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Helping Other Talented People to Help You

Are you (or someone you know) having ongoing career challenges that to go beyond, “It’s a tough business environment these days and everybody feels stressed”?

Do you feel as if you have so much work you can never get even the important things accomplished? Worse yet, does it seem you can’t get those around you – even members of your own team – to cooperate, contribute, and do their part in moving projects and deliverables forward?

Have these types of challenges followed you through multiple positions, even multiple companies?

If you are answering “Yes” to most or all of these questions, it may be you have problems letting other people help you be successful.

Getting in Your Own Way

I can look back through my career and recognize people who constantly made it difficult, if not impossible, for others to provide the assistance they so desperately needed to be more successful. Some of these individuals expressed frustration at the apparent inability to move projects ahead. Most, however, did not recognize how they personally created barriers to their teams making progress.

Working inside a corporation for an extended time, it was much more manageable to work around or avoid these types of people to get things done. Now, working with corporate clients from the outside looking in, we typically have a relatively small group of client contacts with whom we work on projects. When one of these contacts cannot get out of their own way to let a project advance, we generally have very few options to work around them since you cannot just stop interacting with your own client!

As a result, I have been thinking a lot more about ways to help someone realize they have a problem allowing others to help them and proper ways to coach and mentor someone through improving.

Signs There is a Problem

There are several signs indicating someone has a problem in letting those around them provide much needed assistance. These include:

  • Churn in staff and/or team members.
  • A personal feeling of being over-worked.
  • A chronic inability to accomplish goals.
  • A sense of having to juggle too many details across too many projects.
  • Repeated lack of knowledge or awareness in who to involve or how to involve others in moving a project forward.

If you see these signs in yourself or others, you owe it to all those involved to attempt to improve.

What Can Be Done to Improve Performance

Here are 12 behaviors to address, all of which can let others help you, as a boss or leader, be more effective:

  1. Identify your strengths, weaknesses, and where you need help.
  2. Put people in place who are stronger than you are where you are weak.
  3. Don’t hold or delay projects too long and delegate them too late.
  4. Hold yourself accountable for hitting deadlines.
  5. Understand and articulate the objective without specifying how it should be done.
  6. Share your framework for decision making along with sharing other vital information that allows people to act.
  7. Allow people to meaningfully use their talents without your overly close supervision.
  8. Surrender appropriate responsibility and ownership for an effort to the people who have been stepping up to contribute.
  9. Be responsive when your team DOES ask for input.
  10. Be open to and listen to ideas from others.
  11. Speak when your perspective is needed and others still have time to act. After that, forever hold your peace.
  12. Make a decision and stick with it.

None of these behaviors should be that difficult to improve upon in your work style. While getting better at them takes determination, as you improve, you’ll reap tremendous benefits as those around you are freed up to perform better for you.

If Work isn't Fun, You're Doing it Wrong: #TChat Recap

Also known by the less fun title of:  The Business Heresy of Uninterrupted Power Supplies….

Are we having fun yet?

On Tuesday of this week at the fourth annual National Clean Energy Summit, Vice President Joe Biden said, “Our country has a choice — what kind of country are we going to be? Are we going to rise to the challenges, like our grandfathers and grandmothers did? Or are we going to be a follower? It’s sad that we’re having this debate [about investing in clean tech initiatives] — in the past America has always led.”

And then a day later, in the heart of innovation-leading Silicon Valley, solar panel manufacturer Solyndra shut its doors and laid off all 1,100 of its employees, without any severance packages. This isn’t a political post either way; fierce global competition continues to knock the wind out of manufacturing in this country, and losing money on every solar panel you sell isn’t the way to stay in business, regardless of how much investment you’ve received.

In the past America has always led…

There are times when it’s hard for me to listen to the passionate Zappos social media hippie lovefest of culture-centric companies that focus on the customer and strive to create an emotional connection between product/service and consumer.

[Chuckle] Hey, if it isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong. Tell that to the millions of professionals out of work and scrambling to reinvent their relevancy in a world looking more and more like the surface of Mars.

However, there is life on Mars. According to the latest ADP jobs report, 91,000 new private sector jobs were created in August. It won’t move the unemployment needle, but there’s still a heartbeat out there. The ADP report said the majority of the job gains in August came from small business. Employers with under 50 workers added 58,000 jobs.

Thankfully many of us are reinventing our relevancy; sparks of innovation are flying all over the world like lighting bugs at dusk. The new lovefest of business leaders are helping to rebuild a world where culture and human connectivity are queen, and recombined business models of sustainability are being applied to industries new and old.

Of course not everyone’s going to make it. Businesses will fail and the lights will go out. Those that do keep the power on want self-powered and empowered employees who help drive the business from the top down, the bottom up and side to side like power lines stretched from here to…

Mars maybe. Or at least the UK, since Borri UPS Systems starting following me on Twitter today, manufacturer and distributor of uninterruptible power supplies (UPS).

We can use more of that business heresy.

A very special thank you to 12 Most for being our special guests last night, including Ted Coine, Chris Westfall, Sean McGinnis, Steve Woodruff, Anthony Iannarino and Daniel Newman. 12 Most is a business and social media blogger collective of amazing credentials and savvy. And thank you to our very own Matt Charney for rounding out the special guest list as well.

You can catch the #TChat precap here as well as relive last night’s 2nd #TChat Radio show, The Realities of Business Heresy.

The #TChat Twitter chat and #TChat Radio are created and hosted by @MeghanMBiro @KevinWGrossman and powered by our friends and partners @TalentCulture @Monster_WORKS @MonsterCareers and of course @Focus.

Internal Mobility for Your Talent Clouds: #TChat Recap

If you want to make it rain inside and out, you’ve got to be able to control your talent weather.

More precisely, you must be able to understand the molecular makeup of your talent clouds, and how rapidly the combining and recombining of the molecules change the innovative power of your people.

Wouldn’t you rather be able to predict your weather rather than be carried away in the storm? That means having to look outward for talent sunshine, which is usually more costly in regards to attracting, recruiting, hiring, on-boarding and training. Necessary depending on who and what you’re hiring for, but more costly.

Companies today need talent insight on:

  • What happened before
  • What’s happening now
  • What will happen if I move the warm front to the cold front and back again…

I’m talking about understanding who you have now who can then help later when you need them then, over there, or over there. This can include selecting from full-time, part-time, temps, contractors as well as your own customers, partners and competitors (poaching is a lightning storm and story for another time).

Internal mobility has been mixed blessing for many organizations because although many would prefer to hire and promote from within, if they don’t have the right insight on their employees and teams, then it becomes difficult making those decisions.

Of course you can open up your position searches to internal folks and compare and contrast them and then hire/promote the most qualified, but that linear thinking doesn’t help when it comes to understand how your internal folks work individually, together, what their value is combined and recombined, and how they impact your business.

In the smaller organizations I’ve worked in, it’s easier to orchestrate your talent clouds. But in larger ones it can become the cliché of the resume database that stagnates like pooled rainwater that then breeds mosquitoes, not mobility.

The HR software available today gives organizations the tools to better orchestrate their talent weather, although we all know how glacial change management can be.  And you can’t have just-in-time sunshine if you can’t see through the clouds.

All right – enough with the weather. Internal mobility done right with insight can help the cost of hire be lower.

Right on.

You can read the #TChat preview here and here were last night’s questions:

  • Q1: What are some of the benefits to promoting/filling jobs with internal candidates?
  • Q2: What can business leaders do better to encourage internal mobility?
  • Q3: What can employees do to improve their chances at internal promotions or transfers?
  • Q4: How does social media fit into the internal talent planning picture, if at all?
  • Q5: Is internal mobility the responsibility of the employer or the employee?  Or both?
  • Q6: Can internal mobility hurt a company or career?  How?

A special thank you to @MattCharney and @Monster_Works for moderating last night’s #TChat!

PLEASE NOTE: Starting next week on Wednesday, August 10, #TChat will move to Wednesdays at 4 pm PT (7 pm ET). More announcements soon!

Change HR with Your Own "silly walk"

HR is such an open, unique field that finds itself bound by the past. Organizations continue to churn and churn on HR programs and ideas that haven’t been current in years (or even decades). The difficulty facing folks is how to break away from the past.

