What’s Your Motor ??

I think it’s fascinating that we have so many amazing people in our lives, and that most of them are acquaintances. There’s nothing wrong with this because people have a certain capacity on how many people they’re both willing to know deeply, or can dedicate the time to do that.

The challenge with people only knowing each other at a surface level is that you don’t know enough about them that gets them geeked !! You may wonder why that’s important, but in HR you really can be a step ahead of the pack if you take note of what motivates and excites people. There’s one caution to finding out this information about others because it has . . . wait for it . . . NOTHING to do with their work !!

Just making this statement is already making people shiver. You see, there’s a myth the permeates organizations that the only subject people talk about when they have conversations is work related. We tend to try to limit our communication to work related interactions because it’s safe and comfortable. If we have disagreements, it’s about work. If it’s positive, it’s about work. I am going to go one step further and speculate that the vast majority of these “work only” conversations are hardly effective. It’s not the content, it’s the reality that we have so many items we’re juggling in a day that the length of time a conversation captures our attention is minuscule.

It amazes me that so many HR people rush to the situation at hand, and don’t take a couple of minutes to talk about the person and what drives them first instead. When I hear that people want to humanize the workplace more, but they’re not willing to take the time to talk about the human in front of them and their interests, I’m skeptical about their approach.

Motor RunningPeople are fascinating !! There is so much going on in their lives that would amaze you about what gets their motor going. The question is – are you willing to dive in ??

I am. In fact, I spend a large portion of my day catching up with people about their interests, their families and their lives in general. You need to realize the your employees are aching to have someone acknowledge them and take just a few minutes for you to be genuinely interested in them. I realize that they may bring up topics that you aren’t particularly interested in, but that’s part of the gig if you want to differentiate yourself in HR.

If I’m not aware of a certain interest a person has, I take more time to listen to them to let them share even more. You see, you have the ability to get people reenergized and release their passion in a work setting. When you do this, people will perform and do almost anything you ask. This approach also works when you need to address difficult situations as well. Taking the time to see what’s behind what may be frustrating an employee and causing challenging behavior is worth the time !!

Let me close with one reminder to make sure this works for you. What gets your motor running ?? You need to know this and you need to make sure that you’re filling your days with these things on a regular basis so that you remain passionate yourself. You can’t fake this, and you shouldn’t. There is absolutely nothing wrong with renewing yourself to keep you motivated.

Me ?? My motor gets going when I meet new people (especially if they’re in HR), going to HR events, being active in my church, time with my amazing wife and kids, endlessly playing music, movies, a great book, tie-dye anything and lava lamps. And that’s just a start !!

I surround myself with things that motivate me because I know that it’s key that I motivate others. It’s one of the bright spots about HR !! So, step back, list out your “motorvators” and get geeked !!

Tall Tales !!

This weekend my wife and I had a date night seeing the musical, Big Fish, which was based on the novel and movie of the same name. It was a spectacular performance that captured you from the moment it began.

A quick summary . . .

The story contrasts the relationship of a father and son who have completely different perspectives on life. The father spins incredible tales where he is the hero. The son is cynical and skeptical about all of the amazing adventures of his father. He can’t fathom why his dad takes things and blows them out of proportion with endless exaggeration. The son wants life to be rational, logical and linear. This difference pulls them apart almost to the point of ruining their relationship.

Throughout the musical, my wife kept nudging me sharply in the ribs. You see, I am a storyteller. I always have been and actually took a class in college to learn how to interpret and share stories. I believe that you can make almost any situation come to life. It’s intriguing though to see how others view this. In the workplace, most people want you to “get to the facts” because they feel that other items outside of this are a waste of time. Their time.

Isn’t it interesting that we feel that time is wasted only if it affects us personally? I understand that people are self-centered, but there has to be a way around this. I don’t think you have to settle on this as a barrier. If we succumb to allowing everyone to be self-centered, you end up with a workplace made up of fierce individuality and no collaboration. People need to work together. You can’t avoid it.

When you go to conferences, or other HR events, you see people drawn to people who are storytellers. In fact, people will listen to those types of sessions even if they have little content. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you should ever go to sessions that don’t have content. However, when everything is facts, numbers, quotes and rational thought, it’s just dry. It’s accurate and relevant but lifeless.

