Corporate Mentoring Series: Conference Call DO’s and DON’Ts

When leading a conference call, it’s important to keep your goals in mind. If you work in Corporate America, then you know that you have two goals and two goals only: to confuse every participant, and to maximize the number of minutes you steal from everyone’s day. To ensure you stay aligned with these goals, here is a handy list of  DOs and DON’Ts that you can refer to during your next conference call.

1. DON’T tell people what the call is about or give them any background information. After all, it’s your job to keep folks on their toes.

2. DO give out an incorrect dial-in number. After 5 minutes of making everyone question their sanity, send around the correct number. To maximize effectiveness of this tactic, start the presentation on time, so that when people finally do dial in, they’ve missed several key points.

3. DON’T tell people which slide you’re on. This makes for good suspense. When someone finally speaks up and asks, make sure to tell them the wrong slide.

4. If you get the sense that the group is following along too well, DO throw in the term  “overcollateralization” a few times to ensure no one has any idea what you are really talking about.

5. DO concede, when challenged by one or more members of your audience, that your slides aren’t as precise as you led people to believe. When you think about it, you do have to agree that the phrase “formal proposal” doesn’t really mean “idea I had while on the toilet this morning.”

6. DO use the word “paradigm.” Since no one has used that word in over 5 years, you’ll reveal yourself as the douchebag you really are.

7. DON’T admit that you too are overcollateralized and have no idea what you are really talking about.

 

 

 

 

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Jump Into That New Job With Confidence

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Starting a new position can be somewhat nerve-racking. Not having changed jobs in over 7 years, I was somewhat anxious when I started with my new employer recently. Of course I was also really excited, having left my prior employer for an intriguing opportunity (translation: “more money”).

But, even with dreamy thoughts of the new gas-saving, carpool lane-eligible Chevy Volt I was hoping to purchase with my increased salary, as my first day approached, butterflies filled my stomach. Would I be able to win over my colleagues with my brilliance and wit? Would my office have a couch in it? Would I be able to map the new printers to my computer when the IT guy fails to show up after 3 days of nagging? Would the coffee machines be even less hygienic than the grimy coffee pots I was used to?

Well, rest assured, two months down this new road, I am here to tell you that if you too are contemplating making a leap to new employment, there truly is nothing to fear. In fact, you should be confident. You will soon find that, money aside, there really are some great upsides to the new gig and when it comes down to it, the usual stuff you’re used to at the workplace isn’t much different. Here are some concrete examples, to put you at ease:

New Upside: The travel expense and timekeeping systems are easier to use.

Usual Stuff: In theory this is true. In reality, you have no idea, since it takes weeks to actually get access. To avoid wanting to throttle someone in IT at your new company and winding up explaining your violent actions to Human Resources, don’t go on any business trips or get sick for at least a month.

New Upside: The Human Resources Department has a direct support line staffed with helpful, internal employees. 

Usual Stuff: When you finally get access to the timekeeping system, you realize after running a few calculations that your vacation isn’t accruing correctly. The external, non- Human Resources staff who are responsible for fixing the issue, argue with you that the “computer isn’t wrong.”

New Upside: You work with a really friendly group of people who take time out of their day to teach you the ropes.

Usual Stuff: You still have no idea what the statisticians are saying. (Tip: just complain loudly about “data quality” and shout “chi-square” (pronounced: kīskwer) every few minutes, and you’ll make it through the discussion.)

New Upside: You hear about an exciting new project at the company.

Usual Stuff: You find out the project is staffed with consultants who get paid obscene amounts of money to put together colorful presentations with “swim lanes” (complete with “swim sprints”) and made-up words like “ideation.” When you look more closely, you find they were too busy doing important consultant stuff to worry about spell check or slightly racist undertones in their “user profile” slides.

New Upside: You get a huge new office with a couch. Wow, you’re really moving up in the world.

Usual Stuff: Facilities can’t seem to fix the overhead light which makes a constant loud buzzing noise. It looks like there will be no napping on that couch after all. Besides, it’s easier to work from home than sit in traffic for an hour.

New Upside: Working from home means you get to see your kids more often.

