Core Value #4 : Fun – Revel in Your Work

Fun

FunThe Fool is a fun place to work. We believe that life and work cannot be separated, and rather than balancing, we try to integrate them.  We want all Fools to think about how they can add fun to their day and how they can love their work.  Everyone is encouraged to take time out of their day to socialize, play, exercise, create, or relax.

It’s important to create friendships within the company.  Understanding, and maybe even liking, each other is going to make us a better, more productive, and happier company. We ask about friends in our employee engagement survey twice a year.

The number one way that we encourage fun is to ensure that each Fool is actually in a job they love.  It’s fun to take a break but we also want people to love what they do.  If you ever talk to our Chief Investing Officer, Andy Cross, you will know that he loves investing and it’s fun for him every single day.  The same is true of many Fools.  Laura, a member of our business intelligence team, loves data – LOVES IT!  I’m serious! Just ask her a question about Excel and her excitement could launch the space shuttle.

It thrills us when someone will describe themselves as an investing nerd or a tech geek or marketing dweeb – all a little self-effacing, sure, but it shows that they have a lot of themselves wrapped up in their jobs and have maybe more fun with it than socially acceptable.

Fun also has a very direct business purpose.  It decreases burnout, increases collaboration, and improves employee retention – WIN!

1)      Do we hire for this value?

Yes.  We try through both our application process and in the interview to learn more about you and see your personality.  This one is easily misinterpreted by many candidates (please don’t tell me a beer pong story).  We do want to know what makes your eyes light up inside and outside of work.  I don’t judge what you do for fun – I just want to see that you don’t take yourself too seriously.

 2)      Will we fire for this value? 

This is the value where I get the most questions on our monthly culture tour.  I explain at the beginning of the tour that values are ONLY really values if you will hire and fire for them.  Everyone nods as we discuss Collaborative, Innovative, Honest and Competitive.  Then we get to FUN!  It’s easy for our visitors to see that this is a fun atmosphere and to understand why fun could be a desirable value, but I almost always get a sideways glance and either concerned whisper or snarky comment here – “You fire for fun?”  It seems unbelievable in a business context – sure you value honesty like that, but fun?  Really?

Yes, really.  You don’t need to be the person leading the conga line (that’s my job) – but if you are cancerous to the culture and are making your coworkers miserable, our paths will soon diverge.

3)      Can you see and feel this value walking through the office?

Yes, fun is probably the easiest value to see as you walk through the office.  We have our game room, massage room, and nap room, but it really lives everywhere. From my desk right now I can see 1) large inflatable pool toys (swan, orca, shark, walrus, turtle) 2) a Nerf gun battle 3) several art pieces created by Fools at a happy hour 4) Five board games 5) wizard’s chess, wands and broomsticks (Firebolt and Nimbus) 6) a dozen jester hats.

The other part is just the feeling.  As I’m writing the post I hear laughter coming from the tech team sitting next to me – and yes, they are talking about code.  Behind me Lee is laughing about an upcoming event that he’s planning. It’s hard to sit here for more than five minutes without hearing fun.  I think fun is reason that we are consistently voted one of Washington DC’s best places to work.

4)      Is the value referenced frequently?  When was the last time?

It’s certainly referenced through the constant laughter and passion of Fools every day, but the purpose of this question is more systemic.  How do we ensure that Fun is constant?  One of my favorite Culture Club rules is “If you have to make it mandatory, you have failed to make it compelling.” It’s also frequently used as a tie breaker.  When there is a decision to make about anything from strategy to time management the kicker question is frequently “Which one is more fun for you?  Do that one!”

Please note that our values are not actually rank-ordered.  I call this #4 to help blog readers keep track.  See the full list of values at Core Values to Live By.

Visit The Motley Fool!

tmf_IMG_0980

IMG_5329_exportWe love to meet fellow Fools and exchange ideas.  As you can imagine, we get a lot of requests for office tours or visits.  While we aren’t able to accommodate every schedule, we do have two ways that you can visit Motley Fool Intergalactic Headquarters in Alexandria, VA.

Member Investing Tourtmf_IMG_0980
Are you a member of one of the Fool’s investing services? Contact us directly to inquire about a 15 minute tour visitus@fool.com.

