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Courage and being human: Dispatches from #WorkHuman

Still at the WorkHuman conference, sponsored by Globoforce. Lots of cool stuff going on, so I’m writing about it whilst I’m here.


So when I woke up this morning, I had this great idea about a blog post, highlighting some of the things I saw yesterday that tied into the theme of “courage.” You had Brene Brown (who has a little ‘ over the e, but I can’t get WordPress do to it) talking about the relationship between joy and fear, between vulnerability and courage. You heard from Salma Hayek Pinault share her #metoo story and why she felt she needed to speak up after not doing so for so many years. Her personal story – of always being an immigrant, of doing more as a Latina than others had but still being ignored – was impressive and moving. She’s amazing.

And then this morning, we had the opportunity to see Adam Grant moderate a #metoo panel of giants – Tarana Burke (my new personal hero), Ronan Farrow, and Ashley Judd. It was an in-depth, meaningful discussion about the #metoo movement with people who helped make it viral (even through Tarana Burke launched it long ago). The panel discussed how the conversation needs to move from “can I hug women” to “treat all people like human beings, dammit” and was a real look at what comes next.leap-before-you-think

And throughout all of this, the concept of courage kept coming up – the courage of victims sharing their stories; the courage of allies supporting and not making it about them; the courage of employees saying “we aren’t going to tolerate this at our company”; institutional courage and individual courage.

What struck about this is that all people are capable of courage and it doesn’t always need to be on an epic scale. For every Salma Hayek or Ashley Judd article, there’s a person struggling with anxiety who manage to go into work every day and say hello to their coworkers. For every Tarana Burke taking over the world, there’s the HR professional standing up to her CHRO for non-values based behavior. For every Steve Pemberton overcoming his childhood to become an author and executive, there’s the person who sits down next to a stranger to make a connection.

I am in awe of the courage I see every single day.

One of my takeaways from this conference will be to find ways to celebrate and support displays of courage. I want to make room for the courageous – to provide a space that amplifies the messages to be amplified. Like Tarana Burke said, I want to center on the marginalized and let their stories drive the change.

I’m not sure how – but I’m going to try. We all need to.

We owe it to the courageous.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2018 in Conference Posts, Uncategorized

 

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A word about workplace clothing…

As a diehard fan of the now gone What Not To Wear, I fully accept the power of clothing to impact the way a person is perceived, but more importantly…how a person feels.

We’ve all had a moment where we put on a new pair of pants or a kickass blazer and thought, “I will OWN this day. Boom.”

We’ve all had that day where we put something on that we’re not super excited about and then spend the rest of the day fussy about how it fits, how it looks, how it feels.

And for some of us, we have an article of clothing that we absolutely love that’s slightly different from the mainstream – it could be shoes, it could be a button-down shirt, it could be socks, etc. Whatever it is, it is somehow magical and we love it. And we don’t really care if you love it, but we kind of hope you do because how could you not? IT’S AMAZING.blog

Then we run into coworkers who somehow feel like it’s their job to make comments about what you’re wearing. And those coworkers may think they’re being funny…but they’re not. They make you second guess what you look like and now you never feel like wearing that awesome tie again. Because now you’re that “tie guy.”

Look, I get that we all have different tastes. We all grew up with different backgrounds and socioeconomic levels – this impacts the way we dress and what we think looks fabulous. Shouldn’t we be celebrating this instead of judging it?

Here’s a rule of thumb: NEVER comment on something someone is wearing unless it’s to compliment them. Here are some examples of what that might sound like:

“That color looks great on you!”
“I like your tie.”
“I want to steal your shoes, they’re so cute.”
(That last one might just be something I tend to say…)

See? Not once did someone make a joke about the color, print, cut, or otherwise about what someone was wearing.

Do people sometimes show up in the office looking horrific in your eyes? OF COURSE THEY DO. Remember, we all have different tastes – one person’s treasure is another person’s nightmare. I, for one, don’t get shoulder pads. Then again, I have the shoulders of a football player and have never needed them. (The early 90s were a tough time for me.) But I don’t comment on it – why ruin someone’s happiness about how they look?

Unless someone’s dress is unsafe, unallowed, or impacting their ability to be successful – don’t worry about it. Compliment them, or just shut the hell up.

The world won’t end because someone wore white socks with black shoes.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2016 in Authenticity, Skillz, Teamwork

 

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Measuring What Matters (the missing piece)

Leaders:

If you know what a KPI is, give yourself a pat on the back. If you have a balanced scorecard, a visual management system, a dashboard, or some other way to track said KPIs, even better. With all this talk of Big Data and ROI and other data-loving phrases, you probably feel like a big damn deal. Bully for you.

