Posts filed under 'Talent and HR Solutions'
During my senior year at Cornell, I worked part-time at the Office of Career Services (OCS) at the ILR School. My job title was “Alumni Bulletin Coordinator/Peer Advisor”. This job entailed putting together a weekly job posting geared towards alumni with at least 5 years of experience, and other duties. Those duties consisted of critiquing resumes and cover letters, helping with any career preparation events, and assisting with various office duties.
Career Coach Transition
There were also some other unassigned duties that came along with the job: I soon found myself as my friends’ de facto career coach, a go-for to the recruiters coming through our office, and a “face” of the ILR School.
Although the office was accustomed to dealing with highly sought-after positions at places like Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, Proctor and Gamble and PepsiCo, the economic difficulties changed the landscape.
It put an additional air of anxiety and competition around the on-campus recruiting process.
You must stand out among a sea of applicants.
Our office was busy with students coming back for second and third critiques on their resumes and cover letters, mock interviews and sample case interview questions.
Everyone realized this would be especially difficult year to secure an internship or full-time job offer. As employees of the office, we welcomed this interest in our services, while at the same time, we ourselves were worried about finding enough quality jobs for our students.
It was an interesting and enjoyable experience – my senior year spanned 2009 and 2010, tough years for any sort of recruiting. I learned a lot that year working in the office of Career Services [OCS]. From helping my friends through their job searches to counseling students in finding their first jobs. The key was how to stand out in a sea of other highly qualified seniors trying to land that “dream job”.
Advice from the trenches
Some words of advice, especially for those looking for their first full-time job:
- Rip your resume apart. Take a serious look at everything on there and have multiple people do the same (your parents, a career counselor, someone in the industry you’re looking to get into, etc.). I’ve found so many typos and misspellings and questionable dates (expected graduation date of May 2012 for example) in resumes that have come my way that I cannot stress how important this scrutiny is.
- Keep it to one page. If you’re looking for your first full-time job, keep your resume to one page. You don’t want to put in a second page unless you can completely fill it. Always PDF your resume before sending it off to a potential employer – this ensures you know what it looks like when it gets there; you’ll avoid the issue of incompatible fonts, you’ll know everything fits to one page, and (if your Word skills aren’t so great), no one will be able to see your formatting struggles by looking at paragraph marks.
- Demonstrate your impact. Whether this is in your resume, cover letter, interview or a conversation with someone you meet at networking event, use specific examples of accomplishments and statistics to describe your impact on the organization. In the Office of Career Services, we’d typically go through a students’ experience line by line and ask where he/she could add detail, especially with numbers. How many students did you tutor over the course of the summer? What was their average increase in score from their diagnostic test to their actual SAT? How much business did you generate? By how much did you exceed your sales quota? You must show the value that you could potentially bring.
- Update and update often.I’m only 3 years into my career, and I have trouble remembering what projects I’ve worked on and what I’ve done. I can’t even imagine how someone fifteen or twenty years into their career keeps track of it all. My former boss told us that we should really update our resumes (and this goes for LinkedIn profiles too) every quarter so that we don’t let any small projects or specific accomplishments fall through the cracks. This also goes to another important point – even if you’ve only done a certain task or process a few times, include it on your resume. You don’t have to be an expert on everything, but having that experience of running just a few reports out of SAP each year puts you ahead of someone who’s never touched SAP before.
- Ask for help. Searching for a job isn’t easy, regardless of the stage of your career. Whether you’re trying to find openings in companies that interest you or you need someone to run your practiced interview responses by, use your network as much as possible. Being referred by someone in your network goes a long way as opposed to clicking on the submit button and keeping your fingers crossed. Although the days of the Rolodex may be long gone, having a strong professional network isn’t, so make sure you reach out to and stay in touch with professionals in your field, classmates, and former colleagues, so they think of you the next time an open position comes their way.
Remember you must stand out among the sea of applicants.
Best of luck!
Moira Ceconi, Sr. Associate
Talent and HR Solutions
What I learned
“Morning Joe,” which is a show that I watch on MSNBC, always asks the most profound questions at the end of every show. Each guest talks about their learning moment for the show.
During the hiatus from work last week, I heard the question asked and thought about it in the context of what I do as a consultant, blogger, and social media enthusiast.
Given that it was the end of one year and the beginning of a new one, I looked back and thought about 2012 and what I learned.
What did you learn?
