Last week I took a vacation with my family to enjoy the lovely beaches of south Alabama. I was able to squeeze in a little reading, and here are the fruits of that labor. Today we have book review on Leadership in the Crucible of Work: Discovering the Interior Life of an Authentic Leader by Sandy Shugart, PhD (Amazon).

leadership crucible work sandy shugartThe book was interesting, and I read it like I mentioned in my previous post on reading for leaders. Here are a few insights from the book:

  • Sometimes followers are as important as the leaders. The author talks about the importance of having a clear, strong leader in musical ensembles–an example I’ve never considered previously. Leaders jumping up to “take the reins” in those situations would hamper performance, not improve it.
  • I think I wrote about this another time, but it bears repeating: leaders should ask themselves “Am I seeking genuine commitment from my associates, or deep down do I only want compliance?” There is a major difference in the two, and it would do us all well to think about the people we lead. How can we best garner commitment from them without forcing them into a mindset where they must comply blindly?
  • Bouncing off the previous comment, if you truly want commitment, are you willing to give it yourself? Like so many things (respect, attention, value) when you want something, you have to offer it to others before it can be returned to you.
  • Do you truly believe in the talent of those you lead? Do you believe they are great at what they do? Because if you spend all of your time thinking, “I could do that job better than them if I had time,” then you’ll never have a great team. And if they truly are not that great, consider replacing them. It’s not worth it to walk around all the time second guessing people.
  • This quote:

The most dangerous thing about communication is the illusion it occurred.

  • A note on the price of experience: “We run to the familiar. This is the price of expertise, the loss of the innocence of a beginner for whom nothing is familiar and so all choices are still possible.
  • And finally, a note on collaboration. We hear the word often and are expected to just “know” what it means. But it doesn’t have the same definition in the mind of each person (hint: for some it looks like an opportunity for micromanagement under the veil of collaborative working). The author’s comment on it made me stop and consider my own method of defining what collaboration looks like: collaboration enlarges leaders and those being led; micromanagement diminishes both.

So, if you’re looking for a book on leadership with some good, thought-provoking takeaways, you might consider checking out Leadership in the Crucible of Work: Discovering the Interior Life of an Authentic Leader by Sandy Shugart, PhD (Amazon link).

dr ben carson leadership wisdomLast week I had the chance to see Dr. Ben Carson speak at an event. For clarity, this was a faith-based event, not a political one. I have seen the movie Gifted Hands twice (highly recommended!), and I was excited to hear some of his story in his own words. I picked up four pieces of wisdom on leading people and wanted to share those insights here.

Defining Diversity

Diversity is not a unanimity of speech or thought. It’s a respect for the differences around us.

We don’t all have to believe and say the same things to be diverse. What we must do, though, is respect others. Everyone is different from you in some way, even if it’s in terms of what music they listen to, what foods they like, etc. Respect those differences and the larger ones that still can permeate workplace decisions (color, gender, etc.)

Leading Technical People

Sometimes when leading technical people you won’t understand 100% of what they do. What is important, however, is to make them realize you appreciate and support them anyway. Carson’s mother made him read books and write reports for her to critique. The kicker? She couldn’t read.

She knew the importance of reading for learning growth and knew the skill was important enough to emphasize. She would highlight the papers and ask questions to help them realize that she cared about the assignments.

Motivating Others

At one point early in his career Carson was appointed supervisor of a road cleanup crew. The problem, he said, was that the crew wasn’t interested in doing any work! They were paid by the hour with a goal of 100 bags per day, so he negotiated with the team to pick up 100 bags for eight hours of pay plus any time saved. For instance, if they picked up the 100 bags of trash in six hours, they were paid for eight hours of work and got to go home early.

He said that his crew quickly became the most productive and others couldn’t understand how his team was doing more work than the others in less time.

How to Be Successful

Mr. Carson finished his remarks with this powerful quote:

Success is using your God-given talents to elevate other people.

I firmly agree. We all have unique skills, abilities, and talents. We should look for opportunities where our greatest passion meets our greatest strength and make the world better. It wouldn’t make much sense for me to try to build homes for people–that’s not my skill set. But planning a charity race? I am all over it. What’s your talent and how can you use it to elevate others?

the front line leaderRecently I read The Front Line Leader by Chris Van Gorder while I was on a flight. Usually when I’m flying I take something fun/entertaining to keep my attention, but I needed to knock down my review pile so I grabbed this one.

I’m so glad I did.

I read it from cover to cover and made dozens of notes as I did. In short: this book is one of the best and most interesting that I have read in several years. It highlights Chris’ role as the CEO of Scripps Health Network and how he leads the organization, some of the practices they use, and loads of other interesting things about this innovative organization. Get your own copy.

The Front Line Leader Video Review

(email subscribers click through to view the video)  Continue reading

What’s on your leadership reading list?

No thanks, I read a book on leadership already. What else do you recommend?

