How Advice From Leaders Early In My Career Almost Derailed Me

There is no shortage of articles that share stories of all the amazing things that former bosses taught the writer.  Maybe your former boss taught you to be resilient, bold, careful, approachable or accurate.  Maybe they were successful leaders, or maybe they were only mediocre.  Either way, we tend to try to look for the silver lining when remembering those people that mentored us.  The flip side is looking at bad bosses and the impact they have.  Again, no shortage of articles on this topic.  My take today will have a little different spin.  I’d like to think back to good bosses that did impart some not-so-valuable nuggets along the way.

I spent the first years of my career working for some amazing companies that truly had brilliant leaders.  I do credit them for almost all of my good business habits.  However, there were a few times that they gave me advice that could have helped derail my career, had I listened.  Here are five things the Traditionalist and Boomer leaders taught me early in my career that I was smart enough to ignore.

  • Work as many hours as possible-  I can’t tell you how many times in my twenties that someone older told me to always arrive before the boss and leave after the boss.  I’m not sure why, but I listened.  At first.  Then, I realized that not only did this make me quite tired, it didn’t equate to better performance or results.  Not one leader ever mentioned that they noticed I was doing this.  So, early in my career, I decided to focus more energy on creating great work product instead of putting in time before/ after the boss’ hours.
  • OT is a badge of honor– Related to the concept of working early in the morning and late at night is the idea that by putting in a lot of OT, you’re doing well.  Let me be clear, OT is NOT a badge of honor.  Like before, I fell into this time tracking trap too.  My first couple years, I was logging 500- 600 hours of OT a year.  Now, as a salaried employee I was not getting pay for this, it was just an exercise to see if I worked more than 40 hours per week.  Again, once I realized that this did not yield better results, I stopped.  I began to adopt the theory that I would work as hard as I could to produce a great result, in whatever time frame that took.  Often, it’s not requiring OT.  Sometimes it does.  I think this approach has been a much healthier one for me and certainly led to me being more engaged at work and at home.
  • Drink if the leader or client drinks- Maybe this was a 90’s thing, but looking back, I can’t believe this advice.  Early in my career, I had several leaders who told me this.  They said that even if I didn’t drink the alcohol, to order it to be polite to the host or client.  Now, I have the stance that as an adult, you do what makes you comfortable.  Believe me, if a client wants a drink, that’s fine.  It doesn’t mean I have to order one just to look cool.  Same with a boss.  On the flip side, if I want to order one, I will.  It really depends on the setting, the situation, the people involved and my own mood.  The point is not to let colleague or boss peer pressure you into ordering alcohol.
  • Always wear professional clothing-  When I first received this advice, it was quite specific.  Those were the days when business suits reigned and specifically, a skirt suit for women.  I found that wearing suits usually made me feel stuffy and quite unnatural.  I know some people love them, and that’s great.  However, I’ve managed to have a successful career with my altered approach.  I recommend dressing for the occasion.  At times I addressed or worked with people in manufacturing settings, I would dress more casually.  If the situation was a group of highly professional business people, a nice dress and blazer tends to do the trick.  Either way, the point is that I am not smart or full of ideas because I wear a suit.  As long as clothes are clean and pressed, go with what makes you most comfortable. For me, this even means wearing jeans and dressing them up or down.
  • Don’t get too close with anyone at work–  The idea that HR is an island and we are “nobody’s friend” stuck with me for years.  This likely meant I missed out on some really great relationships in my lifetime.  But, I’m not bitter.  I have learned in the past few years that being myself (professional when needed, fun when it makes sense) is the best approach.  I don’t mind clients getting to know me personally.  Many know my kids and what my family likes to do in our free time.  In return, I like to know about them too.  I care about their families, their dreams, their challenges, their health.  They are friends and business partners.  It’s a much more human, caring way to work, and I love it!

