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This HR Guy Is Over Your Spelling Mistakes


It is one of the first thing people say about composing your resume: make sure you don’t have any spelling mistakes. Or certainly, a spelling mistake means certain doom even if the rest of your resume looks great. And really, not a day goes by when I don’t see a comment on twitter about how somebody spelled something wrong on a resume. I won’t throw the first stone, I’ve been in that boat before. But I will say this: unless your horrendous spelling really hurts my ability to understand your resume, I am over your spelling mistakes and other HR people should get over it too.

The Argument

First of all, let’s list off the common reasons why some HR and recruiting pros have zero tollerance for spelling mistakes on resumes (seriously, zero tollerance):

  • It is easier than ever to check spelling. Most word processing programs do that for you.
  • This is one of the most important documents that you have to send out. Why wouldn’t you get it right?
  • If you show a lack of detail orientation on your resume, what does that say about your ability to do a detailed job?

And probably a few others that will be pointed out to me in the comment section. I will agree with them in two (and only two) instances:

  • Writing or editing writing is your full time job. If you’re a copywriter, technical writer or a newspaper reporter, you’re really screwed if you have a spelling error. No way around that.
  • If writing is a big component of your job. I’m thinking many marketing or PR pros fall into this category. Even then, I would still be tollerant of a typo on a customized part of a resume or cover letter.

That’s it.

Soapbox Time

I try not to get on my soapbox too much but I feel I have to, even if I am only talking to myself here.

99% of the time, we are not hiring writers. 99% of the time, we are not hiring interviewees. We are hiring mechanics or sales people or biologists or veterinarians or police officers. It is our job, the HR or recruiting pro, to see past these surface difficiencies and figure out what these people are truly talented at. Even if that means suffering through a couple there/their/they’re or then/than or insure/ensure/assure. Poor us, right?

The Fear

If we’re honest with ourselves, the biggest thing driving this sort of knee jerk reaction is the fear that the one mistake in an interview or resume that you let slip by is a precursor to everything that is wrong with an employee. So we strip away all of these risks and go with someone that might be more talented at resume writing or interviewing than their actual job.

I won’t mention the fact that it takes much more courage to stand up for a candidate that misses the mark on spelling but may be brilliant at their job than a candidate that looks great on paper but is as vanilla as a sundae without the toppings.

In reality, we keep going back to this tired and ineffective way to absolutely screen out candidates because we have a hard time evaluating whether or not someone is a good fit, has the skill set and is the right person for the job. So we latch on to anything concrete we can find in the hiring process to differentiate candidates in a way that doesn’t require thinking about people in an abstract way.

Now I am starting to sound like one of these HR guys that thinks “everyone is special in their own special way.” Those people are the worst. So let’s get to the point here:

If you are disqualifying otherwise highly talented, non-writing professionals because you don’t have the guts to stand up against a process that disqualifies people for something not at all related to their primary duties, you are being put on notice. I will figure out that these people are talented, I will snatch those people up, I will sell them to our hiring managers and we will bury you. And when you figure out that the top sales person in our company is in your resume database three months before they started for me but you disqualified them at screening for something stupid like a spelling mistake, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

This HR Guy is over spelling mistakes.

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What Is Your Greatest Weakness?

Have you ever received that question in an interview? First, let me apologize. Most of us in HR who ask this question don’t even know what we’re asking, why we’re asking or what we’re supposed to get out of this question. Furthermore, candidates are usually so poorly prepared for this question that it usually defeats the purpose of asking it in the first place.

I know all of the cool people in HR think the question is bogus. They have a point but there are thousands of bogus questions getting asked daily that we never address. If you aren’t preparing yourself for this stupid question, than you aren’t preparing yourself for the other stupid questions that will come your way. It is easily one of the more common questions still asked today.

Here’s what I’ve figured out from asking this question (or being in interviews where this question is asked): If you answered the question quickly, you are either well rehearsed or you are extremely self-aware. If you can’t answer the question quickly or you give me some bullshit response, you’re either ill-prepared, not at all self-aware or a liar. Well, you’re probably all liars when it comes to this question which is why I don’t ask the question much.

Even if you don’t choose to give me a straight answer on this question, your glaring deficiencies should be on the top of your mind. No matter how good you become at anything, your weaknesses will hold you back. If you are the best salesperson in the company yet you neglect your spouse, it will hold you back. If you are the best number cruncher in the government but you can’t speak to other people without stuttering, it will hold you back. If you are a great speaker but you can’t ever execute a plan, it will hold you back.

