Yep.

One of the best aspects of my job in HR is that I get to recognize our Team Members when they hit years of service milestones. I wrote about this in the past, but here’s a quick recap.

When one of our Team Members hits a 5-year anniversary, I go visit them during the day and shift they work at their location. We keep things simple by bringing them balloons, cookies and a gift card. Keeping things personal and one-and-one has made recognition more meaningful for them and for the Company. I get to make 7 to 10 visits a month because we are fortunate to have incredible tenure. It’s not uncommon to have people reach milestones from 5 years to 30+ years each month !!

The reactions I see range from being surprised, to sincere gratitude and, at times, tears. You never know what will happen, and that is fantastic !! This past week, we had a very touching anniversary that kept things in perspective.

I went over to our anchor store to celebrate the 35th anniversary of one of our dishwashers. Greg is one of my favorite Team Members. We chat every time I’m in the store about the Cincinnati Reds, the weather or whatever is on his mind. A group of folks from the office and pizzeria all gathered around Greg in the dish area. I came with my balloons and a large tray of cookies.

YepWhen I came up to him, I said, “Hi there Greg !! Do you know why we’re all here?”

He calmly said, “Yep.”

I said, “We’re here to celebrate your 35th anniversary working here !!”

He said, “Yep.”

I said, “Well, since it’s your 35th anniversary, that must make you 40 years old.”

He said, “Nope Steve. I know how old I am. I’m . . . 57.”

Everyone clapped and there were a few tears in some eyes (including mine.) You see Greg is an adult with special needs and he’s been a part-time dishwasher for us for thirty-five years !! Greg took his cookies, that each person gets in their own gift bag, and thanked everyone for coming over to see him. Then, he went back to his job.

Greg is a great reminder that so many employees come to work to do a great job willingly and positively. He’s also an example that our focus in HR should shift from spending the majority of our time on a small number of negative people. It’s staggering to me that we continue to be an industry that doesn’t see the great side of employees. We also don’t step in the gap and stop others from focusing on the few negative people in our organizations.

I think HR practitioners would love what they did more easily if we saw the best in our people. There’s absolutely nothing in the way from making this happen. It’s a choice, and it’s a choice that’s easy to make. The challenge is doing this all the time. It’s not enough to get excited when you get the chance to recognize people. Employees want to be valued and have the chance to perform with support and in a positive environment.

Making this shift seems well within our grasp, don’t you think ??

Yep.

All the Time !!

One of my favorite daily things to do is randomly call friends on my commute home. I have almost an hour in the car, and it’s a great way to make the time go by. (Don’t worry, I’m a hands free user.)

This past week I had a great conversation with Heather Kinzie from Alaska. She’s a great HR pro and I highly recommend you connect with her !! We were chatting about life and work and she was telling me her thoughts about work when she said something profound. She noted, “I don’t want to work at a place where I’m half a person all of the time !!” I almost swerved off the road because that statement rang so true.

Heather wasn’t bemoaning a certain environment or employer. She was just stating the sentiment that affects the vast majority of employees who go to any workplace. You’ve had to see the statistics that are out there right now that state that 70% to 80% of workers are disengaged in their current role. That is staggering to me because we instantly personalize data like this and think of our own workplaces. What we don’t do is compile the number of workplaces that exist. If 70% to 80% of workers are disengaged in ALL workplaces, then we face a massive obstacle each and every day regardless of where we work.

In HR, we express that we want people to bring their “whole self” to work, but that’s not really true. We want people to bring as much of themselves as fit our systems and norms. We freak out if people are outliers and work so hard to make people conform. This isn’t an indictment, it’s an observation. Since this is the culture of most companies, it’s not surprising that someone would bring half of themselves to work – all of the time.

Is there anything we can do to shift this state of malaise? I think there is. However, it will take a truly radical step for HR. You see, we are the controllers of conformity. Our systems, procedures and policies scream for same mindedness and behavior within a tight framework of parameters.

I think there should be company norms and the majority of these happen naturally. If your company’s leadership and/or industry is more formal, your norms will follow. If they are more hip and edgy, your norms will follow there as well. HR has to look at how it makes these cultures come to life to see if you’re allowing people to freely move and perform in these environments, or if we’re making sure that people show up.

