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.


One Thing Leads to Another !!

There’s a myth in the workplace that I’d like to take on, and hopefully debunk. The majority of work that occurs every day regardless of industry is that we strive to be “done.” It consumes us. Entire strategic plans are regularly based on things getting done.

We compensate based on things being done. We establish on-going, and often unrealistic, goals so that people can spend all of their daily efforts towards getting things done. It’s the basis of management theory and it’s how we make organizational design and allow for promotions.

Now, I understand that we need to have completion on projects and tasks. We can’t just keep floating in a constant state of partial accomplishments. The challenge is that when we seek to just get “done”, we’re actually looking for relief. We don’t want to have things completed, we want them to stop. Every task and project has a life. But, if our goal is to have things end so we can breathe, what does that say about how we approach work?

I think this mentality, approach and organizational drive is limiting how much can truly be accomplished !! I mean it. Because our focus is so narrow and limited to getting things “done,” we shrink the possibilities of things unknown, untested ideas and new innovation. I think that if we keep following the mantra of getting things “done” we will never realize the greatness that organizations, and their people, should easily achieve.

The group that is most notorious for this mentality is HR !! We want every box checked, every signature authenticated and every policy followed. When things don’t get done (i.e. performance reviews), we hunt people and shame them into making sure things can be checked off a list. Ugh. We perpetuate the fact that if items have any sort of fluidity chaos will surely ensue. It’s just not true. It never has been. The fact is that most work occurs like clockwork with little to no monitoring at all.

I think it’s time for understand the reality of work and that it’s on a continuum. The great band from the 80’s, The Fixx, captured this when they sang “One Thing Leads to Another.” It’s true. Work is an on-going flow of one thing constantly building on top of another.

Don’t you see this? This fact actually leads to frustration as well because people feel they can’t ever get off the never ending treadmill.  We complain about the next item that comes up instead of understanding that it’s natural. If we would step back and know that another item is waiting for our attention and skills, I think we’d be in a healthier place.

I recommend that you strive for completion of milestones and benchmarks. Yes, I know that means you’re “done” with a phase or facet of what you’re working on. However, it establishes your mindset to get ready for the next step. Celebrate your accomplishments !! Take a breath because nothing is that urgent that you can’t collect yourself, and move on to the next thing – which leads to another !!


Shine !!

I look forward to the weekend after Thanksgiving because that is when my family traditionally decorates for Christmas. I’ll hold out every year even though society keeps trying to make the holiday season start earlier and earlier. My favorite part of decorating is putting up lights outside. It’s special because my kids (now adults) always jump in to help. They get geeked about stringing lights, building massive electrical connections and making sure that the coverage is balanced and colorful.

Our family also has a tradition where we’ll get in the car and drive throughout neighborhoods to see the various displays that people have constructed. I like to see actual lights and not these projection systems because I enjoy seeing the creativity that people have. The homes that go crazy and try to drain the local power grid are fantastic !! However, I also enjoy someone who can use light subtly, and still convey an artistic display. I’m also a bit biased to multi-colored lights versus vs. monochromatic yards. But I digress . . .

What does this have to do with HR ?? Everything.

You see we can be the ones who shine in our workplace. We can be that attractive display that people would get out of their office to meet and work with. What would HR be like for you if you were the light in the office and not the bearer of darkness?

I think shining your light is essential for HR. It’s actually easier that you may think because you are in control of how you approach your work as well as how you interact with others. I’m not talking about putting on some fake trappings to be peppy just for show. No one wants that. Shining to dispel the darkness is much more welcomed, and needed, in our workplaces.

We tend to think that making people feel good and enjoy what they do is a “waste of time” or an unnecessary “soft skill.” People are supposed to come to WORK, and that is all. (Insert giggle of disbelief here). The idea that people show up only to do their job is a misguided myth. Yes, they do their jobs. And, more often than not, they do it willingly even though they receive little encouragement or regular feedback.

