March 3, 2015 / Articles We Like / HR / Talent Management

On “5 Unconventional Ways To Keep Your Most Talented Employees From Leaving”

In Silicon Valley and beyond, many companies are engaged in a battle for talent. Winning is not just about hiring the very best; companies need to change the way they think about keeping their superstars. Superstars can go anywhere, they have options, so why not innovate to keep them engaged with your company?

The Fast Company article, 5 Unconventional Ways to Keep Your Most Talented Employees From Leaving, by Chris Ostoich, highlights five creative tips to retain your top people.  From identifying the informal network, how things get done and integrating new employees into it, to embracing self-formed, self-managed teams to give employees ownership and leadership, the content in this article will stimulate your thinking.

What interesting, creative ideas do you have for engaging your best talent?

February 19, 2015 / HR / Talent Management / Wisetalk

WiseTalk Summary on Capturing Rookie Smarts

To kick off our 2015 Talent Management theme, we invited Liz Wiseman to join Sue Bethanis as a guest on WiseTalk. Liz is a highly regarded leadership expert recognized by Thinkers50 and author of the new Wall Street Journal best seller Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing in the New Game of Work. She is the President of the Wiseman Group, a leadership research and development firm headquartered in Silicon Valley, California.

Sue and Liz had a rich dialogue on the research and findings in her book Rookie Smarts. One of our biggest a-has from the conversation was about the value of the inexperienced. It could be said that those who are new to something for the first time can’t bring value, but we learned that this is essentially a myth. Those who are inexperienced operate from a “hungry state.” They lack expertise so look outward to a network of experts to get ideas and leverage their knowledge a project, much more so than experts.  We also learned in the tech world, where everything is changing so fast, the value of the experienced leader is in how fast he or she can learn, not what they know.

Favorite Quote:
“When I’m quick to say yes to something I don’t know how to do, I don’t need a personal development or learning plan that tells me to go work in certain ways that are against my nature, I’m just forced to do it.”


  • Liz’s definition of a rookie is being new to something important and hard, regardless of age. Whether you’re 21 or 71, it’s doing something you haven’t done before. The value of a rookie doesn’t come from bringing fresh ideas. The value comes from bringing no ideas. When one comes in and has a gap in knowledge, it puts them in a predictable hungry state. They tend to point outward, ask more than talk, they lack expertise so seek it out in others. Liz mentioned an interesting data point: the inexperienced bring in 5x level of expertise on a problem then experts. The reason is because they lack expertise, so they point outward and ask for help. Rookies mobilize a network of expertise and bring it back to bear on a problem. When they ask others how they do something, they receive a diverse set of voices that they have to reconcile. The process of reconciling is when some of our best thinking is done and is why rookies get so smart in the space of relative ignorance.
  • In her research, Liz found that experience leads to success but rookies are surprisingly strong performers and in many cases outperform people with experience. Those cases are the knowledge industry, where work is innovative in nature and where speed matters. Why? Not because rookies are more skilled, but because they are more desperate. They have “no points on the board,” they are the new kid on the block, so work quickly to deliver quick wins and proof points to see if they’re on track. The most successful veterans and rookies operate in fundamentally different ways. When she looked at low performing cases, they failed in very similar ways.

Tips for capturing rookie smarts:

  1. Individuals: Liz suggests individuals try not to linger too long in a job that you’re qualified for. Say yes to things you don’t know how to do. When we keep putting ourselves out there in rookie situations, we are forced to ask questions and seek help, because we don’t know what we’re doing. She also suggests refreshing your assumptions by practicing “naive” questions, such as, what are we doing this for? Who is the real customer here? What happens if we don’t do anything? A fun exercise to audit our assumptions is to ask, what is it we believe to be true about this? Our work? Our customer base? List out the assumptions and see if you have evidence to support them or if you have evidence to the contrary. Also, swapping jobs with someone for a day will build empathy for what others do, as well as leave you with fresh ideas that can help you innovate.
  2. Feed a diet of challenge: In Liz’s research, she found, on average, it takes someone about three months to wrestle down a new challenge, and about three months after to be ready for the next one. The real practical way to keep you and/or your team rookie smart is to continue to feed yourself or your team a diet of challenge. Ask every three months, am I or is this person ready for a new challenge? Not more work, but harder work. Liz’s research also correlated satisfaction with challenge. As challenge goes up in a job, so does satisfaction and vice versa. If leaders want to drive satisfaction up on their teams, give them harder things to do.
  3. Power combinations: At team level, one suggestion Liz offered is for leaders to be deliberate about how power combinations are created. There is value in the way that both rookies and more experienced talent work. Partnering this talent is important, such as reverse mentoring and being clear about giving veteran leaders a chance to learn from rookies on their team. Try pairing a team of rookies anchored by expert, or put an empowered rookie on a team with more experience.