HR has been headed into an unrelenting storm. Transforming HR has been the focus for the past few years. It makes you wonder: where are we headed and when will we get there? Then again, maybe you are already there. I do know that there is no one size that fits all. Best practices, while good to be aware of, are not the silver bullet.
HR is in an enviable position at this point. Our work is being discussed in the board room; our work is being discussed by the CEO (CEO Insomnia Index).
As David Ulrich said in his book, HR Transformation: Building Human Resources From the Outside In,“Simply stated, we propose that the biggest challenge for HR professionals today is to help their respective organizations succeed.”
That, to me, is our overriding mission and that is my learning point for 2012. How do we help our organization succeed? That is the big question in all of our lives — or it should be.
We had better buckle up because the runway is clear. There are no planes ahead of us. We are positioned to take off. We have to become students of our own profession.
The organizational environment has become far more complex than ever before, both the internal complexity as well as external forces of Super Storm Sandy magnitude. This complexity has been driven by huge technological changes, layoffs, industry disruptions, economic turmoil, and more. In every walk of our professional lives, change is at the forefront.
These changes have in turn been an equal opportunity “affecter.” Whether in your industry, your organization or individually, change has permeated our environment. The world in which we all operate has become extremely complicated.
Do you understand the position you are in?
What are the main issues facing your organization? That should be at the top of your 2013 to-do list. HR must know what it takes to get your organization back on track, or to stay on track for that matter.
How can HR make sure that alignment between the organization, its employees, and other stakeholder groups stays aligned? As Dave Ulrich said, “How can we help your organizations succeed?”
Today, organizations are more complex than they were 10 or 20 years ago. The factors that I see that are:
- The economic environment (which includes the organization’s financial situation as well as the competitive and general economic environment).
- The technological environment has disrupted our entire society. How do we play in the new environment?
- The social/cultural environment.
- The sustainability environment (what is your organization’s strategy and how does that align with your people?).
- The regulatory and legislative environment. New taxes and new health care laws that will be felt for years to come.
This is the whirlwind that has engulfed your environment. The unrelenting pressure shows no sign of letting up. But then this is not to be a pity party for HR because Marketing and IT and other departments are all both trying to navigate this within their organizations.
So as we analyze what we have learned and use those as anchor points to move forward, we must remember what I think are the four most important words in our lexicon: Read, discuss, analyze, and formulate.
Happy New Year and welcome to the new normal.
Ron Thomas prepared this post while at Buck Consultants. He has since left the organization.
“Yeah, our Christmas party is on Friday night in the conference rooms. In the conference rooms! They will bring food and drinks in. Nobody wants to attend so everyone is planning on going to the area, spend maybe a half-hour, and then get out.”
The mandatory Christmas party
One of my commute companions told me that story the other day about his company’s “Christmas party.”
It reminded me of someone telling me last year that their company made the Christmas party MANDATORY. I said to him then that if you have to make it mandatory, a loud siren should go off in someone’s head. That should show one and all that there is a bigger problem besides some celebration.
Signals that management don’t seem to see
In this particular case (the MANDATORY party), the attendance was so low that they basically gave a party and no one showed up. Imagine for a second that you would invite people over to your home for a cookout and basically no one showed up. Would you not know that there just may be an issue with you or some other dynamic around you? That same scenario works for organizations as well.
When I read (or shall I say when I used to read) employee engagement studies, I would often wonder about the various workforce signals that beam back to management all the time, and these signals seem to just fly over their air space.
I contrast that with my daughter, who went to her company’s Christmas party this week. My daughter and all her friends went shopping for outfits for the party, and some even left work early to go home and get dressed so they could come back and celebrate. Basically, everyone showed up and no one left until the establishment advised them that it was time to close.
During my days at Martha Stewart Living, the Christmas party was off the charts. People would take the day off to rest up for the party that night. Some would rent hotel rooms to hang out without worrying about how to get home after they had had a few too many “adult beverages.”
Based on those scenarios, which one do you think has the most engaged workforce? There’s no need for surveys or focus groups. If you can’t pull them together for a year-end celebration, you have hit or are nearing rock bottom.
How holiday parties improve engagement
There are lots of companies that use the recession as an excuse for getting out of the event. This short-sightedness will cost you more than any amount that you thought you would have saved. That cost will be measured in engagement dollars. Matter of fact this celebration should continue in spite of the recession.
Christmas parties are important in helping to improve employee engagement. It is vital to recognize the hard work of your employees for the year. Think of this as a big end of year THANK YOU. Employee engagement has never been as important as it is now, but it must go hand-in-hand with actions that show that you mean it.
