Wednesday, October 31, 2012

I Can't See Any Transparent Leaders

Ah, transparency. An already old and tired buzzword that has fallen out of favor. It's so 3rd quarter of 2012! Who uses that term anymore? Some companies I'm aware of still embrace transparency as part of their honor, integrity, and yes...use it as a buzzword to justify fees and other expenses. These costs are okay because we didn't try to hide them! We're transparent!


Buzzwords Start For A Reason
I look at catch phrases or terms, like transparency, from a different perspective. The reason this term suddenly became so popular (IMHO) is that the chaos of the recession forced companies to scramble and appear as if they were (no longer) hiding anything from customers. Their emphasis on this theme and subsequent actions to convince their clients, investors and employees that they were in fact being open and honest, helped turn this terrific word into somewhat of a joke.

That's a shame.

Forget the Buzz...Make It Part of Your Leadership DNA
In leadership, the term applies to many areas ranging from how much information is shared with your employees, to how you behave with your colleagues.

I happen to love this term, not because it suddenly was the trendy thing to say (for about 30 minutes); but because of what it represents when you peel away the negative spin.

Be open. Be honest. Share what you can as soon as possible. Involve your team toward reaching a goal, or target, or mandate, or change, or whatever it is that needs to happen.

That's good stuff.

How About You
What buzzword bandwagon have you jumped on lately? Are you worried about staying current with the industry lingo; or, have you decided that you're going to use words that matter. Doing something that matters, to me, is far more important than sounding like you know some sort of special way to create synergy in your organization anyway.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Proud Moments

I recently participated in a fast-paced and strategically focused series of planning meetings for my organization. One of the activities we did to kick-off the event was to publicly acknowledge one of our proudest moments while working at the company.

I had two pretty strong, and unexpected, reactions to this exercise.

I Hate It!
I didn't hate it because it was a bad idea; I hated it because I hadn't thought of it first. I was actually privately embarrassed that I wasn't using this approach as a regular part of my conversations with leaders and employees. I am blessed to work in an organization that literally performs miracles on a daily basis, yet somehow I had gotten caught up in the never ending stream of work drama and had lost sight of those miracles.

But I Love It!
Once I got over my self-inflicted humiliation, I got fired up about this approach. Key leaders, physicians, and community leaders one after the other shared their personal "proud moments" of being part of my organization.

It was absolutely awesome. This single exercise out of two intense days of brainstorming, discussion, and fortunately not 100% agreement on everything (bobble-heads and yes-men never changed the world!) was for me the most impactful part.

How About You
When was the last time you thought about your proudest moment working at your organization? Better yet, have you ever asked anyone about theirs? The answers might just be downright inspiring.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

HR Confession

We don't like all of the employees.

We don't like saying no to you.

We get annoyed when you take too damn long to tell us about your poorly performing employees.

We know it's a hassle to fill out the forms we send you, we don't like filling them out either.

We get fired up about providing good service to you => you are our primary focus.

We care deeply about the organization and work hard to protect it.

We're willing to go to battle externally on your behalf because we believe so strongly  in the company and you.

We constantly think about the entire organization, not just your department.

We want the organization to dominate the market.

We will go the extra mile for employees whenever we possibly can...and even sometimes when we shouldn't.

We'll always, always, have your  back.

How About You
What's your confession?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

It's The How

Over the years I've had the privilege of working with a lot of really smart people. Whether they were in formal or informal leadership roles, practiced clinically or worked in finance, information technology, marketing, and yes human resources, my industry is packed with really bright people. Over those same years I've seen many of those bright people struggle mightily and in some cases fail. Why? They knew "what" to do, they just never mastered the "how."

Soft Skills Can Kill You
I've written in the past about how much I dislike the term soft skills. I've finally realized that the term must have come from those individuals who are terrible at dealing with people effectively, so they tried to downplay that skill set and called it soft. Those are some of the same leaders I've seen who have failed miserably. That's a shame, really. All of that knowledge and brain power wasted because they never figured out how to interact with people.

Old Dogs and New Tricks
A phrase that comes up again and again in my human resources practice has to do with someones personality. "Oh, that's just his personality." Or, "she has one of those personalities that you just have to learn to deal with." I completely disagree with this perspective.

"Making excuses for someones behavior simply because none of the organization's leaders had the backbone to address it does not make it right."

Old behaviors that might have worked when Richard Nixon was President no longer apply to the modern workplace. Sadly, we still see leaders that believe either avoiding a problem or using an iron fist will solve everything.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and it's actually embarrassing for those that still try to use these approaches.

