Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sonic Boomers

I'm getting a little worried. Apparently a whole bunch of people are going to be retiring soon and I'm not sure we're preparing the next generation of leaders to fill their shoes. No, you can't replace dynamic leaders, but you certainly can help up-and-comers transition from a wanna-be leader into the leader. Right?

But These Young People Are...Different
Thank God they're different! The style of command and control, share information only when necessary, and consolidate power in one office is a sure fire system for driving away talent. I do not know anyone (and like you, I know a hell of a lot of people) who has ever said they longed for a leader who didn't trust them, preferred never to be kept informed, and certainly didn't want to contribute their talent and experience in the decision-making process for the company. I'm not kidding. No one has ever told me that...and no one ever will.

Prepare or Fail
A new generation of leaders who think differently, were raised differently and who actually embrace modern tools of communication are going to be in charge soon whether the old guard likes it or not. The answer to this is not to shake our collective heads and whine that young people don't have the right work ethic. They have a different work ethic; but they also want to be successful, advance their careers, and make a difference. The last time I checked that was a pretty good combination.

So what are you doing to impart your wisdom, experience, successes and failures onto the next generation before it's too late? Are you mentoring someone, supporting a graduate student, or connecting with a person outside your company who needs a more senior role model? Now is the time to start.

How About You
You didn't begin your career where you are today. Someone along the way offered a helping hand to you (and me!), and you were grateful when it happened. Think back to that time and how much it meant. Now think about someone who would appreciate seeing your hand extended. You need to hurry though...that loud boom of retirees heading out the door is coming fast.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of kirstenprice

Monday, February 27, 2012

Engagement Doesn't Mean I Love You

I like to think (read here => convince myself) that I’m contributing to my organization somehow; and that the employees feel more connected to the company as their years of service grow. One of the ways many companies try to quantify this issue (after all, shouldn't everything in life be reduced to a number?!) to use an employee engagement survey. We try in vain to identify how the employees feel, take a snapshot of those feelings, and then quickly move on. Or at least that's how it's been done using most survey tools.

Need to Go Deeper
Getting beyond the snapshot mentality is paramount to really understanding employee engagement and being able to make work better. As leaders, this is our primary responsibility => make work better. So the next generation of survey tools must be able to grab the snapshot and turn it into something more than just a kick-0ff to "better communication" at the department or unit level. 

"It's almost unfair that we survey employees for a moment in time and then expect our front line leaders to turn that into a fully engaged and satisfied workforce."

We're All Individuals
So how should an organization go about truly understanding their workforce, and then making changes based on that workforce? Well, it starts with moving away from the tired and ineffective strategy of putting employees in categories.

Each employee is unique, is motivated by different issues, and is struggling with their own special set of circumstances in their personal life. To think that so many different people can walk through the front door of a company and suddenly morph into one cohesive group that thinks alike, speaks alike, is motivated by the same set of drivers, and should be held accountable in the same way sounds absurd. Yet that's exactly what happens all too often.

How About You
Employee engagement is not about loving, or even liking everyone on the payroll. It is about understanding each member of your (and my) team, so we can provide them with the resources, support, and opportunities to be make work better. How do you handle engagement? Please don't tell me you get down on one knee.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of benefitscanada

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Time No More

What are you waiting for? A new quarter to begin...a slow period to pass...a change in software to be fully installed...that "dream job" to open up...what? What is it? What could you possibly be waiting for?

Stop waiting.

Waiting is an excuse.

Make work better...make something happen for you.


I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of arttart

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I Love Animals…Now Where Can I Find A Scapegoat?

Quick question: how many leaders have you seen that are quick to take responsibility for issues in their areas of responsibility when the pressure is on? Anyone? I know it happens occasionally, but let’s be honest with each other. We live in a CYA world, so when there’s trouble down on the farm, many leaders start hunting for the proverbial goat.

Don’t Be That Leader
Once we ( I’m absolutely including myself) stop worrying about our situation and start focusing on what’s best organizationally it creates a very different climate in the workplace.

Now, the team doesn’t worry about looking over their shoulder because they know you’re not standing there waiting to pounce. Instead, they’re feeling supported, thinking of new ideas, and taking risks.

How About You
Are you willing to separate the personal pressure you feel when your work life gets complicated and instead strategize how to make things better? Or, are you thinking about whom you should line up in your management crosshairs? If employees behave recklessly then hold them accountable, but in general isn’t our job to have their back and make work better?

