Vendors and Education – Servant Leadership

I wrote a post a while back talking about the infuriating trend of vendors who speak at events and do nothing but sell. It gives others a bad name, and leaves the audience with a bad taste in their collective mouth. It’s not ok, and I maintain that if you ever see it happen, you are not only allowed but obligated to walk out. The tragedy is that there are many of us in the vendor space know our topics, know what matters, and have a lot to love for HR. And too often, that is forgotten.

So I wanted to take a moment to share a great example of people in the vendor space who not only know how to share their vast knowledge without making it a commercial, but who are making the HR space a stronger community in the process.

Anyone who has spent time around Eric Winegardner will know that he is not only brilliant, but he is of the most caring, giving people in our space. And he IS Monster to most of us. I’ve had the pleasure of watching him present several times and have always been blown away by the depth and breadth of his knowledge. I remember at an HRevolution event a couple of years ago talking to Dan Crosby about Eric. Dan’s comment was, “If you are presenting, and Eric is sitting your room, you better be ready because the conversation level is about to be ratcheted up several notches.” That’s the kind of game the man throws.  And that resonates throughout the team.

So it fills my heart with joy to see the Power Recruiter Workshops Monster is putting on right now. (Full disclosure: I do no business, spend no money, and receive nothing from Monster on a regular basis. Just so we’re clear.) Eric, Lisa Watson (who is divine in her own right) and their team are out on the road presenting six hours (SIX HOURS) of free, HRCI certified training for recruiters out in the trenches. It’s been several years since these were offered (the last round, I hear tell, were before Twitter was a thing). The content is designed to teach recruiters how to be, well, recruiters. (Don’t take that lightly. Too often recruiting as a job gets short shrift in the HR world. We like to think anyone can recruit, which is kind of true. But not just anyone can recruit in a way that changes the business.)

How much does the course cost, I can hear you asking. That would be zero dollars. Nothing down, nothing a month. How many new clients does Monster expect to sign at these events? I’m guessing also zero. This is them giving back to our community and making it stronger. It’s what we should ALL be doing, though most vendors in the space pass it over in search of the quarterly sales numbers. This kind of contribution is important, and we need more of it.

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I had the chance to drop in on the team, which included Alanna Lombardi, Karla Russell and Paul MacGillivray, in Boston as they were preparing for a session the next day. There was no marketing team getting everything ready. No army of minions making sure there were just the right number of bottles of water, bowls of M&Ms (no browns, of course) in strategically placed areas, no one making sure Eric, Lisa and their team were picked up in black s500 with the interior at exactly 71 degrees. The team were all in the room busting their humps to make sure the people who came the next day had a great experience and learned as much as possible.

You know what that’s called? Servant Leadership. And we need more of it.

I’m proud to know these people, and to think of them as friends. I’m even more proud to work in the same space and share their service with others. If you are in Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Los Angles or San Francisco, and have any interest at all in learning more about the recruiting space (or just in learning in general) check out the upcoming dates in those cities. (Sorry Dallas and Boston. Maybe next time.) More importantly, keep your eyes open for vendors in the space who do this kind of service to our profession and ask nothing in return. Those are the people we should appreciate and support. They are worth your time and attention. Give it up.

Beer, Wine and Development

I took up a new hobby this year.  So far I’ve produced five batches of beer.  They’ve all turned out pretty good.  But the craft has also made me think a lot about training and development.

See, the thing that makes beer marketable is consistency.  Open any Budweiser, Duvel, Blue Moon, Sam Adams or Kräftig, anywhere in the world, any time of year, and they will taste, respectively, like a Budweiser, Duvel, Blue Moon, Sam Adams and Kräftig.  Every sip, every glass, every case tastes the same.  It’s remarkable.

Why?  We aren’t amazed when Twinkies, Coke or Snickers taste the same each time, right?  That’s because those are refined, processed foods.  Beer is an agricultural product at it’s heart.  Malt.  Hops.  Yeast.  Water.  Each of these four are critical, and each have a million variants.  Even a single crop of hops will have variants based on sun, soil, rain, temperature, fertilizer, or a number of other inputs.  The Xs in our equation are all over the place.

Ask a wine maker (or drinker) about the impact these variables have.  Why are some years superior to others?  Why are wines from Napa popular instead of wines from the Sahara?  The environment.  It’s that important.  The Y depends on the Xs, as we know.  Every year, every field, every plant is different.  Get to know the vintner and the year if you want to know the wine.

But not beer.  Year in and year out, that beer tastes the same.  No one squirrels away the late 2006 PBR for “just the right occasion.”  Beer makers excel at making sure they take all those X variants, and come out of their process with the same Y every single time.  It’s remarkable.

Training and development are the same way, I think.  You go in with a group of a individuals, all of whom think, learn and act differently, and you are trying to produce leaders who behave in certain ways.  You are trying to create a consistent product from inconsistent ingredients.  Right?

The truth is, you can be a brewer or a vintner when it comes to development.  Neither is easy.  But in making beer, there are an amazing number of things that can change the end product.  Not just the ingredients, but how long it ferments, how well you cleaned the equipment, how much light gets to the bottles…any of those can throw off the taste of the final product.  You can easily fail to produce that same beer over and over.  Beer making is hard.

Wine is different by design.  You take the inputs and make the best wine you can with them.  But each batch is different.  You know it going in, and you are prepared for it at the end.  2009 wines taste different than 2000 wines.  And that’s OK.  Heck, that 2009 will taste different in a few years than it does now.  It will taste different with a little air, or if you eat chocolate with it.  All of those are considered “complexity” instead of failure.

The same holds for developing leaders.  You can’t realistically expect each person to develop into an exact replica.  And you don’t want them to.  We value diversity, we treasure individual abilities.  We don’t want everyone to be the same.  We crave variety.  It is what helps our organization be more successful.  That should be our goal.

More wine, less beer.  Trying suggesting it next time you’re talking development with your leaders.

I Am A Bad Guest

 

I made this realization a few weeks ago.  I don’t mean that I am a bad guest in the sense that I am ungrateful, rude, poor mannered or boorish.  At least, I hope not.  I do my best to remain on my best behavior when I am fortunate enough to be welcomed into someone”s home or office.

What I mean is that I would fail as a guest under my own standards.  When I host someone, I have a few expectations of them.  I expect them to:

  • Sit down.
  • Relax.
  • Have a beverage, perhaps.

It’s a short list, but you get the point.

When I’m a guest, there are a few things that, try as I might, I’m not very good at.  Things like:

  • Sitting down.
  • Relaxing.
  • Accepting a beverage, perhaps, and then enjoying it.

I, like many of my cohorts, am a doer.  I prefer movement in most cases, and always prefer to contribute to the discussion/entertainment/meal/cocktails/activity.  I’m not good at sitting back and being entertained, which is exactly what I want my own guests to do.

A lot of times, I see the same thing at work.  I have been blessed to have worked alongside some really talented HR professionals, who were passionate about things like:

  • Career development
  • Performance discussions
  • Training
  • Mentoring
  • Employee engagement

You know what those people, almost without exception, were really bad at doing for themselves and/or their teams?

  • Career development
  • Performance discussions
  • Training
  • Mentoring
  • Employee engagement

We are all cobbler’s children, I suppose.  But in a professions that so desperately needs to do those things, and has the expertise within our own walls, it is tragic how little time we spend on it.

How great would it be if we all spent a little more time being great guests in our own home?

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