Tom Gardner Talks Company Culture at GoogleHQ

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“All of the greatest companies want their people to succeed.” It’s true! Learn more from Tom Gardner’s presentation at Google HQ about the importance of investing in your organization’s culture. Don’t have time to watch the video? Here are Tom’s four takeaways:

1. Name your own value.

2. Know everyone’s name at your company – learn as many name’s as possible.

3. Connect with people outside of your company.

4. Craft your own job.

To learn more about Tom’s points in detail, read his full article here.

Developing a Foolish Path to Your Dream Career

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Now The Motley Fool’s Chief Communications Officer, Adrienne began her Foolish career 7 years ago as an Executive Assistant. Over her time at FoolHQ, Adrienne has also excelled as a project manager and publisher within our editorial business. She recently spoke on how she shaped her dream career to conference attendees in the executive support field. 

By Adrienne Perryman

“Don’t let him keep you down!”

I emphatically said this with hands on hips – head shake and all – in front of a crowd of 250. The comment, which surprised me as it exited my own mouth, was followed by “I think it’s about time for you to start looking for a new job!” The cheers of the crowd, which was mostly comprised of women in blazers and 1 inch pumps, signified overwhelming agreement.

This kind of support in a public forum would normally be pretty awesome. But it upset me.

Here’s Why:

It’s 2014 – having a boss that won’t let you advance in your career is so out of style, Mr. Executive. And women in support roles, you’re not helping yourself either.

My agitation grew when another woman approached me after my speech with the same issue. And then another. It wasn’t just the one woman in the crowd who felt compelled to speak up about her stubborn, selfish boss who was hesitant to let her take on extra projects for their own selfish reasons. There were many. And I found myself repeating similar advice that I uttered on stage.

“It’s time for you to move on.”

“Find someone who will appreciate your interests and encourage growth.”

I felt like I was giving relationship advice. But these were hard working, eager, smart, educated women – all women – who wanted to know how to convince their bosses that their development is important.

Thankfully, this concept of not being allowed to grow, develop, and eventually move into my dream role is foreign to me. I started as an Executive Assistant at The Motley Fool 7 years ago and, from day one, was encouraged by my boss and co-workers to try new things. To use my position as a launching pad into other areas of the business; learn the business and develop to my full potential; take classes in our internal university; and talk to Fools about my development and how I can progress.

This development approach is unfamiliar to many employees, which seems confusing to me. Similar types of career barriers are a reality for millions worldwide. Why don’t executives realize it’s for their own good that their assistants love working for them, rather than feel hindered by their management?

Attention, Bosses

If you’re a manager of someone…develop them. For goodness sake, don’t hold them back! Would you like that if you were in their position? Encourage it. Incentivize it. I’m confident that if your employee is proactively reaching for more, they’ll go to great lengths to make sure your calendar, project, or needs won’t suffer. You’ll survive. And you might actually have an employee who will work harder for you because they appreciate the opportunity you’ve given them.

Attention! You Own Your Career

If you are stuck under the sticky thumb of your boss, do something about it. Have an honest conversation with your boss about your concerns, and take a plan with you to that meeting to help show them you’re capable of doing more – and that nothing will suffer because of it. Own your career. Don’t wait for someone to wake up to the fact that their style is so outdated. Make the change happen. Be the change you want – or find a new job where your development is a priority.

Is There an App for Everything?

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What’s in an app? It probably doesn’t relate to …”that which we call a rose” but, depending on what you need – Shakespearian or not – an app could be anything. Out of over 1.2 billion options in the Apple Store, it’s pretty predictable that social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube rank highly on user charts. While even I am guilty of downloading these popular programs, mobile apps aren’t just used for play. With the palms of many professionals’ hands glued to smart devices, productivity enablers can be found all over the Internet. One Fool, whose Motley reads “There’s an app for everything,” even hosted a 30-minute class on her favorite picks. Here’s our take on the best apps for business – and your workload:

1. Loggr

One user describes it as “a chance to actually log and track your life,” and an in-house Fool uses this app regularly. Track anything and everything, from the number of pushups you did last night to the cups of coffee you drank this morning. The best part? There’s no wearable attachment involved, so you don’t have to purchase anything. You can also use this free app in the workplace to track metrics or log hours.

2. Instapaper

Living in a city, one of my biggest pet peeves is when I lose service on the subway. Lucky for everyone else who feels the same way, paying $3.99 and downloading this app will allow you to save and store articles that can be read offline and on-the-go. It’s not only available on Apple devices, but also Androids and Kindles. Another plus? There’s a highlighting feature that’s great for studying text, plus you can share anything you’ve saved with colleagues.

3. Evernote

No more sticky notes when you can use this app, which organizes all of your ideas into one place. Whether it’s your to-do checklist or a multitude of random ideas, this app can create separate notebooks to keep your thoughts clutter-free. The People Team actually uses Evernote to consolidate speaker notes and presentations. Photos are able to be added, and this app can be downloaded to your computer to sync all of your work. Who can complain when everything’s in one place?

