Why HR Gets a Bad Name

I’ve been noticing a pattern with some of my clients when I utter the word “HR”–the proverbial eye roll. “What does HR say?” Queue the eye roll. “I think an important next step would be to bring HR on board.” An eye roll rapidly followed by, “Do we have to?” Now before I completely tick off the entire SHRM organization, please know I’m on your side.

I spent the first decade of my career in HR. I spent the next decade keeping my HR and Finance partners as close as possible. In fact, my support team was so valuable in my sales exec role, I gave up revenue generating headcount to build critical staff support functions.

4 Reasons HR Gets a Bad Rap

So if you’re an awesome strategic partner full of confident humility and strategic vision, with a seat at the table, and focused on business results, please comment and share your secret.

If you’re in HR and not getting the respect you want, or if you’ve suffered through a bad HR experience, please share your words of wisdom as well.

1. Weak Talent

Of course this is a real head scratcher that can damage the credibility of the entire HR organization. The HR (or training) organization becomes the dumping ground for people who struggled to “carry a bag” in the sales function or meet their P & L in an executive role. After all they’ve “always been good with people,” so someone “saves” them by moving them to an HR role where they can do “less harm.”

Of course no one says any of this out loud, but the masses are watching. Your A players are watching the most closely, so if this is the game, you can bet your 9 box performance potential grid, they’ll have no interest in an HR assignment, even to round out their resume.

You need YOUR BEST players managing your people strategy, not your leftovers. And even letting one or two mediocre players hang on diminishes credibility for an organization proposing candidates or offering advice on performance management.

2. Disconnected Metrics

If the most important HR metrics are anything other than tangible business results, you’ll never be a serious strategic partner.  Sure you can have process metrics like “time to staff positions” or “diversity profiles,” but HR departments that are focused primarily on such metrics lose focus and make stupid recommendations that result in the wrong candidates being hired or promoted for the wrong reasons.

3. Power trips

I’ve seen witch hunts, goose chases and all kinds of stupidity when a frustrated HR person gets caught up in the power of their position rather than what’s right for the business or for the human beings inside it.

4. Blinding rules and regulations

Strategic HR people sit at the table offering highly creative solutions to real business problems. Sure, they offer advice and stay on the right side of compliance, the law, and the overall good, but stupid adherence to policies that make no business sense will immediately cause people to work around you, rather than inviting you to the bigger conversation.

HR belongs at the table. The best HR folks I know are business leaders first, who also happen to have amazing expertise in HR.

How To Bring Out the Best In People

The story he shared in a recent workshop I led stopped my heart. We were talking about leadership and “bringing out the best in people,” when John (obviously not his real name) confided, “I’ve never seen anyone do what you’re talking about better than my wife.”

We smiled. “No. You don’t understand,” he continued.  (His eyes got bigger and his posture took on a sincerity that made everyone in the room lean in.) No one expected what came next.

“I was an absolute asshole. If you were to look up bad husbands in Wikipedia my picture would be there.”

I stayed totally still. There was absolutely nothing I could say next that would trump his story.

“I had been such a jerk for so many months. I knew it. She knew it. I was deeply depressed, and not myself. She didn’t complain. She never seemed to take it personally. Although, I can’t imagine how she wouldn’t. We had no money, which made the whole situation even more grim.

Then one day after a lot of long ones, she asked:  “Would you be willing to fully trust me and get up at 3am with me tomorrow and follow me?”

I felt so guilty, I said “Sure.” Even though I found the mere thought exhausting.

She woke me up, blind-folded me and took me sky diving–my top bucket-list adventure. We both knew we couldn’t afford it. But I leaped in. She took pictures and videos. As she played them back, she reminded me, “This is the man I love. This is who you really are. You can be this. You will get there again. I love you.”

Amen.

I’m going to admit right now, I’m not that big of a wife. This would NEVER have occurred to me. I’m in awe of this woman I’ve never met, inspiring a man with enormous potential to be bigger. As he shared his story, his eyes sparkled as they had for the previous two days. He was a ball of vibrant energy and potential. I’d feel lucky to have him on any team I was leading.

