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?

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.

In Doubt? Just Coach

picture from shorespeak.com*Sharing from the dusty archives…

Tired of spending 80% of your time on 20 % of your staff?  Tired of walking around the office or shop floor on eggshells due to the actions of one or two employees?  Do you want to demonstrate to the powers-that-be that you are a competent leader, capable of taking on more responsibility?  Well, do I have the thing for you!

It slices, it dices, it can cut a tomato paper thin….

Oh, sorry.

Wrong approach.  This is NOT an infomercial .  But if it was, I WOULD have a simple idea for you.  JUST COACH.

I know, it’s not the newest, greatest thing since sliced bread, but it is proven to lead to your success, your employee’s success, and the success of your team.  But, coaching is not easy, you say.  I know, but most things in life that are worthwhile do not come easy.  Time and again we do what feels easy in the moment and do not give someone some feedback.  We see an employee or colleague behave in a way that we know is blatently counter-intuitive to what is in their best interest or the best interest of the organization.  Well, as leaders, colleagues, and employees ourselves, IT IS OUR JOB TO STEP UP AND COACH THAT PERSON. Think you can’t? Do this:

  • Look fear in the eye- Don’t shy away.
  • Start the conversation- Take the lead.
  • Walk the talk- Demonstrate that you are willing to give fair and honest feedback DAILY.

Don’t wait for someone else to come along and do clean up for you (like HR).  By then, the problem usually has grown so huge that it involves performance improvement plans, action steps, and maybe termination.

You do not have to scream it from the rooftops.  Sometimes the best coaching comes in the form of a whisper. It’s that gentle, subtle approach that gets the point across.

So, do it today!  Go out and give feedback.  Do it to everyone you encounter, not just people who work for you.  Tell someone at a store or restaurant if they do a good job.  Tell them if they could have done something better.  Tell your colleagues, tell your staff.  JUST COACH.

Practice will make perfect.

What’s the Difference: Do You Have a Job or a Career?

www.flazingo.comI was thinking today about the difference between my job and my career.  Many people use these terms interchangably.  I don’t.  I believe my job is the employer that I chose, who chose me, to come provide a service and be paid for that service.  I think that is only one part of my career though.  Additionally, a career is not just a series of jobs.  Although for many people who do differentiate, that is the distinction they make.

I believe your career is a compiliation of all the work you do.  Your career is the totality of how you use all the skills you acquire to bring value to your job as well as the other organizations you participate in.  That includes your paid and unpaid work.

The list is long…

  • Volunteering at an organization
  • Working on PTA or PTO
  • Being a scout leader
  • Being a coach for children
  • Leading efforts for your church
  • Writing
  • Speaking

We choose who we work with.

There are many times I meet someone and think of numerous ways we can work together.  Take HRevolution for example.  This is an effort I embark on with three other people in the industry.   I admire  them (Ben EubanksSteve Boese, and Matt Stollak) more than any people I’ve met.  We CHOOSE to work together. We do it because we have a shared mission, a shared passion, and a shared devotion to each other.  Then, we weave many other people into the fabric and work with them to make the event possible.  It may not be a paid job, but it is a skill building effort and helps my career.

I also co-host HR Happy Hour with Steve Boese, helped write a book with my HRevolutionize team (not published yet but awaiting finishing touches), partner with smart women like Jenny Payne on Women of HR, and constantly come up with new ideas with the likes of Bill Boorman, Paul Hebert, Victorio Milian, Lisa Rosendahl, Robin Schooling and Mike Vandervort.  To me, it’s experiences like these that make my career so much richer.  It’s these experiences that make me better at my J-O-B.

So, am I crazy?  Is there a difference?  Tell me what you think in the comments….