When important people in your organization are talking about you, they are using “but” statements. “He’s a great welder but he can’t get along with people.” “She’s a great CEO but she is a liability with the press.” Those “but” statements point to your perceived weakness.

My weaknesses are pretty simple ones:

  • Impatient — If you tell me I can’t do something now, I either figure out a way around you or I lose interest in it completely. Getting married has helped this immensely but I am sure my wife would say it still needs improvement.
  • Lacking detail orientation — Terrible weakness for a HR person in the current legal climate right? Absolutely. At my first job, I said I was good on detail orientation and simply made it happen. Yes, I have to work twice as hard on it but I can make the big picture stuff happen more quickly to make up for it.
  • Laid back — I couldn’t ever say this in an interview (because it would sound like BS) but my laid back attitude has definitely impacted my career negatively. Being approachable helps in HR but it is a pain when it is time to lay down the law and people don’t understand why the attitude has disappeared.

What I can say is that working on all three of these has made me not only a better employee but a better person. Which, you know, sounds corny.

Some people have advocated just focusing on your strengths and letting them compensate for your weaknesses. Unless you are wildly successful (like top 0.01%), focusing on your strengths to compensate for your weaknesses isn’t going to get you anywhere. Maintain (or slowly build your strengths) and focus your energy on your deficiencies instead.

What’s your greatest weakness and what are you doing to improve it?

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Three Ways You Can Fill An Empty Passion Bucket

A few years ago, I listened to a lot of political talk radio. In an age when a bunch of my peers were listening to podcasts and that sort of thing, I was trying to dial in the static on the AM radio. I stopped listening to political talk radio because it is terrible. Now I listen to sports talk radio. It is still terrible but I feel better listening to it because I am not laughing at real problems anymore.

Anyway, I am a big fan of Dan Patrick’s sports talk radio show and he had on Rick Neuheisel, the football coach fans in the Pac-10 love to hate, and he said something about having his passion bucket full before playing USC. Basically, your passion bucket is the measure of passion you have for something and to play USC and be successful, that has to be full because you aren’t going to be as talented as they are most years.

But let’s say you’re in a crappy job, with crappy hours and you’re uninspired. Your passion bucket is empty. And if you can’t just switch jobs when you’re bored or unhappy because some blogger says you should (damn reality!), you don’t have to be miserable and passionless. Here are three choices you can make right now to start filling your bucket:

1. Love The One You’re With

So you’re at a crappy job and the economy stinks and all you can think about is how you’ve submitted a million resumes and nobody is calling you. Or you’re unemployed and you’re in the same situation. Find ways to strive and thrive in your environment and make the best of your current opportunity. That means enrich yourself, be a superstar and work hard when it seems impossible to do so. Network and become friends with likeminded colleagues. Every time you think negatively about your current position, think about two things you like about it. It feels impossible but that’s only because you are making it that way. Making the best of your current situation will help make you more passionate about it.

2. Plan And Make Your Next Move

You want out of your current job but instead of thinking rationally, you just start blanketing your resume everywhere within a 50 mile radius. Or you quit and decide you’d rather work at a coffee shop than your current employer. The problem that many people encounter is that this doesn’t seem to fix the problem. They are still unhappy only now they now have a new job and they can’t do the same thing again. Planning your next move (including determining whether you want to continue in your field) and preparing yourself (including schooling) can usually be done with a lot less stress while you hold your current position. Â Making plans about your future as a teacher or accountant, going to school can help you stay passionate when you can feel like your current stop is a temporary one.

3. Find Inspiration Outside Of Work

I know some of us in HR love to think that work is the center of your life but the third option is, at least in my opinion, the easiest way to become passionate again. I don’t know what you like to do but I love to do a lot of things: guitars, hiking, basketball, cooking, reading, writing and spending time with my family and friends. I have friends that mentor high schoolers or volunteer for a church or play softball with friends. And while work may not be the most inspirational or passion inspiring activity, you can always go back to those activities and refill your passion bucket. Unlike work, you may have more control over your situation there as well.

- — -

How do you keep your passion bucket full during less than inspiring times?

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Don’t Cry For The Newspapers (You’re Next)

I love reading newspapers. I always admired local writers who could really bring life to a story of importance to the community. I enjoyed following local sports beats. And this is coming from someone who never really thought he could write on a regular basis. I just enjoyed the feel of newsprint on my fingers.

