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Showing posts from August, 2011

HR Leaders, What Keeps You Up At Night?

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Back in 2006, I wrote a blog entry called “What Keeps You Up At Night?” about the priorities of HR leaders. Here is the original blog post, followed by some current thoughts.

Original Post

A handy needs assessment tool I learned years ago is to ask a client: “What keeps you up at night?” In other words, What concerns are on your mind?

A CEO I once worked for used this question to start off his executive retreats. The company was growing rapidly and the two areas that “kept him up at night” were People and Systems.

I received an e-mail yesterday about an upcoming HR conference where the focus will be the “Top 5 Things that Keep HR Up at Night.” They are:

1. How do I get a seat at the executive table?
2. How can I take advantage of technology to get more efficient, effective and innovative?
3. What can I do to take a dysfunctional team from unproductive to extraordinary?
4. How can I make employees excited to come to work?
5. How can I bring humanity back into HR and the rest of my organ…

The Leadership Conundrum

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Can you think of an organization that does not want its people, especially its managers, to develop into leaders? I can't think of one. All of my clients ask me for help with this goal.

What does it mean though? What is a leader exactly? Many smart people have studied and pondered this question. And many organizations have spent millions on the quest to develop leaders via readings, courses, competency models, feedback, 360 assessments, executive coaches, and more.

Then along comes a world-class leader who upsets the apple cart of all our thinking. I'm referring to Steve Jobs, the wunderkind CEO who just stepped down from Apple after a turn for the worse in his cancer.

In a very interesting article in Forbes the other day, called "Steve Jobs Broke Every Leadership Rule. Don't Try It Yourself," written by Frederick E. Allen, Jobs' leadership style is described in quite unflattering terms.

Allen quotes Prof. Jeffrey Pfeffer, of Stanford University: “Most boo…

Job Hunters: Do You Have NOW Knowledge?

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Typos can be funny...and surprisingly meaningful.

One of my favorites occurred some years ago, when I was Training Manager at a Germany-based chemicals company. A hotshot up-and-coming manager was giving a presentation to a management group. A slide came up and he smiled when he saw it. It said "A now idea." But it was supposed to have said "A new idea." Being very quick on his feet, this guy took it in stride and quipped, "This is not just a new idea, it's a NOW idea." The audience chuckled, appreciating the humor in the flub.

Interestingly, earlier today, a colleague of mine from southern California shared the following comment from a job hunter she is coaching:

"I had a telephone interview with a recruiter recently. She was about as old as my daughter and said to me, “The manager is looking for ‘NOW knowledge’ and would be concerned about my being off the playing field for a couple of years..."

NOW knowledge, eh? Great phraseology. And th…

Five People Who Changed My Life

If you think about the course of your life, with the focus on the process of becoming Who You Are today, I think you will notice the effect that various people had on you. Some for good, some not. But the bottom line is, there were many people whose influence changed you in some way as you moved along your path in life.

On twitter the other day, someone suggested thinking about the five people who changed you for the better.

Though there are many more than five, these five head the list:

My Dad - When I was a kid, I was the egghead of the clan, not much into sports. My athletic and macho fatherloved me and supported me despite my being the odd one of the six kids.

My Mom - My farm-raised mother was a loving person. Raised in a family of Jewish immigrants, she had a lot of old sayings, some of which still resonate in me to this day. She taught me about wisdom. And I learned to cook by watching her.

My Wife - My funny and fierce wife, a professional church musician, has expanded my ap…

Batten Down the Hatches

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My wife and I are getting ready for the onslaught of Hurricane Irene, just a few days since the East Coast earthquake. This is the time to "batten down the hatches" to prepare for the worst.

"To batten down the hatches" is a flavorful phrase. According to the dictionary, it comes from a nautical origin. If a ship was entering a storm at sea, the sailors would be told to "batten down the hatches." Quickly they would scurry around closing doors and covering openings so that the rain and ocean waves would not get in and soak the cargo held in the ship's interior.

In today's rough economy, storms sometimes hit us without warning, before we have had a chance to batten anything down. Here are a few ideas for protecting your precious cargo in today's choppy seas.

Think ahead. Have a plan in place for emergencies. What scenarios have you imagined? The process of "scenario planning" can be one of the most effective things your business can do…

Managing With Integrity

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Integrity House, based in Newark, NJ, is committed to helping people reclaim their lives. Individuals and families who have hit bottom and are looking for a road back to wholeness. The motto of Integrity House is "Where Recovery Begins." They are one of my clients.

Although they have invited me to teach many topics to their management staff (including supervisory skills, leadership, communication, and workplace harassment prevention), I have learned a great deal from them. Including what it means to manage with integrity.

Managing with Integrity means:

- Being with people, for people. Not being afraid to talk with people, to listen to them. The Manager with Integrity doesn't hide behind her office door. Rather, she is visible, available, approachable. She cares about her team and wants the best for them.

- Courage. He is unafraid. He has the courage to speak his mind on an issue. He is not afraid of conflict. He sees conflict as a process that can lead to new growth.

- …

Getting Away From It All

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What do you do to "get away from it all?" You know: to escape the hum-drum ordinary life you live, to a place that is completely "other," where you can truly relax and de-stress.

This Summer, I have been very fortunate in this regard. I've gotten away to several wonderful places, including Germany, the Berkshires, and Maine.

In Germany, we attended several Women's World Cup soccer games, and visited Mainz, Stuttgart, and Berlin. In the Berkshires, we attended several concerts at Tanglewood including Yo Yo Ma playing Schumann. And in Maine, we drove to such far-off places as Lubec, Eastpoint, and Campobello Island in Canada.

What do these diverse places have in common? In every case, my wife and I were with old friends.

The poet Emily Dickinson wrote: "My friends are my estate."

There is a warm soothing effect that comes over you when you spend a few relaxing days in the company of friends. Talking, remembering, crying, laughing.

So, paradoxic…

How Your Imagination Can Improve Your Memory

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Is your forgettory working better these days than your memory?

I often make that joke when I am teaching a class. I'll say something like, "If you encounter a good idea today, write it down. Remember: The faintest ink is better than the fondest memory."

I know I'm really talking about myself. If I say to myself, "I'll remember that," it's a sure thing I won't. So I'm disciplining myself to take better notes.

Recently my wife read a great book about memory called Moonwalking With Einstein by Joshua Foer. She so enjoyed it that she immediately applied one of the techniques, The Memory Palace, to memorizing all of the U.S. presidents in order from George Washington to Barack Obama. She then proceeded to amaze her family and friends with her ability to tick off all 44 of them.

This ancient technique, The Memory Palace, is intriguing, as it utilizes our human faculty of imagination to create a mental image of a house, room or other space wh…

Jumping the Curve

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Recently, I was asked to speak to a group of job hunters. My talk, called "Jump Starting Your Job Search," went over well with the large gathering of mostly over-50 job seekers.

Afterward, I stuck around awhile to speak with some of the attendees on an individual basis. One man, a salesman, came up to me and said, in a low voice, that he was at the end of his rope and was ready to throw in the towel on his search. I could see that the light in his eyes had just about gone out. It moved me because I've been there myself.

I tried to offer him some words of encouragement and found myself saying, "You've got to jump the curve."

What does it mean to jump the curve?

"Jumping the curve" is a saying that has been around for a few decades. I trace it back to the Irish philosopher and management futurist Charles Handy who said that companies need to become aware of the sigmoid curve. The sigmoid curve (or S Curve) is the naturally occurring sloping line (see th…