Office Culture Tour
You’ve heard of the Fool’s unique culture and you want to bring some of our special sauce back to your company. Come meet with our HR team — we want to share Foolish best practices with you! Join us for First Friday Workplace Foolosophy Tour and discussion led by HR Fools. We’ll talk about workplace satisfaction, employee engagement, benefits, feedback, and more. These tours are held on the first Friday of each month from 9:30-11 a.m. Sign up here!_MG_9716

Disclaimers:

·         We will not give personalized investment advice
·         We do not currently have tours for people trying to sell us stuff
·         You might get pinged by an errant Nerf dart
·         This is not a job interview
·         Wear comfortable shoes – everyone here is in flip flops anyway
·         You may be called a Fool (but that’s a good thing!)

 

Core Value #3: Honesty – Make us Proud

Honesty

HonestyHonesty has a beautiful simplicity.  This straightforward value gives us a framework for making decisions companywide.  In a company built on intellectual capital, with the stated purpose of helping the world invest better, honesty is essential.

We chose our words here carefully: Make. Us. Proud.  Not “Don’t break the law” or “Tell the truth” or “Call ‘em like you see ‘em.” For us, honesty has to go beyond what is legally defensible.

Honesty also emphasizes the difference between core values and a code of ethics.  Our core values serve as fundamental beliefs that we can turn to when making decisions.  They should be easy to explain, embrace, and employ as decision-making tools. A code of ethics – although closely related — is generally a more formalized list of do’s and don’ts.  It’s almost a *gulp* “policy.”

Now – as promised in my first post, here are the answers to our values questions.

Do we hire for this value?

Yes.  How?  Certainly, it would be great to have Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth, but I’ll admit that the one I ordered from Amazon needs batteries or something.  And the last interviewee I used it on wasn’t amused.  Maybe he had something to hide…

Instead, I ask prospective employees: Tell me something you’re proud of. A time that you had to be honest when it wasn’t easy. A time that there was a difference between what was right and what was legal.

I also love to hear “I’m not sure” or “I don’t know” answers in an interview.  It’s virtually impossible to know all of the answers. Be honest about it.   I also see red flags sometimes when we ask someone to demonstrate knowledge.  Certainly, we don’t try to trick people with these questions, but it’s surprising to me how frequently this happens:

Q: “Are you an investor?”

A: “Yes!”

Q: “Great, tell me about the last stock you bought and why?”

A: “Ummm, well…”

Will we fire for this value? 

Yes.

Can you see and feel this value in our office?

Many of the same ways we encourage collaboration also foster honesty.  Everyone’s desk occupies the same open office, and our conference rooms have glass walls and doors.  We also build honesty into our services, displaying our returns since recommendation on the front page of our web site.  Some are up, some are down — but we don’t cherry-pick the winners.  We also display returns for specific recommendations throughout the office, and change the returns as the stock price moves.  Some months those are higher; some months, lower.

How often do we talk about this value?  When was the last time we did so?

Similar to Innovation, I actually hear “make us proud” more frequently than “core value honesty.” But our CEO has recently taken this value to the next level by hosting a monthly Honest Tea. At this session, which follows our monthly all-company meeting, everyone is encouraged to come and dissent. We want to ensure that we have not only a desire to be honest, but also an outlet for those thoughts.

Please note that our values are not actually rank-ordered.  I call this #3 to help blog readers keep track.  See the full list of values at Core Values to Live By.

Core Value #2 — Innovative: Search For a Better Solution. Then Top It.

Innovative

InnovativeThe term innovation drums up images of world-changing ideas or inventions.  Certainly we at The Fool want to change the world, but innovation is more about making everything better every day and embracing change.  It’s constantly searching for ways to “Top It!”

We want Fools to relentlessly search for better solutions and try new things.  Fools should make small, thoughtful changes and double down on the winner and learn from the losers. One of our favorite books is Little Bets by Peter Sims. It reinforces our “test and learn” mentality, and I highly recommend it.

Big innovation comes in big steps and small steps, and we always want to be walking forward.

Even our vocabulary and cultural habits embrace and push an innovative spirit.  I hear these phrases almost every day: “test and learn,” “fail fast,” “try stuff,” “top it,” ”small bet,” “minimum viable product.”  I have heard or said each of these terms in the past 48 hours.

We want Fools to be bold and, most of all, to focus on solving the real problems. “Top It!” is a phrase that is a constant reminder to build a better solution.  It’s easy to criticize an idea and lose sight of the problem you are trying to solve.  In an instant any Fool can reframe the conversation with that two-word term – TOP IT – and we are back on track to focus on the problem we’re trying to solve.

