Sunday, December 17, 2006

A little humor goes a long way these days

Just in time for the holiday rush, some kindly (and clearly good humored) HR person passed this clip along to me. She didn't warn me that I should be mindful of who might be within earshot when I played it..... too late!

While I could just use this little post to kick my profession in the shins (again!), I have chosen to use it as an illustrative point for the budding egotists in our midst. The lesson is that being able to poke fun at yourself or your profession is actually a pretty healthy thing. Self-deprecation can be a pretty disarming skill and can help you take away some of the tension between you and those on the other side of the table. I'm not suggesting you eviscerate yourself or profession as a habit, but you should consider the "lighter" side of just who you are and what you do.

Just as the triumphant Roman Generals did, we all need someone to constantly remind us who we are - "Remember, thou art mortal".....


Take a long and merciless look into the mirror (figuratively at least) and see if there are any opportunities to bring to light some of the "areas of opportunity" or chinks in your armor - professionally or personally. Consider if those things can be more than a weakness by acknowledging and owning them through a healthy sense of humor... and hold others to same standard - who knows - we might just realize that we are all indeed quite mortal after all.


Sunday, December 03, 2006

Employee Blogs - As dangerous as you let them be

This post focuses on two things I have ranted about before - Employee Blogs and The Karma principal in HR and Management - If you treat people well, you have a much lower chance of being hung in blog-effigy or being a poster child on F*%^ed Company or Internal Memos.

My company has taken a pretty enlightened approach to blogs and we are pretty proud of this position. We believe that our people are experts and professionals. Since it is bad form to hide your light under a basket, we feel it perfectly appropriate for our folks to blog - many of them do. Some do it like I do - to vent and educate on matters from managing people to managing your scrabble club. Both are legit uses of blogs, but when you are fortunate enough to have folks in your company who are smart and passionate enough about what they do at work to blog about it, you are entering sacred ground!

I am amazed by the technical prowess and passion of a number of my co-workers. I point out two of theme here because they have taken their passion far beyond that of mortal bloggers - they have blown it out to the point where the line between the blogosphere and the real world gets a little blurry.

Daniella Barbosa and Glenn Fannick are great examples of what can happen when bright, passionate people get behind a cause that is along the lines of helping your company or industry. Hats off to them for being shining examples of how to make this blog thing work.... but there is a darker side- what happens when employee blogs are your enemy. It can and does happen.

Once upon a time in a hypothetical company, an employee who was struggling to keep up with her work was terminated. She felt she had done nothing to deserve termination, but her boss felt there was enough grounds to end this unsuccessful and draining relationship. The HR weasels concurred, and off the employee went - banished to bogey-land! Did employee get the feedback and counsel she needed along the way to know she had skated onto career "thin ice" ? Maybe not. Was her termination handled in a clear, fair and compassionate way so she had no doubt about why her performance was the reason for the termination? Maybe not. Was she left to devise her own truth about what went on? You betcha!

Well, it turns out that the now former employee was a blogger. She, being so betrayed, decided to tell the world about her plight. "I was wronged by them" she ranted. "They fired me without cause and gave me no chance to succeed", "They conspired against me and beset me with evil spells and incantations which turned me in to newt.... I got better.....". Wow - sound familiar? I will bet this sort of thing has happened to most of us at some point, but till now it was just a tongue-lashing at the watercooler of her new office. With the advent of "social media", it becomes fodder for the whole world to chew on, and it can have a worse impact on revenue than a faulty product or a larcenous CEO!

Now I am not saying that this would NOT happen if you managed performance and terminated the person flawlessly (is there such a thing?). She might still blog badly about you, but it is far less likely for someone to toss a blog-grenade at you if you have dealt with them fairly and compassionately. Heck, if you take good care of them, give them feedback and help them grow professionally by giving them the responsibility of challenging assignments and opportunities to strut their stuff, you just might find you have a Daniella or Glenn working for you.

Start the conversation with your management about a blogging policy and the tack you will take with employee blogs. Consider the great exposure you can get by allowing your best and brightest to be featured in a product or industry focused blog - imagine the boost to your company's image and the pride, development and stature they might gain from the experience.

Then set up a way to track what is being said about your company on blogs. You can invest in some very cool tools like the one's my company, Factiva does, or you can just set up a Google Alert that searches for mention of your company name in blogs - WARNING - if your company name is as common in the press as the word "dude" on a California beach, you better study up on constructing custom search terms!


More weapons in the Guerilla HR War!

I have to admit that sometimes I feel like I am all alone in this little quest of mine against bad management. That was till this week. In my usual meanderings through blogville, I stumbled across a blog name that caught my eye - the Evil HR Lady blog. Like a gawker drawn to a train wreck, I could not help but investigate.

This is another great addition to your toolbox, o' weary warrior! The Evil HR Lady dispenses her wisdom through a simple Q&A style. Go ahead - ask her anything! She's ready. I highly recommend her blog for Managers, Line Troops and even the novice HR trolls among you. My hat is off to you Evil HR Lady - your advice to staff and managers does a lot to prevent and quell the firestorms that follow bad decisions - every solid answer you give is another potentially another lawsuit saved.

Another interesting HR blog is HR Lori. This blog is written by a plucky and very down to earth HR person in California and she gets on some pretty good rants about trying to manage HR in the "People's Republic of California" which has more HR related legislation than any American state should be allowed - Shame on you Arnold!

Lori's radar picks up all the down to earth matters that trip up HR, Managers and business in general in a way that even a newbie Manager or HR troll can understand. Rock on Lori!

One last blog of note in this post is Jay Shepard's "Gruntled" Employees blog. I just love the title as it answers the age-old question... if folks you mistreat can be dis gruntled than the folks who don't want to see your skull on a pike must be gruntled??!! This is an excellent blog - a two cup of coffee minimum read though, as Jay has a sharp, sometimes dry sense of humor.
Don't let the fact that Jay is a Lawyer scare you (- they cant ALL be bad, can they?). This one is a MUST READ for all you HR munchkins in the crowd.... even you out of touch HR VPs might want to have a read. Jay, we simply have to meet some day.... the stories we could share.....oh my!!

I've just given you a resource to use, no matter what your role or level. Best informed = best armed, so take up the weapon of intelligence and get out there! Fight the morons with FACTS and you cant be wrong.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Finally, a topic worth blogging about!

As I mentioned in a previous post, my company is deep in the work necessary to complete the transaction where one of our two joint venture parents is buying the other out.... "fun" it ain't!!!

But all this work, coupled in with the usual year-end rush of all that HR minutia is really eating into my reading and blogging time. I completely missed posting last week, but not entirely because I was too busy. It was equally as much because there has been nothing that inspired me to write.... tired minds are not very creative and I refuse to post for the sake of posting. So here I sat, as mute as a stone till....... BANG! Inspiration hit me. No, not the noble kind - I was inspired by something so INCREDIBLY STUPID!

