The Emperor has no clothes – A tale of courage

A huge part of being a great HR Pro is having leadership courage. In our case, because many of us coach and counsel senior leaders in our organizations, up to and including the CEO level, we are faced with advising our leaders on some very difficult and sensitive situations. As HR Pros, we often need to be the voice of reason in the room and provide that moment of pause and reflective thinking that is required so that the best possible course of action can be derived.

Fear CourageI have been involved with many situations in my career, as I know many of you have, where you are in a room full of organizational leaders and you are discussing how to deal with a challenging and highly sensitive, organizational impacting, situation. THE most senior leader (CEO, President, etc.) begins to outline how “we” are going to deal with the situation. However, his or her plan (well-intended or not) is fraught with holes and negative repercussions that are obvious to everyone in the room…EXCEPT the President! As you look around the room, all the Sr. leadership is sitting there stone-faced, not making eye contact with anyone, but most certainly they not speaking up and disagreeing or providing an alternate perspective to what the President is proposing.

You know in your heart of hearts that the majority of the room has the same sick feeling in the pit of their stomach that you do about the (horrible) plan that is being laid out. Yet, no one says anything. Whether it is through fear, intimidation, or overall trepidation, NO ONE in the room SPEAKS UP to tell the President (Emperor) that he/she has no clothes on. As an HR Pro sitting in that room, what would you do? Would you be the first to put your hand up and point out the flaws? Would you feel confident in stating the obvious (negative) impacts to the President’s plan? Would you do so even knowing that it is highly probable that no one else would say anything? Or, would you do so knowing that the President may respond negatively to you?

That my friends and fellow HR Pros, is leadership courage and it isn’t easy. As mentioned, I have been in that situation many times over my career and it isn’t fun and it sure isn’t easy. But as a profession, we always bemoan how we aren’t viewed as being part of the big team and how we want to be seen as more than tactical paper pushers. Well, here is our chance. The next time we are faced with this situation, let’s make sure we put our hand up and give the entire team pause for thought and oh so tactfully point out that the Emperor really doesn’t have any clothes on. Who is with me? Remember, you are not alone in this…we are all dealing with it. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Connect the Dots

I consider myself a pretty voracious reader. I am pretty much a sucker for a good business, HR or leadership book. LinkedIn and Twitter are great because they are a never ending supply of bite size pieces of content for me! I also like to share, with my network, articles that I come across. Quite often, something I share strikes a chord with at least one person in my immediate network. This then usually results in some great discussion. Typically what hits a nerve with my broader audience is something pertaining to leadership tips, tricks, etc. Everyone wants to know what the secret ingredient is to being a good leader. Man, if I had the “right” answer to that, I would write a book! (Oh, the irony.)

connect_the_dotsHowever, I have experience in coaching and developing leaders so this did get me thinking a bit more about the topic. Obviously there are many characteristics, in my opinion, that make up a great leader. I don’t want to get into a laundry list of this here, but if I had to capture everything into one phrase, I would say that a good leader’s job/responsibility is to connect the dots for their staff. This is purely based on my own observations, as well as direct and indirect experience(s) coaching leaders and being in leadership positions myself.

When you think about it though, that phrase pretty much covers everything in the leadership toolbox. You need to be able to connect the dots to the corporate vision, the business plan and to department and individual goals. You need to connect the dots with your employees as it pertains to how they contribute towards the success of these organizational goals and objectives. You need to connect the dots for your employees in terms of how the work that they do will lead to personal/professional success for them. You need to connect the dots for your staff in terms of their career development – i.e. how they go about improving and positioning themselves for future roles. Finally, you need to connect the dots for them in terms of how/why organizational changes are for the greater benefit of the company and ultimately the employee. Stewarding your staff through times of change is basically one big exercise in connecting the dots! That is what leaders do!

A great leader that is able to connect the dots is skilled at communication and coaching. They show their employees vs. “tell” them. They help engage staff through the act of making these connections. A great leader is involved and present with their employees in order to be able to be a “connector” for them. So if you don’t communicate, don’t/can’t coach and/or aren’t present with your staff, it is going to be pretty hard to help connect anything for your employees.

