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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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#SHRM18 Speaker Bobby Zaepfel: Dragging records into the 21st century

When you think about record-keeping in HR, what does it typically bring to mind?

If you’re like a lot of long-time practitioners, it probably means a dark, dusty room filled with file cabinets or shelving, file folders filled to bursting with documents that track the course of an employee’s employment and benefits. It may be orderly, it may be messy, but it’s probably on paper.

Bobby Zaepfel wants you to start thinking different about record keeping.

I had an opportunity to talk to Bobby as he prepares for his 2018 SHRM National Conference session Once Upon a Time There Was a Mountain of Paper, on Tuesday, June 19 at 7:00 AM. Don’t let the early time scare you off – it promises to be a great session! Bobby is the University Records Officer in charge of the records program all of James Madison University.  With a focus on process improvement, strategic goals, and vision, Bobby works closely with HR staff and campus leadership to facilitate and collaborate all areas of the records program at the university.

And Bobby is an electronics record-keeping evangelist.

As a member of the #SHRM18 Blog Squad, I get to interview speakers and help spread the word about their session, and I personally selected Bobby’s session on record-keeping because it seemed like a topic that, on the surface, doesn’t sound sexy, but is hitting HR departments hard as organizations look to modernize and cut down on their facilities footprints.bobby-zaepfel

Bobby explains, “This is a hot button topic – it tends to be deprioritized until it CAN’T be deprioritized anymore.  A lot of organizations find themselves in a ‘gotta move NOW’ situation and don’t make plans for the future.” The trick, Bobby continues, is to be strategic about how you will move forward with electronic record-keeping. Buying a system isn’t enough. Like all HR tech, you need to have a plan first.

When I asked Bobby what advice he would give to an HR department about to embark on the path to electronics record-keeping, he said, “Approach it with a heavy emphasis on workflows. A lot of the (record-keeping) systems out there are very specific about what they can and can’t do. Draw a concept map out before you dive into the pond – what are the workflows? Who needs access? Etc.”

When mapping out the requirements for a record-keeping system, it’s this last point that some HR departments forget. Bobby gave me an overview of a records-conversion project James Madison University is about to embark on (moving from an “online file cabinet” to an record-keeping system), and when they started reviewing who needed access, it was clear that the needs went far beyond HR’s records. Student records, transcripts, applications, accounting – all needed to be accessed across the university. This requirement – and the careful planning that preceded it – led them to a solution that was tailor made for higher education.

I enjoyed my conversation with Bobby Zaepfel. He’s funny, engaging, and tells a great story. His first career was in broadcasting, and you can hear the roots of that past in the way he approaches his content. His first experience with the SHRM National Conference was last year in New Orleans – guess whose session was during the tornado warning? Thankfully, it all worked out!

When I shared I live in Colorado, Bobby was quick to proclaim his love for Red Rocks Amphitheater (as well he should) and shared that he was a bit of a Dead Head before settling down. He’s the proud father of three boys – twin 6-yr-olds and a 4-yr-old.

As our conversation wrapped up, I asked Bobby if there was anything else he wanted me to share with the readers. “SHRM is a wealth of resources – if you go on their site, you can find information on pretty much any topic,” he said. “This is so incredibly helpful for smaller HR departments, folks new to the industry, and true generalists who have to handle everything on their own.”

Well said, Bobby.

 

Join Bobby Zaepfel for his session at 2018 SHRM National Conference: Once Upon a Time There Was a Mountain of Paper, Tuesday, June 19, 7:00 AM

 

 
 

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Shout out to the staff: Dispatch from #WorkHuman

A reminder that I am attending the WorkHuman conference put on by Globoforce this week in Austin.


The first day of any conference is typically about getting your bearings. You wander through the conference space, figuring out where all the rooms are, how to find the expo hall, and – most importantly – where the afternoon snacks and coffee will be, and WILL THERE BE DIET COKE????

There are typically some pre-conference sessions, too. And while some may be tempted to skip them, the ones held yesterday were PACKED. Cy Wakeman kicked it off with her guidance on eliminating drama from the workplace; Steve Pemberton (Globoforce CHRO) followed with his remarkable personal story of resilience and triumph; and David Rock brought home Pre-Day (can we call it Day One? I don’t know!) with information on feedback and why we’re struggling so much with it. (Full disclosure: while I love David Rock’s work and like him as a speaker, I went back to my room to take a nap. I got up WAAAAAAY too early for a flight. Sorry, David! Heard it was great!)

