The Great Foolapalooza Hunt (Part 1)

Foolapalooza team figuring out a puzzle

Foolapalooza team figuring out a puzzle

My very first task as the newly appointed chief collaboration Fool was to run a big team-building event at our annual company meeting – what we loving call “Foolapalooza”.

This came as no surprise to me. In fact, it was my idea.

For a long time, I’ve been a fan of real-world treasure hunts. The kind you see in the movie National Treasure, where you solve a clue that leads to a new location, at which point you find another clue, and so on … until you reach your final treasure. At least that’s the hope.

Traditionally, the first afternoon of Foolapalooza had been reserved for group outings and activities such as softball, canoeing, paintball, wine-tasting, etc.  And this was very popular. So it was with a little trepidation that I proposed we abandon this plan and instead have the entire company participate in a custom puzzle hunt of my creation.

Why change? Well, I thought there was some real value in conquering challenges as a team and on top of that, doing so with a group of people you normally didn’t get to work with. I also felt like I had the chance to have them experience something they had never done before.

When I pitched the idea to the planning committee, I figured what better way to demonstrate the kind of puzzles I was talking about than to have them solve one. And that’s what I did.

I handed them nine cartoon drawings of marine life: fish, crabs, whales, etc. A number and an English word were written on each animal:

1. SALOON

2. SCRIMP

3. MERLIN

4. HEARING

5. SHANK

6. TUBA

7. GULPY

8. CUD

9. BASE

The instructions? Well, the only thing I told the group was that this puzzle had a single phrase as its answer. And that was it. They had to figure out what to do.

At first the team looked at the words and tried to scramble them into other things or identify the fish and so on, but there wasn’t much success. But then they had their first “aha!” moment.

“SCRIMP is very close to SHRIMP. In fact, it’s one letter different.” To which somebody else added, “Yeah! And TUBA could be TUNA!” And so on until the team had identified nine ocean-related animals:

1. SALMON

2. SHRIMP

3. MARLIN

4. HERRING

5. SHARK

6. TUNA

7. GUPPY

8. COD

9. BASS

“Is that the answer?” they asked?

I shook my head no.

They studied the fish again. Finally, somebody said, “Well, wait, what if we look at the letters that changed?” Slowly they began to unearth a message. O-C-E-A … OCEAN! B-L-U … BLUE. OCEAN BLUE?

“Correct!”

The group members high-fived each other, happy in their success. I then explained to them that in the Foolapalooza hunt teams would solve five or six challenges more elaborate than this, many of them Fool-themed. And in the process, they would have to think outside the box, listen to each other, be open-minded, deal with failure, and hopefully ultimately succeed.

And that was how the first ever Great Foolapalooza Hunt was green-lighted.

Stay tuned next week for Part 2, where I explain the structure of The Great Foolapalooza Hunt!

 

 

Why Wellness? Because We Care…

Wellness

Wellness

To help the world invest. Better.

The Motley Fool’s purpose, undeniably, places the interest of our members and followers at numero uno but who is going to look out for us Fools in Alexandria, VA?

That’s where I come in, the Wellness Fool.

Just a little background before I explain what the heck a Wellness Fool is – I previously worked for our Tech Department as a Quality Assurance Analyst for 3+ years but realized it wasn’t exactly my cup of (green) tea. My heart was with fitness and nutrition. After several meetings and proposals with the powers-that-be, the Fool offered me a position to help get every Fool on the path to Wellness.

What exactly is wellness you ask? The best definition I’ve ever come across and my humble translation follows:

Wellness is a “multidimensional state of being describing the existence of positive health in an individual as exemplified by quality of life and a sense of well-being”. – Charles B. Corbin, Arizona State University

Translation: Wellness is not defined by the extraneous actions you perform, but by the ease of your mundane, daily activities.

