Get a New Perspective to Prevent Workplace Groupthink

Teamwork

TeamworkIt’s likely happened to you.

You are sitting there in a meeting among your coworkers, and you start to be able to tell who is going to say what, and how each person is going to respond.

Sure, you’ve gotten to know them well. You know their Myers-Briggs scores. You know who likes what type of cupcakes from the local bakery. You know what so-and-so is doing for the holidays.

But you’re supposed to get to know your coworkers and collaborate through teamwork, right?

Yes, absolutely. You are supposed to know what they are good at, how they will respond to certain elements, and how they solve issues.

But what you have to be careful with is the groupthink that can be created after working together for a long time. Once that happens – when you can predict how people will react to a certain thing and even guess what they are going to say – you have entered into a dangerous zone.

Why is this so dangerous? Clearly, you are all a well-oiled machine. You’re efficient. You know the ins and outs of what to do in your job, and they know the ins and outs of what they need to do in theirs. What’s dangerous about this situation is that you don’t have a diversity of thought. People keep formulating the same ideas they have for a while, and they will continue to do so until they are shaken up by a new perspective.

You need to introduce an outside party. No, this doesn’t have to be a consultant, but it should be someone outside of your group. Bring someone in that is interested in the project or someone who might be affected by it, and ask them to walk you through his or her thought process.

You need that different perspective, that diversity of thought to come up with ideas and solutions that you as a team probably would not have gotten to – or at least wouldn’t have reached in as timely a manner as the “new guy” would.

Just be careful that you don’t have too many cooks in the kitchen. That can be detrimental as well. You want to make sure that you have enough new people in the mix to push diverse perspectives and to ask questions that the group normally wouldn’t ask, but that you don’t have too many people with too many thoughts that you can’t narrow down the thoughts to a few good ones. This is how great ideas come to fruition.

Here at The Motley Fool, a couple of examples of diversity of thought come to mind. First, in every in-person interview we have, we bring in what we call a Foolish Ambassador – someone who is not in the department or group that the candidate is applying for. We want an outside person to see if they are, indeed, a Foolish fit for the company, and not just a fit for the group.

Second, once we hire new Fools, we want to hear what they have to say. Many of our Foolish employees have been with the company for quite a while – we have a very low turnover rate – so many of us have heard what so-and-so would say about this-and-that. We want to hear what the new blood thinks; we want them to have the ability to try out new ideas. So when our new Fools start, we start this thought process by asking them what they would change in our orientation process.

I’ve been to a few conferences lately, and I’ve heard this more than any other line: “When you get comfortable, that’s when you should think about changing jobs or taking on new projects.” I think that also works in groups and teams. If you are too comfortable, you need something to spark some new thought and change things up. It could be as simple as changing scenery by having a meeting outside or at a coffee shop. Or you may need to change up your group dynamic.

Think about it – but make sure you ask for feedback from someone you don’t ALWAYS ask feedback from.

Love investing? Love writing? You may want to join TMF Blog Network!

The Fool’s blog network was created in 2011 in order to give a voice to the individual investor. There are a number of reasons, let’s say 10, you might want to take part.

10. Show the world (or at least thousands of investors) how smart you are.

9. Get paid $50 for each post you write that we syndicate (ie, send to Yahoo Finance, MSNMoney, AOL Daily Finance, etc.).

8. The potato salad at our Blogger Bonanza at FoolHQ is to die for.

7. How many other financial websites have been referred to as an “ethical oasis”?

6. We want your experience with us to be incredible, so we incorporate your suggestions, we pay twice a month, and we respond quickly (and nicely) to your emails.

5. There’s always a chance we’ll send you a FOOL baseball hat.

4. If you consistently do great stuff for us, we’ll bump you to $100 per post.

3. Everyone else is doing it.

2. Roughly 20 people who started in the blogs have joined us as Fool.com contract writers or in-house Fools.

1. You will join The Motley Fool in our mission to help the world invest. Better.

 

Interested?  Go here to apply.

