Fado’s

As of this year, I’ve been an HR volunteer leader for 20 years. It’s hard to believe that time has flown by so quickly !! I remember when I first got involved, I went to a Volunteer Leaders Summit in Crystal City, Virginia. I was an officer on my local SHRM chapter’s board. It was great to go to the conference to learn and be around other volunteer leaders. We went to an Irish pub down the street from the hotel where we were staying and we had a blast !!

Little did I know that it planted the seed for a gathering place for years to come.

The first time we went out though, we only hung out with the people from our chapter in Cincinnati. We didn’t interact with anyone else. It didn’t strike me as odd at the time, but as the years kept passing, it started to really eat at me. You have to keep in mind that this was long before social media. It made sense to hang out with folks you knew, but I wondered why we didn’t try to meet other HR peers because we were literally surrounded by them.

At subsequent Volunteer Leader Summits and at HR conferences in general, people continued to congregate based on geography. This was true during the event itself in sessions or when people gathered for lunches/dinner. People kept within the boundaries of their cities or states. It didn’t make sense to me and I wanted to see something change.

When I was the State Director of Ohio SHRM, we met for the Summit at the Gaylord Hotel in Maryland. I decided it was time to break the geographical model. So, I found another Irish pub and took a group of Ohioans along with me. While we were at the pub, I left my friends to introduce myself to everyone else in the pub and asked them to join us. I know – radical. However, I couldn’t recall it ever being done. Soon our group was full of people from Montana, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, California, Nebraska, North Dakota, Arizona, New Mexico and more !! We realized that we needed to be together as people and HR pros. It was a natural and easy connection to make.

After a few years, our conference location moved to downtown Washington, D.C. When we were “done” for the day with sessions, it was time to venture out once again and I found the best haunt EVER for us to assemble in the middle of the Chinatown district – Fado’s Irish Pub & Restaurant.

Now, since we broke the invisible geographical barrier a few years earlier, people were more interactive during the conference and were asking where and when we were going to meet. I asked everyone to meet me at Fado’s because it had a cool vibe, great food, adult beverages and space for us to all meet. The first night we had about 25 folks come out. Each night the number grew and more people ventured out to meet new friends as well as hang out with those they knew. We shared so many laughs, stories and experiences. We truly were becoming an HR community !!

Then, as fate would have it, the SHRM Annual conference was in Washington, D.C. in 2016. This meant there would be a larger group of HR pros that we could coax to Fado’s. And, we did. Every. Night. If there were social events planned, we’d go to Fado’s afterward. It became a go-to gathering place for us. One night I will always cherish was when I first joined the SHRM Board of Directors and everyone was eager to get me to come out to the pub. I was planning on it, but didn’t know why there was such a sense of “urgency.” It didn’t seem like any other night. I was mistaken.

As I showed my ID (which was required regardless of your age), I looked up and tears filled my eyes as everyone in the pub was wearing tie-dye to celebrate my new role. Some of the pub staff were also wearing the shirts. It was spectacular because it showed the power of what coming together as people means.

Since that night, we’ve been back to Fado’s many more times including last year in November. Little did I know that this would be the last time I’d get to enjoy the darkened wood, sticky floors and smell of Irish ale. Fado’s announced that it was permanently closing its doors as of April 2020. This wasn’t because of the current pandemic, it was due to their lease and relationship with their landlord. When they made the announcement on Facebook, there was an outpouring of stories, photos, memories and thank you’s.

I would like to add this one more “Thank You” to all that’s been shared to date. I can tell you that I’ve developed, and built on, friendships I cherish and am reassured will last for my lifetime. The familiar feel and welcoming spirit of Fado’s gave us the perfect environment to foster healthy relationships across boundaries.

I know that people are getting together more often now even if it’s virtually. My hope is that the efforts we make to come together intenionally only builds and doesn’t wane when we get back to our old patterns of life and work. I know that I will continue to do my best to bring folks together and hopefully we’ll find a place as great as Fado’s has been to do so.

We all need a Fado’s in our life !! So, I lift a pint and offer Sláinte !!

