Wednesday, June 26, 2013

My Year of Living Dangerously

I am not a regular HR guy. I'm not exactly sure what a regular HR guy is; but if it involves avoiding social media, using a fax machine, clinging to a policy manual or being so timid that no one respects you, then I would say that's a regular HR guy. That's simply not me.

I like to push the limits of how things are done in HR. My team has to be the most patient group of human resources professionals on the planet. They put up with my crazy ideas on a regular basis (read here --> weekly.) Thank you rock!

Taking risks and testing new strategies may sound sexy, but that doesn't mean they always work. In fact, many new ideas typically don't work. But if the culture is set up the proper way, the failures only fuel the desire to keep pushing the limits of accepted HR approaches without fear of reprisal.

So what happens when those new and exciting tactics don't pan out? What happens when the HR leader is trying things that don't have an industry benchmark or best practice?

What expectations are set when these new-fangled approaches are launched with passion and confidence, but evolve on a different timetable than originally anticipated and communicated?

That's Why We Call Them Comfort Zones
I must be wired a bit differently than most. Why? I can't stand feeling like I'm in a routine for any length of time. Sure, I have my daily rituals (commute, coffee, favorite apps to stay organzied) that bring a sense of control to my chaotic and fast-paced world of work. I'm not talking about that.

"What makes me uncomfortable is the feeling that I've stopped moving forward. I don't want to be the follower. I don't want to be the one that learns from everyone else's mistakes. I want to make the mistakes. I want to overpromise sometimes, because playing it safe is lame. When was the last time you heard of breakthrough leadership from someone who underpromised?"

I understand now, finally, why others relish their comfort zones...and that's okay.

Change + Risk = Danger
I've written multiple times about the wild ride I'm on this year. Exciting, once-in-a-career type changes going on all around me, and I have the privilege of helping stir the pot...on purpose! But I'm still pushing the limits of the HR space in my industry. (Or at least I think I am.) Maybe that combination is too risky? Maybe it's not risky enough? Should I be doing more? Is it time to ease off the throttle? Is everyone exhausted around me? (I know the answer to the last one.)

What risks to my current role are there among so many changes, new ideas, successes, and even more new ideas on top of those successes? Plenty, I'm sure.

How About You
Are you living dangerously this year? How so? What are you doing that pushes your world of work to the limit? How does your organization (remember, organizations are people!) perceive what you're up to?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, June 24, 2013

Playing the Race Card

I have a couple of hot buttons in my life. Here's the list:
- racism
- discrimination against those different than you (for any reason)
- violence against women and children
- racism

Racism gets two votes because not only is it one of the most cowardly and disgusting belief systems I've ever encountered; but it also goes against the very core of what being a decent human being is all about.

Are you with me so far?
Racism Is Not A Card Game
One of the phrases I hear over and over has to do with one's ability to "play" some sort of mysterious "race card."


It seems to me that each time this phrase is used it is by someone who is trying to attack a minority for raising a legitimate issue; but God forbid it has something to do with racism. We certainly can't talk about that! Right?

"Would someone please explain to me why we aren't comfortable talking about racism for what it is; and instead feel the need to deflect our inability to confront the bigots among us and degrade the issue to a common game of cards?"

What the hell is going on here? Avoidance, that's what. Fear of speaking the truth, that's what. The inability to step up and confront racism when its staring us in the face, that's what. Whose job is it to step up anyway? In your work life human resources leadership better be ready to drop the gloves instantly.

We all have options. Some of them are easy. The easiest one is called silence. Silence equals endorsement. Silence means you are actively supporting racism.

Silence means you are now the racist. How does that sound in your head?

Another Option
We have another option too. We can do something. We can stop the bigots in their tracks and expose them for the foolish, evil, radicals they are. All we have to do is speak up. You see once we raise our voice two things immediately happen:
- everyone will know exactly what you stand for
- everyone will know exactly what the racist stands for

Are you still with me?

How About You
Stop playing cards. Start confronting racism. If you're not sure what to do, call me and I'll help. It can be scary when you're the only one in the room doing the right thing. I know. But in the words of Dr. King: "the time is always right, to do what's right." 

