Wednesday, April 30, 2014

One of Those

You've met them before. They've been part of your organization. They contributed, were popular with the team, and had a bright future. They were always selected to work on the interesting, or complicated, or breakthrough projects. We relied on them as a sounding board when things seemed to get out of control. We almost took them for granted.

Then they were gone.

What Happened
Losing good people is not uncommon. Sometimes we simply cannot keep up with their rising star status, and an opportunity becomes available at another organization. Although we feel bad that we lost a great employee, we also feel good that our organization produced someone of such high quality that the competition didn't hesitate to grab them.

It still makes us wonder what we could have done differently though, right?

Emperors, Clothes, and Culture
One of the challenges every organization faces is whether or not the path they are on is actually a good one or not. Is the leadership team so caught up in the "latest thinking" and a "new vision" that they have completely lost touch with reality? 

Is there a dominating personality that forces the others to be nothing more than a team of bobble-heads that simple nod in agreement after every meeting, presentation and speech?

If so, what culture do you think is being created? How does that rising star feel about that environment? If you were to guess, would you think that rising star is likely to stay and be a part of that world?

Um, no...they wouldn't.

That "One" is Different
When we force ourselves to step back and critically assess our corporate cultures, we often can identify gaps or blind spots that we naturally miss. The discipline of taking a virtual time-out and seeking the feedback of your network (both internally and externally) can help us stay on track. 

If you are one of those leaders who isn't excited about being a bobble-head, but actually wants to lead in a world class culture, the environment described above can feel unsettling at best, and toxic at worst. Right? 

Where is the constructive conflict? Where is the back and forth conversation that moves the organization to a new level of excellence? Is it all based on a cult of personality?

How About You
Take a few minutes today and step back and think about your culture. Is there an arrogance that has permeated your organization? Is the "us against the world" mentality getting in the way of seeing the reality of your situation? Maybe being one of those leaders isn't so bad after all. Just think about all the opportunities out there waiting for you if you decide to leave.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Not Enough

It's not enough to want it.
It's not enough to think about it.
Even if you think about it every day.

It's not enough to talk about it.
It's not enough to hope for it.
Even if you hope for it every day.

It's not enough to wish for it.
It's not enough to pray for it.
Even if you pray for it every day.

It's not enough to plan for it.
It's not enough to long for it.
Even if you long for it every day.

It's only enough when you do something about it.
Maybe today is that day.

I'd love to hear from you.
No Excuses.


Friday, April 25, 2014

The Greatest Hazard

"To laugh is to risk appearing  a fool,
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To reach out to another is to risk involvement,
To expose feelings is to risk exposing your true self.

To place your ideas and dreams before a crowd is to risk their loss,
To love is to risk not being loved in return.
To hope is to risk despair,
To try is to risk to failure.

Risks 4But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing is nothing.

They may avoid suffering and sorrow,
But they cannot learn, feel, change, grow or live.

Chained by their servitude they are a slave who has forfeited all freedom.

Only a person who risks is free."

- Anonymous

How About You
What risks do you need to take today? It's time to lead the way.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wall of Shields

When Vikings were in battle and felt threatened they would stand together and raise their shields forming a defensive wall. The wall helped shut down further attacks and provided a measure of protection. 

Framing Is Important

It wasn't difficult for the Vikings to understand exactly what was happening to them. Their kill-or-be-killed existence provided a high degree of clarity. Attacks were often unpredictable, violent, and hurt many innocent people.

The response was often just as brutal and clear in purpose. Those that had been hurt felt the need for revenge. This is how they framed their world. 

The Vikings Are Dead and Gone

Imagine if the world of work today had such bizarre attributes. Unwarranted attacks, defensive maneuvers, revenge, and people being hurt as part of that chaos. That would be ridiculous!

Oh...wait. Um, just a second. What just happened?

Perhaps the Vikings are alive and well after all. 

Leaders Are Not Viking Kings

I firmly believe that 95% of all problems in the workplace are due to leadership. If my very unscientific theory is even remotely accurate, we must accept that modern day attacks that take place at work, and the defensiveness that arises as a response among employees is a reality.

Am I off base? You tell me. Have you seen the attack/defensive dynamic in your workplace? What happens when something difficult occurs? Does the team come together and support each other; or, do emotions run rampant and the ability to lead effectively is trumped by a series of well intended but frantic actions that completely miss the point?