Perhaps someone you’re leading right now could use such a generous, humble and confident approach. A second chance to be seen for what’s possible.

P.S. I would love to schedule a free consultation about how I can help your team achieve breakthrough results in 2015.  Click here to download a one-page highlight sheet. karinhurt_One_Sheet

Succeeding as an Entrepreneur: Lessons From My First 9 Months

For those of you just tuning in, nine months ago, I quit my executive job to pursue my dream. Nope, no big buy-out, just me feeling the pull of a calling and taking the leap. “Are you crazy?” was my most frequently heard phrase at that time. It’s been nine months to birth this business.

Although I’m certainly not an expert on building a start-up, I’m confident enough in the momentum that I wanted to share my lessons learned, in the hopes of saving others some time.

10 Lessons For Succeeding as an Entrepreneur

  1. Differentiate your brand
    It’s tempting to be all things to all people, but that just makes you look like everyone else. It’s been an evolution, but I’m finding it vital to define and differentiate my brand and to share it consistently wherever I show up.
  2. Be scrappy, then patient
    There’s no doubt this year has been a constant hustle. I’ve worked most days, including the weekends. I’ve gotten up early and worked like a machine. I’ve spoken to and written for anyone who asked. And for the first six months, I wondered if ANY of the bulbs I’d been planting would sprout. And then, just about six months to the day, work started coming in. I don’t regret the scrappy, but I do regret the angst. If you’re doing the right thing, be patient with yourself, this stuff takes time.
  3. Don’t underestimate your value
    Seth Godin’s recent advice pretty much sums up my first six months.”Begin with the smallest possible project in which someone will pay you money to solve a problem they know they have. Charge less than it’s worth and more than it costs you. Repeat.”That’s a great way to start and I have no regrets. BUT, I soon learned I was really undervaluing my work. Have the confidence to charge what you’re worth.
  4. Work comes from unusual places
    The strength of loose ties is so true. Wonderful people from my business past are popping up in companies all over the country. The friend of a friend thing is working well too. Always operate with high integrity and confident humility, you never know who is paying attention.
  5. Being nice is a great business strategy
    Call it karma or luck, but two of my favorite projects came from just reaching out to someone to check in as a caring human being when they needed support. I’m pretty sure nice has trumped any marketing strategy I’ve tried so far.
  6. Always provide more than expected
    The old adage, “under promise, over deliver” doesn’t quite sum it up. I see it more as “carefully design what will best meet their needs, and then think of a bonus topper.”
  7. “Competitors” make amazing strategic partners
    I love working with other leadership folks with the same mission and the same journey. It’s the best way to learn, grow, and collaborate.
  8. Some people are just selfish, recognize the signs
    I had a few disappointing false starts in terms of collaborators. I’ve learned to ask more questions and to talk about the tough stuff like money, sooner in the game.
  9. Diversify your strategy
    As I was getting started, it was tough to expect too much momentum from any one channel. But I found that investing in building some speaking, some consulting, some coaching, some writing and some teaching created a nice integrated approach, as well as supported my long-term vision of making a broader impact on the world. I don’t think my business would have been profitable as quickly if I had just picked one arena.
  10. Don’t neglect your health
    Start-ups can take a toll. The first six months I ate too much and exercised to little- a terrible formula. I’ve now gotten a grip and realized that being a healthy role model is all part of the brand. I’m also finding I’m more productive returning to my healthier lifestyle again.

It’s not been easy, but I’ve never looked back. Thank you all for being an amazing part of this journey and of the path forward.

Do You Take Your Traditions For Granted?

A guest post by Frank Sonnenberg

When you hear the word holiday, what comes to mind? If you’re like most people, shopping, parties, sales, and catalogs rank near the top of your list. The truth is, many holidays are becoming so commercialized that our proud traditions are in danger of becoming trivialized.

Many of us can’t even remember the true meaning of the holidays. Memorial Day has morphed from remembering our fallen soldiers to the unofficial beginning of summer. Labor Day’s role in recognizing the achievements of organized labor now just marks the end of summer and a return to school. Veterans Day is honored as a day off from work.

