Think back to being in your early twenties. If you’re anything like me, I was 99% positive I was the best, brightest worker who was going to set the world on fire. The 1% of self-doubt that existed was really a non-event.
Each day, I went to work certain that the “powers that be” would recognize my skills and abilities and that would propel me up the ladder faster than everyone else. It was partially true. I was fortunate to have bosses that gave me challenging work assignments, the kind that really push you to learn. But, every few weeks, my boss would hit me with some business question I wasn’t prepared for. You know the ones, questions like:
How is payroll handling taxation for this consultant who is working in Texas, California and New Jersey in the same pay period?
Why is the utilization of our senior associates lower than this time last year?
If we reduce headcount by 6%, what is the financial impact and any benefits/ pitfalls we should be aware of?
These were all things that were not necessarily in my arsenal (just yet) and that required a bit of researching, learning and regurgitating. As I look back now, a little older and wiser, I wonder if the boss really even needed the answers. It may have been a way to challenge me to step up and think, not to keep doing the job duties I already knew. The duties that made me comfortable.
Fast forward to today and I am now a leader. I actually took a new job as the VP of HCM Strategy and Product Management at Infor because I DON’T have all the answers. What I’ve learned over the years is that if I have a job where it comes easy, where I know all the answers, I become stagnant. Finding the ideal job means that you should only be comfortable with about 70% of what you’re being asked to achieve. This will give you room to question, to wonder, to create, and to innovate.
What do you think? I’d love to hear in the comments.
It’s been a crazy couple months here in the US. We’ve seen more disruption than most of us planned for from our presidential election, regardless of who we voted for (or didn’t vote for). Let’s be honest, there is quite an uproar about all the negative disruption we’re now facing. However, it reminds me that while some disruption can be bad, there can also be disruption for good. I’d like to focus on that today.
You might wonder how disrupting things can be good. Well, when you think of your career or personal life, think about what the goal is when you plan to be disruptive. Are you trying to bring about a positive change? Are you trying to convey new information? Are you working to make other people heard or included?
I like to remind myself that it’s all about intent. When you approach your work, your team, your career….even your enemies, if you do so with a positive outlook and intent to communicate, you’ll find that you can disrupt for good. I shared some of my thoughts recently at DisruptHR London. It’s a 5 minute video. I welcome you to watch and share your thoughts about disruption in the comments. What works for you? What doesn’t?
It’s that time of year where we typically think of witches, candy and what we’re going to use to spike the Halloween punch. This year, it seems to be more about the widespread scary clown sightings. That said, I’m still a fan of watching scary movies- the cheesier, the better.
With that in mind, I decided to have a scary theme for this month’s Carnival of HR. Anyone who works in Human Resources knows that it can be scary from time to time. We’ve all had employees that went a little crazy, situations that seemed to fall apart no matter how hard we tried to make them work, and technology that scared us to death. I think I’ll start by sharing a “scary HCM” blast from the past that is still relevant today, then a few new posts from the industry influencers who will show you how scary it is out there in the trenches. First up, my favorite video of China Gorman sharing HR Horror Stories with me. Trust me, it’s good and even my hairstyle is scary!
Westworld has to be one of my favorite scary movies of all time. Made in 1973, I can remember my Dad taking me to the movie theater to see this when I was a very little girl. What was he thinking?!? If you haven’t seen it, or haven’t watched in awhile, it’s a great story of how AI has gone horribly wrong. It makes me think about employees being scared the robots will take their jobs. We have two great posts that tackle this topic. First up, Steve Boese hits us with We are Pretty Sure Robots Will Take All the Jobs- Just Not OUR Job. As always, Steve backs this up with data. Next up is Ben Plant from Navigo News. He shares Is Your Job in Danger of Being Automated? Click through to see if your job makes the list!
One of my all time favorite scary movies is SAW and most of the sequels. I’m a sucker for going to those movies alone to make it even more scary than having someone to grab. What scares me the most about SAW is that the situations are all caused by things people should already know. It’s when the person doesn’t pay attention to the information or situation that they end up in the evil, life-threatening devices created by a madman. Along those lines, but hopefully not as severe in consequences, are people who don’t know how their company operates and makes money. You’d be surprised how many employees, and leaders, do not fully understand the process. Ben Eubanks from Lighthouse Research & Advisory gives us some insight to help keep the boogeyman away. Oops! How Failing an Interview Question Taught Her About HR Strategy.