In HR we tend to get frustrated because we keep taking a rational approach first. We wonder why people don’t just “get it” and stay within the parameters we establish. They work on paper every time, but fall apart once you introduce them to humans. I love this and think it’s fascinating because instead of trying another approach, we build more and more policies and procedures thinking that we’ll have an intricate enough structure which will finally limit and control behavior.

Stories CupsTry stories because they work. When we were children our parents read us stories to expand our vision and horizons. Weaved within these tales were lessons of do’s and don’ts that applied to our life at that formative time. We think those work for kids, but are senseless for adults. Organizations take great pride in beating the child and the fun out of people because we expect them to come to “work.”

Let me clear something up. You can’t get people to be stronger performers when you wrap things in stories. We love to hear tales of how to do things, and do them well. We also love to hear of magnificent failure and how to learn from it. We talk about engagement of others, but we need to be engaged ourselves first.

This week lead with a story. Share an experience. Tell a tall tale. Watch what happens when you see someone start to pay attention when they were indifferent in the past. Their interest will peak and they will hang on your words as you spin a story to make what they do come to life. I guarantee you will also enjoy what you do more as well. HR deserves life in all it does. Bring it !!

 

Mom.

In very early 1964 on an Army base in Nuremberg, Germany (West Germany at the time), a young woman became a mother for the first time. The challenge was that her son was one month premature. The doctor’s reassured her and did everything they could to take care of this newborn. He spent time in an incubator, but eventually became healthy enough to head home.

As if this wasn’t enough, her young husband had volunteered to serve in the Army and he was about to take one of four tours to Vietnam to fight for his country. After the young family returned to the States, the young mother had a second son in Columbus, Georgia. Soon after this, her husband who served as a Staff Sergeant fell ill. He battled the best he could, but cancer won and left her with a 4 year-old and a 2 year-old.

She returned back to her small rural hometown, Luckey, Ohio (yes it is a place !!) and went to college while she held a full-time job. She earned her Bachelor’s in Education and became a teacher in a vocational school. She later earned her Master’s Degree and worked 30+ years teaching students to become Administrative Assistants. She remarried after being a widow nine years and she will be celebrating her 40th anniversary with this great man in June 2016.

She always encouraged her two sons to do their best and expected them to excel. She was always positive and wanted both of them to succeed. Throughout her life she has focused on others in her church, her community and in her school. Whenever, she meets anyone she gives them her full attention, and is genuinely interested in who they are and what they are sharing. Quick to laugh as well as shed an emotional tear, you know that she is fully invested in you. Most of the time that ends up in deeply warm hugs when she sees you and when she leaves.

Her two sons have been very blessed and fortunate as well. One is a doctor who now serves as an executive in a large healthcare system in Tennessee, and her other son is an executive for a regional pizzeria working in Human Resources !! She welcomed two amazing women when they chose to get married (25+ years both) and she still is enamored with her five grandchildren who are now all young adults.

Just this weekend, she saw her granddaughter, who earned her B.S. in Psychology as a summa cum laude, become a college graduate. Being the consummate Mom, she brought snacks of monster cookies and trail mix that she made which she gave her granddaughter, her grandson and their parents. Each paper lunch bag had their names on them (of course), and she took enough pictures to fill a photo album !!

MomBy now, I hope you know this is my mother, Connie. She has left an indelible legacy on me and her family that will last eternally. She’s honestly the type of person that never talks about herself only others. However, when you get a chance to talk to the people whose lives she has touched, you only hear about her.

It’s odd to me that we only set aside one day a year for Mothers. Moms don’t get days off and they deserve our appreciation every day of the year. I am so fortunate to be from a family that is full of positivity, faith and selflessness. It’s been a great model to learn from and, hopefully, share with others in my life.

Over the years there have been far more hugs than tears. Far more lasting memories than struggles. And, far more love, joy and stories that will never fade. She continues to be someone who deeply touches everyone she encounters naturally.

Thanks mom.

Be An Influencer !!

I’ve been active and visible on Social Media forums for many years now. I enjoy them immensely and find them to be great methods of connecting with others across the globe, a simple mechanism to share the work of others and an overall great way to communicate. If you’ve been out here for any length of time, you see lists. The lists have great intent, but often bring up harsh emotions.