We tout “change management” as a profession, but change is tough. People aren’t as open or adept to change as people may profess. Also, HR has a reputation of telling others what to do and/or what policies to step in line with. Not too appealing, honestly.

However, fear not! There is a great way to truly turn things around for HR practitioners which is well within our reach. To get our inspiration, you need to look no further than Monty Python.  You probably haven’t seen the Pythons listed as a business or HR resource in a post before have you?

Being a giant Python fan, I’ve found them to be the best “model” of comedy ever. Creative, scathing, brilliant and something that truly redefined boundaries of what was expected. One of my favorite sketches is the “Ministry of Silly Walks.” A person comes into the Ministry to try out his silly walk and it doesn’t turn out to be very silly at all. The cast then shows a myriad of fantastic silly walks which still gives me deep belly laughs.

The point of this analogy is this . . .

In order for HR to succeed in today’s business environment, we need to model the behavior we expect from others. We can’t continue to just tell folks what to do and expect change. So, going forward, try this approach:

  • Be consistent – Consistency in HR is huge! If you are consistent across your programs, policies and procedures, you’ll bring more equality in your organization than you’ve ever witnessed before.
  • Be visible – You can’t expect supervisors and managers to tend to their employees if your desk is more important than people. Get out amongst the masses.  After their initial shock, they’ll love (and expect) seeing you.
  • Be different – If you want true diversity, celebrate the vast differences everyone brings to work each day vs. trying to force conformity. It’s so cool that everyone has their own “silly walk.” Let them bring that out at work.
  • Be the example – HR that set the standard through modeling can’t be touched. People will literally clamor for what is going on because they’re seeing what you’re looking for in your own behavior.  It works.

Now, I need to saunter down the hall with a skip, two-toe pirouette, left heel drag and two leaps . . .

5 Activities to Strengthen Your Career Muscle

Planting words on my MacBook Pro stimulates me emotionally and intellectually as I sow client career stories from bud to blossom. This focused, brain-powered activity, though invigorating, is physically sedentary and potentially unsustainable if not combined with the appropriate amount of physical activity.

In Joe Lavelle’s recent post, “Exercise Like a CEO,” he underscores the importance of exercising your body. He asks, “What do you do routinely to exercise your body … to maintain mental acuity?” For many, the addition of a new or enhancement of an existing exercise routine will work wonders to add muscle to a soft career or even jump-start a stalled career.

A selection of other energy- and focus-boosting activities that will both propel your productivity and strengthen your career muscle follows:

1) Simplify Your Space

Simplifying your space may mean unwrapping yourself from a visual security blanket of ‘clutter.’ Doing so can free your mind and emotional energy to concentrate on individual projects and goals – the task at hand, if you will, versus the distractions all around you.

You may consider de-cluttering your primary work area into a clean, open, airy space that includes soothing paintings, memorabilia and perhaps even a desk-top water fountain to cultivate calm and inspiration. If you must express your clutter, identify a behind-closed-doors nook and, within these boundaries, go wild!

2) Big-Picture Your Schedule

Though your talent in creating calendars, check lists and project action steps shines, you also may find that you feel yourself drowning in a sea of details and deadlines, particularly as your career and business initiatives grow. If this describes you, consider big-picturing your schedule.

White-boarding your projects-in-progress as well as crafting a two- to three-month running whiteboard calendar of meetings and deadlines may quickly quell calendar chaos by creating a bird’s-eye view snapshot of your overarching initiatives.

Remember, project ‘detail-collecting’ within the associated project lists and files will provide the information you need to deep-dive into the specifics of your big-picture initiatives when needed. By maintaining this glimpse-able overview, you can better manage existing tasks and respond to new requests to which you commit your time and energy. With a quick glance at your calendar/project whiteboards, you can quickly accept or decline new projects.

3) Recognize That Little Choices Matter

Choosing a glass of water instead of sweet tea may be the linchpin to stay within you daily caloric intake parameters. As well, with business communications, that latest email, Tweet, Facebook message or LinkedIn invitation typically does not require your immediate absorption.  If you must, take a five-minute break every couple of hours to simply confirm receipt of new communications without fully partaking of a communications swap until a later, scheduled time.

And when faced with that emotionally-wrought virtual request for you to “drop everything and help me now,” remind yourself of the adage, “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

4) Make Peace With Perfectionism

Though your next project for your boss or your customer may mean the difference between a promotion or a career-defining sales deal, most of the time this is not the case. When you single out and assess your initiatives, you likely will find that the results of your next deliverable, though important to the recipient, will not require you overextend and go that extra 10 miles to prove you are the #1 Sales Producer, Human Resources Leader, Marketing Manager or <fill-in-the-blank>.  Stop placing so much pressure and importance on yourself at every given moment of the work day.

Instead, allot yourself a reasonable number of minutes, hours or days to achieve the project goal, and then deliver!  You likely will be reminded of how sometimes the extra-mile projects fall flat while the, “I did my best and infused this project with my years of value and experience without over-analyzing” projects often net the most kudos and bottom-line results.

5) Align Yourself With Complementary Others

Finding colleagues, mentors, friends and cohorts who think a bit differently than you do may be a key to unlocking doors to new ways of thinking. Seeking to explore outside your comfort zone is an admirable trait and one we all must be reminded to tap into from time to time.

By connecting with individuals or groups of folks whose intellectual capital, like the arteries of a road map, shepherd you through unexplored and sometimes uncomfortable highways and byways, you may find new direction toward achieving the destination goal that you have been struggling to reach.

Image Credit: RightIndex

Improve Communication in a Time Crunched/Technology Based World

(Editor’s Note: All of us in the TalentCulture community mourn the loss of our dear friend, brilliant colleague and mindful mentor, Judy Martin, who passed away unexpectedly on January 31, 2014. Her message and her life are a lesson for us all. We will forever fondly remember her humor, warmth and wisdom.)

“Sometimes one creates a dynamic impression by saying something, and sometimes one creates as significant an impression by remaining silent.”   ~Dalai Lama

The old adage goes, if you’re not going to say something nice than don’t say anything at all. Yes, silence speaks volumes but so can efficient communication and it’s a stretch sometimes when having to tangle with work while keeping peace on the home front.

Poor communication creates frustration and on a practical front, makes for inefficient interactions and inevitably can lead to stress or the monkey mind of coulda, shoulda, woulda. We make up stories in our head as we anticipate what will happen during a conflict, instead of being open to the ever-changing moment that might lead to a productive conversation. Strive for the 3 C’s: Co-creation of a Conscious Conversation.

Communication covers a broad territory. It comes in the form of meetings, phone calls, e-mail exchange, social media etc.  We tend to lose sight of some basic tenets of effective communication in our new world. So keep the following in mind whether in a meeting or when communicating with someone via the many modes of technology:

  • Technology can filter a message – don’t react from the gut.
  • Everyone has their individual story – but that story can change in an instant due to info-overload. So be adaptable to change in someone’s attitude.
  • Rapid fire communication via texting can quickly heat up a simple interaction.
  • Perception is everything. Be willing to be a witness to what’s happening if conflict arises. Remember that you are co-creating a conversation. 2 sides to every story.
  • When conversing, especially via technology, it’s smart to repeat – or mirror back to the person you’re communicating with – what YOU heard.
  • Be mindful of how you end conversations and what the next step of communication or call to action should be.

Keeping the lines of communication open at work and at home is probably the most important factor in creating a less stressful work-life merge. Your “merge” might change on a daily or weekly basis, so an assessment of your  S-O-C (state of communications) is crucial before you can set up your guidelines.

We tend to take communication for granted because there is such an ease of access to technology. The trick is to be more mindful of  your communication. Your time is valuable. The analogy of examining communication as a meal works well.  Remember that communication on any level is feeding your mind. As bestselling author Tim Sanders (Love is the Killer App) says, be aware of the diet you’re feeding your mind.

A. Communication Guidelines

  • Don’t eat too late: Try to avoid interacting with people up to the moment you hit the sack. It’s stressful and could impact your sleep if the conversation or communication was upsetting or mind-consuming .
  • Don’t over eat: Be sure to have an agenda for your communication and accomplish the task. Don’t keep gabbing on the phone to take up time.
  • Don’t stand while eating: Be mindful and present in your communications. If we allow ourselves to be distracted we dilute the conversation, make it longer than it has to be and risk not accomplishing the task.