Here are my honest answers to questions I referenced in my first post about core values:

1)        Do we hire for this value?

Yes.  We are looking for people that want to make those small bets and top it with us.  In an interview we want to hear about a time that you saw a problem and just made it better.  We want to hear your ideas for our company or the job you seek.  You don’t have to have solved world hunger, but show us that you like to test and learn and are open to change.

 2)      Will we fire for this value?

I credit Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh with putting this question in my head and pushing the idea that core values are ONLY real if they actually drive action in your organization.  You demonstrate their importance if you are willing to take action to increase their presence and also to eliminate blockers to their success.  If an employee is a blocker to innovation and change, it just doesn’t work. 

3)      Can you see and feel this value walking through the office?

Yes.  We are constantly innovating in our physical space, too.  If you come to our Intergalactic HQ in Alexandria, VA for a culture tour you’ll see that our 5th floor is completely mobile.  All of our desks are on wheels and if you come two months in a row it will look different the second time.  Things change pretty quickly around here.

4)      Is the value referenced frequently?  When was the last time?

I actually received an email from our Chief Performance Officer while I was writing this blog post.  It’s important to note that innovation as a core value is for everyone.  It’s not something that is expected of just the marketing, investing, product, or culture team.  Everyone is expected to innovate within their role and top it.  This is note was about our bonus payouts and innovation in accounting and employee ownership:

“I’d like to tell you about an experimental opportunity for your bonus payout that’s new this year. Like everything at The Fool, seeking innovation is a constant in our culture.  Heck, it’s a core value.  And, for the first time ever, we’re putting the power of choice in your hands in an innovative way…”

Also pretty cool that we’re encouraging employee ownership – I think.

Now – I encourage you to TOP IT!  How do you drive innovation in your company? Give me some ideas in the comments.

Core Value #1: Collaborative — Do Great Things Together

Collaborative

CollaborativeWe give Culture Tours on the first Friday of each month. They begin with our core values and collaborative is always the first.

Why is it a core value: The Motley Fool was founded in community.  We are better investors because we work with our members.  They have experiences and knowledge that we don’t.

This translates to our working environment as well.  Union gives strength. Our decisions are better when we work together.  Fools are more productive and satisfied when they know each other. We gain energy when we are all working together to achieve the same goals.

We take this seriously.  In fact, we have a Chief Collaboration Officer. Long time Fool Todd Etter works full time to help us get to know each other and work together in creative ways.

Here are my honest answers to questions I referenced in my first post about core values:

1)      Do we hire for this value?

Yes!  We want to see it in the candidate we are interviewing and demonstrate its importance to them.  Interviews at The Fool usually involve 4-8 interviewers and they all have a say in the hiring process.  We also have a special part of the interview conducted by the “Foolish Ambassador.”  This is a Fool from another department who wouldn’t be working closely with the candidate who gets hired.  This Fool assesses Foolish Fit and core values.  A software developer might interview a stock analyst or an accountant might interview an editor.

 2)      Will we fire for this value?

This is an important question, but it will be hard to answer for all of my posts.  I don’t like to think about times when people haven’t been able to embrace our core values, but, alas, sometimes it happens.  Collaboration is such an integral part of who we are as a business that, ultimately, people who don’t embrace it just won’t work out.  Here is a hypothetical example of how this plays out here:  Morton is a brilliant designer.  He has a lot of excellent experience and keeps up to date on the latest trends.  He also thinks he has all the right answers (after all, what does the scrum master know about design?).  He works with his head down for weeks at a time to produce “the perfect” project that he unveils with a big “TA DA!”  By the time he’s done, he has strong sense of ownership and reluctance to accept constructive feedback.  But instead of applause, his fellow Fools are confused and frustrated.  While he was heads down, the project evolved and the design no longer addressed the needs of the project.  Even worse, he’s not willing to listen and make the needed adjustments.  He is frustrated with the team and they are not impressed with his lack of collaboration.  Great Fools don’t “TA DA.”  They seek input early, often, and from a variety of sources.

3)      Can you see and feel this value walking through the office?

