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This has got to STOP!

I realize I may be a bit late to the party on this one, but my thoughts and feelings about this issue have been percolating, brewing, festering, etc. for weeks now. I had been debating writing a post about the sordid history of Donald Trump and his many actual and alleged ‘interactions’ with women. In fact, I was planning on writing an entire post on Trump himself where I would dissect his leadership skills, and in particular, his track record when it comes to the issue of harassment. But then I decided, no, Trump isn’t the issue; this is much bigger than him (despite what he might think). This is a much larger societal issue as a whole.

trumpIn fact, this entire affair (pardon the pun) with Trump really caused me to reflect on my almost 20 year career in HR to see if perhaps I was as gripped in on the issue of (sexual) harassment as I should be. I decided that the answer to that is NO. I need to be better. We, as HR Pros need to be better. We as managers and leaders need to be better. Society needs to be better. Here is the thing, this is not something that should be laughed off, ignored, tolerated or put up with any capacity. Harassment IS a major issue in the workplace and in general. I have had many conversations with female colleagues and friends over this issue (especially in recent months) and it is SHOCKING what they have had to put up with in the workplace and in their careers. I am not going to write about the specifics that were shared, but suffice it to say, if I did, this would be an R-rated blog.

By the time (or even IF) something is brought forward as a “complaint”, there have probably been multiple instances of harassment that should have been reported, addressed etc.; so, by the time we as HR Pros are dealing with an issue, we better damn well take it seriously and address it properly! Here is what I have learned and what I think I know from my experience in dealing with workplace harassment and most importantly, from speaking with women I know who have had to deal with this issue:

  • (Sexual) Harassment is NEVER just locker room talk. There is no such thing. (Sexual) harassment is wrong, should never happen, and is NEVER done as a joke. It is about power and control – that much isn’t even up for debate.
  • It takes a ton of courage for a woman to bring forward a complaint about harassment. They have suffered in silence, dealing with the issue many, many times before they summoned the courage to log a formal complaint. They often debate and decide to not say anything as they fear the repercussions of bringing a harassment complaint forward are not worth it.
  • We need more from our profession, managers and leaders because ultimately, in terms of how workplaces are defined and how harassment is handled, comes down to a leadership issue.
  • As an HR Pro, I need to be better. I need to be better at understanding the extent, depth and pervasiveness of this issue. I need to be better at how I address it. Upon some serious self-reflection over the course of my career, I think I have been guilty of being too conservative on the consequences. As HR Pros, we (present company included) need to take a stronger stance and stop worrying so much about what the harasser ‘might’ do if the punishment is too strong (especially if that includes termination). Let’s start taking a stronger stance on this issue. In our roles, we have the power to do this. Let’s use this power to create better workplaces.

At the end of the day, I am going to commit to being more aware and more cognizant of this issue. I will be better. I will work harder to be better at what I do when it comes to addressing harassment. I will admit it – I am ignorant…but I am learning. Thank you Donald Trump for making me think more about this. (Can’t believe I just wrote that.) Now…who’s with me? As always I welcome your comments and feedback.

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Flickr.com

The Most Important Skill to have as a Leader

There are many articles, blog posts and debates out “there” that argue what the greatest skill is that you need to be an effective leader. I have read, heard and seen a variety of opinions on this over the years and truth be told, most of the information make great cases for the (combo of)skills that make up a great leader. Things like:

• Humble
• Calm under pressure
• Decisive
• Empathetic
• Balanced approach
• Even-tempered
• Direct
• Discreet
• Confident
• Ability to inspire others

The list goes on and on and can be endless as there is no debating that “positive” qualities and skills are associated with being a good leader. To me, and based on my experience, there is one skill that sets all great leaders apart. That skill is the ability to LISTEN. Far too many individuals in leadership roles spend too much time doing the opposite – talking and telling. When you really think about it, your ability to listen will truly Listeningmake you a great leader for many reasons as it ties into everything you do as a leader.

At its core, when you effectively listen, you are taking in information. This in turn allows you to make better decisions as you have more information at your disposal with which to make these decisions. Additionally, when you are listening, you are becoming in tune to the situation at hand and thus are able to be empathetic when dealing with your direct reports. You are also able to more effectively coach your staff and make them better at what they do when you are listening to them instead of telling them what to do.

By utilizing great listening skills and leveraging them as a strength, you are also able to more effectively engage your staff as you consider their ideas, thoughts and inputs – thus improving employee engagement and communication. In turn, you will also get a better feel for which of your staff have the necessary knowledge, skills and abilities to most effectively do their jobs, so in turn, you will be able to better performance management your entire team.

Effective listening also gives you credibility as an enabler of change, which is a core quality (and requirement) of a strong leader. Think about it – leaders who effectively listen to their people are the ones that are able to turn that information around and engage others in the change process. They are able to overcome the true obstacles in the way of progress and change and thus are able to engage all stakeholders in the change process, thus getting buy-in at all the critical stages.

The ability to listen allows true leaders to more effectively manage team conflict and improve group dynamics. By truly listening to what your team is telling you, and by focusing on the issues not the people themselves, you can provide true leadership to your teams through effective conflict resolution skills and thus achieve a more productive and cohesive work unit.

Strong listening skills will also make you more adept at performance management and in developing your employees. Strong listening skills means you are able to make a connection between employee development (desires) and organizational need(s), thus providing a win-win solution. If you are not listening, you essentially end up telling employees what they are going to do with their careers. This may be a short term win for the organization, but will ultimately be a loss when that employee leaves due to feeling stagnated in their role.

Finally, by displaying strong listening skills, you will instill confidence in your staff. Your staff want to know that they have a voice and have been heard. Good leaders, that are strong listeners, are able to balance when it is time to take this approach vs. when a decision simply has to be made. By being an active listener on a regular basis, employees are more accepting (and sometimes appreciative) when a leader simply has to make the tough decisions. You have established organizational “cred” through your previously displayed listening skills so employees won’t doubt that you made the best possible decisions when push comes to shove, while considering all the alternatives.

What about you? What do you feel is the most important skill for a leader? Does everything tie back to being a strong listener? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Ambro/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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