Have You Ever Fired an Employee on a Zoom Call? What About 900 Employees?  

Yes, 900 employees were fired on a Zoom call, according to the Inc.com article. Frankly, this is a horrible example of leadership.

The CEO of Better.com, Vishal Garg, had told 900 employees to join him in a Zoom meeting. Once everyone was there, Mr. Garg told them that they no longer had jobs at the company. Better.com is an online mortgage company, and the reason for the reduction of its workforce is that the company is going public. So Mr. Garg wanted to create a leaner, meaner, hungrier workforce. And after this firing of 900 employees, he told some of the remaining employees that he did those employees because some were stealing from the company by only working two hours a day.

Now, you can imagine that when the article went public, Mr. Garg received a lot of negative criticism. The CEO tried to apologize, kind of sort of, but several of his company’s executives resigned. His head of communications and head of marketing said, “this is crazy. This is nuts. I’m out of here.” Hopefully, the CEO’s actions are not a form of leadership. It is because he has the authority to fire them. The Board of Directors put the CEO “double-secret probation” and said that Mr. Garg was taking time off effective immediately and the CFO would be in charge of the day-to-day operations.

This was not the first time that Mr. Garg displayed terrible leadership. Last year, Forbes magazine received an email from Better.com employees that was sent by Mr. Garg that said, “You are too damn slow. You’re a bunch of dumb dolphins, and dumb dolphins get caught in nets and eaten by sharks. So stop it. Stop it. Stop it. Right now. You are embarrassing me.” In addition, Mr. Garg had “threatened to set a former business partner on fire, and engaged in hostile exchanges with investors, calling one “sewage” and demanding he divest from the company.”

It’s the company’s culture that you have to work on first and foremost. Better.com has hired an outside firm that’ll come in and do an assessment to find ways to help improve the culture. But the bigger picture is this is privately held right now. Trying to go public. The issue is the leader, the CEO. And you can try to improve the culture, but the only way to do that, in this case, is to fire the CEO and find somebody else to come in and revamp that culture. Because if you don’t fire the CEO, you could hire him an executive coach. You could…It doesn’t sound like he would ever listen. And I’m making an assumption, I know, but he has a history. And that’s just wasted a lot of time and money.

And it was interesting because today, I sat in a Zoom call with a group of people from the C-Suite Thought Leadership Council about leadership. What makes a leader? It came down to just the opposite of what this CEO is doing. A leader is there to inspire those who are employed at the company. How do you inspire hundreds to thousands of people? You can’t interact with all of them individually. However, you can inspire by the tone of your voice. In other words, you can inspire by your attitude.

If you’re in a toxic environment, if you question or make comments, and all you are is ridiculed, you’re going to keep your job and silence yourself or find another job. Intimidation is not a form of leadership. And for those of you who remember Theranos, the Elizabeth Holmes company, that was a sham. Her second in command, Sunny Balwani, had the same leadership style. Berating his employees. Shouting at them. I don’t know about you, but if that happens to me, what tells me two things 1) I need to find another job or walk out immediately and 2) a lot of times when you have that CEOs who have this anger, they’re hiding something, and maybe that’s what ultimately this is. There might be some internal shenanigans going on.

I will admit there is a side of me that wants to send Mr. Garg a copy of my book “Off Script: Mastering the Art of Business Improv. However, I’m not going to waste time, money, or energy because his ego is too overblown. He would write a berating type of review on Amazon, which I don’t care about, but why give him that space? Why give them that voice?

We’re in the people business first and foremost. Now, some of the 900 may have been, lack of a better term, deadweight. They may not be producing as they should be producing. Yes. Fire them with dignity and respect. If you want to be leaner, meaner, workforce, there are other ways. He could have contacted a recruiting company and said, “I need to obtain your services because I have to downsize my organization by 900 people. I’m going to need help getting the jobs for those I have to let go, and the company will pay for them to get that help.” At least have some empathy for those 900 people during the holiday season.

This story of letting people go during the holiday season is heard far too often. I might be naive, but I truly believe that this type of leadership needs to go away and be replaced with something of some type of leadership that has compassion. That looks at their people, those who are productive as an integral part of the organization, and show them respect. When you show respect to your employees, that sets you apart from many other leaders who look at their employees as just a number and something that is easily replaced.