It’s almost impossible not to see collaboration when you walk through the office.   We have no private offices and most of our desks are on wheels, so teams can easily push their desks together to work on a project.  Frequently you’ll see several Fools playing pool or sharing stories from their recent vacation.  There are also a lot of white boards with people huddled around them, discussing what they’re working on that day.

4)      Is the value referenced frequently?  When was the last time?

In fact, so frequently that it’s just part of daily Foolish vocabulary.   I promised to answer this one honestly (also a core value), so the last time I saw a reference was today on our intranet – probably not the best example but it is the most recent:

Mark K:  Hey Fools: if there’s an empty dishwasher right next to the sink, why are there always dirty dishes in said sink? A conundrum, wouldn’t you agree?

Peter V: I commented on this to Anthony just a few days ago! It just doesn’t seem Foolish to expect someone else to clean up after you, does it?

Tom:  OTOH, collaborative is a core value.

Let’s be collaborative on this blog post.  I certainly don’t have all the answers.  How do you collaborate in your office?  How can we top it?

Does Your Company Have Core Values to Live By?

Core Values

Core ValuesWow!  You actually opened a post with the title “core values?”  I’m a little surprised.  Many people look at “core values” and roll their eyes.  After all, most companies have them and they are generally very nice, very aspirational…and very stale.

You can imagine that they were created by a strange consultant with trendy glasses, who smelled like Mountain Dew and Altoids, who came to the office and spent a day in a conference room – or maybe a result of that executive retreat a few years ago where we all heard Alex got a little tipsy and crashed the golf cart.

But, so what? What do they really mean when push comes to shove?  How do you use them?

At their worst, Core Values are corporate jargon and a company joke – Enron, after all, had values of respect, integrity, communication, and excellence.

But used in the right way, they can be amazing – dare I say magical!  They can allow a company to develop a culture that exists without a lot of oversight.

At The Fool we really do try to live our core values every single day.  And they’re a little different than your typical corporate buzz words.  Here they are – created by a broad section of Fools from several departments and tenures.

You can see them on the wall as soon as you walk through the front door on our culture tour. But they don’t live there – they live in our culture and in each Fool’s daily actions.

Be Foolish!

  • Collaborative - Do great things together.
  • Innovative – Search for a better solution. Then top it!
  • Fun – Revel in your work.
  • Honest – Make us proud.
  • Competitive – Play fair, play hard, play to win.
  • Motley – Make Foolishness your own. Share your core value _____________.

Okay, great – but how do you know you are living them?  What about the pushing and shoving I mentioned earlier? For me it’s about these four questions, and I ask myself these questions frequently for each value:

  1. Do we hire for this value?
  2. Will we fire for this value?
  3. Can you see and feel this value walking through the office?
  4. Is the value referenced frequently?  Really? When was the last time?

In the next couple of posts I’ll answer these questions for each value to give you a greater sense of what they mean and how they simultaneously drive and reflect the culture of The Fool.

First Friday Workplace Foolosophy Tour

First Friday

First FridayI share.

I love to talk about business and creating a great and sustainable corporate culture.   Although it may be a competitive advantage for my company right now, I really believe that the world will just be a better place if people find happiness and fulfillment in their work.

So, I talk about it.  A lot.

In the past year I’ve talked to dozens of business leaders and media outlets about corporate culture.  We’ve discussed our unlimited vacation policy, core values, NCAA tournament parties, corporate universities, hiring practices, quirky job titles, open office plans, transparency, and open book finances. I love it.

Now you can visit The Motley Fool, too.

Each month we host a Workplace Foolosophy Tour.  The first Friday of each month from 9:30-11am you can join The Motley Fool Culture Club for a tour of Motley Fool Intergalactic Headquarters in Alexandria, VA.

The tour is about 45 minutes followed by an interactive discussion.

It’s free, kinda…  I do this for three reasons:  1) To change the world 2) To save some time and combine a lot into a Friday morning and 3) I always learn something, too.  So, to pay for your visit I ask that you share some of your most valuable resource and give me some of your ideas in return.

If you want to sign up, register here through Eventbrite.

NOTE: This is a business focused  workplace culture tour.  I don’t accept resumes, entertain sales pitches or give investing advice in this tour.  If you are member that wants to talk investing with our analysts come to our monthly member tour – sign up here.

A Culture of Trust

Trust is Key

Trust is Key You may have read a lot about Motley Fool corporate culture.  Although it manifests itself in many ways, at the heart of our craziness we are building culture of trust.

