Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How's It Going to Be?

Picture it. Ocean City, 1988.  Two recently graduated high school males drive down to the shore to meet up with half a dozen recently graduated high school females.  Heaven.  Our popularity knows no bounds.  We arrive, celebrate with the young ladies for a while and then head to the boardwalk.  One of the females asks us all to stop to have our palms read at a kitchy closet-sized boardwalk establishment.  Um, ok.  I am elected to go first - $3 for one palm, $5 for two.  “$3, please,” I say (those of you who know my frugality…stop laughing out loud).  My life will be long, married with two children and some nonsense about career and money that were very general in description.

My buddy affirms my willingness to set a tone, as the girls were ooh-ing and ah-ing over my stable future.  I was a hot catch.  And then one of the girls went next.  The fortune teller began very broadly about her successes yet to be – you will graduate college, you will have a good job, etc.  But then love came into the conversation and the teller asked if the letters “P” and “J” meant anything.  And with that, tears began to fall.  The girls huddled together and shared in the heartbreak.  You see, this young lady’s last two boyfriends were Pete and Jason.  Now, the fortune teller was clearly in the driver’s seat and directed how the rest of the night would go.  Needless to say, it was not that lucky of a night for those two recently graduated males.  They had to help console the raw emotion of 18-year old girls.  Crap.

As I have had the privilege to work with many companies in trying to develop managerial and leadership skills, questions of predictability come up.  Most organizations want to know that if they do “x” will “y” happen?  Is it that simple?  Basically, “John, can you tell me where we will be in 5 years and will we be successful?”

Think of the wonderful parents that you had/have (or maybe the wonderful parents that you’ve observed).  Have all of their children been model workers or spouses, or human beings, for that matter?  No.  Is that necessarily reflective of the fact that the parents weren’t as great as all that?

The best coaches and leaders have had players, executives or followers that did not rise to the occasion of their instruction.  It has meant that some of those coaches and leaders did not know their environment well or pay enough attention to the talent before them.  As such, they made decisions that were not in keeping with understanding what they had to work with.  For those leaders, they were replaced by others who seemed to have a better handle on such realities.  But on the other hand, some of those leaders were replaced even though the plans were right on the money.  Think about Andy Reid’s transition as head coach for the Philadelphia Eagles to the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.  His plans were very similar, his assessment of talent thorough and the success was immediate in the new post.  

So, how do you predict success, in this case, with talent?  Firstly, it’s not a cookie-cutter plan.  What worked in one environment might not work in another.  There is a need to assess all variables.  For the HR professional, we have used SWOT analyses for years.  I know that we’ve re-branded this and tweaked it, but in its essence, this is what we should do to profile an organization and to do a deeper dive with talent. 

Secondly, have a bit of patience.  You can’t put a plan into place and then look two weeks later for a monster improvement.  In my experience, those companies that can show an off-the-charts improvement had to be in a very dire situation to start with, as in “Kitchen Nightmares” with Gordon Ramsey.  Let’s hope this is not the situation your company is in.  Most talent-related new playbooks take a bit to get used to and to implement with conviction.  Acclimating staff to the new rollout of procedure, planning and level of teamwork, for example, needs some time.  There is not a quick fix for most companies.  And to be honest, you want lasting, not short term.

And finally, do your homework before hiring.  Know the skill set clearly.  Understand competencies first.  Measure talent by using assessments for coachability, personality, motivation factors, etc.  There is great value in investing is such measures first.  Don’t be frugal in this (Physician, heal thyself, eh?).

I know that most companies are hoping to pull a wild card in talent.  This isn’t going to be done through luck, with tarot cards or palm reading.  It’s going to be done with an educated assessment of the internal truths of the company, the external competitive markets and the ability of the talent at present.  Those gaps can then be seen clearer and a plan put in place.  I wish it were as simple as a look at my hand to know for sure what the future will bring, but alas, it’s not to be.  Plus, I seem to have more lines on my hands the older I get.  Not only would I have to ask “what do I do with that,” but also “how did this happen to my hands?!”

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Waiting on the World to Change

Discipline.  Love it.  In the context of achieving a goal, it's fantastically needed.  To endeavor to lose weight, for example, requires discipline.  It requires commitment, determination and resolve.  I've been exercising forever.  My mom says that when I was a toddler, I used to watch a show, "Exercise with Gloria," on our local Philadelphia station and would imitate the aerobic and stretching moves.  I was committed to doing what she did - stance by stance, stretch by stretch.  As adults, when we watch someone exercise discipline towards such a health-related goal, we are inspired.

