In preparing for this year’s HR Technology Conference, one of the sessions I was most looking forward to was the pre-conference “Women in HR Technology” event. Anytime something new is offered on the agenda you just never know how it’s going to be received, but based on the descriptions, panelists, and pre-conference hype, it seemed to have promise to be a solid session. And judging by the overwhelming attendance and standing room only/overflow situation, I’d say for a first time event it exceeded expectations. An all-star panel of female leaders from companies such as ADP, Equifax, Ceridian, Paychex, SAP, Cornerstone, Ultimate, and Oracle (among others!) offered lively discussions and countless bits of great advice on developing and promoting more women into technology roles and leadership roles within technology companies.
Read the full post on the HR Tech Insiders blog
Editor’s Note: Women of HR contributor Rowena Morais will be writing a series of posts over the coming months featuring successful HR leaders who talk about the habits made the biggest impact in their professional lives. Today’s post is the first in that series.
Self-described kibitzer on all things enterprise HRM and HR technology, Naomi Bloom is well-known for having built the only vendor-neutral HRM domain model and application architecture “starter kits”. Her IP has been licensed across the industry from 1995 through 2013 and has been considered a primary contributor to many of today’s best practices in HRM enterprise software. Her early start was as a Programmer at John Hancock Life Insurance in the 1960’s where she was trained in programming, software design and systems analysis.
I got in touch with Naomi to talk about the habits that led to her success because the research I had done indicated that she was renowned in the HR technology industry. With more than 17,000 Twitter followers, Naomi is a frequent speaker at HR conferences and the author of Human Resource Management and Information Technology : Achieving a Strategic Partnership. Her industry contributions have been recognised with the IHRIM’s Summit Award and in 2011, and Naomi became a Fellow of the Human Resource Policy Institute at Boston University. Naomi’s BA is from the University of Pennsylvania, with a major in English Literature and a minor in natural science. Her MBA is from Boston University.
In discussing the most powerful habits that Naomi has relied on, in running her solo practice over the last two decades, it was clear that the experience of her early years was impactful. She found the questions on habits particularly useful because it is important to see the distinction between habits and KSAOCs (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities and other Characteristics) – they are not the same thing.
Habit #1 – Disciplined work
The first habit Naomi drew reference to was her habit of disciplined work.
Her mother passed away when Naomi was young. However, she was surrounded by three generations of family and her grandmother proved to be a big influence on her.
“This early life taught me about the value of hard work, living up to commitments and about sticking to a schedule. I am smart but I’m not a genius. If you add good work habits to your normal habits though, this becomes a force magnifier,” she shared.
Habit #2 – Critical thinking and lifelong learning
This second habit is an interesting one for the fact that it’s a two part combo. It’s a challenge in itself to develop the mastery associated with thinking critically, let alone the dedication or quest for lifelong learning.
As Naomi puts it, “Lifelong learning is really about a commitment to always be vesting yourself in your skills and your knowledge.”
To never stop learning is a skill that may take a lifetime to develop and certainly, one that needs to be worked on with dedication, ambition and relentless energy.
Combined, this would mean being on the lookout to gain alternative points of view and teaching yourself all kinds of new things. But where it all comes together is when you apply critical thinking to that whole process.
Habit #3 – Tikkun Olam
Tikkum Olam is a Jewish concept which literally means “repair of the world” and is being interpreted by modern movements in Judaism as a commandment for people to behave and act constructively and beneficially.
Naomi explained it as representing a moral obligation, in every Jew, to leave the world a better place than they found it.
Overwhelming as it sounds, this may be achievable by ordinary folk because you are expected to do what you can. You can do this by raising your child properly, by embarking on a recycling initiative or even doing volunteer work. It would mean that if you had a dollar, you would give part of it away. If you could teach, you would devote some of your time to teaching someone else.
These were the three primary habits that Naomi referred to.
Were these habits consciously developed from when she was young? She did not think so. Naomi was greatly influenced by the adults around her as she grew. Her father was an early riser – he worked hard and for long hours which meant Naomi did not get to see very much of him. She spent a lot of time with her grandmother, who being religious, imparted strong values in her.
It did not mean, however, that everything she was taught, was accepted so easily. There were things Naomi resisted.
