Ricardo Semler: Set Employees Free for Long-Term Growth and Success

Ricardo Semler: Set Employees Free for Long-Term Growth and Successby Brad Wieners –
For nearly 25 years, Ricardo Semler, CEO of Brazil-based Semco, has let his employees set their own hours, wages, even choose their own IT. The result: increased productivity, long-term loyalty and phenomenal growth.

Ricardo Semler had the sort of reckoning at 21 that most executives don’t face until middle age. Fresh from law school, where he’d been a restless underachiever, Semler took over his father’s business, which manufactured pumps and propellers for the world’s merchant marine. He was awfully young, but his dad sensed that if he didn’t give his son a chance, he’d lose him to another career. Besides, Semler Sr. was a pragmatist. “Better make your mistakes,” he told his son, “while I’m still alive.”

Straightaway, Semler Jr. spearheaded an ambitious plan to diversify his dad’s ship-parts company, which, like the Brazilian economy in the mid-eighties, was sinking. At Semco headquarters, in São Paulo, he tried to learn everything there was to know, and, while a quick study, he irritated plenty of the old hands with his precociousness and micromanaging. Working from 7:30 a.m. to midnight every day, or jumping planes overseas to raise capital and find new partners and companies to buy, his live-to-work lifestyle seemed ripped from the pages of John Grisham’s The Firm. [Read more…]

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The Compass vs. The Clock, Put First Things First

Compass vs. The Clock, Put First Things Firstby Chris Banescu –
The realization that something is not right with our lives can manifest itself in various ways. A feeling of emptiness, a bothersome disquiet, or a strange pain, like a deep sadness or a heartache, gradually or suddenly begins to trouble our souls. We feel guilty, anxious, unsatisfied, stressed, or sad even in moments when we ought to be at peace and carefree; when we should be relaxing or enjoying ourselves. For some this pain is only a vague discomfort. For others, including yours truly, the pain can often be intense and unrelenting; sometimes lasting for long stretches of time.

I discovered the reason for this mysterious affliction in the book First Things First, written by Stephen Covey, Roger Merrill, and Rebecca Merrill. They describe this particular grief as the “pain of the gap,” the gap we sense between the compass and the clock in our lives. Every time we don’t put first things first, when we fail to follow our calling and vocation and focus on the most important things in life, our conscience warns us that something’s not right and corrective measures and proactive actions are required. [Read more…]

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The Sociopath In The Office Next Door

Sociopath In The Office Next Door by Davia Temin –
Evil in the office. If you think about it, you’ll probably realize you’ve seen it play out at least once in your career.

All of a sudden a well-running, friendly, effective group or company begins to disintegrate for no apparent reason. People start to become demoralized and dysfunctional, efficiency plummets, client service and sales suffer and convoluted mistakes are made, up to and including illegal behavior such as fraud and larceny. Employees begin to develop psychosomatic illnesses, sick time rises and the best talent starts to leave.

What used to be a great work situation turns into a nightmare.

More often than not this dysfunction can be traced to the entry of one new employee, perhaps the boss, his or his assistant, the head of HR or a new shop steward. And when you start to explore, you find that, though the person may look and act apparently normal–even charming–all those around him or her are suffering. [Read more…]

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Discern Truth and Solve Problems

Discern Truth Solve Problemsby Chris Banescu
Life must be a continuous journey in discerning truth and solving problems. Courage gives us the determination to accept truth. Discipline allows us to consistently and creatively deal with the problems.

Mistakes don’t become failures until we refuse to correct them. Often, long-term failures develop when we purposely ignore truth and make excuses instead of taking the necessary steps to correct our mistakes.

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Throw ‘Em All Out…And Good Riddance!

Throw Them All Out Government Corruption by J.R. Dunn –
Crony capitalism is the most serious current danger to the American community, a threat not simply to government or the economy, but to our very way of life. It is the worst such threat since the trusts and monopolies of the early 20th century, and in much the same way. Cronyism is one of the major forces behind the establishment of the corrupt pseudo-aristocracy that has been taking shape in this country over the past two decades, a synthetic privileged class made up in large part of politicians, hustlers, and hangers-on who have become expert in exploiting the rest of us.

The legacy media, for some obscure reason, tends to bury discussions about this group. While the reportage on discrete incidents is there — see the parade of stories on Solyndra, Goldman Sachs, and MF Global for examples — we find little effort to pull it all together. Academics, with the single exception of Angelo Codevilla, who sounded the alarm two years ago in The Ruling Class, appear oblivious, as if they had no idea what’s going on, which may well be the case. [Read more…]

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Your Money Belongs To Politicians

by Priscilla Petty –
If I had to pinpoint one single way in which our country has gone astray, I’d say that it’s when we allowed politicians to manipulate the tax code to benefit those whom they favor. There are many ways, of course, in which our country’s trajectory has taken a downward rather than upward turn, but politicians’ control of individual citizens’ money, their taking great quantities of it as though it actually belonged to the politicians to use for their own benefit and for politicians’ chosen purposes, has bankrupted us not only fiscally but morally. [Read more…]

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How to Turn Disaster Into Gold

Campfire logo 37signals by Jason Fried –
When one of our products malfunctioned, thousands of stranded customers erupted in fury. Yet we came out of the crisis more credible than ever. Here’s what we did.

It was a really lousy week.

One of 37signals’s key products is Campfire, a real-time chat tool for small businesses. For about a week in mid-December, Campfire, which users access via the Web, kept bouncing on- and offline. This was the first major problem we have had with Campfire since it launched in 2006. For a product that needs to be as reliable as the dial tone on your phone, things couldn’t have been worse.

