Facilitative Leadership

Do you have what it takes to present ideas and drive engagement from this team?

Facilitative Leadership

Facilitative Leadership is a career game changer and a class I believe every company should make available. If you ever get the opportunity, I highly recommend you take a Facilitative Leadership Class. Jump on it. Don’t look back, don’t look around, don’t ask questions. Just sign up. If there is one class you can help you take your career to the next level, it is Facilitative Leadership. I have wanted to blog about this topic for a very long time and the real life example below inspired me to take notes.

Real Life Example:

As a member of the executive leadership team, I attend a weekly meeting where the head of each department and the CEO of the company update each other on what is happening in our respective departments.  The meeting lasts an hour and we also strategize about current initiatives.

Like most meetings, our meetings are no different and we:

  • Start a few minutes late
  • We get off track and stay off track
  • We don’t always have time for everyone to provide their update
  • We end late

Thankfully, we do not have the problems that many meetings do have:

  • One person dominates the meeting
  • One person is not engaged at all
  • Participants are distracted on their email
  • At this level, everyone knows how to present their ideas

We recently hired an executive assistant and one her duties is to attend this meeting and take notes. She is also responsible in part, to facilitate the meeting. Our current hire is fresh out of college and although very smart, inexperienced when it comes to the corporate world, let alone taming a table of Type A execs. After seeing her struggle a bit, I sat down with her one morning in front of a white board and went through some basic principles and practices of Facilitative Leadership. I am currently on vacation and she just called, excited to let me know that she was able to control the meeting, kept topics on track, ended on time and everyone was able to say what they wanted to say.  

I have always known the power of Facilitative Leadership, but the fact that a recent graduate with less than 4 months of work experience could control a group of execs made me realize more folks need to take this class. Management training may get you to the next level, but demonstrate Facilitative Leadership and you WILL be on the short list for those coveted manager positions. Below I share my story, a few common principles of Facilitative Leadership and the reasons they work.

10 years ago, as a trainer with a Fortune 300, I facilitated this 2.5 day class 4 times a year. The result of being involved with that class was two-fold:

Fold 1: I felt really appreciated by co-workers when I walked through the halls of the company. No class had as much impact on individual careers or department cohesiveness when attended individually or as a group. The managers and execs that had attended this class were able to take their careers to the next level because they knew how to inspire engage,present new topics and gain buy-in with folks they were working with. With simple changes in approach, peers will see you as a next level professional in the corporate environment. Because I had the fortune of facilitating the class, these colleagues were grateful to me because they felt that it was me who had changed their careers when in actuality it was the class they had attended.

Fold 2: To become a trainer and to facilitate classes, I had to first become certified to facilitate the specific class, Facilitative Leadership. Because I was facilitating this class on a regular basis, I had the opportunity to see many different ways of facilitating meetings, driving engagement, and presenting to groups. Some methods were better than others, but as much as I learned HOW to do it, I also saw what NOT to do. This is very similar to the hiring process. Although I have seen 100’s if not 1000’s of candidates hired, I saw 10X the number declined and know specifically why they were declined. This perspective combined with the “science” of Facilitative Leadership conduct meeting and presentations (including debrief’s of the interviews) in a very efficient and effective manner.

What is Facilitative Leadership?

There are many flavors of Facilitative Leadership. At a very high level, Facilitative Leadership is a model asserting that leaders should effectively facilitate deep collaboration. This model teaches how to lead in a way that inspires, invites participation and build commitment. This is not a methodology that should be used 100% of the time. There are times where we want to TELL people what to do and even flex the pounded fist. This is a tool that can be very effective to drive engagement, present ideas, and drive to consensus.

One mantra of Facilitative Leadership is “The knowledge is in the room”. What this implies is that when the audience is engaged, the audience can drive the talking points home. If the facilitator is doing 95% of the talking then this is a one way conversation. If we can drive our talking time down to 60% or 70%, then the audience is participating and much more engaged. As a facilitator, I love it when the audience is giving the examples and explaining the topics to the class vs. me.     

We have all been in meetings where:

  • There were audience members are in the corner talking too loudly and causing a distraction
  • Folks are on their laptops doing email
  • Presenter talks 100% of the time (this is a lecture, like what our parents did when we were in trouble)

In each of the above, there is little or no audience engagement. These are frustrating meetings and when there is no engagement or there are distractions, it is easy to lose interest. Facilitative Leadership keeps the audience interested.

A quick example of Facilitative Leadership that you ARE aware of:

  • We have all seen the use of an agenda in meetings. We have a specified time to meet and we need to cover 4 or 5 topics. The agenda breaks down the time so we know when to end on a topic and when to start the next one. Used correctly, the agenda can drive decision-making. This is great in theory but ONLY works if the person running the meeting has the balls to cut a topic short, set expectations or possesses the facilitative skill set to drive the group to a decision. Most meetings make use of the agenda but without facilitative leadership expertise, the agenda is useless. Facilitative Leadership provides guard rails. With our exec admin I asked her to set expectations by giving the leaders a heads up: To honor everyone’s time, we were asking everyone to limit their updates to 5 minutes. This was essentially the agenda that allowed everyone to take a turn and get the group out on time.  It also gave the least experienced person in the room the permission to cut someone off.

A few examples of Facilitative Leadership that you may NOT be aware of:

  • If two people are causing a distraction by holding their own side conversation, one way to get them to slow their roll is just start walking around the room. Start presenting in close physical proximity to the distraction and the culprits will shut down.  The beauty of this is you don’t have to look at them or say anything. This is why good presenters use the entire room. Presentations are more dynamic when we use the entire room. Next time you see a performer on stage, see if they stand in one place or use the entire stage / room. Facilitative Leadership explains the nuance of using the entire room.  
  • Testing the technology: We have all been seen presentations start late because the presenters were fiddling with the projector and audio for 15 minutes putting everything behind schedule.
  • Building connections: To build personal connections before the presentation starts, introduce yourself and talk with the audience members one-on-one as they enter the room. We can use this connection during the presentation to increase participation. Facilitative Leadership gives us examples of how to maximize these introductions in a very short amount of time and then how to leverage these connections during the actual presentation to increase engagement.  If I introduce myself prior to the presentation with folks who I feel a great vibe with, I can engage with that person during the preso. “I just met John Doe this morning and he had brought up a great point XYZ”.  With this simple gesture, we just validated John Doe in front of everyone and because of this, he is more likely to answer questions out loud when I engage with the group. Build relationships with 6 – 10 folks prior to the presentation and you can build momentum with your engagement. I recently went to a dinner show where the performers came out and engaged with the audience prior to the show. One of the performers came up to our table and started talking with us. You guessed it, during the show, the spotlight shinned on me, I was pulled on stage and suddenly being serenaded to and became part of the performance. I am sure the engagement with our table prior to the show was a “test”. You can bet that myself, our table and all the tables in our immediate vicinity were “engaged”.    

Other topics covered during Facilitative Leadership classes:

  • Power Point Presentations.  How to format power point slides, what colors and fonts to use and not use. Did you know there are specific colors you should NOT use when creating Power Point presentations?
  • Driving group consensus and making a decision
  • How to drive everyone to come back from break’s on time
  • Techniques to keep the audience from falling asleep
  • How to quickly generate ideas from the audience to solve problems
  • Prioritizing generated ideas so that the group is in agreement on what to work on

The above techniques don’t just drive engagement in formal meetings. These techniques can be put to use in your every day life including impromptu meetings, brainstorm sessions and one-on-one conversations with your manager and your significant other. Your colleagues won’t realize that they are being “guided / manipulated” but with a few subtle changes in how we present ideas and articulate our thoughts, we can be seen as thought leaders.

If you ever get the chance to take this class, I highly recommend it. Even if you have to pay for it yourself, it will be money well spent and will pay for itself exponentially.

