Without Ada . . .

. . . there would be no Super Bowl !!

Ada Wilson SignThat’s a fact. You may not know this but my hometown, Ada, Ohio is the home of the Wilson manufacturing plant that makes all of the footballs used by the NFL. The great folks who work there get featured every year on Super Bowl Sunday. There are around 6,000 people who live in Ada which makes it awesome, but often overlooked.

If you look around today, we suffer from a “culture of celebrity.” We can’t get enough of it. Whether it’s sports, movies, or politics we focus on the few and neglect all those around them. The past two weeks have focused primarily on Peyton Manning and Cam Newton, the teams two quarterbacks. A NFL roster has 53 people on it, but we focus on one. The other 52 players are critical for the quarterback to be successful. However, focusing on the long snapper doesn’t make great television.

There is an alarming trend happening in organizations that is also focusing on the “few.” You see constant blog posts on how to handle and develop your “high pots” – high potentials. They range from warnings on what happens if you ignore them to “X” number of steps to make sure they succeed.

Don’t get me wrong, you should look for people who are current and future leaders. That isn’t new, it just isn’t done consistently so we focus on it. When you make celebrities in your companies, your attention turns from all of the great employees you have to a select few who may, or may not, become the people you’ll hope they’ll be. Also, I’ve seen that some people pegged as high pots learn about this and turn into major prima donnas.

HR practitioners get sucked into this trap as well. We think that if we can get these high potential people to take on great roles, then we’ll receive kudos as well. I’ve even seen performance management systems geared toward high pots only. Another trap is that we try to stay in the Senior Management spotlight because we think we’ll have a more significant impact if we are visible to the top of the organization chart. What about the other employees who come to work and contribute every day? What about the people who make the footballs?

Great HR is made up of people who have an endless view that looks out across the entire organization. Each person is known, valued and expected to be someone who adds value in their particular role. When HR is based on the fringe of any particular group, you actually end up making narrow decisions thinking that they will affect the entire organization. This just isn’t true.

In my opinion, every employee is a “celebrity” who has high potential. The key is that they have an HR person who sees that in them and doesn’t overlook their contributions for someone who is more shiny. Growing up in Ada with people who make the essential football gave me a perspective to never overlook anyone.

You need to step back and see if you’re trying to create celebrities, or engage all people. I think you’ll see if you work with the whole team, you’ll be more successful than trying to focus on one or two people.

So, every time you sit down to enjoy a Super Bowl or a NFL game, remember someone made the footballs !!

 

Keep Smiling !!

Quick set of questions. Do you know any children? Do you have children of your own? Have you ever been a child yourself?

This may seem silly, but I think we forget. We’re so busy being adults that we lose the sight of what it was like to be a kid. This past week, one of my co-workers showed me a video of his daughter at gymnastics practice. She did seven back handsprings in a row which is incredible by itself !! She needed to do at least seven in order to qualify to compete at her level. She was geeked after she hit this milestone for the first time. She went over to her Mom and, “I don’t think I can stop smiling !!”

Wow !! Think of how she’s approaching success. She had to practice for literally years to do seven handsprings in a row. I’m sure there were many disappointments along the way, and maybe even a feeling of quitting and giving up. However, she kept pushing forward and accomplished her goal. The other great thing about this story is that her accomplishment was to open other doors for her to reach even greater heights.

The entire time I spent to listen to this story and watch this video was five minutes. I thought it was amazing that he’d share this success story with me. It mattered to him to have me share this experience.

I’d bet that if I came to your corner of HR and listened to you, your sentence would be “I don’t think I can stop . . .” and then words would be filled in like “being frustrated”, “banging my head against the wall”, “avoiding negative people”, etc. I know this is generalizing, but we tend to come to work every day with our focus on what’s going to go wrong. We aren’t like kids who look at each opportunity as something fresh and new. The reality of work (or at least how we view it) has sapped us of being willing to see what we do as a child would.

What happened to us ?? Why do we see being “childlike” as a weakness ?? When we were kids we couldn’t help but look at things with wonder, awe and curiosity. I think that these attributes are essential to being a positive person and they are critical if you want to excel in HR !!

