Sunday, December 26, 2010

Talented Mentee For Hire! (Pass It On!)

I'd like to introduce you to Hilda, one of my talented mentees. I hired Hilda 6 years ago to be the site Human Resources Manager for our West Coast Distribution Center in California. So Hilda was there when we acquired the site, and she was part of the team that closed down the DC this month as part of ongoing consolidations caused by industry and economic changes.

I'd hire Hilda again in a heartbeat.

If you're looking for a talented HR Manager based about 15 miles south of LAX, you can find Hilda's profile here, on LinkedIn.

And if for some reason you are not on LinkedIn, send me an email and I'll forward you Hilda's contact information. Here's the unsolicited recommendation I posted on Hilda's LinkedIn profile:

"I personally recruited and hired Hilda in 2004 as the site Human Resources Manager for our West Coast distribution center and merchandising branch office, and I would not hesitate to hire Hilda again. She is a highly skilled HR professional with the ability to remain calm, empathetic and firm regardless of the situation or issue. Because of her skills and demeanor, she was very much respected by her colleagues and her internal customers during her 6-year tenure: critical for the success of any seasoned HR practitioner. Both the Vice President of Logistics and I considered Hilda to be a key member of the site leadership team, and in fact, we both considered her as potential bench for the site General Manager position: that's how strong a business partner she is.

Hilda's strong knowledge of California labor law and compliance was invaluable as we ramped up our operations in 2004, and her strong recruiting skills ensured that the DC was always properly staffed. Hilda is only on the market as a result of the closing of West Coast operation this past year (which she also helped facilitate), and that availability will greatly benefit the next organization lucky enough to hire Hilda into her next career position."

I'm proud to personally and professionally vouch for Hilda, and to do so in a proactive and public manner. There are a few motivating reasons, and the first and most important reason is to support Hilda in expeditiously securing her next job.

Secondly, to share as a best practice.  I've used a variation of this method for another talented mentee before: Laurie. She came to me shortly after returning from maternity leave, and asked for my help: the combination of the childcare and the commute wasn't working out, and she needed an HR job closer to home. I was touched by her authenticity and yet was not surprised by it at all, knowing full well how talented she is. I helped her get her C.V. ready, and in an out-of-the-box move (an updated variation of the networking theme that my first manager Nan started with me), I sent it via an email singing her praises to all of the heads of HR (about 38 of them) within a 10-mile radius of Laurie's home. One of them responded immediately (and wisely), hiring Laurie within the week into a position that had not yet been advertised. We then negotiated a transition until Laurie and I could hire her replacement. Laurie was subsequently promoted to the AVP of HR for her new organization.  Your basic win-win.

Aside from championing Hilda to her next position, I also want to encourage all of you, my fellow hiring-authorities and decision-makers, to use your discretionary power to champion the jewels of talent you know and/or mentor, and who have been arbitrarily and capriciously cast out onto the market of an economy that none of us ever imagined.

Proactively "pre-recommend" these available talent jewels by sending their information to other hiring-authorities and decision-makers. (And if this has been your practice especially during this last recession, please share your success stories here and elsewhere and spread the best practice so it can expand and grow!)

The economically impacted (the laid-off) do not need to become the next marginalized class. Those of us who have sat on both sides of the layoff table and who are currently in hiring-authority and decision-maker positions (there but for the grace of God go we!) absolutely have the power to shift that now-outdated paradigm: that if someone has been laid off, they must be inferior human capital. It is, more often than not, in these economic times, a false assessment, and I can personally prove it.  Hilda is just one of a number of shining examples to that passe' paradigm's contrary.

Years ago, in diversity training, we learned that if we were in one of the real / perceived power groups (male, Caucasian etc.), that we had a choice: that we could each personally shift the paradigm by using our discretionary power, and be inclusive of folks in more marginalized groups, rather than exclude them by default, ignorance or fear. Today, no one is more potentially marginalized than the laid-off and the unemployed. Thankfully, we have a choice: we can see them for the jewels of talent they are, and we, the employed hiring-authorities and decision-makers, can use our discretionary power and stand up personally, professionally, and publicly for them, and ultimately, for each other.

Or as my 9 year-old son learned in Sunday school:

"He drew a circle that shut me out— Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout. But Love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle that took him in!" 

      Sunday, December 19, 2010

      Thank You Fer Teh Job Oppertunity

      Gentle reader:  whether you are looking for a new job, or you're looking to be retained and/or promoted in your current organization, I beseech you, I beg you, I implore you.  Please proof what you send to hiring authorities and decision-makers.  Emails, documents, etc.  It's so sad and tragic when you don't.  Repeatedly.  

      Seriously, stop it.  You need a job.

      Speaking of which:  I'm not going to repeat verbatim in today's blog post my blog post from last August, Write Your Life, Write Your Career.  Read my advice as a hiring authority and a decision-maker to you thereNot learning to write and proof to minimal business standards is, at the very least, a career-killer.

