So You Want To Rock The Management World?

Oh boy, are you going to be mad at me when you’re done reading this.  Reader be kind, and understand that sometimes the best advice may not make your top ten choice for best lyrics and the rhythm may be hard to dance to, but it is destined nonetheless to replay in your head ceaselessly (kinda like “Mandy” by Barry Manilow – you want it to leave, and it stays and stays and stays…).  I hope today, I am your “Mandy”….

I began leading a five part training program yesterday, working with new managers and supervisors on the fundamentals of their jobs now that they are responsible for people other than themselves.  We had an energetic and productive day; the conversation was lively, thoughts were unfiltered because the environment was conducive to the trust and acceptance that comes from working on a level playing field.  We’re all looking forward to next Thursday.  Do you hear a ‘but’ in my written voice?  Please tell me you do, for there is one.

Here it is – if everything went so well, why do I feel ambivalent about the results?  Why are these engaging people attending this program? (“Oh, Mandy….”).  I know the obvious answers – the syllabus looked intriguing, they need/want training that will enhance and/or introduce new skills to their managerial toolkit, their supervisors want to feel like they are according them with professional development opportunities, etc  (“You came and you gave without taking…Oh, Mandy”).  I get all that.  Each person left with a detailed commitment to doing one thing differently before next week.  And their takeaways were good.  Talk about ‘koombaya’ moments – it doesn’t get much better for someone like me.

Yet with all this good stuff, there is a reality that can’t be ignored.  The supervisors of these people – whether at the C-level, director, administrator – regardless – send people to training with some implicit expectation that they will emerge more seasoned, greatly enhanced and/or permanently, positively changed by the experience.  The supervisor gaveth the training, and the new supervisor is now minted.  Well, I’m going to shoot myself in the foot here – give me a moment, while I consider the value of self-harming…hmmm..

Ok, I’m going to do it anyway.  Sending people to training – even the most outstanding training on the market – doesn’t mean a damn thing if you are not planning to hold people accountable for their post-training results.  It is critical that supervisors expect that along with attendance comes a post-seminar conversation that addresses any ‘aha’ moments the individual may have had, what revised goals or objectives might be derived as a result of the training and then (drumroll, please we’re getting to the bridge of “Mandy here” – oh, and can I have a shield to protect me from your pelting tomatoes)  – you have to hold them accountable.  There is no training in the world that is going to catapult a new supervisor into the sphere of rock stardom.  No course is offered from which managers will emerge forever changed – unless someone is following up with them.  People may feel short-term inspiration, pumped up about the interesting conversations and ideas, hopeful that they can now deal with a challenging employee in a new way.  But you know as well as I, that the ROI is not measured in the first days post-training (“But I sent you away, oh Mandy….”).  It is measured in the engagement of employees within the department, the quality of the intra-and-inter-department communication, the effectiveness and facility with which newly trained managers pay-it-forward.  As I have said before (sigh…”And I need you today…”) – people aren’t ‘managed’; people are ‘developed’.  That takes time – your time.  How accountable do you hold yourself for ‘developing’ your people?  Tougher question – how accountable do you hold yourself for getting involved in the professional progression of your people post-training?  Besides asking how the program was, what do you do to ensure that their ‘takeaways’ become organic elements of their management style?  How often have I heard a participant say, “My manager would never let me do that”, “How can I get my boss to see that this is really a good idea?”, “I have the title, but not the authority to really impact the team”….

So there’s my big ‘but’ (please note the spelling of the word) – If you’re going to invest in your people financially, recognize that it doesn’t get you off the hook.  It puts you directly on it – as it should.  You are now going to have to invest your time, your flexibility, your willingness to walk the walk and talk the talk if you want to truly maximize the impact of  training and development programs.  It’s so not about the money – it is so about you.  After all…”…[you] write the songs that make the whole world sing…..”  Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  

Who Steals The Lorax??

Someone stole the Lorax!  I can’t believe it’s true

Don’t people around here have better things to do?

A Lorax bronzed and proud perched among Dr. Seuss’ flowers

We’re all pretty pissed here, we’re all pretty dour

I need to repeat this – some people forget

If it belongs to another, it’s not yours to get

Leave our garden alone!  Bring our Lorax back home!

Go hug a tree, save the whales, write a tome

Your fifteen minutes is up, you looked really dumb

And since this is G-rated, I flip you my thumb.

Um..Are YOU Googling ME??

Dear Young-Talented-Eager-Person-Seeking-Challenging-Employment-Opportunities;

Thank you for your interest in our company.  Your education and experience closely parallel that which we consider in candidates for employment.  I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your recent Oscar win for ‘Best Short Film’ – the images of the hollers of Appalachia were hauntingly beautiful and Morgan Freeman’s voice overs provided a lyrical gravitas.  When I think that you are also under consideration for a Pulitzer, you should be applauded for accomplishing so much in your relatively short tenure in the work force.  As an aside, we are all beneficiaries of your full-time efforts while in college to discover the cure for the common cold.  You are truly an impressive individual.

