Thursday, December 22, 2011

Social Media and Management Skills

The oft-repeated comment that social media/networks are time wasters is one that needs to be dispelled with facts. When employees waste time it is not the tools such as social networks that are the culprit. It is a symptom of ineffective management. Employees have found a myriad of ways to waste time long before social networks, or emails, or the internet ever existed and they will continue to do so when they are not fully engaged, are not committed to the success of the organization, are not a good fit for the culture of the organization, do not have enough to challenge them in their work period, or have not established a solid work ethic. None of which requires a social media tool to create a problem, but all which does require good management and leadership skills to fix.

Internal social networks are used very effectively by several organizations to share information about products and services and projects; to share knowledge among co-workers that enhance customer service and enhance employee skills; to retain knowledge in the organization when employees move on; to improve overall communications especially in geographically diverse organizations. External social networks are used for marketing, resolving customer issues, sharing promotions/sales etc.; establishing a brand etc.

The thing about 'social' as a business or organizational tool is that it requires research and education to fully understand what it is and in what ways it can help or potentially harm an organization. I strongly recommend that people really do explore it carefully in order to understand it. The potential is amazing-and whether a business ignores it, bans it or embraces it-it will affect the sustainability, reputation and success of the business.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Dual Twelve Days of HR

As we are about to leave 2011 behind us I thought to write a few thoughts on HR and Leadership from the past which is a place I rarely go and then in a second post some thoughts for 2012 and perhaps beyond-we shall see how well I predict but it might depend on if there are any new app updates for my crystal ball.

The role of HR is often described in terms of functional responsibilities: recruiting, hiring, compensation, employee development, performance management etc. Yet most of what HR does involves problem solving for which there is no magic formula but can have far reaching implications if the solution doesn’t effectively resolve the problem. Some problems are straightforward and relatively easy to resolve, some types of problems are more complex and come with strong emotions. The first twelve days are just a small sampling of the problems that HR practitioners often encounter; the second twelve days are the ones that keep us going through the first twelve.

The Not So Great Twelve Days

1) employees experiencing domestic abuse
2) complaints of a manager, suppliers or customers harassing or bullying an employee
3) claims of discrimination over a missed promotion
4) employee to employee harassment, bullying, intimidation, physical assault
5) allegations of unethical conduct by senior level managers; allegations of unethical conduct by an employee from a customer or supplier
6) employees who discovered their great new ‘friend’ was a member of a violent and vengeful gang and did not know how to extricate themselves safely
7) sudden death of employees and/or employees who lose loved ones
8) drug, alcohol and gambling addictions
9) mental health concerns and catastrophic illnesses
10) employees under investigation by police for serious crimes
11) employees selling illegal drugs to co-workers and clients
12) employees using social media/networks that damages the reputation of the organization or another employee

The Happy Twelve Days of HR

1) that group of newly hired employees that hit the ground running-all hired after HR started using the newly designed recruiting and hiring program
2) the employees who took advantage of the employee development program to earn a degree or upgrade their skills and then earned a coveted new role
3) the co-workers who worked together to help a colleague with a serious illness get through it with huge support
4) the team who with a little push pulled together to create an excellent improvement project that reduced costs and improved safety
5) the employees that enthusiastically got behind a project to help improve their community
6) the employees that are great role models for the work ethic and desired culture also know as ‘leaders without titles’
7) the employees that seem to find new ways to make a great customer experience even better
8) the employees that bring ideas for problem solving or improvements whether it is in their job description or not
9) the managers that both intuitively and practically know how to build and maintain strong, creative and productive teams
10) the peer coaching and mentoring programs that increased knowledge retention and sharing by a significant percent
11) the managers who understand that HR is not the dumping ground for stuff they don’t want to deal with; are able to ask for and utilize coaching when needed
12) that HR contributes through leadership, commitment, continuous learning and resilience to all by what they do every single day

Monday, December 12, 2011

Linking Your Employee Experience to Customer Experience

Imagine your business just opened after months of planning, hiring and navigating regulatory requirements.

You oriented and trained your employees emphasizing that customer service is crucial to the success of your business.

You ran a social media campaign offering coupons to a specific number of people that followed you first. Just prior to opening day you sent out the coupons. Opening day arrives!

The First Two Weeks

The first two weeks of business provide a snapshot of what is working well and processes that may need some tweaking so you are busy observing and managing concerns as they arise.

The social media coupon program is paying off. Those followers you sent coupons to are bringing them in for their first experience of your new business. You budgeted for a specific number of coupons and have a list of people you sent them to so the employees can check them off as they are redeemed.

Glitches Happen

There is a glitch with the coupon, some of them are printing off without the identifying number required for redemption. This isn’t the customer’s fault but they are being told they cannot use the coupon without that number. The employee is standing firm-no number, no redemption. Your new business stands to lose a lot of customers over this issue, as it is hardly a welcome experience for the customers who made the trip to try it out. The customers with those coupons came via a social network and they likely will share their experience via social networks. There was another way of verifying that the coupon was valid but the employee was not aware of that.

What Does Human Resources Have To Do With This?

As the business owner you decide what level of autonomy employees will have, and what information to communicate and how often to do so. You determine training needs and the goals and objectives of employees and review and critique their performance. All of these decisions impact the way an employee will perform on the job, whether you are there supervising or out of sight managing other areas of your business. All of these actions are part of the human resources system within your business.

The Customer Experience

The processes and policies that you develop to manage the employee experience help establish the culture of the business. There is a direct link between the culture that is developed within your business and how successfully it reflects the brand you present externally. Is the overall experience of your employees a mirror of the experience you advocate for your customers? Are your processes, procedures and policies organized in such a way that they enable employees to conduct their responsibilities so that they provide the desired customer experience?


• Establish and communicate the values for your business. Do this using different methods and content and repeat the message often enough that it becomes embedded in the culture and is part of the voice of your employees. A few examples are face-to-face meetings, email messages, and tags on pay statements.

• Discuss the desired culture with employees, solicit their ideas, and focus on the specifics as to how that culture will show up in action.

• Communicate and make decisions based on the values that drive the culture and do so consistently.

• Provide training and support so that your employees feel confident when carrying out the responsibilities of their job.

• Set up multiple communication channels so that employees are able to let you and their co-workers know what affects their ability to do their job well and what kind of experience they observe your customers having.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Conversations At Work

What kind of conversations do you have at work? I was prompted to think about this a lot over the past few weeks by hearing some perspectives from people I have worked with that surprised me somewhat.

When we work closely with people over an extended period of time we often do so in ways that are focused on the technical details of our work, resolving a problem, or how to reduce potential problems with perhaps a little personal chitchat to balance out our days. But how often do we take the time to tell our colleagues how we see their contribution to our work experience beyond the efficient but not particularly informative “good job”, “thank-you”, “well done” etc.?

When was the last time you told a co-worker in specific terms what their contribution meant to your work experience? Have you ever received a recommendation from someone you worked with that surprised you because it included references to work that in your view was just “doing my job” but discovered that the people you worked with saw it as a significant and positive contribution to the effectiveness of the workplace?

How would having such specific conversations on a regular basis with our colleagues affect our motivation, our stress levels, and our ability to be clear on what is working well?

What do you think? What happens in your workplace? When was the last time you told a colleague in specific terms how their contribution made a difference?

Monday, November 07, 2011

Employees Bring Talent

I read a lot of business articles and books, many of them focussed on human resources, organizational behaviour and social networks. One thing that shows up a lot is the references to the low levels of engagement among employees in contrast the the belief that a higher level of engagement is required for companies to have long-term sustainability.

One thing that comes to mind when reading these sources of information is the disconnect between the terminology that is being used and the way people feel about that terminology yet there is little discussion on this topic. Perhaps there is a fear of being too 'politically correct' or of being seen as not focussing on the real issue. Perhaps the terminology is part of the real issue, so I thought I would share some thoughts and see what you think.

Terms that are frequently used in articles, blogs and discussion groups when the topic is human resources are referring to people as assets or talent; and today I saw an article that referred to employees as weapons. When I listen to people discussing how they feel about this use of terminology in reference to employees they most often state that they feel like they are not considered as a whole person but as a thing, not much different than the equipment or building their employer purchases.

People are not assets or talent or weapons. They are human beings who exchange the use of their competencies, skills and abilities for a financial renumeration. A business does not own people, they lease their abilities.

If organizations believe that the people that work for them provide the value that is needed to sustain their business perhaps they might consider that disengagement can start with the way we communicate and can be resolved with the way we communicate.

What do you think? Do you feel the same way about being called assets, talent or weapons as the people I am hearing from?

