As the saying goes, “Timing is everything.” Someone at Microsoft should tell the big boss. It seems to me that Satya Nadella, the new CEO at Microsoft as of February, has been let down by his PR people in the communications of the last two weeks. The order of announcements could not have been worse.

In an e-mail to employees (July 10) about an evolving culture at Microsoft, Nadella talked of “Bold Ambition and Our Core“ and outlined what the company has to do to get its mojo back. One week later (July 17), he announced a layoff of 18,000 employees. Talk about a letdown. My take on the two messages: “I have some good news and some bad news. I’ll give the good news first: Microsoft is going to be a lean, mean fighting machine. The bad news: Many of you will not be a part of it.”

There are at least two problems with these announcements, but let me first say I have no problem with the decision to eliminate jobs. (read more…)

A decade ago, the skill set of the HR leader was defined by the classic 80/20 rule: 80% HR administration, 20% business. Today, this rule has been overturned. A company’s HR executive is a critical component of the leadership team. CEOs are increasingly pulling HR professionals to the leadership table, asking them to play a more strategic role and requiring that they have a firm understanding of the business and its long-term goals.

This trend speaks to the changing nature of the HR leadership function across industries. Businesses are becoming more attuned to the importance of internal culture to recruit and retain talent, and, consequently, HR leaders must serve as the CEO’s business partner and align their talent-development strategy with overall business imperatives. As HR professionals participate in organization-wide decisions, they’re required to more fully understand the business and think beyond the bounds of what would traditionally be considered “HR territory.”

If CEOs want to see their businesses thrive, they need to ensure that they have the right partner in the HR leadership role. (read more…)

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It hardly seems possible, but the time has come when high-potential millennials are assuming leadership roles.

If you take the long view, it makes sense to prepare your best, young professionals now for the big promotional step that their predecessors typically had to wait 10, 15 years or longer to expect. They’re already so “up to speed” on so many essential, differentiating aspects of the competitive marketplace that they add value now that renders the typical career maturing process obsolete. You want to keep them. And to keep them often means promoting them at a more accelerated rate than you might have normally.

Here’s the problem: They’re still young. And in many ways — judgment, emotional intelligence, perspective — they’re still immature. Fast-tracking their career path means that they necessarily skip essential skill-building and seasoning experiences that typically helped their older colleagues make wiser choices. To their credit, they know they need that extra support around critical developmental areas. (read more…)

See part 1 here.

Many people owe their careers to their ability to make small talk with senior people in their companies.

When you learn how to speak informally, you will demonstrate that you are someone who is comfortable in your own skin. And that trait is important to advancing your career.

  (read more…)

Want to be a better leader? Try improving your vocabulary.

No, I’m not talking adding the latest management and leadership buzzwords or jargon to your repertoire. If that’s what you’re looking for, try the Wall Street Journal’s Business Buzzwords Generator. You’ll be able to walk around uttering leadership gibberish such as “Moving forward, it’s time to act with strategic vector and transform our team bandwidth” and “Looking forward to 2015, ideation will be key to our ability to impact the solutions holistically.”

I’m talking about adding some powerful phrases to your vocabulary that will engage and motivate, encourage people to come up with ideas, and inspire commitment.

It’s not an exhaustive list – just a collection I’ve picked up over the years – so please feel free to add your own in the comments section.

  1. “How can I be a better leader?” Credit goes to Marshall Goldsmith for this one.
  2. (read more…)