Replacement Parts

My Mom is an amazing human in almost every way !! This November she will celebrate her 80th birthday and I’m geeked to see that come along with family and friends. If you met my Mom, you wouldn’t think that she’s roamed this planet for eight decades. She is active, vibrant and a true servant leader in her community.

Just this past week, she had a hip replaced. This wasn’t due to an injury. She just needed some new parts. Her doctor has asked her for months if she was in any pain. My Mom always replied that she was “fine.” Evidently she had arthritis building up and her doctor was concerned that if she fell at some time, her hip would break and it could seriously hurt her. Thankfully, she had the procedure in time.

Seeing her go through this made me think of HR of course. How many systems, programs, policies and procedures have you created that are out dated, stale and stagnate? Do you even know? Chances are the vast majority of all of your human resources efforts need a check up. I’m sure that you are oblivious to how your systems are performing. I know I am. That may be a hard thing to admit, but it’s true. Most HR processes only get dusted off when there’s some “crisis” or policy violation. I know there are times when I ask to buy some time so I can pull up a Word document from some long forgotten file to make sure that I respond correctly.

This is not an effective way to practice HR. There are so many instances when we are reactive because we just don’t have a good reason to utilize our systems on a regular basis. I think it’s time we look at some replacement parts for what we do and how we practice.

I’m not sure what specifically needs to be replaced in your systems, but I’m sure there are ways to make things current and relevant. I’d suggest that you do some of the following steps to see what happens.

Does anyone know it exists? – We all have policies and procedures that were developed years and years ago. If you pull up one of these to review it and it says “As of . . .” and the date is over two years old, you need to see if people even know it exists. Chances are they don’t, and you didn’t either.

Is it relevant? – Our companies go through change on a daily basis (at least). I remember going through an old handbook I had written about the use of pagers. Pagers !! (If you don’t remember these technological miracles, look them up on Wikipedia). At the time, we HAD to have a policy because people spent too much time on them. Sound familiar? It was stupid then and senseless now. These gems are riddled in your documents. Trust me. Find them and get rid of them.

Can you be consistent? – This is the one piece of advice that I hope you use for anything you create in HR. It has to be able to be applied and implemented consistently. If it can’t be, then  keep working on it until it is. My rule of thumb is that any program, system, policy or procedure has to affect the majority of employees and not the exceptions. That runs contrary to how most HR products are created. You can’t be consistent when you’re systems are geared towards exceptions.

Try them out !! – The last piece of advice is based on my Mom’s surgery again. The hip she received is brand new and shiny. However, unless she can walk easily and have mobility and range of motion, it’s just shiny. So, instead of having constant launch parties for your HR efforts, try things out in focus groups or departments. Test them to see how they perform. If they need tweaked, then do that before you release it to the entire organization.

My Mom was up and walking within hours of her surgery. It was amazing to see. She’s walking better than she had been for months. She still had little pain still and I’m thankful for that. She’s going to continue to be amazing. She just needed a tune up. This week, start the tune up you need in HR as well !!

What’s Your Sandwich Board ??

I love when you’re out browsing shops in a town and you see a sandwich board. They are either telling you the specials of the day, or they have a catchy message to try to grab your attention. I have to be honest that I love the ones that are humorous, sarcastic or a bit snarky.

If a sandwich board is creative enough, it will cause you to stop and consider dropping in. You may not have planned to stop at that particular establishment, but the message on the board drew you in.

My wife and I were getting some birthday cupcakes for my son this weekend at Tres Belle Cakes and Coffee Shop. Before we entered the store, the sandwich board made me stop, smile and laugh !! We were heading to the store regardless of the sign because we had a “purpose” before us, but the sign set the mood going in.

When we went in the store I asked about the coffee they had, and we ended up walking out with a few “additional” pastries. I also saw a coffee brand new to me called Death Wish Coffee which both intrigued and concerned me at the same time. I may have to return to at least try this strong brew !!

While I was enjoying my pastry from the store, my mind began to wander and I wondered what my sandwich board says when people meet me both as a person and in my HR role. I also wondered what others see when they interact with HR. If I had to guess, most messages on people’s boards would be more self critical and reserved because most HR pros tend to be conservative and cautious.

