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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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The best part about being a manager

There are hundreds – nay, thousands – of blog posts about how hard it is to be a manager, the struggles one faces, the challenges we deal with.  I’ve contributed to that number.  Heck, this whole blog was created on the premise that it’s difficult to be a leader, as well as to be led.

None of that has changed. It’s hard out there for a pimp, yo.

But we focus so much on negativity that I thought it would be good to take a moment to talk about the best part about being a manager – employees.

Yes, employees are the best part about being manager. (Some of them are the worst part, but that’s another story.) Unless you are ready to work with your employees to help them be successful, you shouldn’t even consider being a manager – I don’t care what the compensation rate is.  You need to WANT to develop people. Because it’s hard work and can lead to heartache.

It can also lead to moments of incredible joy and pride.you da best

I’ve had the opportunity to manage a lot of different people in a lot of different situations in my career – some good, some bad.  While every single one is one of God’s special creatures in their own way, there have been a few that stood out because of what they accomplished.  And let’s be clear…they are the reason they are successful.  I was just lucky to be there.

I don’t want to publicly embarrass any of them, so I won’t go into great detail about their circumstances (Sam, Steven, Jim, others…you know who you are).  I worked with all of them when they were individual contributors – some in mid-career, some at the very beginning. All of them loved challenge, hated me from time to time, and have moved on to build training organizations of their own, to manage people, or to find the job that brings them happiness. And they did it because they are awesome.

There was no secret ingredient to helping them.  Really, it was about having high expectations, having their back, letting them fail from time to time, challenging them when I thought they were selling themselves short, and then getting the hell out of their way.

Whenever I have a chance to interact with these former employees, I’m always in awe of what they have been able to accomplish in spite of me.  It’s always a shame when a great employee moves on, but that’s tempered by the knowledge that they have done so much more than what they could have done if they had stayed my employee. And I learned far more from them than they did from me.

So, yeah…there are times when I hate being a manager; when I wish all I had to do was sit down, do work, and not be responsible for anyone else. But all that (well, most of that) goes away when I see an employee succeed.

Treat employees like they make a difference and they will.
 – Jim Goodnight, CEO SAS

 

Do you have a great employee success story? ARE you a great employee success story? Share in the comments!!!

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Self-Awareness, Teamwork

 

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Labor Day Reminder – (Co)Workers Matter

According to Wikipedia,

Labor Day in the United States is a holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country.

As you go about your preparations for a three-day weekend (hopefully), don’t forget to thank the people you work with and recognize the contribution they make.

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Leaders, I know your employees sometimes drive you insane.

Employees, I know your leaders can make you want to poke your eyes out.

But the reality is we are all in this together.  No matter what kind of work you do, your organization, your industry, the people you work with shape your day-to-day experience.  They help determine whether or not you are in a good culture or a bad one.  They may lift you up when you’re feeling down, or help pop that ego when it gets a little too big.  They are your cheerleaders, your mentors, your sounding boards, your cranky neighbor who just wants those darn new hires to get off their lawn.

And yes…sometimes your coworkers are truly terrible.  And they contribute to an awful environment.  And they make you question whether it’s worth it.

But I wager that there is ONE person in your professional life who makes a difference.  That person deserves to hear from you.

So to everyone in my professional life – THANK YOU for your contribution to my strength, prosperity and well-being.

 

Now go eat some damn hot dogs.

 

Have a safe and fun Labor Day Weekend, everybody!

 
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Posted by on August 29, 2014 in Teamwork

 

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Efforts vs. Results: Do employees know the difference?

I recently read an article  day that referenced an infographic featuring the following statistic:

Nearly half (49 percent) of employees in a survey revealed that they would leave their current job for a company that recognized employees for their efforts and their contributions.

Really.  Nearly HALF of all employees would leave their job.

I know I’m cynical, but that seems awfully high, especially in a volatile economy.  So I reframed that statement (because I’m in HR and I know what reframing is), and I started thinking about whether or not the average employee would define recognition-worthy effort the same way management would.  I came to the following conclusion…

I don’t think they would.

