Innovate or Tolerate?




There are some discussions that occur prior to an event so that planning and preparations can be made. I remember when my wife and I had just gotten engaged, we talked about where we would live, what we would do, apartment or home, rent or buy, etc. But one of the more difficult conversations was around the timing of having kids. Like most young couples, we came up with the idea of waiting for a certain amount of time with the plan to save money so we could afford to have a baby. As we began to share this plan with family, they all started to laugh at us. The comment that we heard most often was, “If you wait to have kids until you can afford them, you’ll never have them.”


At the moment, I was surprised at their advice and mumbled under my breath, “You don’t know me.” But sure enough, to this day – 23 years later, I still don’t know that we can afford the child we have! But there came a day when it occurred – we were pregnant. We were thrilled to be expecting and couldn’t wait for her to come, but then we started thinking about medical bills, daycare, decorating and setting up a nursery, clothes, diapers, formula, and the endless line of cha-chings headed our way! What did we do? We dealt with it and did what we could.

Businesses face the same type of decisions too – hopefully not around babies because that could lead to some HR issues, but around timing and whether or not to innovate or just to tolerate what is already in place. It’s a tough call and one that I think my family’s advice would still fit – “If you wait to innovate until the timing is perfect, you won’t ever innovate.”

Think about some of the things that society felt like they couldn’t live without just in the past 10 years:

  • PDAs
  • Dial Up
  • Getting film developed
  • Movie rental stores
  • Public pay phones
  • VCRs
  • Phone books
  • Maps

Society has moved on to other innovations, and businesses that still deal in the things mentioned above are considered antique or retro stores now. Innovation could not wait in these examples. But what about when it comes to other, less obvious things. Maybe things like an internal database at work, making your website mobile compatible, moving to a virtual workplace, the structure of your teams, or compensation plans. Or if you live in my world, how to attract and retain Gen Y workers through new unique and innovative approaches as Baby Boomers are retiring like crazy!  Can you “get by” with tolerating your current strategies, processes, culture, and technologies – probably. But, is “getting by” your goal?

My employer decided recently to make what our long-term staff would consider to be “radical” changes, and we made a lot of them all in the same week. We moved away from Microsoft and into Google for our email and document storage. We implemented and rolled out a new Applicant Tracking System that replaced three  others. We rolled out a new Operations Manual and internal policies. A new Employee Handbook was written. All of this was done over a two day training period last month. Was it the perfect time to do all of this? Should we have done these incrementally instead of all at once? Should we have taken segments of our business at a time to make the changes instead of the entire company? It doesn’t matter what I think or if I have an opinion on this, because these are the decisions that were made and so I deal with it and move forward. It’s too early to tell how the company as a whole will respond. I believe the changes that were made needed to be made, but the timing around them are always tricky.

I’m a process guy. I probe and dig deep and test and explore and try to come up with every scenario possible, and then design solutions that give the most people the best results possible. But with process, there needs to be accountability. If you state to your team that they have a new way of doing something, and then allow them the freedom and resources to continue doing them as before, you are asking for trouble. Not only does it cause chaos and confusion for your team, but it slows down productivity and it cause resentment among those who follow the new process. If you decide that you just cannot tolerate and that you need to innovate, then you need to demonstrate that employees may not fluctuate in their adherence.  In other words, GO ALL IN.

I wish I could look in my crystal ball and see what the coming months hold for us after these recent changes. Some have embraced the changes and can see great value in them. Others have been resentful and just can’t get past their crying and complaining. Others are on an island and trying to wing it on their own – creating their own processes as they go outside of what is acceptable (this infuriates me). Now it’s up to the executive team to decide just how important and necessary these innovations were, and what they find tolerable all over again.


Back to School







It seems like it was only a few months ago that I was walking my daughter to Kindergarten for the first day of school. She had on a yellow t-shirt and some blue jean shorts with a Strawberry Shortcake backpack that extended well beyond her back and down to her ankles. This morning, I dropped off that same daughter for her first day of high school where she will be walking the halls with guys with facial hair….and probably even some girls with facial hair too!

There’s no doubt that the first day of school causes a reaction from students, parents, and daily commuters alike. That reaction could be excitement, nervousness, anger, sadness, or a myriad of other responses – for commuters, it’s just road rage. Preparation and anticipation have been taking place for weeks – buying new clothes, backpacks, shoes, getting a new hair cut, and planning exactly how the first day would go down. I even spent some time walking the halls with my daughter mapping out where all of the classrooms are so she can find her way from one end of the school to the other end and into class in 4 minutes or less.