How About You
Have you spent so much time learning "the what" that you've neglected "the how?" Maybe it's time to rethink your delivery, and not worry so much about the accuracy of every little idea. Or, perhaps you know a good leader who has let "the what" get in the way of their work. Today might be a good day to help them out with "the how"...before it's too late.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

HR Is Never Linear

I had a shocking realization last week. Once it happened, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and I think it may alter the course of my entire life. Okay, maybe not that last part. But still, it was a whack to my head with the reality stick.

Process Flow is the Way to Go
Oh my gosh did I believe this to be true! My team has spent months mapping out, correcting, and streamlining our internal processes. They’ve embraced the challenge of modernizing a "personnel" system into a well-running human resources machine…and they’ve done a terrific job.

But last week I learned something that lays over the top of our best processes.

Humans Are Awesome, I Think
My epiphany came during a discussion with one of my colleagues who was expressing frustration that one of our searches was moving along in a haphazard fashion. We had some of the pieces in place, but for some reason we weren’t following a nice orderly process.

Eureka! Hello reality!

When was the last time an issue that involved human beings followed an orderly process? Answer -> NEVER! Welcome to the world of HR. It’s no wonder our management teams never quite understand what we do. We’re the ones dealing with people exclusively, while they have the structure and protocol of month end financials, computer programming, supply processes, sales orders and many other routine systems to follow. (I know they all don't go smoothly, but you get the point.)

How About You
We do not have the luxury of always following a neat and tidy process for every issue that pops up. We have to deal with the human component 100% of the time and that makes it different, every time.

As for me, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Still Lots of Fear in Business - A #NoFearHR Update

Hi Mike,

I'm glad to hear that you're getting a more sophisticated perspective from the audiences you're speaking to about leveraging social tools for their businesses. That's great news. I, too have been busy speaking over the last couple of months about transformation, social media, and what I like to call "Good HR" practice. Unlike you however, I continue to meet many human resources professionals who are either stuck in an organization that does not support the adoption of social strategies, or downright doesn't even understand what they are.

Quite honestly Mike I'm a bit stunned. I was hoping we were making progress, but I think that because you and I have embraced these tools and understand how much of a difference they can make in our work we've assumed that others appreciate their value as well. I think we still have a long way to go.

There is a silver lining to my recent experiences however; that is the enthusiasm to learn more, to try social tools for networking, research, recruitment, and employee communication seems to be growing.

I believe there is an opportunity to help these struggling HR practitioners to find support outside their organizations, which in turn will position them as valuable members of their organizations down the road.

HR on the ouside helping HR on the inside...I like that Mike.

We need to kick our #NoFearHR mindset into gear. Let's do this.

#NoFearHR is a project to assist business professionals who want to know more about how to put social media tools to work in a meaningful way. Content is provided by Jay Kuhns and Michael VanDervort.  You can find links to the rest of the ongoing conversation here.

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Monday, October 22, 2012

Finding Your Social Voice

One of the questions that comes up frequently when I’m discussing the power of social media and its direct application to modern HR practice is about voice. So many new users of social tools worry about how they will “sound” to those listening on the interwebs that they often don’t find the courage to jump in and start exploring how to use the various tools like twitter, LinkedIn and facebook (at least facebook in a professional context.)

Pretending Isn’t Real
The more time I spend connecting with colleagues from around the world, the more I realize the only way to be effective when going social is to avoid trying to be someone, or something, I’m not. All too often I hear HR pros use fancy words at work trying to sound important, or smart, or…well…something. I’ve done that too.

I usually come off sounding like I’m trying to be Mr. Holier-Than-Thou-Guy. That’s pretty lame. I hate being lame.

Real Is Real
As I spend more time incorporating social into my professional life, I now realize that the person I’m supposed to sound like is me. What a breakthrough! Talk about an obvious realization.

I’m almost embarrassed to say it out loud, but it’s true. When we go social, we need to be genuine, candid, honest, and real. We need to be ourselves.

How About You
Who do you pretend to be when you’re going social? I hope you’re not pretending to be anyone. I want to get to know the real you, and so does everyone else. Don’t be afraid to be anyone but yourself. Sound good?

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Talent Emergency

I’ve recently found myself in somewhat of a talent emergency. Why? I’ve been reading a lot about the shortage of talent, the coming migration of talent away from my organization, the need to define the talent my company needs, and how we need to retain our current and future talent.

I wish I had a trademark on the word talent.

