Get Established !!

Earlier this month, my wife and I celebrated our 30th anniversary of marriage. I’m very fortunate that Debbie said “Yes” three decades ago !! I mean it. We are very compatible because we’re opposites. As extroverted as I am, she isn’t. As detail oriented and organized as she is, I’m not. It works for us, and I’m grateful for her every day.

I’ve written about our kids here on the blog over the years as well. This weekend we hit a true life milestone by “officially” becoming empty nesters. Both of our adults have moved to different cities, San Diego and Indianapolis, as they start the next stage of their life. We’re excited to see them grow and can’t wait to see what will come next for both of them.

Our anniversary occurred in the midst of both of our kids transitioning which was fine with us. So, we didn’t have a giant night out or some massive celebration. That really isn’t our style. The kids wished us well and told us to keep our eyes out for a package. We hadn’t seen anything, so we forgot about it. We just completed the move to Indy for our daughter this weekend. After two fairly full and exhausting days helping her set up her apartment, we came home to an unexpected surprise.

A large, flat, square cardboard package was leaning against our front door on the porch. We were eager to see what it was !! Once we opened it, we both smiled and were very touch. Here’s what we opened . . .

We couldn’t believe it !! The gift from our kids was perfect. This would be a daily reminder that we “established” our lives together. It seemed to give our family a sense of permanence. In fact, my wife was tickled that we were now finally established.

It made me think of other areas of my life. Our kids are now taking steps to become established themselves in new cities and with new jobs. It is our hope that they will do well and start having milestones of their own.

What about work? Was I established there? I’ve been with the same company for 13 years now so I guess you could say “Yes” from a tenure standpoint. But, had I put my stake in the ground to make HR and the organization better in what I had done over this time? I’d like to say “Yes” to this as well.

However, it made me think about others in HR. Far too often I hear of stories where HR practitioners don’t feel they’re grounded or have their place identified within their organization. This is extremely frustrating and people feel defeated in their roles. Why don’t people take steps to address this when they find themselves in this situation? Why suffer unnecessarily?

You can turn this around. You can. It isn’t as difficult as you may have been lead to believe. Organizations want HR to be relevant, successful and needed. We just need to see it in ourselves and believe it. The steps you need to take are unique to your role and your organizational culture. I can only offer one piece of advice that will get things started.

Ask the organization what they expect from HR and inform them of what you expect from them. Establish this with the leaders of every department. It will be different for each one, and that takes effort to keep track of the various expectations that will be shared. This type of effort works. You shouldn’t leave your relationship to chance or ambiguity.

Setting expectations of each other is something my wife and I have done over these past three decades. As life has evolved, so have our expectations. The years have been filled with far more joy than challenges, and part of this is because we know where each other stand.

This week set your expectations and get established. It would be great to get your own sign to put up on your wall starting this year !!

Making the Sale !!

This past week has been one of transitions. My wife and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary, and our oldest child was getting ready to leave home. We’re excited that Melanie is moving and continuing her career as an Occupational Therapist in Indianapolis, Indiana. A few weeks earlier, our son Josh, moved from Ohio to California, so our adventure as empty nesters is on the near horizon.

To get ready for Melanie’s move, we took a trek up to Indy to shop for furniture for her new apartment. She’s been working for a year and wanted to get her own things. We agreed and thought it would be fun to help her out. She was going to be purchasing everything, but she wanted us to check things out and share our opinion. My wife and I are grateful that we have solid relationships with both of our kids. They touch base every so often which is just enough. We don’t have any intention of being helicopter parents. We want to see our kids stand on their own and thrive !!

Back to the shopping excursion . . .

I don’t know about you, but I dread shopping for furniture. I love meandering through the stores and sitting on various sofas and chairs. I also love seeing the different styles, colors and shapes of things that can accent a house. The reason I dread furniture shopping is the immediate accosting that happens when you step two feet into a store by an over eager salesperson.