Steve Browne Pic 3So, I have a simple exercise that you need to try. It will cost you absolutely nothing, but it will reshape everything.  Smile !!

You may think that is inane and a waste of time. You have more important things to do that are much more effective when it comes to HR tools. I beg to differ. This is why . . .

If you smile at someone, they either will reciprocate (naturally), or they’ll avoid eye contact. When someone avoids my smile, I see it as a challenge worth taking on. I don’t confront them, I just wait for the next time I see them and give them a smile again. The difference between smiling because you were told to is smiling because you can’t help it !! When you meet people with your smile first, you’re setting the tone for the conversation.

I truly want others in HR to enjoy the field intentionally and all the time. This isn’t some parlor trick, but it is a call for you to bring out your inner child and let it shine. The next time I see you be warned. A smile’s coming because “I don’t think I can stop smiling !!”

P.S. – the picture is my smile just so I get a jump on things !!

 

Be Bold !!

I don’t know if you’ve attended HR conferences or SHRM chapter meetings. I have a feeling that many HR pros want to do this, but they may have not gone to them . . . yet. There may be great reasons that you haven’t taken this step yet, but I want to challenge this (and some other things.)

When you attend conferences, you see HR pros attracted to sessions where they can receive encouragement and/or motivation. This is great and also telling. Everyone likes a shot in the arm to get energized. I think these sessions are so full because people are just flat worn out. I don’t want to support a “woe is me” stance for Human Resources practitioners. I don’t think it’s needed. There’s too much of the deconstruction of HR out there. I want to see that turned completely around, and never take that approach again . . . ever.

This past week I read something that describes most of HR. It said, “The majority of people wish for safety. You should be bold instead !!”

I completely agree with this sentiment. When I scan the HR landscape, the tone of the profession is to play to the middle and keep as much stasis as possible. Keep everything, and everyone, calm. We’ve done our best to remove the excitement, passion and fun in the workplace. Isn’t it ironic then that when we go to HR events, we seek the presentations that will fill us with the same items that we’ve tried to squelch?

The only thing holding people back from being bold in who they are and what they do, is the voice of doubt that runs like an endless tape in our heads. The desire to take bold steps is inherent in all of us, but the fear that we sense becomes irrational and leads us to maintain the status quo.

Be BoldAren’t you tired of this? Why would you keep practicing HR if it continues to be frustrating and mundane? Time to be bold !!

The key thing to note in making a 180 degree move like this is to be connected to others who have gone before you. There may not be an overwhelming number of these folks but they exist. I’d encourage you to start being bold by getting out and finding HR events to attend. It will be difficult to make this sort of transformation just through your own efforts at your workplace. It will seem so out of the norm to those you work with that you could become quickly discouraged.

When you gather with other HR pros, you can connect and network with those who can encourage you. You’ll find that those who are bold themselves are never alone. They surround themselves with others who also are willing to not except the ordinary as the norm. I’ve also seen that they welcome the chance to help others and make themselves available. They relish the chance to see more HR folks practice boldly !!

So, when the voices of “I can’t spend time away . . . ” or “My company won’t support . . .” or “I can’t afford . . .” start playing in your head – you have to ignore them and look for ways to get to HR gatherings. If something is too far away, then find something local or virtual. If something is too costly or out of your budget, read HR blogs and get active in social media forums. If your company won’t support you, then don’t settle. You need to push back and show them that they will benefit from you receiving professional development and having more HR resources.

I know this is risky and I know that it will be challenging. I also know that it’s a much better way to live and practice HR !! There is no need to keep playing it safe. Join me and be bold !!

Stay True !! #TimSackettDay

I remain fascinated by the world of Social Media and how people in HR approach it. The majority of people are observers who may take in content every once in awhile, or venture out and tweet every so often. When HR conferences happen, people jump in full force and set up social media accounts and they are very active throughout the event. Then they fade back into the mix of the majority.

Staying visible and relevant in social media over time is tough because it takes endless energy, creativity and a willingness to keep the fire burning. I haven’t seen many examples of people who do this well with one exception – The Recruiting Animal !! He was a social media pioneer and he has stayed true to who he is from the minute he burst onto the scene.

Recruiting AnimalIf you aren’t connected to The Animal (@animal on Twitter), you should be. However, be warned that you better have thick skin. If I had to describe Animal it would be “what boundaries” ?? He has a long running blog talk radio show and he is very upfront with his guests that this won’t be a soft, self-serving interview where you both stroke each other about how awesome you are. He cuts to the quick and expects you to be prepared. Some people are taken aback by this approach, but Animal doesn’t sway. He stays true to his approach, and it’s incredibly refreshing !!

Social media has become more about “look at me, look at me” than “look at others”. Animal has always looked out for the profession and has move recruiting forward more than others. His brash style runs counter to many folks who love hanging in the middle of the road.

I’ve chatted with Animal once in awhile and we’re connected on Social Media platforms all over. He was (and is) an inspiration and a model to me because I dig his authenticity. I wanted to reach out and connect with the person behind the ventriloquist dummy avatar, and I’m glad I did !! He’s a thoughtful, passionate and insightful person. His desire to keep people alert and moving is needed in HR, recruiting and the profession as a whole !!

One of the best ties I have with Animal is that he, John Sumser, Sylvia Dahlby and I share eclectic and vast music tastes. On a regular basis we share our “finds” on twitter under the #HRMusicShare tag. I look forward to seeing what Animal digs up and make sure that I reciprocate.  We haven’t grown this little faction of the hashtag. We’ve stayed true to how it organically started, and I dig that !!

I want to wish Animal a happy #TimSackettDay !! You rock my friend and I appreciate you modeling how to be authentic and genuine. I have a bucket list wish to be on your blog talk radio show sometime. And trust me, I’ll be prepared !!

Here’s a find for you that I hope you enjoy on your day !! Always stay true to yourself my friend !!

We Can Be Heroes !!

This past week the rock universe took one of it’s brightest stars back. The legendary David Bowie passed away after his battle with cancer. I have been a fan of his for decades.

Oddly enough, the first time I saw him was during a Christmas special where he sang the “Little Drummer Boy” with Bing Crosby. I remember watching the special with my Dad and he wondered who the “weird guy” was singing with Crosby. I said, “That’s David Bowie Dad, and he’s cool !!” He disagreed and thought that it was surreal to see the immortal crooner singing with this thin, pale British singer.

David BowieI’ve always been drawn to Bowie because he was willing to be himself. He never followed the norms that were expected in his music, his appearance or his approach. I also admired that he continued to remain relevant throughout his entire life when many of his peers faded into oblivion.

There are many attributes of David Bowie that I think translate well into how I practice HR and would love to see others consider and adopt. Please note that much of this is already happening. You just need to own it.

  • Be Genuine and Authentic

You could never note any time where David Bowie was not himself. He may have seemed contrary to his contemporaries, but he never apologized for it. I think HR people should be bold in who they are personally and professionally. It doesn’t mean that you should be avant-garde just to stand out. It does, however, call for you to not have an “HR/work face” and your normal face. There are too many people who feel that they can’t be themselves in HR and they end up being frustrated. If a company can’t accept you for who you are and how to practice HR, then don’t stay in that role or at that company. You’ll never have as much of an impact as you could.

  • Define new boundaries

Bowie shocked the rock world during his androgynous, glam rock Ziggy Stardust phase. He morphed into the sleek, fashionable man of the 80’s and then went a completely different route in the 90’s and 00’s with his band Tin Machine and working with artists like Trent Reznor. He constantly looked for new ways to be artistic and share his gift. It kept him relevant and others were inspired because he was willing to take risks and reinvent himself.

HR is reluctant to change. We feel the tried and true will always work, and we just need to apply it with small tweaks and adjustments. That just isn’t true. The biggest threat to our profession is whether we will stay relevant as a profession. To make sure we do, we need to see new boundaries and step out to set them. You don’t need permission. You just need to don the next phase of your career and adapt.