Where Are the Women Investors and Techies?

Warren Buffett Invests Like a Girl

Warren Buffett Invests Like a GirlIt’s a man’s world. Men lead women in elected offices as well as corner offices in the corporate world. There’s even a song about it.

But as a female in the working world, I can’t help but ask the question – does it have to be that way? Can’t it be a world shared by men and women alike? Can we women not do the same tasks and come up with ideas just as well as men? Don’t worry. I can answer it for you – why yes, yes, we can.

In the male-dominated fields of investing and tech specifically, where are all the women?

Yes, I know they are out there, but the numbers are small. Those powerhouse women in those two industries get picked up by large companies that can pay them the big bucks, and they should. More power to them. Call me crazy, but don’t there HAVE to be women out there that want to work for a company with an amazing purpose, who want a work/life balance, and who want to come to a company that values their employees and supports them rather than breaking them down?

I’m putting a casting call – if you will – out there for women who love investing, who love technology, who thrive in the financial world, and who want more from their company than the 9-5 rat race. Who wants to spend 75-100 hours a week working in an environment that runs you down; not to mention the ever-dwindling social life and decreasing amounts of free time that come with that way of life? I’m hoping there are women out there who say, “You know what – there has GOT to be a better way!”

More and more, women are running household budgets, looking in on their stock portfolios, overseeing state and national budgets, and running tech companies. And why shouldn’t there be? Do men have the monopoly on number-crunching and stock-evaluating genes and new tech ideas?

So here is my request to women out there who love the stock market, who love technology, and want to make a difference in the investing world, apply at The Motley Fool (send your information to resumes@fool.com if there is no open position that piques your interest right now). Come and see what all the fuss is about, and maybe our next great investor – as LouAnn Lofton, writer of Warren Buffett Invests Like a Girl, says – could, in fact, be a woman. Statistics show that women are better at investing than the other sex. Or we could see the next technological advancement come from – gasp! – a woman!

Self-Awareness and Improvement

Making yourself a better coworker

Making yourself a better coworkerThere are tests upon tests that will tell you whether you are a visionary or a more get-the-task-done person, whether you like to be around others or you like to operate by yourself, and whether you are a person who pays attention to details or you look more toward the big picture, among others.

While some of those are more useful, here at The Fool, we take a few of those tests and use the bigger picture of several test results to tell us more about ourselves and our coworkers.

But why would we do this?

Because we want to know what we are good at, how we learn and interpret information, and how to better ourselves.

One thing we are extremely big on here at The Fool is self-awareness. If you are not aware of more than 3 items you need to work on, then take a good look at yourself through others’ eyes. Step into their shoes and look at yourself from their perspective. Look at how you approach people, how you interact in meetings, and how you solve problems.

You’ve probably heard this before, but I’m going to say it again – sometimes, perception is reality. And you need to know what the perception of you is out in the world, and how you view yourself. If there is a difference there, then there is likely something you need to work on with yourself, or a view that you need to work on changing. And the easiest way to change that is to do more of what is lacking, or do less of what is perceived as a bad behavior.

Starting from the first day as a new Fool, we work with them on getting them immersed in our culture, but also working with them to find out what they are good at, how they learn, and how they perceive their professional environments. We work to coach them on what they need help with and have them takes tests that show us what they need as coworkers to succeed.

At the end of the day, we want to help make each Fool a better Fool, which will in turn, make The Motley Fool a better place.

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Do you have any great stories of self-improvement in your professional career? What has helped you? What has hindered you? Comment below.

Foolish First Day

Fun desk items

Fun desk items

Here at The Fool, we don’t do many things “just because everyone does it that way”.

We don’t keep track of vacation days or sick days because “most companies do”, and we don’t always second-guess our employees on where they are if they take the afternoon off. If they have gotten their work done, they can go home and do laundry! Or take the afternoon off to catch a sports game.

