upstart thoughts on talent and leadership

Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

“In the Future, You Will Know Everything You Wish to Know”

In ! Jen, Careers, Development, Learn on Monday, April 19, 2010 at 11:11 pm

This is a Good article about information, and it has a heady title: “In the Future, You Will Know Everything You Wish to Know.”

Increasingly, those in the industrialized world who lament not knowing how to do X are going to be perceived as passive, whiny or unresourceful. The value and validity of resources on the interwebs will, of course, always be in question. That unknown factor and the need for critical skepticism will only grow.

But all the same, if we want to know something badly enough, we’ll be able to find it. And so it goes with development.

I recently met with someone outside work who had asked her manager for assistance on who to network with: she wanted to learn more about business development. The manager didn’t know. So the search stopped there. Firstly, great that the woman asked for help. But chances are, if the search stopped there, she’d self-selected herself out of who-knows-what opportunities.

With the luxury of so much information readily available, not to mention extensive people networks, comes empowerment. S’long, excuses!

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Spring Pruning: Less May Result In More

In ! Jen, Change on Monday, April 5, 2010 at 12:12 am

I just came across this column with an elegant recommendation to see things differently. Some nice takeaways:

Every enterprise, business or nonbusiness, must constantly abandon the obsolete and the unproductive. Every organization is likely to be loaded down with yesterday’s promises. These include activities and programs that no longer contribute; the ventures that looked so enticing when started, but now, five years later, are still unproductive.

The best therapy for any organization from the point of view of performance is to purge itself of mediocrities. Systematic sloughing off of yesterday frees energies and resources. It makes available the people and funds required for new things.

An organization, whatever its objectives, must therefore be able to get rid of yesterday’s tasks and thus free its energies and resources for new and more productive tasks.

This could apply to so, so many things. Not as easy as it sounds, of course. For those who garden, you know how terrifying it was that first time to prune back say, rosebush branches. Will this really work? I’ve just spent a whole season sprinkling expensive bone meal and rose food and now I’m slicing back on the growth? But sure enough, you’re rewarded with bigger blooms.

Tells / Explains / Demonstrates / Inspires

In ! Jen, Random Thought on Sunday, April 4, 2010 at 4:44 am

My sister-in-law, who works with at-risk youth in the Chicagoland area, shared with me a good quote about teaching:

“The mediocre teacher tells.

The good teacher explains.

The superior teacher demonstrates.

The great teacher inspires.”

We could substitute any number of professions or roles for “teacher” in this quote. Parent, Manager, Leader, Rabbi, Pastor, Coach, Trainer. They all could fit.

I have a suggestion for William Arthur Ward’s quote. If he weren’t dead and if he was soliciting input, that is. It would be to create a cumulative effect on his quote’s statements. So, for example, the superior teacher tells, explains and demonstrates. Because, quite frankly, it would be exhausting, not to mention incredibly annoying, to be around someone who only inspired.

There Are Few Accidents, Few True Failures (In The Big Picture)

In ! Jen, Play on Saturday, April 3, 2010 at 3:33 am

On this day of iPad’s release, here’s homage to a true visionary. Steve Jobs gave the commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005 and it’s worth the 15 minutes when you need a jolt of graduation speech inspiration.

I love stories where perseverance through failures leads to unconventional brilliance. “You cannot connect the dots moving forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.”

May we all work for organizations, work for people, who allow us the space and time to connect the dots.

Going To Talk To Your HR Rep: Suggestions

In ! Jen, Employee Tips, General Work on Friday, April 2, 2010 at 10:10 pm

For the purposes of this post, let’s set aside sentiments that HR sucks, that you haven’t had good experiences with HR, you know someone who was blindsided by someone from HR, you can’t trust your HR manager, yada yada yada.

