Friday, April 29, 2011

Top Ten Tips for Managers

Looking back, all the HR-sponsored management training I’ve had focused on liability. Oh, sure, there was some lip service to topics like "diversity" and "reflexive listening" but the point of the training was to ensure the company didn’t get sued because of me.

It isn’t really surprising, since as recently as two years ago talent management thought leaders tended to focus on things like performance management automation. There were very few voices that recognized the importance of good management.

Now, of course, everyone gets it and HR is looking for ways to offer practical, practicable management tips to the average manager who isn't high enough in the food chain to be eligible for external leadership training.

To meet this rising demand, the indefatigable Ben Eubanks has requested posts for his upcoming new eBook HR Tips for Managers.

I just realized I missed the deadline but here are my ten tips and you can check out what Dave Ryan has to say over at HR Official:
  1. Talk to people about what they want – To lead others you need to understand what motivates them. If you guess you'll probably guess wrong so ask them.
  2. Help people achieve their career goals - As I wrote about in my Thanksgiving post Managers: Time to Talk Turkey, the key to getting the best performance out of people is to show them how your goals align with theirs.
  3. Be flexible – Does it really matter when, where or how people work as long as the job gets done?
  4. Be human not a robot – Take an interest in people. Ask about their families. Share information. Don't embarrass people by sharing too much information but be approachable.
  5. Give regular feedback – Nothing you communicate during the annual performance review should be a surprise. Let people know how they’re doing early and often.
  6. Be appreciative – Nothing motivates like saying thank you and good job sincerely. And when your team makes you look good to your manager don't forget to give credit where credit is due.
  7. Forget fair – Everyone’s different. Recognize great performance, address poor performance and try to tailor 'rewards' to what individuals value.
  8. Help the team bond – People who like each other work better together and yes, that’s part of your job. Create bonding occasions like team lunches or invite your team over for a barbeque.
  9. Help people play to their strengths – One of the strongest motivators is pride, which people are more likely to feel if they're good at what they do.
  10. Don't rely on an open door policy - Get your nose out of that computer and make time for people. And don't wait for them to come to you, go talk to people.
Note that most of these tips assume your team sits in one location, which may not be the case. For tips on managing remote workers check out my post Modern Workforce: Managing Remote Workers.
Cartoon courtesy of Scott Adams and Mark's Dilbert Jalbum.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Why SaaS is Greener

According McKinsey research paper 'Data Centers: How to Cut Carbon Emissions and Costs,' the world's 44 million servers consumed .5% of all electricity in 2008, with data center emissions approaching those of small countries and projected to quadruple by 2020.

The same report estimated that 25% of the average IT budget is spent on computing resources, including facilities, storage devices, servers and staffing and that the average corporate data center is only about 5% efficient. Yikes.

Much of the energy waste in data or shared computing centers results from inefficient cooling or outdated servers. However, a significant amount of energy waste results from a failure to understand the cost of data in terms of computing resources.

There are several forces at work here:
  • Rising demand for data - Companies want real-time access to complex analytics and historical data to support business decisions. To support this requirement, multiple copies of the same information are often duplicated in multiple systems.
  • Decentralized decision making - Individuals make data usage decisions without considering the impact on total capacity or cost, such as a sales manager who wants real-time access to sales pipeline analysis or an employee who doesn't delete old emails.
  • Excess capacity - Companies typically purchase excess capacity to accommodate extreme usage scenarios or future expansion, rather than implementing more efficient computing techniques such as virtualization or fine tuning software to minimize server use.
  • Lack of financial accountability - Total computing costs are tracked as an expense but not energy utilization or waste.

Until I started researching corporate sustainability I never considered the carbon footprint of data - and then I felt like a schmuck for all my undeleted emails. But although companies and individuals can try to make more responsible choices about how they save and use data, the demand for data isn't going to decrease.

That makes it imperative to dramatically increase computing efficiency, which is how Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions are already making a difference. SaaS is a software delivery model that allows companies to share computing resources rather than building and maintaining their own. So, instead of installing business software on your own premises the software is hosted in a shared data center.