There are so many examples showing that the poor quality of management and leadership in companies is at the heart of this engagement dilemma. The benefits to organizations of employee engagement cannot be understated. A truly engaged organization can expect to experience high levels of staff loyalty, retention, productivity, innovation, and profitability — as well as low levels of absenteeism.
Given the current economic climate, these signs cannot be ignored as they are stepping stones towards the future and long-term success of the organization.
Smart companies have found that the value in entertaining staff far outweighs the cost in terms of loyalty, networking, motivation, and team spirit. And, they enjoy a halo effect of higher productivity after such a Christmas celebration.
Sharing in the successes of the year
This party atmosphere can also be further enhanced by giving out recognition awards during the night of thank yous. These awards could encourage increased future performance.
A company party at the holidays is an opportunity to all get together and share in what has been successful that year so you can engage people long-term. This should be a moment for the organization to shine. This moment should exemplify team spirit that encapsulates everyone’s efforts to get to a common goal.
So organizations, you get one last opportunity this year to drive engagement right.
I know, it is probably late for this year, but you now have 12 months to work on getting it right for next year.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year.
Ron Thomas prepared this post while at Buck Consultants; he has since left the organization.
“I knew I had to help.”
A photo depicting an unknown New York City cop giving a pair of winter boots to a homeless man went viral after the woman who took it (a tourist and fellow police officer from Arizona) posted the picture to the NYPD’s Facebook page.
This past week or so, there was so much talk about this amazing policeman who, while on patrol on a cold night, walked past a homeless person who had no shoes.
“I was cold and I had on two pairs of socks,” he said, “and I knew he had to be cold.”
What values are in your mission statement?
He went inside a store in Times Square and purchased a pair of boots and socks. When he returned, he helped the homeless man put the boots on. If that tourist had not been there to take the picture, this simple event would have never created such a media storm.
When I heard about it on the radio, I was impressed. The officer had no idea that someone was watching, or for that matter, recording his actions. The next day I read the full story in the newspaper and I was beyond impressed.
The great UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said, “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”
If it were not for that picture, there would have been a terrible void of good news last week in New York City. Every station, newspaper and social media platform had this story.
Out of curiosity, I decided to check the NYPD’s mission/value statement to see whether it was sync with this selfless act.
Under the values section was this statement:
“Value human life, respect the dignity of each individual and render our services with courtesy and civility.”
This was the statement that should have been the caption of that photo.
I thought that this was the ultimate campaign poster for recruiting officers. People do not join and engage with organizations, at least over the long term, unless they are about more than just profit motive. People are looking for a bigger hook and some alignment with their lives.
That also translates into the character of an organization. Although that one act of supreme kindness will not change a lot of people’s perception of New York’s Finest, it does go a long way to buff up the current state of their image.
Values created in a conference room carry no value
There are a lot of ways to define what is critical within organizations: the employee value proposition, the mission, the values, and the vision statements.
Is one more important than the others? That is a question that each organization must figure out. A group of words created in the confines of a conference room carry no value if the organization does not eat, breathe, and sleep on what they believe in.
These statements are supposed to be the foundation of their organization and a guiding light, not only in good times, but in bad times as well. Use the Rocher Test principles, think about an organization, and then quickly think about what it stands for. If it is the NYPD, what is your perception? If it is IBM or Google for that matter, what are your thoughts about its character?
The meaning of organizational character
In the search for organizational bedrock, let’s look at this in another way: If organizations were people, what would we wish most to understand about them?
Character is the inner core of a human being. If each of us were and onion and the layers could be peeled back, what we would have left at the core would be our character. It is the center. This core determines how we act when no one is watching or listening. You act because it is the right thing to do. Your definition of the “right thing” is your moral compass.
Should we seek it in our organizations? However you answer that question, it does not matter because the workforce is looking and seeking it. They are looking to attach themselves to something bigger than themselves. If we think it, as Jerry Maguire says in the movie, is all about “show me the money,” we are sadly mistaken.
The word “character” comes from the Greek term “engrave.” In other words, it is etched in stone or our inner being. Once that etching is ingrained, it is not easily changed. It is expressed in so many different ways: words, attitudes, our interaction, our mindset, and in all sorts of behaviors. But like a rubber band, its always comes back to form.
If your workforce is heavily staffed with the same character traits that can easily become the driving force to mask the character of an organization, regardless of your “statements.”
