31 Not-So-Random Acts of Workplace Kindness

We could all use some kindness. Especially after the tumultuous U.S. election. And in the spirit of the upcoming holiday season, try to practice a little kindness and empathy towards yourself and others.

Starting today, tomorrow, Thanksgiving or whenever, just start with these little suggestions around the office:

Day 1: When having a conversation with someone at work, look them in the eyes and listen. Put down your mobile device and really listen to what they are saying. This is called active listening and is unfortunately becoming a long-lost art.

Day 2: If you know a coworker who is struggling with something in their lives, let them know that while you may not understand what he or she is going through, that you will be there to listen to them if they want.

Day 3: Write a thank-you note to a colleague, describing what they did to help you and give it to them.

Day 4: Give someone at the office a genuine compliment.

Day 5: Clean up a mess in the break room or around that office that you did not make.

Day 6: Hold the door or elevator for someone.

Day 7: Smile at the people you see around the office today.

Day 8: Ask someone how you can help them today.

Day 9: Introduce yourself to someone new.

Day 10: Tell a coworker to have a good day.

Day 11: Bring a peer a coffee, a water, a soda or whatever their drink of choice is.

Day 12: Thank someone for making a difference.

Day 13: Write a friendly message on a Post-It and stick it somewhere for everyone to see.

Day 14: Tell someone all of the reasons you like them.

Day 15: Acknowledge the excellent service you received by writing a note to that person’s manager.

Day 16: Bring in food or snacks to your office or to your department.

Day 17: Say “Good Morning” to someone in the elevator or someone in the building.

Day 18: Sometimes we need to get away from the office for a short amount of time to re-set. If you see a peer struggling, take them to a nearby coffee shop for a break.

Day 19: Humor is healing. Tell someone a joke or send them a funny meme.

Day 20: If a coworker leaves something on the printer, bring it to them.

Day 21: Say “please” and “thank you” and mean it!

Day 22: Once you have read your monthly magazine subscription, leave it in the break room for someone else to enjoy.

Day 23: Take a coworker out for lunch.

Day 24: Pass along a great book you have finished reading to a peer at work.

Day 25: Take a walk around the office and just say “hi” to people. Bonus: get some steps in.

Day 26: Pick up a piece of litter you see in the hallway or common space.

Day 27: Interject when you hear gossip with a kind remark.

Day 28: Give someone their work time back and cancel a meeting.

Day 29: Lend your expertise to someone who needs it, whether in the moment or as a mentor.

Day 30: Respond timely even if you say to the other person that you received their email and give a deadline for your response. People like to know they aren’t being ignored.

Day 31: Don’t leave someone hanging. If you are not down with their idea, say so. Be honest.

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Meetings are stupid.

Meetings are stupid. When was the last time you came out of a meeting feeling like you really accomplished something and it was well worth your time? When was the last time you felt energized after a meeting and ready to haul ass in support of the company? When was the last time you left a meeting understanding the true purpose for the meeting? When was the last time you walked out of a meeting thinking the same message could have just been communicated by a brief one-on-one, a team huddle or a frickin’ email? Probably, you left 9 out of 10 of your last meetings rushing to get back to your desk to answer all of the emails you received, make your return calls and get some actual work done. Additionally, you also then realized that you now had to work an extra hour to make your deadlines that were held up by said meetings. This is frustrating. I get it.

Most articles you read will give ways on how to make meetings more productive like have an agenda, stick to the agenda, have time limits and “hard stops”, assign clear action items and task owners, etc… But you know the drill, we end up having a meeting to address how to have meetings. And how many of you have attended those? That’s an hour of your life you won’t get back.

 

Some people will say that it’s impossible to get rid of meetings. But is it? Or are we just being lazy. Here are some ideas on how to get rid of  meetings or at least reduce the majority of them.

Get rid of meeting rooms in your office space. If we didn’t have meeting rooms, where would we congregate? Instead have smaller, huddle rooms and less of them. This will force people to think twice not only about having a meeting if a room is not available and accessible, but if the room is small, it will force an abbreviated session that will get down to the nitty-gritty of what needs to get communicated. Also, remove all comforts from meeting room spaces like coffee makers, water and food. Folks will be less likely to linger without those little luxuries close at hand.

