Taking Sides Politically: Wrong For Your Company and For You as a Manager of People...

I'll start this post by saying this: I've been on the corner of "no politics at work" way before 2020 happened. I've been on this corner so long that I questioned the wisdom of many small business owners pressuring their employees to vote GOP in the 2016 election for reduced taxation and concerns about Obamacare.

Ah, 2016. Ah, Obamacare. So long ago, such a simpler, innocent time. Mitch and nancy

When you choose political sides at work, you're alienating and decaying trust with close to 50% of your workforce. Go back historically and look at the vote splits. We're a 50/50 nation.  To choose either side politically is a bad look for any leader. You shouldn't do it. The great ones don't choose, because they know it's a suckers game from a leadership perspective.

"But, KD," you say, "times have changed! There's right and wrong!" I hear you, so let's dig into the topic a bit on 3 levels:

--The post 2020 escalation of what politics at work means

--The trap of picking any political side as a company—big or small

--Managing diverse sets of employees as a manager of people

Ready? Let's discuss.

The Post 2020 Escalation of What Politics at Work Means

It used to be that talking politics at work meant comparing, discussing, and arguing simple GOP vs Democratic platforms. You know the issues: taxes, government, social programs, etc.  Those days are gone. Discussing politics at work has exploded into nuclear identity politics and more. Regardless of what you believe, endorsing a political view as a company or a leader polarizes people more than it ever has and forces people to take sides.

In addition, allowing politics to be discussed in the workplace or taking a position as a company invites future employee activism that detracts from your goal—to serve customers/clients and be great at what you do. We'll talk more about that in the company section of this post.

Finally, if you have people in your company who aren't for opportunity for all, a world without racism, and other issues being discussed these days, you should get rid of those people. But that's not really the issue we're facing inside our companies when we talk politics and social issues identified with political platforms. Both major political parties weaponize the issues, which decreases meaningful conversations inside our companies, because the weaponization makes the issues (DEI, BLM, etc.) too hot to debate.

That loss of meaningful conversation means many view company positions as one of two things: 1) a call to make a portion of the business and their time about the political/social issues, or 2) empty virtual signaling. Neither outcome is great.

The Trap of Picking a Side or Allowing Politics/Causes to Be Discussed as a Company

Do Black Lives Matter? Of course, they do. Is BLM as an organization the carrier of the message we want to get behind? Uhhhh....

No one I know (including my GOP friends) argues with the fact that we need opportunity for all, a world without hate, and reasonable approaches to all the social issues on the table. Be about that 100% as a leader.

But the world, organizational life, and humanity gets in the way the more you try and formalize and activate your support of a platform. Are you in the business of focusing all your energy on your clients, or are you ready to channel 10-20% of your time talking about social/political issues (increasingly the same thing these days) whether you want to or not?  

You'll have a cross section of employees in any company who want you to formalize this support of social/political issues. The last year has shown us that formalizing your support for any political platform or cause creates activism inside your company.

Case in point: you're a US-based global company, and you promote Pride Month in the USA (good) complete with a logo change for the month, only to be reminded by a small section of your employee base that you didn't change the logo for all of your other country-based social accounts. Turns out, there are parts of the world that don't want anything to do with Pride month or what it stands for, and from a business perspective it's problematic to push this promotion in those parts of the world. Your employees on the left are disappointed in you and active in telling you about it, and your employees on the right think the whole show is PR. It's complicated.

As you wade into the political waters, a small percentage of your employees will become vocal activists, wanting to spend a percentage of their time at work active on politics. This has become a big enough issue that two companies with liberal, left leaning founders—Shopify and Basecamp—recently reversed course and sought to put firm limits/eliminate time spent at work on political/social issues, reminding employees that the company mission to serve clients was what work was about. While the Basecamp communication was bungled in many ways (link to outcomes here), the bigger of the two companies, Shopify, locked down the politics at work discussion hard.  See the entire note from Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke here.

Summary of this note to employees from Tobi Lütke:

We're not a family, we're a team. You came to Shopify to work with great people. Our record on liberal values and equality of opportunity. Sometimes we see opportunities to help nudge these causes forward. We do this because this directly helps our business and our merchants and not because of some moralistic overreach. Slack trolling, victimhood thinking, us-vs-them divisiveness, and zero sum thinking must be seen for the threat they are: they break teams. Teams survive and thrive on the actions of the collective, and the cohesiveness of the whole. Poor performance and divisiveness cannot be tolerated.  

How do I insert 1,000 handclap emojis? Magnificent. Get back to work and stop wasting time on things that aren't in support of our business goals.

