Thursday, November 29, 2012

When Glory Beckons

“I have learned that success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”
- Booker T. Washington

It's an interesting mental exercise one faces when they've achieved a certain level of success. How each of us defines success is different, but once we start believing we are successful, something happens to our outlook. We feel different. Hopefully that feeling doesn't translate into behavior that is considered arrogant or self-righteous. The trap of suddenly feeling entitled to one's success is a dangerous one indeed.

If we struggle to believe that birthright makes for a good leader in royal circles, how in the world can we believe that something as simple as a new job title brings with it some sort of instant all-knowing power? I don't buy it.

But I used to.

I used to be very good at convincing myself that I worked hard...I took risks...I was the one that made things happen. Not true. Sure, leadership requires someone to have a vision, and move towards achieving that vision. But the last time I checked, there has never been a successful leader who accomplished great things without a team of people.

Over the years the "success" I've been able to pull together has been largely due to the effort of the people around me.

Whether they were colleagues or those that reported to me, it truly is about the group of people I've worked with that removed the obstacles in my path. My pride however, often told me differently.

I now work hard to check my pride at the door.

How About You
When the glory of success beckons do you stand up triumphantly and soak in the praise? Or, is that a moment to look around you at the team that is holding you up with so much strength?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

photo credit

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Complacent or Competitive

My HR practice has changed dramatically over the last few years. In 2008 I thought I was hitting my stride. In a great job, felt like I knew my stuff, and was introducing strategies that were changing the culture of my organization. I was in the zone.

For a very short period of time.

Complacency Kills
For some reason I've been blessed, at least I would consider it a blessing, to be ultra-competitive. This tendency spills over to my work constantly. As the pressure began to mount on finding talent, very specific talent, I realized I was no longer competing at the level necessary to be successful.

Something had to change...and that something was me.

I was no longer pushing myself to learn new tools, or to try innovative recruitment strategies, or to embrace the "one brand" philosophy for the entire organization including recruitment advertising. (Sorry HR, you're not the advertising pros you think you are.)

New Territory
Not long after this somewhat humbling realization is when I began my social media journey. The signs were all around me that if I was going to be an effective human resources leader I needed to not only understand the tools, but I needed to use them. Are you with me? I had to use the tools myself.

Today my world is very different. My team now pushes me to deploy new tools as much as I push them. Our HR strategies are completely aligned with our Web and Marketing departments. But I'm still competitive as ever and am pushing myself to learn more.

How About You
What part of your career have you neglected? Have you convinced yourself that you're just too busy right now to try anything new? It's time to drop that excuse. There's so much happening and you're going to miss it if you keep chasing the same old routine.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

photo credit

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Social Cliff - #HealthcareHR

With so much chatter about the fiscal cliff dominating the conversation lately it started me thinking about healthcare leaders and the social cliff. Quite frankly, why have so few healthcare leaders, particularly those in human resources leadership roles, failed to add their voice to the social conversation? Here's the reality folks, there is no such thing as a social cliff, even if your gut instinct tells you so.

New Series
Today marks the first of an occasional series of posts on #HealthcareHR. I feel compelled to write on this subject for several reasons. First, I've been a healthcare leader in human resources for many years. Second, our industry is changing at such an unbelievable rate that we need to share our experiences, challenges, and successes. Third, as I mentioned in the opening, I can not find many HR executive voices in the healthcare industry that have taken the proverbial leap and are actively engaged in social media. This needs to change.

Our World is Different
Unless you've been living under a rock, the world of healthcare, and along with it effective human resources management, has changed dramatically in the last few years. The combination of healthcare reform and social media have revolutionized how human resources leaders must do their work. No longer can we rely on past practices or our dreaded comfort zones to get through the work day. So much change has created tremendous opportunities, yet for some reason HR has again stayed quiet. Why?

Inherent in the Role
I'm beginning to believe that the very nature of human resources work (maintain relationships, address compliance, promulgate policies, etc...) does not naturally lend itself to being a leader. That may sound harsh, but how many times does HR whine about not being respected? Too many.

In an era where 77,000,000 people are going to retire and need healthcare services, the industry as a whole is positioned extremely well. Imagine a built in customer base of that many people, and yet HR remains silent.

