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February 2010

So You Want Your Managers to Coach? Deal With This Sidetrack, Sucker...

Out a couple of days this week teaching a coaching skills class in our company's Leadership Academy.  Topic was "Drive-By" coaching skills, where I riff and wax poetic on a simple 6-step coaching tool that can be used with any performance area in need of a tweak and the immediate feedback that goes with that.

Of course, I can teach you the tool and how to use it.  The problem is once you add a live employee, it can all go to hell pretty quick, and usually does... Those pesky employees always have "reasons" for their "areas of opportunity" regarding their performance.  How dare they!!

So, if you want to be a sweet performance coach, you've got to use a methodology (like my 6-step tool), then mix it with active listening skills and the ability to think and react on the fly. 

Coaching = performance art ...

Example below... You lay out the area of concern, then I hit you with the sidetrack in this video.  How do you recover?  The sad news is without a coaching tool, most of us struggle to recover even from this basic sidetrack...

BOOM.  I just disconnnected 70% of your managers from their coaching train of thought.  They thought it was going to be easy.  I'm saying, "it's not me, it's them."

That's why you need a coaching tool....

Forced Interviews for Minority Candidates: Guess the Capitalist Stance....

I wrote on this topic in my monthly column at Workforce.  You'll probably be surprised at my take... Mikey likes it, but not because it's the right thing to do.  Here's a taste of what's over at Workforce:

"I’ve learned that for every 10 interviews you make a hiring manager perform against their will, they are going to get two or three pleasant surprises. They had no clue about the experience Lisa from marketing had in their new target sector. Lisa’s résumé doesn’t capture it either, but because you forced the interview, the resulting dialog made both parties aware they had a much better match than previously thought.

The same logic applies to minority candidate interviews that managers don't want to do.  See the entire article at Workforce here.

Office Hookups and HR: I'd Advise Against It, Especially If Vegas and Someone You Fired Is Involved....

Let's trot out the old standard - office romance - then add a specific twist, followed by a very special KD story.  You like those, right?

The twist to the office romance retread story?  HR people like to hook up with the commoners just like anyone else.  More from @work, a Challenger, Gray & Christmas product:

"Another reason human resources departments may be reluctant to impose workplace romance policies is that HR professionals are human too and may have been bitten by the workplace love bug on at least one occasion. In the Las-vegas United Kingdom, one survey found that about 27 percent of HR workers confessed to office romance, ranking third behind call center workers (30 percent) and finance employees (28 percent)."

As I read that, I'm reminded of the prose of the Bloodhound Gang:

"You and me baby we ain't nothin' but mammals
So let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.."

A little crude perhaps, but it reminds us that HR folks are human like anyone else.  I'm also reminded of the most twisted HR love affair story I ever had the bad fortune to experience.  It all started when I was minding my own business as a VP of HR at a prior company.  A former VP of Sales I had worked with at the same company gives me a call from the Atlanta airport (I was in my office in Birmingham at time) and the conversation proceeded as follows:

Don: KD, what's up?

KD: Donnie, good to hear from you.  Where ya at?

Don: I'm in the ATL airport, and that's one of the reasons I'm calling you.  Does Jenny still work for you? (Jenny was a competent, trusted HR manager in my group.)

KD: Yeah, she's doing great, why?

Don: I'm not sure what I just saw, then..

KD: Geez.. What?

Don: Does Brenda still work in your department? (Brenda was a former HR Coordinator Jenny had fired for performance based reasons)

KD: No, Jenny fired her because she had huge organizational issues that impacted her performance.  HR Coordinator kinda requires organizational skills.

Don: Well, I'll just lay it out for you.  It's Thursday, and I just saw Jenny and Brenda together, and they were getting on a flight to Vegas. 

KD: What the...?

Don: Of course, that's not all.  Two others from your office were with them.  It looked like Bobby (our Director of Marketing at the time) was with Jenny, and Tim, your Director of Engineering, was with Brenda. 

KD: You mean as couples, romantic and all that?

Don: Yeah. 

KD: Wow.  So, Jenny fires Brenda 4 months ago, and apparently they're still close enough that they're hanging out together.  And Jenny's got clouded enough judgment at this point that she'd go to Vegas for a long weekend with someone she fired, as well as two other Director level employees that are in her client group.  Nice.

