Tag Archives: Management

Labour Day

This coming Monday September 2nd is Labour Day, a national holiday in Canada and the U.S. This day is the workers’ holiday celebrating their labour efforts.

You can thank some union workers who worked in a printing shop in Ontario in the 1800’s for this annual long weekend.

English: Toronto Globe newspaper office (with ...

Toronto Globe newspaper office (with a globe on top) on King Street East, Toronto, Canada, early 1860s. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1869 the union petitioned their employers, requesting a weekly reduction in working hours. Their request was refused outright by the owners of the printing shops, and by the founder of the Toronto Globe, which later became the Globe and Mail.

In 1872 the Toronto Printers Union went on strike and fought for a 9 hour work day. Previously the employers expected their workers to clock in a 12 hour work day.

After that year, almost all union demands included the 54-hour week. The Toronto printers were pioneers of the shorter workweek in North America.

Celebrating the workers’ successful striking efforts, Labour Day became an annual celebration. By 1894, it became the official national holiday that we continue to recognize today.

Here’s an ironic twist. For the first time ever, The Globe and Mail newspaper will not be publishing a Labour Day edition of their paper this year, due to lack of advertising revenue. According to a note to subscribers from the publisher and CEO of the Globe & Mail, the revenue is “needed to cover the costs of formatting, printing and delivery of the paper, and the number of vacation stops by subscribers”.

Enjoy your long weekend, and of course, this Labour Day.

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A Toxic Workplace

I was talking with a friend of mine recently who brought up the topic of the corporate culture in her current workplace. toxic-300x269

She said that every day she comes home from work, she just wants to “shower off her day”. For the past 2 years she has worked in an environment that does not make her happy. Why does she stay? She is a highly specialized C level employee where good jobs with her specific skill set are hard to find. She likes her job, she likes the actual day to day work that she does. But it is the work environment and culture that repels her.  Unfortunately, the CEO of the company defines the culture, and therefore little can be done to change it. Most of the employees are in their early 20’s, and sadly, they are looking up to this CEO as an example of how people should treat each other in the workplace. Needless to say, my friend is on the search for a new job, but in the meantime, she feels stuck.

Great People Make A Great Company

It is known that great people make a great team and great teams can overcome huge obstacles. Companies that work hard to find the best team members to join them and work equally hard to provide a challenging and rewarding environment to motivate and bring out the best in them are setting themselves up for success. My friend feels that the company culture is being poisoned.

When a leader of a company believes that their business is about the people, it is their duty to foster that success. Building the relationships between those people builds the business. Losing incredible talent due to poor leadership will not make a company an employer of choice.

Leadership is over-glorified

This short and concise TED Talk video beautifully breaks down the definition of leadership.

Derek Sivers encourages us to have the courage to follow, and show others how to follow.

“The first follower is actually an underestimated form of leadership in itself. … The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader.”

What a Difference a Culture Makes

fork in road

Fork in the road

I recently met a friend for lunch, and asked him how he was enjoying his current job he has been in for the past year.

Let’s take a step back in time. Several years ago, my friend took a job working in Human Resources for a small company that seemed liked a great place to work. But, sometimes we realize that perception is so much different than reality.  About two months into his role, he started to question if he made the right move to this company. Shortly after, what he felt was validated.  The corporate culture was not what he had perceived it would be.

My friend tried his best to like where he worked, and stuck it out for over a year, but it was too much of a struggle. Among many other faults, the leaders and managers did not make an effort to meet with the HR department. How the company had originally presented themselves was not the case at all. Working in HR, it was difficult to promote the company to potential candidates.

Another opportunity with a company in a completely different industry came up. Unhappy in the current job, my friend was hesitant at first to take on a role in an industry he was not familiar with. All his friends said ‘if it is out of your comfort zone, maybe you shouldn’t take the job’. He started to think hard about his choices. His partner simply said ‘don’t question yourself’. With that simple piece of advice, he moved forward with the application process and the potential manager reassured him on the phone in a long conversation, showing his support.  That care and attention and human touch is what made all the difference, even prior to the official job offer, my friend knew this was already an environment and culture that he could feel comfortable in.

And one year later, he is so very happy that he made that change.

I asked him, “When did you know it was the right culture?” he simply said, “I never questioned it. I knew since day one”. He continued, “The corporate culture is consistent with the messaging they present publicly.  When I recruit for the company, I can honestly tell candidates that I’m happy working there”. He also added that having a supportive manager makes all the difference.

He described his state of mind at the previous employer as  “unhappiness to the depths of my soul. For all the misery, it was a huge learning experience – learning about myself and my limits”.

And to that, I say, what a difference a year makes. What a difference a corporate culture makes.

photo credit: Newtown grafitti

Does your leader have heart?

leadership keyNo one really leaves a job just because they have found a better opportunity or better pay. The number one reason people leave is because they fail to connect with their bosses as leaders and as people.  Think about it. Most people in their careers can share in this experience. Although missteps can happen, the best leaders strive to make their actions consistent with the philosophy of having an engaged and excited team.

I interviewed Cameron McNeill, owner of MAC Marketing Solutions, on what it means to lead. Here’s what Cameron said on this subject: ‘As a leader, I am constantly challenging myself to think about my team’s enjoyment in their career with my company. There is one test we have- when people wake up in the morning, are they excited about working with our company?  If they aren’t excited then I have failed. This philosophy is the driving spirit within our business and permeates all levels of the company. It boils down to two things: every person is driven by different circumstances, and you, the leader, must care about each individual as a fellow family member in the context of the vision of the company. Everyone then looks after each other and their collective well-being. It is hard to create this and impossible to fake. No marketing team could ever produce this spirit. It requires champions big and small to express this in an individual way. It is done with a common set of core values that everyone knows. They all know which way they are going and are pulling in the same direction. I never stop thinking about nor ever get tired of saying, “when you wake up in the morning…” ’.

And this theme is true with every executive of some of the top Canadian business’s I’ve had the pleasure to know. An effective leader lives and breathes the company’s core values. They obsess over the clarity of these core values. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Repeat. Repeat and repeat.

The best leaders have tremendous passion for what they do. Yet they operate with a level of genuine humility and with the sole purpose of their company’s welfare.  It’s not about them, rather, it’s about the company as a whole. These leaders protect their teams aligned with their vision at all costs. Lose your core team and you lose the heart and soul of the company.

Human Resources at 30,000 feet

30,000 feetAre you leading the way you want to be led?

Are you really that good? We’d be kidding ourselves if we thought we were perfect leaders.

The M word. Nothing can unsettle a competent employee more than when a manager takes their title name too seriously. The title ‘Manager’ for tradition’s sake should be made extinct along with its sidekick, ‘micro’. The most common theme I hear in human resources is the growing frustration of leaders oscillating from task management to accountability metrics with no apparent awareness of the bigger picture and it’s tie in to the company’s core vision.  It’s kind of like treating the symptom not the cause. A knee jerk reaction not only applies to medicine but also to management. When operated in such a manner ‘A’ players eventually leave the organization.

It’s a simple as this. An effective leader’s primary concern should be the ability to acquire and retain the best people. Once you have them, the key objective is to grow and develop your top talent.  The juggle today is that you must do this and also create a very real connection to these individuals. And it’s a delicate balancing act. Too much of one and not enough of another could shift the experience of whether or not an individual will thrive under your leadership. (Or lack thereof). The rock star CEO is so over. Just like the internet has made companies more transparent, great companies require their leadership to be real, and to truly be human.

Show don’t tell. It’s an age-old statement that goes back to primary school. No one likes to be told just as no one likes to be managed. No competent leader I’ve ever known enjoys the proverbial ‘management’ part of managing. Who would really? It’s kind of like glorified child minding except children are much sharper now and far more fascinating. When you ‘manage’ someone you are saying that ‘you’re not capable of managing yourself’ and ‘you’re not responsible to do what you say you’re going to do when you said you were going to do it’. It essentially shows a vote of non-confidence to their commitment to action.

Tom Peters made famous,  ‘manage by wandering around’. When you walk around you learn things but most importantly you get on the same level as the rest of your team by doing this basic step. And do you ever learn about the pulse of the organization and it’s closeness to the company’s core values. If there is one piece of experience I have learned over the years as a business owner it is to do just that – walk around.   I love to walk up to an individual’s work space and ask the question, ‘What’s happening in your world right now?’ From there I am able to learn not only where they are at, but how they are approaching or considering their challenges. In many instances I will also learn something about what’s happening in their personal world too, leaving us both feeling better connected.

When you put yourself as a leader into one that is more of an approachable, getting ‘into the trenches’ role, you grow abilities and remove the roadblocks that might demotivate an employee. And the neatest thing is when I say something that really catches their attention that is relevant to them and they say ‘that was so helpful! I’m glad we spoke!’ Listening to them, by acting as a coach, looking at the framework of the world that employee lives in, you start to see more and have a better connection to that individual. Try to put yourself into their paradigm. Their lens is their reality. It’s their paradigm, not yours. By setting strategy in this context you achieve a complete picture and not the bits and pieces found in task management. And best of all, being closer to your team lets people feel more comfortable to speak and make comment. They are most likely going to feel that their opinions and feedback may be heard.  Spontaneous time with your team is so important. It’s those times together where I think, on reflection, I’ve learnt the most and received some of the most valuable feedback or ideas from individuals.

Jim Collins’ quote, ‘Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline.’ Is dead on.  Leadership ‘greatness’ is a skill that takes mindful practice. Here! Here!

Managing Performers and Potentials

In a time when the workforce is increasingly transient, your ability to identify high-performing and high-potential employees—and that of your managers—is critical. And yet, many struggle to distinguish one from the other, negatively impacting their ability to develop and retain top talent. In many organizations, performance is the primary measure of an employee’s value in the organization. Star performers are promoted and rewarded, while diamonds in the rough become disengaged and move on.

Don’t get me wrong–you should definitely value performance. But if your end goal is to build a more robust talent pipeline (and it should be), performance can’t be the only point of entry. To that end, there are strategies that any manager can apply to develop high-potentials and high-performers effectively.

Step One: Identify

High-performers stand out in any organization. They consistently exceed expectations, and are management’s go-to for difficult projects. They take pride in their accomplishments, but may not have the potential (or the desire) to succeed in a higher-level role.

High potentials can be more difficult to identify, especially for line managers. That’s because most valuable attributes (e.g. stress management, adaptability, business sense) aren’t catalytic in entry-to-mid-level roles. Potential is subjective to what a company values, of course, but there are innate attributes that distinguish them from high-performers.

Line managers’ observations are often limited to the most obvious traits (time management, communication skills, attention to detail). By working with leadership, however, managers can profile the skills that ensure success in key roles—and be on the lookout for examples of both high performers and high potentials from day one.

Step Two: Assess

An established standard of the attributes and competencies of model employees is also an essential part of objective assessment. And though there’s a distinct difference between potential and performance, experts agree that employees should be assessed on competency in both.

Figure 1 - Hyper v Hypo[1]

Each category requires a different development strategy. With a clearer picture of who falls where, managers can make more informed decisions in how to effectively develop them. For example: High Po/ Low Per employees may need to improve their ability to perform consistently, or may be moved into roles better aligned with their natural abilities. And High Per/Low Po employees would be ideal candidates for soft skill development–or for roles that require more technical skill.

Step Three: Engage and Develop

The important thing about development and engagement strategies (especially for high-potential vs. high-performance employees) is to tailor your efforts to drive the results you want. Typical engagement strategies could look something like this:

Figure 2 - Hyper v Hypo

Recognition is key for High Per/Low Po employees. They need constant encouragement and challenging assignments. Rather than promoting them to roles they don’t want (or aren’t ready for), give them the independence and engage them with projects that they can take full ownership of.

Alternately, while High Po/Low Per employees are hungry for more high-impact work, they need seasoning. On the job training is a great way to accomplish this, especially when pairing them with high performers. As they develop a stronger understanding of the organization and their role in it, give them projects to manage, new hires to train, and offer cross-training opportunities.

Set Your Line Managers Up for Success

Your line managers are the gatekeepers to your talent pipeline, and they’ve got their work cut out for them. While most will have some natural ability in identifying, assessing, and engaging performers and potentials, few will be adept at all three. If you want to improve your ability to retain top talent, it starts with your line managers. Set them up for success, and invest in their development.

This guest post was written by Kyle Lagunas.

Kyle Lagunas is the HR Analyst at Software Advice—an online resource for HR software comparisions. He reports on trends, technology, and best practices in talent management, with work featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Information Weekly, and the NY Times.