Our Time is Now !!

Can you feel and see the rumblings of the next phase of the COVID-19 crisis on the horizon? We’ve been in a mix of constant change, uncertainty and regulatory direction. People are getting antsy. People are getting even more expressive and emotional. The feeling isn’t all good either. With the inevitable lifting of restrictions, people are voicing their opinions on timing, the extent of movement and political posturing is growing. To be honest, this next phase can be almost as unsettling as the front part of this time in our history.

We were asked to take drastic and immediate action when this all started, and now we’re asked to slowly return to . . . normal. Let’s be clear – normal isn’t going to be what it was. It just isn’t, and it shouldn’t be !!

I am so pleased that HR has stepped up and into leadership during the crisis. It has been long overdue. There are several blogs which have featured senior HR leaders and how they’ve been the voice of strategy, response and direction. It is unfortunate that we were only looked to as leaders because potential tragedy loomed in organizations and workplaces. I don’t want to take away from any of the great work that has been done to date in the least. The circumstances we find ourselves in have allowed HR to flex their muscles and show how a people-centric approach was needed in our companies. Because, like most issues in the workplace, the center of them is people. It always has been . . . and always will be.

People are now seeing HR as it should be seen. This isn’t a call to take advantage of a crisis. It’s a chance for us to step into leadership because that is the vantage point from which HR operates best.

My hope is that we don’t return to any semblance of normality as HR practitioners. We can’t step away from being leaders. We should take up the same mantle we’ve assumed during this time of crisis and be those who help organizations perform through its people. We need to be present and visible from now on and not shrink back to our places of feeling we’re merely a support function.

Our time is now !!

I mean this with every inch of my being. I am calling out and throwing down the gauntlet to my peers to continue leading in every facet of your work. There is no reason for us to be on the sidelines or in the shadows. We need to break from the traditional pattern of yearning and hope that “one day” we’ll be called upon. That day has arrived. The opportunity which lies before us is wide open and can be defined by us through a continued movement which we are currently facing.

It’s intriguing to me that people are pushing against the boundaries of the restrictions we’ve been placed in to keep us safe. They’re looking for the ability to move around, interact and return to work. There is a palpable energy that is about to be unleashed. We should ride that train of emotion and stop our continued systems of confinement and restriction in HR.

People have been working from home and redefining productivity, innovation, collaboration and connection. So, why would we push for people to get back into their place in line? This is a time for us to unleash the talent which people possess and expect them to continue to produce, develop and grow !!

It’s also time for us to embrace the skill of being agile and adaptable. We were forced into this a few weeks ago, but now we can continue to practice agility and adaptablity !! My good friend Paul Hebert recently wrote a post on HR Examiner asking – “Can HR do their future job?” My answer is a resounding, “YES !!!” There’s absolutely no reason to seek normality. It’s our time to launch forward and construct the new workplace, create the new expectations of performance plus encourage the development of talent throughout the organization.

I plan to move forward. Will you go with me ?? My hope is that we continue to lead, grow and thrive personally, professionally as a global HR community.

Our time is now !!

Praise You !!

This weekend my wife and I took a road trip. We did it for two reasons. One was to get out of the house and just see the world around us. She noted as we were driving that she hadn’t left the house except to go to the grocery store for a month. I was glad I could get her out for a drive. The second reason was more important to be honest. Our daughter lives in Indianapolis and we live in Greater Cincinnati. We’re about two hours from each other. She agreed to meet us halfway to have lunch in a parking lot.

We drove to Batesville, Indiana and met at the LaRosa’s Pizzeria. Yes, it’s one of the locations of the company where I work and it’s also a fave for our family. I was able to run in and check on our Team Members, and get some great food to have brought out to our cars. We never left our car to get close to our daughter because we wanted to maintain social distance and she also works in healthcare. She’s on the front line working with people who are recovering from COVID-19 as an occupational therapist.

