A Daily Mantra !!

This past week we celebrated a Team Member’s 30th anniversary !!  This is a rarity in any organization these days.  She truly is beloved.  When we sent out the notice that we were going to recognize her, many people, including several Executives and Senior Leaders, cleared their schedules to make sure they were present.

Our recognition program is very personalized.  We meet our Team Members during their shift and at their location. We finally learned that recognition needs to be focused on the employee and not the HR program or benevolence of the company !!  This simple shift has made recognition meaningful for all involved.

What made this occasion so great was the impact that this Team Member has had.  EVERY person who came to say congratulations had worked with her including the CEO and the President of the company !!  She has literally touched the lives of an incredible number of people who passed her to take on loftier roles in the organization.

When everyone gathered, there were loads of hugs, laughs and stories shared.  She had at least one story about everyone who came.  Here’s mine . . .

She is truly unique and salty !!  When I started in my role, my first interaction with her was because she had hung signs in the kitchen that said, “Make sure to put away your mother*$#*%ing glasses !!” She heard that HR wanted to talk to her and she was ready for me.  I told her that I’d like to take the signs down, and asked her why she felt the need to say these things.  She didn’t miss a beat. “Do you see all the glasses sitting around ??”  There was never any ill will or intent in her approach.

No one has ever felt threatened or hurt by her coarse language.  When I talked to her I got to know her better and she got to know me as well.  I make sure to drop by and see her every once in awhile and she says, “Hey, Steve, I haven’t put up any f*#$ng signs lately.”  And, we howl !!  We’ve both learned from each other over the years.

The whole time we were recognizing Louise, it was very emotional.  We shed tears, laughed until it hurt and reveled in the stories from her 30 years with us.  It was fantastic !!

Laughing Ha HaAs we were wrapping up, the President of the company shared this . . . “Recently, I read that to have a full life people should laugh out loud, cry out loud and touch someone else’s life every day – and Louise that describes you perfectly !!”  You can guess that tears flowed freely.

I think it’s something that all of us as humans can take on as our mantra.  This isn’t just an “HR” thing.  You see I believe that our workplaces are full of people like Louise.  It’s just that so many people continue to think that HR’s focus is on the negative. I hate when I hear people trying to learn from HR horror stories because that’s when idiotic policies, procedures and programs come to life.

I could have jumped her when I saw her signs.  I could have written up a tenured employee because she was using harsh language.  I could have overreacted and jumped to conclusions, created a massive anti-cursing policy with 5 levels of progressive discipline. Or, I could talk to her and hear her side of things.

I’m so glad I took the last approach.

I made sure I was Louise’s last hug.  It was warm, caring and I told her how much she meant to me and to the lives of so many.  She pulled back and said, “Thank You.  Now get out of here you . . . “

I Need a Hero !!

We drove to the theater with great anticipation hoping to get tickets in time for the 7:45pm showing of the brand new Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  The great ticket seller at the box office confused us when he said, “7:45 ?? The next show is at 7:15pm.”  We were early, but that meant we couldn’t get dinner before we went to see the show.  We decided to stay and head in to the theater.  The staff had us stand against the wall and form a line because the prior showing hadn’t ended.  We were an hour early.

As we stood there, the line to get in grew . . . and grew . . . and grew.  I didn’t remember a line forming before a movie like this since I saw the various Star Wars movies as a teenager. Everyone was patient, but you could feel the energy building and building as we got closer to the showtime.  The line was opened, and my son and I walked in and got the perfect seats for us.  The entire venue was filled in the next 10 minutes.

I didn’t know if others had a tradition like I do with my teenage son.  You see, every superhero movie that comes out means that we will be there to watch it.  I think we’ve made every Marvel, DC Comics, and smaller brand movies that have been released.  It is a shared experience that I truly cherish !!

It was a great movie !!  (You really should see it !!)  I loved it because Captain America is “odd” compared to most superheroes and most people in general.  You see, he’s completely selfless.  He is 100% others focused.  I love this attribute about him and want to encourage this in others as well.

