Sustainable and renewable blog posts

Recycling is not only an encouraged, but expected practice these days.

For that reason, I would like to re-use, renew and recycle a blog post that I wrote awhile back.

Often times we focus on those people that provide us with support at work or complain about those that make our lives difficult. I’m no exception – I’ve been happy to dish on both accounts, but today I wanted to mention someone who has not only supported me in my work, but in pretty much every facet of my life.

Today is my wedding anniversary and I can honestly say, without any pretense of sucking up, that marrying my husband was the best decision I have ever made. Truthfully it started well before we got married, but that was the official start line, I suppose.
That was the starting point for all that we have now – our home, our kids, and our future.
He has been with me through my late teenage years, young adulthood, and now approaching (ahem) mid-life. He has seen me and stuck by me through all my phases, moods, highs and lows. He has been my biggest supporter and sometimes my harshest critic. And I his.
I have often been asked how could I have possibly known at twenty-two (or even seventeen for that matter) that this was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. That’s tough to answer because it was one of the few things in my life that I didn’t over-analyze so I didn’t have rationale beyond that I just knew. 
I did try to explain it once by saying that I was sure about him because we had gone a number of road trips and when that inevitable silence fell, we were both comfortable and content with just driving. There was no need to force a conversation, to entertain the other person, or worry whether there was something wrong. We enjoyed each other’s company throughout the trip – not just when we got to our destination.
I realize that this sounds counterintuitive coming from someone whose job it is to discourage people from relying solely on their gut. Someone who encourages analysis, supporting documentation, and asking questions. 
Thankfully I don’t always live my life the way I work. 
So now, 22 years later, how can I say that this is still the person that I was to spend the rest of my life with…I still don’t have an eloquent answer, but I can say that I still just know and we are still enjoying the road trip, whatever the destination. 
 Happy anniversary. 

 

6 Signs That You Should Keep Your Blog

I recently grumbled that there is a lot of blah, blah, blah out there, particularly in the realm of HR.

I am sure this is prevalent in all areas, but since I don’t read blogs written by accountants or econometricians, I can only surmise that there are only so many ways you can bitch about the Sarbanes-Oxley Act or roll your eyes about having to explain linear regression…again.

And one of the surest signs that things are heading south is when you have to resort to the How To List.

Oh and not just any How To List. But a list that will solve all your problems.  A list that is composed of items of such blatant common sense that it will smack you in the face with its true-ness.  A list that will simplify and reduce complex issues like relationships, emotions, and strategic human resources to five easy steps.

Now it bears pointing out that the How To List  is a distinctly different breed than the listing of items.  One is the entire message, the other is purely the medium.

I am not anti-list.  I am anti sell-out.

Recently I explored the idea of sharing my wisdom and wit when I was asked to write a few posts for another blog.  It was a paid gig and I thought, why not give it a g.  Well, first let me clarify that in my naiveté, I mistook “contribute content” for “”writing blog posts”.

That was my first lesson.

I was then asked to submit sample work, which I did in the form of links to selected blog posts that I was particularly proud of (read: had no swearing in them), as well as potential post topic ideas.

The topics were somewhat approved and I was then given some guidance in terms of word count (completely understandable), the target audience (a new concept for me, as I have never assumed there was an audience), and finally the format: all posts were to be in the form of “how-to lists”, ideally with five bullets. No other writing was really necessary (and I suspect at risk of being edited out).

That was my second lesson.

If sarcasm is the sour cream of wit, then how-to lists are the saltine crackers of blog posts.

Needless to say, after serious consideration and deliberating, I decided to pass on this golden opportunity to sell my soul.  And to celebrate, I am going to include a list of six (not five!) reasons why I am going to keep plugging away at my blog.

  1. Someone has to stay old school and keep balance in the universe.
  2. Because when @neilmorrison  tips his hat, it’s generally a good sign.
  3. I finally found something new to vent about (and it’s not HR).
  4. I discovered that it is possible to have an engaging conversation through post comments.
  5. I now have a muse/enabler who is both inspiring and double-daring me to keep going.

And the final reason I am going to keep my blog going:

  1. Because I like it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shooting myself in the foot

I was hesitant to open my blog, because it’s been so long and I had the same feeling I have when I open a Tupperware dish that has been sitting in the back of my fridge for months. I know it’s going to be bad, but just how bad…well that’ s the unknown isn’t.

So, as with the leftover sauce that I told myself I would eat the next day, it’s been months and there is a layer of mould and funky smell coming from this blog.  I attribute it partially to amount of time that has gone by and partially to the topic.  I mean, HR does go bad very quickly.

In fact, and this is not meant as disrespect to the many great bloggers out there, but I have not read an HR post in months.  I attribute it partially to the amount of time that I have and partially to the topic.  I mean, HR does get repetitive very quickly.

I have never really seen the appeal to most of the reality shows out there…Big Brother, The Bachelor, the whatever….I just don’t enjoy watching people intentionally put themselves into situations that make them look stupid and then act like they have somehow been wronged.  And the worst thing about reality shows is the insidious viral factor.  It’s not enough to have one version, we have to have spin-offs and the god-foresaken celebrity version.

