How a functional organization works

Note: I have worked for and with a decent number of different companies and non-profit organizations. Here are the qualities I have noticed among the most functional ones:

1.  Open-Minded Leadership – Good ideas spring from every level of a team, and often the most practical suggestions come from front-line employees. Hence the success of Undercover Boss. Effective bosses are open to hearing employee suggestions. They may not always be implemented, but they should be honestly considered.

2.  Training – It is remarkable how few organizations invest in training. Huge investments of time and money are spent on acquiring and paying new hires, without spending even a couple of weeks to get them up to speed on protocol, history, IT, communications guidelines, workflow and policy. So much time would be saved with a concentrated up-front investment in training. The smart organizations know this and their employees hit the ground running from day one.

3.  Understanding – Smart leaders take time to understand their employee’s decisions, and correct errors when possible. They see mistakes as ‘teachable moments’, and avoid reacting with anger. The more you understand your staff, the more you can improve their efficiency, or, where necessary, know where to cut.

4.  Smart Hiring – It is critical to fully engage in the hiring process. Some people kick butt in interviews but not on the job. I am a big believer in referrals as well where possible. A little online research goes a long way as well.

5.  Transparency – The more an employee knows about the organization from the top, the more invested they will be in its success, and the more they will understand their bosses decision-making process. Trust employees with information whenever possible.

6. Following The Plan – Successful organizations spend part of the year cautiously and rationally creating a plan, and part of the year fully executing that plan, followed by a period of analysis. It is suicide to switch midstream, or cut back resources at the last minute out of fear or because it is taking longer to show results. Long-term, sustainable growth requires long-term investment and patience.

7.  Having Fun – Employees will put up with a lot of BS if their workplace is fun and they have friends at work. Social events are not frivilous, they are critical to retention, employee happiness, and team-building. Effective organizations are fun organizations, and staff stick around and work harder.

8.  Appreciation – Successful organizations are thankful for their employees, customers, donors, clients, evangelists, leadership, and friends. And they say thank you every day.

9. Organization – A clear system for filing and organization helps everybody stay organized. Multiple or confusing systems lead to a rats nest of files on the server, redundant systems, and just a total mess. Employees aren’t mind-readers, so take the time to carefully explain the system being used, and allow for some initial error.

10. Forward-Thinking – Effective organizations are not focussed on putting out fires, they are strategizing for the future and looking out for opportunities.

There are many other qualities of course…feel free to add in the comments!

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Exciting changes coming soon

Well, I am stoked to announce that this blog will be getting a serious upgrade soon, and I can’t wait!

More details to follow…bum bum bum…..

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Ten things I’ve learned from MCA (AKA Nathanial Hörnblowér AKA Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys)

  1. I can blow you away, you can ride with me.
  2. I do what I do best because I’m willing and able.
  3. You’ve got gall, you’ve got guile. Step to me, I’m a rap-o-phile.
  4. On the tough guy style, I’m not too keen. Try to change the world, I’m a plot and scheme.
  5. This is all top secret and classified. I grab the mic and let the words glide.
  6. I think I’m losing my mind this time, this time I’m losing my mind.
  7. ‘Cause downtown Brooklyn is where I was born, but when the snow is falling, then I’m gone.
  8. I want to say a little something that’s long overdue. The disrespect to women has got to be through to all the mothers and sisters and the wives and friends I want to offer my love and respect to the end.
  9. There was a time when we would joke around and say things that were disrespectful of women and think that it was funny, or that it wouldn’t hurt anybody, or that it would be taken with a grain of salt. Then it became clear that that wasn’t the case, and we had to go through the process of taking a step back and realizing how those things affect other people. The lyric in “Sure Shot” is just a statement of that. Even on the last album there aren’t any lyrics that are disrespectful of women, but we went an extra step on this album to make a statement.
  10. I think there are a lot of misconceptions in society in general about what actually brings happiness, we’re caught up in all these ideas that having a lot of money or having somebody beautiful to have sex with or having some cool objects, having a cool car, cool stereo or whatever is gonna make us happy. And those things actually don’t bring us happiness. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about how compassion or altruism actually brings a person happiness.