Now, I understand this is their occupation and respect that. I appreciate that they have knowledge of pricing, financing, dimensions and availability. What I can’t stand, from the majority of them, is their approach. They know why you’re visiting the store, and yet you still get asked, “Are you here to find some furniture?” We both know we are, but they use this mundane and obvious greeting for one reason which is to set their hooks in you. This ties them to you and gives them a chance at commission while also fending off the other salespeople also lurking at the front door.

The first store we visited caught me off guard. We visited Value City Furniture, and the salespeople greeted us and said to contact them if we needed them. Then we roamed freely for an hour !! It was bliss. It also allowed my daughter to take her time and see what she did/didn’t like. Roger, who met us at first, came up to us after an hour and then assisted us in purchasing a sofa and a love seat. He gave us all of the details and was outstanding. He also worked directly with my daughter since she was the purchaser.

The second store was an even better experience !! We went to Bob’s Discount Furniture and met Chauncey. He lit up the showroom and was warm, welcoming and hilarious. He worked directly with our daughter while also checking in with us to make sure she found what she needed. He had one liner jokes that put us at ease even though they were outlandish and cheesy. He chose to be intentional and engaging while also allowing us the time we needed. Melanie ended up getting a bedroom set from him.

The third store we saw brought back my anxiety, dread and past experience. We were ambushed at the door and the young man said he wouldn’t stalk us, but gave us a coupon that we could show other salespeople slowly circling for their next kill to keep them at bay. He said he’d be back in 10 to 15 minutes which really meant three. Oh, and he only addressed me as the man/father of our group. He never talked to my daughter because she obviously wouldn’t be the one paying. We walked out.

The key to all of this is relationship building. Every salesperson I know states they believe in doing this, but few practice it. I wish that people would take the cues from Roger and Chauncey !! Each of them were willing to stay in touch and allow us to have a good experience. The time they allowed for latitude ended up securing a sale for each of them. Neither had the same style, but they understood the value of meeting us where we were.

In HR we don’t think we “sell”, but that just isn’t true. Every day we are selling to make sure people have a great experience in their roles. Too often we buy the myth that we are pressed for time and that we just don’t have enough time in our day to invest in others. That, my friends, is sad.

The poor reputation that haunts our profession can be tied almost exclusively to our approach towards others. If we’d see the value of making the time to build relationships, our “sales” record would drastically improve !!

This week make time for those you work with and teach others the value of this practice. Make it your norm like Roger and Chauncey do. Trust me, you’ll start seeing the value in others, and your experience as an HR pro will get better on purpose.

It’s Geaux Time !!

This past weekend has been spectacular !! My wife and I traveled to Baton Rouge, Louisiana for the Greater Baton Rouge SHRM Fall Conference. I was fortunate enough to be the closing keynote speaker. Any time I get a chance to interact with my HR peers in person is a joy for me. It fills my bucket because I want to genuinely meet them, encourage them, and laugh with them.

This conference had an extra twist added to it because the theme was based on my book, HR on Purpose !! That was surreal and something I never thought would occur during my career. Seeing HR practitioners gather to understand that we all do better in our roles and in our organizations if we do it with purpose was invigorating. The conference was wonderful from start to finish, but our trek to Louisiana was just beginning.

If you’ve never been to Baton Rouge, then change that and make plans to visit. The hospitality from every single person is heart warming. Honestly, we didn’t encounter one person who didn’t greet us and make eye contact. If the rest of the world would treat each other with these simple gestures intentionally, think how much more positive every day would be in our lives. Add to the hospitality and endless world of tastes and smells. The food in Baton Rouge is phenomenal !! It didn’t matter where we went, we found dishes filled with spices and flavors that you don’t experience in many places.

We took in local sites like the State Capitol and the Old State Capitol as well as visit a historical plantation. My wife and I are history nerds, so these attractions were wonderful. We appreciated that each site was true to ALL of the history surrounding their past. Even though some of it was very troubling, it was candid and honest. We thought that the stories we heard of the people who had lived before us was a great learning experience.

