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Turn That SOUL-CRUSHING Conference into a WIN - How to Get More Out of a Conference

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 12, 2015

By Sue Shellenbarger

 

You’ve spent days wandering the cavernous halls of a convention center, trapped in windowless rooms, drinking too much coffee and talking yourself hoarse. Does anyone ever emerge from a conference as the organizers intended, feeling recharged with new ideas, contacts and energy?

 

New York City marketing executive Stefany Stanley does. Among conference organizers she is known as a savvy convention-goer, someone with a strategy for rising above the dreary rounds of networking and breakout sessions. Ms. Stanley says she has gained valuable contacts, ideas and insights from the 15 conferences she has attended in the past five years.

 

Avoiding time-wasting traps takes planning, self-discipline, skill—and for many, a lot of caffeine. The biggest mistake most conference attendees make is failing to plan ahead, set a personal agenda and report back to colleagues on their results, says David DuBois, president of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, a Dallas trade group.

 

Ms. Stanley, 26, admits to some apprehension as she prepares for 21/2 days at Content Marketing World. This is a conference in Cleveland focused on using content such as blogs and videos to replace traditional advertising. Her employer, Sandra Arnold Inc., or SAI, a creator and producer of corporate events and exhibits, is spending $3,000 on her trip, including a $2,000 pass to the meeting. Ms. Stanley, SAI’s business development director, hopes to return with new digital-marketing ideas and relationships with potential clients and helpful contacts.

 

A record 70 million people will attend conferences in the U.S. and Canada this year, with attendance expected to peak next month, industry research shows. The experience can be overwhelming.  Conferences usually last one to four days. Content Marketing World offers 80 breakout sessions, with time to attend only 11. It sprawls over 270,000 square feet of the Cleveland Convention Center. Sessions include “Breakthrough Moments in Content Marketing.” Eight networking sessions are scheduled to allow the 2,600 attendees time to meet.

 

Along with the usual speeches by celebrities and exhibits, Content Marketing World provides social activities such as “our own music festival” with a Beatles tribute band and “Shooters on the Water,” an after party starting at 10:30 p.m.

 

No matter what session conference attendees pick, they worry they’re missing a better one. The best networking may be in one session while the best speakers are elsewhere, Ms. Stanley says. She comes in with her schedule highlighted in neon yellow for “must attend” sessions and amber for “maybe.”

“You really have to be on your A game,” she says. “You’re networking and getting all that information, plus giving your pitch and telling people about your company. It’s exhausting.”

 

She works out to build energy, rising by 6 a.m. to lift weights and run 3 to 5 miles. On the treadmill, she mentally rehearses different versions of her opening pitch to suit different people. To help her resist the free candy and junk food that abound in most exhibit halls, she stuffs granola bars into her shoulder bag.

Ms. Stanley resists the temptation to befriend other new arrivals and travel with one group. “I have to stay focused on my goals, getting new ideas and new contacts,” she says.

 

She positions herself by the coffee pot for the first networking session; talking about the coffee can be a good icebreaker. She considers introducing herself to another attendee standing alone nearby, but she hesitates, and the opportunity is lost when another attendee approaches the man. Ms. Stanley tells herself. “You’re here to network. One, two, three, go!”

 

Meeting conference speakers, who tend to be high-level executives, is a key networking opportunity for Ms. Stanley in her search for corporate clients. She is nervous as she waits in line with a dozen others to introduce herself to Katrina Craigwell, global manager of digital marketing at General Electric Co., after Ms. Craigwell’s presentation on a successful digital-marketing campaign. Ms. Stanley plans to take Ms. Craigwell’s ideas, such as promoting GE research with videos on social media, back to her SAI team. She also hopes Ms. Craigwell will put her in touch with colleagues at GE who might be interested in SAI’s services.

 

Brazilian by birth, Ms. Stanley values Latin cultures’ emphasis on warmth and spontaneity. When her turn finally comes to speak with Ms. Craigwell, she says, “You were wonderful. I felt as if I knew you.” The executive responds with equal warmth and promptly emails Ms. Stanley’s contact information to a colleague.

