Monday, March 31, 2014

Compliments Are Brutal

I'm going out on a limb today. I'm trusting you all...and I'm going to share what may sound like a ridiculous issue in my professional life. So if you're going to keep reading, you have to waive your right to call me names at the end.


Two Out of Three Ain't Bad, Right?

Part of what is supposed to make up a human resources practitioner's DNA is the ability to do three things well: recognize, praise, and in return receive praise. I'm reasonably effective at the first two. My organization does a lot of recognition both individually and collectively. My HR team sends positive notes to each other, brings in snacks to share, and supports one another on most days.

I like the first two....recognition and praise.

Third One Is Not A Charm 
I'm not sure what happened with my HR wiring, but I have a difficult time receiving praise. Sure, I can put a smile on my face, and act as gracious as the next person; but on the inside I'm wishing I could simply move on to that next person faster than a Steven Stamkos slap shot moves toward the net.

I warned you...not a real problem, right? Probably some sort of character flaw that I get too worked up about. Maybe I should follow the advice of so many "experts" out there and just let it go? Maybe.

Except I can't.

What's Going On Here

So what gives if I'm writing about how uncomfortable I am with positive feedback? Am I secretly trying to trick all of you into sending me positive notes to help bolster my self-esteem? Um, no. Fortunately I'm pretty solid in the self-esteem department (thanks Mom and Dad.)

I know it isn’t easy to get feedback – bad or good – and most “things” are about teaching you how to accept bad feedback and turn it into change. Sometimes good feedback is also hard to hear and accept (insert Jay here) – but there is something to learn from good and there aren’t a lot of “things” that teach you how to do it. In fact, society often calls it bragging!

If we want our feedback to be heard – that’s what we do all day as HR leaders - maybe we need to be sure we hear the feedback we get from others – even good – as it is an opportunity to learn and grow.  When we don’t hear it or accept it, then we don’t do either one.  If we practice what we preach, then we need to hear all feedback. 

How About You 
I think the real reason I'm putting out such a personal, and candidly a bit embarrassing issue, is that I'm trying to push myself in my writing and leadership; and yes, that means tackling a very personal issue that doesn't seem to "fix" itself.

Okay, I'm letting you out of our deal. You can feel free to give me a virtual body slam over this issue. It's okay. I'm really experienced at handling the negative stuff.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Special thanks to Linda Aldred for her contributions to the development of this post.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Leadership Wolves

An old Cherokee was teaching his grandson about life:

"A fight is going on inside me, he said to the boy. It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego."

He continued...

"The other is good - he is joy, peace love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather... 

"Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied...

"The one you feed."

Cherokee Proverb 

How About You
Which wolf do you feed in your life? Can your employees tell which one is most important to you? 

How about the others in your organization who look up to you...follow your lead? Make sure you feed the right wolf today.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Life Value vs. Career Value

The world of work is an interesting place. We focus on "our careers" and "our skill set" and "our development" and "our potential." In the next breath we complain that team-players are nowhere to be found in the chaotic "war for talent!"

What? It's all about the individual, right? It's all about me, baby! #ImTheMan

How Did We Get Here?
It seems we've created one of the greatest corporate cultures of schizophrenia without ever acknowledging it. Be an individual, work hard and good things will happen to you, set up your personal goals, and mission statement, and career plan, and on and on...

How can we expect anyone to be focused on team success, let alone the department or company if we've spent the formative years of just about every one's career telling them to focus exclusively on themselves?

Well I'm glad you asked. 

The sad reality is we can't expect them to be focused on the team. How about that? We've done too well brainwashing them that the world is a collection of individuals with no real connection to anyone else. Sure networking gets a lot of press, but doesn't it seem like most of the networking posts you see have an agenda (read here --> networking is only useful to help me get ahead of you!) 

Where Do We Go From Here?

Am I suggesting that we stop working hard on our careers? Perhaps throw away our aspirations, dreams, and vision for what we might become someday? Sacrifice everything for the "good of the order?"

Um, no.

What I am suggesting is that somewhere between our self-obsessed career path and the realization that if we don't work together we won't have a career path, we need to find balance.

Not the beaten to death work/life balance messaging that seems more philosophical than realistic. I'm talking about networking balance. I'm talking about reaching out to those who could be important to you, but asking them for nothing.

Maybe never asking them for anything... Ever.

I know, I know...I'm out of touch. Actually I don't think I am. Several members of my inner circle have stayed connected to me for several years now.

They connect on a variety of channels including using the phone to actually talk, as well as in person when we can see each other. While I could be helpful to them, they've asked me for exactly nothing. 

They asked for nothing. Let that sink in. 


Those kind of connections move far beyond "my network," and become true friends. 