Someone dropped that comment in a conversation recently, and I wanted to take some time today to dispel this notion about leadership books, courses, content, etc. The concept?

Once you’ve learned about leadership, you don’t need to know any more.

leadership book reading listIf it sounds silly to you to see it spelled out like that, I’d have to agree. Learning about this stuff isn’t a one-time thing. It’s like the great Zig always said: People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily.

Different Readers and Different Leaders

Last year I put together a book club to help some local HR leaders by exposing them to good resources and adding in a networking opportunity. One of the neat things I learned was that even if ten of us read the same book, everyone walks away with different ideas that speak to them and their own situations.

In a similar vein, every leadership book is different, because they are all authored by leaders with different experiences, backgrounds, and beliefs. A book on my leadership reading list this month was authored by a former police officer who is now the CEO of a health organization. The insights and ideas I get from his writing are different from those that I get from John Maxwell, Napoleon Hill, and other authors.

Those two perspectives (both the reader and the leader) offer an exciting opportunity: virtually unlimited options for learning and growing as leaders! Continue reading

For some, attitude presents a difficulty in every opportunity; for others, it presents an opportunity in every difficulty. -John Maxwell

Recently I received a copy of How High Will You Climb: Determine Your Success by Cultivating the Right Attitude by John Maxwell to review, and I had to stop for a second. I’ve heard many great things about John Maxwell, but I have never really read one of his books cover to cover. I’m a big believer in attitude determining results, so this seemed like the right book to jump into. Below you’ll find some of my notes and highlights as well as a recommendation on whether or not you should invest in your own copy.

Notes from How High Will You Climb

how high will you climb book coverThe premise of the book is that your attitude determines your altitude. If your attitude is excellent, your altitude (results) will be as well. If your attitude stinks, you can expect similar results.

  • Testing… Testing… Not sure where you stand right now? Here’s how you do a quick attitude check: do you feel the world is treating you well? How you perceive the rest of the world will affect the ultimate results you receive. Note: this is very similar to the locus of control theory post I did previously. Good stuff.
  • 88% of success is… The Stanford Research Institute says that the money you make in any endeavor (which I translate as a measure of success) is determined only 12.5% by knowledge and 87.5% by your ability to deal with people. Those interactions with people aren’t a “nice to have” addition to the deal–they are the deal. Make them worthwhile and it will pay off for you in the long run. In a word: serve. Be willing to serve others with no expectation that it will come back around. And then if/when it does, you’ll appreciate it that much more.
  • Stop hugging the trunk and get out there where the fruit is. There was a great analogy about risk aversion and a lack of success. If you want to have/be/do something worthwhile, you’ll have to inject some risk into your life. Try that class you’ve been considering. Take up that hobby you left behind. Try something new and exciting. Get away from the trunk and get to the fruit. It’s waiting for you.
  • Proclaimer… (Hint: it’s like a disclaimer, but I’m proud enough to make it a proclaimer instead. Yeah, I’m nerdy.) This book is faith-based, but that faith is what makes people like us (the author, me, and millions of others) tick. Some people are motivated purely by relationships, others by money, fame, etc. I’m motivated to do my best because it’s what I’m supposed to do. And that service thing I mentioned earlier in the post? That’s a big part of it. I’m not a great guy. I’m just a guy. But because of my faith, I have the opportunities to do great things to make the world a better place. ‘Nuf said.

Closing Thoughts

So, if any of the thoughts, notes, and ideas above appeal to you on some level, this is probably a book you’d enjoy. It’s quite short. Not quite enough to finish in one sitting, but within a day or two you can walk away with your own key takeaways.

Anyone else read it? What are your thoughts? Any thoughts on John Maxwell in general? 

goal of hr management

With over 800 posts in the archives, I know some of you have missed some good stuff over the years. I’m going to test out publishing some of these regularly to breathe some new life into the content and give you guys a chance to check them out. Enjoy!

AKA How HR management facilitates corporate and staff goals

In my time in the HR profession, I have had the pleasure of working with some leaders that taught me the importance of solid HR and how that looks in the day-to-day running of the business. Supporting leadership, managers, and employees is the primary goal for me as a human resource professional, though the “how” of that support can vary greatly by situation.

The most basic goal my performance is rated on? Helping the organization solve its problems through better people practices. 

Recently I wrote about HR bringing solutions vs problems. I had some good feedback on the topic, so I wanted to offer a few examples of how to put some of the ideas into action. Here’s a refresh:

It’s time to be proactive. Start looking for ways you can cut costs, streamline your functions, save time for managers, etc. Look for some solutions to age-old problems, not just new ones. Not sure where to start? Ask some of your managers what their biggest pain points are with regard to the HR or recruiting processes. Ask your senior leaders what their biggest concerns are at a corporate level. Then take that information and use it.

