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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Human Resources in the 21st Century?

When I started working as a teenager in the mid-70's, we still used:

  • landline phones
  • typewriters
  • carbon copies in those typewriters
Not to mention that this job was in a bank, where everyone came when they needed cash out of their checking accounts - no ATM's yet, either. And we were only open 10am to 5pm, Monday through Friday.

My how times have changed.

My observations is that the majority of changes in the workplace have come about due to advances in technology. Though I show my age here, I distinctly remember those early computer science courses on mainframe computers, my first bulky cell phone in 1999, and how I bought a copier that doubled as my computer printer at Costco for my home office. Compare all those old-school, pre-2000 changes with a video call with my laptop and bluetooth earbuds that I had last week with clients in Bosnia and Thailand. It's all I can do to keep up, but it's pretty cool all the same.

That being said, I am surprised at how much has not really changed when it comes to the people part of the workplace. Interoffice politics rage on, interpersonal conflicts continue unabated, and most clients I talk to are at a loss as to who to talk to about it when they are impacted. And while some companies have robust policies and company handbooks and HR departments pursuing 110% compliance, many other companies outsource much of their HR and "hot potato" the rest. 

I have come across three interesting links this week that speak to HR, or the lack thereof. Perhaps one of them scratch where you itch?

Here's Who You Can Turn to When You Can't Count on HR (or Your Boss). I liked this article because it captures the quandary many of my clients experience, though it's a bit more negative than what I see. It's not always that they cannot count on their boss, but that their boss is as stumped as they are as to how to turn things around. Fast forward to the "external experts" section of this article for a description of what I do....

How to Hire the Right Person (NYTimes Hiring Guide). I was really impressed by this resource. If, like some companies, the whole recruiting / interviewing / onboarding game is divided up among several of you, this might be truly helpful. Check it.

Why your HR Officer is Leaving. Keep in mind that this comes from the Chronicle of Higher Education and speaks directly to HR in the world of academia. But when I read it to an executive leader for a company I have worked with, she agreed immediately with all of the points that were made. Again, I think that we have to think long and hard about what we need HR to do and make it a priority. I think this article states it well:
I am concerned, but not all that surprised, by this new level of frustration and anxiety. While I happen to think it is an exciting time to work in a role that can influence cultural transformation, I appreciate that the work feels harder than ever. But it is important work. And while the #MeToo movement, the demands for pay transparency, and the discoveries of previously suppressed misconduct can be embarrassing for organizations and challenging to manage, it feels like — as a nation — we are finally engaged in important conversations about our most important values.

Let me know what HR looks like in your workplace ~ I'm super interested! Send me emails at As always, thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Pursuit of Happiness?

While the bulk of my work is focused on leadership development, I want to start with saying that you cannot lead anyone until you lead yourself. And that requires ongoing, transformative work in self-awareness.
one of the major premises of leadership development for me is that

So today’s post is in that spirit. I was recently struck by this article from Fast Company, This is what you’re getting wrong about your pursuit of happiness, though I want to say at the outset that a topic as huge and life-encompassing as the meaning of the pursuit of happiness cannot be solved in one little article from Fast Company! But I was especially intrigued by the “Ten Worlds” described in this article. They proved to be thought-provoking for me personally.

For example, I was especially drawn to the worlds of Realization and Learning. Regarding Realization it says,
The world of self-improvement. Here, you’re obsessed with self-examination and personal growth, but it can lead to self-absorption. The delusion is that you think you need to grow to be happy.
Indeed, I am constantly looking for new ways to be productive, or measure my exercise, or read a new book, or learn how to eat better, or… You get the picture. To lean into Strengths Finder language, I think this sort of drive is a product of my Activator, Maximizer, and Achiever, all of which are in my Top 10. And yes, I agree, at times I can fall down the rabbit hole of self-absorption, wanting to make myself my #1 project and lose sight of the bigger, more important things around me.

Regarding Learning, it says,
The world of mastery. In this world, you feel a relentless drive to learn and accomplish something that creates value and meaning. The delusion comes when you think happiness comes only through accomplishment.
Again, circling back to Strengths Finder, I see #5 Input, #6 Arranger, #7 Learner in flying colors here. I LOVE learning new things related to whatever project I am working on, and no amount of information is uninteresting to me as I dive in. But yet again, I can get lost in the swirl of discovery and think I am actually something special as I tune in to the topic.

Where the article gets tricky for me is how the Ten Worlds authors assert that nine of the ways we pursue happiness are delusions and only one world, that of "enlightenment," can provide true happiness. Admittedly, I haven't read the book, and am taking the word of the author of this article, where he says,
While Lickerman and ElDifrawi call the worlds “delusions,” they can make you happy. “For example, freeing yourself from pain will make you happy,” says Lickerman. “The delusions come when you expect the happiness they make to be permanent. Having perspective is helpful. In the 10th world, happiness is permanent.
I could not agree more -- nothing I pursue will give me permanent happiness. To believe otherwise is certainly a delusion. I am not the master of my domain, and so many circumstances outside of my control greatly impact my sense of happiness. That encapsulates the hard-knock lessons of my life, thank you very much.

