Got Team Spirit? We’ve Got an Award for That!

by Gordon Krater on June 22, 2015

Recently, Bill Bufe, a retired partner and former HR director of the firm, reminded me of the origin of our Morrison award, which we give out each year at our firm conference to the one or two staff members who best epitomize firm spirit. It’s an interesting story, so I thought I’d share it with you here.

Shortly after Bill became HR director, firm co-founder and then managing partner Frank Moran came to him and said, “I’d like to talk to you about developing an award for team spirit.” It was very difficult to say “no” to Frank, but Bill summoned his courage and told him he thought it would be impossible to manage. The concept was so nebulous—how do you define team spirit? How do you select a winner? And how do you do something like that without hurting people’s feelings?

Frank let it go, but six months later he was back. “I’ve been thinking about this again,” he said. “What do you think?” Once again, Bill said, “No,” but he was starting to come around. After another couple of conversations, Bill was finally convinced it was the right thing to do.

They named the award after Doug Morrison, who had been a partner at the firm and was known for his selfless and team-oriented nature. Then Bill went about putting it into practice. It couldn’t have money attached to it, and to nominate, you had to describe a specific story demonstrating team spirit.

The program took off immediately. Nominations were plentiful, and winners were easier to select than Bill had anticipated. Frank reveled in the nominations, and they proved inspirational to staff across the firm. It was such a great success that Bill was almost embarrassed—“Why hadn’t I seen the potential value?” he wondered.

As Bill recounted this story to me, he pointed out that Frank could’ve just said to him from day one, “We’re going to do this,” but that was never Frank’s M.O. Instead, he applied gentle pressure, relentlessly, every six months like clockwork until Bill saw the value. Frank was a leader, but he rarely imposed his will onto others. He preferred, instead, to invite dialogue—and he wanted you to challenge him. And while the Morrison award has become an annual tradition at the firm, so, too, has that kind of leadership.

What about you? Do you celebrate team spirit at your organization? Do you give out awards for anything special?  


Sorry, Not Sorry

by Gordon Krater on June 5, 2015

It never ceases to amaze me how creative Plante Moraners can be. Check out this email that Marketing Director Kim Greenspan recently sent to her female colleagues:

I’ve noticed that women substitute “sorry” for any number of stronger and more appropriate words, thus running the risk of being perceived as the weaker gender — and we all know that’s certainly NOT the case.

So, I’m putting a “Sorry Jar” on my desk. And I’m putting $1 in it every time I say “I’m sorry” for all the wrong reasons. For example, saying “I’m sorry” as a way to interject my opinion during a phone conference instead of just saying “This is Kim.  I think…..” Or saying “Sorry” when I really mean “Oops” or “Thanks for your patience,” or “I apologize for missing that deadline, and here’s what I’m going to do to make up for it.”

Join me if you like. I’m going to empty the jar out every month and buy a treat for all. Soon it should be empty, and we’ll be starving for sugar…but feeling so much more empowered. 

When do you say “sorry” when you really mean something else?

Perhaps the best depiction of this “I’m sorry when I’m really not sorry” phenomenon is in last year’s Pantene commercial, which shows women apologizing unnecessarily in a number of situations and then demonstrates how those situations could otherwise transpire. It’s a great commercial and a before/after example of what could be Kim’s “Sorry Jar” in action.

But why are women always apologizing? I asked Sue Perlin, Plante Moran’s Partner-in-Charge of Women in Leadership, for her thoughts. She told me that research shows that, in girls, self-esteem peaks at age 9 and then takes a nosedive. Talk about an alarming statistic. She then said that women use “I’m sorry” as a transition, as a space filler, rather than just stating what they have to say like most men would. (The example in the Pantene commercial of the woman poking her head into a room and saying, “Sorry…do you have a minute?” is a good one. The flip side, of course, is simply to say, “Do you have a minute?”)

According to an article in Forbes, the commercial comments on how women feel “apologetic about sharing their ideas, or their space, or…everything, actually” and that this phenomenon has become so normal in our culture that most women don’t even realize when they’re doing it.

What about you? Is this something you’ve noticed? What do you think is the underlying cause beneath it? And isn’t a “Sorry Jar” a phenomenal idea?


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17 Syllables for 17 Years

May 25, 2015

Each year, Plante Moran celebrates our inclusion on FORTUNE’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list with a contest. This gives us something fun to do during busy season, and it adds an element of celebration during the post-holidays winter lull. We’ve hosted trivia contests, photo caption contests—you name it, we’ve probably done it. This […]

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We Never Use the “E” Word (And We’re Not Alone)

May 11, 2015

Last month, our own Chris McCoy and Jim Proppe had the opportunity to present a breakout session at the Great Place to Work (GPTW) Conference in Dallas. After the session, Vlad Coho of Riot Games (developer of the astoundingly popular League of Legends videogame) approached Chris. “I noticed you didn’t use the word ‘employee’ at […]

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That Struck a Nerve

April 28, 2015

We’ve been getting a lot of feedback on a recent article we wrote for CNBC. The topic—cybersecurity—is admittedly controversial, but we were surprised at just how much of a nerve it struck with some small and mid-sized organizations. In the article, Group Managing Partner Jim Proppe asks, “Think only big companies get hacked?” only to […]

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Can a Leader Be “Too Nice”?

April 8, 2015

A couple of weeks ago, Sandy Pierce, Chairman and CEO of FirstMerit MI, and I were honored as “business leaders of the year” by the Harvard Business School Club of Michigan—a very humbling experience. We were both asked to talk a bit about leadership and how we developed into our current roles. Sandy—who is an […]

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Are You a Great Multitasker? Not so Fast…

March 23, 2015

At Plante Moran, we have a number of training courses we provide to staff. One of them is on time management and offers a number of great tips like: Prioritize your to-do list. Eat that frog. (Do the hardest, least fun thing first. Just get it over with!) If a task takes less than five […]

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Do You Have an Enviable Culture?

March 6, 2015

FORTUNE magazine has announced its list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For,” and for the 17th year in a row, Plante Moran made the list. We’re beyond thrilled and honored to be listed among so many amazing companies. Thanks to FORTUNE and a variety of regional “best place to work” awards, we’ve become known […]

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The Joy of Giving

February 16, 2015

Several years ago, we formed Plante Moran Cares as a way to encourage staff to rally around a particular cause and donate time, treasure, and talent to those in need. This year, we approached things a little differently; we asked each office to select the charity it would support. Staff nominated the causes that were […]

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For IBM Watson, It’s All Elementary

February 2, 2015

It beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov in the 1990s. In 2011, it bested all-time winningest Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter (even if it did think Toronto was a city in the United States). Today, IBM Watson is using its cognitive computer powers in business for everything from determining which of a company’s […]

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