Here at the Fool, we try to offer a wide array of wellness benefits from boot-camp classes, to yoga, to meditation, to healthy snack fridges, to massages, etc. – all free or at minimal cost to our employees. You would think the primary goal in all of this would be to lower health care costs, reduce absenteeism/turnover, and to boost ROI. Although these are all amazing positive side effects, the goal from our executive team has always been to create happier and healthier Fools! At our last health fair, our bio-metric screening nurse claimed we were the healthiest company, collectively, she had ever screened for! Our employee turnover is already among the lowest in the industry, and I’ve heard on multiple occasions (shhh, don’t tell their bosses) that multiple Fools have come INTO WORK on their days off, just to attend some of the fitness classes! So what is it that I actually do? One of the best parts of this job is that there is no blueprint for the position. For the last year, my day-to-day activity has never been the same: I manage all the wellness benefits, initiatives, and relationships with our vendors; I lead the boot-camp classes every week; I work individually with many Fools who prefer having their own individual plans and check-in with them on a monthly basis; and I walk around the office making every Fool feel guilty on pizza and cake days. However, my most treasured accomplishment is this new sense of culture that has developed; it is not easy trying to get 200+ people on a path to wellness. But some of Fools that have been with me from Day 1 have begun self-managing, and that is always the goal of a personal trainer or wellness coach.

Give a Fool a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach a Fool to fish, and you feed them tremendous amounts of omega 3s and DHA for a lifetime.

Looking to get going yourself in 2012? You don’t have enough time, right? I don’t have facts around me but I’m assuming the #1 excuse for avoiding exercise is not having enough time. Unless you eat, sleep, use the restroom, work, commute, spend time with family for 24 hours, you actually have time. Even if that time is 10-15 minutes because those 10-15 minutes is better than 0 minutes, right? Too tired after getting the kids ready for school, working a full day, making dinner, and getting the kids to bed? Guess what boosts your energy? Exercise! Eat your lunch at your desk, and go for a walk during your lunch instead. Set your alarm 15-20 minutes earlier, down a glass of water, and go hard for 15-20 minutes, 5 days a week, and I guarantee you’ll start seeing some changes; not only will you be energized for your day, you’ll get the session out of the way, will drop the guilt hanging over your head, AND see physical changes. Watch TV much? Get down on the ground and break a sweat while enjoying your favorite show. Have a dog? They need to be walked to tame their tempers so get moving with them! Bring the whole family on the walk as family. Walk time is a great bonding time. Preparation is key to eliminating wasted time: choose your workout clothes the night before and have them ready or, better yet, sleep in them and wake up ready. Park your car in the furthest spot possible, use the restroom on the other side of the building, take the stairs instead of the elevator – just keep moving and watch how your mood and energy change. The biggest hurdle is getting started, and since results breed results, once you get started and see some positive changes, you’ll be MAKING time to exercise.

Getting Your Application in Tiptop Shape

Resume review

If you’re reading this blog, odds are you’re interested in one of the awesome job openings listed here. As someone who helps our Foolish recruiters read through the resumes and cover letters we receive, I’m here to give you some tips on how to make your application stand out.Resume review

  1. Fun fact: Did you know that both of our recruiters have journalism degrees? The fastest way to their hearts is with stellar grammar and spelling! Thoroughly edit your resume and cover letter, and have a friend look over it, too. When you say you’re detail-oriented, but you misspell the name of the company or the hiring manager… you’re not detail-oriented.
  2. Avoid emoticons and abbreviations used in texting. Neither of those things makes a recruiter LOL.
  3. If you haven’t created a professional email address for job-hunting purposes, now’s the time. [email protected] is not resume-appropriate, but [email protected] definitely is.
  4. Many people (myself included) dread writing cover letters, but they’re great for giving recruiters a sense of your personality and enthusiasm. Craft a cover letter that shows us what you know and love about the Fool and how your skills match our needs. I love cover letters that tell me how you can make the Fool better with your talents. What I don’tlike to see is what I call the “what’s in it for me?” cover letter — where you only talk about what you hope to get out of a job, but not about what you can bring to the table.
  5. And finally, hang in there. It’s a tough job market, and there are so many more unemployed, qualified candidates out there than there were even a few years ago. We have low turnover at the Fool, so our technical requirements for a job can often be very high (some positions require tough editing tests, and all of them involve three-hour interviews). It’s hard not to take a rejection personally, but know that often it comes down to factors beyond your control — namely, if a more qualified candidate happens to apply to the same job at the same time. Our recruiters say one of the hardest things they have to do is turn down bright, Foolish candidates, but we keep our favorite applicants on file for the next time a similar opening comes up. You never know! So do your best to take care of what you can control. It’s easy to become bitter and jaded, but don’t let that bitterness shine through in your application. Lead with your determination, work ethic, and belief that you would be great at the job you’re applying for.

