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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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It’s STILL about the people

[Continuing to hang with my HR homies at #SHRM16. It’s happening until Wednesday. So…yeah.]

Every year at the SHRM National Conference, you see all sorts of blog posts about how the content is great, but it’s really about the people you meet and the relationships you build. Hell, I’ve even written that blog post.

This year, I wanted to attend more sessions and see more of the content that’s out there. I went through the schedule and picked out a bunch of sessions that looked good (and there were lots) and was ready to session the heck out of this place.

And then I got to DC and that all went out the window.

shrm_ac2016_logoOver the past 12 months I’ve had the chance to connect with so many amazing folks online that once I arrived, it’s a constant scavenger hunt to find all the people who want to met in real life (that’s IRL for those of you in the know).

People like Jon Thurmond, Dan Cross and Wendy Dailey from SHRM’s NextChat (Wednesdays, 3:30pm Eastern – join!). Other folks like Micole Kaye and Chris Bailey, who are always great to see! And of course, all of the #SHRMBloggers!  (And if I haven’t seen you yet – what the heck??)

Anyway, it just goes to show that while these conferences have some fabulous speakers and helpful content, the reality is that most of us come because it’s like a great big crazy family reunion and we barely get to see each other face-to-face.

So forgive me if I don’t go to as many sessions as I wanted to. And if I don’t connect with everyone I meant to, my bad.

For me, #SHRM is STILL about the people.

 
 

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Connecting the dots (and by dots, I mean people)

Note: This week I am at the annual National SHRM Convention in Las Vegas, NV. And in case you’re wondering if it it’s hot in Las Vegas in July, the answer is HELL YES. The heat…my god, man, THE HEAT.

As we enter the final day of this national gathering of HR folks, the attendees will be thinking about what they really got out of this experience.

  • Were the sessions worth it? Many of them were. Hopefully you chose wisely!
  • Were the keynotes good? Mika Brzezinski was. Her message about knowing your value resonated. And even if you disagreed with her, she made you think about WHY you disagreed.]
  • Were the boxed lunches good? No. 
  • Was the Expo Hall helpful? Depends on your goals. May you connect with many good vendors!
  • Did you have fun at Jennifer Hudson? No one called me for bail money, so you must have balanced it right!

What strikes me about this week as I talk to fellow attendees is how much they talk about different people they’ve met. About the woman working in Iowa as an HR Department of One and how much she has in common with the man in California facing the same challenges. About the folks on the shuttle bus chatting about their day, laughing knowingly about a session as if they were old friends. About the online friends who have been connected for a couple of years who finally got a chance to meet face to face.

I attend SHRM not just because I want to see the sessions, or keynotes, or go to Vegas. (Wait…what?)connect-the-dots

I attend SHRM because I want to connect with the online community who has welcomed me, supported me, mocked me (I’m looking at you, Stollack), and embraced me as one of their own. I am not here in any sort of official blogging/social media capacity and yet I’ve been able to hang with these folks, participate in fantastic conversations, and share my opinions with this fascinating, smart group of people.

Last night at dinner, Jason Lauritsen (yes, I’m name dropping) stopped for a moment and reflected on the growth of this little online family, and how SHRM has become a type of family reunion – a chance to reconnect on a human level with people who have been scattered around the nation.

Jason’s right. SHRM really is about the connections we make. But what’s more important are the connections we SUSTAIN.

My challenge to you as you go back to your homes and to your lives (or to the casinos) is to ensure you sustain the connections you make in life. Help connect people to those who can help each other. And plan ways to keep those connections fresh through face-to-face meetings.

The simple truth is that for all the process and product our companies deal with, it’s the PEOPLE that matter.

Connect. Sustain. Refresh.

It’s that simple.

 
 

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Ninjas in our midst: in praise of undercover leaders (dispatch from #SHRM15)

Note: This week I am at the Annual National SHRM Convention in Las Vegas, NV. And in case you’re wondering if it it’s hot in Las Vegas in July, the answer is HELL YES. The heat…my god, man, THE HEAT.

Not everyone likes to go to conferences.

There are a lot of people. Vendors looks desperate. There are too many sessions that seem to look the same, and if you have to get on one more shuttle bus, you may burst into tears.

Now multiply that by about 15,000.  Because that’s how many HR professionals have descended upon Las Vegas for the annual SHRM National Convention.

They come for a variety of reasons – some come to get their recertification credits, some to see specific speakers, some to raid the Expo Hall, and yes…some come just because they want a company-sponsored trip to Vegas. (Don’t judge – you’re just mad you didn’t think of it.)

I would argue, however, that the vast majority come to reconnect with others who share their experience, skills, and intereninja2sts. They come because they want to meet the people they’ve connected with over the years. They come because they want to learn from others.

