Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house.
I’ve recently been observing a business saga that I fear isn’t destined to end well. Sam, a sales and product development director, is preparing to submit an exciting new product proposal to his company. If accepted, it could transform a significant aspect of company operations and further enhance its industry-leading standing. Unfortunately, I believe Sam’s proposal is likely to be rejected for, as ground-breaking as his concept is, he has failed to prepare the ground so that the project might be accepted, take root, and bloom.
Sam’s idea represents the culmination of years of blood, sweat, and tears to understand and serve the needs of his customers. The concept addresses their needs in a way that gives both his customers and his company a platform for growth and collaboration, and it pushes the state of the art in their field forward by several steps.
The success of the venture depends heavily on a partnership with another organization. However, the leadership of Sam’s company has a very negative Continue reading
We’re all familiar with the idea that part of a leader’s job is to build up the confidence of employees in the organization — particularly those just starting out in their careers. A recent experience reminded me, however, that sometimes we also need to build up the confidence of those who we assume are already very confident: executives and other accomplished professionals.
When Things Get Overwhelming
I had the privilege of facilitating a two-day planning meeting for a group of executives contemplating a rather ambitious project: developing a training academy and certification program that would become the standard in their industry. Working diligently in a very pleasant conference facility in the Arizona desert, the team soon had several whiteboard’s full of potential curriculum designs and course outlines spread around the boardroom. As we did a brief re-cap before dinner, I was quite struck by the group’s reaction. As each person took in the array of courses and materials noted on the boards, they vocalized a reaction I wasn’t expecting: they felt a bit overwhelmed.
I was quite startled by this. The participants were all very accomplished in their field and prominent leaders in their respective organizations. And yet, even for Continue reading
“Make dreams, not resolutions” was a slogan I saw in my Twitter stream recently, and I’ve been quite captivated by the thought. In that spirit, I offer these few words of encouragement as we head into a new year that—despite looming fiscal cliffs and on-going worldwide strife—is, as always, full of hope and new possibilities.
Resolutions are Duties, Dreams are passions
As a planner by nature, I’m a huge believer in setting goals and establishing plans. Yet, oddly enough, this doesn’t extend to New Year’s resolutions. While resolutions are a type of goal or plan, somehow there’s something very downcast and difficult about “resolutions.” Too often, they seem to be about “giving up” something, rather than moving toward something with vigor and spirit—a duty or obligation rather than a passion. This is why, I think, resolutions often go by the wayside after only a few days or weeks. They don’t elevate our hopes or engage our dreams.
We all can be more organized, or manage our time better, or be more focused, or more responsive, or stop doing this or start doing that. Those are all on our checklist as mature adults—and we should do our best to improve in each area. But in terms of charting a path for the new year, they’re not going to truly inspire many of us. What if, instead, our goal was to dream a new dream, or to re-invigorate an old one … even if it’s one that might strike some as impractical or unrealistic? Maybe so—but that’s ok. It’s your passion, and who knows where it might lead?
… you gave yourself permission to pursue your love of foreign cultures by Continue reading
Posted in Courage, Encouragement, Happiness, Hopefulness
Tagged Dream, Employee engagement, Excellence, Happiness, Motivation, New Year, New Year Resolutions, Twitter
Do you have employees who you are penning into a limited role — but whose skills and background (if not current position) enable them to contribute great things to your organization, if only “discovered” and given the chance to excel?
An under-employed friend recently shared her frustration at not being permitted to contribute at the level which she is capable. Empathizing with her plight (one that is shared by millions), I wonder whether companies need to attend more directly to this post-recession phenomenon. Is there a way to unleash the potential of this vast untapped reservoir of talent, energy, and ideas?
Point of Reference: The Survey Says
While pondering this, I noticed that SHRM’s latest national job satisfaction survey included a shocker. For the first time, “opportunities to use skills and abilities” displaced job security (63% to 61%) as the most important aspect of job satisfaction. The bottom line: we want to be secure, but even more than that, we want to be fulfilled in our work. President Kennedy once defined happiness as “the full use of one’s talents along lines of excellence.” In this way, we all want to be “happy.”
Recognize These People?
Do any of these folks work at your company?
- MBA-educated customer service rep—She has fifteen years of prior professional experience, but when she makes process improvement suggestions, she’s told “We tried that once and it didn’t work” (with the unstated subtext being, “Besides, managers make those kind of decisions here”).
- Non-degreed manager—You’re happy to have him managing the day-to-day HR affairs of your large retail operation (keeping you out of expensive lawsuits on a daily basis)—but when it comes to managing a high-visibility nationwide project, those are tacitly reserved for designated “high potential” (degreed) junior executives only.
