Talent Will Only Get Us So Far

From sports to work, we see so many individuals with an incredible amount of talent that still somehow manage to jack it all up and fall flat on their faces. Whether it be the charismatic new employee that can charm management, the eager recruit that oozes with potential or the biggest and fastest athlete, it is apparent that it takes more than raw skill to survive and prosper in this world. It’s takes a special “it” to move beyond flashes in the pan to consistent, long-term success.

Vick+Head+DownToday I’m over at Performance I Create discussing exactly what that “it” is and how it can take us from potential to the promised land in our careers. Here’s a quick sample:

…listening to sports analysts and reporters talk about the best in the game, they will talk about on-field stuff, but the conversation always go back to what that person does after the cameras go off and their teammates go home. We’ll often hear of how much time the person invests in developing their craft or niche in the weight room, film room or with personal trainers and coaches. They study…

I hope that you enjoy the full post HERE and I asked that you take it to heart and share it with anyone that is relying on talent alone to get ahead.

Check out my post and those of my fellow contributors for relevant, in-your-face, performance altering insight at Performance I Create!

Workplace Diversity Isn’t Enough – Let’s Ramp Up Inclusion

Today I am over at Performance I Create discussing Diversity and Inclusion. We typically see these two terms in the same sentence used interchangeably, but it is so very possible to have one without the other. Here is a sample:

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that there is much more to do. Remember, much of the diversity we see is the result of mandates and legislation, not out of truly trying to represent our communities and client bases.  While the snapshot of our organizations looks good and rainbowy, are we treating everyone with respect once they are in the door…or behind closed doors?

FullSizeRender (1)Just when we think that we’ve come so far, we get reminders of how much more is needed in our society. When this post was originally published at PIC a few days ago using the hashtag #Diversity, I received this tweet that makes me want to spread the message of Inclusion even more.

I hope that you enjoy the full post HERE and I asked that you share and promote the good work that some of our organizations are doing and are trying to do as it relates to being Inclusive.

Check out my post and those of my fellow contributors for relevant, in-your-face, performance altering insight at Performance I Create!

Recruit Different

Experience can sometimes kill our workplaces. Not because people can’t be taught new ways of doing things, but because old habits die hard. Sometimes they don’t die at all.

When hiring for our companies, we tend to gravitate towards those that have been there and done it, in hopes that they can hit the ground running and cut our training/acclimation time half. This can work to our benefit, but also to our detriment when we have to “unteach” many of the negative behaviors they may be bringing with them from their previous employer.

soft-skills-1 I am not aware of a training program that can teach people how not to be an ass. Nor have I seen an effective curriculum that can help employees be compassionate, have common sense or fairness. Unfortunately, these are traits that our prospectives must already possess or are willing and able to get better at.

This raises the question, are we better off finding developmental talent or should we continue to recruit candidates that have been around the block? I say that this depends on a few things:

  • Do we need employees that will be primarily used for transactional work or do they need a certain level of expertise and hands-on experience?
  • Can the skill set that we need be taught…and do we have the resources to help them get there?
  • Does the experienced person’s knowledge and know-how outweigh our need for fit?

Having worked in several customer service environments, I remember looking through resumes and the hiring managers would get excited to see someone that had worked in very similar environments as ours. Unfortunately for us, while the functions they performed were similar to the ones we would have them do, our service philosophies were starkly different.

On several occasions we would have to remind employees that in our environment, Customer Service meant more than just getting clients in and out, it was about relationship, patience and problem solving. It wasn’t until we started hiring a few people from outside of our industry that we realized that we needed a certain type of person as opposed to certain past jobs and experiences. It turned out that these inexperienced yet quality individuals could learn our products, systems and processes in time as long as they had a core desire to treat our clients the very way they needed to be treated.

interviewInstead of looking for the person that has the most book knowledge, maybe we should recruit based on the right attitude and their aptitude to learn as shown by there career progression. Truth is, most “work stuff” can really be taught to anyone off the street. Think about that for a second…

Times up.

Maybe instead of focusing on the candidate that has all of the letters behind their name, we turn our attention to those that have the demonstrated character traits that we want or need in our workplaces. Maybe we take a look at where they’re going instead of where they’ve been. Maybe we should place more value on career trajectory instead of lateral career decisions.

I may be totally off base. I may be all kinds of wrong…but isn’t it worth it to your organization and clients to try something different..especially if you keep striking out by hiring jerks that are rude to your public, mistreat their coworkers, aren’t willing to listen to or learn from management, and are stuck in their same old non-productive ways? Recruit different and see how it works out for you. If it doesn’t, it’s more likely because they aren’t invested in once on board. And if that’s the case, maybe the candidates aren’t the problem.

