HR- Let’s Own and Use Our Privilege

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We are all collectively mourning, reflecting, and contemplating how to  respond to the heartless murder of George Floyd and the heartbreaking damages to cities like my beautiful Twin Cities. Many organizations are turning to HR to create recommendations and action plans. A tall order given the years of systemic racism in our country.  Challenging to do during a pandemic.  And an impossible task if our function doesn’t recognize our privilege. It’s time for HR to own our privilege and use our privilege to make real change.

The Privilege Institute defines privilege as unearned benefits that accrue to particular groups based on their location within a social hierarchy. Privileges are often invisible to those who have them and are based on power. So HR peeps let’s be honest.  Our place in our organization’s social hierarchy gives us unique access to data, to creating policies, to employment decisions, and to organizational decisions. We didn’t earn this- it is a privilege of our role. We have or are perceived to have the power to influence who is hired, promoted, or terminated. So yes we have a role of privilege. We are also compensated by, what W. E. B. Du Bois called in his book Black Reconstruction in America,  additional , unearned “psychological wages.” In Du Bois’ book he talks about white laborers who received these psychological wages including “public deference and titles of courtesy because they were white. They were admitted freely with all classes of white people to public functions, public parks, and the best schools. The police were drawn from their ranks… (which) had great effect upon their personal treatment and the deference shown them.”  I am not white but I  am in HR, and I am given deference and access to all corners of our organization. Our leaders who “police” our organizations know the role of influence I have which effects how I am personally treated. I don’t have to work as hard as others to earn that access and as a result I start with greater political capital to invest.

Once we are conscious of our privilege it is our responsibility to use it for good.  Brandon Sheffield of the San Francisco Weekly outlines steps we can take to use privilege for good. Here are few important actions we in HR need to take.

  • Listen and Trust.  Ask people what they need. What do they see in our practices that is missing?  What needs to be done differently?  Be open to new ideas and let go of assumptions of what we have to do. It’s easy to feel like you already know what the issues and solutions are. Trust that our associates have valuable wisdom to make our organization stronger. 
  • Words Matter.  It’s (LONG since) time to put away the HR speak. Use real words and emotions. A man was murdered. Systemic racism allowed that to happen. Find authentic words and credible speakers– even if that’s not those at the top. Be vulnerable and empathic. Let this be the start of an ongoing dialogue about race and inclusion, not just a guilt-assuaging memo.
  • Accept When You are Wrong and Learn From it. We make mistakes. We have good ideas that sometime have unintended consequences. Own it publicly.
  • Use Your Voice. In HR we hear lots of things. We are also in lots of meetings where we need to bring the voice of others. In our recent executive talent review meeting I questioned when we used the word “unconfident” to describe a woman. It might be true or it might be an unconscious bias about style… let’s cause the debate.
  • Be the Change. Systems and structures work doesn’t sound sexy, but it is the backbone of our function and needs to be strong. Take the time to inventory the  work, including but not limited to hiring practices, hiring sources, compensation equity, promotion and turnover rates for diverse and non-diverse talent. Then create action plans and accountability to address gaps.

I believe it is a privilege to be in HR. I love the work I do. I am passionate about advancing people and the business to achieve our Mission. I also recognize my role confers unearned privilege upon me and it is my responsibility, now more than ever, to own my privilege and use my privilege to make real change.

Excellent Integrations Start with EI

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Most of us have had the experience of working on some kind of integration – a system integration, a process integration, or a business integration. Usually we are focused on our intelligence pieces – our project plans, our schedule, and our time/cost savings. As a result, we often miss the emotional piece at the heart of this endeavor – the questions, concerns, and experiences of the team receiving our “intelligence.”  A recent Price Waterhouse survey found that gaining people’s confidence and commitment during acquisitions are the biggest challenge to successful integration. Yet only 45% of respondents said they were “completely committed” to integrating staff during the acquisition process. Improving our self awareness, managing emotions, and having empathy are the missing pieces to most integrations- and are needed to complete a project successfully.

