You, Me and Your Top Three Podcast Interview

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I recently had the chance to be interviewed for an episode on the You, Me, and Your Top Three podcast by CGS Advisors CEO, Gregg Garrett. We talk about transformation techniques and discuss the major disruptions taking over the HR and mobility industries.

“Brandon’s ‘Top Three’ gives us a glimpse into the origins of his “do something” attitude  – from his dad who instilled his inner drive, to his church community who helped him keep grounded in the ‘why’, to his c-level coworkers who let him fill the whitespace that he desperately needed. And you have to hear what Brandon has to say about how you have to learn to lean into relationships to drive forward and to lead.”

The Rest of the Meeting

pexels-photo-260689.jpegFor many of us, being invited to contribute more broadly to leading a business, at times beyond our domain expertise, is the greatest compliment we can receive in our work. I lead a global function within an organization and contribute to several cross-functional leadership teams that manage the business. I work with a team of others that do the same – lead a part and contribute to the whole. What this typically equates to is that in a given 2-hour team meeting, 10 minutes will be planned for review of the KPIs, updates and decisions that need to be taken for my part. It is important to be well prepared to effectively manage your part of the agenda, but it’s been my experience that this time is usually cut in half through the normal course of the meeting. Or, if you’re allocated more time, it’s not because it’s going really well. The most effective colleagues I have worked with over the years adapt to accomplish their objectives AND actively contribute to the rest of the meeting.

Being able to accomplish your objectives in this normal course of business should be anticipated and is a team member’s responsibility. If it’s our meeting then we are accountable for the whole agenda. How we engage in the rest of the meeting can be analogous to how we operate within the organization. We can just show up, we can only focus on our tasks and lament when our agenda isn’t granted priority over others, or we can view ourselves as a member of the team accountable for the whole agenda and make a difference in the rest of the meeting. Having the perspective and preparation to succeed in the rest of the meeting can be developed in both process and content.

To be effective in the process, we have to develop our perspective and skills. Our perspective (i.e., attitudes or paradigm) on the team, our role on the team and our individual and shared objectives informs what we endeavor to do. We also have to be skilled in our preparation and interactions to show up on the job beyond intentions.

Here are a few resources I’ve found helpful:

As we learn the various facets of the work of the team and the relationships and dependencies that exist between them, the content (i.e., business acumen) of the team’s work can be the most daunting gap to bridge. When transitioning to a new role, the content is new and you will have a lot of questions. One example to illustrate this is in how a company manages finished goods inventory. In order to contribute to the rest of the meeting for a team that has to manage finished goods inventory effectively, the questions you have to understand include:

  • Why is it important? What happens if we have too much? What happens if we have too little?
  • Where does it come from? Is it sourced or made internally? What are the lead-times to receive more? What is the capacity of the supplying producer?
  • What causes or triggers it to be sourced?
  • How do we pay for it? How do we get paid for it?
  • If we have too much and need to reduce, do we have the right commercial team to increase consumption and what does that do to our production workforce and for how long?
  • If we have too little, do we have the right talent in the right quantity to ramp up?

Beyond the perspective and skills to effectively contribute to the rest of the meeting, we need to understand the content of the meeting.  Curiosity is the key. Do not believe enduring ignorance will go unnoticed. By noting what you do not understand to research and seek mentoring from your colleagues to better understand their part of the business, you can both improve your knowledge and build your relationships.

It’s a choice. You can fixate on your part of the agenda and hope the space you’re given fulfills your expectations or you can take accountability to contribute to the rest of the meeting and make a difference.

Is Employee Experience Talent Management’s Ziggy Stardust?

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photo credit: revolveribiza

I recently came across an interesting article touting the death of Talent Management. The concise introduction to the growing focus on Employee Experience was thought provoking. Unlike the attention seeking headlines about performance management being dead we too often read of these days, I think the shift to Employee Experience is a legitimate and productive application of human-centered design to employment.

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Today, the demand for skilled talent outpaces the supply of capable employees in a growing number of areas. Many of the terms of the employment contract desired by job seekers have also changed or at least have become much more variable (e.g., by generation). Some organizations have shown the agility to respond to this consumerization of employment, while many others, particularly slow changing organizations in industrial and highly regulated industries, are struggling to accept that the change is even necessary.

In 2014, HBR printed Ram Charan‘s proposal that it’s time to split HR into two groups – HR Administration (HR-A) and HR Leadership & Organization (HR-LO) with HR-A reporting to the CFO and HR-LO reporting to the CEO to focus on improving the people capabilities of the business. Dave Ulrich is known globally for helping the HR profession develop the capabilities and structures needed by their changing organizations and environments. While few argue that the field of Human Resources is changing and requiring innovation to compete, the reality is that making the right changes fast enough is difficult.