As you can see, I’ve tried to adopt my own approach to my work style.  Had I followed all the advice given to me, I definitely would not be where I am today.  So what about you?  Have you worked with some great leaders who gave any bad advice?  What have you hung on to and what have you cast aside?  Tell me in the comments.

Executive Perspectives: Impact of Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is a topic that comes up every time I talk with leaders.  Whether you’re in human resources, finance, IT or in other parts of the organization, the impact of digital and how it’s transforming the way we work is top of mind.  I am partnering with Infor on a series of webinars to help executives gain perspective and insight on many of the ways technology is changing the workplace.

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Please join me tomorrow, July 27th,  for a free webinar with Infor execs, Charles Cagle and Bill Vellante, as we discuss the ways leaders can be ready for the changes.   Register here today.

Driving Business Success: Limiting How Much We Look Back

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 2.41.39 PMSince I’ve been working from my home office the last few years, it strikes me that I don’t drive much anymore.  Well, I drive to the airport a fair bit, but day-to-day driving is a thing of my past.  I was thinking about it because I have young teens who are already anxiously focused on learning how to drive.  When we are in the car, they ask tons of questions about how the car works, what the driving laws are, how other drivers respond, etc.  It struck me that when they asked about mirrors and how often I use them, I really don’t look in my rearview mirror much.  Sure, I use it to check when I’m backing up and going that direction, or to do a quick check to ensure that someone else is not going to hit my car from behind.  What I don’t do is use the rearview mirror to determine my direction or progress driving forward.

So, why do we spend so much time looking back in business when we are trying to drive the organization forward?

I first ran into this thinking when I moved from the HR practitioner/ leader ranks to that of a full-time analyst. The thing that surprised me the most was that analysts tend to do surveys that predominantly focus on what happened in the past as a way to predict the future.  Now, that IS very valuable, however, business leaders don’t necessarily benefit from only looking to the past to determine their future direction or approach.  In fact, there are some clear barriers to predominantly focusing on the business rearview mirror.

Barriers when we look back

  • Best Practice- Analysts and companies provide statistics on the “best practices” of an industry or company.  These are certainly interesting data points to consider in your organization, and I do value these.  However, when we try to adopt some other organization’s “best practice” without understanding what our real business issues are, we run the risk of choosing and implementing a process or solutions that may not apply to our workplace.  It also may not drive the appropriate business results.
  • False Solutions- A trap many leaders bring to a new organization is proposing a solution based on what they did in a prior company.  Similar to the best practice, this false solution may not address any of the current company’s problems.  Time and again, we find leaders pursuing a solution in search of a problem, not the other way around.
  • Failure Focus-  There are nay-sayers in every organization.  The barrier is letting these people get you hung up on what went wrong in prior projects and letting that derail future progress.
  • Excruciatingly Slow Data Analytics-  A majority of organization leaders I talk to say that they do not have access to all the data they have.  This means they have no simple, efficient, accurate way to pull data together in order to make a business decision.  By taking too long to get data on the past, the data becomes stale and can lead to missing out on opportunities to make the organization better today.
  • Future Fear- Showing other leaders that we fear the future is going to influence them in embracing their fears as well.

While there are many other barriers, you get the point that by primarily focusing behind us, we may be missing out on opportunities to excel, to drive the business forward, or to fall behind competitors.  Everything we do should not be a response to someone else’s move.  As leaders, the best thing we can do is suggest new and innovative approaches to process, to thinking and to solutions.

What are you doing today?  Are you looking back, or to the future?  Let me know what techniques you use to move yourself, your team and your organization forward.  Please share in the comments.

You Are Beautiful

You are beautiful

Someone said this to me today.  It came at me during a moment when I least expected it, but when I clearly must have needed this karma, this love, from the universe.

you-are-beautifulI cried.  Not a lot, because I am the razor-sharp person who keeps tears bottled up inside.  But, a few spontaneous tears that seemed to take the weight of the world right off my shoulders.

You are beautiful

How could another person, several time zones away, with her own life and needs, make me feel like the most loved person with just three words?  I have no explanation.  But I do know that by sending me that message, she opened up my eyes and reminded me that our words matter.

