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Monday, August 22, 2011

Work/Life Balance? What the heck does that mean?

I just returned from an awesome 4 day seminar at The Kripalu Yoga Resort that I decided to go to in the middle of a two week "stay-cation."

You see, my trip to Italy to rejuvenate my soul was superseded by the need to replace all the windows in my condo before winter comes again and I was BURNT OUT! Being a burnt out HR person is not a good thing.  It means that you are trying so hard to keep yourself together on a day-to-day basis that you don't take the time to look around you, appreciate the wonderful people that you work with, and live your life in service the way that HR people are inclined to do.  I hope that we all got into this field because we love people and we want the best for them.  But, for me, life had become a very crabby place and I just knew that I had to take some time off to recharge.  So, not able to afford a luxurious vacation in Italy (or any vacation in Italy), I decided to take two weeks off and stay at home.  I have a wonderful pool at my condo complex, I own a blender and a membership with Massage Envy, so I figured that I could re-create a luxurious vacation right here!

With this planned, one of the Senior Executives at work told me about Kripalu.  I checked out the website and found a program that sounded like just the ticket for me - and just like that - I jumped in the car and headed to Massachusetts!

It was wonderful!  And, I realized something.  Work/Life balance doesn't simply mean being able to balance your job, workouts, childcare and relationships.  It also means that you need to take the time to take care of your mind and soul in a non-work-related way ; to get your head in the right place so you can start caring for other people again.

After 3 hours of yoga a day, morning meditation, good food in my body, talking to all sorts of people who had different perspectives on life, and a new book called "Exquisite Love" by William Mahony who led the discussions at my program at Kripalu.  As long as you are comfortable with exploring lessons from other religions that may be different from your own, I highly recommend delving into it.  His lessons were fabulous. I came back feeling full of love and gratitude for everything I have - my home, my pets, my friends, my family and job!  I was reminded of why I love HR as a profession in the first place.

I have another week of stay-cation to go and am going to enjoy that pool and blender, but I have reminded myself that I need to take care of the "soul" side of me in order to be truly great at what I do.  How do you take care of you?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Performance Evaluations: Love 'em or Lose 'em?

This has been a fairly common debate recently and I know a lot of companies that have just said that the performance evaluation process stinks and have decided to "lose it" all together.  Here's why I think that's a bad idea.

People need to know where they stand
We all have a desire to get positive feedback, sure...we know that.  But people also want to know where they stand.  Positive feedback is not enough, we all have room to grow, and we need to hear that information from our bosses.  We might have an idea - and that "idea" could be correct, or it could be completely off base.

Self-assessment is important
Asking your direct reports about where they feel they are excelling and where they feel they have room to grow will show you if you are aligned or not.  One of my direct reports once told me that she thought that her accuracy could be better.  That was the least of my concerns (of which there were few), but come to find out, she really was feeling less than confident in her writing ability.  Knowing that, we can arrange for some writing classes to help boost her confidence, and I can tell her that accuracy is something that I'm not as concerned with (she was actually doing a great job!). 

It doesn't have to be a "process"
Making a performance "review" into a few simple questions that you talk to your people about is all it takes.  My suggestion:
  • Where am I doing great?
  • Where do I have room to improve?
  • How are we going to work together in the next few months to help my development?
Take some responsibility
As a manager, you have a responsibility to help develop your employees and they appreciate that you: 1) recognize this, and 2) that you're going to commit to doing something to help them.

That's all it takes!  Easy, eh?

I found that when I do this with my folks, they really appreciate it and it only takes about an hour and a half of our time - total. 
  • 30 min for them to write a "self-review" (I told them not to spend more time on it than this - just put their thoughts out on the table).
  • 30 min for me to write up my review.  After all, I am their manager.  Hopefully I know them well enough to quickly address these issues head on.  If not, as in the case of a new direct report due to transfer, I can reach out to others in the organization with the same questions for a little 360 help.
  • 30 min to meet and talk about it.
Done with great results!  I hope it works for you!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Growing Without Losing Yourself

I've been doing some talking to companies in high-growth mode lately. How do you grow very rapidly without losing who you are as a company?

