Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Leadership Simplified

Every Summer I have the pleasure to teach at the worlds elite Student Leadership Conference. It has become evident that Leadership training requires a new approach.

There is a Leader in all of us. Leadership CAN be learned. We cannot, however, teach Leadership in the same fashion we would economics. There is not an all applicable system that we can plug people into and spit them out as Presidential. Leadership requires courage more than process. How can we teach courage?

The Leadership Challenge
The new challenge we face in Leadership is debunking the dictator-driven operating system made popular by yesterdays micro-managers. In the same manner that selling is more about listening than talking; Leadership is an act of servitude.

A few elements to implement:
  • Actions Speak Louder Than Words: The moment you corrupt your advice through disingenuous actions you have lost the privilege of influence.
  • Rally Around A Cause: There must be a common mission that everyone who serves the organization genuinely believes in.
  • Be Constructively Disruptive: You are allowed to challenge any idea as long as you have a better one.
  • Pass The Torch: Every Leaders goal for each of their team members should be to help them advance beyond their current role.
  • There IS Crying in Business: In the immortal words the great Jimmy Valvano, "be willing to be moved to tears (every day)".    

A Little Commonsense
It is not the content but the people who teach it. It is not the process but the people with whom you share it.

You can game plan and systematize all day long, but if your teachers do not genuinely believe in what they are preaching, no one will follow. Through the process we develop kinship.... human connection drives us forward. Put anyone in a classroom with a bunch of strangers and their greatest accomplishment will come not from passing a test but from passing along their goodwill.

An Inability To Accept Injustice
We are all moved by the fight for Civil Rights. Every great revolution starts with one person who identifies a wrong and is no longer willing to accept that way of living.

Reflect on your moments of courage.... my guess is that each of them began with your inability to accept the ignorance of others dismissed as tradition.

We can not stand by and allow naivety to be dismissed as progress.

No organization has "we've always done it this way" as a core value.

Perhaps our greatest oversight is in pretending that Leadership is an extroverts role. Every point of progress has been cultivated by someone who could not sit on their hands and allow walking in circles to be dismissed as determination.

Are you willing to accept the way things have always been?

Do you have a better idea?

What are you going to do about it?

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, July 24, 2015

The Group Photo

Before our lives were documented and shared in real time there was mystery and romance. We took photos, had them developed and picked them up a day later. Picking up photos was an exercise filled with wonderment... much like receiving a letter in the mail or meeting a person with whom we feel a kinship.

We need not think in terms of digital photos replacing framed pictures. Facebook updates will not displace our need to call an old friend. There exists a need for nostalgia and mystery in the midst of all this turnkey interaction. A person is not a profile or a brand. You will not discover what embraces one's heart by reading an online resume.

Everyone can contribute to making your life better. You may just be too impatient to open the photo album.

Before there were selfies, there were group photos. There was a time that we cared to gather a group and document our time together as opposed to just taking pictures of ourselves.

The Wonderment?

I used to keep my photos in a Monkees lunchbox. On a Sunday afternoon I could open the box and see pictures of myself with thousands on people; the greatest joy in this exercise was remembering someone I had forgotten. Where had they gone? What had they become? Hopefully they are OK!

Self affirmation has never been easier to attain. You can post a picture of yourself in social media and 100 friends will tell you that you look great.... even if you don't. Branding yourself can be a great use of social tools. Pretending you lead a life that you do not will catch up with you.

The Group Photo

How much time do you take to embrace others as opposed to turning the camera on yourself. If narcissism fuels your success you may be in denial.

"Happiness not shared is wasted" - Chris McCandless

People are difficult: they have contrary opinions, egos and a limited amount of time. Too often we propose a meeting with an old friend simply to tell them how well we are doing (or worse to complain about our lives).

Your friends should see you laugh and you should be there to embrace them when they cry. If you cannot pick up the conversation where you left off 10 years ago... those people probably are not your real friends.

It is easy to "like" a photo or post a comment. It's far more difficult to travel 200 miles to see a friend before they die.

It takes far more time to make a few meaningful connections in life than it does to develop 100 followers online.

That which is easy is never sustainable........Open up the photo album.........

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, July 10, 2015

That Which We Choose To Accept as Gospel

Recently, the Society for Human Resource Management released their annual Employee Recognition survey.

It was conveyed that the top three challenges HR Professionals face are:
Employee Turnover
Employee Engagement
Succession Planning

... no real surprise.....