So there are my tips. They seem almost too simple, and a lot of job hunters want to know if there are any “tricks” for getting their application even more attention. Deliver it in person? Call the hiring manager daily to check in? Don’t you dare! People who tell you to do that are giving you outdated advice that can ruin your chances of getting a job offer. The truth is there’s no gimmick that beats a well-written cover letter and a clear resume. So if you’d love to be a Fool, apply to one of our openings and tell us why!

Crazy Interviews

Chicken suit

Chicken suitHave you ever had a Dumbledore-esque rapper show up during a job interview – complete with a white wig, Dumbledore hat, glasses, track suit, and a Dumbledore monogrammed gold chain?

No?

Have you ever been to a job interview on Halloween? You should try it sometime.

What about seeing a person in a chicken suit running around with hula hoops? That happens more than you’d think!

What about having a job interview on April Fool’s Day – a holiday like none other at The Fool?

Let’s just say we’ve had to tell a few of our candidates that it WAS NOT an April Fool’s joke when we had to push back an interview start time.

I find that the best days to conduct interviews are when Fool HQ has something crazy going on.

At The Motley Fool, that happens a lot. It is fun to see how candidates react when I conduct their interview dressed as Dumbledore on Halloween. (Yes, that was me.) We’ve had Fool interviewers with their child in tow, dogs in the room, and meetings in stairwells. It is best for candidates to see what life is really like in the office, and it is great for us to see how they react to our craziness.

I also like to see how candidates deal with mix-ups and change-ups in their schedule. Whether it is challenges with their travel or a day of juggling conference rooms, candidates can face a number of tests. Some candidates are clearly frustrated and impatient – not a good sign. Others roll with the punches. When real Fool life is present in obvious ways during interviews, we get an even better sense of a candidate’s fit.

One of our best hires had two interviews outside during a fire alarm. Others have had interviews where they’ve had to help complete a project or come up with ideas for a Fool event, and they’ve been our most creative Fools yet.

When I interviewed 13 years ago, I stood in a storage closet over a foosball table. I saw first-hand how the Fool rolled and I loved it. Coming from a stogy banking environment, I knew this laid-back, get-it-done place was for me.

Ode to Office Ops

Fireside Chat

Fireside ChatThere’s a saying about design: When it’s bad, you notice. When it’s good, it’s invisible. The same holds true for office managers. People I know at other companies have told me stories of how bad office managers make their jobs more difficult — supplies aren’t ordered on time, meeting rooms aren’t set up properly, and urgent email requests go unanswered. The importance of good office managers is often overlooked, and the rest of the staff suffers as a result. But here at the Fool, our Office Operations team (or, as we call it, Office Ops), is one of the most important departments. We feel that happy employees equal happy customers, and what better way is there to make employees happy than to make sure they have everything they need to get their jobs done?

Compared to most companies, we have a larger Office Ops team – that is because we ask so much of them.  We make sure that the Office Ops team has the amount of people needed to take care of requests from all over the Fool. If you are focused on high performing employees and teams, then the value created by providing them the tools they need and creating efficiencies can be huge. Whether they’re planning meetings, fireside chats (like the picture above), organizing our space, diagnosing technical challenges, or pushing around a cooler filled with popsicles when the air conditioning breaks in the summer, Office Ops Fools are the magic elves that keep the Fool running at a high level. At The Fool, we are in love with Office Ops because they are an integral and key element to success and a true business partner.

You Have Fun at Work? Why, Yes!

Sun Always Shines When U R Cool

Sun Always Shines When U R CoolThere are things in life that are hard to describe — the way you feel on a sunny day as you walk around town, or the way you absolutely love and must have your daily or weekly Starbucks run — yet these things are the small moments that make your days inordinately better. Some of these things make you want to jump out of bed in the morning and start your day — again, for me, that’s coffee. (Can you tell I adore coffee?) But there is something else that makes my days inordinately better and makes me want to jump out of bed in the morning, and I bet you won’t guess it.

Go ahead.

Try.

I will give you a few seconds…

It’s work!

