How to Make Decisions in Business

How do you make decisions?  Are there charts, graphs, spreadsheets, pages of data?  Yes, data is important, but so are the humans in our care.  Do you include input from those affected, if possible, in your decision-making process?  Perhaps you could glean insight from another perspective that would completely change how to approach a situation.

We learned the difference between right and wrong long ago, and it would appear that we have forgotten how simple that litmus test can be.  The bottom line in any decision first and foremost should be “what is the right thing to do?”  If you can’t do the right thing, go back to the drawing board and work harder.  It’s not always easy to do the right thing.  There can be considerable pushback – it’s not always the easiest, most cost-effective, etc.  However, doing right by our people is priceless in terms of trust, transparency, and confidence in leadership.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to do the right thing by our people.  This is why we are in positions where we have been entrusted to serve others.  It is our great privilege to serve our people, and they are trusting us to keep their best interest at heart when we are making decisions that often have a ripple effect in our organizations.

We must have the courage to make the right decisions – to do that right thing.  We also must work hard to ensure that we are making our workplaces a safe environment with a strong culture of integrity.  We must empower other leaders in our organizations and support them in their courageous efforts.

I’m not naive.  I know this isn’t easy.  I also know that there are times when tough calls have to be made, jobs have to be cut, locations have to be closed, layoffs have to occur, pay has to be frozen.  In times like this, it is in the best interest of the business overall to make these decisions.  We are preserving the business and the ability to continue to operate by making these moves.  This is for the greater good.  I’ve been there.  I’ve done that.  I once had to lay off 20% of the workforce in the morning and co-star in a commercial for the business in the afternoon.  Yes, it was brutal.

While it’s sometimes inevitable to do these things, you always have a choice in how you conduct yourself in the process and how you treat others.

Always behave with integrity in your actions.

Always treat those affected with the utmost care, compassion, and respect.

Always provide as much information behind decisions as possible.  Letting someone know just how difficult the decision was can help them feel a little less like their hard work was in vain.

Always take responsibility for your actions.  Do not blame “corporate” or “your boss” when delivering the news.  Make sure that you understand the why behind what happened so that you can speak to it.  People lose respect for you when you are reduced to a headpiece for “the establishment.”

Do the right thing.  Ask questions when something doesn’t seem right.   Teach your teams to do the same.

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It’s Okay to Ask for Help

Being in HR for nearly 15 years, I can tell you that I know my strengths and my weaknesses.

Patience is not one of my virtues.  However, it is vitally important when you are unemployed.  In my prior role, I had a rule with my team that when we had an applicant, we responded to them within 24 hours – even if all we were saying was “I don’t have an answer, yet.  I will get back to you.”  When someone is unemployed or currently employed and contemplating making a change, every hour counts to them.  We didn’t always meet 24 hours – sometimes it was 48 hours or the next business day, and we took advantage of every automation possible to help us be more efficient.  A good ATS should help you communicate more effectively with your candidates – not hinder it.  That’s a post for another day, though.

Asking for help is another struggle for me.  When you have a servant leader mentality, you want to help others – not yourself.  My blog is HR Without Ego because I don’t ask for praise or thanks.  I take satisfaction from helping others and knowing I made an impact.  In the current state of the job market, however, I have learned that it’s okay to not only ask for help but to accept it.  I have always built my network based on a pay it forward mentality, and I was very uncomfortable asking anyone to reciprocate.  However, that changed thanks to coffee one morning with John Rhoads who I met at the HR Roundtable moderated by the fantastic Steve Browne.

John is a life coach, and trust me, when you think you’re going to retire from your current company, the harsh reality that you’re not is hard to take.  He was the first person that I had spoken the words “my last day is next Friday” to at the Roundtable that morning, and I nearly cried saying it.  I’m sure I looked like it because he looked at me and said:

“It’s going to be okay.  You’re going to be okay.”

I was nervous to meet him for coffee that morning for a multitude of reasons.  First, I was embarrassed that I had lost my job.  Second, I didn’t want to ask anyone for help.  I was in HR, after all, I do this for a living.  Shouldn’t I know how this works?  Third, I was facing unemployment, so if he was selling something, I wasn’t buying.

I survived the meeting, nerves and all, and I was so glad that I had not talked myself out of going.  John had just posted this video that morning, the importance of owning our story.  He reminded me that it’s okay to ask for help, and that I’m most valuable helping my next organization, so I need to focus my efforts, own my story, and in the meantime, I will blog about the journey of being “in search” (where did that name come from?) and hopefully help others that are in a similar circumstance.

Why Are You Saying No?

This will be very short and sweet, but I feel it is vitally important lately…

Why are you say No?

Is it life or death?  Illegal?  Unethical?

Maybe.  Maybe not.

Maybe you are afraid of letting go of control.  FYI – if this is you, you already have a reputation for this, and your goal this year should be to change that reputation.  You can do it.  I have faith.

