COVID-19: It's Probably Time You Doubled Down Professionally On You...

Here we are - calendar dates vary widely, but by mid week, I'll be entering week 4 of my personal decision to shelter in place. I say personal decision because like a lot of states, mine was a bit late to the whole "mandate" thing.

COVID-19 sucks. I hope you're healthy. If you're not or you're taking care of people who aren't healthy, Hader godspeed to you.  

With that in mind, I'm going to switch gears and talk about everybody else. If you're still employed as a white collar professional, you fall into one of 2 camps regardless of the industry or your profession (HR and recruiting pros aren't exempt from what I'm about to say):

1--You've got a lot to do. Based on the circumstances and your company, your hair is on fire and you're working long hours with no breaks. Thank you. Nice job.

2--You don't have a lot to do. Many of you will refuse to put yourself in this category, mostly because it's dangerous thing to admit to yourself - and it comes with current and future responsibilities. But for any business with declining results, no one buying and an employer fortunate enough financially to retain you - many of you are in this group.

If you fall into group #2, this post is for you. I write it out of respect, with compassion, etc - but mostly to give you some tough love.

So you're still employed as a white collar professional and you don't have as much to do. You've probably got at least another month at home and some hours to fill.

Stop reading the news, get off your a**, out of the fetal position and use the hours you have - as well as the relative peace - and invest in you.

Get busy building the projects, work product or skills you always said you would do/chase if you weren't so busy.

The next month is a tale of two professionals in your industry/at your career level. You both have the same educational background, relative skills and career attainment at this stage in your career.

One of you is going to stay in the fetal position over the next 3 months (regardless of when you return to the office, things are going to stay slow, I'm calling it a minimum of 3 months, more likely 6), talking about how bad everything is, bitching about their 401k, etc.

The other one? That person is less available on demand to hop on a social Zoom call or a Slack/Glip/Whatever chat like everyone else.

The reason that other person is a bit less available? Because they're in the lab, taking blocks of time to work on the aforementioned projects, work product or skills that will add value to their company or themselves after this thing ends and the economy recovers.

The person in the lab becomes at least 5% more valuable to their company and the marketplace at the end of this 3-month period.

COVID-19 and what it's done to the world is awful. Most of us have some form of fear on a variety of levels. Take care of yourself and others, enjoy some time being physically close and present to your family, and meditate a bit.

But if you have down periods at work, It's time to flip the switch. Start planning and working for the June 1st or September 1st version of you.

Being 5%-10% better than your peers might make all the difference in the world over the 12 months - for you and your company.

Stay healthy. Do you.


Coaching Your Ambitious Direct Report to Not Be Hated...

Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.
--Bill Bradley

If you're like me, you love a direct report with ambition.  People with Ambition get shit done. Do they get shit done because they believe in you as a leader or they believe in themselves?

If you're asking that question, you're concerned with the wrong things.  Just celebrate the execution that comes with ambition and stop thinking so much. (the answer, btw, is that they believe in themselves and are motivated by moving their careers forward)

One problem that is universal related to direct reports with high ambition levels is that they can become hated by their peers - the folks they work with.  It's pretty simple to see why.  The folks with ambition treat life like a scoreboard and more often than not are low team (on a behavioral assessment).  Their peers want to do good work for the most part but don't have designs to rule the world.  Friction ensues. The team views the high ambition direct report like an opportunistic freak. A brown-noser. Someone that would run over his own mother for the next promotion.

So how do you coach your high ambition direct report to play nice with the lower ambition locals?

The key in my experience is to confront the reality with the high ambition direct report - you're looking to do great things.  You're driven.  You want to go places and you're willing to compete with anyone you need to in order to get there.  Start with that level set.

Then tell them they have to get purposeful with recognition of their peers.

If a high ambition direct report starts a weekly, informal pattern of recognition of their peers, a funny thing happens.  They start to look human to those around them.

But in order to make it work, you have to confront them and convince them that work life is not a zero sum game - just because you give kudos doesn't mean a high ambition FTE won't get the promotion or the sweet project assignment.  It actually makes them stronger, because in addition to all the great individual work they do, they start to be perceived as a good to great teammate, which unlocks some doors to management/leadership roles in a way that great individual work can't.

But that doesn't happen for the high ambition direct report unless you are honest with them about this:

1.  You're high ambition and would run over grandpa to win/survive/advance.

2. You're peers think you're a dick, and that's going to limit you.

3.  You're going to fix it by recognizing those around you on a weekly basis for great work, and you're going to reinforce that recognition by sharing your thoughts informally beyond the email you send, the shout out you make in a meeting, etc.

Don't be a dick, high ambition direct report.  Share the love and you'll actually get to where you want to go sooner.

Signed - KD


Manager Training: The Stars Are Never Who You Think They Are, But They're Right In Front of You...

I'm blessed to live a portfolio life. In addition to being a CHRO and partner at the recruiting firm Kinetix, I get to veer from the recruiting/Talent Acquisition world in various HR consulting opportunities, as well as deliver leadership/manager training through my BOSS Leadership Training Series.

This week, I was onsite with a great company looking to help managers get better related to interviewing candidates and making the right selection for open positions Hr-consulting-splash

As the primary facilitator, I was both honored and humbled. Honored because the client was great, the people were authentic and we had a great day. Humbled because what managers have to do to be successful is incredibly hard. 

As you might expect, we did live practice with real candidates on the interviewing skills we trained on.  And there it was, the reality and lesson that's present every time I get to train managers of people on any module in the Boss series:

The Stars Are Never Who You Think They Are, But They're Right In Front of You

What do I mean by that?  Simple - You expect the most experienced people in any manager training class to do the best in role play or skill practice. At times, that's true - but WOW - the most gratifying part of any training class I do is when the more junior people in the class absolute ROCK IT.

It always happens. There are always 1-2 junior people in every training class I do that are superstars related to the tools we're providing.

Those less experienced, often younger stars blow me away by displaying the following in role play:

--They're completely ****ing natural when it comes to stage banter and building trust/relationships. They're fluid, natural and weave what they're trying to get out of the employee session into a conversation that puts the person in front of them with ease.

--They think on their feet. Conversations with people who report to you are never easy. Employees object. They sidetrack you. They try and generally screw up your game.  The stars I'm talking about have a natural ability to bring the conversation back to what's important.  They don't get lost.

--They are technically superior. Got a coaching tool? Behavioral interviewing technique? Doing goal setting? These stars can memorize the outline of the tool and they always make sure they get what they need - and more. 

The most gratifying part of doing leadership/managerial training is when these unexpected stars emerge. It happens in every class I teach, so much so it's unexpected yet expected. I go into the class saying to myself, "OK, who's going to be the underdog out of this cast of characters who kicks everyone's ass?"

I'll leave you with this - if you've done managerial training and haven't seen this trend emerge, you're likely not doing enough skill practice/role play. That's dangerous since people in your training must fail with you in class in order to have the confidence to attempt the new skills with their direct reports/teams. Adoption of the skills your teaching requires in class role play.  Yes, they hate it and will cheer if you don't make them do it. But your adoption rate of the skills you're teaching drops by over 50% if you don't do skill practice/role play as part of your training.

The best part of doing leadership/manager training is the underdog star who emerges. 

You're a superstar, kid. I hope your company realizes what they have. I know I told them who you are, so you got that going for you - which is nice.


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)


Let's Look at the Numbers Behind Amazon's Program to Retrain 100,000 Employees...

Odds are you’ve heard that Amazon plans to make a huge investment in retraining its existing workforce, partly due to the displacement of employees by emerging automation and A.I., and partly due to scarcity of talent in key job families.

I want to take a look at the Amazon re-skilling investment with a critical eye, but first here’s a primer of what Amazon has planned for the uninitiated: Amazon

"Amazon (AMZN) today pledged to upskill 100,000 of its employees across the United States, dedicating over $700 million to provide people across its corporate offices, tech hubs, fulfillment centers, retail stores, and transportation network with access to training programs that will help them move into more highly skilled roles within or outside of Amazon.

Amazon’s Upskilling 2025 pledge invests in a range of new upskilling programs to serve employees from all backgrounds and Amazon locations. Programs include Amazon Technical Academy, which equips non-technical Amazon employees with the essential skills to transition into, and thrive in, software engineering careers; Associate2Tech, which trains fulfillment center associates to move into technical roles regardless of their previous IT experience; Machine Learning University, offering employees with technical backgrounds the opportunity to access machine learning skills via an on-site training program; Amazon Career Choice, a pre-paid tuition program designed to train fulfillment center associates in high-demand occupations of their choice; Amazon Apprenticeship, a Department of Labor certified program that offers paid intensive classroom training and on-the-job apprenticeships with Amazon; and AWS Training and Certification, which provide employees with courses to build practical AWS Cloud knowledge that is essential to operating in a technical field."

700M is a lot of money. Let’s do some simple math and then start evaluating how to the investment could intensify if it wasn’t spread evenly (which is never is):

--First the simple match.  700M across 100,000 impacted employees equals a base investment in retraining/upskilling of $7,000 per employee. Compare that to the average annual per employee investment in Learning and Development cited by Bersin ($1,200), and the investment seems solid above and beyond what Amazon already does.

--Now imagine a world where the investment isn’t spread out equally across all employees.  Since the Amazon upskilling initiative will have a voluntary vibe to it (similar to AT&T’s upskilling efforts require the employee to proactively opt in and spend their own time preparing their skills for the future), it’s not hard to imagine the opt in rate won’t approach anywhere near 100%. 

--Spread the 700M investment over 50% of the employees, and you’ve got an investment of $14,000 per employee.

--Spread the 700M investment over 30% of the targeted employees, and you’ve got an investment of over $23,000 per employee.

The devil, as it always is, is in the details.  It's a cool program. Will Amazon spend the same total amount of money if just 30% of the impacted employees opt in to the program? The presence of pre-paid tuition and certification programs suggests no.

The voluntary, opt-in nature of the Amazon Upskilling 2025 program is necessary. After all, employees impacted by A.I. and automation have to WANT to improve their long term career prospects. That's why so much of this program will have to be completed after work hours.

That's going to sound like a second job (unpaid as well) to a lot of employees. That means Amazon likely won't spend as much as projected.

If you were in Vegas, you'd take the "under" related to the bet of whether Amazon will spend more or less than 700M by the year 2025 on this program.


PODCAST: e3 - This is HR - Employee MBA Debt, Employer Brand Lies, EEOC Male Dress Code Hardships

(Email subscribers, if you don't see the podcast player, click here to see the podcast)

In this episode of THIS IS HR, Tim Sackett (President of HRU), Jessica Lee (VP of Brand Talent, Marriott) and Kris Dunn (CHRO at Kinetix) cover the following topics:

--recent research from BusinessWeek that shows Top Tier MBA programs saddle 50% of their graduates with six-figure debt. The gang discusses whether they would push high potentials in their organizations on that traditional path with that set of economics in mind (3:30)

--a recent HBR op/ed piece that attacks how your company is approaching employer brand, citing an industry of 40 companies solely focused on the EB market, a number the gang thought was too low (15:12)

--Recent EEOC guidance that says males may be discriminated against via the use of traditional dress codes, guidance which the gang loves and hates at the same time (26:12). 

KD closes it out by going to the mailbag and getting a simple question about the thing HR Pros do to build culture that usually doesn't work (31:26)

BONUS: Disclosure that JLee isn't even in America on the 4th of July.  

What could go wrong?  Take a listen!


Why Facilitating Leadership Training Is Hard (Video)...

Spent the Last couple of weeks onboarding a great HR pro to help me facilitate a bunch of Leadership Training via my BOSS series in the next month.  It's reminded me of what I already knew, but sometimes forget:

Being a good to great facilitator of Leadership Training is hard.  Why?  5 quick observations:

1--You can't be a robot. You have to weave your stories into the training if you're going to keep their interest.

2 - Mechanics matter. You've got participant guides, slides, flip charts and a bunch of stuff.  Something that sounds simple - referencing page numbers that you're on in the guide so people don't get lost - is hard when everything's flying at 100 mph.

3--Don't Paraphrase the Exercises - You wouldn't think of this if you hadn't done it as much as we have. Don't be cute on the exercises you have - read the instructions, because if you paraphrase what you want people to do, they get lost and it all goes to hell.

4--Pace, Pace, Pace - Keep your eye on the prize.  If you're doing a day of training and you get 1/2 way through and you've only made it 1/3 of the way through the material, you're in trouble.

5--Conversations involving participants matter more than you covering material - It's an art to how long to let the sharing go on.  Participation is key, disagreements amongst the attendees are gold.  Let them roll, but keep your eye on pace mentioned above.

Bottom line - you need a great SME who's comfortable with high degrees of chaos and ambiguity to facilitate your leadership/manager of people training.

PLUS - they have to be a bit of performer in front of groups.  That's probably the overriding key.

When I say performer, what do I mean?  I'm always reminded of this video from David Allen Grier from In Living Color.  40 second clip (email subscribers click through if you don't see the video below), well worth your time.

BROOOOOADDDDWAYYYYYY!!!!!!!


Check Out My Interview on Jennifer McClure's Impact Maker's Podcast...

Recently I had to the opportunity to appear on Jennifer McClure's Impact Makers Podcast.  Jennifer's doing a great job with this podcast - very high end, go subscribe here - and of course, take a listen to my interview by clicking play on the embedded player below (email subscribers, click through if you don't see the player) or simply click this link to go to the landing page for my conversation with Jennifer.

