Want to build a community?

I get asked quite often by folks who want to build a community and/or are already starting a community to be apart of their community. My first question is always, “Why do you want to build this community?” It’s pretty straight forward. It should be simple to answer.

Most will go all guru-like about wanting to get like-minded folks together, etc., but in the end, it’s mostly about starting a group so they can sell them something. Almost 99% of the time this is the reason. Which is actually fine, if you follow the steps and don’t actually sell!

Here is really the only way I’ve found to build a successful community:

Step 1 – Find some folks who are like you.

Step 2 – Announce that you are starting a community together.

Step 3 – Draft the purpose and some ground rules around that community.

Step 4 – Show up every day, even Saturday and Sunday.

Step 5 – Never sell your stupid shit.

Step 6 – Give.

Step 7 – Go to Step 6

Step 8 – Eventually the community will give you more than you ever gave it.

It’s super simple, and super hard, to build a community, because it’s all about you giving, and giving, and giving, with absolutely no expectation that you’ll get anything back from the community. Those who go into building a community with this mindset and action, though, almost always get more out of it than they put in it.


The Employee Walk of Shame

I’ve lost jobs and I’ve called old employers to see if they would want to hire me back. I’ve usually gotten a response that sounded something like, “Oh, boy would we want you back but we just don’t have anything. Good Luck!”  Many of us in the talent game talk about our employee Alumni and how we should engage our Alumni but very few of us really take true advantage of leveraging this network.

I was reminded of this recently when a friend of mine took a new job.  You know the deal, shorter drive, more money, growing company and oh, boy, just where do I sign!?  The fact was, it was all they said, shorter drive, more money and they were growing, but they forgot to tell him was our operations are broken beyond repair, you will work 7 days a week and probably 12-14 hours per day because of the mess we have, but keep your head up it’s the only way you won’t drown here!

So, now what does he do?

He already had the going away party, bar night out with the work friends with the promises to do lunches and not get disconnected, packed up and unpack the office into the new office.  Let’s face it, big boy, you’re stuck!  Not so fast.  He did the single hardest thing an employee can do he called his old boss after 7 days and said one thing, “I made a mistake, can I come back?”

Luckily for him, his past boss was a forward-thinking leader and so this past Monday he did the 2nd hardest thing an employee can do he made the “Employee Walk of Shame“.

You can imagine the looks from people who didn’t know him well, “Hey, wait a minute, didn’t you leave?” Having to tell the same story over and over, feeling like he failed, like he wasn’t good enough to make it in the new position.

HR plays a huge part in this story because it was HR who can make this walk of shame a little less rough.  Let’s face it, it is different.  You just don’t leave and come back as nothing happened. Something did happen, there was a reason he left and that reason isn’t going away.  A transition back needs to be put into place even though he was gone seven days.  It’s not about just plugging back in, it is about re-engaging again and finding out what we all can do better so it doesn’t happen again.

It’s also about making sure you let those employees who you truly want back, that they are welcome to come back (assuming you have the job) and not just saying that to everyone.  There are employees who leave that you say a small prayer to G*d and you are thankful they left!  There are others where you wish there was a prayer you could say so they wouldn’t leave.

Make it easy for your employees to do the Walk of Shame, it helps the organization, but realize they are hurting, they are embarrassed, but they are also grateful!

DisruptHR Detroit 3.0 Speaker Applications Now Being Accepted!

For those who don’t know, I’m involved with DisruptHR Detroit with an amazing team of HR pros and leaders, and we are putting on our 3rd event on Thursday, September 19th at 6 pm.

Great DisruptHR events start with Great content and we are now Accepting Speaker Applications for DisruptHR Detroit 3.0!

Due Date is August 2nd!

Tickets for this event will go on sale on August 5th and we’ll announce the full slate of speakers and the agenda on August 9th.

The location of DisruptHR 3.0 will be downtown Detroit at The Madison. Click through to the DisruptHR Detroit site for more information.

Who makes a Great DisruptHR Speaker

Anyone with a passion for HR, Recruiting, People and pushing the envelope around what, why and how we do what we do every day in the world of work!