You all know that just the mere act of blogging about anything HR'ish is enough to get my secret HR Decoder ring taken away , so this one ought to REALLY get me in deep kimchi with the grand HR Poobah.

My inspiration for this little diatribe of mine is a recently published study by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM). I don't think I'm giving away a secret here by telling you that SHRM is viewed as the professional standard bearer for HR pros in America. They are effectively the embodiment of all the good stuff HR is supposed to stand for... till now.... Strap in kids, you are about to hear a good old fashioned rant that would make my Cranky Middle Manager mentor proud!

It seems that these grand champions of the HR profession felt it necessary to conduct a study on a very tricky and emotionally charged topic; no, not ethics reform, benefits cost containment, or even how to help people affected by layoffs - these geniuses decided it was more important to focus on a REALLY vexing question - Is it OK to have weapons in the workplace?! Honest to goodness - they actually decided that this topic needed a formal study capped off by a slick 32 page report on it! This Society strives to make HR a relevant and important part of the business and the most relevant and helpful topic they can study is weapons in the workplace - dear God! My 8 year old niece knows that weapons anyplace near work or school is a major Bozo no-no!

Holy Hopping Snot - what is wrong with these imbeciles? And they wonder why HR can't get a "seat at the table". Duh! How about we devote our time and talent to solving real problems in the workplace that help people and management get the job done well in a pleasant environment with decent pay and benefits. While I am sure that this topic is important and I don't mean to diminish the tragedies that have occurred when folks bring weapons to work, the answer doesn't require a study and a report - it's much simpler than that; If you treat people decently, fairly and manage performance and layoffs with compassion and help for those impacted, you wont need to worry about them bringing a weapon to bear against you.


Looking beyond the insanity of this post, consider if there are risk factors in your organization that might increase the possibility of the "disgruntled" worker coming in with his fire stick to exact a little revenge. Know your people and their pain points and look for ways to defuse the problem before the shots ring out.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A timeless lesson, perfectly timed!

As I have mentioned in a recent post, my company is in the process of being acquired by one of the two parents in the Joint Venture that formed the company. Needless to say, it's a very busy and anxious time. Most of us are anxious about getting all the work done to facilitate closing the deal on schedule, some are anxious about job security, others are anxious about how we are going to operate post acquisition. I could blog about all three of those topics; the work involved in getting through the "deal" in a merger or acquisition is a long post all to itself - so I will leave that for another day. We'll just focus on how to get along in the new world post acquisition.

I found a great article in Fast Company that explains how WebTv and Microsoft managed the integration when WebTv was devoured my the Empire of Gates. Now don't get me wrong, this is not about how to cave into the new corporate culture - this is all about ensuring that you are doing the right things for the company AND the people. Making the right choices based on the core principles of the companies involved - examining and embracing the best things that both have to offer. True, in most acquisitions there are the "acquiring" and those being "acquired", but that does not have to equate to "winners and losers"! There is a lot to learn from each other and the best opportunity for personal and organizational success is to put aside pride and ego and dig deep into the knowledge and talent of your new found colleagues.


Start planning now for what you will do if your company acquires or is acquired. How will you showcase what your company has accomplished? How will you tell your story and help people see the value of the experiences, processes and people in your company.

Sunday, November 05, 2006


You will probably recall the recent sentencing of the former Enron criminal (er... executive) Jeff Skilling. For his greedy and dishonest acts, he's been sent to take a nice long vacation in the land of the orange jumpsuits. While I am thrilled to see him get a long run in prison, I am equally disturbed at the damage that creeps like him have done to the the cause of good management everywhere.

Skilling, and countless jerks like him violate an important trust. Our people have to believe that we are honest and accountable to the truth in all our dealings. How on earth can we ask our people to put themselves on the line for our company, their team or even for us if they don't trust us.

We managers are in important and responsible positions. We have access to information our troops don't get to know about, and we use this knowledge to make decisions that impact them. I found a great quote that I hope puts this into perspective for you; " Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful." - Samuel Johnson.

While Jeff Skilling demonstrates the second part of that quote perfectly. I submit to you that the first half of that quote is more often the problem than the second. While most of us are guilty in this regard, it just isn't newsworthy. You're a good boss and you always try to take care of your troops, but how often have you let the value of your integrity be diminished by not backing it up with the knowledge to make it count? Wanting to do the right thing is pretty easy - gathering the information to make sure that that you are doing the right thing effectively, or even ensuring that what you are doing IS the right thing is harder.

Hold on to your integrity and make an "integrity check" part of every decision you make. And before you get to the point of having to make that integrity based decision, get ALL information on the matter. Become smart enough on the topic to know what the "right" decision looks like - then check your gut and charge ahead!

Carry on!

If your boss demands loyalty, give him integrity.
If your boss demands integrity, give him loyalty.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Boo! Scary stuff just in time for Halloween

Halloween. Time for demons, ghosts and things that "go bump in the night"...and scariest of all - Acquisitions! Mergers, acquisitions, layoffs, etc..... all can be just as scary as all the usual terrifying things we associate with Halloween, but unlike the hordes of zombies that chase us in our nightmares, we CAN control our situation and the outcome of business changes.

This post takes a more personal approach than most because my company is in now in transition. I work for a Joint Venture between two parent companies, and one parent is buying the other out. From a business perspective, it makes sense and creates a whole slew of new opportunities for the business, but this comes at the price of change. Many times such acquisitions force people to change the way the work, where they work, or even IF they work. This is scarier than Freddie Kruger on his worst day!

The trick here is to overcome fear with fact, hysteria with reason and panic with patience and understanding. While most people fear such changes with good reason, the fact is that you can impact the outcome, or at least how well you manage it.

As individual players, we can control how we respond to such changes - the best respected players don't trade in rumor, slander or fear-mongering - they just step up and get it done! Stay focused on the job you do, and look for opportunities to help in the transition. If you just pull into your shell you will miss opportunities to show the organization all the value you can deliver.

As leaders (yes, every one of us can be a leader) we can impact the outcome of the acquisition by stepping up and addressing issues head-on. Communicate the FACTS, squash the rumors, talk with your team and peers to help them see how they can positively influence the outcome.

Be clear, even if you are the ideal team play in this, you may end up out of a job, but would you rather be a victor or a victim?

Look across your network - do you know anyone who is undergoing such transition? If so, pass this post along to them. Otherwise just e-mail this post to yourself for a rainy day.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Picking winners for your winning team

From your earliest childhood memories, you can always recall wanting to be on the winning team. When you were standing in the crowd waiting to be picked for whichever side of the kickball game, you longed to be picked by that team with all the cool kids / best kickballers, etc... You dreaded being picked by the weaker side as strongly as you desired joining the good side.

On the other side of the equation, when you were the one doing the picking, you tried your best to pick the best players for your team - deciding your next pick based on who could kick the farthest, or run the fastest, or who was so wiry they never got tagged out.

