Simple solutions

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Today was the first day that I got out to work in my gardens. I didn’t do much other than pull a few things, push a few others, and create a mental to-do list for the upcoming months.

Some of my best thinking comes when I’m crouched down with my knees begging for mercy and my fingers stinging because I forgot to wear gloves. Again.

Apparently pain is a good motivator. Yeah, just call me 50 Shades of Green…

When I’m gardening I’m envisioning what I would like the gardens to look like and I repeatedly draw on a particular garden as inspiration. A few years back I visited a colleague’s home to see his wife’s gardens. They were beautiful in an understated way; meticulously kept, but not overly formal.

I remember another guest asking the gardener-wife how she kept her beds weed free. The gardener-wife looked a bit confused by the question. The guest tried again – what’s your secret weapon for keeping weeds away?. The gardener-wife now understood and easily answered “When I see one, I pull it out”.

Now I know that the guest was hoping for some trade secret, quick-fix solution for weeds, but the gardener didn’t have one. She dealt with the problem in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Huh? Go figure.

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New drivers and management: two things that scare me

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Within days of turning 16 I was lined up at the Ministry of Transportation, ready to get my learner’s permit – a flimsy piece of paper that gave me permission to drive my parent’s vehicle, so long as they were willing and able to sit with me. I saw this permission slip to drive as my ticket to freedom. I drove the car everywhere and anytime I could and probably drove my parents nuts. When I was convinced that I was ready – I went for the test.

And I failed.

Humbled, I drove for a few more months, in all types of conditions, and then when I was really sure I was ready, I went again for my license.

Success.

And just like that I was free to drive anywhere and anytime I wanted…well, in theory.

Critics of the old licensing system argued that young drivers were given too much power and freedom too quickly and that they were not prepared for the “real world” of driving.

Fast forward 25 years and we now have graduated licensing. The principle of this program is:

New drivers have to spend a minimum of 8 months at Level 1 where they are restricted by when and where they can drive and they must have a licensed driver with them at all times. One of the most notable restrictions is that they cannot go on the major highways. Ever.

After many months of practice, if they pass a driving test they can advance to Level 2 and seemingly overnight they can drive on their own and more importantly on the major highways. Which up until this time they have not been allowed on. Ever. No training or practice. None.

Which, of course, leads me into my thoughts on management. No really, it is a completely natural progression to talk about inexperienced drivers suddenly given power over a vehicle in a high impact environment to management.

Think about it. That’s totally management.

We have that star employee who is just blowing people away with their technical/ sales/ reports/ analysis skills….whatever. They are really shining and on the rise. So we figure if they can handle this, then lets entrust them with the management of other employees. And because they demonstrated an almost uncanny ability to figure things out in their last job, we don’t feel it’s necessary to provide them with additional training on how to….uh, manage people, provide feedback, handle performance issues, communicate clear expectations, and not run morale into the ground.

When I see someone get hired into a management position without any thought or plan for training or support to assist them with the new aspect of their role, I cringe.

The same way I’m cringing when I imagine a new young driver, like my newly licensed daughter, hitting the on-ramp of the highway all on her own without any guidance or support.

The potential of both situations is absolutely scary.

The power of suggestion

I believe strongly in crowd sourcing, or as we use to call it back in the day: “sharing”. I’m so old.

I don’t think that we should hoard our ideas and knowledge – we should be willing to chat with those that are open and receptive.

Take book and movie suggestions – I like to ask around, but because I’m pretty particular about what I do and don’t like, I will generally fish around and ask about someone’s opinion on a book/movie that I really liked and one that I hated. Based on their response, I may or may not take any future suggestions seriously. There are a few people in my circle that are like this – if they tell me I have to read/see this…I don’t, because past experience taught me that their taste sucks…I mean… is different than mine.

And so, I put it out there on my blog asking for suggestions on what I should blog about. And the responses were overwhelming, but I’ve narrowed it down to a brief overview of how I came to be in HR. I say brief, not because I don’t feel like writing about it, but because it’s not really a long story.

Once upon a time, there was a young woman who was growing restless in her job as a laboratory analyst. To start with, she wasn’t entirely sure how as a Psych grad with absolutely no lab experience, she had found herself analyzing the weave patterns in paper samples. And then there was the important fact that she was analyzing the weave patterns in paper samples. Every. Single. Day.

And so an opportunity came up to assist with the university Co-op program and work with managers to interview young hopefuls and help bring them on-board. This seemed interesting and, more importantly, did not involve analyzing the weave pattern in paper samples.

By nature I like things to be organized and consistent, so it was a very short-time before I offered suggestions (read: took over) and started to try and enhance this program. If you couple this with the fact that I generally had an opinion on how things should be done and figured the best way to share this opinion was to be involved – it wasn’t long before I was chatting our HR person up.

One day, my manager/mentor suggested that I would be good in HR because I had common sense and wasn’t afraid to promote this. He knew I was looking to make a change and I respected his opinion. I was at the crossroad of “What the hell do I do next?” and “This is the rest of your life”. So, I decided to explore the idea of HR…took a few courses, low commitment. I figured that even if I decided not to pursue HR, at least the courses would help me be a better manager some day (I know, I know…how cute was I?!).

And so multiple courses later, I started applying for my first job in HR. Fortunately for me, what I saw as a disadvantage (being a late starter in the HR world) was an advantage in getting my foot in the door. I had a lot of work experience and was able to easily translate non-HR responsibilities into HR-related skills. And so I jumped in the world of HR.