Shining your light breaks up the drudgery of work. Being a beacon of light allows employees to look up from the grind of what they do to catch their breath and know they’ve been acknowledged and recognized. It’s time that HR intentionally be the light within their organization and push back the attitudes and approaches that look to force control and possibly anguish.

I understand that being someone who shines may not come naturally to some, but I encourage you to push through. Trust me. If you are someone who brings light to situations, you will be successful in all you do. It’s such a missing facet of today’s workplaces, that people will respond because they’re longing for it.

The key is to be the light in your organization year-round and not just during a season. It will be surprising to others at first, but how cool would it be if it became the norm? It would rock !!

(To give you a little nudge, I leave you with this gem from the 90’s !!)

Friends in HR !!

HR is often a profession practiced in isolation. That’s unfortunate but true. HR folks are isolated both inside their organization somewhat because of the nature of the work that we do, and outside because HR people are reluctant to connect on purpose. I find that amazingly ironic that we work with humans all day, but don’t have many HR connections. I understand that people have different capacities when it comes to how many connections they have, but to continue to work in an isolated manner will only hurt you in your career.

Why are we so hesitant in connecting? Do we just want to get away from our work and we feel that if we have HR friends, we never really break away? Is it because we are slow to trust people?

I’m sure there are other questions that may answer this situation. However, I think that if you’re alone, you need to remedy that. Please note that what I’m encouraging you to consider is far more than networking. I think you should have friends who work in HR.

This past week I had the opportunity to travel to Nebraska to meet new HR folks in both Omaha and Grand Island. I then went to the annual Volunteer Leader Summit in Washington, D.C. where I saw many old friends as well as met many new HR peers. These events are extremely invigorating for me !! I feed off the idea of meeting new people – especially those who are in HR.

During my time in D.C., I was fortunate to go to the retirement celebration of SHRM CEO Hank Jackson. We gathered at The Phillips Collection museum which has a limited exhibit of Renoir paintings including the famous Luncheon of the Boating Party. A docent from the museum spent about 15 minutes explaining all of the nuances of this French impressionism masterpiece. I’m a huge art geek and I could have listened to her for hours. The one point that she made about the piece was that the boating party Renoir painted was made up of his friends. His friends !! in

Having friends in HR is necessary because they DO understand what you face on a daily basis. They DO feel the same ups and downs. They want to be included in their organizations as partners and contributors. The anxiety and concern that you may have in your head about stepping out to have friends just isn’t the case.

You see, we all want to belong. It’s innately human. Since we work in a field where we don’t have many friends internally within our companies, we need to find some outside. Whenever I go to HR events to speak or attend, I seek out HR peers to make sure to get to know them and get them to break out of the funk they’re too often sinking in. I do this by intentionally taking time to greet them, talk to them and learn something unique about them, and get them connected with others. I can’t stand seeing people remain isolated.

Are you isolated? Fix that. Reach out to someone else in HR and make a friend. Someone who will listen, grow and thrive with you. What’s the result in doing this? Your friends will become YOUR masterpiece !!

Just Twirl !!

Every week I get to see joy unlike anything else around. I’m a greeter at my church and there’s a young family who has two kids – a boy and a girl. As they come up to the front door, their daughter comes running up and jumps in the air to come to a complete stop. She then looks up and her eyes are sparkling with anticipation. She waits for me to ask, “Well, are you going to twirl?”

She then puts her arms out as far as she can and twirls so her dress spins in a perfect circle. She giggles uncontrollably as she twirls. When she comes to a stop, she gathers herself and runs inside. She does this every week regardless of the weather or if there’s just me at the door or a gathering of people. She is fierce and undaunted.

I stopped her mom one Sunday and told her how much I enjoyed her daughter’s enthusiasm. Ironically, when I mentioned that, she sighed with exasperation. I asked her what was causing her sigh. She explained that her daughter looks at dresses for hours the night before trying to decided which one to wear. I told her that I thought this was magnificent !! Her daughter couldn’t wait to get ready to share her joy.

The young mother said she never looked it that way. Then she smiled, gave me a hug and said, “Thank you. Thank you for noticing my daughter.” I told her that her daughter’s joy is catching and that people can’t wait to see her.

