Monthly Archives: October 2010

An Ode to Halloween – So who do you think you are?


In speaking to a friend of mine from the UK about this very American festive time she reminded me that I was not always this busy business- HR professional.

There was a time I wrote about life in prose!

She got me reflecting whether we all sometimes lose the “fun in life” in getting on with the “business of life”.

So here is my Ode to Halloween.

So who do you think you are and what is it that you do,

And this life you lead, who is it really for.

So who do you think you are and is there time for those you love,

Or is your life full of purpose and simply full of stuff.

So who do you think you are and are you giving your very best,

Or are you simply giving others what is left.

So who do you think you are as your life meanders by,

Will you remember yourself as a child, the parties the costumes and unbridled fun?

So who do you think you are at this time of Halloween,

When you look into the giggling faces of those who say trick or treat and really want candy.

And who would you say you are if life asked you the same?

Dedicated to all my friends, those who now in my life, those from my past, and to those who I have yet to meet.

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Does YOUR business have the HR department it REALLY needs….“teaching dogs to tango”


Today, the reality for every business is its dependence on its leadership and managerial capabilities, NOT the processes and tools and techniques we most depend on.

After years of focus on standardization, command and control leadership and management styles, title based authority, bureaucratically rigid organizational designs and various “tools and techniques” its time to find a new management and leader “mind-ship”.

The need for urgent nimbleness, innovation, creativity and highly engaged employees has been a “given need” for some time and yet few achieved this state. An engaged workforce for many is still the “Holy Grail”

In their book  “The future of Management “ Gary Hamel and Bill Green the authors challenge us to “Re-invent the Industrial organization we originally created.” It’s been a while!

http://www.amazon.com/Future-Management-Gary-Hamel/dp/1422102505

“Building a company that is fit for the future has to be built to “fit its people”.

Those companies who do this will have more engaging, more innovative, more resilient more adaptable employees AND will be more human. Those are the companies that will thrive,” says Hammel.

This book makes for a fascinating read and it urges us to focus not on the tools and techniques of management e.g. TQM, Lean Process (Toyota) principles. Project management etc. Although they are all important.

Instead we need to concentrate on the “heart of the business”… our employees.

My take away is we need to do things differently and have the “courage to look at how we manage the people within our business” – take it all apart and find a different management design and then do it! Ah!

And for this we need to have the courage “to do” as well as talk a good story! There is still too much emphasis “on the what “we have to achieve!

In other words the present way we (lead) and manage is not sufficient to create the organization we imagine our business can be! So lets re design!

Adapted from excerpts from the Book ‘the future of Management “ written by Gary Hamel and Bill Green.

So how does your HR function meet this challenge?  Here are some questions you should ask!

A quick note, many of these questions are inter-relational and as such need breadth and depth of thinking and discussion with many different business partners both inside and external to your business.

  1. What will your business “feel like” into the future? Remember, developing an organization will only happen when you develop those who work there! And that means having a place where employees want to work!
  2. Do your HR team and your business partners understand the current and future state objectives of your business and what is required from everyone in the organization? This includes consideration of both internal and external factors including economic, political, social, market and customer analysis. The focus here is future state, as is a full understanding of the economic drivers of your business.
  3. Have you identified where your next leadership team will come from and as importantly what the new competences are for you leaders, managers and supervisor to take you through the next 10 years?  Figure this out after the first two questions.
  4. Is everyone capable of achieving these objectives and committed to their part and if not what your plan is for those who will succeed and those who will not? There is a strong emphasis of getting rid of the “internal terrorists- the disengaged who quit and stay”.
  5. Are you able to retain, motivate and attract the talent you need for your business? Given the results of all these questions.
  6. Have you eliminated all non added value HR and restrictive business working practices particularly “ingrained thinking and mental models” as well as processes in order to achieve effective and sustained shareholder value? HR needs to share accountability as to whether policies and procedures really are consistent with future state and are relevant.
  7. Have you identified current and future added value management thinking and process practices that are required for breakthrough performance and do you have plans for successful introduction. (And exit plans for those who are not on the bus!)
  8. Do your employees respond positively to the continuing changing needs of their roles within the business and does the training, education and development provided give your employees the continuing changing capability and competences to achieve their objectives, and development.
  9. Is the result of the above a “realized” improvement in your employees and business by producing higher profits (shareholder value)? In other words do your employees have the requisite skills, behaviors, knowledge and attitudes to make them and your business a success continually and increasingly?
  10. Do your present management and leadership style, business structure and organizational design fit?  E.g. does the way that you manage inclusion provide the business platform for the next 10 years? In other words does your present/future business style/structure and organization provide for effective inclusiveness in decision-making, increased accountability and communication? Where are the gaps?
  11. Does your remuneration and reward structures enable you to reward for high performance and are they flexible enough to respond quickly to competitive pressure on talent and the changing roles and levels within your organization?
  12. Is there sufficient flexibility in your benefits programs to offer employees choices, which suit your own business “Nimbleness” requirements and changing business/employee employment and social-economic circumstances?
  13. Do your employees know how well they are performing and believe that your business cares about them?Do you conduct employee satisfaction surveys to obtain their thoughts on your leadership styles, organization structure, policies, career opportunities, their ability to contribute and the best use of their talents? AND you do something about it, with their input.
  14. Do you conduct employee satisfaction surveys to obtain their thoughts on your leadership styles, organization structure, policies, career opportunities, their ability to contribute and the best use of their talents? AND you do something about it, with their input.
  15. Is your leadership really willing and prepared to delegate responsibility to those who are capable and want to accept it. In other words is your management team willing to put aside egos and adopt the principles of flexible and self-directed teams?

Ask these questions and all of the time agree with your HR team that once you have the answers, you start again and always keep in mind the employees are the business and you are there to assure their success.

As the authors say in their book. If you spent time inside large organization you will know that expecting them to be strategically nimble, restlessly innovative or highly engaging workplaces to work- or anything else than merely efficient – is like expecting dogs to tango – dogs are quadrupeds- dancing isn’t in their DNA

The gauntlet has been thrown down, the challenge set, time to dance!

Is it time to Re-pot you?


We had a nice long summer here in Michigan; we had a cacophony of color and flowers this year and we experienced the warmest summer in years. Flowers flourished and blossomed. We enjoyed our vibrant garden with our friends.

Autumn is upon us and it is time to think of winterizing.

The sprinkler system has been switched off. Gone are the delicate flowers and colors of summer, gone the hanging baskets overflowing with buds and hanging trails, gone the butterflies, gone the humming birds the blue jays, flown to their “winter homes”

It’s Autumn now and the summer colors have disappeared. The colors have changed. We now have splashes of Oranges and Burgundies. The ‘mums are glowing in the cold autumn sun.

We now have our autumn garden. The same garden yet a different color scene.

There are many similarities between growing a garden and growing ourselves. My wife is a master gardener, and as we were working on our autumn garden we started talking about how people are like gardens!

  1. People are like gardens because we are all beautiful – colorful in our own way.
  2. We all have our own personalities. Nurtured by the “gardeners” who take care of us.
  3. Each if us are the colors of the life we have lived.
  4. Like gardens we are all different varieties and yet we all need the same, the sun, soil, water and the nurturing to bloom.
  5. We are of different backgrounds and different cultures, yet we all live in the same “garden” of life.
  6. Nothing happens by itself and we all need to have someone, our own “gardener” to take out our weeds to continue our growth and get rid of the stuff that is inhibiting us.

So its time to Re-pot!

  • We sometimes need to transplant ourselves into another “garden” for us to grow again!
    • New challenges, new jobs or careers, new projects, different places to be, new friends.
  • We need to get rid of the stuff that stops us growing- the dead leaves of our lives.
    • Get rid of the “junk” that stops us being who we really are.
  • We need to recognize that sometimes we have outgrown the space that we are in, and need “bigger pots”.
    • New environments and meaningful challenges.
  • We need to re-pot ourselves to look, feel good, to re- grow and be vibrant.
    • A  “make-over” of who we are and what WE stand for.
  • We all need to find  ‘”The gardener” in our lives
    • That person who has our interest at their heart.

