Stop Hiding

I had a habit of hiding in my office when things get chaotic around the office. At least when that chaos was “someone else’s problem” or responsibility. When I started to hear people getting feisty or when I heard questions being raised up and down the hall, that was my queue to close my door.

It’s my only way to get peace, quiet and to not be pulled into drama or someone else’s mess…right?

Then one day, something happened to my peace and quiet. I started to get intercepted before I could make it to my office and I was forced to be that extra assistance or the different outlook that was needed. I couldn’t not get involved anymore. I couldn’t not give input or offer to fix the issue. And these interruptions changed the way I looked at my role. 

I believe that everyone feels as if they have more to offer than they are being asked to…but when it’s time to cash in we oftentimes don’t want to be bothered. We want it both ways. We want easy and cushy, and then complain when we’re not asked to help solve the difficult. After an issue has been tackled, we run from our hiding place and gripe that we weren’t consulted. If you haven’t done that, I have. I’m guilty.

It took me leaving my current employer and then coming back to understand that I was being asked to participate in the chaos because I was trusted to bring about some order while others were scrambling. I eventually learned that throwing my hands up when I might have had THE suggestion only helped in keeping the calamity and status quo in tact. I was great at pointing out what was wrong but I was not doing enough to change it. 

What I Learned
People in leadership positions are a proud breed of people. They may not outright say, “Hey kid, we need your insight or help”, but instead casually ask your opinion in passing, ask you to make a phone call for them or hand you a document to proof. That is sometimes their way of saying, “What you think matters” without saying, “What you think matters”.  And once I jumped into one of those chaotic situations and helped to calm it down or to make sense of it, the people around me realized what I knew or said silently all of the time…I CAN do more.

If you can do more, do more. Don’t run from the difficult, don’t shy away from the challenge and don’t avoid the uncomfortable..only then to complain that you’re not being used in your workplace properly. The old adage remains, “Respect is earned, not given”, and earning it means getting our hands a little dirty more often than not. Respect is earned by staying in the midst or close to it when things don’t make sense and helping to decode it. Respect is given when our ideas aren’t held for ransom for fear that we won’t be popular, liked or politically correct. 

20140723-064044-24044763.jpgBeing counted on and accountable is tiring, it is busy and it might just make the workdays longer. But isn’t that better than flying under the radar to a point that I’m virtually insignificant and useless? Isn’t that better than my phone not ringing at all? I think so. 

We have enough of those people…the ones hiding behind their doors like I used to. Avoiding challenge but having the loudest opinions about how those forced to deal with it handled or mishandled it. The opinions and ideas voiced behind those doors do us all no good as the real work is done and real respect is earned on the other side of it.

The Managers of the Roundtable

The legendary King Arthur had a great employee engagement strategy…listen to and value the opinions of your leaders. As a result of the involvement with his team, we still speak of his conquests and successes to this day.

KnightsHere is an excerpt from my new Performance I Create article where I encourage dialogue, equality and teamwork amongst leaders:

…to force ideas on them [managers] may be ineffective because their team may need something different…

I committed to providing a forum, a monthly roundtable, where they could come together, learn from one another, share ideas and needs with HR, and leave feeling as if they were listened to and treated equally.

Click HERE for the full article and please share!

Check out my post and those of my fellow contributors for relevant, in-your-face, performance altering insight at Performance I Create!

Follow The Signs

When we want certain things so badly, it’s hard for us to read the writing on the wall that says it’s not for us.

Like in high school, when you had a major crush on that special someone, only to finally get a shot and realize they’re a jerk. Then we miserably try to make it work because that is the guy or gal that everyone else wants. That’s the situation that looks good…but it really sucks. That happens in our professional careers as well. The key though is realizing sooner rather than later that it’s OK to leave. Some things are worth the sacrifice, some things are not.

We are all fighters, and that tenacity that we have (when guided) gets us far. We never retreat when faced with a challenge. We stand for what we think is right and that is how we’ve gotten this far.

But I’ve learned that just because something is wanted, doesn’t mean that it’s needed. That place that would be “perfect if…” may not be worth the time, discomfort or struggle that it would take to make it “perfect”. And honestly, if it were perfect, our imperfect self would mess it up.

My wife and I recently visited a place where we both so wanted things to work out a certain way. Our visit was basically a decision-making one. The funny thing about that visit was that everything that caused distractions, discomfort, annoyance or passiveness over the last few years all coincidentally happened in that one trip. What were the odds? And while she is always quick to say, “That’s a sign!” when things like that happen, I actually beat her to it this time. We looked at each other and agreed, “It’s time to move on.”

There are signs that our tenure at certain places has come to an end:

  • Some relationships don’t seem as natural as they once did
  • You find yourself trying to convince yourself that you should be there
  • It’s difficult to be focused and productive because you are easily distracted or angered over the smallest things
  • Some things just don’t feel right anymore, and what used to feel natural and right has become more of a chore or burden

no-reason-to-stayI believe that the quicker we come to grips that it’s time to move forward in our personal or professional missions the easier the transition will be. When we follow the signs and read the proverbial writing on the wall, we are able to amicably part ways and focus on the future. While there are many things worth suffering and fighting through, there are others things that require us to use the right balance of emotion, logic and intuition to determine when they’re not.

Sometimes the missions of our companies do not align with our personal ones. Sometimes the values don’t mix. Sometimes, we just don’t fit. Sometimes, all parties have gotten what they needed out of the relationship and there is nothing left to achieve. And sometimes we’re all moving in different directions, and while it’s painful to part ways, that pain should fuel us to be bolder, stronger and more committed to those things we deem worthy of the fight.

Is Technology The Answer?

