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January 2020

Deflection Devices: When Direct Reports Go Nuclear and Suggest You're The Problem...

If you're the manager I think you are, you're not hiding from providing feedback and coaching to your direct reports.

But a funny thing happens on the way to you being manager of the year. Your people may not take the coaching - they may have reasons why they're doing what they're doing. Hazmat

In the BOSS Leadership Series Coaching Module, we call these things SIDETRACKS.  You attempt to coach, and the reasons/excuses roll back to you from the direct report.  As we discuss in the BOSS series, these sidetracks include variations of the following:

--What about them? (Others are doing the same thing)

--What about you? (You're doing the same thing, or preventing them from resolving)

--My tools suck! (I don't have the systems/support I need to do it)

--The customer/client sucks! (it's impossible to deal with the situation)

--My life is messed up! (I have a lot of sh#t going on. Wanna hear about it?)

All of these sidetracks can be dealt with by acknowledging them when real and coming back to personal accountability regardless of the challenges.

But there's a more serious item you have to be ready for as a manager when giving feedback for improvement to your people. I call them Deflection Devices and they're harder to absorb than the sidetracks listed above.

Deflection Devices go beyond normal coaching sidetracks. Deflection devices are designed to sting the manager directly, and to make you think twice before you coach again.

Deflection Devices are designed to place doubt in your head as a manager, to make you feel substandard. They're mean and if your direct report uses them with you, designed to MAKE YOU COACH LESS BECAUSE YOU DON'T WANT TO BE FRAMED IN THAT WAY.

How's it happen? Easy. You're coaching a person on your team, and they decide to "be transparent" and give YOU HARD FEEDBACK. Common nuclear Deflection Devices include the following:

--You're weak and get run over in the organization

--You're a political animal in a negative way

--You're a micromanager

--People talk about you in less than glowing terms behind your back

--You don't have the background to managing the function you're managing

Deflection Devices go beyond the normal "what about you?" sidetracks. They're designed to feel personal and signal that the real problem is you at a deep level - not them.

It takes an aggressive sort to drop a nuclear deflection device at you while you're having a performance/coaching conversation of any sort. 

Don't give in - if anything, coach harder, my friends. Put on your HazMat suit.


What Does Being an HR Capitalist Mean?

Had a couple of people reach out to me in the last week with the express purpose of getting help to describe to others what being an HR Capitalist means.

It's a cool question. I like "HR Capitalist" as an identifier, and while all great HR pros and leaders aren't HR Capitalists (there's more than one way to be good at HR), I do believe that all HR Capitalists are great HR pros.

The readers that reached out to me were both non-HR execs who needed help describing to others what good HR looked like. It's a cool compliment that they reached out, and their question is humbling and one I take seriously but don't pretend to know the answer to.

For me, being an HR Capitalist means you identify yourself as an HR pro who does the following things naturally:

--Understand the business your company is in better than some or all of your peers in other departments.

--Understand the truth that the best talent wins, and anything you can do to help your company upgrade talent is win/win.

--You're not afraid to admit that recruiting isn't a burden, it's a necessity as part of your identity as an HR/Talent pro.

--You are a source of counsel for employees, peers and the C-level alike. They all know you're practical as hell, don't sugarcoat your feelings and generally give great advice. They also know you can put the conversation they have with you on complete lockdown from a confidentiality perspective.

--Understand the need for rules and process, but you don't let it run your life as an HR pro.

--Try to say "yes" more than "no" as a HR pro, even if the "yes" is a list of things that the person in front of you might have to do to in order for you to help them.

Those are the highlights, but I wrote a book that explores the lifestyle of an HR Capitalist as well - The 9 Faces of HR. 

9 facees

In The 9 Faces of HR, my forward to the book is a bit of a private letter to the people who do great HR, many of whom are HR Capitalists. I'll leave this post with a clip from the forward to The 9 Faces of HR:

If I’ve learned one thing over twenty years as a manager, director, and VP of HR for big and small companies alike, it’s that great HR matters. While HR has long been considered a backwater by the salty characters from other departments, we all encounter in our daily corporate lives great HR pros who have a way of making people standup and take notice, often causing the following reaction: “WTF?”