Unlimited vacation?  Yes.  We trust you to manage your workflow and cover your projects. We also trust that you will manage your time off in a way that makes you happy and doesn’t disadvantage your team.

NCAA Tournament in the office?  Yes.  We show the games in the office every year and encourage you to watch with your co-workers.  We trust that you will still get your job done, and that if there is an emergency, you’ll take care of it.

There is a business purpose behind this culture of trust.  Obviously it makes our Fools happy, improves recruiting, and leads to great employee retention and a healthy office environment.  I hope that’s pretty obvious.

But the part that many people don’t understand is that trust=speed.  Professional trust is very closely related to productivity and output.

Trust in the workplace leads to faster decisions, higher collaboration, and greater autonomy. In a high trust relationship, you focus on the future, and everything moves faster.  You can say the wrong thing and still be understood.  You can make a mistake and recover quickly – and your team will help you.

In a low trust relationship, the focus is on the past, mistakes are hashed and rehashed, time is wasted choosing the right words, and then reversing them.  Your ability to cover yourself overshadows the need to move forward and focus on the future, and your team will blame you.

Trust isn’t just a feel good term, it’s a productivity boon and a competitive advantage.

If you find yourself wordsmithing your emails and agonizing that they will be misconstrued or working under the CYA (Cover You’re A$$) system, you should probably take a step back and first address T-R-U-S-T.

If you are looking at your own corporate culture – reinforcing, rebuilding, reframing – don’t start with fun.  Start with trust.

 

Q x A = E

Fools collaborating

Fools collaborating Quality x Acceptance = Excellence

This simple formula is a reminder to socialize your ideas before you complete them.

Most of us focus on quality and will work heads-down without any input whatsoever.  It feels good to create a quality product; it also feels good to know that you have figured it out by yourself.  Yet, we are left scratching our heads when our high-quality work doesn’t get the traction that we want, or what we feel that work deserves.  Frequently this is because we have spent too much time on the Q and not enough on the A.

Acceptance and buy-in are crucial to success.  Let’s take the formula at face value and add some numbers to it.  Let’s assume that each hour of time is equal to one unit of Quality or Acceptance.  So if you spend an hour working, you can put that hour into either by getting the project perfect or by gaining buy-in.  If you have 10 hours to spend on the project, let’s look at how you would maximize the project.

Scenario 1 – Put all of your time into creating an excellent project.  Perfect it, and then perfect it again.
Q=10 and A=0; so here is our formula: 10 x 0 = 0.  Wow!   Such high quality and such a miserable failure.  I don’t get it?

Scenario 2 – Put most of your time into quality but leave an hour to socialize the idea.
Q=9 and A=1; so our formula is: 9 x 1 = 9.  Much better!  The output isn’t quite as perfect on quality, but it can move forward because it has advocates.

Scenario 3 – Split your time equally.
Q=5 and A=5; so our formula is 5×5=25.  WHAT?  I spent half the time on the quality of the project, and 5 hours wagging my jaw, but got 25x the results.  How can that be?

I see several of you dismissing this formula already…..

BUT WAIT…

I encourage you to try it!

Well, what are you waiting for?

The next time you are frustrated because you have a project that is stalled, and you are tempted to work from home to “fix it”, instead set up 3 different discussions with key stakeholders and socialize it before you “fix it.”  Post your results here.  I’m telling you, you’ll be surprised.

Potential, Giving Your Best, and Leading by Example

Marine Corps Marathon runners

Marine Corps Marathon runners There is a scene in Facing the Giants that I love. WARNING: inspirational sports clip. It’s about 5 minutes long — go ahead and watch it. I’ll wait right here and sing “American Pie” — it’s about that long.

…jester sang for the king and queen … Chevy to the levy … the day the music died…

Back? OK.

Two great quotes that I want you dwell on for a minute: “I want you to do it blindfolded. … Because I don’t want you giving up at a certain point when you can go farther,” and, “You are the most influential member of this team. If you walk around defeated, so will they.”

There are two people to think about here — the coach and the player.

As a player, are you creating artificial boundaries? Do you realize how your boundaries influence your team? No one is going to try to go farther than the best player. It seems impossible. When they see you stretching, they will reach, too.

As a coach do you know who your influencers are? Are you aware of their message to the rest of your team? Are they aware? Can you see potential that they don’t? What is your equivalent of the blindfold?