Monday, January 30, 2012

Airplane Mode

I love it when the pace of my life is frantic. Up early, meetings all day, a flood of email, a crisis or two, social media throughout to stay current and share ideas, commuting time runs into hockey practices, kid’s homework, my workout, some family time and then bed. Wake up and go harder the next day. Love it.

However…even I realize that pace is not sustainable. Unfortunately, we all know people who refuse to take a proverbial time out and catch their breath. It’s a slippery slope disguised in words like commitment, work ethic, and “not enough hours in the day.” When we’re moving that fast mistakes happen, opportunities are missed, and speed can sometimes be an enemy.

Step Back and Evaluate
How have we allowed a non-stop focus on work to become the norm? Is that healthy? I don’t think so. When we never slow down we don’t give ourselves a chance to examine our own performance. Did we say the right things to our team? Do we need to apologize for an inadvertent comment? Do we need to offer praise that we’ve neglected to do? Taking the time to stop and reflect affords us the opportunity to answer these questions, and more importantly, to do something about them. When we never slow down these questions don’t even hit our radar screen.

“Every once in while we need to push away from the corporate trough and stop feeding on a schedule that only accepts work as an acceptable use of time.”

How About You
Do you find your self moving so fast that you can’t remember the last time you turned off your smart phone for a few hours and just spent time thinking? If so, it’s time to slow down and catch your breath. There will be plenty of time in the morning to come back harder and faster than ever.

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of newconsultanthq

Friday, January 27, 2012

Settle the Score

Have you ever found yourself working with someone who you didn’t get along with? I don’t mean someone who is a bit annoying; I mean someone that you knew in your heart would never be someone you could trust? That’s a difficult place to be. When that person is a high level leader it makes the relationship that much more complicated.

Stay Strong
The absolute first step in managing this relationship is to stay focused on you. Do not get caught up in a battle against the other person. Keeping yourself, and your team, focused on your priorities is essential. The moment you start jumping every time your colleague snaps their fingers you’ve lost. These difficult personalities often use manipulation as a vehicle to gain more power. Do not play along…sophomoric gamesmanship is easily avoided if you are willing to stay strong. It’s not easy, but necessary.

Keep Track of the Drama
Although working with these folks is often quite challenging, it is important to make sure you keep a simple set of notes of the examples of behavior as it occurs. This strategy is used regularly with front line employees, but is often underutilized at the executive level. I’m not advocating for a witch-hunt mentality, but I would suggest that unless you have a photographic memory, over time you will feel incredibly frustrated with the other person but not have the details available to reference.

CYA is No Way to Work
Sadly, one of the results of these situations is that those around the difficult leader spend an inordinate amount of time checking and rechecking work, projects, and action items just to be ready for the eventual criticism/manipulation. That simply means time is being wasted preparing for the person instead of doing our work. Covering one’s backside is just not productive. Instead, align yourself with honest people who have a strong reputation inside your company. Build your personal equity with them to prepare for the manipulation soap opera that is sure to come.

How About You
There are no easy solutions for dealing with these leaders. One priority for us all is to ensure we shield our employees from their influence. Be clear that you are their leader and will support them. Do not allow them to become quasi staff members of the disruptor’s group. They need to know you will be there for them when situations get tense. You won’t always be able to remove these people from your organization, but with the right attitude and actions, you and your team can be successful in spite of it all. I should know, I’ve been through it before.

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pics courtesy of maskofsanity and aegroups

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I’ve Got Your (My Own) Back

“I’m very loyal to my company. I’ve always been a team player and make decisions based on what’s best for the team. If we don’t work together, we’ll never make real progress.”

Sure. We all totally believe that….and have said it…and probably meant it some of the time too.

Loyal To Who?
The concept of being loyal to an employer is an intriguing one, particularly for those employees that are highly motivated to advance. What happens when several high performers are competing for a limited number of promotional opportunities? What if they’re all part of a project team? How does that work? Do they kick off each session with an “all for one and one for all cheer?" Or, do they reach for their favorite back stabbing implement instead?

Hard to say.

But I Thought the Team Was All About Me
Working on a high performing team, whether at work or on a sports team involves the appropriate balance of individual impact and coordination with others. This can be a very delicate balance, primarily because what one person perceives as going the extra mile may be interpreted as trying to outshine the others. So who is supposed to not only recognize these subtleties, but also intervene and manage the potential conflicts appropriately?

