Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Survey: 360 Degree Feedback Systems

Have you participated in a 360 Degree Feedback Project in the last year?

We are gathering information about the perceived effectiveness of various 360 Degree Feedback Systems.

Please take a moment to think back on the last 360 Degree Feedback project you participated in and answer the following questions as if they were about your specific project.

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or just click here

We will make the results of this survey available to those who request them

Monday, April 27, 2009

A Question of Balance: Querying the Work-Life Conundrum

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As part of our series of articles by exceptional HR professionals, today we present a coaching article by a new guest author, David Finney.

* * *

I have a problem with the term ‘work-life balance’. It implies that life begins when work finishes. The words we use are critical to our self awareness, our situation-reading and to our learning and development, and yet we pick up phrases like jackets in a wardrobe, trying them on for size and sometimes keeping on something that doesn’t quite fit in the absence of anything better.

Our conversations are derived from a variety of sources: education, literacy, sound bites from the media, parental hand-me-downs and phrases we’ve picked up from our friends, family or business colleagues. Words are not truly our own. They sit on a large menu from which we make our selection, in an attempt to find the right combination that suits the way we are feeling at any given time.

Interpreting stress

The phrase ‘work/life balance’ originated in the eighties. it seemed OK at the time: a way of interpreting stress, a reminder to leave the office before dark. it’s a phrase we have picked up, taken on board and maybe even formed a goal around.

But what if WLB is reinforcing the belief that the working day is simply a prelude to a sigh of relief at the end of it? What if these words are encouraging our clients to move away from rather than towards something? As coach Graham Guest says “Part of the perceived problem of the work-life balance comes about through regarding work as the stuff you do, often reluctantly, to earn money to do the things you really want to do”.

Balance of opposites

Chinese philosophy has always been intrigued with balance: night and day, high and low, winter and summer, dark and light, black and white, left and right,false and true, female and male, as encapsulated by the yin and yang in the I Ching, the ancient Chinese classic text. The yin and yang represent the negative and positive forces in the universe and the “dynamic balance of opposites”. 

The Chinese language itself works in a similar way, using antonyms. These are opposite words placed side by side to represent a concept. So ’hei’ (black) plus ‘bai’ (white) represents morality. ‘Cheng’ (success) plus ‘bai’ (failure) represents outcome or result. ‘Chang’ (long) with ‘duan’ (short) represents the concept of the situation: that’s the long and short of it. So maybe to fully understand certain concepts, one needs to locate and appreciate its direct opposite.

Restoring social order

The Ifaluk are a people that live on an Island in the Pacific Ocean, just a few hundred souls on a piece of land about half a mile in diameter. The Ifaluk don’t approve of anger, so they don’t have a word for it. They have a similar word, and that word is ‘song’. If someone on the island is in a ‘state of song’, they must have a very good reason for it. For instance, the person causing them to experience ‘song’ must have acted in a very immoral way. Then, the person experiencing ‘song’ must find a way to express their feeling in a non-physical, nonviolent, controlled manner.

And so ’song’ is a sign that the social order of the island has been disturbed, the equilibrium tipped. Balance is only restored when the person causing ‘song’ has apologized or offered a gift or similar. Until then, the person experiences ‘metagu’, and feels guilt or pressure from the Ifaluk society until making amends.

The conceptual width of balance is far reaching, and people have the power to create language that suits the world they inhabit.


Buddhism – like Hinduism - is based upon the principle of cause and effect and centers round the Noble Eightfold Path, The Middle Way, which is the avoidance of extremes, leading to balance in thought, words and action. Author Michael Carroll references balance in Buddhism in a different way, encouraging us to accept disorder at work and achieve balance by taking time out in the day, moments to stop and listen to our surroundings, find our source and be authentic.

In our quest for authenticity in love, in leadership and in life, we can discover a harmony that is enduring, that underlies work, play and all the events and segments in our day, something independent of the divides we create.

There is a flip side to the WLB phrase. Its alternate implications are that our ‘work’ finishes when the bell goes. This can cause us to switch off when we come home and lose the social disciplines we had at work: politeness, courtesy, interest in the projects of others, for instance. This could mean we disconnect from our loved ones and the lives they are leading. But true balance is ‘karmic’: every action performed in one part of our lives affects another. Every extra hour at work is one hour less with our families. Every extra hour in bed could mean one less working on our goals.

Unpacking the phrase

As coaches we are trained to use the words our clients use, in a matching and mirroring effect. We are also trained to help our clients analyze their words and check they are the right ones, ensuring that they accurately summarize the intent behind them. So if a client wants to discuss ‘work-life balance’, I believe the coach should help the client reach the ‘right’ words to express exactly how they feel as soon as possible, before progressing too far into the program. I can recall suggesting the word ‘buzz’ to a client to help identify a set of feelings. "Yes! That's the word: buzz!” he exclaimed. “Yes that’s how I feel, thank you!”

Clients tackling issues labeled ‘work-life balance’ need to achieve the same sense of recognition in locating words that describe exactly how they, individually, feel, and then in defining the kind of balance they really want.

In balance

So ‘work-life balance’: is it a harmless label, or an influencing phrase working quietly away in our subconscious? The phrase still concerns me. It’s like a dusty old jacket that needs replacing. An “unhelpful dichotomy” as coach Bill Brand puts it. Our lives are surely not divided up into two opposing parts. It has to be simply a question of balance and what that means to the individual.

A final word from a previous client of mine who revealed in our sixth session, “My life feels more in balance now”. No mention of work or life, just “balance”. Music to a coach’s ears!

About our Guest Author:

David Finney is Quality Director & Coaching Champion in an international market research company with twenty years managerial and people development experience. David has a Diploma in both Corporate & Personal Coaching and is a member of The Association for Coaching.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Benefits Installments

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As you may remember, back in January we announced (rather prematurely) that we were considering running monthly Benefits Installments to broaden the scope of our forum into an area of Human Resource Management as yet untouched by HR-Worldview.

Well, today we can make good on that announcement! 

Begining in May, HR-Worldview will run a regular Benefits Installment.
Jim Moniz (President of Northeast VisionLink and Northeast Wealth Management) will pen these installments.

For a sample of what you can expect from these Benefits Installments, check our Jim's latest article, here.

It is our hope that you will find these installments interesting and helpful. 

Monday, April 20, 2009

Confronting the Problem

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By HR-Worldview Regular Columnist: George Krafcisin

* * *

At one time in my career, I inherited supervision of a group of consultants. I was happy to manage the crew, who were for the most part seasoned veterans who knew their jobs better than I did. Except for “Jane.” She had been in the same job for over twenty years, and I could see from the reports of her consultations with clients that she was still doing the job the way it had been done when she started. My budget for red ink went up as I rewrote her reports before our clients could see them. On the other hand, she was a dependable worker, very pleasant, and clients liked her. Heck, I liked her. But she clearly couldn’t handle the changes in the profession, and she was a drag on our success.

Her prior supervisor - my boss - had always given her a pass on appraisals, so the safe thing would be to ignore the issue. Her performance review date was coming up soon, so I had to fly out to her office on the East Coast and do something. So was I going to be the hard-hearted axe-man and just fire her? What would that do for my reputation with the rest of the staff? I could just spend some extra time rewriting her reports. Was that fair to the rest of the staff, and to me? Maybe I could offer her extra training and hope that she could turn around twenty years of underperformance. I knew that wasn’t going to work. So what to do?

I didn’t really have a plan, other than to lay out what I thought was wrong with her work, and see what happened. With my usual good sense of timing, I flew out two days before Thanksgiving for the confrontation. I got out the report drafts from the last few months, went through all of my notes highlighting the problems. Jane didn’t say a word. When I was done, I asked, “OK, so where do we go from here? Do I just keep giving you grief until you retire?”

In retrospect, I can see what I had done right - and wrong. On the good side, I had decided to do something, rather than ignore the situation. It wasn’t fair to Jane, to me, or to the company to tolerate performance that just wasn’t acceptable. I had also set up a good, objective set of criteria that defined “good performance”, and had documentation of the shortcomings, so there were no arguments about that.

On the bad side, I had caved on deciding what I really wanted to happen. I hoped for a good outcome, but I hadn’t really decided what I would do if nothing changed. Also, I had implied that I would like Jane to retire and that would have gotten me in hot water if she decided to make an issue of it. And I hadn’t separated myself from my emotional need to be nice to a nice person. So I had crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. And I had no idea what Jane thought - I’d given her no feedback on what her review might contain, just copies of rewritten reports.

Jane’s response? She said, “I’ve been thinking about this situation for some time. I’m tired of doing this same old job. I’ve met someone special, and we’re thinking of getting married. I would like to work a few more months, and then retire. Would that fit in with your plans?”

Which leads me to a checklist for dealing with those conversations you wish you didn’t have to have:
  1. Decide in advance what you want to happen with the “problem”. What outcome do you want to see? Shoot for a “win-win” if you can.
  2. Do your homework and define the facts - not your feelings. What is the problem? Can you document it so there’s no argument about it?
  3. What are your feelings? You need to know what they are to understand how they are influencing your actions.
  4. What is the other person’s view? Do you know? How can you find out? How might that change the situation?
  5. Lay out the problem in objective terms and avoid criticizing personal traits. Say, “Your reports don’t meet standards,” rather than “You can’t write good reports.”
  6. Get a clear agreement from the other person as to what will happen by when. And follow up on it.
As for Jane? Happily married and retired. She asked if I wanted to join her and her fiance for dinner next time I was in town.

About Our Columnist:

George Krafcisin is the President, coach and trainer of Mosaic Management, Inc. He writes regular installments on the topics of leadership and management here on HR-Worldview.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Executive Compensation as a Strategic Tool

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As part of our series of articles by exceptional HR professionals, today we present article by a new guest author, Jim Moniz.

* * *

With the year 2008 gone and its legacy of a weakened economy and even the most understated financial pundits already designating 2009 as volatile, many companies are reevaluating their business plans and shifting into survival mode. While attracting, retaining and motivating key employees are vital to the success of any business, the current economic environment may be the ideal time to re-think executive compensation measures.

The days of the “holiday bonus” may soon be by gone as companies – both private and public – progressively recognize there are other, more creative vehicles that can serve as incentive for retention. For instance, that annual check bestowed during the office holiday party is a short-lived and anticipated incentive and once received, what’s to stop employees from moving on to newer landscapes? This yearly “reward” come the end of December or the fiscal year is often looked upon as part and parcel of salary, essentially diminishing the true definition of performance incentive – and while the intention may be good, this type of across the board reward mechanism can alienate certain employees whose performance is consistently outstanding.

By creating a business environment that fosters achievement and implements long-term incentive programs, the loss of vital employees whose skill and knowledge are fundamental to the overall success of a company may be avoided.

For example, deferral plans are fast becoming a popular executive benefit, since they allow for pre-tax contributions that mirror 401(k) contributions lost under limitation rules. A deferral plan is the bonus that keeps on giving year-round as it allows employees to reduce their current income tax liability and watch their funds grow tax-deferred. In addition, the employer can make matching contributions to cover those contributions not allowed under a 401(k) plan, making the deferral plan a genuine incentive for longevity within a company.

Phantom stock is another incentive that can be tied exclusively to performance. Simply put, phantom stock is a promise to pay a bonus in the form of the equivalent of either the value of company shares or the increase in that value over a period of time. The most essential element of this incentive approach is its long-term understanding. Also, phantom stock plans are not tax-qualified, and as such not subject to the same tax rules as 401(k) plans. A company can promise a new and valuable executive this durable bonus every three or five years or over a longer period of time, making it attractive to remain for an extended run.

Another form of executive bonus is the performance unit – an offer to pay an executive a sum of cash at the end of a long-term performance period. The amount of a performance unit is based on attainment of certain pre-established financial objectives of the company. Some may define this brand of incentive as the ultimate performance carrot, as it consistently encourages an executive employee to tie his or her individual success into that of the company.

Company stock options are another form of incentive compensation appealing to many executive level employees. The amount of equity can be tied to the number of years in service, translating into potentially high returns for employee longevity.

It must be said that there are occasions when a well-timed “spontaneous” reward can be worth its proverbial weight in gold. A check for a modest amount in the aftermath of a key company success can go a long way toward providing management team members with a sense of company loyalty.

Finally, don’t discount other, more imaginative approaches to executive compensation. Options that should be considered are life insurance programs, health-club memberships, tuition reimbursement, flexible hours, and the leeway to work from a home office on occasion.

Ultimately, incentives should be connected to a company’s broad mission and scope of values. Companies must create an environment that fosters success and incentives should be tied to that success. Failure to keep an eye on that goal may result in lack of motivation for certain key employees, whose performance or lack of performance can make or break a business.

An effectively designed executive compensation program impacts the overall success of a company. A well integrated compensation arrangement can assist in promoting the core values of a company and help it along the path to continued success.

About our Guest Author:

James E. (Jim) Moniz, CEO of Northeast VisionLink, a Massachusetts firm that specializes in structuring executive compensation. James E. Moniz is a national speaker on the topic of wealth management and on executive compensation.

Monday, April 13, 2009

2 Questions: Taking Advantage of Potential

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I've got two "management-esque" questions for you. I'll set it up like this:

There is a lot of potential right now for growth, improvement... profit... like a tightly wound spring. Take stock prices, for example. This is bargain basement business right now. A buyer's market. Look at Citigroup ( C ). This is a stock that was consistently trading at $50. It dropped to around $1, got rescued and now, well, it looks to be headed back from whence it came. 

Of course, it's an analogy that I'm pointing at here. 

Companies have shaken things up, right? They've thinned out their rosters (hopefully they've kept their high potentials), they've moved some money around. They might be feeling a financial squeeze, but when it comes to Human Capital, they've got some wiggle room. Didn't like the old management? Well... A spring thaw.

So, this is the big 'What's up?' It's one thing to ask, “what should a company be doing right now”. You can ask that anytime. It's a little broad. I want to know about 'taking advantage of potential'.

1) What should companies be doing to take advantage of this 'potential'?

2) Has your company done anything to take advantage? If so, what?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Big Question: "What's up?"

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There was a moment there, when March was drawing to a close and the markets were showing signs of stabilization (even maybe a bounce), where (the national) 'we' held our breath and thought that the job market was going to show signs of lightly touching bottom... then we got the March report and thought again. 

We've been talking to a lot of companies lately about how their own internal restructuring is going. “What have your meetings been like? Are you still planning lay-offs? Are you, communally, searching for normalcy in your operations? … What's up?”

They 'answer' these questions and, in the same breath, I hear the steady drone of the holding pattern, fear of bird strike and concerns about fuel levels... and I just hope that employees aren't hearing the same hum in the buzz around the office because that hum has a captivating quality akin to a car crash.

Offices are strange places. They have the acoustics of a sea-side cave and the frenetic energy of a carnival perpetually leaving town.

When you get asked, “What's up?”, answer that question with a wide, sweeping gesture, a stroke of confidence and a smile because everyone can see and hear you. If you don't know "What's up?" ask someone else. 

If it turns out that no one knows, then the one thing you can be sure of is that this is the last time the carnival is leaving town.

Monday, April 6, 2009


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