Wednesday, January 30, 2013

All the Lies...That You Tell

I've been thinking and writing about communication lately...why it's important, how it should be done, and how it overshadows many other organizational challenges that may initially be perceived as "the real problem." To that end, a big part of communication is accuracy.

That means I shouldn't be worrying about getting played, hearing a version of the story that the other person wants me to hear, or simply being fed the wrong information. (I call that last one lying.)

Intent v Self-Preservation
Before we get too far down the trail let me say that the overwhelming majority of people do not intentionally lie in the workplace. They come to work, put forth a lot of energy doing good work, and then head home after a busy day or night. However, the challenges are more pronounced during periods of rapid change. Old routines are disrupted, expectations are evolving, and the self-confidence that once fueled the work day is not quite so strong.

This leads to a focus on self-preservation, not on effective communication.

Break Through
So how does an organization break through the feeling of a chaotic work life and establish a new sense of stability? The answer is our old friend communication. When the pace transitions from a state of business-as-usual to a perceived state of chaos, it's time to pull the team together and talk.

Maybe it's the need to simply validate that it is a chaotic time, and you and the leadership team are going to have a bit of a bumpy ride for a while.

Perhaps it means that an update is necessary to ensure each person is current on the new initiatives that are underway.

Or maybe it's time to have a strategic planning session to help the leaders understand their roles and expectations going forward.

Whatever you feel is ultimately necessary, no one on the team will fault you for pausing momentarily to bring the team together and get everyone grounded again.

How About You
What steps are you taking to provide calm leadership during a stormy time? Regardless of how you feel about the changes going on, it's imperative that HR step up and help the organization's leaders settle down, so the real work can get done.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Symphony of Destruction

The following rant is brought to you

Time for a moment of self-disclosure: I love all things iPhone, iPad and using e-tools to get my work done. Integrating multiple email accounts and calendars along with note-taking apps to eliminate the almighty pen and paper make me absolutely giddy.

Sad, I know.

Alarm Clocks In Meetings
Although I love my tech toys, you will never, ever, ever hear them in the workplace. Why? Because I'm at work! However, it seems that many (read here -> all of humanity) believes that setting an alarm for every little task, meeting and incoming and outgoing email is somehow respectful.

Really? Are you kidding me?

"If I bring my alarm clock to a meeting and have it go off 15 minutes before my next meeting would that be okay?"

How About You
Are you so excited about your new fangled gadget that you just love the little sounds it makes? Do you also get annoyed when people talk during meetings off to the side because that is disruptive and rude? Really? Time for a reality check folks.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Thursday, January 24, 2013

This Is Confidential, Right?

It's a classic challenge faced by human resources practitioners around the world and in every organization. An employee reaches out to express a concern, share an observation, or in more extreme situations report unethical or illegal behavior. But just before they are ready to share their story they ask the question....

"This is confidential, right?"

One of the key points in this situation is that you should feel good that this conversation is taking place at all. For those human resources professionals that are never faced with this perceived dilemma of confidentiality you should beware.

Is there a problem with the corporate culture that has the employees afraid to step forward? Has the HR team inadvertently given off the impression that coming to them will not make a difference?

"The fact that an upset employee is willing to risk how they are perceived by coming to HR is a major vote of confidence that should not be taken lightly."

HR's Responsibility
Now what? The initial answer is "it depends." A skilled human resources pro will be able to use questions to gain a full understanding of the dynamics in each unique situation. Once the fact pattern is clear, the confidentiality question can be addressed.

How About You
Ultimately the answer is no, it's not confidential. The information has been shared and now you have to do something with it. Your skills and experience will dictate your next steps, and should help drive the necessary changes. How do you answer the confidentiality question?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

"Mission" Divided by "Poor Communication" = No Results!

One of the advantages of working in a complex healthcare organization is that most of the time our mission is the glue that keeps us together. It's not that we all agree on every decision (God forbid!); but it does mean that when we run into problems the culprit is usually not that we aren't all working toward the same goal.

The culprit is ineffective communication.

The Mission Is Real
When my colleagues ask me about what it's like to work in such an intense environment the first thing I typically answer is that our mission to serve children is palpable.