Managing Diverse Sets of Employees as a Manager of People

It's simple for best results as a manager of people. You don't routinely share your political views or hot takes on things that could be considered to be political with direct reports.

The reasons are pretty simple. As a manager of people, you're responsible for shepherding a group of direct reports through a given week, quarter or year.

If you've done a good job of hiring, you're leading a diverse team - which broadly defined, means your people don't all look, sound or think like you. You're in a position of power, so the more you broadcast polarizing information like political views, the more you risk alienating good people who aren't a carbon copy of you.

I'm not saying you can't be you. And note I'm 100% saying you should be clear that you're against racism an a supporter of other ideas of note. You can and should share those views, and it's an important part of leading on issues.

I'm saying that the stronger/hotter you are on a polarizing take - whether you come from the hard left or hard right - the more you risk shutting someone down on your team from talking to you, which almost always results in lower engagement and one foot out the door.

Managers from both the hard right and the hard left struggle with this. For best results, remember that in competitive election years, the country is split pretty much evenly between two political parties.

Some of you will email me and say, "But Kris, how do I find the line?" Well, if you're manager of people, that's what the money is for.

Your job is to keep all the good people on the bus. The team that successfully navigates 2021 and arrives at 2022 at a different place with the highest percentage of talented employees retained and rowing in the right direction wins.

Leadership is art. I'm sorry I'm saying you shouldn't share that op/ed you loved from The New York Times or Fox News with the team. 

Listen more than you talk. Connect with everyone on your team on a 1/1 level. Show empathy to all.


Five Questions to Determine if a Potential Boss Will Invest in Growing Your Career

The best candidates don't want a boss or a manager. They want a Career Agent.

A boss/manager of people who is a Career Agent is there to get the job done and get business results, but they'll accomplish something very important along the way. A career agent, as a manager of people, approaches every assignment to the team, every task, and all feedback through a simple lens related to the team member/employee in question.

What's in it for you to do what I'm asking you to do? David-Costabile-billions-interview-gq

Think about that for a second.  Whether you're assigning work, talking about a project, or giving hard feedback for improvement, a boss who is also a career agent isn't simply telling you what to do. They're telling you WHY doing what they are encouraging you to do is good for you.

There's a big difference between normal bosses/managers of people and ones who are actively career agents.

That difference? The direct reports of Career Agents think their bosses actually give a shit about them. I'm not talking about empathy, which is a cheap word these days. I'm talking about advocacy.

Advocacy over empathy in a manager means this - "I care about how you feel, but I'm more interested in pushing you to see the game and absolutely crush it in your career, so you can thrive workwise, take care of your family, and feel great about who you are professionally."

Of course, not everyone is ready for Career Agent-type advocacy. Some just want their manager to leave them alone, to let them do the basics and not think about what's next, where they want to go, etc.

To the average employee, that sounds exhausting.

To the high performer with ambition, that sounds like the boss they want and need.

A funny thing happens with managers who are Career Agents for those who work for them. Word gets around, and they end up with stronger teams.

But if you're out there as a candidate, you have imperfect information on the potential future boss in front of you. If you have ambition, start with some or all of these 5 questions to figure out if your interviewer is going to be a true advocate for your career:

1--Are you considered one of the best in your company/location/business unit for developing people and seeing them promoted multiple times? (Spoiler alert: avoidance of the question isn't great. Neither is overconfidence, because the true manager as career agent knows how hard this status is to achieve. Following up with examples is fair to the interviewer with great confidence.)

2--How do you approach a direct report you feel has more to give, but you haven't seen the results yet? (Listen closely for the difference between getting the minimum out of non-performers versus developing performers.)

3--What's your approach to the grunt work that has to be done in any job vs. the activities that grow someone and prepare them for the next step in their career? (You want to hear that the manager always has their eye on getting you out of the weeds and helping you grow.)

4--Have you ever made a referral hire from a former direct report who now works at another company? Tell me more! (Testing the fact that they keep relationships warm when someone has the audacity to leave the company nest—average managers hate that.)

5--Who have you managed in your career that you now consider your peer? (Testing for a complete devotion to development and low ego related to hiring people who have the potential to be as good as or better than they are.)

If these questions sound like a lot to spring on someone who is interviewing you, you're 100% right. You'll hear things earlier in the interview process that tells you the manager in front of you is average, and they won't respond well to this line of questioning. It's up to you whether you want that job or not. Sometimes you have to feed the family and just get paid. I get it.

But if you're lucky enough to have options, and you want to be developed (regardless of career level), these questions are fair game. If you ask them and you get average or even slightly irritated answers, you know the deal. Stay where you are.