By the incredible turnout at the movie, I can surmise that people find this attribute attractive as well.  We don’t see it often enough.  We live in a society, and work in companies, that are more self-focused than others-focused.  It seemed that people are looking for a “hero” of some sort.

Business HeroI’m not going to get into the definition of what a “hero” is because most heroes are active behind the scenes doing things that others never notice.  You see, I believe you can be heroic by being there for others and meeting their needs.  It doesn’t have to be something magnificent, but it does need to be something tangible.

So often in HR, and in articles about culture, we focus on making sure to identify the WIIFM (What’s In It for Me) factor.  What if YOU were what’s in it for others?  What if YOU chose to reach out and be there to meet the need of someone else in work, life or the community?

What would happen if YOU helped someone else AND expected nothing in return?  I think the world would be an amazing place !!  I know that it’s unlikely that many people will read this and try this, but I believe that the “Captain America” effect can happen in your life and in the lives of others.

So, this week shed your ego.  Open your eyes and see who could use a hero.  Then step up and act.  You’ll be glad you did !!

Red Card. Green Card.

I am writing my weekly post a bit later because I’m  fighting off a food coma !!  A group of friends and I just went to Boi Na Braza – a Brazilian steakhouse. It was spectacular and way too much food, but loads of fun.  Anytime you can mix friendship and food is great.  More relationships are built and deepened when breaking bread is involved.

The system the restaurant uses is incredibly effective and very simple.  The servers walk around with skewers of different types and cuts of meat.  You can have as much, or as little, as you’d like.  The staff never has to ask if you want to consider trying something new because they follow a simple two color card system.

Green Card 2Red Card 2Green means that you would like to see what’s being offered and red means that you want to take a break or stop for awhile to catch your breath (and make some more room.)  Since I work in the restaurant business myself, I was fascinated that service was broken down to the flip of a card !!

I wondered what would happen if we could have this two-sided card at work?  What if we could use this system in HR when we had to address behavior in the workplace?  We could show the green side for all of the behaviors we liked, and quickly turn it over to red the moment a behavior came up we didn’t care for. Wouldn’t that be simple enough?

Unfortunately, I think we get stuck on the red card too much.  We think that we can affect, change and control behavior through endless policies and procedures.  We spend more time saying “No” than we do “Yes” in our jobs too.  I think we get set on this pattern of practicing HR and think that by saying no first we are addressing the situation. However, we really aren’t being effective at all.  We’re just avoiding taking the time to analyze, contemplate and come up with a resolution to the situations we face.

I’d love to see us use the green card more often in all that we do in HR.  If we tried it, I think we’d develop a more consistently positive approach to what we do.  I’m not talking about mindlessly agreeing with things as they come up.  You can face situations, look them over and then move forward.  It may mean stopping a practice or eliminating something that no longer has use.  But, that can be positive as well.

You see, at the restaurant, you kept the green card up to see new things, try new flavors and have a broader experience.  That kind of life and approach to HR is exciting and fulfilling !!  So, which card are you going to turn over when you go to work this week ??  My green one is already turned up !!

HR is Wicked !!

Last week my wife and I took in a musical.  We love to see shows every once in a while and this was one of the best ones we’ve ever seen !!  We saw Wicked and were entranced by every single moment of the show.

The story is a much different tale of Elphaba the Wicked Witch and Glinda the Good Witch in the mythical land of Oz. After taking it all in and seeing something “familiar” brought to light in a different way, I noticed a troubling twist to the story.  When Elphaba meets the Wizard of Oz, she is put into a position where she is the enemy, and therefore, “wicked” !!  The Wizard even states that the people want someone bad so that he can look good.  To that point Elphaba was just trying to fit in because her green skin made her completely different than all of the other characters.

