THE HR FAMOUS PODCAST: E7 – COVID-19 + Work From Home (WFH) Advice from Dawn Burke...

In Episode 7 of The HR Famous Podcast, long-time HR leaders (and friends) Tim Sackett and Kris Dunn (Jessica Lee on break) get together to with Dawn Burke (Senior Writer at Fistful of Talent, Sr. Consultant at Recruiting Toolbox) to talk about Work From Home, as tens of millions of American workers have been told to stay home, keep working and figure it out on the fly.

Dawn shares her advice and background from a recent Fistful of Talent feature, focusing on the need to maintain work rituals (eating lunch in your car and watching Netflix rather than in the house) as well as thoughts on productivity expectations, print cartridges, PETS, kids, laundry, etc. Tim and Kris weigh in with stories about day drinking (not them, other people) and the psychology behind work from home productivity and the need to stop texting and emailing everyone ALL THE TIME from your bunker.

If you’re new to work from home or managing people who are, this is the podcast for you.

Listen below and be sure to subscribe, rate and review (iTunes) and follow (Spotify)!!! Listen on iTunesSpotify and Google Play.

Show Highlights:

1:30 – Tim discloses he’s not working from home since he owns his building at work, which is really just another form of working from home. Dawn Burke, longtime HR leader, Senior Writer at Fistful of Talent, Sr. Consultant for Recruiting Toolbox introduces herself.

4:25 – Dawn breaks down a post she wrote at Fistful of Talent entitled “Working from Home Can Be Awful! Unless You Do These Things”, in which she provides great advice on how to set yourself to work from home, especially if you haven’t done It before.  It’s harder than it looks, as she details her transition to work from home and where she struggled as a result. Dawn also talks about people around her – like her sister – struggling over the last few days as they transition from no WFH to full time WFH with zero planning and prep.

11:20 – Dawn, Kris and Tim get into Dawn’s advice for people transitioning to full-time work from home – focused on the needs to maintain “rituals”. Kris goes right to one of the sizzle parts of Dawn’s article/advice, which is the disclosure that just like when she used to try and get out of the corporate office mid-day, she also has a history of trying to get out of the home office mid-day – BY EATING LUNCH IN HER CAR AND WATCHING NETFLIX. Fascinating and scary all at the same time. The gang ends up loving the idea for new folks doing the WFH thing. It’s actually brilliant.  Other references – Magic Mike, etc.

17:23 – Speaking of work rituals, Tim and Kris share alcohol-related stories from their time as trench HR pros.

21:00 – Dawn breaks down her top advice for folks moving to 100% work from home. Making appearances in the discussion – print cartridges, PETS, kids, laundry, etc. Tim talks about the productivity bump/burnout function that’s coming for new WFH people.

27:00– The gang talks about the need to stop messaging via Text and Slack when you’re a new WFH person and pick up the phone and talk to people (or via video) – to get human interaction. Interaction is going to be important to prevent isolation.

28:50 – TOP ADVICE FROM THE GANG RELATED TO WORK FROM HOME – Tim and Dawn break down their biggest pieces of advice for folks who are new to work from home. Tim shares his view that things get lost in translation, and you have to pick up the phone, facetime or hop on a video call rather than try to resolve something through 23 emails.  Dawn talks about her background and lighting in her WFH set up, and points to exercise/wellness/mindfulness platforms as a huge help to mental and physical health. KD feels like the key to WTH is find a way to reconnect with someone who’s important in your life  – personal and/or professional – at least a couple of times a week.

NOTE – We’ll be back mid-week with a pod focused on nothing but ZOOM and the art of the video meeting!


Cards Against Humanity Buys Small Company, Makes It Employee-Owned...

Interesting pull from the news for you today with a little Capitalist analysis.

You've heard of Cards Against Humanity. Have you heard of a acqui-hire?  It goes a little something like this: Clickhole

ac·qui·hire
/ˌakwiˈhīr/
noun
noun: acqui-hire
1. an act or instance of buying out a company primarily for the skills and expertise of its staff, rather than for the products or services it supplies.
"this would appear to be a straight acquihire to pick up an engineering and product design team"

The art of the acquihire is alive and well for companies like Google with unlimited resources, who often buy companies strictly for a key group of talent - often 10-20 key employees - even though they think the product of the company they are buying is trash. Put some wealth in the pockets of the targeted talent, lock them in with employment agreements and slowly push them towards projects/lines of business you think have more value.

Back to Cards of Humanity - they're in the news with an acquihire, but with a twist - they're giving a large part of the acquired company to the employees of the company. More from BuzzFeed:

Cards Against Humanity, the card game company, purchased ClickHole.com from its owners at G/O Media on Monday for an undisclosed amount in an all-cash deal, BuzzFeed News has learned. ClickHole’s employees will become the majority owners of the site. Although terms were not disclosed, the Wall Street Journal reported in November that the sale price was likely to be less than $1 million. The Onion, which created ClickHole, will remain a part of G/O Media.

