The 3 Little Pigs: A Business Story

Once upon a time, there were three little pigs.
Characters
Building Materials
Action
Reaction
Confidence Level
Ability to Create Happy Ending
1st Pig
Straw/ hay
Built a house
Freaked out when house was blown down
Low
Extremely low
2nd Pig
Sticks
Built a house
Freaked out when house was blown down
Medium
Low
3rd Pig
Bricks
Built a house
Took in brothers who were not capable of building sturdy house
High
High
Wolf
N/A
Blew pig houses down
Freaked out when he could not blow down a house of bricks
Very High
Low

The end.

Wait, that wasn’t a good story?  Isn’t that how you remember it?  Well, it has all the key components that you need to know.  It has the who, the what and the how.  It also has information on the results.  So, what’s missing?

The truth is, you would never present that table to someone who wanted to know the story of The Three Little Pigs.  Even though it has all the components of the story, the information is not connected and does not provide any context about how the actions played out using the materials and the skills of the little pigs.  As I presented it to you today, it’s just a group of facts and it does not help paint a picture your brain is willing to buy in to.

The business world is made up of people who grew up hearing stories.  From birth, we train our brains to make connections between data and the world around us.  We get a satisfied feeling when we understand the data and are able to react to the story it tells.  The problem is, data doesn’t tell a story on it’s own.  It takes someone to weave it together in a way that creates interest for the listener.  The listener needs to understand what is in it for them, what the impact is, and how their reaction can impact the story.

I continue to see this as an area of needed development for many leaders.  For years, we’ve been focused on getting our hands on our organizational data, and that is finally happening in a big way.  What leaders are not as adept with is interpreting the data and then, telling a meaningful story with that data.  In my career, I have spent each day reading email with spreadsheets attached.  A majority of those email over the years have not included any story being told by the data.  This practice of attaching a spreadsheet and feeling like we’ve done our jobs should end.

So, as you start your day, please stop and think about the way you’re conveying your messages.  Are you just sharing facts, or are you adding real value and including your interpretation in the form of a compelling story?

User Experience & Artificial Intelligence in HR Technology

HR Happy Hour 289 – User Experience in HR Tech, Live from Inforum 2017

Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

Recorded Live at Inforum 2017 in New York City

Listen HERE

Recently, Steve and I recorded live from Inforum 2017 in New York City and talked about some of the big announcements and innovations in HR Tech that were discussed at the event. The Infor HCM team continues to innovate in HR technology– from Artificial Intelligence, advanced analytics, and importantly,  user experience design.

On the show, I shared some of the details of these innovations, and we discussed the importance of design and user experience in HR Tech.  We examined what HR leaders should look for, and think about, when assessing potential solutions.

Steve also put me on the spot by asking me to write a letter to her former HR leader self, offering advice as to what to think about when thinking about HR Tech. You definitely want to check out my answer.  Additionally, Steve theorized on how, where, and why the old ‘Big ERP’ approach to HR and HR tech went wrong.

You can listen to the show on the show page HERE, or by using the widget player below (email and RSS subscribers click through)

Remember to subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher Radio, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Back In the Saddle: SHRM17

Sometimes there is value in taking a break.  I don’t mean taking a break in the sense of relaxation, but in removing yourself from some activity or situation.  Sometimes it is intentional and sometimes it is beyond your control.  Either way, it offers the ability to gain new perspective on the value of what you’re missing.  I took a break from SHRM annual last year due to a client commitment.  Now, I’m back at SHRM’s annual exposition and conference and it feels good.

Attending so many times in the past, I see that I was taking it for granted.  I moved from being an awe-struck practitioner who gained valuable work insights, to speaking at the event.  It was certainly electrifying and valuable in a new way, but I moved past seeing the real value in the whole experience.  I became so focused on my own presentation, attending sessions just so I could blog or tweet, attending parties and receptions, and overbooking my schedule before the event even started.  This year is different.

I am attending now as what I will call a “floater by choice”.  I am lucky to speak on the Smart Stage and as a Take10 speaker, but plan to keep it casual and informative, not formal and over-prepared.  I am intentionally not booking meetings and planning all the sessions I will attend.  I am playing it by ear… taking it as it comes and following what seems interesting in the moment.  I hope to find that this new perspective will ultimately bring me new, unique experiences and learning here.  I will share all of that with you.