- Receptionist-Playwright—Did you know that your friendly receptionist spent a dozen years as a budget analyst and project manager for a major bank and, in her spare time, is a playwright who founded and leads her own non-profit, community theatre group?
If so, you may have individuals who are vastly under-employed—i.e., highly under-utilized assets.
So, what can be done? Each company and individual circumstance is different, of course —but just using the three examples above, how would it improve your organization’s performance if …
- You sought out the MBA-educated customer service rep, let her know that you appreciated her process-improvement suggestions, and you wanted her to keep them coming. Separately, you ensure that the status-quo manager changes their tune and opens up to change in no uncertain terms.
- You realize that you’ve advertised a senior HR director role for months without success—all the while possibly having an ideal candidate in-house. You loosen the degree requirements, focus on who can truly do the job, and invite the non-degreed HR manager in for a serious interview / career planning discussion.
- You’re reorganizing a chronically under-performing department and are about to advertise for a project manager to lead the effort. Then, you remember the receptionist’s background and wonder if this is the sort of thing she has done in a past life. When she jumps at the opportunity and hits the ground running, you smile in satisfaction (and relief at finally solving the problem).
With managers at all levels just as overwhelmed as their employees—having little time to think deeply about the latent skills, talents, and experience of their employees—the “what if” above might strike some as unrealistic. But what if it’s not? It might just take some time and a commitment to dig a little deeper to see answers that might be right in front of us.
Posted in Employee Relations, Encouragement, Happiness, Leadership, Talent Management
Tagged bosses, Employee engagement, Excellence, Happiness, Human Resources, Leadership, Motivation and Rewards
Are our managers weighed down by doubts about their roles and the organization’s purposes? Simple clarity can help release powerful performance.
I was reminded again last week how important it is for organizations to communicate clear roles and purposes. Simply knowing where the organization is going and what it expects of you dramatically affects how you feel about—and how you do—your job. So simple … and so easy to forget.
As I was helping a group of front-line supervisors implement a new performance evaluation system, the question of “trust” kept coming up. At first, it was difficult to get a handle on what exactly the issue was. I kept talking about how the system would free them to coach, mentor, and support their employees—and they kept asking, “Really?”
The system itself was pretty simple, so I was confused, until it finally became clear that they weren’t questioning the system—only their role in it. The “really” was, “Are you sure that the organization really wants us spending our time coaching and mentoring? They’re really going to let us do that?”
Clearly there was some emotional baggage to overcome before any new system could take hold.
In the last ten or so years, they had experienced a number of short-term leaders. With each new leader—some more communicative than others—the role of the front-line supervisor had shifted, leaving them confused and dispirited. The common theme, Continue reading
Posted in coaching, Communication, Excellence, Leadership, Talent Management
Tagged coaching, Employee engagement, Employee Relations, Excellence, Happiness, Human Resources, Leadership, management
I have a confession to make: I was wrong about LeBron James.
I thought that he would never win an NBA Championship. While possessing other-worldly talent, I didn’t think he had the depth of character to lead his team to the mountaintop. Yet, somehow, there he was last month, celebrating a championship with his teammates—one that he had largely willed them toward. I was wrong.
Of course, many mis-judgments of talent are made in sports—and business—every day. The question is, what do we do when the facts change and we recognize that we’ve under- (or over-) evaluated someone on our team?
As brief background for non-basketball fans, LeBron James has been regarded as one of the most talented basketball players in the world since he was in high Continue reading
Johan Santana waves to fans after throwing the first no-hitter in Mets history. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)
It is said that “Pride goeth before the fall” (Proverbs, 16:18).
There are countless examples of this maxim in the worlds of politics, business, and our own daily lives. At the same time, there is a spirit of pride (and determination) that can lift up and inspire. That’s the kind of pride that this story is about.
Last Friday evening, at Citi Field, in the working class borough of Queens, in the City of New York, Johan Santana threw a no-hitter. While a noteworthy accomplishment on its own (there have only been 275 no-hitters in the major leagues since 1875), it is not why grown men cried at the feat and an entire city was elated for days afterward. To understand that part, you need to know the context.
Santana pitches for the New York Mets—a team nicknamed “The Amazins” not for their stellar play, but for their sometimes historic ineptitude punctuated by periods of break-your-heart, so-near-and-yet-so-far brushes with greatness (cue the song, “Ya’ Gotta Have Heart,” from the classic musical, “Damn Yankees,” and you’ve got the picture). The past five years have been a microcosm of the team’s 50-year history:
- They came within one pitch of the World Series in 2006 when they had the best team in baseball (losing in the bottom of the ninth of the seventh game of the League Championship Series with the bases loaded, a 3-2 count, and their best hitter at the plate).