So, the next time you are wondering what it takes to be a great leader, or if you are wondering if you are doing the “right things,” just ask yourself, “Am I connecting the dots for my staff?” If you aren’t, then you need to re-focus (see above areas). If you are, carry on my friend, you are doing a great job! As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of FreePowerPointTemplates.com

7 Simple Rules for Employee Survey Success

Employee surveys – love them or hate them, are a part of corporate life, whether you are in operations or HR. If managed properly, they can be an effective tool in helping to retain your employees. Done improperly, they are an administrative exercise that leads to frustration for all involved and resentment from your employees. In order to make this all work, your organizational leadership has to believe in the value of the feedback they received AND have a desire to change. So, your Survey Feedbackcritical equation you need to remember is Belief + Feedback + Desire to change = Survey Value. Therefore, my advice to organizations is that you need to decide if or why you want to do a survey, before you first launch into one. It you want to conduct a survey, there many important elements to consider. If, after evaluating the criteria, you decide you don’t or shouldn’t conduct a survey, than that is ok too.

So, here are Scott’s rules for deciding on whether or not you should conduct an employee survey:

  • Rule #1:
    • As an organization, are you prepared to act on some of the feedback you receive? Notice I said “some.” You can’t necessarily act on everything, but you need to acknowledge the feedback and then tell your employees what you can and cannot do. If the answer to this question is “no” (and you need to be honest) than don’t do the survey.
  • Rule #2:
    • Communicate the results to your employees and then commit to an action plan. If you don’t want to do, or can’t do, both of these things, than don’t do a survey.
  • Rule #3:
    • Are your managers accountable for the results and action plans that are derived from the survey? Or is it an “HR thing.” If your managers and organizational leadership aren’t accountable, than don’t do a survey. No matter how you position it, if managers aren’t accountable, your staff will see this is a paper exercise with no value.
  • Rule #4:
    • You don’t have to have an action plan for everything because not all questions you ask are of equal importance to your employees. For example, they may score you low on a question pertaining to work/life balance; however, perhaps that isn’t that important to them at the moment because you are a start-up that is trying to secure venture capital financing and everyone is working like dogs to push your first product release out the door.
  • Rule #5:
    • Therefore, based on Rule #4, before you go creating action plans, ASK your employees what IS important to them. If you identify 6 areas of opportunity, get them to rank what is most important to them. Ask them, “If, as an organization, we could address/improve 3 things, what should they be?”
  • Rule #6:
    • Involve your employees in the creation of the specific action plans and communicate progress (frequently) on the action plan. Operational leaders need to own the execution of the strategies. Make sure you tell your staff what you can’t do/improve at the moment – could be due to budget, timing, etc. Your employees will appreciate your candor.
  • Rule #7:
    • No “check in the box’s” allowed. Meaning, you don’t just create a couple of action items, half-heartedly address a few symptoms and then move on with operational life. You have to get at the root cause issues, create a tangible plan and then continue to monitor it. Surveys and action plans need to be fluid and ongoing – not a singular moment in time.

These seven simple rules should help guide you, organizationally, through the survey process. The key is to make them part of your business plans with a strategic focus on retaining your talent. If your goal(s) is anything else, you are wasting your time and that of your employees. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do you REALLY want to connect with me on LinkedIn?

Last week I blogged about a pet peeve of mine which is the canned LinkedIn connection request of, “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Based on the number of views and comments I have received about this post I must have hit a nerve. I have had comments in full on support of my post and those that provided a differing point of view. I truly appreciated all the viewpoints and took the time to engage with everyone as I am always interested to learn more about user experiences with LinkedIn.

Of note, on the differing point of view side of things, some people raised a couple of valid points as to why the eleven-word canned connection request statement is used so much:

  1. If you are trying to connect with someone that isn’t a 2nd or 3rd degree connection already, it is almost impossible to have a connection request get sent any other way
  2. If you are using LinkedIn on a mobile device that is often the only way to send off a request (i.e. the issue is with LinkedIn and their app making it too ‘easy’ to do this, not the user).

LinkedIn ChocolatesWhile I can accept both those counter arguments, my personal experience with this is a bit jaded. You see, what I (used to) do is when I received invites from people I don’t know, and that contained the “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn,” I would not accept them at first, but would reply back. Yes – you can do that! So, I would hit the reply button and send back a quick note that would state something like, “Thanks for your connection request, I can’t remember if we have met before, if we have, could you please remind me? If we haven’t, in the spirit of connecting, I would like to know how/why you would like to connect with me?”

How often do you think I received a response back to that question? Answer – less than 1% of the time! Of those that did respond back to me, I actually received a great email back from the requestor and happily accepted the connection invitation at that point. I mean, all I was really looking for was to make sure it was a real person looking to connect with me and that they gave it 2 seconds of thought. In other words, I didn’t want to be a baseball card added to someone’s collection because at the end of the day, I value my network I have built up and I don’t feel like giving just anyone access to it…especially a spammer!

