It’s okay to ask “Why ??”

My wife and I are fortunate to have two amazing kids !!  They do well in school, are active in our church and our community.  I’m proud to say that.  For those of you who have kids, or if you’ve even been a kid, you know that kids ask one question infinitely.  “Why ??!!”

It doesn’t matter if things are crystal clear and there’s no reason for this question, it happens anyway.  More often than not, I just want them to do what I say and have some faith that I am not leading them down some dark path with my request to clean their room.

Recently, I heard a presentation where the speaker pulled back my eyelids on this question that often seems so annoying.  He explained that people in the workplace ask “Why” because they’re seeking context, not to annoy.  They want to understand the reasoning for decisions.  Seems to be a great trait actually.  I actually agree with him and when I sat back to think about it, I ask “why” all the time.  So, why do I get annoyed when others do it?

I think it goes back to the feeling that we’d like people just to do what we say when we say it.  If we have to spend time explaining things, then that means we’ve lost time doing something else that “matters.”

It’s time for all of our eyelids to be pulled back in HR.  If we’re not asking why for context, and even to challenge, then we can’t expect the status quo to ever move.  Just going along with everything doesn’t show well and we shouldn’t settle and sit back.  Also, we can foster a culture where it’s not only safe for employees to ask “why,” but it’s encouraged !!

If we continue to promote that we want a learning environment that focuses on development, then we must allow people to ask “why.”  What are we afraid of if we did this?  If employees felt safe, and inquired about their work, wouldn’t there be a greater chance of an enriched workforce?  How cool would that be?

So, start a new behavior today and allow people to ask that infinite question. This time when it’s asked, answer them.  Give them context and see what happens.  I think you’ll enjoy the results !!

Put a Little Love . . .

This past weekend I was at the University of Indianapolis with my daughter who decided after this visit to join them next year as a Freshman.  It’s a time of transition for me, my family and my daughter.  Why should that matter to anyone but us ??

Good question.  You see, I’m experiencing a “transition” in my personal life and it just hit me because SEVERAL of my friends have been facing transitions as well.  Just this past month the following has happened:  four HR friends lost their jobs, one HR friend lost her father and another his mother-in-law, three HR friends are struggling with their marriages and/or divorce.  It shouldn’t matter . . . but it does !!

As HR people we don’t take time to know what’s really going on in people’s lives because we think it takes too much time.  Also, if we know about what’s happening we might have to DO something with that information.  Another pressure we face is we have managers who think that personal situations just get in the way of work that REALLY matters.  Ironically, if a personal situation comes up that involves them personally, then they want us to take note.  Huh !!

What would happen if we did take notice of people’s personal situations?  I don’t mean to take it to a creepy level.  Instead, I propose this.  Take note of the various highs/lows that people choose to share and SHOW GENUINE INTEREST instead of passing glances and quick “Hello’s”.  We keep asking people to handle change, and yet we ignore the transitions and changes that are happening to them everyday.  Just by listening, we may relieve the anxiety, pressure and uncertainty of what they’re facing.  I take great joy in laughing with, crying with and rejoicing with people I work with and know that because those events truly matter to them, they likewise matter to me.

You can’t keep asking people to put the “H” back in HR if you aren’t willing to model it yourself.  It made me think of the great 70’s song “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.”  I love the Annie Lennox/Al Green version (in this link).

So, I’m excited about the new transition about to happen as my daughter continues to grow and head off to college next year.  I’m excited about your transitions too because it truly makes “the world a better place for you . . . and me . . . you just wait . . . and see !!”

Are you full ??

This past weekend I had a real treat by spending it in Amish Country in Ohio.  It gives a whole new perspective on life because this culture chooses to live life differently than the vast majority of us !!

This post isn’t a commentary on the Amish, but it is an observation.  As I watched the buggies passing me by and sampling way too much amazing cheese, I noticed a sense of contentment that I don’t see in many people.  These good folks lives are not only are based on their faith, but also on what they choose what to fill their lives with.  The brash realities of a world that exists in a completely opposite realm faces them every day, and yet they continue to live their lives with pride.

As an HR practitioner, much of my day is surrounded by people – and I dig that !!  One of the true challenges I run into is how to respond to people who consistently seem frustrated with almost all aspects of their work and the people they work with.  The more I listen, and sometimes pry, I notice a pattern.  Much of their frustration is based on the sense that they’re “too busy” and “no one understands.”

When I step back from these conversations I try to look and see what is making them “busy.”  All of us are full.  No one says they have extra time on their hands – quite the contrary.  But, what are we filled with?  Are the things that consume our daily lives productive, or not?  It’s not hard to fill your day with “stuff,” or to focus on the areas you’re most comfortable.  It’s human nature.

