Tag Archives: Leadership

Trust Matters, Now More Than Ever

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

Forget HR Strategy: Get in the Trenches

This isn’t a call to completely forego the HR strategy that undergirds your long term success. However, it is a reminder that some of the things you’ll have to do to ultimately be successful include more than just making plans, developing schedules, and keeping to those guidelines. Sometimes you might actually have to jump in and help. Step away from the flowchart, roll up your sleeves, and get into the thick of things.

A vivid example

In college, I had an HR professor who spent years in the medical industry working as an HR manager. He had great stories, but one he told has stuck with me over the years. One day there was an accident and several people were brought into the hospital at once, overwhelming the staff. He happened to be walking by and saw the chaos, then he realized there was a puddle of blood in the floor from one of the injured patients. Continue reading

HR Philosophy from the Trenches

I have 2 HR philosophies; “Keep It Simple” and “Deal With the Problem”. My that I mean that people always seem so scared of dealing with something going wrong because they see it as conflict and that they will upset the person involved. The way I approach it is, something has happened, and that is what we need to address. I’m not going to belittle them, or attack them, we just need to address the issue as soon as possible. ~Leeanne, a dedicated upstartHR reader

Recently I asked some questions of a few of my audience members as a way to learn how to provide content that is better targeted toward their needs. I received the comments above from Leeanne, and I got her permission to share them here. I absolutely love them and wanted to take some time to unpack the comments here for the benefit of the rest of you out there. As we say here in the Bible Belt, I’m going to step on some toes today, but it’s good for each of us to get that once in a while. Heck, half the advice I give here is to hold myself accountable for doing the right thing instead of the easy thing. Listen up, school’s in session…

Keep it simple Continue reading

76% of CEOs Value Relationship with HR

I was reading a white paper recently that touched on the role between HR and the CEO, and it was something I have experienced personally and never took the time to put into words. This relationship is highly strategic, as I write about in this post on HR being the CEO’s trusted advisor. There are a few key roles that the head of HR plays when it comes to the CEO, and I have listed a few below. But first, a quote:

75% of CEOs say their relationship with the head of HR is close and trustful and 76% hail it as one of their most valued.

Most valued. Wow. That’s both an opportunity and responsibility that many HR professionals should not take lightly.

Informal coach

In terms of feedback, HR takes on the role of informal executive coach to the CEO. They will provide input on things that might not be at the forefront of the CEO’s thoughts and help them to get their message across in a way that is “comfortable” for the parties involved.

“Safe” performance improvement feedback

In cases where critical feedback might be necessary, the HR person might have to provide “safe” performance feedback to the executive. In this context, “safe” means direct, private, and confidential. The advice is provided directly to the CEO, it’s in a private location, and the feedback is confidential and will not be repeated.

Personal touch

The one that I’ve seen more of is what my friend likes to call “the office spouse.” I liken it to my relationship with my wife in that when we go somewhere, I look at her helplessly and say, “Who is that guy’s wife again?” and “What did you say happened to their son?” She has those minor details all memorized. Same relationship at work: the CEO expects the HR professional to have the staff information on a personal level close at hand, among other things. In addition, HR acts as a representative of the staff. The CEO can also ask (this ties back in with the two points above) how staff will receive/comprehend an announcement about upcoming changes, whether good or bad.

The relationship between the executive leadership and HR is an interesting one with many facets. I think this is an area for HR to be strategic to a certain extent. The relationship is a very personal one, and just like any friendship there can’t be more taking than giving; however, it can be an excellent way to facilitate necessary discussions in a safe way.

Have you ever had a one-on-one relationship with a CEO? What do you remember most about it? 

Are Senior Leaders the Worst Leaders?

Today we’re going to look at leadership, how it can fail, and how it can succeed. When we look at the leaders at the top of the organizational chart, we usually don’t think of them as the worst leadership examples in the organization. However, recent data has shown that to be the case.

The research, taken from a meta-analysis of DDI’s assessment data from close to 4,000 leaders worldwide, finds most front-line leaders lack the fundamental interaction skills and behaviors required to be effective leaders. And senior leaders are even worse… Indeed, the research shows, 90 percent of executives act before checking their understanding of an issue and are ineffective at inviting ideas from others. And only 11 percent successfully preserve their colleagues’ self-esteem and display empathy that would demonstrate interpersonal diplomacy. Front-line leaders fared only slightly better in these areas than their seniors. Source

The authors of the article point back to the simple practice of conversations to help differentiate good leaders from bad. Good ones will talk with their people. Even if the person ultimately disregards the advice from the other sources, it’s validating to know that you have the opportunity to provide input. Let’s look at a few ways leaders can do better by serving their people well.

Leadership at its best

Last week I had the opportunity to see Dr. Ken Blanchard speak. He’s written more books than most people have ever read, and his core message is about servant leadership. I picked up some great comments from the presentation and want to share three of those with you today that tie in directly with the story above. Your leaders need to hear these, so feel free to share a few as appropriate with your leaders at all levels.

