Monthly Archives: June 2011

Can HR Help Companies See “The Forest for the Trees”

One must step back from a Monet painting to see "the forest for the trees"

It is said that if you stand too close to something (either physically or emotionally), you’re bound to miss the “big picture.”  In a more ethereal way, St. Paul writes about being “in the world but not of the world.” Applying this in a corporate context is no less tricky than in a spiritual one, of course – but I believe this is an important part of HR’s role, to serve as an “internal external consultant.”  Because we serve all constituencies in the organization, we’re better positioned than most to help the organization step back and see “the forest from the trees” at those moments when perspective is necessary.

Lessons from a Planning Meeting

I recently witnessed the following during an organization’s monthly management meeting:

  • Meeting Leader:  “The XYZ line of business is no longer very profitable for us, due to significant changes in the marketplace. In fact, we’re barely breaking even on it.”
  • Meeting  (sadly):  “But we really love the XYZ business – it’s what we’re all about.” Continue reading

Managing By Cliches: Timing Is Everything (Pick Your Spots)

This is another in our series of posts on the topic of “managing by cliches.”

Last week was a very good one in my department, as a long-hoped for project moved forward in a significant way, after years of opposition from certain quarters.  Reflecting on the reasons that we  finally made progress,  I believe it came down to two things:

  • perseverance  (i.e., being too stubborn to give up)
  • patience (being willing to “wait it out” until conditions were more favorable).

Melding these two qualities together, I think the cliche “timing is everything” is really what was at work here.

Do we always have the patience (and perseverance) to wait for the right moment to make our move?

Luck?

One might argue that “timing” is nothing more than luck — i.e., some people are just “born under a lucky star” and always appear to be “in the right place at the right time.”  “Not me,”  you might say.  “If I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all” we might all feel in our “Charlie Brown” moments.  (Raise your hand if you’ve ever thought this about yourself).  While I wouldn’t argue that luck (or “good fortune,” or “kizmet,” or “serendipity”) plays no role, I do think that other more controllable factors are involved, as well.

I believe that awareness of “the moment”  plays a key role in this.  No one can be fully aware of everything and everyone around them, of course.  But through practice and focus, we can probably all get better at this.

Poor Timing

As one example on the “bad timing” side … our national sales director Continue reading

Antidote to Leader Misbehavior

During the past several weeks, we have seen more than our fair share of  leaders behaving badly (see Messrs. Schwarzenneger, Weiner, et al). While saddening,  we’ve all experienced enough in our lives to make it all anything but shocking, I’m afraid.  (Several years back, I had the unfortunate experience of working in an organization whose truly brilliant and visionary but equally undisciplined division leader was not only openly conducting an extramarital affair with an employee, but was also eagerly advising other executives how to do so).

How different is the true gentleman or woman from the poor leadership behavior on recent display

Many a gallon of ink (or, the electronic equivalent) has been spilled in recent weeks pondering the meaning and impact of such leader misbehavior.  While I suspect that most of the bad behavior is the result of ego, power, greed, hubris — or some combination thereof — I’d like to go in a different direction today, if I might.  I’d like to reflect in this space on the impact of honorable behavior by the “quiet leaders” in our lives — the men and women who get up each morning trying to do the right thing, set the right example, and help us see right from wrong, often without saying a word.

Real Leaders and True Gentlemen (and women)

As a baseball fan, I enjoy collecting anecdotes, memorabilia, stories, and perspectives on the game.  My favorite baseball quote, however, actually has nothing at all to do with baseball, per se.  David Cone, an outstanding pitcher and World Series winner with several teams in the ’90’s, was once asked Continue reading

Reluctant Mentors

I observed something at work this week that made me very sad.  No one died, or was fired unfairly, or received distressing personal news.  It was much more subtle than that:  I saw someone miss (or refuse, actually) an opportunity to be a mentor.

Is anyone reaching out to us for mentoring ... and we're not seeing them?

It might not seem like a big deal, really.  I mean, in our work and personal lives, we miss capitalizing on opportunities all the time, just in the regular course of events.  Certainly, even the most selfless person can’t be aware of — or pursue — every possible opportunity; to wit, we can’t be all things to all men at all times. But when an ideal circumstance — an “easy layup” in basketball parlance — presents itself and we choose dismiss it out of hand, that’s another matter entirely.  It left me wondering, how many golden opportunities to mentor others do we miss every day?

A Towering Figure

The reluctant (or unwilling) mentor — let’s call him, The Professor — is a towering figure in our organization and our industry.  His expertise and insight has been widely respected and sought-out for decades.  Continue reading