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    SLIDES: Culture-Strategy-Talent and Rock-Paper-Scissors #HSCC14

    I had a great time yesterday presenting at the Halogen Software Annual Customer Conference in Washington, DC. The team at Halogen always puts on a fantastic event for their customers and this year's event was no exception.

    My presentation, the slides from which I am sharing below, (if the embed doesn't work for you please click the direct link here), was titled Culture-Strategy-Talent: Organizational Rock-Paper-Scissors, and was created from an idea I had a year or so ago about how it has gotten really trendy and popular to focus almost irrationally and singularly on organizational culture at the expense of other really important factors in business success - like strategy and talent. Sure, company culture is important, but it is certainly not the only thing that should be important to HR leaders, and it might not even be the most important thing HR should be concerned about.

    Here is the deck, and I will have a couple of closing thoughts below the slides.


    I think culture matters. I do. But I also think lots of other things matter too. Like actually having a compelling product/service, an actual market opportunity, the ability to read and react to the competitive environment. And oh yeah, the 'simple' business of finding, attracting, developing, aligning, and retaining the kinds of talented people that are needed to execute that strategy and that create and evolve what we call culture. I think the best organizations and the most successful HR leaders understand this and don't let chasing 'culture' all the time detract from the (I think more important) work of building teams of great, talented people and helping shape organizational strategy (and executing that strategy).

    What do you think? Are we too focused on culture these days?

    I had a great time with the Halogen customers and staff and many thanks to them for including me in the event.


    HR Happy Hour 190 - LIVE From Achievers ACE

    HR Happy Hour 190 - LIVE From Achievers ACE: Reskilling Your HR Team

    Broadcasting LIVE from the Achievers ACE event in Toronto, Canada

    Wednesday September 10, 2014 - 1:00PM ET

    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Guests: Achievers ACE Attendees

    Join Steve and Trish tomorrow, Wednesday September 10 at 1:00PM EDT, for a special LIVE edition of the HR Happy Hour Show being broadcast live from the stage at the Achievers ACE 2014 event in Toronto.

    Titled: Reskilling Your HR Team for the Modern Workplace, Steve and Trish will take on some of the most pressing and important changes and challenges impacting the modern workplace, and what that means for the skills development, expertise, and mindset for the modern HR professional.

    The changing nature of work, the emergence of amazing new technology, and a workforce shifting in makeup as one generation cedes power and influence to the next are just some of the ways work and workplaces are shifting, and the HR pro of tomorrow is tasked with staying on top of these and the many more ways work and workplaces are morphing.

    In this fun and interactive session, Trish and Steve will take on these important topics for HR, and take comments and questions from the ACE attendees as well as look for your questions on the twitter backchannel - use hashtag #HRHappyHour.

    Folks not at the Achivers ACE event can listen live on Wednesday September 10 at 1:00PM ET on the show page here, or using the widget player embedded below:

    Check Out Business Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Steve Boese Trish McFarlane on BlogTalkRadio


    And of course, replays of the show can be downloaded from the show page or accessed on iTunes or for Android users, on Stitcher Radio. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to listen to all the prior HR Happy Hour Shows and subscribe to be sure to never miss the latest episodes.

    It should be a fun and exciting show and we hope you will join us tomorrow LIVE from Achievers ACE!


    Want to shift power dynamics? Stop saying 'I' so much

    Think about the last conversation you had with your CEO or an Exec at that big new client you are trying to impress. Even better, if you have one, take a look at the last email exchange you have had with one of these big shots. 

    What are you looking for in these interactions?

    How many times you use the personal pronoun 'I'.

    As in 'I am writing to ask you about....' or 'I was referred to you by...' or 'Since you are a distinguished executive, I wanted to reach out to let you know I am a talented.....'

    That kind of thing. It turns out that we don't use the word 'I' so much in these interactions because we are self-centered or conceited, we use 'I' because in these kinds of interactions with whom we perceive to be more powerful people, we get really self-conscious, and start playing the 'I' card way too much.

    This conclusion is based on research from James Pennebaker, from UT-Austin and is reviewed in this piece from NPR - Our Use Of Little Words Can, Uh, Reveal Hidden Interests

    Here is an excerpt from the NPR piece that explains why we use 'I' so much in these situations:

    But some of his most interesting work has to do with power dynamics. He says that by analyzing language you can easily tell who among two people has power in a relationship, and their relative social status.

    "It's amazingly simple," Pennebaker says, "Listen to the relative use of the word "I."

    What you find is completely different from what most people would think. The person with the higher status uses the word "I" less.

    To demonstrate this, Pennebaker pointed to some of his own email, a batch written long before he began studying status.

    First he shares an email written by one of his undergraduate students, a woman named Pam:

    Dear Dr. Pennebaker:

    I was part of your Introductory Psychology class last semester. I have enjoyed your lectures and I've learned so much. I received an email from you about doing some research with you. Would there be a time for me to come by and talk about this?


    Now consider Pennebaker's response:

    Dear Pam -

    This would be great. This week isn't good because of a trip. How about next Tuesday between 9 and 10:30. It will be good to see you.

    Jamie Pennebaker

    Pam, the lowly undergraduate, used "I" many times, while Pennebaker didn't use it at all.

    Pretty simple, yet kind of profound too, I think. There, I just did it myself. Two times in fact.

    How could 'Pam' have shifted the power dynamic just a little, while making the same request? How about something like this:

    Dear Dr. Pennebaker:

    My name is Pam, a student in your Introductory Psychology class last semester. The class was enjoyable and the lectures were extremely valuable. Regarding your recent email about doing some research with you, would there be a time for us to meet and talk about this?


    Not too bad, right? Still respectful enough, but not as cloying/begging. Not constantly trying to 'prove' in the message that the Professor should take the request seriously. 

    Anyway, check out the piece on NPR for more on Pennebaker's work. 

    And stop saying 'I' so much.

    Have a great week!


    You need a rival, not just more competition

    Wanted to point out to a really interesting study/paper on the effects of rivalry and competition on individual performance. In the study titled 'Driven to Win: Rivalry, Motivation, and Performance', author and researcher Gavin Kilduff took a look at what the phenomenon of interindividual rivalry (think Bird - Magic, Bill Gates - Larry Ellison, or Beatles - Rolling Stones) and its consequences for motivation and task performance.

    Long story short, (and the paper is kind of long so I will save you from reading the entire thing if that is not your bag for a Friday), is that in a study of competitive distance runners it was found that the presence in the competition of a rival, increased individual performance by as much as 25 seconds over a distance of 5K.

    And the paper makes an important distinction between what constitutes a rival versus the more general and generic idea of competition. A rival, in this context, is another runner with which you have competed against numerous times in the past and whose finishing times were consistently near to yours, such that in the course of many races contested over time you would have come to 'know' and recognize that competitor as a rival.

    So at the starting line, during the race, and in the important drive to the finish line you would in theory see and recognize this rival, and at least according to the study, your performance would improve relative to a race where you were just trying to do your best and not trying to best your rival.

    It is kind of an interesting concept I think, that there is a difference in performance that is driven by a rivalry compared to the more general and abstract notion of competition. Competition is vague. A rivalry has a name and a face and talks trash about you sometimes.

    If indeed we perform better when we have a rival what might that suggest for more mundane situations in the workplace? Should managers more actively pit one employee against another in performance-related competitive situations in order to foster the notion of rivalry?

    Should organizations more explicitly identify and benchmark against key competitors and strive to 'defeat' them in sales, recruiting, or other corporate contests?

    Should each if us personally select or identify a 'rival' to measure ourselves against and to compete with on a day-to-day basis?

    It's a jungle out there my friends...

    Happy Friday.


    Maybe you're spending too much time on Twitter

    Recently Twitter made available to all users of the service its advanced analytics tools that show interesting statistics around impressions, (how many people actually saw a tweet), engagement, (replies, favorites, retweets), and trends over time on these metrics.

    To check it out for your own tweets, just sign in to Twitter then click on http://analytics.twitter.com/

    Below is a screen capture of the top part of my Twitter analytics review from this morning, take a look and then a few comments from me after the image:

    Apologies if it is a little hard to read, but the couple of points I wanted to call out from observing my own data and that might be applicable to you are not really dependent on the precise data points anyway.

    Point 1 - Hardly anyone sees the average Tweet. As of this week I have about 25.4K followers, give or take a few. The average impressions, (people that actually SEE my wonderful Tweets), ranges between about 500 on the low end and 1,200 on the high end. So if you do the math, that means only about 2% - 3.5% of my followers even see the average Tweet. Of course, I have little idea which of my followers these are, but that is a separate point.

    Point 2 - Of the people that actually see my Tweets, about 1% of that group actually "engages" with the update - (replies, RTs, favorites, link clicks, etc.), resulting in an engagement level, when compared to the overall number of followers I have, is almost akin to me simply shouting my status updates and pithy tweets out of the window. Maybe 1 in 10 of my Tweets have 0 engagements, meaning no one replied or clicked or favorited, etc. That is the tweet falling in the woods and having no one there to hear it scenario.

    Point 3 - I think we all, me included, need to keep Twitter, (and every other social network probably), in perspective as to its true reach, value, and the imprimatur it foists on those who have seemed to "figure it out". I have way more followers than the average Twitter user. But I am not sure that really means all that much when looking at some of this data. And I am not even talking about the folks who have bought followers or somehow gamed the system in other ways. That is another story totally.

    I guess my final point is that I and everyone else needs to keep data like this in mind and not just when thinking about Twitter or social networking in general. It is really more about figuring out where and how to spend your time and effort such that you are getting closer to whatever it is you are chasing. And if Twitter is a part of that strategy for you, then you definitely ought to dig in to your analytics and get behind the data.

    What do you think, have you checked out your Twitter analytics? Are my numbers representative or am I just bad at Twitter?