We especially love practitioners of all experience levels. You don’t know have to be a twenty-year vet to be great at DisruptHR! You can be an HR pro in your first year on the job. It’s all about passion and ideas!

So, what makes a great DisruptHR Talk?

  1. It’s 5 minutes – so you better be tight around what your topic and idea is!
  2. 20 slides that move every 15 seconds – you don’t control this, we do. So you better practice!
  3. No selling products or services – Yes to selling ideas and passions!
  4. Make us feel something – laugh, cry, anger – have a take and be proud of that take!
  5. We see and feel your passion.

We’ve built DisruptHR Detroit to be a supportive hub of HR and Recruiting. We want people to come and challenge us, but know you’ll be rewarded with an audience that will support you and cheer you on. These talks aren’t easy, and we get that! The audience gets that!

How can you speak at DisruptHR Detroit 3.0?

APPLY to Speak it’s easy! It’s a great development opportunity for those looking to get on stage and have some professional experience speaking. You actually get a professionally produced video of your talk that you can use as evidence of your ability. It’s also a great networking opportunity with the Detroit metro HR and Talent community!

If Someone Apologizes for Something, You Should Accept it.

Stuff happens. We make bad decisions. We do stupid stuff. Sometimes it all ends with us having to apologize for being dumb or just not thinking straight at that moment.

So, we apologize.

For a while now I’ve been watching people do stupid stuff, apologizing, but those who are receiving the apology are not accepting it. Instead, they refuse to accept the apology and something weird happens. Everything just stops.

I get that you might not feel that an apology is enough. You want more. You want ‘justice’ of some kind. You might feel the apology isn’t authentic. For sure, that’s all possible.

Here’s the thing: Just because you accept an apology, doesn’t mean you are okay with what happened.

Accepting allows you and the other party to actually keep moving in the direction of positive interaction. Closing that down and stopping that movement does nothing for anyone. You’re still upset, the other party is still upset and doesn’t know what to do to help the situation, and we are now moving backward with the relationship.

One problem that happens frequently is that someone tries to apologize too soon. You are upset and not in a position to want to accept it. At the same time the person does want you to know they are apologetic for what happened, and while you might not be ready, it’s good to accept the apology and tell them “thank you for that, I’m not ready to talk about this just yet, can we do this another time?”

99% of the time this will work and buy you the time you need to work through it and get yourself into a better position to actually discuss or determine your course of action.

Every apology we get we have to put into context. Is this about the other person, is this about ourselves, or is it about both? Sometimes someone does something not even thinking about you. They are thinking about themselves and probably someone else, and you get caught in friendly fire that no one thought of. Doesn’t change the ultimate ending and it still sucks, and you still need an apology.

It’s really hard for me, personally, to not apologize if I think I’ve done something wrong. I want to work on fixing it immediately! It drives my wife crazy sometimes. I want immediate fixing and she might just need to digest what happened and determine what she needs. At that moment, it might not be an apology, it might just be some space.

Communication is a two-way street. Both sides have something to say and something they are trying to do. We live in this modern world where people have decided that it’s not okay to screw up, but we “celebrate failure”, and you can apologize, but I won’t accept it. Um, what?

Life is hard. Let people apologize. Accept it. If that’s not enough for you, let them know. If you want to end the relationship, and an apology isn’t enough, let them know that as well.



The First Gay Person I Ever Met. #Pride

June was Pride month and as it wrapped up on Sunday I was loving all the pictures on my social feeds from New York and really all over the world. It really made me think about why I’m an Ally for this community. Where did it all start?

I was in seventh grade when my middle school basketball coach said he had an opportunity for us to jump higher. I’m short and white, so I was totally interested. Turned out, the opportunity was to play volleyball for a boy’s team, the only boy’s team in Michigan. The coach was local to my school district and looking for male athletes.

This coach was also a gay male.

Of course, as a 13-year old boy, I had no idea that he was gay. I went out for the team. Made it, and it really set me off on a path I could never believe. I traveled nationally with this team. I made the best friends from all over the country. I had a mentor in this coach who supported me as a coach, a dad, a friend.

