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


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.


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.

What the world needs more of: constant reminders and a POP of colour!

Do you know what phrase irritates the hell out of me? ” POP of colour”.  As in, “Hey, do you know what this room needs? A POP of colour!”

Not just a dash, splash or a bit…but a POP of colour!  And yes, the uppercase letters and exclamation marks are mandatory because you have to say it like you’re reading a comic book out loud. (KAPOW!)

Another thing people say that is almost as irritating: “everyone can be replaced”.

I am not disputing the fact that you can replace people in the physical sense.  Ask anyone involved in recruitment…they can have a body in the chair by the end of the week.

I take exception to the fact that some organizations, and by default many managers, feel that this is something worth reminding their employees or openly operating under that premise.  I have heard (and been told) that it’s wise not to get too comfortable in your job because after all… everyone can be replaced.

Well now, that is motivating.  Nothing like knowing that my status is on par with the toner cartridge in the copier.

It’s true, items can be replaced.  Equally true, people can be replaced.    But the impact of telling an office chair that there’s a good chance that it might not be there  next fiscal is probably a lot easier than telling the same to the person sitting in it.

You do not need to stop replacing people when it’s necessary.

What you need to do is stop looking at your employees as though they have dotted lines around their profiles.  You need to stop referring to them only as FTEs, PYs, Boxes, or Seats rather than employees or people.

I realize that in putting this out there, I might ruffle the feathers of a few budget-loving spreadsheet huggers out there who are rolling their eyes about all this  people-loving bullshit.

I’m okay with it if you don’t like it. After all, even you can be replaced.

Drawn to distraction

With the recent stiffer legislation targeting distracted drivers from talking and texting while driving, I couldn’t help but stop to consider is this enough.

We are such an incredibly distracted society.

We have been led to believe and have completely bought the idea that more is better.  Why do only one thing, when you can do two or even three.

Why drive from A to B, when you can do that AND organize a meeting, or go over today’s numbers or referee an argument between your kids or catch up on the latest neighbourhood gossip.

Apparently, at the current rate, distracted driving is set to become the leading contributor to deaths over impaired driving and speeding.

As disturbing as this is, that’s not the part the haunts me.  For me it’s  almost compulsive need of people to always being doing something.  Even when they are doing something.

In a completely unofficial observation during my drives to and from work, I pass quite a few people standing at bus stops or walking along the side-walk.  Well over 50%, and I even want to push this up to like 75%, are talking on the phone, texting or staring at a screen.  My absolute favourite is the mom (or caretaker) pushing a stroller, pulling along a dog on a leash, and talking to whoever is on the other end of her phone.  Now that’s maximizing your time.

Indulge me just a bit more, because it’s not just the drivers and pedestrians who are guilty of this.  I look at my son (and all the other 15-year old boys that he represents). He is never beyond 2 metres of his iPod and/or laptop.  By the way, in case you didn’t know, these are meant to be complimentary devices.  You see, the game on the iPod is very useful in filling the empty void created by the laptop downloading a movie on Netflix.

TV viewers are encouraged to watch shows while simultaneously following on their ipads so they can get the behind the scenes, Twitter feed, and Instagram photos that completely overshadow the actual program.

Lest I sound like some grumpy Gen-X who wants to go back to good old days of Cassettes and Atari.  I love technology, I like the windows it opens (he he), and I have gleefully participated in a FB feed that was 100% more entertaining than the actual presenter we were skewering.

I am not talking about enhancing and get the most out of an event or activity, I am talking about filling space and time just because you can.

What has really made me aware of all this is that I recently got my motorcycle license and have been cruising around the area.  Let me tell you, there is absolutely no room for distraction on a bike.  None.  On a bike you have to compensate for everything and everyone around you.  You have to notice that the person in front of you is staring at their crotch again (people, you are not fooling anyone) and you have to realize that buddy in the next lane who has his phone to his ear does not see you.

But the bonus of all this is that because I am focused solely on driving, it is absolutely liberating and calming.  I can’t think about work, my kids or any number of things that I need to remind myself to do.  Things that I would either try to mull over or drown out with the radio in my car.  Things that I am sure other people try to resolve while they are driving or walking.

We seem to naturally gravitate towards distraction.

Ultimately, distraction has consequences – whether it’s not noticing that your kid dropped their stuffy from the stroller as you discussed what you were going to bring to the potluck, or not catching that you were suppose to finish the draft report and send it by the end of day because you were IM-ing your colleague as you listened to your client on the phone, or maybe it’s blowing through a red light because you had to see who just sent you a text…

You can only hope that what you miss is easily retrieved.

Better yet, you can learn to focus on and enjoy what you are doing.