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I recently welcomed Max Yoder to the Let’s Fix Work podcast. Max is the Co-Founder and CEO of Lessonly, an online service that provides bite-sized learning with big impact to today’s trainers, managers, and subject-matter experts. I have to tell you, Max is a CEO who’s trying to get it right.  He’s not just a CEO who’s concerned about the numbers. That has always left such a positive impression on me. What has also left a positive impression on me is Max’s mission to help professionals do better work. In fact, we discussed his philosophy at length on the podcast. Some of what he said is worth mentioning again.

This is what Max had to say about doing better work, “‘Do better work’ is our mission at Lessonly, if we can help people do better work, they will live better lives. If we can teach somebody how to do their job a little bit better, 1% better, 2% better, they’re going to feel more confident in their role. They’re going to feel more competent in their role. That’s not just going to go away. When they walk out the door to go home, they’re going to have a feeling of levity and a feeling of assuredness that they take home to their friends or their family. So when you think about doing better work, we think that’s a direct impact on you and your job. But it also walks home with you and we think that’s pretty darn special.” That is pretty darn special, Max.

Alright, so how do we actually do better work? Well, Max believes that clarity and camaraderie are key. “Clarity is all about understanding what works, why it works, and how to do it, “ he says.

He goes on to say, “If we have a better understanding and we have more clarity on a team, that’s a really good thing. You measure that with camaraderie or you match that with camaraderie, and you gain a mutual trust and respect. When we have clarity and we have camaraderie, we’re going to make a lot of progress.”

Translation: when we have both clarity and camaraderie in the workplace, we can do better work.

When you think about it, it makes so much sense. Yet, disconnect, low morale, and lack of focus is still often found in the workplace, among teams and leaders.

I leave you with this question: what can you do today to begin to build camaraderie and clarity in your organization? We all should strive to do better, be better, and work better. Figure out what steps you need to take to move towards a better tomorrow.

Want more from Max? We flex our Midwestern accents and talk about training in the workplace, vulnerability, leadership, and nonviolent communication. Not bad for a kid from Goshen, Indiana, right? Head over here to listen!

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Do you feel powerless or worthless to affect change in your organization? I mean, what can you do? How about just go and get a tall macchiato from Starbucks and drown your sorrows? That’ll feel great, right?  

Ah yes, that is a perfect example of someone who has hit rock bottom in the workplace. In fact, I was that person, not too long ago. In a recent podcast interview with Jeanette Bronée, I asked,  “How do we get people out of the “Starbucks, I can’t affect change” cycle before they hit rock bottom? And she offered some great advice, which I would like to share with you today.

Jeanette Bronée is a performance strategist, culture coach, wellness advocate, and founder of Path For Life, Inc.  Jeanette helps leaders and companies rethink performance by asking “The Right Why®” so they can lead themselves and their people better and achieve sustainable success. She is passionate about how we can create a culture of care by unlocking what truly drives performance, engagement, and motivation from the inside out.

Now back to the question at hand, how can we avoid hitting rock bottom at work?

Jeanette had this to say, “I’ve really gotten to see the insights of the human struggle in terms of not being appreciated at work and what it does to a person.” She believes that self-care is part of the answer and the ability to change within. Of course, that’s easier said than done.

She offers up this advice, “Have self-kindness or self-compassion for that moment and say, ‘What I really need right now is to take a walk so that I can just get away from this toxic environment and remind myself that I actually do matter.’”

Jeanette believes that self-care, self-connection, self-awareness, and self-expression are a big part of building the muscle that helps us see ourselves for what we’re really worth rather than what we believe we’re worth.

When she talks about self-care, she is not referring to being pampered, having massages, or doing yoga. Instead she means being very active and engaged by taking charge of our day and taking charge of our performance. “What I look at is, what do we need so that we can be at our best rather than hanging back and feeling all cozy at work.”

We go to work because we want to matter.

We want to create change or we want to be part of something.

