Recent Trends in Human Resource Management

Monday, November 7, 2011

People Are the Puck

People Are the Puck

"I skate to where the puck is going to be, not to where it has been" - Wayne Gretzky

The Great One's well-known words are often repeated in corporate corridors during discussions about understanding market trends. That is typically where the conversation comes to an abrupt end, because few can elaborate on how to anticipate these trends with any reliability and predictability.

The reality these discussions generally miss is that people are the puck. If you want to know how to be best positioned for business success, you have to understand where they are going. Everything else is secondary, dynamic, and highly arbitrary. Think about it. Technologies will change, distribution channels for content will change, usage environments will change. People stay more or less the same. They stay the same but are never simple. People (consumers) are both logical and irrational, motivated by opportunity and emotion, full of contradiction, impacted by economic conditions, and often difficult to define.

In spite of these realities, clarity can be achieved and cultural, socio-economic, and political differences mitigated by analyzing needs and aspirations of both individuals and groups. Needs and aspirations are a beacon to understanding what will attract and reward attraction. Whether developing a new venture, managing an internal corporate innovation initiative, or working to develop globally successful product and service designs (my profession), nothing is more important than understanding what people need and desire in context of what the competition is providing. Sounds simple, but the realities of sociology, psychology and politics ensure that what people think they want, say they want, and actually want can (and typically does) differ.

This is often the reason why thoughtful quantitative analysis that incorporates macro-economic trends, market share, competitive strategies, retail analysis and technological assessments so often misses the mark. Remember also that that most macroeconomic and corporate financial data provide only a snapshot on where things have been. MBA finance majors learn early that trying to anticipate equity and commodity markets with such data is like trying to drive a car while only looking in the rear view mirror. Much the same can be said of the quantitative data most business managers are forced to use while trying to make important investment decisions, or while analyzing and benchmarking in a 'gated' product/service development process. In short, when you're relying on suspect data and looking backwards, your 'hit rate' is always going to be significantly diminished. So what do you do?

In hockey if you know generally where the puck will be heading and how fast it will travel you're well on your way to victory through tactics. The same is true for your business initiatives. General heading and speed are sufficient to enter the market with offerings that will be embraced by consumers, and advocated in the age of social media and our experience economy.

Get your headings by understanding consumer needs and aspirations, establishing emotional engagement, and ensuring consumers feel represented and understood with your offerings. Better predict speed of consumer adoption by understanding the behavior changes required, and by focusing on motivations — not demographic history in dissimilar categories. React to inevitable competition by understanding cultural values, then convey a clear value proposition understood on both intellectual and emotional levels. Finally, in much the same way that players can focus intently on the goal during the heights of competition while tuning everything else out, reliable market success requires that you step back and put people at the center while ignoring all other 'distractions.' Only then can you truly evaluate the offering, brand, and competitive dynamics in proper context.

I'll part with five quick tips for better understanding where the puck is headed (understanding people):

1. Ask the right questions, in-person wherever possible: Knowing what you need to ask, in the manner that provides the most insight, is a function of experience, but anyone can see from divergent and inaccurate political polling that 'garbage in is garbage out.' Cultural understanding is about personal familiarity or immersion. Ensure you have the requisite cultural understanding at the outset, or find a trusted partner who does.

2. Benchmark the emotional engagement and dynamic interactivity of products and services as a lens to understand how well they are meeting the needs and desires of consumers. A simple method I've developed utilizes an X/Y mapping grid that measures emotional engagement on the vertical axis and interactivity on the horizontal. This methodology is utilized quickly by professional teams, and lends significant insight to more traditional competitive analysis techniques. It is a process I use frequently and call Psycho-Aesthetics mapping.

3. Understand that consumer needs and aspirations are both hierarchical and grow in complexity over time. My firm has modified Maslow's hierarchy of needs to analyze and categorize these varying levels of basic, enriching, and fulfilling consumer needs. A general rule of thumb is that people want more. They want more, but in this incredible age of technology they don't necessarily want greater 'speeds and feeds' (think printers). Sometimes they seek greater value in terms of simplicity, time, fulfillment, emotional reward, ease of purchase, etc. So, 'more' must be properly interpreted or you'll surely be misaligned.

4. Empathy is the key to being able to change all the variables - industries, objectives, offerings - and still work the process from the eyes of the target audience. Empathy is a function of understanding, and understanding a function of experience. Find people with the right framework and experience for a given initiative. Also realize the value of rigorous debate while analyzing the inherently subjective topic of consumer needs/aspirations within a group setting. The more perspectives speaking intelligently to and for the given audience, the better.

5. Universal needs like self-affirmation and social acceptance can provide value to global initiatives while unifying branding, marketing and related messaging. The common emotional needs we all share, like wanting to be accepted, respected, and loved, change very little with culture and time. While attempting to incorporate emotional engagement into product and service offerings, remember that universal emotional needs can add simplicity while building consumer loyalty. I've learned over time as a design CEO that with emotional engagement, it's not how you feel about the design or experience, but rather how they make you feel about yourself.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Increase your Passion for Work without Becoming Obsessed

Increase your Passion for Work without Becoming Obsessed

Work brings some people intrinsic joy. These people feel in control of their work, feel good about themselves while working, find their work to be in harmony with their other activities. Pscyhologists describe these folks as having harmonious passion. But there's another kind of passion: obsessive passion. Those who are obsessively passionate feel an uncontrollable urge to engage in their work, feel more conflict between their passion and other areas in their life, and their work forms a large part of their often unstable and negative self-concept.

In my last post, I summarized Robert J. Vallerand's distinction between obsessive passion and harmonious passion. In the comment thread that followed, I noticed a couple of questions emerge: Is obsessive passion ever helpful? What should you do if you recognize that your passion for work is not harmonious, but obsessive? I'll address both of those in this post.

