Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Want to Get Your Organization on Track? You’ll Find Passion Is the Key

I  worked all my life and never really understood the passion thing until later on.

I had great jobs, I did great work, but I was not passionate. I started out in sales for IBM and held numerous sales positions until I kind of morphed into HR.

I eventually left sales and took a part-time job as a computer trainer. What I learned about myself that I was pretty good at this and I really enjoyed it. By this time I was back at IBM and the powers that be decided I could bring more value to the organization in another role. That role enabled me to work from the client’s site to solve their training needs.

The level of enjoyment I found was gradually rising. My next move was to design training systems and solutions, and on top of that, I was able to work from home full time. By now, I was hooked.

I had found my calling.

What a pine cone taught me about passion

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Great Managers, Great Leadership; Think of Them as Engagement Maestros

A new VP rides into town for the holidays!

This past week in New York, as in other cities, there were Christmas parties all over town.

In this case, the department got together with drinks, food and holiday festivities. It was a festive occasion with everyone engaged and having a heck of a time. The new VP walks into the room and works it masterfully. He had conversation for everyone; not just fake small talk, but actual conversation with each person about their work and who they were.

A Gen Y person that I know is not satisfied with her job and works for this company. Her complaints were that the job is not challenging and she has nothing to do but basically sit and do make work. She was actively looking for something else, spending lots of time trying to get out.

However, internally she had already been identified as a superstar by all. Although she has been there only a short time, she is known as the go-to person to get it done. She has grasped the business, speaks in meetings, and asks relevant questions that managers have told her that they wished they would have asked.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The 7 Ways Organizations Justify Bullying in The Workplace

“You are fired, Get out! I am not going to pay you for two weeks! Leave now and I mean right this minute.”

Yes, that is the way that it ended. OK, I gave you the ending. Now I will back up and give you the full story.

A friend who had been passively looking for a job finally got an offer, but at the last minute, decided to stay put. A month later, her company was going through layoffs but she was spared — or at least she thought so.

Her manager called her in during this period and told her that while she would not be laid off, they were going to demote her, and on top of that, her salary was going to be cut. She walked out of that meeting dazed.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Did You Spend the Holiday Reflecting on What is Really Important in Life?

This Thanksgiving, we did not say the usual prayer before the feast.

This year instead, I received a note from a family member who asked if we could go around the room and let each person express what they were thankful for.

I did not give it much thought as I led off the thank-you’s. I listened to each comment, and they were insightful and touching. At the end of about 10 thank you’s we were all teary-eyed. It brought to the forefront how each individual looks at their lives through the prism of thanks. I also noticed how strong our relationship is as a family.

This set the tone in a much more powerful way than Thanksgivings in the past.

Sometimes, we are all so fortunate and take so much for granted. But think for a minute if you had to list, say, 10-15 things that you are thankful for in your life. What would they be?

Although there was one comment about work — that was it — but they all mentioned family.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Key Engagement Question: Would You Recommend a Friend to Work Here?

One of the most important questions when it comes to employee engagement is, “Would you recommend a friend to work here?”

One of my Gen Y mentee’s called me last week. The problem was I was in Boston on business and she knew that. So when she called I knew there was a problem. As I glanced at the phone, my thought was, “What now?”

When we finally talked she told me that a friend of hers was applying for a position at her company and had asked if she could do an internal transfer of her resume to the hiring manager. She wanted to know, “what is it like to work there?”

Would you recommend your organization?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The New Org Chart: Identifying the REAL Information Brokers in Your Business

New York City is known as a city to people watch.

As I ride the subway each morning, the ride takes me through neighborhoods that have both private and public schools. The cars are inundated with teenagers on their way to school. Just try and imagine a room full of teenagers, all divided into small groups.

I always look up as they come in the subway car: Youth and lots of noise. I watch and try to pick the leaders in each group, and it is so easy to spot them in their clusters.

Who are the real leaders?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Volunteering: How You Can Turn It Into the Ultimate Team-Building Event

My daughter decided to volunteer through a program at her job.

Each employee has the opportunity to volunteer their services and receive a day off in return. She was up early on a Saturday morning and headed into New York City to work at a soup kitchen in the Bowery.
To her surprise, basically the entire division that she worked with was there. She was really surprised to see the senior executives there in their jeans and sweatshirts.

She could not stop talking about the experience and how wonderful for her company to sponsor such an event even if there was not a day off in return. She met many of the people in the kitchen and got a chance to really have a conversation with a number of them one-on-one.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Employee Engagement? In a Business, It Needs to Start at the Very Top

A fish rots from the head down, as the saying goes.