It's funny how the best teams in business seem to do the same thing. The best managers among us don't just open up a staffing requisition and leave it in the hands of the HR weasels... oh no, the best managers take a very active role in finding the best players for their team - they hire folks they know can get the job done. They hire someone that either they or their other players know and can vouch for. In HR speak - this is an employee referral.

The concept of employee referrals is not new, but it is getting a lot more attention because the statistics about the relative costs and effectiveness of employee referrals make it appear to be a very attractive way to go. My company has taken a very proactive approach to employee referral. We have an employee referral program called "Star Search" and we've gotten over 20% of our new hires YTD through this program - that's a 6.something percent increase over prior years! We're pretty proud of that accomplishment and are driving for an ultimate number of 35% in 3 years because we believe all the statistics are right and so far, our employee referral hires are performing at least as well as most of the high cost agency hires.

Now while I firmly believe that the "kickball" analogy above is the way the world is - I found an interesting perspective in the blog of a Microsoft employee and while the HR Geek in me loves his devotion (however motivated), I have to worry that Don Dodge has taken this to a new high (or low depending on your view).

Now matter how far some take it, I believe that you will get better results with less cost and effort by hiring those great players that you and your team already know.

Sit down with your team and have a very open discussion about the kind of players you believe you need to help your team win. Brainstorm with your team to paint a mental picture of the type of player you want - then get your team out there in the world to talk to the colleagues, friends and even the competitors they think have the right stuff - even if you don't have a job to fill today you need to start identifying and building a better relationship with these folks.
Happy Hunting!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Technology - the great enabler?

If you are reading this post, you are the intended audience for this post. My guess about you is that you pride yourself on your relative command of all things technical. You probably have a 1 (or more) mobile phones, blackberry, etc.... Now let me ask you a question - does all the tech at your command really make you any more productive?

This article while a little dated, shines a light just how bad our situation is becomming. We become so connected to our devices that we forget to connect to PEOPLE. Honestly, how many of you can honestly say that our ubiquitous technology has not diverted your attention away at times. Heck, I confess here that part of this blog was authored during a meeting! C'mon, admit it - you have done this sort of thing too. You probably sat in at least one meeting today fiddling with your crackberry, texting someone or reading e-mail on some other device. Worse yet, many of you probably did these things at home and instead of connecting withyour family, you connected to everything else.... that is really sad.

The way we are living isn't living at all. Yes, I know that the pace of work is what presses us to be so connected, but perhaps this is more the case of us failing to manage expectations than failing to manage our work. What if we all just stopped being connected all the time. What if we turned off the crackberry, the cell phone and the pc and actually listened to the people around us for a change?


Disconnect from all of your devices during every meeting today. Dont check e-mail, dont answer your phone, dont do anything but listen and actively participate in whatever meetings you have today. You'll get more out of the meeting, and so will those you meet with!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

They love me, they love me not.......

Do you remember that little time-waster we used to do when we were kids. We'd think of the person who we fancied, pick a daisy and pluck out the petals one by one, reciting "(s)he loves me" with the first petal and "(s)he loves me not" with the next... this would go on till the last petal and we'd have our answer - unless it was the wrong answer, in which case we'd keep picking daises till we got it right. That way, we knew how the object of our affection felt about us. Too bad we don't have any daises to tell us how that job you have applied for feels about us!

The unfortunate thing is that most recruiters get it wrong when it comes to candidate feedback. We all use the same excuses - too many candidates, too little time to get back to all of them. But we all need to wake up - this ain't the heady 1990's! Candidates are becoming all to scarce and if we don't start treating them better, they are going to take their talents and go find someplace else to play -like our competitors. I found a really great post on the Recruiting Animal blog which spells this all out pretty clearly but I will give you my own prescription on how to cure this problem: COMMUNICATE with EVERY CANDIDATE! With the state of Technology today, there is no reason we cannot migrate from that ancient response of "we will only contact candidates of interest" to an automated e-mail reply that tells a candidate that "love them" or "love them not". Even smaller organizations can now afford automated Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS). Systems to track applicants used to cost zillions, now you can get one on an ASP basis for under 15k. My company recently launched a great system from HRMDirect. While no system is a cure for all your recruitment sins, one can give you a great start toward getting better at communicating with your candidates. Trust me on this one, you cannot afford to risk letting talent slip through your fingers.

Talk to your HR department about how you manage candidates and insist that prompt and candid feedback to EVERY applicant become the norm.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Don't fear the reaper

DISCLAIMER - You all know that I work in HR for a company - this post has NOTHING to do with my job or company. It is written in response to the recent news of enormous layoffs in some of Americas largest and most respected companies.

Whether you call it a "downsizing", a "rightsizing" a "redundancy" or a good old-fashioned "layoff" - it still means the same thing - people losing jobs. This topic is about as scary to most of us as DEATH or TAXES. The loss of a job is traumatic, and I don't mean to trivialize it here. No matter how frightening the topic, you need to consider the possibility as you plan out your career. Here are some key points to consider from someone who has been on both sides of the issue.
  1. Lifetime employment is a thing of the past - the average worker today will have 6 or more employers through their career so you cannot bank on having your Father's "20 year and a gold watch" career. Whether it is done at your choice or that of your employer(s), you will change jobs before too long so don't set your heart on being there till you retire.
  2. Like the Godfather said; It's not personal, it's business. No matter how it may appear, the reasons behind layoffs are rooted in a business need. You may disagree with the need or the logic applied, but you have to understand that it's not done to target you personally. Sure there are cases where it is, but you have a better shot at being killed by lightening while holding a winning lottery ticket, standing on a pot of gold than being truly "targeted" in a layoff, and an even smaller chance of proving it... so just go on as if it's not personal.
  3. Only the fittest will survive. Generally the folks who survive a layoff process are those who are best prepared. Being fit in this context has less to do with physical fitness and more to do with career fitness. The exercises that keep you fit in this regard are; keeping your resume up to date, building and maintaining your network, pursuing career and personal development opportunities and continually assessing the environment both in you company and in your field (especially with regard to who is hiring). The best and most prepared among us don't really "survive" a layoff because we are gone before it can touch us!
  4. What does not kill me makes me stronger. As stated earlier, losing a job is traumatic. Your income, lifestyle and pride are all in jeopardy, but if you keep these points in mind, you can survive and prosper. Losing a job through firing or layoff has been the catalyst that launched some of the most impressive careers in history - you can use this forced change to help you jump into a new future - something you may have feared doing up till now.
  5. Victim or Victor - the choice is yours. Given that this can happen to almost anyone at any time, your ability to avoid being laid off at some point in your career is slim and you can have very little control over whether or not it will happen to you. The only thing you can completely control is how you respond to it. Many go into "victim" mode - they grieve, rage, fume and harbor resentment... none of these actions will get you a new job. You have to make a conscious decision to beat your circumstances by applying a rational, reasoned and disciplined approach to moving on and accelerating your career beyond this hurdle. The choice to be a victim or victor is completely up to you.