You, that’s who.

How About You
How do you handle the common misperceptions that arise when a great team is working hard? We’ve all seen good people struggle to work together. If we’re wondering why they’re having problems the answer is simple. We’re still wondering why, instead of doing something about it.

When your people feel threatened by others do you resign yourself (and your respect) to the fact that they’re adults and should figure out their problems on their own? Or, do you guide, coach, and lead the way?

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pics courtesy of nikhilsworld and impact-learning

Monday, January 23, 2012

What The Hell Was That?

Have you ever been caught off guard? I don't mean a little surprise, I'm talking holy moly type of caught off guard. We all have a list of examples from our personal lives: trips to the Emergency Room, slips and falls, fender bender accidents, etc. Those can be a little scary....sometimes they can be a lot scary.

But what happens when you're caught off guard at work?

Is Preparation Possible?
We all like to believe we can stay calm, cool and collected in times of crisis. In fact, sometimes bigger issues are easier to deal with than those small annoyances that seem to never get resolved. But is it possible to prepare for those unexpected events that leave us somewhat speechless? I don't believe the concept of appropriate preparation is the right question because no matter how well we believe we've prepared for the unexpected; by definition if we're truly caught off guard we've failed in our planning.

Reaction v. Preparation
I have long believed that our employees are constantly watching us as leaders. Our behavior, dress, language, demeanor, and work ethic are all fair game for discussion, criticism and hopefully support. In those moments when we are truly surprised, even shocked, it is our initial reaction that is most important.

Once we've had an opportunity to pull our resources together and formulate a plan we usually feel confident that we're doing the right things. But when the proverbial bomb is dropped into the middle of the organization its the most effective leaders that will manage in a way that supports every customer group, particularly the employees.

How About You
How do you react when shocking news hits your organization? Do you run and hide...drop an f-bomb...or connect with your team to let them know it's okay? We have plenty of options; which ones do you like best?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of uncanxietyclinic

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Not It!"

As a child my friends and I played "tag." It was a simple game where one person was "it" and the others ran around trying not to get tagged. If you were caught you were now "it." The game always started the same way, everyone involved shouted out "Not It!" so they could avoid the punishment of being the one.

The punishment of being the one.

Don't Say It
One of the things that frustrates me is the avoidance strategy many leaders use when it comes time to confront someone. Why is that so difficult? With so many employees watching our behavior, why would we of all groups be quick to figuratively (or literally) shout "Not It!"? What message does that send? It's not a good one my friends.

"If we didn't want to do the difficult work, we never should have accepted the responsibility of a leadership position in the first place. Only handling the easy stuff is a pathetic cop out."

Be The One
The greatest part of leadership roles, to me, is the opportunity to make things better. Whether it is something simple like adjusting an existing process (which isn't always so simple!) to pushing through major cultural changes, it is the leadership that has the authority to make it happen.

Yes, the input of the team around you is essential, but they can not authorize the change, the leaders have that privilege. When leaders step away from one of their primary responsibilities and avoid addressing the tough issues, the team around them loses respect and trust in that leader.

We need to be the one that others want to work for, not the one others run to fill out a transfer form to get away from.

How About You
When was the last time you said "Not It!"? Think hard about it. Was it back when you were seven years old; or, was it more recent than that...perhaps when that difficult issue came up and you stayed quiet on the sidelines? I wonder who else noticed?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of researchrockstar

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Strategy v. Execution

Are these words at odds with each other? Is it possible to develop a strategic plan and also lead the execution of that plan? I'm not talking about assigning the implementation steps to a support team; I'm asking if the same person can effectively develop a high level strategic plan and then provide the leadership to make it happen? Should the same person make it happen; or, at least be involved enough to ensure the project is completed?

Trenches and Mahogany
One of the criticisms I've heard over the years is that executives are not able to fully understand the implementation realities of their plans. For me, that is a shared-responsibility between the leader and their team. If the leader does not include their team in the development of the plan it will surely not achieve the desired result. If the team does not step up and tell the proverbial emperor that he doesn't have any clothes, the plan will also fall short.

Culture = Communication
The answer to the question of whether the same person should manage both strategy and execution is absolutely yes! But how they manage is critical. Involving the team at the beginning of the process instead of "bringing them in when we need them" is mandatory. That's right, mandatory. It's leadership that creates an environment of trust, risk-taking, and open communication. It's done with words and actions. It should be on-going and obvious.

