FAKE IT: Acting Interested in Corporate America Is a Succession Factor

Who's to know if your soul will fade at all
The one you sold to fool the world
You lost your self-esteem along the way
Yeah

--"Fake it" by Seether

One of the biggest things that separates contenders from pretenders in Corporate America - across all functional areas - is the ability to fake interest and attention.

You're in a 7-hour training class.  Next week you're in a 3 hour ops review.  Boredom happens.

If Darwin were a noted OD thought leader in business, he would write that an adaptation that allows some to survive and thrive is the ability to fake interest and attention with body language, eye contact and just enough participation to make it seem like they're engaged.

Does it matter?  Only if you want to get further than you are now. Competition is fierce. The real players in corporate America look engaged - at all times - even when they aren't.  

Look around at your next meeting.  You'll know what I'm talking about.  Some people have this type of opposable thumb, some don't.

Of course, faking it leads to learning because you're dialed in juuuuuust enough not to miss important shit. 

Seether video below, people.  Worth your time but a little NSFW. Happy 2020... (email subscribers click through for video)


2020 Is The Year of HR Playing Offense...

Welcome to 2020. New year, new decade, new YOU.

I don't have resolutions as much as I have needs. And my biggest need in 2020 is to not be a victim.

Of course, I'm not really a victim in the clinical sense. I have 1st world problems, I'm not currently impacted by health issues, depression, crime, etc. But, when I think about the things that are causing me stress, I can almost always track it back to my own accountability in getting in front of issues and trying to resolve them.

That's just me being vulnerable. But when I look around, I see everyone else with the same problem. It's not just me.

That's why I hope that 2020 is the year of you and me playing offense, not defense.

What's playing offense in your career look like?  A couple of thoughts:

--Not letting negative situations linger without trying to proactively resolve them, not matter how sensitive.

--Being proactive with counsel to the people who need to hear from you.

--Taking one action step today on a project rather than waiting for yourself to develop the perfect plan.

--Developing systematic approaches for recurring issues - basically developing products/services that you can repeatedly use because you took the time to deal with something the right way.

--Proactively communicating your take/stance/point of view in a formal way so you're on record with what you believe/recommend and why.

--Doing things today rather than waiting until tomorrow.

--Confronting people who need to be confronted in a professional way - but keeping the message clear.

Playing offense in your career is all about not being a victim.  The world of work is a tough place, and what's generally limiting an individual's success (once the talent is obviously there) is their ability to act, communicate, position and build relationships proactively rather than waiting for feedback from others or the perfect time.

Act today, win tomorrow.  Stop planning - or plan less - and do more. 

If you like this blog and the voice it's written in, pick up my book as a tool for a fast start in 2020. You'll laugh, you'll cry and it will make you want to kick some a**.

My hope for me - and you - is that we play more offense in 2020. 

Good luck, my friends!

 

 

 


New Year's Resolutions For HR Pros Are All About Not Being a Slave to Transactions...

New Year's Resolutions. Seems like they're trending down these days, doesn't it?  Does anyone do them?

The drill is usually about weight loss or some other type of personal improvement. We don't do resolutions as much at work, and that's a shame.

Resolutions at work can be powerful if used correctly.  And the best way to use resolutions at work is to pledge to do less work that doesn't matter, and more that does.

Example - being a slave to email is something we all fall pray to throughout the year. We hear the incoming tone, and we have to look.  And react.  Most the time, it could wait.  The right new year's resolution is to stop being a slave to email, to schedule the blocks of your day that you're going to deal with email, saving you time to work on things that really matter.

For HR pros of all levels, the resolution that matters most is to get out of allowing transactional work dictating the majority of your day.  Most transactional work for HR pros is delivered through email.  Somebody needs an answer to that.  Somebody else has a question about this.  You react all day long - so do I.  We're classical trained to react, to the point we trick ourselves into thinking that always being available is the best way to provide high service levels.

But - that take has more to do with being comfortable being needed and being able to have a sense of accomplishment.

It's like mowing the grass - when you do it, you look at the finished product and it's easy to see your effort led to the result.  That's comfortable.

BUT - it's fools gold. The big value add for HR pros isn't to answer questions, it's to do thinking work that leads to projects and initiatives that lead to added value.

And that added value, my friends, is uncomfortable.  What if we aren't good enough to add value in that type of work?  Most of us fear that subconsciously.

So we let email and other transactional work run our lives. 