So, I guess in all this I remain a bit jaded but I am still open to hear your feedback on this. I am going to need some convincing though. My feeling is that if you send me a connection request and I email you back and you don’t respond, my question to you is, do you REALLY want to connect with me on LinkedIn…or are you just trying to collect names and/or get access to my network? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of Nan Palmero/Flickr.com

“I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn”

Those have to be the eleven words I hate to see the most when I receive a LinkedIn request. There is absolutely no context or effort involved with these types of requests. It is simply a case of someone clicking on your profile and sending you an invitation while using the standard LinkedIn text. It also gives the impression that you are simply looking to add names to your LinkedIn database collection. Bottom line, you should always take the time to personalize a LinkedIn request.

LinkedIn company name pictureThis is true whether you are a job seeker or looking to make a sales connection. At the very least, a personalized request note is a “softer” request and lead in. Look at it this way, if you were attending an in person networking event, you wouldn’t walk up to someone you never met before and say to them, “I’d like to add you to my professional network can I have your business card?” So why do we do this on LinkedIn?

Here is the thing, you may be committing this faux pas and not even realizing it – so I am here to help! If you are in the “People You May Know” section of LinkedIn (within your account) and you click on “Connect” under the picture of any of the people there, they will automatically get that horrible 11 word request email to connect. Bam – that is it…no opportunity for you to edit the message at all and you probably aren’t even aware of what you have done.

Here is what you should do when you are looking to connect:

Click on the person’s picture/name profile so you can link to their actual profile landing page. Then you can click on the blue connect button where you have an opportunity to personalize a message. The same standard 11 word intro comes up, but NOW you have an opportunity to edit and personalize your request. My advice – take advantage of this opportunity!

So, let’s assume you have followed this advice so far and you are providing yourself an opportunity to customize your connection request. Now it is all up to you This part isn’t hard, but it does take a bit of effort. All you need to do in the request is write a few sentences on why you want to connect with the person. Do this and your LinkedIn life will change forever. For example, in your connection request you could refer to one of the following types of situations:

  • You met them at an event (this is the easiest isn’t one of all)
  • You know of them through someone else and want to connect for business reasons
  • You read an article, blog post, etc. that they wrote, it resonated with you and now you want to connect with them
  • You heard them speak at a conference or event, you enjoyed the content and would like to connect with them
  • You follow them on Twitter (or read something they shared in a LinkedIn group), they share great content, so now you want to connect with them and hopefully you can help them as well.

That’s all there is to it. Personalize the message by providing some context. Most people will accept your invite if there is a bit of a covering note/reason to the request. Hopefully these tips will help you out moving forward, especially if you are a job seeker. I would really like to see that you are doing everything in your power to improve your chances of expanding your network and finding gainful employment. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of Shekhar_Sahu/Flickr.com

All I want is a simple Thank You!

Deep down, most of as human beings, appreciate a sincere thank you. A thank you for the work that we do, the effort we put forward and the results that we have achieved. Yes, it takes more than just that to ultimately engage and retain staff, but a simple thank you is at the heart of any type of employee recognition. If your managers do not understand that this is an important part of their job, you need to get them gripped in ASAP on this.

Thank You SignBased on my time in HR, and after having gone through many employee surveys, focus groups and action plans, I can honestly say that I have seen that employee recognition is at the heart of many engagement challenges. Specifically, most things seem to come back to informal recognition (or lack thereof) that staff receive from their manager.

Regardless of age/generation, role, salary, etc., the majority of employees I have spoken with and have encountered during my career all say pretty much the same thing – that is, “It would be nice to get a thank you every now and then.” Here is the irony: it costs NOTHING to provide that thank you! Funny thing, companies spends thousands on recognition programs and service rewards each year, yet miss the boat on the most fundamental part of recognition which is the 1:1 touchpoint from a manager to an employee, where they simply thank them for their hard work/effort/result.

You have to think of the thank you as building the foundation of your house. Everything else is irrelevant and of no value if you don’t have a solid foundation. I coach and encourage managers to make “thank you’s” a part of their daily management routine. Get out and about and walk around. Look for areas and ways to recognize and say thanks. You will be surprised at how many of these opportunities present themselves in the run of a day when you are actually “looking.” Again, you need to keep the criteria very loose. Anything that falls into the categories of extra effort, results, overall performance, organizational/departmental/individual impact should “qualify” for a thank you.

