What Management Doesn’t Know Will Hurt Them

Does your manager operate on assumptions? It's kind of a turn on my saying, what management does know will hurt them. The following are some examples:

  • We hit our numbers (cutting costs, revenue goals, quarterly profit), therefore we've earned the right to proceed with the next phase of growth.
  • The last employee survey was better than the last, so we don't need to dig any deeper into past complaints of favoritism.
  • We all have sacrificed, so morale isn't as bad as it may appear. Besides, we're a team.

Obviously, you and I could think of many other examples. My point is to illustrate the two different worlds management and employees live in. The most dangerous part is the inevitable collision to come. In America those collisions are happening on a regular basis. For example, our fiscal cliff is causing many publically traded companies to pay out one-time dividends at a lightening pace to beat what they see as the inevitble in 2013. The hike in tax consequences on dividend income. This is happening while many employees, and potential employees, are wondering when will the hiring will start again. The money is there for a dividend, why not for hiring someone.

Human beings are complex creatures. The DNA is fixed and we are who we are. Survival instincts, the need for affirmation and a desire for clarity are just a few to consider. How can this be missed. Lower quality leaders just don't know any better. Call it a leadership deficit that's difficult to remedy.

We're doing battle with culture here. A culture that staked everything, or so it seems, on some false-growth model. There needs to be some cleaning out to the rot. I'm not advocating we toss the entire system out, but I am advocating that we add some serious leadership development that is NOT based on giving the appearance of change. Way too many programs conform to keeping the status quo alive and well. We need to find courage now because we are far into the second-half. Expecting an epic comeback is a very dangerous outlook.

Management is toying with grave consequences when it forgets this.


The Essential Element

Until organizations realize that people are the essential elements of what make things work, we will forever have a win-lose proposition. Meaning, the organization thinks they've won and people are always on the losing end of the stick. Paying lip-service to this will only further deepen the hole. 

I admire any leader that has the courage to speak up and act. These types of leaders are willing to pay a steep price, in-order to fight for something worth fighting for. This is rare. Far too many people of influence are looking the other way.

The absence of leaders willing to raise their hands is the rot we have on our hands.

Are You Ready?

These days many young leaders are promoted to greater positions of power quicker than ever.  It is not unusual for someone in their early forties to hold a senior leadership post in a major organization.  I've often wondered can they truly be ready for so much power.  Though some are, sadly many are not.  Why?  More than likely they've never had a constellation of advisers/mentors, and/or they've never had someone whose walked a few miles teach them about power, ethics and courage. 

As I've evaluated my own path, I've tried to remember that you must handle the small before you can handle the big.  In my past I once had an HR representative declare that they would teach a series of leadership classes (more management than anything).  I found that somewhat ironic since she couldn't handle returning phone calls in a timely manner. 

And so it goes, we crave power and all the trimmings, but we forget about the span and the impact.  

The Future of HR with Carol Morrison of i4cp

The following is an interview I conducted with Carol Morrison of i4cp on the future of HR. A very compelling conversation we had.

Morrison is a Senior Research Analyst. She has been with i4cp for eight years,
researching and writing about the talent, strategy, and leadership issues that
directly affect organizational performance. In addition, Carol has authored
articles for Talent Management Magazine,
Chief Learning Officer, HRPS Journal, Human Resource Executive,
and other


I’ve heard for some years that HR
professionals desire a role that makes them more of a partner in the business
enterprise. Is this desire becoming a reality? Are they moving the needle?

You’re absolutely right. This has been – and continues to
be – an evolution for HR and the business partner role. i4cp’s interviews with
CHROs and other top HR and business leaders confirm that many are shifting
their HR functions toward greater efficiency in handling the transactional and
administrative duties typically associated with HR. Technology is helping to
enable that transition.

In turn, greater efficiency affords HR professionals more
time to focus on the value they can provide to the business by helping to
identify issues that impede productivity, by uncovering potential opportunities,
and in working with business leaders to better leverage the contributions of
the workforce. As i4cp’s recent study, The
Future of HR: The Transition to Performance Advisor,
underscores, the HR
professional’s role is all about driving organizational performance and that’s
unfolding in more companies today.

What traits/strengths should the HR
professional of tomorrow possess?