Start preparing yourself now. Don't wait for the handwriting to appear on the wall. Keep your resume up to date, keep growing and developing yourself and your network and always keep up with your industry for opportunities.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Back to school for the kids - what about you?

Summer is over. The kids have all returned to school. New bookbags, sharp pencils and a whole new world of learning in front of them. What about you? When is the last time you cracked open a book, studied a new topic or read anything besides the directions on bag of microwave popcorn?

Normally, I use this little pulpit of mine to preach about business learning, career management and all things HR'ish - today's rant is of a much more personal nature. Today we beyond professional development and focus on personal development.

I'm taking a cue from my kids and am starting some studies of my own this fall, and am devoting some time to a more academic pursuit beyond the development I am continually doing to further my career; I'm studying history. Now as you my have guessed by the theme of this little blog'o mine, I have spent some time in the military and have quite an affinity for all things green and explosive, so my history studies will focus on military history - ancient military history.

Now that I have shared a bit of my inner nerd, what is your passion? Do we have any closet-poets in the crowd? Perhaps a budding ornithologist in our midst. It doesn't matter what your non-work pursuit is as long as you have one. Such non-work stuff is widely accepted as a vacation for the mind, and let's face it... couldn't we all us a vacation now and then?


Find some area you are passionate about and invest some study in it. Whether it is history or world economics, you will surely gain insights that will benefit you along the way.

Carry on!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

It's my career, stupid!

Who remembers that snippy little political bumper-sticker "It's the economy, stupid!"? Well, I have a renewed version of that little quip for 2006 - "It's my career, stupid!"

Regular readers of my blog will know that I totally believe that every person's career, development and work-life balance is up to them. It is my view that no one else can manage your career like you can. You should ask for, and take all the developmental opportunities, career options you desire. If you don't claim what you want, than shame on you for not trying. But for those of us who do actively look for opportunities only to have them fall by the wayside of the boss's goals, shame on the boss!

This interesting article in Workforce Management is a pretty good wake-up call for those among us who have to lead and manage others. I still hold to my beliefs that you alone bear responsibility for managing your career, but the boss who fails to provide you with training, tools and opportunities is a problem too. And according to this study, it is clear that fewer of us are willing to tolerate having our careers used to grease the skids for the the boss' ambitions alone.

To the bosses among our ranks, the message is clear - your people are yours to win, or to lose. Either you help them win, or you better start getting your recruitment strategy ready, because you WILL lose them - and when word gets around about why these talented people are leaving, you better start packing your bags too because good companies wont allow poor managers to cost them talent for long.


Take a check of your team. Who has development needs that you can help with? Who would benefit by being put on, or in charge of that next project? Have you even had an "aspirations and desires" discussion with them? Start investing in your team today by asking these questions and revisit them frequently. Always put your team's needs in the equation when deciding what to do. If you follow this advice and act in their best interests, the worst thing that can happen is that they'll see that you care, and the best outcome is that they wont leave, will continue to grow and add real value every day.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The clock is running down on summer 2006 - have you had your Picnic yet?

Ok, so it's only summer in the Northern half of the world - I promise I will re-post this in December for all those living South of the Equator.

But seriously, the general themes of summer - pool parties, picnics, bar-b-ques, etc all seem to put people in a pretty happy place. The kind of happy feelings that are associated with these activities could never be mixed with any kind of business meeting ----- or could they?

I read a fun article in careerjournal that tells about how some companies are leveraging their annual corporate picnic to get a mix of business and pleasure. This article came complete with some good ideas and even a pretty cool recipe for Ranch Beans!

Now I am not suggesting that you try to whip up a big corporate cook-out, but you might find it a valuable investment of your time and a small amount of money to arrange a simple covered-dish type picnic with your team, or just taking your team out for ice cream at ColdStone.


See if you can find a way to couple some sort of picnic with doling out some much deserved pats-on-the-back. Maybe you could even invent a few new team awards - gag awards, or serious ones to point out the best in your people and to celeberate successes. Who knows, you might start a new company tradition. Go for whatever type of shindig you dig, but do something that your team will be comfortable with and enjoy before the summer is gone and we head off to that crazy time called the 4th Quarter!

Carry on!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Harassment by any other name...

Pop - Quiz!!

Your best employee, Liz has just told you that Tom is harassing her. What do you do?

Well, if you are like most managers, the second thing you do is hit the panic button (the first is to pick yourself up off the floor!). This is a tough situation and requires you to be at the top of your game. Now I'm about to say something that might get my HR-witch doctors license revoked, but you can manage this situation. HR should be involved, but not every company has a real HR function - so just like the Boy Scouts say, you've got to "Be Prepared".

I stumbled across a pretty good article in Forbes that spells out a good plan of action and some key "do" and "do not" advice. This is good stuff for the average manager. You are at the point of decision and you are the key to action so knowing how to keep your cool and process the information effectively and promptly could mean the difference between being stood up at the Company's Annual meeting and being cited as the "Boss of the Year", or being stood up in front of a jury to explain yourself - the former is ALAWAYS preferable to the latter!

Let me give you one more little tid-bit on point from my Secret HR Voo-Doo book - ALWAYS err on the side of caution to protect your people. Keep the matter as low key as possible - you are not hiding it, ignoring it or avoiding it, but you cannot make it look like a matter to panic over. Guage your response to the level of the threat to your staff and balance your response between keeping everyone safe and maintaining a calm envrionment.

Take a moment during your next team meeting and discuss the topic of harassment with your team - your message has two parts and is VERY concise -
1. We dont tolerate harassment in any form, from anybody here. Full stop!
2. If you feel you are being harassed by anyone - speak to me or (some other competent company authority) and we will deal with the situation promptly, confidentially and ensure that any wrongdoing is halted - full stop!

If you spend 5 minutes covering this in your next team meeting (oh, you do have those - dont you?), and document it in your minutes (oh, you do record minutes of your meetings, dont you???), you can greatly improve your chances of heading off and surviving a harassment incident.

Carry on!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Work Life Balance ? Confucius says YES!

In this never-ending pressure cooker we call business, it is a commonly held belief that we have to be committed and running at 110% of capacity to stay in the game. In fact, a number of studies support this by pointing out that we don't even take all of our vacation, or that if we do take vacation, we still stay connected. What kind of vacation is that???

Some say that the best ideas have all already been had, and in this matter, I believe Confucius has cornered the market! He said "To go too far is as bad as to fall short. While I dont claim to be a Confucian scholor (or any kind of scholar for that matter) this little gem really stands out. He's telling us that running at full speed will keep us from achieving all we can, but the WSJ.Com article by While we are all so busy running full-throttle just to keep up, we are missing key messages, opportuniteis and our lives! Letting up on the throttle, just a little bit will give you the time to THINK! Stopping just long enough to check your compass may be all the break you need to see how far off course you have run and take corrective action.

