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Richard Hadden

Richard Hadden

Richard Hadden is an author, speaker, and workplace expert who helps leaders create a better, more profitable place to work. He and Bill Catlette are the authors of the popular Contented Cows leadership book series, and Rebooting Leadership. Learn more about Richard, Bill, and their work at ContentedCows.com.

The Singular "They", and Other Things that Evolve

Richard Hadden

Today's blog post is a video post. If you'd rather read it than watch it, the transcript appears below the video box.

 

 

The longer I live, the more acutely aware I become that we live in an ever evolving world.

For instance, have you heard that the Chicago Manual of Style has just decreed that because the English language evolves, we can now use what’s called "the singular they"? That’s right, we no longer have to say he or she, or him or her, when we can’t or don’t want to specify the gender of the person we’re referring to, or when it doesn’t matter. So I could say “Go find a team member who’s been working exceptionally hard lately, and tell them how much you appreciate them.” I don’t have to say how much you appreciate him or her.

So Language evolves. And so does the world of work.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017 17:02

Speaking Each Other's Language

Speaking Each Other's Language

Richard Hadden


Let's face it. Communicating at work is tough enough when both the speaker and the listener speak the same native language. Add different tongues to the dynamic and, sacré bleu! You’ve just hit a wall, and not the kind that’s proposed for the US’s southern border.

To be clear, language, as well as literacy (the topic of a future post), are essential job skills for almost any work you can imagine. So how can we possibly hope to get the most from people whose language we don’t understand, and who don’t understand us?

I’ve heard the “This is America. If you want to live and work here, you should learn our language!” argument, and in an ideal sense, I agree. People who speak English in the US have an advantage, just as Italian speakers do in Rome. But we can “should” all over ourselves about a lot of things. Or – and this would be my suggestion – we can take competitive action, and in distinguishing ourselves from our rivals, both for customers and for talent, get better business results.

So, whether you think you should or not, here are two things you can do, if you want to increase the engagement of your team members who don’t speak your language: (These specifics assume your work takes place in English - but the concept works for any language.)

Friday, 03 March 2017 14:30

Good Leaders Look Beneath the Surface

Good Leaders Look Beneath the Surface

Richard Hadden

One of the most remarkable people I ever worked with was a bank teller named Donna, at a bank branch I managed early in my career. Donna was a customer magnet. Brilliant. Hard working. Always went the extra mile. She was a single mother, and she’d been a teller for 12 years. I recommended to my boss, one of the bank’s Vice Presidents, that we promote Donna to the management training program. He dismissed the idea, ignoring her talent, and citing instead her rough appearance, lack of formal education, and even what part of town she came from.

Donna’s 12 year career with that bank ended when she was recruited into a very responsible position at a competing bank.

When it Comes to Training, Visibility Matters

Richard Hadden

I was conducting leadership training for a large public utility, in a rural training facility about 100 miles from the company’s headquarters. The Vice President who had brought me in was a full participant in the first class I conducted, and believe me, his presence and participation in the training wasn't lost on anyone.

A few months later, I returned to provide the same program for a different, more junior group. Although the VP had already completed the training, he wanted to put his stamp of support on the program for this group -- even though the event’s timeframe wasn't particularly convenient for him. Despite having an important meeting at headquarters, he thought it was important enough for him to kick off the training session that he took a company helicopter from the main office to the training facility early that morning. There, he delivered a 10-minute message, saying how valuable he felt this training was for everyone there. Afterward, he and a colleague got in a car and drove south to the budget meeting. His validation of the training did as much as anything I did to let people know, this is important. You’ll learn something here, and I want you to use it.

Friday, 24 February 2017 21:43

Why Stars Sometimes Fail as Leaders

Why Stars Sometimes Fail as Leaders

Richard Hadden


A bright and promising software engineer, we’ll call him Jay, had made a real mark on his company, developing and innovating some of the most important products and processes in the organization’s portfolio. One Friday, Jay’s boss called him into his office and told him,  "You’re so good at what you do that we’ve decided to make you a manager in this department! You start on Monday, and you've got all weekend to figure out how to do the job."

Jay soon found himself in a position for which he was ill-suited and even less well-trained. He knew how to do the work, but not how to lead others to do the same. He’d never had any training, or maybe he just wasn’t cut out for this. Whatever the reason, ultimately, he failed. His boss offered to quietly return him to his former position. Nobody needed to know why. But Jay couldn’t do it. He left. He got another job, as a software engineer. But it didn’t have to happen this way.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017 20:26

Discretionary Effort...When the Show Must Go On

Discretionary Effort...When the Show Must Go On

Richard Hadden
Feb. 23, 2017

 

This past Sunday morning at 8:30, Ashley Yarham learned that a key member of her team had called in sick - totally legit -  quarantined with the flu, and would therefore not be at work that day for her 2:00 shift. Not good. 

