Sunday, March 21, 2010

Buzzer Beater Punch in the Gut

There's nothing worse than replays of a buzzer beater when your team is on the opposite end of it. The Terps made an amazing comeback late in the second half to take a one-point lead twice (I think I heard one of the announcers say "Fear the Turtle" twice), only to see that erased in a matter of seconds. A punch in the gut; screams across Terrapin Nation this afternoon. Kudos to Michigan State on a big win.

Maryland, you had an over-achieving season, sharing the regular season ACC title and making it to the tournament. Congrats to Gary and team on a great season. While a disappointing end, as someone used to say, "Wait 'til next year."

Friday, March 19, 2010

Make Maryland/Georgetown an Unrivaled Rivalry

Aside from totally messing up my bracket, Georgetown ruined the opportunity for a local match up with Maryland. [Full disclosure: I'm a Maryland alum so this will be a biased posting]. The reality is that we shouldn't have to wait for the unlikely scenario of playing each other in the post season.

The two teams last played each other in a consolation game of an early season tournament in 2008. Prior to that, they played each other during the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA's in 2001. But the last true regular season game between the two schools was in November 1993 at the USAir Arena (formerly Cap Center). I was fortunate enough to attend that game. To this day, that game is probably the best live sporting event I've ever seen. (Terp fans: check out the YouTube video below). That game was the first one between the schools in 13 years. A day after the game, Tony Kornheiser's column in the Washington Post led off with:

"By all means you want to see this again. Oh, sure, absolutely. You want to see Maryland play Georgetown next year. You surely don't want to wait another 13 years for this. Thirteen years between games. What was that, bar-mitzvah scheduling?"

Well, it's now been almost 17 years. Someone born that day can now drive and see an R-rated movie without a parent or guardian. My understanding of the situation is that Maryland Coach Gary Williams is happy to play Georgetown again as long as it takes place at Comcast Center, the Terps' home court -- since the 1993 game took place at USAir arena, which was Georgetown's court for the majority of their home games (today, it's Verizon Center). Georgetown's argument is that Verizon Center is more of neutral court for both squads. A valid argument; however, it is not Maryland's fault that Georgetown does not have an on-campus arena outside of McDonough that is large enough for such a game. So why not alternate Comcast/Verizon every year and give local fans the unrivaled rivalry that we deserve?

The BB&T Classic

And speaking of Verizon Center, the BB&T Classic, which has raised millions of dollars for the Children's Charities Foundation, switched formats several years ago from a four-team two-day tournament to just two games on one day. Perhaps the local powers that be could use this tournament as an opportunity to make the possibility of a Terps/Hoyas rivalry a reality by turning this back to a real early season tournament. It could include: Maryland, Georgetown, GW and George Mason. Perhaps the BB&T could be a compromise option if Maryland and Georgetown can't agree to terms for a yearly match up. Let's make it happen!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Starbucks: Handling a Tough Situation the Right Way

As someone who is committed to open and transparent communications, especially with employees, I was really impressed by this video segment presented by Ragan. It's about how Starbucks handled layoffs. I would like to highlight two best practices that stand out in my mind:

1) Brainstorming with colleagues all the questions that will be on the minds of employees.
2) Holding meeting/event with displaced employees and their families a week after the action to network and ask questions. Such a move allows employees to fully digest what has happened to them.

Check out the video.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Great Day to Be a DC Area Sports Fan

Hey there DC area sports fans. In case you weren't paying attention, the DC area had a great sports day yesterday. Both the Terps and Hoyas not only made the NCAA tournament, but they received #4 and #3 seeds respectively (Full Disclosure: I'm a Terps fan!). And they are both in the Midwest portion of the bracket. Perhaps they will meet, which would be nice given they rarely if ever play in the regular season. Don't get me started on why this does not happen.

Plus, the Caps came back from a 3-0 deficit without the Great 8 to win in OT against the Blackhawks in front of a stunned and quiet home crowd. The playoffs cannot start soon enough.

And the Nats' Stephen Strasburg had a second strong outing in pre-season play.