I was told by an older man on my first job that you should always live your life as if someone is always watching or listening. An organization survives shifts in people and leadership because the core is there.
When organizations have character, they can build on it. But if they do not begin with a strong character, they will have a hard time ending with it.
Ron Thomas prepared this post while at Buck Consultants; he has since left the organization.
Seems like a simple enough question. When asked it now, it’s usually just because of interest in my professional journey. When I was in college though, it was more often said with a tone of bewilderment. “HR? Really?” Although around age 18, a lot of people have a general idea of what they want to go into – law, medicine, engineering, education, business, media – there probably aren’t so many college age students explaining to their Great Aunt Susie over the Christmas ham how they’re interested in Human Resources. But I was one of the few. When you learn more about my education, a degree in Industrial and Labor Relations and the coursework it entailed, it starts to make sense to most people. My interest in the ways that people work though, started long before I sat down in that first Organizational Behavior class in Ives Hall.
My aunt is profoundly blind. Unlike some people who are legally blind, my aunt cannot sense any shapes or light. She was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age 7 and lost her eyesight while in college. Although medicine has come a long way – she is no longer diabetic due to a pancreas transplant and the way in which she went blind is avoidable today – she mostly likely will never see again. Even after the almost unimaginable challenge of suddenly becoming blind during the already turbulent college years, my aunt graduated from Amherst College and got on with life just as her peers did.
How can I develop and promote a workplace where anyone can contribute their talents?
My aunt now lives in Boston and goes about her business with the assistance of her guide dog, Bo. She works as an independent consultant specializing in universal design. She has a wide range of clients – museums, publishers, retailers – who all seek out her expertise in shaping an
experience that everyone can enjoy. For those not familiar with the concept of universal design, my aunt once gave me a great example. She said, what if you were going to a coffee shop, and the only way to get into that coffee shop was a short incline or step up with a door that swung outward when you opened it? Not only is that challenging for someone in a wheelchair (pulling a door out/back when you’re on top of an incline) but it is also challenging for someone pushing a stroller. The person with the stroller is not handicapped as the ADA would see it, but nevertheless could benefit from a design modification to that entrance. The aim of universal design is to create structure and experiences that are accessible by all people, handicapped or not. My aunt’s vocation of opening up experiences for all people piqued my interest in HR. How can I develop and promote a workplace where anyone can contribute their talents?
As an HR consultant, I haven’t directly dealt with making “reasonable accommodations” to a job to suit an employee or some of the more traditional HR activities that come to mind when ADA is mentioned. However, Buck does often deal with website accessibility in building our HR portals and online offerings. As the web has become increasingly filled with graphics, this becomes extremely important to people like my aunt. She has a screen reader on her computer that, as the name suggests, reads back text on a computer screen. When her computer encounters an image (some text too, if it’s designed with flash for instance, which essentially appears as an image), it has nothing to “read to her” unless the website was programmed accessibly. Usually this entails a simple line of text programmed in the background describing the image or chart. Seems pretty simple, but for people relying on screen readers and similar tools, it makes a huge difference in fully understanding an article or website.
Taking a step back to universal design though, consider how this same philosophy should hold true for the way HR professionals shape employees’ work lives. Although employers are keenly aware of the protected classes outlined in the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, ADEA, ADA, GINA, etc., universal design does not just advocate for benefiting groups identified in a statute, but rather people of all circumstances. On top of what is required by FMLA and the Civil Rights Act of 1968, is your organization able to design a job to fit the needs of both a single person and a person with three young children? What about someone whose native language isn’t English? Or someone with poor handwriting (where this still matters)? Or someone who is a vegan? Obvious or not, these qualities, if not addressed in the proper way, may hinder an employee from contributing their talents to an organization at the optimal level. And isn’t that the fundamental purpose of HR: to provide the tools and environment for an organization to leverage their human capital while providing the employee with a comfortable and incentivized place to contribute those talents (retention)?
Are your jobs designed to accommodate him too?
Talent and HR Solutions (THRS)
“I wanted to let you know that I got the job offer,” she said excitedly.
She had two interviews last week — one with a noted brand and the other with a fast growing start-up. One firm really wants her but they are on a hiring freeze until Q1. This is a dilemma that a lot of folks would kill for in this climate.
As we discussed how she was going to approach the offer vs. the “non-offer,” I was amazed at how she was approaching this decision. She talked about the pros and con’s of each company, her career growth and potential development at each, the known brand vs. a start-up, etc. All this came from a Gen Xer.