ALL of our words matter.  When we compliment someone, we lift their spirit.  When we coach them, we prepare them for challenges and successes to come.  When we discourage them, we hurt them for a thousand future moments, not just that moment in time.  It’s simple really.

You are beautiful

It means something.  It feels like something.  It means that I’m valued, needed, wanted.  Reading those words, caused me to take a deep breath.  Breath to give me courage for things to come.  And it’s those breaths that we all need to get through the good times, the bad times.  The times.

You are beautiful

So, thank you Rachelle Roberts.  Your words made a difference today, and I’m grateful.

 

 

Older Workers are Becoming Invisible

quote-Jeanette-Winterson-whats-invisible-to-us-is-also-crucial-90396My twelve year old son loves to play the game Would You Rather with me.  Have you played?  You basically ask the person to choose between two things and sometimes, they give a reason.  For example, he recently asked me, “Mom, would you rather be invisible, or have the ability to teleport?”  As you can see, this is a question that may cause a gut reaction, but when you start thinking about it, you begin to come up with many reasons why one choice may be better than the other.  For the record, I chose the ability to be invisible.  The truth is, I may have that ability sooner than I think.

A few days ago, I read a friend’s comment on Facebook.  He was at a client location that was filled with beautiful, young people and as they all walked by, he felt old.  For the record, this friend is in his forties, like me.  Another friend commented that once you reach a certain age, you basically become invisible.  I admit, I never really thought about that before.  While I’m not quite ready to buy into the idea that a person in their forties is “old”, I have thought about older workers, namely from my parents’ generation, that are starting to feel left out or ignored in the workplace.

Have you ever felt this way?  Are you old enough that this is happening, or starting to happen?

Maybe the problem is we’re all so focused on the younger generation and making them happy that we are forgetting that much of our organizational knowledge is walking around unnoticed.  In fact, if left unnoticed, are the organizations missing out on ways to actually improve our bottom line?  It seems like this “invisible generation”, formerly know as the Silent and Boomer generations, are actually starting to get a little notice again.

Take for example the movie The InternThe plot has a “senior”, played by Robert DeNiro, who becomes the intern for a young, vibrant CEO, played by Anne Hathaway.  For several months, she not only ignores him, she doesn’t even give him a second thought.  She can’t see the value that is sitting right before her eyes.  I don’t want to spoil the movie, but the point is that older workers are often passed by when we’re in need of support, good ideas, or differing opinions on how to handle something.  It’s such a shame.

All this talk of older workers becoming invisible leaves me with more questions than answers, for now.

Do you have someone older in your life that could provide a different, fresh perspective in your work?

If you are the older person, do you reach out to colleagues who are just starting out or who are earlier in their career to offer advice and counsel that is judgement-free?

If you’ve been lucky enough to have an older mentor in your life, what is the best piece of advice he or she has given?

If you work in an organization or on a team that has little diversity in age, what are you going to do to reach out to a colleague of another age?

How can the idea of capturing the value of more “senior” advice be applied in the workforce today?

In order for organizations to be successful in the future, they are going to need to be able to capture all the knowledge of their older workers.  By taking active steps to ensure that these employees do not feel invisible, you’ll not only be capturing that information, you’ll be ensuring that those employees feel valued and engaged for the remainder of their employment.

 

 

Stop Aligning Yourself With the Wrong People

bad-friends*From the dusty archives…

Growing up, my parents steered 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, unmotivated, or who lack a moral compass, you will be perceived similarly.  That is a FACT. 

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.  What do you think?

Holding HR in High Regard Around the Globe

There are moments in life that you anticipate with great joy and fear: graduation, marriage, the birth of a child, a big promotion or a trip to a foreign country.  Last week, I had the opportunity to experience traveling to China for the first time, and it certainly turned out to be one of those great moments of a lifetime.

