Who would have thought Bear Grylls – the rugged individual star of “Man vs. Wild” – identifies friendship as one of the most important keys to life?
Recently I had the opportunity to hear Bear’s telling of his Everest summit and a bit about his experience with the show. He was a great, engaging speaker and has one of the best attitudes a person can have. His story of climbing Everest was fascinating, and he’s the kind of guy you could listen to for hours.
But the really surprising piece of his presentation came when we talked about success.
Here’s a guy who was the youngest at the time to summit Everest, he wrote a book about it, he was in the British Special Forces parachuting out of airplanes, and he is filmed solo in the wild overcoming unbelievable challenges. If anyone has a right to believe in himself over the team, it’s him.
Yet, without a hint of ego, he says success is all about having friendships.
I think he’s on to something. Think about the best teams you’ve been a part of.
HR professionals across corporations are looking for the keys to increasing employee engagement. When I used to do exit interviews, people continually said the one thing that made them reluctant to leave was the people they work with. Think about the allure of the dot coms in the late 1990’s, the Silicon Valley beer bashes, and the team outings.
It’s all about developing friendships and bonds at work.
When you think about the jobs you’ve liked the most, what impact did your coworkers have on your connection to that company? Can friendships be the key to engagement?
Follow me on Twitter @StephKinHR
Is it better to stay put in a job you like, or take on something new? There’s a Sheryl Crow lyric stuck in my head – a change will do you good. True in life, true in careers.
I had the pleasure of talking with Charlie Judy over at HR Fishbowl recently and we talked about how taking on new opportunities grows your career. We spoke from experience, having moved through various HR roles in our careers including my recent change rotating back into a “business HR” leader role.
The interesting thing is, not everyone is that convinced about the value of stepping out of a perfectly good role. They commonly wonder two things – what’s in it for me, or why should I take that risk.
What’s in it for me?
Are you turning away opportunities because they don’t have an immediate payoff (i.e. more money, better title, more prestige, etc.)? You may be short-changing your future. It’s important to think of careers as a long-term path. One of the most effective approaches is to figure out what skills you want to develop and take on rolls that help you develop those skills. Don’t worry so much if it’s not a straight, classic ,up-the-ladder approach. Today’s careers are made through a series of experiences, and whether it’s up, down, or sideways, you can increase your capabilities and build your network, which ultimately opens more doors.
Why take the risk when you like what you’re doing?
I’m not saying you need to walk away from your dream job, just that that path to taking your career to the next level may be by taking on something you haven’t done before. Sure, you’re comfortable where you are – you work hard, you get good results, people know you and you’ve built a great reputation. Why start over? I’ve been there, I get it.
But if you step back and take a good look, are you really building new skills, learning new things, and working with different people? The single biggest advantage I’ve found in people changing roles is that it develops the ability to look at things from a different angle, through a new lens. In moving from a program manager role into one where you’re the customer of those programs, you bring perspective that others on the team without that experience don’t have. If you later go back to a program manager role, your experience as a customer changes your lens again, and it improves the way you create, deliver and communicate programs now that you’ve seen it from another angle.
You just can’t beat that experience.
It’s also not a bad idea in this ever-changing world to have a blend of broad and deep experience in your toolkit. It’s that breadth and depth that will position you for more opportunities in the future.
What’s your experience? Is it better to stay put or move around?
Follow me on Twitter @StephKinHR
Want to hear more from HR Execs outside of HP? Check out Charlie Judy on HR Fishbowl, who is proud to be a Top 10 Talent Management Blog according to Fistful of Talent, and a member of the SmartBrief on Workforce advisory board. Great resources for HR knowledge!
Charlie interviewed me last week on his blog - I'm reprinting, here we go...
This (relatively) regular feature is designed to expose the “Trench HR” community (HR people practicing in a corporate environment – private or public) to leaders who have found success in our profession. This interview with Stephanie Kempa, Senior HR Director with Hewlett-Packard (HP), was conducted, condensed, and in some cases paraphrased by Charlie Judy. Stephanie is responsible for the full-suite of HR products and services delivered to the employees of one of HP’s largest business units – a multi-billion dollar operation with tens of thousands of employees. She has done business in India, China, Singapore, Poland, Costa Rica, the U.K., Switzerland, and Mexico. She knows what’s up…
Q. How did you get into HR?
A. I had a bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Michigan State and knew I really wanted to go to grad school. One of my fellow social work mentors told me that if she had to do it all over again, she would have pursued a program with Michigan State’s School of HR and Labor Relations. I looked into it and decided it was right for me. I jumped into Labor Relations with Philip Morris right out of school and have touched pretty much every aspect of HR since then.
