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Monthly Archives: June 2015

Ninjas in our midst: in praise of undercover leaders (dispatch from #SHRM15)

Note: This week I am at the Annual National SHRM Convention in Las Vegas, NV. And in case you’re wondering if it it’s hot in Las Vegas in July, the answer is HELL YES. The heat…my god, man, THE HEAT.

Not everyone likes to go to conferences.

There are a lot of people. Vendors looks desperate. There are too many sessions that seem to look the same, and if you have to get on one more shuttle bus, you may burst into tears.

Now multiply that by about 15,000.  Because that’s how many HR professionals have descended upon Las Vegas for the annual SHRM National Convention.

They come for a variety of reasons – some come to get their recertification credits, some to see specific speakers, some to raid the Expo Hall, and yes…some come just because they want a company-sponsored trip to Vegas. (Don’t judge – you’re just mad you didn’t think of it.)

I would argue, however, that the vast majority come to reconnect with others who share their experience, skills, and intereninja2sts. They come because they want to meet the people they’ve connected with over the years. They come because they want to learn from others.

And they come because so many of these HR professionals are LEADERS.

No, they don’t have the fancy title. In fact, many of them don’t even think of themselves as leaders. They are HR folks doing the best they can to help their organizations be successful. And in the process, they prove their leadership.

These folks ask good questions in sessions. They stay behind to challenge the speaker on points made during a session. They engage with their peers on the Expo Floor or while waiting for the shuttle. They ask how the conference is going when riding the elevator down to the lobby each morning. They challenge the thinking of those around them, aren’t afraid to call something bullshit when it is exactly that, yet they don’t tear down – they help build.

This wouldn’t surprise the people who know them, because back in the office, these same HR professionals nudge and influence, support and coerce the employees and leaders working in their organizations. They keep the trains running AND challenge the status quo – all without calling attention to themselves. It’s about the outcomes, silly.

They are leadership ninjas. You don’t even realize they were there – but you feel their effects long after they’re gone. (And some of them are partial to black. No idea why.)

Are you noticing the “ninjas” in your organization? Are you willing to recognize leadership based on actions, not words? Are you able to empower based on behaviors, not title?

Don’t underestimate the power of these covert leaders…because I guarantee there are others in the organization who notice their influence and rely on their leadership capabilities.

When these HR professionals return to their organizations, eager to share what they experienced and itching to try some new things, give them some grace. Leaders DO. Leaders ACT. Leaders TRY. The worst thing you can do is look at them like they’ve grown a second head because these people want to implement something new.

So be quiet. Stand back.

You may be surprised what a ninja can do.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2015 in Authenticity, Personal Development

 

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Ride into the Danger Zone (stepping out and taking a risk)

This week I am attending the WorkHuman 2015 Conference in Orlando, Florida. The goal of this conference is to help companies find ways to create a community of support and positivity that brings greater meaning to everyone’s work lives.  I’ll share what I learn here and on Twitter (@mkfaulkner43 #WorkHuman). 


 

If you’re going to make a mistake, make a mistake of passion.
–  Dr. Montgomery, jazz teacher

If I had a pick a word for Day One of WorkHuman, I would say it’s Balance.

Day Two, I would pick Risk. As in, take more of them.

I like this word. In fact, I LOVE this word. Risk. It’s a good one and it reminds all of us that innovation and greatness doesn’t come from sitting on our ass waiting for someone to tell us the best way to do things. We have to go for it.

All the keynote speakers so far today – Rob Lowe (yes, he IS that pretty in real life) and Nilofer Merchant (FOLLOW HER) – pushed the idea of stretching your comfort zone, taking big risks, not being afraid to fail, to BE WEIRD.

We are so hard-wired to stay in our boxes, follow the rules, conform. It’s time we embrace the fact that danger is a necessary ingredient to realizing our full potential.

We all work with and for people who never look outside of the four walls of their particular business, who believe the experience they have and the way they have always done things is exactly the right and best way to do it.

And you know what? It might be. For them. In that system. In that industry.

But for the rest of us? We need to be bold. We need to show courage. We need to stop thinking and start doing.

