The Future Looks Bright !!

This past week I had a very cool experience !! I was one of the judges for the SHRM Student Case Study competition. I sat with two other great HR pros from the area as we heard graduate students from various schools give their take on an HR scenario. It was very cool to hear their approaches which ranged from a traditional HR viewpoint to some that were extremely creative.

I was so geeked to see so many students come in and share. It helped to continue to dispel the stereotype that the most recent generation is so “different” and just doesn’t “get it” like other generations. I wasn’t surprised because this isn’t new. There have always been generations in the workplace. The stigma that has been assigned to younger people is from older generations. We have fallen into the same trap that we said we would never fall into when older generations made broad generalizations about us. We hated it, but it hasn’t stopped us from doing the same thing.

I think we need to have a serious change of heart and be the generation that encourages and lifts up the newest folks. Let me ask you a question . . .

Do you remember when you got into HR?

Most people don’t start in HR, they fall into it. I’m one of those outliers who has been in HR for my entire career (on purpose). When I started though, I was pretty much on my own. I taught myself what I thought was correct, but to be honest, my efforts had to be limited because I didn’t look outside of what was within my reach. I must have missed areas. I did what I had to, but I could have done better.

I didn’t know having someone who was also in HR as a mentor was needed. The truth is, I didn’t think someone like that even existed. I was wrong on this account as well. When I finally reached out and connected with other HR pros, I found some great people who are still mentoring me to this day several years later.

Now, back to these students.

We can be the ones who reach out to them now to be their connections and mentors. They don’t have to “earn their stripes” in order to struggle as they enter HR. We can be the ones to share our experiences with them and make sure that they are not left to try and figure out this industry on their own.

Bright FutureWe have the chance to help shape not only the future of these great young people, but we can help shape the future of our profession !!

Wouldn’t it be great to help these kids who are interested in joining our field have a great experience coming into HR? How would they see our generation, and how would we see theirs, if we did more to build each other up instead of trying to focus on generational differences?

The future of HR is bright !! I was able to see this first hand. I plan to reach out to these students and connect with them now and going forward. I’d love to see them succeed now and become the leaders of HR to come. I want to break the cycle and not be the stereotype of my generation. Will you be willing to join me? I hope you will !!

 

What Do You Think ??

Feedback is a tricky thing. When we talk about this topic, our focus is how we give feedback to others. This is needed because it doesn’t occur naturally, or often enough, in our organizations. It’s interesting to me though that when we write about feedback, we personally are never in the mix. Since the direction of feedback is always outward, isn’t is possible that we won’t receive any ourselves?

We are more than willing to give our opinion about people. It doesn’t take much prodding at all. The challenge is that when this occurs, we tend to list negative items or note things that we think need to be “addressed.” This is technically a form of feedback and it’s typically what people expect. It seems that it’s harder to give positive feedback, but it’s just that we haven’t practiced.

Feedback IconsTo get started though, I’d like to suggest something different. What if you asked people for feedback? Seriously, What if you asked people – “What do you think?” but it was about you and your performance. I know this is absolutely out of everyone’s comfort zone, but it’s an alternative approach.

The fact is – we all have blind spots. We may be behaving or performing in a way that is affecting others, but we don’t know what’s happening. You may not be “clicking” with them, or something just feels out of kilter. There is also a significant norm you’d be breaking because asking others to give you feedback may put people on the defensive. They may not know how to respond because they are stuck in the old model of either giving or receiving negative feedback the majority of time.

I know that this is a big stretch, so here are some starters to help you ask and also seek feedback from others.

  • What am I doing right ?? – You can set the stage and approach for these types of interaction by being positive going in. You have to get over the self-esteem barrier that may hold you back. This isn’t for others to brag about you. It’s to help them see that feedback can be positive !!
  • Where do you see me being an obstacle ?? – We all get in the way of someone. There are things that hinder our performance from being the best it can be. If we’re an obstacle to others, it’s better to know what that looks like so you can address it and, hopefully, remove it.
  • What’s an area where I could improve ?? – People want to share how you could do better. Asking it this way stops them from launching on you with a barrage of negativity. Ask people for things that are tangible and relevant and not just differences in personality or approach.
  • How can I help you do better in your role ?? – This one will throw people off completely. You see, we TELL people what to do and to get work done. The majority of people have a “task” mentality and they want to see defined stops and starts. By offering to help someone else you develop yourself and also relationships. Both are key to you doing well.