But, what if we sat down and made a list (paper or electronic) of what our day consists of?  Would we like what we see?  Do we like what we fill our lives at work with?  Too often I hear people churn on what isn’t happening, or what’s not being done.  There’s validity in that, but the approach isn’t constructive.  Making strides forward with intent with what you have available (culture, resources, staff, etc.) is much healthier.

It reminds me of the good people I was with this weekend.  Maybe we would all benefit if we were a little more “full” like the Amish.  What do you think?

It’s Been Quite a Year !!

One year ago, I jumped into the blogosphere after I received my site as an incredible gift from my sister-in-law, Kathi Browne.  Quick side note – she’s incredibly talented and I think you should click through on this link to get more connected to an incredible business and HR resource  . . . but I digress.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect entering the world of blogging.  It was daunting to be honest because I read the great work of so many each day.   I wanted to make sure that this wasn’t a hobby, but would strive to be three things: genuine, consistent and encouraging.

I understand that there are many things in business and HR that raise both concerns and frustrations.  I’m not naive, and I experience those things in my roles both as an HR Director and in my volunteer life with SHRM and Boy Scouts.  The difference is that I choose to take a different path, and suppose I always have.

There are more opportunities to be positive than people choose to take.  It isn’t how most people look at things, and that’s a shame.  So, as I enter my next year of blogging please note that I hope to lift our profession up even more and move it ahead.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t have a critical eye toward things, but it does allow you to approach things differently.

Thanks for sticking with me this first year.  I truly appreciate everyone who chooses to read this blog.  I hope that we continue to connect.  If you feel so inclined, drop me a line at sbrowne@larosas.com or write a comment.  Connect on Linked In, Twitter, Facebook, or join the HR Net, etc.  We can only get better as a profession if we do it together.

Until next week . . . and hopefully years to come . . . Peace to all !!

Connecting the Dots !!

Most people start the New Year with resolutions that quickly fade or fail leaving people with a feeling of sluggishness.  Sweet !!

I want to offer an alternative and that is to make 2012 intentional !!  Let’s start with a story . . .

I went to SHRM Leadership this past fall with other SHRM State and Chapter leaders and directors.  Many people spent time with folks from their own state or region because they’re familiar with each other and it is a great time to get away.  I, on the other hand, spent much of my time meeting great folks from Illinois, Florida, Alaska, Kansas, SHRM staff, etc.  I couldn’t get enough of meeting HR folks from other areas to see how we connect.  To me, this was the best way to spend time because there are so many amazing HR pros all over that do great things.  I had to see what they were doing.

So, I’d like to throw out this challenge (and opportunity) to all of you in the HR community – In 2012, start connecting the dots !!

I know that the whole “social media” thing can be overwhelming and noisy.  However, I find there are  folks developing and sharing great content that you can use in many facets of our work.  We need to stop thinking that isolation works for us as a profession and do what we can to be more connected.

Now, I’m not sure what that looks like for you, but let me list some suggestions:

  • If you’re someone who reads blogs – take a step and leave a comment.  Bloggers love to hear from folks who read their work.  If you feel compelled, then comment.
  • If you haven’t been to a local HR forum, then go to one.  Try them out and see where you can connect in person with other great HR folks !!
  • If you haven’t been to a conference or Unconference, then make plans to go to one this year.  You’ll find incredible people, just like you, connecting and learning more to advance the profession.
  • If you haven’t met folks in person, then take the steps to do that !!  One of the true highlights I had in 2011 was meeting social media HR folks in person.  It has led to incredible personal and professional relationships.
  • If you’ve just been service oriented in HR at work, change that and be intentional !!  Organizations expect HR to be dynamic, relevant and integrated.  Take the steps to make that happen !!

It’s just a start, but I hope that you take the next step to be more intentional.  I’ve already been making plans to meet more great HR folks in person and I’m using the same list for myself.  It’s time to take action !!  Will you join me ??

Believe in Miracles !!

Normally, I don’t post twice in a week. My “regular” day to compose is Sunday. But, with Christmas Day being Sunday, I won’t be posting.  There’s a much bigger reason for this that deserves a story . . .

 In 1993, my wife and I had her extended family over for Christmas Eve and were preparing the obligatory feast when my wife exclaimed, “Steve, I think my water just broke !!”  You see, we were expecting our first child who wasn’t due until mid-January of 1994.  She asked, “What should we do?”  And, being the ever empathetic husband, I said, “Let’s eat !!” – and we did.  We shared our meal with our family, calmed down, and then we headed down the highway to the hospital.