I have this curiosity of how businesses would do if they approached today in some of the same ways that schools do? I know…it’s not the same and every business is unique and it would never work as a blanket concept, but maybe they could just make today an extra special day at work for their employees as well. Introduce new ideas or strategies, maybe have the office extra clean or have some surprising new aspects to it, have an orientation time as the day begins to re-energize and re-focus the workforce. Maybe everyone even gets a new title on this day?

The main idea here is that it is important that employers not allow workers or day-to-day responsibilities to become stagnate or stale. The best results come when an employee is motivated, excited, and loves doing their job. Let’s face it, we all have times where if we do the same things long enough, and we feel like we aren’t appreciated or that our work doesn’t matter, that our performance goes down. As a recruiter, a few years ago I worked on a RPO account and I recruited for some of the same positions over and over and over. I asked the same questions to candidates all day long, every day, for months. I had a bluetooth headset that I would wear on these calls, and I got to where I would just walk around and look out the windows because I knew what to ask and I usually knew what the answer was going to be from the candidate. I was bored out of my mind. I needed some variety. I needed something new. I needed a first day of school again!

This afternoon, I’ll go pick up my daughter and she will tell me all about her teachers and the school and new friends and probably about an old friend who didn’t speak to her or something. We’ll go get some ice cream or go bowling or to a movie and dinner – we’ll just talk about everything and focus on what this year will bring. I really look forward to this day every year. I missed it last year and it devastated me. Maybe, if nothing else, you can just spend some time with your employees and see how things are going and focus on what this year will bring. Showing enough interest in your team to just listen to them and show that you care – maybe that’s all they need.

It’s cancer.








On August 24, 2011 – one year ago today – I heard the words, “It’s cancer.” spoken to me. Until then, I had never had any serious health issues, and this was found sort of as a coincidence from being checked out for something else. Well, some call it coincidence – I call it God. I went in the hospital on August 19th to have an easy laparoscopic  procedure done to remove a single, very small mass. I woke up after major surgery that removed 15 tumors from my small intestine. Quite a surprise, to say the least. A few days later, as I was preparing to be discharged from the hospital, the surgeon comes in and says, “It’s cancer.”

In all, I had three major surgeries in 6 weeks time. Easily could have died after the second. Had a total of 16 tumors removed and a foot and a half of my small intestine. I lost 50 lbs within a single month because I couldn’t eat or drink. I never did chemo, instead having octreatide treatments. After just a few months, I was declared cancer free on May 1, 2012.

Cancer has changed me in many ways. It has helped to organize priorities like nothing else. It has taught me to appreciate the little things that occur in life – sunsets, a great beach, time spent with those that I care about. It has motivated me to invest in people and letting them know that someone cares what they are going through. I still have the drive to be very good at what I do professionally. I still get amped up when I make a big sale or when I speak at a conference or please a customer – I mean, I was texting my customers within a couple of hours of major surgery to check in with them and make sure things were good and that they had what they needed…hahaha!  But more than anything else, I just appreciate life now.

One year later, I run 20-25 miles per week. I’ve lost 80 pounds. I’m healthier and happier than I have been in a very long time. I will celebrate tonight by having just short of 100 people in my home who supported and encouraged me along the journey.

Cancer is a terrible disease, and I know that I am fortunate. I know others and see others who have been in this battle repeated times and over the course of several years. Mine was nothing compared to theirs. People have lost  family members, friends, and co-workers to this disease. My heart goes out to all of those who have not had the same outcome as I. But for me – cancer can and has been defeated.

Recruit NAKED

As a candidate, how would you feel if you knew the recruiter you were speaking with on the phone was sitting at his desk, at his home, in his boxers, and maybe hadn’t showered in a few days?

As a hiring manager, would it bother you if you were entrusting your search to the same guy mentioned above? Should it matter as long as he is getting the job done and going it well?

The truth is, you really have no idea if you are in that situation or not. It is funny – and creepy – to think that this may be the case, but with the number of remote workers rapidly increasing, this could very well be true. Forrester Research is saying that by 2016, about half of the workforce may be working remotely (or at least partially working remotely for some period during the week). With large numbers of recruiters working from SaaS based Applicant Tracking Systems, all they need to do their job is a computer, the internet, and a phone. Because of that, companies have begun to let their recruiters work from home rather than coming into an office. This set up helps the company to reduce costs on office space and office supplies, but it can also be a perk to the recruiter who is not interested in a daily commute.

As someone who works remotely (fully clothed), I can see the arguments both ways. There is something to be said for working in an office, feeling the buzz around the room, collaborating on the fly with others, and just the ability to listen to and learn from others around you. But on the other side, I start work earlier, rarely take a full lunch, and work later because I am working from home. I even find myself coming back to my work after my family goes to bed and getting some extra organization or planning done to prepare for the next day. There are certainly fewer distractions at my home, that is until the bogus computer repair malware removal team calls me repeated times a day trying to get my credit card number to scam me.

Can everyone be successful working remotely? No.

Can everyone be trusted to work remotely? Absolutely not.

With half of the workforce headed that direction though, HR Managers and Recruiters should not only be focusing on finding candidates who have the needed skills, or a certification, or a certain number of years of experience within an industry – they better start focusing on the personalities, behaviors, and drive of candidates as well to see if they can thrive in a remote work environment. I believe in that type of testing anyway, and have seen it be effective in reducing turnover for all types of roles, not just remote ones.

The next time a recruiter calls you – maybe you will get a little smirk on your face because you just don’t know if they are recruiting naked.

Dying from the Lack of Vision

There is a passage in The Bible that says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” As a former minister, I always approached this from a church leadership point of view. If there wasn’t adequate planning, recruitment of leadership, budgeting, and gaining agreement from key leaders who could garner support from others….you were setting ourself up to fail. But now that I am in the corporate world, I see this verse from a different perspective.

Businesses have these policies and procedures and vendors and impenetrable list of things that they will and will not consider. Companies are hesitant to try a new vendor because they have a long relationship with their current vendor. But I have to ask, doesn’t that breed complacency? And not just from one side of the relationship, but both? Could it be that you might receive better service, better results, and a higher ROI from using someone else that is truly hungry for your business? Look, I’m not saying that in all cases a long term relationship should be dismissed to go take a shot with an unknown, but are you evaluating your current vendors without emotions and looking solely on the results? Are you ignoring the work or service that a current vendor is providing because you are too busy to consider making a change….or even worse, too lazy to make that change?

What about restrictions that we place through Job Descriptions? Your list of MUST HAVES might just be eliminating a better candidate with a bigger upside that doesn’t come from your cookie cutter ideal work history background. I was at an open house event the other day for a new collection center…a call center with 350 employees. Their CEO was recently recognized as the Best CEO in Austin. Would it surprise you to know that this CEO had absolutely no experience with call centers or collections prior to joining this organization? He was in IT marketing. I bet the person leading HR though had a job description that was very detailed and said that the CEO would need 20+ years of call center and collections experience, but somehow this guy has proven to be very good at what he does, although he had a bit of a learning curve.

I’ve mentioned before about companies who have screening questions set up as part of the application process (I use these too but it the right manner) where if someone answers a single question in the less than perfect response…they are eliminated by a computer without anyone ever considering the candidate as a whole to see what other attributes might be more valuable than the one thing that didn’t line up perfectly. A large recruiting firm – The Right Thing – does this, but I’m here to say, this is the wrong thing! They aren’t the only ones, lots of companies do this and you are missing out on great candidates by being so tight in your evaluations.

I love the TV show, Undercover Boss. Time after time, these bosses have come into the organization from some other industry and don’t understand what it takes to do all of the jobs that they oversee. That doesn’t mean they aren’t ver good at their jobs, or that they shouldn’t be allowed to manage those teams. It does show that the organization, in their cases, looked at other skills like leadership, planning, adaptability, communication, and other factors and determined that they were the right type of person who would commit themselves to learning this new industry. They had vision.

Vision, for the sake of this post, is being able to strategically look at a total individual and all that encompasses that person in an effor to evaluate all of the things they could add to a team or o a division or to an organization in the log run, not just a short term fix. Are there absolutes that must be in place fr some roles….of course. But how has your vision been clouded by comfort, lack of time, or laziness? Are you missing out on better options because of your cataracts of comfort?

Vision is required to be our best…and this isn’t a one time vision that lasts forever. It must be reevaluated and analyzed routinely. Take a hard look today at the areas of responsibility that you have and see if it’s time for a fresh look and new evaluation. It might just mean the difference of living or dying.