Peace of Mind !!

When we in the wacky world of HR talk about the importance of “engagement,” are we talking about others or ourselves?

Seriously.  I’ve been really contemplating this lately and I continue to feel perplexed when I see Conference sessions, blog posts, and white papers on the importance of engagement, but it always seems to be about someone else.

If HR isn’t engaged, why should we expect others to be engaged?  Have you asked yourself if you really love being in HR?  Don’t get me wrong, this is not a “why people hate HR” post.  This is a challenge to see if you’re truly in the field you enjoy.  I find that the people who manage their careers the worst are people in HR.  We will go out of our way to help others in their career endeavors, but we shy away from taking this and being intentional.

Remember – If you don’t manage your career . . . it will manage you !!

I’ve learned this through personal experience and also from watching others who continue to state that they struggle with being effective in our field.  Trust me, there’s no other field I’d rather be in !!

I keep seeing posts encouraging people to attend #SHRM11 and I hope that people do because events like this can be spectacular . . . with a catch.  If you aren’t going to forums like this to network, seek great professional development and also learn to be a better HR professional, then you’re just missing out.  Take these opportunities to move yourself ahead so that, in turn, you can return to your company to move them ahead as well !!

I think we all need to be comfortable “in our own skin” when it comes to being in HR and to quit apologizing for it.  I think it was captured best by one of my favorite bands, Boston, in their classic Peace of Mind:

“Now if you’re feelin’ kinda low ’bout the dues you’ve been paying

Future’s coming much too slow

And you wanna run but somehow you just keep on stayin’

Can’t decide on which way to go

Yeah, yeah, yeah

I understand about indecision

But I don’t care if I get behind

People livin’ in competition

All I want is to have my peace of mind.”

So, take some time to reflect.  Get rid of any indecision.  It would be great to look around in our field and see people who really had that peace of mind to make HR rock !!  Come on and join in !!

 

Time . . . flowing like a river

Growing up I distinctly remember Alan Parsons Project and their classic ballad Time.  The lyrics that start the song say:

“Time flowing like a river, Time beckoning me; Who knows when we shall meet again, if ever; But time keeps flowing like a river to the sea.”

I was reminded of this ballad this weekend when I went on a college visit with my amazing daughter to my Alma Mater, the wonderful Ohio University.  To say I was geeked would not be a good enough word !!  I wanted to show her everything that I remembered.  The classrooms, College Green, West Green, the Convocation Center – just everything.  As I pulled in I was captured in my memories, but some things looked different.  I shouldn’t have been surprised having graduated back in 1986, things would have to change, but it still surprised me.

The architecture was the same.  The beauty of the mature trees was still there, but there were new things.  Really cool things like the amazing Baker University Center. The new features on campus really did make it better and, even though is altered my memory of the past, I liked the new additions and even wished that some of them had been around when I went to OU.

Oddly enough, it reminded me of work places today and how HR likes to hold onto the past.  We are notorious for it.  We come up with an amazing Performance Review system that we did back in 1986 and we wonder why people think it’s stale today.  You can pick almost any area of HR and it seems that practitioners lag in moving things forward.  What we don’t realize is that the business environment will change around us whether we want it to or not.

So, we can embrace the new environment, or better yet, we can stay on the leading edge and create it !!  Time will keep flowing either way.

This college visit opened my eyes to two things – (1) My family gets to enter a new and exciting stage with our oldest child entering a new phase of her own and (2) the past is great, but the future is so much brighter !!

She hasn’t chosen her college yet, but she has enough Bobcat paraphernalia to give her a daily hint . . .  Oh, yes, one other thing.  I did manage to pick up some new tye-dye because some things from my OU past still are current !!

Why it matters . . .

Tomorrow is Memorial Day.  It’s the holiday where we remember those who have fallen while in service for their country in the Armed Services.

Don’t panic – this isn’t a political diatribe or something meant to shake you up.  Just the opposite.  I wanted to let you know why this holiday matters to me.  You see, I’m an Army brat.  I am the first of two sons born to Staff Sergeant John Thomas Browne.  I was born on an Army base in Nuremburg, Germany back when there was an East and West Germany.