The problem is that surveys seldom tell the whole story. Here are a few potential questions to pose:

1. If you were responsible for putting together your company's Employee Recognition program are you are going to defend it's viability at all costs?
2. If you weren't, are you automatically prone to seek alternatives?
3. Was the survey worded to confirm program viability or to challenge it?
  • Human Resources professionals do not lack organizational strategy, but we are passive aggressive.
  • Surveys that seek to validate do not create actionable change management.
The problem is not your Employee Recognition Program, it is the intent that it has never revealed.

All companies have a reward and recognition program in place, but the degree of adoption is what is genuinely important.

If you do not seek to understand what sucks about your program it will remain a transactional "nice to have" not a critical organizational component.

Think about the last survey you took.... were you honest about the GAPs in your strategy or defensive of the choices you seek to validate?

Employee Recognition is merely the entry point to Employee Engagement... If recognition is the endpoint, engagement remains unattainable.

If you continue to believe that you can micro-manage employees, you are sadly mistaken. Your employees may not submit their discontent with the free lamp you gave them for 10 years of service on a program survey.... Glassdoor & other Social Media outlets may tell a different story.

Progress Measurement
More than a reward or cash, people want to know their opportunity for organizational advancement (in real time). You cannot wait until the end of the year to tell your employee she is doing a great job. Nor can you allow only the middle manager to be the ticket taker on the road to employee progress. 

Employees should have clearly defined goals. Completion of said goals should be broadcast to the masses. Corporate Citizenship should be valued equal to performance metrics in developing the leaders of tomorrow. 

Managers Masquerading as Leaders
Are your middle managers building their legacy or covering their ass? 

Scenario: Tom has been married 3 times and has kids in grade school and college alike. He'll be dammed if he is going to give up his place in the middle of the hierarchy. You are paying him $500,000 a year and each year he drives away 4 people who are more talented than he is. 

Either don't know...don't show...or don't care that your organizational future is being corrupted. 

If your door is open but your employees fear the implication of engaging HR, your managers may be protecting their point at the helm of the sinking boat. 

You can have a pot of gold at the end of the hallway but if no one is given a key to unlock the door your greatest benefits are gathering dust.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Live from #SHRM15 - Emerging Trends in Human Resources

We Did It! Certifications were earned, inspiration ignited, new products and services purchased, new reading materials acquired, t-shirts earned, new friendships forged and new employment opportunities extended.

Dear Friends, The 2015 SHRM Annual Conference has now concluded.

You can find my coverage of the event here:
Snap Shot (Day 1)
Knowledge (Day 2)
Inspiration (Day 3)

This was the best of the 8 SHRM conferences I have attended for a few reasons:
1. Speakers were informative and inspiring.
2. The Exhibitor Hall was light of Swag and heavy on meaningful conversation.
3. Attendees were purposeful in their networking and astoundingly positive.
4. The SHRM Staff and Volunteer Core did an AMAZING job with Meeting Logistics.
5. The SHRM Bookstore was full of relevant material.
6. The Smart Stage afforded snap shot insight from some of the best thinkers in the industry.

As we head home to share what we have learned, I feel compelled to advise the trends I see developing in HR!

Fewer Employee Recognition Vendors
In years past, companies thought that developing a platform, buying gift cards in bulk or reselling trophies would engage employees. The idea of copy catting legacy vendors to turn a quick buck has proven a failed strategy. In recent months we've seen Grass Roots cease US Operations and Achievers acquired by The Blackhawk Group.... hundreds of other Employee Recognition vendors have tried and failed to succeed in the industry.

Employee Engagement partnership requires:
1. A large group of smart, creative human beings seated all around the globe.
2. Technology that is scaled, integrated, protected, social, and mobile.
3. A robust choice of achievement mementos.
4. Consultants that design impactful initiatives specific to your workforce (and your workforce only).
5. The ability to measure with precise efficiency the Return on your program Investment (and to re-scale accordingly).

6. A variety of services ranging from:
a. Social platforms
b. Learning assistance complimented by e-learning technology
c. Meeting support
d. Analytics
e. Workforce consultation with real time measurement.
f. The ability to correlate Customer Satisfaction with Employee Engagement ratings.
g. Assistance in making re-sellers part of your organizational strategy.
h. To track and measure the excellence rating of EVERY employee.      

The aforementioned is really difficult. It takes years of experience, a large workforce of diverse talents and Business CAPITAL that is constantly re-invested into improving the business.

The End of Dictatorships
The generations in the workforce are growing together and learning from one another in an effort to improve the work experience. Most organizations still consider the annual performance review part of their management process... it will not last. Advancements in technology have made it possible to measure and share employee progress in real time. The manager to employee relationship is now assisted by the socialization of each employee's progress report.