While the word rot sounds offensive, let’s just say it starts from the top.

This week, I was having a conversation when someone mentioned to me that their new CEO of her company was in town. She was slated to be in the New York office for a couple of days.

This CEO met with the senior staff, and as they gave her a tour of the building, she passed numerous employees. In that passing she acknowledged no one — no eye contact, no nod of the head, and basically no “how are you?”

Thursday, October 27, 2011

High Performance HR? It’s All About Technology AND Social Media

I only have 90 connections, I know but I was only connected to LinkedIn about a year ago.”

“Yes, I did look her up on LinkedIn and I thought “ ‘how you could be the head of HR and only have 32 connections?’ ”

These statements came from people I spoke with last week concerning the use of LinkedIn.

It seems that a lot of folks (professionals) have been asleep at the switch. The use of social media has transformed the landscape. I know of people that are dissatisfied with their career but they spend all their free time on Facebook instead of Linkedin. These same folks basically set up a page at one time on LinkedIn but never really went back to it.

Social media: THE most important tool for HR

Over the past couple of weeks, LinkedIn has slowly uncovered some new tools coming our way: Linked Classmates and LinkedIn Talent Pipeline. I can only image that what we see now from Linkedin will look nothing like what it will be in the future.

How could this be?

Social Media has changed the landscape of not only corporate America but our personal lives as well. Organizations are struggling with social media policy and how to integrate it within the cocoon of their organizations.

Our personal lives have been transformed with the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr. I often wonder sometimes what it was like before the onslaught of these tools. I call them tools because that is the way that I view each of them.

Their use allows each of us to connect with people that we could not in a thousand years ever connect to. It allows us to connect and keep in touch in ways that snail mail, or phones for that matter, never could.

Are you kidding me?

But in my sphere, LinkedIn is by far the most important tool for HR. Where else can you get a glimpse of a person or eavesdrop on someone’s profile in a legitimate way? This is what talent scouting is about. But when you look at senior leaders in the HR profiles it sometimes makes you shake your head, because there seems to be no real use of it.

My daughter told me an incredible story of a senior executive of her firm that refuses to use the computer. He writes out everything longhand and gives them to his assistant to type. All senior executives were given iPads to use in the sales calls and he flat out refuses to use one, saying it is a waste of time.

I recall a senior level executive who everyone assumed was way in over their head in their new role. This was confirmed when the executive had to prepare a presentation and he did not know how to put a deck together. He finally had to admit that he had never had to assemble one, not only from the technology vantage point, but even from just composing the slides.

Yes, one of the main competencies going forward for will be the use of HR technology.

The intersection of technology and analytics

HR technology and analytics is helping to transform HR into a decision science with a measurable impact on business. The expanded use of the Internet for the delivery of HR applications, especially on a service basis, is also emphasizing the importance of HRIS for organizations of all sizes. This creates new roles for HR professionals and the imperative to develop strong HR technology competencies.

Technology is fully embedded in so many aspects of business, so much so that understanding the use of technology in all areas of the business, and particularly in relation to human and organizational capital, enables HR professionals to speak the language of business in an environment that is increasingly technology-driven.

The use of social media leads to new ways of collaborating, organizing work, building teams and developing new knowledge and skills, and this can help further build organizational and human capital.

High Performance HR

Research indicates that companies with the most high-performing HR function behave differently when it comes to the use of HR technology in efficiency and effectiveness metrics. And, they also operated with 16 percent fewer HR staff.

So yes, the landscape of HR technology revolves not only around HRIS, SaaS and Talent Management systems, but also their new brethren of Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook on the other end of the spectrum.

Eventually all this technology will all collaborate for the greater good of the organization, so let’s all get on board.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Why You Need to Hire People With the Customer Service Mindset

“We hire happy people and teach them to make sandwiches.” ”To maintain a connection between the front lines and the back office, every manager is required to spend four days a year on the shop floor.” (Pret a Manager). 

“We hire ‘customer service people’ and teach them all about coffee.” (Starbucks).

This week, I ordered some merchandise from Amazon and an audible books. Problem was that I made a mistake and downloaded a Kindle book when I meant to order an audible book. I also ordered toner for my printer and when it arrived, it was the wrong toner.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What Steve Jobs Taught Us About The Power of Following Your Passion

My daughter lives upstairs and last Wednesday night I heard her running down stairs. When she poked her head in my office, she said “Steve Jobs just died.”