For example, coming from a modest family, Naomi grew up at a time when there was a lot of anti-semitism in the air – you learned not to call too much attention to yourself.
Yet, Naomi couldn’t help crying out against the injustices she saw. As she put it, “I didn’t know it when I was a young kid but I realised in my late 20’s that I was a feminist from my earliest days. I rallied against the discrimination I saw; I just called it out”.
She almost got fired for asking too many questions, when early in her career, she discovered that men received more pay for the same work. She protested the Vietnam war, much to the chagrin of her family. But the point Naomi made about all of this is that you are in charge of and responsible for your own life.
You get to a point in your life when you realise that you cannot blame your parents for where you are in life. You get to a point where you begin to accomplish things and – happily – you give yourself credit for that.
The habits you choose however – because it is a choice – are what will set you apart. And while Naomi considers herself fortunate for having picked up some really good habits along the way, you and I both know, these were choices she made for herself that have led her to where she is today.
What habits do you aspire to build that you believe will make the difference in your life?
About the Author: Rowena Morais is the Editor of VerticalDistinct.com, helping individuals develop their professional abilities and career to the fullest in either Human Resources or Technology. She is also Editor of the quarterly human resource magazine, Accelerate. She graduated from the University of Glamorgan, Wales with an LL.B (Hons) and is a regular blogger on personal growth.
Like most, Conflict Management is not my favorite subject. Nor am I an expert as I have my own unresolved conflict currently brewing that I need to heed my own advice on. However, in Human Resources you often need to be a mediator of conflict between coworkers and manager/employee disagreements. Other times you simply have to provide advice to other managers who need to help their employees deal with conflict. Finally, conflict almost always shows up in the board room regardless of how well we try to avoid it.
Some studies say we are about 75% responsible for how others treat us. If the emotion is negative then most likely some of that responsibility is in your reaction to the situation. If you are a person who tends to allow others to treat you in a way that causes inward or outward conflict, it may be time to put them in their place and make them think twice about doing it again. Of course I don’t mean to do this in a negative way because what does that do? It feeds the fire and causes more conflict. So here is a quick list of suggestions I recommend based on my own experience, education, and practice resolving conflict.
- Use Your Words – you cannot resolve anything without expressing how it makes you feel. The key word here is you as in “I”. Choose words that will express but not shame or blame the other person.
- Seek First to Understand Then to Be Understood – this is one of the best Steven Covey habits for exceptional people. If you are always trying to be right and never care to understand the other person(s) point of view, resolution is not in your cards.
- Understand Differences in Perception – just because you see a situation one way doesn’t mean others will see it the same as you. Everyone comes from a life of difference and that may be something you are not aware of.
- Remember It’s About Impact Not Intent – take responsibility when someone shares that you may have offended them. You may not intend to hurt them but consider that you may have.
- Maintain Your Credibility and Respect – this is especially important when your conflict is in the workplace, but it can affect family member relationships for years to come as well when reactions go over the line.
- What, What and Why? Feedback Framing – this was a tip from a past boss that has always stuck with me and I even use in disciplinary action documentation at times. Explain WHAT happened then go directly in to WHAT could or should have happened in the future (don’t focus on past) and WHY this new suggestion is a better response.
- Restate What You Have Heard – say “What I hear you saying is…” to help the other person understand how you may be perceiving what you said as well as helping you further dive into #2 above. It’s a clarification technique that slows you down from reacting negatively to something that may not have been intended.
- Gain an Understanding of Emotional Intelligence – the higher your EQ is the better able you will be in managing conflict. The skills can be learned if you know what they are and how to work on them. Some are above but there are more. Free EQ tests are available online.
- Practice, practice, practice – whether or not you need to practice any of the tips above or something you learn by taking your EQ test, practice it every chance you get. Set reminders on your phone if you must but keep the ideas on the forefront so you learn to make them a habit when the unexpected happens.
- Know When to Give Yourself a Time Out – there are times that you heart starts to race or your blood pressure rises and you can physically feel the signs that you are about to blow due to conflict. This is the time to walk away and let the other person know you need some time. The time is healthy for both sides of the conflict to help give perspective and determine a plan for resolution.
