Confidentially Speaking…

Edward Snowden. Ever heard of the guy? 🙂 I realize his story isn’t as juicy as Kanye & Kim’s practical baby-joke (that’s not really the name, is it?) or Paula Deen trampling on the legacy of Medgar Evers, but still…something about “leaking” confidential information about our country’s surveillance activities seems worthy of a discussion.

History will tell us whether Mr. Snowden will be remembered as Guy Fawkes or Julius Rosenberg, but at the heart of his story is a very basic question of ethical behavior.

add glasses & a bad haircut...
add glasses & a bad haircut…

I’m not encouraging an e-flaming session regarding rights to privacy, I still think this ball of twine is unraveling. I do think notice has been served to anyone paying attention ~ NO information is truly private. In your personal life, you may have been hacked (I have), trolled, duped, or otherwise harassed online, but there’s also been a criminal (or at the very least negative perception & reaction) to anyone accessing information that doesn’t belong to him or her.

Now, it seems that same behavior is looked at through a different lens ~ individuals like Snowden operate under a self-assumed role of public defender. In the case of Mr. Snowden, he did so as an employee of the people he chose to compromise.

This may be our generation’s new version of revolution; the “99 percent” movement lost steam but showed the power of social media in a coordinated rebellion. With Snowden, you have other “leakers” (including the Godfather of “leakers, Julian Assange) and supporters attempting to raise money for a fugitive by using the same social tools. Think of it; “fund-raisers for fugitives” in the light of day.

Think of this in the context of Human Resources – an employee delivers to you a classified file of information describing some intrusive activities of Senior Management; do you provide safe harbor?

 

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); HR Hardball™ is a blunt, self-aware, and sometimes snarky perspective of Human Resources

 

4 More HR Career Tips

So, you want a career in Human Resources? I have to be honest; it’s not something I would have answered in the affirmative had you asked me 20 years ago. Around that time, I was still trying to figure out a career in sales, training, management, or extended walkabout – none of which materialized. Then, to prove God has a sense of humor, I landed in Human Resources. The closest I can come to describing the irony is to imagine Eric Stratton assuming the role of HR Executive. Needless to say, there was an adjustment period with a few lessons learned along the way.

"Trust me...I'm in HR."
“Trust me…I’m in HR.”

Based on what must now be considered an actual career path, it seemed appropriate to highlight a few items that I’ve picked up along the way. Things that are common knowledge and/or obvious traits of this career may still elude those fine young minds deliberating the next 20 years of their own lives, so….

  1. Wearing a badge don’t make you the Sheriff ~ Do yourself a favor and lean on your common sense rather than the Employee Handbook. You have an obligation to the company, but you are NOT corporate security. Cops don’t get invited to side-bar discussions, be known for a steady hand rather than a quick trigger.
  2. PHR/SPHR may not mean jack-squat ~ Don’t ask this at a SHRM meeting, but do ask your business associates who are not in Human Resources; “Does a PHR certification make a difference to you?” The definition of “trolling” on HR discussion boards is to lob this grenade to the masses and see the gnashing of teeth. Do your own research, then decide, but in the beginning of your career it definitely provides a template for learning. Don’t expect the designation to make you any better at your job, but a lot of people love to have acronyms after their name, so there’s that.
  3. Generally Speaking ~ Human Resources has several offerings that make natural targets for external outsourcing; Staffing, Organizational Development, and Compensation are commonly supplemented (or outright managed) by external consultants. One bi-product of this is the ability to find work external to corporate life (i.e., go on your own) with a focus. HR Generalists have a harder time doing so, but tend to stick around in the corporate environment more easily. If you are a Specialist, make sure your external network is constantly in a growth mode. You’re SG&A, baby, so be prepared for that next gig. If you’re a Generalist, make buddies at Deloitte.
  4. A tree falling in the forest ~ Question: If an HR Business Partner gives solid advice to an internal client who fails to act upon said advice, does it make a sound? We advise, we influence, we finesse, we suggest, we warn – but never confuse those active verbs with scope of authority. That can lead to some frustration, but it’s a part of the job; as you mature in the role, you may even find that your advice was better off ignored, so make sure you pay attention to both outcomes. In a corporate environment, “told ya so” is not an appreciated attitude in HR, so remain humble.

