Attempting to Build Consensus or Get Change? Watch this Helpful Seinfeld Video...

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 Seinfeld

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.


Great HR Pros Learn to Ask Very Specific Questions...

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 Mentors 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.

Advantage: You.


Imposter Syndrome: When's the Last Time You Questioned Your Ability?

Uh...Yesterday?

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.

If you want to hear more from John, go subscribe at HRHardball.com, read Whit’s back catalog on FOT, and look for the HRHardball podcast debuting October 1st!”

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

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.


WORST BOSS EVER: Just Watch How They Treat Others When Off Camera...

It's a line as old as time itself. The wisest person in your family gave you the following advice when it comes to the true test of any individual:

"If you really want to know who someone is, watch how they treat others when they think no one is watching"

Without question, you've heard that saying or a variant of it. And it's 100% true. 

This wisdom was on full display last week on a virtual Senate hearing. Here's the rundown from New York Mag:

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.

Worst Boss Ever - he's on the list.

 


The Best Study I've Seen on How Work is Changing in a COVID World...

There's been a lot of guessing related to how the world of work is changing in a COVID world, especially for white collar professional jobs who have the ability to work remotely in the lockdown. Hot takes include the following:

--Remote work is here to stay, pack up the office.

--Productivity is at an all-time high! 

--Everyone hates Zoom.

Are any of those true? Maybe, maybe not - I find the truth always lies somewhere in the middle. 

But the best study I've seen to date is the one below from NBER, which looks in depth at the impact of the COVID lockdown on a specific topic - meetings - across meta-data from 3 Million users. Yes, 3 million!  So meaningful that we talked about it on a segment of one of my podcasts, HR Famous.  See the top line notes from the study below and then take a listen to the podcast for discussion.

More meetings. More participants in those meetings, shorter meetings in length, longer workdays.  Best study yet, check it out and take a listen to the pod segment as well.

More from Marginal Revolution:

Using de- identified, aggregated meeting and email meta-data from 3,143,270 users, we find, compared to pre- pandemic levels, increases in the number of meetings per person (+12.9 percent) and the number of attendees per meeting (+13.5 percent), but decreases in the average length of meetings (-20.1 percent). Collectively, the net effect is that people spent less time in meetings per day (-11.5 percent) in the post- lockdown period. We also find significant and durable increases in length of the average workday (+8.2 percent, or +48.5 minutes), along with short-term increases in email activity.

That is drawn from data from Europe, North America, and the Middle East, in this new NBER paper by Evan DeFilippis, Stephen Michael Impink, Madison Singell, Jeffrey T. Polzer, and Raffaella Sadun.

------------------

In episode 27 of The HR Famous Podcast, long-time HR leaders (and friends) Tim Sackett, Kris Dunn and Jessica Lee discuss theories on why meeting times have decreased during the pandemic (but the number of meetings is up) and workplace relationship issues that have reemerged surrounding former McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook (McLovin from episode 2 of HR Famous).

Listen (click this link if you don’t see the player) and be sure to subscribe, rate, and review (Apple Podcasts) and follow (Spotify)!

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS

1:00 - The resident ginger of HR Famous is back from vacation! Welcome back Tim!

4:40 - Tim got some flowers for his wife and tried to share the great deal with the HR Famous crew and Jlee had to kindly reject (she doesn’t like roses!) and KD had bought flowers for his wife 30 minutes prior to Tim's text. Jlee also implores her vast knowledge of flowers onto the men of the group. 

7:00 - First topic of the day - a new study was released from the National Bureau of Economic Research about changes in the workday. The study shows that the number of meetings and number of attendees per meeting have increased during the pandemic, but there is a reduction in meeting length. 

9:20 - Jlee thinks the reduction in meeting time can be attributed to less travel time from meeting to meeting and the convenience of meeting remotely. How far do you have to travel to get to meetings in your office? KD thinks the reduction is due to having more meetings. Tim thinks it can be attributed to the digital platforms. 

12:30 - KD had to lead his first in person, socially distanced, masked up long meeting recently and he said it was horrible. He would prefer to do it through Zoom. 

15:00 - One more stat from this study: the average work day has increased by 48.5 minutes while working remotely. Tim doesn’t believe people are actually working more but they are just working at different times of the day. 

17:15 - How early do you schedule your meetings? Jlee is a fan of 7:30 am meetings. 


The Danger of the Combative, F-You Style Reply on Email (Woj and ESPN edition)

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 Wojreply: 'F**k You."

Here's a few simple details via Bleacher Report:

"ESPN has suspended NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski after he wrote "f--k you" in response to an email from Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley's press office, per Ryan Glasspiegel of Outkick.

Wojnarowski has been suspended without pay, per Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, who offered further details:

"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.

On a final related note, Shams (Woj's competition) liked an anti-Woj tweet on the matter.

Take politics out of the equation. Erratic behavior loses in the business world. Unless you're 100% in charge and/or on top of the world, which Woj is not.


What Are The Compensation Questions Your Managers Should Be Able to Answer?

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 Boss Redesign - to the right
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.


BOSS Tip: Send an Agenda/Info For Your Meeting, Control the Narrative...

Capitalist Note: Quick hit today from the BOSS Leadership Series, the 7-module series of manager training designed to make your managers better leaders of people!

---------------------------

I see you and I sense it. You've got an escalating situation - either inside your own team that you manage, via cross-departmental relationships or interacting Agendaswith clients. Things are spiraling and it seems like you can't get ahead.

I'm not embedded with you, so the reasons for the spiral can be many, right? But let's assume for the sake of this post that you're on top of your game, the path you're pursuing is valid and correct, you've got the talent to deliver, etc. You're just getting chopped up repeatedly as you deal with your team, other departments, and/or clients. You just can't seem to get ahead of it.

I'm going to give you one small thing to experiment with to regain control:

Start sending out Agendas for the meetings you're holding. As a senior level course, send some reports with favorable data/info with the agenda for best results.

Meetings suck. They suck more when you're the host and you lose control of them.

Agendas let everyone know what you're going to go through in the meeting. They allow you to be in control, and they allow you to bring wayward conversations back to what you - the organizer - wanted to accomplish.

Data/Info sent with agendas that's favorable to your cause/goals help you establish credibility. To the extent you have enemies in the mix or people who don't agree with your approach, data and info sent with agendas can help you frame the narrative.

It's easy to hijack a meeting away from someone who's not prepared. It's harder when they sent the agenda.

It's even harder when they share an agenda with some reports and info that suggests their path is valid.

Control the narrative and prevent meeting hijacking by sending an agenda. Start with no more than 5 items, each described in 4 words or less.

The floor is now yours. You're welcome.


HR Book Review: The Office (The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History)...

On my summer reading list is The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s: An Oral History. I originally grabbed the book because it presented an opportunity to connect with my youngest son, who like a lot of kids, has consumed the entire series 3+ times on Netflix. It quickly became a primer on team-based creative process, where ideas have to come in volume, then be culled down quickly to the point that only the best idea makes it, and everyone on the team is OK with that.

One example of lessons from this book is how the writer room was structured and how they blended ownership of ideas from individual to team. Here's the explanation from Office Aaron Shure, co-executive producer and writer for The Office:

"During my tenure [seasons five, six, seven, and eight] we had around fifteen writers, usually three rooms going, and we had inherited the Greg Daniels style of idea generation, which focused on manifesting and externalizing ideas in a physical way, usually in the form of three-by-five cards that came to festoon the walls of the writers’ room if they were worthy enough by Paul and Jen’s estimation. We also had a process called “blitzing” where the writers would hunker down in their offices for an hour or two and come up with as many ideas as we could on a given topic. For instance, a few blitz topics I have in my notes: “Obstacles to Erin and Andy dating.” “Ways Andy and Kelly can try to subvert Gabe.” “What happens with Hay Place?” We’d come back with as many ideas on those topics as we could, read them aloud, and put the promising ones on the wall.

Out of those ideas a few would be selected to move closer to a storyboard. It was a big bubble-sort played out on the walls. While writers would campaign for and champion various cards, it was hard for there to be specific ownership of any given idea, with plenty of duplication and accidental repitching. Similarly, stories were broken in rooms with five or so writers all working on the beats. We’d come back to the room and pitch those boards. There’s a lot of working in a writers’ room that’s similar to improv, where it’s like “Yes, and . . .” You want to be able to keep your mind incredibly open and think of all the possibilities.

Greg actually called it “blue-skying.” Let’s take an example: “Michael is being broken up with and he’s going to handle it like a fourteen-year-old boy because he’s at the emotional level of one. What does he do to process it? How does he deal with something like that?” Sometimes there’s a tendency to just go for the first good idea, but we would spend a lot of time trying to find the best version of something. We would send people off to think and say, “Let’s keep in the blue-sky zone. Don’t put restrictions on yourself. How would a person deal with that?” And every once in a while, something just brilliant would come”

Translation - traditional brainstorming followed by team activity to further develop ideas not only lead to a strong creative process, but it removes the sting of your idea not being chosen - you have ample opportunity to contribute to other idea streams, and when the whole thing is done it's hard to remember the originator of the idea in question.

Recommended book if you liked/loved the office and need a summer read.

PS: The Office probably couldn't be made in 2020.


Can You Chew Out an entire Team via a Zoom Call?

Here's the situation. The team is slacking overall, and you feel like the ole' team pep talk might be called for.

You know, you're going to chew them out via a team meeting. But wait! There's a pandemic going on my friend! What's that? It's been 3 months and you're tired of people mailing it in? I feel you. Before you do that team meeting, answer the following 3 questions:

1--Does the team have enough to work on? (many industries didn't in the height of the pandemic and still don't)

2--Does the team know there's enough to work on? (there may be things they can pivot to, but are they aware that's expected?)

3--Are you good at pep/chew talks? (Are you sure? Ask a trusted advisor)

If the answer to all those questions is "yes", it might be time for a team meeting where you lay down the law as the leader or the boss.

Of course, you have to answer a fourth question, and preferably the answer to this question is "yes" as well:

4 - Is most of your team in the same working space as they were before the pandemic? (many teams are still in makeshift home offices they didn't work in before)

I ask the last question for a specific reason. It's called Zoom.

In both television, movies and my career, some of the most epic scenes are always team pep talks/chew sessions. I'm a fan of the theatre, and there's specific elements that make up a great blow out session - I'll save those for another day.

But almost all of those epic team pep talks/chew out sessions are face to face with teams. It's really hard to deliver a CTJ (Come to Jesus) message on video conference no matter how good your framing or lighting.

I think the biggest reason for that is inability to command physical space. Whether standing or sitting as the speaker, everyone is in their own space on Zoom/Teams/Meet. You can't see body language, who's buying what you're selling, who's not, etc.

For that reason, I think only the masters can deliver the team chew/pep talk via Zoom. For the average Jedi managing during a pandemic, it's probably better to deliver a customized chew 1/1 with some notes on the team and the individual during that session.

Still going to use Zoom for the CTJ? Be sure to unmute your line before you start.