The person next in line to enter the room looked sharp, confident and ready to ace their first job interview. Dressed in a blue suit, shiny shoes and with their hair well combed, they were ready to take over the world and show that hard work pays off.
If I were to tell you that the person described above is a man, would you be surprised? Probably not. You’ve probably seen a similar description for a man before. That’s because, as humans, we often repeat certain words and phrases. We do this because we like order. We like to recognize and categorize things. This in turn trains our minds to make assumptions about characteristics of people very quickly, with little information.
Here is where I introduce the term meritocracy, and explain why I find myself a tad skeptical whenever I hear “we’re a meritocratic organization.” Meritocracy is a term describing the ideal state in which equal merit results in equal rewards. Unfortunately, believing in meritocracy as a given is as naïve as believing that only men are biased against women, when even women themselves are biased against women. Not shocked enough yet? Keep reading this post and I will further explain the consequences of unconscious and conscious bias, more specifically, the bias that recruiters have when recruiting potential employees. Through scientific and peer-reviewed evidence, I want to show you why and how meritocracy is (often) a myth.
Bias is a term that goes hand in hand with meritocracy. It means “prejudice in favor of or against a thing, person or group, compared with another.” Bias can be seen as an obstacle to meritocracy; the one thing that is preventing merit from being the single most important factor when hiring. Bias can be found everywhere, even as you are reading this post you are being biased in the same way that I am being biased writing the post. Below is a study that was conducted to test people’s biases.
In one study, from 2012, the same resume and application materials for a science lab manager job were sent out to 127 biology, chemistry and physics professors at American universities. The researchers sent out the same application to all the professors, but changed the names on the application so that half had a male student’s name, and half had a female student’s name.
The professors, who were both men and women, had to rate the applications on a scale of 1–7 in terms of competence, hireability, how much mentoring they’d give the candidate, and starting salary. The results were staggering: the applications with the woman’s name was on average rated lower in competence, hireability, and how much mentoring the professors would give. The “female” application package received, on average, a wage that was more than $3500 less than the “male” applicant per year.
The bias appeared in both female and male professors who were reviewing the packages. That is, women and men are equally biased.
It might seem impossible to ever reach a true meritocracy, but don’t worry because every day more opportunities for a more inclusive workplace appear. For example, there’s a start-up helping companies with blind applications processes, called GapJumpers, where you can post jobs that don’t require applicants to submit characteristics such as gender or ethnicity.
Through blind hiring, true meritocratic recruiting can in fact also exist. Also, just becoming more aware of unconscious bias is a first step in reducing its effect. But the belief, assumption, and expectation that a company is just somehow, by default, a meritocracy without carefully planning out exactly how that outcome will be achieved, is a myth.
About the Author: Alice Marshall is a Gender Equality and Diversity Expert, and Founder of Equality Inc. She helps companies improve gender equality and diversity via her 90 Day Diversity Program and trainings on unconscious bias and inclusive leadership. She writes a blog with Google Sweden called Gender Equality in Tech.
Have you ever struggled to release the pain caused by broken trust? Sure, you wanted to forget what happened. To move through the experience and move on. Yet, the pain lingered like a phantom limb.
Stealing your focus.
Draining your energy.
Holding you back.
I just took a call about this from a prospective client – the VP of HR for a consumer products company. This woman’s team had a lot on its plate. A new CEO to position. A leadership team to develop. A transformative agenda to bring out. But, the biggest challenge?
For the past few years, the company had gone through lots of changes. Changes whose negative impacts had largely been worked around, instead of through. This is what that head of HR said to me:
“Hits on trust that happened years ago are posing a serious threat to our current initiatives,” she told me. “Instead of trust being used as a vehicle to connect and move forward, people are using it as a weapon, using what happened in the past to judge and criticize. These historical hurts on trust have been identified as the number one barrier to our agenda’s successful implementation. We’re looking for a healing strategy.”
A healing strategy. That got my attention.
Isn’t that what we all need, when trust has broken down? We all want to learn to trust again and get back in the game. We all want healing for the people we work with and support – healing that helps them be their best. There’s only way. And that’s to step in and work through the historical hurts. Here’s where I can help – with a roadmap proven to overcome historical hits on trust and help people and teams learn to trust again.
Observe and acknowledge what’s happened.
Give the gift of awareness. Notice and acknowledge what you and your people are experiencing. Healing begins when leaders recognize what has occurred, its effect on people and the system, and the resulting losses.