Ziggy Stardust was a short-lived persona adopted by David Bowie that allowed him to explore, then taboo, topics in his art. As Ziggy, he was able to venture into territory where David would never have been heard. Similarly, Employee Experience is an outcome to focus on much more accessible than many of the topics organizations have to face to consistently produce great employee experiences and compete for talent. Employee Experience has the potential to enable successful changes aligned to a common interest. Much like focusing your operations on value streams or your marketing and technology teams on user experience (UX), integrated strategies to optimize Employee Experience could enable organizations to make bold moves where current functional strategies such as Talent Acquisition, Talent Development, Talent Management, Total Rewards, etc. will fall short.

Employee Experience has the potential to be what Edgar Schein calls a cultural island. To overcome the subcultural issues that he credits as the real problem in many organizations hindering their ability to make needed changes. A cultural island is a happening where the norms, rules, interests and virtues of a culture can be suspended to try something new because the environment is exceptional enough to allow for it.

I have begun to think about this notion of cultural islands. Where can you actually get multicultural units into a talking relationship with each other so that they can begin to explore their common ground? It is not going to happen in the daily work scene. I think that we have to create cultural islands to allow that kind of communication to occur.  ~ Edgar Schein

Talent Management is not dead. To the contrary, there is a deficit of competent expertise available to help organizations grow and develop. Employee Experience is a useful concept to most organizations that can help overcome current circumstances and the energy that goes into keeping your organization as it is. Even if, like Ziggy Stardust, the useful life of Employee Experience is short, it has the potential to make a significant difference mobilizing management teams in alignment to a shared priority.

 

The Rest of The Story – Performance Management Jobs to Be Done

  
I don’t document a formal budget or balance a checkbook. I accept there’s risk and potential benefits I’m leaving on the table, but the return doesn’t merit the investment for me, personally. And, I have other habits that ensure things are within control and that the jobs of a budget and checkbook get done. 

Accenture is making news lately by abolishing performance reviews. No judgment there, but it’s only part of the story. I’m sure there is a countermeasure for how the organization ensures people are aligned at scale (e.g., how strategy is broken down to individual goals, actuals vs. planned are reviewed and responded to, feedback is provided and lessons learned about strengths to extend and things to change are identified, accountability and recognition/rewards are dealt to reinforce behavior). Is it responsible to make all this noise without ever discussing how the purpose and outcomes of performance management are being accomplished? I am, though, intrigued to learn what they’re changing to and how it accomplishes the jobs to be done. 

Many of you are thinking,
“…we have reviews and don’t accomplish any of these things”

…Or, “that’s not why we have reviews.”

If you’re cheering for reviews to be abolished it’s likely because you view them as illegitimate. You manage to cope and don’t see the point…for your team. However, as someone who has gone into a few companies that didn’t have performance management, I can tell you this wasn’t terribly functional or effective either. And, the people didn’t like it…because the jobs weren’t getting done. 

Where’s the rest of the story?

The Dojo is now closed

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I received this text recently…”the dojo is now closed.” It was sad – a moment of silence type of experience where you recognize something that mattered is no more. I led a team of four Organization Development Specialists, three grew up in the organization in various operations roles before taking to facilitating learning and planned change; the fourth an exceptionally eccentric trades expert from the area, but new to the organization. In the weeks after I joined the company and the team’s formation, they were being moved out of our beautiful new corporate HQ to an empty room in a nearby engineering building. The day they moved in, I was there with them when I had the idea that what we needed was a meeting table in the room and a white board. We would have our team meetings right here; no tracking to a HQ conference room. They were no longer run out of corporate. We were given a sanctuary. Much fun and great work came out of what we affectionately called The Dojo.

I was very proud of this place. I spent time there pretty much everyday though my desk was in the HQ nearby. This was the best work environment I’ve ever worked in. Not because it hosted perfect people, Google like design, or progressive HR policies. We had an engaged team, each member learning and making the greatest contributions of their careers. Within six or seven months of this team being organized and me being brought in to lead it, in addition to our core accountabilities, there seemed to be no initiative happening in our organization that we weren’t needed to contribute to in some way. Additionally, we were meeting with and coaching every Manager, Director and VP in our customer group on a monthly or quarterly basis.

After two-years, I decided to leave the organization for completely personal reasons – to move my family home where my wife and I could raise our kids to know their grandparents, extended family, friends and church. Unfortunately, the magic of the dojo faded quickly. The team members have each moved on now, better from the time they spent together in this place and now using their talents to further other organizations. Who we hire, promote and recognize…who we entrust the duty of leading our talent…This experience was a very personal example for each of us on how the acts of the local leader can enable something remarkable to develop or tear it down. I’m thankful and better off for the years in the dojo.

