3 Books For Your Reading List

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Last week was a big week for us here at The Motley Fool! We celebrated FoolFest, our annual member event, with over 300 Fools that traveled far and wide. In addition to breakout sessions, panel discussions, and fun meet and greet opportunities, we were also lucky to hear from some dynamic speakers.

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FoolFest introduced us to the bestselling authors behind interesting ideas like the science of habit; rethinking situations that cause financial stress; and six commonalities of entrepreneurial success. So what exactly are these books and who are their authors?

1. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

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Charles Duhigg, award-winning New York Times reporter, explores scientific discoveries behind why habits exist and how they can be broken in The Power of Habit.To overcome habits, Duhigg says that you must understand the cues that trigger it; the routine that fulfills it; and the rewards – or feelings – that you receive from it. Duhigg explained the cycle with his own example of eating a cookie every afternoon. By learning to analyze this daily action, he realized that it wasn’t the actual chocolate chips he craved – it was the social interactions in the cafeteria. A certain time in the late afternoon was his cue and, once he understood this habit, Duhigg set out to reconstruct it. Instead of heading to the cafeteria, he now finds colleagues to chat with around his desk. With his new routine, Duhigg hasn’t had a cookie in over 6 months.

Though habits are certainly personal, businesses also use the science of habit to influence what consumers buy. They collect data based on where customers live, household incomes, marital status, and whether or not a shopper has children. Stores like Target can then predict times that will most influence these customers to use coupons or see advertisements.

Do you think you could change your habits? Duhigg argues, “The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work.” This book offers a helpful perspective if you’re curious to reform your routine.

2. The Creator’s Code by Amy Wilkinson

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It took five years for Amy Wilkinson – strategic advisor, entrepreneur, and lecturer at Stanford University – to write her first published book. In The Creator’s Code, Wilkinson shares academic research along with six essential skills that have turned small concepts into big companies. Over 200 interviews and examples from corporations including PayPal, Airbnb, Tesla Motors, and Dropbox support Wilkinson’s list of traits that lead to great entrepreneurship .

What’s Wilkinson’s bottom line? Anyone can attain entrepreneurial success but it takes hard work. One of the skills that Wilkinson focused on during her FoolFest interview was “Failing Wisely.” She’s passionate about the importance of placing small bets to test ideas and build resilience. She said to the audience, “The people who can be very comfortable about experimenting and testing through are the ones who will succeed.” Whether it’s on our marketing team or among Member Service Fools, we’re constantly testing ideas at The Motley Fool. We, too, believe in consistent testing to find big wins among little mistakes.

3. The Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things with Money by Carl Richards

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Emotions are easy to relate to finance. Debt causes stress for a lot of people, as do major financial decisions like buying a home or paying college expenses. Carl Richards argues that emotion interferes with making smart financial decisions, and he defines “the behavior gap” as the phenomenon between what we should do and what we actually do.

One of the best takeaways from Richards’ presentation was the importance of timing. Should you really be talking about finances with your partner first thing when you get home from work? Probably not. Why? Because you’re tired. Make financial decisions a discussion when you’re energized and clear-minded, or else you’re not setting the situation up for the smartest results.

 

Have you read these picks? Let us know by tweeting @FoolCulture!

Our Examples of “Enviable” Workplace Culture

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While a top-notch workplace culture is enviable, it also sets an example for what other organizations should strive to achieve. Tim Stevens wrote in his FastCompany article, “There is nothing worse than working in an organization that has a bad culture. It doesn’t matter how much money you make or how many weeks of vacation you are given; when you work in a toxic environment, you still come home tense and stressed at the end of each day.” Stevens is on point; I felt miserable on a daily basis during one of my first “real” job experiences (and no, it wasn’t at The Motley Fool).

Stevens goes on to list 12 traits that suggest your organization is among those with a fantastic culture. Here are a few that resonate with our organization:

1. Turnover is Low.

We want our employees to be Fools for life. Our turnover rate is less than 2%, which is remarkable by industry standards. We go to great lengths to ensure Fools’ happiness, whether it’s ordering gluten-free pizzas to celebrate monthly birthdays or building out more quiet spaces in our office. Foolish coaches also hold regular “Happiness Check-Ins” to chat with Fools about their work-life balance. Low employee turnover means you’re at least doing something right.

 

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2. Team Members are Energized by the Mission.

Fools are passionate about our mission – “To Help the World Invest – Better.” You can feel the energy here, as well as from Fools all over the world. We have full-time Fools based in Canada, Germany, Australia, and Singapore that are all working passionately toward the same goal. When Fools are excited about projects, productivity levels rise to new heights. Creativity can also inflate, adding more valuable ideas to the mix.