At that moment I wanted to say in slow motion, noooooo!!!! I got up and we went into our TV room and turned to CNBC to watch the coverage. My wife came in and we kind of sat around misty eyed as if we knew him personally.

My daughter talked about all the cool products that his company created. I talked about his prowess as a business disrupter who followed his passion and changed the world. My wife wanted to know if he had family, if he was married, and whether he had kids.

Over the next few days these type reactions have played out in all forms of media.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Business Innovation: Your Talent Management Strategy Is the Key

New technology and innovation has always had a central place in the growth of business. In today's digital world, innovation has become an even more crucial element of success in business. The recent growth of mobile computing, the web and numerous other technologies are constantly reshaping the face of business. Even business education is changing with a growth in websites like MBA Online offering online education as a legitimate means of getting a business degree. To see more evidence of the power of innovation we only need to read the latest business headlines.

On Friday as I backed out of my driveway, I heard news tidbits on the radio about a company that was possibly announcing bankruptcy. As the news recycled, it was announced that it was Kodak that was possibly going to make the announcement.

Also this week, Amazon announced that yes, they are getting into the tablet business with the new Kindle Fire. As a Kindle fanatic, I read everything I could about the product. At the other end of the spectrum, Borders officially closed their last store last week.

The Kodak dilemma was not a real shocker, but I was extremely interested in it. My hobby is photography and I remember buying dozens of boxes of film at a time. I even had a darkroom in my first house. And now, because of slow reaction to the transformation of the photo industry, they are down for the count.

Innovation as part of the business landscape

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

HR Transformation: The Old Way of Doing Things Is Over and Finished

Kay, my father’s way of doing things is over, it’s finished,” said Michael Corleone in discussing their business transformation in The Godfather.
Last week, it was announced here that the TLNT Transform conference is scheduled for February 26-28, 2012 in Austin, TX. The phrase that caught my eye was, Share Fresh Ideas at a Different Kind of HR Conference.”

I once worked for a boss who told me that she did not think much of the strategic aspects of HR. To her,  it was the “fancy stuff” and we should all concentrate of the basic tenets of HR.

HR today is not your father’s or mother’s human resources. HR today is on the cusp of changing the entire profession.

Anyone that doubts this should just take a look at the level of articles being shared on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook by HR pros. Take a look at the various conventions held throughout the year and the type seminars being given. Everyone in this profession is at a point that they have to step up their game.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What Great Organizations Seem to Get: To Execute, You Need Engaged Talent

It’s all about trust.

“HR is never on this floor. She came in and headed to our bosses’ office and stayed behind closed doors all afternoon.”

“She came back today and is in the office again. Our bosses’ door is never closed, but as soon as she comes, the door closes.”

“Well, she is back again for the third day. Do you think I will lose my job? I have two interviews lined up for next week. I can’t wait to get out of here. Everyone feels the same way.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Lesson from Yahoo: Like It or Not, Every Manager IS a Role Model

“I am very sad to tell you that I’ve just been fired over the phone by Yahoo’s Chairman of the Board,” Carol Bartz wrote to her company’s workforce.

“These people f***** me over.”

“Why don’t you have the balls to tell me yourself?”

“The board was so spooked by being cast as the worst board in the country,” Bartz opined. “Now they’re trying to show that they’re not the doofuses that they are.”

Thursday, September 8, 2011

When Will You Be Ready to Finally Go on the Offensive?

While letting the TV watch me the other night (which means that it is on and you are positioned to watch it, but the mind is wandering into the universe), I was brought back to life when I noticed that it was a documentary on Muhammad Ali, specifically the fight with George Foreman dubbed the “Rumble in the Jungle.”

This was the fight that Ali appeared to be beaten but miraculously came back in the end to win it.

This was the fight that the strategy called “rope-a-dope” was invented.

The rope-a-dope is a tactic of protecting one’s self during combat while an opponent wears himself out. As the contest continues, the opponent tires and starts to make mistakes. Once that happens, the other boxer can exploit those mistakes with a counter attack.

In competitive situations other than boxing, rope-a-dope is used to describe strategies in which one party purposely puts itself in what appears to be a losing position, attempting thereby to become the eventual victor.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Today on TLNT Radio: Employee Engagement is About the Simple Stuff

Regular TLNT contributor Ron Thomas joins hosts Lance Haun and John Hollon for a discussion on engagement in the workplace. We talk about the little things employers can do as well as the idea behind "Thank God It's Monday."