I know that this goes against what people think when it comes to the world of feedback. I want you to be encouraged though. I know this works because I’ve tried to practice it myself with peers as well as people who’ve been my boss. It’s a bit wonky when it starts, but I’ve seen it blossom to more open, regular and consistent communication.

Check out other’s thoughts on this as part of the Feedback Carnival that Helen Amery is doing out of the UK !! It’s fabulous !!

So, now that you’ve seen this different option . . . what do you think ??

Be Full !!

As I type this post, I have to admit I’m spent. It’s a good feeling to be honest, but it’s also exhausting. I brought this upon myself. You see, I had the opportunity to spend the entire day out in the sun working in my yard. It was the first time since Winter and I loved it !!

I don’t know how you’ve been feeling lately, but feeling completely wiped out clears one’s head. Do you notice what most people say when you ask them how things are? The vast majority of them say, “I’m busy.” There’s never really a definition of what that means other than they apparently have a ton of things on their mind or taking up the majority of their focus.

Now, I know it’s just a word, but when I hear that people are “busy,” I hear a negative tone behind it. It seems that when you’re busy you have things that “have” to get done even though you may not enjoy doing them. Being busy also implies that you are overwhelmed and feel that others don’t share your sentiment. It’s the feeling that no one could be as busy as you are !! Having this approach is a bit daunting. The reason for it being daunting is that EVERYONE is busy !!

Full GlassA few years ago, I changed my answer when people asked me how I was. If you ask me, my answer is – “I’m full !!”  It’s true. I am. I take the chance to fill my life up every single day with things that are positive, challenging and interesting.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things that fill up my life that I’d like to change. I get upset too often and frustrated more than I should. I watch too much TV and don’t eat as well as I should. Those are facts that I can work on. They could be things that pull you down, but they don’t have to be.

To be honest, I think I could even add a few more things in to make my life even more full. You aren’t any different. Your life is full too !! The question you have to ask yourself is – Do you like what your life is filled with ??

The same is true for HR. Most HR folks I know always share how busy they are. When I hear this I can sense frustration and angst that surrounds their view of what they do. The thing that people don’t see is that if you keep the “busy” mentality, you’ll never enjoy HR because you’ll always be chasing after the things you don’t enjoy doing.

It’s time for you to become full instead !! Take the time to review what you’re doing and strip away those things that pull you down. I understand that all work has it’s purpose. How you approach it is key !! Get full and see how your day goes instead.

The next time someone asks you how you are . . . tell them you’re full !!

Grass Roots !!

With Spring now fully upon us, I’ve been tempted to get out into my yard. The harsh winter took it’s toll, and I’m definitely going to have to get out there soon and do some work. There are patches of my lawn that have become bare. These areas will get the most attention and I’m eager to plant new grass.

Growing grass isn’t as easy as it sounds. If you just toss the seed on the ground hoping that it will come to life, you’ll have little to no success. Once you get the dirt broken up and the seed dispersed, you need to make sure it’s covered and regularly watered. After hours of work and days of waiting, you’ll start to see wisps of green starting to come to life. It takes attention, patience and a bit of faith to get even the smallest bare patches covered once again.

When I look at HR, I see bare patches as well. I don’t want to point out areas that I view as “wrong” because that is too much of a generalization without context. I’m not in your organizations, but I’m sure you see areas that need some attention. The question is – Do you want to tend to them? Are you willing to get out there and work the ground, spread some seed and nurture things to life?

I think people see bare patches and want to do the work, but they are overwhelmed with the distractions that are taking up the majority of their daily focus. In HR, you are pulled 500 ways in the same day. This isn’t a complaint, it’s a reality. You rarely have a day where you can plan it all out and have the situations you face play out accordingly. That honestly keeps HR exciting for me, but I understand how it can be exhausting.

grassI want to propose a solution that is Grass Roots in nature to revolutionize who we are and what we do. The best movements in HR start as grass roots efforts. That’s true when Social Media came about as well as places where HR pros gather at events and conferences. The idea I have isn’t revolutionary, but the effort to make it happen will be.

The bare patch I see is that we continue to be separated as a community. There are pockets of people who are close and connected, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Many HR practitioners continue to work in isolation. When you try to reach out and connect with them, they feel either that they don’t have enough time, or that their work won’t allow them to do this.

This just isn’t the case. Having meaningful HR professional connections will make you able to get to resources you didn’t even know existed. This is more than being connected on Social Media forums or reading someone’s blog !! The connections that can, and should, happen take time to plant, water and grow. The result is that you’ll have people that you can reach out to that understand what you do, what you go through in your role and how to encourage you and lift you up to succeed in HR.

I’ve been “working the ground” on this for years and years and I continue to plan on doing that. Will you join me? Will you be willing to reach out and connect with other HR pros and build your community? Will you make these connections flourish and not let them be a flash in the pan from when you met at a conference?

People want to be connected. This is especially true for HR folks. Join me in making the dream of a vibrant, integrated HR community come to life !! Be part of the grass roots !!

Coffee and Apple Pie !!

Let me pause here at the beginning so you can imagine the smell of freshly brewed coffee and the mouth-watering smell of fresh, hot apple pie. Got your attention? Good. Now, let me share the story behind these delectable items.

This past week I was at a McDonald’s. It was midafternoon and not during a meal rush. I went up to the counter and there Tracey met me with a smile and a warm greeting !!

“Welcome to McDonald’s! How’s your day going?”

After my shock and surprise at Tracey’s demeanor, I replied, “I’m great and how are you?”

“I’m having a great day. What can I get for you?”

McDonald's Coffee“I’d like a large, black coffee.” (Author’s aside – I’m a coffee fiend and McDonald’s is always good for a great cup of java !!)

I paid and Tracey said she’d like to take care of the guests behind me and then she told me she’d get my coffee. I was fine with that and went back to my seat to talk to some folks about an HR issue I was tackling. A few minutes passed by and I didn’t have my coffee. I wasn’t upset in the least, but I did want some caffeine so I went back up to the counter.

“Tracey, I didn’t get my coffee yet. Could you help me?”

“Oh my, I’m so sorry. I missed that. Let me take care of that for you right now.” She asked another team member to get me the coffee and he responded, “Sir, sorry that happened, but here you go. I’m sure this will be a great way to get through the rest of your day!”

Here were two people just Geeked about their job and it was so refreshing. The story would be great, in my opinion, if it stopped right there. I went back to my conversation and after a few minutes, I felt a tap on my shoulder. Tracey stood behind me and said, “Sir, I’m sorry that I was late with your coffee. That shouldn’t happen. Would you please accept this?” She handed me a small bag.

McDonald's Apple PieAgain, astonishment. Here I am in a fast food restaurant where I’ve had more challenging experiences than great experiences and I am dumbfounded twice. In the bag there were two piping hot apple pies that would go great with my coffee.

I left the restaurant after having a very memorable time. As I was driving back to my office, I reflected on what happened. You see, Tracey took a situation and did what she could to make it better. She didn’t ask her manager about this. She had the ability to do what she thought was right.

Can your employees do this? Do they have the ability to do their job without obstacles standing in their way? Are the systems and “norms” in your organization ones that allow performance, or do they hinder them?

Wouldn’t it be great if employees knew that they had the freedom that Tracey has? This is where HR comes in. I would like to propose that our job is to see where obstacles exist that hinder employees from doing their job well and remove them. Those obstacles are real, but we don’t address them. More often than not we wonder why people aren’t complying with the processes that we continue to produce.

We need to switch our focus if it’s an obstacle to others. When you do this, you will enjoy HR more than you have in the past. Take the steps Tracey did. It makes an incredible, tangible difference !!

Her simple action made my day. She was an amazing example of how anyone can make culture great !! And . . . the pies went great with my coffee !!

Being Mortar !!

This weekend I had the chance to work on another Eagle Scout project for one of my scouts. I always enjoy working on these because I love to see the scout’s advance, do great work and it’s a chance to follow their lead. His project, like most of them, has a large scope. He’s building a new backstop for a High School girl’s softball team that his sister played for. It involved tons of digging, moving dirt and building a wall using concrete block and mortar.

