Thursday, March 28, 2013


Making the commitment to change the culture of an organization is a bold step. It requires the courage to publicly say that you are not satisfied with how things operate today, and that a change is not only on a wish list, but that it is now mandatory. That is a bold step.

Leaders First
I've had the opportunity one other time in my career to embark on an intentional culture change initiative. It was a long process that ultimately resulted in the desired change. Lots of hard work, and new behaviors particularly from leadership, were the key drivers of the shift. From my perspective, the employees were eager to improve the company, they simply needed leadership that not only articulated the desired change, but simultaneously included the employees while they proved they could walk the walk. Many leaders struggle with this balancing act.

HR's Role
One of the great advantages of working in Human Resources is that we see the entire organization, not just the "department" we're assigned. Couple that perspective with the insight we have from dealing with issues across the enterprise and suddenly human resources is perfectly positioned to be an effective disruptive force for change.

Let me say that again...

"Human Resources is perfectly positioned to be an effective disruptive force for change."

When was the last time you heard that? More importantly, when did you believe it? Never, that's when.

Next Steps Are Hard
As the journey begins it is essential that HR leadership buys in to the vision of how great the organization can become. Not because they're supposed to, but because our organizations are full of bright employees who can see through bureaucratic doublespeak faster than an old school command and control leader can spit it out.

If HR is going to play a central role in the change effort, then HR has to change how it normally behaves, works, interacts, and challenges others. That can be scary. Welcome to the real world! Positive change does not come about because we all simply work harder.

The results we want to achieve are realized because we literally change how we work. Are you able to stop preaching about change and start adopting it in your HR practice?

If the organization is going to achieve the results necessary, human resources (and I submit all of the leaders who plan on staying with the institution) will have to change. The status quo + maximum effort is no longer a viable option.

How About You
Do you see yourself as a disruptive force for change? Or, do you see yourself holding others accountable for not buying into the culture change initiative using your same old approach?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, March 25, 2013


I've had the privilege of working with a terrific group of leaders during my career. Some have been referred to as "institutions"...quite a complement. They were relied on for advice, guidance, mentoring, and quite frankly for some good old fashioned help during periods of change. At times I've sought these people out...and now I'm occasionally asked to serve in this capacity (although being referred to as an "institution” is about two decades away if I'm lucky.)

These effective leaders eventually become part of the very foundation of their companies. Imagine that, being part of the rock solid core that holds up everyone else.

Hmm. Becoming part of the foundation of your organization.

I submit that Human Resources should be considered a cornerstone in every organization. That's right, every single one. Maybe that’s a bold statement, or perhaps it’s just empty blog talk, or could it be wishful thinking?

In reality it isn’t any of those things. I believe if HR is going to function effectively it is a requirement.

Calm During the Storm
Every organization has ups and downs. Whether it has to do with the business cycle, leadership changes, or bad luck. Change happens regardless of our best planning efforts, and it is during those awkward periods that I’m convinced Human Resources can play one of its most significant roles.

People need structure and order in their lives, both personally and professionally. How many times have you seen someone struggle at work, and then you’ve quickly asked yourself if they have “something going on at home?” When was the last time you were concerned about an employee and almost involuntarily defaulted to the tired phrase “but they’re under a lot of pressure right now?”

Are these excuses for poor performance? Or, are we trying to work through how we can be more effective as HR leaders? Knowing the drivers of behavior can be very powerful, and can bring clarity to potential solutions much faster. However, before any of this important work can be done, the Human Resources leader must be calm and reliable on a consistent basis.
We cannot afford to have swings in behavior or mood that leave our colleagues or employees wondering if they should reach out to us. Our colleagues should always feel comfortable reaching out to us.

That is how you build a strong foundation based on reliable, consistent, and professional support.
How About You
Who are the institutions in your organization? Has anyone from Human Resources ever made it on to the list? If not…now is the perfect time for you to start.

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

AND, not BUT

I have a busy professional life. I'm expected to deal with some of the most intense confrontations in the workplace, make decisions on the fly, lead others, and give feedback and my perspective on a variety of issues. That last point, feedback and my perspective, can be one of the trickiest parts of my day.