Exploring competencies that the future
HR professional will need is one of the core aspects of the i4cp study.
Certainly, keen business savvy is the starting point for a business partner who
can be a trusted and credible advisor to business leaders. It’s more than an
understanding of basic financial statements and business models. It’s in-depth
business acumen, along with such competencies as strategic thinking, the
ability to develop and execute strategy, a strong sense of ethics,
organizational design skills, comprehension of metrics and analytics, decision-making
capabilities, and an understanding of technologies and information systems.

CHROs with whom we spoke told i4cp
that HR performance advisors need to know how to ask the right questions to get
at the issues important to the business. They need courage to speak up when
it’s important to question the status quo, and the emotional intelligence that
enables them to effectively function in volatile situations and to serve as
confidantes when business leaders need reliable counsel.

How will the HR function stay relevant
in the next 10 years?

By contributing those competencies
just described. As long as organizations employ workforces, HR will be not only
relevant, but crucial. Human capital generally represents an organization’s
greatest investment and its greatest asset. If you are a leader who believes
that employees and their contributions are key elements that drive innovation,
differentiation, and competitive advantage, then there’s an important place in
your organization for HR professionals who can help you optimize performance by
ensuring that your workforce is appropriately trained, motivated, and deployed
to execute your business strategies.

In some ways, HR is exploring the last
frontier that holds promise for truly affecting business performance. The
economic challenges of recent years have sharpened leaders’ abilities to cut
costs, streamline processes, and wring all they can from tangible
organizational assets. There is tremendous power in the intangibles that
employees bring: discretionary effort, creativity, tenacity, wide-ranging talents,
and the desire to excel – to name just a few. HR is the integral link in the
performance chain – the force for uncovering and developing that human capital

On the whole, do most HR professionals
understand the challenges ahead within the world of work?

Yes – certainly as well as any of us
can understand the challenges within our volatile business environment. HR
professionals see the work world’s issues reflected in the faces of the
employees and managers they serve every day. So long as HR professionals – and
those involved in every other business discipline – remain curious, eager to
learn, and engaged in moving their organizations ahead, they’ll rise to the
challenges that come their way.

In fact, HR already may be ahead of
the curve. HR professionals often are intimately involved in organizational
change initiatives. Leading the way for change and helping employees and
leaders, alike, adjust to it has afforded HR professionals years of
opportunities to develop the agility and resilience to meet even unanticipated
circumstances with solid skills and resolve.

In addition, the HR leaders who shared
their views with i4cp made clear their investment in providing their promising
talent with unprecedented development options. Often, these involve stretch
assignments, job rotations, and specialized training that extends far beyond
the boundaries of HR. That means HR professionals are learning about
operations, finance, marketing, and other business functions, along with the
challenges they face. They return to HR with expanded networks that cross
functional lines and with a deeper understanding of the issues challenging employees
and managers organization-wide.

How can entrepreneurs, who are
building organizations, include HR in the vision and execution of business

By doing just that – including them at the top level from the
outset. Savvy executives know that HR leaders are valuable members of teams
charged with developing business strategy. Leaving human capital considerations
out of strategy formulation is an ill-informed approach that seriously
jeopardizes execution. You wouldn’t leave out budget considerations when
planning new business objectives. Nor would you ignore the technologies or
equipment you’d need to accomplish your desired ends. Employees and their
skills are an equally vital element. Strategies require execution, and that
falls to managers and employees. In many companies, carefully crafted plans
fail because leaders leave human capital considerations out of the strategy

When i4cp researchers interviewed
Larry Myers, SVP of HR at T-Mobile, he observed that “companies that understand
the impact that sophisticated, top-quality HR organizations and professionals
can have, automatically gain strategic and business advantage. Their executive
teams would not think of making a step strategically without involving HR.”

Successful entrepreneurs understand
that ideas, resources, technologies, processes and people must be deftly melded in order to bring business goals to
fruition. They include HR leaders in developing
strategies to ensure that they’ve addressed all the elements necessary to
capably executing those strategies.


Need and Demand

It took me some time (probably more than I care to admit) to realize that to move things you must have need and demand, in-order to create a successful venture that changes the world. I would add scarcity too.

I know n America there is no shortage of life coaches, leadership gurus, management consultants, and the like. The question remains; has the needle moved? Is there evidence of strong ROI? The measurements and data tell a story. This article is one vivid example.