It wouldn’t be a proper trip to Baton Rouge if you didn’t get to experience an LSU football game !! We happened to be in town for a home game, and it’s hard to capture the energy and camaraderie we saw. We were engulfed in a giant sea of purple and gold. Every person attending the game had these colors on. Every. One. We made sure to make it in time to see the team come down “the hill” to the stadium followed by the magnificent LSU marching band.

The massive stadium teemed with thousands of people all coming together for a bonding experience – to cheer their team on to victory. This Saturday the Tigers were playing a school that wasn’t at their same level, and it was a one-sided victory. However, that didn’t dim the exuberance from the fans yelling and cheering their support for every play that occurred. It was great to be a part of all of this fervor. I have to be honest that I was screaming “Geaux Tigers !!” as loud as the LSU faithful.

This trip made me think about how this all applies to HR because I tend to see HR in everything. It showed me, once again, that people want to join and belong together. They want to be around fellow humans to learn and grow (like at the conference), or rally around a common goal and share their excitement (the LSU game). You could be as engaged as you chose in both environments, but the key was to be included.

Do you include others? When you’re going through your day are you more focused on “work” or the people you encounter? By recognizing the innate need to be included, we should make sure we are cognizant of this and make it part of our daily routine. Think what your day would look like if you helped someone learn something new, or if you congratulated them for being a part of your team.

It’s Geaux Time HR !! This week make sure that YOU are the one who is the stimulus for inclusion. You’ll be glad you did.

Be a Trailblazer !!

I’ve been very fortunate to have worked at the same company for the past 13 years. I don’t take it for granted. What you may not know is that having this length of tenure is still considered “new” to many whom I work with. It’s true. I get to regularly celebrate anniversaries with our Team Members, and it’s not uncommon to have people reach their 15th, 20th, 25th, 30th and even 40+ year milestone.

Having a company where people can grow, thrive and contribute for what most would consider a “career” has it’s advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are obvious. You get to work with amazing, talented individuals who offer stability and consistency both personally and organizationally. It’s also very comforting heading to work and seeing folks you enjoy being with. You get to go through life with many of them. You get to experience life events with your fellow employees including families growing, kids graduating and even weddings and funerals. Many companies claim that they have a “family” environment. Ours actually does.

The disadvantage to a company that has such extensive tenure is that you can easily get into a rut of thinking. It’s easy to take things at face value because you’re around the same people every day. You may question things less because everyone seems to be “on the same page.” (My least favorite corporate phrase.) You don’t even realize that you’re following in step because it’s your daily norm.

My boss and I have a weekly check-in which we’ve done since I’ve been at the company. It’s a great time to catch up on projects, HR items, team member issues and life. We didn’t know that we were being so forward thinking since check-ins and regular feedback are the newest craze in HR circles. I guess we didn’t realize it because it was the best way for us to stay connected and do our jobs well. We haven’t approached this as a program.

The key to these meetings is that we’ve always been open and candid with each other. That’s refreshing and challenging at the same time. However, I don’t think we could have made it successfully for 13 years if that wasn’t a foundational expectation of our meetings. A little over a year ago, we had one of those challenging conversations.

My company has been very supportive of my involvement in the greater HR community. That’s been true when I’ve been in roles locally, at the State level and also nationally. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to see what other companies do, and how they practice HR and business as a whole.

So, he said, “You know you go to these events all over and hear/see all kinds of approaches to work.” I agreed. Then he said, “Funny, you seem to be becoming more like us. I don’t hear those different ideas and viewpoints much anymore.” That was it. I sat there silently because he was right. I had fallen into the pattern that tenure can lead to and didn’t even notice.