My Dad served in the Vietnam War and was unique.  He wasn’t drafted, he chose to enlist.  I can tell you amazing stories about my dad like when he fell off the back of a jeep riding through base and a tank ran over him (literally) and he was barely scratched.  Or, I could tell you about the tours he did in Vietnam fighting on purpose for our country and directing action with other soldiers while only in his early 20’s.  My dad was a devout Detroit Lions fan and I remember curling up with him on the couch to watch the Lions take on the hated Packers.

Sadly, these are only memories.  My dad passed away in 1968 at the age of 26.  I was four years old and my brother was two.  Most of our stories come from pictures and memories from those who knew him.  This week my mom sent me the commendation letter for the Bronze Star that my dad earned for heroic efforts leading his battalion while wounded in the battle of Ia Drang Valley.  He laid in a field which had been sprayed with Agent Orange the day before with an open neck wound for 25 hours, but he led his men with no concern for himself.  It brought me to tears because I have that Bronze Star.

This is a picture of the awards my dad earned that my wife lovingly put together as a Christmas present for me one year.  It is displayed proudly in my house as a reminder of my dad’s service.

Tomorrow I get the privilege of marching in the Memorial Day parade in West Chester, Ohio with Boy Scout Troop 941.  I am humbled to be their Scoutmaster.  We will march for two miles in the hot sun to a cemetery to honor those that have fallen in combat.  The boys in our Troop saw these medals and why Memorial Day matters . . . at least to me.

Tomorrow, don’t just be thankful for a day off or for a great excuse to gather with family and friends.  Be thankful for those that serve in the Armed Forces.  I know I am.

What do you see ??

Lately, I’ve been coming across a syndrome that isn’t distinct to any company or civic organization, but it is prevalent in all of them.  What is this syndrome?  It’s the “forest through the trees” syndrome !!

So often we churn and churn over the smallest issue in order to make sure it’s either taken care of or “fixed,” while we miss the world going on around us.  I don’t think this is distinct to HR, but we really do well at it !!

I try to stay connected to a myriad of HR and business folks from all types of industries on a regular basis. It amazes me that when we get to talking about work, I NEVER hear about the amazing people that work for their company, only the problems.  You hear descriptors like “everyone” feels this way, or that an HR issue affects “everybody.”  However, when you dig into it some more, it is usually a few folks that take up the majority of our time. So, is the problem those few people?  Or, is it us?  Do we relish the chance to go after the problem instead of having to focus on the majority?

It seems that we like the comfort zone of going after the problems because I think we feel that it justifies our positions.  Let me ask you this though . . . How does it feel to always muck around in the dark underbelly of the Company?  Doesn’t it get old?

I think it does.  In fact, this past weekend I went camping again with my scouts from Troop 941.  We were outside the entire weekend for our “Sporting Outing” which was a great way for the adults and kids to play team games together ranging from soccer to Ultimate Frisbee to kickball (with the regulation red ball I may add !!)  I went with a group of the boys on an 18-hole disc golf course which took us six hours to complete !! Vicious and invigorating at the same time.

After the weekend, I’m sore, sun burned and I think I have poison ivy in at least five places on my legs.  Now, the “tree” way to look at this is to focus on my run down body. But the “forest” way I truly live is that I wouldn’t trade an ache or itch for the memories of laughter, competition and camaraderie.

So HR, which is it?  Are you a “tree” or a “forest” in your organization?  Step back, reflect and then . . . change (if you need to).

The forest rocks !!  I can’t wait to find you there !!

Pump it up !!

I don’t know if you celebrated it or not, but I declared yesterday “Favorite Human Day !!”  What is this day, you may ask?  It’s a day dedicated to telling your favorite humans how wonderful and amazing they are !!  That’s it.  Pretty simple.

Now, when some of you read this, you’ll think “Why would I tell someone that they’re amazing with no other reason and/or agenda?” Or something like, “Well, if I do that, won’t they expect something from me?”

You see I think there’s a serious thing missing not only in our lives at work, but in our lives in general.  And that is . . . encouragement !!

