Friday, December 16, 2011

We Survived 2011!

The New Year is approaching quickly.  In approximately two weeks, we will be celebrating 2012.  This year came and went extremely fast.  It went so quickly that it seems sort of a blur.  For many, this year seemed to have been filled with worry, distress and discontentment. 

The economic recovery does not feel like a recovery at all.  Globally, our super power status as the world leader has diminished significantly and the American dollar is weak abroad.  In the U.S., the unemployment rate remains high, home values are depressed, oil prices are still high, and state budgets are in deep trouble.  This sets the stage for more layoffs and deeper government cuts.  We’ve been told that the economy is growing, but life for many Americans is not getting better.  Some people may consider 2011 as well as previous years, a continuous typhoon.  We didn't get here over night, but the economic condition transpired over time.  How we got to where we are is no longer relevant.  What we really need is a fix.  

Of all the woes we faced this year; we survived!  We grew stronger, and we live on to believe that there is a better and brighter future before us.  The next year is an election year, and we will decide if we want to stay focused or change courses.  We will contemplate who is best to lead us into a better tomorrow.  Each direction has risks and uncertainties. 

All of us have all been affected by the economy in some way, whether it has affected us personally, our family members, friends or acquaintances.  The fact remains that it has affected some of us more devastating than others.  For some, the economic conditions are irritating and nagging; yet for others, it is sheer survival.  My heart goes out to all who experience that level of devastation.  

Since the economy turned for the worse, it may have hit us hard and knocked us down, but we somehow got by.  We are still here and we withstood it all.  For that reason, we are blessed.  Our strong will to survive is still within us. 

I leave you with some quotes from Winston Churchill.

  • “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.”
  • “If you are going through hell, keep going.”
  • “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”
  • “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
  • “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

As I look toward the New Year, I am cautiously optimistic of an emergence of new and exciting things to come. 

I wish you an abundance of blessings this coming year!

~ Joseph Conrod Sr. SPHR

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It’s just a dog…

I’ve used this phrase to myself over the years when some of my employees and coworkers expressed grief over loosing a pet.  I didn’t think it was a big deal and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.  It was only a dog, right.  Wrong.      I just had a reality check. 

I put my dog to sleep yesterday and it was a painful experience.  I had the courage to sit in on the euthanasia because I wanted to be there when she took her last breath.  I rubbed and patted her to let her know that I was there until the end.  We all cried.  Yes, I cried too.  And, I am ok with it...   

I must admit, that we spoiled her in some ways.  We never washed her bed, but merely bought her a new one.  I can't count how many we purchased over the years.  She was a dog that was high maintenance and took quarterly trips to the groomer.  I remember the clinic visits and emergency room visits throughout the years.  Doesn’t this sound familiar?  During the later portion of her life, she started having seizures, eventually lost sight in both eyes and had a couple of strokes.  Most of this happened in the last two years of her life.   

Let me tell you who she was.  She was the official house greeter and welcomed anyone that came to visit.  She was always enthusiastic to see me every time I came home.  She was our alarm system when anyone came near the door.  She was also the house protector if she felt anyone was being harmed.  She wouldn't let us harm each other as well.  She played hard, was an extremely loyal companion and gave us unconditional love.  She was a good listener, a silent comfort and bundle of joy for all of us.     

I vowed that I would never use my professional blog on a personal note.  I contradicted that statement today and I don’t care.  I feel that it has some noteworthy contents.  If one of your employees or coworkers ever experience loosing a pet, never believe that it was just a pet.  It is so much more.  Show some compassion for what they may be experiencing, and if they ask, give them the time to grieve. 

The reality check has sunken in and I finally understand.  My dog’s name was Pepper and she was 16 years old.  When I come home this evening, she will not be there to greet me.  I loved her and miss her already.  She was not just a dog.  She provided something different than any human ever can.  She was indeed, family. 

~ Joseph Conrd Sr. SPHR

Friday, September 9, 2011


If you traveled many years ago, motels would position themselves along major roads with a large neo sign outside of their front office.  The sign would indicate “Vacancy.”  It shined brightly from dust to dawn and you could see it from miles away.  The main purpose of the sign was really to draw attention and that rooms were available.  

This reminds me of the vacancies that we have at our organization.   Unfortunately, our competitors more than likely have vacancies as well.  We are actually competing for the same talent. 

We have to understand that organizations, no matter what industry, compete for the same talent.  A neo sign indicating “Vacancy” is not enough to bring the talent to your organization.  It takes a lot more.  Traditional means of recruitment has changed dramatically over the years.  With fierce competition and the introduction of social media, it keeps us constantly looking at new and creative ways to attract and retain talented people.  Rightfully so, recruitment is becoming more aggressive Vs passive.  Going after a competitor’s talent is not off the table and there should be an expectation that competitors can, and will come after your talent as well.   

Recruitment is no longer just a function of the HR department.  It is really an organizational strategy.  Employer branding is becoming a key component of recruitment.  It defines the image of the organization as a “great place to work,” to its current employees and to the external public.  It is really the organization’s culture and image that sets it apart from its competitors.  It will be the driver for attracting and retaining talented people.  Competitors can quickly copy, counter or even exceed many other initiatives that you implement.  Culture and image are difficult to imitate.  They take many years to build.  