See you at the after party,


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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HR lessons from Hollywood

Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Recent Graduate

lesssons from hollywood

Lessons from Hollywood

I love movies. Movies are an escape from my day-to-day. No one yells at me in the movie theater, no one wants a decision out of me and most of all, no one is complaining to me. The biggest decision I make is regular or extra butter on my popcorn and do I pee before the movie starts or can I hold it for the next 2 hours. #FirstWorldProblems for sure. I often assign employees homework in the form of movies. This way we both have something in common we can discuss when it comes to learning a lesson about corporate life. In this weeks post I provide a few HR lessons from Hollywood and hopefully this will give you ideas to build common ground when sharing lessons in your corporate life. I know I missed a few, so please share your favorite movies in the comments below. 

Just so we establish a baseline, my scale for movie approval is below:

At a very high level it is:

  • Thumbs up
  • Thumbs Down
  • The Finger from my dominant hand
  • The Finger from both hands

At a more sophisticated level:

  • Don’t bother
  • Rental
  • See it in a movie theater but only at matinée prices
  • See it in a movie theater because of the sound track or special effects
  • Must see in THX, IMAX, or iPic. This movie deserves your full attention, the full effect and will be worth the extra money paid.

I do not judge a movie by how much it cost to make. I don’t care if it cost 2 million or 100 million to produce. I am only paying 28.00 for I and Mrs. HRNasty to see the movie so what do I care what the movie cost to make?

Below are a few examples that combines two of my favorite two things (HR and Movies) as they relate to movie lessons for corporate life.

lesssons from hollywood

Ed Harris has a great line I love when talking about failure. “Failure is not an option.”

Apollo 13

Tom Hanks, Ed Harris, Kevin Bacon


“Houston, we have a problem”. The true story of the Apollo mission where the capsule was damaged while in space endangering the lives of those aboard. The movie shows how Houston and the crew of the Apollo worked together to come up with a solution to bring the team in space back safely to earth. There is a classic scene where the team in Houston is in a conference room and a guy comes in with a box and dumps the contents on the table in front of number of engineers. It looks like a box of junk but these are the same parts available on the Apollo spacecraft. From this box of parts, the crews both on earth and in space figure out what they can construct to get the team safely back home. If you have an individual or a team who is always saying “Impossible” or “we can’t do that”, assign this movie.


lesssons from hollywood

Matt Damon putting in the work to figure it out.

The Martian

Matt Damon


Two thumbs up. See this on in THX, IMAX or iPic. Yes, this movie is worth the extra money. I LOVED THIS MOVIE! Modern fictional version of Apollo 13 and a great flick. I just assigned the watching of this movie as homework for a recent new hire. This new hire is a millennial and I didn’t think that they would relate to Apollo 13. The premise is that Matt Damon is stranded on Mars. This guy does three things that everyone in corporate American can take a cue from.

  • He keeps a sense of humor against incredible odds
  • He does NOT blame anyone and he goes out of his way to make sure the rest of the team doesn’t feel like they were at fault.
  • He doesn’t give up. He keeps coming up with and trying new ideas.

If you have anyone at work that doesn’t think it can be done, or is always losing their cool, this is the movie for them. On the flip side, my fishing partner said I would LOVE the Reverence with Leonardo Dicaprio. He thought I would appreciate this movie because it is all about living in the outdoors. Well, I liked the story, but DAMM this was depressing. One set back after another. This guy can’t catch a break. If I live hardship from 9 – 5, I don’t need to pay another 28.00 and an afternoon on my weekend for the privilege of living vicariously through Titanic Boy. I like the outdoors, but I like also like my Jet-Boil, Gor-tex, and Leatherman gadgets. I don’t want to test my man strength against a bear, death or eating raw buffalo. Oh yeah, not a great ending either.


lesssons from hollywood

Sean Combs with a classic rant on passion for your clients products.

Get em to the Greek

Russel Brand, Sean Combs and Jonah Hill


This movie is hilarious. I love Russell Brand in this movie. No matter how stupid you think the cover on the DVD looks, you really owe it to yourself to check this one out. How does it relate to HR and your career? Sean Combs has a classic scene where he explains to Jonah Hill how he needs to be passionate about Russell Brand new song. I blogged about his rant here. 

If you are a manager who has a newb that doesn’t believe in your brand, your product or your service, they need to take a cue from Mr. Combs.


Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

1970 Gene Wilder

If there ever was an interview loop, it was Willy Wonka’s tour of the chocolate factory.

  1. Wonka had a job he was trying to fill because he wanted to retire and assumed that anyone that landed a ticket was a targeted candidate.
  2. Wonka had a targeted job posting (Golden Tickets in chocolate bars). If you aren’t interested in chocolate you are probably not going to apply, or in this case, buy a chocolate bar.
  3. He gave them a tour knowing that just like most job interview loops, most of the candidates would take themselves out of the process because of the mistakes they make based on their personalities. Just like in real interview loops, the candidates don’t know when they are making mistakes and their true personalities come out either solidifying their candidacy or cutting them.

Charlie Bucket fails the test as well, but after the grandfather yells at Charlie to sell out, Charlie apologizes and returns the candy he stole. With that gesture, Wonka found a candidate worthy of the job.

lesssons from hollywood

Hill utilizing statistics to field a winning team.


2011 Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Phillip Seymour Hoffman

If there ever was a recruiting movie this has got to be it. Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill are perfect together. A true story that shows how the Oakland A’s used player statistics and one of the lowest payrolls of in the league to field a winning a Major League Baseball team. There is a scene where the old school coaches are debating players based on the fact that they “look” like baseball players. There is a lot of truth in interviewers using first impressions as the presentation layers as a metric for decision-making. In contrast, Pitt and Hill use innovative statistical strategies to put together a winning team with non-traditional skill sets and go against all baseball tradition.

Lessons from Hollywood

3 interns including the diversity candidate DeNiro

The Intern

Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway


No special effects here, but it is worth a big screen showing. I loved this movie for a number of reasons:

One: it is online tech company and goes out of it’s way to show that non traditional workplaces can not only great places to work but successful.

Two: DeNiro is hired as a diverse candidate. He is not only over 40, he is coming out of retirement and shows that old school can be successful in new school and while he stays true to himself.

Three: DeNiro is the kind of guy I want to be in the work place and as an HR practitioner. He enables his colleagues to become better and they don’t realize the effect he is having on them. He doesn’t need to take the credit for any of the folks success. He wants to see everyone experience success. He is the epitome of servant leadership from a position of servant.




Directed by Ron Howard, with Henry Winkler, Shelly Long and Michael Keaton

This is an oldie, but I knew when I saw this movie, I wanted to be Henry Winkler. Here is a guy that is straight and arrow and he ends up working, caring and taking care of a bunch of employees in a very non traditional business. The employees are call girls with a pimp played by Michael Keaton. Henry Winker was start-up HR / accounting back in the early 80’s. He used his entrepreneurial savvy to run a tight ship for a less traditional business. The call girls were all taken care of with 401K’s, benefit plans, and all of the other perks that are included when HR is given the freedom to take care of the employees and leverage the culture. And yes, the employees in this business loved the HR guy.


Lessons from Hollywood

Tucci playing mentor and helping Hathaway fit in

Devil Wears Prada

Yes, we have all worked with an evil boss. What I loved about this movie is the mentorship aspect played by Stanley Tucci. Tucci takes Anne Hathaway under his wing and not only shows her the fashion world but loans her clothes so she can fit in with this very select and clique industry.



Lessons from Hollywood

“Coffee is for closers”

Glengarry Glen Ross


This list would not be complete without this movie making the list. This is probably the most quoted movie of sales professionals out there. The original tag line of this blog was “we’re all out of steak knives” and it’s inspiration came from this movie.

There is a classic motivational sales speech where Baldwin explains the rules of the sales contest to the 3 real estate agents.

“You are all fired as of right now and you have one week to win your jobs back. First place gets a Cadillac. Second place gets a set of steak knives. Third place is fired.

My thinking with the use of the tag line was that when it comes to interviews and promotions, there is only first place. There is only 1 job you and many others are interviewing for. There is only one VP or Director position that you and your peers are vying for. When it comes to job interviews, there is no silver medal. There is only the gold. Second place is really the first place loser.

