Monday, April 30, 2012

First Strike is Deadly

Have you ever said something, and just as those words were leaving your mouth, you knew you’d made a mistake? It’s not easy to take words back. In fact, it’s impossible. Since this issue could be applied in just about every facet of life, let’s focus specifically on the workplace.

You can’t take words back.

Watchers and Listeners
One of the biggest challenges to leadership is not so obvious. We (read here => “I”) often get so caught up in saying just the right words at just the right times to make sure I look like I’ve got it all together that I forget about the real impact on those around me. The teams of employees in our organizations are watching what we do, how we react, and whether we’re calm under pressure…or not.

People we influence pay very close attention, just as you and I do when we observe our supervisors. Do you see what’s happening here? You and I are no different than all of the other employees who walk in the front door of the building each day. Did you think we were special? Really?

Think First (this part may be hard)
One of the techniques that has helped me innumerable times is the one second rule. Simply put, I try (usually unsuccessfully) to give myself one second to either affirm what I am about to say; or, to make that all important change to what is about to come out of my mouth.

You can’t take words back.

How About You
In today’s fast paced world of instant communication, how do you ensure that you’re saying what you want to say versus saying what first pops into your mind? I could sure use your help.

I’d love to hear from you .

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of flamingtext

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Under Construction

How often do you examine your own leadership style? For me, it's not nearly enough. I try to involve the talented people around me in the decisions that need to be made; I reach out to experts outside my industry for help; and have even asked for very specific feedback from my team of direct reports. Once.

Tools, Tools and More Tools
Whether you use formal tools (coaching, training, 360, etc...); or focus on building relationships with your team and creating an environment where you can have relatively open and honest dialogue, it is up to those of us in leadership to take the first step. An important point here is not to get caught up in analyzing every option available for so long that you never actually get to the work that needs to be done. This is commonly referred to as analysis paralysis, and if affects leaders on just about every topic, particularly when critically evaluating their own style.

Get To Work
We regularly (read here => everyday) expect our employees to work hard, stay focused, improve over time, and make big contributions based on our guidance and leadership. But when do the leaders practice what they preach? Are we so all-knowing that we don't need to make sure we're evaluating our own performance and skills? Have we actually convinced ourselves that we've figured it all out and we just need a team of people to follow our lead?

Really? Good God I hope that is not the case for me.

How About You
How do keep working on your leadership style? Do you create an environment that is open to feedback; or, have you tested that path and heard exactly what you wanted to hear so there's no need to keep learning?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of artsysf

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Thing That Should Not Be

Butterflies. Sweaty palms. Feeling lightheaded. No, you're not in love. You're about to have your annual performance review.

Same Old Complaint?
Much has been written about the lament both managers and employees feel about this process, and quite frankly I don't want to repeat that tired message. For me the issue is really about trust. Effective leadership is not based on one meeting a year that either includes a "surprise" about performance; or, simply ignores the obvious problems with the employee's impact on the organization. Both issues are leadership failures. Period.

But What About the Form?
We love forms in HR, right? (gag) Oh, and we love check boxes on those forms too. (gag) What we really love are regular (read here => NOT ANNUAL) opportunities to discuss performance with employees. It is within those meetings that the trusting relationship between manager and employee can begin to develop and grow. No forms required.

Going A Step Further
If we're really going to get serious about talent, both finding it and retaining it, it seems to me we need much deeper relationships within our organizations than what an annual check box party can accommodate. Asking about why employees stay, and what challenges make them consider leaving get to the heart of the matter. Just as in the other parts of our lives, when we do something over and over we become more confident. Imagine what it would be like if every leader met regularly with their team members?

No more butterflies, sweaty palms or feeling lightheaded.

How About You
What process do you use to build trust with your team? Do you put all your eggs in the Cro-Magnon Man era annual review; or, do you actually connect with your team throughout the year?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of flamingtext

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


I love the idea of role models. People to look up to, admire, emulate. Many of us have them whether we realize it or not: family members, athletesworld leadersthose that stood up for humanity in the face of list could go on and on. It occurred to me that now that I've hit a certain point in my life both personally and professionally, I may be in the line of sight for someone as their role model.

