Name: Patrick O’Donnell
Title: VP HR & Risk, CPO
Company: Kauffman Tire, Inc.
1. How many years have you been working in HR? 20 years. Wow, I never really calculated that before!
2. Favorite thing about working in HR? Impact. While there are many other favorites like variety and fast pace, impact is probably my runaway answer. The many facets of business and personal impact from efforts in this role are vast and gratifying.
3. Best piece of advice you ever received about a career in HR? Get out – choose a different career! More than one person has told me that. The flip side of number two is that in “real world” HR/Business roles you have many challenges from all directions and much of your effort can be misunderstood and unappreciated. It can be a difficult tightrope walk that is not for everybody.
4. Most important thing on your desk? I’m an organizational neat freak and recovering perfectionist – I don’t have anything on my desk! Current important working issues are a handbook revision and property and casualty insurance buying.
5. If you weren’t in HR, what would you do? Hmmmmm. That’s really tough. Architect, attorney, artist, performer, or cruise ship captain. How’s that for scattered? I’m sure there is some disturbing psychological analysis to be had with such a variety, but as I like to repeat from the TV and radio commercial: “If you can’t get help at Charter, get help somewhere.”
6. Favorite office supply? Post-it notes. No matter how often and hard I attempt to eliminate their use, I cannot. Though I utilize all of the great digital tools as well, post-it notes still have their place. Pretty good for an accidental invention.
7. Favorite interview question to ask potential hires? What question have I not asked that you fully expected me to ask? It’s interesting what people respond with when it’s a question that they did not or could not prep for. I have another one that I sometimes use when I don’t feel that I have enough meaningful information to make a decision on the next step. It starts with setting the stage by hypothetically implying that I know their current/former boss as a personal friend. With that suggestion, I ask the candidate fairly typical questions about their work and performance, but I often receive more candid responses with the notion that my friend will provide me the real skinny, not guarded reference responses.
8. One inexpensive, effective way you’ve utilized to improve employee morale? Humor and McDonald’s apple pies. I look for ways to inject humor into daily work. It’s good for associates, but it’s also good for me. Laughter really is good medicine. I also like to randomly buy a simple treat like McD’s apple pies. Everybody loves them and it’s a nice unexpected gesture that tells them that they are thought of. I personally dispense them and it provides a few moments to get to know someone a little better. Plus it’s fun to see the face of the McD’s associate when you say, “I’d like 60 apple pies please.”
9. Best tip for dealing with an angry employee? Slow, calm and very soft speech; followed by assurances that we can fix whatever the problem might be. It forces the angry associate to slow down, get quiet and concentrate just so that they can hear you. Set the example and most of the time folks will follow suit.
10. Favorite inspirational quote that gets you through your day? “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” I don’t know who should be credited for it, but it’s a great perspective gainer – both on the positive and negative side. I use it to reflect upon my potential impact with customers, co-workers, vendors, employees, supervisors, friends, family, strangers – everybody.