It should be.

How About You
What style do you use to not only develop a plan, but to actually achieve results? Is your team allowed in the office with you during the brain-storming phase; or, are they simply foot soldiers that march into a hale of bullets that could have been avoided?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of sunnylam

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Social Recruitment in a Sunday Paper World

My perspective on recruitment has changed dramatically over the last few years.  For those paying attention...ahem, that excludes many leaders I know...they've radically changed not only their thinking about recruitment, but their spending as well.  

Let's be real for a minute, if you're talking about the changes that have come about because of social media but you're still buying ad space in the Sunday paper, waiting for the monthly niche journal to publish, or believe your brand is so strong applicants should be grateful to work for you, then you're missing the boat. Many leaders acknowledge that social media is growing, but haven't even explored how to use the tools themselves.  How is that possible?  

Social Media Recruiting
As I continue to learn s l o w l y about the power of social media in my professional practice, I'm putting my company's money where my mouth is => we're shifting our focus, our energy and our spend to where the world is going, not where it's been. Here's a brief summary of the key components of our evolving strategy:

  • facebook page for HR: Includes links to our jobs, benefits, recruiters, our RN Residency program, has posts that provide tools for job seekers, information about housing (did someone say the beach?), information on restaurants, theatres, museums, and where to go for happy hour
  • twitter: branded account for the HR team but each recruiter has an active account as well, consistently use the same hashtag (#achjobs) for job related posts and all traffic is driven to the HR facebook page, not the company website
  • foursquare: all locations have been claimed across the organization and instead of a "special" we're using tips to drive traffic back to the HR facebook page
  • Linkedin: beyond just a free company page, we're developing our careers page that will soon have additional video testimonials from employees in addition to several highlighted job postings and company video updates
  • Talent Communities: this is our next BIG endeavor that will reverse the way we recruit from the centuries old approach of posting a job and hoping someone qualified applies, to a more proactive system of building relationships with potential candidates and then selecting from that community when positions become available...much more to follow on this...
  • Oh yes, and we have the obligatory company job page as part of our company website (If this is the only place you're on the web as part of your recruitment strategy it's time to turn the lights off and call it a day)

Metrics Matter
Making sure this strategy adds value, or any strategy for that matter, is a cornerstone of our approach. Tracking specifically the ads we run, and the follow through at the candidate level all the way to the end of the recruitment cycle is essential. In future posts I'll share our successes, particularly as our Talent Community initiatives get traction this winter.

How About You
Are you an HR leader that is still hiding under your desk scared to death of social media? Now that I think about it, you probably should be.  You see, the world is moving fast, trying new approaches, and sharing more than ever. We're learning every day to try and keep up, but it isn't easy. That level of transparency is foreign to old-school HR folks, and will probably be the reason they don't get the respect they deserve.  Give social a try...I'll help!

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pics courtesy of living-authentically and glowimages

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Thoughts Are Mine...No Kidding

"Thoughts are mine."

Ever seen that tag line? I've used it. I've kidded myself that it actually meant something, as if it was some sort of disclaimer that magically separated me from my role when I used social media. Seriously?

Of Course They Are
Consider how odd this phenomenon've set up a social media account, you've populated the profile with a list of your nifty little interests, dropped in a couple of hashtags, and even included your latest pic. Then to top it all off you add the infamous words "thoughts are mine." Really? What does that mean exactly? I used to think that I knew. It meant that I was not speaking on behalf of my employer, I was simply going to use the Internet to blast my views on a variety of topics for all to see...including my organization's employees. Simple. No harm done. It's just me.

It's hard to be a social media rookie.

Of Course You Represent Your Employer
This realization can be viewed as a significant constraint on your personal life. It can cross the line between personal and professional boundaries and severely limit what you can and can not say. It's almost as if....well...

"It's almost as if we're trying to hide something. Why else would there be so much paranoia around a simple tweet or post?"

Leadership Means You're Actually Accountable
Imagine that? Being responsible for what you say and do because you're a leader. Shocking! Now before everyone gets all twisted around on this, I do realize we're all human and are allowed to have our own lives outside of work. I sure as hell do ( anyone?) But if any of us believe we are able to live some sort of parallel private life away from all of the responsibility, authority and success we've worked so hard to achieve then we're poorly mistaken.

