Editor’s Note: Several of our Women of HR writers have come together to share some of the best pieces of career advice they’ve received. Their series of posts will run over the next couple of weeks. Enjoy!
A few years ago, I read a wonderful article in Fortune magazine that was nothing more than a collection of wise advice from notable individuals. This article stayed with me. So I thought I would offer a synopsis of advice ranging from famous leaders (a few paraphrased from this article) to the day to day leaders who cross my path each day. This collection is relevant and focused on how to be the best we can be – at whatever stage of our leadership journey we find ourselves.
Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO, Pepsico:
“Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent….when you assume negative intent, you are angry and it shows.”
Chad Houser and Janice Provost, Owners of Parigi Restaurant in Dallas:
“We treat everyone the same – like family. We want people to want to come here not only because of the food; also because they feel good when they are here.”
Sam Palmisano, Chairman and CEO of IBM:
“Don’t view your career as a linear progression. Take horizontal steps, try out situations that are unstructured to learn different ways of working, and get outside the headquarters and experience different cultures.”
Thomas S. Murphy, Former CEO, Capital Cities/ABC:
“Don’t spend your time on things you can’t control. Instead, spend your time thinking about what you can.”
Nelson Peltz, CEO, Trian Fund Management:
“Get sales up and keep expenses down. It is as simple as that.”
Charlene Begley, President and CEO, GE Enterprise Solutions:
“People don’t care about titles. Just value. Spend a ton of time with your customers – especially when you are new to your role – ask tons of questions about everything…competitors, service, price, products…they will give you the reality. Then you can act.”
Rachel Ashwell, CEO of Shappy Chic:
“If you don’t know, say you don’t know. Own it. Then go find out. Period.”
Tina Fey, Actress:
“Pay attention to money. Listen to your business manager and your accountants. Always be the person who can sign your checks – only you.”
Tony Robbins, Performance Coach:
“The selection of your friends and advisors matter more than anything else in your life. You must stand guard at the door of your mind.”
Joe (last name anonymous by request), successful business executive:
“Be real. Just keep it real.”
Joanna Shields, President, BEBO.com:
“I go back to the things my dad said: ‘Your career is long, and the business world is small. Always act with integrity. Never take the last dollar off the table.’
In closing, I particularly relate to this last piece of advice from Joanna, as seldom have I ever heard wise business advice from anyone, which had not previously been given to me by my mother and father. For these gifts, I will remain eternally grateful.
This article highlights just a few of the thousands of wise words and stories from individuals who affect our lives – directly or indirectly – every day. The secret is to be present in the moment so that we benefit from their thoughts, words, and deeds – as they cross our paths. That is the secret…..and the gift.
About the Author: Kristin Kaufman is founder of Alignment, Inc.™, formed in 2007 to help individuals, corporations, boards of directors and non-profits find alignment within themselves and their organizations. A prolific writer, Kristin’s first book, Is This Seat Taken?, centers on her global experiences seeding her journey toward alignment. The book is scheduled for release in November 2011. Kristin is on Twitter as @KristinKaufman.
We are unwrapping some posts from the Women of HR archives for you this holiday season. Relax, enjoy and let us know if there is a favorite of yours you'd like to see unwrapped and run again.
How do you grow?
You don’t let fear get in the way of your doing what you need to do.
I have just worked through one of the hardest projects I have ever tackled in my life. I learned so much and the stakes were VERY high. Yes, there were times that the tasks were daunting. Yes, there were times when it was scary, but it is what I needed to do, to succeed and to get through to the other side. There were times when I shut the door, whipped out the iPhone and played a few games of Sudoku just to pull my heart rate down. I was determined to do the very best I could and to make all the right decisions.
I think too often people let the fear of their own unknown capabilities stop them from doing what is needed, or it prevents them from doing quality work on a project or a task. They don’t know if they can accomplish something and they let the fear sit on that negative perspective of the challenge. Another way to look at something that you have never done before, is that now you get to learn something new. Now you get to grow.
It had been awhile since I had done something in business that really had a fear element in it for me. I remember my first trip to Europe was on a business trip that I did all by myself. It scared me. All the firsts I had on that trip drove my adrenalin. I have never been afraid of travel to anywhere or into
any situation since then. I gained confidence. I remember the first international and the first $100,000+ deals I negotiated. They both made me nervous but they have lead me to relish, not fear, every customer conversation, the big deals and meeting anyone with any title from any walk of life.