  1. Leaders should ask themselves this question on a daily basis: “Am I here to serve or be served?” If you’re there to be served, then forget everything you know about effective leadership and just do whatever feels good. You’ll get what you deserve. If you’re there to serve others, then make the time and effort for that purpose a priority. Be humble. Humility isn’t about thinking less of yourself, it’s about thinking of yourself less!
  2. As a leader, it’s your job to help define values, goals, and a vision. In the absence of some or all of those elements, there is one driving need: take care of yourself at all costs. That is not the workplace that you are trying to create, so be sure to develop some shared goals to help your team understand where you are going and how they fit into that puzzle. Again–if you don’t give them someone to serve, they will serve themselves, and the same goes for you!
  3. There may be a culture change that is needed within your organization. If people spend more time clinging to policies and saying “That’s against policy” or “We don’t allow that” more often than not, then you need to look at how you can say “Yes” more often. Companies with amazing customer service train their people with this mindset: “we’re a customer service company that provides xyz product/service.” Focus more on taking care of the customer than on abiding by policies, and you’ll have happier customers in short order.

With your help we can make senior leaders the best example of leadership in our organizations. That sort of change flows down to all levels and permeates the organization, so don’t wait around to start some big “leadership development” program or anything else. This needs to begin today.

How are you serving others in the workplace? Is the example you’re setting one that you would be proud of? Do others follow your example?

A Tribute to Great Managers

Sometimes you’ll run across articles that discuss managing vs. leadership, and the gist of many is that you don’t need managers if you have great leaders.

heart my bossI don’t know if I believe that.

See, I’m one of those people with a strong entrepreneurial spirit, and I really don’t like having a boss. I like figuring out things for myself, working in areas that interest me, etc. However, I have to bottle that up and be a little more focused when it comes to the day job, and the great boss I had was the perfect person to help me do that in a constructive way.

Naturally, when she retired last year, I was devastated.

I (still) heart my boss

I just finished working for a truly amazing boss, and I can’t help but tell people about her. The list of characteristics that make her a team favorite are many, but here are a few that really had an impact on me:

  • She focused on the team’s needs and on the professional development of its members much more than her own interests.
  • She was quick to say, “I’m not your manager, I’m your teammate.” She never played the “I’m the boss, so do what I say” card.
  • She worked harder than anyone I’ve ever seen, and she demanded high performance from the team she led as well.
  • She could deliver tough feedback in a way that made you want to do better instead of feeling bitter and resentful.
  • She listened in order to understand where you wanted to go in your career and directed assignments that would assist in the growth of those key areas.

After several years working in positions where I was unchallenged and underutilized (that’s a long story in itself!), I flourished under her management style.

While being conscious not to sound like a suck up, I would tell her as often as possible how appreciative of her I was. And, as usual, she would reflect it back on her staff for being great contributors and dedicated to the mission of the organization. Whether she allowed herself to admit that she was great at her job or not, she never once fell back on that as a crutch to stop managing well.

I’ve had varying levels of bad bosses over the years, but she truly was the very best that I’ve ever encountered. I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate her support at such a critical juncture in my career.

To all the great managers out there, thank you for what you do!

Ever worked for an awesome boss? Tell us about it in the comments below!

Talent Leadership (Book Review)

Talent Leadership book by John Mattone

“Talent leadership” seems like the most broad category you can possibly imagine. I couldn’t stop the thought from entering my mind; however, less than ten pages into this book I realized that it was not going to be what I expected. This thing is full of highly detailed, hands-on activities that you can use to identify and develop your high potential employees. This is even a succession planning handbook, among other things. The diverse topics under one “umbrella” make “talent leadership” a great title for this book.

talent leadership bookWhat I liked

  • The talent leadership book kicks off early with a great quote: accurate information drives effective strategies. Want to make the right choices in terms of overall direction/strategy? Make sure you have accurate information (not only with lagging indicators, but with leading indicators).
  • A survey by SHRM-the Society for Human Resource Management-points out the #1 problem for organizations today: building a strong pool of successors for each position/level. If you haven’t had a conversation on succession planning within your organization, you’re behind the curve. To be honest I have brought it up a few times, but without a plan for identifying and preparing those candidates, the conversation always moves to the back burner.
  • A, B, C players–if you don’t know which one someone is, how do you know if you should invest in them or pass them over for development opportunities? It’s a core talent leadership question that you need to be able to answer. For more on the A/B/C discussion, see my series on the topic (part 1 and part 2).
  • The 10 key elements of a strong performance management system: employee involvement, valid performance criteria, year-round process, proper preparation, avoiding stereotypical thinking, input from others, consistency, rating integrity, dialogue, and employee ownership. In my organization I’d say we are doing at least six of those really well. How about you? 
  • In the appendix (page 249 for those following along) there is a phenomenal diagnostic tool for evaluating the health of your succession management program. I’d say step one is to get one in place if you don’t already have one,  but step two is to continuously evaluate it to make sure it’s producing results. This tool will help you manage that part of the talent leadership puzzle well.

Wrap up

And there you have it. If you’re looking at how you can identify and develop your own high potential employees and set up a strong succession planning system based on facts instead of “Bob looks like he might be a high potential, so let’s pay him more to make him stay with us.” Click here to get your copy.

Click here for other book reviews or to learn about why you need a reading list for leadership.