Sunday, January 30, 2011

Needs-Based Networking Supports Success

While I love networking on a number of levels (notwithstanding my irrepressible and lifelong curiosity to meet new people), networking at its best is discovering the sweet spot that meets the needs of both people (or organizations) engaged in the networking experience.

This is where my career experiential knowledge base starts to trope and intersect in new and interesting ways.
  • Sales 101 (courtesy of my dad):  selling is not cramming your product mindlessly down your customers' and prospects' throats.  It is instead:
    • Identifying the needs of your customer (or prospective employer); 
    • And then, once their needs are known and documented, selling is meeting / exceeding the needs of your customer by providing your products and services in exchange for payment (and for those engaged in job search, your products and services are the relevant talent(s) and skills that meet / exceed the especial needs of your potential employer).  Which meets your needs, too.
  •  Mediation 101 (courtesy of my mediation teachers and coaches):  The source of all human conflict is needs met and unmet.
    • Mediation is hosting the conversation between parties in conflict;
    • A critical step in mediating conflict resolution is helping the parties in conflict each identify their respective needs underlying the conflict;
    • Once everyone's needs are identified and on the table, the chances are much greater that both parties in the conflict can come to a (often creative, heretofore unconsidered) resolution that meets the needs of all, on their own.
So:  instead of approaching networking as a reluctant supplicant (or worse yet, a noodge), first consider conducting a needs analysis / intake on those companies / individuals who interest you and with whom you'd like to conduct business.  What does the prospective customer (or employer) need to sustain and grow their business?  A great deal of this information is available via my girlfriend Google and LinkedIn, among other resources (including but not limited to your local business journal), and the rest can be gleaned via your network, which may well include current and former employees, customers and vendors of the executive / company / employer who interests you.

Once armed with that needs-analysis, are you able to meet / exceed their needs with your talent / goods / services?  If not, then be prepared to connect them with resources who can meet their needs, as their networking broker (or networking mediator, hosting the conversation); if you can't, then you are just a noodge.

Or, to borrow a concept from social media:  how can you provide useful information that is of service to your network and your prospective network, which in turn will continuously build and reinforce your reputation?

With that kind of preparation to meet the needs of all involved, how can you be anything but confident and constantly engaged as you continue to grow your network, your reputation, your business, your career and your ongoing success?  And, if you're wired anything like me, also have fun in the process?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Reiki of Referrals and Reputation

My husband Joel, like many people, is agnostic about Reiki:  he does not believe or disbelieve.

Whether you believe in the healing power of Reiki or not, a key attribute of Reiki has a universal resonance for me:  that as a by-product of acting as a channel to direct healing energy to a client, a Reiki practitioner also benefits from the healing energy of the client session.

For me,  the act of referring business and candidates benefits me, the networking practitioner, in a similar way.

Now, it's not linear, or Newtonian.  That is:  for every referral action, there is not an equal and opposite referral action back to me.  And it's seldom from the same person receiving the referral.

It's more organic and wonderful than just quid pro quo.  (And while I network and refer for business reasons, I also enjoy it immensely.)

Sometimes, the energy of a referral is paid forward, benefiting another referral that I do not know - yet.

Other times, the referral investment comes back to me through another referral, seemingly unrelated by time and my network.

The pro bono work I do for folks who are between gigs and who are about to discover their next vocational adventure is both a karmic and reputation investment whose seed was planted early in my career by one of my mentors.  My friend Lisa, who is a life coach, makes the same investment with similar positive dividends.

Today, I experienced the rewarding give-and-take of this energy in one day.  This morning, I shared some of my templates with a group of talented friends / colleagues, two of whom are about to launch successful consulting practices (they both already have customers lined up!).  This afternoon, I receive a windfall of wonderful new templates from a completely different friend / colleague, which will absolutely enhance my own practice and work.

May we all continue to invest our energy in each other towards both our personal and mutual prosperity.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Who Am I, Anyway? Am I My Resume'?

When I was a freshman in high school, our Social Studies teacher, Mr. Treacey, and his wife (who also taught at the high school), took us to see A Chorus Line at the Schubert Theater in New York City.  (What that field trip had to do with Social Studies, I don't know, but it was great and cemented my love of the theater.)

That's where I first heard the word "resume'," in the opening song, I Hope I Get It,

Here are the lyrics:

Who am I, anyway?
Am I my resume'?
That is a picture of a person I don't know.

What does he want from me?

What should I try to be?
So many faces all around, and here we go.
I need this job, oh God, I need this show.

I always found those lyrics poignant and haunting on a visceral level.  Now, as an adult, I have the perspective and the language to say why.

For me, whatever side of the interview table I sit on, candidate or hiring authority, it's all about authenticity.

I can't dance.  Not at all. I have no talent for it.   So, I would never put myself - or the decision-maker -  through the rigor / torture of a dance audition.  In A Chorus Line, however, some of the characters can't really dance either, but audition anyway because they're passionate about dancing.  And they subsequently, one by one, don't get selected.  Don't get me wrong:  my heart breaks a little every time one of them doesn't make the cut.  However, the kid from Queens inside of me wonders what the hell they were doing there in the first place.  I know, it's just a play.  I'm just sayin'.

Passion without talent, or talent without passion, is the same:  inauthentic.  And inauthentic doesn't make the cut.

For that reason, I mentor those who seek career guidance from me to first and foremost identify the authentic intersection(s) between their talent and their passion.  And for most people, including me, there are several potential talent / passion intersections to discover and/or confirm.  With the assistance of a mentor, an independent assessment, or any combination thereof.

Without consciously and thoroughly determining those talent / passion intersections, any resume' - or proposal - will ring hollow with potential decision-makers, employers and customers.  But most importantly, with the candidate themselves, undermining confidence and bottom-line authenticity.

For example:  I love to sing; and I'm a good singer.  I know it, and others have confirmed it:  they let me stay in the church choir.

What are your authentic talent / passion intersections? Have you validated those intersections with a knowledgeable and equally authentic third party?  Are those intersections clearly outlined on your resume'?  

And most importantly, are you ready to win the audition?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

HR Amateur Hour

I was in Drome Sound purchasing a piano primer for my son Noah on New Year's Eve, and some funky purple guitar picks caught my eye.  As he added the guitar picks to my purchase, the owner asked if I performed locally.  I chuckled briefly.  "No.  But if you count Amateur Open-Mike Night at Folk City at midnight when I was a senior in college, I did perform once in New York City."

In the spirit of leading the examined vocational life (and walking my own talk thereof), I possess enough self-knowledge at this writing to understand where I am a subject-matter expert (SME), and where I am not (Amateur).

As you've already surmised, I'm a Human Resources (HR) SME, among other subjects.  I am not an Accounting SME, among other subjects, and therefore an Amateur.  In an odd and decidedly fleeting savant moment today however, I found the root cause of the low water level in the upstairs toilet tank and unkinked the rubber hose blocking the inbound water flow.  Although his preceding toilet troubleshooting did not identify the root cause issue, my husband Joel continues to be the house maintenance SME, so no worries:  I will not be usurping his role anytime soon, as I don't even rise to the level of Amateur in that area of expertise.

On the subject of Human Resources, I have witnessed many performances of HR Amateur Hour over the years. Particularly by organizations who don't have HR SME resources internally or even available on an outsourced basis, and who figure they'll just wing it to save some money on the front end, and hope for the best. ("Hey," they think to themselves:  "I'm great with people, how hard can HR work be?")

Gentle colleagues:  hope doesn't pay for the compliance violation fines / judgments on the back end.