Wicked PosterI think Elphaba is a lot like HR in many organizations !!  She wanted to care for all of the animals in the kingdom of Oz – the outliers of their society.  She wanted to use her powers for good, but people didn’t understand what she did or why she wasn’t like everyone else.  All in all, she wanted to be included, but others didn’t want to do that.  In fact, they forced her to become wicked because they others could “deal with her.”

Unfortunately, HR acts in much the same way.  In the end, we too, allow an organization to put us into a box which they’re comfortable with even though we are not.  Why is that productive?  How does that enable us to practice what we do well in the company?  Why have we become a profession that tends to “accept” our fate?

I won’t tell you the end of the show (if you haven’t already seen it), but it’s really fantastic because Glinda and Elphaba sing about how each other have “changed each other for good.”

I think that we have this opportunity as well.  In order for HR to “change for good” we have to be comfortable with who WE are and not how others define us.  Also, we need to not allow folks to label us as “wicked” – other terms you may be familiar with is “the No People” “The Police” a “Necessary Evil” or the famous “Ssshh, it’s HR !!”  Step in and show people that we are far from wicked. We don’t let other employees treat each other this way, and we shouldn’t let other departments treat us poorly either !!

The great thing about HR is that we DO look at things differently !!  We bring the human factors of situations to life and make sure they aren’t overlooked.  Don’t ever apologize for doing that - ever !!

Wicked has a great ending for all of the characters.  The ones who are truly wicked get their due, and the ones who are truly good have the perfect fairy-tale ending.  It’s time for HR to understand the good we offer, the good we are and the good in others.  It’s not a make-believe situation.  It’s WHO WE ARE !!

What’s Your Approach ??

At times Human Resources feels like it moves at an amazingly fast pace !!  There may be some peaks and valleys, but each day is more likely a blur.  I know many folks who have to double-check their Outlook calendars just to remind them what day it is.

With things moving so quickly all the time, there is the possibility that the field we should love becomes the job that is more drudgery than joy.  If you don’t think this is true, go to an HR Conference and listen to the conversations in the crowds.  Most of them are not positive and are laced with unending frustration.

There’s a way out of this constant drain of negativity.  It does, however, take a huge intentional effort which many aren’t willing to do.  It’s not “hard” but it is different from the norm.

It’s all about your approach . . .

ApproachYour approach to your life.  Your approach to HR.  Your approach towards your employees.  And, your approach towards others around you.

Let me share an example that just happened.  We are entering the SHRM Conference season.  There are phenomenal regional and State events that you should check out and attend.  I just attended and spoke at the 48th Annual Northern Ohio HR Conference (NOHRC) in Cleveland.  It’s a great event full of great programs, business partners and, most importantly, HR pros.

Often when folks go to Conferences, they are much more focused and concerned with which sessions have Strategic Credit, where are the best seats, who should they go see and what is going to happen . . . every . . . single . . . minute.  They willingly walk past every other attendee to get to their session without even greeting each other.  The session is FAR MORE important than the other attendees.

Having experienced this more often than I like, I opened my session by asking all of the people who came to take 30 seconds and meet the people around them. The energy level in the room jumped !!  People started smiling and they shook off the full day of sessions and activities.  Their minds were clear, they were ready for something different and we launched.

I shared with everybody my observation that we struggle with HR because of how we approach it.  Just like the conference setting, we are so much more concerned and focused on systems, policies and procedures than we are the people who work with us.  People who come to work and want to do great work, be recognized for it by person-to-person feedback and also want to see their company succeed !!

The other example I shared at my session was that when I attend an HR conference, I spend my time almost primarily seeking out friends, meeting new people and getting connected to them.  I also attend sessions, but usually to meet others.  When people go to conferences with me they better get used to delays because I will get, and give, countless hugs, handshakes and hellos.

You see, PEOPLE are my approach !!

This isn’t an admonishment, it’s an opportunity.  People make us who we are as a profession and it’s the most fulfilling approach I know.  So, this week, drop one system.  Ignore one policy.  Skip one procedure.

