Beware Knowledge-Poaching Leaders

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Two years ago, I wrote an article about things I needed CHRO’s to know about what the organization needs from them. I wanted them to know what kind of leaders their employees deserve. I find myself wanting to have this discussion again after yet another anecdote about an ill-equipped CHRO.

I have often heard that leaders don’t need to be knowledgeable in every facet of their employees’ work to be effective. That may well be true in some scenarios. However, it is my belief that time spent in the trenches is valuable not only for the purpose of understanding what your employees go through – but also so you bring something other than a title to the table when you are called to it.

Some of the best leaders I have known have worked their way from the bottom to the C-Suite. I also know people that haven’t held every role on their way to the top, but are relentless about rolling up their sleeves and keeping themselves current on all things HR. As a business owner, I  know what I know and I know what I don’t know. As such, I seek out the people and resources that are needed to help me execute my tasks and business goals. I may not be an expert in everything, but I am willing to learn and/or I research what I don’t know so I can have an intelligent conversation about the work that needs to be done.

Here’s a thought…

Don’t become a leader , if you choose to be a figurehead rather than a team member. The world can use less people who look the part versus fitting the part. Personally, I have had enough of watching people in the C-Suite sitting in meetings and town halls completely oblivious to what is going on in their organizations. It isn’t becoming to not understand the basic tenets of your niche – when it is that very expertise that you got you hired for the job in the first place. It is equally uncool to take credit for your teams knowledge and expertise.

Experts often say you shouldn’t be working in your business day-to-day as a CEO. I both agree and disagree with this sentiment. I know that going forward I will need to delegate work so I can work on business development and other aspects of my business. Conversely, I have been all things in my business out of both necessity and utility. I now know what has to be done in all aspects of my business and how it should be done.  It would be impossible for me to provide the proper direction and vision to a future employee – without having experienced being in their shoes.

Additionally, if my team members bring something new or innovative to my work that was previously overlooked by me, I have a duty to give them the credit for their effort and ideas. Being a knowledge-poacher is not only disingenuous, it is a morale killer.

Put yourself in the place of one of your employees for a second. Think about how exhilarating  it is to think you have come up with a solution to an issue or to know that you created a unique program or initiative. Imagine the pride you would feel as an employee to hand the deliverable off to a manager or leader realizing its potential for recognition by the right people – only to have said leader take credit for your work. How would you feel?

As a leader, you don’t have to know it all or be everything to everyone. You do have a duty to ensure that your employees efforts and great ideas are recognized. You are not less of a leader, because your employees excel at things you don’t. If you are a knowledge-poaching leader take a good, long look at yourself.  Heed the following warnings because this is your plight:

1) Employees who are victims of knowledge-poaching leaders eventually move on to greener pastures where their talent can not be hidden (I am proof of this).  This likely means high turnover for your organization.

2) When the victims of your poaching do move on, everything will eventually crumble around you. It only takes that one key employee to leave for the weakest links to be exposed. This run of hiding behind other people’s talent never lasts indefinitely.

3) Your poaching affects all of your employees whether they are the ones being poached or not. In the case of one of my colleagues, he questions the ethical, moral, and organizational ramifications of not speaking-up in defense of a co-worker whose knowledge, expertise and efforts are being poached. 

True leaders aren’t insecure because their teams are strong. They celebrate the strength of the team with pride and acknowledgement.

Don’t be a knowledge-poaching leader!

 

What You Need to Know About the Un-Political Worker

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

I have just recently gotten into House of Cards. I didn’t think I was going to enjoy it as much as I do, but I am. As I have shared with my friends, it is filthy goodness. I’m on season 2 and if I’m honest – each new episode ignites a greater disdain within me for politics. You may be thinking it’s just a show- but I will wager that sometimes art imitates life.

Watching The Underwoods and all of the other gremlins in this fantasy world Washington D.C. has reminded me of my own run-ins with politics at work. Let me be abundantly clear, I hate politics with a passion. I’m a straight-shooter and I call things how I see them. I never understood why I needed to be “fake friends” or put on appearances with people to get something I needed to do my job.

