Rehab and Performance

I can’t believe its March; it means I have been under going rehabilitation for my ankle for six months now. I initially injured my ankle playing football in June 2013. At the time I didn’t go to physiotherapy, I just rested it and hoped that it would go away. It eventually did. I avoided football season in 2014, but in October 2014, I went down a flying fox and on my way back, I rolled my ankle on a tree root. Just like that, it flared up again and ached for days. I decided it was time for physio and rehab. Six months later, I am almost at pre-injury condition but I still have aches here and there, but all in all, I am almost 100% back to my original state.

You may be asking why I am telling that story? It made me think about managing performance. As an HR practitioner, I advise and support managers and business owners on how best to manage performance concerns. Almost always, I find out that performance has been a concern for a period of time and the manager has known that it was an issue but never did anything about it and hoped the problem would go away and resolve itself.

I then explain the fair process to dealing with performance and I hear the sigh that can only mean ‘are you serious? This is going to take forever’. What I try to explain is that if the concern was addressed informally when it first was identified as an issue, they could have identified the cause and worked through finding a resolution before they became so frustrated by it and wanted the employee gone. They are now at a point where they need to formally manage the concerns and put a plan in place to get the employee performing at the required standard. But do you know what? Performance improvement takes time, effort, training and a plan to get there. It also needs willingness from both the manager to want to coach and the employee to want to improve.

What I’ve learned from spending six months in rehab getting my ankle to perform and how this relates to helping employees perform:

  • When you get an injury, tend to it straight way – as soon as you become concerned by an employees performance, address it with them straight away. Take them into a meeting room and have a manager to employee chat that can start with, ‘Hey Don*, I’m noticing a few errors coming through on the data you’re required to check, what do you think may be causing this?’
  • If the pain persists, seek medical attention – if Don continues to make errors following your conversation, meet with him more formally (with specific instances of concerns), with a support person and try again to source the root of the problem and determine if a performance improvement plan needs to be put into place. Don’t just hope that the problem will go away because you talked to Don that one time.
  • Attend rehab regularly and measure progress – meet with them regularly and assess their performance against valid and simple measures. If there are areas that aren’t improving as quickly, find out why and adjust training where appropriate or take disciplinary action where it is warranted. Be clear about expectations and how long they have to meet them.
  • Don’t let it turn sceptic to the point you want to amputate it – not saying my ankle would’ve been amputated, but often performance concerns are left to the point of wanting to fire the employee out of frustration. The sooner it is dealt with, the less likely it will turn sceptic and needing amputation.

Working with employees to improve performance is a two way street, in most cases the employees aren’t even aware that they are under performing or not meeting expectations while the manager is pulling their hair out. Be open, talk about concerns when they crop up, not when they are causing issues on a daily basis. It may not always work out, but if it is handled well and with transparency, you may end up with an employee whose performance out shines your expectations!

Just like my ankle, it still aches now and again, but I ensure to follow my physio’s guidance and it helps the problem. Even if the plan has worked out, continue to be there for your employees, especially if they slip up now and again.

*The name ‘Don’ is a random name pulled from thin air.

Content and focused.

I haven’t blogged in 8 months and that makes me a bit sad, however the past year has been an interesting one for me. I have spent the better part of it trying to really find out a few things about myself.

In March I hit 25, and as some remembered on twitter, I panicked when I thought about what I had achieved so far. Have I done enough? Should I have achieved more by now? Am I where I want to be? Should I be elsewhere?

After a few people reassured me that: 1. You are 25; you are at a point of still learning and growing. 2. Not everyone had it all figured out at 25. and; 3. I have achieved a fair bit considering I am only 25. I realised, I was doing the typical human thing, I was focusing too much on what I still had not done or still had not achieved, rather than focusing on how far I have already come and how much I have already achieved.

