Tag Archives: Business

In Thanksgiving of Mentors

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

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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

To Really Help Our Organizations, Should HR Go “Back to the Future”?

Back to the Future

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During the past few weeks, I’ve happened to see a few mentions of the classic, 1980’s movie, Back to the Future — which got me to thinking, oddly enough, about human resources.  In the movie, the hero — Michael J. Fox — had to go back to the past in order to help his family and community in the future.  Putting the notion of time travel aside, I’ve been wondering if this might be an apt metaphor for what HR needs to do in many organizations — i.e., to go “back to basics” in order to help the organization move forward.

Being Cutting Edge or Going Back to Basics — Which Is Needed?

In so many HR departments, there is a constant worry about things like “are we being strategic enough?” and “how can we get a seat at the leadership table?” Continue reading

To “Fix” Performance (and Help Employees), Remember Maslow

Diagram showing the hierarchy of needs based o...

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As I was working with a manager recently, discussing strategies for improving the performance of a good-performing  employee who recently seemed to be “cracking” under the pressure, the “light bulb” went on for me.  In that moment, I was struck by the impossibility of the task — or, at the least, the noble-but-misguided way we were approaching the task.  There we were, trying to fix what appeared on the surface to be a “job performance” problem — never recognizing that the real issue was something far different.  All I could think to say was, “Maslow was right.”

Maslow Was Right

“Maslow?” the manager asked. “The guy in accounting who always gives everyone a hard time about their expense reports?” he asked.  Continue reading

Halloween Special: Cast of Characters That I’ve Known

In honor of Halloween, I thought I might keep things on the lighter side and walk down “memory lane” a bit, recalling notable “characters” from my years in the working world — or at least situations in which our “best and brightest” thinking didn’t exactly shine through.  Have you known characters or situations like these?  Please share your stories … and we’ll enjoy a (kind-hearted) laugh or two together (all in good fun, of course)!

Characters

. . . Mr. Plant, I Presume: the sales executive who spotted his boss airport and, because he owed him some data that he didn’t have, decided to “hide” … behind a potted plant (yes, this is almost too cliched to be true — but it is)

. . . Just Doing My Nails: the HR person who was so relaxed, she regularly did her nails in team meetings — complete with bag of manicure supplies spread on the table, cotton balls between each finger, etc., etc., etc.

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Leading Without Saying a Word

I’ve been reading and thinking a lot lately about authentic leadership and servant-leaders.  It strikes me that much of this good and thoughtful writing gets down to simple but vital lessons learned at your parents’ knee: be sincere, kind, and thoughtful; take people and their concerns seriously; listen and support; do as much as you can to help – in essence, an elongated version of the golden rule. Understanding that one doesn’t need to be a CEO to “lead,” here is a small contribution from my own experience of a former colleague and “leader by example.”

A True Gentleman

I met Scott several years ago when I was responsible for managing the HR side of mergers and acquisitions for our company.  He was the VP of Human Resources for a mid-sized business unit that we were acquiring.  It came to pass that due to redundancies, although Scott was clearly an exemplary HR leader, he and his small team would only be with us on a transitional (9-month) basis. (I know – not exactly visionary staff planning on our part, but that is a story for another day).  Over those nine months, I had the chance to work closely with Scott and his team and found them all to be very fine people, taking their cues in the best sense of the word from Scott, who was admired as a true gentleman (and, not incidentally, a highly-skilled HR and OD leader, as well).

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What Nurses Can Teach Us About HR (Courage and Compassion)

From the title, you might expect this to be a post about service to others (i.e., what nurses do), as an analogy for HR’s service to employees and managers.  While there are any number of comparisons between nursing and HR (perhaps fodder for future posts), my focus today is on another aspect of HR, actually: hiring the right people (and letting go of the wrong ones).

Minor Surgery, Major Comfort

I had the occasion to have a short stay in a hospital recently for minor surgery (everything went very well; thank you kindly).  As it was (fortunately) my first overnight spent in a hospital, I was keenly aware of the type of care I received.  I was struck by the fact that, to a person, everyone I came into contact with seemed incredibly “at peace” with what they were doing — i.e., caring for patients, controlling pain, prepping for surgery, etc.  I’m sure that each of the nurses, technicians, doctors, etc., had their own personal struggles and hardships that they carried into the hospital that day.  Yet, once the “lights went on” and they were interacting with patients (in this case, me), all of those struggles vanished, as they made me feel like I was their only patient, and all of their efforts were going toward meeting my needs.

It was quite a humbling experience, to be candid — i.e., to see a team of people working together, in this case to prepare for, carry out, and help me recover from, surgery.  They each seemed to go about their jobs with a certain  Continue reading

For Execs, Does Firing Guarantee Future Success?

The current HP logo used on corporate document...

Hewlett Packard

I’ve been wondering …. why is it that once someone reaches a certain level in an organization, it seems that even if they “fail” repeatedly and get fired (sometimes several times), they seem to re-surface months later in a similar (or better) job at another organization?  And what does this say about Boards, CEO’s, and other senior managers that they often put their faith in “re-treads” instead of taking a chance on talented, high-potential (but non-pedigreed) “new blood”?

Case In Point

Last week, Hewlett Packard hired Leo Apotheker as its new CEO — seven months after Mr. Apotheker had been forced out of rival SAP after only seven months at the helm.  While a number of publications have published harsh assessments of Apotheker’s tenure at SAP (and of his chances of succeeding at HP), my purpose isn’t to evaluate his prior performance per se (I don’t know Mr. Apotheker nor do I work in the hi-tech field or have direct insight into it).  Rather, my purpose is to ponder the implications of a very public “failure” leading, only months later to a new and more prestigious role. Continue reading