Not a comprehensive list, as there’s hundreds of nuggets out there waiting to be shared ~ these are a few I would have appreciated as a newbie, but then again it’s the bumps and bruises that teach us the lessons we rarely forget.

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); HR Hardball™ is a blunt, self-aware, and sometimes snarky perspective of Human Resources. 

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Human Resources and Paula Deen

Warning, Toxic Material contained within….

"Don't you ignore me, Mister!"
“Don’t you ignore me, Mister!”

Paula, Paula, Paula…good gravy, could you have possibly stepped on a bigger land mine? In a news cycle that sees Eric Snowden on the run from the U.S. Gov’t for “leaking,” a cartoonish chef’s buffoonery usurps national security in terms of public scrutiny. Until now, my only real awareness of Paula Deen has been the occasional glance at the Express Line magazine rack, shielding my eyes from her unnaturally fluorescent teeth. But boy howdy, she’s a known quantity now.

The Food Network had no real option here; we are, after all, talking about a business model that depends on public opinion. Paula’s folksy Southern charm became a liability the minute she opened her pie-hole, and then she made the mistake of continuing to shovel her way out of the pit. It did get me thinking, however, about this same situation translated into an internal corporate Employee Relations investigation.

This is less a question of opinion than it is a reality check – as HR Business Partners or Employee Relations “experts,” we’ve all been involved in employee complaints/investigations that exposed unseemly behavior. Some of those incidents involve leadership at the senior level of a company, similar to the status of Miss Dean, or the individual is a rain-maker, i.e. “they put bricks in the building.”

Many times, as some of you well know, these situations get a lot of personal attention from levels of management that may not normally be involved. I can recall more than one occasion where an investigation pointed to unacceptable behavior by a senior-level leader, the result of which is a spotlight shining on all those involved ~ these are opportunities to show your mettle as an HR professional, right? Unbiased, objective recommendations based on the facts of your findings.

But what if your recommendations are ignored?

Paula Deen had the opportunity to settle this matter out of court. She had time to prepare for a deposition. She has the resources to hire the best publicists and coaches money can buy…how the hell did this happen? I can tell you this, whatever guidance she did receive (and we know she did) about the seriousness of the matter was either faulty (I doubt it) or ignored (more likely).

If you’ve been in HR for any length of time, chances are you’ve been there ~ you discover the terrible nature of the offense, then watch as your recommendation is marginalized or ignored. Fact is, the top dawgs are often bullet-proof from such matters – a slap on the wrist, formal warning, public apology, etc. ~ but occasionally, someone catches it right on the backside.

If you were Miss Deen’s HRBP, what would your recommendation have been? Assuming it was different than the tact she did choose, there is an even more important question – how do you make her listen?

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); HR Hardball™ is a blunt, self-aware, and sometimes snarky perspective of Human Resources. 

I Love Hot Dogs (and Mergers)

"If you only knew."
“If you only knew.”

Yup, I love the frankfurter…which is why I’ve never desired to see how a hot dog is actually made. It’s much cleaner and easier to ingest if you are only a witness to the final product.

And, that, my friends, is why it’s best to not see behind the curtain during the merger integration process. The actual “deal” part of Mergers & Acquisitions is a fascinating, tactical, financial, and (for the most part) de-sensitized game of high-stakes haggling. But the “people” piece of the business…well, let’s just say that ugliness abounds.

There are no victimless mergers. When the shoe finally drops and the integration process begins in earnest, there will be bodies in the wake. As I tell my clients and colleagues experiencing this piece of the business life-cycle, “these are times that call for heroes” – but in most cases, the heroic behavior comes on the tails of unproductive and selfish behavior. As humans, we are wired for self-preservation – first & foremost, our instinct is to watch out for our own ass, find safe harbor, and only then will we peek around the corner to check on the rest of the clan. There’s nothing wrong with that response – it is what it is, and it’s predictable – but until we make the choice to run back into the fray, there’s going to be some very unsightly behavior.

(**That’s why the US Marines ad campaign is so brilliant, they’re the ones running toward the danger)

We know it’s coming, right? Livelihoods are going to be threatened. Egos are going to be kicked in the jewels. Retirements, family vacations, 529 Plans, food, and freedom all face the prospect of being compromised or eliminated – reputations, relationships, responsibility [*that’s for Mrs. Enoch, my 4th grade English teacher, love that alliteration] and self-respect, all exposed! We know it’s coming! And yet….it happens in every integration.

Because we can’t prevent humans from being human, we can only try to moderate the behavior. The mindset needs to be focused on minimizing the time frame where this behavior is prevalent. We can’t prevent, but we can prepare. Communicate with your employees as adults; empathize, show dignity, honesty, and respect. It’s still going to be a mess, but it can be a short mess.

It’s unfortunate, but you can’t make a hot dog without scraping the floors to collect the snouts, lips, and “other” [don’t make me say it] pieces of the pig. The product in the end is quite delicious, despite the rather despicable process. At the very least, treat the pig right.

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); HR Hardball™ is a blunt, self-aware, and sometimes snarky perspective of Human Resources, business, and people in general. 

Culture of One

Culture of One” – is that a cool brand or what? Sounds so Highlander-ish (if you don’t get the reference, ask an old person like me). Brings to mind the donning of a cloak, sacred chanting, and the possible inclusion of a scepter.

I’m still defining the breadth of the term, but to me “Culture of One” is the professional version of personal accountability and sphere of influence. There is so little we can actually control, agreed? We may, at times, be sucked into an illusion of control, but these moments are brief and usually transactional.

Your employer, to some degree, has the same tenuous grasp on control. Corporate missions, value statements, vision statements, and culture initiatives all serve to construct the parameters of acceptable and/or desired behavior. We invariably adapt as individuals, but the expectation is that we will align with the corporate structure. So what happens when the company is turned on its respective ear? As an example, what happens when the company you know becomes the “acquisition” piece of “M&A?”

Where does the list end? But for the purposes of “CO1” [now branding the brand, I’m on fire] it becomes a true litmus test of your make-up. Who are you? As a new company emerges from an acquisition, it’s critical that you come to clear & immediate terms with these facts:

  • Things are not the same. The company and culture you knew is gone.
  • Despite appearances, you just assumed more control of your career.

Could be a reach, but let me explain. When a merger occurs, you see one of three responses:

  1. Run silent, run deep ~ These are the people who do their best to become invisible, hoping to be spared.
  2. Play the game ~ You know these folks, right? They work harder at knowing who to connect with than they do at any job-related skill.
  3. Have fun with it ~ Ridiculous, right? Not necessarily, but the impact of your attitude is a proven commodity. Being positive, charging forward, and embracing the opportunity gives you the best chance to succeed.

This is your moment ~ my Pop had a saying, “You don’t know what’s in a tube until you squeeze it.” So think of the awakening you’ll have as you not only discover more about yourself, but of your colleagues as well. Who’s politicking? Who’s plotting? Who’s sucking up?  You’ll soon find out, and you’ll be able to see the stuff inside your own “tube” as well.

"Come on out, I know you're in there."
“Come on out, I know you’re in there.”

“Culture of One” ~ Yeah! Branding, brand-ING, brand-ING! This is the fun part – this is when you find out what your culture is made of – after all, you do have a choice in this matter. It’s not a novel or even particularly clever concept, but it’s a reminder for any of us who are shaken by a change or even the threat of change. What are your values? What is your mission statement? Vision statement?

So, my cover is blown…”Culture of One” isn’t Marcus Buckingham‘s new revelation, it’s a common-sense mindset you can adopt to make change a manageable (not controllable) event.

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); HR Hardball™ is a blunt, self-aware, and sometimes snarky perspective of Human Resources.

 

Dads Do the Funniest Things

For my sons Jack and Cooper ~

Okay kids, it’s Father’s Day weekend, so it’s time for another story from the Old Man. Whenever you find yourself feeling embarrassed, whenever you feel as if you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, read this story & realize you came by it honestly ~ your Pop passed it along to you.:)

The year is 1999, the location is the “campus” headquarters of my employer (1996-2006) Alcon Laboratories in Ft. Worth, TX. At the time, I was still managing a large chunk of the internal recruiting suite, so each and every day was similar in one respect – it was a 12-hour fire drill.

So, as was wont to happen (who am I kidding, it still happens,) I was completely oblivious to my next scheduled meeting until a reminder “pinged” me on my computer screen. I quickly glanced at the reminder, and, with roughly five minutes to spare, I had to get to the other side of campus to be on time for somebody’s idea of a necessary Staffing Update meeting.

Hurriedly “jalking” (that’s when you’re kinda jogging, kinda walking, failing to look cool at either), I managed to sneak in the door just as it closed and plant myself in the closest (and only) seat available. It took me a few seconds of fake note-taking to finally look up and engage in the meeting. It was then I noticed something strange:

  • I was in the wrong meeting (“Oh turds.”)
  • Everyone was in suit & tie, I was in khakis and a golf shirt (“Oh double turds”.)
  • Everyone in the meeting was SVP or above (I was a Recruiting Manager, (“Oh sh—————–t…”)

    Nothing says "I belong" quite like khakis...
    Nothing says “I belong” quite like khakis…

Yup – In a room set-up that featured four tables making a square, each with four seats filled with four people facing the four people sitting opposite them sat I – the jackass Recruiting Manager in Duckheads. I recognized one or two friendly faces, although the expressions I saw could be accurately described as “horrifyingly sympathetic” as in, “Poor kid, today’s the day his career died.”   Luckily for me, one of those familiar faces was the CIO, and he was sitting right next to me…he scribbled a note, “what are you DOING here?” 

I scribbled a note in response, Not sure, but I’ll give you $100 to pull the fire alarm.” He muffled a laugh with a cleverly disguised cough, and went back to the matter at hand.

After I managed to avoid eye contact for a sufficient amount of time, the meeting actually continued as if nothing was out of the ordinary. I nodded at appropriate times, made obvious notes when something profound was mentioned and basically blended into the group of 16 Brooks Brothers.

When the meeting adjourned, I can assure you a blue flame could be seen in my wake as I quickly jalked the hell out of there. Amazingly enough, it was only referenced again by the CIO, and that was in a few of our 1:1 meetings over the following weeks. He thought it was the funniest thing he’d ever seen and we both belly-laughed at the ridiculousness of the whole incident; but, even more importantly, this confirmed three life lessons that I will impart upon you both.

  1. Act like you own the place.
  2. Keep your sense of humor.
  3. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

Should be obvious how those would be relevant in the above scenario, but you’ll be amazed at how effective these simple reminders can be in any setting, be they personal or professional.

Love, Dad

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); more importantly, he’s the Dad of two awesome kiddos. 

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Human Resources on Steroids

Pretend for a minute there exists a supplement for increasing your corporate muscle. For grins, let’s call it “Gorilla Toe,” a powder made from the skeletal remains of the Great Apes, found in the mystic jungles that hold the ancient Gorilla Graveyard (shut up, it could happen).

Would you use it?

While we’re living in the hypothetical, what if you knew that “Gorilla Toe” was banned from use in your company, you would be subject to random testing, and being found out could jeopardize your career. Wouldja?

continuing….You’re absolutely certain the kid from Staffing is “using;” he filled 125 positions last Quarter and is being lauded as the Second Coming; furthermore, the HRBP for Finance is killing it with her team, conducting an entire organizational assessment and comp review in less than six months – there’s no way she’s not juicing. What to do, what to do….

performance-management-steroids-HR
I’m gonna performance manage all over your ass

Human Resources is an exceedingly difficult profession – there are fewer and fewer “sitting” HR jobs these days; you either learn to play businessman with the big boys & girls or you become expendable. That’s the nature of being SG&A. So, it’s only natural to look for the next “edge” ~ HR professionals on the wrong side of the desk may be pushed to consider stretching their comfort level to fend off a younger set of would-be replacements. It could be frightening to anyone in Human Resources (or any corporate function) to see the number of independent, technologically advanced specialists who are pushing the envelope as it relates to building a buffed-up HR. If forced to play “catch-up,” it may be a battle that is futile.

When I read about another professional athlete implicated in a steroid/hormone/supplement scandal, these are the questions that run through my head – would I? I’d like to think not – but what if those around me, with lesser skills and abilities, began out-producing me based on the extra boost?

It’s not apples to apples, but it’s not outside of the imagination to consider the scenario playing out in the future. There may even be trailblazers among us right now – I’m making the odds 3:2 that Kris Dunn is juicing…just look at those pecs!

 

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder and OH (Original Hardballer); HR Hardball™ is a blunt, self-aware, and sometimes snarky perspective of Human Resources. 

 

 

The Culture of Defining Culture – Human Resources

My friend Adrian Wood, Grand Poobah over at Shadowmatch USA, has been kind enough to allow me to post one of his offerings for your enjoyment. Wait…what? – JW

Please use the correct towels
Please use the correct towels

Read any HR journal today and you’ll nearly always find some article going on about the importance of “culture” within an organization. Either it’s the quest to understand the culture, the need to change it, or the process of finding out if employees fit it. I’m afraid though that people have become so entangled in the trying to define their culture, that they’ve completely forgotten to think about what it actually is, and whether they have really missed the whole point about exactly what they’re trying to measure!

So, what is culture? It has numerous definitions, but setting aside the definition that describes what’s growing at the back of your fridge, the best for our purposes is “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization”.

It turns out though that an organization, like a living organism, is made up of many component parts that all do their special job in their own special way, and require their own special environment to do it just right. As an analogy: we call ourselves “tactile” humans, but there’s a reason why I have hundreds more times as many nerve endings in my fingers than on my back, and that’s because it’s inconvenient to take off my shirt and roll around on fruit at the grocery store to see if it’s ripe enough to eat. Teams within companies are the same, they need to have specialized attributes and skills and behaviors because that’s what makes them so good at what they do in their specific role and environment. Therefore, I don’t believe you can aggregate all the different nuances up to a higher level and have it still be meaningful.

Every different team in a company has, by right and necessity, the ability and need to define it’s own sub-culture. I really don’t want my Accounts Receivables team to be as radically innovative as my strategy team. I kind-of just want them to be predictably accurate and methodical about getting people who owe us money to pay on time, and send a flare up if they suddenly decide not to pay us. Likewise, I don’t want my strategy team to be highly disciplined and organized. I need them to be kind of goofy free-radicals that exist on diets of red-bull and don’t mind upsetting the applecart in order to realize something new and exciting. For these groups to share the same culture would be terrible.  Change would be non-existent, or payments would be recorded in twenty different ways according to the corresponding meteorological patterns.

The term culture becomes even more foreboding when used in the process of company mergers. “What if they have a different culture than us?” and, “What if we lose our culture after the merger?” Talk about fatalism and self-fulfilling prophecies! Guess what; they’re going to have as many different sub-cultures as you do, so you had better get on with embracing that fact and figuring out exactly what they are because where the rubber hits the road is where the specific sub-culture of their AR team is different from your AR team, or the sub-culture of their strategy team is different from your strategy team. Now those ARE problems of difference in culture that you will have to address because these teams will not integrate easily and you’ll end up with no payments or strategy as a result.

Yes, of course you can say that a company has an overall culture of “customer satisfaction”, or “operational excellence”, but really – how each team does this is going to be unique to their role and responsibilities. It’s good in principle, but misses the importance of what the specific actions and behaviors are that the teams need to exhibit to actually accomplish them.

So if you would like to know what the culture of your company is, then I’d have to say we can’t really help you. BUT, if you really want to know the culture of some of the key teams in your organization, and how it helps them accomplish their goals, then we have your answer.

There now, that wasn’t so painful, was it? Check out Adrian and his mates, www.ShadowmatchUSA.com – Interested in guest blogging? I’m now on record as being unopposed to reviewing a submission should you be moved to share a post!

The Costanza Principle of Communication

"And I'm kinda engaged."
“And I’m kinda engaged.”

“Jerry remember; It’s not a lie if you believe it.” – George Costanza (Jason Alexander)

Why do we do it? Half-truths, soft-sells, euphemisms, white lies, and whoppers. Some do it more than others; some are more comfortable doing it than others, but we are all guilty of telling lies. Removing sociopaths from the equation, you can narrow down 99% of lies down to four basic reasons:

  1. We don’t want to get in trouble.
  2. We don’t want to be embarrassed.
  3. We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.
  4. We want to exaggerate our accomplishments.

It’s really no more complicated than that, even if we like to paint ourselves as “above” this kind of behavior. When you detect less than forthcoming information, these are your options for defining the motivation behind the deceit. And, since we spend more & more of our time at work, we are more likely to hear some current corporate “whoppers”:

  • We are a performance-based culture.” – Well, maybe in theory, but in practice….? Meh. It’s a reality that some people will be judged by a different scale. Personal bias, empathy, absence of management, and/or a lack of any meaningful differentiation make this statement (often times, not always) ring hollow.
  • We don’t expect any significant changes.” – Uh oh. This is the corporate equivalent for those times your wife says “Nothing’s wrong;” it may not be now, but at some point that statement points to bad things ahead.
  • We empower every employee.” – Most HR people are familiar with the success stories of SW Airlines, Pizza Hut, Xerox, and a few others who created a true culture of employee empowerment. We all know those stories b/c they are the exception, not the rule. It’s a major commitment to relinquish decision-making power, so be wary of anyone who is saying this rather than practicing this.
  • “_______________” – This is the sound of silence. Easily the most frequent abuse of truthful communication. Leadership is usually hesitant, as opposed to deliberately deceitful, but the employee interpretation often make the two indistinguishable. We are trained to be especially attentive to blackouts in communication as a sign of impending bad news.
  • We are not just a company, we’re a family.” – Let me clarify that I don’t necessarily think this is an intentional lie, but a hopeful disillusionment. Remember, your company (no matter how it is phrased) does not love you. That’s why they pay you instead of hug you.

You can only control your own behavior; so, as you consider your next rationalization, “spin,” or political response, choose instead to tell the truth.

Even George Costanza recognizes the value of “doing the opposite.”

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder of the HR Hardball™ Straight talk, no-nonsense approach to workplace issues. 

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3 Leadership Lessons from Iron Man 3

*****Spoilers contained within, proceed at your own risk*****

 

As a kid, I was a comic book freak. Batman, Daredevil, Spiderman, Green Lantern, Fantastic Four, the Flash (what the hell ever happened to the Flash????), Aquaman, Captain America, and, of course, Iron Man. How could you not love comics? Save the girl, save the city, be forever equipped with brilliant snarkiness, and the awesome costumes….oh man, I loved the costumes [there was a brief time of my life when my greatest desire was to wear a cape and tights, but I digress]. Again I say, how could you not love comics?

I’ve grown up (no comments) and so have my comic book heroes – with varying degrees of success. Spiderman is a geek, Batman is a psychopath, Superman is duller than dirt, Thor is a meathead, Green Lantern is gay (yup, check it out), Aquaman and Flash disappeared, and most tragically – Daredevil is Ben Affleck…oh, the humanity.

But there has been one breakout star.

Ironman. Thanks to the brilliance of Robert Downey, Jr. and the advent of CGI, everyone loves Ironman. My wife couldn’t wait to see “Ironman 3″…that, in itself, is the most telling revelation in the popularity of Mr. Ironpants.

For me, the magic appeal of superheroes left long ago (Clooney as Batman sealed it), but for life lessons

The Original Iron Man..."Bully!"
The Original Iron Man…”Bully!”

you could do a lot worse. In terms of leadership, the flying Tin Can provides some exceptional nuggets of wisdom:

  1. Keep your Powder Dry ~ Cool and cocky, Tony Stark (secret identity, neophytes) rarely rattles. Until, that is, his button gets pushed by a hippie terrorist named “The Mandarin.” Threats are made, chests are puffed up, tempers are lost, cliff-side houses are scud-missled into the Pacific ~ you see this same story repeated all the time.
  2. Occasionally step away from the whirlwind ~ Forced to leave the chaos of his normal environment, Mr. Stark visits the sticks of Tennessee. A mansion with robot-servants is replaced by a garage apartment and wise-a** 9-year old. It’s in this unpolished condition Stark is able to see the situation more clearly, recooperate, and re-establish. Get out of the bubble, decompress, gain perspective.
  3. A dose of humility never hurts ~ Robert Downey, Jr. was made for this role…life imitates fiction, and here’s a guy who, despite immense talent, had been my generation’s version of Lindsey Lohan, minus the idiot parents. Tony Stark, despite money, wealth, fame, privilege, and Gwyneth, can’t shut up long enough to count his blessings. Humble pie, when served, can cause a time of reflection, change, and (hopefully) redemption. Luckily for Tony (and Downey), he lived to learn the lesson.

Okay, so there’s probably more classical leadership lessons at Kellogg, but my rates are way more reasonable. Like most of you, I find myself finding (if not actively looking for) these small but recognizable metaphors. If they come with a large popcorn, all the better.

John “Whit” Whitaker is Founder of the HR Hardball™ Straight talk, no-nonsense approach to workplace issues. 

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