“Be a little more flexible, Janine.” “Don’t get into any disagreements with hiring manager Joe, just do what they want.” “You need to increase the amount of accounts you lunch per week.” “Making this claim will not bode well for your career.” This is just a short-list of politically-motivated demands made to me over the course of my career.

Every time I was faced with a new demand, my message was the same. Don’t bring your politics around me. Now, I’m not insinuating that some situations don’t require more diplomacy and/or the ability to negotiate. However, I take issue when every decision, meeting, or new initiative feels like I need a war plan and armory to prevent my own demise.

The Un-Political Worker

I am flexible when the situation warrants it. I refuse to be fearful about what I can and cannot say when I am charged to work towards a solution with internal and external customers. It feels dirty to wine and dine people who you know are terrible for business; but you do it because their dollars and coins account for a substantial amount of business. Moreover, don’t threaten my career with a smirk and seemingly pleasant epithets that I have to decode later – only to find out you are out to get me.

Newsflash: most workers want to come to work and do what you ask of them. Here are some things you need to know about the un-political worker:

  • We care about the mission and vision. We don’t care about agendas. Your mission and vision help to provide clarity around the purpose of your staff’s work. It is your “why” and their “why”. It is a global narrative for why the business exists in the first place. Agendas are personal and based on self-interest. They aren’t usually clear, because they aren’t rooted in following procedure or moral steps.
  • Colleges and Universities don’t teach the art of manipulation. There’s no rule book in political environments. Actually, let me rephrase that. There are written rules to please the masses and then there are the unspoken rules that get made up as you go along. Your employees aren’t interested in having to be manipulative in every situation. In fact, many of them were never formally trained in this skill. Stop insisting that they add this to their professional repertoire.
  • Your employees don’t care about politics. You hired them to do a job and they can do it. Recognize that politics in the workplace is a system. It’s a system you created based on your agendas and what best serves the financial, professional and business interests of a certain group of people. Rarely, do the politics in the business serve all of your employees. I have never worked somewhere when I suddenly realized: “Wow, the politics in this organization have really boosted my career and put me at the top of my game.”

It is often said in House of Cards, that there are winners and losers in politics. That is certainly true. The thing is, I don’t want any casualties in my business. I want everyone who puts in the work and effort to win. I think most employees would prefer those cards over your messy politics.

Why I Have Trust Issues With HR

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

You all know I love me some HR. I believe in its fundamental tenets of understanding work behavior. I also enjoy the small window of opportunity we have to balance both the needs of the business and the employee. To many, it seems like a job anyone can do, but for those that do it everyday and do it right; they know it takes a special kind of professional.

The rebuttal to this line of thinking is: “Well, if it requires a “special” person – why does it appear that anyone with any background can do the job?” Indeed, there are HR practitioners from a myriad of degree fields and backgrounds that have found their way to HR. Do they all belong there? No.

Human Resources is a profession whose entire existence is predicated on how well they manage or in some organizations herd other humans in an effort to ensure the companies success and a healthy bottom-line. Yet, it has been my experience that we have a tough time managing ourselves. In some cases, it is at the precise time that some people became HR practitioners that they forgot who they were and why they were there. Values forgotten. Integrity went out the door. Ethical behavior- what’s that? In fact, I am sure some never set out to break the law in life, but they have.

My name is Janine and I have trust issues with HR.

When I worked in HR, I met a lot of great professionals along the way. There were also far more that left a lot to be desired. I found myself at odds much of the time with how I chose to operate versus “the way” HR chose to position itself in the organization. This disconnect garnered me fans by way of my internal and external partners, but not with my own HR brethren.

Here’s what got me in trouble:

  • Working with my internal partners to ensure we had “real” and “practical” solutions to their concerns.
  • Advocating for candidates that were qualified, but would have otherwise been set aside for less qualified candidates.
  • Keeping up on HR and business trends, practices and laws in an effort to ensure that we were not only compliant, but remained relevant.
  • Doing what I knew was right.

If you can find anything wrong with what I detailed above, comment below and let me know. I am always interested in another viewpoint. As I said, I have trust issues with HR. It took me some time to muster up the courage to say this about a discipline I love, but that has so often disappointed me. Do you know how disconcerting it is to be bullied, harassed, thrown to the wolves all while working in HR and having to sell the value of what you do to employees? Moreover, it is painful to have to bite your tongue when employee after employee comes to you for help and an ear and you can’t tell them that you too – have trust issues with HR.

