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Monthly Archives: November 2016

Always Be Curious (with apologies to Glengarry Glen Ross)

As you probably know, I have a day job. Yes, I actually work in human resources. For a real company and everything!

But I’m also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to speak at a handful of conferences and other events throughout the year. I enjoy doing this – it’s a great chance for me to visit other states and talk to fellow HR professionals about the struggles they’re facing and to share my experiences in the hopes we all walk away with a fresh perspective and some new ideas to try.

Well, that’s the idea, anyway.

The reality is that not everyone attends a conference with the intent to learn. Some are there just for the recertification credits. Some are there to hang out with their HR friends and hit the expo floor. Some are there to finally get a few days away from the kids so they can watch some RHONJ in peace, dammit! It’s not necessarily what the conference planners intended, but honestly, they’re pretty happy if people pay, show up, give the keynotes some attention, and fill out the feedback forms.

Speakers have a love/hate relationship with feedback forms. We do want to hear from our audience – we want to get better, we want to know what was meaningful to you, we want to hear that we’ve changed your life because you finally understand the new overtime regulations. (Okay, that last one was a bit tongue in cheek.) But seriously…we want some sort of validation that the time we spent building the presentation, practicing, traveling to the conference, and delivering the content was useful for someone. And most comments are very kind. You get the random comment about room temperature (sorry, we can’t control that) or the fact that someone doesn’t like the color of your dress (which is why I usually wear pants), but for the most part, it’s good feedback.

For the most part.abc

Inevitably, no matter what presentation I deliver or at what conference, there is at least ONE person who writes the comment: “I didn’t learn anything new.”

Really? Not a single thing? At all?

Listen, as a speaker, I’m usually a tough audience. Speakers end up seeing a lot of different sessions with different types of presenters, so you can get a little jaded. I admit it. But I walk into every session with the intent of taking away at least ONE thing I’ve learned from that person. Hell, if nothing else, I learned their name and what they do for a living.

But not this person. This person just says, “I didn’t learn anything new.”

This depresses me. Not because I worked hard to do research to include a lot of value-added data (which I always do), or because I shared my experiences in other orgs in hopes it helps (which I also do). It depresses me because a comment like that indicates that this person is not curious. They walk into every situation assuming they know everything and that there is nothing that anyone could possibly teach them.

Who wants to live life like that?

BE CURIOUS. Be open to new ideas and new experiences. Be open to new data. Be open to the fact that your carefully crafted world view might not be 100% accurate.

I’m not asking you to agree with everything you hear. In fact, I want you to question it, challenge it. That shows me you are thinking about it and are curious about how it ties into what you’re currently doing. It shows me you’ve internalized the idea and are considering it and may decide to reject it. At least you cared enough to hate it instead of dismissing it as “nothing new.”

So this is my challenge to you from now until the end of the year. Instead of dismissing something outright, think about it. Question it. Be curious about it. You might actually learn something new.

God forbid.

 

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We’re all difficult to someone

On Monday’s #FailChat (on Twitter every Monday, 11am MT/1pm ET – join us!), we were discussing the challenge of managing difficult people (down, across and up) and examining our failures with it. Laurie Ruettimann made the comment that “When managing difficult people, assume you are also difficult. Helps a lot to be humble.” And she’s absolutely right. And because I have a pathological need to weigh in on everything, I responded with:

We are all difficult to someone. #failchat 

The comment got some likes and a couple of “yeps” and we moved on with the conversation.

I’m still stuck on my comment, because it’s true. No matter how charming we think we are, or how many people blow sunshine up our butts, to someone out there we are an archenemy. We are the Lex Luthor to their Superman. We are the Emperor to their Luke Skywalker. We are the Lucille Bluthe to their Michael. hilarious

It’s really hard to accept that.

After all, we work hard to build relationships. A lot of us try to be kind (or at least, not actively toxic), and we attempt to get through our day productively and with limited drama.

And yet, there are people out there who hate us.

“But,” you might say, “how can you possibly know that? Everyone likes me.”

Here’s the test: If you’ve ever had to say “no” to someone at work, you were being difficult to them.

Maybe not all the time and they probably got over it (we hope), but right then and there – you were difficult. You didn’t let them do something they wanted to do. In fact, you probably had a REALLY good reason to not let them do it. But still – difficult.

Think about it – how did you react the last time someone told you that you couldn’t do something…especially if it was a super cool idea! Did you think ill of that person? Did you accuse them of saying no out of spite. Did you get a teensy bit grumpy? Well, other people are thinking the exact same thing about you.

Don’t take it personally – we’re all difficult people. The best way to deal with it is to remember that the other person is coming from a different perspective. A couple of tips:

  • Find out why they think you’re difficult. Try not to discount the feedback automatically. It could be your approach. It could be they have their own issues. Get data and respond appropriately.
  • Explain your thinking. This can go a long way to changing your perceived difficulty. And on the plus side – if you can’t explain your thinking, there is a good chance that you ARE just being difficult out of spite.
  • Ask the other person why. Don’t dismiss something outright. Maybe their end goal is a really good one, but their proposed approach is bad. By knowing their why, you can help them find a better path.
  • Don’t try so hard to be liked. If the thought of being considered “difficult” distresses you, figure out why. If you’re certain your actions were done with the best outcome in mind, you’re going to be okay. It’s okay not to be everyone’s best friend.

“Difficult” is not a title. It’s not a trophy. It’s an adjective – and a common one, at that. So the next time you’re tempted to call someone difficult, just remember – you are, too.

And it’s all going to be okay.

I never give in to the temptation to be difficult just for the sake of being difficult. That would be too ridiculous.    ~ Jacques Derrida 

 

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

 
 
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