Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How Can I Be Sure?

I get approached regularly with requests for career advice. I get asked all sorts of questions but they tend to be variations on the following:
  • How do I break into Human Resources?
  • How do I use social media to build my brand?
  • What help can you give me to find a job?
  • Victorio, why are you so cool?
I admit that the last one, while my favorite, is false! The others aren't.

I can sympathize; I've been in that position, one where I felt clueless about an important question I needed answers to, or a choice that I needed to make. As a result, I do my best to help people out. Usually I start with an email exchange and then if they're comfortable we'll move on to a phone conversation. If they live or plan to be in New York City then we can meet in person. Through this process of communication I've helped people figure out next steps in their professional lives, as well as developed some great relationships.

As I mentioned, I've felt clueless. I still feel that way sometimes. I don't have all of the answers, nor do I want to. Having challenging questions to answer is part of the learning process as a professional. For me, it drives me to better understand and articulate my passion for Human Resources, along with how I can support my clients in the best possible fashion.

I also recognize that, while I consider myself smart, capable, and creative, I'm not the smartest, most capable, or creative Human Resources professional in the world. As Bill Joy, computer scientist and co-founder of Sun Microsystems, once said:
“No matter how many smart people there are within your firm, remember that there are far more smart people outside your firm.”
It's important to remember this. Even if you yourself are an expert in your respective field, there are others out there just as capable, if not more so. And in this era where top talent and resources can be accessed from almost anywhere, it pays to recognize when to reach beyond your known environment for advice and expertise.

This is part of what leaders do--gather intelligence, as well as assess its quality and relevance to the issue at hand, in order to make informed decisions. Without the ability to ask, as well as the willingness to reach out to those within and outside a person's comfort zone, people may not have the relevant insight, perspective, or information necessary to make good decisions.

Competitive advantage can come from timely access to information and expertise, not necessarily being the source of it. Approaching people for help isn't a sign of weakness, neither is asking questions. When done correctly, it demonstrates an ability to seek out and make quality decisions based on the best information available.

How do you ask for help?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

What You Need

It cracks me up when an employee approaches me to tell me what he/she needs.  I know it shouldn’t, but sometimes it’s just too funny.  I got to be a part of a company once when someone asked for a nap each day, paid.  Funny, right?  Funnier still?  He got it.  Contextually, you can see why I crack up.  I have been asked for more money, more time off, more time on, to move another employee out of a department, to fire an employee who annoys others, to tell the CEO he/she stinks, to tap phone lines, to read emails, to reduce payroll across the board and not tell employees about the check changes in advance, to… You get the idea.  Craziness. 

Most times, I laugh.  I get up from my seat while laughing.  Place my hand nicely on the shoulder of the requester and laugh as I slightly escort the person out of my area.  I don’t respond verbally.  Just laughter.  I do this because if I let myself say what I would want to say, I would be out of a job.

What I know will help to alleviate many of these situations, though not all, is the connection to basic needs.  People have needs.  In the workplace, what can we do about it?  Ideally, we can address them and set them up for success.  It takes a little work.  It might undo a culture completely.  It might cause everyone to see how unhealthy things have been.  So what?  Productivity improvements are connected to the people we employ.  Set up standards that allow for goals to be achieved while motivating staff and meeting their needs, and you would be a hero.

So, what do people really want?
  • Collaboration – the ability to work with others. Relationship is a natural desire of humans.  Some love it more than others, but we’re all wired for it.  Creativity, ingenuity and resourcefulness are enhanced through collaborative efforts
  • Invested Leadership – seeing the leaders of the organization take an interest in the goings-on of a work group and/or an individual contributor.  A manager of a small group of employees portrays an understanding of the culture of leadership every day.  Leadership is to take a vested interest in the people it employs.  This gives employees an understanding of fit and of connection to the mission
  • Viability in Advancement – is there really a chance to advance in the organization?  We often say that there is, but employees figure out rather quickly whether that’s going to be true or not.  The real trajectory within an organization should be evaluated.  Providing a path for real advancement in usage of skill sets, knowledge and relationship motivates an employee towards a sense of purpose
  • Compensation – salary, commission, bonus, PTO, benefits, retirement, etc. are a reality of living.  Our staff have homes, apartments, significant others, families, a social life, vacations, holidays for which to pay and enjoy.  Compensation allows an employee to handle some of the bottom levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs so that the more analytical level is addressed
  • Impact – simply, is what an employee doing impacting the purpose of the group?  When we challenge the status quo and (re-)introduce the concept of impact, we wake people up.  What each employee does allows a product to be delivered, a service to be given, or a resource to be offered while changing processes, enhancing knowledge and keeping the lights on!  The line worker who is placing four screws on the same piece on the assembly line is a superstar.  Those four screws hold something significant together.  No task or role is small

If you’re a leader, not matter how small your charge, sit with this list and evaluate what’s going on at your company.  Now evaluate what you are doing to move towards meeting these needs.  Be practical.

And I would be remiss not to point out that there is a grand difference between need and want.  An employee might ask for what he/she wants and try to cloak it as a need.  Rip the sheet off of that want.  Expose it.  Time off is a need.  Six weeks of vacation a year is a want.  Just because someone asks for it, doesn’t make it a need.

There are days I need people to leave me alone.  And then I am reminded that is a want.  So, now what?  Oh, I know.  I will rephrase it.  “I want people to leave me alone some days.”  That’s better.  Now, what do I do about the HR career and people thing?  Crap.