Before I joined LaRosa’s almost 15 years ago, I worked for another great company and boss. When I told her that I was going to change jobs and leave her after 9 years, we just wept. I was so close to her and words wouldn’t adequately express how much she had meant to me and my career. A few weeks after I had left to take on the new HR role at LaRosa’s, I received a card from her with a quote in it.

It was from the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. When I read it, I wept again and then taped it to my office wall. She wrote in the card – “I saw this and thought of you. Always remember to make new trails.”

It was great advice then, and it still is today. You see, we have the opportunity to blaze new trails in our organizations from both an HR and a business perspective. It’s easy for us to lose sight of this, and too often we feel we don’t have the time or energy to go where there is no path. That shouldn’t be the case. We shouldn’t be lulled into any pattern at work that dulls us or keeps us just plodding along.

HR was meant to drive change. I know that even typing this, many will disagree. I will hold to this belief though. We can look at the various human interactions which occur in every department. Then we can make suggestions and maneuver them so that people are in alignment in order to perform at their best. This often means changing the path and making a new one so others can follow the trail.

This week step back and see if you’re being a trailblazer or if you’re following the path that has been set before you. If you’re on a path that hasn’t changed much, step off and explore new directions. You don’t know what great things lie before you !! This week blaze a new trail.

Stop the Sighs !!

We’re about to embark on yet another week of work. As you get ready to make your commute, what is your mindset? I’m sure the answer is “it depends” which is a fair answer for any day. In the midst of whatever is ahead of you, are you geeked about what lies ahead or do you have an overwhelming sense of dread?

Now, I know these hypothetical questions are broad generalizations. Rarely do we have a day that is an either/or reality. Our days don’t present themselves in such absolute terms. However, you wouldn’t know that because the vast majority of people heading to their jobs tomorrow start with the same reaction before they enter their workplace.

They pause, take in a massively deep breath and then . . . SIGH !!

It’s true. Whatever is sitting at our desk, out on the floor or in the field, we see the worst outcome first. Think of that !! We head into another new day with a sigh because our mind assures us that something negative is sure to smack us squarely in the face. How often has that truly happened? I would think that it’s rare unless you are seeking that because it’s been your typical experience. (If a negative outcome is your regular experience, I would encourage you to find a new job !!)

I’ve noticed something about how people view their work that is very unsettling. Everyone feels that the only reason for their existence is to solve problems because “everything” is broken. It truly isn’t, but that’s how people approach their jobs. We feel better when we fix things because we think it defines our worth. It is very important that we do “get things done” on a daily basis, but it isn’t because everything is broken.

Organizations keep perpetuating and expecting this martyr approach to performance. In fact, we reward and promote those who are great “doers” far more than we do those who are strategic and accomplish things as well. If you step back and look at this, “everything” can’t be broken or companies wouldn’t exist in the first place. So, why do we keep making this the norm for our daily existence all the way from the C-Suite to the front line?

Let’s change this. Seriously. Let’s stop the sighs.

How would your day look if you were eager to jump in and take on the work laid in front of you? Instead of looking as everything as fractured and ineffective, what if you looked at the opportunities to take existing systems and improve them?

We should perform and make work better. As HR professionals, that “work” is humans. I’m sure you don’t look at your role this way, but it’s the truth. We have the opportunity to jump into the work week, and honestly every day, to engage, interact and encourage every person we encounter. Our approach to our work and the great people we work with is the key. You can’t expect people to have a positive attitude towards their roles if you aren’t positive yourself. So, if your day starts with a sigh, guess what you’re going to expect from others who are coming with work with you.

This week turn things around for yourself and, eventually, your workplace. We’re fortunate to have jobs that provide a living for ourselves, our staff as well as a product/service valued by our guests and consumers. What an incredible landscape that is full of options and an environment where we can utilize our talents and strengths. This isn’t Utopian, it’s what truly lies in front of you every. single. day.

Stop the sighs. Believe in yourself and in others instead !!