Max Temkin, the cofounder of Cards Against Humanity, told BuzzFeed News that the deal will allow ClickHole to bring on additional staff — it currently has only five full-time employees — and explore new revenue streams. He also said the site would operate independently, with financial support from Cards Against Humanity. ClickHole staffers will not be involved in writing any Cards Against Humanity content.

“We’re giving them funding, and if they ask us, we’ll be an advisor,” Temkin told BuzzFeed News, saying that the ClickHole team will operate independently, with financial support. “We just want to give them a chance to do their thing. They’re really capable — really smart and innovative. And I don't know if they’ve had that opportunity before to try all these creative [ideas for the site].”

The Onion launched ClickHole in 2014 as a send-up of sites like Upworthy and BuzzFeed. It moved on to satirizing online political discourse with PatriotHole and ResistanceHole. Yet it has consistently transcended mere parody and created its own sublimely absurd universe. Quizzes like “Which One of My Garbage Sons Are You?” or its running series of fake banal quotes from celebrities earned it a loyal, independent following.

Cards of Humanity is doing an acquihire with a twist with this acquisition - they found a troubled company for sale, and believed in the talent that existed. BUT - this form of acquihire transfers wealth to the talent not directly to their bank account, but by giving them ownership in the company.  That's a powerful retention tool, and if for some reason they can't make it work, the talent is sure to remember that Cards gave them a chance to save the company and turn it around through their investment and subsequent transfer of ownership.

Moving acquired talent to ownership positions is a powerful play.  And by "talent", I mean people that make up quizzes like "Which one of my garbage sons are you?" It's 2020 - quizzes like these matter!

For great point of view on all things employee ownership and ESOP, follow who I do - Jennifer Briggs.


"PET or THREAT": When Leaders Try to Formally Mentor Those Who Don't Want the Relationship...

I think we can all agree that mentoring relationships in corporate America are a good thing. But like anything that's good, mentoring can get dicey if not used in the right way. From formal mentoring programs to mentoring relationships that happen organically, the devil's in the details.

I was reminded of this fact when I read the tweet by Tressie McMillan, which provides a WOC view of Liesa certain type of mentoring gone wrong. If you can't see the tweets below (usually my email subscribers), click through to get to the website, because you don't want to miss this. In fact, you may want to go to my website, then click on the tweet to the get the entire series of tweets, read the comments, etc. 

Did you get the vibe? Great. Let's start with the obvious - I'm not qualified to comment on the state of forced mentoring that gets thrust upon WOC. I don't have that identity or experience.

But I've been around a lot of mentoring programs, and I can tell you that a leader trying to create a formal mentoring relationship without the help of OD, HR or a formal program can come across as incredibly forced. It's only natural that the recipients of this type of mentoring advance might feel a bit suspicious. Add in the context of white female leader offering to formally mentor a WOC without the help of a true program, and there's no doubt that it can get weird.

"PET OR THREAT" is an incredible tagline for unwanted mentoring advances. In the context that Cottom provides in the tweets, you either say yes to allowing someone to mentor you, or you say no (hard to do for sure) and you identify yourself as a threat. Crazy stuff, but true. 

It reminded me of the following forced mentoring scene from House of Lies. If you don't see the video player below, just click here. It's a great scene that features an exec attempting to neutralize someone she considers a threat by offering to mentor them. Incredible. From Cottom's tweets, this happens more than we might otherwise believe.

So why am I writing about this and what value can I possibly provide since I'm not a POC?

I'm here to report on the tweets from Cottom that I found interesting, but more importantly to share mentoring types of arrangements that are available and to judge how effective they are.  

With that in mind, here's my list of mentoring arrangements, ranked from worst to first:

4--Forced mentoring relationship without controls, where an exec read about mentoring and decided to do her/his own program. This could be effective, but even if the intent is pure (unlike Cottom's tweets and my House of Lies share above), the exec likely doesn't know what she's doing. The attendee is likely to say "um, sure?" to the offer.  Forced to an uncomfortable degree. Picture the exec doing the robot, that's how stiff it is. At the far end of the spectrum, it's PET or THREAT.

3--Formal mentoring programs. OD and HR are involved and there's a process. Let's move on because all of you get this one.

2--Informal mentoring relationship where no one EVER SAYS THE WORDS, "I'M SO HAPPY TO BE YOUR MENTOR". Want to know how to determine if an informal mentor is legit? It's easy- they never say the word "mentor". It's a mindset, not a program.

