What Can YOU Do in 15 Minutes?

At the beginning of the year I received a Geico Insurance ad in the mail. If you’ve heard their ads you know they like to claim they can save you money in 15 minutes or less. To illustrate the 15 minute concept they provided a list of things you can do in 15 minutes or less. For fun, here is that list:

  1. Take a nice walk outside.
  2. Do an exercise, or two.
  3. Update your resume.
  4. Practice speed reading.
  5. Read a book chapter.
  6. Clean out your refrigerator.
  7. Call a friend or family member to see how they’re doing.
  8. Clean out your car.
  9. Take a power nap.
  10. Learn a new word or phrase in a different language.
  11. Listen to half of your favorite progressive rock band’s 30-minute song.
  12. Write in your journal, or if you don’t have one, start one!
  13. Play a couple rounds of a casual video game on your device.
  14. Watch a handful of funny online videos.

And of course…

  1. Call GEICO to see how much you could save on car insurance.

As someone who has made concerted efforts in the past 18 months or so to be more efficient and effective with my personal time management, I admit I found the list quite interesting.  When I sometimes wonder how I can get everything done in a day that I want to get done, it’s interesting to consider all the little things I can do and check off my list to make the most of my day.

15 minutes. When you look at this small sample list you realize there really is a lot of things you can do with that amount of time.

So…a belated Happy New Year to you all!  Now…you have a lot of 15 minute sets ahead of you these next 11 months. Go make some things happen!


FLSA Changes on Hold

Attorney Steven F. Pockrass of the law firm Ogletree Deakins discusses the ruling handed down yesterday from Judge Amos L. Mazzant III, in the Eastern District of Texas regarding the changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act that were scheduled to be implemented on December 1.

Read more…



Was it a Silent Night?

One of the most beloved of all Christmas carols says:

“Silent night, holy nightimages

All is calm, all is bright…

Sleep in heavenly peace

Sleep in heavenly peace.”

Every year on Christmas Eve night our church holds a service featuring a live nativity. Inside the chapel. Complete with live sheep and goats, donkey, and a camel! Last night at this service we had, as always, some unpredictable and interesting action. The donkey balked at coming in – several times. The camel relieved himself in the front of the chapel. One of the goats decided to lay down in the aisle on his way out of the chapel and didn’t want to move. And of course with kids playing most of the people parts, this just adds to the commotion!

And the evening always concludes with the attendees singing “Silent Night” by candlelight. The irony is hard to overlook.

I think about that very special night when Jesus came to earth as an infant, born of the virgin Mary. I  think about the shepherds in the field, looking into the night sky to see an angel making the special announcement to them, and then the angel joined by a host of other angels praising God. Certainly not a “silent night.”

Picture this group of excited shepherds rushing to find the baby king they just learned about. With a herd of sheep (good shepherds wouldn’t leave the sheep behind). They find him as they were told – lying in a manger. While it’s true the Bible doesn’t tell us what sort of structure they were in (so we can’t know), mangers are typically found in a stable or barn. If indeed the event happened in a barn, in addition to the bleating of restless, excited sheep, there would have been the sounds of other animals as well – probably horses, donkeys, cows, or whatever animals may have been in the stable or barn (it’s hard to imagine since we don’t know how big the structure was). And since giving birth is not a quiet event it surely stirred up the animals who were there! Of course, you doubtless had a crying infant to add to the commotion. Certainly not a “silent night.”

Outside the barn the city of Bethlehem was alive with activity. Remember, Mary and Joseph traveled there because of the census that was ordered by the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, requiring every male to return to his hometown to be counted. Every inn and other lodging place seemed to be full, indicating how busy and alive the city was. Certainly not a “silent night.”

Yet aside from all the likely noise and commotion, the song makes sense from Mary’s point of view. You see, when you are in the center of God’s will and doing exactly what he wants, it’s possible for things to be completely chaotic around you and for you to feel at peace. Not that you are oblivious to what is around you, but you are unfazed by it.

Can you see how that would describe Mary? So much noise. So much chaos. Yet so much peace.

Seems perfectly accurate in light of that, to describe the night as a “silent night.”

As we look at our own circumstances, our own lives, may we all be in a place where we can know such peace. That despite the noise around us, we are not bothered by any of it and maintain our focus on what is important. We maintain a peace in our hearts that we describe in such beautifully simple terms as “silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.”

Our Problem Employee

It’s been brought to my attention by a number of employees that we have a problem employee somewhere in our midst. This particular employee has an unusual name: They. Yes, that is the name. I know, you hear it all the time, and probably didn’t realize it was someone’s name, right?images

It seems that They have been doing a number of things that are beyond the scope of their job. For example,

  • They told an employee and his spouse incorrect information regarding benefits enrollment.
  • They told another employee that he didn’t have to use FMLA for an FMLA-qualifying illness.
  • They told yet another employee that punching out and in for lunch wasn’t necessary.
  • And to add to the list They told a fellow supervisor that it was okay to ask potential employees about their religious beliefs during the interview process.

