Bucket List

I was talking with someone the other night and they mentioned an adventure they had. They were excited because they had a great time and they were able to check something off of their bucket list. More importantly they were better, they had grown because of the experience.

It got me thinking…What growth opportunities could I be missing. What might I not think about or see because of my blinders? Everyone sees the world a little differently. Everyone’s bucket list probably has a unique item or two on it. What is yours?

Share your list or a couple of cool things on it. Maybe you will change my list in doing so. Maybe you will influence others or be influenced yourself.

Be Like Mary Barra: How HR Leaders Can Become CEOs

By now, most of you are aware that a former human resources leader has transcended the HR space to become CEO of a Fortune 100 company. And for the uninitiated (click here for some descriptive text on Mary Barra), the former vice president of HR at General Motors Co. will become the automaker’s new CEO. 

With that promotion in mind, many in the HR space trumpeted the ascension of a former HR leader to a Fortune 100 CEO spot as proof positive that HR pros can be anything they want to be. And while the promotion of Barra as the leader of General Motors is great news for HR, caution on what it means is probably warranted. Just because you’re in HR doesn’t mean you can be CEO. In fact, you still probably need to get out of HR to become a CEO.

Need proof?  Let’s look at part of Barra’s background/profile as captured by Bloomberg Businessweek:

Before becoming CEO, Barra served “as executive vice president of global product development and global purchasing and supply chain at General Motors Co. Ms. Barra served as senior vice president of global product development at General Motors Co. since Feb. 1, 2011, and served as its chief of product development. … She began her career with General Motors in 1980 as a General Motors Institute (Kettering University) co-op student at the Pontiac Motor Division. She has been director of general Dynamics Corp. since March 15, 2011. Ms. Barra serves on the Kettering University Board of Trustees and Inforum Center for Leadership Board of Directors. … Ms. Barra received a GM fellowship to the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from General Motors Institute (Kettering University). She holds an MBA in Business Administration from Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1990.”

What’s all that mean? If you’re an HR leader with a dream, here are five things the Barra profile tells us you need to do to become CEO:

1. Get the hell out of HR soon. Let’s be clear: One look at the Barra profile tells you her HR experience was part of a power rotation to learn the business, not a defining tag on her résumé. That should tell you what has always been the reality: You need to rotate elsewhere to be enough of a player to become the CEO of a company of any size and scale.

2. Deep subject matter expertise in an area core to the business is desired. Barra is an engineer at heart, an area that’s obviously core to GM’s business. Your company also has a similar heartbeat. If you have an undergrad that matches that heartbeat, you could do HR, take a rotation elsewhere and become a player in the race to become the boss. If your educational background doesn’t fit, you have no chance. But you could find a company that provides a better match and values your non-HR undergrad.

3.  Depending on the company’s focus, you need to decide which rotational path is best. Most companies these days have cultures that are defined by product or by sales. If your company is product-focused and your educational background is a match, you take a non-HR rotation in that area. If your company is sales-focused, follow that path. A sales focus at your company also allows you to worry less about a lack of match in your educational background with the company’s core product or service as long as you’re willing to risk it all with a career in sales management.

4.  Top tier MBAs still rule. Barra is a Stanford MBA grad. The mail-order MBA isn’t going to cut it if you want to be a CEO of a big company. You need to go get the elite MBA.

5. Get the hell out of HR. I had to say it twice, because it’s that important. I know you love it, but if your goal is to be the CEO, you’re not going to get there from here.

Get to the rotational program and get out of HR if you want to be CEO. As much as we want to believe the Barra story says we can become CEOs, it’s only true if we’re brave enough to leave.

Originally published in Workforce

Brain exercises can boost thinking, learning in lasting way

BrainTraining to improve cognitive abilities in older people lasted to some degree 10 years after the training program was completed, according to results of a randomized clinical trial supported by the National Institutes of Health.

Older people who did cognitive excercises or “brain training” showed improvements in the ability to think and learn, but memory training did not have an effect after 10 years, according to new research.