Build your Brand and Let it Shine
If your organization is a great place to work, show it to your employees.  Explain why and what incentives your organization offers.  Get their buy-in, as they are your greatest allies in supporting the brand.  Once you have established a strong brand internally, take it to the next level by announcing your organization to the world as a “great place to work” and the “employer of choice.”  You can get local and national recognition by applying for “best employer” awards.  These include awards for diversity, Working Mothers, AARP Best Employers For Workers Over 50, and many others.  Nominations for individual employee awards can highlight the organization as well.  These may include, business person of the year awards, under 40 leadership awards, and others.  They don’t cost anything to apply, only your time and effort. 

Applying for awards does a lot more than gaining local and national recognition.  It forces us to take a microscopic look at our entire operation and reveals our strengths and areas of opportunities.  It also gives us better insight on the innovation and initiatives other great organizations are achieving.  Most importantly, it drives us to do more and become even better.  Due to the rigorous requirements to achieve the awards, organizations try harder and actually become better, just from applying.

Empowering Recruitment   
Recruitment begins with the organization focusing on building a stronger brand image, both internally (employees & stakeholders) and externally.  In order to draw talent, we have to be able and willing to adapt traditional and nontraditional methods of recruitment.  It’s a matter of empowerment. 

If employers can brand themselves extremely well and create an internal organizational culture that every employee is a recruiter with the full ability and capacity to draw talented people to the organization, it can do wonders to recruitment efforts.  If you have 2,000 employees, you should have 2,000 recruiters.  They are your social networks, executive search firms, niche recruiters, agencies and headhunters.  If you empower them and give them the incentives, they can have a much greater reach than any other means. 

Recruitment is competitive.  It’s effectiveness is based on an organizational perspective Vs an individual recruiter.  It’s really about an organization’s total reward system.  This means, all the tools available to the employer that may be used to attract, motivate and retain employees.  

As a matter of fact, I believe recruitment should be a part of every job description for every employee in the organization.   

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

~ Joseph Conrod Sr. SPHR

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Power of Change

I read a quote from an unknown author that read, “the only people that loves change, is a wet baby.”  Do you agree with that quote?
How many of us can truly say that we love change?  If so, what sort of change do we love?  The majority of people love and embrace change that impacts them in a positive way.  But, what about change that impact us in a way that seems, less than positive?  Do we embrace it, accept it, or blame others for the change? 

Even though we may not recognize or give much thought to it, changes occur in our lives constantly.  We grow older, learn and develop, both personally and professionally.  Relationships changes, family dynamics, our surroundings may change, friends, peers, careers, and our health and wellness may change as well.  Some changes occur because we initiated the change, others occur because they were forced upon us.  Whether change had a positive or negative impact, we have to adjust to the change and use it to our benefit.  In either case, we have to accept and embrace the change regardless of the impact.  The past is just that, the past.  Our focus should be directed toward building the future. 

As individuals change personally and professionally, organizations change as well.  No matter what industry you work for, all organizations change constantly.  Organizations have to change in order to remain relevant.  Some changes are based on an immediate need; others are based on forecasting what the future may look like, and then adapting to it.  Many factors are considered during strategic planning.  Some changes are due to competition, changing customer needs and habits, laws and legislation, government regulation, census changes, and a host of other indirectly related changes that impacts business operations.  Changes are needed for organizational survival.  Below are some examples of organizational changes.

  • Mission and focus changes
  • Strategy changes
  • Operational changes
  • Technological changes
  • Staff changes
  • Attitudes and behaviors changes

In order to implement the first four changes above, it may require some significant changes to the latter two.  An organization consists of people.  They bring the talent, skills, experience and abilities that help us reach and exceed our intended goals and objectives.  It is also their presence and behaviors that represent the public image of the organization to our customers.  Attitudes and behaviors of staff should be consistent with the organization’s culture.  Holding all employees accountable to cultural norms and expectations are essential in achieving the first four changes noted above.  Since employees really make things happen by carrying out the mission and goals of the organization, how we prepare them for any significant change becomes critical?

What about individual changes on a small-scale basis that happens daily?  These changes could be due to behavior or performance issues.  If you worked with employee relations long enough, you would be familiar with the terminology “conspiracy theory.”  The conspiracy theory is the notion that a group of people has collaborated in opposition to you.  Therefore, they have created the negative impact of the change.  Although the conspiracy theory is possible, in most cases they are highly unlikely.   

As leaders, how we interact with staff can dramatically effect outcomes.  Often times, it is not the actual message but how the message was delivered.  It’s a skill set that we can build upon.  Leaders have the ability to help staff move forward in situations where change has resulted in a negative impact.  How?  It is really based on the leaders influence and relationship prior to the change.  A leader who has effectively develop the skills sets to influence staff are more successful in their efforts Vs a leader who lacks credibility. 