  • Share Your Work

I think there are too many of my peers who keep to themselves. This isn’t a matter of introversion vs. extroversion. HR people tend to sell themselves short and don’t recognize the impact they have on people every day. The music and contributions David Bowie made would have been diminished if he created and then shared his work with only a few people around him. Even though he was different, he stepped forward and shared his artistry with the world. He couldn’t keep things to himself and neither should we.

HR that only serves HR is meaningless. The business world without HR will continue to move on if we insist on working and living in arenas and forums outside of them. We need to be different ourselves and bring a fresh, challenging effort to what we do. As Bowie said, “We can be heroes. Just for one day.”

His message was meant to push others. His music was meant to make you see and think differently. He was one of my rock heroes and his impact will live on in HR if I have something to say about it !!

 

Your Voice Matters !!

The calendar has turned which is always exciting !! I’m really geeked about this year because it is also a Presidential election year. This post isn’t about one candidate or another because I think everyone should make their own choice for who they support. It’s unique this year because we have those vying for their party’s nomination and they are either polarizing or nominal. But it’s January. I’m sure many things will change before November comes !!

There is another event which has a major impact on Human Resources which happens on Tuesday, 1/12/16 and that is the State of the Union address. It is President Obama’s final address and it will surely be filled with issues and items that affect the workplace. Don’t believe me ?? Check out his past address which ushered in the Affordable Care Act, several labor initiatives and a call for other items ranging from wages to paid leave.

The fact is EVERY State of the Union address directly affects HR and the workplace. This isn’t a political call to action, it’s a reality. For the past few years the great team at SHRM‘s Governmental Affairs have been hosting the #HRSOTU – the HR State of the Union Twitter chat.

I’ve made sure to watch the speech every year and also participate in the Twitter chat. It matters because it gets out the voice of HR and our perspective on the items that come up. You may say . . . but it’s just something on Twitter. Fair enough. However, every time we have one of these, it gets attention from folks in Washington, D.C. It plants seeds for an opportunity to possibly discuss these workplace items with congressional staff locally or personally in D.C.

We Want to Hear From YouIt’s very easy to say “No” to opportunities like these and continue to implement whatever comes out as the newest law or regulation. We can sit by and just react, or we can make our voices heard. I personally know the impact that being an advocate for HR has. I’ve participated in Visit the Hill days with SHRM several times, advocated in my home state, participated in roundtables with the Department of Labor, and was even fortunate enough to testify in front of Congress. This isn’t meant to be a “brag” list. It’s an example of a regular person who is an HR professional who wants to make sure legislators hear the voices of employers and employees. You are one of those HR practitioners too !!

Every time I’ve participated, the staff and/or representatives of Congress want to hear from us and not lobbyists. They want context and not posturing. It only takes your willingness to step out and try it. They want to hear your voice and your perspective. You have that built in already !! HR advocacy is key to our profession and will help shape things. Wouldn’t you rather have your voice heard than to be silent?

Start with a first step by participating in the #HRSOTU Twitter chat with me and several other great HR folks from around the country. Let’s observe, comment and share. It matters !!

The Year of Others !!

It is rare that you get to write a blog post on your actual birthday when you write a weekly post, but today is my day !! I’m thankful to be another year older and geeked for what this year holds (and hopefully many more years to come !!)

I’ve seen many year-end posts chock full of predictions and resolutions for HR for 2016. I’ve never been a big fan of resolutions because we talk more about how they fail than they succeed. I dig the aspiration side of what they represent, but few ever expect them to result in sustainable change.

I’d like to take a page from the Chinese Zodiac where they have the Year of the  . . . (insert animal of they year of your birth) and declare for HR that this is  . . . The Year of Others !!’

So, what does this effort entail ?? I’d like to throw out to the profession that HR needs to be focused on others and not themselves. This isn’t some fluffy feel good idea. It’s a viable way to influence business and affect the bottom line. The difficulty is that it takes a change in our mindset. Focusing on other people goes contrary to the “What’s In It for Me (WIIFM)” mantra. The thought that you have to identify the trigger for every single person as their WIIFM and make that a reality is not feasible.