It became apparent very soon to me that playing volleyball on the only all-boys team in Michigan had some advantages and disadvantages. I got used to being called “gay” by ignorant people when we tried to do some fundraising. “Hi, I’m Tim, and we’re fundraising to attend the Junior Olympics to compete in boy’s volleyball! We would love your support!” Boy’s volleyball? What are you gay or something?

It was a strange experience to be called “gay” because I was playing a game that I loved, and that people weren’t used to seeing boys play. To have someone assume because I liked doing this one thing, you could determine my sexuality. I’m like, no I really, really like girls, but still, so you don’t want to support us because you think only ‘girls’ play volleyball and because I’m a boy playing volleyball I must be gay?

I also got used to attending weekend tournaments where our team of 8 boys would be playing in gyms with hundreds of girls! It was a huge advantage for a short, red-headed, goofy teen boy who liked girls! I needed those odds to be in my favor!  

Eventually, my dad had a conversation with me. “You know your coach is gay, right?” By then I got it, but it didn’t matter to me. He was my coach. He just happened to be a gay male. Thankfully, for me, my dad was pretty accepting and could see I loved the experiences I was having.

This coach had a life long positive impact on my life. He was gay. I only say that because I think I was lucky enough to know this and have such a great experience that I grew up believing gay folks are great folks, and some folks are just assholes that judge you based on stupid stuff that has no correlation to anything.

I did grow up understanding that my gay friends face major prejudices and biases walking into life events that I don’t, even though they shouldn’t. We’ve come a long way since I was in seventh grade, but we still have such a long way to go.

I grew up an Ally without even knowing I was an Ally. I looked at those friends and mentors who were gay, not as gay friends and mentors, but as every other friend and mentor, I have in my life. My life is now filled with friends and family from the LGBTQ community and I’m so proud of the bravery these folks show every day. I hope that #Pride had a positive impact on you in June!

You Can’t Teach Your Employees to be Human! #Transform

You might have seen this in the news a few weeks back. Mom and Dad take their Autistic son to a Universal Theme Park in Orlando. The son is over the top excited for the Spiderman ride, and Murphy’s Law comes into play.

The family gets to the ride and it’s broken down. The son loses it. Full blown, five-alarm tantrum on the ground in front of the ride. Mom and Dad are doing all they can to help him calm down, he’s having none of it, when this happens:

So, you see the son with his headphones and you see an actual park employee from Universal from the Spiderman ride who came over and got on the ground and just laid down with this child. Let everyone know who was gawking that you know, it’s okay, some days the Spiderman ride breaks down and it sucks and we all want to scream about it.

The child eventually calmed down with the help of the employee. The parents were all so grateful for the assist and help.

This is a great human story. This is also a great story for Universal’s recruiting team! Let’s be honest. The reality is, the TA team really had nothing to do with this. They ran their process, and out of that, got lucky enough to hire a person who had these capabilities and a giant heart.

You can’t expect or set out to hire, individuals like this woman. She’s a unicorn. In fact, I would bet that Universal in their training would probably use an example like this of what not to do from a liability standpoint! All that said, it happened and it was wonderful.

You might see a story like this and say to yourself, “we need to add this example into our onboarding so that our new employees know this is what we want them to be like!” That’s really unfair to your new hires. Some might see this and think that’s the scariest thing I can imagine, but they might be willing to do a thousand other great things.

The biggest learning from an HR standpoint on this for me is that we can’t eliminate risk in our environments. Things are going to happen. We hope we hire and train employees to do the ‘right’ thing. To be kind. To be human. To do what they would want someone to do for them in a similar circumstance.

Also, to know, when we ask our employees to take the risk of being kind, being human, etc. that sometimes it’s going to backfire, but if it was done with positive intent and good heart we are willing to take that risk.

Who has been your biggest influence in your life?

Great personal story to share today of a very cool interaction that happened this week.

So, if you’re reading this blog post you’ve by now guessed that I write a bit. This all started ten years ago and I have frequently told you to blame my great friend, Kris Dunn, who got me started in blogging, but there’s more to this story!

When I was a freshman in high school at Godwin Heights High School in Wyoming, MI (basically a neighborhood in Grand Rapids, MI), is when I really started writing. Godwin Heights was a blue-collar high school. We actually walked by a GM plant on our way to school. Our baseball field was next to the plant parking lot and the workers on break would throw the foul balls over the fence so we didn’t have to climb the fence.