My new year's resolution is to do email in three daily blocks - no more.  If I have gaps in my schedule with nothing to do, I'm going to pick the highest value project I can to work on and refuse to go back to email until it's time on my schedule.  

Wish me luck - and consider something similar.


AWAY BAGS: When Your Horrible People Practices Turbocharge Sales...

They say there's no such thing as bad publicity. That might be true.

For proof, look to Away Travel, which is the maker of the ultra-hip and ultra-cool Away Suitcase.  It's a Away trendy product, but one that I had an only passing awareness of.

Of course, that's before the shit hit the fan. My awareness is incredible now - more on that later.

Many of your are aware of a scathing article about Away that published on The Verge, detailing a bullying culture based on the communication tool of Slack. The gist is this - Away promoted radical transparency and attempted to force all communication on the public tool that is Slack, and as a result, there was little to no privacy in communications. When a diverse set of employees tried to set up their own private Slack channel, a high ranking exec popped in to monitor/participate in the group, even though she didn't fit the diversity the group was based on.

A few days later, members of the group started being fired. The Verge article hit, and it was an internet sensation for a couple of days. If you want more detail about what's being called a toxic culture at Away, go read the Verge article now.

But I'm here to talk about what happened AFTER that article hit.  Here's the chain of events that I saw:

1.  Within days, CEO Steph Korey stepped down amid criticism of the ruthless internal culture at the luggage startup she co-founded.

2.  Away named a new CEO.

3.  I listen to a pretty ruthless podcast called Pivot with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway. They had Away on their list of things to talk about during the week it all broke. That wasn't going to go well for Away, because these two are ruthless with bad stuff at companies.

4.  Away didn't run. Instead, they leaned in and sponsored the podcast. I've never heard Away as a sponsor of this podcast, so I'm assuming they bought the ad rights to the episode that aired with their news.

5. Scott Galloway, one of the hosts, did a live read as a result - in his usual personality, having fun with it.  They had already made the call with the CEO, so the talk was more about the action the company took rather than the bad cultural stuff.

The lesson here? If you act quick enough (fire the people in question) and lean in to the coverage, you can actually create buzz around a product and turn the negative talk into a business opportunity.

Here's what I did after hearing the podcast - 

  1. I went and checked out the product.
  2. I'm at least 50/50 to buy an Away bag as a result.
  3. I never would have gotten that close to purchase without the hard lead in on the podcast and controversy by Away.

The lesson?  Act fast when bad stuff happens and don't hide.

If you run the right type of business, you might just end up with a boost to your business. While that's not a recommendation to bully people on Slack, it's a case study on how to react when bad stuff happens.

BONUS READING: A Guide to Away Bag Knockoffs on Amazon


Work with KD: Content Creator/Brand Accelerator Job at Kinetix in Atlanta...

Attention Atlanta Connections - Cool opportunity to do fun brand and marketing stuff with yours truly. Please share this with folks you think might be a fit!

Click this link to apply - full job posting at link and also below:

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Content Creator/Brand Accelerator

As a Content Creator/Brand Accelerator at Kinetix, you’ll work with our team to amplify the already strong primary and secondary brands of Kinetix to create brand awareness and help us fill the top of our sales funnel. We’ve got great brands at Kinetix and have long believed in content marketing. Kinetix We’re looking for you to help us ramp up the unbelievable assets we have in place and send a consistent, daily message to the marketplace.

The right person for this role will be someone comfortable using content and thought leadership in B-to-B marketing capacity. Creative and editing skills in video and graphic design are preferred, as is an intermediate to expert level on social media platforms. An appreciation of brand voice is required, as our brands have a point of view that should be present across all platforms.

Still reading? Here’s some stuff you’ll focus on:

·        World Domination – There, we said it. But the good kind, not the bad kind.

·        Create and manage editorial and social content calendars - designed to accelerate the primary and secondary brands of Kinetix (kinetixhr.com, hrcapitalist.com, fistfuloftalent.com, bossleadershiptrianing.com and more!)

·        Run pre and post production project management of all big content pieces (BCP): videos, podcasts, white papers, blog posts, etc. to end with amazing large form content pieces designed to promote thought leadership at Kinetix. (Bonus points if you have writing skills to participate in the creation of the BCP. Subtract bonus points if you like corporate acronyms like “BCP.”)

·        Digital skills to run any of the pre and post production elements using the Adobe Suite or InDesign is a bonus. We’re giving a lot of bonus points here - we’re like that teacher in college that’s really hoping you make it.

