Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Don't Forget This Important Stakeholder Group in Your Change Plan!

Susan Richards,  Managing Director, Steelbridge Solutions, Inc is our guest blogger this week.  Susan has extensive experience leading change in organizations and for clients.  Susan has been a consultant specializing in the HR space for 20+ years.  Her methodology for change management is both simple yet effective.  Educate your stakeholders on the change and let them know what to expect before, during and after the change.  I am honored to work with Susan on change projects as a learn so much!

In a LinkedIn post about communicating organizational change, Maya Orbach points out that most organizations spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy on leaders and top management. Ideally, every employee is a target for change messages; however, scarce resources usually make that impractical. In that situation, Orbach suggests that companies focus on three important audiences: future leaders, social hubs, and vocal members. These informal groups are influential, and you can count on them to spread the word. 

Orbach is spot-on with her priorities, but we would add another critical group—your project team. Just because you've assigned them to your Merger Task Force or entrusted them with your Talent Management Implementation, you can't assume team members have bought in. It's rare that an organization-wide initiative has unanimous support, even at—especially at—the leadership level. When the project moves forward in spite of objections, the naysayers don't automatically climb aboard.  They go underground, where they can scuttle your multi-million dollar project faster than a bomb in a battleship.

Since most project teams represent organizational functions and business units, they will most likely be a scaled-down version of your company's political and power structure. If everyone in your organization is happy and cooperative, you can stop reading now. But if the VP of Finance and the Marketing VP clash like stripes and plaid, or if business unit leaders regularly butt heads over strategy and headcount allocations, chances are that their delegates on the project team will be at odds, too.

Healthy differences and vigorous debate can be constructive, but ugly, open attacks waste time and divert attention from the task at hand. Even worse is covert infighting, when team members pretend to get along while they act as spies for their sponsors. They'll agree to an important decision—until they report back and their boss blows a gasket. Next time you meet, guess what? They will openly disrupt the consensus. They may act as a chronic roadblock, interfering with progress in general, or they may object selectively to any recommendation made by their boss's opponent. In extreme cases, they will keep quiet until it's time to launch, and then sabotage the results.

Intra-team rivalries or disagreements may emerge because sub-teams have different perspectives or competing agendas. For example, the project team is eager to complete tasks and meet deadlines, demonstrating tangible outcomes. The change sub-team, on the other hand, moves more slowly with less tangible results. Other issues relate to team members who may be threatened by the presence of a consultant or even a cross-functional team, especially if the project or initiative encroaches on their area of responsibility. Some members may believe nothing needs to change and their time could be better spent on other activities.

The list goes on…so what can you do? Awareness of the potential problem is critical. Having a project governance structure that includes clear guiding principles and ‘rules of engagement’ for the project team and leadership is a huge step in the right direction.  Treating the project team as a separate audience/stakeholder group is another solution, as well as hiring specialists who understand team dynamics and periodically meet with the team to head off developing issues. I would love hear from you. What are you doing to ensure this very important audience is on board for the long haul?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Why is BEING Strategic so Hard?

Many professions besides HR talk about being strategic.  I was speaking with an operations manager on a plane last week and he said that he was told he needed to be more strategic.  Why is it so hard to do?  It finally dawned on my this year that I'm not sure what "being strategic" means.  Do you sit around and think big thoughts?  Do you run scenarios all day to see which ones are right for the business?  Do you conduct external scans until a big idea comes?

I believe its more about THINKING strategically than just BEING strategic.  I can get my arms around thinking strategically.  According to Forbes magazine:
First of all, what exactly is “strategic thinking?” To think strategically requires founders and key team members to continually assess your business and your industry, and to apply new business insights. The goal is to use these insights to reinforce a company’s differentiation in the marketplace to achieve competitive advantage. You need to think strategically before your team can move on to the long or short-term strategic planning. You need both of these to make smart decisions on a daily basis. If you don't know where you're going, you'll have a hard time getting there!
I love the above definition and I think it applies to all functional areas of a business.   Thinking about HR for a moment, I believe you can apply the concepts this way:

In order to assess the business and apply new insights HR must:

  1. Understand that insight comes from taking what you know combined with key data, turning that into information and developing something that is relevant to the business.  I believe HR has struggled in this area due to the slow adaptation of metrics and analytics as tools to obtain insight.  
  2. Use critical thinking skills to be able to make connections between external and internal factors that lead to insight for the business. 
  3. Insight comes from understanding one's business inside and out.  Enough said.
If you don't know where your going, you'll have a hard time getting there unless HR plays a key role in strategic execution.  
  1. By being involved in the strategic planning process HR can lead the communication efforts on what the strategy means and WHY it is important to the business.
  2. HR has a perfect tool for setting strategic goals and cascading those down to the front line.  It's all about performance management.
  3. Because strategy fails most of the time at execution, HR can use its change management and communication skills to make sure the strategy is understood and executed.  
I guess the question is can you learn how to think strategically?  I have my opinion what's yours?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How HR Can Transition from Business Partner to Business Leader

I have the honor of being a writer for Halogen's TalentSpace blog.  I have written a two-part series on HR Business Leadership.  I believe HR can be a business leader that just happens to be great in HR!

Click here to read part one.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What’s Your Super Power?

Today, I am honored to have an awesome colleague and friend as a guest blogger.  Angela Alper not only understands HR but she understands how HR can contribute to organizations by using insight to solve problems and develop world class talent.  Angela and I have collaborated on a workshop, "Using Influence and Impact: Becoming an Effective HR Business Leader," which focuses on three very important areas for HR professionals; insight, influence and impact."

What’s Your Super Power?

There are lots of good quarterbacks.  What makes Tom Brady better than someone else?  There are lots of good CEO’s.  What made Steve Jobs different?  Thankfully, there are many fabulous cooks out there.  So what makes Chef Jamie Oliver worth over $100M?

These people see the world differently than their peers; and they’ve figured out how to translate that vision into exceptional results!  We call that Insight. 

When combined with Excellent Execution, Influence and Impact, you can render yourself a force to be reckoned with.  Many HR folks ask us if this kind of impact is realistic in our profession.  The answer is definitely YES!  But, if you’re one of the many leaders we hear lamenting “not having a seat at the table” or “not having your voice heard,” there’s a good chance you need to work on one of these areas.

Think about Insight.  When you look at some exceptional leaders, one of the powers that make them unique is their ability to SEE things differently.  They see the big picture…They see the little picture…They see things completely outside the lines of the picture…And they connect all of those dots to bring an understanding to their world that others just don’t have. 

Steve Jobs could see the demand for play, ease and personalization in technology before the user even knew enough to ask for it.  Brady can see the shift in the defense, process his options and settle on a course of action in the blink of an eye.  Jamie Oliver can intuitively imagine and design a world where a love for food and the call for more conscious consumption can start in school.  I call that INSIGHT.  The ability to see more than others and the knowledge to use that vision to make an impact.

In a recent Fast Company article, Robert Greene, author of Mastery, a study of history makers like Darwin, Ford and Mozart, was quoted to say, “The worst thing you can do to your career—and your life—is to allow your brain to get stale…”  He advises developing an interest in a study of science or literature.  "Spend some free time delving into this new field that interests you but is not directly related to what you do," he says. Your goal here is to broaden your perspective and ideas. 

Consider the findings of a Credit Suisse 2014 study.  Evaluating the results of 3,000 companies around the world, the conclusion was that businesses with at least one woman on the board outperformed those with no women by an average of 5%.  While the study did not attempt to address causality, it might not be a huge leap to assert that companies with more diverse perspectives might see more dots and, by connecting those dots differently, be able to arrive at more effective solutions.

If you’re not convinced, consider Booz and Company’s Global Innovation Study of why some companies outperform others.  Booz & Company’s annual study of the world’s biggest R&D spenders shows why highly innovative companies are able to consistently outperform. Their secret? They’re good at the right things, not at everything.  So how do they figure out what’s right?  These innovative companies rely on Need Seekers, Market Readers and knowing their Technology Drivers (the company’s internal capabilities.)  They are building the strategic and intentional formation of Insight into their model!

So ask yourself, HR Leader, can anyone do your job as well or better than you?  If the answer is yes, well, that’s another subject for another day.  If the answer is no, then why not?  What makes YOU younique?  Can you put your finger on it?  Can you articulate it?  Even better, can you leverage it to expand your impact? 

Do you have Insight?  Do you have a point of view?  Do you intentionally and continuously cultivate it?  Do you use it strategically to interpret the landscape in front of you and decide where and how to go?  If not, there’s no better time than now to become Insightful!  Until then, bon app├ętit!

(photo from

Monday, January 5, 2015

15 Ideas for HR Leadership in 2015

Never has the need for HR Leadership been stronger.  The HR profession has definitely seen its fair share of negative press over the last few decades.  What is needed today is STRONG HR BUSINESS LEADERS.  We need business leaders that know and understand business and by the way, get HR.  In other words, we need business people first and HR specialization second.  Not the other way around.

The call for business acumen by organizational leaders has almost reached the broken record level.  The problem is that HR as a profession has not stepped up and answered the need.  The need for problem solving, financial acumen, ROI modeling for people investments and workforce planning that uses the business needs first not HR's.

The next question is HOW do get more business leadership in our profession?  I wish I had all the answers but here are a few ideas that I have captured over the last year from attendees and clients when this subject came up in conversation:

1) When considering an advanced degree, think about an MBA.  An MBA exposes students to all facets of the business, so a strong business foundation is laid.
2) Become best friends with your CFO and ask him questions about the financials.   Participate in financial overviews and meetings
3) Get familiar with HR Metrics and the story they are telling
4) Spend time with you sales teams to understand the products and services your company delivers, understand the customers and the competition
5) Understand how a dollar flows though your organization.  What is the profit margin?  Is it good or bad?
6) Solve business problem proactively
7) Participate in all strategic discussions
8) Take the lead on the execution of business strategy as the execution piece is where strategy fails
9) Fix performance management. Period.
10) HR needs to learn the language of the C-Suite and Finance.  It's universal language spoken by all business leaders.
11) Ask compelling questions to everyone
12) Link all data, insights and investments to IMPACT using ROI/Costs/Profits as the basis
13) Participate in external business activities that continue to hone your business acumen
14) Surround yourself with other effective HR Business Leaders
15) Be courageous...getting out of your comfort zone takes courage

This list is not exhaustive by any means.  Please comment and let me know how you think HR can up its game as far as leadership is concerned.  Maybe you think we are already tell!