The Only Thing Leaders Should Have Top Of Mind For 2018 is Integrity


This is the time of year that predictions are made and data is shared about what the strategic and operational goals are for the upcoming year. Although management firms spend an inordinate amount of time and money collecting this data all year long for these much-coveted reports, there is rarely anything earth-shattering about what CEO’s, business leaders or professionals have to say about where their focus will be in the new year. The usual banter will be about increasing engagement, improving candidate experience, technology, finding the best talent etc. As you can see, nothing really shocking.

However, 2017 has been illuminating. I wanted to say “different”, but that would mean that what I am about to share is new as of this year and it isn’t. In fact, what I will share is the result of something somewhere in the archives of time that started off as a snowball and is now an avalanche of end-of-the-world proportions crushing souls and careers to boot. This thing I speak of is the erosion of integrity and values in business.

2017 is the first year in my existence where just about every month there has been some company, company head or public figure who has come under scrutiny for either illegal or unethical practices. There have been so many “sorry’s” and “apologies flung around this year that it is becoming nauseating and unbelievable. The travesty in it all is that people who knew that all of this unethical and illegal behavior was the very thing that contributed to the fame, fortune and prestige always knew the things we see playing out. They were just waiting and hoping that the rest of the world would see it someday. So what has changed this year? For the first time ever and for reasons unknown to me, people were willing to believe the stories otherwise known over the years as individual gripes, “crazy talk”, imaginary happenings, urban legends and conspiracy theory this year. Suddenly, what was always in the shadows and dark got its much-deserved light via social media, blogs, livestreams, and a lot of bravery on the part of people who chose to break their silence.

In a lot of ways, this year has been one huge coming-out party and not in a good way. Whether it is our government and the corruption of the day or the growing list of sexual harassment and assault charges following the Harvey Weinstein debacle, it has not been a good year for US companies and more specifically humans as a whole. The latest debacle is set at Huffington Post. According to an article published yesterday by Gizmodo, Arianna Huffington ignored sexual harassment claims made by workers in her New York office while she was still running the company. The article goes on to state that one such former managing editor whose sexual misconduct was known to her also garnered a transfer to HuffPost India as a result of an HR investigation.  How an investigation that leads to the proof that an employee of yours is engaging in sexual misconduct doesn’t result in a termination is beyond me.

Without diving too deep into this particular story, I prefer to examine the over-arching narrative of CEO’s and leaders, in general, both men and women who consistently overlook, engage in, and embrace unethical and illegal practices as a means to secure opportunities, line their pockets and the pockets of their shareholders and investors. I would be lying if I said I had never encountered leaders or employees behaving unethically who somehow managed to keep their jobs, lives, and lifestyles intact. It has disgusted me. I often spoke up about it only to be met with “Well you know it is John Bae. Yes, he is a jerk and misogynist, but he brings in a shit ton of money for the company, so we have to tread lightly”.

Frankly, I am glad 2017 raised a proverbial mirror to all of the things that make us suck at being human. Now, that we all know and finally see what we all knew was commonplace in business how do we move forward in trust? Can “building trust within my organization” really be on your scorecard when your foundation has been flooded with the truth and is now crumbling as a result?  Can you genuinely accept that accolade for best company for women when you have investigations sitting on your desk overlooked and predators collecting checks on your dime? Can you really call your company culture “diverse and inclusive” if you secretly donate operating budget to the KKK or 45’s ongoing campaign? Note: “Diverse” and “inclusive” is maybe not appropriate if the latter applies.

Suddenly, no company, CEO or person is safe from the truth. Your money, prestige, and power are on a timer and the time is nearly up. The only thing leaders should be thinking about going into 2018 is integrity. I’m not sure where along the journey, so many decided that money trumped having values, meant destroying lives and doing it with a smile. Now is a time to ask your employees to blow the whistle internally before the public has its way with you and your brand. It is time, to be honest, and say sorry because you mean it. It is a good time to make amends and provide whatever you must to make it right with the people who show up daily to impact your bottom line.

Everybody needs to take one long hot shower to wash the filth of 2017 and before off and start anew in 2018 with a focus on treating employees, customers, and citizens of this world with the dignity they deserve as a matter of being a fellow human. It may cost you revenue. You may piss off your board of directors and investors, but isn’t it time for “good” to make a comeback?

For some starter tips on cleaning house, revisit an Aristocracy of HR throwback: The Untouchables: Why you should stop salvaging bad employees at every level.

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!


31 Days, 32 Revelations: Playing The Game Is Played Out

Image courtesy of Pinterest

Image courtesy of Pinterest

Series Introduction

Every year, I like to find a different way of celebrating my favorite day: my birthday. Since I am turning 32 next month (I know…awww…), I’ve decided to share 32 revelations I have had during the course of my life about everything from life in general to business. Think of it as daily inspiration for you and therapy for me. It is a challenge for me, because I don’t think I have ever published a post everyday in the entire existence of The Aristocracy of HR. Plus, I recognize that while I am fairly generous in sharing on social media and here, I have only just scraped the surface on sharing who I am when I’m not pontificating how HR and Business can do better. Let’s use the month of March to get to know one another better. I hope at the end of the month, you walk away with something you can use in your own life or business.

Day 13 of 31- Playing The Game Is Played Out

I just read this story about actress and comedian Mo’Nique speaking about how she was blackballed in Hollywood after having success in the movie “Precious”.  Director, Lee Daniels expressed that Mo’Nique hurt her self during the course of the Precious production by “making unreasonable demands and not playing the game”. As far as I’m concerned, she may have been “unreasonable” or even difficult. What I take issue with is the fact that the game isn’t the same for everyone. She was not and will not be the last difficult celebrity to grace a movie stage. Difficult and unreasonable demands of movie stars on set is the kind of fodder that lines tabloids daily. The difficulty doesn’t stop Hollywood from spending millions of dollars supporting projects with some of these people.

