Tag Archives: Leadership

How High Will You Climb (Book Review)

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? 

The Goal of Human Resource Management

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.)?

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?