But . . . approach EVERY person with a new view !!  I guarantee you’ll love it !!

Image courtesy of Dragyn Studios

Mr. Browne Goes to Washington !!

This seems to be a “bucket list” kind of year.  I was fortunate enough to be elected as part of the Membership Advisory Council (MAC) for SHRM.  I get to speak at SHRM National in Orlando this June !!  And then, there was this past week . . .

A few weeks ago, I was sitting at the Xavier University men’s basketball game with my wife when I got an e-mail from the SHRM Government Affairs group asking me if I’d consider testifying at a Congressional House Committee.  I was very moved and humbled that I was asked in the first place. After I got over the rush of the moment, I had to consider if I should do it or not.

I believe in Advocacy by HR professionals and have done this at the State and Federal level for the past several years.  I think we forget that we live in a country where we are allowed to share our viewpoint and participate in our government.  It’s somewhat intimidating, but I have found that the representatives and their staff are longing to hear from our community because they don’t hear enough from practitioners.  They do hear from many lobbyists with various special interests, but they don’t get our perspective nearly enough.

Capitol photoSo, after clearing it with my incredible employer, I said, “Yes.”  I went through an interview with staff from the Committee, and last Wednesday morning I was sitting in the Rayburn Building at a long, wooden table in front of a microphone, a timer with lights and my remarks about to testify on behalf of SHRM.  As Chairman Kline called on me with “Mr. Browne,” I took a deep breath and began to share my testimony.  The questioning from the Representatives was heated at times.  I tried to represent my employer, SHRM and HR the best I could.  When it ended, I was relieved and still incredibly excited !!

Trust me when I say that I didn’t take this experience lightly at all.  To be a citizen sitting in front of members of Congress is something I’ll never forget.  This wasn’t something where you had to side with political ideologies.  It was a chance to give a business perspective from an HR pro.  I hope that people can see that we are a BUSINESS voice !!

I also hope that SHRM, and our community as a whole, can see there are Sr. practitioners who are involved, are engaged and want to move us all forward.

Here is my challenge to all of HR . . . Make your voice heard !!

If it’s in the context of your department, be heard.  If it’s with your employees and your Executives, be heard.  If it’s in an advocacy role at the local, State or Federal level, be heard.

A wise person told me once – If people don’t hear from you, someone else WILL be heard !!

HR, your perspective matters.  Be confident in who you are and in what you do.  This is a chance for you to set the example that you want others to follow.  Being passive and hoping that things will change, or evolve, isn’t effective.

By the way, as I walked out I asked if I could take my name tent.  The staff wondered why I’d want a piece of paper.  I told them that today mattered, at least to me.  I took it back and put it in my office so I can always remember when “Mr. Browne” went to Washington !!

Be Relentless !!

This past weekend was phenomenal because I spent it with the 50 SHRM State Directors at the Regional Summit. It’s great for so many reasons such as developing leaders, sharing best practices, learning what successes others are having and the most recent news from SHRM itself.

The true highlight for everyone attending was learning from Jason Lauritsen and Joe Gerstandt as Talent Anarchy !!  They showed everyone a valuable tool with the Hack Lab.  Hacking isn’t “new” to the business world, but it is lacking in HR and in volunteer leadership roles.  The level of energy and creativity was incredible !!

They also highlighted their great work from their MUST HAVE book Social Gravity which break down the immense value of our social capital. When this session was completed, there was a sharing of take aways, and a vast majority of the group shared that they were going to work on being more connected to each other.

RelentlessIn fact, my favorite response came from the North Dakota State Director, Stephanie Winterquist, when she said she was going to BE RELENTLESS at improving her social capital !!

It made me wonder if others in HR would be relentless too?  I know that “connecting” is an overused plea in HR blogs, but it keeps coming up because people just aren’t doing it !!  As soon as the conference was over, and before I caught my flight home, I sent a Linked In invitation to intentionally connect with the folks from the SHRM Leadership Summit that I hadn’t yet.  This isn’t to gather more “friends” or “followers.”  It’s to find others who can be resources for you and for you to be a resource to others.

HR will sustain its relevance the more it’s connected !!  That is an undeniable fact.  So, you have to ask yourself – will you be relentless too?  I think it’s time for all of us !!

Giver or Taker ??

Have you ever been unemployed?  I have.  It’s happened a few times in my life.  I’m not talking about transitioning from one job to a new one.  I’m talking about not working in your profession.  It’s hard.

The reality of the financial implications hit first and you’re kind of taken over by fear.  You think that EVERYONE would want to hire you immediately, and that you’re sure to land your next job quickly.  That rarely happens. These items aren’t “new” and there are countless blogs and pieces of advice for jobseekers.

However, I think there’s a HUGE opportunity for HR to make a difference and turn the tide for people who are in transition.  Likewise, there’s a HUGE opportunity for jobseekers to take a different approach in their search as well.  It takes a different mindset for both sides of the unemployment quandary.

I grew up in Ada, Ohio (otherwise known as the center of the universe). It’s a rural village in Northwestern Ohio that can be compared to growing up in Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show.  People are very down to earth and full of sage advice.  My Dad has lived in and around Ada his entire life.  He pulled me aside one day and said, “Steve, there are two types of people in this world – givers and takers.  You need to decide which one you’ll be.”

Givers and TakersI know my Dad didn’t come up with this saying. However, he and my Mom have been the model of givers in all areas of their lives.  I’ve tried to live this in my life as well.  It’s where HR needs to be too in my opinion.

I think HR folks should make themselves available for people in transition.  I have been working with people who are between jobs for years.  Here’s a big difference – I haven’t hired any of those people, and I haven’t charged them a dime for my time and efforts.  Sometimes, I meet for coffee, take a phone call, review a resume or make a call to someone as part of my network.  At the HR Roundtable I facilitate, people in transition are welcome to come, share their resume and network with HR pros to show others that they have always been talented pros themselves.  I truly get geeked when a person sends me an e-mail to tell me they’ve landed !!

You see, I believe great companies who hire great people will be companies that differentiate themselves from the pack.  Why wouldn’t I help other companies get better?  To me it’s the benchmark for great HR !!

Here’s what I’d like to challenge HR and jobseekers to do . . .

  • Intentionally network with each other even if the person in HR isn’t hiring.  HR folks know others in HR.  So, even if the company isn’t hiring, a person may open a door to someone who is !!
  • Don’t ignore the long-term unemployed HR.  Talented people are everywhere around us.  Look at people for what they bring to your company, not how long they’ve been between jobs.
  • Remember to help others first.  Too often jobseekers get their next job and forget the network who helped them land.  Don’t be a taker !!  Be forewarned on this.  Folks I know who have only used others to get a job are usually looking for another job in 18 months.  Avoid this behavior and keep networking.
  • HR folks – connect with other HR folks.  We still have miles to go before we truly become the “community” people write about.  Link In with each other.  Follow each other on Twitter.  Meet each other in person.  We can help others by being more connected ourselves.

Finally, understand that my Dad’s saying is true whether you read this and act or not.  So choose who you want to be.  I know this – by giving to others, my life is richer every day and I wish the same for you !!

 

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation(s) !!

Something has been bothering me for some time now.  When did we realize that we have generations in the workplace?  Haven’t we ALWAYS had people from various generations in the workplace?

It truly is disappointing that we have taken to labeling people due to when they happen to have been born.  For instance, technically by my birth year, I am at the tail end of the Baby Boomers.  I more strongly identify with Generation X personally. But, I would have to say that, I have a touch of Millennial and whatever the newest generation is being called in me as well.

My Generation 45Any time I hear someone in HR bemoan the perceived weaknesses and challenges of a generation in HR presentations or on blogs, I hear The Who and their epic song, My Generation.