That year in Cincinnati we had snow and ice all over.  Did you know that you can travel without much traffic on a Christmas Eve night even in bad weather?  I think we saw 10 cars in the twenty mile trek we had to the hospital.  During our trip my wife was riding next to me crying.  She didn’t want our child to be born on Christmas.  We talked about every bad scenario about how our child would be “cheated” because their birthday was on a holiday.  Odd, that we weren’t focusing on the amazing miracle about to happen !!  When we arrived at the hospital, my wife was one of two women who were about to give birth.

Our beautiful daughter, Melanie, waited the night and arrived early Christmas morning !!  It was amazing and something I will never forget or regret.  Here she was five weeks early, and the best Christmas present I will EVER receive !!

She was cooing and healthy when she was carted down the hall to the nursery.  After giving my wife a kiss for making it through the delivery like a champ, I wandered down the hall to get another glimpse of my daughter.  There was fresh snow on the trees, buildings and streets that I saw in the hallway window as I sauntered down to see her.  It was just like the movies.  And then . . . the miracle.

Looking through the nursery window, I saw my daughter stuffed into a large stocking being held by Santa Claus in a rocking chair.  Tears exploded from my eyes.  I couldn’t believe what I saw sitting before me.  Santa looked up at me, smiled, hugged my daughter and waved to me as if to acknowledge the beautiful gift of life that came to us that morning.

I ran down the hall to tell my wife what I just saw.  I ran back to see if I could get a picture, and he was gone.  Of course he was because he was off to do what Santa does for all families and children.

Our “miracle” turns 18 on Sunday.  This stocking baby is now a young woman about to embark on her next stage in life when she leaves our home to attend college in the Fall after graduating in the Spring.  She is amazing and continues to be a blessing to me and all she touches.

I wanted to thank all of you who take the time to read this blog.  I value each one of you and want to wish you, and yours, a blessed Christmas and Holiday season !!  May the coming year be filled with miracles for all of you !!

What Are YOU Looking For ??

This weekend my son and I had to catch the opening of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  My quick review is that it is AWESOME !!  Visually beautiful, great story, action and intrigue.  But that’s not the focus of this post.

In the movie, Holmes sees everything !!  Subtle clues abound even in the midst of constant, heart-pounding action.  By following them, he is able to deduce the intentions of his archenemy, Professor Moriarty.  Nothing is missed and everything has meaning.

Now to a real life story . . .

This Friday, I met a friend at one of our LaRosa’s restaurants for lunch.  Service was spectacular from everyone involved and the food was great.  Yes, I know I’m biased, but I wasn’t the only one who saw this.  My friend asked me if the manager knew that I worked for LaRosa’s in HR.  I told him that I hadn’t met the manager on duty, but knew his name.  I explained that I like to just go to our locations and be more low key.  I don’t want to add any undue pressure.

After the manager had stopped by our table to ask how things were, he did something wonderful (as we both observed).  Instead of doing the “How are things?” and pass by before an answer’s even given, he stood and talked to us.  He waited for our response and then talked some more.  My friend exclaimed, “I love when they do that!  When someone takes the time to truly see how things are is what I expect.  This is great !!”

After my friend left, the restaurant, I walked back into the kitchen and introduced myself.  The reaction from the manager and the Team Members around him is what I’m used to.  It’s the “Oh no, it’s HR !!  I wonder what he wants ??”  I reassured him that I was just meeting someone for lunch, but wanted to share how amazing the service was and my friend’s positive reaction to his experience.  The manager glowed.  The “barriers” of talking to HR dropped, and we talked as people (as it should be).

So, what are YOU looking for ??  My friend and I expected to have a great time together at our restaurant, and we did.  The employees were all performing and people were doing a great job.

Do you look for the great things ??  Maybe it’s time we all did this a little more . . .

Image Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

Have You Played Lately ??

I have !!  Man, the past few weeks have been full of FUN !! And, I work in HR !!  How cool is that?

We had our Christmas Party for our store Managers at Star Lanes at Newport on the Levee.  There was bowling, eating and billiards surrounded by tons of laughter and stories.  It was very casual and loads of fun !!

I also had the privilege of speaking at the chapter meeting of the Greater Cincinnati HR Association (GCHRA) and the event sold out !! Yikes !!  The presentation was on Leadership through HR, and I had a blast.  Lots of laughter, stories and food !!