Workplace Observations for 2015: The Year of Employee Aptitude

queens-winning-horseOn this final day of 2014, I’m making some observations about the workplace for the coming year.  Why observations and not predictions?  Recently, I talked with Steve Boese about predictions and trends on an episode of HR Happy Hour.  I am very particular when it comes to using those terms.  I think those words are powerful when backed up by research or data that leads to the prediction and I’ll leave that to my work with my colleagues at Brandon Hall Group.   That research viewed over several years can possibly become a trend.  But without actual data, I don’t give much credence to predictions.

Since I’m thinking about just one year ahead, I prefer to make some observations based purely on what I have seen and heard in 2014.     

I think 2015 will be the year of focus on employee aptitude.

Why aptitude?  Well, by definition, aptitude is about capability, talent and readiness and speed in learning.  I think all that boils down to employees taking control of their own careers and not expecting organizations to do all the work when it comes to keeping them engaged or trained.  How might this play out?  In several ways:

  • Upskilling for retention.  Instead of approaching it as training the company provides (or forces), employees today are taking responsibility to improve their skills in non-traditional ways.  One example is online training through sources such as Kahn Academy, MIT, YouTube, etc.  With greater availability of free or inexpensive courses and information, employees can stack the deck in their favor when it comes to promotions.  The faster companies recognize and reward these types of efforts, the better retention rates will be.  
  • Wearable health and wellness-  The last year or two, wearable technology has seen an uptick.  Why?  There are several likely drivers.  First, with an aging population, you will see more people start to monitor their health in order to live longer with better ability.  The other factor could be the focus on national healthcare and people fearing that employer-provided healthcare could be coming to and end in the near future.  Either way, there is a greater focus on personal health and wellness and it’s easy to get sucked in.  Personally, I joined the FitBit ranks.  Being able to track my health habits on my phone or computer has been an eye-opener.  I think we’ll see this become even more common in 2015.
  • Empowerment-  If you’re looking for your leadership team to have the ability to focus more on strategy in the future, you’ll need to provide a culture of empowerment for the managers and staff.  Employees like having more control over their work and if empowered to make more meaningful decisions, they will become better collaborators and more willing to stay with the company.
  • Availability of usable data-  Organizations have an abundance of data, but it is not typically usable because they have no means to gather it together in an effective and efficient manner.  With HR tech capabilities today, it makes it more easily accessible and able to be combined.  What this can mean for employees is they will be able to see where they stand in relation to other employees, they can make better business decisions and they will have the ability to make those decisions faster than ever before.

Those are my observations.  What do you think?  Do you have other observations of what 2015 will bring?  Be sure to share them in the comments.

 

What Gave You Pride in 2014?

2014-pale-blue-beautiful-clip-art-reflection_0Well, there is no getting around the fact that as the year draws to a close, it’s a time of reflection.  I like to look back to see what I did that was expected and what changed.  I’ve been blessed this year to have more good than bad, and even with a few health setbacks, I’m proud of what I have been able to accomplish, participate in, and the people I’ve been able to help and collaborate with.

I’m grateful to have tried a new aspect of the HCM profession, to have the ability to travel to too many locations to list, and to meet and spend time with some of the most interesting people.  I’m proud to have a career that is not only challenging but gives me the opportunity to work with people I really like and respect.

Two HR-related things that continue to make me proud are my involvement with HRevolution and HR Happy Hour radio show.  Both have been part of my life for over five years and I have grown as a person because of my interactions through both ventures.  

I have the best partners in both projects.  In 2015, I expect that both HRevolution and HR Happy Hour will take on new direction and that is an exciting feeling I can share with my collaborators Ben Eubanks, Matt Stollak and Steve Boese.  We hope you’ll continue to join us for the ride.

From a work perspective, the thing I’m most proud of is taking on new challenges.  One of those, HCMx Radio, has been some of the best learning for me.  Brandon Hall Group leaders decided we wanted to start a podcast in the HCM space that is different from all the rest.  HCMx Radio accomplishes that by incorporating research into every episode.  We’re the first to make that commitment.

