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The way we win matters

What’s that? ANOTHER movie reference in a blog post? Hell yes. Buckle up, buttercup. Let’s do this.

It’s no secret that I love science fiction (and science fantasy, where I firmly place Star Wars, but that’s a discussion for another time). I started reading Ray Bradbury and Harlan Ellison at a very young age. Which explains a lot, really. What I appreciate about the genre is that it is such a mirror of who we are as a society – and who we want to be. Some sci-fi is post-apocalyptic and depressing, some is unnaturally cheerful and optimistic. (You can probably guess what kind I tend to watch.) All of it acts as a social commentary for the time in which it was made.

One story I experienced first as a movie and then as a book is Ender’s Game. Regardless of what you think of the book’s author, the story and world building is brilliant and engaging. Years ago, Earth was invaded by an alien species and barely survived. Since then, society has been obsessed with preparing for the next attack, training children to be the leaders of the battle because their brains can process the multitude of data faster.

Ender, so-called because he is a third child in a society that limits most families to two, is unique among his peers. He is the perfect combination of aggression and compassion, believing that the best way to defeat his enemy is to love them, because only then do you understand them. When confronted by bullies at his school, he gravely injures the toughest boy – an apparent over-reaction to the situation. When questioned why later, he replies that he wasn’t fighting to win that battle – he was fighting to win all future battles, too. (Seriously, go watch the movie and read the book – so good.)JALWS Letterhead I

One line in particular has stuck with me. [SPOILERS AHEAD] Near the end of the story, Ender and his unit have been undergoing simulation after simulation to defeat the Formics (insect-like aliens). In the final simulation, they risk nearly everything to defeat the entire race of Formics. Ender sacrifices thousands of (he thinks) simulated lives to achieve victory. Following the simulation, the adults cheer…it turns out, the simulation was the real battle. Colonel Graff (played by Harrison Ford) explains they didn’t tell Ender because they didn’t want him to hesitate…that they needed him to do what was necessary. Graff insists Ender will be remembered a hero. “We won,” Graff proclaims. “That’s all the matters.” Ender fires back, “No. The way we win matters.

This line says so much. It embodies so much of our humanity…or lack of it.

How many times have leaders claimed winning is the only option? How many organizations sacrifice values, integrity, dignity because they tell themselves the ends justify the means? Win at all costs. No holds barred. You have to play the game to win the game.

How many times do people regret that approach? In the long term, I hope it’s all of them. Because you give up something vital when you tell yourself that it doesn’t matter how you won. In the short term, it might seem like the smart play, but ultimately, history judges us all. It exposes the lies we tell ourselves and lays bare our mistakes.

Right now, American society is at a crossroads. We have an administration that values “winning” and loyalty over all else. We have a majority party in Congress that is willing to “win” no matter what the cost. We have organizations that are choosing to align themselves with a president who has been accused of sexual assault, and then turn around and speak about the dangers of #metoo. We live in a world where the number of  impressions and Twitter followers appear to be more important than values and critical thinking.

Is this what winning looks like?

I’d like to believe we’ll right this ship; that we’ll realize that attention isn’t the same as regard. That small “victories” are meaningless if we lose the larger battle. That sacrificing what we believe for the sake of a photo op means more than a slight PR hit. The decisions we make moving forward as leaders – as human beings – say more about us than short term gains. Are we willing to admit that sometimes the right thing to do IS the hard thing to do? Do we have the courage to turn down what looks good in favor of what IS good? Are we willing to speak up when our leaders can’t? Or won’t?

I hope so.

THE WAY WE WIN MATTERS.

 

 

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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: Style or substance?

As #SHRM18 winds down and 20,000 +/- HR professionals get ready to head home, it’s time to reflect a bit on what we saw, heard and learned during the conference.

My fellow SHRM Bloggers have been sharing amazing content throughout the conference, and I encourage you to read what they’re writing. Many of them are breaking down the sessions and highlight key takeaways, and you should definitely go read what they’re writing.