Prior to all of this, though, was registration. You know, pick up your badge, get your conference schedule, conquer the world. Normally this is a pretty sedate process – people come in little packs, but seldom descend as one. Except for yesterday. When we descended like a pack of locusts upon an unsuspecting group of WorkHuman helpers. It seemed every attendee decided to pick up their badge RIGHT BEFORE Cy’s talk. As you can imagine, it overwhelmed the staff. People got a little fussy. People were worried about missing the speakers. People don’t like not getting stuff IMMEDIATELY. (People are weird.)

I bring this up not to admonish the staff but to congratulate them for their perseverance. Two workers (one from Ireland, one from Denmark) went up and down the line, talking with folks and offering to get water or hold their place if they needed to step out for a moment. They made the choice to allow people into the sessions without their badge so no one would miss content. They extended the check-in hours to alleviate pressure. They stayed positive. They stayed focused. They stayed friendly.

At a conference focusing on the human side of work, this was refreshing. Attendees weren’t super jerky. The staff stayed strong. There was a collective realization that the world won’t end if you don’t get your badge. The time spent in line was time spent connecting. People were able to reframe and no one got yelled at.

How about that? We can be nice – even when inconvenienced.

So shout out to the people who are helping make this conference happen. It’s hard to coordinate this many moving parts. And shout out to the attendees who remembered why they’re here – to connect and to slow down a bit and to remember we are all just people trying to make it work in this crazy world.

I’m looking forward to today’s sessions. And I look forward to high-fiving some hard-working staff who keep a smile on their face and do what they can to make this conference memorable. Let’s all try to make sure THEY have a good conference, too!

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2018 in Conference Posts

 

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Lisa Rosendahl, awesome person: This year’s Tim Sackett Day Honoree!!!

lisaEvery year, the HR blogging community gathers together to honor someone in the profession who is pretty darn cool. This is my third year to participate in such a cool tradition. (Year One and Year Two posts, in case you’re curious.)  In that past, I didn’t really know the people I had a chance to write about. I knew OF those people, and through this tradition, I had an opportunity to get to know them even better.

This is a rare year in that I have actually MET Lisa. In real life. In the lobby of a convention center (because that’s how classy HR people do it).

I met Lisa when I spoke at MNSHRM in 2015 (I think. Seriously, I have no idea what year this is. HELP ME!) Frankly, everyone I met there was a delight. Kate Bischoff gave me a Gopher hat. Josh Rock gave me a “Hi-eeee!” We tried to help Paul DeBettignies find happiness. It was a fun time. Don’t believe me? Check us out. (Yes…I have Beyonce hair in this picture. I’m just that cool. Lisa is the person directly behind me on the right. Avoiding my Beyonce hair. And kindly not laughing AT me.)

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And I also met Lisa at that conference. She is a wonderful person to talk to – smart, funny, wry, empathetic, tough as nails (seriously, when I met her, she was mad that she couldn’t run because she had an injury!). Lisa is a veteran and a mom. She’s also a mentor for so many bloggers out there who are just getting started or want to get better. And she’s one hell of a writer. Lisa is far too humble to believe the impact she has had on the community, so we are happy to toot her horn for her.

If you don’t know Lisa, do yourself a favor and get to know her. If you’re in Minnesota and want to meet an amazing person in real life, you would not be disappointed. I count myself lucky to be connected with her, no matter how tenuously.

So, thank you, Lisa Rosendahl!!! And happy Tim Sackett Day. We are so grateful to know you!

 

To learn more about Lisa, you can find her through any of these links:

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Two months of crazy for one night of awesome (the benefits of getting “involved”)

Last night, we held the first DisruptHR event in Denver, CO.

I had attended the very first DisruptHR in Cincinnati, OH because Jennifer McClure and Steve Browne said I should.  Chris Ostoich, founder of BlackbookHR, corralled Jennifer and Steve to help him organize the event because they all believe that HR needs to move itself forward in its thinking and its approach.

Hell yeah.

When I got back to Colorado, I said, “We need this here.”  So I reached out to Shawna Simcik and Meredith Masse at Innovative Career Consulting, and we were off to the races.  They were all in – because they agreed that it’s time we start thinking about talent and processes in a whole new way.