Traditions represent a critical piece of our culture. They help form the structure and foundation of our families and our society. They remind us that we are part of a history that defines our past, shapes who we are today and who we are likely to become. Once we ignore the meaning of our traditions, we’re in danger of damaging the underpinning of our identity.

  •  Tradition contributes a sense of comfort and belonging. It brings families together and enables people to reconnect with friends.
  •  Tradition reinforces values such as freedom, faith, integrity, a good education, personal responsibility, a strong work ethic, and the value of being selfless.
  •  Tradition provides a forum to showcase role models and celebrate the things that really matter in life.
  •  Tradition offers a chance to say “thank you” for the contribution that someone has made.
  •  Tradition enables us to showcase the principles of our Founding Fathers, celebrate diversity, and unite as a country.
  •  Tradition serves as an avenue for creating lasting memories for our families and friends.
  •  Tradition offers an excellent context for meaningful pause and reflection.

As leaders, role models, and parents, we must strive to utilize every opportunity available to us to reinforce the values and beliefs that we hold dear. The alternative to action is taking these values for granted. The result is that our beliefs will get so diluted, over time, that our way of life will become foreign to us. It’s like good health. You may take it for granted until you lose it. If we disregard our values, we’ll open our eyes one day and won’t be able to recognize “our world” anymore. The values that support the backbone of our country, our family, and our faith will have drifted for so long that the fabric of our society will be torn.

This is adapted from Follow Your Conscience: Make a Difference in Your Life & in the Lives of Others By Frank Sonnenberg © 2014 Frank Sonnenberg. All rights reserved.

 

Confident Humility: FREE Downloadable Holiday Gifts

How to Lead with the Right Kind of Confidence

Great leaders have a unique combination of confidence and humility coupled with the power to create real vision and connection. These forces work together to inspire a magnetic magic that leads to breakthrough results. I’m on a mission to inspire and develop these characteristics in leaders around the world. This philosophy is at the core of my message in my speaking, writing and consulting. I’m confident it’s a message worth sharing.

Today I’m sharing some free gifts to help get the word out. I encourage you to download and use with your teams.

I’d also love to talk with you about the possiblity of working with you and your team on a fast start to 2015 or speaking at your next event.  Please contact me for a free consultation on how we can build something just right.

P.S. If you need an endorsement to get you inspired, here’s Santa’s.

Another Holiday Gift

As a holiday gift to you, I’m sharing some easy exercises you can use with your team in the new year (see sidebar). If you’re already a subscriber, check your email for a download link. If you’re new here, we’d love to have you join our inspiring tribe.

talkingteams-02-3D

More End of Year Fun

Our LGL tribe had some nice recognition, being honored as a Top 10 Leadership Sites of 2014 based on COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT. You did that! I am so grateful for your amazing interaction. Your comments are my favorite part of writing.

I’m also really honored to be included on Inc’s list of 100 Great Leadership Speakers For Your Next Conference (of course, they used Sir Richard Branson’s pic, not mine, but I’m cheaper 😉

5 Times It's Better to Say No

It’s almost always easier to say “yes” than “no”–in the short run.

“Yes, it’s okay for you to treat me that way.”

‘Yes, I’ll stay late tonight and miss dinner again– after all my wife won’t say ‘no.’ “

“Yes, it’s okay skip my workout.”

“Yes, your work is fine” (even though it could be better.)

A close second to expectation violations, the inability to say “no” is one of the top sources of intrapersonal and interpersonal conflict in organizations.

Misplaced yeses sabotage relationships, goals, and well-being.

5 Times It’s Better To Say “No”

“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right.
These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.”  -W. Clement Stone

Finding the courage to say “no” to what’s wrong, is a powerful fuel for start to saying “yes” to what matters most.

