Category Archives: Uncategorized

Feedback and one’s career path

We all have heard it before…sitting down and making goals provides one with a “road map” of how to get where we think we need to be going.  In my profession (Human Resources), one of our duties is to assist our internal customers (employees) with identifying and providing opportunities for them to venture down a career path within the company.  However I wonder how many HR professionals actually do this exercise with themselves?

Last night, I participated in a “Career Development: Taking the Initiative” session with other HR professionals.  First time in a while I thought logically and systematically about my own career.  The icebreaker exercise was to think of our ideal situation in 5 years…sounds harmless enough (an interview question I use sometimes when interviewing others, but haven’t truly pondered it myself).  Then proceeded to a “Career Development Framework” has 5 components:

  • Person – know your own strengths
  • Performance – know your own reputation
  • Place – know your own environment
  • Possibilities – setting SMART goals
  • Plan – developing an action plan (with learning opportunities)

To understand which of these 5 areas we may want to concentrate on, at least initially, we took an assessment.  “Not an assessment” I thought…one of those exercises that tries to put one in a pre-defined “box”.  Although I’m not a fan of taking assessments, they can be revealing.  This assessment was very revealing to me! Of these 5 areas, I “scored” lowest in the performance area, notably in the “reputation” area.

On a scale of 1 (lowest extent) to 5 (highest extent), I answered (truthfully) a “1” on such questions as “I have discussed my reputation with my supervisor” and “I solicit specific suggestions on how to improve my performance & reputation” and “Within last 6 months, I have asked my supervisor what they most value in my work”.  Wow…getting feedback from others…what a novel concept?!  We often are quick to give feedback, but do we ask others (e.g. colleagues, managers, friends, family, etc.) these and similar hard questions?  The old saying of “we don’t know what we don’t know” is very true.  I may think I’m good at a certain skill, but have I really found out?

My goal now is to solicit feedback from others to learn more about me.  Then I can use that valuable info to help me to shape my career goals.  Perhaps you can as well?

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What is this thing we call “advice”

You’ve probably either said “let me give you some advice”  or heard it someone else say they want to give you some advice.  But what really is advice anyways?  That was a question I was thinking of when I listening to the speaker at the quarterly training seminar sponsored by the local toastmaster’s international district 7 (which is the district that covers from Northern California to about Longview Washington, about 4K or 5K toastmasters in that area).  The speaker’s topic was about mentoring and there was some good info given about mentoring too.  But one of the first items the speaker talked about was giving advice.

She mentioned in general, people usually don’t “like” to receive advice.  Especially unsolicited advice…if they receive advice, it is assumed by the giver of the advice that there is something wrong.  Even if you give advice, not many people will act upon the advice you given them or not fully.  So that got me thinking, how do you define “advice”?

Well good ole Wikipedia defines advice as “an opinion or recommendation offered as a guide to action”, which got me thinking of the times I gave advice.  Was I some expert in that area?  If so, why don’t others come to me.  How did I know if my advice is correct for the person I’m giving it to, in that situation.  Fact is, I don’t.  After some contemplation at the toastmasters meeting and rereading my notes, come to understanding that “advice” really is just another name for “opinion”.

Based on one’s own experience, one can inform another how he or she should proceed with a challenge or issue and with that explanation, presumably, the same or similar result will occur.  It gives a sense of relief to the receiver that this is the answer to their problem or challenge….but does it really work?  All it is is advice!

What do you think?

Social Networking in HR

I attended the monthly Portland HR Management Assoc. (PHRMA) luncheon yesterday, and the speaker was Isaac Dixon, the current HR Leader at Lewis & Clark College, who has over 25 years experience in HR!  The topic was “Pro’s and Con’s of Social Networking“.  The luncheons are always held at DoubleTree Hotel in Portland, usually on the 2nd floor.  Yesterday when I entered the banquet entrance of the hotel 10 minutes before the start, I noticed a line at one of the large rooms on the first floor.  Each time I have attended previoius luncheon’s, they have always been on the 2nd floor but to my surprise, the line on the first floor was for the PHRMA luncheon.  I learned later that there were over 300 people in attendance, and not all HR professionals!  I met some Sales & CPA’s there…all to listen Mr. Dixon talk about social networking!  Such a “hot” topic in HR.

I was pleasantly surprised that the main focus was not the “con’s” as I have heard at other presentations.  Yes various social networking sites such as facebook, myspace, twitter, etc. can be tempting for employees to abuse while at work while, decreasing performance as well as possibility of employees, intentionally or unintentionally, posting defamatory or confidential remarks about the company or company employees, perhaps exposing the company to liability(s).  However Mr. Dixon used the beginning of his presentation to emphasize the rapid increase of social networking, the demographics of people using it (for example, he mentioned there are over 250 million facebook users, 1/2 of them are “active” or login daily and that the fastest growing segment of population is NOT teenagers or young adults, but women over 50 years old!!).    His main point at the introduction – social networking is here to stay, no use in trying to stop it!!  Instead, HR should try to channel the energy into positive communication and other strategies for the company.

The presentation moved to the Advantages (pro’s) and Disadvantages (con’s) of social media, some that I may have thought of in passing, but not realized!  Some of the advantages he mentioned were:

  • helps build communities throughout the world and increase understanding of other people/culture
  • can encourage thinking outside of one’s own box
  • an “outlet” for people who work or live in isolated environments (people who work by themselves)
  • individual’s own passion and identity can be channeled/expressed  (i.e. able to re-engage employees who may have a passion for this way of communication who don’t normally have external, customer facing job duties, companies can tap that passion in positive ways for the company)

Of course, from a HR point-of-view, there are Disadvantages to social networking as well, the presentation pointed out some of these such as:

  • can breed over reliance on this form of outreach, instead of using good-ole face-to-face (F2F) communication
  • can INCREASE isolation of some people (instead of F2F, just tweet or text someone)
  • can breed in-the-box thinking, by connecting with ONLY those who have the same thoughts/views/opinions
  • commercialization of social networking can lead to “commercial content”.  An example was given of getting paid by a company to blog/tweet/text about a company’s products

The main point of the discussion is that as HR professionals, we should learn & understand this form of communication better and then capture the good that social networking presents itself.  Although there needs to be boundaries set, rules and procedures written, communicated (at least annually!!) and enforced at the company, HR should think of ways to capture the natural tendency of employee’s creativity.  Social networking is an avenue which our way of thinking could broaden and realize (again) that other generations do not view the world in the same way as we do.  Social networking is growing and no company policy will stop it, denying the fact that employees want this form of communication will not change it.

Mr. Dixon concluded that the marketing & sales functions of organizations and businesses will continue using social networking for their purposes.  Therefore, it will be natural for employees to want to extend those efforts and include their personal touches outside of business.  HR leaders need to better understand the power of social networking and look for ways to integrate them with work tools to allow employees and business to operate more efficiently.  Social networking is a tool, not a world unto itself and people simply want to connect to other people, therefore social networking is just one of the tools available for them to connect.

Does the act of leadership need to change?

I had “fun” and learned a lot at the Toastmasters District 7 Leadership meeting today in Wilsonville, OR (for more info, see agenda at:  http://tr.im/JV5L).  The opening session was title “The Magnificent 7-1/2: Effective Leadership in Turbulent Times” by Erick Rainey, who is a professional coach, trainer and master practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).  He gave a list of 7 competencies that leaders need to master.  But what intrigued me was how he started this discussion.  He broke down the word leadership into 2 parts:  first being “leader” and the second being “ship”.  One of the definitions he used to described “leader” is to be in front.  Which I believe is very true, a leader must have a vision and be in front of his “team” to guide them to that vision.

As for the second word “ship“, we know that to use a ship to work, the ship must be in good repair and well maintained to be able to withstand (i.e. float) both calm and turbulent waters.  It should also be outfitted with correct parts so that it can float (i.e. be used) safely.  This is also true with leadership.  There was mention that there are several words that end in “ship”, such as friendship, membership, championship, etc.  One thread that these words that end in “ship” all have in common is the need to be involved or interact with others. 

I took that thought and blended with a thought I was left with at a recent OEN HR Workshop I attended.  At this workshop,  there were 3 panelists (a “baby boomer”, a “Gen X” professional and a “Gen Y” professional) taking turns answering questions interesting aspects of the 4 generations working in today’s workplace.    Amongst the topics that were discussed was (generally) the different ways people in each generation communicate with each other.  Traditionalists (pre-Baby Boomers) like face to face, Baby Boomers like email and phone, Gen X & Gen Y people like using social media (i.e. instant messaging, twitter, etc).  Again, these are generalizations, but the  thought I blended with the “leadership” thought was the fact that each of these generations want to interact with leaders, but each generation desires to interact differently with the leader!!

I believe that leaders must learn to use these different methodologies to communicate to their followers.  I believe thatcommunication is perhaps the most important quality leaders need and those that have this quality can be on the way to be good leaders.

Would enjoy others who have an opinion on this!

A little staycation – Wildwood Trail Hike

During these difficult economic times, the word “staycation” has become somewhat popular, in which an individual or family stays around one’s own neighborhood or takes day trips around their home to area attractions.   Although one lives in the area, you think “I have all the time in the world to visit, I will go some other time” or something similar and never really visit.  I remember when I was in Hawaii and never really visited the tourist attractions such as Arizona Memorial, Aloha Tower, Punchbowl, Polynesian Cultural Center, etc. until the last couple of months I was living there.

Well….not motivated to take a “staycation” per se, just have some free time and wanted to check out part of the 40-mile loop in Portland, so decided to take my dog Cutie on a little hike on part of this 40-mile loop.  I decided to try the Wildwood Trail.  This trail is over 30 miles (not all of it on the 40-mile loop) and I have heard many friends talk about this trail, how its not so difficult and they enjoyed it.

I started out at the trailhead located just South of Portland Audubon Society parking lot.  Walking North, the trail climbs about 400 feet kind of quickly then levels off.  The trail was clear and wide enough for people to pass on either side.  There were other hikers with their dogs and people used the trails for cross country running.   I had a good time walking about 2 miles (30 minutes) at a leisurely pace.  There were many trees and some birds, even saw a couple of what I think were squirrels?  Took a break where there was a bench and took a couple of pictures…then headed back the 2 miles to the car.  Great relaxing way to spend an afternoon and to explore one’s own city!  I think I am going to make it my goal to hike the entire 40-mile loop!

Finished walking about 30 minutes

On the way home, took time to climb a log with my dog Cutie

Interviewing with Skype

The other day I had the interesting experience of having a phone interview, with a little twist…using SKYPE! As you probably already know, Skype is program that uses the internet for voice (and images) to call other people, worldwide…for FREE!! It is a great way to keep in touch with family and friends in far away places.  The only limitation is…one must be in front of a computer screen.

My interview was with a company in North Carolina and I was informed that there would be 5 people interviewing me (panel interview).  I’ve been to panel interviews before so I thought it would be no problem!  For a Skype interview, one does need a headset with microphone (using a built-in computer microphone will take-in the background noise) and if you want to see each other, you also need a web camera.  I did have a webcam already, but I purchased a mid-quality headset with microphone.  I set up my account in skype (easy to do) and tested with a friend before the interview.  It seemed simple enough!

The day of the interview came…the recruiter informed me the time would be 1:30pm but suggested I be online and ready to take the call by 10 to 15 minutes before.  One must input the other party’s skype username into one’s contact list before a call can be completed and I thought I would do that about 15 minutes before the scheduled interview and then make last minute preparations.  Well, as soon as I inputted the other party’s skype username, they were already connected and the act of inputting the name (since they were online already), completed the loop and the call was started! It caught me a little by surprise, but luckily I was already dressed and prepared!

The interview went as any normal panel interview…the voice and picture quality were good.  There is only a camera, and the video was a little choppy, therefore it was a little difficult to get “read”body language and focus attention on one speaker (they were sitting at a table).  I had the advantage of having notes, out of sight of the camera and I was taking notes too.  One must be aware of the background too, otherwise you may be showing a disorganized area (my office in my house is not the best looking area of the house).  All-in-all, it was a positive experience and the recruiter informed me that the interviewers also thought the interview went well.

In the future, if that interview didn’t work out and I get a chance at a phone interview again, I am going to request using skype!  Video can be powerful and give an edge to one candidacy?!  Love to hear other’s comments…

Black Friday Shopping Experience

Don’t you think family traditions are great!!  Many family traditions involve or center around food, but not our family.  We enjoy our first seasonal Christmas “celebration” by getting up early and participating in the first “official” day of Christmas shopping season, otherwise known as Black Friday.   This tradition is rather new for us, started about 10 years ago and I must admit, the excitement is not as great as the first couple of years were.  But none-the-less, we do enjoy it.

Yesterday we decided to have roast beef dinner instead of turkey and had a beautiful dinner.  Then dutifully, looked at the advertisement inserts to the Thanksgiving edition of the Oregonian.  There must have been over 50 different inserts.  I remember when we first started this tradition, stores would open up at 6am, this morning there were a bunch of stores open at 4am!!  Can you believe that?!  We always start out at 5am or so and this year was no different.

So we woke up at 5am, left at 5:30am and went to JCPenny at Clackamas Town Center first.  We received the miniature Christmas snowglobe ornament like we have received for every year…then started  a looking for “door buster” bargains and found some.  By 6:15am we were on the road going to our next stop, Walmart.  Approaching the parking lot from the street, we saw a lot of cars parked on the street and thought is there that many shoppers here?  When we got into the parking lot, circled around for several minutes until we found a parking spot we realized all of Portland must be in the store!  It was packed!  As soon as we walked into the store, we saw lines of people lining up to pay for their merchandise.  Every cash register was open and there must have been at least 50 people or so at each of the 15 cash registers we counted.  Same long line was at other cash registers located in electronics, pharmacy and garden center.  I couldn’t believe it.  Seemed most people were buying mostly toys and electronics and clothes…

We left that store and went to Target close by…very similar crowd.  Wow, we’re in tough economic times yet the stores are this busy?  This was probably the busiest I have seen it.  A couple of years ago, I was one of the crazy ones to wait for hours (not camp overnight) at a Toys-R-Us to buy the newly released Wii game console, but the line was never more than 50 people…and it was only one line.

Maybe next year, we’ll rethink this tradition and start another one tradition…any thoughts?