Monday, November 29, 2010


We have the answers.  Employees, Managers, Executives, and even our CEOs come to us to talk strategy on complex matters.  We must be good.  No, we must be great.  Why else would so many people seek us out to solve the most frustrating issues in the workplace?


As if the flood of those seeking advice isn't enough, we are also empowered to take action.  Action that can result in a legal quagmire.  Wow, we must not only be great, but important too!  With so much attention focused on us, (read here -> on me), it is easy to become arrogant in our leadership.  Could there be a risk?  Could we become so full of ourselves that we cross the line from experienced professional to arrogant know-it-all?  Do we all need to stop and look over our shoulder to see if that line is now behind us?


This is a difficult question to answer.  Why?  Because we get paid to make judgements about others decisions and behaviors.  Doesn't that almost guarantee we will have some degree of arrogance?  Perhaps taking Gary Ray's quiz from his recent blog post will help us sort through our own failings.  Or, perhaps we won't recognize where we come up short and need to take a long look in the mirror (read here -> me again.)

Jeffrey Pfeffer's piece in the Washington Post on The Arrogance of Power offers a glimmer of hope.  He speaks of the sheltered world many leaders find themselves in as they rise through the ranks of their organizations.  The problem is that they become too far removed from their employees, their customers, their organizations.  The solution is not anything we don't already know - get out of your office and connect with real people.  Get away from those "yes-men and women" in your life and get back to basics.

Be visible.  Be humble.  Hold yourself accountable to be better everyday.


Do you think you have ever crossed the "arrogance line?"  Or, did you not even notice that "line" as you raced on by with the "right" answer.  For me, it's a daily struggle.  What about for you?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


"Thank you."  "Great job."  "Thanks for the effort."  All too often I find myself using these phrases believing that I'm recognizing members of my team, or those that do great work in my organization.  But, wait a minute.  Is telling someone "good job" truly recognizing them?  Am I insulting them by assuming they have only done one task?

As I uttered these words again this week, I realized I had become lazy and was no longer using three basic steps that ensure effective recognition:

1.  Be Specific

Tell the people you want to recognize exactly what you are talking about.

2.  Be Timely

There is nothing worse that making the effort to praise someone for a job well done and suddenly realizing they finished that project weeks ago.

3.  Make it Personal

It can actually be a poignant moment when you look someone in the eye and tell them how important it was to you personally that they did such good work.  When you are sincere it shows in a very powerful way.

Who do you need to recognize today?  What have they done that has made a difference not only for your organization, but for you as a leader?  When you follow through, make sure you get the desired effect, and follow these basic steps.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Deeper Look at Half Full v Half Empty

We  go to great lengths to remain positive in most every situation, right?  That doesn't necessarily mean we pull it off, but by nature we intentionally try a positive approach on the first pass.  The classic challenge of whether or not the glass is half full or half empty is automatically a "half full" answer for us in leadership.  At least it should be. 

Terry Starbucker's recent post on appreciation eloquently speaks to the "half full" phenomenon, and how powerful appreciation can be when integrated into our leadership.  But is there something beyond the half full/half empty question that we've missed?


Taking a closer look at this question goes beyond whether or not there is any water in there, and speaks to whether or not we are happy with our "glass" at all.  Having a positive attitude is a great perspective to take as we travel through life; but if we truly are not happy, it will be extremely difficult to maintain a positive approach.  That can be downright lethal for us in leadership.

Does it really matter if there is any water in the glass anyway?


So now what?  Clearly the question is about life, not a silly metaphor for plastering a smile on our face during times of crisis.  In his June blog post, Dr. John Mandrola reflected on the power of a positive attitude and what it can mean not only in his work as a cardiologist, but for the patients he serves as well.  The task at hand is to first critically examine our own lives.  What's working, what's not, and most importantly what choices are we going to make to effect change?  This isn't easy for any of us, particularly me. 


How have you reconciled the half full/half empty question?  Are you satisfied with where you are on the life journey; or, is it time to reevaluate and develop a new plan for the coming year? 

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pics courtesy of and

Friday, November 19, 2010

Power Post - I'M GUILTY, ARE YOU?

I recently received a LinkedIn invitation from a colleague I have not worked with for more than ten years.  In her request, she thanked me for the help I provided with her issue.  That's right, her single issue from ten years ago.  Wow.  Her words stopped me dead in my tracks.  Initially I was flattered that I had made a difference in her professional life, albeit in a small way.  But as I considered her note more, I realized there have been many people along my journey that have helped me too.  Have I reached out to them lately to say thank you?  GUILTY!