Improving Self Awareness. In the Harvard Business Journal article, What Self Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It), self awareness is like a two way mirror: it’s what you see and reflect internally and externally. Self awareness, not surprisingly, starts with self. It is understanding our values, motives, and behaviors, and how they impact others. It also means understanding how others view us.  Before charging in with your “intelligence,” stop and do some self reflection. Add the following to your project plan: How can my strengths help the team during integration? How could my development area impact the team? How am I viewed? How might that impact the project? Taking time to ask – and honestly answer- these question can have a huge impact to your integration.

Managing Emotions. Quick word association: What’s the first thing that comes to mind when I say Bobby Knight? Guessing chair thrower, yeller, maybe basketball came to mind. Winningest coach of all time (at the time of his retirement -902 NCAA Division I games) sadly is not usually our first association with Coach Knight. We all have emotions, and they are important to acknowledge. Managing emotions isn’t stuffing our emotions. It is creating a space between stimulus and response. We want Bobby Knight to be passionate. We just want him to keep four on the floor. We all have things that trigger us- that elicit a deep emotional reaction in us. The trick is not immediately responding to that stimulus. During an integration there may be a sense that the new team is resistant. That you are behind schedule. That the process/system changed, but you don’t see the expected improvement. Instead of charging forward, pause and practice mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Mindfulness allows you to recognize what you are feeling – mad, frustrated, upset – which creates the space for you to take a deep breath and reset your approach. Add the following to your project plan: What emotions might I experience during this integration? How would I like to handle them? What will it take for me to do that? Creating awareness of your triggers before the heat of the moment can keep the integration from going up in flames.

Having empathy. Empathy is not sympathy. Empathy is understanding another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from their point of view, rather than from your own. So try it. If you were on the other side of the integration, what would you be thinking, feeling, and/or worried about? What might help you move forward? The word might is important — empathy is not based on the golden rule but rather the platinum rule: treat others as they would like to be treated.  How will you know what they want? Ask and listen. Ask the team what is important to team. What is on their mind? How can you be most helpful? You don’t need to agree with what the other person says — this is not about you, it’s about understanding them. Next listen to their verbal and non-verbal cues during the project and adjust your approach. Add the following to your project plan: How can I find out what this team wants and needs? Add a listening session to the project up front, and check-ins along the way, to be sure you continue to look at progress through their eyes, not just your checklist.

Integrations tend to be a GSD exercise. Successful integrations shift their perspective from Getting Shit Done to Solving Goals Together. Adding emotional intelligence to your integration puzzle will improve both your project and people results- and keep those pieces together.

Tweet Your Vibe

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“Tis the time of year to be thankful. To be generous. It is also a good time of year to think about the vibe we put out into the universe – both the physical and online space we occupy. Thanks to Catherine Byers Breet for sharing this photo and this article. It got me thinking that we all should be thinking, what’s my Tweet, how do I Tweet others, and why we should Tweet each other better.

What’s My Tweet? In the 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey’s second habit is to begin with the end in mind. In this chapter he asks the reader to imagine their literal end. Picture yourself at your funeral. What are people saying about you? What impression did you leave? A slightly more updated question is, if your family, friends, and coworkers were to describe you in 160 characters, what would they say? You may also want to check what have they said about you on social media. We all create a vibe- all we can control is if it is intentional or unintentional. What would you like your headline to be? With that end in mind, think about how you treat others, and make an intentional effort to live up to your ideal self.

How do I Tweet Others? The 7 Habits also encourage us to synergize. This means to believe that 1+1 is 3 and that by treating each other with respect and listening to different opinions we can come up with the best solutions. In today’s digital world it is easy with the quick stroke of the keyboard to criticize those we don’t agree with. The golden rule should apply both our physical and online communities – and is part of keeping a positive vibe. Being mindful is also key when interacting with our teams. We are so busy doing that we leave little time for connecting, engaging, and encouraging our employees. How we “tweet” them comes out in all the micro decisions we make -to say hi, to be present, to show genuine interest. These micro decisions can have a macro ripple.  Your words and your impact will be how your team “tweets” about you as they talk about their day with friends and family.

Why we should Tweet each other better.  In an earlier post, Connecting vs. Networking, I talked about the the power of connection, collaboration, and conscientiousness. In this day and age it is only a matter of when- not if- we lose our job, are acquired, or experience a major reorganization. When you need help guiding new terrain, who will be there for you? Who were you there for when they asked you for help? We live in a big small world. Put your positive vibe out there and help to Tweet someone’s story and skills. Create the positive energy needed to propel each other forward.