No alignment with her personal brand
My other discussion this week was from a Gen. Y/Millennial who had a job interview with another known brand. She knew the brand was not quite for her, but really wanted to find more out about the role.
She mentioned that the company’s lobby was a mess and not inviting at all. One of the recruiters she met with was chilly, to say the least, and according to her, bordered on being rude. This recruiter was asked a question, and as she tried to answer, was talking over her throughout.
When she walked out she knew that even if offered the role, she would not accept. In both cases, there was no brand alignment with her career. In all our discussions, the issue of salary did not come up.
You are the one being interviewed
If you are an organization seeking talent, the pendulum has swung away from you — and you are no longer in charge.
That’s right — you no longer have the upper hand with talent. You’re the one that is being interviewed. If that person sitting across the desk from you is top talent, you and your organization are the ones that are under the microscope.
No longer is top talent sitting, waiting, and hoping for YOUR call. They can have their choice of jobs.
Not only that, but just because you are a known brand (and that alone may add a few points to the equation), it’s still the top candidates that are creating the formula when making the hiring decision.
Not so long ago, the toughest part of job hunting was getting a decent offer. Today, people with talent get a flood of offers.
Their challenge is sorting through all of the choices to find the one that’s best for them. The organization’s challenge is learning a new organizational skill: How can I compete?
No, I have decided not to accept your offer
There are many reasons why a job candidate might have to turn down a job offer: the money, the work itself, or the people and culture at the company. In all these situations, money did not come up in the discussion. Work, people, and culture was paramount — and that is why the pendulum has swung.
How an organization approaches this conundrum will determine how successful they are in getting the talent they need. Innovation will be determined by the level of talent and how inspired it is.
The days of being the big shot in your industry, and having that mindset that everyone wants to work for you, are coming to an end. There was a line in the movie The Devil Wears Prada, where the magazine editor character Miranda Priestly tells her assistant Emily that “everyone wants this.” She was shocked when Emily said that, no, she did not want it or want to be a part of it.
Culture matters now more than ever
Culture is the elephant in the room. I remember reading a quote a while back that said “Culture eats strategy for breakfast,” a remark attributed to the late management guru Peter Drucker. No matter how far reaching a leader’s vision or how brilliant the strategy, neither will be realized if not supported by an organization’s culture.
Culture is the sum total of what people within your company believe and value about your organization. But are you in a company that is characterized by distrust, fear, and bitterness?
Recruiting for a company like that is a lot different than recruiting for an organization that is characterized by creativity, innovation, and a sense of responsibility for the entire organization.
Culture should be a discussion within the executive suite, because while strategy is the direction to the destination, culture is in the driver’s seat.
The work WILL matter
Is your company looking to grow their people and let them spread their wings? One of the people that I mentioned earlier said while she has a great job, she has been pigeon-holed doing the same thing day-in and day-out. There are no opportunities to grow. Career development is basically non-existent.
To a new generation of workers, work DOES matter. Work will have to be interesting and challenging like it is at Google where we have all heard about the company granting time for employees to pursue their dreams while at work.
While this might not work at every company, you must encourage the whole person to come to work — because it the end, it is no longer about you.
Ron Thomas prepared this post while at Buck Consultants; he has since left the organization.
I spent the Monday following Hurricane Sandy in Staten Island, going door-to-door with cleaning supplies, food and clothing for the Sandy victims. Once the Clorox, gloves, masks, D batteries, bottled water and PB&J sandwiches were in people’s hands, they were enormously thankful and we knew we’d done something to help. The challenge was actually getting the right products in the hands of the right people as quickly as possible.
Consultant mindset: process improvement
You know you’re a consultant when the first thing you think about as you enter any situation is how the process might be improved, how people could be trained and deployed more efficiently and how leadership could be more effective. Let me explain.
I arrived at a volunteer gathering place in Brooklyn at 9 a.m. to a series of hand-written cardboard signs (some conflicting with one another). Bags of donated goods were on the sidewalk, which were ultimately meant to be sorted in a basement already overflowing with donations.
The dilemma was all these people wanted to help, some had specialized skills, but none knew what they were supposed to be doing. There were drivers with hot food in their cars beginning to double park on the street, waiting to take crews out to various locations. Some volunteers who had been there before were trying to give directions to others.
It was as chaotic and inefficient as it sounds
There was no central point of registration or intake for volunteers, and therefore no way to identify people with special skillsets who could be assigned to areas in the “field” where those skillsets were most needed.
