Stop! 3 Things Leaders Should Not Do on March 6th

I have to admit up front that I am not a fan of made up, fake holidays.  I always figured if anyone in my life needed to use a made-up reason to say they love me (Valentines Day) or appreciate me (Mother’s Day), then they really don’t know me at all.  I would much rather have someone tell me they love or appreciate me on a random Tuesday then sending me a dozen roses that cost $150 on one of those days.  As an aside, this cynicism likely comes from working at a florist in my teenage years and seeing men forget their loved one until the last minute, then rush in to buy said $150 roses just to stay out of trouble.

candy_jar_tootsieWell, we are on the eve of yet another made up holiday…..Employee Appreciation Day.  It’s coming to an office near you on March 6th.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a BIG supporter of telling your team and all your employees how much you appreciate them.  I am a fan of hand written notes, emails, phone calls, taking them out to lunch and more.  What I am not a fan of is the leader who never tells their employee how much they appreciate them, then only does on March 6th as a way to think it’s “all good” for the year.

There are already articles and letters floating around from various organizations telling leaders how they can recognize their employees easily and with almost no thought at all.  It is unreal.  I’m here to say right now that if you are a leader, it is supposed to be hard, not easy.  It is supposed to take time, you are supposed to give feedback and you should put thought into it.  Here are 3 things you SHOULD do on March 6th, Employee Appreciation Day to turn the tides on the “easy” approaches that are not meaningful:

  1. Form Letters-  First, do NOT send the form letters full of jargon and business-speak.  At least, do not send them in the spirit intended.  Instead, print out the letter with all the (insert employee name here, insert project here, etc.) left in.  Then, hand write a note at the bottom sincerely telling the employee how much you appreciate them and that you’d never send them a form letter like the one the note is written on.  It will be quirky and unique.  Another option is to call the team together and start reading the form letter mentioned above to them.  As they look at you completely perplexed, stop reading and tell them they mean more to you than a form letter could ever say.  Go around the room, in front of their peers, thanking them and giving examples of what each person does to bring value to the team.
  2. Donuts-  I know, you’re probably thinking that Krispy Kreme or Duncan Donuts is RIGHT on your way to work and you can grab a couple dozen from the drive-thru.  Don’t do it!  Instead, do some reconnaissance today and find out what kind of candy, gum, or healthy snack each team member loves.  Go to the store and buy each employee’s favorite thing.  It will take more effort, that much is true.  The cost will not be more though and I guarantee that a sincere thank you as you hand the person their favorite snack will be well worth the effort.  I once had a boss bring me a huge canister of Tootsie Rolls “just because” I was working hard.  Since that’s one of my favorite candies, it was a wonderful surprise and I knew she valued me.
  3. Gift Cards- We’ve all heard the expression that money can’t buy you love.  The same holds true with  a thank you.  Sure, a $5 gift card for coffee is nice, but it’s the easy way out.  Instead, do a more personal act of service.  Something like asking each staff member if they would like something to drink, then going to your company kitchen or the local store, or even coffee shop, and picking it up or making it for them.  It becomes an act of service and for a boss to do something nice that makes them go out of their way is much more meaningful to the employee.

So, there you have it.  Three ways you can make a more meaningful impact in the way you thank your staff.  Oh, and by the way….thank YOU for wanting to do more to recognize them.  It takes a great leader to want to go the extra mile!

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.

HR and the Emerging Elephant

elephant-artsToday, I am thrilled to share a guest post by Graham Salisbury.  Graham and I “met” on social media years ago and finally met in person in 2014.  He is the Head of HR for ActionAid, one of the UK’s major relief and development organizations.  He is also one of my favorite bloggers (and people!).  Please add his blog, HR Case Studies, to your regular reading list and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Two stories. One point

Story One (Completely True)

A few years ago I was speaking with the Engineering Director of a very large aerospace and defense organisation (one that makes Big And Expensive stuff. (Did you see what I did there?)) about a new-fangled HR initiative that was to be rolled out across the entire business. To be honest, I can’t remember exactly what the initiative was, but chances are it involved some form-filling and a significant amount of time commitment from already over-burdened managers.

“I’ve a question for you, Graham,” he said. “Tell me, why can’t we get one of our Big And Expensive products off the production line in under 24 hours?”

“Poor inventory management?” I said. “Or a failure in component delivery from our suppliers? Inadequate factory layout? Lack of 24-hour shift patterns?”

“No,” he responded. “There’s just one reason. The Laws of Physics. That’s the only factor that makes it a physical impossibility. So our job – and yours, Graham – is to eliminate everything else other than the Laws of Physics that stops us getting our products out of the factory and onto the runway (Whoops! Bit of a clue there!) in the shortest time physically possible. So let me ask you if you think that this HR initiative will help or hinder us in shaving time of the development and production process.”

Stunned silence

Story Two (Possibly True)

On the pavement of a Burmese street sat a man with a rough block of teak in from of him, and a chisel in his hands, watched over by a European tourist. Slowly, bit by bit, the craftsman chipped away at the wood, and slowly the intricate and smooth form of an elephant emerged from the block of wood.