What we say and do – in person and online- matters. It creates a vibe that either fuels or flushes their energy. There are over a 160 ways a day we can be intentional about showing up as our best self. The best gift we can give ourselves and others is to be mindful about what’s our Tweet, how we Tweet others, and Tweeting each other better.

 

Let’s Talk About Sex

Sexual harassment

Back in the 80s we wanted to talk about sex. Then we saw the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas case, and then we wanted to talk about sexual harassment. While the 80s big hair is gone, the big issues of gender equity persist. Why, despite the passage of many new laws and required sexual harassment training, do we still have work cultures that range from unwelcoming to unsafe? According to a recent Washington Post/ABC news poll , 54% of women have experienced “unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances.” Thirty percent of these advances have been from male colleagues, 25% of those were from men who could impact the woman’s career. This is not a women’s issue, and this can’t be solved by blaming and shaming men. What we need is a new conversation about sexual harassment and what we will –and will not -tolerate in our workplace. Let’s talk about what we value. Let’s talk about what to do. And most importantly, let’s keep talking.

What we value. Fran Sepler recently gave a fantastic talk entitled “Why Everything We Are Doing Around Sexual Harassment is Wrong” at the Minneapolis Disrupt HR event. Her salient point is that we need to change our discussion from scaring people with the law to inspiring people with our company’s values. When your employees model your values how do they treat each other? How would they react if someone is mistreated? Talk about what you expect in your workplace, and show them that those values are valued – that they are more than words on a wall, but truly your guiding principles, by highlighting the values of the people you promote, reward, and hire.

What to do. The media has exploded with stories about sexual harassment. It hasn’t been easy for people to bring forward their experiences. It isn’t comfortable to read. But it is happening so as leaders this is the time to lean in. Let people know you don’t expect harassment to happen in your workplace, but if it happens you want to know. And you want to make it right. Move out of legalese and speak from the heart. Make it clear you have an open door and an open mind to encourage people to come forward with their concerns. Creating a safe place for conversations is the only way to get to the truth. Leondra Hanson is a professor at Hamline University and speaker who recently posted an article about how to talk about sexual harassment. In it Hanson reminds us we need to talk about harassment before it occurs and create a workplace that won’t tolerate it.

Keep Talking. A recent New York Times article, Men at Work Wonder if they Overstepped With Women Too, starts out, “It has been a confusing season for America’s working men.” My first reaction was, Really? How can harassment be confusing? But that’s not helpful. Instead I hope if I am approached by someone who is confused or anxious about this topic that I will listen, ask questions, and offer guidance, not judgement. Let’s encourage men to talk to men and brainstorm ideas. Let’s expand this issue from sexual harassment to all kinds of harassment that happen at work. Let’s ask the women we work closely with what is and what is not comfortable to them. Yes, the answers – and the questions– will vary. Yes it might be uncomfortable. But by bringing harassment out of the shadows we can move from shame to solutions.

In the movie 9 to 5, Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lily Tomlin have the most “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” boss on the planet. I do not recommend or endorse their solution of kidnapping him to teach him a lesson. But I do appreciate that this movie created conversation about harassment in the workplace.  That movie is 37 years old but the topic of sexual harassment is still topical. I’m asking all of you to lean in and help shape the conversation about harassment at your workplace. Let’s talk about what we value. Let’s talk about what to do. And most importantly, let’s keep talking.

 

Embrace Constraints

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Our lives are full of constraints of all shapes and sizes. From taking conference calls while dropping off kids, to making dinner with what’s in the fridge, to juggling multiple work projects, we are all constantly balancing our limited time, resources, and scope. We often talk about these three interconnected constraints in project management — changing one impacts the other two. But what if instead of talking about these factors as constraints we think about them as accelerators? In his post How Constraints Fuel Innovation Instead of Restricting It, Vishal Kataria tells the story of how Toyota broke into the luxury car market. Their chief engineer challenged the team to build a car with a top speed of 155 miles per hour, an efficiency of 22.5 miles per gallon, a cabin noise level of 58 decibels at 60 mph, an aerodynamic drag of 0.29 or less, weighing less than 3800 pounds. None of their competitors had cracked one, let alone all five, of these goals. At first this seemed to be an impossible goal. But when the team designed to meet all these collective (and sometimes conflicting) constraints, they created the Lexus LS400, which outrated the BMW 735i and Mercedes 420SEL in every category rated by Car and Driver Magazine. And for $30,000 less.  Constraints can help you accelerate your productivity if you think outside the time, resources, and scope “box.”

