4 Tips to Improve Your Organization

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Where would The Motley Fool stand without the mentors that have shaped our company with their bright insights? The road to success hasn’t always been smooth, but we hope these 4 tips inspire you to take the wheel and change your organization – for the better.

1) Hire the Right People

Much like The Motley Fool’s investing strategy, we prefer to hire and hold onto employees for the long-term. Chief People Fool Lee Burbage explained, “When we are hiring for life, recruiting is the most important thing we do.” Our team strives to find the perfect candidate for every position because, in the end, the best hires will pay dividends. With every candidate, we consider whether or not they could potentially take our business to the next level. Throughout the hiring process, recruiter Jen Elliot focuses on applicants that are entrepreneurial, innovative, and unafraid to break the status quo. Burbage noted, “We want this to be the last job you ever have, and the long horizon makes things like job titles and hierarchy unimportant.”

No matter the job title, personality skill-tests are instrumental in maintaining employees’ happiness. If developed within your company, chances are high that employees will evolve and even develop their own job descriptions. Kara Chambers, VP of Talent Strategy at the Fool, notes that while cognitive diversity and collaboration is important in the workplace, communication issues can arise as a result. Assessments like Myers-Briggs and Kolbe allow managers to better acknowledge issues in advance and pair people in a more strategic way.

Les McKeown influenced us to evaluate new projects and teamwork organization with his Visionary-Operator-Processor triangle in mind. His quick assessment digs into the psychology behind how an employee handles their work. Because Fools feel more empowered and aware of their strengths, teams that struggled before are now thriving. Les has given us the ability to view a project’s life cycle by better understanding where we’re deploying resources.

2) Focus on Your Highest Performers

Burbage believes that while job fit is important, employee performance must be taken into consideration, too. Imagine that your workforce was a portfolio and you primarily invested in underperforming employees as stocks. Over the holding time, you’d progressively see a negative return on this investment. Though the real profit lies behind investing in high performing employees, many companies continue to foster their low performers.

Enter Steve Kerr, a member of The Motley Fool’s Board of Directors, who encouraged us to focus more energy on top-tier employees. Cultivating high performers to the level of Steve’s vision begins with measuring employees’ performance through feedback and one-on-one meetings. While asking for feedback isn’t mandatory here, it’s something that we care about and encourage. Guidance and constructive criticism only boosts motivation.

Steve once said that the highest performers are your future leaders. Do you want to leave your company in the hands of those that could fail?

3. “See the world through the eyes of your customer.” – Steve Kerr

A great employee is one who understands your business and, two years ago, we implemented Steve Kerr’s smart advice in a company-wide initiative to invest. Most Fools learned the investing basics, which started with how to open a brokerage account. Once the account was open, $1,000 was deposited into each and every one. Investing became a topic no longer segregated to our writers and analysts, but instead a dynamic, accessible discussion for everyone.

Sam Cicotello, who heads up Member Experience at the Fool, reflected on the benefits that this challenge left with our Member Services team. Expanding on the shared emotional experience, Sam explained “If a new member is ready to start in the stock market, we understand it’s not just as easy as pushing a button. Like members, the team feels on top of the world when trades are up, and angry or anxious when the market takes a negative turn.” It’s true that we’re a better company because Fools are smarter about the nature of our work.

4. Be Transparent

Kip Tindell, CEO of The Container Store and a true Fool himself, shared that one of his company’s foundation principles is “Communication is Leadership.” We’ve adopted the value as our own (thanks, Kip!) because we believe in the power of being a transparent organization – and we’ve seen the benefits first-hand. Our goal of having “totally informed Fools” is achieved by giving everyone in our company access to pretty much any information they want. Head Communications Fool Adrienne Perryman adds, “Building a culture of open communication between every facet of the company is a high priority of The Motley Fool — it builds trust, engagement, alignment, and ultimately, happy, productive Fools.”

This is not to say that communicating is easy. We’ve found that benefits of being upfront and transparent, especially when the news isn’t the best, far outweighs the damage that could occur if we didn’t share. With an open, honest, and timely explanation, employees are able to react more quickly and, even during the toughest times, collaborate for a solution.