“How on earth do you make something so intricate and beautiful out of something so raw and rough?” asked the European.

“Simple” responded the craftsman. “All you do is take away all the bits of the block of wood that isn’t an elephant.”

One Point

So, dear HR colleagues, here’s your challenge for 2015: do your trendy HR initiatives help get the product onto the runway faster, or do they hinder it? Or, to put it more poetically, what HR initiatives could you discard that would allow the elephant to emerge more smoothly?

HCMx Radio- My New Podcast Brings Research to HR Pros

BHG-HCMx-Radio-Logo-1400Today is an exciting day at Brandon Hall Group; it’s launch day for our radio podcast, HCMx Radio. It’s the only podcast in the HCM arena that weaves current market research, HR technology, and industry leaders into each episode.

As the show’s host, my goal is to bring something unique to the HR industry. When I was an HR leader and practitioner, one of the things I always needed was data and understanding how to use it. Now, with this show, that is what we’ll be giving to our listeners.

HCM practitioners such as CHROs, CLOs, CTOs, VPs, directors, and managers will find value in the show’s ability to provide current research data laced with rich perspective that they can use in discussions with their internal organizational leaders. They will also benefit from hearing solution providers describe their product roadmaps and how their solutions can benefit organizations.

Solution providers will gain value by being able to interact with analysts as well as by showcasing solutions that are advancing the HCM market.  Finally, industry influencers will find value in being able to get information quickly that they can turn into compelling content.

New episodes will be shared at least twice a month and will be available on Blogtalkradio as well as www.brandonhall.com and iTunes. In the first episodeStop the Insanity: How to Get Different Results with Your Employee Engagement,

I welcome my colleague, Madeline Laurano, VP and Principal Analyst of Talent Acquisition for Brandon Hall Group, who will discuss her recently completed research on employee engagement and how organizations can leverage the power of their relationships to drive business results.

Other topics in the coming weeks include Recruitment Marketing, Performance Management, and Planning for HR Technology in 2015. I hope you’ll join us and I welcome feedback on each episode as well as what you’d like to hear about in future episodes.

 

HR Happy Hour #194: Small Improvements

Recorded Wednesday October 29, 2014

Hosts: Trish McFarlaneSteve Boese

Guest: Linda Jonas

This week on the HR Happy Hour Show, Steve and I were joined by Linda Jonas, International traveler, and Director of Marketing for Small Improvements, an HR technology provider of tools that provide a simpler, easy to use, and more engaging approach to performance management, workplace feedback, 360-degree reviews, and more.

We talked about Linda’s annual 6-week world tour where she meets with customers and partners, her Small Improvements colleagues, and attends events like the HR Technology Conference and the upcoming HRevolution (of which Small Improvements is a sponsor).

Additionally, Linda shared some insights into emerging and ongoing trends in employee performance management, and the need for both software providers and organizations to keep these processes clear, easy to adopt, and valuable for employees, managers and organizations overall. Everyone seems to hate on Performance Management and one of the reasons is that the process has often been overengineered and over-complicated. Check out Small Improvements to get some insights into how you can change that in your organization, while improving (pardon the pun) both the process and the desired outcomes.

You can listen to the show on the show page here, or using the widget player below. And you can find and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes or on your favorite podcast playing app. Just search for ‘HR Happy Hour’.

Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlaneon BlogTalkRadio

 

This was a really fun show – thanks to Linda and to everyone at Small Improvements!

Purge Your “To Do” List Today

IThe-word-Everything-on-a-To-Do-listf you’re like me, there are days or weeks when you feel overwhelmed.  It is actually normal to have moments like this but when it starts to keep you up at night, affects your eating habits or keeps you from being productive in your day-to-day, it’s time to take action.  The problem is that for most people, we just hate telling someone “no” or admitting that we have too much on our plates.

A Frank Discussion

I already know that every person that reads this article could benefit from off-loading several things from your to-do list.  I know this because people are all alike.  We allow others to pile on the work and we grumble about it to our family, friends or anyone else who will listen.  We whine about how hard we work when in reality, it’s all in our control.  For the few who work for tyrants, you probably just need a new job.  For the rest of us, it’s OUR issue, not our boss’ issue.  So, here’s how you fix it today:

  1. Make a list-  You really need to jot some items down so that you can know which ones to take off your plate.  Whether you scrawl it out on a Post-It note or type it in your task list, the important thing is to get it down so you know how much you’re dealing with. I’m still a fan of the old Franklin planners and also use an app called Opus Domini (like an electronic version of the Franklin planner) to keep my list current.
  2. Find at least two items you can delegate- If you have a team, this part should be easy because you can use delegation as a way to develop more junior team members.  If you do not manage a team, you must be more creative.  There are always ways to kindly delegate “opportunities” to colleagues and you just need to be assertive (not pushy) and explain why it makes sense to have their leadership or involvement on that particular item.  How do you decide which to delegate?  Easy.  If you can find no real value to your personal involvement, nothing you can add to make the task more valuable, get rid of it.
  3. Just say no-  If you’re like me, you probably have at least ten requests in your inbox right now that you can just politely say no to.  DO IT.  You’d be surprised that people rarely push back when you politely bow out of a request.  It’s fair to tell them you do not have the bandwidth to handle the item.  Guilt free.

