Sunday, February 23, 2014

Teaching Moments from the Winter Olympics

Like many of us, you probably can’t tell the difference between a Double Lutz and a Triple Toe Loop. But, I’m sure you can tell the difference between a great team effort and a great team meltdown as the American men’s and women’s Olympic hockey teams demonstrated so painfully this weekend in Sochi, Russia.

Granted, both teams lost to superior opponents. But, the way they went down in defeat was UNACCEPTABLE. As men’s team captain
Zach Parise admitted: "We got outplayed. We didn't deserve to win. I'm kind of embarrassed where we're at now." Zach, so are we.

If you have young people working for you, or if you’re the parent (or grandparent) of young athletes, please make sure they understand that “USA” stands for the United States of America—not “Uninspired Sports Association.”

Lesson No. 1

Let’s start with the women. With four minutes left in the gold medal game against Canada, they had a comfortable 2-0 lead which they worked very hard to earn. But, instead of staying focused till the final buzzer and running down the clock, they started thinking about how they’d look on the podium with gold medals around their necks and a worldwide audience watching them sing the Star Spangled Banner with tears in their eyes. A dumb penalty here, a bad bounce there. Next thing you know, the indefatigable Canadians tied up the game in regulation and scored again eight minutes into the overtime period to claim the top spot on the tear-filled medal podium.

No matter how strong, skilled and experienced your competitors, when you have them on the ropes, you don’t ever let up. Don’t let them into your market when you’ve worked so hard to carve out your niche. Don’t ever let them steal your best clients or employees, and don’t ever think you’ve got the Big Market, Big Contract or Big Client locked up until the ink has truly dried on the contract.

Lesson No. 2

Now, on to the men. Unlike the women, the men’s team is composed of highly paid NHL professionals. They lost a tense 1-0 semifinal game on Friday to the eventual champions, Canada. But, instead of showing some pride in the bronze medal game against Finland, they’d played like an amateur team that had already packed its gear and checked out of Sochi. Their uninspired 5-0 drubbing at the hands of the highly motivated Finns sent the U.S. hockey program home medal-less and back to the proverbial drawing board.

You’re never as good or as talented as you think you are and you never underestimate or disrespect your competition. You’re not always going to land the Big Contract, Big Client or Big Speaking Gig that you worked so hard to get. But, when the next opportunity comes around, you can’t waste time lamenting “the one that got away;“ you have to be ready to land the next one.


Congrats to Finland and Canada (twice) for winning with class and for putting their big contracts and Stanley Cup aspirations on hold to represent their countries with pride. That’s what the Olympics is all about.

Our blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.

Tags: Zach Parise, U.S. hockey meltdown, Sochi Olympics


Sunday, February 09, 2014

Can Professionals Really Work Effectively from Home? Part 2 of 2

As we discussed last week, many tasks and assignments in the modern workplace can be performed just as well, if not better, by employees working from home. As we evolve increasingly into a knowledge economy, more and more professionals are discovering that they do some of their best work from home. But it's not all pajamas and slippers 24/7 by the keyboard.

Real-world case study

Designer Laura Gilbert, of Guilford, Connecticut-based Boomerang Studio used to work entirely from home when not meeting with clients. But like many creative professionals, Gilbert missed the “organic collaboration, networking” and bouncing-off of ideas that occurs more naturally in an office environment.

A married mother of two school-age boys, Gilbert started working two days a week at The Grove, a co-working space in nearby New Haven, CT. “Because the office is at home, the lure of working is always there. Creating limits on your work schedule is very important if you are trying to maintain a balanced life,” related Gilbert, a graphic designer who deconstructed the pros and cons of telecommuting for us below:

The Pros
1.      No distractions. At home, there’s no small talk about your weekend, the weather, the Big Game, etc., so you can be incredibly efficient with your time. An hour of solid working from home is the equivalent to 3 to 4 hours of working in an office. (This is not scientifically proven however.)

2.      Flexibility. There is incredible freedom in your schedule. This is especially helpful when you have a sick family member, an event at your child's school, a contractor coming to the house, etc. “I may end the day earlier than 5 p.m. but return to my desk after the kids are asleep to finish some work, or return emails,” related Gilbert.

