The Value of Your Network

“The mark of a good conversationalist is not that you can talk a lot. The mark is that you can get others to talk a lot.Thus, good schmoozer’s are good listeners, not good talkers.”  Guy Kawasaki

As many of you know, I got my current position through good old-fashioned networking. And building my network took (and still takes!) time, consistency and effort. I consider my network to be one of my most valuable assets. I can rely on it to help me get questions answered, develop professionally, provide me with ways to expand my skills and to offer a friendly ear to hear about my challenges. I have known many networkers (and some so-called networkers) over the years and I have gleaned some best practices for networking. These have surely helped me.

We all need to tend to and build our networks. Our network can be one of the few consistencies we have in our career even as it grows and changes. I think of my network as a garden. Even when you aren’t growing things, you still need to care for the soil so that when growing season starts you are ready to go. The same goes for a network – you have to have the infrastructure built before you actually need it. Your network should include a broad spectrum of contacts from both inside and outside your field as well as inside and outside your company. This way you can identify areas of development to help you and your company get to the next level. I call on my internal network for consistency within our walls and my external network for best practices and ideas to enhance our business.

The toughest part of building our network can be stepping out of our comfort zone and meeting new people (or learning more about those you already know). Here are some things I keep in mind as I continue to expand and develop my network.

Be Seen. I belong to several organizations inside and outside our business and make every effort to attend meetings and events. While I have a busy schedule, I put these events on my calendar and make arrangements to attend as many events as I can. I find it really important to get out there and be seen. This can show others you are committed to the organization and your own development and it is a great way to build bonds with others.

Be Heard. I strive to meet someone new or learn something new about someone I already know as often as I can. When I go to meetings and events and have the chance to network, I start with the people near me and see where it goes. I have found that many people at events are a bit anxious about meeting new people (and I get this way, too) and a great way to stop that feeling is to start chatting. It is amazing what you can learn! Another way to get heard is to volunteer with professional organizations. Serving on a board or committee can get your seen and heard. Just make time for it – everyone is busy.

Be Sincere. I feel that the goal of networking is to offer your skills and abilities to others and help them develop and, as we all know, when someone succeeds they usually remember those who helped them get there. When meeting someone new, let them know how you can help them by offering your skills, abilities and knowledge. Remember to be genuine and be yourself.

Think Globally. I have connected with people from other companies, industries and geographies. This helps me keep a global perspective while working in South Florida. And keeping this global perspective has gained me relationships outside of my comfort zone. Keep an open mind when meeting people – every one has something to offer. I have a nice network in Egypt that I met at the SHRM Leadership conference in 2009 and still chat with them regularly. How cool is it to know HR professionals in EGYPT?! We just need to listen to them.  Oh and be that person who goes up and introduces yourself to the person standing alone. You never know who you will meet!

And Don’t Forget. Don’t forget about your network. We all get busy and life gets in the way, but find a way to engage your network. Before I had networking hardwired into my psyche, I populated my calendar to make sure I sent Tweets, did LinkedIn posts and wrote blogs. It took some time but now it is second nature, the key is to keep the conversation going and others will listen.

The time to build a network is when you don’t need it. Then when you do need it, your connections are there to support you. I know many people who are great networkers and those that aren’t have an opportunity to become great networkers. The satisfaction in knowing that I can email or call someone to get answers to almost anything helps reduce my stress, provides me with support system and allows me freedom to help others. We are all in this together; why not help each other out?

Last night, I attended the Greater Miami Society for Human Resource Management (GMSHRM) meeting at FIU and had a great time. I made it a point to meet 2 new people – and I did within the first 20 minutes of being there. One was someone who I was wanting to meet and the other became a connection that I hope to retain indefinitely. I got home and immediately connected with them on LinkedIn and added them to my network.

What networking success stories do you have? 

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The Language of Correcting Behavior


Corrective actions (or whatever your company calls them) have the potential to save or sink an employee. Corrective actions are a formal way to bring an ongoing obstacle to performance to light and give an employee the opportunity to change course, fix the behavior and save their job. Every manager should approach corrective actions like this – but some managers don’t – some use corrective actions as a weapon and focus on the negative aspects thus potentially plunging the employee into further despair. Administering a corrective action should not be viewed as punishing (however often time it is).

