Anagnorisis & Peripeteia: What In the World Did I Sign Up For?

I stumbled upon a TEDx talk by Mike Rowe where he told a story of how he had to castrate lambs as part of his Dirty Jobs television series.  While he makes no preparation for the jobs he agrees to take on, in this instance, he said he had to do a bit of research to determine how this would work.  He learned that castration is done (typically and according to the Humane Society) using a rubber band.  It apparently takes about a week for them to drop off.  What they didn’t tell him is that it is an excruciating process for the lamb and that it is a week of pain.  I recommend watching his talk to learn what he had to do instead…

At any rate, the point of his talk turned into a discussion of anagnorisis and peripeteia.  Anagnorisis is the transition from ignorance to knowledge and peripeteia is a sudden turn of events where you often realize that everything you thought was right is suddenly reversed.  It was about learning what you’ve gotten wrong in your perception about work, how to recognize this and then change.

 

Food For Thought

What are the misconceptions of work that we all have that we continue to perpetuate based on our own ignorance?  Is it the idea that following our passion is the only way to go?  We all think we want that.  What if our passion doesn’t pay?  What if we are so ignorant in our current state of following the herd or even a bad leader that we are completely missing out on anagnorisis?  What if ALL the constructs of business and HR and technology are getting it wrong and we’re all just following along?

It’s a lot to think about and I don’t claim to have all the right answers.  What I DO know for sure is that if we stop questioning the status quo, we deserve what we get.  The only way to make progress~ real progress~ is to question what other people believe as truth.

  • We have to do what is necessary in order not to become complacent
  • We have to stop relying on organization or bosses to take care of us
  • We have to step up and be accountable and operate on principle
  • We have to keep questioning and changing processes
  • We have to examine and re-examine our technology choices so that we have the right solutions in place
  • We have to push the gas instead of continuing to coast

In closing, I share a quote that Mike Rowe said.  “The jobs we hope to make and the jobs we hope to create aren’t going to stick unless they are jobs people want.”  Think about that as you examine your own work and as you think about the positions you create in your organization.

I welcome your comments.

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?

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!

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?

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…