Recruiters Roll Cigars

I’m always asked why I’m so fascinated with cigars. While there are several reasons to enjoy a fine hand-rolled cigar, I have a love and appreciation for things of different types, backgrounds and origins coming together to make something beautiful. I admire the thought, the process, and the detail that contributes to the cigar experience.

I guess the reason I love them so is the same reason I love being a Human Resources Practitioner. Nothing gives me more pleasure at work than being able to bring multiple people together, with varying ideas and backgrounds, and to help forge them into a cohesive, functional, successful team. When it works well, when it’s seamless, the consumer looks past the different departments, levels or ingredients and can focus on the quality of what they are getting for their money.

I’m always amazed at how skillful and point-on many of my recruiting partners in crime are at seeking out and reeling in quality talent that fit their organizations. Like Master Cigar Blenders, they are able to take the vision and mission of the organization, communicate them, and come back with people (like tobacco) that can not only do the job, but that embody what the organization is all about. Leaving lasting impressions and creating experiences that foster loyalty and has their clientele coming back for more.

It’s in the Selection
tourThere are hundreds of tobacco types in the world, but only a select few are deemed worthy enough to be included in a fine cigar. It takes someone with a trained eye, a keen sense of taste and someone who knows the industry to select a leaf:

  • that comes from trusted growers = educational background and career goals
  • that is grown and processed according to company standards = business acumen
  • that is cured and aged properly = business and industry experience, knowledge and exposure

Putting It All Together
Just because the ingredients are good individually does not mean that it will all work together. It takes hundreds of combinations and trials to get the right effect and the proper balance. Improper tobacco pairings are nasty and harmful to a brand. Have you ever had a team of extremely talented individuals that just could not seem to accomplish anything together? While it seemed like a “Dream Team” on paper it became a nightmare in the meeting room. The pieces have to compliment one another and someone has to put those pieces together.

Anyone can bring bodies into the organization, but it takes a skilled crafts-person to identify potential, evaluate current cultural strengths and recognize organization needs to recruit the best individuals for fit, balance and for “taste”.

It takes a Master Blender of People, a skilled Recruiter, to select the best:

RollingFiller – mixture of leafs that make up the middle of the cigar – the front-line employees

Binder – leaf that holds the Filler together – much like managers and supervisors

Wrapper – most visible part of the cigar, the ingredient that gives it the most flavor – the face of the organizationthe Executive Leadership

…and bring them together to create a work of art. Your successful organization.

If you know of a company that is making a difference in their industry and the community …one that offers a wonderful product and an even better consumer experience…it starts with how it was blended. It starts with the skillful Recruiter. If you see a group of employees that just seem to click…seem as if they were just made for one other…leadership that stands out for the right reasons… it was not by accident, they were selected for fit and flavor by the company’s Master Blender, the skillful Recruiter.

Theirs is a behind the scenes, sometimes thankless job, but it is necessary and critical for us to be able to consume and partake in the things we enjoy.

Be sure to check out my CigaHr blog for info, videos and cigar reviews.

Prove Your Leadership Everyday

As my wedding anniversary approaches, I’m reminded of the day I proposed. It was awkwardly cute and simple. As the words were coming out of my quivering lips, millions of things were rushing through my head. Thinking well beyond how she would answer, my thoughts were centered on how I would fulfill the promises that I was making by asking that weighted question, “Will you marry me?”

What I was really asking was:

  • Do you trust me to attend to your needs?
  • Will you allow me the opportunity to have your back?
  • Can we freely share ideas in efforts to find the best solutions?
  • Will you build something great with me?
  • Can we fight to make things work, even when it’s hard?

And by saying yes, we made commitments to one another. Daily commitments to stay engaged with one another for life, not just until the wedding day.

After our employees say “I do” to us and our organization, do we stay engaged?

After The Honeymoon
How much work are we putting into ensure our employees still have that warm, fuzzy feeling after they begin working for us? After all of the courting, are we paying enough attention so that our new partners don’t feel relationship buyer’s remorse and second guess their decision. The five questions above should be asked in business relationships also because when employees begin to doubt, they are distracted easily…when employees are distracted, it’s hard for them to trust…when employees do not trust, they feel alone and unsupported…when employees do not feel supported, they no longer share ideas or contribute…when employees no longer contribute, they become disengaged and leave.

We ask and require employees to show us every day why they want to be here. They are made to prove it day in and day out, by:

  • being creative and finding new solutions to our old problems
  • showing that they care even when they’re tired, busy and burned out
  • always showing respect, even when it’s not shown to them

Are leaders holding up their end of the relationship? While we are demanding, are we showing daily that we are just as committed?

Rocket Science It Ain’t
Just like marriage, we tend to overthink how to keep employees engaged. When trying to make huge impact statements, we often overlook the small, simple and necessary things.