B. Assess Your Communication Streams

  • Write a list of every type of communication stream that you plug into daily. For example,  e-mail, BBM’s, texting, social media and the old-fashioned phone.
  • Identify which forms of communication are you most comfortable using and at what times of the day.
  • Limit extraneous communication to certain times of the day.
  • Set time limits on phone calls and meetings. Have an agenda before you head into a conversation.
  • Identify Energizing and Depleting Relationships. Make a list of the most important personal and work relationships. Assess which unions foster your growth as an individual.

C. Design a Communication Formula

Ask yourself about the three W’s :

  • Who are the most important people you communicate with on a daily basis at home and at work.
  • What is the most efficient form or technology that you can use with this person.
  • When is the best time to communicate with this person.

In our rapidly changing business climate being mindful of how we are interacting at work and at home is increasingly important. How do you track your communications? Do you monitor and/or filter your communication at work or at home? If so, share your strategy!

Finding Obsessed HR Fanatics: True Promoters

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones was searching for the Ark of the Covenant, the key to all human existence.

HR has been on a quest for its own Holy Grail for years – credibility.

In this post, Laurie Ruettimann says the way to get HR credibility is to take over. Move into a leadership position that allows you to influence the direction of the company and the value HR has within it. I agree. But what do you do in the meantime?

Find HR Otaku…

Otaku is a Japanese word for people who are obsessed with video games, anime and action figures. They are fanatics. They write about it, blog about it, purchase it, play it, go to conferences, read books, dress up in costumes and spend lots and lots of money on it.

One of the core principles I’ve been teaching business owners the last several years comes from Seth Godin’s book, Purple Cow. The principle of finding customers who will be otaku, who will be fanatical about the products and services you provide is a game-changer. When you figure out who those people are and target your marketing to them, your business will grow because they will talk about it, sing your praises and spend lots of money with you.

And guess what HR? There is otaku in your company; you just need to find them.

Instead of rolling out a company-wide initiative that gets a typical head-rolling, “we don’t have time for that” response, do a pilot. And when you do your pilot, do it only with a segment of the organization that will be otaku about it. Talk about a shift! Instead of convincing the whole organization about the merits of the initiative, your otaku will promote it and you.

Selection Criteria

How do you find your otaku for a pilot? It should be a group that…

1. Is ready. Find a group that is not change adverse and welcomes opportunities for new things. Trying to pilot an initiative in a group whose philosophy is, “This is how we’ve always done it” is only going to lead to frustration.

2. Has the bandwidth to make the project work. Analyze what the commitment in resources (time and money) is going to be. Be prepared to answer how much time will be lost in productivity and make the case for the long-term ROI of the project.

3. Can show demonstrable, measurable results. Get really clear about what success looks like before you start and partner with the business unit on what the metrics will be. The executive team will want to see the ROI before it goes company-wide.

4. You have a good relationships with. The key to a good pilot is lots of open, truthful communication between you and the business unit so you can make improvements to your project.

So until you are the helm of your HR department, use the otaku technique, one business unit at a time to develop the credibility you deserve.

IMAGE VIA HaPe_Gera

It's the Brave New World of Work: #TChat Recap

“Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.” -James Matthew Barrie

Somehow I missed that memo the first time around. The one about making sure to underestimate your marketplace and overestimate your sales cycle when you’re starting a new business.

Or even a new career for that matter. New careers are self-contained yet interconnected businesses within themselves. Entrepreneurship has always included career management, business development, [personal] brand marketing, sales and sticky-sweet (but legitimate) customer service.

Because most, if not all entrepreneurs were employees with careers going anywhere but where they wanted to go. So they launch new careers, some of which eventually grow to make a few hires here and there, and a few others get really big by hiring tons of people, collecting tons of investment capital and riding sky-high (for now) with huge valuations (think social media firms of late).

But I did finally get the memo and read it thoroughly. You’ve heard the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” From careers, to start-ups, to small businesses to big businesses — American’s longing for success and trying again is hard-wired into our DNA.

This is National Small Business Week, and as Matt wrote yesterday in his #TChat preview:

As Obama (or proxy) observed, it turns out Mom & Pop and VC babies share more in common than size; they share spirit, ‘the idea that if you have a good idea and are willing to work hard enough, you can succeed in our country…’

…For many more millions of small business owners, and workers, who have dared to dream and injected so much sweat equity into their bottom line, that creation myth is still being created.   They might call themselves small businesses, or entrepreneurs, or start-ups, but our economy – and our jobs – depends on their growth. So we just wanted to say thank you.

Indeed. Thank you.

Most of the #TChat faithfuls preferred going from small companies to working in big companies. I concur. And even though I’ve always worked for smaller firms, I have worked “with” bigger companies and have always wondered what it would be like to pull the curtain back in Oz and give it a go…

Somebody slap me. Working for yourself, for a small company, launching your own start-up or firm — these activities are what continually breathes new life into the sometimes failing lungs of capitalism (long-time smoker, you know). And it’s this economic activity that sparks job creation as well. Brand name firms may still pull in the greater talent, and they’ve got the revenue to get creative with “total rewards,” but even big firms have struggled of late and now focus heavily on internal talent mobility — I know you’re in there and are just right for this position because I can’t find you out there. Plus, in this (yes, I know how many times you’ve heard it) global, virtual, contingent world where depending on the projects and the hourly rate, talent is fluid from small to big and back again.

It’s the brave new world of work. Just don’t forget to read the memos, even the stinky ones from the ditto machine. Hey, I kinda liked that smell growing up…

Here were the questions from teh #TChat last night:

  • Q1: How do you define ‘small business?’  Is this the term we should be using?
  • Q2: Would you prefer working for a small business or a big company?  Why?
  • Q3: What role does talent play in small business success?  How can small businesses successfully compete with bigger companies in the ‘war for talent?’
  • Q4: What are some of the biggest advantages of working for a small business employer?  Drawbacks?
  • Q5: Do you think employers and recruiters value small business and big company experience differently?
  • Q6: What should big business workers know about moving to a small company (and vice-versa)?
  • Q7: What’s your best advice for someone thinking about starting a small business? Any myths vs. realities?

GenY: Challenge of "Doing It All" and Technology Overload

Today’s post is by Katrina Kibben — Social Media Manager at Care.com, an innovative and resourceful social media marketing professional who enjoys helping companies of all sizes use traditional and nontraditional tactics to increase profitability and product awareness. She is working with Care.com’s annual event, Care@Work, which develops smarter ways to work by using new tools, technologies and strategies to find the balance between life at work and at home.

This is not your father’s workplace anymore – literally. This year, the oldest Baby Boomers are turning 65 years old, including President Bill Clinton. This means that the 79 million baby boomers, about 26 percent of this country’s population will be retiring in the next few years.

Another generation will make an important milestone this year – Generation Y, the Millennials – are turning 30 years old. The 30’s are known as the decade of “middle management” and parenthood.  But Generation Y feels differently about the “ladder” of success.

As the country comes out of the recession, the Millennals are looking for a sense of mission. They want a sense of ownership over their lives, either in the place that they work or in the lives they create for themselves outside of it. A workplace is relative and all preconceptions about job security are shattered. Their lives and desires aren’t dramatically different from generations before them, but the confluence of circumstances are – and more and more, this generation believes that they too can “do it all” but their definition of how and what that means is dramatically different.

Between these two generations, there has been a revolution in the office that has increased the influence of women and transformed the paradigm of the workplace. At the same time technology has revolutionized the way we work and our understanding of how we can work differently.

While current working parents, particularly working moms, have been told that they can “do it all,” modern working parents have found that having a Blackberry doesn’t necessarily help them to be flexible so much as feeling tethered, perpetuating a generation of working parents that find a blurred line between work and life that has inspired a generation of workers who are in a constant state of distraction, leading to the social acceptance of the furtive glances down and the feverish tapping everywhere – from office meetings to family dinners.

But as we innovate are we working more efficiently or are we simply working more?

Care.com’s Focus Forward conference is about designing the future of work where companies work for people, and people work for companies in ways that are smarter, faster, higher impact—and more sustainable, too. At a time when there have never been more distractions–and more pressure to deliver results–the event will examine how great companies command attention from customers by, first, holding the attention of their employees.

