78: How To Build Bridges Across Your Organization

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How can organizations go from good to great? From great to best? How does creating a culture of respect, trust, and understanding lead to building bridges across an organization? In this episode, Jason Greer shares insights and advice to HR leaders based on his work with organizations in two specific areas - unionization avoidance and diversity and inclusion.   
Jason is the founder and president of Greer Consulting, a labor management and employee relations consulting firm. He is a speaker and consultant with a background in counseling, training, and conflict resolution. Jason presents to audiences with a focus on managing through personal and corporate growth while maintaining an intimate connection to the human components that define us and make organizational cultures special. He is also one of the co-authors of the book, People Matter Most: The Dirty Little Secrets of Employee Relations & Labor Management.
Listen (above) or watch the video (below) to catch Fred's interview with Jason.

Key Learnings From This Episode

  • What is reverse risk consulting? It is a deep dive analysis to get to know your employees on an intimate level, hearing and understanding their issues or concerns. It is also about understanding the strengths and weaknesses of an organization. This analysis is done from an HR and leader perspective – what is keeping them up at night? What do I want to know about my employees and what can we do to take our good organization to great? How can we go from great to best? The critical analysis is performed to understand where employees are at and their perceptions. The consulting engagement is finite. The goal is to build a bridge between leaders and employees. 
  • What is the typical organization that seeks this type of consulting? Jason and his team typically work with non-union organizations. Many of the consultants are former HR professionals, some were previously paid union organizers. Some companies have a union, some have a union ‘thread’, some have no union at all. 
  • Jason Greer Quote on HR Studio PodcastWhat are some mistakes that HR or line leaders make while managing union avoidance or managing within a union environment? A great example is the ‘fist pump’. The fist pump does not equal rapport. Talking about sports or the weather does not equal rapport. Managers and leaders see great engagement scores and believe their people love them. They don’t realize people are telling them what they think their leader wants to hear because they want to keep their jobs.  Leaders don’t have a true understanding of who people are. People work for money but they will die for respect, and they will die for recognition. There are fundamental differences between people.  They come from different backgrounds and have different needs. 
  • How can HR coach and counsel line leaders to work in this kind of environment? In union avoidance campaigns, leaders get up in front of employees and ask for a second chance. This is known as the 24-hour speech. Imagine every day is a 24-hour speech. Be vulnerable enough to know there are some days when you are going to get it right and some days when you are going to get it wrong. You want to have the daily mindset that you have to win people’s minds and hearts. If you have 30 employees, it only takes positive interaction with five people for the word to spread. Plant seeds. When people feel like you care, the intangibles are what fundamentally matter. 
  • How can HR coach on this? Coaching should be based on the leader or the people on the team.  Understand who they are. Do they like to be in front of people or do they prefer to work behind the scenes? Understand pride, understand when to pull back. Understand the people they are going to interact with. The more time leaders spend with people who are not like them, the more they will develop a routine of getting a better understanding of who they are.
  • Are there any other ‘formulas’ that work? Leaders should go to the break room or cafeteria and just sit and be present. They need to talk to people and make the human connection. When leaders just regurgitate a bunch of bullet points, people can see it from a mile away. When leaders show they are just another human being doing their best to get through the day, it’s amazing the bridges that can be built. 
  • How can diversity and inclusion be discussed in the workplace in a way that is proactive and not insensitive? Use a vulnerable approach. In 1991 at the age of 17, Jason was the victim of cross burns by the KKK. There was no foolproof method to talk about this other than to just talk about it. Humans come from a brain-based perspective. When people interact with people who are different, the brain goes into a ‘threat state’, a state of paralysis and scare. The best way to build a bridge and start having effective conversations is by taking a step forward and saying, ‘I just want to talk to you and get to know you. I want to get to know where you come from.’ 
  • When the topic of diversity comes up, employees of color see that white managers are scared to talk about diversity because they do not want to do or say anything offensive. People need to be willing to have the critical conversation that starts with, ‘This is going to tough and uncomfortable to talk about because I do not want to offend you, but here’s my truth. This is how I see things, but I want to understand how you see things.’ What you hear might be uncomfortable because it might be something you have never heard before. It might offend your sensibilities, however, the more you engage in these conversations, the more you will find commonalities. Repetition of conversations will increase comfort level, and the higher the comfort level, the more relaxed, genuine, and natural people will be in their interactions. Momentum and understanding builds.
  • You need to build trust with each other. Signal positive intent. Even if you don’t agree on issues, agree that you want mutual understanding and respect. Respect each other enough to ‘agree to agree’ and ‘agree to disagree’, and to do so peacefully.
  • Any advice for HR leaders? Relax. Realize how valuable you are to the business. You deserve a seat at the table. Be present. Be bold. Take bold steps. Admit when you get it wrong. Be proud of the times when you get it right. Just keep moving forward. ‘You’ve got this.’
Jason Greer HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Jason Greer HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Tuesday, April 30, 2019 - 8:00am
HR Consulting
Fred Bunsa
Jason Greer
HR Studio Podcast