OK, you say, people call in sick all the time. What's the big deal? 

The big deal is that Ashley, a speech pathologist offstage, is also the director of a musical comedy, "City of Angels", playing at Jacksonville Beach's Players-by-the-Sea Theatre, for a three-week run, with a highly Committed cast and crew of more than 30. The stricken team member is an actor, cast in the dual roles of Donna and Oolie (lead characters), and the 2:00 shift is, in fact, the curtain time for that day's matinee performance to a pretty well-sold house, with plenty of walkups expected, thanks to some rave reviews in the local press. 

This is community theatre. Volunteer work. Understudies are a luxury they don't really have. If you're familiar with this show (which won the Best Musical Tony in 1990), you know that the Donna/Oolie roles call for some challenging acting, dancing, and singing.  With little choice on such short notice, Director Ashley rolled up her sleeves and stepped in to perform the two roles. 

What happened next is a perfect example of what Bill Catlette and I have been talking about for better than a decade now - Discretionary Effort - doing that which we CHOOSE to do, not because we HAVE to, but because we WANT to. 

Friday, 17 February 2017 19:39

Sometimes it's the Little Things

Sometimes, it's the Little Things
 
Richard Hadden
 
When Alejandro Bustamante became president of Plantronics Mexico some years ago, he inherited, among other problems, a dispirited workforce with dysfunctionally high employee turnover. Nobody wanted to work there. Charged with turning around the plant, which makes telephone headsets and other communications gear, Alejandro knew he could do nothing to change the people working in the plant. But what he could do was show respect for each one of them. It was a tough environment. There was fierce competition for labor in the industrial region where they were located. Everybody was looking for qualified workers.
Tuesday, 14 February 2017 15:53

What Do You Mean - Contented Cows?

What Do You Mean - Contented Cows?

Richard Hadden

If you've been following our work over the last 20 years or so, you could skip this post (but please don't). You know what the reference to Contented Cows is all about, and therefore our reason for titling this blog "Daily Dairy". But keep reading. A refresher never hurts.
 
However, if you're new to Contented Cows, and a lot of this blog's visitors are, here's the deal. Contented Cows Give Better Milk. It's established science. In the same way, satisfied, engaged employees give better performances at work. Now - let's hasten to point out that we are not, repeat not, suggesting that people, at work or elsewhere, should be compared to cows. So please, no hate mail bashing us for saying that people are like cows. We just said they're not. But I think you get the connection. And that connection always finds its way to your bottom line. We've written four books to support our thesis. If you want to know more, you can find our books on Amazon, among other places.
The ONE Thing That Builds Employee Engagement More Than Anything Else
 
Richard Hadden
 
A young(ish) audience member came up to me at a conference I was set to speak at last year, and said, (I'm paraphrasing throughout, but not much) "Richard, I've read the conference program, and I see that you're going to be speaking on Employee Engagement later today. What's the one thing - the ONE thing," he emphasized, "that creates this engaged workforce that you talk about? I started a new company last year, and we're growing. I'm having a hard time finding good people, and that's slowing down our growth. I don't want to take forever to figure out how to get them, and how to keep them. And I'm the kind of guy who likes to get straight to the point. So - what's the one thing?"
 
Well, I'm a consultant. You don't think I gave him a direct answer, do you? 
 
"What do you think the one thing is?" I asked, in classic Socratic fashion.
 
"I don't know. That's why I'm asking you" was his reply. Fair enough.
 
After learning that he'd earned a boatload working for one of those fancy-schmancy hi tech companies in Silicon Valley, before getting a patent on a cool new process that I didn't begin to understand, and launching his own startup, I asked him, "So how engaged were you? How "into it" were you at your old company?"
Tuesday, 07 February 2017 16:01

Growing Pains - How Do I Fit In Around Here?

Growing Pains - How Do I Fit in Around Here?

Richard Hadden

"If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don't have to be pushed. The vision pulls you."

- Steve Jobs

 

People involved in the work of any organization, large, small, or somewhere in between, need to know how they fit in with the purpose of the enterprise. This doesn’t get any easier with growth. In small startups, everybody’s doing everything, including taking out the trash, and the customer line of sight is short, and straight.

But as we grow, it’s virtually inevitable that people will begin to lose sight of where they fit in and how their contribution matters.

In the 21 years that Contented Cow Partners has been in business (no, we can’t believe it either), we’ve worked with some companies that grew substantially, by acquisition, organic means, or both, during the time we worked with them. I remember, specifically, one CEO telling me, “When we had 300 employees, and I knew every one of them, it was easy for most of us to make the connection between our work and our customer. Now that we’re twice that size, we have to work four times as hard to keep that connection as strong.”

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