Are People Mistreating Your Most Important Asset?

Raise your hand if you have a policy against mistreating company assets, most likely detailed as company equipment.

Raise your hand if you hold people accountable if they mistreat company assets, most notably equipment.

We all say that our people are our more important asset, right?   Raise your hand if you hold people equally accountable for mistreating your company’s most important asset:  PEOPLE.

I attended a workshop last week where Scott Warrick began the morning with this thought-provoking analogy, likening it to someone kicking the copier at work.  The consensus in the room was that the person would be disciplined for damaging company equipment.  A lot of money goes into the care and maintenance of equipment.  However, we don’t always do the same with managers of our people.

In a past life in my career, I worked in manufacturing.  In manufacturing, we allocated considerable expense toward preventative maintenance and training on proper handling of our equipment.  It’s an investment we want to protect, right?

Compared to costs of labor, however, it’s a pittance.

When you think about it, combining wages, benefits, recruitment costs, retention initiatives, taxes, travel reimbursement, training, turnover expenses, etc., your costs of labor could be 60% of the budget.

We spend so much on the preventive maintenance and training of proper handling of our equipment, yet we promote individual contributors to management roles and do not ensure the proper training to prevent damage to our most important asset – our people.

It is our responsibility as leaders to hold others accountable for the proper care and handling of our people.  It is our responsibility as an organization to ensure that our managers have the proper training to appropriately care for the people we have entrusted to them.  We cannot simply take the highest performer in an area and promote them to a manager without providing tools and training.  Chances are, in order to be the high performer of that area, considerable time was dedicated to honing their craft – whatever that may be.  People inherently want to perform well.  When someone goes from individual contributor to manager, we must provide the tools and resources to succeed in that role, and then we must hold them accountable.

Fostering a culture of accountability is not enough, though.  We must also make it safe to have those conversations.  When left to their own devices, people tend to exhibit the behaviors they have previously observed or been taught.  If a manager has been adopted some poor habits, particularly regarding communication with their team, we do that manager a disservice by not addressing it.

We must pay attention to the data, particularly with trends in movement inside and outside the organization.  Do you have a department that has high transfers out and turnover?  Are you conducting exit interviews prior to departures or transfers?  Better yet, are you performing stay interviews to be proactive in retaining your talent?  What are you doing with the information?  Are you prepared to address the seemingly indispensable toxic producer or are you willing to continue to sacrifice talent to keep them happy?

All of our employees are counting on us to provide a safe work environment – physically and otherwise.

Please train your leaders to handle with care, and please have the courage to address those that don’t.

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.

 

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.

 

 

Spoiler Alert: There’s No Prize for Being a PTO Martyr

Work/Life balance.  We all talk about it.  We all tell our friends, family, spouses, and employees to take their time, but do you take your time?  Like many professional I know, I used to leave days on the table every year.  My unused PTO doesn’t carry over anymore, but even when it did, I still didn’t take my allotted time that was carried over.  There it was, just sitting there, accumulating with no hopes of being used.  Crazy, right?

I’m not alone.  Did you know in 2016, 662 million vacation days were left on the table?

At one point in time, it wasn’t worth it to me to take the time off because I would be so far behind when I got back.  Plus, who was going to do my job when I was gone?  I started to take time off, but I would still “keep up with my e-mails” while I was out.  I had convinced myself that if I kept up with my e-mails while I was out that it would lessen the “catch up” when I got back.

Guess what?  My children were off for Spring Break this year from March 30th until they grudgingly return tomorrow, and I was very fortunate to be able to take the entire break off as well to spend time with them.  Confession:  I have never taken off their entire Spring Break before.  Ever.  My oldest is in the 7th grade.

I have a photo on the lock screen of my phone with a picture collage of two photos:  a picture of my kids and I during their winter break in our pjs and a quote that says “You will never look back on life and think ‘I spent too much time with my kids.'”  You could apply that logic to kids, family, friends, fur babies, etc.  The bottom line is that we don’t regret the time we take off with friends and loved ones, and it makes us better humans doing it.  Win/win.

I’m proud to say that despite a few cursory checks of my e-mail and two replies, I have stayed on vacation since I put my out of office message on the morning/afternoon(ish) of Friday, March 30th.  Yes, I know that was my vacation day.  Old habits die hard.  I made sure that my team knew to text me if they needed me as I wouldn’t be checking e-mail regularly.  However, as I’ve mentioned before, they are absolute rock stars, and there was nothing they couldn’t handle.

My kids will never be this age again.  It took me a while to learn to let go and have balance, but I’m so thankful I did.  We had absolutely ridiculous weather for “Spring” in Ohio, but the memories we made and the experiences we shared more than made up for it.

I know that in order for me to encourage others to practice balance, I have to show it for myself first, and I’m so thankful I did.  I’m returning tomorrow morning refreshed, restored, and ready to dig in and work hard.  I’m not going to win the prize for most outstanding PTO at the end of the year, and I’m thankful that I’ve finally learned that’s a good thing.

Image Credit: http://s7d2.scene7.com/is/image/Baudville/TRAVELING-TROPHY

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.

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.