Sadly in many organizations the mission statement is simply a collection of words inside a frame on the wall. In most healthcare organizations that is not the case. The mission is real and literally ->  drives decisions ranging from allocating resources to programs that lose money because it is the right thing to do; all the way to not implementing profitable programs that would run counter to the core values of the institution.

That my friends is living the mission.

Communication Is Essential
What clearly stands in the way of the results necessary is our old nemesis communication. It seems odd to me that despite living in a time when it has never been easier to communicate we continue to struggle.

How can this be?

I have embraced social tools to help me communicate more broadly than I ever anticipated that I could, including this blog for more than two years. But communicating on a massive scale is not the only type of effective communication you and I are expected to provide. Good leaders connect with their people, and while I feel very strongly about are not a member of my team, and they deserve more than a blog post from me.

Your team members deserve more too.

Lots of Choices - Use Them
Intentional: Be purposeful about what you say, when you say it, and to whom you are saying it.

Multi-faceted: Do not rely on one form of communication and expect it to get your message out to everyone who needs to hear it. Take advantage of several channels to ensure you've done your very best to connect with your audience, whether that group is only a few dozen or a few thousand people.

Consistent: Stay focused on your message. So what if you're tired of saying the same thing repeatedly? Most of your audience will hear your message once, so the moment they are hearing you give that message may be the tenth for you. Get over it, it's about them not you (except for the part that you want results from them which is why you're going through this process in the first place!)
How About You
Are you wrestling with the odd challenge of having a committed and engaged team that just doesn't seem to be working effectively together? It's probably not your may be the communication. Take some time to objectively evaluate how you are messaging to and with them. Is it working?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Shut Up, I'm Not Being Defensive

The role of the HR leader is an odd one. We're expected to be there for employees, and also understand the industries we're in so we can make effective decisions at an institutional level. We are sometimes expected to stay out of the way while the Operations folks take charge; that is until the Operations folks mess things up and we are expected to "get in there" and get everything back on track.

To be perfectly honest I don't think there is another role quite like that of the HR practitioner.

The Blame Game
One of the core competences of the HR team is to recruit viable candidates for the organization. It's an exciting part of the job, and with the crush of so many social channels available, it can be an incredibly creative part as well.

Except when recruitment isn't going so well...then we suck. Or at least we're sometimes made to feel that way, even when we know we're putting all our efforts into the search process. We often need a hiring manager who understands the dynamics of an odd labor market and can actually make a hiring decision. It's really nice when that happens.

So in that moment when you're receiving "feedback" (read here -> HR is being told how ineffective they've been and all you need to do is listen to the completely inexperienced non-HR leaders and all will be right with the world) how do you react?

Are you angry? Is frustration creeping in? Are you laughing when you hear the most ridiculous suggestions and you realize they are serious? Earlier in my career I did each one of these things.

That wasn't good.

It's Work, It's Not You
Nowadays I try to take a very different approach. Instead of falling into the trap of an emotional reaction (good or bad) I try to simply listen. Sometimes the hiring managers have valuable insights about the search process, and other times they come off as being very inexperienced because they are inexperienced.

Just because I have been in healthcare for a long time doesn't mean I can provide clinical care. The same holds true for the well intended but off-base hiring manager. They too have worked in healthcare for a long time, but they have not been responsible for the full cycle of sourcing, advertising, and recruiting candidates.

That's okay...they are supposed to be taking care of patients, not worrying about HR. That's my job!

How About You
How do engage your hiring managers? Is it a partnership where each person respects the other's professional experience and role in the organization? Or, are you constantly finding yourself ready to argue about the latest criticism combined with a ridiculous recruitment idea that "clearly no one in HR had ever considered before?"

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Bigger PIC-ture: Stepping Outside the Circle

I'm writing over at Performance I Create today about how fired up I am to be part of an amazing blogging team.

What gets you fired up?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

High Reliability Leaders

There are several industries that are known for their reliability. They provide a level of consistency that we take for granted.

When you use your ATM card do you get consistent and accurate service? Of course you do, because the banking industry has committed to doing it right every time.

How many of you were on a flight last year? The reason you're reading this is because the commercial airline industry provides a level of safety and performance that demonstrates their commitment to doing it right every time.

Lastly, for those of us that flip light switches on and off all day we've come to expect our energy to be there when we need it. The nuclear power industry provides a massive amount of energy, and they do it safely and consistently.