Talent = People, Right?
One of my HR passions is to help our leaders create a good place to work. (By the way, I can’t tolerate the “employer of choice” phrase. That seems to be a lot of hype and PR to me. I’ve never heard an employee use the phrase to describe their workplace. Since they don’t use it, I don't use it either.) So if the focus is on people and the skills necessary to get the work done, it seems to me we should make sure we treat our people well.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Respected Talent = Good Place to Work
-         Listening
-         Not believing we have all the answers simply because we have a formal title
-         Taking action
-         Not worrying about failing
-         Giving credit to those who do a good job (and make you look good BTW)
-         Involving the employees in the work

Just a couple of quick thoughts. I'm sure you could add fifty more examples.

How About You
Sign - In Case of EmergencyHow do you get through your talent emergencies? Do you spend a lot of money advertising in the Sunday paper so everyone knows you’re working hard? Or, do you stop worrying about HR jargon and get your employees involved in generating solutions? After all, they do the work every day.

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Grab A Straw

It’s time for us to have a little chat. Just you and me. Let me ask you…how are things going? Is work going well? Perhaps you’re in the search process…is it panning out the way you planned? What about the challenges in your current role? Are you feeling the fire inside your gut to hit those big, bad, nasty challenges head on?

I mean it…how are you?

Honesty First
We all face times in our professional lives that can have us feeling a bit (or a lot!) overwhelmed with it all. Our minds drift to new jobs, and new employers, with perfect coworkers and a drama-free environment. Then our Inbox pings us back to reality with a never ending stream of noise, noise, noise.

Let’s be honest, sometimes we just don’t like our work. That’s okay to admit, but it’s not okay to dwell on.

Venting Second
Before we start lamenting our lot in life, we need to do something very important.


Let it out. Let go of the frustration. Dump a load of noise pollution and get it out of your system. It won’t fix a damn thing, nor will it magically generate a list of solutions to all of the challenges you’re facing. So what. Go off anyway, and let it fly.

Once you’re done…and I mean completely done…grab a straw and suck it up. Get yourself back together and take action on one issue. Don’t solve anything, don’t race to some imaginary endpoint, and don’t pick up the phone and unload on some unsuspecting Manager who is needy as all hell.

Suck it up in private, and take one step forward.

Then take another. And another. And another.

Now you’re on your way. You’re back in control, and you’re going to figure it out, whether it’s your current employer, your job search, or the annoying folks who don’t seem to go away, despite your best attempts to help them.

How About You
Are you willing to admit that you get super frustrated sometimes? Do you have someone you can vent with so you can have the satisfaction of complaining like a crazy person just to feel a little better? If not, give me a call. I’m an excellent listener.

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Pefectionists Are Suckers

You operate at a different level. Your standards are higher than those around you. You're confident you can make a huge difference in your organization if everyone would make sure the work gets done the right way. Your way. Why can't they make sure that everything is going to be just right before they start implementing changes? Isn't it obvious their ideas aren't perfect?

You my friend are a sucker...and everybody knows it.

What's Wrong With Perfection?
There is really only one thing wrong with perfection: it's completely unattainable. Other than that, have at it. Go for it. Strain, stretch, and push yourself and those around you as hard as you would like. I'm sure you' you'll never get there. So why is perfection your only option?

You my friend are still a sucker.

Make Progress, Not Enemies
Over the years I've shifted my view on the quality of work, at least on a macro-scale. For me, making progress each year is much more valuable than making work perfect.

I've already clarified perfection is out of reach, yet so many of my colleagues strive for it despite the casualties that are inherent in that approach (low morale, unwelcome turnover, lost productivity, lack in decisions being made, etc...).

How About You
Perhaps it's time for us all to focus on making work better instead of making work perfect? I love talking about progress. Besides, being a

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

HR Roadshow!

Next week I have the privilege of speaking at the Minnesota SHRM Conference. My friend Josh Rock and his organizing team have been kind enough to let a guy from Florida invade the (almost) frozen North. I'm  going to be speaking about HR Transformation; specifically, how my organization went on a wild ride and made huge changes within our HR function over the last year, and what we now have to show for it.

The line up of speakers is a bit daunting, but I'm going to do my best to bring the No Excuses attitude to a terrific group of HR pros in Minnesota.

Oh, and I'm going to watch some hockey while I'm there too...even if it isn't the NHL.

See you next week!

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Well, Shut My Mouth!

I have to admit something. Despite my best intentions, talking about it, and writing on the subject, I have a heck of a hard time listening. Active listening - aka my arch nemesis - is a valuable leadership skill that I continue to work on developing. When you're accustomed to making decisions and taking risks, listening doesn't come easy.

Listening Isn't "Getting Ready"
One of the challenges of my listening style is that I find myself getting ready to respond to what the other person is saying, typically long before they've had a chance to finish what they're saying. That's not listening, that's actually called ignoring.

Ignoring others is a bad thing.