Having a reputation for having to control everything in your purview shows two things about you:

You don’t trust others.

If you do not share the knowledge, teach others, and share or give control, you are showing people in your actions that you don’t trust them.  Why do these people work here if you don’t trust them in their role?  If they truly want to grow and learn, and you are the miser of control as well as their manager, they will leave you, I promise you.

You don’t trust yourself.

If you don’t share, cross-train, etc., you are showing others that you don’t trust your own value in the organization that you could possibly do more than simply being the SME on this particular system or department.  You know what happens in that case?  You are not promotable because there is no one else to do it.

Was that your plan?  Probably not.

As a recovering control freak, I can tell you it’s possible.  As a leader, you must relinquish control, share, help others learn, and support them.

The next time you receive a request, give it a try.  Say yes.

How to be Patient at Work

In your career, you are not going to agree with every decision is made.  If you have already experienced this, you’re thinking “Duh” in your head, if not, wait for it, it is inevitable.  It’s not always negative, either.  There have been plenty of times, especially early in my career, when I may not have understood or agreed with a decision at first, but it turned out to be the best thing for the company.

We are in a service-oriented career, and we want to help people.  I care about the people I serve and support, and if you are in Human Resources (or any iteration of it), I’m sure that you do, too.  As my good buddy Steve Browne says in his book HR on Purpose, “If employees are a pain point or source of frustration for you professionally, then get out of human resources.  It isn’t the career for you.”  If you haven’t read his book, download it or pick it up today.

This is not to say that those making the decisions do not care about people.  I feel that is a common misconception.  Having been the one making unpopular decisions at times, I can promise you, I cared.

Full disclosure:  Patience is not one of my virtues.  My team is giggling at this right now, and my husband is sighing, I’m sure.  It’s a work in progress.  I do, however, have an appreciation for having patience in the workplace, and I greatly admire those that exercise patience.

To be a great leader, and to serve people, you must exercise at least a modicum of patience.

Being patient at work does not mean that you are blindly following orders, without question, without a second thought.  It does, however, mean that if a decision is made, and you don’t understand the rationale, respectfully request more information, asking your questions, etc.  Focus on the issue or the situation – not the decision maker(s).  Assume positive intent that those that made this decision have done so with all the information available to them at the time – some of which you may not be privy to, and that the decision was made in the best interest of the business overall.

If you are the person that will inevitably deliver this news, it is imperative that you make sure that you are clear on the rationale and underlying understanding of the decision.  YOU WILL BE ASKED.  Be prepared for the questions.

Choose your moments to challenge wisely.  You don’t want to get a reputation for being the person that continuously pushes back or challenges decisions.  Do not behave in a way or create a reputation for yourself that you are difficult to do business with.  If and when you do pose a question or respectfully challenge a decision, you will have greater impact if you have typically demonstrated support from your position.

That being said, even if you believe that you have a valid business case for why this decision is either not living the company values, is not the right thing to do for the employees, etc., your belief is exactly that – a belief.  If your feedback is taken under advisement (or not) and there is no traction, do not take it personally, focus on understanding the rationale, and move forward.  Becoming emotionally attached to decisions will emotionally highjack you.

At the end of the day, our role is to support our people.  Whether we agree with what has happened or not, we must trust our senior leadership to make the best decision for the business overall, and we must do our best to support our people as the decision impacts them.  They will take their cue on how to react and handle things from us.

Demonstrate patience.

 

Transparency Counts

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Transparency counts in all aspects of HR.  You don’t have to air all your dirty laundry, but please be real.  This is especially crucial in communication with candidates.  In #NextChat today, the topic of communicating with candidates and transparency came up.  I feel very strongly that when a candidate is making a LIFE CHANGING decision such as possibly leaving a long-term employer, relocating, or even taking their first job, the decision should be made with the most accurate information possible.

Please do not sell your opportunity to the candidate.  No one wins in this scenario.  You will violate all trust with the candidate, and they will inevitably leave anyway, leaving you to source this position again.  Be real.  If you have problems, let the candidate know.  Invite them to come in and meet the team, including the leadership team, and ask questions.  Show them a “day in the life” of the position.  It’s great if the candidate hits it off with you over the phone or in person, but they have to work with their team, remember?

If the candidate’s role in the organization will play a pivotal part in addressing your culture issues, let them know that you are aware of the issues currently in your culture, and you are committed to improving it.  One step in that is with their role, and this is how they fit in that.  Not everyone is cut out for being such a crucial member of the team from the start.  That’s okay.  You want the person that wants to get their hands dirty on day one in this case, so you need to make sure that your candidate knows that.

Please also be transparent about job responsibilities and duties.  When I was hiring an HR Assistant to take 15 years of paper employee files to electronic, I said so in the interview:

“I want you to have an accurate idea of this position.  You see those filing cabinets and that scanner?  It’s a pretty cool scanner.  It can scan 26 pages front and back in 1 minute.  Your first task will be converting those files from paper to an organized, electronic system.”