The reason we get frustrated with work is because that doesn’t happen for us. And then we stumble down the mountain and hit rock bottom. So the next time you are teetering towards the edge and reaching for that frappuccino with double whipped cream, remember Jeanette’s advice, take a deep breath, go for a walk, and realize that you matter. You matter and your work matters. And, you guessed it, you fix work by fixing yourself. Self-care is one small step towards that goal.

To hear more of my conversation with Jeanette, where we talked about the intersection of wellness, well-being, culture, leadership, and performance, go here.

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Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Ultimate Software, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

I finished a book called “The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More, and Change the Way You Lead Forever” by Michael Bungay Stanier. The book teaches you how to form a habit, so you can adopt a coaching mindset, and then offers seven types of questions to have richer and more fulfilling discussions with your team:

    • The Kickstart Question
    • The Awe Question
    • The Focus Question
    • The Foundation Question
    • The Lazy Question
    • The Strategic Question
    • The Learning Question

Most of this is self-explanatory. In a world of continuous feedback and ongoing coaching, the kickstart question gets you involved in a conversation with your direct report or mentee right away so you talk about what matters most.

The awe question encourages you to dig a little deeper and try to help someone get to the heart of what’s going on mentally or emotionally at work. The focus question asks an individual to figure what’s happening, and the foundation question gets to the heart of what the person wants at work, in relationships, and from you.

I’m lazy, so I loved that there’s a lazy question. The author invites you to ask ‘how can I help?’ without being the first responder in someone else’s life. The strategic question is all about looking at the bigger picture and weighing what matters. Finally, the learning question is all about insight and what we’ve learned, and what we’ll take away, from our experiences.

It’s a good book for your organization to dig deeper and have better conversations with one another.

CONVERSATIONS ENHANCED BY DATA

Those seven questions are helpful, but it’s not like you have hours in your day to sit around and ask all seven questions to every employee in your department. Also, not every employee needs you to ask each question. Some people are in the early stages of their journey while others are further ahead.

Human resources leaders are often scared of people data and believe analytics dashboards are for data scientists; however, people data and analytics can help you have the right coaching conversations with the correct people while understanding core needs and without making assumptions.

Think about it. If we use the framework of those seven questions and map it to the performance management process, some employees may go years without understanding the real challenges in their jobs while others are struggling with their time, attention and focus.

People data and analytics help our leaders have personalized discussions with employees by understanding behavior and trends to create more meaningful experiences. Technology like UltiPro’s Workforce Intelligence tool isn’t just a platform that collects data in a vacuum. The analytics and reporting functionality — combined with predictive, prescriptive, and sentiment analysis — helps leaders understand an employee’s story and have personalized solutions to meet whatever challenges a worker might face.

CREATE AN ENVIRONMENT OF COACHING

Create a coaching culture by marrying people data and analytics with a coaching framework of your choice. I enjoyed reading “The Coaching Habit” and think it offers a simple and effective way to craft a working relationship between leaders and employees in seven easy steps.

Whatever you choose, remember that data can enhance relationships by helping HR professionals and leaders get to the heart of an employee’s story and experience faster.

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Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Ultimate Software, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.

The big buzz in the world of HR is the concept of a distributed workforce.

A distributed workforce is a workforce that reaches beyond the restrictions of the conventional office environment. These are FTEs, PT workers, temps, consultants, freelancers, flexible workers and task assistants who may or may not be paid by your payroll department. A distributed workforce can work remotely and still be local, national and international. You can learn more here.

The challenge with a distributed workforce is to make everybody feel like they’re having a fabulous time “working for you” and achieving your goals without making employment promises you can’t keep.

The other challenge is ensuring that all workers treat one another respectfully — and follow all safety guidelines — by following your company’s training and adhering to your organization’s policies and practices.

NEARLY EVERYBODY HAS A DISTRIBUTED WORKFORCE

You probably have a distributed workforce; however, you may not interact with it. HR only deals with FTEs, fully benefited remote workers, part-time employees who work over thirty hours and receive company benefits and administrative temps/receptionists.

Why is that? Why is HR’s role so small when many people come together and “work” for your company?

Well, your legal department is afraid of establishing a joint employer relationship where you and a consulting firm are both liable for the employee experience. Your company decided HR should deal with the “real employees” while everybody else has a “contractor email address,” a different color badge, and parks in a different parking lot when they come to the office.

