I Will Follow !!

Followers.

It’s amazing to see how a word can transform and become something completely different. I’ve always thought of the word as a group of people who were willing to get behind someone, or some effort, that they believed in. I still do.

However, with the constant flood of Social Media, the term has taken on a new life. Now the word “followers” is associated with those that click a button on a social media platform in order to connect with another person. This action may have substance, or it may mean that they’re connecting to follow a trend. It’s a false sense of popularity and visibility that also carries weight. Countless lists that rank people on social media look at the number of followers as a metric to show “influence.”

Now, before you get all riled up, I’m not against these lists, this level of visibility or having a method for people to connect with each other. What does concern me is that leadership is watered down because following is no longer something that has significance.

In organizations, senior management invests in many people who they identify as “high potentials”. I’m not a fan because people perform at different times of their careers at a peak level due to the work they do as well as the environment or economic climate they are experiencing. I do believe that all employees have potential, but the isolation of a select few rarely leads to optimal results. The assumption is that high potentials are great leaders. In most cases these folks are charismatic and very visible to the “right” people. There are countless examples of people who are deemed to be the future of the company that either don’t pan out or leave because they were able to get someone else’s attention.

Leadership is written about daily in several blogs. It is something that is critical in organizations and people are striving to continue to define it, identify it and make it thrive. What is intriguing to me is that HR rarely jumps in on this topic either personally or organizationally. We typically position ourselves to support and respond to others who take on leadership roles. This needs to change.

Lead and FollowHR is in a perfect position to lead in all they do, and this is especially true in identifying those who should assume leadership roles within a company. I want you to consider a different, and much simpler benchmark, when seeing what leadership looks like.

Look to see who others in your company congregate around. See who is the person whose opinion is sought on a regular basis. This may, or may not, include people who hold current “leadership” roles by title. Titles don’t automatically infer leadership. Leadership is said to be better defined when you look over your shoulder and you see people there. In others words, do they have followers?

People want to follow and rally around someone. They look for leaders who focus on others and not just themselves. This is where having followers is key. As the observer of the organization, HR needs to see where this is occurring and take note. These are the people to check out and see how they are leading. They may be your real potentials that will continue to grow and succeed !!

This week step into a leadership role HR. Find out where the leaders and followers are in your organization. It’s imperative that we do !!

Do Good.

Have you been through a season in your life when everything either seems to be passing you by, or seems to overwhelm you? Have you been at a point when something that seems should be simple turns out to halt you in everything you do?

These questions are the reality of many people who surround us every day. We may, or may not, know that they are struggling, but it happens. Chances are the people you call co-workers are trying their best to work through life. Is this something that we should concern ourselves with as HR practitioners? We’re honestly taught not to even allow “life” to come into the workplace because people are supposed to show up to WORK.

We write, speak and pontificate about methods and numbered steps that will ensure stronger employee engagement or emotional intelligence, but we skip over the situations that people are in. It’s yet another example of how we complicate HR when it could, and should be simplified. I think that when it comes to working with others, it boils down to a simple phrase . . .

Do good.

Do GoodWhen you are with others at the workplace – do good. When you find yourself in situations involving conflict and differences of opinion – do good. When things elevate and may get heated and people lose their cool – do good.

I may be in the minority here, but I believe that this is the foundation block of what Human Resources even is. Without it, we are no different than any function within an organization. There is another component to this approach, never stop or tire of doing good.

When you step back and understand that people mask the facets of life, both great and challenging, in order to even make it in for another day of work, you’ll realize it can become exhausting. However, no one is stepping into this gap and providing an outlet for people. HR has to be the profession that willingly and genuinely steps into the lives of others. When people know that they have someone they can connect to and that you will genuinely listen to them, you can honestly feel the pressures of life slowly release. As that release occurs, their heads will clear and it will allow them to PERFORM and not just work.

There is one last facet you should consider if you become an HR person who follows the approach of doing good. It’s about you. Where, and who, do you go when you are constantly dealing with the lives of others? How do you make it without breaking down yourself?

We have the same pressures and situations in life that our employees have. However, HR people tend to be isolated in companies because they don’t have people that they can confide in themselves. Here’s a chance for us to transform our profession.