In my career, I’ve been a part of many a performance review process, helping managers and employees alike understand why we do them, how we do them, and what the different ratings mean.  And it never fails that there is a severe disconnect between what the employee sees a extra effort and what the manager would call DOING YOUR JOB.

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Here’s a quick reminder for employees about the difference:

DOING YOUR JOB:

  • Showing up on time every day
  • Completing your work by the assigned deadline and in a quality manner
  • Being a decent human being to coworkers


EXTRA EFFORT:

  • Teaching others to do their jobs better
  • Identifying a more efficient way to do a task
  • Going above and beyond for a customer

Really, it’s about the difference between EFFORT and RESULTS.  Effort is good – managers want to see effort.  It’s an indicator that employees give a damn.  But guess what – results pay the bills, which means managers are more likely to recognize employees whose efforts yield results.  As an employee, I need to be aware of what will benefit the business and ensure my work is truly “value add.”  And I also need to communicate what I’m doing to my manager to ensure I’m aligned with his/her expectations.

Managers, you’re not off the hook for this one.  If your employees feel like you don’t notice their efforts, that’s on you.  It’s your job to give clear expectations for results and to provide meaningful feedback to your employees year-round. Too often managers are afraid to have a difficult conversation, telling employees “that was a a darn good try” all year…only to rate them lower in the annual review because nothing got done.  On the other hand, things come up that are out of the employee’s control that can keep their efforts from yielding the expected results.  So be a human being and acknowledge that.

Lack of recognition by managers is a real problem in many organizations, and it CAN lead to employees wanting to leave for a better job.  I also think misconstrued ideas of what recognition should look like leads to unrealistic employee expectations.

What do you think? Are employees being greatly unappreciated? Are managers being unfairly maligned for not rewarding employees for just showing up?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2014 in Clarity, Context

 

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Apparently your cat hates you…and your employees might, too

You may have seen it online or in the news lately – there’s a study that claims your cat hates you, or at the very least, doesn’t really care if you’re there or not.

My first thought upon reading the article…you needed a study to learn this?  Seriously, just own a cat.  [Full disclosure: I’m a dog person.  But cats have been in my life from time to time.  Hence the dog. :)] The level of disdain even the most “loving” cats have for their owners is remarkable.  Awe-inspiring, even.

Shortly after that, I thought how similar this behavior can be to employees.  I’m inclined to believe that employees also have an “anxious avoidant” attachment style – they really don’t care if their leader is present or not present.  Not in a positive way, anyway.  Sure, employees may care to avoid an abusive or incompetent leader.  But just like a cat who snubs the owner who feeds them and gives them a loving home, employees may turn their nose up at a leader who cares about his/her employees.

grumpy_cat

If you don’t know Grumpy Cat, you are missing out!!

Leaders, try not to take it personally.  There are a number of factors that play into this dynamic:

  • Employees are hard-wired to hate “The Man”: Well, maybe not hate.  Perhaps “intense distrust” is a better term.  By and large, authority figures have it rough in the workplace.  Ask any popular employee who was promoted and then spurned as a pariah – it can be tough to be the king.
  • Leaders kinda feel the same way about their employees: Just like employees are hard-wired to hate “The Man”, there are a number of leaders who look at the privilege of leading with a sort of resignation.  They know it’s important, it’s just….tiring sometimes.
  • Leaders struggle with boundaries: There are many leaders out there who just don’t get the balance between BFF and hard ass.  This can lead to credibility issues with the team that cause employees to wish “the man” wasn’t around.
  • Most employees don’t really need a manager: Of course, teams need a manager.  They need someone to help run interference, be their champion, set the vision, etc.  But on a day-to-day basis, not so much.  Think I’m wrong?  Next time your manager is out of the office, take note of how much work you get done.