And we definitely don’t do orientation the way that every other company does.

I was on a call the other day with a vendor, and the representative asked me how we use a specific program to “onboard.”

My response was something like this, “Well, we don’t use the term onboarding. I actually haven’t heard that word in months, and the only reason I’ve heard it then was because I was at a traditional human resources conference.”

Onboarding to us does not mean the same as it does to most companies. It does not mean that we throw enough paperwork at you to get lost behind it your first day. Of course, there will always be paperwork to fill out (even electronically), but we don’t make that your complete first day’s work.

We don’t want your first day as a Fool to be remembered as the never-ending day of filling out paperwork.

In fact, for a lot of our newer hires, we start BEFORE their first day with welcoming them in our own Foolish way into the culture. We send them a welcome email, like many companies do, but our includes something fun for them. It may be a gift card for dinner out with their spouse, family, or friends, or it  may be a gift card that could go toward decorating their office desk. We want to make sure that our Fools are comfortable with their work environment, and that if they don’t want to – they don’t even have to cook the night before their first day.

Their very first morning with us, we normally take them for a walk around the block, show them where fun lunch places are, where the closest dry cleaners is, and perhaps pick up a coffee along the way. We also talk them through a basic business model, set the expectation of our high-performing/lifestyle culture, and answer any questions they may have.

After the necessary paperwork meetings and the computer usage information, we invite them out to lunch with a group of Fools that are outside their department. You may ask – why are these Fools outside of their department?

Well, it’s funny you should ask – we feel that our new Fools will be collaborating with their departments quickly, and picked them based on Foolish fit with their department. But if we have a few other Fools outside of their department take them out to lunch, those Fools – even just subconsciously – will want that new Fool to succeed and will have a stake their success. As a small company of less than 300 Fools, we are more and more a Foolish family, and it’s important to network with more than just your immediate group.

After all of that, we want their first day to end in success, so they will likely get to leave a bit earlier than most Fools – beating rush hour traffic home, and hopefully, having a most Foolish and fun first day.

How to Prepare for a Tough Interview

Foolishness

Foolishness What is your greatest strength?

What is your greatest weakness?

What three words most describe you?

We’ve all heard these time and time again in interviews that we’ve been in over the years. We can probably even guess what the next question is going to be, or at least some variation of what we thought was coming our way.

The Fool is famous for having tough interviews, mostly because our hiring managers ask hard questions about their industry, specialties they may have (in technology, marketing, investing, business management, for example), and our business in particular – we want candidates to do some research about our company before they come in.

But we add a bit of our Foolish culture in the interviews, too. It’s not that we play Good Cop, Bad Cop, but the culture team gets to ask questions that peer more into a person’s life outside of their resume and cover letter.

We talk about baking; we talk about sailing; we talk about rescuing puppies…

We want to know about the person that we are interviewing, and not just what jobs they’ve had.

We look for Foolishness, sure – which, by the way, has a broad definition – but we also want to know that this person is going to kill it at their job. We work hard to play hard.

So next time, you are preparing for a tough interview, be yourself, put your best professional foot forward, and be humble and gracious throughout the process.

If there is anything that I’ve learned recruiting for the Fool, it is this – if you have ever sat in an interview process here and have NEVER thought, “Wow, how did I ever get this job?”, then, well, you probably aren’t a Fool.

Happy Memorial Day, Fools!

Memorial Day is a day when many of us reflect back on those who have fought and are still fighting for our freedom.  We get together with friends and family and embrace that freedom – the purpose for why many in our armed forces do what they do every day.

To those out there serving or to those who have served, we simply want to say, “Thank you.”

Now, go enjoy the holiday with your friends and family.

You’ll see more from us here tomorrow…

Foolapalooza…It’s That Time of Year Again

Foolapalooza 2011

Foolapalooza 2011Foolapalooza.

You heard it right.

Foolapalooza.

What the heck is that?

No, it’s not a musical festival, although it does sound like one.