Take a little time to assess just how much time and energy you are expending each day and examine if or how this exertion is helping you meet your goals. If it's not... it's time to make a course correction to a pure focus on YOUR GOALS! I'll bet keeping this focus will help you find the time you need for your family and your sanity.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Better meetings - the Cranky Middle Manager way

Think about the last meeting you attended. Was it a meaningful and productive use of your time, or did you sit in a room with a lot of other "victims" and try do drown out the discussion by immersing yourself in your crackberry?

It's a sad but very plain fact that most meetings are horrible! The unfortunate part is that while we all see this, very few try to actually do anything to help. Thankfully, there is a new voice on this topic. You may know Wayne Turmel from his Cranky Middle Manager Podcast.

I have know Wayne for a while now and he's one of the rare breed of middle managers who "gets it". He has a very informal and engaging style to get his message across. Judging by the size and loyalty of his audience, I'd say that they think he's onto something - I surely do!

Wayne has recently published an e-book titled "Meet like you mean it - The Cranky Middle Manager's Guide to Painless and Productive Meetings". I have had the opportunity to read this and I dare say that Wayne has nailed it. Sure, this book may not sit well with the starched collars at IBM or Accenture, but for the rest of us living in the trench-warfare we call work, it's a great read. I know more than a few organizations for which this should be required reading!

Take Wayne's book, or any other on the topic of running effective meetings
and read it - then pass the knowledge on to every meeting-calling knuckle dragger you know. Stand up for your rights and demand that if you have to have meetings - do it like you mean it!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Summertime and the livin is... CRAZY!

Ok, now I'm on two weeks with no posts... I don't even know where the time has gone. Like most folks, I am trying to fit in as much work/life balance as I can, but as much as I love blogging, work/life balance doesnt leave a lot of room for blogging in the summertime.

But in this situation, just like almost everything else in guerilla world, there is a lesson to be learned: Balancing is harder than it looks!

I love to blog but I also love to do other things like camping, floating in the pool and enjoying meals, drinks occasionally, hangovers with my friends. Summertime is much more conducive to the beaches, beer, binges and ballgames than blogging, so it is easy for blogging to get lost. Warm weather, cold pools and good friends are WAAAYYY more fun than sitting at a keyboard!

But, I claimed to have a lesson here - and that is that it is ok to NOT get it all done! Some things, no matter how important they may feel, are not as important as others. Sure, I am passionate about my little blog here, but I am sure that I wont really regret missing a few posts along the way as much as I might regret not having spent some quality time with my family and friends.

STOP! Take a deep breath. Now take stock of the important things in your life. Are you spending enough time on them. Can / should you steal some of your life back from work/school, or whatever else is taking you away from these important things? Imagine that today is your last day - will you face that day with regrets? If so, you need to re-evaluate and get back to the balance you know you need.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Where does the time go???

Wow! I just realized I have not posted in over a week. Seems odd that someone who professes the virtues of self-development should forget to invest the time in his own development.....

But it's a topic worth talking about; we all know we need to work on our development, but we allow things to get in the way. Vacations, work schedules, even the World Cup will easliy invade our precious time in a way to make development take a back seat. So let me ask you - when is the last time you invested a little time in your own development? If you are like most of us, you cannot remember!

One technique that I've heard of to stay on track with your own development is to schedule time in your calendar for it. Simply block out a recurring meeting for an hour a week, or two or whatever works for you and devote that time to "sharpening the saw". You can decide what type of development activity best suits you, your goals and your timeslot, but make a clear commitment on your calender not just to take the time, but also about what you intend to accomplish - reading Jack Welche's newest book, listening to The Cranky Middle Manager Podcast or refreshing yourself on the corporate mission, vision, values and goals... all can be worthwhile development actions.

Crack open your diary, Outlook or whatever you use and block a recurring meeting RIGHT NOW! Dont let anything short of a fire alarm keep you from this appointment and then TELL YOUR BOSS and YOUR TEAM what you are doing.... "I'm going to my development appointment" will send a message that you care about development and are using it to become a better player.

Monday, June 12, 2006

What do Footie, the MLB and jewelery sales have to do with the business?

Could I have picked more obscure topics - probably not! So what do those things (and a million other random items) have to do with each other and your business? They can all be great ways to connect people in the workplace to one another, and that can be a great differentaitor in how people feel connected to the workplace.

Football (in either flavor- American or European) is a major passtime - even the most buttoned down person you know will chat to you about exploits of their favorite team. Same holds true for Baseball and just about any other prefix to -ball! Jewelery and Avon enthusiasts aboud in most offices too. These are all great opportunities for people with like interests to connect and bond.

Since the folks in our office already share the common bond of working together, some of us presume that's enough for them to be sociable about. But the truth is that just sharing (or surviving in) the same office space does not help us grow to understand and appreciate each other. Adding in common threads of human pursuit - be it ice hockey or air hockey - gives a common non-work connection for people. This can foster interactions that transcend the co-worker and help us understand and appreciate the PERSON!

Honestly, how many of us have blown-off a request from a co-worker? Dont lie - it's sooo unflattering - we've ALL done it! On the other hand we are far less likely to deny a request from someone we know, care about and may even call "friend". Call it friendship, comradarie or anything else - emotions that transcend the workplace are far more valuable and rewarding for all concerned.

Identify one common thread with 3 other employees in your company - could be on your team or not, it doesnt matter - then engage them in that common thread. Talk about World Cup news, Basketball playoffs, summer fashions... whatever! Just open a non-work door for communication and shared interests and see what blooms.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Growth through giving

Charity begins at home, but shouldn’t end there. – Scottish Proverb

The best leaders among us are recognized by many traits. We often describe leaders as; smart, brave, loyal, strong, dedicated, fearless, etc... Odd how when you ask most folks for words to describe great leaders, they leave out words like generous, self-less, charitable and compassionate. I submit that if you really want to describe the greatest leaders of our time, these words must be included.

Charity takes on many forms – you can be charitable to your staff, to your company or even to your competitors, but the truest forms of charity have less to do with business for they will be seen as a tactic in the business world. The most telling examples of charity that set great leaders apart from the pack are those done with a sincere intent to help, and to lead and encourage others to join in the cause.

I’ve had the privilege of working for some great leaders along they way and they helped me find the courage to commit to charitable works that give me an opportunity to give something back to the world. While I know in my mind that I am putting myself in a “good light” by doing these charitable things, my heart drives me into the work with no consideration for any benefit I might derive – giving is my reward alone.

Ok, so here’s the shameless plug – I am volunteering in an American Cancer Society program named “Relay for Life”. It’s a 24 hour relay event where members of my team will be walking on a track for 24 hours straight to raise funds, awareness and even the spirits of cancer survivors. I have lots of personal reasons to do this. I figure that many of you have the same reasons to engage in some charitable cause. I would, of course appreciate any support you would care to lend. If you would like to know more about this event or to see how you can help, please visit my Relay For Life site – you can see all sorts of information about this event, how you can help or just leave a message of encouragement to our team or the survivors we support.