Once you get in the habit of removing 3 from your weekly task list, you’ll find that you’re more apt to remove several each day.  Good time management is something you practice and rarely master.  With consistent evaluation, negotiation, delegation and candor, you’ll find that those sleepless nights over endless tasks will be over.

Now….. get started!  No one wants to keep hearing how busy you are or how overwhelmed you are.  Take control. Eliminate the excess. You’ll be glad you did!

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!

 

 

 

10 Skills Critical to Business Success in 2014 and Beyond

leader logoWith technology today, the ability to have content at our fingertips is easier than ever before.  One place I continue to look to stay on top of trends is the writing of experts in the HR and recruiting industry.  Andy Headworth, author of Sirona Says, continues to be a favorite for me.  I learn so much about the global recruiting space by reading his work.  I also get ideas from time-to-time that apply far beyond the recruiting world.  This happened last week.

Andy penned a post called Is This What the Recruiter of Tomorrow Will Look Like?  In it he outlines seven skills that recruiters of the future will need to master in order to be successful.  They are:

  • Sales and marketing skills
  • Candidate networks building skills
  • Candidate sourcing skills
  • Social media skills
  • Content production skills
  • Contractor management skills
  • Keeping up with technology

I absolutely encourage you to read his post because the details are well worth knowing.  I want to take those ideas a step further today and expand on them to show that they can be used, regardless of industry, to become a better business person.

  • Sales and Marketing skill-  No longer just reserved for your organization’s marketing department, sharing the employer brand is something that each employee does.  Not only that, they are the face of your company to the clients, to potential clients and to potential employees.  Companies that are leaders in this area ensure that all employees know the positive messages that need to be shared with the public.  Transparency is key in ensuring that your colleagues know how to put the good news about your organization out to the world. Teaching your employees how to share their excitement about your product or services now makes everyone a potential marketer.
  • Candidate networks building skills-  It’s not just imperative that your organization’s recruiting team build networks with candidates, it is important that you encourage all your employees to be ambassadors to keep growing your organization.  Their participation with potential employees can help convince candidates to join the organization.
  • Candidate sourcing skills- One great way to encourage this is to ditch the old approach to referral programs and begin rewarding for introductions.  More to come in a future post on that.  For now, suffice to say that once your employees are company ambassadors, they will WANT to tell people to work with them.
  • Social media skills-  As someone who has been using social media for over six years now, it almost seems impossible that this is still new for some people.  However, it is.  So, if you or your staff are not using social media platform to futher the growth of your business, you are now officially behind the industry leaders.  Whether for networking, recruiting, marketing, sales, etc., you need to be in the space in order to be successful.  It is not a fad, it is a method and tools for doing business.
  • Content production skills-  One of the most exciting changes in the last few years is that we can all be content producers.  This means that employees whom you least expect to wave your organization’s flag can now do so.  Boldly.  Encourage them.  Empower them.  Teach them how to refine their writing skills.  Celebrate and reward them when the share.
  • Contractor management skills-  According to CareerBuilder’s 2013 Jobs Forecast, 40% of employers in 2013 planned to use contract and temporary workers.  This is up from 36% in 2012.  This means that you need to ensure that your leaders know the difference in how to work with them vs. employees.  It’s imperative that leaders know not to create co-employment situations that put the employer at risk.
  • Keeping up with technology-  Much like the topic of social media, technology and the use in business is now “normal”.  Being unwilling to learn or even someone who does not follow general industry trends in the technology space puts you at a disadvantage.  If you want to gain success with customers, internally with communication and data, or even on a personal level, technology now plays a role.
  • Financial analysis skills-  I’ve been saying this for years now.  No matter what type of professional you are, you need to understand how the business you work for makes money.  The best way for you to gain this knowledge is to talk to your supervisor, CFO, Controller, etc.  Also, talk to the salesmen and women in your organization.  They can all give you views of how your organization makes money.  One you understand that, you can educate yourself on the basics of Finance 101.
  • Presentation skills-  I know you may be thinking you can’t do this.  That you are too afraid to speak in public.  Well, when talking about success, you will likely need to be able to share your ideas and vision of the future with colleagues and others.  This skill is key to develop.  Start small.  You can do this at home by speaking in church, for local organizations you are part of, or within your work team.  Just know that each time you participate in public speaking, you improve your ability to use persuasion to get your message across.
  • Project management skills-  Now that most of us get our “work” assignment through series of emails, you need to understand how to manage priorities.  This is always a work in progress so having some formal skills in managing projects can help you manage your day-to-day tasks as well.  You can take classes through local management associations or colleges or you can read up on the subject.

What have I missed?  Feel free to expand on the ideas from Andy and the ones I added.  What skills lead to business success?