Until about two years ago, there was always a newspaper in my house. I could recite them all for you: The Reflector, The Columbian (I also delivered for them), Capital Press, Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Wall Street Journal and The Oregonian. So why did I stop? The amount of interesting local content started to wane and more syndicated content started hitting the pages. Syndicated content is content I could find elsewhere on the web. My parents wanted to go down to Sunday only service because of the same complaints but the newspaper said they didn’t deliver Sunday only papers anymore. They pulled the plug on the entire service and now pick up a paper once every couple of weeks.

So when Jaclyn Schiff posted a link to the next ten newspapers that will die or go online only, you couldn’t have been surprised. We’ve been hearing about the demise of the printed newspaper for a long time and we’ve had a slow bleed of good journalists abandoning ship (or the ones who stay getting overworked/underpaid and sapping out all of their creative energy). Only now, we are seeing newspapers collapse instead of just degrading quality and multiple employee buyouts.

A ton of people are celebrating their demise and banging on newspapers for mismanaging or getting egotistical and a bunch of other people are waxing intellectual about how the demise of newspapers also signal the end of democracy and/or the world.

There is a serious business lesson here though that gets missed in the fight about whether newspapers are still relevant or not. The way newspapers have dealt with the commoditization of information has impacted their health more than anything else. Up until a few years, you couldn’t view anything on the NY Times without a login. Websites were launched specifically get around this requirement (most notably bugmenot.com). Yet, even after realizing that a subset of their users were being prevented from viewing content (and thus advertisements), they stubbornly trudged on their decided path.

In most cases, newspaper media has been behind even other subsets of traditional media. They figured they had survived radio and TV, why would the internet be any different? That is becoming frighteningly apparent to newspapers: TV, radio and newspapers all still control the content and their reach is inherently limited. On the internet, there is no control and the reach is limitless. I don’t need to subscribe to a newspaper or watch TV to get the story, there are multiple sources covering every story. If a newspaper uses the AP, I can get that story from Google News. I can also get commentary from bloggers. I can also get breaking news from twitter. Why subscribe to The Oregonian for Portland Trail Blazers coverage when some other sites do as good of job (if not better) of covering the team (check out Blazers Edge as an example)?

Of course, the funny part that isn’t written about are how some of the fiercest critics of newspapers are suffering some of the same problems. The industrial complex (car manufacturers in particular) and the financial industry are having their share of problems aren’t they? Like the guy on the sinking lifeboat laughing about the guy in the water struggling to stay afloat. It is only a matter of time.

I don’t want to ignore the HR implication here: from what I hear, HR has a tough time in a newspaper environment. Long hours for underpaid people means you get a poor quality product. Poor quality products don’t get sold as well, revenues go down and you’re trying to do more. Certainly the exodus of good newspaper reporters and editors to other media outlets or retirement means doing more with less. The management of talent in the face of crisis has been abysmal and there are lessons to be learned there as well.

Not to absolve HR but newspapers face much bigger hurdles than leashed HR departments. It is a major identity crisis and a issue of finding a profitable business model. But while we all point fingers and discuss how newspapers will dig themselves out, our own houses of cards are collapsing behind us. Will we be the ones surprised by the same lessons that are taking down newspapers or are we going to take that failure as a lesson for our own businesses?

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Why Unemployment Numbers Shouldn’t Matter To You

This week, the government will release federal unemployment numbers. From all indications, it is not going to be good news. Here in Oregon, we are at nearly 10% unemployment and other areas are even worse. There is a lot of gloom and doom going around and it isn’t pretty. We’ve all become numb to news stories about layoffs, sinking stocks and unemployment numbers.

I am telling you though: the only people who should care about unemployment numbers are the people who work for the unemployment office. And I would be worried about those folks as they try to process more applications with less resources (many states are using inexplicable hiring freezes across all state agencies). Why would I suggest this? Three points:

What are you going to do?

Ask yourself what you can do to control the unemployment numbers. You can’t do much except control how many people you insert into the unemployment pool. That means you have to think about yourself and your business first. Those unemployment numbers aren’t going to help or hurt you.

If you are a business owner or manager, that means buckling down and trying to preserve what you have going. If you are an employee, that means trying to stay employed by adding value and helping your employer stay afloat.

