Top 2 Ways To Communicate…. with Me

twitter_birdHow do you like people to communicate with you?  Do you let them know?

I have talked to so many people over the years that complain about the way that they are “forced” to communicate.  Email seems to be the most disliked, if I’m using my totally unscientific research methods of word-of-mouth to compute.  I could write a whole post on email etiquette that would make it better, but suffice to say that there are only two rules to follow:

  1. Only include the people truly necessary
  2. If you are cc’d on an email message, DO NOT REPLY.  It is meant as an “FYI”, not as needing a response.  Nothing irks me more than an whole chain of email replies from people who were just cc’d.

As for other types of communications, I’ve learned that everyone has their top one or two ways to connect them for the fastest replies.  For me, everyone who knows me realizes that Twitter DM is the fastest way to reach me.  Text is second.  I try to make it known to anyone close to me that those are the best ways to reach me.

Do you do the same?

You may be thinking it’s presumptuous to ask other people to reach you in a certain way.  It’s not.  It is helpful.  You not only save them time, you save yourself frustration.  When I was a HR leader I would tell vendors that if they emailed me, they may not hear back for weeks because I received over 200 email each day.  I would tell them Twitter DM works best.  It was amazing how many used that contact method and it kept their ask or pitch concise.  I loved it.

I recently came across a post by my HR Happy Hour co-host, Steve Boese, in which he publicized how to reach him.  It’s also funny, so give it a read.  While written tongue-in-cheek, I think it’s a good example of how to tell people the best way to contact you without being offensive.

So, how do you like to be contacted?  Leave it in the comments and I’ll be sure to reach out to you in the future…

Cringeworthy Feedback: How to Take it and How to Dish it Out

Whiplash-37013_5Feedback can hurt.

I’ve seen it hundreds, maybe thousands of times in my career.  I’ve received the painful “gift” of feedback from well-intentioned but unduly harsh bosses.  I’ve watched as bright, creative souls were pounded day after day, year after year by tyrant supervisors.  It is appalling.  And if you’re in HR, it’s likely that you’ve given these types of leaders training at some point on how to give more constructive feedback.

You see, for some reason it seems that people either avoid giving feedback and tell other people when someone is doing poorly (in their opinion) or they fly off the handle and use hurtful, unconstructive words that are not meant to motivate, but to belittle and destroy.

Or are they?

I just watched the movie Whiplash and first, let me tell you, no~ EMPLORE you, to watch the movie if you haven’t.  As someone who tries to watch as many Oscar-nominated films before the Academy Awards, this particular film did not make it to a theater near me in time.  If it had, I would have been furious watching Birdman win for Best Picture knowing that the GEM that is Whiplash was overlooked.

Watch the movie.

Ok, back to the story.  As I watched the movie about an over zealous conductor and his harsh training and feedback for one of his studio drummers, I realized that sometimes, there is a reason feedback needs to hurt.  I started wondering if we’re getting too soft in this era of giving every child a trophy for participation and every employee the “warm fuzzy” feeling just because we think if we don’t, they will bash us on Glassdoor or on social media.  It’s like being led by fear.

The truth is that sometimes, people need harsh feedback.  Sometimes, for feedback to take hold and inspire the person to change, we need to make an impression.  It is a fine line to walk between being helpful and being too brutal.  So, what do you do if your boss is a tyrant when it comes to feedback?

  • Take a deep breath and determine the motive.  Some people are just mean for the sake of being mean.   If that’s the case, RUN.  If not, move on to the next step.
  • Is this out of character?  If your boss is usually constructive and sporadically gives harsh feedback that you can somehow determine is well intentioned, it could be for your own good.  Grit your teeth and bear it.  Try to look past the delivery and cling to the underlying message to understand what you can do to improve.
  • What’s the boss’ motive?  Is their boss riding their ass?  Are they taking the blame for something you did?  Try to figure out why the feedback is harsh.  You may need to take a break for the boss to calm down, then ask for a meeting another time to discuss specific ways you could have performed better.

 

Now, what if YOU are known as the tyrant?  

