Are You the Grit of the Company?

gritI 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.

So, which are you? I’d love to hear from you…

Becoming a HR Influencer- 4 Skills to Help You Do It

puppet_masterI’ve been called a HR Influencer.  I’ve been called a lot of things.  In fact, there always seems to be confusion in the HR industry about what we call people: influencer, blogger, expert, guru, advisor, analyst, leader.  The list goes on.  In reality, you can (and will) wear multiple hats and titles in your industry as you interact with different groups of people.

I thought I’d share my thoughts on what it really means to be an influencer in the HR space, or in any space really.  First, you need a common definition of what being able to influence really means.  Being an influencer definitely does NOT mean being the puppet-master.

I  like the definition that Dorien Morin (@MoreInMedia) gave in her recent article on Social Media Today.  In her article How to Increase Your Influence on Twitter, Dorien said, “An influencer affects someone. As in- the power to cause changes without directly forcing them to happen.  So without telling people what to do exactly, or without specific instructions, the actions of the influencer affects the actions of the person being influenced.”

I see many people trying to influence other people to buy things, to start or stop doing something or to be part of something specific.  I’m guilty of all those things.  It’s not bad to do that, but that doesn’t mean you are influential.  I think the fine line you walk in becoming influential involves several less-tangible skills:

  • Sincerity- Being able to tell people what you like and really meaning it.  Not promoting things, products, vendors or people that you don’t believe in.
  • Sharing- In order to be considered an influencer, you must share content.  This means that you not only have to share links to content, but you also need to share your analysis on what the stories mean for your industry.  Whether you read an article then incorporate that into your own blog or whether you just add comments to the article and via sites like Twitter or LinkedIn, you must be sharing your opinion.  Another point that helped me gain status as an influencer is that you have to share (give) more than you receive.  You do this for free, any chance you get.
  • Constant curiosity- You need to ensure that you read a TON on other industries.  When people ask me how I do it, I recommend reading science sites, psychology and/or sociology journals, design books, magazines on specific cities or other areas of interest you’d never naturally connect directly to HR.  You need to start thinking about how your curiosity about other topics impacts your approach to HR.
  • Consistency- This is the most important skill in my opinion.  You MUST be visible consistently.  You must share your knowledge and opinions consistently.  You must give back to your larger community and be helpful consistently.  If you do any of those things on an inconsistent basis, you will either never gain influencer status or if you have it, you will lose it.

If you approach connecting with other professionals in your industry in a manner that is helpful, sincere and consistent, you will gain friends and followers organically.  These relationships will lead to business opportunities as well as true friendships that you would have never made otherwise.

I encourage you to read all of Dorien’s tips in her article because they can be applied to building your influence skills on Twitter as well as other sites.  Good luck and let me know if I can be helpful as you create your own influence in our market.

How To Be An Influential Leader

You’re not a leader if no one is following you.

This revelation hit me as I sat in a session on influence at last year’s HRevolution.  I was sitting outside the discussion group as I prepared my thoughts around closing the event when I found my attention drawn to the conversation.  As the group debated various ideas around what it means to be influential, how to gain influence, and what each person could do to create their own call to action, I found myself thinking about influence in the behavioral sense.  Being influential involves some simple behaviors.

BEHAVIORS THAT SUPPORT BEING INFLUENTIAL

  • Being intentional.  Making a real effort to reach out and connect with people.
  • Offering feedback or assistance. Asking the person what you can do for them, each and every conversation, builds trust.
  • Asking someone for their expertise, then sharing that with your network or another individual.
  • Promoting others’ work.  If you have credibility and you share someone else’s work, you not only continue to build your influence, you are building theirs as well.
  • Sharing your perspective. Doing so in a way that brings it to the individual level, but making it scalable to a larger group.

Being influential is granular for me.  It’s about having an individual come to me and say, “You really made me think differently, approach a situation differently, or take an action that I would not have taken.”  Influencing others means that you make an impact on  that person’s life.  Then, you begin multiplying that experience.  The beauty of being influential is that you become a leader regardless if you have the title or not.

What behaviors have I missed that support being  able to influence others?  Share them in the comments.

Business Books: Which Ones Inspire or Impact You?

