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The step teams forget

Anyone who knows me (or at least reads this blog) knows that group work is something that can destroy my soul. Part of that is due to my introverted tendencies, part of is it my control issues (self-awareness will set you free), but I think a big part of it is how ridiculously ineffective it can be. I mean…picking a team name alone takes a good 20 minutes of ideas and recriminations.

Collaboration is good. Hopelessly stumbling through a forced group activity is excruciating – and is not very good business.

The reality is, teamwork IS a vital component of work. None of us can be successful by ourselves. We rely on the expertise, time and effort of those around us. Different tasks and different projects require teams to come together and break apart all the time. Remember Tuckman’s stages of group development?  With the pace some businesses run, there often isn’t even time to name all four, let alone move through them. And it’s exactly this frenetic pace that can sabotage the success of teams.

You’ve probably noticed that some teams are remarkably successful and others are a trainwreck from the first meeting. And while there are many variables that factor into the success or failure of a group, there is one thing teams can do shift the odds in their favor:

Talk about how the team will work with each other.

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Think of it as establishing the rules of engagement – how you’ll communicate, how you’ll make decisions, how you’ll disagree with each other, how you’ll resolve conflict. Everytime I see a team take as little as 5 or 10 minutes to have a quick conversation about this, I have seen that team do well.

My belief in the importance of this step  is solidified whenever I see teams go head-to-head in some way. What follows are two examples – one from real life, and another from “reality” TV:

Real Life: I’ve facilitated a team-building/communication exercise a number of times that involves the recreation of a Tinker Toys sculpture. Each member on the team is only allowed to do a specific thing in this exercise and talk to only certain people. It’s quite convoluted feeling and teams get frustrated because the person who can see EVERYTHING is not allowed to share anything – they can only answer yes or no questions. The twist is that anyone on the team at any time can call a team meeting so they can talk about HOW the team is working together. Every single time I’ve facilitated this exercise, the team who takes the time to establish – and review – how they will work together successfully completes the sculpture. The team that does not do this descends into frustration and passive-aggressive sabotage.

Reality TV: I absolutely adore Face Off, a special effects makeup competition show that is now, sadly, ended. Depending on the season, the challenges change week to week in being either individual or team competitions. Sometimes the teams are chosen, but more often than not, they are randomly assigned. Time and again, the teams that take a few minutes at the beginning to establish how they’ll make decisions and are intentional about sharing their thought process out loud so the others understand it win the challenge. It shows in the final product.

While both of these examples are from an artificial environment, I have seen this play out in business projects time and time again. Think about the BEST project you’ve ever been a part of. chances are you had clarity in communication cadence, clearly defined decision-making authority, and the understanding that disagreements could be aired in team meetings without people taking it personally.

 

So the next time you find yourself on a team – ad hoc or otherwise – focus on the step that will make the biggest difference.

And no…picking a team name doesn’t fit that bill.

 

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2018 in Clarity, Decision Making, Teamwork

 

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Happy John Jorgensen Day!

Every once in awhile, the blogger community likes to get together and say nice things about a person who sits behind the scenes, unheralded for their contributions to what’s going on.

Today, we celebrate the ultimate “behind the scenes” guy – John Jorgensen.

Who the heck is John Jorgensen, you ask?

John is an ardent SHRM volunteer, he teaches certification preparation, he is heavily involved in the ILSHRM state conference, and he will passionately discuss and defend anything HR.

John is a citizen of Joliet, IL (thereby firmly connecting him to the Blues Brothers), a Chicago Blackhawks fan (I actually had to look up Chelsea Dagger to understand what the heck he kept posting on Facebook!), a proud Iowa Hawkeyes alum (and unabashed fan), and loves all things college football – posting his picks every week on Facebook. He does pretty darn well, too. Anyone who knows John knows of his love of history, particularly centered around Gettysburg (seriously, just take the test already so you can be a guide, John!). John is a music fiend, sharing his musical loves across social media. And John has ALSO qualified for Jeopardy, which explains why his beloved Wednesday Trivia Team tends to do pretty darn well week after week.

But most importantly – John is a friend. He supports and promotes his circle of friends on social media, sharing links and opinions. He’ll call out people he thinks are making an ass of themselves. He reaches out and connects with folks all over the country, maintaining relationships in an age where shallow social connections are the norm. John has helped many fledgling speakers to the stage, recommending them for state conferences and being the ultimate cheerleader once you get there.

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I love this picture. Heather Kinzie is about the only person who can ALMOST get John to smile for a picture.

Now, John doesn’t “cheer” in the conventional sense. There’s a running joke that you can never get a picture of John where he’s smiling. A few folks have come close – you can see a little twinkle in his eye! But don’t be fooled by that curmudgeonly exterior, for within beats a loyal heart. You only need to watch John at a conference to understand the depths of the friendships he’s forged. Hugs come from all sides. Long-time friends swap stories and jokes. Many a tasty lunch is shared.

John has made an impact to the HR community – one we may not always notice, but one we always appreciate.

