Why "Get Focused/Do Better/Play Harder" is a Horrible Coaching Strategy...

In the business and sports world, there's a huge coaching crutch that's often said, but rarely means anything.

"Get Focused...Do Better...Play Harder" Screaming-coach

You hear the first two (and versions of those two) often in the business world.  Someone is struggling and everyone is frustrated - the manager, the employee in question, the skip level folks watching the show, the teammates impacted by the individual's struggle - everyone.  

When it comes time to coach the person in question - and perhaps help them - only general advice is given.

Get focused. Please.

The same story exists in the sports world.  I have a saying when it comes to coaching in the sports world - "When you hear a coach constantly telling a struggling player or team to play harder, just accept the following fact - he/she doesn't know how to fix the problem."

To be sure, getting focused in business and playing harder in sports is required.  But when performance issues are apparent, the thing that's generally missing is technical advice and coaching on both fronts.

You're overwhelmed by what is in front of you on the job.  Let's break down what you should do first.  You're struggling with a specific part of the job - let me help you find a path to improve in that area since I'm your coach.

You can't stop anyone from scoring in a team sport.  I could scream at you to play harder, but that's probably not going to result in better results.  Instead, I have to dig into your defensive technique and find a way to make you better individually and then show how that fits into the team philosophy.

After I coach you technically, of course I have to hold you accountable to delivering on what we covered, as well as continuing to coach the technique and make you better.

When you hear a manager or coach telling a struggling individual to get focused or play harder, it means they don't know how to fix the problem.

If you want to be a better coach in the business world, focus less on glittering generalities and start coaching technique/approach.

 

 


What To Do If Your Company Doesn't Give MLK as an Official Holiday - But You Think You Should...

Martin Luther King Jr. Day (MLK) is a holiday with increasing importance in our world.  But most companies don't provide this as an official holiday.  Here's the stats I could find via Bloomberg:

"Most U.S. workers won’t get Monday off for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  A study by Bloomberg BNA found 37 percent of employees will get a paid day off, similar to the 35 percent that will be off on Presidents Day in February.

The survey found that as a paid day off, Martin Luther King Jr. Day might have plateaued. Those receiving it as a paid holiday have hovered between 30 percent and 37 percent the past five years.Manufacturers are least likely to provide it as a day off, with 10 percent offering it.

Non-federal holidays such as the Friday after Thanksgiving are more common days off. About seven in 10 employees receive that as a holiday, and 46 percent are off Christmas Eve." Mlk

MLK presents an interesting quandary for employers.  If you don't have it, employees and candidates are increasing expecting it as a holiday, and MLK - rightly or wrongly - can be used as a proxy for commitment to diversity by vocal, mobilized special interest group and employees alike.  I'm not saying you're not committed to diversity if you don't provide MLK as an official day. I'm saying it could be used against you, and all of us are smart to think about the meaning and what we should do if we don't provide it.

Let's say you've determined you want to provide MLK Day as a holiday, but you want to stay net even related to the total number of days you provide.  Here's the checklist I go down...

1--It's not enough to say people can used general PTO or floating holidays to cover it.  If you want the optics and meaning  that providing MLK day off provides, it needs to be an official holiday.

2--If you have floating holidays or general PTO banked time, you could designate MLK as an official holiday and reduce that banked time by one day. 

3--Next, you could look at your existing holidaysI rank order them like this:

Untouchable - Christmas (birth of Jesus), 4th of July (birth of our country), Memorial Day (remembering those who served and gave their lives)

Less meaningful but still untouchable - Christmas Eve (wow - try it - I wish you luck) New Year's Day (just try and take that one), Thanksgiving (our right to remember Omish-like founders and eat large amounts), Labor Day (celebrating workers - try that one)

One you could trade out, but there would be hell to pay - Day after Thanksgiving (expected if you've already given it - hello entitlement!!)

Trade this one or one like it out for MLK in 2019 - President's Day, Columbus Day, etc.  (Let's face it, the presidents are on money, and damn, Columbus didn't even really discover America, right?)

If you want to give MLK as a holiday but want to stay even related to paid time off, this is your playbook.  1) Trade out President's Day or Columbus Day if have it.  2) If you have floating holidays or generalized PTO, reduce by one day and designate MLK as official in exchange. 3) Go get Friday after Thanksgiving or (winces) Christmas Eve to trade for MLK.

Good luck if you're seeking to add MLK and stay neutral related to time off.  I hope your Change Management goes well.

 

 

 

 


Can HR Be Trusted to Lockdown Vulnerability and Secrets From the Employee Base?