Companies should spend time and money to train employees on effective communication. Yeah, I said it, don’t roll your eyes. What I see on a daily basis from CEO’s on down to clerical staff, in emails to meetings, from baby boomers to millennials is a sad indictment of what we consider to be appropriate and effective communication. This training should include training employees to become more self-aware in their own communication styles so that they can describe to others the best way to communicate to them. This training should include how to determine the best ways to communicate with others given their work styles and behaviors. This is literally a Comm 101 class where employees learn what the most effective vehicle of communication is given what is to be communicated. It answers the question, is my message best delivered verbally? by phone? by email? to an individual? to a team? Our human default is to call a meeting when we just can’t get our message across and it’s wasting time and pissing off a lot of people.

Like football, use a hurry-up, no huddle type of team get-together  to quickly and effectively communicate messages that multiple people need to know. This requires a strong Team Lead who is an effective communicator (see above) that can get right to the message, translate the message in a way that everyone effectively understands, and everyone knows where they are supposed to be and when by the time the Team Lead claps his or her hands to head to the line of scrimmage, so-to-speak.

Use good old-fashioned reports and technology. Yup, both.  If the goal of your weekly or monthly or quarterly meeting is to get status updates, by the time you are meeting everyone probably already knows bits and pieces of everything but also the information is old and useless. Scrap status meetings and require status reports from your team members on a routine basis that give you information on what happened this week and what’s projected for the week ahead. Provided this isn’t sensitive information, upload all of these individuals reports into a group share site so that everyone on the team or in the department can access them in real-time and on-demand. Managers and employees also get the added benefit of refining their individual writing skills too.

Ban meetings on Friday. The hope is to eventually ban meetings on most days of the week. Fridays should be dedicated to getting work done so that all employees can head into their weekend with a sense of accomplishment and ready to tackle Mondays with new work, not the crap leftover from the past Friday that was taken hostage to meetings.

 

Trump and the FLSA

****So…. news flash…. remember when I said there were several attempts to block the rule to no avail. Well, about that. Within mere days of the 12/1 comply date, a Federal District Judge in Texas has put a halt on the new overtime rules. Twenty plus States had filed suit stating the DOL had no authority to revise the FLSA rules and the Judge has sided with them pending further investigation into the law. Stay tuned folks, this should get interesting****

The U.S. populace has voted, and Trump is President- Elect.

Now HR folk are wondering what will become of all of the stuff we have had to implement within the last 8 years from health care reform, to newly defined protected classes to the FLSA. Let’s chat for a sec on the FLSA.

To recap, in March of 2014, President Obama issued a presidential memorandum to the Department of Labor to simplify and modernize the FLSA rules that govern exempt versus non-exempt status, provisions that were last reviewed in the 70’s. The DOL issued final rules in May of 2016. The new rules stated that any employee making $47,476 (from $23,660) or less had to be non-exempt regardless of his or her job duties. Further, the salary threshold would be reviewed every three years (next time: 2020) and would be indexed against the 40th percentile of the lowest wage region of the country. These rules are effective 12/1/2017. (Note: Trump does not actually become President until his inauguration on 1/20/2017) The utopian goal behind the changes was to stop greedy companies from working their employees 70 hours a week  whilst still paying them dirt-cheap salaries and not paying an extra dime past 40 hours. Good for the American worker, right?

Everyone proceeded to lose their shit, because if there is anything crusty CEO’s hate more than regulation, it’s overtime. God forbid that an employee be paid for putting in a little extra time on behalf of the business and expect to be paid for it. Employees can be so greedy sometimes, geez. So anyways, there were several attempts to block the rule or delay it but to no avail.

Here is what I think:

  1. Companies who are subject to the FLSA still have to get compliant with the new law by 12/1, that’s in less than 3 weeks from now. So get your shit together and do the right thing. Remember Trump will not be sworn in until January 20th.
  2. If I am to believe anything Trump said on the campaign trail, which was minimal on content and more about fire and brimstone rhetoric, I think his sights will be set on blowing up the ACA and deporting illegal immigrants rather than the DOL changes.
  3. However, the new overtime regulations could just be the low hanging fruit that his administration feels would get him a quick win with corporations, small business owners, the aforementioned crusty CEO’s, etc…
  4. The DOL will NEVER go away and neither will the FLSA. The FLSA has been in place since the 1930’s and no presidential administration has challenged its existence. And if the FLSA doesn’t go away, the DOL will still be around to enforce it.
  5. Since the FLSA is sticking around, the salary test will still be a thing. I think if Trump focuses any attention on this matter at all, he will likely reduce the salary threshold but I do not believe he will roll it back to the original salary of $23,660. Trump still wants to appear favorable to blue-collar American workers. Artifically suppressing salaries would not fare well for him and his loyal followers, if their behavior at his rallies is any indication, will be very vocal in their displeasure.
  6. I believe Trump’s administration will leave intact the duties test as a means for businesses to use these tests to justify “gray” area positions as exempt. This will enable companies to better defend their classifications in the unfortunate event of a DOL inquiry.
  7. The reaction of #7 above could be that certain states pass their own “labor standards act” which defines exempt versus non-exempt status based on a higher salary threshold than that of the federal FLSA law.
  8. Or, the States, in an attempt to simplify the duties test could pass laws that define a certain percentage of non-exempt tasks that would govern the exempt or non-exempt status of a position. For example, the State of California, mandates that for (most) job roles which contain 50% or more “non-exempt” tasks, those roles MUST be classified as non-exempt and are then subject to overtime.
  9. The DOL has been preparing to ramp up classification enforcement. I don’t think Trump will limit or reduce the DOL’s authority, but I think he will minimize the department’s resources (i.e. staff) to the point that the DOL would no longer be able to go full-force.
  10. One of the likeliest things to go away under a Trump administration is the review of the salary threshold every three years. I think there will be a one and done change to the salary threshold and that’s that.
  11. Let’s get real, most companies have been hiding behind the duties test for quite awhile knowing full well they would not be able to successfully defend a position’s exempt status. I think the overtime rule changes have given companies a window to “make it right” without becoming the target of a DOL audit or wage and hour suit. So, irrespective of what The Donald does or does not direct his team of monkeys to do, treat your employees and the law (as it stands today) with some respect. Give the role’s the proper classifications they deserve, put some limitations in place with respect to employee overtime, and focus on other things that matter, like what the hell happens with the ACA.

 

 

5 Ways to Improve Your Quality of Hire

Experiencing some buyer’s remorse with your latest hire? It’s probably your recruiting and selection process. Like most employers you have sourced candidates using various resources & methods, reviewed dozens of resumes for required and preferred competencies, experience, and skills, then phone screened, then interviewed (using behaviorally-oriented questions, of course), then maybe final interviewed and then made a decision. You set your expectations high because the candidate nailed the interview and you are confident in the criteria with which you made your selection decision. Within 60 days, the general consensus is your new hire sucks. Is this result really any wonder? The current recruiting and selection process outlined above has no proven correlation to the quality of your hire. It never has and it never will. Your good hires were based on sheer luck of the draw.

Think about it. Everyone can be a super-genius, rocket scientist with an MBA, a PhD and an MD on paper, right? Since all recruiters and hiring managers ask the same routine questions over and over in interviews, candidates have had practice crafting really good answers. And almost everyone in the world knows you bring your A-game to the interview. Combine several hours of a polished, charismatic and well-rehearsed candidate with all of the interviewer biases known to man and subjective, gut-level decision-making based on interview answers about PAST behaviors and successes, and you have a situation ripe for bad decision-making.

If you and your company are serious about spending your efforts, energy and money to hire the best and brightest, banish your antiquated recruiting and selection process today and replace it with a process that actually provides you real information and data to base your most important decisions upon.