So, John – happy YOU day. Thank you for your continued friendship.

And try to do a little better on those football picks, will ya?

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2018 in Authenticity, Teamwork

 

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It’s the week of #HRTechConf, y’all!!!!

This week, a whole bunch of people are descending upon Las Vegas for the 2018 HR Technology Conference. It’s a remarkably large conference that explores all aspects of how technology impacts business and people. You might think it’s just about product demos (and those will be there), but there’s so much more.

One thing I’m particularly excited about is the continued exploration about the intersection of human bias and artificial intelligence (in whatever way you want to to define it). Technology is a product of its creators, and its creators sometimes make horrible decisions. We are at an important crossroads – will we be able to use technology to enhance our human interactions or will we use it to avoid them?

I’ll be sharing my observations from the Expo Floor, the sessions, and all the interactions I’ll have with all the HR practitioner end users who are struggling to make sense of how to make technology work FOR them in the workplace.

Follow me on Twitter at @mfaulkner43 or all the people tweeting on the #HRTechConf hashtag this week. I’ll also be blogging from the conference, along with a group of incredibly talented and smart bloggers posting to the conference blog site.

Is there something you want to learn more about? Send me a DM and I’ll try to check it out!

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2018 in Conference Posts

 

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The power, and danger, of being liked

There’s a scene in Rush in which the F1 drivers are arguing whether or not they should race the Japan Grand Prix. The weather is questionable…but it’s the last race of the season and the points for the championship are very close. Niki Lauda (played brilliantly by Daniel Bruhl) calls an all-driver meeting to discuss the cancellation of the race. His justifications are reasonable and logical – it’s not worth the danger to continue in the race. James Hunt (played equally brilliantly by Chris Hemsworth) steps in and sways the crowd, arguing that Niki only wants to cancel the race because it will clinch the championship for him. He uses emotion and charisma against logic and fact. The vote is taken – the race is on.

As Hunt walks out of the room, he leans over to Lauda and says: “You know, Niki, every once and a while, it does help if people like you.”


James Hunt is right – it does help if people like you. You’re more likely to get hired if you’re likeable. You make friends more easily. Likeable sales people tend to have higher close rates. Hell, some people argue that Hillary would have won, if only she were more likeable. (And we can unpack THAT little statement another time.) In general, likeable people seem to go through life with a little extra verve and a little less friction.

Being likeable means being relatable to people. If someone feels like they can go and have a beer with their leader or coworker, it humanizes the person, highlighting commonality and empathy. It’s an important trait to cultivate if you’re trying to influence and lead. The grumpy, no nonsense boss of the past only gets so far. Same with the person who is always right and lets you know it. Look around your organization at who gets promoted – is it the charismatic leader that motivates people, or the sharply intelligent person who rubs folks the wrong way now and then in pursuit of truth?


If the above paragraph made you think, “Wait…there are a lot of charismatic douchebags who got promoted at my company and they can’t do shit…” then congratulations! You’ve found the danger of being liked. Too often, being liked is valued over being smart or thoughtful. Being liked can be addictive. People crave it and will sacrifice anything – logic, values, integrity, partnerships – as long as they keep that likeability. The need to be liked can lead to awful business decisions and really, really crappy leadership. Managers who want to be liked have a really hard time telling their employees that they aren’t doing a good job…because what if the employees don’t like that manager anymore???

I’ve seen too many teams struggle with artificial harmony because they think debate means someone doesn’t like them, and the thought of not being liked is TERRIFYING. Fear of not being liked too often keeps mouths shut or breeds defensiveness during serious conversations. It causes people to use gossip as currency and undermines relationships. Chasing likeability will hurt you in the long run – especially if it’s obvious that you’re trying too hard (see aforementioned charismatic douchebags).


So what to do? Be the jerk who is sure you’re always right? Be the charmer everyone loves even though deep down, you aren’t always making the best choice?

I think the answer is somewhere in the middle. If people “like” you, it usually means that they trust you on some level. Personally, I’d rather be trusted than liked. I’d rather people think I have character and competence over popularity. In truth, I suspect I’m more like Niki Lauda than James Hunt. But I recognize the power of likeability and want to spend its value wisely.

You get some grace when making mistakes because people trust you’ll do right by them. If you’re always going by “gut instinct” and never consider logic and facts in your decision-making, you’re apt to lose that grace fairly quickly. On the flip side, people who rely entirely on logic and facts are typically seen as cold or non-empathetic. Despite the fact they’re often right, people don’t trust it because they aren’t seeing the human side of the decision-making. Tempering logic with likeability and balancing charisma with critical thinking can go a long way.

Next time someone gives you feedback that you need to be more “likeable,” consider what that means. Do you need to be more open to feedback? Do you need to be more approachable? Do you need to build more relationships? These are all good things to work on. But if they use “likeable” to mean you need to be more outgoing and smile more, feel free to keep on keeping on.

After all, James Hunt only won one F1 championship. Niki Lauda won three.