IMAGE VIA eirikso

HR + Leaders: Don't Overlook the Outlier Employees

Just having returned from HRevolution, I was filled with tons of ideas, approaches and philosophies. My head was swimming with where to go next. I was trying to land on what aspect of HR resonated with me coming out of this UnConference. Then I remembered . . .

I had a conversation with Dwane Lay and William Tincup about the state of HR and what we all thought, and one term kept coming up . . . outliers. Now, this isn’t the same as the recent Malcolm Gladwell book – Outliers. (I’m a huge Gladwell fan!!) What we were talking about was the tendency for HR to manage to the exception.

I agreed with this wholeheartedly! I know that it’s difficult to work with people, but that’s why we chose HR. There are so many amazing people who work in and around us every day. However, companies tend to focus on people who are exceptions, who underperform, degrade and possibly detract from moving the company forward. Instead of focusing on the mass of talent that rocks it everyday, we follow the outliers. If the entire company was made up of people like the outliers, there would be a lot of trouble. So why should HR mainly focus on a group that is not the driving force of the company? Yes, they are a portion of the company that is important and should be acknowledged, but to base everything around them is taking it too far.

You can look at policies, handbooks and procedures that are written by companies in HR every day that focus on such a small percentage of people. This hurts the majority of employees who are doing their jobs each and every day. While the outliers shouldn’t go unnoticed, the average employees are the ones who account for most of the population.

So, what can we do?

HR needs to understand and own that one thing we have to our advantage is the ability to be consistent.  This is different than being “fair.” It really is. If we are consistent in how we engage, deal with and lead people, we add incredible value!! If people in HR would take this approach and practice consistency, the outliers would take care of themselves. With a consistent HR, variability is decreased between their actions and the actions of the employees, making everything much more stable.

Take a look around, HR. Where is your focus? If your systems give employees the ability to thrive, contribute and develop – you’re doing well. If your systems look to constrict, deter and confine – you’re following outliers.

Now, some may say that the group that gathered at HRevolution are “outliers” to the norm of the HR community. I’d beg to differ. You see in Gladwell’s book he talks about outliers that are successful, move things forward and also lie outside the norm.

Outliers are not always a bad thing; although they should not be the basis of HR’s views on a company, often times they can produce something great. The group I was running with is pushing the boundaries of HR to open up new frontiers in order to set new norms.  Why don’t you join us?

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Being a Good Boss Means Not Being Afraid to Fire; #TChat Recap

Everybody likes to be liked. Most colleagues and bosses that I’ve worked with do. To a fault, which makes it very difficult when dealing with those who need dealing with.

Those who need to be written up and eventually fired.

For those who don’t care about being liked, in particular the bosses, most still don’t deal with confrontation very well and hence don’t fire. Well. Or at all. This of course is all anecdotal, but I bet most of you agree, and we’ve all seen the surveys and the research that validates.

The overall consensus last night during #TChat was that this “fear of firing” affects business performance detrimentally, because not only do poor performers topple the bottom line by falling flat on it, they also affect their co-workers and others in the business, which then creates a domino effect of further poor performance. And if they’re customer facing in any way, then there’s another affront to growth and revenue.

We didn’t really define “poor performance,” but that can include the inability to complete assigned tasks to being a toxic employee. Because which is more important when considering termination: cultural fit or performance? I say performance and lack thereof. I’ve hired great cultural fits who don’t perform (or can’t in that position).

There was a contingent last night who thought if the cultural fit was there, performance issues can be resolved. Maybe. Maybe not. Too many variables and if you cram a lazy square peg into a virtual round hole and then ask them to handle customer services calls from home…

Ultimately it’s the immediate supervisor’s responsibility to initiate the termination process, and why they must document performance and have 1-on-1’s beyond the annual review. I wrote a post last month titled Did you get that last part? Don’t be afraid to fire. Period. where I recommended the following:

  • Create formal and informal employee learning networks for mentoring and career development.
  • Empower, develop and train the average employees so as to develop a more productive workforce.
  • Allow employees in training to dial up and down their roles and responsibilities.
  • Recruit and hire those with high potential — FT, PT, contractor, etc.
  • Reward the high potentials and high producers.
  • Don’t be afraid to fire those who can’t be empowered, developed or trained.

By no means am I an expert in this area, but based on my experience recruiting, training and developing employees, these are activities that worked for me and my companies. Being a good boss means not being afraid to fire. Period.

Don’t forget to include human resources in the termination process, even the CEO and other leaders when applicable. Unfortunately this is because we live in such a litigious society and HR still need to help enforce compliance and proper procedure.

We had the pleasure of having Kevin Wheeler stop by #TChat last night. He’s a globally-known speaker, author, columnist, and consultant in human capital acquisition and development, and we were thrilled to have him join in our stream. When we got on the subject of hiring better performance fit to prevent eventual firing, better interviewing came up quite a bit. But Kevin reminded us that according to recruitment research, interviewing wasn’t much better than chance in predicting success in a position. Even those who are good at behavioral interviewing, which isn’t many, it’s still not much better than chance. References, however, can help evaluate cultural fit, and I agree with Kevin there. At least beyond the obligatory three five-minute reference check calls.

Thank you again Kevin!

You can see our TweetReach here and these were last night’s questions:
  • Q1: What impact does “fear of firing” have on leaders?  Biz performance?
  • Q2: What red flags should managers look for when recruiting now to avoid firing later?
  • Q3: Who should have ultimate responsibility for firing decisions?  HR, CEO, Supervisor?
  • Q4: Which is more important when considering termination: culture fit or performance?
  • Q5: What can job seekers do to explain being fired when looking for their next role?
  • Q6: Some say being fired can be the best thing that ever happens to someone.  T/F?

Thank you again everyone for joining us last night!  Next week’s topic will be “ “Should I Stay or Should I Go: Workplace Culture Factors to Consider Before Leaving Your Job”

Best Practices: HR/Recruiting Tech & Software: #TChat Recap

A funny thing happened on the way to the #TChat:  I found a new career and home at Ventana Research.

The irony is that on the night that we discuss best practices in evaluating, purchasing & implementing HR/Recruiting technology & software, I had a business dinner to attend.

(wink)

But hey, you had one of the sharpest HR/Recruiting technology & software analysts with you last night in Sarah White.  And since I can’t get to the transcript at the moment, from what I can see at least,  it looks like there was some great recruiter counterpoint from our friend Glen Cathey and several other key players. Thanks as always for sharing your time with us.

Three key pointers from last night’s #TChat:

  • Develop business rules, employee workflow processes, employee skill matrices, etc., before you automate your talent management
  • Build a business case of needs for HR tech that reach across other lines of business in your organization – work with the COO, CFO and IT to get it done
  • Get tons of customer references and call every one of them
  • Make sure the IT manager assists with the implementation process and becomes the vendor liaison

Sadly, according to Ventana benchmark research on workforce automation and analytics:

  • As for talent management technology, nearly 2/3 of organizations are less than satisfied with what they have
  • While only 9 percent of organizations are very satisfied
  • Spreadsheets are the technology most commonly used for workforce analytics in 62 percent of organizations
  • Nearly half of organizations (48%) are less than confident in the quality of information that is generated by their analytics

We hope our more intimate chat (Many of you have shared with us that you cannot get a word in on #TChat – last night was your chance- smiles) isn’t indicative of the state of HR/Recruiting technology per the above statistics, but with a little help from folks like Sarah, myself and the vendor community, and many other smart industry folks, we can make this HR/Recruiting technology thing work.

Next week’s topic: Developing a Recruiting/Talent Acquisition major at the college level. What would be in the curriculum, etc.? Should be interesting.

Join us every Tuesday night from 8-9 p.m. ET (5-6 p.m. PT) on Twitter via hashtag #TChat. Remember we welcome global input! Join in from wherever you might be. Our live chat is hosted by @KevinWGrossman @MeghanMBiro@TalentCulture, and @Monster_WORKS. Please Tweet or DM us for more scoop!

  • Q1: Where do you go first when researching HR/recruitment tech & software and why?
  • Q2: What types of info help your quest for HR/recruitment tech & software and why?
  • Q3: What does your HR tech business case entail and who do you include in the planning?
  • Q4: How do you narrow the field of vendors? What are your selection criteria and why?
  • Q5: How do you decide on whether to select a SaaS solution, on-premise or a combination?
  • Q6: How do you manage the implementation process?  IT, consultant, vendor or a combination?
  • Q7: What kinds of training and support should you receive with the HR/recruitment tech & software?
  • Q8: How do you measure return and total cost of ownership on HR/recruitment tech & software?

