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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. Or Hire Richard to speak for your next conference or leadership meeting.

Convention season is in full swing, and if the groups I've been invited to speak for are any indication, one of THE heaviest concerns weighing on the minds of employers almost everywhere is this: Where, and how, am I going to find enough qualified people to grow our business? (Or in some cases, just to maintain the status quo...)

One association member, in a pre-event phone call with me, was pretty succinct: "The people who are applying...aren't qualified. And the ones we want...they already have jobs. It's not easy."

Of course it's not easy. And with unemployment running at historically low levels, and with many (as in MANY) of the most talented people opting out of the traditional workforce to do (quite successfully, thank you), their own thing, it's not going to get any easier.

And yet, some employers ARE able to find, retain, and engage the best. If you're not one of them, there are probably some reasons.

And so, with apologies to comedian Jeff Foxworthy of "You might be a Redneck if" fame ("You might be a Redneck if...you have ever financed a tatoo"), I'd like to offer some possible explanations as to why you, and/or your organization, might be struggling to get the best people to come and work for you:

You might be struggling to find and keep good people if...

  • You're longing for the good old days when your applicants were born between 1946 and 1964. This just in: They're not making any more Baby Boomers! Production on that model has shut down. While more experienced workers are a tremendous (and too often overlooked) resource (see our post on this), the truth is you're going to need to stop whining about Millennials (and the generations yet to come) and figure out how to create an organization that gets the most productivity from the available resources. Some of your competitors have. So get with it.
  • You value attendance over performance. If you're going to ask people to account for every minute they're "in the office" (wherever that is anymore), rather than prioritizing getting the job done, they're going to ask you to pay them for answering that text you sent them at 10pm. Just use your head. You can't have it both ways.
  • You're running a boys club. Over the last 30 years, companies have spent billions on diversity and inclusion training, and we're still having to talk about this. It's not just about whom you're hiring and promoting. Face it. If your culture doesn't work as well for women as it does for men, you're cutting off about 50% of your air supply. You'll never be able to compete effectively against companies who listen to input from everyone, not just the guys in the room.
  • You're relying too much on technology, algorithms, and keyword screening to do the hard work of populating your workplace with talented, committed people. Read the damn resumes. It's your job.
  • You're giving too much consideration to specific experience and narrowly defined skills, and not enough to the question, "Is this person a good match for our organization and this team?" Be honest. How many times have you hired someone for skills and experience, but then they left (voluntarily or otherwise) because they simply weren't a good fit?
  • Your website is pathetic. The "careers" section anyway. At most, it lists job openings, rather than doing what it should do - helping to create your employer brand, and giving potential stars a look inside your workplace. Oh, and if your website tells people not to submit unsolicited resumes, and you're still complaining that you can't find good people, you might be beyond help.
  • You are in denial about your Glassdoor ratings and reviews. You've bought into the myth that because some of your reviews are unjustified, nobody puts any credence in these reviews. In which case, you would be wrong.
  • You fail, on a regular basis, to tell the people you work with how much you appreciate them and what they do.
  • And finally, you MIGHT be struggling to find and keep good people because people just don't want to work for you. You've confused high standards with being obnoxious. Find someone you trust - someone who has the courage and character to tell you what you need to know, but may not want to hear.

If you ARE having trouble finding and keeping good people, and could use an objective look at your organization, get in touch. We have lots of ways to help.

January 25, 2018

"Wad some Power the giftie gie us,

To see oursels as ithers see us,

It wad frae mony a blunder free us..."

OK, so if you don't speak Scots, you might need a little help with that. What Scottish poet Robert Burns, whose 259th birthday is being celebrated today by Scots and their descendants around the world*, was telling us is:

Wouldn't it be great if some Power would give us the gift of being able to see ourselves the way others do? It would sure save us from a lot of blunders.

In fact, we already have that gift: Self-Awareness. Although most people seem to have returned the gift to the store, or perhaps not yet opened the package. They barely recognize themselves in a mirror. The particularly pernicious nature of hardcore lack of self-awareness is, by definition, self-reinforcing, and therefore self-defeating, as was pointed out in a Facebook post I saw recently (by a guy who thinks he's funny):

self awareness

 

Some, though, either naturally, or by paying attention to feedback from others, have a pretty clear idea of how they come across. These people, according to Tasha Eurick, author of the 2017 book Insight, account for only about 15% of those she studied. And yet, according to Eurick, those who are more self-aware tend to perform better at work, get more promotions, and lead more effectively. And companies with more self-aware professionals perform better financially.

Imagine that...

In 25 years of observing people in successful... and more blunderous organizations, I've known and observed a few keenly self-aware people (Dr. Eurick is probably pretty close with her 15% assessment). Based on what I've seen, here are some prescriptive ideas for those who want to develop their self-awareness:

There's No Hacking Leadership

One of my new least favorite words (along with “handcrafted” and “curated”, but that’s another post altogether) is the word “hack”. Not in the old sense of a taxi driver (remember taxis?), or even the newer sense of criminals who steal our online stuff. Or the even newer meaning, as in the Russians, and the, well, you know…

I mean hack, as in shortcut. How to make the inherently difficult easy. Or as one online source put it “A quick job that appears to produce what’s needed, but not well.” (By the way, that’s not real research. It was just a hack.)

I’m hearing it all the time. Ten hacks to make better coffee. How to hack your abs workout. Conversational Spanish hacking (which is a good way to say the wrong thing in the streets of Buenos Aires. I speak from experience.) Even Dr. Oz touting health and nutrition hacks.

Well guess what. When it comes to Leadership, there are no hacks.

And yet, in a day and age when leadership development at work is more likely than ever to be a do-it-yourself job, we’re seeing more and more people in leadership positions failing to do actual leadership.

Huddles or Hurdles? It's Your Choice
By Richard Hadden and Bill Catlette

Let's start with some locker room talk. No, not that kind...

This morning, at the Y, I overheard a conversation between two guys who were, like most of the rest of us, getting dressed and groomed in preparation for a day at the office. Guy Number One observed aloud that Guy Number Two seemed to be moving pretty fast, to which Two replied, "Yeah, I have to be in early today. We're having one of our 'huddles'," the latter word being punctuated by both air quotes and an unmistakable eye roll. "Or, as I call them," he said, 'hurdles'. My boss is on this new kick. It's total BS. What a waste of time."

Wow. Huddles. Hurdles. Pretty clever, I thought. But sad.

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.

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.)

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.

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.

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. 

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