  1. Beef up your referral sourcing methods, not only with your current employees but specifically your high-potential employees and your successful business partners and vendors. Referrals are built-in references. Not to mention no good employee wants to tarnish the reputation of the one who referred them, so you have a built-in back stop against crappy performance and behavior. Tap your high-potentials, as I suspect they run in circles with people similar to them. Don’t forget to ask your company vendors and other business partners for their referrals. Make the referral bonus meaningful determining its value position-by-position and by the level of difficulty of finding qualified candidates for that position.
  2. We live in a knowledge economy and we need knowledge workers. How do we test knowledge? Cognitive tests of course. We can train skills but we can’t increase intelligence. Also, require transcripts from your candidates transcripts will show you what classes the candidate took and their individual grades in each class. Does the candidate’s education show a history of taking challenging courses or 101 courses. Decide if you like to see candidates who have taken really hard courses and earned B’s and C’s or candidates who have taken “Rocks for Jocks” and bowling classes and earned A’s.
  3. Incorporate aptitude screening. Require work samples from your candidates. Or, for the final round of interviews, define a fictional business problem or challenge and ask the candidate to write a white paper or develop a short presentation. The interview becomes the presentation or delivery of the white paper. Interviewers base their evaluation on how well the candidate presented his of her ideas, the ideas or solutions themselves and an in-depth review of how the candidate went about preparing for the exercise.
  4. References. In my opinion, we do not give references the attention they should receive. Candidates should bring several references- character, educational and professional. HR should have a robust process around gathering reference information, crafting really good questions for references by determining what information you are looking for or is important for the job and documenting the answers.
  5. Build in a character test. I’ve read about companies that involve everyone from the driver, hotel concierge and receptionist into the interview process by creating scenarios that the candidate responds to and the interview team is provided feedback from these participants. Was the candidate courteous, respectful, professional and polished in their interactions with everyone? Or were they rude, arrogant, or discourteous when they thought no one was looking?

The current recruiting and selection methods have not proven valid. Dump them and get creative with your organization’s steps for finding quality hires.

Imperfect HR.

Some of the most talented HR professionals I know, diversity certified and all, are also some of the most bigoted people I know. Yes, it’s true. HR professionals are racist, sexist, xenophobic, classist or any other -ist, there is. We drink, we smoke, we do drugs, we swear, we commit crimes, we talk behind people’s backs, we are unethical, we are registered democrats or republicans, we know what “Netflix and Chill” means and the list goes on.

After all, we are human. And we live in this world. And we are exposed to the same things any other human is exposed to growing up. So, just because we chose the HR profession does not mean we are perfect, or somehow immune to stereotypes or don’t act with bias.

So, to HR professionals who act like Ms. Perfect, I must say, that like most people, I want to punch you in the face. No one likes you. In fact, you are the reason why employees hate HR. Because you get all on your soapbox about enforcing all the rules, like your “you know what” doesn’t stink. Act like a human who is imperfect and is accepting of others’ imperfections. You are not in the HR profession to lord over people, or be the work police. You are there to support employees and tell them when what their doing is inappropriate because it’s illegal or against company policy, you are not there to cast ethical judgements.

So, to employees who think HR professionals are some beacon of virtue, I’m here to burst your bubble. We are not. And if most of us tell the truth, we don’t want to be. As HR Practitioners, we understand that our job is to interpret and enforce, where necessary, company rules, policies and procedures, even if we think in our heads those same rules, policies and procedures are dumb. Its the job we accepted when we chose this field.

So, maybe HR professionals are really good at operating in some sort of dissociative state where they can disconnect their personal selves and thoughts from those of their professional selves, to do their jobs really well. How else are we able to shut off the bias and make sound recruiting recommendations? How else do we push that stuff way deep down to be able to investigate someone accused of wrongdoing and make disciplinary recommendations without shattering under the weight of contradiction?

But, eventually, this dissociation will break us. It can only be a temporary mechanism. Eventually, strong HR practitioners will have to go through the process of self-actualization. Eventually it will be too exhausting to have a personal self and a professional self. The two shall have to meet. We have to embrace our flaws and accept ourselves the way we are. Good HR professionals realize they can still be unconventional without needing to shock or disturb people. They become empathetic with the plight of all humans and therefore shed those biases and stereotypes. Really, really good HR professionals also resist enculturation. They use all of their experiences to make their own decisions rather than allowing workplace culture to dictate those decisions. They become leaders, not followers.

 

Great Leaders Possess 7 Things.

Leaders are born, not made. That’s why there are so few.

Beyond the knowledge, beyond the education, beyond the certifications, great leaders exhibit what are known as soft skills. Soft skills, according to Wikipedia, are a, “combination of interpersonal people skills, social skills, communication skills, character traits, attitudes, career attributes and emotional intelligence quotient (EQ) among others”. I further argue that soft skills are more nature than nurture, either you have them or you don’t. In most circumstances, since humans are who we are, these particular soft skills can’t be trained, mentored or developed.

