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!