Find some charitable work to engage in. There are hundreds of ways you can give back to the world – Disease prevention and cure groups, religious groups, youth services, domestic and substance abuse… the list goes on and on. You can surely find a way to help by contributing your time, talents or resources – whatever the cause, you can find a way to contribute. You’ll be glad you did!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

"New Media" - the next development wave

The fact that you are reading this post says a lot about you. It shows that you are tech saavy enough to find (or at least stumble across) a blog and that you are actually concerned enough about your own development to actually read this. You are already taking part in the next big thing in personal / professional development - New Media. The laymans terms version of new media is this whole mess of blogs, wickis, portals, podcasts, etc. - all new and exciting avenues to get our message out into the public domain and strike up a conversation.

If you scan over to the right border of this page, you can see a short list of some of my favorite blogs, pages and podacasts. Some I listen to for fun, but many are helping me take charge of my personal and professional development. I do this because the realities of time, work and a long commute make it difficult for me to engage in some of the more traditional development activities like reading, taking courses to pursue my next degree or engaging in certification courses. Just because I lack the time or resources to pursue my development the old fashioned way does not mean I cannot continue to learn and grow every day.

All it takes to successfully take advantage of all the education out there is a computer, an mp3 player (note that I didnt cop-out to apple and say I-pod) and a little investigation to find podcasts that cover the topics you want to develop your skills on. You can download and listen to podcasts almost anywhere and there are thousands of them on almost any topic you can imagine. Beyond the podcasts, you can get short snippets of information from any blog, wiki or portal that has an RSS feed and have those "headlines" show up in your email or even as a little pop-up window on your PC.

A simple HR-weasle like me cannot hope to understand it all, let alone explain it very well, but I can tell you that I get a lot smarter every day because of all of this voodoo.

Stop by any one of the links to the right of this post (in the upper right hand part). Just use them as an example and lauchning pad for your own trip into the world of new media and self-directed development. Once you get comfortable in this new world, share the wealth and give your direct reports an assignment to do the same thing for their own development!

Bon chance, mon ami!

Monday, May 15, 2006

And you thought all the managment stuff was just for "business"

You have to admit it. You thought that all my rantings were focused on business only. It probably never entered your mind that the stuff we discuss here can have equal play in almost any walk of life.

Beyond my "day job" as a Human Resources weasle, I have a part-time volunteer gig as a Firefighter - that's right.... one of those nuts who drives the big red truck and runs into burning buildings against the tide of smarter people running out of them. I raise this not to introduce you to my odd vocation, but to bring to light how even the Fire Service adopts the concepts we cover here to improve how they work. Let's face it - if you think managing a bunch of customer service reps at "Widgets-R-Us" is tough, imagine leading a bunch of rough-edged Firefighters in a real fire!

Chief Alan Brunacini of the Phoenix, Arizona Fire Department is one of the most down-to-earth leaders I have ever encountered - this guy "gets it" and has dedicated a lot of his career to helping grow better leaders for his organization. Probably the most impactful thing I've read from the Chief is his Boss Power Process . This simple little document explains loads about how management concepts transcend industry, region and language - great leaders all follow the same path.

Look for new and inspiring examples of leadership and leaders / teams who live the values you aspire to, then copy what they do! Immitation is indeed a great form of flattery.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Feedback - the breakfast of champions

Feedback - the very word can strike fear into the hearts of most of us. I'm willing to bet it brings you to a cold-sweat just the way it does for me. It's an unfortunate thing because correctly timed and delivered feedback is one of the best performance enhancers around (Sorry Barry Bonds, you should have tried this before experimenting!)

The reason so many of us dread feedback is that it is too often done wrong and almost always focused on something we didn't do well. There is another side to feedback - positive - though many managers seen to have forgetten that it exists. Positive feedback should be seen as part of the reward for doing something right. I don't want to oversimplify and bring in the Pavlov's dogs example, but when we get rewarded for behaviors, we are much more likely to repeat those successful behaviors.... seems like such a simple concept - too bad we seem to ignore it.

Even the downside of feedback is good stuff for us if timed and delivered properly. One of the best examples of how to deliver feedback comes from one of my favorite podcasts; Manager Tools. The guys who run this podcast really "get it". They have a simple and very effective approach to giving feedback that works for positive as well as negative feedback. The real beauty of this model is that if you follow it with your team as part of the normal course of business, you will find that they accept, and even seek feedback to ensure they are on track and delivering great results.


Go check out "Mananger Tools" and listen to their podcasts on feedback then start using their techniques today. It may not be comfortable at first, but neither climbing a mountain - it's tough work and it's often not pretty, but the benefits you'll reap will make it all worthwhile. Carry on!

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sharpening the saw

I’m back after taking a week off to “sharpen the saw”. I didn’t actually do the whole Steven Covey thing. I’m talking about something much simpler here. My well isn’t deep enough to get into all the spiritual and holistic things Covey recommends, so I, like all good guerilla fighters, stayed with the more pragmatic and tactical things.

I’m an HR person and I work with a team of HR people who are stationed in North America, Europe and Asia. This past week we all got together in sunny New Jersey for a week long team meeting. Now, contrary to popular belief, a room full of HR people does not break out into spontaneous songs and group hugs! We actually do have fun, but during our team meeting we are all focused on learning new skills and sharpening old ones. We worked on how to identify the best people to hire to help our company, how to develop the people we have on hand to perform their best and how to become more aligned with and supportive of the business.

We surveyed our team by asking the following two part question:

1. When did you learn the most in your career?
2. When were you most engaged?

Ask yourself those questions – then read on…..

Not surprisingly enough, our results mirrored the results of numerous studies – We all found that we learned more and were more engaged when we were involved assignments which pushed us beyond the limits we thought we had. We had to think, learn, grow and be responsible for our results. No one in our group really believed that they learned or grew from courses they took or seminars they attended.

This is the tactical “saw sharpening” we all need to engage in. We need to take charge of our development and seek out opportunities to learn, grow and do great things. We might fail at the assignment but you cannot fail in the goal to learn and grow.


Take charge of your personal and professional development TODAY! Start looking for opportunities to sharpen your saw by taking on new assignments that will stretch you and force you to learn new skills.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

We keep score by the numbers, don't we?

We keep score by the numbers. A simple concept, right. How many touchdowns, homeruns, goals, etc… is the way we gauge how well our “team” is doing. It’s all measurable and simple to understand and the livelihood of the team and management hang in the balance.

Isn’t odd then that while we find it perfectly acceptable to track the performance of our favorite sports teams by number, we seem to have such a hard time doing it for ourselves? Seriously, unless you work in Finance or Sales, using numbers to track team performance is somewhat of a black art. Sure, most of us can speak about attainment against revenue targets, but do any of us get below the easy stuff and look at the more strategic things?