So, we can blame the lawyers. Contractors and temps have sued companies when employment statuses haven’t been clear; then corporate lawyers overreacted and made you stop inviting contractors to the holiday party.

WHY IS THIS APPROACH A RISK TO PRODUCTIVITY?

When people work at your company, they should have one set of goals: achieving your organization’s mission while following its vision and aligning with the values.

Unfortunately, eager workers are showing up at your company on the first day and having varied and inconsistent experiences. FTEs feel welcome while everyone else is made to feel like their output — and not their humanity — is the only thing that matters.

Nobody wants that!

A second-class experience anywhere within the distributed workforce can impede your organization’s ability to do great work. While you don’t want a temp worker suing you for benefits, you also don’t want talented people opting-out

GET A HANDLE ON YOUR ENTIRE WORKFORCE

Success in a distributed workplace is measured by a worker’s ability to find what they need to achieve your organization’s goals. That’s why it’s critical for HR to be involved and have a handle on where people work and for whom. Your in-depth knowledge of the distributed workforce means lower training costs, less administrative overhead, and less risk for your entire organization.

Orientation — on the first day of work and beyond — is the biggest opportunity where you can send consistent but clear messages to your distributed workforce. HR could be involved from the onset and help the “talent” understand that nobody is a second-class citizen and all experiences matter.

But I think HR draws such a sharp distinction between employee and contractor because they don’t have a handle on who works for the organization.

    • •The company’s HRIS is old,
    • • managers fill requisitions without telling anybody,
    • • and employee data sits on an unsecured spreadsheet on somebody’s laptop.

If you work in human resources, get your FTE house in order. UltiPro and its Workforce Intelligence product bring together HR, payroll, and talent management data to help you build better leaders, empower employees, and improve the overall work experience.

ALL EXPERIENCES MATTER

You can’t achieve revenue goals if everybody isn’t on board with your purpose and organizational values whether somebody works for your full-time in the office or is a remote worker paid by a consulting firm, attitudes and beliefs matter. From day one, all workers affect the tone, climate, and productivity of your company.

Begin with your full-time and part-time employees. Lay the foundation for a great workforce experience by gaining visibility and gleaning insights into your employee base. Build the right foundation and apply the lessons you’ve learned to your distributed workforce.

You’ve got to start somewhere. The distributed workforce is here, and it is time to clean up the existing employee experience before you tackle the buzzwords of the day.

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Have you ever pondered this question, “What is the role and responsibility of today’s leaders?” Well, I have. In fact, I asked Dr. Dan Crosby a similar question on a recent episode of my podcast, Let’s Fix Work. Dan is an author, psychologist, and Chief Behavioral Officer at Brinker Capital. His primary focus is on behavioral economics and understanding how we make decisions around money.

When it comes to behavioral economics, it’s important to remember the human brain isn’t as evolved as it needs to be. I asked Dan whether or not we should be designing better employment experiences for our organizations and our people. Or more to the point, where can HR and our leaders be doing better?

Dan had this to say, “I really am a believer in the power of HR, organizational development, and leadership development in all sorts of HR adjacent functions. And I really do believe there is a big business benefit to these functions.”

Dan brought up an interesting point about HR and science too. He said, “HR needs to rise to the occasion and become increasingly scientific.”

What does he mean, exactly? Well, if HR and its adjacent functions can get more into behavioral analytics, form a deeper understanding of people, and speak the language of business; increasingly they’ll gain more credibility. With credibility, they’ll be more apt to be in a position of great leadership (because great leaders are always learning and growing) and bring their organization together.

The role and responsibility of today’s leaders is to keep learning, keep striving to fix themselves, and thus fix workplaces they manage.

If you are interested in the role behavioral economics plays in the market, the workplace, and how it affects our decisions, tune into this episode of Let’s Fix Work.

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I spoke at my first American human resources conference in 2008.

