Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Chumbawamba Had It Right...Well Sort Of

"I get knocked down, but I get up again.  You're never gonna keep me down."  I couldn't have said it better Chumbawamba (a band from the late 90's).  Now that song goes on to not be as relevant, but I'm going to ignore that and just focus on this opening part :)

Bernard Marr (a best selling author and enterprise performance expert at the Advanced Performance Institute) recently wrote an article called "The One Thing Successful People Never Do" (see link below). Marr often writes about happiness and success and the reason why I like his articles and posts is that they anyone can benefit from their messages.  So often articles address a specific audience, no matter their claims, and therefore, in my mind, they lose credibility.

But in this recent post, Marr calls out something so obvious, yet so enlightening.  Successful people don't give up.  He shares examples of people like Richard Branson, Henry Ford and even J.K. Rowling.  But I bet everyone knows someone who has found "success" because they didn't give up, they didn't take "no" for an answer, they tried something else when one thing didn't work as planned.  The couple that realizes they can't conceive naturally, and find an alternative way to bring a child into their lives.  The artist that can finally quit that part-time job because they can support themselves by all their different gigs throughout the year.  The small business owner that can hire a part-time office person to help them manage the day to day business.  The runner that completes their first marathon.  The student that is accepted to their first choice school.  ANYONE who faced adversity when trying to reach their goal, but never gave up.

Sometimes the most simple statement can be the most impactful and turn on the brightest light in your mind (and soul!!!).  Success is happiness.  And everyone has different happiness goals (as you saw by the examples above).  But no matter your definition of success, if you have a goal that you have been struggling with, or you have wondered if you have the strength to continue, just remember...everyone has hit a wall, but has figured out a way to climb over (or heck, just go around).  Or they have hit a speed bump, but it will only slow you down...don't let it stop you (and if you need to, change your tire, and then get back on the road!). The tip?  Surround yourself with people that will help you keep going (per a previous post...your Bullhorn!). And read the stories of some of these well-known people to be reminded to never give up and always get up again!

Link to Bernard Marr's original post:

Sunday, July 7, 2013

5 Ways to Help Your Team Set Off Fireworks this Summer

Looking for ways to kick your team into overdrive?  Look no further.  Below are 5 ways to help your team set off some fireworks this summer!

1. Reiterate your goals and how you can get there.  Remind them why they are here and what they should be focusing on; specifically tie it to the bigger picture (either an organization goal or broader dept goal).  Let them know the steps they should be taking to reach their goal; consider celebrating small wins as they reach important milestones (see suggestion 5 below).

2. Do a SWOT analysis and highlight their strengths and how you can address the opportunities.  If you aren't familiar with the term, SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats.  The goal is to analyze the performance of the team; see where they are great and where they have areas to grow or improve.  Taking a moment to pause and complete this exercise can really energize a team as they recognize their strengths and get excited about how to address areas where they can improve.  The trick, as the manager, is to make sure it stays productive and doesn't start to become a slew of complaints or negativity.

3. Do a team building event.  It doesn't have to be a big event after work; often you will get more bang for your buck doing fun activities during work.  It can be a formal exercise like MBTI (a team personality exercise) or just small activities that provide a little distraction.  Create an office scavenger hunt, an ongoing game of tic-tac-toe on the wall or a five minute break for charades.  

4. Encourage peer recognition.  Remember in college you used to stop by your friend's room and write on the white board on their door?!  What if you did the same thing at work in each cube?  But the messages are thank you's!  If an employee helped their peer out on a project, or covered when they had a doctor's appointment, or even just got them a snack from the kitchen, write a thank you on their board!

5.  Celebrate the little wins.  Often, people get so wrapped up in the end goal, they miss the small wins, that can really keep a team driving to the finish line.  Or maybe they were able to stay productive and meet their goals, even in a short week with people out?  Do something special this afternoon to recognize it.  It will keep them successful next time around too!

If you take the time to do these five little things this summer, you will have a lot to celebrate and kick off the fall with a bang!