In the classic scene linked below, Alec Baldwin comes in from “downtown” to a small branch office to motivate agents in a small real estate office. Baldwin’s speech is an HR nightmare, a hostile work environment to the n’th degree but there is a lot of truth in the delivery. Folks may not like the way the message is presented, but “coffee is for closers”. If you are a millennia in any sales related industry and your VP is over 40, this is a must see. This movie or lines from this movie will come up and you need to know about the meaning. This is a must see for sales professionals just so you are not ridiculed by your peers. Yeah, your are welcome.


I know I have missed a number of great lessons from movies. Share the movie and the lesson you have learned from your favorite movie in the comments below and in the mean time, see you at the after party.


nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!

Mistakes at work

Mistakes at work are not always a bad thing

Mistakes at work and what to do about them

Making a mistake at work is about as bad as it gets. We were hired for our expertise in a specific discipline. We were trained by our employer and co-workers to do a specific task. The company made an investment in us and mistakes at work never feel good and are painful no matter how trivial. Everyone makes mistakes at work and this week’s topic is what to do after the mistake is made so you not only keep your job, you have the opportunity to propel it.

First and foremost, don’t worry about the mistakes. Unless you are heart surgeon or command control at NASA responsible for rocket launches, I really wouldn’t worry.

It isn’t the actual mistake at work that gets people in trouble, it is the way they handle the mistake that gets them into trouble.

You WILL make a mistake at work. It is only a matter of time. Everyone makes mistakes and it will be OK. No one is perfect. If you were perfect, you wouldn’t be reading this blog, you would be sipping fruity drinks with umbrellas on an island in the sun. The president makes mistakes, Eagle scouts make mistakes, and it really just is a matter of time before mere mortals make a mistake at work. Any company that expects all of their employees to be perfect are on crack and you should get out of that neighborhood. Let’s get practical and think about how we are not just going to survive the mistake but look good in the process.

mistakes at work

What you say and how you say it will determine how the date goes

Take a typical mistake that happens on the dating scene and apply it to work. If you are meeting Mrs. Right for a date and you are late to the party, what you say and how you say it will impact the rest of the evening.

On the HRNasty scale, the following are various degrees of the same mistake.

  • Major F@#% Up: You and Ms. Right agree to meet for coffee at 2:00. You show up 15 min late with no explanation, no acknowledgement and no apology. You ask “Been waiting long?” and proceed with the date like nothing happened. Not good.
  • Major F@#% Up with a Flourish: You and Mrs. Right agree to meet for coffee and you show up 15 minutes late and blame it on someone else. “You told me to be here at 2:15, I am not late, you was told me the wrong time. This isn’t my fault.” You will probably be parting ways at 2:16.
  • Salvaged: You and Mrs. Right agree to meet for coffee and 1 hour before the appointed meeting time you text your date and let her know you are running 20 minutes late. When you show up, you apologize for being late and provide a logical explanation.
  • Looking Good: You and Mrs. Right agree to meet for coffee and 20 minutes before the appointed meeting time you text your date and let her know you are running 15 minutes late. When you show up, you apologize for being late AND thank her for being flexible. Of course coffee is on you and you tip the barista big to show you are not a cheap skate (but not so big you are showing off). Move on and don’t dwell on your mistake. At the end of the date, tell her she is a champ for being flexible and you are really glad she waited for you. Don’t bring up the incident otherwise.  

In each of the above scenarios, we were late to our date with Mrs. Right. We handled it four different ways. Based on the tone and the delivery, the outcome resulted in four degrees of forgiveness. It isn’t the mistake it is how we handled our sh*$ that matters.

Mistakes happen at work and two real life examples 

Every week, we have an executive meeting where 10 department heads sync up. The Head of Professional Services explained that we were going to go live with a new client today and the Head of Technology started waving his hands. He wasn’t happy with the news because his department was going to support the additional load via our technology and he didn’t receive a heads up. He explained that he had asked for a heads-up multiple times with past roll outs and this just wasn’t cool. He even said something to the effect “I am angry about this but I am still smiling” and made a gesture with his hands pointing to his big grin. It was an effort to bring levity and seriousness to the moment at the same time.

The Head of Professional Services remained calm and cool about the situation and I heard the following:

HPS: Yes, you were notified.

HPS. You knew about the rollout?

Tech: Yes, we did, but we didn’t know it was today.

HPS: You knew about these folks as a customer. I am confident that we have kept you updated.

TechVP: I knew about them as a customer, didn’t know about the rollout today.

HPS: This is something we need to take offline. I will work with you so that in the future you and your group have the updates. I will make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Now, this scenario could have easily been turned into a blow up but it didn’t. No one shifted the blame, no one lost their temper. Professional Services realized that this wasn’t the time or the place to discuss the details because it didn’t involve the 8 other execs. Technology didn’t keep digging because he trusted that the intent was there. Professionals through and through.

We moved onto the next topic without any fan fare and yeah, I work with a bad-ass crew. Professionals with a capital P. I don’t think that many would have noticed or acknowledged how easily this could have gone any one of 100 different ways, and all of them bad because these guys handled their sh@*.    

Professional Services may or may not have made a mistake but he just stepped up and took responsibility. That is how Sr. leaders take care of mistakes.

The difference between a senior person and someone who is junior isn’t just their knowledge or their skill set. It is usually their ability to control and address mistakes at work.

Everyone makes mistakes. Senior people make mistakes just like less experienced people make mistakes. The mistakes Senior people make are usually much more grave because they are responsible for more. The difference between the two levels of experience is how they handle the situation moving forward.

How to handle mistakes at work

If you make a mistake, own up to it quickly. Unless the mistake is malicious, I highly doubt you will be fired. Especially if you are the one that discovers the mistake, admit to it and do something to fix the situation moving forward. .

When I was early in my career, working in corporate America, a colleague I worked with made a mistake that cost the company $1 million dollars. My friend wanted to quit because he thought he would never be promoted and his career was over. Most of us sitting around him wanted to quit because we didn’t want to be seen around this guy and it was damm uncomfortable. Talk about Death Row and dead man walking. Shortly after the $1M left the company, our colleague was promoted to manager. He couldn’t believe it and asked his manager “How could I be promoted after my last mistake?” It was explained to him that the write up he did after that mistake showed everyone that he wasn’t going to make that mistake again and he was able handle stress with maturity. That retrospective was shared with the entire department and then throughout the company. Yes, the company lost a lot of money, but it gained an individual with a lot of maturity and even more loyalty. He wasn’t going to make the same mistake again and no one around him was going to make that mistake. The company cannot teach a calm demeanor under duress and focused on retention. As much as I am in favor of a hanging in the morning to motivate the troops, I gotta say, this move was pretty effective.

I blogged about a situation where I was working for a small start-up and a very large mistake was made. The CEO and CTO did a very similar thing and you can read about that here

If you make a mistake pull out the below checklist:

  1. Stash any attitude or ideas of blaming anyone else. Even if you are only partially responsible, just own everything. Time is a wasting and this behavior just looks childish.
  2. Fess up as quickly as you possibly can. Do not try to fix it yourself or cover it up. (We have all seen that movie) Don’t even think about taking 30 minutes to try to rectify the situation on your own. Go straight to your manager, do not pass go and do not collect any stupid thoughts along the way.
  3. Apologize sincerely and succinctly. Do not dwell on the apology or apologize over and over. Everyone around the situation feels badly for you and additional apologies just make everyone feel more uncomfortable. Time is a-wastin’ and there are problems to clean up.
  4. Stash any attitude or ideas of blaming anyone else. Even if you are only partially responsible, just own everything. Time is a wasting and this behavior just looks childish.
  5. Read rule number 1.

The company is paying you to fix problems, avoid problems and solve problems. The company is not paying you to blame the problem on others.

