What Do You Think ??

Feedback is a tricky thing. When we talk about this topic, our focus is how we give feedback to others. This is needed because it doesn’t occur naturally, or often enough, in our organizations. It’s interesting to me though that when we write about feedback, we personally are never in the mix. Since the direction of feedback is always outward, isn’t is possible that we won’t receive any ourselves?

We are more than willing to give our opinion about people. It doesn’t take much prodding at all. The challenge is that when this occurs, we tend to list negative items or note things that we think need to be “addressed.” This is technically a form of feedback and it’s typically what people expect. It seems that it’s harder to give positive feedback, but it’s just that we haven’t practiced.

Feedback IconsTo get started though, I’d like to suggest something different. What if you asked people for feedback? Seriously, What if you asked people – “What do you think?” but it was about you and your performance. I know this is absolutely out of everyone’s comfort zone, but it’s an alternative approach.

The fact is – we all have blind spots. We may be behaving or performing in a way that is affecting others, but we don’t know what’s happening. You may not be “clicking” with them, or something just feels out of kilter. There is also a significant norm you’d be breaking because asking others to give you feedback may put people on the defensive. They may not know how to respond because they are stuck in the old model of either giving or receiving negative feedback the majority of time.

I know that this is a big stretch, so here are some starters to help you ask and also seek feedback from others.

  • What am I doing right ?? – You can set the stage and approach for these types of interaction by being positive going in. You have to get over the self-esteem barrier that may hold you back. This isn’t for others to brag about you. It’s to help them see that feedback can be positive !!
  • Where do you see me being an obstacle ?? – We all get in the way of someone. There are things that hinder our performance from being the best it can be. If we’re an obstacle to others, it’s better to know what that looks like so you can address it and, hopefully, remove it.
  • What’s an area where I could improve ?? – People want to share how you could do better. Asking it this way stops them from launching on you with a barrage of negativity. Ask people for things that are tangible and relevant and not just differences in personality or approach.
  • How can I help you do better in your role ?? – This one will throw people off completely. You see, we TELL people what to do and to get work done. The majority of people have a “task” mentality and they want to see defined stops and starts. By offering to help someone else you develop yourself and also relationships. Both are key to you doing well.

I know that this goes against what people think when it comes to the world of feedback. I want you to be encouraged though. I know this works because I’ve tried to practice it myself with peers as well as people who’ve been my boss. It’s a bit wonky when it starts, but I’ve seen it blossom to more open, regular and consistent communication.

Check out other’s thoughts on this as part of the Feedback Carnival that Helen Amery is doing out of the UK !! It’s fabulous !!

So, now that you’ve seen this different option . . . what do you think ??

Breaking Bottlenecks !!


Is it something we really have?  Why do people continue to struggle to control things?  It may be human nature to make us feel stable or have stasis vs. imbalance, but what does control lead to?

BottleneckI think it leads to bottlenecks.  Bottlenecks are unnecessary blockades in our workplace today that are caused, more often than not, because of the need for control.  There’s an on-going feeling that if things funnel through the fewest people, then we have a better chance of being efficient and productive.  Some people are very successful at this and rise to the top of their organizations.  In fact, being a control freak is sometimes rewarded in organizations.

The past two weeks I’ve seen a different approach that excites me !!  Ironically, for those of you in HR, both involved SHRM (at the State Level).

The first experience was at the Indiana SHRM Leadership Day !! I was fortunate enough to be the “keynote” speaker and talked about HR being involved in Social Media.  Brad Galin and Angie Brawdy did a fab job of getting the SHRM chapter boards to attend.   I’ve heard a ton of presentations about this topic, but I took a different approach.  I opened with “Ice, Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice (because it’s Vanilla Ice) and encouraged folks to be: I ntentional, C onnected and E ngaged to the level they feel comfortable.  Instead of beating them to death for not being uberinvolved in every platform and comparing themselves to social media giants, I encouraged them to break out and find their own way.

The second experience came at the Ohio SHRM Leadership Day the following week where we had a Boot Camp !!  Each chapter was encouraged to send multiple volunteer leaders and the focus the whole day was on them.  Teaching them about resources, laughing, encouraging them and having fun in helping them become successful.

The bottlenecks of communication that can so easily be built were blown away because more people heard the messages.  They were able to take things in, filter them and decide how to move forward because they were ALL capable !!

It was great to see people energized about HR and  how they can be involved !!  Bottlenecks were broken these last two weeks and I want to encourage you to see where bottlenecks are in your organizations and see if you can get them unclogged.

Remember the sage words of Vanilla Ice . . .

“Stop, collaborate and listen . . .”  It works !! Peace out !!

A Sort of Homecoming . . .

This past weekend I was at the SHRM Regional Council Summit.  It sounds like a very formal name, but it’s not that kind of event.  It’s where the State HR Council Directors get together to get updates from SHRM, share best practices and meet others that are in similar roles from all over the country.

I have to say that going into the weekend, I didn’t know what to expect.  However, at the end of the conference I was even more assured of how amazing HR really is !!  You see, I was able to meet friends from all over the country that I had never met.  We had much more in common than we even imagined.  I’m not talking about being SHRM volunteers.  I talking about great HR pros who are making a difference in the profession and in their companies.

I continue to be amazed that when you experience this kind of camaraderie and energy, that HR people still don’t want to be connected because it takes too much effort or time.  Trust me, being more connected to other great folks only gives me access to more resources and insight into what HR does.

Most of you know that I’m a gigantic U2 fan !!  When I was thinking of putting this together, the song A Sort of Homecoming came to mind.  It talks about a person who’s searching because they’re isolated until they come home.

When I go to events like this at the local, regional and national level, I feel like this by “coming home” to friends who I don’t get to see that often, but I know they’re always there.  I saw the same reaction from others that I met.  We WANT to be together and need to be both as people and as professionals.

I saw many folks get connected on Twitter and social media this weekend because they met others who find it successful.  I saw people share incredible resources from SHRM and their states that make HR better in every aspect from Employee Relations to Advocacy to Compliance to Culture and Professional Development.

So, this week, quit trying to do HR on your own.  Reach out and get connected !!

Try a conference, attend a local HR meeting, or send an e-mail to Link In or join Twitter.  You are part of an amazing community who wants to be connected to YOU !!  Take the step and make that happen.


It’s okay to ask “Why ??”

My wife and I are fortunate to have two amazing kids !!  They do well in school, are active in our church and our community.  I’m proud to say that.  For those of you who have kids, or if you’ve even been a kid, you know that kids ask one question infinitely.  “Why ??!!”

It doesn’t matter if things are crystal clear and there’s no reason for this question, it happens anyway.  More often than not, I just want them to do what I say and have some faith that I am not leading them down some dark path with my request to clean their room.

Recently, I heard a presentation where the speaker pulled back my eyelids on this question that often seems so annoying.  He explained that people in the workplace ask “Why” because they’re seeking context, not to annoy.  They want to understand the reasoning for decisions.  Seems to be a great trait actually.  I actually agree with him and when I sat back to think about it, I ask “why” all the time.  So, why do I get annoyed when others do it?

I think it goes back to the feeling that we’d like people just to do what we say when we say it.  If we have to spend time explaining things, then that means we’ve lost time doing something else that “matters.”

It’s time for all of our eyelids to be pulled back in HR.  If we’re not asking why for context, and even to challenge, then we can’t expect the status quo to ever move.  Just going along with everything doesn’t show well and we shouldn’t settle and sit back.  Also, we can foster a culture where it’s not only safe for employees to ask “why,” but it’s encouraged !!

If we continue to promote that we want a learning environment that focuses on development, then we must allow people to ask “why.”  What are we afraid of if we did this?  If employees felt safe, and inquired about their work, wouldn’t there be a greater chance of an enriched workforce?  How cool would that be?

