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How to Set Work/Life Boundaries that Work

The only job I’ve ever been fired from was at The Body Shop, and I totally deserved it. In my last year of high school I had enough credits to need only a handful of classes, so I got two retail jobs at the local mall to pay for car insurance and cigarettes (gross, I know). The Body Shop was a tight-knit collective of diligent young women who seemed to re-invest most of their paycheques back into Body Shop products. They loved the ethos of the company, and completed intensive product knowledge training that allowed them to chirpily recite the ingredients on demand for any one of our vast array of aromatic offerings.

I did not fit in.

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When Are Subcultures in Your Organization a Problem?

A major challenge of talking about something as complex as culture is that we have to be reductive to be succinct. Something as layered, nuanced, and invisible would take ages to accurately convey (if we could even put it into words), but often, we try to distill it into a soundbite. A few key words or phrases that we think make our organization distinct from the average company.

“Keep learning. Explore crazy ideas”

“The Customer is Not Always Right”

“Warrior Spirit; Servant’s Heart, Fun-luving Attitude” (Note: Guys, I just found out these are actually Southwest Airlines’ values and I can’t even)

Although most organizations talk about their cultures as being unique and monolithic (that is, consistent throughout the organization, which is often an unstated assumption underlying the practice of hiring for ‘culture fit’), this is rarely the case.

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Reflecting on 100 Talent Vanguard Posts

I really try not to blog about blogging, because there are far more interesting things to blog about. However, I’m going to ask you to indulge me today in light of the fact that I published my 100th post here on Talent Vanguard this week .

As part of my 5 week countdown, I’ve been sharing my top 5 most-read posts of all time, and some that I liked, but which failed to attract a lot of readers.  Here they are:

Most Read

  1. HR Capacity Building – January 2013 (by quite a large margin, my most read ever)
  2. HR’s Future: People Persons Need Not Apply – May 2013
  3. HR’s Sloppy Thinking on Culture – December 2012
  4. Utopia, Dystopia, and the Future of Work – March 2013
  5. HR and the Myth of Best Practices – January 2013

Less Read (but possibly worth your time)

  1. Stop Hacking Your Productivity – June 2017
  2. Organizational Plumbers – October 2013
  3. HR and the Art of Oppression – April 2013
  4. HR: Organizational Cheerleader or Agony Aunt – December 2014
  5. Message in a Bottle – October 2013

On Writing Talent Vanguard

I started blogging back in 2012, when it was a lot cooler to blog about HR, or blog in general. It’s taken me a while to hit 100 posts, mostly because I nearly stopped publishing for a couple of years. I started 2017 in a new role, with a goal to rededicate myself to writing as a deliberate and regular practice. To keep myself accountable, in January I publicly shared that I’d be posting something every week, on Sunday night.

I’m pleased to say that I’ve kept that commitment, missing only one week due to an unexpected emergency in February.  I’d love to tell you that I treat writing like the craft it is, and have some kind of ritual or process. The truth is I have no shortage of ideas and all of them are really hard to get out my head into words that make some kind of sense to other people.  I record ideas or links into Evernote (which I’ve used for years and think of as my second brain), and compose on the computer (sometimes right into WordPress). Although I have aspirations to start writing earlier in the week, I often start writing my post on Sunday, sometimes finishing moments before I hit publish in a race against the clock.

Every writer I admire says pretty much the same thing: you have to practice, a lot. Blogging this way, non-negotiably, every week has definitely improved my ability to generate ideas, and I have increased my writing speed significantly. That’s great, except that I was slow AF to begin with, so now I suspect I am only slightly slower than average. Lots of edits. Once it’s published I can’t read it again otherwise I feel compelled to keep changing it.

My early days of blogging led me to connect with many other wonderful HR people, which I am incredibly grateful for. I still connect with people through writing, but it felt more like a community back then, and I can’t tell if it’s changed, or I have.

I constantly have to fight my tendency towards ‘post creep’ (is that a thing? I maybe just made that up), where I want to connect an idea to others, or think more broadly about something…and then it becomes bigger and bigger and gets lodged in my brain because it’s too big, and I give up on it. This has led me to notice how I do this in other aspects of my work too, and I’m trying to get better at starting out with smaller components, prototyping, removing false requirements and extraneous elements, not getting stuck.

I’m still really wordy…the most common constructive feedback I hear is that my posts are too long, and while I appreciate people caring enough to share that, I decided a while ago that sometimes that’s okay. I occasionally worry I seem negative, but I just tend to be more interested in reflecting on what’s not working and why, or what we’re accepting as true without thinking critically about whether it really is. Agreeing with people all the time is not the way to advance thinking about anything.

My posts sometimes attract several hundred readers (or in a handful of cases several thousand), and sometimes they barely hit a hundred. I’ve never been able to predict what will be most popular, and I try not to think about it much, instead just writing about what is most interesting to me at the moment. I try to avoid ‘clickbait’ (which to me means sensational or buzzword-titled posts designed to get views, rather than readers). I also frequently revisit topics (because I still find them interesting or I’ve changed my mind about them).

This year I deliberately pursued more speaking opportunities because I find it really scary in comparison to writing, and I’d like it to be less so. Writing a presentation or a talk is very different than writing a blog, so that’s been good learning too. Probably like a lot of introverts, I’m much more articulate in writing than in person, but I’m hoping I can close that gap with practice.

Well, this is the fastest post I’ve ever written and I’m going to just leave it as is. Apologies for any typos. And thank you for reading, whoever and wherever you are. It’s a strange and wonderful feeling to know that someone takes the time to look at something you’ve created, even if it’s just a little HR blog 🙂



Leadership Capacity and Constraint

“Leaders are made not born”.

We must believe this, since our organizations spend a staggering amount of money every year to improve the managerial and leadership skills of their employees.

We also place a high value on leadership as individuals, treating those recognized as great leaders with a kind of cultish reverence. Inspiring quotes about leadership abound on social platforms, often in the same intense language used to describe CrossFit.

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Countdown to Post 100: #2

This is it…the penultimate post in the countdown to #100. Without further ado, here is the second most read post on Talent Vanguard:

HR’s Future: ‘People Persons’ Need Not Apply – May 2013

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An HR Crisis: Harassment at Work

One way I gauge the degree to which the world is getting to me is how much my throat hurts. I’m an incurable jaw clencher and after a few days of upper and lower mandible warfare the tension spreads down the front of my neck until it feels like I’ve been strenuously holding in a scream, which sometimes I think I have been.

Reading the accounts of the many brave women coming forward to report that they experienced sexual harassment and mistreatment from Harvey Weinstein is both freshly devastating and oppressively familiar. We’ve been here. A lot.

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Countdown to My 100th Post: #3

Hi! We’re getting close now… a few short weeks until I hit post 100. Hope I don’t run out of ideas for 100 and just type “People are our most valuable asset” 100 times…

Anyway, I’m sharing my third most read post of all time this week. But I’m sort of cheating. This is the third most read post on this site, but back in 2012 Business Insider was re-publishing some of my posts (with more click-baity titles) and this one racked up over 10,000 views on their site (and some really nasty comments, because the internet, amirite?). On the other hand, I got more e-mail about this post than any other and it was all from lovely humans 🙂

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Reflection as a Discipline

Adaptive. Agile. Responsive.

Whether you believe that the world is changing faster than ever or not, I suspect there is near-universal agreement among leaders that organizations must become more nimble to succeed.

However, as is often the case, the desire for an organization to be something different seems to be strangely disconnected from the doing it will entail at the individual level. That is to say, adaptive and agile sound like fantastic destinations when considered in isolation from the daily practices required to get us there.

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The Countdown to my 100th Post Continues: #4

Hello again and happy Thursday. As part of the countdown to my 100th post (on October 29th), I’m sharing my top 5 most-read posts of all time, and a few that I really liked, but that hardly anyone else read.

Here’s my 4th most-read post of all time:

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Imagining HR’s Role in Our Digital Future

Last Monday I was part of a panel at an event titled “Keeping HR Human in a Digital World”. It was a great panel with diverse viewpoints and experience, and a lively audience that stuck around to ask questions and chat.

A question that wasn’t asked, but maybe should have been is:

“What do we even mean by ‘digital’?”

Certainly we all know the literal meaning of ‘digital’, and based on the discussion at this event, we definitely get that a digital world means one with lots of technology…but how is that different than last year, or 5 years ago, or even 10?

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