If you are part of the unemployed, the only impact you have on that number is yourself. If you’ve ever been unemployed though, you know that the only person that matters is you. So if your competition is 10 people or 100 people for a position, it doesn’t change the circumstance. You still need a job.

What would you change?

The key question I ask people in businesses fretting with unemployment numbers is, based on the numbers you’re seeing out there, what would you change? If you are out of a job, you always have competition. More competition doesn’t always mean better competition though. And having more competition shouldn’t change your strategy.

Some will admit that they wouldn’t change anything and some will start talking about leading economic indicators. Give me a break. If your retirement account loses 25% of its value in two years or your bank is failing, you don’t need unemployment to tell you things are going poorly.

Business As Usual Is Possible

Call me an idealist but great companies should be better prepared than the average company for these sorts of economic situations. Instead of starting to look at cost savings, they’ve already investigated and implemented cost savings. Instead of starting lean manufacturing programs today, they started them years ago and are realizing the flexibility and cost savings. Instead of looking to lay off over-compensated employees, they retooled their compensation a long time ago.

The only thing that isn’t necessarily business as usual is that these companies are often hiring right now, realizing that they can get good employees looking for a solid business.

I don’t believe capitalism always selects the best businesses to succeed (even though I still think it is the best system). There are obviously a lot of factors there. But I think, at least in this case, a lot of the companies being plunked in mergers and pennies-on-the-dollar acquisitions were weaker companies that weren’t well positioned to begin with.

For companies that have either failed or been merged or acquired, the unemployment rate had nothing to do with that and won’t have anything to do with it. Ever. So stop fretting it and make your impact the most important one: your job, your business and your life.

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The Glass Ceiling Is Getting Thicker


I consider myself a refugee. You see, I once thought the glass ceiling didn’t exist.

At least, it didn’t anymore. How could it? There were different genders, races and religions at every level in American business. We were dealing with a labor shortage too so even if companies wanted to be picky, they couldn’t afford to do it. They needed skilled people at all levels and increasingly, those were coming outside of the once prototypical business person (white, male…you know, also known as me). Good thing too since I believe that competition is the essence of success.

Now I haven’t been too political on my blog but people that follow me closely probably think I lean conservative (of the freer market, smaller government variety). Luckily I have friends and colleagues who are all over the map. Living in Portland will do that to you.

So it surprised a couple people I know when I started arguing that the biggest impact that the recession will have is that the glass ceiling will not only still be there but it will be thicker then it has been in the past decade. It also surprised people in some of the HR circles I run so I absolutely had to post my argument.

Forget The Boomers And The Gen Y’ers

When layoff time comes, HR focuses on young versus old. I can understand it some, there are some pretty significant laws that protect older workers including the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and a crapload of other state laws to take into account too. Also, it seems that some are either celebrating that Gen Y will be brought down to Earth by layoffs or that they will succeed beyond all possible odds. Cue the Rocky soundtrack. Wait, that doesn’t really work for most of Gen Y.

Anyway, who cares about Gen Y? I speak to this point as a Gen Y’er. We’ll probably get cut at a disproportionate rate but most of us can afford to take the cut. With decades until retirement, no college aged children, very few of us with other commitments such as houses and deferments available on student loan balances, we’ll be fine.

Boomers will be protected by over-zealous HR departments who will always give a person 40 or over the edge in a department (instead of considering them as equals). And if they are wrongly termed, they have many more options and technicalities they can get judgments on than those under 40 can.

Race And Sex: This Isn’t NASCAR

Wait, NASCAR is sexy? That’s probably another topic…

When layoffs started hitting hard, a story was run about males being disproportionately impacted by layoffs. Glass ceiling deniers or apologists pointed and said “See! See!” The only problem, most of the positions men were losing positions at were blue collar manufacturing and construction jobs. Throw in s0me investment bankers too. Couple that with the fact that gains within the female population were typically in service related positions such as health care and you don’t have a great argument that the glass ceiling is gone.

Another one is that the election of Barack Obama is a sign that all is well and the glass ceiling is broken. Certainly Obama’s run has inspired millions of people and given them hope (excuse my co-opting of his campaign slogan). Unfortunately hope and inspiration doesn’t overcome some hard truths:

  • If you have a senior manager with 25 years of experience, I can bet money on the race and sex of that person. If Vegas had that as a game, they would be broke.
  • During layoffs, if it is a choice between the person with 10 years of experience and 25 years of experience, I can also bet on who is going to get laid off.
  • That person is going to find it much more difficult to find a job in this rough economy which means they might settle for a lower position.
  • That person with 5–10 years of experience is much more likely to be non-white and/or non-male then the person with 25 years of experience meaning it is still more difficult to move up.

