Halloween is always one of the best days at The Fool! We celebrated with pizza, candy, and the second-annual costume fashion show. What does your office do on Halloween?
The Motley Fool is growing and growing fast. With any rapid growth, scale and efficiency are key. We are desperately seeking a new Fool to investigate, test, and learn their way in to creating value by finding those little gaps in our systems and processes. In this new and important role you will absolutely be improving systems and processes, establishing new systems and processes, or combining systems and processes to create efficiency.
Initial Project List Draft:
Have you ever begun the walk or drive from Starbucks to the office and a tiny drip of coffee magically, intentionally pops from the edge of your cup on to your finger? We at The Fool have noticed that the amount of time we spend cleaning up the coffee spills from the annoying, magical drip from a Starbucks cup is small amounts of time that add up over the year. The successful candidate will experiment with the Starbucks coffee cup to determine why that drip appears, seems to have a mind of its own, and is intent on attaching itself to my shirt or desk. There it is again, what the heck is going on with the devil drip?
We at The Fool are long time users of Microsoft’s incredible invention, The Outlook. Long ago The Outlook discovered that the most efficient way to get from one meeting to the next is to allow zero seconds in between meetings. It is a real stroke of genius, meetings can start right away one after the other will absolutely no breaks. At The Fool we haven’t yet figured out how to master the lofty goal The Outlook has laid out for us. We need to experiment with running super-fast, cloning, time travel, or riding cheetahs to take full advantage of TOKES – The Outlook Kalendaring Efficiency System.
Everyone knows that interns are super smart, get great work done, and…wait for it… we don’t ever have to spend time getting to know them or their name. There is a lot of time spent at The Fool getting to know each other, having fun together, and collaborating. This could be just a big waste of time. We’d like to transition our full work force to be interns who do great stuff AND we don’t have to get to know them on any personal level. Each intern will be named Templeton I (male) or Temptress I (female). We will need to train them not to eat all of our free food, though.
One pass through our office and you can see that the more computer monitors we have the more efficient we are. We’d like to move to a point where every Fool has six monitors minimum. Math and strength will be key for this task. There is a lot of ordering and heavy lifting in this role. You will need to be able to count the number of monitors currently on people’s desk, subtract that number from six, and then go get that new number for setup. Again there is a first number, some subtraction with that number and the goal number, and then a determination of need based on the final number. Pivot table training will be provided through FoolU, our internal University.
We are big on standing desks, treadmill desks, and cycling desks. This promotes health and yes, speed! With speed comes getting things done faster. We know that when we combine our core values with great ideas amazing things happen. Fun, Competitive, and Collaborative are two of our core values and, well,
why should they be a part of everything? We’d like to take this to the next level with the Fool Sports Desk. In this scenario you will be able to play full court basketball, soccer, and tennis while using your laptop. Fools can work, play, compete, collaborate, get healthy, and win. We are winners.
If these are the types of projects that get you excited and ready for systems, processes, efficiency, strategery, systems, and process then apply now!
Recently I’ve noticed a few articles popping up claiming that cool offices and no vacation policy are somehow a myth, a scam, a sneaky way for The Man to keep you down. Here was the first line of one recent article: “Don’t be fooled by the perks at all those Silicon Valley (and Alley) offices — it’s all just part of a subtle plot to control employee behavior.” At The Motley Fool we have one of those cool offices and we chose not to enact a vacation policy 20 years ago, so my first reaction is to mail out some peanut butter to go with the author’s jealousy.
The focus of these negative articles is often on the game table, the casual dress, or the non-policy. Those are the outcome of what a cool office is actually about – trust and autonomy. None of the fun of a cool office can be provided without the right culture around it.
At The Fool we put a lot of time and energy in to recruiting the best employees. We are quite picky, we take our time with the hiring process, and we dislike increasing the employee headcount without good reason. When new hires arrive, we trust them to do what they were hired to do. We find that when we get out of the way, people choose their own path and create their own way of getting their work done. They tell us how they like to work and what they need. The fun toys, the desks on wheels, and the flexible hours are all what employees have asked us for. We aren’t scheming to invent ways to control employees, we’re giving them what they want to work effectively and be happy. If your study is finding that people at a company are taking fewer vacations or working longer hours, it isn’t because of the policy. The reason is you haven’t built a culture of trust.
I am reminded of a great line I once heard from Libby Sartain, former Southwest Culture guru, “Every Office has a culture. Every culture isn’t for everyone. Find the culture that fits you.”
At The Motley Fool, we know who we are, we work hard to find people that will add to our culture, and we look for every opportunity to support our team members. We do this because it works. It shows up in all our numbers no matter how you slice them. For instance, we have the highest employee engagement score by far that I’ve ever seen using the Gallup methodology.
