“What’s the one thing you’d change about the world of work?”

We’ve learned so much this past couple of years about what we like about our employers and what we may unfortunately dislike. We have also learned whether or not we want to continue to work remotely or go back in the office, or both. A few of my contacts have flat out told me that they are not the “remote” type at all. They need people to stimulate them and keep them accountable to work at all. If they were remote, they would be in their jammies all day. I thought I would be one of those people but honestly found that I enjoyed being remote because I had more privacy to do my job than I did at the office. I worked in a place that had cubicles for human resources and this was not conducive for someone like me who handled all of the employee relations and investigations. Some might say that I could book a conference room for those conversations however, I would have needed to book it 9-10 hours a day every day. Being at home alone gave me the freedom to speak out loud where the only one that could hear me was the person on the phone and my pet bird!

I would like to hear what your preferences are and how you would like to see your current employer adapt to the new hybrid model. Did they pivot and shift during the pandemic? When they said that you would be returning to the office, if you have already, did they allow for remote work to continue or are they unwilling to do so? If they are unwilling, have they given the team a reason? If so, what was it? If not, what does that tell you about your organization?

I would love to have you comment below on what your ideal situation would be. What would that look like. We have seen lots of polls out there but not a lot of substance. Each company is different and not all positions can be remote. Not all companies can. What are your thoughts?

#ConversationsForChange #FutureOfWork

The Art of Active Listening

Have you ever been in a situation when you were sitting down with someone having a conversation and you were trying to listen to them? All you wanted to do was butt in and tell them your story, your opinion and all the examples that match theirs? Then instead of listening to them and hearing what they had to say, you did just that?

Active listening is one of the hardest things to do because it is about the other person in the conversation. It is about what they are saying and not about how you can “one-up” them or compare their stories with your own.

Now, active listening can have some paraphrasing in it. If you are trying to understand something, you can paraphrase what they just told you so you can make sure you understood what they just said, but it is not a time for you to say, “Oh, yeah, one time, this thing just like that happened to me and…”.

You might be really surprised how hard it is to listen to your friend or co-worker without talking over them or interrupting them. I challenge you to try it. I guarantee you will fail the first few times you do it but that is okay. I want you to fail. Failing forward is the only way we learn. Keep having these conversations and each time get better at not saying anything. Really try to listen so you can hear what your friend or co-worker is talking about.

If you practice long enough you will learn more and have better communication with that person. You will also gain their trust and admiration that you are someone they can count on. Most people just want to be heard. When they are, they feel validated. Some people may not normally have the chance to offer up their ideas for improvements in the workplace and the company may find that these team members and their ideas are valuable.

The best part of active listening is when you are sitting with close friends, and they need you. You can hear their frustrations or sadness, sympathize with them and in the end, you are able to ask questions, offer support, and tell them that you are there to listen whenever they need you. They will know this to be true and trust you. They will in turn, hopefully be there for you when you need someone to listen.

Interviewing Stress

Why do you hate to interview? Some people are so terrified at the thought of going to an interview, it literally makes them freeze with fear. Others forget the answers to their questions and the rare ones are calm as cucumbers. How do we prepare for the face-to-face meeting and make it fun?

First off, wear your most comfortable professional outfit. If you are comfortable, you won’t be fidgeting in your seat. Please make sure it is clean for goodness sake!

2nd, no extra jewelry, crazy colored nail polish, or wild eye shadows. Simple and professional. This speaks to all genders.

3rd, practice answering interviewing questions with a friend. Take it seriously. Try not to say “like” or “um”. When you get to the interview and you are answering the question, if you need more time, simply say something like, “that’s a great question, let me think of answer that will be relevant for you”.

Before you go to the interview, be sure to thoroughly check out the company’s website and social media presence. There you will be able to formulate questions when the interviewer asks you if you have any. It is always good to have one or two.

At the end, stand up and thank them. If protocol allows for a handshake, give a firm one. You can ask for a business card from them at this time if they have not provided one to you so you can send a thank you email.

Sending a thank you email. I like to remember a part of the interview that was funny or personal or meant something, and use that in my greeting such as, “I really like the way you spoke about how this role works hands on with the marketing team, I had some experience at my last position in marketing. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain that to me today. I look forward to our next meeting.” This makes the greeting more personal and shows you were engaged in the interview.

I hope these tips helped! Make it a great day!

Networking

Networking is about the other person first. Remember that. Its not about what you can get from them. Its about what you can do for them.

Why? When we network, we are creating professional relationships that teach us information about that persons job title, company, and company culture. We learn if they would be a future client or vendor of ours. We cultivate that relationship over time to make sure we have all the information we need to make informed decisions down the road.

When the time comes for help, we can then ask for help with a project, sale, or a job referral.

If you have worked with the individual before, never burn bridges. You never know when a situation will arise that this contact may help you. It could be a job interview. It could be a sale that will help you reach to your goal.

When reaching out to a new person that you don’t know. Make your you introduce yourself. Explain why you would like to connect with them. Don’t just use the canned text introduction. Make it personal. You just might be glad you did! Make it a great day!

Conversational Interviews

Recently, I commented on a post about making interviews a conversation rather than an interrogation and it got me thinking about this blog that I do. I am one of those strange people that love to interview when I am looking for a job. I do not like looking for a job, mind you. I would rather have one however, I love when the interviewer asks questions that I have not had before, and I really get to dig deep into my past and talk about the fun that I have had in my past career as an HR professional. Yes, I have had fun!

If you are an HR person like me, you are truly passionate about the subject of HR. Employee relations, training, and yes, even the icky stuff like FMLA, ADA, and worker’s compensation. Of course, we prefer things that make us happier like the employee relations stuff and training, but it all balances out if we have a good team and a great boss.

Let us get back to the interview process though. In the beginning when we are hiring for a position and we have the luxury of conducting a phone interview with the candidate, I personally like to ask two types of questions. The first few are housekeeping questions. Why are you looking? What kind of notice are you giving? How did you hear about us? What kind of salary are you looking for? This last one is tricky because people get shy about this one. I personally like to give a range so that there are clear expectations of where the salary is compared to where their budget lies. If they know what the range is, they can see if it fits within their needs. If not, then the interview can end right then and there. We do not waste each other’s time. The next set of questions pertain to the job itself and I always begin by saying the following sentence: “I have a bunch of questions and I hope to have a fun conversation with you. During the course of our conversation, you might answer questions I have not asked you yet, so bear with me while I take notes, lets have some fun!” Then we begin. This is when you start the conversation. The interview may start out slow but if you engage in something they say, the candidate may start to relax and show you bits and pieces of their personality or the true passion they have for the position they are applying for.

One of my favorite conversations was with a man that loved to garden. We were hiring for a groundskeeping role, and he was talking about how much he loved to garden. He went on about the tools he liked to use to edge the lawn and how he took pride in making the edge straight up the walkway to the front door. It was moving. I know that sounds silly, but he was so passionate about what he did for a living that I moved him on to the next round and he got the job. He has been with the company for 12 years now. He does not need to be promoted; he is not looking for a management position. He is content and happy living his best life making the garden, lawn, and grounds beautiful and being happy in the process. A true work/life balance.

I know that sometimes we focus on the gaps in employment. I even have some gaps. Life happens. Sometimes we take time to have kids, we get laid off and have a hard time finding a new job due to the economy, we have ill family members that need care. As an HR professional, I tend not to focus on these too hard. I will ask about them, I want someone that is serious about staying in a position because as we all know, turnover is expensive. We do not want to have to rehire someone over and over again.

It is time to have those fun conversations with your candidates, see what you can find out. Listen to the other jobs that they have worked and the other skills they gave obtained for the current position you are offering. Education in a field is great, but you cannot beat real-world work experience. When a candidate is comfortable, they will reveal more of themselves to you.

Being the Bigger Person

It is so hard to be the bigger person when you are on the receiving end of a rant. If the information you hear is negative and hurtful, it can cause us to want to get revenge. Sometimes we receive these hurtful messages in an email or text. What this really means is the sender was hiding behind their computer or phone. These are especially hard not to respond to. I will always remind you that perception is everything! People put their own spin on the tone of your message regardless of your intentions. The best thing to do is nothing at all.

Should we respond or should we walk away? Think about what you would say and if it would really make a difference. Would it make you feel better? Probably not.

Being the bigger person and ignoring the negativity is the best approach. It is non-confrontational and the more professional way to handle the situation. Should you document what was said? Absolutely. This way you have proof of the conversation as well as the beginnings of a time-line if things escalate later on. You will put it aside in case you need it.

The person that has ranted toward you and the rant itself, has now lost all of its power. By responding you would have only added fuel to the fire. Being the bigger person, you have silently taken that power away from them.

This skill is something you must practice frequently as we tend to react quickly to people and forget to stop and think before we respond. I encourage you all to walk away from conflict when you can. It’s just not worth the trouble.

An Employee Coaching Story

I’ve recently been coaching an employee that has had to endure a plethora of manager changes in a very short period of time.

His first manager who was with the organization for many years started going through a change in his behavior. There was a change in his home life which spilled over into the workplace. This happens to managers as well as employees but when it’s a manager it may be even more disruptive than we think.

This particular manager became disengaged and unfocused putting great pressure on this employee that has long term tenure on the team. It added responsibilities that he normally wasn’t required of him and he found mistakes that he had to figure out how to deal with.

My advice to him was to document the mistakes and behavior and turn that information in to his human resources team member. He was hesitant but ultimately did take my advice.

At this same time, the assistant manager at his store transferred to a different location. The reason: this same manager.

This went on for several months until the organization decided to redistribute the management team to different locations. When this happened a new fresh exciting leader became this employees temporary manager. Of course it was short-lived but in that limited time this leader motivated this particular employee to seek a promotion that was well deserved and long overdue. His friends also encouraged him and as his coach I spent time working with him on his interviewing skills and question responses.

This new found confidence and secure feeling he received from this new manager he aced the interview and earned the promotion. The change in this employees confidence was exponential.

The organization decided to make another change and sent this new manager back to his previous location. Once again the morale of this employee and the rest of the team instantly dropped. My client, having gained this new position really stepped up and took control and responsibility for his team.

More Changes from the Business

The company decided to bring in a new assistant manager. This one only lasted two months, again more upheaval. During this two month period, the company brought in another interim manager, a new second assistant manager and a full time replacement for the initial manager that was moved to a new location. Then the first manager suddenly decided to quit.

Are You Confused Yet?

I write this out in such detail because more than likely a situation like this is happening at other organizations and maybe even yours. What do you think the impact of this is on the morale of the tam? Not only the morale but the feeling of safety and security that all employees require for a work/life balance.

From an outside perspective there were several points of breakdown.

  1. The Regional Manager did not step in and take the concerns of the middle managers seriously. The first manager was not held accountable.
  2. The HR Director was not involved and able to help the regional manager.
  3. The second assistant manager was not held accountable and moved to another location like being swept under the rug.

The only stable person in the scenario is the employee that I coached. A person that has no real authority but is left keeping the location up and running.

What is your organization doing?

Is your company dealing with a communication breakdown like this? If this story made you cringe, I ask you to do a deep dive and make sure your managers are happy, trained and supported. We don’t want to burden our top performers with responsibilities that will lead them to resigning from your company. We want to nurture these team members so they stick around and become the next generation of leaders in your company.