Friday, November 04, 2011

A Small Organization Awakening

I was having a conversation with a friend recently in which we put forth our perspectives as to whether organizational life has really changed much over the past three decades. Certainly we are easily able to read about the "rapid pace of change"-I have been known to write about it and it helped shape the way my book Change, Resilience and Organizations turned out. (

Even though there have been many changes in the way the world operates largely created by globalization and technology advances, human expression has not really changed that much. We may use email, text message and social networks to communicate more often than we use the phone, save our documents 'in the cloud', interact at work with a much more diverse work team both locally and globally than ever before, but the behaviours we exhibit are only marginally different. Which means that the good, the bad and the ugly aspects of organizational life still occur and those tasked with managing people in organizations are dealing with the same plusses and minuses that occured 20-30 years ago, perhaps at a more public and rapid rate.

When I was researching for my book A Social Media Primer: For People In Organizations, the pace of change was mind boggling as during that 18 month period social media/social networking changed dramatically. But it is important to remember that such changes are adopted by people in a range from early adopters to not there yet but all those people are still managing. It is a good reminder that social media/networks are tools and they in and of themselves don't do anything, it is the people using them that create what happens. (

I am more apt to look at what is going to happen in the future than on history, but if we consider history and systems thinking in a big picture view of organizational life we will recognize that we have been *there* before. This can be a calming perspective when change feels like too much, too soon-we have been here before and we managed and we will do so again. I tend to be an early adopter possibly because of my intense curiosity for things that are new but I often go to my friends that are late to adopt for a good dose of perspective, reality and reminders. They have their own brand of wisdom to share and it helps me stay balanced in my approach which makes a difference when you work with diverse people.

So, what is your biggest concerns about organizational life these days? What problem are you trying to solve? What helps?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Why Does Your Small Business Need HR?

One of the reasons I advocate for small businesses to start to build their HR infrastructure early in the start up phase is because it will help save time and money over the long term. Putting aside for now the practical aspects of being within compliance of employment laws we need to consider the culture we envision for our business and to understand the internal and external factors that will affect that culture as the business grows.

In my first discussion with a business owner to determine what the HR needs of their business is I ask that they answer a short series of questions that provide a good picture of their business today and their plans for the future. Answering these questions is helpful to me in understanding the goals for the business but it also provides the owner with another opportunity to review the overall system and strategies from a fresh perspective.

Understandably the focus of most small business owners is attracting and engaging a paying client base but attracting and engaging employees is equally as important as your business grows. Having an agile, well thought out and straightforward HR infrastructure is essential to ensuring that your customers have the kind of experience that will bring them back and prompt them to refer your business to their contacts.

Having the money available to properly manage your HR considerations is a very real concern when a business is in a growth phase, perhaps more so in businesses that have significant cash outlays for premises, inventory and equipment. This is just one reason why an agile, module based infrastructure is ideal and it will allow you to implement only the aspects you need and add additional elements as the business grows and more employment related demands are required.

If you determine what values that you want the culture in your business to reflect and build your HR infrastructure around those values you will have a better shot at developing and maintaining the core cultural aspects that are the most important to you as a business owner. Trying to fix a culture that has gone off track is an expensive and time consuming prospect and can easily derail your focus on other aspects of the business.

Many companies include values such as integrity, honesty, and hard working in their core values, all good values. However, as the leadership figure in your business you need to define precisely what those values look like ‘on the job’ to your employees and customers. This is an oft overlooked but vitally important approach to take when building your business. It helps in the hiring process, as you are clear on the necessary skills and approaches to work you are looking for in the candidates you recruit. Retaining employees requires in part, maintaining the values based culture that you presented to candidates during the hiring process. And ensuring that employees present the customer experience you have determined for your business means a common understanding of what those values look like on the ground.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Disqus Removed

I noticed that since I added Disqus for comments that no one comments on the blog itself anymore. I do receive quite a few emails and some comments on LinkedIn but nothing here. So as an experiment to see if it was having to register for Disqus that stopped people from commenting directly I have removed it.

Let me know what you think.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Boxes and Labels-Occupy?

My original plan was to write something about the Occupy protests mostly because so many articles, tweets, videos and photographs showed up in my reading over the weekend. But then I watched this video that Bruce Mol sent out via Twitter today and I shifted a little.

Occupy is still in my mind but rather than pretend I understand it any better than anyone else does I am going to focus on an aspect that has received little attention so far. Do we really want things to change, or have any realistic sense of what that change will look like and more importantly who precisely is “we”?

Occupy: has done exactly what happens all too often-the people who are driving it have slotted us all into two opposing camps-according to their statement you are either in the 1% or the 99%, dividing us along an arbitrary financial line. There are close to seven billion humans on earth and the way we relate to or identify with money is far more diverse than this simple concept of 1% vs. 99% suggests.

Is the growing income gap problematic? Focusing on a ‘gap’ is a simplistic way of looking at a complex situation. It isn’t the gap that is the problem.

It is the level of difficulty in having sufficient housing, food, education and health care for everyone that is becoming problematic.

It is significant that advances in technology mean we can extend and improve the well being of people beyond anything imagined when medicine meant that you visited a general practitioner or what is known today as an “alternative” health care provider. It is significant that all of this technology costs large sums of money as does the education and training of the practitioners that know how to use it.

It is significant that advances in technology mean we can share and learn from a far more diverse population than ever imagined when the current education system was devised.

It is significant that in light of all of this wonderful technology our education system does not teach systems thinking early on, indeed that it is rarely taught at all anywhere in the education system.

It is irrelevant if a small proportion of people have large sums of money.

It is relevant that the governments of the world gather many billions of dollars yet constantly claim that there isn’t enough to meet the needs of the constituents the money comes from. It is relevant that these governments can create and manipulate money and thus manipulate the population of their countries (and other countries if we consider the IMF). It is significant that we are so focused on money as the problem when it is our relationship to money that is the problem.

It is relevant that at some point over the last 30 years we began to demand more and more services from government bodies while taking less and less responsibility for enacting change or taking action ourselves.

It is relevant that in wealthy western nations a significant percentage of the population do not exercise their right to vote.

It is significant that rather than collaborate, to work together to build the society we claim to want that instead we put people in a box and then apply a label to that box.

It is significant that we go into defensive mode, protecting what we are familiar with while warding off with angry words a different perspective if it threatens that comfort of familiarity.

It is significant that there are people, many people, enacting change, taking action-they do not hold the 1% responsible, they simply figure out what they can do and off they go.

And there are people who at some point in their life, need you to take action, to figure out what you can contribute and to act, and it is important to know the difference between need and want.

I am intrigued by the people participating in the Occupy protests and the people who are opposed to them and the people who are sitting on the careful side of the political fence. All circling about looking for that opportunity, that advantage, that understanding. And it isn’t as simple as 1% vs. 99%-not even close.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vision Is Where It Starts

I do respect what Steve Jobs accomplished, especially in that it went beyond producing things in exchange for dollars. He didn't just mass produce stuff that got the job done "good enough" but that offered one the opportunity to get the job done in ways they may not have thought of.

It is called vision.

Every really great invention or advance in the world started with someone, somewhere having a vision. Mr. Jobs' "ding in the universe" is not the rather elegant Mac I am writing this on, it is that because of the way it works and the way it works with other devices and allows me to work collaboratively with people that are not even in the same geographical location-that is the ding. Not the device, but the opportunities the device opens up to me. Sure, I could also do this on my old PC, but not as much, as easily and as well as I can on this device.

My respect for the accomplishments of Mr. Jobs isn't really all that emotional. It is respect for staying on course to see his vision grow, to be able to recognize the talent that others had to make his vision possible, to withstand the slings and arrows that inevitably come with enacting any really big vision and for being human and having flaws. So, well done Mr. Jobs, you did make a ding in the universe but you always acknowledged that you did so because you had people with great talent working with you to make it happen. And that matters.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Ads Are Removed-A Change

I experimented with AdSense on my blog over the past several months and decided it wasn't contributing anything to my blog, my finances or my sense of what I intend to achieve with my posts. So, today the ads are removed and I think it just looks better overall. And since the ads were not chosen by me some (the dating one) didn't make sense to any of the content, and some were for businesses that I don't necessarily want to promote.

