HR books

#WorkTrends Recap: Leaders Are Readers

What are you reading right now?

Laurie Ruettimann just wants you to read something other than your Facebook feed. She joined us on the #WorkTrends podcast to talk about how she’s getting leaders to read more with her new project, HR Book Club. She’s curating the best books for leaders and bringing people together to talk about what they’ve learned.

You can listen to the episode below, or keep reading for a recap.

Make Time to Read

It’s ironic, isn’t it? We’re constantly bombarded with new content, but no one has enough time to read. Ruettimann says it’s all about making different choices.

“Our brains are really tired from too much time on our phones,” she says. “When people say, ‘I don’t have time to read,’ they’re just making a different choice with their time.”

When she realized she was spending too much time online and not enough time really learning, she made a big decision. “I’m addicted to my phone, like everybody else in this world. I suffer from a high degree of tech addiction. And I thought to myself, ‘I need to make better choices in 2018.’ I mean, really. I was started to feel the drain of always being on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram.”

So she canceled her cable and committed to putting her phone away in the evening to read more. And if she has time to kill — say, when she’s in line at Starbucks or the grocery store — she chooses to read on her Kindle app instead of scrolling on social media. “I’m budgeting my time differently,” she says. “It’s a mindful choice.”

Start Small

If you’re not used to reading every day, Ruettimann suggests starting slowly. “In order to be a reader you have to develop this skill,” she says. “You can’t just jump into ‘War and Peace.’ You’ve got to start small. Find a book that’s 100 pages, or 150 pages. Read 10 pages a night. That’s how we’re encouraging our book club to read at least 12 books a year.”

What to Read

HR Book Club chooses two books to read as a community each month. In March, the two books are works written by women, in honor of Women’s History Month.

The New Rules of Work: The Modern Playbook for Navigating Your Career” is written by the co-founders of the career advice site The Muse, Alexandra Cavoulacos and Kathryn Minshew. “You can’t change the world if you’re in a crappy job,” Ruettimann says. “People who are suffering with their employee experience need a guide to get them to the next level in their career, and this is an exceptional and timely book.”

The second book, “Everything Happens for a Reason: and Other Lies I’ve Loved,” by Kate Bowler, isn’t a traditional business book. But the author, a divinity professor at Duke, has stage 4 cancer and writes about facing death. “This is a pretty heavy topic, but HR professionals are always in the epicenter of bad news, and I thought it would be interesting to learn about what it feels like to be an employee with a qualifying life event,” Ruettimann says. “It’s a little nontraditional, but I think it counts as an HR book.”

Use What You Learn

But even if you don’t read this month’s book club picks, the point is to read something. “I’m just looking to encourage more thought leadership, and I truly believe that the people closest to a problem are the ones equipped to solve it,” she says. “If we can get HR professionals seeing different points of view and learning about vocation and passion and meaning a little bit differently, when a problem arises at work that they’ve never seen before, hopefully they can hearken back to a story that they’ve read or a book that they’ve consumed and be informed.”

She points to one of her January book club picks, “Braving the Wilderness” by Brené Brown. “She says it’s hard to hate people up close. I would like to bring people closer together. I don’t care who you voted for a year and a half ago. I care that you’re a decent human being with values. For me, the HR Book Club is a way to connect with people and forget about the politics of the day, forget about policy, and start to think about, ‘How do we make the world a better place going forward?’ Because I really believe HR professionals sit at the intersection of work, power, politics and money. And if we’re not aware of it, if we’re not understanding what’s happening within our domain, we’re going to blow it.”

why fun at work matters

#WorkTrends Recap: Why Fun at Work Matters

It’s official: Forced fun is over.

“Let people have the brand of fun that works for them in the context of their culture.”

That wisdom is from Nick Gianoulis, who’s known as “the Godfather of Fun” around his office. He realized years ago when he was planning an employee event that people are looking for ways to connect, celebrate and have fun throughout the work week — not just at huge after-hours company parties once or twice a year. He started The Fun Department to infuse a little fun into the work day.

On the #WorkTrends podcast, he shared how any leader can add more fun to work and keep employees engaged. You can listen to the episode below, or keep reading for a recap.


Create Shared Experiences

Here’s the big question: What’s the definition of “fun”? Gianoulis tasked an employee with answering that question. After months of research, the employee came back with bad news: There isn’t a universal definition of fun. Fun is different for every person. But, he found a common thread: People have fun when they share an experience together.

To create those shared experiences, Gianoulis and his team aim to figure out what’s fun for each individual, team and department. And they don’t force anything. “One of the really important elements of this shared experience is that it’s all-inclusive and nonthreatening,” he says. “Someone might just want to observe or cheer their team on. You let people participate at the level they’re comfortable with.”

Here’s an example: One of his clients found that a lot of the company’s employees like dance. Some people might love dancing, others might like watching “Dancing with the Stars.” At 3 p.m. every day, the company takes a dance break.

Follow the Laws of Fun

“‘The Laws of Fun’ sounds like an oxymoron,” Gianoulis says, “but there are some universal truths” to creating fun experiences for people at work.