Sometimes ‘what happened’ to break trust down is straightforward. A single act. A glaring oversight. But far more often, trust has been worn down by less obvious behaviors. Little things people have ‘done’ to one another unintentionally.
Small behaviors that were perceived as insensitive.
Fleeting reactions that triggered doubt about intentions or motives.
Ways people felt railroaded, instead of supported, to move through change.
Assess where trust stands, and why. Get a baseline understanding that will help you and your people stop beating around the bush and address core issues.
Encourage feelings to surface.
Trust is emotionally provocative. When it’s broken, strong feelings get stirred. Anxiety. Vulnerability. Regret. Betrayal. People may wonder if they have what it takes to move on and contribute – or if they even want to. Give people permission to express those feelings constructively. Create safe forums that allow people to express their fear, frustration, anger, and doubt. Interrupt the cycle of resentment going ‘underground.’ Help people give voice to the negativity they’re holding, so they can begin to release it.
Give yourself permission to get support.
Rebuilding trust is hard work. But something quite powerful occurs when the breach of trust is truthfully acknowledged. Not twisted, justified, or defended – but simply acknowledged.
People can begin to move from finger-pointing to understanding. From judging to considering extenuating circumstances. From abdicating to problem solving. From loss to possibility. Trust work is game changing. Yet, it’s not always easy. You may need support to bring out the highest intentions of everyone in your organization.
You may need support to support the trust work.
Give yourself permission to go after the help you need. For 25 years, the biggest mistake I’ve seen HR leaders make is not asking for support earlier.
Reframe the experience.
Help people understand the bigger picture of ‘what happened.’ Encourage them to ask questions about what they’ve experienced. Give them open answers. Help them discover opportunity. Authentically engaging a process of inquiry gives people the chance to broaden their perspectives. To see beyond their own pain and take in the challenges the business is facing. People want the organizations they work for to be successful. Help them see their role in forging that success. Paint a picture of where they fit in and how you’re in this process to rebuild trust together.
Support people to take responsibility. They may not have responsibility for what occurred and what they experienced. But they can take responsibility for how they choose to respond. Yes, there is power in hearing and acknowledging what happened. But the key to turning sinking trust around is inviting others to take responsibility for aligning around the path forward. This open invitation is an opportunity to empower people. To unleash the paradigm-shifting realization that trust begins with them. With their sound intentions. Their constructive attitudes. Their commitment to extend the benefit of the doubt, check out assumptions, and truly seek to understand – instead of blame – one another when trust breaks down.
People have far more power than they realize to dramatically improve the level and quality of trust in their workplaces. Spark that awareness. Feed it. Use it.
Offer release through forgiveness.
Forgiveness is freedom. It’s not forgetting what happened, but releasing the grip of what happened. It’s about letting go, so you can move on. Help your people move through lingering bitterness. Listen for what still needs to be heard and understood for them to feel ready to let go. Help them choose to remember the lessons and release the impact. Support them rebuild trust and open up to co-creating the future. Leading the way in extending forgiveness is not just for others, but for yourself. Carrying guilt about your possible role in trust’s breakdown won’t serve anyone.
Let go and move on.
Trust begins with you. Model moving on! Contribute to your organization’s new Trust Story. You’ve got a fresh start, and you’ve earned it. Yet – don’t underestimate trust’s fragility. Keep close tabs on the behaviors you model.
The moment any of us stop paying attention to trust is the moment we risk losing it.
About the Author: Michele Reina is co-founder of Reina, A Trust Building Consultancy. She, along with business partner and husband Dennis Reina, have collectively devoted nearly 50 years to researching trust, developing rigorous instruments to measure trust and defining practical steps to rebuild trust that has been compromised. Michele works with organizations like Walt Disney World, American Express and Harvard University, taking the guesswork out of trust building to achieve measurable improvements in collaboration and teamwork, employee engagement, leadership effectiveness, workplace culture and change management.
The act of reviewing an employee’s performance regularly and objectively has many benefits. The assessment can help the employee gauge their progress and make appropriate adjustments to the way they approach their work. Ultimately, this can lead to a motivated, skilled and active workforce.
With this in mind, it is clear that having objective and constructive performance discussions is something every organisation should work toward. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Managers carrying out the reviews are human beings, and as such are subject to both conscious and unconscious biases. Even those who believe themselves to be completely egalitarian can still be guilty of unwitting bias based on preconceived stereotypes, as was demonstrated in a series of Implicit Association Tests carried out by Mahzarin Banaji. Often, this prejudice is levelled at women.
