Leaves.

I love Fall. I mean it. It is my favorite time of year by far. The mixture of cooler temperatures, apple cider, bonfires and the colorful trees make the season perfect. Add to that enjoyment is the fact that I’m a “yard guy.” I get incredible satisfaction from working with my hands doing yard work. From the first time of cutting the grass in the spring until the last piece of trimming after the first frost, I’m geeked. Genuinely, thoroughly geeked !!

I’m in the yard a ton right now because our house has several mature trees. For about a month straight it literally rains leaves all around my house. The grass becomes a vibrant blanket of color. It’s really hard to remove them, but that’s part of the gig. They need to be either raked up or mulched to clear things in anticipation of Spring.

falling-leavesAs I was mowing this year’s “crop,” something came to mind. Leaves are a lot like our employees. You see, the workplace is changing right before our eyes. Employees change roles more often than they did in the past. This may happen internally, but usually people move on to opportunities with another company. I’ve heard people say that employees aren’t loyal any more. I don’t think that’s the case at all. Just like leaves, people now work for us for a season. That season may be several years long, or it may be for a short period.

This presents a challenge for HR and traditional company cultures. We tend to settle in and think employees will stay with us forever. We are shocked when someone announces they have a new job. We should have a long-term focus for our employees, but we should balance that with the reality that they may leave. Today’s workforce is fluid and we need to be more agile and adept. This shouldn’t be seen as something that’s frustrating. It gives us a chance to evaluate and bring in great talent on an on-going basis.

On other aspect that leaves have in common with employees, is that we pile on when they change jobs. It is unfortunate that when people leave a company, everyone talks poorly about them. It’s like raking a big pile of leaves and then running to jump into it. What is the purpose of tearing someone down after they leave? Do we only have negative memories of what they did or how they performed?

We need to change this because I contend that if we can only cite negative memories of employees once they leave, then we’re thinking of them negatively now. HR should step in and not allow this negative approach to be pervasive. Here’s a new approach . . .

Get employees fully connected, engaged and contributing every day. Let them bring their best in all they do. Expect it from them and don’t shy away from this. Like leaves, every employee can appear green and the same to us when they really are colorful, creative and waiting to shed what’s common about them and show who they really are. If you do this with your people, you’ll celebrate and congratulate them when they move to their next opportunity.

Their past will get raked up or mulched to show they what they did built the value of the company while they were there. You have a chance this Fall to change your perspective about your people. Take a breath of the cool air and celebrate the leaves all around you !!

Be Different !!

Have you ever had someone tell you that you’re “different”?  If you have, I’ll bet you didn’t like it. We don’t want to be seen as being outside the norm. Throughout our lives we do our best to blend in because it’s more comfortable for us, and we feel safer being in groups. It’s not easy to stand away from the pack.

What if you did step away from the crowd? What would happen? Would you have the stamina to stay outside and be different?

The reason I’m asking these questions is that many HR practitioners take the safe path. Trust me, I’m not calling for you to be contrary just for the sake of standing out. However, I am asking you to consider how you practice HR. Doing things traditionally within organizations will allow you to be effective . . . to a point. There are tasks that we need to perform in order to keep structure and parameters in our companies. This aspect of our function should occur naturally and provide a foundation for HR practices, polices and procedures.

be-differentDo you move past the foundation? If you do, then you’re beginning to be “different.” It’s true. What we need to take to heart is that organizations expect us to have a strong base, but they are looking for more. It’s not enough to just make sure that things are in order.

One thing to note is that stepping away from the crowd isn’t negative. It’s not going to cause you to do things that take away from practicing great HR. It should allow you to be the businessperson you were meant to be. We need to come to terms that it is no longer enough to only practice HR. It just isn’t. We can’t continue to think that we’re needed in organizations if we aren’t contributing to the success of the company as a whole.

There are many ways to differentiate yourself. Some things are specific to the type of service/product your company does, but there are three items that can be implemented in every type of company.

Solutions not problems

I received a great piece of advice from an HR executive. He said, “Everyone brings me problems. I need you to bring me solutions.” He was talking about others in HR. His experience was that he could tell if an HR person was strategic or not by how they approached him. If they only brought up problems, he knew they weren’t strategic. We need to bring solutions to organizations. It makes us different.