Callie

This past week has been a whirlwind. Each week I have is full, and I’m fortunate for that. I have some great things going on at work, and I was able to also have the opportunity to speak at the Vermont SHRM State Conference and attend a SHRM Board meeting. Any time I can be near my HR peers and get to know them more, do good work and share some laughs along the way, my bucket is filled.

However, this week, my bucket leaked a little.

Several years ago, my dear friend Matt Stollak, was talking to me about his HR Students at St. Norbert College in Wisconsin. He is a phenomenal human who also happens to teach people to become the future practitioners in our profession. Matt always has fond stories of his students, but one in particular made a profound difference in my life. One day he reached out and wanted to make sure that I connected with one of his students named Callie. I sent her a note to connect and she jumped on the request right away.

Callie was eager, interesting and engaged the first moment that we talked. She was always smiling, ready to share a jab and challenge your perspective because she wanted to learn more and more about HR. When I started to get to know her, she was the SHRM student chapter President. She interviewed me for a paper of hers and kept in touch until she graduated. When she entered the workforce, we stayed connected and I loved seeing her start to dig in and grow as a peer in HR.

Our paths crossed over the years at various SHRM events because she remained involved as a SHRM volunteer leader for the Wisconsin SHRM State Council as both the Social Media Director and College Relations Director. I’ve been active and volunteering for two decades now, so I had a good chance of running into her. Just a short time ago she left the corporate world of HR and actually joined SHRM as an employee. Her role was as a Field Services Director which meant she would visit State Councils and local SHRM chapters and conferences to work/meet with SHRM volunteer leaders. It was great to see her join in and give the role a new viewpoint and energy !!

As I kept staying involved myself, I saw Callie more regularly because I had stepped into different roles which allowed me to travel and speak around the country. Every time I was at an event with Callie we would chat, catch up and laugh (of course.) She was a bright light that I couldn’t wait to see. She was continuing to flourish and improve the lives of so many people, and I loved seeing her thrive !! She even recently stepped into the role of overseeing College Relations and the Young Professionals efforts of SHRM National.

A few months ago, she called me and shared some incredibly grave news. She told me she hadn’t been feeling well and the doctors she had visited couldn’t figure out what was happening to her. After multiple visits to doctors, she was told she had Stage 4 stomach cancer. I was crushed. I thanked her for letting me know, but I felt absolutely helpless.

I reassured her that I would check in and be available for her at any time. I am a man of faith, and I told her that she would be in my prayers. This wasn’t a hollow sentiment. She told me that she was facing a fierce regimen of chemotherapy, but was hopeful that since she was younger, she would get through.

A week ago, Matt reached out and told me that Callie was given 4 to 6 weeks to live. Now I was devastated. I reached out that day to text her and tell her how much she meant to me and to so many others. I told her that she needed to know that she was a light who made a lasting impact on everyone she encountered. I also told her that my life was better because she had been in it. Again, not a hollow sentiment.

I then heard that she was going to meet with hospice this week. After I had spoken at the Vermont SHRM conference and had a packed room filled with more HR peers who were laughing and looking at life and HR in a positive way, I got the news that Callie had passed.

Picture with dear friends at SHRM18 in Chicago. From left to right: Michelle Kohlof, me, Mary Williams, Callie Zipple and Anthony Paradiso.

There are no good words for how much I’m affected by her passing. I know that the loss of anyone is never easy. I ache in a way that seems to have no end because Callie is no longer here. I’m crushed for her husband and family as well.

I reached out to Matt to ask if he thought sharing the news on social media would be okay. I wanted to be respectful, but also wanted to let others know that were fortunate enough to have met and known Callie. He thought it would be fine. When I shared, I was floored by the incredible response and outpouring of love and support. She HAD made a difference !!

I’m writing this today for two reasons: (1) I needed to make sure that even more people knew about my friend Callie. (2) I wanted this to be a reminder for all of us.

