Saturday, July 25, 2020

Resilient HR, Resilient Company

Why does HR still struggle to find the right balance between administration and strategy? 

How can HR continue to build its influence and drive strategy in the post-Corona workplace?

Where can I find the answers without reading a long blog post?

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Dare to Share: Building a Courageous Culture

David Dye and Karin Hurt are experts in innovative leadership development and co-authors of the popular book Courageous Cultures. In this short interview they share how companies can build a high-performing, high engagement culture, and the important role HR plays bringing courageous culture to life.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Embracing Diversity and Leading Diverse Teams

My first boss Herman was a 2nd generation Mexican American.  He ran a tight Jewish bakery counter and his brother Alex managed the kosher deli across the way.  

My best boss ever – and I’ve only had a few over a long career I consider truly great – was French and female.  

I’ve had bosses from the US, France, India, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Mexico, and Germany.  They all had very different management styles.

One boss called me a ‘penetrante Kuh’ - which means annoying cow - but he was German, so I didn’t take it personally.  In fact, I considered printing it on my business card.

I’ve hired and managed people from Canada, South Africa, Germany, Japan, Poland, Singapore, Russia, Finland, Spain, Mexico, Ireland, France, and the US.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with Russians, Finns, Japanese, Italians, Canadians, Dutch, French, Irish, British, Welsh, Scottish, Spanish, Australians, Iranians, Pakistanis, Chinese, Belgians, Indians, Romanians, Swiss, Scandinavians, Germans, more Germans, and 2nd generation Americans from pretty much every part of the world. 

Some were younger, some were older, some were male, some were female, some were fantastic to work with while others were difficult, but they all offered something unique to the mix.

It's the best part about working, to be honest. 

I didn’t like everybody, nor did everyone like me.  A few didn't like me a lot, and y'know... ditto.  But the point is that they all added colour and flavour to my work experience, as I hope working with me did for them.

Interacting with so many cultures and personalities upped my game and having such a rich mix of colleagues and experiences kept me longer in each role than I might have stayed otherwise.

Diversity matters in ways we can’t measure.  It makes us more resilient, curious, compassionate, and open to new cultures, ideas and experiences.  It tests us and forces us to adapt, compromise and question our assumptions.

Cultural diversity is just one lens on the many different perspectives people bring to the workplace, and like the other lenses can challenge an inflexible leadership style.  A manager who clings to his or her comfort zone like a one trick pony will struggle to get the best out of a diverse team.

How do you build and lead a diverse team effectively? By hiring people better than you and helping them play to their strengths while being very clear about your expectations.

Leave as much as possible up to the people in your team.  Let them decide when, where and how to work.  Let them decide when to ask for help and when to work independently.  Let them spend time on projects that interest them, so long as they line up with team priorities.  

One very important point of clarification here: This doesn’t mean everyone just runs off and does whatever they feel like.  It’s a leader’s job to set clear priorities and deadlines, manage expectations within the team, ensure people interact professionally, and hold each person accountable for bringing their best self to work. 

In fact, how you lead the team shapes the team culture, which in turn impacts how well the team functions – so much so, that many companies continue to hire for culture fit rather than diversity. This is problematic and here's why:

Imagine a Venn diagram where individual personality and company culture overlap.  You immediately see a trade-off because the bigger the overlap, the less cultural diversity you have.  

Hiring managers also frequently try to hire people who will ‘fit in’ and therefore – let’s say it – be easier to manage.  Here again, the larger the overlap between team culture and individual personality, the stronger the sense of tribe and the lower the likelihood of conflict – or true innovation - within the team. 

It's easier to lead a culturally homogenous team than a culturally diverse one because one leadership style is more likely to fit all, which means the manager has to expend less energy to lead the team.  That's why diverse teams with inflexible leadership tend to underperform because people have to expend so much energy trying to fit in.  

Here’s why it matters: A team with a high degree of personal autonomy – or a large ‘personal expression zone’ – led by a skilled leader is likely to outperform and out-innovate a culturally homogenous team because more perspectives engender more ideas, which in turn create more possibilities.  Creativity is a numbers game, baby.

Diversity creates discomfort, which if properly channelled has the potential to turn crazy ideas into game changers.  If the overlap between company, team and individual culture is too great, you get high complacency and sense of belonging but low discomfort - which can hold you back when you need to pivot.

If, however, company and team culture are truly inclusive and allow for a high degree personal expression, you might just get… magic.  That's why the 'secret sauce' of a successful diversity strategy is inclusion, as Asif Sadiq, Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion, explains in this short interview.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Resilient Organizations: Balancing Tech and Culture in the Digital Age

Looking into the not so distant future, how can organizations create a more resilient and human-centric workplace?