Some commentators argued that obsessive passion could be useful in the beginning stages of a new endeavor, such as when starting a new company. I disagree. Obsessive passion is rarely beneficial. It's not just that those with high levels of obsessive passion are committed, focused, and dedicated. Those who are obsessively passionate about their work are inflexibly, excessively and compulsively committed, finding it difficult to disengage. As such, they are setting up bad habits from the start, and risking burnout in the longer run. Note that harmonious passion is correlated withflow — the mental state of being completely present and fully immersed in a task. Research shows that it's flow that is conducive to creativity, not obsessive passion. The positive emotions and intrinsic joy that is associated with harmonious passion is what propels one to greatness, not the negative emotions, compulsions, and unstable ego that is associated with obsessive passion.

All of us have at least a little bit of obsessive and harmonious passion for our work. The key for work productivity and for buffering against work burnout is to increase your harmonious passion while reducing your obsessive passion.

How can we turn down the dial on obsessive passion and turn up the dial on harmonious passion? Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of scientific research on the practical side of passion (a state of affairs I seriously lament). I can think of a few things, however, that might help. I think it's a two-part process: first it's important to recognize that you are demonstrating obsessive passion, and then it's a matter of boosting your harmonious passion.

There are clear warning signs that you are obsessively passionate about your work. Here are some tests:

1. Do you have enough energy? Do you engage in your work with positive enthusiasm? Do you feel enjoyment doing what you do?

2. Do you define yourself by criteria other than work? If your self is a pie, how big of a bite does your work take out of it?

3. Do you have a positive self-image? Obsessive passion is correlated with a negative image of the self, including automatic subconscious associations between the self and the concept "unpleasant."

4. When you work, is your interior monologue positive — filled with words like "want to," "get to," and "can't wait to"? Or are words like "must," "need," and "have to" rummaging around?

5. Are you able to stop working when you want to? Recent research found that online gamers who were very harmoniously passionate about gaming felt positive emotions while playing, while gamers with obsessive passion felt more negative emotions both when playing and when prevented from playing. Do you feel a compulsion to work all the time, even when you really don't want to?

6. Do you get into a state of flow? Do you feel as though time has receded into the background, or do you feel the weight of pressure on your back? Flow is an enjoyable experience, whereas obsessive engagement feels more urgent.

If you're reading down that list and thinking, "no, no, no," these are signs that you may have obsessive, not harmonious, passion. If you do think your level of obsessive passion might be too high, there are some things you can do about it:

• Schedule real breaks. If you recognize you are obsessively passionate about your work, force yourself to get out of that headspace by scheduling other activities during the course of the day (like lunch with a friend, or a break to hit the gym). Block out time after work or on weekends for family, friends, and activities you enjoy. Having a schedule will keep you honest.

• Don't bring work home. If you can afford to, make it completely impossible to access your work once you leave work. Don't bring home your laptop. Leave those files on your desk. Keep separate email accounts for home and work, and don't check work email when you're at home (put up an out-of-office message if you have to). Obsessive passion is really just a bad habit, and habits can be broken gently.

• Change your thought patterns when you work. Fake the mindset of the harmoniously passionate person until you make it. For instance, convert thoughts of "must" and "need" to "want" and "desire." At first, this may feel awkward, but eventually the obsessively passionate mindset will dissipate, and so will the behaviours associated with it. A recent study suggests that changing your explicit thought patterns may increase self-esteem and harmonious passion.

• Commit to a new hobby. Often, investing too much self in one project is indications of a negative core self. The more additional things outside of work contribute to a positive sense of self, the less space your work performance will take up in your ego, and the smaller your chances of burnout.

If all of this sounds incompatible with success, consider a case study: A young, very talented musician is trying to decide whether to launch his promising solo career, or to put it off a little while to learn more about the world around him. On the one hand, timing is very important in the music industry. There are many talented artists, and they could get a head start if he decided to postpone his career. On the other hand, talent isn't everything in music. Audiences not only respond to talent, but also to many subtle influences like sensitivity, expression, and wisdom, fed by experiences outside the musical realm.

The musician's name? Yo-Yo Ma. In the end, he chose to defer his career to expand his sense of self. Ma compares those years to an "emotional bank account in which you must draw the rest of your life." To be sure, that path wasn't all clear sailing for Ma; he earned a D+ in his music history course at Harvard. But if those years of undisciplined learning were detrimental to his career, I am hard-pressed to detect it. Yo-Yo Ma is one of the greatest cellists of all time, noted not just for his incredible talent and dedication, but also the breadth of his accomplishments, his compassion, thoughtfulness, knowledge, and positive enthusiasm. In other words, his harmonious passion.

Passion is one of our most important vehicles for performance, creativity, imagination, and ingenuity. By no means do I want to discourage passion. But we rarely realize how other important areas of life feed into our main passion. When one's life isn't in balance, passion can become obsessive and counterproductive. When a person feels good about their self and the work they are doing, and is capable of disengaging, passion becomes a wellspring of long-term success.

By: ScottBarry Kaufman

Friday, August 12, 2011

Motivate Your Employees without Raising their Pay - (Part II)

Motivate Your Employees without Raising their Pay - Part (II)

To read first ten points, please visit Part (I)

11. Executive Recognition. This is the secret weapon. And like any secret weapon, timing is most critical. If this is used too often the value is diminished. And if it is used only for special occasions and rare achievements the value is escalated. We talked earlier about general recognition and the positive impact that has on your people. That will go up a few notches when it comes from an executive. Some of the same vehicles can be used here such as memos and voice mail. To add yet another level of stimulation, have an executive either personally call to congratulate someone (or a group) or even show up in person to shake hands and express his or her appreciation.

12. Social Gatherings. Scheduled offsite events enhance bonding which in turn helps team spirit, which ultimately impacts your positive work environment. Halloween costume parties, picnics on July 4th, Memorial Day or Labor Day, and Christmas parties are only some of the ideas that successfully bring people together for an enjoyable time. Some others that I've used with equal success are softball games (against other companies or among employees, depending on staff size), groups going putt-putt golfing or movie madness.

13. Casual Dress Day. This will apply more to the Business-to-Business world based on the difference in normal dress codes from the Business-to-Consumer arena. For those required to "dress business" every day a casual day becomes a popular desire. Use holidays to create theme color casual days such as red and green before Christmas or red, white and blue before July 4th, or black and orange prior to Halloween. This will add to the impact you're trying to have by calling a casual day in the first place. Establish pre-vacation casual days for each individual employee to enjoy on the day before his or her vacation.

Major sports events are a perfect opportunity for casual days to support your local or favorite team with appropriate colors, buttons, and logo wear. Spontaneous casual days produce a lot or stimulation based on the element of surprise. Announce a casual dress day for the following work day "just because." Use individual or team casual dress days as contest prizes or awards for specific accomplishment.

14. Time Off. Implement contests that earn time off. People will compete for 15 minutes or 1/2 hour off just as hard as they will for a cash award. And in many cases, I have had people pick time off over cash when given the choice. Put goals in place (padded of course) and when these goals are reached by individuals, teams or the entire staff, reward them with time off. Allow early dismissals, late arrivals, and extended lunch periods or additional breaks.

15. Outside Seminars. Outside seminars are a stimulating break. Because outside seminars are not always cost efficient for most people, consider on-site seminars or workshops for your staff. Use outside seminars as a contest prize for one or two people. Then set up a structured plan for those seminar attendees to briefly recreate the seminar to the rest of your people when they return. Now everyone gets educated for the price of one.

16. Additional Responsibility. There are definitely employees in your organization who are begging for and can handle additional responsibility. Our job as managers is to identify who they are and if possible match responsibilities to their strengths and desires.

17. Theme Contests. Over the years my contests have produced up to 170% increase in performance. But equally as important, they've helped maintain positive environments that have reduced employee turnover by 400%.

Overall the most successful contests seem to be those affiliated with different themes. Holidays, anniversaries, sports and culture are examples of ideas to base contests on. Sports, without a doubt, provide the largest opportunity for a wide variety of contests. Even Culture can be used to create theme contest. My favorite is using the '50s and '60s as a theme for a contest that I run at least once a year.

18. Stress Management. There are many articles and books available on the subject. Make this reference material available to your people. Make sure they know it is available and encourage them to use it.

If possible, have an in-house seminar on stress management techniques. So that production time is not lost, you might consider having a brown bag luncheon with a guest speaker on this subject. Because stress is an ongoing concern, anytime is a good time for a seminar like this to take place. Be as flexible as you can with breaks during the course of the day.

19. Pizza/Popcorn/Cookie Days. Every now and then pizza, popcorn, or cookie days will help break up that everyday routine and help people stay motivated. Because it is a natural tendency for people to get excited in anticipation of something, structure some of these days in advance. Then buy some pizzas or different cookies or even whip out some different types of popcorn.

20. Gags and Gimmicks. Use different gimmicks as awards to help inspire performance increases from your people. The key to awards is establishing the perception of priceless value that is associated with them. They should be recognized as status symbols in your environment. Here are some of my ideas:

. Plastic/rubber whale for "whale" of a performance.

. Pillsbury dough boy for the person raisin' the most bread.

. Cardboard stars for star-studded performances.

. Plastic phonograph records for setting a new record.

. California raisins for those with the highest percentage of "raisin" their productivity.

. Special parking space for the person who drives the hardest.

. Toy cymbals for those "symbolizing" total effort.

. Special Mountain Dew can for that person who exemplifies the "can do" attitude.

. A figurine of E.T. for out-of-this-world performance.

. The Eveready Bunny for those that keep going, and going, and going.

. Large Tootsie Roll replica for those on a "roll."

. A drum for the person that "drums" up the most business.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Motivate your Employees without Raising their Pay

Motivate your Employees without Raising their Pay

In the false theory, it is a costly mistake to get lost that more money equals happy employees.
Believing this is costing you valuable time, revenue, employees...and even threatening your own job.

Cash will always be a major factor in motivating people and a solid compensation plan is critical to attracting and keeping key personnel.

But the key is that additional cash is not always the only answer and in many cases not even the best answer.

Too many bonus or commission checks get cashed, spent and forgotten just that quickly. Grocery stores and gasoline stations are among the necessary stops thatseem to get in the way of using your extra cash on something special for you.

One alternative to giving commissions or bonus dollars is to give gifts through a catalog point system.

The company you choose will provide you with catalogs, price sheets and point checks at no charge. The structure for your bonus plan can remain the same but instead of awarding cash to your employees you award equivalent points. Those points may then be used to purchase an enormous variety of gifts or travel plans from the catalog.

The stimulation involved is long-lasting. It begins with the employee being able to browse the catalog choosing what they will strive to earn. The catalog acts as a tangible reminder of their goal. The gift itself will last as evidence of their achievements.

Whenever I have implemented this program, the employees are overwhelmingly in favor of the point system as opposed to cash. This type of program is very popular with employees because they purchase things they would never normally have the "money" to afford.

With solid compensation in place, let's look at non-monetary motivation...20 steps to success.

1. Recognition/Attention. When your employees accomplish something they have achieved something. Your recognition is appreciation for that achievement. I believe that most managers don't give enough recognition because they don't get enough. Therefore, it doesn't come natural to do it. If this applies to you, you need to drop this excuse like a bad habit! Become a giver! Look at the price. Recognition is free!

2. Applause. A form of recognition yes, but a very specific form. Physically applaud your people by giving them a round of applause for specific achievements. Where? When? The answer is wherever and whenever. At meetings or company-sponsored social gatherings, a luncheon, or in the office. At the end of a shift, before a shift, and whenever possible in the middle of a shift.

Using plaques or trophies is another effective way of applauding your people. Although "wooden applause" is often successfully used in the form of Employee of the Month plaques, more creative ideas are sorely underutilized. Take the time to be creative, matching special accomplishments with unique awards.

3. One-on-One Coaching. Coaching is employee development. Your only cost is time. Time means you care. And remember your people don't care how much you know... until they know how much you care.

Whenever the emphasis is on positive feedback, I make sure to do this coaching in "public." Whenever you recognize and encourage people in "public," it acts as a natural stimulant for others who are close enough to see or hear what's taking place.

4. Training. Is training ever finished? Can you possibly overtrain? NO and NO. For whatever reasons, too many people feel "My people have already been trained" or "I've got good people...they only need a little training." But training never ends. Schedule "tune- up" training sessions. These should be led by you or by a supervisor with help from specific employees who show a particular strength in the skills taught. I know this takes time, but these types of training sessions will continually enhance the performance of your people and the productivity of your business.

5. Career Path. Your employees need to know what is potentially ahead for them, what opportunities there are for growth. This issue is a sometimes forgotten ingredient as to the importance it plays in the overall motivation of people.

Set career paths within your organization. Do you promote from within? I hope you can answer yes to that. Although specific circumstances require you to look for talent outside your company you should always first consider internal personnel. If you do this you are sending a very positive message to every one that there are indeed further career opportunities within your organization.

6. Job Titles. When you talk about job titles you are tapping the self-esteem of people. How someone feels about the way they are perceived in the workforce is a critical component to overall attitude and morale. Picture a social gathering that includes some of your staff. The subject of work inevitably comes up. Will your people be proud, or embarrassed, to share their title and workplace? The importance of feeling proud of who you are and what you do is monumental.

Be creative as you think of possibilities for titles. Have your staff come up with ideas giving them input into the titles. Bottom line, you are dealing with pride...and pride enhances a positive attitude...and a positive attitude is the foundation for continuing success.

7. Good Work Environment. A recent industry study shows just how inaccurate your results can be. Employers were asked to rank what they thought motivated their peopleand then employees were asked to rank what really did motivate them.

Employers felt "working conditions" was a nine (or next to last) in terms of importance. What did the employees say? Number two! Working conditions are very important to the way employees feel about where they work.

Cosmetically, does your office look nice? Are there pictures on the walls, plants and fresh paint among other features that generally make people feel good about their environment? Does their work space have enough room or are they cramped in a "sardine can?" What about furniture? Is the desk the right size, chair comfortable? Is there file space and do they have the miscellaneous office supplies needed for maximum performance? Is the temperature regulated properly so they don't feel they're in the Amazon jungle one minute and the North Pole the next?

8. On-the-Spot Praise. This too is associated with recognition but the key here is timing. When there is a reason for praising someone don't put it off for any reason! Promptness equals effectiveness. Praise people when the achievement is fresh on everyone's mind.

What is effective is for us to get off our keisters and go out and tell whoever it is what a great presentation it was or applaud them for the sale...praise them promptly for what they accomplished or achieved! Don't allow time to creep in and snatch away any ounce of the positive impact that praise can have when it is delivered promptly.

9. Leadership Roles. Give your people leadership roles to reward their performance and also to help you identify future promotable people. Most people are stimulated by leadership roles even in spot appearances. For example, when visitors come to your workplace use this opportunity to allow an employee to take the role of visitors guide.

A great place to hand out leadership roles is to allow your people to lead brief meetings. Utilize your employees' strengths and skills by setting up "tune up" training sessions and let one of your employees lead the training. The best time to do this is when new people start.

Or, assign a meeting leader after someone has attended an outside seminar or workshop. Have them lead a post show, briefing the other employees regarding seminar content and highlights.
Have your employees help you lead a project team to improve internal processes.

10. Team Spirit. Have a picture taken on your entire staff (including you!), have it enlarged and hang it in a visible spot. Most people like to physically see themselves as part of a group or team.

When running contests in your area, try to create contests and affiliated activity that are team driven. People driving to reach goals together definitely enhance team spirit solely because they must lean upon others and be prepared to be leaned on.

One very effective idea for me has been building a collage of creative ideas with the "Team" theme. All employees are responsible for submitting a phrase referring to TEAM on a weekly rotation. Each of these ideas (such as TEAM: Total Enthusiasm of All Members or There is no I in Team) is placed on a wall, creating a collage of Team-oriented phrases. Don't have one person responsible for it as a team.

To read more, Please visit Part (II)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why a Great Individual Is Better Than a Good Team

Why a Great Individual Is Better Than a Good Team

Author: Jeff Stibel

Anytime a CEO, quarterback, engineer or author is paid ridiculous amounts of money, dozens of investors, armchair quarterbacks, and scholars jump in to debate the value of individual contributors versus teams. Bill Taylor wrote the most recent of many interesting pieces, where he argued provocatively that "great people are overrated," in response to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's comment that a great engineer is worth 100 average engineers.

I have heard plenty of people argue that no one individual is worth the price of many. But interestingly, I have never heard it from a leader.

As a CEO, I have run public companies, private companies, startups, turnarounds, and divestitures — in each and every case, I have never seen a situation where quantity is better than quality when it comes to people. Never. Great people are both hard to find and worth an infinite number of average people.

And as a brain scientist, I know that great individuals are not only more valuable than legions of mediocrity, they are often more valuable than groups that include great individuals. Here's why:
The truth is, our brains work very well individually but tend to break down in groups. This is why we have individual decision makers in business (and why paradoxically we have group decisions in government). Programmers are exponentially faster when coding as individuals; designers do their best work alone; artists rarely collaborate and when they do, it rarely goes well. There are exceptions to every rule, but in general this holds true.

There is clearly not widespread acknowledgment about the benefits of individual contributors — in many ways, it goes against our inclination towards equality. And thank goodness, because that gives those of us who understand the real value of great people a huge competitive advantage! But for anyone interested in making better decisions about their teams, it is worth spending some time understanding the science behind individual greatness.

In many ways, individual people follow an inverse rule relative to networks of people. Consider the two fundamental laws of networks: both Metcalfe's Law and Reed's Law assume that as a network of people grows, the value of the network increases substantially. (In Metcalfe's Law, the value of the network is proportional to the square of the number of people in the network, whereas Reed's Law demonstrates that the value for any individual within a network grows exponentially with every new member.) But with individuals, the opposite is true: The value of a contributor decreases disproportionately with each additional person contributing to a single project, idea, or innovation.

This is true across all areas but only so far as there are discrete pieces of work to be done. To be sure, there is clear value in having a marketing person work with a programmer on a project or a biologist working with a chemist on a problem. Proper team building is a powerful thing. But when an activity can be performed sufficiently by one person with adequate skills, doing the activity as a group should be avoided.