There were some people more experienced than others, but no leaders – no one providing instruction, directing others, no one with “the buck stops here” accountability. There was an established process for obtaining information from the “field”, communicating it back to “headquarters” and then sending the requested people and supplies to the field, but it was not documented anywhere – visually or otherwise – so no one actually understood it, particularly the newest team members.
Roles that were assigned (for example, I was assigned to be a “Staten Island Zone 4 Captain”) did not have clear responsibilities associated, so the role or title became meaningless (for example, I still do not know where Zone 4 was). And technology that was available – iPads, smartphones – was not being fully utilized.
Yes, I’m talking about a pop-up crisis response volunteer organization – a far cry from the seeming structure and order of most corporate offices. And yet the challenges, albeit magnified, were strikingly similar.
Crisis management in times of chaos
This pop-up organization faced the same issues that many organizations face:
- Lack of leadership
- Lack of defined and documented process
- Lack of efficient resource management to get the right people in the right roles with clear role-based responsibilities
- Lack of efficient use of technology
And yet despite this, we managed to mire through the mismanagement, the chaos, the lack of process, and the inefficiency to get out to the areas where people needed us most and where we were able to get something good done.
This was due to something the volunteer organization had inherently in its favor that most corporate organizations don’t: everyone who showed up had the same intentions and priorities, and everyone was engaged, committed to the organization’s mission.
This is what ultimately allowed us get the work done.
The importance of a shared mission and purpose
What organizations can learn from this is the value of a shared mission. A shared mission can protect – at least in the short term – against weaknesses such as broken processes, skillset gaps, or misinformed resource deployment, lack of training, and ineffective use of technology.
Of course, these organizational challenges must eventually be addressed in order for any team, group or company to succeed – to ultimately achieve their mission and grow. But you can get by temporarily with just a shared mission.
In a corporate environment, particularly one in which various organizational components are not as strong as they should be and a shared mission becomes of critical importance, leadership is the component you cannot do without.
Employees don’t show up in the morning with a shared purpose. They need leadership to motivate a vision that is aligned with their values. Values to which they will subscribe and strong leadership to articulate strategic goals in which each employee feels personally invested.
Luckily for the people who graciously received supplies from us that Monday, we all showed up in the morning with a shared mission.
As a leader in your company, how do you inspire your employees each day so they stay motivated to succeed despite imperfections in the organization?
Rebecca Brereton, Senior Consultant
Talent and HR Solutions
“’Where did you get that coffee?’ I got it from Steve, the coffee guy downstairs, I said. ‘Steve, the coffee guy?, you even know his name?’ he asked incredulously.”
“It’s simple, I said. I get coffee from him every day; why would I not know his name? He knows my name and even how I like my coffee. He is my first touch point in the morning.”
‘When I was in college,’ he said, ‘I ate breakfast at the same restaurant every day and was waited on by the same waitress every day, and to this day, I do not know her name or who she is for that matter.’
“So you want to be an executive one day and you do not connect with people? I asked him. I could see the wheels turning in his head as I walked away.”
I use the word touch point because in our day-to-day encounters, we have numerous touch points with people that we may interact with and with others that we may not even make eye contact with.
We have all been to leadership training, and sometimes, it seems as if you are being prepared for the BIG MOMENT. Yes, being prepared for a big movement that may never arrive! Being prepared for that big leadership encounter that lay in waiting! Ready, set and nowhere to use that leadership skill, or so you may believe.
We have encounters every day where we can exhibit leadership and engagement. But then, maybe those do not count because of their perceived value in the leadership journey. If it were an encounter with a senior level person, I am sure that we would be on our best leadership behavior.
If we were to treat every encounter with the coffee guy, sales clerk or your bus driver (if you commute), as special, you are developing skills that can be used in every encounter. Use those as a way to sharpen those skills so that you can stay in great leadership shape. This is real preparation and it is done each day.
Everybody is a leader
We are all leaders, whether you sit in the corner office or are a cashier at the market. We all have the ability to exhibit leadership throughout the day when we encounter each other.
Testosterone leadership works on the battlefield, but not in our everyday lives and surely not within the confines of your everyday encounters. Sometimes I tend to think that is the issue with leadership. There has always been this mythical picture of this take charge, rah-rah type leading his charges across insurmountable obstacles, but that is slowly becoming an old picture.
Leadership is not about having a script or going into character. It is a 24/7 undertaking. It is based on how you treat people when no one is looking. It is how you treat people that organizationally may be beneath you. That, to me, is real leadership.
