Gentle Mentors Are Not Helpful- Or Are They?

handsI am blessed.  Really.

You don’t have to even believe in God to know that I am blessed in the sense that I have mentors who love and care for me.  Like many people, I have more than one.  In fact, I have too many to count.  Of all those people, 4 are extra special to me because they seem to know my soul, not just what is near the surface.  Two are female and two are male.  Each one guides me in such drastically different ways, yet I am always amazed that their guidance collectively leads me in one direction.

I once had someone tell me that gentle mentors are not helpful.  If you define gentle as someone who is passive or not direct with feedback, then I agree.  But in my world, gentle is someone who can empathize with me and yet still tell me the truth.

How To Be A Gentle Mentor

  1. Have an empathetic ear
  2. Listen, listen, listen
  3. Encourage the person to show emotion- whatever that emotion is
  4. Be honest but not cutting with your feedback and advice

Have you had a gentle mentor?  Have you thanked them lately?  I think we all have a great opportunity to be this type of mentor to someone.

HR Happy Hour: Innovation In Communication, Collaboration and Coaching

This week in the first LIVE show of 2014 Steve Boese and I brought Sean Conrad, Senior Product Analyst & Sales Trainer at Halogen Software back to the show.  Sean and Halogen are both big supporters of the HR Happy Hour and we feel equally strong about what Halogen Software has added to the industry over the years.  In this episode, we talked about ways that organizations can improve their communication, collaboration and coaching techniques.

Halogen recently launched two new modules to address these needs.  Their new 1:1 Exchange meeting module and the Halogen Myers-Briggs module introduce innovative approaches to workforce improvements.  Listen in to the replay to learn more about the modules as well as other ways organizations can approach these challenges.

 

 

Current Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese on BlogTalkRadio

Signs and Forks: Behaving Boldly at Any Age

“Laugh at yourself, but don’t ever aim your doubt at yourself.  Be bold.  When you embark for strange places, don’t leave any of yourself safely on shore.  Have the nerve to go into unexplored territory.” ~ Alan Alda

fork-in-the-road-2-pathsThat quote really speaks to me.  Maybe it’s the idea that I should not take myself so seriously.  Maybe it’s the encouragement to take risks.  Mostly, I like the part about being bold.

What does that mean?  To me, it means going beyond what others will do or expect.  It means being willing to face my fears and go forward anyway.  Being bold means being decisive and not hesitating.

I have surrounded myself with mentors of all ages, races and genders and have taken their advice throughout my career.  For years, I have attempted to fill my skill gaps, to be a tough (but fair) leader,  and to help teach and promote others along the way.  All this time, I had a vision of what my life would be, but not a crystal clear picture.  Until now.  Now is my time to be bold.

2013 has been a year of great self-reflection.  I have been a HR practitioner and leader all my life.  I love this industry and the people who, like me, operate on the island of HR.  Sure, the pundits talk about how we need a seat at the table and how silly that is.  They criticize the HR practitioners for not understanding things like business nor technology.  But what they don’t realize is they have no idea what it is like to wear these shoes or how challenging it really is.

  • Have they ever had to sit across from someone as they are terminated as part of a “reduction in force”?  Have they heard the stories and wiped the tears?  Have they had to provide the workforce planning advice to the leaders that made the decisions for the RIFs?
  • Have they comforted an employee who just found out that a loved one died or that they have a deadly disease?  Have they had to wade through insurance Summary Plan Descriptions to determine if that illness is covered and what the employee needs to do?
  • Have they fought to ensure that companies comply with legal standards to protect the employees?
  • Have they had to work with outdated technology, or even no technology, and still be able to give leaders enough information to make business decisions?
  • Have they had to convince someone to fund their big ideas or their ability to grow their teams?

No, most have not.

All these questions lead me to where I stand today.  At a fork in the road.

There is the path to continue as a HR practitioner and leader and there is the other path which leads to helping many companies, many leaders, and many employees.

My signs were everywhere.  It was time to move boldly.

I’m thrilled to share that I have decided to leave the practitioner ranks and join one of the top research and consulting firms.  Brandon Hall Group.  Led by Mike Cooke and a brilliant team of leaders, analysts and researchers, BHG has been able to provide unparalleled research, recommendations and solutions to their clients. They have done amazing work in Learning & Development, Talent Acquisition, Talent Management and Human Resources.  As their new VP of HR Practice, I hope to bring my experience as a HR leader to guide CHROs and other executives they advise.   When you combine quality research with actual experience, the results are spectacular.