Thinking about what I’ve seen this week, my challenge to you as you go home is to think about style vs substance. No doubt you saw a number of speakers who entertained, energized and basically showed you a good time. That’s great! It’s always fun to see that kind of speaker.

Now…what did you learn from them? When you go back to your workplace and your coworkers ask you what you like about the conference, what will you tell them? Will it be about the fun you had? Will it be about what you learned? Will it be both?you-cant-have-style-if-you-dont-have-substance-quote-1

My hope is it’s a mix of both. Don’t confuse “fun” with “learning.” Don’t confuse entertainment with takeaways. Again – there is nothing wrong with fun and entertainment. Both of those things can help drive home the content and ensure you remember what the speakers wanted you to remember. But what will you apply? Can you recreate the feeling of the session you were in back home? Can you share the content of the session you were in with your team?

As leaders, we all struggle with the balance of style or substance. We see leaders who are charismatic and high energy gain popularity…and ultimately burn their teams to the ground because they have no freaking idea what they’re doing. We see leaders who are incredibly smart and capable fail to get ahead or gain buy-in because they lack the “spark” that people seem to respond to.

I don’t think it needs to be an either/or – it should be a continuum, a balance of style AND substance, capturing hearts and minds and spurring people to action. As you respond to the speakers, so might you respond to leaders.

So remember this lesson as you return home with dreams of changing your environment. Think about your leadership team and how they interact with your employees. Think about how YOU interact with employees. Are you simply “entertaining” them? Or are you helping them learn, grow and change?

Thank you, #SHRM18! You made us think. You helped us connect. You challenged us to change.

See you next year!

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2018 in Conference Posts, Uncategorized

 

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Some thoughts before #SHRM18

The big one – SHRM National – is coming up next week in Chicago. Over 15,000 HR professionals from across the world will be there to learn, talk, listen, and eat (hey, it’s Chicago).

There have been a number of fabulous blog posts written about the upcoming conference – you can find them here.  The posts highlight speakers, vendors, tips on navigating the conference, and great sights to see in Chicago.

Since those posts already exist and are really good, I thought I’d share some random thoughts as I prepare to attend – both as a speaker and a member of the SHRM Blogger Team.bros_0

  • The keynotes this year are all over the map in terms of political and social outlook. Mark Fogel wrote this terrific piece over on Fistful of Talent about the spectrum of speakers. My challenge to attendees is to listen critically and not be afraid to ask tough questions of leaders – if not at SHRM, then back in our workplaces.
  • There are people I only see once a year at national SHRM, yet I keep in touch with them all year long. With all the dangers and demons social media brings with it, I will always appreciate its ability to help me maintain long-distance connections.
  • Speaking of social media – GET ON TWITTER. It’s an imperfect tool, but it’s great for conferences. And start tweeting. Participate. We all start somewhere!
  • Attendees range from bright-eyed first-timers to jaded veterans. It’s important that we who have attended a lot of conferences remember that not everyone has “heard it before.” First-timers – ask questions. Engage with those around you. Veterans – be patient and remember you were once bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, too.
  • Speakers work hard to get share their content with you. It’s more than just having the idea and sharing the content. It’s about bringing things we think will be meaningful to the audience. It’s about making it interesting AND informative. So when it comes time to share feedback – share MEANINGFUL feedback. A speaker may get 1000 positive comments, but it’s the one dismissive or mean one that sticks with them. Maybe you could have looked up the reports online, but the speaker actually DID do the research, put together a slide deck, practiced it, and put themselves out there for the sake of our profession.
  • I’m going to seek out topics and speakers I don’t necessarily know. I think it’s good to expand horizons and learn about new areas of HR. I’m also going to be okay with skipping a session or two to recharge. This is your experience – own it.
  • I did this in Chicago last time I was there.
  • Portillo’s. That is all.

So there you have it – a stream-of-consciousness sharing of thoughts about #SHRM18. Follow the hashtag on Twitter. Tweet some content yourself! There’s a #NotatSHRM18 group out there, too. And the SHRM Blogger Team will be posting content throughout the conference! (I’ve been known to live tweet like crazy.) Plenty of opportunities to be a part of the event. You’re only as disconnected as you choose to be.

