Here’s an idea, just do the job you were hired for

Every day, people get worked up over stuff they can’t control. Everyone’s telling you to be this or that, depending on the latest trend or generation.

I’ve stopped listening to people who don’t know my job or haven’t been in the field for ages. Instead, I talk to my employees – the young, the old, and everyone in between. They all matter because they all contribute to moving the organization forward.

I don’t care about what others think; I focus on what my employees are telling me. Their problems are personal, from daycare and student loans to health scares. Forget the big world issues; help them with the close ones first.

Your employees are individuals with their own problems, and millennials aren’t college kids anymore. The newbies might have different labels, but they’re still young people with their own issues.

At the end of the day, employees want to succeed. Helping them be successful is my top priority as a leader. Success is personal, so I figure out how to tie it to the organization’s goals.

We keep letting others tell us how to do our jobs. I’m sticking to doing the job I was hired for because, frankly, no one knows it better than me. Maybe we should all just focus on doing the job we were hired for.

Hey, Be A Career Guide

Remember what Steve Jobs said – people don’t know what they want until you show them. This applies to careers too. You might think you want a specific job title or hit certain goals, but the reality hits differently.

I once told my wife I wanted to be a vice president by 35 when I was 25. Got there, and it didn’t feel any different. It turns out, what I really wanted was control. Titles didn’t matter; I wanted to be the one calling the shots.

As a leader, I’ve noticed maybe 10% of the people you guide know exactly what they want in their careers. The other 90% are like me back then – they think they know but are just winging it until they hit some goal.

Most employees don’t really know what they want in their careers. That’s where leaders come in. It’s our job to help them figure it out.

Your job as a leader is to show your team what they want. Don’t assume they already know – most don’t. They won’t admit it, but that shouldn’t stop you from pointing out the possibilities.

From my own experience, the best leaders I had showed me the way. Four mentors in my life called me out on my title obsession and guided me in the right direction. They didn’t give up on me, and I’m grateful for that.

So, leaders, your role is like a career guide. Help your people see the path, and you’ll see them step up and do more than they thought possible.

Career Roulette

BookofOdds.com has a piece titled Hey Kids, Choose Your Career that breaks down the chances of your kid (or any kid, really) landing in a particular job. on consideration for both of them. As you can imagine the article gives some of the fun careers first, like the odds my kid will be a:

  • Surgeon: 1 in 2,872
  • Pro Athlete: 1 in 9,684
  • Fashion Model: 1 in 81,440
  • Firefighter: 1 in 452
  • Elementary Teacher: 1 in 87

Because you know, we all thought we were going to be one of those when we grew up!

When I did a career test in high school, it didn’t tell me I’d end up in HR. It gave me my top 3 choices, which were kind of weird: 1. Teacher; 2. Floral Designer; 3. Sales. No idea how “Floral Designer” got in there, but I still love gardening. HR wasn’t even on the list.

Thinking about my sons, realistically, they’re most likely to end up in:

  • Administrative Role: 1 in 5
  • Sales: 1 in 9
  • Food Service: 1 in 11
  • Healthcare: 1 in 19
  • Education: 1 in 16

But what about HR?

Human Resources: 1 in 656.9

The odds for Human Resources (HR) at 1 in 656.9 shows how jobs can be all over the place, and your career journey can be a bit of a rollercoaster. Even if we’ve got certain ideas about what we want for our kids, the job market can throw some curveballs. Landing an HR job isn’t something you’d bet on every day, but it’s a cool reminder that surprises can pop up in unexpected places when it comes to careers. So, while we might have some thoughts about where our kids will end up, the job scene has a way of keeping us on our toes with its own surprises.

The Snowstorm Test

Throughout my career, I’ve had conversations with coworkers who think they’re more crucial to the business than they really are. You know the type – they drop comments like “This place would be lost without me” or “Let’s see how things go if I’m not around.” Usually, it’s the sales or tech folks who, despite their contributions, sometimes overestimate their importance. Over time, I’ve come up with a simple two-step test to figure out if someone is truly essential to your business:

  1. Snowstorm Test:
    • Ask yourself if this person is required to show up at the office during a severe snowstorm, lasting multiple days.
    Example: In a large Health System where I worked, doctors and nurses were essential, with plans in place for emergencies. Meanwhile, in HR, I wasn’t on the list for a 4-wheel drive SUV pickup.
  2. Self-Promotion Check:
    • Consider if the person spends a lot of time trying to convince you of their importance to your operation.
    Examples: Statements like “Our biggest client wouldn’t be here without me” or “Our department saved the organization $500K last year on a $3.7M budget.”

Looking at how organizations evolve, it’s interesting to note that in the beginning, only essential employees are truly needed – those involved in getting materials, making products, selling them, and handling finances. Support functions like HR and Marketing often come later, usually after the company grows beyond 100 employees.

Regularly reassessing who holds essential roles within your organization is important. As a “client” to these vital contributors, focus on tasks that support their efforts. This means having direct conversations, asking, “How can I help you do your job better?” It’s simple but often overlooked.

Think of organizations like picking teams on a playground. If your most essential employee were choosing a team, where would you stand – first, tenth, or last? It’s worth thinking about where you fit in.

Consistency Matters More Than You Think


Ever wonder what your workplace really wants from you? I’ve spoken to this before.. It’s not about being a superstar, an A-lister, full of energy, or cracking the Top 10%.

The real deal is being consistent—not shining all the time or totally sucking. Just meet expectations. Every day, every week, every year. Dependable and consistent.

But let’s be real, we don’t appreciate consistency enough. We feel the need to be more than just consistent, like it’s some kind of new low.

We’re all about being ‘world-class,’ creating ‘best practices,’ and leading the industry. Sounds cool, but it makes being consistent seem like a bad thing. Truth is, if everyone in our crew kept it consistent, we’d crush the competition.

So, why aren’t we owning the game? Because being consistent is tough. That’s why we chase after rock stars. We need them to make up for the not-so-great ones. Getting everyone to meet expectations is like herding cats.

Next time you’re with an employee who’s just ‘meeting expectations,’ give them a pat on the back. Thank them for doing their thing every day. Imagine if everyone else followed suit—boom, greatness!

You don’t need over-the-top performance to win. Just get everyone to do what they’re supposed to do. Consistency—let’s slap that on a poster and call it a day: “Just do what you’re supposed to do!”

I Love a Rivalry!

I’m all about it – winning, competing, the buzz, and yeah, even losing. Losing keeps you caring about winning.

Not everyone sees it like that, though. Some think we should all just get along and that having rivals is old news.

But here’s my take – real competition with rivals pushes us to be better than we thought we could be. Without that push, we’d never hit our top performance.

The snag with rivals at work is it can get ugly real quick if it’s not handled right. That’s why some folks say we don’t need rivals in society.

A badly managed rivalry, especially at work, can wreck the vibe faster than anything else. It turns into a “me against them” deal, even when ‘them’ is just another part of ‘us’!

But, if done right, rivalries can light a fire under leaders and teams, taking them to some crazy high performance levels. External rivals, like competitors, bring that extra kick. Those are the rivalries we love – kicking the competition’s butt!

Internal rivals can be just as motivating, maybe even more because it’s real. Your rival is someone you know, or at least more than your competition.

This relationship with an internal rival is where the energy comes from, both good and bad. We hope these internal rivalries drive both sides to greatness, but it doesn’t always pan out that way.

Usually, internal rivals end up trying to outdo each other, when what we really want is both sides reaching greatness and cheering each other on. I used to think it wasn’t doable when I was a young leader.

One side wins, one side loses. That’s a rivalry.

But over time, I’ve seen that the best leaders figure out ways for healthy rivalries, getting everyone to back each other up and celebrate together. It’s about plenty – there’s enough success for all of us. As you succeed, and your co-workers succeed, that success lifts us all.

I first saw this in college sports. A coach taught us to push each other as rivals in practice when it helps us be our best. But when it’s game time, we stick together to reach our goal of winning. It’s about the team.

So, leaders, when you’re setting up internal rivalries, keep in mind that concept of plenty and togetherness. It’s about me, until it’s about we. The leader’s got to show us where that line is.

Is it time to go with the flow?

Whenever HR folks hang out, they often think they’re the rebels in the room. But truth be told, when you look at what they say and do, we’re all not much different from everyone else. This isn’t just an HR thing; it’s all over our workplaces. It’s like we’re stuck in this ‘Group-think’ mode.

Back in the 1950s, Solomon Asch did a study where students had to solve simple problems, like figuring out if two lines were the same length. Some students purposefully gave wrong answers, and guess what? Three-quarters of the others went along with the wrong answers at least once. It’s a reminder that as humans we tend to follow the herd, even when it’s clear they’re off track.

In the corporate world, the contrarian label often gets slapped on the CEO or someone on the fast track to getting the boot. Despite what top executives say about valuing contrarian ideas, the truth is, going against the grain isn’t well-received in companies. So, it’s kind of amusing when HR pros claim they’re the rebels in their organizations. No you’re not. Plus, do you really want to be?

Let’s cut to the chase – HR doesn’t have to be the rebel; shouldn’t they just go with the flow? HR needs someone who totally drinks the Kool-Aid and fully supports the mission. It might sound rebellious in its own way, especially if the boss is a visionary leader, but that’s what organizations need from HR.

HR needs to toe the line. Conform to the vision, conform to the mission, and lead by sticking to the organizational goals. By embracing this kind of conformity, HR can actually make a real difference in the success of the company.

Challenging Corporate Complacency

There’s this persistent buzz about technology stealing our jobs in our line of work. The staffing industry, a massive half-a-trillion-dollar global business, thrives on a rather bold assumption: corporate laziness.

I’m not banking on your laziness, though. At my company, we focus on contract work, not only the typical direct hiring. But this laziness perception isn’t exclusive to us; other industries are guilty too.

Look at the diet industry—it’s full of expensive shortcuts like bars, shakes, and pricey gyms, all because we sometimes prefer an easy fix over healthier habits. Guilty as charged!

Here’s the kicker: if corporate Talent Acquisition (TA) simply did their job—filling openings—the direct hire staffing industry might vanish. It’s not that complicated, yet we do everything but fill the position.

It might not seem lazy outright, but it’s sidestepping the core task, which is just as harmful. Ever seen a kid dodge mowing the lawn by doing indoor chores instead? Same principle, different setting.

Recognizing how others bank on our presumed laziness is crucial for TA leaders. And doing something about it? That’s where the real game starts.

Here are some actionable steps from one of my previous blogs:

  1. Set clear, measurable goals for each TA team member.
  2. Make these goals visible daily.
  3. Address performance issues immediately.
  4. Adjust measures to fit business needs.
  5. Keep at it consistently.

TA isn’t a handout; it’s an investment. Great leaders get this and act against corporate complacency.

It’s not just about working harder; it’s about working smarter. It’s time we all took that step forward.

Escaping the Best Practice Trap

As we kick off this new year in 2024, it’s time to break free from the ‘best practices’ trap and pioneer fresh, groundbreaking approaches in HR. Ever found yourself at an HR conference, where even the mention of a best practice draws in a crowd eager to replicate its success? We’ve all been there. Sure, using strategies that have worked before is tempting. But what if these highly recommended ‘best practices’ don’t actually guarantee success?

The problem lies in assuming that what everyone else is doing must be the best way forward. But times change, circumstances shift, and what was once a winning strategy might be holding us back now.

Let’s face it, adopting someone else’s best practice might just help you reach their level, but is that enough? In the fast-paced world of business, striving to merely match your competitors isn’t what visionary leaders are after. They seek strategies that propel them ahead, not just keep them in the race.