What do you think?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Social Behaviours and Brand Identification-My Intrigue Today

(1) A Social Network company’s email error

This morning an email from A Social Network Company’s landed in my email box. The salutation was odd *|FNAME|* *|LNAME|* , clearly there was a glitch in the mail out that substituted that where the recipients first and last names would usually go. Subsequent to that I noted on Twitter that a number of people directed tweets to A Social Network Company’s’ to complain about receiving this. A couple of thoughts came to mind when I saw those messages:

(a) When we receive messages from an email newsletter or promotion and our name is in the message, it ‘feels’ personal but it isn’t really, thousands of people received that same email with their name in it. It is simply technology taking the information you provided when you signed on and ‘personalizing’ the message. To my mind, real personalization comes from an individual sitting down and thoughtfully crafting a message to me. A mass mail out isn’t personal, whether my name is in there or not. Yet the wording of some of the tweets gave the impression that people actually felt slighted because this time there was an error where their name should have been. Have we gone too far in blurring the lines between what is truly personal and what is simply mass marketing? Do we identify too closely to a brand or a business?

(b) A Social Network Company’s’ employee responded to the messages noting it was a “wee” error, which essentially it was. However, as someone who has worked in HR for decades I do know that people are sensitive to how and when their names are used. A misspelling or worse a wrong name being used in a written or verbal message will understandably upset people. So while the error A Social Network Company’s’ made was in the big picture, really quite minor, it unfortunately targeted the one thing in that message that was bound to create some frowns.

(c) What do you think: did A Social Network Company’s’ get it right by referring to it as a small error and providing a simple apology?

(d) A few people that sent tweets crossed the line into rudeness or overstated the issue in their messages-is this something you would like to see less of in Social Networks?

(2) Apple announced a new product today. Usually, for the two weeks prior to an Apple announcement the rumours start flying around the tech sites, yet we know that Apple never reveals what they are about to announce until they are ready. Perhaps some writers enjoy the guessing game.

What I find more interesting than whatever it is that Apple (or any company) is announcing as a new product or service is the reactions of people on Social Networks and in subsequent face-to-face conversations. The commentary around Apple vs. their closest competitors is interesting not so much based on the technical points discussed but on the level and type of emotion that is expressed. It used to be that we chose what products or services we bought based on what we needed and what we thought provided the best quality we could afford.

(a) Now, it appears that there is a fair bit of emotion that goes into these purchases although often people seem unable to really explain that emotion in a way that is identifiable. I find it relatively easy to understand someone stating that they don’t purchase products from a specific business because there is proof that the business is having products manufactured in factories that engage in abusive and dangerous employment practices.

(b) It intrigues me when someone states they will not buy a product, not based on the quality of the product, the price of the product or egregious business/employment practices but because someone irritated you by an overenthusiastic rave about why they like their (insert product), or you have a negative concept of who buys (insert product) and don’t wish to be seen as part of that group of people, or because ‘cool’ people buy (insert product).

Which brings me back to my question in (1) (a) Do we identify too closely to a brand or a business? What does this mean to our individuality, our ability to innovate and create and our sense of self? I have used Apple as an example here simply because they so conveniently made an announcement today and the social networks comments that followed were pretty much in line with what we see each time, however, this applies to many different brands and industries.

I have posed a couple question here that intrigue me but I am really curious as to how people feel about the level of brand promotion and our approach to choosing what and where to purchase necessary items. What do you think?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Values Based Business

Does it help build sustainable business or is it another bit of fluff? I believe it contributes to building sustainability.

One story often heard when people are discussing their challenges at work is that the managers they report to or work with are not consistent in the way they make decisions and in the way they require employees to approach their work.

These three situations are drawn from experience in three different organizations. (These scenarios are also included in a previous post about Learning from Leadership

(1) A senior level manager makes a decision that affects the way many people conduct their day to day tasks but refuses to discuss the change before implementing it; aside from alienating those involved there was a financial cost to making needed adjustments that would have been accounted for had he taken the time to consult with those affected first. This behaviour was typical of this manager and created similar issues over a number of years.

(2) A mid-level manager repeatedly makes “jokes” about various people in the organization and when advised that these “jokes” were inappropriate and disrespectful, responded that it wasn’t his fault people didn’t have a sense of humour.

(3) Two members of a management team accuse an employee of theft in a management meeting; when questioned by the other team members as to precisely what happened and what proof was evident the accusation fell apart; it became clear after a very long discussion that the two managers had contrived it out of thin air. They had started out demanding that the employee be fired but ended up admitting that there was no evidence any theft had occurred.

In each of the organizations two of the core values included “respect for people” and “integrity” yet members of the management team in each organization exhibited behaviour contrary to those values. There were trust issues between management and employees resulting in productivity, employee retention and quality issues.

Organizations that talk about the core values to candidates and again to new employees in the orientation process, include them on their website and in their annual reports but have managers behaving outside those core values will have a problem with trust and respect in their organization.

Values based business helps to develop and maintain an agile culture that is resilient. Change comes from many sources but no matter what or where change comes from having established core values aids effective decision-making. When all the managers in the organization make decisions based on established core values it helps to reinforce employees trust.

Do you make management and business decisions based on established core values for your organization? Have you ever made a decision that did not meet the core values and regret it? What happened? Have you worked for an organization where you experienced this type of discrepancy? What was it like to work there?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ten Reasons HR Seems To Have An Image Problem

My response to Susan Popoolas' post about the image problem HR has is below the link. And yes, you can probably think of more reasons but most of them are covered broadly in these ten reasons.

The post can be found at this link:

There are a few points in which HR continues to maintain an image problem.

(1) Many employees only come into contact with HR during difficult situations-while unemployed, experiencing disciplinary problems, being fired or laid off, undergoing unhappy life changes etc.- sometimes HR can help and sometimes they have a role to play that won't feel like help to an employee. As in any profession, some practitioners have good interpersonal skills that allow them to do their jobs without angering or frustrating the employee further, and sometimes they don't. People are much more likely to speak out about the bad experiences they have than they are the good experiences.

(2) Because HR is often understaffed they tend to take shortcuts that look like efficiencies to them but come across as uncaring to others. And those people are experiencing difficult situations-so they are at an increased sensitivity to anyone perceived as contributing to that difficulty. For example-job seekers complain that HR never acknowledges applications and they also complain when they receive an automated acknowledgement that their application was received. They want a personal interaction and are unwilling to concede that the HR person may not be able to comply.

(3) HR professionals don't operate in a consistent fashion, so when people are interacting with them, it is quite literally a guessing game as to what all the *right* things to do are. Even seemingly simple things-like what to wear to an interview gets a rather diverse set of opinions that the poor applicant doesn't know who to believe.

(4) HR professionals make hiring screen out decisions that are often perceived as ridiculous (because they mostly are) as part of the "I have to eliminate people because we get so many applications" excuse. It is little wonder that people see HR as unable to understand the business or the jobs they are screening for when they eliminate people based on personal bias.

(5) HR professionals need to have respect for diversity and seeks ways to gain a global outlook-too many fail to do so.

(6) HR professionals should be required to have both education and work experience in fields outside of HR at some (or several) stages of their career. Some do and some don't.

(7) HR professionals work with humans for the most part. Humans are diverse, unpredictable, predictable, puzzling, amazing, awe inspiring, smart, silly, have good days, bad days and mediocre days. Including the humans that are HR professionals. But we deal with humans in difficult situations and they remember when we don't meet their specific needs in the way they want at the time- and say so to anyone who will listen. You need a teflon exterior to work in this field for any length of time.

(8) HR professionals need to be the best at collaboration and change resilience-but they don't tell you that in school and for the most part it requires learning from on the job experience and seeking knowledge and resources consistently.

(9) HR professionals are perceived to have either great power over ones career or no power at all. Take your pick because the perception is situational.

(10) HR professionals would benefit from remembering that regardless of how overwhelmed they are by their workload, no matter how many people have yelled, insulted, swore, threw things at you, threatened you, cried, blamed, done something perverted or disgusting to a colleague, that your role is to remain neutral and objective in the way in which you handle those situations and every other situation. That doesn't mean you have to take abuse-you absolutely must never let that continue. It does mean the decisions you make or the advice you give has to be objective, wear that teflon shield while decision making. You can vent privately, later.

It isn't easy. You will never get everything just right every time. Every successful leader will tell you the same thing.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Sustainability Factor for HR/OD

When Steve Jobs announced he was stepping down from his position as CEO of Apple on August 24, 2011 the articles, comments, blogs and tweets began immediately and will likely continue for some time. In The Harvard Business Review (August 25, 2011,Joshua Gans wrote about whether or not buying Apple stock was a good idea. I did want to link to the article but it appears that the link is no longer available. However, I believe the quote below includes enough context.