Really, it’s true.  Try this . . . when you get/receive feedback – is it negative or positive most of the time?  I’ll pause for the answer.  It’s negative isn’t it?  In fact, the majority of our systems in HR are built on negatives including our policies, performance reviews and general employee relations when we have to “deal” with people and their issues.  Ask yourself this – do you spend your time telling people what NOT to do, or what TO do?  I think I know the answer.

How do we expect our cultures to change when we don’t encourage one another?  Why do we think that if we’re positive with people that they’ll just eventually turn on us?

Not me.  I encourage others.  I do it all the time without being asked and expecting nothing in return.

I follow the prophetic words of one of my rock n’ roll icons – Elvis Costello in his classic tune “Pump it Up” from This Year’s Model:

“Pump it up when you don’t really need it.  Pump it up until you can feel it.”

You don’t need a reason to encourage people.  In fact, if you just do it randomly and genuinely, you’ll probably be met with cynicism because people just aren’t used to it.  Don’t be discouraged.  Keep doing it.

This week I spoke at a local one-day SHRM Conference and the attendees and I were laughing (in fact howling at times) and having a great time – at a conference !!!  It was such a great relief to see HR people having fun and enjoying themselves talking about what we do for a living !!

Oh, and just so you know, my first “faves” were my wife and two amazing kids.  Then I called a few other faves and just left a voice mail to encourage them and tell them that I think life is better because they’re around and a part of my life.  Got another person today and we laughed and laughed and he even said, “Man, I needed a call like this today.”

I’m not going to list who I called or name drop.  These people mean the world to me, so I tell them directly.  Remember that all of us are humans.  Humans need encouragement.

Got a fave ??  Take time this week and let them know.  They’ll love it !!

You’ve Got a Friend . . .

The incomparable James Taylor had many hits while I was growing up, but one that has always stuck with me is You’ve Got a Friend.”   This ballad hit home this week because I lost a dear friend, Penina Sachs, to cancer.  Penina quietly battled for five years before passing.

Penina was someone who “got it” when it came to being a friend.  She and I served together when I was the President of the Greater Cincinnati HR Assocation (GCHRA).  There were so many things that defined Penina that drew me to her as a friend.  She was candid, forthright, determined and she wanted to move the profession of HR forward.  Through her tireless volunteer efforts she did just that.  She was someone who embraced social media and was active in the forums.  She was also someone who saw the future by being an attendee at the first HRevolution.

Penina was never one for pretense and some found that difficult.  So many people spend hours and hours trying to “be somebody” vs. just being comfortable in their own skin.  That was never the case for Penina.

Her passing leads me to throw this out there for the HR social community to think about.

The reason I valued Penina was that we were truly friends.  Not on-line followers, lurkers, Linked In connections, or Facebook “friends.”  We were connected on-line, but more importantly in real life.  I know that it’s not possible to be connected with everyone we know in person, but I want to challenge those connected to me.  When I see someone who has 50,000+ followers on Twitter, I’m skeptical.  Sure, you have the numbers, but do they just want to be seen with you and not know you?  Where’s the value in that?

When people boast of numbers, numbers, numbers – I just wonder if you even know people’s names?  The influencer lists are based on SEO’s and metrics, but is that truly influence?

I don’t want to influence, I want to leave a legacy.  I want to be an imprint on others and I want them to imprint me.  Penina did that.  I will value her legacy of support and adventure in our ever evolving field.

So, if you are kind enough to read this blog or are connected with me in other forums know that I’m serious about this.  I want to know you enough that you leave an imprint on my life.  It’s just like James Taylor sang . . .

“You just call out my name and you know wherever I am – I’ll come running to see you again . . . You’ve got a friend.”

I’ll miss you Penina !!

Image courtesy of Word Collector

Look Past the Avatar !!!

“Steve !!! Man, you’re tall !!”

“Wow !! You’re a lot taller than I thought you’d be !!”

“Steve !! Great to meet you finally.  Man, you’re tall !!”

And so it was as I entered the hotel lobby for my first HRevolution.  I took it in stride that I towered over my peers physically because I’m used to being tall.  NOTE: There were other tall HR folks at HRevolution, but we were the significant minority !!