It was so great to see her in person !! We’ve been having video chats with both of our kids because we all live in different parts of the country, and we want to stay as safe as possible. We spent an hour and a half talking, checking on her and listening to real world stories of lives being affected. We asked about her co-workers and many of her closest friends who are also in healthcare at various hospitals.

I made sure to do one more thing while I had Melanie “close” to me. I thanked her for all she’s doing. I told her how proud her mother and I were of her going into work everyday during this turbulent time. She appreciated it and said, “Dad, this is where I should be.” (Yes, I got weepy.)

I am so pleased with how people are praising those who are working in all types of industries to help us cope with all that’s going on. People are actually thanking folks they typically ignore. It’s needed now AND into the future !!

You see, we tend to react at heightened levels when situations directly affect us. We’re taking time to thank healthcare workers and deeming them as heroic (which is true !!) We’re thanking those working in restaurants, grocery stores, sanitation, emergency services, education, etc. It’s wonderful to see and it’s also overdue.

We should be grateful and appreciative of every person for the job they do. It shouldn’t occur only because we’re in the thick of a crisis. As the countries around the world are now getting agitated and impatient about not being able to break out of isolation, I’m concerned that when we go back to our normal patterns, this outward level of praise will subside. And, it will subside quickly.

I’m concerned we’ll fall back into our patterns of complaining about our commutes, the co-worker we’ll talk “about” but not to, as well as the things about our job we don’t enjoy. Yes, we want to get back to work and I hope it happens soon as well as safely. The question is – Will we relapse?

You see, when you see parents with kids giving praise is easy. We encourage our kids at every step of any activity. We do this because we want them to respond and understand they’re learning skills and reaching accomplishments. As we grow older, we forsake that pattern and expect people to “get to work” and “stay focused.” Our days are filled with far more converstations that tear people down, and we focus on what isn’t being done versus anything that is being accomplished.

This tidal wave of praise needs to become our norm in every workplace, every industry, every school and every family !! I know that’s a bold ambition, but you have to understand the power of praising others. I heard a person describe praise as “accelerated, amplified gratitude.” How cool is that ??

I am grateful for my daughter and for every person who is working at this difficult and uncertain time. My plan though is to continue to praise everyone for all they do every day. Every. Day. I encourage you to do the same. Let’s not relapse ever again. Value the people in your life for all they do !!

I want to leave you with two reminders going forward. One is the great effort from Workhuman where you can thank healthcare workers. Their effort is called “Thank You Healthcare “. Just click on the title and you can sign up to share some praise and gratitude. Secondly, we all need music to remind us to take action so I leave you with Fatboy Slim . . .

(One thing to note – the people who filmed the video did this as an impromtu flash mob. They’re regular people willing to be bold and express themselves. Note that someone tries to stop them because they’re not acting as they “should” but they aren’t swayed in the least. Enjoy !!)

When It Hits Home

It feels like the world is stuck in quicksand. In some instances it is and its okay to acknowledge that. The rollercoaster of emotions that occur hourly are hard to comprehend. You can go from sadness to joy to concern in a matter of moments. The challenge with this reality is that we think its only occuring within our lives and those who are close to us.

In some ways, we have a built in protection mechanism emotionally that allows us to compartmentalize our experiences. I suppose if we didn’t, we would be swallowed by all that happens around us. At the same time, it appears that this same ability can make us cynical, sarcastic, indignant or disinterested. I know that sounds harsh, but unless a situation affects us personally we may show some empathy, but its often superficial.

Just this past week, I heard news of dear friends whose jobs have been eliminated, not furloughed, eliminated. They have families themselves and it hurts that there is little I can do than offer support from a distance. There’s an immediate reach out to network and connect. A phone call to listen, console and encourage. But, it seems to not be enough.

I know fellow HR peers who have had to make decisions to make layoffs, reduce salaries, while others are trying to hire and address employee relations issues. They go home exhausted, conflicted and pulled in a thousand ways. There are those whose companies are seen as essential and they work with front line people who are doing all they can to care and meet the needs of so many. You can’t even try to define how they are coping with what’s happening to them and to those all around them.