MortarWe had some construction experts with us who laid the first course (layer) of block for the wall and they moved with grace and ease. As they continued down the row, they asked if someone wanted to “jump in” and clean up all the seams of the wall. I volunteered and I received instructions on what to do and given three tools to use – an edging trowel, a joiner and a brush. The goal was to use these three tools to make sure that excess mud (mortar) was removed as well as the seams were filled and then cleaned off to get ready for the next course of bricks.

Recently, I’ve seen a disturbing trend both in the workplace and in our profession. There are more and more efforts to split and tear down things. In the workplace we continue to develop systems that are punitive thinking that the more we keep people in check, the better they’ll perform. Personnel files grow and grow with reams of paper to document people’s missteps. I have seen notes hung up in workplaces stating that there will be consequences if people refuse to comply with this or that with the sentiment that the manager is communicating effectively.

In our profession, I keep seeing blogs and articles that tear us apart. I feel that it’s good to have a critical eye or point out how we can improve if something isn’t working. But, there are more and more blogs with labels that are derogatory and belittle aspects of HR. We need to understand that HR jobs follow a bell curve from those that are highly transactional to those that are highly strategic. One isn’t “better” than another, they are just in different stages. Companies may not want HR that is conceptual and strategic. I personally am bummed when I hear that, but I understand that it happens.

I have to be honest that I struggle when I see people who feel that negativity and cynicism will improve who we are and what we do. I read them and learn from views that are different from mine. It’s just an approach that is contrary to who I am. I’m surprised when people say that being positive is so hard and rare in HR and in the workplace.

I choose to be mortar instead. I want to see our field, and our workplaces, be places that come together to build a culture that moves a company forward. I want to use the tools that I have to join people together, remove the excess items they don’t need and offer a brush of empathy to reassure them that their contributions matter.

You may see this approach as naïve, utopian or unreasonable. The thing is, I’ll keep doing it anyway because I see it working. When I see notes, I tear them down. When I hear criticism, I look for possible solutions. When I see that things aren’t changing, I get involved on purpose.

The construction expert who taught me how to do mortar was encouraging and thought I could do well even though I had never done it before. He even said, “If you run into a problem, or don’t feel it’s going well, tell me and I’ll help you.” He believed in me and told me what to do. He was positive in his approach and thankful that someone was helping him with his work. The work was hard and I have sore muscles, torn up hands and scraped up knees. However, the mortar is placed and the first course is laid to be the foundation of what’s to come !!

The Soul of the Company !!

This past week I was fortunate enough to lead a workshop I created on developing an HR Brand to an HR chapter. This was an attempt to differentiate from “employer brand” and “employment brand” which are both important. The focus of the workshop was to get HR to own who they are professionally and also within their organization.

Any time I get to speak to my peers, I get more Geeked than usual !! The ideas were flowing and the mood was light. People love to share and one of the exercises we did was intriguing. I asked the attendees to make a side-by-side comparison of how they viewed HR and how others viewed us.

Everyone jumped into the list, and it took the turn I expected. The “others” side of the list filled quickly, and the answers weren’t positive. In fact, one person even had to remind his table that they should at least come up with some answers on how HR viewed itself. Unfortunately, this breakout supported the approach of most people. We tend to think negatively initially even if that’s not who we are. Negative thoughts and situations surround us in the majority of our activities. You have to work on turning the tide so that this isn’t how you approach HR or life !!

To help everyone try this I asked people to list how HR viewed itself. And then it happened. One person shared, ” I think HR is the Soul of the Company !! ”

Her answer drew audible oohs and aahs. People truly enjoyed that perspective and it made me think. What if we WERE the soul of the company as HR?

SoulI think this makes sense because this has a deeper meaning and impact than culture. The “soul” of an organization should capture and embody what the company values. It is also appealing because every company’s soul is unique just as it’s people are.

Too often HR is seen as soulless and I’d love to see that turned around. The key to making this happen has to start with us personally. Senior management can’t bestow this upon us, and we shouldn’t look for them to do that. What should the soul of your company look like? It’s a bit conceptual, but there are a few factors you can consider.

First of all, you would be the “center” of all of the people activities and interactions in the company. You could assist people on having healthy communication that was consistent and productive. Many companies aspire to have this happen, but it’s an area where we can all improve.

