The older I get, the more I know absolutes rarely work.
The HR Leader/Generalist motto is true - the clear path always lies somewhere in the middle. Case in point - 2020! What a year, and it's only going to get better! An election coming up in a less than 2 months! #freakshow
Examples from 2020 that the truth is always somewhere in the middle (listing the extremes on each side below, and all of these things impact the workplace, which is why they're being discussed here):
-People who can work from home are never coming back to the office/WFH and isolation is crushing people
--We need to go on lockdown until Covid cases are at zero/The economy is the most important thing
--Masks and face shields are mandatory at all times/I should never be forced to wear a mask
--Big Ten Football/SEC Football (gotcha!)
This list goes on, plus it includes all the issues our country has dealt with in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.
2020 is hard. For everyone seeking to build consensus, get change and generally make things better, I present a group you'll need called "the middle":
The middle is an interesting group. They're watching and listening and agree with most or all of what you say, but many in this group are wary of extremes. The more your position is framed as non-negotiable and you refuse to include them in the dialog, the more they fade away. You'll never even know they're gone.
Conversation is key. For my visual friends, I offer up the following classic from Seinfeld called "The Ribbon Bully" (click on the link if you don't see the video below, it's a keeper). Let's stay together, have conversations, get meaningful change and figure this out. And for all my friends in the middle, when someone surprises you and wants to have dialog, it's non-negotiable to engage and try to listen more than you talk.
2020 has been a bear. For many, there haven't been a lot of wins or success to focus on. But as the economy stabilizes and you realize the new normal, you may find the team around you slipping back into some habits that were normal in the 10-year economic expansion that happened between 2010 and 2020. Those habits are likely counterproductive in a post-COVID world, even if your company goes from being on the brink to being "safe" (whatever that means these days).
One of those habits is called "Success Theatre". Below is a quote from John Flannery, the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of GE who took over for Jeff Immelt (the guy who followed Jack Welch):
“Flannery had taken to uttering a new mantra around the company’s shiny new offices in Boston: “No more success theater.””
— from Lights Out: Pride, Delusion, and the Fall of General Electric by Thomas Gryta, Ted Mann
Success theater. There hasn't been a lot of that for most of us in 2020, but as stabilization occurs, it's likely to sneak back in. Success theater happens when business units and departmental leaders report the good stuff that's happening in their area, but don't report a lot of challenges. This condition is a big part of operations reviews during up periods, where groups use result readouts as PR campaigns, emphasizing the good and hiding/minimizing the bad or challenges.
2020 has been a terrible year. As you get back to normal as a leader, don't lose sight of the new muscle memory you were forced to develop regarding asking for bad news - either before the good news or closely following a brief golf clap of the good news.
A lot of us had success theater around us from 2016 to March of this year. Remember the hard times, and ask for the bad news early in any operational review you're doing. Institutionalize that ask.
Be paranoid once your company has stabilized or recovered. No success theatre in 2021 or 2022, right?
Deep thoughts for my HR friends and managers of people doing hard work in the field this week:
“Life punishes the vague wish and rewards the specific ask. After all, conscious thinking is largely asking and answering questions in your own head. If you want confusion and heartache, ask vague questions. If you want uncommon clarity and results, ask uncommonly clear questions.”
— Tribe of Mentors: Short Life Advice from the Best in the World by Timothy Ferriss https://a.co/crLGIsN
I'm a big believer that all of us can be better negotiators. At times, that requires cutting through the bulls**t and rather than dancing around the issue, asking very specific questions designed to box someone in related to how they feel and what you want - rather than worrying about this thing some call "feelings".
Examples of the specific ask by HR pros:
--If I source these candidates for you, are you actually going to hire someone?
--I'd like to be in charge of that project. Will you support me in that and assign it to me?
--Why did you offer that person less than the person who went to your Alma Mater?
--Did you put both of your hands on Janet's shoulders? (follow up: "creepers")
Ping me with your specific asks/questions from the HR hall of fame. And they next time you're dancing around the real issue, remember this advice from Tim Ferris and start asking uncommonly clear, specific and direct questions.
You'll be shocked at the results you get. Nobody dies, and you either get what you wanted or save 3 hours doing follow-ups trying to get to the same point.
Imposter syndrome is real my friends, especially when you're in the middle of a Pandemic. That's why I took the time via BEST HIRE EVER to talk to John Whitaker, EVP and CHRO at National Partners in Healthcare about onboarding executives.