5 Ways to Gain Independence from Your Current Job

If you are feeling stuck in your current role, use these five tips to help you find what makes you happy and you will be celebrating your independence by summer's end!

1. Figure out what makes you happy.  It's easy to say that you are miserable now.  But why?  What would make your day or week a 10?  Once you know what DOES make you happy, you can go out and find a job that will actually make you excited to get up and go to work in the morning.  What a concept :)

2. What's important for you in a company's culture?  Are you feeling disenfranchised with your company, field or industry?  Or are you just feeling stuck in your role?  This is important to determine which it is so don't find yourself feeling the same way in six months or a year in your new job.

3.  What qualities are in your ideal manager?  Research study after research study shows that engagement is driven by the employee/manager relationship.  So what do you look for in a manager, and how can you interview for those values in the future?

4. Remember why you started in this industry or even this job.  Go back to that honeymoon stage and remember what excited you about either this role or your industry.  What made you proud of your profession?  How can you replicate that at your next job, and hopefully make it last past the honeymoon stage?

5. If you could spend your time doing anything, what would it be?  Could you turn it into a job/career?  Could it be part of or associated with your career?  Often people have a passion in their life and never think about how to turn it into their full time work.  How wonderful would it be if it could be your job...or if you could at least incorporate it into your work?!

Remember, a job is only going to be engaging, exciting and fulfilling if you know what makes you happy.  One you know that, then you can look for an opportunity that addresses those needs!  And if you aren't sure, reach out to someone who can help you; whether it's your bullhorn (see previous post!), a mentor or even a life/career coach.  The point is that it is someone who can help you talk it through so you can find your independence and find the job that will make you happy!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Turning a "Like" into an Action

This weekend my husband shared one of his philosophical insights into our current culture...he surmised that we are a society of likes and not actions.  He was referring to a world where we think by "liking" something on Facebook or other social media outlets, we have contributed to the greater good.  When do we actually take the call or request and do something...make a donation, write a letter to a politician, volunteer with a non-profit or show up at a protest or rally?  But we showed our support by "liking" it so we did our part, right?!  Wrong!  But that's a discussion for his world of sociology and art!

For me, our conversation made me reflect on many of the coaching conversations I have had with employees who are frustrated with their careers or managers who don't know what else to do with a top performer.

Let's first look at how an employee (or yourself) can turn a "like" into an "action".  Are you unhappy in your current role or company?  Have you always wanted to try a new skill or move into a new industry or profession?  Do you sit on your computer and do searches about how to publish your own book or become a professional speaker?  But here's the most important question...Do you ever do anything about it?  If not, you are reflecting the culture my husband was referring to - a lack of "action".  What is stopping you?  Time? Money?  Energy?  Confidence?  I understand it all.  You work a full time job, you are exhausted at the end of the day.  You want to zone out on the weekends, spend time with loved ones!  Or maybe, even if it's not great, you feel lucky to have a secure job/profession, why rock the boat and risk giving that up to try something you don't even know if you will like or be able to find success.

But I challenge those "excuses".  Isn't your true happiness and passion deserve the exploration of this other life?  And don't you think you will enjoy  your loved ones even more if you, yourself, are happier and more energized about your career?  You don't have to up-end your life tomorrow.  Try what you feel comfortable trying.  You don't need to pull a"Jerry Maguire", but find small ways to start making that change.  You will feel empowered and energized.  And if for some reason it isn't all what you thought it would be, that's ok too!  At least now you know :)

Now, managers, let's just take a minute to think about your employees.  Development is a active partnership.  If you have a rock star employee who needs a little push, help them find opportunities that will continue to challenge them and excite them about work.  If there is a not a new role for them, don't let that be the end of the conversation.  Help them find opportunities within their current role.  Get them in-front of your leadership team so they know their name.  Let them help with coverage when you are out of the  office.  Ask them to lead a steering committee or project manage on a new initiative.  Show them that you value them and want them to be an integral part of the future of your team, department and company.  Trust me, if you don't, someone else will.  Check out the Gigaom blog for more suggestions on "5 Ways on How to Keep Your Rock Star Employee Happy".

So the next time you find yourself says, "wouldn't it be great if..." or "I wish that I was a..." stop yourself and figure out a way to turn that "Like" into an "Action"!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

HR in the Spotlight: Why Even the Smallest Arts Organizations Should Have a Strong HR Infrastructure (Part II)

Part II: Showing Employees Some Love

Ok, now let's focus on the employees.  Part I of this post put a spotlight on the need for organizations to document and follow the letter of the law.  But it's not just about avoiding risk.  You also want to make sure you put processes in place that help retain and engage employees.  Focus on keeping them happy, not just covering your butt if something goes wrong!

What Should I Do If… I often see organizations scramble when an important employee situation or decision comes up.  They do not take the time to set processes up ahead of time, so when an incident (good or bad) happens, people don’t know who does what and when.  Any solid process should include:
·         Who is the decision maker?
·         Who needs to be informed/consulted?
·         What documentation needs to be in place?
·         Key steps to the process and if there is a specific order they must happen
There are two key areas where processes are integral for any solid HR foundation: Employee Life Cycle and Interpersonal Conflict.
Any organization should have set processes for when an employee (or intern or volunteer) is hired, promoted, transferred, demoted, or terminated. For example, at the time of hire, who gets to make the final decision and the details of the offer?  Who is responsible for collecting the new hire paperwork?  Who is going to make sure they have an email account, phone, computer, desk, or any other tools/supplies needed? Who is going to welcome and guide them on day one / week one?  Who adds them to the payroll?  This list is not meant to overwhelm you.  It will be much less stressful for you to think about this ahead of time instead of rushing around the morning a new employee is about to start.  Or worse, find out someone made an offer without the right approval.  And if this is all planned out ahead of time, it will also be a much better on-boarding experience for your new employee.  An experience, that when it is poor, can leave a bad taste in their mouth for the entire time they work with you, assuming they even stay past the first 30/60/90 days.

The other important area for clear processes is Interpersonal Dynamics.  This can include conflict management , employee complaints and general employee relations issues.  If an employee has a concern, who should they turn to (outside of their direct manager)?  If you do not have an internal HR contact, you should elect (and train) one senior manager to act as the single point of contact for any escalated issues.  By having one senior member be responsible for investigating and mediating any interpersonal conflicts that arise, you provide a consistent process that both the employees and the other managers can trust.  There are plenty of webinars, workshops and coaches that provide guidance and training to the senior manager that is delegated to this role.  Ironically, this is one place where organizations can focus too much on documentation, and not enough around conversations.  Documentation is not enough.  Employees need to be heard and the person responsible for these investigations or mediation needs to have those conversations.

Any investigation or mediation should include the following components:
  • The senior manager should interview the person bringing the complaint forward.  They should ask if there were any witnesses to the situation.  They should be prepared to ask follow up questions to make sure they are clear on the concern.
    • Do NOT promise confidentiality.  You CAN promise to only discuss the matter only with those involved or with those that need to know (their manager, the head of the organization, etc).
    • Do NOT promise a specific outcome.  You want to be empathetic, but you have only heard one side of the story at this point.  You cannot determine the outcome of the situation until you have spoken to all relevant parties (or researched relevant data like emails, etc).  You CAN promise a thoughtful and timely investigation or mediation.
    • Do NOT judge.  Even if you feel like the complaint is unwarranted, if the person is being "too sensitive", if you think the employees should be able to figure it on their own, etc.
  • The senior manager should then interview the other person involved (or who the complaint is against).
  • The senior manager should then interview any witnesses or other people who's names have come up in the investigation. If this is a mediation, this step may not be needed, depending on the severity of the situation.
  • The senior manager should make sure they take clear notes in each meeting to review when making a final decision in the investigation (or to recommend a next step in the mediation).
  • If this was an investigation, the senior manager should circle back with the person the complaint was made against and let them know your decision.  They should also circle back with the person that made the original complaint.  But they should not need to reveal the final action taken against the other person (i.e. don't say, "We fired John." but you can say "We finished the investigation and took the appropriate actions.").
    • If this a mediation, bring the two people together and talk through their concerns and how they can move forward and work together successfully.            
Show Them Some Love. As mentioned earlier, these posts are meant to help, not scare.  Yes, the focus is clearly around risk mitigation and how to avoid a situation that will close your doors.  But there are other simple HR foundational practices that you should implement that will improve employee engagement and morale.  Specifically, Training & Development and Rewards & Recognition.  It's about making them love what they do, not just keeping yourself out of hot water!

Yet again, you may be thinking, “We barely have enough hours in the day to get the bare minimum done and keep our heads above water, how am I supposed to find time for training or money for something like a bonus?!”  Most of the time, it doesn’t take much to show an employee how valuable they are to your organization.  A delivery of cookies during a long afternoon, a bouquet of flowers for a job well done on a key project or even a hand written note opening night (or closing night) of an event to thank them for all their hard work can go just as a far as a bonus.  As for training or development, maybe you can invite a guest speaker from your industry to come in during a lunch break to talk about an exciting new program they just launched.  Or maybe there is an employee who works on your backstage crew that is interested in directing so you set up an opportunity for them to shadow the director for an hour during an upcoming rehearsal.  Even basic development opportunities and recognition are proven to improve productivity and retention.   If your employees are happier and more engaged, that will flow over to your customers/audience (and isn’t that the goal of any arts organization!). 

Curtain Call.  Nothing noted in this article needs to eat up a lot of your budget or time.  That is a precious commodity to a leader of an arts organization.  But even the small investments noted can save you hundreds and even thousands of dollars in money spent later in loss of productivity, wasted money on programs that are not meaningful to your employees or even litigation fees.  Those savings can keep your doors open, your managers and employees and volunteers happy and your customers coming back for more…oh, a maybe, just maybe, a little more sleep for you!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

HR in the Spotlight: Why Even the Smallest Arts Organizations Should Have a Strong HR Infrastructure (Part I)

I recently had a great conversation over LinkedIn with a group of arts managers who shared some of their HR struggles. Most of these organizations have less than 10-20 full time employees and understandably no one was an HR expert.

So, with that in mind, I wrote this two-part series on key HR policies for arts organizations!  This is inline with my overall series, 24 Frames, but its a summary of some of the most important areas organizations should focus.  As always, please feel free to comment/discuss below, I would love to hear your reactions and insights.  You can also reach out to me directly at if you would like some advice on anything specific in your organization.  As I have mentioned before, helping arts managers with their HR questions is my way of connecting to my arts roots!

Part One - Document, Document, Document

               Anyone who has ever worked with an arts organization knows that everyone has to do a little bit of everything to get the job done.  There are only a very few that are at the size where they can invest in having a full time HR professional on staff.  But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn't have an HR infrastructure in place. Documentation, key policies and clear processes can keep your arts organization from ever going dark over a preventable people issue.
                Document, Document, Document.  The best defense against any claim is documentation.  Therefore it is important to capture, in writing, any performance feedback, employee complaint or disciplinary actions.  The last thing you want is to be confronted with a disagreement, know that you talked to the person about that issue (and maybe even came to an understanding or agreement) but not have any evidence to back-up your side of the story. The document should have the date of the conversation, who was involved, the main talking points/topics covered and the outcome/next steps.  You want to make sure you keep a copy of this document in the employee's file, and give a copy to the employee.
                You also want to put together at least a basic job description for every role in your organization, including the volunteers. As you will see below, you can leave yourself room to have flexibility within the responsibilities.  This way you set your basic expectations of the role up front.  And if there are ever gaps in performance,disagreement on pay or schedule, you have it documented.  Every role should have at least the following information captured in a document:
          ·        Title
          ·        Department and Manager (title, not name)
          ·        FLSA Classification (or note that they are a volunteer)
          ·        Work hours
          ·        Pay range (again note if they are a volunteer)
          ·        Brief description of responsibilities
          ·        Any required/essential skills or experience

             You may be thinking, “We are a five person organization.  We all do anything or everything.” And that’s completely understandable and is probably the case for many readers, it’s how you stay afloat! However, try to capture some of the basic responsibilities you know they have to be able to complete.  For example, for your marketing guru, you could list: manage ticket reservations, design and print marketing materials,write and distribute press releases, update organization’s website, and other ad hoc projects and duties as needed.  This simple description hits on two key components.  One, it sets the performance expectations of the role; no matter what else is going on, you need Jane to do these four items.  If she doesn’t, or she does it poorly, you have reason to discuss her performance gaps and act accordingly.  Two, by adding the infamous clause at the end “and other ad hoc projects and duties as needed” you have allowed yourself flexibility to ask Jane to stop by the bank to make a deposit, order food for a opening night party, etc.  And when you interview someone for this role, you can let them know that these are the key pieces of the role but you will be leaning on them for other support.  Just make sure you update the document if anything about the role significantly changes!

                Because the Law Says So!  Just because you are not a large corporation, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider how you can mitigate risk with your employees and volunteers.  Non-profit organizations are just as vulnerable to lawsuits and claims with the EEOC, and often one claim can close your doors.  Your goal should be to arm yourself with the best HR infrastructure you can have, no matter your size.  And the foundation is strong documentation. 
                There are a few key policies that any business, no matter the size or the focus, should have, including: Harassment & Discrimination Prevention Policy, Expense Reimbursement, Pay Practices, and Time-Off & Leave.  The key to a good policy is that it is detailed enough to protect you and your employees and give people a foundation to base a decision.  But it shouldn’t be too strict that it paints you in a corner and there isn’t flexibility for an individual circumstance you are willing to consider.  For example, a good phrase to include is“deviations from this policy must be approved by X role” or “exceptions are up to manager’s discretion”.  But then you need to make sure those roles/managers are trained on how to consider exceptions (or have someone they can turn to for coaching).
                There are some key labor laws that apply to any incorporated business.  As mentioned above, you must classify employees and then pay them correctly under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  You need to determine if a job is exempt or non-exempt and then pay overtime if they are non-exempt. When thinking about classification, the most important thing to consider is the scope of independent decision making and the level of impact on the business. 
To qualify for exemption, employees must meet three tests for each exemption:
          •       An exempt employee must earn a minimum amount. 
          •       The minimum amount must be paid on a salary basis. 
          •       Exempt employees must perform certain duties that meet federal criteria as a bonafide: Executive,   Administrative,Professional, Outside Sales worker.
          •       Certain computer employees may be exempt professionals based on similar regulations.

Non-exempt employees are eligible for overtime pay at 1.5 their regular rate if they:
         •      Work more than 40 hours in any week
         •       In CA, if you work more than 8 hours a day OR 40 hours in a week

               If you have 50 or more employees, you must abide by the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which states employees who have worked for one year (or 1250 hours) must be granted up to 12 weeks unpaid leave each year to tend to a medical issue relating to themselves or a family member. This leave can be taken intermittently or all at once.   And a company cannot make any employment decisions based on the fact someone were out on a leave. 
               And finally, you must make sure you are following any federal anti-discrimination laws.  Some key laws are Title VII, ADA, ADEA, EPA.  Let’s start with the cornerstone employment act: Title VII, also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  This law prohibits discrimination based on Race, Color, Sex, National Origin, and Religion.  You cannot make any employment decisions based on these five characteristics.  It was amended in 1991 to include language around compensatory and punitive damages.  Additionally, the 1991amendment added the potential liability to a company regarding disparate impact.  Disparate impact is when a company has a policy in place that is indirectly discriminatory. 
               The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (or ADEA) prohibits discrimination against anyone over the age of 40. You cannot make any employment decisions purely because of age.  Some of these laws seem black and white, but you must think about decisions that could be SEEN as discrimination.  For example, if you ask someone when they graduated from college, you are indirectly asking their age.  You may be trying to ask more about their education, but by adding the year, you are learning their age.  So consider all ways the decision could be interpreted to be influenced by one of these protected characteristics.
                The American’s with Disability Act (or ADA) prohibits discrimination against anyone with a noted or perceived disability.   What is a perceived disability?  If you notice someone struggling in their role and you assume they have a learning disability and that must be why they are struggling, you have put a perceived disability on them.  You cannot make any employment decisions about that person because you THINK they have a learning disability.  However, if someone does come forward and disclose that they have a disability, a company is required to consider a reasonable accommodation that will allow the employee to successfully complete their job without putting undue hardship on the company.
                The Equal Pay Act of 1963 states that employers cannot make pay decisions based on gender.  If two people are in the same job, gender cannot be a factor in any pay differential.  If a person is performing better or if they have more experience and they happen to be different genders, of course they can be paid more, but that decision cannot be made based on if they are a man or a woman.
                When in doubt, check with the Department of Labor (  There is a lot of helpful information posted on their site.  Additionally, check with your state and local labor offices.  You must always follow the law that is most favorable to the employee, whether that is local, federal or state.

Ok, so that was the dry stuff!  But it's so important to pay attention to documentation and the laws, it can literally keep your organization alive.  Stay tuned for Part II: Showing Employees Some Love

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Is the focus on women hurting women?

I have been struggling with this concept for a few weeks. So I thought I would throw it out to the masses and see how others respond.

First let me say I am a strong feminist. I believe women can do anything men can do in the workplace. We can be great leaders in any field and add a wonderful perspective to an organization. But with that said, I wonder if we are slowly building back up all the walls and ceilings our sisters have knocked down.

There is a LOT of talk around the continued struggle women in leadership roles have with work/life balance. Can we have it all? Can we have a successful home life (whatever that looks like to the individual) and be in leadership roles at work?

But I don't think it is just a woman's issue anymore. It's a general society issue. I have coached plenty of men who have struggled with work/life balance. Men who have chosen jobs or companies because they offer more flexibility. Just as women are no longer in the "Mad Men" workplace, neither are men. Whether it is their own desire to be an active and present parent or because their spouse has just as equally a demanding job and they are splitting home responsibilities 50/50. And of course, more and more same sex couples are raising children which also adds a new dimension of the historical care giver gender. Men are also trying to "have it all" and by only saying it is a women's issue, I believe, is minimizing both sexes and their desires to feel successful at both home and work.

So by focusing on the issue of "can we have it all" around women, are we actually setting ourselves back a few years? Are we hurting our advancement in the workplace by making this a women's issue? Are we also sending the men back a few years in their evolution by assuming they don't have the same struggle?

I truly don't know. I guess only the future will be able to tell us. It's just been nibbling away at my brain lately so I thought I would get it out there and see what people think!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

24 Frames Overview

Welcome to 24 Frames! In this section of the blog, I will share best practices regarding key HR
practices and policies every organization should implement, no matter your size or industry.  Don't let one missing piece destroy the whole picture.

Here are the 24 Frames.  I will post a detailed description on each topic below over the next few months.  Please let me know if there is any topic you are specifically interested in or struggling with and I will try to include it!

Company Framework
       1 - Company Values
       2 - Org Chart
       3 - Decision making tree
       4 - Customer Experience Mission
       5 - Violence and Emergency Preparedness
Employment Law
        6 - FLSA
        7 -  Job Descriptions & Titles
        8 - Employee Files
        9 -  HR Partnership & Support

        10 - Handbook
        11 - Harassment & Discrimination Policy and Training
        12 - Pay Policy
        13 - Attendance Policy
        14 - Paid Time Off Policy

        15 - Health Benefits
        16 -  401k Contributions           
        17 - Non-cash benefits/perks
        18 - FMLA, LOA, Worker’s Comp

Employee Life Cycle
        19 - Interview Training
        20 -  New hire on-boarding
        21 - Performance Appraisals
        22 - Career Development
        23 - Key Training Topics
        24 - Disciplinary Process