People struggle with lists if they aren’t included, and that reaction is senseless. One of the serious downsides to social media is that we are so fixed on wanting to see our name, face, and posts. We measure and obsess over the number of shares, likes, retweets and followers we have. It’s odd because they are just ways of measurement. How can something not have value if you’re not included ??

I understand that many folks use social media to conduct business, make sales and establish/maintain their brand. I’m all for it, but it gets way too much of our attention and it seems one-sided. A great example of this where you see people really jump is when people are considered “influencers” in these lists.

I have a feeling that the moment influencer lists are published, the doubt, skepticism and scoffing ensues. When it does, it’s brutal and unfortunate. I’m sure when people were compiling their lists, they had the hope that who they listed would be geeked and share that they were included. That happens, but the wave of sentiment against the lists far exceeds those who are excited.

InfluenceThe overall problem to all of this is that I think we’ve absolutely missed what influencing others means. It has so little to do with social media, but that’s where we feel it should be. Influence naturally lies within all of us. The question is whether we recognize and own it or not.

You see, in HR, we are rarely alone. We swim in a sea of people. Unfortunately, I hear too many of my peers complain about this constant reality. We miss the opportunity to truly “influence” people because we tend to down play our interactions with others. Instead, we give our attention to the situation or problem we’re addressing, and then coming up with some rock solid solution.

If the only reason you’re in HR is to solve other’s problems, change occupations.

People aren’t problems. We may all have problems and struggles in some fashion, but to immediately categorize someone as someone to fix, you have a negative view of humans.

Influence can be, and should be, positive !! When it’s used for negative reasons, it is often short lived but it also can do incredible damage. You have a choice to not allow influence to be used in that way. It’s incredibly difficult to be a positive influence in today’s workplace and society. However, it is what we are called to do.

You have the chance to influence every, single person you come across. Not one person should pass you by without you interacting with them. Not one. That may seem daunting, but it’s very doable with some effort and the desire to be intentional. Something as simple as a smile, a “Hello”, and the willingness to stay and listen to how they respond, may seriously make all the difference they needed that day.

That small action is more influential than any list on social media EVER will be !! The chance to be an influencer is available to you and it’s time you step in. People need your influence, and I can’t wait to see how you positively impact and change the lives of those around you !!

 

And You Are ??

This past week I attended the SHRM Talent Conference and it was spectacular !! The keynote speakers were all solid and the concurrent sessions had depth and relevant content.

I love that people come to conferences to learn, gain skills and get professional development to do their jobs better. I also dig hearing speakers that motivate me, make me laugh and allow me to have a release from what I do on a daily basis. All of those facets of attending a conference are needed. Chances are you’ll even be asked to give a report back to your boss about the takeaways you had.

What if you missed the best takeaway when it was sitting right next to you?

For those of you who may not know, I’m an absolute extrovert who just loves being in a sea of new people. I see events like this as an opportunity to mingle and meet peers. I think we lose sight of the fact that people who practice HR are all around us during a conference. It seems that attendees are surprised when you attempt to make eye contact and say, “Hello.”

As in most conferences I’ve gone to, attendees flow past fellow attendees and people keep to themselves. They make sure to get a seat in the area of the room where the presentation occurs, and then they sit and wait to hear what the speaker has to share. Did you know that when you listen to a presentation, you remember 10% of what was said on average? Even the great ones !!

I have a much different approach to HR Conferences. I go to them to meet people. I understand that this isn’t the norm, and I’m good with that. What I’ve found, however, is when I meet new HR people and connect them with other new HR people, great things happen. During SHRM Talent, I met folks from all over the U.S. and from around the globe !! I learned different approaches, insights and also what they expected from the conference.

I also make sure to meet vendors and see what they do. I may use their services, but I also may not. The key to me was to see who they were and how they interacted with HR folks. If they were all about the sale, I remembered that. If they were about learning about the attendees and how to meet their needs to make their company better, I remember that too (and made sure to connect with them.)

People You MeetYou see, I can give you countless examples of why taking this approach to conferences matters. I have met people that I keep in touch with on a regular, if not daily basis, that make me a better human. They also make me a stronger HR professional. With them I have a whole set of resources available with the click of a button on my phone or laptop. With them I have a deeper appreciation of HR because they give me their perspectives on things. With them I have established life-long friendships that I cherish.