How About You
Do you have the courage to embrace your role and be mindful when integrating social media into your whole life? Or, are you so worried about a tweet that mentions a great happy hour or a heavy metal song that you're going to stick with posts about accounting principles?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of simplyzesty

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Power, Social Media and Tron

A new Tron movie - "Legacy"-  came out a couple of years ago and I thought it was awesome. (Yeah, I used the word awesome.) It combined a fascinating digital world of technology (a.k.a. gaming/social media/web) and the real world into a dangerous society focused on power and dreams of a better life.

Wait, that was just a movie, right?

Power, Everybody Wants Some
In this good versus evil science fiction flick the twist on power is an interesting one. Partners who originally dreamed of creating a Utopian society that would take care of people in a positive way gets all mixed up. Where once these two worked together toward a common goal, now they were at odds with each other chasing ultimate power.

Wait, that was just a movie, right?

Art Imitates Life
So how does Tron apply to the world of work? Easily. Right now in your organization people are maneuvering to gain more power, to cover their bases, or both. I'm not judging it, I'm simply saying it's happening. For the shrewd leader, being aware of these behaviors among employees, and their peers, allows for inappropriate power-plays to be reacted to immediately. We like to think we're all rowing in the same direction, but to ignore the fact that many sub-plots are going on constantly is simply naive.

How About You
How do you balance your career aspirations, dreams of a better workplace and desire for power? Are you pushing your social media brand, leadership authority, and ideas for change in an ethical way? I'm going to try and answer these questions too.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of paris-confidential

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

There's a Laboratory in Your Workplace

Amazing things happen in laboratories. Specimens are analyzed to discover the truth behind illnesses, theories are tested and become life-saving medicines, innovative thinking pushes the limits of what is "normal"...and silos are broken down allowing crazy ideas to turn in to realities in the workplace.

Wait...uh...what was that last one?

Where Are You Gene Wilder
You remember that famous innovator, Young Frankenstein, don't you? The great parody of the horror classic focuses on a scientist obsessed with making a dramatic breakthrough only to have his work go a bit haywire. A classic movie, but also a fun reminder that sometimes we need to push the limits of our work if we're going to make a meaningful difference. When was the last time you tried something that had never been done before at your company? Was it in recruiting, employee relations, recognition,  benefits design....anything at all?

Best Practices Aren't Your Practices
If you couldn't give one example of something you've tried that's completely new then you may be using too many best practices. It's not that trying other proven approaches to solve problems is a bad idea. It's just that those are someone else's best practices, not yours. You need to modify, test, fail, revise, and try again to develop your own version. Name one innovator who never tested their own theories? I can't either.

How About You
Is your workplace a laboratory? Are you excited about the mistakes you're going to make today? Does the thought of trying something risky and new get you fired up? Who knows, you may just see your idea come to life.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Khaos Legions or New Leadership

The baby boomers are now in a full retirement blitz, right? Think about it...thousands of experienced professionals transitioning out of paid employment into a new phase of life. Who will follow them? One option is that legions of inexperienced leader-wanna-be types have convinced themselves they're ready to step up. But are they? 

Work/Life Balance is A Lot of Work
Have they embraced the need to respect work/life balance but also appreciate that without hard work, whining about balance is perceived as a lame excuse to slack off? Have they developed the maturity to understand that as the world of work has evolved the role of ethical decision-making is more important than ever? We'll see...the last thing we need with a big election year looming are the khaos legions taking over. We have enough of those in high profile public positions, no need to fill the list of leadership vacancies that are soon to follow with them too.

Best Days Behind Us
Some might say that without an old-fashioned work ethic the future of corporate leadership looks bleak. Without a laser focus on achieving goals, making sacrifices, and joining the cult of profits above all else, we are doomed to continue our economic nosedive. How can we possibly move ahead without laughing off the younger generation's expectations of that infamous balance? Surely we can't make the world of work better and different at the same time, right?

Best Days Ahead
I'm here to tell you both are possible. Not only are they possible, but quite frankly they are essential if we're going to take work to a place that has meaning beyond a paycheck. Work can be so much more, but it takes leadership. It takes new leadership across many facets of life.

It takes you.

How About You
What have you done to prepare yourself to lead effectively in 2012. So much is riding on what you do as an individual, as a member of a team, and as a representative of your organization. Are you ready?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of appsfuze