All The TimeYou see, the best cultures can be stifled if our HR practices are more focused on being visible and seen (i.e. showing up), or if they’re on performance. If your culture truly champions performance, and your focus is development and shepherding within that culture, then people will bring more of who they are to work – all the time.

What is the big concern? If we looked at having less control, would chaos really ensue? Trust me when I say this – If your HR systems are built to control folks, you actually have no control at all. You don’t have a work environment, you have an institution. People can’t help but be disengaged because the environment doesn’t even exist to encourage them to be engaged.

This week look around your company. Do you see “half people” ?? Are you existing as a half person yourself in HR ?? This needs to change and it starts with you. Don’t settle for environments where people only exist. Instead, work intentionally on building an environment where people can, and are expected to, thrive !!

Be a Student !!

I’m a big proponent of Social Media. The various forums give us a variety of ways to communicate, connect and learn from each other. It can be overwhelming at times because it comes at us from every angle and during every moment of the day.

What intrigues me though is how people approach Social Media. I find that most people present ideas, opinions and perspectives that I would not have necessarily come up with myself. I enjoy looking at the material I see as a way to build the amount of knowledge that we can use.

One thing that is challenging in how people use Social Media is when people are critical. Not in the way of poking at the status quo, but in the way where their style, or form of sharing. is to tear everything down. There are no areas that are off limits and the more critical the better. Very few solutions are offered and it is really disheartening when I see the tone of blogs tear people down.

I value hearing from others who don’t look at things the way I do. The fact is this happens every single day all around me. I don’t need Social Media to get that. I do think that Social Media has a “critical” feel to it because we spend the majority of our days being critical of each other and the experiences we have. This isn’t to point fingers. It’s an observation and one I’m guilty of as well.

It’s exhausting and not productive. When you think that you’re spending so much time being critical when you could take a different approach. I heard a piece of advice this week that hit me directly and made me want to change. Here it is . . .

Be a student and not a critic.

LearnThe thought is to learn from others instead of critiquing what they say, or who they are. This may seem passive, but I don’t think so. Hearing other’s points of view does not necessarily mean you agree with them. However, it also doesn’t mean that you tear what they say apart only because it differs from your beliefs.

This is essential in HR. One of the biggest roles you have on a daily basis is being a counselor. You are in a position where you hear the good, the bad and the ugly of people’s lives. If you take the posture of being critical, you will always see the dark side of what you’re facing. You can’t help it because you assume that the worst will surely occur.

You have a choice. You can listen, synthesize and respond to people, or you can critique, judge and react. This is true for all people in organizations and in life. I know that even in writing this people will be critics. My choice is to be the student.

I’d rather learn from you, get to know you and have a relationship with you. Even though our thoughts and opinions may differ, I can still learn. This week I ask you to stop being a critic, and start being a student.

Shadowcasting !!

I’m a fairly tall HR pro. I’m 6’4″ tall and have always been one of the tallest folks in a crowd all the way back to Kindergarten. I mention this because I notice this more when I attend HR conferences. As I lurch down the hallways of the conference centers, I see the crowd mill around me and I wonder what they’re thinking and experiencing as they head from session to sessions.

One other thing you need to know about me. I dig HR conference sessions. I really do. I tend to go to see speakers who stretch and challenge me to look at things differently. Over the past few months, two speakers really stuck with me – Mary Faulkner and Jennifer McClure. Mary presented at the SHRM Annual Conference on leaving a legacy as a leader and used an analogy of a shadow. Jen just did a presentation on building your personal brand and noted that you have a brand whether you cultivate one or not. As I mulled over these two presentations, a new thought came together !!

You see, everyone can cast a shadow as well as have a personal brand. I think that HR misses out on this because we tend to be great workers, but not folks who intentionally stand out to impact others. Aren’t you tired of just existing around others? What if you stepped back and put together a plan to live by and revolutionize HR for yourself and your workplace?

I think it’s possible and within your grasp. However, in order to be a shadowcaster, you need to take some steps that are guaranteed to make you uncomfortable.

Shadow Selfie 2Get out of the Dark !!