If you haven’t checked out the new show, I hope you will and then add it to your favorites.  We post shows twice a month so it’s the perfect way to add small bites of HCM learning to your month.  Here are the recent episodes:

I am excited to see what 2015 holds.  In the mean time, tell me what you did that made you most proud in 2014….

Finding Inspiration from the Tournament of Roses Parade

Rose-Parade-2014

The end of December is a time of reflection for many.  We review our lives from a personal and business perspective.  It’s also a time to think about clean slates and starting the new year off right.  For many, that means resolutions about health and wealth.  For others, it is a time of predictions.  For me, it means one thing- – The Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California.

For as long as I can remember,my annual ritual has been to watch the parade on television.  One thing that always intrigues me is the theme.  Each year, a different theme is selected and the floats all have to depict and represent that theme using natural materials such as roses, flowers, seeds, fruit and bark.  They are also typically high-tech and computer animated, which adds to the fun.

From 1972 and The Joy of Music, 1988’s Thanks to Communications,  1997’s Life’s Shining Moments, to last year’s Dreams Come True,  I can always relate the selected theme to something I’d like to do or think about in the coming year.  2015 will be no different because the theme is Inspiring Stories…”

I draw inspiration from so many places that I don’t give much thought to how each story inspires me.  For 2015, I plan to be more thoughtful and conscious of who and what inspires me at home and at work.  I predict that this extra step will help guide me toward a better understanding of what the future holds.  It will also free my mind to exploring options I may not have thought possible.  Only time will tell if this prediction holds true.

What about you?  What inspires you as you think about the future?  I encourage you to watch the inspiring stories that unfold in the Tournament of Roses parade this year and let me know if you have any “ah-ha!” moments.  Comment or tweet me!

*Be sure to look for the O’Fallon Township High School Band (O’Fallon, IL) marching in the parade.  We’re so excited to have our town represented!

Stop Playing the Blame Game at Work

the-blame-gameSanders!  Where is that presentation I told you I needed by noon today?

Uh, sir…..I was going to have that ready for you but Bob Smith over in marketing didn’t get me the images I needed yet.

Sanders, I told YOU to have it ready!!

Um, but sir, I was trying my hardest.  I also had some issues with our connectivity and couldn’t get PowerPoint to load properly on my pc.

Sanders, you always blame others for your deficiencies.  YOU’RE FIRED!

Who’s to blame?

All too often, something goes wrong at work and the finger-pointing begins.  It doesn’t really matter what the circumstances are.  It doesn’t even really matter who the players are.  What matters is that once a problem arises, everyone falls into the CYA mode.  This reaction is quite natural and is detailed in attribution theory, a social psychology theory developed by Heider, Kelley, Jones, Ross, and Weiner.  When we are successful, we attribute those results to ourselves and a very positive, internal locus of control.  When we fail or a situation fails, we attribute those results to others and external factors.

How to stop blaming others

Show some empathy. We are not perfect and should not expect perfection from others.   In fact, we know deep down that blaming someone who we think “did it” does not help correct the situation.  Think about that horrible feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you realize you screw up.  Now, imagine you’re the other person.  Offer to help him/ her out of the hole they just dug.

What if you really are the culprit

Own up. It’s always better to own up to a mistake before your boss or someone else notices.  Once you realize you could have done something better or differently, let your boss know.  Explain that you realize you made the mistake and that you should have done xyz instead.  Then, have a proposed solution ready.  If you are in over your head, admit it and ask for their advice on correcting the situation.

Start a tradition to head off the need for blame

Take the lead. We all know that having a strong offense is the best defense.  With that in mind, start a department tradition where everyone knows that the blame game is not allowed.  When someone new joins the department, make sure they are told.  Once you have your team on the same page that everyone deserves support, you’ll find that you spend much less time dealing with the bickering among employees and much more time coming up with solid solutions when problems arise.
By actively working to change the tendency to blame, we’ll be part of a more productive workplace.  What do you think?  Do you see blame and finger pointing at work?  How do you address it as a leader?