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    Trying to look better vs. trying to get better

    Quick take from the world of the NBA - and no, I'm not tapping the sports world solely to try and surpass in 2013 the number of contributions I had last season towards The 8 Man Rotation - A Look at Sports and HR E-book.

    So here's the take - if you are an experienced professional near the top of your game, but still have some room to grow to truly reach your ultimate goals - the big promotion, the fatty paycheck, or in the sports world, it might be the Championship title, etc. the outside advice that you seek and who you choose to engage with makes a pretty big statement about your dedication to your craft.

    What do I mean by that?

    Let's take a look at two recent examples from the Association:

    Exhibit A - Deron Williams of the Brooklyn Nets  hires his own personal beat reporter

    Here's an odd story from today's Wall Street Journal, about a new member of the Brooklyn Nets corps of beat writers. Devon Jeffreys is a credentialed reporter like all of the rest, but he's really only at Nets games to cover one player: Deron Williams. And he's there to cover Deron Williams for a website that Deron Williams himself is the owner of: DeronWilliams.com. Athletes having a personal website to trumpet their accomplishments is nothing new, but Williams's site is rare in that it features content that is written like regular news stories, save for the fact that Williams is always the central figure.

    Exhibit B - Kevin Durant of the OKC Thunder hires his own personal performance analytics coach/consultant

    Kevin Durant has hired his own analytics expert. He tailors workouts to remedy numerical imbalances. He harps on efficiency more than a Prius dealer. Durant sat in a leather terminal chair next to a practice court and pointed toward the 90-degree- angle at the upper-right corner of the key that represents the elbow. “See that spot,” Durant said. “I used to shoot 38, 39 percent from there off the catch coming around pin-down screens.” He paused for emphasis. “I’m up to 45, 46 percent now.”

    Pretty obvious that these two 'hires', or personal development strategies represent two strikingly different approaches to performance improvement. Williams' personal beat reporter is there to make Williams look better.  Durant's analytics coach is there to help Durant get better. 

    Now to be fair these examples are kind of cherry-picked - Williams might have his own analytics coach, personal trainer, dietitian, etc. to help his actual game improve. And Durant might have his own PR reps and spin doctors to help his public image. Both players have the resources necessary to have all of their professional bases covered. So it isn't completely fair to call them out in this way with imperfect or incomplete information.

    But you and me?

    If we are engaging with experts or taking the time to get some outside 'performance' help, we probably do have to make choices about where to invest our more limited resources, and perhaps more importantly, our limited time. I think about this a lot in the context of what people do online - maybe it's changing profile pics every other day or making sure they shoehorn in a comment on every LinkedIn group discussion that they know people in their field will see. Or perhaps it's the proliferation of personal branding or career coaches - to me that entire field only exists because people are getting a little too focused on looking better vs. actually getting better.

    If you worry about looking better too much, you might end up looking a little better, sure.

    If you care mostly about getting better, then the looking part takes care of itself.


    Big Oil and BYOD as a recruiting strategy

    This short article, 'Shell plans to move 135,000 staff to BYOD' about the internal IT strategy at the giant Shell Oil company in about 300 words manages to highlight probably the two most significant trends driving big enterprise IT today.

    Trend #1 - The Cloud (and it is kind of past calling this a 'trend' anymore, it's now just reality.

      From the Shell piece:

    Two years ago, the firm adopted a cloud-first policy, which means that any new applications have to be in the cloud unless there is a business case for them to be on-premise.

    Trend #2 - BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) - the tendency of employees wanting to use their device of choice to accomplish their work, rather than being forced into some kind of corporate device standard that often is inferior to the technology they prefer to use in their 'real' lives.  Again Shell's take on BYOD:

    Shell is undertaking a huge bring your own device (BYOD) project which will see it supporting around 135,000 devices picked by users rather than dictated by the IT department. The BYOD scheme is a major undertaking. Shell has 90,000 permanent employees, and an additional 60,000 on a contract basis so the company is managing 150,000 clients, from desktops to portables to tablets. 

    Part of the decision for the BYOD drive is around recruitment and staffing. “In about five to 10 years, 50 percent of our staff worldwide will retire,” (Shell's) Mann explained.“We’re going to have a lot of people turning over, and we want to be able to attract and retain talented and young staff. They don’t want to come into a locked corporate environment.

    Neither of these decisions by Shell is really all that newsworthy excepting for the fact that these same IT strategies and philosophies were until fairly recently only undertaken by smaller firms and start-ups. When massive, entrenched, and hierarchical industrial titans like Shell start sounding like 15-person tech start-ups, you know that there really is no turning back. Big companies might not hold sway over how a technology achieves popularity in the macro-sense, but their signing on to a given IT approach tends to validate what the market is saying on a smaller scale.

    Also, I don't know for sure if the recruiting angle to the BYOD strategy at Shell  is really that important or not - while I tend to agree that people don't want to use inferior equipment in the workplace, I don't think that point of view is limited to 'young' people. (Anyone reading this that is doing at least some of their 'work' email in Gmail because their corporate Outlook mailbox keeps going over capacity will be nodding in agreement right now). And while using lousy technology at work does kind of stink, I also think lots of people want to keep their personal technology, well, personal. 

    Not everyone wants to be reading work email on their iPad when they are chilling on the sofa at night.



    Job Titles of the Future #3 - Networking Wingman

    First off you are probably asking just what exactly is a Networking Wingman?

    The details you need can be found in this recent Fast Company piece, 'This Woman Wants To Be Your Networking Wingman' - a profile of Christine Hauer who as far as anyone can tell has invented a brand new category.  What does a Networking Wingman actually do?  Details from the Fast Company article:

    For $28 you can take Christine Hauer for a walk in the park. For $165 you can bring her to a party and introduce her as your "assistant" or "friend" or "colleague"--"whatever you feel most comfortable with."

    She isn’t offering what your dirty mind is imagining, though. She’s "confidence building" in the park and being a "networking sidekick" at the party. They’re micro-services that are usually small parts of the larger job of doing public relations, but now, thanks to the Internet, can be purchased as discrete components

    "I’m like this personal legitimizer, that doesn’t do it awkwardly," she told me. "It’s like I’m a friend." She demonstrated how she would work the room, praising me effusively to other partygoers: "Ahhh! I love Stan! Oh my God, he’s crazy! Look at him! He’s like the best writer, and he’s here! You’ve got to meet him!”

    'Networking Wingman' might not (yet) be a job in the classic sense, but as odd as it sounds it could be representative of how technology and crowdsourcing and crowdfunding concepts are combining to allow creative individuals to well, create brand new types of services and value.

    But even more interesting than the technology, social networking, and micro-services platforms that are at play here, the networking wingman role and described services ask questions about the very nature of promotions, marketing, and PR.

    Let's say an author has a new book to pitch - he or she might engage a PR firm to try and connect with press and bloggers to get the book reviewed and generate some buzz and interest. The PR person will send an email, typically describing what a smart or thought-provoking or leading-edge thinker the author is to try and pique the interest of the journalist or blogger.  And mostly, these PR pitches get ignored. We don't really care what a random PR person has to say about another random author.

    But take that same pitch - what Ms. Hauer says is part of her bag of tricks as a networking wingman, and put it live, in person, and in a totally different context, then maybe, just maybe you will 'believe' that the author really is 'like the best writer', and 'You’ve got to meet him!'

    When the networking wingman story first ran a week or so ago, I noticed several snarky and dismissive comments and tweets about the new 'job' that Ms. Hauer created. Many folks said it was the stupidest idea that they'd ever seen.

    I don't think it's dumb at all. I think it is a genius mash-up of tech savvy, entrepreneurial thinking, and understanding of our incessant need to have other people talk about how fantastic we are. 

    And it makes the Steve-approved 'Job Titles of the Future' list.


    If you're going to drop some Yoda, then at least pick a better quote

    Two things drove me to post about Yoda (or really three if you also count the fact that the weather turned incredibly gorgeous this past weekend in Western New York and I didn't want to spend that much of it inside writing blog posts).

    First - Saturday was 'Star Wars Day' - May 4th - 'May the fourth be with you' and all that. And second with all the additional attention paid to the legendary entertainment franchise, I know I spotted that venerable old staple quote from our favorite warrior/teacher/philosopher Yoda bandied about more that a few times. Sure, there is a 'try'

    You know the one I mean - the 'Do, or do not - there is no try' line that Yoda dropped on Luke Skywalker when young Luke was struggling with his confidence during his training. I know, Yoda must have been shocked that a kid about 2 years removed from working on a dirt farm with Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru wasn't sure he could levitate a starfighter in the air using only his mind.

    Regardless, that 'there is no try' line gets quoted constantly - and is also really stupid as well. Of course there is a 'try'. We all try things all the time. You have to 'try' things and experiment and explore in order to make life, work, pretty much anything actually interesting. If 'try' is not part of the equation, and you force the world into a black and white 'Do' or 'Do not' pair of choices then 'Do not' is going to win way more often than it should. I could go on for ages about how stupid that quote is, but as I said the sun is out for the first time since September and I want to go outside. 

    So I will leave you with this - if must quote your pal Yoda (who is, I might remind you, a fictional character, that doesn't actually exist), then go with this one:

    “If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are ... a different game you should play.”

    Perfectly played Master Yoda. And actually good advice for after you have ignored his 'Do not try' nonsense and spent some time actually trying new things. Sometimes you have to move on - even if you have done everything right, and even when it doesn't seem fair.

    So there you go - a lesser known but infinitely more valuable piece of wisdom from the movies most famous 800 year-old, three foot Jedi.

    Have a great week all - May the 4th be with you too, (two days late).


    #HRHappyHour 161 PODCAST - 'Building a Smarter Workforce'

    This week the HR Happy Hour Show/Podcast is back with a fresh episode recorded earlier this week - 'Building a Smarter Workforce' with guest Jonathan Ferrar, VP, Smarter Workforce from IBM (you can follow Jonathan on Twitter as well - @jaferrar).

    It was a fascinating conversation with Jonathan - a leader with over 20 years of Human Resources experience across the globe - about the changing nature of technology, expectations, and how HR and organizations are starting to react to those challenges. 

    You can listen to the show on the show page here, using the widget player below, and of course on iTunes - just search the podcasts area for 'HR Happy Hour'.

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    The Smarter Workforce is certainly more than just a marketing angle, it really is a concept that reflects the way that organizations are starting to combine things like existing investments in Talent Management technology and programs, new initiatives in social collaboration tools, and finally incorporating Big Data and analytics in order to produce better results, and create more opportunities for innovation.

    We talked about some of the opportunities for HR in leveraging these tools and approaches in new areas - like turning recruitment into a high-functioning marketing operation and how mobile and social technologies can transform employees into on-demand learners and teachers.

    Thanks to Jonathan and the folks at IBM for taking the time this week - and a a shout-out to HR Happy Hour Show co-host Trish McFarlane, who was a little under the weather this week and could not make the show.

    Finally, for listeners of the show an announcment of sorts. For the next little while anyway, Trish and I will be doing the HR Happy Hour Shows more as a traditional podcast - recorded in advance, perhaps a little shorter than the live shows were, and hopefully posted to the site every other week. With our schedules and lots of travel on the horizon this year, doing the shows 'live' on Thursday nights has become increasingly challenging. Trish and I hope that by changing how the shows are produced it will allow us the opportunity to continue doing the show/podcast in a way that will work with our schedules as well as our future guests.

    Have a great weekend!