Shadows need light. Too often HR wallows in the dark underbelly of organizations. There is a reality in this face because we are tasked with addressing difficult situations between people. These situations can either consume you, or you can take them head on. There will always be difficult situations because there will always be employees in the workplace !! When you bring light into your approach, you’ll see how differently the outcomes become. You’ll also see that HR is a field where you can thrive and not just struggle through.

Be intentional !!

People want to connect, but they typically won’t take the first step to make that happen. You’ll hear people say that they don’t care if they’re connected to others, their jobs or the company, but that isn’t true. You need to be the person who initiates those connections. To me this isn’t a matter of being extroverted or introverted. You’re in HR and that means that you are in the midst of people on purpose. Be the one who cares. Be the one who casts their shadow over others and engulf them to let them know that they matter to you and the company.

Act Now !!

Remember, you have a brand and a shadow already within your role and your company. The question is, what does it look like? I’m pretty sure most people don’t know because this type of personal reflection is counterintuitive with how HR usually functions. We ask others to focus on development, but we don’t take care of ourselves. It isn’t selfish to take care of yourself personally and professionally. Having a direction and a vision for who you are and how you’ll practice is essential. Don’t keep wishing for this transformation to occur. Take steps to make it happen !!

The pic above is my tall shadow. I want to be an HR professional who lives in the light and influences others. I have this radical goal of pulling all HR professionals together globally into one community. I know that I can cast my shadow at home with my family and in my community as well. Being intentional takes time, energy and determination.

I’d love to see you join me and step into the light yourself so that together we can bring HR out of the shadows and start casting our shadows positively on others !!

What’s Your Counterbalance ??

The breeze is blowing on a beautiful sunny day as I rock back and forth enjoying every moment on my front porch. My earbuds are in and my iPod Classic is easily shuffling through the musical array I have collected. Oh yeah, I’m writing a blog too.

When you talk to others, is this how they describe their day? I doubt it. They may have experienced a great day in some form or fashion recently, but most people tend to express disdain for either the pace of their lives or the work that they conduct. What’s intriguing to me is that people would rather grouse and wallow in each other’s frustrations than listen to how someone stepped out of that endless cycle and enjoyed what was around them.

HR is tough. This is not a new thought in the least. What we miss though is that the same pressures that we may experience are happening to every single person around us. We’re not unique in this and we should be mindful of that. The primary way we’ve chosen to address this experience in the workplace today is to seek a “work/life balance.” Trust me, it would be sweet to be able to unplug from one facet of our lives and plug into another, but it’s not realistic.

It’s not realistic because we don’t want it. We don’t seek “balance”, we seek relief. We want to escape from whatever is straining and causing stress. If those factors are lessened we feel we have achieved balance. It’s wonderful that the strain is less, but we’ve really only shifted to something else for a moment in time. And, I think that is very healthy !!

I want you to try a new idea on in this arena. Instead of having separate areas of your life, which you won’t maintain well, what if you had a “counterbalance” ?? What’s a counterbalance? It’s something that provides you an out. It breaks the daily grind and allows you to breathe deeply just for a short period of time. There’s no set method that will work for everyone. I know there are a myriad of 3, 5, 7, 9 and 21 steps to happier lives. These may be uplifting slogans, mottos and look good on coffee cups, but I think they’re too cliché.

I don’t feel that I can prescribe what a counterbalance is for others, and I’ll be honest, I have some “go to” escapes mixed with others that vary on a regular basis. The biggest advice I could share on this is that you need to build a counterbalance into your day EVERY day !! This isn’t just something to do during the workweek. Counterbalances work year round.

My counterbalances include time reading non HR/business books, music playing everywhere, “surprise” phone calls to friends on my commute home, time with my faith, volunteering, and sitting on my porch enjoying nature. I have built counterbalances into my daily routine so that I have fewer times where the weight of the day consumes me. It still happens every once in awhile, but not often.

I also believe that we can be counterbalances for other people. We can provide that “out” that breaks whatever cycle they’re spinning in. It takes an intentional mindset and a lack of fear that you’re intruding. I enjoy practicing HR this way knowing that entering into conversations with employees can be a counterbalance for them even if they don’t realize it’s happening. It’s a great way to be disruptive in a positive way. You should try it !! If I can ever be a counterbalance for you, reach out and let me know. I’d dig it very much !!

