The Cancer of Speaking Up!

There was a post on TLNT by Tim Kuppler titled Society is Holding Organizations and Leaders Accountable for Their Culture. Go read it, it’s really good. I agree with so much of what Tim wrote in the piece.

There is one concept though that I’m beginning to question. Kuppler wants to believe that we have a problem in our society and that problem is people are afraid to speak up to their leadership.

About a decade ago I would have 100% agreed with him. In fact, I probably spent more time in training sessions working with leaders on how to get employees to open up, than any other single thing in my HR career a decade ago!

In 2018, we do not have a problem with employees speaking up. In fact, it’s a full-blown Cancer! Yes, I want employees to speak up when they have something of value to add to the conversation, or if they or another employee are being wronged. No, I don’t want to hear your idiot opinions that have nothing to do with anything we have going on to make us better!

I get it. Everyone should have a voice! We are in a time when people have the right to speak up.

Just because you have the right, doesn’t mean you should open your dumb mouth! You have employees in non-leadership positions who should open their mouth and add to the conversation. And, you have employees who make you dumber when they open their mouths.

Your company isn’t a democracy. Turns out businesses don’t run well as democracies. When everyone has a say, we tend to get very cautious and very vanilla, and no innovation happens, as we try to take into account every single opinion. The business gets pulled to the middle. “Middle” is not a good position for businesses.

The challenge we have as leaders and HR pros is not giving everyone a voice. It’s finding the best and brightest in our organizations, regardless of race, gender, etc., and making sure ‘those’ people have a voice.

The fastest way to failure is to listen to everyone and take into account every opinion. That isn’t helpful. Having the foresight to understand there are really great voices beyond your leadership team could be your greatest insight of all, but understand it’s not everyone.

In a representative government, you want all voices to come through. In business, you want the voices to come through that can actually make a positive difference. Unfortunately, that isn’t everyone who works for you.

In business and leadership right now we have a cancer that is growing out of control and that cancer is a belief that every voice matters. That’s wrong. Every voice does not matter, at every time. Do you think Steve Jobs listened to every person at Apple? No, he barely listened to anyone! What about Elon Musk? Again, no. What about Marissa Mayer? Heck, no!

Great business and great innovation don’t happen by listening to everyone. They happen by listening to the right ones. That might not be popular right now in society, but that doesn’t mean it’s not right!

Compromise Kills Innovation!

The most innovative leaders of our time were mostly assholes. Why? They refused to budge on their idea. Everything in their body told them what needed to be done to make their idea happen, and they refused to compromise on even the smallest details. This is how greatness happens.

True change only happens when someone is unwilling to listen to their critics.

This is also the exact way more careers are killed than any others. It’s all or nothing. Greatness happens at the edges, not in the middle.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t fit well in most corporate environments. Most MBA programs don’t teach you to be a tyrant. Leadership development, in today’s corporate world, is about bringing everyone to the middle. Finding ways that we can all get along. Even suppressing those who push the envelope too far.

We want everyone to line up nice and pretty. To play the role they were hired to play. To be the poster children for compromise.

It’s important for leaders to understand this concept if your job as a leader is to drive innovation and change. You don’t drive this through compromise and you need some renegades on your team, that quite frankly you might not even enjoy being around.

It took me so long to learn this because I was a renegade as an employee. I couldn’t understand why my leaders kept pushing me to compromise when I knew the right way to do something, the better way to do something, the new way to do something.

Once I became a leader I acted the exact same way towards those who were like me. Get back in line. Run the play. Do what the others do. That was the leadership I was taught. I didn’t value those who seemed to be fighting me, just as I use to fight. New leaders struggle with this because we take it personally.

We feel like those renegade employees are actually fighting us. When in reality they’re fighting everything. It’s our job as leaders to understand that the fight they have is super valuable if directed at the right target! To get them to understand they don’t need to fight everyone and everything but pick some fights that help us all and then support that fight.

This isn’t everyone you lead. It’s actually a really tiny number, but it seems bigger because they take up a lot of time and cause a lot of commotion amongst the drones who want to stay in their box. But, this is how change and innovation are born. By one person who is unwilling to compromise because they know a better way and they’re willing to fight to make it a reality.