This story line is no different to what goes on in Corporate America everyday. I recall just a few years ago being discouraged from filing an EEO claim by an HR person  who cautioned me to “play the game”. I even recall women executives in meetings setting women’s suffrage back several decades by giggling, twirling their hair and flirting through negotiations. My question is: what is the game? Is the game that you “shut up, smile and look pretty” as actress Sheryl Lee Ralph suggests? Why is the advice to women in 2015 that we should bat our eyes, smile when we are displeased and not be heard? If the game is about brown-nosing and/or keeping up appearances, I am out.

I’m not suggesting you have outbursts like a child when the spirit moves you ; but a person should be able to demand and communicate needs and wants without it being tied back to some facade you have to keep up to get ahead. It should be the case that any women can show up to the boardroom or the set as she is. We shouldn’t have to apologize for who we are and why we want what we want, Men do it all the time and don’t have to perform in the manner that we are expected to as women.

Who knows?  Mo’Nique could very well have been terrible to work with. I just wished we lived in a society that treated like instances equally. In this case, that would mean blackballing every actor or actress that is difficult. The truth is money is spent on people that are liked, can bring in revenue and “look” and “act” the part. I wasn’t that person when I worked in Corporate America and Mo’Nique isn’t that for Hollywood unfortunately,


Czarina’s Lesson: There are limits to equality and fairness where money is the primary concern.

Corporate America Has Lost Another Soldier…Me

Medieval Soldier

When I graduated from college, I had a fire in my belly that you could see from miles away- I was hungry for opportunity. I purposely went into to HR having done my research on it as a profession. Additionally, I was told that there was an ongoing need for someone with this expertise in the future. My plan at that time was to become the CHRO at some big corporation- preferably a company in pharmaceuticals, healthcare or science.

From the day I graduated and landed my first career job, my focus was on driving results, being a game changer and going above and beyond. In my head, these were the things that were going to get me to the promise land of CHRO’s. As you have read in some of my previous posts, my career travels in HR have not been without challenges. However, through perseverance and that fire in my belly I kept pressing on- trying to find something different, challenging and unique in each progressive position.

Well…the buck has stopped.

You see something interesting happened in 2013. The first thing was my long-term plan of starting my own business became a short-term plan when one of my mentors/friends ran an assessment on me that reported me as being 100% entrepreneur. With several phone calls taking place between she and I plus others in my circle of trust saying “why start your business in 10 years, Janine?”- I took the leap of fate and started my talent management firm, Talent Think Innovations, LLC. Even with starting it, I made a plan to be working  full-time in it within five years. Again, a colleague of mine told me at a conference- “it won’t take you that long- you will be blown away by how soon you get up and running.” I appreciated her sentiment, but I had a plan. Then came, performance evaluation time last year where I figured I’d give one more shot to my company to promote me or at the very least have a short-term plan for my career. I wrote up a four-page summary of my accomplishments and achieved business outcomes tying them back to the overall strategic business plan of  the organization. Excited for the very first time in my career to have a performance conversation, I went in with my head high and hopes to hear that they liked my summary.

Instead, I was given a paper for my increase for the year (internal equity was the culprit- see my thoughts on that here). I was then told that all things are superb with my performance. Still things are good. Here’s the zinger and pay attention to this: “Janine, you are talented but I don’t know how to get you where you want to go.”

I could go on for days explaining to you, my beloved readers how damaging this approach is for your attraction and retention strategy, but this is not my purpose today. That one statement -along with the rest of the conversation that resulted in me having to justify my telework days for the thousandth time (again another post, different day) both angered and moved me . It moved me to rethink what that 22 year old so earnestly wanted early in her career and what this 31 year old woman needs and deserves today. What I decided was to take one year to rediscover what moves me. In under one year, I have realized that the 22 year old me was not well-informed about the business-side of things and the assessment was onto something important. Which is why, I happily put in my resignation over eight weeks ago and am sailing into my business full-time effective this Friday.

In hindsight, I was never prepared for the barrage of corporate politics, greed, the lack of ethics, the red tape, and the hierarchical crap that is so prevalent in today’s business environment. I handled and I survived it, but paddling in these murky corporate waters trying to anticipate fires, character assassinations and pleasing people that have built careers off of lucky breaks and breaking rules.

Plans fail, but new doors open…

When I say I was “both angered and moved” by what happened last year I was. In fact, I cried the whole car ride home trying to discern what my next move needed to be. What I’ve learned is it is not any company’s job to succumb to my career aspirations or professional requests; but it is absolutely my job to create the life and career I want for myself and my family. Since I made this decision to leave my gainful employment, I have received the following feedback:

“Janine, what will you do?”

“Are you going to work for another employer?”

“I’m so jealous, good for you.”

“You suck, I’m really going to miss you.”

” Sorry to see you leave, you were one of the good ones.”

All of these statements make me happy. For one, I am clear on the plan for now and even a few years out, but I am so open to new experiences-so those first, two questions just make me giggle. The latter three make me smile, because I know I made a great impression on colleagues at all levels and achieved lots of what 22 year old Janine set out to do.

Corporate America you’re losing a soldier on Friday. It may not be indefinite, but for now I can’t stomach you. I’m hard-working, caring, intelligent, forward-thinking and damn good at what I do. My only intention was to be of service and do meaningful work. I’m not mad at you per se- in fact I should thank everyone who has told me “no” for the past ten years. You have now ignited a new fire in my belly. Now my goal is to make an impact and it doesn’t have hierarchical implications but global ones. Thank you for helping me raise my standards and take back control of my career.

The future is bright…

To find out more about me and my baby, check out Talent Think Innovations, LLC  here.

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