You see, Callie engaged every. single. person she encountered. She met them with interest, joy and a willing ear to listen. She didn’t look past anyone to get to something, or someone, more important. People mattered to Callie.

My friends, we have the same opportunity that Callie took every. day. We are surrounded by people in our families, our workplaces and in our communities. Are you taking the time to engage with others? Do they matter?

Do you know that YOU may be the one person who chose to stop, connect and listen at the exact moment someone needed to be noticed and heard? The people who are in your life are there for a reason.

You need to remember that you make an impression on people any time you meet them. Those interactions can be positive and lasting if you choose to be intentional and step into the lives of others on purpose. You can be the one interaction to remind them that they matter.

Callie did that for me as well as for so many others, and I am eternally grateful that she did.

Hidden Gems !!

If I asked you if you were an adventurer, what would you say? Most people I know tend to fall into patterns because we like the stability and predictability. I try to fight this pull because I don’t want to get into a rut. I’ll be honest, it isn’t easy. I like traveling on the same route to and from work and I have some favorite places to eat on a weekly basis. I understand patterns and respect people who have the discipline to follow them.

This weekend, my wife and I went on an adventure. She is very tolerant of my desire for constant change which is ironic because she is VERY pattern driven. It gives her comfort and an understanding of what most potential steps are going to be. A friend of ours sent me a Facebook message about a restaurant she thought I’d enjoy. It’s located on the edge of Pleasant Plain, Ohio (population 140). The restaurant is called the Plain Folk Cafe.

She thought the restaurant would be appealing because it’s a hippie themed place that features local live bluegrass and country music. I was immediately intrigued and wanted to make the trek no matter where it was located. My wife and I jumped in the car, turned on Google Maps and headed out. It took us almost 40 minutes to find the cafe. We went through a few small towns and plenty of rural landscape. As the phone indicated we were close, we saw an old school house on our left surrounded by a small gravel parking lot.

It turns out that the cafe sits inside an old two-room schoolhouse that was built in 1913. The moment we entered I was hooked. The walls were covered in album covers and a large blackboard had only positive vibes written on it including – “Practice kindness everywhere.” The staff was in tie-dye shirts or Grateful Dead gear. The music that played overhead was a mix of the Dead, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and other folk and rock artists. They also played very cool bluegrass artists. There was a stage on one end of the restaurant and a back patio which also was set up for live music.

The cooler was covered in peace and hippie related bumper stickers. There were also several small model VW buses scattered throughout the cafe to match the real vintage one used by the owner sitting in the parking lot. The whole menu was made up of hippie related names for their sandwiches, paninis and salads.

I couldn’t take in enough of the vibe and ambiance of this hidden gem. It reflected much of what I enjoy because I’ve been someone who’s always enjoyed tie-dye, folk music and a lifestyle that promotes peace, kindness and community. The staff talked to every person who came in and engaged them about their day and their take on being at the cafe. It was like sitting in someone’s house and taking in their home cooking. I haven’t been this relaxed in a restaurant. I even showed one of the staff the new tie-dye tapestry I just put up in my basement earlier that day.

Now, I know that this is something that I enjoy. What did my wife think? She loved it !! She stated, “I can’t believe you’re so excited about going to a restaurant that you’ve never seen before. However, I love that you’re adventurous. Let’s see what it’s like.” After our time there, she was the first to say that she wanted to come back again.

I think there are hidden gems all around us in life and at work. We tend to miss them because they often take extra effort and a willingness to try something new. In fact, I think there are folks who want to contribute, but we overlook them because we’re used to going to the same people over and over again.

As HR practitioners, we can’t let people stay hidden. Every person in your company is worth the effort to go out of your way to see who they are and how they want to add value. No one should be seen as too distant or difficult to engage. You need to make sure that you break out of your rut and take a new path to make sure that everyone is connected in your organization.

We can’t wait to go back to Plain Folk Cafe !! I’m going to make sure to tell everyone about it so they can see the joy in finding a hidden gem.

