Surprise Me Rob Lowe! #WorkHuman

workhumanThere are many things I’m looking forward to at the Globoforce WorkHuman 2015 conference including hearing from Tania Luna who is a trainer, consultant and “surprisologist.” She’s a founder, along with her sister, of Surprise Industries where, according to their website, they provide “a collection of non-routine experiences for non-routine people” as they focus on surprising and delighting individuals, couple and companies. Working with SI, a friend, partner, or employer can provide personalized and unique gifts, customize events to create memories, or schedule events ranging from a private yoyo workshop to a Michael Jackson class where one can learn the dance moves to MJ’s Thriller, Beat It or Smooth Criminal.

Imagine giving Karl in Purchasing (who loves loves LOVES MJ!) a never-to be-forgotten memory? That’s just one example but it’s illustrative of how organizations are refining their understanding of how human relationships at work can energize, excite, and transform the business. HR and business leaders are starting to “get it;” appreciation and recognition is much more effective when we bring the personal-and-human element back into the workplace. Karl probably doesn’t want another lapel pin to toss in his dresser drawer…but Karl will never forget learning how to moon walk.

And that’s what we’re going to talk about at WorkHuman. We’re going to explore engagement, recognition, psychology, and technology. We’re going to discuss the business impact of the human-centered workplace. We’re going to hear from keynote speakers including:

  • Arianna Huffington (Co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post)
  • Rob Lowe (Best-selling author, activist, and award-winning actor)
  • Adam Grant (Wharton School professor of psychology and best-selling author)
  • Shawn Achor (Harvard-trained researcher and NY Times best-selling author)

This is going to be good. I don’t even care which Rob Lowe shows up; I’m just looking forward to his stories about teamwork, risk-taking, work, and life. (Oh…and please please please let him talk about the Snow White at the Oscars thing…)

According to Globoforce CEO Eric Mosley “WorkHuman is designed to empower organizations to harness the transformative power of emotional connections among colleagues, and supercharge efforts to build a humanity-focused workplace culture.”

Interested in joining us? Use code RSWH15100 and you’ll receive $100 off the registration price.

I hope to see you there!

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Come Build Your Management Career! (Just not with us)

cruel shoesWhat in the world would we HR people have to discuss if Zappos stopped doing things that upend the world of work and make us contemplate tossing age-old beliefs to the curb?

Last year, for those who pay attention to such things, Zappos ended the process of posting jobs and instead began a relationship-based Insiders program (#InsideZappos) wherein they invite people to join the community of other potential Zapponians/Zappites/shoe-people-who-now-belong-to-Amazon. In this community the recruiters, hiring managers, and, for all I know, Tony Hsieh himself, begin building relationships that, for some Insiders, may lead to employment.

This freaked a ton of people out. I liked it but I can’t say I don’t still wonder about things like their actual internal definition of an applicant and how they manage, from an HR standpoint, any claims that arise alleging discrimination or disparate impact and the like. My friend Stacy Zapar who worked with the recruiting team on the development of #InsideZappos has shared a lot of very compelling information about the why, what and how over the past year.

And then there’s the Holacracy experiment. OK, I’m terming it an experiment but it’s actually a commitment. Or perhaps something from which no one will back down.

Last week I read this internal memo that Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh shared with employees (go read it; I’ll wait).

The gist of the matter: Tony and team are moving forward with Holacracy (first announced in 2013) and will now begin offering severance to employees who are not on board with self-organization and self-management. The ultimate “get on the bus with us or get off at the next stop” move.

So, per Tony’s memo, here’s the deal:

  • As of 4/30/15, in order to eliminate the legacy management hierarchy, there will be effectively be no more people managers.
  • In addition, we will begin the process of breaking down our legacy silo’ed structure/circles of merchandising, finance, tech, marketing, and other functions and create self-organizing and self-managing business-centric circles instead by starting to fund this new model with the appropriate resources needed to flourish.
  • While we know that the full role of managers will no longer be necessary in a Teal organization, we’re also looking forward to seeing what new exciting contributions will come from the employees who were previously managers.
  • All former managers who remain in good standing will still keep their salary through the end of 2015 even though their day-to-day work that formerly involved more traditional management will need to change.