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Curse of the Legions of Fear

"Oh no, it's my turn. I absolutely hate doing this. Why did I sign up for this public speaking class anyway? I must have been out of my mind."

"Great. This guy is going to call on me in front of everyone and I have no idea what to say. Here comes another moment of looking stupid."

"They don't really expect me to speak on behalf of the whole organization do they? Why doesn't the CEO handle this? Why is the COO wishing me good luck? This is brutal."

Fear Sucks
Going through high school, and then later as a young professional I was not real excited about speaking in front of anyone other than my buddies or my family. Sure, I liked to be the life of the party, but that usually meant a very social atmosphere with plenty of latitude to be a goofball.

Fast forward a few years and I was asked to speak in front of a company wide meeting of 400 executives and leaders with literally no warning and actually pulled it off. That might have been nothing short of a miracle...if I hadn't taken control.

Fear had a grip on me, and wasn't interested in letting go for a long, long time.

Fear is Power
What I came to realize was that fear (as if it is some sort of being separate from me) was getting way too much credibility in my world.

So one day I decided to kick fear's ass.

I was tired of fear having all of the power in our relationship. I wanted to be the one in control...calling the shots...making the decisions...according to my plan.

It wasn't as if I simply flipped some sort of internal switch and took control. Over time I forced myself to be in situations that were very uncomfortable. In the beginning I was miserable.

But very quickly I realized one critical outcome of dealing with your fears: you don't die when you confront your fears! (Unless of course your fear has to do with wrestling a lion...then,'re going to die.)

Power is Good
The result of this painful yet necessary step was a fairly sudden power shift. Wow! I kind of like this power thing. What a difference! Now I get fired up about getting up in front of a crowd (large or small) and actually enjoy myself. No more cursing the fact that people will be looking at me and watching for a slip up. I don't care about that anymore...what I care about is no longer wasting my time dealing with that thing called fear, and doing whatever I want to do.

How About You
What is fear doing to you? Are you being held back because that arch nemesis of yours has you quaking in your boots? I recommend you decide to do some ass kicking of your own, and take back what's rightfully yours.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, June 10, 2013

HR Is My Business...And Business Is Good

My friend Charlie Judy wrote a terrific post about Harry Levinson, one of Human Resources' pioneers. I can only imagine what he would think of the world of HR today. We have more tools, more responsibility, and more opportunities than ever before.

Just consider the consulting side of HR, and how it has exploded onto the world of work. Layer on top the technology industry that has developed enterprise-wide information systems just for HR practitioners. 

Harry is undoubtedly smiling down on us all...

Harry Levinson
...unless he's not.

Opportunities Do Not Equal Progress
I don't meet too many human resources folks these days who tell me how excited they are to remain stagnant and not be successful.

They rarely tell me that failure is a primary objective in the next quarter, and that by year end they hope to have gripped the status quo so tightly that their knuckles hurt. Yet I continue to witness behavior that reinforces these exact messages. 

Why do HR leaders in particular fear progress? 

HR Staff Rock
One of my great passions (yes, I used that word) is to do public speaking. Whether at a conference, event, or meeting, I enjoy the energy that is created between a speaker and the audience. One of the fascinating things I've learned is that many of the HR staff who attend these sessions are not only excited about using twitter and Linkedin, but they are often ahead of the supervisor (read here --> Dinosaur HR leader #DinosaurHR) in terms of adoption of these tools.

I've been whining about HR leaders being stuck in bygone eras, and now I've finally realized I don't need to worry about them anymore. Their frontline HR pros are embracing modern tools and will soon be in those leadership positions! I love it!

In fact, after the last few events I've had the privilege to speak at (large or small) I am consistently followed or connected to the HR professionals after the event, but not the HR leaders who were there.

What does that tell you about who is willing to move forward, and who is clearly waaaaay too comfortable in their very temporary leadership role?

