Archive for August 17th, 2010

Talking about managing transitions, Libby Sartain popped up this photo and asked if everyone had seen “Up in the Air” .  Many hands went up.  “I have noticed that none of the Outplacement people I ever worked with looked like George Clooney.”  Clearly she never worked with Steve Grow.

Steve Grow, himself


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I found my second page of notes from this morning. 

 The issue of transparency came up several times.  On the topic of social media, Libby made the point that it is difficult to control the message.  She told of setting up a corporate strategy meeting to explain coming moves to the team.  They had kept the press out, and had a press release prepared to give to the media when the meeting was over.  Halfway through the meeting the head of PR pulled Libby out of the meeting “Never a good sign…” and Libby was told that some employee in the meeting was live blogging the meeting contents to the media.  “And they did it on their company issued Blackberry…

There were several points to the story.  The major one was that young employees feel that everything should be transparent.  Everything.  Employees can feel that telling secrets from the inside can prevent dishonesty, kind of like WikiLeaks.

Paula Rabb gives Libby the coveted speaker's gift.

Also, the language is changing and we need to keep up.  Jobs are “gigs”

Other issues that were mentioned, in no particular order:

Top performing people who are used to getting straight A’s in school hit their first job, and the performance management system gives them a “C” because they meet expectations.  They quit.  Libby said they had to pull the distribution curve out of the system.

Tough to fill jobs – Sales Reps, Engineers, Production Operations, Skilled Trades.  The war that will emerge is the war for targeted talent.

So, the overall message was one of evolution in our profession to match the evolution in the workforce. 

I probed for any negative feedback, and found that some attendees felt that they were listening to a lot of advice from high technology, not advice that could be applied in their manufacturing or service businesses.  Ah.

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In the trade show, a wellness booth had a blood pressure cuff.  Word on the street was that the numbers were running high…

Lots of stress and adrenaline...

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The session on Conflict Management was well attended, a reflection of the level of stress and conflict in our world.  Connie Russell of the Kansas City office of Right Management Consultants shared a set of conflict styles, and what to do about each.  Not surprisingly, there was a decent about of interaction and “what if”  questions from the crowd.

Lots of interest in conflict.

What made the session more useful to me was looking at different conflict styles through the lens of multiple international cultures.  As a consultant myself, I am comfortable with the need to put any set of data or people into a four quadrant, two axis model.  This is no different.  The two parameters are Direct/Indirect and Restraint/Expressiveness – and the combination of the two indicators defines which “nationality” the communication patterns most closely match.  For example, Indirect and Restrained is China.  Direct and expressive is Puerto Rican.  Indirect and expressive is Middle Eastern.  Direct and restrained is Canadian.  I liked the definitions, and from there the discussion focused on how to resolve conflict that runs across these “types”.

The session reminded us to use the conflict productively, by respecting the values underlying the conflict first, then identify the other person’s conflict style and flex your style to the others’ to best resolve the conflict.

One of the examples from the crowd on conflict was handling a situation with someone who was verbally attacking.  I was a little surprised that the advice given was to mirror the attack and respond in a similar style – which can disarm the attacker, but runs the risk of escalating the situation.  Time will tell.

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Opening session with Libby Sartain was a good fit for the conference.  I thought that the crowd was low energy at first, then I realised that everyone was listening pretty intently to the content, not needing a constant string of punch lines to stay engaged.  Good.  When a funny story was told, the laughter was there.

Libby’s message was a mix of generational issues and aligning HR with corporate strategy.  A few key points:

When you terminate people, make sure you do it in a way that you remain “friends” if at all possible.  The example she gave was of the relationship you might have with a headhunter.  You hire them, do the search, then end the arrangement with an agreement that you might work together again, or might not.  In the brave new world of the future, that is a description of the “just in time” nature of the coming workforce.

Many of her stories were from her time at Yahoo and, to a lesser extent, Southwest Airlines.  She gave examples of the hiring practices of Google (trendy and “out there” ) to Yahoo ( more “normal”) and reflected that the results produced different cultures.  Overall she said that Google probably hired more innovative thinkers, and Yahoo hired more methodical types that “get more done”  Different alignment, different cultures.

On social networking:

Social media is essential to new “consumers of work”.  When fresh MBA students were asked what would make them NOT consider a firm.  “Not being able to use Facebook at Work.”  the reason given is that their peer group and their problem solving resources are all on Facebook, and they want access to the resources they have always used.

Will Work for Peanuts - got this guy a job at Southwest. Then, he quit for more pay...

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