A vital part of accepting and embracing change is the acceptance of positive feedback as well as opportunities for improvement.  Whether we initiated the change or it was forced upon us, it is important that we accept it in a positive way.  It enables us to move forward and we recover at a much faster rate.  It can test our strength and durability.  Change is uncertain and in any significant organization change, the strength of good leaders will surface, new leaders will emerge and weak leaders will be highlighted.  Effectively leading a change initiative is a skill worth pursuing. 

If you have yet to experience the power that changes presents, you will.  It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when.  The real difference will depend on how you choose to deal with it.  You can embrace it in a positive way, by leading the change efforts and influencing others, accept it, by acknowledging and implementing the change, or reject it, by leaving the organization and not poisoning or sabotaging the change efforts. 

The message is quite clear.  You can create the change or be the change.  You do not have the ability to stop it.  It is more powerful than you or I. 

Embrace it, accept it, or move out of the way. 

~ Joseph Conrod Sr.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

What’s Your Metaphor?

Was there someone or something in your life that gave you inspiration, motivation or that extra push you needed when times were rough?   

Earlier in my career, while a student working toward my undergraduate and graduate studies, it was difficult for me to see the silver lining.  I often wondered if my hard work and studies would pay off in the end or would the massive accumulation of debt from my investment into my education overwhelm me.  As a student, there was little diversity throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies.  Leadership roles in the workforce had the same resemblance.  I needed something more to inspire and motivate me.  I needed a metaphor.  My metaphor gave me peace and balance.  It gave me inspiration.

In the Olympics there is a sport in track and field in which runners sprint and jump over hurdles.  The standard sprint for men is 110 meters and for women 100 meters.  The standard long hurdle is 400 meters for both men and women.  The sport can be referred to as hurdling. 

Metaphorically speaking, when I look back over my life, I see some resemblance of this sport.  I keep sprinting forward and jump over hurdles in my path to reach the finish line.  There are several twists and turns in the track and it is not always smooth.  I’m sprinting and hurdling solo, so it’s not about winning but simply a race in time.  A finish line does not exist, so I keep reminding myself that it’s not about the race, but really about the journey. 

Through my personal journey, I’ve had peaks and valleys, highs and lows, and triumphs and despair.  I’ve had some disappointments, but my successes seem much brighter and vivid.  With each hurdle I gained strength and endurance.  I gain knowledge and wisdom.  With each hurdle, I continue to grow and evolve.   

There was a three-time Grammy Award winning group called the Sounds of Blackness.  This group had a rhythm & blues and gospel sound.  One of my favorite songs from this group was a song called Black Butterfly.  Whenever I needed inspiration, I would pop the cassette in my car and play this song.  Yes, cassettes were popular at that time.  Anyway, it was my spiritual and mental ritual.  It was my means of reaching a higher state of consciousness, and helped me sort through times when things were not going well.  It was my metaphor and it worked for me.  Even though cassettes are all but obsolete, it is the only one that I retained over the years, simply as a reminder of what inspired me. 


Human beings experience highs and lows.  It is a natural part of life.  There is no way around it and no one is exempt from it.  When things are going great and you’re sprinting forward, all is well, and life is at it’s best. 

When things are not going as planned, and obstacles or hurdles are in front of your path, what keeps you focused on your journey?  Do you have a metaphor, or is there something else that keeps you inspired and helps you overcome the hurdles?  We all need inspiration from time to time.  We fall and we rise again.

I’d love to hear your story.

~ Joseph Conrod Sr. SPHR

Monday, June 13, 2011

Is Experience Overrated?

Perhaps, I can propose the following question.  Does experience allow you to predict future performance?  Research suggests that hiring and promoting at a managerial and executive level fails 50% of the time.  One of the primary reasons in this failure is our over-reliance on past experience.  Prior experience often weight more in our hiring and promotional decisions because it’s safe, it’s comfortable, and it’s what we’ve always done.  We can use it as an excuse for bad hiring decisions.   “John had 17 years of experience.  I don’t quite understand why he was not successful.”  We automatically assume that an individual who worked in a similar position at another organization was actually good at their job.  We assume this on the notion that the prior organization wouldn’t allow substandard performance.  

With all the value that experience brings, there is little evidence to suggest that experience is the key ingredient to success.  Furthermore, experienced managers does not necessarily equate to good leaders.  We make decisions about people on positive assumptions about their experience.  We make these assumptions, even though we may personally know leaders in key positions who may not be the best person for the role, even with years of previous experience.  Past successes are a better predictor of future success. 

Being inexperienced has some definite advantages.  When you are inexperienced, you have everything to gain.  In this case, ignorance can not only bliss, it can be empowering as well.  A lot of successful companies were founded and run by inexperienced entrepreneurs who became CEOs.  To name a few, Steve Jobs and Michael Dell were very inexperienced.  Bill Gates was 21 when he founded the most valuable technology company in the world, Microsoft.

Many of our major Internet companies were founded and in many cases were run by inexperienced entrepreneurs.  Pierre Omidyar was 28 when he founded eBay.  Larry Page and Sergey Brin were both in their late twenties when they founded Google.  Mark Zuckerberg is only 26, and currently the CEO of Facebook.  All were inexperience individuals, who became extremely successful because of their talents.    