Here’s what I have learned:

1) Businesses need to stop involving HR in their dirt. That is to say, let HR do what they do. Don’t corrupt us or our efforts.

2) HR practitioners everywhere need to have enough backbone to call out unethical, illegal and toxic behaviors without hesitation. Stop being brokers for unethical and illegal practices. When the employees understand that you don’t have their back, your job is over.

3) Here it is all of these years we have been asking for a seat at the grand table, yet we let anyone and everyone sit with us. The same way we have to earn the respect of the C-Suite is the same way we should operate as we usher in new talent to HR.

Everyone can’t sit with us.

It takes a certain person, with compassion, business acumen, a desire to continue learning, discernment and above all the want to build cohesive, non-toxic work environments.

Personally, I get excited about providing solutions to workplace debacles, struggles and blindspots. I like to understand what my partners need and then I go to work crafting something they can use. This is how HR is supposed to work.

I continue to wait for the day, when I stop hearing how HR has failed employees. I hope we reach a point where we start to safeguard our discipline from those who would rather detract from it or turn it into the cesspools that exist elsewhere in business.

We have to do better. We need to do better.

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The Untouchables: Why you should stop salvaging bad employees at every level

The Untouchables- Why you should stop salvaging bad employees at every level

Are you one of those companies that would rather preserve everyone than let them go? Right now, I know of at least one organization -where despite lackluster performance, poor behavior and the disbanding of their team of direct reports- a leader is being salvaged beyond their time because no one has the balls to let go of people who are detracting from the organization.

Let’s be honest employers…

With the exception of a select group of companies, it has been my experience that many of you see your workforces as being dispensable. If business is down over a period of time and tough decisions have to be made- you layoff people without blinking an eye. If one of your employees doesn’t exactly fit the mold or doesn’t flow with the way of the company- get rid of them is what you say. Oh, but there are a select “untouchable” few that get to stay for the ride. They have a certain pedigree these untouchables. If you went around and did a very unofficial survey of your workforce at the moment to find out who people believe are “untouchable” in your organization they would either be reluctant to answer and/or with some further assurance of no retailiation -they would give you at least one name. Note: silence is also an answer.

Sometimes these people are at the staff level. In the eyes of their peers, they are disruptive to an otherwise healthy work environment. They do very little or sometimes they do a lot. Whatever they do, they are not interested in assimilating and working cooperatively, because they don’t have to. Despite any complaints or even visual cues that they are contaminating your ecosystem- you, the employer continue to reward poor behavior by promotions that they aren’t worthy of. You offer these “untouchables” opportunities that your other employees would die for. In fact, they may be dying for said opportunities- as they continue to work painfully hard hoping that it will someday be recognized and rewarded.

What of the untouchable leader?

This is probably the most damaging of all of the untouchables. You all know at least one leader that you have encountered that shouldn’t be allowed to lead anyone- let alone be employed by a company in such a capacity. They are not always the vile characters we often think about. Sometimes they are just cunning, undercutting, always playing and dealing a card at the right time. Everyone on their staff sees them for who they are. Internal and external partners even see it. The trouble is when HR ignores the smoke and the C-Suite is blinded completely by charm and other artificially-sweetened personality trickery. There are usually attempts to dethrone this person, but they are usually thwarted by a lengthy list of reasons why the person cannot be fired.

You may be saying: “this is how it is”. If that is your stance, you should also be made aware of the damage these people cause.

Here are some reasons why you should stop salvaging bad employees now:

1) You are setting a precedent that good performance and showing up everyday in a positive manner has no bearing on an employee’s success in your company.

2) These people disrupt the office environment. People tip-toe around them, avoid them and are sickened by having to share in office events or the presentation of yet more accolades for someone who really isn’t deserving of any of it.

3) It causes a slow and painful deterioration to both employee loyalty and effort. Some will hang in there with you unwavered, but many will see your allegiance to an untouchable as a personal affront to their career aspirations. If the sentiment is the latter, you will either lose people or see people do less, because they will figure working hard isn’t a worthy approach in your company.