How about you?  Have you taken the time to reach back one, five, or ten years to send someone a note to say thank you?  I know it's on my task list for today.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

3 Reasons To Forget About Employee Wellness

Every day we go to work and give of ourselves to help the employees in our organizations.  We wrack our brains to figure out how we can support them using a never-ending list of strategies:

- blood pressure screenings
- employee health programs
- healthy food choices in the cafeteria and vending machines
- employee assistance programs
- walking clubs
- inservice education
- oh yes, and designing meaningful benefit plans to support them and their families

In addition to these steps, we also provide countless hours of employee relations support on issues ranging from absenteeism to sexual harassment.  Quite honestly, HR can be exhausting!  However, the perils of not managing the stress that comes with our jobs can, as Linda Wasmer Andrews wrote, lead to burnout for HR professionals.


By our very nature, we are called to help others.  While there is certainly a range of perspectives on the role of an effective HR leader, the reality is we are here to support the employees of our organizations.  Our ability to execute on that expectation can be severely compromised if we do not take care of ourselves.  We may even feel guilty that we are doing something for ourselves v. constantly being on-call "just in case."  This is a treacherous path to follow however, since you are putting yourself at risk.  Who will do your job if you do not take care of yourself and you're out of work?


Stop.  Just stop with this, the mother-of-all-excuses!  Of course you have time to take care of yourself, you simply choose not to.  Plain and simple.  You don't do it.  So instead of excuses, start focusing on three key areas that will change your life, and quite honestly, your ability to perform better at work.

1.  Eat Well

This is not rocket science, but it does require commitment.  Leverage the passion you have for your job, and apply it to a renewed passion for your health.  It's not easy, nothing worthwhile is easy.

2.  Learn About and Manage Stress

You can not effectively cope with the stress in your life, if you do not understand why it's happening, what your personal triggers are, and how you can develop a realistic plan to move forward.  Invest the time to educate yourself, just like you do when a challenging issue presents itself in your work.

3.  Exercise

We all struggle with this issue.  Get over it.  There are no magic pills, there are no magic thigh machines, and there are no shortcuts to fitness. 

Start slow.  Do more.  Get healthy.  By the way, one of the greatest benefits of regular exercise is that you will feel terrific at work! 


Do you take any time to care for yourself; or, are have you elevated yourself to martyr status for the employees and do not have time?  Are you going to make an excuse as to why you can't start tonight after work; or is it another night on the couch with a bowl of ice cream?  It's your decision, but your employees and families are counting on you to make the right one.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.
pics courtesy of and

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


The term role model is usually positive and is defined as someone who can be emulated by others.  I think of the leaders in my personal and professional life who have shaped my development, and for whom I now attempt to emulate.  A lofty goal, but one I am comfortable striving to achieve.


I often use the term when referring to expectations I have of leaders in the organizations I've worked, of world leaders, and of myself as a Human Resources executive, father, and youth hockey coach.  But what about the role models that transcend our understanding of leadership?  How do we reconcile in our minds that some leaders go far beyond the quick wit and Type A personalities we may have, and lead in ways we can not fathom, let alone dare to emulate?


DB-Kopf-gerade.jpgMy father "introduced" me to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pictured on the left, when I was a child.  I had no way of comprehending the magnitude of his leadership, and sacrifice, until much later in life.  Now that I can better understand what it means to sacrifice, challenge, be accepting of others, to lead - I realize more than ever how ill-equipped I am to emulate him.

Quite honestly I hope I never have to wrestle with the choice he finally made.  Although safe in the United States, he returned to Nazi Germany, he took action, because that was the only way he knew how to lead.  His decision cost him his life when the Nazis murdered him.  Emulate Dietrich?  Impossible, right?


Some times when we are confronted with an example on an epic scale, such as Dietrich's, we dismiss our potential connection, and failings, before we even take the time to consider our options.  What possible options might we have?  Simple.  We can choose to take action even when we know it is going to be much more difficult than doing nothing.  Action.  It's a great word.  Have you ever heard anyone say, "I wish I hadn't tried to make a difference?"  Rarely, if ever.  It is always better to try and do the right thing.


No, weren't not.  It's not fair to us, or for that matter, to Dietrich.  He was an extraordinary man living in the most horrific of situations.  Most of us are working in environments that do not come close to the dangers he faced.  But we can still decide to make a difference.  We can still decide to take action.  We can still lead.


Who are the role models in your life?  Who is that special person that stands out above all others?  Who do you try to emulate?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Pic of Dietrich Bonhoeffer courtesy of

Monday, November 8, 2010

There's No "I" In Team, But There Is In "Fired"

I have been blessed over the years to work with some brilliant minds.  Leaders who are far more accomplished and insightful than I can ever wish to be.  As I’ve (hopefully) grown in my leadership style, I’ve become painfully aware that without those bright people around me, helping me, guiding me, and often times working for me, my success is in jeopardy.