I don’t really like the expression ‘facing your fears’ because that gives your fear a shape and presence that makes it even bigger. I think we need an expression more along the lines of “climb above your fear.” This keeps the awareness that we need to respect the trepidation, while using the endorphins to lift us up higher.
So the lesson I have now firmly cemented into my heart is that it is OK to have a fear of something if you use that fear to heighten your awareness and improve your performance. When you come out the other side of a project that intimidated you, you will have increased confidence and a new perspective.
It’s called experience and it is earned.
About the author: Lois Melbourne, GPHR, is CEO and co-founder of the global workforce planning and analytics solutions company Aquire, mom to one terrific young son and wife of co-founder Ross Melbourne. She maintains a strong personal commitment to career education and small business development and is a frequent speaker, author of industry articles, and an avid blogger and networker. Connect with her on Twitter as @loismelbourne.
Photo credit iStockphoto
As an HR person, I always find it fun, exciting and a great opportunity to judge people when I go through my own interview experience.I realize this probably makes me a little crazy and a bit of a nerd. Internal interviews are great in the sense that I continue to learn how much internal interview processes suck. Who needs feedback or consistent follow-up? Apparently not me, however, that’s not where I am going to focus today. Internal interviewing is a whole different can of worms I am not opening.
Sometimes, I have a horrible day at work and I say to myself, “I am done being a human punching bag, I am going to find a new job!” I have a feeling this happens a lot when you’re young in your career as I am. I should probably stop saying I am young in my career because as we continue to hire more and more recent grads, I start to feel ridiculously old. Regardless, I am still younger than many of my colleagues. In the last few years, I’ve dabbled in some interviewing at places other than my current employer. I have always told myself that if I were to ever leave it would have to be for a bomb opportunity. Yes, I said bomb. This being said, I’ve learned a couple of things:
- Many organizations have terrible interview processes
- I am clearly too process oriented
- I have seriously high expectations for potential employers
I’m really only going to focus on the first bullet. Mainly because I don’t want to write a 20 page blog post and even if I did, you wouldn’t read it. I wouldn’t even read it.
Many organizations have terrible interview processes
I use the word many, but I am probably exaggerating. I often find myself frustrated with the lack of communication that happens. I also realized recently, that I am sometimes “old school” in how I prefer to be communicated with initially during the interview process. There was one organization that communicated only via e-mail. As someone who works with an employer that truly believes it is import
ant to build relationships, this was something that was hard to move past. I want to get a feel for the organization based on my conversations with the recruiter, not over e-mail. I realize I am probably one of very few who feels this way. I guess I want to feel like I am worth a phone call.
Another organization didn’t let me ask questions! WHAT?! I spent all this time preparing and coming up with thoughtful questions so that they knew I was taking the interview seriously. You suck. I want to ask my questions. It was the first time this had ever happened to me, but I was annoyed. I think it shows little respect for the candidate as most people will come prepared with at list a few questions. Me, it’s more like 15 to 20, but I’m a little crazy.
Part of my personal problem with interviewing is that I do have high expectations and I know how easy it is to make a phone call to keep the candidate informed of where we are in the process. I also recognize that all recruiters have multiple positions they are recruiting for, but if you don’t keep the candidate informed (especially your top candidate,) they are going to change their mind or go elsewhere. I find it ridiculously frustrating as someone who has worked in recruiting and someone who currently works in HR to have to be subjected to a subpar interview experience at a very reputable organization.
The interview process gives the candidate an idea of what they may be walking into should they be offered and accept a job at your organization. Don’t screw it up.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: Cindy Janovitz works for a great Fortune 500 company in Minnesota. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Communications and Spanish from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota. Cindy has a passion for working with and helping people and a love for organizational culture. Three words Cindy uses to describe herself are energetic, passionate, and driven. You can connect with Cindy on Twitter as @cindyelizabeth
I am not much of a soccer fan but I did watch the final match from the Euro Soccer 2012 championships between Italy and Spain. It was an amazing win for the Spanish side and a great loss for the Italian team.
Long after the match was over, and the dust had settled, what stayed with me, what lingered in my memory was the picture of the happy, smiling and extremely confident Spanish children brought into the pitch at the end of the game.
They wore with such pride, miniature versions of their father’s red jerseys and they pranced about in the open field and played in the confetti oblivious to the mammoth crowd on every side.
It was beautiful moment.
For the life of me, I could not tear my eyes away from these happy youngsters sharing in the victory and claiming their rightful share of the Glory. They practically took over the field with their ponytails and winning smiles. As I watched them, I wondered where the children of the other team were. What would they be thinking? Would they wonder why they were still in the stands and not on the pitch? Would they grasp the enormity of the loss and would they share in that loss to the same degree as their counterparts shared in the victory?