Want to know the fastest, easiest way to prove the value of the HR department? Solve a problem that plagues the management team. Yes, it seems simple, but it is often overlooked because HR tends to exist in its own little “bubble” and never takes the time to actually find out what the business needs are from the HR function.

Let’s look at a few ways to find these underlying issues and consider ways to solve them.

Problem #1 Recruiting Time

Situation: The manager comes to you complaining that the length of the recruiting process is forcing her to be less productive and is straining her team. She wants to have more candidates to pick from and she wants them hired faster to reduce the amount of pressure placed on her and her staff while they are shorthanded.

Potential Solutions:

  • Look at the recruiting process. Where do the longest wait times take place? Is it when the job is posted? Is it when you are waiting on the manager to schedule interviews? Figure it out and work to reduce the time needed for those specific steps.
  • Coach the hiring manager (and the hiring team) on how to be better interviewers. Better selection means less chance of turnover and having to go through the interview process all over again.
  • Define the ballpark cost of a bad hire for your organization. Then share that information with the hiring manager as a solid reason not to rush through the process.

Problem #2 Performance Management Process

Situation: one of the senior leadership team approaches you with the idea that you should stop using the current paper-based performance management process due to the burden it places on managers and staff and the lack of clear return on the time invested in the process. He thinks you should be able to talk normally and not have to sign a piece of paper to make it “official.”

Potential Solutions:

  • If you have previous lawsuits that utilized the performance management process as a piece of evidence, pull that information together. Oftentimes when managers go through the motions (giving everyone a “meets expectations” rating even when they don’t, for instance), that blows up in their face when it’s time to go to court. Show how that could have been used to defend the company’s point of view if handled correctly.
  • Find some of the statistics on organizational success as it ties to flowing goals from the corporate level to an individual level. For instance, one of my previous corporate goals was “Deliver On Time, Every Time.” In my own role, that could be distilled into responding to employee requests within 48 hours, getting all reporting (EEO-1, VETS-100, etc.) turned in 2-3 weeks early, or something else entirely. I’ve seen statistics that show companies who do this sort of flow-down process are more likely to be successful/profitable–find those numbers and use them to back up your suggestions.
  • A good middle ground solution would be keeping the process, but making it leaner and more flexible. What if you reduce a four-page form to only a page while keeping the critical elements intact? What if you find a performance management system that saves your staff time and effort and eliminates the need for paper forms?

Problem #3 New Hire Orientation

Situation: You are seeing a steady climb in the turnover of staff with less than 6 months of experience on the job. With at least a general idea of the amount of money the turnover is costing the organization, you decide that you need to research the issue and come up with a few potential ideas to solve the problem, then brief your management team to get some guidance. In your research, you find out that some of the policies that were highlighted in the orientation session are not being followed by some managers.

Potential Solutions:

  • You take the information about managers skipping orientation sessions back to the leadership team with the suggestion to sit and explain the issue and the cost of the turnover with the managers who are not following the rules.
  • Furthermore, you find out that some of the managers are not even completing an orientation for their staff due to the time constraints. You decide that it’s time for a short training session for all managers on the cost of a good orientation session versus the decreased time to full productivity when someone has the full picture to work from.
  • You learn that even though the rest of the managers are providing an orientation session, they are not deviating from the “script” on a corporate level, which means they are not adequately preparing the employee for what to expect at the team level. You make the call to work with a few of those managers to develop department-wide orientation conversation topics to help customize the sessions for what people really need to know–where to go for help, what the team culture is like, how people communicate, what the dynamics are among the teammates, etc.

These kinds of problem solving activities are what you need to carry out if you want to be seen as a partner to the business. Like other critical skills for HR pros, understanding how to facilitate the goals of the business via better people practices should be something you seek to improve regularly.

And these examples are easier because they are closely tied to HR functions. What if you heard about a problem with product quality or external customer service? How would you use people practices to influence those areas? It’s a big task, but human resource management (if done well) is an exciting and innovative field to be in!

What problems have you solved? What was the response from your “customer” (staff, management, leadership, etc.)?

Last week my friend China Gorman wrote about the lack of trust in the workplace. Here’s the stat:

According to the American Psychological Association’s 2014 Work and Well-Being Survey released last Wednesday, only half of U.S employees believe their employer is open and upfront with them, indicating that despite the mending U.S economy and the return of many organizations’ profitability employees are still struggling to trust their organizational leaders. This distrust comes with serious negative consequences. via China Gorman

trust buttonThat amazes me to hear that. Not that I don’t think it’s accurate–plenty of employers/employees have trust issues; however, I never would have guessed it was in the 50% range. Consider this: if you think someone is not being trustworthy (or “worthy of trust”), then how much effort are you going to give to help them succeed? Not much, I wouldn’t think.

How the other half live

Recently I was talking with a handful of candidates we plan to hire. One of the selling points I use for Pinnacle includes talking about our scores on the annual Best Places to Work survey. Our “trust in leadership” survey results always are in the 99% range every year. Continue reading