1--A Boss with direct reports. Yep, surprise! The best mentors are, were and always will be the boss that was our Best Boss Ever. We've all have a Best Boss Ever, and that person delivered more mentoring value that anyone outside of the Boss/Direct Report could possibly achieve.  Note that most bosses aren't naturals and can't achieve this boss/mentor status - that's why we have mentoring programs. But the best boss you've ever had - he or she was a f***ing awesome mentor - but no one ever mentioned the word mentor.

That's my list. Remember the whole Pet or Threat thing - It's meaningful. Then remember the best mentoring relationships never or rarely use the word "mentor". They just naturally happen. 


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)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wish me luck - and consider something similar.


You Probably Need This In Your D&I Stack: Microaggression Awareness...

Saw a social post last week from a friend in the HR Business that said a manager was providing performance feedback to an employee, and the employee told them they had used a microaggression. The manager didn't know what that was and had to look it up.

But that's why you have me. You know what a microaggression is even if you don't know it by name.  Here's the definition from Wikipedia: Micro

Microaggression is a term used for brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any group, particularly culturally marginalized groups.[1] The term was coined by psychiatrist and Harvard University professor Chester M. Pierce in 1970 to describe insults and dismissals which he regularly witnessed non-black Americans inflicting on African Americans. By the early 21st century, use of the term was applied to the casual degradation of any socially marginalized group, including LGBT, people living in poverty, and people that are disabled.  Psychologist Derald Wing Sue defines microaggressions as "brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership". The persons making the comments may be otherwise well-intentioned and unaware of the potential impact of their words.

A number of scholars and social commentators have critiqued the microaggression concept for its lack of scientific basis, over-reliance on subjective evidence, and promotion of psychological fragility. Critics argue that avoiding behaviours that one interprets as microaggressions restricts one's own freedom and causes emotional self-harm, and that employing authority figures to address microaggressions can lead to an atrophy of those skills needed to mediate one's own disputes.  Some argue that, because the term "microaggression" uses language connoting violence to describe verbal conduct, it can be (and is) abused to exaggerate harm, resulting in retribution and the elevation of victimhood.

You know - saying stupid ***t.  Need examples of Microaggressions?  I thought you'd never ask, click here for some doozies of the racial category.

When I think about microaggressions, I also think about some related factors - what is the intent and what's the relationship between the people involved?  As you look at the link above, there are some microaggressions listed that are never OK. But as you get away from that page and get into the gray area, it becomes murky.

Case in point, I'm attempting to limit my greeting of groups of people by saying, "Guys". I didn't try and limit this based on feedback, but on reading that some females were bothered by it. My struggle to improve in this area is real, and it's not helped by all the women in my life who walk into a room and say, "what's up, guys?"

My struggle. Not yours. But a good example of how seemingly accepted language can seep into the microaggression category.

At the end of the day, microaggression belongs somewhere in your D&I training stack.  I'd simply introduce the concept (I guarantee you that 80% of your people, maybe more, don't know what it is) and then list 20 potential questions, phrases, etc and have the team say yes/no - is this phrase or question a microaggression?

Some will be over the top, but a lot will be in the gray area and drive disagreement. But it's the dialog that others have from a training perspective that matters.

As soon as your folks discuss, awareness goes up.  And microaggressions automatically go down.

I worry that we've become too political correct, but microaggression awareness is worthy of attention inside your organization.


Use This Quote When Convincing Someone to Decline An Offer From a Big Company...

"It's better to be a pirate than join the Navy."

-Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs was brutal in many ways, but with his brutality came moments of pure clarity.  This quote is one of those moments. Johnny-depp

The stale way to make the same point is obvious - "Why do you want to go work for that big company?  They're going to bury your talent. You know all those ideas you have?  You won't get to chase any of them at IBM.  They'll just pod you up in the matrix and suck your energy over the next decade, leaving you a husked-out former version of yourself."

Wait - that's actual pretty good.  A more standard version is "You're going to there and be bored immediately."

Still, I like the clarity of the Jobs quote.  If you're working for a smaller firm, you need every competitive advantage you can get as you fight for the hires you need.  This quote, while not perfect, is a good tool to have.

It just so happens that the only people that it works on are the people who are actually inclined to believe that they're more than cogs in the corporate wheel.  Use this quote on a person who's happy being a cog, and they might dance with you a bit - but ultimately they're going to grab for the security that only thousands (often tens of thousands) of employees can provide.  Doesn't make them bad people or not talented - it's a preference for security and risk management.

But they're looking to enlist with a big entity like the Navy - not roam the seven seas on that cool, but rickety boat you call a company and wonder if you'll be around in a year.