How About You
I'm fired up about HR these days, and you should be too. Our team members are embracing these tools, even if many of you are still holding out for a return to the mimeograph machine. (Smell the copies, my friend.) I think the state of our HR business would even make Harry smile too.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

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Thursday, June 6, 2013

I've Got Your Back

Has anyone ever said that to you? "Don't worry, I've got your back." If you've been fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of that message you know how reassuring it can be. Typically that phrase isn't said when sales targets are being hit, margins are strong, and volumes are above budget. No, this message is usually delivered during times of conflict, high pressure, and a whole quarterly earnings report worth of stress.

"Don't worry...I've got your back."

Stormy Times
Its been said that we are either entering a storm, going through a storm, or we've just come out of one. While that may sound a bit depressing, it does speak to the reality of the world of work: changes, expectations, and pressure are constants in our lives.

"How we support each other is what brings a measure of calm to the chaos of the storm."

Think about the storms your team members, colleagues and employees are dealing with right now. Is someone sinking below the proverbial waterline and needs to know you are there for them?

Is a peer pushing hard to address long-standing organizational problems and could use some additional support?

Are your team members on the front line having to deal with an usually high work load right now and would greatly appreciate it if you let them know you were aware of their burden?

"Don't worry...I've got your back."

Thinking vs Saying
One of the missed opportunities in our work lives is to move beyond assumptions and say what is on our mind. Far too often I've heard (and said), "she knows she has my support." Really? Does she (or he) know they have my support? Have I been thinking about providing support more than I've been showing it?

What about in your world? Do your peers, colleagues, and staff know that they have your support? Since I rarely hear employees complain that they "get too much support at work" its probably safe for each of us to actually utter the words from time to time. Right?

How About You
When was the last time someone told you they had your back? Did it feel good? Did you feel like you could keep moving forward even if the road ahead was looking a bit treacherous? Think about how much those around you will benefit from hearing you say those words too. I'm guessing you won't hear any complaints.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

3 Steps To A Better (HR) Life

I don't know about you, but I sure would like my professional life to continue to be something I get excited about. I like coming to work. I like thinking about new ways to do my job. I like knowing my team has the okay to try new things without fear of reprisals from me or the organization's leadership team.

When I consider all of the various issues that impact how I go about doing my job, three things seem to jump out at me. They may be something you should consider too.

1 - Learn the business
Although HR is a transferable profession, meaning you can apply the basic skills and knowledge of human resources to every industry; it is imperative that HR practitioners understand the specific industry their company is in. I've worked in health care my entire career, and have a strong understanding of "how it works" from types of staff, competitive issues, pressure related to payer mix and the reality that our customers simply don't want to come to my company. (Do you want your child to go to the hospital today? Me neither.)

Quite honestly, it is very difficult to engage in any sort of meaningful strategic discussion with your colleagues if you don't understand how your company develops its products or services, how it gets paid, or what some of the competitive pressures are, right?

2 Make friends with key leaders outside of HR (Finance, Marketing, and Operations are a good start)
One of the most effective ways to take action based on Step 1 above is to connect with key leaders across your organization. There are two HUGE advantages to adopting this leadership approach.

First, you have an opportunity to build relationships with other decision-makers outside of the normal "report-out-follow-the-same-standing-agenda-meetings" that you two normally see each other.

Second, you can ask questions about their part of the business (typically more detailed than would be asked in a larger group setting) without fear of embarrassment. Plus, the other person typically enjoys the chance to share their expertise with someone else in the organization. You both win! Except if you make this a priority you will win multiple times as you connect in a deeper way with several key leaders.

3 Take risks outside your normal "risk comfort zone"
Much has been written about how the world of human resources has dramatically changed over the last five years. I've jumped on the "go modern or go home" bandwagon; but sadly many HR professionals still believe their primary job is compliance and saying "no" whenever possible. 

That is not modern HR...that is just a small part of our responsibility.

So many tools are available ranging from slick HRIS solutions, to social media channels, to various apps for our smart phones and tablets that there simply is no excuse to not step out of your comfort zone and risk a few things.

You don't have to be reckless...but it is time for each of us to keep pushing. Even if we've been a semi-early adopter we have to keep challenging ourselves to be better. 

I'm all in...who's with me?

How About You
What do you think of my three priorities for a better life? Whether you like them or not, we all need to identify what makes sense for us to keep moving ourselves forward, and if we have the courage to do anything about it. Who's with me now?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.