Span the Levels

People tend to work and interact with people at the level they personally hold. Executives work with fellow executives. Middle management hangs with and collaborates with those in similar roles, and the front line staff stay with their peers. Great HR practitioners don’t see the levels. They move up, down and across with ease. It takes great effort to not get stuck at your level. However, when you do it, it makes you different.

Build Relationships

There is a step that goes past the ideal of making the workplace more human. That’s thankfully becoming the norm, and I’m geeked to see that. The next step is to build relationships. There’s a healthy way to do that across departments. The reason to do this is so that you can understand your employees better and more intentionally. Knowing information about their family, their interests and their hobbies matters. People are longing for acknowledgement and connections in their work. Step out as an HR person to make build their relationships and be different.

The small plaque pictured above is where I plan to stay and I hope it becomes the mantra for you and all of HR. Once you find ways to be different, don’t change. Stay that way.

Changing Lives

I’ve mentioned in the past that I am fortunate to have amazing kids. They’re really adults now, and they’re still amazing !! I remember that when they were young they asked what I did for a living. When I told them that I was in Human Resources, they didn’t have a clue what that meant. It was difficult to explain employee relations, compensation, training and development, benefits and strategy. So, I simplified it for them.

“I hire people and give them jobs.”

They nodded and understood, but then asked, “Do you fire people too?”

I’ve always been candid with my kids and explained that firing people was part of what I did as well. There faces wrinkled up and they shook their heads as they said that that wouldn’t be fun to do. I told that that I agreed and that I never enjoyed that part of my job.

Termination is a hidden facet of HR. We don’t talk about it enough, and when we do, it’s about the legal aspects of it and our insurmountable fear of litigation. I understand that there could be potential legal considerations involved with terminations, but it shouldn’t be our primary focus. We lose the perspective that is as the base of anyone losing their job.

It changes people’s lives.

changing-livesThink about it. When a person came to work on a particular day, the last thing that entered their mind was that they were going to be let go. This may not be the case if a company has a history of downturns and layoffs, but those are usually the exception and not the rule.

Since termination changes the lives of those affected, I think it’s key to keep some things in mind in how we can approach this facet of our job from a human perspective.

People should “earn” it – What in the world does this mean? I follow a rule of thumb when it comes to termination. I only want to see someone terminated if their behavior warrants it. I don’t believe in building cases for, or against, someone. If a person’s behavior and actions are unacceptable, they should be talked to directly and intentionally. If their behavior doesn’t change, they should know that it could lead to dismissal. Having this context is much healthier and actually leads to fewer terms.

Show grace – When you have a termination discussion, show grace. This is never easy and should never be something you enjoy. Even if the employee has been very challenging, losing their job changes everything at the moment it occurs. There’s no exception. Your approach makes this process either easier or more difficult. I have been in HR for over 30 years now and I still get anxious any time terminations are involved. You need to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Treat them with dignity and grace. It matters.

Be a bridge – If the termination isn’t volatile, I would recommend that you provide assistance to see how you can help them with either networking or landing their next great gig. You can be a positive influence during a negative time in their career. This may seem out of bounds or not what companies normally practice, but it differentiates you and helps with you being with them throughout their entire life cycle with your company.

Terminations are a fact in our field. You have a choice to do this well or continue to struggle with it. When you remember that what you’re doing changes lives, you’ll do it better I promise.

 

You Have A Choice !!

Have you been watching social media lately? Even if you aren’t on the forums, the media makes sure to share tweets from political candidates. There’s one consistent feel to the majority of what is being shared – negativity.

Honestly, most of what we consume is negative. We either swim in it willingly, or we get frustrated because it seems that we can’t escape it. What is ironic is that we’re expected to make a decision on things like an election by all sides slinging mud at each other. It isn’t only politics. Stories of the failures of others makes up the majority of our “news,” and we don’t cover all items – just the ones that are the grimiest.

