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.

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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.

 

How to Apologize in Business

We all make mistakes.  We are human.  We are not expected to be perfect.  If you are expecting perfection, your focus is misguided.

Knowing that it’s not a matter of if or when a mistake will happen, how you handle a mistake is a true testament to your character.  If you are a leader, and your team makes a mistake, they will look to you for how to respond.

Acknowledge.  You must first acknowledge the mistake happened.  AS SOON AS YOU ARE AWARE IT HAPPENED.  There is no partial credit here.  If you wait until someone calls you out on it, you do have to own it at that time, but the first question will be “when did this happen?”  Stay in front of it.

Apologize in your Words.  You may not be at fault for the mistake.  Fault does not equal responsibility.  However, you must express your most sincere apology and express empathy for those affected.  If you get defensive, you will lose all trust and respect.

Trust is the currency of leadership.  Guard it.  Own your mistakes.  Admit when you mess up and encourage your team to do the same.  It makes you human.  We need more humans in business.

Apologize in your Actions.  You must not only communicate the error, but you must communicate what steps you (you, your team, the organization) is making to ensure the error does not happen again as well as what you are doing to make it right.  Then you have to hold yourself and others accountable that those things are done.

Do the Right Thing.  I don’t have to tell you what that is.  You already know.  Trust your gut.

 

 

Confessions of a Recovering Control Freak

I’ve mentioned before I’m very Type-A.  I’ve also spent over half of my career being an HR Department of One.  This allowed me to hone my problem-solving skills, but it also honed my nature of being a complete control freak.

Now, when you are an HR Department of One, and everything is resting on your shoulders, there is a certain amount of control freak(ness) that is required, right?  How else are you going to ensure that everyone was paid, all benefits are accurate, candidates have all been communicated with, etc, etc, etc.?

Beware the drug that is control.

Following changes in my organization, my responsibilities began to change, and I had to begin to loosen my grip on the day to day, focusing more on supporting those that got things done – whether they did it in the same manner I used to or not.  I mean, it worked for me, just do it the way I used to do it.  Right?  I couldn’t be more wrong.

At first, my training was primarily “here you go, this is how I have always done it.”  If something was missed, I was convinced it was because it hadn’t been done the way I had explained, demonstrated, created a step-by-step guide with screenshots and video (yes, I did).  I’m sure you’re cringing reading this right now, and looking back at it, I am, too.

I would love to say that I made a complete 180, and that I had a new outlook on empowering my team rather than controlling them and checking on everything they did.  I do have that outlook.  I didn’t change overnight.  It’s a struggle, but I can tell you that I know that to be a better leader, I have to let them figure things out for themselves, try new ways of doing things, and even fail.  After all, failure is feedback, right?

I want to be a better leader.  In order to do that, I have to make changes in my behavior to be better for them.  I want to inspire others to be better leaders and develop my team into the kind of leaders that will have book acknowledgements dedicated to them.  I’ve been very fortunate in my career thus far to have worked with some of the most inspiring, engaging, supportive, motivating people.  It’s my hope to be that for someone else.  I just have to remember that the only thing or person I can control is me.

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?

The Power of Vulnerability

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”
― Brené BrownRising Strong

I was on the phone with one of my amazing members of my team when she was interrupted by an employee entering her office. She put me on hold, but I could hear the employee talking. The employee had a question about her paycheck. I listened as the employee asked her questions. I heard silence as I could tell my team member was thinking of what scenario could have happened, then she proceeded to ask questions.

Not one time did she defend herself or seem to be reacting to the apparent mistake or misunderstanding. She genuinely sought to understand so she could determine how she could help her. I was so proud to have her on my team.

I know I say I have an amazing team a lot. I do. They are some of the most talented, caring people I have had the privilege to work with, lead, develop, and learn from.

After she had a pretty good idea of what happened, she explained to the employee what happened and how to prevent it in the future. She also explained that she would take care of the correction, and confirmed that it was okay that it was on the next paycheck or needed a manual check cut. The employee confirmed the next paycheck was fine, thanked her, and left.

She got back on the phone and asked me questions about how to best audit for a situation like this in future processing. As we chatted, she realized that she had misspoke in her direction for the protocol for the future to the employee. Within minutes, I was bcc’d on a message to the employee, thanking her for coming to gain clarity on the issue. She then explained how she was wrong in what she had told her for future steps, and she wanted to let her know and clarify the proper process.

Once again, I was proud she was not only a part of my team, but that our employees had such a wonderful human being taking care of them. She’s only been with our organization for less than 90 days, and there are bound to be mistakes in the learning process. She could have reacted defensively and immediately pointed out how the employee didn’t follow the protocol or blamed something or someone else. She didn’t do that. She didn’t react. She was vulnerable and asked questions to focus on the problem and how to best remedy it and prevent it from happening in the future.

The power of vulnerability met the employee where she was and made her feel like they were in it together to find a solution. I hope we all approach problems like this.

Has HR Lost the Trust of Employees?

It was a nice little Sunday.  We went to the Cincinnati Auto Expo.  I had been looking forward to this all week.  When I was a little girl, my Dad always had a “race car.”  He had a ’76 Corvette for most of my childhood, and would take my older sister and I to car shows.  My Dad lives in New Mexico, and I miss him dearly.  The Auto Expo was the highlight of my week to connect with my Dad, thousands of miles away.  The Expo did not disappoint.  It was wonderful.  I sat in several cars, breathed in that new car smell, reminisced about my childhood, and life was good.

We got home, I settled in with a nice cup of tea, and my husband forwarded me this article that took my breath away within the first few sentences “Human resources has to be one of the greatest bait-and-switch professions one can join today.”  OUCH.  I had to read on.  Surely there was more to the story.  There seemed to be some serious pain here for such a statement.    “…the field often attracts starry-eyed idealists, people who seek a mission-oriented, perhaps even noble profession for their careers. They join thinking they are going to make a difference.”  Yep.  That sounds like me, 14 years ago.  I wanted to help people and make a difference.  That’s still one of the things I love the most about HR.  We have the potential to make an impact.

The article goes to on to describe scenario after scenario where corruption occurs in the organization, calling them “HR abuses.”  I bristled as I read the accusations against my beloved profession, but again, I read on.  After all, perception is reality, right?  Isn’t that what we coach and teach others?  We have to manage perception?  And just like there’s no crying in baseball, there’s no ego in HR.  If there is a perception that we are not there to support our people, we need to talk about that – no matter how hard those conversations may be.

The crux of the article explained how various apps and third-party agencies could coach employees to have difficult conversations when faced with situations at work, calling this “network-based HR resources that can be responsive to worker concerns in real-time.”

Rather than looking outside of the organization for support, HR Pros, let’s challenge each other to open our doors, open our ears, take down our walls, and talk to people.  Really talk to people.  Spend time with managers, coaching them, sharing resources to help refine communication skills, empowering them to be better leaders for their teams.  Encourage our leadership to live a culture of accountability.  HR can’t “fix” the issues.  Despite popular opinion, that’s not our role.  We’re not “fixers.”  We are supporters, coaches, facilitators, and it is up to us to ensure that our organizations not only see us for who we are, but utilize us in that manner.  I accept the challenge.  Who’s with me?