George W. Bush was still president. Foreclosures were in the news and layoffs were rampant. We didn’t have universal access to healthcare and people were going bankrupt due to medical bills and prescription drug prices. The mortgage crisis was imminent, and the economic growth in our country had stalled. Just as things couldn’t get much worse, elder Millennials entered the workforce.

The world looked bleak, and HR leaders and leadership experts would come together at these stale events and say things like, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

An event planner asked me to come to her conference and be on a panel to discuss multiple generations in the workforce. How do we deal with different attitudes and expectations? How do we talk to the youth of today? What policies will stay the same, and what policies will change? With emerging technology and a push towards greater productivity, will there be enough jobs to go around?

When you have a blog called Punk Rock HR, everybody in your industry reads it, but nobody takes you seriously. It was important for me to get on stages and talk about my ideas in the public arena. So, I donned a black sweater dress and tall boots and told the audience three things:

1. Be political. HR sits at the intersection of work, power, politics, and money. Everything you do — from headcount to policy — is connected to budget, and budget is power. Think bigger than “being cultural stewards” and mitigating risk. Learn the political game your CEO is playing, and gain his favor. Then, exercise your power of influence and be the change you wish to see in the world for the greater good of humanity.

2. Pay attention to the headlines. The news is a lagging indicator of the hot-button issues in our society. If foreclosures or unemployment or student debt or childhood obesity are a part of every headline, it means you don’t have to do an employee survey and ask your workforce about their lives. You already know that financial problems and wellbeing issues are plaguing your workforce. Stop wasting time. Fix that.

3. Nobody likes to be stereotyped. Long before we knew the word “personalization,” I told HR professionals that employees are consumers of work and expect programs and policies to be tailored to their experiences. Instead of talking about generations, let’s discuss life stages and try to dig deeper at the individual level.

Finally, I wrapped up my time on stage by encouraging HR leaders to use emerging social platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn to recruit and hire talented workers. If they’re on those platforms in 2008, they are relatively early adopters and primed to say yes when someone of substance reaches out to connect. Be that person who can change lives and help someone find a dream job on Twitter.

I was nearly laughed off stage.

I received very hostile audience questions about the risks of being political in a primary season in 2008. Also, people told me the news was biased. Why, with their limited schedules, would they prioritize reading the national or local news when they wanted to spend time learning more about HR.

And people in the audience wanted to talk about Millennials and dress codes and work output. No joke, would the quality of work suffer if we went to a more casual policy and they could wear hoodies and jeans?

The whole first experience did not go well, and I remember thinking, “Am I the asshole? Is it possible that I’m wrong? Are my speaking skills that bad?”

I got off stage and went to the bathroom where I proceeded to hear a group of women make fun of me and my ideas while I was peeing. They even laughed at my outfit on stage. The audacity of a woman to wear tall boots with heels was too much!

It was so fucking mean.

Other than Kris Dunn and a few other people in the industry, I didn’t have a peer group who had my back. I wanted to die.

But, eventually, the world turned and HR professionals like me decided to start speaking. Now, Trump is president, our healthcare system is still a mess, foreclosures are up, labor force participation is down, no net-new FTE jobs have been created since the Great Recession, LinkedIn has its colossal conference, Twitter’s HR team speaks at HR conferences, and we’re starting to talk about the challenges of Gen Z workers.

Everything old is new again.

It was lonely being early to these events, but it was worth it. While you still get those hesitant HR audiences and bullshit leadership speakers who have a ten-stage plan to empowering and engaging the workforce — and who tell you to use data to be more strategic — you also have thoughtful and dedicated speakers and thinkers who understand the intersection of social justice and workplace challenges and have good ideas on how to fix this mess.

And for those speakers and bloggers out there who wonder if what they’re doing has an impact beyond that immediate audience, it does. To this day, I’m approached by young men and women who read my Punk Rock HR blog back in college — or saw me when they were just entering the workforce, and I was working for free at smaller events — and challenged themselves to ask good questions, be a little braver, and learn the political game at work.

So, when I see smart people with provocative ideas step on stage to an audience that may or may not be on board, it warms my heart. Please have faith and courage in your message. Don’t worry about getting booed off the stage. It’s HR, and even the boldest and most courageous ideas about work are already mainstream. If anything, take heart. History has your back. I know this because it had mine.

