Latest Thoughts and News From Sera Business Advisors

My Career Is My Responsibility – Achieving Business Symbiosis (Part 2 of 2)

In a recent blog post, we discussed symbiotic relationships (interactions between two different species i.e., a spider building a web on a tree), and the similarities between this scientific occurrence and the balance occurring in the employer / employee relationship.  In business, when employees and employers take personal and corporate responsibility for their words, decisions, actions and behaviors, the combined relationship works and can accomplish so much!  It’s the My career is my responsibility approach (#myCmyR).

In today’s workplace, however, employee attitudes trend the opposite.  Often employees are perceived as having an attitude of entitlement:

It’s not my fault.  My manager didn’t tell me…

I’m not doing that.  It’s not my job.

This company…they don’t appreciate anything I do.

My career is my responsibility leaves no room for the victim mentality.  When we own our career, we embrace the power to make it what we want it to be.


  • It’s more than a catch phrase. Personal adoption of the My career is my responsibility approach causes an individual to take ownership.  Mentors encourage “professionalism.”  The My career… mantra takes that idea a step further.  Our attitude, tone, demeanor, appearance / presentation, our work product, our work ethic, everything we say and do reflects our personal philosophy.


  • If you’re in, be ALL IN. Employees cannot be a bystander of their own career.  Employees are not victims!  My career is my responsibility is not a situational philosophy that can be picked up and put back down based on feelings and emotions.  Employees are encouraged to take a holistic view of their situation. As examples, ask questions when expectations aren’t clear.  Seek out, and take advantage of, training and educational opportunities.  Help others who are struggling.  Offer potential solutions vs. adding to the snowball effect of negative talk.


  • Do what you say you’re going to do. Trust is a two-way street.  As employees, we expect, even demand, trust and transparency from Leadership, but do we give the same in return?  Put yourself in the shoes of your Leader.  Have you ever committed to a goal or project and then didn’t follow through?  What about meeting deadlines?  Have you proven yourself worthy of your Leader’s trust?  It’s important to do what you say you are going to do…always!

Regardless of circumstance, it’s important to own your career by committing to personal responsibility, accountability, and excellence.  How do you personalize the My career is my responsibility approach?

My Career Is My Responsibility – Achieving Business Symbiosis (Part 1 of 2)

Although I am certainly no scientist, I do understand and value the symbiotic relationship which describes special interactions between two different species. Sometimes the relationship is harmful, most times it is beneficial (i.e., a spider building a web on a tree). Symbiotic relationships are essential to many organisms and ecosystems, and balance between the two can only be achieved by working together.

Sound familiar?

Think about this scientific concept in terms of employment: in exchange for completing responsibilities required by the employer, the employee receives a paycheck.  Both the employer and the employee benefit and business symbiosis is achieved.

In well-balanced relationships, boundaries and expectations exist.  Employers create opportunity.  Employees embrace opportunity.  Established roles and responsibilities help maintain the mutual relationship.


Enter: My career is my responsibility. (#myCmyR)


This phrase creates boundary definition by helping individuals maintain focus and balance on both sides of the employment relationship.


My career is my responsibility…

  • represents an approach to work
  • embodies a philosophy
  • requires personal accountability
  • embraces excellence
  • creates culture differentiation

If each person in a symbiotic relationship is focused on taking personal responsibility for their words, decisions, actions and behaviors, the combined relationship works!


  • It’s more than a catch phrase. The culture differentiating philosophy takes intentional effort on the part of the employer.  Elements of a company’s culture, like attitude and tone, are set at the top.  Creating an environment of opportunity can engage and motivate employees.  In this type of culture, expectations are clearly articulated, authentic trust and transparency is fostered, and employees are empowered to actively participate in their employment.  Culture dynamics like these equally balance the duty of responsibility between the employer and employee.


  • If you’re in, be ALL IN.  Employers first must establish the company’s character, then ensure alignment across the organization.  A My career is my responsibility culture will only be successful if Leaders across the organization buy-in.  Systems and processes must also correspond.  As examples, if your disciplinary approach is punitive and management-driven, it likely doesn’t foster self-reflection and problem solving from the employee.  When Leaders begin to manage independently by exception instead of respecting established policies and deadlines, employees begin to expect everything be treated as an exception.


  • Do what you say you’re going to do. When employers don’t follow-through, employees get discouraged, and the employment relationship fractures and becomes unbalanced.  An example, when a bonus or a promotion is promised around achieving metrics and the employer is slow to respond or doesn’t respond once the goal is met…catastrophic failure!  Trust has been broken, and it may not easily be rebuilt.  Leaders, do what you say you are going to do…always!