The challenge here is to change the mindset of your managers. I have personally dealt with many managers whose typically response is, “I don’t thank my employees for just doing their job, that is what they are paid for.” The response to this is simple – yes, you do (need to) thank them for doing their job…that is YOUR job! These little moments of positive reinforce serve to build trust and establish an effective culture. Employees want to know that their manager notices what they are doing. So, as a manager, you looking for those moments of recognition because it is part of your job, therefore, it is incumbent on you as a LEADER to establish this type of culture and provide those moments of thanks to your staff. Get out of your office/cube, talk to your people, observe their work and engage with them. You will be surprised at what is actually going on with your people and just how much is worthy of your time, attention and recognition.

It drives me nuts when a manager sets some artificially high standard that must be achieved before they “thank” their staff for doing something. I mean, what warrants a thank you? Saving a life? A multi-million dollar sale? Are you kidding me? Large scale achievements like these warrant much MORE than a thank you. The daily interactions and micro achievements are what you need to focus on, day in and day out. This is how the managerial foundation is built and this is where you will get your gains as a leader.

Bottom line, let’s all work together to get better at identifying those little moments of recognition.  Let’s make it a point to say “thank you” more. Trust me, it will fit into your budget and your staff will appreciate it. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback…..thank you.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Enough is Enough! HR doesn’t suck!

It seems to be an in vogue thing these days to bash HR. What with the myriad of experts out there that continue to weigh in on how HR should be done differently, or that it is time to change HR or basically how HR sucks. Go ahead, Google, “why HR sucks” and you will get 8.5 million hits! Better yet, if you search on, “making HR better” you will get 296 MILLION hits! Yes, everyone has an opinion on the matter, or so it seems.

Human resources picAs someone who has been in “the biz” for many years, I am a big fan of “good HR.” I believe in the value that HR brings to an organization – whether from a strategic perspective or from a good old fashion making the trains run on time perspective (i.e. making sure people get paid accurately and on time, making sure managers treat their staff right, etc.). Either way, when done right, HR brings tons of value to an organization and is a worthy profession. I blogged about this subject, about 18 months ago, when I referred to it as the HR Identity Crisis. My intent was to get HR folks to change their mindset a bit about how they view themselves and the work that they do.

So let’s start doing ourselves, as a profession, a favour. Let’s stop bashing each other and what we do. There are enough folks out there that will do that for us (see reference above to Google hits). You don’t see accountants and lawyers going around trashing their profession, so why do we have this self-deprecating approach about what we do?

Let’s also acknowledge the fact that doing good HR involves doing things, that for some reason, HR says they don’t want to do anymore. I mean, we have become so fixated on “getting that seat at the table” and being “strategic” all in the name of being taken seriously as a profession. The problem being, all the “real” HR stuff that needs to get done we (as a profession) have been washing our hands from doing. So if we aren’t being good organizational custodians, who is? If we aren’t the voice of reason and good conscience for the companies we represent, than who is doing that? Bottom line, you may be working yourself out of a job!

At the end of the day we are in the people business, hence the term “human” resources. Yes, I get it that it is all about talent and talent management, but wrapped up in all of that is the people that we deal with day in and day out. We have created such a crisis of conscience for our profession it is maddening. I speak with and hear from so many HR Pros that question themselves day in and day out about their chosen profession and they wonder if they are doing “good HR.”

So, what exactly is it we should be focusing on then? Well, if you truly want to be known as a consummate HR professional that does “good” HR, than you are doing some (or all) of the following:

  • Anything that relates to the attraction of people to your organization
  • Anything that relates to the retention of the people you have attracted
  • Anything that gets people communicating and collaborating
  • Helping your employees work through organizational change
  • Making sure your organization conducts itself ethically
  • Ensuring that positive employee relations are maintained – i.e. organizational stewardship
  • Helping your managers become better leaders
  • Ensuring compliance with laws, regulations, etc. Not because you “have” to, but because it makes good business sense.

That’s it. Those are the broad categories. Now think about all that you do as an HR Pro. I bet 90% of it falls under one of those categories, if so, than you are doing “good HR.” You can probably stop doing the other 10%. Now, there is one caveat to all of this and that is, everything will ultimately come down to execution. This, in turn, ties into your internal HR brand. In other words, how well you communicate, get buy in, apply a business lens and sometimes even stand your ground, will define how well you execute in doing “good” HR. This is the difference in being the policy police vs. doing “good” HR.

So, as HR Pros, let’s all agree to start giving ourselves a break. Let’s lighten up on the internal HR bashing. Let’s focus on service delivery excellence and providing value to our customers (managers and employees.)   Make sure that what you are doing has a purpose – whether strategic or tactical. This is especially true for those of you in smaller (do it all) HR shops. Most of all, give yourselves, and each other, a break. As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of 89studio/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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