 

Later, as she prepares to introduce herself to another speaker, Ms. Stanley gives herself a pep talk: “What’s the worst that can happen? He’ll say no. What’s so awful about that?” Her friendly approach sparks a conversation about how SAI might help his company, and they part with plans for another meeting. Ms. Stanley notes on each business card the follow-up steps she promised to take.

 

By late afternoon, her energy wanes. She downs her third coffee of the day. Hungry after having only a salad for lunch, she allows herself a bag of Doritos, then heads for the last breakout session of the day. Blocked at the door by a security guard and a sign, “Session Full,” Ms. Stanley talks her way in with a joke. The guard laughs and opens the door.

 

Ms. Stanley passes up an opening-night pub crawl. Networking with strangers over drinks “has never proven effective for me,” she says. The music festival on the second evening is unusual enough to lure her. She leaves after 45 minutes. “I prefer to go to bed early and be focused on the next day,” she says. Ms. Stanley once slept through a meeting because her cellphone died, she says.

 

She now arranges a wake-up call from her hotel, in addition to setting the alarm on her smartphone. At a breakout session on the last day, she finds a seat near the front, only to realize that she already knows the information being presented. Usually, she avoids sitting too close to the front so she can see who else is present, and also so she can slip out quietly if necessary. “I picked the wrong seat” this time, she says. On the last day, more than an hour before a closing keynote speech by actor Kevin Spacey, hundreds line up for seats. Ms. Stanley strides past them on her way to a panel discussion. “I’m not going to not network so I can be in the front row for Kevin Spacey,” she says. “You have to keep in mind your goal.”

 

Later, Ms. Stanley takes stock: She has reaped several good ideas and a grasp of emerging trends such as using journalistic techniques to attract customers on social media and the Web. She collected 20 business cards, initiated promising relationships with four potential clients, and made five “fair-to-good” new contacts. She isn’t done. Many people only took her card or gave her a colleague’s name. But she will follow up with them all.

 

 

Sue Shellenbarger is the creator and writer of the The Wall Street Journal's "Work & Family" column. The former chief of the Journal's Chicago news bureau, Ms. Shellenbarger started the column in 1991 to provide the nation's first regular coverage of the growing conflict between work and family and its implications for the workplace and society. Read more about Sue here

This article was originally reprinted in HR West Magazine November 2014 issue by permission of Wall Street Journal, Copyright © 2014 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.  All Rights Reserved Worldwide. License number 3484300144322.

 

Register for HR West today - March 2-4, 2015 at the Oakland Convention Center, Oakland, California.
For more information contact, Amy Powers, NCHRA.

Tags:  Annual  Bay Area  California  Coast  Conference  HR  HR West  NCHRA  Oakland  San Francisco  SHRM 

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7 Essential Behaviors for Better Coaching Conversations

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Alan Fine HR West Key Note 2015By Alan FineHR West 2015 Keynote

Coaching drives results. Having spent all my adult life (and half of my teenage years) involved in coaching of one sort or another, I should be more specific: good coaching drives results. When coaching is not done well, you don’t just get the same results, you actually risk getting worse results. There are seven essential behaviors, that in my experience, leaders can do that will allow them to be great coaches.

 

Today coaching is recognized as the #1 talent management best practice, and is now as regularly practiced in the workplace as it has always been in sports and music. Leaders who consistently implement these seven essential coaching behaviors will begin to have better coaching conversations, and make a meaningful difference in business. In this article, we will define and explore each of these behaviors and show how every leader can become a stronger coach through the implementation of each one.  

 

The 7 essential coaching behaviors are:

  1. BELIEVE IN PERFORMERS’ GREATNESS.  
    Effective coaches believe that their “coachees" have untapped greatness within them; their intention is to free up that greatness. There is much research showing that what we believe about the people we coach is a key driver of their performance—it’s often called the Pygmalion Effect.* What a coach pays attention to creates their beliefs and what a coach believes, drives and filters what they pay attention to. These create what are called “self-reinforcing loops”. So if the coach believes their coachee has talent, they are more likely to bring it out and vice versa. It’s a statement of the obvious, but if we don’t believe that our coachee has untapped greatness, why would we waste both their and our time trying to coach them?

