I Will Follow !!

Followers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do Good.

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

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

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

Do good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Heard !!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come Together

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

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

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

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

What about the workplace?

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

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

This has to stop.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Stadium Moment !!

I’ve mentioned this in the past, but in case you missed it, I am a music freak !! I have music playing pretty much all throughout every day and in everything I do. There’s even a hashtag that a few of my friends and I started called #HRMusicShare on Twitter. It captures what people are listening to and it’s a ton of fun. Music is something that brings us all together.

During the summer, I get to enjoy my fascination with rock music even more because the community I live in has free outdoor concerts each week in several venues. My wife and I love to throw our chairs in the back of the car and go to catch two hours of tunes !! This week we went to a new venue and listened to a great cover band who played classic rock hits. They were tight as a band and they got the crowd out of their seats and out dancing.

While they were deep into their second set, the drummer, who was the leader of the band, shouted out over his microphone – “Who has seen our band play before ??” There was a “roar” from the crowd because many had seen them before. He said, “Thanks !!” (and then quietly) “I live for that.” It was his stadium moment !!

Rock Crowd from StageIf you’ve ever been to a rock concert, the front man usually yells out to the crowd, asks how everyone is doing, and then they wait for the swell of yells and screams as their response. They let it wash over them, and I have to think they are like the local band I saw and that they “live for that.”

HR practitioners need to have a stadium moment as well although most rarely experience one. Why is that? The key for me is that most of us are hesitant to take the mic and “be on stage.” I appreciate that we do better behind the scenes at most times, but we often blend in too much. HR in the shadows is limited in its exposure and its influence. So, you may not want to rock the boat, but you may not be rocking things at all.

We can also take note that our employees are looking for their stadium moments as well. We tend to downplay recognition and want to make sure things are more “fair” than over the top. Individuals deserve individual attention. The continue attempt to make all things fit all people has never worked, and it never will. Each person in your company brings a uniqueness to what they do. All together they make up an incredible ensemble. To do this they need someone to bring them to the mic as well. HR can be that person. Make the time to elevate the strengths and talents of all of those great people around you.

HR step out. Be bold. Look out over the crowd and take in all you see. It’s time for your stadium moment !! Go out there and seize it !!

 

Do The Work !!

Do you enjoy meeting people personally and professionally ?? Does there have to be a compelling reason to do so ?? Is the only reason you meet people is because you read a blog post that tells you to ??

I’ve been thinking about this lately because I thrive on meeting new people. That’s a fact. Whenever I go to a new environment, I reach out to meet people. I really want to get to know them, know who they are and something unique about them. I understand that this isn’t the norm and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have the capacity to take in more and more folks.

You see, I’m not a collector. Many people who network are because they have some ulterior motive that is intended to result in a sale of their services or products. When this occurs, people are only scratching the surface of truly connecting and yet people continue to do this. Just last week a person who was a guest at the restaurant I work at came up to me and said, “You look friendly and are always smiling. Here’s my card, I represent . . . .” I was floored. No name. No introduction. Just a chance to whip out the 30-second sales pitch because this is how you think it’s effective to meet other people. I threw his card away.

Let me share an example of how networking has a lasting effect – as it should !! My best friend, Fred, calls me every week. Every. Week. He checks in to see how things are with me personally and professionally. He also just stepped up to run a monthly networking group, GETDOT Cincinnati, as their new President. By the way, he’s officially “retired.” Meeting new people really shouldn’t matter to him anymore should it ??

Fred is not only a dear friend, but he’s a great mentor and example that you need to have relationships with those in your network. That is the key !! If you can’t tell others about a connection past a rectangular piece of paper, then they really aren’t a connection at all. Remember, if you’re too busy to make time for others, don’t have them in your network and don’t be in theirs. That may sound a bit harsh, but great connections encourage each other. They don’t use each other.

Do The WorkThe key to networking is to Do the Work !! I think that having a viable network and being an effective networker should be a mandatory skill for all business people and especially for those in HR. Let me be clear – this is a business skill and not a job hunting skill. We’ve lost sight that having a set of “go to” people makes you a stronger professional in your role both within your company and in your industry.

The challenge I see is that HR people are hesitant to reach out and meet others in our field. I don’t understand this because I’ve only seen it benefit me personally and allow me to have access to incredible folks !! This isn’t a factor of being extroverted or introverted. It is a factor that we don’t see the value of taking the time to connect with others.

This week, I’d like you to start doing the work of connecting. Make a commitment to connect with one or two new people in HR. Send them a Linked In request with a personalized invitation. Be active on Twitter and connect with other HR folks and share HR blogs you read with others. Go to events and find a few people you don’t know and take the time to intentionally meet them.

Be good with adding just a few people to your network each week. If you have a larger capacity, meet more people. However, commit to making sure they are connections and not collections. You’ll be a stronger HR pro when you have others around you that can encourage you and share their experiences and knowledge.

I hope you understand that I know that this makes a difference. It will be some of the most meaningful work you’ll ever do !!

Be Bold !!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Voice Matters !!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Year of Others !!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Checkers or Chess ??

I know this may sound presumptuous, but I have one of the best HR jobs ever !! It has definitely been the best of my career. One of the highlights is that I meet weekly with my boss who is part of the C-Suite. Now, don’t start to shudder thinking this is going to be another one of those “seat at the . . . ” posts.

Chess and CheckersOur weekly meetings are great because we talk about HR, the organization as a whole, our families and many other items. He always has some nugget for me to chew on, and I appreciate that he does his best to develop me. Recently he asked me if I practiced HR playing checkers or chess. I wasn’t sure where he was going with this so I took the bait. I chose not to answer directly and returned with the question – “Which one should I be doing?”

He explained which game made more sense for my role personally and for the organization. Can you guess which one? It’s Chess.

Many HR practitioners get caught up playing Checkers though. They move in straight lines and either forward or backward. They are more concerned with “getting things done” so they can reach the other side of the board and get rewarded. This is much more of a short-term task oriented approach. It may have bursts of success and things are coming off lists, but the pace never ends. It’s really a narrow way to practice what we do and can be very frustrating. If things occur that aren’t in a task format, you may halt and not move at all.

HR played like Chess is much different. This takes into account multiple players who have various skills. It also knows that the return move by the other team will not be predictable. There is strategy and various ways to conduct counter moves throughout the game. You can position yourself well and look ahead at what may happen. True, you may suffer losses and setbacks, but it doesn’t mean that you’ll be defeated. You can still get tasks done, but those can happen by every member of your team using their strengths !!

The other primary reason to approach HR as a Chess game is that you’re going to be playing with other departments who may have to play Checkers. How can you bring a long-term, strategic approach to those who are task oriented? I think the key is that you have be agile and adaptable in order to be strategic. I’m not talking about designing or developing some massive written publication. This is more hands-on and requires you to make the moves on the board – where they’re happening anyway !!

Which game do you play currently? Trust me when I say that you need to evaluate and determine which one it is. It’s difficult to try to keep either one of them as a hybrid because you will tend to drift toward what is more comfortable versus what is more challenging.

Chess takes time, thought and risks. We continue to think that if we pursue these characteristics in our job we aren’t “really working.” That just isn’t true !! Taking time to do HR well while being thoughtful in your approach is essential. Also, risk taking has to occur in order for you to move forward.

Making the switch to Chess is needed and fulfilling. Let me leave you with this . . .

Pawn to E4. Now it’s your move !!