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    Poker, dating, and responding to email - it's all about the timing

    Good poker players will tell you, at least I am pretty sure they will tell you, that no matter if your cards are good, bad, or somewhere in between, that a smart player will respond and react to the betting action in a consistent manner. If you call or raise a bet too quickly or eagerly, that might be a 'tell' that you are holding some great cards and can't wait to get more money into the pot. Similarly, waiting and belaboring a decision to call a bet could signal a comparatively weak hand, and embolden your opponents.

    So the smart play is to find and maintain a consistent rhythm or cadence to your reactions and decisions, good cards or bad, and eliminate at least one source of intelligence for the other players. Don't get too twitchy, don;t wait too long to move, and you maintain some control of both your emotions as well as the table.

    I suppose the same argument could be made in dating where guys have, for pretty much forever, had to figure out how quickly to call after an initial meeting and exchange of phone numbers, or a positive first date. Call too soon then you come off too eager and possibly creepy. Wait too long to call back and you might send off a 'I'm not really interested' vibe that inadvertently could short-circuit the relationship from the beginning. So it's a tough call (no pun intended), figuring out the proper 'wait' interval for the call so that you don't screw it up or send the wrong message.

    This kind of 'How long do I wait to react?' dilemma pops up in all kinds of workplace situations as well - in when to speak up in meetings, following up after a job interview, and particularly one that stands out for me, the 'How long do I wait to respond to this email?' conundrum.

    Here's the scenario I want you to consider. You send an important'ish email to a colleague - maybe your boss or a sales or job prospect, not one of your direct reports, the idea being the person you emailed does not have any kind of 'expected response time' commitment to your emails. But you are eager for a response nonetheless. Then this person sits on your email for a bit. Maybe a day, maybe two, maybe even a week. Again, they don't really 'owe' you a reply in any specific timeframe, but they 'should' get back to you at some point. So a few days pass, let's say about six, then you finally get a reply back to the email that for which you've been eagerly waiting. 

    And now the moment of truth, like the poker player having to decide how long to wait before pushing in your chips, you have to determine when to reply to the reply, to the message that you waiting six long days to receive. If you immediately hit back, say within a half hour of getting the message you are sending out a couple of signals that you may not really want to send. First, you come off as a little bit desperate or at least over eager. You waited six days to get a response and you're firing back in almost real-time. You may just be excited, but you also could appear weak. And second, and maybe this is just a hangup I have, you set yourself up as someone who is constantly, perhaps obsessively, monitoring your Inbox. Most productivity folks recommend checking and responding to emails a couple, maybe three times a day. Getting an immediate reply back tells me you never stop looking at your email.

    So what is the 'right' or best way to mange this situation? 

    Unless the subject matter is really urgent, or has some kind of hard deadline associated with it, I think you have to wait at least half as long to reply back than it took for you to get your original reply. So in our example if it took six days to hear back from your emailer, then you should be able to hold out for a couple, even three days to respond back. Waiting, at least a little, sends a couple of more positive messages. It shows you have other things going on besides waiting for that email. It shows that you took some time to actually think about your reply. And finally, it sort of but not quite evens the power dynamic between you and your correspondent.

    So if you want to play the power game at the poker table of in your Inbox, take a little time before you re-raise and before you reply. You don't want to show what you're holding but acting too fast.

    And to everyone waiting for an email reply back from me, I promise they are coming soon...


    PODCAST - #HRHappyHour 207 - CHRO Corner: Laurie Zaucha, Paychex

    HR Happy Hour 207 - The CHRO Corner with Laurie Zaucha, Paychex

    Recorded Friday March 20, 2015


    Hosts: Steve BoeseTrish McFarlane

    Guest: Laurie ZauchaPaychex

    This week on the show, the HR Happy Hour launched a new series, the CHRO Corner, that will feature the most interesting and influential leaders in Human Resources today. Our first guest in this new series is Laurie Zaucha, VP of HR and Organizational Development at Paychex, a leading provider of HR software solutions and services having over 500K customers and upwards of 13,000 employees.

    On the show, Laurie shared her insights on the role of technology in the modern HR organization, what HR leaders should be considering when evaluating technology, how Paychex has adopted several innovative and collaborative programs for candidate attraction as well as internal employee engagement, and finally some thoughts on what are some of the most important focus areas for the HR leaders of the future. Laurie is one of the most progressive HR leaders in the industry, and she shared some amazing insights on leading HR in the modern organization.

    Additionally, Laurie talked about moving and shaping the culture of an organization, Steve tried to sound (reasonably) intelligent interviewing his former boss Laurie, and we all realized once again the benefits of post-production editing.

    You can listen to the show on the show page here, or using the widget player below:

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


    And of course you can listen to and subscribe to the HR Happy Hour Show on iTunes, or via your favorite podcast app. Just search for 'HR Happy Hour' to download and subscribe to the show and you will never miss a new episode.

    This was a fun and interesting show with one of the most innovative HR leaders in the technology industry. 

    Thanks to Laurie and everyone at Paychex for being part of the HR Happy Hour fun!


    The half-life of technical knowledge

    That thing you just learned about or acquired mastery of - it could be a piece of electronics or a programming language or a new HR or Talent Management system, or anything really - about how long would you estimate is the useful life of that newly acquired knowledge or expertise?

    One estimate,published in 1997, from the mathematician and engineer Richard Hamming suggests the half-life of technical knowledge is about 15 years. Since Hamming's conclusion was reached more than 15 years ago, the theory itself, as well as our own practical experience with the modern world, seems to indicate the 15 year useful life of specific technical knowledge is probably even shorter. It could be 10 years, it could be even fewer. You still (mostly) remember things, but as time passes the value of what you remember continues to diminish.

    Think about the device that passed for what you called a smartphone in 2005. Remember how that thing worked? And even if you do, does that specific knowledge help you much today? Or how about the expertise you developed to help you navigate through that archaic HR and Payroll system your company used a decade ago. Any of that training and learning paying off these days?

    While it is no great bit of insight to conclude that technology is progressing more rapidly than even in the recent past, the question that results from that conclusion, just how can you attempt to stay relevant and knowledgeable in such a fast-moving environment is the important matter. How can or should you go about becoming more accustomed to learning all of the time, since as much as half of the knowledge we have already acquired becomes obsolete, in a kind of continuous cycle of degradation?

    Well, our pal Hamming had some really good ideas about that, and they have been synthesized and summarized in this excellent piece Ten Simple Rules for Lifelong Learning, According to Hamming, on the PLOS Computational Biology site. (Please don't ask me what I was doing on a Computational Biology site).

    You should really read the entire piece, it is not that long, you have time, but since I know you won't I will highlight the one 'rule' that stood out for me the most, especially since it sort of contradicts a currently popular idea that we should be open to and embrace failure.

    Take a look at an excerpt Rule 6, Learn From the Successes of Others:

    As Hamming says, because “there are so many ways of being wrong and so few of being right, studying successes is more efficient, and furthermore, when your turn comes you will know how to succeed rather than how to fail.” In addition, he notes that “vicarious learning from the experiences of others saves making errors yourself.

    The best part of that observation is just recognizing the almost infinite number of ways to fail and the extremely rare ways to succeed or to be 'right'. Maybe we have gotten too caught up in the 'embrace failure' cult since it is just easier to spot and experience failure in ourselves and in others than it is to attain success. Learning from success, even other's success, might get you where you want to be faster than always trying to extrude the value from your own failures.

    There are plenty of other great nuggets in the piece, (especially Rule 8. No Matter How Much Advice You Get and How Much Talent You Possess, It Is Still You Who Must Do the Learning and Put in the Time), so like I mentioned above if you are someone that needs to be concerned and able to keep current and proficient in today's complex world of technology the entire article is worth your time.

    Have a great weekend - try to learn something new!


    WEBINAR: The Difference Between Performance and Potential

    A couple of weeks back I wrote about a fun and hip way to re-imagine the traditional 9-Box grid that is commonly used by HR and Talent pros when assessing talent. But since most of our organizations are neither fun nor hip, it is pretty likely most of us are going to stick with 'Performance v. Potential' approaches to talent reviews and assessments.

    And that is cool, I am, ahem - hip to that.

    But just because we all are familiar with the concepts of Performance and Potential, that doesn't mean we are getting the most value from these ubiquitous grids, and that we can't learn a thing (or nine), about how to make them, and the process itself more valuable to organizations, leaders, and employees.

    That's where my friends at Fistful of Talent come in, with the latest installment of the surprisingly popular (and FREE) FOT Webinar, this one titled The Difference Between Performance and Potential: A 9-Box Primer for Smart HR Pros to be held Wednesday, March 25th at 2pm EDT.

    What will you get for an hour's worth of your Wednesday? Read on...

    The gang at FOT will show you how to take the next step in your performance management platform by sharing the following goodies:

    1. A rundown of how smart companies create 2-dimensional performance management systems using performance vs potential, and how that approach sets the table for a host of talent management activities using something called the 9-Box Grid.

    2. A deep dive into the differences between performance vs potential in any company, including a roadmap for how any company just getting started with performance vs potential can begin building the process to consider both inside their organization.

    3. We'll break up the seriousness of the topic by considering where Individual Members of the Jackson Family, the 3 Versions of Van Halen and Husbands/Boyfriends of the Kardashians fall on the performance vs potential scale.  You know, just to help you relate.  And to stop taking ourselves too seriously.

    4. Since most of you have more experience with performance than with potential, we'll share some thoughts and data related to common traps and derailers when you build out your definition of potential at your company (hint - the more you tie it to what it REALLY takes to be successful at your company across all positions, the better off you are).

    5. We'll wrap up our time together by sharing a list of 5 Things You Can Do From a Talent Management Perspective Once You've Launched Performance Vs. Potential/The 9-Box.  Hint - All of the things we'll share make you more strategic and less transactional as an HR pro, and they let you have high level conversations about talent with the leaders of your company.

    You've been aware of the ying/yang relationship between performance and potential for years - why wouldn't you want to help your company get started to understand the same set of truths?  Join FOT on Wednesday, March 25th at 2pm EDT for The Difference Between Performance and Potential: A 9-Box Primer for Smart HR Pros and we'll give you a great roadmap to refreshing how your company views performance and talent.


    VIDEO: Fun with the quantified workplace

    The coolest thing you will see on the Internet today, (excepting for cats, bunnies, and 'which superhero would you be' quizzes), comes to us courtesy of the Sid Lee Agency in Paris who have Arduino-powered sensors hooked up throughout their office, and they brought the data together in a single dashboard.(click for a giant version of the dashboard)

    The result is a really interesting and clever view into the inner workings of the workplace in real-time.

    Check out the video below, (Email and RSS subscribers will need to click through), but better still, just head over to the live dashboard to see the real-time updates.

    Pretty neat, right?

    And I think the best HR/Talent play in the dashboard is on the lower right, where Sid Lee has a tile showing current number of job openings at the agency. Clicking that tile takes you to the firm's career site, (which, not for nothing, is woefully unappealing to look at compared to the activity dashboard. Come on HR/Recruiting, pay attention to UX would you?)

    I totally dig this, and I am not even sure why. It's just cool to look at I suppose. Like cats and bunnies and superhero quizzes.

    Have a great Wednesday.