How About You
There isn't any magic to going social. The tools are simple, the risks are extremely low, and the network of people on the interwebs who are willing to help is endless. By the way, the end result can look something like this or this or this. Maybe it's time you finally got started.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

photo credit

Monday, November 26, 2012

Regrets, Not Doubts

I learned a lot of important rules about family, faith, and my country growing up. All three categories seemed to blend together into a core set of beliefs that made perfect sense back then, and still do today:

- be thankful for your freedom
- no one is better than anyone else
- work hard at school and later in your job
- help others in need when you can
- violence is never a first option
- treat everyone with respect
- learn from history

I don't think most people would disagree with these rules. However, I do not believe that the items on this list are embraced in the way they should be in a modern, educated world, let alone in the workplace.

Regret can be a powerful emotion. Usually it refers to the feeling that we should have acted in a certain way, but we chose not to do so. It doesn't mean we accidentally didn't act, it means we chose not to act and we feel badly about it later.

Let's refer to the list again and ask ourselves a few questions:

- Are we thankful for the many freedoms we enjoy, including the freedom to write about our differences without fear of reprisal or censorship?

- Have we judged ourselves to be better than someone else? Perhaps they are not the same color, or have a different sexual orientation, or practice a different religion? Do they still receive the same respect our white christian friends receive?

Regret is a powerful tool to help us improve as people. It also allows for a bright light to shine on the bigots and make their true feelings known as we examine our own choices, and the choices of those around us. You see, the narrow-minded and judgemental folks who claim to know "what's right" are usually the ones fanning the flames of exclusion, and inadvertently, hate.

That is wrong.

Doubt refers to a sense of uncertainty, and is associated with a delay in taking action due to concerns about whether or not something is the right thing to do at a particular moment in time. While regret teaches us about making the appropriate choices in life, doubt can be an enemy that blocks our courage to follow the rules from the list above.

While we all have regrets about not speaking up at various times in our lives to support the rights and freedoms of all people; there should never be any doubt about what must be done. It is incumbent on us as leaders both inside and outside our organizations to stand up for the freedoms of all people.

How About You
Do the people in your life know what you stand for? Do the employees in your organization know that you respect everyone in society? Simply put, it is impossible to be a bigot in your personal life and then talk about how every employee should be treated fairly at work. You're lying to your team, and to your self...and that is wrong.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

photo credit

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanks...For Nothing

I'm writing over at Performance I Create today. Check out my post on being thankful...or maybe not so today's workplace.

Let me know what you think about shared responsibility, entitlement, and being miserable on the job.

I'd love to hear form you.

No Excuses.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Leadership Failures...Not Me, Right?


That's how many results Google provided when I searched for the phrase "leadership failures." Wow, we must suck.

I'm Not Buying It
With all due respect, I have not given up on the notion of good leadership. Yes, we struggle. I'm at the head of that line. But I for one believe it's worth it to keep trying, not because I have to, but because I actually believe leadership is a noble role.

Now before your eyes roll into the back of your head, consider this: How many times have you complained about a decision a leader made in your company, or social club, or sports team? How many times have you felt that you could do a better job than someone else in a leadership role? Have you seen leaders lose their way because the pressure of the job was too much for them?

Leadership isn't easy. There is often so much criticism directed at these people that we miss what the impact is on them as human beings.

Leadership ages people. Don't believe me? Take a look at the before and after pictures of American Presidents. Sure, that's an extreme example, but the reality is leadership can wear people out.

Nowhere To Go But Up
If then, the pit is so deep, it seems to me we only have one option: start climbing. With all of the chatter about failing and whether or not it is in vogue to openly discuss it, I say who cares. People are going to fail, and that includes leaders. That includes me.

But the true champions will keep pushing forward and try to improve. Even if it means they have to check their ego at the door. I hate it when I have to do that...but I've gotten pretty good at it.

How About You
So why in the world do we stay in these positions? What could possibly be the draw that brings us back over and over again? Easy, we have the privilege to help others do incredible things in their work every day. Now that is something to be thankful for.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

photo credit #1  photo credit #2 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Head On Collision HR

Much is written about "good" leaders and "bad" leaders with myriad examples of both behaviors. I believe there continues to be a need for this discussion because there is far too little of the former, and sadly an excess of the latter.

I'm No Expert
One of the unique perspectives that human resources professionals have in their organizations is that we see 100% of the problems. (Or at least the ones that become big enough to have to deal with.) That doesn't mean we are experts in leadership; it does however give us an insider's view of woefully ineffective leadership styles. Over time we learn what works with employees and what doesn't.

"The challenge for HR leaders is how to coach and support other leaders in the organization when those leaders are convinced their approach is on target, when in fact they are failing in the eyes of their employees and they don't even know it."