- They suffered two of the greatest collapses in baseball history at the end of the 2007 and 2008 seasons, missing the playoffs in almost inconceivably excruciating fashion. Continue reading
Posted in Courage, Encouragement, Excellence, Leadership
Tagged determination, Excellence, Johan Santana, Leadership, New York City, New York Mets, no-hitter, pride
Can a fresh set of dry erase markers and a clean whiteboard really be tools for "good HR" (and bad)?
I had an experience this week that provided an “a-ha” moment for me about the power of “good HR” – HR support that helps bring ideas to life in ways that help organizations progress.
I was helping a small team come up with a list of performance traits that denote excellence in their field. They plan to use these characteristics through the full HR cycle of events, from interviewing and selection to performance evaluation and professional development.
The same group had gone through a similar exercise a few years ago. At that time, they accomplished the task – i.e., they put words down on paper – but (and this part won’t be a surprise for anyone who’s spent any time in HR or organizations in general), the document then sat on a shelf unused for years, to the point where people even forgot it existed.
An Example of Bad HR
This is a good example of “bad HR” that we unfortunately fall into in many of our organizations from time to time. Good people Continue reading
Autumn provides the opportunity to tidy up our haven't-quite-gotten-to-it lists before the rush of the holidays is upon us
The falling leaves — announcing the changing of the seasons — have brought to mind the question of “wrapping up” certain activities and preparing for what’s ahead.
Tidying Up the Sidewalk
Earlier this week, I stepped outside to stretch my legs and enjoy a moment of the beautiful autumn afternoon, the sunshine giving off a golden glow. Passing a row of twin homes near our office, I exchanged greetings with an older gentleman I often see on my walks. A distinguished fellow of dignified bearing, I noticed that he was attending to the manicured patch of grass and sidewalk in front of his home with his usual care.
It struck me that my neighborhood friend’s task was symbolic of good advice for all of us this time of year – tidy up, and prepare for the next season.
Wrapping Up … Doesn’t That Feel Good!
I would venture that most of us have a few things on our I-haven’t-quite-gotten-around-to-it list. Things that aren’t necessarily the most pleasant nor enjoyable to do – but which if we finally got them done, would take a mental “load” off our minds. No one ever gets to everything on their list, of course … but here is some encouragement to check off a least a few items! (C’mon … you can do it!).
Keeping things on the professional side (but realizing we all probably have a similar list in our personal lives, as well), below are a few examples of things-not-quite-done. The list will vary amongst HR generalists and VP’s, front-line supervisors and CEO’s, of course. Regardless of position, though, there are still 6 or 8 weeks left before holiday parties and celebrations with family and friends are upon us – time enough to make a dent on things like …
- HR Generalists: the I-9, or COBRA, or FLSA audits that need to be done but – since “we haven’t gotten sued yet” – for which higher priorities have arisen every time we “meant” to tackle these tasks. Checking one of these off the list will help protect your organization in a very meaningful way.
- Recruiters: the hard-to-fill job for which you’ve almost convinced yourself qualified candidates don’t exist. Taking a fresh look and making a renewed effort on this opening would take a great weight off of two people – yourself, and the hiring manager who really needs the position filled to move his or her operation forward.
- HR VP’s/Leaders: the global PHR certification exam that you’ve been meaning to sign up and sit for. You’ve been dealing with international issues for years. You’re confident in your knowledge. You know it would be a nice final element to cement your professional credentials. It’s true that the XYZ project is coming to fruition right when the exam is scheduled. Sign up anyway.
- Organizational Leaders: the under-performer on your team you need to address. You know you have a highly-competent, exemplary leadership team … except for Harry, who’s a great guy and a trusted friend – just not a skilled manager. You’ve been meaning to have “the conversation” with him. They’ll never be “a good time” and it’s impossible to “let him down easy.” Have the conversation any way. The team will improve; so will everyone working under Harry. You’ll feel better … and so will he.
If we don’t take a few moments – or hours, or days – when the time is available, we risk having snow cover the fallen leaves, making it all that much harder to clean up, put in order, and clear a path for the future. Consider this a huge dose of friendly encouragement – and a nudge or two – to do what we need to do.
- Day 361 – Fall Leaves (singsansimpetuses.com)
- Thankful for the Falling Leaves (acreativeneed.wordpress.com)