But if the potential manager in front of you perks up to the questions, is humble about what they are capable of, and engages, proceed and get as much as you can from the conversation. End the session with a request for referrals (current or otherwise) where people will talk about what it is like to work for them.

Find this person, and you've found your home related to who you want to work for.


Remembering Facebook vs Google+: The Value of the Rally BHAG...

There's a lot of hate heading Facebook's way these days. But step away from the politics and the obvious corrosive, addictive drawbacks of social media, and you'll see a company that has fought like hell, got lucky at times and generally rallied the troops better than most around BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). See this post for more on the value of a good BHAG.

BHAGs at Facebook include the move from campus focus to the general public, the move to mobile first and more.  But let's talk about one BHAG that most of us have forgot about.

Let's talk about Google Plus (or Google+) and remember the threat and the response. Lockdownlogo

Google+ ------ Man, some kids don't even know what this was. Here's a definition of the social app launched by Google back in 2011:

Google+ (pronounced and sometimes written as Google Plus; sometimes called G+) was a social network owned and operated by Google. The network was launched on June 28, 2011, in an attempt to challenge other social networks, linking other Google products like Gmail, Google DriveBlogger and YouTube. The service, Google's fourth foray into social networking, experienced strong growth in its initial years, although usage statistics varied, depending on how the service was defined. 

Google+ was introduced in June 2011. Features included the ability to post photos and status updates to the stream or interest-based communities, group different types of relationships (rather than simply "friends") into Circles, a multi-person instant messaging, text and video chat called Hangouts, events, location tagging, and the ability to edit and upload photos to private cloud-based albums.

Google+ was shut down for business and personal use on April 2, 2019. Google+ continued to be available as "Google+ for G Suite".

Google+ was perceived as a huge threat inside Facebook when it launched. After all, many of us live our lives through the Google Suite, so it makes sense that a social network that liquified that usage was going to pop in a big way.

At Facebook, the launch of Google+ was scene as a declaration of war. The company had a large sign in its Bay Area HQ that simply said "LOCKDOWN." It was rarely used. The sign was lit up upon the launch of Google+ and it was an all hands on deck moment.

Mark Zukerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, wasn't a great public speaker. But he took the mic during the all hands meeting that followed shortly after the LOCKDOWN sign was lit up. Here's how the scene was described in the book Chaos Monkeys:

"Rounding off another beaded string of platitudes, he changed gears and erupted with a burst of rhetoric referencing one of the ancient classics he had studied at Harvard and before. “You know, one of my favorite Roman orators ended every speech with the phrase Carthago delenda est. ‘Carthage must be destroyed.’ For some reason I think of that now.” He paused as a wave of laughter tore through the crowd.

The aforementioned orator was Cato the Elder, a noted Roman senator and inveigher against the Carthaginians, who clamored for the destruction of Rome’s great challenger in what became the Third Punic War. Reputedly, he ended every speech with that phrase, no matter the topic.

Carthago delenda est. Carthage must be destroyed!"

There's nothing more BHAG than a big ass sign that's the size of a family sedan that says "LOCKDOWN" and your CEO pointing at a competitor and saying, "Carthage Must Be Destroyed."  The internal PR team also went into BHAG mode as evidenced by another passage in Chaos Monkeys:

The Facebook Analog Research Laboratory jumped into action and produced a poster with CARTHAGO DELENDA EST splashed in imperative bold type beneath a stylized Roman centurion’s helmet. This was Facebook’s ministry of propaganda, and it was originally started with no official permission or budget, in an unused warehouse space. In many ways, it was the finest exemplar of Facebook values: irreverent yet bracing in its martial qualities.

The Carthago posters went up immediately all over the campus and were stolen almost as fast. It was announced that the cafés would be open over the weekends, and a proposal was seriously floated to have the shuttles from Palo Alto and San Francisco run on the weekends, too. This would make Facebook a fully seven-days-a-week company; by whatever means, employees were expected to be in and on duty. In what was perceived as a kindly concession to the few employees with families, it was also announced that families were welcome to visit on weekends and eat in the cafés, allowing the children to at least see Daddy (and, yes, it was mostly Daddy) on weekend afternoons. 

And if you're skeptical of the value of a true BHAG moment like LOCKDOWN AND "Carthage Must Be Destroyed," that's cool. Just know it matters when the survival of your company is at question. The final passage I'll share from Chaos Monkeys talks about the difference in moods at Google versus Facebook:

Facebook was not f**king around. This was total war.