Time: Think of less as more. Deadlines are stressful. And companies are infamous for short changing time to meet an executive’s schedule or demand. So embrace it.  According to a recent article cited in the New York Times, the average employee admits to spending 2 hours a day on non-work related tasks. So whatever timeline you thought you had, you really had 25% less anyway.  Help focus your team with more frequent, shorter meetings. You will have a different level of energy if you hold four 30-minute meetings rather than one two-hour meeting. Tell the team when the meeting ends, that phase of the process is done. Tell them in the first 30 minutes we need to complete X so that next time we can start with Y. Creating focus and urgency can up productivity– remember cramming for your college exams? Test it out and see what new results you see.

Resources: Look for the double down. There are never enough people or money for any given project. I am currently a department of one designing the learning and talent strategy for a production driven company. I am short on time and money and so are our leaders and team members. We have limited processes or practices to build off of. Isn’t that great? Now I get to focus on bite-sized learning, as I discussed in my Refresh Your Talent Menu blog, and to ensure that each piece we decide is intentionally interconnected. I am currently partnering with one of my peers to repackage some of our customer service training as coaching training. After all, asking questions, listening, and staying calm under pressure are key skills for working with customers and employees. And by using the same concepts in both scenarios we hope to ingrain them in our leaders.

Scope: Look through a new lens. Who decides what is in scope or out of scope for a project? Very rarely is it the end user. Lets say, for example, that your company is working on an acquisition. Your hands are more than full working on onboarding and talent assessment for the new employees. You don’t have the time or resources to address what is happening in payroll. You are in HR. But ask the average employee what HR does and they are likely things like payroll and benefits – because those are transactions that impact them in a tangible way, on a regular basis, and they don’t care what function that department sits in. So before deciding what is in scope, take a step back and think about what your employees are looking for. Design your project plans around that.

Think about Apollo 13. The constraints faced by that team were unimaginable – NASA had precious few hours to figure out how to return a severely damaged aircraft to earth using only the supplies the astronauts had on board. But everyone came together and came up with an ingenious, lifesaving solution. So how can you accelerate your productivity by embracing your constraints? Take a fresh look at the time, resources, and scope elements of your current project.  As Jeff Bezos said, “Constraints drive innovation. One of the only ways to get out of a tight box is to invent your way out.”

Are You Giver or Taker?

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If you were looking to hire a venture capitalist, what skills would you look for? I looked up a posting at Deutsche Telecom and they are looking for someone who is a “motivated and an enthusiastic self-starter who works on your own initiative….Confident and capable of easily interacting with senior management.” According to the book Give and Take -Why Helping Others Drives Our Success by Adam Grant, Deutsche Telecom is missing the most important quality for this competitive job: they should be looking for a giver.

Givers are people who believe that we go further together. They help others and put others’ needs as a priority. They don’t see relationships as a zero-sum game. They instead passionately believe we can all win together. In Grant’s book he highlights David Hornik, a venture capitalist who invites his rivals to hear pitches, responds personally to emails for investment requests, and will introduce entrepreneurs to his competitors. Hornik has also only lost three deals in eleven years. Hornik and others featured in Grant’s book challenge our paradigm of what it takes to get ahead in the workplace. In our increasingly interdependent, global, matrixed world it is important to self reflect and ask, am I giving or taking to get ahead at work?  Three key takeaways for me from this book are networking is not about you, check your credit score, and the impact of women givers.