And that brings me back to HR blogs.

(You can probably see where I am going with this, and at the risk of unintentionally insulting people, I will leave it at that.)

I mean, I am not shitting on HR blogs.  I am just saying that there is really only a limited amount of things that can be said about it…and a lot of people are tying to come up with new ways of saying it.  So a quick scan of my reader can feel like scrolling the tv channel guide…300 channels and not much on.

Of course, this could just be an extension of my increasingly jaded view about organized HR ,certification, and the need to up the ante to continue to be part of a club that is slowly becoming less relevant to me.

I have always endeavoured to write what I think about all kinds of things and for a long time, it was about HR.  The reality is that these days I don’t think about HR much more than I have to…I don’t lie awake at night imaging a better performance management system or how to incorporate gamificaton into our recognition program or how best to demonstrate the ROI of HR on business lines.

If work keeps me awake, it’s because there is a difficult conversation I need to have with a manager or I am trying to figure out how the hell I am going to do all that needs to be done in a timeframe that feels like it’s shrinking.

Forget dreaming of innovative HR practices and key metrics…I dream of falling down the rabbit hole and how long it will take me to reach the bottom.

I admire those individuals that are able to create links between the what exists and what can be.  The people who question and challenge.  The people that make me stop and think.  I will continue to follow and read those that continue to inspire me.

As for whether people feel the same about my drivel. To each their own and I respect your choice to move along.

 

 

 

Being clear about transparency

Transparency.

Apparently everyone wants it.  We want to know everything about everything.  We want to understand that reasons for all decisions, we want to know all the ingredients in our food, we want the ability to scrutinize the minutiae of every conversations that has ever been had.

Transparency is about being open, honest, and accountable.

On a macro scale, businesses are being held to higher standards and, as such, need to be prepared to open the books to rationalize and defend their practices.

On a micro scale, I believe that there is less clarity about transparency.  How much is too much? How honest is too honest?  When brought down to the level of a one-on-one conversation, transparency gets a bit murky.

If I can take a step out of the workplace for a moment and consider some of my personal relationships, I can attest  that being more transparent and honest has not always worked in my favour.

I spent most of my childhood and a good deal of my adult life wearing a mask around certain members of my family – keeping the peace, being tolerant, not rocking the boat.  And then after a number of life-altering and mind-numbing situations, I was forced to rethink this coping mechanism. And so I took off the mask.

The result has left me with more energy, more calmness, and a better sense of self.  So far, honesty and openness seemed to be positive.  However, this “new” me has created friction and confusion with some who would prefer that I go back to being a nicer person. Not so many points being scored here.

The reality is that I am not always a nice person, I can be moody, cranky, opinionated, stubborn, and sarcastic (for the record, I list this one in both pro and con categories).  If I am going to have an open and honest conversation with someone, there is a chance that one of the above is going to make an appearance.

I will be the first to say that being honest does not give you license to be an asshole, but nor should it condemn you to being a mean and hurtful person.  There is a balance to be had and that is where I was going with the notion of transparency.

Being completely open and honest is a good objective; however, this needs to be tempered with the risks that might be triggered by doing so.  So, am I proposing selective transparency?  Well….no…well, maybe…kind of…it depends.

Can you be transparent without revealing all? Can you be open and honest without saying every single thing that comes to mind?

In terms of businesses, is it absolutely necessary to lay all the cards on the table when there is no added value, but possible risks, in doing so?  I am not proposing hiding details – I am talking about measured and tempered communication.  Kind of like the old film noir that didn’t have to show every graphic detail to explain what was going on.   Enough was said and shown to get the message across.

Now I recognize that every day communication and practices aren’t always that black and white (hehe), but I think that if you avoid the trend of hyping up every message with a light show and heavy bass beat, you might find somewhere in the middle that meets most people’s needs.

Of course, when it comes to transparency, it’s clear that you will never please everyone.

 

 

 

 

 

My honest opinion 

Recently a friend who was actively looking for work asked me my opinion on a job she wanted to apply to.

She had me at “your opinion”.

She was struggling with striking the right tone in response to the job posting that included this gem: “able to get shit done”.

I had to laugh because we have all wanted to say something like that in an ad. Come on. You totally did.

However my friend was a bit offended and thought it was unprofessional. She was asking me for ideas on how to respond to that point without going there.

My suggestion was that she either play along or don’t bother. Either you answer in kind and tell them how you are an expert shit handler or you take a pass on the job.  I mean the whole point of using a line like that is to ensure that anyone who would be put off by it would not apply.

I agree with my friend that it was not professional, in the traditional sense; however, it would be less of a shock to see this upfront than to discover after the fact that the “professional” company you just joined was just a front for the Trailer Park Boys fan club.

I am a fan of being honest and upfront, from both the employer and the candidate perspective.  Perhaps we are all so conditioned to play the games, read between the lines of the job ad/ résumé, and hold our cards close to our chest that it is hard to conceive that someone actually means what they are saying.