Talking Talent Reviews: repost of Interview with Cornerstone OnDemand

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I recently had the opportunity to speak with Chris Stewart from Cornerstone On Demand about how I have helped a company implement talent reviews as the capstone of their annual talent management process. See more here:

Reblog: from August 25, 2014 CSOD Q&A on Talent Reviews

Hiring internally is a cost and time-effective way to recruit, yet many companies fail to move employees through the organization. We spoke with Brandon Curry, director of global talent management at Federal-Mogul Holdings Corporation, about the approach his company has begun utilizing to make career succession and development planning more integrated with business management, rather than a stand-alone HR task. As a result, the company has seen more internal hires and a greater focus on developing employees to follow their ideal career path. Here, Curry shares his insights on how the company changed its talent processes and several tips for companies looking to do the same.

How does your company approach talent reviews?

We’ve adopted leadership team-based reviews, so the decisions that are made become the leadership team’s decision. Our bottom up approach drives a level of ownership, accountability and visibility to an individual manager’s peers and their manager around how are they doing at managing their talent. 

Many organizations identify succession candidates solely based on managers’ ratings of employees’ performance and some competencies identified as HR’s criteria. In these cases, the leaders may have some confidence in the criteria because they trust the criteria concepts, but if it’s not a team decision, then they don’t necessarily all feel accountable for the decision. What we’re trying to do is bring the best of both perspectives together, where we have strong criteria and a strong process that engages the leadership teams. The goal is to ensure that when people are broadened to new roles and are onboarded into the organization, that they have support from their peers and their leader for continued development. The process also brings out quality developmental feedback on how individuals are impacting the organization and reveals areas where we lack the bench-strength desired to execute and grow in the future.

What was the process like before it became team-driven?

In the past it wasn’t nearly as inclusive. Previously, leaders from the top two levels of the organization prepared a succession report as an HR process, and each business or functional leader reviewed it with the CEO, HR leader and me. There wasn’t much visibility on who were the key talents across groups and we lacked the diverse perspectives and options for how to deploy talent. As a result of that, it reinforced silos, and we didn’t have many cross-moves for development purposes.

What results have you seen from the new succession planning process?

We now have a broader talent pool, and the talent in the organization sees more opportunity because they see more people moving across the organization. We’re able to identify better leads internally before we look outside. When a position becomes open in the organization, employees are able to search for opportunities in the system. We also receive requests from hiring managers and HR Managers to search internally such as, “We have this number of candidates identified as successors, who else do you have in mind?” We’re able to go into the system and do searches based on career preferences — who has identified that role as their next logical position and, based on succession plans, who is ready to move into that role.

We’re also seeing improved development planning because of increased visibility. If an employee has a development gap for a planned career change, it’s much more visible now because we have this series of discussions during which managers have to present this information to their peers and their manager.

Talent Management is clearly a priority for our leaders as they have a growing demand for resources to operate and grow their businesses. As the process becomes more socialized within the organization, it will become more of a cultural element and less of a tool. Succession planning and talent management is now considered a legitimate business conversation.

What advice do you have for companies that are having trouble making talent management part of the business discussion?

Start with the end in mind and think about basic objectives. At Federal-Mogul, we want critical positions to be filled internally and that drives a lot of our development action. Too often, in the past, we identified a need too late with not enough time to develop an internal candidate, requiring us to hire someone from the outside. This can cause resentment from employees who are not developed and given the opportunity and, ultimately, may leave the company. That’s a major objective of our process: that we’re good stewards of our talent.

Another piece of advice is to keep it simple. We have made leadership team-based reviews a recurring event on the calendar, so it’s integrated with our business process of budgeting, business planning and quarterly reviews.

Finally, make your leaders the owners. We enable line managers to take ownership, accountable for doing the work and presenting it, and human resources is supportive by providing them counsel, tools and resources. Previously, HR performed this function for or to the organization; now business leaders own it and HR facilitates this process.

Fundamentals: One-on-one meetings

partnershipLeadership is socially demanding. Interaction with those you lead (and hopefully serve) is necessary. I’ve found that it is very unlikely that we as leaders will consistently behave as we wish to – recognizing, coaching, supporting, developing, empowering and engaging…more – without creating some type of structural space/time and process to enable it. A practice that I use and recommend is creating a norm around meeting with each member of your team for one-on-one discussions to focus on their personal learning and performance.
Commit to meeting with each of your direct reports on a consistent frequency. For me, the minimum is 30 minutes bi-weekly. It’s their meeting, so I ask them to schedule the time in open space on my calendar at a time that works for them, booking 3 – 6 months into the future. I’m available for more if they want or need it. Our meetings do get moved as needed, but very rarely cancelled.
I require a written update around a loosely structured agenda built around roles I want to play as their leader:
  • to provide recognition – My Accomplishments (what have you accomplished since we met last?)
  • to serve their needs and support them – My Needs (what can I do that will be helpful to you?)
  • to build trusting relationships – FYI’s (no action needed updates), My Team (skip-level updates)
  • to engage and develop – My Development (what have you planned or accomplished to learn, experience and connect to develop yourself?)
  • to coach and empower performance – My Project Updates (what’s the status / how are you planning to progress?)
The purpose of the written update sent in advance is it allows us to make better use of our time together discussing and responding to the situation rather than using our limited time describing it.
Feedback I’ve received on the process:
  • I get a sense of satisfaction reporting my progress and it forces me to acknowledge ownership of my work.
  • Conversely, knowing the time is coming where I will report on my status and what has been accomplished (or not) also motivates me; I want to avoid having nothing to report but excuses.
  • I like having the consistency. It’s easier to get my needs met without feeling I need to “interrupt” as often.