Then, you receive news that you never saw coming. A dear friend passes. Just this Saturday my friend, Chris Fields, died. He happened to be in HR. I love how he described himself on his Twitter profile – “Brother, Uncle, Friend, Master of Labor and Human Resources, Social Media Strategist, Resume Writer.” Chris’s humanity was listed first because that’s who he was. He and I connected years ago when he was just getting connected on social media. I called to get to know him and see how I could support him. We would give each other random calls to see how each other was doing just because.

He called me a little over a week ago to see how I was holding up in the midst of these trying times. I was touched and we talked for almost an hour just talking about life, work, HR and music. On Easter Sunday, another dear friend called me and started the conversation with “Are you sitting down?” That’s never good. She broke the news to me that Chris had passed. She told me another friend has talked to him on Friday and that Chris wasn’t feeling well. Saturday he was gone.

I broke down and cried for hours. It didn’t seem real. It was another piece of news that seem to pile on to the never ending pieces of news happening everywhere.

Please know that the grieving will end and I already fondly remember Chris. He touched so many people’s lives with his business and more importantly his heart and genuine interest in others. I have hope that my friends who have lost jobs will soon find employment once again. And, I have faith that the crisis will end and we will learn how to move foward.

Life happens. It happens to all of us. I want you to remember that. So, when things “hit home” understand that people are going through their own bits of life. Be more sensitive to that when you interact with people now and as we come out of this.

Every day people have life hit home. Knowing that, choose to be someone who encourages others, has a heart to connect and positively impact those around you. This approach is needed at this time and for every day in the future.

A Good Cry

I needed a break. A break from the constant barrage of news, regulations, statistics and a seemingly endless stream of bad news. It’s as if nothing else is happening in the world. Everyone is focused on COVID19 every. single. moment. It’s getting to be too much.

So, I went outside my house to sit on my porch and look at the green grass mixed with the spring flowers and the buds coming out on the trees. The birds were chirping and flying around and a chilly breeze blew across my face. Then I cried. It was wonderful and cleansing.

The beauty of viewing my front yard and escaping the madness that is trying to consume our every thought and conversation was just what I needed. The tears were a bonus. You see, I’m a very emotional person and always have been. I don’t hide it either. Whenever I was watching a television show with my kids and a heartfelt story came on, they’d stop watching the show and say, “Look, there he goes again.” It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is. If it touches my heart, then I will cry.

The level of stress, anxiety and fear we are experiencing personally is unprecendented. Most people have not lived through a situation affecting the entire globe at one time. We should take note because there have always been challenges and daunting circumstances which occur daily. It’s getting our attention now because it is potentially affecting us. It’s a great reminder of why we should ALWAYS be others focused !!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve shed quite a few tears. There hasn’t been a particular reason or negative encounter. I just was about to pop with the swirl of emotions that only seem to escalate and manifest themself during every second of the day. I’ve found myself to be restless when I try to sleep which rarely happened in the past. I may have had a handful of times where I was anxious or anticipating what may occur the next day, but those were exceptions.

During this trying time, we need to take note that we’re not the only ones experiencing these heightened emotions. Everyone is. Everyone. We need to come to terms that expressing ourselves is normal and “allowed.” We grandly state that we want our employees to bring 100% of who they are to the workplace (except for their humanity and their emotions.) Sound harsh? It’s true. We want people to “tone it down” and be about their work, and their work alone.

Well, just like we didn’t anticipate forced telework, we’re now experiencing the full tidal wave of emotions that are always present in people. The only difference is that the daunting environment we’re all facing is lowering the walls so that these emotions can come out. I think it’s great and overdue. You can’t turn off emotions because we’re . . . . human. We were created and built filled with a full range of emotions. They bring us joy, show our anger or concern and allow us to share our fear, sadness and empathy.

HR it’s time we embrace the reality of emtions in ourselves and in our people. In my opinion, we can’t be effective business leaders when we try to supress the natural humanity brimming inside us. Trust me, my boss has often said, “Now, I know you’re going to cry about this . . .,” but he embraces who I am. It’s not seen as a fault or a weekness. It also doesn’t diminish my effectiveness to perform, make decisions or be rational. It does verify my humanity.

