How Human Resources Reduces Company Sales

When asked how Human Resources impacts the sales results of most companies, there is a majority who see no connection at all.  And yet there is a significant impact resulting from the career center, or recruiting section, that can send positive and negative ripples beyond the repair efforts of marketing or sales people.

Let’s look at any service provider, or product provider that sells to the mass market.  You get to pick the company in your head for this example.  It could be a local retail store, restaurant or a home and auto insurance company.  Pick one name in particular and follow along with me.

Your company wants you as a customer, correct?  They provide the best service they can to recruit you as a customer and to retain you for years to come.  They count on your referrals, because even though a positive experience will rarely get more than a couple of conversations out of you, a negative experience will having you telling everyone you know.  Add in social media and even people you don’t know will hear about your bad experience.

Now suppose you apply for work at this company.  You submit an application online, and you get the customary computer generated response about how pleased they are you applied and they will get back to you.  Now imagine you get an interview, and you are told nothing that would lead you to believe you are being eliminated.  You keep in contact with the recruiter, but you never hear another word from them.  You took time out of your day, and they are too busy to spend one minute replying to you.  Heck, who are you?  No big deal.  Go away and we’ll call you if we want anything else from you.

Now while this happens all the time, and you are willing to let it go, today of all day’s you get an advertisement in the mail from this very same company.  They want you to shop with them and be a customer.  You ask yourself “why on earth would I want to be treated like I have been and turn around and be their customer?”

You see, Human Resources is an extension of your sales department.  They interact with hundreds of non-employees, but potential customers all day long.  If you are the leader of the sales efforts of your company and your HR function is treating applicants like worthless objects, then they are costing you business.

So while you are most likely not going to work for this company, I dare say you will probably never ever be a customer either.  And on top of that, anytime you hear someone say I’m getting a quote from [insert name] insurance company for my car, chances are you will warn them that you get what you pay for.

[And as a side note, if you happen to be shopping for insurance, I have a great company I could refer you to, and another one I would suggest you avoid.]


How to Be a Really Stupid Leader

What makes a leader stupid? Most believe it is a combination of a number of unattractive and unproductive behaviors that are incorporated into their style that makes them unsuccessful, along with a refusal to change. A stupid leader is a committed self-serving leader. They see every situation and activity from their own vantage point and are unable to head in a different direction.

Learning how to be a successful leader requires time and attention on what the stupid leader behaviors are, so by doing the opposite, a person can develop into a smart leader instead. While the following list is anything but complete, it is a good start of some of the top things to include if you too want to be known as a stupid leader someday.


Allow Your Ego to Lead You

Stupid leaders are known for being arrogant and full of themselves. They don’t need a formal fan club because they are so enamored by their greatness that they lack the need for reinforcement. If you remember to lead with your ego, and always remember your importance in the scheme of things, nothing can go wrong.


Cultivate a Selective Memory

Stupid leaders remember things that go well and things that make them look good. Of course there may be times where you are fully aware of a situation, that has now gone bad, but if you forget the details, hey, you are just human. Finding out the bad news with everyone else is even better, because you have the added benefit of plausible deniability to lean on too. Just remember that too much memory loss could be considered a liability, so there may be times you remember a small detail while most of the story is fuzzy.


Take Credit for All Good Deeds

A stupid leader knows the value of good publicity, and is always quick to the podium or press release when there is good news to share. Stupid leaders know that there is no “I” in TEAM, but are equally aware that there is a “ME” in those letters. Sharing credit with others is time consuming, and if it were not for your leadership, whatever good that did happen is really secondary. Keep your focus and rather than taking time to mention other people, just arrange the talking points to make yourself the center of attention.


Blame Others for Troubles

Stupid leaders also realize that when trouble hits, it is a perfect time to remember you lead a team of people and they are open to human error. Whenever possible point out people with complete name, title and responsibilities whenever you need a fall guy or girl to blame. Taking responsibility for something that goes bad is simply not a way to end the day on a good note, so learn the art of finger-pointing and get good at it!


Avoid the Truth

Now while many people call it lying, it is better to call it a redirection or deflection. When people ask a direct question, often they think they want a direct answer. The real truth is they want to feel good, and telling them what they want to hear avoids conflict. Don’t worry about them finding out later what really happened, by then they will forget who told them. And even if they have you on video, you can always say they misunderstood your intent. Bottom line, truth builds trust between people, and that is the last thing a really stupid leader wants to build.


Demonize Your Enemies

One of the best skills a stupid leader must be good at is to demonize anyone that is against your vision and success. Just because they have a different opinion doesn’t make them right, and debating them is a big waste of time. These people are against you, and just like in war they are the enemy. For a stupid leader to be successful they must make their enemies appear incompetent, immoral or crazy. Don’t hide behind a lampshade and expect others to do this for you. Get out there and trash these people yourself!


Close Your Mind to New Ideas

Serious stupid leaders know that for them to lead others it is important never to share the stage, less the followers lose focus on them.   Listening to other ideas would only spark a possible change in direction, and stupid leaders know with certainty that changing course makes you look weak. Sticking to your own ideas no matter how wrong you might be only opens the door to criticism. And imagine what would happen if you did try another approach and it worked; you would have to share the credit!


Talk Your Talk and Avoid the Walk

So called leadership gurus have been saying for years that it is more important to walk your talk than talk it. But stupid leaders know that if you talk long enough, and keep the message on track, people begin to believe that snow is hot to the touch. Walking in any direction only confuses people, and talking more saves the wear and tear on your new shoes.


Flaunt Your Success

Lastly, it is so important for a stupid leader never to forget to flaunt their success in everyone’s face. If you got a big bonus, tell everyone how you are going to spend it. While staff members may have to save for a year to stay at a KOA camp with their family for a week, they will look up to you once they know you and your family booked your own private cruise ship for a round the world trip.


In Conclusion

Sadly we can all visualize a leader that should have their picture next to each of these points, and it was a challenge not to select photos to illustrate as examples. The lessons to be learned are simple because we need only do the opposite of what it takes to be a really stupid leader so that we can be a really brilliant leader instead.


[ Originally published 7/21/14 on ]

Over Titled Job Descriptions

I have a real gripe about job descriptions that come with lofty titles that fail to represent the actual role.  Like one I reviewed recently that was for a Learning Development Manager, and yet had no staff reporting to this position.  The reply was that they “managed” projects so they called it a manager.

When I read the entire job description, the real title should have been “Instructional Designer” as it covered 100% of what that role does, including project management work.  Yet the title was being marketed to attract very experienced learning professionals.

As this was not a role I was interested in pursuing, I sent it to 4 of my contacts that where local, and perfectly matched skill wise.  Two were managers and two wanted to be managers.  The two that are currently managers saw the role as a step back because it was an individual contributor job description, and the two aspiring managers laughed when I said there was no staff to manage.

I went back to the recruiter with these comments and suggested a different title.  She was on board, but her client wanted the title to remain.  This is only going to make her job more difficult.

Titles are normally not that important to a person if the opportunity, salary and benefits are aligned well.  Titles can often be changed down the road to better reflect the contribution, or an evolving role.  But when you are recruiting, they really should match the opportunity.  Attracting talent with a title is needed as we skim and scan open positions and yet what is the purpose if the talent walks away when they read the description?

Some companies under title their openings which can be just as dangerous.  If you are trying to hiring an experienced Learning Development Manager, that has both a training and organizational development background, listing the job as a “Training Specialist” doesn’t catch the eye of the people you need applying.

So rather than make this anymore than it is, my advice is to make sure the title and the job descriptions are in alignment.  Make sure the title is current to the industry and that it will attract the appropriate applicants.

Are You a Stupid Manager?

If asked if you are a stupid manager, could you admit that at times you have been?  I realize that coming to grips with doing stupid things in your role as a manager may be difficult, but it is a fact of life that we all have at one time or another done something like the following.

  • Have you ever called your manager and asked them to approve something you are fully empowered to do on your own?  If you have you are sending a clear signal you are in over your head.
  • Have you ever had questions about processes, decisions, or outcomes and sat silent during staff meetings and not ask a single question?  Enjoy your time in the dark, because you could have turned on the light switch and seen the light.
  • Have you ever talked about the performance of a staff member in front of another staff member?  If you have, this person is now wondering what you are saying about their performance in front of other employees.
  • Have you ever talked one talk, and walked another?  If so, you are sending mixed messages and by modeling, encouraged staff to do what you do, not what you say.
  • Do you lie to employees, and yet want them to be truthful to you?  If so, you are misguided to believe that they will be truthful.
  • Is your picture next to the word “Unethical” in the corporate dictionary?  If so, get it together and get honest.
  • Do you get upset when people miss deadlines, and yet you are the clog in the process that made them miss the deadline?  Often managers fail to see their role in a process, and if employees don’t feel comfortable reminding them everything comes to a stop.
  • Do you have an office snitch that you encourage to rat out their fellow employees?  How do you expect to build respect with staff?
  • Do you play favorites, even have a manager’s pet as one of your employees?  This creates friction with your staff and you, and the staff and this employee.  Thanks for making everyone’s work life a living hell!
  • Do you micro-manage staff and yet hate to be micro-managed?  Have you ever heard of the Golden Rule?

While I could go on for days, I sometimes wonder why so many managers do many of these items and claim to be successful?  It is human nature to slip up once in a while, but it should not be what you are known for.  There is more to managing than making your numbers and goals.  You are a manager because you are able to motivate and obtain optimal performance out of your team.  If you can’t do this, than step aside and give the honor of managing to someone who wants it.

Mergers Should Focus On Customer Service

Successful mergers and acquisitions hinge on maintaining or improving the current customer service being provided.  So why are so many mergers rough on both the employees and their customers?  The short answer is that the customer service experience is not part of the planning process.

When Company A decided to purchase through a merger or acquisition Company B, the focus needs to be on minimal disruption to the current customer service experience.  Having personally gone through more banking mergers as both employee and customer over the years than I care to admit, I can tell you that the successful ones remembered that the customer was in constant focus.

Decisions and plans need to always ask the question, what will this do to our customers?  Not only our current ones, but the new ones.  Yes, mergers have impacts on not only the new customers but the current ones too.  How will our decisions improve the experience, or will a decision create a less favorable experience?

The Role of HR & Training:

Now having spent much time in my career in HR and Training, we are the ones that focus on the employees.  Yet to use my connection to customers, let’s explore how these functions impact the customer experience.

What happens if our new employees feel disconnected, or a subclass citizen in the new organization?  If they are unhappy, you can count on that rubbing off on the customers.  Unhappy employees, equal unhappy customers, means customers will leave to the competition.  In the same understanding, many times when employees leave, their customers will follow.  In a bank merger, a major way to retain customers is to have very happy employees.  So don’t assume the acquired employees are grateful to having a job.  Maybe they were happy before you entered the scene, and now they don’t see any good in their future.  That is the function of HR to prevent from happening!

Now with any merger, new skills need to be acquired.  To continue with my banking example, new products need to be learned from both sets of current and future employees.  New employees need to learn new policies and systems.  Training must be thorough and delivered earlier to be learned, or the customer experience will suffer.  The learning process is more than a classroom experience, and training managers must map out a complete learning process and support system.  This is often the most unprepared department, and yet it is the favorite department to blame when things go wrong.

The Role of Management & Marketing:

In today’s technology age, I am just amazed how quickly the customer starts to evaluate whether they will remain or not.  With the introduction of something as simple as a website, customers of the acquired company can begin to research if the other company was one they would have done business with outside of this merger.  If that answer is no, often they start to change their relationships weeks after a merger is announced.  In the case of banking, accounts start to close with no one tracking why it is happening.

The reason I lump management into marketing, is that often senior leaders are talking with the public, press and the new employees.  When they have something constructive to say they are moving things in the right direction.  When they babble on about irrelevant things, and don’t know answers to simple questions, both employees and especially customers pick this up and start to be concerned.


My recommendation for any company that is planning to acquire or merge with another is simple.  Know what you plan to do for the entire merger process before you announce a merger.  HR should know how compensation and benefits will work.  Training should already have programs developed and ready to go.  IT should have a project plan for system conversions, and marketing should be in front of what the new experience will be.  Everyone that makes a decision should be asking, what will the new customers do with this information, and any negative reactions should prompt a second look.

Otherwise if you fail to focus on what the current and new customers will do, it really makes no sense to bother with the merger in the first place.