I decided to do some reconnaissance. En route to work one Sunday morning, I skipped the Palo Alto exit on the 101 and got off in Mountain View instead. Down Shoreline I went and into the sprawling Google campus. The multicolored Google logo was everywhere, and clunky Google-colored bikes littered the courtyards. I had visited friends here before and knew where to find the engineering buildings. I made my way there and contemplated the parking lot.

It was empty. Completely empty.

Interesting.

I got back on the 101 North and drove to Facebook.

At the California Avenue building, I had to hunt for a parking spot. The lot was full.

Was there any question who would come out on top?

In a time of crisis, BHAGs matter.


KD's Personal Mission Statement on HR/Recruiting/Talent in Troubled Times...

If you're like me, 2020 and 2021 has felt rough in a lot of ways. But I'm incredibly blessed - I had a job, my company survived and my family is healthy. Check, check  and check.

But in a world with so much political and social unrest, it's easy for all of us to feel disrupted in some way. For me, all the change going on around us made me less confident to speak to many of the hard business+talent truths I have learned in my career.  Example - I was hesitant to put my thoughts down on the recent Union Vote at the Amazon Distribution Center (Bessemer, Alabama) because pro-business thoughts aren't super welcome in the cancel culture we live in. The things we think

I wrote the post (you can find it here), but I expressed my reservations of being cancelled, shamed or—God forbid—being called a Republican.

The hesitation that so many people feel toward having real conversations got me thinking - what I really needed to do was to create a mission statement of how I view HR/Recruiting/Talent that addresses the times and communicates what I believe.  I needed to do that more for me than anyone else. So I did it. I kept it short and note this is a living breathing document I'll update and fine tune moving forward.

Here's my personal mission statement for who I am and what I believe HR/Recruiting/Talent should be about in 2021:

I believe every employee deserves an opportunity to earn a great living based on their performance. They deserve a safe environment that respects all people and provides maximum opportunity to all, regardless of race, gender, orientation and any other identifier.

Of course, I'll get emails that say this isn't good enough on a variety of levels in 2021. That's OK. I'm not writing war and peace here, or even a 35-page document similar to the one that got Jerry Maquire fired (read the whole thing from Jerry here).  What's needed for me is a lightweight mission statement to keep me grounded and focused on what the most important things are in the world of HR/Recruiting/Talent in 2021 and beyond, which also allows me to call BS on things that make no sense (spoiler, there's a lot of that these days).

Let's break that simple statement shown above (in green) down a bit so I can tell you what's in my heart:

1--It all starts with performance wherever you are in life. The world is a hard place, and different people have different talents, different work ethic, etc. Someone less talented needs to work harder, and many do and absolutely crush it. Some are naturally talented and skate by without putting in the hours. Put on your helmet and get ready to compete, because this world is tough. Effort, focus and not being a victim matters.  

2--There are crazy talented people from every walk of life - every race, gender, orientation, country and any other identifier you want to name. I know this because I've worked for them and been fortunate enough to have them on my teams during my career - from all walks of life. I want to recruit them all BTW, not because of any identifier, but because they are great at what they do. High performer and achiever is a segment that is not limited by tag, identifier, identity politics, employment law, etc.  It is a DNA strand that elevates above the conversations we're having today.

3--The world works hard to try and lure high performers back to the pack. There's a bunch of quotes I could give you here. Whether it's a political conversation about how the business community mistreats labor, a co-worker pissed at you because you're killing it and they can't/wont, or Ricky Bobby's dad in Talledega Nights encouraging students to go fast, it's noted that the world around you wants you to be average.  See #1 and #2.  

4--Safety in the world - inside and outside of work - should be a given.  You should be safe in the workplace and not have to deal with bullshit, whether it's dealing with COVID, personal safety or just not getting tied up with non-work related conversations that make you feel at-risk because you're not in the cool clique, etc. I want people to feel safe outside of work as well, but that's a complicated post that transcends the scope of this work mission statement. Let's just say I'm open to all conversations and feel there's a clear path forward for safety for all - but I'm not drinking anyone's kool-aid. The path is complicated.

5 - Every employee and candidate deserves an environment/experience that provides maximum opportunity to all, regardless of race, gender, orientation and any other identifier.  Couple of things here - I'm no expert in what's required to put all on equal footing as they grow up and matriculate in our imperfect world (yes, that means outside the USA as well), so I'll leave that to the experts - I'm open to a lot of things. But when it comes to the workplace/workforce, I'm open and engaged to force conversations that need to happen to provide maximum opportunity to all.  I believe a proactive approach is needed to get to where we need to be, but note I'll never be a proponent of messaging that seeks to divide us instead of bringing us together. To accomplish both is part art and part science, and we need everyone in the tent to get to where we need to be.