What we found most interesting:
In Liz’s research, when she looked at high-performing rookies, she found the most valuable/highest performing of the rookies were experienced executives taken out of one domain and put into a different one. They know enough to know the good questions to ask, how to manage people, and have their “sea legs” but are placed in a different sea so don’t know all the answers. This is where she found executives are at their best.

To learn about Liz’s approach to the extensive research, the four rookie mindsets, and more interesting insights from Liz and Sue on mid-career professionals and the world of work today, listen to the recording here.

April 28, 2014 / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation / HR / Talent Management

Ask Mariposa | Understanding Customers’ Needs

John asks:  Recently there seems to be a widening gap between product development and our understanding of customers’ needs. The products aren’t hitting home like they used to. Obviously, there are many changes we need to make – where do we start?

Sue Bethanis, CEO of Mariposa, responds:

Well, there are many facets to the this question, and believe me, you’re not the only one feeling it; so many people we talk with are zeroing in on this dilemma.  Here’s one idea that may hit home: START with customer empathy, and put on your anthropologist hat. GO see how your customers are using the products on their turf.  You know, Steve Jobs was famous for not conducting Focus Groups, but he still knew Apple’s customers REALLY well.  He was seen regularly hanging out at the Palo Alto Apple store, and checking out how customers were using Apple’s products.

March 27, 2014 / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management / Leadership

Ask Mariposa | Overworked and Undervalued

Erica asks: I am currently performing job duties that are a step up from my job classification and working roughly 50 hours overtime!  Internal hiring for this advanced position has been delayed for 6 months.  Since I am already doing the work for this position and getting paid at a lower classification, I feel as if I am being taken advantage of.  I want to approach management about this, but not sure how.  What do you suggest I do?

Tawny Lees, COO of Mariposa, responds:

Hi Erica,

Thanks for your question – it’s a good one! And not uncommon. I strongly suggest you talk to your manager about the situation and work together to identify a solution. Here are some specifics for preparing for and handling the conversation:

  • Get really clear about your intended outcomes before having any conversations with management. Do you want to be considered for the higher position? Are you okay with the temporary workload if you are paid appropriately? Do you not want to perform these extra job duties at all?
  • Once you are clear on your intended outcomes, brainstorm (by yourself) some ideas about how you and your manager can meet your needs and the business needs. Promote you and then back-fill your position? Hire a contractor for 6 months? Share the workload with a few other people? Cut back on some specific deliverables for 6 months?
  • Reach out to your manager and ask for a meeting to work together on a plan for handling business needs while the team is lacking a person in the position.
  • Stay positive, constructive and solution-oriented while being firm about what you are and are not willing to do.

I’m sure you are tired from all the work, so my final suggestion would be to get some rest and downtime before you do this thinking and before you have this conversation. You will be much better able to think clearly and manage your emotions.

Good luck!

January 29, 2014 / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation / HR / Talent Management

How Design Thinking Changes the Way HR Implements Programs

Most HR professionals understand the pitfalls of implementing an HR program. To circumvent failure, HR professionals often conduct a needs assessment to inform direction, maybe conduct a pilot program, and then move to implement when given a “thumb’s up.”

A design thinking mentality shifts that. Whether designing a product, service or experience, the core principle behind the success of design thinking is “fail fast.” For HR professionals, this changes how “buttoned up” your program will be before piloting, or even before rolling it out.  The point is to test the program and via observation and feedback, gather data on an ongoing basis to continue to improve.  Why do this?  Because “customer-driven” programs are the most successful.

To innovate the way you implement HR and Talent Management programs, join us in our new Using Design Thinking in HR & Talent Management workshop

December 11, 2013 / Design Thinking / Creativity / Innovation / HR / Talent Management

2 Ways Empathy Can Help HR Drive Innovation

In most companies today, innovation is expected from all areas of an organization – including groups not traditionally known for driving innovation agendas, such as Human Resources. Success for HR and Talent Management leaders lies in opening up to new approaches for developing fresh ideas for difficult issues. Here are 2 ways that empathy – a key element of design thinking and one facet of our Breakthrough! model – can help HR & Talent Management leaders go from idea-to-innovation more quickly.