Right after I was “sized up” the next thing I heard for 48 straight hours was laughter.  Tons and tons of exhuberant laughter.  You see, the difference to me for this event wasn’t whether it was a “Conference” or and “UnConference” – it was that I got to meet friends in person.  I wasn’t surprised by how engaged everyone was, or how friendly everyone was at all.  In fact, I expected it.

It was so refreshing to not feel any pretense or jockeying for attention when you enter a new environment.  I’ve always been a person who just is who he is – and now I was at a conference with 130 others who were incredibly genuine, unique, funny and short. (hee, hee)  I loved the fact that you could be intentional with other HR folks and it was welcomed, not shunned.  It’s hard to find the words I’m looking for here. I feel closure I guess.  Closure to meet and get to further know people that I truly care for.

I would list a link for EVERYONE that attended because I don’t want to miss anyone.  It was that cool !!  It was humbling to be a presenter.  It was great to hear the thoughts and ideas of others.  And, most of all I love the fact that HR people were willing to challenge, confront and explore different approaches to HR.  It was so non-traditional that I secretly hoped every HR conference I attended would be free enough to be this candid.  Ahhhh, to dream !!

At our session, Jason Lauritsen and I challenged everyone to see what they would do to improve HR.  Here’s my response . . .

I’m not going to let HR people live behind their avatar anymore !!

So HR beware.  I’m going to be intentional with you just like we were with each other at HRevolution.  No apologies. It’s time for us to remember that we’re humans first.  Believe it and don’t forget . . . I’m tall !!

Do you Communicate or Connect ??

At a recent Leadership Team meeting at work, one of our Board of Advisors asked us – “As a company, do you communicate or connect?”

It was a fascinating question and we did some good work around it because the answers around the table ranged from ones that felt “communication was a strength” of ours to “we communicate in volume !!”

In looking at HR, especially when you take in all that is out in this “space,” I would tend to think that volume takes the lead.  This doesn’t mean that there is junk out here.  It just means that there is a ton of information to read, absorb, respond to, or ignore.

Often with so much volume, we tend to take in little because we want to be good stewards of what we read, and people have various capacities when it comes to communication.

What would happen if we chose instead to “connect” ??  What if our efforts regarding HR were more like the classic Conjuntion Junction from Schoolhouse Rock ??

Next week Jason Lauritsen and I are fortunate to be presenting at HRevolution2011 in Atlanta.  Our session is called “If HR stinks, what are YOU doing about it ??”  If you’re out on Twitter at all, it’s blowing up with tweets from HRevolution attendees who can’t wait to get to the event, want to see this speaker or that speaker, but most of all they want to see EACH OTHER !!

You see they want to CONNECT!!  Now, this camaraderie shouldn’t be limited to one conference or to a certain group of people.  HR has to take the step to break out of the shadows, intentionally connect with others and move the field forward.  This isn’t a call for one forum or one association or one event versus another.  However, it IS a call to get connected !!

I hope two things happen when I get to go to HRevolution.  (1) That I take time to connect with as many folks as possible and get to know them behind their “voice in the space” and (2) that our session makes that step from just communicating more about what HR should do – and move it to what I can do (and YOU can do as well) to continue to make HR a thriving, challenging, intriguing and relevant profession !!

Be forewarned . . . I plan to connect with as many HR people as I can !!

Is HR in Trouble . . . or just misguided ??

The post that my compatriot and friend Jason Lauritsen put out this week was very timely and thought provoking because he makes some extremely salient points as to why HR is in trouble.  Also, one of the HRevolution co-founders and friend, Trish McFarlane gave a great response on HR Ringleader !!  Now, I’d like to chime in as well . . .

It’s really interesting to me that folks in HR, especially the one’s in this “space,” continue to want to capture HR in certain view points, compartments and methods.  I get that.  It helps people understand things if there is more clarity.  Jason’s point that HR has to influence senior leadership is spot on.  HR without great senior leadership will flounder aimlessly in an organization.  Trish’s point that we should knock compliance out and be seamless about it – also spot on.  One of the most stinging criticisms I heard from senior management in the past is that HR doesn’t know its own field. Ouch !!

 I happen to think that an answer to this situation is honestly simpler than this.  HR lacks consistency.  In our struggle to be everything for everybody, we not only lose any sense of identity, we lack a credible voice.

I just got back from a trip to San Francisco where I met with two great ends of the HR spectrum – lunch on the wharf with Mark Stelzner and coffee withBecky Denniston and Caty Kobe from Focus.com . Mark and I share a lot of common approach to HR and I’ve wanted to connect with him. To spend a great lunch together was a highlight of my trip.  Becky and Caty are “new” to the business world compared to this author and they were fascinating !!  Truly represent a bright future for all of us !!

Because, you see, both of our conversations came back to one topic . . . people.

We talked about the people in our lives, our work, people I encountered during my adventuresome 14 hour plane ride across the country.  The common language of talking about people brought us together.

I don’t mean to sound like a simpleton.  I just believe that HR is in trouble because it continues to focus on everything BUT people !!

In the Sly & the Family Stone classic Everyday People it says:
“I am no better and neither are you
We’re all the same whatever we do
You love me, you hate me, you know me and then
Still can’t figure out the bag I’m in
Cause I am everyday people.”
 
Senior leaders and those who practice compliance – everyday people.  In HR we continue to think systems will make a difference if we just find the right one.  Won’t happen.  People are messy, complex, unique and fabulous.  HR is in trouble if it continues to look past humans in its effort to seem viable in organizations.  When I get to attend HRevolution in a few weeks – I am going to be genuinely excited – but not because I get to meet great “thought leaders,” but because I get to meet Jason and Trish (along with 100+ other great folks).  Get to learn about them, their families,their favorite rock bands/songs (critical).  I get to meet them as people.   I don’t want HR to be any other way . . . .

Have you laughed lately ??

Well, have you ??  Today’s white water rapid pace of constant information, technology and drive are a fact.  We say we want to escape it, but few really do.  This constant push leads to things like job dissatisfaction, stress, tension and makes people uptight.

How is that good for the workplace ??

I love to laugh.  Those that know me can attest that laughter is a daily part of my life – intentionally.  I know there are things that are challenges, and things that we don’t like about work.  But, does that mean you have to succumb to that way of thinking in order to succeed?

HR people are the toughest crowd when it comes to laughter because we don’t do it enough.  We think that if we’re not taken “seriously,” then we won’t get a “seat at the table” or some other catch phrase that we cling on to.  Honestly, it makes me laugh to even think about how people make themselves miserable and call it a career.

For the past eight years I’ve written a song each week that makes fun of HR.  Seriously.  I run an old-fashioned, pre-social media Internet message board that reaches a ton of people with an e-mail.  And, to start off each weekly update I write a song that pokes fun at the profession I adore.  Last week I chose I Don’t Like Mondays by the Boomtown Rats.  It’s not a song that many probably know, but it’s really a classic !!

My version was “I Don’t Like Paydays.”  I’ll send you a copy later if you’d like to join the HR Net. (covered at the end of the post).

Each week I love writing a song.  I giggle, count syllables and spend time on Rhymezone to make sure the songs match the tempo, pace and lyrics of the original.

After I send out the weekly message I will inevitably get e-mails back from people who say things like this:

” Unsubsribe !! I just don’t get this and your songs !!”

“I’ve never heard of this song and I don’t have time for this !!”

The emphasis is there every time.  It makes me sad that something as simple as an e-mail can ruin our day today.  I would bet that the people that discard things that make them stretch a little also laugh little.

I’m not saying you have to like my songs.  I just want HR to step back, laugh and not take itself so seriously.  People learn more when they laugh.  They remember situations and they develop stronger relationships.

So, as you start your Monday, try something different HR . . . laugh . . . laugh a lot !!

(Side Note: If you want to get the HR Net, then e-mail me.  I’m at sbrowne@larosas.com – It’s a fun resource that is meant to connect HR folks so that we can do even greater things in our profession. Just know you’ll get a song and a broader musical awareness as part of this.)