The way these documents are worded are so very important (as you probably already know). Nothing frustrates me more than when a manager wants to discipline an employee at a higher level when they have never commented on the behavior before to the employee. Behavior usually doesn’t develop overnight and managers should be vigilant so that they can nip issues in the bud; hopefully before the need for corrective action develops. Ideally, managers should clearly lay out expectations from the onset and prevent any behavioral issues. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, right?

Sometimes, this prevention is not enough and employee behavior may need to be addressed. This is not time to attack the employee (my grandfather is partial to the phrase “draw and quarter” the employee). Careful use of words to remove emotion is important to maintain dignity and rapport. Using words like “discipline” when administering the corrective action can elude to corporal punishment and aren’t the best way to get an employee to collaborate and change their ways. Taking the time to clearly define the behaviors that need to change and outlining the expected behavior is the way to go. Unfortunately, this often does not happen.

Corrective actions should be all inclusive of behavior that needs to change. Whether it is attendance, punctuality or performance, behavior that needs changing should be addressed – verbally and in writing. Once a manager sees the need for formal corrective action, they should be including everything that is impacting employee performance. That way, the employee knows what needs to happen and where they need to go. Or when behavior perpetuates in a different (or similar) area the behavior can be addressed to the next level. Hopefully the employee fixed the problem or challenge so that the next step is not needed.

As HR pros, we are charged with training managers to properly address behavior and use language that is legally defensible. Managers are busy running their business and sometimes need help penning the right corrective action. Take the time to help managers construct a document that will help correct the behavior. Hopefully the employee will be retained and the behavior will stop. Then all will be right in the world!

As long as there are employees who are not meeting expectations, there will always be a need for HR.

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Honor Thy Commitments

Do what you say you are going to do. And sometimes over commit!

Honor the commitments you make. Period. 

We all have bitten off more than we can chew at one time or another. This can result in either last-minute maneuvering to get something squeezed in, an incomplete final product, or (worse yet) failure to deliver. The stress brought on by this type of situation can be daunting and impact success – sometimes for the good and sometimes not. But the need to strategize about a solution to meet the need and the effort to exceed expectations can help develop better time management and quick thinking skills. What a great opportunity to grow!

Then there are the times that we over commit because no else would volunteer to help, we have good intentions or we feel pressure. These types of commitment should be approached in the same way – honor what you say you are going to do. These types of things can make the difference between excelling in a career or committing professional suicide. If you follow through (fully) you can come out smelling like a rose. If you don’t, some people are undoubtedly going to remember.

If you cannot meet your commitment, decide what you can and cannot do with the committment and ask for help from others. Or have a frank conversation with the leader or the person you committed to and express your inability to meet the expectation. If someone has the ability to over commit they should have the fortitude to step up and say that they are unable to meet the requirements. Just remember how your felt the next time you are asked to do something and don’t get yourself into the same boat again!

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There’s a New Sheriff in Town


As HR pros, we have all been there (or will be there one day). We all have a bit of a cringe when we get the knock on our door and the person asks, “Do you have a minute?” And the person standing there is a member of a department that you know all too well – and not in a good way. The person proceeds to tell you that their new manager is “targeting” the employees and is being “mean” and maybe even causing an all-out ruckus. Something needs to be done to stop them! But the feedback you hear is lukewarm at best and seems shaded with a hint of subjectivity. An investigation ensues.

A department or area with a history of problems and/or negative attitudes suddenly (whether serendipitously or by design) has a change in leadership. While we breathe a sigh of relief, go whooping down the hallway or simply say “Thank Goodness”, we need to be ready for the potential backlash of those left behind. Those who were the minions of the prior regime and may not be feeling too happy about the change in their food chain. Their attempts at revenge may be swift.

It is hard when leadership changes but there are a few things that can soften the blow. If a manager or director leaves a bad situation or department, it is prudent to fully assess the area before a new leader is put in place. Take a temperature check of the area or even do some random engagement interviews. The employees might open up and share some juicy stuff which could prompt an employee relations frenzy. Hopefully there is a something to investigate from the findings.