But HR Knows A Lot
In the end I'm convinced any HR leader worth a damn is going to step up and have the hard conversations with other leaders in their organization. Not only is it the right thing to do, it's absolutely essential particularly when you have a strong connection with the other person. Work, and leadership, is driven by relationships not tasks. Tasks change all the time, but the strength of a good working relationship can power through any bumps along the road of work.

How About You
What action do you take when you see a leader struggling? Do you take a deep breath and dive in with both feet? Or, do you run scared and hope that a policy needs to be updated just at that very moment?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

photo credit

Monday, November 19, 2012

All Is Lost

"All is lost."


Could there be a more depressing phrase in all the world? I think not. It epitomizes the ultimate in defeatism. It's literally the realization that you no longer have choices and somehow are required to give up.

Well I think that' s a bunch of crap.

We've all had our fair share of challenging moments in life. Whether we were under tremendous pressure at work and made an untimely mistake. Or tried to balance too much at home and it all got to be too much to handle at that time. We've all at one time or another had the urge to use the phrase "all is lost."

But it wasn't, was it? Once you collected your thoughts, took a breath, and realized you had to keep marching, you identified your options and took one.

That's not crap, that's showing a level of maturity when under extreme pressure.

Better Than You Think
It's amazing to me that once I make a choice and start moving forward again I actually feel a surge of self-confidence. Suddenly I'm back in control, even if my task list at work seems to have gotten longer; and my Inbox seems to be growing by the minute. Somehow, and I'm not sure why, but I feel different.

How About You
Are you feeling a bit down lately? Does the world seem to be closing in? Hold fast! Don't fall victim to the "all is lost" message. Not only is it's a lie.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

photo credit

Friday, November 16, 2012

Get Up and Look

“People are always blaming circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get ahead in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”
~George Bernard Shaw~

Make it happen in your world today. It's worth the effort.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Losing Sucks

I'm a pretty competitive person. Check that, I'm an ultra-competitive person who loves to win. Second place is fine, for someone else. I want to be on the cutting edge...or at least try as hard as I can to get there. I compete in everything from sports, to ping pong, to battles with myself from workout to workout. I even love to compete in my work.

Wait a minute. At work?

I thought work was supposed to be about everyone being treated equally and feeling engaged, and basically having a giant love-fest with a group hug paycheck at the end of every two weeks. Right?

Wired to Win
From the time I was a small boy I was in an environment filled with sports, training, games, and lots of fun competition. I loved it, and it has clearly been passed down to my children. All of them play competitive sports, some at an extremely high level. We all work out, eat reasonably well, and love to compete. We're wired to win.

But does all of that brainwashing, er....mentoring, prepare us for the reality that in all aspects of life, work and sports included, we more often lose than win?

Corporate Culture and Engagement
It seems a bit odd to me that we try to focus on fairness and equality when the reality is that not all employees, or leaders for that matter, are even remotely their ability to perform. We can all quickly identify our top performers; those team members who can handle major projects, perform under pressure, and make good decisions. You didn't think of everyone in your organization when I mentioned top performers for a very simple reason. There's only a few of them. They are the ones who are winning at work

All employees and leaders are not top performers.

Train to Win
I, like many others, have struggled to get better at various aspects of my job. There are some parts I simply am not as strong at compared to others. The solution => work harder, just like working out at home to get stronger, so you can perform. It is the only way to move from the losing side to the winning side. Whining, complaining, and making excuses blows away your credibility. Train hard...and win.

How About You
Have you recognized that in order to lead effectively you'll need to do some serious introspection and identify your weak spots? Have you started training to make the improvements necessary so you can win; or, are you comfortable jumping into your comfort zone and smiling as you accept your third place trophy?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

photo credit #1  photo credit #2

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Furniture Obsession!

I spend a lot of time discussing human resources leadership, strategy, risks, social media, and accountability. This week, I have the distinct pleasure to participate in a large conference of marketing and web professionals from the healthcare industry.

It turns out we have a couple of things in common. Most of these similarities are very positive...things like the awareness that we need to leverage brand, integrate social media into every aspect of our work, and continue to push ourselves to connect with our customers in a meaningful way.

Unfortunately, we also have something else in common: the dreaded furniture obsession.

"Could we please, for once, stop talking about a seat at the table, and simply start leading as if we're already there?"

Get Over It
I've thought for a long time that HR was the only group that complained about this IKEA induced syndrome. Apparently our brothers and sisters in the web/marketing world are also consumed with furniture. Stop it. Everyone, just stop it. No Executive, and I mean not one, is interested in hearing that anyone deserves a seat at the fictitious table.