·        Independently create short-form pieces of content from BCP (posts, images, IG or FB stories, quotes, remixes, GIFS) - We’re looking to create great content pieces (BCP) and then chop them up and reuse them like the place your used BMW went to the time it got stolen.

·        Create and execute distribution of all content (big and small) on relevant social platforms - Social platform skills will be a big deal in this job. We’ll also want you to learn paid social as part of this gig if you don’t already possess that skill.

·        Community management when you’re not tied up with the content machine - Community management means helping us grow the social channels in a smart, authentic, non-sleazy way, as well as helping us grow our email marketing list. We’d also want you to help our thought leaders be uber-responsive on social as part of the job.

·        In your spare time, run a bootstrap speaker’s bureau - designed to put our thought leaders in front of audiences that are interested in our message.

·        Work with a cool existing creative marketing team at Kinetix - you’re not alone, although this posting made it sound like that. Our Kinetix marketing team does great creative work on behalf of our client brands, and they’ll help with delivery on your projects as needed. We won’t let you touch the client brands, because we’re being incredibly selfish.

Some Things the Right Candidate May Have:

·        Bachelor's degree in marketing, journalism, public relations, business or digital communications (if you don’t have any, but are a perfect fit – tell us why)

·        Writing skills

·        3-5 years of proven success in marketing, lead generation, digital and social media experience

·        Able to create good working relationships with colleagues

·        An affinity for Gen X leaders and acknowledgement that Gen X is the greatest generation, or the ability to fake this in the workplace

·        Able to work well independently and with a team

·        Complete comfort with social tools (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram)

·        Creative and curious in a wide variety of media

·        Crazy detail orientation that leads to execution

·        Comfortable with chaos and daily changes

·        Working knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator)

·        Location – Atlanta strongly preferred. Would consider Birmingham for the right candidate. Remote only if you worked 2 years for Gary V or the Kardashians.

EOE - M/F/V/D/SO


Life Is Better When You Hire People With A Great Sense of Humor...

As an owner of a recruiting company, it's fun to be able to contribute to building a team.

What do we need at Kinetix? The same types of things you do - knowledge, skill and ability, as well as cultural fit. We've addressed trying to hire for cultural fit with something we call the Kinetix Code, which are potential factors designed to ID what's common across all of our best performers.

But there's one thing we probably don't work to ID in the interview process, but I love it when it's there.

A sense of humor and a general spirit of not taking one's self to seriously.

Case in point - I've got a Kinetix guy working on a website for me that includes a splash page for my book. As you might expect, we're showing the book, and giving some quotes about what people think about the book (shameless plug note - you can buy The 9 Faces of HR here!), etc.

My guy at Kinetix could have pulled a quote from my book page at Amazon. But that didn't feel like the best use of the opportunity, so he instead structured a placeholder for the quote window with the image you see below and wrote his own mock quote (email subscribers, click through if you don't see the image below):

Ben

Ah... Opportunistic humor. Rather than use a real quote, he simply made one up on the fly. Ben Martinez is what we call a "friend of the program" at Kinetix, a former HR leader now running his own consulting business. We've helped him, he's helped us, etc. The art was available, and away my developer at Kinetix went. In case you haven't figured it out - this is not a real quote. But it's a fun one!

We have a lot of people at Kinetix who have a great sense of humor and don't take themselves too seriously. 

How do you measure that in an interview process? That's hard to say, I think the best way is probably to listen closely and see what your candidates give you related to what I'll call the "and one." You've asked a serious question, the candidate gives you a serious answer and...they give you the extra comment that gives you context on how they view the world. If it makes you smile, there's a chance that candidate in front of you might have a decent sense of humor AND - good judgment about when to use it.

The "and one" comments from candidates during interviews are not without risk. Consider the following:

1--Go too far with the extra comments in an effort to build rapport with the interviewer, and the strategy falls flat.

2--Fail to give any "and one" comments and you'll likely see another candidate pass you up in the interview process - as they nailed the "and one" and built comfort and connection.

The "and one" strategy is probably what naturally funny people do in interviews.

But don't forgot, candidates mirror you as an interviewer. If you're too serious and don't invest in making candidates comfortable, you'll probably never know who has "it" in the area of humor - with good judgement.

Our workplaces need more people with humor - and great judgment about when to use it.


The Removal of McDonald's CHRO Underscores Increased Expectations of HR...

In case you missed it, I shared some thoughts on company romance for managers of people yesterday, with the firing of the CEO of McDonald's as the backdrop.