The concept of declining incremental value is essentially a "power function" or, more technically, a scale invariance — where the greatest impact comes from the smallest proportion of the population. There are numerous examples of power functions, including Stevens' law, Keplar's law, the long tail, Zipf's law, and the Pareto principle (or 80/20 rule). And power laws explain plenty of events in nature (i.e., earthquakes), finance (i.e., income distribution), language (word frequency), and even ecommerce (i.e., book sales on Amazon). Virtually all complex systems follow power laws within the system itself.

Here's how power functions relate to the brain. As described in my book Wired for Thought, the brain is a complex network of neurons. There are around 100 billion neurons connected to one another in the brain and they follow a network law — the value of a neuron is exponentially more valuable as the overall neural network grows. But when the brain becomes highly active, it reverts to a power law where a spike in activity is followed by a lull. Informally called neuronal avalanches, these spikes have been linked to knowledge transfer and storage, communication, and computational power — in short, intelligence.

The same is true when it comes to people. Our intelligence is incredibly complex and as a result, a great individual can far exceed the value of many mediocre minds. This is why it is absurd to ask questions like "how many mediocre people would it take to collectively beat Kasparov in a chess match?"

Mediocre minds can also destroy the value or contribution of a great mind. No matter how good Kasparov is at chess, he would not do well playing doubles with a mediocre chess player against Bobby Fisher alone. Or take Michelangelo's David as an example. A second artist cutting into David would cause massive destruction to the sculpture, even if that artist was Picasso. With each successive stroke of the chisel from additional artists, David's value, beauty, and overall impact would diminish. A perfect — albeit destructive — example of a power function.

Leaders need to make tough decisions all the time. One decision is easy: find the best people and empower them to do great things.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Reinvent Yourself at Workplace

Reinvent Yourself at Workplace

Are you fed up with the job you’re in and want an exciting new career? Are you seeking promotion and hoping for a pay rise or to get noticed at work? Then it’s the right time to reinvent your personal branding.

The concept of personal branding has been going down the wrong road and needs to be reinvented. For many people, reinvention is precisely the thing that needs to happen. People get stuck in jobs which they don’t like, in relationships that aren’t fulfilling and in virtually all areas of life, and often because people believe that they have made their bed and have to lie in it. We need to fulfill our potential and we do this by developing our unique, authentic, distinctive and compelling life-story: and living it!

Today people should assess their personal brand strategy with the same thoroughness that successful companies like Apple, Virgin and others do for their brands. One need to look at what he wants his purpose to be, whether as an employee, an entrepreneur, even as a life partner. The only way to build a powerful personal brand, is to do it profoundly and deeply: to actually reinvent yourself – but authentically!

Here are the 10 tips:

1. Your personal brand isn’t about your qualifications and how smart you are: it’s about making yourself of distinctive recognizable value and traits. Even if you have the lousiest job, if you do it with an absolute commitment to excellence then you will get noticed.

2. The greatest skill in a modern business or organization is to be able to look for solutions to the problems and to create more effective strategies. Please remember that doesn’t mean having to be cleverer than others: sometimes it just means applying a little more attentiveness.

3. The second greatest skill is to be able to communicate your thoughts & ideas with regard for others’ understanding and position. Nobody likes a show-off or stubbornness, least of all managers in organizations. So be clear and make your case with conviction, but never be arrogant or uncompromising.

4. In any small business, or in any team within a big organization, your personal ‘brand’ is best expressed through actions about how and what you contribute. It’s not good to claim to be valuable. That’s like a comedian claiming to be funny. You have to ‘be’ valuable.

5. When your contribution is being noticed, you will find others who try to stop you, create hindrances, trip you up, or trap you. Pay no heed to those, other than to be aware of them. Engaging in inter-staff warfare can only damage your personal brand and will never enhance your career.

6. Great brands are created on authenticity, not on lies. Never, ever invent a better back story for yourself. You will, ultimately, be found out. Instead tell your real story: but tell it better by engaging emotions and imagination.

7. Don’t go for promotion just because you think you should. Don’t follow the career path as though it was pre-determined. It isn’t. Think about your career strategy. What do you really, truly want to be doing in two or five years’ time? If a promotion helps take you there that’s great. But if it doesn’t, consider other approaches. A different company? Working for yourself (own venture or as a freelancer)?

8. Learn to create balance between hope and fear. Anything worth doing like a new job or a big presentation etc will induce fear and anxiety. But you need to step around that fear or your personal ‘brand’ will never progress. But don’t fall into the X-Factor trap of assuming that you will succeed just because you want something badly enough. Never try to wing it! Prepare, prepare, prepare.

9. If you don’t love your job but there appears no prospect of changing it in the near future, don’t despair. Change your attitude to it instead: treat everything you do as ‘training’ for what comes next.

10. If you’ve made an error of judgments, or any other kind of mistake, do not try to hide it. Own up to it and take the flak. Don’t fool yourself and take the responsibility of your actions. Learn something from it, explain what you have learned, show why having been through the experience you are now more valuable than ever, and be the guy who made the famous recovery!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

How to Become a Great Finisher

How to Become a Great Finisher

The road to hell may or may not be paved with good intentions, but the road to failure surely is. Take a good look at the people you work with, and you'll find lots of Good Starters — individuals who want to succeed, and have promising ideas for how to make that happen. They begin each new pursuit with enthusiasm, or at the very least, a commitment to getting the job done.

And then something happens. Somewhere along the way, they lose steam. They get bogged down with other projects. They start procrastinating and miss deadlines. Their projects take forever to finish, if they get finished at all.

Does all this sound familiar? Maybe a little too familiar? If you are guilty of being a Good Starter, but a lousy finisher — at work or in your personal life — you have a very common problem. After all, David Allen's Getting Things Done wouldn't be a huge bestseller if people could easily figure out how to get things done on their own.

More than anything else, becoming a Great Finisher is about staying motivated from a project's beginning to its end. Recent research has uncovered the reason why that can be so difficult, and a simple and effective strategy you can use to keep motivation high.