4. CloudMagic

We’re not the only ones who thinks this app is great – in fact, it’s the winner of several webby accolades. CloudMagic serves as a unified inbox for all of your email accounts, no matter if you’re using Outlook or AOL. By using its’ card function, you can connect your email with other business tools like Evernote, Trello, and Zendesk. This app proves to be incredibly functional with a clean visual design.

5. Songza

Music always helps with stress relief, but everyone needs a break in the first place. One Fool describes Songza as “curated playlists that seem to read your mind” because Songza offers music that’s mood-appropriate. Unwinding from a long day at the office? There’s definitely a playlist made especially for that feeling.

Do you use any of these Fool-favored apps? And if you have suggestions for others, we’d love to hear them!

The Most Important Skill Any Techie Should Have

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By Marshall Mabie

Not sure that it’s a secret, but it may come as a surprise to many folks that the most important skill in the tech industry isn’t tech skill – it’s prioritization. I’ve worked in tech for 15 years, so that’s the lens I see it through, but I wonder if maybe that is true throughout business skills of any kind.

My name is Marshall, and I’m a member of the Fool’s desktop support team – if any employees are having any technical issues, it my team’s job to fix it. And again, tech skill isn’t our first tool.

It is prioritization.

Our list of importance is simple:

  1. Customer
  2. Company
  3. Fools
  4. Fool

Customer: The first and most important issue we focus on is making sure the folks who pay us get their money’s worth – the site is at their beck and call, and they have the strongest customer service ready to help them with any issue, tech or not. Our amazing Member Services team takes care of most of that, but as they have the most direct conversations with our members, the tech team makes sure we take care of the Member Services team’s requests.

Company: Okay, we are taking care of the people who pay us for our services. Now we need to make sure the company is in good shape to continue to make good on those promises. We keep our data secure and give our analysts and writers the easiest way to analyze that data.

The last two are intertwined: “The strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf”

Fools/Customers/Users: Different companies use different terms for the in-house fellow employees they fix issues for. At the Fool, unsurprisingly, we call them Fools. Whatever their designation, in the words of Monsieur Spock, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” Our aim is to always address the issues that affect the highest number of Fools. For example, if email is down, that’s a huge issue. Information is not being shared as well as it could be, thereby affecting the business’ ability to serve our customers’ needs. So, yeah, that’s an all-hands-on-deck issue. Importantly, even if we are not directly involved in the solving of the issue, it is very important that we are visible and approachable – we are there to let you customers know what is being done, and to address any concerns.

It is our job to provide concise, accurate information for our internal users – if something is down, given the facts, they can re-arrange their time to continue to be effective. And no baloney! Admit mistakes, explain them, and educate as to what will be done to provide not just continuous service, but what will be improved upon. Admitting a mistake isn’t always easy, but coming clean creates a much stronger sense of trust with your constituents. They know that you aren’t hiding anything. That creates more confidence than any duck-and-cover strategy.

Finally, the individual user. They make the company run. Mostly, they have small problems, like broken mice, software licensing, etc. Sometimes they have big issues – and prioritization again takes over here. It’s easy as a techie to get too deep into how to fix a problem. It’s Sherlockian, the thrill of the hunt. It’s also pointless, because it is not our job to hunt down the obscure issue. Our job is to make sure our user/customer is able to do their job – we examine any issue through the Return On Investment filter – how much work is it going to take us to get this user back to the place they want to be? If that’s too high, get them a new machine and research the issue when you have some spare cycles. Just make sure your user is on their feet and doing what they are paid to be doing.

Ultimately, our job is judging the tech blockers of the company, and continuously considering the needs of our customers. And prioritizing is one of the best weapons in our arsenal.

  • Take care of who pays your company, because they are the company’s lifeblood. Treat them well.
  • Make sure the company can take care of those expectations. Think long-term.
  • Take care of the people who make up your company, and make sure the individuals in your company have no blockers to do what they are charged to do.

It can be hard to keep this in mind in the midst of the day-to-day, and keeping an eye on the big picture while responding to the immediate can be tough. Focusing on prioritization can be a useful tool in your process.

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.

Are You Our Future Wellness Coordinator? Apply Today!

Wellness

WellnessThe Motley Fool Wellness Program has been in place for about 2.5 years now and has created quite a culture shift within our organization. We have always been a “relaxed” atmosphere with amazing benefits (unlimited vacation, no dress code, mobile workstations, etc.) and the addition of our Wellness Program has been another staple to our fantastic environment. We have had tremendous support from our leadership team, specifically our CEO Tom Gardner. With his 100% backing, we’ve been able to grow this program.