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It’s important to celebrate milestones. I recently aired my 50th episode of Let’s Fix Work.

It’s hard to believe almost a year has passed since I launched this little podcast. Over the past eleven months, I’ve met some inspiring thinkers and tackled topics from asshole bosses to sexual harassment to universal basic income.⠀

One thing I know more than ever: We fix work by deprioritizing corporate interests and focusing on our whole lives. If we do the inner work needed to be healthy adults with good relationships, our efforts carry over to our jobs.⠀

Let’s face it, even when we love our jobs and we feel secure, we are still a little worried about our future. That’s being human.

But what is the difference between being a successful human versus being a complacent human? Well, I’ll tell ya.

Successful humans don’t just sit back and complain about work. Even when life is tough and challenging, they dream, they think, they do, and they kick butt too. Of course, even successful people are prone to failure. But when they do fail, it’s not that big of a deal because they are resilient. They are successful at work and life.

What’s their secret? It’s neither dumb luck nor is it their connections. Those that find success do so because of their healthy mindsets and winning rituals.

A mindset is an attitude and a belief.

Rituals are what you do to set yourself up for success when nobody’s looking.

The good news is that even in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world, you can always improve your outcome and move towards success  by adopting a healthy mindset and winning rituals. Doing so will carry over to your personal and professional lives. I promise.

In the milestone episode of Let’s Fix Work, I shared three mindset tips I’ve learned from friends, colleagues, and guests. My tips will help you reflect where you spend your time, rethink who gets your attention, and encourage you to be of service to those around you. Click here to give it a listen.

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“When somebody thinks enough of you to ask, say yes.”

An event planner offered this advice in 2009. I was encouraged to attend more industry events even if I wasn’t on the speaker roster.

“If you’re building a business and asked to take part in a conference — and they’re offering to pay your expenses — you accept the offer and build a relationship. Give them a fabulous experience. Make yourself so indispensable and provide excellent social media coverage so they invite you back, next time, as a paid speaker.”

Ten years later, some of this advice is okay and some of it is dumb.

Relationships are the currency of business. If you want to build a business or expand your brand, you’ve got to be the Chief Relationship Officer of your life. This applies to entrepreneurs, students, and even HR ladies.

Saying Yes

So, that’s part of the reason I attend the Qualtrics X4 Experience Management Summit in Salt Lake City, last week. I have a long-standing relationship with people at SAP, but I don’t know the leadership team at Qualtrics. It was time to learn more about their approach to fixing work.

Beyond the exceptional speakers — Oprah Winfrey, President Obama, Sir Richard Branson, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, Ashton Kutcher, Adam Silver, and many more — there were excellent breakout sessions with HR leaders from big brands like Quicken Loans, Ford Motor Company, Sephora and Buzzfeed. These are HR leaders who are collecting and analyzing experience data and operational data to have a more informed understanding of onboarding, engagement, performance, diversity, training, development, inclusion, retention, and wellbeing.

The sessions were outstanding because the conference took a story-first approach, which meant nobody was selling a widget or a subscription. Speakers were selling big ideas and experiences about fixing HR and work, and nearly everybody offered real-world examples of how both small and massive HR departments can use technology and pivot from ‘listening to employee complaints’ to creating moments that matter.

So, the event was great. No regrets saying yes and accepting the invite.

Does It Pay Off?

Will I ever be invited to speak at one of these Qualtrics events? I’m not sure that’s the point.

Superficial relationships never move the needle for my business. I’ve learned it’s best to approach every opportunity as a unique experience to deliver excellence at the moment with no expectation for additional opportunities.

If you’re an aspiring keynote speaker and think you will get on a stage at a conference because you’re blogging or tweeting, you’ve got the speaking model all wrong. You get on stage because you have big ideas and a business built around those ideas.

However, being in the audience is never a bad idea because you can learn more about your industry and see how other people express their expertise. And you can develop relationships because you’re a decent human being who knows that connections are the undercurrent of life. If you take a service-oriented approach to your attendance at these events, you can’t go wrong.