Have you ever had a manager say, “Research the best program that will fix X,Y & Z.” and you want to say, “We just need to fix you/us first!”? 

When processes are broken, we want to immediately automate. When people are not doing what’s expected, we think technology is the magic solution. When we can’t get organized, we run to the app store on our tablets or the vendor with the flashiest presentation. At the end of the day, we must understand that you cannot automate inefficiency (you can tweet that if you’d like).

Now I love automation, but I’m aware enough of my own inefficiencies to know that an app or a new form won’t automatically make me productive. Software does not excuse or cover up my weaknesses. Using technology to mask or cover up laziness, poor management and cowardice to champion change will not work. If there is a process that is fundamentally flawed and we input that jacked up info or process into a new shiny system, we will simply go from a mess to an automated mess. 

Automation can assist in getting us on track or to make things quicker, but a solid foundation has to be laid first:

  • Departments must be on the same page about what they are trying to accomplish
  • Groups must clearly define what they want “success” to look like
  • Expectations and standards must be clearly established and communicated to employees

Let me offer an example of how my organization got it right. As a government entity, every personnel action requires multiple levels of approval from various offices. The old process entailed physically signing off on documents, mailing it around to the different offices until it got to HR for final approval and processing. This process generally worked, but it was slow, papers would get lost under piles on desks and it was difficult to hold people accountable for doing their part. 

First knowing exactly what needed to be done, we found a company that could automate this process, allowing actions to be approved electronically, move through a database to the next decision maker, complete with email notification of what needed to be done and when. With this system, we were able to see exactly where each action was at all times and who to call if their was a bottleneck in the process. Ultimately, actions that use to take months to complete could be done in a matter of hours or a few days.

When companies first identify exactly what they are trying to accomplish and learn how to effectively manage it, thousands of dollars and countless hours trying to force broken processes into new shiny computer programs can be saved. 

circuitboardTechnology should be used to enhance processes and systems that already have a workable foundation, or at the very least a team of people that are dedicated to getting it right…not just trying to make it paperless. Technology should not be a bandage for a broken leg. We have to put a splint on that leg, develop processes to keep it from breaking again and then enhance it with technology that makes sense for what we specifically do or need done. 

So before we run out and spends thousands of dollars on new toys and the latest and greatest from a conference (be careful my #SHRM14 peeps), lets invest in the basics first; clear communication, creativity when tackling issues and holding the right people accountable…because if we can’t do that before the tech, we’re probably not going to successfully do it after the tech.

The Productive Days of Summer

Today I’m posting over at Performance I Create, where we are discussing the summertime and ways to remain productive during what many view as “down” months. Here is a sample…

Beach toysWe are conditioned to take breaks from June to August. From an early age, we’ve learned that when the mercury begins to rise and days begin to get longer, we have less responsibility and objective number one is to chill.  But we’re older now and…

…we have a perfect opportunity to plan and develop training for the Fall, get our budgets in order, catch up on performance evaluations…all those things “we’re too busy” to do during the rest of the year. 

Click HERE for the full article and please share!

Check out my post and those of my fellow contributors for relevant, in-your-face, performance altering insight at Performance I Create!

When The Phone Stops Ringing

I so often hear complaints about the amount of calls and questions we get in our Human Resources departments, but what if they stopped coming? 

I’m guilty sometimes too. From time to time I let out a huge sigh or say, “What now?!?!” before I pick up the phone, but I remind myself quickly of one major thing before I answer it to get me in the right head space. Human Resources should be the epitome of Customer Service.

Clients (internal or external) don’t constantly call people they don’t trust or can’t depend on. Every call we get is an opportunity to not only help make a difference, but an opportunity to put our offices on the positive map and boost confidence in our service.

We teach customer service to company employees, but we aren’t exempt from delivering the same level of treatment that we preach. We should welcome the calls and questions, as being the first line of defense helps eliminate the issues where we are the last line of defense. When responding to client issues, it’s important for us to not sound as if we are doing them a favor or as if we are being inconvenienced…because it’s far more inconvenient when we have to deal with escalated situations that could have been avoided had we gotten involved sooner.

Remembering these things helps me to clear up that little attitude I may have before answering calls and reminds me to answer that phone or reply to that email with the very level of service that I expect when I reach out to someone for help. 

Even when we don’t think that we operate in a Customer Service role, everything we do…and more importantly how we do things affects and impacts someone else. This huge responsibility is motivation to be the resource that we have been called to be to our employees and in our organizations. Making someone else’s day will almost always help to make yours as well.

ringing-phoneWhen the phone stops ringing and the email notifications are no longer popping up, it could quite possibly mean that we are no longer on the radar…that what we have to say is no longer welcomed or relevant in the eyes of our public, or that no one wants to deal with us because we are just plain rude. And when we are no longer relevant and no one is depending on us for the answers or assistance, we have at some point failed and fallen short of our purpose, which should include treating every person as a valued customer while contributing positively to the bottom lines of our companies.

Does Your Performance Stack Up, Part II

After discussing Performance Evaluations a few weeks ago at Performance I Create, the wonderful folks at Local Job Network reached out to me for a radio interview to discuss the topic further.

blocksWhile I hate my recorded voice, I agreed to do the interview because there are organizations and managers that need a little extra motivation and new ideas on how to prepare for and execute the dreaded Annual Review.

While I do not consider myself the authority on the subject, I’ve seen firsthand how evaluations can turn troubled employees into top performers. I’ve seen the disengaged become leaders with the right feedback.

Please take a few minutes to listen to the full interview HERE and please share!

Thank you so much for listening and for always supporting me as I strive to bring relevance and practicality to management and Human Resources.