Listening Is Listening
Another revelation I've had over the years is that when I do take the time to focus on what I'm hearing, good things usually are the result. It may be that the good thing is a greater understanding of the dynamics of a certain situation. Or, the good thing may be that I'm able to modify my response to better engage in the dialogue without sounding like an insensitive lout.

Being an insensitive lout is a bad thing.

How About You
What's your listening style? Have you found that as your breadth of responsibility has expanded that it is more difficult to fully listen because you're constantly juggling so many issues at the same time? If you've mastered the art of listening I hope you're willing to share...I'm all ears.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Love Struck!

Do you love the work you do? Are you someone who looks forward to going to work each day, whether that means commuting to work, or walking down the hall to your home office? Do you get so fired up about new ideas that you can't wait to meet with your team to strategize how to roll them out? Are you...maybe...someone who gets a little too fired up about your job?

Me too.

Work Doesn't Have To Suck
Too many times I hear about employees who are dissatisfied in their work. I'm talking about leaders. The newspapers (that I read on my iPhone) are filled with articles about employee dis-engagement and the coming migration of employees from one employer to another once "the economy gets back on track."

Since when did a good economy equate with high employee engagement?

Mindsets Matter
For me the issues about work are clear. If you expect to make a difference...if you expect to face challenges...if you expect to have will! So I believe it's time for us to wrap our mindsets around reality when it comes to work.

Sometimes work will be terrific; sometimes it will be challenging; and sometimes it will be a pain in the neck.

But that doesn't mean I still won't love what I do. You should love your work too.

How About You
Are you love struck about your work, and how you see yourself contributing? If not, it's time to dig deeper into what work is really all about, and forget those fantasies about no conflicts and every idea you have is approved. Let's keep it real, okay?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Pick Your Battles

I like to stay on top of things. My Inbox, task list, projects, new ideas, and the list goes on. Life just seems to go more smoothly for me if everything goes according to my plans and exactly on my schedule. Yes, that's just how I like it.

Then I wake up, realize my little dream is over, and go to work.

In Control...Really?
One of the painful lessons I've learned over the years...err, continue to that I simply can not control, manage, react to, and effectively address all of the issues in my world all by myself. It's impossible. However, since I have a bit of an "I-can-do-anything" complex I still catch myself trying.

Note to self => you're not as good as you think you are.

Less Control Means Better Results
As my professional life gets more and more complex, I find myself appreciating the talent around me more than ever. Members of the team provide not only expertise and enthusiasm for the work, but also bring a different perspective that ensures items aren't missed.

One of the pitfalls of getting wrapped up in "my world" is that my biases on how work should get done get in the way of other solutions. Embracing the differences and allowing the team to run with those different ideas is usually the best option.

I need to remember that more than I normally do.

How About You
Are you an HR control-freak? Are you so focused on managing every little issue that you've morphed into having a superiority complex and don't even know it? We can't control everything; nor should we! We need to pick our battles or risk losing not only the credibility of our teams...but also the results we're so fired up to achieve in the first place.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Lateral Leadership

Stay focused.
Don't lose sight of your goals.
Distractions will only slow you down.
Worry about your own business, not someone else's.

These are great little sayings...if you're not a leader.

A Broader View
The world has become very specialized. Academic programs, computer programs, physical training programs, and on and on...all target very specific skills or areas of interest. The same holds true in human resources. We have specialized many of the functional areas of HR in order to provide expert service to our customers. There is nothing wrong with that, unless you are in a human resources leadership role.

Why? Because in order to be a successful HR leader you must be able to see your company through an organizational lens, not a human resources lens.

"Tunnel vision is a blessing and a curse...on one hand you are able to focus your energy and resources to achieve important objectives; while simultaneously missing other critical factors that directly affect you and your team's success."

What's Your Viewpoint
Seeing both the end point and the never ending stream of variables hitting us each day is a skill we are not born is acquired through glorious failure after glorious failure. That's why failure is so helpful! Let's take a look at a relevant HR example:

An employee needs to be terminated, and even though the documentation is clear and the process has been followed, there might be other considerations. 

Question: Will terminating the employee today compromise the weekend staffing plan and otherwise create a much larger problem?

Answer: Assuming safety and gross negligence are not involved, it is essential that HR discuss the operational impact with the Department leader before finalizing the timing of the termination. It may be best to wait a few more days.

This is taking a lateral view in an HR world that clings to a tunnel vision perspective.

How About You
Are you so caught up in doing the right "HR thing" that you are inadvertently losing credibility because you're out of touch with your organization's operational reality? Add a lateral view to your HR practice and challenge yourself to see things differently.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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