Monthly Archives: March 2011

Managing By Cliches, Part 5: Don’t Paint Yourself Into A Corner

The Joy of Painting

Bob Ross considered his tools -- his brushes -- to be his friends. Shouldn't organizational policies be our "friends," supporting our needs, not limiting them?

Do you remember Bob Ross, the man with the soothing voice, wild hair, and happy demeanor who hosted The Joy of Painting shows on PBS for so many years?  As I recall, one of his favorite phrases was pointing out in an encouraging way, as he added elements to his painting, that “the brush is our friend.” He wanted brushes to expand our horizons, not limit them.

I don’t know if Bob Ross (who sadly passed away at the young age of 52 in 1995 but lives on in re-runs around the world) knew anything about “human resources” or “corporate policies” — but I thought of him recently in connection to both of these topics.   Continue reading

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Tragedy Brings Perspective

Reflecting on loss and the prospect of rebuilding after the earthquake in Japan

Isn’t it so? We’re going about our daily lives and then — BAM! — tragedy strikes out of nowhere.  It can come in the form of a sudden serious illness, or death, or — as happened last week in Japan — a natural disaster causing widespread devastation.  We may be alone in our suffering, or our entire community — or the whole world — might be standing by our side and sharing our sadness.

Tragedy invariably brings fresh perspective — the reminder of what is truly important to us … family … friends … good health … quiet moments of good cheer and great fellowship.  Perhaps the threat of it being taken away in an instant is exactly what reminds us why “the little things” are so important  in the first place.

So it was with the tragedy in Japan last week.  Shortly after events started to unfold — earthquake followed by tsunami followed by nuclear fears — I saw a “tweet” from fellow HR blogger, Chris Ferdinandi, that said:

My heart goes out to the people of Japan. To discuss anything else seems a bit trivial right now…

Yes, indeed.  For the past week or so, I’ve had a post in mind about an HR policy matter, but I haven’t quite had the mind to sit down and type it out.  Out of deference to the suffering in Japan, I’ll take a “moment of silence,” as it were, and hold off on posting for a few days at least, and offer a quiet prayer, instead.  May the people of Japan know that many hearts and prayers are with them as they start down the long path of recovery and rebuilding.

Managing By Cliches, Part 4: Mean What You Say

When advising management teams that are considering new policies, I always ask them to consider one question: “If your star employee violated this policy, what would you do?”

One of BYU's star players violated a sacred university rule -- and the school stuck by the rule, to its short-term detriment and long-term acclaim

If the answer I get back is hemming and hawing and ultimately a sheepish, “Well, honestly, we’d probably look the other way or give him another chance,” it becomes clear that, at the very least, they shouldn’t state the policy in absolute terms (i.e., no use of the words “never,” “always,” and the like).  Better that they have a vague policy — or no policy at all — than that they have a policy that they know they’ll never really enforce (or won’t enforce for everyone, in any case).

To reduce it to its simplest element, it’s all about “meaning what you say.” If you write “never” or “always,” you better really mean “never” or “always.”  If not, your credibility (both legally and culturally) may never recover.  Quite remarkably, a story emerged from the sports world that illustrated the “mean what you say” proviso quite dramatically.  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