 

 

Leadership Within Your Reach – From Bud to Boss

Imagine my excitement: today I get to tell you all about a great new book on the subject of leadership.

Wait – before you say you’ve read a couple of those and they were completely useless – let me tell you why you may want to read this book.

First, the authors are amazing people. Kevin Eikenberry doesn’t just write about leadership, he is a leader. What he writes comes from experience and from the heart.

At TalentCulture we love leaders who lead from the heart. We’ve written about how many employers are stuck in a crisis – they have lost the ability to be leaders. At a time when the economy seems to be loosening up a bit and employees are reconsidering their options, managers are incredibly ‘tone-deaf when it comes to what they are saying to employees’, as I wrote back in November for the Lead Change Community. I think the core of the problem is a lack of emotional intelligence in leadership – what author Daniel Goleman calls the ability “to manage ourselves and our relationships effectively.”

Leadership styles vary, of course, and they should. Otherwise, this would be a very boring predicament and make for a dull workplace culture for certain. There’s also little out there to help a person make the transition from employee to leader, which is why Kevin and Guy’s book is so timely.

Kevin’s co-author, Guy Harris, is also his business partner. A trainer and coach, Guy blogs at The Recovering Engineer about workplace engagement, personal empowerment and other leadership themes. What a team!

Now to the book.From Bud to Boss (published by Wiley imprint Jossey-Bass) is Kevin’s new book and his first with co-author Harris. Not every leadership book states as an article of faith that all workplace leaders have within them the power to be remarkable. Of course my cynicism sets in here – it’s the leadership book equivalent of telling a child ‘good job’ just because he or she washed his or her hands. By proposing the idea that each of us can become a remarkable leader, Kevin and Guy take a risk – after all, how many extraordinary people have you met?

It turns out the extraordinary is within reach, if only we are willing to work hard to be that person. It takes work and focused energy to make this happen on any consistent basis.

In this book – Kevin and Guy explore the transitions new leaders must make to fully realize and inhabit the role of ‘leader’. Plenty of business leadership books suggest that you can become a leader overnight. Kevin and Guy, having coached plenty of new leaders, know the transformation requires effort, commitment and a range of fresh skills and behaviors.

In the book Kevin and Guy review those skills and behaviors. They address subjects such as managing change, learning effective communication and coaching skills, and mastering collaboration and conflict resolution. They do it in a friendly, humorous voice. The book is structured in an easy-to-read format, and it’s packed with anecdotes, checklists and bonus tools.

I would add  learning to trust to the leadership toolbox. Trust is a component of emotional intelligence for sure. Trust also has transactional aspects, as I’ve written, but in the workplace it should be a condition of employment, which means leaders must make a study of trust: telling the truth, being clear and honest, reducing the unknown to the knowable for employees.

New managers or those pursuing the path to leadership may just benefit from From Bud to Boss. It’s on sale now. Then log in to the Bud-to-Boss community (which is home to loads of cool bonus content).

So do what I did – read the book, go to the online community, and please let us know what you think. We’re really excited here at TalentCulture – a new book, fresh insights, deep thinking on leadership issues. We hope you are too. Cheers.

Live from #TRULondon – Recruiting: Power of Global People Connectivity

I’m at the TruLondon unconference this week, meeting with people from all over the world – from companies and people discussing the social aspects of leadership, recruiting and HR, we’re learning and sharing stories about using the power of social media to make connections with job seekers and recruiting companies.

London is a creative and vibrant city and the TruLondon unconference, hosted by my friend Bill Boorman and their sponsor JobSite is an amazing venue – no powerpoints, lots of Tweeting and more like a long coffee/wine break with friends than a sit-down-take-notes conference. My kind of conference for certain. It is here where innovation has room to breathe and develop into new ideas.

As I listen to Bill and the other conference friends and attendees one fact remains: We’ve been on a career/workplace/media innovation roller coaster these past several months. Job satisfaction started 2010 at 45 percent negative and plunged to 80+ percent negative by December.

The job market tried to pull out of its dive but failed, despite the government’s recent attempts to redefine the meaning of ‘long-term unemployed’. Companies that weren’t hanging by a thread were socking away cash, holding off on hiring and waiting for signals that the nation was on more certain economic footing. All of us here are ready to say ‘done with that’ and are hoping – and talking about -how to make these times truly count for our recruiting clients and social communities.

What has changed that we can take into the next few months with lighter hearts? I looked back at our recent TalentCulture TChat– my new tea-leaves – for cues, and have distilled my thoughts from TRULondon so far as well. Here’s what stood out to me:

  • The influence of social media on the workplace, hiring trends and corporate brands is huge and will continue to grow. Smart employer brands realized they needed to use social media as both a recruitment and retention tool, as well as a way to take the temperature of the workplace and the larger market. Cheers to social media.
  • Innovation is en vogue again. You know I love hearing affirmation of this. It’s early days yet but I predict that workplaces that invested in developing an authentic culture brand and employee experience will start to see the payoff in innovation.
  • Risk is still significant that ‘stuck’ workplaces will lose their star team players, and maybe even the B team as well. By ‘stuck’ I mean the companies lead by the out-of-touch – the people who are afraid to clue into their emotional intelligence, afraid to change and ease up a bit on employees. The change here is that emotional intelligence is on the rise, and companies that invest in building it into the workplace will come out of the gate in better shape than competitors.
  • More companies will go virtual (and we will be recruiting for these skills) as a way to lighten the load on stressed employees, worn down from years of no raises or pay cuts or layoffs. Managing these highly-mobile, virtual workplaces takes a sure hand and a light touch. Finding ways to be successful with mobile, virtual workforces will be a key leadership/recruiting/HR skill. Note: Our next #TChat topic is Managing virtual teams and dispersed global organizations while maintaining workplace culture.  Is it possible?
  • It’s a new world of recruiting indeed, thanks to Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook et al. Today’s recruiters work mainly in 140-character bursts, and resumes are distilled into keywords and links. I’m spending time reviewing innovation in this space and it’s really very cool and exciting. It’s safe to say that LinkedIn remains the most widely utilized sourcing tool for recruiters to date from this list.
  • The notion of leadership is re-emerging. Too many erstwhile leaders have been hunkered down behind closed doors. It’s time to re-invest in building a culture of leadership, one that is inclusive and broad.
  • Culture is the new workplace must-have. Go figure. Cultures of Talent loom large. Authenticity, brand, stickiness, innovation and inspiration must come through in your workplace culture. Connect and humanize your employees with your brand and watch culture bloom.

What say you? Are you expecting more of the same or actively engaged with companies and job seekers bubbling with innovation, workplace culture and passion for doing a great job now? Love to hear your thoughts.

Brain Surgery, Corporate Culture & Leadership Consistency

My husband, the love of my life, had brain surgery a few weeks ago.

The anticipation, wondering if it was benign or cancerous (it was benign), praying that the neurosurgeon would not suddenly get the shakes, being in a hospital away from home and having no family nearby all added up to make this one of the most stressful experiences I’ve gone through in a long time.

And while we were in the hospital, waiting for Marco to be admitted, something occurred to me.  This was a great opportunity to observe corporate culture.

  • First, I would experience it from the perspective of a customer (instead of as an corporate leader or HR pro or business coach).
  • Second, we would be exposed to all levels of employees: janitors, nurse’s assistants, charge nurses (responsible for all the activities in their unit during their shift), staff supervisors and doctors.
  • Third, we were going to be there for three nights and four days, 24/7.

It was the perfect incubator for observation. Would the corporate culture the hospital spent thousands of dollars and many man hours to create, translate into a consistent experience?

Megan

In the ICU unit, we had a nurse named Megan who explained everything to us. I’m not overstating this. From how each medication was going to help Marco heal, to showing me how to unfold the sleeper chair and set the locks on it so it wouldn’t roll away and everything in between. She made sure we were as knowledgeable about Marco’s situation as she was.

When she met us, she wrote her name and hospital cell phone number on the wipe-board so we would know who she was and how to get in touch with her.

