The Value of Leadership Development – Part 2 of 3

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” – Steve Jobs

Since the last post about the Leadership Development program, a lot has happened. I have learned the full DMAIC process and worked with the team to build micro problem statements, data collection plans and root cause analysis. As you may know, DMAIC stands for:

D – Define (define the problem or customer requirement)

M – Measure (create and implement a data collection plan)

A – Analyze (analyze the data, process steps and root cause(s))

I – Improve (come up with solution ideas and test these ideas)

C – Control (determine control methods and implement response plan(s))

The DMAIC process is a sensible way to look at a problem and find ways to fix the problem and build a sustainable solution. An area we have spent a lot of time on is the Analyze phase. Dissecting and “boiling down” a problem gives us a chance to reflect on the challenge and find feasible and relevant solutions that not only solve the issue but can enhance and build the business. Having a thorough understanding of the cause and the effects of the cause is vital to successful solution. Sometimes this requires having difficult conversations that could be politically charged.

In addition to working on the project and DMAIC (and all my other activities and work!), I have completed DiSC, Hogan Assessments and a comprehensive individual development plan (IDP). IDPs are very important to development and growth and every professional should have one. Sometimes it is hard to look in the mirror and see your weaknesses and threats. Having an honest conversation with yourself and building your personal SWOT analysis is the cornerstone to your professional foundation. The Hogan Assessment was particularly valuable to me. I found my strengths and derailers to be “spot on” and I was able to use them to build my IDP successfully. The good thing is that I can now work on it!

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The Value of Leadership Development – Part 1 of 3

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – John F. Kennedy

Developing and growing leaders has been, is and will be a priority for organizations. Without strong, competent and agile leaders, the success and preservation of a company’s market share can be negatively impacted. Some companies “wing it” and hope future leaders will step up to the bench and throw their hat in for consideration. Other companies take deliberate steps to seek out high potential talent and invest in them. These companies spend valuable time and resources training, developing and motivating these high potential employees with the hopes they will be the future senior leaders of the organization. These leadership development opportunities are evidence of a company that values their talent and wants to retain for future greatness.

In November 2013, I was honored by being selected by my employer for our Leadership Development program. Less than 5% of our leaders were chosen – what an exciting development opportunity! I will be working on a fundraising project for future growth and expansion of the hospital system until May 2014. There is a lot of potential to grow the existing fundraising programs which will provide capital for system-wide growth. We meet weekly (at least) and are putting together plans for a sustainable program. Needless to say, I have busy over the last 2 months.

The Leadership Development program is highly structured with detailed milestones and benchmarks. Each member of the program (almost 50 leaders in total) is working on one of the 8 selected projects – all of which have deep and expansive impact on our hospital system. And each team has a project champion, project sponsor and in-house Organizational Development Consultant to keep us on track. There are formal, full day meetings monthly with each team reporting out and presenting the project progress to date. Some of the benchmarks so far have included project overview, customer identification and SIPOC and CTQ Trees creation. Now we are working on data collection methods.

I have learned a lot from my team mates who include professions like telemedicine, nursing, research, IT, security, philanthropy and a DMAIC expert who is also a Six Sigma Black Belt. This opportunity has afforded me incredible professional and personal development. There is much more to come.

Have you been a member of or work for a company that has a Leadership Development program? I would like to hear about your experiences.

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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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The Last Four Months

Life is a journey. I never would have thought that attending the HR Florida conference in August would change my life forever. A happenstance meeting led to a major relocation, new company (a great one at that!), new title and many personal life changes. Since my move, I have not only learned much about myself but I have learned what I know and what I thought I knew about HR!

For the last 4 months, I have been onboarding at my new employer, a major South Florida hospital system. I work in one of the smaller hospitals with a unique culture based on its geography. The transition has been a relatively easy one thanks to a great HR team and staff at the hospital. It is a wonderful feeling that my coworkers share my pride in our employer! While my new role mostly involves employee relations, I do have interactions with all other HR functionalities including my beloved total rewards. There are opportunities for growth and what can beat living in a tropical paradise! Over the last few months, I have witnessed and experienced how a fully integrated HR team works. Not only is our HR team highly valued by operations, we are involved in decision making that impacts the facility. It is an amazing experience to join senior leadership to drive the business. This is a new experience for me – one that I have dreamed about and has become reality.

I fully anticipate to return to posting blogs soon. That is once things settle in paradise!

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The Language of Business

The language of business is money. As HR professionals we are surrounded by buzz words and phrases like “think strategically”, “what’s the return on investment” and “do more with less.” But what do these mean and how do I make them happen while I am recruiting for open positions, have investigations happening and presenting employee development opportunities? How does HR move from transactional to transformational?

On Friday, August 26, I had the pleasure of attending GMSHRM’s Global CFO Forum at the Sofitel in Miami. What a great learning experience! It was an intimate setting – about 30 in attendance – where 3 CFOs from global reaching organizations presented their business ideas on the value HR. For 2 hours they shared their thoughts and ideas of how HR can make a
positive impact to the bottom line and build value for the whole organization. Each panelist introduced themselves and shared their philosophy. One of the CFO’s mission hit home with me – “Lead people to deliver their best.” He also referred to HR as “Capitalists for change.” What a fitting description.

The key to moving HR into a more strategic role is finding positive ways to contribute to the financial results of the organization. Understanding that just because something is the right thing to do does not mean it should have the capital outlay for implementation. There must some sort of return for any decision. Many ideas that HR presents can have significant cost savings or even make money for a company. For example, the implementation of a wellness program not only can lead to a healthier workforce but reduce healthcare costs and decrease absenteeism. All 3 of the panelists agree that HR needs to look at every decision according to how it would affect the bottom line. Many HR people know how an idea will benefit the company; sometimes we just need to find the best way to communicate it. And using the cost savings and revenue driving terms of the idea will help HR navigate the idea to approval.

Easier said than done, right? A great place to start is by knowing, understanding and managing the HR budget. How much do you have? What do you want to do? What items are on your “need” and “wish” lists? Your CFO will respond favorably to an HR person’s ability to speak the language of business. Knowing how the company makes money, where the strengths and
weaknesses lie and most importantly that finance is the catalyst for the company’s strategy. What the CFO might not tell you is that without HR, the company will fail. Rest assured that HR is needed but the need can vary based on the strategic direction and slant of the HR team.

Another thing I learned was that there are times that we may need to present something 2, 3 or more times to have it become a hit. There might be a new training opportunity you want to implement or software that will help streamline operations. When you pitch it to the executive team, you might get shot down the first time. Don’t let this discourage a valuable idea. Some great ideas were denied before they were implemented. Ask for feedback when you are told no so when you can go back to the drawing board you know what will be needed to get something done. If a solid business case can be made and there is a positive effect on the profit and loss statement – even in the long run – you stand a better chance at getting what you need. So when you want to purchase a new HRIS program that will have significant upfront costs, be ready to show the actual savings it will bring to the company. It might take some time until you get it.

The CFOs also agreed that they look to HR for change management support. This includes training and developing employees and paving the way for change acceptance in the organization. HR should be on the front line of change efforts which include mergers and acquisitions. Most change projects fail because of a lack of leadership and failure of assimilation. HR should (and needs to) be equipped to lead the organization through change with the executive team.

The financial instruments of profit and loss statements, balance sheets and statements of cash flows are historical. They become strategic tools when they are used for forecasting the future of the company. The financial plan of an organization is a roadmap for the year and is subject to change. The HR team should be well versed in the plan and how they can
impact the various stages and milestones. If you don’t have a working relationship with your financial team, start working on it. The CFO is an important person to be connected with when working in HR. Take time to know your financial people and what makes them tick. You won’t regret it.

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Ch Ch Ch Changes (not the Bowie kind)

Show of hands – how many of you are good with change? I don’t mean pennies, nickels and dimes but workplace and personal changes. I have known people who are great with change and others who are scared of it. Change can prompt some emotional responses from people. Is change good? Yes, no, maybe. Whatever your answer is the fact remains that change will happen – at work, at home or anywhere else. Here are some simple steps and ideas to help your company – or you – prepare for and implement change.

Hopefully, your company has some processes or practices in place to navigate change. If not, these are great to have in place before changes come about and need to be put in place. Be sure to know the core objectives and the business strategy of the company so the change initiatives will be in alignment. These procedures are not a one size fits all and might require input from various areas to foster cohesion for the company. In addition to identifying the change procedures, determine how the change will be measured, what will be needed and
who will perform the change movement tasks. Designated change teams are a great idea, even if the members rotate on and off the team as needed. Also, come up with an escape plan for when change falters or fails.

Okay, it’s time to figure out what is going on. See what the process or situation was and what it needs to be. Taking an objective look at what needs to change can help release some of the emotion from the equation. Change can come from many places, internally and externally, and in different forms and degrees. Take time to analyze and look at all facets of the change. Sometimes minutia can create big challenges during the implementation phase.

Next, ask “How do we get there?” and put together a specific time line, plan or any other mechanism to move through the change and implement it. Sometimes these changes are simple to implement and might cause little or no disruption to the operation. Other times, the momentum of the change can lead to great waves. Important to this step is taking the time to calculate the impact and come up with potential solutions before the situations arise. Remember the adage – An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Be ready for the unexpected.

Now, implement the change and take it in stride. There should be deadlines and target dates for the implementation progression. However allow for acceptance and integration of the change by the team(s) affected. Not everyone will be on your time line unless your time line allows for this important step. Some training might need to given on how to accept the more significant changes and be sure to allocate the appropriate time for this. Pushing a change works best when all parties adopt it and are on board.

Last but not least – evaluate and tweak the change as necessary. Hopefully measurements were identified at the beginning so the outcome can be weighed against them. If the change went through without a hitch, great! If not, this is where you look at what might need adjustment so the change can meet expectations. Documenting the change and its process is important as this step including noting what worked and what might need to be altered for future situations.

Interestingly enough, I used to be one who had challenges with change. I noticed the development need and worked on it, now I am fine with change and see the value in implementing processes to help guide change in the workplace and my personal life. I now regularly look at change as an adventure full of new knowledge conquests and building my skill sets. Today, change is good for me. Change is here to stay and isn’t going anywhere so get used to it!

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Developing Leadership Skills

One would think that working in HR would give HR professionals great insight into the best ways to interview and look for positions. Ironically, this is not always the case. Most of the time HR professionals are swamped with work and don’t have the time (or sometimes the energy) to hone their skills in their own arena. This can lead to gaps in professional development and when that great opportunity comes available, HR professionals can fall short. If you are like me, it is hard to develop some of these areas while at work (just too darn busy!), so I need to find ways to polish my skills through other venues.

About 3 years ago, I started on a development binge, so to speak. I dove headfirst into all extracurricular HR activities I could find locally including memberships, certification and education. I immersed myself in total rewards, employee relations, recruiting and staffing management to get the most knowledge and experience under my belt. Fortunately, I had lots of practical experience through my work in many of the competencies of HR. As my knowledge increased so did my confidence level and I started to be seen as a “go to” person for many things HR. But I was lacking in one main area. In order to make it to my next step in my career goals, I needed to build my leadership skills and opportunities to build this type of experience were limited in my organization. So, I came up with some different ideas.

When I was studying for my SPHR in early 2008, I was a member of my local SHRM chapter’s, Coastal Organization of Human Resources (COHR), study group. The certification chair allowed me to take the helm and help put together and run some of our study sessions. This was an opportunity for me to both learn the material and develop leadership capabilities outside the traditional workplace setting and gave the certification chair the ability to concentrate on their own life and responsibilities. It was a win-win that helped both of us.

Fast forward to when the incoming President of COHR was assembling the 2009 Board of Directors. I was approached to serve as the certification chair, a role I was honored to be offered and happily accepted. This gave me the chance to join a leadership team consisting of my HR peers including many I viewed as mentors. I quickly took on additional duties including community outreach and scholarship coordination that helped me gain additional experience. It was a lot of work but I was happy to be learning and gained a greater understanding of being a proactive leader. Additionally, I used the opportunity to also study for and achieve my GPHR certification in 2009.

During the summer of 2009, the 2009 President Elect approached me to serve in the role of President Elect in 2010. This required a 3 year commitment (2010 President Elect, 2011 President and 2012 Past President) and included chairing COHR’s SHRM Foundation commitments and developing and executing the annual Executive Session event held in October. This was the opportunity I was looking for! I garnered the necessary support from my employer and happily started in the role in January 2010. Serving the members of COHR has given me multiple chances to build my leadership skills and learn how to interact with a Board in a non-HR role. This has lead to other prospects including attending several national and local SHRM Leadership Conferences and serving as Chair of the Compensation Committee for our local United Way chapter. And I love every minute of it!

So, when you see the email from your organization’s leadership asking for volunteers, think about throwing your hat in. Start off small or jump in feet first – whichever works best for you. I have found it to be one of the most valuable expansion opportunities I have ever had.

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