I know that practicing HR during this crisis is something none of us were prepared for. How could we be? However, we can choose how to face this. You have to uncork your emotions is a safe way. If you don’t you’ll take it out on others around you, or you’ll seek behaviors that may not be healthy for you either.

We can’t take care of others unless we take care of ourselves.

So, when you start to well up and you feel the first tears puddle up at the corner of your eyes – have a good cry. You’ll be glad you did !!

Do Good. Be Kind.

How are you holding up? It’s a question we should be asking everyone we know. I’m positive I never thought I’d live to see a situation where all of life as we know it was altered in a matter of days. So, how are you holding up?

I think this is more important to know than “how are you doing?” I’m sure even in the midst of all that is occurring we’d give folks a positive nod of “I’m good” whether that was the case or not. I hope you are holding up well even though we are surrounded by stress, anxiety and uncertainty because things seem to still be a bit unknown. There is an overwhelming wave of “information”, but most are starting to get numb to the barrage. We’re all yearning for distractions of some sort.

This Friday, I had one of those needed distractions and it changed me. Literally changed me.

As I ventured out to the end of my suburban driveway to check the mail, I turned around and a pretty substantial box was sitting on my front porch. The deliverer didn’t ring my doorbell or knock on the door to say something had arrived. In today’s climate, that’s very understandable. I was curious because I hadn’t ordered anything. I grabbed it and took it to my kitchen island eager to see what was inside.

When I opened the box, my jaw dropped to the floor. I couldn’t believe all that was waiting inside !! There were two beautiful tie-dye shirts (which only adds to my collection), a mug, a notebook, some stickers, a button to wear and several Smarties candies. It was so cool and I was honestly speechless. Not only was the swag cool, the slogan grabbed me because I knew who it was from.

My friend, Chris Kurtz, started a company called Do Good. Be Kind. I’ve only connected with him, so far, online through Twitter. I was drawn to Chris because of his approach, his message and his general sense of being a positive and encouraging human. He sent me this care package because he thought that I fit his message and vibe as well. To say I was humbled wouldn’t be an accurate enough sentiment.

I instantly went out to the company’s website here and took in every aspect. I was floored to see how their efforts are touching schools, students and businesses. The message of “Do Good. Be Kind.” is not only needed now in a time of crisis, but it’s something we should live daily from now on. Think of it in the perspectives of your life at home, your community and your workplace.

Seriously, what would your company culture and HR look like if you lived the mantra of doing good every day with all of your efforts and interactions? How about if you were kind with every employee including those you find difficult?

Remember this always – HR is the ONLY profession where they get to work with every, single person within the organization.

With that knowledge imagine how fulfilled you, and those with whom you interact, would be because the foundation of your behavior is – Do Good. Be Kind. This next week I want you to go to Chris’ company’s site and look around to see how you can get connected yourself. Check out their incredible story, visit their shop and get some swag yourself that you can both display and share.

I’m grateful for everyone who is in HR and am thankful that we’re peers. Trust me in that I will continue to live this approach myself and know you will thrive if you do as well !!

Getting Together !!

As I write this, the entire world has changed. It’s unprecedented and has caused an environment of isolation in order to hopefully ensure safety in the long-term. Emotions range from anxiety and fear to confidence and hope. The whole situation has caused us to reevaluate how work is done and what we focus on in life in general.

I have to say that in the midst of this challenging time, I love that people are finding ways to get together even though it’s not in person. There are folks having virtual happy hours and coffee clubs. This is so encouraging because I’ve always been someone who believes that we are wired to be connected as people. This is true for everyone.

Cheers during our Zoom chat !!

Recently I joined a Zoom call with a group of friends who happen to also be in HR that have been daily connected for the past 3+ years. We have a GroupMe and talk every day. Every. Day. Even with that, we felt the need to see and hear each other. In moments we were laughing, telling stories and checking in on how we’re responding to everything going on around us. We talked for 1 1/2 hours !! It was magnificent in every possible way. We got to see each other’s houses even though we live all across the country. This made sense to get together because it’s what we’re used to.

