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.

 

What’s Your Motor ??

I think it’s fascinating that we have so many amazing people in our lives, and that most of them are acquaintances. There’s nothing wrong with this because people have a certain capacity on how many people they’re both willing to know deeply, or can dedicate the time to do that.

The challenge with people only knowing each other at a surface level is that you don’t know enough about them that gets them geeked !! You may wonder why that’s important, but in HR you really can be a step ahead of the pack if you take note of what motivates and excites people. There’s one caution to finding out this information about others because it has . . . wait for it . . . NOTHING to do with their work !!

Just making this statement is already making people shiver. You see, there’s a myth the permeates organizations that the only subject people talk about when they have conversations is work related. We tend to try to limit our communication to work related interactions because it’s safe and comfortable. If we have disagreements, it’s about work. If it’s positive, it’s about work. I am going to go one step further and speculate that the vast majority of these “work only” conversations are hardly effective. It’s not the content, it’s the reality that we have so many items we’re juggling in a day that the length of time a conversation captures our attention is minuscule.

It amazes me that so many HR people rush to the situation at hand, and don’t take a couple of minutes to talk about the person and what drives them first instead. When I hear that people want to humanize the workplace more, but they’re not willing to take the time to talk about the human in front of them and their interests, I’m skeptical about their approach.

Motor RunningPeople are fascinating !! There is so much going on in their lives that would amaze you about what gets their motor going. The question is – are you willing to dive in ??

I am. In fact, I spend a large portion of my day catching up with people about their interests, their families and their lives in general. You need to realize the your employees are aching to have someone acknowledge them and take just a few minutes for you to be genuinely interested in them. I realize that they may bring up topics that you aren’t particularly interested in, but that’s part of the gig if you want to differentiate yourself in HR.

If I’m not aware of a certain interest a person has, I take more time to listen to them to let them share even more. You see, you have the ability to get people reenergized and release their passion in a work setting. When you do this, people will perform and do almost anything you ask. This approach also works when you need to address difficult situations as well. Taking the time to see what’s behind what may be frustrating an employee and causing challenging behavior is worth the time !!

Let me close with one reminder to make sure this works for you. What gets your motor running ?? You need to know this and you need to make sure that you’re filling your days with these things on a regular basis so that you remain passionate yourself. You can’t fake this, and you shouldn’t. There is absolutely nothing wrong with renewing yourself to keep you motivated.

Me ?? My motor gets going when I meet new people (especially if they’re in HR), going to HR events, being active in my church, time with my amazing wife and kids, endlessly playing music, movies, a great book, tie-dye anything and lava lamps. And that’s just a start !!

I surround myself with things that motivate me because I know that it’s key that I motivate others. It’s one of the bright spots about HR !! So, step back, list out your “motorvators” and get geeked !!

Tall Tales !!

This weekend my wife and I had a date night seeing the musical, Big Fish, which was based on the novel and movie of the same name. It was a spectacular performance that captured you from the moment it began.

A quick summary . . .

The story contrasts the relationship of a father and son who have completely different perspectives on life. The father spins incredible tales where he is the hero. The son is cynical and skeptical about all of the amazing adventures of his father. He can’t fathom why his dad takes things and blows them out of proportion with endless exaggeration. The son wants life to be rational, logical and linear. This difference pulls them apart almost to the point of ruining their relationship.

Throughout the musical, my wife kept nudging me sharply in the ribs. You see, I am a storyteller. I always have been and actually took a class in college to learn how to interpret and share stories. I believe that you can make almost any situation come to life. It’s intriguing though to see how others view this. In the workplace, most people want you to “get to the facts” because they feel that other items outside of this are a waste of time. Their time.

Isn’t it interesting that we feel that time is wasted only if it affects us personally? I understand that people are self-centered, but there has to be a way around this. I don’t think you have to settle on this as a barrier. If we succumb to allowing everyone to be self-centered, you end up with a workplace made up of fierce individuality and no collaboration. People need to work together. You can’t avoid it.

When you go to conferences, or other HR events, you see people drawn to people who are storytellers. In fact, people will listen to those types of sessions even if they have little content. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you should ever go to sessions that don’t have content. However, when everything is facts, numbers, quotes and rational thought, it’s just dry. It’s accurate and relevant but lifeless.

