Friday, February 25, 2011

Project Social: You Can Still Be a Good Boss

A friend of mine recently recently told me she feels frustrated by the fact that although she works for a ‘performance management’ company the people on her team barely receive a living wage.

I was discussing this with my Project Social partner Dave Ryan the other day and we decided to tackle the topic of good management for less.  Be sure to check out Dave's post over at HR Official.

I worked my way through college and graduate school doing low-paid student jobs so I’m no stranger to not earning a living wage.  Happily for me, most of the managers I had in these minimum wage jobs were pretty decent people.

One person in particular stands out in my memory: Joan, who managed me during a two-summer stint at a bakery in high school. 

She wasn’t particularly friendly but she was fair.  She was a stickler for showing up on time and the work getting done but also scrupulous about making sure we got our breaks.  She would look the other way when we sampled the freshly-baked rugelach and mandelbrot and let us take home day old bread.  She didn’t mind us joking around or sitting down in the back when business was slow.  And she stood up for us in front of angry or difficult customers.

After I’d been working there for a couple of weeks Joan offered to teach me to write on cakes.  Cake writing was a choice assignment because it got you off the floor for a few minutes and elevated you to ‘skilled labor.’

She patiently showed me the tools and the techniques and sent me home with some practice equipment, where I wrote ‘Happy Birthday’ and ‘Mazel Tov’ over and over until I ran out of buttercream frosting. The next day felt ready to write on a real cake.

A couple of successful ‘Happy Birthdays’ later I was feeling like a cake writing hi-po but I messed up my first Bar Mitzvah cake and the customer was furious.  Joan stepped in before the verbal abuse got out of hand and politely offered to fix the cake.  Then she gestured for me to bring the offending cake into the back room. 

‘Go on,’ she said, lighting a cigarette and sucking it greedily.  ‘Fix it.’

‘Er… shouldn’t you do it?’  I didn't want to get yelled at again.

‘I’m busy,’ she replied, blowing several neat smoke rings.  ‘It’s your customer.  Fix the cake.’

Taking a deep breath, I scraped off and re-applied the icing strip and re-wrote the congratulatory message. 

‘Should I add a flower?’ I asked, sensing that Joan wanted to finish her cigarette.

Another smoke ring headed my way.  ‘Go ahead.’

I did and it looked pretty good.  But was it good enough?

‘Will you take it to her?’ I asked.

‘Nope.  Still your customer.’ 
She stubbed out her cigarette regretfully.  ‘But I’ll be right behind you if you need me.’

“I’ll be right behind you if you need me.”  If we were going to boil good management down to one sentence, wouldn’t that be it?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Relationship Business

Guest post by Kevin Eikenberry, author, speaker, trainer, consultant, and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group . His new book, co-authored with Guy Harris, From Bud to Boss – Secrets to a Successful Transition to Remarkable Leadership.

Early in my consulting career I started telling people the consulting business is a relationship business. I was right, just a little short sighted.

Actually all business is a relationship business.

All work is a relationship business.

All leadership is a relationship business.

And while our focus in this article is on business or professional relationships, I believe you could say, at some level, life is a relationship business.

Regardless of how you would say it, it is hard to overlook the importance of relationships in all of our professional endeavors.

Having stronger relationships creates less stress, promotes higher productivity, improves speed and efficiency and helps our work in almost every measurable way.

Like most anything of great value, strong relationships don’t just show up on their own. If you want relationships at all, let alone better ones, you must do something. You must do your part, take responsibility and do the things that will build relationships for mutual benefit.

While there are many things you can do to nurture relationships, the seven that follow are things you can do – right now. And, when done consistently, authentically and with sincerity, each will help you nurture and grow the professional relationships you desire.

Make it a priority. If relationships are important to you, you must make them a priority. I know you are busy. I know you have plenty to do. I know that unless there is a major problem or conflict, relationships won’t logically show up as an urgent item on your to-do list. (If you have conflicts or an issue, you need a different article!) If relationships really are important to you, put your focus and your calendar where your mouth is. Spend time doing the things that will build relationships, rather than neglecting them. Neglecting relationships lead to weed-filled garden results. What’s that, you ask? A big mess!

