Why I don’t own our ‘Culture’…

Some thoughts I would share primarily with HR friends & acquaintances, but also for general leadership and workplace knowledge…

I have noticed a popular trend in the HR world. There are a lot of companies who have labeled their HR leaders and HR department as “people and culture” or just “culture”.  It has caused me to reflect on this practice and the role of HR professionals (regardless of what they are called).

On one hand, HUGE props to these companies who understand the importance of culture in the workplace.  To impact engagement, and ultimately overall business results, culture is a MUST.  It is an absolutely vital ingredient to success.  So that’s good.


As an HR professional and leader, I don’t want the word “culture” to ever be in my title.

Wait.  WHAT?

Why not?

Because, very simply…


We are all responsible for building it, guarding it, preserving it, and enhancing it through our actions and behaviors.  This is something that no one person – nor any single department – “owns”.  Everyone shares the responsibility equally, starting at the highest levels of every company.

Now let me be clear.  Because the focus of HR is people, I definitely feel our purpose in the company is to teach, drive, and motivate the behaviors that will build the culture (this starts with my own personal actions, to work and lead in a way that will enforce the culture established by the company).

I would be concerned that having the word “culture” in my job title or description may give others in the organization that they don’t need to act as owners and builders of culture.  It is extremely important for every person in the company to know they own and impact the culture (and ultimately the success) of the company.

Remember: #everyoneownsculture.

HR Professionals – please comment below!  I would love to hear your thoughts!

If you agree with this concept, how does it really play out in practice?

The single hardest thing about management…

Anyone who moves into a management position will tell you that at some point, things change.  Something clicks.  A switch flips.  Suddenly your job becomes much harder.  The problem is, it is really hard to identify why that happens, exactly.  After all, you have worked for managers before, and observed what they do (or didn’t do)… it isn’t that hard, right?  Well, or so you thought…

Then you got the big promotion.

Boom.  It all changed.  It all got WAY harder.  (maybe not immediately, but eventually it did…right?).

Why is this, exactly?

Simply put – because virtually nothing in management is black or white.

There is no simple formula for success as a manager.

Consider a few examples –

  1. A member of your team has lost all motivation and isn’t performing his job well.  A ‘prescription’ of how to cure this condition would be great.  Even the standard processes (call them performance management, or progressive discipline, or whatever…) are not completely black and white most of the time.  The most common answer becomes “it depends” – because there are so many reasons and factors and data points to consider.  There’s no magic switch to flip that will instantly motivate a person, unfortunately.
  2. Team meetings are a drag.  Everyone arrives late, people are totally disinterested, check their phones, or even create reasons (excuses) not to go.  But you know that an effective team meeting should be very important!  (and I agree with you)  So what do you do?  Is there a magic structure for meetings, or agenda to follow that will suddenly make them brilliant?  Sorry, nope.

…and the examples go on.  So many things that seem daunting, overwhelming, and frustrating are simply that way because they aren’t “black and white”.  There’s no simple solution.  Each will require a unique approach to solve them, completely different from what others may offer, and completely different from what you have done in the past.

So, what does this mean?

Well, it means that your success as a manager will depend on your ability to understand and evaluate each individual situation to decide on the best course of action.  It is HARD work.  It can be long, tedious, and frustrating.  There’s no magic bullet.

But understanding that there isn’t an easy answer is the first step.  You’ll stop looking for easy solutions, or waiting for a magic date to arrive when it all becomes easier.  It won’t.  You just need to roll up your sleeves and start doing work!

What do I do now? Continue reading

How to lead “Passionate” people

(Guest Author Tim Harris  for Real. Simple. Leadership.)

In my role as a Product Leader, I have the privilege to work with extremely talented product and engineering team members on a daily basis. In my experience, those that have a passion for the product they are working on are many times more effective than equally talented but less passionate team members. It’s important to note that when I say “passionate” I am aware that passion is displayed in many different ways.


Passion is a mystery to many leaders and one that many tend to avoid by saying “people either have it or they don’t.” I personally believe passion is controllable (in many circumstances) even though it is not something you can simply instill as a leader.

To me “controlling” passion is about creating an environment that fosters it and selecting the correct people to work in it.  There is a lot of talk about office environments, management structures, incentives, team dynamics, and the list goes on. All of these items are important but to me it’s all about passion. Another way to look at it is that passion is an outward representation of a truly proactive employee.

Leading and managing proactive employees is rewarding on many levels. You look great because your team performs so well but also these employees are actively looking for your guidance and support.

I am blessed to be a leader in a product organization where the roles require a proactive employee. You simply will not succeed in product management if you are not a self-starter and energized by what you are doing.

4 Steps in Leading Passionate Team Members:

  1. Understand what and why they are passionate.  It may be about the art of product management or it could be all about user experience or the product itself or a million other things. Take the time to figure it out.
  2. Set a vision and get out of the way.  Passionate employees need room. Don’t over manage. Stay in the loop so they have the air cover and backing they need but let them guide the ship.
  3. Help them succeed holistically. Never take your eye off what they want both short and long term. Help them by identifying projects or accomplishments they can work toward inside and outside their specific job function.
  4. Pay them fairly. Do not ever haggle over a few thousand dollars. Pay them fairly and never make promises you cannot deliver on. If possible financially reward them for their proactive actions.

Tim HarrisTim Harris is Vice President of Product at RizePoint.

Tim leverages nearly 20 years of cloud-solution product leadership to drive RizePoint’s industry-defining products. Harris joins RizePoint from inContact, where he was Vice President, Product Management and Principal Product Owner. There, he was responsible for ensuring the coordination and continued creation of a unified cloud platform. Prior to this, he was instrumental in the product development workflow for inContact in his roles as Sr. Director of Product Management, Sr. Director of Cloud Ecosystem, and Director of Cloud Solutions. Harris holds two patents related to Business Communication and Call Routing

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mitharris

Twitter: @mitharris


The Simplest Definition of ‘Engagement’

There has been a LOT of discussion about Employee Engagement.  Much research has been done about how engaged employees build culture, improve bottom line results, and contribute to the overall company success.  All really good stuff!

But the question is, how do I decide if my employees are engaged?  Is there simple thermometer I can use to tell how engaged my employees are?

The simplest version of employee engagement is this:

Engagement = discretionary effort.

Think about that for a moment.  What does ‘discretionary’ mean?  It is different than just ‘doing a great job’ or ‘doing what you’re asked’ or even ‘doing a great job when you’re asked’.  To me, true engagement occurs in the times when an employee can choose what they are doing.  

Try that out – see if you can identify employees who are more or less engaged by using ‘discretionary effort’ as a measuring stick.  When they are between tasks, or not up against a deadline, what do they do?  Do they jump right into social media for a break?  Do they chat with co-workers to kill time?  Do they spend large amounts of time in the break room or around the water cooler?  All of these things are fine, and important to balance out the work day… but when employees really have a choice, what do they do?

It is an interesting exercise, to either confirm or disprove what you already believe.

With this simple observation, you come to one of two conclusions:

First, an engaged employee.  Perfect!  They spend their discretionary time doing good things, helping others, contributing in various ways.  Awesome.  That’s what we want.

But the other alternative, an employee who is not engaged.  He/she spends discretionary time doing nothing (I would say a person not doing their job at all isn’t just a matter of engagement, but a performance problem – that’s a greater topic for a different day  #staytuned).

So what now?  How do you increase engagement?  Well, you can’t really

Well, you can’t really force someone to be engaged, it is definitely a choice they make on their own.  But you can provide the environment and contributors that help them get there.  The folks at DecisionWise have laid out a simple framework and explanation

The folks at DecisionWise have laid out a simple framework and explanation here.  I highly recommend it, once you’ve identified the engagement “temperature” and want to start moving things forward.

So what do you think?  Does the simple ‘thermometer’ definition of engagement match what you’ve seen?  Please share comments below!