Even if these suggestion are just reminders of what you already know, I hope it’s a good refresher and can help maintain a relationship that may be on the verge of being broken. Remember, life is too short to carry conflict for long. Take responsibility now and move forward. I have lost several loved ones (mom, dad, and brother to name a few) in my life recently who I wish I had hugged one more time than I had fought with them.
Don’t have regrets and make a difference in your life and others.
Culture is one of the easiest things to blow off when it comes to organizational investment. You build it, and you just sort of place policies and procedures to make sure it works, right? When HR managers shout from the rooftops that corporate culture can be the downfall of an organization (or at the very least a huge stumbling block) if not properly cultivated and managed, we’re quite often met with an exasperated response. Not THAT again. And yet, when the company stumbles and falls over said block to the tune of millions of dollars, it’s most irritatingly a malady that could have been avoided. There is nothing that guides a company to it goals and beyond quite like a dynamic, properly-cultivated corporate culture, and a perfect example of this has recently hit the news: Zenefits.
This darling of Silicon Valley shot through the uprights not unlike a good number of its start-up constituents: former CEO Parker Conrad Valley’s billion dollar startups, peaking last year when he was able to raise $500 million for a corporate valuation of $4.5 billion. Announcing itself as the fastest-growing software service ever, based on a free cloud-based HR platform for small businesses around the U.S., it makes the majority of its income from commissions when clients use their platform to purchase insurance. The model was genius, and the corporate culture was constructed to obtain those sales by any means necessary.
There was only one big problem: they’ve been accused of partnering with quite a few salespeople without the proper license to sell insurance, and reportedly skirted quite a few laws that would make for the legal sale of insurance products. That’s not just a small pebble they stumbled over; that’s a gigantic legal boulder that’s put them under the watchful eye of the Federal government and downgraded them as an investment. Conrad has stepped down, and the former COO, David Saks, has taken the helm. One of the first things he did was address the errors in culture that led to their current state. He’s quoted in a Forbes article as having sent an email with the following text:
“We must admit that the problem goes much deeper than just process…Our culture and tone have been inappropriate for a highly regulated company. Zenefits’ company values were forged at a time when the emphasis was on discovering a new market, and the company did that brilliantly. Now we have moved into a new phase of delivering at scale and needing to win the trust of customers, regulators, and other stakeholders.”
As someone who has made a career out of designing adaptable, successful corporate cultures, I feel that they could have benefitted from strong HR. As Saks stated in the email, the culture that founded the company is very different from the one that will right the ship and keep it afloat. Where it appears the first epoch of the company’s history could be best summed as “by whatever means necessary,” it safe to assume that through careful corporate assessment and an in-depth look at their culture and the talent that supports it, it will most likely evolve to “with our shareholders and customers at the center of whatever we do.”
When speaking of corporate culture, a static approach is never best. You don’t just build it and let it go, letting it self-maintain with performance evaluations, retention and turnover. It must be constantly assessed against the market, customer satisfaction, internal goals, and staffing needs. While the vision, mission, and values of the company remain standardized for long periods of time, corporate culture is an ever-evolving means to accomplish your objectives. It drives, incents, connects, and deploys your resources of a human variety, and without the proper tools to monitor it — and the sense to pay attention to red flags once they’re raised —you will meet with obstacles that are unpleasant. Most important, they can usually be avoided.
The proprietary culture assessment tools I’ve developed from years of experience paired with recent technological advances act as a canary in a coal mine. They’re capable of assessing the culture from all aspects, and paired with market information and 11 other data inputs (13 in total), they can give you a 360-view of your company that can warn of disasters such as these along with other issues, such as turnover/employee defection, potentially derailing internal disconnects, and so much more. You need to monitor corporate culture effectively and often, and I have the tools that can accomplish this and so much more.
More than ever, companies must truly look deep inside their ranks to ascertain what is going on. It’s no longer sufficient to simply rely solely on client and employee engagement data to give you a view of what’s happening with your company; this type of insight only scratches the surface at best. Most employee engagement data tell us 86% of people are disengaged, which is a warning sign within itself. Don’t you want to know why before that expense and productivity issue hits your bottom line? I know I would.