 

So what do you do to combat this indifference?  We might be able to learn a lot from cat owners:

  • Don’t try too hard: Most cat owners know that when the cat wants to interact with you, he/she will do so.  Create an environment that is conducive to interaction, exercise some patience, and see what happens.
  • Catnip works: In this case, catnip can be rewards and recognition.  Make your employees’ interactions with you positive and you may see them more often.  Figure out what motivates your employees, help them achieve that, and you should see an improvement in your relationships.
  • Know what baggage they bring to the table: As anyone who has ever adopted a shelter cat knows, some of these guys come with serious issues.  Sometimes employees do, too.  Maybe they had a crappy manager 3 jobs ago and you’re paying the price.  Patience, positive reinforcement, and a good dialogue can help overcome that.
  • Some people just aren’t cat people: If it really bothers you that your employees don’t like you, or don’t think you’re cool, or don’t want to hang out with you…maybe you aren’t the leading kind.  Re-examine your motives for getting into a leadership position in the first place – if they are still pure and you just need an attitude adjustment, do it!  If not, that’s okay, too.  Just don’t subject your employees to a non-leadership ready leader.

Do you have any advice for the leader whose employees are a little too cat-like in their attachment?  Share in the comments below!

I would like to see anyone, prophet, king or God, convince a thousand cats to do the same thing at the same time.
– Neil Gaiman

 

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You have to use your MIND (stay open to learning)

At a recent event in Cincinnati (shout out, DisruptHR!), a group of us went out to dinner and, as often happens at these types of gatherings, the conversation ranged all over the place – from discussing the state of local businesses to arguing whether or not I was morally obligated to share any of my dinner.  (The answer was no.)

In general, I didn’t really have a stake in any of the conversations going on (other than the dinner sharing), but suddenly I found myself stepping on a rather large soap box and had to be coaxed down…and it was all about whether or not kids should learn cursive in schools.

Surely you’ve read about it – cursive has been removed from the Common Core because of computers and all that cool tech stuff.  What a waste of time!  After all, these kids are in third grade…there is so much more that they should be learning.  Like how to eat paste.  Why would we possibly want kid to learn something new?

OfficeSpace_038Pyxurz

And there’s the crux of my soapbox.  Never mind that there is research that indicates cursive supports brain development.  What bothers me is that there are people out there who are PROUD that they have encouraged 2nd and 3rd graders to reject learning something.

Okay, fine…hardly any of us writes anymore, let alone write in cursive.  My cursive has been a hybrid of print and cursive for years.  But think about the process of learning cursive – it requires discipline, perseverance, patience, even a little artistic flair.  Are any of those things that we wouldn’t want kids to learn?

So…what does this have to do with leadership?  I think too many people in the business world are guilty of the equivalent of refusing to learn cursive because they think they don’t need it.  Development?  Bah!  I know everything you could possibly teach me!  I don’t need that – it’s a waste of time!

Learning is a lifelong practice…with emphasis on the word practice.  Your brain is begging you to keep creating new neural pathways to keep it young.  By being open to learning, you keep your brain primed to take in and process new information.  You shut that down, what good are you to your business?

Here are a few thoughts on how to keep yourself open to learning:

  • Avoid the urge to dismiss: Sometimes new things sound stupid.  And useless.  And a waste of time.  Find out if that’s true before you dismiss it entirely.
  • Embrace the challenge: Sometimes new things sound hard, so we want to avoid them by saying they’re stupid.  See the benefit in learning something new.
  • Find the nugget: Sometimes new things are kind of useless.  I bet you can find something in there you can use.  Maybe it’s a way to reframe your attitude.  Maybe it’s the process you underwent to learn it.  Maybe it’s simply the fact that you kept your mind open.

Always, always, ALWAYS be open to learning new things.  It’s how you stay relevant…and it’s how the world becomes a better place.

Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.
– Mahatma Gandhi

 
 

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10 (really!) things leaders do that make me happy…or at least not cry

In my last post(s), I shared a number of things that leaders do that make me cry.  I figured it would only be fair for me to spread a little love into the universe and share some of the good things that leaders do (believe it or not, good things DO happen in the workplace).

I’ll admit…it was tough to not just write the opposite of the last list.  So I tried to think of some unique behaviors that positively impact the business and its people.  Don’t agree with them?  Think I’m missing a few?  Let me know in the comments!!