So, ‘start writing’ is a bit of a stretch. I was forced to write every day by my freshman English teacher, Ruth Kemp. Ruth was one of those great educators, a throwback in public education to a time when individuals became teachers because they just love teaching kids. They would have probably done it for nothing if they could. Always excited to see her kids learn, and she was super passionate that writing was like any other skill if you wanted to be good, you had to do it every day, so she made us journal for fifteen minutes every day.

I didn’t matter what you wrote, but you had to write for fifteen minutes. To me, this was torture. At first I actually just copied articles out of magazines (which she allowed) but that got super boring. The other crazy part about Ms. Kemp (not a Mrs., never married) was she would comment on each kids journal. Sometimes just a word or two, sometimes paragraphs, even more than you wrote yourself.

Being a class-clown type, I wanted to see how far I could get her to interact with me ‘in the comments’ of my journal, so I started to make up random stories about people in the class. She didn’t bite, but instead played along and expanded the stories. Asked all these probing questions about my stories, etc. She got me to write more in a creative way and I was energized by her feedback and interaction with me, I couldn’t wait to get to the next class to read what she wrote back to me.

So, this isn’t the story I wanted to share, but you need the context. 

When my book got published last year, I tracked down Ms. Kemp’s address through the school, even though she had retired, and sent her a copy with a long letter explaining her influence on me. Again, she wrote back, and it took me all the way back to my freshman year of high school, her words, tone, energy were still exactly the same.

This week I’m flying out of the Grand Rapids, MI airport. I usually don’t, because it’s not the closest to my house, and it’s fairly small so no direct flights, but there was a direct flight of Minneapolis, so it was going to be easy. I probably go out of Grand Rapids 3-4 times per year. One of my high school classmates I had mentioned on social media a few years ago that Ms. Kemp was a volunteer at the Grand Rapids airport, so each time I fly through I look, but in years have never seen her, so I figured she probably didn’t do it anymore.

On Tuesday night I fly in at 11 pm. 11 pm airports are pretty quiet. Especially small airports. I’m walking from the gate to the parking garage and I spot Ms. Kemp, at 11 pm, standing at the visitor desk packing up her things. I hadn’t seen her in person since my senior of high school.

I walk up and she looks at me and says “Can I help you?” I say, “I’m Tim Sackett”, and she says “Of course you are!” And gives me a giant hug. We catch up, I get to thank her again for her influence on me in person, and I say goodbye. Turns out, that Tuesday night shift was Ms. Kemp’s last shift ever at the airport, and now she is fully retiring. It was done at 11 pm. She was packing up to leave for good.

We have some pretty crazy things happen to us in our life. The fact that I got to see Ms. Kemp again, probably for the last time ever, by a chance meeting in an airport at 11 pm on a Tuesday is insane. One of the biggest influences in my life, and call what you will, Karma, etc. , the universe let me have that moment. Student, teacher.

Enjoy your retirement, Ms. Kemp. You influenced countless blue-collar kids to be better than we thought we could be.

What if you just hired without interviewing?

I have this idea floating around in my head that there is this line. The line is where information about a candidate begins to make us less efficient in hiring. Could be too much information or too little information. That’s really the entire crux of our hiring process.

At which point does the amount of information we have on a candidate make us inefficient in hiring?

Seth Godin has a concept call he calls “A/J testing“, instead of what most of us use in business as A/B testing. In A/B testing we test two possible outcomes that we believe to be fairly similar to see which one works best. In Seth’s A/J testing you test two possible outcomes that you believe are very different.

This got me thinking about what if we just didn’t interview. We posted, we sourced, we did some screening, we might even do some assessments, but then we just make an offer and have them show up. That’s our “J test”. We hire ten candidates that way, all for the same job. Then we do our A test as our same old process for another ten candidates.

What do you think your outcomes would be?

Here’s what I think would happen:

A test = same results you have now.

J test = slightly worse results than what you have now, but with an extremely lower time to fill.