Don: Sorry to break it to you.  <pause>  How's the family?

KD: Up yours, Donnie.  (OK, I didn't say that, but it would have been funny)

I'll run it down again.  Strong HR pro but apparently lonely, succumbs to the loneliness and thinks a couples weekend with 2 guys from her client group and someone she fired is a good idea. Stay in the game long enough, and you'll find the Bloodhound Gang lyric is exactly right, even for HR pros.  We're human, and an HR pro is listening to bad Bon Jovi or sentimental Wham clips on their way home by themselves (and going home to an empty house), they're at risk to engage in an office romance. 

Or do a couples weekend to Vegas with two guys in their client group and a coordinator they fired 4 months earlier.

Loneliness is a powerful force, even for the HR assassin.  May you never find yourself on a jet to Vegas with a coordinator you fired and ask, "How did I get here?"

This is my wish for you.  I'm a giver.

The Giving Tree: Treating Talent You've Outgrown with Respect...

You've probably been involved in a company that was growing by leaps and bounds before.  I've been involved in at least three, and it's an exciting place to be.

One thing that happens for sure in a high-growth company - you're always talking about the level of talent that's necessary to build the business, and the profile of what's required is always changing.  You need more experience, more Giving_tree entrepreneurs, more "hunters", etc.  The talent ticket is always growing, and one important thing can happen if you're not careful:

You can forget how valuable the "veterans" have been to the cause.  You know who I'm talking about - the ones who were with you at the beginning, during the lean years, even if they're struggling to perform at the level you need now.

I point this out not because of anything happening at my current company.  I point this out because a month ago, one of my sons pulled Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree" off the bookshelf to read at bedtime.  I can't read it or have it read to me without tearing up and thinking about my parents, or about my kids growing up and having life happen to them.

The talent connection hit me yesterday, when a blog called "Cavs: The Blog" chronicled the rise and fall of a NBA (professional basketball) center named Zydrunas Ilgauskas (known as "Z" to Cavs fans), who's been in Cleveland for more than a decade and just got traded as the Cavs are on the cusp of a Lebron James-led championship run.  Here's how the "Giving Tree" connection is built by John Krolik:

"Once there was a Z….

And he was drafted by a crappy team.

And every day the team would come

and he would score them baskets in the post

and find his teammates with sharp passes

and they would run the offense through him

and ask him to win games

and even after his feet were hurt

he came back

and he made the All-Star game.

And the team loved the Z

very much.

And the Z was happy.

But time went by.

And the team grew stronger.

And the Z was often not featured in its offensive game-plan.Z

Then one day the team came to the Z

and the Z said, “Come, team, feed me in the post and let me drain turnarounds and hook shots and benefit from my passing and rebounding and be happy.”

“We are too good to feed you in the post” said the team.

“We have a new player.

We need you to run the pick-and-roll and the fast-break and hit threes.

We want to build our offense around him and win games.”

“I’m sorry,” said the Z, “but I cannot explode to the basket or hit threes.

Take my 18-foot jumper, my passing out of the high post, and my rebounding.

Use me to defend the rim.

Then you will have a good team and be happy.”

And so the team put Z off the ball

and became an Eastern Conference contender

and won 66 games

and even went to the Finals once."

Read the rest of the post and think about the steady, dependable talent you've relied on for the last few years.  You don't have to be a basketball fan to recognize this morality play. 

Then think about the times you've wished for an upgrade. 

Then think about that damn tree. 

Somebody get me a hanky, because sometimes this world can sure suck.

Employees Leaving Their Laptops Unsecure? Try These Public Humiliation Templates From Their PC...

Let's talk about something boring as hell and spice it up a little bit today at the Capitalist...

Boring Topic- You've got a policy that employees must secure their desktops or laptops if they leave their workstations.  Maybe it's tied to HIPPA or PCI compliance, but the gist of the policy is that employees have to lock their computer when they leave their workstation, otherwise bad stuff can happen regarding data and systems security.

Crushing Reality - Employees don't care about your needs in this area, and their attention to detail isStolen_laptop certainly not helped by that 60-page document you call a policy.  Bottom line, no one cares, and you can't make them care.