We discuss what new leaders get right, where it goes wrong and what new leaders need to think about as they enter a new organization. We discuss the condition called "Imposter's Syndrome" and provide our hot takes on the best way out of the funk. John shares his experiences onboarding into companies as a new leader and tells me what he's learned.
2:10 - John and KD start by talking about Texas A&M (John) and Auburn (KD) football, the pandemic, et al. John shares that his road trip to Auburn was better than the one he took to Tuscaloosa (Alabama).
4:20 - John talks about his recent move from Sage to National Partners in Healthcare as an HR Leader, how the pandemic encouraged the move.
6:05 - KD and John talk about not knowing the language in a new industry, and John shares the fact he had his own slang he was throwing around to new teammates.
8:25 - Topic is being an incoming new leader at an organization – what do coming leaders generally mess up related to this? John and KD talk about where they feel like they've failed before? Announcing presence with authority is discussed.
13:00 - What the heck is “Imposter Syndrome” when it comes to new leaders? We talk about how it impacts women, men, etc.
19:50 - John and KD talk about what type of new leader doesn't feel imposter syndrome.
24:00 - KD and John discuss Imposter Syndrome at lower levels in the organization, good movement in companies on asking individuals to Lean In and learned roles in gender and beyond.
26:55 - What are the coping mechanisms for imposter syndrome? John tells the story of challenges he's faced from direct reports early in new roles, etc. John and KD discuss the agendas of people who come to you first, share their opinions about others, etc.
30:00 - John and KD discuss two profile new leaders meet in new roles - the "The Quiet One" and the "Apple Polisher."
38:00 - John and KD discuss whether onboarding for a new leader is necessary, or whether it's better for a new leader to figure it out on their own. "That's what the money is for" is discussed.
In the middle of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s testimony before (a video-chat version of) Congress on Friday morning, Delaware senator Tom Carper experienced the kind of tech hiccup so many of us have while working from home over the last few months. And Carper — not realizing his screen and audio were being recorded for everyone to see — didn’t hold back his frustration.
After being called on to speak and almost missing his window because of the technical difficulties, Carper suddenly appeared, directing his ire over the problems at a masked staffer to his left. The senator intoned “f**k, f**k, f**k,” after which the poor man fiddled with Carper’s setup — which had already been restored.
What's interesting about this is that the Twitter mob, quick to cancel almost anyone, played it off and said words to the effect of "that's so 2020" and "who has not faced this?" - which are both correct sentiments.
But you know me. I like to dig a little bit deeper. My folks did tell me to watch how someone treats others when they think no one is watching - because it matters. Let's run through what I saw. First, watch the whole video multiple times below (email subscribers click through to view or click this link):
OK, got it? Here's what I saw:
1--Yes, this can happen to anyone. Which is why patience is valued in these circumstances.
2--It's not so much that he said the F word, it's how he said it. He turned directly to a staffer who was there to help him, and he didn't say words to the effect of "please help me" even with some cursing included, he basically turned to the staffer (turning away from the camera) and just started abruptly saying, “f**k, f**k, f**k"
3 - That whole deal - turning to a staffer and doing the whole grumpy, abrupt, “f**k, f**k, f**k" without actually asking for help basically puts you on the list of worst Bosses alive. It's a big list, but act like this and you're on the list.
4--Also notable is the fact that he couldn't handle the tech after being coached 100 times, and then clicks on something as he's turning to lambast his help and opens up the mic right before he turned to the staffer to drop f bombs - classic. It means he took responsibility for the tech, but then couldn't handle it, then kind of bullied someone under pressure.
The mob that usually cancels people was quick to play it off. To be clear, I'm not into the cancel thing, so I'm not interested in that angle. I'm not calling for anything.
But dig a little deeper on the mannerisms and call it for what it is. Powerful guy with awful habits related to how he treats people.
What made this move so interesting is that Johnson is moving from an operational role at Caesars to her new, pure play HR role at Scientific Games. To get a sense for who Eileen was before moving into this pure HR role, here's a snippet from her LinkedIn profile:
Regional President at Caesars: Responsible for operational oversight and P&L responsibility for four large casino resorts and attractions on the Las Vegas Strip (including The Flamingo, Harrah’s, The LINQ, The Linq Promenade and The Cromwell). Oversaw region representing 8,400 hotel rooms, 28 restaurants, 7,000 employees, $1,4B in net revenues, and $435M in EBITDA. Served as member of company’s Capital Committee overseeing strategic deployment of annual capital plan of $550M. Functioned as member of Caesars Corporate Equity Council, 401k Committee, Cyber Security Council, and executive sponsor of VIA, Latino employee business resource group. Founder of Caesars Lean In Circles for executive women development.