The impact of gender discrimination on employees
Given that a favourable performance review can affect an employee’s chances of progressing within an organisation, the issue of gender bias needs to be addressed. An employee who feels unfairly treated will be demotivated, so it makes good business sense to try and remove unconscious biases wherever possible. Hidden biases such as gender discrimination, according to Caroline Simard, the director of research at the Clayman Institute, also create “cumulative disadvantage over a woman’s career over time, resulting in lower access to key leadership positions and stretch assignments, advancement and pay.”
Despite this, it has been found in a 2015 study that only one-third of employees feel that gender equality was a priority within their organisation.
Addressing stereotypical language
Recent research demonstrates that female employees are assessed differently to their male counterparts. This difference presents itself both in the language used to describe an employee and the quality of constructive feedback provided.
It was made clear in a 2014 Fortune article that women were much more likely to receive a critical performance review than men. The data collected for the study was analysed by a linguist, who examined both the type and frequency of the words used in a sample of performance reviews. It was found that female employees were much more likely to be negatively described as ‘abrasive’, ‘strident’ and ‘aggressive’ while demonstrating behaviour that, in men, was considered ‘confident’ and ‘assertive’. The linguist discusses how the word ‘abrasive’ was used seventeen times to describe thirteen different women. Only the word ‘aggressive’ was used in the men’s performance reviews, and this was used to praise and encourage. Interestingly, the gender of the manager was not an issue — both female and male managers were generally more negative toward female employees.
Addressing unhelpful, critical reviews
The study mentioned above also reflects the reality that when men are given negative reviews, there is generally a constructive element to be found. Should they be found lacking in certain areas, they are given clear instructions on how to develop their skills to perform better in the future. The feedback provided to women, conversely, was more negative and far less specific. They were notified of areas where they were not performing as desired, but they were not given the tools necessary to improve. Such behaviour not only does the employee a disservice, but it also guarantees that the organisation does not reach its full potential.
How HR can eliminate gender discrimination in performance reviews
In an ideal world, all biased behaviour, both conscious and unconscious, would be eliminated overnight. Unfortunately, this is impossible, but equality is certainly something we can work toward in order to ensure a fairer, better functioning organisation. It begins with addressing the issue head-on and promoting a conscious awareness regarding gender bias.
One method of tackling gender discrimination is to encourage managers to be mindful of their language. Words used in a performance review should be constructive and objective. Judgemental and emotive words should be avoided, and the review process should prioritise communication both ways. Open communication allows the employee to respond, while providing a balanced and accurate view of the situation.
In a similar vein, the HR department could benefit greatly by introducing a means of providing anonymous feedback to employees. This system enables staff the freedom to report behaviour that they are uncomfortable with, without the possibility of facing any personal repercussions. Such feedback may highlight important and concerning issues when it comes to the running of an organisation; for example, it may come to light that the staff believe that men are consulted far more regularly than women when it comes to important business decisions.
Managers should also ensure that their reviews are specific. The evaluation of the employee’s performance should be considered against agreed objectives, behaviours and values. In this way, performance reviews are less subjective and a far more fair way of evaluating performance.
About the Author: Stuart Hearn heads up a team who designs innovative performance management software. He has been working in the HR sector for over 20 years, previously working for Sony Music Publishing and co-founding PlusHR.
Whether you’re just starting out in your career or whether you’re well into it, it’s important to take on new opportunities. Joining a task force, working on a cross-departmental project, taking on a group presentation to a new client . . . things like that give you a chance to find out what you like and what you’re good at. Taking on such projects tests your will and your fortitude, especially those projects that are likely to stretch beyond the usual forty- or fifty-hour workweek.
The key is to take on projects that you know you can complete. You need to feel confident that you can deliver. You don’t want to be the one who volunteers and then doesn’t carry her own weight. Whatever you take on, you have to follow through. You have to push yourself to do it, even if it means you might have to sacrifice your personal time as your work week extends to seventy or eighty hours for a certain period of time. The last thing you want is to sign up for an extra project and then be the one who always leaves early or never shows up. You don’t want to be the one who makes a lot of promises but never delivers. You don’t want to be that person.
Opportunities and risk go hand in hand, and saying “yes” to opportunity means you’re taking on some risk. Saying “no” also can be risky, even when it’s the right thing to do.