The “new” engaged leader
The “new” leadership style is a very open and collegial. The new leader seeks to engage his team and the people around her. Ideas move freely amongst the group and are discussed openly. There is no talk of who sits where because everyone has a seat.
Lots of discussion and free flowing ideas are banded about.
This style is needed in dynamic and rapidly changing environments where very little can be taken as a constant. In fast moving organizations, every option for improvement has to be considered to keep the group current and moving ahead.
The new leadership model means facilitating the conversation, encouraging people to share their ideas, and then synthesizing all the available information into the best possible decision.
- Focus the discussion: It’s the leader’s job to balance being open to ideas and keeping everything on-topic. If the conversation begins to stray, remind everyone of the goals at hand and then steer it back.
- Respect their ideas: You and your team might not agree with every idea. It is important, however, that you create a healthy environment where those ideas are entertained and considered.
- Keep communication open: Communication is about engaging everyone. Create that environment and everything flourishes.
- Explain what you’re doing — and why: You want the advocates of the solutions that were not selected to understand that their thoughts were considered and had validity, but that ultimately, you had good reason to go in a different direction.
So as you venture out each day, think about every person you come in contact with. If there are regulars that you see, do you know who they are? Did you ask? You should remember that there is no such thing as spring training. Leadership is a year-round exercise. There is no completion date.
These people may not play a role in your path to your destination, but they each could add value as you strive to become a new and better leader.
Ron Thomas prepared this post while at Buck Consultants; he has since left the organization.
Work-Life Balance? It’s a Bottom Line Issue for You and Your Workforce
“You are a great model of work-life balance, Ron. Thanks for showing me.”
Last week I linked to an article titled Why the Work-Life Balance is Now More Important Than Ever. It was a UK-based article on work-life balance and it cited five (5) countries and how each of them approaches it. The comment was based on the article.
The identity of the commenter brought a huge smile to my face. It was from one of the most inspiring people that I have ever worked with during my career.
Her name is Maggie Mistal, and she is now described as one of the nation’s best known career coach by CNN, where she normally appears. We worked together at Martha Stewart Living, where she developed our training, coaching, and career development programs. She later went out on her own and built a media career around it. She can now be heard every Friday on Sirius XM Radio.
My first intro to work-life balance
My first exposure to work-life balance was during my tenure at IBM. I had never given it much thought, but I did know that once I left work, I LEFT work. Everyone knew that my phone was turned off as I left the building.
When my daughter was in primary school, I would pick her up from day care on Friday. For probably five weeks straight, I was always late. The last Friday, the manager of the facility told me that I was only getting one more chance and if I was late again, I would have to find another facility.
I had basically worn out my welcome by being the last one to pick up a child every Friday.
My daughter was the only one in the room when the director told me this, and she started to cry and said she liked her school and did not want to go to another school.
My problem was that I worked in New York City, lived in the suburbs of New Jersey, and had to catch the subway to get to the bus which took me to my drop-off point in New Jersey. From there I got into my car and drove about 15 minutes to the school. On a good day, this would not be a problem, but Fridays being Friday, it did not work.
Problem stated, problem solved
On the Monday following this discussion with my daughter’s day care director, I spoke to my manager and explained the situation I was in. I will never forget his thoughtful reply. He asked me the question, “What do you need to make this work?”
What I needed was to just leave on time, which for me would be by 3 pm. So, my new deal was that on Fridays, I would leave at 3 and get to my daughter’s day care no later than 5 pm.
That’s how it went. Problem solved. There was no company policy amended, no major pronouncements. My manager handled the situation by asking me for the solution.
The lesson I learned from that episode has carried forward with me to this day.
Forget about one size fits all
When anyone that worked for me ever had an issue, I would let them settle it. There is no one-size fits-all solution for work-life balance. In some cases, amendments can be made to policies to adjust to a core group of employees.
At one company where I worked, we noticed that we were losing a lot of first time moms. They would come back at the required time but could not make the commitment to the full-time work week.
At that time, we did not have (or believe) in telecommuting or working from home. But once we realized that some of our top talent was walking away, we knew we had to make some changes. Not only had that, but the demographic of our workforce meant that this was just the tip of the iceberg if we did not solve the problem.
There can be a business case
So, we changed the policy to have them make adjustments on the days they were in the office. This was based on each individual working with their manager to come up with a solution.
In the end, it was a win-win for everyone involved.