That's an impressive background. Click through to the profile and you'll see a history of being interested and involved in all things Talent related, which is one of the reasons I'm sure that the move to HR makes sense and felt natural. In addition, she paid operational dues before landing in Vegas in the industry, leading less-well known properties in Indiana and Illinois, including Horseshoe SI, Harrah’s Joliet, and Harrah’s Metropolis. Still a big business with $600M in annual revenues and oversaw 3,400 employees, but without the glamour.
Love HR leaders who have put in the dues. Congrats on the move Eileen, and welcome to the world of HR and Talent, but let's face it - you've been doing it a while.
Sometimes the best HR people are the ones who don't have it as part of their title.
Late last week I covered the decreasing dominance of Adrian Wojnarowski, an NBA reporter who has an incredible run of being THE source for breaking news in the NBA. Read that post and you'll see that "Woj" (as he's known to the masses) is increasingly being challenged by Shams Charania, a writer at The Athletic. He goes by "Shams", and recently has been breaking as much news as Woj, to the point where followers of the craft are mocking Woj for reporting news that Shams beat him to, if only by seconds or a few minutes on Twitter.
More bad news for Woj late last week and over the weekend... Woj responded to a PR firm of a US Senator challenging the NBA for its stance on China with a simple response delivered via a two world email reply: 'F**k You."
"ESPN declined comment, though their actions will likely become obvious this week when the ultra-prominent Wojnarowski is not on the air. The end point of Wojnarowski’s suspension, if that has been defined, is not yet known."
The suspension occurred after Wojnarowski made the remark in reply to a press-release blast from Hawley, who said the NBA was "kowtowing to Beijing" and "refusing to support U.S. military and law enforcement."
Here's the email response from Woj to the PR firm served up - of course - by Senator Hawley (email subscribers click through for the tweet):
So that's a lot. But I want you to step back, take all the politics out of it, strip all of the partisan BS away. I don't care if you're a Democrat or a Republican. Doesn't matter.
Woj screwed up. Something came across his desk that he either didn't agree with, or his political view of the person sending it got in the way of good judgment. So he went back with a harsh reply. And in the process, gave all of his power away. He allowed someone he disagreed with to take his reply and position it any way he wanted.
The older I get, the less email I send - especially that could be consider combative. Better to be neutral and better yet, not respond at all.
By winning the email chain (in his mind) and losing the bigger battle (suspended, more importantly, looks erratic to many moving forward), Woj loses. Shams has already eaten away at his dominance. Woj deals in confidential conversations where stability is key. He also deals with lots of NBA front office officials who don't want China to be on the mind of anyone when thinking about the NBA after the Darrly Morey incident in 2019.
When you make your money by being trusted, erratic is bad. Erratic is a reason not to give you the information you need to do your job.
Managers/Leaders, take note. Being erratic, while it may feel great in the moment and while you may feel you're 100% right - is a good way to get shut out over time. Stay away from any type of messaging that can be forwarded and spun without your control.
Putting together an online version of our BOSS Training (Compensation Module) for a client this week, and while our training on the topic is great, there's no question a fully functioning manager or people has to be really knowledgeable on the comp front to successfully answer all tough questions they're going to face.
What questions, you ask? He's a few of the infamous comp questions we base our manager training around on this topic:
--“Why doesn’t our company pay people enough? Can I get a raise?"
--“What is the pay range for my job?”
--“Why are you asking me to do things that aren’t part of my job? Do I get paid extra?”
--“What type of salary do you need to take this job and make a move from your current company?” (LEGAL ALERT. LOL)
--“I worked my tail off last year and all I got was a 3% increase. What do I need to do to get a big increase this year? Why should I try?”
--“Mary just told me what she makes and it’s a bunch more than I make. How is that fair? I need to be raised to her pay rate ASAP!”
--“Glassdoor shows that most companies pay people in my position more than I’m currently making. Why are we so cheap?”
--"I heard Google pays mailroom boys 100K." (not a question, but a test!)
