Laughter Should Be Your Engagement Survey

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Think about the time and effort you currently put into your engagement survey. The hours reviewing questions, creating distribution lists, developing communications, executing the survey, and of course, action planning. What if I told you that listening for laughter in the workplace is an easier and more authentic way to get the pulse of your organization? Best selling author Dan Schawbel says engagement can be boiled down to four measures: happiness, purpose, belonging and trust. Laughter is a great way to measure each of these elements. So let’s engage in laughter.  

Happiness and Purpose. Wharton Professor and co author of Option B, Adam Grant, has a Ted Talk called Faking Your Emotions at Work. We all know we have to manage our emotions at work – keeping our cool under pressure, or smiling politely in meetings while that marketing guy drones on and on. But if we do this all day, it can be draining. Grant say, “It seems like the easiest way to cope is to tell yourself, ‘Well, this is just my job. I’ll pretend to be this person in this role when I’m at work.’ That’s called surface acting. It’s wearing a mask that you take off at the end of the day. It feels like the simple way to distance yourself from the role. But it creates a sense of being inauthentic, which can take a real toll.” Instead Grant challenges us to take the opposite approach. Tap into your emotions and ask yourself,  How can I make my work more meaningful? How do I find a sense of purpose in my job? Instead of being disconnected, be objective about your role and contributions. What do you love? What are you passionate about? Take off that mask and make real connections with your team.  When we play together, we stay together — and feel stronger connections. When people have tapped into their happiness and purpose you will see increased energy, creativity, and commitment—and laughter.

Belonging. Social science researcher Brené Brown defines belonging as “the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us.” She also says we know we truly belong “when we can present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.” In Gallup’s article How to Bring Out the Best in Your People and Your Company, author Jake Herway states, “an organization full of employees who believe they belong is an organization full of employees who feel purposeful, inspired and alive — in other words, engaged. And these engaged employees are more productive and better performers.” When teams can joke about shared experience or problems they have created a social connection. So rather than asking in a survey “do you have a best friend at work?”, listen for laughter to gauge belonging.

Trust. In the Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey states that trust is rooted in credibility.  We earn credibility when we can laugh at ourselves. Trust also requires us to be self aware. Understanding how your actions are either trust builders or trust busters is a critical leadership trait. The stories you tell and the jokes you laugh at are barometers on whether you trust others, trust yourself, and/or are worthy of trust. Trusting environments invite us to be vulnerable, and when we feel comfortable, we are comfortable taking risks. When people laugh, they are in a relaxed state. They are open to new ideas because they feel safe. When we share laughter, we trust each other. And laughter deepens our trust.  As employee engagement expert David Zinger says, the shortest distance between two people is often a good laugh.  So listen for the speed of laughter to gauge your organization’s speed of trust.

Researchers found that by the time the average kid reaches kindergarten, he or she is laughing some 300 times each day. Compare that to the typical adult, who laughs 17 times a day.  Perhaps now that we’re all grown up we think we are way too busy to have fun. But studies show laughter allows our minds to juggle and connect concepts in a way that rigid concentration does not. We talk a lot about employee engagement, but really there is nothing fun in most engagement surveys. Laughter is a great pulse check for happiness, purpose, belonging and trust. So think about how you can engage in laughter in your workplace.

Spring Clean Your Mind

Spring cleaning

April usually brings thoughts of spring and renewal. Many of us have a ritual of spring cleaning – donating clothes the kids have outgrown and admitting we don’t need 6.5 pairs of scissors in one drawer. Spring is also a great time to bring a renewal mindset to our work. In the article Three Easy Ways to Spring Clean Your Work Life author Zameena Mejia says that we take in about 64B of information a day. This makes our brains feel like our hall closet- stuffed the the gills, no longer organized, and hard to open. It also makes it hard to be productive at work when we are in overload mode. Take the time to spring clean your mind by clearing clutter, creating focus, and having free space.

