Hello in There

This on-going pandemic is pressing in on people from all angles. It is causing distrust, angry comments, judgement and assumptions. People run the spectrum from full lockdown to unprotected flaunting. Throw in the middle of this that we have lost the ability to seek context or have discussions anymore. People take a thread of information or an image and make comments based on where they stand on an issue insisting that others absolutely agree with them. It’s exhausting and it doesn’t feel like we can treat each other as people anymore. We have decided to judge people based on taking sides.

Honestly, I feel people are doing this because they care. I don’t think its malicious or mean spirited (in most cases). People want to be seen and heard. This isn’t a new sentiment. It just happens to be front and center in almost every interpersonal interaction. I wanted to frame how I’m seeing, and experiencing, communication before sharing a story. It’s a story that has more meaning now to me than it did ever in the past . . .

A few weeks ago, my daughter came home to visit and see her friends. They discussed this beforehand and made sure they were being responsible where and when they met. She felt compelled to come back because one of her dearest friends just got engaged and she wanted to congratulate both of them in person. Since I had her home, I did what I had been taught – use her help with chores around the house. My daughter has always been fit and athletic and I could use her muscles to get some things attended to. We had a ball fixing a split rail fence, visiting the hardware store all masked up multiple times (because you never get everything on the first trip), and catching up on how life is going.

When she got back to her home in Indianapolis, she texted, “Dad, I’m becoming like you because you fix things for your mom and dad when you go visit them.” I beamed through glistening eyes. The next phases of our lives were in process. The following weekend, I went home to Ada, Ohio to visit my elderly parents. I am the trustee of their lives now, and they can’t sign certain things without me present. Again, we checked with each other to make sure everyone was healthy and safe before I trekked north.

I made it up for the day and went to a bank to sign some papers. Here’s where reality hits. I drove my parents over to Kenton, Ohio which is about fifteen minutes away. They felt I was putting them out, but I reassured them I was fine and glad to be their Uber. As we arrived, we masked up and I needed to assist my father who walks with canes and can’t see well at all. My father is now legally blind, and I had to help guide him the one block to the bank. When we were signing papers, I gently guided his hand to the line on the forms to fill in his signature. I had to repeat what the banker was saying because my mom is losing her hearing. My dad is a talker and he likes to connect and spin a yarn with everyone he encounters. He tried to do that with the young banker, but he was disinterested and just wanted to get through the task at hand. I’m sure he wanted to leave the bank as quickly as he could to get back to the family activities he was anticipating for the weekend. I could see my mom was hurt that the banker was impersonal because that just isn’t who she is.

I was the mediator and kept things moving. I chuckled at my dad’s stories and memories because they’re really funny, and I reassured my mom that we were getting everything taken care of. We went back to their house, had an incredible meal of homemade potato soup with sausage links, and then headed to the project list for the day. My mom wanted me do three things: (1) Put a new rope on a flag pole out front so they can fly the American and Ohio flags, (2) Clean out the gutters and fix some seams, and (3) Install a window air conditioner in one of their rental apartments. No big deal – right?

We took each task one by one, visited the local hardware store where my mom has a basket filled with homemade masks, she sewed which are free to the citizens of Ada, and got everything completed by dinner time. We laughed, caught up on life and talked about my remaining aunts and uncles’ health. Dinner was special because we ordered carryout pizza from their favorite local haunt. I was spent after it all but drove home satisfied knowing that a few hours with my parents helped them close out tasks that were on their mind.

This pandemic has kept us away from each other which has allowed us to be safe and evaluate how we can better connect and interact. I feel that for too long the incessant, rapid pace of life made almost every encounter with people trite and trivial. We were too busy to invest our time in others. One of the fallouts of being apart has been that older people are isolated even more than they already were. Now that we’re trying to maneuver our way through how we’re going to be around each other again, we can’t go back to the brush by approach.

I hope we’ve realized that we’ve always had time for others. Now we have a chance to pour into people in a more constructive way. You need to realize you work with, and possibly live with, people who are aching to connect and be recognized. They want to talk, see you and share stories that may have no significant meaning to you but mean the world to them.

This coming week, I want you to stop and assess how you can make time for others on purpose. Are there elderly people who could use a smile and an hour of your time? You need to be safe and follow guidelines so that someone isn’t put at risk, but you don’t have to avoid others. Wouldn’t it be great to know that every person around you had someone check in on them? Wouldn’t it be amazing to know that every person in your life felt connected, not alone and cared for? Take the time to say, “Hello in there” and let people know that you’d love to spend some time with them.

