The Point of Impact

I am not really a big fan of conferences.

First of all, they frequently involve large groups of people and as a general rule that’s something I try to avoid.

Next, they often bill themselves as learning sessions which quickly turn out to be “let me teach you how to buy my products and/or services sessions”. Honestly. Didn’t I spend enough just getting to and through the door?

I’ll admit that I have been known to mock HR conferences because seriously,how many HR conferences are there in the U.S.?! And how do people find the time to go to all of these?

But the truth?

I’m probably just a wee bit jealous because as I sit at work surreptitiously checking my Twitter stream, I’m reading about what all the cool kids are doing at this week’s conference. And then I have to read about all the blog posts that follow the conference. And by the time I get over that one…there’s another friggin conference and I have a well salted wound.

However, now it’s my time. Oh yes.

I was recommended by fellow bloggers and Twitter-folk to check out the Impact99 summit in Toronto. Not only was it pretty much in my backyard (compared to say Las Vegas), but it would let me meet some people I had been in touch with.

Given the ambitious goal of tackling re-invention of the workplace in a 1-day conference, I have to admit that I was unsure of what to expect. And truthfully, I’m still not 100% sure what I actually got. I’m still digesting the messages, the tweets, and my own thoughts.

What I wanted to do at Impact99 was listen to and talk to others who are connected, creative, and more daring in terms of their workplace. And with this, I was very successful – the energy of the people I met was contagious.

Impact99 let you take away as much or as little as you wanted. You could sit on the fringe and observe or you could dive right into the revival waters and emerge a new person. It was large enough to offer up quality speakers, but small enough that you didn’t get lost in the shuffle.

At one point, we were challenged to take away one thing, one idea we wanted to implement, pair up with someone at your table and tell them what thing is idea is and commit to follow-up with this person.

There were 5 people at my table.

Even a room full of HR people can do the math to see that one person was going to be left talking to herself. Fortunately I am extremely familiar and comfortable with doing just that.

So I committed to myself that I needed to be more aware of my tendency to revert to rigid thinking about what defines hard-working and productive, when it applies to others. I pinkie-swore that if I didn’t do this, I would owe myself a bottle of wine.

You can see how this was a complete win-win situation for me.

Truthfully, I didn’t go to Impact99 with the aim to transform myself or my organization. Neither of us are quite ready for that. However, we are both open to ideas.

I compare it to flipping through a fashion mag and seeing a great outfit. You’re not going to run out and buy the entire outfit. However, the look is going to inspire how you might be able to mange something similar with what is in your own wardrobe, with maybe an addition or two. After all, a gal has to stay relevant.

And so it’s now a few days later and I’m back at work. It’s time to look at what our company has with fresh eyes and see how I might be able to suggest a new way of using what we already have…with maybe an addition or two. After all, an organization has to stay relevant.

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Help: the other four-letter word

Sometimes the hardest thing to do is the most obvious.

Why is this?

Is it hard because we know the “solution” is so damn obvious that everyone (including your mother) has pointed it out, but yet we can’t bring ourself to actually to what needs to be done.

Like asking for help.

We are all guilty of this one. Whether it’s pride, ignorance, or fear…we’ve all held back asking for help.

  • Maybe you didn’t know who to ask.
  • Maybe you didn’t know what to ask.
  • Or maybe you didn’t want to admit that you are not perfect.

Let me offer you some help (not that you asked) on that last point – you are not perfect. Done. Move on.

Asking for help is one of the most adult things that you can possible do.  It’s never easy to do and requires regular practice.

There are many quasi-adults swimming around in the fishbowl we called world who have not learned this lesson. They struggle, they bang their head against walls and desks, and they remain adamant that only they can do their job/ the project/ handle the client.

And then they have the gall to look offended when it doesn’t work out.

But let me ask you:

Did you get the help you needed?  Probably not.

Did you ask for the help you needed? Most certainly not.

And for the record, yes I know I may sound rather smug by saying…just do it. There are so many circumstances, factors, reasons, and excuses (yes, excuses) why you just can’t “do it”.  But it’s a matter of choice.  Just like it’s a choice to go it alone or assume that you can’t ask for help.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of maturity, awareness, and confidence.  But here’s the catch – it has to come from you.

It’s your move.

(This post is somewhat of an open letter to my daughter, who is struggling with this, but I fully recognize that it’s completely applicable to many, many others.  Including myself).

A matter of common sense

My husband can be very funny, which is one of the top 5 reasons why he is so awesome. Another reason is that he has this phenomenal ability to cut straight to the chase; he doesn’t get hung up on niceties, over-analysis, or silly things like being PC.