Have you asked what others think of HR in your company? I know that many companies do this through surveys, but I’d like to challenge you to gauge how people see you through personal interactions. That is more telling than allowing someone to sit behind a survey to share with little or no context.

I hope that when people encounter me and my team our sandwich board says that we’re approachable, empathetic, understanding, human and . . . fun !! Yes, fun – It’s the “F” word that should define HR regardless of what your company is like. There’s no reason that people shouldn’t read our board based on our behavior and look forward to interacting and working with us.

This week take some time for reflection. If you had to actually post a sandwich board outside your department/office, would it invite people in? If it wouldn’t, what steps would you take to reformat not only your message, but how you practice HR?

I think that all HR pros should establish how they can market themselves with a simple message and attract people so that they want to know us, work with us and enjoy all that HR can be !! Have some fun (from now on) and create your sandwich board !!

Some Assembly Required !!

This past weekend I was helping my son get ready for his senior year at Ohio University by moving some of his big items to his new apartment off campus. I’m a proud OU alum and I’m geeked to see my son enter his final year of college, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for him !!

Moving furniture has drastically changed compared to when I went to college. We would either fill a small U-Haul truck or take several cars in a caravan down the highway. We had two cars for this trip, but everything was in boxes. I mean the furniture was in boxes !! You see we went to IKEA to get a bed and a dresser.

I’m a huge fan of IKEA. How cool is it that you can get furniture that is functional and practical all in boxes? Yes, it takes some time to assemble everything, but it’s worth it. You can get every type of furniture as well from beds to sofas to dressers to shelves. One of the very unique aspects of buying furniture from IKEA is the instructions that come with the piece.

The instructions only include pictures. There are no words. None. It’s very strange because if you’ve ever assembled anything else, they seem to be covered with more words than pictures. Also, there are tons of parts involved to make even the most simple box !! As I was assembling the furniture along with my son, I couldn’t help think how these instructions correlate very much with HR.

Some assembly required – We never have a “typical” day in HR despite our best efforts to follow a set pattern or schedule. Distractions are really our norm which causes us to alter our days.

We all need direction – This is more true than we care to admit. We tend to think in terms that leaders and managers direct people. That may be the case, but employees at all levels need directions !! In the IKEA instructions they break it down as to even which way something should be turned in order for the piece to be tightened. The key is that the directions are simplified and given step by step. This is something we should emulate !!

Every step is necessary – Too often in today’s business climate, expediency is valued much more than being thorough. It’s assumed that being thorough will slow down things to a screeching halt. This just isn’t the case. When you’re working with people, you need to make sure that you take time with them and not just rush to the next item that grabs your attention.

HR is heavy !! – Have you ever lifted a box from IKEA? They are crazy heavy when you take on the whole piece and it’s unassembled. You even can get discouraged because when you experience the weight you can’t imagine the final product will every come together. Practicing HR is like this as well. We can get swallowed by the weight of what we do. However, we need to be encouraged and realize that the work that we put in will bring forth a great, completed solution.

You need tools – You can’t assemble any piece of IKEA furniture with instructions alone. You need tools. It’s a solid reminder for HR pros as well. We need to develop and equip others, not just list instructions. When people have context, they know what to do and they can perform even better. Spend more time equipping others !!

The project came together after a mere five hours. We ended up with a great bed and a dresser !! Every item was used and ended up in it’s rightful place. His apartment is going to be great.

This week step back and look at how you’re practicing HR and make sure that you give instructions that are simple, equip others with tools and take the time and patience it needs to “assemble” the people you work beside !!

 

Wonderful, Always

This past week I woke up earlier than normal because I need to do some last minute shopping and prep for a day of development for our managers. As most people tend to do, I had a list in my head of what I needed to purchase. I wanted to get into the store and avoid contact if possible so I could “get things done.”

As I was hurriedly walking to the aisle for the supplies I was seeking, a cashier caught my eyes and greeted me. “How’s your morning going so far?”

“Great !!” I replied. “How about yours?”

