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Monday, September 26, 2016

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Treating Employees with Respect

In my time as a store manager I strived to be the kind of boss that people wanted to work for. When an employee comes to work and feel like they are part of a team that cares not only about the success of the business but about the success of the individual as well they work harder, stay longer, pitch in when needed and stay happier. Here are some not so easy concepts that I am mindful of when on the clock. While this mainly applies to bosses at the store level these tips can help anyone interested contributing to a respectful workplace. 

Be Honest:
Being honest and candid with employees is important. Letting an employee know the real you allows them to reveal their real self, which leads to more trust and more connection. I would often break the facade of "polite customer service agent" when alone, in the back room or in a meeting to give my real opinion about something. I would be honest about how I felt about a conference call, e-mail or customer in order to humanize myself.

Also, be honest about your decision making process. Explain the pros and cons of decisions and ask for input. I would often ask employees what they would do to solve a problem and either offer alternatives or let them go with it. Conversely, like the shoe, I would simply solve the problem in the best way I knew how without input but then follow up with the employee later to ask them about the solution and it's effectiveness and potential alternatives. 

Do the Work:
Only when you work harder than everyone and are willing to do any task you can you expect others to do the same. My least favorite thing to hear another store manager giggle about is how they make new employees clean the toilet. I can see testing employees but making them do it because you don't want to or because you're the boss is disrespectful. Clean the toilet yourself and when people notice that it is important to you they will either do it on their own or have no excuse not to. Do the work that needs to get done and excuses will fall away. No one respects a hypocrite and a hypocrite respects no one.

No Excuses:
Take responsibility and admit when you screwed up. If you want people to be honest with you you have to be honest with them. A little humility can go a long way. Looking in the mirror instead of blaming others sets a precedent of integrity, honesty and self ownership that extends to everyone on staff.

Be Ethical:
Store managers must create an environment of safety, inclusion, and high ethical standards in order to protect the store, employees and themselves. By taking an unambiguous stance on harassment, discrimination and following important policies is the best way to maintain and protect the people that matter the most. Setting a tone of seriousness when policy violations occur and holding people accountable via HR procedures ensures that white lies do not turn into HR nightmares, or worse, legal action. Knowing the rules inside and out and making sure employees know how to report issues and solve problems will help foster a culture of respect and fairness on all sides.

Creating a culture that engenders respect on all sides requires honesty, hard work, humility and ethics and starts at the top. Respecting employees means respecting their intelligence, humanity and individualism. I believe respect can only be earned and like any relationship it is a two way street. Treat people better than you want to be treated (especially if you're a masochist) and you'll be surprised at the results.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Some Notes on Conference Calls

We have conference calls once a week. They are a good time to check twitter, facebook, tinder, back to twitter, back to facebook, play solitaire, text people, watch a youtube video with no sound... You get it. Every once in a while there is a piece of important information that I write down but if I don't a thorough set of notes will show up in my e-mail an hour or so later making any notes unnecessary.

Sometimes my boss just drones on for minutes about how we are failing to "Set ourselves up for success," or ask "What plans do you have for saturday's event," followed by 35 seconds of silence before someone chimes in with blather about "making it fun," or "putting up streamers." Generally boring shit. Genuine but boring. So, as someone who has listened in on hundreds of monotonous conference calls and wasted hundreds of hours, here are some ideas to mix it up and keep people engaged.

1. Take role quickly but if someone is not there don't take time to find them. They knew about the call and if they miss the information that is on them. Don't waste the groups time finding people who aren't there. They may jump on later or they have better things to do. If you are concerned call them to follow up after the call.

2. Have a goal. Retail is fast paced and there is a lot to do. A conference call should be important and for a purpose. If it can be sent in an e-mail then send it in an e-mail.

3. Set a time limit and stick to it. Let the group know how long to expect the call to go beforehand and if you say it will take half an hour then make sure to get what you need done in that time.

4. Encourage participation and not from the same 4 people. Everyone's perspective can be instructive to the group and a chance to learn. Call on people to talk. Switch up presenters if they are a regular part of the call.

5. Ask questions that facilitate conversations such as:
-"What are your focused goals this week ...insert name here..."
-"How can we maximize customer satisfaction?"
-"Do you think that ...insert practice here... is working? Why or why not?"

6. Call it off sometimes if there isn't anything important that requires a group discussion. Or because people are busy or just because you want to give them a little extra time to focus on other important activities.

7. Sometimes, instead of the call make individual appointments in person or on the phone to discuss important matters or just to congratulate a job well done.

8. Follow up with people on a one on one basis to check for comprehension and general effectiveness of the call. Was it helpful? Did they get something out of it?

9.  Be positive and uplifting. Compliment successful results and actions. Thank people regularly. Remember this isn't life or death and everyone wants to succeed.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Causalism not Determinism and Some Ruminations on Free Will

One problem I have in accepting determinism is the word determinism. Determinism implies a determiner which assumes some sort of agency. This makes sense due to the roots of determinism being either religious or scientific. From the religious perspective all actions are pre-determined by a deity agent and from the scientific perspective knowledge is gained from observation from human agents. Determinism from the scientific point of view is based on cause and effect and the lacking of true human agency in the equation. Humans are simply subject to prior causes and the effects cascade toward more cause and effect chains. This would be better described as "Causalism", not determinism.

Because determinism rests of the concept of knowable causal forces it is simpler and more objection to call it causalism. If causality can be mapped with perfection then the future would, presumably, be predicted but not determined. Determination seems like inevitability based on an agent's word instead of an objective assessment of what physical forces should do. The future doesn't exist and I believed that no matter how precise we can observe reality there would likely be missing data, error, or other mysterious forces such as underlying quantum chaos that would make perfect knowledge and predictability impossible. We might get to 99.9% but it still wouldn't be determined, just very accurately predicted.

Are all physical forces consistent, constant and reliable? I am not sure. While logic has taught us to rely on physics due to it's reliable predictive power it doesn't mean that there is some room for variation and change. The universe is mysterious and science is a fairly new discipline. We should not be so vein to think that we understand what is immutable. For example, if the speed of light is not fixed then many calculations would be wrong. We should be skeptical about our assumptions. This is an interesting TedTalk about the potential misconceptions in science.

This doesn't mean we should discount science. The scientific method is certainly the best way to test truth claims about reality but I think there is room for philosophy as well.

Ruminations on Free Will:
Why can't a mind be a direct cause of an effect? If so why can't the agent, who owns the mind, be in control (choice) of that cause? Free will may lie somewhere in the chaos of the mind or somewhere in the conscious effort to change the future. The mind is just as physical as genetics and environment so why can't it have a discreet effect on reality and the future?

If all causes are products of prior effects and causes then can there be a first cause? This seems to lead toward a deity outside of time and space. The "turtles all the way down" argument doesn't lead anywhere.

If causes and effects can occur spontaneously or arise from complexity then the mind seems like a prime candidate for a machine capable of creating new chains of causation.

I do admit that I want Free Will to exist. I think it allows for more personal responsibility and change and I feel that I am free to make certain decisions. I do not believe in complete freedom and I admit that most actions are a product of prior or current physical forces acting inside and outside of myself that I can not control. But in those few moments where choice comes into play, and I can slow down and see the potential outcomes of an action I believe that "I" am free to choose. This may be rare and training myself to recognize them may be a lifelong discipline but it seems to increase my well being.

Here is a great conversation between Sam Harris and Dan Dennett about this topic:
Check out Sam Harris's podcast for great content here:

This is a great talk between Sam Harris and David Deutsch about the power of explanation and the limits of knowledge: