It wasn’t the manager’s fault

Someone whom I was coaching brought this to my attention. Her manager had rated her “Low” (he company’s scale is “High,” “Mid-range,” “Low”) when she failed to achieve a goal. In the write-up it stated (this is a paraphrase) that the employee was rated “Low” because while standards or timeline for completion hadn’t been defined, she failed to meet the standards for this project. A project that the manager acknowledged that no one else had been successful in completing either. Finally, it said that while the instructions about how the project was to have been completed were ambiguous, someone at her level should have been able to figure something out.

So in effect the employee was rated “Low” when:

  • she was given ambiguous instructions;
  • for an objective that no one else had been successful in achieving;
  • the manager had no idea how to do, and;
  • the manager never detailed what he wanted done or by when!

But I’m sure it wasn’t the manager’s fault…


Ignoring Sadie will cost your company money

Today is February 29th, Leap Day! There’s all sorts of superstitions, traditions and myths around February 29th and one anachronism hanging around from (take your pick) the 5th, 12th, 19th or early 20th century is a phenomenon that’s come to be known as Sadie Hawkins Day.

For those of you unfamiliar with Sadie, she was alleged to be the homeliest girl in the lilabnerfictional town of Dogpatch but it was determined that on one day of the year (here’s where the legends and myths collide) she was allowed to propose to an eligible bachelor and he couldn’t refuse. It was so successful for Sadie that it was decided that this would become a regular event for all single women in Dogpatch. And I guess to protect the single gents that day was set as February 29th so it would only occur once every four years.

So what’s all this got to do with HR? Well, the way the men in Dogpatch treated Sadie  reminds me of how many eligible corporations today treat candidates. Sadie had a lovely personality, was strong and fast and although she was over a certain age (the ugly word “spinster” was tossed around) she was, I presume, absolutely capable of fulfilling all the necessary requirements of a spouse. Think of all the candidates who have lots of business knowledge, pleasant personalities, loads of experience and are ignored by companies because of their age or some other reason that has nothing to do with the work to be done. And yes, this happens more to women over a certain age than men.

Ageism and sexism run rampant in today’s workplace despite decades of legislation. Too many companies seem to want the newer, younger models. Well, that’s fine if you insist on that. Just be prepared to pay more and fight harder to get and keep them. The Millennials are the largest generation since the Boomers to enter the workforce, but they can’t make up for the number of boomers leaving the workforce and the fact that Gen X fell far short in terms of the number of people in the workforce.

Graying boomers (and soon X’ers) will be staying in the workforce a lot longer by choice or need. Companies ignore them at their peril.

Happy Sadie Hawkins Day.

Need a little motivation?



Or a little inspiration on a Friday afternoon? Here you go. 120+ motivational quotes compiled by Carol Roth of Tough Love for Business.



There’s great quotes from Vince Lombardi, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Peter Drucker, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Yoda and yours truly. I’m in there at #65!

Take a look to see what I submitted as well as all these other great quotes. A great way to end, or start, your week!

One more reason to hate performance appraisals

Thank you Yahoo.

It’s not as if enough people didn’t already hate performance appraisals and blame them for everything from global warming to ankle warts. Now the management at Yahoo has given us one more reason to blame performance management for the erosion of trust, productivity and collaboration in the world of work.

As outlined in this article from the NY Times, light has been shed on how performance appraisals were done and used at what was once a premier internet company. Reviews were used primarily as a means to fire people and had no connection to employee development or performance improvement using a performance management method commonly known as “Rank-and-Yank” that faded from favor over 15 years ago. Using a forced ranking bell curve to rate employees has been abandoned by more forward thinking companies that formerly used this method. It was found them to have a “corrosive effect on productivity and employee morale.”

Pardon me for repeating myself but performance management must focus on the growth and development of the employee and the workforce to be effective and not seen as punitive. If it’s not a tool for improving performance then please don’t abuse it and your employees by simply using it as a rationale and cover-up for indiscriminate terminations. You’re not really helping yourself or your company and in reality, you’re poisoning the minds of others who might hope and plan to use their performance management systems for good not evil.

If all you want to do is cut heads, get yourself a guillotine, not an appraisal.


But will they “like” me?

That title may be the mantra of the as yet unnamed next generation. (Considering that we never fully agreed on what to call the last one, Gen Y or Millennials, this may be a moot point and whatever we call them they’ll probably resist it and come up with their own identity.) This hyper connected generation is having a huge impact on our economy, our means of communication and the frequency of communication. They are always in touch with their entire network and this is both good and a peril.

Mobile Gen

In a recent article in the NY Times about this mobile generation they were described as becoming more risk averse, more emotionally intelligent and possibly less innovative. They seem more dependent on the approval of others and more willing to “go along to get along.” Instant gratification plus less self assurance is a potentially bad mix. Will this generation that deletes pictures and posts if they don’t get enough “likes” in the first fifteen minutes be willing to go out on a limb for an idea that will require weeks or months of energy and investment if it will be ridiculed, or even worse, ignored by their network?

Their enhanced emotional intelligence is great but will this group be able to give constructive feedback if they’re so afraid of offending or being ostracized by their cohorts? As they mature and enter the workforce they can’t be asked to put down or turn off their phones. It just won’t happen. So how will this energy, these connections, this network be harnessed and used for good rather than evil? This is the challenge we and they face and will need to be resolved as the Gen Y/Millennials fade from being the hot, new generation to be understood and integrated and we address the needs and wants of the Online Gen. The App Gen? Mobile Gen?

If you’ve got an idea for a name I’d love to hear it. Post it in your comments for others to see and consider. I hope you get a lot of “likes!”

Managing, Motivating & Retaining Your HiPo’s

No, that’s not a typo about saving endangered large river dwelling creatures in Africa.

Just a short post to share this article that appears in the latest HRDecisions magazine. I was interviewed for it and quoted extensively. Thought you’d like to see these ideas for managing, motivating and retaining your high potential (HiPo) employees.

Key concepts include:

  • how managers can most effectively use their most limited resource, time.
  • no-cost ways to motivate your HiPo’s
  • the importance of constructive feedback and effective performance management of your HiPo’s

Just click on the article title, “How to Keep your HiPos Engaged, Productive and On Board” on the front cover.

As always, I’d love to hear your feedback.

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving surrounded by family, friends and gratitude!
Only the best,

Updates are available

I got a reminder to update my phone last week. Wouldn’t it be great if we all updated our updates imageresumes as often as we update our phones? Wouldn’t it be great if there was an app to remind us to do this every couple of months, or whenever we complete a new project that warrants inclusion?

We’re all tied to our mobile devices. The need to run the most up-to-date software or version is obvious. So why don’t we make the same effort to keep our resumes in the most up-to-date version. Usually it’s because we don’t think about updating our resume until we need it. It’s the same with our networks. Most of us don’t invest the time into keeping our network of contacts fresh and current until we need them.

And then it’s often too late.

Now I’ve been known to say, “It’s never too late to start doing better.” and that’s the good news. You can start doing a better job at both these critical tasks. The truth is that you always need an updated resume because you never know when you’re going to be the one invited into the conference room or your manager’s office and told that your employment status with the organization has changed, the organization’s going in a different direction, there’s been a restructuring of the internal workforce and we’re going to be eliminating redundancies. However they put it, now you know it’s time to dust off the old resume and start networking.

If you go to your laptop, open the most recent copy of your resume and get a message that it’s in an older version of your word processing software, that’s the first sign that you’ve overlooked keeping the resume up to date. The longer you wait, the harder it is to update the resume. It’s easy to forget projects you’ve completed and the quantifiable results you produced.

Updating your resume is something many people have on their To Do lists and it’s usually the one that falls to the bottom of the queue or right off the page. Here’s your reminder. Update your resume before the end of next weekend. Make a call or two to a network contact you haven’t spoken with in the past month (or six!). Keep your network and your resume current. You never know when you’re going to need them.