Care. If you want to nurture relationships, you have to sincerely care about people, their thoughts and feelings, and their well being. It is often said (and I’ve seen the quote attributed to different people) “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Your professional expertise and knowledge matters, of course, but keep it in perspective. When you do, let people know you care. And if you really don’t care, you need to think long and hard about why that is true.

Make connections. Connections come in many forms. On one hand we need to connect with people on things that matter to them. This, of course, starts with caring. We also can make connections for people with other people. Once you know their interests and needs, you can introduce them to others, connect them to resources and/or connect them to anything else that would help them.

Be trusting.
Want more trusting relationships? Trust others. Look for opportunities to show your trust, knowing that people tend to live up to the trust placed in them. Will you occasionally be disappointed? Sure. But will you build relationships further and faster in every other situation (and perhaps even in the relationship where you are disappointed)? Absolutely.

Expect the best. Much like trust, you can expect the best of other people. People can tell when you are being cynical or have low expectations. People can also feel it when they know you believe in them and have confidence that they can succeed. Ask yourself – how often do I truly expect the best for others? And, when I do, do I let them know?

Listen. It seems so simple, yet it is most often overlooked. Think about any person you know, and realize that they likely yearn to be really listened to. Do you ever feel that way? And how do you feel about another person when they really listen to you? If you are like every person I’ve ever met, when you are listened to it strengthens the relationship with that person. You can do that for others – anytime (including right now). LISTEN!

Take the lead. Inherent in all of these suggestions is one important element. If you want to nurture relationships in whatever way you choose, you can go first. Relationships won’t grow unless someone takes action. Be the one to go first. Make the first move. Offer the olive branch. Make the apology. Ask the first question. You get the idea. Take the lead.

These are just 7 of probably 107 (or more) strategies you can use to nurture your relationships and help them grow. I encourage you to take personal responsibility for the quality and health of your relationships, today. All of these tools can help you take that responsibility and take your relationships to a higher level now – and forever.

Potential Pointer: One of the most important skills you can develop to be successful in your professional life is to be successful in nurturing and growing relationships. Time spent on this activity will create lasting benefits for everyone.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Project Social: Finding the Right Person

My project social partner Dave Ryan and I were chatting Monday about recruiting and how hard it is to find the right person. As a busy HR person, he must frequently rely on external recruiters even though recruiting is traditionally an HR activity and he’ll be posting on the outsourcing aspect of recruiting over at HR Official.

Whereas I’m more interested in how recruiting has evolved over the years. For example, a friend of mine is an IT recruiter and years ago over lunch she described how she found people.

As an example, if she was looking for a Java developer, she would:
  • Call up a company with lots of Java developers and ask to be connected with the manager of application development or 'someone in the organization who could answer her question about...' some made up technical problem.
  • Pretend to be a potential customer and chat up the lead gen folks until she got a developer name.
  • Get hold of a company directory - best not to ask how - and cold call everyone in the department.

Basically, she'd call around and talk to people until she got a lead and then she would pursue to the ends of the earth if necessary. Not interested? A mere technicality.

Stalking is such a dirty word. Let’s just say she was really good at her job.

And she didn’t consider the job done until the ink was dry. Even once the fish was on the hook, so to speak, she made herself available day and night. Many times her phone would ring while she was making dinner for her kids and family life would halt while she talked some skittish candidate down off the ledge.

Although this wasn’t THAT long ago, the tools of recruiting have evolved quite a bit with social media. Not only is it easier to find and connect with people, it’s also easier to dig up information about them. And people are generally better connected as well so if one lead doesn’t pan out odds are they can tip you onto another.

So the entire process takes much less time, which unfortunately leads many recruiters to believe they can skimp on the small touches.

For example, I've gotten a surprising number of emails that go something like this: 'I have a great job that you're perfect for. If you're interested call me.'