Madeline and Trish ChinaI was invited to speak at the first HR Technology China conference presented by LRP Publications and China Star.  The anxious feeling I had in anticipation of the trip and during the 22 hours of travel led to a great release of adrenaline when I finally landed in Hong Kong.  With friendly, welcoming faces of industry leaders Madeline Laurano and Steve Boese to greet me, I was ready to experience all that China had to offer.

This was the first event put on by LRP and China Star ,and the results were nothing short of amazing.  Held in mainland China in the city of Zhuhai, the trip from Hong Kong via ferry boat was invigorating.  As I looked out at the Hong Kong – Zhuhai – Macao Bridge (HZMB) being constructed in the waters of Lingdingyang of Pearl River Estuary, I began to appreciate the development of the region.  As far as the conference goes, with nearly 6,000 registrants mostly comprised of HR practitioners and leaders, the energy was palpable.

As I, along with a handful of speakers from the US, settled in to meeting the China Star team, we were amazed at the level of interest they had in our being at the event.  We quickly learned that the formality of the relationship between the HR vendor, the event and the Zhuhai government officials was a close knit one.  Several of us were invited to a special meeting with Liu Jiawen (Vice Mayor of Zhuhai), Wang Qingli (Vice Mayor of Zhuhai), Hua Fuzhou (President of China Association for Labor Studies), and many other important dignitaries of the Zhuhai municipal government.  It was an honor to be welcomed and the experience was filmed and photographed for their local news.  Quite exciting!

From there, it was a whirlwind of dinners, presentations, then then the main conference.  Steve Boese welcomed everyone on behalf of LRP and kicked off the new event.  The keynotes, including one by our industry expert Jason Averbook, were nothing short of inspired.  The other keynote presentations, including one by former US Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, were filled with passion for HR, data, and the importance of technology.  The realization that the Chinese hold HR in high regard, as many of us do here in the US, was a revelation.  Some of the commonalities were the focus on:

  • Talent Acquisition- Finding the best hires for an emerging market that is becoming more services dominated is a key priority.
  • Branding– Employer branding that goes hand-in-hand with the extensive branding of the cities themselves is a focus.  The combination made for an interesting juxtaposition.  I believe that US organizations who embrace this approach may find an easier time with recruiting for either hard to fill positions or for staffing in cities that may have had a less desirable past.
  • Engagement- Engaging employees is important globally.  As I learned in the Middle East at the end of 2015, and in Europe and China in 2016, this remains one of the top concerns for business leaders, not just HR leaders.  This tells me there is still a great opportunity for HR leaders, vendors, consultants and analysts when it comes to finding solutions to this age-old problem.

I shared with you the innovative, hard-working and proud side of the people I met in China in my earlier post about coaching.  From the way this event incorporated students to the way they embraced all of us from the US, HR Technology Conference China gave the impression that it will be around for years to come.

As an added bonus, I was able to spend a few days in Hong Kong visiting local markets, restaurants, and stores.  I was even lucky enough to spend a day at Disneyland Hong Kong!  For anyone who knows me, Disney is one of my favorite places, so being able to see the Chinese version was just amazing!  13012784_10156876605550523_1407773878852074846_n

I encourage you to follow the HR Technology Conference here in the US for more information about China next year.  It is worth making a business case for, or for investing in your own career and making the trip.

Thanks again to LRP Publications, Rebecca McKenna, Steve Boese and the whole LRP team.  Thank you also to China Star for the gracious hosting.  Lastly, thank you to my US based HCM colleagues for making my first trip to China a memorable one.

5 Ways to Avoid Job Burnout

pg-job-burnout-signs-05-fullBlogging is interesting because sometimes you research and report, other times you give pure opinion.  Today is an opinion day, and it’s a fine line between doing that and becoming “preachy”.  The truth is that there have been times when I’ve been nearing job burnout during my career.  Face it, we all have those times.  It’s important to think about ways to head that off instead of waiting for things to get to that point.