First: Leaders have to buy in. “When leaders buy in, we’re successful 100 percent of the time. When leaders don’t buy in and we’re trying to force it from the bottom up, it’s only about 50 percent successful, and it might live in one area or department, but it won’t translate to the rest of the organization.”

Second: Remember the “Three Cs”: consistency, company time and compliance. Plan consistent activities. Gianoulis recommends a 15- to 30-minute activity once a month. Have fun on company time — not just after work hours. And make sure the experience is compliant with your overall company culture.

Think Small

Creating fun experiences at work doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. “We really promote doing things that are small, easy, organic and don’t require expert facilitation,” Gianoulis says.

Let’s say you want to have a company football game. Gianoulis suggests adapting football to a degree where everyone can play. He’d make it a 10- to 15-minute game, with props and supplies that cost less than $100.

“Employees don’t want these big, elaborate team-building events anymore,” he says. Instead, millennials are pushing for a more flexible culture that incorporates fun into everyday moments. And that’s good news for everyone, he says. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, everybody would like to have fun and flexibility at work.”

puzzle pieces

#WorkTrends Recap: Helping Men Become Allies in the #MeToo Era

In the age of #MeToo, how are we creating equitable workplaces for women?

This week’s #WorkTrends guest, Melissa Lamson, has been working on this cause for years. She is CEO of Lamson Consulting, founder of a popular leadership program for women and has consulted on management for companies like Space X, LinkedIn and SAP.

She shared how men can proactively work to understand how the sexes communicate differently, and how they can work with women to build a more diverse culture at work.

Listen to the full podcast below, or keep reading for highlights from our conversation.

Gender Parity Requires Work from Women and Men

“If men and women don’t work together in organizations, they really won’t achieve gender parity,” Lamson says. “There has been a lot of emphasis on what women need to do to advance their own careers — networking, mentoring, training programs. The onus has been on women to support their own development.” But, she says, women can only go so far in creating more gender balance at the top of organizations. Companies need to enlist men to support this goal.

Most men are happy to contribute when they realize what’s at stake, she says. “I don’t believe that most men intentionally keep women from advancing today, but they don’t know what they necessarily could be doing to help.” So, she’s worked with companies to develop workshops for men. Through those workshops, some men say they realize their KPIs were gender biased, or that they never knew what women on their team wanted. Opening a conversation between women and men in the workplace is a good place to start.

Men Often Don’t Perceive the Problems

Lamson says that the men in her workshops often have no idea that their behavior or language could be perceived as hurtful or even sexist. “When men have a conversation, they will do that in a really competitive way. That’s normal, they’ll challenge each other and interrupt each other. If they do this with women, it’s perceived as being disrespectful and they get labeled as unsupportive.”

But Lamson says that’s not what most men want. “In my experience, men really want to be a hero. In my workshop, men will literally start writing down everything I’m saying. They’ll ask for exact phrases they can use with women to show support. They want to make women happy at work. They want to promote them, they want to work with them on teams and collaborate with them. They just literally don’t understand that there’s an issue.”

But, after her trainings, most men start to understand what their female colleagues are facing at work. They buy into the idea that we’ve all been socialized to see things in certain ways — and we can do some things differently to more effectively collaborate at work.

Understand Different Communication Styles

In her workshops, Lamson teaches about five communication differences between men and women. While everyone is, of course, different, she’s learned that some gender stereotypes often ring true for many groups, and understanding these can help teams learn how to work with one another better. She calls one of these communication differences “Status-First Recognition.”

“The research shows that men seek first and foremost to be seen as the more important and powerful. In contrast, women seek recognition, reward and appreciation. So, they want to be appreciated for a job well done and all the hard work that they’re doing.”

Those different motivations lead to gendered behaviors that can leave us at a mismatch. For example, women will thank men a lot. They’ll say, “Thanks so much, we really appreciate it.” Behind closed doors, women will tell you they’re trying to stroke men’s egos. But that doesn’t actually work with men, Lamson says. They don’t want to be thanked — they want to feel important and powerful.

On the other hand, men will interpret a female coworker’s silence as a non-problem, when resentment could actually be brewing. “Men assume that women are totally fine and feeling good about working with them unless they express that they’re not. That’s not a correct assumption.”

She gives groups this tip: If a man and a woman are talking in a meeting and the woman suddenly gets quiet, a man should notice that and start re-engaging her by asking questions.

“Men aren’t programmed to ask as many questions,” she says. “But if they can pivot and start asking questions, they’ll get the engagement back on track.”

Gender Diversity Drives Business Results

Lamson points to research from McKinsey, Catalyst and others that having more gender balance in an organization, especially at the top, actually affects the bottom line positively.

Catalyst research found that companies with the highest representation of women on their top management teams experienced better financial performance than companies with the lowest women’s representation.

But that doesn’t just mean adding one woman to an all-male board. Research shows that when one woman joins a group of men, she’ll adapt her style to theirs. When two women join, there still isn’t a substantial change in the group. But when there are three women, they have the power of a group — and will influence change.

how to apply a global mindset to training

#WorkTrends Recap: How to Apply a Global Mindset to Training

How does your company manage training? If you have remote employees on the payroll or your employees work in different locations around the globe, chances are your training isn’t happening in one place anymore. So what do business leaders, HR pros and trainers need to know about training a global, virtual audience?

