Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Conversation Company, by Steven Van Belleghem

Social media are a powerful communication tool, only if used as part of a broader strategy focusing on your culture and your people.

From the Checklist Mentality to the Conversation Company

At the end of 2012, who doesn't know that social media are a must for every company that is serious about its communication?

Many company leaders create a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a mobile app, and think they are done. That's what Van Belleghem calls the “checklist mentality”. It's useless.

Social media are just a place, among others, to manage conversations.

Managing conversations is about much more than a good old marketing campaign with a Facebook logo on it. It means:

  • Paying attention to what people say online about your brand and responding in a positive and appropriate manner.
  • Uncovering your unused conversation potential: what do you do to help your very satisfied customers spread the word?
  • Building a conversation-worthy experience at every phase of the purchase process.
  • Innovating in the use of a wide range of media: this includes your monthly invoices and out-of-office messages.
  • Using conversations with the customer to nurture every step of your production process, starting with R&D.
  • Transforming your employees into ambassadors: they are probably proud of your company (if they aren't, you've got a serious HR problem...).

Culture, People and Social Media

Van Belleghem also explains that your corporate culture, including its core values, will determine the content and the style of your conversations.

And only your employees can make your culture tangible.

An authentic culture, a strong and positive identity: here's the link between internal and external communication, with social media as a powerful lever.

In another book, somewhat more academic, Graeme MARTIN and Susan HETRICK also emphasized the need for consistency between brand reputation and corporate identity. (See my November 2011 post about “Corporate Reputations, Branding and People Management“).

Steven's strong data

As a Managing Partner at InSitesConsulting, an online market research agency, Van Belleghem was in a position to conduct serious research supporting the book, including:
  • The analysis of one million conversations on Twitter and Facebook fan pages
  • Two quantitative surveys
  • 25 in-depth interviews with company leaders
The book includes several case studies in every chapter and ends with a practical guide titled “How to Become a Conversation Company in Three Easy Steps”.


What's in It for HR?

I was personally planning an important recruitment campaign while reading the book. (I'm hiring 100 nurses). It gave me several new ideas and helped me find how to enlist my own employees as ambassadors for this campaign.

You'll also find the book useful if you are writing your organization's social media policy, or trying to convince your CEO to open her mind about social media in the workplace.

The book also illustrates very convincingly how HR is gradually blending with Marketing and Corporate Culture.

Book Data

Some months ago, HR Consultancy SD Worx invited me to an event in Brussels. I took a boat to a little island in the middle of a park. A bunch of white geese greeted me on arrival, scaring my little HR self. I wondered if I was at the right place. Then, Steven Van Belleghem took the microphone and made his point about the Conversation Company, and everything started to make sense in my little HR brain...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer

Developing a world-class selection process. Surviving cancer. What do these two accomplishments have in common?

Throughout the book, Jim Roddy doesn't talk a lot about his past illness. The point, in his own history, at which his personal and professional life collided is revealed only in one of the last chapters.

But his recruitment recruitment method requires a personality trait that is obviously necessary when you fight cancer: tenacity.

Only beginners and amateurish recruiters think that selection is primarily a matter of instinct and gut feelings. Real HR pros know that hiring the best requires rigorous, focused and repeated efforts.

As an executive in the publishing industry, the author draws the lessons from several years of recruiting. He explains in many details how to organize the recruitment process and how to ask questions. He shares his methods, stories, and even 258 interview questions.

Among his most original tools and useful ideas, are the following:

Focusing on aversions

Aversions are potential problems the interviewer thinks he could have with the candidate. In his hiring process, Jim Roddy reveals them transparently to the candidate and asks as many questions as necessary to discard any risk.

The questions are “behavioral”, based on the candidate's actual behavior in past circumstances.

Hiring for bench-strength

The author recommends to hire a person who has the potential to perform not only in the position you are filling at the moment, but also in positions one or two levels up. If you are looking for a salesman, ask yourself if he could one day be a good sales manager or sales director.

The emotional outcomes of an interview process

You don't want a candidate to leave the interview or the whole selection process with bad feelings about your company. The author explains how to make sure all potential hires find your organization professional and exciting.

Managing expectations

Many interviewees promise a lot during the selection phase, but might soon “forget” what they told you. The book shows how to transform vague promises into clear formal commitments.

