Browsing the blog archives for May, 2010.

Have a fun Memorial Day!

Random

If you are in the United States, enjoy your extra day off!  Rest, relax and rejuvenate!

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Geek Fun: “Keep your Geek On” T-Shirts

Geek Fun, Random

Over at Wired, the GeekDad folks have a great post on Star Wars themed t-shirts.  That is a tuxedo that any geek can get behind!

Check it out at : http://www.wired.com/geekdad/2010/05/wearing-this-bow-tie-isnt-so-bad/

Have a happy and safe holiday weekend!

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Five thoughts about succession planning

Geek 5, Managing people, Talent Management

We’ve talked about what succession planning is, what succession ratings mean, and the difference between performance and potential.  Here are some key points to consider:

1.  Succession planning is about identifying key talent and developing employees for bigger roles.

2.  This planning is a form of risk management for the company.  It ensures that key roles have back up, so the business will not be significantly impacted if someone leaves.

3.  Performance and potential are not the same thing.  The best sales representative is not necessarily the best manager of the sales group.

4.  As a manager of people, you have a dual role in succession planning.  You must consider the potential and development of your direct reports and you, as an employee, are discussed in the process.

5.  You can improve your standing in succession planning by:

  • doing an outstanding job in your current role
  • showing a willingness to take on bigger responsibilities
  • living the values and competencies developed by your company
  • letting your boss and other key leaders know about your career goals
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Good Now Doesn’t Mean Great Later

Geek 5, Managing people, Talent Management

If you are a manager, or aspire to be a manager, you will probably be required at some point to evaluate the potential of your direct reports for a succession planning process.  It is part of the “Managing People” risk of the Geek 5.

One common point of confusion for managers is the difference between performance and potential.  Many managers assume that is an employee is a superstar at her job then she will be great for bigger roles and promotions.  Sometimes that is true, but just as often it is not true.

Performance and potential are not the same concept. 

Performance looks at the quality and quantity of what was done in the past.  It measures behaviors and actions and accomplishment of goals.  Performance is measured during performance reviews.

Potential looks at what an associate is capable of doing in the future.  Employees with high potential are also generally good performers.  They are good at their current job, but they also have the ability and drive and skills to take on bigger roles and to be successful at higher levels.

Some employees do outstanding work in their current jobs, but are best suited for staying in that role.  They are high performers in performance reviews but correctly placed for succession planning. 

Here are some possible scenarios with different performance and potential.

PAT:  Pat does well in the current job.  Pat’s does not exhibit any of the skills or competencies needed for future roles.  Pat is like a “Professional in Position”. Pat earns a good performance review rating and gets a bonus and a merit increase. In succession planning, Pat is rated as Correctly Placed.  He is best suited for his current role.

CHRIS:  Chris does well in the current job.  Chris also shows some of the skills and competencies needed to work at a higher level.  For example, Chris shows the ability to learn new information and is often seen as a “go-to” person.  Chris earns a good performance review rating and gets a bonus and a merit increase. Chris shows long-term potential for promotion and is rated as Promotable in succession planning.  With development, Chris is expected to be ready in 1-3 years to move to a bigger role.

SAM: Sam was rated as Highly Promotable in previous succession planning.  Having strong potential and strong performance, Sam just got an exciting promotion into a challenging new role.  Sam earns a great performance review rating and gets a bonus and a merit increase. Sam is learning the new position and working to adapt key skills to the new role.  Although all signs indicate success in the future, Sam is rated in the current succession planning as Correctly Placed.  In the new role, Sam has some growth and learning to do.

In all of these scenarios, the employees were strong performers and they were rewarded during performance reviews.  However, they were rated differently in succession planning.

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Geek Fun: Etsy Geekery

Geek Fun

If you are looking for unique gifts or art or household items, there is a great site called Etsy.com.  Etsy is a marketplace site for artists of all types.  They have everything from knitting to wood working to candles. 

I was especially interested to notice that they have an entire section called the Etsy Geekery.  I love it!  The influence of Geeks strikes again!

Fun geekery products include things like a clock made of a computer hard drive and a solar powered bug bot.

Check it out to find some fun stuff!

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Are You High Potential?

Geek 5, Leadership, Org savvy

In a previous post, we discussed the overall succession planning process and covered some basic definitions like “pipeline” and “bench chart”. Succession planning has dual importance to you as a leader. One important element is that you will participate in the process to rate and discuss and develop your direct reports. The other element is that you will be rated and discussed – it impacts your future success. For the Geek 5, succession planning relates to leadership and organizational savvy.

Typically during succession planning, each employee is given a rating by his or her direct manager. Specific language of the ratings varies across companies. Usually the ratings include an evaluation of the employee’s potential to move to bigger roles and they include a time frame.

For example:

A high potential employee is often defined as someone who has the potential to move up 1-2 levels in the organization in the next 2-3 years. Potential is based on having the skills and cognitive ability and interpersonal skills and organizational savvy to succeed in bigger roles.

Additional ratings could include:

  • Promotable – an employee with the potential to move up one level over time
  • Correctly Placed – an employee who is in the right role for now
  • Placement Issue – an employee who is not being successful in a current role
  • Emerging Talent – an employee who shows early signs of being high potential, but it is too early to know for sure

Some important things to note:

  • Ratings are fluid – an employee can be Correctly Placed one year and High Potential the next year. Ratings can also slip backwards.
  • When someone gets promoted, he or she generally moves to Correctly Placed until the new job is mastered.
  • Ratings are not a promise. Promotions are always a balance between the needs of the company and the developmental needs of the employee. The employee might be ready to move, but there might not be an opportunity available.
  • Ratings are used to highlight key employees and to build a bench chart. They are also used to target key development opportunities. High Potential employees are likely to get more specialized developmental opportunities than Correctly Placed employees. However, it is important to do basic development for everyone.
  • Succession planning will sometimes identify “blockers”. This is not usually an official rating, but it merits discussion. Blockers are employees in a critical role who have stalled out. They are often blocking high potential associates from moving up. Sometimes it is necessary to re-assign blockers.

A healthy organization has a mix of all of the ratings – with few or no Placement Issues. High Potentials are often about 5% of the population. That group should be limited and well-screened, so it can be given special attention. Correctly Placed employees are important players who get things done on a daily basis. Hopefully Placement Issues are small in number and can be re-assigned or moved out of the business.

Succession is one critical talent management process that is focused on the future. In a future post, we’ll discuss how current performance and future potential interact.

So how would you rate your direct reports?  How would you rate yourself?

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The Mysteries of Succession Planning

Leadership, Managing people, Org savvy, Talent Management

I find that succession planning is often perceived in organizations as a mysterious and unknowable and threatening process. Employees know that it impacts promotions and career decisions, but they are not sure exactly how. What magic happens in succession planning?

Over the next few posts, I’m going to pull back the curtain and reveal some truths about succession planning – what it is, how it typically works, what you might be expected to do as a leader of people and how you can position yourself positively for the process. This relates to the Geek 5 in terms of actions you may need to take as a leader and a manager. It also relates to your own organizational savvy and career growth.

Succession planning is a key talent management process – especially at larger organization. Each company executes it differently, but it usually follow some basic assumptions and goals.

Succession planning is intended to:

  • identify a pipeline of talent for key positions and create a bench chart
  • discuss the identification of high potentials, with a focus on development needs and possible actions
  • discuss the career potential, performance, and development needs of targeted individuals

Succession planning is about getting people ready for bigger and more critical roles in the organization. It is about risk management. The company needs to make sure that there are employees ready to fill in if a key person leaves or if there is growth and new roles open up. The company wants to have a group of employees who are well-trained and ready to take on expanded roles. Succession planning is about finding those people, setting plans to work on skills gaps, tracking them and getting them ready for when they are needed.

A pipeline of talent refers to the need to think about talent at all levels in the company. For instance, you can’t just focus on successors for one key role. Because if you move a successor into that role, then you need to backfill the old role. You need to know which employees are ready for that.

A bench chart is a document that actually lists positions and indicates who would be considered a successor for that role. Sometimes positions have multiple people listed on the bench chart as potential successors. Some of them might be “Ready Now” for the role and some might be ready in 1 or 2 or 3 years.

If a position comes open, the leadership team can use succession planning information like the bench chart and determine if there is a good internal candidate ready for the role. If so, it is a much easier and cheaper transition than hiring someone from the outside.

In the next post, we’ll talk about succession planning ratings (such as high potential) and explain the difference between performance and potential.

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Changing the Game

Career Challenges, Org savvy

We’ve been talking about the dark side of the workplace. What happens when you make a performance mistake or ruin a key relationship?

Your reaction to a career set back can be summarized into three actions:

1. Change your situation – This is the direction of the previous advice about steps for active career bounce back and passive career bounce back. It is taking action to get back to solid footing in your existing job.

2. Change you – Another option is to change yourself. This could mean making a dramatic change to your work style. If you are perceived as being too aggressive, you work to become more collaborative. Or if you are disorganized, you set up a new organizational system.  It is always useful to continue your personal development and to learn to adapt to your situation. However, it is really tough to make dramatic changes and to sustain them.

Another way to change yourself is to change your expectations. Suffering a career set back can cause you to go from being a star to being average or from being average to being perceived as a problem. Can you live with that? Can you accept your new standing – at least until you have time to bounce back? For many formerly successful people, this would mean separating their sense of self from their jobs. Don’t let your job define who you are – you are also a parent, souse, sibling, child, volunteer, athlete, etc.

3. Change the game – The final solution is to change the game. By this I mean moving on. Leaving the job to pursue success somewhere else. Sometimes this is the best way to go. If you have determined that your career mistake is fatal, it is time to move on. Some situations are not worth the effort of fighting against the negative perception. If you stay in your current job, you face an uphill battle every day. If you move on, you can start fresh. Just make sure you don’t make the same mistakes in your new job!

Career set backs happen to everyone. How you deal with them is up to you.

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When You Bounce Flat on Your Face

Career Challenges, Org savvy

As we’ve been discussing, everyone hits an occasional career set back. Some of these are active issues and some are passive ones. There are steps you can take to fix each of those and to improve your damaged reputation. The steps usually work. Usually. Most career set backs aren’t fatal, but some are.

How do you know when a set back is serious? So serious that you will not be able to get back into good standing or it might even cost you your job or worse.  Part of being organizationally savvy is understanding the difference between recoverable screw ups and career fatalities.

“The worse” happens when a career set back crosses legal and ethical lines. Think about some of the disgraced Enron and Wall Street leaders. They crossed lots of lines. They lost their jobs, ruined their careers and some even ended up in jail. That’s about as bad as it gets. You don’t bounce back from these situations – unless you completely reinvent yourself in a new area. Of course, the Wall Street folks are so rich that they probably still laugh themselves to sleep at night.

Some mistakes will cost you your job. You’ll get fired for violating a policy or making an expensive or embarrassing mistake. Sometimes, once the mistake is made, there is no recovery. What’s done is done and you pay the price. In those cases, you needed to proactively avoid the mistake.  Know the rules, pay attention, do good work.  That’s easier said than done, since hindsight is 20/20. If you get fired, you can hope for severance and try to exit gracefully. If you are fired over a serious performance issue, there is not much you can do to appeal.

Some mistakes propel you into a limbo state. You are still employed, but you are marginalized and treated like a lame duck. Here’s where it gets trickier to assess your situation. How do you determine what the best step is for your career. Here are a few thoughts:

1. Don’t quit – I always advise people to stick it out in a tough situation. You might feel angry and bitter, but you won’t get more than momentary satisfaction from a dramatic resignation. Hang on as long as you can while you figure out your next steps.

2. Consider your recovery probability – Ask yourself a few key questions about your situation and your company. Have you seen co-workers overcome similar mistakes? Do you have a champion elsewhere in the organization? Do you have a valued skill set? Is your boss likely to move on, so you can start fresh with a new boss? Would a big win help others forget about your mistake? If you think you have a chance at recovery and you like your job, then tough it out.

3. Look for a new job – If recovery seems unlikely, you should start job searching. It is a lot less stressful to look for a new job while you still have a paycheck. Also, companies still prefer to hire folks who are working versus those who are unemployed. It makes you seem more marketable.

Be honest with yourself as you assess your situation.  Continue to monitor it.  Be planful with your career or you could find yourself frustrated and unhappy in a dead-end job.

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A Dash of Charisma

Broader role, Geek 5, Outside Articles

There is a theory of leadership that attributes leadership success to personality – it is called charismatic leadership.  It supposes that successful leaders influence others through the power of their personalities – through charm and attractiveness and force of will.  Charismatic leaders have exceptional personal qualities that can border on heroic or superuman.  With this theory, the competence of the leader is not as critical as the leader’s ability to influence people.

Charismatic leadership has been essentially disproven as an effective strategy.  Research shows that successful leaders must be competent and adaptable in addition to having personal influence.  Charisma is only one piece of the puzzle.  However, it is an important piece – especially as you move up the executive ladder.

Leaders are always being watched  and judged on their behavior and attitudes and decisions and personality.    Having personal charisma can make the leadership spotlight easier to bear.  When coworkers like you, they give the benefit of the doubt when a situation gets tense.

Geeks tend to focus on technical expertise versus leadership skills.  Furthermore, introversion and lack of perceiving themselves as leaders can result in a charisma deficit.  Geeks can be quiet versus outgoing, inward focused versus people focused and often don’t think much about physical impressions.

But don’t worry!  Charisma can be learned!

Over at BusinessWeek, Debra Benton wrote an article called “Get Yourself Some Executive Charisma“.  She talks about charisma being a skill, and one that everyone can learn and improve upon.  She equates it to golf and how golf skills can be continuously improved over a lifetime.

The really helpful part of her article is that she gives concrete and easy to follow advice on how to start enhancing your charisma.  She talks about posture and handshakes and more.

If you think you could benefit from an extra dash of charisma, check it out!

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