Honestly, employees are not easily replaced. Leaders will even make that statement and still treat their employees like sh*t. The pandemic has proven that we can be working from home and be productive. So, why are some leaders demanding that their people come back to the office and stop working virtually? In my opinion, the leader’s overdeveloped ego is making that decision because, in their minds, they don’t trust their employees. The consequence of that decision is what has been deemed The Great Resignation. What happens when you listen to those in your organization and provide them flexibility? They might stay with your company and not start running out the front door in masses.

Times have changed, and I know this won’t be the last article written about poor leadership. I hope someday there won’t be any at all, and it just goes and goes back to being human. And going back to thinking about a fellow person, being tolerant, and being supportive.

S5E2: CEO Fires 900 Employees on Zoom

Sometimes we have a hard time defining what good or great leadership is, but we also know what bad leadership is.

I believe in Improv leadership, which is more about the team and less about an individual. No matter what business we are in, people are our most important asset and we need to begin to treat them better.

The firing of 900 employees by the CEO of better.com via a zoom call is a tragic example of how not to manage people.

How do you inspire when you are leading a large number of people and can’t interact with them individually? You can by tone and attitude. Being in a toxic environment where you are ridiculed when you make comments or question will lead to either choosing to keep your job and silencing yourself or choosing to leave and finding another job.

Intimidation is not a form of management and this type of leadership needs to go away and be replaced with some type of leadership that has compassion. One that looks at their people who are productive as an ethical part of the organization and show respect for their employees. When you show respect to your employees, that puts you apart from a lot of other leaders out there who look at their employees as just a number and something that is replaceable

Ego has a lot to do with good and bad leadership. The leaders who are willing to put it aside will be more successful than those leaders who still want to tell everybody what to do and how to do it, and look at them as a replaceable asset. It goes back to being human and going back to thinking about a fellow person, being tolerant and supportive.

A Dose of Humor Will Help Manage Your Stress

I’ll be the first one to tell you improv isn’t all about comedy and making people laugh. However, my introduction to improv resulted from finding and using comedy as a coping mechanism to deal with several challenges life threw my way. 

There is great power in being able to leverage comedy, laughter, and improv. The fundamentals of improvisation have been a literal lifesaver for me in dealing with highly stressful situations throughout my life. The fact is, stress is a part of our everyday lives. Stress can come from a variety of sources. For example, stress can come from daily frustrations, including our jobs, others from unexpected challenges, such as significant health issues, or a looming deadline as your work piles up around you. 

You remember this saying, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Mary Poppins was onto something here: to digest something undesirable but necessary – add something sweet to go with it! I favor taking this advice literally – sweets and snacks made available when you are in a crunch can undoubtedly go a long way, but so can humor. 

Is there anything better than experiencing a terrific laugh? It’s one of those sensations that lightens your mood and makes you want more. When something is funny, it feels good – it’s sweet that can make medicine taste a little better. So, why are so many workplaces seemly devoid of humor? I often ask my audiences, “When was the last time your coworkers burst out into laughter, and it wasn’t at your expense?” Of course, the answer depends on your culture and your colleagues. But all too often, that humor isn’t as typical and present as it should be, and stress can be a big reason for that. 

But, a regular dose of laughter reduces stress, and it’s desirable. A Forbes article written by Jacquelyn Smith cited a few statistics that validate the importance of humor. According to the article, “A Robert Half International survey, for instance, found that 91% of executives believe a sense of humor is important for career advancement; while 84% feel that people with a good sense of humor do a better job. Another study by Bell Leadership Institute found that the two most desirable traits in leaders were a strong work ethic and a good sense of humor.” 

I get it though, people are in survival mode, just trying to get through until quitting. When you’re facing a strict deadline or enduring an impossible task, the last thing you probably want to hear is some joker saying, “Hey, did you hear the one about the priest, the rabbi, and Bill Clinton walking into a bar?” You want to rip their tonsils out. However, humor need not be a stand-up routine – it can be present in how you finish a request in an email or a brief quip in passing to a colleague in the lunchroom. It can also take more sophisticated forms that take more time – such as [kind] pranks when it’s someone’s birthday, or someone reaches a career milestone, or if your college football team beat your colleague’s football team. 

The following are a handful of ways you can help decrease stress and hopefully increase humor and fun (all while being incredibly efficient and productive): 

Smile. It seems so simple, but body language – especially a smile – can dramatically impact how you and all your coworkers feel. It takes the edge off tense moments; it communicates that you aren’t consumed with negative feelings; it makes you more approachable, and others will feel comfortable around you; it invites positive emotions. 