Clearing Clutter. Clutter can be both physical and mental. Start with the stuff that’s easy to see. Take a step back and think about how you would like to organize your work space. Give yourself permission to give away or throw away the books, papers, and even mementos you really don’t need anymore. Once you’ve made a dent in your office space try something radical – delete all emails over 30 days old from your inbox, sent, and deleted folders. Just do it. Freeing up that space is very liberating – and helps you to focus on the current tasks at hand. Learn some of the simple but awesome Microsoft Outlook rules to help you manage incoming emails more effectively. Now for the hard part. Clear the clutter from your mind. That project that didn’t go as well as you hoped. The nagging feeling you have that Pam in Payroll is upset with you. Make a list of the worries that are gnawing at you. Then crumple up the list and throw it away. Those worries are in the past. The question is, how do you want to move forward? You can choose to set up a meeting to check in with Pam. But if you don’t, then let it go. That issue no longer has a worry hanger in your mental closet.

Creating Focus. April means we are 25% through 2018. Have you accomplished 25% of your goals for the year? If not, how can you create more focus? Now is a good time to take out your annual goals and ask (1) Are these still the right priorities? (2) Am I making progress? (3) Where do I need to focus? One the best leadership tools I’ve picked up comes from the book The 12 Week Year. This book was written way before quarterly reviews became trendy. It challenges us to break our goals down into 12 weeks vs. 12 months. That means each week has more urgency to make progress towards your goals. It introduces a Periodization Plan to help you track and monitor your goals. I have been using this with my teams for the last ten years and it is a great tool to create focus.  Another key to mental focus is taking time to pause. If you are like me and love the idea of meditation but find it really hard to do, check out Buddhify. com. It is a great app for those of us who have a hard time slowing down. This is the most important step in your spring cleaning routine- so be sure to give focus some focus.

Creating Free Space. The only way to keep your spring cleaning stay clean is to ensure you don’t fill it with new clutter. In order for you to be your best self at work you need to have some downtime at home. Downtime is time when you are powered down and present. That may mean not working after dinner. Or not bringing phone in the bedroom. We all need some time of our day to be spent without a screen. We can also create free space by regaining control of our calendar. Instead of multitasking on a conference call, decline it and spend an hour focused on researching a key project. Block time on your calendar to read business and industry news. To be a leader we need time to think, not just do. Another great way to create free space is to work out. It doesn’t matter what you do or what level you are at. Engaging your body physically can unhook your mind and give you time to think about things in a new way.

I encourage you to make a commitment to spring clean your mind this month. It won’t make the MN snow melt, but it will help you with clearing clutter, creating focus, and having free space so you can spring ahead on your 2018 goals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Encourage Courage

Courage Award

I was at the Good Leadership Breakfast this month, and the host was talking about an award that her family created – the Courage Award. It was a travelling trophy awarded to the family member that did something brave that week. I was struck by the power of that idea and started to imagine the impact of encouraging courage at work. Dictionary.com has three definitions of courage: (1) the power or quality of dealing with or facing danger, fear, pain, etc. (2) the courage of one’s convictions, the confidence to act in accordance with one’s beliefs. (3) take one’s courage in both hands, to nerve oneself to perform an action. There are some simple yet powerful things we can do in HR to encourage courage at work that will  help people face their fears, act confidently on their convictions, and take action.

Face Your Fear. Change in our personal and professional lives is a constant. So how can HR help our employees and leaders cope more effectively? It starts by acknowledging this reality. When working through a big change, like a spin off or layoff, or a smaller change, like a new benefit plan or PTO policy, talk about fear. Encourage people to discuss their concerns and worries, and help brainstorm solutions and options. Really listen to what you hear and be brave enough to respond. Be willing to change a plan or policy based on new information. Don’t be afraid of – or limited by – timelines and deadlines. Have the courage to do the right thing so that the project is done right.