Oh, yeah, I jump right on those.

Of course, some things haven’t changed: The best recruiters will always be the ones who can find people and form connections.

I was recently contacted about an opportunity via LinkedIn, which I declined. The recruiter - who had taken the time to provide job details, spell check his email and act interested in me - thanked me for responding. Then he politely asked if I knew anyone so I emailed a friend and asked if I could pass along his details. He agreed and a few weeks later messaged me on Facebook to thank me for hooking him up.

(If I were going to embellish this story I'd throw in a Skype chat or two but we actually managed without Skype or Twitter.)

Now THAT’s social recruiting in action.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Coffee Break at the Compensation Cafe

I've been blogging at the Compensation Cafe for about a year and a half and loving it.  The Cafe bloggers are a diverse team with different voices and areas of specialization so it's always the first blog I check when I log on each day. 

Today I've been revisiting and  cataloging my Cafe posts by topic.  Why?  Well, I was thinking my mom might like a leather bound copy for Christmas this year...

Here they are, the complete anthology of a Fairy Compensation Specialist:

The Hidden Cost of Work - You know what your workforce costs.  Do you know what the actual work costs?

Do You Know What Meetings Cost? - Meetings are expensive.  And often unnecessary.

The Value Gap - The gap between what people do and what they could do.

Collaboration: $1.99/Lb - Don't let collaboration slow you down.

A Plug for Cash - Overpaying employees won't motivate them more but underpaying them may demotivate them.

What if We Kill Incentives? - A peek at a world with no incentives.

Hey, Watch Where You Point That Thing! - Careful with those incentives...

Embracing the Sea Change - Are you prepared to deal with contingent workers?

When There's No Script - Do you want to hire specialists or generalists?

Moving Away From Job-Based Pay - How compensation must evolve to meet the needs of a changing workforce.

Powered by Recognition - Recognition programs work best if you also recognize managers who recognize their employees.

What's in it for Bob? - Why should your experienced employees mentor your new employees?

Are Your Managers Ready? - The best laid plans of mice and compensation specialists may be undermined by poor managers.

Engagement: The Good Stuff - Best practices in workforce engagement.

It Actually IS Personal - Smart companies align what's good for the business with what's good for individuals.

Strings Attached - How to create a feeling of connection to the organization.

Back to the Basics - Engagement is about more than money.

Who's Your Talent Manager? - Talent management is a full-time job.

Show Me the Monkey - Lessons about engagement from our primate cousins.

What Can We Learn About Rewards from a Company With no Rewards? - How DOES Wikipedia do it?

All I Want for Christmas - On the power of appreciation.

Trends in Global Talent and Rewards - How to define globally consistent talent and rewards programs.

Are You Comparing Apples and Oranges - How to use a global rewards index to compare global compensation programs.

Because they Can - An ironic essay about what's wrong with executive compensation.

The Curse of the Golden Handcuffs - Practical advice on keeping leaders engaged while preparing future leaders.

Executive Compensation - The Real Risk - Despite what they tell you, executive incentives result in very predictable behaviors.

That's All Very Well but I'm Just the Comp Planner - The most effective strategies for compensation professionals.

We Must, We Must, We Must increase Our Trust - How to re-establish trust in a cynical organization.

Total Rewards Gurus Where Are You? - Today's compensation specialists need to walk both sides of the fence.

It's Not About Spending Less - Business is about making money, not saving money.

Trend Watch 2010 - Amazingly accurate predictions about the future of rewards.

Who Do You Love? - Are you rewarding the right people?

Do Your Rewards Strategies Encourage Poor Performance? - A reality check for performance management.

Balancing Act - There's no 'right answer' when designing rewards programs.

I'm a Hi-Po, He's a Hi-Po, She's a Hi-Po - Wouldn't you like to be a hi-po, too?

Goals - Good goals and bad goals - how to spot the difference.

Coffee's For Closers - A pay for performance primer featuring Alec Baldwin.

One Size Doesn't Fit All - How to maximize the effectiveness and perceived value of rewards.

