Lisa Sterling has been named an HR Superstar by the HRO Today Services and Technology Association Awards. She was recognized for her “people focused” approach to HR, transforming Ceridian’s HR organization into a people and culture organization, redesigning Ceridian’s people development strategies and significantly improving employee engagement at the organization.

“Lisa’s commitment to employee engagement initiatives and their achievements is a great example of how creating a winning culture leads to real business results,” says David Ossip, CEO of Ceridian. “Our own transformation through our Makes Work Life Better culture is at the core of our thinking and allows Ceridian to continually improve the workforce technology solutions we provide to our customers. Helping our customers achieve their own HCM goals and cultural transformation has contributed to impressive compounded growth for our award-winning cloud-based solution, Dayforce HCM.”

Under Lisa’s guidance, Ceridian eliminated annual performance reviews, instead leveraging the performance management functionality within Dayforce HCM to transition to a continuous feedback style of performance management. Ceridian also uses an industry-first Employee Engagement Platform that integrates engagement and wellness with robust social recognition features, allowing employee achievements to be recognized throughout the organization in real time.

“Ceridian is now enjoying the benefits of our cultural transformation, with excellence demonstrated across all areas of operations and an increasingly engaged workforce,” says Lisa. “That success allows us to partner with our customers to help them with their own transformation and to provide innovative technology that makes their HCM operations seamless.”

Lisa’s award was announced on May 1 at the HRO Today awards gala during the HRO Today Forum North America in Chicago. She has also been recognized this year by the American Business Awards in the Human Resources Executive of the Year category.

The HRO Today Services and Technology Association Awards have been the highlight of the year and an aspiration for those in the HR industry worldwide. Each year, the Association selects a theme that the awards criteria revolves around. The theme of this year’s program was once again Be Connected! – HR Leaders Unite. The HRO Today awards gala is the industry’s best-known and most prestigious event that brings together inspirational innovators and thought leaders.

Ceridian creates innovative technology that organizations around the world use to attract, develop, manage and pay their people. Its award-winning Dayforce solution helps its customers manage compliance, make better decisions, build great teams and drive engagement with their employees. Ceridian has solutions for organizations of all sizes.

In a world where the average employee sends and receives 122 emails per day and attends an average of 62 meetings per month, your boss or HR leadership simply doesn’t have the time or bandwidth to properly think through how best to deploy your talents moving forward. Instead, we have to take control of our career planning to ensure we’re putting ourselves in position for long-term growth. Here are four ways to become more strategic about the process.

Force yourself to set aside time. When things get busy, time for strategic thinking is almost always the first to go. Planning sessions seem amorphous, and the ROI is uncertain. But going for months or years without regular introspection can lead you down a professional path that you didn’t intend to be on. Instead, force yourself to make time for strategic reflection. Just as you’re more likely to go to the gym if you have plans to meet a workout buddy, you can use the same technique to enforce discipline around strategic thinking. Identify several trusted colleagues and start a mastermind group to meet regularly, discuss big picture goals, and hold each other accountable for meeting them. Having others whom you trust challenge your thinking can open up new ideas and possibilities you hadn’t previously considered.

Get clear on your next steps. Getting clarity around your professional goals — such as being promoted to SVP, starting your own business, or running the Asia/Pacific region — is only the first step. The place where many professionals fall down is identifying the pathway to get from here to there. One technique you can use is pre-writing your resume. In this exercise, you put yourself five years into the future and write your resume as you envision it, including your new title and exact job responsibilities. The trick is that you also have to fill in the intervening five years, which prompts you to reflect on what specific skills you’ll need to develop in the interim, what degrees or accreditations you may need to earn, and what promotional path you’ll need to pursue in order to get there. Understanding that helps force your thinking and ensure that you’re taking the right steps.

Invest in deep work. It can be tempting to invest your time the same way everyone else does — putting in face time at the office, or racing to respond to emails the fastest. At lower levels, that might mark employees as “go-getters.” But as you ascend in the organization, the ability to jump higher and faster becomes less important. Instead, what marks you as successful over time is creating in-depth, valuable projects — whether that’s writing a book or a brilliant new piece of code, spearheading the launch of a promising product, or undertaking a meaningful initiative, like reorganizing the company’s performance review system. That involves a shift from staccato, reactive work into more self-directed, long-term projects, deep work. Many professionals don’t seek this work out, as there’s no immediate ROI — but the long-term benefits and recognition are substantial.