To be honest, I couldn’t tell you which speaker I was listening too when I met these folks. However, I am assured that I can reach out to any of them at any time to stay connected.

So, when you go to your next HR event whether it’s a local HR chapter meeting, a networking forum or the massive SHRM Annual conference, step back and notice the people. When you get their attention, introduce yourself and ask, “And you are ??” Trust me. You’ll be glad you did !!

 

The Second Day

Have you ever started a new job? Do you remember what it was like? I remember anxiety about what I wore, how to drive to the office, where to park and what would happen. You weren’t sure who you were going to meet and wondered what they’d think about you. What would your work space look like? Where do you eat lunch and when do you do that?

The are countless questions and thoughts that run through your head. Most of them also assume the worst even though nothing has even happened yet. After you settle in the parking lot wondering if you’re in someone’s space, you hesitantly go to the front door and the receptionist. All of a sudden you’re warmly greeted and they call into your new boss who comes out and takes you to their office to explain how your first day will unfold. Your shoulders relax and you let out a heavy sigh. The first day then flies by with the mandatory HR paperwork, a tour of the company, multiple introductions to people who say their name too quickly, and then you land at your desk. Lunch is still a mystery because you seemed to either miss it or work through it. Then, the commute home.

You’re all geeked up after a positive experience on day one. You liked the majority of people you met. The work seems to match what you heard in the interview and you dig your new boss.

Day 2Then the second day comes . . .

You’re first day fears have been squelched and you are comfortable with the commute and how to get into the building and to your desk. Oddly, no one is there to greet you and the receptionist is already up to their eyes in guests, calls and e-mails. You go past your boss’s office and they wave, and say “We’ll talk later” – which never happens. You go to your desk and you have to figure things out on your own. You still don’t know what to do about lunch.

Sound familiar ?? It happens every, single day in companies across the globe regardless of industry. No one ever explains the existence of “assumed culture.” This is where we just think employees will “get it” because we don’t want to spend time with them because we’re too busy with our own work. When we miss those new folks they start making decisions as to whether they’ll stay or not much more quickly.

I’m heading to the SHRM Talent Conference and I’m geeked !! I think the sessions will be great and I’m looking forward to meeting new HR folks from around the country. I’m also sure that the majority of sessions will encourage HR to look at employees as “talent” because we honestly don’t. We are still stuck in the mire of filling job requisitions and keeping hiring managers calm. Also, the focus will be on the front end of the business or attracting and recruiting people.

Until we start viewing ALL employees as “talent” within our organizations, then our labeling of them will not change. I received some great advice from my boss when I started in my current role some 10 years ago. He wanted HR to be with employees for their entire life cycle – from candidate until the time they leave the company. He wanted to make sure that people didn’t get lost on Day Two.

This is another opportunity and reminder that HR needs to firmly be focused on people and not processes such as on-boarding. New employees aren’t things and tasks and we need to keep that in front of us.

This week see who’s joining the company and make sure their first day rocks, but also greet them on the second day  . . . and every one after that so they know that they truly are the talent you sought in the first place !!

Drop Your Work Face !!

As you read this you’re probably getting ready for the work week. How do you do that? I’m sure it’s probably different for everyone, but there is preparation of some sort. You get your outfit together. You look at your calendar for the next day or even the whole week. The question I have is, “Which face did you choose to put on ?”

For some reason, people choose to act one way at work and another outside of work. In fact, they may have different work faces depending on who they’re interacting with during the day. One for senior management. One for your department. Another for your peers and one more for those who are in roles lower than yours. Gets tiring doesn’t it?

Why do we feel the need to carry multiple personas? What’s so hard about being ourselves? Let me share a story . . .

Early in my career, I worked for a Fortune 100 company as a recruiter. These were the days before “business casual” existed. Our department was going to go together to a company sponsored night at the Cincinnati Reds. We had seats in the stadium and weren’t in a suite. I had never been out with my co-workers socially because I was much younger than them. So, I had never seen them in “non work” clothes. I was geeked to go to the game. I chose to wear a Reds shirt, shorts, a Reds hat and, of course, my red Chuck Taylor low top Converse shoes !!

My co-workers actually stared at me and asked me if THAT was what I was going to wear to the game. They were in casual clothes, but very nice ones. I smiled, said “Yep, trying to show team spirit !!”

Work FaceI was given the tickets for me and my friend that were separate from the rest of the group from work. You see, I didn’t have the right work face on. I didn’t know I needed one !!

I don’t work at that company any longer, and I’ve watched over the places I’ve worked since then and I keep running in to more and more work faces. This needs to change – especially for HR !!

HR folks need to be genuine all the time and with everyone. You can’t expect people to be genuine themselves unless they see it modeled for them. Doing this will make you vulnerable, transparent and emotional. In other words – human.

Trying to play a game of being different personalities for different people within an organization only hurts you and your company. Also, you need to understand that employees are yearning for someone to be “real” with them. It’s missing in companies today, and that’s a mistake.

This week stop putting on a work face and be yourself. When you see others with work faces, make it safe for them to let them take it off. You’ll be pleased with more and more folks being genuine. Once that happens, then you’ll see true performance occur !!

People. Every. Day.

I’ve had this small voice in the back of my head that has wondered what it would have been like to be a college professor. I’d want to teach students about HR of course. I envision gathering at the beginning of the semester in my classroom. I’m a bit anxious and the students are wondering what is in store. I’m sure most of them are expecting a syllabus on the first day outlining coursework, readings, projects and exams.

After I get everyone settled down, I ask all of the to put down their tablets or close their laptops. Then I ask them to take their textbooks and put them on the ground. The students look concerned at each other wondering what is going on and a few are probably posting on social media about how odd this new professor is. Then I start . . .

“Hey everyone. Glad you came today to HR 101. To get started, I want you to look around the room and see what you notice.”

After a slight awkward silence, I step in.

“I hope you notice your fellow classmates. You see THEY are what Human Resources is all about. If you remember nothing else this whole semester, remember this.

HR is about people. People. Every. Day.”

I don’t want them to enter the field of HR without this essential truth. I don’t want them to have to be reminded after 3 to 5 years that people matter. I don’t want them to ever think that the policies, procedures, regulations and rules that are components of HR should come before people.

It sounds simplistic, but it’s missing in organizations. Every. Day. There are tons of HR pros who are more content with “how’s” of what they do versus the “who’s” they do it with. Instead of seeing the many employees that you come across as tasks that fulfill your daily to-do list, try recognizing them as a mosaic that ebbs and flows on a regular basis.

People MosaicThere is a sea of diversity and variety that you get to work with all around you. Not one day goes by that is the same because you’re working with people (every day). You have the opportunity to choose whether that matters or whether it’s a nuisance.

I have to admit that when I started in HR, people weren’t the focus of my efforts. That was an expectation set forth by the company I worked for. We were more concerned with structure, compliance and making sure people fit within rules and systems. There was little room for creativity or innovation. I thought it was because of the size of the company I worked for, but I’ve found this to be more of the norm for how HR operates (and it comfortable doing.)

After I held a position where the owner told me that the ONLY reason I had a job in HR was for his people, I’ve never looked back. Unfortunately, it’s still not the “norm.” We spend more time on the “stuff” of HR and not the people we work with.

This week, join my class of HR 101. Put away the things of your job and put the manuals of rules you’ve developed to the side and look around the room. See what you notice and remember what HR is truly about.

People. Every. Day.

Resurrecting HR !!

HR is dead.

(At least that’s what people want you to believe.)

It’s staggering to me that there continues to be this on-going conversation that is desperately trying to kill Human Resources. Blogs, magazine articles, conference presentations, etc. It’s happening throughout the profession, and very few people are standing up against it !! Why in the world should we allow people to degrade, belittle and tear down our profession? It’s especially disheartening when some of those voices are coming from inside HR itself !!

I believe that there should always be discourse, dialogue and critique. If that doesn’t occur, then change doesn’t happen. However, trying to move things forward through tearing it down has never worked. Never.

The reason for this post, and the title, is that I truly believe there is a problem and HR does need resurrecting !! Also, with it being Easter, how could you not use this title ??

The problem, as I see it, is that we are working so hard to maintain the status quo, that we’ve lost the urge to stretch and dream to see what HR could be. We feel that keeping things comfortable and in line will make our role effective and needed in organizations. It helps to have some of that, but not as your primary approach. It’s interesting that we encourage others not to settle, but we don’t see that this advice also applies to us.

