Archive for Human Resources

Possibility…

This week Renee heads up to Maine, where she’ll lead a session at the Maine HR Convention, which also commemorates its 20-year anniversary. She’s done this for a few years running now, and her sessions always focus on a book that she’s found both enlightening and practical. This year she’s introducing The Art of Possibility by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.

The book covers a variety of interesting perspectives, many related to Benjamin Zanders’ experiences as an orchestra conductor. The Zanders discuss frameworks of leadership, the importance of speaking possibility, enrolling others in your vision, and how best to listen to the voice in your head. Their views truly open up new ideas of furthering “possibility,” providing us with guidance that can inform how we engage with others in ways that are productive, creative, and inspiring. The book’s concepts instantly resonate with HR leaders.

“Possibility” is a wonderful and powerful word, isn’t it? It’s the stoker’s fuel, the swimmer’s stroke, the pilot’s current. Possibility can take us anywhere, allow us to do anything, reach for any goal. It’s a word steeped in color and vision.

Possibility.

Each of us is surrounded daily by possibility. We see options and we make choices. Many of them are repeats of choices made the day before, or the week before, or the year before, while others are new, unique. Some are mundane—choosing breakfast, for example—while others are life-changing, like offering up a ring from one bent knee. Some are innovative. Some challenge us to try new things, while others limit opportunities.

What’s important, though, is not which possibilities we explore and which we don’t, but that we recognize that the possibilities are always there. Too often we encounter possibility like a butterfly encounters the air. It is so much a part of existence that we don’t even know it’s there. But it is. Each day we experience it, breathe it, catch its flow.

What the Zanders remind us—over and above their specific notions of Capital-P Possibility, is that possibility is constant, always with us, always presenting opportunities for change, innovation, and growth. It’s just there for our taking.

Photo courtesy of lightwise.

Comments


Why We Should Invest in Employee Development

As I sit here this morning it is once again snowing outside, and—even though I live in New Hampshire—I’m surprised and just a little bit frustrated by it. It’s been such a hard, hard winter, and with everyone I know anticipating the coming season with a fervor I’ve rarely seen, it feels almost like a step backward, one that’s pushing spring even further away. Still, this latest snowfall rapidly melts, and I know that it’s just another slow step in the move toward the greens and yellows that mark the first forsythia buds, now only just around the corner.

It may not look like it, but change is coming.

Thinking about the slowness of nature’s seasonal shifts reminded me that we, our co-workers, our leaders, and our organizations also change slowly. We invest in them through training and development, through coaching, through workshops and team-building experiences, and yet the next day—when everyone returns to their “real work,” nothing seems all that different. People still seem to talk to each other the same way while they perform the same tasks in support of the same objectives that drive the same strategies.

So if that’s true, why invest at all?

Because change is slow, sometimes too slow even to see.

While the snow falls my placid dog Zoe lies nearby, curled on one of the several beds we’ve scattered around the house for her. (Yes, I know: she’s spoiled!) She’s a wonderful dog, and the day we rescued her was one of our happiest. I’m trying now to picture her as she was when we first got her (as an eight-week old pup, newly weaned), and I find that the image easily leaps to mind. What doesn’t leap to mind, though, is seeing her grow day by day. Oh, I remember what she looked like when she was about six or seven months old, and I certainly know her as an adult, but I can’t recall ever seeing her change.

Yet she did. She does.

The same is true of ourselves and those we work with. Each event, each investment, each opportunity for learning creates a situation in which the tiniest of changes can occur. And while each tiny change may be unnoticeable, over time those changes accrue until, just like with my dog, (or your child, or that oak tree that you never realized was quite so tall) something shifts, leaving a person stronger and bolder and more confident than before.

People change and improve. Cultures change and improve. Leaders change and improve.

So keep providing those opportunities, encouraging people to go through that training and development, that coaching, those workshops and team-building experiences.

The investment is worth it.