Make work better today.

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of funnytimes

Monday, February 20, 2012

Corporate Culture That is Healthy as a (Trojan) Horse

How would you answer if you were asked to describe what its like to work at your company? I don’t mean the over-produced and scrubbed official message, I’m talking about how you truly feel. If you added a significant change into your corporate world does that change your answer? Do your colleagues behave the same way when big changes are on the horizon? Hmmm…what would you say or do differently under those circumstances?

Leaders Make Choices
As a Human Resources practitioner I’ve learned to appreciate human nature more and more. Why? The answer is simple => people behave in such bizarre ways when they are under pressure...or reacting to change...or even trying to position themselves for a sneak attack power grab. HR has, I believe, an obligation to maintain balance and calm during these stormy times. That means speaking our minds, not getting caught up in the power trip mentality and making sure above all else that the needs of the organization and its employees remain front and center.

"Once the conversation is only about power, the organization loses."

That means the people lose. Oh, and let’s not forget that its those same people that we expect to work hard, remain loyal, execute our strategies, and understand when difficult decisions have to be made.

Power or Results: Which One is Better?
This is a trickier question than you might think. Obviously adopting a lust-for-power leadership style is not only ineffective, but is also embarrassingly transparent. However, if the right leaders do not have the appropriate level of power (read here => authority); good results will not follow. That’s the dilemma…making sure the right people have the authority to move the organization forward and also ensuring the power-grab doesn’t happen.

How About You
When you’ve seen others convince themselves they needed to focus on power instead of the organization what have you done? Remained silent, or spoken up, or.....? It can be a dangerous time for many people, but surprisingly its most damaging to the one hiding inside that big horse waiting to jump out and yell surprise.

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of keiththompsonart

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Melting Pots Are Propoganda

One of the phrases I learned as a child was that America is the "Great Melting Pot." The message intended to describe how wonderful it was that so many unique individuals from around the world had emigrated here and were now magically transformed into one big happy (and generic) family. At that time I thought that was pretty cool.

Now? Not so much.

Melting = Changing
Have you ever had an ice cream cone melt before you could eat it? Ever had a candy bar that was left in the car during the summer? Ever heard of Frosty the Snowman?

Let's face it, other than cheese in the Fondue pot, melting in general sucks. So do I think that melting all of the unique differences, strengths, and diversity of people together and changing them into some sort of giant homogeneous culture is a good thing?

Now? Not so much.

Reject the Message
As I've (attempted) to learn and grow over the years it has become increasingly obvious to me that without leveraging the diversity around me I simply will not be successful. For too many years I've seen leaders connect with other like-minded leaders to make decisions that affect everyone. Why is that? Isn't there a world of opportunity if all of the leadership talent is tapped to create the best organization possible? On a more personal level, have I actually convinced myself that I have all of the answers? Really? There used to be a time when I believed that.

Now? Not so much.

How About You
Do you look forward to welcoming many different types of employees into your organization only to fire up the fondue pot and start tossing everyone in? How many ideas, discussions, and strategic plans are never  realized when we focus on making everyone the same? Melting pots are good for fondue.  People are not fondue.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pics courtesy of kindertrauma and fastfondue

Monday, February 13, 2012

Making Work?

You may have seen this short video it again anyway. Then ask yourself, "how many memories have I created as a leader in my organization? If I have...did they make a difference for someone?"

How About You
I'd love to hear what you're doing to make a difference in your workplace. None of us have this figured out completely, so share your story so we can all keep learning.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

New Employees Make Great Appetizers

How do you bring new employees on board? I don't mean the mandatory orientation program...or the token tour of the department/facility/campus. I mean how do you connect with the people you are putting your trust in to make yourself successful? That's right. You are dependent on your new hire for your success.

Have you ever put onboarding into that context? I didn't think so.

Probationary Periods Are Lame
Have you ever heard a manager say that if their new employee doesn't work out they will just cut them loose at the end of the probation period? I hate that line. After all of the work to source, recruit, interview, hire, train, and most importantly trust that new employee the manager is willing to throw it all away and begin again. Here's the catch: when the manager make these comments they are actually admitting they are unable to select and lead their new employees. In effect, they are admitting they are a failure.

Have you ever put probation periods into that context? I didn't think so.