I’m back in the saddle, but it’s a different ride this time.  Stay tuned for what I see and hear on my unstructured journey and follow #SHRM17 on Twitter for all the latest on sessions, learning and fun at the event.  If you’re “back in the saddle” at SHRM17, find me and let’s meet or catch up.

*Thanks to Andrew Morton and Mary Kaylor for inviting me.  Go to www.SHRM.org for more information on becoming a member, registering for next year’s event, or purchasing this year’s sessions On Demand.

 

 

Killing Anxiety at Work

“There is anxiety, but it comes after you’ve finished filming because it’s out of your hands; people are editing it, they’re cutting it, marketing it. And it’s… part your career sort of rides on that. But when you’re actually filming it’s a team thing and it really feels good there for me.” ~Hugh Jackman
This quote by Hugh Jackman caught my eye.  Maybe because it mentions anxiety right from the start and I’m feeling anxious lately.  Maybe because he’s talking about the process of work and creation.  I’d like to think it is due to the latter.  I’m in an interesting time of my life when I refuse to compromise when it comes to the way I want to work.  As I evaluate my own career, I see progress as jobs in our society change.  Employers are taking the employee’s ideas and styles into account in ways that have never been tried before.  Organizations and leaders who want to do more than recreate someone else’s best practices are innovating with vibrant, new approaches to work and the workplace.
It’s exciting.  It’s stressful.  It causes anxiety.
I don’t think stress and anxiety are all bad though.  Often, anxiety drives us to accomplish more, or to try new things in different situations.  When I think about it, the negative anxiety only happens when someone else has control over what I think, what I do, or what I create.  They are so worried about micromanaging and editing what everyone else does that nothing new, innovative or productive really gets through the process.
So, I challenge you to think about Hugh Jackman when you have a moment when you’re feeling anxious.  Is someone trying to control you?  If so, make a sharp turn and think about new ways to address that behavior.  You may just find yourself feeling much less anxious at work.

The Consistency Fallacy

Here’s a question for you.  Are the choices you make today, in terms of the company you work with, the job you do, or the personal choices you make, consistent with who you used to be, who you are today, or with who you want to be in the future?  Is it desirable, or even possible, to have those three be congruent?

As I see it, people often act and react as if there is consistency in life.  We believe the fallacy that there is consistency in our behavior, in our feelings, in our needs, and in our performance.  But, is that the truth?  If we are taught to approach our work and life with that perspective, what is the potential damage? What are the opportunities we miss?

We will never grow as much as we could.  

We will never fully achieve our potential.  

Why?  Because we’re too busy trying to be and train and react like that person we were twenty years ago.Who are you now?  What can you do to ensure that the you of tomorrow is also being considered?

Becoming the Leader Who Has All the Good Questions

Think back to being in your early twenties.  If you’re anything like me, I was 99% positive I was the best, brightest worker who was going to set the world on fire.  The 1% of self-doubt that existed was really a non-event.

Each day, I went to work certain that the “powers that be” would recognize my skills and abilities and that would propel me up the ladder faster than everyone else.  It was partially true.  I was fortunate to have bosses that gave me challenging work assignments, the kind that really push you to learn.  But, every few weeks, my boss would hit me with some business question I wasn’t prepared for.  You know the ones, questions like:

  • How is payroll handling taxation for this consultant who is working in Texas, California and New Jersey in the same pay period?
  • Why is the utilization of our senior associates lower than this time last year?
  • If we reduce headcount by 6%, what is the financial impact and any benefits/ pitfalls we should be aware of?

These were all things that were not necessarily in my arsenal (just yet) and that required a bit of researching, learning and regurgitating.  As I look back now, a little older and wiser, I wonder if the boss really even needed the answers.  It may have been a way to challenge me to step up and think, not to keep doing the job duties I already knew.  The duties that made me comfortable.

Fast forward to today and I am now a leader.  I actually took a new job as the VP of HCM Strategy and Product Management at Infor because I DON’T have all the answers.  What I’ve learned over the years is that if I have a job where it comes easy, where I know all the answers, I become stagnant.  Finding the ideal job means that you should only be comfortable with about 70% of what you’re being asked to achieve.  This will give you room to question, to wonder, to create, and to innovate.