It’s time for HR to do good . . . for each other by being there for each other.

The absolute key for me remaining in HR is the network of peers that I have who are my friends. They are people who also “do good” in their roles and we make sure to reach out to each other intentionally to know each other, our lives and what is happening. Joys and concerns. Highs and lows. Struggles and opportunities.

You need this in your life. You need others who understand you. This is essential to thriving in HR.

So, reach out to each other and connect on Social Media, make a phone call, drop someone a note. Be an encourager in another HR person’s life. Never stop and never tire of . . . doing good.

Sowing Seeds !!

The back-to-school season is upon us once again. You can see it in the stores as aisles and aisles of supplies are displayed. Backpacks, notebooks, laptops, pencils and pens, etc.

My two “kids” are now adults and in various stages of college. My wife and I are very fortunate that we have such incredible kids. We don’t ever overlook that. Our son is going to be a sophomore at Ohio University (proud Bobcat Dad alum !!), and our daughter is in graduate school at the University of Indianapolis.

Transition at this stage of life looks a lot different than going to Elementary or High School. We’re moving them into dorms or apartments which is an adventure every time and every place. It’s great to see them start to walk on their own two feet, and it gives us a different perspective as parents of who they are and what they’re becoming.

You get genuinely different questions from your kids at this stage. “How do I make a deposit?” “What do I do if the sink leaks?” “What if I don’t get along with my roommate?” We honestly think there are more questions now than when they were younger. Each one is wonderful though because they’re learning about how to do life with each one.

The challenge for us is that we’re not sure they’re always going to make great decisions now that we’re at a distance. I know that we can get in touch with them instantly with technology, but that isn’t that same as seeing them lounging around on a couch in the family room. We hope they will, and we have faith and confidence that we’ve been consistent in how we’ve raised them. We shared our values and our faults as they’ve seen us grow over time in our relationship as well. They’ve experienced the ups and downs, the stress and joy as well as the need for apologies and grace.

The most we can hope for is that we planted seeds in them that will grow over time. We may, or may not, see the outcome but I’m good with that.

Robert Louis Stevenson QuoteYou see, parenting our kids is just like HR to me. In HR, and in life, you have a chance to sow seeds every time you interact with someone. In this day of metrics and analytics (which honestly lag what happens), we continue to be results focused instead of understanding that every interaction is the key. It’s no wonder that companies and employees wonder about the value of HR because we try to mimic what others do to be like them internally and professionally. HR is, and always has been, different. We’re in the “human business” and that comes with a myriad of unique facets. We need to be distinct and intentional versus trying to survive as another carbon copy.

This week step back and sow some seeds. You shouldn’t ignore results, metrics and analytics, but how you treat others and the impact you plant will yield much different outcomes. It’s more important to touch someone’s life intentionally than it is to crank out another report filled with data.

My kids are starting their next steps in life, and I’m geeked about it even though much of it is unknown. I want to make sure that I’m geeked about being involved with the employees and those who I meet as well. Remember that you’re always sowing seeds !!

Vinyl Rules !!

Recently, a very cool thing happened with my son who is about to turn 19. It was an early Saturday morning and he asked, “Hey, Dad can we go to the record store and look at some vinyl ??”

I had to step back and savor this moment. I’ve noted before that I’m a consumer of music. It is something that moves me emotionally and keeps me moving every day. So, when my son asked if we could go browse a record store (yes, they still exist), I was geeked to say the least !! We jumped into the car and made our way to Shake It Records and made sure we were there when the door opened.

Walking in you are immersed with music in images, posters, CD’s old concert shirts and, of course, vinyl. You actually walk downstairs to see rows and rows of vinyl – both new and used. It is like walking into a time capsule. Not surprisingly, the shop is packed and you are almost shoulder to shoulder with others checking out albums. It was also cool to see that there were other dads who were there with their kids.

Just as the record shops I remember, you could pull out the used albums and put them on a turntable to listen to them before you bought them. My son asked what to look for and how to tell if a record is “good” or not. He also asked my opinion on the choices he was making. Most of the music he ended up choosing was from my generation !! He picked some recent bands as well to make a rather eclectic set.

