Sunday, November 1, 2009

Tolerating Fools

I read recently where a leader whom I admire was said to not tolerate fools. This is a characteristic I aspire to, as well. I would like to think that I am a quick judge and realize very easily whether someone is up to the task, whether they know what they are talking about, and whether they have what it takes to get things done. If they don't, I won't waste my time. I want someone serious about their profession and willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission and won't waste my time with someone who doesn't meet these criteria. Let's agree together that this is the case and that we generally all will not tolerate fools!

But I hope this doesn't mean we can't act like a fool every once in a while. Yes, this is me doing my best (or worst?) Hulk Hogan at the office on Friday. We have a traditional Halloween costume contest at work and this was my outfit for the day. And despite the fact that my team is spread out over dozens of small offices in three different states, we used technology to ensure that everyone could participate. I wanted to make it easy to not be the only fool for the day!

Nope, I don't mind being a fool. Even in government, I think it is still important to laugh, to joke, and to have fun. In fact, I'm not sure I would want to be a part of a team that doesn't. Would you? I don't think we would have much success recruiting new talent or retaining our best and brightest if we didn't allow for the sort of good times that come from a relaxed, casual, fun-loving atmosphere.

This doesn't mean we aren't professional. We still have a culture of discipline, protocol, and standards (I know...try saying "Yes, sir" to a wannabe Hulk Hogan without smirking!). But we try to have fun along the way, build relationships that enable trust, and create the environment where people will work hard -- not because they have to but because they want to.

We are totally focused on mission execution. We have over 800 great people and we have completed over $1B of work in each of the last two years. We have a well-earned reputation for excellence and quality. And as a rule, we don't tolerate fools. But along the way, we are going to have fun. We are going to let down our hair (I wish!) every once in a while and let off some steam. We are going to create the sort of work conditions in which people feel comfortable, where they like what they do and whom they do it with, and where creativity and innovation are let loose.

So, I lost the costume contest -- came in 3rd. But it was fun for me and fun for those who were able to laugh with me (or at me). But I am thinking that next year we will have some sort of cage match instead of just virtual voting. Now that will be fun. I think I could have crushed the little princess who won! Ha! Now I ask you...what fool did you play for Halloween? That's Leader Business!

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