Getting Over The White Male Guilt

Even if all conditions for all races and sexes are equal today (which isn’t probably the case), the fact that they haven’t been equal in the past and that inequity gap was wider in the past gives non-whites and non-males a distinct disadvantage. In a recession, those disadvantages become more apparent.

So what’s the solution? What’s the white guy going to do?

I don’t know the solution. I think many of the solutions (and lack of solutions) presented are problematic in their own right and that the only solution that has really worked consistently is time. Time for people to gain experience so there isn’t that gap in past experience. Time for people to accept others as well as some protection while we are still trying.

I’ve stopped being guilty about it though. The true need here is for recognition, understanding and ultimately action.

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Use HR To Stop Corporate Spin

I don’t know if you’ve heard but we’ve got something going on here called a recession. I think I may have heard about it during a football game where, during a break in action, that quirky fellow who makes all the jokes alluded to it. Something about stock portfolios, credit crunching and mortgage collapses? Is any of this sounding familiar?

Well, I certainly hope so. You haven’t been able to go anywhere without hearing about it.

In the corporate world, it is the silent scream that everyone is vocalizing everyday. If you come out of a meeting with top management brass, you get asked “So, how did that go?” Or maybe, “What’s up with the top dogs?” All silently and secretly asking you to tell them everything is going to be okay, everything will be just fine. Don’t you worry guys, we are going to be good.

In economic times like these, it can be extremely difficult to come out of these meetings with that message. And my message is simple…

Don’t Spin The News (Good Or Bad)

The easiest way in the world to answer those questions is to say it was no big deal, everything is fine right now and to get back to work.

Stop that.

When people hear that, they come to their own conclusions. Some of it will be based on your reputation and how honest you’ve been before but most of it will be based on the fact that they want to digest what could possibly happen.

The best possible thing you can do in all situations (good or bad) is to be a transparent as possible. Transparent to the point of discomfort. It is something I have been a strong advocate of since I started in HR.

HR really needs to be on the leading edge of killing corporate spinsters and letting the leaders of the company speak plainly and clearly about the challenges facing the business. Unfortunately, HR often wants to let managers off the hook by allowing cop-out words such as “changes” in the place of “layoffs” or “considerable” in the place of “serious.” Worse, they may want to get their hands on the memo or outline and legalese the crap out of it. I couldn’t think of a worse thing to do.

Reasons To Not Be Transparent Usually Suck

I know you are all used to super professional language on this blog so I pulled out the suck word to demonstrate how absolutely foolish most of the reasoning behind not being transparent:

  1. You’re protecting your employees — You’re not protecting anyone. People are already talking about it and the one’s who aren’t either don’t matter, don’t care or are in denial.
  2. You don’t want to lose productivity -Do you not think that you are already allowing productivity to go down thanks to rumor taking over your employment base?
  3. That wouldn’t work here — Have you asked your employees how many of them want to be kept in the dark about issues surrounding your business?
  4. People could use the information against us — So are they not using the rumors they have against you currently? If an employee is going to trash you, wouldn’t you rather it be the truth?
  5. We may say something stupid — And? You are trying to communicate to employees and do the right thing. Your employees will give you a break. Get over it!

In most instances, the reason to not be transparent is to protect the leader or manager from something that is uncomfortable for them.

In Short, Create Reasonable Expectations

When you spin news and reality looks different, people stop trusting you and assume you’re spinning everything. You’ve heard the story of the boy that cried wolf? How about the story about the CEO that cried “We’re doing great”?

If you’re doing great, say it. If you’re not doing great, say it. Let your employees understand the big picture. Let them help you achieve your big picture goals.

When you talk honestly, without spin, your employees will know it. Don’t do it. And if you are in HR, you should be on the front lines of stopping this.

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Stop Being What You Were And Start Becoming What You Are

When it comes to a motivational speeches, I often fall short. It may stem from a personal belief that motivational speeches are good for one time, short time lapse events. My philosophy has always been to persist, adapt and move forward every single day in some small way instead of trying to take giant leaps forward on rare occasions. That works but sometimes people need a little pick me up. So this is as close to motivational as I will get.