The successes of inexperience individuals are not just in the technology area but cross other industries as well.  Richard Branson was 22 when he started Virgin Records.  The company Virgin Group is currently comprised of a number of other industries and has revenues of $18 billion.  Even though the individuals I just mentioned were relatively young when they started their businesses, the concept is not generational.  Talent has no boundaries and crosses all age groups.  The only limit to talent is limiting opportunities to talented people.
During the course of my career, I’ve met a number of successful ordinary people who were short on experience but extremely talented.  Business solutions require individuals who have new and innovative ideals and grounding breaking methodologies.   It requires new strategies and concepts.  It may also require a paradigm shift.

If we continue to do what we’ve always done, we will continue to get what we’ve always gotten.  We are only limited by our own imagination.  Leaders who are bold, daring, willing to take risks and venture into un-chartered waters, will be the ones that will lead us into the next century.  Often times there is a sense of mediocrity that makes us complacent in how we process information.  Mediocrity makes us conform to the status quo.  There has never been, to my knowledge a shortage of experience.  The shortage has always been with talent.  Reality is that a talented person with limited experience may have the same probability of success.  Some would even suggest that the probability of success is much greater when it comes to talent.

How important is experience?  Do we rely on it so much that it limits our ability to be creative and reach greater heights?  Does it limit our productivity and profitability potential?  How do we recruit for talent and unleash the talents within our organizations?

I’d love to hear your opinions.

~ Joseph Conrod Sr. SPHR

Friday, April 8, 2011

What Does Leadership Look Like?

Before I begin to talk about leadership, I wanted to do something different.  I'm going to start backwards.  I would normally talk about leadership and then highlight an extraordinary leader.   I wanted to share a story about one particular leader that deserves something different.  It is this premise that makes her what she is today.  She thrives from being bold, pioneering and spiritual.  She is a leader in every definition.  This story will forever resonate in my mind as inspiring.  

Listening, Inspiring, Taking Action
Several years ago, I rode in a car with this remarkable leader along with the Sr. VP of Human Resources.  During the ride to and from our destination, we talked about many things.  I don’t remember exactly how this subject came into the conversation but I mentioned a worker who was not employed by our organization but worked for a small company contracted by the organization.  I brought up the fact that I felt sorry for the contracted worker because he had some health issues, didn’t have health insurance and the small company he worked for did not have paid sick days.  Whenever he took time off from work for his health issues, it was unpaid.   I also mentioned that he often came to work feeling ill.  It was only a blur of a conversation and we continued to talk about other things during the ride.
The very next day, the Sr. VP of Human Resources came into my office and said that this leader heard what I said the day prior.  We talked about a lot of things during the ride, so I asked him, “what did I say.”  He told me that she listened when I spoke about the contracted worker.  He told me that whatever it takes, she wanted me to hire this person for our organization at a comparable rate and offer him health insurance.
 I was amazed and excited at the same time that a person in her position listened to a small statement that came up in a conversation; a statement that I barely remembered but resonated in her.  She not only listened, she took action. 
Who is this leader?
This leader currently leads a hospital system of multiple hospitals and over 24,000 employees, 5,000 physicians and 5,000 volunteers in four states.  The hosptial System is SSM Health Care, based in St. Louis, Missouri.  Some of her personal beliefs have become a part of the organizational culture.   Some of her notable accomplishments and beliefs include:
  • This leader believes that quality is everything.  She instills that all hospitals within the organization strive continuously to achieve national and state quality awards.  The accomplishments are not solely based on recognition on being a quality-focused organization, but more importantly, the rigorous requirements that each award requires.  She believes that pursuing quality awards pushes organizations to excel far beyond what they ever expected.   SSM Health Care was the first healthcare organization to ever receive the Malcolm Baldridge Quality Award.  This is the highest quality award achievable in the United States.  A number of hospitals within the organization have also won several state quality awards.
  • Investing significant resources into patient experiences and loyalty, physician satisfaction and employee engagement.   Continuous surveys are conducted and action plans are implemented for feedback.  An employee opinion survey is conducted every two years and a pulse survey is conducted during the alternate years. 
  • Creating a "Just Culture" environment where a fair process is developed in which employees are not punished for making mistakes.
  • Creating an “Always Safe” environment where employees are encouraged and highlighted for catching near misses and given full ability to “Stop the Line” when they see an unsafe practice, especially when it may harm a patient.
  • Investing in and creating an atmosphere of preserving the environment by insisting that each location within the organization have a preservation of the earth committee.   The main purpose of the committee is to implement recycling programs and other initiatives that focus on preserving the earth.   All locations are required to have recycling containers throughout and employees are highly encouraged to recycle.   The leader also responds to ongoing environmental changes.  Due to a growing concern of plastic bottles, a ban was put into place.  Plastic bottles are no longer sold in any location within the organization including vending machines, cafeterias, or snack shops.
  • Creating a smoke-free environment by taking a bold step to ban smoking on any of the organizations campuses.  At that time, the organization was the first to do so in many of its primary markets.  Other organizations simply waited for the outcome prior to following suit. 
  • Creating a diverse and inclusive environment by focusing efforts on women and minorities in management and professional positions and by creating policies and practices that ensures all employees are valued throughout the organization.
  • Creating an environment that is mission focused, where all employees learn the history of the organization, that the mission is understood and that it is connected to each individual.  Each entity in the system has a mission focused team that highlights the mission and show appreciation to employees for their contribution.  Annually each employee completes a “Passport” that links individual, department, hospital and system goals.  Every employee has constant access to organizational goals and how they contribute. 
  • Creating an organizational culture where violent language is not utilized throughout the organization.  A culture where “war” rooms are transformed into boardrooms or classrooms and “bullet” points are transformed into “dot” points. 
  • Creating a learning environment where education and continuous learning are highly encouraged.
  • The leader believes in shared decision making, where decisions are not just top down, but throughout the organization.  She believes and encourages all employees to be leaders.  Shared governance or shared accountability has been implemented throughout the organization.
  • The leader went a step further in sharing decisions.  The organizations mission statement was developed by a number of employees from varying levels throughout the organization.  This resulted in a one line mission statement.  "Through our exceptional health care services, we reveal the healing presence of God."  The key word was "exceptional."  Everything was driven from that. 
The notations above are only a small portion of this leaders contribution to her organization and healthcare in general.  She has been named seven times by Modern Healthcare Magazine as one of the most powerful people in health care.  She is internationally known for her inspiring speeches and I am in awe of her words.  She works continuously and tirelessly for issues involving healthcare.  What’s most inspiring is her vision of how health care should be.  She continues to pioneer and implement ideals because she believes them to be the right thing to do rather than wait to be regulated or simply follow other organizations.  She is not timid in making bold steps.
She believes in her cause and inspires others to believe and share her vision.  Her commitment is evident and unwavering.  What’s most remarkable about her is that she does all of this, for free.  As a nun, she is one of very few CEO’s that do not receive a CEO salary.  Talk about commitment! 
This leader has a mass of followers within her organization and external to the organization.  She has inspired me and I share her vision as well.  Wherever I go, I take what I have learned through her and incorporate it into who I am as an individual and as a leader.   I highlight her today because she has highlighted me in so many ways and I am proud to have worked in an organization under her leadership.
If I could visualize what leadership looks like, here’s what I’d envision.   