And there’s a LOT more; it’s a long article.

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We could debate the pros and cons of Holacracy and whether or not Zappos will succeed with this all day long. There are so many questions and details and possibilities; how fun would it be to sit in a room and debate this stuff? Hella fun in my opinion.

One thing that struck me as an unintentional consequence of this shift to Holacracy is what this will do to people who have, as most people do, some sort of career goals and aspirations.

The average 25 year old, let’s call him Josh, has no intention of spending the next 35 years of his life working at Zappos no matter how freaking entranced he is today. As much as right-now-this-moment he wants to be an #insider and join this intoxicatingly exciting organization he’s still, deep down, going to need to look out for numero uno. Plus, Mom and Dad will remind him (forever) that they didn’t pay for that fancy education for nothing.

Looking out for numero uno includes progressively gaining more responsibility (there’s some language taken from every job description ever written by an HR lady). It means climbing the ladder or sliding along the career lattice from newbie to individual contributor (Levels I, II and III) to team lead to supervisor to manager to middle manager. It means having those titles on his resume.

For without those titles Josh is not going to land somewhere else 5 or 10 or 15 years from now when he decides he wants to manage a team or run a department.

One day, when Josh falls in love with a guy or gal from Charlotte, NC, he’ll find himself moving across the country. Josh, in need of a new gig, will apply to be the Marketing Manager at Acme Corporation, but, after X years at Zappos, the only title he will have on his resume is Marketing Team Member in the A Circle. Which means he won’t receive more than a cursory glance from the Acme Corp. recruiter.

Yup; working at Zappos will mean that Josh will never have the ability to gain experience in decision-making and budgeting responsibility. Josh will spend X years in his profession and he will have gained zero people management skills. Recruiters, the world over, will glance at Josh’s resume and wonder “WTF is this self-directed crap? Did they all work on a commune?”

So I wonder…will those who wish to become ‘Insiders’….reconsider?

Would you?

 

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When One and One Equals More than Two #Culture

Season_1_EndRemember when Mike and Carol Brady got married and merged two households (plus Alice)? The girls had to get used to a dog, the boys had to learn all about Kitty Carryall, and everyone had to adjust to six kids sharing one bathroom.

They never did a Christmas show during the original run of the series, but it would have been interesting to watch how these two groups came together to learn each others’ holiday traditions and favorite Christmas foods (“WE eat ham on Christmas Day! WE make a turkey!”). I’m quite certain, with the lessons we were supposed to learn, neither Carol nor Mike would have dominated but rather we would have seen the creation of a “new” Christmas tradition; “henceforth we shall have a Roast Goose for Christmas Day dinner but Alice will make ham and turkey on Christmas Eve!” Something like that.

The blending and melding of two in order to make “one” that still recognizes – and appreciates – what came before.

I’ve been thinking about this lately as I’ve had several conversations with organizational leaders who are grappling with cultural issues post merger, acquisition, and/or growth.

Culture is a powerful factor in the success of any of these situations; culture, after all, drives behavior. During the uncertainty that may arise (“is my position redundant? Will I have a job after this merger?”), employees often wonder if the history they bring will be remembered. Over the years I’ve regularly heard employees lament that post acquisition/merger the slate was wiped clean and there was no appreciation for what “came before.”

In addition, unfortunately, the culture thing is often viewed as something that can be dealt with after the fact. HR and operational teams find themselves focusing on the transactional necessities such as aligning acquired employees to benefit packages, adjusting payroll schedules, or re-calculating PTO balances and neglect the real people factors. There’s often more time devoted to getting performance appraisal systems lined up then there is time devoted to getting PERFORMANCE lined up…know what I mean?

While this is more readily apparent on an organizational scale it also happens even absent a merger/acquisition such as when two departments come together under one VP or a Department Manager is assigned another work group.