In their studies, University of Chicago psychologists Minjung Koo and Ayelet Fishbach examined how people pursuing goals were affected by focusing on either how far they had already come (to-date thinking) or what was left to be accomplished (to-go thinking). People routinely use both kinds of thinking to motivate themselves. A marathon runner may choose to think about the miles already traveled or the ones that lie ahead. A dieter who wants to lose 30 pounds may try to fight temptation by reminding themselves of the 20 pounds already lost, or the 10 left to go.

Intuitively, both approaches have their appeal. But too much to-date thinking, focusing on what you've accomplished so far, will actually undermine your motivation to finish rather than sustain it.

Koo and Fishbach's studies consistently show that when we are pursuing a goal and consider how far we've already come, we feel a premature sense of accomplishment and begin to slack off. For instance, in one study, college students studying for an exam in an important course were significantly more motivated to study after being told that they had 52% of the material left to cover, compared to being told that they had already completed 48%.

When we focus on progress made, we're also more likely to try to achieve a sense of "balance" by making progress on other important goals. This is classic Good Starter behavior — lots of pots on the stove, but nothing is ever ready to eat.

If, instead, we focus on how far we have left to go (to-go thinking), motivation is not only sustained, it's heightened. Fundamentally, this has to do with the way our brains are wired. To-go thinking helps us tune in to the presence of a discrepancy between where we are now and where we want to be. When the human brain detects a discrepancy, it reacts by throwing resources at it: attention, effort, deeper processing of information, and willpower.

In fact, it's the discrepancy that signals that an action is needed — to-date thinking masks that signal. You might feel good about the ground you've covered, but you probably won't cover much more.

Great Finishers force themselves to stay focused on the goal, and never congratulate themselves on a job half-done. Great managers create Great Finishers by reminding their employees to keep their eyes on the prize, and are careful to avoid giving effusive praise or rewards for hitting milestones "along the way." Encouragement is important, but to keep your team motivated, save the accolades for a job well — and completely — done.

Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D. is a motivational psychologist, and author of the Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals (Hudson Street Press, 2011).

She is also an expert blogger on motivation and leadership for Fast Company and Psychology Today. Her personal blog, The Science of Success,

can be found at Follow her on Twitter @hghalvorson.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Roles and Functions of the HR Office in 21st Century.

Roles and Functions of the HR Office in 21st Century.

Long gone are the days when the HR function used to be handled by one person. The infamous “HR Lady” has now been replaced by a full pack of specialists in diverse HR functions. HR now seems to be the catch all when it comes to any facet of employee relations and company culture. Also, in the current employment environment, what constitutes Human Resources continues to evolve on a daily basis.

Lets take a look at the HR function in a typical large company. It may seem like the world’s most strenuous job sometimes, but there are definite benefits. Once we go through the list, you may realize that a job in HR may be the hotspot for career advancement and even provide semi-security from the unemployment surge.

HR Function and its roles and responsibilities

Ok. First up are those brave and valiant souls we call HR Generalists. The front line of an HR office, they deal most with the company’s employees and are responsible for many of the day to day operations. Their duties include:

- Explaining to a tenured employee why they have no more PTO (Paid time Off) time available.

- Researching and explaining the complex web of employee benefits.

- Assisting with interviews.

- Receiving and processing the fifty million possible types of employee forms.

- Payroll – Generating & Maintaining the effective, errorless payroll every single time.

A tenacious Recruiter is also critical to any HR department. Responsible for attracting and recruiting top talent, this person has their hands full. Also, guess who catches the heat if the employee from Hades makes their way through the screening process? Yep, you guessed right. This keeper of the gate is up to her elbows in:

* Sifting through a thousand and one resumes (some abysmal) and cover letters.

* Conducting phone screenings and scheduling interviews, in addition to listening to about a million voice messages.

* Walking raw recruits through computerized testing. Hey, didn’t her application say she was proficient in all Microsoft applications?

* Wading through qualifications, making offers, counter-offers, and pitching the company’s benefits.

* Maintaining a smile all day long at the local job fair. Someone buy that poor girl a Starbucks.

Trainers are also on the front line of shaping the organization. Critical to individuals at all levels of the organization, a successful training team is invaluable. They often have their finger on the pulse when it comes to the needs and complaints of the employees, and are invaluable in planning new initiatives. Perhaps one of the most undervalued positions, these folks:

* Conduct new-hire orientation and training. Someone has to get those raw recruits into shape.

* Support the functional departments with process training

* Shape the company culture through the use of soft skills and collaborative training modules.

* Provide an ear for frustrated employees.

* Perform the miracle of getting Susie in inventory control to become proficient in Microsoft Excel.

HR Managers are the glue that keeps it all together. Tasked with overseeing Generalists, Recruiters and Trainers, HR managers also have to ensure that the goals and objectives of Senior Leadership are being implemented across the organization. This can be a tightrope to walk, but the successful Manager knows how to maintain the delicate balance. Some critical responsibilities are:

* Ensuring the smooth running of the HR office.

* Gaining buy-in from the operations Managers and Supervisors for new policies.

* Conducting town hall meetings to disseminate new programs and guidelines to employees. Anyone hear crickets?

* Administering assimilation or team building exercises.

* Overseeing recruitment efforts.

* Developing incentive programs.

* Investigating claims of racism, sexism, and every other ism you can think of.

* Listening to the never ending list of employee issues and complaints.

* Everything else under the sun.

All jokes apart, HR is one of the most versatile and hardest working functions of any organization. They impact every aspect of the company and are stewards of its vision. HR engages in leadership and management development, employee counseling, community outreach, and a whole lot more.

By working in Human Resources, you gain a diverse skill set that can be transferred into so many other positions. A company simply could not function without your expertise and dedication. So the next time you feel down about your job, remember that HR runs the show.

Importance of Human Resources: Auditing the Human Resources Function

Importance of Human Resources: Auditing the Human Resources Function: "Effectiveness of the Human Resources Function The purpose of a Human Resources audit is to assess the effectiveness of the Human Resources ..."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Firstday on the Job - The Panic Attack

Justify FullFirstday on the Job - The Panic Attack

You just left your employer of five years to start a new job. At the old place, you knew everyone and everyone knew you. You were an ace at the job, and the in's and out's of the business never worried you. Now, you sit down at your new desk and realize everything is new.