Chair/CEO SSM Health Care

What is it that leaders such as Sr. Mary Jean Ryan have that make others want to follow?  History reveals some of our most famous and influential leaders.  Some of our most powerful leaders in our past were positive; such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr.  Others were not so positive or destructive, like the Rev. Jim Jones who led his congregation to commit mass suicide. 
Leaders possess certain characteristics that people follow them willingly.  People follow them because they believe in the leader and share the leaders’ vision.  Leaders possess something significantly different than ordinary people can comprehend.  What is it that makes them different?  Why do people follow them?   What makes them able to convince others to share their vision and commit wholeheartedly to the cause that they support?   What makes them extraordinary that even masses of people are willing to follow? 
What is Leadership?Let’s look at the leader in perspective because their backgrounds vary widely.  One would assume that in a traditional sense, leaders are CEOs, vice presidents, directors, managers, etc., but these are merely management positions that may require leadership characteristics.  They do not necessarily equate to a leader.  A large number of individuals in these positions are great managers but very few have captured the essence of leadership by its true definition.  The terminology “leadership” is often used throughout the business world but there is a definite distinction between managing and leading.  Managers forecast and propose strategies, give direction, manage employees and processes.  In this situation, employees perform their roles as expected.  Leadership proposes a higher level of thinking whereas the leader performs those roles in addition to energizing, influencing and persuading people to excel far beyond ordinary limits.  Leaders have perfected the highest level of communication whereas people believe and are inspired to perform at higher levels. 
A leader does not necessarily have to be in a titled position of power, yet they may be even more powerful.   They possess certain characteristics but also require something more.  They are not defined by positions of power but by the ability to persuade others to follow without exerting power.   
Here are some of the characteristics of a great leader.  The list is not all-inclusive:
  • A leader has vision.  They visualize the future and somehow inspire others to share their vision. 
  • A leader creates the culture and cultivates it.  The culture can be created by short stories of the past to the present, and a clear vision of what the future might look like. 
  • A leader is extremely motivated, energized and enthusiastic.  They are never lethargic but extremely energetic.
  • They are highly committed to their cause and extremely passionate about their beliefs.  You can feel and absorb their energy and passion when they speak.
  • They are competent and highly self confident about their ability to lead us into a better tomorrow.
  • They possess charisma. 
  • Leaders stress the significance that everyone contributes and each role is an equally important contribution to the whole.  
  • Leaders leads by example. 
  • Leaders hold themselves accountable along with others.
  • Leaders share decision-making.  Decisions are normally top down, bottom up, and horizontal.
  • They are consistent, and they inspire and motivate others.  They are the main cheerleader of intended goals.
  • They listen and empathize.
  • Leaders delegate when appropriate, are willing to admit mistakes, constantly learn from others and emphasizes that learning and improving is continuous. 

Can leadership be learned or is it innate?  Are some characteristics of leadership within us or exhibited in earlier stages of life?  The terminology “leadership” is used in the business world as describing a position of authority.  Perhaps, it is believed that leadership is not innate but can be learned.  Developing leaders is key to organizations.  They continue to review, strategize and implement programs that emphasizes on leadership development.  Can organizations be successful without great leadership?  Of course, many organizations have been successful even though they may be lacking in great leaders.  The ability to effectively manage has been the key source of success.  
Managers make up a small portion of the organization.  The majority of the workforce contains employees who are not in management positions.  If the bottom line is continuously met, why is great leadership needed?  Great leaders do more than meet the bottom line.  They have the potential to expand it by producing greater outcomes, minimizing waste, increasing customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, and catapulting the organization in higher levels.  How do they do it?  They do it by creating passion and inspiring employees to believe and share their vision.  The simple ingredient of passion and inspiration equals high outcomes and productivity.           
One of the main qualities of great leaders is that they know how to inspire others.  They lead, yet people will not feel that they are being led.  Here are some notable quotes about leadership:
“Leadership: the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because she/he wants to do it.” -Dwight D. Eisenhower

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.” – Lao Tsu

Is there an inspirational leader that you know of in your past or present? 
I’d love to hear from you….

Joseph Conrod Sr., SPHR ~

Monday, February 21, 2011

What about Diversity?

February has been recognized as Black History Month.  This is only one of many acknowledgements and celebrations of diverse groups within the U.S. who have contributed to American history.  A great time to blog about diversity and inclusion (D&I) is during diverse celebrations and recognized events.

Equal Employment

Equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws highlights unlawful employment practices for employers.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, is the federal agency responsible for handling discrimination complaints. 

In many ways, diversity and inclusion (D&I) initiatives complements non-discrimination compliance by creating a workplace culture and environment of making differences work.  Integrating D&I initiatives into organizations can help alleviate discrimination claims filled by employees.

Defining D&I

The business case for diversity is a theory that, in a global marketplace, a company that employs a diverse workforce is better able to understand the marketplace it serves, therefore better equipped to thrive in that marketplace as opposed to an organization with a limited range of employee demographics.  Diversity includes a wide range of differences including, race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, military and veteran status, national origin, sexual orientation and economic status.     

Inclusion is a sense of belonging, feeling respected, valued for who you are and a feeling of being included in processes and decisions.  It is under this premise that the best work is achieved.  The term diversity and inclusion are often used interchangeably, however they are distinctly different.  Inclusion could be considered as requiring a transformation or paradigm shift. 

Diversity and Inclusion

Workplace D&I is about people and focuses on the differences and similarities that people bring into organizations.  It is really about learning from others who are not the same, about dignity and respect for all employees regardless of differences.  D&I highlights the advantage of having diverse perspectives.  It has the potential to increase marketing opportunities, foster creativity, and enhance the organizations’ public image.

Quantifying D&I

Employers have struggled over the years on ways to quantify D&I as a business necessity and have struggled to identify quantitative reasons on why they should embrace it.  Some companies have adopted a wide range of D&I concepts into their organizations.  There are other organizations that simply have not embraced the ideal or prioritized it as a business necessity.  If your company is looking for quantitative reasons on why they should invest in D&I, perhaps the answer is quite simple.  Organizations should ask themselves these questions:

  • What is the demographic make-up of your current customers in percentages?  
  • What is the demographic make-up of your current employees based on the ten standard EEO categories (executive/senior level officials/managers, first/mid-level officials/managers, professionals, technicians, sales workers, administrative support workers, craft workers, operatives, laborers and helpers, service workers)?  Is there diversity in all of the categories above?      
  • What is the demographic make-up of your primary, secondary and tertiary markets in percentages (This information should be included in your strategic plans)?
  • Are there any expected future demographic changes to your markets (This information should be entailed in Census data)?
  • Where are your growth opportunities?  Do they include areas with diverse populations?
  • If one of your strategic goals were to increase market share, would the increase come from diverse groups?

If all of your current customers, relevant markets, and growth opportunities are homogeneous, then D&I may not be worth the investments.  If the opposite is true, and they are heterogeneous, like most organizations, then D&I should be an essential part of your business.  For instance, if a significant percentage of your current customers are from diverse groups and that percentage decided to take their business to your competitor, it could have a significant impact on your bottom line.  If your growth opportunities and relevant markets are within diverse groups, it could have an effect on your ability to expand and increase your market share.  This information should be revealed during the strategic planning process and in your SWOT (strength, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis.