The inaugural #HRPubQuiz !!

Then, yesterday I joined a chat that was predominantly made up of friends I’ve only “met” on social media from the UK. Selena Govier put out a call to have an HR Pub Quiz which she was going to run virtually. So, at 9:00pm GMT the quiz began with five rounds of ten questions. This was great because I got to see and hear the voices of friends I’ve only seen online !! The questions were tough because I’m in the US and don’t have a ton of knowledge of UK only trivia. It didn’t matter one bit because we also laughed and had fun sharing all of the answers. I scored a 22 out of 53 and was pretty geeked about that. Selena plans to have the #HRPubQuiz each week while we’re all at our homes.

Hanging with the State Line Crew !!

Once that wrapped up, another group of HR friends who identify as the #StateLineCrew had a chat as well. They are near the border between Illinois and Wisconsin, and the person putting the call together asked if I could join as a surprise. She also reached out to friends in Virginia and South Dakota to join in. We had another hour of rich conversation, laughter and some commiserating because that was a welcomed relief. It was a great reminder that HR folks don’t have a ton of people they can share with inside their organization because of the nature of the work we do.

No one really knows how long we’ll be apart from each other as this global crisis continues. So, take the time to get together virtually with your family, friends and co-workers. With technology there are no geographic boundaries to stop you. Put together a video chat or use social media forums to connect. Invite others and ask them to join in with you.

This is a time for us to make sure everyone is noticed and included. Having gatherings like this is worth your time because you’ll feel encouraged, connected and know that we’re in this together. Reach out !! I know I will be.

Hornets Nest !!

My wife and I are following a typical pattern that happens once your kids grow up and move out on their own. We’ve been in our home since 1991 and I’m very fond of it. I love the neighborhood, our yard and the house itself. Debbie and I were chatting and she said, “It’s time we either moved and downsized (the typical pattern) or remodel and update.” After some consideration of both options, we chose to remodel.

So, we’re going to update our kitchen and our family room. This is a major undertaking because it means we’ll be “living” in our basement for 6 to 8 weeks IF everything stays on schedule AND there are no surprises. Are you someone who watches the home improvement shows on HGTV? We are. Now, I know that it’s television and I’m sure things are staged and filmed in such a way to keep your attention, but it seems that some unknown challenge pops up that no one expected.

This past Saturday, we had our contractor start the work at hand by tearing down the drywall ceiling in our kitchen. Our house was built in 1977 and there are many lingering and dated features such as a stamped ceiling. The two young men made quick work of their task and had the ceiling down and cleaned up in about two hours. When they finished, their dad who leads this family owned business, shared with me what they found.

A picture of our unexpected “guests.”

The ceiling is filled with HVAC ducts, various pipes for plumbing and electrical components. We’re trying to see if we can relocate things to get the ceiling raised to match the rest of the house. As he was walking me through everything, he casually remarked, “Oh yeah, you have a large dormant hornets nest that we found in the soffit.” He, and the boys, didn’t seem fazed in the least. I’m sure they’ve seen all types of things. This was just like the HGTV shows !!

As with most things, finding the hidden hornets nest, reminded me of HR. Based on the size of what was uncovered, the hornets have been nestled in our wall for quite some time. We never have seen any hornets in the house or flying around. That didn’t make the discovery any less disturbing though.

In HR we have similar experiences. Hornets nests are well hidden and disguised within the mix of work environments. You may hear the buzz of something going on, but you’re not sure where the nest exists. A hornet or two may escape and sting you, but you don’t think a bigger problem could be present. When you do find the nest, chances are a swarm happens and a full-on attack occurs !! This isn’t good because your natural reaction is to overreact just to get the hornets off you. This is when senseless knee jerk policies and programs come to life.

You can help prevent the construction of hornets nests by two actions that may seem simple. They are, but the practice is not as easy.