The dinner interview

I'm really not sure this one would be well received in Europe, where we have a different culture, but I found it very interesting. At the end of the selection process, the recruiter invites the candidate and his or her spouse or “significant other” to the restaurant.

The decision to join a company will have consequences for the candidate's family. It is thus fair, and pragmatic, to recognize that the spouse should take part in the decision.

More interviews, more questions

One of Jim Roddy's motto's is: “A candidate who is not a definite 'no' is a 'yes' to bring back for another interview”. Each step of the selection process is a chance to discard aversions, or to discover new ones.

Where the usual interviewer asks one question, Jim Roddy asks two or three, just to be certain. One of his favorite is: “Can you give me another example?”.

Why? Because he doesn't want to take a risk. He recognizes selection as the key to his company's success. He hires like his company's life depended on it. This is the sense of “hiring like you just beat cancer”.  

Book Data

  • Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer - Hiring lessons, interview best practices, and recruiting strategies for managers from a cancer-surviving executive
  • By Jim RODDY, President of Jameson Publishing
  • Dog Ear Publishing
  • 163 pages
  • Available on Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer

Jim also posts great articles about recruiting on HR website

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Business Model Generation, by Osterwalder and Pigneur

Business Model Generation (cover)

Business Model Generation was recommended to me by Kate Griffiths-Lambe. An experienced HR professional based in London, Kate is currently the Head of Global HR at Stonehage. 

Business Model Generation teaches you how to analyze and create business models. A business model 'describes the rationale of how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value'.
The authors present a business model canvas made of nine building blocks:
  • Customer segments
  • Value propositions
  • Channels
  • Customer relationships
  • Revenue streams
  • Key resources
  • Key activities
  • Key partnerships
  • Cost structure

A Tool For Business Innovation

The book first helps you understand the model:
  • It defines each building block.
  • It explains the relationships between these blocks.
  • It illustrates it with numerous business cases and graphics.
Then, it describes five business model examples called 'patterns':
  • Unbundled business models
  • The long tail
  • Multi-sided platforms
  • FREE as business model
  • Open business models
But the main part of the book consists in a methodology to design business models. It is packed with tools about how to analyze strategic information, draw ideas, imagine scenarios, test prototypes and tell stories to sell them.

What's In It For HR Pros?

Like many of this blog's 'HR Books of The Month', this one isn't strictly about HR. However, HR pros will find it useful to enhance their management and business strategy skills.

When asked how this book was useful to our profession, Kate Griffiths-Lambe says:
"It's a good tool for determining how a business should operate and hence enabling HR focus on key areas to enhance performance. The book describes itself as "A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers" - all things that HR can and should be".

As strategic partners, HR leaders need to understand how their organization creates value. As change agents, they need to understand how business model innovation brings radical transformations to the way their company operates.

The book provides HR pros with the conceptual tools to understand how businesses will operate in the future.

Book Data

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Influencer - The Power To Change Anything

This book is recommended by Jason LAURITSEN, a former human resources executive turned consultant and keynote speaker.

In a July 2012 post about Tranforming HR, Jason wrote :
"The fourth rule of transforming human resources is to study sales.  If I had one wish for human resources as a profession, it would be that every human resources professional would get some sales training.  The skills of influence, negotiation and relationship building that are commonplace in sales would truly transform the effectiveness of HR within our organizations."
I couldn't agree more. HR people manage very tiny departments, frequently amounting to 1% or less of an organization's workforce. Obviously then, we can't rely only on hierarchical power to have a significant impact across the company. If we want to be change agents, we need to master influence.

Here's a short video illustrating the importance of combining several sources of influence to fix a single problem.

Not Just Verbal Persuasion

In the authors' view, you can fix every human problem if you manage to (a) identify and (b) change a set of vital behaviors.

The authors insist that Influence requires much more than verbal persuasion. For people to change their behavior, they need ability and motivation. As ability and motivation can each be fostered at the personal, social and structural level, there are six sources of influence you should make use of:

  1. Personal Motivation
You want people to change the way they behave. However, the expected new behavior isn't necessarily one they find desirable. How do you lead them to change their mind?
  • Get people to try the new behavior: they might find they like it although they thought they wouldn't.
  • Make it a game: they'll find pleasure in the mastery of ever-more challenging goals.
  • Help them connect the behavior with their moral values.
  • Spotlight the human consequences of their behavior.

  1. Personal Ability
  • Abilities are much less innate than we commonly imagine. Even willpower, or the ability to delay gratification, can be learned.
  • Elite performers of just about any field stand out not because of their genetic abilities, but by deliberate practice.
  • Simple practice is not enough to improve one's abilities. For example, when it comes to elite status, there is no correlation between time in the profession and performance levels. (A proposition many HR professionals will certainly find challenging.) The book offers several tips about how to make practice efficient.
  • Emotional intelligence is an important aspect of personal ability. Like other types of skills, it is learnable.
  • Complex interpersonal abilities, like leadership skills, can also be learned through deliberate practice.

    1. Social Motivation
    • The presence and behaviour of others plays a great role in one's behavior. Even the presence of just one peer makes a difference.
    • Formal and informal leaders are obviously those you need to reach first if you want to have an influence on a larger group.
    • This is also true when you are trying to change your own behavior. If you make a commitment and then share it with friends or colleagues, you will be much more likely to keep it.

    1. Social Ability
    • Social capital is “the profound enabling power of an essential network of relationships”.
    • Social capital is a powerful lever you can use in a number of cases, like :
      • When bad behavior is reinforced by a web of players
      • When you need to innovate
      • When you need real-time feedback from an expert (a powerful way to learn)

    1. Structural Motivation
    • Structural motivation refers to how you set up the system, the organizational rules, to motivate people.
    • Extrinsic rewards come third: intrinsic satisfaction and peer pressure are much more powerful. (See Daniel Pink's “DRIVE” for a more detailed analysis on the topic of motivation.)
    • Rewards can backfire: you need to use them wisely.
    • Symbolic rewards can be just as powerful as material ones.
    • It's important to reward vital behaviors, not just results. Reward effort, not outcome.
    • Punish only when all else fails. 

      1. Structural Ability
      • You can use things, the physical environment, to facilitate good behaviors and to make the wrong behaviors more difficult to enact.
      • Propinquity is the impact of space on relationships. For example, the frequency and quality of human interaction is largely a function of physical distance. Bad news if your desk is miles away from your manager's.

      Jason LAURITSEN says that “Influencer” is one of the books that have shaped his abilities and thinking around sales. I think it can also be very useful to HR professionals: among other things, it teaches a lot about learning, motivation, and teamwork.

      Book Data

      Tuesday, August 28, 2012

      Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman

      A few months ago, Rosalinda Hernández, Europe Talent Acquisition at Pepsico Europe, recommended me a great book called « Becoming a Resonant Leader ». I saw it as a practical guide about how do you use Daniel Goleman's theory of Emotional Intelligence to become an inspiring leader. Hence my curiosity to know more about this fascinating subject.

      Because Goleman's books have been highly influential among managers, you can hear many people talking about emotional intelligence, or “EQ”. I felt the need to understand what realities hide between this widespread expression.

      Based on scientific observations (neuroscience, experiments, field studies...), Goleman shows us :

      • How emotions work inside our brain
      • What are the elements of emotional intelligence
      • How the way we manage our emotions impacts our sentimental life, work performance and health
      • How emotional intelligence can be strengthened
      • Why and how it should be taught by teachers and parents

      How is this book useful to HR Professionals?

      The book reminds us that IQ is just one factor of professional success. When selecting future leaders, for example, we should not focus only on rational intelligence or technical mastery, but also on emotional skills like self-awareness, empathy, communication skills or even optimism.

      Another useful insight is that emotional intelligence is not a given for life, but can be improved. To me, this means that if we want to help our collaborators develop, we should use tools like 360° assessments, development centers or the Reflected Best Self in order to strengthen their self-awareness.

      The book contains a chapter called “Managing with Heart” that shows how emotional intelligence can make a positive impact on:
      • How to give feedback to employees
      • Dealing with diversity
      • Team performance
      This is only a tiny part of the book, though. If you are looking for something more directly linked to your professional practice, you should probably read more specific books by Daniel Goleman, like:


      Here's a video interview where Daniel Goleman talks about Emotional Intelligence and its impact in a work environment:

      Book Data

      To access great videos, books, blog articles by Daniel Goleman, you can also visit

      And on, you'll find audio, eBooks and great books about emotional intelligence, leadership, sustainability and mindfulness.

        Saturday, July 28, 2012

        Adapt, by Tim Harford

        ADAPT is about using failure in a positive way, in business or any other field of life. It shows how, facing unprecedented degrees of complexity, we should use evolutionary processes and start solving problems through trial and error.

        ADAPT provides diverse applications of the three “Palchinsky principles”:
        1. Seek out new ideas and try new things;
        2. When trying something new, do it on a scale where failure is survivable;
        3. Seek out feedback and learn from your mistakes as you go along.

        Here's a short video presenting the book:

        What's In It For HR Pros?

        When working in Organizational Design, Talent Management or Strategic HR, we often rely on certain hypotheses that find themselves seriously challenged by Tim HARFORD's views.

        Among these challenging points:
        • We badly need to believe in the potency of leaders. […] We have an inflated sense of what leadership can achieve in the modern world.
        • We tell ourselves a story about how change happens: that the solution to any problem is a new leader with a new strategy.[…] It is impossible to know in advance what the correct strategy will be.
        • Mos people overestimate the value of centralized knowledge, and tend to overlook 'knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place'. In other words, as organizations are confronted with a diverse, fast-moving range of markets, the advantage of decentralization, rapid adaptation to local circumstances, has grown.
        • You should not let people at the head office run the business.
        The book has a short (but interesting) chapter called “The Adaptive Organization”. In this part, HARFORD makes the case for innovative management practices, like:
        • Self-selecting teams, where colleagues vote to decide if a new employee will be kept after his trial period
        • Ambitious “refer a friend” recruiting schemes
        • Upside-down management (a form of empowerment)
        • Peer monitoring
        • The strategy of having no corporate strategy
        The last chapter, titled “Adapting and You”, offers uplifting views about personal development.

        Book Data

        To know more about the author, you can visit or follow him at @TimHarford

        Saturday, June 16, 2012

        The Fifth Discipline, by Peter Senge

        To survive and to thrive, organizations need to get a sense of how best to achieve their purpose. This is how Peter Senge defines learning.

        The process of organizational learning involves five disciplines.

        Rather than synthesizing Senge's views about each of them, I'd like to highlight just a few inspiring ideas.

        1. Personal Mastery

        • Organizational learning can't happen without individual learning.
        • Personal mastery is not an end, it's a process. It means continually expanding your ability to create the results in life you truly seek.
        • Happiness may be a result of living consistently with one's purpose.
        • The first step is to clarify your personal vision : to define what is important to you. (Note : some good books can help you do that : see « Total Leadership » and « Becoming a Resonant Leader »).
        • The second step is learning how to see current reality more clearly. It's a lifelong discipline that involves being constantly aware of your ignorance and your growth areas.
        • Development comes from then tension between vision and current reality.
        • You can't force someone to develop his or her personal mastery. As a leader, the best you can do is to be a model, by committing yourself to your own personal mastery.
        1. Mental Models

        • Mental models are internal images of how the world works. These deeply held images limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting.
        • Mental models are OK if they stay explicit and can be discussed. Problems arise when they become implicit.
        • One dangerous way of building mental models is called a leap of abstraction. It occurs when you take a limited amount of data and use it to build a general view. (Note : I'm afraid we HR people are specialized in leaps of abstraction. When recruiting, for example, just think of the way we draw conclusions about a candidate's personality).
        • A conversation can become a learning experience when there is a balance between inquiry (acknowledging that you may be wrong and really seeking the truth) and advocacy (explaining where your conclusions come from). Unfortunately, most managers are trained to be good advocates but not so good listeners.
        • One indicator of a team in trouble is when, in a long meeting, there are few questions.
        1. Building Shared Vision

        • A learning organization needs a shared vision. Vision provides focus and energy for learning.
        • A shared vision changes the relationship between an organization and its employees. It creates a sense of ownership.
        • Shared visions emerge from personal visions.
        • The first step to build a shared vision is to share one's personal vision and to encourage others to do the same.
        • Building shared vision is not a project. It's a never-ending task. It's part of a leader's daily work.
        • You can't “sell” someone a vision. You can't get another person to enroll or commit, because real commitment to the vision requires free choice.
        • Vision is the What. Purpose is the Why. Core values are the How.
        1. Team Learning

        • Team learning is the process of aligning and developing the capacity of a team to create the results its members truly desire.
        • Dialogue and discussion are different and both are necessary. Dialogue means exploring together complex and subtle issues by listening to one another and suspending one's own views. Discussion means presenting and defending competing views to support decisions.
        • The difference between great teams and mediocre ones lies in how they face conflict.
        • Team learning is a skill. To develop this skill, some practice is needed. One way to practice team learning is what Senge calls “dialogue sessions”.
        1. Systems Thinking

        • Systems thinking is what Senge calls the fifth discipline.
        • Systemic thinking, or structural thinking, is the ability to discover structural causes of behavior. It is opposed to widespread linear thinking, or event thinking.
        • It's the most important among the five disciplines and it is linked to each of the four others.
        • Small changes can produce big results, but the areas of highest leverage are not often obvious.
        • Understanding a few systemic archetypes can help you understand reality in a much richer way than the usual linear thinking. 

        Recommended by a seasoned HR pro

        Tom HAAK
        Tom HAAK, Corporate HR Director at Arcadis in Amsterdam, is the professional that recommended this book to me. You should check out his HR blog, where Tom shares the lessons of his 30 years of experience in Human Resources at an international level.

        Here's what Tom has to say about The Fifth Discipline:

        Early 90s I went to a seminar organized by the European Foundation for Management Development, in Brussels. The theme was 'The Learning Organization', very fashionable in those days.

        Highlight of the program was a session led by Peter Senge, Chris Argyris and Arie de Geus (formerly Shell). In groups we played the beer game. A description of the game can be found in Chapter 3 of the Fifth Discipline.

        Here were 100 or more people playing the game in groups of 10. The objective of the game his to demonstrate learning disabilities, and this was done very successfully. And it was great fun. After the beer game there was a stimulating dialogue between Senge, Argyris and De Geus. The atmosphere was exciting, and most of the people in the room felt energized to go back home and create learning organizations.

        I had already read the book. For me this was a breakthrough. Finally here was somebody who was showing the root causes of dysfunctional organizations. Senge showed a way to improve the learning capabilities of people and organizations.

        Many of the myths and mental models described in Senge's book are still fully functioning today (alas). Creating learning organizations is not easy. Mastering the five disciplines of Senge takes life-long learning and a lot of practice.

        After 22 years Senge's book is still very actual and readable. It might be time for a revitalization of The Learning Organization.”

        Book Data

        Sunday, May 20, 2012

        The Rare Find, by George Anders

        I am grateful to Michael Danubio for recommending me this book. When he did, Michael was Talent Acquisition Director at Hasbro. He is now Human Resources Director at the Boston Red Sox.

        Everybody Wants the Top Performers

        It is often said that top performers produce as much as 10 times more than the average worker. In specific fields that put a very high premium on excellence, like professional sports, popular music, investment banking or literature, the gap may be even higher.

        In business, Jim Collins showed that companies making the leap from good to great build their success on talent : first they recruit outstanding people, then they define a strategy.

        So, obviously, everybody wants to recruit exceptional talent. The Rare Find is not a book about recruitment in general. It focuses on how to source and select top performers.

        Being a journalist, George Anders interviewed hundreds of successful recruitment professionals. He asked them how they proceed to find exceptional talent. His sources include army officers, basketball scouts, venture capitalists, surgeons, academics, country music producers, CEO recruiters and even a Facebook "Puzzle Master". 

        Compromise On Experience; Never Compromise On Character

        Anders' inspiring recommendations include the following:
        • A wide view of talent: the best assessors don't stick to classic measures of experience. They don't look for people that are immediately ready for the job, but for candidates that might reach excellence in a few years, based on specific traits. In other words, these recruiters can compromise on experience, but not on character. (Other authors have the opposite opinion: they think that, when selecting leaders, we tend to focus too much on the candidates' potential, as opposed to craftsmanship. This view is expressed, for example, in “Corporate Reputations, Branding and People Management”, by Martin and Hetrick).
        • Reading résumés upside down. This means that you focus first on a candidate's biographical details, which give you a sense of his personality. Then, you can check the classic markers of competence, like education and professional experience.
        • Aggressive listening: great talent scouts are great listeners. Intensely interested and focused, they ask a lot of follow-up questions in order to zero in on the issues that relate to candidates' core character. That's a very good point, that was also made a few months ago by HR blogger Tim Sackett, in a brilliant post called “The Only Interview Questions You’ll Ever Need ».
        • Picking one trait that matters more than anything. For many jobs, resilience might be what distinguishes high achievers from other good candidates.
        • Announcing tough challenges as a way to attract the best candidates. If the position you offer involves high demands, you should not formulate them as liabilities. High achievers might view them as opportunities to learn and grow.
        • Seeing what could go right. Most assessors use interviews to detect each candidate's flaws. When searching for exceptional talent, a better way could be to start by looking for what can go right. Does the candidate have a hidden potential? Under the right conditions, could he become a great performer in a specific field?
        And these are just examples, as the book provides many other useful ideas and advice.

        If your job involves recruiting highly talented people, you should definitely read it. In these times of “war for talent” the Rare Find supplies heavy weaponry for HR snipers!

        Book Data

        Tuesday, April 24, 2012

        DRIVE, by Daniel H. Pink

        In September 2011, HR leader Charlie Judy wrote an enthusiastic post about “Drive” on his HR Fishbowl blog.

        Here is how Charlie's article started:

        As an HR Professional you play an integral role in helping your organization motivate its employees. If you believe this, then you really should read Daniel Pink’s bestselling “Drive”. In 220 pages, it will take everything the archaic world of business has taught you about “what motivates us,” turn it on its head, and slap you across the face with an enlightenment toward the binding constraints your organization is likely imposing on its people. »

        No More Carrots and Sticks!

        In “Drive”, Daniel Pink unveils a major gap between what science knows and what business does. Social scientists have shown that traditional motivation techniques, like cash rewards, often don't work. Worse: they sometimes do more harm than good!

        What is called “extrinsic motivation” has a positive effect on performance only when the task at hand is very simple, almost mechanical. But when it comes to the complex tasks that are typical of the 21st century knowledge workers, carrots and sticks are just a waste of time and money.

        So, instead of elaborating traditional bonus schemes, we HR people (as well as all organizational leaders) should focus on fostering “intrinsic motivation” in our organizations. To do that, there are three levers we can activate:

        1. Autonomy : To feel motivated, people should have control on what they do, when they do it, with whom, and how. 

        2. Mastery : Seeing that, through relentless efforts, you are getting better and better at something that matters is a very motivating experience. It starts with flow, this good feeling that we have when we perform at the top level of our skills.
        1. Purpose: We all do a better job when we know that it serves the greater good, not just profit or personal income.

        A Serious, Useful... and Funny Book!

        Drive is a serious book: it is based on a review of the scientific literature.

        It is also useful, filled with examples from big corporations, technology companies or hospitals. It offers a toolkit that includes practical advice about:
        • Awakening your (personal) motivation
        • Fostering intrinsic motivation in your organization
        • Compensation : how to pay people in a way that does not get in the way of motivation (specially relevant for HR professionals)
        • Educating your kids
        • Getting (and staying) motivated to exercise
        As part of his toolkit, Pink presents a reading list (I really love that guy!) and the names of six business gurus that offer guidance consistent with Pink's views.

        Last but not least, reading “Drive” is really funny. As you will notice in the videos below, Daniel Pink has a great sense of humor!


        In this speech at TED's 2009 Global Conference in Oxford, Daniel Pink offered a passionate and convincing summary of his book: 

        And in this one, his summary is illustrated by nice drawings:

        Book Data

        More about Drive and Daniel H. Pink

        • At you can fill out a survey to assess your own levels of motivation.
        • You can also subscribe to a newsletter and receive a free PDF called "The Flip Manifesto: 16 Counterintuitive Ideas About Motivation, Innovation, and Leadership"
        • And you can follow @danielpink on Twitter.


        Sunday, March 25, 2012

        Financial Intelligence for HR Professionals, by Karen BERMAN and Joe KNIGHT

        HR leaders need to be well-rounded managers. If we really want to become strategic partners, we need to understand the business we support. And one key to understand it is to know the language of finance.

        I once heard a university professor argue that "If a director of HR can't read his company's balance sheet, he shouldn't be a director". I think he was right (even though his statement made me feel very bad at the time).

        More generally, Karen BERMAN and Joe KNIGHT advocate for financial literacy for all. They believe that organizations would be better run if all managers, even all employees, understood the basics of finance.

        In this brilliant book, they explain the many subtleties of corporate finance, and how these can affect HR:
        • How to read an income statement, a balance sheet, and a cash flow statement;
        • Why these are relevant and complimentary to understand the realities of a particular organization;
        • How finance is as much an art as a science, because estimations and assumptions can have a strong impact on the numbers published;
        • How this "art of finance" can have important consequences for an HR department;
        • How to calculate and use relevant ratios;
        • How to champion financial literacy in your organization.
        I never thought that a book about finance could be so enjoyable and "reader-friendly". All concepts are explained in simple words and illustrated by real-life examples. The appendixes include the income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements of Kimberly-Clark and Fedex, which can be used in exercises.

        This is really a must-read for every HR leader.

        Book Data

        For additional information and updates, the book has an official website:

        Wednesday, February 22, 2012

        "Becoming a Resonant Leader" by Annie McKee, Richard Boyatzis, Frances Johnston

        Becoming a Resonant Leader offers a practical answer to the question: “How do you use Daniel Goleman's theory of Emotional Intelligence to become an inspiring leader?”

        It is a reading recommendation coming from Barcelona, where Rosalinda Hernández works as Europe Talent Acquisition at PepsiCo. She tweets at @Recruiter_Rosie.

        More Than 50 Leadership Exercises

        You don't read this book as much as you use it, with a pen in your hand. Offering more than 50 exercises, it is really a practical guide that aims to make you reflect on how to become a better leader by leveraging your emotional intelligence. It is also filled with inspiring examples. 

        The exercises reminded me very much of those I have found so profoundly useful when I read Total Leadership, by Steward Friedman

        Both books offer a holistic perspective about personal development and leadership: becoming a great leader requires you to know who you are and what you want.
        First, McKee, Boyatzis and Johnston make you think about:
        • Important people around you : who do you admire, who do you lead, who can help you...
        • How you work : your defensive routines, your passions, your strengths and challenges, your philosophical orientation, your learning style...
        • What you want : your ideal life, your dreams, your personal vision...
        Then, the authors help you use this knowledge to develop a personal learning plan.
        And finally, they explain how to ignite resonance in teams, organizations and communities.

        Useful Leadership Tools and Concepts
        Let me share five tools or concepts developed in the book that seem particularly useful from my HR point of view.
        • Resonance is defined as “a powerful collective energy that reverberates among people and supports higher productivity, creativity, a sense of unity, a sense of purpose, and better results”. It is, in other words, the link between emotional intelligence and organizational success.
        • Self-awareness is the foundation of emotional intelligence: when you meet a great leader, you feel that she knows who she is and what is important to her. In particular, good leaders show emotional awareness: they can name and manage their emotions. The way to improve emotional awareness is to practice mindfulness, i.e. to become consciously attuned to oneself, others and the environment. (In a recent post on the HRFishbowl blog, I wrote about the link between meditation, mindfulness, and good HR).
        • The sacrifice syndrome is precisely one of the things that await leaders when they lack mindfulness. As they try to respond to the many demands they face, their stress mounts above the level they can handle. Their tactics for avoiding this stress are part of the problem. They soon feel overdrawn physically, mentally and emotionally.
        • The philosophical orientation questionnaire included in the book lets you determine your preferences regarding three basic operating philosophies:
          • Pragmatic: you appreciate an activity if it helps you achieve your goals. This operating philosophy is linked to utilitarianism and consequentialism.
          • Intellectual: you appreciate an activity if it helps you learn and understand new things. You tend to use abstract variables to understand and describe the world.
          • Human: you appreciate an activity if it has a positive impact on specific other people, and on your relationship with them.
          • The authors explain that if your scores on those variables are close together, you can feel conflicted when making certain types of decisions. This proved relevant in my case: I scored equally high scores on “intellectual” and “human”, and I'm afraid I'm sometimes an indecisive person indeed.
        • Planning Style. Annie McKee found in her research that when it comes to think about the future, people use three different approaches:
          • Goal-oriented planners tend to focus on very specific goals and outcomes.
          • Direction-oriented people know the general path they wish to pursue, but they don't set very specific objectives. They might be less effective than goal-oriented people, but they are also more flexible, which helps them spot opportunities.
          • Being action-oriented means living for the moment, without many thoughts about the future. Action-oriented people are spontaneous.
          • And as the authors say, each of these three styles has wisdom for the other.
        The book also provides ideas and a methodology to conduct participative processes that could be used for team-building, vision-building or change initiatives.
        If you work in HR, it can thus be useful in a variety of ways: for yourself, for people you coach, or for your organization as a whole.

        Book Data
        • Becoming a Resonant Leader - Develop Your Emotional Intelligence, Renew Your Relationships, Sustain Your Effectiveness
        • By Annie McKee, Richard Boyatzis and Frances Johnston
        • Harvard Business Press
        • 213 pages
        • Available on Becoming a Resonant Leader

        Thursday, February 16, 2012

        Wednesday, January 18, 2012

        REWORK, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

        Rework is recommended by Frédéric Williquet. Frédéric is a Managing HR Consultant at SD Worx

        This publication stands in the same category as Kawasaki's Enchantment and Ferris' 4-HourWorkweek. Bold, smart, short, easy to read, these books do not try teach us any theories, but they let us feel the trends of the 21th-century workplace.

        Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson are the leaders of a successful software company called 37signals. In this book, they share the recipes of their entrepreneurial success and give their points of view about different aspects of launching and running a company.

        The book is hard to synthesize. It is a collection of ideas and statements about how a business should be run. It could have been titled “Lean Business” or something like that.

        Things They Like

        Here are a few examples of what Fried and Heinemeier Hansson are in favor of:
        • Constraints, because embracing them enhances creativity;
        • Good enough (a case against perfectionism);
        • Quick wins, as they fuel momentum;
        • Tiny decisions, because they are temporary and thus let you change your mind when you realize you've made a mistake;
        • Fights: naming your enemy (a big competitor) helps you get noticed and ignite passion;
        • Underdoing one's competition, meaning that developing a product that has less features than the competition can be a very competitive strategy;
        • Saying no, i.e. resisting the temptation to satisfy every customer request;
        • Obscurity, defined as the period when your company is too young and small to get noticed, allows you to make bolder choices;
        • Great writers, because good writing is a sign of clear thinking;

        Things They Hate

        And a few of the things they advocate against:
        • Workaholism, because it leads to inefficiency: workaholics prefer staying late and feeling like heroes than imagining smart solutions and focusing their energy on what really matters.
        • Learning from mistakes, as learning what not to do is not as useful as knowing what to do.
        • Outside money: the investors will always end up telling you what to do, with their own financial interests in mind.
        • Mass, i.e. procedures, formal rules, policies, long-term contracts and road maps, office politics, etc. don't let you change things as quickly as you'd like.
        • Meetings, which are basically a massive waste of time.
        • Heroes, because sometimes it's better to be a quitter than a hero. If you realize that a task is going to be much more difficult or time-consuming than anticipated, you should give it up.
        • Estimates, as we human beings are really bad at estimating.
        • Long to-do lists (don't get done).
        • Press releases, which are comparable to spam.
        • ASAP, because when everything you ask is “ASAP”, people can't tell anymore what is really a priority.

        What's in It for HR pros?

        Rework has an interesting chapter about hiring. It can make us think again about the way we recruit and select. For example, in the authors' view:
        • Resumes are spam. They are of much less use than cover letters.
        • Requiring five years of experience is irrelevant.
        • We should exercise a profession ourselves before hiring someone else to do the job (OK, that might be easier in small companies than in Fortune 500 corporations!).
        The book also offers a fresh perspective on our work habits. We in HR might play a key role in fighting against bureaucracy, workaholism, or useless meetings. In our own organizations, big or small, we could be the advocates of the type of lean management presented by Fired and Heinemeier Hansson.

        Book data