However, spending time – uninterrupted time – with others at all levels of an organization is priceless and a differentiator. Why? It’s simple. People don’t do it now. Companies, especially at the executive level, feel that when you spend time with people you’re “wasting time” because things aren’t “getting done.” They’re wrong.

Their is NOTHING more valuable and long lasting than investing time in others.

Others ButtonIt’s so difficult because we are surrounded by a society that is self-centered. The majority of social media is predicated on how many views, likes, retweets, etc. that one gets. People are more than willing to post their own work but rarely will they curate and post the work of others.

You have to understand that if you join this Year of Others effort that you will be going against the flow. It gets tiring and you could get discouraged, but it’s worth it !! You have to trust me on this. Organizations, and senior management, are looking for ways that HR can be a business partner, and that can happen if you’re willing to put your waders on and step in the stream to walk against the current.

Doing this also means taking a risk that it will work, and we are unfortunately very risk averse as a profession. We can no longer be timid. Your employees are yearning for an advocate who will genuinely take the time to meet them, listen to them, care for them and work with them. People want to perform and they will do better when they know that someone is there for them. You can do this by showing supervisors how to more consistently approach people as humans and not as task fulfillers.

Will you join me? Will you be a part of the Year of Others? I think we can alter the HR landscape and make what we do relevant and desired. When you do this, you will see how being in Human Resources will matter for you both personally and professionally !!

It’s going to be our best year yet as an industry and I look forward to walking alongside you as we do this !!

#7Songs – Thunder !!

I’ve really enjoyed participating in the 7Songs blog series. To be candid, it’s impossible to get it down to seven single songs. I’m sure you could make a list like this fairly easily using different eras of music, different genres of artists and a myriad of different filters to compile a “best of” list.

The item that pulled all of these songs together for me can be summed up in one word – passion !! I am passionate about my choices and most people are very passionate about music. You may love one type of music and absolutely despise another. If you bring that up, you are sure to get arguments from others because they will defend their faves as well.

For me, there is only one band that embodies passion for me because every time they strike a chord on the guitar or belt out a crushing vocal, they bring it !!

#7 – Thunderstruck by AC/DC

Let's RockYou can’t help but banging your head and throwing your hands in the air the minute an AC/DC song starts. Thunderstruck epitomizes the essence of this
Aussie power group !! They made a career of songs built on three chords. Even though it’s “simple” music, they make arenas erupt.

I had been a fan of AC/DC for years when Thunderstruck came out. They had been making rock anthems for years before MTV had videos. So, I also got to SEE them perform this, and I couldn’t contain myself. The riff that Angus Young starts deftly moving up and down the frets of his guitar hooks you instantly. It’s something that would turn into a performance tied to HR down the road.

When I was chair of the Ohio SHRM State Conference, the theme was HR Rocks !! (double exclamation points included) For those of you who know me double exclamation points are the norm when I write (even texts and e-mails) because they epitomize passion.

As chair, I pulled my committee aside and showed them my vision of the opening of the conference. I wanted a stage with a catwalk, flashing lights and Thunderstruck blaring overhead. I actually bought an Angus Young costume and dressed up like him to take the stage and loudly welcome everyone to the event.

When I did this, the attendees all had drum sticks that they could pound together to bring the noise to a triumphant crescendo !! By the time I reached the mic to yell out “Hello, Sandusky !! Are you ready to rock ??!!” they were already geeked to get the show started.

Passion is something that we too often suppress when it is something we should express. Being tentative may be safer, but it leads to regret because you miss out on what you wanted to do. I learned long ago what it felt like to work in an environment that sucked the soul out of you. When I left that company, I vowed that my passions would never be suppressed again. . . . And they haven’t since !!

So, I encourage you to get the entire AC/DC catalog. It’s great to rip off the lid of the day and just flat rock !!! Find your 7Songs and keep them on a playlist to remind you that you were created to be vibrant, creative people. It’s who you’re supposed to be.

Let me help you get started – hands in air, head banging, cue the riff . . .

#7Songs – Release Your Inner Nerd !!