She said, “Wonderful, always !!”

I stopped walking. I was struck by her response. This was not your normal greeting. I smiled and made a note to remember her reply. I gathered my supplies and couldn’t wait to get to her checkout aisle. I just had to talk to her more. As I checked out, we chatted for a few minutes about the day ahead and how it was sure to be great. I thanked her and I went off to set-up my meeting . . . but my attitude had completely shifted.

Did I mention that this interaction happened at Wal-Mart at 7:00am in the morning? Yes, Wal-Mart. There was something else that occurred as I was shopping. Every employee warmly greeted each other. Every. One. And, they didn’t do they typical “drive-by” greeting with the obligatory non-engaged response of “I’m fine” or “I’m good.” It was so refreshing to see and experience !!

Let’s put things into context. The employees I was observing worked in a retail environment that gets more criticism than other retail outlets. People judge folks who shop at Wal-Mart and make offhanded, look down your nose remarks about them. However, the employees seemed more authentic and engaged than most employees I’ve seen in any workplace !!

Now, I understand that all of us have “life” going on in varying degrees of challenges and/or success. That won’t change because life moves in waves. I wish we were always on the crest of those waves, but there will always be the inevitable troughs that come as well.

I admire Carol (that is the Wal-Mart cashier I met) because regardless of what is happening in her life, she chooses to genuinely see things as “wonderful, always !!” I love that a front-line team member is positively authentic. It’s a posture that I try to take and would love to see be the truth of anyone who works in Human Resources.

This isn’t about being naive or utopian in your approach to the day. It’s proven that if you start your day, and then continue through it, with a positive mindset that most of your interactions will go well. This is true even during the most emotional and/or dark circumstances you encounter during your day.

This week be intentional and determine that you will start each day positively. Don’t just make this a resolution. Work on making it your norm.

You have to trust me that when you do this things will improve. Your work will become manageable regardless of the obstacles that will occur. When you are out with your employees, you’ll brighten their day first before they have a chance to dump another load of crud at your feet. When you’re consistently positive on purpose, you eventually shape the culture of your company and the relationships you have with others.

I hope that from now on you’re  wonderful . . . always !!

Leave the Cupboard !!

This weekend I’ve been binging Harry Potter movies . . . once again. It’s hard for me to turn away when they come on. This weekend the SyFy channel picked them up and it’s been great !!

If you’re not familiar with the stories, Harry originally stayed with his aunt and uncle who didn’t want him there. In fact, he live in a “cupboard under the stairs.” They didn’t like him being in their house and they didn’t like that he was “different.” When he was young, he was at his relative’s bidding and wasn’t able to get out. After Harry finds out he’s a young wizard, the series takes off and he is no longer held captive.

This information is readily available in the books, the movies, online and fan clubs I’m sure. I know this is rather nerdy, and I’m good with that. You see, I also tend to see HR applications in almost everything.

For far too long HR has remained in the cupboard under the stairs organizationally. We continue to practice as a fringe support function that is accessed when, and only if, needed. It leads to a lonely, frustrating existence. And yet, we do little to push against the way we’re treated. It’s as if we’re being held back just like Harry because what we offer our companies is seen as different.

I love that my peers are empathetic, caring people towards others in the company. By stepping out and leaving our normal surroundings, we don’t forsake this. It’s an attribute that should define us as humans overall and especially within the workplace. It shouldn’t, however, mean that we cower in the shadows only to step out at certain times. We are overdue in standing up, being confident and being seen, heard and valued.

I understand that this can be a daunting undertaking for most. It can be so challenging that it may force people to stay in place because that is more comfortable. There is an easy step that you can take which will start to broaden your perspective and give you the courage to move forward.

When you ask people what consumes the majority of their time during the day, they’d immediately respond “their work.” This isn’t really the case. Our reality is that our days are consumed with people. Conversations with people. Interactions with people. Issues with people. And so on . . .

