Does Your HR Team Feel Threatened By Freedom?

I take the risk of offending many of my friends in the HR community and if this attempt triggers a level of introspection I would have achieved the purpose of writing this blog.

I have found that in most organizations it’s their Human Resource specialist who come in the way of employees reaching their potential. They become counter-productive to the very idea for which they were put in place in the first instance. To the extent that most employees find their HR being hypocritical while propounding organizational values, vision, mission and the people development strategies.

This happens solely because the HR Manager is not comfortable with the idea of ‘Freedom’ for employees to choose their developmental path. He feels that he has the ‘monopoly’ on the HR developmental models and considers that the rest, i.e., the non-HR people do not have any idea of how people development takes place.

Many start-off with a grand plan of ’empowering employees’ and the moment they find that empowerment is taking away the control from them, they tend to bring in systems which come in the way of true empowerment. The switch to the traditional command and control models which gives them the authority to decide and dictate the career trajectory of the employee in his organization.

They get so much obsessed with the models and frameworks which they learnt in their management programs that they start to move away from reality and implement processes which prove to be counter-productive. In fact, I have in my experience seen that many HR Managers while complaining about the lack of people management skills of their technical managers get jittery when they see that the tech. manager is starting to take charge of all developmental needs of his team members. They sense a lack of control and start to intervene and object to reclaim their so called exclusive terrain.

By doing this, they are getting caught up in the game of survival. They want to protect their turf and remain relevant in the organization. They are confronted with the fear that if they give too much of freedom to the line managers, they will lose their relevance and end up doing only mundane job of administering HR policies of the company. This I feel is a great disservice to the very idea of their existence.

Let’s face it, HR in many technology companies to be particular are not held in high regard. They are considered to be the one’s who are existing to just to administration of policies and procedures and nothing significant which contributes directly to the organizations bottomline. In fact in some organizations because of the rigid theoretical approach of their HR Managers, they have started to look at getting in more diverse non-HR people into the departments. You can call it just challenging the hegemony of the HR specialist. In fact in Google, apparently only one-third of their people operation team is with an HR background and the rest are leaders from other functions or roles; like Strategic Management experts, Consultants, Data Analytics professionals etc. It’s not a surprise that Google has emerged almost 30 times at the top of the ‘Great Place To Work Institute’ ranking.

Human resource managers therefore must not be obsessed with the idea of command and control and let go of their monopoly. They must be willing to abandon practice and policies and keep innovating to remain relevant and up-to-speed with the rapidly change workplace requirements. Only then would the organization they work for, achieve true freedom in achieving their goals.

Great Leaders Often Spend Time – To See How Others See Them! Do You?

An elderly gentleman went to the Doctor and with a complaint about a gas problem. “But,” he told the Doctor, “it really doesn’t bother me too much. When I pass gas they never smell and are always silent. As a matter of fact, I’ve passed gas at least 10 times since I’ve been here in your office. You didn’t know I was doing it because they don’t smell and are silent.”

“I see,” the Doctor replied as he examined him. When he was finished, he wrote a prescription and handed it to his patient. Take these pills three times a day and come back to see me next week,” he instructed.

The next week the gentleman was back. “Doctor,” he exclaimed, “I don’t know what medication you gave me, but now my gas… although still silent… stinks terribly!”

The Doctor retorted, “Good! Now that we’ve cleared up your sinuses, let’s work on your hearing.”

An extremely useful step in our leadership development is seeing myself as others see me. So I need to understand their perceptions of my behavior. My effectiveness in leading, relating to, or working with others is highly dependent on their perceptions of me. I may not agree with what they see, but their perception is our reality. Those around me have an opinion of who they think the real me is. Their perceived “truth” becomes the way they treat me. Their perception forms their part of the reality of our relationship.

The discussion of perceptions is often a thorny one as we work with individuals, teams, and organizations to improve their effectiveness. For example, we tend to define levels of service or quality through our own eyes and values. That may not be the way our customers or partners define it. There is no objective definition. There is only the reality that I see, you see, he sees, or she sees. Our personal perception is our personal reality. There’s no accounting for taste. Everyone forms his or her own opinion no matter how wrong we may think it is. If we’re going to improve the service or quality delivered, we need to first understand how those we’re serving, or producing for, perceive service or quality.

Like beauty, service, quality, honesty, or integrity, leadership is in the eye of the beholder. I judge myself by my intentions. Others judge me by my actions. My intentions and the actions that others see may be miles apart. Unless I know that, I am unlikely to change my actions or try to get others to see me differently. I can become trapped in their reality and get very frustrated when they don’t respond to me as I’d like.

Getting feedback from others on our personal behavior is tough. It often hurts. The truth may set me free, but it will likely make me miserable first. When we get feedback, we nod our head to the positive and supportive statements that agree with our own views. However, when it comes to our weaknesses or improvement areas we take those to heart and sometimes dwell far too heavily on them. We can get ten rave reviews for work we’ve done and one critical comment. That one comment hurts. If we’re not careful, it can fester into doubts and a loss of confidence. As a result, the truth that may set us free of our less productive habits becomes the truth we prefer not to hear. That’s human nature. What stunts our personal growth and gets us stuck in a rut is when we refuse to hear any more of it. As a parent, boss, or appointed leader of some type, it’s too easy to hide behind our position and avoid feedback.

The wider the gap between our own perceptions of areas to improve and the feedback we’re getting the more we may experience the “SARAH process.” This approach comes from grief counseling. The first letter of each stage spell “SARAH.” The stages are Shock, Anger, Resentment, Acceptance, and Help. When I get open and honest feedback on how others perceive me, I may be shocked, angry, and resentful. But unless I accept that as their perceptions of the real me (their reality of me), I’ll never progress to the final stage of self-help or seeking help from others in taking action on the feedback and making the changes called for.

Human nature seems to endow us with the ability to size up everybody but ourselves. As painful as it may be, feedback is a big contributor to our leadership development. Feedback is often a key element in personal learning and improvement. It helps us to size up and see ourselves as others see us. We may not agree with the perceptions of others, but unless we know how we’re perceived, we stand little chance of improving our relationships and effectiveness with them. Feedback also gives us another opportunity to reflect on our behavior from the view point of others. It provides outside perspectives on the exploration of our inner space.

Not all feedback is valid and helpful. Ultimately I have to decide what fits and what doesn’t. I have to choose the feedback that rings true to me. According to an ancient story, a man once approached Buddha and began to call him ugly names, Buddha listened quietly until the man ran out of insults and had to pause for breath. “If you offer something to a person and that person refuses it, to whom does it belong?” asked Buddha. “It belongs, I suppose, to the one who offered it,” the man said. Then Buddha said, “The abuse and vile names you offer me, I refuse to accept.” The man turned and walked away.

5 Hiring Mistakes You Must Avoid!

5 Hiring Mistakes You Must Avoid!

hiring mistakes

Desperation – I see that most HR folks though talk about careful validation through the entire hiring process however are caught up in meeting the hiring targets. When they push resumes to the line managers, they act more as salesmen for the candidate and seem to provide subtle hints to the manager as to why he/she should be hired. They also end up using assessment tools and other popular methodologies to fool-proof their case. Many I see are just trying to meet their numbers. The problem is while you might be having an immediate vacancy to be filled and the pressure to meet the numbers, you might end up getting loads of profiles on your table just in case something clicks. At times you see managers end up hiring out of sheer fatigue of the whole process and want the whole pain to end. This desperation can get in lot of junk into the system which you will find hard to cope with. You also end up at times ‘justifying’ your hiring decisions even though you know that you have made a mistake. There is a great reluctance to ‘fire’ after a lengthy hiring cycle therefore you end up compromising till it gets to a point where the costs of a wrong hire start hitting you directly. In an organizational context by the time you come to realize this, the damage is done.

Familiarity – While employee referrals are a good way to quickly get people it may not get you a diverse range of people in your team. The problem is accentuated when you incentivize your employees for referral hires. The said employee may create enough background conditions and share information with the referred candidate which may fog the hiring decision. In fact I’ve seen it becomes counter productive at times as at times you end up hiring cause you don’t want to offend your current employee with many rejects of his referrals.

Cultural misfit – In pursuit of meeting business numbers you may end up highly skilled and experienced workers from diverse background who may not necessarily be a culture fit. While it looks all good talking about having a culture and looking for people who fit into it, organizations most often succumb to the pressure of hiring and give the softer aspect of culture a pass. They believe that they can groom the person towards their culture after hiring. Rarely does it succeed. Values are not formed and internalized through a 2 day workshop. It is years of conditioning which you cannot remove soon. When you get cultural misfits you will in the long term face high levels of conflicts and disengagement from the employees. How many of you really hire for a cultural fit and not just provide lip-service?

Reference check as a formality – I get many calls from prospective employers about a candidate and the kind of questions they ask always gives me a feeling that they have already made their decision. Reference check is mostly a formality and waste of time both for them and myself. They rarely ask questions which direct towards ‘the challenges I have faced working with this person’ or the difficulty which I would have seen in the candidates work. The other challenge is that most of the references given by the candidate are the ones who know them well and the candidate is himself confident that they will get a great referral. The problem is that all of us know about this but still succumb to the same mistake. It is preferring ‘slow-death’ over ‘deep-change’ in our approach to background checks.

Interviewer bias – I for one advocate that the Managers in whose team the prospective candidate is to be hired should not be interviewing the candidate. You find that most Managers are biased towards people who they connect with personally or are either like them or inferior to them in skills. I’ve seen especially when the candidate is seemingly more experienced or skilled than the Manager, he will surely feel threatened and may not be comfortable hiring. The organization loses quite a talented individual because of the interviewer bias.   You should start hiring like they do in the centralized recruiting agencies like the armed forces etc., where the team leader is just provided with the recruit who he would have never met before or worked with. This goes a long way in cutting the bias. Try with one if you have the courage to take this route and see the difference.