Going to California

A few weeks ago I wrote about being a part of the “sandwich generation” where I have the privilege of taking care of my parents and also my kids (adults). We are all at different stages of life. My adults are just starting out their career while my wife and I are in the midst/latter stages of our career, and my parents are fully retired.

Well, this past Friday, a new wrinkle presented itself which brought about a mix of excitement and sadness at the same time. My son, Josh, just packed his car and is driving across the country from Ohio to San Diego, California. He is on the precipice of beginning his life past college. He truly wanted to get a start in California, and we decided to support him.

The sadness was just a small part of this new transition. We all hugged, shed some tears and then sent him on his way. We know that he will be successful and admire that he is willing to be such a risk taker. We’re very excited that he is adventurous !! Today we can talk to him at any time using various methods which make his moving out a bit more comforting.

As we came to the day of Josh leaving, we had several meaningful conversations along the way. One night he mentioned something that truly caught me by surprise. He said, “Dad, when I tell everyone that I want to go to California, everyone gives me reasons why they wouldn’t go. They say it’s too expensive or too ‘weird’ or other things. Why is that?”

Great questions. We worked through everything, and he knows he has our full support as parents. Our conversation did make me think though because when he was asked about his future, he was expecting affirmation and encouragement. He received doubt, cynicism and negativity. Why is it that when others step out to take risks, most everyone does their best to limit or confine that expression?

I think the answer is that since we would be less likely to do this ourselves, we share our concerns to confirm that we like things how they are. It is funny to me that people constantly say they’re “good with change” which just isn’t true. We desire stability and pattern, and there is a ton of predictability and certainty with that. It’s not wrong or right. It’s just how most people live.

When a risk taker enters our space, we get edgy and defensive because we’re afraid they’re going to upset OUR patterns. We don’t like people who are unpredictable and we have some pretty strong adjectives to describe them which are all negative. We can’t expect creativity and innovation in our organizations if we describe risk takers in negative terms. You see, they won’t be stifled for long because they’ll willingly take their next step in a new direction.

This week try something new. Affirm and encourage those who are trying to bring about change. I understand that all organizational change needs context. This time don’t assume the worst and think that the change will assuredly lead to failure. Embrace the risk takers in your life. You need them to keep things fresh, alive and relevant.

I love my risk taking son. As soon as he was driving out of our driveway, I thought of the beautiful Led Zeppelin classic “Going to California.” It has the lyrics:

“Made up my mind to make a new start, Going to California with an aching in my heart . . .”

The ache is there, but the new start is about to launch and I can’t wait to see the amazing things that he will accomplish !!

Read the Signs !!

Recently my wife and I went to the fabulous Cincinnati Art Museum to see the traveling Burning Man exhibit. It was incredible !! The different art pieces and memorabilia brought out my inner bohemian. The whole event is not for those who want to just observe if you attend the actual event in the desert. This isn’t for spectators, it’s for participants. The pictures of those attending are very comfortable with who they are, how they look and how they see creativity all around them.

When special exhibits are brought in to most museums, they’re able to confine them into a relatively gallery size location. They do this so they’re more concentrated and it’s also a way for museums to generate much needed additional revenue. They can charge an extra fee to see something special. I’m absolutely cool with this. This exhibition couldn’t be contained into such a size which is indicative of the Burning Man event as well. The pieces ranged in size to such an extent that they were placed throughout the entire museum. This allowed everyone to see the entire museum as well as release their inner bohemian.

One of the favorite pieces I saw caught my eye instantly and also made me pause. Once you look at it, you can see a much different message versus what you expected this iconic symbol to convey.

What do you think? Do you see it? If you came into an expansive gallery room, turned the corner and saw this hanging on the wall, would you have the same reaction I did? Be honest. When you see this familiar red octagon, you’ve been conditioned to expect the letters spelling out “STOP”. You see many of these on a daily basis on your commute to and from work. When you see the sign you’re expecting, you halt, look around and then move in some direction.