The My career is my responsibility approach brings balanced symbiosis to a culture when the organization, and individuals within the organization, commit to personal responsibility, accountability and excellence.  What is your personal philosophy on achieving employment symbiosis?


Up next…the employee perspective.


Are You Ready? 3 Keys for Kicking off 2018 the Right Way

The new year is here, so let’s kick it off right!  Now is the ideal time to reflect on improving and re-engineering business infrastructures.  Your personal life may include New Year’s resolutions and recommitments, why not use this same approach when managing business?

As we return to the office, let’s all spend time focused on our business frameworks.  Our national unemployment rate (4.1%) is the lowest it has been in 17 years and predictions are that it will fall even lower in the New Year.  With low unemployment, employees may become restless and want to test the market to see what’s out there.  Job definitions, associated compensation and prospective employer relationships will be judged and evaluated.

Are you ready?

Here are 3 areas where Leaders can make renewed commitments:

  1. Refresh job descriptions (or maybe even write them) – All too often, job descriptions are written, then put on a shelf. Instead of being a living document, they become the forgotten communication tool.  Job descriptions are important for communicating essential functions, establishing minimum levels of education and experience, complying with the Fair Labor Standards Act and so much more.  They play pivotal roles in job accommodations, leaves of absence approvals, worker’s compensation claims and litigation.  Job descriptions help identify the right candidate profile and lay the foundation for appropriate compensation.  Jobs change with the ebb and flow of business, so it’s important to keep descriptions current and relevant.


  1. Renew compensation – As jobs evolve, so do compensation structures and plans. Following a job description refresh, new or expanded responsibilities may be uncovered.  The newly defined job should be analyzed against market to determine if a corresponding base pay adjustment is appropriate.  Incorporating variable pay (discretionary compensation contingent on performance or results) is also emerging as a compensation trend.  In a tight labor market, it’s important employers stay competitive by paying market rate for high demand employees and retaining A+ players.
    NOTE:  A compensation best practice promotes the review of compensation information data and structure every 2-3 years.


  1. Revamp feedback – We have fallen into a rut. It’s called the Annual Performance Review.  Rather than talking “at” our employees one time each year, why not instill an ongoing, interactive feedback conversation?  Resolve to have purposeful one-on-one career development sessions.  Talk about performance.  Ask for the employee’s input.  Help prepare them for what’s next.  But remember… if a conversation wasn’t written down, it never happened.  Please document accordingly.

It’s game on, Leaders!  Best wishes for a great 2018!


Is Crisis the Brand of Your HR?

Trailing considerably in the polls, a Bolivian presidential candidate turns desperately to the services of a troubled, but talented, political strategist for help. After several misfires to get her candidate back in contention, she has an epiphany. “Our brand is crisis!” she exclaims. On a dime, she turns the campaign into one that persuades voters her candidate is the safest choice in a very unstable environment.


This, of course, was not a real election, but the synopsis of “Our Brand is Crisis,” a recent film starring Sandra Bullock. Yet, it probably feels all too real to anyone practicing HR.

Who doesn’t feel like your brand is crisis!

We often hear the battle cries for HR getting “a seat at the table” or being seen as a “business partner,” but typically these campaigns fall short. Why? Because all too often, HR execs are consumed putting out fires and responding to emergencies. There’s no time to be strategic.

Let’s back that claim up with some research. A recent study looked at the four major roles that HR practitioners have to fill. They include:

  1. An Emergency Responder – a firefighter who focuses on issues management, reacting to events/issues and resolving them;
  2. An Employee Mediator – a judge and jury who solves problems and manages conflict;
  3. An Operations Manager – a construction contractor who puts the game plan in motion and analyzes and develops new strategies as situations evolve; or
  4. A Strategic Planner — an architect who plans, innovates and designs for the future, hedging risk along the way.

Guess which one usually gets the most attention?  You got it, the emergency responder. In our experience, about 50 percent of an HR practitioner’s time is spent in reactive mode, dealing with the crisis of the day. Meanwhile, only about 5 percent of their time is dedicated to designing for the future and thinking strategically.

Instead of a seat at the table, we usually find ourselves with a seat on the Titanic!

So, how do we transition the HR field from a brand of crisis to a brand of strategy? Consider these tips as a starting point.

Find your balance.  It doesn’t matter if you are a one-man-band or you have a fully-staffed HR team at your disposal. You must be intentional about changing your own reality. It starts by winning the day. Be proactive and purposeful with how you spend your time. Find ways to commit bandwidth to strategic pursuits. Examine where your time is spent. Look for opportunities to balance your work, as well as opportunities to improve your internal processes and procedures.