  1.  Say “No” to Rude or Disrespectful Behavior
    Sure it’s easier to ignore the situation. After all, who needs more drama? But allowing a co-worker or boss to treat you with disrespect slowly undermines your confidence, and sends a clear message that you’re willing to accept that behavior from him or her and any casual observers. Say “yes” to civil treatment at work.
  2. Say “No” to Time Wasters
    These come in the form of people or activities. Say “no” to stupid work that doesn’t propel your mission and goals. Say “no” to the guy who’s always hanging around your cube. Say “yes” to achieving your goals.
  3. Say “No” to Your Boss’ Harebrained Idea
    Yes you can. Trust me, your boss will thank you for carefully putting on the brakes. Speak up. Read more on how to here. Say “yes” to doing what’s right.
  4. Say “No” to Negative Self-Talk
    It’s easy to talk ourselves out of our own success. Say “yes” to positive thinking.
  5. Say “No” to Scope Creep
    You’ve outlined the project and the deliverables, but the “just one more” requests keep getting tagged on, without renegotiated deadlines or compensation. It’s okay to say “No, I can’t do that right now, or under our current terms,” while saying “yes” to “I’d be happy to talk to you about that as phase 2.” Say “yes” to renegotiation.

Say “no” to respect your best yes. Say “no” with the confidence to do what’s right, and the humility to know what matters.

5 Times It’s Better to Say No

It’s almost always easier to say “yes” than “no”–in the short run.

“Yes, it’s okay for you to treat me that way.”

‘Yes, I’ll stay late tonight and miss dinner again– after all my wife won’t say ‘no.’ “

“Yes, it’s okay skip my workout.”

“Yes, your work is fine” (even though it could be better.)

A close second to expectation violations, the inability to say “no” is one of the top sources of intrapersonal and interpersonal conflict in organizations.

Misplaced yeses sabotage relationships, goals, and well-being.

5 Times It’s Better To Say “No”

“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right.
These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.”  -W. Clement Stone

Finding the courage to say “no” to what’s wrong, is a powerful fuel for start to saying “yes” to what matters most.

  1.  Say “No” to Rude or Disrespectful Behavior
    Sure it’s easier to ignore the situation. After all, who needs more drama? But allowing a co-worker or boss to treat you with disrespect slowly undermines your confidence, and sends a clear message that you’re willing to accept that behavior from him or her and any casual observers. Say “yes” to civil treatment at work.
  2. Say “No” to Time Wasters
    These come in the form of people or activities. Say “no” to stupid work that doesn’t propel your mission and goals. Say “no” to the guy who’s always hanging around your cube. Say “yes” to achieving your goals.
  3. Say “No” to Your Boss’ Harebrained Idea
    Yes you can. Trust me, your boss will thank you for carefully putting on the brakes. Speak up. Read more on how to here. Say “yes” to doing what’s right.
  4. Say “No” to Negative Self-Talk
    It’s easy to talk ourselves out of our own success. Say “yes” to positive thinking.
  5. Say “No” to Scope Creep
    You’ve outlined the project and the deliverables, but the “just one more” requests keep getting tagged on, without renegotiated deadlines or compensation. It’s okay to say “No, I can’t do that right now, or under our current terms,” while saying “yes” to “I’d be happy to talk to you about that as phase 2.” Say “yes” to renegotiation.

Say “no” to respect your best yes. Say “no” with the confidence to do what’s right, and the humility to know what matters.

3 Ways to Prepare for a Better Performance Review

It had been an insane but productive year of game-changing projects and really long hours. I was proud, but exhausted. We had our final push just as the holidays were approaching, and I was more stressed then ever. My phone rang and Laura, my boss, told me she needed my accomplishments a week earlier than expected. I was beyond annoyed. Laura knew what we had done. I didn’t have time to write it all down.

But she was the boss so I slapped something together and sent it to her. Ten minutes later the phone rang again. “Karin this is crap. There is no way this is a good summary of what you’ve done this year. Here’s what I need…” Laura then gave me a long list of metrics, correlations, and ROI calculations to do.

Now I pushed back, “That’s going to take all night! What do want, my other deliverables or all this? I can’t do both.”

“Find a way.”

I did.

What I learned a month later was that she had submitted my name for a big award that came with an all expense paid trip for two (and a week’s extra vacation) to Puerto Rico. She knew I needed the rest. Boy was I glad she’d pushed me so hard. As I sat on the beach sipping my chardonnay, I vowed to never blow off preparing for a performance review again.

Here’s what I learned from Laura about showcasing your accomplishments. Give it a try as you prepare for your own performance review, or share with your team to help them prepare for their meeting with you.