In HR we tend to get frustrated because we keep taking a rational approach first. We wonder why people don’t just “get it” and stay within the parameters we establish. They work on paper every time, but fall apart once you introduce them to humans. I love this and think it’s fascinating because instead of trying another approach, we build more and more policies and procedures thinking that we’ll have an intricate enough structure which will finally limit and control behavior.

Stories CupsTry stories because they work. When we were children our parents read us stories to expand our vision and horizons. Weaved within these tales were lessons of do’s and don’ts that applied to our life at that formative time. We think those work for kids, but are senseless for adults. Organizations take great pride in beating the child and the fun out of people because we expect them to come to “work.”

Let me clear something up. You can’t get people to be stronger performers when you wrap things in stories. We love to hear tales of how to do things, and do them well. We also love to hear of magnificent failure and how to learn from it. We talk about engagement of others, but we need to be engaged ourselves first.

This week lead with a story. Share an experience. Tell a tall tale. Watch what happens when you see someone start to pay attention when they were indifferent in the past. Their interest will peak and they will hang on your words as you spin a story to make what they do come to life. I guarantee you will also enjoy what you do more as well. HR deserves life in all it does. Bring it !!

 

Drop Your Work Face !!

As you read this you’re probably getting ready for the work week. How do you do that? I’m sure it’s probably different for everyone, but there is preparation of some sort. You get your outfit together. You look at your calendar for the next day or even the whole week. The question I have is, “Which face did you choose to put on ?”

For some reason, people choose to act one way at work and another outside of work. In fact, they may have different work faces depending on who they’re interacting with during the day. One for senior management. One for your department. Another for your peers and one more for those who are in roles lower than yours. Gets tiring doesn’t it?

Why do we feel the need to carry multiple personas? What’s so hard about being ourselves? Let me share a story . . .

Early in my career, I worked for a Fortune 100 company as a recruiter. These were the days before “business casual” existed. Our department was going to go together to a company sponsored night at the Cincinnati Reds. We had seats in the stadium and weren’t in a suite. I had never been out with my co-workers socially because I was much younger than them. So, I had never seen them in “non work” clothes. I was geeked to go to the game. I chose to wear a Reds shirt, shorts, a Reds hat and, of course, my red Chuck Taylor low top Converse shoes !!

My co-workers actually stared at me and asked me if THAT was what I was going to wear to the game. They were in casual clothes, but very nice ones. I smiled, said “Yep, trying to show team spirit !!”

Work FaceI was given the tickets for me and my friend that were separate from the rest of the group from work. You see, I didn’t have the right work face on. I didn’t know I needed one !!

I don’t work at that company any longer, and I’ve watched over the places I’ve worked since then and I keep running in to more and more work faces. This needs to change – especially for HR !!

HR folks need to be genuine all the time and with everyone. You can’t expect people to be genuine themselves unless they see it modeled for them. Doing this will make you vulnerable, transparent and emotional. In other words – human.

Trying to play a game of being different personalities for different people within an organization only hurts you and your company. Also, you need to understand that employees are yearning for someone to be “real” with them. It’s missing in companies today, and that’s a mistake.

This week stop putting on a work face and be yourself. When you see others with work faces, make it safe for them to let them take it off. You’ll be pleased with more and more folks being genuine. Once that happens, then you’ll see true performance occur !!

Without Ada . . .

. . . there would be no Super Bowl !!

Ada Wilson SignThat’s a fact. You may not know this but my hometown, Ada, Ohio is the home of the Wilson manufacturing plant that makes all of the footballs used by the NFL. The great folks who work there get featured every year on Super Bowl Sunday. There are around 6,000 people who live in Ada which makes it awesome, but often overlooked.

If you look around today, we suffer from a “culture of celebrity.” We can’t get enough of it. Whether it’s sports, movies, or politics we focus on the few and neglect all those around them. The past two weeks have focused primarily on Peyton Manning and Cam Newton, the teams two quarterbacks. A NFL roster has 53 people on it, but we focus on one. The other 52 players are critical for the quarterback to be successful. However, focusing on the long snapper doesn’t make great television.

There is an alarming trend happening in organizations that is also focusing on the “few.” You see constant blog posts on how to handle and develop your “high pots” – high potentials. They range from warnings on what happens if you ignore them to “X” number of steps to make sure they succeed.

Don’t get me wrong, you should look for people who are current and future leaders. That isn’t new, it just isn’t done consistently so we focus on it. When you make celebrities in your companies, your attention turns from all of the great employees you have to a select few who may, or may not, become the people you’ll hope they’ll be. Also, I’ve seen that some people pegged as high pots learn about this and turn into major prima donnas.