Well, first you need to decide if you just like being that way or if there is a real reason.  If you enjoy verbally torturing people, get used to the fact that you’ll likely always have high turnover because many people will not put up with your crap.  If you are only harsh situationally, you’re probably ok.  Make sure you’re not violating any workplace policies or breaking any laws (of course). As long as you’re not, then try to use harsher feedback only when absolutely necessary to make your point and to get the recipient to make a change.

Have you worked for a boss that gave feedback that was harsh?  Are you that boss?  Tell me about your experience in the comments. 

Simulated Work Experience for Leaders

agelab*Sharing from the archives.  Robotics and computer simulation continue to grow as a topic in the organizations of today.  What do you think? Will robotic capabilities help us as leaders as we sprint into the future?

I recently read a fascinating article about an experiment at MIT’s Agelab.  Agelab researchers have created technology in a suit that uses robotic technology to take able bodied individuals and put them into a simulated situation where they have limited mobility, limited eyesight, etc.  They are hoping that by having younger individuals wear the suit while trying to perform “normal” day-to-day activities, the individual will experience the challenges an older person does with completing physical tasks.

Seeing the capabilities of the suit made me wonder, could MIT’s Agelab help generation X or Y understand the aging work population and their work behaviors?  From a physical standpoint, I think it could.  Jobs that involve a great deal of physicality can certainly be simulated by technology like this.  What would be even more interesting to me would be a way to simulate the mental challenges a leader faces, and those people in leadership roles tend to have been in the workforce longer.

Much like a simulator for pilots, creating a simulated work experience for leadership roles could actually help train and prepare more junior staff for roles they are working toward.  For example, it would give the staff insight into areas they need to increase skill and knowledge like understanding financial statements, feeling the pressure of multiple high-level demands from the c-suite, negotiating contracts and making critical hiring and termination decisions.

If you could create an ideal simulator for a skill, ability or task that a leader faces, what would you add to the simulated experience that you wish you had known when you were more junior in your career?

Don’t Make Me Unfriend You

Sharing a post from the archives today.  I was reminded of it when a friend recently told me she was dealing with some really unsavory “friends” online and she had to do a cleanse of her so-called friends online.  Could you benefit from cleansing some of these people from your life?

unfriendGrowing up, my parents would steer me away from friends who had undesirable behavior.  Now that I’m a mom, I find myself doing the same thing with my children. Why?  Today’s lesson is a simple one…  you are the company you keep.

  • If you surround yourself with people of good reputation, you will be viewed positively.
  • If you associate with accomplished professionals, you will pick up on what makes them successful.
  • If you affiliate with people who have good values, you will be perceived in the same light.

It frustrates me to see people who surround themselves with people of questionable character.  If you align yourself with people who are arrogant, rude, negative, bossy, demeaning or unmotivated you will be perceived similarly.  That is a FACT. 

To bring some social media perspective to this, it also applies to your online relationships.  Late night host Jimmy Kimmel recently started a campaign for National Unfriend Day.  While I’m confident that the friends I keep online reflect the quality of people I associate with, I’m thinking this could be a good time for anyone who uses social media to take a hard look at the company they keep.

So, take a good look in the mirror today.  Then, take a look at your contacts online and in your day-to-day life.  If there are people of questionable character, now is your chance to unfollow, unfriend, or dis-associate from them.   You don’t have to associate with negativity.  After all, you ARE the company you keep.

Do Your Leader’s Expectations Limit Your Team?

bad leaderI recently listened to an episode of the podcast This American Life that caused me to see the world differently.  In the episode ‘Batman”, Daniel Kish was highlighted.  If you’re not familiar with Daniel’s story, I encourage you to listen to the episode or learn more here.  Basically, Daniel was born blind.  He intuitively began exploring the world by clicking his tongue on the roof of his mouth.  This type of echolocation somehow allows him to navigate his surroundings without the use of a cane or other assistive device.  Because it is similar to the ways bats navigate, he was called Batman.
In the episode, one thing Daniel shared really stood out.  Society limits blind people with our expectations.  We don’t expect that they will be able to navigate easily, ride a bike, play sports, etc.  If a blind child is subjected to growing in this type of environment, it’s possible it can actually limit the child’s potential.  Daniel stressed being supportive of people, regardless of what our preconceived notions and expectations are.
I started thinking about how this plays out in the workplace.  It raises the question do your leader’s expectations or preconceived notions limit your team?
 