Shopping at the Compensation Cafe - Why not let people choose their own rewards?

Re-Engaging Your Employees - Using workforce analytics to optimize rewards strategies.

What Can We Learn from Marketing? - HR and marketing have more in common than you'd think...

What's In It For Them? - Compensation communication should help employees connect the dots between performance and rewards.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Modern Workforce: Visibility, Alignment and Optimization

Guest Post by Leighanne Levensaler

Strong global economic growth is expected this year, and the U.S. economy will see "substantial acceleration" over the next two years, according to Goldman Sachs economists. Yet as we savor this positive outlook, let's remember there's also the risk of failure to have the right talent to respond to new opportunities.

Companies have systems that track costs of raw materials, the cost to turn materials into products, and the specifications of machines to manufacture them. Yet when it comes to their workforces, many companies find it difficult to get a proper global headcount, let alone an understanding of the worker characteristics that drive greater business performance. Business leaders should expect, and even demand, the ability to understand the cost and capabilities of Jane the engineer on the 4th floor in the same way one of their plant managers can tap on a keyboard and learn the cost and specs of a manufacturing machine.

Turning these insights into demonstrable business growth requires rigor in three areas:
  • Visibility - Companies first need to learn about their people, i.e., how many work there, where they're located, what are their job roles, what they're working on, how much they cost, and how they're performing. When companies have the right tools to learn these things, they can achieve alignment.
  • Alignment - With good data in hand, companies can assess if employees are doing the right things and in the right way, and if what they're doing aligns with company initiatives, goals, and operational imperatives so they can be rewarded accordingly. Once alignment is achieved, organizations can achieve optimization.
  • Optimization - Aligned companies are in the best position to assess their people practices and adapt them, as needed, for optimal business results. They now have the discipline and structure to continually evaluate such things as workforce composition, span of control, staffing strategies, pay-for-performance programs, leadership development, and succession management.
High-performance organizations—committed to workforce visibility, alignment, and optimization—are responsive and adaptable to market realities, whether that's new government regulations, healthcare reform, industry upswings and downturns, and more. They create a culture that is skilled at optimizing talent to readily absorb and adapt to external shocks, and as a result, they outperform their competition.

So what does this all mean for HR departments? I'll close my blog with this passage:

"This, friends, is the trouble with HR. In a knowledge economy, companies that have the best talent win. We all know that. Human resources execs should be making the most of our, well, human resources—finding the best hires, nurturing the stars, fostering a productive work environment—just as IT runs the computers and finance minds the capital. HR should be joined to business strategy at the hip.

Instead, most HR organizations have ghettoized themselves literally to the brink of obsolescence. They are competent at the administrivia of pay, benefits, and retirement, but companies increasingly are farming those functions out to contractors who can handle such routine tasks at lower expense. What's left is the more important strategic role of raising the reputational and intellectual capital of the company—but HR is, it turns out, uniquely unsuited for that."

It comes from a Fast Company article penned in August, 2005, by Keith H. Hammonds, in what became one of the most-read articles about the HR business, "Why We Hate HR." More than five years later, how many HR departments consider themselves any closer to being "joined to business strategy at the hip"?

While I don't agree with all of the author's conclusions, I certainly agree that HR needs to be better aligned with the business. I'd also argue that we now have tools available for business users to gain unprecedented visibility into the workforce, ensure alignment to the most important initiatives, and achieve the last frontier of business management optimization.

This guest post was contributed by Leighanne Levensaler, Vice President of HCM Product Strategy at Workday. You can read more from Leighanne at Workday Blogs or follow her on Twitter @LeighLevensaler.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Modern Workforce: Managing Remote Workers

As an HR executive, my project social partner Dave Ryan ponders how to manage remote employees, which he wrote about over at HR Official. And as a remote employee, my challenge is to stay engaged. So as our next tandem blog topic we decided to tackle remote workers from these different perspectives.