So, the first step is something that I make sure to practice every day. Leave your desk and be out among others. It seems so simple, but very few willingly do it. We tend to talk to others in our company using our HR face and HR voice. I mean that we feel we “have” to talk to others in order to get some transaction completed. I understand that we have deadlines, tasks and administration that needs to be current. It shouldn’t be the main reason we meet with others. The main reason for interaction is . . . because they showed up !!

Your days will be so much more fulfilling when your out among others. You’ll learn more about the conversations that are happening, the feelings that are being shared and also the pulse of the organization. You cannot do this behind your desk or computer screen. It’s not possible !!

This week, step away from whatever’s holding you back from having intentional and meaningful encounters with other people. I encourage you not only to do this with co-workers, but HR peers as well. Don’t stay under the stairs. You have too much to offer your organization and your profession !!

What Others See . . .

How many times have you walked into as an HR pro, and you felt the room grow cold and silent? If the answer is once, that’s TOO many !! The old standby you hear from HR folks is that when you walk into a room and people audibly say, “Ssshhhh, here comes HR !!”

Sadly, when that occurs (and again, once is too often), we tend to drop our shoulders and our gaze to our feet in defeat. We don’t feel that we can respond because we’re afraid that we’ll hurt someone’s feelings. Don’t we have feelings as well? Aren’t you tired of this being the response when we show up? Also, this isn’t just with front line staff, this response happens at all levels of organizations up to executives. This has to stop and I want to give you some tools to make that happen.

The first thing to think about is what others see when you’re coming.

I’m not suggesting that you become someone you’re not. In fact, you should be genuine and true to yourself always. HR people lack organizational confidence at times. We strive to “get along” which is admirable. Getting others to be collaborative is effective in any company. But, forsaking your identity is not. Everyone in HR has great things to offer. The key is to step forward and out of the shadows on purpose.

Secondly, be positive in your approach.

I’ll be honest, we may have earned the negative response we receive from others. HR has tended to be more based on restricting others with a wide variety of do’s and don’ts feeling that this is our duty and how we add value. It just isn’t true and this approach has never worked. Never !!

So, be intentionally positive with others. See the best in them and make sure that your focus is to lift others up. It’s odd to even have to suggest this. However, being positive takes action and it’s your choice. Wouldn’t it be great that when others saw you approaching, they had a positive response first?

Finally, own who you are and what you do.

I know that I’ve written this before, and we’ve made great progress. But, I still meet many HR people who feel that this is just beyond their reach. You have to believe me that it’s not. Being self-aware and self-assured are great attributes of all leaders. I hope my peers understand that we can, and should, lead in our organizations and our profession. We will always have a place as long as we stay relevant. Own your role. It’s what other’s do naturally and it’s time we took our place.

This coming week I am going to the SHRM Annual Conference (#SHRM18) where I will get to meet and interact with thousands of HR people. I can’t wait !! It will be my goal to see them in a positive light when they’re coming down the hallway. I will do my best to connect with them and re-energize them so that when they return to their workplace, they rock it !! It should be our goal for HR to act, lead and be seen positively. Will you join me ??

 

Rest for Work !!

Have you ever been exhausted? Or, is a better question, when aren’t you exhausted? When you meet most people the two answers that are given most when you ask how someone’s day is going is either “busy” or “tired.” Neither option sounds that appealing. Honestly, if those are your only two options for how life is going, it seems rather limiting as well.

When we talk about rest it’s usually in response to whatever pace we run in our daily activities. We yearn for an escape most likely so we can collapse. Whenever you collapse, you’re overdue for anything you can truly consider as getting rested. It’s as if your body takes over and finally shuts you down just to make sure you don’t hurt yourself.

A trend that still gets attention when it comes to wellness and HR circles is the myth of work/life balance. The premise is that we need to “get away” from work in order to embrace and enjoy life. Again, it’s a means of escape from one facet of our lives. There’s no balance per se. It’s an attempt to make everything feel stable so that work doesn’t swallow us. The intention is good, but the reality is not fully attainable.

It’s odd to me that in order to rest, we’re succumbing to a feeling (or a reality) of not being able to carry on. That seems backwards to me. Now, please note that this is how I’ve approached rest for most of my life. I never feel fully rested because it’s as if I’ve run some sort of endless marathon that I’m going to have to rejoin in a matter of hours.

This past week, I heard a different approach that caught my attention that I’d like for you to consider. What if you rested FOR work ??

If you looked at resting yourself to get prepared for instead of escaping from work, how would that change your day? Seriously. If you were rejuvenated and geeked to jump into what was ahead of you versus falling onto your bed or sofa, think of what you could accomplish !! It would transform you and how you approached your work and those you would encounter.

I am planning on changing how I look at, and obtain, rest for myself. I want to be proactive in all that I do. Getting rest for work will take discipline. Most great things that prepare you for life take discipline and are well worth it. Making time for rest is much more appealing because you know that it’s a more regular part of your day. You wouldn’t settle for what you could get. You’d enjoy the rest that you plan to take.

There’s another reason I’m turning this around in my life. I work with humans every moment of every day. Being rested and ready to meet folks on purpose is a much healthier perspective to have. I believe that HR should be proactive as much as possible. Turning the corner on this facet of life would allow me to be at my best regardless of who I encounter.

What about you? Aren’t you tired of being tired? This week change your pattern and start resting for work !! You’ll be glad you did.

 

What’s Your Name ??

Your name.

Everyone has one. The truth is that it is the most significant identifier of who we are as a human. You prefer to have others know your name when they talk to you because it provides a more personal connection. What is unique about names is that we’re very content knowing our own, and that’s about it.

The majority of people I meet willingly share that they struggle remembering the names of others. I find that fascinating and disappointing at the same time. It’s just not true. You know the names of many, many people, but you just don’t recognize it. For instance, you know the names of your immediate family and all of your extended family. Those names may actually extend for generations, and you’re able to recall every one without any effort.

You also know the names of many celebrities that span over decades. You can name the movies or television shows they were in, or the music that they perform. I’m not a celebrity follower, but I know too many of their names myself because they surround us.

So, you know more names than you think. However, the names of the people who pass by you every day are ignored and we “can’t” remember them because we’re “not good with names.”

I think this should change. People were given a name for a reason. To blow this off due to a lack of interest is not a good excuse. I don’t buy it. Why ?? I am good with names. I think that I have the names of thousands of people in my head at one time or another. Some of this may be that I’ve worked at this, but I think it’s also a set of factors that are a bit different than you may consider.

If you’re in HR, then I think it’s imperative that you are good knowing the names of those in your workplace at a minimum. There shouldn’t be an employee that walks through work anonymously. Now, I understand that we all work in company’s of various sizes. It could be very challenging to know every single team member’s name. That doesn’t make it less important, and I have some ways to make it less daunting.

Know that it matters – As mentioned before, our name is our unique identifier. We were given one on purpose. Remember that because remembering the name of other’s will keep you “others” focused which is the best type of HR.

You remember those who impact you or influence you – Remember the celebrity example? You remember those folks with ease because they’ve left some imprint on you. The same is true with your family and friends. So, treat those you work with with the same weight. Be an influence on them and expect them to be an influence on you.

Invest the time to remember names – It’s not as hard as we make it. The truth is that we’ll put our time towards things that matter to us. People should matter !! Knowing someone by their name will establish the foundation of a relationship. It’s key to all areas of your life.

Don’t be afraid to ask – We seem to hit a wall of fear if we forget someone’s name. The truth is that people are very forgiving if you take the time to ask them again. I’d work on it not happening regularly, but people will give grace since they struggle with remembering names as well.

This week start a new trend and approach. Work on remembering the names of others. It will change your perspective on relationships as well as other’s view of you. By the way, my name’s Steve.

Encourage Daily !!

We all have things that have become daily habits. They range from when you wake up to whether you have breakfast or not to how you commute to work. These daily activities are so ingrained into our lives that we actually notice if something is slightly off. In fact, those slight variations can throw us off greatly (but we’re good with change – remember?)

Consistency is needed in our lives. We like consistency, and it gives us comfort knowing our daily routine. What’s interesting about our patterns is that they are most likely self-focused. We take care of ourselves far more than others. There is value in this, but it also may set up blinders. We can become numb to our routine and just glide through it without thinking about it.