In her career as a global trainer, Donna Steffey has visited 25 countries over 25 years. I asked her advice on building a global mindset and applying it to training and learning.

Build Your Cultural Intelligence

Before you start working with people in another country, you just need to read up on that country’s culture — right?

That’s a common misconception, Steffey says. But it’s not enough to have knowledge; you also have to be ready to take action. She says she’s studied David Livermore, an author who breaks down “cultural intelligence” into four competencies:

  • Drive
  • Knowledge
  • Strategy
  • Action

“Before I started researching his work, I didn’t realize that desire was important,” she says. Cultural intelligence is about more than just gathering knowledge. “It’s having that drive and desire. It’s about having a strategy and a game plan for when you work with people from other cultures, and then putting that plan into action.”

Tune into Cultural Nuances

Steffey has learned volumes about the subtle differences between cultures, especially when it comes to learning. As a trainer, her students expect her to handle the same situations completely differently based on where she is in the world.

“If you as the instructor embarrass a participant in the Middle East, you should acknowledge it immediately and apologize. But in Japan, you shouldn’t acknowledge it and apologize. You should wait until you can have a private conversation,” she says.

“In South America, if something goes wrong — like let’s say you have participants who come back late from lunch — what you want to do is acknowledge those people who came back on time from lunch, and not say anything about the people who came back late.”

These kinds of subtle differences and expectations can be tough to parse, so Steffey suggests talking to a local manager before you start training a new group.

For example, she might say to a manager, “Help me understand about your culture. You’re sending three participants from India. What do I need to know about Indian culture in order to be able to serve their needs in the classroom?”

Then, she pushes for a real answer. “They’ll probably say, ‘Oh, nothing. Everything is the same.’ And that’s just simply not true. I think as trainers we have to say, ‘No, I really want to understand the folks that are coming to training. Tell me what they like, what they don’t like. What do I need to know about their culture?’”

Understanding those cultural differences is so important because they’re deeply ingrained in learners. “We can’t change our learning style. We can’t change what our culture was, how we were brought up and how we learned to learn, just because we’re traveling to the U.S. or we’re getting on a webinar based in the U.S. The learners have their own style, and we have to respond to their style.”

Engage Virtual Learners

A recent ATD report shows that only 51 percent of corporate training is face-to-face — and that number is dropping fast. If you’re leading a virtual training, Steffey suggests thinking about how to modify your in-person curriculum to better suit the remote format.

“For instructor-led virtual training, the key is to engage that learner every three to five minutes,” she says. “So often, the trainer thinks they can lecture, and they just can’t. They have to use the tools available in order to engage that learner in the virtual, remote word.”

Stay Flexible

Even the best-prepared trainers have to respond to unexpected situations on the fly. Steffey describes a common experience among global trainers: Someone is preparing for a training in a different country, using English because English is the global language of business. They’ve been told their participants are going to speak English. But when the training starts, they realize the learners’ English is not strong.

So, the trainer has to adjust quickly. Maybe they change their slide deck to be more visual, with less text. Or maybe they change their activities to involve more group work so participants can speak their own language and process the information together.

“That’s part of a good global mindset, because what it means is I have a plan, but I am aware enough of the situation to select different actions to make the training work instead.”

Finally, she says, the most important part of having a global mindset is to treat everyone, everywhere, with respect. “Allow your learners to preserve their dignity, no matter what.”

Listen to the full #WorkTrends episode with Donna Steffey:

conflict at work

#WorkTrends Recap: The Secret to Conflict Without Casualties

Every team needs a little healthy conflict.

That’s not the kind of thing any HR leader would want to put on the break room wall. You’re not going to find inspirational posters about conflict.

But Dr. Nate Regier is on a mission to show people, including teams at work, that conflict is healthy. Conflict itself isn’t bad, he says; it’s all about how we respond to it. I asked him about harnessing the power of conflict, which he explores in his new book, “Conflict Without Casualties.

Conflict Isn’t Complicated

First, Dr. Regier says, we should stop and think about what conflict really is. It’s less complicated — and more pervasive — than you might think. “Conflict is simply the gap between what we want and what we’re experiencing, at any point in time,” he says.

For example, the gap could be that you want to be at work at 8 a.m. and instead, you’re stuck in a long line at Starbucks. Or it could be something more significant: You want to feel aligned with your team but you don’t.

“There’s conflict all the time, everywhere,” Regier says. “The first important thing is to simply recognize that and demystify it.” We need to begin by understanding that conflict isn’t good or bad.

Conflict Can Be Useful

Conflict gets a bad rap. Regier says that if you start typing the word “conflict” into Google, the suggested searches that come up are about reducing and managing conflict. “As soon as you see the word, everyone says, ‘manage it, mediate it, reduce it, control it,’” he says. “We have this myth that conflict is bad, and that people always get hurt, so we need to make it go away. But conflict is energy. And if we get rid of the energy, then we’re just left flat, bored and uncreative.”