So what now?  For me, it’s all about not leaving any of myself safely on shore.  I will dive in.  I will explore.  I will bring my very best forward to you, to Brandon Hall Group, to clients they serve, to HR vendors and to the HR community at large.

If you’re a leader who wants to join me in working together in 2014, please let me know.  I’d love to help start your new year off with quality information and guidance as you plan your 2014 strategy.

2014 is shaping up to be the best year yet.  Now, go out there and be bold!

 

 

 

What Dr. Seuss Taught Me About Succeeding In Business

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”Theodor Seuss Geisel

That is one of my favorite quotes of all time and it’s from Dr. Seuss, well, at least most people attribute it to him.  There is often debate around great sayings.  The important thing for me is the message.  It helps me remember that there will always be people who respect me for who I am.  They are not going to try to mold me into their vision of who I should be.  And, when you’re respected, you will be far more likely to be a success in life.

That is a good lesson to learn.  And, although Dr. Seuss may or may not have said that statement, there are many other gems we know he wrote that apply interesting well in the business world.  If we can simplify our thinking once in awhile, we would see that life’s lessons are often more common sense and less conquer-the-world statements. According to Dr. Seuss, “sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”  Here are a few quotes I like and how I interpret them in business:

Learning & Development

‘The more that you read, the more things you will know.  The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” This comes to us from the story ‘I Can Read With My Eyes Shut‘ from 1978.  I always liked this book and the overall message.  This quote confirms that we need to keep reading and learning so that opportunities come our way.  If we remain stagnant in our career, in our relationships, in our communities, we will not “go” anywhere.  I don’t know about you, but I am a firm believer in reading, learning, and growing.

Diversity

There are a ton of books by Dr. Seuss that teach children (and adults) to be more tolerant of people who are different. Most of his characters were made-up beings who interacted with humans.  These beings taught the humans many things.  I love this quote from ‘Horton Hears A Who’.

“Don’t give up! I believe in you all.  A person’s a person, no matter how small!  And you very small persons will not have to die if you make yourselves heard! So come on, now, and TRY!”

So, whether we’re small or tall, black, white, or green, we’re all important.  We all have special talents.  We all have to try to make our voice heard.

Involvement

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.” This quote is found in ‘The Lorax‘ which was written in 1971.  Definitely a great book and made-for-tv cartoon that teaches us about treating the environment well and not being wasteful.  I also love the message here that you cannot just rely on others to change things.  If you want something to be better, YOU have to get involved and make it better.

Work/Life Balance

“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you’ll move mountains.” This one comes from ‘Oh, The Places You’ll Go!‘ from 1990.

I don’t know if Dr. Seuss had work/life balance in mind when he wrote this book but I get the message loud and clear from this quote.  The story is one of encouragement for people on the path of life.  I think it is also important to note that care and tact are needed for success.  It’s easy to get fired up and expect success to come quickly.  Sometimes it does.  But, more often than not, it takes time and a great deal of diligence to move mountains.  The important thing it IS possible to move a mountain.

What are your favorite Dr. Seuss books or quotes?  Share one with me in the comments….


3 Techniques To Give Direct Feedback To Your C-Suite

Earlier this week, I wrote a post called ‘3 Techniques To Give Direct Feedback At Work. There were a few follow up questions posted in the comments that lend themselves to additional posts with further clarification.  Here is a question posed by Jay Goldman from Rypple.com.  Jay asks:

How would you handle a situation in which giving the feedback could be detrimental to your job? Let’s say, for example, that the ‘chatty cathy’ in your office is actually the CEO. You know she’s not interrupting you on purpose and really wants to see your results, but you also know that she’s pretty sensitive about personal feedback. How would you handle letting her know?

Believe it or not, the question of how to give your CEO or others in the C-suite direct feedback comes up more than you think. Many employees would love to give feedback but either the leader makes himself or herself unapproachable or the company culture supports that the decisions or actions of those in the C-suite are untouchable.  This makes the employee feel like there is no use in giving the feedback.