All three share one thing in common: a total commitment to performing as high reliability industries.

But people are not industries, are they?

As an HR practitioner I've spent countless hours over the years working with leaders who struggle with their own leadership style. What makes their performance different from the high reliability industries listed above? I'm sure they would say they are committed to doing well. I'm sure they want to be effective, right?

What's different?

One of the most frustrating aspects of my work is when I am that inconsistent leader we all try so hard to avoid. My colleagues, my team members, and the employees in my organization rely on me to provide a level of service and professionalism every day. Am I committed? Yes. Do I want to be effective in my work? You're damn right I do.

What's different with me?

I bet you feel like you do a pretty good job. I'm guessing you do perform at a high level most of the time too. But if we're going to be honest with each other, you probably aren't at the top of your game all of the time, right? But you're committed and give so much of yourself to your work....but....

What's different with you?

How About You
Perhaps the answer isn't necessarily about commitment, but rather committing differently? Maybe focusing on trust, constant improvement and reporting our results (good or bad) will help us achieve the lofty status of being a high reliability leader. What do you think would make the difference?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

photo credit  photo credit

Monday, January 14, 2013

Transformation - Saying It Is the Easy Part

I've been doing a lot of thinking about transformational leadership and what role Human Resources should play when an organization is committed to undergoing change in a meaningful way.

Is HR there to pick up the pieces as leaders begin to quiver and shake at the slightest hint of a required change?

Does HR move through the process along with the others who are impacted by new expectations, new goals, and ultimately a new and more effective corporate culture?

Or do we take the lead and actually drive the change necessary in spite of the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth?

Answer = yes, yes, and yes.

Transformation is a Team Sport
Last time I checked, HR is not only (supposed to be) a driver of change, but is also an active and engaged part of every organization. So whether or not we are making change happen or feel swept up in it, we are going to experience a range of emotions. The bottom line is that we have an opportunity to make an impact.

Let me say that again.

HR has an opportunity to make an impact. How many leaders do you know that can honestly say that? I'm talking about an impact on the institution, not just a process change here or a staffing change there.

"Institutional change. That's big, and we should be sprinting toward these opportunities, not scrambling to look up some inane policy or call 1-800-HR-IS-LAME to try to avoid delivering on our company's needs. It's our time."

When we're asked to drive change, we need to realize that we're not being asked to come up with a solution. Instead, we're being relied upon to leverage our internal networks, the trust we've developed with our colleagues, and our ability to push through without taking things personally. We need to help the whole team discover their strengths, weaknesses, and the long list of challenges we all have to deal with that don't fall neatly in to "good" and "bad" buckets.

Where to Begin?
Transformation can impact many areas: processes, technology, work product, delivery of services, and the list goes on. The reality is that transformation starts and ends with people.  Engaging those impacted by a vision, a new expectation, a new goal, whatever it may be; it is the people that will ultimately drive the results of the change effort.

Start with the people. The rest will flow once the team is on board.

How About You
What changes are you involved with? Are they on the level of transformational change? If so, what are you doing to connect with your networks to ensure that your time, energy, and ultimately your organization's efforts are not wasted?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thoughts Without Words

2013 has started like an NHL playoff game: non-stop action, very high stakes and a huge amount of energy being expended. Quite honestly I wouldn't have it any other way.

I have one of the most exciting years ahead of me professionally, but not because I feel like everything is going smoothly and I can sit back and bask in the glow of success. No, that is not the case this year (or any year for that matter.) Although 2012 was very productive, and looking back will be considered a year that my team and I build the foundation to take our HR organization to a whole new level, the coming year represents a new set of challenges.

Looking Outside
2012 was a year that transformed the culture inside our HR organization. Roles changed, people changed, strategies changed, perspectives changed, resources were allocated differently, and we came out with a list of initiatives that represent the future of what effective healthcare human resources work should look like. That was on the inside.

Now we have to step up and take that same mindset and push it outside the safety, comfort and familiarity of HR and spread it to other parts of our company. That is not something that human resources teams typically do (although they talk about it way too much.) So we're gearing up to do something bigger and better, and we need to do much more than just think about it without saying anything.