While the article focused on the stock, Gans makes a key point that all human resources and organizational development professionals should take note of and ask if they are making a contribution to sustainability in their organizations.

“First, there is every reason to expect that Jobs second tenure at least in part has focused on baking innovation into the organization. A couple of months ago, Adam Lashinsky in a Fortune magazine article (sadly, only available behind a paywall, but it will be the best 99 cent purchase ever on your Kindle) described the cultural transformation inside Apple. The last 15 years have been all about establishing an internal culture for innovation and a set of norms of behavior and expectations. While the culture came from the drive of Steve Jobs, it is a reasonable expectation that he infused it into the organization itself.”

The concept of “baking innovation”, “establishing an internal culture for innovation and a set of norms of behavior and expectations” is generally considered to be a top down responsibility. Yet human resources and organizational development professionals are in a powerful position to ensure that the organization achieves these goals. It is a concept that must be imbedded in each and every program, policy, system and task that you do or drive in your role. The sustainability of companies lies with the ability of the people who work for them to create and innovate, with flexibility and agility and to measure the performance of employees based on their ability to make their contributions with those factors in play.

The ability to create, innovate, have flexible systems and agility is critical to the long-term success of companies in technology, education and health care industries right now. In the near future this will become a factor for those organizations that are operating in low-tech fields.

When you look at the core competencies for your organization, do they include creativity, innovation, flexibility and agility? If so, how well are they integrated into the organization? Does your attraction, retention and development system reliably “bake” those competencies into the culture? Does the culture in your organization embrace these competencies? If so, how do you know?

Monday, August 22, 2011

My New Book Is Now Available-A Social Media Primer

The intent of this book is to avoid the hype and conflicting information surrounding the use of social media in organizations and to point you to resources that have been researched and provide the most reliable information. The content of this book avoids promoting or pushing any specific tool, as all social media technology tools are evolving and frequently updating with new features. What is right for one organization is not necessarily right for your organization.

This book is a starting point for general management, human resources, and organizational development teams that have not yet embraced or fully incorporated social technology tools into the organization.

What you will find in this book:

-Back-to-basics discussions about what "social" means in the context of organizations and what you should consider before adopting social technology into an organization.

-References to resources that provide charts, graphs, statistics, case studies, and information on how to use the tools, as well as the books that my research has shown provide practical and reliable information.

What you won't find in this book:

-Charts, graphs, and statistics.

-Case studies.

-Details on how to use social media tools.

This book: A Social Media Primer: The Starter Guide for People In Organizations is now available for $9.99 at:

The book will also be available at Amazon later this week and through several other eBook retailers over the next 4 weeks.

My venture into writing about Social Media started in early 2010 and after many twists and turns and learning adventures is finally ready for purchase-one year later than my original plan, so it really does feel like a long term project!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

toonlet: Small Business Needs HR?

toonlet: Small Business Needs HR?

Small Business & HR-Proactive Is The Way To Go!

Starting and growing your business is time consuming and there are so many different administrative details to manage. As your business grows such details become more burdensome and at some point you will need to start hiring staff or outsourcing to agencies to help with those tasks. Too often the human resources and organizational development aspects of the business are left until ‘later’ because they are not causing any apparent problems at the moment.

Leaving human resources issues until later will ultimately cost the organization more money and use far more of your time than would be the case if you set up a straightforward infrastructure to manage human resources issues proactively.

HR Concise provides a package (Proactive Basics) that covers the legal requirements (what you must do by law) and includes some ‘very good ideas’ that may not be legal requirements currently but can mitigate problems down the road.
Many small business owners are reluctant to bring in policies or practices that feel bureaucratic and may feel counter-intuitive to the culture you wish to develop for your business. However, the legal requirements are not optional and ensuring that you have at least those minimum policies in place will ensure that you do not derail your focus on growing your business dealing with fines, lawsuits or workplace shutdowns.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Consumer Power via Social Media

Since the growth of social media tools available to post or discuss anything has been so prolific over the past few years a number of topics have become common. One of those is the use of social media tools to promote, praise or express dissatisfaction with a company or organization that we have interacted with. It is true that using social media to ‘engage’ with customers or donors was one of the original uses of many of the tools and managers in organizations are encouraged to respond to both negative and positive postings.

Have we as individuals become too quick to angrily react by posting very negative comments about an organization immediately after an interaction that did not go well? Is there a better way to resolve problems with organizations? Is it always the better choice to jump to the ‘viral’ process when attempting to resolve a problem when some other way may be more beneficial? And are we always being fair to the organization and the people who work there?

When we deal with any organization at some point in time we are likely to encounter a glitch. Organizations are made up of humans and we all make mistakes, handle things badly sometimes and take a bad day out on someone who doesn’t deserve it. So why are we so quick to slay the reputation of an entire organization based on one bad interaction? How would you feel if that was a company you worked for and either you or a co-worker had messed up?

At what point do you decide to go to your social networks to complain about a bad customer (or donor) experience? How many attempts to resolve a problem or bad experience with an organization do you make before going public with your issue?

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

One Size Does Not Fit All

Actively participating in online forums as well as reading several blogs and 'authoritative' articles on various HR topics has reinforced my long-held opinion that much of HR is really an "it depends" kind of profession. When I have worked amidst large scale change efforts, conducted research and also written about change in organizations I find myself repeating the "one size does not fit all" comment frequently.

Often when various professionals jump into online discussions with their belief on a given topic you will see responses that are distinct from one person to the next. Some try to validate their belief with their reasoning as to why they act on those perceptions but often those reasons are the outcome of ones personal mental models and likely will not hold up under scrutiny.

Humans are an interesting species and HR professionals are no exception, the reality is when you are seeking a professional opinion on an HR related topic it is wise to read as many different opinions as you can find. Then check out the organization you are hoping to work for (or are working for if it is an internal matter) and see which of those opinions actually are in play at that organization. Because it depends and Rule Number 2 still applies.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Next Shift In Blog Direction

My post on the Netflix HR job posting yesterday is the last time I will post on this topic. I thought I was finished with that several months ago but several things I have read recently prompted me to put up my thoughts just one more time. Done, that feels great because I am at an end point with seeing exactly the same issue arise every year for at least the last 12 years. Either HR changes radically and quickly or it will become something else altogether and I am not talking about a name change.

I will still talk about HR stuff though, when someone asks me a question I will respond, when I encounter a situation that someone asks for help in resolving, I will respond; I just won't post about HR as a profession needing to change anymore. It has been said too much already.

Here is a question I was asked a couple of weeks ago and the topic has come up a few more times since then: Do you think companies in Canada are practising ageism? The first person who asked me felt that she had been turned down for at least 2 jobs she had interviews for based on her perceived age once she arrived at the interview.

Yes,human beings that do hiring as part of their role in companies are practising ageism; not all of them but more than you might think given our Human Rights Act. It isn't hard to 'get away with it' either. So, is there a solution to this? The simple answer is yes: stop it, just stop it. Unfortunately the solution needs a solution, because people do this based on ill-advised beliefs and often are so convinced of just how accurate or relevant those beliefs are that there is nothing you can say to change their minds. Which leads to the next solution, conduct research on companies you are interested in working for and find out if they practice ageism (or any ism for that matter); if they do not, then apply there. If they do, they don't deserve your awesome contribution, they just don't.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Is It Too Late for HR? Maybe Not

It is time to speak up and share what you are doing if you are one of the HR people that are reflected in the 'want' list rather than the 'don't want' list.

I read a job posting for a management position in human resources with Netflix recently, this is the text of the posting:

“We are looking for a very Senior HR Business Partner at Netflix. This role will report to our Chief Talent Officer and will be an essential part of our success as we expand globally.

What we are looking for:

Someone who thinks business first, customer second, team and talent third. Someone with a profound understanding, respect and admiration for the craft of engineering and analytics. This person must be extraordinarily candid and possess demonstrable common sense. They will have read the Netflix culture deck and been drawn to the concepts. They will ponder and be able to discuss how they might put those concepts into action from an HR perspective (and consider what traditional HR practices may not apply).

The position(s) support several Technical Vice Presidents and their respective teams. The focus of the job is to define, coordinate and manage the talent in those teams to efficiently affect the business and customer goals. Leading, demonstrating, redefining and modeling the Netflix culture is job one. In addition there will be plenty of hiring, firing, coaching and organizational alignment work.

Candidates will likely have had experience in a large, global company as well some start up experience. Must have influenced management at the VP/C level.

What we are not looking for:

A Change Agent, an OD Practitioner, a SHRM Certificate, a People Person, a policy or guideline writer.”

