Relationships: Building vs Maintaining

Relationships are tricky.  They start at random places – soccer games, first days of a new job, school functions, board meetings.  They only actually become a relationship, a thing that we can point to or hold up as something that has been created if we continue to deal with each other or are connected in some way.  See the basic definition:

Relationship (noun) – (

  • the way in which two or more people, groups, countries, etc., talk to, behave toward, and deal with each other
  • the way in which two or more people or things are connected

We have to be careful to define it as a TRUe relationship just because we are connected through something like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  This connection could be a great way to maintain a relationship, but is it how we create one?

There is a difference between creating and maintaining a relationship, and especially when onboarding a new person or leader into your organization.  Creating is the intentional work of forging connections and establishing positive behaviors towards each other.  Maintaining is the work you do to make sure trust continues to exist and there is a pull (not a push) to stay connected in some way.

It is easy to call something a relationship.  Great relationships take some work.  Slow down and build first.  Summer is a good time to slow down and build.

7 Books That Make Great Gifts For A New Job

My personal graduation party count is in the teens now and I am not done.  Strangely I find myself energized with each new party because it gives me a chance to connect with a graduate, hear some of their plans, and revisit their first 18 years by looking at all the pictures they (or their parents) have posted.  It if fun and scary at the same time.  I always appreciate the graduates that look me in the eye and admit some of those fears.  I get it.

Transitions are like that – fun and scary.  Fun because of all the new things that are presented to us – new people, new challenges, new learning, and new perspectives.  Scary because they often bring us into unfamiliar territory that will challenge our basic beliefs and put us into situations where we will experience failure.

Failure.  It is a word that nobody likes to hear, and yet it is so necessary to learn.  One of the reasons I like hanging around a start-up minded community is they see failure as a way to grow.  You cannot have growth without it.  While graduation is a great thing to celebrate, those graduates that will be going off to their first job in the next several months will need more help.  The help they need is the support from the people around them for a great start in that new role.  In the corporate world it is called, and when it is done well it provides a foundation for success.  The key to onboarding is really after the program(or first 2 weeks), when the work begins.  Being able to step into that work with the right perspective and attitude is critical.

Lets focus on the college graduate that will be starting their first job. As part of any new beginning, it is good to mark that day with a gift.  Here are several books that have the potential to equip people and start some great conversations that will lead to a successful transition into their new role.

If you have read my blog long enough you know that I believe in learning pairs.  My philosophy of giving a book as a gift is simple – keep the books thin(<200 pages) and as part of the gift offer to read it/discuss it with them.  (here are some other helpful gift giving tips)



3 Books That Make Great Graduation Gifts

College graduation is coming up, and after last weekend working with 21 students in Michigan through our Governor’s Economic Summit I have been thinking a lot about what I experienced and ways in which all of us can invest in someone starting a career.  While high school graduations might compel us to get something like Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss, college is a little different.  Here are three books that would be great gifts for a new grad to help them to success in their first job and connect you with that success:

LinchPin by Seth Godin:  A little longer, but is focused on helping people be purposeful about building their brand and reputation through their work.  It is a good balance between practical advice and thinking bigger.

Great On The Job by Jodi Glickman: This book is targeted at college students.  I have also used some of the advice Jodi gives (especially around getting feedback) with some of the mid/late career transition individuals I coach through Shifting Gears, but she targets the new grad.  Our governor is actually giving a signed copy to each student from our recent summit.

Effective Immediately by Emily Bennington and Skip Lineberg: I am preparing to review this book and share my thoughts through my TruTips, but in advance I also like this book.  It differs from Jodi’s book in that it provides lots of 1 page tips for individuals.  How I would make this a great gift would be for you to write a note that identified your top 5 and pledge to be a mentor as they read and use this in their first job.

There are other books new professionals should read, but hold off until they get a job.  I actually like one of the chapters in Effective Immediately where the authors give them a list of books to keep in their cubicle and to read.  The great thing about all of these books is they are focused on helping them be successful, and coupled with a pledge from you of some time to read it with them/mentor them – this actually become a great gift.