Mums2This week break the cycle which I know is tugging at you !! And, take that next bold step and break the cycles of others around you at work, at home, at church, at school – wherever you encounter people. I never think that the people that we meet is a coincidence. We’re in each other’s lives for a reason and for a purpose.

Now, I’m going to go back to enjoy my counterbalance. Here’s what I’m looking at as I type. I hope you enjoy our mums, and here’s the song playing – Statues by Foo Fighters – which just fits if you don’t get those counterbalances going.

 

Give It Up !!

As you head into work this week, how does your plate look? I’m sure it’s full. I’d be surprised if it’s not. Knowing that’s the case, how are you going to start the day? Are you going to pull your big boy/big girl boots on and jump into the fray? You probably will and it will have limited success. It will probably lead to frustration and a feeling that you’re never getting ahead.

I’m not being critical because you may have things all together. I’m not one of those folks. I get distracted often. The distractions are a mix of what is natural in HR by being pulled in several directions at the same time, and the reality is that I can follow a shiny object if it gets into my field of vision. I think it’s important to be reflective and honest about how you’re wired. However, I don’t think it should be an excuse for being effective in your role.

I recently attended a great training class at work on Planning. The reason that it rocked was that it wasn’t about “method,” it was about components. I have struggled with the idea of planning my entire career because it has always been presented to me as a series of must do steps and endless to do lists. This training broke things down into components that emphasized focusing on the “big rocks” in front of you and work from there.

DelegateInterestingly enough, one of the tools that helped you keep your eyes on the big rocks was delegation.

Ah . . . the D word !! We espouse that it’s necessary, but we struggle to do it with any sort of consistency. There are many reasons for this that are myths, and it’s time we faced why we choose not to delegate.

Loss of Control – We’re control freaks, especially if you work in HR. We are so protective of what we do. Some of that “close to the vest” approach is needed, but we are way too overprotective. We make the assumption that others can’t handle certain aspects of HR because of confidentiality. The problem is that even though that may be the case on some issues, our profession is so broad that there is a ton that we can give to others. We need to quit thinking that HR is a cloak and dagger job.

They won’t do it “right” – Yikes !! This is said many times a day in the workplace. We state we won’t delegate because we know others won’t do it the way we do. There are so many things wrong with this outlook. First of all, you are assuming that others will underperform because we do it so well. Who gets to judge that? Secondly, we assume that when people do things differently than we do, then it’s wrong. If you take away anything from this post, please remember this HR !!

Different isn’t wrong – it’s just different.

How can we claim to value diversity in our organizations if we think that doing things in alternative ways is wrong? Seriously. Examine this because if you allow this thought and behavior, you can guarantee that you aren’t genuinely diverse. Diversity is a strength and delegation would show you that it is.

We’re afraid – Whenever you give something up, there is a feeling of uncertainty. You can’t shake this. It will happen every time you delegate. However, you can reduce this anxiety if you give expectations and clarity to others when you delegate. That doesn’t mean that you do 90% of the work and then “allow” someone to finish the last 10%. Practice makes perfect with delegation. Keep doing it regularly and you’ll be more comfortable with it over time.

It was great to learn the power of delegation and how it relates to planning. I wanted to add one more perspective to this. Delegation is a powerful way to develop your staff. Giving them projects and tasks allows them to stretch, grow and perform.

So, this week change your view and start emptying your plate. Take a breath, calm your nerves and take a step to give it up !!

It’s Not What We Do . . .

Last week I attended the Ohio SHRM State Conference which has been a staple of my professional development for several years. I enjoy it because I get to hang out with some of the most engaged HR professionals that I know from all over the State. I’ve seen some friends who come year after year, but I also was able to meet a ton of new HR pros which were attending the conference for the first time.

The location of the event always lends to the feel of the Conference and Kalahari Resorts located in the rural outskirts of Sandusky, Ohio is just perfect !! The African motif, the spacious halls, the INCREDIBLE staff and the subtle touches of art, décor and music keep the theme together. You completely forget your office and melt into the resort. It clears your head and allows you to take in the sessions, the vendor hall and the chances to network.