Seems like They know a lot about everything…well, at least in their mind they do. And it is causing problems for everyone else because of the bad counsel they give to others.

As the HR Director, I would suggest that the supervisor step in and deal with this know-it-all problem employee who is causing such confusion. Problem is I can’t seem to find where this employee is, let alone who s/he reports to. I can’t even find him (or her) in our system. Maybe there was a recent name change that has not been communicated to HR? I don’t know. It’s quite the conundrum.

All I know right now is we have a problem employee, and many folks have realized it and brought it to our attention. Just that no one seems to be able to positively tell us who They are.


But They Do It, Why Can’t We?

I work in a large division of an international organization. My division includes dozens of locations throughout the state of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In our organization, we have regular annual moves of some of our leaders. Many times new leaders will come to locations in our division from other states and other divisions. Likewise, we sometimes hire managers from other organizations.

It is not uncommon when an HR issue arises to receive an email from one of the newcomers, or to hear one of them say, “but this is how it’s done in other divisions we’ve been in!” Or to say of similar businesses, “this is how it’s done by____” (insert a name or industry).

It reminds me of when I was a kid and wanted to justify my request to do something, I would tell my mom that a certain one of my friends (or all my friends) got to do the certain something, so why couldn’t I? To which mom would reply, “and if they jumped off a cliff, would you?” Depending on what I was asking for, mom’s response was a bit more diplomatic than plainly saying to me, “well that’s a stupid thing for them to do. Why would you want to do that?”

I often find that when I’m presented with that argument, at least one of three things holds true:

  1. They don’t have the big picture
  2. They aren’t comparing apples to apples
  3. They are withholding other important information from me to make their case for why we should do things the way they want

Sometimes there are other things at play that result in a situation being handled a certain way in one place, but a different way elsewhere (1). Sometimes a job may have the same title as someone else’s, but the content of the duties may look very different (especially if a job description is from another organization) (2). Sometimes the supervisor knows why there’s a difference, but they hope we won’t find out (hey, I gotta let you in on something…HR folks talk!) (3).

Usually I’m going to tell you (in so many words) that I don’t care how it’s done somewhere else. I’m going to evaluate your situation or your issue based on what is right, here. If it has to do with a labor law, I’ll evaluate it on my interpretation of the law and on the interpretation of the law by trusted legal minds, and that interpretation might look different to you because sometimes my state’s laws look different than those you are used to. And sometimes the way you experienced something being done may not have been a best practice. It may have been done elsewhere without the knowledge of the HR folks, or against their recommendation.

But be honest with me and don’t try to hide something. We can have a discussion, but don’t insist that it has to be done the way you’re used to, because that may not have been the right way.

After all, if your former way of doing it or someone else’s way of doing it ends up taking you off a cliff, I’m not going to follow.

Living on the Edge

There’s the story of the trucking company owner who was looking for a new driver for a tanker. He wanted an accomplished and skilled driver who he could trust completely with his load. So he took the top two applicants and, pointing toward a cliff in the distance, asked:  “See that cliff over there? How close can you drive my truck to that cliff without going over?”

Feeling very confident in his ability, the first applicant boasted: “I can drive your truck within three feet of that cliff and not go over the edge!”

Applicant two had a completely different response and stated: “I’ll stay as far away from that cliff as I can!”  The owner smiled, and eagerly pronounced, “great, you’re hired! You’re the kind of driver I want!”


When you’re managing, which driver do you relate to the most? If you’re the first driver, you push the envelope as often as you can. You disregard the counsel of your HR department because it isn’t convenient for you. Maybe you don’t even loop them in to what’s going on because you know you won’t like what they have to say. Sometimes you may even flaunt the law, such as wage and hour violations (letting them “volunteer” for part of their job because you just view that as “dedicated”; exaggerating their job functions to make them look like an exempt employee when you know they’re really not; offering comp time so you don’t have to pay them overtime).

Or you may relate more to driver number two. You have complete respect for your company’s processes and policies, you respect and value your employees, you do all you can to ensure compliance with the law and you respect and value the advice of colleagues who are the experts in areas that are not your own expertise.

Do you agree with the decision of the owner above? Would you value the employee who works in a way that provides the greatest protection of your company’s assets? Or would  you value the one who takes chances in a way the places your assets at great risk?

Yes, risk takers are good and necessary – when it’s appropriate to take a risk. If you want to be a manager that your company values, it’s wise to know when you can and should take a risk, and when you should exercise wisdom and discretion and protect your company.