Culture shock ensued.

I went from an almost all male technical environment to an almost all female service industry. I thought I had died and gone to some sort of high-school purgatory. That common sense I had – it didn’t really apply here. I had to learn quickly and daily how to navigate the minefield of emotions and politics of the office and of HR.

I learned more in those two years than in any course. Naturally, what I learned was what they would never teach you and certainly not the recommended courses of action. And I learned more from non-HR people…I learned from finance, from the operational managers, and most of all, from the employees. I learned that I would have colleagues, but not friends in the workplace. I learned that I was good at delivering hard messages. I learned that HR can be really lonely.

I think my transition into HR was made somewhat easier by the fact that I didn’t go into it with a vision of changing the world and I knew of the challenges that employees/managers can pose for HR. I once was one.

I have moved onto two different jobs since my first opportunity and I continue to learn. Mostly I am exploring what HR means to me (stay tuned for upcoming post on this when I’m a guest on a fellow blog…yes, shameless plug) and whether this is where I want to grow old. Not in my current job…definitely not, but even in HR.

And so now I find myself experienced in HR and far removed from the laboratory world where I was once. However, I am still handling recruiting and I spend many of my days analyzing the weave pattern in paper samples…or in HR-speak, reviewing CVs.

Full circle, baby. Full circle.

Wanted: inspiration

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My blog is more journal than HR resource. I make no apologies for that.  I generally write about what is spinning around in my head at the moment.

However, sometimes things are quiet…too quiet…and I get tired of my thoughts, because they get stuck in a loop.

So, I’m opening it up and taking requests. What would you like to read about? Or, let me put that another way, what would you like me write about? Because ultimately, that’s what I want you to be reading…me.

The comment section is now open and operators are standing by ready to take your suggestions. Come on, don’t be shy…

So you want to be an administrative assistant?

Okay, here is today’s recruiting beef:

Unlike being a One-Hit-Wonder/ Top 40 singer, not everyone can be an Administrative Assistant.

Just because you know how to use Word, answered a phone, and can make copies without jamming the machine – you are not automatically qualified for this job.

In fact, if you have innocently equated a receptionist with an administrative assistant, I would argue you have absolutely no idea of the value and worth of this job.

A good admin assistant will make it look easy. They will organize and coordinate the hell out of things so that even you look good.

So people, stop insulting me by assuming that since you are in between professional jobs that you can swing it as an admin assistant – I don’t want your résumés. You are wasting both of our time since you are missing vital qualifications – the “istant” part…the “ass” part, you seem to have covered.

Layers upon layers

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Some weeks the ideas and words just flow. Others…well, it’s more of an ebb.

But I want to get better at writing and I know it’s all about practice…and so now I have Dory’s voice in my head saying: “Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do? We swim, swim

Yes, I’ve resorted to channeling animated characters. (This isn’t the first time and certainly won’t be the last.)

I recently had a conversation with someone when we turned to the topic of “things that people don’t know about me”. This is a potential minefield because sometimes there is a good reason why people don’t know that about you…cause it’s weird, or off-putting, or too-much-information. However, there are many things – our interests, our hobbies, our fears, that can make us seem like more of a well-rounded person.

So in light of this, here are five things that people don’t generally know about me:

1. I cannot type the word “perhaps”..it always comes out as “peraphs” Seriously – I have to correct it. Every. Single. Time.

2. Until recently I ate kiwis like an apple – peel and all. This was born from necessity (one time I didn’t have any cutlery) and not ignorance.

3. I have an extremely difficult time watching debates, whether live, on TV, or in a movie. I become extremely anxious.

4. Despite the fact that I wanted to become a teacher – I have shied away from or backed out of every opportunity that would have led me in that direction.

5. I am really good at re-organizing things in an artistic way.

Of course there are many more, but to share everything would remove the aura of mystery that surround me. And, it could get really awkward.

This whole exercise has been interesting to think about what we share without hesitation, what we share with prompting, and what we will never reveal.

Because people (like ogres) are like onions…they both have layers.

Reverse Psychology

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Not long ago my son asked me what reverse psychology meant. This was easy enough to explain and give an example that he would understand since I practice it on a regular basis. As a parent, it a must-have tool. Like guilt.

I told him it’s when you get someone to do something that you want them to do, by suggesting they do the opposite. Like when I tell him, “It’s okay with me if you don’t do your homework. I’ve already passed grade seven.”

He understood immediately and had to point out that he knew that I didn’t really mean this, but admitted that he feels like he still has to do the right thing. He wanted me to understand that I wasn’t exercising some super-power – he knew what I was up to.

I’m okay with that. It’s still incredibly effective.

Imagine that. Despite the fact that I wasn’t guarding my secret weapon – in fact I was carefully explaining what I was doing – it still worked.

So why do we feel that we can’t do this at work? Why do we feel that we need to shroud our programs and processes in secrecy. Do we feel they will lose their value or potency if the average person figures out how they work?

Pu-leeze. A good program will work even better when everyone understands the purpose and the steps. Even if they don’t like it. So, stop doling out information like a guru on a mountain…all cryptic and incomplete.

If you want people to respect you and what you are trying to do, then respect them enough to be honest with them.

Oh, and please don’t share this with anyone. And I strongly suggest that you don’t read any of my other blog posts – they are terrible.