Plan with the end in sight. See the big picture. This is particularly important in talent management activities so that you properly address priorities such as workforce planning, engagement management and succession planning. Being a forward thinker requires you to connect the dots across the organization. You must anticipate future problems and hedge the domino effect. (See our recent blog for more info.)

Know the business. If you want to set down the firehose, you have to flex your strategic muscle. This means you have to be smart about the business. You need to have an enterprise AND industry view. If you don’t understand the ins and outs of how your company operates, as well as the business environment that is impacting it, how can you expect to shift into a more strategic role? In other words, approach your job like a CEO.

Embrace data. Being data fluent is the secret sauce for success. Today, data is king.  It’s the language of your leadership.  It’s the basis for major decisions throughout your company.  You must track, understand, think, speak, write and be knowledgeable in data to bring forward effective HR strategies that benefit the business.

These keys help end crisis mode. By leveling up your competencies, you can transform your Human Resources approach from hair-on-fire to calm, cool and collected.

I don’t know about you, but I’d vote for the proverbial table over the Titanic. I’m not buying what Sandra was selling. Neither should you!


Is your HR brand Crisis? If so, how do you rate your department in terms of balance, forward thinking, business savvy and data fluency? 



Business, Strategy, Management, HR

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda: 3 Things to Avoid

I’ve heard the term “shoulda, coulda, woulda” as an episode title of a TV comedy, as part of an NFL kicker’s interview where a game winning field goal was missed, and even during a political news conference!

We can all think back on our lives and remember a time when things may have turned out differently if we prepared, responded, or delivered differently.  We all have a “shoulda, coulda, woulda” experience.

Mistakes and missteps are inevitable. They are just part of life, and part of business.  But have too many “shoulda, coulda, wouldas”, and you may find yourself saying one of the following in your next leadership meeting:

  • “We should have enforced our work-from-home policy, then overtime would be under control.”
  • “If we properly trained our employees on the use of this machine, numerous injuries could have been avoided”.
  • “I would have consulted our attorney had I known this employment issue would end up in court.”

Smart organizations, and strong leaders, are not only skilled at minimizing mistakes, but also looking at the outcome of a plan or project to avoid the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” scenarios.

Before you, or your team, make the next big decision, consider these 3 things to avoid the regret of “shoulda, coulda, woulda”:

1. Take a Time Out. We are all going in so many directions we sometimes feel we don’t have the time to stop and think through a decision or choice.  But you do!  In all areas of life, you make time for the things that are important to you.  Sacrificing accuracy for speed, or quality for quantity is just not worth it. Use your head.  Yes, there are deadlines and circumstances that call for an immediate response, but there must be balance.  The time you take today may save you time, money, and resources tomorrow.  Pause, take a breath, talk to your people.  You will be glad you did.

2. Run the Traps. When faced with a decision, I like to “run all the traps”.  By this, I mean going through an intentional “if this / then that” analysis.  Think through scenarios, risks, rewards, potential outcomes and the associated resulting consequences.  Process through known information, then step back and ask, “What am I missing?”  The time for surprises is early in the process, not after the fact.

3. Consider the Dominos. Even minor decisions have a domino effect, so always expand your perspective. Discuss decisions with your team, consult other stakeholders, think about business operations, ask questions. Consider the downstream impact before you finalize a decision. If you don’t zoom out and consider all perspectives, you risk missing something important.

Honest reflection on your “shoulda, coulda, woulda” experiences can help you avoid making the same mistake twice. I’ll leave you with a real-life example.

A large, growing medical practice decided an employee survey was a good idea. The physician owners and management group wanted insight on the employee perspective. In a few weeks, a culture survey was pulled together, administered and the results came in.  The Docs and Leadership were expecting glowing comments and results, but instead they got raked over the coals and received a big wake-up call.

Why? They didn’t pay attention to the signals employees were already sending.

They “shoulda” paid attention to the work environment and thought through the survey idea. If they adequately ran the traps and anticipated the results, the team would’ve been better prepared for the inevitable outcome. When turnover is high, employee morale is low and patient demand is up, what do you expect? Of course, survey results were harsh!

Leadership “coulda” paid attention to metrics, performed a market study on compensation or created opportunities to show employees appreciation. If these things happened, they “woulda” realized pay was well below market due to a recent industry shift, and employee engagement was lacking due to an overstretched, understaffed clinic model.

The survey was beneficial because it did give leaders what they were looking for…the employee perspective. It also prompted conversation around the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” lessons they learned and how to adjust going forward. Hard lesson, but well done.


Is your organization bogged down in the “shoulda, coulda, wouldas?” How does your culture ensure strategic decision making is part of your business operating norm?


Elevating the Candidate Experience…We’re Spoiled!