Q. How did you get the chance to “touch pretty much every aspect of HR” in your career?
A. I worked for a couple of HR leaders who were really good at challenging me to try new things – and who were willing to give me the opportunity to do so. Labor Relations was a great foundation for other HR competencies; it taught me how to be agile, think on my feet, and frame solutions for complex issues. That experience gave me a confidence that I could transfer my skills to other areas.
Q. Having mentors who are willing to push you in new directions is a theme I’ve heard before. Is that all it really takes, or is there something else?
A. Having that mentor is certainly a crucial factor in the equation. But you also need to have demonstrated success and you need to have tremendous initiative. Leaders don’t typically tap employees on the shoulder for new opportunities unless those employees have proven themselves in some form or fashion. That means you have to focus on doing what you’re there to do really well before moving on to the next thing. Don’t get out ahead of yourself. Once you’ve grown comfortable in your current role, it’s unfortunately easy to stay there…and it’s even easier for others to want to keep you there. That’s where your initiative comes in. You should make it known that you’re not only willing, but also excited to go do something new. Don’t be shy about that.
Q. Do you think it’s better to be a mile wide or a mile deep in HR?
A. I hate to say it, but you have to be both. I’ve built my career by focusing not so much on the roles I wanted, but rather on the skills I wanted to acquire along the way. I looked for opportunities that would help me diversify my skills portfolio. I’ve been able to develop some “specialties” along the way, but those specialties were an outcome – an end, not a means.
Q. Is there any piece of advice you’d give the HR profession as a whole?
A. Listen. Listen. Then listen some more. We need to get better at not just hearing what our clients are saying, but also interpreting what they are really telling us. In order to do this, we not only need to understand their business, but we need to understand the things that influence their business – internally and externally. We’re getting better at this, but I would encourage my colleagues to consider this as important as anything else they do. It has broad implications to the value they bring the business and to their long-term career potential in the HR space.
Follow me on Twitter @StephKinHR
Follow Charlie on Twitter @HRFishbowl
Billy Joel once sang “If my silence made you leave, then that would be my first mistake”. Think about situations at work that could have been avoided or resolved with better communications. Improving your communications is a great way to save time and is one of the key skills you can develop to take your job performance to the next level.
Communications is a pretty broad area, so I’ll focus this post on improving by making sure your communications are well-planned. To take a simple approach, you can improve your communications by applying the same concept you learned if you’ve taken any basic presentation/ public speaking skills class. In public speaking, the classic advice is that the speech has 3 parts – 1) tell them what you’re going to tell them; 2) tell them; 3) tell them what you’ve told them. If you apply this same concept to project management, you’ll find that you can instantly improve the implementation of the project and improve others’ perceptions of how you manage the project. If you think about strong project managers you know, I’m betting they’re good at this.
Throughout my career I’ve seen examples of really great communications and some not-so-great. Take the example of two project teams who worked on similar projects – one was really well received, the other – well, not so much.
This is what the effective team did:
- Planned communications as part of their work from the very beginning of the project
- Determined key stakeholders and briefed them on what was changing and when to expect it (applying the skill of “tell them what you’re going to tell them”)
- As each major milestone approached, briefed the stakeholders
- Anticipated and wrote FAQs
- Implemented the change (applied skill of “tell them”)
- Followed up – considered what the impact of the changes would be, and proactively sent follow up communications, i.e. this is what changed, here’s how you’ll see it show up, here’s what to do if there’s a problem, etc. (applied skill of “tell them what you told them”)
For most people, it comes down to a matter of time. We’re busy people – do we really have time to communicate everything to the nth degree? As you might suspect, I’d argue that you really don’t have time to skimp on communications.
In the spirit of taking my own advice, my blogging is a good example of where the silence in communications could lead people to the wrong conclusions. After my last post, I changed roles within HP, and I haven’t had a chance to blog as I shifted blogging down in priorities to pick up the extra responsibilities involved in changing roles. It’s been a really busy 2 months. Even though it’s been a conscious reprioritization, if I were coaching myself, I’d say you should keep people informed rather than go silent. Otherwise you’re just leaving questions and speculation and leaving people guessing on what happened. The same holds true with projects. If you run into delays, tell people. If there’s an action coming up, tell them. If you did what you said you’d do, let them know, so they know it’s complete.
What do you think? What advice would you give about using communications effectively?
Follow me on Twitter @StephKinHR