I believe that companies need to take on the issue of culture more than ever before. Dig deep and use tools like my Capacity Framework to connect deep, disparate data for a powerful, actionable source of information: customer data, engagement data, exit interview data, performance data and metrics, talent data and more. Prioritize your corporate culture, and take action on this type of data, outlining the top strengths and challenges for your company. It’s only by connecting all the dots that you will truly paint an accurate picture of what’s going on in your organization, and armed with that knowledge, you can take action and manage your culture as you would any other asset within your company. For it is an asset, perhaps your greatest, and it must be constantly minded as if it could tear your company apart if mismanaged.
Because the truth is — and this Zenefits example is an illustrative example — it most certain can.
About the Author: Rita Trehan is the Founder and Principal of Rita Trehan, LLC, a change management and leadership advisory firm focused on corporate leadership, emerging technology, and cutting-edge organizational design. As a seasoned top executive that has successfully transformed organizations at the Fortune 200 and beyond, she has extensive experience working with CEOs and top corporate management on process and organizational improvement for maximum profitability. A soon-to-be published author, Rita regularly speaks at industry conferences around the world. You can contact Rita on twitter at @rita_trehan and connect with her via LinkedIn. Rita’s blog can be found at www.ritatrehan.com.
The sign of any great conference is when you continue to mull over the ideas with which you’re presented and the concepts you learn even after the event itself is over. It’s now a little over a week since WorkHuman 2016 wrapped up, and I’m still contemplating much of what I heard.
The event closed on Wednesday afternoon with a keynote from business thinker and author Gary Hamel, in a session titled “For Human Being to Thrive at Work, Bureaucracy Must Die.” The closing keynote spot at any conference can be an unfortunate place on the agenda, as many attendees tend to cut out early to catch flights home. That just did not appear to be the case for most at WorkHuman, and we were treated to an energetic, entertaining, and very relevant message.
The overall theme of Gary Hamel’s keynote was that the design of most of our organizations is in direct conflict with human nature. He offered the following three truths:
- Humans are creative, most of our organizations are not
- Humans are adaptable, most of our organizations are not
- Humans are passionate, most of our organizations are not
And because of these truths, most of our organizations are less human than the people that work within them, and therefore waste more human capacity than they use.
A pretty sad state of affairs, isn’t it?
Hamel went on to suggest that our roles as leaders is NOT to get the people within our organizations to serve the needs of our organizations, it’s to build an environment with such a compelling purpose that our people voluntarily bring their individual gifts to work every day. And when they do that, if we utilize those gifts appropriately, they will contribute to the overall success of the organization. He then promised us seven ways to change the realities within our organizations (but actually only got around to five – probably because he was just so passionate about each one that he spent more time than he expected to on each).
The five ways he touched on were:
- Get Angry – that our workplaces as so designed that our people are forced to show up but leave their humanity at home
- Load Up On data – if you want to inspire and lead change, you need to speak to the head as well as the heart
- Find the Fringe – and then push the boundaries
- Develop a New Set of Principles – whether it be meritocracy, more collaborative decision making, finding and developing the natural leaders in your organization, or embracing the wisdom of the crowd
- Reinvent the “How” – enlarge the scope of decision making and embrace the idea that irregular people doing irregular things in irregular ways create irregular successes
Each of these probably each deserve their own post, and perhaps at some point I’ll revisit them, but for now I’ll leave you with this takeaway…
As HR leaders, we cannot be the champions of bureaucracy and the status quo, especially when that status quo runs contrary to the very nature of human beings. And for many HR professionals that can be a challenge; many by nature and training tend to want to preserve the status quo at all costs. But that is no longer a sustainable way to approach our businesses and workplaces. We have a duty to challenge these constructs that really don’t serve long term sustainability or promote great workplaces and bring out the best in our people, the people who make our businesses what they are.
That’s no easy task, and certainly we can’t do it alone, but we can be the ones at the forefront of the change. The “how” is the difficult part, but these five ideas for changing our realities are a good starting point.
About the Author: Jennifer Payne, SPHR, SHRM-SCP has almost two decades of HR experience in employee relations, talent acquisition, learning & development, and employee communications, and currently works in talent management in the retail grocery industry. She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter as @JennyJensHR and on LinkedIn.
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.