Act on your convictions. Being an HR manager is a hard job. You wear a lot of hats ranging from coach, to project manager, to strategist. One of the most important hats you wear is as the conscience of the company. You have the unique position of hearing both what employees think and senior leaders are planning. And both parties are counting on you to serve as a bridge to the other. So listen, learn, and act. If you believe that the new values senior leaders are working on won’t resonate, speak up. If your gut says it’s the wrong time to launch an engagement survey, don’t do it. If you ever see sexist, racist, or otherwise disrespectful behavior or language – call it out. As Gloria Steinem said, “Whenever one person stands up and says this is wrong, it helps others to do the same.” Be the model of acting on your convictions for the organization – and help both employees and leaders learn how to follow your example.

Take Action. Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” A powerful way that HR can take courage “in both hands” is to focus less on communication change plans and more on change action plans. Work with teams to understand what is important to them. What actions help them achieve or preserve those things? How will they measure their progress? Celebrate their success? It is easy to have a talking head, senior leader video tell the organization about the benefits of a big change. It is impactful to understand the WIIFM from the employee and managers’ point of view and to help them to take action to achieve what’s in it for them.

The third Tuesday of October is National Face Your Fears Day. Consider making this an event in your workplace. Ask people to share how they overcame a fear or to discuss a fear they are struggling with. Create a Courage Award that you give every October to encourage courage at your workplace. But don’t stop there. Remember that courage is composed of big and small things every day. Most of the time these acts are invisible, but it’s time we shine a light on these examples. There are some simple yet powerful things we can do in HR to encourage courage at work that will  help people face their fears,  act confidently on their convictions, and to take action.

 

Rock and Role Rock Star Leadership

Rockstar blog

Great bands – and great teams- are composed of talented individuals collaborating to make something new and exciting together. As part of our new leadership curriculum at Abra we have designed a Rock and Role Rock Star Leadership module to help our leaders rock productivity and retention in their centers. We believe that good leaders want to rock results by focusing on key priorities, that teams with clear roles drive productivity, and that real rock stars build all star teams.

I wanna rock. Employees want to jam with the best, earn the applause, and collaborate on creating hits for the business. But before we are ready to perform we need to know our playlist. Rock star leaders help their team focus on priorities by identifying the big rocks and eliminating the gravel. Big rocks are the things that are important, but likely not urgent. They are the long term, strategic projects that will have a direct impact to the business. They are the things we know we should do, what we want to find time to do, but often don’t prioritize because we are drowning in gravel. Gravel is the thousands of small tasks like emails, meetings, or conference calls that can fill your calendar, but don’t fill your bucket and definitely don’t fill the stadium with fans. Rock star leaders help teams separate what is important from what is urgent, and work with the team to create clear priorities and areas of focus. They recognize that to do that we need to clear the gravel. Rock stars give the team permission to start new riffs, and to stop old habits. They remind us just because we always used to do X doesn’t mean we should still be doing X. They ask what we can automate and eliminate so that their team can rock.

Role With it Baby. Once you have the big rocks identified, a rock star leader now looks at where the work should get done. Some leaders think their job is to own every big rock themselves. But organizations don’t need one man bands, they need well- tuned teams. Teams can rock and roll when they have clear roles, use their strengths, and have on-the-job development opportunities. One role of the leader is to sort that gravel to determine if there are some diamonds in the rough that should be done, but should be done differently or at a different level or by a different team. In my earlier blog,  Improve Through Improv,  I talked about the magic teams make when they leverage team members’ individual strengths to collectively create the best outcomes. Teams have a lot of different roles, and a rock star leader looks at how to train the drummer on keyboards, and encourages the bassist to try a solo. This approach provides cross training and succession planning. It also brings new eyes to each role and empowers each person to roll with new and innovative approaches.

Baby I’m a Star. Plenty of bands have split because the lead singer demanded artistic control and tried to keep the spotlight on him/herself. A rock star leader doesn’t want credit – they want collaboration. They also know that to create that collaborative environment they have to focus on both short and long term results. They know that today’s hits won’t stay on the charts. They invest time finding and growing their future stars. They push their rising stars to test and try new ideas. They build all-star teams that deliver bold solutions. Rock star leaders give credit where its due, cover when it’s needed, and trust freely.