We aren’t The Man plotting to keep our team down and take advantage of them. We are Fools working for our employees and doing everything we can to unleash them to do their best work how they’d like to do it.
Tom and David Gardner, along with some other incredible Fools, talk about our approach to teaching our members about investing. Get to know our founders and our office in this video. Did you know that most Fools are individual investors who follow The Fool’s own advice?
I recently interviewed a prospective Fool and, as expected, we dug into his past experiences. Like a lot of young, successful people, he had completed several internships. One in particular jumped out to me. The candidate had a passion for sports and had interned with a Major League Baseball team. The internship was unpaid, so the candidate held a second job as a coconut milk sample provider at Whole Foods. This role required my candidate to stand behind a table and hand out free milk. In exchange for this task he received a nice salary that enabled him to support himself while working for the baseball team. The unpaid internship was closely tied to his passions of marketing and sports, while the milk salesman job was far from his passion, but paid well. Ultimately he was able to balance the two jobs but he was left with little time for anything else.
The attitude of the baseball team was the same as a lot of big brands like major newspapers, television stations, or movie producers – you are so lucky to work with such a cool company, that is pay in and of itself Essentially they are letting you use their brand on your resume while taking advantage of you.
Don’t get me wrong, there is value there for the intern. But I don’t believe asking a young person to work for free, potentially increasing debt or sacrificing free time for a second job, is good, spiritual business. Why not double down with a great experience, a great brand, and fair pay for fair work? At The Fool, we pay all of our interns. We believe that is simply the right thing to do. We have plenty of students who would work here for free because, let’s face it, we are pretty cool nerds. But we want them to have a life outside of our office as well, and to end the summer with some savings.
Are you a college or grad student looking for an amazing paid summer internship experience at The Fool? The deadline to apply is January 4.
When my son was eight years old and in the 2nd grade, he mentioned to me that he sometimes pretended to have to go to the bathroom at school. This was curious to me. As I probed further, he revealed that sometimes he needed a break to be alone, breathe, and think. At school they aren’t allowed to have that kind of break. So he learned to follow the rules, stay out of trouble, and sneak out under the guise of a bathroom pass to be who he is and find what he needs to succeed.
I was sad to see that, at such a young age, he had already learned what so many professionals know: You have to find ways to work the system and hide your needs if they don’t seem to fit the protocol. I will admit to, in my adult, professional life, pretending to go potty simply to get a break. I just can’t sit in the all-day, off-site meeting with chicken salad wraps and endless coffee without time to myself to think and breathe.
I am always quick to admit to being a poor businessman in the traditional sense. I’m more the guy in the back row coloring during the classes I don’t find interesting, but I’ll sit front row center for the ones I love. I’m not good at pretending to be something I’m not. I’m really bad at following rules. That can get you in trouble in business life. The lessons we learn as children carry into our work life – that it is often better to appear to go along with the rules, but secretly take an afternoon nap in our parked car, lie about being sick to skip work, wear crazy socks hidden under boring black pants, or sneak in the occasional gin and tonic at lunch.
Getting people to conform and follow the rules, or catching them breaking rules, is often the focus of the HR profession. That is why I don’t often refer to my work as HR. At The Fool our focus is to unleash the individual. We are working every day to embrace how people like to work and getting out of their way. We don’t presume that every person works best the same way, on the same schedule, at a desk, with the same system, wearing the same suit.
If my son worked at The Fool we’d identify that he needs some time to himself. We’d support his work style and look for ways to double down on how he is most productive. This work takes a big team of coaches and a lot of one-on-one connections. But in the end, the value for our business far outweighs the cost, and people are simply happier.
November is almost here and the holiday season will soon be upon us. For many people, that means weekends filled with cocktail parties. My least favorite kind of party is the one where my wife knows everyone there, and I know no one. Inevitably I end up engaged in small talk and, as it turns out, I’m pretty horrible at small talk. It’s especially difficult when we get to the “what do you do?” question.
In the U.S. you have to have a clear answer to that question. This answer is important. There is a lot of pressure to nail this one. I am an Anesthesiologist, I handle logistics for the largest non-profit in the world, I am a Teacher, I am a Developer for NASA, I am a Dog Walker. Whatever your answer, it defines everything about your life; what is important to you, how much money you make, what difference you are making in the world, and whether the conversation is about to get interesting.
My challenge is I don’t know what to say. At The Fool we have never liked traditional job titles and job descriptions. There is so much limitation in a job description and so much hierarchy in a title. I play many roles here and they are dynamic and fun. Overall my goal is to make people happy. Often I work to ensure Fools are passionate and skilled about what they do, and that what they do is valuable to our members. Sometimes I lead, sometimes I follow, sometimes I learn, and sometimes I buy doughnuts. There is no great title that describes those actions or that I care to use.