In high-growth mode, recruiting would seem to be the most important HR function - the business demands that you get people in the door.  However, if you fall down after that, you'll find that your efforts have been in vain and you'll lose those people and will have to do that work all over again!  In the process, morale can be damanged, your culture can suffer and productivity will definitely take a hit.  So how can we prevent this from happening?

There are many other critical areas for HR to think about:
  • Great onboarding
  • Job training
  • Culture
  • Communication
  • Feedback systems
  • Development
But, the most important thing is good management.  We simply cannot do enough management training.  Consistently improving managers' ability to motivate their employees through making their jobs meaningful, providing regular honest and encouraging feedback, recognition of a job well done and day-to-day interest in the worker will most likely have the greatest impact - much larger than the also important list above.

And managers need help with this.  People management is probably the most difficult part of any managers job, yet probably the part that they receive the least amount of training on.  We train managers to create budgets, become great project managers, learn the business model, and participate in new product ideas and lines of business.  Yet, we expect people to somehow intrinsically "know" the hardest part of the job - dealing with human behavior.

This soft side, this part of the job with so much gray area, where everyone is different and we cannot draw simple conclusions is daunting.  It's where I find most managers asking for help and most organizations failing to provide enough of it.  Managers need to know your company's HR policies well, who to go to for help, appropriate processes to follow to make sure that their employees needs aren't falling through the cracks.  They need to learn how to give effective feedback to all kinds of people (the "sandwich" method doesn't work for everyone).  They need to know how to find out what motivates each of their employees so that they can ensure that their work is meaningful to them.  All of this requires training, practice, role playing and mentorship.  And that's where we need to focus a bulk of our efforts and resources.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I've Fired Myself!

I love the Harvard Business Review.  It's normally my first "go to" for management related articles and I've just finished a great one.

Why You Should Fire Yourself by Ron Ashkenas explains that the beginning of a new year is a great time to fire yourself in your mind, think about what you would do to reapply for your new job and then think about whether you'd hire yourself again.  I love this exercise and it really got me thinking about my department, our goals, my performance and my career.  So, I've fired myself!

I took a long look at my own performance and behavior and found one his statements to be very true of me, which is, "Even when we intellectually understand that the world has changed and we need to do things differently, it's difficult to let go.  We become invested in what we've created and how we've learned to do things."  In my case, I may dig my heels in even deeper.

So firing myself to achieve some distance was a good first step and now I'm in the process of reapplying.  In taking a look at our department and the company as an outsider, I see things very differently.  The things that frustrate me as an "insider" seem very cool and progressive from a fresh perspective.  Knowing what I know now, I probably would approach my application process a little differently than I did the first time and talk to more people before accepting the job. 

Hey, that's something I can do now!  Imagine so to speak.  I think I'll go out and do that over the next couple of weeks and I'll let you know if I get the job.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Does Management Matter?

This question of management and leadership is one that I think is really important.  As I continue to develop my management courses, it occurred to me that I'm going to have to convince people that this "management stuff" actually adds value.  I'm not saying that leadership is not crucial, because it is!  However, the management piece cannot be left out of the equation.

Here are some articles that I found today that discuss the topic:

- Managers vs. Leaders - Robert Tanner explains that, "managers ask the 'how' and 'who' questions," and "leaders ask the 'what' and 'why' questions in an organization."  I thought that this was a great distinction and something that was recently brought to my attention.  I tend to jump straight to trying to answer those operational questions of "how" and "who" as soon as ideas are presented.  All of these questions are important, but people who think managerially can drive leaders crazy with constantly wanting to discuss the implementation of their ideas. 
- Why Isn't My Leader Great - Lee Cockerell says that one of the traits that we should ensure that our leaders have is that they are good managers.  This reinforces something that I have always believed.  He does stress that you can't get bogged down in your management responsibilities.  Good point.

- It Takes Leadership - As the title would suggest, this article is about the importance of leadership but also makes several points about the importance of management.  Such as, "Leadership is something people need, whereas a process is something that can be managed. Both are necessary to make and implement decisions effectively, and to execute strategy."

More to come...