I hope that this little girl never loses her unabashed joy as she grows up. Chances are though, she will. “Life” will start happening and she’ll hear more and more adults scold her to keep her in line to make sure she fits the norms of school, church, work, and her social interactions will become muted. People will expect that she falls in line because that’s what we want from everyone.

I know this sounds harsh, but it’s the reality that we face. Now, I don’t agree with it whatsoever. In fact, I try to push against this shaping of people any chance I can. Organizations are built around conformity and we willing participate. HR must be the field that turns this around. We must.

What would a culture look like if people had joy and were able to express it? It’s gets me geeked to even imagine it !! In order to do this we need to reshape our approach on a daily basis. It starts with us and no one else. I know way too many HR peers who are miserable. I wish they’d be more honest with themselves. You don’t have to be in a bad place. HR can, and should, bring you joy. If it’s not currently doing that, then I encourage you to take steps to get out of your funk.

Once you have joy, it spreads. You can’t help it or stop it. This sounds simple, but practicing it is hard. Taking the steps is worth it because as people experience joy interacting with you, they’ll start catching sparks themselves. They in turn will start spreading joy.

We’ve forgotten how to twirl.

This week jump up and come to a complete stop. Throw your arms out to your side and look fiercely forward. Then . . . twirl. It’s time to recapture your joy.

The 2nd Cut

I love working in the yard !! I mean it. It’s cathartic for me to be able to get away from regular day-to-day activities and just lose myself outside. My yard is full of mature trees that are now in their full natural color. The leaves had their big reveal later than usual this year. There is now a bright mix of oranges, yellows and reds highlighting the landscape.

I used to rake for hours and hours to bag the leaves and put them at the curb for them to be picked up. That was enjoyable because you could make giant piles to jump in which was a family tradition. For the past few years, I use my lawn mower to cut the leaves up and mulch them down into the grass. Mowing the lawn at my house is a true workout. When the grass is not too overgrown, it takes 1 1/2 to 2 hours to cut. When the leaves start to turn my lawn into a colorful blanket, that time doubles.

This weekend I ventured out into the yard, turned on tunes from my iPod, and started to mow. I was flying through the yard and truly enjoying myself. The side yard didn’t have many leaves, but the main part of the front yard was a different story. After I made the first pass, it looked as if I hadn’t even used the mower. So, I made a second cut. It looked so much better after the second cut was complete.

Since I had tons of yard left to go, it gave me time to think about how this is very similar to HR and to work in general. We see the layers of work in front of us, and our desire is to “get things done.” Completion is our goal. It is almost consuming because we either have this as a personal expectation, or we feel real (or perceived) pressure from our organization. There is such a demand on completion that we want to see this happen just to relieve pressure from all that is going on around us.

Don’t get me wrong, getting things completed is necessary in our work in order for things to move forward. It’s not reasonable to let things hang open for long periods of time. However, in the rush to get things done, we often leave tasks partially fragmented and not as complete as we say they are. It’s like making the first cut. The lawn is “done” but not what it could be. We need to make the second cut.

We hesitate to do this because a second cut takes more time. So, instead of taking a bit more time, we knock things out in order to pass things on to others. This can result in rework. When you look at the time it takes to address any fragments or rework, aren’t you better off making the second cut the first time? We can’t let time be the factor that keeps us from doing the best job we can. I understand that being timely and deadlines are useful if they’re consistent and sustainable. They need to be measured against the effectiveness of the work that is produced.

It took me over four hours this weekend to complete the second cut, and my lawn looked fantastic . . . for about an hour. More leaves began their decent and I’m sure there will be more second cuts coming – and I can’t wait !!

Us and Them

I am a self-avowed Pink Floyd fan. Seriously. I have everything they’ve ever done on vinyl and CD’s. Yes, I know streaming exists, but that’s for another post . . .

As I was driving this weekend, I was taking in The Dark Side of the Moon which is just an epic set and I heard the track – Us and Them. Note the words of the title. It’s “and” not “vs.”