So it’s autumn time again. Time for.

  • Energizing and refreshing.
  • Branching out for further growth.
  • Pruning the dead branches of our lives.
  • Seeking out new and different soils.
  • Cutting back the old to allow for new growth.
  • Transitioning from stale to new.
  • Moving to a bigger pot.

Autumn is upon us again and it is time to think of winterizing it’s your time.

Thanks Doreen, my wife and my very own master gardener.

Why are you leaving your competitive edge and profits on the table? (More importantly why are you not developing employees who are both Happy AND Engaged to achieve breakthrough performance?)


I asked a number of colleagues the following question. I wanted to see what the paradigms were and did we as, Leaders of Business through People! Really understand what it takes and do something about it.

The question I asked was:

“What are the differences between a happy and an engaged employee? Simple enough…

I wondered what road we were taking on the “hot road to engagement” and were we prepared to take the  “road less traveled.” http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Road_Not_Taken

I believe that the key to real business success (that which differentiates your business from your competitors to achieve inequitable superior performance) is to have both elements of engagement and happiness work in tangent in the same person! That way we get the very best out of the very best.

P.S.  Is it possible for a fully engaged employee to give 100% if they are not “happy” in what they are doing!!

It seemed that from much of the conversation we couldn’t have both “Happy and Engaged.”

Yes we can! And it’s the job of Leadership to understand what needs to be done to achieve it! That is the key leadership imperative!

A number of assumptions developed.

  • Engaged employees can be happy (some or even all of the time), and not all happy employees are truly engaged. Obvious we know. (Yikes! this means only part of the (whole) employee contributes!!! Even if engaged. So what are we doing about it?)
  • So it follows that an engaged employee who is not happy is only partly engaged! AND de facto only giving part of who they really are to deliver fully effective business performance.
  • Happiness and engagement are very different and we usually concentrate on engagement rather then happiness as “ happiness is just to difficult to manage” (sic) the latter is just not something we can (want) to do much about!!  Therein lie concerns with existing business thinking and the inability, or desire, to lead (and think) outside boundaries.

So what does research say?

  • Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (amongst others) and the Positive psychology movement have studied Happiness in recent years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Happiness the conclusion:  “that happiness is a combination of positive emotions and positive activities.”  Ok! That means you can have both in the same person in the workplace! Clue #1!

Thanks Sebastian Salicru for providing this research.

  • Defining happiness seems impossible it is said, due to its uniquely personal nature, but science has produced some promising new research into what makes people happy. 
http://www.suite101.com/content/research-on-happiness-a84218 Here Psychologist Martin Seligman divides “the happy life” into three different types: The Pleasant life, the Good life, and the Meaningful life. Now there is no reason these cannot exist at the same time or place…in our workplace! Clue #2!
  • Based on research, engagement results from a combination of factors including high levels of Satisfaction, Commitment (affective commitment), Discretionary Effort, Intention to stay and Intrinsic Motivation. In addition the workplace needs to have the basic concept of Trust and Equity as part of its cultural dynamic. Clue #3 these can all be achieved in the workplace.

Anecdotes on Engagement and Happiness within employees.