When the non-believers curse, they don’t curse because they find the HR pro in front of them non-credible. They curse because they didn’t expect to be challenged. And that’s the whole point—non-believers love bad HR. They love bad HR because it means they either do what they want as quickly as possible, or inaction and delays get blamed on someone else.

Great HR, on the other hand, is a revenue producer. No, I don’t have the return on investment (ROI) study on that—stop reading now if you need that. I didn’t need the stat sheet to know that Steph Curry was different or that Carrie Underwood was going to be the most successful American Idol contestant. Like great HRPros, Steph and Carrie were just different. They had “it.”

Great HR pros and HR Capitalists have "it". If you've ever been told that "you're not like other HR Pros I've known", odds are you do HR in an unexpected way.  

Being told that also means there's a high likelihood I would define you as an HR Capitalist.


Are There Any New Ideas in HR and Recruiting? The Difference Between Trademark/Copyright/Patent...

There's gon' be another cat comin' out
Lookin' like me, soundin' like me, next year I know this
They'll be a flipside, do whatchu you do
Somebody'll try to spin off like some series

--Everlast, "Rock Superstar", Cypress Hill

We love to talk about doing things differently in the worlds of HR, Recruiting and Talent. Innovation matters, and that's a good thing.

But what if you truly came up with something new? How would you protect your IP? Let's start with a refresher course on the differences between trademarks, copyrights and patents, because these are referred to horrifically wrong about 50% of the time in our industry.

For those in need, here's the difference:

--A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.

--A copyright protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. 

--A patent is a limited duration property right relating to an invention, granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office in exchange for public disclosure of the invention. Patentable materials include machines, manufactured articles, industrial processes, and chemical compositions. 

(email subscribers, click through for graphic below on the differences between the three, including length of protection)

Trademark vs copyright

Innovation naturally begs the question whether you're doing something truly different or simply repackaging someone else's past ideas.

Does most of your innovative work in HR, Recruiting or Talent rise to the level of a Copyright or Trademark?  The answer is no.

You might have a new company - with a logo, descriptive tagline and color palette - go to town, pay an attorney and get a Trademark if you think that's necessary. If your revenue is under 1M, I'm not sure you're focused on the right things.  But you do you.

When it comes to ideas, most of the work we do in HR/recruiting and talent doesn't rise to the level of a copyright. You put a new program together, but you're like the Cypress Hill lyric above - you're borrowing from others, and when you're at your best, you create your own flavor - a flipside of the work of others, with some value added by you.

When we're at our best in HR, we're stealing stuff from the smartest people - and proud to do it.

It's interesting to get clarity on the difference between trademark/copyright/patent.

It's humbling to know that most of us will never have the need to file for any of these creative protections.

It's smart to acknowledge the most talented of us are repackaging the ideas of others and focusing on communications and execution.

Alot of a...sharks out there...try'na take a bite of somethin'
What's hot
Lot of chameleons out there...try'na change up
Anytime somethin' new comes along...everybody wants a bite
Don't happen overnight

--Chino Moreno, Cypress Hill

 


Unions and Your Company: A Cautionary Tale (The Ringer)...

Most of the readers of this blog are leaders, managers of people and HR pros. That means many of you have union avoidance either directly or indirectly in your job descriptions, meaning part of your job is to create a culture and employee relations environment where unions aren't necessary.

But some of you have probably thought, what would a union look like - would it be as bad as Ringer2I'm told?

I'm here today with a brief story that most of you probably missed in the news this week. Note that this is not a terrible tale of union relations or behavior gone bad (I'll leave that to the experts), but a cautionary tale of what can happen when you grow soft and allow others to drive your point of view related to whether unions are a good thing or not.

Here's the story.

I'm a big fan of a sports site called The Ringer, founded by long time sports personality Bill Simmons, a talented guy you can read about here.  Here's the chronology of what has gone down:

1--Bill Simmons founded The Ringer in 2017, investing his own money and taking capital from entities like HBO.

2--Bill Simmons is a slightly left of center sort, and has openly talked about his displeasure with the Trump administration, etc - specifically on podcasts on The Ringer. He also had a long history of issues with management when he was an individual contributor at ESPN.