Using successful methods from other companies might help a bit. But it’s like walking a path someone else already made instead of creating your own. The real game-changers aren’t found in replicating what’s already been done; they’re in the unexplored territories of innovation.

Picture this: HR conferences buzzing with ideas yet to be tested, concepts so revolutionary they have the potential to redefine industry standards. That’s the space where true transformation begins.

To truly revolutionize your HR strategy, dare to step away from the best practice treadmill. Instead of asking what worked for others in the past, challenge yourself and your team to explore what could work brilliantly in the future.

Are you ready to break free from the shackles of best practices this year?

Lessons from Curveballs

This holiday season, I’m stepping away from my usual writing to bring you some of the top-read posts from 2023. Enjoy!

The Ball Will Always Find You!

There is a baseball metaphor about the ball finding you. Basically, if you are unprepared or you are scared, that’s precisely when the ball will find you! The moment you least want the ball to come to you is when the ball is hit at you. I’ve heard coaches say this statement my entire life being around baseball.

Life works like this as well.

The one time when you go into the office, and you’re not really prepared for your job or function is the day you’ll be called into an emergency meeting with the CEO! The one question you don’t prepare to be asked will be the one that will be asked.

So, how do you prepare yourself for being unprepared?

1. Acknowledge it when it comes.

So often, we want to try and fake our way through something we weren’t prepared for, but it shows. We aren’t really fooling anyone but ourselves. So, acknowledge it. You know, that’s a great question you asked. I’m not prepared to answer that at this moment, but let me do some research and come back to you with a thorough answer.

2. Redirect the conversation to what you do know.

This isn’t perfect because a savvy executive will come back to the original question, but 60% of the time, it works every time! “That’s a great question. What I focused on were these factors, which, in my estimation, is what we need. I believe…”

3. Answer another question like you’re answering their question.

This is risky, but politicians use this tactic all the time, and it mostly works because the person asking the question is sure you answered their question or not, and they don’t want to sound dumb by asking it again, thinking you answered it! Tim, can you give me some insight into how much we’ll be over budget in TA by the end of the year? “Sure, first, it’s amazing the progress we’ve made. At the beginning of the year, we had no idea we’d be 75% over our planned hiring, and the team has been amazing in reaching that goal. In the second half of the year, we see hiring beginning to slow, and we are anticipating that in Q1 of 2024, we’ll be back up to normal.” Then you just shut up or ask if anyone else has any other questions! Bonus points if you actually go back at them during your answer with some verbal ques like, “You understand, right?” Of course, they’ll be nodding yes! At that point, they will never follow up with another question!

4. Bluff.

Answer the question, even though you don’t really know the answer, and hope and pray they also don’t know the answer! I’ve seen way too many people in my career try and look like a fool. I find that very few executives ask a question they don’t have some semblance of an answer to already. They are just checking to see if you’re on your game and have the answer. So, I do not recommend bluffing. This is usually a low-performer behavior that is probably getting fired soon anyway, and they’re desperate!

5. Open the conversation up to the broader audience or the person who asked the question.

This strategy works really well if you have a strong relationship and trust with the person or people you’re speaking with. In this tactic, you basically acknowledge you don’t know but come back and see if anyone knows or has a strong opinion. You are still driving the conversation and asking questions, which puts you in an authority position, so you don’t look weak by not knowing the answer to the question being asked. “That’s a great question. I actually don’t know the answer, but I’m wondering if anyone else in the room does. Or does anyone have a feeling on what this might look like?” At this point, you could offer up an educated guess as to what you believe it to be if no one else has anything and agree to come back with some more specific information.

Professionally, the ball is going to find you whether you are ready for it or not. We all hope that we will be prepared and ready, but that’s not always the case. Your next reaction is critical to how others will end up viewing you. The more confident you are in your ability and performance, the easier it is to say you just don’t know. Unfortunately, so many times throughout our careers, we get caught off guard, and it might be during a time when our confidence isn’t super high, and that opens us up to trying to make something up on the fly and opening ourselves up to being viewed as a fool.

Posted on  by Tim Sackett