What You Could Do to Get What You Need- Unleash the pranksters like the folks below did.  Here's the breakdown: A management consulting firm I'm familiar with in the midwest had the following occur naturally related to unlocked workstations.  Every time someone left their workstation unlocked, some enterprising teammate would take control of the workstation and send out an embarrassing email to the rest of the employee base - from the offending person's email account.

Here's a flavor of what happened to one person who couldn't remember to lock his work station.  Manager of 7 people in a project management group of 50 FTE's.  Of course, names have been changed to protect the guilty.


The first one that went out:

From: Sackett, Bob
Sent: January 11, 2010 8:39 AM
To: DL - Everyone
Subject: Some Guidelines for 2010
From now on, I want everyone to follow a few rules to help us hit on all cylinders in 2010:
1.    You must call me “Kemosabe”
2.    High fives when things are going well
3.    Make “rub your eye” motions when things are not
4.    Haircuts every Thursday, I’ll pay
5.    Teambuilding in the Best Buy parking lot, BYOB
6.    Hugs will be our primary means of communication
Looking forward to a good year.



Bob didn't learn his lesson, so the next time he left the workstation unlocked, this went out under his account:

From: Sackett, Bob
Sent: January 27, 2010 8:40 AM
To: DL - Everyone
Subject: Thinking About Our Potential
I hope everyone had a sensational holiday. Mine was great, and I am so full of optimism for 2010. I would even go so far as to say that I have deep feelings for you all. Real deep. Sometimes I feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I think about you all. I would like to express those feelings through the following poem:
Leaves in the fall
Pork chops in the oven
Teddy bear smiles
Aroma of the gym
These are the things that make me smile a mile
You all complete me, stop by my house any time for hugs and maybe we can hang out and talk about women's clothes or something.



It took one more email via the original pranksters before Bob never again left his workstation without locking it:

From: Sackett, Bob
Sent: February 16, 2010 8:52 AM
To: DL - Everyone
Subject: On the road, But Still Thinking
Since I have been in California, I have been spending a lot of time in deep thought. I have needed an outlet for my emotions for some time now, and have turned to poetry for that outlet. Please accept my offering below:
Rain, gently on my face
Pitter patter
Pitter patter
Funny clown
My pants are tight



What can I tell you?  You want compliance?  You want respect?  Sometimes you've got to unleash the goons. On a related note, after approximately 9 of these emails went out to the entire employee base of a 10,000 person company, compliance related to locking workstations has never been higher.

Sometimes you've got to let the free market work its magic and do what governance can't.  Adam Smith would be proud.

LinkedIn and Bogus Diplomas: The Type of Transparency That Stings...

I've written in the past about online universities, basically asking whether online degrees are the real deal or diploma mills.  The answer is "it depends".  Here's how I rank your options when it comes to degree programs that have some or all of their classes being delivered in a virtual fashion:

  • Choice #1 - Franchise School (my term for the mcUniversities that are popping up in Suburbia, likeWestern_international_2 Strayer University, maybe a Devry - you attend most of your classes, but it's not affiliated with a four-year program)
  • Choice #2 - Online Program from a school with brand recognition, like a University of Phoenix
  • Choice #10 - Any online program other than that of a 4-year school or the University of Phoenix. Most have directional sounding names that end with something besides a state, maybe a PO Box. "Southwestern Pacific", "International Bailiff Academy" - something like that.

I know a lot of people who have taken the University of Phoenix option, and it seems like they had to work hard as part of the program, so I think that's legit.  There's also this dirty little secret when it comes to any degree program - you get out of it what you put in.  You can learn a lot if you're into it and apply yourself, and all I want to hear about in an interview is what you learned and how you apply it day to day for my company.  Have trouble answering that?  That's a problem.

However - the reason I put any online school other than the University of Phoenix as choice #10 is because there's a lot of bad stuff out there.  Here's another interesting thing.  As schools are identified as being diploma mills, watchdog consumer organizations are using online tools to look for working professionals who carry degrees from the diploma mills.

We'll call this the type of transparency that stings if you made the decision to pay 3K for a degree you could put on your resume.  More from WallettPop.com:

"We're going to use these questionable alma maters to do a little cross-referencing with LinkedIn, a well-known professional social networking site where people post all the types of information they include on resumes. Hardly scientific, but hey, we didn't tell these folks to put their phony diplomas up there.