How do you keep a remote employee engaged? The simple answer is, you don’t. Employees are ultimately responsible for their own feeling of engagement. But there are things you can do to encourage that feeling:

Perspective #1: Team Lead

The largest team I ever managed was made up of 109 functional experts in 9 sub-teams in multiple locations. Each of the 9 teams had a senior consultant that reported to me and worked directly with each team. Several of the consultants on my team worked in the same building with me so it was relatively easy to connect with them. But with the remote folks I had to be more proactive about reaching out and staying in touch.

Over time we adopted a number of processes to facilitate communication and identify potential problems before they became actual problems:

  • Weekly 30 minute 1:1 – Although I’m a firm believer that technology can replace most meetings, some personal interaction is necessary so we kept these 1:1 meetings fairly religiously.
  • Weekly status report – Instead of status meetings we used a weekly status report to make it easy for anyone who actually cared (mostly me) to scan and identify overall status, current tasks, milestones, potential issues, to dos, etc.
  • Monthly team meeting – We met as a team about once a month to brainstorm and share information. After the meeting we also went for dinner, for which I footed the bill and charged in as ‘team bonding.’
  • Team communications – I used email to communicate process changes and team updates. I know that seems hopelessly outdated now but it was what we had. I tried to keep it short.
  • Prompt follow up – I responded to any email from my team members immediately and insisted on the same courtesy from everyone on the team. There is nothing more frustrating as a remote person than feeling ignored.
  • To each according to his need – Some of the consultants in my team needed more guidance and support than others. I triaged my time according to how much help each person needed.

Perspective #1: Remote Employee

I currently live and work in Munich while most of my colleagues sit together in California. In addition to the geographical difference, I’m 9 hours ahead of the corporate action. Sometimes it gets lonely here in the future and staying motivated can be a challenge. A few things make it easier:

  • Good management – A big challenge for remote teams is that not all managers feel comfortable managing someone they can’t see and talk to face to face.
  • Corporate support – Working with remote colleagues can be a challenge for people who aren't used to working in virtual teams and they may forget to include - or balk at including - their remote colleagues. But at companies where virtual teams are the norm the difficulties miraculously evaporate.
    • Effective communication – If you aren't an effective communicator you cannot work remotely or manage remote people. That means being able to communicate clearly and concisely without relying on interpersonal crutches like appearance, personality or body language.
    • Web 2.0 – I rely heavily on collaboration tools like Webex, Lifesize, and an all-purpose corporate wiki to communicate what I’m working on and stay current with what others are working on.
      • Experience – I’ve worked in the IT industry for 15 years in various roles so I can run with projects with very little guidance. If I were to start a new job in a new industry remote work probably wouldn’t work that well for me.
      • Accountability – At the end of the day it’s up to me to make sure my manager doesn’t regret having a remote employee. This means being responsive, reliable and available. It also means reaching out when I need something and communicating early and often.

      These are my experiences of what works best for managing remote people and working remotely. Be sure to check out Dave's post as well and if you have any other suggestions we’d love to hear them!

      Wednesday, February 9, 2011

      Modern Workforce: Favorite Posts Jan 2011

      I recently kicked off a Modern Workforce series, which focuses on workforce diversity topics such as remote workers, global teams, generations, working moms and adoption of Web 2.0 technologies.

      This week I want to highlight a few other authors that are contributing to this topic in their own blogs with some really great posts.

      First up, Dan McCarthy wrote a hilarious post about the multiple generational workforce: 10 Things Boomer Managers Shouldn't Have to Give Up.

      Next Jason Seiden has nailed why working moms make the best employees in his post Why You Should Hire Moms.

      Dorothy Dalton contributes to the discussion with her thoughts on mid-career sabbaticals in her post Grown Up Gap Years.

      Margaret O'Hanlon writes about embracing Web 2.0 technologies to improve collaboration in her post Turns Out Web 2.0 is No Fad - But Why Should Comp Care?

      And last but not least, the HR Bartender writes about the strategic role of common courtesy in recruiting - more important than ever in this digital communication age - in her post How to Handle Rejection.