Sleeping With the Enemy
While not a true horror movie, Sleeping with the Enemy as a suspenseful thriller has always kept me on the edge of my seat. The idea that someone you think you know or can trust is really a psychopath, or worse, is the stuff real nightmares are made of. What if Julia Roberts’ character had checked her husband’s background before marrying him? It may have turned out a whole different way. How does this play out in the world of work? Well, there is still a stir about how much we should research our candidates online before we make an offer. Ben Plant at Navigo News shares4 Things To Check in a Candidate’s Facebook Profile to provide some insight on just how far we should go to not hire that “enemy” candidate.
Now, bear with me on this next comparison. The Witch is one of the best made modern horror stories. Set in the 1700’s in New England, it’s a story of a family that strikes out on their own to create a life and settlement. At that time, witchcraft was one of the scariest things to those settlers and the movie captures how a very raw, basic way of life can be turned upside down by something very scary. This brings us to Robin Schooling and her postHR and the Digital Bubble. Robin shares stories of HR teams who are still forced to operate using archaic tools and how technology can be wanted, but feared.
The Temp and Pacific Heights
It almost goes without saying that any kind of movie that has a stalking dimension is scary. Whether it was watching The Temp or Pacific Heights, the stories are similar in that people are not always as nice as they present themselves. They do scary, creepy things. Check out this post if you’ve ever considered the question, “Do You Know Who You Work With?“
We’re almost to the end of the carnival and I may have saved the best for last. What is a good scarefest without mention of Mike Myers and Halloween? Maybe it was his scary white, expressionless face. Maybe it was the way he moved slowly after his prey. Either way, he epitomizes all the key elements of a good scary character. And like many good scary stories, there are SO many chapters so you can get your fix. Similarly, I decided there has to be some industry leader out there with enough scary content to make a series. I found it! Mike Haberman.
Now, if you know or follow Mike, he is one of the nicest men you’ll ever meet. He’s also incredibly smart and intuitive and his writing is always the type that teaches lessons. Check out these three we’ll call:
So, you think the Millennials invented the idea of feeling entitled? Well, it’s not true. No, other generations of young people have felt entitled. I felt that way too. Yes, Gen X has our share of dreamers and employees that were so eager to take on new challenges. The difference I’m seeing is that when I was early in my career, I had older and wiser bosses who knew just when and how to put me in my place. There wasn’t concern about hurting feelings with direct feedback. They just did it. They lived it. I never once felt coddled.
I remember being twenty-seven years old and feeling like I knew it all. I thought I knew better than my boss and I really believed I could “see the big picture”. I just knew he was holding me back. After all, I had a M.A. in HR Management and a few years of experience. Why couldn’t he SEE how ready I was for a promotion?
Well, for starters, I didn’t put in enough time. In my exempt role, I thought work could be left at the door when I headed for home. Second, I didn’t do anything proactive to continue my learning in the human resources field. No webinars. No articles. Nothing. Third, I focused on administrative tasks. I wasn’t stretching myself to think of the impact of my tasks. Fourth, I had no idea what my boss really did. To me, it looked like he was on the phone and in meetings. How hard was that?
I remember the day I told my dad this boss was holding me back. He gave me some great advice that I still embrace today:
Shadow your boss. Find out what he really does and how he reached that position. Watch for skills he uses to connect with people in the company and if he is successful, model those.
Come to work early and work late. Learning how to do more than administrative tasks takes time and practice. Back then, this meant many hours in the office. Today, using technology, it’s easy to work early in the morning or late at night from the comfort of your home.
Keep educating yourself. Always. It’s not your company’s responsibility to do it all for you.
Volunteer to take on more challenging work without expecting money or title. Those will come in time.
Somehow, I made it to a more mature state of mind. I like to think I grew up. Not sure that it had anything at all to do with my generation, it was just more of a life lesson.
How did you progress through your career? Did you experience any similar feelings? What generation are you part of?