I’ve heard the advice that for leaders, the best feedback is given in an anonymous survey, in the employee engagement survey, or by leaving an anonymous note in the ‘Suggestion Box’ if the company has one.  I know of situations where employees leave anonymous, typed letters on a leader’s desk.

As I said in the earlier post about giving feedback to a colleague, this indirect feedback is not the best approach.  Why not?

  • In a survey, your one comment can get lost in the sea of responses and not stand out to the leader as something that really needs to change.
  • Dropping anonymous notes in a box or on their desk  is also not good because since the leader is human, that leader may focus more on trying to determine who wrote the note than on the validity of the feedback contained in the note.

Real change in behavior, regardless of who is receiving it, is more likely to come from a delivery that is sincere and made in a respectful way.  In other words, be real and say it the way you would personally want to receive that type of message.  So, although you need to finesse them a little differently,  I stick to the same three techniques you would use for a colleague.  They are:

Be Direct-

Frame your feedback in the ‘Compliment- Concern- Question’ format.  Give the leader a sincere compliment on a behavior.  Then, state your concern.  Wrap it up with a question that asks the leader for their help in resolving the situation. The approach might sound like this, “Sir. I would like to talk with you for a moment. I’ve noticed you like to come to my cube each afternoon to talk with me about _________(insert sport, politics, or whatever topic here).   I really enjoy being able to have those conversations with you.  One concern I have though is that I am not going to be timely in meeting deadlines you set if I don’t focus on the project at hand.  Can you help me prioritize being able to meet your expectations, yet still have time for casual interactions?”

By framing your feedback in this way, you are still being direct and communicating that the leader’s behavior is the distraction.  You are also communicating that you want to do a good job and meet the leader’s deadlines and expectations. Finally, you are finessing the situation so that you’re asking the leader to LEAD you and guide you to the solution.  You are not coming on so strong that you are telling the leader what to do.  This is a good strategy to get your point across and still allow the leader to save face.  It can even work for more serious feedback when you disagree with a decision the leader has made.  By framing it with the Compliment- Concern- Question format, you can raise your concern without putting the leader on the defensive.

Don’t bring other people into it-

Don’t feel obligated to be the speaker for the group.  Even if other people have this issue, the second you tell the leader, “Sir, everyone on the team says…..”, you have just shut that leader’s mind down from hearing the rest of the sentence.  They are now in “human” mode and their brain is wondering who is talking about them behind their back.  Keep your feedback direct and speak on your own behalf.

Use your voice/ avoid e-mail-

This goes back to avoiding the indirect approach.  Your message may not have the tone you think it does and the message will not likely have the impact you’re desiring.  You can’t determine when the leader reads that message and it may not be the ideal time for them to receive it.  By saying the feedback out loud, directly to the leader, you are in control of the tone of your message as well as the timing of the delivery.

I once had a leader I respected tell me to give it to him straight when it came to feedback.  He’d tell me, “I’m just a guy.”  As a young woman at the time, it was  a good lesson to learn and since then, I’ve always thought of those in the C-suite in that way. They are human.  They want feedback like the rest of us and want it delivered in a respectful, direct way. I’m not saying it will be an easy conversation, but I guarantee that the leader will respect you more for having the conversation.

What do you think?  Do you have any examples to share?

Blogger Highlight: Seiden, Stelzner, Rosendahl, and Mitton

*From the dusty archives…

It’s been several weeks since I removed my old blog roll and started highlighting bloggers I recommend.  If you missed my post on blowing up my blog roll, the reason is that I think the list of blogs is long and anyone new to my site would not understand what each blog I like is about or why I read them.  Instead, they would just have some random link to a blog.

I will highlight several blogs each month and add them to a new page.  I hope the additional detail will help people find some great blogs to read.  Here are my four for today:

  • Seiden Leadership-  This blog, by author, acclaimed speaker, and advisor to SmartBrief Workforce Jason Seiden, is one of my “must reads” every day.  Jason is the author of two highly successful business books; ‘How To Self Destruct‘ and ‘Super Staying Power‘.  Jason’s blog mixes solid leadership advice with humor and a good dose of snark.  He covers everything from business to politics to music.  Best of all, Jason tells you how to LIVE.  I don’t mean like all kumbaya.  I mean, he tells you how not to be a jerk, how to be a better colleague, a better boss, a better friend, a better parent.  That’s pretty damn cool.  Now go, read his stuff.  Oh, and be sure to reach out to him because he’s someone you’ll want to know.
  • Inflexion Point-  Mark Stelzner.  Need I say more?  I don’t think I do, but I will for the sake of this being a blog I just told you I’d tell you about.  Mark is a respected industry leading consultant who guides us on all things related to business strategy and operations as it relates to human resources.  He is an advisor to SmartBrief Workforce and also founded Job Angels, a grass roots movement to help job seekers.  Mark’s writing style is direct and is often in story-telling mode.  When you read his posts, you’ll feel as if you’re on the journey with him, not just reading something where you’re on the outside looking in.  I think that is one thing that makes his blog so special.  You become PART of it with him.
  • Simply Lisa- Don’t let her blog’s title fool you, there is nothing simple about Lisa Rosendahl or her blog.  Lisa is a seasoned HR pro and blogger who has been recognized by more industry experts than I can list here.  Suffice to say, she’s a writer you need to follow.  Lisa brings the practical, “in the trenches” side of HR to you in her blog.  She also brings a unique spin on all aspects of human resources.  Throw in a little on social media and some posts on how Lisa personally deals with challenges and you’ve got a great blog to add to your reader.
  • tHRyving-  Kelly Long authors this GenY blog.  While relatively new to the space, don’ t let that or the fact that she’s early in her career stop you from subscribing.  It’s the main reason I read her posts.  She brings a fresh look to some of the old, tired processes of HR.  Kelly tells us what is on the mind of college students and those recent graduates as they enter the HR arena.  She is basically like a coach for all of us who have been doing this job for a long time.  And, we NEED her.  What a great opportunity to hear from someone like Kelly so that we can understand what motivates our future leaders.  So, take a moment and head over to her blog.  She’s definitely thrYving!

So, if you’re not already subscribed to these four blogs (OR Mine for that matter), why not do it today?  I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.  And, if you have any feedback on why you like reading Jason, Mark, Lisa, or Kelly, add that to the comments.

Apologies At Work: Do We Need To Make Them?

i-am-sorryIn traveling down the worm hole that is the internet, I landed on a 2010 story in Psychology Today called The Science of Effective Apologies.  It caught my attention  for a couple reasons.  First, I hate to apologize.  I will do it and I think you should too, but I can’t think of a time when it really made me feel better.  Second, I’m intrigued by the science behind why people do, or don’t, apologize and the impact on the recipient.  All this reminded me that there are many situations in the workplace where you or a colleague may feel disrespected, under-valued or even outright wronged.  Have you received an apology?  Did it help?  If you were the person who hurt a colleague, did you apologize?

According to the author, Gary Winch, PhD., beyond the three components most of us expect in an apology (expression of regret, actually saying the words “I’m sorry”, and requesting the person’s forgiveness), “Studies have found that in addition to the three basic ingredients, three additional apology components play an important role in determining whether an apology will be effective:

  1. Expressions of empathy
  2. Offers of compensation
  3. Acknowledgments that certain rules or social norms were violated

These components were found to be most effective when they were matched to the characteristics of the person to whom the apology was being offered.”

I don’t know about you, but all that sounds like a lot of thought and work need to go into a sincere and effective apology.  Don’t get me wrong, I do believe you should do it.  I wonder though, is it the thought that apologies can be complex that keeps people away from giving them?  As a believer that it’s all about making the recipient feel better, I still wonder if some colleagues do not do this because they perceive it as them giving away their power.

We all have known colleagues or leaders who refuse to apologize, right?  According to a 2013 study in the European Journal of of Social Psychology, “Results showed that the act of refusing to apologize resulted in greater self-esteem than not refusing to apologize. Moreover, apology refusal also resulted in increased feelings of power/control and value integrity, both of which mediated the effect of refusal on self-esteem. “

So, are leaders less likely to apologize?  

Whether they are or not isn’t as important as the fact that if you are in a leadership role, it is healthier for your team to apologize when you are wrong.  It’s a balance, of course, of knowing when it will be needed and meaningful.  None the less, it’s something to consider if you’re a leader who wants to humanize yourself with your team in order to build and reinforce trust.

What do you think?  Do you apologize?  Has someone at work apologized to you?  Share in the comments…