Get Off the Wall !!

I mentioned last week that I was able to take in the amazing Burning Man art exhibit touring in Cincinnati. It was a great reminder that I need to remember to release my inner HR bohemian more often. The images of the event’s attendees show people who are uninhibited. To me it’s intriguing to see how free people are in expressing themselves. I’ll be honest part of me would love to attend, but I don’t know how “free” I could really be.

You see, if you go to Burning Man, you’re expected to participate. It’s not meant for spectators who are curious about the oddities, and not for those who just want to gawk. That is an incredible approach that we should implement in our workplaces as well !! What would your HR department look like if everyone was geared towards participation as an expectation?

I know, you’re already replying to the blog to tell me how “busy” you are with mountains of work. I’m sure that’s the case. But, is it work that adds value or is just tedious, mundane and senseless? When you look at your daily activities, are you geeked to jump in or are you hesitant? I want to personally approach my days with abandon and fervor. I also want to instill that expectation with my team.

When we look at how companies broadly express their “expectations”, it’s typically framed and placed on a wall in the form of Mission and Vision statements. I’ve been a part of full-day strategic planning sessions when the entire leadership team would wrestle over one, single word. There were hour long discussions on grammatical framework and what message(s) were being conveyed. Then, after this meaningful exercise, copies would be artfully printed by an outside vendor to be proudly mounted in public areas of the office.

Don’t get me wrong, visions and missions are critical to the values, direction and culture of an organization. However, many of them are too wordy and aspirational. Companies desire action but they don’t state it clearly. Back to Burning Man . . .

They have the “10 Principles” that have been captured in various forms over the years. They’re on pamphlets, flyers, artwork and even a multi-tiered street sign !!

When you read them, they state beliefs and expectations at the same time. They’re also a mix of simple statements that call you to action. As I read them, these ten items inspired me because I felt that I could identify with them and also could see myself as willing to follow them.

Interestingly enough you need to notice that the ten principles aren’t regulatory and so defined that they’re a list of rules. They aren’t do’s and don’ts. I know that when we make these broad statements in organizations, people get ooky. (That’s an official technical HR term by the way.) We feel that if statements aren’t completely spelled out, then people will be far too expressive and chaos will ensue. It isn’t true and it never has been.

I don’t want to be so bold as to create “10 HR Principles” because each of our organizations are unique. This is something that needs to be evaluated on your end. I would just encourage you to follow the example of the bohemians and give your company, and especially your HR efforts, the breadth that they deserve. Come up with a set that calls you, and others, to action and trust that they will come alongside to join in. Allow your people to be expressive and assume positive intent going in.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll see their inner bohemian come out as your vision and mission come off the wall and get into the hearts of your folks !!

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