That's it. Note I'll be updating this and I'll try to show a log below on what I add or take out in the future.

Edit Log:

First Created: 4.29.21
No Edits to date.


The Coming Epic Fail of Team Meetings Post-COVID (half in room, half on Zoom)...

There's a million things to think about in a Post-Covid world.  Here's one you don't think about but you might as well get ahead of, especially if your team is going to exist in some type of hybrid existence: White_House_Situation_Room_Friday_May_18_2007

THE NEW NORMAL WILL FEATURE PEOPLE TRYING TO HOLD TEAM MEETINGS WITH HALF THE TEAM LIVE IN THE OFFICE AND HALF ON ZOOM/TEAMS.

AND IT'S GOING TO SUCK.

Think about it. Before we accepted cameras on as the norm during COVID, you generally didn't try and hold a team meeting with half or more of the people live and half on Zoom.

Why not? Because it's impossible for the people who aren't live to have the same experience and rights as those live in the room. If you're not in the room, you are a second class citizen, and it's the way it has to be. Please listen, and we'll throw it to you for your stage banter when you're ready.

The Zoom/Teams rush during COVID changed those expectations. Since most, if not all were remote, we turned on the cameras and everyone was treated equal.

When we go back to the offices, many of us will try and keep the remote team on video, and it's going to be awful.

When half or more of your team is live and in the office for a meeting, you can't make the Zoom people equal. They can't see the room, read body language and know when they can informally interject and organically participate. But man, will they try. The people who are live can't do the same with the Zoomers,

The answer is simple and the new rules should be clear:

If half or over half of your team is live, you require the remote folks to call in (no video) and run their participation in the live meeting like it's 2019. They'll thank you for it.

If a number of people live is less than half (especially if it approaches only 25-33% live and in the room) you hold the entire meeting on Zoom or Teams. The 3 of 10 people in the office join from their personal office via Teams. You'll have a better meeting.

Some of you will try to do the live/Zoom mix with half or more of the people in the conference room on one camera. It will be an epic failure.  

Will you understand how awful it is?  That's a whole other question.

(email subscribers click through for Gary V video on this topic below)


My Conversation with Stephanie Lilak, CHRO at Dunkin' Brands....

In Episode 27 of BEST HIRE EVERKris Dunn talks with the amazing Stephanie Lilak (CHRO of Dunkin' Brands) on variety of topics, including her favorite interview questions, how she works to make sure Dunkin' gets the talent it needs, what she learned in her first year as a CHRO (that nobody told her) and more.

Steph and Kris share their favorite HR phrases and Steph shares the common characteristics of the people she considers her BEST HIRES EVER.  A great episode!

Please subscribe, rate and review (Apple) and follow (Spotify) to get the latest delivered to you.  Click here if you don't see the player below!

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS:

Steph and KD hit some rapid fire items:

4:00 - Stephanie shares her favorite interview question - "6 words that describe you" and "6 words others use to describe you" and interviews KD live. KD does...sort of OK.

5:50 - Stephanie shares what she's after when she asks those questions (speed, attention to detail, views of others about you) and shares where at times, it goes a bit dark if candidates struggle.  

8:17 - Stephanie shares he "go-to" drink at Dunkin'.

9:03 - KD asks Stephanie for her favorite movie that reminds you how crazy her life in HR can be.

10:10 - KD asks Stephanie for the stage in the recruiting funnel in her career that always seems to need attention (apply, source, screen, hiring manager interview, make a selection, offer, hire).   

12:49 - SL names the Boston sports team she's adopted since she's moved from General Mills in the Midwest… Spoiler alert - it's not the Patriots.  KD talks about his love for the movie, "The Town"... 

Deeper Dives:

17:30 - Change – what a career at General Mills, then the move to Dunkin'. What did Stephanie learn about herself the first year in as a CHRO?   Anything she had to relearn since she had the great career at one company for so long?  Deep thoughts here - it's lonely being a CHRO, and Stephanie didn't fully realize that until she was in the seat.

24:38 - KD asks Stephanie to comment on the key to making sure a company like DD gets its fair share of talent in the recruiting world? Lots of discussion about  employment brand here - how does it contribute to the recruiting success, the "activation of employment brand" at Dunkin', both internally and externally by the tagline "Fueled by You."

30:55 - KD and Stephanie talk about COVID, company culture and the workplace. What are some things that are on her mind mind related to how her HR function and the company itself will morph as we (hopefully) get to the post-COVID period?  We discuss the saying, "Life is a Bell Curve", at length here!