Crossing the Moat

I love reading books and watching shows and movies that were set back in the times of castles, kingdoms and mystical creatures. I’m a huge Lord of the Rings fan as well as the tales of King Arthur. It may also explain why my favorite movie is Monty Python and the Holy Grail !! In many of these tales you find a gargantuan castle surrounded by a moat.

The moat is a deep trench filled with water that separate those within the castle from the various things and people trying to breach it to get in. Moats keep one side from another and the only way to span the expanse is to walk across a drawbridge which is controlled by those running the castle. Some moats also have things swimming beneath the surface that are just waiting for some poor soul to try and swim across in the hope of scaling the castle wall.

It seems today that many people have built their own emotional moats around them to keep others out just like a castle. There is no doubt that emotions are running high because of all that is happening throughout society and around the globe. We all see pictures of those emotions on display calling for action, justice and equality. There’s also the reality that much of what we used to do on a regular basis isn’t happening. Socially, people are pent up and looking for ways to express themselves. We are realizing the power and need for intentional in person human contact.

As workplaces try to figure out how “work” is going to look and evolve as a result of the pandemic, people are either eager to return or anxious of the unknown. At times, those can appear in each person within the same day, or the same hour. More and more is being written and discussed about self-care and the emotional strain which seems to be a part of every person’s daily routine.

In reaction to this constant pool of emotions, people are digging trenches and building their moats to protect themselves, their feelings and their thoughts. The ones I’ve encountered seem insurmountable. You can “see” the person on the other side in their castle, but it’s becoming more and more dim as the distance increases. This distancing is leading to more and more isolation. You may be aware of someone taking steps away from you. However, a person may be personally isolated standing in a crowded room and you’re not even aware it’s happening.

As humans, especially in HR, we need to check on others and see if they’ll let down their drawbridge and allow us to cross. Isolation may have its time and place to reflect, collect your thoughts and recharge, but those are usually short periods of time. We need to step in to make sure that people truly are “okay”. If they are, then that’s fantastic. If they’re just saying they are, but their behavior isn’t matching their words, I encourage you to respectfully press in. When you find someone who just isn’t willing to lower the bridge, you need to see if you can find resources or assistance to recommend so they can connect with someone in an environment which they personally deem safe.

The key to crossing any emotional moat is two-fold. (1) You have to truly want to make the steps to connect because you care about the others you’re trying to reach and (2) You need to consistently show others that they truly matter all the time, and not just because they’re struggling a bit right now. Moat crossing means making relationships. Relationships which are safe, appropriate, value all involved and are genuine.

We are wired as humans to be interdependent. This runs across the grain of today’s society which screams for each person to be themselves. You can still be yourself and have relationships which bridge the gap of the emotional moat you’re facing. It may take some time, and you need to be patient because some connections will move forward while others will remain as friendly hellos only.

This week look around to see how your friends are doing. Once you do, ask them to lower the bridge so you can walk across to have a chat, a coffee and some meaningful conversations. Don’t leave someone trapped behind a castle wall. It’s time for us to cross the moat !!

Carry On

Have you noticed, or felt, that we’re stuck? My wife and I were hanging out with another couple enjoying a few Moscow Mules and we caught up on life. Instead of talking about the various activities of our grown children or the status of our jobs, we talked about the constant wave of global events that have happened throughout 2020. Each one has had a profound experience on each of us personally as I’m sure it has for you. There doesn’t seem to be and “end” to any of these events, and maybe that’s the point.

When the pandemic hit (and it’s still happening to some exent), people longed for normalcy and a return to the life and patterns of what we’d been accustomed to doing. Now, the civil unrest, protests and call for social justice has moved us in a new direction emphasizing that we should not return to how things “have been.”

People are frustrated, angry, anxious and uncertain as to what lies ahead for our society and for each of us personally. When this happens, there are three possible reactions which will occur – (1) You’ll stay put because that gives you some sense of stability and less volatility; (2) You’ll do all you can to slide back into comfort zones and make efforts to get out of all that’s going on; and (3) You move forward and carry on.