In high volume hourly, with moderate to high turnover, the J test, might then play itself out as a better overall result if you are getting people hired faster. If we are truly no better than a coin flip when it comes to interview selection, does the interview really matter, especially in high volume?

This is just one example of a possible J test in recruiting and HR, there could be endless tests. You could J test compensation models, team structures, flexible scheduling, etc.

The key is to every once in while test something that no one else is. That is attempting innovation. That is pushing boundaries.

The First Question Every Leader Needs to Ask Themselves!

I’ve been blogging now for ten years. Writing every day for eight years. If you go around writing and telling people you know something about something, guess what? They’re going to ask you to tell them about something, specifically as it relates to their circumstance.

So, I get asked my advice quite a bit about talent and HR issues people are facing.

There is a bucket of questions I get asked that fall into the same type of category.  These questions all have to do with how do we ‘fix’ something that isn’t working well in their HR and/or Talent shops.  How do we get more applicants? How do we get managers to develop their people? How do we fix our crazy CEO? Etc.

I used to go right into how I would solve that problem if I was in their shoes.  Five-minute solutions! I don’t know anything about you or your situation, but let me drop five minutes of genius on you for asking! It’s consulting at its worst! But it’s fun and engaging for someone who came to see me talk about hugging for an hour.

I’ve begun to change my approach, though, because I knew as they knew, they weren’t going back to their shops and doing what I said.  The problem with my five minutes of genius was it was ‘my’ five minutes, not theirs.  It was something I could do, but probably not something they could do or would even want to do based on their special circumstances.

Now, I ask this one question: Do you really want to get better?

Right away people will quickly say, “Yes!”  Then, there is a pause and explanation, and sometimes from this, we get to a place where they aren’t really sure they really want to get better.  That’s powerful. We all believe that ‘getting better’ is the only answer, but it’s not.  Sometimes, the ROI isn’t enough to want to get better. Staying the same is actually alright.

We believe we have to fix something and we focus on it, when in reality if it stays the same we’ll be just fine.  We’ll go on living and doing great HR work.  It just seemed like the next thing to fix, but maybe it actually is fine for now, and let’s focus on something else.

Many times HR and Talent leaders will find that those around them really don’t want to get better, thus they were about to launch into a failing proposition, and a rather huge frustrating experience. Better to probably wait, until everyone really wants to get better and move in that same direction.

So, before you go out to fix the world, your world, ask yourself one very important question: Do you, they, we, really want to get better?  I hope you can get a ‘yes’ answer! But if not, the world will still go on, and so will you, and you’ll be just fine!

Leadership Isn’t Raised on Promises

I’ve had a lot of conversations with c-suite leaders recently who are concerned they do not have their next generation of leaders on their team. Let’s be clear, they have people on their team, but they do not believe those people are the future or at least they don’t believe they’re anywhere near becoming the future.

The folks in position are all well-meaning enough. I mean they want to be leaders and many believe they probably are leaders. They make all the leadership promises. That’s probably the first indication they aren’t ready. This is what their c-suite is feeling and hearing.

You see, leadership isn’t raised on promises…Leadership is raised on execution and outcomes.

Give me someone who can execute and I believe I can teach them to lead. Too often I think we look for leaders in the way we look for friends. Is this a person I and others would want to hang out with? Is this a person I can trust? Is this person nice? Do I get along with this person, and do others get along with this person? Would I follow this person?

I don’t need my leaders to be my friend. I need my leaders to get sh*t done. Can you get sh*t done without pissing off every single person around you, becomes a key element, right? There’s a balance. Sometimes I think we’ve gone too far on one side of that balance, and it’s not the execution side!

So, you want to be a leader?

Great, awesome, wow! Get sh*t done! The recipe is pretty clear and most fail:

  1. Clearly communicate what needs to get done.
  2. Find out why that will happen or won’t happen. Fix that stuff.
  3. Gain agreement of when and how this stuff will get done.
  4. Help move roadblocks and excuses out of the way.
  5. Follow up. Follow up. Follow up.
  6. Accountability.
  7. Stuff got done.

In my experience the best leaders never made promises, they just got stuff done. The promise leaders tended to go away at some point. Turns out most organizations don’t need promises, they need stuff to get done.