3.      Fewer meetings. You only have impactful meetings with clients, or my assembled teams--no HR workshops, or tedious meetings about the new company insurance plan.

4.      No "face-time" requirement. You’re only at your desk when you really need to be working--no office politics!

The Cons

1. Built-in distractions. Some people cannot work efficiently at home, because they feel like there are too many distractions, i.e. laundry, home improvement projects, their bed etc. “Luckily that's not an issue for me,” said Gilbert.

2. Self-collaboration? As a designer, collaboration is incredibly important, noted Gilbert. “When you are working from home, the chances for organic collaboration and networking are greatly reduced. So you have to make a concerted effort to make that happen.” To that end, Gilbert is on the board of Spark, a design organization of independent design business owners. She also started working out of her spacious home two days a week at The Grove, a co-working space in nearby New Haven, CT.

3. Work/life imbalance. “Because the office is at home, the lure of working is always there. Creating limits on your work schedule is very important if you are trying to maintain a balanced lifestyle,” explained Gilbert.


Our highest-performing clients strive to find the right balance between (a) “group time” for collaboration and (b) “alone-time” for doing your best critical thinking. Humans are complex creatures. Productivity is a very personal thing. Sorry HR people. There’s no one-size-fits-all policy or solution. Find the right balance for each member of your team and turn them loose. Their families and your clients will thank you—and so will you CFO each quarter.
Have a good week. HB

Our blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.

Tags: Laura Gilbert, co-working, Boomerang Studio, Spark design, The Grove, work from home pros and cons for professionals.



Monday, February 03, 2014

Can Your Staff Really Work Effectively from Home? Part 1 of 2

With the spate of bad weather we’ve had throughout the East and Midwest recently, the debate rages on about the pros and cons of working from home. As Inc. magazine’s Vicki Salemi wrote last week, “hallway conversations and impromptu team meetings can spur innovation. At the same time, open offices can be remarkably distracting.” Obviously, if clients want to see you in person, then you need to be there for them. But, can some of your operational, administrative and creative functions be accomplished via telecommuting in this 24/7/365 work environment?

A recent study by Stanford researchers Nicholas Bloom and James Liang indicates YES. Letting employees work from home at least one or two day per week can make them happier, less likely to quit, and more productive, researchers found.

But there are some big caveats, which we’ll get to in a minute.

Benefits. Researchers offered call-center workers the opportunity to work from home for nine months. While the company thought the money it would save in space and furniture--about $1,900 per employee--would be offset by a drop in productivity, it turns out that at-home worker output wasn't hampered a bit. As Professor Bloom reported in
Harvard Business Review, the at-home workers made 13.5 percent MORE calls, quit 50 percent less often than their in-office counterparts, and said they were happier on the job. “Offices are actually incredibly distracting places," Bloom reported. Study participants who worked from home also put in more hours and took fewer sick days.

Will that some model work in the professional office settings where most of you spend your days?

Caveats. Researchers didn’t say that home-based workers are uniformly more productive than office workers. Instead, they suggest certain kinds of workers might be better suited for home-based work, such as solitary, hourly folks whose output can be measured--call-center reps, proofreaders, developers, and the like. "The more robotic the work, the greater the benefits,” Bloom said. “Evidence suggests that with most jobs, a good rule of thumb is to let employees have one to two days a week at home. It's hugely beneficial to their well-being, helps you attract talent, and lowers attrition."


Here at HB, we think it’s more than just robotic work that can be done successfully outside of a traditional office environment. In this always-connected, 24/7/365 work environment, it pays to have your best people do their best work wherever and whenever they can be most efficient and least stressed. It’s no longer a matter of home vs. office; it’s a matter of home AND office and setting reasonable boundaries in both environments.

Next week, one of our designers,
Laura Gilbert of Guilford, Connecticut-based Boomerang Studio, will deconstruct then pros and cons of working from home as well as the growing use of co-working spaces.

It’s Monday. Shake off the Super Bowl cobwebs. Let’s get to work wherever you happen to be.

Have a great week. HB

Our blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.

Tags: working from home, co-working, Vicki Salemi, Nicholas Bloom, James Liang, Stamford University