As I was thinking about writing this week, I had the Grateful Dead radio station playing on Spotify. I am a hippie in the 21st century. The station plays a variety of artists from a similar genre, and one of my favorite groups started playing – Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The song they were singing was Carry On which is one of my favorites.

The song is about a relationship that has broken off, but it is laced with a message of encouragement to carry on because “love is coming, love is coming to us all.” With everything that is daily affecting us, I want to assure you that we can, and should, move forward by carrying on. We’re all tired and reaching the end of our ropes emotionally, physically and spiritually. The people I talk to are exasperated. They want to move forward, but are just so spent they don’t know how. If movement doesn’t occur soon, then they’ll become stagnant and ambivalent. This doesn’t have to happen.

At some time, we all will need to carry on. Now, I’m not going to be so bold as to list specific steps and a model to help you do this. I will say though that in order to start carrying on, you need to acknowledge that you can’t stay put where you are. It’s not easy and the urge to remain where you currently are is powerful and hard to break. You may even feel that others will chime in and tell you they’re not moving forward themselves, and they will do their best to have you join them. We can’t afford to do that as people or as HR professionals.

It’s time for us to take beliefs, words and sentiments and turn them into actions. We can’t continue to be aspirational and hope that someone will pick up the mantle and run with it. This is our task and our opportunity. So, what can you DO to ensure inequality and racism isn’t present in your practices and organizations? What can you DO to care for former employees who are now in transition after the pandemic? What can you DO to show your company that every situation in your company is centered around people? Every. Situation.

It’s easy to get caught up in the ground swell of emotions of all that is going on. I’m sure you’ve experienced strong feelings yourself. After time, this level of emotion, passion and outcry for sustainable change will subside. It always does. A good friend of mine and I were talking about this, and he had a great suggestion which he finds works well.

Write down what you want to accomplish in your calendar and then write out steps you need to reach that accomplishment. Set them all up as reminders so they don’t disappear. Let them be gentle nudges for you to continue to carry on.

As I mentioned before, I’m not going to give you absolute suggestions for you to pursue. I don’t know what is facing you – but you do !! Let’s all commit to not remain stagnate. Let’s be intentional in putting accomplishments out in front of us to see ourselves, and our companies, improve. Let’s make our words turn to action. Let’s all carry on !!

Just so you have a little reminder and inspiration to get you started, here’s the CSNY classic for your listening pleasure . . .

Not Sure What to Say

It’s rare that I don’t have words readily available to type and share. I have been struggling with all of the unrest happening around the country and in my city. I wanted to say something, and I’ve been apprehensive for a few reasons. First of all, I don’t want to make a statement that would be taken out of context which is easy to have done with anything that is but a snapshot of words in time. Secondly, writing about a racial issue when I’m a white man makes me anxious as well. I don’t want my words to be taken in a way that lessens or marginalizes anyone. However, I needed to say something.

I recently read that in a time of crisis, people of courage take a stand. I choose to step in on this with grace and a yearning to understand. Along with everyone else, I hear people screaming for people to pick a side and be held “accountable.” In fact, I’ve had friends cast their sentiments and shame on me for not instantly, and emotionally, respond to all that’s happening. I realize that I’m a visible person in the world of HR, and I choose to be one on purpose. With that, I don’t feel you can only comment on all that’s good, but you should also respond when things are challenging and uncomfortable.

I ache for what is happening. I truly do. I don’t pretend that I have the same background, fear and anger that many do because my life has not been made up of the same experiences. I understand that I am treated differently because I am white and not black. I don’t agree with it and I never have. To me, I am disheartened because people have lost their lives. There are families who have lost those dear to them forever when it didn’t need to happen, and we all know that in a moment a bad decision can be made that will change the course of a person’s life forever.

The country has been filled with angst, emotion and frustration for some time. All that has been happening with the pandemic, endless political rhetoric and a constant focus on all that’s “wrong” with our existence has consumed the majority of our thoughts and conversations. I’ve seen injustice occur when a spark is lit and the bucket of emotions unleashes. It’s honestly a cycle we refuse to address and break from.

And, here’s where I get stuck for words . . .

You see, I don’t dare be prescriptive or should that “this” action should happen or “that” person should be addressed. That’s only because there are far too many of us who need to act and speak up. It’s not only the people involved in the loss of life.

I’ve seen many contacts and friends who are beside themselves and have very publicly shouted that they’re getting off social media because they just can’t handle it anymore. I’m concerned when people step away only because it can lead to a trap of isolation, intimidation and indifference. I would hope there’s a chance and a window to engage, understand and have dialogue even when emotions are running high.

This past weekend, I was in Indianapolis with my wife visiting our daughter. As we were walking through the neighborhoods around Mass Ave., I saw this piece of art which captured what I can do during this time. It’s a crossing sign that has two alternative messages on it versus the traditional Walk/Don’t Walk. It shows “Don’t Care/Care” and the button below says, “Push button to change.” As we came up on the sign, it was on the blue light saying, “Don’t Care,” and we pushed the button to make the sign express “Care.”

Now, I know this is an analogy and just a visual cue. However, I believe that in all this unrest what I can do more than ever is care. I choose to do that by reaching out to friends who I know are angry and fearful. I’ve had conversations already and plan to reach out to others to check in. I’ve asked for context and not “why” when we’ve talked. I want them to know that I’m here for them no matter what.

That may seem minor and not doing “enough” in the eyes of many. What you need to understand though is that I have lived my life with the belief and behavior of meeting you WHERE you are and for WHO you are in every aspect of your life. While the world keeps ripping itself apart over ignorant words, self-aggrandizing tweets, and a cult of personality, I choose to engage people as humans, and I will continue to do so.

I value our differences and see them as strengths and attributes that make you a wonderful person worth engaging and knowing. I refuse to be someone who is called upon to only know others if I have to compartmentalize, label, judge, marginalize or generalize them.

I care about people and I ache that once again race has become something that divides us. I want to see that change and I am going to do that one person at a time. It’s been said for centuries that “actions speak louder than words.” I hope you are reflecting on how you can genuinely express care for people for who they are and where they are in life. To me this is basic and foundational.

In getting ready to write this, I did find some words that captured my heart well from of all places – Nike. Take a look and let’s do all we can to bring people together and move forward.

Who You Are to Me

Recently, I’ve noticed an unfortunate malaise when it comes to being active on social media. It seems that you can’t post anything without someone making a comment to the contrary. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is or the opinion that was shared. If you shared that you were, “having a great day with your family and enjoying the beautiful weather and the blue skies”, inevitabily someone would say something like, “well it’s raining here.”

What has happened? Why has it become so prevalent to make sure that no comment is supported, but we make sure it is criticized? I know some dear friends who even say things like, “Well, life just can’t be that good. Look at how their picture is perfect . . .”

I understand that we are going through a difficult time globally. This is a first for many because now this situation affects us personally. We tend to forget, or not know, that challenges exist everywhere and every day. They may be visible and get news coverage if they’re horrific enough because that is what we seem to thrive on. However, many people are facing challenges which are not visible to others. You may never know the extent of what they’re going through.

Now, as a realistic optimist myself, I don’t find myself stuck in dark places often. It happens, but I try my best to focus on those areas of my life where I have the most interaction including my faith, my family and my friends. I even make sure that this is how I view my interactions on social media. I would much rather see the light of recognition and acknowledgement be on others and their good work.

Recently, a dear friend of mine, broke through the veil of negativity which seems to try and continue to divide us with a simple postcard. The message on the front instantly captured my attention. It said – “Who You Are to Me.” I had no idea who it was from or why I had received it. I hastily flipped it over eager to read if there was another message. It was a simple message just as the one on the front. At the top I read, “5 words I’d use to describe you” and there were five numbers with lines next to each number. Then, my friend, wrote five descriptive words to fill the card. She then signed it, “Laurie.”

The words she used were personal, heartfelt and meaningful. I’m sharing them just so you get the feel of how touching this act was. The words were: “Trailblazer, Leader, Community builder, Compassionate communicator and Friend.”

I read the card over and over. I was floored that this is how she viewed me. We have been friends with her for several years. kI always enjoy when we chat or see each other. Honestly, this piece of mail was such a perfect ray of light and a reminder that personalized encouragement leaves a long-term and significant mark.

I would love to see everyone, especially those in HR, practice this in person and on social media. Think how much more positive your daily activities would be knowing who you are to somebody else !! We have no problem expressing feelings which divide us. Let’s turn that around and let those who are in our lives know how much they matter. Laurie did this with a 50 cent stamp and five words.

This week pick three people who positively make a difference in your life, and the lives of others, and tell them how much they mean to you. Use a method like this one and share five descriptive words to let them know how you feel. Make it personal. Do it because you want to and not because it’s a task.

I will be doing this going forward and on purpose. I want to take the opportunity to shed light on others and break through the darkness. I want to see everyone lifted up as we move forward. It costs you nothing to share what’s on your heart, but it may be the one piece of encouragement that someone needed at just the right time !!

Dear Graduates . . .

I’m sure you’re seeing graduation “ceremonies” happening all over the country in a variety of new formats. The traditional gatherings which make each spring come to life had to be altered because of the current environment. I’m excited to see every type of ceremony occurring which have ranged from virtual Zoom commencements to semi in person walk throughs to meeting at drive-in theaters to a drive by parade.

It’s important regardless of how graduation is occuring that the students get recognized for this milestone in their lives. There are students finishing up their time in high school, colleges and military acadamies. It will be a benchmark moment in their lives because no one has had to make such a shift in order to mark this accomplishment in the past. It hopefully will launch them forward to the next step in their lives and careers.

My kids are far past graduations of their own, so I was taken by surprise when I received a request from an HR peer who I have a unique tie with. Professor Mindy West from Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business. She teaches multiple HR courses at ASU along with Professor Eric Knott, Professor Karen Stafford and Professor Lisa Macaffe to help students graduate with a degree in Human Resources !!

The unique tie I have with Professor West is that she grew up in Ada, Ohio with me. Our families were very close and I knew her all through junior high and high school. A few years ago, I was speaking at a SHRM Annual conference when Mindy came up to talk to me after my presentation. I was geeked to reconnect and was tickled she was not only in HR herself, she was teaching the next generation of HR professionals.

Mindy reached out through Linked In and asked if I would be the commencement speaker for the ASU HR grads. I was touched and humbled to be considered. Secretly I’ve wanted to be a commencement speaker at some time during my life, so this was perfect.

The ceremony was to be virtual and through Zoom. I set up in my basement and joined the students and professors who were sitting in their houses with their caps and gowns on. Everyone jumped on the call and you could feel the joy and excitement of the students and their families as the chatter was going back and forth between all of them all at once. After a great orchestral prelude, Jennifer Pigeon, an HR pro who is active in SHRM of Greater Phoenix, sang the National Anthem and crushed it !! The emotions were even higher and there were a few tears shed.

Then my fellow Adaite introduced me and I got to congratulate the students and share with them how proud I am of them being not only my peer but also my future. I encouraged them to embrace HR as a phenomenal profession where they can lead, thrive and help their perspective companies by adding value and ensure a people-centric culture. I also asked them to network now and throughout their career.

After I finished, the students recevied a taped message from Cheryl Sandberg of Facebook !! It was amazing. However, the best part of the night was about to occur. The professors all took a few minutes to congratulate the students which was so heartfelt. You could see the time and effort they had invested in each other. Then . . . the students were recognized.

Professor West shared unique facts and future plans of each student and then she’d say, “Okay, unmute and let’s hear from you and your family.” The small squares all over the screen erupted in screams, yells and words of praise and congratulations. Each student had their own time and we cheered for them as much as we could.

At the end of the ceremony, tears were streaming down my face that was smiling as broadly as I could manage. I will remember and cherish being a part of this graduation for the rest of my days. I’m sure my six minute speech will long be forgotten, and that is absolutely fine. What matters is that in the midst of what seems like endless bleakness, you find light.

This graduation, and the thousands happening everywhere at this time are a sign of hope and of moving forward. It’s time that we find more of these moments of life and celebrate them. It’s time to push back the darkness and take steps forward toward the future. I know these students are eager and we should be as well.

This week, continue to stay safe and also understand that you are a part of the present and future of the lives of everyone around you. Congratulations dear graduates !!

Fado’s

As of this year, I’ve been an HR volunteer leader for 20 years. It’s hard to believe that time has flown by so quickly !! I remember when I first got involved, I went to a Volunteer Leaders Summit in Crystal City, Virginia. I was an officer on my local SHRM chapter’s board. It was great to go to the conference to learn and be around other volunteer leaders. We went to an Irish pub down the street from the hotel where we were staying and we had a blast !!

Little did I know that it planted the seed for a gathering place for years to come.