Employee engagement is a topic fresh on everyone’s mind. While there may be some best practices out there, nobody is really sure how to do it the right way for their organization.

Our guest this week, former Martha Stewart Living Vice President for HR & Organizational Development Ron Thomas, told TLNT Radio there are two simple ways to keep a pulse on employee engagement and some easy ways to get the most out of informal engagement exercises.

Thank God It’s Monday: What It Takes For True Employee Engagement

Thank God It’s Monday

While waiting on the bus the other morning, one of the other gentlemen at the stop started complaining about the local bus that makes the same stop as the express bus which we both catch. The driver of the local bus stops when she wants to, regardless of the number of people trying to flag the bus down.

“She always has attitude with passengers” he said. “Maybe it is because it is 6:25 in the morning,” I replied jokingly. No he assured me, she is always like that.

This conversation brought me back to another driver that I knew from another bus route that I took years back.

Engaged vs. non-engaged

This driver was the perfect example of the engaged worker. He was the exact opposite of the above mentioned driver.

He knew all his passengers. He always had a piece of conversation for everyone. His personality would melt even the most hardened faces. I would always watch with amazement as to how he had the passengers eating out of his hand.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Creating a Talent Strategy: Why You Need a “Hard Knocks” Approach

An organization’s business strategy should drive its talent management strategy the same as it does marketing and finance.

Try and imagine a business creating both long term and short term strategy and not including the latter two. Unthinkable right?

While watching the show “Hard Knocks,” which is kind of a reality show for the National Football League, I always enjoy the segments when all the coaches get together to plot strategy.

All hands on deck

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Workplace Relationships: Just Like in Personal Life, You Want a Good Match

“You were too aggressive and I do not like aggressive.”

My wife and I laughed so hard that I almost had to pull over on the side of the road with laughter. On Friday, my wife Janetta and I celebrated 39 years of marriage. The line above was referring to when we first met at 18 years of age.

Here we are with two wonderful and funny kids who are now strong young adults, a stunning daughter-in-law, and most of all, our newest family member, Peyton, our granddaughter. It has been such a beautiful time.

People always ask what our secrets are. They ask this because anyone that is around us can feel the vibes that, yes, after all these years we are still in love. Yes, we got it going on.

Is Your Organization on a CD Player While Everyone Else Is Using an iPod?

The New York City subway is the fastest commute in the city. In a matter of a few minutes you can transverse the boroughs.

It is also an amalgam of characters — from the very rich to the homeless, from senior citizens to grade school kids, from well dressed to tattered jeans. More importantly you see both the latest and, the oldest, of technology being used. Gen X & Y, I have noticed, always seems to have the latest piece of new technology.

You name it and you can see the contrast on the subway. It has to be an anthropological utopia.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

What Your Recruiters and Their Style Says About Your Employment Brand

“You are the best interviewer I have ever had!”

That is what my wife was told last week after she finished interviewing a prospective employee. She said that the statement made her day. However, my wife is not in HR; she was the hiring manager for this role.

Contrast that with a phone call later in the evening from a friend had gone on an interview. She told me how the recruiter was so terribly rude.

“The recruiter acted as if I had ruined her day,” my friend told me. She said the recruiter rushed her through the answers to her questions and kept looking at her watch. “Why did she bother to invite me to a face to face?” she wondered. She could just as easily rescheduled if she was having a bad day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Employee Engagement: Why the Small Things Can Really Make a Difference

“There is still hope”

That quote came in an email from a friend last week. He was referring to his company giving all employees Friday off. This was due to the heat wave, which on that day, was projected to be over 100 degrees.

My daughter’s company also gave employees that day off. So as is my wont, I started reaching out to my network and, lo and behold, I found that there were quite a few companies in New York City that were either letting their employees go home half-day or decided to let them stay home with no work at all.

These type initiatives always bring a smile to my face, because they are a kind of human interest stories from the organization.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Managing a Business Crisis: What HR Can Add to the Company Strategy

“I do not think employees should have to go home and watch the news to find out what is going on inside of the company they work at every day.”

That was a comment from an employee as we rode the elevator one morning.

I was the VP Human Resources/OD at Martha Stewart Living during the upheaval that we went through that caused the organization to ride a roller coaster at warp speed. This was due to the founder being found guilty on all four counts she faced in her obstruction of justice trial.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Mark of a True Leader: Helping Talent to Find Another Opportunity

Friday is picnic night.

My wife and I pick up food, bring it home, sit on the floor in our TV room and have a picnic. This is our little way to wind down from the week.

This week was no different, at least until we sat down, and that was because the news was on TV, which is normally a no-no. There’s just too much bad news.

I noticed the bottom of the screen that said 14 million plus out of work. My wife then mentioned that someone at her job was also let go today. The latest jobs numbers were just released, and they appear to be getting worse.

At that moment, I glanced at my phone and there was an email from a friend who “was” the chief marketing officer of a New York based company. The subject line read “Need your sage advice.”

She was now part of that unemployed statistic.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

As a Manager, You Need to Build Your Relationship Before You Need It

“Every situation is different. In medical school you are trained on certain basic emergency situation. One you begin your practice, basically everything that comes before you is a variation of your medical training. Emergency room doctors are creative in their approach, there is never really a situation that is the same.”

That was a quote from the Emergency Medical Doctor this past weekend.

My son and I decided to start back the tradition that we had when he was younger. We would go deep sea fishing, which we had not done in years.

On the boat we had an accident, when my son was trying to unravel fishing lines, someone pulled from the other end. The hook went straight through his thumb. Once we got off the boat, we headed for the emergency room.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Lessons From My Brother On Life, Career, and Taking a Different Path

Last week, I lost my best friend, my college roommate, my mentor, my mentee, my confidant, my consigliere, and most of all, my twin brother.

He passed away from complication from a terrible car accident that he never fully recovered from.
The loss for me is immense and my heart is broken.

Our family traveled to Raleigh/Cary, North Carolina area for the wake/services.

As part of the Thomas family tradition, once all the guests leave the house the night before the funeral, we gather around (just family members and close friends)  to tell stories about the deceased. We have perfected this ritual within the Thomas family.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Power of the Assist: How Do We Help When No One is Looking?

Not being much of a basketball fan, I admit I have not watched any of the current NBA Finals between Dallas and Miami.

The recap on ESPN during my workout is about it. When I grew up in the south it was always about football, never about basketball.

However, one of the things that has always caught my eye about sports was the amount of metrics that teams compile. While having team leaders with high metrics in each category never assures a winning team, I find it interesting how everything is tracked.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

You’re Not a Real Leader Until You Can Admit to Screwing Up

Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, said he and other managers didn’t do enough to challenge Facebook when he led the company. “I screwed up,” Schmidt said.

When I saw that statement, it was like two chest bumps. That’s what I am talking about.

There is nothing more exciting for me to see someone fess up to making a mistake. For a leader to do that, it is just awesome.

In this new era of leadership, you can never be a real leader until you pass that hurdle.

My father gave me this advice when I married right out of college. “Don’t ever be afraid to admit you made a mistake. A real man will always fess up,” he told me. My parents were married for 49 years and were in love with each other until the end.

He was always fessing up. I have had my share of doing that, too.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

How Do We Get Organizations and Employees Back on Track Again?

Mega change!!!

Those were the words that came back from a friend who is the Chief Human Resources Officer of a major global company in New York City. That was her prognosis of what she and the company were facing. The business model that her company had been successfully built on was now in total shambles because the marketplace had changed.

That same day my former employer, Martha Stewart Living, where I served as the VP of Human Resources/OD announced they were seeking “advice and council” by hiring an investment banking firm to gauge the market for a possible sale.

The publishing industry has taken a severe hit with the onslaught of digital media. Advertising revenues took a plunge and the repercussions were severe.

As the day was coming to end, which is always my time for reflection, I got a text from a friend who is a designer for a top flight design firm. As we exchanged texts, I felt that there was an underlying issue. When I peeled back the cover with some searing questions, she told me that she was thinking of changing careers.

Design, which she had loved since a child was no longer fun.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Layoffs as a Strategy: The Message You Send When They’re Done RIGHT

When the phone rang the other day, I recognized the number right away.

It was from a friend of mine; we both have kids around the same age. My wife and his wife are good friends. Therefore this is a call that I always return.

When we finally chatted he said that he needed a favor. He wanted me to have a talk with his daughter.

His daughter, a recent college grad (class of 2010), had just started her new job about three months ago, working for a major brand. Although she had some doubts about this organization from the first day (she arrived and they were not expecting her to start that day), she had given them benefit of the doubt.

One day last week, she got to work and noticed a tenseness in the office atmosphere. Asking around, she eventually realized that they were possibly laying off people.

“What Can HR Learn From… ?” Here’s What You’ll Get When You See That

As I prepare for my day, I tag articles that I will methodically printout, link on Delicious, or just read online.

I do a quick scan of all “my relevant blogs” to get a since of what is being talked about. This has become a time-consuming habit, but it’s a habit I enjoy.

However, there is one common theme that had me scratching my head, and the more I thought about it, the more I realized there is a proliferation of these type of articles. Come to think about it I have written a few.

The common theme is this: “What can HR learn from … ?” Google it and you will get more than 622,000,000 responses.

The HR Learning Model

The learning model is vast and varied: What can HR learn from?

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Power of the Narrative: How Storytelling Can Make a Business Case

When my kids were small, one of our greatest activities was after their baths we would all head to their room for story time.

Our Saturday routine was to spend time at Barnes & Noble choosing books for the week.

They would decide which books they wanted read to them; the new ones, or, the same old ones, over and over. I was always amazed how mesmerized they would become with these stories.

It was as if they were in a hypnotic state. They would be so engrossed in the plots that they would literally lull them to sleep.

Story telling has played a role in all of our lives as we grew up. An effective story engages and creates an atmosphere of successful communication between our loved ones, but more of that should also take place at work — not only in our offices, but in our conference rooms as well.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Will Your Recruitment Process be Able to Identify the Heart of a Champion?

There was no way to measure his heart his heart,” his father said.

That quote was from the father of New England Patriots Quarterback Tom Brady — the quarterback who will probably go down in NFL history as one of the very best.

A week ago I was intrigued with a documentary on ESPN titled The Brady 6. I somewhat knew that this story would touch on Brady being drafted at Number 199 in the 2000 pro football draft, and in the 6th round no less. He was completely overlooked by all the teams. Nobody wanted him.

Assessment as part of the HR toolkit

Why? Because based on all the assessments that were done, the consensus was that Brady would not be good enough to make it.

The NFL recruiting process is an amalgam of assessments. They track players closely, sometimes from high school. The glare heats up as players follow their college career. When, and if, they declare to turn pro, they are invited to what is called the NFL combine. More than 300 top prospects normally attend this three-day mini-camp. The question is, do NFL teams choose strength or brains?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What is an Informational Interview & How Do I Get One?

Note:  This post was originally posted at where I am a contributor.

“Is this another informational interview? If it is, I really do not want to go. These interviews are a waste of time.”

This quote was from my daughter, a recent graduate with 2 undergrad degrees, ready to take on the world. If she wasn't interviewing for a specific role, she didn’t want to interview at all. She believed the informational interview would not help her quest in getting a job, so I had to explain to her all the ways it would advance her search. I'd like to share those ways with you, too.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Problem Solving: It’s About Helping Diagnose What Ails the Organization

Getting dressed the other morning for a 5 AM flight, I turned on the television as I dressed.

But at 2 AM, the choices are slim. As I tried to find the weather, I clicked through many channels until I found the local news.

What I found instead was channel after channel of infomercials. Regardless of your need, there is an infomercial for it — everything from better abs, diet, dealing with uncontrollable kids, super vitamins for perfect health, and the latest in exercise equipment.

Turn on late night TV and there is a quick and easy solution for just about anything. Any ailment has an infomercial for it and, presto, you are back to 100 percent.

I am always amused as spring comes, and with it, the inevitable yard sales because you see so many of those late night wonders on sale for a few bucks.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

An Authentic Leader Shows Why Holding on to Core Values is Important

I got a call from an institutional public shareholder I’ve known for many years.

The conversation went something like, “I’m assuming you’re going to cut back on health care.” And I said, “Why would you assume that?” He said, “Well, because you’ve never had more license. No one is going to hold you accountable.” And I said, almost instinctively, “There’s no way that we’re going to cut that benefit at Starbucks.”

Noting that the fabric of the company is tied to that benefit, his response to the institutional investor was this: “You have to evaluate whether or not you want to be a shareholder, because I am not cutting it.”

Here are two more illuminating quotes:

Infusing work with purpose and meaning, however, is a two-way street. You love what you do, but your company should love you back.”

We employ 200,000 people and the most important discipline is Human Resources.”

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sounds of Silence: Managing Is More Than Just Productivity & Multitasking

“In music the silence is just as important as the notes.”

This is the same as with speech, where we must place spaces between our words to be understood properly. There are 12 notes in our musical scale, so there must be more than just notes, too.

In music silence is golden, indeed.