Starting My Movie Speech Right (3, 2, 1…) Now

January 1st is a great time for people to look back and reflect on the past year, right. I could have made a long post all about how much I accomplished this year and how this was the best year everâ„¢!

It wouldn’t have been true but it would have sounded nice. Professionally, I moved on from one of the best jobs I’ve had to one of the most challenging and difficult positions in my career. I made significantly more money than the previous year but more of it was eaten up courtesy of medical bills. I started a different website, merged with a social network but I am anxious to take it up a notch and deliver something with more “pow.”

People who had a great year want to do a 2008 year in review of their life because things were awesome. People who had a crappy year want to look forward to 2009 and hope that the things that sucked in 2008 will no longer be there. The people who have great perspective will talk about where they are now (only in slight relation to the past or future). Why do I think that’s great perspective?

January 1st Is Just A Date

People who get it know that the present is the most important state. So whether you evaluate your life on January 1st or May 12th or September 23rd, you still have to do something about it. The problem is if you are only evaluating where you are once a year, you aren’t getting a full year’s perspective and you don’t have much experience in adjusting yourself incrementally.

January 1st is another day. It isn’t a new beginning any more than any other day is. If you fail on your new year’s resolution on January 2nd, start again on the 3rd. When you fail again, start again. You are always one year away from being one year into your resolution.

Your goals and resolutions are destined to fail. Over and over again. If you can’t stand failing consistently day after day, forget about a new year’s resolution.

Don’t Resolve To Do It, Just Do It

I drive past Nike World Headquarters nearly every day and their slogan is “Just Do It.” You aren’t yesterday and you aren’t tomorrow. You are today. What you are doing right now? That’s you. And if you don’t like waking up to the you of today every morning, then it doesn’t matter if it is January 1st, May 14th, June 22nd, September 3rd, or any other date. The you of tomorrow can’t do anything because there is always tomorrow (with only one exception). The you of yesterday can’t help because time travel is fictional no matter how many times you watch Back to the Future.

Unfortunately, the you of the present has to take care of business. And the only way that person can take care of business is if you do like Nike suggests. Take your lumps, failures and set backs and keep doing it.

Why Do You Care Ghost of New Year’s Past, Present and Future?

Is this turning into a New Year’s version of A Christmas Carol? Fine, I’ll get to it. Every year, people I come into contact from all walks of life want to change something about their life. Many of those changes revolve around their career. Some want a career change, a promotion, a lateral move, a raise, whatever… Nine times out of ten? Failure.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Every day is your January 1st. It is going to be a new challenge every day. Simply acknowledging that it is going to be an on-going process and you are going to fail often and spectacularly along the way of reaching your 2009 goals and resolutions is a difficult mental transition. And if you are still reading at this point, I have to acknowledge the fact that most of you who agree with this advice won’t change your thinking starting January 1st.

There are no quick take aways here other than the fact that I am annoyed by New Year’s resolutions and I want people to cut it out. If you aren’t making goals consistently throughout the year and if you aren’t taking the temperature of them along the way, you’re not only going to fail (which isn’t bad), you’ll also never progress.

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Why You Hate HR And How To Fix It


The US election is thankfully coming to a close. Is there anyone who is disappointed that it is ending out there? Anybody wish there were more attack ads, lies and deception to keep the great Republic running? Maybe the media wishes there were a few more weeks but I think everybody else has had enough.

Is this the best way to pick a leader? If you subscribe to the maxim that leaders can only be as good as those who pick them, how does this perverted process help us make the best decision? And when a good portion of the population is always dissatisfied with the process and choices, how do we move forward?

HR and the Failure of Leadership

I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking: “This somehow relates to HR (or at least Lance thinks it does).”

Of course it relates to HR!

When I was reading a blog post on BNET about “Why Everyone Still Hates HR” (thanks to the many of you who sent it) and it references the source of many angry HR rants “Why We Hate HR”, I continue to think that these people get the HR department they deserve. It is truly a failure of leadership (from ownership on down) when HR departments don’t execute.

Oh yay. I am trying to blame someone else, right? Not my fault, right? Not exactly.

Why Do We Treat HR Differently?

Imagine if your sales department was constantly under-performing. Other departments complained about its performance and thought it was really an anchor on the company’s success. Not only that, imagine that the sales department was more concerned with marketing the product rather than selling it. So they went to trade shows and instead of trying to line up sales, they concerned themselves more with branding and putting on a positive image. In fact, when a potential customer came up and said they were interested in ordering, they said they couldn’t do that there.