Open communication is used in a number of ways to keep Fools up-to-speed in our fast-paced culture. Our monthly Huddles, which are attended by the entire company and streamed for our remote Fools, offers a full hour of 100% transparency. Do we talk in-depth about our numbers? Yep. How about strategy and what’s coming next? Check. Role changes? Sure do. Is there time for open Q&A? Obviously. In between monthly Huddles, we keep Fools informed via our intranet, which features weekly videos and a news feed, our weekly email, and sessions with leadership around specific topics.

We make communicating a priority because it matters. In fact, it makes us a better company. Does your organization do the same?

It’s Time to Stop Workplace Bullying

Bullying

BullyingI read quite a few blogs on management and hiring practices (kudos to my favorite, Ask A Manager), and recently I fell down the rabbit hole of clicking links to related articles at the bottom of a post. That’s how I came to learn about the Workplace Bullying Institute (or WBI), “the first and only U.S. organization dedicated to the eradication of workplace bullying.” The site is filled with fascinating research, tips for targets of bullying, and training materials for managers. The resources WBI provides are very useful, yet they make me incredibly sad.

Why? Because an organization like this is needed in the first place.

According to a 2010 WBI survey, 35% of workers in the U.S. reported being bullied at work. An additional 15% of workers witnessed the bullying of others. That means half of workers in America are affected by bullying. Meanwhile, a National Center for Education Statistics study (PDF) that came out in 2009 showed that bullying affected 28% of students ages 12 through 18 (this doesn’t include cyber bullying, but rather in-school bullying like being called names, being made the subject of rumors, or being physically harmed).

So 28% of pre-teens and teens are the victims of bullying, while 35% of workers are. Who are the adults here?

If you’re not compelled to do something about this in your own office, think of it this way. Your company is creating a culture of incivility and fear. How much is this costing you? Employees calling in sick more frequently, increased turnover (hiring a new employee equals one and a half times the salary of keeping an existing one), lower productivity because teams don’t function well, and HR spending time counseling victims of bullying and investigating their claims. Imagine how much better our workplaces would be if bullying was not tolerated? If bullies were given specific and stern feedback about their behavior one time and then fired if they didn’t improve? If employees knew they could report bullying without consequences or retaliation, and that once they did, a thorough investigation would take place? According to WBI research, bullying is four times more prevalent than illegal harassment, yet it’s a silent epidemic in corporate America.

If you’d like to learn more about the financial and emotional effects of workplace bullying, and ways you can help bring about change, I highly recommend Robert Sutton’s intriguingly-named book, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t. After you read it, anonymously leave it on the desk of your office bully!

Let’s bring kindness back into the workplace. It’s good for your business, and even better for your employees.

You’re More Than Your Job Title

Holiday Parties

Holiday PartiesNovember is almost here and the holiday season will soon be upon us. For many people, that means weekends filled with cocktail parties. My least favorite kind of party is the one where my wife knows everyone there, and I know no one. Inevitably I end up engaged in small talk and, as it turns out, I’m pretty horrible at small talk. It’s especially difficult when we get to the “what do you do?” question.

In the U.S. you have to have a clear answer to that question. This answer is important. There is a lot of pressure to nail this one. I am an Anesthesiologist, I handle logistics for the largest non-profit in the world, I am a Teacher, I am a Developer for NASA, I am a Dog Walker. Whatever your answer, it defines everything about your life; what is important to you, how much money you make, what difference you are making in the world, and whether the conversation is about to get interesting.

My challenge is I don’t know what to say. At The Fool we have never liked traditional job titles and job descriptions. There is so much limitation in a job description and so much hierarchy in a title. I play many roles here and they are dynamic and fun. Overall my goal is to make people happy. Often I work to ensure Fools are passionate and skilled about what they do, and that what they do is valuable to our members. Sometimes I lead, sometimes I follow, sometimes I learn, and sometimes I buy doughnuts. There is no great title that describes those actions or that I care to use.

I am proud of my work and I believe it makes a real difference in the world. I don’t find value in being the assistant to the vice president of administrators or whatever sounds important. A lot of people might wonder how I could be important without a fancy title that connotes subordinates and authority. To fix this, I have been telling people I am the President of the United States, but he’s getting so much air time lately I fear people won’t believe me.