39:07 - Close:  Who is Stephanie Lilak's BEST HIRE EVER and why?  There's been twelve of them (!!), and she has a list that defines what it takes to reach that designation. Smart.

SHOW NOTES AND RESOURCES:

---------Stephanie Lilak

Stephanie Lilak on LinkedIn

------------Kris Dunn

Kris Dunn on LinkedIn

Kinetix

Kris Dunn on Twitter

Kris Dunn on Instagram


 

Capital Riots: Considerations for Great HR Leaders...

Welcome to 2021 friends! Had a couple of publications reach out to me for comments on employee situations related to the Capital Riots, so I thought I would share the responses I gave to one of them. 

Any time you're starting your response with the phrase, "In a world" in a classic movie trailer guy voice, you know that reality has officially jumped the shark. I can only assume I'll be answering questions about the best way to onboard Alien employees in 2022. Politics

Onto the questions I answered about whether we should term employees wearing Trump stocking caps only, versus those carrying the speaker of the house podium while wearing said hat:

-Beyond legal questions, what kind of ethical and cultural considerations do HR leaders need to think about if they learn an employee participated in the Capitol riots?  

I'm going to start my answer sounding like the movie trailer guy with the great voice that always starts each trailer with "In a world..."   In a world where almost every election of note is a 50/50 split, HR leaders thinking about the Capital riots are going to have to dig deep and do what they normally do related to showing judgement with employment decisions. That includes logic, judgment and common sense rarely seen in social media, and at times in the media cycle.

Great HR leaders will start with the obvious - for the employee in question, what did they actually do? If they were in the Capital on the day of the riots, did they a) participate in some low level demonstrations somewhere around the mall, b) attend the Trump rally at the White House, c) march with the crowd to the capital, d) protest outside the capital and/or e) enter the capital (and if so, did they cause damage)?

This is the world of the HR leader and employment calls. People come to us with a claim, and it's up to us to figure out what actually happened. An employee that was in DC on approved PTO but did not enter the Capital building and wasn't otherwise arrested, etc. isn't a relevant call to term. People will make the case that it is, but assuming the employee is a functioning member of your company and didn't do anything illegal, real HR leaders have to look at the facts. 

That's what the money's for as an HR Leader.  People pay HR leaders to be the grown ups when bad situations happen and calm minds are needed, and the good news is that's exactly what we are.

-What is your advice for HR leaders concerned about action they take looking partisan or political?

Welcome to the world of HR. The more HR leaders have pitched their political beliefs in the past, the less they have the ability to lead in times of crisis where employment calls can be considered politically driven. Note this isn't rationale for HR leaders not to make tough calls, just the reality. The more you've shown you're less than politically neutral in the past, the less you'll be able to make a tough employment call (fire, don't fire) in your company that both sides of the political spectrum will respect and acknowledge as fair. 

-Do you think this event should prompt HR to revisit codes of conduct? If so, what should they look out for or consider including in light of current events?

It's 100% imperative that HR has access to a broad-based "Professional Conduct Policy" that gives them the ability to take employment action across a broad range of unforeseen circumstances. A great Professional Conduct Policy (PCP) not only lists specific things for consideration in the workplace, but includes broad language that suggests conduct and behavior outside the workplace that is inconsistent with the values of the organization may warrant an employment decision by the company, if the company deems the behavior and conduct makes it impossible for the company to more forward with the individual as a member of the team.

Great Professional Conduct Policies provide flexibility for HR leaders, because you can't cover every scenario this crazy world is going to throw at you. 

That said, great HR leaders treat these policies as a last resort for action, only using them if it's apparent the employee can't move forward.

2021 is the best! You know I'm around for the punishing emails. Don't hate me because won't automatically term someone. Great HR Leaders evaluate, consider, then show decisiveness. That's what makes them great.


The Value of a Confidential Search BEFORE You Fire an Incumbent...

We've all been there. There's an incumbent in a key position, and for whatever reason, they're not getting it done.

So you do what you have to do. You make a move (more gracefully known as an organizational change) and you open up the role. If you're lucky, you nail the search, and within 45 days, you've got the new person starting. 

But, of course, sometimes the search in question is a train wreck, or maybe it's just a difficult search. 30 days turns into 60, then to the siren-emoting 90 day mark. In the interim, team members who now have no manager or a weak position interim leader are sending each other videos of famous castaways to note their rudderless floating in your organization.

Which begs the question - should you have done a confidential search and kept the struggling person in their role until you found a replacement?

Confidential searches feel bad - a true d**k/ass**** move in the mind of many. But before you discount this type of search as counter to your organizational ethos/values/integrity, you should probably ask yourself what the true cost of having the spot open for 60-90 days is.