HR practitioners get sucked into this trap as well. We think that if we can get these high potential people to take on great roles, then we’ll receive kudos as well. I’ve even seen performance management systems geared toward high pots only. Another trap is that we try to stay in the Senior Management spotlight because we think we’ll have a more significant impact if we are visible to the top of the organization chart. What about the other employees who come to work and contribute every day? What about the people who make the footballs?

Great HR is made up of people who have an endless view that looks out across the entire organization. Each person is known, valued and expected to be someone who adds value in their particular role. When HR is based on the fringe of any particular group, you actually end up making narrow decisions thinking that they will affect the entire organization. This just isn’t true.

In my opinion, every employee is a “celebrity” who has high potential. The key is that they have an HR person who sees that in them and doesn’t overlook their contributions for someone who is more shiny. Growing up in Ada with people who make the essential football gave me a perspective to never overlook anyone.

You need to step back and see if you’re trying to create celebrities, or engage all people. I think you’ll see if you work with the whole team, you’ll be more successful than trying to focus on one or two people.

So, every time you sit down to enjoy a Super Bowl or a NFL game, remember someone made the footballs !!

 

Keep Smiling !!

Quick set of questions. Do you know any children? Do you have children of your own? Have you ever been a child yourself?

This may seem silly, but I think we forget. We’re so busy being adults that we lose the sight of what it was like to be a kid. This past week, one of my co-workers showed me a video of his daughter at gymnastics practice. She did seven back handsprings in a row which is incredible by itself !! She needed to do at least seven in order to qualify to compete at her level. She was geeked after she hit this milestone for the first time. She went over to her Mom and, “I don’t think I can stop smiling !!”

Wow !! Think of how she’s approaching success. She had to practice for literally years to do seven handsprings in a row. I’m sure there were many disappointments along the way, and maybe even a feeling of quitting and giving up. However, she kept pushing forward and accomplished her goal. The other great thing about this story is that her accomplishment was to open other doors for her to reach even greater heights.

The entire time I spent to listen to this story and watch this video was five minutes. I thought it was amazing that he’d share this success story with me. It mattered to him to have me share this experience.

I’d bet that if I came to your corner of HR and listened to you, your sentence would be “I don’t think I can stop . . .” and then words would be filled in like “being frustrated”, “banging my head against the wall”, “avoiding negative people”, etc. I know this is generalizing, but we tend to come to work every day with our focus on what’s going to go wrong. We aren’t like kids who look at each opportunity as something fresh and new. The reality of work (or at least how we view it) has sapped us of being willing to see what we do as a child would.

What happened to us ?? Why do we see being “childlike” as a weakness ?? When we were kids we couldn’t help but look at things with wonder, awe and curiosity. I think that these attributes are essential to being a positive person and they are critical if you want to excel in HR !!

Steve Browne Pic 3So, I have a simple exercise that you need to try. It will cost you absolutely nothing, but it will reshape everything.  Smile !!

You may think that is inane and a waste of time. You have more important things to do that are much more effective when it comes to HR tools. I beg to differ. This is why . . .

If you smile at someone, they either will reciprocate (naturally), or they’ll avoid eye contact. When someone avoids my smile, I see it as a challenge worth taking on. I don’t confront them, I just wait for the next time I see them and give them a smile again. The difference between smiling because you were told to is smiling because you can’t help it !! When you meet people with your smile first, you’re setting the tone for the conversation.

I truly want others in HR to enjoy the field intentionally and all the time. This isn’t some parlor trick, but it is a call for you to bring out your inner child and let it shine. The next time I see you be warned. A smile’s coming because “I don’t think I can stop smiling !!”

P.S. – the picture is my smile just so I get a jump on things !!

 

Be Bold !!

I don’t know if you’ve attended HR conferences or SHRM chapter meetings. I have a feeling that many HR pros want to do this, but they may have not gone to them . . . yet. There may be great reasons that you haven’t taken this step yet, but I want to challenge this (and some other things.)

When you attend conferences, you see HR pros attracted to sessions where they can receive encouragement and/or motivation. This is great and also telling. Everyone likes a shot in the arm to get energized. I think these sessions are so full because people are just flat worn out. I don’t want to support a “woe is me” stance for Human Resources practitioners. I don’t think it’s needed. There’s too much of the deconstruction of HR out there. I want to see that turned completely around, and never take that approach again . . . ever.