We need to start inserting ourselves into areas that create discomfort, that challenge leaders, and push ourselves to a whole new level of performance. It's time to put our money where our mouth is.

How About You
Are you stepping up this year? Do you have big plans that you've been thinking about but you haven't articulated to anyone? Why not? It's time to move beyond just thoughts, and put your words into action.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Monday, January 7, 2013

Your Absolute Best - #HealthcareHR

One the things I find fascinating about working in the healthcare industry is the significant disconnect between the high quality of care provided to patients, while simultaneously seeing the staff take very poor care of their own health. Little or no exercise, bad nutritional choices (you can't hide your "comfort food decisions") combined with a stressful workplace are...ahem... a recipe for disaster.

This isn't another post about the importance of eating well and exercising because they are both good for you. In fact, I need your help to understand a strange phenomenon:

"Why do we commit ourselves so completely to our work and then bail out on our best opportunity to have the energy to actually be our best on the job?"

The word diet has such a negative connotation I stopped using it 15 years ago. Simply stated, healthy food give you energy, makes you strong, and allows your brain to actually function. The key is to avoid making drastic changes all at once.

"Start slow, adjust, and by all means stop rewarding yourself with food - you are not a dog"

Exercising is one of the hardest transitions for most people. Why? Expectations of course, plus far too many people are horribly out of shape. Limit your expectations so you don't feel like a failure before you even get started. Your body needs time to adjust...give it time! This process is not a competition, so don't put pressure on yourself to suddenly get to some fictitious end point. There isn't one. Just as our work continues, so does our need to move a little each day.

One of the most effective ways to maintain your training routine is to connect with others. It is much easier if you have a friend or coworker who is also exercising. Keep in mind they do not need to be just need to connect with them!

Mental Health
Regardless of which role you play in the healthcare space you will undoubtedly feel stress in your work. Beyond the "normal" challenges of shrinking reimbursements, sourcing the right talent and managing a very diverse workforce comes something that separates us from just about everyone else.

In an industry where some of our customers are so sick or injured that they pass away, we can not afford to live by the tired old excuses of having no time or energy to take care of ourselves because we're too busy taking care of others. Not only is that lame, it has never been true.

How About You
No it's not easy, and no you're not going to enjoy it everyday. So what? If you put half the effort into yourself that you do for your company you'll be amazed at what you'll accomplish on the job. Don't your colleagues, your patients, and your team members deserve your absolute best?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Culture Chase

The new year is upon us, and it seems there is a palpable tension in the air. So many plans, goals, strategies, and pressures to make changes and be successful. One of the most challenging change initiatives has to do with culture. Wanting an organization's culture to change, and the expectations around that process are complicated and often require longer than our modern attention spans are programmed to accept.

Organizational Expectations
As with any other major corporate initiative, outlining the end point is essential when embarking on such a significant project. Is it customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, better margins, reduced turnover, more efficient processes, cost savings, or a host of other topics that is the end game? Maybe it's just that everyone is going to work more effectively together and feel comfortable taking risks? Have you defined what a successful culture change looks like?

What exactly are you chasing?

Individual Expectations
Once the general outline of success has been mapped out, it is important that key members of the team understand their roles. This may sound obvious, but the desire for change, and the pressure team members feel to perform without the proper guidance can quickly slow down the change initiative, and may have top performers feeling like they can not contribute as effectively as they might.

What exactly should they be chasing?

Once the organization understands the end point, and the leaders understand their roles, it is time to get moving. A critical part of the execution is accountability. For those that are committing themselves to the behaviors necessary there should be frequent and positive feedback. The members of the team, particularly in leadership roles that say they are committed but behave differently behind the scenes must be held accountable. Avoiding confrontation with key leaders only serves to undermine the entire effort and will ultimately doom all that hard work to failure.

How About You
What big changes are in store for you this year? Is a culture change initiative something your organization is launching? If so, how have you helped your senior leadership team prepare for, and sustain, such a major endeavor?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

3 steps for HR to achieve success in 2013

123What are the areas HR should deal with in the coming year? Which excuses do you need to get rid of right now? What steps should you take to get started? 

I have the privilege of writing a guest post over at Nisha Raghavan's terrific Your HR Buddy blog today where I discuss these issues and what you should do about them.

Check it out.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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