3--Sensing ownership that grew up in the journalism business, was left leaning and might be more open than most owners to a union, staff at The Ringer made the aggressive move at organizing and announced their intent to organize in August 2019 via social media, which by the way, is a big part of how to The Ringer markets to the world.  You can see that tweet announcing the intent by clicking here.

4--The public display of organizing had the intended affect of pressuring Simmons to recognize the union without a process or election. As writers at The Ringer came forward one by one to announce their support and liberal Twitter weighed in, the pressure on Simmons was real. He had attempted to build something different at The Ringer and succeeded, but he had been anti-management during his time as a high-paid employee of ESPN and was on the record politically.  To take the organizers through a process saying that they didn't need representation would seem hypocritical.

5--Simmons ultimately folded. Less than 4 days after the group announced their intent to organize, Simmons opted to voluntarily recognize the union without a process. For all the aforementioned reasons, he didn't much of a choice, and he may have thought this was a great outcome.  See the story of the recognition in Variety here.

6. Everybody celebrated and went back to work.

7. January 2020 (that's right, 4 months later): Spotify is reported to be in talks to buy The Ringer, with the true target likely being the 20-30 podcasts that the Ringer has built - not the website. Business rationale - podcasts at the Ringer are very successful, and every minute Spotify pushes users to original content is a minute they don't have to pay royalties to the music industry. 

8. After Spotify's M&A intent was reported, The Ringer Union (that's what they call themselves on twitter) started demanding access to information repeatedly and generally flopping around with the expectation they have perfect clarity of any intent by Simmons to sell and what it means for them. You can see the frantic tweets here and here.  There's a bunch more, and a bunch of retweets of their messages. Of course, I'm not an attorney, but I'm pretty sure with Spotify being a publicly traded company, there's no way for Simmons to satisfy his union here.  Information=Insider Trading.

9. The lesson? There are many unintended consequences of the path taken by The Ringer Union and Simmons.  I'm detailing them below:

--By voluntarily recognizing a union, you're likely to making the entity brash and bold for the future. The public tweets from The Ringer Union during the M&A activity are exhibits 1-29.  They actually are asking for a Slack update on the negotiations. 

--The fact that you've activated a vocal union is likely to impact negotiations on any strategic deal you want to make. Whoever the stakeholders are related to ownership, it's not going to been seen as a positive and could impact the deal size or the willingness to close.

--Now for the real issue. By this union being bold, vocal and critical, management serving up voluntary recognition and the vast majority of the union members not being in the part of The Ringer that Spotify values in the acquisition (podcasts), the entire scenario of events leading to recognition actually makes the union members LESS SECURE in a Spotify acquisition than they would have been if they were union-free. Put yourself in Spotify's shoes - if you're buying the podcasts and aren't sure you want to continue with the money losing website, you might look at the vocal union and say... No thanks. We'll take the podcast operation only.

Of course, Simmons can be a hero and say no if Spotify has the intent of dismantling the website/traditional news/social media operation. But the path to quickly voluntary recognize the union has actually made the union employees LESS SECURE in a world where The Ringer sells, which it was built to do.

I like the journalism at The Ringer. I hope the website survives. But there's a big chance it won't, and recognition of a union plays a part.

Unintended consequences everywhere.


GUY TO GUY HUGS AT WORK: Let's Agree To Get Our #### Together...

My best friend Tim Sackett is an expert on workplace hugging. 

Tim even incorporates hugging into his speaking appearances.  When you go to watch him speak, get ready for what I like to call the “Tim Sackett package”.  He starts by announcing himself as the world’s leading authority on workplace hugging, shows a picture of him and his dog Scout (with Scout licking his face), then invites an audience member up to show what a warm workplace hug looks like with a willing partner (which is usually a woman, because guys don't want to hug).

As an expert in workplace hugging, Tim's next chapter should be to save the world from bad guy-to-guy hugs.  If he agreed to do this, he would be the hero we need in a broken world.

When you greet a guy professionally - as a guy - you've got two choices:

--Standard handshake.  Hard to go wrong there.

--Man to Man business hug.  Hold up.  This ###* is broken in today's workplace.  How many disjointed attempts at this have you seen in the workplace?  I've seen a lot.  The worst usually involves white guys.  But regardless of the Title 7 combos you throw into a man-to-man hug, the most important thing is that both parties know how it's going to go down.