This past week I read something that describes most of HR. It said, “The majority of people wish for safety. You should be bold instead !!”

I completely agree with this sentiment. When I scan the HR landscape, the tone of the profession is to play to the middle and keep as much stasis as possible. Keep everything, and everyone, calm. We’ve done our best to remove the excitement, passion and fun in the workplace. Isn’t it ironic then that when we go to HR events, we seek the presentations that will fill us with the same items that we’ve tried to squelch?

The only thing holding people back from being bold in who they are and what they do, is the voice of doubt that runs like an endless tape in our heads. The desire to take bold steps is inherent in all of us, but the fear that we sense becomes irrational and leads us to maintain the status quo.

Be BoldAren’t you tired of this? Why would you keep practicing HR if it continues to be frustrating and mundane? Time to be bold !!

The key thing to note in making a 180 degree move like this is to be connected to others who have gone before you. There may not be an overwhelming number of these folks but they exist. I’d encourage you to start being bold by getting out and finding HR events to attend. It will be difficult to make this sort of transformation just through your own efforts at your workplace. It will seem so out of the norm to those you work with that you could become quickly discouraged.

When you gather with other HR pros, you can connect and network with those who can encourage you. You’ll find that those who are bold themselves are never alone. They surround themselves with others who also are willing to not except the ordinary as the norm. I’ve also seen that they welcome the chance to help others and make themselves available. They relish the chance to see more HR folks practice boldly !!

So, when the voices of “I can’t spend time away . . . ” or “My company won’t support . . .” or “I can’t afford . . .” start playing in your head – you have to ignore them and look for ways to get to HR gatherings. If something is too far away, then find something local or virtual. If something is too costly or out of your budget, read HR blogs and get active in social media forums. If your company won’t support you, then don’t settle. You need to push back and show them that they will benefit from you receiving professional development and having more HR resources.

I know this is risky and I know that it will be challenging. I also know that it’s a much better way to live and practice HR !! There is no need to keep playing it safe. Join me and be bold !!

Checkers or Chess ??

I know this may sound presumptuous, but I have one of the best HR jobs ever !! It has definitely been the best of my career. One of the highlights is that I meet weekly with my boss who is part of the C-Suite. Now, don’t start to shudder thinking this is going to be another one of those “seat at the . . . ” posts.

Chess and CheckersOur weekly meetings are great because we talk about HR, the organization as a whole, our families and many other items. He always has some nugget for me to chew on, and I appreciate that he does his best to develop me. Recently he asked me if I practiced HR playing checkers or chess. I wasn’t sure where he was going with this so I took the bait. I chose not to answer directly and returned with the question – “Which one should I be doing?”

He explained which game made more sense for my role personally and for the organization. Can you guess which one? It’s Chess.

Many HR practitioners get caught up playing Checkers though. They move in straight lines and either forward or backward. They are more concerned with “getting things done” so they can reach the other side of the board and get rewarded. This is much more of a short-term task oriented approach. It may have bursts of success and things are coming off lists, but the pace never ends. It’s really a narrow way to practice what we do and can be very frustrating. If things occur that aren’t in a task format, you may halt and not move at all.

HR played like Chess is much different. This takes into account multiple players who have various skills. It also knows that the return move by the other team will not be predictable. There is strategy and various ways to conduct counter moves throughout the game. You can position yourself well and look ahead at what may happen. True, you may suffer losses and setbacks, but it doesn’t mean that you’ll be defeated. You can still get tasks done, but those can happen by every member of your team using their strengths !!

The other primary reason to approach HR as a Chess game is that you’re going to be playing with other departments who may have to play Checkers. How can you bring a long-term, strategic approach to those who are task oriented? I think the key is that you have be agile and adaptable in order to be strategic. I’m not talking about designing or developing some massive written publication. This is more hands-on and requires you to make the moves on the board – where they’re happening anyway !!

Which game do you play currently? Trust me when I say that you need to evaluate and determine which one it is. It’s difficult to try to keep either one of them as a hybrid because you will tend to drift toward what is more comfortable versus what is more challenging.

Chess takes time, thought and risks. We continue to think that if we pursue these characteristics in our job we aren’t “really working.” That just isn’t true !! Taking time to do HR well while being thoughtful in your approach is essential. Also, risk taking has to occur in order for you to move forward.

Making the switch to Chess is needed and fulfilling. Let me leave you with this . . .

Pawn to E4. Now it’s your move !!