Networking is not about you. Many people hate networking and see it as the ultimate taker activity, believing people build good networks to build their popularity. But as I referenced in a recent post, there is a big difference between connecting vs. networking. Networking is an opportunity to connect and help. Matchers see networking as a means to connect – but focus on reciprocating behavior. If you link in to a Matcher and ask for an introduction to someone in their network and offer to connect them to a key business leaders, he/she will gladly help you– once they’ve met that business leader. Givers know that we live in a small world and are motivated to improve the lives of those they are connected to. They gladly share their time, connections, and ideas and, as Grant says, “create norms that favor adding rather than trading value.” Step back and ask yourself, “Who have I helped lately, and what motivated me to do so?” Then think about someone from a past job and reach out and ask how you can help him/her. No strings attached.

Check your credit score. Jonas Salk is known as an international hero. In 1952 his research lab created a polio vaccine, and within two years of its release the rate of polio in the US fell by 90 percent. But Salk had a serious flaw– he was a taker. At a press conference held to recognize this enormous accomplishment, he did not recognize any of his peers. He failed to mention any of his collaborators, team members, or co-workers who contributed to this life changing event. Salk fell prey to responsibility bias, focusing on the time and effort he spent in the lab instead of seeing the team’s collective contributions. The key to a good credit score is not to keep score.  Instead, whenever your team has a big accomplishment, reflect first on other’s contributions and acknowledge them before mentioning your role on the project.

The Impact of Women Givers. Grant does not spend much time on the gender dynamic in this book, but as a working mother I had some immediate reactions to the giving/taking continuum. Women are raised to be givers, and our societal norms value women who are warm and nurturing. Grant’s research shows that givers face a tricky path — givers are statistically least likely to get ahead — giving credence to the idea that good guys finish last. But his research also shows that givers also finish first-they have the highest productivity, performance results, and revenue generation in their companies. The difference is givers who are “not selfless but are otherish.” Givers who are selfless often find themselves overwhelmed and over committed. But givers who focus on giving without losing sight of their interests are “Otherish.” They give graciously without overextending themselves. Women givers, and all givers, can increase their chance of success- and decrease their risk of burnout- by tuning into this key concept. The good news for givers is that the prototype of the successful leader is drastically shifting. According to a management survey of over 3,600 participants, givers have historically have had lower salary increases, slower advancement, and lower promotion rates. Less than 65% of givers were promoted to management roles compared to 83% of takers and 82% of matchers. This appears to align to our traditional stereotype that good leaders get ahead because of their (individual) hard work, talent, and knowledge. But that is shifting. Google recently used it’s data analytic prowess to determine the most important traits of effective leaders. The top three traits are a good coach, empower the team, and is interested/concerned with their team members’ success. Sound like an otherish giver? Good news for givers and for women givers if these traits are now seen as strengths instead of risks.

We all are part giver, matcher, and taker. You can find out your rating at Adam Grant’s website.  Grant’s book Give and Take provides numerous examples of givers and takers and how these behaviors impacted their success. I encourage you to reflect on how you interact with your network and your peers and be aware of your taking, matching and giving behaviors. Look at your network as a place to give. Be intentional about giving credit. Remember that giving is not synonymous with selflessness. And with that knowledge, go out and give!

 

 

The 3 Rs: Reading, Running, and Relaxing

Setting-Goals

It’s that time of year again. Red leaves. Orange pumpkin spice latte. Yellow school buses. All signs of fall and the return to school. Every year I feel both jealous of and motivated by these students. While most of us can’t lobby our workplaces for the summer off, we too can take this opportunity to focus on learning, committing to goals, and trying new routines.  I firmly believe that to be your best self at work you have to take time for yourself, and that setting up personal routines can help your professional productivity. I encourage you to explore the 3Rs this season: reading, running, and relaxing.

Reading. How do you stay current on your industry? On your competitors? On leadership? These “important but not urgent” questions often get buried under our emails and meetings. So here’s your chance to push reset and find some time for yourself. Drive time is a great time to listen to an audio book. Pop in some earbuds and listen to one while walking, cleaning, or at lunch. Here’s another idea- spend 20 minutes less on email and instead devote that time to learning. In an earlier post Refresh Your Training Menu, I cited LinkedIn and Flipboard as great sources for blogs and Get Abstracts as a site that synthesizes business and leadership books in to 3-5 page summaries. That 20 minute investment can pay big dividends in your career and is a great habit to try on this season.