Be prepared. The clown amuses no one at work that isn’t pulling their weight, shows up late to meetings, and can’t be relied on. Having humor in the workplace doesn’t mean you shirk your responsibilities. Humor is enjoyed with you, and those around you are confident – and that confidence, especially in the workplace, comes with being prepared for your job. Preparation for the days and weeks ahead will allow you to be less stressed and more confident – which will not only help you and your clients. It will help your colleagues. 

Adapt. Adaptability is a HUGE part of improvisational humor – it IS improv. Many things in life can be stressful, but we can “go with the flow.” Adapting is simply the ability to readjust as you experience things – whether that readjusts your sales pitch or the time in the morning you give a presentation, or having to select a different menu item when your first choice is sold out. No matter the situation, it takes flexibility and confidence to address change head-on – and let’s face it, things are constantly changing, things rarely go as planned. 

Have the right attitude. Your attitude affects everything. Since being little children, we’ve been told this – depending on our mood, and we’ll see the world a certain way that can either be positive or negative. It’s also incredibly contagious. No matter the source of your stress, your success in overcoming it depends on your ability to perceive things positively. You either can see your situation as a challenge and make the most of it, or you can succumb to it and let the stress win. Your ability to positively approach the workday will dramatically affect the vibe of your group – even if you have some Debbie Downers. Perhaps you won’t be able to win everyone over, but there will be plenty who will positively respond to your cheerful and witty vibes. 

So you’re committed to bringing more levity to your workplace – good, you all need it! As you make an effort to get to know your team members and engage with them, you’ll soon be able to determine your comedic boundaries. Of course, most of you probably know your colleagues well enough to know your limitations already – but consider times where you need to collaborate with other teams, new clients, outside resources, etc. Just remember, wit and humor are appreciated, and it’s needed! So, let yourself laugh; doing so will reduce your stress and helps others reduce theirs. Laughter is the proven antidote, and it comes naturally when the company culture is conducive to it – so, be a part of it! 

S4E41. The Great Resignation: Why So Many People Are Saying “I Quit” with Brian Comerford

Brian Comerford is a digital leader and serial entrepreneur – notably co-founding RadioValve.com, one of the first generation of online radio stations. He served as an adjunct professor at The University of Denver – his alma mater – in the digital media studies department. He currently serves as the co-chair of the CIO Working Group for the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, and is a board member of the Adoption Exchange. On top of all of that (and more), he’s the host of the Lead.exe podcast. 

The Great Resignation is real. The pandemic opened the floodgates for remote work, which has opened up the possibilities for new jobs. And for those who are being called back to the office after a year and a half, they’re thinking about those new opportunities. People have also taken this time to reflect on their goals in life, and, if they don’t feel that their job contributes any meaning to their existence, they may take this time to explore other options.

We were told that employees are not productive when they work from home. Over the past year and a half it’s been proven that is not the case. Overwhelmingly, employees who have a choice in the matter are preferring either work from home or hybrid work models. There are still situations where working together in the same office can be beneficial, but we can learn to use that time intentionally rather than requiring it around the clock.

The previous generation of leadership was built on a lack of trust in hired employees. It was about monitoring, disciplining, and making sure they stayed on task. This has started to disappear, but some leadership styles are hard-lost. Leaders have to adapt to a new style of trust, and judging employees by the work they produce, not the amount of time they spend with their butt in the chair.

We’re starting to see a reinvention in how companies support their employees – how they offer compensation, work-life balance, and more. And if companies hope to retain their employees and attract talented new ones, they’re going to have to adapt to the demands of the workforce.

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How Do You Eat an Elephant?

Has anyone ever asked you this question “How do you eat an elephant?” This question has never been asked to me, and I discovered it while reading an article. This question and answer is a powerful metaphor for learning and development for all professionals.  The answer to the question is “one bite at a time.”  

Think about it, and if you tried to eat an entire elephant in one sitting, you would get sick. From that experience, you would never want to try to eat an elephant again. However, when you take your time eating one bite at a time, over a period of weeks or months, you would be able to consume the entire elephant.

Another way of thinking about this metaphor is that you have back issues and decide to strengthen your core by doing stomach crunches.  You have not done any abs exercises since Nixon was President of the United States.  Day one, you choose to do ten crunches, and you have success without any muscle cramps. You continue this daily trend, and by day 20, you might be up to 30 crunches by adding one additional crunch a day (small bites). By the end of three months, you might be able to do 75 crunches. However, when you look in the mirror, you don’t see any difference in your body shape, and your back is still giving you issues. Yet, you don’t give up, and you keep on putting in the daily work. This is the journey I started back in November of 2020.  This morning, September 3, 2021, I successfully did 1,000 crunches which took me 14 minutes. As a result, my back is stronger, and I even have a better definition in my abs. 