I needed someone who was like “That scanner is cool.  When do I start?” not “Ummm…that sounds horrible…I thought I was going to get to solve world peace here?”

The best compliment you can get in HR when you are recruiting for your own organization is for the candidate to tell you after they were hired that their expectations matched their reality.  It’s great if they were excited over the phone, found the environment engaging, and are still psyched on Day 1, right?  It’s equally rewarding when someone knows there is a challenge, is ready to get to work, and after some time, you both see the results of the team’s hard work.

Be real.  Thank me later.

Want to Really Make a Difference? Blog.SHRM.org

With #SHRMLeg wrapping up this week, I wanted to share the post I wrote for the SHRM Blog after my testimony as a call to action for HR to join the SHRM A-Team!  I still remember the excitement on the Hill that day and could chat for days about being an A-Team Member!


Want to Really Make a Difference?

Why did you go into Human Resources?  What about HR attracted you?  For me, I wanted to make a difference.  That has always been the most rewarding part of my job.  Many of you will say that you want to have a “seat at the table.”  What about having a seat at the table with the Department of Labor?  What about having a seat at the table in a Congressional hearing?  Sound like a way to make a difference and represent our profession?  Join the SHRM Advocacy Team.

Why did I join the A-Team?  SHRM gave us the opportunity to have a voice, and I took it.  I started out by following the links to the e-mails and completing the templates on the SHRM website to contact my Representative on key issues.  From there, I joined the SHRM A-Team.  Last year, prior to the start of the Annual Conference in Orlando, the DOL held two listening sessions with SHRM members, including many from the SHRM A-Team.  It was fascinating to hear the questions they asked us and to get a glimpse into where the possible changes to the law were headed.  My organization had a vested interest into the possible changes, and I was fortunate to have a seat at that table.

I stayed in touch and remained active with the A-Team.  However, it wasn’t until this summer that I fully became an advocate.  The House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections was interested in hearing testimony from a SHRM member on the need for FLSA modernizations, and as a member of the SHRM A-Team as well as a participant in the DOL listening sessions, my name had come up.  It was never a question of whether or not I wanted to participate.  This is what we dream of, right?  We actually get to go and TALK to Congress?  Sign me up.

To say that it was the coolest day of my career is an understatement.  While it was the most nerve-wracking experience, it was also a great honor to represent our society of hard working Human Resource professionals.  Kelly Hastings, Lisa Horn, and I spent the entire afternoon prior to the hearing going over my testimony and fine tuning each word to make sure that we made the most of my five minutes.  Nothing compares, however, to the outpouring of support that I received from Steve Browne and my Ohio SHRM members.  That was just one of the many days that I was proud to be a SHRM member.

via Want to Really Make a Difference? | Blog.SHRM.org

Failure is Feedback…

I saw a post on from the fabulous Sarah Hathorn on Twitter a while back:

 Jan 31

I thought to myself.  “Right.  It’s feedback.”  So I replied to her:

“Failure is feedback. It allows us to change our approach and improve the process.

Stop and take an honest inventory of your view on failure.  Do you view failure as an opportunity to improve, or do you view it as being “less than” or “not good enough” because Plan A didn’t work out?  What drives those feelings?  Where is your focus and mindset?

I was talking to a friend of mine about the idea to this post and he said “I fail every day.”  I love that.  He didn’t say “I quit every day.”  He said he failed – this implies he’s trying daily.  We don’t have all the answers.  We are not always going to get it right, but we are 100% more successful when we try than when we are paralyzed by fear of failure.

Did you know that there are over 534,000 videos that talk about how many times some of the most successful people failed before they got it right?  These are meant to be inspirational videos.  If they can do it, I can do it.  Right?  Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling, Henry Ford, all faced adversity and failure, but they stuck with it.  They kept going.

Below is one of my favorite quotes by J.K. Rowling:

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

― J.K. Rowling

In some cases these people faced monumental setbacks, but they didn’t let it define them.  They continued to try.  They rebounded until they succeeded, and then they continued to work hard and continue trying new things.

In order to dare to do great things, two important aspects must occur:  you must put yourself out there to try AND you must engage with others who encourage continuous learning and continuous improvement.  Far too often we engage in cultures where there is such a stigma around failure and so much effort is placed on perfection and the pursuit of it.  Spoiler alert:  no one and no organization is perfect.  We could all save a lot of time and heartache striving to something unattainable.

We see it every day in the news – especially lately with the #MeToo movement:  organizations learn somewhere along the way that a catastrophic lapse in judgment has occurred, and in many cases, lack the courage to admit it, learn from it, and make it right.  We all make mistakes.  We are all human.  Why do we try so hard to convince those around us otherwise?