Quick quiz: If you are in the C-suite overseeing that department, what do you do?

  1. Meh, that’s just how sales is! You’ll just have to deal with the poor results.
  2. Have a meeting to talk about what could be improved but never do anything about it.
  3. Hold sales accountable but never tell them exactly what they are being held accountable for.
  4. Fire the head of sales but replace them with a person that shares their philosophy.
  5. You realize that your sales department is under or wrongly trained but it just isn’t in the budget to fix it.
  6. You get new leadership, retrain your sales department to actually sell, let go those who are incapable and hold them accountable on their critical metrics.

What sort of insane person would not do number six? What if the response to the problems in sales were any of the first five? Could you imagine a company being in business for that long if nothing was ever done about the situation?

So why do we hate HR? If you are a rank and file employee, it is because their incompetence and organizational value is never addressed by the leaders of the company. If you are an executive, you hate HR because you have no idea how to fix it and make it better. And fixing it is fairly easy if you look at HR and expect the same things as you do from every other department.

The Scapegoat for Poor Leadership

It is sort of like how everyone bangs on the President or Congress but never changes their own behavior to fix the issues. If you consider that the American people are the owners of our country (and we are essentially shareholders), we become frustrated because we can’t figure out a way to get better leaders. So while there are a million posts stating things like “How did we get these choices?” or “I wish our Congress would do something for once” or “Why can’t our government be more pro-active?” there are very few posts on “How we can get better choices” or “How to get your Congressman to vote the way you want” or “How do we elect leaders that will see our problems before they hit us smack in the face?”

When you respond to attack ads and lies by doing the same thing at every election and never expecting much from the government because “that’s just how they are”, you aren’t much better than the executives who continue to allow HR to underperform and never expect more than what they delivered yesterday.

Sure, HR and our elected officials may be incompetent. Guess who picked them though? Guess who allows them to be incompetent?

My guess is that it is easier to pass blame than to take responsibility for your part.

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Good Leadership is Stupid Easy

When I was a kid, I used to play basketball all of the time. When you live in the Northwestern US, there were only two sports your could really play year round: basketball and soccer. For a good nine months, you could depend on rain interrupting your sport regularly and basketball was one where there were a lot of covered or indoor facilities available. I never could get into soccer as I had big clumsy feet that couldn’t direct a ball. Of course, my big clumsy feet hurt my basketball play as well but at least I could compensate with my hands.

When I was playing basketball, I used to say “stupid easy” all of the time. It refers to a task that should be so incredibly easy, you can do it in your sleep, after a few sips of an adult beverage … anything. A layup, a free throw and really any shot within 10 feet of the basket should be stupid easy if you’ve played basketball regularly. It is all about repetition and muscle memory.

That’s why when Nick McCormick sent me his book Lead Well and Prosper, I was so happy to see its size. It is a short 96 pages so I read through it twice. The first time I went through it, I did what I do for most of the books I read: focus on covering a lot of ground, skipping sections that are obvious or redundant. That took me about a half an hour. The next night, I read through it word for word and it took me about an hour.

The first thing you should know about this book is that it is a teaching book. The underlying message is that this book gives you advice on how to handle much of the tactical, day to day processes of being a manager. You may be tempted to note or highlight in the book. Please do! That’s what paper was made for after all.

The more implicit point is that good leadership is stupid easy. Anyone can learn the skills necessary to be a good leader in their organization. If a book that is 96 pages and holds your hand through the process doesn’t convince you that you too can be a good leader, I don’t know what will. This book could easily be used as a leadership training manual.

You’ll also notice that I am differentiating between good and great leadership. We have a shortage of good leaders in Corporate America. While our great leaders are often visionary, there is a dramatic drop off from that. I believe being a good leader is stupid easy and that people only need a few pieces, repetition and memory. It is a path that nearly anyone can take.

If I had to pull my favorite pieces of advice out of Nick’s book, I would take the following:

Listen — A skill that must be practiced, repeated and constantly checked. It isn’t difficult, it just takes time to form the habit.

Do What You Say You’ll Do — If you say you’re going to do something, execute. Don’t overbook yourself as it is better to say no at the front than when it is needed.

Embrace the Uncomfortable — Problem employee? Boss who throws everything out of whack? You have to be willing to take care of these things head on.

For the other 12, you can check out the book. We’ll also be doing a contest over at HRM Today to give away a few of these books too so stay tuned.