Still AliveI’d like you to consider some ideas to make HR alive for you personally and collectively as a profession !!

Stand up and be heard !!

When you hear someone taking a shot at HR and what you do, respond. If that happens in your organization, push back. Bring solutions that elevate the human element of your employees and pull the company together. Quit making efforts to manage to the exception and recognize the whole. If you see negative comments online, respond. Being frustrated behind a screen will not bring about change. Comment, share and respond !!

Get connected and involved in the profession !!

HR is a field of isolation by design because we deal with the difficult side of employee issues. They have to have a safe haven they can work with and come to. After awhile, that isolation builds up and you have nowhere to go. (or so you think). The best thing about being in HR is the other people who practice it !! Having a viable, interactive and living network of HR professionals is essential if you want to thrive in this field. There was never anything written in your job description that stated that you had to quietly suffer.

Reach out. Connect with others who are near you. Make social media the communication vehicle it was intended to be and find out that there are thousands of  people who do what you do, and they’re looking to connect as well !! Go to conferences to meet people. Join organizations like SHRM nationally as well as locally. Do it because it makes you a better HR pro, not just because you were told to do it !!

Believe in what you do !!

HR is alive and well. It’s not just a blog post or a rallying cry. It’s a fact. Every day senior management is seeking HR to step up and make sure that organizations are more human. It’s a natural instinct in most of us and the time for suppressing it is past. It’s not time for us to be wildly optimistic, but it is time for us to say – How can we make the workplace better?

There is value in what you do my peers and friends. Inherent, tangible value. As you head back to work this week shake off the cobwebs, drudgery and negativity which can swallow the best of us. It’s time to resurrect HR !! Will you join me ??

 

A Rocking Chair

This past weekend I was fortunate to be part of a celebration at work. It was a chance to say “Thank You” to a Team Member for an incredible accomplishment. One of our delivery drivers had decided to retire. This may seem like a normal occurrence in the life of a company, but when it happens at our company, it’s a big deal !!

This is true because we’re an anomaly in the restaurant industry. We have several Team Members who have many years of service which is fantastic. Yes, we have turnover but it’s not our focus. Celebrating folks who have 10, 15, 20,25 and more years of service is common.

This retirement celebration, however, set a new standard. You see we’ve been in business for 62 years and this Team Member has been with us for 55 of those 62 years !! That is ridiculous and phenomenal !! I knew he had been with us for a long time, but I had no idea it was this extensive. He started with us when he was 15 years old and has been taking care of guests for a lifetime – literally.

To get ready for this day, we asked around to see if there was anything we could get to commemorate his retirement. His wife was wonderful and she told us, “He’d like a rocking chair so he can sit on the porch and drink a Coke.”

55 years and thousands of hours of service, and he wanted a place to rest and reflect. Epic.

Rocking ChairsWe met at the restaurant where our driver had worked the majority of his time with us and we did our best to make it a surprise. The turnout of family, friends and co-workers was inspiring. So many people couldn’t wait to also say “Thank You.” As everyone gathered in a party room, we got the jet black rocking chair out of my car and walked through the restaurant. You could hear oohs and aahs as we walked by. I heard “look at that chair !!” and “I wonder who that’s for?”

It was so cool to witness. You have no idea how humbling it was to experience this anticipation as to how he’d react. I asked everyone to have a seat, said a few words of thanks and then asked our retiree to say a few words. He stepped up and was visibly moved. Very graciously he said, “I’ve enjoyed my time here and the people I’ve worked with. It’s been a great family to work for. I appreciate everyone coming out for this. Thank you.” That was it. Beautiful.

I asked him to try out the chair for pictures. He sat down, looked up at me and said, “Look at that, it fits just right !!”

Too often we overthink recognition when it comes to our Team Members. We put our focus on programs and not people. Recognition can be broken down into asking what matters to someone. The differentiator in how HR and companies approach this is whether or not you’re willing to allow individual requests. This takes more work, but it’s worth it.

It’s another example of how we complicate and layer HR when it is begging to be simplified. More does not mean better, it just means more. This week break the mold of conformity in recognition and look at the individuals you need to recognize instead.

Who knows? You might need to go out and buy a rocking chair.