I’d love to hear all these answers (and more), so please jump over to my short, pulse survey on Generations and Leadership. It takes 1- 3 minutes to complete and I really appreciate the feedback!
I was listening to NPR this morning, as I do every morning after dropping my kids at school. Normally, they are doing the market report when I’m in the car, but today, my timing was off and the show hosts were discussing how difficult it can be to predict the future of organizations with a former Intel futurist. As he described the role and how he handled it, at one point he referred to himself as the “grit” inside the organization that often had to tell other leaders what no one else would say.
I started thinking about how I behave inside organizations and ultimately, how you behave too. There are many times I’ve found myself being the grit in organizations. Grit, or being abrasive, is thought of as a negative. I don’t think it has to be a negative label though, it’s quite the opposite. Being seen as the grit should mean you’re a go-to person who will be honest and tell leadership where the gaps in thinking may be. In fact, it goes beyond that to being able to tell leaders which paths they should not be taking.
The key to being the “grit” in a positive way is finesse. One thing I’ve learned over the last twenty of my career is that being disruptive may be fun, but it does not make for the ability to bring change on a consistent basis. Since many people still enjoy working for one employer for a long period of time, understanding how to be influential without being completely abrasive is an art. Those are the leaders that actually drive change in organizations. I found a fascinating article on Forbes that details the 5 Characteristics of Grit. I encourage you to check it out to see which characteristics you have. Things like resilience, endurance, excellence, conscientiousness, and courage are all important in determining the level of grit you have.
So now that we’ve determined that grit can be a positive in the workplace, how can you tell if you’re style of grit is disruptive vs. influential?
DISRUPTIVE OR INFLUENTIAL?
Do the C-Suite execs avoid you because you are constantly telling them to do things differently? Disruptive
Are you the first person the executives call when they have an issue? Influential
Have you tried, unsuccessfully, to “sell” the same idea to every executive and can’t get anyone on board? Disruptive
Do you curse or swear a lot at work for no real reason? Disruptive
Do people eventually come around to your ideas, even if they need a little time to digest the idea before embracing it? Influential
Are you honest? Influential
Brutally honest at all costs? Disruptive
Like most people, I want to change the world. I’m sure you do too. And while there are a few “disruptors” who make a name for themselves and get positive change in spite of their approach, most people prefer to be influenced. I learned early on that being influential is not about your job title. It’s all in your style and the way you bring other people over to your way of thinking. It’s also about being open to new ideas….even if it means discarding your own ideas.
I had a conversation with one of my friends from India and we were sharing stories about how throughout our careers we have both been known as people who can do more than what our specific job title would indicate. We weren’t talking about being able to take on more responsibility in order to receive a promotion, we were talking about learning and using skills from another industry to help further our careers.
Breaking out of YOUR mold
I spent many years learning human resources and honing my skills related to compensation, benefits and employee relations. It wasn’t until I reached my mid-thirties that I realized that I was compelled to learn more about technology, finance, marketing and communications, and ultimately social. Spending my free time educating myself was some of the best time I’ve ever spent in terms of the return on my investment. The best compliments I get now are when someone tells me I’m a good writer, a marketer, or an expert for them in social media.
What are you known for?
When I think of the most successful people I know, these are the people who continuously increase their knowledge. Here 6 steps you can take to update what you are known for and be more than the definition of your job title:
Identify industries you want to learn more about- Before you invest your time, make sure you have carved out a path that is not only going to be interesting for yourself, but one that will actually provide you improved business opportunities in the end.
Read as much as you can online about the topic- The internet brings the best education to us at our fingertips. It’s easy to find written works from experts in your chosen field as well as video to teach you what they know.
Interview “experts” already in that field and ask for recommendations to get up to speed in that industry- This is the time you really need to break out of your comfort zone. You will be reaching out to people you may not know and asking for them to help you learn. Keep in mind that many people like to
Listen to podcasts on the subject while driving or working out
Register for a course online or at a local university
Ask to job shadow someone already working in the industry
With a bit of time, a plan, and a desire to learn and expand, you will be able to position yourself to no longer be defined by your job title. What have you done to change this in your career? Share with me in the comments.
