Thinking About Work in 2021: It's Probably Time To Get Out of the Fetal Position...

It's the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, and for me that means I'm working, but a bit reflective on the year we've just had. That's me every year during this time, but obviously, 2020 makes you reflect even deeper.

As I think about 2020 and what I want for me, my company and the world of work in 2021, one phrase comes to mind: Love what you do

"Let's Get Out of the Fetal Position"

There's a multiple reasons that 2020 put a bunch of incredible people on the defensive about doing their best work:

--Pandemic
--Widespread Social Change
--Political Firestorm
--Cancel Culture, Virtue Signaling and Shaming for anyone who dares to stray from the promoted mainstream media norm on the issues above

Add it all up, and it's fair to say that most of us haven't done our best work in 2020. And that's a shame, because so many of you are kick ass talents at what you do. But there's been risk in 2020, and you did what you had to do.

Congrats, you made it through.

What comes next?

For me, I have to get back to playing offense. That's where I'm at my best, and on most of the issues where I might stray from the promoted mainstream media norm, there's no question in my mind that my views are valid and deserving of a view.

Of course, there's also the value of doing the work the right way. Check out this great video of JJ Watt of the Houston Texans talking about doing the work and why it's important. I watched it and thought about all the excuses that are around us why we shouldn't be at our best at our companies. Are many of those reasons valid in 2020? Sure - but the question is how long does all the change we've experienced in 2020 impact the work you do in a negative way?

The work, as it turns out, deserves the best you. The people around you remember the best you - the pre-2020 version. They believe in that version of you, and you owe it to them, the business and yourself to provide that.

Work matters. But half-assed, scared work matters much less than the best version you can provide.

My biggest resolution for 2021 is to get back to playing offense. 

What about you?


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

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

Let me explain.

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

TAKE THE L

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

Post-Election Skill for Leaders: Making All Feel Welcome & On Equal Ground...

I read this post recently by William Wiggins at Fistful of Talent on Transgenderism. It's a simple, insightful piece on being aware. 

Prior to reading William's post, I finished Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber by Mike Isaac. It's the story of how Uber rose from humble beginnings to become a Unicorn, then stumbled from the top as it's bro-tastic culture caused it to be tone-deaf to the world around it via PR fiasco after PR fiasco.

Both are highly recommended reading. One is 500 words and one is 80,000 words.

Then of course, like you, I've been through the shit show that is the 2020 Election Season.

There's never been a bigger need for awareness for making all feel like they belong and are welcome than post-election 2020. 

The lesson? Being a leader in modern times is tricky. Consider the following realities:

  1. You're a leader.
  2. You're full of personal thoughts, a specific background and some form of bias. You think how you think. Politics included.
  3. When change comes and you're asked to lead everyone, it's easy to react as if it's a burden or worse.
  4. You can say it's all gone too far you shouldn't be asked to manage people on the far right or the far left. Many will agree with you.
  5. But - you'll ultimately acknowledge the views of the group of people in front of you - everyone - or you won't be allowed to lead anymore. Unless you're in a groupthink organization where everyone thinks the same.

History shows this cycle to be true. Your job is to lead everyone. When you don't engage or find the good in a group of people in front of you, you won't get the results you want or need as a leader in your organization.  When you think about the election we just went through in 2020, it's easy to become polarized and lose sight of this universal truth.

Saying that the vocal people on the left want to ruin America is lame. Saying that anyone that voted republican must be a racist is lame. Both are intellectually lazy. 

What if you decided that rather than be late to the game, you made it a priority to make all feel welcome and on equal ground in your company or on your team as a leader?

What if?

I'll tell you what if, my friend.  If that was your approach, you'd find the people in question - the special class of people currently causing others discomfort (the groups change over time) - incredibly willing to work for you and just as importantly, freed to do their best work.  You'd be maximizing your ability to get great work from the resources you have.

When you choose to lead everyone and not take the polarized bait the world wants to feed you, a funny thing happens. Performance and the ability for someone to do their best work goes up.

None of us are perfect when it comes to the change cycle outlined in #1 through #5 above.  Stop reading things in your bubble and start thinking about the best way to bring everyone on the team into the fold in 2021.

Performance goes up as bullshit goes down.  Just be crystal clear on what's bullshit in this cycle (anything that makes you slow to accept that reasonable people can think differently).


What To Do When a Person of Influence Asks You For Extra Work...

Every couple of years, this question makes the rounds - "What would you tell the 25 year old version of yourself?" I've noticed that going around recently, so here I am.

Of course, there are 1,000's of things you could respond with. But assume we're talking about the world of work for a second. That probably cuts the answers down to the 100's, not 1,000's.

Now do forced choice - you can only share one thing.  It's tough to narrow it down. Ax

The reality is your response is likely to be focused on what you're experiencing in your career on a given week the question is asked. 

So what would I tell the 25-year old version of myself?

It's pretty simple. I'd tell them that you never - and I mean NEVER - say no or deprioritize a request from someone with power and influence over their career.

Let's dig in a little deeper. Let's say you're the younger version of yourself. You're a good to great performer, and people at your company have grown to regard you as someone who can be trusted to get things done. That means over time, people of influence at your company are going to be exposed to you, hear about you, and in many ways come to regard you as someone with potential and whom perhaps is performing above their pay grade.

That means the people of influence at your company are going to come to you with a request to do work. That request may or may not be a part of your normal job. That request may or may not come at a time that's convenient for you. That request may or may not be something you know how to do and it possibly could required you to roll up your sleeves and figure a bunch of shit out.  

Yet you've performed, and the request comes.

What happens next is the test.

All of the "may or may not" statements above are the debbie downers about the request. It's not your job, you're kind of busy this week or month, and it's in an area that you're not super interested in.

Let me be crystal clear. All of those things can be true. Average people say they are too busy or attempt to negotiate a later date to get the work/request/project done. True players - the ones who are promotable 2-3 levels above their current organizational level - never say no.

This rule has been true since your grandparents were on the factory floor or creating copies via real carbon copies (look it up).

As we've grown related to better workplaces, mental health and a sense of well-being, you'll read tomes on how to get the best out people through a variety of progressive people practices. You can believe all of the new ways of workplace engagement, but don't be fooled - when the call comes for help from people with influence because they've heard about you, it's test. They don't realize it's a test, but it is.

Say yes to the extra work, the longer hours, the problem to solve - and you've shown yourself to be part of the bigger chase.  Say no or try and schedule a later time and you'll never be asked again.

Maybe you don't want to be in the chase - that's OK!  Just remember not everyone is asked and few are rarely asked twice once someone hears "I could probably spend some time on that next month."

It's OK to not want to be in chase to the top.

Just remember that that not everyone is asked, and saying no is a long-term choice.


Trust vs Performance + BlackRock's New Intimate Relationship Policy (The HR Famous Podcast)

In episode 35 of The HR Famous Podcast, long-time HR leaders (and friends) Tim Sackett, Kris Dunn and Jessica Lee discuss their favorite Halloween candy, dig into BlackRock’s recent policy change that mandates employee report all romantic relationships, including those with all company partners and vendors, and wrap it up with a discussion on Performance vs. Trust via a famous Simon Sinek video. 

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

SHOW HIGHLIGHTS

1:30 – Halloween is right around the corner! JLee is modifying the normal Halloween routine for her two young kids. She’s excited because her kids are getting into Star Wars and they’re doing a Star Wars family costume.

3:00 – Tim’s family is doing a Michigan vs. MSU football/Halloween neighborhood tailgate. He is trying to decide if he wants to be Biden or Trump for his costume.

4:15 – What is your favorite Halloween candy? Tim is team Reese’s pumpkin because of the peanut butter to chocolate ratio. KD likes the bite size (better known as fun size) Snickers. JLee likes a classic Kit Kat.

6:45 – First topic: BlackRock is now requiring all employees to disclose any sort of romantic relationship with anyone in the company or anyone related to the company, including all vendors and partners, which includes 1/5 of the known world by definition. The company may make alternative work arrangements depending on reporting from employees. 

8:00 – Tim, the HR Famous workplace harassment expert, thinks that this new policy is stupid because it limits so many romantic or sexual relationships.

9:30 – JLee doesn’t want to know every possible relationship between employees from an HR perspective. She says it’s TMI!

10:30 – KD says that this policy follows a few scandals with relationship reporting at BlackRock involving high level employees. 

14:30 – The gang suggests a hashtag for Blackrock – #sexlessnation

15:00 – JLee tells us what questions would have to be asked about these relationships. 

16:20 – The HR Famous crew wishes the best to the BlackRock HR crew with this new policy. #sexlessnation

19:30 – Second topic of the day: Simon Sinek’s video Performance vs. Trust. In this video, Sinek talks about the Marines and how value trustworthiness vs. high level performance.

22:40 – JLee thinks that this is a hard lesson for a leader to learn because you often only learn you can’t trust someone once someone has made a mistake.

23:30 – Tim brings up Malcolm Gladwell’s most recent book Talking To Strangers and how humans tend to default to trust when often people are not being trustworthy.

26:00 – Shoutout to Ed Baldwin and the book The Thin Book of Trust by Charles Feltman. He defines trust in his book as sincerity, reliability, and competence. 

27:00 – KD and JLee would love if Simon would button up his shirt one more button!


Coaching Your Team on Responsiveness: Don't Focus on What's Fair, Focus on the Game...

If you're a manager of people, at some point you're going to get an escalation that sounds something like this:

"I just heard from Sharon, Rick isn't answering her emails and she's rightfully frustrated." Inbox

Boom. There's a lot packed into this, so let's examine what the concern is:

--You have an employee who is reportedly not responding to someone

--The assumption is this is a performance issue

--The facts are that Rick has not met Sharon's expectation for responsiveness

Now let's examine what we don't know:

--Is Rick a high performer or otherwise?

--Is Sharon (the one who is saying her emails and other messages are going unreturned) an external client or an internal teammate?

--What's the level of the internal teammate who's reporting to you the Rick is ignoring Sharon?

Anyway, there it is. The feedback that you have a direct report who's being non-responsive. If Rick is a low performer, the feedback is simple - do better, Rick!  Do you need training, Rick?  Let me tell you what good responsiveness looks like, Rick.

But if Rick is a good to great performer, that's where it gets dicey.

How do you tell a good to great performer, who is likely pretty responsive to most people, that someone has an issue with their responsiveness?

Simple - Don't make it about Rick (your employee in question). Make it about the world. The reality is that in a 24/7 world, if you're not responding within the hour, anyone can claim that you didn't get back to them.

Responsiveness is a game. When you get tied up and buried a bit, you allow the world to lay a narrative of being non-responsive at your feet, and if that's not how you live your life, that sucks.

So to any good to great performer who gets accused of being non-responsive (especially with anyone who is an external client), my advice is this:

1--Treat any request in your inbox as a ticking time bomb. You can say you're gong to get back to it, but you don't know when the bomb is scheduled to go off.

2--In most cases, all you have to do is acknowledge receipt of the message and set a general expectation that you'll get to it soon.

If you're coaching a good to great performing direct report on non-responsiveness, don't play to lose. You play to lose when you want to dig into the situation and micromanage their life.

Instead, play to win. Tell them any incoming request has the potential to turn into a call of non-responsiveness, and tell them the simple answer is to acknowledge receipt and put a general sense back to the party in question about when you're going to get the request.

The working world can be a shitty place at times. Play to win and use these thoughts when it comes to coaching on responsiveness.


Good Call Center Jobs Teach You a Lot - But We Might Wonder Why You Didn't Get Promoted...

I love what jobs early in our careers teach and say about us.  There's literally 8 million stories in the naked city, and this is just one of those stories.

But in its own little way, it matters - a lot. Workaholics

This story is about what happens when a new graduate takes a customer service job at a big company. You know the person, the company and the type of job I'm talking about.

Person - New college grad or a person with a high school diploma who has had a couple of jobs where they strung a bit of success together.  If you're a new college grad, you probably have a business, marketing or liberal arts degree - you're not a STEM major, which is 100% ok.

Company - A big company with a professionally run customer service function - think more than 100 FTEs, and at times 1,000+

Type of Job - Sit your *ss in that chair and take the abuse make our customers happy through 80 inbound calls a day.

While a lot of these jobs are getting replaced by technology, they still exist, and in the opinion of this humble observer, they are great training grounds for a career in the business world. 

95% of graduates aren't STEM or technology majors, and they don't come from the Ivy League. The call center job is a natural starting point for a career, if you can land this job in a big company along the lines of what I described above.

You know what's sad? We've created an artificial expectation of careers via a cocktail of social media, college propaganda and related bulls**t that these types of jobs aren't good starting points for a college grad. Talk to new grads, and their expectation is that they should come out of the gate earning 60K. It's a lie for most of the world. Fewer kids are ready to work these days.

But (and there is a but) there's a Darwinian thing that happens in a professionally run, modern call center for a reputable company.