As we checked out, I mentioned to the shop owner that this was his first vinyl and he was taking it to college. The owner was geeked (he really was), and he said, “Wait here just one second.” He disappeared downstairs and came back up with a crate for the albums. He said, “Here, you need something to start your collection and this one is tall enough so the vinyl sits down below the edge of the albums. By the way, great choices on the tunes. Good mix.” My son was pumped to receive the affirmation.

Vinyl CrateAs soon as we got home, he disappeared into our basement and opened his new albums, put them on his turntable and cranked it. Bohemian Rhapsody never sounded so pure !! He was down there for hours and I taught him how to move the needle to one song and how to enjoy a full side. The chance to share this experience was awesome !!

It made me contemplate looking at work differently. No, this isn’t a “generations”  post. We tend to break down work into pieces and compartments that may, or may not, come together. It is ironic to me that we look at how to keep projects and people in their place. Collaboration has to be a concentrated effort instead of a natural occurrence.

What if we looked at the work we did as a “shared experience” instead ?? What if HR took the parts and pieces that either seem scattered or disjointed and acted as a connector to allow these experiences to happen?

I get tired of people who continue to splinter HR and the workplace into factions and differences. It may give them a niche to highlight what they focus on, but I find it to be contrary to how organizations can, and should, run.

The shared experience I had with my son brought us closer together and we’re now able to continue to enjoy a common bond for years to come. Having those common threads identified and established in the workplace would continue to make HR relevant and essential.

This week look for the vinyl that is all around you and see what kind of great music you can make with all of the beautiful snaps and pops !! I promise that you’ll hear songs better than you have before !!

Be Heard !!

This past week, I had the opportunity to participate in something that still seems surreal. I spent a few days in Cleveland, Ohio during the Republican National Convention. It was an incredible spectacle, and it was hard to take it all in.

I was fortunate to be participating as part of the SHRM Board of Directors and the SHRM A-Team. We met with great HR pros to discuss a look ahead on how the upcoming election affected workplaces, HR and employees. If you didn’t know, SHRM attends both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. They don’t take a political stance, and I appreciate that they are represented in both forums.

The “A-Team” is a group of HR pros who are willing to advocate at the national, state and local level. They have stepped forward to make sure that the voice of employers and employees is heard by the politicians who represent all of us. If you’ve never done this, I would encourage you to get involved. Advocating makes a difference and representatives are looking to hear from us.

During this time of political uncertainty, it’s needed more than ever. People share their voices and opinions with each other and on Social Media, but those have a limited reach. We are able to truly influence how the workplace is shaped if we step out past talking on forums and actually reaching our representatives.

Voice HeardI know this may feel risky and you’re not sure if you’re up to it. However, please note that if HR doesn’t share the perspective of the employer and the employee – others will. They may not be as balanced as HR professionals are. We are in an incredible position because we represent both sides of the workplace equation.

The legislative and regulatory landscape is only going to become more and more complex. I would rather see HR share directly with legislators than let them sit in a room with less context and still develop and issue new items that we will still have to implement. We need to remember that they represent us. You need to know that they are very willing to listen and are welcoming when you approach them.

HR also can use this model internally. Our voice needs to be heard within the structures of our organization for the same reason that we represent both management and staff. We need to step out and not wait for things to occur and continue to be reactionary. We have the latitude and the ability to speak up intentionally for what is happening in our workplaces.

Being silent and passive is not an effective way to practice HR. I encourage you to get past your anxiety and step out to lead in what we do. We can make sure that the human element of work is acknowledged, considered and included in the actions of our organizations. Being ahead of what happens to people is the exact position that HR should occupy.

This week, step back and evaluate if your voice is being heard. If it isn’t then take a chance to move out into the light. When you do you’ll see that people have been waiting to hear from you !!

Come Together

I just came back from a quick trip to Seattle. No, it wasn’t because I was chasing Pokemon for Pokemon Go. I was a part of the SHRM Talent Symposium hosted by the Puget Sound SHRM Chapters – Seattle SHRM, Lake Washington HR Association, South King County SHRM, and the Washington State Human Resources Council. Fortunately, I was able to speak and attend the entire event. There were 300 other HR folks who come out for the day to learn about current and future Talent Acquisition trends.