  • Come up with a game plan to fix the problem, put it in a written document and share it with the group. Don’t rely on going from person to person to verbally articulate your plan. It will take too long and will sound too dramatic.
  • When everything is cleaned up, write-up a retrospective. Review what went wrong without mentioning names and what can be done to avoid the problem in the future and what you learned. The more this retrospective is shared throughout the organization is proof the doc was effectively written. Your goal is to put together a document so well written it is shared wide and deep. You do not want to be shy at this stage of the game. A well-written document in times of stress will gain you points.

Next time you make a mistake, get help. Don’t try and cover it up and practice transparency.

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!

Biggest Job Interview Mistakes

Posted: by HRNasty in Job Interview Tips, Recent Graduate, What Recruiters Really Think

job interview mistake

Declined because of an interview mistake you didn’t know you made

Top 10 interview mistakes:

The lists of job interview mistakes are a con and a false sense of security. This weeks post is HRNasty’s list of interview mistakes and I have a different attitude on this topic. The normal Google search for “Top 10 Interview Mistakes Made in an Interview”, are for those with the manners of a cave man and I am probably insulting the cave dweller. If a candidate needs to be reminded about what is typically recommended, they are going to:

  1. Have problems with the rest of the interview
  2. Not be successful once they land the job

The following tips are given by your typical HR / recruiter blog posts. The candidate hears this advice and then feels confident about landing the job because they won’t make the below mistakes. The candidate is set up for failure. In my opinion, the usual lists don’t provide any real help to a candidate new to the interview process. Interview mistakes are made and opportunities lost. 

Interview mistakes

The usual suspects (I mean interview mistakes)

Below are the usual suspects provided by your usual not so helpful HR experts:

  1. Don’t be late to the interview, arrive a few minutes early.
  2. Don’t badmouth prior co-workers, prior managers, or prior companies.
  3. Ask questions during the interview. (You would be surprised how many candidates do NOT have any questions and this comes off as arrogant.)
  4. Don’t lie about salary, start or end dates.
  5. Keep it professional. Try to keep your personal opinions out of the conversation.
  6. Do NOT answer the “how much are you looking for” question until you are ready to negotiate a salary.
  7. Don’t ask about the benefits plan on the first interview.
  8. Don’t look at your phone while in the interview.

OK, so I don’t know how to count to ten and I only provided 8. Remember, I am not in finance and after reading the common themes over and over, I got so disgusted with the exercise I couldn’t take anymore and quit. Here is the problem with this advice. It really doesn’t help anyone get through an interview. This advice would help us get through LIFE but it shouldn’t give you any confidence when it comes to the interview. What this advice says to the reader is the following:

“If I don’t check my phone, if I show up on time, and I don’t badmouth my prior manager, I have a shot at landing the job”.

I call bullsh@#. The above is just common courtesy and if we need to be reminded about this stuff then we should have been Darwinized out of the system of LIFE. Every single one of the above, points to common courtesy. If you went on a first date and encountered any one or two of the above – Mrs. Right will turn into Mrs. Wrong, and Mr. Right just became your future ex. Regular readers know I like to compare the interview process to the dating scene so lets compare and contrast the numbered bullets above with the numbered wreckage below.

Interview mistakes in dating parlance:

  1. If Mr. Right is late, you are wondering if you were stood up. (If you are 2 minutes late, the recruiter is wondering if they were stood up.)
  2. If Mrs. Right starts bad mouthing prior relationships, I hear nothing but baggage I gotta’ carry and I am not a Sherpa. (The recruiter doesn’t want to carry your professional baggage.)
  3. If Mr. Wrong doesn’t ask you any questions on the first date, then this will be interpreted as no interest, no chemistry and no fireworks back at your place later in the evening. (AKA, no job offer!) 
  4. You don’t want to hear that Mr. Right has a great job only to find out he is un-employed. (Recruiters don’t want to run a background check and see jail time or see a different number on your W-2.)
  5. Try to keep the interview conversation focused on what needs to be learned. (We don’t need to hear about skeletons in the closet, ever.)
  6. On a first interview, DO tell the recruiter your salary requirements. (If Mr. Right asks you how many kids you want in your family, you don’t skirt this question.)
  7. We shouldn’t ask Mr. Right how much he makes or what kind of car he drives on the first date. (This just looks like a GoldDigger looking for benefits.)
  8. If we are constantly looking at our phone on a first date, Mrs. Right will think I have more important things to do and people to see. (The recruiter will think the same thing.)

So, the below are a few pieces of advice that I believe WILL make you more successful in an interview situation and will help you avoid the uncovered interview mistakes.

  1. Try not to answer a question with a question. EG: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?” Nothing more frustrating than asking the question and being asked, “What do you want to know?” Tell the interviewer a little bit about you like to do outside of work so you appear likeable and then talk about why you are interested in the position and why you think you are a fit. Answering a question with another questions is wasting valuable interview time and as a candidate, our time is limited.  
  1. If experience on your resume isn’t relevant, it isn’t experience. I see a lot of resumes that have information that is unrelated to the experience we listed in the job description. Information on the resume should be directly related to the requirements of the job.  
  1. Blank space on a resume says “I could have told you more about my accomplishments, but I couldn’t think of anything and / or “I got lazy”. You pick. If you have less than a full-page than see number 2 above and then adjust the width of the margins on the sides, top and bottom. You can also increase the font size to help fill up entire pages. Half empty pages say “half qualified candidate”.
  1. Always tell the truth when it comes to interviews. There are too many people involved in the interview to keep track of discrepancies. Many companies will run background checks, criminal checks and depending on the position, credit checks. Large companies may ask for a W-2 and grade transcripts. Be as accurate as possible when it comes to start and end dates with prior employers and salaries earned.
  1. Do give your references a heads up that they may be called upon when the time approaches. Send your references a job description and let them know what came up during the interviews that they should reinforce about your prior history.
  1. Do send a thank you letter or email to everyone you talked with. You will be surprised how strong a move this is just because so few candidates follow through. You can take this opportunity to reinforce WHY you are interested in the position and if you botched an interview question you can say “I have been thinking about the question you asked me and wanted to clarify my answer. . . .”.
  1. Feel free to ask the recruiter you are working with for any advice they may have. You will be surprised how often and how much a recruiter will give up with just the single ask. Remember, you are representing them. If you don’t look good, they don’t look good so they are motivated to make sure you show well.
  1. Treat the interview like two friends who just met at a party and are casually talking over beers. Too many interviews feel stiff because the candidate feels like the interviewer has ALL the power and they need to just answer the question. I want to work with folks I can have a beer with. I don’t want to work with someone who is scared of me and interviews as if I was an IRS agent.  

Hopefully the above give you more insight into the interview process and interview mistakes that can be avoided. If you picked up a nugget or two, I have plenty more where this came from. (Mainly from watching interview mistakes made that got candidates declined) Just click on any one of the “HRNasty” categories on the left hand pane.

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!

Seattle Coffee

This IS Seattle’s top coffee

Seattle’s top coffee and an amazing company culture

This week’s blog is a glimpse behind the scenes at Seattle’s top coffee shop and how this company makes both a “Best Company” list and creates an amazing company culture. We all want to make this list, we all want to check the boxes but this post shows what it really takes.

Every week, I and Mrs. Nasty go to the local diner for some quality “us” time. The food is consistently great, the staff knows us and we always recognize friends. When I say “us” time, I mean we both sit down, Mrs. Nasty pulls out her phone and gets caught up on Facebook and I start banging away on my MacBook Air making last-minute edits on the week’s blog post. I finish up the post, flip the laptop to the Mrs. and she gives it a final looksy for punctuation and final edits. Yes, the older crowd looks at us with horror and gives us the stink eye. They are questioning our generation with cell phones and electronics at the dinner table and a complete lack of communication. For the record, we have no TV or electronics present when we eat at home. Thursday’s are working dinner dates.

This week was no different. We got to the diner about 8:30 PM (I usually get home around 8 every night) and there was a group of young women having dinner. Mrs. Nasty immediately recognizes a few folks at the table and it turns out it is a number of barista’s from our favorite coffee stand. The coffee stand is Mercurys Coffee Co. and they have a total of 7 locations (5 drive thru & 2 walk in) 2 of which we frequent on a very regular basis.