What's so green about that? Because shared computing is part of their core business, SaaS vendors have a strong incentive to build state-of-the-art data centers. And each company that moves to a centralized computing model is able to decommission their own servers and - probably inefficient - data centers.

As a result, total global CO2 emissions also decrease significantly as more companies elect to share computing resources in modern, efficient data centers.

There's a lot to be said for SaaS business solutions, like the fact that they don't require upgrades. Anyone who's experienced a software upgrade will appreciate this.

But they also help reduce the carbon footprint of data.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Directing Our Own Futures

Guest post by Jaana Eubanks

In May, a whole new chapter in my life starts as I graduate as an MBA from the University of Nevada, Reno, and move back to Finland after living in the United States for almost seven years. Exciting as well as absolutely terrifying times!

For the past seven years, I’ve been living the academic life style and also played collegiate sports during my undergrad studies. Before coming to the United States, sports played a major role in my life, and most of my youth was devoted to training and competing.

Even though my sports career didn’t workout the way I had hoped, it gave me so much: the opportunities to travel the world, make life long friendships, a scholarship to study abroad and it also instilled in me the values that make me who I am today. The journey has been an amazing adventure and something that I’m truly grateful for.

I’m excited to go back home and start my career, with a great confidence and vigor to find something that I’ll actually enjoy doing (don’t we all?). Since I’m very into the “human side” of business I’ve focused my search on marketing and consulting jobs. The job hunt has by no means been easy. For the past months, I’ve applied to several positions online, most of which seem to end up in this mysterious “black hole”… Some of the applications, I’ve received calls for.

But I’m not letting myself feel discouraged. Things don’t happen over night.

What has been important to me in finding the right kind of career path is to look for opportunities where I can grow and develop as an employee and a person as well as being part of an environment that is challenging. I believe that there is no reason for me (or anyone for that matter) to “just get a position, somewhere”, but to look for a career that would be rewarding and a good match.  That is the reason why we work so hard in life and school, right?

My future career to me looks like something that I can be enthusiastic and energized about, waking up every morning being happy to go to work and provide value. I strongly believe that one can have both in life, a wonderful life and a career one is happy with. At the end, I’ll make my life the way I wanted it to be. So can you.

My advice to you, fellow young professionals, is to remember that you are in charge of your own career (not your parents, your degree or your boss) and no one else is going to reach your goals for you. So get proactive, confident and brave. Network. Read. Remember your worth.

Be kind to others, good things happen to good people.

Go after it!

…And wish me luck!

Jaana Eubanks is a Finnish MBA student seeking opportunities to develop herself and her career while connecting with others.  You can read more from Jaana on her blog Jaana Eubank's Journey or follow her on Twitter @JaanaEubanks.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cooking on the Edge

Guest post by Emily Rosenbaum 

You know what people tell me a lot?  “If you were working, you couldn’t cook like that.”  I’m serious.  People say this to me almost weekly.  What they are really saying is, “Sure, it’s easy to spend hours a day in the kitchen if you’re home all day, but if you had a real job…”

For the record, I do have a real job.  I’m a freelance writer, a career I pursue during the fleeting preschool hours or after my kids are in bed.  I publish consistently and take on bread-and-butter work on a regular basis.  

But, you know what?  That’s beside the point.  The fact is, every person I know is balancing about twenty-three different balls, and it’s hard to keep them all in the air.    
I am committed to Real Food for any number of reasons: reduced packaging, tastier meals, less monosodium somethingoxide in my food.  But one of the biggest reasons I try to cook from scratch is that it reduces life to what matters.  Instead of stressing about how many people are following my blog or reading my book, instead of worrying about the fact that people I went to college with are famous while I’m toiling away in obscurity, I am creating meals.   

And I mean “creating.”  Not opening cans or dissolving bullion cubes, but creating from raw ingredients.  My relationship with food is deep and powerful, and it smells something like yeast dissolving.  

