Managing and Mending Woman

Managing and Mending Woman

Can you remember the first time you learned about Clara Barton?

She has recently shown up in a mini-series and most people probably just nodded and thought, “Of course, Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross.”

Did you know that she was also a patent office clerk? Seems that being paid the same amount as her male colleagues was quite the problem – and a first for a female government clerk.  Yet being in Washington, D.C. at the outbreak of the Civil War put her in the right place at the right time to find her life’s calling. 

As we watch images of refugees leaving Ukraine in the latest of the world’s conflicts, someone like Clara Barton springs to mind — someone with an incredible knack for organization, skill at tending to the wounded, and, importantly, raising the funds to do the work.

A recent piece on Marketplace focused on how best to help those fleeing Ukraine mentioned, yes Clara Barton, who handed out cash in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War.

Wait – she was even helping in the Franco Prussian War?

Take a few minutes to read a bit about her life. 

She was painfully shy as a young girl, but when did she feel most comfortable? Helping others. 

She got rather good at it.

Witnessing History, Making History

Witnessing History, Making History

Women’s History Month Kicks off today in the US, UK, and Australia amongst other countries. 

Madeleine Albright deserves a place in U.S. History books as the first woman to serve as Secretary of State for the country she immigrated to as a girl.  She immigrated to the US after living in the UK and Switzerland after her own country was overtaken at the outset of World War II.

In 2012, she published a book called Prague Winter which recounted her family’s journey from a relatively young democracy, Czechoslovakia, to England, where she and her family were again in harms way thanks to Nazi bombing raids.  The book provides a great deal of background detail on the history of the country and the region so that those unfamiliar with it could understand the pre-conditions that gave Hitler the excuses he exploited to annex her homeland in 1938.

When discussing why she wrote the book, and the key lessons people should take from it, she summarized (paraphrased from memory):

Czechoslovakia was the only democracy in the region and over a weekend other countries decided it was worth sacrificing to a madman because it was small and spoke a funny language.

No wonder she was the first woman who came to mind as we start out this month.  Long before Madeleine Albright was making history, she had a first-row seat TO history. 

Mentors

Mentors

Many of us have probably spent the last week or so reflecting on the things that we are thankful for … I wonder how many of us went beyond food, clothing, and shelter to spare a few moments for the mentors in our life?

Some of us have been blessed with amazing mentors.  The extremely lucky have been blessed with several outstanding mentors.  Recently, a group of fortunate people assembled to celebrate the life of an amazing man who had been an outstanding one to so many – from attorneys to adolescents to apprentice advocates.

Without ever having met the man, I was nevertheless touched by all I heard and reflected upon what his mentorship had meant for so many, including many people I know.  Without his generosity, one of my high school classmates wouldn’t have sat in front of me, class after class, and probably wouldn’t be a doctor today.  Without his tutelage, many a current judge wouldn’t be on the bench, meting out just justice. Today there are businesspeople, not-for-profit leaders, and educators, who pursue their life’s work influenced by his work ethic, wisdom, and wit. It seems that this gifted, good, and generous man understood the part that luck and a break or two had played in his own life and felt that others were entitled to the same.  For so many assembled, they credited his influence that started at a very young age, many times as their after-school job in high school.

We tend to think that a mentor comes later in life, as part of a formal workplace program.  Tim Ryan, current US Chair of PwC, often tells a pivotal story in his life, career journey, and management approach – that came from his boss at his high school job in a grocery store.  That only reinforces how early these lessons CAN be learned, and perhaps SHOULD be learned.

As this crazy year comes to an end, here’s hoping that you have time to reflect on a mentor or two in your own life. If you haven’t been lucky enough to ever have one, or an amazing one, perhaps resolve to become one for someone else? It might be that break, that chance, that bit of luck, that changes their outlook … or even the outcome of their life.

Hero’s Welcome … in the Workplace

Hero’s Welcome … in the Workplace

A friend’s recent LinkedIn post grabbed my attention and resonated with me, both personally and professionally.  My friend is among 30 professionals who received recognition as a Military Veteran Executive.  He credits his career success to many lessons learned in the Army, citing the fact that few civilian experiences require the same level of teamwork, or mental and physical fortitude.

My father was a member of The Greatest Generation; he served in WWII having enlisted in the Marines right out of high school.  In my family, a grandfather, two uncles, and cousins also served our country in various branches of the military. My friend’s LinkedIn post reminded me of the many lessons my father shared with me about how his time in the Marine Corps shaped his life.

These days, the news is constantly filled with stories of the chronic labor shortage.  How often do employers think about what an amazing and qualified source of talent our former veterans can be?  As HR professionals, we readily see the breadth of competencies and experiences this talent pool offers:

  • Leadership and teamwork
  • Strong work ethic 
  • Problem-solving and decision-making
  • Honesty, integrity, and attention to detail.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020, 18.5 million men and women were veterans, accounting for about 7% of the civilian, non-institutionalized population ages 18 and older. Further, the Armed Forces see more than 200,000 U.S. service members return to civilian life each year. 

Employers such as JP Morgan Chase, Walgreens, Boeing, and Home Depot all have hiring programs for veterans. While many smaller employers might not have such targeted programs, recruiters can consider resources both locally and regionally that offer programs to help veterans transition from serving our country to civilian work life. 

Just few programs are:

  • Hiring our Heroes
  • Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW)
  • The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has training videos for HR professionals on its website.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Hiring Our Heroes job fairs offer in-person training for HR and hiring managers. 
  • The Society of Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) Foundation has developed the Veterans at Work program to provide HR professionals, people managers and business leaders with proven educational content and resources, at no cost, to learn effective ways to reduce barriers and stigmas affecting the employment of veterans and their families.
  • The Foundation also offers a Veterans at Work Certificate Program education program that focuses on best practices to attract, hire, and retain veterans.

    This Veteran’s Day let’s go beyond the “Thank you for your service” and find tangible ways to honor their service by creating ways to welcome them into the workplace.  I don’t know about you, but I sure think a few more veterans in some logistics jobs might help us with some of our supply chain issues!

    Empathetic Leadership

    Empathetic Leadership

    Yesterday one of the most noteworthy leaders of our time died. After speaking to a friend who had known Secretary Powell, I grabbed his 1996 autobiography, My American Journey, and started re-reading sections.

    I had first read it when it came out. Like many Americans, I was curious to understand what experiences had formed this man that most of us knew from the TV briefings he gave as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when he communicated with ease and subtle authority.

    Twenty-five years ago, all of us were lacking the vocabulary that we have today regarding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, let alone the insights.  At best, organizations thought it was a good thing, and something that they “should” do.  But overall, I think there was a sense that it would cost extra, and where was the ROI?

    What struck me about Powell’s autobiography then, and again last night, was that he benefitted from a unique upbringing that alone prepared him for his future.  Very few of his generation (or today’s) were exposed to such a diverse neighborhood, let alone born into it.  He was a child of immigrants, which immediately gives most people a comfort in two cultures, if not two languages.  His parents ended up backing two different political parties, which makes you grow up listening to different points of view. Many know the story of how Colin Powell picked up Yiddish working for a Jewish family.  But this young man who was raised a very High Church Episcopalian, and served as an acolyte, was also comfortable in a synagogue, earning pocket money by turning off the lights when services were over on Friday night.

    I have been asked when I first felt a sense of racial identity, when I first understood that I belonged to a minority. In those early years, I had no such sense, because on Banana Kelly there was no majority.  Everybody was either a Jew, an Italian, a Pole, a Greek, a Puerto Rican, or as we said in those days, a Negro.

    Several years ago, I heard a CEO discussing the importance of diversity on college campuses.  He wasn’t making the pitch for the good of the potential scholarship students who might come from more diverse backgrounds, he was making the business case for the more affluent students who had not been exposed to much, if any, diversity growing up.  He asked the room how these students were going to compete in Corporate America if they didn’t know people different from themselves? If they couldn’t relate and communicate with people who had different life experiences?

    Especially today, as the working world is struggling to return to some sense of normalcy, the key leadership quality is empathy.  Empathy can only come when you have shared someone’s experiences.  The more experiences you have with those different from yourself, the more likely it is that you can empathize with a greater number of people, and thereby lead a greater number of people.

     

    If you heard what we heard …

    If you heard what we heard …

    It happened again the other day.

    What I heard would surprise no one in HR.

    Someone knew I did something in HR and needed to unburden.

    The person, who approached as though THEY were the sinner, wanted some clarity, some understanding, some reassurance.

    Meanwhile the transgressors never seem to seek counsel. 

    The mindset of many employees was summed up recently:

    “They’re actually questioning the whole meaning of the daily grind. Why do we put so much of ourselves into our careers? And are we getting a fair deal from our employers in return for all of this stress and heartache?”  Read More Here

    When they vote with their feet, their answer is: NO – we aren’t getting a fair deal. Often it is not about the money, it is about the recognition of the sacrifices or tradeoffs that they’ve been making: maybe for 18 months, perhaps for a decade … or two.

    It is one thing to joke that HR folks are like priests in a confessional – we’ve heard and seen it ALL BEFORE … and we will carry some secrets to our graves to protect those that have confided in us. 

    It is another when too many in leadership positions fail to have faith in what HR experts try to impart, for decades.

    The non-sinner has moved on, with a clear conscience, now free from a non-enlightened employer. 

    Leadership’s penance?  Trying to fill roles left vacant by once loyal employees.