TagPractical Management Lessons

HR in Formation

I’ve never been a big Beyonce fan. I’ve written about it on this blog before … But her talent and influence are undeniable.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 2 weeks, you know Beyonce released a controversial new song and video on February 6th. Then she performed the same new controversial song during the Super Bowl on February 7th while wearing equally controversial costumes.

The title of the song is Formation.

The lyrics of the song are no less racy than most of Beyonce’s recent work. She’s not singing for kids anymore. She’s singing sho-nuff grown folk lyrics … and even I’m not grown enough to sing some of those words in front of my momma.  If anyone’s been really paying attention to her words, this song shouldn’t be too surprising.

The visual imagery in the video and during her Super Bowl performance are a big departure for her. The visuals are in-your-face pro-Black. She’s calling out police brutality and injustice. She’s celebrating her culture and history. She’s boldly declaring where she stands on the #BlackLivesMatter support spectrum.

Or is she?

Almost immediately, there were people who said the visual imagery wasn’t enough. That when you combine the lyrics with the imagery, it was just more of the same … And I agreed with them. The mismatch of the images and the words left me confused about her real intent. I needed to figure it out. I needed to know if the biggest superstar in the world was using her platform to make a bold socio-political statement… or nah.

I still don’t know the answer. And in typical fashion, Beyonce isn’t outright saying. I’ve given up trying to figure it out.

What I learned through my brief obsession with this topic is that Beyonce has been publicly and privately supporting many of the causes focused on helping disenfranchised people of color for many years. I also learned that the writer of this new controversial song is very young and unknown, which is impressive and telling considering Beyonce could work with anyone she wanted.

So what else does she need to say? She’s making her position clear through her actions and her financial support … I’d really love for her to come right out and say these things. However, with so much backlash over the video and performance, I can only imagine what would happen if she did. I can understand why she would keep her statements brief in order to maintain the money that allows her to do all these other things.

In my typical fashion, I started thinking about the practical management lessons in this situation.

The lesson is simple … As leaders, it is time to get in Formation.

It is time to use our influence to send clear messages about the things that are important. It is time to use our resources to support the things that are important. It is time to actively create opportunities for people who wouldn’t otherwise get them without our help.

I’m not talking about throwing all caution to the wind to promote purely personal agendas … I’m talking about holding our organizations accountable for and moving them toward walking the talk on the issues they say they care about.

  • Get in Formation on fair, competitive compensation … Make the updates and changes necessary on your pay plans to position your organization to attract, retain and demonstrate the value placed on talent.
  • Get in Formation on comprehensive, affordable benefits … Find an ACA compliant plan that provides complete coverage and doesn’t put you employees at risk of hardship.
  • Get in Formation on a path to promotion with commitment to development …  Seek to help your employees to learn and improve so they can move up in the organization and broaden their influence.
  • Get in Formation on diversity and inclusion … Hire deliberately to make your organization a reflection of the world at large so you are in the best position possible to compete nationally and globally.

No more speaking about it. It’s time for our words to stop and actions to speak.

It’s time to get in Formation. And slay … Slay like Beyonce, right where you are.

“No Thank You Please” — And The Importance of Directives

Just after the start of the new year, I came across this story in my Facebook timeline about a school in North Carolina where teachers were discouraged from using “please” and “thank you” in communication with students.

Coined as No-NonSense Nurturing, the idea behind the initiative is the teachers shouldn’t say “Please” or “Thank you” for students doing things where participation isn’t truly optional.

Manners is something to be taught at home, not school. Manners are a sign of respect, deference and sincerity. Asking a child to “please sit down” or saying “thank you for not calling out during class” is a misuse of manners. It leads to children not understanding authority and structure.

I was fascinated by the premise and agreed with sentiment … I immediately wondered how and if this could work at work.

  • How often do we say “please” when the other party really has no other option but to comply?
  • How often do we say “thank you” to someone for doing something that is routine or required?

This isn’t real or good manners.

It is passive-aggressive. It is inauthentic — and people see right through it! It creates resentment and division more than it fosters collaboration and teamwork.

More than any other time in our history, we are seeking authentic and honest connection at work.

How can we get there if our communication is laced with insincerity, noncooperation and manipulation???  Because that’s what these unnecessary “pleases” and “thank yous” are … Manners wrapped in rudeness.

After mulling around these thoughts, I started a little experiment … I stopped saying “please” or “thank you” when compliance isn’t optional or when I’m not sincerely grateful.

A little over a month into the experiment, I am really enjoying it!

With every clear, succinct directive, I feel better and better because I know my communications are more clear and candid without the fluff. It’s great!

On the recipient’s end, it has been pretty uneventful. No one has declared me as rude or bossy or lacking manners. No one has pushed back, either … It seems hardly anyone has noticed.

Which now has me wondering … Do manners even matter at work?

Tell me what you think. Please. And thank you.

When Good Meetings Go Bad

Once upon a time, I was in an all-day meeting. It started at 8am sharp and was scheduled to go until at least 6pm. Presentation after presentation. Lots of talking and lots of slides. Not a lot of breaks.

Sometime after lunch, I started to lose focus. My mind started to wander. And so did my eyes.

My eyes landed on the phone of the co-worker seated next to me. He was texting. I didn’t want to be obvious in my bored nosiness so I couldn’t see what was said. But I know what came back as the response.

Ta-tas. Puppies. Jugs. Tiggle-bitties … BOOBS!!! Big ol’ boobs!!!!

My co-worker was sexting. In the middle of the meeting. And in my nosy boredom, I’d stumbled on his girlfriend’s booby pics.

It was like a car crash.

I tried to look away — but I couldn’t. I was freaking out — but couldn’t say a word. It was so awkward and uncomfortable — and hilarious!

As it gets more difficult for management to be unreachable for long periods, it becomes more common to see smart phones in our meeting rooms … Inevitably this leads to people emailing about other topics during meetings and texting answers to quick questions from staff. It also leads to loafing behavior like gaming, checking social media, online banking, personal errand and calendar prep, and even sexting.

Have I done these things? Yep. Every single one. More than once.

It is nearly impossible to keep a room full of adults fully focused for a meeting, especially when it lasts all day. I’m not sure it is realistic to expect people to hold it together for that long when we all have so many other things pulling at us in any given moment.

Most employers nowadays don’t care. Attendees at meetings are welcome to bring their smart phones and tablets to meetings so they can multi-task.

Others find it upsetting. Attendees at meetings need to be focused on discussing and resolving the agenda items. And they need to show respect and appreciation for the meeting organizer by being fully present and attentive.

If you fall into the latter group and want attendees to be more focused in your meetings, here are a few tips you can use:

  • Declare the meeting a device free zone.  Instruct attendees to leave their devices outside the meeting or designate a place for them to put their devices while the meeting is in session.
  • Take longer or more frequent breaks. Schedule breaks specifically for device checking. We often don’t give enough time for lunch, restroom and checking/returning messages. Make sure your break schedule allots for this.
  • Call out abusers. If someone is more into their device than the meeting, politely call them out. Emphasis on polite. Suggest they take a break and step out to handle their issues in a way that doesn’t leave hard feelings or tension.
  • Gamify disruptions. At the start of the meeting, ask attendees to place their phones on the table upside-down. Let them know that turning their phones over will result in penalties like having to wear a funny hat or glasses or gloves. Keep a count and give a cool prize at the end of the day for the least distracted attendee.

Love them or hate them or love to hate them, meetings are a necessary part of the world of work. Whatever we can do to make them more effective, bearable and fun is worthwhile effort.

But the next time you’re bored in a meeting, DO NOT attempt to read your co-worker’s texts. There’s no telling what you’ll see.


Finding the “Flow” at Work

A couple weeks ago, I downloaded the game app “Flow” onto my phone and tablet. It’s a game where you connect matching colors to fill the board space. The colors cannot cross or overlap; they cannot go outside the game board. You win by successfully matching the colors and then you move onto the next board in the series, then to a new difficulty level or time trial.

One night, I was playing to try to clear my mind after a rough day — and the game inspired my approach to resolve a lingering work issue! So I decided to share some of what I learned here.

Your flow should not block the flow of others.


There really is enough space and resources for everyone.


Sometimes the best way is the shortest, easiest and most obvious.


Sometimes you have to take the long way around to benefit others.


When everyone is in their flow, it’s really beautiful.



Being in the flow at work requires clear, consistent communication. Being in the flow at work requires willingness to share space and resources. Being in the flow at work requires falling back at some times and stepping up at others. Being in the flow at work requires willingness to share responsibility for the good and the bad.

Being in the flow at work isn’t easy. It will take time and effort to find the right flow. It will take time and effort to maintain it … And just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, it will be time to move to another level and establish a new flow.

Finding the flow never gets easier. Finding the flow never stops being necessary. The only options are to find the flow or quit altogether.

Because finding the flow is the point of the game. Keep playing and don’t give up.


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