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
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)
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
Posted in Encouragement, Hopefulness, Managing By Cliches, Views of HR
Tagged company culture, Customer service, Don Quixote, Employee Assistance Programs, HR professionals, HR qualities, Human Resources, management
Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the annual SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) conference in Las Vegas, which I was very impressed with in almost every respect. Gathering 14,000 HR professionals and keeping them engaged, energized, and pointing toward the future (the slogan was “We Know Next”) isn’t an easy task– and SHRM and its many volunteers did an outstanding job. There was only one thing that disturbed me: the seemingly ubiquitous “I Love HR” logo items (t-shirts, stickers, teddy bears, etc.).
Does "I Love HR" really send the wrong message?
I know that sounds like there should be a punch line there somewhere – “you’re upset about teddy bears, really?” — but I’m actually serious about that. I believe that the “I Love HR” message is quite self-defeating. Here’s why.
The “Seat at the Table” Conversation
I wrote last week about HR’s unique positioning as an “internal external” consultant – i.e., sharing perspectives that others are too close to the battle to see. Ironically, HR isn’t excluded from this truth, of course – i.e., we’re too close to our own issues to see them clearly, just like everyone else. (Example: HR is notoriously bad at Continue reading
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
Posted in Excellence, Planning, Views of HR
Tagged Excellence, HR professionals, HR qualities, Human Resources, impressionism, management, monet, Organization, Views of HR
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?
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.
As one example on the “bad timing” side … our national sales director Continue reading
Posted in Courage, Encouragement, Hopefulness, Managing By Cliches, Planning
Tagged Charlie Brown, Cliché, Customer relationship management, Excellence, HR professionals, Human Resources, Meeting, Patience, strategy, Talent management
There was a disturbing story in the newspaper today:
The trial dragged on for two years — marked by 46 days of hearings, 18 witnesses on the stand, and a hefty 89-page ruling by the judge. Mob crime of the century? Complex terror case? Nope. Just trying to get rid of a bad public-school teacher.
The article went on to detail the almost unimaginable lengths that one had to go to terminate a demonstrably incompetent teacher in New York City. Not surprisingly, few administrators even try.
Do we always have the courage (and well-placed compassion) to fire an employee in the best interests of the company?
Fortunately, most of our workplaces aren’t nearly this extreme in protecting poorly performing employees. Yet and still, I wonder if in trying to guard against lawsuits by forcing managers to “dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ ” before signing off on a termination, HR professionals are often guilty of damaging the organization and its employees in unintended but real ways.
Posted in Courage, Excellence, Leadership, Policies, Talent Management
Tagged bosses, company culture, Compassion, Courage, Employment, HR professionals, Human Resources, Leadership, management, New York City, termination
The Easter and Passover season is a time for personal reflection for many. How do you renew yourself from a professional perspective?
The Easter and Passover season is a time of personal reflection for many, as well as a time for renewing one’s spirit and celebrating cherished ancient traditions with family and close friends. In this same vein, I’ve been reflecting on the question of “renewing one’s spirit” from a professional perspective.
Getting a “Fresh Breath”
On Sunday mornings, I enjoy listening to “Sunday With Sinatra” on the radio. Recently, they played a clip of “The Chairman of the Board” chatting with the audience in between songs. In the clip, Frank Sinatra was talking about how, after singing his huge hit “My Way” for many years, he got a bit burnt out on the song. But his audiences always asked for it, so he kept singing the song. Then one day, he got what he called “a fresh breath,” and it was as if he was singing the song for the first time again.
As an HR professional, you often have to do the same thing over and over again — such as training new supervisors on exempt/non-exempt and overtime pay issues, for example. You have to “keep singing the song,” even when it has gotten a bit old for you. What can you do to “get a fresh breath” and keep going? Continue reading
Posted in Employee Relations, Encouragement, Happiness, Hopefulness, Talent Management, Training & OD
Tagged bosses, Easter, Employee engagement, Frank Sinatra, Happiness, HR professionals, Human Resources, Mergers and acquisitions, Passover
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
Posted in Employee Relations, Encouragement, Happiness, Talent Management, Views of HR
Tagged American Idol, Business, company culture, Employee engagement, Employment, executives, Happiness, HR professionals, HR qualities, Human Resources, Job satisfaction, Motivation and Rewards, Views of HR
Sitting in church last Sunday, I observed two quiet, almost-unnoticed scenes of parents instructing and guiding their children, and the children responding beautifully. This caused me to reflect on the “teachable moments” that come along in our working lives every day and every week — and to wonder how often, in the head-long rush to “get things done” and “move the ball forward,” we see and capitalize on these moments with those we are formally or informally responsible for developing and mentoring in our organizations.
Quiet Instruction (Preparing and Supporting)
Before Mass began, a woman stood at the lecturn quietly instructing two teenage girls. Only a few soft words were spoken, as she demonstrated how to open the book of readings and then return it to its place — clearly referring back to prior instruction Continue reading