Running. Or Walking, biking, dancing– any kind of heart pumping moving. As this Harvard Business Review article states, regular exercise is a part of your job, if in your job you are expected to concentrate, remember information, and be creative. There is a direct link between exercise and work performance – and we all want to be great at our job, right? Start with 30 minutes three times a week. Determine if morning, lunch, or evenings works best for your schedule and your body.  Set a goal. Then post that goal so your friends and family will ask about your progress. The alternative is to commit to processing information slowly, forgetting details, and staying stagnant. So don’t look at exercise as taking away from your job – see it as part of your job.

Relaxing. This is a habit I am still working on. I am the yoga student who starts planning her grocery list mid downward dog, and whose mind constantly wanders during meditation. But I know the importance of stillness and aspire to move from mind full to mindful. The app Buddhify really appeals to me- it has a collection of short meditation and many of them are designed to do while you are doing something else- brilliant! I also like the Do Yoga With Me website that offers free yoga lessons at all levels and multiple lengths. Another recent challenge in our house? Shutting off our phone after 8:00– and instead linking in with the faces in the room vs. on the web. Find that space where you can reconnect with yourself and what really matters to you. It will lower your blood pressure and help you center.

As CS Lewis said, we are never to old to set another goal or dream another dream.  We are all busy, but just one less TV show, meeting, or Words with Friends fest will pay huge results. This fall, lets all be students of the 3Rs and commit to reading, running and relaxing.

Connecting vs. Networking

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“Networking is not about collecting contacts. It is about planting relationships.” MiSha.

The New York Times just ran an article this weekend titled Good News for Young Strivers: Networking is Overrated. The article describes networking as schmoozers getting together just to be seen and heard. The author laments that we focus on who you know instead of focusing on accomplishing great things, which, he argues, helps you develop a network. His belief is that “Networking alone leads to empty transactions, not rich relationships.” We agree on this last point – you can shake 100 hands but get to know no one. It is also true that doing good work helps open doors and can attract connections. However, people can’t connect to you if they don’t know who you are, and good work can’t be discovered if it can’t be found. I think it’s time to redefine what networking is and how to make it valuable for all parties. Networking requires three essential ingredients to be effective: connection, collaboration, and conscientiousness. No artificial sweeteners or flavors included.

Connection: Networking is not sending a stranger a LinkedIn invitation. It is not measured in business cards. Networking means connecting with someone because you are interested in their expertise. It also means showing your appreciation for their time by being prepared and respectful of their time. The book The 20 Minute Networking Meeting has some great tips on how to effectively connect during networking sessions. The key takeaways are:

  • Be prepared. Be on time– in fact be early. Stick to your scheduled time. Plan what you want to cover in advance. Google your contact in advance so you know their background and current role/projects.
  • Focus on discussions, not bios. Give a one minute overview on yourself (yes one minute). Don’t ask them to walk through their background- you should have already reviewed it. Don’t ask anything you could find out online. Do use your time to get 3 insights: For example, what do they think about X? Or, I noticed that you did Y- I’d love to hear more about how you did that. Or I’d like your advice on Z – and to share my thoughts for your feedback.
  • Ask for three more contacts. Good people know good people. Based on your discussion ask who else they know that has a similar interest or expertise they would recommend you chat with. Be sure to follow through and connect with those individuals and show your gratitude for their generosity.

As a rule people are incredibly giving of their time. It is up to you to invest that time wisely so that you make a good impression and a meaningful connection.

Collaboration: Networking is the act of both getting and giving. You should be getting information, advice, and contacts during your networking meeting. You should also be giving that individual something in return. After your meeting follow up with an article he/she might be interested in. Offer to connect him/her to people in your network. Post about the work this individual is doing and help promote their project. Networking is also about paying it forward. We have all been – or will be – new to an industry, laid off, and/or working on a stretch assignment. Creating connections with up and coming talent, people in transition, and those new to an industry helps them build confidence and contacts. It also helps you build your network so that when you need some advice or help, you have a bank of goodwill to draw upon.  Leadership is not based on power- it is the ability to empower. We all have the power to collaborate and connect, so be generous with your time.