The question now becomes – How long does it take to create a habit?  If you search the internet, you will find that it takes 21 days.  However, that is a myth.  According to research, it takes 66 days to start a habit. That’s right, a little over two months to START the habit AND don’t forget to continue this habit development every single day, if possible. So if you miss a day or two, don’t get discouraged, start again, and try not to put too much distance between when you stopped and then started again. And don’t beat yourself up because you miss a day or two or even a week. 

I began 20 + years ago adopting the mindset of an improviser.  I would leave sticky notes around the house, my car, and my office that said Yes! And. I wanted to keep those words accessible to me so I could create a habit and enact change. Unfortunately, over the 20 + years, I have fallen off the improv wagon way too many times than I wish to count. I would have to force myself back on the improv wagon and away from my old habits in the early years.  Getting back on the improv wagon was not easy at all. I was very comfortable with my earlier bad habits – letting my ego get out of control, not being a good listener, and trying to make it all about me.  However, I felt that those were not the suitable characteristics for a good leader and business professional, despite the behaviors I was witnessed by my current bosses/leaders.  

So, I would get back on the improv wagon and keep working toward my goal.  I learned that the amount of time it took me to get back on the improv wagon decreased because I was building up solid improv skills.  

Why is “one bite at a time” essential to learning and development for all professionals? Let’s break it down into two pieces – technical learning and development and non-technical learning and development.

Technical learning and development is the mastery of your technical competency. 

You want your surgeon to be technically sound as they cut into your body. You want your attorney to be technically sound while they are representing you in a jury trial. You want your insurance salesperson to be technically sound in the insurance policy they are offering their clients. Features, benefits, and side-effects are valuable information that is memorized to avoid getting policies confused with other policies or products. 

You developed the foundation for these technical skills during your college years. That foundation allows you to elevate into developing your complex technical skills.  

Non-technical learning and development, ahh, okay, let’s change this to Power Skills learning and development.  Today’s technical professionals (accounting, finance, engineering, health care, etc.) need to develop the mastery of power skills: communication, critical thinking, emotional intelligence, listening, adapting, strategic thinking, innovation, and more. When you sum all of these power skills into one, it becomes LEADERSHIP.  

Okay, I see some Scooby-Doo heads tilted and thinking, why?  I am technically sound in my craft, so why do I need to invest time into developing my so-called power skills to become a leader.

Let me sum it up in two parts. 

Part 1, the technical knowledge, jargon, and acronyms you spent years developing are now considered foreign languages. Have you ever had a meeting with your CPA, and you had no idea what the person was trying to say when you left? For example, I had a conversation with my doctor concerning some test results, and a massive tsunami of medical lingo consumed me.  I stopped her and politely said, “I have no idea what you just said. Can you tell me in plain English?” She paused and then said, “You may have cancer”. Okay – I heard and understood those words. And that gives me the knowledge I need to know what I possibly am dealing with (it was not cancer, thankfully). 

Anyone in any technical profession needs to become a better translator of their knowledge and expertise into plain English so others can understand and act upon the information.

Part 2, what business are you in?  It seems like a silly and simple question to answer, right? Yet, when I ask this question during a keynote or workshop to a group of CPAs, I get replies like auditing, tax, consulting, data analysis, etc.  I reply, “that is not the business you are in. That is the by-product of the actual business you are in”.  I take it to the point that either someone gives me the correct answer or it looks like someone wants to punch me out.  The correct answer is – you are in the people business, first and foremost. Without PEOPLE, you have no business!

I hope you ponder this thought for a while and come to realize that I am correct.  Since we are in the people business, we better develop those critical skills, or we will be out of business.  Business improv develops all of the critical people skills that everyone in an organization needs to master. Business improv is about letting go of your agenda to listen intently — to be empathetic and open-minded in the present moment — so you can truly connect with colleagues and other stakeholders to generate optimal results.

Think about that elephant and what that elephant represents – Leadership. Now, take one bite at a time and start investing in your power skills so you can have a greater impact on the people you hire, on the people you lead, on your customers and clients, on the people that are your business partners, the people in your community, and the people of the world.