When is the last time you looked beyond your revenue numbers and checked on other important “scores”? Turnover rate, time to hire, alignment of performance scores to company results, employee satisfaction / engagement? None of these is quite as exciting as hitting that big sale home run, but believe me, if you are not paying attention to these other measures, the likelihood of long term success for your business is pretty darn bleak. There are too many studies to link to (not to mention a mountain of common sense) to support the supposition that an engaged workforce are the best resource to achieve business success…. They succeed better, stay longer and become an absolute “talent pump” brining in new referrals and building new skills. It is alarming that such a commonly understood cause and effect relationship between these things and organizational success should go largely ignored by front line managers.

Get your HR people to tell you about the turnover stats, time to hire metrics and employee engagement measures of your staff. Understand these numbers and what they are telling you, then ACT on the information to improve!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Blogging - Friend or Foe

The fact that you are reading this post tells me that you know a thing or two about blogging. It's among the latest tech inspired trends and pretty much anyone with an agenda or a desire to share has at least given blogging a try. At their best, blogs provide people with a way to engage in the exchange of ideas, at their worst, they can cause career meltdown.

In this little blog 'o mine I try to share ideas, info and techniques to help you manage your staff and your career. I, like most of you, can get pretty passionate about the things I blog about. The trick is to find a way to let your passion out without getting yourself into a whole passle of trouble. As an HR geek, it stands to reason that I have a whole box full of the comany's dirty laundry, but to expose it would be stupid, rude and career suicide.... so I leave out the details and keep myself active on the payroll for another day.

While a quick Google of the web will bring up lots of examples of people claiming they got fired for blogging, the truth is that people dont get fired for blogging
; they get fired for what they blog! Now, let me put my HR Wizard hat on - If your company has a policy about blogging, follow it! I know that sounds terribly HRish of me, but believe me - even if the blogging policy is a rag and infringes on your first ammendment rights, you are better off to swallow hard and live with it, because while the ACLU might defend you if you get canned, they won't pay your rent while you are between jobs! In fact, I'll stake my HR secret decoder ring that you won't be fired for blogging about your hobbies (PG-13 or better), your cat, or even something as potentially tricky as management IF you leave out questionable, objectionable, or confidential information. But if you go off on a blog-rant about what an idiot your boss is, the ingredients for your company's new "secret sauce", or how you and the VP of Sales are shaggging..... you will end up on the bad end of the situation - start practicing this pharse in prep for your next job - "Would you like fries with that?"

Used for good rather than evil, blogs are a powerful weapon in our war against bad management, but just like any weapon, you have to weild it wisely or risk putting your own eye out!

Your Mission
Lace up your boots and march boldly into the blogosphere! Use blogs as a tool to learn and refer your boss and subordinates to blogs that you find helpful in your career. The extra credit exercise - IF you have a passion to do so, and have something important to say - try your hand a blogging. Heck, if I can do it, anyone can!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

HR takes one on the chin... again!

Ok, so it's not news to many of you, but last summer's bombshell diatribe by Keith Hammond "Why we hate HR" sent shockwaves through the inner sanctum of HR and the business world all jumped on this HR hate-fest. As a card carrying member of the HR collective, I too was stunned and a bit put off. Who was this Fast Company nerd (c'mon kids - have you seen his picture?) to fire such a shot across the heretofore invincible HR machine? Doesn't he know who we are??? Then, as soon as he started the firestorm, he went underground - some sort of sabbatical, which I took as code-word for "hiding under a rock like Salman Rushdie"!

Well, time heals all things (at least for those of us with short memories or attention spans). Last week I was innocently listening to a podast from one of my favorite sources - Landed.FM and was surprised to hear the host interviewing the culprit of the aforementioned attack on HR. I was riveted - expecting the host who is a real HRish kind of guy tangle with his prey. To my surprise, the interview went in a whole different direction.

The short version is, after hearing Hammond's well moderated explanation (well done Peter!) I had to admit, this guy was actually right - HR has put itself in a position to be hated! We keep saying we're a "strategic partner" and demanding our "place at the table", but we are not delivering to earn that. Hate is a pretty strong word, but in business emotions are just that simple and BOY, have we earned this!

Ok, so why expose you to this raw nerve for HR... Simple! You need to have talented people - HR is supposed to deliver candidates with talent AND help you devlelop your staff to have the right skills to compete for business!

Your mission
is to get nose to nose with your HR people and tell them you need them to deliver. Hold their feet to the fire to help you acquire, develop, deploy and retain great talent.

This is just one more important part of being a Guerilla - they take on every enemy that gets in their way, and they try to convert even their enemies to be their allies.

Carry on troops!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Mentoring - The guerilla's secret weapon

Mentoring – The toughest job you’ll ever love.

Ok, how many of you remember the Peace Corps recruiting slogan – “The toughest job you’ll ever love”? It speaks of a higher calling to serve the commuinity, where the rewards far outweigh the effort you put forth. Wow… talk about an altruistic focus!

As guerilla warriors, you too have a good and noble cause - to rid the world of bad management. Ok, so it’s not so noble a cause as curing world hunger, but one has to choose one’s battles and while both are daunting challenges, you can make a big impact on our cause with little steps today.

According to the soon to be published Guerilla Manifesto, we always look for simple tools and techniques to make the biggest impact - leveraging small efforts into huge results - in that view,
mentoring could be considered the guerilla's secret weapon. Mentoring is the relationship where a more experienced person provides a structured and focused learning opportunity to a lesser experienced person. We’re going to focus on your role as the Mentor today.

It would seem at this point that mentorships are a one-way street with the mentee getting all the benefit, but I can assure you that you the as the mentor, you will be getting an even greater benefit. In being a proper mentor, you will need to brush up on parts of your game where you may not be at the top of your form. You will need to listen, coach, collaborate and leverage your knowledge and contacts to provide your mentee with the best resources to develop in the areas you have agreed to work on. It’s like the old US Army training doctrine – if you want someone to develop expertise on a subject, have them prepare for and deliver a training session to their peers on it; they invariably end up much smarter on the topic than they were before. The same will hold true for you in your mentoring engagement.

So, your task is to get in touch with your HR folks, Staff Development, or even your boss, colleagues and friends and seek out an opportunity to give someone with less experience the opportunity to benefit from what you know. If you do it right, you’ll come out with far more than the thanks of the mentee; you will surely learn and improve your standing in the process. You will achieve true win-win! Even better, by providing a great mentoring experience to your mentee, you can invest them with our mindset and gain another ally in our battle - expanding our reach and influence over all the bad management around us - And that’s how guerilla’s get it done.

Monday, March 06, 2006

So what have you done for me lately?

Doesn’t that phrase absolutely grate on your nerves? It surely has caused me a few grey hairs over the years, but it doesn’t have to have a totally negative connotation. Over time, I have gained a different perspective on that phrase and see a valuable business use for it.