I’ll see you in Chicago!

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2018 in Conference Posts

 

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Do you suffer from MBSO?

MBSO: Management By Shiny Object

Symptoms:

  • Tendency to assign action items based on the last meeting you had
  • Forwarding every article on the latest management fad to your entire team
  • Inability to complete a project
  • Forgetting who you actually assigned as owner of a project
  • Vigorous head-nodding when something is suggested by the higher ups

Side Effects:

  • Frustrated team members
  • Lack of planning
  • Eye rolling in meetings
  • High turnover
  • Low engagement

Diagnosis:

  • Can usually be made within two (2) face-to-face meetings
  • Observe email syntax – probable lack of continuity; may also display needless repetition
  • Ask for a priority update on Monday…then as the same question Wednesday to see if there are massive changes

Treatment (to be administered by those around the MBSO sufferer):

  • At the next staff meeting, stage an intervention. “Joe, we love you very much. And we want you to be successful…”
  • Airing of grievances
  • Dead-eye stare at the afflicted member of your team
  • Finding a new job

MBSO can be stopped, but it takes awareness.

Don’t be that manager.

 

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Network or nepotism: where do we draw the line?

“Work your network.”

“Employee referrals are the best way to find talent.”

“Oh, I have a great person I can recommend for that.”

“It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know.”

Depending on your point of view, you either think these statements are helpful and motivating, or the embodiment of everything that’s wrong in society today.

This eternal debate is at the heart of my frustration with “hire for fit” or requests from conference planners for recommendations of speakers. On the one hand, it is important to find people who don’t necessarily “match” but certainly “go” – they complement the business in ways that moves the organization forward rather than fights for fighting’s sake. On the other hand, you can end up with a whole lot of same.  – the same thinking, the same looking, the same people, the same faces.

I struggle with this because I’ve benefited from my network. I’ve been afforded opportunities I wouldn’t have because the people in my circle of trust have recommended me for things, or have hired me for gigs, or have introduced me to people who then helped me do cool things. I am grateful to my network and humbled they think to recommend me for anything. And I really love the opportunity to refer someone I know because they are smart, talented, capable, all that stuff.

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And yet…

I recognize that someone else who had some mad skillz may not have gotten the opportunity because they don’t know the right people. And that it’s really hard to break into a new industry or group or company when you’re new and sometimes the “old guard” circles the wagons a little too much.

In hiring, data suggests employee referrals are the “best” – they tend to be sticky and because an employee is putting his/her reputation on the line, the referrals aren’t usually awful. For those of you who work among those with particularly niche skill sets (IT, OD, Legal,, etc.), you recognize the fact there are typically six (or fewer) degrees of separation between you and any possible candidate because we all keep referring the same people over and over.

What do we do about it? Throw out referrals all together? Avoid going to our network to ask about who should be a part of an event? Refuse to hire someone we’ve worked with before?

Yeah, maybe.

Or maybe not.

Maybe we just need be a little more aware of who we reach out to. Maybe we need to be intentional about the balance of referrals to new voices when it comes to giving opportunities. Maybe we need to take a chance now and then because it’s exciting to meet/hear/see/hire someone new.

Think of it this way – Marvel movies are great. The MCU has done a fantastic job of weaving together multiple storylines and breathing new life into old characters (you know Ironman was a secondary title, right?). But deep down, every once in awhile you kind of want to see something original. There’s a reason Greatest Showman had legs in the box office (and only part of it can be attributed to Hugh Jackman). It doesn’t take anything away from Marvel and movies you love. But it does give you glimpse of something different that you might not have wanted to watch.

So here’s my challenge for you – for every person who is your “go-to” referral for something, try to also refer someone new. It will grow the network at large and offer opportunity to those who may not have the reach that others do.

Plus, when that person turns into a star, you can always say you discovered them.

 

The currency of real network in not greed, but generosity.

~ Keith Ferrazzi

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2018 in Authenticity, Uncategorized

 

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