Be Out with Your Employees

This isn’t “new”, but we find more excuses to avoid getting out among our people than we do in putting in intentional time to do this. The more you are out with the “hornets”, the more you’ll be in the know. People will be less likely to sting others when they know their HR person genuinely wants to know who they are and what’s going on in their lives. Stop feeling you are handcuffed by your work. People need to be your focus all the time, not in just reacting to situations.

Listen to Hear, Not to Solve

We are impatient. It doesn’t matter what role you fill or level in which you work. There is an invisible pull of time that keeps us from having meaningful conversations with others. Once we talk to people we tend to come up with a solution in about three words before any full message is even communicated. The majority of people just want to be heard. That’s all. They’re not looking for you to solve or fix them. Taking this approach will relieve so many potential nesting activities that it’s worth trying. You’ll be pleased when you do !!

So, I’m calling a professional exterminator to come to my house to remove our nest. He is sure to have expertise I don’t. Hopefully, he’ll also be able to find the source of where the critters came in my house. I’m hoping we don’t encounter any more surprises during our remodel. We’ll have to wait and see !!

Travels

This past weekend I happened to travel. I’ve come a long way personally when it comes to trips. I used to get very anxious about almost every aspect from finding a place to park at an airport to talking to a desk clerk at a hotel. It’s not rational. I know that. I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m an uber-extrovert. I easily approach folks and find it energizing to meet strangers and get to know about them. So, the anxiety I experienced while traveling was even more troubling because in every other situation I rarely hesitate to interact with others.

Over the years in my volunteer roles with SHRM, I had to face my anxiety more and more. As I took on larger positions, travel became much more regular. Fortunately, I have a dear friend who was patient with me who taught me how to have confidence during my travels. I learned how to not get overwhelmed and started enjoying the time I had in airports and in new geographic locations. Now, I’m at a much different place because I’ve put in place some simple patterns I follow to keep things in order. You have to understand that this is a giant challenge for me because I tend to be carefree and spontaneous.

Since I’m more at ease with travel, I’ve slipped back into what I normally do – observe others. I’m an avid people watcher !! People fascinate me. I love seeing how everyone is unique in their appearance and their approach to traveling themselves. The vast majority of people have a destination mindset. They will do all they can to get through security quickly and without incident because they don’t want to slow down. Once they’ve cleared this first hurdle, they keep their head down and their pace increases as they dash to their gate. If anything inhibits people, they will audibly huff, groan or sigh. They only care about their destination and everyone else is honestly seen as being in their way.

I get it. I see the anxiety and stress on the faces and in the voices of my fellow travelers. I’m not judging because there are so many factors that can upset your plans. You’re hoping for each moment to go smoothly, and you convince yourself that something will go wrong. Unfortunately, it can. The volume of people who are traveling is only increasing and many of the systems are over capacity or not modernized. Also, not one airport is the same. There is variety in how everything is handled.

Because I know my triggers, I’ve learned to be more patient with other travelers. I’ve also decided to show grace, appreciation and thanks to those who help us along the gauntlet from the parking lot to our final destinations. The employees on the travel side get bombarded with all of the people who are wired and on edge. They deserve to be treated well instead of launched upon. Many of the delays and idiosyncrasies that pop up are out of their control.

This past weekend I noticed a piece of art which captured who I try to be and how I thought I’d travel. I’ve seen it in the past, but it truly caught my eye this time. I’m sure I’ve missed so much in airports, hotels and even the towns I’ve gone to because I was focused on arriving more than enjoying the journey. That’s a shame. It truly is.

I’ve been doing my best to keep my eyes and ears open so I can take in the experience around me far more than worrying about where my gate is. I’ve found that it’s lowered by stress, anxiety and probably my blood pressure. I don’t want to miss the people, sights and interactions that swirl around me. I am now embracing the pace with all of it’s chaos.

It’s a great reminder to use this same approach at home with my wife, at work with my peers and out in public. This week I hope you slow down and calm down. Life is short. We casually say this all the time, but we don’t take steps to do anything about it and savor where we are and who we’re with. Change that today. Our lives can be full and abundant if we embrace the experience during all of our travels as well as our destinations !!