That feels like a bigger responsibility than I expected.

I Didn't Sign Up For This
I've heard many "famous" people say they don't want to be a role model. They just want to live their life the way they want to, and not be bothered with the impact of their actions on others, particularly younger people paying close attention. 

The same may be true for those of us in leadership. Maybe we would prefer to simply focus on our task list and not worry about the impact of our words and actions in the workplace, particularly on those employees around us who are paying close attention.

But leadership doesn't work that way.

Leadership is a Privilege
One of the things my role models taught me is that I did not inherit my role. I was not born into a position of status in my organization that automatically bestows some sort of magical power. I have to remember that the people around me are expecting me to deliver for them, not the other way around. If I do my job it will be much easier for them to do theirs.

How About You
Who are the role models in your life? More importantly, what have you learned from them that now has others naming you as one of their role models?  I hope someday I end up on a list like that too.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, April 23, 2012

What Are You Going To Do?

I'm busy too...not enough hours in the day...big to-do list...blah, blah, blah.

Decide what you're going to do with your time.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Altar of Sacrifice

Human Resources pros are often put in an awkward position. When we're truly committed to making our organizations better, to supporting the people on the front-line more effectively, and are willing to make hard decisions to make work better, we can find ourselves in a tight spot. The issue has to do with making sure the right leaders are on board. I see a regular stream of writing about the search for talent, but much of that is focused on sourcing and managing staff level positions. I'm not talking about those hires...I'm talking about making sure the leadership team can actually create an environment where those staff people will feel good about working for your company.

That's not easy.

I Like HR Because I Can Help People
Really? If you want to focus all of your time on helping people you need to volunteer somewhere. HR is a key driver of business results, and making sure the employees (read here => the reason every organization is successful) are respected and supported with good leadership is essential. The challenge looms larger when HR becomes aware of a leader who simply can not handle their role any longer. It doesn't mean that leader is a bad person, but it does mean they are not doing what the organization (read here => the employees they are supposed to be leading) requires that they do.

Now for the Hard Part
What does the committed HR pro do when faced with this knowledge? Let's assume you've already taken the appropriate steps and provided both feedback and an opportunity to improve. Now what?

You move them out of your organization, that's what.

If your colleagues don't agree, push harder. We are asked to report on all sorts of impossible to control issues such as: turnover, employee morale, and engagement. It is actually embarrassing to some degree that other leaders still try to wash their hands of any responsibility for these issues and punt them over to HR, but it still happens. I get it. 

If we're held accountable for issues at the unit or department level, then we have a professional obligation to push for ineffective leaders to be moved out of the organization as quickly as possible. Don't our employees deserve good leadership?

How About You
Do you know which leaders in your organization have lost their ability to lead? Could you produce a list right now of two or three that you know shouldn't be interacting with your staff? Let me ask you this...what are you going to do about it?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of dickstaub

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Relationships and Going Social

This is another post in the NoFearHR project between Mike Vandervort and myself.


I think we've done a good job thus far in differentiating how the initial approach to social media can take place in different size organizations and departments. The work you've done at  your company is nothing short of phenomenal. I can only imagine having that much success with our initiatives.

The eight steps you outlined in your last post clearly lay out a macro-level view of the steps necessary to get the buy in at the top before a social media initiative kicks off. Today I'd like to go a little deeper and discuss the internal behind-the-scenes reality of even beginning to discuss the steps you laid out. How does the HR practitioner begin the conversation about the value of social media to an executive team that still uses the term twittering?

I believe one of the most important land mines that must be avoided is to not inadvertently insult the senior leaders simply because they are not current with these tools. Executives have achieved their level of success because they have pushed the envelope, taken risks, and tried new approaches to move their organizations forward.

However, social media is so new, many of them simply have not had time to educate themselves about the new opportunity this represents. You've identifed education as an important first step, so obviously charging ahead with that group and simply implying that they are so far behind could backfire very quickly.