Damn. There's a lot on a manager's plate related to be ready for comp questions from their team. If you have down time during COVID, it's a great time to think about doing some learning sessions to increase readiness and KSAs with your managers of people.
Introduction of basic concepts +role play/skill practice = success.
I've written about the NFL's Rooney Rule here. Go dig into that for a primer.
The whole point to the Rooney Rule is opening up the perspective of a walled-off hiring manager/executive. That's why WMware announced a new commitment to include a minority and female candidate in every search at the company.
We're talking about this at length this week on The HR Famous Podcast. Take a listen below!
In episode 21 of the HR Famous Podcast, long-time HR leaders (and friends) Tim Sackett, Kris Dunn, and Jessica Lee come together to talk about The Rooney Rule and VMware’s new commitment to include a minority and female candidate in every search at the company. The gang also discusses how often they’ve filled up their car tanks during quarantine, and something called Generation Zoom.
1:30 – How many times have you filled your gas tank during quarantine? Jlee has only filled her tank once since March!
3:00 – Who doesn’t love a best friend duo that runs together? KD and Tim went running in Celebration, Florida together. KD was on Zillow on his phone the entire time they ran in the community and Tim was dying.
5:45 – KD has been reading a lot about “Generation Zoom”; our younger generation that has been learning through distance learning. Jlee talks about how her young kids may have trouble learning in the future since they are losing a lot of development time in school.
9:00 – Do you think there will be a dip in SAT and ACT scores in the coming year? Tim is interested to see where the data falls.
10:45 – First major topic of the day: The Rooney Rule. This NFL rule places interview quotas for minority candidates for coaching positions. Tim talks about how more minority candidates have been put into the interview process and what it’s meant in hiring minority coaches.
16:00 – Jlee discusses her own personal experience getting an opportunity that she might not have based on her resume and how she relates to the experience of Mike Tomlin.
18:00 – Tim talks about some negative views on the Rooney Rule and how often coaching positions are planned and picked out far in advance.
20:00 – KD and Jlee bring up another positive of the Rooney Rule, in that it forces forcing hiring managers to look harder and potentially finding special people that they may not have been able to find before, even if it’s not for that particular position.
26:20 – Jlee brings up potential backlash from recruiters and other hiring managers. She notes that leaders need to give recruiters some leeway in order to reach performance metrics and new interviewing goals.
29:40 – How will this new hiring practice work in practice? KD brings up the self ID process and when it comes into play in the hiring process. Jlee discusses the data recruiters will be giving to hiring managers and how they will report that they are meeting a certain requirement.
33:00 – KD reads VMware’s CEO statement again to Tim and gets his reaction. Tim thinks there are many aspects to this new rule that need to be addressed in order to be successful in finding the best possible candidates.
36:00 – Pat (CEO of VM Ware) is a new best friend of the pod!
36:20 – Jlee and KD praise the leadership at VMware for going ahead with this announcement and implementation of the rule instead of getting bogged down in details and complaints.
38:45 – Jlee and KD talk about the concept of equality vs diversity, with KD bringing up Salesforce’s move years ago to grab the high ground of equality.
41:00 – HR Famous would like to congratulate Patrick Gelsinger from VMware on a job well done with their new version of the Rooney Rule.
I almost titled this one, "COVID Winners", but that seemed insensitive at best.
But there were a few winners during the lockout period, which continues for some and is ending for others.
Here's one of the few winners - the HR pros (and some other executives) who kept going into the office when everyone was gone. Here's how it works (and note, I'm not talking about the brave folks who had to be in the office - I'm talking about everyone else):
1--COVID came upon us and we scrambled to send everyone home.
2--A few enterprising HR leaders/pros and other execs lingered to make sure everything was set, and in doing so, saw a dystopian scene similar to the one Will Smith saw when he walked around daytime NYC in "I am Legend".
3--Some of these folks went home for a few days, tried to work with families and spouses running around doing kid/spouse things and said, "Nope".
4--Using a form of access during COVID only known to HR people and Executives, they remembered the dystopian scene of no one in the office and rightfully determined there was no threat if they went back.
5--These individuals - crafty souls- didn't have to deal with the COVID lockdown. They spun their need to be the captain of the ship - with the ship defined as the office space - and simply went back into the office. They've been there since March.
I see you, oh captain my captain. Thanks for keeping America safe as you monitored the office space for danger miles away from the chaos of your home-based COVID lockdown.
Well played, HR leaders living the "I Am Legend" life during the COVID Lockdown.