As such, it is with great ambivalence that I must advise you of our decision to extend an offer to a candidate who we feel may enjoy greater success within our organization.  In the interest of full disclosure, the suggestive pictures on your Facebook page, coupled with the salacious conversations between you and your friends gave us pause.  Also, in the future you may want to Google yourself, for there are some rather unflattering comments about you written by some anonymous person claiming to have been held as your unpaid valet during elementary school.  We found the incident concerning the rain boots particularly disturbing.

In closing, I want to thank you again for your interest in employment opportunities with us.  We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors and great success going forward.

Best regards,

Will Nothire

There’s been quite a bit of press about the appropriateness of employers asking for the Facebook passwords of potential employment candidates.  On its face, there is nothing legally wrong with an employer asking for this information, just as there’s nothing wrong with you denying to provide it.  This is however a far thornier problem than access to a personal site, which may or may not have anything to do with one’s ability to perform a job satisfactorily (I can hear some employers arguing that such information can tell you quite a bit about one’s judgment, but so can really good interview questions…I’m just sayin’)

In the days of MySpace, employers could (and did) access people’s pages and discovered some very disturbing material that certainly impacted their views of prospective and/or current employees.  People would share confidential information about their employers, posted pictures of themselves in compromising situations, wrote about co-workers in ways that bordered on the libelous.  Under circumstances such as that, what would you have done as the employer?  The answers are complicated, and reveal a gold mine of questions pertaining to personal and professional integrity.

Do employers ‘google’ applicants?  I know that some do – and rarely consider that some of the information on the ‘Net may be completely inaccurate (like the ex-boyfriend who posted an article about his girlfriend on a professional web site, which became part of her technological footprint without her knowledge).  Most firms do background checks – carefully ensuring that the information they are seeking is part of the public record and relevant for the position being sought.

But you need to know that nothing is private.  Whatever you put on your FB page; the article you wrote for your university that called for a boycott of classes until the administration conceded to lowering the number of required courses in order to confer a degree; the tweets full of epithets and disconcerting shout-outs to the judges on “The Voice” – it’s all out there for the world to see.  And judge.  Whether it is right or wrong is not the issue we will solve today – or tomorrow for that matter.  But the presumption of privacy when all of our information is dancing around on a cloud with everyone else’s is naive.  Think before you post, consider who may end up being your audience.  And if you really want to be safe – here’s a crazy thought – pick up the phone and talk.

Marlon Perkins And Me

My husband thinks he’s Marlon Perkins.  I don’t want to dissuade him, for it gives him such joy and feelings of power that can’t reasonably be replicated in any other aspect of his life.  I feel like I’m a bit player on “Mutual Of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom”, though we live about 25 miles outside of Washington, DC.  I don’t think of myself as Bill necessarily – I always felt bad for that guy – Marlon would narrate as Bill was sent to wrestle the alligator, run from a charging silver back gorilla, etc..  I am more of a hysterical observer as I watch my husband approach his nemesis,  his focus nothing short of laser-like, his exhaustive knowledge of his prey’s behavior shames those of us lesser beings who are just simply grossed out.

He is in search of the notorious brown marmorated stink bug.  For those of you who live on the East Coast and/or China, these interlopers are not uncommon to you.  A few of them apparently booked vacations here, arriving by boat only to find the environment conducive for permanent re-location.  The vineyards were plentiful, the fruit crop bountiful, job prospects were strong and the housing market very competitive.  What a place to raise a family – very large families.

These are disgusting bugs.  I’m sorry if I offend those of you who find all of God’s creatures to be wondrous, but these guys rate right up there with cockroaches in my book.  They have these hard brown shells and emit a potent, offensive odor if challenged (or squashed or vacuumed up).  They prefer the warmer weather, so after hibernating in the eaves and crevasses of one’s home, they emerge in the spring.  Needless to say, they don’t even have the good manners to bring a thank you gift for allowing then to stay rent free on your property for part of the year.  At first I thought they were a new form of psychic terrorism –  like water torture – they just keep coming back over and over and over…They have no known natural enemies ( but for a specific type of stingless wasp who is still hanging out in China), are virtually impossible to completely eradicate and make their presence known in some very inopportune places (I have had one crawl across the keys of my computer – while keying; take a car trip with me to the supermarket; one even jumped out of my briefcase when I went through security at the airport – until then I had never heard a TSA agent scream).  I love the outdoors; I hate sharing my space with these pre-historic looking insects who actually think they are entitled to be here.