If both parties don't know the rules of a man-to-man hug, one of the those parties is going to get awkward - like they're trying to get down to the latest Migos (shoutout to the ATL) cut at CPA convention.  Which begs the question about how Migos ever ended up on a playlist involving CPAs.  But I digress.

THERE ARE RULES TO PARTICIPATING AND EXECUTING A MAN-HUG IN A PROFESSIONAL SETTING. 

It's OK.  Here we go:

1--Start with a Soul Shake.

2--Move Soul Shake in and up to your front right shoulder.  (Note - your right shoulder should be across from your target's right shoulder and now almost touching your partners shoulder, but your soul shake is in the way)

3--Now that you're in side hugging position, give a light back slap with free left hand.

4--Release within 1-2 seconds.

5--Proceed with meeting on the Berkowitz Project.

It's in the manual people.  Let's get our #### together on this and stop looking uncomfortable.

UPDATE - My Twitter friend Vadim Liberman reminds me to expect different hugs from gay men.  Good point, see his advice here and here.  My experience tells me a hug between and gay and straight man goes better than most between two straight guys, if only because one party is at ease and knows how he wants to hug.


"PET or THREAT": When Leaders Try to Formally Mentor Those Who Don't Want the Relationship...

I think we can all agree that mentoring relationships in corporate America are a good thing. But like anything that's good, mentoring can get dicey if not used in the right way. From formal mentoring programs to mentoring relationships that happen organically, the devil's in the details.

I was reminded of this fact when I read the tweet by Tressie McMillan, which provides a WOC view of Liesa certain type of mentoring gone wrong. If you can't see the tweets below (usually my email subscribers), click through to get to the website, because you don't want to miss this. In fact, you may want to go to my website, then click on the tweet to the get the entire series of tweets, read the comments, etc. 

Did you get the vibe? Great. Let's start with the obvious - I'm not qualified to comment on the state of forced mentoring that gets thrust upon WOC. I don't have that identity or experience.

But I've been around a lot of mentoring programs, and I can tell you that a leader trying to create a formal mentoring relationship without the help of OD, HR or a formal program can come across as incredibly forced. It's only natural that the recipients of this type of mentoring advance might feel a bit suspicious. Add in the context of white female leader offering to formally mentor a WOC without the help of a true program, and there's no doubt that it can get weird.

"PET OR THREAT" is an incredible tagline for unwanted mentoring advances. In the context that Cottom provides in the tweets, you either say yes to allowing someone to mentor you, or you say no (hard to do for sure) and you identify yourself as a threat. Crazy stuff, but true. 

It reminded me of the following forced mentoring scene from House of Lies. If you don't see the video player below, just click here. It's a great scene that features an exec attempting to neutralize someone she considers a threat by offering to mentor them. Incredible. From Cottom's tweets, this happens more than we might otherwise believe.

So why am I writing about this and what value can I possibly provide since I'm not a POC?

I'm here to report on the tweets from Cottom that I found interesting, but more importantly to share mentoring types of arrangements that are available and to judge how effective they are.  

With that in mind, here's my list of mentoring arrangements, ranked from worst to first:

4--Forced mentoring relationship without controls, where an exec read about mentoring and decided to do her/his own program. This could be effective, but even if the intent is pure (unlike Cottom's tweets and my House of Lies share above), the exec likely doesn't know what she's doing. The attendee is likely to say "um, sure?" to the offer.  Forced to an uncomfortable degree. Picture the exec doing the robot, that's how stiff it is. At the far end of the spectrum, it's PET or THREAT.

3--Formal mentoring programs. OD and HR are involved and there's a process. Let's move on because all of you get this one.

2--Informal mentoring relationship where no one EVER SAYS THE WORDS, "I'M SO HAPPY TO BE YOUR MENTOR". Want to know how to determine if an informal mentor is legit? It's easy- they never say the word "mentor". It's a mindset, not a program.