It’s our annual business meeting. But it’s not like any other annual business meeting that you’d likely conjure up in your mind. And it’s not like any other business trip or annual retreat you’ve likely ever heard about.

It’s the time of year again when we gather as Foolish employees and take time to look at the year before and the year ahead. We want all employees to see where we have gone in a year’s time as a business.

But for us, it’s more than that. It’s more than knowing the numbers that drive our business. It’s more than knowing what we’d like our business to become in the upcoming year. And, it’s more than knowing what to do and what not to do as we progress through the next 12 months.

To us, Foolapalooza is also about getting to know each other better.

While we have endless stories from past Foolapaloozas, you won’t here them here. (I guess you could say that it’s a bit like the phrase, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”) If you are a Fool, you will likely hear them for the next few months, or even years, to come. You may even be cracking up right now thinking of a Foolapalooza memory in your head.

But I can let the broad audience in on a small secret – all of these memories have one thing in common … they start with the people we see every weekday.

For us, Foolapalooza is about the Fools that attend the event. We don’t invite spouses, families, or significant others – unless they also work at the Fool. We don’t invite friends…Okay, okay, who are we kidding? Fools are our friends. … But we have a reasoning behind this bit of seclusion and isolation – it’s a time for us to revisit or even get to know for the first time how Fools unwind, how they play, and a bit of what they do outside of the office. We are getting to know the person behind the employee. We get to see what makes them tick.

Why would we do this?

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – knowing each other better helps us work better together. The theory is as simple as that.

So while the kayaking and basketball playing may be fun, we know at the end of the day that it’s not the what we are doing that makes Fools happy they are Fools. It’s the who with that matters.

Millennials – Are They Really That Bad?

Millennials Are Great

Millennials Are Great Have you ever had those moments when you thought that you may be in the Twilight Zone, but no one else seemed to notice? That was me, sitting in the back of the room at a conference session last week, looking around, prepared to pack up my bag and leave.

But I didn’t.

And here’s why – that would have been exactly what most of the people in that room would expect of a millennial.

Millennials: this younger workforce generation (also known as Generation Y and born mostly between the late 1970s and early 2000s) that is so hard to understand, and one that is full of people only in it for themselves.

As I sat in a room with a few hundred other people in the human resources profession, I thought to myself – if this is what is being said about all of the people in my generation, this has got to be a joke.

Let me debunk the theory that millennials are not fit for the current workforce. They are. In fact, many of us have great qualities that transfer nicely to the workforce.

Here at The Motley Fool, about 25% of our employees are millennials.

So you want to know how to recruit and retain this new scary generation? Allow me to take a few of the thoughts in the presentation I attended and talk you through them:

1)      Millennials are goal-oriented.  Why wouldn’t we be? Since the time we were in the womb, we had to prepare for college and/or the job market. We couldn’t wait until senior year to really take a look at our past academic experiences and figure out what was missing. We had to prepare from middle school on, if not before, and our goal was to get into college or to find a good job. And we all know what type of economy we were experiencing when this happened. Finding a job when most of us exited high school or college was about as hard as finding a needle in a haystack, and for those of us who found jobs we actually liked – well, we hit the lottery.

Possible Solution – Set expectations for millennial employees, and give them feedback often. We may be the generation that needs praise – trust us, we’ve heard that one a time or two – but what employee doesn’t like to be recognized for good work? Here at The Fool, we check in with our new employees at the 30, 60, and 90 day marks, and we have 360 feedback (meaning that anyone in the company can comment on how you are performing at your job) starting at 6 months. Even with this, managers are encouraged to meet with their employees on a routine basis to make sure expectations are set.

2)      Millennials expect more.  Again, why wouldn’t we? Our parents told us from a young age that we could do anything that we put our minds to. But is ambition bad? Within reason, no; name me a company that wants someone to just sit and do the minimum amount of work required, and I will name two that want more out of their employees.