Getting to this realization is a painful journey.  As leaders, don’t we feel powerful, and start to believe our own self-talk that “our way is the best way?”  After all, I’m the boss, right?  A risky perspective at best.  Why is it that over and over again I see leaders who fail to use the talents of the people around them?  It seems to me they are insecure.  Dr. John Maxwell effectively describes the risks of being an insecure leader and how that approach could be their downfall.


Far too often we see leaders that are allowed to stay on; or worse, a revolving door of employees who feel they don’t have a voice and walk out the door.  None of us can afford to lose good staff.  Ever.  More and more we see organizations breaking through the traditional barriers of complacency and holding leaders, even senior leaders accountable.  Isn’t that our job as HR professionals anyway?  Aren’t we supposed to drive the accountability agenda?

When we step-up and make bold moves to remove failing leaders, we send a powerful message to our colleagues, employees and customers that those behaviors are simply not acceptable.


How have you dealt with the leaders who believe they are the smartest person in the room?  Have you been able to support them through executive coaching, constructive feedback, or formal discipline?  Or, are they sitting in the office next to yours, wondering why your organization is full of imbeciles?

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Some of us have developed personal mantras that have a powerful, albeit private meaning.  These mantras can prove to be very useful in times of frustration, stress, or quite frankly, when we’re sick and tired of hearing another complaint.  Sometimes we can fall into a trap and get…well…LOUD.  That is easy for me to do.


I’ve always found it curious that effective interpersonal skills are often called soft skills.  Odd really, when you think about it.  For those of us that have been exposed to extremely difficult leaders who consider an abrasive leadership style a strength, soft is about the last word that comes to mind.  So, why when these moments are handled well does the term “soft” come in to play?


One of the things I find fascinating when emotions are running high is the apparent correlation between the level of stress in a person and the tone of their voice.  The more frantic they are, the higher the voice.  This is where the first half of my mantra comes in to play – LOW.  I need to maintain a low tone of voice.  That is hard for me to do.


A companion to the shrill that comes with emotionally charged exchanges is what appears to be a gene that triggers our rate of speech when we’re upset.  The more intense the encounter, the faster we speak.  As if getting our position out first means we win! Crazy, I know.  Enter the second half of my little mantra – SLOW.  I need to maintain a slow rate of speech.  If you speak slowly, you-control-the-pace-of-the-conversation.  That is hard for me to do too.


Sounds simple doesn’t it?  For me, it has been a life long struggle to maintain Low and Slow.  In these intense moments the hockey coach in me wants to come out; and, I allow myself on the inside to check the other person into the boards.  

But on the outside, it HAS to be Low and Slow. 



How do you get through those moments when you would prefer to commit a felony rather than work through the real issues on the table?  How do you keep yourself in check so you don’t lose the respect of those around you?  What is your mantra?

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Pics courtesy of and

Monday, November 1, 2010


I recently met a new colleague who is bright, successful, has strong credentials, and is in a high impact HR leadership role.  She is engaging and pleasant to interact with on a variety of issues.  Curiously enough, she is not interested in networking, joining any groups (virtual or otherwise) and basically does not want to connect with anyone unless required to do so in her job.

Can we actually choose to do that anymore? 


Perhaps the reason I found her approach so peculiar is that it is the exact opposite of my own.  Discovering the power of social media, connecting with amazing people from across the globe, and even starting my own blog has energized me in my HR practice.  How is it possible someone would choose to shut out the world when it has so much to offer?


As I’ve struggled with how to reconcile this in my mind, I thought back to the words Quint Studer spoke during one of his sessions I attended:

“Whenever I have an issue with someone, I first look in the mirror to understand how I am impacting the situation before I start blaming the other person for being wrong.”


Who am I to say her style is wrong?  Simply because the world offers so much for us both professionally and personally using social media does not mean it is right for everyone.  Am I judging her?  Ouch.


Starting my own blog has allowed me; no it has forced me, to re-evaluate my own leadership style.  What I originally thought would be brief articles for others, has quickly turned into a personal accountability exercise.  Quite frankly I’m shocked at how quickly that transition occurred (read -> immediately!).


Are you considering blogging?  Is it too scary to even consider; or, are you almost there and just need a nudge? NUDGE!  There are lots of resources, including Project Social with Victorio Milian and Ben Eubanks.  There are also many terrific blogs to read - check out my list of great links to help you get started.  If I gave it a try, certainly you can too, right?

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of