Monday, September 21, 2009

Happy New Year, Coaching, Inter-connectivity and Passion

L'shana Tova to our Jewish readers. I apologize for being away for a while but between the Jewish New Year and a recent business trip, I was out of commission for a little while.

My recent business trip wasn't much "business". It was an "Early Career Summit" which was basically a 4-day leadership development conference. We learned networking skills and then had the chance to network with functional heads, ran an industry simulation in small groups, got personal coaching, were talked to by senior leaders (the CEO, CIO, and others), and got to present on what we learned to a panel of senior leadership team members (among other activities).

When people try to describe the difference between small and large companies, this is one type of activity that can be excluded from mostly all small companies. Large companies can offer greater resources and this was certainly one time where those resources were tapped. There were three big keys from last week I would like to highlight:

Coaching - We had the opportunity to have a senior leader sit in on our simulation sessions, record what we were doing, and then give us feedback afterward. Although this can't always happen (and I don't think I would want someone sitting in my cubicle with me and listening in on my phone conversations), this was an invaluable tool. The key takeaway for me is that employees (especially those just starting out their careers) should be encouraged to find coaches to help them out along the way. One of the senior leaders said "harsh words from your friends is better than kind words from your enemies." I think it's important for everyone to find a friend within an organization who they can get honest and constructive feedback from and who will tell them the hard things they need to learn. This is something that you don't need a large company to do, either. But I think it is a great way to help people grow.

Inter-connectivity - One of the things most important to running a successful organization is to make sure all the parts run correctly in conjunction with one another. That includes things like working well in teams, good communication, collaboration with other departments, and knowledge of other parts of the business. But all that can't happen if you don't know how the dots all get connected together. I equated it to baking a cake. If you're only job is putting the icing on, you've missed out. You need to know what ingredients went into making the cake, how they got mixed together, how long and what temperature the oven is on for and what it should taste like. The key is knowing when you a pull a lever, what gears move and how that affects the bottom line. I think that if people did a better job of leveraging their skill sets and understanding the inter-connectivity of their position, they would become a lot more efficient and effective in their organization.

Passion - Our kickoff speaker talked about passion in performing every day and I think it was another takeaway I have from the conference. Having the skills and the infrastructure and the group around you is a key in laying the framework, but a passion to succeed is just as important. As HR professionals, that is a key in finding the right employee as well; they can be tremendously skilled and have experience, but if they don't bring the passion to perform, they many not be the right employee for your organization.

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