So, start a new behavior today and allow people to ask that infinite question. This time when it’s asked, answer them.  Give them context and see what happens.  I think you’ll enjoy the results !!

What Are YOU Looking For ??

This weekend my son and I had to catch the opening of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  My quick review is that it is AWESOME !!  Visually beautiful, great story, action and intrigue.  But that’s not the focus of this post.

In the movie, Holmes sees everything !!  Subtle clues abound even in the midst of constant, heart-pounding action.  By following them, he is able to deduce the intentions of his archenemy, Professor Moriarty.  Nothing is missed and everything has meaning.

Now to a real life story . . .

This Friday, I met a friend at one of our LaRosa’s restaurants for lunch.  Service was spectacular from everyone involved and the food was great.  Yes, I know I’m biased, but I wasn’t the only one who saw this.  My friend asked me if the manager knew that I worked for LaRosa’s in HR.  I told him that I hadn’t met the manager on duty, but knew his name.  I explained that I like to just go to our locations and be more low key.  I don’t want to add any undue pressure.

After the manager had stopped by our table to ask how things were, he did something wonderful (as we both observed).  Instead of doing the “How are things?” and pass by before an answer’s even given, he stood and talked to us.  He waited for our response and then talked some more.  My friend exclaimed, “I love when they do that!  When someone takes the time to truly see how things are is what I expect.  This is great !!”

After my friend left, the restaurant, I walked back into the kitchen and introduced myself.  The reaction from the manager and the Team Members around him is what I’m used to.  It’s the “Oh no, it’s HR !!  I wonder what he wants ??”  I reassured him that I was just meeting someone for lunch, but wanted to share how amazing the service was and my friend’s positive reaction to his experience.  The manager glowed.  The “barriers” of talking to HR dropped, and we talked as people (as it should be).

So, what are YOU looking for ??  My friend and I expected to have a great time together at our restaurant, and we did.  The employees were all performing and people were doing a great job.

Do you look for the great things ??  Maybe it’s time we all did this a little more . . .

Image Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

Do you Communicate or Connect ??

At a recent Leadership Team meeting at work, one of our Board of Advisors asked us – “As a company, do you communicate or connect?”

It was a fascinating question and we did some good work around it because the answers around the table ranged from ones that felt “communication was a strength” of ours to “we communicate in volume !!”

In looking at HR, especially when you take in all that is out in this “space,” I would tend to think that volume takes the lead.  This doesn’t mean that there is junk out here.  It just means that there is a ton of information to read, absorb, respond to, or ignore.

Often with so much volume, we tend to take in little because we want to be good stewards of what we read, and people have various capacities when it comes to communication.

What would happen if we chose instead to “connect” ??  What if our efforts regarding HR were more like the classic Conjuntion Junction from Schoolhouse Rock ??

Next week Jason Lauritsen and I are fortunate to be presenting at HRevolution2011 in Atlanta.  Our session is called “If HR stinks, what are YOU doing about it ??”  If you’re out on Twitter at all, it’s blowing up with tweets from HRevolution attendees who can’t wait to get to the event, want to see this speaker or that speaker, but most of all they want to see EACH OTHER !!

You see they want to CONNECT!!  Now, this camaraderie shouldn’t be limited to one conference or to a certain group of people.  HR has to take the step to break out of the shadows, intentionally connect with others and move the field forward.  This isn’t a call for one forum or one association or one event versus another.  However, it IS a call to get connected !!

I hope two things happen when I get to go to HRevolution.  (1) That I take time to connect with as many folks as possible and get to know them behind their “voice in the space” and (2) that our session makes that step from just communicating more about what HR should do – and move it to what I can do (and YOU can do as well) to continue to make HR a thriving, challenging, intriguing and relevant profession !!

Be forewarned . . . I plan to connect with as many HR people as I can !!