Roger Daltrey belts out ” People try to put us down . . . Just because we get around . . . Things they do look awful c-c-cold . . . Hope I die before I get old.”

The lyrics are indicative of how I think EVERY generation feels when they are shoved into a stereotype so that others can “deal” with them.  Tell me how this enhances a workplace?

I give a presentation where I bring out a vinyl album, a cassette tape, a CD and my iPod – all of the Beatles White album. (Didn’t ignore the immortal 8-Track, just didn’t have one anymore)  I ask a younger person to tell me what the LP is and the answers range from frisbee, to plate, to tray. It’s fun to see how things have changed.  What hasn’t changed though is the message !!  You see each form of music is just what each generation used to capture it, but the songs are still magnificent in each medium.  The same is true about people.  It’s just that WE need to look at it differently !!

It saddens me that HR even considers labeling people when we fiercely fight to not do this in every other aspect of our job.  I know Boomers who are more hip than Millennials and Gen X’ers that should have grown up at the turn of the 20th century.

Let’s do this instead . . .

We should value the diverse experience, culture, background and age of everyone we work with.  Learn who they are as people first versus categorizing them into some box that we think makes it convenient.  Quit assuming the worst of people and accentuate their strengths instead !!  People who know that you value who they are will automatically be engaged because the focus is on THEM and not their generation.

We work with a tapestry of extremely diverse people who bring an incredible breadth and depth of humanity to work everyday.  Any time that HR narrows this, we only lose out.  Refuse to be narrow !! Go against the norm and dive into the myriad of generations around you.

Sochi, the Media and HR !!

The 2014 Winter Olympics are in full swing, and I have to tell you that I’m a fan.  It’s a chance for the entire world to come together for a common purpose through sports.  I’m not a skier, skater, bobsledder, luger or curler.  Although, I think being on the US Curling Team would rock !!

With all of the pomp and circumstance, bright colors and international community comes an unfortunate dark side.  It is truly almost unbearable to listen to the blathering commentators.  During the opening ceremony, one of the visual special effects where snowflakes were supposed to transform into the five Olympic rings failed.  It caused a global uproar and Twitter exploded !!  In fact there’s an account on Twitter that focuses on the things in Sochi which are “wrong.”

The negativity doesn’t stop with the talking heads of NBC in their studios, during the Today Show or the Evening News.  It continues during EACH event !!  We’ve never been a country who admires that other countries actually send athletes who also compete alongside us.  The coverage is so U.S.-centric that we only get to see an extremely small portion of the actual competition even though it’s hours and hours of TV coverage.  Then, during the coverage, the analysts talk about all of the errors people make instead of focusing on how amazing it is that this athlete is representing an entire country !!

I get sick of it.  Ironically, it reminds me of how the majority of HR is focused.  Entire company cultures go to work each day to focus on “what’s wrong” with work and especially with their employees.  I know I’ve been guilty of this because it’s so much easier to be negative vs. being positive !!  It has to stop.

Happy face amongst sad faces.Just think what would happen if your culture refused to be negative !!  I understand that there are challenges in every workplace.  But those are opportunities, not obstacles.  HR should make it there mantra that ALL systems that touch, or affect, people in the organization should be intended to encourage, develop or address folks where they are.

If someone is lacking a skill, then take the time to teach them what they need.  If someone is struggling with a person/boss/management, talk to them directly without having the approach of “making a case.”  If there are differences between people or departments, be the glue who connects the dots and show how to integrate people’s strengths instead of harping on people’s differences.

I could fill an entire post on these types of if/then statements.  The key is that we need to be more like Sage Kotsenburg who won the Olympics 1st gold medal of the games and the first in his inaugural event.  He was stoked about his performance and his press conference is a great mixture of awe, excitement and “dudeness.”

He only focuses on what he was able to do and how cool it was to do it !!  If we in HR, were like this and could be positive and excited about what we did, just think of the possibilities !!  Turn off the negative and see what happens.  I think you’ll be geeked !!