At the end of the day, employees have to trust any HR pro enough to come forward and share bad stuff with said HR pro.  What type of bad stuff?  What type of bad stuff do your employees have?

Hate. Addiction. Family Dysfunction. Ambition. Concerns about others.  Just to name a few.

All these things and more are filed under topics that employees would love to talk to someone about. Due to the role of HR, a good HR pro is a likely target for an employee to vent to.  But before they make the decision to confide in you, they have to evaluate whether you can be trusted.

More from Jennifer McClure at Unbridled Talent:

"But I do recall a conversation I had one day with an employee who was experiencing some issues at work. When I offered to listen and provide support, she said “Unfortunately, I can’t talk to you about this. It’s not that I don’t trust you personally. It’s the chair that you sit in. You have the authority to fire me. And I can’t risk that.”

After she left my office, I thought about what she’d said. I wanted to be offended. But I kinda understood where she was coming from. While it was frustrating that she wouldn’t allow me to try to help out just because of my position in the organization, I also knew that sometimes it was part of my role to be involved in making decisions about her career. So sharing a weakness or performance problem with someone who has that type of influence could be perceived as a risk."

Go read Jennifer's post.  Then think about the kind of HR pro you are.  I'd tell you that when it comes to employees considering whether they want to confide in you on a deep level, there are 3 types of HR pros:

  1. No way, no how. You've got a reputation for sharing information about others with the wrong people. You talk too much, and this is most commonly manifested by you talking about other employees to... you guessed it.... their peers - other rank and file employees.  Which causes them to wonder what you would do if they shared something deep about themselves that they're struggling with.
  2. You haven't ####ed it up yet. They look at you as an HR pro and see someone they shouldn't distrust, but you haven't earned your stripes yet as someone that can go on lockdown and be fully trusted.  At some point, someone's going to test that, seeking to trust you and ask you for advice.  When that day comes, you'll have to listen, offer advice, put the info in a lockbox (shoutout to Al Gore, inventor of the internet) and not share with anyone.  You know, be trustworthy.
  3. The Rock. Employees have trusted you with some bad stuff about themselves in the past. You listened, offered advice and then most importantly, locked it down.  You didn't talk to other employees and just as importantly, didn't share the info with their boss, other senior team members in your unit, etc.  As a result, employees talk. You've got a reputation as someone that can be trusted, even though the employees who share that opinion never talk about what they shared with you.

HR pros earn their reps with results - either negative or positive - when employees choose to trust them. Like the rest of the human race, some HR pros are great building and maintaining trust, some aren't.

My advice for any HR pro is to develop a quick script to share with any employee that approaches you and tells you they're about to go deep.  My favorite is something related to confidentiality that suggests, "if you're asking for confidentiality, I can tell you I can deliver that with the exception of things that are legal issues or would negatively impact our business."

My experience is that the best HR pros usually have quite a bit of stuff on lockdown.  Do employees trust you?  That's a fair question any HR pro should ask themselves.

 


What Part of the Normal American Workplace Will Be Most Impacted by #metoo?

There's a ton of good that's come from the daily breaking news associated with the #metoo movement.  Creeps everywhere are being held responsible for their behavior, and society in general seems to have a higher awareness for what's appropriate and what's not.  There's a lot of details in between, but the one I spend the most time thinking about is the following:

When does the #metoo movement hold common day, ordinary creeps accountable Work deep into the American workplace, where there's no media coverage of the proceedings?

I'm not sure I know the answer. For all of the good that's come out of the #metoo proceedings, it's still murky how the ordinary American workplace will be impacted.  Awareness is great, but the true creeps can keep on giving the creepers to all around them at the soft drink distributor in Peoria, IL.  There's no media to report on those stories, and without the positive impact/protection of coverage, many impacted by harassment are less likely to report.

The industry that might have the most potential for a #metoo movement aware from media coverage?  It might be your local restaurant.  Here's more from the New York Times:

"Restaurants are like pirate ships. Each has its own code, with distinct values and rules. Some crews are kind, supportive and disciplined, relatively speaking. Others are angry, surly, misogynistic and drunk. New crew members quickly fit in, or jump ship. Like pirate crews, restaurant staffs are cohesive societies, but they aren’t big on transparency, and it’s hard for outsiders to know what’s happening.

Fifty years ago, when nobody cared what went on in restaurant kitchens except health inspectors and tax collectors, acting like pirates was probably a useful skill. Today, though, it is outmoded.

Customers may enjoy the occasional sample of salty pirate speech, but they also care about the inner workings of kitchens. They know the names of the chef, the sous-chef, the pastry chef, the head bartender. They’ve watched TV documentaries about the creative process behind trout roe in little cups made of pig’s blood. They’ve heard many chefs talk on many occasions about certain kinds of ethical behavior, having mostly to do with livestock.