P.S. I’d like to offer a shout out to Robin Eichert at PeopleSense Consulting, whose blogs about her own wonderful Grace inspired today’s post.

Comments


Trust: It’s NOT About Falling Backwards…

In an earlier lifetime I worked with children as an after-school aide at an urban day-care center in Los Angeles. Needless to say, filling every afternoon’s three-hour window with activities both entertaining and educational was quite a task, a task that would have been impossible had we not managed to build the kids’ trust both in us and in each other.

So we fell into each other’s arms.

The exercise, commonly referred to as a “Trust Fall,” has become something of a joke in the arena of organizational training and development. However, the reason for it still holds: people need to build a fundamental trust in each other if a group, team, or organization is to have any chance at all of working to its fullest potential. Teammates must get comfortable being vulnerable with one another.

Building trust happens in a variety of ways, here we share four basic principles:

1) TRUST SHOULD NOT MEAN “LEAVE ME ALONE”

We often act as if truly trusting someone means you leave them alone to do what they need to do. Trust, in this context, equates to unsupervised. Organizational researchers Chris Argyris and Donald A Schön confirmed that this sense of “leave me alone” is part of the definition of trust in the workplace.

While we fundamentally agree that trust implies giving (and receiving) certain levels of autonomy, the “leaving alone” of others with whom you share a deep dependency is ultimately counter-productive. We need each other as customers and suppliers; only by not leaving each other alone can we know that we are working to the organization’s benefit.

2) TRUST IS RARELY UNIFORM

Trust can mean different things in different contexts. The way we trust our peers varies from the way we trust our subordinates, for example, and the trust we have for a silo (“I’m not sure about what they’re doing over in Marketing.”) varies strongly from the way we might trust an individual (“That new web designer really knows her stuff.”).

The customer—supplier relationship requires a unique form of trust, one that says each person will work with candor, regardless of role or position, in ways that ensure each person gets what they need.

3) TRUST AND CREDIBILITY GO HAND IN HAND

It’s hard to imagine a situation in which you would find someone highly believable yet at the same time highly untrustworthy.

The need for credibility as a component of trust suggests that, as a foundational element underlying our customer—supplier relationships, we want (and need) to know that those on whom we rely are up to the task with respect to their skills and knowledge—and they need to know that the same is true of us.

4) TRUST COMES AND GOES, SOMETIMES LIKE LIGHTNING

Perhaps the definitive (or at least most widespread) comments on trust come from Stephen M. R. Covey’s The Speed of Trust. “Trust impacts us 24/7,” he writes, “365 days a year.”

The key point Covey makes is in the title. Trust, it’s true, moves at speed. But it is wrong to assume that the speeds are constant. It takes time to build trust—the building process moves at a slow speed, sometimes inordinately so. But the speed of trust can also be much, much faster when we’re talking about the other direction—the direction of loss. Losing trust can happen as quickly as lightning splinters a towering pine during a summer thunderstorm.

In whatever ways your organization chooses to build trust among and across your employees and teams, we also urge you to keep in mind the particular kind of trust required for Mutual Relationship Mapping.

Mutual Relationship Mapping requires a sense of trust that is based on individuals supplying what others need in a timely manner. It does not require an overriding trust in all of the various intentions, beliefs, values, or credos of others (as some other definitions of trust would argue). It is, quite simply and directly, a trust in the accountability of others to maintain and honor their commitments.

Comments


A New View of Working Relationships: Part Three—Knowledge Sharing

Last week we introduced the idea of customer—supplier relationships at work, relationships based on the idea that everyone both gets and gives important things to others.

This idea of customer—supplier relationships is a fundamental foundation for taking a new view of working relationships, one of five such foundations we have identified. We introduce the second one today, and it is this:

We must relearn how to share.

We don’t much share at work, really share. Our knowledge is valuable to us: it protects our job, makes us feel important, and creates respect in others. But for companies to work really well, knowledge sharing is critical. And we’ve forgotten how to do it. Why? Because it’s been trained out of us.