To provide some background, I worked my last years in college as a barista in the late 80’s before espresso was as popular as it is. The stand I worked at had the first 4-group (LaMarzocco) machine in the United States and was pulling 500 coffees a day. No small feat considering coffee wasn’t yet mainstream. I loved that job and along the way became a coffee snob. To this day, I only frequent 2 coffee shops and 3 coffee stands because so many places don’t know WTF they are doing. The local big box McDonald’s of coffee serves its purpose but I only order drip coffee from The Man when networking or interviewing a candidate. There is an art to pulling espresso and not everyone can do it right let alone across their entire crew. I don’t take it lightly when I say Mercury Coffee Co. pulls Seattle’s top coffee.

Mrs. Nasty gets caught up with her espresso peeps and we sit down to dinner and electronics.

I am sitting 2 feet from the table of baristas and I can’t help but overhear bits of the conversation. Voices carry when a table full of women get excited. I hear:

  • The group sharing inspirational quotes on customer service
  • The group is giving each other advice on how to make the coffee stand more efficient at opening and closing.
  • My wife hears a story about how it was 5 minutes to closing and they were ready to shut it down when a customer pulls up. The barista is initially dismayed but explains how she perks up despite being ready to shut it down and offers the customer a coffee. Her attitude got her a $15.00 tip.
  • One of the baristas talks about her power to make someone’s day with a cup of coffee.

The power to make someone’s day with a cup of coffee? WHaaahhhh??? I want to turn around in disbelief but don’t want to stare or creep. Next time you say to your crew “No one is going to die, this isn’t open heart surgery” think again. These women pull coffee and I am stoked they take it as seriously as they do. No wonder they are Seattle’s top coffee shop. 

I am in mid bite on my hamburger, look up to Mrs. Nasty and say “I wish I could take a picture of these guys and write a blog post on what I am hearing. Where else are you going to get this kind of employee engagement?”

The sharing of stories is all over the board, and even though my back is to the group, I can tell the entire table is fully engaged. The common theme is customer service and although they may not know it they are definitely talking company culture. This group of millennials is taking the initiative to meet and figure out ways to make their workplace better. You betta’ recognize!

Readers know that I am passionate about company culture and have been fortunate enough to have made the usual Best Place to Work lists 10 times in the past 15 years including a number of #1 and #2 place finishes. Working in recruiting, I have always wondered where Mercury Coffee Co. recruits their talent and positive attitudes. It isn’t a J.O.B. to these folks, it is literally a lifestyle. I would pay a premium have these attitudes on the teams I recruit for.

When I wait in line at Mercury Coffee Co., we can’t help but notice the signs of pride and props. This place has 6 top 5 finishes in the “Best of Western Washington” lists for “Best Coffee”. The feather in the cap is this is a streak of improvement and domination:

  • 6 top 5 finishes in the King 5 Evening Magazine “Best of Western Washington” over the past 6 years.
  • 4 years in a row from 2012 & 2013 & 2014 & 2015 this crew was voted #1 “Best Coffee Shop”
  • 2011 we were voted #2
  • 2010 we were voted #4

No small feat in a geographic area that has a coffee stand on every corner and Starbuck on every block. We are literally in the shadow of the Starbucks headquarters.

As an HR guy, I know that you don’t make these “Best of” lists if you don’t have a great company culture. As a customer, you won’t experience a great product if your employees don’t believe in what they are serving. You won’t experience great customer service is your employees don’t love and respect the leadership of the company. You don’t make the “Best of” lists if you don’t have the full package. These guys have it and I was seeing first hand the reasons why.

These barista’s were a team, they were a tribe and they not only protected their company culture, they were nurtured and loved it.

Mrs. Nasty says I should talk with them. We see most of the crew on a regular basis but I didn’t want to interrupt their flow and I resist. I hear another person comment on how they appreciate a co-workers effort and I can’t take it anymore. I know I gotta’ blog about what I am hearing. For those of you who are picturing a bunch of naive Polly Anna’s that you want to punch in the face because they are too positive, think again. These women are as hip as they come. Tat’s, Snapback’s worn brim back, floppy knit hats, and killer smiles.

Some things I have noticed over the years:

Seattle's top coffee

More flair does not mean more pride

  • These women all rock the swag. They make the t-shirts and hats look sexy. Yes, they are all attractive, but they wear their logos with pride. There are plenty of attractive serving staff at your local chain steak house, but they don’t wear the “flair”, the flair wears them. The brand and the “flair” at your local steak joint is an edict that is straight from management and it comes through. At Mercurys you know this crew is proud of the brand.
  • When the lines are long, the baristas don’t know your order, they will run out to the cars and take order so your drink is ready when you pull up. When they recognize the car, the drink will be started as you drive up so it is ready when you get to the window. 
  • When I pull up, they confirm my drink with me. They may not know me as HRNasty, but they know I am a double ristretto Americano in a short cup with a raw sugar and splash of cream. Even as I was talking with the group at dinner, one of the baristas called me out by drink.
  • They know our dog’s name, always asked me how Mrs. Nasty was doing when she was ill with cancer and take a genuine interest. Our dog looks forward to this place because she knows they will have a couple of doggie treat for her.

These are all small things, but the small things add up and the consistency of the experience week in and week out put this place over the top.

Seattle's top coffee

Mercurys Coffee Co crew of baristas protecting and building their culture

I don’t know what the leadership is doing at this place, but I gotta’ think this is the Berkshire Hathaway of coffee. This was a self-directed group and they were getting it done.

Next time you wonder if your company can have culture, passion, or pride, remember Mercury Coffee Co. and the individual coffee stands operated by only 2 -3 baristas at a time (one location has 6). Mercury Coffee Co. has figured out how to keep everyone connected and engaged across locations and these small teams are nurturing and taking pride in their company’s mission.

To the baristas at Mercury Coffee Co., I don’t know all of the voodoo you do to keep the magic alive, but please keep doing it and don’t sell out to the man with the green and white logo.

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!


phone interview

You don’t build this type of connection with a phone interview

Avoid phone interviews

Yes, you heard me right. Avoid phone interviews. If you are stressed out about a phone interview you shouldn’t be. My advice is to try to skip the phone interview and I explain how later in this post. If you are already scheduled for the phone interview, don’t worry, in many ways, phone interviews are easier than in person interviews. We don’t have to worry about the dress code, interviews are usually much more high level and shorter in length. Phone interviews usually last no more than 30 – 45 minutes and this limits the number of questions an interviewer will ask you. We literally have the interviewer by the balls because with a limited amount of time, there are only so many questions that can be asked and these questions need to be targeted. This limit on time funnels the questions to a few specific questions we can prepare for. This is the easiest interview to prepare for so don’t play defense, play offense.

It may be too late, but please don’t take this the wrong way and think I am an asshole. Phone interviews are easier on myself as a recruiter or hiring manager as well. I personally don’t have to worry about what I am wearing, I can ask the phone interview questions from the comfort of my office while surfing porn and although the phone interview is very important, it is a lot more casual and holds a “check the boxes” attitude. I don’t have to go out into the lobby and greet a candidate with my dog and pony show smile. I literally do not have to “host a guest”. This doesn’t mean I don’t take the phone interview seriously, but at a subconscious level, because I have invested less energy in the candidate, I believe this interview is a liability to the candidate.

As a candidate, this is why we should try to avoid the phone interview at all costs. The recruiter’s attitude is more casual and since you have not met face to face, there is no personal connection. Frankly, it is a lot easier to decline you as a candidate and a lot easier to not return your phone calls if I haven’t met you in person. I know folks are going to hate on me for this, but really, I am trying to help. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

If you have complained about not hearing back from a recruiter or hiring manager in the past, it was probably after a phone interview. Nine times out of ten, if you had a face-to-face interview, you will receive a follow-up from the hiring company.