Sometimes you don’t have the luxury of volunteering for extra work. Your boss volunteers you instead, saddling you with a project or a presentation that you have little time for. Some of these projects might not be to your liking, or they might not provide you with the kind of visibility that will put you in line for a promotion. Sometimes you just know that there’s no way you can take on another project and give it your all.
So what do you do when you know the right thing is to say “no”?
The key here is to decline politely without actually saying “no.” One way to do this is to say something like, “This sounds like a great project, and I’d be happy to help. I’m working on Project X, Y, and Z right now, and so I could take this on early next month. Would that work for you?” or something like, “I’d love to work on this. Do you see this as a priority over Project A, which is due at the end of the week?” Responses like this let your boss know that you’re both enthusiastic and willing while at the same time prompting him to consider your workload and how much time you could reasonably dedicate to the project and still get the job done.
Saying “no” can be uncomfortable, but it’s often necessary. Only you know how much you can really handle. While you don’t want to be afraid to push yourself, it’s important to know when to say enough is enough—just so long as you say it in a way that keeps your good reputation intact.
About the Author: Jena Abernathy is a nationally recognized leader in human capital management, performance excellence, and organizational development. A sought-after speaker, she is a passionate advocate for women in executive and governing board roles. She has written for and been featured in a wide variety of media, including CNN, the Financial Times, CBS Money Watch, FOX Business, and the Miami Herald. You can connect with Jena on Twitter or at www.jenaabernathy.com.
There are various schools of thought on what drives employee retention. Some expert sources like Gallup place an emphasis on the importance of the manager’s role in engaging, motivating and retaining employees. Other sources suggest that employees rarely leave a job solely because of the boss since there are many other contributing factors such as a compelling strategy, company culture and meaningful work.
Either way, businesses of all sizes are increasingly concerned about employee retention and realizing that high engagement is critical to reducing turnover. The best employees will leave if they’re not engaged, while the lower performers often stay. When this cycle continues, businesses struggle to achieve results and retain customers.
According to the 2015 ADP Midsized Business Owners Study the level of concern about employee engagement spiked 25 percent in 2015 after remaining flat since 2012, with two of five midsized employers expressing high levels of concern. So how can companies more effectively engage their top talent?
Here are three tips to help deepen employee engagement and avoid common pitfalls:
1. Nurture a strong workplace culture. Organizations that create a culture defined by meaningful work, organizational fit and strong leadership often outperform their peers and outpace competitors in attracting and retaining top talent. Key components of a strong workplace culture include diversity and inclusion, a common purpose and a sense of community.
As stewards of company culture, HR leaders should strive to create – and actively promote – an inclusive work environment that champions collaboration and a connection to the local community. Offering volunteer opportunities to give back to the community and employee recognition programs can help employees develop a sense of companionship leading to stronger feelings of engagement.
2. Empower employees to grow their careers. Uncertain career paths are a common pitfall that can result in low employee engagement. Companies that keep career development top-of-mind by offering employees clear career paths, challenging assignments, mentoring programs and training to nurture their professional skills are more likely to retain top performers. Ensure employees understand the diverse career opportunities available to them company-wide and the steps they can take to grow within the organization. And, whenever possible, offer flexibility in how employees chart their individual career paths, such as with job-rotation programs and job shadowing. Career growth comes from creating opportunities for employees to learn new skills and experiences. It doesn’t need to be offering opportunities to ‘climb the corporate ladder’. The ladder has been replaced with a lattice demonstrating the importance of lateral moves in order to grow professionally.
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Employees need to hear from their leaders. An absence of communication leads to a lack of trust in leadership. Communication is critical to ensure that everyone has a clear understanding of the corporate strategy and how their work contributes to successful achievement of the company’s goals. Having clarity around their company’s strategy and vision becomes the motivation for employees to make the discretionary effort that defines engagement. Businesses that create frequent opportunities for leaders to communicate with employees – via email, Town Hall meetings, one-on-one interactions or social media help inspire trust. Ongoing communication needs to honest, real-time, and authentic so that employees understand the bigger picture and feel comfortable sharing innovative ideas to help themselves and their employers grow and thrive.
Because employee engagement is strategically linked to retention, HR leaders need to take an integrated approach. This includes fostering a collaborative work environment with trusted leadership, work with a purpose, and diverse growth opportunities. Investing in employee engagement ultimately delivers benefits far beyond the bottom line with increased productivity, reduced turnover and long-term retention of highly skilled staff who directly contribute to achieving business goals.