Soft Skill #1: They Listen More than They Speak. A higher power gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. Great leaders practice active listening. They do not bring smart phones into the room, they do not multitask by attending meetings with their mobile device or laptop, they do not get caught up in distractions or side arguments. Great leaders focus with attention on the other party, they listen,  they filter the message, repeat the message and affirm it.

Soft Skill #2: They know in what ways they suck. And surround themselves with people who do not suck in those areas. In other words, great leaders know they are not perfect, they know what areas they excel in and work very hard to excel in them. They also know what their weaknesses are. And instead of exhausting precious time and energy on the futile task of turning weaknesses into strengths, great leaders befriend others with complimentary strengths and learn from them. Further, great leaders are okay with sharing power so they have no issue delegating authority.

Soft Skill #3: They inspire through the art of story telling. Great leaders have a vision, and instead of coldly outlining their plan in bullet points, outlining objectives in a Powerpoint presentation, great leaders craft a story. Stories are the vision of the leader come to life, with emotion and color. Leaders know that the audience will find a connection in that story that relates them to the vision inspiring their employees with a purpose.

Soft Skill #4: Leaders do not define conflict negatively. Great leaders are ok when another disagrees with them, great leaders invite dissent. Great leaders do not let the vein in their forehead protrude when challenged, they do not pound their fist on the table and they do not harbor resentment. Great leaders, knowing they aren’t always right, ask for others’ positions and arguments, great leaders, per the aforementioned Soft Skill #1 listen, and great leaders consider this information when carefully weighing decisions.

Soft Skill #5: Great leaders understand they work for the people they lead. Not the company’s bottom line, not the shareholders, not the Board of Directors and not for their own personal worth and glory. Leaders obviously have some accountability to all of these parties, which while a heavy burden indeed, is also why they get paid the big bucks. Great leaders inherently know that taking care of their people will take care of the rest.

Soft Skill #6: Are human barometers. They can tell when the vibe of the room just isn’t right. They know when their people are stressed, conflicted, overworked, etc… because great leaders feel it. And they do something about it.

Soft Skill #7: Are comfortable taking the unpopular position when he of she knows it’s the right position. Great leaders also possess a stubborn wilfulness to march through the stream of bullshit detractors even risking their very jobs and livelihood to do so.

 

 

 

 

Five Tips for New Managers

Congratulations on your promotion to manager! You’ve earned this!

new-supervisor

But now what? If you are like most managers you have inherited a team of direct reports and have received zero instruction on what to do. Funny how when it comes to the most important asset of any company, its employees, companies fail each and every time to set our managers up for success. I think it is only the minority of companies who can boast of some awesome management training program.

Here are 5 Tips for setting yourself up as an outstanding manager of people:

  1. If you are a new manager, perhaps just recently promoted and now find yourself managing your peers this puts you in a tough spot. First thing, unfriend and dis-connect from your direct reports on social media including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The dynamics of your relationship have now changed. Believe me, you do not want to be privy to your team’s evening and weekend exploits. Knowing what your team members do “on the outside” will make it more difficult for you to manage and develop your staff members based on his or her performance, skills and abilities. You are only human,  and we are inherently biased to some degree and stuff you see on social media will impact your decision-making abilities. But don’t ignore those friendships either or pretend like you are too good now to take your team members to lunch and have some personal one-on-one time. An honest discussion between you and your direct report about how you both see the relationship changing will go a long way maintaining strong ties that also respect the manager-employee relationship.
  2. Do your homework. If HR or the Departmental Director does not provide you information on your employees, gather it and begin to create your own management files. As a new manager, you need to know your employee’s names, titles, previous supervisors, salary history and general job history with the company. Get their resume and any behavioral assessments that were completed. Obtain all available performance reviews and read them thoroughly, note any trends. If your employee has written performance goals or a training plan, know them forwards and backwards. Finally, speak with the former supervisors and/or HR to get a better understanding of the employee’s career history with the company. Your employees’ may be the technical subject matter experts of the department, but you need to be the subject matter of your team members.
  3. Build a relationship with your employee on DAY 1. Take your employees out for one-on-ones in a social setting with less pressure, such as lunch or coffee. Start a casual conversation, don’t jump in with questions like “So, where do you see yourself in a year from now?”, start with small talk. Get to know your employee, ask about their college experience, how they got into their industry or occupational field. Be careful not to ask questions that are considered discriminatory in nature. However, if your employee offers the information that’s okay. Actively listen by asking further questions that build upon their answers. In this way, you and your employee are creating the story of how your relationship started. You want that story to be a happy one.
  4. Create a plan for continuous feedback and communication with each of your team members. Most companies have the dusty “open-door” policy in their handbooks, usually for compliance reasons. As a manager, you have to  make yourself accessible to your employees when they need you, not when it’s convenient for you. That’s what you signed up for when you decided to become a manager. Start by greeting everyone in the morning with a warm hello and how are you. It’s these small but powerful actions that can make the difference between a talented employee who keeps something bottled up and decides to leave when they feel no one is listening or decides that all they need to do is come talk to you and work it out.
  5. Figure out what your management style is and communicate it. Your style will likely be determined in some part by the people you are managing, their career levels and what they do for a living. Also, relieve yourself now of the belief that you have to treat everyone the same. Managing fairly means determining each situation on a case-by-case basis. Managing consistently does not mean managing each person the exact same way. Do you want to be the manager who manages not only what your people do but how they do it? Are you comfortable delegating authority off the bat or do you need the employee to earn your trust first? Do you intend to give your employees lots of rope and to rein them back in when they start to get too close to the cliff? Or, are they on a short leash? Will you implement active development plans for all of your staff? Do you expect them to have goals and to achieve them? Whatever you decide, show your hand to your team members so they understand expectations from the jump.