When my kids were very young, I would take them to daycare everyday. It was a given part of my morning ritual Monday through Friday. I enjoyed getting their day started before heading into the office. One day, I packed my son into the car and started my commute. This day, however, I turned onto the highway and was blissfully moving in and out of traffic. About five miles along, a small voice from the back seat said, “Dad, am I going to daycare today?” I snapped out of my haze, and there was my son waving to me as I looked in the rear view mirror. He laughed hysterically with glee about my panic. We turned the car around and I dropped him off before heading back to work.

My routine had lulled me into just going through the motions to the point that I ignored my son !! I think this happens to too many people as we go into work. Why do you think people came up with the term “the daily grind”?

Aren’t you tired of this? Wouldn’t you like to break out of the doldrums and have a vibrant, engaged day – every day ?? I do and I have a way for you to break out of the doldrums as well. Encouragement.

We pass by a countless number of people every day without even noticing. They aren’t part of our daily habit. That needs to change. A friend of mine, Carlos Escobar, blogged and shared a video of a subway transit worker who greets every single person every day. He intentionally takes the time to say “Hello” to every person.

Encouragement is so simple and yet so difficult. The act of encouraging and saying something to lift someone up takes seconds of your day. Seconds. Not hours, seconds. We come up with excuses of why we shouldn’t encourage others. We may even fall into the awful mindset that if we encourage others they’ll “expect it” !!

In order to fight the urge to avoid, I want to encourage you to make encouragement a daily habit. Also, I want you to lift up everyone you encounter – even those who may not want it. This simple act will completely alter your daily outlook on life, work and interactions. Encouragement is the baseline for healthy relationships.

Tomorrow, as you start your work week, begin to notice others. Start a new daily routine. You’ll see the dark part of your days lighten up. You’ll see people respond positively where that may not have been the case. It’s worth the effort. Encourage others daily !!

The Best Present !!

As the clock ticks toward Christmas, the hype and push for more purchasing increases. It almost reaches a frenetic pace. It seems that the message is that if you don’t make that one final purchase, then your entire holiday season will be less wonderful. The stress that people put on themselves and others in order to gain one more gift that will keep their interest for a day or less is incredible.

Please understand that this isn’t a rant against the cultural trappings of Christmas. My house if fully decorated in almost every room and our light display outside can be seen for blocks. I look forward to going to worship for Christmas Eve and singing Silent Night with a lighted candle in my hand. I enjoy Christmas time and all of it’s sounds, smells and sights. It is a time for me to explore my faith and look forward to the coming year ahead.

This year, something hit me more directly than it had before. I finally have come to terms with what the best present is that I can give someone else. You can’t find it in any store or on any website. It is the easiest gift to give, and yet it often is the hardest to willingly release.

The best present I can give anyone is my presence !!

The one thing I have the most of is my time. It’s something that my family and friends deserve without distraction. I’ve said this before, but I feel it needs to be said again and again. I have more time than I know what to do with. If I don’t have enough time, it’s because of what I choose to do with the time I have. I’m not unique in this. It’s the truth for everyone. The challenge is that we’d rather give people “stuff” than we would ourselves.

I would love to see this change in the coming year. I’d love to see people being present when they have conversations at work, in HR and wherever you encounter others. It may seem impossible because we’re so connected to countless forms of technology. We can’t seem to peel away for even one minute in case we miss a “like”, a retweet or a video. We rarely look up to see the eyes of those we’re talking to. This is happening in meetings, hallways and break rooms.

I’m not against being connected. Far from it. I enjoy the various forums that have allowed me to become more and more connected with folks from around the globe. What I’m asking you to consider is that when you are having a conversation with someone, pay attention to them – and them only. This will take a concerted effort and won’t feel natural. You’ll have to trust me that if you do this, both your day and the day of the person you’ll talking to will improve. It won’t matter if the situation is easy or difficult. What will matter is that the person you’re talking to will see that you’re present. It’s worth your time to listen, and it will be something so different than what others are normally used to.

This year, give a gift to others that you already have – yourself.