I Hear You, But
I do my best to allow others to give me their insights into what is happening with a particular situation before I jump in. That's hard for me to do. One of my failings is that once I've heard their update and attempted to validate what they've told me, I often follow with my own comments using the word 'but.'

Not good.

Once I utter that word my previous comments that affirmed their decision or perspective is instantly negated as they prepare to hear how I am going to correct them.

Really not good.

Often times I don't change what their ideas are, I'm just adding my proverbial two cents worth, but instead of maintaining a positive flow to the dialogue I use the 'but' word and change how they are feeling about the update.

And I Hear You
As part of a year long leadership development program that I am quite humbled to be a part of, I learned the power of the word 'and.' I am on a mission to replace the word 'but' with the word 'and' whenever possible. Let's try out an example:

"Your plan makes a lot of sense, but did you ask Mary about her ideas?"

Let's try this same statement using 'and' instead...

"Your plan makes a lot of sense, and I think Mary would be a big help too."

How About You
Have you convinced yourself, like I have, that my feedback is interpreted as I intend it to be 100% of the time? If so, like me, you've failed. Our teams rely on us to be supportive and provide balanced feedback, so let's both commit to avoiding the deadly word 'but' from now on.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Camelot and Changes

Leaders come and go in every organization. Sometimes there is great excitement when a new dynamic personality joins the team. Other times a melancholy feeling is present when we bid farewell to colleagues we've worked with for extended periods of time. Either way, the process of moving from what we are accustomed to, and into a new routine can be unsettling.

Will the new person live up to the hype surrounding their arrival? What will happen when that friend and colleague is no longer around to answer that oddball question that comes up from time to time? Who is going to step up and show a new level of leadership? Can't things just stay as they are?

Time Was Short
A number of years ago I was blessed to be a part of a very close knit senior leadership team. We relied heavily on each other in good times and bad. When the pressure was really on we looked forward to meeting as a team to figure out the best options. When times were good we wanted to share in those moments with each other too.

It was a sort of Corporate Camelot and we knew it...and that's exactly what we called it, Camelot. We also knew it wouldn't last forever, so we tried to appreciate our time together a bit more than "normal." Maybe that allowed us to work more effectively since we knew our team's life would be short-lived as promotions soon started peeling us away.

Letting Go
When I look back on that time and invariably compare it to wherever I happen to be at the moment, one thing becomes abundantly clear. Although nostalgia may cloud my perspective on that ideal team, I do realize that every assignment where I'm fortunate enough to serve in a leadership capacity can be a new Corporate Camelot. 

Building a high performing team, connecting with colleagues on a deeper level than the routine standing-meeting-list-of-updates, and confronting deep-seated organizational issues is extremely rewarding work. Clinging to days gone by however, only drives a wedge into the current team which means I have disengaged from committing to being All In.

How Bout You
Do you see the amazing potential all around when you walk in to work each day? Or, are you caught up spending much of your day wishing for yesteryear to return. I wonder what your team hopes you're thinking about?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Friday, March 15, 2013

The Peformanator

The PerformantorIt's as if they arrived here on earth from a time far ahead in the future. They look like us, yet their impact is somehow very different than the majority of the employees who e work with each day. At times they are quite charming and appear to have a solid network of peers. But, something is just...well...different about them.

Read the complete post over at Performance I Create today...

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Big Data v Big Information

I hear a lot about big data. You probably do too. I have visions of a giant warehouse filled with green bar paper stacked from floor to ceiling. That's not what big data looks like of course. I mean, I don't think that's what big data looks like.
Applying Big Data to Human Resources
Here's a question I've been wanting to ask for some time, but quite candidly was too embarrassed to utter the words: what does big data have to do with my role as an HR leader?

More specifically, how am I supposed to apply all this data to my specific organization? Is there a magic formula I've somehow missed? Am I the only one not in on the big data joke? I'm okay being a little slow on things (I've gotten used to it by now)...but really... 

Is there an obvious answer out there...somewhere?

I Need Information...Information...Information

I can at least appreciate the fact that with the explosion of the digital world there is almost, be default, a staggering amount of data that can be...well...culled. What I'm not so sure about is whether or not all of that data is necessarily useful? Perhaps the marketers out there know that I love social media, HR, hockey and really good German beer. But quite honestly, that doesn't do me any good when I'm trying to impact my corporate culture. Or does it?