Build your external reputation. External hires into a company get paid 20% more than internal workers who are promoted into similar jobs. Gratingly, they also perform worse for the first two years. That’s patently unjust, but it points to an important truth: professionals are often taken for granted inside their own organizations. That doesn’t mean you should jump ship every few years. But it does point to the fact that, even if you’d like to stay at the same company, it’s important to cultivate a strong external reputation so that you have opportunities if you want them, and to remind your boss and colleagues that your abilities are sought after and appreciated by others. Blogging for industry journals, applying to speak at conferences, and taking on a leadership role in your professional association are all great ways to stay visible in your field — both to outsiders and those inside your company who need to be reminded of your talents.

Taking time to think about your career development is obviously important, but it’s almost never urgent, so many professionals fail to take action, year after year. By focusing on these four steps, you can begin to carve out time to be more deliberate, and lay the groundwork for the job you want — five years from now, and beyond.

People who are rewarded for their performance express more desire for money than people who receive fixed payments—even when the amounts they end up earning are similar. This increased hunger for money can manifest itself in different ways, such as a greater willingness to complete a tedious task to make money or a decreased willingness to part with earnings by donating to charity.

Individuals often struggle to know where they need to grow in order to move up to the next level. One of the best strategies for aspiring leaders to rise through the ranks in organizations is to create a personal board of directors. The board is a group of six to eight people you select to help with your professional development — individuals who can help you uncover your blind spots, provide specific feedback by seeing you in action, and, in some situations, advocate for you. They can help you navigate tumultuous political waters, provide you with insight on a regular basis that can inform the ways you work and think, and even change the minds of your toughest critics.

Consider the case of Alex, a general manager at an online company. She was very successful at producing results. Her business numbers were stellar and on a steady climb. She was one of the most knowledgeable people in her field and a sought-after speaker on future trends in her industry. But while she was very good at what she did, Alex struggled with how she did her job. When asked, people admitted to walking on eggshells around her. Alex considered herself direct, but others thought she was condescending, dismissive, and impatient. They thought she was invested in furthering only her own team’s agenda — at the cost of other teams’ goals. And although her team was motivated by business wins, they feared Alex and were hungry for positive acknowledgement. Only a small handful of people appreciated her no-nonsense approach. Unless she addressed these communication challenges, her chances of promotion were slim.

Alex needed a personal board of directors. Since most people who worked with her already had firmly entrenched perceptions about her, she needed a diverse set of people who could actively observe and inform her about her interactions. But Alex needed to build this board not just with her supporters but also with her critics.

As with any good board of directors, you need to fill different roles and specialties to optimize its effectiveness. William Wrigley Jr. is reported to have said, “When two men in business always agree, one of them is unnecessary.” If you have too many board members who agree with each other, you might as well have a board of one. A diverse board broadens your leadership skills by understanding the motivations of different kinds of people. Having multiple perceptions reveals a wider range of notes you can play. Use unconventional but important roles to fill on your personal board of directors.

Your fans help you learn how to change. By giving constructive feedback on the things you’re struggling with, they can help you pinpoint actionable details behind the tough feedback you don’t want to hear. Because they’re your fans, they deliver this feedback with kindness and good intent. Suddenly, the tough stuff no longer makes you feel helpless and overwhelmed. You see a clear set of steps forward.

But it’s your responsibility to push back on your fans for specific information. Ask them for feedback on the behaviors that underlie each negative perception, and go beyond the obvious. For example, ask, “What do you see in my actions that I don’t see?” or “What’s the last 10% that you haven’t yet shared with me?” These types of questions can help them identify areas you may be blind to.

Potential sponsors are senior leaders who can advocate for you when it’s time for promotion. They may include your manager, your manager’s peers, leaders in a different department, and other influencers who make decisions about you and your coworkers. To work effectively with these folks, stay on their radar and prove your value to them. Share information they don’t have easy access to — perhaps news from a customer visit or themes from an employee roundtable. Also, acknowledge them. Call out how they have made an impact on your business results. They’ll feel good about their work, and you’ll get to showcase your results.

It’s important to remember to keep a current list of potential sponsors, especially as the players around you change. If you’re left without a certain player on your board, you have no option for growth. For example, in the past year, three vice presidents I coach maintained a strong relationship with a single key person above them. But when that sponsor left the organization, all three lost their champion. Without an internal sponsor, they ended up leaving the organization as well.

Your critics are the frequently overlooked category is the toughest part of your board. These individuals have deep-seated perceptions of you and can block you from advancing. There are two reasons to enroll your critics: to shift their perception of you to a more favorable one and to give you specific, actionable feedback on what you do well so you can improve.

Find adversaries who are critical, pinpoint specifics, and are nitpicky. But rather than having them point out your deficiencies, ask them to identify your strengths, and show them you’re committed to improving. Ask them to provide you with feedback when they catch you doing the new and improved behavior well. Then push them further. As with your fans, ask for specific behaviors. For example, ask, “What did you see me say or do that led you to the impression that I’m more invested in building peer relationships?”