The report, from the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) study, appears in the January 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. The project was funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), components of the NIH.

John N. Morris, Ph.D., and Richard N. Jones, Sc.D., of Hebrew Senior Life and the Institute for Aging Research in Boston and Sharon L. Tennstedt, Ph.D. of the New England Research Institutes, in Watertown, participated in the study.

“Previous data from this clinical trial demonstrated that the effects of the training lasted for five years,” said NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. “Now, these longer term results indicate that particular types of cognitive training can provide a lasting benefit a decade later.”

The results suggest cognitive training should be pursued as an intervention that might help maintain the mental abilities of older people so that they may remain independent and in the community, Hodes said.

“ACTIVE is an important example of intervention research aimed at enabling older people to maintain their cognitive abilities as they age,” said NINR Director Patricia Grady, Ph.D. “The average age of the individuals who have been followed over the last 10 years is now 82. Given our nation’s aging population, this type of research is an increasingly high priority.”

The original 2,832 volunteers for the ACTIVE study were divided into three training groups—memory, reasoning and speed-of-processing—and a control group. The training groups participated in 10 60- to 70-minute sessions over five to six weeks, with some randomly selected for later booster sessions. The study measured effects for each specific cognitive ability trained immediately following the sessions and at one, two, three, five and 10 years after the training.

The investigators were also interested in whether the training had an effect on the participants’ abilities to undertake some everyday and complex tasks of daily living. They assessed these using standardized measures of time and efficiency in performing daily activities, as well as asking the participants to report on their ability to carry out everyday tasks ranging from preparing meals, housework, finances, health care, using the telephone, shopping, travel and needing assistance in dressing, personal hygiene and bathing.

At the end of the trial, all groups showed declines from their baseline tests in memory, reasoning and speed of processing. However, the participants who had training in reasoning and speed of processing experienced less decline than those in the memory and control groups.

Read more

Creative Destruction

Creative Destruction. What an interesting term. In order to create something new, something else must get destroyed. In essence, to truly gain something we must lose something.

What have you had let go of or destroy when you created something new in your life? What did you create in the process?

Cheerios, interracial marriages, and the wisdom of children

When a Cheerios internet commercial came out recently that featured an interracial family it was a test.  And as a society we failed.

It was a simple message.  Cheerios is heart healthy.  For those of you who have not seen it, there is a link below and a summary of the commercial as well.

A mother sits at her kitchen table writing when her daughter walks up with a box of Cheerios.

“Mom,” says the girl. “Yes, honey?” says mom. “Dad told me Cheerios is good for your heart. Is that true?”

Mom looks at the box, and answers that it says the whole-grain oats inside are “heart healthy.”

The commercial picks up with dad asleep on the couch.  He starts to wake up notices a pile of Cheerios on his chest covering where his heart is located.

The commercial sounds harmless enough and similar to other commercials aired in the past.  The difference in this commercial is that the mom is white, the dad is black and the daughter is biracial.  Disappointingly, the comment section had to be turned off due to the vitriol spouted by anonymous racists out on the internet.  While the overwhelming majority was supportive of the commercial, I can only say I was saddened by the strong reaction of a few.

We have a ways to go.  We struggle in our personal and work lives to be included.  The idea that every citizen and employee should be able to feel valued, heard and have a safe place and a space available to them is an important one. This is one of the reasons we have discrimination lawsuits and engagement levels are so low.  Those that spread hate make us all uncomfortable.

There is hope.  My faith was restored when I watch a follow-up to the commercial (link below).  When the commercial was shown to children not one of them could see anything wrong with the commercial.  To say that these children were confused, stunned, and shocked when told what the reaction to the commercial was and why is an understatement.    Here are some of their reactions:

“It’s just the color of their skin, what matters is if they’re nice or mean”

“I thought Martin Luther King spoke against this and fixed this already”

“Underneath it, you’re literally the same. You have organs and a heart.”

“Some people just fall in love like that.”