  • An engaged employee is engaged in the work, their co-workers and the workplace.
    • Their focus is on the work to be completed and they have the desire to participate.
    • They are responsible and accountable and will go the extra mile.
    • (Seems this makes Jack all work and no fun!)
  • It’s more important to engage them then make them happy. (Is one exclusive of the other?)
  • Sometimes being engaged is doing things that you are good at. They are the skills sets required by your company and yet as good as you are, you is not happy doing them! (Work-Personal balance of Inequity)
  • Happiness alone is great, but it has little context when not applied. (So does applied happiness get you engagement?)
  • An engaged employee is someone who feels like the work that he/she is performing is vested towards the achievements of the company as a whole. (and not in their own development?)
  • An engaged employee would feel they are an important member of the team contributing to the organizational goals and visions. While, a happy employee is content with the here and now and may need extra incentives and positive reinforcements to continue to work. (Role Misalignment).
  • An engaged employee truly desires for their company to excel and understands that in order to do so they must become involved in the success of that enterprise rather than “delegating” that concern to “someone at a higher pay grade”. (Missing link of personal satisfaction)
  • ” Happiness”, is emotive and not an outcome of being engaged in the company. Happiness comes from within. (And is not focused on generating an outcome for self or company!)
  • Engagement is about behaviors, happiness is an emotional state. (Yes! And we want and need both to be positive in our workplaces!)
  • An engaged employee can be one of the biggest “critics” of the organization, “unhappy” with the current state of affairs. (These employees provide “positive” feedback for improvement)

Images of a Happy AND Engaged Employee (A Oneness)

  • The employee would score high on Satisfaction AND high on ‘Affective Commitment’, ‘Discretionary Effort, and ‘Intention to Stay’ (which when taken together predict “Performance”)
  • An engaged employee is happy. When they feel job worth and equity, have a say in what they do in the organization, have good relationships with co-workers and supervisors, and are made to feel their work adds value. Too many still believe that money is the answer, instead of recognition which gives more satisfaction, make people feel good and results in a state of happiness.

Thanks Steve Siegrist for this contribution.

In conclusion to this fascinating conversation I want to thank Riquard van der Vliet who sent me the following link! This link captures the essence of what we have been discussing.

This “10 minute movie” is by RSAnimate  and gives us insights into how we can attract, retain engage and develop those happy and engaged employees!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc&feature=related

Thanks to all that contributed from the following Linkedin groups. Everyone had great comments to make!

Human Resources Professionals Worldwide – www.HRProWorld.com

HR & Talent Management Executive (25,000+ members)

Organizational Culture Assessment to Change

Thanks to LinkedIn who made it all possible in the first place.

Where is customer service and do people really want to work? We deserve better!


In our travels over the weekend, customer service became a conversation piece with my wife.

We had “visited” two well-known  “brand” fast food restaurants!

Huh! they have no right to be called that!!

We were on the way to a meeting. Thought we would have a quick pit stop by the freeway.

Here is what happened at the first one!

Q. What is on your dollar menu?

A. It’s up there on the menu bar!

Q. Do you have a cheese, burger and egg sandwich?

A. If we do it’s up there! A little bit louder and intense!

All the time the young lady, hat askew, was chewing gum with an open mouth and a yawning disposition and “tapping a tune” on the register

Our decision was we need to get better service than this, so we thanked her and. as we were leaving we heard her comment – Whatever!!!

We went over to the other brand name “restaurant” across the street.

Waited in line and eventually got to the counter.

Gave our order, we ordered 5 items she only heard two! So we started over!

What was her response? A big sigh, a glaring look, and a thumping of her register, wonder how she did not break her fingers!

Then had to wait for a few more minutes for our food… fast food?

So what’s the point of all this?

We are in one of the worst of times in American job history!

People are screaming out for jobs, families are on food stamps!

There are many desperate people out there who want and would die for a decent job!

Organizations have the pick of the crop when they hire and yet this is the best we get?

At this point we wondered!!

  1. How important are customers to these large organizations?
  2. What are the hiring practices?
  3. Where do they get these folks?
  4. Is this the best we as customers get?

What happened to?

A smiley face

A Thank you for the opportunity to make it a great day

A Thank you for coming here … and thanks for the chance to serve you…

On neither occasion did we get a:

Welcoming smile.

Warm Eye contact.

A feeling that we were CUSTOMERS

For these folks it was just a JOB and they were just going through the motions!

Why are we settling for this? We deserve better then this and so do those who really want a job!

What experiences do you want to share? What are your thoughts?

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