This isn’t to say it will always work. Most ideas fail, but those who are willing to make an uncompromising stand for their idea, stand a better chance of seeing that idea succeed.

Here’s where I struggle. If we believe the above premise is true, it seems exclusionary. So, can we be innovative and inclusive of thought all at the same time? I’m arguing above that you can’t. What do you think? Hit me in the comments.

The 1 Factor You Must Have to be an F500 CEO!

It’s not what you think.

Right now you’re sitting there reading this thinking, “I need to know what this is so I can see if I have it or can get it because it’s in my life plan to be an F500 CEO!” You probably are thinking it must something like grit, determination, maybe smarts, attractive looks, or maybe it’s Tim talking about this it’s probably height because he’s a short motherf@cker!

Something truly, statistically interesting has happened over the last 14 years to CEOs of the Fortune 500. It really defies logic.

In 2005 the average age of an F500 CEO was 46 years old. Feels about right. 46 feels like young enough but also old enough all at the same time. The perfect combination of youth and wisdom.

In 2019, do you know what the average age of an F500 CEO was? You would think in 14 years that line would probably stay about the same. Maybe because of all the Baby Boomers leaving the workforce we would see it fall, but probably not too much. If a few Boomers were hanging on, we might see it rise a little, but again, it’s hard to move the average all that much.

In 2019 the average age of an F500 CEO was 59! Basically, over 14 years, the average age went up one year every year! It’s hard to even imagine that could be the case!

So, what’ the one factor you need to be an F500 CEO? 

You need to be a Baby Boomer!

That’s right. Stop going to that Ivy league college and working on your MBA. Don’t worry if you’re ugly or short or fat or female or black or white or a dude. The only thing you really need to be is OLD!

Turns out, big giant companies like Old folks running their company!

Why?

If you are running a multi-billion dollar company, maybe even closing in on a trillion (Trillion is the new Billion!) you don’t want some kid at the wheel. You want someone with seasoning who will tend to be less reactive to major events. They’ll be a bit slower in how they move the company, a bit more conservative in how they manage the assets and resources.

Also, think about what’s happened over the past 15 years. We came out of the great recession. We had this young 45-ish CEO taking the lead in turning us around and putting us back on top. It actually worked! We’ve had this great decade of prosperity! Do you know what companies do when things are going really well? They don’t change anything! Including their CEO!

In fact, many times if the CEO wants to retire, and they trade that CEO in for a younger one, and 12 months in the company is slightly underperforming to expectations, they’ll fire that CEO quickly and bring back the old one to right the ship!

So, 37-year-old Millennial who is chomping at the bit to take over. Calm down and wait until you’re old! You really only have about twenty more years to wait until it’s ‘your time’. That isn’t that long, just 25% or so of your life. You’ll get there, be patient!

Are you a “People Person”?

I was listening to an executive the other day talk about what he needed in an employee. Of course, there were the job skills and competencies, formal education was one, and then that magical phrase came, “Oh, and the candidates better be a ‘people person’!”

A People Person.

What the living hell does that even mean?

A People Person: A person who enjoys and is particularly good at interacting with others. 

Oh, so like a normal person who isn’t an asshole?

The skill of being “A People Person” might be the most over-valued skill of all time. And not because it’s not important, not one wants you to hire an asshole, but because have you ever met someone who when asked said, “You know, I’m just not A People Person!” No! You haven’t! Everyone, from the beginning of time, says they are A People Person!

The reality is, we ask for it because we know the truth, most people don’t enjoy interacting with others. We put up with idiots we run into every day, some of us are better at than others, no profession really does better than another.

In HR, we like to say, “We the People Person People”, but I find it’s actually the opposite. Most HR pros I run into might have the worst People Person skills, but they are paid to do a job, so put on the act fairly well. Once in a while, you find that true kind soul who seems, almost naively, to get along with everyone. “Oh that Mark, he’s a stinker, but you know he once opened a door for me, he’s good people!” Those people might be only real people persons in the world.

I’ve been labeled A People Person in my career. The reality is I’m an inch deep and a mile wide in terms of my interest, so I just have a skill of finding those few things I have in common with people I meet, so conversation comes easy for me when I meet new people. But, I dislike people at the same rate as others. I would consider myself as much of an asshole as most people, I might just hide it better at the right times.

Maybe that’s the true real skill of A People Person. Not being an asshole at the wrong time. Or at least limiting those times you’re an asshole.

Here’s the thing: The next time you hear someone say or ask for A People Person, just smile and chuckle a bit on the inside, because what they are really saying is “I just want someone who isn’t that much of an asshole” but saying “A People Person” sounds so much more professional!

 

This isn’t about “Fit”, it’s about your Bias is showing!

“We’re big on CULTURE and fit!” We’re looking for the “right” person, not just skills!” “We just kind of know if they’ll fit or not…”

Of course, it’s not The Project if we don’t have some sports analogies that I tie back to some HR topic! That’s how this puppy was founded, probably won’t change. So, you might have missed a great sports-HR topic that popped last week!

LSU is the top college football program in the land and their head coach is Ed Orgeron. He’s beloved by a lot of people and has a great coaching pedigree. It’s surprising, with all of his success at LSU, that USC could have had him as their head coach, but he was passed over. And last week the truth of why he was passed overcame out!

“Specifically, Feldman said certain people in the Pat Haden administration “couldn’t get past what Ed Orgeron sounded like.”

“They didn’t listen to the players. They didn’t listen to the staff,” Feldman explained. “Ed Orgeron’s not a country club guy. I think he can relate to just about anybody…I think he can read people very well. I don’t think Pat Haden, who was the decision-maker at the time, that’s just not kind of guy he wanted. And I don’t think he could get past it.”

USC as an institution is elitist. They have graduates like Matt Charney and Neil Armstrong and George Lucas and OJ Simpson. Pat Haden, himself a USC graduate and Rhodes scholar, was the Athletic Director at the time Ed Orgeron was the interim head coach.

Can you imagine one of your hiring managers coming to you and saying, “Yeah, the resume is awesome, the references are awesome, but you know the candidate sounds dumb, so I’m going to pass!” That’s culture and fit. “We’re great” and we need someone who is going to “represent” us in a way where he makes us believe we are still great.

Pat had a bias. I want a head coach who ‘looks’ and ‘sounds’ like a head coach of USC. What does that mean? Looks good in a suit. Sounds like an educated person, probably white (at least sounds white). Heterosexual with a pretty wife. It was a look, an image. It wasn’t about results.

Pat Haden and USC were just doing what most organizations constantly do. They were hiring for fit. For “culture”. Believing somehow they had it figured out. Turns out, for Ed’s sake, they made the right call, because he is in a position where he is valued and they actually like his accent!

If you find yourself in an interview debrief and the conversation starts going down a path of “Fit” understand you’re about to hear someone’s bias coming out! Maybe you’ll even catch yourself and your own bias. We all have some and they mostly come out when we really can’t determine a real reason of why we don’t want to hire someone!

DisruptHR Lansing! March 19th – Call for Speakers is Open!

Lansing, MI is about to get all Disrupted and Stuff!

Everyone already knows I’m a big believer in DisruptHR events. I’ve spoken at many, I’ve been on the team running DisruptHR Detroit from the beginning, and I decided to start DisruptHR Lansing in my own backyard!

Our first event, DisruptHR Lansing 1.0 will take place in Downtown Lansing on March 19th in the evening (more details to follow) at The Exchange. Great speakers, free food and drinks, and disruptive HR talks throughout the night!

What is DisruptHR?

  • 5-minute hr-based micro-talks. Might be HR, talent, employee experience, leadership, rap music, who knows!
  • Each talk has a very specific format – 20 slides and each slide moves automatically every 15 seconds.
  • The goal is to be fast and challenge the status quo of the people side of the business!

CALL for SPEAKERS is NOW OPEN! 

We’ll be selecting a great group of speakers. I encourage HR pros and Leaders from the Mid-Michigan area to throw your names into the hat for speaking spots!!! It’s a great way to get yourself on stage with a group of fellow HR peers who’ll support you and laugh at our bad HR jokes!