So what, pray tell, can we learn from Mike and Carol? I’ve thought of a few things:

  • Don’t go in in assuming that the acquiring organization, based on might or size, has the ‘right’ way of doing things. There may be traits inherent in the smaller work group that are behaviors that should be integrated within the whole.
  • Assess everything. What are the differences – and similarities – in things like leadership philosophies and decision making styles? Are there vastly different human resources models and employment practices?
  • Communicate early and often – not just roles and expectations but mission, vision and values. Talk about culture; the traditions, history, behaviors and the unspoken norms of both entities.
  • What will unify the new team? Is it taking on a competitor? Is it winning new market share? Consider a common goal – there’s the vision! – which can now be reached together through combined strength.
  • Build trust. Confer with every individual employee and regularly ask  “how’s it going? What challenges are you facing?” What can we do to help?”
  • Realize that culture – like family dynamics – is ever evolving. When the kids came back home for A Very Brady Christmas they brought with them new experiences, new ideas, and things learned in the big wide world. Even Jan.

Think about it this way…First, observe. Then consult. Then change.

You can remember what came before…and make something NEW together.

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Write a Thank You Note

original_set-of-12-handmade-thank-you-note-cardsI don’t know about you but I still like holding an actual book in my hand. I enjoy the pleasure of flipping through a glossy magazine. I don’t mind being handed a sheath of papers and having the ability to sit down and read, mark it up, and curl the pages. I’m not a fan of newspapers though; I don’t think I’ve sat and read a printed newspaper for years.

But I like love hand written cards and notes.

A birthday card received in the mailbox. A note left on my desk. A post-it note slapped on my monitor.

Nice little reminders to stop for a moment and appreciate human connections.

So here’s something awesome you can do today.

Take a few minutes, sit down with pen in hand and compose a thank you note to someone who’s made a difference in your week. Surprise your co-worker in the next cubicle, the hard-working receptionist who manages the flow of visitors to your office, or a colleague in another department.

Deliver it yourself…or support the USPS. Your choice.

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image: (and cards available at) notonthehighstreet

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How to Work for a Rotten Boss

Boss_tweed2It’s inevitable. At one point or another you’ll undoubtedly work for a lousy boss. Hopefully it’s already happened and you’ve moved on. Battered and bruised perhaps, but no longer under the reign of a craptastic manager.

If, however, you’re still stuck, there are a few things to consider.

This guy (or gal) who wields such power over your day-to-day happiness might just be new to his role and learning as he goes. It’s possible (let’s give him the benefit of the doubt) he wants to do better but the organization is dysfunctional and he’s limited by heavy-handed HR policies. Of course, unfortunately, he could just be a contemptible human being.

I’ve run into rotten bosses who are passive, lack knowledge and are both physically – and mentally – absent. The more prevalent type of rotten boss? The bullying autocrat. You’ve seen her. She minimizes the feelings or ideas of others, makes up rules as she goes along, and loves to criticize individuals – often publicly. He’s the manager who flings accusations (”you’ve screwed up that report again!”), isolates certain individuals from the group, and picks other team members as his favorites…for now.

In any event I hope it gets better. And it can.

  • Talk to someone. Have a conversation with someone in your HR department, give a call to your employee assistance program, or have a chat with a trusted mentor/advisor. Don’t, however, just band together and grumble with coworkers. While the solidarity might make the shared-pain momentarily diminish, your collective negativity will only make the situation more intolerable.
  • Talk to the tyrant your boss. This may fill you with terror but it’s part of being an adult and a professional. “Hey Jane,” you can start the conversation. “I wanted to clarify your expectations for my performance but also need to make you aware of how your reactions/policies/tone of voice impact my performance.”
  • Run it up the flagpole. Talk to your boss’ boss; unless he’s a jerk too. In which case refer to #1. While there’s no law against being an asshole, there are laws against discrimination and harassment. Make sure you let someone in your human resources department know what’s going on; they can’t take action if they’re unaware.
  • Put yourself in her shoes. Really assess what’s going on. If she’s yelling at everyone for wasting time at work, is it true? Is there some validity to what she’s saying? If your team is composed of a bunch of slackers and work isn’t getting done it might be time for some self-reflection.
  • Find something positive to do for yourself. Exercise, join a book club, or take up square dancing. Go home and snuggle your cat, dog, children, or partner. Look for a new job and get the hell out of there. Take care of you.
  • Learn from the mistakes you see your rotten boss making…

…and vow to never be a rotten boss yourself.

 

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

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