Let's workshop whether a confidential search is right for you. How does the team feel about the person underperforming in the role in question?

--They hate him. OK! Your instincts to term and do a search are on the money. You'll be seen as a liberator, someone who "gets it" and made a move. Victory lap time, maybe even an email that majestically positions you as a liberator. If you are really up for it, hold a F2F meeting after the change with the team!

--They like/love her. DANGER. This team is likely focused on the person, not the performance. You term her, and you're the ass****, and the longer it takes you to fill it, the more chaos there is going to be. THIS SCENARIO IS THE ONE WHERE DOING A CONFIDENTIAL SEARCH MAKES THE MOST SENSE. Protect yourself before you (as Ice Cube so eloquently once put it) wreck yourself.

--They're neutral. There's no love or hate. This is the jump ball, and the big question is whether you feel lucky. Well, do you?  Because if you think you can make the move and get this thing filled in 45 days, you're probably OK. But the longer the spot is open, the shittier people are going to get. This one's on you. Tough call for sure.

For a nice primer on the potential value of the confidential search, I present two scenarios from the world of college football in 2020. Auburn University decided to part ways with Head Coach Gus Malzahn after 8 years, firing him in season and starting a national search. After a reported 7 candidates told them no in a very public way, they finally made a hire. The fan base (parallel to your employees) widely believed the search to be a complete clown show, because it took a long time (which can and will happen to you) and because the misses were so public (less likely to happen to you, except if you decide to make the team part of an interviewing process).

Now contrast that with the University of Texas (UT).  UT also wanted to change their football coach, but chose to talk to candidates in the background (confidential search) and have a deal done before they made a move. As a result, the announcement of the firing of Tom Herman was followed up by the announcement that UT was hiring Alabama Offensive Coordinator Steve Sarkisian within 24 hours of the press release of the firing.

In other words, it was a done deal. They had their candidate via a confidential search and had agreed to terms. 

By the way, Steve Sarkisian was also a candidate for the Auburn job, but told them no in a public way. Cue the water cooler talk of whether management knows what the **** they are doing.

Auburn = Traditional Way Auburn

Texas = Confidential Search

RESULT: Auburn leadership plugged into Clown Memes, Texas leadership viewed as decisive, credible

The need for both searches was the same. Good, but not a great, leader who had not met oversized expectations at the organization they were serving. But one search was public, created organizational disruption that could have been avoided, and resulted in a perception that the organization got its 8th choice for the job in the marketplace - that is the recruiting marketplace we live in. The other search allowed the organization to recruit from a point of leverage, with a coach in place and the signal that we don't have to backfill this position unless we find the right deal for us.

I get it. It still feels itchy-scratchy, doesn't it?

Being more open to confidential searches is hard, because it doesn't feel like we're being 100% honest. But the brutality of what happens when you make a move, then miss a few times and hear the clock ticking sound and organizational float growing more prominent with each passing day, means you should always consider it as a business person.

Confidential searches are a tool for consideration. You should probably be using them more than you are if you're a C-level leader in your company.

Check your feelings at the door.


Resilience and the Art of Taking an "L" As a Predictor of Talent Success...

When it comes to long-term success for a working class professional in today's world, nothing is more important than knowing how to "take the L".  

Let me explain.

"L's were taken" or "Take the L" has been around in phraseology since the early 2000's.  Here's the Urban Dictionary cite:

TAKE THE L

Stands for "Take the loss". Frequently used to describe flunking a test, being dumped, being stood up, being beaten up or robbed, or losing one's money in the stock market, gambling, or through exploitative business schemes. I really took the L on that history exam. The-art-of-taking-an-l-header
 
While those cites are mostly from one's personal life, Taking the L as a skill is easily transferred to the professional realm.
 
Note from my personal life: I've got a son in an Engineering program, and it's been a challenging first couple of years. He's not a 4.0, but he works his ass off, and to his dismay, he doesn't always see correlational results to that work (from his view). I've tried to counsel him on what's coming for him in the professional world when he gets there. The guidance goes something like this:
 
"I take L's every week, sometimes every day in my business life. That meeting didn't go as well as it should have. Someone tells me "no" on new business. The L's are everywhere if you look hard enough."
 
We're trained by social media that life is nothing but success. Social media is bullshit, and comparison is the thief of joy.
 
Nobody loses on social media, and kids get a lot of trophies growing up these days. Everyone, it seems, is a snowflake.
 
But the L's are coming for them in life and at work.
 