Good advice for new or old grads – Effective Immediately Post 1

I am in the process of reading/reviewing a book by Emily Bennington and Skip Lineberg called Effective Immediately – How to FIT IN, STAND OUT, and MOVE UP at Your First REAL JOB.  As I go through it I will share some thoughts that make me go Hmmmm . . .  This posting is based on one of those moments.

As I started through this book I found myself grinning at some of the helpful hints.  Not because they were funny (other than the statement – If someone farts, ignore it), but they were the kind of things that are simple, obvious, and too often lost in the shuffle of starting something new.

Advice I liked:

Under the heading Have Patience – a quote from Sir William Osler (a pioneer of modern medicine): The best preparation for tomorrow is to do today’s work superbly well. A great reminder not to get caught in the who is looking and what is the next project.  Just focus on what is in front of you.

Professional etiquette:  Listen more than you talk – Obvious, but how often do nerves translate to communication misses such as talking too much.  Remember that when someone talks about themselves it stimulates the brain in the same way as when someone is eating or receives money.  Get others talking about themselves and listen.

Professional etiquette:  Always clean up after yourself. This one makes me smile, because my first job was in a steel mill where nobody every cleaned up after lunch and expected the janitor to do it for them.  Then I worked for a company that had a cultural norm around this, and every place I have been since I still wipe down the counter in the coffee counter when I leave.  I watch for this habit.

Reality check: Traditional HR departments are either gone or spread thin.  Most new people do not really know the function of the HR department, so they will not miss them.  But this statement is true, and even more true for smaller organizations.  The book goes on to give a list of Macro and Micro items that could be used by anyone to do their own onboarding plan.  For example:  Macro item:  What are the key responsibilities of your job? and Micro item:  Who is your supervisor or boss you report to directly, and who do they report to?

So far I like it.  As with all business books I believe they need to be read with a partner or small groups.  This book is written in short sections that fits that model very well, and is a great reference tool because each short chapter equals a skill.

More to come . . . .


Companies are Like People, Our Culture Defines the Relationship – Tips for doing it well

Companies are like people.  There is actually a study of how organizations act and change, which is where the terms organizational development and industrial/organizational psychology come from.

As individuals we build relationships/trust by working/living along side people and showing them consistent behavior so they know what to expect – what we value.  So how does that apply to organizations?

Culture is built through a relentless demonstration of what organizations value. While perfection is the goal, it is not realistic.  At some point we will have to say we are sorry.  This lens can be used to examine when organizations first meet new people – during onboarding.

Here is a miss / don’t miss list based on years of experiencing it and building it as a leader:

Don’t Miss

  • Clean desk / supplies
  • Someone to greet you and say “we were expecting you”
  • Frequent communication with your leader for 3 months
  • Teammates taking you to lunch or inviting you into the circle/social events
  • Paycheck / benefits
  • All the tools that connect us to others – email, phone, computer, mailbox, list of who to call
  • Plan to direct learning for first three months

Miss Sometimes

  • Nameplate on desk
  • Meeting boss’ boss (because of business) day 1 or week 1
  • Formal orientation in week one (not enough people)
  • 100% achievement of everything on the onboarding plan
  • Email Day 1 welcoming new teammate
  • Quick check-in at the end of every day to see how things are going

I am not a hypocracy chaser, and it is important that a line be drawn in the sand saying that “If we do not do these things how can we expect anyone to buy into our values as an organization?”  As Collins said in Good To Great:

The point is not what core values you have, but that you have core values at all, that you know what they are, that you build them explicitly into the organization, and that you preserve them over time. (p. 195)

Living it is more powerful than speaking it, and speaking it is the first step in living it.  It why I put Build Trust at the base of the trUPerformance model.  Working relentlessly at living what we say makes it easier for people to forgive us when we (as organizations) slip up.

After all, organizations are like people.

What is on your Don’t Miss list?

