Friday, June 29, 2012

Patriotic musings

It's a beautiful sunny and soon to be hot Friday.

 It's the Friday before a long weekend. 

It's the Friday before the big celebration of our great nation's "birthday" - a time when I should be reflecting on what it means to be a Canadian and how truly fortunate I am to live here and to be a member of a pretty cool country. And not be stereotypically apologetic about it.

However, the office is practically empty and all I can think is : why the fuck didn't I take the day off too?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Little things that matter

There are times in both my professional and not-so-professional life when some small thing has happened or been said that absolutely means the world to me.

Of course, being in HR I'm ALL about recognition and rewards.  Yeah, hand me my pack of gold stars and I'll add one beside your name.

Seriously - I may not be a fan of the formal employee of the month type program, but the spontaneous, informal and unsolicited type of recognition is absolutely invaluable.

But it's not just the pat on the backs at work that mean the most. 

I was recently given very positive feedback from a few members of the executive team about my performance, my approach, and my professionalism.  It was really appreciated and made my day, but it was absolutely nothing compared to what I was told this morning.

This morning, my husband told me about a discussion he had with our 12-year son who is struggling at the crossroads of child & teenager. 

Some of his friends are dropping the "play with the guys" aspect and focusing a bit more on the "socializing with the girls" - he wants to remain friends with them, but isn't interested in crossing over to the dark side.  As a result, he hasn't been invited to any end of the year parties being held by some of the girls in his class. Although not entirely disappointed, he does feel the snub of not being one of the popular boys.

My husband reassured him that it's okay - to stay himself and hang with the friends that share similar interests. He reminded him that he's a smart, funny kid and that when he's 16-17 years old girls will appreciate him more.  My husband's words: "Girls like guys that are funny."

Of all the things that my smart, sarcastic, funny kid could have come back with, he asked my husband this: "Does mom like funny guys?"

My husband said "yes".

My son then said, "oh, okay then."

My. heart. ached.

There are not enough gold stickers in the world to match that one.

[Incidentally, I do like funny guys. And on many an occasion that has been my husband's only saving grace]

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer of Learning

As the kids are finishing (or have finished)up the last, completely useless and unproductive, days of school – they are dreaming of the months of reprieve from mandatory reading, homework, schedules, assignments, tests, projects, and well…formal learning.

This time of year, depending on your job and industry, can be a bit slower. People start taking vacation and don’t want to start anything big. It’s a time when water-cooler talks and lunches get a bit longer and people leave on-time, if not sooner.

So it’s could be hard to resist falling into that drone mode when you just go through your day counting the minutes until you can be back out in the sunshine.

I was on the brink of this. My workload isn’t lighter, but the deadlines are – there just isn’t that urgency that surrounds work in the Fall or Winter months. However, given the availability of decent (and free) webinars that are out there, and the plethora of HR-related blogs/articles…I decided to fill my quieter time with “catching up” on all the information that I’ve bookmarked and designated as “to read when I have time”.

An interesting thing has happened: learning begets learning. I am now looking deeper and seeking out books and resources that I normally would have by-passed. I’ve put aside my usual preference for fiction for non-fiction. I’m being drawn to topics that I didn’t realize I had an interest in.

When you think about it – summer is the perfect time to take advantage of learning new things…you are generally more relaxed, there are fewer meetings, and you might find yourself in a reclined position more often (beach, pool, dock).

So while I’m not going to forgo my summer guilty pleasure of stretching out on the desk with a book - I am going to go out a bit further and stretch my brain while I’m at it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Mid-week confession

As much as I know that there is more to life and all that - sometimes I'm just here for the pay only.

This is one of those days.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Welcome to our sandbox

One of my favourite clips from The Simpsons involves the kids heading out on a field trip. The teacher pairs up the children using the “buddy system”, with the idea that if something happens to one student, then the other will raise the alarm.

In theory, this works until both Bart and Lisa, who were assigned as each other’s buddy, fall into a ravine and away from the rest of the group. When it’s time to leave, the teacher asks the students, “Is anyone’s buddy missing?” When no one answers, she sighs in relief, “Ah the buddy system – it never fails.”

Yeah, the buddy system. It never fails.

I’m working on improving our on-boarding of new hires and have come across a number of gem references to the “buddy system”. For the record, I think the concept is good, but the term absolutely sucks.

When I think of a buddy – I think nap time, milk and cookies, and gold stickers.

So I’ve opted for peer support instead. Because that’s what it is supposed to be.

We are not playing match-maker here, I’m not setting up play dates – this person will not be your “buddy”. They are your colleagues – the people who you will hopefully turn to when you have questions, the people that will guide you with respect to the organization’s who’s who and what not to wear.

We are trying to make the new employee’s integration as smooth as possible and provide them with the support and resources needed to do their job. I really don’t think that introducing them to their new “buddy” on day one is setting the tone that we have in mind.

Semantics? Perhaps.

But think of the difference between saying “Personnel” and “Human Resources”.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Tone deaf

I'm a big believer that tone is as important, if not more important, than the actual message.  I'm frequently saying, "It's not what you said, but how you said it..."  I've extolled this advice to many people both at work and at home. 

So, given that I'm confident enough to be sharing this wonderful insight with all those around me, you would think that I would be a pro at this. Ha.  Ha ha.

Yeah, not so much.

Last week I went on training course that I had hoped would give me more insight into why others do what they do and how better to communicate with them.  However, the big takeaway ended up being what I do when I'm communicating with others. 

We had to do a role-playing exercise (for the record, I HATE role-playing exercises) and because of class numbers I was paired with the instructor for this one activity.  I was happy, because I thought I can get some genuine feedback on my approach and  feedback I did get.  However, I wasn't too keen about what I heard. 

Following the exercise, the instructor asked me if I always talk to people that way.  I was a bit confused? What did she mean that way?  I thought about it for a moment and acknowledged that in those type of circumstances I probably do...after all, I thought it was okay...rationale, professional, calm...

She then challenged me by asking what I thought I sounded like.  Well, I knew what I wanted to sound like but obviously that wasn't was she was hearing, so I listened back to what I said in my head and tried to hear it...and it came to me.  My answer was "patronizing". The instructor nodded.

That made me wince.  That is so NOT what I was trying to convey.

As I am apt to do - I spent the remainder of the day berating myself.  How could I have not noticed this before, why hadn't anyone called me on it before, is this what my daughter refers to me using my "HR voice" at home.  Ugh, ugh, ugh.

Fast-forward to today.  I've cleaned up the balloons and streamers from my pity party and moved on.  I'm still on a mission to help people convey messages in a way that will help and not hinder the situation, but now I'm going to be much more aware of how I'm delivering this message.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dedicated to the one I am sure of

Often times we focus on those people that provide us with support at work or complain about those that make our lives difficult. I’m no exception - I’ve been happy to dish on both accounts, but today I wanted to mention someone who has not only supported me in my work, but in pretty much every facet of my life.

Today is my wedding anniversary and I can honestly say, without any pretense of sucking up, that marrying my husband was the best decision I have ever made.Truthfully it started well before we got married, but that was the official start line, I suppose.

That was the starting point for all that we have now - our home, our kids, and our future.

He has been with me through my late teenage years, young adulthood, and now approaching (ahem) mid-life. He has seen me and stuck by me through all my phases, moods, highs and lows. He has been my biggest supporter and sometimes my harshest critic. And I his.

I have often been asked how could I have possibly known at twenty-two (or even seventeen for that matter) that this was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. That’s tough to answer because it was one of the few things in my life that I didn’t over-analyze so I didn’t have rationale beyond that I just knew.

I did try to explain it once by saying that I was sure about him because we had gone a number of road trips and when that inevitable silence fell, we were both comfortable and content with just driving. There was no need to force a conversation, to entertain the other person, or worry whether there was something wrong. We enjoyed each other’s company throughout the trip - not just when we got to our destination.

I realize that this sounds counterintuitive coming from someone whose job it is to discourage people from relying solely on their gut. Someone who encourages analysis, supporting documentation, and asking questions.

Thankfully I don’t always live my life the way I work.

So now, eighteen years later at at the ripe old age of forty, how can I say that this is still the person that I was to spend the rest of my life with...I still don’t have an eloquent answer, but I can say that I still just know and we are still enjoying the road trip, whatever the destination.
Happy anniversary.

Friday, June 08, 2012

And now for someone else's re-runs

I'm a bit slow on the draw and just came across this post from Kris Dunn at The HR Capitalist blog.

I am a sucker for the movie Office Space, which makes The Bootstrapper's Guide to Employee Engagement (Office Space Edition) pretty much too cool.

Enjoy. I did.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Summer Re-run: The Episode where I define my HR style

So, here's another gem.  I am not sure what happened with Days 1-3, but on Day 4 - well apparently I hit nirvana.