As summer temperatures heat up, so does our economy.  Current economic indicators show incomes are increasing and oil prices are low.  Consumer spending is up and national unemployment rates are on a downhill slide.  Business is moving faster to keep up and employees are getting restless. A summer storm is brewing and resumes are flying!  Why?

When the economy improves, it becomes a job seeker’s market.  To survive, businesses must focus on talent retention, and purposefully differentiate themselves as an employer of choice in the market.

So how does a company standout in the recruiting storm?

It’s all in the experience. Today’s job seekers respond best to a high-touch, personal, carefully planned and orchestrated recruiting approach. Let’s face it, we’re spoiled.

Society has high expectations. We have personal mobile devices with 24/7 connectivity and are accustomed to immediate results and positive experiences.  We’ve come to expect a heightened level of attention.  We want what we want and won’t take anything less.

When I graduated from the University of Tennessee and interviewed for my first job, the recruiting process intrigued me.  The “wining and dining,” the social events, the build up to the offer… some companies managed the process so well.  It was an experience!  Every interaction with those superior businesses was united in making me want to work for them.  They subtlety demonstrated they were the best.  I was impressed and I wanted in!

I especially recall one company with whom I interviewed.  They were superb at the “art of the chase” and had recruits hyperventilating over the possibility of joining their firm.  From start to finish, everyone with whom I interviewed had a consistent, unified, effective message.  The process was well-choreographed.  Every touch, every interaction, every communication said they were the best.

Many years later, I still recall my experience with great admiration.

It was high-touch recruiting.  It worked then, and it works now.  A positive, focused experience, like a little black dress, never goes out of style.  If your company presents as well put-together, doing everything RIGHT, you will attract candidates who have the right confidence, abilities, attitude and leadership qualities to help drive your business forward.

Regardless of industry or the size of business, the power of high-touch recruiting works.

Presentation is everything. As the old saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Remember this adage… always!  Missteps must be avoided at all costs, regardless of where you are in the recruiting process.

Be authentic. Candidates build relationships with people, not companies.  When interacting with candidates, be present, be personable. Candidates want to know that you are invested in their happiness.

Create the want. Recruiting is sales. From start to finish, interactions must be well-orchestrated. Hiring leaders, recruiters – actually, every employee — need to know, understand and be able to articulate the character and direction of the organization.  Emails, letters, interviews, recruitment dinners, phone calls, texts, site visits, tours, etc., all should be reflective of company culture and leave the candidate wanting more.

Ensure consistency. An intentional, well-organized process allows companies to seek out highly motivated, optimistic people with the right skill sets that match the job as perfectly as possible.  The process is responsive to the market and implemented well by every employee with whom candidates interact.

A well-oiled machine. Recruiting is not off the cuff.  Interviewing is a skill. Recruiting is a planned activity. To create a memorable candidate experience, every employee participant must be trained, practiced and prepared in the art of recruiting.  Mixed messages may scare away top talent, or worse, you risk unnecessary legal exposure.  So, train…then train again.

Choose wisely. …but choose! People are an imperfect product. The focus should be on finding the best candidate in the market at the time you have the need. You can’t talk to everyone. There is a fine line between taking your time, and taking too long.  In today’s market, top candidates will find a position quickly.  Recruiters and hiring leaders need to be confident decision-makers.   If you know a candidate is strong, and your intuition is telling you they are a great culture fit, why delay and risk having the candidate take an opportunity elsewhere?

Don’t drop the ball. The best of the best show respect and consideration for all candidates. Once hired, new employees should have a sense of completion and satisfaction, if their personal recruiting experience was successfully executed.  On the flipside, candidates who weren’t selected complain: “I had a great interview, but then I never heard anything more from the company.”  Don’t be THAT company.

It takes time for employers to intentionally deliver a high-touch experience, but it is time well spent. The process of recruiting reflects who you are and who you want to be as a company.  It’s your reputation.

It’s about hiring the RIGHT people, in the RIGHT jobs, to do the RIGHT things, RIGHT now. Period.

Savvy employers don’t stop recruiting employees on their hire date. The high-touch recruiting experience is only the beginning.

So, what high-touch recruitment strategies could you add to this list?  How do you make recruiting memorable and effective?

Connecting the Dots – How HR Can Eliminate Confusion, Chaos and Costly Mistakes   

Every executive knows how critical it is to break down siloes, to connect all areas of the business and ensure alignment across the organization. We call this process “connecting the dots.” I think we can all join hands and agree that companies need to ensure consistency in their messaging, business objectives and operational delivery models to ensure success.

So, why is it that most organizations struggle with the left hand having no idea what the right hand is doing? Why is it so common to see companies wrestling with disconnects and discrepancies?  If connecting the dots is really a business imperative, why are so many organizations only providing lip service to it?

Read more…