Archive | May, 2010

Amelia Bedelia and Managerial Power

13 May

Just to clarify,  I am not breaking my rule about sensationalistic blog post titles, there’s a good connection here.

In a communications class for managers I facilitated yesterday we had a great discussion about how your communication changes when you go from being an individual contributor to becoming a manager. Whether you like it or not your communication is more authoritative when your a manager.

Case in point:

As Bill returned to his office, he overheard Judy, the accounting department assistant, comment to a supplier on the telephone.

“Yes Mr. Goodwin,” Judy said, “Lucy will definitely call you early next week.  I know how important that financial report is to you.”

“What’s going on?” interrupted Bill.  “Where is Lucy?  I gave her last Monday off, not the entire week!”

“That’s strange,” replied Judy.  “Lucy told me you gave her the week off.  And because of your suggestion, she was going to Jamaica with her boyfriend.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” said Bill, annoyed.  “Last week she asked for Monday off.  I felt she had taken enough vacation time in the last few months and sarcastically told her ‘Why not take the entire week off and go to Jamaica with your boyfriend.’”

“Well, Bill, I guess she took your advice literally and did just that,” said Judy, laughing.

When you are a manager, your direct reports and others take what you say much more literally. As we were discussing this yesterday the Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish came to mind. (Peggy died in 1988, but my kids still love her books today. I actually just ordered a bunch after my 7 year old read the original book and loved it). If you remember the character, Amelia Bedelia takes instructions literally, extremely literally. Dress the chicken, draw the drapes, steal home etc. My kids get a crack out of seeing how Amelia will misinterpret all of the instructions and come up with her own interpretation.

This is ok in a kids book, not at work. Managers need to recognize that what they say now carries weight and is taken literally. If you make a flippant, sarcastic comment like “forget about it” the odds are now greater that it will actually be forgotten. You can’t expect to then follow up the next week and say “what are we doing about ABC?”

As Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility”.


Blog Post Pet Peeves

11 May

I blog because I need to become a better writer  so that I can eventually write a book worthy of me getting on Oprah, make a ton of money and reach my ultimate dream of just being able to hang out at the gym all day. Therefore, I blog so that I can gym.

I also read a number of blogs to get ideas of what or how I should write. Over time I have come to the realization that there are a number of things that bloggers do that get on my nerves, so I figured I would write about it.

1. Relating some current cultural reference to the point your trying to make just because it will get you noticed.

“Oil Spills and How You Can Improve Employee Morale”

“Why Lady Gaga Would Make a Great CEO”

“Recruiting Techniques and Remaking the Karate Kid”

Let’s face it, almost anything in the world can be related to anything else. We all learned that lesson from 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon and learn it everyday through social networking. Just because they can be related doesn’t mean they should be. If you are just relating the two items because they make a good headline is that really a good relationship? Most of these tend to be forced relationships anyway and you realize halfway through that the author is reaching and has lost you somewhere between “What Obama Could Learn from Iron Man 2” and “Why Congress is Like American Idol”.

2. Linking for no reason whatsoever.

This one really grates on my nerves. I am all for linking if it helps me understand a concept that I may not know or introduces me to something novel, but would I not know what a hamburger was without your clever little link to Wikipedia? Or maybe not know where NY is if not for your sending me to Google Maps?

Link if I need it, not to just add some color to your blog entry.

3. Not having an opinion.

Did you really start a blog to just relate the news? You’re competing with CNN?

Have an opinion! Right or wrong, yes or no. This is your little pedestal, use it!

<feeling better already>

Performance Management, A Stamp in Time

4 May

Recently a number of HR professionals have been raising the idea of getting rid of the performance management process and the appraisals that come with them. There argument is that feedback does not happen on an ongoing basis because managers are waiting for mid year or end of the year reviews to provide feedback. They would prefer the focus be on an ongoing basis and not just twice a year.

Of course, I agree with the notion of feedback being an ongoing conversation, but I think the notion of “doing away” with the entire performance management process is throwing out the baby with the bath water. The issue is not with the review process, the issue is that managers are not giving feedback to their employees in a timely, consistent manner. Perhaps they are using mid-year reviews and the performance management process as an excuse for not meeting with their employees more regularly, but that is a separate issue.

One solution is to build “check-ins” into your performance management process. Most software out there will allow you to schedule reviews throughout the year and not just 1-2 times a year. Technology helps if used properly

The reason I like the performance management process is that provides that much needed “stamp in time”. It’s hard to measure performance on an ongoing basis, how will managers see and measure growth and performance? Remember when you were a kid and your mom would measure you and your siblings on the back of a door? There was not point in doing that every day or every week was there? Measured at the right intervals and you could, hopefully, see some significant growth.

I am all for coaching and feedback as a continuous process, but don’t take away my end of the year appraisal. It’s when I learn if and how much I’ve grown this year.

Hey HR, Wanna Influence? Change the Way the Game is Played

3 May

What do Zappos, Netflix and Amazon all have in common? If you guessed cool, new companies you wouldn’t be wrong, but their is something even more fundamentally amazing about them. They have all changed the way the game is played within their respective industries.

Look at Netflix for example. Netflix shares are up 130% (Over $100 now!) over the past year while Blockbuster is down to over 50% (now trading at $0.40). Netflix did not look to just get into the DVD rental business, CEO Reed Hastings set out to change the way the game is played! His company is now worth over $5 Billion while Blockbuster is worth under $100 Million. Netflix continues to focus on innovation by now working on streaming video through multiple platforms.

When you look at most HR organizations, processes and systems today they look a lot like they did 50 years ago. Recruiting looks the same, performance management looks the same and little has changed in the way that training, compensation or benefits. HR, unfortunately still looks a lot like Toby on The Office, outdated and out of touch.

If HR really want to become influencers we need to innovate. We need to come up with a better way to recruit, develop and retain people. We need to find better ways to develop talent. We need to work in real time as the last few years of economic uncertainty have shown that long-term planning has little value.

I love to hear and read about innovation in the workplace, but the last few conferences I have gone to have been disappointing. The presentations I am seeing today the same things I was seeing from HR pros 7-8 years ago. It’s time to innovate.

If you are innovating or have seen some innovative HR initiatives that work drop me a line, please!