      Those of you who don't proof your work and are subsequently not hearing back from the job applications you submit:  I'm going to give you some brief yet poignant examples as to why:

      • state university of ny, albany ny
      (Hint: it's not proper grammar, and since I know for a fact that e.e. cummings is dead, you're definitely not hearing back from me);

      • Shift Manger, Ruby Tuesday's
      (I love mangers, especially at this time of the year:  what does this have to do with your management experience?);

      • Sent From My Verizon Wireless mobile phone
      (Not as impressive as it was a few years ago; now it's definitely just lazy.  Not a real signature.  You can change this default signature yourself, just check the Verizon Wireless website or ask Tech Support at your local Verizon Wireless store);

      •  Subject:  Your Career Oppertunity
      (Big ouch.  You misspelled the email subject line.  I don't even open up your email, I just move it from my email Inbox to the Candidate Regret folder); 
      • Education:  Saratoga Springs High School        
        (I know font formatting in emails can get messed up in web transit; that's why you should attach your C.V. as well as cut and paste your C.V. into the body of the email.  Otherwise, it's like receiving an anonymous ransom note from a serial killer with a lack of attention to detail);

        •  Hi:  I'm interested in teh job.
         (Hi.  You don't know me, therefore "Hi" is inappropriately too familiar for a cover letter salutation.  And you misspelled "the."   As the hiring authority, two strikes against you as the candidate.  We won't be familiar any time soon).

        Note: please consider any typos you find in this blog post as a pop quiz.

        Happy education; happy hunting; and happy holidays to you and yours!      

        Sunday, December 12, 2010

        Be Part of the Solution at Work

        Early in my career, I (thankfully) was taught that when raising an issue or a problem to my manager, I should also be prepared to present at least one viable solution ready for implementation to solve the issue or problem, if not more.  It has served me well in my career, and I coach my mentees accordingly. 

        Among other services, working in the Human Resources function is the internal Customer Service function for most organizations, a.k.a., some days, Complaint Central. (Actually, in the more progressive organizations, we all work in Internal Customer Service.)

        Not that I mind that function.  I take it as an opportunity to share the wealth and coach Complainants on how they can be part of the solution to the problems they raise (or cause).  Work, especially these days, can be stressful, and folks need opportunities to vent.   Most take the coaching.  Some just don't get it.

        Those who don't get it will eventually lose their jobs.  Bottom line. Bitter and blotchy, as my friend Nan coined.  Always complaining and gossiping to anyone who will listen.  And, amazingly, it happens at all organizational levels, from clerk to executive, and regardless of age and/or experience.   If you don't think constantly pissing in the organization's soup is also pissing in your own soup, you're kidding yourself, or you're impaired, or perhaps both.

        The one thing we can control in tough work situations, real or imagined (the imagined involves personal baggage that should be resolved via the appropriate therapy, not where you earn your livelihood and your reputation), is how we act and react.  Partner with an objective coach and/or mentor outside of your workplace.  Lay out the situation factually.  Ask for honest feedback and most importantly, listen to it and incorporate it.  Not only will it be career-changing, it may well change the rest of your life, for the better.

        A poignant and real-life illustration was the new hire who was fired at the end of their initial orientation period for constantly complaining to their peers and playing up sweetly to their superiors.  "They did a great job technically, the customers loved them," their manager related.  "But they drove the rest of the employees crazy with their complaining.  It was disrupting everyone's productivity, including mine!" Amen.

        Let there be peace at work, and let it begin with you.

        Sunday, December 5, 2010


        My favorite cover of the song "Stay" is Jackson Browne's 1978 version.

        The song ran through my head as I chatted with a friend about their new job.  They left for more money and the new firm's good reputation internally and externally, which I confirmed via my knowledge of two members of their executive team.  They also left their old firm because the management often engaged in "do what I say, not as I do," especially when it came to organization-wide compensation parity.  I love Jackson Browne's version, by the way, not only because I like the way he sings it, but also how he shows appreciation for the roadies and the fans.

        As usual, I was reminded of one of my best managers and mentors:  Bill.  If I had the choice, I would have worked for Bill the rest of my career, and here are a few reasons why:
        • I was a transfer-hire from another unit of our larger corporation, and I met with Bill on the day he tendered my formal job offer, knowing that I would receive a 3% raise for the new job.  Bill presented me with an offer letter outlining a 14% raise.  Incredulous, I asked why.  "You were underpaid and I brought you up to market.  I also believe in exceeding talented new hires' expectations a bit, so they come in on a high note, ready to do a great job, "  Bill replied.  He had me literally at hello.
        • Bill was a consummate teacher and coach:  every moment spent with Bill was a learning moment.  We both shared the same belief:  if you stopped learning, you were dead.
        • Bill championed me while holding me constantly accountable:  a winning combination that serves me to this day.
        • Bill continued to reward my talent, promotability and performance from both a compensation and a promotional standpoint.
        • He couched the toughest feedback with a mentor's love:  "I'm giving you this feedback because I believe in your talent and potential, and this is to best position you for success."
        • Bill genuinely enjoyed spending time with us:  he, my friend and supervisor Nicola and I would have dinner together once or twice a week, to decompress and share the week's war stories.  Not only were those dinners fun, they were the equivalent of graduate-level seminars.
        • He took me to all meetings at every level, right from the beginning:  with the executives, the union, everyone.  At first I just took notes, and quickly he pulled me into the mix as part of his team.
        • His core values were resonant with mine; and he worked harder than we did.
        • And instead of keeping me in position to ensure that his work got done, his goal was to get me promoted:  the merit badge of a manager's / mentor's success.  And he did, pushing me to a promotion at another business unit, even though I wanted to stay in my job, as a member of his team.  But he was right, as usual.
        I strive to emulate what I experienced with Bill, as both a manager and a team member.  To work, create and achieve in an environment where all I want to do is, well, stay.

        What is your "stay;" and how do you stay:  as a leader and as a team member?