A great friend of mine and I had an exchange this week on social media where he stated that he might just stop participating on the forums because all he sees is negativity. It was a solid observation, but I jumped in and challenged him. I agree that there is so much darkness that is around us, but I think you can be genuinely positive.

choiceYou have a choice !!

One of the choices you have, which my friend shared, is to step away and stop being active on social media. I’m floored by the number of my peers who used to encourage and espouse the value of social media who are now silent. I miss hearing their perspective and insights. I respect this choice, however I would much rather hear from them.

Another choice is how you use social media. Every time you get on a social media platform, you have a moment before you post. It may be a brief moment, but it exists. Instead of instantly lashing out and reacting to what someone says, step back and think. Then respond.

I don’t feel comfortable in throwing out extreme views, although I understand why people share them. When you’re as emotionally vehement in return, why are you surprised when people dig in on their sides of an argument?

When I respond, I choose to be positive. It’s not hard for me to do, but it goes against the tide of the majority of messages. I think that going against the flow is what is needed – especially on these forums. You have to trust me that I’m not naive or sheltered on what is happening in the world today. However, adding to the negativity of a situation only continues to pile on and drive it further down.

People are looking for an alternative voice, and that voice is positivity. I’m not talking about puppies and unicorns. I am talking about seeing what’s good in others and how to arrive at solutions. I am talking about having discussions, and even disagreements, on items. I am talking about lifting others up to encourage them and show them that they can contribute, add value and succeed.

This is the choice I make when I use Social Media. Will you join me in going against the flow? I hope you do. You just have to make a choice.

I Will Follow !!

Followers.

It’s amazing to see how a word can transform and become something completely different. I’ve always thought of the word as a group of people who were willing to get behind someone, or some effort, that they believed in. I still do.

However, with the constant flood of Social Media, the term has taken on a new life. Now the word “followers” is associated with those that click a button on a social media platform in order to connect with another person. This action may have substance, or it may mean that they’re connecting to follow a trend. It’s a false sense of popularity and visibility that also carries weight. Countless lists that rank people on social media look at the number of followers as a metric to show “influence.”

Now, before you get all riled up, I’m not against these lists, this level of visibility or having a method for people to connect with each other. What does concern me is that leadership is watered down because following is no longer something that has significance.

In organizations, senior management invests in many people who they identify as “high potentials”. I’m not a fan because people perform at different times of their careers at a peak level due to the work they do as well as the environment or economic climate they are experiencing. I do believe that all employees have potential, but the isolation of a select few rarely leads to optimal results. The assumption is that high potentials are great leaders. In most cases these folks are charismatic and very visible to the “right” people. There are countless examples of people who are deemed to be the future of the company that either don’t pan out or leave because they were able to get someone else’s attention.

Leadership is written about daily in several blogs. It is something that is critical in organizations and people are striving to continue to define it, identify it and make it thrive. What is intriguing to me is that HR rarely jumps in on this topic either personally or organizationally. We typically position ourselves to support and respond to others who take on leadership roles. This needs to change.

Lead and FollowHR is in a perfect position to lead in all they do, and this is especially true in identifying those who should assume leadership roles within a company. I want you to consider a different, and much simpler benchmark, when seeing what leadership looks like.

Look to see who others in your company congregate around. See who is the person whose opinion is sought on a regular basis. This may, or may not, include people who hold current “leadership” roles by title. Titles don’t automatically infer leadership. Leadership is said to be better defined when you look over your shoulder and you see people there. In others words, do they have followers?

People want to follow and rally around someone. They look for leaders who focus on others and not just themselves. This is where having followers is key. As the observer of the organization, HR needs to see where this is occurring and take note. These are the people to check out and see how they are leading. They may be your real potentials that will continue to grow and succeed !!

This week step into a leadership role HR. Find out where the leaders and followers are in your organization. It’s imperative that we do !!

Do Good.

Have you been through a season in your life when everything either seems to be passing you by, or seems to overwhelm you? Have you been at a point when something that seems should be simple turns out to halt you in everything you do?