I’ve provided the same update to my bosses over the years and the process makes me better. One thing that is certain is that if I, as the leader, didn’t set the expectation and require the process, entropy would set in; preparation and the good use of our time would end and I’d likely have what most others do with their time.

Committing to this structure and process makes me a better leader and my team members better performers. It also scales really nicely for those of us that manage global, remote or virtual teams.
If you decide to give it a try, let me know how it works for you.

Choose Service

When King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king of Israel. The people of his kingdom appealed for some relief from the heavy requirements  of them. The new king sought council of two groups, his wise elders and his peers. His elders told him if you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will respond in kind. His peers advised teach them a lesson and make your power known by telling them they have had it good and your requirements are much higher, like scorpions even.

I see plenty of evidence that leaders continue to seek similar council on how to lead.

While wise and wildly successful organizations like Southwest Airlines signal servant leadership and respected thought leaders like Jim Collins give us Level 5 Leadership, that’s not really how most of us have ever been led (especially when things aren’t going well) or what we see our peer group doing. Sure, it stands rational to align your service-value chain with how you operate and deliver value – leaders serving associates / organization members, who in turn serve external customers, who in turn chose your organization, fulfilling your organizations purpose and delivering value for stakeholders – but that’s not what my peers do. Do you know what they will think and say? And, being served has its perks. I have the power to…

Great leadership is delivered through individual choices to serve. Great organizations don’t exist without aligning leaders at all levels to make the choice to serve.

Choose service. Not to self-actualize and for virtuous altruism alone, but to deliver enduring value and effectiveness.

Speed Kills.

Faster is not always better. Speed chess isn’t great chess. Great isn’t the point. It’s fast. Watch them obsess over the clock…double and triple tapping to be sure.

“If you want to make me twice as smart and helpful, give me 10 minutes notice that we’re going to meet and what about.” This was my plea to a leader I worked with. He would drop in to discuss strategy for important and complex topics on a moments notice. This almost always caught me highly focused on another topic and made it difficult to switch gears and offer the quality of help that I expect of myself. It seemed as though everything was being dealt with as a crisis out of habit and preference rather than necessity and each topic was discussed and planned for individually and not as a system – or at least utilizing the same resources.

Tony Schwartz’s “why don’t we act in our own interest?” brought this all back to me. While the blog is familiar, the synthesis was new. The level of proactivity vs. reactivity that we focus our efforts and resources towards causes us to think differently, ultimately changing the interests (i.e., need or problem) we work to fulfill. We intuitively apply this, but it seems we don’t rationally consider how the time-focus of a planning effort changes how the mind works and impacts outcomes.

…we don’t make a connection between our current behavior and its future consequences. As Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi economist, put it, “Leaders don’t have time for the future because they’re too busy with the present.”

We’re familiar with the fight or flight instincts that are triggered in response to threat. We physiologically become dumber under these circumstances as blood leaves our brain towards our extremities to support the fighting or fleeing activities. I had not, however, considered that such a condition is created when we work on things that are of great urgency and perhaps importance. In my experience, importance becomes less clear with greater urgency and pressure. When we are fixated on short-term interests we make “dumb” decisions relative to our long-term interests. If we do this long-enough, we may not even be clear on what our long-term interests are. When we allow the focus of our efforts to be too urgent, it’s like bad ergonomics – the cumulative effects hurt you over time because you’re doing it wrong. You’re using parts of your brain intended for mere survival.

Time Matrix for prioritization

The good news is while we may “lack vision” or “have no strategy,” it’s likely as much a matter of process and not ability. This isn’t a new idea. It’s FranklinCovey’s Habit 1 – Be Proactive. When we work on things that are important and not urgent, we make better decisions because we literally plan differently and serve greater interests and values. The bad news is the environment always wins.

Do you reward crisis managers more than those who consistently deliver to plan and implement in a way that integrates?

Do you find yourself inflating the level of urgency of tasks (or procrastinating) because, if you’re honest with yourself, you prefer a crisis?

Are you bothered by the ambiguity of the not urgent but fundamentally important?