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3. It’s Not Just a Job.

Fools are not only excited to come to work, but they’re also enthusiastic about Foolish extracurriculars. Fools are friends too, so attending happy hours, concerts, plays, and other cultural events in the area aren’t foreign concepts. In fact, we actually enjoy spending time with our coworkers. We’re not running toward the door to exit right at 5PM (…we do have a flexible schedule), and it’s kind of refreshing from the corporate norm. A work environment is definitely more positive when it has this type of ambience.

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4. People are Smiling. 

Fools are shiny, happy people (and some are music lovers, too). Our Office Ops team does a great job of keeping FoolHQ an upbeat environment. These creative Fools host activities to all scales, from smaller touches like pushing around snack carts to planning larger events including our annual Holiday Party and company retreat called Foolapalooza.

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5. Communication is Strong.

Though communication can always be enhanced, The Motley Fool strives to keep our conversations transparent. It’s important that your employees stay on the same page with what’s relevant, be it your company numbers or external conference opportunities. Fools are happier when information is provided instead of hidden, even if something is in the works. Simply stating “We’re working on it, but we wanted to let you know…” can make all the difference.

Interested in checking out the other qualities that make a workplace enviable and one of a kind? Click here to read more.

Unveiling our #Foolosophy Video Series

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Since we’re constantly striving to spread the word about Foolish culture, our latest endeavor is pretty darn exciting. Introducing Foolosophies, a peek into life at FoolHQ through interviews with the Fools that know our company best. This video series uncovers answers to many questions about the Fool, from the importance of core values to our Foolanthropy tradition; different collaboration opportunities; and the 411 on our insurance benefits.

Do you feel like your organization is in need of a culture makeover? These videos provide valuable information that could inspire you to make a big change. Fools share their best tips for accommodating different types of workspaces; fostering transparent communication; and holding companywide events like Pizza Day and Cake Day – for a purpose!

More #Foolosophy videos are in production, but we’d love your feedback! Is there a question that you’re dying to have answered? Comment below and we’ll take it into consideration! Wondering how to see such great content? See our Menu above – and click “Foolosophy.”

Fool On, Foolish readers!

Coffee Brews Conversation

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I hear a lot of chatter about coffee at FoolHQ, but the buzz doesn’t always revolve around the need for caffeine. As an opportunity to connect, Fools are encouraged to request Starbucks gift cards sponsored by The Motley Fool. In return, Fools must treat a fellow coworker – ideally one they don’t know well – to a drink. Though there’s definitely a monthly card limit, some Fools don’t mind to fund Starbucks runs on their own dime every once in a while. You could say that coffee meetings are a popular part of our culture, to say the least.

Our CEO Tom Gardner envisions more to this benefit than just a free soy latte. Introducing the idea at a company-wide huddle last year, Tom encouraged using the cards as a chance to learn about others’ projects; identify best practices Fools use; and collaborate on challenges or ideas. Fool Amy Dykstra approximates that she hands out around 10 gift cards per month.

Jerry Seinfeld also recognizes room for great communication in a cup of coffee. In fact, it’s the focus of his successful Emmy-nominated web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Seinfeld explains, “…why it’s great to meet someone for a cup of coffee — the ease, the simplicity, the compactness. And that it also obviously gets people talking. You have coffee and for some reason it makes you talk a lot.” Whether or not you order coffee, tea, or a glass of water, it’s the conversation that counts.

While Jerry Seinfeld hosts his guests in cars, Tom and David Gardner hold a monthly event at FoolHQ called “New Fool Coffees.” Spending an hour together with our founders, recent hires are able to learn more about our company and ask tons of questions. Conversations can travel anywhere from Tom’s favorite drink to what inspired his team’s latest stock pick. Starbucks – or FoolHQ conference rooms – are hot spots for Fools, but the location shouldn’t stop you from incorporating this idea into your company’s culture. And it doesn’t even have to be about a coffee drink, either. Simply encourage employees to leave their desks, welcoming the idea that a fresh environment can inspire new and valuable thoughts.

Engaging others through stimulating conversation – caffeinated or not – is important. A quick sit down can allow for new concepts to brew and employees to mesh together, both of which will benefit your organization. Steven Johnson reinforces, “We take ideas from other people, from people we’ve learned from, from people we run into in the coffee shop, and we stitch them together into new forms and we create something new. That’s really where innovation happens.”

Take Leave for Lunch!

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Is it lunchtime yet? Maybe the better question would be to ask if you even take a lunch break at all. Research reports that in North America, only one in five employees put time aside for meals, with nearly 40% of this population claiming to eat at their desks. We’re all busy, but let’s at least take a few to discuss why lunch breaks are worth it.

