Monthly Archives: October 2012

Like most everywhere else, Berrett-Koehler has a monthly staff meeting. You’ll know what day the meeting falls on by how the price of coffee beans takes a sharp hike on the NASDAQ following frenzied market demand by BK staff. These are marathon days for my position, too. Amongst the staff, these meetings are as informative and useful as they are dreaded.

Because I favor the dreaded side of things, here are five really annoying things that happen in BK staff meetings:

1. Every Minute Becomes Five (or Twenty): Our staff meetings are scheduled, on average, to be three hours long. I know that this doesn’t seem that laborious, but unfortunately it doesn’t account for the fact that despite years of experience, almost everyone underestimates the amount of time needed to discuss a topic to death. I cringe and hope, but inevitably someone will say “Oh, well, I’d like a bit more time to discuss this issue – perhaps the whole dang afternoon will do?” (Okay, they don’t ask for the whole afternoon — usually only ten or twenty minutes — but that’s how it feels to me.)

2. Yada Yada Yada: At these meetings, I am the scribe (which is a fancy word for “minutes-monkey”) and I am required to record everything everyone says as part of the minutes. This means not only the important decisions, but also the pontificating, lecturing, meandering, really unfunny joking, and out-loud self-obsessed ruminations that are part of this whole circus. You know what the one thing worse than a bad joke is? Having to transcribe that bad joke word for word, thereby reliving the horror yet again in my mind.

3. Space Cadets: I am always exhausted after a staff meeting, not because of the amount of time we’re locked in there, but because I have to be constantly alert and activity listening because of (#2) above. So you can imagine the burning injustice I feel when I look up and see people staring at the wall, employing the hand-to-forehead-in-deep-thought tactic to take a nap, or tweeting about how boring the meeting is. Oh, and by the way, holding your iPhone under the table to play Angry Birds isn’t exactly covert. I’m watching you, and I hate you all.

4. Democracy Is the Biggest Pain-in-the-Butt: We are BK, so when it comes to decision making everyone’s opinion counts and we vote. On EVERYTHING. You see, I’m fine with the fact that we vote on things like pay raises and company health plans, but do we really need to vote about which restaurants to use to order lunch? Note to management: At about 75% of voting scenarios, someone inevitably asks if there’s an “I really don’t care” option. This is a hint.

5. Feeding Time: About half way through the meeting, it begins. I hear the first crinkle of a chip bag, the first protest of plastic wrap being stripped off a sandwich, and I realize it’s lunchtime. And like some twisted Pavlovian  response, I begin to feel rage. Because I have to continue taking the minutes, I can’t eat (and if you refer to point #2 above, you’ll know that there’s no rest from taking minutes because someone is always talking). And our staff are not the most graceful eaters either, which just amplifies the hunger-in-the-face-of-gluttony factor. I secretly wish someone would start choking on his or her food. Then the staff could  vote on whether the person is actually choking or not.

As the song says, suicide is painless. Unfortunately, meetings aren’t. Until next time


What is takes to buy my consulting services: raw fish.

Berrett-Koehler has an impressive repertoire of books, written by an equally impressive legion of authors. Their accomplishments are astounding and irrefutable, but sometimes I wonder if there aren’t other books we could be publishing within our current affairs/business/personal growth arenas. Here are five new books I’d like to see BK publish:

1. A High School Queen Bee’s Guide to Dominance: Who better knows how to claw her way to the top than a high school mean girl? Why pretend to like people and try to get along with everyone when you can ruthlessly mock them and take their dignity and become the most feared person in the company? Why not have minions carrying out your dastardly duties? It’s good to be the Queen!

2. Lessons on Rewarding Others I Learned in Grade Three : There are so many books on rewarding employees and providing reinforcement, and they’re fine but how about some more basic approaches? Invite me into your office to tell me what a great job I’m doing? Fine, but how about a fat gold star next to my name in the mailbox area? How about candy or extra nap-time? Basics, y’all, basics – that’s the stuff that really makes me happy. Wanna praise me? Send me an email, but really recognize me? Take me to the wharf and buy me cotton candy!

3. A Self-Help Book That Actually Helps: Granted, I’m a bit jaded and don’t go in for a lot of the self-help titles, but that’s because a lot of them hype things that are…spiritual. I mean, it’s all great to say that you need to align your chakras or talk to your inner child and all, but what about practical advice without the fluff? I would love to see a book that says “Forget meditation and mindfulness and all that stuff, eat French fries three times a week and everything will fall into place!” Fine, that’s an extreme (a wonderful extreme), but you get what I’m saying. I’m jaded and bitter, I want easy solutions not deeper explorations of my jaded and bitter self.

4. Current Affairs Books for My Current Situation: Yes, global economies are falling and DC is a mess, but what does this mean for me, really? I know I should be concerned, but honestly? My concerns are paying rent and getting food on the table. Yes, I know trickle-down economics and corporate behavior impacts my life, but don’t tell me that and say “rage against the corporations!” If they’re being sneaky, teach me how to be sneaky, darn it. I don’t want to be a noble protestor out there on the street getting arrested (I need to be at work). Instead, teach me how to rip them off and not get caught the way they rip me off and not get caught!

5. What Leaders Should Know About Leading: So many leadership books are written by big shots who tell other big shots about how to manage their little people. Here’s a news flash – neither of them has been one of the little people in decades. What about learning how to be a good leader from the people you’re leading and then writing a book based on that?  Don’t hire a hotshot consultant, buy pizza for your admin staff and ask them to talk to you – it’s cheaper and way more effective. We’re the ones who don’t care that you’ve read “Good to Great” three times but that you keep your business running.

I eagerly await the flood of manuscripts, I feel like the new editorial intern is about to get a lot of interesting reading.