Conscientiousness: Like any habit you want to build, creating a routine and prioritizing time for the habit is critical to making it stick. Networking feels like a chore if you view it as something that takes you away from real work and/or something competing for your time. However, if you think about networking as connecting to interesting people to collaborate with,  you create a totally different mental framework. I once had a leader who was an exceptional networker. I finally asked him how he could keep up on all the people he stayed connected to. He showed me that he had created a spreadsheet of people he wanted to stay in touch with, wanted to get to know, and had collaborated with in the past. Every Friday he set aside 15 minutes to review his list and see who he had not talked to in a while. He then sent out a personal email to three people from his list stating why he wanted to connect and offered some potential dates/times. That simple approach kept the importance of connecting in his consciousness and helped him execute on his networking goals.

The truth of the matter is that the world runs on relationships. Right Management has conducted a multi-year study on how people find jobs, and every year networking is the number one source.  Corporate America is not a meritocracy – you have to do good work and you have to have good connections to get ahead.  Connections that are authentic are built on the desire to learn and share, and connections that last are built with intention. I encourage you to lean in, not out, when it comes to networking and plant rich relationships by striving for connection, collaboration, and conscientiousness.

Refresh Your Training Menu

Stuart SaladYou are planning a dinner party and want to serve today’s most popular dishes. You do a little research and get to work on your menu: homemade cream of celery soup, potato chip tuna casserole, and broiled grapefruit for dessert. Right on trend- for the 1950s. If you served that today, your guests would, at minimum, be surprised. But many of us in HR are still serving an out of date training menu: 3 days of content delivered lecture style with big clunky binders for participants. Our customers consume content in a totally new day today. They also curate and create content daily. It’s time for us to update our approach to learning and focus on what our busy leaders and employees can digest. This is not to suggest we should abandon workshop sessions that provide the time to go deeper on content and apply new learning. It is to suggest, however, that it’s time to expand our learning menu by serving bite sized learning, adding new ingredients, and trying some new recipes.

Serving Bite Sized Learning. Our employees and leaders are interested in their development. The challenge is that development is “important but not urgent” and is competing with throngs of “urgent and important” and “urgent and not important” emails, calls, and texts. We can help our teams find time for themselves by serving bite sized learning that has 10-15 minutes of content. There are so many great resources for this, including business and leadership book summaries from Get Abstract, hundreds of free videos and discussion guides at Lean In, innovative speakers and ideas shared through Ted Talks, and curated content from sites like Flipboard. These can also be great reinforcement resources to send out after a training to follow up on the learning.

Adding New Ingredients. A great Ted Talk I recently watched was titled Three Ways to Spark Learning. In this talk, Ramsey Musallam talks about how being a science teacher, a dad, and having a health scare gave him some new insights about learning. His take always are that curiosity comes first, we should embrace the mess, and practice reflection. Imagine you are leading a training on performance reviews. Your leaders come in, eyes rolled, expecting a lecture. But this time you take a new approach. Instead of telling them that performance reviews are great, drive engagement, and create performance records, you start by asking “I wonder how we could make the performance review process easier?” After gathering their ideas, you acknowledge that performance reviews are messy- both in the execution and in the delivery. You then offer some ideas on how to make the best of everyone’s least favorite process. You end by asking the leaders to reflect on their last performance review discussion and what they will do differently this time. You can still include tactical information they need to know and do some skill building in the class. But by adding some new ingredients to your facilitation, you just might spice up the discussion and the learning.

Try Some New Recipes. We encourage learners to take risks and try new approaches. But we don’t always this advice ourselves. Here are two creative approaches to learning to consider: a flipped classroom and an unconference. Flipped classrooms are common in education. The concept is that instead of lecturing when the kids are in the classroom then sending them off to do their homework on their own, teachers provide video/online lectures to watch at home, and use class time for discussion and projects. The same approach can be used in adult training. Send out pre-work and use more of your classroom time for discussion, questions, and application. If you are feeling really brave, try an unconference. The concept is very simple. At an unconference, there is no agenda. No topics or speakers have been pre-selected. Instead, attendees review a list of all possible content and decide what they want to hear about. Most unconferences includes less common approaches such as Big (or Little) Question sessions where someone asks a question he/she want to know the answer to and engages the group in a peer  discussion. Show and tell sessions give participants the chance to share a cool project/update and use that as a springboard for discussion. There are also more traditional lectures and/or group discussions options offered. This approach may be more stressful for the facilitators but almost always increases attendees’ engagement and participation. 