3 Ways to Prepare For a Better Performance Review

1. Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

Don’t just say what you did, calculate the business impact. If possible calculate the ROI on your projects (of course this is a lot easier if you do it along the way versus pulling an all-nighter). If ROI is too much of a stretch calculate percent improvement in key metrics.

Even the soft stuff can be reported in terms of numbers. Don’t say you invested in developing your team; instead share that three of your team members were promoted. Don’t say you conducted three teambuilders; share that absenteeism went down 20% and that you have a 10% YOY improvement in the employee survey metrics.

As you plan for 2015, be sure you’re also planning which measurements and correlations you’d like to be using to showcase your performance this time next year.

2. Write Down Where You Need to Improve

Nothing impresses me more than when employees come to their review with a spot-on list of what they could have done better, areas for development, and how I can help. Approaching your review with such confident humility immediately puts your boss in helping mode. I guarantee the review will feel better and go more smoothly from both sides of the desk.

3. Gather Additional Perspectives

The end of the year is a great time for a Do It Yourself 360. Knowing where you stand with others will lead to richer discussion with your boss.

Often it’s the best performers who are too busy to “toot their own horn” and document their accomplishments well. It’s not bragging, it’s useful. Make life easier on your boss this performance management season, and invest the time to prepare properly.

7 Ways to Deal with Employees Who Drive You Crazy

If you’re just tuning in, I’ve been teaching an MBA course on Managing Difficult Employees and gave these “students” (read that, really smart working millennials with big jobs in our  nation’s capital) “homework” to developing an approach to manage their difficult employee and to journal about it. If you missed Monday’s post, best to start there.

I asked these “students” to share what they learned most from their experience. Their list is a powerful start. I’m excited for you to add your best thinking.

  1. Don’t ignore it. I know, I know… this seems SO obvious, but I’ve got to tell you 97% of the stories started with that strategy. Be honest with yourself. What really difficult employees (up, down and sideways) are you ignoring, or staying away from in hopes that the problem will take care of itself?
  2. Try something. I had to laugh at how many students shared, “and then you made me… and it worked!” Bottom line, no grades were given for action, just analysis. No “making” just “challenging.” Where do you need to be challenged to address the situation?
  3. Look within. At the end of the day, the deepest discovery for many of the students was that they were part of the problem. I was impressed to see so many sharing “and then I became a difficult employee because…”
  4. Understand their point of view. It’s amazing how the perspective changes from another person’s cube. Go there, listen and hang out a while.
  5. Get to know them as human beings. No really. I mean it, even if they’re really jerky. This was one of the number one strategies and it changed the game.
  6. Stand-up for what’s right. These guys and gals put bullies in their place, and had their bosses reconsider. Don’t take crap. People treat you how you let them.
  7. If it’s really stupid get HR involved. Your boss can’t smack you, or demean you, or hide vital information. If it’s really stupid, write it down and get the right people involved. That works too.

How to Deal With REALLY Difficult People at Work

Whenever I tell someone I’m teaching an evening MBA class entirely devoted to “managing difficult people” the response is the same. “Oh, boy do I need to take that class.” Or, “Why didn’t they have that when I was in school?”

There was a long waiting list for the course. Apparently the working world is full of  serious loony tunes.

Perhaps. But as we dug deeper, the issues were far more complex. With a little risk and creativity, we experienced some significant turnarounds.

We didn’t change the world, but we made a dent, at least in Washington, DC. And if you’re going to make a dent, Capitol Hill is not a bad place to start.

The biggest discovery was most often not about the other “difficult” person, but how the changer became the changee in the process. Amen.

The Power of Writing it Down

Throughout the class, we used what most would call a “journaling technique.” I disguised it as graded homework to overcome the number one issue most of us have with journaling– it’s easy to blow off– particularly when it’s hard. They submitted them online and I followed (and we discussed), their stories, techniques, growth, victories and disappointments.

You can do this technique to approach your most difficult person. I encourage you to do so, and let me know how it goes.

Here’s your homework should you choose to accept it. If you leave a comment, I’ll give you 4 points for every assignment you complete 😉

Homework 1: Why is confident humility so important in dealing with difficult employees?