So, I’m excited to continue this newfound relationship with Qualtrics. We’ll see what happens. If anything, I’m happy to bring you future podcast stories of how smart people like Ryan and Jared Smith are fixing work. That’s worth the trip to Utah alone.

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Next week is the 5th annual WorkHuman conference, and, as I pack my bags, I’ve been thinking a lot about expertise.

There are three types of speakers at this event.

1. Researchers with a thesis and ideas, and academics who have studied a topic like leadership or gratitude for ages.

2. Practitioners and leaders who work in HR or management and have advice and guidance based on their many years of experience.

3. Thought leaders, key opinion leaders, and pundits who personify aspects of part one and two.

No speaker persona is better than the other, and I enjoy learning from academics as much as HR business partners. Brené Brown is a researcher, Kat Cole is a practitioner, and I’m on stage interviewing smart people like Maya Raghu, Cy Wakeman and Patti Fletcher who aren’t necessarily professors or CHROs but have informed beliefs about the world of work.

WorkHuman attracts some of the best speakers on the market. What makes them great? Successful speakers are confident and have a timely and passionate message for the audience. The worst speakers are mimics who parrot management tropes and business clichés back to the audience like they’re Jack Welch at a GE Conference circa 1995. Thankfully, you don’t see many speakers like that at WorkHuman. Almost everybody has a defined body of expertise. They screen out the scrubs.

It’s probably too late in the game for you to attend WorkHuman, but, if you can find your way to Nashville, I’ve got a discount code for you. It’s WH19INFLRU. You can also follow my tweets at #WorkHuman and ping me with questions.

I’m excited to share expert ideas from the 5th annual WorkHuman conference, and I hope you find it helpful. Good ideas come from many sources, and I look forward to learning from professors, entrepreneurs and thought leaders alike!

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Most companies want to create positive work environments for their employees, right? After all, they want workers to be happy, but are they creating “fearless” environments? Recently on an episode of Let’s Fix Work, I welcomed Professor Amy Edmondson from Harvard Business School. She is the author of The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth. Her book discusses creating a psychologically safe workplace that invites employee participation and innovation. We took a look at the state of work environments today and the need for change.

During the conversation, we discussed many topics regarding psychological safety, which, according to Amy, is a climate where people feel that their voice is welcome and they know, “They not only can, but they are expected to bring their ideas, their questions, their concerns,

and even their failures to the table.” This embodies the idea that everyone has thoughts about their workplace, from ways to improve morale to ideas on how to make the business better. But, sometimes workers may feel afraid to speak up. Why is that? Fear of failure or bad consequences at work can keep workers silent. The company could be missing out on good ideas. After all, as Amy pointed out, if someone is in a state of fear, their brain doesn’t work well and they may be holding back…not expressing the ideas that could be so beneficial for the boss to hear.

So, what do we do about this, and how can we create a fearless environment at work? Amy says there are three things that a boss can do right now to work towards this: set the stage, invite participation, and respond productively.

First, let’s explore setting the stage: This involves opening up to employees and telling them that you, as the boss, don’t have all the answers. That you don’t have any magical way of seeing into the future to know what the solution to an issue may be and that others are welcome to bring forward their ideas. That’s setting the stage – letting others know that you are open to hearing what they say.

Next up, inviting participation: Which means asking employees for specifics of what they are seeing in their jobs or for their input on the topics being considered. Actively asking questions and listening to the answers.

And finally the last item Amy discussed, responding productively: If people present you with some bad news, don’t overreact or lash out. Instead, as Amy says, “Take a deep breath,” and listen to the whole situation. It could be an opportunity to work together to find a resolution to whatever the problem is.

Good leaders use self-control and self-awareness. Only then can they be truly aware of others and appreciate their efforts, as the leader can’t do all the work alone. Amy says, “Understanding that fundamentally as a leader, your job is to harness the efforts of others.” That’s the bottom line. It’s important to work towards a positive work environment that not only welcomes but encourages input from employees…fearlessly.

If you’d like to hear more details about creating a fearless organization, check out the podcast episode with Amy Edmondson, here.

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