Purposeful HR

Purposeful HR
Purposeful HR

Welcome to Purposeful HR

Welcome to Purposeful HR

Monday, February 23, 2015

Always be open to something new (& other lessons learned while paddle boarding)

Yes, below is a picture of me learning to paddle board last weekend. To my friends and peers currently buried in snow in Boston or elsewhere in the North, I'm sorry. Not trying to rub it in, I promise!

We signed up to go on a guided kayaking trip locally here in North Houston. It was my first time. We had a great experience learning how to kayak with our instructor guiding us from her paddle board. During the trip, she gave us the opportunity switch and try the board.
What? The water was chilly. There is more balance involved. I immediately got in my own head with questions and doubts:
What if I ended up in the creek with an hour or more left to travel? I hate cold.  What if I ended up with an injury? No time for that. Why leave a perfectly good kayak?
Obviously I did it.  Guess what…. I LOVED IT! I stayed on the board for the rest of the trip. Luckily, I never fell, although there were a few close calls.
As I reflected back on this experience, there were a few lessons learned from this experience for first time managers, experienced managers taking on a new project or working with a new team. For me there were several good reminders, as this coming week I will be taking on the oversight of our newest division of Cenikor, Trusted Employment Solutions (TES). TES is a non-profit, alternative staffing agency focused on assisting those with barriers to employment. This includes veterans, long-term unemployed, and those re-entering the job force or with other barriers.  So lessons learned:
Lesson #1 - Go for it!  Don't let the fear of failure stop you from taking on what could be a great experience or next step in your professional development.  Be sure to use your available resources and ask questions to ensure understanding before jumping in.
Lesson #2 - Have a good instructor or mentor to help guide you with the new task or opportunity in front of you.  I had a guide with me to share the basics of paddle boarding.  If you are a new manager, find a positive manager role model, preferably someone in your organization who knows your culture, can guide you around potential obstacles and is someone you trust.  For TES, I've found a mentor with multiple years of experience in the staffing industry.  
Lesson #3 - Build rapport and learn from those around you.  For my paddle board trip, there was a lady probably 15-20 years my senior on this trip who I got to chat with prior to the trip.  Lucky for me, she has kayaked before, and when I got stuck in shallow water, she came by and helped me get "unstuck".  For a new manager or with a new project, take time to build rapport with new team members or peers.  Spend a bit of time up front talking with each person about what is working, what's not and critical success factors and it will help you get buy-in that can be important at a later date.  I plan to start at TES by working with each of the managers, asking those very same questions and determining our best path forward to success.
Lesson #4 - Making mistakes is a part of the learning process.  While I never fell into the water, I did have a few stumbles (i.e., running up on the bank to avoid a log at one point).  It showed me I did have a bit of control even though the activity was so new to me.  I communicated when I got stuck and got help.  As a new manager, realize you cannot be perfect, and when there is a mistake, own it.  Communicate with those it might impact instead of waiting for it to do so and being reactive.  Most people do not like surprises when it comes to achieving work goals, so informing of any potential negative impact to the goal may result in you or the team mitigating that risk.
Lesson #5 - Relax and be present.  I was nervous until I had my first stumble or two, I didn't realize I was very tense.  Yes, my knees were slightly bent per instruction to keep my balance, but I had a death grip on the paddle.  After a bit, I begin to relax, even look around and enjoy a bit of the view.  It actually helped because I was able to see further upriver, find more of the shallow spots, obstacles, the rest of the group.  Relaxing and paying attention to what is in front of you, being present and listening to those you are working with, using your available resources can all shorten the learning curve and even make the experience of being a first time manager or new project lead more enjoyable.
While kayaking was fun, my preference was the paddle board experience.  It was more of a workout while still being able enjoying nature and time with our group.  I cannot wait to do it again!  So I'm glad I took on the challenge to learn to paddle board and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to continue to grow TES while still having oversight of the HR function for Cenikor.
If there's a new opportunity you've been anxiously holding out on, I hope you reach out and grab it with both hands.  Just relax the death grip a bit and enjoy the ride.

I hope you have the opportunity to serve and make a difference today!

Kellee Webb, SHRM-SCP, SPHR

Monday, January 12, 2015

Engagement (Part II) - It's not me, it's you.

You might have read as many posts as I have about it, maybe more.  It’s critical to organizational success. Recently I've had some positive engagement experiences (see Part I) as well as some not so positive experiences.  I normally try to keep my blog focused on the positive, but many lessons are hard-won in the negative experiences so I thought I would share (and try not to rant).

We know this engagement thing is a balance. As Paul Hebert from Symbolist outlined for us, it's critically important for companies to increase their "organizational discretionary effort" to see the discretionary effort from team members.

Completely agree.  But it takes both sides. 

And sometimes, it’s not me <insert HR pro name, company name, type of program>, it’s you <team member, employee, individual contributor>.

Development programs for employees are one example of how organizations can increase discretionary effort. Cenikor has a leadership development program (LEAD program - Leadership, Engagement, Accountability and Development) which is a year-long program, and team members apply if they want to participate and they meet the criteria for nomination to the program.  So they self-select into the program and there is an approval process.

The program itself is structured with a customized training agenda and a mentor who is paired based on the individual's self-identified career goals. Mentors and mentees are scheduled to talk for 30 minutes each week or an hour every other week, for a total of 2 hours a month on topics related to their growth as a leader or current issues they are facing, etc. Feedback is solicited every 60 days to ensure participants are getting what they are seeking and for us to make improvements to the program, and we have incorporated new ideas each year of the past 3 years.  Success rates (as measured by promotion and performance) have been pretty incredible.

In spite of the application process which outlines both the benefits and time commitment, a kickoff webinar which sets expectations for both mentors and mentees, inevitably, after the first month or so, we have at least 2-3 participants who back out saying the development program is too time-consuming, getting in the way of their “real work”.  We offer assistance with time management and mentors have even offered to do the calls on weekends.  Most often, they opt out anyway.

Really? Your continued professional or personal development is too time-consuming for you?  Not a problem, we have a no-fault termination option.

And after a couple of years of agonizing, it was definitely a lesson learned.  We revised the kick-off webinar to be sure we set clear expectations on the front end, made some changes to the first couple months to help get those possible 2-3 engaged from the start in the program, and even with those improvements made, it still happened. 

I finally realized I had to quit agonizing on those few who are not willing to be “on the hook” and accountable for their development.  If they arent willing to spend some of their discretionary time on themselves, at what point are we wanting their development and success more than they are?  

My recommendation to other managers, executives and HR pros, is to recognize where you need to focus your time when it comes to engagement.  Not every company culture or development program is a fit for every employee, no matter the time spent or improvements made. So instead this year, I'm ensuring the time is spent focusing on all those who ARE engaged and grabbing on to every possible opportunity and even creating their own.

And for the employees in this instance, it’s not me, it’s you.  Let's talk again if/when you are ready.

I’ll end on a positive with a few sentences from Seth Godin’s new book, “What to Do When It’s Your Turn (and it’s always your turn)”.  A MUST READ, by the way.  It's working it's way around our office right now and I've ordered more copies! 

“Being on the hook is a privilege.  It means the people around us are trusting us to contribute, counting on us to deliver.  It’s not something to be avoided.”

I hope you have the opportunity to be on the hook, to serve and make a difference today!

Kellee Webb, SHRM-SCP, SPHR

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Engagement (Part I): Small Surprises and Big Results

Employee engagement. It's the ever elusive "employee discretionary effort" that most HR pros are driving to improve.  How do you measure it?  What do you look for?  Some things are more concrete than others, but I had two small moments where I thought “That’s IT!  That’s a sign of engagement.”, and thought I would share.
Recently while hosting one of our annual manager training conferences, I had moments where I observed just small snippets of conversations, but it was the history with each manager that made this special a moment.
The first manager started with us as a brand new counselor, and as a new counselor had some “growth opportunities” the first year or so. He took the constructive feedback well, worked with his manager to develop his clinical skills and became a great counselor.
Then he applied for our L.E.A.D. program (Cenikor’s Leadership Development Program – Leadership, Engagement, Accountability and Development) and has participated for the last 3 years. He's had a different mentor each year, two of which were Cenikor executives, and he has been soaking up information, asking lots of questions, staying engaged and challenging himself to achieve more. During that time he was promoted to manager to run a new outpatient program, and then promoted to senior manager over multiple outpatient programs. I was sitting just a couple seats down at the conference when he came back in the room from a breakout session and stated, "I'm really excited about my EBITDA goal!"
Needless to say, my first thought was that he was being sarcastic. Clinicians go into the counseling field to interact with and help people, not deal with numbers. When I looked over and saw he was serious, it was in that moment I knew he had fully embraced all aspects of his transition from counselor to manager, and it made my little (sometimes cynical) heart just beam.
The second moment was at the end of the same conference when facilitating a session with a group of managers, talking through their top 3 takeaways from the conference (session we do at the end of every conference). What are taking back to implement and how will it impact your work when you do it? One of the managers, also in our LEAD program this past year, was chatting about one of the takeaways. This manager is typically on the quiet side, very unassuming, but had really stepped up her participation at this year's conference. She's amazing at her job, takes so much ownership and pride in her work and the work of the team, and she recently helped open a new detox program in another location and train new staff.  Her positive attitude is infectious.  As she was chatting about her takeaway, she said "I think we should add this to our monthly agenda section What Stupid Stuff are We Doing?"
I swear, I almost fell out of my chair. That was a blog article from Patty Azzarello @pattyazzarello with azzarellogroup.com shared at our managers' conference two years ago!  This facility's management team had taken the article past the original activity at the conference, and incorporated into their ongoing operations in a much more in depth way. Exactly what you hope to happen with this type of information. I almost felt like a proud mom, thinking "they really DO listen"! :)
 I was almost walking on air when I left the conference after these two small surprise moments that told me so much about their level of engagement.  And this pride did not come from any ownership for their accomplishments, this was pride because THEY were driving forward, they were fully utilizing tools put in place, they owned their development and their engagement, not waiting for something to be handed to them.  
I agree, if you want employee engagement, it's critically important for companies to increase their "organizational discretionary effort" to use a term from Paul Hebert @IncentIntel, engagement guru with Symbolist - to knock down barriers to communication, hire the right people for your culture, train managers about the human side of managing a team, and put programs in place that pour back into the team members and their development.
But at the end of the day, the manager/team member/individual contributor must also want to grab opportunities with both hands and put in the work and keep constantly learning. It's their effort which results in their continued growth and career progression, and they get to leave their mark on the newest programs in our organization with big results.
When you combine the discretionary effort on both sides, organization and team member, it’s the sweet spot where you begin to see the impact of everyone digging in and pulling in the same direction to achieve the mission.