My commute into New York City normally takes about 45 minutes to an hour, depending upon the bus. Since I leave very early (around 6 am), there is not much traffic. The ride is largely uneventful. It is a quiet time with the sun just coming up. I really enjoy it.

Time for reflection

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Onboarding and Talent Management: It’s a Lot Like Spring Gardening

After all the horrible weather that we had this winter, a 70 degree March Friday changed the attitude of almost everyone on the streets of New York City.

Everyone seemed to sparkle as they walked the streets. Everyone had a smile; you could hear the laughter in the conversations. Everyone was talking giddily about the outdoor projects or impromptu events that they would be doing.

One of my other passions (besides HR) is gardening. My thoughts were about going to the nursery on Saturday morning to begin my ritual of finding new plants or shrubs to prepare for the onslaught on my yard.

For anyone that gardens, the spring is nirvana.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

HR and Developing Talent: Just What is Your CEO Thinking?

“Criminal neglect.” “We’ve gotten way too comfortable poaching.” “No one wakes you in the morning and says they want to go work in the advertising business.”

Brash statements you might say, particularly when they refer to recruiting talent. Are these from disgruntled employees, or a managers roundtable, or maybe from focus group findings?
If you picked any of these, you would be wrong.

CEOs Critical of their own organizations

Those were statements that came from three CEO’s of the largest advertising agency holding companies.

The CEOs that made these statements:
  • WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell: “Criminal Neglect.”
  • Omnicom Group CEO John Wren:We’ve gotten way too comfortable poaching.”
  • Interpublic Group of Companies CEO John Wren: “No one wakes you in the morning and says they want to go work in the advertising business.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What an Orchestra Can Teach Us About Employee Engagement

“My first concert will be a special one; it will be in front of a private audience.”

That was the response from the recently hired conductor of the L.A. Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel. His approach to classical music is taking the classical music industry by storm. He was (and is) the youngest conductor of a major orchestra in the world. He was only 29 when hired by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

There was discussion among the board that maybe he is a little too young and unorthodox to hold such a prestigious position. That first statement about the first concert had everyone on the edge of their seats. The question that was twirling around in their mind probably was, WHO is this special audience he’s talking about?

Public television has some of the most amazing documentaries that are always a staple in our house, even if I am the only one watching. I am always partial to classical music and opera. When I saw this special, I knew that it would be one that I would not multi-task while watching.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

HR Lessons and Trickle Down Leadership in The Devil Wears Prada

Editor’s Note: With the Academy Awards taking place Sunday, TLNT asked  some thought leaders to write about their favorite movie with a management or HR theme. We’ll feature these up to the Oscar ceremony on Feb. 27.

By Ron Thomas

“Don’t be ridiculous, everyone wants this,” Editor-in-Chief Miranda coolly stated as she rode through the beautiful streets of Paris in her chauffeur driven S Class Mercedes. The CEO stated in the elevator that “a million girls would kill for that job.”

This was the brand as they saw it in the movie “The Devil Wears Prada.” This was the brand that Andy (played by Anne Hathaway) saw and most definitely the brand that the gatekeepers in HR kept in mind when they decided who could come to interview.

This movie has HR footprints all over it, from branding, recruiting, employee engagement, management dysfunction, succession planning, leadership, mentorship. All the ills of the organization are woven through the narrative of a movie about a young college graduate getting her first job. She’s all wild eyed and eager  – until she is thrown into this sink or swim playground.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Lesson at Time Inc: How Long Do We Keep Those Out of Touch With the Culture?

It was like a surgeon strategically wielding a scalpel taking out the organ that the body rejected.

“I concluded that his leadership style and approach did not mesh with Time Inc. and Time Warner,” Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes stated in a memo. And with that, it was over and done with.

The Chairman and CEO of Time Inc, Jack Griffin was fired on Thursday evening by Bewkes. Six months was all it took and the decision was made.

As I worked out on Friday morning, this announcement flashed across the TV screens. My reaction? Wow.

How many times as HR professionals have we seen that happen? Yes, we have seen it at lower levels but not at the top of the mountain. That does not happen very often. There have been times that you have seen employees that you would have cheered for the opportunity to wield the scalpel to, as was done over at Time.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Building a Brand: What Would Your HR Department “Elevator” Pitch Be?

If you had to create a commercial for your HR department, what would it say? In creating brochures or other collateral material, what would be the value that you would bullet point?

I thought of this during the recent Super Bowl. There was just so much chatter about the ads. The marketing/advertising departments at these companies that advertised put in long hours getting their message out. To the advertising industry, the Super Bowl stage is the apex of the year.