Instead, they want you to act like you belong there from day one. They don't have time to wait for you...we need to make it happen. Now.

How About You
What are you doing to ensure you don't sound like a worn out coffee table salesperson? The furniture argument doesn't play anymore. What works, are bold leaders who stay on the cutting edge of their profession and prove their value to the Executive teams in their organizations. I bet you won't find that on clearance this weekend.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

photo credit

Friday, November 9, 2012

Conflict and the Prediction Horizon

Conflict: "A state of disharmony between incompatible or antithetical persons, ideas, or interests; a clash"

Sound familiar? It does to me. In fact, any HR pro worth their salt has in some part built their career on this most powerful yet often misused human trait. Typically the term conflict gets a bad rap, as our definition above would suggest. There is another perspective on conflict however, and that speaks to how powerful conflict can be to affect change. Meaningful change, not the kind that finally has Lois in Accounting blowing her stack at Bill in I.T. and Lois ends up losing her job.

I'm talking about the power of conflict that results in something good. Many variables come into play when attempting to harness this of those is the concept of the prediction horizon.

Crystal Balls Are Real

Prediction Horizon:  "The time interval in which conflicts will be detected"

One of the challenges for those of us in leadership is that conflicts seem to come out of nowhere and suddenly we have a mess on our hands. In retrospect, there are often behavioral clues that, if considered more closely, might help us predict that a conflict is looming. No one can truly anticipate exactly when an issue is going to occur, but if we invest a small amount of time ensuring we understand the various dynamics around us, we'll more than likely be able to identify the negative conflicts before they explode.

Making Conflict Productive
The real power of conflict is that we can move to a state of change. I'm a huge fan of change, because if it's managed well you can move your team, your organization, and yourself forward. That's a pretty good combination!

So how does one avoid the "bad" conflict and reap the benefits of "good" change? Well, there are no easy answers, but I do know the first step to getting there.

Try something new.

I guarantee that standing still will ensure you are in the exact same spot for the foreseeable future. Don't be that leader. Try something. Understand your team so you can predict when trouble is going to strike so you can make the changes you're seeking turn out well. 

How About You
Have you taken the time to understand the strengths, tendencies, hot buttons, and styles of your people? Do you know what sensitivities are just below the surface with your colleagues? Being armed with this knowledge gives you a chance to set your own prediction horizon for the conflict that is sure to come. Are you ready?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

photo credit #1 photo credit #2

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Let's Connect...Here At Work

I've spent the last several years reaping the benefits of an expanding social network. Through channels like twitter, facebookLinkedin and foursquare I've met (both in real life and via these tools) many amazing people. My view of the world has changed, I have new colleagues and friends I can reach out to at anytime, and I continue to learn everyday. It is obvious to me that investing the time in my network has paid off over and over again.

But what about the people I see everyday? What about the new leaders in my organization? What about the projects that are just getting off the ground inside my organization? Have I reached out internally as much as I have externally?

Change Isn't Good...It's Awesome
My organization is moving at a fast pace. We're growing, both in the number of new jobs we continue to create, but also in the programs and initiatives we are launching. It seems as if there is a constant buzz of enthusiasm everywhere you turn. That's a good thing.

Having tunnel vision and missing all of this activity is not.

One of the roles of a human resources leader (or any leader for that matter) is to stay on top of these changes. I don't mean to be aware of the changes. That just involves listening at a meeting every once in a while.

I'm talking about actively seeking out your colleagues and getting yourself a regular appointment on their calendar. This way information can be shared, challenges can be discussed,  and you will automatically start building the internal connections necessary to understand and support their work.

"Human Resources must understand the business operations first, and then do good work to support those operations second. All too often HR pros believe their transactional forms and requirements are the core business...they couldn't be more wrong."

How About You
What have you done to reach out to your colleagues? Are you up to speed with their work...the work of your company? Or, are you too busy checking the latest regulation that will require a new policy and a great new triplicate form?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

photo credit

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Career Survival Is Not Mandatory

"This doesn't make any sense. I thought we were heading in a different direction. Now that I see what is really going on here, I'm going to have to double my efforts to get things moving forward in the way I know they should be. I know what we need to do...I just need to get everyone else on board with me. I'm sure I can do it."

I felt this way once...and I convinced myself that I was the one who knew exactly what the organization's priorities should be. Except I forgot one thing...I was a piece of the organization, I wasn't the whole thing.