Sometimes you'll stumble on someone whom you think should know better -- or maybe that's the point. Amstead University claims 12 graduates on LinkedIn, including a president of a Dallas, Texas-based company, a vice-president of an Atlanta-based company, and a human resources recruiter in Reno, Nevada, whose current job is reviewing resumes.

Then there's Belford University, which appears on as many as 500 resumes in LinkedIn, including a New York-based director of human resources, a CEO in the pharmaceutical industry, and, apparently, to more than one soldier stationed in Iraq who thought a Belford degree was useful.

Clearly there's something more at stake here than the public trust -- national security, for instance. A surprising number of people caught sporting diploma-mill diplomas work in or with important domains like education, the military, and the government, according to this investigation and this list, which documents almost 10,000 people who spent $7.3 million on their bogus credentials. Found sporting degrees on LinkedIn from Williamstown University, along with 25 other people, are an aerospace engineer for a leading defense contractor and an IT "compliance manager" at a pharmaceutical company . Do you want someone who's using a fake degree working on making prescription drugs or designing space defense systems or teaching your kids?"

And so it goes - I'll call it the circle of digital life.  Technology created the ability for these bogus organizations to exist (although I'm sure the International Bailiff Academy at Harvard College existed before the Internet - mail order, right?), and now technology in the form of LinkedIn comes back to bite the bogus grads on the behind.

And your're a HR pro and/or a Recruiter.  Is there any doubt you'd make one of these lists if you "attended" Harvard College and the list was published for your town?

It's a brave new world of transparency out there.  In many ways, that's a good thing.

The Saints: More Proof That The Cost of the Best Talent Is... A Rounding Error...

My friend and ace executive recruiter Harry Joiner (aka the Marketing Headhunter) has a saying in the talent business (and I'm paraphrasing):

"The right candidate (which is what Harry provides in the e-commerce space) to fill your open spot will be so good that my $30-40K fee will be lost in the rounding of the value that he/she will create for you."Aints

What Harry's saying is that you're too focused on the recruiting fee.  Don't worry about the fee.  Worry about finding someone exceptional, and the fee, once a sizable concern, becomes a distant, almost laughable object in your rear-view mirror as your department/team/company kicks #$$ and takes names from the talent upgrade.

Before you start whining about something pedestrian, let's keep this strategic.  Let's talk about how organizations can turn it all around by getting on a roll with a key hire, who in turn keeps the momentum going by hiring more people with exceptional talent.

Let's talk about the New Orleans Saints.  The New Orleans Saints were as low as you can go in 2006, a franchise playing in a city dealing with post-Katrina issues that make parts of Iraq look like suburbs.  Somehow in the midst of all that humanity they were able to hire Sean Payton as their coach.  Once Payton came in, he made a great call to sign free agent Drew Brees, who was coming off a completely torn-up shoulder and was thought by many to be done as a quarterback in the NFL.

The signing of Brees was a great talent acquisition for the Saints, and Brees become the backbone for an incredible turnaround for the Saints.  But that's not the most outlandish talent grab that Sean Payton made in the years leading up to the Super Bowl.

No, Payton proved that paying for the right talent represents a rounding error compared to the value the right talent creates.  When faced with hiring a leader for his defensive unit and being told by the Saints brass that his target (a coach named Gregg Williams) was too expensive, Payton said "what the hell" and offered up around 10% of his own salary to help sign Williams.  More from NBC Sports:

"In January of 2009, Sean Payton coughed up a quarter of a million dollars so that the Saints could afford to hire his preferred choice of defensive coordinators, Gregg Williams.  After winning Super Bowl XLIV, Payton joked in an appearance on NFL Network that he gave up the money under the influence, and woke up having second thoughts. "I had a few beers in me," Payton said. "Woke up the next morning, and my wife said, 'What?'"

But on a serious note, Payton said that what it all boiled down to was, "It'd be a shame to lose a good coach over $250,000."  Payton added, "I just wanted to make sure ownership, and the General Manager Mickey Loomis knew that this is who we needed."

As it turned out, ownership became so convinced that Williams was who the Saints needed that they repaid Payton the $250,000 he gave up."