About the Author: Emma Phillips has more than 20 years of experience leading the design and execution of strategic HR initiatives. As vice president of human resources for ADP’s Major Account Services business unit, Emma and her team focus on attracting, developing and retaining top talent, succession management, performance management, leadership development, change management and associate engagement.
Women account for half the world’s working-age population globally. However, the persisting imbalance of women in positions of power has started a debate in corporate circles about the viability of a gender quota so as to encourage gender equality in corporate positions of power. But why so much hoopla about gender equality? For one, reports suggest that more women in higher roles reflect in the form of better performance for the companies. Moreover, companies that have women in leadership roles have traditionally fared better than their counterparts during times of financial crisis, similar to the recent one. Here is a detailed account of why women leadership would work better in certain situations and how can you promote the same in your office.
A study carried out by Pew Research Center on women and leadership; there is little difference between men and women in key leadership traits like ability to innovate and intelligence, while many observing they are even better than men when it comes to being compassionate and organized. Despite these facts, we see a very limited participation of women in boardroom discussions and at the upper management level. The story is same across all the continents, whether it is Asia, Europe and the US. In an extensive survey carried out by 20-first, a UK-based global gender consulting firm in 2014, women held only 11% of the 3,000 executive committee positions in 300 surveyed companies.
It’s good for financial performance of the company
Multiple research studies have been carried out in this direction. In 2007, a not-for-profit organization Catalyst reported that Fortune 500 companies having females as board members show significantly better financial performance than those having low female representation. The surveys took into account three points- return on sales, return on equity and return on the investment and found that companies having better female representation excelled on all the three parameters. Another major research that reports similar findings is that of DDI, (Development Dimensions International), a global talent management firm based out of US. According to DDI survey, companies that had majority of board members as women witnessed a substantial 87% better performance than their competition.
It’s better for the job economy, as a whole
Better financial performance of the organizations obviously leads to a better economic state where there are greater number of job opportunities, better productivity and more development. This improved financial health will directly reflect in the number of jobs that will increase proportionally. Whether it is marketing jobs or healthcare, the industry hardly matters as long as it is working towards better gender diversity.
It’s Better for Relationship Building
We all have a common understanding that women are equipped with better relationship building skills. This is backed by research from Harvard Business Review, which notes that female leaders are consistently rated a notch higher than their male counterparts in the category of relationship building. This is obviously a good thing for the organization as good peer to peer camaraderie is essential for keeping up the productivity at its optimum level. In addition to inter-office relationships, this skill is also going to boost a company’s client satisfaction levels and help expand the business.
It’s better for Collaboration
With good networking skills comes the ability to easily collaborate with colleagues, clients and workers across teams, functions, and departments. A paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research agrees on the fact that women are more attracted to cooperation than men. Men, often overestimate their capabilities, while downplaying those of their colleagues, while women are a better judge of their abilities and therefore are not averse to suggestions and help from their team members. In short, women make better team players than men.
Women are Better Communicators
While women undisputedly rule the roost when it comes to communication at personal level, does this also extend to businesses? If experts are to be believed, on the whole, women often make better communicators than men. Zenger Folkman, in their survey, also reported the same. A leader should and must have the ability to establish a crystal clear communication with his team members, clients and consumers. Women tend to be better listeners than men, and that’s what makes for a good leader.
It’s also better for men on the whole
Surprised, you might be, but gender diversity at leadership level or in the corporate in general is a good thing for men. This might sound lopsided, but there are many aspects to this argument. We could deal with them one by one.
Men have the freedom to break the norm
In the male dominated corporate world, a man’s identity is inseparably connected to his job, role and pay package. However, once the corporate world comes to term with the rising prominence of women, and their increasing participation in management decisions, this will take some performance pressure off the men’s shoulders. They will no longer be expected the default bread winner of their families, the sole earning member, who has to earn more than his spouse, and lead the family. Men can also try to be what they really want to be. They can break the stereotype and follow their passion, at least once in a while. It does give some breathing room and creates some kind of financial cushion to which they can fall back in case their plan B doesn’t work out as well.
Men can try to be a better parent
As more women take up careers and become an equally important financial support of the family, men can take some time off their work to be a better parent and run the family in a more involved, holistic fashion. When fathers work fewer hours per week, the family benefits, and it reduces the risk of behavioral problems in the kids that is often witnessed in children who had their fathers missing due to work.