R.I.P. Adam Yauch

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Guestpost #83: Emily Schooley – Ten things I’ve learned from having an abortion

Bio: Emily Schooley is an actor(vist), photographer, writer, and Girl Friday living in Toronto. Through her varied and occasionally traumatic experiences life has thus far thoroughly failed to kill her, making her that much stronger. You can find Emily online at http://emilyschooley.com or on Twitter @EmilySchooley. If you’re in Toronto, catch her improv troupe Pandora’s Toybox next performing at the Black Swan on May 10th – SHAMEBOOK features authentic pages from Emily’s diary, used to inspire scenes.

Note: I was both inspired and touched by Josh’s post about his experience with abortion, and wanted to provide my own first-hand experience to enlighten those who have never been through it. For those who have not, I sincerely hope you don’t find yourself in the position of having to make a difficult choice. Also, I know how hard it is to get your brain around viewpoints that differ from your own.

  1. Nobody else has lived life exactly the way you have, nor can they see things exactly from your perspective. What this means is that nobody else can or should have the power to make such a crucial decision for you that WILL impact the rest of your life. Not your family, not a pro-lifer, not a doctor, not a priest, not anyone. For me, the right choice was having an abortion, but that doesn’t mean that I would ever tell another woman that she must have an abortion.
  2. In the midst of emotional turmoil, you usually already know what you want to do, no matter how much you second-guess yourself. I’d always said that should I get pregnant I’d immediately go for an abortion. When I found out I actually was pregnant, I spent a lot of time mentally screaming at myself about “maybe I should keep it” and “you’d always planned on being a single mom anyway…”. At the end, it was the quiet voice – my intuition – that waited until all the screaming was done to reassure me that given all circumstances I was making the best choice for me. As soon as the procedure was over, I felt an immense sense of lightness and peace return. If I was to get pregnant now, my choice would not necessarily be the same one.
  3. The only person’s mind you can change is your own. I used to love starting debates with pro-lifers by telling them about my experience with abortion and that it was the best choice I’d ever made. While some of them were respectful enough to listen to what I had to say, guess how many minds I changed with this tactic. None. No amount of evidence or testimony can change someone’s opinion about abortion if they aren’t looking for reasons to change their mind.
  4. People who truly love you will stand by you even if they don’t agree with decisions you make. One of my best friends (who happens to be very Christian) was the one who drove me to the hospital to get my abortion. He’d come over to visit the night before; I hadn’t planned on telling him about my sticky situation but it came out through the course of the evening. He ended up staying overnight – and insisted on sleeping on the floor so that I’d get a good night’s rest in bed – and wouldn’t take “I’ll just take the bus, it’ll be fine” as an answer from me. He never told me that I was making the wrong choice or that I should keep it, even though I know those are ideals he values.
  5. Sometimes you need to be selfish, and that’s not a bad thing even though everyone wants to tell you it is. I was still in undergrad and wanted to finish school, and so I never told my then-boyfriend about my pregnancy. He was sweet and kind but I knew he wasn’t a forever deal; even if I had decided to keep it I was not going to ask him to be financially or emotionally responsible. I am a very strong advocate of it being the woman’s choice when all is said and done. I chose not to tell him because I did not want to burden him with the decision, nor did I want him having any say about my body or my future. You can call it selfish, but I call it self-preservation and my life would have gone in a drastically different direction if I’d had to start raising a child then, and I can guarantee that I would not be as happy as I am now. It takes strength to stand up for yourself in the face of extreme adversity.
  6. It’s easy to lose your head in a crisis, but hindsight is 20/20. At the time, getting pregnant was the absolute worst thing that I’d lived through in my barely two decades of life. Not so much for health/physical risks (though I’ll get to some fun side effects shortly) but because I was suddenly faced with questioning my morals, values, judgements, choices, and life path. Abortion is never an easy choice to make, even for someone like me who knew that the time and circumstances were not right to bring a child into the world. At the same time, any highly stressful situation is going to push you to the edge of where you feel you can’t handle anything else. Surprise, you can always handle more than you think you can – since then I’ve rolled with the punches of things like a wrongful arrest, court cases, car accidents, and a crazy abusive ex-boyfriend. It makes for great story-telling.
  7. Black humour has a time and a place, but laughter really is the best medicine. One of my favourite abortion jokes is about how it’s just like giving blood – you get juice and cookies at the end. Not everyone can handle hearing that, but finding some sort of positivity – even if it’s tongue in cheek – in a stressful experience it will help you heal from it that much faster. And in turn, that will equip you to handle bigger stresses that come down the road. Trust me, life rarely goes according to plan. I may be flippant now about “the time that I got knocked up” but that’s because I’ve processed it and learned from it.
  8. Seriously, don’t screw around with birth control. I got pregnant because I was a week late starting up my monthly birth control pills because I’d forgotten to bring them on a trip. We were using condoms at the time but accidents can and do happen – safe sex needs to be the responsibility of both parties, and you can never be too careful.
  9. Being pregnant makes you crazy. No, really. Not only was I physically sick and miserable for pretty much the entire time, I was also an emotional wreck. I’d lay in bed sobbing, eat half a bucket of ice cream, then decide that 2 am was a great time to go for a walk. It takes a lot of mental fortitude to withstand the hurricane force of pregnancy hormones. Even if you’re in a supportive and loving home with a child conceived out of love, it’s not easy at the best of times. Imagine how much worse it is for rape victims, for example – there’s no way in hell anyone should be made to endure nine months of that.
  10. Canadians are extremely privileged, and it’s so easy to forget that sometimes. We get so caught up in worrying about clothes and jobs and cars that we frequently ignore or gloss over problems of other countries. It’s part of the whole “first world problems” idea, but even amongst other first-world countries there are issues. Americans with million-dollar healthcare bills. Nevermind that abortions are still illegal in almost half of the world. It is both infuriating and terrifying that women now face the risk of having the freedom of choice taken from them. We CANNOT let that happen.