What is the role HR in selecting technology, and why do strategic HR and digital transformation go hand in hand?

Why do so many technology projects fail, and what should business leaders and HR professionals consider before deploying a new solution?

All this and more in this live presentation from the HR Digital Innovation Summit:

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Online Fatigue: The Pain is Real

Best practices for remote work have suddenly become trendy.  After all:

1. Employees who are used to connecting in person miss the daily connection and stimulus;
2. Employers want to maintain trust, productivity and alignment during this time; and
3. It's easy to weigh in on this topic. 

Once again, however, the focus of the organization is on extroverts and their needs - forgetting that introverts are not only more comfortable with remote work but also need uninterrupted time to recharge.

These days, even extroverts may feel what I call 'online fatigue' in the wake of extra online meetings to align and 'connect' with the team.  That's because virtual meetings are more tiring than in person interactions, perhaps because you can't draw on the energy of the others.  

Plus, when all your meetings happen at your desk it's easy to forget to stand up and move around, and that's tiring, too.

Unfortunately, one upshot of remote work is that there are even more meetings than before.  In addition to the regular ones, there are all these new meetings and chat rooms to connect with colleagues for company updates and virtual team building.  

That's great for extroverts who miss connecting with colleagues - and it's kind of cool - but may be stressful for introverts or working parents, and even more stressful for introverted working parents.  

I don't want to criticize leaders who are trying to keep people connected because it's really important and let's face it, this is all new territory for many.  This is just a friendly reminder that too much of a good thing is sometimes actually too much.  

Not everyone wants or has time for constant connection while working remotely.  Don't judge them, include them and their needs - by making virtual connction voluntary so people have time to recharge.  

Like a groundhog, introverts will pop up again once they finish hibernating.

It's important for teams to stay connected but it's also important to give people a break from online fatigue.  Here are a few ideas:
  • Keep meetings short and to the point, including management updates - remember people are getting a lot of talking heads these days.
  • If you've introduced daily team standups or chat rooms make participation voluntary so people can self select out if they need to do something else - and if no one comes, cancel them.
  • Instead of communicating more in online meetings, try communicating more in emails, chats and project management tools so you need fewer meetings.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Navigating the Four-Day Work Week

‘Can I work part-time?’

As a team lead and hiring manager I hear this question a lot, now that the four-day workweek is a ‘thing’ – and for the right candidate it’s a no-brainer.


I consider myself as a four-day workweek pioneer, blazing a part-time trail before it was cool.  It started when I was returning from maternity leave. I wanted to work part-time but was confident I could handle the demands of the role in fewer hours. 

I felt a bit nervous asking the hiring manager, but his answer surprised me: ‘I love part-team people.  They cost less, waste less time, and work harder.’

I accepted the offer and ended up doing two full-time roles in twenty hours a week, which was possible because the team culture supported me and we had top notch collaboration tools.

Now I pay it forward, not because it’s trendy to offer a four-day work week, or even because multiple four-day work week experiments have shown higher productivity and engagement.  It's because being flexible gives me access to some amazingly talented people who can effectively manage their time and deliver key results faster.

There’s a flip side, of course: skipped team lunches, minimal time for networking, leaving earlier than everyone else, missing meetings, etc.  But all that can be managed though proper expectations setting and proactive communication. 

If being available and ‘being seen’ are prioritized at your company, you may not be ready to accommodate part-time people in leadership or high visibility roles.  That’s fine but you may be missing out on some great talent, or paying people to focus on non-mission critical tasks.

Is a four-day work week right for your team or company? 

First let’s look at the benefits:
  • Access to talent – A growing number of senior professionals prefer part-time opportunities because their expertise makes them highly efficient.
  • Employer band – Making flexible work schedules and part time opportunities part of your employer brand will help you attract the best people.
  • Mental health – Having afternoons free or one day off provides space to manage one’s personal life with less stress.
  • Lower salary costs – While subject to negotiation, part-time professionals may accept a lower salary in exchange for flexibility, plus salaries are typically prorated by hours worked. 
  • Engagement – Taking a bit of time away from work and work-related emails has a beneficial head clearing effect that increases engagement.
  • Productivity - Embracing a shorter work week creates an opportunity to rethink processes and workflows to make them more efficient.
Now let’s look at a couple of caveats because a four-day work week isn’t for everyone:
  • Right role – A four-day work week shouldn’t necessitate hiring extra personnel, which is why creative, strategic, or even leadership roles may work better than customer service or 'bottleneck' roles that others depend on.  
  • Right experience – Someone with little job experience may need the five days to learn the ropes – in my first management role I worked about 60 hours a week but quite a bit of that was figuring stuff out.
  • Right level of maturity – The four-day model works best with people who know how to manage their time and key stakeholders - a certain amount of finesse and experience are required.
  • Right manager – If your company's managers learned most of what they know about leadership in the 90s this model is probably not for you.  
  • Not everyone wants it!  According to recent EU stats most people are still looking for full-time work, either out of habit or for the higher earning potential.
The corporate world isn't yet ready for a universal four-day work week, but you can pilot the idea and get most of the benefits by: 1) offering it where it makes sense; and 2) supporting the arrangement with tools, communication, expectations setting, etc. so it works.