3 Questions to Answer BEFORE Hire=Yes

A Forbes article was highlighted in LinkedIn Today email (by the way, if you don’t subscribe you should) – and it offered up a three question interview.(link to full article)  The three questions are:

  1. Can you do the job?
  2. Will you love the job?
  3. Can we tolerate working with you?

Of course, practically speaking this is impossible and a bad idea to try and get to a three question interview – but it makes for good internet clicking.  However, it does bring me back to some advice a seasoned HR leader once shared that there are three questions that need to be asked before hiring anyone:

  1. Are they willing?
  2. Are they able?
  3. Are they manageable?

It makes for a great conversation and a great decision.  On the flip side of these questions, candidates need to ask themselves a similar subset.  I preach talent management is about great conversations, so here are these questions adapted for the candidate:

  1. Am I willing (Can I get excited about this role/this team/this organization?)
  2. Am I able (Will I be doing what I do best most of the time?)
  3. Am I manageable by this leader/organization? (Will they be able to get the best out of me and am I willing to help them be successful?)

*fyi – answers to all of these questions require self awarness.  My trUYou™ model helps with this.

We talk about transparency in talent management, one way to create that is to work off the same set of final questions.  That, in itself, could be the basis of a great conversation.

Assessments: 4 Traps and 1 Truth

This is a series of extra discussions around an upcoming trU Tips related to using assessments in your business.  It will come out next week.  If you are interested in receiving this special trU Tips, please sign up for the mailing list here.

I am a big fan of using assessments (personality profiles like DiSC, Myers-Briggs, Birkman Method, etc.)  in business.  In working in and around dozens of start-ups/growth organizations, I see the pace and amount of work hindering the time needed to really get to know someone through a selection process.  Assessments do not replace that time, but help to start meaningful conversations around cultural fit, manageability, and onboarding that will be valuable.

There is the trap of being sold a solution vs making a good buying decision based on your situation and resources, so here are some things I have learned about the use of assessments in business.

Trap 1:  It will fix your selection issues: By nature, leaders want things fixed yesterday.  The biggest fix you can apply to your selection process is time and purposeful discussion to make sure you are getting the right person and actually leading the process as the hiring manager.  Assessments, used consistently for a period of time (6 months) will start to help, but it is not a quick fix.  It is an expensive band aid for a leader being too busy to talk to new people.

Trap 2:  Eventually you can do it yourself and you will not need me: True about 10% of the time.  For a very simple tool like DiSC yes, but plan on paying training $ every 1-2 years as your expert moves to other roles or gets busy.  Remember that to become an expert it takes 30+ assessments and doing them regularly (5-10 a month).  Much of the ‘expertise’ is also built from watching people work over a 1-2 year period after taking the assessment.  Some tools are so complex that it probably takes longer/more frequent work to be an expert.

Trap 3:  Ours is the best: It is important to believe that to sell things, and you will hear lots of great reasons to buy any tool.  In trU Tips #18 I will address ways to be a great buyer vs being sold on a solution that does not work.  If you are feeling the pain of a weak selection process, it is easy to buy the confidence of a good salesperson.

Trap 4:  You can also use it to help teams, leaders in transition, and other high risk/value (ROI) situations: Kind of true, but see Trap 2.  To make any action plan stick, will take outside coaching/consulting for 3-6 months after any session.  Probably worth it for leadership groups, but those costs should be part of the ROI discussion from the beginning.  The second mini-trap is thinking the HR leader can be this person.  They are too busy, too close to these people, and often not wired for this kind of work.

Truth:  It is better than nothing: This will not be part of a sales pitch, and since Brad Smart in his book Topgrading put the cost of a bad leadership hire at 14.6x annual earnings, making one better choice will probably help.  This will likely not appear in the sales presentation you receive (Imagine the tag line:  Your hiring process will suck less if you use this assessment 🙂 ), but it is the truth.

Do you have any other traps or tips to add based on your experience?

A great question to end your week (or your meeting)

It was a situation I had been in many times before.  Presenting to a group (this being a group of students at Grand Valley State University) and enjoying the interaction.  I was talking about my business/journey, talent management, and connecting back to their topics of diversity and ethics.  I did what every speaker does during a session, I paused and asked “Are there any questions?”.  Quickly a hand shot up in the back from a student who had been engaged all night.  Then he changed my week with one question:

“Through all of your startup, What are you most proud of?” 