The list of what they are looking for is important to Netflix, but the list of what they are NOT looking for is important to human resources practitioners. This will increasingly become a familiar list of wants and don’t wants in positions for human resources practitioners. Several people tweeted out comments regarding this posting in which they clarified that “they” meet the above criteria and some reiterated the old “HR doesn’t get it” theme.

Then a few days later I read a blog posting by Lance Haun who blogs about human resources in which he discusses why you should rethink your career if you want to get into HR because you are a people person. The comments below this post are somewhat amusing as several people jump in to say that “they” of course are both people persons as well as business focused people; or ensuring that all readers know that this blog doesn’t apply to them, without actually adding anything helpful to the discussion. And no discussion about HR can escape the inclusion of at least some of the assertions that: HR people are bullies, siloed, not business oriented, bureaucratic and more and this commentary is no exception. Okay, that last sentence while accurate is not one that I agree with, as in any profession there are people that will display all of those characteristics, and your encounter with one or two like that are not indicative of everyone in that professional group.

Yes, I have been known to post about human resources practitioners needing to step it up and make the necessary changes to start providing the type of service that the businesses require and that the profession is simply too slow to change. What I think now is that the executives have decided they are tired of waiting for human resources to make the changes and so they are going to make the changes. They are going to start hiring people that can do what needs to be done and it is quite possible that many practitioners will find themselves left out of the playpen.

So, what are human resources practitioners going to do? Some are going to find they are working with career coaches to determine what career is best for them; maybe a lot of practitioners will be doing this. Others are going to continue doing the ‘right’ thing because they already are and some are going to find they are increasingly feeling like they are being pushed out. Just like everyone in any profession that doesn’t adopt a continuous learning + application of learning perspective and that doesn’t adapt their current thinking to what they really need to do. Oh, and by the way, if you are in HR you really, really need to start bouncing ideas around and looking for resource materials outside the HR realm-that is where your clients are and you can’t provide what they need unless you know what they need and how it will work best in their business.

So, don’t put your hand up and say “not me, not me” but do share your most brilliant ideas that demonstrate how you, in your HR practice are making the kind of difference in your organization that companies like Netflix are demanding. In other words, share your leadership.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

HR & The Seat At The Table Conundrum

I just really wanted to use the word 'conundrum' in a post although the whole HR identity crises is a conundrum. On the one hand articles stating that HR wants "a seat at the table" (translation: they want to be seated at the boardroom table with the "C" executives) have been popping up pretty consistently over the past dozen years; on the other hand employees and employees that are managers often comment that HR spends too much time in their seats and not enough "out there"-taking in what is happening operationally.

It is true that the profession is changing albeit slowly but the question is: Is HR on the right path? Is the profession chasing after the right goals?

Consider that a couple of recent articles based on surveys (Price Waterhouse Coopers) of CEO's indicate that while said CEO's are clear about what they want from HR-that HR still isn't getting it and thus still are not providing the deliverables. So where exactly is the disconnect between the CEO's and HR coming from? How is it that two roles that require "excellent or strong" communication skills can't seem to get the service wanted/provided discussion on track?

What needs to happen to get Human Resources professionals and Chief Executive Officers talking with each other? The fact that this same disconnect has been going on for so long leaves the question open as to why the CEO's aren't demanding that HR deliver or take action to ensure they are getting what they claim to need for the future of the business. What do you think? What are you doing in your organization to meet the needs of the business going forward?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Do Lists Make Life Simpler?

I used to work with someone who, when asked what his plans for the weekend were would respond with a list-yes- every minute of his weekend was planned out and each item was listed in the order it was to be accomplished, including the fun stuff. Even though I have met many more people that like lists I think he might be the most dedicated yet.

A business manager I once worked with was known as the ‘checklist’ manager; as long as each item on his list was checked off he considered the project successful, whether or not it really was. The checklist prevailed.

I have made the odd list now and again although they usually end up in the recycling bin long before any of the items get checked off-the lack of spontaneity in lists doesn’t fit too well with my personality. Yet, I have never missed a deadline in my life-ever; and I don’t forget to do things no matter how much stuff is floating around in my non-list brain. I have a feeling that Terry Small ( could provide some insight to why that is but for me just knowing it works is good enough. I will make lists for other people if they let me know that is what they need from me, other than that my lists tend to be incomplete and rarely revisited.

As some of you know I have been doing volunteer work only for the past few years but have now decided that I miss getting paid (more than I thought I would) and have decided to get back into consulting on a fee/project basis. When I first came to this conclusion back in January there was the question of what, when, how, who; but the only ideas that were coming up were met with a strong resistance that I could not identify. So, off I went in search of answers, talking to trusted friends, reading whatever I could get my hands on etc. And you know what I kept encountering? Lists- yes, lists of what I should do to figure things out and some of those lists emphatically stated that I needed to make lists. No wonder it has taken me six months to figure it all out. But it is figured out and not a list in sight.

So, what works for you? Do you use lists to guide you through life or does spontaneity work better for you?

Do Lists Make Life Simpler?

I used to work with someone who, when asked what his plans for the weekend were would respond with a list-yes- every minute of his weekend was planned out and each item was listed in the order it was to be accomplished, including the fun stuff. Even though I have met many more people that like lists I think he might be the most dedicated yet.

A business manager I once worked with was known as the ‘checklist’ manager; as long as each item on his list was checked off he considered the project successful, whether or not it really was. The checklist prevailed.

I have made the odd list now and again although they usually end up in the recycling bin long before any of the items get checked off-the lack of spontaneity in lists doesn’t fit too well with my personality. Yet, I have never missed a deadline in my life-ever; and I don’t forget to do things no matter how much stuff is floating around in my non-list brain. I have a feeling that Terry Small ( could provide some insight to why that is but for me just knowing it works is good enough. I will make lists for other people if they let me know that is what they need from me, other than that my lists tend to be incomplete and rarely revisited.

As some of you know I have been doing volunteer work only for the past few years but have now decided that I miss getting paid (more than I thought I would) and have decided to get back into consulting on a fee/project basis. When I first came to this conclusion back in January there was the question of what, when, how, who; but the only ideas that were coming up were met with a strong resistance that I could not identify. So, off I went in search of answers, talking to trusted friends, reading whatever I could get my hands on etc. And you know what I kept encountering? Lists- yes, lists of what I should do to figure things out and some of those lists emphatically stated that I needed to make lists. No wonder it has taken me six months to figure it all out. But it is figured out and not a list in sight.

So, what works for you? Do you use lists to guide you through life or does spontaneity work better for you?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pondering Social Gaffes-A New Perspective?

There has been quite an upsurge in social media/networking related gaffes lately (isn't gaffes a good word for this as it is defined as a "social blunder"?) and mixed into this is the debate about the online 'outing' of people involved in the riot in Vancouver two weeks ago.

What strikes me about so much of the commentary is that 'social media/networks' are commonly named as the culprits in whatever problem is at hand. Social media/network tools are just that-tools, any gaffes that occur while using those tools are created by the user.

Social media/networking tools can be used in a positive or negative manner-the choice and the responsibility for which way it goes is up to the user. This is why it is a good idea for parents to teach responsible use of social media to their children and provide ongoing coaching; it is also a good idea for managers in organizations to ensure that there is an effective social media policy and that employees are trained, coached and reminded as to appropriate use of the tools. Yes, it is the individuals responsibility but this is still a fairly new tool which is now experiencing rapid growth and change.

The 'how to' of using the tools is a technical training need; the 'what' of the content that one posts falls into the realm of interpersonal skills, reputation management and personal responsibility and accountability. The technical training is relatively easy, the personal development skills are a little more complex but you can start with respect-for oneself and for others.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Follow Up Thought

How to handle the situation of an employee that is identified via photo or video or a social networking site as a participant in the riot is done on a case by case basis and it will be interesting to see if any of the people fired in the initial days challenge the firing. I think that the strong emotional response to the riots by many, coupled with the photos, videos and social network posts have created a unique situation.

People are applying pressure to some of these employers to fire the involved employee and in concern for the reputation of their business they are responding quickly. In a normal process this is less likely to occur and the employee is more likely to seek professional advice and challenge the firing. This situation isn't 'normal'-the level of public shaming of the riot participants means the employers have evidence that the reputation of their business is at stake in the form of emails and letters from the public. Perhaps the people fired will prefer to avoid as much further publicity as possible while they deal with the justice system and try to figure out how to rebuild their lives, which means they are less likely, in this public arena to challenge the firing. But we shall see. Human Resources professionals should understand the legal perspective of such firings and we also know that outcomes are based on the whole picture.