How the War for Top Performers Can Be Won by Redefining Success: Capacity and the Definition of Talent
Talent. The War for Talent. Those two terms are the headlines that strike fear into the hearts of companies and create top-line action items for HR groups across the globe. The major fear for us all is what skills will be needed to ensure corporate longevity and success, and how will you get to them before anyone else does? Well, let’s also add to that the ability to attract and retain them. It’s a large problem to solve, that’s for sure. But I’m not entirely sure that it’s an external job. I think it starts with searching internally first, and that means a long, hard look at your leadership and competency models.
This is not to say that more traditional competency and leadership models are failures. Quite the contrary: these frameworks have succeeded in providing the qualities/attributes previous leaders and employees required for daily operational and long-term success. Built upon the success profiles of the past along with proven business acumen, these models have sparked development programs, helped forge career paths, laid the baseline for promotions and compensation rates, and crafted the means through which staffing is performed. The issue isn’t that they’ve never been successful; it’s that they may not be what’s needed moving forward.
We live in a global business world that is filled with daily disruptors, things that come flying at the business before anyone could conceivably see them coming. Technology advances every day, the customer is closer and more vocal than ever, cloud-based services are revolutionizing the way the workplace runs as well as how products are delivered, and it seems our entire lives can be run from our phones. Virtual technology is coming faster than we think, and with artificial intelligence and robotics working its way from the factory floor to self-driving cars and home-based products such as Amazon’s Alexa, the ebb and flow of product delivery and customer contact is getting faster than the speed of imagination. Does your leadership model work in the same way? Maybe it’s time to take a look.
When you review a traditional leadership model, you’ll notice they all have one great similarity: all competencies apply to all leaders, irrespective of their role, division or market. The premise has always been that a central set of leadership behaviors, traits, and competencies must be applicable across all leaders, that everyone must be held to the same standard, and that in order for the company to be successful everyone in management must march in the same direction in the same way. Before maybe five years ago, that worked. But in today’s rapidly-changing world of business, I’d argue that it’s a static, antiquated approach that might get you smashed against the windshield of oncoming change. It’s coming fast, so you must be adept and adaptable, which means rewarding a new set of leadership principles.
Let’s also explore the new prevalent population of the world, the Millennials, and how they affect more traditional role descriptions and success models. This generation isn’t driven by the same cash and prestige rewards as were Boomers and Generation X. They thrive on social causes, they desire to make more global impact, they demand work/life balance, and they require constant feedback. They’re also the most swiftly-adaptable generation in history, they solve problems more efficiently, process data more quickly, and can utilize technology better that their predecessors. We must consider how we look at where these skills fit into the world of work, how to attract and retain their ranks, and how to measure success against present and future corporate needs.
All these points direct us to one overarching point: we must change our leadership and competency models. Question is, how do we do it? I have some thoughts.
First, I don’t believe we should scrap the entire thing. I think it starts with understanding which baseline aspects of leadership must be required based on your corporate vision, mission, and values; you have to start with performance aspects that point to corporate DNA. What does it take to achieve your corporate goals and move your company forward? What does that look like? Those are your baseline leadership aspects. Describe them and attribute them to everyone.
Next, look at your overall goals against market data and understand what it would take to achieve success in each individual role. Adaptability, social change, market expansion, innovation, customer acquisition and satisfaction, the ability to do whatever it takes to ensure customer and market success (also described as leadership brand) — all these things describe what it takes to be a leader. Then you must differentiate at different levels and within different divisions. Growing businesses require leaders with strong entrepreneurial skills. Manufacturing business may measure excellence by production floor innovation and cost savings. Goods-based services might reward the expansion of the business through contract labor. Internal efficiency in companies with large amounts of data such as banks and law firms might be a tremendous measure of success. Every company may financially reward the ability to positively impact the local community or to reduce the impact on the planet. These skills are leadership based, and can (and should) work their way into competency models all the way down to the lowest level of the organization. Once these differences are implemented, you have leadership and competency models that have a similar baseline for success, but reward for individual roles and performance. That is the way to progress to a brighter, more profitable future, and it is the way to win the global talent war in any market in which you play. The same truism applies to the different skills needed to manage a turn-around or a merger.
The difference with this approach is the models remain dynamic. Outside the baseline core, as the needs of the company change, the attributes of the model continue to shift with it, continually updated and reflective of where the business is in its life cycle. It is where corporate capacity lives, breathes and grows, and it is where the game of business is won.
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.