As a result of the bravado of fronting his own money to hire the right person en route to winning a Super Bowl, Payton has guaranteed that his career as a NFL coach will net millions, if not tens of millions, in additional salary.

What about you, buckaroo?  Are you willing to front your own money to get the right person on your team?

Snow Days For Exempt Employees: It's Still a Problem of Motivation, Bob...

Last week, I posted the only inclement weather policy you'll ever need as a HR pro.  The long and the short of that policy?  The fact that you need to treat people like adults by making them accountable, and here's how you do it - simply base your office open/close decision on road closings (or a lack thereof), then tell people that you don't want them to be uncomfortable driving, so if the office is open and they don't think they can make it to work they are welcome to stay home.  By burning a PTO day.

Take the monkey off your back, and put the burden on them.  You'll be shocked how comfortable people get coming into the office when it's their money/vacation/fun days on the line.  They'll be in - quick/fast/in a hurry...Snow_day

Readers of the blog correctly pointed out one issue with that policy - it's built for hourly employees.  What do you do if the same circumstances are present with snowy weather and hazardous roads, and exempt workers have the ability and tools to work from home?

Well dang skippy, that puts the accountability on you.  Here's how:

--You've either got mature work-from-home policies or you don't.  The arrival of snow isn't going to make you a telecommuting powerhouse.  If you've never invested trust in your exempt employees to work from home - 14 inches of snow isn't going to make your productivity hum during the blizzard of 2010.  That means it's your call if you don't embrace telecommuting.  Either let the exempt folks know they can't do it, or suck up a low productivity day because you haven't been 2003 enough to embrace some form of telecommuting.  Stop whining and wringing your hands...

--Not all of your employees have earned the right to telecommute.  You've got low performers and folks who haven't been around long enough to effectively telecommute, perhaps even some folks who you gave the freedom to and they couldn't handle it.  You could be really brave and say "yes" to some people and "no" to others.  Of course, you probably haven't sorted all that out by the time you're speed-dialing the weather channel, so again, either let those folks know they can't do it, or suck up a low productivity day and let them do it.  

--The other thing you've got to do is figure out how you address the differences between what you're telling your exempt and non-exempt folks.  I'm a fan of not making a big deal about the different ways the two classes of employees are treated, instead looking to talk about "mission critical" positions that have to be in the office for customers to get served.  I wouldn't even talk about "those who have the tools" having the ability to work from home on snow days.  You know why?  The next question is, "well, why don't I have the tools?"

Are exempt employees different from non-exempt/hourly when it comes to snow days?  You bet they are.  Treat them differently if you like, but for the love of Ulrich, get your game together.  Stop wringing your hands and being a victim to the weather. 

I'll leave you with this gem from an employee on snow days from the comments of the first post:

"I would like to know what folks think about the 'work at home' concept during snow storms. This week, my office officially closed for a few days, but there is no official policy about should you, or should you not work at home. I am salaried, have a laptop, mobile phone and network connections so there is no barrier to working and I don't mind doing some things, however should people still hold regular meetings and expect deliverables as if nothing were happening? Some of us are trying to shovel, entertain kids, deal with intermittent power, and do other things that come with a snow storm. The company policy is not clear (or even existent) in this realm. Would welcome some thoughts on that."

OK, so maybe I shouldn't be so snarky since he's asking for help.  Dude, here you go: If you don't want to play the game and have meetings and do at least an average amount of work on the day in question while your kids sit like zombies in front of Spongebob, the answer is pretty simple.

You burn a PTO day.  While all those tools from the company sit idle.  If you want entitlements during periods of heavy snow, work for the federal government.  I'm out...

VIDEO: Job Boards Aren't Dead, They're Just Not One Stop Shopping...

Hang around progressive HR Pros long enough, and you'll get one thing for sure - OPINIONS.  Just like the force-fed opinions you get from the HR Capitalist, HR pros like Jessica Lee and Tim Sackett are so engaged in their craft that they'll tell you what they're thinking - which makes them different than most HR pros (most HR folk won't give you a hard opinion) and ultimately - valuable.

Most of the time they're right, occasionally they're w...w....w... wait, I can say it... wr...wr...wrong..

Wrong about what you ask? Well, just like me, when Jessica and Tim rage against the HR machine, they're usually after the "lazy" HR pro.  The administrator.  The walking dead. The one who does nothing to raise the profession.