When you work in human resources, you become part advisor, part therapist, part enforcer.  You are constantly presented with situations where leaders and employees need advice on how to communicate more effectively or how to relate to people who think differently or approach life differently.  In my role, I keep my eyes open to new techniques that can inspire people to become better communicators.  What I’m realizing is that for each new technique I find, they really all go back to some simple principles of getting along.  I recently had something remind me that good advice and good manners never go out of style or effectiveness.

How To Win Friends and Influence People

If you have not read the famous book by Dale Carnegie,  the basic premise of the book is that if you are nice to people, if you listen more than you speak and if you praise and help others keep their dignity, you will have successful relationships.   Written in 1936, the advice still largely holds true and has even been updated recently to how to win friends and influence people in the digital age.  It’s been many years since I read the book but it was one of the books my father recommended for me while I was still in college and had not started down my career path.

If you read this blog, you have likely been working for some time.  As you think back over your career, what books have inspired you or helped shape how you interact with other people?  What is the main message of the book?

Influence Me: Rub Me The Wrong Way

Influence is THE buzz word of business right now.  There are lists of influencers, some of which I am honored to be included on and there are companies like KLOUT that are specifically trying to measure and reward influence.  Influence and how to build it seems to be one of the main topics I’m asked to speak about at conferences.  It’s also one of the more elusive things to truly measure because people have varying definitions of what having influence means.

My definition of influence is the ability to cause someone to think differently, to do something or take a different approach from their normal process.  It is especially helpful in change management situations because you are able to use your skills of persuasion to not only express yourself but to have others listen and react.  But being able to influence someone sometimes means you have to have some friction.

Here’s the nugget:

Sometimes you need to be rubbed the wrong way to be influenced.

Let that sink in.

If you think about human nature, we gravitate to people who are “like” us in one way or another.  That is comfortable.  By surrounding yourself with people who think or respond like you do, you will have a good chance of influencing them from time to time.  However, is that the only way?  And, can you be influential by having disagreements with the way someone thinks or the approach they take?  Absolutely!

Why does that work?  When you disagree with someone, your mind immediately begins to think about all the reasons why their opinion is not valid.  Your adrenaline is going and it changes the tone of the interaction.  It’s a time when innovative and creative ideas can come flowing out because you have some passion behind what you are thinking instead of operating in a mode of complete agreement.

What about all those people who rub you the wrong way?  Maybe they are crass or maybe   they come from a different professional background or approach.  Maybe they are from another generation and you find them cocky or insensitive.  I challenge you to add a few of those people to your inner circle in the coming year.  It will be the best move you can make in strengthening your ability to lead and innovate and will test your ability to think differently.

Real Influencers? Fathers

I planned to share a post today about influence and how our actions impact others.  As I was putting finishing touches on that, I took a break to catch up on my GoogleReader and came across a post by my friend Mervyn Dinnen that stopped me in my tracks.  Mervyn is a Content and Community Manager for Jobsite UK (I’m a huge fan).  He is also a British business blogger who draws on experience gained in his career in recruiting and sourcing.  He’s an all-around great guy.

The post he shared today is about his father and how he influenced Mervyn.  There are some great lessons described and I encourage you to click through and read it here.

Things I learned From My Dad

Trish & Dad in Clearwater, FL

Reading his post reminded me of one I wrote in April 2010 about my father.  I’d like to share that again today here because when I really think about influence, for most people it starts at home, with our parents.  I’d love to hear you share stories of how a parent influenced you in the comments.

My Dad, My Influencer

I’ve often had people ask me what makes me work the way I do, why I get so focused or passionate about things in the workplace, or why I keep taking on more projects inside and outside work when I’m already busy.  I do these things because it’s the way I was raised.  My father, Don Steed, taught me everything I needed to know to be “successful” in my career.  And, by successful, I mean satisfied with my progress, my work product, and my work ethic.  I do not mean it’s about making more and more money, although that IS a nice outcome.

My dad had a hard life.  He was born in a tiny town, Bradford, Arkansas in 1940.  He had two loving parents and a little brother.  My grandfather was a bookkeeper and the family lived several places before landing in Detroit, Michigan.  Back then, tuberculosis was a very common disease in our population and my grandfather contracted it.  He spent seven years in and out of a sanitarium where patients were quarantined.  Mostly, he was there.