Yet the Ten Worlds authors' claim that their view of enlightenment provides permanent happiness. REALLY? Furthermore, they assert that this enlightenment is not mystical or religious. Hmm. That's where I diverge from them. I too agree that we need to lift our heads and be in awe of the beauty of creation and, as they describe it, "the sublime order of things."

But for me, the awe immediately takes me in a mystical and religious direction. Beauty and creation cause me to wonder about their design and purpose, and quickly plunge me into an existential exploration into the meaning of my life and that of those around me.

What about you? What makes you happy? I deeply appreciate this statement by the authors on their Ten Worlds website:
The world in which we spend most of our time will determine how happy we're able to be. What determines which world we inhabit at any given time? Our beliefs. But not just any beliefs—specifically, our beliefs about what we need to be happy.
If you can, I encourage you to take some time to reflect on the Ten Worlds described in the Fast Company article. Perhaps these questions can stir the pot for you:

  • What are your beliefs about what you need to be happy?
  • How did you develop these beliefs?
  • Are they working for you? In other words, do you find yourself fulfilled and satisfied on a relatively regular basis? Why or why not?
I sense that the Ten Worlds authors and I are both headed in the same direction. I value the hard work of self-awareness, and they encourage a pursuit of the enlightened self. However, I would say that the work of self-awareness is not only internal and self-driven; it also needs a community around you. As Tasha Eurich, organizational psychologist, says in Harvard Business Review,
When it comes to internal and external self-awareness, it’s tempting to value one over the other. But leaders must actively work on both seeing themselves clearly and getting feedback to understand how others see them. The highly self-aware people we interviewed were actively focused on balancing the scale.
As I say to my clients, the pursuit of self-awareness is life-long. I believe the same about the pursuit of happiness... though I have discovered as I've gotten older that my sense of happiness is far more subtle and deeply rooted in knowing my purpose and identity, regardless of my circumstances.

Feel free to send me your own thoughts at Thanks for reading!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Quality over Quantity, Dec 2018

Like you I am sure, I have my hands full as year-end approaches. But in the midst of many to-do lists, I still manage to squeeze in some podcasts, articles, and a book or two. Here are my top recommendations for this month that will hopefully serve as reminders of what it takes to pursue depth and integrity over time. Chip away at them - they will be worth it.

6 Fundamental Skills Every Leader Should PracticeIronic that a written article about developing leadership should say, "Our research and experience have shown us that the best way to develop proficiency in leadership is not just through reading books and going to training courses, but even more through real experience and continual practice." Guess I'll stop reading your article now and get to work!

Nonetheless, as always, HBR comes through with this one and this proves to be a good article for mentoring and developing leaders. Their six fundamental skills listed here are fail-safe. Set aside six months to look at each skill one-by-one with your rising leaders, assigning experiments to test-drive and develop the skills.

Favorite insight: "they found that workers were able to improve their own performance by 20% after spending 15 minutes at the end of each day writing reflections on what they did well, what they did wrong, and their lessons learned." We live in a non-stop world that does not encourage slowing down or reflection. You would do well to cultivate this practice in yourself and others.

The Urgency of Slowing Down. I just listened to this today on a long walk, though it was a rebroadcast from June 2015. Use this podcast as a way to mitigate against the stressful "have-to's" barking at you, and step back to be still and listen. 

The ‘Holy Grail’ of Class Discussion. As I get ready to teach a class again this next semester, I found this article a much-needed reminder. I especially loved this:
But in those discussions, are your students actually talking to one another? Or does it work the way it often works in my class: The instructor asks a question, and students direct all of their answers right back to the instructor. Getting students to interact with one another, instead of responding individually to the instructor, might be the holy grail of small-class discussion.
I think the same thing could be said of weekly staff meetings, dontcha think? I'm not really kidding. Regardless of where you are gathering people for discussion, I found some questions in this article that focused my preparation in helpful ways. Tell me what YOU think!

How to be More Productive. I would say my top two most talked-about topics with clients are 1) How do I deal with my annoying co-worker and 2) How can I get more organized? With that second woe in mind, I give you this article. Though it has been said in multiple ways, it really is true that the important things need to get done more than the urgent things. This article gives some practical ways to approach that tension.

Favorite quotes. This month's nuggets come from Albert Einstein, and need no explanation. Happy December!

“If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend fifty-five minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” 

He also reportedly said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”


Hearty Bread for the Whole Journey? aka, "What's with the vague subtitle?"

If you have sat through (endured? enjoyed?) one of my Strengths Finder presentations, you know that I often refer back to my life as an eter...