And this is where you can turn the tides on the interviewer. If you are asked to schedule time for a phone interview, do everything you can to meet the interviewer in person. Let them know you are going to be in the area and it is really easy for you to swing by. I recently worked with a candidate who was applying for a position that was located in a city 2 hours from where he lived. He knew that if he landed the job, he would move to be closer to the job but also knew that the distance would make him less of a candidate in the hiring managers mind.

A tactic that I often suggest when a candidate is out of the local area is to call up the recruiter and tell them that you are going to be in the area visiting family for a few days and you can drop by in person. Our candidate didn’t have family in the area and wasn’t planning on being in town. He didn’t understand where I was going with my suggestion.

“But I don’t have family in this town, I am not going to be visiting anyone.” he replied.

My response to our candidate’s statement was “But the recruiter doesn’t know this. Our goal is to get a face to face meeting with the recruiter and let them know that moving “back home” to be with family is your ultimate goal”.

The candidate responded. . . “Ohhhhh, I get it. That is just sneaky”.

I responded: “No, this is Nasty”.

Of course the recruiter took the bait and our candidate drove the 90 minutes for an in person interview which was initially scheduled as a phone interview. We know that we can make a much stronger impact in person. If the phone interview goes well, the recruiter will bring you in for a face to face. Lets speed up the process AND increase our chances of moving this interview loop forward. The entire point of the phone interview is to get to the in person interview. Job offers are NOT going to happen over the phone after a single phone interview. We NEED to get the in person interview. Yes, our out-of-towner got the job.

How often do you hear about a sales person taking a last-minute flight to see a potential customer in person? How often does a sales person have a face-to-face meeting when a signature is involved to close a deal? You won’t see a professional sales person try to conduct a sale over the phone if their potential customer is relatively easy to meet with in person. As candidates, we need to take on the attitude of a professional sales person. Want one more example? If you met Mrs. Right, and found out she lived 90 minutes away, would you just let the two ships pass in the night, or would you drive the 90 minutes and give it a chance? If she is your Mrs. Right, yes, we would make the trip. We wouldn’t think twice about it.  

When I call a candidate to ask phone interview questions, I really only have one goal: figure out if this candidate is worth meeting in person. Do I get the confidence that this candidate will make a good impression to the hiring manager and the VP of the department. 

For those of you wondering why, as a recruiter I try not to conduct the initial interview over the phone, I try not to. If the LinkedIn profile presents a candidate that has a professional presentation layer, I do everything I can to skip the phone interview and get an in person first impression. Remember, I want to make a great impact as well. They both take the same amount of time. In some geographic areas, I may be sensitive to bringing in the candidate multiple times, finding and paying for parking etc., but when ever I can, I try to go straight to the in person interview.

If I have called you for a phone interview, you can be assured that I have done a few things. Gave your resume a thorough review and checked out your social profile. If you present like an illiterate hunchback of Notre Dame on LinkedIn or Facebook, even if you rock the phone interview, it isn’t worth it to me bring you in for a face to face. This may or may not be fair, but I can’t take any chances. If the hiring manager finds a picture on-line which looks immature or un professional, then I will have questions to answer. The questions aren’t going to be a friendly offer for drinks after work. They are going to be accusations of doubt and questions on my competency. “Did you see this picture of this candidate you sent me?”

I said that I would have phone interview questions. I have blogged about phone interview questions here. 

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!


Corporate training has come a long way. Our attitudes toward training should also move forward.

To train or not to train employees

When employees resign after a company invests in employee training, it is not just a gut punch, it’s a kick in the ding- ding when the manager is down. With the average length of career tenures getting shorter, there are numerous leaders who are fearful of investing budgeted straining dollars into their employees.

A generation or two ago, the average tenure for employees was 10 – 15 years with a single company and employee investments were easy to justify. With today’s tight labor market and a different generation of workers, it isn’t unusual for employees to shift every two years because of the desire to work on new products or technology. Today’s workers wants to expand their skill set. Todays workforce wants to learn and does not want to remain stagnant.

The employer mindsets have become insecure because of this. They are afraid that if the company invests in the employee, the employee becomes more valuable. Training makes the employee more attractive to higher-paying competition. The fear is that the investment of training and certifications, all paid for by the current employers profits can walk out the door.

I call this shortsighted leadership, and the term leadership is used pretty loosely here. To the managers who don’t want to invest in training because of a few bad apples, consider this to be the same attitude as the HR folks we are all resentful of. These same HR folks put red tape and rules into place for the entire workforce when a few bad players weren’t managed correctly. Because one or two employee came to work with dilated eyes (who wants to get high by themselves?), in typical HR fashion the thing to do would be to administer regular drug tests for everyone. One bad apple shouldn’t spoil it for the rest of the bushel.   

Training not only makes employees valuable TO THE COMPANY, training can increase individual productivity and loyalty to the company. If a manager is worried about making an employe more valuable to the competition, the manager should be reminded that a trained employee is more valuable to the current employer as well. According to a trends report from a recent FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For article, the best companies are:

  • Offering 66.5 hours of training annually for salaried employees
  • Offering 53 hours of training for hourly employees
  • Fill on average 31% of open positions with internal candidates

Not all training requests are cray-cray boondoggles.

Maybe you are thinking about expensive classes where employees are away from the office on some Vegas boondoggle. Yes, we have all seen the cray-cray expense reports, but again, we shouldn’t let a bad expense report ruin it for everyone else. This my friend is called “prejudice”.  If your company doesn’t have the resources to send an employee to off-site training, wants to keep employees on campus, or isn’t able to have employees out of the office for the extra travel days, online resources are a good alternative.

Earlier generations viewed classroom learning with textbooks and a classroom as the ONLY way to train. Today, online training has become the new black. Many people are receiving accredited degrees online and using YouTube to learn how to do everything from cooking to changing the oil on their specific model car to advance skills in EXCEL. Online training can be particularly appealing to employees because they can study at their own pace and retake a class or replay a video they don’t understand. For me, YouTube is the very first place I go when I want to learn more about ANYTHING.

Leadership should take notice that a vast majority of the workforce is hungry to grow and will stick around when presented the opportunity to develop new skill sets. Seeing anything less is a miss. If we train a department of 20 employees, it is usually just one or two folks out of the 20 who leave. These folks were probably going to leave regardless of whether or not they received the training and we shouldn’t make the correlation between training and leaving. These employees didn’t leave because of the training. These employees were going to leave. Try not to think about how much you spent on the ungrateful few that left. Think about how much benefit was reaped across the department and the long-term gain. 

Many employees leave because they are not challenged and did not feel they were growing professionally. If employees are stuck on the same product, service or technology year after year, of course they are going to get bored. If we can give them training, we can expand their skill set and keep careers interesting. 

As an HR professional, I don’t create policy in fear of a few bad apples or experiences. I need to trust that our employees are going to do the right thing a majority of the time. We shouldn’t EXPECT 100% of the workforce to stick around for the rest of their careers. This attitude is arrogant and in most cases not reasonable. There is no single company decision that is going to make everyone happy. If there is one thing I learned in HR is that no matter what decision you make, there will be employees that find fault or complain. Provide a free breakfast and someone will wonder about why there isn’t a free lunch. Provide a MacBook and someone will say there isn’t enough memory.

Most of the population will be grateful. We need to focus and invest in this group. If we create policy for the bottom 10%, we will certainly drive away the top performers and this is the last thing we want to do.

At the end of the day, we need to make decisions for the sane and rational 90% of the company, not the 10% that doesn’t appreciate it. I count myself lucky when the ingrates leave the company on their own volition. If that means we lose 10% and they take their negative attitudes with them, I consider that a long-term win. The damage this 10% will do over the long run can’t be measured. If they want to take the training and run, I will be perfectly content watching this demographic go to the competition because they probably weren’t the right fit for us and can be the cancer at the competition with their bad attitude. We still have the 90% of the population that matters. If someone doesn’t want training, that is a sign. But if someone does want training, we should be so lucky.
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!

Gender equality and pay

Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Company Culture, Manage your Manager, What HR Really Thinks

gender equality

Who can help gender equality?