I would caution employers to use less dramatic means than immediate dismissal until a proper investigation is completed but I think most HR professionals have experienced the 'knee jerk' style of response from a business owner or manager that feels the reputation or security of their business is on the line. We must be able to offer temporary bridging solutions and counsel in considering the situation objectively.

Two of the three fired have publicly admitted their participation in events although both of them seem to be struggling with understanding why their integrity is being questioned.I am saddened that some members of the public are showing the same lapse in judgement in their calls to destroy the lives of these participants, that some are employing threats and bullying to vent their anger.We may see some precedence setting in these cases in the coming months depending on how each person chooses to proceed.

Monday, June 20, 2011

What Will You Do If An Employee is Identified in the Riot?

The aftermath of the riot last week is still in the early stages, damages are being assessed, photos and videos and social networking sites are being reviewed to identify participants and many people are posting articles, blogs and comments on what they think caused it and what should happen to people who were involved.

So far at least three people have been fired from their jobs, either because they were identified in a photo or video or because they bragged about their participation on a social networking site and were associated with a business. There may be more such firings over the coming weeks. Clearly the costs to business are not restricted to the downtown core as the businesses that had these employees not only have their reputation at stake, they now have a cost to hire and train replacement staff. There will also be a ripple effect of costs related to these people now being unemployed and likely will face greater challenges in being reemployed.

The three employees noted above were all fired within a few days of the riot based on the publicity generated by the photos and videos and understandably business owners/managers will have concerns about their companies’ reputation. One of the three was fired because she was identified as stealing from a store during the riot, which raises another concern for an employer.

Is an immediate decision to fire these employees the best choice? The emotions in the metro area are running high right now and decisions are somewhat forced by the demands of customers. However, what decisions are made in calmer times when an employee is alleged to have committed a crime? Rarely are they immediately fired, sometimes they are suspended with or without pay, sometimes they are transferred to a low risk role temporarily until a proper investigation takes place.

I don’t think that there is one right answer but what do you think? What will you do if an employee in your organization is identified as a participant in the riot?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Leadership and What Happened In Vancouver

I am sure many of you have already read or heard the news about the riot in Vancouver yesterday. After reading posts from some business owners whose business premises were badly damaged and/or looted last night it led me to think about how the leaders or managers in these organizations will help employees deal with the effects at work. Also, how the business owners and managers deal with their own feelings about seeing all the hard work and effort that went into building an attractive and successful business treated with such violence and disrespect.

There are several points to consider in this:

Some of the businesses were open and employees were trapped in the buildings while the rioters broke windows, trashed the interiors and fittings and looted products. They likely experienced emotions ranging from fear to anger. Their families and friends may have been at home worrying about their safety.

Other employees may have been watching from home and wondering what this meant for the upcoming shifts, their income and what kind of damage they would have to face when they returned to work. The potential loss of income because their workplace was severely damaged may cause serious problems for employees that rely on each paycheque to manage. The uncertainty as to when they will again be scheduled to work, what might be asked of them in repairing and rebuilding the business and what the business leadership will do in response will be part of their thoughts in the coming days.

What Business Leaders and Managers Can Do

First acknowledge your own feelings regarding this and share this calmly with employees. If it is possible to hold an in person meeting with employees-do so and allow people to talk about their concerns. Answer questions that you have answers to and let them know approximately when you will be able to answer questions that you may not have answers to right away.

Include employees in the repair and rebuild process in any way possible-taking action to get back on track is encouraging and allows people to replace negative emotions with a sense of purpose and pride.

In circumstance where it isn't possible to meet in person with employees set up an online presence to post information and encourage and respond to questions and concerns.

Provide a clear and concise information sheet for employees detailing accurate information that they can share with others and to respond to customer inquiries.

What suggestions do you have for business leaders and managers? What have you done that has helped?

Monday, June 06, 2011

How Can The MBTI Help Me Work With Others?

One example is when you consider people who have opposite preferences but need to problem solve.



Understanding these preferences is very helpful when problem solving with co-workers. Each of the above preferences approaches problem solving from a different ‘place’ and understanding this means that you can reduce the noise in problem solving and recognize that each person will make a valuable contribution but will begin and end from different places.

So, ISTJ will “Look at Facts” then "Apply Logic” then "Consider People” then "Look at the larger picture."

And, ENFP will “Look at the larger picture”, then “Consider People”, then “Apply Logic”, then “Look at Facts”

Each person proceeds through the process from different places. What often happens when we don’t understand preferences is that the ISTJ makes a statement that the ENFP takes exception to, certain that they are missing the people aspect, or the ISTJ thinks the ENFP is 'too' focused on feelings. Yet if each person understood that it is simply where we start from they could have the conversation stay on track. Let each person make a contribution and then make a decision based on the information provided.

More About Tests and Assessments

Following up my post on assessment and tests in the workplace I thought I would talk about the MBTI ® specifically today. Partly because this instrument is so widely used but also because it is subject to a fair amount of inappropriate use and misunderstanding. Note: I am putting up two posts today-one on appropriate use of the MBTI and the second with a little example of how it can help us work with others.

When we take the training to become certified to use the MBTI we receive an Ethical Guidelines document that reiterates the appropriate and inappropriate uses of the instrument and are expected to comply with these guidelines.

You may have noticed:

There are several questionable sites on the internet that pretend to provide a ‘free’ MBTI questionnaire but it is important to know that you are not getting the full questionnaire and that the results are most often wrong.

In addition the proper use of the MBTI requires that the certified practitioner provide a consultation or debriefing on the report-both to verify the results, explain what the results mean and provide some tips on how to use them.

There are some websites that offer the full version of the MBTI for a fee (usually between $79-99) but either do not offer the consultation or make the consultation optional. This means that they are purchasing the online questionnaire and charging a fee for providing you access and the report. Both practices are considered to be inappropriate uses of the instrument and you will not realize the potential of the report by using such services.

Most practitioners that are using the instrument appropriately will offer access to the questionnaire and the consultation for a range of costs between $125-$400. Each offers a different level of consultation so it is up to the client to determine what they want to achieve.

There have also been many reports of companies using the MBTI for hiring purposes. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is not approved for use in hiring as it details preferences but does not tell us anything about individuals’ abilities. It is also true that it is possible for someone with one specific set of preferences to utilize the other preferences when appropriate and often simply need guidance on how to do so.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Is This You? More Online Thoughts about Respect

Recently I wrote about your Social Networking Profile talking mostly about sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Today I am taking this further to talk about how we refer to to others online as there seems to be an increasing trend towards labeling groups of people and then referring to them in demeaning or derogatory terms and this is being done by people whose business or professions rely to a large extent on their online or 'social' presence.

One person I follow on Twitter re-tweeted the following: "people who use twit validation services are lazy and don't get the point of Social Media. Brands that use it are even worse." A Business Insider contributor wrote a scathing and insulting article call "Why I will Never, Ever Hire A Social Media Expert: Both writers used broad generalizations and demeaning terminology to describe entire groups of people. I wish this was something that rarely happened but unfortunately it isn't and the Business Insider article was retweeted many times, it showed up in my stream 47 times in two days so one can only imagine just how viral it became.

Would you speak to a customer face to face like that? Would you speak to co-workers, your boss, your friends or family like that? If 'social media' is about relationships does it make sense to develop those relationships based on trust and respect? What do you think? What thoughts go through your mind when you read this type of article, tweet or blog?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Donations, Giving, Volunteering and Community

I am going a little off topic today but bear with me, there is a workplace mention in here as well. The topic of giving back to our community, sharing with others when we can and ensuring that when we can we help our fellow humans out is something that I find myself revisiting frequently. With the advent of Social Media the requests to help out with a cash donation, clothing or household products and your time we are now inundated with such requests multiple times every single day. It isn’t possible to meet every request and we need to sort through them all to decide which we are going to contribute to.

In one week alone I received requests for cash, goods, lottery purchase or time as follows:

Hospital Foundation- cash-via snail mail
Cancer Society – cash-via email
Cancer Fundraisers (outside the agency) – 8 requests to support various people in various fundraising events; via email, Twitter, snail mail
Heart & Stroke – cash
Lung Association-cash in the form of support for an event
Orphanage in Africa- cash plus time support for a fundraising event-via email
Big Brothers-clothing or household goods-via telephone
Lottery Ticket Purchase for a hospital foundation (different hospital) fundraiser-via snail mail
Japan Tsunami Fundraisers- 7 for cash-via Twitter, Facebook, on the street
Slave Lake Fire Fundraiser- 12 via Facebook, Twitter and email
Doctors Without Borders-cash-via email
School Fundraiser-to purchase a product as a fundraising effort for school activities
We are Just Girls-on the street (time)
Various Eco Groups-on the street- 4 requests for time
Request for cash for 2 different animal care related fundraisers; via Facebook, Twitter and email.

