Do you have a personal brand? When your name is brought up in personal or professional circles, what are folks saying about you? How does your manager think about you? How are you perceived by your peers? Whether we want to admit it or not, we all have a personal brand and if we want to further our careers, we should develop and strengthen that brand for the better. There is no better time than the beginning of the New Year to think about your personal brand. One way to strengthen your professional game is to have a set of values that direct us individually. This set of “values” can help us ground our professional decision-making process in times of stress when decisions are the most important.
Below is the list of reminders I pull out when going through hard times. Some of the bullets have changed over the years, but a number of them have remained unchanged. They are a reminder for myself and I share these as an example to everyone in hopes we all think about what we want to be known for in our particular disciplines. A few of my colleagues outside of HR have similar lists and I have learned a lot when these lists were shared. I would appreciate you, the reader sharing your favorites in the comments below so we can all be exposed to new ideas. The following is a list of philosophies I try to keep in mind when making hard decisions. I encourage everyone to conceptualize your personal brand for the new year.
- My primary job one, P0 (P Zero), an oath to the CEO and board is to protect the company and make a return on investment for our investors. As the HR guy, I am not here to look out for individual employees. By protecting the company first, I am looking out for the individual employees. You can protect the company and have a great place to work.
- Successful HR practitioners understand that they are not going to be able to please all employees all the time. Successful HR practitioners understand that there will always be someone who doesn’t agree with a business decision and solid business decisions will not be made if we worry about individual reactions. With 100 employees in a company, I am not going to make decisions based on the 1 or 2 negative Nellies that speak out the loudest. I need to coach them to productive feedback or help them find a better fitting corporate culture. Decisions need to be made for the long-term good of the company goals and not the 2 squeaky wheels. In the immortal words of Spock: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one”.
- As an HR practitioner, all I have is trust. As soon as I lose the employees trust, my value as an HR professional is worthless. HR always asks for trust, but we need to give reasons to be trusted. Transparency is a good first step to earning trust. Helping employees further their careers, make more money, land a new opportunity or promotion is a good step to earning trust.
- I am going to make it HR’s responsibility to over communicate company decisions to the departments and the company. I want the message to be heard by employees 3 different times, three different ways. Employees may not care for a company decision from a personal standpoint, but my goal is to deliver an understanding so that there is at least professional RESPECT for the decision from a company perspective. When an employee is bitter about a company decision, it is usually a lack of understanding around how the decision was made. It is because the employee didn’t get the opportunity to hear the reasoning behind why the decision was made. At the executive level, big company decisions are hashed, debated and marinated for days, weeks, and maybe even months. Sr. leaders had a voice in the decision and the opportunity to present alternatives. Ideas were vetted against many other ideas and options. Individual employees are not afforded this luxury of visibility or exposure to the problems being solved over time. They may not understand a decision in a 2-minute announcement or a 300-word email. This is why the over communication of company decisions is so important.
- Make sure that employees are paid on time and accurately. When in doubt, be pro-active and clear up individual questions about employee salaries. Employees work for a paycheck. Apologies from accounting or HR won’t pay the bills.
- I believe that individually, we alone are ultimately responsible for our own careers/destiny. Despite the manager, despite the VP, despite the dick headed co-worker that is making our lives miserable, it is up to me to take responsibility and actions for my own career. It is not my manager’s responsibility to make sure that I have a successful career. In my experience, too many employees believe their managers and the manager alone controls the individual employee’s career. As an HR Pro/Am, I can influence this mentality held by so many employees.
- If we could put a man on the moon in the 60’s with 64 kilobytes of memory, then in today’s age where we can buy terra bytes of storage off the shelf for PERSONAL use, we can do anything. It may take more time, more resources, or more people, but we can do anything. The word “can’t” should not exist.
- If an employee wants to tell me something in confidence, then I need to let them know up front that if an employee or the company is at risk, I will need to involve others. I should coach and counsel, but allowing the company or an employee to be at risk is not an option. Hearing something in confidence and then running to the CEO without employee permission is weak.
- On hiring: No assholes. Doesn’t matter how smart they are, no assholes.
- On culture: Culture is not Ping-Pong tables or beer Fridays. Culture cannot be turned up or down with “more or fewer toys or activities”. Regardless of the values, effective corporate cultures will happen when the workforce is engaged and believes the leader’s vision and values. A company can make a “Great place to work” list and still have a corporate culture that will work for some and WILL NOT WORK FOR OTHERS. As individuals, we need to find a company that has a corporate culture and the products that we can believe in. When the employees believe in the leadership team and the vision, the culture of the company can move the company forward. When the employees don’t care about the leadership values or the vision, the company culture can put the company in a downward spiral.
- Culture works when hiring is consistent with the values of the company. Bringing on someone who wants to wear shorts and flip-flops to a suit and tie culture is not going to work. Bringing on a really smart asshole to a No Asshole culture is not going to work. Bringing an asshole to an asshole culture CAN work. No employee is for every company and not every company is for every employee. Culture can start with the job description by attracting and weeding out specific behavior. Culture is reinforced during the interview and on-boarding of a candidate turned new hire. Culture works when management and HR work together to reinforce the values. Letting behavior counterproductive to the culture go un-checked is what causes apathy to those reinforcing the culture.
- Being successful in HR means being able to hold the respect of the team while executing on hard and harder painful business decisions. Any monkey can give a raise. Any monkey can hold respect on the easy and obvious decisions. The 800 lb. gorillas can conduct layoffs and make sure that everyone is treated with dignity and will assist, counsel and coach those looking for their next gig.
- Successful HR practitioners can appreciate and articulate that everyone will enter the building with a different background and these personal experiences will affect their perception and interpretation of the work environment in different ways. When unsure of what to do, giving the benefit of the doubt is a good thing. Every new employee joined the company excited and eager to make a fresh start. If this attitude changed, then something is behind that change. Employees don’t wake up one morning and just decide to be assholes at work.
And my all-time favorite:
It is better to keep ones’ mouth shut and let everyone think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.
Let me know what philosophies ground you in your day-to-day practice. The exercise of putting our beliefs down on paper will make anyone stronger by forcing us to think about how we go about and articulate our day-to-day lives.
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”.