The Music in You !!

This past weekend my wife and I were invited to a friend’s house. We’ve known this family for 20+ years and our children grew up together. It’s not uncommon for all of us to see each other from time to time, but this was a momentous occasion. Their oldest son, DJ, is a junior at Miami University majoring in Piano Performance. We were invited to come over to see a preview of his junior recital.

I was so geeked to be able to attend because I knew he had been working very hard to get ready for this show. This preview would give us a glimpse of his real performance that will occur next week. As we entered their house, we were given a program DJ had composed sharing his theme of the recital and the pieces he’d be playing. The theme is “In der Nacht” (At night) and had pieces from Johann Sebastian Bach, Sergei Prokofiev, Ludwig van Beethoven and Robert Schumann. The house was filled with family and friends who caught up on life, shared stories and our anticipation of the in-house concert we were about to witness.

DJ showing us his incredible talent !!

We all took a seat around a well-worn grand piano which engulfs the family room. As DJ came into the room, he set up a camera to videotape his performance and the room fell silent as he addressed us. He told us the inspiration of his recital theme and why he chose each musical piece. He encouraged us to read the descriptions he had written so we could try to hear the music as he did with its variation of emotion and the “stories” they each told. After he set the stage for his performance, he turned toward the keyboard, took a seat on the piano bench, stretched his arms and fingers, and then lightly placed his hands above the keys. He drew in a deep breath and let loose !!

You need to get some context about the difficulty and complexity of DJ’s recital. The first piece by Bach has seven movements alone. The Prokofiev piece is radically opposed in style and pace to the Bach suite. Beethoven’s sonata has two masterful sections, and the Schumann piece has eight sections. I followed the sheet music from the Schumann piece which is over 30 pages long. DJ had memorized the entire recital. The ENTIRE thing !! There wasn’t one piece of sheet music used. He played for 45 minutes and it was simply magnificent. When he finished the last piece, tears were streaming down my face.

DJ’s talent was evident. I can’t imagine how much practice occurred to get to the stage we witnessed. It had to be hours upon hours. I was touched about his performance for a few reasons. First and foremost, I was proud of him because I’ve been in his life since his birth. To see him reach this level of accomplishment was personally fulfilling. I was proud of him as were his parents and everyone who had gathered.

Secondly, his performance gave me a picture of looking at talent. You see I play the piano. I took lessons for eight years from Mrs. Lindemann. She was a dear older woman who taught me scales, notes and songs in the hope that I’d learn how to play proficiently. I can still “play” but I never reached the same expertise as DJ. I never had wanted to put in the time and dedication needed. I enjoy playing, but it’s more of a hobby for me.

That is how talent works. Both DJ and I can use that same 88 keys to make music. Where he can play Bach as it was written, I can play some songs from my youth that interested me from Billy Joel and various rock artists. The instrument is a common tool for us to use, but the type and level of our talent is vastly different. Each one of us has the ability to bring music out from pounding the keys to release the hammers upon the piano’s strings.

In organizations, we try to evaluate, measure and judge the talent of people. Instead of releasing their talent, we do our best to confine and restrict it in order to keep some misaligned semblance of order. What if we saw each of our employees as a keyboard just waiting to be played? What would happen if we allowed them to share their talent in the manner they did best? Can you imagine the incredible variety, creativity and ingenuity that could be released?

It’s time we gave our people the tools they need in order for them to share the music locked in each one of them. They all have a recital ready to perform. They know each note and their contributions will range from the majesty of the most complex classical composition to the simplest banging out of Chopsticks. Each song that comes forth is needed in order for the good work of organizations to perform and move forward.

This week pull up a bench in front of the proverbial keyboards in your workplace and encourage everyone to sit down and start playing. Release the talent that is all around you. When you do, you’ll see that you’ve been surrounded by virtuosos this entire time !!

Just to give you a taste of the recital I heard, here’s a video of another pianist playing the Prokofiev sonata DJ shared. Enjoy !!