About the Author: Saurabh Tyagi is a career and motivational author who consistently writes articles on various job related themes, including gender diversity in organizations. He has been published on various career sites such as under30ceo.com and blog.
In the hotel industry, the housekeeping department is comprised of room attendants (100% female) and housemen (100% male). Management is typically 90-100% female. This predominantly female management team often has difficulty working with the housemen. Housemen are responsible for public areas of the hotel such as the lobby, hallways, restaurant, and lounges. They range in age from 25-62 and ethnicities include Hispanic, African American, Asian and Caucasian. Most have been employed full time for 15 or more years. Housekeeping managers are often young (25-30) and have little experience. Some have been promoted from room attendant positions while others come straight out of hospitality school having spent a year or two as an intern or junior manager.
This dynamic is not easy to manage. A lot of conflict is generated around gender and experience (Who is she to tell me what to do? I’ve been here 10 years longer), and resistance to authority (She can’t change that- for what?). Here are a few DOs and DON’Ts for women to effectively manage an all-male team:
1. DON’T try to be ‘one of the gang.’ You are not one of them, so joining them on break, or inviting them to chat in the office only creates confusion and makes it more difficult to establish boundaries and effectively lead.
DO create an authentic relationship by showing interest in who they are. Notice a haircut, new glasses, logo on a hat or sweatshirt (I see you’re a Yankees fan). This builds a connection- you care about more than just getting the job done.
2. DON’T be defensive. When you are challenged (You’re wrong. Can’t use that chemical) you may automatically attempt to assert your power and position.(Do it my way! I’m in charge) but this will only serve to escalate the conflict.
DO be clear and responsive. You’ll need to make it clear that the worker must show respect even when disagreeing with you (We can discuss this, but no yelling or accusing). Be responsive to the worker’s idea (OK, so if not this chemical, what would you use?). This shows that while you have the final say, you are open to learning from those with more experience and can admit you don’t know it all.
3. DON’T let go of your authority. It is easy to become intimidated and overwhelmed by resistant and angry men. But retreating is not an option. The group needs leadership and structure, so for better or worse, you’re it.
DO lead in your own unique style. Think about what you have to offer: enthusiasm, sense of humor, passion for the work. Whatever you have, USE IT. Be authentic and honest when you don’t know something (I’m not sure what the policy is on X. Let me check it out) and admit your mistakes (Sorry, I was late ordering the supplies you need). Acknowledge the expertise of your staff (You know a lot more about this than I do) and elicit their help and feedback (What do you think and what’s past practice?). All this shows your humanity, which is crucial to building a strong relationship.
Managing an all-male staff as a female has its challenges, but the key is always authenticity. Be clear and direct and work through whatever comes your way. This is not always easy or comfortable, but well worth the effort. Stick with it and you’ll build strong relationships and an effective team.
About the Author: With a background in social work and 2 decades of experience as a union worker, Laura MacLeod created “From The Inside Out Project®,” with all levels of employment in mind to assist in maintaining a harmonious workplace. She is an adjunct professor in graduate studies at the Hunter College Silberman School of Social Work. MacLeod speaks on conflict resolution, problem solving, and listening skills at conferences across the country.
To be an entrepreneur requires a special spark, and the urge to follow your own star rather than hitching on to the wagon train that’s headed towards someone else’s idea of success. As HR people, we’ve all seen entrepreneurs in action, maybe even picked up the pieces after them as they drive the business relentlessly onwards!
Entrepreneurs bring focus, energy, charisma, and creativity. Part of their success comes from breaking the rules and thinking outside the box. That’s great for a solo operator because the only person who suffers when things go wrong is the entrepreneur themselves — they burn their fingers, say ‘ouch’, learn their lesson and move on to the next thing.
But to grow a business of substance, the entrepreneur needs to figure out how to work with other people. She needs to harness others’ creativity and energy rather than just relying on her own. Becoming a business leader is a whole new ball game. Here are my six tips to help those HR entrepreneurs make the transition into a leadership role:
1. Visualize Where You & Your Business Will Be
Where do you visualize you and your business will be a year from now and ten years from now? Create a picture in your mind of your successful self, dominating your market and running an awesome business. Don’t let doubts about juggling home life or anything else come in here — this is your positive vision of success and nothing should mess with it!
2. Set Goals and Stick to Them
Set yourself long-term goals, including business goals, financial targets, and personal development points. Break them down into shorter term goals so you’re always working towards achieving them. While you might be taking care of all aspects of the business in the beginning, as your business grows that will change. Look at where you will need to delegate work.