  • Empathy provides context for solutions. Too often, leaders of all types come up with an idea for a product, service or experience in isolation, then implement it. This approach fails to lead to innovation. Developing empathy through various methods of observation and interviewing puts HR leaders in their customer’s shoes, experiencing what they do and how they feel. Thus, HR leaders stand a better chance of developing solutions that work for the customer.
  • Empathy develops T-shaped HR leaders. HR leaders who develop an ability to empathize with their customers have both the vertical skills in human resources and are able to broaden their horizontal perspectives, leading to an ability to look at a problem from multiple dimensions.

For more information on empathy, download our Executive Guide to Design Thinking or join us at our NEW Using Design Thinking in HR & Talent Management workshop.

October 31, 2013 / Articles We Like / HR / Talent Management

On: "7 Hottest Trends in HR Technology"

Because advances in HR technology have historically changed the way talent is managed, we suggest this article, by author Meghan Biro, CEO of TalentCulture Consulting Group, as she looks at technology trends to help HR make smart decisions.

In the article, 7 Hottest Trends in HR Technology, published in Forbes, Meghan predicts companies will become more selective about their technology investments, opting for those which are easy to implement, are user friendly and deliver targeted results. Read it now for more, including her trends in analytics, social media and mobile applications.

What trends are you seeing in HR technology? What are your predictions on how they will impact talent management processes?

Comment below! Or pose a question via Ask Mariposa.

October 15, 2013 / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management

Two Cool Ways the Skill of Reframing Benefits Leadership Team Development

Great leaders help others come up with their own solutions to problems through strategic questioning and listening techniques.  This is the hallmark of In-The-Moment (ITM) Coaching, and the best tool leaders can use for leadership team development.

The final step of ITM Coaching is Reframe, and learning how to reframe in a coaching conversation is a mutually beneficial process. Here are two cool ways reframing develops your direct report – and you as a coach:

  • Reframing both empowers your direct report and establishes accountability.  In Assess, you arrived at an understanding of the most important problem that needs to be solved right away.  Now, the questions you ask will help your direct report arrive at his/her own plan of action.  In doing so, you empower him/her to take the steps necessary while gaining his/her commitment to specific actions.
  • To successfully reframe, leaders need to be self-aware.  Are you present or distracted?  Do you understand the problem to be solved or are you pushing the conversation towards a solution too quickly?  In the role of coach – and in other roles leaders play – understanding the drivers of your own behavior helps to prevent derailing the conversation.  Self-awareness is an essential leadership skill.

The goal of ITM Coaching is to help others generate solutions for their own issues and Reframe is the step where the rubber meets the road.  For tips to help you master Reframe and other how-to’s on ITM Coaching, download the free Executive Guide to In-The-Moment Coaching.

October 15th, 2013|Categories: Coaching Skills, HR / Talent Management|
July 25, 2013 / Blog / Coaching Skills / HR / Talent Management / Wise Talk

July 2013 Wise Talk Recap with Sue


Click here to listen to and download the full audio recording of July’s Wise Talk with NY Times bestselling author Kevin Kruse (@kruse) and Mariposa CEO @suebethanis!  Kevin’s practical advice and insights will help you get started on building and executing an employee engagement plan.

April 29, 2013 / Blog / HR / Talent Management

Five Lessons from a CEO on HR

hr-jigsawIn a unique turn of roles Les Hayman “retired” from a long tenure as a CEO to leading Global HR for SAP. In a recent guest blog post, Les summarizes five key lessons that he dubbed: “What I Wish I Knew as a CEO That I Learned Later in HR.”  The five lessons were:

1. Spend more time on making recruitment a core competency in the entire organization. I especially agree with his point that hiring for attitude is more important than hiring mainly for skills. The costs of weak hiring practices are enormous, and while HR should lead the way – it is every leader’s responsibility to be good at recruiting.

2. A large number of people who move into management are not comfortable when they get there and should be given the opportunity to move back out without being penalized, or better still, can stay in a professional role rather than being pushed into management. Les was surprised at the number of reluctant managers he came across, and advocates for valid vocational career paths for professionals. I agree with him wholeheartedly, AND I believe that sometimes these reluctant managers can become highly passionate and effective managers given the right coaching.

3. There are no such things as HR problems, only business problems that HR needs to help resolve. Couldn’t agree with this one more – HR leaders need to see themselves as business leaders before others will.

4. Spend more time on underperformers. While I agree with this, I also believe the right recruitment has to be in place first. And that the “move them up or move them out” approach does not have to be a lengthy, painful process.

5. Put less value on formal performance reviews and more on managing behavior as a moment by moment way of business life. Hallelujah on this one, and the ITM Coaching approach is a great skill for leaders to enable this moment-by-moment way of business life!


To check out the full article:

To check out other writings by Les Hayman:

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