Lately, I have been struggling with everyone demanding that people take a side on issues that may, or may not, be important. I think people use a filter that if it’s important to them personally, then they expect everyone else to have that same level of interest. That’s not reasonable or feasible. I think there are issues that have larger social implications than others. I do feel that you need to have a position on those as you see fit. The difficulty is that people are now expecting that almost all of their life circumstances demand that people take a side. It’s exhausting !!

Our model in HR, and work in general, follows the “versus” side of the us and them dilemma. We tend to feel that we are expected to be on the side of the company or management by the nature of our role. Unfortunately, many folks who practice HR believe this wholeheartedly. I think this is essential, but it’s only one side of the equation. I’d like to propose a new approach. Don’t have an “us” or “them.” Only have an “us.”

This has to happen in organizations because if it doesn’t we can’t truly be diverse. The more factions we establish, or allow, the more dysfunctional we are. I understand that the unique nature of each person can lead to friction or divisiveness, but I think that only happens WHEN we take sides. HR has an opportunity unlike any other role within an organization because we can move and float from the most senior leaders to the front lines. We can work with every department and get to know the employees for who they are and in what they believe.

Great HR weaves people together instead of allowing people to pull themselves apart.

A key to making a culture of “us” is to make sure that all employees are heard, accounted for and not left behind. It’s hard to do this because of the nature of our roles as well as our disposition. I wish HR people would be more honest and admit that we spend more time with folks we like than will all employees. It’s natural because that’s what all humans do. Therefore, it takes more focus and discipline to ensure that employees are included. Remember, inclusion is not a program, it’s an action.

This next week, start seeing where the us and them camps exist. Evaluate them and see how you can bring people together and still allow them to be the fabulous, unique and diverse people they are. It’s worth it !!

To get you in the mood, I leave you with some inspiration . . .

Urgent or Important ??

Another work week is upon us. As you enter the office to jump into the mix of the day, are you anxious? I think that many people are. This is especially true if you practice HR. Why do I say that? It’s because our days are never our own. When you work in the field of people, you’re subject to constant movement. It feels like you’re Daffy Duck and you have to “turn and parry and thrust” your way through whatever you come upon.

I’ve written before how most folks in HR (and business in general) state that their job is to “put out fires.” This is such a challenging way to work effectively because your entire day is based on something going wrong. You are always moving from one urgent situation to another. The urgency may not even be legitimate, but you jump to react because if gives you a sense of value. It’s short lived and it disrupts any attempt at consistency.

Now, I understand that there are things which are urgent and need to be addressed quickly. You shouldn’t ignore them, but you should step back to see if the situation truly is urgent or just packed full of emotion. When emotions rise, people tend to want things addressed immediately mainly to get their emotions back in check. The key is to take the time to gauge the level of urgency. Don’t step away from any situation, but get context first.

A stronger way to approach your work with people is to focus on what’s important. I’m not going to dare to define what that looks like in your current company and role because I’m sure it varies with each person. The method you do this is an individual choice as well. Some use quadrants to place items in, and some use to-do lists. It’s essential that you have a method that works for you because without some defined approach, you won’t get to important items. Your day will slip away so rapidly and you’ll wonder why you didn’t get to the important items . . . again.

There’s one more factor to consider in looking at this topic. Both urgent and important aspects of our job coexist. You will rarely be able to have one that can keep your full attention. I find that I keep an on-going list of “important” items that never ends. Some items can be accomplished sooner than others, but some stay on my list so that I don’t forget them. Losing sight of the important facets of how I practice HR automatically puts me in the fire extinguishing business again.

I recommend that you become fluid in how you practice HR. Go into each day with the assurance that urgent situations could occur. Take them in stride and do your best to not freak out. That never helps anything. Don’t let the urgent situation consume your attention, or day, completely. Make sure to get to one or two important items as well. Having a combination of the two allows you move within the natural flow of the day as it occurs.

We will continue to be frustrated, or worn out, if we keep separating the reality of our days. Take things in stride. It’s important !!