Something has gone grotesquely wrong when chefs brag that the chickens they buy lived happy, stress-free lives, but can’t promise us that the women they employ aren’t being assaulted in the storage room."

I'd encourage all to go read the NYT piece.  There have been celebrity chefs who have been taken down my #metoo, but the vast majority of the industry isn't driven by celebrity chefs.  

But, the familiarity of customers with the chefs and staff at private restaurants across America presents an interesting opportunity.  If you care about where the chickens come from as a patron, do you care about the treatment of the women staff at La Paz?

Not many customers are sensitive to how anyone is treated at the cable company.  They already hate the cable company, so it stands to reason that the cable company treats their people like garbage (no matter how wrong the treatment is).  No one would be surprised by that.

But your local white cloth restaurant?  What would you say if you new the owner was asking female servers to come pick up the cash bag at his place and opening the door in a robe?

Yeah, you'd probably get the creepers and not go back.

With tools like Yelp out there, were only a new feature away from the review economy telling you how female friendly that privately-owned restaurant is.

For that reason, the restaurant industry is ripe for accountability related to the #metoo movement.

Interesting times.


NBC's New Rules on Workplace Hugging Means NO HUGGING....

If you thought you were going to just keep doing what you are doing related to PDA (public displays of affection) in the #metoo era, you're not only naive, you must be saved from yourself.  All your hugging, your slight touches to the shoulder, the full mouth kissing (OK, hopefully you weren't doing that) is persona non grata, or at least it should be.  That's why NBC, after s#x machine Matt Lauer got outed, is creating specific rules about what's acceptable and what's not.

More from Page 6:

"NBC has issued strict new anti-sexual harassment rules to employees — including that staffers must snitch on any misbehaving colleagues — in the wake of the firing of disgraced “Today” show host Matt Lauer.

A source tells Page Six that NBC employees have been ordered to report any inappropriate relationships in the workplace — and if they fail to do so, they could be fired for covering up for colleagues. Side hug

Detailed rules also have been issued about conduct in the office, including how to socialize and even how to hug colleagues.

One rule relates to hugging. If you wish to hug a colleague, you have to do a quick hug, then an immediate release, and step away to avoid body contact."

The NBC rules on hugging show just how far we still have to go when it comes to legislating hugs in the workplace.  My friend, Tim Sackett, is the world's leading expert on workplace hugging.  Lucky for you I'm here to give you the new rules for hugging in the workplace.  Let's use the framework for what's been reported related to the hugging rules at NBC.  Here's the new NBC guidance on hugging:

"If you wish to hug a colleague, you have to do a quick hug, then an immediate release, and step away to avoid body contact."

Here's the new HR Capitalist Rules on Hugging:

1.  Are you a guy?  And, correct me if I'm wrong, you still want to hug someone?  You may have a high IQ, but street smarts aren't your thing.  Why are we talking about hugging?  Oh, I see, you're different, no one will get the creeps from your hugs.  Riiiiight.

2.  You still want to hug?  OK, the NBC rules don't go far enough.  If you must, go in side to side for a "side-hug", with outside of shoulders touching.  For best results, lean in for the side hug at least a foot, leaving all other parts of your body far from the subject of your hug.

3. Your hand should be top of the shoulder - nowhere else. Release in under 1 second.

4.  This just in, if you wait to think about avoiding body contact until you release the hug (like the NBC rules remind you), you've already lost in the new world.  

The final rule of hugging in today's workplace is that it's Darwinian in nature.  It's like natural selection in some ways.  Those that think hugging is still cool and they'll never be misinterpreted are missing the adaptation that others will automatically get. 

I get that most of you aren't perves.  But when NBC is issuing rules on hugging, the clear message is that you shouldn't hug.  

I know, you had so much to give to build a more compassionate workplace with your hugging.  Sucks to be you.  Maybe a hardy handshake is your best bet.

 


The Self-Sabotaging Nature of Loving Drama In the Workplace...

"Some men just want to watch the world burn"

--Alfred in Batman

--------------------------------------------------------

Short post today as you go into the holidays, shut it down and think about 2018.

You've got people in your professional life who love drama.  They're wired to create angst, conflict, infighting and many times, they're not even aware Batmanthey're doing it.  It's how they are genetically wired behaviorally.  Rather than observing, learning and maximizing themselves in any situation, they create chaos by inviting others to react to their presentation of facts - which are usually drawn to create a reaction - otherwise known as drama.  They do this even if it hurts them long term.