With that in mind, the counsel to me son goes like this:
 
"In baseball, failing 8 of 10 times at bat (hitting .200) confirms you're no good. Failing 7 of 10 times (hitting .300) makes you an All-Star.
 
"Teams in Major League Baseball are desperately trying to get to a 92-70 win/loss record so they can make the playoffs (success!) as a Wild Card.
 
"Professional life is a lot like the MLB. You're trying to get to 92-70. Take the L and do the work in your career - there's a game the next day."
 
Of course, what we should be looking for is resilience in candidates as we recruit. Can they take a loss and rebound?  Resilience is hard to measure, and in my opinion, it's driven by a few things:
 
1--Behavioral makeup - Sensitivity as a behavioral measurement matters. Low sensitivity people can take rejection, high sensitivity people take longer to recover. Assertiveness is also a tag along trait we should measure as well to look at resilience. Taking an L in the workplace is going to make people with low assertiveness even more unlikely to get back in the game the next day.
 
2--How someone grew up and overall hunger level - Silver spoons haven't taken as many L's. Understanding how someone grew up can tell you a lot about how bothered they are going to be when Cheryl throws up all over their idea in a team meeting. 
 
3--Mentoring to this point in their career - It's true, guidance in the professional realm matters. The more you've had someone who has seen you fail and been a muse for you - in big ways and in small ways - the more likely you are to have resilience and the perspective that proceeded your desire to show up the next day and grind.
 
If you're looking for someone with resilience, spend some in the recruiting process digging into to how they bounce back and what happens after a big/small failure.  If you're looking to grow resilience on your team, talk more about reactions to failure and setbacks.
 
You want a team that can take an L.  Most of us are striving to go 92-70 in the game of life and squeak into the playoffs.

Building the Perfect People Manager: Assertiveness and the Introversion/Extroversion Scale...

Had the opportunity to present/workshop on "Leveling Up Your Managers of People" to a Vistage CEO group earlier this week.

We had a great two-hour conversation about the best way to build a people manager development program, and it left me more convinced than ever that an investment in your core managers of people - the ones actually interacting with your employees - is a key investment in 2021 and beyond.

That's obvious, right?  Too bad we talk all day long about "leadership" (it's sexy, no doubt!), but we rarely get around to what our first time managers actually need to survive and thrive in their daily conversations with their direct reports on the front lines. Vistage-600x400-20190131_6f16da50af95e8511ca2a9e6a50991c9

Sucks to be them.  But it's right there, waiting for time, attention and investment from HR and the leadership team of any company you're a part of.

With do much opportunity, where do you start? Well, how about at the beginning, starting with how you choose/hire managers of people?

Domain expertise is important, but overvalued in the hiring process for first time managers of people. We're addicted to the fact that the best individual contributor in your business must be the best candidate to fill an open first-level people manager role.

It's a lie. At my Vistage talk this week, I showed the C-level a chart of 7 behavioral characteristics that comprise the behavioral DNA of any employee.  I asked them to rate the most important ones to getting great results as a manager of people.  They didn't need my help, they got it, and they selected the following:

--Assertiveness. YUP. Let's face it, being a manager is all about confrontation. That's confrontation with a small "c", not a big "C", folks. To the mid to low assertiveness person, every conversation needed to get a small change or tweak from an employee feels like it might be a massive thing. The result is these folks will delay necessary on the fly coaching. It's not that big of deal, and delivered with a quality coaching tool, employees will be connected and actually engaged by the feedback.

--Introversion/Extroversion. This one's a bit trickier, because we naturally feel that extroverted people are more likely to engage their direct reports. That's true in a broad sense, but the downside is highly extroverted people talk more than they listen. If you want behavioral change from your direct reports, you have to make the employee talk and be part of the solution. Better to have a mid-range person on the introvert/extrovert scale from this to happen. While the C-levels in my group correctly picked this one, they followed the conventional belief that max extroversion is a good thing related to managing people. Turns out, it's more complicated than that.

To close this post up, the most important behavioral trait in my eyes in hiring managers of people is ASSERTIVENESS.  Low assertiveness means your people manager will feel conflict at every turn and will rationalize reasons not to have the conversation they need to have today.

Can you hire a low assertive person to be a people manager? Sure, but you'll have to tell them what's required and to perform as they need to, they'll likely feel their batteries drained on a daily basis.

There's a thousand things that go into building a team of effective people managers at your company. The best place to start is to evaluate candidates in a more intense way when hiring managers of people.  Once you accomplish that, you can build your leadership academy on your own or use a system like the BOSS Leadership Training platform to jump start your efforts.

Good luck getting your manager development program in place in 2021!