  2. ACT AS A MIRROR.
    When we comb our hair in the morning, we look in a mirror in order to have an accurate perception of what we are doing. In order to know whether we have an accurate perception of our own thinking and/or behavior, we need a mirror. Great coaches serve as a mirror for the coachee by providing objectivity to help them more accurately observe their own thinking and behavior. They use words and phrases such as, “My perception is…,” or “How it shows up to me is…”. The coachee is then better able to know whether what they think they are doing is what they are actually doing.

  3. CREATE A CONTEXT OF POSSIBILITY.
    One person’s “noise” is another person’s inspirational music. Art that looks inspirational to one person, looks “blah” to someone else. Cricket arouses the passion of sports fans in countries such as England, India, and Pakistan and bores Americans to death. People act based upon how the world shows up to them, in other words, their beliefs about the world. Great coaches come from a mindset of possibility which helps coachees see the world differently. Coachees can begin to think of options beyond the limitations their beliefs and assumptions have created. The coach brings a set of beliefs and assumptions that allows for a dialogue in which the coachee is able to see more possibilities than before.

  4. GET CLEAR ABOUT RESPONSIBILITIES.
    One thing that separates great coaches from other leaders is that great coaches are clear that their role is not to be the “expert” giving answers to the coachee. They recognize that providing solutions (giving advice), however well intended, can have a long-term consequence—it can disable the coachee over the long term. Unintentionally, it can create reliance on the coach’s expertise and a tendency for the coachee to avoid taking ownership and finding solutions. Think of the child whose parents give them the solutions to their math homework! Great coaches see their role as helping the coachee find solutions in a way that they will be able to do it for themselves in the future. In other words their role is not to fish for the coachee, but to teach them how to fish. An important consequence of this is that the coachee gets to experience ownership of both the problem and the solution and therefore gets the acknowledgement for the success, with the coach becoming almost invisible to the outside observer. Great coaches do not take responsibility for solving the coachee’s issues. They take responsibility for freeing up the coachee to take responsibility for solving those issues.

  5. CREATE A SAFE ENVIRONMENT.
    One of the most important factors in accelerating a person’s learning and therefore their performance is a safe environment. The fastest learning takes place in childhood when we are open to all experiences. What slows down this extraordinary ability— and it’s an ability everyone has—is the internal conversations that go on in our minds, the ones that say, “Don’t screw up,” or “Everyone’s watching,” or “Don’t trust him.” We develop these internal dialogues in response to the threats that life throws at us including, toddlers being shouted at by their moms or dads, being told we’re stupid in school, and being advised we don’t have the talent at work. Once we develop those internal conversations (usually in response to the threats that show up in our lives) learning slows down. Perhaps the biggest single contributor to creating this safe environment is the coach being nonjudgmental about the coachee. The coach may have opinions about what will generate the desired outcomes, but she or he should listen to and observe what the coachee thinks, says, or does without passing judgment about whether it is good or bad, right or wrong. Great coaches create a safe environment for the coachee where the coachee can “look in the mirror” without fear of judgment.

  6. HELP BRING FOCUS.
    To me there are four important factors that impact human performance—knowledge, faith, fire, and focus. And while they are each important, the most important one is focus because it drives every thing we do. It’s what separates our good days from our bad days at any level of performance. When we are focused, we do things well, whether it’s solving a problem, having a tough conversation, or playing golf. When we are focused our minds are quiet and undistracted. Focus is the driver of human performance and great coaches help their coachees discover what’s important to focus on and how to sustain that focus over time.

  7. BECOME COMFORTABLE WITH UNCERTAINTY.
    Effective coaching gets past symptoms and addresses root causes. It will help a coachee become aware of and test the underlying assumptions that drive their view of the world and therefore their behavior. This often results in coaching discussions that go in directions that neither the coach nor the coachee anticipated. Then the coachee becomes more aware of the preferences and biases that are driving their actions. Great coaches are comfortable with the uncertainty that goes with not knowing where the path of a coaching conversation might lead and what the discussion might reveal. There are of course, many more things that great coaches do. But these seven behaviors have stood out to me as being present in all the great coaches I have seen, whether they were sports coaches, music coaches, or leadership coaches. My invitation to you is to think about which of these you might begin implementing to have better conversations, to create more of an impact, and improve your abilities as a leader and as a coach. HR Looking for more on how to be great? Join Alan at HR West® for more strategies. 