Leadership isn’t an easy job, but it should be a fun one – and one that we should make more fun, more rebellious, and more edgy. Kind of like a rock star. Wild make up and leather jackets optional. What’s required to be a Rock and Role Rock Star Leader is to  rock results by focusing on key priorities, that teams with clear roles drive results, and that real rock stars build all star teams.

 

 

Are Your Values Valuable?

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Every company has a set of values. They are the norms that describe what is important to the organization, and the behaviors that are encouraged and rewarded. Some of these values are what you see on the walls of the building- but often there are different values playing out between the walls. The new CEO at Uber has just rewritten their values, dropping  “hustling,” “toe-stepping,” and “principled confrontation” and replacing them with, among others, “We celebrate differences” and “We do the right thing. Period.” Or perhaps you are on your second or third iteration of your company’s values, leaving your employees skeptical that you really know what you stand for. If your company’s values include integrity, commitment to customers, or teamwork/trust you’re in good company-According to the Booz Allen Hamilton and Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program researchers, 90% of companies reference ethical behavior/integrity, 88% mention commitment to customers, and 76% cite teamwork and trust. As my CEO, Ann Fandozzi, says, “I’m pretty sure our competition’s values aren’t we have no integrity so come work here. If your values don’t differentiate you, then they aren’t valuable.” Yet values do matter. According to a global survey by HR.com, one of the top 5 drivers of employee engagement is alignment between your personal values and your company’s values.  At Abra we are on a quest to create values that mean something to our team, to our customers, and to the way we do business.  We are getting great input, feedback, and buy-in as we work to create not just new values but a new way of leading our teams and our business.

Values and teams. It is ironic that the two most common approaches to creating values is either to hire an external consultant or to have a small group of executives pen them.  If values are our guiding principles, then we believe our employees should lead the way. When we began this journey, I spoke to the executive team and said for this to resonate across the organization, our values must come from voices across the organization. We are a national, production-driven organization, so this is not an easy task. But we partnered with the leaders across our stores and organized short focus groups. When we couldn’t pull people together, we took our notepads and talked with employees at their workstations –in the paint booth, next to a car, at the front desk. We asked 5 questions:

  • What do you like best about working at Abra?
  • What makes you proud to be an Abra employee?
  • What makes Abra unique?
  • How does a satisfied customer talk about Abra?
  • What does Abra need to do to become the Employer of Choice?

Over the course of 5 months we collected 90 pages of notes from over 300 employees. We are now going through this feedback and extracting the essence of what our employees said. We are not editing or changing their words – just summarizing.  The nuances and examples our teams shared are the heart of what they value- and will be reflected in our final summary.

Values and Customers. My family likes Panera. They have a great selection of healthy foods, and the quick food vs. fast food environment quells my mom guilt. We love our Panera because of Justine. Justine always greets our family with a smile, remembers my kids’ orders, and engages them in small talk.  To engaged employees, the organization’s success is personal. It matters. It’s a reflection of them and what they believe in, who they are, how they show up in the world. In a service industry, the customer’s experience IS your brand, so your company values should also reflect what is important to your customers. We are reviewing our customer survey data to identify common themes from our customers and our employees. We want our values to be our brand – but more importantly we want them to be our Justine –the essence of your experience with us.

Values and Business. Identifying the values is the easy part. Creating the process to integrate these values into the way you conduct business is hard. There are some obvious places to start – interview guides, recognition, and communication. These steps are critical, but if you want to see a great model of building your business around values, look at Zappos. All Zappos’ employees spend their first three to four weeks manning phones in their call center. This training helps new hires learn the business, but it also provides an internal resource for the company.  Zappos does not hire temps during the busy seasons – all employees are expected to sign up for shifts in the call center during the busy seasons. For employees hired directly into the call center, once you complete your four weeks of training  you are offered $3,000.00 to leave the company.  Not stay- leave. The Zappos’ philosophy is if you haven’t committed to the company and the values, then you should leave. Think about what that could look like – and say about – your company if you did something similar. Powerful.

