The Puke Effect Redux

Today I like to educate you about a phenomenon most of us have experienced before. I became aware of the description through an investment newsletter I received. I first published this on July 14, 2008 in Ezine Articles but it still has relevance today.

In it Jeff Clark describes it. It’s called the Puke Effect. Don’t be mistaken. It doesn’t only apply to investing. It applies to many things and in some cases has become a behavior. Look at your team meetings:

Have you put meetings on your schedule that you feel are totally redundant or unnecessary, and only waste your time? Ask yourself how many of these meetings just get created because one person wants to impress another person in the hierarchy.

How often do you think it happens because nobody wanted to make a clear decision, so it was elected to have another meeting about a subject?

Here is how Jeff describes the Puke Effect:

“The cruise was going along just fine.”
Captain Bill was describing the worst sailing trip he had ever chartered. “We were about halfway to the island when one of the passengers started to get sick…”He didn’t quite make it all the way to the railing and he threw up on a bunch of the passengers who were sitting right there on the starboard side of the boat.”

Captain Bill then went on to describe how the passengers who had been puked upon started vomiting as well. Some of them managed to vomit over the side of the boat. But they were throwing up into the wind, and a good portion of “breakfast shrapnel” blew back into the boat, soaking the clothes, hair, and faces of anyone standing nearby.

“Pretty soon,” Bill continued, “everyone was puking. The stench was so bad, even my crew members were blowing chow.”

I first heard this story about 15 years ago, when I was learning to sail. I now recall it at the end of just about every quarter. On Wall Street, they call it “portfolio window dressing.” I call it the puke effect.
At the end of every quarter, portfolio managers dress up their accounts by purging stocks that haven’t performed well. After all, who wants to show shareholders they’ve been hanging on to the worst-performing stocks in the market?

So, one by one, the portfolio managers jettison the equities overboard. As the selling pressure mounts and the losses deepen, more and more managers feel the need to purge.

Eventually, even the most experienced money managers are throwing up stocks at bargain-basement prices. It happens every quarter.

Jeff Clark

If you are wondering how this applies to leadership, management, and success, think about this scenario. You are in a discussion. Can you recall the times where a discussion about a topic got controversial? One person came up with a totally ridiculous idea, somebody made a flip remark, and then you get the Puke Effect into full swing and everybody begins purging ‘niceties’ about ideas and individuals. It all ends in a shouting match, and if nobody stops it, it can lead to real harm, and hurt feelings.

It is rather simple. You need honesty, confidence, and communication skills. If you are confident to voice your opinion in a clear, non-threatening way, and communicate convincingly, you will avoid meetings that nobody needs.

You will be able to make decisions when all aspects have been discussed. You will be in a role that keeps discussions from escalating into a Puke-Fest.

Best of all, you will be respected, maybe even adored, and people will want to work with you and seek your advice. One way of learning to have the required combination of confidence, honesty, and communication skill is coaching.

You might want to try it for 3-6 months and see how much you can gain in a fairly short amount of time. This is especially recommended if you find yourself in a position of power and responsibility and recall events that qualify for the Puke Effect.

On a lighter note, I like to suggest watching the video (link below) and getting a clear perspective on wheretime has gone – in case you have days you ask yourself: “I did things all day long, but it appears as if nothing got done – otherthan that stupid meeting with the Puke- Fest in the middle. Where did all the time go?”

Dr. Axel Meierhoefer
CEO, AMC LLC

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