The first time we went out though, we only hung out with the people from our chapter in Cincinnati. We didn’t interact with anyone else. It didn’t strike me as odd at the time, but as the years kept passing, it started to really eat at me. You have to keep in mind that this was long before social media. It made sense to hang out with folks you knew, but I wondered why we didn’t try to meet other HR peers because we were literally surrounded by them.

At subsequent Volunteer Leader Summits and at HR conferences in general, people continued to congregate based on geography. This was true during the event itself in sessions or when people gathered for lunches/dinner. People kept within the boundaries of their cities or states. It didn’t make sense to me and I wanted to see something change.

When I was the State Director of Ohio SHRM, we met for the Summit at the Gaylord Hotel in Maryland. I decided it was time to break the geographical model. So, I found another Irish pub and took a group of Ohioans along with me. While we were at the pub, I left my friends to introduce myself to everyone else in the pub and asked them to join us. I know – radical. However, I couldn’t recall it ever being done. Soon our group was full of people from Montana, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, California, Nebraska, North Dakota, Arizona, New Mexico and more !! We realized that we needed to be together as people and HR pros. It was a natural and easy connection to make.

After a few years, our conference location moved to downtown Washington, D.C. When we were “done” for the day with sessions, it was time to venture out once again and I found the best haunt EVER for us to assemble in the middle of the Chinatown district – Fado’s Irish Pub & Restaurant.

Now, since we broke the invisible geographical barrier a few years earlier, people were more interactive during the conference and were asking where and when we were going to meet. I asked everyone to meet me at Fado’s because it had a cool vibe, great food, adult beverages and space for us to all meet. The first night we had about 25 folks come out. Each night the number grew and more people ventured out to meet new friends as well as hang out with those they knew. We shared so many laughs, stories and experiences. We truly were becoming an HR community !!

Then, as fate would have it, the SHRM Annual conference was in Washington, D.C. in 2016. This meant there would be a larger group of HR pros that we could coax to Fado’s. And, we did. Every. Night. If there were social events planned, we’d go to Fado’s afterward. It became a go-to gathering place for us. One night I will always cherish was when I first joined the SHRM Board of Directors and everyone was eager to get me to come out to the pub. I was planning on it, but didn’t know why there was such a sense of “urgency.” It didn’t seem like any other night. I was mistaken.

As I showed my ID (which was required regardless of your age), I looked up and tears filled my eyes as everyone in the pub was wearing tie-dye to celebrate my new role. Some of the pub staff were also wearing the shirts. It was spectacular because it showed the power of what coming together as people means.

Since that night, we’ve been back to Fado’s many more times including last year in November. Little did I know that this would be the last time I’d get to enjoy the darkened wood, sticky floors and smell of Irish ale. Fado’s announced that it was permanently closing its doors as of April 2020. This wasn’t because of the current pandemic, it was due to their lease and relationship with their landlord. When they made the announcement on Facebook, there was an outpouring of stories, photos, memories and thank you’s.

I would like to add this one more “Thank You” to all that’s been shared to date. I can tell you that I’ve developed, and built on, friendships I cherish and am reassured will last for my lifetime. The familiar feel and welcoming spirit of Fado’s gave us the perfect environment to foster healthy relationships across boundaries.

I know that people are getting together more often now even if it’s virtually. My hope is that the efforts we make to come together intenionally only builds and doesn’t wane when we get back to our old patterns of life and work. I know that I will continue to do my best to bring folks together and hopefully we’ll find a place as great as Fado’s has been to do so.

We all need a Fado’s in our life !! So, I lift a pint and offer Sláinte !!

Our Time is Now !!

Can you feel and see the rumblings of the next phase of the COVID-19 crisis on the horizon? We’ve been in a mix of constant change, uncertainty and regulatory direction. People are getting antsy. People are getting even more expressive and emotional. The feeling isn’t all good either. With the inevitable lifting of restrictions, people are voicing their opinions on timing, the extent of movement and political posturing is growing. To be honest, this next phase can be almost as unsettling as the front part of this time in our history.

We were asked to take drastic and immediate action when this all started, and now we’re asked to slowly return to . . . normal. Let’s be clear – normal isn’t going to be what it was. It just isn’t, and it shouldn’t be !!