What do you think Mike? I'm so focused on the power of relationships in the workplace, that I think this piece needs some discussion before we take implementation any further.

pic courtesy of greenhostit

Monday, April 16, 2012

First World Problems

"No free Wi-Fi here?"
"I was stuck in traffic, but at least I had satellite radio."
"What do you mean my smart phone froze up?"
"The grocery store was really busy...what a hassle."
"We're meeting in the new state-of-the-art building on campus."
"I wish we could find some good people for these jobs."

Wait A Minute
I think I may be losing touch. No, I'm not wandering around the office hearing voices. But I am wondering if I'm not seeing everything around me. Sure, I strap on my corporate blinders and charge on ahead through my day, juggling my priorities as I run from meeting to meeting using my iPhone and jumping on my pc when I'm in my office.

What am I not seeing as I race through my day? Is there someone who needs a few moments of my time? Maybe that person is an employee in need? Maybe that person doesn't work for my company, but because I never look beyond the four walls of my office regularly enough I've missed seeing them.

Maybe I've missed seeing them.

Good Corporate Citizen? Really?
My organization does a tremendous amount of good in the community. I'm not talking about that corporate citizen. I'm taking about the human citizen. Me. What is it that I'm doing to reach out and connect to those either inside or outside my organization to lend a helping hand? Regardless of what I might put on the list, the real question is whether or not it's enough?

Many times we default to the circle we live in: neighborhoods, colleagues, friends with similar jobs and kids and neighborhoods. When do we take a time-out and decide to look in unfamiliar places? Isn't that choice part of leadership too? If we're in the business of providing Human Resources leadership, perhaps we should reach out to other humans in addition to the ones we're paid to provide support?

“We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee. ” Marian Wright Edelman

How About You
Does your day start and end with your flashy car, the latest iPhone, and a power suit? That's okay if it does. The issue is what you do in between your morning commute and last look at your email at night. Does it include reaching out to embrace the diversity around you; or, do you need to check the release date of the newest gadget instead?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of telegraph

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Socially Unacceptable

Social media is a powerful tool. It is changing how we communicate with each other; it is changing how business gets done; and it is changing how repressed nations become free. In the final analysis social media is a force that can not, and should not be stopped.  However, with so much freedom and access comes a great degree of responsibility.

"Personal" Business
Blending social tools in our ever connecting world is common practice. I personally connect with friends and colleagues alike on multiple platforms. It has become a productive and useful way to do much more than keep in touch. It allows for a level of networking, dialogue and problem-solving that was once only reserved for conferences or an occasional phone call.

"The challenge is when the casual nature of online connections appear too friendly or are perceived to cross a professional line."

The real issue is whether or not those interactions should occur at all. Sometimes going social is just "too social."

"Business" Business
In business, and in my slice of the operation in Human Resources, social media is completely integrated into our daily practice. From our facebook page to our soon-to-be-launched talent community initiative, to our coordinated work with our Marketing team, social is a core component in my world of work.

Beyond HR though, the need for social media guidelines or (groan) a policy, allows both the organization to protect itself while still providing the necessary guidance for the employees to use the tools appropriately. Guidance is one wants to stumble unnecessarily.

How About You
Have you struggled to avoid crossing the proverbial line as you've leveraged the power of social media in your life? You don't have to answer out loud, I just want to make sure I'm not the only one sitting around with his tail between his legs.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courteys of billprettyman

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I'm Dropping My Gloves

I don't speak for HR, and neither should you.

Since when am I responsible for ALL of HR?
-         the bashing
-         defending the profession
-         whining that we're not at the table; or we don't deserve to be there
-         it's all noise, noise, noise

Last I checked I’m responsible for my HR team, not the slacker down the highway who still lives in the stone age and is so risk averse they don't get any respect (nor do they deserve it.)

Lots has been written about how ineffective HR is, and how CEOs and CFOs have lost confidence in the profession. Really? HR is the problem in Corporate America? Are you kidding me?! Are we responsible for the retention of employees that don't report to us? Do we create the daily culture that drives employee engagement? Do we make every decision that affects the employment experience? Do we have the ability to manipulate earnings statements or broker major deals independently of the other Executive team members? I think not.

I’ve seen plenty of Executives in other disciplines who failed miserably, but their profession is not under attack. Did the VP of HR at Enron bring down that company? No.