This stage has become what I would call the American Idol of the industry.

Create your HR Brand

If your HR department had to create an ad about the value of your brand and the importance of your function, what key points would you use to craft a relevant story?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Personal Branding: It’s All About Creating Great Footprints in Our Life

This winter has created a terrible snow situation here in the New York City metro area. There is snow everywhere.

I looked outside this morning and could see footprints of various animals walking through the snow. Their footprints were all visible showing the directions that they were headed.

As many of you who follow my blog know, my daughter recently started her first post-college job. In resigning from the two part-time jobs that she was working, she did her exit interview. She was so excited that both companies said that they would rehire her. They told her that anytime she wanted to come back part-time, they would accommodate her.

My response was “you created a great brand during your stay and you made the connection.”

It is all in the brand whether it is the organization or you personally.

I told my daughter a story about how I was invited to lunch a few months back by a very good friend Mark Winkler, AVP Circulation at Martha Stewart Living. We decided that, rather than meeting at the restaurant, I would come up to his office.

This was the first time that I had been there since I left in 2008. I was a little hesitant at first since I had been gone so long. I knew the company had gone through a lot of changes and there were a lot of new faces.
But there were still lots of people that I was looking forward to seeing. I had kept up with them by e-mail, Facebook and all the social media tools.

Creating footprints

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A New Way to Engage: Are You Ready for an Organizational Pit Stop?

While sitting through a presentation by the Medici Group last Friday, one of the slides caught my eye.
Franz Johanssen, an international management consultant whose workshop helps companies innovate through the “intersection of ideas, concepts and culture,” gave a stunning presentation.

As we often do, sitting though presentations, there are times that our mind just wanders. We sometimes have so many other thoughts pushing through our space that we are there and at the same time we are not there.

The slide was the photo of a pit stop. I must confess that I am not a fan of car racing by any stretch of the imagination, but this slide really got me to thinking.

Organized mayhem 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Talking to Gen Y: Don’t Let Them Walk Blindly Into the Workplace Minefield

Last Friday, as I walked the streets of New York, my phone rang.

On the other end was my Gen Y daughter. The sound of her voice shone brightly through the phone. Just hearing her voice, I knew it was good news.

“Dad,” she said,” I just got the job.” In a moment of haze and disconnect, I said, “what job?” Then, I realized that the company that she been interviewing for the past week had made a decision.

After all the “practice auditions” that we staged, researching companies, reviewing interview questions, talking about the industry, it had finally paid off. We left no stone unturned. We collaborated throughout this process.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

2011- The Year that Human Capital Management Resets

During my morning workout over the holidays, my iPod did not come on.  As usual with IPods, when this happens you must reset. This is done by holding down 2 buttons simultaneously. Then you wait 8 seconds and bravo you are ready to get it on.

During the 8 second wait, I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great if life and or business for that matter were like that.  Get in a jam, hit reset.  Strategy does not work, hit reset.  Want to start over, hit reset.

Major change ahead for the organization.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Changing the Brand: We Can’t Let HR Become the Fredo of the Organization

I could not believe that they said that!

Every morning I do a preview of articles, deciding which ones to print and read on my commute into the city, or, save for more in-depth analysis either that night or the weekend. Sometimes however as we glance headlines, we see things that stops us in our tracks.

That happened to me at the beginning of the week when I came across an article titled HR or Marketing: Who is better equipped to manage employee engagement?”

Many of you who have read my posts know that one of my all time favorite movies is the The Godfather.” As I fumed over this article my thought was that HR is gradually becoming the “Fredo” of the organization. Fredo Corleone was one of the sons of Don Vito Corleone, “The Godfather,” and he never got the respect from his father or brothers that he so desperately wanted.

I ask again, is HR the Fredo of the organization?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Just Shut Up and Listen to What Younger Workers Have to Say!!

“Daddy, sometimes I want you to just listen and not try and solve everything.”

That statement was from my daughter in her junior year of college. Now she is a college graduate with not one, but two, undergrad degrees. That is a quote that I have never forgotten. I think of it every time I am talking to someone or in a meeting.

I thought of that statement the day after the snowstorm paralyzed the New York City metro area last month. After the shoveling, the two of us settled down in our TV room and had a glass of wine together. We talked into the night, just me and my “little girl.” I listened.

We've all been there

Our conversation that night covered a range of topics, but this is not unusual because we always have these long father/daughter conversation — the same type of conversations that I used to have with my son, who is Gen X.