It was encouraging to see HR pros set aside time, leave their desk/office and take a day for networking and professional development. When I met different attendees, I found that most of them did not know each other. A venue like this allows people to come together – and this is needed more than ever !!

With all of the social unrest happening globally, we’ve lost something in the midst of emotion, rhetoric and posturing. While groups want to gather during this storm of change, they are overlooking the families that have been directly affected by violence, loss and unrest.

On top of all of the ever changing social climate, you have a highly charged election season in the US, Brexit in Europe and military coup attempts in Asia. It seems that you can’t turn on the TV or your phone or tablet and not be faced with massive shifts in the midst of extreme actions and dialogue.

What about the workplace?

You see, in the midst of all of this upheaval, these people are employees of some company or another. Please note that I’m not trying to belittle the social weight and implications of all of these events one bit. However, when the next tragedy hits the social media sites and airwaves, the prior one that still conjures up visceral emotions, is less visible and not as much of a priority as the newest occurrence.

And after whatever people are facing, they go back to work. They have to work through all of these emotions and also perform and produce. As HR practitioners, and as companies, we rarely walk into these situations head on. Instead, we hope that people cope and move on as soon as possible.

This has to stop.

Come TogetherIt is past time for the Human Resources profession to come together as one across the globe. This isn’t a time for self identifying whether you belong to Group A or Group Z. It’s a time for HR practitioners, and those who work with humans, to realize that we can be a bridge that will make a lasting impact on our employees who are either affected or dealing with these constantly changing social conditions.

We can’t keep being people wishing that things will be all right if we just passively sympathize and console people. It’s time for us to be intentional and strip away the practices that we think define who we are, and we should act as who we really should be – HUMAN RESOURCES !!

We should always be present and available for our people, but we aren’t. We spend so much time trying to categorize and place people into “controllable” environments and boxes when we could be spending our time in fostering and developing relationships.

I ache for all of the tragedy that is happening around me. It seems to be endless, and it may be. However, I choose to no longer just hope it will go away. We need to come together and be available for our HR peers, our communities and our workplaces. This isn’t something that is going to remedy itself by wishful thinking.

I don’t know exactly what this looks like, and it may be vastly different for each situation (as it usually is). But action needs to start now and continue going forward both personally, professionally and organizationally.

So, this week – step out, reach out and help me in making us come together !!

HR Haka !!

A new workweek is upon us. How are you doing? Are you ready for what’s ahead? Have you bought into the pattern that Mondays are supposed to be horrid and a sluggish way to start the week? Are you someone that needs some motivation to get moving that even coffee can’t address? Worse yet, are you filled with dread or anxiety?

It is astonishing to me that we have perpetuated the idea that workweeks are destined to start poorly, work to some roller coaster hump mid-week, and then careen blissfully to the release at the end of the week so we can just get away from everything and everyone. Makes you want to wake up and jump to the commute doesn’t it?

Pile on top of this that we don’t fill our thoughts going in to work with positive vibes about people either. It’s true. We don’t anticipate seeing smiles and warm welcomes. We expect the worst, and we get it. It reinforces our malaise and we strap our our martyr gear and jump into the fray. Welcome to what HR has become !!

But wait . . . .

Why buy into the “norm” ?? Who is the person or entity that we can hang this on? The answer stares at you in the mirror every morning as you don your work clothes and head out into the midst of your work.

You are the reason this attitude and approach exists. It’s not others who cast their nets of darkness on you. They may be doing this, but if you’re defeated before you even enter the office, then you’re already conceding the worst is about to occur.

At SHRM16 this year, one of the keynote speakers was Dr. Amy Cuddy from Harvard University. She wrote a spectacular book called Presence which calls for people to bring their “boldest self” to their biggest challenges. Her work shows how that even though we teach fierce independence in our western society, most people are far from bold. She had great research and examples of people who felt open enough to embrace being bold.

One of my favorite things she shared was a video of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team and their pre-game ritual where they get geeked before a match by performing a haka. According to Wikipedia the haka is “traditional war cry, dance or challenge from the Maori people of New Zealand.” When they perform this, they are facing their opponent and they are so animated and intense !! It’s awesome !!