Since we are all about being better managers, and better managing those above us on the corporate food chain, let’s see how this little phrase can be incorporated into our Guerilla arsenal.

“What have you done for me lately” is something we should all be asking every day – directed at those we work with and to ourselves. No, I’m not saying you should put up a whiny front with your co-workers, just use it as a catch-phrase to keep your mind focused on constant improvement.

Directed at your subordinates, the phrase should be geared towards driving their focus on the things they are responsible to deliver to the organization; revenue, tasks, widget production… whatever. It can help guide your conversations to check on their progress and open an opportunity for them to ask you the same question of you – how are you supporting their drive to success.

That question has the same 360۫ application between you and your boss with the same potential benefits and results. If you are daring, you can even take this question a few steps further - ask it of yourself with reference to how well your are balancing work & life, progressing against fitness goals, or to gauge how you are doing in almost any other endeavor designed to benefit YOU! That’s probably the most valuable application of all.

A vacation for the HR Guerilla? Nah!

Even the HR weasels among us can cash in on a good time now and then. My wife’s job just sent her to a user conference for the software system they use in the office, and through a nefarious web of deals, I managed to get myself some time off and fly to the conference with her. Now before you go imagining how much of a geek I must be to do so, let me clue you in on the cold, hard facts – We live in New Jersey and the conference is in Phoenix, it's March and there is snow and ice in NJ.... you do the math! As an added bonus, some friends of our were also going on this trip as well.

So, what does this have to do with the topic of this blog (aside from me bragging a bit)? Plenty! We HR weasels never really take a day off. I got to provide some side-line coaching to my bride and her colleague on how to address the concerns they had with the vendor. While the relationship between vendor and customer isn’t really the same as that between manager and staff, there are enough similarities to note. First, in both cases, someone is responsible for making someone else happy. Next, in both cases, someone has to deliver a product in order to get paid. Finally, in both cases, each party needs to get something out of the relationship for it to be successful. So, I guess the topics aren’t that far apart after all.

The key message here is that I found an opportunity to practice a very important Guerilla skill – helping others help themselves to prepare for and win their own Guerilla battles. The cool part was that I got to do it in a warm and beautiful environment. Better still is the end result that my bride got what she wanted out of the trip and we’ve both been enjoying her significantly lower stress levels ever since. Pretty amazing what some sunshine and a few “Prickly Pear Margaritas” can do for a person!

Now, it’s your turn. Go out into your life and find someone – a colleague, a friend, maybe even a spouse who could use some insight on how to deal with a customer, boss or colleague and help them think through their strategy. This informal coaching will help you gain comfort in listening, coaching and influencing – all noble skills for a Guerilla to keep sharp.

Cheers from sunny Sedona!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A new ally in the war

In our little war against bad management, we need all the help we can get. I have found a very interesting fellow who’s been on this crusade for a long time already, and he’s got a pretty cool podcast as the key weapon in his arsenal. Wayne Turmel is our new ally.

Wayne is a Canadian born Manager working in the US who puts out a very plucky podcast that is hosted by an Australian podcast site and is enjoyed by a truly global audience. If you manage people or are interested in learning how to do it, and have a good time doing it, I highly recommend The Cranky Middle Manager Show.

I was recently a guest on Wayne’s show. The topic of our discussion was how real people are dealing with the talent challenge – that scary demographic and business trend that indicates that there are going to be fewer great people to fill those roles critical for your company to thrive. During my interview with Wayne we talked about some of the things that my company and others are doing (or planning) to help figure out the correct, balance between bringing in external talent to ensure a good flow of new and innovative ideas, and investing in the development of your existing staff to ensure you’ve got the best team to help you compete.

Now I’ll grant you that this topic and the information I run through in the interview seem more like a big strategic battle plan than the Guerilla tactics we normally subscribe to, but the methods discussed here are just scalable enough to let you start doing them as tactical parts of your job every day and they will achieve the same tactical wins you want. The bonus is that these tactical wins are building blocks for a bigger strategy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

People dont quit jobs - they quit bosses

In a recent article I saw the Top 10 Reasons why people quit. The sad news is that all 10 of those reasons are linked to poor management behaviors. It’s an odd paradox, that within the trenches, most people think that money drives this, but compensation wasn’t even on the list. Now we all know that comp plays some role – even the most altruistic among us longs for that shiny, red BMW 325i convertible (ooops… letting too much of ME leak into the blog again!) , but the core reasons we look for a new job usually have less to do with the money and more to do with the way we feel about the job we have. If we were perfectly sated in the job we have, we wouldn’t be looking about, now would we?

Ok Troops – why have I called your attention to this little pearl of wisdom? Because I want you to take action of course! Your mission is to go out into your workplace and get 2 other managers to join you as you look over the reasons cited on the link and figure out if these behaviors are possibly impacting your teams – and if so – tell them to discuss the topic with their people. Imagine the powerful message that conversation will send.

The extra-credit assignment – consider if your boss is reflected in the list and have them take a look at the list…. “Fortune favors the brave”, but if it doesn’t, springtime might be nice time to take some time off to search for your next job.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Painless Performance

Painless Performance Management – Myth or Reality – YOU decide

Ok, with an intro like that even the cynics in the crowd have to be at least a little intrigued, right?  Well, it can be true if you are willing to make the investments necessary.  I caveat here – painless does not equate to easy.

Performance Management has gotten a bad rap in the business world – kind of like the way all Sharks take the heat for the misdeeds of a few ill-advised and ill-fated sharks who choose to snack from the beachfront buffet in August – it’s got the grain of truth to it, but under objective review, it is far less worrisome than it’s rumored to be.

Performance Management should be a welcome part of our career cycle, but too many of us view the process with fear.  Whether giving or receiving – we dread it at some level.  Maybe it’s post-traumatic stress from mistreatment at the hands of  a bad boss, maybe it’s dread of the emotions that surface at the time…. Whatever the reason – it can be debilitating and that makes us not do it.  That’s the start of a cycle of bad habits.

Let’s break it down into simple little steps you can start doing today

Step 1 – Talk to your people!  Not just idyll water cooler chats, but meaningful conversations about them.  Who they are, what they want out of life, what’s important to them.
Step 2 – Discuss their goals and progress against them openly and often.  Ask not just how much progress they are making, but why.  Do they have the information, resources, etc.. to get the job done?  Find out how they can leverage this experience to prepare them for the next assignment or promotion.
Step 3 –  Give them fair, candid feedback on their progress and results.  Do this often.  Congratulate them on their successes – make a big fuss about their big wins.  Counsel them on the things they need to improve on with a focus on making them a success – it’s not about what they did wrong, it’s about helping them do it better next time.  Make them understand that you want them to succeed (which had better be true)

Yes, I know…. Sounds simple and not realistic in this light, right… but try to do it and you’ll see why I said “painless”,  not “easy”.  If it was easy, the company could hire a chimp to do it and you’d be on the street….and that is where the “painless” part of our story ends.