A lot of people hate conflict, and avoid it at all costs. But Regier says avoiding conflict is unhealthy — and has negative consequences in the long run.

He says he worked with someone who said, “Well, I just avoid conflict. I just don’t do it.” When he asked what she did instead of facing conflict, she said, “I don’t sleep well, I’m preoccupied, I fume, I gossip.”

Avoiding conflict does affect us. “We’re spending that energy one way or another, whether we’re tackling the problem or whether we’re stewing, and gossiping, and avoiding. We have a real energy crisis here. Conflict is an unbelievable source of energy, but we’re misusing it. And there are just so many upsides if we can start thinking differently,” he says.

How We Respond to Conflict Matters

So how can we engage in conflict in a healthy way? Regier says we should think about how we approach the core struggle in every conflict situation.

“We are struggling to close that gap and get what we want, and to reconcile those differences. We can struggle to close that gap against each other, in an adversarial way. And then that becomes drama, because there’s a winner and a loser. Or we can struggle with somebody to create something, and that’s what we call compassion.”

“Most people think compassion is caring, sympathy, ‘my heart goes out to you,’” he says. “But really, compassion, if you go to the Latin root, means ‘to suffer with.’ ‘Com’ means alongside, or with, and ‘Passion’ means to suffer or struggle. So, ‘compassion’ means to struggle with, which is the exact opposite of ‘drama,’ which is to struggle against.”

Once you decide to take the compassionate route and struggle together, it’s important to get clear about what we really want. Instead of saying, “I want you to stop yelling at me,” dig deeper and think about what you’re really asking for. What you want is to feel safe, valued and connected. And if you can identify that and talk about it, you might be able to work together to figure out how to make that happen.

When Regier works with teams, he looks at how their everyday processes and procedures either reinforce the healthy rules of engagement around conflict or reinforce drama. How do they talk to each other, write memos to each other and work together every day? Are they struggling with each other or against each other?

This work is incredibly important for all businesses, he says. “The next generations are very disillusioned with capitalism because they’re seeing casualties of conflict. I think businesses have a huge opportunity to show the next generation that we can balance compassion and accountability and pursue business goals while making a positive difference in people’s lives. And there don’t have to be human or environmental casualties in the process.”

I’m in — what about you?

To learn more about healthy responses to conflict, check out Dr. Regier’s book, “Conflict Without Casualties.

How Leaders Can Create an Open Dialogue About Sexual Harassment

#WorkTrends Recap: How Leaders Can Create an Open Dialogue About Sexual Harassment

Has the mood in your office changed since October 5, 2017?

You probably don’t remember the exact date like Jonathan Segal does, but I’m willing to bet your world has changed a little since the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment story broke.

That day “blew the top off any denial that harassment was a serious problem. We all know it’s a serious problem. Now there is no excuse for any organization to ignore it,” says Segal, my longtime friend, a prominent HR attorney and a member of the EEOC Select Task Force on the Study of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.

Talking about harassment is hard enough among friends, but in the workplace, it’s even more loaded. There are a lot of complicated dynamics to explore. I asked Segal for his take on how leaders can facilitate these tough conversations.

Rethink Training on Sexual Harassment

There’s been a lot of talk about whether training about sexual harassment is effective. Segal says that harassment training is just like anything else: quality matters. He shared his tips for building a truly effective training program:

  • Focus on the human element, not just legal compliance. “If you focus on, ‘This is what we need to do to stay out of court,’ then you devalue the human element,” he says. “This is about preventing harm.”
  • Train managers to be proactive. Managers should be on the lookout for any behavior potentially on the continuum of harassment, and respond proactively by reporting everything to HR.
  • Use clear language and practical examples. Training language can’t be canned legalese, he says. Don’t get lost in legal labels. “Sometimes, I see training and I don’t even know what it means — and I’m a lawyer. You have to be specific. A policy and training should make clear what behaviors are unacceptable, even if they’re not unlawful.” For example, using a sexist quote in the workplace probably isn’t unlawful, but it still warrants a response.
  • Customize the training based on your people’s needs and risks. Segal says that one of the key elements of an effective training is customization. “If it’s off the shelf, usually it’s going to be of minimal value.” He recommends pinpointing the unique risk factors in your organization: Do you have a younger workforce? Are individuals reliant on tips? Are people working at decentralized locations?

Not Sure What’s OK? Consider These 3 Factors

The whirlwind of allegations, legal cases and conversations about sexual harassment might make some people second-guess their previous behaviors. For example, is it okay to give a coworker a hug? Segal says you should consider three factors when you’re navigating an unclear situation:

  • Relationship
  • Context
  • Power

“If someone at a holiday party gives someone a hug and says, ‘Merry Christmas, Happy New Year,’ and it’s in front of other people, I think that’s socially acceptable. I wouldn’t say you can’t do that.” But, he says, walking into someone’s office and saying, “Hey, it’s time for your Friday hug” is different.