So my mind set changed. I have spent the last few months appreciating so much more of my life. Personally: I have a healthy and loving family, I have great friends, I’m financially secure and I have everything I need to be content and happy. Professionally: I have a job that keeps me challenged and that has built my resilience ten fold in the last 13 months, NZLEAD which has grown my professional development more in the past 18 months than any paid course has ever done and the most amazing network of HR professionals that any practitioner could ever think of. I am at a place where I am happy and content.

So I guess what I am saying is, I am focusing on the present. Focusing on the things I have now, focusing on what I want to achieve now and stop worrying about the fact that I am not 20 steps ahead of where I should be. I am focusing on building my happiness, experience, networks, resilience and exposure to be a better person and to be a better equipped HR Professional.

Finding a level of contentment has been the most rewarding and biggest achievement I have felt this year, better than I have felt over the last 10 years.

What has been your focus this year?

HR Workaholic.


Annnnnnd it is 2014!!

The New Year is always looked forward to, it represents the new beginning. For me this year is something different, the aspirations and goals are a lot more challenging than I have had before.

This year it is about me and my career. I have always been motivated and determined, but now I want to push that further and really get ahead. From a personal perspective this year is about health, fitness and preparing myself for the next stage of my life. I am 25 this year and in some ways I feel I have not done enough, so in 2014 that will change.

Professionally, this year is about my HR development and #NZLEAD. My current HR role has a lot to offer and I’m going to make sure I get my hands on the pieces I need and build on the parts where I am weak. I have a fantastic mentor who I will be nagging endlessly this year to guide and help me build on my strengths and improve my weaknesses. #NZLEAD will be growing a lot this year with some exciting things coming up. I will be supporting Amanda as much as possible while also proving myself in my full-time job.

2014 is going to be an exciting year with a lot happening. I’m determined and very motivated to extend myself personally as well as professionally.

How do you plan on spending your 2014?

Happy 2014 from the HR Workaholic!

We need to manage the gap.

Losing a resource in your team is always a tough break. Someone else needs to pick up the work, there are some things that you find out weren’t done, some things that may have sat in a hiatus for a while, and it now becomes your responsibility.

As we always like to say, people don’t like change. However, change is really the only constant in life. Adjusting to a period of tighter resources, a gap in the team or a period of uncertainty is always stressful and coping mechanisms jump into high gear. We’ve all been in a position where a colleague’s contract has finished or they have resigned and moved on, but it impacts those that stay behind because the work doesn’t stop and now there is one less person to do it.

How do you cope? How has your manager coped with that?

Your team should always have a strategy or a list of goals that need to be achieved for the quarter, bi-annual or annually and there should a progress update held regularly to ensure people are on track or that things are actually getting done and to critically reprioritise the work loads. In every team I have worked in during my (short) HR career, the lack of this has always amazed me. There is an immediate jump to “oh my gosh, how are we going to manage” rather than sitting down and thinking “ok, so what is mission critical that we need to focus on and what can we put on hold?”.

Prioritising, planning and clear objectives will make sure your team and manager don’t lose all your hair and still get a good nights sleep by not trying to do five peoples work, when you only have 4 people to do it. It is easy and common to say “everything is a priority”. Well no, not everything is a priority, there are clearly some pieces of work that ARE priority, and other pieces of work that need to be done, but the organisation won’t fall over if they are put on hold for a time.

This follows on from my previous blog “Why we shouldn’t stress”. Not enough focus is put on clear objectives, priorities and goals when resources start diminishing or simply vanish while recruitment takes place. Managers need to understand that there is only so much capacity a person can take on, when another takes off and they also need to be very familiar with the individual capacity they have within a team. This is where the manager needs to step up and be clear about the next month, two months, three months etc, and how that is going to impact work streams, work loads and project timelines – especially in making this clear to their one-up manager. How much of this thinking actually actively happens?

When you are a man down, there are mission critical things to do which ensure on-going success and traction. To my mind these are:

  • Identifying current workloads and what is on the go (especially what was left behind from the previous colleague).
  • Reprioritise work streams with the team to ensure mission critical work is top priority and will get done.
  • Put on hold work that doesn’t need attention right now – this is where managers struggle because of the pressure on them.
  • Ensure priorities are clearly communicated to the team and to the wider client group so there is a clear understanding of what work is possible and what work isn’t (right now).
  • Support, support, support. Support is the one thing that will get people through. Be there for your team and support them all the way to stick to objectives and to get through a tough time.

HR Workaholic!

Why we shouldn’t stress.

Stress is an interesting concept. It’s not an actual diagnosis, but it is a person’s response to a certain situation. It is our body’s way of reacting to a certain event or situation. When we perceive we are stressed, we can either use it as a positive or as a negative. Some people thrive on stress and use it as a positive to get further and complete certain things. Some people get overwhelmed, they melt down and they can’t cope.

I have seen stress symptoms show up in almost every job I have been in, not necessarily my role, but those of managers that I advise, colleagues and employees that stated they are suffering from stress. Most people feel stress when they are in a position they can no longer control. Situations like; increasing workload, decreasing funding, team members conflicts, manager conflicts or situations they just don’t understand.

There are different strategies for dealing with stress, but everyone is different and what might work for you coping with stress, might not work for me. How then, do we support those that are suffering from stress? They need to pin point the cause or causes as a general reason for why you are feeling stress will never get you closer to actually solving the issue.

Is it the workload?

  • If it is, a serious assessment needs to be done of what you have on your plate, what is high priority, what can wait, what can you pass on, what can you delegate.
  • We can’t do everything for everyone. If another piece of work gets added, then another piece has to give. You also need to be strong enough to say, enough is enough.
  • Be realistic about the reality of the work and the limited resources there is to do it, then a look at priorities and funding may/should flow on.

No one wants to be over-worked, no one should be routinely working more than 45hours in a week, as we then become counter productive. You will soon spin out of control with workload never disappearing, it is important for your sanity to address it quickly and honestly.

Is it conflict with team members?

  • Being honest about working with challenging team members is not a bad thing. How can something be solved if you are festering about it in your head? The longer you fester, the more it will impact your work and your service.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable addressing the issues with the person directly, your manager needs to step in to facilitate a way forward that will work for both of you.
  • Personalities clash, yes, but professionalism should outweigh that.

Working in a team has the benefit of providing a sounding board, you should be able to talk to your team, share work and collaborate. When you can’t do those things you will feel isolated and the feelings of stress will build.

Is it manager conflict?

  • This could be your line manager that you find difficult, or a manager that you advise for that you find difficult to work with. We have all come across them directly or indirectly in some part of our careers.
  • Be honest, honesty will forever be the best policy, the way the conversation is constructed will be the hardest part.
  • Frame it in a way that if you can find common ground and have an open relationship, the benefits will be on both sides.
  • Seek advice and support in how to approach and deal with the issues, not just as an outlet in venting and holding your position.
  • If your role is about advising people and you have a manager that pushes your buttons, stress will mount every time you have deal with them, until you scream (maybe just in your head – I would hope).

People are people, whether it is your line manager, or the manager you advise, or your colleagues. They will have their own stressors they are trying to address. If we hide the fact that we are fed up and frustrated, it will only escalate and come out inappropriately. Our own stressors can be elevated if our managers and colleagues know how we are feeling and what needs to happen to make it easier.

These few examples are external factors that create stressors, which then cause us to react in the form of stress. We can and should work to control the feelings of stress. If we choose to take small steps in our work life, we can start to eliminate factors that add to stressors. To be happy at work and then at home, we need to take ownership of our environment and do what we can to help us and those around us.

How do you handle your stressors and how do you help others eliminate them?

HR Workaholic! 

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Cynicism Kills Empathy.

As an HR Generalist we deal with employment relations issues everyday. It could be anything from payroll issues, holiday entitlements, sick leave issues, poor performance to misconduct. Each of these things impacts the employee and can be the difference between a happy or disgruntled employee.

As an HR professional we are expected to display excellent communication skills during the types of conversations we have on a daily basis, but another skill equally important is we need to have the ability to empathise. Now, I’m not talking sympathy, because we are here to represent the employer and be objective, so this can be a very fine line! Empathy is the capacity to recognise emotions that are being experienced by another human being. I believe everyone has a degree of empathy and the ability to use it, but unfortunately I also believe that cynicism can cloud empathy.

When we are confronted with an employment situation where feelings are involved between two people, HR is expected to be impartial and support the manager in resolving the issue. However, how can one be an effective HR professional when cynicism has overcome our ability to be empathetic towards someone’s emotions and situation?

When an employee comes to you with an issue and asks you to work with their manager to try to resolve it, we cannot allow the cynic in us about certain people or characteristics impact our ability to do our job. There may be a history where the employee is labelled a complainer, or is well known to HR, but does that mean we don’t do our job as an HR professional? I believe we must treat each case in good faith and with empathy for how someone is feeling about a certain situation.

HR professionals go through years and years of working with managers on employment issues and it is expected that they will see similar cases arise again and again – bullying, high sick leave, medical incapacity, poor performance, misconduct. Some employees may present similar attitudes or similar contributions to their current predicament, but as professionals we need to ensure that exposure to these situations doesn’t taint our empathy to do our jobs and to do our jobs well. We need to treat each employee as a unique human being, with unique emotions and unique coping mechanisms in each new and unique situation. As HR professionals we need to ensure we act in good faith and work with managers to get the best possible outcome for all involved, even if that outcome may be a compromise.

It is human nature to get tired of having to deal with the same thing over and over again, but in regards to employment issues, even though the type of situation may be the same, the details and feelings are not. We need to be sure we are going into each case with a clear head and with no preconceived feelings about the situation or person. We need to be impartial and professional and ensure that we provide the employee with time and consideration they deserve. So please leave your cynicism at the front door.

HR Workaholic!

2013 – The year of Change.

2013 has been an interesting year for me, my New Year resolutions were split between personal and professional, but then something better happened. #NZLEAD happened. I stumbled across #LEAD1201 towards the end of last year which was run by Amanda; it was an online based leadership development pilot using Twitter and blogging. It didn’t go as well as she had hoped, but instead of giving up on the concept of developing professionally and connecting people online, we collaborated and thought of #NZLEAD. We commenced #NZLEAD in January 2013 and today, it is bigger than we could have hoped 9 months ago. #NZLEAD is now a company, we are undergoing planning and working together closely to build something we both love and are passionate about. Neither of us know much about GST, company TAX, or gosh, all the nitty-gritty things that come with business owning, but it is going to be an exciting challenge.

A few years ago I thought I would be in business maybe at the age of 40, at 24 I am now in business with Amanda and it has been an experience for both of us. #NZLEAD has made me look at how I want to grow as a professional and what I want to bring to the table to grow the business. I will be relying heavily on Amanda’s wisdom as she will be doing this full-time, but nevertheless, I will be putting all my spare time and brain power into developing it further alongside her. Being business partners brings you to a new relationship level with someone. You have to talk about money, sharing, planning, organising, it isn’t just about how you want to run things or what works for you, but what works for both of you as a team.

I trust Amanda 100%, I can talk to her about anything, no matter how hard it might be. Doesn’t mean I’m not nervous as hell about her reaction or how it might turn out, but in order for us to be successful, we have made our number 1 principle for #NZLEAD on being honest, no matter how hard it might be. Amanda and I are very different people, we have very different personalities and skills but I believe that is what makes us work very well together. I see us as Ying and Yang as business partners.

I wasn’t expecting #NZLEAD to happen, or for it to become a business. Also, I never expected to be so hard working and so motivated to succeed as I am now. Much of the motivation comes about because I want Amanda to succeed as well. It isn’t just about me anymore, but about both of us and what we want to create.

Moral of the story, in 2013, follow your passion and let your excitement and motivation guide you, it will take you to great places.

HR Workaholic!