Whether or not you like the idea of the four-day work week, more people are asking for personalized work arrangements and choosing to work for companies that offer it.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Diversity and Inclusion for Introverts

I spoke at an HR event recently where the key themes were company culture and employee experience.  Following my talk, I was asked by the event moderator if I would accept less money in exchange for more fun at work. 

‘No way,’ I said.  ‘I’m an introvert.  If you want me to have ‘fun’ at work, you have to pay me more.’

That got a big chuckle, but I wasn’t trying to be funny.  I like working with people, but for me ‘fun’ is reading a book alone in my house.  That’s how I shake my funky stuff.  

Just to be clear, introverts like me aren’t shy or unsocial but unlike extroverts we recharge in solitude.  Whereas extroverts find solitude lonely and tiring, and recharge in more social settings. 

In all the HR forums speaking about diversity and inclusion I’ve participated in, I have yet to see anyone bring up how to include introverts.  No one considers that if your company culture is highly collaborative, it can suck to be an introvert.  No one takes introverted work styles into account although it impacts everything from how people do their best work to how they communicate.

Hiring for cultural fit should mean hiring people who are passionate about your mission, not people who all behave or think the same way.  

Sadly, however, despite so much focus on diversity and inclusion, companies expect people to be extroverts at work if they want to advance. This isn’t as unfair as it sounds because communication and relationships are the cornerstone of successful business and no one can do great work in isolation. 

Nonetheless, while extroverts are more likely to excel at sales and proactive customer service, it’s typically introverts who show up in areas that require methodical execution and deep expertise.  That’s because introverts are more likely to invest the time and solitary deep work required for mastery of complex topics than extroverts.

LEADERS TAKE NOTE: Not everyone on your team has the same preferred work and communication style.  A one-size-fits-all management style won't bring out the best in everyone.  Take time to understand your team and help them play to their strengths, not yours.

But it is what it is.  For the time being, extroverts will continue to be in the spotlight at work and are also more likely to advance and earn more. So, here are some tips and reading recommendations for introverts to help you design your dream career without attending lots of networking events and pretending to be someone you aren't: 

Know what you want – If you feel stuck in your career, you may be Barking up the Wrong Tree.  Do you want to lead a team or be an executive?  You’ll need a support base to get promoted and if you’re an introvert who hates talking to people it’s worth asking yourself if that’s really what you want.  Do you want to work remotely or part-time?  You’ll need expertise and in demand skills to earn that flexibility.  Most things are easy if you know exactly what you want and what you’ll compromise – or not compromise – to get it.

Focus on relationships, not networks – You don't have to be an extrovert to be friendly and supportive of the people you work with.  Most opportunity comes from either being top of mind, where extroverts have an undeniable advantage, or being someone who helps others be successful, where introverts do.  Remember, no one succeeds without support, including you, so pay it forward.

Walk the talk – People who get what they want adapt their approach until they get it.  I’m not saying you should try to change into an extrovert because you’ll fail but you may have to have a difficult conversation or change jobs to get what you want.  Take a deep breath and commit to asking for what you want and finding something better if you don’t get it.

Play to your strengths – Great ideas are cheap - the real magic happens in the execution.  If you have a dream and lack the charismatic charm of an extrovert that creates its own luck, work at getting so good they can’t ignore you.  Fortunately, as an introvert, you have a natural advantage when it comes to deep work.

Find a communication style that works for you - Just because you don’t enjoy team lunches or networking doesn’t mean you can’t proactively reach out to different stakeholders in your company or write energized and positive emails.  Introverts can be great communicators if they organize themselves around outreach activities and use their natural empathy and powers of observation.  You may never be the life of the party, but you can be a great communicator.

Let’s face it, if you’re an extrovert with acceptable skills the world is your oyster.  Sadly, my introverted friends, that’s not you but you have your own superpowers.  Figure out what they are, develop them to peak performance, be nice to people along the way and the world can be your oyster, too.

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