Promote or become staler than the 5-day old bread you left open and out on the porch. Career pathing happens, and the reps who do the work and are good at what they do get promoted - both up the ranks in the call center, and out into other areas of the company. That's how it should be.

But it begs another question.  What does someone in the same modern call center role/job with a big company for 3 years (no inline promotion, no career ladder move or anything else) mean?  It means they're well-placed and lost in the generally open bid for promotions, transfers to other departments, etc.

While the current crop of college grads doesn't want to pay dues in the call center, there's another reality. The world is quick to coddle the same grad who's spent 1 year in the same professional call center job and tell them things like this:

It's not your fault. The system was rigged. There's a bunch of favoritism associated with promotions in that arena.

Nope. You got beat, you didn't get it done. The professional grade call center that's internal at blue chip, well run companies knows what it's doing. You weren't good enough. You being in the same role in that company with a LOT of opportunity within the call center (not even looking at promotions to other areas) means you weren't in the top quartile, and you may be closer to the 50th percentile.

If you have a kid with a degree who's struggling to find his path, encourage him/her to find a great company with a good call center/customer service function, apply and win a job, then go compete like crazy.

Promotions for youngsters in well run call centers matter. They're literacy tests for the ability to grind, perform and compete in a career.

All other things being equal, I'd take a person who put on the headset and went to compete over one who hasn't.  


Executive Coaches: When The Company Pays the Bills, Watch Out...

Let's say you're a rising star with a lot of potential, but a few things to work out. Your company finds you an executive coach, makes the introduction and pays the bills.

You probably need to be wary of who the coach works for. You'd be reasonable to ask that question, Twitterbut also to dig into the details/expectations of when, where and how the coach would communicate on your progress to others at your company, noted issues you're working through, roadblocks and more.

Here's a great excerpt from a book I'm reading - Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal by Nick Bilton. In this excerpt, noted Silicon Valley Executive Coach Bill Campbell is noted as being his student's biggest booster...and carving him up behind the scenes.

Here's the excerpt detailing his coaching of Ev Willams, one of the founders of Twitter:

“He (Ev) held his weekly meetings with Campbell, receiving his boisterous pep talk. “You’re doing a f**king great job!” Campbell would bellow. At board meetings Campbell would appear to listen to Ev’s presentations on the state of the company. After Ev’s sermons were done, the coach would clap loudly and hug his protégé, proclaiming again to everyone in the room that Ev was “doing a f**king great job!” and asking them to clap (none of this was a usual occurrence in a corporate board meeting). Then, after Ev left the room, proud that his mentor thought he was doing such a great job, Campbell would shout at the group: “You gotta get rid of this f**king guy! He doesn’t know what the f**k he’s doing!””

— Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal by Nick Bilton

LOL. Palace intrigue. It should be noted that Ev was matched with Campbell by a Twitter board member, and also that Campbell's Wikipedia page notes that he coached Jack Dorsey and Dick Costello at Twitter, but not Ev.

Who does the executive coach work for? Here's a hint: if you're not paying the coach and don't have clear rules of engagement on disclosure, the coach doesn't work for you. You might want to be a bit wary in those circumstances.

PS: Can I get an executive coach to stand up and get the applause going when I present in a normal conference room? THAT WOULD BE AWESOME, except for the part where he/she totally blades me when I leave the room.


VIDEO: Using BHAGs as a Goal Setting Technique for High Performers...

Big, hairy, audacious goals, or BHAGs, are visionary, strategy statements designed to focus a group of people around a common initiative. They traditional differ from our other goal setting techniques because BHAGS are usually positioned toward by a large group (rather than individuals) and they typically span a large amount of time than any of our other goals. They’re huge.

Even though BHAGs are generally goals for companies and collective groups, smart managers are increasingly using them for individuals as well. I explain the merits of using BHAGs in this fashion in the following episode of TalentTalks from Saba Software.

Take a listen (email subscribers click through for video below if you don't see it) and hit me in the comments with a BHAG that's been useful in your career or managing a talented direct report!!! 


There Are Six "Manager of People" Brands - Which One Are You?

Any manager of people has a lot on their plate. After all, a general pre-requisite to getting your first manager job is being a great individual contributor. Then, at some point in your first month in your new manager role, you realize the reality – you still have a bunch to do on your own as well as managing your new team.

Just because you're a manager doesn’t mean you stop cranking out individual contributor Proposalgreatness. You’re expected to that PLUS lead a group of people to team greatness, individual success and career fulfillment.