My day care problem was my problem; it was not a company problem. The new mom situation was an organizational problem. In each situation, we approached it with the people that were directly involved and worked with them to arrive at their solution.
While a certain organizational mindset is needed for support of work-life programs, organizations must realize that the workforce is different today.
Every time I hear of the work-life balance dilemma, I am reminded of the quote by Ralf Schneider, formerly of PwC:
“Companies flounder today because first generation leaders are working in second generation companies working on third generation problems.”
Work-life balance is a bottom line issue
Organizations will have to shift from the “one-way street” mentality of getting more out of people to investing in meeting people’s core needs so that they are pumped up and inspired to bring all of themselves to the job.
Policies must be created that will allow employees to better manage their workload, have a more balanced life, and give them some flexibility when it comes to how and when they get their work done.
Yes, policies that focused on flexibility and working remotely contribute to a more energized workplace.
Work-life balance has to be discussed in the C-suite. Your bottom line would look kindly on your organization if you do.
Ron Thomas prepared this post while at Buck Consultants; he has since left the organization.
Are you listening?
“Don’t credit me with that success. That idea came from a janitor at the NFL Films production facility. He suggested that we take all the “fumbles and mishaps and put them to music.”
That statement was from Steve Sabol, the late co-founder (with his father, Ed) of NFL Films. NFL Films was started by accident by his father from his love for home movies. Steve recently passed away from Cancer, but his thoughts were captured in a documentary on how they built their organization.
Have you ever seen the segment where all the fumbles and hits are compiled into a popular show of its own? As a matter of fact, it has become a brand itself within the company franchise.
And, that idea came from possibly the lowest person on the org chart.
I thought of three (3) dynamics that played out when I heard Steve Sabol’s statement about the janitor:
- Having an organization that creates an environment where everyone brings value and feels comfortable in being heard
- Having employees who believe that their voices can be heard
- Having leadership that will acknowledge and give credit to their employees
The big word that every organization talks about today is “innovation.” Everyone is looking, seeking searching, for that illusive next step. Everyone is asking where and the how.
Value comes in all sizes and titles
However, all eyes are on the leadership team to come up with the “Ahas” of innovation.
The leadership team devises strategy, but they do not have a lock on innovation. As a matter of fact, this type of thinking is harmful to an organization. I could never quite understand how a certain group of people could have all the answers. Who anointed them with all the brain power?
The janitor tale exemplifies the fact that everyone and anyone within your organization can add value to the business. The company that unleashes their workforce on the issues that an organization is facing will have empowered everyone to think beyond their current role.
Imagine if someone from your mail room (or the janitor for that matter) had an idea for your organization. Would they be listened to, or better still, would they feel they could come forward with it?
Getting a solution from those closest to the problem
Top down solutions? No matter how well meaning and intelligent you are, they don’t work as well as listening to those people that are closest to the problem and using their smarts and what they know.
To solve any problem you have to involve those people closest to the problem. Make sure that they are involved in planning and implementing a solution.
While the janitor at NFL Films was not closest to the problem, he worked in an environment that he felt comfortable bringing his ideas forward.
I worked in an environment at one time in my career that if you were not one of the hotshots, forget about it. No one thought or cared what you said if you were not one of the chosen few.
Innovation is not about the competition; it is about cooperation and collaboration inside the business itself. This self-induced incubator should provide the warmth and the nutrients to generate new and better ideas that will solve problems, create value, and ultimately change the world.
This type of organization will not have an engagement problem or a talent problem. What it will have is a selection problem: trying to select the best talent in the recruiting process since talent always flocks to organizations that are deemed as talent factories.
Everyone wants to work for an organization that is a fertile ground for new ideas and world changing technology, product, mission, and value.
Value is not bestowed by your title
Value is not bestowed by the car we drive, the home we live in, or as in organizations, by the coveted title we hold. I once heard a Vice President state that someone was trying to show him how to do a task a better way, and he remarked was that HE was the one who had the VP title after his name. He sadly assumed that he was always going to be smarter and more technically savvy than one of his direct reports.
That kind of attitude is not a single event by a solitary person. That kind of attitude perpetuates corporate America. It is just one of the ills that are hampering the dawn of a new organizational mindset that will be needed by everyone on the org chart to move companies back so that they are firing on all cylinders.
f you are a leader of your company, everyone that walks through your doors, passes you in the hallway, or glances up at you as you walk by could have the idea that takes your organization to the next level.
The question is, will you be willing to hear it?
Ron Thomas, Director
Talent and HR Solutions