All that in just one week, and I did not even list the number of people on the street who simply ask for cash for themselves, the inquiry as to whether I want to donate to whatever charity the grocery store or drugstore is sponsoring conveniently at the cash register and then there is the Food bank donation boxes right at the exit from the store. A little overwhelming but this has become a fairly typical week. Even if I were to not read email, listen to voice mail or answer the phone, stay offline entirely and not open my snail mail box-if I leave home, I will be asked for money or to “take a minute to hear about” whatever organization has volunteers on the street that day. Lately several organizations have started posting 2 people on each corner at each end of a one block area where there are many shops that have a large customer base –so as you go about your daily shopping and household related errands you are asked by 8 different people to “take a minute” to listen to their pitch.
These requests also permeate the workplace: our coworkers ask us to sponsor them in runs, walks, climbs, cycles etc. in which they are fundraising. Parents bring in whatever product their child is selling as a fundraiser-wrapping paper, gift cards, chocolate covered almonds etc. The executive teams ask employees to donate to certain organizations by sponsoring the United Way payroll deduction program and offering paid time off to volunteer. In addition job seekers with little experience or who are temporarily out of work volunteer in order to gain experience and skills to show potential employers what they can do. Volunteering in many organizations has come to resemble the same process as obtaining a paid role-multiple interviews and background checks take place so you can provide your expertise and time to the organization.

It is all so convenient now-you don’t really have to make much effort to donate and then feel like you have contributed-made a difference or helped someone. Many fundraisings now include the potential to win something in return for your donation. You can volunteer your time and gain references to pass on to potential employers.

This is great –right?

How do you feel about it? How do you decide who, what, when and how much you will donate or contribute to any of these organizations or fundraiser events? Do we know how effective our donations are? How much goes to providing whatever the donation is meant to provide and how much goes to pure administration? How much of your donation ends up in the bank accounts of the marketers that set up and run the fundraising programs? Also, how much money via your tax dollars are the various levels of government giving to all these requestors?

This whole donating/contributing machine has become a rather large industry, it employs hundreds of thousands of people brings in vast amounts of cash, utilizes hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours and likely is making a significant inroad onto reducing suffering, bringing education to more people, providing basic needs to those who require some assistance and more. Yet, when you consider the sheer volume of requests for funds each and every day-do you ever wonder if your contributions are as effective as you would like them to be?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Performance Reviews, 360's, Personality Tests-What Is Really Happening?

Managers in organizations seek out ways to measure and improve the performance of employees and develop "high potential" employees for placement in the company succession plan. You likely have experienced some or several versions of performance reviews, perhaps participated in a 360 Review process or been asked to complete an assessment such as the Myers Brigg Type Indicator (registered trademark) or the Emotional Intelligence/Quotient questionnaire. So what do these have in common, how are they different and how are they intended to be used?

Traditional forms of performance review focus on the past, the manager completes a form that assigns a rating on some type of scale. Most of these reviews have a mid-year assessment and a year end assessment and some will include areas of development for the future. Critics of such reviews point out that regular feedback throughout the year has a greater impact on performance than simply completing a form twice a year  that focusses on events that are too far in the past. Another common complaint about this process is that managers use these forms as the only method of communicating problems with an employees performance, often blindsiding the employee at review time. Organizations will also use the ratings from these forms to determine pay increases where merit increases are in place and in some programs they will also use them to determine year over year performance for promotion or termination purposes.

360 Reviews are best used for development purposes and not intended to be used as performance reviews or for determination of pay or promotion. 360 reviews can provide valuable information to the subject of the review as to how peers, direct reports and their managers view their performance and cultural fit. They are however, subjective reviews and can be affected by recents events around the person being reviewed. Employees that do receive 360 reports should have allocated coaching time to help them determine what to focus on and how to write a development plan for competency areas that will affect their career.

Myers Brigg Type Indicator (MBTI) groups respondents into 16 different types (self-report style) which are made up of people's preferences for four mental processes and the tendency to focus more on the outer or inner world. It is important to remember that these types are preferences and do not provide any information regarding ability. The MBTI-Step II includes 40 additional facets which further identify individual preferences. This type of information is very useful for team development purposes, developing interpersonal skills and as one aspect of career planning. The MBTI is not to be used for hiring purposes as it does not provide information about ability but it is useful during employment in helping employees work effectively together. It can be used in career planning as one aspect of helping people identify what they enjoy doing and researching careers that will include those activities.

The Emotional Intelligence report reflects, in simple terms, an individuals self-report on how they manage their own emotions and respond to those around them. This instrument can be a useful starting point for people who would like to improve their relationship building skills and can be valuable in an organizational setting where one will be working with a diverse range of people.

All of the above assess an individual in some way and provide opportunities, if used effectively to improve skills or recognize when it is time to take on a new challenge or consider a change in a career path. Managers in organizations often bring such assessments into the workplace in an effort to improve productivity, reduce turnover, increase their competitive edge-all great goals.

It is important to ensure that you are choosing the right instrument, that you understand that each instrument has limits to what it can accomplish and that any instrument can only accomplish the desired goals if used effectively and if it fits into other initiatives within the organizational strategy.

I will be talking more about some of these instruments over the next few weeks, the good, the bad and the dusty shelf syndrome included.

What experience have you had with any of the above? Please share your anecdotes and what you learned from the experience. I look forward to hearing from you.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Professional Social Networking Profile

While conducting my research into social media last year it became clear that many people don't view their online activities from a professional or personal image perspective. Some people will post a reasonably professional profile on LinkedIn but their Twitter account too often has problematic tweets and I think most of us are aware of just how problematic Facebook postings can be. Often I have seen profiles on LinkedIn that are fine but then the owner of that profile posts inappropriate content in groups or falls into the flame wars syndrome thus lessening the effectiveness of their profile. Other people post a profile on LinkedIn that  is so poorly done that recruiters will pass them by quickly and they may then lose an opportunity at a job.

I follow a few people on Twitter who readily identify with the organization they work for but some of their posts are inappropriate for an online forum which alters the opinion of readers regarding the poster but also gives a less than stellar image of the company they work for.

The prevalence of swearing on all social networks is disturbing, not only are those words losing any real impact as they are repeated so frequently but they leave you wondering if the posters lack the ability to discuss or disperse their thoughts with some sign of critical thinking.

I read the link to Justin Goldborough's blog ( which coincided with a discussion I had this weekend regarding the need to teach people how to handle themselves online. The problems cited included my points above but also pointed out that among the high school, college and university crowds social networks have become another source of bullying and the serious mental health issues that arise from this. The conversation also covered the perhaps surprising results that many well educated professionals make mistakes online as well. When I think back over similar discussion over the past year and the increasing number of workplace disciplinary actions or firings over online postings it is clear that a much stronger focus needs to be put on this topic for everyone.

Inappropriate posts on any social networking site or blog comments section can derail a career, deny you admission to the post secondary school of your choice, get you fired or find you the target of a lawsuit. In many cases you may not even know that you were passed over for a job, promotion, contract or school because of something on a social networking site as the people researching these will simply eliminate you without telling you why.

I am offering a Professional Social Networking Profile consultation (Spring Promotion is $50 or a group rate can be negotiated for groups of 12 people or less) to help registrants develop a professional profile and clean up any online data they may already have. This is not a course on how to use social networks from a technical or marketing standpoint but how to present a positive image for you online.

If you or someone you know are interested in registering for this consultation or wish to arrange a group session in the Vancouver area please email me at

Friday, May 06, 2011

toonlet: HR Is Fun-Right?

toonlet: HR Is Fun-Right?

Just for fun on a rainy Friday. Chris Burns told me about Toonlet, so I *had* to try it out.

I am curious to hear more tales from the field-what are your experiences with HR? What do you think they do? Tell us your fun, sad, weird and odd stories-oh- and if you have some happy, positive stories we absolutey want to hear about those.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Personal Energy Rules-What Are Yours

Rule number one: direct your energy where it is most likely to make a positive difference
Rule number two: when you feel like you are beating your head against a brick wall, refer to rule number one.