These questions are the reality of many people who surround us every day. We may, or may not, know that they are struggling, but it happens. Chances are the people you call co-workers are trying their best to work through life. Is this something that we should concern ourselves with as HR practitioners? We’re honestly taught not to even allow “life” to come into the workplace because people are supposed to show up to WORK.

We write, speak and pontificate about methods and numbered steps that will ensure stronger employee engagement or emotional intelligence, but we skip over the situations that people are in. It’s yet another example of how we complicate HR when it could, and should be simplified. I think that when it comes to working with others, it boils down to a simple phrase . . .

Do good.

Do GoodWhen you are with others at the workplace – do good. When you find yourself in situations involving conflict and differences of opinion – do good. When things elevate and may get heated and people lose their cool – do good.

I may be in the minority here, but I believe that this is the foundation block of what Human Resources even is. Without it, we are no different than any function within an organization. There is another component to this approach, never stop or tire of doing good.

When you step back and understand that people mask the facets of life, both great and challenging, in order to even make it in for another day of work, you’ll realize it can become exhausting. However, no one is stepping into this gap and providing an outlet for people. HR has to be the profession that willingly and genuinely steps into the lives of others. When people know that they have someone they can connect to and that you will genuinely listen to them, you can honestly feel the pressures of life slowly release. As that release occurs, their heads will clear and it will allow them to PERFORM and not just work.

There is one last facet you should consider if you become an HR person who follows the approach of doing good. It’s about you. Where, and who, do you go when you are constantly dealing with the lives of others? How do you make it without breaking down yourself?

We have the same pressures and situations in life that our employees have. However, HR people tend to be isolated in companies because they don’t have people that they can confide in themselves. Here’s a chance for us to transform our profession.

It’s time for HR to do good . . . for each other by being there for each other.

The absolute key for me remaining in HR is the network of peers that I have who are my friends. They are people who also “do good” in their roles and we make sure to reach out to each other intentionally to know each other, our lives and what is happening. Joys and concerns. Highs and lows. Struggles and opportunities.

You need this in your life. You need others who understand you. This is essential to thriving in HR.

So, reach out to each other and connect on Social Media, make a phone call, drop someone a note. Be an encourager in another HR person’s life. Never stop and never tire of . . . doing good.

Sowing Seeds !!

The back-to-school season is upon us once again. You can see it in the stores as aisles and aisles of supplies are displayed. Backpacks, notebooks, laptops, pencils and pens, etc.

My two “kids” are now adults and in various stages of college. My wife and I are very fortunate that we have such incredible kids. We don’t ever overlook that. Our son is going to be a sophomore at Ohio University (proud Bobcat Dad alum !!), and our daughter is in graduate school at the University of Indianapolis.

Transition at this stage of life looks a lot different than going to Elementary or High School. We’re moving them into dorms or apartments which is an adventure every time and every place. It’s great to see them start to walk on their own two feet, and it gives us a different perspective as parents of who they are and what they’re becoming.

You get genuinely different questions from your kids at this stage. “How do I make a deposit?” “What do I do if the sink leaks?” “What if I don’t get along with my roommate?” We honestly think there are more questions now than when they were younger. Each one is wonderful though because they’re learning about how to do life with each one.

The challenge for us is that we’re not sure they’re always going to make great decisions now that we’re at a distance. I know that we can get in touch with them instantly with technology, but that isn’t that same as seeing them lounging around on a couch in the family room. We hope they will, and we have faith and confidence that we’ve been consistent in how we’ve raised them. We shared our values and our faults as they’ve seen us grow over time in our relationship as well. They’ve experienced the ups and downs, the stress and joy as well as the need for apologies and grace.

The most we can hope for is that we planted seeds in them that will grow over time. We may, or may not, see the outcome but I’m good with that.

Robert Louis Stevenson QuoteYou see, parenting our kids is just like HR to me. In HR, and in life, you have a chance to sow seeds every time you interact with someone. In this day of metrics and analytics (which honestly lag what happens), we continue to be results focused instead of understanding that every interaction is the key. It’s no wonder that companies and employees wonder about the value of HR because we try to mimic what others do to be like them internally and professionally. HR is, and always has been, different. We’re in the “human business” and that comes with a myriad of unique facets. We need to be distinct and intentional versus trying to survive as another carbon copy.