While I don`t think it`s necessary for employers to have to go so far as to attract candidates by being shocking or controversial, I do think it`s a good idea for them to be honest about who they are, so that candidates can make the right decision to either apply or keeping on walking by.

Of course, that`s just my opinion.

 

 

 

 

Hungry, Hungry HiPos

‘Tis the season for performance appraisals, evaluations, and incentive bonuses. And whether you like them or not, whether they fall into the pro or the con side of your list, performance management programs are generally a part of most organizations.

Sure some of them work.  Many of them don’t. And some of them work, but not in the way they were expected to.  Kind of like the employees they are meant to review.

I am not interested in going a round on whether your organization, or any organization should have a formal,  prescriped and likely biased way of rewarding…I mean incentivizing your employees.  What I wanted to hash out is the golden snitch of performance: the HiPo.

Snitch_2

Can we pause for one second so that I can just point out how the term (and spelling of) HiPo is so obnoxious.  It’s about as annoying as people who text ”k” instead of “ok”. Seriously.

So for the remainder of this post, I will refer to HiPos as high-potentials. Sure it will make the post a little longer, but I am sure you will agree, it will make it slightly less nauseating.

High potentials are what most managers dream of finding.  Even better is a high potential that is nurtured from obscurity. Like the undiscovered and untapped star player that all the other coaches overlooked…under the tutilage and guidance of the new manager…behold the high potential that evolves into a high peformer – the trifecta of “aspiration, ability and engagement”

Of course, there is a change that labelling the employee as high potential might actually be a kiss of death…after all, there is no guarantee that they will achieve this potential.  That is if you actually tell the employee.

There’s an interesting dynamic at play in many organizations that strive to be high performing.  There is a struggle between relying  on the consistent high performers to deliver their characteristic high quality work and giving those select few high potentials an opportunity to take shine and possibly go in a new direction.

The risk that comes with going beyond identying someone on a succession chart and giving potential an opportunity to become reality can leave a manager (or organization) vulnerable.

However, there is also risk that comes with not being open to potential which can leave a manager (or organization) vulnerable.

Ultimately, you need to decide whether you feed your high potential or do leave it hungry?

 

 

 

The attraction of owning it

I was recently asked to consider, as an employee, what I look for in an organization.

I can be shallow at times and my immediate thoughts were: a good cook, great dancer, and an ability to gauge and react appropriately to my moods….uh, I mean, good perqs, willingness to have fun, and flexibility in my schedule.

My filter was working that day and I only thought those things.  What I said out loud (thankfully) was: accountability, communication, and openness.

Do they sound like buzzwords? A bit mothership-ish?  Perhaps, but I stand by them.

Let me reassure you.  I do not have the inclination to write a blog post that covers all  three points.  It’s way too reminiscent of writing an essay and frankly with my tendency to go off on tangents, and an inability to create articulate closing paragraphs, this would be waaaaaaay too long.

So let me focus on the one that resonates the most with me: accountability.

I am a fairly perceptive person and I also have two teenagers, so I am also very familiar with the art of dodge and detract (“Why do you always think it was me that ate the last of the cookies and put the bag back empty?!”  “Nobody told me that I was supposed to feed the cat?”  “I missed the bus because you didn’t wake me up early enough” “The teacher didn’t tell us to do that”)

So when it comes to professionals who won’t accept responsibility or be accountable, I have very little patience. After all, unless I have a picture that you made out of macroni and pipe cleaners tucked away in my basement, I have no instinct to tolerate your shortcomings.

Alright, let’s just get it out there.  We all make mistakes.

We all give the wrong answer, provide inaccurate information, miss a scheduled meeting, forget to do something, or hit Reply All.  Everyone has done these things, but not everyone is willing to admit it.  Well, at least not without making up some elaborate excuse, or worse, blaming someone else, for it.

Repeat after me: I fucked up.  Sorry about that.  (And if possible) I will correct it.

That’s owning up to what you have done.  Now take it one step further…how about owning what you have said you would do and be held responsible for the outcome.

For managers this means that you are not only accountable for your work, but also for the deliverables of your team.  Sound daunting? It can be, but that’s why they gave you the cubicle with direct exposure to natural light.

So when your boss asks you for an update and you realize that someone on your team hasn’t done their part – do not dodge and detract…do not point and blame…accept and admit that you did not follow-up, fix it, and then move on.

And when that really, really innovative program you pushed for and launched finally crashes and burn…do not blame IT…do not blame the consultants that you overpaid to tell you it was a “best practice” (which is essentially the professional version of “all the cool kids are doing it”)…do not fault senior management for not properly supporting it, and last of all…do not suggest that the project team wasn’t committed.  Own it, learn from it, and move on.

When it comes down to it, accountability is probably one of the best ways to attract and retain people.

Because you could cook me the best meal, go all Footloose on the dance floor, and let me sit and read for hours, but none of that would be worth having to listen to you complain about how everyone is out to screw you over or how it’s never your fault.