SDHR Leadership Post

In most companies culture just happens. In the absence of a concerted effort to define, shape and reinforce an intentional culture, your company will define its own based upon what they see their leaders do (not what they say). Assumptions of how to behave will also be influenced by new additions to your staff, based on the experiences they had in their previous company. And most frightening of all, many assumptions of how to behave and how things work around here are based on the projections of your staff’s biggest fears. (In the absence of information or clear direction, people will make something up to fill the void.)

Is this how you want your company culture defined? If not, it’s time to reassess what kind of culture you want to create and get on with the work of defining, shaping and reinforcing your desired culture. Here is a high level overview of the work that needs to be done.

Leadership defines the desired culture with specific outcomes & behaviors

  • Define 3-6 cultural norms (values) that when embodied in everyday behavior and actions throughout the company, create the desired cultural environment.
  • For each norm:
    • define how this behavior positively benefits customers, employees and the company vision and goals
    • list a minimum of 10 examples of how employees would think or act when demonstrating this norm
    • identify the company processes and procedures that reinforce this norm behavior 

Leadership articulates and demonstrates the Cultural Norms

  • Leadership communications –  newsletters, coffee talks, all-hands meetings
  • Walk the talk – purposely demonstrate the norms in visible real-time situations
  • Participate in and promote 360 feedback
  • Norms imbedded in Managers Development Plans
  • Norms imbedded in Employees/Staff Development Plans 

Create Materials/Program for training staff

  • PowerPoint presentation
  • Laminated cards for employees’ desks
  • Themed Bulletin boards in the lunchroom 

Train Employees – Employees recognize their role in supporting and promoting the norms

  • Managers provide cross-departmental mandatory training to provide thorough understanding of the norms and behaviors and provide skills and tools to use
  • Incorporate in all future new employee onboarding 

Reinforce, Reinforce, Reinforce

  • Quarterly meetings
  • Employee development plans
  • Awards and recognition 

Incorporate into all business materials – Policies and Practices Align with the Culture

  • employee handbook
  • evaluations
  • recognition program
  • award criteria
  • development plans
  • hiring practices

As you can see, this is a big initiative. It is not your responsibility alone to make this happen. It is, however, your responsibility to be the champion for it. If your leadership team doesn’t yet understand the intrinsic value of an intentional culture, then it is your job to be the change agent and mentor them, advise them, cajole them, and educate them. Create enough curiosity and you will soon find them exploring what this “culture” idea is all about. Once on board, help coach the leadership team to sponsor and lead this process. You may never be involved in a more rewarding endeavor. 

Michael Saul is co-founder and CEO of Human Potential Tools, building software platforms to assist organizations to improve employee accountability and communication. HPTs first product, meetingSamurai™ is now in beta. Michael is also the co-founder of Possibilities Consulting, where he specializes in guiding organizations through cultural and values-based change by facilitating visioning, strategic planning, transition management, leadership development and high performance team development. Michael’s clients include Fortune 100 companies such as Hewlett Packard, Intel, Cardinal Health and Medtronic. Michael also serves on the Board of Directors of San Diego HR Roundtable.

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“Integrity alone won’t make you a leader, but without it you will never be one.”  - Zig Ziglar

My favorite definition of ‘Integrity’ is “to make whole or complete.” I think of drawing a circle. The first part of the circle represents me giving someone my word to do something. The last half of the circle is me doing the actions that are required for me to keep my word. Completing the circle is a reminder that I am not whole until I do the work that creates completion.

In more than 25 years as an executive coach, I have had the privilege of working with many leaders, and in my experience, those leaders who have this intrinsic value of integrity are the ones who lead their teams to success by walking their talk. They lead by example. Great leaders understand that the standards they set at the top will filter throughout the company.

Great leaders also look to partner with Human Resources to help set and keep those high standards of accountability and performance. As the HR leader, you have a significant challenge regarding your own development and growth. While HR typically does a lot of work behind the scenes, when times get challenging, people often look to you for support and feedback. They expect HR to act swiftly, decisively and confidently. That might mean speaking up, and holding the leadership team to the same or even higher standards than the rest of the organization.

Intellectually understanding the value of integrity and accountability is one thing, but holding your own and other’s feet to the fire, however, requires overcoming the emotional obstacle of fear. When delivering a difficult or challenging message either to the leadership team or from the leadership team to the rest of the company, you may feel stretched to go beyond your personal need to be liked. This requires staying emotionally strong, and not taking things personally. In your actions it will be imperative that you walk the talk and model the change in behavior by keeping your word, and holding others accountable to keep theirs. Once past that emotional obstacle, counter-intuitively you will build trust and are more likely to be seen as caring, motivating and even inspirational.

In Herminia Ibarra’s new book, Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader, she builds a wonderful case for four simple steps to great leadership that are especially relevant for HR leaders:

  • First: Commit to building bridges between your team and others.
  • Second: Help to craft and explain the leader’s vision of the future.
  • Third: Be able to engage others in the change and to do what it takes to execute toward that vision.
  • Fourth: Embody the change necessary to move the company forward. Lead by example, authentically learning and adapting as needed along the way.

As David A. Garvin describes in a recent Harvard Business Review article, “Leadership development should bring together a balance of “Knowing” (the acquisition of information), “Doing” (the application and practice of new skills), and “Being” (identifying the values and purpose that animates leaders).” Being the HR leader puts you in the perfect seat to help define your company’s values and to integrate them throughout your entire organization. As you become more confident in your own leadership abilities, your company benefits and will also grow in strength and integrity.

“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.”   - Oprah Winfrey

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Now that SHRM has made the decision to modify the direction and vision of its certifying criteria, we as HR professionals are now left scratching our collective heads saying, “What does this mean for us?”

We have spent time, energy, and money to gain our HRCI certifications, such as PHR, SPHR, -CA, and GPHR. We have spent countless hours earning certification hours, attending trainings and workshops, and laboring over the exams.

If you are a current holder of one of the existing HRCI credentials, you are eligible to obtain your new SHRM credentials, SHRM-CP, or SHRM-SCP (certified professional or senior certified professional, respectively) at no additional cost before the end of 2015. All you need to do is the following:

  • Document that your current HRCI certification is in good standing
  • Complete a brief online tutorial focusing on HR competencies
  • Sign the SHRM Code of Ethics

SHRM has stated that the SHRM testing principles differentiating the two certifications will be based on the practical real world deliverables and competencies that we as HR professionals practice, perform, and teach every day. These new testing principles will be based on the SHRM Competency model (see below).

Since I hold an active the HRCI/SPHR certification, I went online last week to register for my SHRM-SCP credentials. It was a fairly painless process; I had to prove my current standings of my SPHR credentials, take an hour-long tutorial, and agree to the Code of Ethics. While the tutorial was a very high level overview of what the test would eventually look like, it was apparent that time and energy has been invested for the new material to be a real asset to the HR community. While I found the HRCI/SPHR exam to be an incredible challenge, the amount of my real world experience played very little into how I answered the questions for the exam. I hope that as SHRM takes the lead, we will have the input and real ability to test and certify our profession to the highest standards possible. I would like to see HRCI keep testing the field, as well as focusing on areas for HR development that SHRM does not focus on. That way, we as HR professionals can certify in our specific areas of expertise, and the two organizations can complement one another to stay on the cutting edge of our professional needs.

In turn, SDHR will be there to serve all of your HR needs. We will continue to offer HRCI credits for our Lunch and Learns and to conduct workshops. And we are now a SHRM Preferred Provider. We welcome you to share your thoughts and experiences on the SDHR website forum.

“The release is significant because it provides the framework for the profession to continue the evolution of HR professionals from practitioners to strategic business leaders. This is what the business community demands.”

– Henry “Hank” Jackson, SHRM’s president and CEO

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Your company is thriving and it’s largely due to your Superstar Salesperson. If you could find 10 more people just like her, the business would surpass every sales goal for 2015. While cloning her is obviously not a viable option, promoting this superstar into a Management position is a very real possibility! It will allow her to build a sales team comprised of men and women who reflect the skills that have made her so successful. However, promoting this key player would take her away from her customer-centric role in the field, largely relegating her to the dugout as a “player/coach”. Is there another MVP ready to take her place and continue driving the company’s incredible growth? And most importantly, while she can obviously knock it out of the park when it comes to closing deals, how confident are you that she can coach her team to do the same? Would it be wiser to hire an experienced “manager/coach” from another team?

Companies are often faced with this very challenge: Internal Promotion or External Hire? While there are pros and cons of each option, recent studies show that in many cases, internal mobility (promotion) is the wisest choice. According to recent research conducted by Wharton Professor Matthew Bidwell, the “cost” of external hiring outweighs the benefits. In his study, “Paying More to Get Less: The Effects of External Hiring vs Internal Mobility,” Bidwell discovers that these external hires typically have less tenure in the role for which they are hired and receive vastly lower performance ratings than their internal counterparts, resulting in a termination rate that is 16% higher. Additionally, external hires are paid 18-20% more than an internal employee for the same position.

However, while this research indicates that internal promotion is the better option, it is not better in every situation. Hiring from the outside provides a new perspective and fresh ideas. As companies grow in sales and complexity, sometimes the business outgrows the existing team and a new set of skills and business acumen is required. These external hires can offer a boost to the internal culture, allowing companies to break out of the risky “groupthink” dynamic plaguing many mature businesses. Internal promotions, however, offer one very unique benefit: demonstrating the company’s commitment to rewarding hard work and consistent revenue generation by promoting from within!

Here is a list of steps every company should take to ensure these internal promotions are a success.

4 Tips to Ensure a Better Internal Promotion

  1. Build a strong bench. Although having an All-Star player on your team is important, he cannot be your only power player. Companies that build strong teams, rather than one or two strong players, are able to create a longer term succession plan, providing many options for cross training and eventual promotion, while keeping the strength of the team intact and reducing turnover.
  2. Pre-Season Training is key. Every successful team requires many hours of training prior to the first game AND throughout the season. Companies are no different. If you are considering a promotion, speak with your employee 9-18 months prior to the promotion target date. Not only does this force the company to clearly define the expectations of the job and establish a formal job shadow/training program, but it also allows the salesperson to focus on the skills he or she will need in the new position.
  3. Begin Cross-training sooner rather than later. While your salesperson might be an MVP when it comes to giving a pitch, prospecting and making the sale, he or she may have no experience with operational or other aspects of sales and the overall business. Their exposure to mentoring, managing, hiring, interviewing, reviewing and remediating a team is in many cases, minimal at best. Test the waters by putting him or her in charge of smaller projects that are outside their normal scope, and be sure to gauge their progress and provide ongoing feedback. Remember, the time you spend training today, will save you 10x the hours once the person is in the new role!
  4.  Give him a chance to be Team Captain. Being a team member is very different from being a team manager. Give your potential manager a project lead role to test her leadership abilities. Doing so during this 9-18 month cross training period not only gives her the opportunity to show what skills she already possesses, and encourage – no, expect – her to voice any challenges and concerns along the way.

Whether hiring from the outside or promoting from within, it is imperative that leaders understand the significant difference between a successful salesperson and a successful sales leader. Not all Sales MVPs have the demeanor, credibility, selfless mindset or ability to effectively mentor a team – all necessary skills when stepping into a management role. Successful salespeople are, to a certain degree, selfish by nature- in a good way, of course. They are all about earning more commission by solving their customers’ problems. For them the order of priority is Me-Customer-Company. Successful sales leaders, on the other hand, are selfless, focusing on mentoring, leading & motivating others. The order of priority for the true leader is Team-Customer-Company-Me. While internal promotion appears to be the most cost effective option in some cases, it’s up to the company to make sure it is the wisest decision for each unique situation.

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It’s hard to hold a team together when mistakes happen. The temptation to point fingers may be hard to resist. Good leaders take more than their share of the blame and less than their share of the credit. Unfortunately, most leaders take more than their share of the credit and less than their share of the blame – losing the respect of their team. When errors do occur, are you ready to support heroic efforts even in the face of failure? Here’s a story that a friend shared with me recently.

New hire Tim received his first big task as project manager and promptly assigned various tasks to his team, emphasizing the drop dead due date. As the deadline approached and tasks were submitted, one team member stated he “forgot” and did not have anything to add. Without the data, the task could not be completed. When Tim’s supervisor requested the completed task, Tim had to admit that it was incomplete. The supervisor asked why. How would you reply?

Tim realized it would be easy to blame his team member. But is that right? Tim explained that he had assigned the task to another, but ultimately took responsibility by admitting he failed to follow up with the co-worker to ensure his work would be received on time. In the midst of problem solving, the Division Manager entered the room and requested the completed task. When told it was incomplete, the supervisor was yelled at for Tim’s mistake.

Tim was embarrassed and sure that this would end his employment with the company. Imagine his surprise when he realized that the supervisor was taking the heat for his mistake. Not once had the supervisor even mentioned Tim’s name. It would have been tempting. All he would have had to do was to point his finger at Tim and say, “There HE is. He’s new, and he’s defective!”

After the Division Manager ran out of steam, he said, “This shouldn’t have even happened!” Tim’s boss replied, “It did, and I take full responsibility. This is my department. But every minute we are spending here means we are that much later in getting the project completed.” The DM left the room, leaving Tim alone with his supervisor. The supervisor did not look at Tim. Instead, he stared at the door, closed his eyes and took a couple of deep breaths. When he opened his eyes, a smile formed on his lips, he looked at Tim and said, “Don’t do that again.”

Tim was effusive with his words of apology. His supervisor stopped him, “I think from this point forward you are going to remember the importance of follow-through. You took responsibility for your mistake, a sign of a good leader. I respect what you did. You’re the kind of person I want working on my team. Now, I’m going to need your help to get this project completed.”

Leadership may not be as complicated as we make it. A great leader will be able to lift some workers up and know how to calm down the others, until finally they’ve got one heartbeat together, a team. Lead by this motto: If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, then we did it. If anything goes real good, then you did it. That’s all it takes to get people to win for you. Those are wise words on leadership no matter what kind of team you lead.

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