The article Ban These 5 Words from your Corporate Values Statement recently appeared in the Harvard Business Review.  (1) Ethics and Integrity -as discussed, those are table stakes. (2) Collaboration. As the author says, if your employees aren’t working collaboratively, listing it as a core value isn’t the solution. (3) Authenticity- that should not be an aspiration, it should be a reality. (4) Fun- if you have to claim you are fun, you probably aren’t. (5) Customer-centric- all of us in the for profit sector best be customer-centric. Dig deeper and do the hard work to really understand what is important to your employees and your customers. Take an honest look at your business model and ask if this aligns with what our employees and customers value? Join me on a quest to create values that mean something to your team, to your customers, and to the way you do business.

 

 

 

50 books by 50

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I have always loved to read. I was “that kid” who took her book with her everywhere –reading on the bus, in the doctors office, at the dinner table. Today I still love to read but struggle to find time to read and feel torn between reading for work and reading for pleasure. Apparently I am not the only one struggling with this. According to a recent LinkedIn post by Amit Somani only .5% of people in the world read more than 3-5 books a year. So I decided to set a goal to read 50 books by age 50. That means I will need to double my reading rate and sustain it for two years. How I am going to do that? Good question! Here are some of the tips I plan to employ -and how it relates to leadership: Decide what supports the goal, learn from others, and follow your passion.

What supports the goal. Most of us have worked at a company with a WIG (wildly important goal) that was something like double sales by 2020 or increase our customer base by 30%. Aspirations are great but without clear plans to support them, won’t be more than a bumper sticker slogan.  With any kind of goal it is helpful to ask questions like these, from the Huffington Post article 5 Leadership Goals:

  • What have we tried to achieve in 2017 that we must accomplish in 2018, and how will that be rewarding to you (and your team)?
  • What targets are we hitting — and which ones are we missing due to our own actions as executives?
  • Is there anything I can do to get out of the way of — and, indeed, accelerate — our success?

These questions are insightful whether you are trying to improve quality, reduce turnover, or increase your reading. In my case, reading is rewarding, so what I will accomplish this year is setting a target of reading at least 20 pages everyday. I will accelerate my success by setting a firm bed time and creating a routine of reading every night before I go to sleep.

Learn from others. Whatever goal we are trying to achieve, we can pick up ideas and insights from others. I currently have over 500 books on my Amazon reading list. So one way to prioritize those books is to see what others recommend as their top reads. President Obama posted his reading list, as did Daniel Pink, Richard Branson, and hundreds of other thought leaders. Pick one or two that you already know and love and challenge yourself to follow the recommendations of someone outside of your normal go to group. Share your challenge internally and find out what your peers/other functions are doing that relates to your goal. My internal inquiries led me to read Lean Turnaround and  Four Disciplines of Execution  as my first two books this year. Ironically by starting with a discussion about Four Disciplines, I am now leading a training session on 5 Choices,  and am collaborating with senior leaders on our shared priority of driving productivity through improved people leadership.

Follow your passion. I love the quote, “If it is important to you, you will find a way. If  not, you will find an excuse.” That definitely applies to me and the goals I set for working out, at work, and now reading. The gap isn’t really time- we all have 24 hours in a day. It’s how we use and prioritize our time. Goals that ignite us are easy – creating a new leadership program, developing the acquisition strategy, defining a new customer segment. Goals that are outside of our expertise and interest are usually the ones that we keep deferring. In my earlier post Improve Through Improv I talked about tapping into- and trusting- the talents of the team to achieve your goals. Leveraging people’s strengths and passions is a natural accelerator.  So in my quest to read 50 books by 50 I give myself permission to pass on the books that don’t fuel my fire, to quit the books that aren’t engaging me, and to seek books that are aligned with my personal and professional passions.

Rachel Anders said, “The journey of a lifetime starts with the turning of a page.” Whether you are reading or on the journey to achieving a different goal, deciding what supports the goal, learning from others, and following your passion will help you get to your destination more quickly, and make it a more enjoyable ride.