Possible Solution – Ask millennial employees what they expect to get out of their jobs this year. While you may not be able to get them everything they want, you will know where their minds are. Many millennials have skill sets that employers won’t even know about until they ask the employee, and many of us are able to roll with the punches far easier because of our skill set. At The Fool, we take a look at our high performers and ask them what projects they’d like to work on, and whom they’d like to work with. We try to match up our employees’ strengths and passions to their jobs and the projects they work on.

3)      Millennials march to the beat of a different drum. This one surprised me the most at the conference; when the presenter asked the crowd who really wanted their employees to “march to the beat of a different drummer,” I was the ONLY person to raise my hand. Yes, the only. So does that mean that everyone else in the room wanted their employees to be the exact same and to essentially be robotic? Doubtful, but what made them NOT raise their hands?

Possible Solution – Encourage managers to hear out their employees. Even if his or her idea doesn’t fit well into the business or doesn’t add value, explain to the employee why it doesn’t. Millennials crave knowledge. The Fool loves and wants to hear ideas for our business from within. We hold brainstorms all the time, and our executive team holds a meeting every week where they hear new ideas and help to develop the ones that make the most sense to the business.

4)      Millennials want to make a difference. Our ambition, endless questions, goals, and overall out-of-the-box existence shape us into a generation that wants to do something that matters. If your company has a goal and a mission that employees believe in, it is likely that productivity is higher there than at companies whose employees don’t believe in or really care about what the company actually does. Take for example another keynote speaker at this conference – Blake Mycoskie. He founded TOMS Shoes about 6 years ago with a goal in mind: to help give children shoes so that they could go to school and earn an education. And here’s another element to that – he hired people from successful, big-name companies because of his mission. Here at The Fool , we help people invest better, and educate, amuse, and enrich along the way. Helping people to financial freedom is inspiring.

Possible Solution – Show your millennials how their jobs help the company as a whole. Let them know where they fit in. Sometimes millennials get knocked for not enjoying menial work – and here’s why – menial means that what we are doing doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. We want to feel like we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. Here, Fools know where they fit in with our company roadmap, and how success at their jobs transfers to a more successful business.

We realize we do things a bit differently at The Motley Fool, and we also realize that we love the fact that our employees think outside the box. Our culture is about entrepreneurship, trying stuff, and yes, in some cases, making mistakes. But if you don’t try, how do you ever know if an idea will succeed or fail?

Millennials may just be those employees that will help push a new idea into implementation because that’s what we have been used to in our lives – we don’t do the things that previous generations always did before us.

In fact, that’s why most employers don’t understand us, and in turn, aren’t able to concentrate and utilize our skill sets.

Here’s my ending thought for you: give millennials a chance. We have here at The Fool, and we will continue to do so.

What millennials bring to the table may just surprise you.

Is the Fool a great place to work? Have our Fools tell you firsthand…

Fools eating lunch

Fools eating lunch It wouldn’t be the weirdest thing at The Fool to see people throwing Nerf balls or setting their pods up for a miniature golf tournament throughout the office.

It wouldn’t be peculiar to see desks being pushed toward the wall in a conference room, only to have a rapid-fire, ping pong ball machine setting on table and ready to make its next victim sweat for success.

And it definitely wouldn’t be out of this world if you saw crock pots of chili lined up for lunch – and a little bit of spicy competition.

These aspects of everyday Foolish life are amazing in themselves, but when people ask about what makes the Fool even more special, it isn’t any of these items…or the Pizza Day…or the Cake Day.

It’s the PEOPLE we work with every day, our fellow Fools.

At least for me, even if I am doing the most mundane, boring activities known to man – and I don’t actually do those things, but even if I did – I wouldn’t mind it because of the Fools I get to work with on a daily basis.

Take a look at this video, and you can see a bit about what we are talking about. This video was an intern project from last summer where we asked them to capture the reasons behind why our Fools loved coming to work every day. They did a fabulous job!

Working at The Fool