Is this what you really wanted, or did you take the wrong job with the wrong company?

Then it hits. Panic: that jarring voice that shouts in your head. Don't ignore it. But, make sure you know how to keep it in check.

How do I get my nerves under control?

What you're feeling might be anything from butterflies in your stomach to a profound sense that you don't belong here. First, ground yourself by realizing you're going through a transition. Your fear will diminish as you get up on the learning curve and enjoy a few successes, no matter how trivial they might be

For example, forcing yourself to speak up at the first team meeting might be uncomfortable, but it will help you break the ice with your co-workers. And, quickly studying up on the products you'll be working on will build your confidence and make your interactions with other employees more satisfying. A little at a time, you will become part of the team. All this will help calm your nerves.

Second, grab onto your reasons for taking the job. There's always a bit (no more than that, if you're lucky) of disconnect between the interview process and the job itself. So, take a few minutes to re-map your expectations onto what you've learned about the job during your first few days. (I guarantee you this: the job is different from what you were told. This is normal, if not always fair.) Make a short list of the tasks you will have to perform during the first week. This will give you a very real sense of control. Then list the tools you'll need to do the work. Focus on getting those basics organized. As you set up your work area to suit you, you'll feel more at home and better able to tackle the work itself.

Finally, review the "payoffs" you reasonably expect from this new job. Draw up a simple timeline you can refer to from time to time when you need a reality check. If you can keep your expectations in line with your actions, you'll avoid real panic. There's little room for panic when you have a clear target and a plan.

I feel inadequate.

A sense of inadequacy is common when you're in a new environment. You may fear that you misjudged the job and your abilities. But unless you're a total dolt or the company outright lied to you (we aren't going to get into either of those possibilities here), you took this job based on judgments you made during your interviews. Your feelings of inadequacy need to be torpedoed quickly with logic and common sense. So, don't judge yourself until you've analyzed the situation.

Ask The Four Questions:

1. Do I understand the work that needs to be done? That is, is the goal clear enough that success can be measured objectively? Also, do I understand the tasks that comprise the job?

2. Can I do the work? Do I possess the ability and skills required? Will I have the tools and guidance I need? Can I quickly outline a plan of attack?

3. Can I do the work the way the employer needs it done? Do I fit in with these people? Am I willing to park my bike the way they do? Do I feel comfortable learning to do the job their way?

4. Can I do the work profitably? How does this job profit the company? How can I add to that?

As you consider these questions, assess and admit (to yourself) your level of ignorance about the industry, the company, the business, the department, your manager, you new co-workers, the work and the tools you'll be using. (Ignorance is normal when you're tackling a new job. Don't defend it, but don't let it stop you from learning new things, either.) Then take credit for what you do know. Quickly build your knowledge by talking to people around you, not by ruminating. (I call this "job training by wandering around.") Don't quit or give in to short-term, manageable ignorance.

Answer The Four Questions. If the answers are affirmative, or if you can quickly make them affirmative, you're armed for success. You don't have a lot to be worried about.

Uh-oh. I blew it.

If you took this job for the wrong reasons, deal with it. Then never do it again. The wrong reasons might include: flattery, money, boredom, wishful thinking. If you've tried the other steps above and you're still panicking because you believe the job is wrong for you, it's time to be brutally honest with yourself.

Is this job a potential disaster that you brought on yourself? Did you make the wrong decision? Are you incapable of delivering what you promised to the employer? Are you in over your head? If the answer is yes, the best course of action may be to quit. Make a judgment and take responsibility for it.

Be frank with your boss. Take his wrath early, apologize and move on. The saving grace in all this: There's no need to list a one-week job on your resume.

Somebody lied.

Did you take this job without looking carefully under the employer's rug? The company may have misrepresented itself, its finances, its prospects or the job itself. Of course, it's better to recognize and avoid such situations from the start. (Remember that due diligence is your responsibility. You've got to look under the rug before you accept the offer.) But sometimes, you'll find the wool has been pulled over your eyes.

If the company and the people are not what you were told they were, it's time to do a little judging by wandering around. Don't let your emotions take over. Spend some time calmly assessing the people, the company, the tools, the business, the job. Be as objective as you can. (Be careful: don' t blame your own inadequacies or mistakes on others.) Lay out the facts to a trusted friend and get his perspective. Then apply Henri Frederic Amiel's advice: "To be always ready, a man must be able to cut a knot, for everything cannot be untied." (Needless to say, women need to know about cutting knots, too.)

Panic is your mind's way of telling you to take control.

Panic results from a lack of control. If you're panicking on the first day of your new job, take control. Marshal your considerable talents to successfully address the challenges before you, and you'll find the confidence you need to squelch the butterflies in your stomach.

If that doesn't work, it's time to quickly and critically reassess the job choice you've made, deal with it forthrightly and get on with your life.

Remember that butterflies are normal. Here's hoping your panic attack flutters away quietly.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Reinvent Your Career Today

Reinvent Your Career Today

Today new technologies, increased competition and downsizing have eliminated many jobs. Managed care has severely impacted the way medical and mental health services are provided. With fewer people to do the work and increased competition for jobs, we are putting in more hours than ever before. Besides burnout and depression, other job stresses come from doing work you are not suited for, or working in an environment that is not conducive to your temperament, values and the quality of life that you desire.

If you think you need to find another job or change the direction of your career, it is important to first go through a process of self-assessment, focusing on your options, and lastly, developing a specific action plan to get you where you want to be.


What are the values, ideals and ethics that you hold near and dear? You need to display these in your work if you are to feel satisfied and fulfilled. Be clear about the compromises you can make without suffering. What are your special abilities and skills? What do you consider to be your best traits and characteristics? What are your areas of interest in your work and in school? How do you make decisions? Are you a "big picture" person or one who likes to focus on the details? Personality assessments often can help with this process.


What kind of environment do you want to work in? This includes geographic location and proximity to home, hours that you work as well as clothes that you wear to work and a description of the organizational culture. Do you want flex-time or would you like to work from home? Do you want to be self-employed? What does your office space look like? What kind of people do you want to work with? Do you prefer to work independently or within a team environment?