Gender Equality and Pay

As an HR guy, I hear a lot about gender equality / inequality and pay. Fair warning: This post isn’t going to be politically correct. If you are not able to handle season 4 of the TV series Sons of Anarchy or Breaking Bad, better move along cuz’ it may get ugly.

Gender equality

Read further at your own risk

I do understand diversity issues. There are demographics of employees out there that are not getting paid their worth. I completely agree with this. There are demographics of employees who are over paid and it isn’t always fair. There are mainstream employees who are under paid and believe it or not, there are individuals belonging to culturally diverse groups that are overpaid. 

When I hear someone talk about a specific demographic being treated differently on topics of pay, opportunity, promotions, or a specific demographic in leadership, I tend to get a little bitchy. Today is one of dem’ days people.

It’s not always the company’s fault. I think the employees can do better. I belong to two specific demographics and depending on my mood and sense of fashion on any given day, am placed in a third and am flattered for it. I am a minority and over 40 years of age. I work for a company that requires a minority be interviewed for any position of leadership and I work in HR. I don’t think I would have made it to where I am if I didn’t have some awareness on this topic. 

Let me be the first to say, I do not want a job, raise or an opportunity because I belong to a specific demographic / minority group. I do not want my salary to be increased because I am a minority. I want to land a salary adjustment, title, opportunity or promotion because of my skills and thought leadership, not because of favoritism. The last thing I want is to have the mainstream whispering amongst themselves and thinking that I slept my way to the top off my model good looks.

HR is conditioned to be sensitive to this topic. I think the sensitivity can hurt careers and I want to make sure that the diverse groups and genders are not making the same mistake. If HR folks are reinforcing the notion that different groups are being underpaid or missing opportunities, I believe we are pushing the wrong message.

It is easy for HR to say:

  • We don’t have enough minorities in leadership positions.
  • Women are not receiving similar pay for similar work as compared to their male colleagues.
  • We don’t hire enough veterans.

Yes, if the company wants to retain specific groups of employees, it won’t hurt to make adjustments to the process. If there are not enough minorities in leadership positions, recruiting at minority career fairs is a good start. 

That being said, as a minority I CANNOT rely on or blame the company for not giving me the opportunity. I need to figure out a way to get that opportunity and in a lot of instances it is our approach or lack thereof. I need to break the “approach” code. 

If ANYONE wants access to training, salary, opportunities or promotions, first and foremost, they need to let the manager know what they want. There are employees from all backgrounds that do not ask for what they want and are waiting for a tap on the shoulder that will probably never come. 

I can not assume that my hard work and good results will be enough to get me noticed.

I can not complain when someone who isn’t performing at my level, asks for (aka:shows interest) and receives the opportunity.

I come from an ethnic group that has a reputation for being the “Quiet American”. Stereotypically, this group is reserved, stoic, will not ask for anything, and avoids conflict. I blogged about the best advice I ever received in my entire career here: Best Career Advice. The advice I was given was to take the initiative to speak up and went against every cultural value with which I was raised. I was underpaid and not receiving opportunity, but I wasn’t asking for it either. It wasn’t all the company’s fault. I wasn’t fluent in the corporate speak and in their eyes, I wasn’t showing any interest. Now I speak the corporate language and my career is moving. 

I don’t think HR should go to our CEO and say:

  • “The company is not paying our women enough, we need to revisit their pay.”
  • “The company doesn’t have enough minorities in leadership, we need to start promoting minorities.”

I appreciate the intent of the above statements but I don’t think we are doing anyone in these groups any favors. The above actions may be address the gender equality problem but we are not fixing the root cause.

I would prefer HR provide insight and coaching directly to all employees as to what it will take to be tapped for additional opportunities. Instead of reinforcing the notion that “This company doesn’t pay group X equally”, I believe we should coach employees and provide them the tools so they can stand up on their own. If the company changes behavior and adapts to the employee, then the employee won’t learn or become better. I believe HR could:

  1. Train employees on when and how to show initiative and speak up for new opportunities.
    1. Do great work and ask for more on the heels of the completed project. Don’t ask, don’t get. 
  2. Coach the fact that it is not only OK to share great results, it helps the company. There is a difference between being a braggart and sharing results for the benefit of the company. Market your brand. Don’t share, don’t get.
  3. Work with employees to be specific about what they say when it comes to pay, opportunities, etc. You would be shocked how many times an employee THINKS they are asking for something and the manager did not get the message, for example: 
    • Manager: How much are you looking for?
    • Employee: I am looking for something between $50K and $60K.
    • The employee thinks he said $60K, the manager heard $50K.  DOH!
  4. Gotta ask more than once. Managers need reminders too.

Let’s say I recruited 14 employees last quarter, and this was an all time high for our recruiting team. Some culturally diverse groups may be uncomfortable sharing this information because they think it will come across as being a braggadocio. I know that 20 years ago, I would have been happy with my accomplishment and probably would not even shared this celebratory moment with Mrs. Nasty. If someone were to ask me about my best month hiring 20 years ago, I would have replied, “I got lucky and hired a few folks” and left it at that. This statement is NOT going to move my career anywhere and for the record, there are a lot of 6 foot 2 males weighing 170 pounds wearing a size 40R jacket that remain quiet and unnoticed. Not saying you need to be an ass about it, I’m just sayin’. 

If I were to enter a room and yell, “Hey bitches, I just put 14 butts in seats last quarter, WTF did you do?” Add a dope slap to one recruiter on the back of the head and flick another with my forefinger and thumb like they were a discarded booger, and we just checked the Asshole box. But when the project comes up that needs a recruiting animal, guess who will get tapped on the shoulder. That’s right bitches, me the booger flicker.    

Below is a marketing message with annotations on how I could talk about 14 hires and setting a personal best. The tone and cadence would sound like me sharing my accomplishment with a good friend over a beer and not a chest thumping douche. If we were to say:

(1) I am proud of my results from last quarter. I hit a personal best with 14 hires and we were able to accelerate the timeline put in place by the Program Managers by 1 month with the additional resources. (2) I tried a couple of different passive recruiting tactics and (3) happy to share them with the recruiters in the Western Region. I can give them a contact at LinkedIn so they can have access to the same algorithms we are using. (4) It really was a team effort and the Dev team totally stepped-up to the plate. We ran a lot more candidates through interview loops and I know they had packed delivery schedules so I really appreciate their effort. (5) We wouldn’t have gotten the hires without them.

  1. Explains our accomplishment with pride and without arrogance. We are also tying a business need to our accomplishment.
  2. Markets ourselves as someone who is willing to try something different.
  3. Markets ourselves as a team player.
  4. Markets ourselves as a team player.
  5. Demonstrates we know how to spread the wealth, cuz’ that’s how we roll.

I could have said the above with only 5 hires notched on my belt and would have made a great impression. I would have marketed myself more effectively and at the same time sounded like a team player.

If you belong to the demographic that you feel is not being treated fairly, don’t just look to the company to do the right thing. It is our career and ultimately our own responsibility. We need to figure out how to work within the system. The system may or may not be a fair one, but remember this: 

Managers are not mind readers

Look for these opportunities by making a conscious effort to market your brand, your skills and speaking up for what you want in a corporate friendly way. I coach folks from all backgrounds and demographics. I can honestly say that when employees put in the work and speak up, “they get”. Life isn’t always fair and when it isn’t we can’t just give up and blame the system. 
See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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manager employee relationship

nuff said

When bosses are friendly with employees

Can the manager employee relationship be friendly? I am asked some form of this question on a regular basis and I believe the answer SHOULD be yes. Sometimes the question comes from an individual contributor who is now reporting to someone who used to be a peer and is wondering if the relationship will change. Other times the question comes up because an individual contributor says “I don’t want to manage my friends”. In reality I think the real crux  is the fear they may have to fire their friend. I think both attitudes are whackity-whack. For all of you who were thinking about a physical relationship, shame on you. This isn’t that kind of site. 

First things first:

Thing 1:

If you are NOT able to hold a friendship with your manager, don’t expect to get very far.