Even before you reached kindergarten, it’s likely that you had some exposure to the “rightness” of sharing. Perhaps you had a sibling or a cousin close in age that you played with frequently. If so, your parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles probably all told you more than a few times that you needed to “play nice” with someone or to let “your little sister take a turn.” Sharing is what we were taught to do, what we were expected to do and what we needed to do. Sharing, we were told in many different ways, is a cultural norm.

But then we graduated from kindergarten into the mainstream environments of our elementary grades, and slowly the ideas of sharing and independence slip into competition, as if you can’t really do one and also the other. And it’s this dichotomy that continues into our adult lives and into the workplace. But how does it happen?

It begins very early, during the time we transition from a sharing-based play/learn environment to a more learning-centric environment in school. As we move through the grades, each progressive world we are led to relies more on individual measurement, usually in the form of grades. We are tested on what we learn, study, and know for ourselves. And slowly, as we move through our school years, what used to be sharing is given a new name: cheating.

For those of us who go on to college, that training becomes even more intense. Despite the study groups and the joint projects, despite the way students may take notes for each other in order to skip a class or two, there is now an even stronger emphasis on independence, on that individualized grade. Now, in college, you’re not just going to be graded on what you know, you’re also going to be graded on what other people don’t know. It’s called the curve, and it means, simply, this: To score well, to get a good grade, you must be better than the average within your class. Inherently that means that you must know more than other people around you in order to truly succeed.

And so there we all stood at one time or another: on the threshold of our working lives, degree in hand, gladdened (or not) by how we’ve scored throughout twelve or sixteen or twenty classroom-filled years, and ready to move forward into hopefully fulfilling and interesting careers. Eventually we find that door and begin, bringing with us all the training and learning worked into us over the entirety of our educated lives. And one of those things we’ve learned, that is now practically bred into us, is how not to share.

But sharing our knowledge with others (and having them share theirs with us) is a critical component for creating the customer—supplier environment we want and need for our organizations. As leaders we must learn to recognize the importance of encouraging and enabling sharing whenever and wherever we can.

Photo courtesy of: otnaydur / 123RF Stock Photo

Comments


A New View of Working Relationships: Part Two—Customers and Suppliers

In last week’s introduction to this series on Working Relationships, we threw darts at the myth that people at work know exactly what they need and how to get it. This simple dictum—a kind of “conventional wisdom—is simply untrue. People generally don’t know what they need, and so part of what we want to do when improving our working relationships is to surface exactly what we do need—and to understand why.

We begin shedding light on the conventional wisdom by first introducing some ideas about being a customer and being a supplier.

From the moment we get up in the morning we are, in one way or another, a customer. You may have your morning coffee while watching the local news, in which case you are a customer of your local cable company (on whom you depend to provide the signal), the owners of the channel you’re watching, and those who put on the broadcast itself. If you channel-surf from the news to, say, a sports or business station, then you become customers of those services and companies as well. Perhaps you stop to get gas on your way to work, in which case you’re a customer of Shell, perhaps, or Sunoco, and if you then take a toll road to the office, you’re again a customer—this time of your state’s transportation department.

The list is endless, and not just in a metaphorical way. From now until your very last day on earth, you will be a customer: dry cleaning, dentistry, movie theater, super-market, electronic store, plumber, airline, bookstore, hair salon, hockey team, university, emergency road service, doctor, manicurist…. There is not a day—not a single day—in which you can (or should) avoid this role.

Yet we never speak in these terms at work. We talk about having customers—those individuals and organizations to which our company sales products and services—but we don’t often think of ourselves as customers of each other, customers inside the company. We don’t imagine that the engineering department, for example, is a customer of the finance department when, in fact, engineering can’t do a thing—can’t purchase materials or hire staff or maintain equipment—unless the finance department approves the engineering budget.