Here is a small sampling of HR Amateur Hour performances (a.k.a. Compliance Juggling or Reputation Roulette) for your edification and education:
  • Deleting earned yet unapproved overtime pay to save money;
  • Failure to investigate and discipline ass-grabbing managers;
  • Failure to respond and intervene on sexual harassment or other compliance complaints;
  • No sexual harassment awareness training to teach managers not to grab asses in the workplace;
  • No employee handbook or policies;
  • No documentation in the personnel files;
  • No personnel files;
  • No performance goals or feedback;
  • No compensation strategy or structure;
  • Firing an employee on Worker's Compensation leave without cause or documentation;
  • Failure to file and post required OSHA reporting;
  • Failure to display required state and Federal labor posters;
  • Asking for applicants' Social Security Number (SSN) on employment applications;
  • Firing employees via the phone, email, etc. - a la Juan Williams abrupt termination from NPR; 
  • No progressive discipline process (see previous item, above);
  • No established and documented due process for employees to bring up issues or concerns;
  • Asking job applicants:
    • How old they are;
    • If they're married or have children.
Employers aren't the only performers during HR Amateur Hour:  prospective, current and former employees get into the act, too - here are a few examples:
  • Falsifying your C.V. / job application, e.g. college degrees you haven't earned, etc.;
  • Filing false Sexual Harassment or other compliance complaints;
  • Stealing your organization's time, money or goods;
  • Filing Worker's Compensation claims when you haven't injured yourself at work, in order to get a financial settlement;
  • Filing for Unemployment Insurance when you've resigned or you've been terminated for cause.
When our 1959 upstairs toilet finally gives up the ghost, we'll turn to a plumbing SME, like my friend Andrea's company. However, we have another toilet downstairs, so we have our backup plan.

What's your HR backup plan?  In-house, or outsourced:  an ounce of HR SME advice on the front end is worth and saves you (and your organization) potentially thousands of dollars that would otherwise be lost on the back end through compliance fines and judgments, lost reputation and turnover.

HR work is not an Amateur's stage.  If you don't have an HR SME as a strategic and compliance resource, please get one.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

HR Leadership: Counselor; Consigliere; CEO

At this point in his life, it's easier to explain to my 9 year-old son Noah one of my concurrent vocational paths: Human Resources, or HR.  Noah gets that I've often performed many of the functions of his elementary school principal:  hiring, promotion / recognition / reward, intervention, mediation, discipline.  And while his principal has not fired anyone during Noah's tenure, he knows what that is, too.

It's the adults who often don't understand the role an HR leader can play in positively contributing to an organization's success, particularly in a more progressive organization.  It's more than just hiring, firing and processing paperwork.  I'm not going to bore you with the history of the human resources function.  If you're interested in that information, here's a resource (and for some, a sleep aid).  Since the HR function basically originated in the Finance / Accounting function, you'll generally find HR reporting to the CFO in more traditional organizations.  In more progressive organizations, HR reports directly to the CEO / President.  The proverbial and coveted "seat at the table."

I have as a general practice used the following two popular cultural references to explain with more depth and texture the value-added organizational role an HR leader can play.

For Trekkers:

In the Star Trek universe, Counselor Troi is the HR Leader for Star Trek, Next Generation.  Here's the Star take on her leadership role (Note: just for the record, I do not at all resemble this physical depiction, nor would I show this much cleavage at work):

Although actually of mixed human and Betazoid heritage, Troi is one of many from her planet active in the Starfleet counselor corps and was ship's counselor for the U.S.S. Enterprise throughout its service life and now aboard its successor namesake. Troi's race is known for its inter-species telepathy and its emotional empathy with most other species whether on board the ship, in a ship at close proximity or on the planet below. While such a capacity has heightened her counseling skills, they have also aided her captain's command mission decisions on several occasions, including hostile encounters, negotiations, and first-contact missions.

Also for the record:  I am not an empath and I was born in Queens, NY, very much of this earth (although there are some who have a different opinion, I have the floor in this blog).  However, the last part of the excerpt:   they have also aided her captain's command mission decisions on several occasions, including hostile encounters, negotiations, and first-contact missions -- is spot on.

Whatever organization I've worked in, I thankfully was taught to become as much of a subject-matter expert as my client leaders, so that I could provide the best advice and counsel.  In the more traditional organizations / leadership teams, I give my best advice and professionally accept the fact that the decision is ultimately up to the operations leader I serve.  (E.g. Troi's service to Captain Picard.)

However, on the more progressive leadership teams I've served, the work of running the organization has been shared and collaborative, cross-trained and therefore seamless:  any one of us on the leadership team, including me, the HR geek, could take the helm and run the ship.  Those have been the best, most fulfilling and most educational leadership experiences, and I strive to recreate that collaborative cross-functional leadership spirit wherever I serve.