Experts claim that standing up for a quick food break can “increase your energy levels, stabilize your blood sugar, and enhance delivery of nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins and fiber that help your systems run smoothly.” Pretty important benefits, no? Stopping your work flow to eat lunch isn’t rocket science, but it can be difficult to put a project on hold. If you need more convincing on the matter, desk lunches also increase the potential for mindless eating, defined as “enjoying food less, eating beyond full, and generally not feeling satisfied by it which often leads to snacking on non-nutritious foods later in the day.” I doubt that anyone wants to feel poorly when, in this situation, making a schedule change can be so easy.

If eating lunch at your desk is part of your company’s culture, it’s time for a change. You’re entitled to enjoy a midday break! Add a reminder to your calendar and find a lunch buddy. The lunch rush can be a great opportunity to meet other coworkers. Our café is always buzzing in the afternoons, acting as a communal space to not only eat but communicate. We also host a monthly pizza day where Fools can unwind and enjoy a slice or two, as well as weekly afternoon express fitness classes to get Fools up and moving.

Don’t worry, your work will always be waiting for you to return. Whether you leave the office or not, I bet you’ll notice a difference in how much better it feels to get away from your desk. Taking leave for lunch will provide a burst of energy so that you can bring your A game back to your desk for the afternoon.

Yes, You Can Bring Your Parents to Work!

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Maybe a version of “Bring Your Kids to Work Day” was part of your childhood, and The Motley Fool certainly continues this tradition every summer. We recently turned the tables and organized “Bring Your Adult Family to Work Day,” which hosted Foolish spouses, siblings, and parents. This event, the first held at the Fool in a few years, left everyone impressed – and informed. Financial breakout sessions, a company-culture breakdown, and lunch over a live taping of Motley Fool Money gave family members a glimpse into Fools’ lives here as employees.

Considering that only 1% of U.S. companies host such an event, it’s not surprising that many of my friends were unfamiliar from their own work experiences. However, more companies are inviting parents into the workplace. Google and Starbucks held their first parent events in 2012, and LinkedIn recently hopped on the bandwagon. Last November, LinkedIn hosted the company’s first “Bring In Your Parents Day,” which allowed guests to tour the campus and mingle with staff. In short, it sounded quite similar to our event – except for LinkedIn hosted nearly 600 family members.

Interestingly enough, there was once a time when companies didn’t roll out a welcome mat for employees’ parents. Managers saw them as a burden, furthermore “The hyper-involved moms and dads of the millennial generation were said to be showing up at job interviews, calling hiring managers on behalf of their kids and even complaining to employers about their children’s salaries.” The tides have turned and organizations are now embracing the idea of parents in the workplace – every so often, at least. Some argue that if employees’ parents appreciate the company, those staff members will be happier and more connected to the organization. The Washington Post feature continues, “If there’s any common theme to why companies have started involving parents more, that’s it: Showing the workplace off to parents, and better communicating with them, could stoke higher engagement among employees and make them less likely to leave.”

There’s a happy medium that can be found in parents’ workplace involvement. Our event was meant to be something fun and casual for Fools and their loved ones to enjoy. To take the idea a step further, Northwestern Mutual sends optional e-newsletters to parents and also organize recognition dinners, while Google offers the option of sitting down alone with their child’s manager.

It’s clear that companies can approach this type of activity in different ways. Can you see the benefits of hosting a parents’ event at your workplace? Why or why not?

Fool Speaker Series: Chris Guillebeau

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It took 11 years for Chris Guillebeau to complete his quest of visiting every country in the world. This staggering journey – which he viewed in the beginning as “really difficult but not fundamentally impossible,” led Chris to all 193 countries. The first 100 countries he visited – not counting layovers, by the way – cost $30,000. Though there was certainly a financial element involved, Chris prioritized his travels and reached this incredible goal by his 35th birthday.

Chris met an amazing community of people and gathered a treasure trove of stories, many of which are shared in his latest New York Times bestseller The Happiness of Pursuit. He features the quests of people like Lisa – the youngest person to circumnavigate the world by sailboat at age 16 – to a man who pursued a 17 year vow of silence. Check out what you can take from Chris – including his top pick for travel destination – in 60 seconds or less below!

*This post’s image was taken from Chris Guillebeau’s blog, The Art of Non-Conformity

The Interns’ Verdict – Summer 2014

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It was an awesome summer, but I’ll leave it to our 2014 interns to tell you more about it. Applications aren’t yet open for 2015, but be sure to look back in early December for more info! And don’t forget to check out our blog – culture.fool.com – to learn about what’s going on at The Motley Fool.