      I hope you enjoy these posts as much as I did!

      Monday, February 7, 2011

      Check Out the Leadership Carnival of Love!!!

      Mark Stelzner has put together an amazing Valentine's Day leadership carnival this month - don't miss it!

      Modern Workforce: Maternity Leave

      As a working mother of three, I consider myself something of a maternity leave connoisseur. So, in honor of the latest addition to my working mom emporium, I’ve decided to kick off my Modern Workforce series with a post on maternity leave.

      Although I’ve been fortunate in my own maternity leave experiences I find that the majority of companies still treat maternity leave as a necessary evil rather than a differentiated way to attract, retain and engage talented people.

      Talk about a missed opportunity! The working moms I know are some of the most efficient workers you can get for money. They have to be so they can get home, cook dinner, fold laundry, wipe noses, change diapers, bandage boo boos, check homework, read stories, bake brownies, bring kids to bed then finish up their day jobs after the kids go to bed.

      Think these women can’t handle a little work? Think again: These flexible, multitasking moms are a workforce to reckon with.

      That’s nice, you say, but at company XYZ we can’t afford to work around people’s schedules.

      Maybe that’s true, but are you sure you aren’t stuck in a time warp? Not every job lends itself to flexibility but quite a few jobs lend themselves to more flexibility than you’d think. Plus, given the global, virtual, multi-generation, multi-location nature of the modern workforce, flexible thinking is no longer a luxury.

      Here's a list of maternity leave best practices that I’ve compiled over the years by speaking with dozens of working moms about what works and what doesn't:

      • Think branding –Talented people with kids want to work for companies that demonstrate strong family values.
      • Be generous – You can force a new mom back to work after a few weeks but frankly, she still has baby on the brain. As the baby gets a bit older she’ll start longing for the office again so why not give her enough time to get excited about coming back?
      • Plan it out – Don’t diminish the joy of parenthood with stressful ambiguity. Discuss work coverage and re-entry before maternity leave begins and plan what may be planned.
      • Be flexible – If your company allows new moms to work from home, you can reduce down time as well as earn loyalty and gratitude. If Siemens can do it, so can you.
      • Paternity leave – In Germany moms and dads are allowed to split their legally allowed leave time. Talk about gender diversity!
      • Part-time – A former manager of mine once said that part-time workers are the deal of the century because they don’t waste time on lunch, gossip, staring at their keyboard, smoking, etc. Is this an option you can offer?
      • Pony up! – Have a policy to send the new mother some flowers, a onesie with the company logo or a gift certificate to show support and appreciation. Don’t assume the manager will think of it, they hardly ever do.
      • Support network – First time moms may not know how to find the right work life balance. Why not ask experienced working mothers in the organization to write down and/or present some tips for new working moms?
      • Career development – Working moms may adjust their career goals to raise their kids but that doesn’t mean they don’t have any. There’s no reason a working mom can’t effectively manage a team, a project or a territory.
      • Accountability - Clearly not all working moms are top performers, any more than all top performers are good managers. Hold working moms - and everyone else - accountable for timely, high quality work.

      Friday, February 4, 2011

      I Think This Qualifies as a Life Event...

      The day he was born he looked right at me and got a very doubtful expression on his face, as if he wanted to say: "You are not my mother. You are a snort!"

      That's when I fell in love.

      Onboarding-NHO eBook Release

      It's about time there was a tool out there to help HR pros, managers, and business leaders with the onboarding and new hire orientation process. It's often neglected or at the very least, really boring uninspiring.
      You're in luck, because Ben Eubank's new free eBook So, what's next? is going to fill that need. Inside this guide you'll find some great tips and tricks, personal stories, and other tools to help you do this stuff the right way. 
      Contributors include: Paul Smith, Jennifer McClure, Trish McFarlane, Laura Schroeder, Dwane Lay, Dave Ryan, Lance Haun, Charlie Judy, Robin Schooling, Sabrina Baker, Michael VanDervort, and Tanmay Vora.

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