I learned something new, or received a fresh reminder, from every session !! The programming was spectacular from the opening session to the early birds to the closing keynote. I noticed something that occurred throughout the entire conference, and especially after sessions. I listened to attendees and the question that was asked almost instantly was whether they “liked” the speaker or not. It was true for every speaker.

I understand this question because I’ve asked it myself often. What doesn’t make sense to me though is that we rely more on judgment and opinion instead of content. If a speaker is liked, then he or she smart and had something to offer. If a speaker isn’t liked, then whatever they shared wasn’t good. The more I look at it, we could miss many resources just because of delivery.

What if we tried to look at things from a different filter? Instead of asking whether we like or dislike a presentation, we ask – what did you notice?

I’ve been trying to do this over the past few years and I’ve come up with something I’ve noticed as a professional in HR.

We’re more focused on what we do . . . . and not enough on who we are !!

Who We AreThis feeling was confirmed when I heard this theme showing up over and over throughout this year’s Ohio SHRM Conference. It’s time for HR to come to terms with “who we are” because it affects “what we do” and not the other way around. I was geeked to hear so many speakers talk about the positive impact of HR in organizations, in individual roles and especially in the lives and performance of employees. There was VERY little talk that tore down HR, and this was honestly refreshing. It seems the tide is turning, and the next step is coming to terms with our identity.

The shift in focus that you can use in looking at conference presentations needs to occur in your role and throughout your company. Whether we are liked or disliked isn’t important. I know that it matters personally because no one wants to be disliked. However, we need to get people to notice who we are first. This can happen only one way. We need to be authentic and genuine. I can’t define how that looks for you, but I know that’s what people seek.

Too often we see people who put up a façade in order to be liked. It’s not what’s needed. The mold has to be broken and it’s personally up to you to make that happen. You can’t preach it to others and not model it yourself.

This week strip away the function of what you do and start being who you are first and foremost. It would really make a difference to everyone !! Try it and see !!

 

 

Listen. Respond. Repeat.

How many people do you encounter in a regular day? Do you meet the same people every day, or does it vary greatly?

I know that I have hundreds of interactions every day and they are rarely the same even it is with some of the same small group of people. I understand people’s desire for these conversations and situations to have some commonality, but they rarely do. The differences may be significant or they be just a slight nuance that adds something new to the mix.

This constant variety is often a challenge and source of frustration for HR pros. We want to take some time to breathe or synthesize one interaction when another one happens on top of what we were just responding to. Since this is the reality of human resources and not the exception, we need to have a method that better prepares us to work through situations instead of facing a constant start/stop pace every day.

I have found that the longer I practice HR that deconstructing works for me far more often than creating something bright, shiny and new. So, I’d like to introduce how I handle the beautiful myriad of interactions I encounter. This is what I do . . .

Listen. Respond. Repeat.

Listen and RespondThey are three simple words, but in order for you to be consistent in taking this approach, you need to address some things that are in our way. I was talking with a great friend this week and he was sharing the challenge of the perceived motivations we think people have. We do our best to guess what will drive and engage people and this lends us to making assumptions about them without talking to them. Having this approach leads to more misses than hits. It’s true that you can “know” your people, but the circumstances of life are constantly moving. Therefore, people exist on a continuum and not in set places.

If you use listen, respond, repeat as your approach going in to interactions, you will eliminate those assumptions you may have because other’s are sharing first. Please note that this suggestion isn’t listen (sort of) and then come up with a solution while people are still talking !! I say this because we are so consumed with getting things done and moving on that we see our time as being wasted by the interactions we have.

If you think interacting with people is a waste of your time, then you may want to get another career.

Trust me. If you follow this approach, your employees won’t know how to react initially because it’s not what they’re used to from anybody. Most managers and supervisors also have perceptions that try to keep their employees in boxes versus taking the time to get to know them. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see your employees surprised by you? It is very cool to see how they respond.

This coming week I hope you try this simplified way of practicing HR. Remember the first two steps work when you use the third. Take the time for your people and repeat it over and over. You’ll soon see that you take each encounter with people as something you’ll enjoy !!

 

Get Rid of Doubt !!

Another great week happened when I was talking with another one of my peers who was facing a tough challenge at work. She is in a senior HR role and was asked to talk to other senior managers about how roles are defined. She and I chatted and she had a solid plan and approach to have this tough conversation. It was balanced, professional and didn’t seem presumptuous which was a concern because she wanted to do well in working with this team.