Respect Where You Are
What I failed miserably to do back then was take a long hard look at myself before pointing the finger at the organization for not doing things the "right" way. I was so full of confidence, or hubris perhaps, that I failed to put in the time necessary to affect change.

I thought things were so messed up that the whole company was in a state of impossible dysfunction. I assumed nothing could be fixed, ever; and that since it was so dire there was no reason for me to stay.

Maybe I was wrong.

Respect Yes, But Also Keep It Real
The counterpoint to my self-reflection is that the organization I described above was lacking considerably from a failure of leadership. Some of that was my own failing, and some was the responsibility of the other members of management team. Communication was poor, a commitment to service and accountability was nonexistent, and just about every satisfaction metric was embarrassingly low.

That's not healthy fact that patient was dying.

Start Bailing...or Bail Out?
At the time I felt I had only one clear option => get the heck out! So I did. I moved on to a different organization and felt that I was lucky to get out of there with my career still in tact.

What I may have missed however, was the opportunity to make very slow but steady improvements to an organization that had unlimited potential for improvement.

In my haste to bail out, I may have missed the chance to start bailing and save a sinking cultural ship.

How About You
When you realize that the company you've joined isn't what you expected, do you quickly call that recruiter back? Or, do you take a breath, acknowledge that sometimes we have to be really creative to make even a little bit of progress, and try hanging around a while longer? The answer is obviously a personal one. For me, it might have been a battle worth joining.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

photo credit

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Ultimate Internal Transfer

One of the greatest things about the United States is going to happen tomorrow. We're going to go to the polls (if we haven't participated in early voting) and cast our ballot for President. There won't be any militias or secret police on hand...nor will there be any election observers from foreign countries...and the United Nations will not need to deploy a peace keeping force. None of that will be necessary because our leaders, and our nation, take the high road.

But this time around I don't think either party, or their supporters, represented themselves well.

I found myself this election season feeling disappointed not only in each candidate's ability to be honest and forthright about their plans for the future, and their failures from the past (no one is perfect, after all); but I came to lose respect for a still growing number of connections, friends and contacts who have chosen to rant and rave on various social channels about their candidate of choice.

The reality is our country had lost much respect around the world based on the previous administration's lust for war. Don't believe me? Have you seen any weapons of mass destruction since we bombed Iraq back into a third world country?

Another reality is that the promises and guarantees made during the last election have fallen woefully short, and it appears the current President has a "government-regulations-are-best-for-America" philosophy. That is clearly wrong.

So the alternative is someone who has made millions destroying American jobs in the private sector; and implemented universal healthcare as Governor in Massachusetts; both approaches that he now disavows. What?

Add to this mess the non-stop virtual screaming of folks from both sides who seem to believe the world is going to end if the other side wins.

Please people. If you could hear how hysterical you are you would be embarrassed.

Despite the inherited chaos, the failed promises of the President, the now-conservative even though he is at least a moderate at heart challenger, and the tumultuous and slow recovery, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else on the planet.

So beginning tomorrow when we go to the polls and freely vote, I hope that the people on both sides realize that no matter who wins, they still have had the freedom to rant, and raise money, put signs in their yards, and post messages on social media sites without fear of repercussion because they live here.

That freedom, that has cost so many American lives, is worth tolerating a whole lot of election season noise...and is just about the best internal transfer an HR guy like me can imagine.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

photo credit

Thursday, November 1, 2012

It's Essential

I'm at a hectic time in my work life. New initiatives are being introduced, a full year of transformational work in HR has resulted in an updated set of expectations, processes, and staff members. On top of it all are the never ending stream of challenges that are facing the healthcare industry in the United States. I'm not complaining, but I have had to learn which areas need my focused attention, and which ones can be put on hold.

I need to know what is essential.

Not Just A List
I've tried a variety of systems to keep myself organized over the years ranging from post it notes, to a franklin planner, a palm pilot, various apps and now my Outlook calendar and task list. I guess the e-versions of lists are most effective for me, but none of the lists tell me which items are essential.

I have to do that part.

The Same Page Is Important
So much of what I read about being organized is focused on the individual. My Inbox. My calendar. My projects. My goals. I fall into this trap all the time. What I'm learning is that nothing about being organized has to do with "my" stuff.

It's all about the organization and my colleagues. What my company defines as top priorities should become my priorities. It sounds obvious, but I sure don't hear anyone speak in these terms very often.

These are the essential  things I need to address.

How About You
What process do you use to ensure you're focused on what's essential in your life? Do you have your own personal master plan; or, have you integrated your organizations goals directly into how you manage your work life?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

photo credit