Considering Diversity and Inclusion

Census information reveals that diverse populations in the U.S. is growing and continue to grow at alarming rates.  This new growth will be the pool for you new customers and new employees.  The four generations at work (veterans, baby boomers, generation x, and generation y) and the increase of women and minorities in the workplace will create many opportunities as well as challenges for organizations.  Workplace dynamics could possibly change.  We can see some changes already occurring with more gender based policies and initiatives and military and veteran accommodations.  High performing organizations “get it.”  How can we convince other organizations to “get it” as well?  If your organization is considering implementing a D&I initiative, here are some items to consider:

  • Get buy-in and support from the CEO and senior level executives.  The task will be impossible without commitment and support from top-level officials.  They can also be utilized to carry out positive messages to employees.
  • Create a D&I policy.  The policy should highlight the company’s commitment to D&I.
  • Define diversity and inclusion and how the organization benefits.
  • Set strategic goals.  These should be long-term and provide direction.
  • Select a D&I champion.  Having a motivated point person to lead the initiative, push the agenda, monitor progress, and report outcomes are essential.
  • Create a diverse team concept approach.  Utilizing diverse teams throughout the organization can generate great ideals. 
  • Encourage all employees to openly express their ideals and opinions.  It is not knowing how employees feel that threatens organizations.
  • Promote diversity in leadership positions.  It provides visibility so all can realize the benefits of a diverse workforce.
  • Utilize diversity training as a tool to shape your D&I policy and goals.
  • Customize the employee opinion survey to extract demographic information for diverse groups.
  • Initiate a supplier diversity initiative to identify and attract women, minority and diverse vendors and suppliers.  Dedicate a portion of your expenditures to these groups.
  • Utilize varying techniques to recruit from diverse groups.  Require external search firms to seek diverse candidates in the selection process.
  • Utilize some diverse advertisements and marketing techniques in your regular advertisements and marketing strategies.
  • Utilize the company website to display information about your D&I initiatives.  Make it easily accessible to spotlight your goals and objectives.
  • Utilize short stories from diverse employees about their experiences and the effect of the company’s D&I initiatives to customers.  This can be done by video, web cast, etc.  These stories can be utilized in new employee orientation to orient new employees into the company culture.  They can also be highly effective tools to promote the company’s image externally.
  • Acknowledge and highlight diverse holidays, traditions and celebrations.
  • Ensure that pictures, paintings, reading materials in waiting rooms, etc. are diverse.
  • Consider partnering with diverse organizations and being involved in community activities with similar mission and values.  Community involvement strengthens your external position and highlights your commitment to D&I.
  • Establish a general budget to allow for D&I activities.  The return on your investment will yield both tangible and intangible results.

If your company is apprehensive of including a D&I initiative in your organization, maybe this will encourage them to reconsider.  D&I is not a list of additional task of duties, nor will it deflect from other company initiatives.  D&I is simply a process that is interconnected into cultural norms.  The entire premise of D&I is to enhance the workplace culture for all employees.  A work environment that appreciates and values differences and incorporates it into the culture of the organization is only bound to greatness.  D&I creates a competitive edge that attracts diverse talent, enhances the company’s culture, and catapults the organization into a higher level. 

If your company does not have a D&I initiative, I challenge you to ask your leaders this question.  What about diversity?

~ Joseph Conrod Sr. SPHR    

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Employee Relations, Love it or Hate it

If I asked you to fill in the sentence: “I love my job because…” How would you complete the sentence?  How many of us can honestly say, “I love my job?”  Do we look forward to going to work each day?  Do we arrive at work early and often work later hours than normal?  Let’s be honest.  How many of us would really say, “I hate my job,” without the fear of being replaced. 

Employee Related Issues
One of the things that managers with direct reports dislike most about their jobs is dealing with employee issues.  If you are a manager with direct reports and never had to deal with employee related issues, then you are quite rare.  Even if your position is high in the ranking, you are still not exempt from employee related matters. 

Employees often bring personal issues to work in every level of the organization.  It is human nature that we are not able to turn off a switch when we walk through the doors of our employers.  Our personal lives can spill over into our professional relationships at work and can hinder our performance and productivity.  Effectively dealing with employee related matters are important.  Often times, employees are the first to know about other staff related issues and are personally connected, as it may effect their own productivity and the ability to work as a team or unit.  If managers procrastinate and do not confront difficult issues in a timely fashion, they will surely loose credibility with other staff members.     

Utilizing the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to assist employees in dealing with personal issues are good options for managers.  The employee should always be held accountable for their performance and behaviors, but EAP can be effective in preventing future corrective actions and adverse employment decisions.  Assistance in resolving personal issues can help employees concentrate on their work and working relationships.  We can either love it or hate it, but addressing difficult employee situations are absolutely necessary to remain productive and service oriented. 

Manager Tips for Presenting a Corrective Counseling
If you have already decided to take action and present an employee counseling, here are some steps in preparing for discussing (not delivering) the written counseling.

Gather resources

Discuss your concerns with your next level manager and/or Human Resources.  Know the guidelines for disciplinary actions and procedures for filing a grievance. If you believe that the employee will share personal or family circumstances as a reason for the behavior/performance/attendance issue, make sure you have your company Employee Assistance Program (EAP) information available.

Arrange the meeting time and place.
Be sensitive to the employee by insuring that you choose a place that is away from their coworkers.  Keep the meeting date as scheduled unless absolutely necessary.  Remember, this is stressful for the employee as well.
Plan the conversation – Never try to “wing it.”
Preparation is essential.  Employees can always tell how much thought you’ve put into the conversation. This is your opportunity to show your leadership skills.