There IS value in going to HR: to voice concerns about harassment or questionable management actions, get advice on how to approach something or someone, among countless other reasons. Let’s say you’re planning to talk with your HR representative about something. Here are some tips from someone who’s been on the other side:

  1. Be sincere. Don’t try to sell your HR person on your viewpoint. Just tell it as it is.
  2. Be prepared. Have a purpose for your meeting and line up the who / what / where / why / how of the situation or concern you’re sharing. Don’t go in only having a vague idea of what you’ll be saying.
  3. Describe facts, not feelings. As angry or hurt the situation would make any rational person, you want to share things that can be seen or heard: behaviors, visible reactions, responses. “She looked offended” doesn’t mean as much as “she threw her arms up into the air and left the room” or “she stopped the conversation and said that she was offended by the remark.”
  4. Be clear on what you want. This doesn’t always apply, of course, but if it does, be able to articulate what you want to have happen as a result of your conversation. Even if it’s: “I’d like your help brainstorming ways I can approach my manager to discuss why he never acknowledges my projects in team meetings.” Sometimes I have meetings where I truly have no idea what the person I’m talking to wants to have happen next. And when I ask, they can’t say what they want either. Have a goal in mind.
  5. Talk first to the source of your problem if you’re coming to complain about someone. Show that you’ve first tried to deal with this issue professionally and directly on your own. It can be frustrating to talk with someone who has talked with everyone but the person with whom they’ve got a problem. This happens a whole lot more than you’d think. I once encountered a rift between two employees that (as best could be remembered) started when one person didn’t respond to the other’s “good morning.” Seriously. And because it wasn’t surfaced as a point of hurt right away, layers upon layers of passive aggressiveness and months of ignoring each other wound its way into legitimately recognizable bad behavior. And not a word between the two parties involved!
  6. Be open to feedback and other interpretations. Not everyone has the same level of understanding as you, of course. So be open to hearing how another person may respond to your situation. What may be reasonable and polite to you may not even be on another person’s radar.
  7. For policy violations: bring evidence, and realize that you may be sent to someone else. Many larger companies have policy or ethics hotlines, and those may be better venues for policy complaints. But don’t go to your HR person with only an accusation. Have the details ready to share and be verified. And don’t expect HR to go on a wild goose chase around an accusation—there aren’t enough resources to investigate say, someone you believe is cheating on expense reports, but you don’t have any facts with which to back up that allegation.
  8. Be civil. I once had an employee complain about his manager, absolutely rabid with spewing personal attacks on his manager’s character. His credibility would have been better served if he stuck to the particular incidents in question: dates, places, situations. Be as neutral as you can, and always maintain professional decorum and respect.
  9. Don’t come with incidents lacking merit or could be perceived as frivolous. Complaining about the number of smoke breaks someone takes every afternoon may turn the tables on how you’re able to have enough time to track the comings and goings of the smoker.
  10. Realize the limits of working for someone else. Until you’re the sole proprietor of your company, you will have to answer to a manager, or higher level managers, the Board of Directors, or whomever, and their rules.
  11. Be patient, it takes time, The process to investigate your concern may well take some time to make a well-informed decision. Don’t rush it. More may be going on than you can or should be aware of.
  12. Don’t expect overnight miracles. After you’ve spoken with your HR rep and the intervention (or what have you), has occurred, be patient. Be generous in allowing the time and space for improvements to be made, for people to change their behavior, for process improvements to take effect.
  13. Less is more. Don’t share every single last detail. Come with the big points, describe them succinctly, and simply say: “I have many other incidents to share with you, but I want to respect your time. Would you like me to continue down my list, or would you like for me to send you an email with the rest?” You will earn your HR rep’s appreciation. Give us the gist of what you have to say with evidence, but don’t tire with incident after incident. If you’ve reached an hour’s time, please don’t go further unless requested.
  14. Don’t expect confidentiality in all cases. If you are bringing forward a claim of legitimate harassment, your company has a legal obligation to investigate further. This means that your complaint and the person in question will have the light thrown on them and confidentiality cannot be protected.
  15. If you don’t know the process, ask for clarification. It’s totally okay and expected to ask your HR rep: “what happens next, after this meeting?” This has the dual effect of managing expectations and keeps the HR rep aware that you want to monitor what happens next, and that you’re keeping a timeline.
  16. Ask what else YOU can do. This question always wins me over. It shows that you want to take responsibility / accountability in this situation, that you want to do more, that you’re open to feedback, that you recognize there is more than you could be doing.

Good luck & if you have questions about a particular situation, talk with your HR rep, or email me.     jenleeo (at) me (dot) com

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