This question is not meant to incite leaders everywhere.  I pose it as a way to ponder whether or not we are limiting our team performance.  Consider the following:
  • If a leader creates a goal for a team, team member or project and provides some or all of the steps to reach the goal (a.k.a. micro-managing), are they limiting the performance of the team?
  • Are leaders so entrenched in certain approaches that they are not providing environments where employees are encouraged to be creative, innovative and able to come up with new processes to achieve business goals?
  • If your supervisor does not see the real skills of the team, can it hinder the success even though each member is giving their all?
What is your experience?  Have you seen this play out in your workplace?  Please share in the comments if you’ve seen it or even better, if you’ve seen how it is corrected.

Revisit: The 5 Love Languages & How Yours Impacts Your Relationships

*From the dusty archives… I recently had a conversation with a friend about this book and it was a good reminder to revisit how understanding expressing love can help in all your relationships.

5-love-languagesI’m a believer that our personal lives and professional lives are intertwined and that it’s nearly impossible to separate or compartmentalize them.  So, when a manager or employee comes to me for advice, I try to look for clues to the big picture instead of just that situation.  Often when I’m assessing a situation, whether it is in my personal or professional life, I think back to a book I read ten years ago.  The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman.   Dr. Chapman is a well-known and respected pastor, author, and speaker.  And, while this book was written to assess and address the language of love that is meaning to someone on an individual level, I”ve found that there are many business uses for the book.

The basic premise Dr. Chapman asserts is that there are five “languages” of love and that each one of us has a primary language.  If your partner speaks a different “language”, there is a good chance you will not feel loved.  So, the idea is to identify your primary love language and your partner’s, then work to use the language the other person responds to best.

The five love languages

  • Words of Affirmation- This person identifies most with compliments and other words that say you value them.  If you insult this person, it will affect them more deeply than other people.
  • Quality Time-  This person values your undivided attention.  If you miss a meeting or appointment  with this person, they will truly be hurt.
  • Receiving Gifts-  It’s not just the gift that is important to this person, but the thought behind it.  If you miss this person’s birthday or anniversary, they may be crushed.
  • Acts of Service- This person feels happiest when you are showing your love by helping them.  Whether it’s pitching in on a chore at home or helping with a big project at work, this person will feel valued and cared for.
  • Physical Touch- This is not a language just about sexual contact.  The person that speaks this language feels important when they are hugged, get a pat on the back, or your hand on the shoulder.  This one is harder to demonstrate at work due to sexual harassment laws, however, it can still be demonstrated in moderation.  The pat on the back, fist bump, shaking hands, or high five can fill in and still show this person they are valued by using physical contact.

If you think about the people you work with; your team members, colleagues and peers, subordinates, try to figure out which language seems to apply most to each person.

Let’s imagine you’re the type of leader who is very busy and recognizes performance only with money (pay increases, spot bonuses, etc.).   You are speaking the Receiving Gifts language.  But if I am the person who works for you and my primary language is Quality Time, I will not feel valued or cared for.  The one thing that would make my day is to have you show up for a meeting on time or meet with me one-on-one.  Or, if I feel valued when you notice that I’m carrying a heavy workload and you offer to pitch in and help me meet a big deadline, you’re speaking my language of Acts of Service.

There are many benefits of learning your own love language and how you can use the love languages model to communicate more effectively with people in your personal and professional life.  You will build stronger relationships and have more engagement with the people in your life.  To take a quiz to find out your own love language, click HERE.  Then, tell me what your love language is in the comments. For anyone who has met me or knows me from reading my blog, there will be no surprise to my results.