On a related note, it was reported on Monday that the company's CHRO - David Fairhurst - had opted Wiredinto leave the company. Here's a quick rundown from the Wall Street Journal, then let's discuss:

"McDonald's said its top human-resources executive has left the company, days after the burger giant fired its chief executive, Steve Easterbrook, because of his relationship with an employee.

McDonald’s said Chief People Officer David Fairhurst left the company on Monday, without providing any details of the reasoning behind his departure. A McDonald’s representative said Mr. Fairhurst’s exit wasn’t related to the firing of Mr. Easterbrook.

New CEO Chris Kempczinski said in an email to employees Monday that Mr. Fairhurst was moving on from McDonald’s after 15 years of service, and had helped enhance the company’s brand. Mason Smoot, a McDonald’s senior vice president and company employee since 1994, was elevated to Mr. Fairhurst’s role on an interim basis, Mr. Kempczinski said.

Mr. Fairhurst didn’t respond to requests for comment. He had worked with Mr. Easterbrook for McDonald’s in the U.K. and was promoted to the top human-resources job soon after Mr. Easterbrook became CEO in 2015."

Did Fairhurst leave for reasons unrelated to the firing of the CEO for an inappropriate relationship? While that's possible, it's also unlikely.

Here's the top possible reasons for the departure of Fairhurst:

  1. He knew about the relationship and didn't escalate it appropriately.
  2. He didn't know about the relationship, but should have based on the circumstances.
  3. The board didn't evaluate whether he knew or not, they just decided he couldn't stay based on his long-term relationship with the CEO and the sensitivity of the issue related to the responsibility of the HR Function.

Regardless of the reason, the separation of McDonald's CHRO Fairhurst is a visible reminder of a shifting landscape for HR leaders. When it comes to issues of professional conduct in the C-Suite, we're increasingly being held accountable for the actions of the leaders we support. If we know of an issue, it's our responsibility to bring it up.  But more importantly, it's our job to be wired in to what's going on. At the end of the day, if we're not connected enough to have the information we need, we're going to be held accountable when bad stuff happens.

Fair? Maybe, maybe not. But it's the reality in the new world, and the removal of the McDonald's CHRO underscores the need to be wired in and take action swiftly.


Your Employment Brand (Once Done Right) Probably Needs Less Refreshing Than You Think...

Quick post today related to employment branding and HR marketing.  The big thought is this:

You get sick of your own stuff at a much more rapid pace than the marketplace does.

Trust me, I'm somewhat of an expert related to being impatient with things that are done well.  But the reality is that once you (or I) create something, we see it more than anyone Brandelse. Whether it's a comprehensive employment brand strategy or simply an analog handout you're using at job fairs, you see the creative related to your employment brand about 1000x more than anyone else.

The result? You and I call for dramatic recasts/redos of employment brand artifacts much sooner than we should.

Let's offer up some realities in support of this:

1--You are responsible for creating the brand around your HR/recruiting/talent practice at your company.

2--You do the work. It's like having a child. It's a LOT of work, and once done, you hopefully feel good.

3--You see the brand EVERY day. The imperfections and woulda/coulda/shoulda grind against you on a weekly, if not daily basis.  A year in, you're sick of it and thinking about doing it again.  It feels necessary!

4--THE DIRTY SECRET TO REMEMBER - nobody gets exposed to your employment/HR/talent brand at the same level you do. You're sitting on Main Street in Chernobyl related to your brand, everyone else is thousands of miles away.  They come around every once in awhile, get what they need, then leave. They come back occasionally.  THEY HAVE NOWHERE NEAR THE BRAND EXPOSURE YOU DO AS THE CREATOR.

The rule of seven in marketing says that prospects have to hear messaging 7X before they get it.  Whether it's an internal HR brand or an external employment brand you've create, PLEASE RELAX.  If you did a great job on it and are proud of it, don't recreate it every 12 months.

Chill out.  If your brand efforts in recruiting or HR sucked the first time, then by all means, recast it and make it better.  But remember, no one is seeing it as much as you are.

I think a good rule of thumb for a brand done well is to look at a rebrand at the 3-4 year mark.  If you've had the same brand for that period of time, I think it's OK to think about a HR/recruiting brand refresh.

I'm reminded of the power of leaving pretty good alone by our website at Kinetix.  We get comments on how much people enjoy it on almost a weekly basis.  If you asked me or my partner, Shannon Russo, what we want to do differently, we've have a laundry list of items.  But based on the continuous feedback, we'd be suckers to change it too much.

