MonthDecember 2011

HR Outside The Box

Like most of us right now, I am thinking about my goals for the New Year. Whether it is professionally or personally, we all look to the future with hopes, thoughts and plans on how to do more, make more and be more.

But with all the desires and aspirations we have, how do we decide what makes the list and what doesn’t?

We look to Heart in a Box …

In this recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy, the doctors harvest a heart for transplant. Normally, the organs are placed on ice and transported. This heart is placed on by-pass outside of the body so that it never stops beating. When the recipient dies before the transplant is complete, the doctors look to find a new recipient for the heart, leaving Dr. Yang to monitor the heart and make sure it doesn’t stop beating.

With nothing but time on her hands until a recipient is found, Yang works on her “Surgery Wish List.” It’s her list of any and every surgery she wants to complete in her career. The former Chief of Surgery stops by to offer her some wisdom …

… and Yang spends the rest of the episode trying to figure out the meaning behind the Chief’s advice and what this Heart in a Box is supposed to tell her.


The point the Chief was trying to make is Dr. Yang was thinking too small. She was sitting in a room with a beating heart inside a box. She was in the presence of a miracle!!! But she was making a wish list of things that were unimpressive. She was making a list of things that had already been done before. She was looking at a beating heart in a box … yet she was unable to think outside the box.

We often do the same thing in our own lives. Amazing things are happening all around us and, despite difficult times, opportunities abound. However, when we’re given the opportunity to set goals and make plans for ourselves or the organizations we work within, we stay inside the box.

So here’s the challenge for you (and me) for the New Year. When you are making your list of resolutions or goals or plans or whatever you call them, think about the “heart” inside your “box.” What excites you? What are you passionate about? What miracles, blessings and unexpected achievements have you seen this year? Reflect on that, THEN look at your list for next year. If it is not more miraculous, more awesome and more accomplished than your current predicament, scrap the list and start again! Stretch yourself. Push the boundaries. Seek excellence.

Need help or more inspiration? Check out this video from William Tincup discussed in a previous post and this fantastic article from HR pro and blogger, Charlie Judy.

Happy New Year! I look forward to continuing the journey with you …

Don’t Shoot Your Eye Out

A Christmas Story” is, in my opinion, one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time. Sure, it’s campy. Yeah, it’s even a little over the top—but that’s a huge part of the charm, right? It’s told from the perspective of nine-year-old Ralphie Parker, and I love how well it captures the far-more-interesting way a boy experiences things. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie (or who haven’t seen it in a while), allow me to recap:

Ralphie wants one thing and one thing only this Christmas: a Red Ryder BB Gun with a compass in the stock, and “this thing which tells time.” Throughout the movie, Ralphie tries every avenue of communication available to him to spread the word: he asks his mother outright, writes an essay about it in class, and even tells Jolly ol’ Saint Nick himself. The response is unanimous: “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

Though I won’t spoil the movie by telling you how things end, suffice to say Ralphie has a difficult—and comical—time getting through to anyone. I thought this was a perfect example of the importance of leveraging communication channels effectively. Otherwise, your message will fall on deaf ears.

The modern organization has changed – it is decentralized and increasingly, virtual. The HP Way of “managing by walking around” is becoming less practical for leaders as more people are working outside of the confines of a traditional work environment. Open door policies are becoming more metaphorical than factual. Employees are not seeking to enter a physical office to connect with you—they want to reach you via some communications channels you may be less than familiar with. Fortunately, even the busiest leaders can breathe some life into their open door policies by following a few rules of thumb.

The rules are a bit different when you’re connecting with employees online, and you can “shoot your eye out” if you’re not careful. However, you may be surprised to find these new channels are a great (and oftentimes convenient) way to strengthen your employee relations. Novice and adepts users alike should keep these things in mind when reaching out:

  • Don’t be so serious. Informal check-ins are more comfortable for employees, and casual hello-how-are-yous offer a great opportunity for leaders to engage employees. A lot of companies use chat clients for quick communications. Though some of us are more familiar with this media, others struggle to communicate effectively via instant messengers. Not to fear. If you’re not comfortable with the LOLs, OMGs, and TTYLs, don’t use them. Just keep things short and respond quickly. The point here is that you’re making yourself both available and approachable.
  • Choose your words carefully. Regardless of how you intend a message, interpretation can vary – especially with emails and memos. It can be difficult to find words to convey exactly what you mean, and communication is all the more challenging when you are not sitting across the table from the other person. And when it comes to electronic communications, choosing the right medium is often just as important as what you’re trying to say. If you find yourself burning bridges via email, tools like ToneCheck can be really useful.
  • Get your people on board. The more people you have using the same tool to communicate, the easier it is to connect with them – and the greater potential to connect with others. So it is critical that you rally your team to a common communications and collaboration platform, and make sure they use it. Over time, the value of everyone working together on one system will make it a critical part of their routine.

Interaction with a good boss is critical to realizing your full potential as an employee. With the right tools, keeping tabs on your people and your organization can become a part of your regular workflow. At the end of the day, though, you know what works best for you – and for your organization. Feel free to dabble in a few different products until you find the right one, keeping in mind that many tools are free at their most basic level.


This post was written by Kyle Lagunas

Kyle is the HR Analyst at Software Advice — a company that reviews web-based HR software. He blogs about trends, technology, and best practices in human resources and recruiting. You can find him every Wednesday on #TChat at 6:00p CST, where he brings his perspective to conversations at the intersection of talent and culture.

Get All You Can. Can All You Get. Sit On The Lid.

Take a few moments to watch this video before you read the post. It’s only 5 minutes — and you’ll thank me.

I’ll admit it. When I first watched this, I thought William Tincup had lost his mind. I thought: Does he have any idea how hard people like me in HR have worked to gain responsibility and ownership for this kind stuff?!? And now I am just supposed to give it away?!? Is he nuts?!?

Then I thought again. And I realized, he’s right.

We all enter our workplaces desperate to prove how our function adds value to the organization, how we are able to think and plan like true business leaders, and how we are able to juggle multiple, competing high-priority tasks with proficiency. So we volunteer and volunteer and volunteer — and sometimes we’re just drafted into — taking on all this stuff!! And before we know it, we’re overwhelmed and adrift and the value we thought we were adding is gone because we’re stretched so thin that we really can’t get it all done and done well. And we can’t focus on the things we really want or need to focus on because we’re too busy doing all this other stuff. We end up existing instead of thriving. We’re “tactical” instead of “strategic.” We burn out — and our organizations and employees suffer for it.

The solution: give it away!

Just like our closets have clothes that are outdated or no longer fit, our list of responsibilities likely have tasks and duties that need purging. Stop being a duty hoarder and give that stuff away!!

If you get all you can, can all you get and sit on the lid, you will never have the opportunity to learn what you don’t know, grow or stretch professionally! Because closed, full vessels can’t receive anything new!

William gives a very simple formula for us to “Get To NO” in our workplaces — 1) stop taking on more stuff and 2) start looking for things to give away — that will allow us the space we need to reinvent ourselves. Giving stuff away is scary because we usually asked for the stuff and we don’t want to look weak by admitting that we’ve taken on too much stuff or we don’t want to look like a diva or a jerkface by saying the stuff we have isn’t valuable. However, we have to find the courage to be honest with ourselves and the people we work with/for.

Many times, they will thank you for it! I know because it happened to me.

As an HR Manager, I perform all generalist duties. However, our organization has undergone a lot of changes in the last 2 years in order to improve the efficiency of our processes and workflow. And I fortunately was in the mix of all that! I was able to gain recognition for myself and my department and really add value through the HR function. But I felt a constant pull in balancing my every day stuff (benefits, leave, COBRA, compliance, time off, etc) with the project stuff I was doing. It was stressful and I began to resent the work, even the parts I liked.

Before I went too far down that path, I knew something had to give! I began looking for what I could give away. And I created an action plan for how to get it done. It was well-received — and I look forward to implementing the plan in 2012!

How did I do it? Simple! I answered 6 questions …

Who, what, where, when, why and how

You must have very clear answers to these questions before you reassign or delegate anything.

  • Shifting duties can’t just be about your being “too busy” — because that could just be an indication of poor organization or time-management on your part. It should be about effectiveness and efficiency of the flow of work. It should be about the development of under-utilized members of the staff. And it should definitely help the organization further its strategic goals.
  • Shifting duties can’t just happen tomorrow. There will need to be some training. There may even need to be some more shifting of other people’s duties to make space for new work. Your plan has to have a timeline which takes all of this into account and shows how and when it will all get done.
  • Shifting duties can’t just leave you with projects on your to-do list. The point of giving things away is not to leave you with nothing to do. You don’t want to go from being über busy to being bored — you want to find better balance.

Good luck!

HR Executive of the Year: Ebenezer Scrooge?

One of my favorite Christmas stories is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I’ve watched just about every version of the movie, and last year decided to read the book in its original form (although I downloaded it onto my phone via Kindle..hey, I’m a modern guy after all). The story has an incredibly powerful message for the modern leader, but it’s not the one you’re expecting.


We all know the familiar story line. Scrooge is a miserable, and wildly successful, businessman in 1840s England. He is so driven to achieve results that he has made compromises throughout his life in order to reach his goals. His choice of money over love, his decision to partner with Jacob Marley (another successful businessman who shared Scrooge’s drive to succeed), the horrible way he treated his employees, and the eventual ghostly visits that shocked him back to reality all make up this wonderful story.

Other than Paul on the road to Damascus, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a story of another leader who changed so quickly.


Scrooge is someone, minus the personality flaws, that most would look up to. He was sent off as a young boy to live at a boarding school, felt abandoned by his family, and at least had a shot at marrying the love of his life. Knowing the world was a harsh place, he committed himself to being a success. In fact, one might say he pulled himself up by his boot straps.

“It appears that young Ebenezer was a career-minded self-starter who consistently achieved his goals.”

Do those descriptors sound like anyone you know? Perhaps someone who looks back at you from the mirror?


The true takeaway from Scrooge’s plight doesn’t come from the ghosts, or the images that softened his heart, or the joyful realization that all was not lost.

No, the lesson learned comes when we move away from this story and walk into the office tomorrow. Change is difficult for us all, even if we claim to embrace change; or (gag me) use the phrase “the only thing that is constant around here is change.”


How will you begin to act differently? Do you even need to change? Maybe, maybe not. But either way, don’t expect an epiphany that transforms you from the leader you are today, into the one you want to be in the future. The only way to get there is personal accountability. Not even a ghost can do that for you.

I’d love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

pics courtesy of orlandosentinel


This post was written by Jay Kuhns, SPHR.

Jay is Vice President of Human Resources for All Children’s Hospital and Health System, a member of the Johns Hopkins Healthcare System.  Founded in 1926, All Children’s has grown into a leading pediatric referral center that is dedicated to advancing treatment, education, research and advocacy in child health.

Jay gets fired up about lots of things including his NoExcusesHR blog, making HR matter, drinking far too much coffee and watching hockey. Lots and lots of hockey. Connect with him on twitter @jrkuhns or LinkedIn!

© 2016 The Buzz on HR

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