My dad was only seven years old when that happened, so he lost most of his formative years with his father becasue he could not even touch him, only experiencing a relationship with him by looking through a window. With his father mostly away, he became the man of the house at a young age and began working.  He was a paper boy, he helped the milkman deliver milk to the doors of each house and he picked up other odd jobs.  His dad eventually passed away when he was fifteen and he dropped out of high school and went back to Arkansas to live with his grandparents.  This had a huge impact on him.

Dad with Trish

By age seventeen he had already decided to join the Army.  He served our country for six years and traveled the world.  After he was released with an Honorable Discharge, he eventually moved to St. Louis, MO and started working.  He married my mother and several years later they had me and after that, my sister.   Although he was a family man and was also working full-time, once he got married, he quickly achieved his GED and began taking courses at the junior college.  He eventually transferred to Washington University. He worked hard his whole life and eventually retired from Big River Zinc (formerly AMAX Zinc) where he had been a manager over several large departments.  He was there over thirty years.

During my life, my dad was always involved in the PTA at school and served as President.  He eventually ran for our district’s school board and served on that from 1980- 1989.  One of the proudest moments in my life was when my dad, the President of the school board, handed me my high school diploma.  It was amazing!  With all he had going on, there were many nights he wasn’t home with us kids.  He had meetings and school events to attend, but what he taught me through that is that it is important to continue to challenge yourself once you’re an adult.

He also taught me:

  • Love your kids fiercely
  • Don’t be complacent- fight for what you believe is right
  • Always give 110%, whether that is when you’re with your kids, at work, or in the way you spend your free time
  • Give back to your community
  • Teach others what you know
  • If you need something done, always ask the busiest person because you know those are the go-getters who will help you get it done

Which brings me back to me.  I take those lessons seriously, and that is why I get all tied up in many activities.  At times that means stress and I’m ok with that.  Mostly, it brings love, community, and help back to me.  I do believe in karma.

Leadership and Influence: Making An Impact

You’re not a leader if no one is following. 

This revelation hit me as I sat in the Smith/ Gorman session on influence at HRevolution.  I was sitting outside the discussion group as I prepared my thoughts around closing the event when I found my attention drawn to the conversation.  As the group debated various ideas around what it means to be influential, how to gain influence, and what each person could do to create their own call to action, I found myself thinking about influence in the behavioral sense.  Being influential involves some simple behaviors.

Behaviors That Support Being Influential

  • Being intentional.  Making a real effort to reach out and connect with people.
  • Offering feedback or assistance. Asking the person what you can do for them, each and every conversation, builds trust.
  • Asking someone for their expertise, then sharing that with your network or another individual.
  • Promoting others’ work.  If you have credibility and you share someone else’s work, you not only continue to build your influence, you are building theirs as well.
  • Sharing your perspective. Doing so in a way that brings it to the individual level, but making it scalable to a larger group.

Being influential is granular for me.  It’s about having an individual come to me and say, “You really made me think differently, approach a situation differently, or take an action that I would not have taken.”  Influencing others means that you make an impact on  that person’s life.  Then, you begin multiplying that experience.  The beauty of being influential is that you become a leader regardless if you have the title or not.

What behaviors have I missed that support being  able to influence others?  Share them in the comments.

Tap Into Informal Leaders to Influence

Back in July, I wrote ‘Leaders Don’t Always Think About Being Leaders‘ because I had just returned from the Conference Board’s  leadership experience at Gettysburg.  Coming off that experience, I believe I have been thinking about leadership in a different way.  Not only is it important to analyze who the named leaders are in our organizations, but it’s important to look at who the people are in the organization that influence employee perception.  This group includes all those informal leaders that people in the various departments look to when new initiatives roll out, when company news is announced, etc.

I recently attended a meeting where someone said that in order to turn or change an organization, you only need to find the square root of the total employees and focus on spreading the word through that number of people.  For example:

Organization size-  5,000 employees

Square root of 5,000-  70.71 employees

So, in order to make change stick in this example, you would need to find the 70 employees who are the informal leaders/ influencers and get them on board. Messaging should still come from more formal channels but by getting the influencers to spread the word with you, you can make a more significant impact on the organizational change.

Have you seen evidence of this in your experience?  Share it in the comments.  I’d love to hear about examples of how driving change through a small group of employees can work.  What were the challenges in identifying the informal leaders and influencers?