3. Let Go of Your Ego
Yes, I said it. You needed one to get you this far, but don’t let it get in the way now that you’re bringing other people on board. It’s your business and you love it, but believing that you’re the only one who can run it will simply lead to self-destruction.
To avoid burning out, you’ll need to be comfortable sharing the responsibility of running your business. Invest your time and energy in hiring great people and training them so that they will be able to take on some of the load.
4. Hire a Great Team
Write a list of all the things that need to be done to grow your business. Tick the ones you’re good at and the ones you want to keep doing and make those into your job. Then hire great people to fill the gaps.
When you hire people to go out and represent your business, make sure they share your vision and values so they’re credible ambassadors. If they’re providing services or advice under your brand, they need to do it your way.
You know the theory, now go put it into practice! Create a company culture that you love and find others who love it too, and success will follow.
5. Keep it Flexible
Be open to working with people in different ways to meet the needs of the business. Use contracts creatively to flex the size of your team, so you keep your core costs low and bring in the right people when you need them.
You need a good network, so get out and meet lots of contacts. When you’re exploring working together, be clear about how much you’ll pay, what work you expect them to do, and how they should manage any client relationships.
Offer your associates a cut of the client fee if they bring some business to you. If you create a big enough pool of associates, you’ll always be able to call in a specialist when a project comes up. Best of all, you don’t have to sweat at the end of the month with a huge pay bill and not enough clients.
6. Remember Your Roots
Whether your roots are in HR, or somewhere else, remember what it felt like to be noticed by the top guy for doing a good job. You don’t need to understand Motivation Theory or employee engagement measures to know how good it feels when someone says thank you. Stay meaningfully connected all the way down through your team, so that you notice when people are doing a good job. Tell them personally that you’ve noticed.
About the Author: Sharon Crooks is an HR Consultant and an expert in training business people and leaders to communicate effectively with their employees. Sharon is the co-author of a new book HR for Small Business for Dummies, which provides valuable insights into how to run a small business.
When it comes to annual performance reviews, it’s clear we’re at a major crossroads in the workplace. With 95 percent of managers dissatisfied with the process — and 90 percent of HR leaders saying annual reviews don’t yield accurate data — companies are quickly eliminating them (like GE, Accenture, Adobe, The Gap, and Microsoft already have). In a 7×24 world with an increasingly younger workforce, “annual” and “review” need to be replaced with more frequent conversations and performance partnerships.
Yet, simply telling managers to have regular 1on1 meetings isn’t a panacea. While HR executives and senior leaders are more expert at constructive coaching, young and middle managers may not be. Fortunately, 57 percent of employees prefer corrective feedback and 72 percent say their performance would improve with feedback. So even the 50% of managers who don’t want to give critique for fear of being the “bad guy” now have official license to put peoples’ success in front of the desire to be liked.
To boost your people and their performance, use a framework for 1on1s that connects, calibrates and coaches team members. Before the meetings, do two things:
First, make sure you’ve shared goals for the quarter to frame progress and priority discussions. Without clarity on what you define as success, people need to guess what matters and what the purpose of their work is.
Second, prepare for the meeting itself. Using in-person meetings to run down a list of what someone’s working on or throw more on their plate before understanding what’s already cooking is a formula for unproductive 1on1s. Instead, use weekly status reports or embrace performance and productivity apps to quickly see priorities, workload, and progress before the meeting.
Then use your 1on1 meetings to help you team members achieve their best with this framework:
- Start with “how are you?” Instead of a token opening, really listen to the response. Connect simply as humans to set the stage for coaching and constructive feedback. People are more receptive and engaged when they know you care about them.
- Ask what’s in their way and how you can help. Help people resolve priority conflicts so they can increase their impact. Get roadblocks out of their way so they can deliver the results you’re expecting. This doesn’t mean doing their job, but rather removing obstacles outside the sphere of their responsibility.
- Sync on performance, alignment, and engagement level. If you’re not talking about alignment, you can’t expect it! Your employees want to perform well and be on the same page with you, so be open and compare your perceptions. Letting people know where you think they are in terms of their performance and contributions to work helps them move up and forward.
- Uplevel to longer range goals. Use the time together to help people think above the “action item” level. They’ll find it rejuvenating and be able to make better decisions day to day.