Speakers also get a professionally recorded version of your talk. This is an awesome parting gift for your own development, and to show other conferences, etc. if you decide you want to speak in a longer format in the future. Almost every conference I know now asks for some proof of your ability to speak, as such, this becomes a very valuable piece of content!

Why Speak at DisruptHR Lansing 1.0? 

1. Well, I’ll be there!

2. Lansing, MI is the capital of Michigan. The epicenter of all things people in our state. It’s also might be the one place in Michigan that needs the most HR disruption!

3. HR pros need a network. We need to support each other. This is a great event to make that happen!

4. Cocktails & Hugs! (which ironically is the name of one of my upcoming future books!)

5. I’ll owe you!

Let’s face it. It’s March 19, 2020. We’ve just spent the last 120 days in pure grayness. We need to get out and do something! The event space will be intimate, the energy will be high, and we’re going to have some fun! Come join us! Tickets will go on sale after the holidays. We wanted to open up the Call for Speakers first!

If you want to get an email when tickets go on sale, leave your email on the comments below and I”ll make sure you’re the first to know!

Corporate Gigs aren’t All that Bad!

Have you noticed it’s become super fashionable to dump on corporate jobs? The ‘super cool’ thing today is to be an entrepreneur or work for a start-up, get a solo gig, etc. The last thing that is cool is to work a large, stable, profitable corporation. I mean, the humanity of it all!

Inc. online recently had an article from a GenXer, corporate leader-type, Scott Mautz, who decided to step away from the corporate world and become a “Life Coach” and “Professional Speaker”, so basically unemployed. But he does have advice on why we also should step away from corporate America and go out on your own:

– Two things will be the death of us: Death and Meetings. (Okay, I hate meetings, this is mostly true)

– I miss the people, but none of the processes. (Yeah, that’s because “processes” are the actual work!)

– It’s less about being impressive, and more about making an imprint. (An imprint to whom? Your cat?)

– All the little stuff is really little stuff. (Gawd, I love Life Coaches!)

– Flexibility is intoxicating. (Yep, and so is a regular paycheck you can count on!)

– My presence is more of a present. (I just threw up in my mouth a little.)

– There’s no greater pick me up than feeling challenged and growing again. (You couldn’t do that in your job a Proctor & Gamble? Sounds like a “you problem”.)

– Your health belongs on a pedestal. Period. (Life Coach advice 101, use “Period” at the end of a sentence to show it’s really, really important!)

I don’t know Scott, I’m just having fun. I’m sure he’s super nice and is loving his life. Good for him!

I don’t like that he believes the best advice to reach all of his points is to walk away from working at a corporation. I think there are two types of people: ‘corporate’ employee types, and there are people who are unemployable in the real world. By the way, I fit much closer to the later, and Scott sounds like he probably struggled in corporate America as well.

I’ve got very close friends who love working for giant corporations and brands. Doing so comes with some cachet for sure! Plus, the pay and benefits are usually really great. You also have to high on the political savvy side of things, and you probably hold your tongue more often than you wish to. But, the perks are pretty freaking good!

Almost everything Scott said above is controllable no matter what size organization you work for. Do you want more flexibility? Be a great performer. Turns out, great performance gets flexibility. Want to be more healthy? Okay, then focus on your health and find balance. I find most giant companies do a much better job focusing on the health of their employees than small companies. Good health costs a lot!

Want to be challenged and grow? Take some freaking initiative and do some stretch assignments. I’ve never been told not to challenge myself in an enterprise corporate environment. In fact, it was the one thing that propelled my career in a large company.

The problem isn’t corporate America. Corporate America is great for millions of people. The problem is probably you just don’t fit in that environment, because the reality is corporate gigs can be pretty awesome!

 

 

Your Weekly Dose of HR Tech: @TryVantagePoint – Virtual Reality Harassment Training!

Today on the Weekly Dose I take a look at the HR technology startup VantagePoint. VantagePoint is a virtual reality(VR) learning technology company that has produced both sexual harassment and diversity and inclusion training, as well as a training metrics dashboard to go along with their VR training.