She apologized for having to wake Marco up every hour.

When I asked her where the soda machine was, she asked me what I wanted, left the room and brought a Diet Coke back to me so I wouldn’t have to pay.

She lovingly patted my husband’s head when he was in pain and couldn’t have more pain killers.

She made sure we both understood that he was not to blow his nose for a month.

She brought extra blankets and pillows without us asking for them.

Watching Megan attend to my husband left me feeling comforted, safe and reassured. That was because of two things: She knew what she was doing and she genuinely cared about my soul mate.

Toni & Company

Toni was our nurse when we transferred from ICU to a regular floor.

In her first introduction to us, she wrote her name on the wipe board while explaining this was not her regular floor and that she was on loan from another floor. She didn’t write down her phone number.

We were transferred right around lunch time and my husband was ravenous. I asked Toni when we could expect lunch and her answer was “soon.” 45 minutes later, lunch had not arrived. I went to find her at the nurse’s station and inquired again. Her answer was, “It’s probably up on the ICU floor.” Another 30 minutes later, I left my husband to find her again and asked when his lunch was going to arrive. She sighed at me, asked all the other nurses where my husband’s lunch was and finally said, “I suppose I’ll have to go to ICU to get his lunch.” More time passed before we finally got his cold lunch.

Megan from ICU told us that if Marco got thirsty, extremely thirsty, we needed to call the neurosurgeon right away; it meant danger. The thirst happened during Toni’s shift. We told her five times over three hours what was happening, we told her the neurosurgeon wanted to be paged immediately if it happened. Each time I went to look for her (she didn’t come to us) she said, “Oh. Okay. I’ll call the doctor.” Finally, after 3.5 hours I went to the ICU floor, looked for Megan and told her what was happening. She immediately broke all protocol by leaving her floor to see Marco. She asked him a bunch of questions, her face got red and she said she was going to page the doctor right then. Five minutes later a sheepish Toni walked into the room ready to take care of him. She also told us that the neurosurgeon yelled at her on the phone.

It wasn’t just Toni either. None of the nurses on that floor wrote down their hospital cell phone numbers. When Marco got extremely thirsty he asked for Gatorade and another nurse said, “I’m sorry we don’t have any on this floor.” We weren’t asking for champagne for Pete’s sake! I asked several people if I could have a sleeper chair and the consistent answer was an apathetic, “I’ll try.”

Being on the ICU floor was like being at a Ritz Carlton. The last three days of his stay was like being at a charge-by-the-hour motel.

Organizational Consistency

What happened?  It was the same hospital system.  Each floor had the same motivational employee bulletin boards which reinforced the “competency of the month.”  The processes for responding to patients was the same on each floor.  And I’m sure they were operating from the same employee handbook.

Shouldn’t every employee take patient care seriously?

Obviously, the answer is yes. Yet I think one of the hardest things for organizations to nail down is consistency across their enterprise.  What happened last week reinforced three things every leader needs to understand and do something about:

  • An organization can have all the technical tools in place to create an incredible customer experience, but that is no guarantee that employees will use them.
  • Leaders, Recruiters and HR pros need to continue to focus their recruiting efforts on the technical and behavioral skills candidates present. One without the other is disastrous.
  • Great tools and employees with phenomenal technical/behavioral skills are lost without front line supervisors who know how and have the courage to hold their employees accountable.

It’s a three legged stool. Or is it? What other factors should be considered in creating a consistent experience? Why do you think there was such a stark contrast between ICU and the regular floor?

Workplace Violence: Be Safe & Sound, But Be Prepared: #TChat Recap

Most victims of violence feel powerless and alone.  I’d argue most bystanders and witnesses feel the same.

Most of us want to believe that folks are basically decent, not monsters that erupt at work or at home or anywhere and take lives with them.

It can’t happen here.

Which is why many employers don’t plan for workplace violence until there’s violence, unfortunately. And even then…

In a Workforce Management article titled Waking Up to the Risks of Workplace Violence, the author writes:

In one recent training class, a senior HR leader told me he had no issues of workplace violence.

Yet, as we continued to talk, it emerged that a man had come into the company’s Midwest office looking for his girlfriend. He wanted to hurt her, and when he couldn’t find her, he pulled out a gun and shot five employees.
Stunned, I turned back to the senior leader and asked if he knew about it. “That was different; it was more of a domestic violence issue that took place at our plant.” The amazing part of this discussion was that we were in Oklahoma City, the site of one of the worst incidents of workplace violence in U.S. history.
The lesson is that violence that occurs in the workplace is workplace violence whether it takes place between spouses/domestic partners, between co-workers, by a third-party with a relationship to the organization (client, partner, etc.) or in conjunction with the commission of other crimes.

And that’s critical to understand — violence is violence is violence and companies need to be prepared.
That was what #TChat was all about last night — the dark side of workplace culture, violence and what to do and not do.  You can read the transcript here and here were last night’s questions:
  • Q1:  How does everyday violence & security breaches (like Wikileaks) impact workplace culture policies?
  • Q2:  How does your org address workplace violence during onboarding – and at other times?
  • Q3:  What is HR’s role in workplace violence intervention, prevention and post-incident?
  • Q4:  What is the CEO’s role in addressing workplace violence before it occurs, when it occurs and after?
  • Q5:  Under OSHA, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace. Discuss.
  • Q6:  How can EAPs be designed to provide maximal workplace/domestic violence assistance?
  • Q7:  How effective are your org’s workplace incivility, bullying and violence prevention programs
  • Q8:  If a colleague is threatened with violence at work from anyone, what should you do and why?

As per usual, we had a great group of HR and business professionals participating and sharing their knowledge.  It was refreshing to hear from some organizations that bake incivility, bullying and workplace violence awareness and prevention right into their hiring, onboarding and ongoing employee performance activities, whether they have an EAP or not.  A special thank you to Felix Nater for sharing his workplace violence expertise.

Along those lines, here are some ways to enlist your employees’ help in ensuring that your workplace is a violence-free zone (from the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence website):

  • Empower employees to take a stand—as caring co-workers and as your company’s ambassadors.
  • Let employees know they will not be penalized for seeking help—for themselves, their families, or co-workers in need.
  • In conjunction with your human resources department and EAP program (if available), offer counseling and referral for both victims of partner violence and abusers.
  • Help employees recognize the signs of a troublesome or abusive relationship and know where to turn for assistance, for themselves and for co-workers.
  • Invite local resource groups, such as local shelters, counseling groups and/or law enforcement representatives to make a presentation to your company. Most groups are happy to provide speakers and information to interested parties. (National Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October is a great time to do this!)
  • Give each employee access to brochures and flyers to distribute to their schools, religious organizations, clubs, and other civic or social groups.
  • Invite interested employees to form a communications task force, working within the guidelines established by your cross-functional steering committee to implement your partner violence communications plan.

You can also review all the information we shared in the pre-TChat posts:

Be safe and sound, but be prepared.



Workplace Presenteeism Redefined

The majority of organizations today have employee support programs to help with workplace absenteeism.

Examples include sick days, short term disability, long term disability, return-to-work, workplace accommodation, vacation, emergency family care, and the list goes on. The goals of these programs are to reduce costs to employers, improve employee productivity and ultimately top and bottom line financial results.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American businesses lose an average of 2.8 million work days each year due to unplanned absences, which costs employers more than $74 million. Some thought circles put this number close to $200 million. Regardless, the numbers are staggering, and with our aging population and increasing life expectancy these numbers will continue to escalate.

But…

The figures above deal with workplace absenteeism ONLY, and not workplace presenteeism. What’s the difference? We’ve defined absenteeism to be the employee being absent from work due to health reasons. According to Dr. Gary Cooper, who pioneered the term “presenteeism” in the mid-90’s, this is where employees show up for work even if they are too sick, stressed, or distracted to be productive.

There is an underlying medical issue that is causing the employee to be unproductive at work.  They’re physically there but not really THERE!  The result?  Poor productivity and performance, which often negatively influences colleagues and peers.