SKOL Leadership

 

Vikings win

What. A. Game. I live in Minnesota and while I am a Packer fan, for the last minute and a half of Sunday’s playoff game I was sweating purple. This miracle finish was just the latest chapter in a miraculous season. After losing their starting quarterback and starting running back in the opening weeks, somehow the Vikings, led by their third quarterback, Case Keenum, and their defense pulled the team together. Not only have they stayed together, they ended the regular season with the second-best record in the NFC.  As I watched the game I thought, this is an awesome leadership moment in motion. The Vikings showed how teamwork, strategy, and persistence are what it takes to lead and to win.

Teamwork. Good teams work together and come together, especially under times of stress. Great teams are clear on their goal and commit to their specific role in helping the team achieve it. In the Harvard Business School article The Biggest Mistake You (Probably) Make With Teams, author Tammy Erickson gives the analogy of an emergency room, and writes,  “Before the next ambulance arrives, they have no idea of the nature of the task ahead. Will the patient require surgery, heart resuscitation, medications? The condition of the next patient is unknown; the tasks that will be required of the team, ambiguous. But at no time while the team waits, do they negotiate roles: “Who would like to administer the anesthesia? Who will set out the instruments? Who will make key decisions?” Each role is clear. As a result, when the patient arrives, the team is able to move quickly into action. The Vikings acted surgically – each person focused on exactly what had to happen on that last play so the patient- in this case their playoff dreams- had a chance of surviving. In her research, Erickson found that the most successful leaders ensure roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, everyone understands the project’s importance and ultimate objective, and the team is empowered to determine how to achieve their agreed to “what.” So help your team be great by setting clear goals and roles, and empowering and encouraging them to determine how to win.

Strategy. In football the coach can’t take over the various roles on the team, but off the field ask yourself, am I trying to be the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver or am I the coach? Mike Zimmer’s role was to create a strategy, make sure the team knew how to execute the strategy, and to build their confidence so that they could achieve their goal. Leaders don’t win games- they build teams that win games. In the article Doing Less, Leading More, author Ed Batista writes that many leaders believe if we work longer, harder, and smarter than our team, we’ll inspire by example. But he cautions that if you lead like a “Doer-in-Chief” you can’t pivot your teams from fire fighters to fire marshals. In Sunday’s game, it was evident that Zimmer had instilled a fire marshall mentality in the team – don’t panic when the heat is turned up, focus on execution. We can do the same in our roles with our teams if we do less, lead more, and stay focused on our strategy.

Persistence. Let’s not forget, the Vikings were not only down by 1 with 23 seconds on the clock. They have been down similar roads before. The Vikings have lost their last five NFC Championship games and lost four Super bowls. None of this is lost on the Vikings or their fans, nor is the fact that Minnesota is hosting the Super bowl in just 4 weeks. In the article Never Quit: Strategies on Perseverance From 6 Seasoned Entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs share what it takes to be persistent. The willingness to “take the hit.” Lead confidently, think big, and influence your outcome. As entrepreneur Roy McDonald says, “You can influence the outcome with the power of thought and intention. It’s important to focus on what you do want, instead of what you don’t want.” That mental toughness, or Grit as Angela Duckworth would say, is all about what goes through your head when you fall down, and how that—not talent or luck—makes all the difference in a person’s success.

In football and as a leader you want a team with strong teamwork, strategy, and persistence. Even before Diggs’ touchdown, the Vikings had to stretch their bench to get the right people on the field. They had to ensure everyone understood the playbook. They had to make big plays to be up 17-0, they had to have grit after the Saints came out with 17 unanswered points and they really had to dig deep when they were down in the last 23 seconds of the game. Their success- and the success of strong business teams– comes from knowing the plan, and committing to execute the plan. It means having a leader who clears the path and empowers the team. It also means having an unwavering belief that you will achieve your goal. I encourage you to think with SKOL leadership so you can see and celebrate your  team’s success.

Resolve, Go Solve, Absolve

New Years Resolution

Happy 2018! It is that time of year where think about our goals for the new year. We purchase new gear and goodies to help us reach that illustrious goal. Yet despite our initial anticipation, 22% of new years’s resolutions fail after one week, 40% after one month, and 50% after three months. How can you buck the odds this year and make your resolution a reality? There are three actions you’ll need to take: resolve, go solve, and absolve.