I’m not sure we are even close to what VR can become in the HR world. Clearly, there is a great use case for it in training and we see organizations are beginning to start testing it, but to this point, it’s still rather uncommon in most organizations. In fact, it’s uncommon in almost every part of our lives. Only 2% of people in the world have ever even tried it! But, it’s growing like crazy, basically doubling in usage every year.

All that said, it’s actually super cool and fun! Now, if you ever had put on a VR headset and did a fly through the grand canyon, or taken a trip on a roller coaster, you could probably see how that might get old, are nauseating, very quickly! If you have watched a live NBA game from the first row at half-court, through VR goggles, you start to understand how totally awesome it can be!

VantagePoint’s CEO, Morgan Mercer, was early in on the VR tech and it’s potential use to train our employees in how to be better with sexual harassment and has also added in content for D&I as well. VR is only part of what VantagePoint is about. Doing great VR means you have to have great content for your employees to get emersed in. Ultimately, VR is the training delivery tool, but what VantagePoint understands is you better deliver great engaging content is you want great training.

What do I live about VantagePoint? 

– When you go through harassment training with VR goggles and headphones on, you feel like you are witnessing harassment happening, live, right in front of you. You’re uncomfortable. You want to do something. The fact is, doing training in virtual reality forces the user to be totally focused unlike any other kind of training I’ve ever done.

– VantagePoint has figured out, as LOD and HR pros we don’t really want to mess around with hardware (VR goggles, etc.). So, part of their strategy is to just bring everything to you, have a person on-site, and take away any pain or frustration that might go along with that side of training. You just have them show up, and they take your employees through the training. (You can also do it on your own if you like)

– The harassment training isn’t just watching this stuff happen on VR. The user also gets calls on a pop-up looking iPhone with a call from HR telling the user what they did right or wrong, etc. If you get something wrong, you get thrown back into the experience to do more work.

– I love that you can measure not only the compliance side of the training, but you can also see who is actually getting it, and who isn’t with the metrics dashboard they’ve developed.

We all know we can and have to do better when it comes to sexual harassment training in our workplaces. Traditional, classroom-style training just doesn’t seem to cut it, because it doesn’t grab the attention of the audience. No matter how well done. VantagePoint has figured out a better delivery tool, and one that will be commonplace in the very near future when it comes to all kinds of training.

The price point is actually less expensive then I thought it would be, and I would think most organizations of every size will be able to afford the VantagePoint VR training. I do think Morgan, and her team, are just scratching the surface of what’s possible when it comes to this kind of training in our workplaces. But, great VR content is also labor-intensive to pull off well.

I would definitely recommend a demo, especially if you’re looking for a great alternative to traditional harassment and D&I training. This is training that your employees will definitely remember and pay attention to!

How Would a College Education be Different if you Were an Investor?!

There’s a concept that is starting to gain some steam in college tuition funding called “Income Share Agreements”. The basis of these agreements is pretty much “I” (the investor) pays “you” (the student) to go to college and get an education. Once you graduate and get a job, I take some of your annual salary for an agreed-upon time.

From the Washington Post:

In an ISA, a student borrows nothing but rather has his or her education supported by an investor, in return for a contract to pay a specified percentage of income for a fixed number of years after graduation. Rates and time vary with the discipline of the degree achieved and the amount of tuition assistance the student obtained.

An ISA is dramatically more student-friendly than a loan. All the risk shifts from the student to the investing entity; if a career starts slowly, or not at all, the student’s obligation drops or goes to zero. Think of an ISA as equity instead of debt, or as working one’s way through college — after college.

I like this alternative to student loans because it puts much of the risk on the investor and away from the student. Also, if higher education institutions get involved with these kinds of investment funds, it truly puts accountability back on their organization to ensure they are producing graduates who are desired and prepared.

Purdue University has been doing a ton of testing with these types of agreements:

Although the very nature of ISAs protects the participant, early adopters such as Purdue have built in safeguards. A user-friendly computer simulator provides quick, transparent comparisons with various public and private loan options. No investee pays anything for the first six months after graduation or until annual income exceeds $20,000. For those graduates who get off to fast career starts, a ceiling of 250 percent of the dollars that purchased their education limits total repayment.

All of this gets you to think about what might be possible if we walked away from traditional student loan programs altogether!