Rules one and two are one version of 'advice' I have often resorted to in my work with people over the years and in my personal life. It wasn't always well received and I was somewhat puzzled as to why - after all it seemed pretty logical to me. It was in my work with an executive coach years ago that the light bulb finally clicked on, she mentioned one day that I often don't say out loud everything pertinent to a topic, almost as if I am assuming that the other person is filling in the blanks themselves. She noted that I often defended others who do some ranting by pointing out that people often need to vent, be heard and calm down before they can move on to constructive action or problem solving. Yet when I blithely hand out rule number one and two, I just might be forgetting to mention the venting requirement. This leaves some people who receive this message with the impression that I don't understand just how overwhelming the problem they have feels to them. Years later I still have to remind myself to complete my thoughts out loud as the Vulcan mind meld has yet to assert itself.

The rather divisive nature of the political discussion in this country in the past 7 years brought another aspect of rule numbers one and two alive for me-some people are firmly hanging onto their opinions and are not open to discussion-they state in a very directive manner that their version of the ways things are is correct and not open for discussion. In this case rule number one and two stand alone-there is little to be gained from trying to engage in discussion on that topic with people who have made up their minds-you can however continue to direct your energy where it is most likely to make a difference. We have limited personal energy and resources-it makes sense to use them wisely.

Do you have 'rules' about how you spend your personal energy? Do you have any anecdotes about when sticking to your 'rules' made a positive difference? I would love to hear your stories.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Interviews-Are You Getting Good Advice?

Having read many articles, participated on LinkedIn discussions and visited interview advice websites lately my question this week is: Are you getting good advice? 

Much of the advice comes from people who by their profiles would appear to really *know* what they are talking about, however much of the advice is generic or outdated and the diversity of opinions in the discussion forums make it clear that this type of advice simply is not going to work for everyone.

These are my thoughts on the topic, based on interviewing many people over many years:

 What to do before the interview

(1) If you know someone that works at the organization you have an interview with ask them what the dress code is and what type of clothing people are expected to wear at an interview; if you do not know anyone then call the person who first contacted you to arrange the interview, or the receptionist or the HR department and ask them what appropriate interview wear is for their company. I read an article this morning that advised all interviewees to wear suits (and women to wear 'skirted' suits) for interviews. Yet a friend who recently interviewed with a technology company was told specifically to wear jeans; one workplace I worked in asked interviewees to wear business casual, another workplace asked for clean, neat one step up from jeans casual and another requested suits. It makes sense to ask the question of the organization you are interviewing with specifically what is appropriate for their workplace.

(2) Ask how long you should expect to be at the location for the interview so that you can plan any dependent care, transportation needs and other scheduling needs around this. Add at least one hour to the expected time frame as often these things can run late. If not you get an hour back-enjoy it.

(3) Research the organization thoroughly, read everything on their website, check their stock performance if applicable, read every news release or industry article you can find, ask people who work for the company (or have worked for the company) about the internal culture. It is not enough to spend 5 minutes on the web page, it can become pretty clear in a well conducted interview that you haven't done your homework if that is all you do. Search social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter streams and if applicable Facebook for further information. Prepare your own questions to ask, questions that show you have done your homework and are interested in the future of the organization are best. If it is a first interview asking about vacations and other benefits may not be your best choice, it often turns hiring managers off. You may be asked about salary, be ready to answer this question and try not to make it a waffle answer-if you are willing to take a drop in pay for a coveted position say so in a way that lets the interviewer know you have thought it through.

(4) Once you have established appropriate dress for the interview ensure well ahead of time that you have that attire clean, neat, ready to wear (and if you haven't worn it for awhile try it on :)). Do not wait until the day of the interview to do this.

(5) Ensure that you know exactly how you will get to the interview location, yes go so far as to try out your transit/drive route ahead of time (preferably at the same time of day that you will be going on the day of the interview); then add at least 30 minutes to your travel time on the interview day. This will allow for any traffic problems or other problems that may arise on that day-being early can be managed by going for a walk or having a cup of coffee nearby; being late is hard to overcome. If you need to make daycare arrangements for that day ensure you have a back up plan in case your arrangement falls through.

(6) Jot down notes about your accomplishments, your specific contributions to projects, dealing with difficult customers/co-workers and who inspired you and why.There is a good chance that you will be asked the weakness/strengths question so decide what the answer to those are ahead of time, and do not follow the not good advice to turn a weakness into a strength-few people fall for that. Be honest, for example if you have difficulty with meeting deadlines say so and say what you are doing to learn to overcome this. Why make notes about this ahead of time? Because all too often candidates draw a blank during the interview, preparing ahead helps avoid this. Also, ask previous co-workers or teachers to tell you what strengths and weaknesses, accomplishments and contributions they observed about you-you may well be surprised at how much you have forgotten.

(7) Prepare a list of at least three references ahead of time, contact each one and make sure to get their agreement to act as a reference. Include several forms of contact information for each reference listed if available, phone numbers, email address and snail mail address.

(8) Bring a copy of your resume with you even if the interviewer already has one, sometimes they have one that may not be current if they retrieved it from a job board and as sometimes happens, the interviewer may show up unprepared-but that doesn't mean you should.

(9) Before leaving at the end of the interview ask for contact information such as email so you can send a thank-you note to the interviewer(s) later. Some people like to send these by regular mail or to drop it off later but these days many people find email an appropriate method.

Preparing carefully ahead of time will not only impress the interviewer(s) but will help you be more relaxed and therefore able to respond to questions effectively and feel more confident.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What Happened To Comments?

I linked Disqus to my blog yesterday and realized after that comments left by readers had disappeared in the process. I haven't figured out a way to get them back as yet and they are missed!

Trying new tools is fun and can be effective for accomplishing my goals, so when this kind of glitch occurs my thoughts can not help but shift to my own personal principles of change management. Overall this is a pretty small change but my response to it is a little check in as to where my resilience stands right now.

1) Change happens-accept that and dare I say, perhaps you may even enjoy it. I like trying new products and having new experiences but even for enthusiasts like me sometimes changes don't seem all that great. The key is to figure out how to turn that experience around or if that isn't possible maybe it simply isn't worth spending too much time and energy on. Perspective, as my Norwegian friend Astri likes to say, is a "leveller"-in other words if a change feels negative find a way to get perspective. For me that usually means talking to a trusted friend and sometimes it means a walk on the beach-both those activities clear my head and allow me to look at things anew.

2) Change can be good and it can be bad and it can have no effect at all-take the time to figure out what    each change means to you and how you will put it into perspective, take advantage of it, learn something new or shrug it off. There are often opportunities in change that may not be obvious at first. Finding those opportunities means you have to stop focussing on what is 'lost' and discover what might be gained. Sometimes this is simply adapting and sometimes it becomes a positive gain that may not have been discovered otherwise. Complacency when life is going well happens to most of us, this is part of why change often comes as a surprise. Developing the competencies that increase our resilience on an ongoing basis is important to being able to make the necessary adaptation when change occurs.

3) If I am feeling stressed in an unhealthy way about a change, it is time to check in with the current status of my resilience-have I been taking care of this?

Those three points work for me. What works for you?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Is It Leadership?

Google ‘leadership’ and in six seconds 199,000,000 links appear on your screen. Lately, I have found myself asking the question-has the word leadership lost its meaning? Do we apply the label of leader too readily today?

Leader used to be the term applied to the few who consistently displayed competencies that motivated others to follow their vision. Gandhi and Mother Theresa still evoke appreciation from people who have only read or watched videos that told the stories that best modeled their leadership skills. It is a rare day that I don’t read an article in which someone has quoted Gandhi-what he said resonates with many even today.

So Where Did All This Leadership Come From?

Over the past decade many organizations began to send their managers and “high potential” employees to leadership training courses and many universities developed leadership specialties within various disciplines and some as a specialty in and of itself. High schools have leadership programs. Volunteer organizations recruit leaders.

Gradually the roles of CEO, vice-president, manager, director and supervisor were referred to as leadership teams.

A significant percentage of those 1999,000,000 articles advise us that there are 5, 10, 20, 30, 50…things leaders must do, competencies they must have, character traits they must exhibit; there are many articles that debate whether leadership is innate or can be developed. To my question as to whether a ‘bad or evil’ person should be referred to as a leader, one pundit firmly replied that “if a person has followers, they are a leader”; a stance that sits uneasily in my mind.

Identifying Leadership in the Hiring Process

Job advertisements sometimes include the requirement to “be able to prove demonstrated leadership skills”; candidates endeavour to convince interviewers that they should be hired because they have strong leadership skills. Identifying those leadership skills often proves to be difficult and the final assessment may be a little fuzzy at best.

What leadership skills are transferable to different situations? Does the leadership style that works at Apple also work at TD Canada Trust? Are managers really leaders?