What do you think?  I’d love to hear in the comments.

The Secret to Amping Up Your Productivity

A few years ago, when I was working in an office setting, I wrote a blog post about amping up productivity.  In hindsight, it’s not bad. But, having grown a little and experienced several different types of work environments since then, I’d tweak my suggestions a bit.  Back then, in the corporate workplace, I was noticing that every person I talked with said they were busy.  People were busy on projects, busy on phone calls, busy answering email and busy in meetings.  I gave this advice:

  • Successful leaders delegate.  Early in my career, a boss told me that in order to be promoted AND be successful I would need to delegate to my team.  Delegation is not just a way to pass along those work tasks we do not want to do.  Delegation is a way to  give tasks to the employee most adept at doing them and to whom it makes sense in the grand scheme of their work.  Delegation can be a way to teach staff who are developing their skills.
  • Focus on a message.  I once heard a speaker tell an audience to write the most important, immediate goal on a Post It note and display it on your computer monitor, or somewhere visible on your desk.  I’ve tried this and it really works.  Any time I got sidetracked in “busy work”, I would see that small reminder and it focused my attention.
  • Push back on false deadlines.  Numerous times a day people come at you with requests to do something.  Everyone has a deadline.  Most people say “yes”, then complain to colleagues that they are too buried to do the task.  When someone asks you to do something for them, negotiate your own deadline.  Speak up if you need to tell them how you prioritize the task compared to other things you have on your plate.  You’ll be surprised how many people build in cushion when they ask someone to help them.
  • Know that not all valuable work happens in front of your computer. This sounds crazy in today’s world, but it’s critical in order to have blocks of time where you can focus on a project.  If you are in front of the screen, you are tempted to answer email.  Find a conference room, chair on another floor, or space outside to get away for 30 minutes or an hour each day to focus .  Another option is to turn off the computer and hit “send calls” and remain in your office.

Now, for many people, these four tips are still valid.  Working smarter, and being productive, doesn’t happen by drinking a special potion.  I wish it was that easy!  What I missed in my earlier post is that we CHOOSE to be busy.  We choose to overload on tasks and to accept work that is not value added to the organization.  Today, in 2017, I would change the focus of how to actually be more productive at work.  It’s by actually choosing to do less work, thinking more, and finding creative ways to do it. 

The real action is not in the small tasks that we take to be more productive.  In fact, it’s really a question of whether each of us WANTS to be more productive.  Maybe we don’t.  The action is in the decision of whether we believe in our company enough to want to be engaged in the successful outcomes.  If we do, then taking steps to higher productivity become second nature.  If we don’t, then we’re making that choice of disengagement.

What do you choose?

 

Celebrating HR Pros: Lisa Rosendahl

Happy Tim Sackett Day!  Unsure what I’m talking about? Well, it’s the one day each year that the HR blogging community takes time to select and recognize one unsung HR hero in our midst.  The original selection was Tim Sackett.  Since his recognition many years ago, he has continued to prove he has the HR chops and innovation and is someone to follow.  This year, the recipient of the day is…..Lisa Rosendahl!

Lisa is the acting Associate Director of the US Department of Veterans Affairs and has been active in the HR world since she started as an Officer in the US Army.  That sentence alone should tell you she is someone who takes her career seriously.  Lisa is a HR leader who approaches every challenge with positivity.  In fact, since the day I first met her at HRevolution in 2009, I’ve watched her do what few leaders can do.  She handles her professional role with grace and style, and a little bit of nails, while coming up with new ways to serve her wider HR industry. 

Lisa not only holds ranks in the HR trenches, she has written her popular blog for many years and was a co-founder of the Women of HR blog.  I remember talking with her about that when we, along with some other great ladies, came up with the idea.  Lisa not only wanted to start the blog, she tackled being our first editor.  She did a beautiful job.  She’s also a fierce and devoted momma and from what I have seen, a great wife.

So here’s to Lisa Rosendahl~ leader and friend who deserves the accolades.  Lisa is one of the most fun, smart, happy people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing.  She inspires me every day, even though I may not tell her as often as I should.  

Be sure to connect with Lisa on LinkedIn and Twitter.  When you do, thank her for her service to our HR community as well as to our country!