Why Do We Blame Others?

Blame Blaming Others: 6 Reasons Why People Play the Blame Game (developgoodhabits.com)is an excellent defense mechanism. Whether you call it projection, denial, or displacement, blame helps you preserve your sense of self-esteem Self-Esteem | Psychology Today by avoiding awareness of your own flaws or failings.  While this may seem like an excellent strategy in the short term (kind of like eating ice cream or a piece of cake when we are feeling down) it wreaks all sorts of havoc long term.  Without an awareness of our own flaws and failings we cheat ourselves of the opportunity for growth and remain stuck, dysfunctionally, where we are today, never realizing that we actually had a choice to acknowledge our part in the misunderstanding or to accept responsibility for the mistake.

Although it may seem otherwise, people who routinely blame others for their failings or flaws are usually those who suffer, even if unconsciously, from a lack of self-esteem.  They have never matured to the point where they can accept that they are not perfect and still love themselves and others unconditionally.  They feel the need to blame others and to point out flaws, wherever they believe that they exist, in some kind of winner takes all power game.  Only then can they allow themselves to sit back and revel in their righteousness. Constantly pointing out deficiencies in others is an abusive power play that masquerades as genuine concern. But it’s actually about shifting the focus and with it the responsibility for problems.    These are frequently the same people that if you pose the question “Would you rather be right or rather be happy?”  will not miss a beat in answering “Right”, because they cannot imagine allowing something wrong, no matter how minor, to be blamed on them rather than someone else.  Their egos will not hold up.  https://www.healthyplace.com/personality-disorders/malignant-self-love/the-narcissists-stripped-ego

Most of the time, we’re not very good at figuring out the causes of our own behavior, let alone someone else’s. The attributions we make can be distorted by our tendency to make illogical judgments. Just because the puzzle pieces fit together in the corners of our mind, does not necessarily mean that they create the picture that was intended.  We’re just as bad at making judgments involving the blameworthiness of actions in terms of intent vs. outcome.  We frequently concoct stories in our mind where all the pieces fit together perfectly and convince ourselves that we should blame the other person because we “know” their intent.  In reality, only one person in the whole world knows what their intent was, and that is the person who took the action.

It’s easier to blame someone else than to accept responsibility. Do You Accept Responsibility For Your Actions? – Good Choices Good Life There’s less effort involved in being upset with the other person than in recognizing your contributions to a bad situation or accepting the fact that you’re actually at fault and then changing your behavior and thought patterns, so you don’t do it again.  Perhaps you have been rewarded in the past for blaming others and creating a victim role for yourself. Victim Mentality: Causes, Symptoms, and More (webmd.com) In the end, you need to realize that that the only person who is suffering, is you.

Listen to the Silence

sherrie-suski-emptyEach day we surround ourselves with noise from podcasts and social media alerts to incessant Zoom meetings with colleagues, to radio and TV.  Our world has conditioned people to crave noise.  When we aren’t listening to input, our minds are just as noisy with thoughts that are swirling about often hopping from one topic to the next as we convince ourselves that this is what is necessary to gain as much information as possible in the shortest amount of time.

How often do we stop to think that the most insightful learning sometimes comes from listening to the silence?  We have been conditioned to be silence avoidant.  If someone is not speaking for too long, we have a general feeling of malaise where we will jump in to fill the void.  Sometimes, however, the silence truly does speak louder than the words. And sometimes, the words that follow a long silence are more sincere than those that tumble out of our mouths so effortlessly.  

According to experts who spoke to the sound insulation company, Acoustical Surfaces, the fear of silence, or “sedatephobia,” is becoming more and more common, causing people to feel uneasy in quiet places or situations (think the library and awkward pauses in conversation). Interestingly enough, leading hypnotherapist, Dominic Knight, said the phobia has only surfaced within the last 50 years or so, which could suggest we live in a “much noisier world” than, say, the environment our parents and grandparents grew up in.

There’s no one root cause of a fear of silence, according to doctor of psychology and licensed clinical social worker, Dr. Danielle Forshee, LLC. However, she tells Elite Daily, “silence generally stimulates us to be able to notice our automatic thoughts,” aka uncontrollable, and often-uncomfortable thoughts that occur when triggered by something else. Because these thoughts often cause stressful emotions to ensue, she says, “most prefer to not sit and notice their thoughts, and sound provides that relief.”

Imagine the infamous employee reference check.  You ask the prior manager if they would rehire the applicant and there is a pause that you did not expect.  You have two choices: 1) gloss over it and repeat the question or move on to something else or I have even seen recruiters answer their own question just so that the silence does not hang in the air like an early morning fog or 2) allow the pause to hang in the air and then listen very closely to what the person has to say after that pause.  There is a reason it happened.  

Being comfortable with another’s silence requires that we become comfortable with our own silence first.  Practicing mindfulness can be one way to become more comfortable.  Engaging in a daily meditation practice, whether it be for a quick five minutes in the morning or a lengthier hour in the evening, does incredible things for the human mind, such as relieving built up anxiety, quieting mental chatter, improving focus, and increasing self-esteem and feelings of confidence.

So the next time you find yourself avoiding the silence, take time to explore what is triggering your need for constant noise distraction. Appreciate the learnings that can come from silence.  

High Trust Cultures

Why spend valuable time and other resources espousing, creating and building a high trust culture?  The answer is relatively simple, it’s that high trust sustains high performance.  Consider the following statistics from Great Places to Work

  • Employees who are committed and engaged at work are 87% less likely to leave their current company.
  • Organizations with engaged employees outperform those with low employee engagement by 202%.
  • The GPTW 100 Best companies have outperformed the overall market by a factor of nearly 3X.
  • Companies with engaged workforces have 5 times higher shareholder returns over 5 years.

sherrie suski high trust

In the chart above, it is clear that the Low Trust/ Low Performance cultures are in danger of closing their doors.   They will likely experience difficulty in attracting and retaining employees and those that do remain will be operating at a third of what their highly engaged counterparts are giving.  No company can sustain this environment for long.

A High Performance/ Low Trust culture may seem like it isn’t that bad, until you look closely.  The high performance is being given not out of a desire to achieve meaningful results, but out of a desire to avoid negative repercussions.  High performance cultures may attract employees, but the retention suffers.  Employees quickly realize that it is an eat what you kill environment where no one has their back.  These cultures have often times not spent the requisite time to develop and articulate a “Why” or a “Purpose”.  Employees may work exceptionally hard for a period of time, but without feeling like they are working toward something, will quickly burn out and move on to more meaningful opportunities.

A High Trust/ Low Performance culture may seem attractive from an employee point of view and likely will not have too much difficulty attracting employees, but the employees who are comfortable in these cultures are not of the driven to succeed mentality.  Fairly soon, they whole company falls into a state of mediocrity because there is no one willing to push the boundaries, no one is driving the business forward and everything remains status quo, a recipe for a painful organizational death in a world where technology has moved at warp speed.

The ideal culture is one that is founded on High Trust and High Performance. Neuroscientific research shows that trust reduces social frictions and promotes cooperative behavior among colleagues — and that managers can create high-trust, high-performance teams. Research has revealed organizational trust as a key part of culture that directly influences how willing your employees are to go above and beyond in their roles. Frictions naturally occur when humans collaborate, but at the same time, our brains are built to work in teams so there is a tension between wanting to be a team member and seeking to avoid conflicts with others by avoiding other humans. Research on the neuroscience of trust has shown that trust acts as a social lubricant, reducing social frictions so working with others is easier, more efficient, and more enjoyable. And when people work more effectively together, productivity and innovation levels rise.

Building a high trust environment is not only good for your employees, but also for your business!

Preparing and Selling a Business Use Case

sherrie-suski-businessimageThe Business Use Case 

is a reference point before, during, and after a project. As the project begins the Business Use Case establishes the ultimate goal of the project for all stakeholders—including the project manager and sponsor. There are invariably concepts in the minds of the key project participants of what they expect the project to accomplish.  The vast majority of unsuccessful projects fail not because of poor project management, but because of poor decisions with respect to the choice of projects. A good business case helps to make right decisions and avoid a waste of time and resources. 

A Business Use Case should include the following categories:

Executive Summary

An Executive Summary should speak to the overarching goals of the project.  What is it, how does it benefit your company and what type of evaluation process have you gone through to narrow down the field to the top 2-3 vendors.

Vendor Recommendation

Here it is key to speak to differentiation amongst the top vendor selections.  What does each offer and why does your selection stand out as the right choice

Overview of Business Case

This is the meat of your presentation.  Talk about the purpose and scope of your projects, what the key deliverables are, who the stakeholders are and key team members that will participate in this implementation.  You can also include a brief financial summary here if warranted.

Cost Analysis

Here you can begin to break down the costs of both the software licensing and the implementation fees.  These are likely best served by breaking them into two sections as the software licensing fees are on-going where the implementation fees should be one-time costs.  It may also be helpful to add the number of hours required of the vendor and of team members in this section. 

Implementation Phases

Especially for large projects, you should break them down into phases.  Usually you will see somewhere between 3-6 phases depending on the length of time necessary for the implementation.  If various modules have been purchases, it’s a good way to showcase which modules will be implemented when.

Anticipated Benefits

This is your opportunity to sell!  Think about not only direct savings in terms of cost, time or headcount, but also costs savings that might result from decreased turnover, automation of processes, lack of errors, speed and efficiency.

What Disappointment Says about You

sherrie-suski-disappointmentWhile I know some of you will disagree, your feelings of disappointment in another person generally have nothing to do with the other person and everything to do with you.  Saying “YOU disappointed ME” is not only a morale-killer, but it backfires and reveals more about you than anyone else. Whether in a personal or professional setting these words speak to how you handle life when things invariably don’t go the way you had hoped.

Avoid accountability

First, and actually the most important — as the manager, you own the work of people who report to you. Their work is your achievement or lack thereof. If they have not delivered a quality product, it is your responsibility to help them figure out why. It is not your job to point fingers, deflect blame, and pronounce that the failure was somehow an inherent part of their being.

Show disrespect

You do not see your employees as colleagues working together toward a shared goal, and you are not showing appreciation for their effort. Your words reveal an out of place parent-child dynamic, in which the focus has become your approval rather than the work itself.

Ignore learning

These words have such a sense of finality that they would bring anyone to a crushing halt. You essentially show a lack of faith that the other person can change and grow from the experience

You also make them question their own competence in the job.

Condemn quickly

You think that you are maintaining high standards, but you show that you are a harsh judge of people who are simply trying their best. Disappointment should be a last resort and should be reserved only for people who do not, repeatedly, give their full effort.

Display insecurity

You think you are calling out the other person’s shortcomings, but if you dig deep, you will find you are mainly disappointed in your own effort

Your expectation did not match up with the reality of the situation, and in frustration, you blamed someone else.

Reserve the word “Disappointed” for situations where it is no one’s fault.  “I am disappointed that the Company picnic got rained out” or “I am disappointed that the flight got delayed and we missed the presentation” In these situations, everyone is empathic and agrees.  It puts into words what many people are feeling and can unite a team.

Internal Corporate communication Strategy

sherrie-suski-banner

When we think about the terms branding and communication, we often think about external efforts targeted at consumers of products or services which are normally the purview of marketing agencies or internal marketing teams.  However, internal corporate communications to our employee base is critically important in determining our ability to align our teams around one united purpose or mission and to effectively launch programs in support.

Developing an internal communication strategy necessitates that we consider the following:

Audience –  Who is our audience and what do we want them to hear?  Are we speaking to senior executives, investors or to our employee base?  If to the employee base, t what level should the communication be written?  Speaking to a group of data scientists may be different than speaking to a group of retail employees.

Channel/Format which channel(s) will be most effective when delivering this message?  IS this a message that can be communicated in writing or is the intent likely to be lost?  Should a live feed be followed up with video available to all who may not have been able to attend?  Is the expectation for all people leaders to waterfall the communication down through their teams?

Goals/Objectives this can be further broken down into the following categories:

Decision Making where the goal of the communication is to listen, understand all viewpoints and come to a consensus in order to be able to move forward

Information Sharing where the priority is around getting the information out and disseminated quickly, efficiently and accurately

Status Update meant to connect employees to areas of focus

Team Building crat alignment around short and long term goals and foster personal relationships on your team

Problem Solving often linked to a discussion focused on deliverables and how you as a manager, can remove roadblocks to allow your team to progress

Innovation brainstorming sessions that can focus on how to drive the company forward and gain a competitive edge

Schedule – decide how often and when this type of communication needs to occur.  There is a fine balance between over and under communicating

Responsibility – who should have the responsibility for crafting the communication and who should have the responsibility for delivering the communication.  Inherent in everyone’s responsibility is the need to follow up to ensure that the message you wanted to deliver was indeed received.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that communication plans and channels will take care of themselves.  A well-orchestrated plan with all of the above components will help to ensure that your company is both aligned and informed!

 

Can People Analytics Strengthen your Internal Communication Strategy?

One of the largest challenges experienced by companies who grow quickly and broadly is that of communication.  It’s like the old childhood game of telephone. After it has been repeated 8 times, the message is no longer the same. It’s not on brand, it has lost its intent or worse yet, it is simply no longer factual.  Some companies are turning to People Analytics, a subset of Organizational Network Analytics (ONA),to start to solve these problems.

People Analytics allows organizations to visually see the flow of information within the company.  There are three main kinds of communicators, according to the Deloitte consulting firm, one of the main proponents of ONA. Central communicators are influential people who seem to know everyone, are up to date on important news, have lots of information to share and willingly share it. They can be located anywhere in a hierarchy and often times may be in lower level positions. Knowledge brokers, in contrast, facilitate information sharing by serving as bridges between nodes. These are people who are situationally connected based on a work product or short term project.  Peripheral communicators are low-profile people with poor or nonexistent connections to the organization. In order to have an effective communication strategy is has to be defined and executed with all three types of communicators in mind.  

Uses for ONA

For example, knowledge brokers often have important connections, not only situationally internal to the organization, but external to the organization as well.  This outside information and expertise can go underused if the broker lacks strong internal ties. Peripheral communicators are at risk of leaving the organization, which can be a detriment if their skills are highly valued. The insights from ONA may also reveal that people with formal authority and titles are not the real leaders of the organization. Identifying the leaders can, for example, speed buy-in and adoption of new initiatives.

Most companies have a strong focus on diversity and inclusion initiatives and companies can use ONA to spot exclusionary tendencies that might indicate discrimination or bias. Consciously creating project teams to ensure that there is diversity of experiences and thoughts goes a long way to securing the best outcome.  ONA can also help identify internal candidates for job openings and promotions. Strong communication skills are necessary at almost all levels in an organization.  

Workforce planning is another talent management function that can benefit from ONA. Managers can use the analysis to decide where to reassign people so they collaborate more effectively using the least amount of resources. ONA can help identify where work is being done and who is doing it, which can affect decisions about hiring, promoting and developing employees.

While not the only answer, ONA and the use of People Analytics can be one strategy to employ when contemplating your communication strategy.  Knowing where your starting point is, who your informal organizational leaders are and who you need to spend extra time with to ensure optimum levels of engagement is a big step forward!

Why you shouldn’t post a job description

sherrie-suski-descriptionsJob descriptions most certainly have their place.  Written accurately, they spell out the specific requirements for each position within the company, list essential job functions, any physical requirements and the education or certifications necessary.  However, few individuals are compelled to join a company based on a very dry outline of what the job entails. Employees today are looking for the story behind the company. What do they stand for? What is important to them?  Are they aligned with a candidates’ personal values? And how do the employees fit into that equation?

Zappos is a perfect example of a trend setting company that has done away with posting job descriptions altogether.  Instead of applying to specific jobs, their careers page allows candidates to opt-in to the Zappos community. People get to know the company on an informal basis instead of focusing on a job.

Here’s how they describe it on their Insights blog:

Anyone coming to our new careers site will see information about each department — our employees, the department’s unique culture, and which roles that department typically fills. Job seekers will have an opportunity to make an introduction to that department rather than apply for a specific position. The whole concept is to “take a look Inside Zappos.” Job seekers will get to take a look “Inside Finance,” “Inside Merch,” etc. If they look inside and like what they see, they can introduce themselves and become a “Zappos Insider.” Without the ability to apply for specific roles, we will no longer need to send inhumane rejection templates. Instead, we can begin to focus on long-term engagement.

Focusing on the company and attracting people who are aligned with your values is critically more important than sourcing for a specific skill set.  Often times, the skills for the jobs being hired for can be taught, but it is an uphill battle to convince someone who is not aligned with your culture that it really is the best way to do things, treat people, speak with residents etc..

Think for a moment about the difference in these two statements:

  1. Responsible for developing, enhancing, modifying and/or maintaining applications in the Global Markets environment
  2. Launch new trade application in the Global Markets environment

Which one is a call to action?  Which one says something about where the company is going and what is important to them?  And which one has the better chance of attracting a driven, high potential candidate?

This is a great picture of a skill set that was almost certainly not outlined in a traditional job description.  

Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and to emphatically state who you are.  The old adage :if you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing” is an immediate turn off to today’s top candidates!

Talent Optimization

sherrie-suski-optimizationI was recently nominated as a finalist for Optima’s Talent Optimization awards. As I was completing the forms, I stated to think about what really constitutes talent optimization.   How do we, as HR professionals, ensure that we are getting the best that each of our employees have to give each and every day?   At Tricon American Homes we truly have a people first strategy. Our contention has always been that if we treat our employees well and show them, not just tell them, that we truly care about them as whole individuals, then our employees, in turn, will show that same care and concern towards each other and our residents.   Our Purpose Statement “to go above and beyond with our time, care and service, so that lives and communities are enriched” says it all.  

Acquiring Talent

Optimizing talent begins with acquiring talent.  If you can’t get the right people in the door, you will never have the opportunity to optimize.  Therefore, external branding from a candidate perspective becomes important. While not the biggest fan of Glassdoor, we do have a rating of 4.7, one of the highest on Glassdoor.  Candidates will constantly tell us that the reason they applied is because our employees routinely rank us so highly on Glassdoor and they are looking for a culture that supports the employees.  This year we also won Fortune’s Great Place to Work designation. This designation means so much to us as it comes directly from our employees’ hearts and is completely anonymous.  Website design is another area of focus. Career pages should tell a story and be ever changing and engaging. Potential employees are looking to engage with current employees to find out what it is like to work there before they actually apply.  

Employee Programs

Our people first strategy has a number of different components.  Every employee participates in a 90 day on-boarding program that covers the basics as well as our culture and philosophy.  We ensure that each employee is given feedback on no less than a quarterly basis from their manager. This keeps the lines of communication open and helps to resolve small issues before they become big issues.   We have both ladder (vertical) and lattice ( horizontal) training opportunities for our entire workforce. With over 1600 course online that are all aligned to our performance-based core competencies and to our potential behaviors aligned with our talent planning programs, there is truly something for everyone!  Our Wellness program is another way we show our employees that we care.  This program focuses on social, emotional, financial, and physical wellness with opportunities for individual goals and team contests with prizes all around.

Results

The results of this approach speak for themselves.  We have driven turnover down from a high of 45% four years ago to under 20% today and under 10% in the professional level positions.   That is no easy feat in today’s economy where there are more jobs than there are people for the first time in 50 years.  This people first strategy has helped us to drive our time to hire down to under 21 days for non-exempt positions and under 30 days for exempt level positions.  With over 25% of our hires coming from internal promotions, our employees know that we take their career growth seriously.

 

The bottom line is that can’t go wrong treating people right!

Past Performance and Future Results

sherrie-suski-businessYou know those caveats that are posted on every website about every investment transaction?  The ones that say, “past performance is not an indicator of future results”. Those same warnings should be adequately displayed on every employee.  Past performance in one role, does not necessarily predict future performance in a different role or even the same role at a different time

 

Looking backwards- Performance Appraisals

Performance appraisal do a decent job of reflecting backwards.  What did an employee accomplish during the year? What goals were met? Where were their biggest wins?  There are a number of ways to conduct them, some infinitely better than others.

Annual- Annual performance appraisals are quickly, but not quickly enough, in my opinion, going by the wayside.  They have a tendency to really only be focused on the last quarter because asking any manager to remember what accomplishments their 5-10 direct reports had a year ago is a hefty task.

Quarterly- Many companies are taking steps in the right direction and moving to quarterly reviews.  These have a few benefits: They decrease the time between action and remediation if necessary, allow for more frequent communication between a manager and his/her direct reports and help to align individual objectives more closely with ever changing company objectives.

Realtime- a few companies have successfully mastered real time feedback. An open social media type platform where feedback is given on a continuous basis, sometimes daily, sometimes weekly, but it an ever-flowing stream of communication similar to a SnapChat streak, but without the pictures- don’t want to miss a day!

360- the really advanced organization have mastered the art of 360 feedback. This is quite a bit harder than it seems because the landmines are around accepting feedback, not just giving it.  For this method to be effective, you have to have a self-actualized workforce who is mature enough to handle and disseminate meaningful constructive feedback at all levels throughout the organization.  

 

Looking Forwards- Talent Planning

Organizations have realized that doing an annual performance appraisal and setting a few goals for the next year is far from a perfect process.  They know they need to develop leaders to be able to assume increasingly complex roles, but how? In steps Talent (sometimes known as Succession) planning.  Talent Planning looks forward.  It asks the question- what skills do I need to be able to have a greater impact on the organization? What is my potential?

Impact and potential are defined differently depending on who you talk to and what the organizational culture is.  In general terms having greater impact can be defined as having characteristics of Intellectual Curiosity, Critical thinking, Innovation, Agility, Change Management and Collaboration.  It is those traits that allow an individual to go beyond where they are today and tackle projects that will have a greater impact on the organization going forward. Not everyone who is a top performer will automatically score high on potential, nor should they.  Every organization needs a core of employees who are content being specialists and growing horizontally and not vertically!