Daily occurrences mirror life and if we take note we can glean pearls of wisdom. . .
- What choices are we making?
- What are we passing down?
- What actions are we taking that might give future generation a heads up, an edge or an advantage?<
- What did you wish you had been given? Would you consider providing that gift?
- If we learned new skills and tried new activities, would it impact on those coming behind us positively? Would it encourage them to remain open to new knowledge and experiences?
- If we complained less and were more thankful in spite of present challenges, would we raise children with less of a sense of entitlement and more of a spirit of gratitude?
But I digress with all the rhetorical questions.
Bring your children to your field. Expose them as much as possible. Let them know and understand what it is that you do. Make them partakers of your victories and your losses. It will be an enriching experience for all concerned. Work and the home front do not have to be mutually exclusive . . . the Spanish team proved that.
Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it onto future generations. George Bernard Shaw
Photo credit: Eddie Keogh/Reuters
About the author: Tamkara Adun is proud to be a woman of HR. She has a Post Graduate Diploma in Human Resources Management from the University of London. You can connect with Tamkara on twitter @tamkara
A few weeks ago, week my constant state of being over committed caught up with me and I fell ill.
My body was telling me to slow down and I fought it with everything I had, but I lost. The result of what happened was exactly what I needed.
You see, I had an ENTIRE day to myself. No one at home. No one at my office door. No electronic device tempting me to answer it for the next great blog post, tweet, DM or Facebook note. At first, I didn’t know what to do. Honestly, I fought an amazing pull to do SOMETHING because that’s what we wired to do. Doing nothing means being lazy, nonchalant or just slacking off.
The reality of this day to myself is that it allowed me to just empty myself out mentally and get reset. I’ll be honest. I don’t do this nearly enough. Like many of my friends, we just keep adding on more and slogging through it because we have an immense capacity (or so we tell ourselves).
When I was better the next day, I was sharp, revived and ready to face things once again. This time, however, I didn’t do the mad jump into the rush. I sat back and thought about how the tidal wive of commitments I’ve chosen could very easily come back and jump up to attempt to drown me once again.
So, I thought it was time to get back to what works for me – feelin’ groovy!!
The phenomenal duo of Simon & Garfunkel had many memorable songs, but one of my faves was The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) because the lyrics and the feel from the song give you perspective. Look at this:
“Slow down, you move too fast. You got to make the mornin’ last. Just kickin’ down the cobblestones, Lookin’ for fun and feelin’ groovy. Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy.”
It may seem naive, or even a waste of time, for folks. That’s a shame. I know that when I woke up to head back into work and heard this song, I thought let’s try something renewed today. So, I was kinder to my family, excited to get to work, and geeked to see my friends and co-workers. I called some of my friends from the “social media space” just to check in and see how they were doing, etc.
The groove hasn’t left and I hope it doesn’t. As you approach your day, your work in HR and life in general, remember – HOW you approach it makes all the difference in the world.
I need to go kick some cobblestones now . . .
Have you ever had such a bad experience with something or someone that you have an almost violently negative reaction to anything similar you encounter in the future?
It doesn’t have to even be that much alike either; it only needs to spark that little bit of recognition to cause you to start running for the hills. Once you’ve been burned it’s hard to not fear the fire.
So, if you’ve had a bad employment experience, a bad manager, or a bad company in your past you are bound to be a little wary when you are looking for something new. The last thing someone leaving a bad situation wants is to find themselves in the same place, or possibly one even worse.
That kind of caution is understandable but at the same time it could be self-defeating as well. When looking for a new job, you can’t approach it with fear, you have to be positive, excited, and even hopeful. If not, it will come through during an interview and that is never a good thing.
So, what do you tell someone in that kind of mindset? How do you help them get beyond that?
First, let go.
Whether you are still in the tough situation or already out, let it go. Let go of the frustration and bitterness so that it doesn’t hold you back. The longer you hold on, the longer you let that bad situation control you.
Yes, hope. Hope for a better job, a better company, a better boss. If you’ve been in a tough situation for a while, you can sometimes fool yourself into thinking there isn’t anything better out there or worse, that there is something wrong with you. But you have to hold onto the hope that you will find a better place to be.
And finally, learn.
Now that you’ve been in that kind of situation you know what to look for, what questions to ask, and most importantly, what you want. Just be sure to not bash your past employers while asking, because nothing will hurt your chances in an interview faster than negativity, no matter how well deserved.