If you think about all the players in your life, you can probably identify who these people are.

I'm here today with a new year's resolution for you - don't allow people who love drama to draw a reaction from you in 2018.

What these people hate most is not getting the reaction.  There's also learning that goes on as you deny them the combustion they seek.  After the 2nd or 3rd time you deny the drama queens and kings the reaction they seek, they'll stop trying to get it from you, and your life will improve.  

So that's the resolution.  Stop letting the drama people stoke you up.  Try giving them a "hmmm" when they stoke you, and instead of participating in a communal rant, try saying the following:

"I'm going to think about that"

"That's interesting. I'm going to ponder that a bit"

"Get the #### out of my office"

That last one is a joke, because that actually creates drama.  You should avoid reacting when they try to suck you in at all costs.

Measured response is a good leadership technique, both for the drama lovers and also for people who are bringing you bad news, observations and gossip.  Don't get sucked in.  Stay calm.

Of course, if you're a leader, of the things you'll have to deal with is drama kings/queens spinning up other drama kings/queens as a normal course of business.

But that's for another day.  For today and moving into 2018, the thought is this - don't allow people who love drama to draw a reaction from you in 2018.


Male HR Manager Takes Down Female Congressional Candidate with Harassment Claim... #metoo

As warranted by the stupid, inappropriate behavior of some men, the #metoo movement has mostly outed those men for the harassers they are.  But now, we have our first public female victim of the #metoo movement.

This one is juicy folks, because as HR pros, you know more about this one than anyone else in the world.  Read on, analysis after the clip below.  More from the Washington Post: Andrea-ramsey-congress

A Democratic candidate hoping to flip a hotly contested congressional seat in Kansas has dropped out of the race after allegations that she sexually harassed a male subordinate resurfaced during her campaign.  Andrea Ramsey, 57, who was running to unseat Republican Kevin Yoder in a district that includes Kansas City in 2018, is one of the few, if only, women in public life to step down thus far amid a national conversation about sex and power dynamics in the workplace.

The allegations against Ramsey were outlined in a 2005 lawsuit and a complaint filed by a dismissed employee, Gary Funkhouser, to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, when Ramsey was working as an executive vice president of human resources at medical testing company LabOne, according to the Kansas City Star.

In the federal complaint about sex discrimination and retaliation, Funkhouser accused Ramsey, then Andrea Thomas, according to the Star, of making “unwelcome and inappropriate sexual comments and innuendos” when he was a human resources manager for LabOne.

Funkhouser alleged that he had suffered consequences at work because he had rebuffed an advance he said she made during a business trip in 2005.

“After I told her I was not interested in having a sexual relationship with her, she stopped talking to me,” he wrote, according to documents filed in court. “In the office, she completely ignored me and avoided having any contact with me.”

The EEOC closed its investigation in 2005, saying that it was “unable to conclude that the information obtained establishes violations of the statutes.” Though Ramsey was not charged directly in the lawsuit, she had been named in the complaint. It was settled by the company after mediation in 2006 and had begun to be discussed in political circles recently, the Star reported.

Without naming Funkhouser, Ramsey said that a man decided to bring a lawsuit against the company after she eliminated his position.

“He named me in the allegations, claiming I fired him because he refused to have sex with me,” she wrote. “That is a lie.”

Hell hath no fury like a HR pro fired, especially one that thought he/she was on the inside, only to be on the outside.  Do I know the guy made it up?  Do I think Ramsey hit on the guy on the road?

I don't know what happened, but here's what I know:

1--The fact that it was an HR pro bringing the claim makes it different from any we have seen.

2--HR pros know things.  Things like how to bring EEOC claims - their awareness of how to do things like this is higher than almost everyone else's in your company, mainly because they have defended those claims.  They also know those claims are usually settled.

3--Ramsey didn't have to directly hit on him to have this coming.  It's possible that the HR manager in question felt like he was being harassed in other ways and just made that "she wanted to sleep with me on the road" detail up.  Or - as we've learned so many times with harassment, he may have interpreted her offer to come have a drink in the hotel lobby as a solicitation to get busy.  Maybe it was.  #funkhousertoo

4--She apparently didn't open her door in a partially open robe like Weinstein when she asked him to come up and "pick up the comp study to read for the meeting in the morning".  At least I didn't read that detail.  LOL.

5--The name Funkhouser is cool.  If you're wondering where you heard that before, Marty Funkhouser is a recurring character on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm.  Imagine being at that company and saying, "Did you hear about the Funkhouser lawsuit against Andrea?"

