

There are ruts, habits and routines that are too easily carried from one year to the next. We all want something to look forward to in the new year so get out of the ruts and try one risky new thing like ball room dancing or an adventure vacation Every year goes by fast and the unfulfilled resolutions fly by. Make choices to follow these resolutions and rejoice in them. You will be much thinner when you start next year.