So why does the use of the word "discipline" have to change when applied to correction?  When I discipline one of my kids, which I hardly ever have to do because they rock (truth be told, they usually have to provide correction for their dad), I'd like to think I offer it as an encouragement towards excellence and validation of my commitment to their well-being.  Of course, the relational aspect helps to bridge these intentions.

In the workplace, can we provide a similar position in how we administer discipline?  Think about the goal of discipline at the workplace - it's to change behavior.  Let's do Psych 101, shall we?  Behavior modification is best achieved through a few steps at the workplace:
  1. Define the problem for the employee and allow the employee to ask questions for understanding
  2. Discuss practical ways to address the issue and allow for collaboration, when prudent, from the employee
  3. Ensure the active behavior changes are both initiative and reactive in usage (What will I do differently? - initiative; How will I respond differently in the next similar situation? - reactive)
  4. Hold the employee accountable for the agreed upon changes
Very simple and straight-forward, right?  Well, the list may be, but the implementation will take more effort.  For some of you, your companies already engage in this type of positive discipline, but for many, this represents a counter-culture method to the argumentative, vindictive or stoic nature of discipline currently in place.  We know that long-term behavioral changes come with deeper connectivity to the issue at hand and to the solutions that will affect the desired change.  Whether it's lateness or a problem with productivity, if we can provide discipline that outlines clearly the issue, the solution and the method to achieve it with collaborative understanding from the employee, it's a home run.

We get to be the ones who enact such change in approach to employee discipline.  Don't wait for your boss, your managers or the world, for that matter, to change first.  From a scientific and measurable way, we can show that approaching employee discipline from this angle will bring a marked difference.  Discipline is not a scary word or activity.  Now, strap on your Thigh Master while at work and get to it!  Get motivated to change employee discipline!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Candy Everybody Wants

SMH.  How cool am I?  I know that SMH means “Shaking My Head” in text and social media chat.  OK, you might not think I am that cool, but I do (and isn’t that all that really matters? Ok, not really).  We do know that just because you know the latest slang, technology or fashion doesn’t make you relevant.  Relevance comes from true engagement.

OK, what the heck does that mean?  Sounds like the latest talking point for me to use as a keynote.  I can travel from SHRM Chapter to SHRM Chapter and sing the values of true engagement.  “For only $39.95, learn all of the secrets of true engagement that will transform your business, your marriage and your life! Act now and I’ll throw in a Ronco Potato Peeler absolutely free! (Just pay shipping and handling)”.  Nice, right?

True engagement is about connectivity.  For business-minded people, this means connection to competition, market conditions, market changes, talent trends in skill sets and training, strategies around retention and succession planning, etc.  I will be relevant when I am relevant.  I don’t look or sound relevant alone; I am to be relevant in what I do, too.  Often this requires an investment in time to determine where my resources are better spent moving forward.  I assess situations, weigh the facts, research what I don’t know and make decisions.  This screams of relevance.

As people, we yearn for connection to others, to ideals, to purpose.  When something is out of line, we seek to find a replacement for what’s missing.  One of my recent favorite actors died this week.  Phillip Seymour Hoffman could draw you in to the role he was playing.  You believed it was real.  You tracked with him.  You could connect with the performance.  Out of the limelight, he struggled with the same things we all struggle with – relationships, meaning, direction.  What he ran to for answers did not provide what he was ultimately looking for, but don’t think he’s alone in that.  I am not speaking of drug use, but on a grander scale, running to something easy to fill the deeper.

Our relevance is not bound to coolness.  When I sit and listen to someone pushing a book about how to be relevant to Gen Y, for example, I could get up and punch them in the middle of their speech. (I mean, slap them, ‘er, rather, give them a stern glare…ah, that’s more HR).  Tell me how to measure competition better, how to measure and read financials better, how to discover better talent and recruit more effectively.  That’s what will make me relevant to the workplace, not a Blu-ray in the breakroom or $5 Starbucks gift cards on an employee’s birthday (OK, I don’t really mind that one, but…). 

Your connection comes from putting yourself in places to be connected.  What are you spending your time on?  Is it profitable?  Is it bottom-line driven?  We are so much better than flash and glitz; we are substance.  Our purpose comes from pursuit of such things; work to fight against those things that would distract us from our meaning.  We have depth.  We bring purpose to the table for others to share.  We are relevant to our companies, our homes, and our country when we pursue connection to real, lasting principles.  For our business communities, these principles must be foundational and returned to time and again.

There will come a time when I will no longer be able to physically pursue some of these things, and as such, my relevance may slip.  May I remain strong in my core to not become discouraged.  My mind may want more, but my body may hold me back.  But maybe, by that time, the Ronco Relevance Infuser will be on the market.  Of course, I will be first in line…SMH