I am so pleased that HR has stepped up and into leadership during the crisis. It has been long overdue. There are several blogs which have featured senior HR leaders and how they’ve been the voice of strategy, response and direction. It is unfortunate that we were only looked to as leaders because potential tragedy loomed in organizations and workplaces. I don’t want to take away from any of the great work that has been done to date in the least. The circumstances we find ourselves in have allowed HR to flex their muscles and show how a people-centric approach was needed in our companies. Because, like most issues in the workplace, the center of them is people. It always has been . . . and always will be.

People are now seeing HR as it should be seen. This isn’t a call to take advantage of a crisis. It’s a chance for us to step into leadership because that is the vantage point from which HR operates best.

My hope is that we don’t return to any semblance of normality as HR practitioners. We can’t step away from being leaders. We should take up the same mantle we’ve assumed during this time of crisis and be those who help organizations perform through its people. We need to be present and visible from now on and not shrink back to our places of feeling we’re merely a support function.

Our time is now !!

I mean this with every inch of my being. I am calling out and throwing down the gauntlet to my peers to continue leading in every facet of your work. There is no reason for us to be on the sidelines or in the shadows. We need to break from the traditional pattern of yearning and hope that “one day” we’ll be called upon. That day has arrived. The opportunity which lies before us is wide open and can be defined by us through a continued movement which we are currently facing.

It’s intriguing to me that people are pushing against the boundaries of the restrictions we’ve been placed in to keep us safe. They’re looking for the ability to move around, interact and return to work. There is a palpable energy that is about to be unleashed. We should ride that train of emotion and stop our continued systems of confinement and restriction in HR.

People have been working from home and redefining productivity, innovation, collaboration and connection. So, why would we push for people to get back into their place in line? This is a time for us to unleash the talent which people possess and expect them to continue to produce, develop and grow !!

It’s also time for us to embrace the skill of being agile and adaptable. We were forced into this a few weeks ago, but now we can continue to practice agility and adaptablity !! My good friend Paul Hebert recently wrote a post on HR Examiner asking – “Can HR do their future job?” My answer is a resounding, “YES !!!” There’s absolutely no reason to seek normality. It’s our time to launch forward and construct the new workplace, create the new expectations of performance plus encourage the development of talent throughout the organization.

I plan to move forward. Will you go with me ?? My hope is that we continue to lead, grow and thrive personally, professionally as a global HR community.

Our time is now !!

Praise You !!

This weekend my wife and I took a road trip. We did it for two reasons. One was to get out of the house and just see the world around us. She noted as we were driving that she hadn’t left the house except to go to the grocery store for a month. I was glad I could get her out for a drive. The second reason was more important to be honest. Our daughter lives in Indianapolis and we live in Greater Cincinnati. We’re about two hours from each other. She agreed to meet us halfway to have lunch in a parking lot.

We drove to Batesville, Indiana and met at the LaRosa’s Pizzeria. Yes, it’s one of the locations of the company where I work and it’s also a fave for our family. I was able to run in and check on our Team Members, and get some great food to have brought out to our cars. We never left our car to get close to our daughter because we wanted to maintain social distance and she also works in healthcare. She’s on the front line working with people who are recovering from COVID-19 as an occupational therapist.

It was so great to see her in person !! We’ve been having video chats with both of our kids because we all live in different parts of the country, and we want to stay as safe as possible. We spent an hour and a half talking, checking on her and listening to real world stories of lives being affected. We asked about her co-workers and many of her closest friends who are also in healthcare at various hospitals.

I made sure to do one more thing while I had Melanie “close” to me. I thanked her for all she’s doing. I told her how proud her mother and I were of her going into work everyday during this turbulent time. She appreciated it and said, “Dad, this is where I should be.” (Yes, I got weepy.)

I am so pleased with how people are praising those who are working in all types of industries to help us cope with all that’s going on. People are actually thanking folks they typically ignore. It’s needed now AND into the future !!

You see, we tend to react at heightened levels when situations directly affect us. We’re taking time to thank healthcare workers and deeming them as heroic (which is true !!) We’re thanking those working in restaurants, grocery stores, sanitation, emergency services, education, etc. It’s wonderful to see and it’s also overdue.

We should be grateful and appreciative of every person for the job they do. It shouldn’t occur only because we’re in the thick of a crisis. As the countries around the world are now getting agitated and impatient about not being able to break out of isolation, I’m concerned that when we go back to our normal patterns, this outward level of praise will subside. And, it will subside quickly.

