Looking to free yourself from good employees?

Tired of paying larger salaries to those star players?  Do those game-changing ideas make you toss and turn all night?  Ready to bask in the calm sea of busyworkers?

The solution is really very simple.

Here are 6 easy steps for freeing up your budget to employ greater mediocrity:

  1. Don’t thank your star performers. Ever. Even when they manage to pull a proverbial rabbit out of a hat, make sure that you take the time to point out every minute flaw. Give them detailed lists of how it could have been better.
  2. Pretend that all the good ideas are yours. Don’t give them credit for a job well done — no “attaboys” here!  After all, they do work for you, don’t they? If you hadn’t hired them they wouldn’t have the privilege of creating great stuff for your company.
  3. Treat them like children. Watch them like a hawk. Make sure they ask your permission for everything. Make sure they know you don’t trust them to make any decisions on their own.
  4. Bury them under bureaucracy. Make them jump through flaming hoops to get things done. Focus on outdated corporate policies that don’t impact the bottom line.  Make their projects suffer by committee. Distract them from their real work.
  5. Don’t reward. Make sure that you treat everyone equally. Give them the same 2% pay increase that the slackers got. Prove to them that their extra efforts are futile.
  6. Stifle creativity. Make them do things the way that they’ve always been done. Treat innovative ideas as dangerous. Smash their eggs before they hatch.

With the economy the way it is, unfortunately you may have to carry these overachievers a little longer.  But rest assured — as soon as the job market opens up, they’ll be off the payroll and out of your hair forever.

Oh, and by the way — your competition says thank you.

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What do you interview for?

When you interview a prospective employee, what do you ask them?

There’s the usual going over the resume, asking about skills and experience. Then comes the “let’s see what you’re made of” questions − what was your biggest failure and how did you handle it? What is your best/worst attribute? What did you like/dislike about your previous job/employer?

All of these are fine questions, except that they are easily (and commonly) prepared for. It becomes a highly groomed game of cat-and-mouse, rather than really finding out what kind of person you’re sitting across the table from. Unless you’re looking for a candidate who is highly skilled at B.S.-ing their way through meetings, this may not be the best tack to take.

How about asking questions that they can’t prepare for?

Ask questions that have no (or at least no obvious) right answer. What questions will give you a glimpse of how their mind works, and how they react?

Whether the question is position-related (how would you counter the competition in “x” scenario) or  something more generally thought-provoking, you’ll get a more accurate read on how quickly they can assess a given problem and how capable and creative they are in coming up with solutions.

Here are a couple of examples from various sources:

  • Imagine dropping a Rubik’s Cube into a bucket of paint. How many of the cubes will get paint on them?
  • How many tennis balls can you fit in this room and how would you get them here?
  • How do they get the cream filling inside a Twinkie?
  • Why do people climb mountains?
  • Why are manhole covers round?
  • If you had to lose one major body part, what would it be? How would you compensate?
  • If the earth lost its gravitational pull, would any living things survive?

The bottom line here is interview for the attitudes and aptitudes your company needs.  If you find a person that can think the way you need them to, and has a personality that “fits” your company, you can always teach them the skills they will need to be successful in the position.

It’s easier to buy a carpenter a toolbox than teach a person with a toolbox to be a carpenter.


Photo by Robert S. Donovan

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Creative Regression Theory

I’ve decided that I need to be 4 again.  Well, maybe not the actual age — that could be problematic with the limited income and lack of driving skills — but I would love to rediscover that devil-may-care passion I misplaced somewhere over the last couple of decades.

Somewhere around the age of 4 we hit the creative “sweet spot,” where there is a perfect convergence of factors to produce incredible amounts of creativity.  Around that age is when imagination fully emerges and kicks into high gear, motor skills improve to include fine detail, the brain is able to synthesize disparate pieces of information into original expression, and  — here’s the best part! — self-censoring in deference to societal norms hasn’t really kicked in yet. To a 4-year old, anything is possible.

Have you ever really watched a kid at that age? It’s amazing. I hand my son some crayons or paints or legos or just about anything, and he will throw himself into his work with complete and utter abandon.  He doesn’t worry about the “right” way to do it; as far as he’s concerned he is doing it the right way because he’s having a blast. And if he doesn’t like the way it comes out, he just starts over. No biggie. For him it’s just a reason to extend of the fun and maybe try something new. Nothing to sweat about.

He doesn’t really care if real trees aren’t purple, or that puppies aren’t supposed to have seven legs.  So what?  It’s his picture.  If you don’t like it, go draw your own.

I think as adults we should all resurrect that inner 4 year old.  Let’s give ourselves permission to pursue our passions and indulge our creativity.  Let’s come up with crazy ideas, and try doing things in ways we haven’t tried before. Let’s stop worrying so much about whether we’re doing it “right,” or what everyone else will have to say about it.

Everyone’s entitled to their own personal vision. And if you don’t like it, go draw your own.

Life Unplugged (well, at least a little bit)


“My name is Colleen, and I am a digital addict.”

Like most digital creatives, I spend a huge chunk of my life in front of a computer. At work, of course, but also at home — checking email, following some Twitter feeds, seeing what’s going on in FaceBook land, reading a number of blogs that I follow, and writing for my own.

After many sleep-deprived weeks of working, parenting, and lots of ongoing projects (including this blog), I decided it was time for a digital break.

Last weekend I traded it all for a well-deserved and long-overdue visit with some friends to share some great conversations and several glasses of wine. Despite being completely unplugged for two whole days, the world kept going without me and I really didn’t miss all that much. (Okay, so I did get a little twitchy once or twice, but all in all it wasn’t that bad.)

This week I’ve tried to continue my somewhat unplugged streak. Instead of spending an hour or so on the computer before bed (which they say is the worst thing you can do, by the way), I’ve been using that time to curl up someplace comfy and lose myself in a good old-fashioned printed book for a while. I’ve been more conscious of how often I just “pop in” to check what’s happening online, and I’m trying to consolidate and limit it to more predefined time chunks.

Today I planted some flowers in the back yard, and then planted myself outside in a chair with a beverage to enjoy them (both the flowers and the beverage). Well, okay, yes — I’m out here with my laptop, too. But I’m enjoying the fresh air and just got buzzed by a curious hummingbird (way cool!) — two things that just don’t happen in my indoor office.

Being connected is certainly important for me personally and the work that I do, so I’ll never abandon it entirely. But there’s something to be said for intentionally stepping away now and then and enjoying what’s right there in front of you.

So when is the last time you really unplugged? What filled the spaces in your life that the missing 1’s and 0’s left behind?

photo by peasap