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Guestpost #82: Nadine Thornhill – Ten things I’ve learned from teaching other people about sex

Bio: once upon a time, I was an actor who landed a day job in a sex store. That job somehow morphed into an entirely new career as a sex-columnist, a sex blogger (http://nadinethornhill.wordpress.com), a program director with Planned Parenthood and a playwright whose themes centre around dildos. I live in Ottawa.
  1. Use Lube. It reduces friction during condom use and increases sensation during hand jobs. A good flavoured lube can make oral play a delightful taste sensation, a few drops can smooth the way for an anytime anyplace quickie. If you’re going to engage in safe, comfortable anal penetration lube is a MUST. Lube is the wunderkind of sex products.
  2. No sexual desire is unique. No matter how odd, unusual or outrageous your turn-on may be, there is someone else on this planet who gets off on exactly the same thing.
  3. No sexual desire is universal. Not everyone is heterosexual. Not everyone is homosexual or bisexual. Not everyone is cis-gendered, transgendered or male or female. Not everyone has sex the way I do or the way you do. Not everyone has sex or even wants to.
  4. Sexuality is a lifelong experience. Tiny children ponder the design and function of their genitals. Seniors in retirement homes are hooking up and getting it on. Our sexual expression changes over time, but it is always part of who we are.
  5. The G-spot is made of the same erectile tissue found inside the penis. It’s called spongiosum and during sexual excitement it becomes engorged with blood just like a cock.
  6. Some people don’t need their genitals touched to have an orgasm. They can come by stimulating their nipples, ass, ears, hands, feet, neck and something just by thinking about it.
  7. Some sonograms have caught fetuses “masturbating” or at least touching their genitals in utero. I told you sexuality was a lifelong experience!
  8. You can clean your dildo in the dishwasher. Provided it’s made of a non-porous material like silicone or glass.
  9. HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence. Caught early and treated with an effective dose of anti-retrovirals, the life expectancy of an HIV positive person is almost 70 years of age.
  10. It actually takes several sperm to fertilize an egg. Each sperm secrete an enzyme which erodes the outer layer of the ovum. Individually, it doesn’t do much, but when those swimmers secrete as a team, the barrier breaks down enough to allow one sperm to get through and do his thing.