Homework 2: What types of behaviors/people/circumstances pose the most difficulty for you?

Homework 3: Who is a current difficult person with whom you have to interact, and what dynamics between you create the problems?

Homework 4: What are steps you can take to change the interaction with this difficult person?

Homework 5: What steps have you taken so far, and what results have you seen?

Tune back in on Wednesday, to hear their biggest lessons in managing difficult people.

What Is Gratitude?

True gratitude begins wtih deep humility.

True gratitude changes us.

True gratitude transforms our relationships.

True gratitude changes the game.

Courtesies Aren’t Gratitude

And yet, as leaders, we spend much time on “Thanks for passing the gravy” kind of thanks.

  • …thanks for this report
  • …thanks for the update
  • …thanks for coming to work on time
  • …thanks for returning my call
  • …thanks for dinner

Those courtesies are important and necessary. But they are not gratitude.

Recognition Isn’t Gratitude

Most organizations also do a pretty good job with formal recognition— taking time to determine who deserves the plaque and celebration. These ceremonies can surely come from a place of deep gratitude, but not necessarily. Often, they are based on numbers and rankings. Gratitude doesn’t come from spreadsheets.

Gratitude involves a deeper pause of true thanksgiving. I see this missing at many levels in organizations.

Gratitude is missing when…

an executive hears a presentation and immediately responds with questions, concerns, critiques and challenges, without a pause to consider the depth and breadth of work entailed, the long hours, and the creative thinking.

a middle manager is frustrated in his current role, but overlooks his long career of exciting challenges and developmental experiences.

a team leader acknowledges the team’s steady progress, but fails to understand the deep personal sacrifices of her team.

a team member resents the promotion of a coworker, and overlooks all the ways he has grown himself in the past year.

an employee didn’t receive the same tee-shirt as the guy in the next cube, and overlooks all the ways her family is benefiting from her job.

a volunteer feels slighted by a decision, and misses the magic of being part of something important in the community.

Thanks and recognition are about the receiver. As leaders, it is our job to say “thank you” and recognize good work.

Gratitude is also about the giver. True gratitude will transform our leadership.

Really Important Interviewing Advice

Juan and I were sure this was the candidate of our dreams. His track record was solid. The awards plentiful. In fact, we’d already began to wonder if we needed to continue the search. Surely this interview was a formality and would support our intuition.

Thank God. This was our guy. Ahh… that was easy.

But as the interview continued, Juan’s face revealed the angst in my heart. Crap. How were we going to justify that this guy’s not qualified? We hadn’t listed humility in the “required” or even “desired” competencies in the job posting.

We both felt this candidate was a nightmare in the making. He wasn’t listening or open. He had a plan and was ready to execute, but had very little desire to hear what we had to say. He told us five times he was the most qualified candidate, and why we shouldn’t waste a second more on our job search.

But we couldn’t get past the cocky decorum.

Perhaps he really was as good as he said, and all the “me, me, me” stuff was just nervous energy. I’ll never know. Juan and I hired the next “best” candidate on paper. She turned out to be a rock star.

I have a mentor who tells anyone interviewing for a job, “This is not the time to be humble.” To some extent that’s true.

Interviewing is  certainly not a time for self-deprecating remarks or uncertainty. Be bold in your ideas, vision and in sharing what you bring to the table.

But–the leaders you really want to work for will also be looking for a humble streak. They want to see that you’re willing to learn, can lead from behind, and are open to new ideas. If you’re that kind of leader, don’t hide those rare and precious qualities.

The best candidates interview with confident humility.

How to Approach an Interview With Confident Humility

Confidence Says...I’m smart and extremely qualified.
Humility Reveals...I’m eager to understand your culture.

Confidence Says... My skills are highly transferable.
Humility Reveals...I’m open to new approaches.

Confidence Says...I have a long track record of success.
Humility Reveals…I like to surround myself with strong talent.

Confidence Says...I’m a quick study.
Humility Reveals...I’m eager to learn.

Confidence Says…I’m a visionary.
Humility Reveals...Vision is nothing without solid execution. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way.

Confidence Says…I know I can make a difference for your organization.
Humility Asks…If I were in this role, what could I do to make your job easier?