One of the most stressful, and best, moves I’ve made has been working for myself.  I have to generate all the sales and then deliver to my clients.  That alone is enough to keep me up at night.  The strange thing is that as soon as I started working for myself in a position that fully aligned with my values, I began sleeping through the night again.  That had not been the case before.  I wondered what was different, because the workload and stress certainly was not less.

I came up with several things I had changed to make my working experience better for me.  I find these work, and I hope they work for you.

5 Keys to Avoiding Job Burnout

  1. Focus on your health- First and foremost, I learned that all the bad habits I had working for other people carried over to working for myself.  For example, I realized I am not good about taking breaks to eat lunch or a snack.  I’m bad about making time to exercise or even move around much during the day.  The first real change I made was to adopt a clean eating strategy.  This is not about weight loss or being on a diet.  It’s about telling myself every day that I mean something.  I’m important.  I don’t know why this has been such a revelation, but I feel that dedicating that extra time to cooking good food for myself instead of skipping meals has had so many benefits.  For a great guide to start eating clean, check out the Clean Eating online magazine.  There are some great meal plans to get you started.  Surprisingly, you’ll start to feel exponentially better within a week.
  2. Prioritize and purge-  We’ve all heard, ad nauseam, that we need to prioritize our workload.  Well, when you work for yourself, you are suddenly plunged into not having enough hours in the day.  Literally.  So, the only option was not only to prioritize my work, but to purge anything that didn’t align with those goals.  Looking back over the last 11 months I’ve been my own boss, I can see how beneficial this has been.  The main result is that I really feel less stressed.
  3. Reward yourself-  Sitting back and seeing all the companies that give employee recognition makes me smile.  For example, Globoforce is doing great things to bridge that gap for companies and employees.  I buy into this whole idea of making work “More Human” and as I’ve followed Globoforce and their efforts in this arena, it really makes sense.  The difference for me is that now, I’m the only person who can choose to recognize me.  At first, it seemed a little half-baked, but as I’ve started doing this, it really works.  I don’t have a regular schedule, and some weeks are more hectic than others.  I’m finding that even running out for a frozen yogurt in the middle of the workday is a nice way to treat myself.  The real difference is that now I am mindful that I’m rewarding myself.  Whatever the psychology, it works.  So….how are you going to treat yourself today?
  4. Make friends at work-  For years, working in HR, you learn that HR is no one’s friend.  Sure, I have managed to make a few over the years, but for the most part, working in HR you have to be a lone wolf.  Now that it’s just me at work, you’d think I have no hope.  Quite the opposite.  I’ve made a point to partner with industry colleagues who not only are smarter than me in many areas of HCM, I can rely on them to have my back.  What an awesome feeling!  For example, in this past year, I joined forces with some HCM colleagues in forming the HR Federation.  By having a trusted group of people, it’s amazing what it does for your psyche and your productivity.  Point being… get a friend!
  5. Take a retreat-  This is another tip I never bought into in my corporate life.  I boldly took my first retreat this past January and I cannot even tell you how many great things have come from taking this time.  Much like a reward for myself, I felt that as a working Mom, it would be selfish for me to go away alone.  I also travel for work, so taking a separate trip seemed unfair to my family.  I WAS WRONG!  I spent a long weekend at the beach by myself.  I didn’t keep the TV on.  I walked a lot.  I thought a lot.  I enjoyed eating alone and just observing the world.  The beauty of this was that I not only had time to be quiet and uninterrupted, I was able to make some major business and personal decisions because I finally made time to listen to myself.  For more about the benefits of a personal retreat, check out this HR Happy Hour episode I recorded with Laurie Ruettimann.  She also took a retreat this year and shares some great learning from her journey.

All these actions lead to a more human work experience for YOU.  Take a moment today and think about what you can do for yourself.  In addition, consider joining me at Globoforce’s WorkHuman event May 9- 11 in Orlando.  We’ll learn and practice even more ways of focusing on how to humanize the work experience.  Use discount code WH16TM300.