I love food.  I love everything about it.  The creation, the freshness, the smell, the feel.  Food is not about surviving or calories or points.  Food is worth taking the time, and I’d feel that way even if I had a “real job.” 

I know a lot of people feel the same way but are having a tough time figuring out how to work cooking into an already packed day.  So, here are a few things I’ve figured out about preparing real food on a limited schedule:
  1. Plan ahead.  I soak chickpeas the night before, then start them cooking the minute I get out of bed.  They’re cooked by 8:00 AM, ready to be used for dinner that night.  Or, I cook black beans on Monday night, which means they’re ready for Tuesday evening’s dinner.
  2. Lay things out.  If I’m baking the next morning, I measure out the dry ingredients in advance and lay out everything I’ll need.  That way, I can get it in the oven within fifteen minutes, and it can bake while I’m in the shower. 
  3.  Reuse an ingredient throughout the week.  Not to harp on chickpeas or anything, but if I cook them on Sunday, I use them in about three different dishes the rest of the week.  I love chickpeas.
  4. Don’t be afraid of simple dinners.  If you’ve baked muffins in the morning, puree some fruit, yogurt, and honey (plus a couple of ice cubes) and have smoothies with muffins for dinner. 
  5. Finish everything you cook.  I have been known eat the same soup for eight meals in one week.  I love variety, but it sure cuts down on preparation time and food waste.
What’s the secret to balancing kids and work and exercise and cooking?  I’m not sure there is a secret, other than a certain level of commitment and a drop of lunacy.  But I’d love to hear how other people work cooking into their days.  

Emily Rosenbaum is a writer, mother, adult survivor of child abuse, cook, and lousy gardener striving to live sustainably in New Jersey.  Her collection of essays and recipes, Cooking on the Edge of Insanity, is a window into her special brand of craziness. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

What Motivates You?

Maybe one of the ten motivators in my latest post at the Compensation Cafe?  Unless I forgot one...

Here's a link to the post: One Little, Two Little, Ten Little Motivators

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Couple of Focused Discussions

Hey, all you HR pros!  I posted a couple of questions on that I'd love your feedback on:
  1. How do you evaluate your managers?  The importance of good management to employee engagement is now recognized but how do companies monitor how their managers are doing? For example, 360 degree reviews might be a tool you use, or employee surveys. Or perhaps workforce metrics, such as turnover or team performance. How do you ensure good management at your company? 
  2. How do you manage contingent workers?     In many companies HR has little to do with contingent workers, partly because they are tracked outside of the HR system.  This means HR has poor visibility into an increasingly large worker population, which may have a negative impact on performance and may even lead to liability issues.  How involved is HR with contingent workers at your company?
 Even if you don't want to weigh in, the answers others have provided may interest you.  Check it out!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Project Social: An Unorthodox Interview

My project social partner Dave Ryan and I were chatting last Monday and he mentioned he'd been to a college recruiting event and felt re-charged by all that young energy.

So we decided to write a little post about hiring recent graduates.  Don't miss Dave's post over at HR Official.  Here's mine:

These days there's a lot of advice out there about how to interview applicants to make sure you find the right person - or, as the Kris Dunn unforgettably put it, 'separate the stars from the turds.'

It’s all good advice but one of the best interviews I ever had flaunted current wisdom.

My last semester in graduate school was devoted to job search but there was only one company I really wanted to work for.  I researched everything I could and cobbled together an interview suit of sorts:
  1. A black jacket bought on sale at Nordstrom rack; 
  2. A nice if prim silk blouse from Ann Taylor with a small stain on the arm that the jacket hid (which I still have); and 
  3. An old black wool skirt that belonged to my mother and hit me at the worst possible spot in the middle of my knees (which I do NOT still have).
The day of the interview came.  I got dressed, did what I could with my hair and scrutinized myself in the mirror.  I looked inexperienced and awkward, even to myself.  (See the picture at the top of this post?  I didn't look like that.)

The partner who interviewed me wore a well-cut suit with casual ease and exuded friendly confidence.  The contrast to myself intimidated me for the first few minutes of the interview until I noticed something odd:

He was feeding me my lines!  That is to say, I was answering his questions literally and he was re-phrasing what I'd just said to make it sound better.

