Tag Archives: HR qualities

Making Your Boss Look Good

Telling "gentle truths" is a way of fulfilling with integrity the "job requirement" of keeping the boss happy by making him or her "look good"

As I was helping a manager write a job description recently, he leaned over and said, “Wait.  There’s one more ‘requirement’ we need to add.”  Waiting a beat, he smiled:  “Ability to make boss look good.”  We both laughed  – but we both recognized the truth in what he had said, too.

While the blatantly “political” (one might say, “Machiavellian”) nature of this idea is uncomfortable for me, there is no doubt that this represents a cold, hard truth in many if not all organizations. It might not be necessary for getting the job, but “making the boss look good” is often a de facto requirement for keeping (or succeeding in) a job long term.

How can one do so with integrity, serving the best interests of their organization, their boss, and – admittedly – their own career? Three “rules” come to mind.

NOTE: The following examples concern qualified, good-performing bosses. Incompetent and “mean” bosses are another case entirely – and, as they say, a story for another day.

#1: Invite them into situations that play to their strengths

We once had a CEO who, while surprisingly quiet and shy in one-to-one or small group settings, was a very engaging speaker in a large room.  Therefore, when we invited him to kick-off a “Welcome to the company” orientation presentation on the day of an acquisition, we were quite surprised when he struggled mightily in telling the company’s story to the crowd.

We later realized our mistake: Continue reading

Stop Tilting At Windmills: Accepting That You Can’t Solve Every(one’s) Problem

Part of our continuing series of posts on “Managing By Cliches.”

Like Don Quixote, HR people sometimes idealistically "tilt at windmills" -- fighting battles that can't be won.

HR people generally try hard to “fix” things — people, organizations, relationships, etc.  There is a bit of the idealistic and ever-hopeful Don Quixote  “tilting at windmills” in all of us, I suppose — always trying to make things better, even when others with a more objective view might see the situation (or the person) as hopeless. In the end, though, the most challenging “truth” that we need to accept as HR people might be that we can’t fix everyone or everything … especially if they don’t “ask” us to “fix” them.

Bob, The Customer Service Rep Who And Hated His Customers

Just from the “headline” above, you might say, “Well, that seems like an easy one.”  And you would be right.  The “fix” — for “Bob” to get a new job, and maybe even a completely new line of work — is easily seen… by everyone except for Bob, of course.

As it turns out, Bob is a bright, hard-working, earnest 30-something who, for the past decade or so has worked two full-time jobs at the same time: managing a restaurant and leading a customer service team in a busy office.  The good news is that he is talented and performs well at both jobs.  The bad news is that the cumulative weight of satisfying customer demands at both jobs has left him burned out, resentful of even the most innocuous of customer request, and generally feeling Continue reading

Self-Discipline: An Under-Rated Leadership Skill

Last week, as I observed a leader handle a delicate inter-personal issue with great skill, it struck me that the successful result was influenced as much by what he didn’t do as much as by what he did.  While seeming “passive” on the
surface, the “not doing” took a great deal of active self-discipline – a very
under-appreciated leadership skill, I believe.

Don’t Underestimate the Soft-Spoken, Unassuming Guys

“David” (name changed to protect the “innocent”) is very low-key in nature – ever friendly, helpful and hopeful.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is one example of the personal self-discipline brought to his daily work by the leader in this story (not pictured)

He is quietly supportive  in an “I’ve got your back” way — without ever having to say it because everyone knows it’s true.  While he doesn’t have much formal “power” in the company, he does have significant influence, flowing largely from his personal qualities.
If David sounds like what others have termed an “authentic leader,” I
would fully agree.  In this situation, Continue reading

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

Is There Anything Better Than …?

Has it been a “long winter” in your workplace the same as it’s been in mine?  

Do you get as much satisfaction from making job offers as the American Idol judges show when telling participants they've made it to next round?

Here in the northeast US, the blooms of spring can’t come soon enough for most of us. While this is true every year, this came home to me the other day when I realized that even the most even-tempered, easy-going, always-a-smile-on-their-face-and-a-kind-word-for-all people in the office were sniping at co-workers and generally walking about with forlorn looks (or worse). Despite the fact that Punxsatawney Phil has guaranteed the early arrival of spring, it sure seems like everyone can still use a few encouraging thoughts.

For my part, I thought it might be a good time for some reminders of the best things we get to experience as HR people … Continue reading

What Can the Harry Potter Movies Teach Us About Recruiting?

The recent release of the next-to-last movie in the Harry Potter saga (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I) led me to pondering the classic HR/management question of hiring for “characteristics” vs. hiring for skill/experience.

Three previously inexperienced young stars have carried the Harry Potter movie franchise for a decade

While this might seem an odd linkage, here is my question: If you were responsible for casting (“hiring”) three children on whose shoulders would rest the fate of a potential multi-billion dollar franchise, what would you do — hire based on experience, or hire based on who seemed to have “it” (i.e., “characteristics,” in HR-speak)?

What Kind of Experience (or Resume) Should a 10-year old Have?

How can you determine if actor (candidate) you’re casting (hiring) has it in him/her to grow with the needs of the film series (organization) as it evolves over the next ten years, such as was the task of the Harry Potter producers in casting the three young leads?  Continue reading

In Thanksgiving of Mentors

The First Thanksgiving, painted by Jean Leon G...

Image via Wikipedia

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I’ve been reflecting on people from my past professional lives for whom I am deeply grateful, mentors all.  As is the nature of relationships, some I had the good fortune of knowing and working with for many years, while others I knew closely for only a short time.  Whether our time together was long or short, each has had a lasting impact on me personally and professionally.

What Is A Mentor — and Where Do They Come From

The dictionary defines “mentor” as: Continue reading