1--A Boss with direct reports. Yep, surprise! The best mentors are, were and always will be the boss that was our Best Boss Ever. We've all have a Best Boss Ever, and that person delivered more mentoring value that anyone outside of the Boss/Direct Report could possibly achieve.  Note that most bosses aren't naturals and can't achieve this boss/mentor status - that's why we have mentoring programs. But the best boss you've ever had - he or she was a f***ing awesome mentor - but no one ever mentioned the word mentor.

That's my list. Remember the whole Pet or Threat thing - It's meaningful. Then remember the best mentoring relationships never or rarely use the word "mentor". They just naturally happen. 


Ask the Capitalist: "KD, I've Been Fired and Need Your Help"...

Heard from a great executive type in my network a few weeks ago. The story was a common one - this exec made a move, then figured out the culture, boss and job wasn't exactly as she had envisioned. As a result, she bounced out of the job voluntarily before she was fired, which she felt like was coming in short order.
 
The executive reached out to me and we met. I'm not a life coach, but I've got enough experience to be Lucy a career coach. After listening awhile, we said goodbye and I pledged to give her some notes on what I would do next if I were her.  
 
Below is the counsel I gave her. I thought she had some work to do related to thinking about the target of her search before she could really start generating leads. 
 
-----------------------------------
 
Hi Janice - 
 
Great meeting with you last week. I'm confident you're gong to land just fine. Trust that my questions and comments about your moves from <Big Company Name> to <Small Company Name> to <a C-level role at Big Company >confirmed some of the things you felt as you exited your last role.
 
As for next steps, I think the biggest thing you have to do is get clarity about the role and work you want to do. Most of what we talked about was situational, and with that in mind, I don't know that I know what you want to do next.  You likely do, but in case you don't, here's what I think you need to have your head around to do an effective search for your next role:
 
The role - what do you want to do? (note, I look at the background, Finance degree and CFO role and automatically think finance, but many of your roles have been broader. What do you want the market to think of you as?
 
The company - what's your target company based on what you've learned across the last 3 companies?  It might be a target situation, such as an startup-type role in a larger company, but that's what the last big company said they wanted.  Still, you need a target, but a target that can be communicated to multiple types of companies of various sizes, etc.
 
The comp and to a lesser extent, the title.  The recent CFO role will scare some people off - because of the title, not the brevity.  You'll need to get your head around the types of roles you're willing to take and be ready to effectively communicate that to the market.  Think of comp first, then title second.  
 
I would start there, then if you'd like, I can give you next level feedback on your search. You'll want to redo your linkedin profile to support the search target you describe above.
 
Ping me back with notes or we can set up a time to talk after you soak on these things, then I'm happy to help you think about the search strategy.
 
Thanks - KD
 
------------------------------------

In Defense of Not Broadcasting Salaries in the Jobs You Post...

When you try to optimize your openings for Google Jobs, you'll turn to the Google Jobs schema for guidance. If you've already been working on this, you'll find that most of the world has two remaining opportunities:

--Address information for individual openings, and Accountant

--Salary Information about the job.

Optimizing location/address information for Google Jobs is a transaction/project. You either have an ATS that can accurately index this information or you don't, and you either want to do the legwork to get location/address info broadcasting or you don't. No big deal. Either do it or don't.

But providing salary information about the job?  That's a whole other can of worms, my friend.

Most of my HR friends doing the work would agree with this statement. They know they can't broadcast this information at their company due to compression issues, company culture and more.

But their's a growing voice in the world that says we should be more transparent about what jobs pay, and even what everyone earns inside our companies. The reasons for this call are legit - there's a lot of inequity across workplaces when it comes to gender, race and other factors. 

We should fix those things.  I personally like moves like the one Salesforce made, where they made a big push towards pay equality. Sure, they promoted the hell out of the move, but they took action, and their company is stronger for it.  Let me say it again - WE SHOULD FIX PAY EQUALITY.

Now let me give you a reality. I think posting salaries in the recruiting process is a weak play.

When I post a job, I'm entering a marketplace. There are overqualified people (code for old people, but that's another post), people who are a direct fit for the job, and people who don't have what it takes, but on livin' on a prayer.

When you post the expected salary for the job, or its weak cousin - the salary range - you're narrowing your marketplace. People with great experience won't apply because you're 10K light. The rest of the people come in with a clear expectation of what you're going to pay.  That sounds fair, right?