On our last episode of FOTv (video appears below, email subscribers click through for the clip), JLee, Tim and I talked about the Monster.com acquisition of HotJobs, and the conversation naturally turned to whether HR pros even need job boards any more.  JLee and Tm are pretty adamant that HR pros who need job boards are bordering on lazy.

Now I agree with part of what JLee and Tim are saying - if the old "post and pray" model is your only sourcing strategy, you're a dinosaur.  However, to say that no one has a need for the job boards is a little strong.  I think back to big call centers I supported and think about the recruiters who worked for me having the target of producing 25 new hires every 2-3 weeks in a metro with a million people.  They clearly needed the volume flow that big aggregator job boards provide, and other environments need that volume play as well.

It's no replacement for sourcing candidates on your own, but job boards have a place.  Check out the rest of the dialog with Jessica Lee, Tim Sackett and me below (email subscribers click through for video).

FOTv 7.0 - Monster Eats HotJobs from fistful of talent on Vimeo.

Undercover Boss: You Wish That's All It Took to Change Your Business...

Quick - Who watched "Undercover Boss" after the Superbowl?  Who thought it was entertaining?  Who thought it was lame?

More importantly, who thought it was real?  Or that meaningful improvement could be had from this approach?  Could "The Situation" from the Jersey Shore have actually assisted with the intellectual honesty of this series?Undercovevr

Let's imagine you're in the guts of an American business that has a workforce of 40K+ that's been built primarily through acquisition.  If you know anything about business, you know there are going to be plenty of things messed up operationally.  You don't build a business that size via M&A and not have some dysfunction across the board.

More dysfunction than can be solved in the finale of a pop culture reality show, where the outcome has to fit into a 20 minute wrap-up.  Walter Kirn of Business Week understands this:

"The sudden loss of lofty status that Undercover Boss relies on for its corny appeal is a perennially potent dramatic trick. Undercover Boss grants all our wishes, though, especially our envy-based ill wishes. In the season premiere, Larry O'Donnell, president of Waste Management (WMI) (the 46,000-strong trash hauler and recycler), is dumped into the mucky trenches where his hefty paychecks come from. Wearing a drab uniform, his millionaire's complexion concealed by a growth of graying stubble, Larry is given a series of yucky tasks meant to stir his conscience, steal his pride, and provoke huge grins of gratified resentment. He's forced to snatch recyclable bits of trash from a speeding conveyor belt. He's made—under the barking orders of a foreman whose chronic kidney ailments have hardened him toward able-bodied slackers—to fill bags with windblown scraps of litter. Finally, he's given a scrub brush and a pump and told to clean and empty a long row of portable toilets at a scabrous fairground.

Having learned many tough lessons about the ways his well-meaning company undervalues, overwhelms, and generally jerks around its "front-line" workforce (symbolized by a small group of cheerful stoics who give the company their utmost while enduring sometimes acute hard luck at home), Larry convenes his wary-looking lieutenants to issue corrective orders and share his testimony. As is sure to happen in some form on most every episode of the series (whose upcoming slate of masked corporate chieftains includes those of 7-Eleven and—can't wait—Hooters!), Larry presents himself as a changed man and implies that Waste Management must change as well. The episode ends with a Fortune 500 version of The Sermon on the Mount. Surrounded by admiring workers, including those whom he met during his journey, Larry heralds the coming of a new kingdom.

This finale (and many to come, no doubt) is emotionally irresistible and intellectually preposterous. The idea that the soul journeys of CEOs can redeem or restore American industry in an age of ruthless globalism makes for an enchanting bedtime story, but it's hard to conceive of a goofier approach to—or a more misleading account of—What's Actually Going On Out There."

The problem with "Undercover Boss"?  Transformation of dysfunctional businesses doesn't occur via a 60 minute reality series or, at the end of the day, even by a CEO giving his direct reports marching orders to fix things. 

True transformation takes time.  If the goal was true change, you'd never go on a TV show.  You know why?  Because by doing "Undercover Boss", you've actually guaranteed that you'll have LESS time.  As soon as the employees at your company see the show, they're measuring you from day one on the change they see.

And that's a standard of change and excellence that Waste Management can't possibly meet.