Another example: “If I were in a business meeting with five people and there were four men and you, even though we’re friends, I might think in that setting, ‘You know what? I’m gonna shake your hand,’” he says. “Then, afterwards I could say, ‘Now, as a friend, I’m going to give you a hug.’” But I might be thoughtful about the context.”

If you’re a hugger (like I am!), it might be time to rethink who you hug and when. Segal says it’s all about self-awareness. “Try to be thoughtful about the when, the where, the who — all those factors — because other people have different perspectives on it.”

Get Serious About Your Non-Retaliation Policy

Segal says that many employees who experience sexual harassment don’t ever speak up because they fear retaliation. He says we’ll never get to a point where people feel more comfortable coming forward unless there’s a non-retaliation policy that’s actually reflected in the culture. That means that people who stand up won’t face consequences in terms of assignments, promotions and even whether people will speak to them at work. “A critical part of getting people comfortable speaking up is making sure there’s no retaliation if they do,” he says.

Speak Up and Stand Up

“If you’re in leadership, there’s no such thing as being a passive bystander,” he says. “If you see or hear unacceptable conduct, and you’re a leader, and you ignore it, you are condoning it by your silence and you’re sending a powerful message. If we see it or hear it, even if a complaint isn’t made, we need to stand up.” Sometimes, that may mean standing up to people senior to you.

Don’t Completely Recede

Segal says he’s worried that men will completely back away from interacting with women professionally because they don’t want to accidentally offend anyone. But that approach can have unwanted, gendered consequences, as well. “If men withdraw from women, then they’d be giving men advantages through social interactions that women aren’t having. More social inclusion, the business trips, the mentoring. The strategy for avoiding harassment can’t be to avoid people of the opposite or same sex. It has to be avoiding the behaviors and being thoughtful about what you’re doing with people.”

Segal says he’s encouraged about the post-October 5 world we’re living in now. “I think we now know that what people may have accepted before, they won’t now. I think that’s a really good thing. When you think about harassing behavior along the continuum, it’s abusive. Abuse is often kept quiet, and it’s a secret. That’s part of why it continues.” So bringing these issues out into the open is good for everyone, he says.

“I was in line for coffee and I heard two people actually having a conversation: ‘You think it was okay that I said this?’ ‘Well, I’m not sure that I would have said that.’ I don’t know what the answer was, but I think it was great that they were having the conversation.”

Stay tuned for more inspiration on the #WorkTrends podcast, every Wednesday:

Unleashing the Power of Your People

#WorkTrends Recap: Unleashing the Power of Your People

What’s going on in HR tech around the world? What are global leaders doing to unleash the full potential of their people?

When I’m thinking about big-picture questions affecting senior leaders, I know who to turn to: my friend China Gorman. You probably know her as the former COO and interim CEO at SHRM, or as the former CEO of Great Places to Work. These days, China’s spending her days helping smaller companies liberate their power. One of those companies is UNLEASH. UNLEASH puts on the event formerly known as HR Tech World. This year is their second year in Vegas, and as managing director of UNLEASH America, China and the team are in preparations to bring some of the most innovative business leaders in the world together at the Aria on May 15 and 16.

I talked to China and Bri Vellis, chief marketing officer of UNLEASH, about what people-management trends they’re seeing across the world, and how they’re bringing those themes to UNLEASH America in Vegas.

What You Learn from Working at a Global Company

Bri has an up-close view of how people work differently around the world. She recently moved from San Francisco to Budapest, where UNLEASH is based. Plus, when she was in the U.S., she worked for a German company where she could immerse herself in different cultures and conversations about HR tech.

“People get into their geography bubbles,” she says. But everyone can really learn from other cultures — Americans could learn from Brits, Brits could learn from Germans, and so on.

“I always hear how Americans don’t want to work so many hours. Especially in the tech industry. They wish they worked more like Europeans,” she says. “Europeans are just more cognizant of their time. Americans can learn from that.”

China has run global organizations, and she says she’s always struck more by different cultures’ similarities than their differences. “I am always astonished by how alike we are, and how, at the end of the day, people are people. People in organizations have similar wants and needs, and are motivated by similar kinds of things. I am always reassured, I am always motivated, and always reminded that our similarities are always far more than our differences. No matter where you go around the world.”

What’s Happening in HR Tech Around the World

So, what new developments are happening in HR technology, and where are the current centers of innovation in the industry? China is excited by the startups that are popping up to help leaders manage emerging challenges.

“People in HR, and leaders in particular, have lots of challenges in terms of managing different generations in the workplace. In being more global. Having different laws, different customs, different languages.”

The HR tech community is responding with solutions, she says. “The creativity, the focus, and frankly the amount of investment going into the HR tech startup world is astonishing.” She points to regional hotspots like Toronto, Tel Aviv, Budapest and Berlin.

China is encouraged by what she sees. “What I take from this is that, as we head into an organizational world of artificial intelligence and robotics, the focus on people is actually growing, not diminishing.”

While some jobs might be done by robots in the future, China sees organizational leaders who want to get a handle on people talent: How do we get it? Where are the best people? How do we deploy talent? How do we engage and develop them? How do we make sure we have the kinds of people and skills where we need them, when we need them?

