One. Hundred. Percent.

I love the new year. It’s such an amazing opportunity to reflect on what went well over the past year and double down to really move forward and be all that you can be in the coming year (hat tip to my Army friends).

But there’s a catch. (Of course! There’s always a catch!) You see, if we want to move forward, we have to let go of what’s holding us back. And here’s the part that stings: what’s holding us back is… us.

When I was in coaching school, I learned a philosophy that I call the TEA formula. It is this: our Thoughts become our Emotions, which become our Actions. So if you want to change your outcome/results/actions, you need to first change your thoughts. Easy formula to understand; extremely difficult to do.

Here is my New Year’s gift to you – a way to start changing your thoughts (with credit to Jack Canfield and his book “The Success Principles”):

You must take 100% Responsibility for your life.

That means no more excuses. No more pointing the finger at other people. No more blaming your circumstances. Why is this Rule #1? Because finding fault with things outside your circle of influence will not help you. Will not change you. Will not move you forward. Finding fault with things that you cannot control leaves you stuck in the past.

We all know this, intellectually. Yet we all still do it in some form or another. Why? Because it’s so much easier to blame someone else for holding you back than to admit that maybe you didn’t do everything you could. In my world, it’s realizing that I didn’t create that program (an online management academy – in production now!), that I didn’t let people know what it is I actually do (I’m a corporate trainer and coach specializing in emerging leaders and new managers), and that I did drink a glass of wine most nights and maybe that’s why I have daily headaches (I’m doing the Whole30 program now to get to the bottom of those headaches).

Action Challenge of the week:

Invest a few minutes in yourself. Ask yourself two questions:

1) What is it that you really want to accomplish?

2) What is one step that you can take TODAY towards accomplishing that thing?

Happy New Year!

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Adjust Your Seat First

My daughter recently got her driver’s permit. She worked hard to get it and is now a diligent driving student: adjusting the seat first (she’s 5’2″ so there’s a lot of adjusting required), then the mirrors, then putting the car in drive followed by her hands dutifully at “10 and 2.” She’s a zealous learner, too, asking to drive just about everywhere.

Watching her zest for learning in this life event got me thinking – we really don’t change much as we grow up. Let’s take starting a new job, for example. We go through a lot of work to get that new position: polish the resume, search, apply, repeat. Then we go through the interview process, sometimes several times before we find the perfect fit. As the big day draws near, we are excited, nervous, and eager to get started.

When we got to the DMV on the day after my daughter’s birthday, she was excited and nervous and eager to get started. Then she went to take the test. And she failed. She came out of the room disheartened and extremely disappointed. This was not what her day was supposed to be like.

When your company doesn’t have a substantial Onboarding program in place, your new employees could feel like they’ve failed. I recently spoke with someone who shared that he nearly quit his job on day three because the new company had no Onboarding program, leaving him disheartened and disappointed.

Onboarding is important because it sets the tone for new employees. A strong Onboarding program will:

  1. Allow your new hire to connect with co-workers
  2. Clearly describe the new hire’s duties and expectations
  3. Demonstrate the corporate culture and values

When my daughter got to the counter at the DMV to say that she had failed, the assistant asked her if she’d like to take it again. Her face immediately lit up with the second opportunity for success. This time, she passed.

If your current Onboarding program consists of little more than “Hi, here’s your desk,” consider this your invitation to take the time to create a strong and empowering strategy to welcome new employees. When employees are provided with a structured Onboarding program during their first 90 days, they are 58% more likely to still be with the organization in three years. And with turnover costs ranging from 16% – 213% of an employee’s salary, it’s worth the time to create a solid program, complete with success metrics.

 

Jennifer Currence is an HR Strategy Advisor and Success Coach who focuses on making sure an organization’s people practices align with their corporate strategy. She lives in Tampa, FL with her two teenagers.

Who Needs Corporate Culture?

A thriving corporate culture. It’s the thing that businesses say they want but really don’t know how to achieve. They hold people accountable for corporate culture – usually HR or manager – but it’s rare that we see an established organization actually shift their culture for the better.

An article in the April 2016 Harvard Business Review invigorated my thinking about this paradox. The article, “Culture is Not the Culprit,” states that “culture change is what you get after you’ve put new processes or structures in place to tackle tough business challenges like reworking an outdated strategy or business model.” (p. 98) The article challenges us as business men and women to stop trying to fix culture and instead look at the programs we have in place in our organizations.

Culture is a big deal. A strong culture is key to reducing turnover, elevating productivity, and accelerating profitability. A strong culture is also a requirement for attracting and retaining high-potential employees – you know, those men and women who really are passionate and incredibly skilled at what they do. These “hi-po’s” are attracted to an environment where their ideas are heard and considered, where their hard work and acquired expertise is valued, and where they can make a difference – in short, an innovative culture. With today’s dizzying speed of business, we can’t have a strong culture by doing what we’ve always done.

Established organizations (when I say established, I mean that they’ve been in existence for 10 years or so) often fall into the trap of “this has worked for us in the past so let’s keep doing it this way.” The thing is, there have been radical changes in the way business is run over the past 10 years. Ten years ago, there was virtually no social media for businesses (no YouTube, Twitter, or Pinterest), smart phones were just creeping their way into the marketplace (Apple introduced the first iPhone in January 2007), and Skype, although released in 2003, was not yet fashionable or eloquent – forcing us to actually travel to other locations in order to conduct a visual business meeting. The world now is much faster, more immediate, and rapidly paced. So if a company is doing business the same way it was in 2005, they will soon be packing up their camera-less desktop computers and their fax machines and locking up their brick-and-mortar doors.

I’ve seen this happen to a small business. Despite the pleadings of several intelligent marketing professionals, senior management did not believe that they needed to spend their time and effort in social media. Over a period of about two years, they were able to eke out a small profit, but only because they lost nearly 1/3 of their employees (including the aforementioned marketing professionals… hmmm…). They now have a skeleton staff who are overworked and miserable in their jobs, because senior management’s lack of listening didn’t stop at the marketing department – it filtered all the way through the organization. That’s not to say that their painful existence is all because of their lack of grabbing on to social media; but it is one example of how that company’s management failed to embrace new ways of doing things, and it negatively affected their culture. So just how effective and productive do you think their employees are in their jobs?

Senior management must be willing to explore new opportunities and new processes and new programs. They must listen to their employees and value their input to glean these ideas. They must be open to evolving their business. Only then will they be able to make a positive impact on their company culture.

Jennifer Currence, MBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is an HR Strategy Advisor who is passionate about partnering with companies to optimize their corporate culture. Learn more at www.OnCoreMgt.com.

Moving from Information to Wisdom

So many books, so little time.

Therefore, I frequently listen to audio books I get for free from the library to maximize my time while driving or exercising. (If you’re a book fiend like me and haven’t yet discovered the Overdrive app, check it out!) Recently before embarking on a long car ride I “grabbed” Ariana Huffington’s new book “Thrive.” In it she said something that has really made me think. I will paraphrase it here:

Information does not beget Knowledge
Knowledge does not beget Understanding
Understanding does not beget Wisdom

How often have you known someone who gathers a piece of Information and immediately considers themselves an expert? (Because obviously WE have never done this ourselves!) There is so much information out there that we consider ourselves wise if we read something on the internet. But I believe there are three important steps that need to take place first.

1. Remember It
Have you read something fascinating then tried to tell someone about it, realized you can’t remember the cool facts, then end up with, “Well, I’ll send you the link so you can read it yourself”? This is the classic and most common blunder of not really paying attention to the information enough to have the knowledge to be able to share it with someone else.

2. Apply It
If you have memorized the data points (and thereby have the knowledge), can you apply it? This has happened to me when I teach my university HR Management class. I have the information and the knowledge about the NLRB and Taft-Hartley Act and other labor relations tidbits, but I’ve never worked with labor relations, so I don’t have the understanding to be able to apply it. (Knowing this deficiency is why I always have my friend, who’s an expert in labor relations, come and be a guest speaker for this portion of class.)

3. Live It
Having true wisdom is akin to the Self-Actualization capstone on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: it reflects angelic-like breakthrough understanding that permeates all levels of the issue. (This is why I believe the best CEOs are those who started out as janitors, line workers, and fry-cooks.) It’s when you study and know and understand something so deeply that it becomes a natural part of your being – your gut reaction, or – as Seth Godin calls it – your “lizard brain.” Like when you can tell your child really doesn’t feel well or something is bothering your spouse. When you can answer a question at work without thinking about it. When you can take one look at a close colleague and know they are applying for another job.

Moving from Information to Wisdom takes acknowledgement, patience, and the courage to have the discipline and to ask the questions to get there. I am convinced we cannot be truly wise about everything (it would take away from the magical quality of wisdom!) but once we achieve true wisdom on those things that we are passionate about, it is a heavenly elation.

Hide and Seek

Last year, I went through what I affectionately called an Identity Crisis: What do I want to be when I grow up?

I had been asking myself a lot of questions: Do I want to teach? Do I want to be a consultant? Do I want to be a world-renowned speaker? Do I want to head back into Corporate America? Do I want to go back to school?

I had finally decided to combine all of the above and go back to school to get my Ph.D. so I could be a university professor. It’s OK if I go into debt, I reasoned, because I’ll be doing what I love.

Enter in my best friend. “Jen,” she queried, “are you sure you’re not just going back to school because you don’t know what else to do?” I fumed. This couldn’t be the case. I’ve always wanted my Ph.D. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about it. How dare she suggest that!? “Learning is your comfort zone,” she continued. “Learning is what you’re good at, and you want to be good at something right now. But you don’t need to go back to school and spend lots of money to be good at something.” I made a hasty excuse to get off the phone and quickly filed away the conversation in the Forget This Ever Happened portion of my brain.

A couple weeks later, I shared with a friend that I would soon find out if I got accepted into the program to which I had applied. I guess he finally decided I wasn’t going to figure this out on my own so it was time to say something. “How much money is this going to cost you?” he asked. Uh, a lot.  “Are you going to be able to teach what you want to teach after you get this degree?” Well no, but it’s OK because I’m studying what I love. I’ll just focus on my consulting business. Providence will provide me with opportunities when I have the degree if I’m following my heart. Wow – I can justify anything. “Jennifer,” he said, somewhat pointedly, “you already have the knowledge and experience to do what you want to do. You don’t need a Ph.D. to prove you’re worthy of consulting or speaking or writing a book.”

I needed to hear that: That I was good enough. I don’t need to hide behind more schooling and letters after my name. And I don’t need to seek for more answers. I already have what I need. Now I just have to apply it.

My question for you today is this: Are you hiding in your comfort zone and seeking for things that are already staring you in the face? While you’re pondering this, go out and tell someone they are good enough. It just might save them some money.

Getting Started

Tick Tock.

Stare at the blank screen.

Switch over to email to see who the new message is from.

Remember you were starting to write, switch back.

Tick Tock.

I’m hoping that as you’re reading this you’re nodding your head, thinking, “Oh yeah, I’ve been there.” Sometimes we have the best intentions in the world to make it there on time, to start that new project, or to write that blog. Unfortunately, it’s not the thought that counts. It’s the execution.

What is it that keeps us from starting? With me and my blog, it’s fear. Fear that I’ll write something uninteresting. Fear that next month I’ll learn something that will make this post outdated. Fear that someone will question my ideas or flat out won’t like it. Fear that (*gasp!*) I’ll publish something with a grammatical error in it! (No, really. That’s an English major’s worst nightmare.) Do any of these fears sound familiar to you?

But the truth is, all of those things are going to happen. Some people will find my writing uninteresting or factually ill-conceived. Things will continue to happen and I will continue to learn, making my material out of date. And yes, even English majors make grammatical errors from time to time.

So now that I’ve identified my fears and realized there’s nothing I can do about them, I have a choice to make. I can leave my words inside my head, where they don’t help anyone but me. Or I can acknowledge the fact that I read blogs every day written by people who probably (since they’re people) have (or had, at one point) the same fears that I have. And I can acknowledge that I learn a lot from those people – from the things they choose to write about, from the knowledge they impart, or simply from embracing the diversity of a viewpoint different from my own.

Are there people like me out in the world? Are there people who could benefit from my words if I put them out there instead of keeping them in my head? I think so. So I’m going to, as Nike says, Just Do It.

Here it is, friends. Here is my first blog. You may not like it, it may be outdated, and there may be a tiny error in it, but that’s OK. I did it. Columbus wouldn’t have found the New World had he not set sail, and I won’t be able to reach my maximum effectiveness if I keep all my ideas in my head. I’m putting myself out there and opening myself up for criticism and ridicule, as well as praise and admiration.

But that’s not my motivation; it is this: I hope that by reading this, my first blog, you are encouraged and empowered to do something for the first time too. Dust off that thing you’ve been wanting to do for a very long time, and take the first step. We can take this journey together.