The above definition of presenteeism originally coined by Dr. Cooper focuses on health being the reason for non-performance and productivity at work. There are many reasons why presenteeism exists, and through my experience and research, I would argue that our mental states are the key drivers of presenteeism. Corporations have spent so much time, money and resources reducing absenteeism that it has created a culture of fear and anxiety towards being absent from work. Businesses have even gone as far as rewarding employees for not taking sick days, or using sick-related benefits. This has pushed us to behave and act in ways that are in fact more detrimental to our own physical health, and personal productivity and performance.  At the end of the day, we are scared to death of not satisfying the “butt in chair” optic.

The Canadian Mental Health Association of Ontario provides a more precise and detailed description of the reasons for presenteeism, which relate to stress and sub-par psychological state of mind.

Case in Point…

With our world literally turning itself upside down every single day; natural disasters, gigantic hostile takeovers, corporate cuts, war, political upheaval, the technological explosion, WE are scared to death. We have bills to pay, mouths to feed and simply staying alive and covering basic survival needs has never been more at the forefront of everything we do and think about. Decisions are made so quickly, and through our natural “fight or flight” human responses, our actions are dictated by our emotions. Simply put, we’re afraid of being pushed aside or marginalized in the workplace.

Let’s Add a Twist…

We’ve been talking about presenteeism defined as being at work when sick or unhealthy. I am jumping out on a limb here and am going to argue that presenteeism is also about being at work when you ARE perfectly healthy but spending time doing other things completely unrelated to helping your company achieve and succeed on its business objectives.  What about people that are physically there but simply wasting time by choice?

This Doesn’t Make Any Sense…

My explanation… we are unbelievably connected socially through technological means with anyone, anywhere, and at anytime.  We are a culture of “checking in” (e.g. FourSquare, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, blog and the list goes on). When using a laptop we typically have multiple screens open at once, flipping back and forth constantly from Hootsuite to email to LinkedIn to Facebook to blogs. Our iPod’s are raging 24-7, mobile phones buzzing constantly from incoming texts, emails, tweets or phone calls, and this is all happening at 10,000 miles an hour. Our attention spans are probably 10,000% shorter than they were just 10 years ago and our concentration levels are limited to the 10 seconds of complete silence we actually get in a given day. Our social connections, technological “connectedness” and instant and constant real-time communication habits result in our available time that should be spent on work is being eaten up doing other things and being unproductive.

The Point? Perfectly healthy people are wasting incredible amounts of time at work, as are unhealthy people. This is ALL presenteeism to me!

What Are the Costs?

I made the argument that technological waste needs to be part of the definition of presenteeism. Research does exist to show that presenteeism is significantly greater than absenteeism but currently I would consider the research a bit sketchy because a) it only deals with presenteeism that is related to medical issues, and b) the statistics are all over the place. Research has been done, primarily in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia.

The Journal of Occupation and Environmental Medicine argues that “presenteeism costs employers as much as 3 times the dollar amount as absenteeism in terms of lost productivity”.

Statistics Canadaargues that “productivity lost from presenteeism was 7.5 times greater than productivity loss from absenteeism”. They also argue that “stress related health problems could increase the ratio to 15 times greater”.

Canadian Occupational Safety provides a good perspective on the problem of presenteeism and argues that it is 4 times bigger than absenteeism in terms of hours lost. The COS also includes research completed from Watson Wyatt Canada that puts the ratio of presenteeism to absenteeism between 2.5 and 8.6 times, with the top 3 medical causes of presenteeism being depression, fatigue and insomnia.

Another Wrinkle in the Cost Argument…

If you have heard me speak in the past or follow my blog, you have likely heard me talk confidently about the positive correlation that exists between employee engagement and business results. The more engaged your workforce is the more successful you will be in achieving your corporate strategic objectives. In terms of a definition for employee engagement there are many, but I have typically used something close to the following:

“An intimate emotional connection that an employee feels for the company they work for that propels them to exert greater discretionary effort in their work”.

Now throw in what I have talked about regarding presenteeism into the mix. Do you think perfectly healthy employees that are physically at work but choosing to do other things is an example of strong engagement? I didn’t think so. Earlier I threw around a bunch of figures for what presenteeism costs business today, and nowhere in this research do these numbers reflect what employee disengagement caused by presenteeism costs. I am NOT going to try and take a stab at what this number may be but the point here is it would be profoundly staggering and it’s a huge problem.

Conclusion…

Pis a much more costly problem than absenteeism, yet corporations focus mostly on reducing absenteeism. I also argue that the current definition of presenteeism only relates to medical reasons, but should include lost productivity and performance as a result of perfectly healthy employees doing things completely unrelated to the business.

These other things are directly related to technology and our “check in everything now and now” mentalities. I also argue that presenteeism is a significant drain on employee engagement, which strongly correlates to business results.  Finally, presenteeism is a huge problem, and by taking on a more accurate understanding of what presenteeism is, the problem is epidemic-like and should be the focus of organizational improvements today.

The Ever-Changing Face of Leadership

The term, ‘leader,’ can be such a broad word. According to Dictionary.com, the definition of ‘lead’  follows (I’ve bolded my preferred wording):

– To go before or with to show the way; conduct or escort.
– To conduct by holding and guiding.
– To influence or induce.

Scrolling down a bit, the definition of ‘lead’ also includes:

  • to command or direct.
  • To go at the head of in advance of (a procession, list, body, etc.). Proceed first in.

I’ve been struggling a bit with the whole ‘leadership’ terminology for a while now. Possibly, it is because individuals anointed as leaders sometimes are perceived by non-leaders to be ego-driven, and that can be untenable and unattractive.

Or, perhaps it has more to do with the fact most of us don’t want to consider ourselves followers – most folks want to be important, in their own right. Whether we are considered a ‘leader’ in our field, ‘leader’ of a specific subject matter or, leader of our own self, most of us want to be independent and impactful, independently of others’ telling us how to be so.

Gripped by Inspiration, Not Dictated to by a Boss

Mike Henry, Sr., Leadership Developer and President, Lead Change Group, invited me into a radio conversation last year. During that interview, he used the term, self-leader. According to Mike, “No one wants to grow up to be a follower.” I agree!

In the best of situations, individuals never feel like they are following, but instead are inspired and compelled to engage their limited amount of energy into an initiative, event, project, program, etc.  The feeling of inspiration is so gripping, therefore, it seems that there just ‘happens’ to be a leader at the ‘helm’ who is doing the coaxing, inspiring and orchestrating of the collective energy to come together for a harmonic outcome.

I collaborate with leadership folks every day – they are my professional and executive clients who are either in the throes of career transition, wish to make a vertical or lateral move, and/or wish to propel their careers to new heights. Whatever the case, many of these folks have been bestowed the leadership moniker: Finance Manager, Senior Marketing Manager, Engineering Director, Vice President of Technology, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Executive Officer … and the list goes on.  Most of these leaders earned those titles through progressive career advancement and continual proof of leadership results, measured ultimately by corporate revenue and profit growth.

However, without an innate and well-honed ability to guide their teams through obstacles, challenges, change and other improvement and growth activities, these leaders would not be where they are today, at the helms of their own ships, steaming forward.

The Best Leaders Are Beacons of Light

The best of these leaders are both directors of initiatives and beacons of light to which their individual contributors, managers and teams aspire to reach. They are not ‘in charge’ of others, bossing them around; they do not wield their authority to ensure their plebes simply heed their commands, without question.

No, in fact, most successful leaders I have interviewed over the past 13+ years possess a unique combination of attributes including confidence and humility and a focus on individual and team needs equal to, and sometimes, above their own.

As one recent client divulged, during a merger and acquisition initiative, he selectively ‘took bullets’ for his managers so that they could better foster relationships with members of an acquired company. In other words, he didn’t put his own agenda over the company’s or individual contributors’ and managers’ needs. At the end of the day, in fact, he sacrificed his own position for the betterment of the company and the individuals thereto.

Moreover, the best of the best leaders identify the strengths of their staff and leverage those to create a win-win for both the company and the individual talent contributors. A focus on people’s talent strengths, versus exerting undue energy on what is someone’s weakness, therefore, propels an organization forward.

#TChat contributor J. Keith Dunbar, Fearless Transformational Global Leader, underscores this idea well, by saying:

“I leverage people’s strengths and put them in a position to be successful. By taking this approach, it positions the team, and ultimately the organization, for increased opportunities for success.”

Finally, strong, effective leaders lead by example. As Felix P. Nater, CSC, President of Nater Associates, Ltd., recently said on Twitter:

“Leading by example empowers adults.”