The answer, she says, is technology. “Technology becomes sort of the great liberator and educator, and profit enhancer. I really believe this in my heart, that leaders are not making decisions to replace people with technology just because it is cheaper, just because it is new. I talk to leaders not about the price of people, but … how do we use people? How do we unleash the people part of our workforce so that we keep moving forward to a better world?

“I really think leaders and technology are trying to do the same thing. They are trying to make the world a better place, for the greater good.”

Because there’s so much startup activity in HR tech, UNLEASH has added a startup and innovation group as a core element of their upcoming event.

What to Expect from UNLEASH America

“The name change from HR Tech World to UNLEASH is really about expanding the focus from being an HR tech conference — the best one in the world — to really unleashing the power of people and the future of work through technology,” China says. “We are expanding our remit. We are really getting into the heart of the matter, which is, ‘How do we use technology in an HR application to really unleash the potential of our people in an organization?’

“It’s not going to be like any HR tech conference you’ve ever been to,” she says. UNLEASH will bring together not just HR leaders, but leaders of every stripe. China says attendees can expect “real-world stories from real-world leaders, from organizations we all know. This is going to be the event to be at.”

During our conversation, Bri and China announced a major keynote: Mo Gawdat, chief business officer at Google X, will be doing his first public address outside the world of Google X. Other speakers include leaders from Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, GE Digital and Microsoft.

I can’t wait to be a part of all of these interesting conversations! You can find out more about UNLEASH America and how to join us in Vegas by visiting or following the #UNLEASH18 conversation on Twitter.


#WorkTrends Recap: The Mood Elevator

What does a good mood (or worse — a bad one) have to do with company culture?

A lot, according to Larry Senn, author of “The Mood Elevator: Take Charge of Your Feelings, Be a Better You” and the undisputed “Father of Corporate Culture.” Many years ago, his doctoral dissertation was the world’s first study of corporate culture. During a recent #WorkTrends event, our guest host Shawn Murphy asked Larry why mood matters, and how leaders can really lead major cultural change.

Leaders’ Moods Matter

The central finding of Larry’s research was that organizations tend to become shadows of their leaders. “Anybody who is a parent or a leader has a great obligation for how they show up each day.”
In other words, if the boss comes into the room in a bad mood, she can sink the meeting — fast.

Living at the Top of the Mood Elevator

Larry explains that we all ride “the mood elevator” every day. At the top are positive traits such as gratitude, resourcefulness, curiosity and purpose. At the bottom is depression. In between are the various moods that strike us all day.


His work has focused on helping people spend more of their time being at their best, at the top of the mood elevator, and limiting the damage they do when they’re feeling down.

“Have you ever said something to a loved one you wish you could take back? Have you ever written an email you shouldn’t have written? Well, I guarantee you were in the lower levels, below the midpoint, on the mood elevator,” he says.

When we learn to spend more time on the upper levels, and do less damage to ourselves and others while on the lower levels, we can have a better life, better relationships, a better marriage — the list goes on.

In other words: “Take control of your emotions and be a better you,” he says.

Real-Word Examples: How Organizations Use the Mood Elevator to Shape Culture

Larry co-founded the culture-shaping firm Senn Delaney, which uses concepts like the mood elevator to improve corporate culture. He points to several examples of organizations that are at the top of their game because of these simple concepts.

“We have one hospital that has the highest patient satisfaction and highest engagement scores in America. They have a 6-foot wall with the mood elevator on it in the nursing station. The nurses put their tongue depressors on where they are when they come in,” he says.

Another example he shares: “Victoria’s Secret is the most renowned retailer in the world. You go in the back room of a Victoria’s Secret store and they’ve got a mood elevator on their wall. It’s a very practical thing. It’s one of the many things at Senn Delaney we teach, but it is a powerful notion and tool in life.”

Aim for Curiosity, Not Judgment

If you’re looking for an easy way to reframe your mood, try this quick tweak that has major results: Aim for curiosity, not judgment.

“Let’s say someone you know does something that you don’t like or doesn’t make sense to you,” Larry says. “You’ve got a choice: You can go to judgment, you can go to anger, or you can go to curiosity and say, ‘Huh? I wonder how they see this?’”

“We make things up and we create these stories in our head, and what we great teams are able to do is they assume positive intention. They assume that everybody on the team really does want to get a good outcome. They may have different ways of doing, they may not agree with them, but don’t assume that they have negative motives. Start from the assumption of positive intention and be curious to figure out why they see it that way.”

Another way to think of curiosity versus judgment: Work toward a “growth mindset.” Larry points to Carol Dwick, who offers some fascinating work in the area of growth mindset in her book “Mindset.” She says that people tend to either have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.

“Today, more than any other time in history, we need to have a growth mindset in organizations to have agility and innovation,” he says. “The essence of a growth mindset is living in curiosity — being okay not knowing, asking questions, not being the expert, but just to wonder about things.”

“If you can just live life more in curiosity than judgment, you’ll have a totally different life,” Larry says.

Stay tuned for more inspiration on the #WorkTrends podcast, every Wednesday:


#WorkTrends Recap: Real-World Testing Your Business Idea

If you’re like me, you have 10 different business ideas in the back of your head.