This week step back and sow some seeds. You shouldn’t ignore results, metrics and analytics, but how you treat others and the impact you plant will yield much different outcomes. It’s more important to touch someone’s life intentionally than it is to crank out another report filled with data.

My kids are starting their next steps in life, and I’m geeked about it even though much of it is unknown. I want to make sure that I’m geeked about being involved with the employees and those who I meet as well. Remember that you’re always sowing seeds !!

Vinyl Rules !!

Recently, a very cool thing happened with my son who is about to turn 19. It was an early Saturday morning and he asked, “Hey, Dad can we go to the record store and look at some vinyl ??”

I had to step back and savor this moment. I’ve noted before that I’m a consumer of music. It is something that moves me emotionally and keeps me moving every day. So, when my son asked if we could go browse a record store (yes, they still exist), I was geeked to say the least !! We jumped into the car and made our way to Shake It Records and made sure we were there when the door opened.

Walking in you are immersed with music in images, posters, CD’s old concert shirts and, of course, vinyl. You actually walk downstairs to see rows and rows of vinyl – both new and used. It is like walking into a time capsule. Not surprisingly, the shop is packed and you are almost shoulder to shoulder with others checking out albums. It was also cool to see that there were other dads who were there with their kids.

Just as the record shops I remember, you could pull out the used albums and put them on a turntable to listen to them before you bought them. My son asked what to look for and how to tell if a record is “good” or not. He also asked my opinion on the choices he was making. Most of the music he ended up choosing was from my generation !! He picked some recent bands as well to make a rather eclectic set.

As we checked out, I mentioned to the shop owner that this was his first vinyl and he was taking it to college. The owner was geeked (he really was), and he said, “Wait here just one second.” He disappeared downstairs and came back up with a crate for the albums. He said, “Here, you need something to start your collection and this one is tall enough so the vinyl sits down below the edge of the albums. By the way, great choices on the tunes. Good mix.” My son was pumped to receive the affirmation.

Vinyl CrateAs soon as we got home, he disappeared into our basement and opened his new albums, put them on his turntable and cranked it. Bohemian Rhapsody never sounded so pure !! He was down there for hours and I taught him how to move the needle to one song and how to enjoy a full side. The chance to share this experience was awesome !!

It made me contemplate looking at work differently. No, this isn’t a “generations”  post. We tend to break down work into pieces and compartments that may, or may not, come together. It is ironic to me that we look at how to keep projects and people in their place. Collaboration has to be a concentrated effort instead of a natural occurrence.

What if we looked at the work we did as a “shared experience” instead ?? What if HR took the parts and pieces that either seem scattered or disjointed and acted as a connector to allow these experiences to happen?

I get tired of people who continue to splinter HR and the workplace into factions and differences. It may give them a niche to highlight what they focus on, but I find it to be contrary to how organizations can, and should, run.

The shared experience I had with my son brought us closer together and we’re now able to continue to enjoy a common bond for years to come. Having those common threads identified and established in the workplace would continue to make HR relevant and essential.

This week look for the vinyl that is all around you and see what kind of great music you can make with all of the beautiful snaps and pops !! I promise that you’ll hear songs better than you have before !!

HR Haka !!

A new workweek is upon us. How are you doing? Are you ready for what’s ahead? Have you bought into the pattern that Mondays are supposed to be horrid and a sluggish way to start the week? Are you someone that needs some motivation to get moving that even coffee can’t address? Worse yet, are you filled with dread or anxiety?

It is astonishing to me that we have perpetuated the idea that workweeks are destined to start poorly, work to some roller coaster hump mid-week, and then careen blissfully to the release at the end of the week so we can just get away from everything and everyone. Makes you want to wake up and jump to the commute doesn’t it?

Pile on top of this that we don’t fill our thoughts going in to work with positive vibes about people either. It’s true. We don’t anticipate seeing smiles and warm welcomes. We expect the worst, and we get it. It reinforces our malaise and we strap our our martyr gear and jump into the fray. Welcome to what HR has become !!

But wait . . . .