Seeing this piece of art made me think of how HR is what you expect when you see this symbol. We are known for telling people to “stop” when it comes to behavior and the majority of systems that we design and monitor. At times this may be necessary. Unfortunately, it seems to have become the majority of how we spend our days both in reality and perception.

This doesn’t have to be the case !!

What if you took this piece of art for what it is? What if you slowed down to see the signs of those who work with you. Are you already acting as if they’re easy to define, assess and move past? Do you think that you don’t have time to notice everyone? I mean honestly, you have work to do that is far more important than connecting with your employees. Don’t you?

I wish there was a professional development class that taught people to observe nuances at work. There are countless subtle signs that happen all around us in the workplace !! How people interact with each other. How departments act when working inter-departmentally. And, how people interact when their roles are at different levels within the organization.

You can see signs in every interaction you personally have as well as all of the interactions you observe. However, if you’re too concerned with “real work” you’ll miss most of them.

Remember this – EVERYONE watches the interactions they have with you and how you have interactions with others. All. The. Time.

So, if others are taking in the signs around them, shouldn’t you as an HR practitioner?

This week follow the example of this Burning Man art piece. Slow down and then START watching and reacting to the signs happening with your people. They deserve someone who’s willing to be different and do the unexpected. Release your inner HR bohemian and see the new results which will occur !!

Arise !!

As an HR professional, you’re in one of the most emotionally demanding professions around. That’s the case because you are bombarded by the various emotions of every person you encounter throughout your day. This isn’t bad. It’s just a fact. The result of this is that HR pros are flat worn out. This is the type of tired that goes to your bones. And, it can become a daily reality.

Add on top of this the reality that in today’s workplace the majority of employees also are exhausted and drawn out from a mixture of the pressures of their jobs and their lives. It doesn’t matter if you personally feel that their “pressure” may not be as extensive as what you’re feeling. We have to remember that the pressure everyone feels is real to them. And, THAT is their reality.

Since that is what we face when we go into the workplace, how do we cope? Seriously. How do we continue? What I’m seeing much more often than not is that people are either feeling burnout, emotional detachment or loneliness. And, that’s descriptive of my HR peers.

Arise !!

What in the world does that mean? I mean it’s time for us to face this harsh reality and do two things – (1) Deal with it and (2) Turn things around. How do we do this? We need to encourage each other. Genuinely encourage each other. The one way out of this pit of despair (not exaggerating) is for us to come together as peers and as a global HR community.

We spend far too much time nitpicking and cutting around the edges for the sake of hearing our voice or personal viewpoint. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t be critical where and when needed. Not at all. However, encouragement takes far more courage in today’s workplace than adding to the tenor of people tearing things down.

I’ve mentioned this in the past through blogs and at presentations – HR needs to stop trying to do things in isolation. There’s no reason for it. You can connect with at least one other peer outside your organization who can be your sounding board and someone who lifts you up through encouragement. You need to have a person in your life who breathes life into you when you aren’t sure if you can take one more breath.

One key piece to this is to not compare. I mean it. We get caught up in how many people we are/aren’t connected to. To me I think you should understand your personal capacity of how many folks you can comfortably, and consistently, communicate with. Then remember that this is YOUR capacity and don’t worry about what others do.

I’m fortunate to have many connections. However, I have an incredible capacity to connect. One reason for that is that I encourage others. I’ve learned from others who always pour into me. My circle is filled with a mixture of family and friends who I see in person and also talk to on Social Media. Figure out the sphere you need to have in order to fill up your bucket of encouragement, and work on keeping it active. If you need a connection to get you started, reach out and I’ll be glad to both connect and encourage you. I’m grateful you’re in HR and know that you can make a positive impact on the people in your company.

Taking this first step will give you the energy and support you need to press on. I understand that it won’t be easy. But, it’s worth it. Get connected now.

Arise !!