But whether you’re an entrepreneur or you work inside a big organization, how do you test those ideas to find out if they can really get off the ground? On the January 10 #WorkTrends podcast and Twitter chat, I talked to Boris Goncharov, founder of Moosetank Digital Agency, a firm that helps startups and small companies build products.

Here’s the advice he shared for anyone with big ideas and a lot of questions about how to get started.

Get Started Now

First of all, Boris says, there’s no time like the present. I asked him what the perfect time is to test a business hypothesis. His answer? Right now.

“If you’ve got an idea and you think there’s value for customers, test it right away. If you have free time, just start doing that.”

In other words, don’t sit on your idea without taking action. “Ideas come to many people at the same time, so if you don’t try your idea right away, maybe someone will be quicker than you tomorrow. You don’t have to waste a lot of time,” he says.

It’s always a good plan to research your target market, but don’t paralyze yourself by over-researching. “The main idea is not to overwhelm yourself with analysis, because you can just have information anxiety. You don’t move on. You don’t move forward. You actually can block yourself from testing or trying your business hypothesis because you get too much information,” he says.

Simplify Your Idea

Boris says that you don’t need a complex business plan before you jump in and start testing your idea. Strip your idea down to its essence and start there.

“Most business hypotheses can be tried in a very basic form. I think you can sacrifice almost everything except the core feature, or the core service. The only thing you need is a response from your audience that they’re ready to pay for that.”

Find the Easiest Way to Get Your Idea to Your Customers

When you’re ready to launch your idea, Boris says, you shouldn’t waste your time building a complicated website or perfect marketing materials.

“There’s no need to develop a complex platform with a lot of pages and services. You can just build something really quickly, like one single page, or an email sequence or a video campaign. The most important thing that your customers can give you is their answers and a form of purchase. If they can purchase your product, that’s the bare minimum you need.”

Then, stick to your plan.

“The more you invest in your idea, the harder it is to roll it out. You might plan to spend a week on your website. Then [plan] to not spend more than $1,000 on your ad campaign. You can bring unlimited effort to any idea in the world, but your goal is to build a successful business. The first and most important thing is to stick to the initial plan you had in your mind.”

Be Honest with Yourself

If your idea isn’t panning out, say you’re spending more on getting a new customer in the door than they’re paying for your product, it’s okay to be honest with yourself. If one idea doesn’t work, you can always move on to your backup plan or your next venture.

Stay tuned for more inspiration on the #WorkTrends podcast, every Wednesday:


#WorkTrends Recap: Pacing for Growth

What’s your big plan for your business or team in 2018? We all want to stretch, improve and grow, but sometimes figuring out exactly how to scale your work is a challenge. I know I’m still figuring this out as an entrepreneur, and we have a lot of TalentCulture community members who are in the same boat.

Earlier this month I talked to Alison Eyring, founder and CEO of Organisation Solutions and author of “Pacing for Growth: Why Intelligent Restraint Drives Long-Term Success.” Alison has been helping organizations grow for the past 30 years. She has also learned lessons about growth through her experiences as an endurance athlete. She’s done marathons, ultra-marathons, triathlons and Ironman competitions.

What business lessons can you learn from competing as an athlete? Here’s what I learned from my chat with Alison.

Push for Growth, but Recognize Your Boundaries

“If you look at the body, it teaches us that there are certain things we can do to build capacity — to go faster and go further. As leaders we have to push, but also understand that there are some real limits, and work to build capacity,” she says.

She introduced me to the idea of “intelligent restraint” — stretching yourself and pushing for growth, but not so far that you go past your limits.

“If we’re not pushing, if there’s no edge, if we’re not pushing people outside of their comfort zone, they’re not changing. They’re not growing, and the business isn’t changing and growing. You push yourself and you push your business to go as fast and far as you can but then no further until you have the capacity to sustain it.”

Focus on Specific Goals

Just growing for the sake of growth isn’t all that meaningful. I’ve talked to a lot of entrepreneurs and business owners who are working to create focus in 2018. Alison agreed that sometimes the best way to scale is to focus: “It’s about saying ‘let’s get really focused on what is profitable, what is meaningful, what is going to bring me to work every morning.’ ”

Start with People

So many organizations think about goals but make their people plan last. That’s backward, Alison says. “When I think about scaling for growth, it’s a lot about people.”

I often see that small businesses have a hard time scaling because leaders can’t delegate tasks to others on the team. But big, growing businesses face people challenges too. “We work with some high-tech companies that are growing so fast, and their managers have very little experience. They start a job, and within six months the job is bigger. You think about in a situation like that, those people have to grow really fast, and they’ve got to be able to grow their people even faster,” she says.

The key to developing a team all comes back to having a solid routine, she says. It’s about having good one-on-ones with people on a regular basis. “Whether it’s over the phone or face-to-face, it’s about carving out a space to understand how to help that person perform and how to help them transform for the future. Having that routine is critical.”