Enter my husband, pith helmet jauntily placed on his head, shorts, knee socks and a safari jacket to die for, stalking his prey with his weapon of choice – The Bugzooka.  This is a large cylindrical contraption with suction-like properties  (sold by Ronco or some such company).  If you bring the tip of the Bugzooka within touching distance of the offending bug and press a button, it sucks the insect into a holding cell.  There they remain imprisoned, no doubt wondering what happened to the free food and room service, before being unceremoniously flushed down the toilet.  Of course, we have a septic system, so you can imagine my anxiety when considering how many of these ugly little buggers are clogging the tanks (my apologies in advance to the people who will come and empty those tanks – it will be a really awful experience which I hope doesn’t leave them permanently damaged).

My husband has quickly become  my hero.  I just have to whisper “stink bug at 2:00” and he is at the ready, calmly pursuing his prey and dispensing his swift, unequivocal  justice.  I think he has probably developed a reputation among the stink bug population, for there do seem to be fewer this year.  I am a  member of the Humane Society of the U.S., the SPCA and really believed I loved all animals great and small.  Yet I now must admit that I have been bested by the brown marmorated stink bug, and saved by my very own Marlon Perkins.

When In Doubt – Be Grateful

“You have brains in your head.

You have feet on your shoes.

You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

You’re on your own and you know what you know.

You are the guy who’ll decide where to go” — Dr. Seuss

Today for reasons I don’t fully understand, everything seems complicated to me.  Attribute it to lack of sleep, the relentless beating of the rain on the roof, the aches and pains that seem to accompany me uninvited with greater regularity these days.  Decisions are playing hide-and-seek in my head (so I’m choosing not to play, for I hate that game), the banal rituals that provide an outline for my day seem purposeless and silly (ok, brushing one’s teeth is always a good thing).  So, I’ve decided to write about these last three months or so and see if it can help define my day’s path – even if it’s temporary – something that produces more than my frustration with the NY Times Sunday crossword puzzle.

I started blogging because I was curious to see what would come out of this crazy head of mine, because I now had the time to pursue alternatives which had piqued my interest in the past and because I am driven by this nauseatingly neurotic need to make a difference.  Let me clarify – a positive difference.  When I was working, so many people encouraged me to write a book – I’m not sure that will happen.  Blogging seemed like a logical step towards exploring the feasibility of publishing.  I could see if a) I was entertaining enough, b) had a message worth sharing and c) had the discipline to do it.  I’m still not sure I have these answers, but I am truly enjoying this experience even though I will likely never be a candidate for ‘freshly pressed’ (not sarcastic or wry enough, don’t use enough media links in my posts and arguably may not write well enough either).  But – in less than three months, over 2600 people have checked me out (figuratively speaking of course), some incredibly smart people have commented on my entries with cogent, inspiring wisdom (family and friends exempted ’cause they’re already pretty awesome) and I am slowly beginning to find my uncensored voice about work, life, leadership etc – I can only imagine what will flow from these keys once I feel my own personal FCC beginning to fade into the distance.

I have learned that there is so much friggin’ talent out there, that I’m humbled to be part of a circle of people who truly question and opine with thought and humor.  I don’t know any of you, and yet I look feverishly for your responses every time I put up a post.  And you never disappoint.  Every time someone ‘likes’ a post, I feel like Sally Field during her ridiculous Oscar acceptance speech (“You like me!  You really like me!”).  When I see a comment, I feel the same anticipation as I did when I used to get my report card in elementary school (that’s when the comments were kinder, but for the standard reminder that I’d learn more if I socialized less).

Specifically, there are bloggers who have kept me going, totally unaware that their generosity, opinions, and ‘atta boys’ were providing me with commitment to this exercise when my spirits began to flag.  These are people you should read – for their originality, entertaining perspectives, experience and life stories.  Props to them all – and my abundant thanks for keeping me engaged in this process as I figure out where I want to go next.  Here’s my list of tremendous writers – I hope you take the time to check out their sites:  kungfuleadership; manage better now; david kanigan – lead.learn.live; misunderstood genius; greg blencoe; rlagee; business coach steve; girl on the contrary; the good greatsby; where’s my T-back and other stories; never contrary and the middlest sister.  I could go on – there’s truly some terrific talent on WordPress.  But I know what I know and I said what I meant/Your talents inspire me 100 per cent.

That you for your shout outs on Twitter, your encouragement and ability to remind me of the beauty and insanity on this little planet of ours.  I feel like I have found an invisible, yet powerful cohort group, as understanding and accepting as my friends and family.  People who understand that on days like this, sometimes all one needs to do is breathe – and be aware of all there is for which to be grateful.  Consider yourself counted.