I am a nerd. There’s no doubt about it and it’s who I’ve been all of my life. In school I never was one of the “cool” kids. I was in Show Choir, Physics Club, Chemistry Club, Student Council, etc. Like many of the folks I know, I was involved in as many activities as I could find because these were my social outlets.

The odd thing about being a nerd is that people don’t expect you to do things outside of the box that they put you in. You see, I was also a very good athlete as well as a musician and student. People desperately want people to fit inside their filters and stereotypes because if you don’t it’s unpredictable and that’s unnerving.

Another thing that you don’t think of when you’re younger and nerdy is that you’ll “grow into it” later in life. The teenage years are awkward enough without having to carry a moniker of Geek with you. Relationships are challenging because teens (like adults) want to run around with packs of people who are just like them. You aren’t supposed to cross lines.

It’s no wonder that when I saw a “nerd” be a rock n’ roll artist, I was drawn to him which brings me to my next song.

#6 – Veronica by Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello was unlike anyone I ever had seen in music before and no one made music like he did. When he burst onto the scene, he looked like a Buddy Holly remake, but he was far from anyone who played rockabilly.

Elvis CostelloHis tight suits, coiffed hair and HUGE black glasses were outstanding. You could tell by listening to his songs that he was a lyricist. One, in my opinion, that is unmatched in the music industry !! I think I have every song he’s recorded, and this song just hits a note every time I hear it.

Like most of his music, Veronica, tells a story. The video is dead on with the song by showing Elvis visit an elderly woman in a nursing home. She fondly remembers the past, but is slowly forgetting the present and even her name. It’s something that perfectly frames a moment in time.

Being able to write like that is a gift. No one who “looks” at Elvis Costello expects him to be someone who is enshrined in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Ironically, very little of his music ever has had radio play and the general Top 40 public who follow the next great passing trend would hardly recognize him.

He’s recorded with legends of the music industry and often has an eclectic mix of artists who back him up. It’s outstanding that he’s never veered from being the original nerd that he always has been. He’s never fallen to the narrow path and formula that record companies force on their artists.

I dig Elvis because I believe in living out my inner nerd as well. So, how about you? Are you trying to “fit in” with the folks who want you to blend in with everyone around you so there’s no visible identity or distinction? Break with the crowd and let that inner nerd out !! You’ll be glad you did.

 

#7Songs – What rules ??

I’m not one to have many regrets about life. It’s been absolutely amazing so far and I’m looking forward to what will happen in the future !! However, everyone has a “I wonder what my life would be if” thought every once in awhile.

I’ve always thought it would have been great to live in the UK !! If I could even narrow that down, I’d live there during my teenage years which happen to have been in the late 70’s because I would have been present during the birth of Punk Rock. I didn’t really listen to punk bands until I heard more of them in college, but once I did one band clearly stood out and stuck – The Clash.

To me they defined the genre and never settled for the status quo. Most people know their two most popular songs, Rock the Casbah and Should I Stay or Should I Go? These are phenomenal, but I think one song stands out above the rest in their impressive catalog.

#5 – White Man in Hammersmith Palais by The Clash
Clash LogoThis song has incredible lyrics where Joe Strummer, the front man of the group. questions the other punk rock artists of the time and insinuates that they’re selling out. This epitomizes who The Clash were. They questioned the establishment and self-centeredness of their own generation. They set their own path and didn’t look back. If you had to describe their approach you’d say “what rules” ??

I’m someone who has always looked at life from a slightly different angle. I enjoy running contrary to what people expect. It’s also how I’ve approached HR. I have chosen to do something completely radical . . . . and be positive about people !! You wouldn’t think that this is “punk rock” enough, but it truly is. We’re bombarded with negativity almost every moment of every day. It takes a concerted effort to not bend to the will of others, or the trend that is easy to fall into.

I make sure to listen to The Clash as least once a day to remind me that you can redefine the norms and status quo. This song is a great place to start because once you hear it you won’t get it out of your head, and you’ll be yearning for more.

I hope by sharing this, you step out and question the status quo a bit more than you do now. So, let’s get you started !!