After you have completed a thorough assessment of your values, skills, abilities and the environment that you want to work in, consider the content of the work itself. Do you like to counsel others? Do you like to teach? Do you like to write or conduct research? Is administration and policy-making your passion? Do you want to manage others or work independently? Make a list of the things you like about your work and the things you don't like. Be specific. The Strong Interest Inventory is a good instrument to help focus your interests.

Next you need to match your abilities and skills with the needs of the marketplace. The competition for jobs today is very stiff. Brainstorm the general career areas that fit your interests. Conduct informational interviews to determine what it is really like to work in those areas. What kind of skills and experiences do you need to have to secure a job in those fields? Are you willing to do what it takes to make that happen? What about salary requirements?

Perhaps after conducting the self-assessment and focusing, you decide you really like the work you do and only need to change the environment. If you leave a particular career and decide you don't like your new job, it will be more difficult to return to your former career. It is crucial to go through the self-assessment and focusing process before you make a move.

Action Plan

Once you know what you want to do, develop a specific plan to get there. If you decide to stay put, create a career development plan that includes acquiring the skills and experience you need to further your career. Write your goals and objectives. Update your resume. Network with those in positions to further your cause. A career consultant can help keep you motivated, focused and in pursuit of your goals.


If you want success in your career, you must have confidence in your ability to solve problems, practice independent thinking and decision-making and be determined to find the answers. Don't give up! Start with a thorough assessment of your values, skills, interests and abilities. Focus your efforts on your areas of interests and abilities, and develop an action plan by specifying goals and objectives. It is only by focusing on your strengths that you can truly obtain fulfillment and success in your career. A professional career consultant can provide objective feedback to help keep you motivated and on-track.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Is there a Need of Internal Recruiting at All?

Is there a Need of Internal Recruiting at All?

As the years have rolled by I have become increasingly aware of how poorly internal recruiting functions perform when compared to recruitment process outsourcing organizations or agencies. These have to make a profit or go out of business. They have to operate efficiently and continue to innovate and stay ahead of the demands or questions that clients will have.

Internal functions don’t have to do any of these things. They are entrenched in almost all organizations, and because their function is perceived as incidental to overall organizational performance or success, not much in the way of efficiency is really expected or, unfortunately, rewarded. This means that few recruiting leaders have any incentive to improve their function. In fact, doing so may mean a smaller budget, less headcount, and even less status.

So this leads to the headline question: Do we need an internal function at all? Does it do something that an external provider cannot do? Can it do it at least as cheap or as fast? Can it provide a higher-caliber candidate?

Some thoughts:

1. Internal recruiters who are employees should have one major advantage over any external provider. That is a deep knowledge of the corporate culture and what success criteria are, and also what individual managers are looking for in candidates. The deeper and more scientific this knowledge is, the more it can be repeated, refined, and taught to others. A really outstanding internal function would nurture and develop a core of highly knowledgeable and trained recruiters who would have this knowledge. HP, in the old days, and IBM today, have this kind of built-in DNA that is very hard to replicate. External functions will always have difficulty achieving this level of intimacy with their clients, even when co-located, primarily because their employees have less motivation to invest in gathering this information and may be interchanged frequently. This is one area where length of service and commitment to the culture can pay dividends.

2. To remain competitive with outside providers, an internal function has to be as efficient as or more efficient than an outside provider. This means constantly improving operational excellence, adding appropriate technology, providing detailed market information and coaching to hiring managers, and building a reputation for adding real value through the quality of talent it provides. I have never seen this in any client or organization I have worked in, and I think this is the area of greatest potential return. Internal functions are never very efficient, primarily because leadership is transitory: I am not sure of the average tenure of a recruiting leader, but I would guess it is less than three years. This means there is little to no continuity of planning, no oversight of process improvements, and little opportunity to choose, install, learn and refine technology. Most organizations I have worked with change processes, procedures, and technology with each leader who arrives. Plans that have taken months to create are thrown away overnight. Recruiters know that they can do what they want, for the most part, because there will be no accountability or continuity. This is the area where an external provider, with a profit motive and an efficiency goal, can beat an internal function hands down.

3. Recruiters also need to be retained, trained, and incentivized to perform. External agencies can offer commissions, bonuses, and other rewards for outstanding performance. They can fire inefficient or incapable recruiters quickly. Internal functions are usually tied to traditional reward structures that do not provide the shorter term, efficiency-based rewards that would be more effective. A recruiter can barely perform at all and survive (and even thrive) by courting a few hiring managers or by being a good bureaucrat. And employment laws and internal practices limit when and how a recruiter can be fired, and the process is lengthy. Again, it is essential that internal recruiters be selected carefully based in skills and motivation and offered whatever incentives are available to encourage short and long term performance as well as retention.

4. The emerging prominence of social media should offer internal functions hope. Social media inherently dependent on intimate knowledge about the firm, candid communication, and the ability to take advantage of the networks of current employees. All of these give internal functions an edge.

Yet I am not convinced that this will make much difference. The RPOs and agencies are rapidly adopting social media and are even offering to manage the talent communities of individual firms. Many medium or small firms are not even looking at social media as a recruiting channel, and larger firms have widely divergent opinions and practices.

Effective social media use requires time and dedicated people who can interact with candidates, generate content, provide advice, and screen candidates for individual jobs. These are all strengths that internal recruiters have if they are given the time and charter to do so. Unfortunately again, corporate policy, management’s inability to see the benefits of social media, the fear of litigation, and lack of staff depth usually means this does not happen.

Given the state of recruiting functions today there are few compelling factors to recommend retaining an internal function. I have outlined where they could gain advantage, and a handful are doing these things, but by and large they offer little that would make them indispensable. By negotiating tough performance-based outsourcing agreements and allowing outside recruiters access to hiring managers, firms could eliminate the administrative and benefits costs of retaining employee-recruiters and the function could be reduced to a few liaison folks and vendor managers.

Author: Kevin Wheeler, the President and Founder of Global Learning Resources, Inc.