*Pygmalion effect (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia), or Rosenthal effect, is the phenomenon in which the greater the expectation placed upon people, the better they perform. The effect is named after Pygmalion, a play by George Bernard Shaw.

 

Alan Fine’s Keynote session is sponsored by ScholarSHARE College Savings Plan. He is scheduled to speak on March 2, 2015 from 5 to 6:16p.m.

 

Register for HR West today!

 

Don’t forget to join in on our HR Smiles Photo Contest to win complimentary hotel accommodates and more!

Tags:  Annual  Bay Area  California  Coast  Conference  HR  HR West  NCHRA  Oakland  San Francisco  SHRM  West 

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Five Reasons to Choose HR West in 2015!

Posted By Amy S. Powers, Thursday, January 29, 2015
  1. HR West is one-of-a-kind. Big enough to offer national-level education, yet perfectly sized to be a collaborative event focused on the participant.

  2. HR West is about community. You'll make LOCAL connections with peers and experts you can easily meet again.

  3. HR West is an unbeatable value. Other conferences charge their members nearly $1500 for a 3-day event. HR West is competitively priced at $797.

  4. HR West is convenient. Hotel. Parking. Conference. Restaurant. All under one roof!
    Enter our HR Smiles Photo Contest to win free hotel room!

  5. HR West is easily accessible. Located on the BART line, take a few steps, and you're there! Driving? Ample parking onsite.
    Enter our HR Smiles Photo Contest to win free parking!

Now that you know what makes HR West unique (also read the HR West 2015 Brochure), why not register today?


Rates increase on 1/30 so don't delay...

 

3 Easy Ways to Register!

  1. Register Online
  2. Call NCHRA (415) 291-1992 
  3. Fill Out & Submit Registration Form

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Tags:  Bay Area  California  Coast  Conference  HR  HR West  NCHRA  San Francisco  SHRM  West 

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HR West: The West Coast’s premier conference for HR professionals

Posted By Amy S. Powers, Monday, January 19, 2015

Looking for a unique and valuable human resources education or recertification opportunity? Need an unparalleled HR industry networking event that offers an exceptional value? Look no further, it's HR West! If you've yet to experience this incredible event, it's time and yes, it's open to all HR executives no matter where you may reside.

Putting together HR West every year is one of the most fun (and challenging) things we do at NCHRA. It starts with the search for the four, freshest, and most innovative keynote speakers we can find, then we plan over 80 concurrent conference sessions on the hottest and most pressing HR topics, seek out the highest quality service partners to exhibit, and organize all the receptions, lunches, even a bookstore. There's a lot to do, but we love it. It's an amazing one-of-a-kind event for HR professionals, even if I do say so myself!

There is no other NCHRA human resources event (we hold more than 200 per year) where you can meet our entire team, altogether in one place for three days. Not only do we get to spend this time together, but we also get to meet a lot of our NCHRA members.

HR West brings more than 1,000 peers from the HR community together to learn and inspire, to build and develop, to mingle and share, and most importantly, TO CONNNECT. In today's "digital everything world" of texting vs. talking or emailing vs. face-to-face discussions, having an in-person networking opportunity has never been more valuable!

We look forward to providing you the ultimate opportunity to expand your professional network at HR West, March 2-4, 2015 at the Oakland Convention Center. For information about HR West 2015, including sessions, Keynotes, accommodations and more, visit: http://hrwest.org/To register today, go directly to our registration website: http://bit.ly/HRWest15.

Stay tuned for our 1st annual HR Smiles Photo Contest. Look for the hashtag #HRSmiles2015 on Twitter and Facebook next week. I'll be writing more about that later!

 

Tags:  Annual  Bay Area  California  Coast  Conference  HR  NCHRA  Oakland  San Francisco  SHRM  West 

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