Baselines That Create Roadmaps
At #SHRM15 there were learning sessions filled with data that were boring and highly-energetic speakers that didn't make a single point.

The solution to our Engagement Crisis needs to start with hard data and well-designed initiatives. We must then use frequent face-to-face socialization of each employee's specific goals for success. Our leaders need to be interactive, vulnerable, personable and collaborative. Leadership is an act of servitude.

Technology is the starting point. Human Beings have to carry the torch into the workplace (with the willingness to get burned).

In summation:
- Only the truly excellent can execute HR Services Partnerships!
- Performance reviews as we know them WILL change drastically!
- Holacracy is coming... and it WILL work!

See you next year at #SHRM16 in our nation's capital.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Debriefing Day 3 @ #SHRM15

A poetry slam, swanky Marcus Buckingham sware' and an 80's jam couldn't keep me from waking up at 6am to hustle over to the HR Capital of the Universe. I step into the Vegas heat, my heart pumping pure mini-bar, then jump into a bus blasting a Rico Suave / Maria Maria mash up at 10,000 watts. It's Day 3 at the SHRM Annual Conference and there is no time for Tom Foolery... We've got knowledge to consume.

What a better way to wake up than with HR's Global Ambassador of Awesome Mr. Steve Browne. Steve has been advocating his love for HR for years in social media and through his hard-fought human connections. He is simply one of the most giving people in the profession.

Mika Brzezinski brought a delightfully empowering message to the female dominated crowd. Her lipstick also matched her sweater (I think you get extra points for that).

In an unfortunate incident J Hud's Crew decided to sound check during Jason Lauritsen's Smart Stage presentation. I hope he throws swag left over from the Exhibitor Hall on stage during her set.

Bryan Wempen Wrote a Book... you should buy it!

The Day Crescendo-ed with a presentation chalk full of data and strategy from Brendan Browne of Linked-In. Not for the less strategic HR Pros, this session was ultra-precise in the step-by-step process of using data to find talent.... and executing the recruiting plan.

So there you have it from one Browne to another and everything in-between. It was another truly inspiring day at the SHRM Annual Conference. I could not be more grateful to have the opportunity to be part of the SHRM Blog Squad! It's been a thrill of a lifetime to write, present and brainstorm with all of the talented positive thinkers in Las Vegas this week.

One More Day to Go!

Dave Kovacovich

Monday, June 29, 2015

#SHRM15 - Debriefing Day 2

My phone awakens me that it is 4:45 am. Time to shake off a weekend worth of Dead Shows and head to Sin City to hang out with my Sisters & Brothers in the Human Resources profession. What could possibly go wrong?

Having been to the SHRM Annual Conference nearly 10 times, my event navigation is far more streamlined than a first time attendee. I head to the Dice Bloggers lounge to pick up my badge.

Reframing Engagement
For decades Gallup has been the default source of employee information gathering. Their survey questions written in 1993 remain the benchmark for workforce engagement in many organizations. It's nice to see that former Gallup Principals, Marcus BuckinghamRodd Wagner, have branched out on their own to re-write the Rules of Engagement. Buckingham rocked the morning keynote.

Caring Is Not Creepy    
We've heard the Zappos story of creating culture to such an extent that Mary Faulkner has made drinking game out of it.

That said, Zappos (drink) Speaker of The House, Jamie Naughton, pulled back the curtain on how Human Resources works at Zappos.

Talent Management is a function of Holacracy: admittedly a work in progress if any company can successfully eliminate bureaucracy it's Zappos (drink). They have replaced the organizational hierarchy with tasks and circles: Employees focus on their strengths and prioritize their time accordingly instead of relying on a title or departmental affiliation to guide their workplace behaviors. They are assigned a circle of advisers to mentor their progress.

Total Rewards Replaced By Personal Emotional Connections 

Zappos (drink) affords employees the standard medical package (which includes fertility aid). Employees are asked to volunteer 20% of their time to activities that fall outside of their core job description. Most compelling is the Zappos (drink) Wishez program. Through this program employees submit a request to a network that any co-worker can address. Requests range from liver donations to morning coffee.

What remains endearing about the Zappos Culture (Drink Twice) is that employees are encouraged to investigate the lives of their co-workers and customers. If a customer is having a bad day, and the customer service representative can sense it, they have a flower budget to send them a special token of their empathy. Not all Wishez are granted but the requests provide a window beyond the workplace that humanizes their workforce & customers.

It's always good to see @DaveTheHRCzar

Robin Schooling made The Smart Stage her bitch!

... and the day's programming concluded with the always inspiring duo of Lauritsen & Gerstandt

Think About It!

See You Tomorrow!

Dave Kovacovich

Friday, June 26, 2015

#SHRM15 Snap Shot

It's Here, It's On, It's Go Time!!!!

Over the next few days the Human Resource Leaders of Today, Tomorrow and Yesterday will be racing through McCarran Airport, their thirst at full quench for workforce management knowledge.

There have been a thousand pieces written in advance of this event and a million post cards are now gracing attendees waste baskets. So, once you've checked in and loaded your i-pad with travel entertainment, reference this conglomeration of knowledge to streamline your #SHRM15 experience:

Meet the SHRM 15 Bloggers

Tons of Nuggets from the HR Blog Squad

* You absolutely MUST FOLLOW the aforementioned HR experts to gather information directly from sessions (in real time) as well as all the breaking news from the conference floor in Las Vegas.

Advice on Navigating the Conference

Don't Forget: Vendors Are People Too

Connect with the future of HR through YPAC

Nightlife @ SHRM

Recommended Sessions:
Robin Schooling (the smartest lady in HR on the Smart Stage)

Tim & Kris Talking HR Tech

Total Entertainment: Jason & Joe will literally get the crowd on their feet in #HR Vegas

WAKE UP with Steve, Trish and a Whole Lotta HR Tech

WAKE UP with THE ONE MAN EVERYONE in HR needs to know

Getting The C-Suite's Attention with the Lovely Jennifer McClure

LinkedIn's Recruiting Wiz Kid on Hiring Better

Dave & Donna on Running an HR Department of One

* Many of these speakers are conducting multiple session and they all ROCK so schedule your event flow here

That outta get you started.... It's time to learn, network, read, absorb, expand your mind, have a cocktail and possibly grab a few minutes by the pool. Las Vegas is your oyster... slurp it up now because those things spoil in the desert.

I will be in the Bloggers Lounge all week. Come see me or follow/contact me on Twitter -

See you all in Las Vegas! Travel Safe!

Dave Kovacovich

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Requesting Your Company

Kate Tempest spoke about how music made everything seem more important. That the sound took over her soul and the words gave her life a purpose. The artists brought an urgency to things which made her understand how precious every moment can be and what a crime it is to waste time on the mundane.

We affiliate the term urgency with paranoia, impatience or immediacy. But cannot urgency be affiliated with a need to live in the moment? We need not rush to prove ourselves but to emphasize the importance of removing our blinders.

Think about the breakthroughs in your life. Life altering moments may come through hearing a song, watching a sporting event, through a dream or just taking a walk.

Some times we just get comfortable. Some times we just get bored.... if you bring yourself to believe that everything is important... maybe it all will be!

Be Positive
I remember the point in which I accepted that my life was no longer going to be about ME! That I was going to have to tone down my narcissism (which was no small task) to make room for others. I vowed to listen to a whole lot of Flaming Lips and Polyphonic Spree as my soundtrack for conquering every day. I failed.

Pretending to ignore your inefficiency simply isn't a remedy. Smart people are naturally pessimistic but the heart matters more. If you waste your life outsmarting the competition, you may never get on the field.

Audience Ears
I've made a life as a salesman. I learned how to speak in public and how to be charming.... and then I realized it was more important to listen than to talk.

Empathy is a salesperson's best friend: The ability to ask questions that allow another to share their expertise (or at least share their story).... to nod your head not just shake hands.

If people know you are willing to listen, they will tell you anything.

Revisiting The Victories
We tend to look back on life with the mindset of where it all went wrong. We sit up at night worrying about what might go wrong. We tend to forget about all the awesomeness and how infrequently our fears have manifested themselves.

Case-in-point: Think about that person who you let down or embarrassed....? Then you see them again and they remind you of all the great times you had together. The only shame is that you didn't pick up the phone sooner.

Past failures can be mended, no one expects you to be perfect and you've probably won a lot more times than you remember. Don't spend your time worrying about what was because it probably wasn't what you think.

Remember the Little League Championship!
Remember the first girl you kissed!
Remember the time you set your hand on a friend's shoulder and made her feel at home!
Remember the time you told your friend to snap out of it... and he did!

Forget about that time you took a header in the street after drinking too much Yager... There are no lessons to be learned there....and it happens to the best of us.....!

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, June 19, 2015

Dispelling The Myth

"Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary" - Steve Jobs

What we seemed to have overlooked in the study of motivation is that which guides us is far more controlled by the heart than the mind. We can rationalize all day with statistics but numbers never tell the whole story. We live in a Big Data age that presents us all the validation we need to make logical choices with systematic application. That's the safe way to do it and the quickest way to be like everyone else.

There are two people in this world:
1. Those who follow process to the letter of the law.
2. Those who oppose authority with vitriol.

The answer to our motivation conundrum lies in-between.

Safety Motivated by Fear
Middle management remains the greatest stop gap to progress in most organizations. Managers are taught to "manage the process" instead of "encourage the heart". Managers are trained to ask open ended questions to their non-suspecting audience. When the answer to said question is not readily available, the manager pseudo-validates his/her position. The system is in place, the results are proven and the methods are not the be questioned.

So is laid a dependable road to mediocrity. Safe and unchanged.      

The great Brian Wilson is one of music's great misunderstandings. His brilliance was progressive to the point of being dismissed as weird. Where most would fear the failure of losing public admiration, Brian Wilson risked everything he had worked for to recreate the way music is made. It nearly cost him his sanity.

Would your employees to risk everything to keep your company evolving? Would you be willing to be perceived as weird, unpopular or insane to provoke the emotion of your workforce?

No one ever gained the admiration of their public by doing the safe thing. There are those who have lost their career in presenting a dream without focus.

Again, the answer to our motivation conundrum lies in-between.

Never has the work world seen so much opportunity to evolve nor has there been so many facades.

So, how do you prove you mean it?

I've always found it easy to discover a fraud.

Here are a few pointers:
- People who present perfect ideas but cannot expound upon them.
- People who do not follow up.
- People who present courage behind the curtain but switch their story on stage.

Pulling the Heart Strings
Think of the people who have genuinely inspired you. Coaches, Teachers, Bosses... what common characteristics do they share? Maybe none. But I bet each has an ability to remind you of your greatness. They can provoke your emotion by denouncing your doubt. It is certain that uncertainty creates stress. We worry about that which is undetermined. In these times, we don't need to hear about a 5 point plan or to review our pipeline, we need a hand on our shoulder.

Managers fail to become leaders because they fail to encourage the heart. The inability to be human enough to put formality aside is what prohibits trust. Leaders will admit they are fallible, they will listen more than they talk, they will close the lap top and give you a hug.

We all have the ability to believe. We just need someone to tell us it's OK to believe.

Numbers lie and certainty never created anything inspiring. The seeds in your pocket can be the bean stock that catapults us into the future.

You are only afraid because you've been discouraged. Be encouraged and seek those who fuel your less-than-predictable individuality. It is the only way to achieve the impossible.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How I Got to #SHRM15

The first five Society of Human Resource Management Annual Conferences that I attended found me at a booth in the Exhibitor Hall. It is a labor of love. You stand on your feet for 12 hours conducting conversations with people who may or may not be your ideal customer. The Exhibitor Hall is talked about in jest as swagville; the hard working sales people projected as unwilling to relinquish the sacred stuffed cows to non-customers. The Exhibitor Hall also presents an extraordinary opportunity to meet new companies and understand their product offerings. With the right research, and a focused navigation strategy, you can use 4 days on the floor to align yourself with companies that will revolutionize your HR strategy.

For those of you standing in the Exhibitor Hall under the booth lights in uncomfortable shirts, I know your pain! I can assure you, the investment will pay off!

At a certain point, I was afforded a break from our booth and I borrowed our CEO's badge to sit in on a session. The vibe was totally different. A cute little lady sat next to me and actually engaged me in conversation. I was behind enemy lines and it was glorious. I tapped into the mindset of my target market in the session and followed remote interaction on the topic via Twitter. My life was changed.

As salespeople, we mature by fine-tuning our craft. Once I sat in my customer's chair, my connection to them was revitalized. The SHRM Annual Conference has always been all about connecting.

At a SHRM conference in San Diego years ago I met a ton of people who further inspired me. They were covering the conference via social media. These people were a collection of writers, HR Pros, and consultants... and they were all Punk Rock! I was again shrouded in glory.

Having now attended the last several SHRM annual conferences as a member of the aforementioned Blog Squad, I have seen this conference from every angle. The greatest lesson I have learned is that among the 30,000 people rummaging through the world's largest conference halls there are a diversity of avenues through which to be inspired.

I don't believe there is a more important organizational function than that of Human Resources. The HR profession has a variety of sub-functions: Tech, Policy, Training, Hiring, Performance Management, Employee Engagement, Succession Planning.... It's all on display at the SHRM Annual Conference and it is yours to behold.

You can use your time at the conference to gain credits and collect stuffed cows or you can use the experience to change your life..... It worked for me!

Dave Kovacovich