Tag Archive for leadership

Running the Family Business

The GodfatherA bit of news came out last night about our beloved Saints. As reported by The Times-Picayune, “New Orleans Saints, Pelicans ownership shocker: wife Gayle, not granddaughter Rita, will control empire after Tom Benson dies.”

Of course, as with anything of this sort, there’s all manner of speculation. Did Rita want to eventually move the team out of New Orleans? Is Gayle (a much younger 3rd wife for Tom Benson) a gold-digger? How is Gayle going to run this show when her primary business achievement was having a failed interior design company?

This story will keep local tongues wagging for a bit and I anticipate a few Rita Benson-LeBlanc costumes at various Mardi Gras parades over the next several weeks.

This was, however, a not totally unexpected turn of events as Rita (#2 exec in the organization) had previously been placed (by her grandfather) on a 3-month administrative leave. Per NBC Sports:

In 2012, Rita Benson LeBlanc was removed from the football business due to concerns about her management style, which caused her to have 30 different assistants in six years.  In 2013, the NFL rejected a “poison pill” in coach Sean Payton’s new contract that allowed him to leave the team if Mickey Loomis no longer served as General Manager, based on the belief that Payton wanted Loomis to remain in place as a buffer between Payton and Rita Benson LeBlanc.

Oh Rita. That’s a new assistant every 2.4 months.

Can you imagine recruiting candidates for that gig? I’m quite sure it was initially fairly easy to get a candidate interested: “Hey Mary! How would you like to work for the Saints!?!!” “Oh Yes!!” (Mary had visions of running into Drew Brees in the hallway and sharing gossip at the water cooler with Reggie Bush).

But as the years went on and the revolving door of assistants swung wildly I’m sure it got harder and harder; New Orleans is a pretty small city after all. “Hey Mary! How would you like to work for the Saints!?!!” “Is this that job working for Rita? You must be joking; I’m not a masochist.”

(Over the years I’ve talked to and/or interviewed a good number of employees with the Saints organization; it’s a workplace like any other with some good and some bad. It’s certainly not a black & gold paradise.)

So as we wait for more details to emerge, I find it interesting that all stories, thus far, point to Rita’s leadership style as a key factor in these moves.

Not financial mismanagement; not the inability to negotiate and settle contracts. Nothing about her ineffectiveness to close business deals. (Although it was reported that she tended to regularly miss owner’s meetings and the like).

Leadership style.

Imagine the relief the current assistant must feel. She may even make it past the 2.4 month mark.



Diving Deep on Complacency

scuba diveComplacency: a feeling of being satisfied with how things are and not wanting to try to make them better; a complacent feeling or condition (Merriam-Webster) 


This week has turned into my week for writing about words/concepts that frequently make their way into the conversations held between HR folks and organizational managers.

One of the go-to-things we often say, particularly when an employee or group of employees, seem to lack zing-spirit-zip is “s/he just got really complacent.”

Yup. I’ve said it too.

And then, more likely than not, we go down one of two paths:

Path 1: We fall into the ‘Engagement’ rabbit hole (Let’s do a survey! Let’s put a ping pong table in the break room! Let’s survey again to see if employees are engaged now that they have a ping pong table!)

Path 2: We label the employee with a moniker which will, sadly, stick to her during the duration of her employment (She’s not a go-getter. He’s content to just do the minimum. They’ve all just retired-in-place.)

Heading down either path is not right. Or fair for that matter.

The step we often fail to take is diving down real deep to ascertain why, exactly, we have an employee or group of employees who have gotten into the mode of clock-in/clock-out and “just let me do my job.”

HR professionals and leaders who sit on high in a tower or segregate themselves behind walled-in offices need to do some pretty serious self reflection about the institutionalized dynamics that have become embedded over time. Employees may have moved into the complacent mode for any number of organizational reasons:

  • Lack of feedback from their supervisor or manager
  • Lack of communication across the entirety of the enterprise
  • Lack of clarity around the meaning and purpose of their actual work/job
  • Lack of recognition and appreciation
  • Lack of mechanisms to raise issues, solve problems, and have input on decisions that affect their job and/or scope of responsibility

I’ve seen all of these. I’m sure you have too.

Next time you’re quick to characterize an employee as non-motivated, lazy, or not-on-the-bus-with-the-rest-of-us…take some time to look beyond the surface.

Dive deep.

The Art of Leadership (Live) – #ILSHRM14

ART-word-friends-leaves-smallThe Illinois SHRM 2014 Annual Conference and Exposition (#ILSHRM14) kicked off this afternoon with a great pre-conference workshop – “The Art of Leadership” with Joe Gerstandt and Doug Shaw.

It was a wonderful afternoon exploring creativity and the possibilities that arise when we open our minds. Joe and Doug challenged us to consider what happens at the intersection of communication, style and intent. We sketched, we drew, and we laughed. We practiced storytelling techniques and we co-created. It was a safe, positive, encouraging environment and a super way to get our brains operating in a different manner than the way in which we often walk into a conference.

Joe pointed out that in HR we sometimes design things because they need to be done and not necessarily because we think through how they will work.  And as we moved through some ensuing exercises we saw how this plays out; when we change the dynamics of a group, or perhaps the messenger this can have an impact on not just the interaction but also on the end result.

The over riding takeaway that i got from the workshop was the need for those of us who work in HR to think about how we can ‘humanize” ( to shamelessly steal a word used by others) not just how we practice HR, but also how we operate as leaders…and co-workers to all the employees in our organizations.

After an exercise on using improv techniques (practicing “yes…and…”) at our tables, an attendee in the workshop pointed out that “building on the ideas of other people is much more difficult than disagreeing.”

Think about that. Whether you work in human resources or any other business function. Whether you are interacting with people on the job, in a volunteer organization or even, let’s face it, with friends and family.

Quite often, in a rush to get things done or with a personal desire to “sell our idea’ to all any who will listen, we perhaps move past both seeking support and being supportive … and right into battle mode. Winning mode.

Is it wrong to want to be victorious? Of course not. But it’s not just about “winner takes all.”

Winners can share; stories, emotions, ideas, and support.

And so can leaders.


image credit via Art is A Way

Building Effective HR and Manager Partnerships

cherriesHR professionals are responsible for aligning HR objectives with business objectives; devising the underlying people strategies that support the attainment of business goals.

This requires that we not only continuously analyze trends and metrics with a focus on developing solutions but also that we’re adept at relationship building in order to gain support and achieve results.  These relationships – these partnerships – are critical and we need to understand that we cannot possibly get stuff done without them!

After all, while there may be day-to-day HR tasks and deliverables we’re responsible for, and we may serve as a liaison between internal Centers of Excellence, our primary role is to deliver state of the art HR to our internal clients – whether that be across the enterprise or to a specific line of business we support.

The key for ANY of these HR/Manager relationships is working together to envision, develop and implement strategies that address competitive – and often complex – business issues. We must develop a shared understanding and commitment to:

  • WHERE we’re going
  • WHAT we’re trying to achieve
  • our PLAN for getting there

Of course we’ve known for some time what needs to happen across the HR spectrum: we need to develop deeper business acumen, strengthen our analytical skills, serve as performance advisors and – in many respects – evolve our thinking of WHAT the workforce needs are today.

We also need to be proactive in uncovering and identifying the needs within our organization and we must understand how everything we traditionally do (talent attraction, performance management, cultural socialization, total compensation and rewards) connects – as well as the critical role managers play in these function that have traditionally resided only in human resources.

Once we demonstrate our capabilities in these areas and build credibility by solving problems and delivering results then it’s time to commit to bringing our managers/partners with us so that we can transform these relationships into true partnerships.

I’ll be leading a webinar on July 10th for the Talent Management Alliance“Building Effective HRBP and Manager Partnerships for Organizational Success” where we’ll discuss the opportunities that HR professionals have for growing understanding – and building partnerships – with managers.  Specifically we’ll take a look at the talent management cycle and discuss how HR professionals can support effectiveness across the entire employee lifecycle and strengthen their visibility as strategic partners/advisors by demonstrating business acumen and workforce management knowledge while effectively creating, innovating, analyzing and providing leadership.

I hope you’ll join us!