Sometimes We Must Simply Follow

That said, from time to time, we all put on our follower hats, and I believe there is a good reason to do so.

For those of you on Twitter, think about reasons you ‘follow’ others. Perhaps it is to learn from them as they fuel their Tweets with nourishing information, including thoughtful data, insights and blog post links that further drill down to the why, how, when, where and what of the matter. In other words, you look to that person for guidance, experience and lessons that you may incorporate in your own knowledge bank and day-to-day activity.

Or, maybe those you follow are more experienced in the job or industry with which you aspire to connect. In addition to wanting to learn from them, you may also want to model their behaviors, get to know them personally and network with them – perhaps tapping into their intellectual knowledge base and wealth of relationships to further your own career and business needs.

Our Roles, Regardless of Title, Assume Traits of Influence and Leadership

At the end of the day, though, each of us, as individuals, wants to assume a position of independence, specifically and uniquely contributing to individual and group goals. As well, we all, from time to time, regardless of our titles, switch from leading to following, then back to leading and then to following  … and (you get the drift). It’s a continuum and the roles of leading and following are not clearly distinguished by titles and job descriptions. In fact, the leadership ideal is one that we all carry around and exude in our individual and group, personal and work lives.

Take a Stand: Welcome to TC, Steve Browne!

Hello all, Steve Browne here.  I am the newest contributor to TalentCulture and could not be more excited to be on board. Here is my latest post from my blog – I look forward to what’s ahead!

This past weekend I traveled to the heart of Amish country in Ohio to beautiful Berlin, Ohio for the Classic in the Country basketball tournament. It was a full weekend of great high school varsity girls basketball!

The “unique” aspect of this tournament vs. others is that when the girls come out to the court before the game begins something other than the National Anthem occurred. (Fear not, they play the Anthem at the beginning of each day.)  The announcer asked everyone to stand and then they played a quote from a Martin Luther King, Jr. speech.  It was incredibly moving – and relevant!!

You see, my daughter only knows of Dr. King from History class or a textbook. Now that we are recognizing the 25th anniversary of the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it made me reflective as well because Dr. King did things that we in HR should be doing as well . . .

Recognize Injustice!

Too often HR sees things that happen in companies and seeks the middle ground vs. addressing things directly.  You see, if you ask Management, HR represents them. If you ask employees, they’d say HR represents . . . Management. The fact is that we represent all employees and we are obligated to look at all people practices that aren’t in the best interest of employees and get rid of them.

I’m not talking about obvious egregious or illegal behavior. That’s a no-brainer.  I’m talking about policies (that we often generate) that do no good to the company. Honestly, most of our polices are created to address a few people’s poor behavior that we should be addressing directly any way!

Take a stand!

Do you like being ambiguous and wishy-washy? I don’t and I hope that as HR practitioners, you don’t either. It’s tough to take stands on things but companies expect us to make decisions and not practice conflict avoidance. People are tough. There’s no doubt about that. However, if you learn how to frame your approach and deal intentionally with people, you’ll be amazed at how effective an HR professional you’ll be!

Be the one person!

Too often people are waiting for someone to act. When HR is passive bad things happen more often than not and you become the person who’s always “putting out fires.” We desparately want someone to take action.

That needs to be YOU!

Dr. King took action when it wasn’t popular, when it involved incredible risk, and it represented those who weren’t in power. I want to be that kind of HR person all the time.

How about you?

The Fight Club Guide to Leadership Humility

I bet when someone asks you to name great leaders you think of Churchill, Sun Tzu, Jack Welch, Lincoln or others. Well listen up people because you’re missing someone. His name is…Tyler Durdin. Yes, Tyler Durdin. He is the main character in the movie Fight Club (Rated R) played by Brad Pitt.

In Fight Club, everyone loves Tyler Durdin. The girls want to be with him and men want to be like him. He’s smart, confident, passionate, holds true to his convictions and has an innovative way to change the world: Help people beat each other up so they can experience freedom from the entrapments of life. Please don’t misunderstand. I am not suggesting that leaders engage in violence. However, metaphorically, there is a lot we can learn from Mr. Durdin.

In the movie, what started out as a fight in a parking lot turned into regular fights on Saturday nights which turned into fight clubs being cloned all over the country. Tyler’s fight clubs grew. But what’s interesting is that he never recruited anyone to join. In fact, he did the opposite. He told people not to talk about Fight Club. (The first rule of Fight Club.)

Imagine for a moment, being a leader of an organization that doesn’t have to recruit anyone because people are standing in line in the cold and rain to be a part of your vision.

So how did Tyler do it?

Humility – An Essential Leadership Trait

Tyler says this: “You’re not your job. You’re not the amount of money you make. You’re not the car you drive. Nor the contents of your wallet. Not your f-ing khakis. You are the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.”

Does that sound a bit radical? Good. Leaders need to be less radical about their positions and more radical about their humanity.

I saw a great example of leadership humility two weeks ago. Enter Graham Weston. In case you don’t know who he is, Weston invested in Rackspace during its early stages, became the CEO and is now the Chairman of the Board. He is also the CEO of Weston Properties and owns 700,000 square feet of industrial and office properties in Texas. Successful? Oh yes.

Graham was one of the speakers at TEDx San Antonio; it was there that I met him. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve met people with less power and position who made others feel like the dead ant in the mud under their feet.  So truthfully, I was prepared for the worst. Yet here was Graham, interacting with everyone. More than a few attendees shared their surprise at how approachable and sincere he was. At one point, he said hello to one of his Rackspace employees. This employee was not a VP or even in management. He was a techie.

Graham not only knew who he was, he knew this employee had been working the 3rd shift. He spent several minutes talking with the employee on a personal and professional level.  They were equals. This employee knew it. I could see it. And I was moved.

Does humble leadership work? Take a look at Rackspace’s growth and profitability. Need another example? Mahatma Gandhi and Jesus Christ come to my mind. They were both incredibly humble, servant-focused men. One delivered his nation and the other delivered the world.

If you want to radically change your organization, take French politician Charles de Montesquieu’s advice: “To become truly great, one has to stand with people, not above them.”

Or as Tyler Durdin says, remember that “You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else.”

Of Gutter Slugs, Leaders and Love

“You boys are the gutter slugs; the front line leaders fighting in the trenches with all the guts and no glory. Be proud of that. Hold your heads high; love the game and each other. Each one of you is a leader, so let’s lead this team to victory. I love you guys!”

I remember those words well, one of many inspirational shout-outs my high school offensive line coach used to give us. A big ol’ Grizzly Adams of a man – SMU graduate and parole officer, Coach Sutton instilled in us a sense of belonging, of understanding our critical roles in the greater game.

Even after long, excruciatingly hot practices in the Central Valley of California where I grew up, when it was time to do the after-practice conditioning – and there was always after-practice conditioning – we complied with minimal grumbling and gave 110% no matter how dog-tired we were.

We loved him and the game. Tons.

That’s tons of love for a bunch of teenage Valley football heroes in the early 80’s. But the life lessons he taught us have stayed with me for decades:

  • Each of must learn to lead our self with love.
  • Each of us must learn to lead with others with love.
  • Each of us must learn to lead their teams with love.

Right on, brother. We knew no other way to play.

Segue – Why do we have such a hard time with leadership and love in the workplace? Lisa Earle McLeod from Forbes.com tells us why we don’t and why we should in an article titled Leadership: What Love’s Got To Do With It.

Myth No. 1: Feelings aren’t professional.

They are the embodiment of life and all things in the workplace. “Emotions are at the root of every human endeavor.”

Myth No. 2: Love is too mushy to measure.

Enough with the measuring; the bottom line will grow when we own our behavior. “It’s about taking responsibility for creating the conditions that will bring out the best in others.”

Myth No. 3: Love means no accountability.

Now that’s just a bunch of garbage. Love is the ultimate accountability. “Love is all about mutual accountability. When you love someone, you expect them to give you their very best.”

Lastly, Lisa writes: “The real secret of lasting success is taking a good, long look in the mirror and deciding that your people and your organization deserve a leader who has the courage to stand up and love them.”

Whether on the front lines or the team captains, everyone can be empowered to lead responsibly with love. Know no other way to play.

Image Credit: Stock.xchng