For example, he noticed on my resume that I was student body president at UCSD - I didn't have much business experience so there wasn't much to choose from - and asked conversationally what that involved.

Me: I run the student association meetings and sometimes meet with the dean to discuss student affairs or speak at a student event. 

Him: Ah, so you're an experienced facilitator, negotiator and public speaker. That's great!

The entire interview was like this and as we shook hands at the end of the interview he told me I’d made it to the next round and wished me luck.  Dazed, I thanked him.

Interesting, no?  He could have easily tripped me up with tough questions but he built me up instead.  He looked for reasons to hire me instead of reasons not to.

Bottom line: High performing companies don't just hire and retain top talent, they also identify and develop potential talent.  A tough interview makes sense if you're looking for a particular skill set but a more supportive approach may work better with young professionals who lack polish.

Polish in your twenties is suspect anyway...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Modern Workforce: April Picks

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

Guest bloggers are always welcome.

Last month I highlighted five great posts that contribute to this topic and here are my picks for this month.

First up is a post about working moms at Hello Ladies that had me grinning ear to ear: If You're a Full-Time Mom, Then What Am I?

Next up is a SmartBrief pick at about several outdated concerns people have about remote employees: 5 Common Remote Work Misconceptions

Don't miss this great article about hiring and motivating talented working moms from How Employers Can Recruit and Retain Working Mothers

Check out this excellent article from Workforce Management about the proper use of workforce metrics: Numbers Game: Companies Utilize Data to Predict Workforce Needs

And last but not least, a lovely post by Rachel Salley about having it all and what really matters at Women of HR: The Trials and Tribulations of Motherhood

Enjoy the goodness!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Congratulations, You Have the Job!

Guest Post by Jay R. Kuhns

Wow!  My first management gig!  I'm actually going to supervise people.  I'm going to be the one they look up to...ask for out my sage advice...draw upon my years...err....months of experience.  This is going to be great!

"What do you mean my employees are as old as my parents?  Wait a minute....what?"

 I Was Young
At 27, I was fortunate to move into a formal management role as the Training and Development Manager for a Hospital.  I was so excited I could barely wait to hear about the team I was going to lead.  (Lesson #1 here - I didn't even know anything about the people I was going to supervise before I accepted the job!  Nice research, eh?) Why didn't I know?  Truth be told, I'd never had a leadership mentor in a work setting who could advise me along my journey.  Yes, I'd had good supervisors prior to getting the job, but they were not focused on my development as a future leader.  

There is a big difference between supervisors and mentors!  One person can absolutely serve in both capacities, but simply assuming that because you have a "nice boss" does not mean they are preparing you for the quantum leap forward known as your first management position.

I Was Motivated
Early on in my tenure my entire team was in conflict.  Well, since I was only supervising two employees and they were mad at each other, it's safe to say the entire team was in an uproar.  So I came up with a brilliant idea...all on my put the issue behind us once and for all.  I decided to block off several hours on my calendar, bring in the two employees, and sit them across from each other while we worked things out.  I told them, in a supportive way, that I had cleared my calendar so we could take all the time we needed to make things right again.  (Boy, I was good!)  

OMG, I can't believe I actually did that!  How embarrassing.

Did I really understand the individual styles of my employees well enough to take such a confrontational stance with the situation?  (Lesson #2 - know your employees, and know how such a confrontational tactic could easily backfire.)  Did I actually believe that everything would be "OK" after my little torture session?

And to think I took pride in that approach.....OMG.

How About You
Getting your first big promotion to a leadership position is very exciting.  Being effective in that role is something very difficult however.  Here are three things to keep in mind as you stumble, fall, and most importantly get back up and keep improving:
  1. Accept the fact that you don't know it all yet.  Push yourself hard to learn.
  2. Seek out a mentor.  Now.
  3. Remember that you're in the job.  Act like you deserve to be there.  The organization hired you, not to be a wuss, but to step up, lead, grow, and lead some more.
So tell me, how are things going for you?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

Jay R. Kuhns is the Vice President of Human Resources for All Children's Hospital and Health System at Johns Hopkins Medicine.  You can read more from Jay at his blog No Excuses HR or follow him on Twitter @jrkuhns.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Project Social: The Inside Scoop

Dave Ryan and I were chatting earlier this week about various topics and decided it's time for a project social check point.