Again, pre-HR, but perhaps you can see the trend that was destined to repeat itself over the past six years of my career: I cannot keep my opinions to myself.

This of course is fortunate for all those around me who get to benefit from my wisdom.

Yeah, I was cynical before it was cool.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Day 4 - The transfer of brilliance

Here we go. I approached my Manager yesterday and suggested something really strange. I explained that our little team is no longer a team, but a group of people who are fending for themselves. I supported this point with evidence that we are failing miserably to accomplish what we are suppose to and then made my suggestion. He listened patiently, praised me for thinking of the group, and then said that he thought it was a good idea.

So what was my brilliant revelation? To put it simply, I told him he should manage the group. I explained that he may want to make it clear what is expected of everyone, set measurable targets, monitor (not micro-manage) these targets, and then act upon them. He agreed and thought these were very good suggestions.

You know, I wasn't too sure why he was recently transferred into this leadership position, but now I know why. It's because he is able to recognize a good idea when he hears one. A manager actually managing. It's a fantastic idea. I'm sure he's proud of himself for thinking of it.

Fortunately for me he is unaware that I used an old Jedi mind trick on him - make a recommendation and hope that he thinks it was his - then he can take credit for it. God knows I don't want people to think I know what I'm doing. If word gets out then I may be expected to think and not just perform mindless routines. In fact, I might be called upon to make more suggestions and truthfully, I couldn't possibly handle that kind of responsibility.

No - better to continue with the subliminal message tactics and smile knowingly when my manager gets that pat on the back. I'll sleep better at night.

Eventually I'll get off this topic - for this week it's stuck in my mind. I'm off to NYC this weekend - surely that will give me something else to talk about.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Start of summer re-runs

Sometimes I like to reflect back on why I decided to make the career switch into Human Resources.  It was a "later" in life decision, and I know I was encouraged by others, but clearly there was something in it that drew me to HR.

So I went hunting through past blog posts from my pre-HR days and found this one.  It made me laugh because for some reason - I thought that this was only a non-HR perspective...

I also now realize that those who encouraged me to go into HR probably didn't like me very much.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Tales from the other side of the table

I have to say that aside from the obvious benefits (experience) that I am getting form participating in interviews, I find it incredibly enlightening.

Recently I was one half of an interviewing powerhouse (the other half being my starfish of a boss). We interviewed all eight people that applied. That was mistake number one. One that I would like to say for the record, I had no say in the matter.

Previously I could only imagine the diversity of the people that are out there. I’ve now been witness to some of the most interesting interview tactics and answers. If you are in doubt of how to proceed at your next interview, may I suggest the following:

1 – Pretend that you don’t want the job. State that you know you make more than the position will pay and that you will not take a pay cut. Make sure that you emphasize that you will not be able to start until September. As a parting thought, leave the interviews with this gem – “I don’t want to brag, but I probably know the most about the business in the building”. (That’s a seller when you are applying for an entry-level position)

2 – Play the sympathy card. Tell us you want the job so that you don’t have to move out of the city (because you have another job lined up). You want to stay with your girlfriend so that you can start a family.

3 – Tell us nothing. Hem and haw about the answers and admit that you don’t know how your experience relates the to position that you are applying for.

4 – Admit you know nothing about the job, but that you are sure you can do it.

5- Your only motive for applying: to get off shift work (honest, I know, but perhaps not the BEST thing to say in an interview)

6- Why should we hire you? Everyone likes me. (They won’t if we give you this job)

7- How do you resolve conflicts? I don’t have any. (I beg to differ…)

In this day of self-promotion, I find it incredibly humbling that many people can be so open and honest. To a fault.

I know I’m picking on the interviewees – those that are under the glare of the spotlight and are nervous. Truly, if I were to pick on my interview partner, this blog entry would be MUCH longer. I suppose I’m just fascinated at the range of the human behaviour.

And so continues my covert study of the average person in average conditions. Don’t tell anyone though. If word gets out that I’m not really working for the company, but in spite of it, then all hell could break loose.

Of course, that would also be interesting to watch…

Friday, June 01, 2012

Hypocritical Me

Today is my day off.  I have no plans, the kids are at school, and I'm hanging out.

So why is that one of the first things I did post-coffee is check my work email?

I willing to admit that I'm not so important that one day away from the office is going to be a problem.  I am well aware of this.

So, go ahead and spout your work-life balance and shutting off (which I will do once I post this), but I wanted to know and because I can check, I did. 

Yeah in my world, the"H" in HR stands for hypocritical.