Know that my week had not started well, and I had been second guessing this commitment to speak.  My mind quickly went to the faces of a team I had just been talking with that were bringing a different level of energy to their leadership.  I thought of a friend who had recently shared he was adding a one on one with his regimen and using my scorecard.  I thought of the energy my family had put into helping me get started.  I am not sure what I shared, but it was only a portion of the great thoughts that entered my head.

The trajectory of my week changed at that moment.

I love this question.  It makes people think of successes, of relationships they cherish, and of things in their lives that went right.

Try this at a meeting or offsite somtime with your team.  I have even seen it done where people are asked before to bring in an artifact (picture, items, etc.) that identifies something they are proud of.  It will lead to smiles and intimate knowledge of what makes people tick. 

So as you end your week, take a couple of minutes to ponder and answer the question “What am I most proud of?”

Leadership Development Starts – BEFORE you lead

I have been asked to read and review David C. Baker’s new book Managing Right For The First Time.  As I go through it I will share some thoughts that make me go Hmmmm . . .  This posting is based on one of those moments.

Your Aptitude Comes Largely From The Choices You’ve Already Made.  This is a section title from the chapter, What Managers Are and How You Become One.  It reminds us that leadership development starts the day we decide we like to work and will commit extra time to becoming better at whatever we do.  I am reminded of a CEO telling me ‘We can’t afford leadership development right now’, and realize that too many people do not see the simple steps involved in developing as a leader.

So what do we do with this wisdom? 

Use this thought as a guide for yourself/others that desire to grow as leaders.  Make a simple list of what you look for in a leader and pick one area to focus on generating success/experience in that area.  Here are some examples:

  • Leaders: Effectively deal with different personalities.  Action:  Who in this office do you dislike the most?  Go build a relationship with them and partner with them on some project.
  • Leaders:  Find solutions to problems and solve them.  Action:  Find something to fix that will take resources/time, present your solution to the leadership group, and fix it.
  • Leaders:  Help teams work together towards a common goal.  Action:  Find a not for profit or outside event, volunteer to help lead an event they have planned, and then do it.  (plan 30 minutes debriefing with your own leader what you learned)
  • Leaders:  Have infectious attitudes, are seen as positive forces in the workplace.  Action:  Ask a few close people – Am I more like Eeyore or Winnie the Pooh? (sounds stupid, but it will cut right to the point).  If you receive feedback that you are a glass half empty person, commit bringing three positive comments to every meeting for every one criticism for the next 3 months.  Ask again at the end of three months.
  • Leaders:  Make learning a habit and help others learn.  Ask two or three leaders in your company what their favorite business book it, pick one, and find 2-3 other people to read it and discuss it over 2 or 3 lunches.  Maybe invite the leader in for one session to share with you their thoughts.

Becoming a leader starts before you lead.

Do we need a Talent Management Initiative? No . . . Part I

I created a Talent Scorecard to help leaders think through what they have been doing around connecting with their people to make sure they are focused, understanding their challenges, getting their needs met, and receiving feedback on their progress.  In the human resources world we call this talent management.  To most of the rest of the world this is called leadership, management, or friendship.

The first set of numbers shocked me.  Here they are and remember that I asked HR leaders to fill these out as if their CEO was doing this survey.  The only two measures are 100% and <100%, because those are they only two measures that matter.  100% means you are doing the right things.  <100% means that there is a person out there with a name, friends, bills to pay, skills/talents, and goals . . .  that is not getting their needs met.  These are basic needs.  Here are the numbers.

 Key Habits for Managing Talent

  100% <100%
I delivered all of the evaluations on time. 36.7 % 63.3 %
I have one-on-one discussions with each member of my staff at least once a month. 63.3 % 36.7%
I have reviewed all the evaluations of my team’s staff. 51.7 % 48.3 %
Each person on my team has a development plan. 27.6 % 72.4 %

Too many people are getting late evaluations and do not have any sort of development plans. 

Remember the Gallup Q12?  The first two questions are:  I know what is expected of me at work and I have the tools I need to do my job.  On-time performance conversations and frequent one on ones to hear progress, identify needs, and solve problems make these questions a reality.  The development plan is critical in getting people thinking about the future and helping them grow.

Based on these numbers, it is not happening enough.

For a quick look at a performance conversation tool/development plan that works see trUTips #13.