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Guestpost #81: Josef Addleman – Ten things I’ve learned from spending four days in Beijing

Bio: Josef is an accent-training specialist who has taught in Japan for two years, and traveled the world far less than he would like to. He lives in Toronto now, where he plays drums and performs improv comedy of many different stripes.
  1. Crossing the street is not a task to be undertaken lightly. Drivers pretty much have right of way here at all times.
  2. In some cities, it is not necessary to know your way around a city in order to drive a taxi. It is, however, of utmost importance to be able to talk on the phone while driving in rush-hour traffic without stopping, or even looking at the road.
  3. During the 2008 Olympics, the government restricted car traffic by 50% in order to reduce traffic and air pollution. They did this based on the last number on a given car’s license plate: on Mondays, only cars with an even numbered plate could drive, and on Tuesday only odd numbers. Apparently the law had a noticeable effect on pollution, so they continued after the Olympics, albeit restricting only 2 numbers, or 20% of cars, each day. This has a less noticeable effect.
  4. Peking Duck, aka Beijing Roast Duck, is the official fancy-pants meal of the city. It’s actually pretty complicated – you get little carved up pieces of duck with a thick, crispy skin on it, and you have to fold it into little burritos with onions, sugar, and a bunch of other optional sauces and veggies. The whole thing is fairly challenging to do with chopsticks.
  5. Sea Cucumber intestines are weird, but not as disgusting as one might imagine. Sea urchin is still pretty nasty, though. I didn’t get a chance to try deep-fried scorpions on sticks. There’s always next time.
  6. Sausages can be considered vegetarian food if you chop them into small enough pieces.
  7. The recently constructed headquarters of the national TV station in Beijing is sometimes known as the Pants building, because it is shaped like a giant pair of pants.
  8. Architecture in general is all over the place in this city. Buildings are constructed in shapes and clashing colours that wouldn’t be considered in many other countries. You have flying saucers, giant Ls, bright pink and yellow apartment towers and the fancy, avant-garde olympic venues bumping up against imperial warehouses and temples. Sometimes literally.
  9. The 16 emperors of the Ming dynasty were responsible for such cultural wonders as the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and the final pieces of the Great Wall. And they put dragons on pretty much everything. Also dragon-turtles and dragon-lions and dragon-unicorns. These dudes were really, REALLY into dragons. Seriously, what a bunch of nerds, right?
  10. In a lot of ways, Beijing’s spirit seems more in line with New York than, say, Tokyo or Seoul. People can be pushy and in-your-face, but in an outgoing way that might be a kind of friendliness. The streets are crowded and dirty, but the parks are full of all kinds of people gathering spontaneously to dance together, practice Tai Chi, or play shuttlecock-hackysack. There’s a definite sense of large-scale community and pride that go beyond nationalist propaganda.

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Guestpost #80: Lisa Hickey – Ten things I’ve learned from being CEO of a company for men, about men

Note: I am incredibly fortunate to have a post from someone I admire enormously, and who is running one of my favourite websites ever.Full disclosure: I am a (fairly new) contributor to The Good Men Project (that aside, however, it has long been one of my faves).Bio: Lisa is publisher of The Good Men Project and CEO of Good Men Media, Inc.

  1. Oh. Men have problems, too.
  2. I never worry about “being a woman.” I just am one. However it seems to me there is quite a bit of angst over “being a man.”
  3. I had always thought women were the ones that were stereotyped and objectified. Turns out men get it just as much, just differently.
  4. Other than 1, 2 & 3 above, there are no generalizations about men and women that make sense to me.
  5. You know those movies about start-up companies where the hero runs from place to place trying to pitch people on the idea and no one listens and then there are screaming telephone calls and banging fists on conference room tables trying to get deals done? And then the numbers start rising before your eyes and suddenly everyone’s a believer? Yep, it’s like that.
  6. You can create anything you want — whether it’s a business, a piece of art, a life. You just have to go out and do it.
  7. There are things I had learned how to do before I did this — math, poetry, art, spreadsheets, sociology, ice hockey, social media, stand-up comedy — and I’ve found a way to use all of them here.
  8. Since “good” is our middle name, we talk about goodness a lot. And I’ve come to believe that goodness is not an inherent quality but a series of moment-by-moment decisions.
  9. There are times when the gender of the other person makes a big difference in how I interact with them. There are times it makes no difference at all. The funny thing is, except for sex, I still can’t tell when it might be important.
  10. I love men.

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