The only thing you can control is yourself, so how effectively you can move on from a bad situation rests solely with you. Don’t hold yourself back, grow, move on, and find that better future for you.
Photo credit iStockphoto
I am writing this as I whiz through Germany on a high speed train watching the lovely scenery while I type. It’s a skill I learned as a kids doing data entry and it comes in handy when I want to type while enjoying the countryside view.
Why do I tell you this, other than bragging that I have fun job? It’s because I have come a long way, baby, from the hick Midwest kid I grew up as. Some will still tell you I am hick and I am OK with that.
Why do I tell you this, other than to knock off any images of my being a jet setter? It’s because I got here by constantly stretching outside my comfort zone.
Sitting in your comfort zone is like staying in your pajamas all day, you won’t get asked to dance and passed a glass of Champagne unless your spouse has a great sense of humor and romance.
If you are not getting butterflies on a regular basis about something you are challenged to do, then you are not likely growing. If you are not having to Google how to get something done, from how to dial internationally to how to locate the highest zip line launching point in the state, then your Internet access may need to be taken away because you are just not trying hard enough. If you are not forced to seek experts, mentors, and an occasional masseuse then your mountain may not be steep enough to be worth climbing.
I learned how to sell software and hire people internationally. I started and sold a business. I hired and fired people far smarter than me. The first (and sometimes second and third) time I had done these things they were not totally comfortable. None of them were easy and even repeatedly executing them didn’t make them comfortable.
And that is what gives me a buzz.
When I come up with an idea the negotiating attorney never even thought of, I fist pump during the conference call. When I figured out the European train system without speaking the languages, I smiled really big and I can still remember those early trips and sense of accomplishments.
What are you scared of? Maybe you should go right now and tackle that activity. Don’t live your life in your ‘pajamas’. That’s too comfortable and even Hugh dons a suit regularly.
International note: If you don’t have your passport (then I would bet $500.00 you are an American) and you MUST go right now to Travel.State.Gov, fill out the form and get it done. No worries – you have bigger concerns then finishing this blog if you don’t have your passport yet. Ditch me and get on with the important stuff. Get the passport and start planning that international trip. You have a comfort zone you really need to step out of!
It’s getting close to October 10 and that’s when my twins will turn 19 years old. Not unlike many parents, I think back to their arrival day and how they arrived 5 weeks early.
Looking back, I recall the enormous amount of faith I had in my doctor but I also how I relied heavily on my gut instincts. The first time I went into labor, I was 26 weeks pregnant. I called the doctor because I felt funny (yep, best words I had at the time) and the conversation went like this:
Doc: “Do you think you’re in labor?”
Me: “I have no idea – this is my first pregnancy, remember — I just know that something doesn’t feel right.”
Doc: “Meet me at the hospital.”
He trusted his gut with my response even though he had no idea I’d end up having a high-risk pregnancy. Sure enough, those babies were fighting to come out and continued to do so for weeks after that. We did this routine 5 more times through full-time bed rest, preeclampsia and sucking down meds to suppress contractions. I was terrified of the impact this stress and the medication would have on the babies – there was no WedMD at the time (which is probably a good thing, looking back!)
I had faith in my doctor but I never questioned my gut.
In our world, we have faith in many of the people around us. We have faith they will be responsible, make good decisions and do the right thing. When we take that chance and we’re proven right, it’s a good reinforcement that people generally have a desire to do well for themselves and for others.
As for me, it goes against all I want to believe in to even think that people have negative intentions, but I’d also be an idiot if I believed it didn’t exist. That’s when we revert back to what our gut is saying.
I don’t believe that trusting our gut instinct is the equivalent of taking a chance. When we trust ourselves, and our experiences, we have a higher probability of being spot on most of the time.
My question to you is this:
Have you ever had a time in your life – whether it’s at the office or with a personal matter when the faith you had in someone collided with what your gut was telling you?
It doesn’t always need to be a massive, earth shattering moment – but you immediately know it when it happens. You just sit back in your chair, open up your mental manuscript of “life experiences” and add a new chapter.
Did that experience cause you to be more cynical of people going forward or do you continue to have faith in people?
I do continue to have faith in people but when the voice of my instinct speaks to me, I hear it loud and clear and adjust accordingly.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions.
This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to spend time with my niece who will celebrate her first birthday this month. It has been weeks since I last saw her and I was amazed at how much she changed. Somehow, she transformed from a baby to a little girl. She was taking her first steps, testing the waters, and getting into everything. Her eyes watched everyone and observed our actions. I was fascinated by her growth and the influence we all had on her.