You can read Dave's observations over at HR Official. Here are mine:

We started project social last October, so it's been about 6 months.  In that time, we've written quite a few posts and chatted almost weekly.

I look forward to my weekly chats with Dave.  He's a real 'in the trenches' HR person, which is a great reality check for me.  For example, when I get too heavy on the TM speak he might observe mildly that he doesn't call it that, he just does it.  Or that it doesn't solve his compliance problem.

He's also a really nice guy.

I'm not sure how we ended up doing tandem posts but it's working well for us.  Basically, we post on the same topic about once a week from our two unique perspectives: his as a respected HR leader and mine as a professional smart alec.  We link to each others posts, tweet them and usually add a comment.

We also #FF each other.  

In the beginning we struggled a bit to find a unique topic and wrote a few posts about corporate sustainability.  Unfortunately, these turned out to be less popular than later posts about how everyone's still missing the boat when it comes to talent management. 

In addition to the social aspect of project social, over the last six months we've both picked up new followers and additional traffic - apparently we're onto something with this tandem posting and cross-linking strategy.

So now we're looking to tandem post with a few more people to see what happens...

Any takers?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Money and Engagement

Finally, the definitive link between money and engagement! 

Just kidding, lots of people have tried to explain this. 

But if you're interested in this topic, check out my new post Think of Money as the Bottom Line at Compensation Cafe.

April Leadership Development Carnival

Don't miss the April Leadership Development Carnival hosted by Sharlyn Lauby at HR Bartender... another great line up of leadership posts!  I was going to highlight a few with teasers but they're all good.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Project Social: Young Manager

According to a recent survey, 25% of supervisors are younger than the people they supervise. That’s not really surprising given that not everyone over, say, 40 is a supervisor and someone has to be managing all these people.

It’s also not surprising that we see a large volume of blog traffic on the topic of young managers, managing older workers and dealing with generation gaps in the workforce.

My take is that the problem – if we want to call it that – between younger and older workers has less to do with age per se and more to do with a clash of style and experience level.

I was a young manager once. I called lots of meetings and did most of the talking. I worked crazy hours and had limited respect for people who didn't. I had all sorts of great theories that didn't work very well in practice. There may have been spreadsheets…

Basically, I was pretty annoying to folks who’d been around a while.

If you're a young manager there's a good chance you're annoying. But it's not because you’re 'young.'

It’s because you haven’t been around the block yet. You haven’t lived through the ebbs and flows of business. You don’t know yet which problems are really problems and which will go away by themselves. You can’t evaluate which 80% really needs to get done and which 20% doesn’t matter.

Basically – and please don’t take this the wrong way - you’re clueless.

That’s OK. All great leaders have to start somewhere and plenty of more experienced managers are annoying with far less justification. If you’re a decent person who tries to be a good boss, most of your team will forgive and support you. If you’re a micromanaging know it all, they will hate you.

And yes, the older, more experienced people will hate you more because they know what they’re doing and just want to get on with it.

I’m not saying you should let older workers have it all their own way. If someone on your team undermines your authority or does poor work it's your job to address it, for example like Dave Ryan’s son did (read all about it over at HR Official.)

But here’s some free advice for managing people with more experience than you:
  • Don’t micromanage – They know what they're doing and micromanagement kills creativity, enthusiasm and pride in one’s work.
  • Be humble – Some of the people on your team have been working since before you were born and might know a thing or two you don’t.
  • Lighten up – You'll laugh at yourself in 10 years when you look back on your first manager gig.

Remember: You may be barely old enough to drink now but some day you’ll probably end up working for someone younger than you, too. There is such a thing as karma...

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