Three Steps to Earning A Promotion

how-to-get-a-promotion-at-work-1085001-twobyone

Wondering how you get promoted? Tired of being looked over for advancement opportunities? Restless and bored in your current job? Want to earn more money?

Here’s 3 Steps to Earning a Promotion:

  1. Take stock of your individual performance- not against your own expectations, but the expectations of your manager, the expectations of leadership and against the company’s mission, vision and values. Self-awareness is the name of this game. Outside of the annual performance review, I doubt most of you work for an organization where your manager is engaged in active performance management. If this is the case for you, make sure you are asking your manager for performance feedback often. The next time you see him or her, ask for 10 minutes of their time to review your current job performance, areas that you are exceeding his or her expectations and areas you should be working on. Ask your manager straight up what they think you need to work on to improve your performance. This is your career, your life, stop waiting passively for someone to share what they think about your performance, go out and get the information. Ask your peers,  team members and other colleagues to give you real and honest feedback on your performance. Listen to what they have to say and take some action steps. Becoming self-aware to our own strengths and weaknesses is a difficult experience but also elevates us to a better more genuine place.
  2. Get outside of your comfort zone. Employees who stay in their safe zone and never stick their neck out to take on a challenge, even if they nail their current job to a “T”, do not get promoted. Individuals that lean into the discomfort and fear of the unknown, who take the bet with uncertainty of the outcome, get recognized as having unique qualities worthy of promotion and advancement within the organization. These folks are generally the ones chosen for individual development plans, leadership programs and succession plans- they are given first crack at new training and development opportunities. Not sure where to start? Again, sit down with your manager and ask if you can co-lead or partner up on a challenging new project. Or, identify an area of the business that is ripe for process efficiency, cost reduction or innovation. Write up a business case and present it to your manager. As an employee on the front lines you are best equipped to identify these opportunities. Any manager worth a damn will be pleased as punch to hear your idea that solves a bonafide business problem and will have no problem advocating for your cause with leadership.
  3. Finally, ask for the promotion. I’m a firm believer that an employee is ready for a promotion when they have mastered the role they are in and beginning to show aptitude and prowess for the next level up. Managers with a solid grip on his or her employees should be able to put their finger on just the right time; however, you, the employee, as your own best advocate, need to find your adult voice and ask your manager for the promotion. Be prepared to outline your position- what you have accomplished thus far, what you are ready to take on and the value that your promotion will bring to the business. If your manager is unable or unwilling to consider your promotion at that time, do not give up, ask for a training and development plan to get you to the next level. Remember, your manager owes you two things- to remove obstacles that get in the way of you being able to effectively perform your job and to provide the opportunities and resources to help you prove your worth. But YOU and you alone are responsible for earning that promotion.