Secondly, being the company’s soul would bring depth to what you do. We spend way too much time on surface items because we feel that’s where HR should be because it’s “safe.” It actually distances us from others. Taking the time to get to know our people more deeply makes us vulnerable, but it’s worth it. People have been coming to work forever with little to no meaning. They look for ways to connect, and we should be that connection !!

I think this is a perfect way to position HR. We have a chance to look internally first to see what our soul could be and then we could integrate that throughout our company’s culture. We all have it in us !! Let’s try it and see what happens !!

Time to Reignite !!

Many people are trying to shake the winter doldrums in the hope that spring will renew them. This happens every year and is very predictable behavior. Instead of enjoying the season we’re in, we keep looking forward to a rebirth in the next season to come. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying the thaw that is finally upon us and am glad to see the snow start to dissipate.

I think many HR pros look at their career with the same anticipation they have with the changing of the seasons. There seems to be a push that ANYTHING would be better than the situation they currently find themselves facing. There is also a feeling of professional isolationism because they feel that no one is experiencing the levels of disgust, frustration and angst that they are. When I hear stories of despair I get concerned. I’m concerned because if that is how you are approaching your role, it will reflect in your performance and with the employees that work alongside you.

There are seemingly countless stories and sentiments of HR pros who are just flat burnt out. They can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.  In fact, all they see is the tunnel and it keeps getting deeper and darker. This isn’t healthy in any way whatsoever. Why would you continue to go back to a difficult HR environment just to be a martyr everyday?

It’s time for HR practitioners to come to terms with a reality in our careers. There is only one person who’s responsible for how Human Resources is in your role and that’s YOU !! Your career may be influenced by others around you, but in the end, you are the only person who can impact who you are and what you do.

Has the fire gone out for you?  Or, has the fire consumed you and eaten away at what you think HR should be in your company?

Lit Matches in a rowTake a different approach intentionally and reignite the fire of passion around Human Resources !! Everyday you have the opportunity to make a positive difference in the people around you and also add value to the growth and success of your company. You can, and must, be the model of making this happen in your culture. Believe me when I say that this isn’t a pep talk to motivate you.  Motivation is internal and you alone can build that energy up. You could spice in a great rock tune, say something from AC/DC, to get you jacked up, but this isn’t a peak and valley approach. Once your passion is reignited, you need to fan the flame so that others around you start catching this fire.

I’ve recently been talking with some friends who either just changed HR roles, or want to. In every case they expressed that they want an HR role where they can flourish and make a difference in what they do. This needs to be the expectation of everyone in HR !!  The conversations I had weren’t somber or melancholy. They were a chance to share some encouragement and give them a nudge to no longer settle for mediocrity in what they do. The companies they work(ed) for didn’t view HR in a positive, integrated and broad way. That’s fine if companies want to limit HR – but YOU don’t have to be a part of that !!

People wonder if my level of passion and excitement is some shtick for some on-line persona. You can trust me, it’s not. It took me several years to understand that HR can be on fire all the time. It also took some searching to find a role and a company that was as passionate and excited about what they did so that this ignited form of HR could grow and exist.

So, if you’re burnt out – rekindle !! If you’re an ember that’s just barely holding on and smoldering – add fuel and energy !!  If you’re in a role where HR cannot be exciting and passionate, then maybe it’s time to find a place that let’s you rock it out !! Reignite yourself and radiate great HR in all that you say and do !! It’s really the only way to practice.

LLAP !!

This past week an entertainment icon passed away – Leonard Nimoy. He was mostly known for his immortal TV character, Spock from Star Trek. As a devout HR Nerd, Spock has always been my favorite Star Trek character.  I admired him because of his loyalty in his relationships and his willingness to always explore who he was and what humanity was all about.

Live Long and ProsperSpock had a signature greeting, or salute, that he gave to others by raising his right hand, splitting his fingers into a V and state, “Live Long and Prosper.” Looking back now, it truly reflected Mr. Nimoy’s life and his journey. He struggled with being identified as Spock for his entire career. He even wrote a book called “I Am Not Spock.” Everyone wanted him to stay in this role because that’s how they saw him. They didn’t know he was a very thoughtful man, poet, musician and artist. After some time, he came to terms with who he was and the legacy his role had. He actually wrote a second book entitled “I Am Spock.”