I hope you have the opportunity to serve and make a difference today!

Kellee Webb, SHRM-SCP, SPHR

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Embrace the Resolution Process for 2015

So during the last week after returning from vacation, I've heard the grumbling at the gym and in the ladies locker room about the "New Year's Resolutioners" that will be invading "our" space.

I've heard other people talking about how they can never keep their resolutions, so why bother?  I personally love this time of year because it makes me slow down and reflect on my hits and misses for the previous year, and refocus for the upcoming year.

This previous year, my hubbie and I used our new year resolutions to start a "rewards jar" to fund our Christmas vacation to NYC.  Essentially, we decided to set goals and pay ourselves in a vacation fund for achieving.  We wanted to trade short-term gratification/spending for the longer term goal of a great vacation (see post from 07/14/14).

Some goals had to be ways we saved money (i.e., if we did not go out to lunch or dinner on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, we put $50 in the fund for each day we did not eat out; $5 for every evening I did not have a glass of red wine with dinner) as well as reward ourselves for things we wanted to do more or less of  (i.e., $5 per day for daily devotional, $50 per week if worked out all 7 days, etc).  So we had to save money from somewhere to pay for other goals we wanted to achieve.  We had our NYC apartment and plane tickets paid for and booked by mid-year, and the rest was spending money. Needless to say, IT WORKED and we are doing it again this year.

As I was thinking through my resolutions for this year, one of the blogs I follow nomeatathlete put out a 31 day challenge, #writeandrun31.  You pick the creative goal you will spend time on every day and a fitness goal you will spend time doing every day, obviously for 31 days.  I certainly was planning to spend more time writing in 2015.  So to me, this was a perfect goal to start off the year, creating the habit of writing SOMETHING every day, no matter what it is.  So whether you set a time goal or number of words goal or some other type of creative goal, it is up to you. And they have a Facebook page where you can proclaim your goal, and then report if you hit it or miss it each day; love this accountability!

So I'm asking those who may be a little more cynical about the Resolution Process to try to think about it differently.  It doesn't have to be something huge that can seem insurmountable and probably doomed for failure.  Set some short term goals that can establish strong habits instead of trying to say "I'm going to do this perfectly from today for the rest of the year or for the rest of my life." Trade some short-term gratification for longer-term gratification items that are important to you.  Use what works to motivate you. I highly recommend reading The Power of Habits by Charles Duhigg to really understand how to set yourself up for success with change.  It really is the little things that can lead to incredible results.

And be patient and gracious with the resolutioners in the gym or elsewhere.  If you are an outside runner, wave hello or give a thumbs up to new faces at the park or other route.  In the gym, instead of keeping your headphones in and scowling when someone comes near you while you are lifting, say hello.  Ask how they are doing and make them feel welcome, as most everyone is self-conscious when starting something new.  Remember, you were new there once too, no matter how long ago it's been.

And maybe even make it one of YOUR resolutions to take someone on to mentor, whether at the gym or at work.  Maybe they will end up as a great workout partner or a superstar at work.  Regardless, it feels good to help someone, and you might be the reason they stick with whatever they are trying past the typical few weeks or month.  How great would that be?

I hope you have the opportunity to serve and make a difference today!

Kellee Webb, SPHR