For the mainstream audience:  

The HR Leader is the Consigliere, as represented by Tom Hagen in The Godfather.  Here's Wikipedia's take on the role of Consigliere in the leadership structure:

In the movies The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, the consigliere to Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), and later Don Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), is Tom Hagen (played by Robert Duvall). Hagen is the adopted son of Don Vito Corleone, and a lawyer for the family. At the end of The Godfather, Don Vito's successor and son, Michael Corleone, temporarily demotes Hagen within the organization, moving him to Las Vegas, saying "things are going to get rough, and I need a wartime consigliere." (In an earlier scene, Santino 'Sonny' Corleone, Michael's older brother and acting Don after Vito Corleone's attempted assassination, similarly criticizes Hagen.) Vito Corleone, Michael's father, replaces Hagen at Michael's side until his death. After killing the heads of the five families, Michael reinstates Tom.
In Italian, consigliere means "advisor" or "counselor." It is derived from Latin consiliarius (advisor) and consilium (advice). The terminology of the U.S. Mafia is taken from that of the Sicilian Mafia and suggests that an analogy is intended to imitate the court of a medieval Italian principality. For example, Venice was led by a doge (duke) and a consigliere ducale (advisor to the doge). An underboss will normally move up to boss when the position becomes vacant, so his position is equivalent to that of heir to the throne. Consigliere, meanwhile, is analogous to chief minister or chancellor. (Oddly, in the novel The Godfather, the word is spelled consigliori; in the films, it is clearly pronounced consigliere.) In Joe Bonanno's book (A Man Of Honor) he explains that a consigliere is more of the voice or rep for the soldiers of the family, and may help solve and mediate disputes for the lower echelon of the family. 

The consigliere role is also spot on. I have conducted some my best career work behind the scenes; for example,  mediating disputes that would otherwise undermine the organization, with little fanfare. And when I started my HR career, my dress code was the female version of Tom Hagen's standard 1950's business attire.

However, the ultimate HR leadership cultural reference is Xerox's former CEO Anne Mulcahy, 2008 Chief Executive of the Year, as described in Chief Executive Magazine:

The choice for the 2008 Chief Executive of the Year marks several firsts. By her own admission Anne Mulcahy did not set out to become a chief executive. Nor was she groomed to become one. Neither did she bargain to face what some have called the turnaround of the century when her predecessor, Paul Allaire, called her into his office one day in 2001 to say that the top job was hers. Allaire himself returned to the company at the request of the board when Xerox dumped Allaire's chosen successor Rick Thoman. Fortune dubbed her "The Accidental CEO." One might add "Improbable Turnaround CEO," since everyone knows turnaround bosses tend to come from the outside. (Former Lee Iacocca point man "Steve" Miller is the archetype.) Mulcahy had worked for Xerox for 24 years at the time of her appointment; she spent 16 of those years in sales and the rest heading HR. The company was so much in her blood she bled copier toner.  

Oh yes, Mulcahy is also the first woman CEO to be chosen by her peers for the honor of Chief Executive of the Year. 

 Mulcahy joined Xerox as a field sales representative in 1976 and rose through the ranks. From 1992-1995, Mulcahy was vice president for human resources, responsible for compensation, benefits, human resource strategy, labor relations, management development and employee training. Mulcahy became chief staff officer in 1997 and corporate senior vice president in 1998. Prior to that, she served as vice president and staff officer for Customer Operations, covering South America and Central America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and China. 

Forget about being granted a seat at the leadership table:  Mulcahy built her own seat, and more importantly, used her discretionary power to make even more room at the leadership table. Crowning her career as CEO at Xerox, Mulcahy broke new ground in naming her successor, also courtesy of Wikipedia: 

Ursula M. Burns (born September 20, 1958) serves as chairwoman and CEO of Xerox. She is the first African-American woman CEO to head a S&P 100 company. She is also the first woman to succeed another woman as head of a S&P 100 company. In 2009, Forbes rated her the 14th most powerful woman.[1] 

From Customer Service to  HR to CEO:  now that's what I'm talking about in terms of cross-functional and seamless leadership, and development thereof.

What role does HR play in your organization: clerk, Counselor, Consigliere, or CEO?  Is your HR Leader bench ready to be CEO?