After a lot of meetings, emails, cat-herding and coffee, we did it.  We looked at our creation.  And it was good.

I’m writing about this not because I think you need to know about DisruptHR (which you do) or should check out BlackbookHR and Innovative Career Consulting (which you should).  I’m writing about it because this was a true step forward in my personal development.  I’m not a traditional people person. I’m not the one who thinks conferences are super amazing.  I’m usually the Idea Rat with this type of stuff – thinking “somebody really should do a conference”.

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I decided to get involved because I think this idea is important, dammit.  We need to get out there and challenge our leaders and our HR brethren to be forward thinking.  And since I’m a bit of a control freak, I decided to get involved by being a co-organizer, which meant getting out of the shadows (deep down, I might be a “puppet master”) and being front and center.

If you are toying with the idea “getting involved”, here are some things I learned and gained because of the experience. This way you can make an informed decision.

Lessons learned:

  • Focus your intent: Whatever the “event” might be (a conference, a meeting, a task force, a book club), make sure you know exactly what it stands for and what your goals are.  We went in knowing that we wanted to start to change people’s minds about HR.  We also know we wanted our sponsors to have access to like-minded folks and to build networks.  So we shaped the event (from marketing, to registration, to tone) with those outcomes in mind.
  • Find the right partners: I would NEVER have been able to pull this off without the right people to help me.  I sensed that Meredith and ICC had a similar “disruptive” approach to HR and talent, which is why I approached them to be a sponsor/co-organizer.  And they ran with it.  Their enthusiasm, support, and tenacity to make this work…just invaluable. And we all brought different skills to the table, which meant the event would be well-rounded and appeal to more than just one person.
  • Get AMAZING speakers: If you are planning a speaking event, you need speakers.  And boy did we have them.  They were enthusiastic, brave, knowledgable, funny, talented…seriously.  They were off the hook.  Thank you to – Kathleen Brenk, Daniel Horsey, Matt Rowe, Brian Fretwell, Melissa Case, Kristin Van Horn, Sean Shepard, Tanja Hinterstoisser, Ph.D., Jo McGuire, Damian J Guerin, CCP, SPHR, and Shawna Simcik.  Find these people.  Connect with these people.
  • Book an awesome venue: If you are planning a networking event with speakers, the venue needs to work! Think about the acoustics, the space, the flow, the seating, the parking…everything.  Equally important is a venue that understands what you’re trying to accomplish and will work with you to convey the right tone.  We had Casselman’s – and they were great to work with.  They suggested a mix of seating and setup that encouraged the networking we were looking for.  And they made sure our speakers could be heard.  Big win.
  • Choose the right topics: You’ve heard “content is king.”  The topics you choose for your event need to serve the intent of the event, as well as be entertaining and thought-provoking.  We worked closely with our potential speakers to find topics that would advance the thinking of HR and get people thinking about their processes in a new way.  Okay…actually, our speakers came up with them.  But we picked ’em.  So there.

Unexpected bonuses:

  • New friends and connections: The DisruptHR group has bonded.  We have been through some serious shit and came out the other side with a new group of friends.  The speakers are connecting left and right, we may have encouraged a couple to join Twitter (I’m looking at you, Jo!), and we have all gained new resources to help us think of new ideas and approaches.  It’s hard to make new meaningful connections.  We did it.
  • Chance to shift mindset: Seriously – how often can you say you have a chance to start a thought revolution?  The whole event aligns with my “brand” as a forward-thinker who likes to shake people out of their day-to-day…and I think we won a few converts.  I want to keep this going.
  • Sense of accomplishment: This whole event was SO outside of my comfort zone – between the planning, the networking, the “group work” (people who know me know that challenge), the marketing, the hosting, the speaking – there were a lot of firsts for me.  I was EXHAUSTED when it was over…and I was incredibly proud at not just what WE did, but what I did.  Challenges are good, so I am going to continue challenging myself and others.

This post may not seem like it’s about traditional leadership.  There isn’t anything about feedback, or dignity, or engagement, or anything like that.  It’s about continually pushing yourself and others to try something new, do something scary, and find a level of success that wasn’t guaranteed or possibly believed.

Huh.  Maybe it was about leadership.  How ’bout that.

 

Quick note:  Shout out to Stephanie Sigler – the first boss I had who really challenged me to be a leader and stop being a brat.  🙂 Thanks for being there last night!

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2014 in Personal Development, Teamwork

 

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