Mine is physical touch and words of affirmation almost equally.  Must explain why I’m a hugger who likes compliments!  :-)

People Are Not Functions

If you go to a convention and don’t break through the impersonal function, can you really work with someone successfully or are you limiting your success?
functionI recently purchased an Amazon Fire TV stick and was having quite a bit of fun finding old movies to watch.  You see, my kids are still young so there was a ten year stretch where all I did was watch Disney movies.  Now, I’m catching up on that time I missed.  I am a huge Kevin Spacey fan, so I started with The Big Kahuna near the top of my list.  First, if you haven’t watched it, I can share that I only made it through the first 18 minutes, give or take, of the movie.  Even with Spacey anchoring the line up, it was not something I could sit through.  There were a few good nuggets though and one I’d like to share with you.
The movie starts in a motel where Spacey and two other men are preparing for a convention/ meeting/ event in their “suite” that really is not all that sweet.  Spacey’s character makes a comment about the impersonality of conventions and says, “People are functions, not individuals.”
Really.  What?
It hit me like lightning that this is mostly true.  It’s true at work and it’s true in the extended workplaces of conventions and conferences.  But not for me.  All the events I’ve been to I make a point to be myself.  It’s the only way to really connect with fellow attendees and build relationships that go beyond the superficial.  I don’t want to be known as a function.  But, what if you are known as a function?  “Oh, that’s Jane.  She’s just the 2nd shift manager of the  packaging department.”  Sounds pretty cold if you ask me.
What do you do if you’re in that predicament?
There are a few ways to set yourself apart and it all revolves around actively branding yourself.  My friend Jason Seiden said it best years ago when he coined the term “profersonal”….there is no personal brand and professional brand.  It’s all blended together now and the faster your recognize this and promote this, the better off you’ll be.  Steps to take are:
  • Don’t fall into the jargon trap. Don’t use the terms personal brand and professional brand.  If you are, stop.
  • Be yourself.  Be professional.  Be approachable.  Be trustworthy.  If you do those four things consistently, everything else falls into place.
  • Be someone that people want to work with at all costs.  Be the person that everyone speaks highly of and recommends you as someone that all their connections must connect with.
  • Never define yourself by a job title.  Do what you do best and a good employer will design the job around you and value your contribution.  A great example of this was one I learned at PricewaterhouseCoopers early in my career.  Like all employers, there were job titles and openings for specific positions.  However, once in awhile we came across a person who was so special that we had to have them even though we didn’t have a job open. We hired those people anyway and most were successful.
So, if you’ve learned nothing else today, don’t let anyone else define you.  Oh, and don’t watch The Big Kahuna.  You’re welcome.

Celebrating HR Pros: Victorio Milian

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Frank Roche, Trish McFarlane, Victorio Milian & Steve Boese NYC~ December 2009

It’s not often that I remember the exact moment I meet someone. Even if I do for awhile, the memory fades or becomes fuzzy over time.  One clear exception was the day I met Victorio Milian.

Maybe it was because he had been a man of mystery most of the time I had known OF him.  Back in the day, he was an anonymous HR blogger… one of the few…and his writing made him stand out to me.  His blog was one I read religiously.  When he finally revealed his real persona, I was floored.  He was even cooler than I expected.

So, how did we meet? It was a snowy December in New York City and I was in town to participate in an event.  We, along with Steve Boese and Frank Roche, agreed to meet in a local bar.  I don’t know what Victorio thought, but the second we met I had to hug him. Since then we’ve seen each other in person numerous times and each time I am just excited to see him again.

What is it about Victorio?

He is this madly smart, funny and MOTIVATED man.  He is one of those people you can start having a conversation with and it turns into something bigger, more profound.  He inspires people to work on projects, often for free, for the betterment of the HR industry.  He’s:

  • selfless
  • helpful
  • endearing
  • powerful
  • gentle
  • informed
  • polite
  • a disrupter
  • a real family man
He’s this unique blend of all things and he uses those strengths to make sense out of chaos.  He’s a person I would drop most anything for.  He is a true friend.

So on Tim Sackett day, this day that we honor a real stand-out in the HR profession, it makes perfect sense that Victorio Milian is the honoree. Please follow him on Twitter, read his blog, connect with him on LinkedIn, and make him part of your network.  You’ll be glad you did.