I guess I just don't know...yet.

Metrics Still Matter...Right?

One of the things I'm afraid of is that since I've already apparently missed the big data train, that maybe metrics are now passé too. Could that be true? I like using the various dashboards and colored graphs that reliably turn my data into information so I can make real life decisions. That is still the right thing to do, isn't it?

I think I'm more confused than ever.

How About You

What role does big data play in the life of your organization? Does it help you analyze your health plan spend against a larger cohort? Does it allow you to plan service line changes or launch new products? Does it change the culture of your company? If so, how do you know?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Monday, March 11, 2013

3 Deadly Words

As leaders we often don't feel any different than how we did earlier in our careers. Sure, we appreciate our greater scope of responsibility, we know the strategic direction our organizations must work toward more than most, and we certainly have a longer to do list than ever before. What often gets overlooked however is the significant impact we have with our words and behavior.

Yes, we know that how we interact with others is important, but in senior leadership roles the impact of what we say and how we say it is magnified on a scale we simply can not appreciate.

What terms from many years ago still ring true when we consider the missteps that seem to continue to plague so many leader today? What can these words tell us that make perfect sense?

Treachery, deceit, no cunning, no guile

In your leadership practice are you focused on raising others up; or, are you narrowly focused on how you will be perceived for that next promotion? If your updates are filled with "I this..." and "I that..." then my guess is that next promotion is a long way off.

No verbal abuse, no snapping back, no getting even in our relationships

In the heat of the moment do you remain calm? Are you able to appreciate how stressful it is for a member of your team to share bad news with you? Do you think they are concerned with your reaction? How about you surprise them next time and don't over react, but instead brainstorm realistic options to keep moving forward.

We are not to threaten to bully to coerce in our relationships

All too often I see leaders treat their employees unfairly without even saying a word. Their bullying behavior speaks for itself, and everyone around them is keenly aware. The ancient perspective that fear breeds respect is long dead.

Treating people with respect breeds respect. If you're still focused on a command and control style, your time in leadership is short.

How About You
What words do you chose when giving feedback to your team? How do you engage your staff to help them maximize their potential (which by the way typically means your organization is more productive and profitable.)? Let's all heed the lessons of the ancients who taught us such powerful leadership terms.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Strength = Weakness

We all do a little self-talk from time to time. Okay, everyday we practice this technique whether we know it or not. It just seems to happen. We strategize options, consider our strengths, and then make decisions to move forward. We rely on what has worked for us in the past to help determine what the appropriate steps are moving forward. At least we have our strengths to rely on when faced with adversity.

Unless our strengths will do us no good.

Strengths Are No Good
You might be wondering if I've lost my mind, but hear me out. We all have skills and approaches that have proven to not only fit well with our personalities and comfort level in the workplace, but they have also brought us a measure of success. We rely on these approaches and use them frequently. Sometimes we are described as "driven" and we push hard for things to get accomplished. That is a good thing.

The problem arises when we are unable to recognize that in certain situations our passion for being "driven" is no longer an appropriate leadership behavior to work through a particular situation. Now what? Are we lost? Do we throw our hands up in the air? Or worse, do we let our emotions dictate our behavior which typically leads down a slippery slope of lost credibility?

It's Not About Strengths
The solution lies in the very early stages of the various conflicts and issues that present themselves in our lives. If we leverage our self-talk so intensely that we convince ourselves we should keep pushing for what we believe in, versus leveraging another leadership skill - humility - we risk never being able to solve problems collaboratively.

"If your leadership style is about winning at all costs, you are guaranteed to lose. However, if you are willing to leverage your passion with a healthy dose of humility, you are guaranteed to win."

How About You
In Jim Collins' terrific Harvard Business Review article he describes the potent combination of leadership skills that have driven organizations to incredible levels of success: an iron will and an incredible sense of humility. He calls these very unique individuals "Level 5 Leaders." Don't let your strengths inadvertently hurt your leadership. Are you Level 5 material?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Thursday, March 7, 2013

Powering Through

Sometimes we face challenges as leaders that burn a tremendous amount of energy in the moment. That moment can last days or even weeks. That moment can be downright draining.