Once your brand is good, don't rush to redo it.  Add depth to the brand components, tools and messaging you already have rather than starting from scratch.

This public service announcement is provided to all my OC friends in HR and recruiting.


When New CEOs Onboard, CHROs Are Often Gone...

One of the biggest reasons I wrote my new book (The 9 Faces of HR) was the sheer number of friends and colleagues I have in HR who have lost their positions, at least in part, to organizational change. 9 Faces

A recent report puts a number to how at-risk HR is when C-level leadership changes out. From The 2018 CHRO Trends Report from The Talent Strategy Group:

"There is a strong correlation between CEO and CHRO turnover. Within twelve months of a Chief Executive Officer appointment, 43% of Chief Human Resources Officers at that organization turned over. An additional 9% of CHROs came into the role three months or less prior to a CEO transition. Less than half (48%) of CHROs retained their seat for more than 12 months following a CEO transition."

Those numbers are staggering, but I believe them based on the experiences of my friends inside and outside of the Fortune 500.

When a new boss comes in, it's test time. Your new boss is really evaluating who you are as an HR pro.  For best results, you'll need to understand who you are and make sure your new boss understands you have the ability to connect, pivot and change as part of your personal identity.

The 9 Faces of HR is a perfect companion for that prep - a career guide of sorts, but not the boring kind. Change is coming, you may as well dig in and get ready now.  Order my book here.


So You Want To Be a Thought Leader, But You Hate Writing...

Readers of this blog often ping me to have conversations about the best way to get started writing and sharing thoughts on the world of HR.

With the exception of the recent period where I finished my book (shameless plug - buy my book,  The 9 Faces of HR, here), I've written most business days since 2007.  

Only freaks do that.

For ideas on starting your own blog, see this presentation I did way back in the day.  Most of it still holds true.

But most people aren't going to start a blog and just grind for a decade.  That doesn't mean you can't be involved and share your thoughts.  Here's you're choices in my eyes:

1--Start a blog and write every day without rewards for a period of 3 years. See what happens.  Good Luck!

2--More realistically, start a blog and write once a week - but hit that schedule come hell or high water. No bitching, people.

3--While you're doing that, become active in promoting your content (and that of others) on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. 

4--Become a contributor at a site that has a collection of writers - like Fistful of Talent - with a built-in audience. I like this play for a lot of people since a site like FOT comes with built in traffic and awareness.  See the list of people who have contributed to FOT here - all great, talented people - many left to do their own thing, which is why I like to think about FOT as SNL for HR and recruiting writers (I'm Jay Mohr, not Lauren Michaels).

That's your basic path.  But there's a new angle I'd like to share as well - let's talk about content curation.

I recently saw a social post that encouraged HR pros to share the good work of others as a way to gain influence.  I think that path is valid, but let's be honest - just sharing the work of others doesn't really make you special or add value.

So if you're looking to share your voice but don't have time to write original content, content curation might be a good path for you.

But good content curation is work, as is adding your own voice.  Here's 3 examples of great content curation (2 from HR, one is media), take a look and see my quick notes about what I like about them:

--Lance Haun - Smart guy in the HR space that used to write all the time, now does a weekly curated newsletter called Tech@Work.  It's smart as hell.  Hit the link and subscribe.

--Katrina Kibben - Smart Recruiting-focused pro who writes a letter of the week - see the example and subscribe here.  Also smart as hell. Sharing her own long form writing at times, but the format works even if you don't have OC (original content).

--Jason Hirschhorn - Puts out curated newsletter called REDEF.  Deeper dives and more work that what Lance and Katrina are doing, but gives you a sense of what's possible (maybe as a full-time job).

Why do I share these?  Well, if you're looking to build influence, content curation is a great way to go - but it's more than retweeting shit on twitter if you want to do it right.  Both Lance and Katrina are taking time to share - mostly buy putting together 3-6 articles but MOST IMPORTANTLY:

THEY DON'T SIMPLY SHARE THE ARTICLES - THEY TRY TO TELL YOU WHY THEY THINK THE ARTICLE IS TIMELY AND IMPORTANT.

Which is the whole secret of the curation strategy.  You don't necessarily have to come up with the original ideas, but you HAVE TO HAVE A TAKE.

If you're looking to build influence, have a voice and generally engage with content - but you don't actually like to write - content curation might be a good strategy for you.  Note that both Lance and Katrina are great writers, though.  LOL.

Go subscribe to the curation efforts by Lance and Katrina and be inspired.