HR HakaWhen I gave my presentation, I encouraged all of the folks in HR that we should do a haka every day before we start a thing. Think about it !! It would absolutely freak out your staff and other employees if they heard you getting ready to face the day this way. I showed everyone how mine would look and it felt freeing.

Imagine this. Starting your day boldly, intentionally and fiercely !! All of the junk that tends to want to clutter our mind and our efforts blows away and disappears. Also, you’re ready to be proactive and jump into whatever comes your way willingly.

It’s overdue my HR friends. People will be bold if we are bold first !! Shake off the Monday blahs and get ready. It’s time for your HR Haka !!

Sparklers and Candles !!

This past week we had an amazing celebration at work !! We had two Team Members retire which isn’t common at our company. We’re so fortunate to have a great culture where people work for us for many years. It’s a true anomaly in today’s workplace environment, but it’s a true differentiator for us.

One of our retirees worked for us 11 years and the other for 35 years !! During the celebration, one of the owners shared the following . . . “Companies have two types of people, sparklers and candles. The sparklers shine brightly and are brilliant, but only for a short time. The candles are steady and burn slowly over time. They may not get as much attention as the sparklers, but they are more reliable. You two have been great candles for our company, and we are better for the contributions you gave over time.”

They were some of the most poignant words I had heard to celebrate people. In HR we tend to focus on the sparklers in our companies because they appear to be more vibrant and exhilarating. We may call them different things like “high potentials”, but are we looking for a little wax that goes along with the shine? We need people who bring life, energy and light to our cultures. However, the candles of our companies do this every day.

CandlesWhere is your focus? Are you being asked by senior management to pay attention to the sparklers? What about your systems? Who do they recognize and highlight? I think most of us would see that we get distracted by a group that may not be with us for the long run.

The question that faces us is can you convert a sparkler to a candle? The answer is – it depends. It doesn’t depend on HR however. It depends on the employee. You see, everyone starts a new job/role with exuberance, anticipation and maybe even a bit of anxiety. People want to prove themselves and add value. They often burst onto the scene and everyone notices them. It’s hard to sustain this level of energy and you see them transform over time to either become a steady contributor who is part of the company fabric or they burnout. HR can step in and help encourage people so that their flame doesn’t extinguish.

We can do this because HR is the “keeper of the flame” of an organization. We have to be able to ignite people and let them sparkle as well as nurture them to make sure that flames don’t go out. In order to do this, we need to stay lit ourselves. Who are the candles of HR that you know? Who are peers in the field that you can connect to that will keep your candle burning?

We need to own this role of what we do for employees and our companies. We have the ability to help people continue to burn and thrive in what they do in their various roles. Light the flame of others and keep your eyes and focus on the candles all around you.

Remember the Who !! #SHRM16

I’m catching up on rest after an exhilarating SHRM Annual Conference. It was truly wonderful the entire time. This year I experienced a new view of the conference as a member of the SHRM Board of Directors.

I have hesitated to write about being on the Board because stating it drums up different emotions for people. Let me give you my perspective about the role. I am truly honored and humbled to be on the Board of Directors for the profession and the membership association that I love. These aren’t hollow words, they’re a fact !!

I get to wear a cool badge that denotes my new role and it gives you the ability to have access throughout all of the venues. I cherished this and didn’t take it for granted because it gave me the ability to connect with more people.

It started on my first day when I met one of the hotel staff who was helping with breakfast, Ahmed. He greeted me with a smile and was kind enough to be up and in uniform at the crack of dawn to serve me and others a meal. I introduced myself and thanked him for being there. Ahmed used the same “trick” I did and read my name tag and said, “Good morning, Steve.”

Now, many people reading this may think that he’s just doing his job like he should. We’d overlook him more often than not to rush to get a plate of bacon and eggs. Our impending meeting, and the others at the meeting, would get more of our attention.

Why did this small introduction matter? On Monday, at a luncheon during the conference, guess who was serving the group? Ahmed. He saw me first this time and said, “Good afternoon, Steve. How is your day going?” I said, “It’s great Ahmed, thanks for asking !!”