Now – what if I were to go to your team and ask, what are your KPIs? Would they be able to answer?

Could they point to the balanced scorecard and confidently explain what it means? Can they describe how the data is trending? Tie their day-to-day work to the metrics?

If the answer to those questions is NO, then you are failing to measure what truly matters.

Business has fallen in love with metrics and scorecards and trends and graphs. Analysts are the new rock stars, the secret weapon of a strategic plan. Throw in the ability to build a visual tool, and that analyst becomes The One (like Neo, or Eddie Murphy in that awful movie with the bald kid). Executives want to see pictures, a snapshot, a cross-section of what’s going on in the business. It needs to look cool, to look smart. [Think I’m exaggerating? Look at how much infographics have exploded recently. You can argue chicken or egg – but leaders want them.]

Visit www.savagechickens.com!

Unfortunately, these metrics often fail to make a meaningful connection to the people who actually do the work. They report numbers because they have to in order to make the pretty graphs, but then they turn back to their “real work” and don’t think about what the data is telling them. They are just trying to keep the work moving and ensure they meet their deadlines.

That’s where the leader comes in.

If the metrics truly matter, you will talk about them. Every day. Every team meeting. Every project launch. Every project wrap up.

If the numbers tell you a story about the business, share that story with your employees. Why the numbers are important. What they tell us about our impact on the business, the customers, the employees.

We leaders pretend like it’s the employees fault they don’t know what the metrics are. For goodness’ sake, we posted them on the shared drive!  What more do those darn employees want?!

Employees want – nay, need – context. And employees want – nay, need – their leaders to be the primary voice to provide that context. Supposedly leaders know what their employees do and the day-to-day reality of their world. Who better to be able to provide that line of sight from the work to the metric? Who better to explain why these metrics are helping the business improve? Who better to motivate employees to reach the target state?

At some point, you will notice that the metrics are not moving, or are moving in the wrong direction, or don’t seem to tell the right story. So what happens then?

That’s where the employees come in.

Your employees can help you understand whether your metrics are telling you what you really need to know about the business. They will share whether they think the KPIs make sense, and whether the targets are realistic…or even important. Your employees are the conduit through which the metrics come to life.

So the next time you start pontificating on the importance of your scorecard, think about the last time you looked at it with your team. If it’s been too long, stop pontificating and start communicating.

THAT’S what matters.

Metrics are for doing, not for staring. Never measure just because you can. Measure to learn. Measure to fix.

– Stijn Debrouwere

 

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2015 in Clarity

 

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Making (HR) Leaders Better

[NOTE: I’m basically guest posting on my own blog.  One of the nicest, coolest people I know – Steve Browne – reached out to various folks to request a post on how we would make HR better.  And you just can’t let Steve down!] 

It’s been an interesting start to the year for a lot of businesses.  The economy is showing signs of recovering…then faltering….then recovering again. Companies say they’re going to add jobs, while others announce massive layoffs. There is uncertainty in the air, and that uncertainty leads to panicky employees. Add on top of that the fact that it’s annual performance review time for a lot of organizations and you have a recipe for trouble.

(Not like “zombie apocalypse” trouble. More like, “oh no, we’re out of coffee” trouble. But it’s the really GOOD coffee. And there are no Starbucks nearby.  And you’re walking into a 3 hour meeting.)

When unresolved panic meets feedback meets merit meets goal-setting, you get a perfect storm – one that HR must guide that ship through. Because whether you like it or not, people take their cues to how HR handles things.

Through the years, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and learned some important lessons, as an HR leader.  And lest you make a joke about an HR leader not being a “normal” leader (and there are plenty), keep in mind that HR leaders tend to face greater pressure and scrutiny for their leadership behaviors. Our mistakes sometimes echo more than the mistakes of others.  We are held to a higher standard because we should know better. Even though we’re human like everyone else.

ecard_HR

So how can HR leaders get better? A few thoughts:

  • Stop trying to get people to like/notice/appreciate/praise/[insert verb here] you: If you got into leadership for all the cupcakes and unicorns, you made a HUGE mistake. Leaders rarely get the day-to-day kudos, and HR hardly ever gets them. You need to be okay with that.  You need to understand that a job well done in HR leadership means you know you’ve done the right thing and you’ve done it correctly…and it’s okay that no one threw a parade.
  • Keep the lines of communication open: Employees get creative when nobody tells them anything (especially in times of high change). You should hear some of the whoppers coming out of employee break rooms!  Give them an avenue to voice their opinions, and share what you can as often as you can.  They may not always believe you, but later on they’ll appreciate the effort.
  • But don’t overshare: This is a common mistake of newer managers and HR professionals who are very close to their business partners.  You want to liked.  You want to help. And sometimes lapses in judgment cause a LOT of problems. HR in particular needs to present a united front.  If HR has been asked to keep a confidence and someone slips, two things happen – 1.) you’ve taught the business it pays to answer-shop, and 2.) you’ve lost credibility as an HR leader.
  • Seek alignment: We are all running in so many different directions and are easily pulled into our little corner of the HR world.  The best thing HR leaders can do for themselves is TALK TO EACH OTHER. What is everyone working on? How does it impact the other areas of HR? What are risks we might be overlooking in our own projects? Employees (HR and others) notice when HR leaders are not on the same page and they may try to take advantage of it.  Besides, we might get our work done more efficiently if we actually work together.
  • Build a (positive) support network: I’ve talked about building a personal board of directors before. I still highly recommend it. What I also recommend is that you seek out some people who are in your organization who totally get where you’re coming from…and will NOT resort to a bitch-fest every time you get together to chat. You know why I would write a post for Steve Browne whenever he asks?  Because he is the most positive HR professional I have ever encountered. Even in the darkest of situations and the most FUBAR implementations, he shakes it off and works to find a solution.  And I love that about him, and believe more of us need to be like that. Snark may be funny (and it totally is), but moving forward makes the HR world go round.
  • Meet people where they are: Okay, I totally stole this one from Steve, too, but I love it.  I think it was a quick line in a presentation he made but it has stayed with me as one of the best pieces of advice any leader – HR or otherwise – can accept. If you meet people where they are; be it their learning curve or change acceptance; you increase your chances of making a connection.  With that connection comes trust…and trust can move mountains.

So there you have it – a few suggestions on how HR leaders can make themselves, and ultimately their business, better.

HR Tip #007: ‘Not everyone is going to like you.’
                                                 ~ HR-Shield.com

What would you add to the list? Share in the comments below!

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2015 in Personal Development, Self-Awareness

 

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Snark is the New Cool…and that may not be cool

One of the things you may not know about me is that I’m a bit of a musical theater nerd.  What this really means is I tend to be a singing snob.  Yeah…I’m one of those people.  It doesn’t mean I think I can do it better than other singers, I just get annoyed when singing isn’t done correctly. (Note to teachers of young singers – STOP MAKING THEM SING OUT OF THEIR NOSES!!!!!  Thank you.)

So when a live broadcast of The Sound of Music was announced with Carrie Underwood, I wasn’t terribly excited.  Nothing against her voice – I’m just not a country fan and I think sometimes she can be a little wooden in her performance.  And I love Julie Andrews.  Therefore, I chose not to watch.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t read a bunch of the comments made on social media on the interwebs.  Seriously, y’all got creative.  And some of you were funny.  And a little mean.

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I was listening to Seth Speaks on my satellite radio (On Broadway channel – enjoy!) and Laura Benanti was a guest (she played the Baroness on the NBC broadcast, and starred as Maria in the Broadway revival…and she is amazing).  She was sharing some backstage stories and such, and Seth asked her what she thought about the comments made against Carrie.  And Laura threw down on the haters.

“Snark,” Laura says, “is the new cool.”   She pointed out that here was a person with the courage to try something she’d never done before…live…in front of 18 million people.  Instead of applauding her for it, and celebrating the fact that a major network took a chance to bring a new, younger audience to Broadway and music, the Twitter-verse used it as a chance to show off how clever it is.

No snark?
This stuck with me.  I love snark.  I enjoy the heck out of reading it, and I tend to engage heavily in the dishing out of said snark, too.  But Laura has a point – snark can get in the way of what you’re really trying to accomplish.  It can shut down people’s willingness to take a chance.  It can break down the feeling of “team”.  A lot of people who give snark can’t take it, so then you get a whiny snarker.  And while snark might be funny or make you look clever, is it adding anything of value to fix the perceived issue?  In short, snark can be extremely damaging.

What to do?
I’m not going to advocate going snark-free.  A little snark is like good satire – it points out that the emperor has no clothes and uses humor and shock to heighten awareness about a situation.  Matt Charney’s Snark Attack blog  is great!  So is Television Without Pity (spare the snark, spoil the network).  That snark IS cool.  And funny.  And thought-provoking. And change driving.

So if you consider yourself a snark aficionado (and who doesn’t, amiright?), use the next 30 days to pay attention to how and when you use it.  If your intent is pure and you’re working towards a greater good, snark away.  And a little snarkiness amongst friends can be fun!  But if you’re employing snark to put someone else down because it makes you feel better about yourself and you think it makes you look clever, stop it. You’re just being an asshole.

 

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