However, our wellness program is measured to a different standard as it was not set in place to lower health care costs, reduce absenteeism, encourage presenteeism, or any general wellness metric; our program was created as an additional benefit because it was intuitive to push for a healthier and happier workforce. All the aforementioned benefits will automatically occur, but none are our driving metric to promote a healthy and well workplace.

The Motley Fool encourages a well-rounded path toward wellness, offering physical, nutritional, and spiritual benefits. We offer weekly boot-camp, yoga, meditation, and Zumba classes, while also providing on-site massage and chiropractic care. We gather three times a week to play basketball, soccer, and floor hockey at a nearby gym and Fools can buy a heavily discounted membership to said gym. The Fool also has a free on-site gym, locker room, and showers for those that need a quick exercise break, and we recently added standing desks and a treadmill desk in the office to help combat sedentary lifestyles. We’ve removed soda from vending machines, replacing unhealthy items with healthier options, while also providing free fresh food from local vendors twice weekly. We also provide health seminars on topics like stress management, healthy smoothie workshops, and body inflammation.

At our annual health fair, we bring in a wide array of vendors, ranging from acupuncturists, to physical therapists, to local farmers’ market vendors selling their nutrient-dense food. At the fair, The Fool also provides free biometric screenings and immunizations to all employees and their spouses. Lastly, The Fool employs a personal trainer that helps create individualized plans for any employee that wants one. The goal of our wellness program is to provide a variety of activities to help suit our employees’ needs in the everlasting pursuit of wellness. It is NOT to enhance our bottom dollar or to “fit in” with other workplace wellness programs looking to cut health care costs.

Are you a fitness-minded person who wants to be a Fool? We’re looking for Wellness Coordinator to keep all of the above programs running. Check out the job description to find out more and apply!

 

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.

Set Aside a Day for Financial Planning

Financial Planning Day

Financial Planning DayLast week, The Fool held a company-wide financial health day. Fools had the opportunity to attend classes on subjects like retirement planning and negotiating, and could meet one-on-one with our in-house financial planner, Robert Brokamp.

Robert blogs for Get Rich Slowly, and wrote a post about how your company can encourage employees to take a day to iron out their finances (or how you can set aside a day for this on your own). Check it out here!

By setting aside just a few hours to set up automatic payments, plan for emergencies, create a budget, and start saving for retirement, you can rest easy knowing your finances are taken care of!

Setting Goals for the New Year? Let Motivation Lead You to Success!

Goals

GoalsHow do you measure success in exercise? Do you measure it by X amount of pounds or body fat percentage lost? Or by X inches gained/lost, depending on your goal? How do you measure success in business or your personal life? Do you measure it by how many promotions or personal triumphs you’ve achieved? Success is incredibly relative to an individual but one common denominator that (should) define success is your effort level.

I recently read a great article in a popular health magazine, discussing what it takes to reach your absolute max potential in exercise. There is only a fraction of a percentage of folks who tap into their reserve, and literally give everything they have to whatever race, event, max lift, etc., they are attempting to complete. The example they provided was a physical stress test on a treadmill: Imagine you have nodes and a breathing apparatus attached to your body and you’re walking on a treadmill and gradually the doc increases the incline and speed to the point where you’re sprinting “as hard as you can go.” Are you in fact sprinting all out? Most likely, since this is just a stress test, you’d eventually give up as any normal person would. The example continues by asking the client what they would do if they were offered a million dollars to continue for another minute. Everyone in their right mind would do everything in their power to stay running for that extra 60 seconds. My point is that most people find themselves quitting before they really need to; I’m not advocating you push until injury, but there are many levels one can push themselves to between when they’d actually quit and their literal max.

If you aim to reach any of those levels in any aspect of your life, not just exercise, you’ll probably find yourself accomplishing a lot more than you thought was possible. I’ve helped mentor a handful of coworkers who have reached their personal success in very different ways. One Fool had the right mindset and wanted to get super healthy due to a risk of inheriting some unfavorable health traits. We came up with a 6% body fat reduction goal and he surpassed it by providing maximum effort every week, while shifting priorities and changing his lifestyle. Another Fool had a goal of working his dream job at TMF and,since I had recently lived this fantasy a couple years ago, I helped him realize his goal by doing everything in his power to succeed (volunteering on projects, putting in side work to help his cause, etc.) while letting the decision makers do the rest. Both Fools gave their 100% effort without knowing what the results would be. Both Fools happened to succeed.

With 2013 looming, we all have a great chance to start fresh through some New Year’s resolutions. Set yourself a few attainable goals and if you are 100%, without a reasonable doubt, giving your everything, you can live with the results whether good/bad; there is literally nothing else you could have done. Even upon “failing,” you have gained much more through maximum effort in terms of discipline and development. So let’s take 2013 as a time to lose the extra 10 pounds, or foster a better relationship with your coworkers, or spend more quality time with your family. Because if you’re not trying as hard as you can, why waste your energy and try at all?