One Brave Police Officer

I suppose it’s possible that the New York Police Department had never heard of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. I mean it’s been 37 years since it was passed and I acknowledge that they’ve had  lot on their minds since then. But when Officer Akema Thompson asked months in advance of the infrequently given sergeant’s exam to take a  make-up exam as the date of the exam was the same day as her due date, she was denied. Repeated requests from the officer and her union representative were also denied.  The final denial came three days before her due date as she lay in a hospital having contractions only hours before her son was born. You can read the full story here.

Officer Thompson didn’t give up the fight. She took the powerful NYPD, which allows other officers to take make-up exams for other reasons (religion, injury, military service), to court and won. She’s currently studying for the make-up exam which, it is acknowledged, can “alter the trajectory of her career.”

Standing up to your boss or organization in the face of blatant discrimination is hard. To do so when the organization is one with such a strong culture of obedience and following orders take enormous reserves of courage and resilience, characteristics critical to the success of any manager. That Officer Thompson is a woman fighting for her rights in an organization with overwhelming masculine traditions only made her fight harder and her victory that much more gratifying.

nypd-sgtI think Officer Thompson will make an outstanding leader. The NYPD needs people like her. She is one brave police officer. I hope she passes.

Maybe They Cut Too Deep?

Note: This post was written and posted the day before the horrific attack on the Marine Recruiting Center in Chattanooga, TN. It is in no way meant to demean or make light of the terrible suffering of the U.S. Marines or the family, friends and comrades in arms of the fallen.

There was a three-plus hour outage at the New York Stock Exchange last week.

Hackers? Terrorists? No, greed.

In an article in the NY Times today it was reported that one of the first things that the Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) did after they bought the NYSE in 2012 was cut hundreds of experienced managers and staff from the New York location. The remaining staff, less experienced and no doubt less expensive,  was wholly unprepared to deal with the crisis. ICE staff from Atlanta was supposed to be able to handle situations like these but clearly were unable to, as traders languished outside the exchange receiving precious little information about what was going on.

trader outside NYSEThis seems to be another example of a distant corporate parent failing to recognize the need for talented people to run the business. Sure it seemed like there were more staff than necessary but to start cutting heads before you fully know how you’ll keep the doors open seems insane. One of the rationalizations for the layoffs was that ICE was to install a new system that would be managed and maintained from Atlanta. However three years later that system is still not fully functional and when the existing system went down they didn’t have the staff or know how in place to quickly bring the system back up.

So we don’t need to worry about threats from far off lands. The greed that exists in the boardrooms of too many corporations is the greatest threat to our economy.


Use Your SMARTS!

I’m going to go way out on a limb and presume that pretty much everyone reading this is somewhat familiar with SMART goals. This was defined by Peter Drucker over 50 years ago as Specific, Measurable, Action oriented, Realistic, and Time bound. Now I’m not saying I’m smarter than Drucker, but lately I have found value in updating his classic acronym.

SMARTS. Specific, Measurable, Aligned, Relevant, Time bound and Stretching. Just a few changes that can help goals resonate a little more with today’s emerging workforce.

Aligned. It’s critical for the organization and the employee that individual goals be congruent with the greater goals of the organization. It’s equally important that there be a clear and identifiable line of sight from the employee’s goal to the organization’s. That’s when goals become self motivating and less like they are being assigned by manager fiat.

Relevant. There needs to be a connection between the work the employee’s asked to complete and the work of the rest of the team, department or organization. Plus, it’s best when there is a connection between the employee’s skills and the objective. That’s when the employee feels they’re really making a contribution. As Daniel Pink makes it clear, people perform better when they feel that there’s a purpose to what they’re being asked to do.

Stretching. We need our employees to do more than just enough not to get fired. We need them to voluntarily give their discretionary effort. As mentioned previously, most employees, if we do our jobs right all employees, come to work to do a good job. Just as you do. So when setting objectives, don’t just tell them what needs to be done, describe the standards for each level of performance. Give the employee the information he or she needs to excel. Help them to make an informed decision about how hard to work and how hard to try. Don’t worry about outlining the rewards just yet. That will come, rest assured. For now, keep their eyes on the improved performance prize and help them to develop pride in doing their jobs well.

This is all getting around to rewards and recognition, another of my favorite topics, Soon to come in yet another post on one of my favorite topics, motivating superior performance.