Early in my career I worked for a publisher of what were called “management digest” newsletters. They contained wee bits of practical-seeming advice for managing people and generally getting along better at work.
These pro tips went through one’s mind like shit through a goose, so I don’t remember many of them. Here’s one: At the beginning of the day, a manager should put five pennies in his right pants pocket. (In the early 1990s, we didn’t say “his or her,” especially when referring to managers.) Every time the manager complimented one of his direct reports during the day, he should transfer one penny over to his left pants pocket, in hopes of having all the pennies in his left pocket by the end of the day. Soon, department morale would skyrocket, on the fuel of disingenuous compliments!
The editors of those newsletters were pretty cynical about what they wrote, not truly believing they were improving careers and workplaces with the cheap wisdom they shared. But they still brought a kind of editorial integrity to the task, being sure to offer advice that was technically follow-able, arguably sane and not quite laughable.
On the other hand: CNBC, these days, is doing a series called “Make It,” that is so badly written, it makes me nostalgic for those old management digest newsletters.
The authors of these pieces garner management tips from working CEOs.
CEOs like Sander van’t Noorende, who runs a human resources firm called Randstad.
Advice like: “‘One risk per day, that’s what we all should be doing,’ van’t Noordende told CNBC ‘Make it.’”
Great Scott, that’s a lot of risks, I’m thinking. That’s five risks a week, 250 risks a year! Evel Knievel didn’t take that many chances!
What kind of derring-do is this human resources daredevil talking about? “At one of his first jobs,” CNBC reports, “he was tasked with calling a client that he did not know much about. The pitch went well, and van’t Noordende got a follow-up meeting.”
That was the best example the piece contained. Because it was the only example.
Okay, anybody can publish one clunker.
Here comes CNBC again, the next week:
Doug Hirsch has a surprisingly simple method for getting the best ideas: setting aside three to four hours of alone time for deep thinking per week.
Hirsch, co-CEO and founder of the prescription drug savings company GoodRx, believes so strongly in the method that he intentionally builds that alone time into his work schedule each week. Finding the time is a challenge — he and co-CEO Trevor Bezdek collectively manage more than 700 employees at a company with a $2.43 billion market capitalization, as of Friday evening.
But it helps him succeed, Hirsch says.
“I find it helpful to actually lock in time to think deeply and creatively, to really set that aside each week,” he tells CNBC Make It. “It’s like quality time with myself. I just step back from everything and really go in deep to think of the best ideas.”
That’s the tip? Find time to think?
These days, we could actually use some decent workplace guidance, especially in the context of a mostly remote workplace, when people don’t learn etiquette from one another, in the office. Alas, we’re not getting it from CNBC.
Oh, and I just thought of one other article from the old management digest newsletters: At a business cocktail party, always hold your drink in your left hand so your right hand isn’t wet, when you go to shake hands.
Hey, that’s not a bad idea.