Thursday, August 26, 2010

Are You a Visionary Leader?

Recently a client asked me to prepare a presentation on visionary leadership. Hopefully by now my regular readers will know that I strongly advocate that leaders work with their employees to create a vision and set challenging expectations for each individual in support of that vision.

Now, I do admit to being a little spoiled here. Between reporting to a series of presidents who spoke limited English, to owning my own firm; I haven’t had close supervision in a very long time. And, I will admit that there are times (like when training someone new) when close supervision is a really good thing. But after that, if people know what you expect and are bought into your vision, micromanagement will only serve to encourage them to limit taking ownership of their work.

At one end of the spectrum, Netflix has established themselves as the master of a no policy workforce. Being in a creative industry where the opportunity for damage due to the quality of their products is limited, they have taken visionary leadership to a new level. Netflix does not have a policy for vacation time. Their entertainment and business travel expense policy is simple: ”Act in Netflix’s best interest.” But my favorite is this comment on their dress code:

“There is also no clothing policy at Netflix, but no one has come to work naked lately.”

We’ve all heard the horror stories of the leaders that slow progress and frustrate their employees by reviewing every minor decision. Does this sound like you? If you are a control freak who needs to be involved, then identify the key things that are most important to your business, like product innovation, service quality, or quantity produced. Get your employees excited about your vision for those areas and leave the rest up to them. There’s a good chance that they will come up with suggestions for doing things better, faster, and will have more fun along the way. Process improvements can be a really great thing – and they rarely come from the top down, but rather the bottom up.

Visionary leaders focus on the big picture and the end results. They trust their staffs to handle the details. If you are a leader who can’t trust your staff to come to work wearing clothes, then you don’t have the right staff.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the people to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

- Antonie De Saint-Exupery

Monday, August 16, 2010

Anniversary Week

This week is a landmark for HRM Innovations, LLC. It was one year ago that I officially and publicly launched HRM Innovations by standing up in a KHRMA meeting to say “I’m going to do this!”

The year has gone quickly and I have been fortunate to have some great projects and many terrific customers. Last week, I placed an order for more business cards. What looked like a huge box of 500 cards a year ago is now an empty testament to the many people that I have met.

My clients have welcomed me into their organizations, trusted me with their systems and their employees. I thank them for their confidence and support.

I also want to thank the many people who volunteered to help with the activities required to start a business, including: proofreading my business plan, critiquing my marketing materials, providing coaching advice and moral support, offering me conference rooms and office space, introducing me to network contacts, serving as references, giving legal advice, and providing feedback on presentations. A couple of you even followed my blog!

Finally, I’d like to give a special thank you to my wife Tami, for giving me great support. Your confidence has meant a lot to me.

Year one was such a great experience that I can’t wait to see what happens in year two!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What’s the Biggest Issue Facing HR Today?

In my efforts to keep up with the latest, I was reading some online articles. One article in particular caught my eye. In it, the author challenged the results of a recent survey by ComPsych ( that states HR Managers are more concerned about morale than any other issue, even healthcare reform.

Here’s the survey breakdown of what HR Managers are most concerned about according to the ComPsych survey.:

31% - Maintaining employee productivity and morale
26% - Dealing with healthcare costs and new legislation
16% - Finding qualified candidates
14% - Handling organizational change
13% - Retaining top performers

In talking with my clients, I believe the survey is correct. Here’s why: Last year, people feared for their jobs, unemployment was high, and companies were downsizing. Throughout 2009, we saw fewer employee relations concerns, lower turnover, and a general decrease in “boat rocking.”

Last fall, a recruiter friend of mine predicted companies that didn’t treat their employees well during the recession would experience significant turnover at the end of it. I’m sure she was right. Now, the job market is opening back up. Companies are hiring, but on a limited basis. Workloads are higher than ever. As a result, turnover is creeping back up. Regardless of what happened during the past year, there are some things you can do now to reduce the risk of losing your best performers. Try these steps:

▪ Provide recognition for your top performers and for anyone who has gone above and beyond during this period. Let them know you appreciate their efforts.

▪ Make certain that their current workloads are manageable. People will work extended hours for short periods of time, but it’s not sustainable unless there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

▪ Open up those lines of communications. People want to feel in on the things that matter. Even if you can’t give them what they need now, let them know you’re aware of their needs and are planning for the future.

▪ Don’t subscribe to the “Employees should be thankful for a job” management theory. That’s a sure recipe for the need to recruit replacement employees.

What about Healthcare reform? I predict that the biggest healthcare challenges for HR professionals are 9-12 months away. That’s when our employees will be looking at neighboring companies and asking: “Why didn’t we handle the healthcare reform implementation like they did?” Of course, if we don’t take steps to retain our best employees now, we won’t need to worry about providing medical benefits later.