How About You
Is building trust and loyalty in your organization a priority? It's much easier to make that happen when things are going well. We don't have to do much leading in good times. But when the attacks come and the wall of shields goes up, do you stop managing and start leading?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Guest Post! "Measuring Leadership Accountability"

Today's fantastic guest post comes from William Gould, a #HealthcareHR executive who lives the No Excuses philosophy!

Leadership accountability seems to be a favorite, or not-so-favorite debate occupying the senior leadership meetings in healthcare organizations across the country - from the towers of the federal government, to the board rooms of community hospitals.  Here's the impetus:  the American healthcare system is a wreck, and it is going to get worse.  The point to disruptive change is disruption, and we are living it.

We must rely on adaptive leadership to get us to the next iteration of who we need to become to provide quality, low cost care for our nation and our communities.  Leaders must lead differently, and organizations must develop and hold those leaders accountable to the work that they do.  Many organizations turn to HR and OD professionals to help drive change leadership, and to measure leadership accountability.  How?  We develop programs, competencies, evaluation methodologies, and metrics.  Why?  Because we are HR and that's what we do.  Does it work? 

William GouldHR Programs 
Many leadership accountability programs look like this: supercharged job descriptions; standardized leadership competencies; 360-degree evaluations; standardized performance appraisals; and, carefully integrated incentive compensation schemes, to name a few.   

We re-brand, repackage and redeploy the same tired systems with the hope of changing leadership behaviors that will achieve break through results: higher quality outcomes, increased patient satisfaction, lower costs, and a highly engaged workforce.

Blah, blah, blah.

Same old HR programs.  But does it work?  Does it really drive different leadership behaviors, and get at the right accountability our healthcare leaders must demonstrate to transform a broken healthcare system?

We can organize, codify, and subjectively measure standard behaviors and outcomes until we are blue in the face.  The problem is that we are continuing to measure the same old behaviors, by the same tired leadership thinking that contributed to our healthcare mess.  How do we pull the right levers? 

Leadership Is Personal 
Leadership isn't a process or a program, it is a personal journey and a values-based experience.  Transformational leaders become accountable at the point where their behaviors align with their personal values and their organization's mission.  Transformational leaders are those who demonstrate the courage to take actions outside of the scope of their poorly written job descriptions.  But how are we supposed to design and measure that? 

My Own Epiphany 
I have been a healthcare HR leader for the past 15 years.  I currently work for a faith-based, mission-driven organization with a long history of providing care to the under served and poor in our community.  I drank the healthcare Kool-Aid long ago and work hard to align my professional leadership behaviors to support my organization's mission.  I too have developed a number of HR and OD programs aimed at developing leaders and measuring leadership accountability.

Three years ago I was diagnosed with diabetes.  A few weeks ago I attended the American Diabetes Association's Expo at the Colorado Convention Center (iRunDiabetes.)

My emerging personal efforts as a diabetes advocate neatly intersect with my professional work as a healthcare executive.  The Expo was marketed heavily to an under insured and under served population to provide them with healthcare and diabetes resources that can't typically access.  I am not one of them.  I am fortunate to have health insurance, and access to care.

For those who do not have diabetes, or other serious chronic conditions, it can be overwhelming even when you have access to care and the resources to pay for it.  I wandered the Expo hall with a profound sense of guilt and remorse; not just because I felt fortunate to have resources to manage my disease, but because I realized the gap that existed between my personal values, and my professional work.

I thought for days about how hard it must be for the diabetics at that Expo who do not have regular access to care. These are many of the same people who my hospital serves when their untreated condition becomes critical. 

Leadership Accountability 
I may be hitting the leadership requirements on my performance evaluation and business objectives in my paid work (although there is plenty of room to improve), but it feels like I am failing when it comes to leadership accountability - the type of leadership accountability that is going to help change the healthcare game.

Maybe my leadership accountability lies in closing the gap between my diabetes advocacy and my work as a healthcare executive?  None of this is measured in my performance evaluation.  I don't have an incentive built around improving access to an under served population - I'm a HR guy.  But if I really want to be one of the transformational leaders who contributes to changing a broken healthcare system, maybe I need to find a way to succeed.

