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!