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Quotes I Love, Volume 1
Quotes I Love, Volume 1 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

I am  not a collector.  Just don’t have the wiring for it.  But, as with everything, there is always an exception.  The closest I come to being a collector is that I have historically saved quotes.  These little sound bites matter to me.  In each I find a spark or insight that sticks with me.  And the magic of a great quote is that you can return to it years later and it will spark the same insight.  So, if you love quotes, I’m going to share with you some of my favorites here.  If quotes annoy you, you can bail out on this post now.

Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing. – Oscar Wilde 

Out of difficulties grow miracles. – Jean de La Bruyère 

Self-confidence is the first requisite to great undertakings. – Samuel Johnson 

The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it. – Lou Holtz 

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. – Winston Churchill 

Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together. – Vincent Van Gogh 

The value of an idea lies in the using of it. – Thomas Edison 

Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers. – Voltaire

Quotes are powerful.  Perhaps these have spoken to you in the way they spoke to me.  Please share your favorites in the comments here if you are so moved.  I will add them to my collection.  

Have a great day!

Illinois SHRM, Here I Come – #ILSHRM11
Illinois SHRM, Here I Come – #ILSHRM11 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

Next week, I have the privilege to be speaking as a part of the Illinois state SHRM Conference lineup.  They have put together a pretty interesting and compelling program.  The Illinois HR community is in for quite an experience.  

Talent Anarchy (Joe Gerstandt and I) will be providing one of the three keynote presentations at the conference. We are excited to be bringing our message about the power of relationships and social capital for HR to this progressive conference.  As a part of the conference planning, they asked us to create a short video that they could use to promote our session.  Below is what you get when you ask two talent anarchists for a promotional video.  Enjoy.
I will also be presenting a breakout session called “Power and Politics in the Organization: Understanding the Game.”  I love presenting this session because I get to challenge HR’s notion that politics and power are the seedy underbelly of corporate life and that HR shouldn’t have anything to do with either.  My goal in this presentation is to change minds about these two dynamics to help HR pros understand that politics is a part of how things get done in organizations and that power is really about influence.  Most HR pros really know their stuff when it comes to HR, but yet we don’t have the credibility we need to move the organization.  The missing links can be found by studying power and politics.  I show motivated HR pros how to get in the game.  
I am humbled to be part of the Illinois SHRM Conference this year.  The planning group is taking some risks to make their conference dynamic and engaging.  I look forward to the experience and will do everything I can to help them succeed.  
Great HR is knowing Why
Great HR is knowing Why 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

By nature of having a 3 year old daughter at home, I hear the word “why” about 3,000 times a day.  Even at hear young age, she’s discovered the power of this tiny word.  It provokes thought.  It provokes conversation.  It provokes discovery.  Ultimately, it leads to learning and confidence.   And we don’t use it enough within our work in HR.

This may be really over simplified, but I think it may also be this straight forward.  To practice human resources in a way that adds value and that your CEO, business partners and colleagues will love, simply know why you do what you do.  Some examples.

Why does HR exists?  If you can’t answer this question the same way your executive suite answers it, you are losing the battle.  Either you are out of alignment and out of touch OR you aren’t influencing up to shape HR should be defined and understod.  My answer: HR exists to make sure an organization has the human capital it needs to succeed.  Pretty straight forward.

Why do we invest in Talent?  Can you define what talent is at your organization and why it’s important?  You are the expert within your organization on talent.  If you can’t define the why here, who can?

Why does a policy exist?  If you don’t know why, find out.  If it’s a stupid or out-dated reason, kill the policy.  If it’s a good reason, communicate that.  people hate rules that don’t seem to exist for a reason.  They may not love any rules, but they will respect rules that exist for a reason that they can understand.

Why do we make people do performance appraisals that everyone hates (even HR) and that don’t seem to impact performance (at least not positively)?  Enough said on this topic.

Why do leaders need to communicate (or develop or motivate or etc.) their people?  It’s critical that we aren’t just reading off a script that someone else provided to us.  We often stand on the HR pulpit and preach the importance of communicating with and developing our employees.  But can you articulate the reason why this is important in a way the CFO would find credible?  How does it  impact or matter to achieving business goals?

This is just a few questions to get your brain started.  By committing to know why you and your HR organization do what they do, you will be on the track to greater credibility and impact within your organization.  Be warned though that asking why a lot will make others uncomfortable and will likely cause some conflict.  It’s not always easy and it’s certainly not comfortable, but that’s why many people aren’t practicing great HR.

What does Strategic mean in HR?
What does Strategic mean in HR? 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

There’s a lot of misunderstandings about what it means to be strategic in Human Resources.  Having a plan doesn’t necessarily make you strategic.  Talking about the future doesn’t make you strategic.  Being proactive doesn’t even make your strategic.

The mark of a truly strategic HR leader or team, is when you move from giving the business what they want and instead give them what they need.  Strategic HR is about ensuring the organization has the Human Capital it needs to achieve it’s goals and objectives.  

Recently, I heard an HR leader talk about a strategic planning process they were planning to implement.  Their process began with asking their business leaders questions about their expectations of HR services (i.e. If you have a training need, how to you expect HR to assist you in meeting that need?).  It’s not bad to ask about expectations, but there’s nothing strategic about this type of questioning.  This type of questioning assumes that your business leaders have the expertise to identify training needs and are knowledgeable about the range of options for meeting those needs?  It’s asking them what they want in a situation where they can’t possible know.  Isn’t this supposed to be HR’s area of expertise?  Their job is to run their business, our job is to provide them with the human resources they need to make it happen.  
To be strategic means that instead of asking the business about what they want from HR, you have to ask them questions about what they plan to accomplish in their business, what obstacles they see in the market, and what they see as the impact to how their workforce will need to adapt and perform.  Armed with this information, our role in HR is to then provide these business leaders with a plan for how to ensure their workforce is ready to meet the needs of the business.  This may not always look like what they want, but if it’s rooted in what they need, they will start to value HR as a strategic partner.  
Pull the Trigger
Pull the Trigger 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

One of the hardest things to do as a leader is to know when to pull the trigger on firing someone.  I’ve heard so many leaders talk about how much trouble they have with making the decision to fire even when the person is under performing or worse a general nuisance.  Yet, these same leaders will tell you a story about how relieved their were and how much their lives improved after they finally found the guts to pull the trigger and make the fire.

So, why is it that we have such a tough time?  In my experience, it’s because we focus too much on the wrong side of the hiring equation.  Assuming you are a good manager and leader, you’ve given this person every opportunity to right the ship.  Even so, we still think about the effects the firing will have on the person that needs to be fired and you convince yourself that you should give the person one more chance or “just a little more time” to turn it around.  That sounds very caring and humane.  But it’s not.  Here’s the problem.

While you are avoiding making the decision to fire this person, your team and your credibility as a leader are suffering, sometimes very painfully.  Here’s what’s happening while you struggle over pulling the trigger:

  • The other members of the team who work with (or worse for) the person in need of a good firing are having to deal with extra work, extra drama, and a lot of unnecessary headaches.  They are struggling.
  • These team members get progressively more frustrated that this situation isn’t being addressed and they start commiserating with each other. 
  • If this is allowed to go on for too long, you team starts to question your leadership and whether or not you really care about them and if you are really committed to performance (as you probably have said you are).  They have to assume you either aren’t smart enough to see what’s happening, you don’t have the guts to deal with it, or you just don’t care. 
  • Your customers are experiencing sub-par service and might be thinking about shopping around.  This leads to further questions about your leadership and puts your organization at risk. 
So, this all leads me to ask the question: who are you protecting?  Your good employees are suffering.  Your customers are suffering.  Your credibility and future career prospects are suffering.  All because you are protecting the one person on your team who shouldn’t be there. Stop it.  
Do it.  Pull the trigger.  Your team and your customers will thank you for it.  
I am Not a Thought Leader
I am Not a Thought Leader 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

A couple of weeks ago, the always outspoken John Sumser published a post at HRexaminer titled “Pummeling Equine Cadavers.”  You probably missed it if for no other reason than the title doesn’t even hint at the really interesting points John makes in the piece.  In it, he airs some frustrations around the idea of “thought leadership,” particularly within the HR space and challenges us to think about how change really happens when an industry desperately needs to evolve.

A few quotes in particular stood out to me:

Much of what passes for HR thought leadership involves little thought. It’s all smoke and no fire.

Self proclaimed HR thought leaders tend to be vacuous morons, incapable of sustained thought. There’s a code that I saw somewhere that says you can’t be one unless someone else says you are (without being asked to). Even that’s not good enough, really. The bluntest knife in the box has a mom who thinks he’s got HR Thought Leadership potential.

My question is simple. Is the power of a good example enough to change an industry? That is, are great recruiters or Hr pros who set an amazing example operating in a way that can change an industry.  Or is something else required?

I think that the underlying point here is that talk is cheap.  There is more talk about HR than ever in history thanks to social media and the blogosphere, and yet, it doesn’t appear that our rate of evolution as an industry has increased, at least not nearly as much as one would expect.  This begs the question, should we be doing less talking and more doing?  
One of the things I learned many years ago was a lesson I’ve summed up this way, “Ideas are cheap.  Everyone has ideas.  What is exceptional is the ability to take an idea and make it real.  Execution is the real differentiator.”  It would seem that John Sumser might even argue that not everyone has ideas and that perhaps I’m a bit optimistic in saying that.  
Regardless, we both agree that at the very least we need less talk at the expense of action and more game changing examples to learn from.  John asks an important question at the end of his post: is setting a great example enough to change an industry?  My answer: Yes . . . and No.  I do think that it is imperative that we have more teams and leaders out there setting great examples.  And by great examples, I mean people who are breaking the rules and redefining how HR gets done in a way that drives business forward.  This is so important because those setting the example prove it’s possible.  And once it’s proven possible, it’s easier to rally the troops to go make it happen.
But, is example enough?  No way.  If HR is to survive, we have to bond together as a community of leaders, of warriors, fighting for our way of life.  We have to not only strive to be the example, but to share that example with others and to seek out other’s examples to provide us with inspiration.  We have to protect each other from making the same mistakes over and over again.  We have to hold each other accountable to doing better business and being better examples.  
It’s probably hypocritical for me to say “less talk, more doing” here in my blog as I add more noise to the discussion.  But, then again, I’m no thought leader.  At least, I hope not (regardless of what my mom thinks).  
What does GREAT look like?
What does GREAT look like? 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

Last week, I spent a couple of days with eighty leaders from across my state working on defining our collective vision for the future of the state.  As a part of this process, we were asked to break into groups to define what makes something “great.”

This may seem like a fairly easy task.  But, before you jump to any conclusions, try it for yourself.  Write down how you define what makes something great–not good, not really good, but great.  Think about places you’ve been or experiences you’ve had that you remember as great.  What was it about them that made it stand out?

It’s a much harder task than it should be.  All of us are, or should be, in the greatness business.  Hopefully, we aspire to be great, to offer a great product or service, to leave great impressions with people.  I think many of us probably think we are working toward ‘great,’ but how can that be if we haven’t defined what it means?

The definition put forward by one of the groups really stuck with me.  It was that greatness is transformative.  Once you experience something great, the way you view the world had changed forever.  Once you have seen greatness, you view everything else through that lens in the future.

That seems like a powerful standard to hold ourselves to as we create.  Being good is overrated, everyone is doing it.  Be great.

"Seat at the Table" isn’t a four letter word
"Seat at the Table" isn’t a four letter word 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

Something has been bothering me but I couldn’t lay my finger on why until this week.  It has become increasingly popular for HR pundits and bloggers to skewer anyone in HR who talks about or writes about having a “seat at the table.”  The argument seems to be that they are tired of hearing about it and perhaps there is no “seat” at the table to be had.  They mock when someone uses it.  They make people who use the phrase feel as if they’ve just uttered a profanity.  

And it’s kind of starting to piss me off.  Because there IS a seat at the table to be had for HR, and in most cases, we aren’t claiming it and aren’t sure we know how.  Do we overuse this phrase?  Maybe.  But, it seems that this movement to ban the phrase implies that if we stop staying it, the reality that human resources is not living up to it’s strategic promise will somehow vanish. 
I, for one, think it’s great that so many around the HR profession are struggling, striving and desiring a “seat at the table.”  I think they should talk about it.  It proves that they are at least awake and aware that they don’t currently have one.  The seat at the table represents an arrival in most people’s minds–a corporate knighthood of sorts.  It’s not really a seat, of course, but rather a position of influence and power that is participating in leading the business into the future.  Why wouldn’t you want that as a goal?
So, can we please stop this silliness of banning phrases and making people feel foolish for using them?  This particular phrase means a lot to some people and I applaud those who have the courage to have the conversation about their own quest for “the seat.”  We don’t have an issue of language.  We do have issues of strategy, leadership, courage, and execution in HR.  But, those are issues we can tackle and conquer, so long as we have the right goal.  In my opinion, a seat at the table is a pretty good one.  
A New Chapter Begins
A New Chapter Begins 150 150 Jason Lauritsen
Two of my wise friends, Jason Seiden and Roger Fransecky, have both taught me to think of life as a story that is written in chapters as we live it.  Today, I begin writing a new chapter in my life as I leave one job and begin the process of finding my way to what’s next.

Three years ago, a very successful regional bank decided that they wanted their human resources function to contribute in a different way to their organization.  They knew they needed an HR team that was more proactive and strategic in order to succeed in the future.  To make this happen, they went to market and hired a strategic change agent to not only lead the HR organization, but also to join their executive team to participate in leading the company.   I’m grateful to have been given this opportunity.  It’s been a busy couple of years learning, growing and making things happen.

At the bank, I had the opportunity to work for an organization that truly cares about people to its very core.  This experience has restored my faith in the idea of loyalty in business.  Turns out, if you truly care for your employees and show it consistently over time, people will stick around, work hard for you and defend the organization.  Loyalty may be rare, but it is alive and well.  

I had the privilege to lead their HR organization through a transformation.   In my time there, we recruited some great new talent to the HR team and we transformed what HR means and does within the organization.  I leave a team I was proud to lead.  I can’t wait to see what great things they do in the future.    

My transition out of the bank was a mutual decision.  It was the kind of grown up decision that is hard to make, but that many of us face at key points during our lives.  The bank is a great organization and I’m proud of all we accomplished together.  But, it had become increasingly clear that we just weren’t compatible enough to go on a long term journey together.  So, rather than ignore this truth at the expense of both parties, the right decision was to resign and move on.  I wish the bank nothing but great success in the future.  

As I turn the page on this new chapter of my career, I now face the both daunting and exciting question, what’s next?

Any time I begin a new chapter in my life, I turn to some self-examination and discovery work.  I’ve spent the past 8 years of my career in corporate Human Resources leadership roles.  I love the work of HR.  At its foundation, the work of HR for me is about setting talent free within organizations to drive success and growth.  I do this by helping organizations and individuals find truth about themselves, their people, their leadership and their culture.  I also help organizations find the courage to examine if these truths align to their intentions and goals.   If there is a gap, I help design the path to close it.

I continue to run around poking status quo in the eye as half of the Talent Anarchy team.  For those who don’t know about Talent Anarchy, it’s the name Joe Gerstandt and I have given to our collaborative work together in our writing and speaking.  We will be keynoting at a couple awesome state SHRM conferences in the upcoming year and, more immediately, will be doing our thing at the SHRM national conference in Vegas next week.  We are also in the process of finding a publisher for a book we’ve written (tentatively titled “When Talent isn’t’ Enough) about how the relationships in our lives are the key to unleashing talent.

I have also been very fortunate to find some consulting work since leaving the bank.  My consulting projects to date are using my breadth of HR experience combined with my innovator’s mind.  I’m helping an HR consultancy design new products for their clients.  I’m also helping some peer consultants where they need a different perspective and new ideas for a project.  In addition, I’m helping an organization determine how to implement more strategic HR.  I’m thankful to have these assignments so quickly after leaving the bank.  

As I look to the future, I see tremendous opportunity and challenge.  Talent has never been so important to business and yet, we seem to be as confused as ever relative to how to find, keep and develop it.  We sometimes struggle even to answer the question, “what is talent?”   This is where I feel that I can help organizations make great progress.

My instincts are telling me to return to my consulting and entrepreneurial roots, to join forces with a company who helps other organizations to unleash talent and make work better.  It seems that my passion, skill and talent are pointing me in this direction.  The fact that several consulting projects found their way to me within days of leaving the bank may also be a good sign to follow this path.

So, I begin my search for my next professional adventure in earnest today.  I am looking for an organization in the talent business who will challenge me to bring all of my abilities to bear to help them do exception work for their clients.  I want to find a organization with big dreams and big ambitions where I can help them achieve them.  Selfishly, I am looking to spend as much time as possible doing what I love and what I do best. 

  • I am an innovator, a catalyst, and a visionary.
  • I help leaders envision a better future and how to create it.
  • I am a relationship builder.
  • I design and build people solutions that drive change.
  • I challenge individuals and leaders to find the courage to unleash their talent and the talent of those around them.
  • I dig big ideas.
  • I am an influencer. 
  • I love tackling a problem that others don’t think can be solved.
  • I speak and write about ideas in a way that engages and makes people think differently (and maybe even act differently).
  • I crush the status quo.

I’m ready for a big, hairy, audacious opportunity.  My next chapter is yet to be written and I look forward to living the story to see how it turns out.  
The Power of Paying Attention
The Power of Paying Attention 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

I find myself in awe of my 21 month old son, Colton, almost daily as I watch him growing and learning to navigate the world around him.  Each moment, it seems, he’s finding something new to try, to learn.

The thing that strikes me most about Colt are the things that he’s learned that no one has taught him.  He knows how to turn on and off the television.  He had recently learned how to climb up on the tall kitchen chairs.  He can eject a DVD from the player.  He has learned how to drag the training potty contraption in front of the bathroom vanity so that he can climb up on top of it to find all of the treasurers there that he can’t reach otherwise (like toothbrushes and water glasses).

We didn’t teach him any of this for obvious reasons.  He learned through the power of focused observation.

You see, he’s a sneaky little dude.  If I (or his sister or brother or mom) are doing something he’s interested in doing, he watches our actions with intense focus.  Then, as soon as we are done, he takes what he learned and puts it into immediate practice as he tries to replicate our result.  It’s pretty impressive how quickly he picks things up.  I suspect that most children at the same age have this same ability.

So, what is it that makes him such a quick study?

1.  He’s highly motivated to learn.  At that age, children are learning machines.  They are hardwired for learning.  As adults, being this highly motivated to learn is a conscious choice.  Without this motivation, we stop observing.  We even stop paying attention in most cases.  Think about how motivated you are early in any romantic relationship to learn about your partner and how that leads to paying a great deal of attention to your partner.  As time wanes on, you become less motivated to learn as you grow more familiar and comfortable in the relationship.  What happens as a result?  You pay less attention.

2.  He’s intensely focused.  When Colt watches me do something, he’s transfixed on whatever I’m doing as he tries to really absorb the details.  It is as if the world disappears for him for a few moments so he can take everything in.  Focus seems to be in shorter and shorter supply these days.  With iPads and smartphones constantly with us, it seems that 75% passes for full attention these days.  We rarely seem to find the same kind of focus that Colt displays when he’s trying to figure out a new activity.

3.  He sees no limitations.  In his little world, Colt believes he can do anything if he can just figure out how to do it.  He doesn’t judge.  He doesn’t self-limit.  He’s nearly fearless when it comes to trying new things.  Does he get hurt once in a while?  Sure he does, but it’s all part of his learning process.  Because he knows no limits and very little fear, his pace of learning is incredibly fast.  He doesn’t suffer from the same limitations that we place on ourselves.  He doesn’t predetermine if something is possible or within his scope of capabilities.  He just does it.

The more I have thought about this, the more convinced I am that we can use this model to enhance our own learning and growth.  What would happen for you if you got intensely motivated on learning, really focused on what you wanted to learn, and then you approached applying your learning as if nothing was impossible?  I suspect that you’d be transformed.

Just like Colton seems to be, every day.

Jason Lauritsen