Urgency doesn't come from a program in the workplace, or a fancy measurement scheme in the OD department.  Leadership comes from an urgency of purpose, and is based in personal values.  Maybe the best measure of leadership accountability lies in hiring the right leaders, and giving them the tools, freedom, support, and resources to really make a difference?   But, how do we measure that? 

William Gould is the VP of Human Resources and Support Services for a faith-based, nonprofit hospital in Denver, Colorado.  He is also a recovering HR and leadership blogger who is now trying his hand at writing about diabetes and his running obsession at iRunDiabetes.  His professional objective involves taking the friction out business and people processes that are most commonly caused by stupid HR practices.  He is fond of organizational development work, and passionate about wellness.  Connect with him on LinkedIn. 


Thursday, April 17, 2014

I Am the Option

There are very few issues that I can't process a bit before responding. I may have a strong reaction on the inside, but I try not to let it show on the least not right away. That wouldn't be fair to the others involved, and it certainly wouldn't be fair to those who expect me to lead in a measured and thoughtful way.

Except for one thing.

In that case there's no processing, no calculated responses, no nervous laughter as I try to figure out my next move. When I hear, or see, or experience these moments the gloves are off and I'm all in.

See It
I see it...I hear it...the jokes...the good 'ol boy comments...the underlying messages about race, LGBT persons, and the role of women; which is quickly followed with some sort of twisted justification as to why they should be treated differently (read here --> like second-class citizens.)

Sadly even some companies, political "leaders", and countries take pride in their public attacks on other human beings who happen to be different from the "majority."

I'm here to tell you that kind of hatred doesn't work for me. Whether it's hiding behind "faith" or using subtle innuendos that degrade others. It's still hate. It's not being rude, or crass, or flip.
It's hate.

Feel It
What happens to you when you are confronted with these embarrassingly misinformed and juvenile behaviors? Does your heart rate pick up speed? Do you feel the pressure in the room change to something almost oppressive because everyone knows it's wrong?

Do you know in that specific moment it's time to strike back and lead? Or, for you is it time to welcome the familiar nervous laughter back for another appearance and hope the topic of conversation changes quickly?

My reaction is all too familiar now. I must confront the bigot. Nervous laughter is no longer an option. Hoping for someone else to step in is no longer an option.

I am the option.

How About You
Consider the choices you make in your life. Who is part of your inner circle? What leaders do you follow? What companies do you support? Do their behaviors align with your values? When you are confronted with these behaviors again, consider the most effective option that is available --> you.

You are the option too.

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses. 


Monday, April 14, 2014

What Do You Mean I'm A Brand

I never imagined the concept of "brand" would apply to me. Brands are big things like BMW or Rolex or Calgon. I'm just a regular person, not bath soap. But somewhere between joining twitter and writing lots of blog posts, something happened. It's odd to think about really.

As it turns out when you push lots of content out to the web you get a little traction whether you want it or not. (Apparently the Internet has a certain permanency to it.)

Brands Are Now Personal
I remember when I pushed the 'publish' button for my first blog post. It was a little scary. 

I didn't know what to expect, but I did realize that I was opening myself up for a whole bunch of scrutiny if anyone other than my Mom decided to read it.

As time passed I grew more comfortable posting, commenting, and tweeting. My curiosity for all things social media transitioned to incorporating social into all aspects of my life. (My friends on foursquare are all too familiar with how much I've built social into my lifestyle.)

My Personal Brand Is My Corporate Brand, Wait, What?
When I decided to start this blog I had a conversation with the Vice President of Marketing at my company. I thought I was being really sophisticated and trendy when I told her "don't worry, this blog is separate from my's not connected to the organization at all."

Yes, I actually said that.

When she finished laughing she told me that I was "nuts" if I thought my blog would be separate from my connection to, and role with the company.

She was right.

What Does It Mean
I've wondered what a personal brand means in real life. It turns out it means a whole lot. Concepts around influence, professional reputation, and marketability suddenly swing in your favor (assuming the brand you've built is a positive one.)

What about mistakes? Yes, they happen...and since the world has an attention span of about ten seconds, you'll be just fine. I know I've managed to survive a whole bunch of mistakes and I seem to be no worse for wear.

How About You
I'm okay with this whole brand thing after all. It's been an opportunity to represent my company, share my passions, and connect with more people than I ever thought possible. How are you building your brand? (Hint: google yourself and get a quick glimpse.)

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.