Thousands of companies rely on Campfire. At 37signals, we use Campfire to run our business. Because we have employees in a dozen cities around the world, Campfire is our lifeline. It’s how we communicate with one another in real time. Campfire is where we make decisions, share designs, debate ideas, broadcast companywide announcements, and keep up to date on what everyone’s working on. [Read more…]

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Codes Are Not Enough, Why We Need Ethics

Chuck Colson
Chuck Colson

by Chuck Colson –

At the recently concluded meeting of the American Economic Association, the most contentious issue had nothing to do with economics, per se. It wasn’t about “the economics of the organic food system,” or “the costs and benefits of pollution control,” as two of the seminars were labeled.

No, the behavior drawing the most attention, both inside and outside the profession, was ethics — or more to the point, the lack of ethics — of economists themselves.

According to a recent article in Slate magazine, the call of for a “code of ethical standards” comes in the wake of series of “blows to the prestige of the profession.” These include “housing crisis, the credit crunch, the financial crisis, the recession, the collapse of several European economies, and the overhaul of U.S. banking regulation.” [Read more…]

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How to Make Your Employees Smile

Paul Spiegelman
Paul Spiegelman

11/19/2010 – Paul Spiegelman –
Paul Spiegelman, the founder and CEO of Beryl, a call-center company in Bedford, Texas, has built a unique, people-centric culture, which he chronicled in the book, Why is Everyone Smiling? His next book, co-authored with Beryl employees, is titled Smile Guide: Employee Perspectives on Culture, Loyalty and Profit. Here, Spiegelman shares tips on how to keep your workers happy.

1. Give People a Voice
“Listen to what your employees say,” says Spiegelman. “And don’t just listen – implement the ideas that they have, and give them credit for those ideas. As entrepreneurs, we might in our gut know the right answers to certain questions, but it is often better to let workers tell you what the answers are and give them credit.” [Read more…]

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The Social Network

The Crisis of Ethics in America
10/8/2010 – Chuck Colson –
Even before the critically acclaimed film The Social Network opened in theaters, there was one big financial winner: Newark, New Jersey’s public schools.

While critics were screening the movie, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg donated $100 million to the struggling school system. Not only that, he made the announcement on Oprah.

Apparently, Zuckerberg was looking for a little bit of good PR. He’s concerned that people who see the film may question his personal ethics. The more important concern ought to be, however, what the film says about business ethics in our culture. [Read more…]

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Warning Signs of Power Corruption in Organizations

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or certainty of corruption by full authority. There is no worse heresy than the fact that the office sanctifies the holder of it. – Lord Acton

Lord Acton’s dictum, made in 1887, clearly warns us that the practice of wielding power and influence can corrode the character of leaders. History is replete with examples of individuals who wielded unchecked power and eroded not only their own integrity, but also the ethical and moral foundations of the organizations they led and brought them to catastrophe and ruin. This danger is true of all organizations including businesses, religious institutions, and governments.

Here is the risk inherent in leadership: The greater the leader’s power, wealth, authority, and influence, the more likely the leader could succumb to ethical lapses and moral failings. The risk increases if the organization has a culture that lacks financial or managerial transparency and accountability, has insufficient checks and balances on executive power, and discourages criticism from subordinates or members. When a leader with a poorly developed ethical or moral sense ends up leading an organization with a culture that prevents ethical self-examination, a slow but perfect storm starts to form that demands compromise from all levels of leadership and eventually leads to catastrophic consequences. [Read more…]

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Key Characteristics of Great Leaders – Part II

Great Leaders Integrity, Honesty, Humility, CourageIn this article I’m continuing with my review of the key characteristics of great leaders. Here are some additional qualities that embody superior leadership.

Great leaders surround themselves with greatness. They actively seek out the best possible people and hire them to fill all key positions within their organizations. Great leaders know that surrounding themselves with excellence is a direct reflection on their own character, abilities, and effectiveness as leaders. They understand that their own success and the success of their organizations depend mostly on hiring and promoting the best qualified, ethical, skilled, responsible, mature, and productive people and giving them the proper resources, authority, and freedom to do what’s needed for the long-term benefit of their companies. Great leaders do not feel threatened by anyone lower in the chain of command who’s smarter, better educated, more productive, or more popular than they are. They respect the greatness and unique abilities of the individuals they lead and encourage them to continually flourish and grow. [Read more…]

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Truth in Organizations is Not a Matter of Opinion

Truth in Organizations, Truth in BusinessTelling the truth is too often overlooked in business. Truth is the catalyst that should inform all management decisions and actions. It’s the foundation on which trust and integrity rest. Truth is the critical prerequisite that enables management and employees to make ethical decisions in the day-to-day activities of an organization.

Now when I speak of “truth” I mean the objective reality of our lives that we can all categorically agree with. This includes facts and information that cannot be disputed and are universally true whether or not someone chooses to acknowledge them. Some examples include: two plus two always equals four, water is necessary to sustain life, man has landed on the moon, companies must be profitable to remain in business, in a vacuum light travels at precisely 186,282.397 miles per second, and only 0.037% of our atmosphere is made up of carbon dioxide.
[Read more…]

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Some Employees Are More Equal Than Others

Dig Your Tunnel Employee MistreatmentWhen I was younger I used to believe that getting a good education and working hard would offer me a stable life. I learned real quick that many companies don’t reward hard work anymore – at least not like I thought they did.

I believe in hard work. I think people should be rewarded on what they produce. But all too often the wrong people get promoted. Employees get preferential treatment and enjoy more benefits and opportunities as long as they don’t make any waves, toe the organizational line, and always support their boss.

When we first come across such a dysfunctional work environment (especially early in our career), we are not sure what to make of it. We recognize that such preferential treatment of less qualified employees is neither ethical nor fair, but we don’t know how to handle it. [Read more…]

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