I am proud of my work and I believe it makes a real difference in the world. I don’t find value in being the assistant to the vice president of administrators or whatever sounds important. A lot of people might wonder how I could be important without a fancy title that connotes subordinates and authority. To fix this, I have been telling people I am the President of the United States, but he’s getting so much air time lately I fear people won’t believe me.
The concept is known to everyone. A great manager is and has it all; inspiration, feedback, goal setting, communication, organization, team player, individual contributor, budgeting, career guide, mentor, collaboration, visionary, pace setter, blah blah blah.
And there seems to be a lot of the “blah blah blah” out there! Companies pump tons of money in to management training – I know I have certainly developed a few management programs in my time. A simple search on Amazon will find the endless books written on the subject – we know you’ve seen those advertisements for becoming a management unicorn in only 5 minutes or by focusing on 10 easy habits. And still, every year evaluations are performed to see how well people did against the categories their company has called out as “good management traits.” You have probably had a separate section on the evaluation just for that elite category called management.
What do all of these things add up to? I believe we are forever searching for the impossible – a unicorn – when we focus so much on the complete manager.
At The Fool, we have instead found that the real value is in recognizing where people need help and matching them with a leader who possesses that specific skill. We call it, “Everyone Has Someone.” That someone may be the existing manager, or it could be a mentor from somewhere else in the business.
We work hard to ensure that everyone has someone dedicated to their development. The trick is connecting with and knowing your crew. We play a constant game of matchmaking. Fools may need help with communication, focus, stretching themselves, etc. We then look for a mentor that can provide that type of help.
We don’t expect our leaders to be everything to everyone. We expect our leaders to be great at what they are individually skilled at. Then we leverage that greatness.
Last year, I attended the Wisdom 2.0 Summit in San Francisco. The conference is a convergence of enlightenment and business. There was a lot of great discussion and some very forward-thinking people doing things like embracing yoga and meditation in the workplace, something that The Fool has done for a while now.
Most of the attendees were locals rolling in from around the Bay Area. So, discussions around coffee in the morning naturally drifted to the traffic everyone had just battled to get to the conference. The organizers had, like many businesses tend to do, decided to kick off at 9 a.m.
This forced attendees to be there for what many consider the most stressful part of the day. So many people in the U.S. are rushing around in the morning, trying to hustle out the door to get on the highway with millions of others to get to work – toward the exact same start time.
At The Fool, we work hard to avoid scheduling anything before 10 a.m., which, we know, is not the norm.
But we’re okay with that. We like being different and innovative. We find our Fools are happier with that extra hour for themselves to get in early or late, meditate, work out, get through some emails, or maybe to just avoid all of the traffic. No one seems to enjoy the pressure of a 9 a.m. start time. It makes the rest of the day that much longer.
I have to laugh at the irony of what, for many at the conference, was a stressful start to a very enlightened and beneficial day. I couldn’t help but wonder how much more beautiful the experience could have been if it started at 10 a.m. I could have had an extra cup of coffee!
Of course it was.
So why do many employers in the corporate world today still try forcing their employees to do something they know they won’t like?
I find volunteerism to be an important part of individual success. My experience is that no one likes to be told what to do in any part of their life. (If you have kids, like I do, they can explain this to you in detail.) The reality is that once you are told what to do you become part of someone else’s vision. When you choose a path on your own, it is your path – you have ownership over it and control over what you do with it. You become invested in the process and the outcome because you chose it.
Wharton Professor (and super cool guy) Adam Grant goes into some great detail about the affect this reality has on corporate giving programs in his report Giving Time, Time After Time: Work Design and Sustained Employee Participation in Corporate Volunteering. If you are a geeky people professional like me, you’ll enjoy the full read. Adam finds that, “In the absence of pressure, employees are more likely to feel personally responsible for the decision to volunteer, which will increase the likelihood of internalizing the volunteer identity.” He found that corporations got some short-term bumps when they put pressure on volunteering. But, long-term success increased when people chose their own direction.
If you know me, you know I love to recommend books that I haven’t finished reading yet. Well, I am in the middle of Multipliers by Liz Wiseman. It is also an awesome read, and so far, it reinforces much of how we operate at The Motley Fool. When describing some great leadership traits, Liz says that peoples’ best thinking should ” be given, to taken,” and that while a manager may be able to insist on a level of productivity and output, the employee’s efforts must be given voluntarily. She continues, “This changes the leader’s role profoundly. Instead of demanding the best work directly, they create an environment where it not only can be offered, but where it is deeply needed. Because the environment naturally requires it, a person freely bestows their best thinking and work.”
At The Fool, we try to incorporate volunteerism in all of our projects and development programs.
I will always bet on the project led by the person who volunteered and has the passion for it, instead of the person who may be more skilled but was forced into the role.