Yes, work — that thing most of you dread come Monday morning. And even more than work, I can’t wait to get to work so I can see my co-workers. Yes, I actually love my co-workers! (Seems a little different than the norm? I also love my in-laws; yes, I said I love my in-laws.) But should it be such a surprise to say that you love something most people hate?

Both our head of people and dean of Motley Fool University spoke at TEDx about the work/life balance and how there really isn’t so much of a line between work and life anymore. They added that our ideal of work/life balance is one that was placed on us in the 1950s and is severely outdated. And I agree. So why not make our work lives as fun as our life lives? Some of you out there may think to yourselves, “Yeah, OK, this sounds great. But I don’t think I can make it work.” Honestly, why not at least try to make it better? What’s the worst that could happen — you come out with the same situation and the same feeling you have about your job as you do right now? Surely that’s a risk you are willing to take, right?

So here’s what I can do — I will give you the recipe for what works with us. You start with a firm foundation of trust. Then you add in more trust. Layer in hard work, collaboration, and actually listening to what your co-workers say instead of just waiting to talk yourself. Sprinkle in laughter, daily — tell a joke, talk about Gossip Girl, or even about the way that one of your co-workers puts the word “the” in front of things he isn’t sure about. To top it off, you must want to help each other out. I don’t know how many times one of my co-workers has asked me, “Is there anything I can help you with or take off your plate?” And I appreciate them every time they ask.

While this is just my basic recipe, it works for us in the Culture Club. You see, at The Motley Fool, our co-workers are not just people we have to sit next to for eight hours a day — they are our work family. And if you don’t believe us, come pay us a visit sometime.

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?

Wedding Anniversaries Take A Back Seat

Foolish Couple

An anniversary at work should be a bigger deal than a wedding anniversary.  Sure, getting married is a monumental event. But, recently a co-worker and I figured out I had spent more time with him than my wife in the last 13 years at The Fool. So, shouldn’t I celebrate that even more than the time I spent with my wife?

Here we call that special work day a Fooliversary.  We have 2 main components to a typical Fooliversary.  First, on your
Fooliversary you receive balloons that state the number of years you have been with the company.  This is a great visible
sign to everyone that you have sold out to the Foolish man.  We enjoy wandering by each other’s desks, noting the big day, and giving congratulations.

The second part of our Fooliversary is the gift that goes along with the balloon(s).  Sure we could go for the traditional watch or lapel pin. I remember when I received my 2 year gift at Bank of America.  It was a business card holder AND a clock.  Yes, two very functional items in one!  OK, that was an awful attempt by B of A to say Thank You.  The big part of that gift was that it meant I could now take a full 10 days off from work unlike The Fool where we have no vacation policy.  But, I digress.  The gift we award at the Fool is to provide an experience.

We believe that creating shared experiences is a powerful way to foster collaboration and friendship. We provide experiences like movies, front row seats to a game, cooking class, overnight stays, and travel abroad. With each year your experience gets bigger.  Then we can bond over the years. “Oh, you are celebrating your 3 year Fooliversary.  I remember when I got mine.  I was front row at Lady Gaga.”

So, we go with a visible sign and a shared experience to recognize what we believe is a big deal – a long term commitment to The Fool, Our Mission, Our Friends, and Our Customers.

Laughter Makes Everything Better

Foolyween 2000

Recently I had a day without meetings and found I was missing them.  I realized that I actually look forward to going to meetings.  I couldn’t help but wonder why any sane person would enjoy meetings so much.  After dismissing the idea that I was losing my mind I realized I was addicted and needed my fix.  I needed to get to meetings to see my friends and laugh.  I missed the high of a good belly laugh.

There are many constants at the Fool.  but, one is that you won’t attend meetings without laughing.  We simply have a good time in whatever we do – even meetings.  That is not to say our meetings are unproductive.  I’d say we are more focused than most at ensuring our meetings have clear outcomes.  We are able to balance the needs at hand while still entertaining each other.

A day without meetings might be a day with less laughter.  I certainly have favorite Fools who can get the best laughs.  But, it is often the Fools you don’t expect who break out the one liner that gets the giggles that won’t stop.  Adding some fun and laughter to meetings is nothing but an improvement.