Beware of people who say things like, “I’m the sort of person who likes to get things done.” They almost always make this remark when trying to impress an interviewer, colleague, or manager. The implication is that while all the losers around them are busy being losers, these are the stars of your organization. Often, though, they’re just jerks, or walking clichés at the very least.
The reality is that all of us like to accomplish things. That’s why I hate the term results-oriented to describe anyone.
Know what else I hate? Best practices. So you can imagine how I feel when I hear pundits, executives, and everyone else preach that a best practice for building a results-oriented workplace is to recognize employees who produce…results.
It’s a line that so many people repeat so many times that it’s easy to mistake it for a fact.
It’s actually an alternative fact, an opinion disfigured into a recommendation because it makes intuitive sense. If this seems intuitive to you, too, your intuition is fooling you.
Rewarded for Luck
A while back, I spoke to Michael Mauboussin, Credit Suisse’s head of global financial strategies and author of The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports, and Investing. He explained something that you probably already feel in your gut but might be too panicky, egotistical, or deluded to admit: Many of your achievements—the same ones that earn you praise (or punishment)—are largely beyond your control. Mauboussin explained:
There’s a continuum of things that are pure luck on one end and pure skill on the other. When your outcomes are truly a reflection of the work that you’re doing, a results-oriented evaluation is not unreasonable, like in manufacturing, which is very skills-oriented. But things like launching a successful R&D project are inherently probabilistic, with a lot of randomness and luck to them. There are profound influences that are hard to anticipate.
And get this: The higher you are on the ladder, the greater the role that luck plays in your work. You know what else grows with each rung? Compensation. All of which means that a four-leaf clover increasingly determines what you earn in cash and recognition as you move up a hierarchy. Continue reading
When change-management efforts fail, it’s worth pondering if it was really a lack of efforts that ruined everything. That is, maybe it’s less about what leaders did and more about what they didn’t do.
This week, I’ve been sharing a series of posts featuring what 25 senior executives at leading organizations told me about how they manage change. Their insights come from an article I wrote some years back, but they are just as relevant now.
Today, in the series’ third and final post, I want to highlight the role that leadership and communication play when managing change.
Read below what execs from Verizon, MassMutual, Novartis, and other big companies have to say about leading and communicating change. (Note that companies and titles reflect people’s roles at the time the article was published. In fact, today almost none of the 25 executives interviewed work for the same corporation and even fewer hold the same job. You know, things change. To view their full comments, and those of other executives, check out the original article, “Will Your People Be Ready?”.) Continue reading
Is it better for a company to develop a sea of generalists or specialists?
The ideal answer is probably yes—in the sense that you want to have a mix of both types of workers. But given limited resources, which would yield a better workforce?
This week, I’m sharing a series of posts featuring what 25 senior executives at leading organizations told me about how they manage change, including answers to the question above. Their insights come from an article I wrote some years back, but they are just as relevant now.
Change’s Impact on L&D
Today, in the series’ second installment, I want to focus on how change influences learning and development efforts, and vice versa.
Read below what execs from Caterpillar, Shell, General Mills, Deloitte, and other big companies have to say about how L&D and change management intersect. (Note that companies and titles reflect people’s roles at the time the article was published. In fact, almost none of the 25 executives interviewed work for the same corporation and even fewer hold the same job today. You know, things change. To view their full comments, and those of other executives, check out the original article, “Will Your People Be Ready?”.) Continue reading
Change makes me nervous. There, I said it.
It unsettles me for the same reason it unsettles you—because as much as today might suck, tomorrow could suck worse. (Want proof? Watch CNN’s political coverage.)
Of course, you’re not supposed to actually admit your insecurity. In job interviews, during work meetings, and when speaking with colleagues, you’re expected to talk about how change brings fresh possibilities and new opportunities. You’re supposed to spout some bullshit about how you thrive in uncertainty and ambiguity. Bring it, yo! You’re an effing change agent! And don’t change agents love change?
No! Change agents like when they initiate change. But they’re just as likely as anyone to get the jitters, maybe even more so, when someone else grabs the wheel to careen down a new road. Still, when an organization tinkers with people’s routines, you know the response it wants: Yes we can!
Yes we can! But do we want to?
Take what’s happening at IBM right now. The company’s Chief Marketing Officer Michelle Peluso recently announced that U.S. marketing staff may no longer work remotely or out of smaller district offices. (Supposedly, the new policy will extend to many more workers.) Employees have 30 days to decide whether to report/relocate to one of six “strategic” locations: Austin, San Francisco, New York, Cambridge (Mass), Atlanta, and Raleigh. What’s more, they will not get to choose the city. Continue reading
Someone in your family just died. That’s really too bad, and work must be the last thing on your mind. You’ll obviously need time to grieve, attend a funeral, blah, blah, blah, but you’ll be OK enough to head back to the office really soon, right? Like, perhaps in three days? Sound cool to you?
Of course, you may take longer than that, but things may get…um…you know…kind of complicated to figure out. But really, you should take whatever time you need. Still, three days should be sufficient, right?
That’s essentially the response that many workers get from their employers after a loved one dies. While few managers or HR professionals would ever say the above, they don’t have to. They have policies to do it for them. Nationwide, the average length of paid leave for bereavement of immediate family members is three days. One day for your cousin Shelby.
Ain’t no way I’d be able to work, let alone function semi-normally, that soon. And I doubt you would. Neither would anyone who works in HR—you know, the same people who craft or uphold these egregious edicts.