Fancy gifts for a spouse are nice, but did you look in her eyes when you said “I Love You” this morning? Raises at work are great, but do you know when your employee’s birthday is, or that their parent is ailing, or that little Johnny plays soccer?

Flying your spouse around the world is wonderful, but on your way home, did you stop and pick up his favorite snack, not because he asked for it, but because you just knew that he would appreciate it. Telling an employee “Good Job!” is great, but did you sincerely show interest and MAKE yourself available as a resource while they were sweating over a project?

When you walked down the hall asking employees, “How was your weekend?”, did you actually take the time to listen to what was said or did you respond generically and hurry to your office?

LeadershipEvery day, leaders must make a conscious effort to be engaged with employees. From this initiated engagement comes employee engagement. Should they just be happy to be there and employed? Maybe, but we asked them to be there so we must do our part in helping to keep them committed.

R&B star James Ingram gave the charge back in 1981, “Love them today…find 100 Ways. Ask her to stay…find 100 Ways”. While finding 100 ways to show appreciation would surely take quite a bit of time, energy and creativity, in a literal sense it is meant to inspire intentional acts of engagement. We yield our best results when we lead on purpose and when we are habitually good to the people we employ. Aristotle put it best when he said, “We are what we repeatedly do….”. Are you repeatedly proving your leadership every day?


Tennessee SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) 2013 is around the corner!  It is truly ramping up to be a great conference with something for everyone.  I’ll be posting more about it a little later, but I wanted to share this brief video with me speaking about the conference.

This is the 4th installment of “4 Questions” that our Social Media team is publishing regarding TNSHRM13.

Can’t wait to see you all here in Nashville, TN, September 15-18, at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center!

For more information, visit http://www.tnshrmconference.org/.

Like A Foot In A Glove

Being a father of two small children, I witness first hand how quickly things change and especially how quickly people grow. My sons favorite shirt from last summer can’t be worn and enjoyed this summer because he’s outgrown it. Those princess shoes that my daughter wants to play in can’t be worn just yet because they’re too big. Sometimes they realize the inevitable, but oftentimes someone has to explain to them that if something doesn’t fit, something different needs to be done.

round-peg-square-holeSome things just don’t fit, no matter how hard you try to make them. Square pegs into round holes. Oil, water. That employee, this job. And just like that little shirt, even if one manages to get it on, it will never be comfortable. And it hurts worse trying to get it off.

And there’s nothing more unfortunate than watching employers and employees trying to force their opposing styles and beliefs on one another. When there are differences in work-place philosophy and business ideology, how much one likes the other won’t compensate for the professional disconnect. Someone will always be chasing their tail trying to change an environment that doesn’t want to change, trying to alter how they think or how they approach work, which ultimately results in trying to change the address on their business cards. Relationship isn’t always a fix for disengagement and poor fit.

You’ve seen it. The employee that had so much potential at first…did everything right, maybe too quickly. Once they started to settle in, she begins to understand the company culture and she doesn’t like it. It doesn’t feel right anymore. Thoughts of the next day keep her awake at night. Her work doesn’t suffer while she’s searching for a means of escape, but it doesn’t get better. Now on top of regret and employer remorse, there are impromptu “heart-to-hearts” from management about lofty expectations and why she should like it there. She’s productive, but the results of their full potential will not be seen there. It just may not be the right fit.

You’ve seen it.  Companies making sacrifices for their employees, but they never seem to get the desired reaction. As a whole, they feel good about the tools they’ve provided, the wealth of knowledge they’re making available, but the employees just aren’t buying in. Management tries changing the approach, nothing. They change a process or two to accommodate, but employee behavior doesn’t change along with it. No matter how badly the company wants them to, the employee doesn’t take hold to the values and mission that are being preached. It just may not be the right fit.

Ultimately, the employer begins to think the employee is not working hard enough…and the employee is thinking that the leadership is out of touch. While a strong Human Resources team can help to bridge this gap, that same team, if its worth its salt, should be advising managers and employees alike when it may be time to move on…when it’s time to stop the madness and the vicious cycle…when it’s time to throw the little shirt away or to put the big shoes away and wait.

Who Moves First?
At some point, there has to be a wake up call and an admission that its not working. HR can help, but its better when the involved parties can draw the conclusion themselves. Employers hate admitting that they’ve failed in hiring, training or creating atmosphere…and prideful employees hate admitting that they can’t adapt to the companies requirements, expectations and culture. Similar to a fizzling relationship, no one is necessarily wrong, they may just be different. Just like the growth spurt from last summer or not growing fast enough, it’s just reality and it has to be faced. And for both employer and employee’s sake, the denial can’t last for too long.

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