Julia Child said, “No one is born a great cook. One learns by doing.” Julia Child also included recipes for cream of celery, potato chip cassarole, and broiled grapefruit in the Joy of Cooking in the 1950s. But she continued to evolve her craft, grow with her audience, and innovate new dishes. How can you refresh the training for your organization?

 

 

Engage Grief at Work

Kerzenlicht

July 21, 2015. I was leading a team meeting when my phone rang. It was my husband, so I picked up and told him I was in the middle of a meeting and asked if I could call him back. “No,” he said, “You’re going to need to step out. I have some bad news to tell you.” He told me that my dad had just passed away. In that moment I had to recompose myself, tell my team that I was leaving, and begin my journey of navigating the logistical, legal, and emotional process of losing a loved one. You suddenly find yourself a member of The Club No One Wants to Belong To, and wishing that you could go back and be more supportive and understanding of those who joined this club before you. Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant capture so many lessons learned in their book Option B. Here are a few lessons we can deploy at work to help employees who are grieving, that also improve engagement for the full team: acknowledge the elephant, build confidence, and be flexible.

Acknowledge the elephant. Western society doesn’t have norms on how to deal with grief. “How are you?” may be a polite greeting, but it isn’t a helpful one. As Sandberg says in her book, “I wanted to scream my husband just died, how do you think think I am? I didn’t know how to respond to pleasantries. Aside from that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?” We worry so much about saying something awkward or reminding our coworker about their loved one that we err on saying nothing. A good opener can be, ” I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I want you to know you don’t have to go through this grief alone. We are here for you.” Give the person the opportunity to talk about their loved one. After my dad passed, a coworker commented, “Your dad must have been a great guy. There were so many loving stories of him at his service. I’d love to hear more about his time in the Peace Corp if you’re up to talking about it sometime.” Showing a sincere, specific interest and giving the person the choice of how and when to talk about it builds gratitude and engagement. Inviting the elephant into the room allows the person to be authentic, and builds a trusting environment for the entire team.

Build Confidence. Losing a loved one shakes you to your core. You lose your center and have to rebuild.  When people return to work, it is important to help them find their new normal in the office. Before he/she returns, ask the grieving person how they would like their first day to go. Share with them what is on the team agenda and invite them to attend any and all meetings they feel up to. We are trying to be helpful when we say things like, “I’m sure you’re not up to taking on this project yet so I gave it to Mary.” Or, “I know you have a lot on your mind so you don’t have to come to the sales meeting.” What that can sound like to the grieving person is, “You clearly don’t have it together, so I don’t want to give you something you will screw up.” Find a project that uses the person’s skills to help accelerate his/her path to productivity.  Let him/her get some quick wins and show your appreciation. This same grace should be given to our high potentials in stretch assignments and our new hires/transfers joining the team. Showing that we are confident in people’s talent gives them the confidence to climb the learning curve and engages their hearts and minds at work.

Be Flexible. Business marches to a quarterly drum that seeks order and deadlines. But there is no one experience or timeline for grief. A key part of helping the grieving person re-acclimate at work  is setting an initial plan, then adjusting it regularly. When one of my employees had a stillborn, we talked about how she wanted to return to work. There were days when it was important for her to be at work, and there were times where working at home to crunch out some reports was the right thing to do. She knew I trusted her and I knew that offering increased flexibility allowed me to retain a valuable employee. We also revisited her workload on a regular basis. The team worked together to temporarily reorganize our work to help our friend have a successful re-entry while ensuring our commitments were met. Outcomes based goals are meaningful and motivating for everyone on the team, and help the team ensure the most important things get done. It also gives the grieving person the flexibility he/she needs to re-acclimate to the workplace.

Anna Quindlen wrote,”Grief is a whisper in the world and a clamor within.” We all have something clamoring within, that appears only as a whisper to others. Engage your team by acknowledging elephants, building confidence, and offering flexibility. This also creates a safe place for grief to reside and allows grieving employees to thrive.