Ten months after Alex started working with her board, she was given a promotion, increased job responsibilities, and a special bonus. Her hard work paid off. Because her board had seen her efforts to improve up close, they could speak confidently about the changes they had observed, and they worked hard to advocate for her.

To improve yourself as a leader and professional, you can’t depend on your point of view. Seek out feedback from a group of smart and influential people — those who support you and those who don’t. Putting together a diverse group of carefully curated colleagues will help you have a greater impact, move up, and generate more supporters who want to see you succeed.


VUCA means a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous environment. We know that such VUCA conditions trip up executives accustomed to more sedate settings.


Democracies try to keep people’s social backgrounds from overly determining or constraining their futures. Moreover, VUCA environments are rapidly enveloping even stable nations because of sharp and rapid (disruptive) technological changes, people’s unease with social changes, major political disagreements within and between countries, terrorism and war in a highly interconnected world, the pressure on natural resources and from global warming, etc.

Most companies aren’t prepared for the VUCA world. Their executives allude to VUCA in strategy presentations, but rarely work at realigning their internal reality – structure, processes, information flows, culture, and talent – to the demands of their VUCA environment. Their words are eloquent, but they experience no cognitive disconnect when they use planning systems that demand single point revenue or profit or growth goals to confront those challenges. They acknowledge the importance of “outside in” viewpoints, without recognizing how internal sense-making capabilities constrain their absorption. These gaps will adversely affect, even destroy, some companies.

Even in companies that recognize the stakes, making these changes will take time. Where should they start? Which early changes will have (1) widespread impact (2) in a relatively short time (3) while laying the foundation for long term? They should focus on their Talent Management System (TMS).

Largely developed in the 20th century, many TMS are well past their prime. They are poor – as research and practice have shown – at creating diverse workforces, even at executive levels. My focus here is on a less appreciated problem: TMS elicit praises of managers who plan well and the virtual worshipping of managers who execute plans brilliantly. If someone excels in both – subject to likeability and similarity considerations – they facilitate promotions that provide the accoutrements of power. And these individuals, in turn, favor those who are also proponents of strong planning and flawless execution. In other words, traditional TMS are superb for finding “Executive A” types who were perfect for the 20th century.

In a VUCA world, however, carefully laid plans often don’t survive contact with hard reality. Planning and execution don’t become irrelevant, but do become baseline requirements. Three other capabilities are key: the ability to sense, on the fly, the reality of a situation; the ability to respond effectively to the sensed reality, even without resources to assess major implications carefully; and the ability to learn rapidly from experience and incorporate the lessons into future plans, execution, and most importantly, the building of sense and respond capabilities. Executive B probably had to master these capabilities for day-to-day living: how to go with the flow, gauge the environment, and make snap decisions using available (and presumably flawed) information.

Though these increasingly essential capabilities are observable, traditional TMS don’t ascribe them value. To appreciate the veracity of this assertion, consider the TMS’ most visible tool: the quarterly or annual performance review. Reflecting its decades old origin, it evaluates execution based on specific plans (tied to a goal or KPI) set at the beginning of the evaluation period. So, it simply cannot readily capture a person’s ability to sense and respond to emerging realities, or to learn from these. Good bosses compensate by supplanting the original plans/goals/KPI with new ones after new business realities emerge. This ad hoc approach, though necessary, can be unfair – what if your boss isn’t “good?” Indeed, several (mostly high tech) companies have begun drastically reshaping or abandoning traditional performance evaluations for closely related reasons.

A mostly ignored demographic change is compounding this key weakness. The average age of top executives, including CEOs, has dropped sharply since 1980. The average CEO tenure has dropped over 50% during the same time. The average tenures of non-CEO executives have probably dropped too: Women – who weren’t on executive teams prior to 1980 – are rising to power more quickly and spend less time at each level. Data collected informally from executive education participants around the world suggests that since 2005, the average tenure for mid-to-senior executives has between 2 and 3 years, well below the average in earlier years. So, companies have limited opportunity to formally observe, record, and nurture/correct any capability that traditional performance evaluation doesn’t capture routinely.

Companies should start making changes from the top. Their Board and CEO can reasonably select top leaders based on their ability to sense, respond and learn well before these become a part of their formal leadership standards. One key appointment would be that of the top HR executive, who must lead the changing the TMS. Such top down change will facilitate the further transformation necessary for a VUCA world: Executives who have experiential understanding of what it takes to sense, respond and learn will be responsible for carrying out the transformation, not those who are only comfortable in the world of plan and execute.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s