We'd be wiser to put our money somewhere else or change the machine. I write all of this knowing I am a part of the many. The many who have a sign on the door saying "open for business." My reform has begun.

The problem is we've come to this very dangerous place where many individuals and organizations say they need help/direction, but don't have the will to have the demand that produces change. Our government's treatment of our debt crisis is an appropriate portrait. Most politicians would say we have a debt problem, but haven't moved to a place of demand to fix it. Sadly, I fear we've come to the point of no return. I hope I'm wrong.

The reality is the same for those in business to help people move to breakthrough. An entrepreneur may have a thriving practice with many clients, but if the clients are circling the airport, it doesn't mean you have value. It just means your getting paid and they're circling the airport. And getting paid is sometimes the problem. Money often likes things to say just as they are. I tell every client that if we don't see change, they need to fire me.

Sticking yourself inside of the arena of change is dangerous, and most do not like danger. That's one reason the status quo is so appealing. Are you willing to ask yourself if the needle is moving, if change is occurring? Not change where you just move the furniture around, but where you go deep and examine everything to the foundation.

And you thought the big part was building a career.

The Choices We Make

The choices we make, make us. Ah, we've heard that before.

Seems to me, there is a great gap between what we understand about choices and what they result in. We should be more reflective. Think it through and weigh the options. I'm sure wise men and scholars from long ago would be laughing at me writing that, but alas here we are.

Let's face it, we live in a very arrogant age, while many long for humility. I don't know if there's a way back. Well, I do, but I'm not sure if the vast are willing to make the trip. They're like the gambler who says to himself the next wager is worth losing it all.

Do you need to turn around?

The choices we make do matter.

Don’t Save the Best for Last

I wrote the following post almost 5 years ago. In some ways timeless. I'm convinced everyday that I don't "have time." A great sadness that many live everyday thinking they do.

I'm all for finishing strong/well.  However, the myth of your best years being found in some future day is insane.  I say that due to the importance of the choices you make now and how they will determine those years-taking for granted that you'll see them.  Forever now!

I can't think of a more fitting place than our career to illustrate how this type of logic reigns.  It's subltle and deceptive all at the same time.  If a leader doesn't see his or her life as a whole, then a incongruent outcome is almost always certain.

As leaders seek to navigate a career and a life, I would suggest the following:

  • Think long and hard about value.  Specifically, the value you're creating over time.  In many ways it's like starring in your own motion picture.  Create Epic Value for all those playing a part in your story.  Keep in mind, there are no do-overs.  You will either create value or you won't.
  • Before you read that next journal, newspaper or marketing pitch take a step back and question the motives of the messengers.  For example, many marketers are dying on the vine, so selling is job 1.  What they're selling might be designed to move you in a direction that isn't aligned with your destiny.
  • Stop thinking you have time.  We're all terminal, its just that some know and some don't.  Don't mean to go morbid here, but seeing life as a limited time offer should inspire you to stop screwing around with small desires (titles, money, fame, and power).
  • Be Authentic!  Let the world see who you really are!  If you don't like who you are or think that who you are has no value, then contact me and I can prove that you have a reason to be who you are.
  • Place more value on people than math, no matter how much the numbers say to do otherwise.  Besides, if you're in a position where numbers matter more than people, be afraid, be very afraid.

See the below story from The Guardian/UK on Stephen King for more connection:

"The accident happened on June 19 1999. King was strolling alongside Route 5 near his home in Bangor and looking forward to seeing a film with his family later that evening. As he walked, a Dodge truck barreled towards him. It was driven by Bryan Smith, a drug user with multiple driving convictions. A Rottweiler called Bullet was loose in the truck and had jumped on to a seat where there was a cooler of hamburger meat Smith had bought for a barbecue. Smith became distracted by his dog, swerved across the highway and hit King. The writer managed to turn his head a little before impact and thus missed being struck by a steel support post on the truck that would probably have killed him.

King's head left a many-tentacled crack in the windscreen. He broke his right hip joint, four ribs and his right leg in nine places. His spine was damaged in eight places. "The accident gave me a real sense of mortality, a sense of hurry that I didn't have before. Not immediately, but about a year after the accident I was able to say: 'That guy nearly killed me.'" Smith died of an overdose 15 months later on September 21, King's birthday."

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008