Sorry no audio edition this week, I’m far from my audio gear.
Partying: more important than it looks
It’s Sunday morning. I’m on the first of many flights this week. It’s the Scene Change Christmas party tour, five states in five days.
Not enough sleep, way too much to eat and drink, sore feet from hours of standup banter, waking up in hotel rooms and wondering what city this is.
Damn I love it.
Also, it’s an essential part of our job. If we didn’t do it, its absence would show up in our P&L. A little at first. Then a lot long term.
Yes, this reads like a flimsy, pseudo-strategic justification for partying. The standard CFO (not the good ones) would view it as an unnecessary indulgence.
This week, I present the business case for why it’s an investment, not an expense. Also your brain is fried, you’re way behind on your personal to-do list and you’re not up for self-improvement tips or hot new trends.
You don’t need alcohol to have a good time but
Cost-cutting and HR joy-killers have given Christmas parties a battering in recent times.
I caught up with old friends last night. One works for a major bank, where the allowable budget for the party is $50 per head. I’m told it’s part of the compliance burden after the Banking Royal Commission. Even the Tax Office thinks $300 is fair.
You’re better off not having an event, rather than something that everyone will remember for the wrong reasons, a rich source of demoralising word-of-mouth.
Q. “How was your party?”
A: “The budget was $50 a head, how do you think it was?”
Q: “Ugh remind me to never get a job there.”
Another friend’s party had non-alcoholic beer, non-alcoholic wine, and a dad band playing all the 70s guitar anthems that get people banned from guitar stores.
Not saying you need alcohol for a good time.
But it does help take the edge off Geoff from IT playing Stairway To Heaven.
A KPI you haven’t seen before
Not many businesses measure this but here’s one of my proudest KPIs of our business.
Not once have I been cornered at a party by an irate, drunk life partner of a Scene Change staff member, and given a lengthy dressing-down.
I got plenty of that in my employee years. A few hours into the event, someone I’d never met would give me an epic diatribe on how their partner is overworked and underpaid. That they basically carry the entire company on their back, are never home to see their family, the full martyr case study.
These outbursts were usually on behalf of the staff with a bottom-quartile work ethic. But perception is reality after nine glasses of Jacob’s Creek Prosecco.
I became a proxy punching bag on behalf of the people who actually owned the business, who had left much earlier.
Haven’t had it once since we started our own place. And what a relief that is.
Acknowledging the support partners provide
Part of that KPI is just luck. Our industry is a tough one to work in, with weird hours and last-minute stressful changes-of-mind from clients. We’re the first-in, last-out industry, watching from the back of the room as the audience rocks on. It’s tough but it’s something we all signed up for.
Acknowledging people’s partners and the essential support they provide is really important.
We’ve held events for them. Usually separate to the Christmas party, because events that try to achieve two different things don’t do either well.
Throughout the year, we have said no to work because it meant last-minute shift changes and all-nighters from our people, something that has been commonplace in our industry forever. Burning staff doesn’t work long-term.
If someone’s partner thinks they work for people who don’t give a fuck about them, there’ll be a constant buzz of discontent at home that will make them change jobs eventually.
What sort of organisation do you run?
As business owners, these events are a vital part of showing what sort of organisation your people are working for.
If you don’t work in the business, and you’re travelling to see staff you might only chat to a few times a year, it’s a really important opportunity.
I’ve seen a lot of leaders who come to town for a staff event, and they talk nonstop about what gets them excited. The grand business vision. Growing shareholder value. The exciting “we’re going to put a dent in the universe” spiel.
They introduce themselves to everyone they’ve met before, and have verbal workarounds for not knowing people’s names.
The energetic ones can sweep people up into their motivational comet tail, especially others who see themselves as a future universe-denter.
Not all your people will be like that. Most people like the opportunities that come with a growing company, and they’re proud to work in a place that’s well-regarded.
But lots of them just like to have a good reliable job that has no effect on the universe. And that is wonderful. In places where everyone’s fully signed up to the success cult, sooner or later they will go at each other like scorpions.
And the big-talking inspo leader doesn’t know much about individual staff members, because they’re not really interested.
I’ve made a list and I’m checking it twice
I think just knowing people’s names, their partners names, and things about their non-work life, is far more important in a leader than most other things you do.
People do better work all year round if they feel the owners of the business can see them. Rather than viewing them as headcount.
Particularly in cities that are usually ruled by head offices elsewhere, with no recognition of local issues.
Plus if they sense you’re interested in them, they’re more likely to tell you interesting things that help you understand the business better.
We’re up to about 90 full-time people now, and a lot more regular casuals. About 25 of the full-timers joined us this year.
I could tell you three-quarters of their name off the cuff. Some of the new ones are trickier to remember when you only see them a few times a year.
I find remembering introductions really hard. I see people who can remember them after the first round of intros but for me it’s gone in a microsecond.
I keep an Excel name list that I check on the plane on the way to places. It seems trivial, but I think it’s really important.
This is not a new idea. It’s been around since How To Win Friends And Influence People, and I’m assuming for millennia before that.
Sometimes when you get carried away with the complex, impressive-sounding parts of leadership, you can forget the essential value of these basics.
So it’s been nice writing for you, but I’ve got names to check.
Enjoy your break, even if you’re in the US and it only lasts about 36 hours. Back some time in January. Thanks for reading this year.
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