I am proud to be a member of the HR community, and if old school leaders who feel threatened by HR’s growing impact are going to pick a fight, I say Bring It. I’m dropping the gloves right now.

Oh, and by the way…the next time the you-know-what hits the fan...give another department a call. I'm sure they'll be very comfortable working through your employee relations problems and the litigation that will surely follow.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of necn

Friday, April 6, 2012

Don't Be Fooled

I hate looking foolish. No, that's not strong enough...I loathe looking foolish. The reason I know this is that I've done it so many times, I've come to understand just how much it bothers me.
How Are You Being Fooled?
Have you convinced yourself you've figured it all out? Or that you're making the right choices? Or you believe without you the organization will fail? Of perhaps you've convinced yourself that there is a special leader at the center of the universe named "you?"

What do you think the people around you (and me) are thinking when we behave this way? Does our credibility rocket skyward; or; have we compromised the trust we believe (read here => convinced ourselves) we have with our people?

Its A New Day
If we're thinking in terms of teams, integrating ideas, difference, conflict, good data, and making a difference in our organizations and communities we're on the right track. So how do we move from a self-absorbed focus to one that actually provides some leadership?

One step at a time, that's how. Changing styles (and I don't mean personalities...they never change) is a slow process. Find a mentor, even if you're a "seasoned" professional, and accept their feedback. Critically examine your impact on the workplace through open lines of communication. Look for criticism. Yes, that's right...look for it. You may have had a bunch of bobble-head yes-men around you for its time to get real....if you have the courage to try.

How About You
Are you willing to step up and get out of your employee's way? Its a difficult choice, but so far I haven't met anyone, including myself, who likes playing the fool.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of svprojectmanagement

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lose the Fear and Get to Work

This is another post in the #NoFearHR project Mike VanDervort and I have kicked off.


I like the way you're moving this conversation...and you're absolutely right. If HR still isn't on board with social media it's their fault. The proverbial train has left the station.

Now onto putting social to work in business. As you mentioned, we are integrating social media into everything we do here, and it is much more than a facebook page. But before we went running off "launching a strategy" I needed to get the team on board.

A Clean Slate
So you're wondering what I would do if I could start all over again? Great question. While we've come a very long way in our understanding, and enthusiasm for the possibilities that social offers, it really wasn't about the "plan" that was most important. Looking back now the most important move involved two parts:

1 - Introducing social tools one-by-one to the team at a pace that was comfortable

2- Requiring them to use the tools

For me, having a social media strategy that no one on the front line believes in doesn't make much sense. Without the commitment of the people around me in HR, our journey into social media would never have made it to tweet #1 (let alone #12,000.)

But What About the C-Suite
What about them? Mike, you and I both know that using social tools is simply good HR practice. I'm not so sure there needs to be a committee that sits around for a year trying to decide if launching a social strategy in HR makes sense or not. On this one I think we need to ask for forgiveness, not permission.

So starting over for me would be making sure the Marketing team and Human Resources team were all on the same page. 

If Marketing doesn't get it...well, that's a whole other problem.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Degrees of Reality

I think sharing information is the right thing to do. You probably do too. Maintaining a transparent environment is often a precursor to a workplace that actually values trust.

Values trust.

What About Timing?
So what happens when there is news to share; or a plan needs to be rolled out; or there is the possibility that something new is on the corporate horizon? Should everything be pushed out as quickly as possible, all in the name of affirming there is no hidden agenda?

Absolutely not. While our teams want information as quickly as possible, they want accurate information even more.

Accurate information = Trust.

Be Honest
That's right, you need to be honest with people. Forget the spin cycle, the editorial scrubbing and the wordsmithing. Sometimes you just need to share what's happening when it's time to share it. I've seen too many leaders shoot their mouth off with misinformation that requires far too much damage control and rework later. Being honest with people is essential; pumping people full of "corporate-spin" is a recipe for disaster.

How About You
Do you follow the model of sharing as much accurate information as you can as quickly as you can? How do you ensure that happens? Or, do you prefer to hoard the information and only share the story one degree of reality at a time?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pic courtesy of millionairebusinessschool