As employees, this means sharing our ideas and making proposals that we think are smart. Yes – there is a very real chance that it will get shot down the first, second, tenth time. But if you don’t believe in your idea enough to keep reworking it, getting more data, and trying again, why do you think anyone else would believe in it? The approval of others isn’t the only measure as to whether or not you have a good idea. Just because they don’t see it and get it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

danger_zone_-_kenny_loggins_2

As leaders, it means stopping our incessant need to “protect” – to protect what we have, to protect what our teams have, to protect some perceived notion of security. Leaders are EXACTLY in the right position to rock the boat – and rock it a lot – in order to move their business forward. Leaders have the influence, the knowledge, and the audience to be able to take real risk and make a difference. Leaders will set the example that risk-taking – and potential failure – is okay, encouraged, and ultimately, valued because of the impact it can have on the organization.

It doesn’t mean you get to be stupid about it.

It means you believe in the validity of an idea so much that you want it to succeed.

It means you believe in yourself enough that you know you are someone worth taking a risk for.

Risk taking is contagious. It breaks the status quo and challenges our assumptions about what we do, how we do it, and most importantly, why we do it. Risk taking made Rob Lowe a star and made Nilofer Merchant a successful businesswoman and author. They embraced their drive, embraced their beliefs, embraced a dream. And that’s why they’re standing on a stage telling the rest of us how to take risks – because they’ve already done it.

Embrace the danger. Move the business forward. Move yourself forward.

Take a risk.

 

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
– T. S. Eliot

 
 

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HR is burned out…why leaders should care

This week I am attending the WorkHuman 2015 Conference in Orlando, Florida. The goal of this conference is to help companies find ways to create a community of support and positivity that brings greater meaning to everyone’s work lives.  I’ll share what I learn here and on Twitter (@mkfaulkner43 #WorkHuman). 


Any time you go to an HR-related conference, you meet amazing people, are exposed to new (and old) ideas, and get a sense of what life is like in others’ work worlds.

You also inevitably hear complaints.

This is not unique to an HR conference. Get any two people who work for a living together and they will start complaining about their office, or their boss, or some process they hate. It’s human nature to vent, and conferences are a breeding ground for it because this is a new group of people who has never heard our stories before. And we love a fresh audience.

What does strike me at the more recent HR conferences I’ve been to is that the stories have moved away from the “You won’t believe what this employee did” variety to more of the “I don’t think I can do this anymore” variety. HR professionals are feeling stretched thin, trying to juggle the ongoing demands of changing regulations and administration with the increased pressure to be strategic and bring value, and oh, by the way – plan the company picnic.

In short – HR is burned out.Oxygen Mask

They are sick of hearing about how they are the problem. They are sick of hearing about how employees are their problem. They are sick of employees complaining about their bosses, and they are sick of hearing managers complain about their employees.

They’re also tired. HR people don’t always get a full night’s sleep.

So why does this matter to leaders? Why should you care if HR is burned and cranky?

Because that HR person needs to have your back. They need to help advise you on the right decisions to make. They need to help you balance dollars and humanity. They craft the strategy that helps attract and retain your talent, and they hold you accountable to those promises you made during that all team meeting. They also help you deliver difficult messages with grace, keep egg off your face (if you let them), and have some pretty great ideas about how to help the business reach the next level of awesomeness.

And if HR is burned out…they may be less inclined to do those things for you. Sure, they’ll make sure the employees are paid and legal, but you won’t get all the extras that you take for granted.

In a morning keynote, Arianna Huffington spoke elegantly about the power of renewal – of putting the care of ourselves first so that we can facilitate the care of others. She compared it to: “In case of emergency, place your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” It results in better health, better innovation, better creativity, and better productivity.  It results in RESULTS.

HR is often the worst at taking its own advice. We work through lunch. We come in early and on weekends, we stay late to meet with employees afraid to meet during business hours. We respond to emails at all hours of the night because an executive forgot to tell us something that we really need to know before that meeting in the morning. We do this because many of us are martyrs who think we have to. And we do this because we care that things are done to expectations.

This comes at a cost.

Leaders – don’t take HR for granted. Help them set the example that the rest of the organization can follow. Tell them to go home on time. Tell them to stop responding to emails. Don’t enable their need to please. Help them set boundaries…and then allow them to KEEP those boundaries. No one gets to break that rule. No one.

In the end, you will have more effective HR, more effective employees, and a more successful business.

And HR conferences will be filled of fun stories again, instead of good people at the end of their tether.

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 9, 2015 in Self-Awareness, Teamwork

 

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