Resolve. It’s easy to look at these statistics and think why bother. But the very act of making a resolution matters. Setting a goal means you’ve identified something you want to strive for.  One key to a successful resolution is picking something important to you that are passionate about. You may feel pressure to climb the corporate ladder but if you love your current job, resolve to deepen your skills instead of getting promoted. The next step is to take that goal and make it a plan.  Think about how you will deepen your skills by doing X by Y date. Setting specific, measurable goals makes your resolution more tangible and therefore more achievable.

Go Solve. “Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard.” This is a famous quote from Guy Kawasaki, a former Apple executive and entrepreneur. Once you have your idea and your plan, ask yourself, have I gotten this far before? What got in my way? If you resolved last year to deepen your skills by getting your MBA but fell short because you didn’t have the time or money to make it happen, is that the right goal for 2018? Unless your financial or time commitments have shifted the likely answer is no. So how else could you solve for that? Could you take one class online? Could you learn new skills at work? Find a mentor? The specific solution is less important than finding a solution you can implement. Creating realistic momentum helps get you out of the gates and gets that idea into motion.

Absolve. Merriam Webster’s definition of absolve is to “to free from guilt or blame.” This is a crucial part of resolutions. We know that half of resolutions fail in the first six months. Yet we fail to plan for failure.  I love the blog  The Tiny Buddha by Leo Babauta, and in this post Babauta challenges us to relook at our expectations for building a new habit. He wisely says, “What if the problem is our hope that we’ll never have to get disrupted, that things will always go perfectly? This hope is, of course, greatly misguided. Things don’t ever go smoothly, progress is never linear, and we’ll always get disrupted….what we need to do is get good at starting, then starting again.” Absolve yourself from the guilt that you didn’t sign up for that online class yet. Absolve yourself from blame that you haven’t found a mentor. It’s never too late to restart. Just go back to solving again. Take any step- no matter how small- to regain momentum and look forwards, not backwards.

So break out your new 2018 calendar or journal, and think about what goal excites you for this year.  Write down some specific steps you can take to achieve that goal. Start doing – try anything, just start. Then prepare to restart. Approach 2018 with a resolve, go solve, absolve attitude and it will be a very happy new year.

 

Connect the Dots

Connect the dots

For many of us it’s budget season. Time to look at what we want for 2018, realizing what we’ll likely get, and figuring out what we can eliminate and prioritize. Too often in this exercise we cut and copy our current projects, just changing the year and tweaking our plans. This year I encourage you to think about how you can not cut, not copy, but connect the dots in your strategy. Commit to a new kind of new year by creating alignment, setting your focus, and pivoting your team.

Creating alignment. Instead of making functional budget or talent decisions, step back and look at your company’s strategy. What are the big opportunities in your line of business? What is your competition doing? What’s out there that no one is doing? What are your leaders always talking about? Ask them what keeps them up at night. Bring the slides from the last business review and talk to them about the real story you should be telling. Help them by recreating simpler slides that connect the dots for all levels of the organization. Looking in is a great place to start- then don’t forget to look out.  Double the business and industry sites/blogs you follow. Meet with some former leaders who moved into new roles.  Block time on your calendar every day (at least every week!) to stay current on your markets and customers. Knowledge IS power so use your power to create alignment across the organization. Help tell the story. Connect priorities across the business.  Ensure everyone is marching in the same direction.

Setting your focus. I once worked for a leader who set 64 annual priorities for us. That is more than one a week! When I raised my concern I was told we didn’t have a choice- this was the work that needed to be done. It may be what needs to gets done, but it won’t be able to be done.  Without guidance we leave it up to chance which of those 64 items get done. One of my favorite phrases is, what’s the order of events? If one of our goals is to expand our military hiring strategy, the first order of events may be to roll out interview training. Or maybe given other business priorities, they both need to wait until 2019. Take a step back and look at how you can sequence your goals. Less is more – and a more likely path to success.