Thing 2:

If you don’t want to be friends with the team you are managing, don’t expect to get very far.

I am not saying you need to kiss up to your manager, sleep with your manager or put up some fake, insincere front. I am saying we should have the emotional intelligence and maturity to be able to hold a positive relationship with just about anyone we work with. We should absolutely be able to have a similar manager employee relationship. After all, this is the person that will have the most influence on your career.

Hanging out for drinks, going to the occasional ball game with company tickets, or having lunch with my manager are all things I should be able to do within a manager employee relationship. Receiving advice, mentorship, or career guidance are all things I want to hear from a manager and a friend.

I am NOT saying we need to elevate our relationship to BFF status with pinky swears. I don’t expect anyone to share the chewing gum you are currently chewing that might still has some flavor in it. 

The strong manager employee relationship

Personally, I have learned the most from prior managers where there was a strong manager employee relationship. I would say that in a number of cases, my best managers have been best friends and mentors. For some this may sound weird but for me it makes total sense. I want to see my manager / good friend be successful and my manager / best friend wants to see me be successful. If my friend isn’t going to give me any advice, who will? It takes an emotional investment and courage to give real advice and that isn’t going to come from someone who doesn’t care. How can we not help but align and accomplish goals when we have a strong manager employee relationship? Relationships without trust and a common goal usually fail in dating, marriage, and sports teams. It is no different with work. 

We may not always have the ability to pick our managers the way we pick our teams or our significant others, but we need to work with what we are given. We need to figure out a way to make these relationships work. 

Take the emotion out of the equation and just consider the business logic. Our manager is the person that can have the most impact on our career both short-term and long-term. For this reason, it is in our best interest to hold a positive manager employee relationship.

A strong work ethic and results are important, but to accelerate your career, we need to demonstrate emotional intelligence and maturity and navigate relationships long-term. We don’t want any leader to think we are not able to handle sticky situations. EI and maturity will help us navigate the relationships. Successful employees are able to balance these 4 factors as they progress through their careers whether they are managers or individual contributors. We are not talking about dating your manager, romantic dinner invites or giving up your season tickets to the local sports team. 

It is our career, so it is ultimately our responsibility to make sure these relationships work.

A few scenario’s I hear on a regular basis:

“My best friend at work was just promoted to manager and the power will go to their head.”

Gimme a break. Yes, there is the slight chance that the power of becoming a manager will go to our friend’s head but I want to throw out two questions. Would the company promote your friend if they thought the power would go to their head? Would you have become friends with this person if you thought they were one small promotion away from becoming Napoleon with an ego complex? As their friend, don’t we owe it to them to help them keep things in check? 

“I don’t want to be the manager of this group because everyone on this team is a friend. I don’t want a manager employee relationship because I wouldn’t want to fire anyone.”

This is a cop-out. Instead of looking at the glass half empty, let’s look at the glass half full. As a friend first and a manager second, don’t we want to be the person that helps your team promoted or land new opportunities? YOU can be responsible for making sure these folks are successful. YOU know what makes these individuals tick better than any manager from the outside. YOU know what motivates these folks and turns them off. Who is better equipped to help them be successful?

manager employee relationship

Next time you hear yourself poo-pooing a manager employee relationship or hesitating on a manager role because you would be managing your friends, take a minute for a reality check. In the immortal words of Ice Cube “You better check yo self before you wreck yo self”. Is it the manager / manager role we are worried about or is it ourselves?

Next time we are wondering if we can have a relationship with a manager who was previously a peer, check yo self. Whose maturity do we really doubt? Ours or the managers?

See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

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Executive Coaches and a great career resource

Posted: by HRNasty in Climbing Career Ladder, Networking, What HR Really Thinks

Executive Coach can make a difference

Executive Coaches for the individual contributor

I was just introduced to a new online resource, exceed.economist.com and it is full of well written, relevant articles on the topic of career growth. This blog looks to be part of The Economist magazine’s Executive Education Navigator site which is full of resources including a lot of great blog posts. One blog post in particular on Executive Coaches struck a positive personal chord and I wanted to add a couple of personal comments in the hope that others might find value. That post is here. I have been blogging on the topic of coaching and mentorship lately and this post on executive coaching echo’s my personal philosophies.

The author, Liz Funk makes a case for the use of an executive coach and I couldn’t agree more. Even if you are not a CEO, I think a “career” coach is something that all of us should consider regardless of where we are in our careers. Olympic athletes have coaches. Luke Skywalker had Yoda and the Karate Kid had Mr. Miyagi. Why shouldn’t we have a coach for our individual careers We want to make progress just like the previously mentioned right. Let’s face it, if CEO’s are utilizing coaches, shouldn’t we as individual contributors? Who says they should get all the perks?

To be clear, I do not consider myself to be an executive coach, and this is not a commercial or pitch for HRNasty.com. So just a quick couple of data points.

  • I have used coaches in the past and found them to be immensely valuable.
  • We don’t need to be an executive or spend big money on coaches. There are many ways we can find career coaching regardless of where we are in our careers and our budgets.
  • I have never met and do not know the author of the article. 

At the last company I worked with, the executive team was given a monthly budget for executive coaching. Our CEO worked with a coach on a weekly basis and found tremendous value. This CEO is a smart guy and the problems he is trying to solve are at a different level than most. Just like a sports coach, a career coach can make us better. As Funk’s article mentions, “It is lonely at the top of an organization” and CEO’s feel less comfortable letting their hair down with a peer or their boss.”

When I was early in my career, I was brought on as an early employee into a fast growing company to head up the HR department. The company was relatively small at the time, and my 10 years of HR experience was enough to get us to the first 50 or 60 employees. When we got to employee 100, I was getting in over my head. I had a small team of great employees, but I didn’t have what it took to get the company to 200 + employees or more.

Initially I tried to get it done, but I realized quickly that even if I got us to 150 employees, I wouldn’t get us much further. We needed software, process, more resources and most importantly, we needed the ability to scale. Although I wasn’t at the point of panic, my breath was getting shallow and I always had a brown paper bag nearby. I was feeling backed into a corner. To me it was inevitable (and a bit embarrassing) that my skill set would run out. I approached my CEO and said that I should step down and we should hire someone who could really scale the company. I would love to be an individual contributor, but I didn’t think I had what it took to take us to the next level.

He didn’t even hesitate. Johnny on the spot, he said that I should go out and get a coach. That coach may be a player coach initially but to get a coach to help me through the knothole. If the coaching wasn’t enough, then maybe the coach would be my next boss, but he let me know I would be involved in hiring any future boss. This turned out to be a very short and casual conversation and not half as scary as I thought it would be. For the record, a coach was not an option I had even considered. The CEO set the tone for that career make or break moment and I try to remember that as I find myself leading others.

Initially, I worked with the coach a couple of days a week, then 1 day a week, then a couple of days a month. Eventually, I just had a quarterly check in. I have the CEO to thank for giving me that opportunity and believing in me, and we eventually grew the company to over 300 employees with 6 offices and 4 international locations. Yes, I continued to lead the HR department and I couldn’t have done it without the coach. I don’t know where I would be today if I didn’t have a CEO that believed in me and provided access to a coach. At the time, I was not considered an executive so yes, I am a fan of coaches.

The article referenced above goes on to explain what to look for in a coach and what questions you should ask a potential coach.

Although the article is geared toward executive coaches, the concept of a coach can apply to all levels. For those of us who are not executives or receive an allowance, I blogged about how to find a mentor here  and I believe they can cover a lot of what a coach will do. Make no mistake, mentors and coaches are two different things and I am not trying to dilute the author’s message. Execs usually get a budget for executive coaching but as individual contributors, we may not have this luxury and mentors can be as reasonable as a cup of coffee or a nice lunch.

Check out the site and next time you are facing a crossroad in your career, consider a coach.
See you at the after party,

nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.

If you felt this post was valuable, subscribe to weekly updates here, “like” us on Facebook, and leave your comments below. Thank you!