- Coach for career growth. Help your employees get to the next level by deepening their skills and competencies. What’s the next step they can take and what will you do to help them get there? Follow through on the help you commit to providing and you’ll foster great loyalty and have a lasting impact on their career.
Leading people is more important than ever as business gets faster and more complex, but leadership is far from dictatorship. Leaders at all levels must excel at setting clear goals, coaching people to their highest level, and creating a culture of high recognition and accountability. These are the essential elements of performance partnerships within high achieving teams; 1on1s create the conversation around these ingredients that enable leaders, teams, and each member to contribute their best.
About the Author: Deidre Paknad is CEO and co-founder of Workboard. She shapes its product strategy, customer engagement model, and thought leadership efforts. With decades of experience leading enterprise and startup teams on strategic pursuits, Dedire is passionate about providing tools and insights that help leaders engage their teams in great achievement.
Deidre is a serial entrepreneur and has founded and led several companies. As CEO of PSS Systems, she and the team created a new market category and inspired deep customer loyalty from ExxonMobil, Citigroup, Travelers, Novartis, Wells Fargo, and many other large enterprises. The company was acquired by IBM in 2010. At IBM, Deidre was Vice President of a fast-growing global business improving information economics for IBM’s enterprise customers. She has been recognized by the Smithsonian for innovation twice and has more than a dozen patents. You can connect with Deidre on Twitter, LinkedIn, or learn more on the Workboard website or blog.
Editor’s Note: The following is the final installment of a three-part series featuring influential women from Paychex. Part I of the series kicked off on Sept. 22 in conjunction with American Business Women’s Day.
I’m a big believer that professional development is the basis for achieving success in almost any field, and HR is no exception. It’s important to assess your own strengths and opportunities to determine what competencies you need to master in order to advance to the next step, and then execute an Individual Development Plan (IDP) that is targeted to help you achieve your career goals.
Over the course of my career, I’ve made it a constant point of emphasis to be self-aware of my performance in areas that I consider to be key competencies in my current role and the next role that that I aspire to attain. This has enabled me to develop an IDP that leverages my strengths and close my gaps through actions that provide me with valuable exposure opportunities, hands-on experiences and continued learning. My philosophy is to invest in yourself because the ROI is priceless.
Business leaders today know that their employees are the driver of business success. While employees are valued, many business leaders rank human capital as a top challenge. This presents a huge opportunity for HR practitioners to add value to their companies and grow as professionals, if they can help their organization reimagine HR’s role as a key business partner. Here are some key competencies that can help you tremendously in achieving that goal:
Functional knowledge and expertise. The field of HR is extensive and continues to advance and transform. It’s vitally important to stay abreast of the field so that your knowledge – and practical application of that knowledge – is modern and relevant. Having strong functional knowledge and expertise better equips you to quickly align HR and business strategy.
Business acumen. Understanding the big picture and the ability to look out the windshield at what lies ahead are critical. Having strong business acumen will result in the aptitude and knowledge to become a more critical thinker and capable problem solver. Developing business acumen involves being keenly aware of the economic and social issues that are affecting your company, staying close to emerging industry trends, your companies competitors, and truly understanding the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) of your organization. When all of these things come together, you’re in a position to diagnose a business problem and offer a strategic solution that will drive business outcomes and your company’s success.
Executive disposition. It’s more than about what you know. It’s also about how you perform in your role as a HR practitioner. You want to be viewed as a leader not only in your profession, but in the organization as a whole. HR practitioners have a really unique opportunity to develop relationships that are both cross-functional and cross-hierarchical. When doing so, it’s important to convey an image that’s consistent with the vision and values of the organization in order to be an effective advocate for the company. You want to exude a demeanor of poise and confidence, especially in times of change, ambiguity, or stress. It will command respect and reassure others within the organization – from front line employees all the way to the C-suite.
If you’re a HR practitioner who may not yet have these competencies mastered, don’t fret. Simply make a pledge to your professional development by formalizing your IDP and making it a priority. That commitment will pay huge dividends, both for yourself and your organization.
About the Author: Leah Machado is the director of service for HR Services at Paychex, a leading provider of integrated human capital management (HCM) solutions for payroll, human resource, insurance, and benefits outsourcing services. She leads an organization with over 500 HR practitioners who provide HR outsourcing services to 32,000 Paychex HR Services clients with 880,000 worksite employees. Leah’s career spans over 22 years in the retail, restaurant, and HCM outsourcing industries, and includes HR practitioner and leadership experience.