Pivoting your team. To do things differently we must do things differently.  A powerful pivot can be the question, “How will we do things differently in 2018?” Test it first in HR. What will you and your team need to stop and start doing to achieve your top business opportunity? What skills will you need to add to or develop in your team to win in this space? What is the change agility of your team? How customer centric is your team? What do internal and external customers say about you? Questions like these can help unlock new discussions and generate momentum for a pivot. It can change what roles and skills you hire for. It can drive you to move work around – or off your team. It can break down silos and create a new mindset of shared outcomes. Starting with why creates buy-in and focus – and keeps us focused on the big dots.

HR is uniquely positioned to help the organization connect the dots. We understand both the business strategy and the people strategy for the organization.  In 2018, I encourage you to use the end of the year to look at what you want to achieve this year. Don’t cut and copy your current projects – be bold, be focused, and help your organization connect the dots by creating alignment, setting your focus, and pivoting your team.

 

 

 

https://hrtrendinstitute.com/2016/11/23/hr_trends_2017/

 

 

Do Less More Often

Do less More

It may be early to be thinking about New Year’s resolutions but as 2017 is winding down, I find myself reflecting on the number of lessons I learned this year. 2017 was a quite year for me. I was laid off from a great job working for a great boss, John Vegas. I also got a great opportunity to shift from designing learning and development content to delivering change management training across the country. I sat on the other side of the “here is your package” table and got to feel firsthand what good and bad acquisition practices look like. I learned to introduce myself as “in transition” at networking events, and to get comfortable with not having a work identity. I gave myself the best gift of all – taking the summer off to spend time with my family, seeing every concert that we could, and taking some fantastic vacations. So what’s my big hairy goal for 2018? I am planning to do less more often. This means embracing JOMO, canceling subscriptions, and better balancing .

Embracing JOMO. I just read this article about embracing the joy of missing out (JOMO). Instead of stressing out that you can’t get it all done or can’t get to both meetings you were invited to, try a new approach. Admit that there is a problem, and acknowledge that the problem is not you. You can’t do it all and that’s ok. So embrace it. Find joy in training someone else to help with your projects. See the joy in your team when you say, I trust you. You can cover this meeting and fill me in. This mindset can allow you to focus on what really matters and do a few things really well, instead of spreading yourself too thin. This will be a challenge for my extroverted, execution-oriented personality but I am convinced it will help me to stay focused and to be more productive.

Cancelling subscriptions.  I volunteered to co-lead my daughter’s brownie troop when she was in first grade. It appears to have an auto-renewal policy until she graduates. I started a list of all the things I find myself still doing just because I started doing them, and am starting to cancel my subscriptions to these commitments. That means prioritizing my networking groups and cancelling some subscriptions so I can focus on others. It means asking myself if there is a different way for me to subscribe my time at work so I can stay focused on my top priorities. It even means stepping down as the troop leader so I can decide if there is a new subscription my daughter and I want to explore.

Better Balancing. Doing less still allows for doing. I also want to increase my workout goals and to read more next year. I want to work on our learning strategy and be available to create on demand training for leaders.  My goal is to have clear priorities and commit to my priorities. Investing time in my family, my health, and my hobbies are my priorities for next year. So now they will be my filter for making decisions. Stephen Covey has a great quote: “Instead of prioritizing our schedule we need to schedule our priorities.” I am learning that one of the priorities I need to include on that list is white space. White space for thinking and planning at work and for unwinding at home is one of the best commitments of time we can make. Finding the balance of doing and being is my biggest challenge- and one I will prioritize working on in 2018.

I read the book Essentialism in 2016 and it really struck a cord with me. In this crazy world of doing, how can we do less more often? 2017 gave me an opportunity to put those ideas into practice and taught me some invaluable life lessons. I have moved through transition into a new great job, with a great boss, doing some great work. But instead of jumping back on the hamster wheel, this time I am being more intentional about embracing JOMO, cancelling subscriptions, and better balancing.