Invest the Time
New employees do not magically "get up to speed" in their new environments. They need to know they have time to learn, that it's okay to ask questions, and that the goal is their development not a race to some random date when they are supposed to be "competent." Don’t allow the environment (other employees, corporate culture, etc) to eat them alive as they are adapting to their new role. Set expectations, communicate regularly and never assume anything. They're counting on you to be there so they can be a productive member of the team and keep their career moving forward. They are dependent on you (and me) for their success. You made a huge investment on behalf of your organization when you hired this person. Don't waste the company's money.

Have you ever put company investments into that context? I didn't think so.

October 22, 2006

How About You
Who have you recently brought onto your team? Do they know you are patient, willing to support them, and are not in a rush to get to a mysterious end date? Or, are they watching other new hires get pushed out the door as their probation period wraps up? Have you ever thought about that before?

I'd love to hear from  you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of dilbert

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough

You’ve tried everything. Wracked your brain to find a solution...nothing. Sure, you're creative and often push the limits of the "norm" to develop new strategies. But now...nothing. You even reverted back to the approaches that worked fifteen years ago...

Absolutely nothing

Is it time to call it a day? Maybe throw in the towel? Or, just hang 'em up?


Now’s the time to active your social network, particularly if you’re the HR Executive at your organization. Why? => Because you have exactly zero peers on the inside. None. Yes, the other members of the Executive team may appreciate the unique pressures you are under, but there is no way anyone truly understands someone else unless they're walking in the same shoes. Right?

Decide to Crush It
It’s time to reach out, vent, complain, feel sorry for yourself, express your fears…and then suck it up. With the help of your connections and a little dose of personal commitment you can get your mojo back. Is it going to be easy? No. Is it going to be more difficult trying to get there alone? Absolutely.

How About You
Being down never means that you're out. Reach out to someone you trust...or someone you admire from afar. If you've committed to jumping into the social space you're going to get the help you need. That's how we do our business here.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of unclebrice

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I Met Jim Wallis

I received an extra special gift at Christmas this year. It was an old picture of my father introducing me to Jim Wallis. The picture means a lot to me for several reasons:
- I met Jim Wallis!
- It's my Dad doing the introduction
- And it's forced me to evaluate how I'm going about my business in the world today

For those of you that don't know about Jim, he is a champion for what's right in the world. Period. As a young man starting my career, and being raised in a household that focused overwhelmingly on doing what's right, this was a huge moment.

I met Jim Wallis.

What About Now
So now I have this picture on my desk at work...and it speaks to challenges calls me out each day. "What are you doing that will make a difference in the world? A real difference." Some days I don't feel like I have a good answer. Other days I feel like I'm doing reasonably well and am contributing to my team, my organization, and my profession. But is it enough?

Life is About Choices
It's time for a new round of questions to be asked in my world. How much more can I do? Where should I invest my time and energy to make the biggest impact? How can I be more effective in my professional life, considering the privilege I have to work at such an amazing organization? How should I modify my leadership style to reflect a true "do the right thing" approach?

All of this from one picture.

How About You
What questions do you need to ask today? Take some time to reflect and honestly answer how you are going about your business. I bet if we stop worrying about mistakes and start focusing on action we'll all be happy with the road that lies ahead.

Thanks for the picture Mom.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses. 

pic of Me, Dad, and Jim Wallis courtesy of Janet Kuhns

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sticks and Stones

One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing about a problem within my scope of responsibility that has been festering for a while. While I appreciate that I work in a supportive environment that often allows for understanding and giving people the benefit of the doubt, I don’t want to wait to get the feedback. I want to know now. I want to fix it now.

May Break My (Ego) Bones
Okay, here’s the self-disclosure part of today’s post. I don’t like hearing about where I’m not performing well. Sure, I don’t do all the work; actually I don’t do most of the work. My team does that! But I have to provide the guidance, information and support they need to do their jobs well. If we struggle from time to time that’s all on me. No excuses.

But Honest Feedback Will Never Hurt Me
So even though I don’t like hearing it, I also know I need to hear it so I can do my job more effectively and keep us moving forward. Although my ego may be a little inflated (say…like the size of the state of Texas); I recognize that I need to put my ego aside so I can make work better.

Ultimately that’s my job…to make work better.

How About You
When it comes to hearing criticism do you morph into Captain Blame, quick to identify the guilty party? Or, have you figured out that it’s the group of people around you that needs feedback and clear expectations to do their jobs effectively; and making them feel terrible about their performance will ultimately hurt you (and me)  in the long run? Remember, communicating bad news to your team is fine…its how you deliver the message that is most important.

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of christinabrunk