I used my badge to walk into all of the different areas all week to thank volunteers, SHRM staff, hotel staff, convention center security and the transportation crossing guards. This isn’t to seek a pat on the back. Trust me. I wanted to be intentional to make sure these people weren’t overlooked. Why ??

These folks are the “who” that keep things going.

There were over 15,000 attendees as well as countless vendors who worked the Exhibit Hall. Without the “who” this event would never have occurred. Mike Rowe exemplified this during his keynote address and it has been his focus for much of his career. He noted how important it was to never overlook people at work because everyone matters.

Everyone MattersThis is key in our organizations as well. We are enveloped in such a rush of distractions that we walk past the “who” that help our companies succeed every day. HR has the ability to break this pattern because we have the ability and the latitude to make acknowledging others part of our job daily. Honestly, it needs to be in the fabric of our Human Resources DNA. It can’t be something that we ignore or hope that others will do.

People want to be acknowledged for what they do. This is more basic than appreciation. That is key and important, but we need to step back and acknowledge folks. When you take this approach, all of your systems and procedure look different and positive.

People want to do good work. This week step back and thank others. You’ll see that this will change your organization for the better !! Remember the “who” around you every day.

 

Dads.

I am very fortunate to be a father. I mean that. This is something that I wanted to become at some point in my life. I am also very fortunate to have grown up surrounded by an extended family where I saw strong fatherhood models both from their personal example and how they loved their spouse and their children.

In today’s society, fatherhood has a tarnished image. Most of this is honestly earned because of those who haven’t been able to be a model father. Please note that this post isn’t in any way meant to exemplify one father versus another. Parenting is not easy. It never has been. No one gives you an “owners manual” once you are blessed to be able to have children in your family.

Most dads I know have followed the example of being men who work hard and often too long. They are trying to provide for their families, but their extended hours often eat into time that could have been spent with their kids. Kids may not understand the sacrifice that is being made while it is happening, but I hope they do see it as they grow older.

My wife and I have two kids who are now adults. As I type this, I’m being a “dad” who is off at a conference for HR which is my chosen profession. I will be out of town and away from them on Father’s Day. My entire family is incredibly supportive of me professionally, and they always have been. Now, get ready for an amazing story . . .

Outside of our house we had a dwarf evergreen in our front flowerbed. It was there when we moved in back in 1991. We enjoyed it as part of our landscaping and gave us some “curb appeal.” I was told by a friend who is a landscaper that it would never grow much because of the type of evergreen it was. He was wrong.

This small tree grew more and more every year. The tree became a prime background for family pictures. My wife and I stood in front of it as did my parents and friends who visited. It also was a great tree to decorate with lights every Christmas season and when the snow fell on it with the lights twinkling through, it was beautiful.

When our daughter Melanie was born, we took pictures of the three of us in front of the tree. As our son Josh came along we now had a family of four and the tree had grown along with our family. The biggest tradition we had was taking the kids picture in front of the pine on the first day of school each year. We did this from Kindergarten through their Senior year in High School. As the kids grew, so did the tree. They were never taller than the pine that wouldn’t grow, and we had to use a step ladder to get lights all the way to the top each year after awhile.

Recently, the tree began to die and become browned and brittle. We decided just this Spring to take it down. It was an emotional day because of so many memories.

Now to today . . .

As I settled in my room and began to unpack my clothes and get ready for the conference, I saw three envelopes with cards and a small white bag with green tissue paper covering some odd shapes. The cards were for Father’s Day. As I opened them, tears streamed down my face. The cards were hilarious and filled with handwritten notes that made me laugh through my tears. I then pulled out the tissue paper and unwrapped it to find this . . .

Kids and Tree

My “adults” had taken the trunk of the pine and cut two sections off to make this as my Father’s Day present. The ornament is our family initial for “Browne” and the other is a picture of them in front of the tree at Easter. Speechless.

This Father’s Day hug a Dad. The majority of them are doing the best they can. Yes, they work hard and put in long hours. They all hope that over the years they have planted seeds in their kids to leave a legacy and some deep roots of faith and family. They’re the tree that is the background of their family’s pictures.

Happy Father’s Day to one and all !!