The bottom line is this. Hell hath no fury like an HR pro fired or caught up in a reorganization.  The savvy HR leader knows the answer - Andrea Ramsey should have loaded up young Funkhouser with an exceptional severance package on the way out.  

I'll repeat one of my core sayings - "In America, allegations are free."  Anyone can file a claim.   And it's that fact that we all should remember as HR leaders as we go through various reorganizations.

Anyone can file a claim, but HR pros?  They know more about how to do it and the process that happens afterwords than anyone in the world.

 

 

 

 


Bitcoin 401K Rollovers - What the #### Could Go Wrong?

This appeared in my gmail as a paid ad today (Email subscribers, click through to see the poison below):

Bitcoin_11

I'm not a financial advisor.  There's probably money to be made in Bitcoin, although the SEC has issued investor warnings.

The vast, vast majority of your employees aren't qualified to evaluate Bitcoin as an investment option.  When ads like this pop up, I'm assuming they aren't offering Bitcoin as a speculative 5% of someone's portfolio - I'm assuming they want to cram all 100% of that rollover in Bitcoin for various reasons that have to do with money.

Many of your employees have 401ks parked with a previous employer.  25% know about Bitcoin and are interested in the hype.  1/5 of those would consider this ad.

It's worth you getting in front of this with a HR comms piece -  to let people know that ads are rolling encouraging 401k rollovers straight into Bitcoin and there's some danger via the SEC.  

Respect the game.

 


VIDEO: Jamming Your Business Approach/Best Practice Down Someone's Throat...

The scene - team discussion about a direction with client work.

The problem - client doesn't know what they want.  They're attempting to neuter rock star work, which will hurt the end product.

What do you do?  Your choices

1--Neuter the work.  Work product suffers, but you take a "the client is always right" approach and give them what they ask for.  Cross off the client as a reference - They'll be happy, but you won't be proud of the work.

2--Battle with them.  They're wrong.  You're right.  Let's go to war.

Of course, there is a third approach - you've got to educate them why you're approach works, maybe give them a concession or two and try to work as a consultant to take most of what you know they need.  Senior level influence in this regard - you can show them others in the industry are already deploying your approach or find others in their organization who support you.

Need a video to parody this approach?  I thought you'd never ask.  Take a look at the video below (email subscribers click through to see the video) - it's from my life as a card-carrying member of Gen X.  It's a music video from a alt-rock group called Sum41, and the intro is what I want you to look at, as the band visits a music executive who tells them he wants them to change their name to the "The Sums" based on the success of groups like "The Strokes" and "The White Stripes".

Favorite quotes from the exec:

"Do you smoke? You do now, smoke 'em up Johnny".

"What's your name? (kid says Derrick)  Not anymore it's not. It's Sven"

Get out there and influence.  They need what you got, people. 


How To Not Get Killed In A "What's Wrong" Focus Group At Your Company...

Simple post today.  From time to time, HR pros have to do focus groups to determine the climate of the employee relations environment at their company.  Ideally, this is done before there's smoke in the air.  But at times, especially in a multi-location environment, that's impossible.

So how do you approach a group of 10-12 employees (focus group) to get them to talk about the challenges, but not get beheaded in the process?  You're going to have to ask open-ended Focus groupquestions to get employees to give you details about what's messed up, so the best approach I've found is this:

--Ask each employee to give you TWO THINGS THAT ARE WORKING WELL FOR THEM AT YOUR COMPANY and TWO THINGS THAT NEED FAST IMPROVEMENT

It sounds simple, right?  I think we'd be surprised how many HR pros who walk into hostile environments don't force the attendees of focus groups to give them some positives.

The positives are there to balance the feedback loop.  It forces people to articulate the positives in their environment, which is important for fellow employees to hear.  

Of course, the negatives/opportunities for improvement are going to be there. You'll get those.  But if you know you're walking into a tough session and fail to be brave enough to ask for the positives, you run a higher probability of losing control of the group.

Some responses you'll hear when you ask for the positives:

"The people I work with"

"The people I work with"

"The people I work with"

"The people I work with"

Not a typo.  Expect that if you're walking into a tough environment, the answers will focus on fellow employees enduring the struggle, not anything that gives credit to the company.  That's OK - you're just looking to balance the feedback loop.  You can accept this answer from as many people as want to give it.

You also might here some smart### responses like:

"I haven't lost any fingers yet"

My advice?  Accept the "people I work with" response from all and if you get a wisecracker, laugh with everyone else and then follow up and ask for a serious one.  Accept "The people I work with" from all and ask for at least one other positive that someone hasn't given the group yet.

Good luck with your paratrooper-like focus group sessions.  Don't be afraid to ask for the positives - it will make your session much more productive.