It’s important to be cognizant of the messages you send about what success looks like in your organization. It’s fairly easy to write down a mission and values statement, but what does that look like in practice? Be sure that the picture of success that you woo candidates with is the same view they have as they progress through your organization.

More insights on this topic will be on The Aristocracy of HR You Tube Channel tomorrow. Click here to tune in.

Keeping up with disruption: Why every trend isn’t for your business

Keeping up with Disruption

There is nothing but trouble to follow when we believe that we can be all things to all people. We also endanger any good we have the potential of doing by feverishly jumping on every fad. I can remember so many days in HR reading articles about the trends for the year the next year. I would start counting from the day that I read the article (especially if it was published in SHRM, HBR or Forbes) to the few days after-when I would inevitably be asked about the article. The next request was always for me to start sourcing for ways to implement whatever was being touted as the “best-in-class” practice. While it might seem harmless- like we were keeping up with the times; it was indeed harmful. There was seldom any consideration of what we excelled at as a business and why adopting any of these suggestions were worth our time. It was merely a knee-jerk reaction to hearing what seemed like good advice.

Having worked in STEM and Healthcare, every new technology or methodology was not always for us. Composed under these disciplines are an inordinate amount of regulations at the state and federal levels and stringent requirements for doing business that is unlike any other industry. To make sound decisions about how we progressed was a consideration that required a lot of discussion and conceptualization of how to assimilate “the idea” of new ways into the a very rote, and established ecosystem. I repeat, “the idea”. Getting buy-in to potentially purchase was another round of discussion and conceptualization with several layers of approval.

For example, I was with a company that was in dire need of a new ATS and HRIS. I knew they outgrew what they had and all of our internal customers had their complaints about the system as well. To even begin sourcing for a new system, “the idea” was exposed to a six-sigma evaluation which took a few years and only then were we able to present the case to management for why this was needed. What they wanted was something “perfect” with all of the “bells and whistles” that would somehow give others the impression that they were being “innovative”. In striving for perfection and racing towards innovation, they forgot to focus on what they truly needed. What they needed was something with a simple interface, robust reporting features and the ability to streamline what we were doing from a hiring and on-boarding standpoint.

You may ask why were they worried about having “bells and whistles” for the new system? It was because they tuned into the same publications and reports as every other HR department and assumed that because “consulting firm x” says that it is the best then it must be so.

Can we stop with the “best-in-class” or best practices lingo?

What is best for me as a company of 15 is very different if I’m a company of 40,000. Similarly so, the best-in-class mantra does not necessarily work when there are two different companies in the same industry with the same headcount. The differentiating factors between businesses (especially those under the same company umbrella) are endless. Hence why, it is absurd for anyone to assume that every suggestion for innovation, change or disruption should be answered by an obligation to implement.

Disruption shouldn’t be a call-to-action for hasty moves. It is meant to keep us all aware and awake to how the nature of our work is changing. It is up to us to decide what changes make the most sense for the organization.

Consider the following when evaluating the ever-growing list of things to change:

1) How will these changes impact your workforce? In the implementation of the ATS that I spoke about, we actually spent too much time on this aspect. It’s important to understand how change will impact the people that do the work, but you must also be sure that you don’t stifle forward movement in an effort to be a crowd-pleaser.

2) Will these changes benefit you now or in the future? It’s important to consider how you stand to benefit from a short-term and long-term standpoint. If it isn’t clear how these suggestions will benefit you in either regard; it may not be the move for your company.

3) Is leadership prepared and invested in making these changes? It has been my experience that disruptive ideas die a slow and painful death without leadership being invested in the process.  The real question is: Are they truly invested in making this change or is this a whim? Many ideas seem novel on paper, but being truly dedicated to the process and willingly traversing the hurdles that inevitably crop-up is something altogether different.

There’s no question that we must always be looking for ways to improve and better serve our customers. The key is not to make moves under duress, but from a place of being informed and prepared to take action.

Want more? Don’t forget to visit The Aristocracy of HR You Tube Channel for weekly dialogue on a myriad of topics. Subscribe here.

 

 

Reimagining HR: Career Paths To New Levels – Including the CEO Seat!