Why buy into the “norm” ?? Who is the person or entity that we can hang this on? The answer stares at you in the mirror every morning as you don your work clothes and head out into the midst of your work.

You are the reason this attitude and approach exists. It’s not others who cast their nets of darkness on you. They may be doing this, but if you’re defeated before you even enter the office, then you’re already conceding the worst is about to occur.

At SHRM16 this year, one of the keynote speakers was Dr. Amy Cuddy from Harvard University. She wrote a spectacular book called Presence which calls for people to bring their “boldest self” to their biggest challenges. Her work shows how that even though we teach fierce independence in our western society, most people are far from bold. She had great research and examples of people who felt open enough to embrace being bold.

One of my favorite things she shared was a video of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team and their pre-game ritual where they get geeked before a match by performing a haka. According to Wikipedia the haka is “traditional war cry, dance or challenge from the Maori people of New Zealand.” When they perform this, they are facing their opponent and they are so animated and intense !! It’s awesome !!

HR HakaWhen I gave my presentation, I encouraged all of the folks in HR that we should do a haka every day before we start a thing. Think about it !! It would absolutely freak out your staff and other employees if they heard you getting ready to face the day this way. I showed everyone how mine would look and it felt freeing.

Imagine this. Starting your day boldly, intentionally and fiercely !! All of the junk that tends to want to clutter our mind and our efforts blows away and disappears. Also, you’re ready to be proactive and jump into whatever comes your way willingly.

It’s overdue my HR friends. People will be bold if we are bold first !! Shake off the Monday blahs and get ready. It’s time for your HR Haka !!

Remember the Who !! #SHRM16

I’m catching up on rest after an exhilarating SHRM Annual Conference. It was truly wonderful the entire time. This year I experienced a new view of the conference as a member of the SHRM Board of Directors.

I have hesitated to write about being on the Board because stating it drums up different emotions for people. Let me give you my perspective about the role. I am truly honored and humbled to be on the Board of Directors for the profession and the membership association that I love. These aren’t hollow words, they’re a fact !!

I get to wear a cool badge that denotes my new role and it gives you the ability to have access throughout all of the venues. I cherished this and didn’t take it for granted because it gave me the ability to connect with more people.

It started on my first day when I met one of the hotel staff who was helping with breakfast, Ahmed. He greeted me with a smile and was kind enough to be up and in uniform at the crack of dawn to serve me and others a meal. I introduced myself and thanked him for being there. Ahmed used the same “trick” I did and read my name tag and said, “Good morning, Steve.”

Now, many people reading this may think that he’s just doing his job like he should. We’d overlook him more often than not to rush to get a plate of bacon and eggs. Our impending meeting, and the others at the meeting, would get more of our attention.

Why did this small introduction matter? On Monday, at a luncheon during the conference, guess who was serving the group? Ahmed. He saw me first this time and said, “Good afternoon, Steve. How is your day going?” I said, “It’s great Ahmed, thanks for asking !!”

I used my badge to walk into all of the different areas all week to thank volunteers, SHRM staff, hotel staff, convention center security and the transportation crossing guards. This isn’t to seek a pat on the back. Trust me. I wanted to be intentional to make sure these people weren’t overlooked. Why ??

These folks are the “who” that keep things going.

There were over 15,000 attendees as well as countless vendors who worked the Exhibit Hall. Without the “who” this event would never have occurred. Mike Rowe exemplified this during his keynote address and it has been his focus for much of his career. He noted how important it was to never overlook people at work because everyone matters.

Everyone MattersThis is key in our organizations as well. We are enveloped in such a rush of distractions that we walk past the “who” that help our companies succeed every day. HR has the ability to break this pattern because we have the ability and the latitude to make acknowledging others part of our job daily. Honestly, it needs to be in the fabric of our Human Resources DNA. It can’t be something that we ignore or hope that others will do.

People want to be acknowledged for what they do. This is more basic than appreciation. That is key and important, but we need to step back and acknowledge folks. When you take this approach, all of your systems and procedure look different and positive.

People want to do good work. This week step back and thank others. You’ll see that this will change your organization for the better !! Remember the “who” around you every day.