How About You

When was the last time you focused on expanding your network for the sole purpose of connecting with good people who could bring tremendous life-value to you, but little or no career-value? Has that thought crossed your mind? The funny thing is...once you see the value they bring, it sends a bolt of energy into your career without you even realizing it.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Battering Ram

Sometimes people have to be the battering ram. It's usually us, right? Our colleagues typically aren't up for the challenge. That's okay, I guess. Human Resources can handle it. Or at least we're supposed to. It's as if we operate differently than the other "more caring and sensitive" leaders out there.

Seriously? Since when did human resources leaders stop having feelings? It would be more accurate to say that human resources leaders are the ones that actually have the courage and skills to be the battering ram. The others are simply too soft to handle it (read here --> can't get respect from their teams because they won't address the tough employee issues.)

Too harsh? Maybe.

Crazy thought? No way. 

Ramming Speed

There is a certain intensity that takes over during times of confrontation. Regardless of the planning, documentation, scripting, and walk-throughs, one can never completely be ready for the moment.

Why? Because there is another human being involved who isn't going to follow "your" script, or appreciate your point of view (which is typically why they are in this mess to begin with.)

Few leaders are comfortable heading into that storm. It is much easier to have "HR do the talking" during those moments, right? 

We can handle the's one of our strengths. 

Ram Tough

Once the wild ride of the moment is over, and "thank you, I could never do your job" has been proclaimed as if it affords the leader a  get-out-of-jail-free card to actually lead, it is time to do what?

What happens for the HR professional who just butted heads over and over again all in the name of doing the right thing, and making sure it was done well?

Nothing, usually. We're typically checking our iPhone to see what meeting is next. I don't think that is what should happen though. 

How About You

How do you process after you've played the role of battering ram? Is it "no big deal" or is it something much more intense that you need to spend a few minutes working through? Usually we don't have others in our organizations who play our exact role to reach out to and debrief. So if you need to, reach out to me...I'll help.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

When A Team Jells

It's an interesting phenomenon...teams coming together...getting traction...thinking bigger than they did previously. I'm part of a team of human resources executives that are jelling right now. We've worked together for the last couple of years, although we're separated by more than five states. Sometimes distance without a commitment to new forms of communication make it difficult to stay connected in today's world.

But we're jelling now...and it's good. 

Hello...My Name Is

We didn't start out this way. We've been adding members to our team as new organizations are acquired and become part of the larger enterprise. Team dynamics are funny sometimes. Every one's intentions have been positive, but there is no substitute for time, building trust, and shifting the focus from transactional to strategic thinking.

You can't rush progress...but you sure can nurture it along. 

Take the Lead vs. Take the Assignment

There was a time when we all took assignments as part of our evolving group. We each felt the obligatory guilty tug to take a piece of the whole and do our fair share. Or at least it seemed that way to me.

We don't take assignments anymore. Our focus has shifted, and so has our commitment to each other. Now we take the lead on projects and come back to the team with ideas, recommendations and controversial solutions. 

We have healthy conflict now, and still like each other afterwards. In fact, we now acknowledge that our meetings are good. 

When was the last time you left a meeting and said it was good?

How About You

The team is producing high quality work now, and we have so much more we know we can accomplish. It's an exciting time; and, even after long meetings you can feel the difference in the room. 

You can feel it. 

I hope you can help create that same culture where you work. For me, it's a whole new reason to think it bigger...and make a difference.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

It's A Kingdom Thing

"Perspective is the most important issue in the world of work today." 
- Me

There, I said it. I know everyone is a genius (including me sometimes); but the reality is that unless we recognize and appreciate the fact that every employee has their own perspective on the workplace, we'll never make any progress.

Who's Agenda Is It
Are you developing (read here --> pushing) your view of what your organization's culture should be on the employees? When you hold focus groups, team meetings, or group discussions does it feel more like you're trying to convince the staff of something instead of getting their input and changing what your original vision was in to something better...and...maybe more realistic too?

When new policies are implemented across the company do you invest the time to really understand how the changes will impact employees; or, is it easier to justify why the change is necessary and assume the "fallout will be minimal, I'm sure." 

The danger of having a strategically oriented global view of the workplace is that we no longer "see" the details of the work being done on the front line. We miss these details not because we don't care, we simply have jobs that are no longer focused on the fine details of daily operations. It's not wrong, it's just the reality of serving in a different role.

You're Afraid, Just Admit It
Why is it that leaders really don't want input into their decisions? Is there something wrong with truly engaging the team of people around you to develop a shared vision going forward? Is that a sign of weakness, or inability to lead, or incompetence?

I submit to you an emphatic no! Quite honestly, the leaders that choose to open themselves up and allow their team members to fully participate in how the work gets done are going to be much more effective in the long run. 

Why? It's those same team members that will execute that plan and make it successful.

That means the leader is successful too. Are you with me?

How About You
Do you value the perspective of your employees? Really? When was the last time you proved it? Or, maybe your definition of "proving it" is that you held a staff meeting and announced what you decided was best. I'm not sure that's the perspective I've been talking about. We're all part of the same workplace kingdom...maybe we should start leading with that in mind.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.