What if…

  • The amount of your investment into a student returned more than you could make on the stock market?
  • Students had to present themselves, as high schoolers, to investment groups to get funding for university?
  • Investors and investing groups were only willing to fund students in careers where they could get a good return on investment? Say goodbye to history majors!
  • College students had to meet with their investors and explain why they got a “C” and missed class because they were drunk!?
  • Organizations and HR Departments started investing in potential future talent in a very real way!?

I love disruption to traditional things we have come to believe just can’t be changed. This isn’t perfect and there are a lot of questions, but it’s worth testing and trying. What we know is traditional student loan programs are not working at all! Something has to change.

I’m GenX and a Capitalist, so I love the accountability of both the investor having to make sound, prudent investment decisions around who they feel is most likely to give them a great return on investment, and the student’s accountability of understanding there’s a cost/benefit to your career choices and what it will cost to pay back those choices.

What do you think? Would you allow one of your kids to get into one of these arrangements, or would you have been willing to do this in college? I think I would have had very few people want to invest in me, but those who did would have been paid back in spades!

 

Do you believe your HR leadership style is that of a “coach”?

I read an article in The New Yorker on the importance of “Coaching” by Atul Gawande.  Atul is a writer and a surgeon, smart and creative and I should hate him, but he’s so freaking brilliant! From the article:

The concept of a coach is slippery. Coaches are not teachers, but they teach. They’re not your boss—in professional tennis, golf, and skating, the athlete hires and fires the coach—but they can be bossy. They don’t even have to be good at the sport. The famous Olympic gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi couldn’t do a split if his life depended on it. Mainly, they observe, they judge, and they guide.

As an HR leader, I’ve always believed that HR has the ability to act as “coaches” across all vestiges of our organizations.  The problem we run into is this mentality, “You can’t coach me! You don’t know the first thing about Marketing, or Operations, or Accounting.” You’re right, good thing I’m not “teaching” you that! That’s why we hired you. Having a coaching culture in your organization starts during the selection process. Are you hiring people who are open to being coached? 

More from The New Yorker –

Good coaches know how to break down performance into its critical individual components. In sports, coaches focus on mechanics, conditioning, and strategy, and have ways to break each of those down, in turn. The U.C.L.A. basketball coach John Wooden, at the first squad meeting each season, even had his players practice putting their socks on. He demonstrated just how to do it: he carefully rolled each sock over his toes, up his foot, around the heel, and pulled it up snug, then went back to his toes and smoothed out the material along the sock’s length, making sure there were no wrinkles or creases. He had two purposes in doing this. First, wrinkles cause blisters. Blisters cost games. Second, he wanted his players to learn how crucial seemingly trivial details could be. “Details create success” was the creed of a coach who won ten N.C.A.A. men’s basketball championships.

I think this is critical in working with adult professionals. Coaches aren’t trying to “teach” them new concepts, but helping them self-analyze and make improvements to what they already do well. We/HR can make our workforces better, not by focusing on weaknesses/opportunity areas, which we spend way too much time on, but by making our employees’ strengths even stronger.

Coaching has become a fad in recent years. There are leadership coaches, executive coaches, life coaches, and college-application coaches. Search the Internet, and you’ll find that there’s even Twitter coaching. Self-improvement has always found a ready market, and most of what’s on offer is simply one-on-one instruction to get amateurs through the essentials. It’s teaching with a trendier name. Coaching aimed at improving the performance of people who are already professionals is less usual.

I’m talking about turning HR into “Life” coaches or “Executive” coacheS. Those types of “coaches” are way different and fall more into the “therapists” categories, than what I see HR acting as “professional” coaches. Professional coaches work alongside their Pros day-to-day and see them in action, and work with them to specifically improve on those things that impact the business. They don’t care that you’re not “feeling” as “challenged” as you once were, and need to find yourself.

I think the biggest struggle HR Pros will have in a role as “coach” is our ability to understand most employees have low self-awareness (including ourselves!). Being a great coach is measured on your ability to get someone to see something in themselves, they don’t already see, and make them truly believe it. If we can get there in our organizations, oh boy, watch out!