Archive for January, 2010

Personal Brand: What’s on your chalkboard?

 When I was in College obtaining my first degree I worked with students. I was a Diversity Advocate and later became a Resident Assistant and Residence Life Coordinator within the dormitories of the university. This was probably the subconscious start to my career within HR and Learning Development.

I was an RA for 3 summers for a summer program called Groups, in which I also began my career. I still have much respect for the program. At some point in the beginning of the programs I would hold an orientation that many students would attend to ask questions, and address what they would face in their transition from High School to College life.

The Example I Used was this: Think about your life as a chalk board. In high school you had friends, classes, grades that you built up from the time you were in middle school. A reputation if you can imagine. Your teachers, family, friends all had opinions of your ethics, school work and personality. Now think of all the actions and activities you did. All through your schooling, you wrote on that chalk board that was your life. Everyone could see who you were, how you acted, what you weren’t, etc. etc. By the time you left high school it was filled for all to see.

Now you’re in college. Most people here do not know you. Your parents aren’t around to watch you from day to day. You have new teachers and acquaintances. You have a chance to erase that chalkboard and start over fresh. The difference now is that what you write on your board could become more permanent. What will you write on your board?

I tell this story to say that what you project is important.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a Brand as:

1 a (1) : a mark made by burning with a hot iron to attest manufacture or quality or to designate ownership (2) : a printed mark made for similar purposes : trademark b (1) : a mark put on criminals with a hot iron (2) : a mark of disgrace : stigma <the brand of poverty>

2 a : a class of goods identified by name as the product of a single firm or manufacturer : make b : a characteristic or distinctive kind <a lively brand of theater> c : brand name 2

What's the impression you leave

Interesting information don’t you think? Merriam’s would lead you to the assumption that a Brand is not only actions taken, but something that could be considered permanent. Now Seth Godin is considered one of the definitive guru’s on branding and social media. There are plenty of others but when his name is brought up, people think: branding, social media, innovation, etc. etc.

Seth’s definition of a BRAND is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.

Another interesting definition would you agree. My simple thought would be whether you like it or not, you have a brand. The way you walk, what you say, how you interact with the people around you and those you barely have contact with.

The Equation: Who you are + How you act + Someone’s Perception = Your Brand.

Many of us would disagree. Yet there is much truth to this. In an age where we have loads of personal and professional information being interconnected and advertised. Being passed across blogs, social media, chat streams, blog talk radio and everyday within limited/extrapolated interactions; we have and project a brand that burns itself into the people that we come across.

"today you are you, that is truer than true. there is no one alive who is youer than you." Dr. Suess

Whether you own up to the Brand-That-Is-You does not matter. There are those that will make decisions and assumptions based on that brand. It could be in an interview, at a networking event, in an employee intervention, or with your family in the confines of your own home. Regardless think about the impression that you leave. Think about what you write on your chalk board.

NOTE: I have been a writer for more than 9 years. I started blogging by writing poetry and short stories. Much of who I am is introspective and brash with a kind of self-conscious confidence. I am a smart ass that apologizes quickly. My personal feeling is that many people are like this, but often not honest about it.

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Re-Thinking HR-based Training: A Break from Tradition

This is a guest post from Gary G. Wise

I like the concept of “re-thinking” training organizations based in HR, and I say this from personal work history primarily based in the training space over the last thirty plus years. The blended perspective I have comes from working both inside and outside of HR in training organizations. I found them to have a very different focus. On the inside, the training department focused on HR with creation and delivery of training shaped to further the HR mission and initiatives. On the outside, the emphasis was on HR too, but it was a very “different HR” – human readiness.

That opening statement does not discount the value of HR-based training efforts. My intent in this short writing, therefore, is expansion (re-thinking) of the scope to include producing tangible outcomes through sustained human performance in the work context. HR-oriented training is an important contributor to that capability, but the emphasis is more on the person doing the work than the work the person is doing. To me, that is a critical distinction to make. Human readiness is manifest in consistent, flawless execution of work – sustained capability.

For me it is a question of value creation, and value creation is common to both versions of HR. For the traditional HR model, value creation requires a different direction of focus. Human Resources has to look inward to those criteria that enable the business to survive – benefits, recruiting, compensation, performance management, diversity, training, employee development, succession planning…and the list goes on. Nothing on that list is irrelevant in pursuit of the mission, and yet, much of it is, by nature, inwardly focused to support the critical HR mission.

Working in a training organization outside of HR, in my case, the Sales and Marketing organization, gave us singularity of purpose – drive sales performance. Our training mission reflected the “work context” of a sales representative and therein we generated our value to the organization. We focus outwardly to not only a constituent stakeholder but also the environment in which that stakeholder had to perform. I am not saying traditional HR focus ignores that aspect of value creation; I am saying it is not elevated to a singular purpose. You may ask how does one boil down anything as complex as business mission to something as a simplified as singular focus? I argue that it can – and we should – if the singular purpose is sustained capability.

Re-thinking HR does not mean minimize the inward focus – it implies expanding the focus to look outward and into the work context. The “training mindset” needs to expand to embrace the concept of a “continuous learning” mindset. Learning in the work context requires innovative methods and technology that makes the right learning available to the right learner in the right amount at the right moment of learning need in the right format and to/from the right device(s). Oh…and to render those assets seamlessly, frictionlessly and ubiquitously, that truly “ain’t” your daddy’s HR Training Organization is it?

New competencies, expanded consultative discovery, root cause analysis, technology expertise…and again, the list goes on when you consider that re-thinking can imply re-tooling skill sets and methodologies. Organizations tend be viewed as machines that produce products and services – some for profit, some not. Having worked on both sides of the profit aisle, I honestly do not see much difference when it all primarily comes down to an implied mission where sustained human capability has a singular purpose. I firmly believe we marginalize maximum production potential without a “system” in place to drive sustained human capability.

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Conan & NBC - The Wrong Approach to Employee Relations

By now everyone has heard about the rollercoaster changes to NBC’s Late night lineup and the flack they are getting. I think that companies, HR and employees can learn a little something from this situation. We all have been faced with decisions that leadership makes. There are times we agree and other times where we disagree wholeheartedly. Sometimes the disagreements are a little more hush, hush then we would like them to be. In the case of NBC and The Tonight Show this has been a series of bad to worse decisions that have created a domino effect of Brand and PR issues that this network is not appreciative of.

All I have heard is negativity ever since the network announced the changes. While NBC seems as if it is trying to accommodate Leno and make amends to increase ratings of one show, they are ignoring what it is doing to the Tonight Show’s brand, much less how it will affect the other network primetime talk shows like Jimmy Fallon, etc. Conan’s full statement on the decision states so eloquently why he disagrees and what he feels is important to the network and the viewers, while respectively engaging the ultimate point – if you move the tonight show an hour later, it’s no longer the tonight show. Just because you have an egg does not mean you can call it a chicken… at least just yet.

What NBC does wrong

There Final Decision on Talent: Well now Conan is out and Leno is back in. Sad, especially since Conan is a better host and comedian than Leno. What else can be said.

They do a bad job of getting all the key stakeholders feedback: I am unsure whether Leno was consulted,  if I had to guess something tells me that he was, but Conan – the guy that should be a part of the changes - evidently wasn’t. Yes NBC is the boss but how much respect do you show when you completely leave the key person out. Now in the old days of top down leadership this would be fine, but now people don’t want to feel like they were left out. Employees know that all their thoughts will not be implemented, but we can understand and even support our bosses better if we are at least informed.

Conan: Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting.

Letting what’s wrong overshadow what’s right – Funny how one show that has not history, proof of ratings, with a host that has always, to me at least, been so-so, is shaking up the entire lineup.

NBC is a no go on the talko – As we all learned from Tiger, in times of opposition and information the worst thing you can do is keep your mouth shut. While I fully respect NBCs choice to be quiet, it is not helping them at all. As companies, we need to communicate the benefits and downfalls of a decision.

What Conan does right:

States what he believes to be what is important -

Conan: Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting.

He uses the facts to reinforce what should be important not only to him and the viewers, but also the company -

Conan: So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn’t matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.

He was still willing to be a part of the company and is open to a resolution.

Conan: There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Not saying I’m Right, I’m Just Sayin…

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Thoughts: Transitioning through Change

One of the benefits of being a part of a community like twitter, linkedin or any other face-to-face and/or internet community is that you have the ability to meet and interact with people that you would otherwise not. You have a chance to change your own typical routine and better show and witness the similarities people share, rather than the differences we tend to notice on a daily basis.

In these times of change we all have a decision to make!

In my own experiences, I have found it hard to handle the choices and changes I have faced. I have my own weaknesses that can sometimes blatantly make themselves more evident, as apposed to the strengths’ that I would rather have others see. However, I believe that a person’s greatest strength can be realizing and understanding the weaknesses they currently possess and then making an effort to become better. I could say that we do not have weaknesses, just strengths that could really become stronger. But then again that thought is always subjective.

Many of us are faced with a choice.

We can back away from the transitions that we are faced with or we can embrace the transitions head on and do our best to make things better for ourselves and the people around us. This, in and of itself is not easy. In fact, it is rather painful. It takes persistence and practice for us to address the habits that we want to change and the ones we’d like to build to become better as a company.

People have their own ideas of change. I am well aware that we have had our share. I like to think of change more as transitions. Our business, our people, and our lives all face a cycle of these transitions. In order to make the transitions better and easier we all need a few things.

  • We need to ensure that we better communicate to and help others understand why a transition occurs and how it is important to us.
  • We need to realize that we all have strengths, rather than weaknesses, and we can make those strengths stronger.
  • We need to leverage the expertise and wisdom of the workforce we currently have, while preparing for and building the knowledge of those that will lead us towards the future.
  • We need to show empathy for those facing the transitions and be mindful of our judgments and realize that we are all different and handle transitions in distinct ways.

Nothing will happen over night, whether personally or in business. So I, like many of the people you directly work with, always ask for assistance and patience. This past year has brought difficult decisions and situations. The outlook for 2010 is not bleak yet it is not filled with sunshine. This year will be a long and tedious process. This time of transition will be at times easy and other times frustrating. However, it will always take the effort and engaged involvement. I do believe that through concerted efforts from every person in the community. We can and have helped each other to become better people.

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The HR Recruiter’s Thin Line: Balancing Perspectives for HR Wins

(The following is a guest post from Kristi Daeda)

One of HR’s many hats is liaison. Between the company and the employees. Between the hiring manager and job candidates. The challenge is that each group has their own expectations. If you’re an HR pro with recruiting responsibilities, you’re charged with using the highest level of problem solving and tact to keep everyone happy. Here’s some ideas to help you walk the thin line of HR diplomacy.

Issue: How HR should respond to each job candidate that applies

The candidate says: You can’t just pretend you didn’t get my resume. I’d like an email thanking me, and providing next steps. Maybe a nice phone call.

The company says: Your priority is finding top notch talent. Everything else must go by the wayside.

Your best line: Try to add personal touches to the automation in your process. Warm, personal-looking email automatic email responses at least help people see that their info has landed, and take little time to set up. Leave personal responses for high-value contacts, like executives and top performers that might be good organizational fits in the future.

Issue: How much you should tell a job candidate about their prospects within the organization

The candidate’s view: Tell me everything. Now. Who else are you interviewing? How many? How do I rank? What am I not saying that I should be? What’s the magic bullet?

The company’s view: Tell them nothing! Any slip might lead to a lawsuit. Oh, you say we can’t just leave people in the dark? That they’ll lose interest and we won’t be able to hire them? Okay. But be vague. No, we don’t yet have a timeline for next steps. You know this hiring stuff isn’t my top priority, right?

Your best line: When you have a good candidate, keep them apprised of progress. Be honest if you don’t know the timeline. Give them context as to why (busy season, need to finish budgeting, etc.). Return phone calls and emails within one business day. Real businesspeople understand how hiring fits into the larger picture.

Issue: How honest you should be about the organization’s expectations and culture

The candidate’s view: If the last three people who had the job quit in less than six months, please tell me. Please help me to know whether I should put my entire career in your hands.

The company’s view: You’re an agent of the company. Please share your obvious overload of rainbows and sunshine about the organization with others.

Your best line: If your goals are set against successful candidates — those that stick around for a while and perform well in the organization — then you may need to bring a little transparency to the process. If a candidate knows nothing about the challenges of the role, you have no idea if they’re absolute can’t-get-my-hiney-out-of-this-ergonomic-chair-fast-enough deal-breakers. Do you really want to find that out post hire?

Bottom line: Find the sweet spot at the intersection of what everyone wants from you — it’s probably the closest you’ll get to “best for everyone.”

Kristi Daeda is a career coach, blogger and personal marketing strategist helping professionals nationwide create their own career opportunities. She is the founder of LaunchSummit, a free web-based educational event for job seekers, and blogs on job search, management, leadership, networking and more at Career Adventure.

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  • The Author

    Benjamin McCall is a practitioner with specializations in HR, Change Management, Communications, OD, and Learning & Development. His passion for strategies of business and people is evident throughout this blog where he writes both with seriousness and humor on the topics of: management, leadership, networking and his love for family and golf! All these ideas are based on his opinion and belief in what he know to be correct (if you don't agree | feel free to check him on it!) Feel free to CONNECT.
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