Let's keep it up!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Abandon the Chotchkies and Focus on Employees

by Mitchell Derman

Fans of the film Office Space probably remember the restaurant Chotchkies. Jennifer Aniston played a server. The relentless restaurant manager ridiculed her constantly for not wanting to wear more "pieces of flair." Having worked at Bennigan's -- a Chotchkies wannabe -- during my college years, I can remember wearing all those silly pins on my suspenders. Thinking about the movie scene, it was evident that those "pieces of flair" had nothing to do with motivating the Chotchkies employee to perform her job better.

A recent Harvard Business Review article examines "What Motivates Workers." According to a survey of people managers, what motivates workers most is recognition, e.g., e-mail acknowledgment with the team copied, public recognition in an all-hands or staff meeting for a job well done, etc. However, according to a study of employees, what really motivates employees is progress, e.g., that they feel a sense of accomplishment.

What is the Implication for Organizations?

Since the economic downturn began in 2008, so many organizations have had to eliminate and/or significantly reduce many employee-friendly benefits, including tuition reimbursement, 401k match and training. There also have been salary freezes and layoffs. In this environment, many organizations focused much of their attention on non-financial incentives in order to retain their top talent. Based on the study mentioned in HBR, it seems that this type of recognition may have been the wrong approach. Whether it's completing or making headway on a project, developing a new solution to a problem or finalizing a strategic plan, employees want to feel that they are accomplishing something special that contributes to their own sense of well-being and for the benefit of their colleagues.

My Own Experience

According to the article, organizations should "avoid impeding progress by changing goals autocratically, being indecisive, or holding up resources. Negative events generally have a greater effect on people's emotions, perceptions, and motivation than positive ones, and nothing is more demotivating than a setback."

Having worked at AOL from 2003 to 2006, I can certainly relate to "negative events impeding progress." Those years were an interesting time for the company. Broadband had become a reality and AOL's dial-up customer base was migrating to cable and DSL in droves. While the company started to get its mojo back on the advertising side, it struggled to innovate and develop new disruptive technologies and user-friendly tools as it had done long ago with Instant Messenger.

I sense that this lack of innovation stemmed from the fact there were always rumors of layoffs around the corner. There were always re-organizations, new management and new strategies. One of the quotes I would always hear was: "The only thing constant at AOL is change." The constant change certainly impeded the ability for employees to accomplish their goals, which adversely affected employee morale.

Overcome the "It's not our day job" Mindset

The main challenge with employee communications is that employees have their day jobs, and are not necessarily compensated to pay attention to the Intranet, newsletter articles, company blogs and all the other internal channels. I always tell my media relations/external PR peers that reporters may not cover you the way you want them to, but at least they will listen to you because it's their job to cover your organization's marketplace.

So it's important to focus on delivering communications that can help employees be better at their jobs. Don't get me wrong, giveaways and branding campaigns can be part of an overall employee communications program, but they need to be coupled with real value-added information that helps employees accomplish their work and further develop their careers. The last thing you want is for a program to be perceived as a gimmick. Next thing you know and all those coffee cups, t-shirts and pens appear on eBay.

Thanks to Elizabeth Lupfer for helping me shape this post and bring out the right tone. Read her blog, The Social Workplace. If you have an idea for an article about employee communications or would like to be a guest blogger, feel free to e-mail me at Also feel free to send me any photos of chotchkies received at work. And remember, Friday is "Hawaiian Shirt Day."

Friday, March 5, 2010

World-Class Win Should Lead to World-Class Celebration

As a University of Maryland alum, I was beyond excited when the Terps beat Duke late Wednesday night. And I enjoyed exchanging all the Facebook posts with friends and fans across the country. For Terrapin Nation, there's nothing like beating Duke.

That said, I am always disheartened the next day when I hear the news reports about riots and arrests. There's absolutely no reason for it. Don't get me wrong, of course we should be celebrating. However, if the allegations about starting fires and attempting to turn over a bus are true, those actions send the wrong message to students, fans, alumni and the surrounding community. Quite frankly, it's an embarrassment, especially for a university that has made great strides during the last several years to become the world-class institution that it is today.

In the days and weeks ahead, as due process takes its course, if any of the alleged behaviors are proven true, anyone responsible should be held accountable for their actions.

As March Madness approaches and the Terps hopefully go deep in the tournament, let's not make ourselves mad with bad choices. Let our celebrations be world-class.