Inside all of us there’s a preset – a type of manager we’re most likely to be based on our behavioral DNA, the folks who have managed us in the past, etc.  Who you are and how you were raised in corporate America has a lot to do with how you manage.

What type of manager are you?  What’s your brand as a manager?

To dig into this topic, I reached out to my good friend and BOSS Leadership facilitator Dawn Burke to record an episode of my new podcast - BEST BOSS EVER - and talk about the "6 Manager of People Brands" I have identified - Doer & Individual Contributor, The Friend/Pushover, The Control Freak/Authoritarian, Trend Spotter/Reader of the Best Seller, Performance Based Driver, and The Career Agent.

Take a listen and be sure to subscribe via the links below as well!

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

Welcome to Best Boss Ever, the podcast dedicated to helping you develop managers who build great teams. In this episode Kris Dunn talks with colleague and friend Dawn Burke, facilitator for BOSS Leadership and senior consultant at Recruiting Toolbox, about managing people and the six types of manager brands.

Don't forget to subscribe, rate and review wherever you get your podcasts - Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Play.

Show Highlights:

4:00: KD brings in the topic, what is your manager brand? Dawn claims a lot of managers don’t know what their brand is, it even took her some time to figure out her brand.

6:22: A Manager’s brand is based on their behavioral DNA and how they were raised. Dawn says that’s a classic case of nature vs. nurture. Both play a part into a manager’s brand, and a lot of times we fall back on our nature but it’s important to focus on the qualities of leaders we admire and seek training and guidance to form a brand.

8:45: KD and Dawn run down the list of the 6 manager brands: The Doer & Individual Contributor, The Friend/Pushover, The Control Freak/Authoritarian, Trend Spotter/Reader of the Best Seller, Performance Based Driver, and The Career Agent.

11:09: “The Doer.” The first-time manager brand. Dawn talks about her personal retail experience with her first manager roles and the struggles first time manager. KD says: don’t change too much – it’s okay if this is your brand to an extent. Be a doer – but you need to grow your people, too. You can’t do it all yourself. Find training and learn to delegate and lead.

15:38: “The Friend/Pushover”. KD talks about how this brand showing up in a lot of former teammates that become managers. It’s also in folks who have high levels of empathy in their DNA. Dawn says you can make the best of the past team relationships by keeping the trust throughout your working relationship. She also asks “How much are you complaining about working together?” It might effect your credibility.

18:50: Dawn says “The Friend” also applies to managers who come in, and is a manager who tries to be friends, which isn’t inherently bad, but if you’re relying too much on the friendship, you’re heading in the wrong direction. KD says past friends especially have trouble as new managers if they are low on the assertive scale, Dawn says you can mitigate this with a 1:1 reset with those friends, acknowledging the new structure in the team and what it means. KD says you’ll have to be assertive to do that, which is why training from other managers is good to have!

21:22: “The Control Freak” introduction. KD talks about a recent WWII watch that was riddled with authoritative manager brands. Dawn says she’s seen this in new managers, too. When they become a manager they are thinking about their past managers and maybe more old school managers. She claims this brand doesn’t work anymore, even though it still exists in certain work places.

26:52: “The Trend Spotter” KD says reading and growing is good, but you can’t change up your brand every time you read a new book. Dawn says this has good intention but it’s gone off the rails. You can be a life long learner, that’s a sign of a good leader, but you take the best of what you’ve learned or read and build your own style/brand – you can’t copy and paste.

29:59: “The Performance Driver.” This brand is all about the performance, they aren’t hesitant to ask their team to reach those organizational goals. Dawn says every manager’s brand should include a little bit of the Performance Driver. KD says sometimes you can be a little detached with your humanity here – just driving for results is okay, but it’s not growing your employees and as a result, over time it can fall flat.

32:22: “The Career Agent” KD claims this is the fully-evolved manager. The Career Agent is approaching their team to get the results through the lens of the employee. It benefits the company and the employee. Overall, Dawn agrees this is the fully-evolved manager. KD says part of being a career agent is investing, developing, and helping people grow and approaching every conversation from the view of the employee – what’s in it for them?.

37:50: KD runs us down the six brands again and the team closes it out.

Resources:

Boss Leadership Training Series

Kinetix

The HR Capitalist

Fistful of Talent

Dawn Burke on LinkedIn

Recruiting Toolbox

Kris Dunn on LinkedIn

KD's Book - The 9 Faces of HR