Leave it to the next generation to demonstrate the wisdom and caring that ours still needs to learn.  Hopefully, they can out beautify the ugly spouted by those still living in a past world that lacked the understanding and value of others that differed from them.  Hopefully the next generation will continue to make this world a more inclusive place where everyone has a safe place and a space to contribute.  Thank you for restoring my hope.

What is the Best Way to Develop Leadership Skills?

Leadership is a skill as much as it is a character trait. While it is part of a more dominant personality, it is an essential part of governing businesses, as well as having direct involvement with several other aspects in life. An individual that excels in leadership skills can explain and educate another; whether it be their child or potential employee with professional etiquette and sensitivity to all the necessary things. Leadership is a structured foundation of awareness that centres on clear communication in an influential and encouraging way. Leadership’s skills are enhanced by:

•              Critical thinking

•              Taking initiative

•              Listening in an effective way

•              Motivating/encouraging others

•              Time-Management

•              Discipline

•              Delegation

•              Conflict resolution

•              Awareness of when to lead, and when to follow

Awareness to strengths

Developing leadership skills is a process of determined focus. Itis understanding the concepts associated with leadership and giving them the proper room and attention to grow as assets/tools at your disposal. The list above gives a general rundown of the ideas and actions that structure leadership. While all are important, a few should be given a bit more recognition and further definition.

Awareness of when to lead and when to follow

This is such an important thing to consider, and ties in directly with a respectful trait; modesty. The acceptance that while holding the position of ‘boss’ or ‘leader’ understanding that people have the natural ability to excel at certain things. They are born as mathematical geniuses, or scientific gurus, and rather than challenge it and compete, it can be turned into a great combination of teamwork. By working together with professional etiquette you teach each other the skills you excel at, and in the end you maintain the role of leader, and modestly earns the respect and knowledge of your colleague.

Delegation paired with time-management

A successful leader is able to see a list of things that needs to be addressed and order them in roles of importance. Proper delegation and time management skills leads an operation to running smoothly and efficiently, capitalizing on the things that need to get done, while having awareness of the objectives that don’t need immediate attention. The proper analysis involved here can be the difference between a successful day, or a day of hectic and dramatic incidents.


Discipline is essentially a list of guidelines one chooses to live by, but more importantly, what they expect from others. Consistent discipline creates a governed atmosphere of expectation, a sense of right and wrong, and gives the workplace a structure it needs to run in an efficient manner. Without structure it would be an operation running as a free-for-all. It would not only lack efficiency in the tasks carried out throughout the day, but it would hinder the goal everyone was contributing towards. The end result would be unnecessary problems.

Leadership as a whole

While each item on the list contributes to leadership success, the additional notations listed above are key to its overall functionality. Leadership is an ability associated with traits, but more importantly the consistency overtime of demonstrating these traits. Leadership is centred on respect, and without it there can be no growth. Without the respect from you peers, regardless of one’s position of power, leadership would slowly absolve and become less and less functional in a particular area. The best way to develop leadership skills is through understanding what creates and enhances leadership. Practice makes perfect, and with proper recognition, the growth of a perfect leader is centred on a list of ideas tied to one very important thing; focus.

Richard McMunn, is the founder and director of the leading career website How2become.com. His aim is to help as many people as possible pass the recruitment process they are applying for to secure the job they really want. The website offers a wide range of books, dvds and courses for those who want to ensure they have every stage of the process covered. You can also connect with Richard and How2become on YouTube

Onboarding: Are you enacting the lemon law strategy?

I recently worked with a company on its talent management strategy, and I heard a number of things from focus groups, including:

• Employees accepted the position because it was a
job, not for a higher purpose.
• Employees were never told why they were hired
and what would make them successful.
• Orientation was short and administratively
driven, not learner- or employee-centered.

The way an employer brings people on board makes a big difference in how employees perform, how they feel about their decision to take the job, and whether they will stay. Some employees may feel buyer’s remorse—like after buying a used car. They may
even want to take advantage of the lemon law and find a new job. Other employees may feel a sense of pride from day one. What’s the difference?

Find out at: http://www.fhsolutionsgroup.com/sites/default/files/WordsWise_June2013.pdf