 

 

REIMAGINING HR

 

Today’s guest author is: Joanne Rencher, Founder of WGN in HR and Chief People Officer for Girl Scouts of USA.

Blow up HR.  Disrupt it.  Embed it in the business. Outsource all of it.  Move HR Operations somewhere else in the company. Don’t talk about it so much.  Talk more about it.

This article is tackling none of that.  It’s all about you, HR professional.

WGN Post

Twenty-three years ago I was thrust into the world of business with only a dream and a belief that I could change the world.  One bond insurance company, global NGO, consulting stint and two iconic institutions later – I still believe that.  My dream has always been to lead.  I view it as the highest calling in business. It is a responsibility to take others where there may not want to go, but need to be, as Rosalynn Carter once said.

 The HR Journey (the field, but not the person)

The field of HR itself is a televised revolution of sorts.  It has moved from 20th personnel administration and compliance as its textbook definition, to acquiring different territory with 21st century character.  ‘Strategic business partner’ and ‘change agent’ increasingly reflect the fine lines of this newer model.  Dave Ulrich, a leader in business and champion of HR, continues to push the envelope around how the field must stay relevant.  In discussing one of his more recent books, ‘HR from the Outside In: Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources’, Ulrich noted that ‘for the last 20 years, we have been enamored with “strategic” HR where the strategy is a mirror that reflects what HR should focus on.  We now believe that HR should look through the strategy to the outside world.  Strategy becomes a window on both the general business conditions and on specific stakeholder expectations so that HR can connect their work to external factors.’

However, as this wonderful evolution continues and businesses come to realize the importance of data analytics in their HR functions, and the next wave of marketing-based talent acquisition – HR leaders seem, in a word….stuck.  In fact, I fear that the dreams of HR leaders to aspire to new and different heights are being deferred.  What happens to a dream deferred? Langston Hughes has already explored the possibilities: rotted dreams, dried up dreams, those which fester or perhaps explode.  We mustn’t let that happen.

Our HR Journey (the person beyond the field)

With amazing talent and skills in organizational effectiveness, talent development, and transformational leadership – in theory and practice – there should be far more HR professionals moving through the ranks of senior leadership, within and outside of HR.

The dearth of leadership development focus and opportunities is supported by a global executive survey recently released by Korn Ferry.  The study, which included over 700 executives, asked about the state of professional development for human resource managers within their organizations.

Roughly two-thirds said that development programs for senior HR leaders were not “as rigorous” as programs for leaders of other functions in their organizations.

More to the point, just over half of respondents said HR people were considered for high-potential programs, but nearly 60 percent said there was no succession plan for their organization’s CHRO!

 From Shoemaker to Runway

HR is the classic case of the shoemaker’s children.  We take care of everyone else to the neglect of ourselves.  But, it’s more than just benign neglect. I believe it’s the need to break the paradigm….that, in fact, is the thing which must be blown up.

I founded Who’s Got Next in HR?, Inc. (WGNinHR) to do exactly that.  We’re blowing up the paradigm that says how rare it is for HR professionals to go to higher heights – whatever that means.  The vision of WGNinHR (www.wgninhr.com) is to create the tools, the soil and practical advice for the tired, innovative, ambitious and business-oriented HR professional looking for ‘what’s next’.

No one will do it for us.  We must create and sustain this movement ourselves.  In fact, I often describe WGNinHR as a ‘Movement’.  The world of business needs more C-Suite leaders – including CEOs – who have rich HR backgrounds and can lead through the toughest of terrains.

So, as you’re waiting for the next new model or opinion on the field of HR, abandon the ‘seat-at-the-table’ conversations and start setting the table.  Join the movement!

Joanne Rencher Biography

With more than 22 years of experience across the profit, non-profit, domestic and global arenas, Joanne brings a wealth of executive leadership experience to her roles. She currently serves as the Chief People Officer of the national office of the Girl Scouts of the USA – the preeminent leadership development organization for girls – and is a member of the executive team. With a passion for developing business leaders across the HR field, Joanne recently founded Who’s Got Next in HR?, Inc. (WGNinHR) to challenge conventional wisdom around career paths for HR professionals. Joanne holds a B.S. in Business, Management and Economics from the State University of New York’s Empire State College.

 

 

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