Then, this weekend I went to the National Museum of the US Air Force on the Wright Patterson Air Force Base with my Boy Scout Troop.  We went through the miles of planes and years of history on a scavenger hunt, took in an IMAX movie and even got to tour through past Air Force One planes.  The boys (and certain adults) let their imaginations run wild and pretend we were fighter pilots.  We all picked our favorite planes that we just HAD to have !!  Again, more laughing, fun and memories.

The ironic thing during all of these activities . . . no one got hurt.  No one was upset.  No one was negative.

It made me start to reflect about what we do in HR.  Is it fun?  Do we allow people to play?  Or, are our processes more important than people?

How about our Associations, Conferences and gatherings?  Fun ?? Parts of them are, but there are also a myriad of rules and structures with good intentions, but limit people from enjoying themselves.

Why is this?  Is someone playing at work, or having fun that threatening?  I’ve said this before. Do you know what happens to kids when they grow up?  They become our employees !!

This week start a new practice before people make silly New Year’s Resolutions that they will strive to break vs. keep.

Have fun at work !!  Quit looking for others to engage you.  Be engaged first yourself !!  Fun is different for all of us, but look around at your company’s culture and see if it fosters creativity or compliance – innovation or conformity.

I plan to play more and more and pull others along with me. Let’s see who’s more productive in the end !!

 

Get rid of the “n’ts” !!

This may seem like an odd title, but I was slapped back into reality at our OHSHRM Leadership Day for Chapter Presidents.  We had a great, upbeat day which featured a Leadership Bootcamp lead by Tom Terez to open and then Bruce Boguski to close with a great motivational piece about how we approach each day as people in HR and our lives in general.

One item Bruce hit on is the words we use.  Seems simple, but it’s amazing how many negative words just fill each and every moment of our days.  We use these words when we talk about others and even ourselves.  It was especially telling when he asked us to reflect on these words in our work as HR professionals and leaders.

What are the words ??  You know them all too well.  Most of them end in “n’t”. Words like “Don’t”, “Can’t”, “Shouldn’t”, “Couldn’t”, “Won’t” . . .

Does this sound familiar?  You wake up to head to work and you tell youself you don’t want to deal with so-and-so today . . . You can’t handle how another department is handling a certain situation . . . etc.

When you sit back and think of how many “n’t” words fill every sentence that we use, you’ll be shocked.  (I had to really had to be intentional in writing this post to see if I could even do it without n’t words other than for examples !!)

Now, think about our HR practices and policies.  The vast majority of the ones I see are written with more don’ts vs. do’s.  If we continue to approach our employees with what they can’t, or shouldn’t, do – how can we expect them to look at what they do from a positive perspective ??

It’s time for us to change this !! We can, and should, be genuinely positive !! Who says that we have to continue to go with the flow of darkness that seems to take up most aspects of media, entertainment and culture?

We’ve come to a point where positive people bother us.  Well, I plan to bother people.  A LOT of people !!

It’s a real challenge, and I’m only one day into it, but I’m going to do my best to reduce and get rid of the “n’ts” – I hope you join me !!  Think how much better our workplaces would be if HR took this approach !!

You can count on me !!

You may, or may not know, that I am an incredible music freak !!  I can’t get enough of it and this Thanksgiving weekend a true classic popped into my head – Count on Me by Jefferson Starship.

When my extended family gathers for either Thanksgiving or Christmas, we call it BIG Thanksgiving or BIG Christmas because there are so many family members that attend.  Before we eat and open with a prayer, we count off – literally.  We have had a few family members pass away over the years, but we never stray from this tradition.

So, it begins 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . . . etc. until we get around the oval. (It’s never a circle because there are too many folks.)  This year we had 35 and it’s been as high as 60.  Included are aunts, uncles, cousins, their kids, and starting this year the newest generation has it’s first engaged couple.

I know that you need to be careful about what you do/don’t share on-line, but I’m 47 years old and completely cool with that.  If you met me you’d say I’m at least 28, so age is not the focus here. My family has been getting together intentionally between 50 to 60 years because I have aunts, uncles and cousins older than I am.

Think about that.  Being together, intentionally, for 5 to 6 decades and NEVER missing a holiday.  We’re not unique in this and I’m sure there are families who have met for centuries, but the point of the gathering is this . . . we COUNT on each other to be there all the time.

It’s a great example for you personally as well as an HR professional.  You NEED to be counted on, and others NEED to count on you !!  Too many employees are out on their own within a company and they need someone they can rely on.  Remember, you aren’t their for Management, nor are you there for employees.  You’re there for EVERYONE !!

Is that how you approach HR?  Have you even stepped back to look lately?  Just think how HR would be viewed in organizations if people knew they could be counted on !!

This week, start something new and reach out to someone in our profession and get connected. Be someone that others can count on !!