Pay Attention to Developing Remote Workers

So many organizations are staffed by workers who aren’t sitting in the same office every day. I’ve worked remotely for years, and a lot of the organizations I work with rely on remote teams. Alison says that developing those remote workers and moving everyone forward together is a challenge.

“Remoteness is both a blessing and a curse. The curse of it is that when we work independently, there’s not others necessarily who are observing us and connecting with us in a way that they can maybe give us feedback and help us and support us as much as we might get if we are co-located in a normal office environment. We’ve got to really think more proactively. If we can learn how to coach people without seeing them then we become even stronger as leaders.”

Alison says she has people working together from five continents, and she’s focused on helping them stay connected on a human level. “We have people who have never met each other. One of the things that I’ve been really trying to think about is how do we build spirit in our company. When people are physically dispersed, it’s easy for the interactions to become very transactional. It’s about the work we have to get done. Often it’s very hard to get a holistic picture of the challenges the person faces. What are the barriers? How are they feeling? Part of what we need to do as leaders is create psychological safety. We have to provide support. When we do that, we can accelerate development.

“I think that technology can help us. Sometimes it can make it very dehumanized, but other times it can really help us bring spirit through connecting us. People in our group love posting pictures and sharing and having baby pictures. I think that human connection is really important.”

I could talk about remote work and the challenges it brings all day! Thanks to Alison for sharing her expertise with us. Check out her book to learn more.

Stay tuned for more inspiration on the #WorkTrends podcast, every Wednesday:

How to Live with More Intention in 2018

#WorkTrends Recap: How to Live with More Intention in 2018

Happy New Year! Looking ahead at 2018, our team is inspired to take a step back and double-check our intentions for our work.

In December, I talked to Paul Cummings on the #WorkTrends podcast, and I’m still thinking about the strategies and tips he shared for living a more intentional life.

If you have a big idea for 2018, or just want to reset your day, try out Paul’s tips.

Build Your Intention. Ask Yourself These Questions

Ask yourself: “What do I really want?”
The answer might be very simple. Paul says that when he asked himself this question years ago, the answer was “I want to leave it better than I found it.”

Then ask: “How?” and “Who?”
Paul wanted to improve the world around him by teaching, and he wanted to work with anyone who was seeking a more compelling journey.

And finally: “What will I do?”
It’s important that the “what” of Paul’s business didn’t come first. He started with his goals and his intentions, and then figured out how to make it happen and what nuts and bolts he needed to gather in order to build his business. In the end he landed on building a better learning management system, which led him to checking off all the boxes above.

Push Out Negative Influence

Paul shared an idea that I really love — inside every negative circumstance is the seed of something good. Instead of focusing on something bad, you just have to change the questions you ask about it. If you’re feeling stressed by a negative person at work, or bogged down by an overwhelming problem, ask yourself questions like “What can I do differently next time to make it better?” “What do I need to do less of to have more of what I want?” “What can I do to make this moment better?”

“You can’t imprison yourself in negative circumstances,” Paul says. “I think outlook has a lot to do with output.”

It’s important to keep your outlook clear and positive by limiting the impact of negative people. “Be careful about who you put in your circle. If you invite people who have a negative outlook then you’re going to get exposed to that.”

Amen! I’m a huge proponent of watching who’s around you and what energy they bring. Guard yourself against the negative and look for the windows of positivity and growth instead.

Start Every Day with Intention

Setting goals is the first step to building an intentional life. But instead of thinking about goal-setting as a one-time event, Paul explained that we have the chance to set mini-goals and set ourselves up for success every morning.

A morning routine is about getting disciplined. “I think the best way for people to get unstuck is to make sure they start every day with something that’s positive that can be repeated, that can be developed into a winning habit pattern for themselves,” he says.

“I think that goal-setting has been misunderstood for a long time. A goal is not a wish. It’s a commitment with a deadline. So many people talk about, ‘I know I should do that. I know I should do this,’ and they should, should, should, so they should all over themselves,” he says.

Instead, start your morning with statements like “I am” and “I will.”

“I will be the most enthusiastic person today.”
“I will be open-minded to ideas, and to conversations with other people.”
“I will operate today with self-discipline.”

Lose the Baggage

Looking ahead to a new year, I’m working on cutting ties to the baggage that brings me down. We all struggle with it, so I asked Paul how he leaves the bad stuff behind and moves forward.

His insight? “When you look back with regret, you look forward with worry and you destroy all your present moments.” Instead of fretting over the past, he’s learned to ask “What’s the lesson? How do I turn it into a stepping stone?” And instead of looking at the situation as baggage, he tries to turn it into an accelerant.

“I try to make it fuel for future fire.”

Embrace Every Day

Finally, Paul says he tries to embrace and use every single day. “I look at every day as if it’s the only one I have,” he says. He knows he can find promising minutes and moments in the day today — and tomorrow he’ll re-commit himself to embracing the day again.

At the end of the day he asks himself a few positive questions:
“What did I learn today?”
“What did I give today?”
“What impact do I want to have tomorrow, and how do I best achieve that?”

Thanks, Paul! I’m personally inspired to follow your advice to make 2018 my best year ever.

Stay tuned for more inspiration on the #WorkTrends podcast, every Wednesday: