Monthly Archives: August 2009

Does inspiration matter?

question mark

Inspiration: (definition) the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions : the act of influencing or suggesting opinions

I am working with a very successful client with an incredibly inspiring mission. They can’t pay a lot, but due to their reputation they manage to attract talented individuals willing to go above and beyond to advance the organizational mission.  For this organization, gains in productivity and talent are the return on investment in inspiration. So what happens if you are not a particularly inspiring organization or industry? Does it matter?

I have clients in non-sexy industries who manage to successfully articulate a value proposition for employees, whether it is stability, good pay, career growth etc… But engagement scores tend to be lower, and one can’t help but feel that some employees are there not because they LOVE it, rather they NEED it. For stability, to pay the bills while they do an MBA, for a pension etc… So I did a bit of sniffing around to find some data to see if inspiration has a bottom line impact. Enter the Fortune 500.

The most profitable companies in 2008 (profit as a % of revenue) were:

  • Exxon-Mobil
  • Chevron
  • Microsoft
  • General Electric
  • Wal-Mart Stores

 The following industries had the highest revenue per employee (2008):

  • Petroleum refining
  • Pipelines
  • Real estate
  • Insurance (life; health)
  • Energy

The most profitable public company in the world, Exxon Mobil is famous for causing one of most devasting environmental disasters in history. Yet, this has not hampered its ability to make money. Some colleagues of mine would look at this and say: cash is king, clearly they are doing things right. Inspiration, shinspiration.

So, is there a business case for taking the time to inspire? What is it?


Words to keep inside the HR boardroom


I was at my dentist last week…always fun (not really) and after gazing into my mouth he turned to me and asked: “are you an aggressive brusher?” I responded with: “I don’t know what that means”. Which got me thinking about the words we use in HR, that when used outside of HR mean, well, not much. So here is my first cut at words to leave inside the HR boardroom:

  • Talent Management. This one takes the cake. No one, I mean no one, knows what the heck this means.
  • HRIS. Is an acronym. Avoid avoid avoid. Spell it out for people.
  • Intervention. So we get this, but most others think you are going to gather their family members in a circle and confront them about their drinking habit.
  • Systems thinking. This one is right up there with talent management. I get what this means, you get what this means. No one else does. Business people use words like alignment and integration.
  • Strategic HR. Just stop using this one. We should all be doing work that is aligned and driving our businesses forward. If you’re not, then outsource yourself or change.
  • OD guru name dropping (think Senge, Buckingham, Lencioni, Kotter). Start incorporating Buffett, Drucker and Welch so folks can relate to you.

My Globe & Mail is getting skinny…

It really is. I am a loyal subscriber and have been for almost ten years, but just the other day over oatmeal I turned to my husband and said “my globe and mail is getting skinnier”. He looked at me and said “well, yeah”. Like duh…

I mean clearly it is not surprising. The web is kicking print media’s butt. We all know this. Newspapers are shuttering but still, I am disappointed and I don’t think I can bring myself to cancel my subscription. Even though I am getting a lot less news for my money than I did five years ago. Duh…

What to do. Readership is up for The Economist, a mag which does not have the broadest appeal (you need at least one degree and a glass of wine to give it a go), but Vogue is releasing its thinnest September issue ever (down 30% over last year). I am confused over where to send my eyeballs…

I could commit to Googlenews… I mean they roll up all the headlines anyways and I can sit and scroll through them while drinking my tea in the morning. But yet, I like the newspaper. I like having to do the newspaper chest press flap to get the pages to flip. And my dear columnists who guide and advise me through my daily life…  A world without John Ibbitson reminding me to be smug about being Canadian because in the States they are just plain crazy, John Doyle dissing network television, Alexandra Gill dissing restaurants, and Leah MacLaren dissing, well everything, just doesn’t seem right.

But I am starting to feel like a dinosaur while the world goes “duh” around me.

What not to say to a pregnant woman


I just have to share this. A very good friend of mine recently announced her pregnancy. Very exciting. What is fascinating are the comments she has received from women in the workplace since her announcement.

Here are a few:

  • Have you been trying long?  (Would you ever ever ever ask someone at work how frequently they are having sex? Now is not the time to start!)
  • I was wondering why your boobs were looking so big… (This would constitute harassment in any other situation)
  • Are you going to take drugs, breastfeed… (OK now you are just being judgy)
  • Are you going to come back to work? (Translation: I want your job/desk/office)

Ladies – it is time to take a page out of the men’s playbook. Simply say congratulations. If you insist; gush a little, write a card, order some flowers and move on.

Muscled out on live TV – Awkward!


It was announced today that Paula Abdul is leaving American Idol after eight seasons. OMG! Apparently there are no salacious details; her contract was up for renewal and Fox and Abdul were unable to reach an agreement. Hmmmmm. Television succession is so fascinating! I posted earlier on the Leno/Conan succession saga which in my mind is an example of negotiating someone out too soon. This is an example of how the lack of ability/willingness to have honest conversations can result in awkward succession/performance situations.

 Last season out of nowhere, Kara DioGuardi appeared as a fourth judge, seated smack next to Paula. There was never a clear rationale for the need for a fourth judge. It is now clear as day that Fox decided last year it wanted Abdul out when her contract came up this year. You would have to be under a rock to miss that signal. What did this move do to the team of judges during last season? To Abdul’s engagement level? Well the proof is in the pudding:  Idol had its lowest ratings ever last season and several times the show ran over time due to the four judges taking up too much air time in order to get their “assessments” in.

Now Fox is saying it is on the look out for a fourth judge, with the caveat that they may “run out of time” and gosh golly gee, there may not be a fourth judge and Kara DioGuardi will stay on (her contract has been extended – but of course!).

Fox has achieved what they wanted. But sheesh, you have to try and be a tad more subtle.