So why not change the rules? Continue reading
There’s a really popular article on LinkedIn called “A Human Resources Career Is Not for ‘Nice’ People.” So far, it’s garnered more than 20,000 likes, almost 2,000 comments, and nearly 10,000 shares.
It’s not hard to see why: When you read something implying that friendliness and human resources are incompatible, you think Wow! or What? or Huh? or But I’m in HR and I’m nice!
Is Nice Enough?
The problem, as the article insists, is that too many HR people think that their jobs are all about helping people. They consequently assume that “being a nice person is qualification enough for the function.”
Who are these people? Who are these professionals that believe that grinning from ear to ear at work is all you need to do your work? Many of the HR peeps who I know have “MBA,” “SPHR,” or a host of other acronyms trailing their names. What idiots! They spent all that time and money and energy growing their knowledge when they could’ve gotten by with a mere smile.
The post goes on to detail how hard HR can be. It cites examples of professionals who must lay off people, have difficult compensation conversations, and do other not-fun things. All of which point to the notion that “nice is not enough.”
Well of course it isn’t!
The article eventually explains that we should replace “niceness” with “empathy.” Fair enough, but can’t we embody both? Shouldn’t we? Continue reading
Yay! It’s Tim Sackett Day! I already knew of blogger extraordinaire Tim Sackett but only recently found out that he has an entire national holiday named after him. Tim Sackett Day is when HR bloggers honor one of their own. It started some years back when Tim wasn’t getting enough press, so the HR blogging community decided to give him a collective shout-out. Since then, celebrating a fellow HR blogger has been annual tradition. Cool, right?
This year, we’re applauding Lisa Rosendahl. I don’t know Lisa personally, but I wish I did. Lisa is a leader, a veteran, a mom, and a source of inspiration for other bloggers. I’m also told she’s far too humble to bang the drum about herself, so I’ll happily do it for her.
Here’s what you need to do. Start by reading about how Lisa fell out of a plane, and then check out the rest of her blog. If you like what you read—and you will—let her know. After all, recognition is at the heart of Tim Sackett Day, so be sure to thank Lisa for all her contributions!
Happy Tim Sackett Day, Lisa!
I majored in fashion design in college. When you watch the video above, that will be hard to believe. I wanted to wear something that conjured Americana, something that screamed, “USA! USA! USA!” Unfortunately, no number of stars and stripes could save my ensemble. And speaking of, this clip proves that, no, vertical stripes are not always slimming. So much for my fashion education.
Shame on Me
Notice how I haven’t yet mentioned the content of the video. Shame on me for obsessing about my appearance when what matters more are my ideas and opinions. I need to get better at not judging myself so harshly. There are enough other people that already do that for me, or to me.
I guess that comes with public speaking, though. Numerous peers of mine have mentioned some of the feedback they’ve received after their presentations. If it’s not about their shoes, then it’s their shirts, or their hair, or their makeup. Sure enough, I’ve had well-intentioned people point out my wrinkles and fat.
Now, I’m pretty self-deprecating and have no trouble poking fun at myself. (I’m also fairly self-aware and have already identified ways to present better next time. And incidentally, you should check out Jennifer McClure’s “5 Mistakes Successful Speakers Never Make.”) But at some point, the focus really does need to shift to Herbert Robinson. Continue reading
I recently read an article in which AT&T Chief Diversity Officer Cynthia Marshall said, “It makes good business sense to have an employee base that looks like our customer base.” I suspect most of her peers agree. Her statement is exactly what you’d expect a diversity and inclusion leader to say. It’s about as controversial as what I ate for breakfast. Probably because it intuitively makes sense.
It made sense to Pepsi. Years ago, the company realized that women and minorities drink soda, so it launched a major campaign requiring that half of all new hires be women and minorities. Business improved.
Causation? Correlation? Does it matter? No corporation will claim that its diversity efforts aren’t valuable. Neither will any argue that hiring for diversity actually hurts business—nor am I insinuating that it does.
But here’s the problem: If what Marshall and other leaders say is true—that your workers should reflect your customers in order for your business to thrive—then they create a twisted paradox that scrapes at the core of diversity and inclusion. What if most of your customers are women? Or black? Continue reading
I’ve always thought of myself as contrarian. Generally, I think this is a good trait—but the contrarian in me has me wondering otherwise.
Actually, Leah Clark has me wondering. Leah is an executive coach at Blessing White, a leadership and employee-engagement consultancy. A while back, she and I had an interesting conversation during which Leah asked: Would you rather be labeled contrarian or critical?
I’ve been thinking about her question ever since. After all, if I’m going to slap a sticker on myself, I better make sure it’s the right one.
The Madonna of HR
A common definition is that a contrarian is someone who habitually opposes accepted policies, opinions, or practices. That’s me—but that’s only because there are so many policies, opinions, and practices that are messed up.
Another definition explains that a contrarian accepts nothing that anyone says—that is, a person who takes the opposite opinion for the sake of it. Is that me? I like to think that when I take an alternate position, it’s because I believe what I believe.
I’m also self-aware enough to know when I’m lying to myself. The truth is that I sometimes argue different viewpoints because I enjoy screwing with the status quo. That’s why they call me the Madonna of HR, and by “they,” I obviously mean no one.
If contrarianism can sometimes seem self-indulgent, it is. But is it a bad attribute? Continue reading