And they come because so many of these HR professionals are LEADERS.

No, they don’t have the fancy title. In fact, many of them don’t even think of themselves as leaders. They are HR folks doing the best they can to help their organizations be successful. And in the process, they prove their leadership.

These folks ask good questions in sessions. They stay behind to challenge the speaker on points made during a session. They engage with their peers on the Expo Floor or while waiting for the shuttle. They ask how the conference is going when riding the elevator down to the lobby each morning. They challenge the thinking of those around them, aren’t afraid to call something bullshit when it is exactly that, yet they don’t tear down – they help build.

This wouldn’t surprise the people who know them, because back in the office, these same HR professionals nudge and influence, support and coerce the employees and leaders working in their organizations. They keep the trains running AND challenge the status quo – all without calling attention to themselves. It’s about the outcomes, silly.

They are leadership ninjas. You don’t even realize they were there – but you feel their effects long after they’re gone. (And some of them are partial to black. No idea why.)

Are you noticing the “ninjas” in your organization? Are you willing to recognize leadership based on actions, not words? Are you able to empower based on behaviors, not title?

Don’t underestimate the power of these covert leaders…because I guarantee there are others in the organization who notice their influence and rely on their leadership capabilities.

When these HR professionals return to their organizations, eager to share what they experienced and itching to try some new things, give them some grace. Leaders DO. Leaders ACT. Leaders TRY. The worst thing you can do is look at them like they’ve grown a second head because these people want to implement something new.

So be quiet. Stand back.

You may be surprised what a ninja can do.

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2015 in Authenticity, Personal Development

 

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SHRM and the art of leadership

This is a slightly different post today, and it’s pretty HR focused, but stuff is going on in the HR world that highlights leadership. This “stuff” also highlights the fact that leadership can look and sound very, very different – and still be 100% leadership.

For the uninitiated:

SHRM (the Society of Human Resource Management) announced earlier this year that it was launching a separate new certification for HR professionals. HRCI (Human Resources Certification Institute) will continue to offer the existing certification. If you want to read more about all this, click here, here, or even here.

This post isn’t about the new certification.

What I want to focus on is the way leaders in the HR community have stimulated conversation.6-blind-men-hans

On the one hand, you have the esteemed Laurie Ruettimann – her approach has been to ask some very pointed questions about the need, efficacy and impact of the new certifications. You can read her excellent article about it here.  Go ahead, read it.  I’ll wait. Done?  Good.

On the other hand, you have the also-esteemed Steve Browne – his approach has been to focus on what the future can look like, and the progress that has been made since the announcement first happened. You can read his excellent take on the situation here. We’ll wait. It’s cool.

Chances are, you were provoked, annoyed, or in fervent disagreement with one of them, rolling your eyes at their comments. Or you may have been smiling, nodding emphatically, or fist-pumping because you totally agree with their comments. Either way, you’ve been exposed to two different perspectives and you thought about where you stood.

That means these folks are Leaders with a capital L.

I don’t mean leadership is about arguing. Leadership is about making people think. Or asking the tough questions. Or being optimistic about possibilities.

Leadership isn’t just about what YOU want it to look like. It takes all kinds, all voices, all backgrounds.

I love that Laurie and Steve come from different points of view. And I love even more that they keep the conversation going.

This, my friends, is what leadership looks like.

Keep the conversation going.  Post a comment here, post a comment for Steve and/or Laurie.  Let’s talk!

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Expose yourself…appropriately

Leadership is difficult.

You are surrounded by people (those you manage and those who manage you) who want to tell you how to do your job. And then you have all those people out there producing content to teach you how to be a leader using this model or that model. And make sure you keep up on the latest and greatest in your industry. Slacker.

To survive, leaders go into lockdown mode and use what the “know” will work. They form opinions – both about themselves and others – and use those opinions to make decisions.

Stop it.

Lockdown mode will help you survive the short-term. And will make you irrelevant in the long-term.image

I’m at the 2014 Annual SHRM conference in Orlando, surrounded by HR leaders who are either here to reinforce their lockdown mode…or find ways to break out of it.

It’s hard to break out. It’s icky feeling. It’s scary. It’s filled with the unknown.

And it’s awesome.

I am here to challenge all of you to start looking at things in different ways. Expose yourself to people who think the opposite of how you think. Listen to a speaker you disagree with…and then find value in something that speaker says.

Employees can’t learn from a person who won’t entertain a different point of view, and leaders cannot grow if they surround themselves only with like-minded people.

Seek out the different. Expose yourself to it. You may not agree with it, but you WILL learn from it.

“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”
― Voltaire

 
 

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