The Conversation

The actual meeting may produce anxiety even in the most proficient and experienced manager.  It is normal that you may experience anxiety that the employee will become upset or angry.  Never loose your composure and remain calm at all times.  Your composure will set the tone of the meeting.  You should never used the word “attitude” and only describe behaviors (you sighed loudly, folded your arms and walked out).  When handled in a positive and constructive manner, your discussion can lead to effective solutions and improved work performance.
  • Get to the point quickly.  Tell the employee why you’re giving him/her this feedback. Avoid idle chitchat, (Tom, I’ve called you in today to discuss your conduct…).
  • Give specific examples (As you see on this report, it shows…).
  • Describe your reactions to what you’ve observed/investigated and how it is effecting the work or work environment.
  • Ask and expect the employee to explain his/her perception of the situation.
  • Ask the employee if he/she has any concerns about being able to meet your expectations.
  • Make a yardstick.  Tell the employee what you will be expecting in the coming days, weeks or months.
  • Create the expectation of responsibility (Janet, do understand that it’s your responsibility to meet expectations?).
  • Summarize the meeting.  Express your support.  Ask if there is anything that the employee would need to meet the expectations.
  • Schedule follow-up meetings.  Acknowledge and recognized when things are going well and coach when expectations are not being met.


Dismissing employees from employment can be extremely hard for managers.  This includes the difficult conversations with employees leading up to and during the dismissal process.  The movie, “Up in the Air,” staring George Clooney, depicts an individual who works for a company with his primary role being flying around the world and dismissing employees from organizations.  Several organizations pay the company to perform this particular task.  The movie is mostly about corporate downsizing but seems to imply that the dismissal process is so uncomfortable that companies would rather pay someone externally to perform this task rather than perform it themselves. 

Even though the movie is somewhat surreal, there are some components that remain relatively true.  Most companies hire an internal source for this role rather than pay someone externally.  This position is normally the Employee Relations Manager.  Depending on organizational preferences, employee dismissals are either coached or performed by the Employee Relations Manager. 

Who likes Confrontation?
Why do managers shy away from confrontation and employee dismissals?  One of the main reasons is that they are uncomfortable and can be highly emotional.  A dismissal can create a tremendous amount of stress for the employee and all involved.  It can adversely effect the employee, coworkers, spouse or significant other, children, other family members and threatens their survival ability.  A job loss is ranked extremely high in stress levels, just  behind death of an immediate family member.  With all of this in mind, let’s first acknowledge that confrontation and dismissals are difficult, even though they may be justified.  They are a part of a manager’s job in which it is perfectly acceptable to say, “I hate it.”  I can't think of anyone who really enjoys dismissing employees.  It's the part of the job that most managers would love to delegate.  Even though confrontation is difficult, behavior and performance expectations are not only necessary but also extremely important to a company’s bottom line.    

Providing services from the company Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for a period of time (normally 90 days) after dismissal can help the former employee and family members deal with their current situation. 

For a majority of us, there may be many things that we love about our jobs and then there are other things that we really don’t like at all.  Whether your job is tedious, repetitive and monotonous or varied and challenging, there may still be items that you like and dislike.  If you really love your job, is it a fling and temporary or do you retain that love over time? 

Employees who work for the same organization or same occupation over a long period of time often reach career plateau.  By definition, career plateau is a point in an employee’s career where the possibility of promotion within the hierarchy becomes relatively low or absent altogether.  Employees in this situation are often frustrated with the lack of progression and likely to have a significant adverse impact on company operations.  They can actually become unproductive and ineffective performers.  The outcomes include a negative impact on productivity, job satisfaction and turnover. 

Organizational leaders are not often aware of the operational and financial impact that stagnated and plateaued employees can have on organizational objectives.  Strategies for dealing with plateaued employees are often nonexistent in organizations.  The reason may be that plateaued employees often reach the required goals and objectives.  The question remains, how do we motivate plateaued employees to reach higher levels than the status quo.  How do we get them to maintain the same level of excitement over a long period of time? 

Strategies for Plateau

If you are personally feeling plateaued, here are some strategies to help deal with your frustrations;
  • Create a personal career goal on where you want to be and map out the career path on paper. 
  • Set realistic short-term goals from your career path and celebrate successes toward the ultimate goal.
  • Constantly work toward your career path and look for ways to broaden and enhance your skill sets.
  • Seek guidance, suggestions and network with individuals currently in roles in which you are seeking.  
  • Take responsibility for your own growth and direction and avoid placing your hopes in organizational provided solutions.
  • Have fun along the way.  Don’t get so extremely focused on tomorrow, that you forget about today. 

If you love your job entirely or bits and pieces, every component is an integer part of a larger picture.  If you are a manager, enhancing your skills sets in employee related matters could increase productivity and outcomes.  Since we spend so much time at work, shouldn’t it be enjoyable?  What do you personally do to make your job more enjoyable?  If you can answer that question, you should be able to fill in the opening sentence relatively easy.  Please share your comments.

~ Joseph Conrod Sr. SPHR


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