A Fool by Any Other Name…

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By Lee Burbage

Here at FoolHQ, change is in the air. We are in the process of implementing a new Human Resource Information System platform, and it’s an interesting time for everyone as we learn about our new tool, adjust to our new processes, and transfer all of our data. We have chosen to go with Namely as our new enterprise HR system. They are one of the newer kids on the block, and they resonated with us because their platform intuitively captures growth and allows us to seamlessly grow without dropping any data between the cracks. As we make the transition to our new HR system, one piece of data caught my eye.

One of the fields we needed to include in our new platform was job titles. Once these titles were uploaded, Fools could log in and select which one applies to them. For most companies, this simple step probably requires little thought.  I’m picturing a drop-down menu with a basic, humdrum list that includes “Analyst,” “Developer,” and “Accountant.” But there’s nothing basic and humdrum about us, is there? With north of 315 employees at the Fool, I’m thinking our drop down menu will include about 300 unique-as-a-snowflake titles. And we are totally OK with that.

At the Fool, we let our employees choose whatever job title they want. We care much more about the awesome work you’re producing than the title in your email signature. (We use the same reasoning for our casual dress code- is your work less awesome if you do it in flip flops?  I didn’t think so). I can’t help but laugh at how hung up people can get on titles- like all their hopes and dreams are tied into these few words.  What will be different about the role you play and the difference you make today vs. tomorrow if you had a different title?  I imagine not much would change. Our challenge to Fools is to create a Funktional title- something fun and funky that tells us a little about what you do.

So with the freedom to choose your own job title, the process to upload them into Namely took a little longer for us.  In the constant search for efficiency, we realize there are some things that are worth the extra time.  We created a Google Doc and asked all our Fools for their job title submissions.  We should have ordered popcorn as we watched the creative titles roll in.  “World Domination Operations Gladiator” was pretty epic.  “Foolish Beat Dropping Financial Planning Ninja” was a close second, but one of my favorite titles comes from our head of HR who requested that her title be “Resources for Humans.”  The more traditional title of “Human Resources” highlights how many companies view their employees as resources to be used by the company. “Resources for Humans” puts a spotlight on our servant leadership approach; we are here to serve our Fools.  How can we help you today?

You Don’t Have to Hate Your Job (Really!)

Employee Engagement

Employee EngagementBy Laurie Street

The Motley Fool isn’t the only company that has built a fantastic culture, but sadly there aren’t enough of us. Countless studies show that employees are lacking engaging and healthy work environments. An interesting New York Times piece, Why You Hate Work, digs deeper into these disadvantages, mentioning faults that stem from the rise in digital technology, increased competitiveness, and our post-recession economy.

Author Tony Schwartz argues simple solutions that, if introduced, could make a huge difference in corporate environments. His suggestions ring true during a time when workplaces actually have the opportunity to evolve. It’s not necessarily a world of suits, ties, and strict regulations anymore.

In Schwartz’s opinion, companies should measure employees not hourly but by the value that they create. He explains, “To the extent possible, let them decide where to do their work, and when to do it, as long as they meet deadlines.” Trust is a huge component, and The Fool’s flexible scheduling speaks to Schwartz’s point. We throw traditional 9-5 calendars to the wind by allowing our employees to manage their own time. With this flexibility comes the expectation that employees are striving to produce their highest quality of work. Because everyone has different work styles, we also offer quiet spaces that offer a break from our open office, as well as the tools to work from home.

We believe in transparency, a point that Schwartz addresses in his column. He notes, “…seek to define all jobs in ways that feel meaningful and significant to people.” Fools are encouraged to establish honest relationships with their managers, making it easy to communicate about goals, projects, and ideas. If a Fool isn’t happy, our People Team wants to help. We organize feedback sessions to connect with Fools about their job path and progress, and recently implemented an internal reward service that allows Fools to publicly recognize others with “gold” for a job well done. Gold can be spent on gift cards for a variety of stores, and the entire process makes receiving Fools feel happy and valued.

However, it’s an unfortunate fact that all workplaces can’t — or will not try — to implement a progressive culture for employees. In addition to cynicism and anger, decreased energy is a common symptom of workplace unhappiness. To combat these signs, Schwartz suggests using 15-25 minutes for rest or an outdoor walk to increase productivity and alertness. The warmer weather has inspired a Fool Walking Group, which takes 30-minute outdoor strolls twice a week. We also have the Reading Room, a quiet space for better concentration that doubles as a place to take a power nap. Our culture encourages Fools to be comfortable enough to always take the necessary time for rest.

Schwartz’s article is one of many that shows how corporate cultures are changing. The Fool is on top of preserving Foolishness, from showing appreciation to our employees to trying out new, fun ideas in the office. Hating your job is the last thing The Fool would ever want, and we’re constantly on the search for ways to top the happiness scale.