For those who know me or listen to me on HR Happy Hour, you’ll know that each year, I rush out and binge on as many of the Oscar-nominated movies as I can. There is something magnetic about a movie intended to make you really think compared to all the summer blockbuster action movies that are just around the bend. Well, this time last year, I had the pleasure of watching Whiplash. It’s a movie about the complex relationship between a student and his conductor of a jazz band. But more than that, my takeaway then was that it’s about the need to go through harsh feedback and sometimes pain in order to develop.
When I wrote Cringeworthy Feedback: How to Take it and How to Dish it Out, I was so close to seeing the film that it was all I could think about. Now, a year later and after watching the movie a few more times, I see it’s like an onion and I’m peeling the multitude of layers back to reveal even more significant meaning. So you see, it’s the perfect Oscar movie because it continues to make me think about what lessons come from examining the relationships. Dr. Matt Stollak, beloved friend and professor at St. Norbert College, shared an article with me that made me want to revisit some of the themes from Whiplash. The article he shared was a review by Matt Zoller Seitz called 30 Minutes on Whiplash. In his article, Matt says:
“This formulation is insidious, cruel, reductive, joyless. It turns the pursuit of artistic excellence into a referendum on the ability to endure shame, rejection, public humiliation, doubt and physical punishment. It’s as singleminded in equating endurance and transcendence as Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” Nevertheless, as a indicator of future success, the ability to withstand suffering is hard to beat. It might in fact be the skeleton that supports the flesh of genius.”
As I read that, I focused on the suffering. Do we need to suffer for our art? Do we need to suffer in order to experience greatness and excellence?
I don’t believe I’ve ever thought about these questions in relation to greatness or excellence at work. I’ve had a more practical approach and that is if you work hard, it leads to success and excellence at work. When I really think about those key moments in my life that made a difference in the way my work habits developed, they involve failure. They involved hardship, doubt, insecurity and many feelings that are negative. From that, the work that was forged became more meaningful to me because I felt that I really had to work even harder to overcome the obstacles. I wonder if I would have achieved many of the successes I have without the hardships.
I think not.
So, what about you? If you have reached levels of excellence in your career that you’re proud of, were you able to get there without suffering? I’d love to hear your perspectives in the comments….
It’s been a good week here in the mid-west. I had a great time leading a webinar earlier in the week with Globoforce. The topic was how to make our workplaces more human. Tall order, right? Well, I hope I provided many examples that HR leaders (and other leaders) can use to make small strides in this area. In case you missed it, you can listen HERE.
One of the main points I made in the webinar is that people need a workplace where there is LOVE. Not the romantic kind of love that is the nightmare of every HR pro around, the kind of love that means that you genuinely care and are concerned for your colleagues. We all have so many things going on in our busy lives that sometimes, when things are less than perfect outside of work, we can’t help but let it impact us during work. AND THAT’S NORMAL. For years, we’ve all been brainwashed that we need to leave all our troubles at the door when we come to work. We have to be strong, stay focused and produce, produce, produce. Well, no more!
One reason workplaces quickly become less human and don’t have that love and compassion is that we don’t know many of our colleagues. I was watching CBS Sunday Morning, my favorite news show, and they did a story about Freshbooks and how they are innovating in the way they encourage connection among colleagues. Freshbooks is a Toronto-based company that has instituted voluntary “employee dating” at work. This isn’t romantic dating, it’s setting people up on blind dates with colleagues for purposes of getting to know their co-workers better. You can catch the whole video HERE. Basically, employees volunteer to be matched with someone they don’t know. The woman who makes the matches tries to select people who would never normally cross paths or work on projects together. The two parties then have a “work date”.
While awkward at first, 100% of the employees who participated say they would do it again and it was worth it. They are able to learn more about what other parts of the organization are up to AND they get the benefit of making a new work connection. Think about what would happen if you tried this in your company. Would it lead to greater connection, more collaboration, more innovative ideas? I’d venture to say that it would. That’s what I call #WorkHuman in action.
So, my challenge for you as we go into this next week at work is to view your workplace through a different lens. Is it human? Do you feel real connection there? If you can’t answer yes to those, then find ONE thing you can do differently to start changing the tone. It may just be taking a stranger to lunch. I’d love to hear how it goes in the comments…