Did you know the original Star Trek series only ran three years and stopped in 1969? That’s forty-six years ago !! What an incredible legacy !! Yes, there have been subsequent movies, books and other Star Trek series. Those existed only as a legacy to the original show. In fact, Star Trek and Spock have become a part of social culture.

Now, think of how you approach your role in HR. Are you looking at how you practice what you do, or are you just making sure your job gets done? Do you have an “impact approach” or a “legacy approach”?

You see, you make an impact every day whether you are intentionally choosing to or not. Your impact is determined by your behavior, outlook and effort with others in your company. That doesn’t ensure that your impact is positive though. One can impact others in negative ways which have a much longer effect than you can even imagine.

A legacy approach is just slightly different because it still involves your impact. Remember, Mr. Nimoy’s original run as Spock was only three years. If you knew that your “run” as an HR practitioner had a limited time to it, would your daily look at your job be different? Would you put everything you had into what you did so that when you were done, it would be remembered and sustained?

I think that too many of us in HR are either concerned about keeping our job, advancing in our job or just existing in our job. There is an opportunity to not only have an impact, but an impact that truly makes a lasting difference in the lives of the people around us. When you change your approach to one that will leave a legacy, you will see each day in a fresh new way.

I love that Leonard Nimoy came to terms with who he was and his legacy. He was active on Twitter and would finish his tweets with #LLAP for Live Long and Prosper. Every tweet. Every time he would communicate to others.

That is my hope for everyone who practices HR. It’s how I approach what I do and I hope you join me in having a legacy approach to what you do !! #LLAP

Practice the 3 R’s !!

It intrigues me that when the majority of HR conversations occur, they are around broad areas.  They range from regulations to compliance, HR technology to HR analytics, performance management to being strategic.  Interestingly enough there is something missing in the midst of the noise.

What’s missing ??  Employees.

When I see the myriad of pros and cons about certification options, the argument is between the terms of  “knowledge” or “competency.”  Again, concepts and not people.  The majority of our HR education and training is to become proficient with systems and processes.  But, what takes up the majority of our time and efforts? Employees.

I’m not saying this as if employees are a negative.  Far from it.  Employees are THE reason why I practice HR at all !!

So, if our interaction with employees make up the majority of HR, why are they “missing”?  I think it’s because the other areas of HR can be defined and wrapped in structure.  We can create systems that have a beginning, middle and end.  There is more of a linear approach to these areas of HR, and we appreciate the step-by-step aspects of things that can be accomplished time after time.

Employees aren’t linear.  Isn’t that fantastic?  Seriously, who wants to be around people who are predictable, bland and one-dimensional?  Is that who YOU want to be as an HR practitioner or consultant?  Would HR be better if people conveniently fit our lives like a form to be completed?  I don’t think so.

What if you did have a system that would help you describe working with employees?  What if you had three simple words that could change your perspective towards people each and every day you went to work?

My son is a senior in high school and he just started his first job.  He is making smoothies and he’s geeked about it !!  He has a uniform to wear, of course, which is intriguing because he’s a bit of a non-conformist like his dad.  However, when he saw the message of the uniform, he put it on willingly.  Why ?? Take a look.

Three R's ShirtThis is such a positive and uplifting message !! Remember . . . he makes smoothies.  When customers come to his store and see the crew decked out in these shirts, how do you think they feel?  Even if you had been experiencing a rough day, I think you’d be getting something if it revived, recharged and rebuilt you.

Now, think if you approached HR using these three R’s. If you went into work every day saying to yourself, “I’m going to revive all of those around me !!”  Think of the energy you’d bring to your role.  You’d never think about being burnt out in dealing with people because now you were going to take the time and focus to revive things.

How would your day go if you knew that you were recharged yourself and you had the chance to recharge others?  I tell you it would be awesome.  Knowing that what you did brought things to life would make HR a profession that people would be asking to join !!

Finally, if you looked at rebuilding people and lifting them up on a daily basis, I bet that you would welcome the chance to work with employees.  How would people appear to you if you knew your efforts would make them better, more productive and valued?

So, there you have it.  The three R’s don’t make people less challenging or unique, but they do give you a “structure” to work with employees. The key to remember in all of this is that HR is about people.  As a person yourself, take these three R’s to heart and see how much you, and your employees, enjoy who you are and what you do !!