It would be best to figure out some solutions before a new leader is put into the role. Whether someone from the outside or even within the company, not everyone may be aware of the feelings and attitudes in a specific area. Leadership candidates from the same department should be carefully reviewed. While they may be the ideal person to chart a new course for the troubled area, they could also reinforce past behaviors and have lingering resentment against some members of the team. When selecting a new leader for a challenged department, it may be a good idea to share some of the realities of the department with the final candidate(s). Sending them in blind can backfire and cause even more stress. You could be sending this new manager into a den of lions. And always have regular follow up meetings until things improve or fully subside.

What have you done to help fix departments that need fixing?

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What Does EVP Mean to You?

What gets you out of bed in the morning and gets you to work? Your coworkers? The work you perform? Your paycheck? Maybe it is to try to find another job outside your current employer?

EVP, Employee Value Proposition. EVPs delineate a company’s employee expectations and what, in turn, that employee gets for fulfilling that expectation. It is what drives employees to go to work and what keeps them coming back day after day and year after year. The EVP includes total rewards, work environment, leadership stamina and compassion and the employee’s personal connection to the company. A balanced EVP helps retain organizational knowledge, customers, values and, of course, employees. Some of the best companies in the world build total reward strategies that are both sustainable and are uniquely employee-centered, thus tapping in to and maximizing each employee’s discretionary effort to the benefit of the company. A solid and robust EVP is a win-win for the company and employee.

As we all know, the cost of turnover is high and growing every day. In healthcare, the cost of RN turnover can range from $35,000 to almost $50,000 for each bedside nurse who leaves. And with economic recovery and a lowering of unemployment rates, companies are seeing rising turnover costs. A phenomena of sorts that I am seeing where I live is a sharp increase in the value of real estate. While this can be a good thing for sellers in the market, it is creating a bit of a “perfect storm” for my company. Employees who have been trying to sell their homes are finally doing so and they are relocating to less expensive parts of the state – outside of our area. This in turn drives the living expenses higher and higher and thus shutting out certain employee levels from living locally. Coupling this with an unemployment rate hovering around 4%, recruiting can be a challenge with affordable housing supplies very limited and access to public transportation almost non-existent. This makes the case for our hospital to have an even more vigorous EVP in order to attract and retain stellar talent. Fortunately, our employment brand is well known and respected locally and regionally however some other companies I know are not as lucky. Either they will have to raise their stake in employment valuation or find alternatives to staffing predicaments. Either way, the EVP standard will continue to rise and companies with high levels of employee engagement will have to find new ways to attract and retain talent.

What is your company’s EVP?

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March Came in Like a Lion


When I was a kid – and even as an adult with children in my life – the month of March started and ended as either a lion or a lamb. Coming or leaving as a lion meant the weather was cold, blustery and tumultuous. Coming or leaving as a lamb meant it was calm, mild and serene outside.

March 2013 certainly entered like a lion in South Florida. When I mentioned this to my friend who was born and raised in Venezuela, he looked at me like I was totally nuts. He was wondering where I encountered a lion in South Florida – perhaps it was roaming the streets and was in wait to pounce on me.

Um, no. There is/was no lion. It is just a figure of speech.

Living in South Florida has been a valuable learning experience for me as a person and an HR professional. Having been raised by Midwesterners in the Northeast and coming from a family that has been in the U.S. for several generations, I sometimes forget that not every country or region have the same colloquial intricacies that I grew up with. While not everyone knows that March comes and goes like two animals, everyone has some sort of childhood mnemonic to explain and rationalize weather, experiences and memories. It helps grow my mind and soul to hear others share their stories and history.

I wonder how March will end… If it ends as a lamb, I have promised my Venezuelan friend that we will have lamb one night for dinner to celebrate. I hope March ends as a lamb because if not I will have to look for a lion to eat!

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Kissin’ Chicken

The recent statements made by the president of Chick-fil-A have spawned a firestorm of reactions. Whether pro or con many Americans have an opinion of the events. Last week, those who support marriage equality staged formal and informal Kiss-Ins at Chick-fil-A restaurants to show their disagreement – and, in some cases, disdain – for Mr. Cathy’s opinions. Ironically, Chick-fil-A made a swift and solid statement that the corporation does not discriminate against any groups including sexual orientation. After Mr. Cathy made his statement,  his supporters organized Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day which produced record setting revenues. Taking into account Chick-fil-A’s business model, this is not a surprise but it will lead to a further rift between the LGBT community and those with certain religious leanings. Throughout the Appreciation Day, I wonder if the customers realized that Chick-fil-A had a policy indicating protection of sexual orientation.

Does policy trump the words of senior leadership? The company’s inclusion statement does not include support of same-sex marriage and Mr. Cathy’s statements do not directly discriminate against the LGBT community, only their right to marry. Technically, Mr. Cathy did not violate the policy but what message does this send to the employees of Chick-fil-A who are LGBT? I can only imagine how they might feel. Even with policies to protect from discrimination, it has got to hurt when the president of the company you work for acknowledges that he will not support your marriage happiness. While Mr. Cathy is entitled to express his opinion (thank you Bill of Rights!), the consequences are higher because of his position. The company’s policy to protect diversity might not be enough to counterbalance his statements. After all, he is the boss.

The LGBT community is one of the last large groups in America that does have protection in the form of legislation. Some of the people who oppose LGBT rights and same-sex marriage are the same ones who supported segregation and viewed interracial marriage the same way they view same-sex marriage. I hope the LGBT employees of Chick-fil-A and their supporters can find solace.

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The Business of Graduate School

When I moved from SC to South Florida in October 2011, I was more than 2/3 finished with my MBA through a large university that had a location near my home. With only 6 classes left to complete my degree, I thought it would be a snap to either transfer my credits to another school or complete the degree through the online version of my school. I was in for some surprises.

I enrolled to take my first online class which started in January 2012. This class was an eye opening experience for me. For many years, I had taken and developed asynchronous e-learning opportunities and approached the class in the same way as I had in my past experiences. I quickly found out that online schooling was not the best learning model for me. I withdrew from my class and went about looking at MBA programs near my home in South Florida. I could find no school that would allow me to transfer credits; I would have to essentially restart the process at their school. I guess graduate school is a business like any other and the schools need to generate profits. Not wanting to restart the whole program, I went back to the original plan to take the remaining classes online but this time with a different mindset. So far, the classes are progressing well. I have found the online classes require much more time commitment than attending brick and mortar classes. I spend about 10 to 14 hours per week on classes. With a full time job and other responsibilities I am only able to take one class per semester. At this rate, I will be finished in early 2013. If my graduate school did not have an online option, I would have had to either restart my degree anew or go back to SC for classes for a few more months. Neither option would have been a first – or second – choice.

The moral of the story – carefully chose your graduate school. Advanced degrees are a great way to develop professionally and personally. An investment of this caliber requires thoughtful deliberation and patience. And if you think online learning is easy, you might need to think again. Or just change your approach.

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TIP – I Just Want to Praise You!

An important part of developing and retaining employees is providing feedback. An effective manager can use feedback to their advantage and encourage development of all employees, not just the one who is slated to receive the praise or constructive feedback. A well administered  comment or word or praise can go a long way to employee engagement.

Praiseworthy Performance

A good general rule of thumb is to praise behavior publically and correct behavior privately. But this is not the only formula to use when providing feedback to employees for either a job well done or taking action to correct and hopefully change behavior. Knowing and understanding your employees can make a big difference in how the praise – or constructive feedback – is received and processed. Take time to make sure your delivery of the message is appropriate and consistent. Sometimes how we say something can impact the actual message either positively or negatively. Tone, body language, eye contact and audience can truly make the difference between providing valuable praise and just giving feedback. Email is not the best way to provide feedback and should not be used unless absolutely necessary. The best feedback is done timely and in person. Try to limit email use to follow up or clarification of the praise and/or feedback.

Employee retention begins with employee relationships within their department and with their immediate supervisor. A manager can have a positive impact on employee engagement by providing positive feedback sessions. These can build respect among the entire group of employees and foster a good working environment.

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