Being a customer is almost like second nature to most of us; given that we have so many customer experiences—every single day, in fact—it should come as no surprise that it’s pretty easy for most of us. In fact, most of the time we probably don’t think of it directly, we simply expect certain things to be provided to us, and to be provided in ways that are easy, that cause neither difficulty nor confrontation. And most of our customer interactions are like that—we walk into some place (or log on some site) with a set of expectations and most times those expectations are met. So used to adequate (one might almost say “invisible”) service, we acknowledge it only in the most automatic ways—a “thank you” and a smile at most.

But for every time we’re a customer, someone, it’s worth remembering, is acting as a supplier, giving something to us. And it stands to reason that we are also suppliers, often and every day. We’re probably much less aware of it, but we provide things to others constantly, mostly without even realizing it.

At work this supplier role takes on very significant meaning, yet it’s a role we almost never acknowledge. Too often we complete work we’re “supposed to” complete, yet never really understand what it’s for or how it’s used.

If you think about it, there is a fundamental relationship between person-as-customer and person-as-supplier. There must be, or else why would any product, service, or work ever happen?

Next week: Defining the “Customer—Supplier Relationship”

Images Courtesy of: stuartphoto / 123RF Stock Photo
and lightwise / 123RF Stock Photo

Comments


SHRM: Is it Worth it?

As leadership development professionals, we constantly find ourselves inundated with invitations to join various organizations.  Here is just a partial list of some of the ones we regularly run across:

  • The Association for Talent Development (formerly the American Society for Training and Development)
  • International Coach Federation
  • International Association of Coaching
  • College and University Professional Association for Human Resources
  • American Coaching Association
  • National Human Resources Association
  • New England Human Resources Association
  • HR Certification Institute
  • Talent Acquisition and Management Industry Association

And, of course, the granddaddy of them all…

  • SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management

SHRM, with more than a quarter of a million members worldwide, dwarfs all the others. It is the “go-to” for most HR and leadership professionals; joining is an obvious no-brainer—or so it would seem. But do people actually use SHRM, and is it worth it?

In a word: Yes.

We’re not just talking about the perk that is the annual conference, a well-rehearsed affair with an array of wonderful keynotes (Condi Rice in one of the years we went), numerous topical sessions, decent food, and fantastic networking opportunities. We’re talking about the actual resources they provide, principally through their website, various education offerings, and nearly 600 local chapters. (The jury will be out for a while on their new certification venture, so we’re setting that aside for now.)

And people truly use these resources: according to Alexa, a website ranking tool, the SHRM website is one of the top 25,000 most-visited websites in the entire world. (Lest that number not impress you, keep in mind that there are over 1 billion websites out there right now.) That translates to about 250,000 visitors (and 1.1 million pageviews) per month—pretty impressive for a special-interest site.

So why go there? Well, here is our Top Five List of reasons to join (and use) SHRM:

  1. The Trends—An incredible number of questions in the HR world boil down to the “What’s happening out there?” variety. SHRM offers consistently useful trends to tell you how you compare with others. See, for example, their 2015 Salary Trends Report.
  2. Samples and Templates—Need some guidance on how to write a policy or handbook entry? Interested in sample job descriptions? Just about anything you can imagine is available at SHRM and, unlike what you may find with a random web search, you’ll know it’s been used by others in the HR community.
  3. Research and Metrics—Validating what we do (and turning it into numbers for the rest of the management team) is often a challenging exercise. SHRM provides a ton of current and historical research findings and surveys on just about any HR topic you can think of.
  4. The Legal Angle—It’s amazing how quickly the legal and public policy arenas shift when it comes to HR.  Having a “one-stop shop” for these issues is invaluable, and we’ve used this SHRM area to help numerous clients.
  5. Community—Whether it’s about finding a local group or attending the national conference, no organization provides the level of community for HR professionals the way SHRM does.

All in all, we have to say that the resources SHRM provides are unmatched in the HR world. We visit, and often. Visiting, of course, means joining, and the annual membership fee (which costs about $15 a month) is well, well worth it.

Comments