[Author’s note: Ironically, even Lauda liked Hunt. Despite the way their rivalry was presented in the film, Hunt and Lauda were good friends. Lauda said Hunt was one of the very few he liked, a smaller number of people he respected and the only person he had envied.] 

[Author’s note, Part 2: I really like that movie.]

 

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It’s been a tough week…

Lots happened this week.

Many people are reeling.

Here’s a picture of a kitten in a car.

Take care of yourselves, everyone.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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#SHRM18: Back to roots

This week, I am attending the SHRM National Conference in Chicago, where I am both speaking AND covering the event as part of the SHRM Blogging Group. Follow us on Twitter with #SHRM18 and #SHRM18Bloggers.

On the walkway between my hotel and the convention center (I refuse to call it a “pedway”) there are a series of posters highlighting different neighborhoods in Chicago – Lincoln Park, Hyde Park, the Loop, etc. It’s a nice nod to the location and the posters are colorful and eye-catching.
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The first poster I really noticed was one highlighting the Ukrainian Village (it’s the picture on this blog post). See, my mom grew up in Chicago, specifically in the Ukrainian Village. My great-grandfather came to America from a small village in western Ukraine and settled his family in the Ukrainian Village in Chicago. My mom and her sister (my aunt) grew up bilingual – speaking Ukrainian and keeping the traditions alive. When I was very young, we even vacationed at Soyuzivka, where my brother and I were exposed to the culture of my great-grandfather’s homeland.

I took a quick picture of the poster and texted it to my mom, not really thinking anything of it other than I thought it was cool they highlighted the area where she grew up. She immediately responded with, “That’s a picture of St. Nicholas Cathedral, my old parish where I was baptized, made my first communion, and where my mom and dad were married.” She was so excited.

There’s a lesson in this (other than the fact that my mom clearly grew up Catholic). Where we come from shapes who we are – for good or for ill. It stays with us throughout our whole lives. We pass it down to those around us.

Why do I bring this up in the context of a conference? Because it’s easy for long-time HR professionals to become jaded about their profession. We get caught up in the day-to-day of our current roles and get very tunnel-visioned. We come to events like #SHRM18 to renew our certifications and just “get through it.” We see newly-minted HR pros and act put upon when they exhibit their enthusiasm for the conference and the profession.

Think about where you “grew up” in HR. Was it a positive experience or a negative experience? Does it still impact the way you approach the practice of HR? Were you taught to be a rule kitten, or encouraged to be flexible? All of these things impact our careers.

Veteran HR Pros – we are creating the memories that these new HR pros will take with them throughout their careers. WE ARE THEIR ROOTS. Whether it’s here at SHRM or back in our workplaces, we guide and shape HR of the future by helping them grow strong roots now.

So as you encounter eager young minds in HR at this conference or in your career, remember the importance of our roots. Help build an experience that will shape the future with hope and purpose, not anger and resentment.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2018 in Conference Posts, Uncategorized

 

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#SHRM18: It begins

This week, I will be attending the SHRM National Conference in Chicago, where I am both speaking AND covering the event as part of the SHRM Blogging Group. Follow us on Twitter with #SHRM18 and #SHRM18Bloggers.

Good morning from DAY ONE of the SHRM National Conference. Really, it’s kind of day 1.25 because there were some pre-conference workshops yesterday, and the SHRM Store was open, and people were wandering about aimlessly, trying to find their way around the vastness of McCormick Place.

Some people are flying in this morning, opting to get in right before the first General Session at 2:30pm. Some people have been over at McCormick since early this morning, attending pre-conference workshops. Some people opted to sleep in…and that’s okay, too.

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There’s lots going on through Wednesday this week and it’s easy to get lost in the whirlwind of sessions, SHRM Store, Expo Floor, and everything else available in the great city of Chicago. My advice to you today is to take the time to get your bearings – figure out where things are, what kind of shoes you should wear (and bring to change into), and whether or not you need a sweater in some of the session rooms.

Even more importantly, take time to reconnect with people you haven’t seen since the last conference, or you’ve only met online. There’s time enough for learning during the sessions, and you’ll regret not seeing someone when you have the chance.

As a member of the Blog Squad (#SHRM18Bloggers), I’ll be tweeting A LOT (@mfaulkner43) and posting about what I see and hear throughout the conference. There’s a big group of us this year, but we all take time to say hi and reconnect when we’re gathered together. (That cool pic I posted is actually a gift from two of our international bloggers – Anish and Kavi. Thanks, guys!!!!!) We each bring our unique perspectives, so be sure to read all the posts shared on the SHRM Blog Page.

And finally, Happy Father’s Day to all of you out there who are dads – whether it be by blood or by action. I’m happy that some of my friends who ARE dads are able to spend some time with their kiddos this morning, and I’m even HAPPIER that next year, SHRM will avoid Father’s Day all together.

So have a great first day, #SHRM18!

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2018 in Conference Posts, Uncategorized

 

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