Did any of us really believe that leading was going to be easy?

Oh to be twenty-seven again as I landed my first management job. I was fired up, ready to make a difference, and had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

Sure I had "learned" from ineffective leaders both at part-time gigs as a teenager, and again in my first corporate-type position. But watching others struggle, and having to literally walk in their shoes, are two very different things.

I started to realize that leading was going to be anything but easy.

Attitude Is Everything
The more I encountered difficult issues however, the more I decided to forge ahead. The greater the conflict, the more I knew that I should be in the middle of it and not running the other way. I came to appreciate how important a positive attitude was relative to effective leadership. I wanted more...even if I didn't know what "more" meant.

"I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders."
– Jewish Proverb

How About You
Now that I have more leadership miles on me, I'm able to understand what it is that I need to keep going. Interpersonal skills, a strong internal and external network, and the courage to keep powering through are all essential parts of my leadership journey. What is it that helps you keep moving forward?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Monday, March 4, 2013

Social Risk?

In the health care industry we talk about risk a lot. Whether it has to do with patient safety, managing potential problems, or dealing with information technology threats, risk is a part of life. We don't have a corner on the term though, every business large or small has to deal with it.

But is going social a risk?

Nothing New
Much is written about the need for social media policies, guidelines, controls, and messaging in the corporate world. I think these are good ideas. Leaders and front line employees both need to understand the rules so they can do their work productively and appropriately. But is going social truly a new risk; or, is it simply the same risk we've always had in a more sleek package?

Know Your Stuff
One of the ongoing challenges when going social in any organization is the senior leadership's complete and total unwillingness to use and understand social tools. Far too often the nervous laughter and jokes accompany a question and raised eyebrow when social tools are being put to use in the workplace. What is also missed in that moment is that the social tools being used are building the brand...not tearing it down.

"If you don't use the tools you won't understand. How in the world can anyone lead when they don't know what they're talking about?"

Perhaps I've set my expectations too high? Maybe I fell in to the trap of believing that because one billion people use facebook and other social tools that it might be a good idea to use them myself? Or it could just be that I have have a classic case of optimism bias? Regardless of the answer, I'm not convinced that going social presents anything so scary that organziations should consider not moving ahead.

How About You
Where do you fall on the social-is-a-risk continuum? Are you scurrying around your office trying to make sure you control every single tweet and post? Or, are you looking around your organization seeing hundreds and hundreds of potential brand ambassadors?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Friday, March 1, 2013

The Knowledge Burden

I love my job. I don't mind if you think that's a lame thing to say. I don't mind if it sounds like I'm being some sort of rah-rah HR pro. The truth is there aren't a whole lot of people who can make that statement these days, and I for one am thankful that I can. I love my job...

...most of the time.

The Knowledge Blessing
One of the times I feel I can contribute most effectively is during periods of tension and stress, particularly when it comes to employee relations. Perhaps it is my upbringing (Dad was a United Methodist Minister and Mom was a Master's prepared Counselor); maybe it is my training in graduate school as a Social Worker; or perhaps it is simply a part of my DNA.

Whatever the reason, I seem to do well in moments of confrontation and conflict. That confidence has allowed me to manage my emotions not only during these difficult moments, but also before they happen. This point is often lost in discussions about pending changes or announcements. It seems that everyone is eager to be in the know on issues going on across the organization. That is, until they actually are aware of something negative or stressful that is going to happen, and then suddenly they aren't quite as excited to know what is on the horizon.

The Knowledge Burden
This is where true professionalism rises above the casual leader. Time and time again I've seen leaders complain that they are not part of the core leadership team; yet, once they are and realize the magnitude of the many complex issues being managed they can feel overwhelmed.

Knowing what is going on from a gossip perspective is far different than having to make major organizational decisions that impact people's lives and having to carry that knowledge with your for a period of time. Knowledge truly is a burden.

How About You
How do you support leaders new to the real knowledge game in your company? Do you expect them to simply be able to handle it because of their title? Or, do you acknowledge that leading at a high level is very demanding mentally and emotionally and offer to support them away from the meeting spotlight that shines so brightly on each member of that small group?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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