Our early influences help shape us into the adults we become. As we grow older, we encounter people who impact our lives. We meet some people we like and try to emulate their behaviors while there are others we do not.
Many people have influenced me throughout my career - some without my knowledge. One unlikely influencer was a manager I worked for early in my career. Honestly, I did not like this manager and I didn’t think he liked me. I rarely saw him, and when I did, he had nothing positive to say. He was much older than me and had a management style different than mine. He was old school, I was not. He was the turtle, I was the rabbit. I was so put off by his style, that instead of listening to what he had to say, I focused on how he was saying it. I am sure I was a challenge for him to manage.
One day we were very busy. I was running around and felt like I had everything under control. My manager pulled me aside and told me to slow down because I was out of control. I told him I was in total control and everything was fine. He proceeded to tell me that this was not the perception I was giving to the team and my direct reports. The perception was that I was out of control, even if I felt I was in control. He continued to say that, as a manager, I was always on stage. When on stage, those around you watch your every move and how you react to situations. He disarmed me with this comment and I did not respond. After this experience I slowly began to be more accepting of his ideas. While not always agreeing, at least I listened. Soon after this experience, I was promoted to a new role working under another manager.
At the time, I am not sure I fully appreciated what this manager was trying to teach me. I had closed my eyes to a style and way of thinking different than my own. I did not want to learn from this person, so I did not. It was not until I got a little older that I appreciated what he was trying to teach me. Here is what I learned:
- Always be open to new experiences and opinions. Listen and be objective.
- You can learn from the most unlikely sources.
- Not everyone has the same style you do and that is okay.
- Take what you like about other people’s style and apply it in a way that works with your style. Don’t try to be something you are not.
As my niece experiences life through rose-colored glasses, she teaches me to do the same. With every experience comes an opportunity to learn.
Have you had an instance where you learned something from an unexpected source? How did you handle it and what did you learn?
Building character is hard work.
In my first HR gig, the VP of HR asked me to hold a new hire orientation meeting. “What?” I thought, “I was still trying to understand co-insurance!” She saw the look of panic in my eyes and said, “You can do this and you’re going to be fine. Trying new things builds character!” Over the next 8 years, she gave me that line about building character over and over again. Soon enough, I was using it at work and at home. I believed it then and I still do now.
Whenever I did something new and uncomfortable, regardless of the outcome, it certainly molded my character. When my children were in high school, I was constantly telling them, “Take a risk, step out of your comfort zone – it builds character!” It was my mantra and I was confident saying that because I had been stepping out of my comfort zone throughout my entire career.
The last 12 months have been filled with change. In fact, I scored 268 points on the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale. A score of 300 or higher would put my stress level at a high risk for physical illness. You can easily pooh-pooh this type of thinking but the power of the mind shouldn’t be taken lightly. I have a new job in a new city. My kids finished their freshman year of college, are living at the beach for the summer, and I see them only on weekends. I’ve been spending a lot of time managing the change with my kids and my empathy level is at an all time high.
What I didn’t realize was that while I was managing these changes, I wasn’t embracing my own personal changes. This realization stopped me in my tracks and I’ve been pondering why this was happening. I’m the proponent of change. My favorite saying is from the lyrics of a Melissa Etheridge song, “The only thing that stays the same is change.” So, what’s wrong?
Embracing change is different for everyone. For me, not embracing it meant that after I moved to a new city, I went to my apartment every night after work, exercised, ate dinner and went to bed. Night after night. I didn’t explore my new town. There were two social events held at my community and although I was kidding myself by putting the flyer on the fridge, I knew I wasn’t going to attend. All I can hear shouting back at me are the words I’ve repeated, “Take a risk and get out of your comfort zone!”
Driving 650 miles a week gave me plenty of time to think and I realized that I was building my character and stepping out of my comfort zone – by day, at work. My new position is the most challenging one I’ve ever held. One of my responsibilities is implementing change in the organizational structure and creating an objective performance management program. Each day brings a brand new set of challenges, many that I haven’t encountered in a prior position.
I’ve come to the conclusion that we have varying degrees and speeds of character building based on our life experiences and events. I have plenty of growing and developing to do and it won’t happen overnight. Sometimes I can be my own worst enemy by placing high expectations on myself. My character will evolve, on an ongoing basis and at its own pace. I’m okay with that.
I would love to know what expectations you set for yourself to build character — will you share them with me?