Usual Stuff: Your kids find every opportunity to interrupt you. You consider padlocking your office door and investing in a noise cancellation headset.

New Upside: Once you have access to the travel expense system, you travel across the country on exciting business trips.

Usual Stuff: Your last flight home is delayed by two hours, because no one can figure out how to fix the plane’s coffee maker.

 

As you can see, there really is no reason not to take on that new opportunity that recently presented itself. In addition to the many favorable things that await you, you won’t be pushed too far outside your comfort zone, because you will still get to deal with the same crap you’re used to. And if you have an extra bit of luck like me, the germy coffee pots will have been replaced by a Keurig.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheaper Than Botox

image4In June, Elizabeth’s fourth grade teacher nearly got me fired. As if that wasn’t enough, I almost dragged several of my friends down with me. To be fair, it wasn’t really her teacher’s fault. She certainly had no idea that an innocent cell phone app would lead to a dereliction of MS Office duties and general loss of productivity across several companies.

Let me explain. I had helped out in Elizabeth’s classroom one day and was chatting with her teacher after school. At some point during the conversation, she introduced me to Bitmoji, an app that allows you to create a detailed avatar of yourself. I was immediately fascinated.  (I also couldn’t help but wonder why none of my elementary school teachers had fun stuff like Bitmoji. Instead they threw chalk at us.)

While the concept of an avatar was hardly new, when you have young kids, “new” takes on a different meaning. This is because, beginning with the birth of your first child, you are on a perpetual five year delay when it comes to anything hot off the press. To my point, I didn’t even see the 2009 film Avatar until 2014.

The next day at work, the PowerPoint presentation I was drafting crashed my computer. Sadly, similar to drafting a PowerPoint presentation, restarting my computer can be a painful and time consuming process. IT attributes this to the software I run, however, I’m fairly certain the true reason is that the computer I was issued is so old that it shouldn’t be running anything more modern that Microsoft Works. IT was most likely instructed under threat of death not to reveal the truth of the matter.

In any case, since my computer was obviously out of commission for the near future, I came to the logical conclusion that downloading Bitmoji on my cell phone was the best use of my time. I opted against the other option, surfing Facebook, since “liking” anyone’s status at 10am on a weekday would at best be perceived as suspect and at worst a performance issue.

Once Bitmoji was downloaded I realized how much better it was than I had realized. There were countless options to personalize my avatar. Not just hair and eye color, but even things like eyebrows, face shape and body shape. I was completely intrigued with the possibilities. In fact, I was soon so busy trying out haircuts and shades of lipstick on my fake self, I had completely forgotten about real life, including my technologically-challenged computer and my half-finished PowerPoint.

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About 30 minutes in, I discovered I could make myself taller, a feat which has defied me in real life. I was barely able to contain my excitement; this avatar was cheaper and better than either Botox or plastic surgery. Since my life is spent in one of four places – behind my computer screen, in traffic, at home, or at Target – I never see anyone I know in person. Consequently, the chances were slim that anyone would figure out my new avatar was not a completely honest representation of me. I began madly texting my friends these images of my new self. They seemed to share my philosophy, because the next thing I knew they had ditched their spreadsheets and PowerPoints and were texting me back images of their new Bitmoji avatars. Corporate productivity had decreased across Southern California.

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I truly don’t think I’d been that excited about advances in technology since moving back to the U.S. from Switzerland in 2000 and learning that you could get “cash back” at the grocery store. [I had been living in Switzerland for a number of years, and while the Swiss were obviously superior in many areas (watches, Army knives, direct Democracy, cheese with holes), the idea of getting cash and chocolate in the same transaction had not made it to the Alps.]

When I finally regained my senses, I realized that I had been hunched over my cell phone in front of a dark computer screen for at least an hour. I got my computer up and running and frantically checked my Outlook calendar for any meetings with my boss I might have missed. Next, I scanned the halls for any sign that my idleness had been detected. All was calm; I was met only with the faint sound of productive employees typing on their keyboards. It appeared I had dodged the bullet this time, but if I wanted to keep bringing home a paycheck, it would probably be a good idea to embrace my wrinkles and delete Bitmoji from my phone…

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