I've never been called the Oprah of HR - but I'll take it!  Excerpt from Jennifer's write up below:

"Are you ready to meet the Oprah of HR? On today’s episode of Impact Makers, Jennifer sits down with the infamous HR wizard, Kris Dunn. He is the founder of two popular blogs The HR Capitalist and Fistful of Talent and is also the CHRO of Kinetix, an Atlanta-based recruiting, RPO and HR consulting firm.

As one of the first well-known HR bloggers, Kris is known for his conversation tone, fun references, and an impressive 5-day-a-week schedule. Jennifer asks him how this consistency has played into the success of his blogging and writing endeavors.

If you can manage to build and maintain a following of readers like Kris has, the potential for meeting new people and finding new opportunities skyrockets. Jennifer and Kris talk about the various relationships – both personal and professional – that have come about through blogging, as well opportunities for career advancement. Kris talks about how his blogging fit into his career at different points in his life."

Take a listen via the player below or through the links above.  Make sure to subscribe to Jennifer's podcast by clicking here as she's doing great things with this podcast.


CAPITALIST DEFINITIONS: "Renegade Demo"

From a meeting with a client last week:

Renegade Demo (ˈrenəˌɡād/ˈdemō) - The time when you walk by an office or your cube as a leader in your company and realized your growth has outpaced your ability to properly train new hires at your company, especially those charged with evangelizing your product.

In use: "Damn, it happened again.  I popped into a call the new guy Bill was having with a prospect and his positioning of what we do was all ####ed up. It was another renegade demo. He has no clue and it's probably not his fault. We've got to get our arms around this quick."

There are worse things than growth - like going out of business.  But most companies who go through a growth spurt experience an inflection point when renegade demos are alive and well.  It doesn't have to be a sales position - it can be anyone who interfaces with the customer or prospects. What you used to communicate through small office conversations and personal onboarding is now left unsaid/undone.  You've reached the point in your growth where you can no longer do things the way you did when you were a team of <insert FTE count here> people, and as a result, there's a gap in knowledge and ability to pitch.

Enter the Renegade Demo.

The solution? Stop what you're doing and figure out how you're going to institutionalize the knowledge in your head via an increased commitment to positioning, documentation and yes, training.  You probably need to block out a couple of days this week and get your game together.

You know - like the grown up companies and leaders do. 

 


My Starbucks and Homeless People...

By now, you know the Starbucks story, right?  

In April, a video showing two black men being arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks, when they had done nothing but sit inside one of the coffee shops without buying anything, triggered outrage and boycotts across the country. The company, known for espousing progressive, inclusive principles, reacted swiftly, announcing plans to close its US shops for an afternoon and supply all of its US employees with racial-bias training.

That training happened earlier this week.  By all accounts, it was well received - but the company is smart in pointing out that the training is only a small step in a longer journey.

The four-hour sessions, involving 175,000 workers at 8,000 locations, had employees and managers reportedly working in small groups to discuss their experience of race, and studying issues like implicit bias.  One training item used was this video by Stanley Nelson (email subscribers, click through to see the video): 

The seven-minute video features moving monologues from black Americans who describe the emotional toll of having to live their lives aware that others see them as a threat, and the effort it takes to put store managers or security guards at ease, whether through nonverbal signals or their physical appearance.

If you're in retail and that video doesn't make you more aware of you reactions to your changing environment, I'm not sure what will.  It's well worth the time to watch - make sure you do.

But embedded somewhere in the training had to be a policy change to make the stores more stupid - and yes, racist - proof.   It's a strong show to close stores for a half day and do training - think about that revenue hit - but you still have hundreds of thousands of employees, and when it comes to the risk to the business about more of these events happening, autonomy and increased awareness probably doesn't cut it.

Did Starbucks change the rules of engagement on who has the right to throw someone out of the stores or call the cops?  I hope so.

My Starbucks in Atlanta is an interesting ecosystem.  Rather than throwing people out, they're actually allowing people to stay that make patrons initially uncomfortable based on a segmentation that transcends race - homelessness.  They let homeless people come inside the store (and have way before the Philly incident) - sometimes they buy things, sometimes they don't.  I've never seen the homeless folks ask other patrons for anything - including handouts.

The first time I experienced that, it kind of shocked me.  Then I realized it as the new normal.  Now I don't think about it.

My point is that the autonomy that goes along with empowering employees to eject people for a store is a danger point for every retailer.  I'm sure that Starbucks changed the rules of engagement for that behind the scenes.  Stupid people do stupid things.

And what's the best way to stop stupid people from doing stupid things that can erase a billion dollars off your market cap?

You make them ask a wiser person who's judgment is trusted for approval - before they do the stupid thing.

Does this mean your Starbucks will soon feature homeless people of every Title 7 protected class?

No - but it should mean that the stupid people don't have the autonomy to make the decision.