As we were wrapping things up she said a telltale attribute that haunts HR pros – “I wish I didn’t doubt myself and felt more confident about this.”

Please understand that she is an incredible HR pro – one of the best I know. She wouldn’t be in her current role if that wasn’t the case. The difficultly is that HR people, in general, lack “organizational confidence.” We’ve been taught to be the caretaker who is behind the scenes. The person who makes sure that peace and stability are the norm.

There’s nothing wrong with those attributes. However, they can’t be what you lead with. Being confident in what you do is essential and is needed if you wish to have credibility with Senior Management, your department and with employees. If doubt is your lead in how you approach HR, then you won’t be seen as a resource worth engaging. In fact, people may avoid you, and HR in general, because they think you’ll be unsure of yourself.

Confidence and DoubtYou have to note that being confident doesn’t mean being arrogant. You can practice confidence with humility. The key is not only to be confident in who you are and what you do, but also to remove doubt. Doubt occurs most when you feel you are on your own. A real challenge in HR is that so many people are isolated as “departments of one” or they are not connected throughout their organization. Some of this is based on how HR is designed within a company, but some of it is by choice.

I’ve never come across another profession who feels that can’t be connected. What’s keeping you from doing this? There are a myriad of ways to be connected to each other, and it’s worth the time you invest in making this happen. I think one of the main reason’s we don’t connect is that we’re waiting for someone to make that first step and reach out. This is an obstacle that doesn’t make sense to me. In a field where we are meant to be WITH people, what would keep us from being with each other?

I have worked for years to build a network of people who are friends first, but they started out as resources. I had doubts in what I wanted to try in HR and I had to bounce my ideas off someone. Now, I have a true web of people around the globe that I can reach out to – and I make sure to do that often. I still face doubts, but have replaced it with confidence because I know that the friends I have in HR will be there to lift me up, lend an ear and are willing to question and/or disagree with me.

It’s time for you to get rid of the doubt you face as an HR professional. Reach out and connect to others. Don’t wait and keep trying to do things on your own. Don’t let doubt ever creep in again. Make connections that matter and build the confidence that others have in you !!

Just a few degrees !!

This past week I had lunch with one of my HR peers. I always enjoy spending time with other folks who practice HR because we normally don’t have people that we can talk to within our own organizations. It doesn’t mean we’re isolated, but it’s hard to talk “shop” with others who don’t do what you do.

One of our “rules” when we have lunch is to share what’s going on candidly and then talk about solutions (if you can reach them.) She was telling me about her challenges in moving the company she works for in a different direction. I admire what she’s doing even though she has expressed that she feels like she’s hitting walls.

As we were sharing, she said something that was a true point of clarity for me. She stated, “I feel like I’m on a giant ship and if I could turn it just a few degrees, I think I’d see amazing things happen.”

Stunning. Really, it is. She captured what most of us in HR struggle with when we look at how to have change occur that is meaningful and sustainable. Too often we design and launch massive programs and initiatives which cannot last. The energy and effort that is needed to keep those types of efforts going fades quickly because people either can’t make the time to do what is implemented, or they just drag their feet some to wait for it to slip away quietly.

What could you accomplish if you implemented change in small doses? I know that much has been written about company culture and there are camps that say it exists and those who only think it’s a catch phrase for HR. I’m one who is a proponent of cultures and I love to see change be directed because change will occur whether you want it to or not.

Small ChangeYou see, small change can yield big results !! The difference in this approach is that you have to break it down to individuals instead of trying to canvas an entire organization. I have a belief that HR should be practiced in pieces that will build to a whole. This runs contrary to most people I know in the field because it’s not how we learned HR.

The truth about breaking HR down reflects what my friend shared. Changing things by a few degrees is attainable. It also gives you the ability to see cultures shift ever so slightly and stick. Over time HR and the company can be headed on a new course and they will subtly break out of the patterns that often hold us in a stagnate pattern.

So, this week, clear off your desk and scrap those monstrous themed initiatives. Break down the components of what you want to do and pick one. Introduce it. Nurture it and let it grow. As it sticks, start with the next one and continue. Remember, you can change a ship by just a few degrees !!