Not really. The interview process is a marketplace. When I post a job, I'm looking for the best person available.  Here's a couple of scenarios that happen when I post the $$ for a job:

1--Person with great experience doesn't apply. I never get the chance to feel the experience, see the match and go to bat for the extra 15K I need to sign her up.

2--Person who is a fit comes in expecting the offer to be 80K, but as it turns out, they don't have the experience I need and they're not a true fit. They're actually worth 70K in my eyes, but I never get to make the offer because the negotiation is done once I post a salary.

3--The person with no experience who applied and was lucky enough to catch my eye with that project they worked on in their first job? Well, I can't hire them because they applied for an 80K job, and they'll always think I screwed them by offering them 55K.  I'm actually filling the FTE with a different job, but it doesn't matter, the damage is done.

I won't even bore you with the fact there are a ton of sites that provide research on salary levels that candidates are using that may or may not match up with the salary info you provide (See Glassdoor screenshot at the top of this post). There are a ton of stupid people out there who are horrible human beings. I'm not one of them, and neither are most of you.

I believe we can be trusted with pay equity moving forward. If you have issues in your company, do what Salesforce did - invest and solve the problem.

But stop telling me we need radical transparency in areas like listing salaries in job postings.  You think you're promoting equal opportunity, but the unintended consequence of this action is you're actually making it harder for great people to find their next job.


Meet Jim: A Questionable Performer, But Willing to Kill at a Moment's Notice...

Meet Jim.

Some of you know Jim (some of you know this person as Janice, but regardless of the name, the profile is the same).

You joined your company and as expected, it took you a year to figure out all the relationships. As you got acclimated, you understood Jim's title, who he reported to and more.

You just weren't sure what Jim did. Jim

Another year went by. Then another. Then it came into focus.

Jim isn't good at a lot of things. But Mike, the exec he reports to, trusts him. And as it turns out, you finally figured out what Jim is good at.

Jim can kill things.

Jim is ready to be dispatched at a moment's notice on behalf of Mike to handle ugliness that Mike wants no part of. Jim is willing to say the things Mike can't, to do things Mike doesn't want to do, to act as Mike's proxy when unpleasantness and nasty things are required.

Here comes Jim.

See Jim kill. 

Where's Jim today? Well, he really doesn't have to be "here" all the time because Mike needs him about once a quarter or 4X a year.  If you want urgency, you'll see it when Jim is called into action.  Jim understands his role. Jim is the fixer, the cleaner - the one who does the things.

He's tenacious. He's resented. He's also feared, because when people see engagement from Jim, it means Mike is looking to close some business.

Fear Jim. If he reaches out to you directly, there's a message attached to whatever he asks you to do.

Say yes to Jim.


Mediocre People Don't Like High Achievers...and Vice Versa...

Saw this video clip below from Alabama coach Nick Saban and had to share. As an Auburn season-ticket holder, it's hard to post about Saban, but - no one's had more success, seems more demanding or non-tolerant of sloppiness.

The video below is pure Saban - after a disappointing year by his standards - talking about his goals for spring practice. The gems include:

--"Mediocre people don't like High Achievers"

--and "High Achievers don't like mediocre people"

Don't let other coach-speak like "on the bus". "off the bus" and "do your job" distract you. The real message here is that Alabama Football, led by Saban - which never takes a recruit who isn't elite, period - is headhunting the players and people in his organization that are net negative to the cause.  

At Alabama, being net negative to the cause as a player doesn't mean a thing about ability - it's mindset, ability to work with others, play a role, etc.

Saban goes on to tell his players that one day, they're going to be in the world of work, and someone like him is going to be on mission to get mediocre people out of their company as an agent of change.

"Which one do you want to be?", says Saban.

Saban is telling them they could lose their jobs, scholarships, etc. He's also channeling Good to Great from Jim Collins with the reference to mediocre people.

I'll allow it - Saban is a maniac, and bonus points to the work reference to his players, all of whom believe "work" is the NFL, which is assuredly not for everyone in this meeting. Topgrading is alive and well and if Saban is doing it, we should be thinking about it as well. 

Video below (email subscribers click through for post to view) and at link above.