Of course, this same reason is also on the list of top 5 things he does that make me cringe.

Sometimes he manages to combine the two things, which is brilliant.

He is an EMS worker, which leads people to assume that he is a walking medical dictionary. Rarely does a family event go by without someone asking his opinion on a rash, a sore shoulder, or a persistent cough. They often will ask him how he would “treat” them if they had called the ambulance…his response always cracks me up: “I would throw you in the back of the vehicle and drive you to the hospital”.

Does that sound callous? It shouldn’t.

Think about what he is trained to do – provide acute medical treatment, remove patient from danger, and ultimately transport to the hospital.

He is more qualified to help you if you have severed a leg or are suffering from a heart attack than if you have persistent itch or a headache (and yes, people do call ambulances for these reasons).

It’s not that he’s not an intelligent or highly capable person – he is, but rather it’s a matter of common sense. You don’t do what you can’t (or are not allowed to) do.

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Admittedly, my job is less impressive at cocktail parties. I don’t save lives. I don’t get to drive 130 km/hour with lights and sirens. And I don’t get to wear a stethoscope.

However from time to time, someone will ask what I do and when I reveal that I work in HR, they will say something like: “Oh, I applied to a job 6-months ago with Company XYZ and I never heard anything back / or didn’t get the job. Do you know why?”

Huh?

Or they will tell me about an “HR-related” problem they are having at work. And what it boils down to is that their manager told them to get work done and they felt that was unreasonable. Or their cubicle-mate is a selfish a-hole who eats fish at lunch and wears too much perfume. And they will ask me why their HR people aren’t doing anything about this, even after they made a complaint.

Le sigh.

First of all, I cannot speak for other company’s HR people or recruiting processes. Every company’s approach, culture, policies, whatever…are different. It’s true. We are not all the same.

Secondly, do you know what your HR person’s role is at the organization? Ask them. However, I can assure you, it’s not to allow you the freedom to abdicate being an adult and dealing with your own problems.

I can share my opinion and experience. I will admit that there are crappy HR practices and people out there. But I really shouldn’t comment on and give you sound HR advice without knowing more of the details.

It’s not a matter of training or education, it’s a matter of common sense.

Rowe-ing with one oar

So did you see what I did up there in the title?

Clever girl.

Honestly, that is why I get paid the moderate but respectable bucks that I do.

Have you heard of ROWE? No? Allow me to assist you in removing the large rock that you have been living under.

Okay, better?

About 6 years ago, in a galaxy far, far away from HR I worked in the R&D group for a manufacturing company. The organization, like many at that time, was keen to adopt the principles of Lean Manufacturing. As part of this, they were committed to tackling 5S, which I sum up as (Clean up your friggin’ mess). In fact, I was so passionate about 5S that I was asked to lead the initiative.

Awesomesauce.

Could there be anything more fun than going into employees’ “houses” (cubicles, offices, work areas) and telling them that we are going to go through every single thing in here and decide whether it stays or goes. And then we are going to organize the shit out of it. And then you are going to keep it that way. And we will check. Regularly.

I was extremely popular during this time.

On the plus side, my transition to HR was a breeze.

Ultimately, despite the pissing and moaning, we got through the process and it was successful. It wasn’t easy getting everyone’s buy-in, but we managed to get everyone to participate and the improvement was visible and undeniable.

The fact of the matter is that I had to have everyone on-board. I could not have done it by myself. I couldn’t have done it even with a small group of devotees.

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So back to ROWE (I know, you thought I had forgotten about it).

I like the principles of ROWE – it speaks to how I would like to work and what kind of environment I think could be successful. It’s also very scary.

Our organization is not ROWE and I don’t believe it will ever be because you have to approach it from an all-in perspective. You can’t just pick and choose who will or will not be able to participate. It completely defeats the purpose.

However, despite this I am trying to apply some of the concepts to my own work and get my Director familiar and comfortable with the idea. Of course, my tactic has always been to ask for stuff…the worst thing that could happen is that they say no. So far, so good.

Unfortunately, not everyone will let it pass. I work with quite a few people who equate time at work with productivity. I have seen people come in, do sweet nothing, and then leave. And yet they are considered good little soldiers because they showed up on time and didn’t leave before they were suppose to. AND they are quick to point out when others are not in the office.

This frustrates me to no end.

So I am ROWE-ing a boat with only one oar and as long as I’m in this position, I’m doomed to go in circles.