If you're at a smaller firm, the best hires you will make are the people that don't look like pirates - but have it buried in their DNA.  If you think you have one of those people, I'd talk in broad terms about the pirate-like things you're going to do at your company.

Pirates like Johnny Depp, BTW - not Somali pirates.

Go buy some eye patches for your next round of interviews. Dare a candidate to ask you why you're wearing one.


Saying "No" Helps Train the Recipient What "Yes" Looks Like...

If there's a big problem in corporate America, it's that we say "Yes" too much at times.

Yes to that request..

Yes, I can help you..

Yes, I'd be happy to be part of your project team...

Yes, your response to my request is fine...

There's a whole lot of yes going around.  The problem?  Only about 1/2 of the "yes" responses are followed up with action that is representative of all of us living up to the commitment we made.

That's why you need to say "no" more.

Of course, simply saying no with nothing behind the no positions you as jerk.  So the "no" has to have qualifiers behind it:

Say "no" more to peers asking you for things, but then qualify it with how the request could be modified to move you to say "yes".

Say "no" more to your boss, and qualify your response to her by asking for help de-prioritizing things on your plate - which might allow you to say "yes" to the new request.

We say "yes" in the workplace when we want to say "no". We do it because we don't like to say no, and because we are horrible at negotiation.

Say "no" and tell people how the request could be modified to get to "yes".

Or just say "no" and walk away.  Either way, you've helped the organization's overall performance by providing more clarity. 


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. 

 


Uber Is Now Run By Your Dad and He's Misusing Slang Like A Dad Would....

Most of you are aware of the leadership challenges and changes at Uber, the company some of us love or hate.

It all started with founder Travis Kalanick, who rose with the company as its first CEO and really defined the hard knock culture that ultimately took him down.  Things got too crazy and Kalanick was out, replaced by the Uber board by former Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi - primary to bring grown up leadership to the company that defined an entirely new business segment (ridesharing). Uber

And for the most part, Khosrowshahi has done that.  If you've watched any TV recently, you've seen him featured in Uber commercials saying that the company is rebuilding itself in a responsible way.  

Khosrowshahi is the equivalent of a dad in this rebuild.  And sometimes Dads try to be hip and it all goes to hell.  Such was the case recently at Uber, when Khosrowshahi penned a memo asking "WHO HAS THE D", which immediately sent everyone with Snapchat (and perhaps even Instagram) loaded on their smartphone snickering.  More on this memo from Gizmodo:

"When he took over the company in August of last year, Dara Khosrowshahi was tasked with rehabilitating the fratboy image of Uber—a company where harassment was rampant, and internal memos had to advise employees how not to have sex with their coworkers. But based on a leaked memo, less than a year into the new CEO’s tenure, Khosrowshahi has been giving “the D” to staffers in meetings.

Fortunately we’re not talking about any sort of sexual impropriety (to the best of our knowledge). The memo, obtained by Business Insider, outlines a method to avoid bureaucratic bloat, where Khosrowshahi writes:

You may hear me say in meetings ‘[insert name] has the D here’. This is about being clear on who is the decision maker; I’d encourage you to do the same."

 You know—the D. As in, “you can stay and observe if you want to, but for the duration of this organizational planning meeting, I’m giving Brad the D.”
 
Oh boy, here we go.  More from the same article:
 
Dara's confusion seems based on a single Harvard Business Review article from January of 2006 titled, “Who Has the D?: How Clear Decision Roles Enhance Organizational Performance.” Here are some quotes from that turgid, 4,500-word piece that was certainly helpful to a businessperson somewhere:

“they must [...] elevate the issue to the person with the D.”

“the person with the D needs good business judgment”

“The buyers were given the D”

“there may be good reasons to locate the D”

“the D resided with headquarters”

“who is responsible for providing valuable input and who has the D”

“The theme here is a lack of clarity about who has the D”

Urban Dictionary cites “the D” as a synonym for penis—and by synecdoche, a form of sex—going back to 2004. Uber’s worst days may be behind it, but perhaps this is a sign the company is entering a golden age of public gaffes that are fun instead of deeply upsetting.

Yes. Uber is run by your dad.  And when Dads act cool and trendy, bad things can happen.

When Dads are CEOs and their communications leaders/PR/HR people are older Dads and Moms, memos like this happen.

Somewhere in the last month, Dara brought up "the D" in a leadership meeting.  He was frustrated by decision speed and the amount of meetings he saw in the company.  He thought they had grown to0 bloated in their concerns not to make mistakes.

He remembered the HBR article, and informed everyone on the leadership team that somebody "had to have the D".  He said he was going to send a memo the entire company.

No one stopped him, or said that aloud to themselves later and googled it.  Hilarious.

If this isn't a theme in the next season of HBO's Silicon Valley next year, I'm canceling my subscription.