  • Has the team’s back: A lot of times, all an employee wants to know is that their manager went to bat for them.  When a leader fights for their team (whether it’s to stand up for an idea, speak up against a questionable policy, or push back when someone else tries to throw an employee under the bus), the team notices.  It makes a difference…and it shows that a leader understands the impact he/she can have on the team.
  • Collaborates across departments: So much of climbing the corporate ladder seems to stem from building an empire and then protecting your little fiefdom.  That’s why it’s so refreshing to see leaders who throw all that aside and work for the betterment of the entire company by reaching out across functional lines and work together towards a common goal.  (*sniff* I promised myself I wouldn’t cry!)
  • Challenges their people…the right way: Since a big part of what I do focuses on people development, I am always so happy when I see a leader willing to take a chance and give an employee a stretch assignment with the right amount of support.  It shows the leader believes in the employee, and it also shows that the leader isn’t willing to let an employee settle for “okay”.  Yay, leader!
  • Listens more than they talk: This is so hard for most people.  We like to talk about ourselves and listen to how darn smart we are.  So a leader who has learned how to wait and truly listen is one worth knowing.  When you listen as a leader, you encourage creativity, build morale, and make yourself smarter becausehappy_kitty you’re allowing your brain some time to process the input it’s receiving.  It’s AMAZING how different a team meeting is when the leader shuts up.
  • Hires people smarter than they are: It’s often said that Bill Gates wasn’t the smartest guy in the room…but he was pretty darn smart at surrounding himself with people who were better than he was at certain things.  (Ballmer it NOT this.  Just so we’re clear.)  A leader who hires smart people shows he/she is knowledgable about his/her limitations and is comfortable with them.  It’s about success…not ego.
  • Has a personality: Sometimes it feels like somewhere along the way it was decided that “executive presence” means being boring.  How wonderfully inspiring – you’re going to bore your people to death, but gosh darn it, didn’t you do it professionally?  I like a leader who isn’t afraid to show you who they are.  It gives others the permission to do the same, and helps build an important rapport and trust that will get a team through the tough times.  So fly a little freak flag now and then!
  • Sets boundaries: Showing personality doesn’t mean hitting every happy hour with the crew and posting buddy pics on Instagram.  I have worked with a number of managers who I call my friend…but while we worked together, there were definite boundaries around what was on or off limits in discussions about work and/or liberties taken.  I respected the heck out of these people while I worked for them (and still do) because their ability to set boundaries protected both them AND me – I knew they wouldn’t try to exploit our friendliness for their gain, just as they knew that I would understand why they couldn’t share everything.
  • Knows the difference between ‘fair’ and ‘the same’: Some of the most effective leaders I’ve seen understand this.  ‘Fair’ means considering each situation on its own merits, and acting accordingly.  ‘The Same’ means managing to the lowest common denominator.  Yes – consistency is important (I think about 1000 HR ladies just fainted, so I need to be clear about this).  But is it fair to make some exceptions now and then for an outstanding employee who has always gone above and beyond and works 55 hours a week without complaint?  I think so.  And here’s a hint: smart leaders seem to instinctively know how to set expectations and hold people to them BEFORE making exceptions.  Interesting, don’t you think?
  • Shows humility: Remember when Barry Sanders (RB for Detroit, for those of you who actively avoid sports) would score a touchdown?  He handed the ball to the official and then walked to the sidelines.  He acted like he’d been there before, would probably be there again…and understood that getting a touchdown meant he was doing his job – no more, no less.  (For more on Barry’s approach, here’s a great article from ESPN.)  Leaders can learn a lot from a guy like Barry Sanders.  Yes, celebrate your wins!  You and your team both deserve a moment of rest and reflection.  But the best leaders are ones who thank those who did the leg work, appreciate those who lent support, and acknowledge that sometimes it’s about being in the right place at the right time.  Just be authentic when you do it, okay?  False humility can do more damage than outright boasting.
  • Brings cupcakes and/or other assorted snacks: People like food.  ‘Nuff said.

So there you have it.  An ACTUAL list of 10 things that leaders do that make me happy.  Agree?  Disagree?  Got something to say?  Share it in the comments!

The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.
~Theodore Roosevelt

 
 

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