I’m concerned we’ll fall back into our patterns of complaining about our commutes, the co-worker we’ll talk “about” but not to, as well as the things about our job we don’t enjoy. Yes, we want to get back to work and I hope it happens soon as well as safely. The question is – Will we relapse?

You see, when you see parents with kids giving praise is easy. We encourage our kids at every step of any activity. We do this because we want them to respond and understand they’re learning skills and reaching accomplishments. As we grow older, we forsake that pattern and expect people to “get to work” and “stay focused.” Our days are filled with far more converstations that tear people down, and we focus on what isn’t being done versus anything that is being accomplished.

This tidal wave of praise needs to become our norm in every workplace, every industry, every school and every family !! I know that’s a bold ambition, but you have to understand the power of praising others. I heard a person describe praise as “accelerated, amplified gratitude.” How cool is that ??

I am grateful for my daughter and for every person who is working at this difficult and uncertain time. My plan though is to continue to praise everyone for all they do every day. Every. Day. I encourage you to do the same. Let’s not relapse ever again. Value the people in your life for all they do !!

I want to leave you with two reminders going forward. One is the great effort from Workhuman where you can thank healthcare workers. Their effort is called “Thank You Healthcare “. Just click on the title and you can sign up to share some praise and gratitude. Secondly, we all need music to remind us to take action so I leave you with Fatboy Slim . . .

(One thing to note – the people who filmed the video did this as an impromtu flash mob. They’re regular people willing to be bold and express themselves. Note that someone tries to stop them because they’re not acting as they “should” but they aren’t swayed in the least. Enjoy !!)

When It Hits Home

It feels like the world is stuck in quicksand. In some instances it is and its okay to acknowledge that. The rollercoaster of emotions that occur hourly are hard to comprehend. You can go from sadness to joy to concern in a matter of moments. The challenge with this reality is that we think its only occuring within our lives and those who are close to us.

In some ways, we have a built in protection mechanism emotionally that allows us to compartmentalize our experiences. I suppose if we didn’t, we would be swallowed by all that happens around us. At the same time, it appears that this same ability can make us cynical, sarcastic, indignant or disinterested. I know that sounds harsh, but unless a situation affects us personally we may show some empathy, but its often superficial.

Just this past week, I heard news of dear friends whose jobs have been eliminated, not furloughed, eliminated. They have families themselves and it hurts that there is little I can do than offer support from a distance. There’s an immediate reach out to network and connect. A phone call to listen, console and encourage. But, it seems to not be enough.

I know fellow HR peers who have had to make decisions to make layoffs, reduce salaries, while others are trying to hire and address employee relations issues. They go home exhausted, conflicted and pulled in a thousand ways. There are those whose companies are seen as essential and they work with front line people who are doing all they can to care and meet the needs of so many. You can’t even try to define how they are coping with what’s happening to them and to those all around them.

Then, you receive news that you never saw coming. A dear friend passes. Just this Saturday my friend, Chris Fields, died. He happened to be in HR. I love how he described himself on his Twitter profile – “Brother, Uncle, Friend, Master of Labor and Human Resources, Social Media Strategist, Resume Writer.” Chris’s humanity was listed first because that’s who he was. He and I connected years ago when he was just getting connected on social media. I called to get to know him and see how I could support him. We would give each other random calls to see how each other was doing just because.

He called me a little over a week ago to see how I was holding up in the midst of these trying times. I was touched and we talked for almost an hour just talking about life, work, HR and music. On Easter Sunday, another dear friend called me and started the conversation with “Are you sitting down?” That’s never good. She broke the news to me that Chris had passed. She told me another friend has talked to him on Friday and that Chris wasn’t feeling well. Saturday he was gone.

I broke down and cried for hours. It didn’t seem real. It was another piece of news that seem to pile on to the never ending pieces of news happening everywhere.

Please know that the grieving will end and I already fondly remember Chris. He touched so many people’s lives with his business and more importantly his heart and genuine interest in others. I have hope that my friends who have lost jobs will soon find employment once again. And, I have faith that the crisis will end and we will learn how to move foward.

Life happens. It happens to all of us. I want you to remember that. So, when things “hit home” understand that people are going through their own bits of life. Be more sensitive to that when you interact with people now and as we come out of this.

Every day people have life hit home. Knowing that, choose to be someone who encourages others, has a heart to connect and positively impact those around you. This approach is needed at this time and for every day in the future.