Runnin’ Down YOUR Dream !!

This Sunday something happened that hasn’t happened for an entire month. The sun came out. Now, I know the sun is always present, but it hasn’t shown itself in Greater Cincinnati during the month of January. Seeing sunlight was a welcome break from the never ending gloom of gray skies. As I was driving to church, I had the Tom Petty radio station blaring on Sirius XM. This is one of may favorites channels which I listen to often.

As I was enjoying the bright blue skies and warm touch of the sunlight, the song “Runnin’ Down a Dream” started playing. It captured the moment perfectly as the first few lyrics started to be sung . . .

“It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down, I had the radio on, I was drivin'”

Listening to this song made my thoughts wander which is a very common occurrence for me. I was taking time to reflect to see if I was someone who ran down my dreams. I think I have. Most everything that has happened throughout my life has led to exciting and adventurous outcomes.

If you don’t know me, I’m a fairly content person. I tend to go with the flow of things. When bumps occur, I ride them out and do my best to remain genuinely positive. This has been my approach to all aspects of my life since I can remember. It’s odd to share this because people don’t think people can be positive and encouraging in this day and age. When I hear those that choose to think differently than I do, I try to get to know them and hear them out. I may not agree with their perspective and outlook, but I’ll do my best to encourage them if they’re open to it.

So, when it comes to dreams, I guess I frame it like this. I like looking forward and pursuing different opportunities knowing that some will work out and others will not. In the past I wanted to become a public speaker, and now I’m fortunate to get to present at events across the globe. I thought it would be great to write a book, and now I’m close to having my second one published. I hoped to have a wife and family, and I’ve now been married over 30 years and I’m getting to see my kids start to figure out life and pursue dreams of their own.

My mind kept wandering and I thought of others who I’m fortunate to have in my life. They are a mix of people who have been successful in a variety of ways along with those who seem to get hung up on obstacle after obstacle. Every person is at a different place on this continuum.

I want to be supportive and encouraging for each of my friends and connections without giving them absolutes. Sure, I have my thoughts and am willing to share advice, but that’s what it is – advice. I’ve never been comfortable giving people a distinct path which much be followed to the letter. Life isn’t like that. It’s full of twists, turns, mountain tops and valleys. Each person’s path is as unique as they are as people.

I think Tom Petty captured my approach in his lyrics in this song. Life is a mystery. We would love for every moment of every day to be concrete and have little variability. But, life won’t conform to set patterns and is constantly unpredictable. Since that’s the reality of each day, the choice we have left is how we will move. We can either move forward, refuse to move, move sideways, or even backwards. There are countless maneuvers we can take.

Take note of the other phrase in Petty’s lyrics. “Going wherever it leads . . . ” Can you do that? Are you willing to step out not knowing what the next step will lead to? You see the mysteries of life are going to continue to present themselves. Having dreams and things to look forward to give us a brighter outlook on the lives we currently lead. Instead of being filled with worry and discontent, try to embrace the chance to go wherever life takes you.

Your career, the choices you make in your family and the people you bring into your life should be those who move you forward. People that embrace your dreams and do what they can to lift you up towards seeing them come true.

If you want to write a book or start a blog, then find those who have done those things and talk with them about what their experience was. If you want to travel to places unknown to you but familiar to others, reach out to them to see those places through their eyes and then take steps to get to them yourself one day. If you want to become a public speaker, an executive or leader in your company, or active in some professional or civic group, seek out others who have paved the way before you.

Remember, you are not doing life alone. You are among those who want to hear your dreams and see them come to fruition. I don’t know what your dream is, but it’s time for you to claim it, pursue it and see where it leads !!

Doors

I’d bet a significant amount of money that if I looked in your company’s employee handbook I’d find a statement that says you have an “open door policy.” This infers that people have access to anyone at any level at any time. I’d love to say that this is really the common practice in organizations, but it often isn’t. That’s because being an open door is tough.

Doors can exist in one of two positions – open and closed. I know that sounds obvious, but doors play a bigger part of our careers than we recognize. You hope that people would be willing to communicate openly, but we hesitate, or think that people have some hidden agenda, when they meet with us. That may happen every once in awhile, but it isn’t the norm. The challenge is that negative experiences have such a huge impact on us that they override any positive ones that we have. We end up communicating less than we should or we give partial messages to folks hoping they can come to the conclusion we have in our heads.

I find this to be the case with HR peers as well. I understand that we work with people at all levels and that it can be challenging. However, shouldn’t we be the ones who set the standard and expectation of being accessible? If you ask people in your company who work in other departments, I think you’ll hear that we’re not as accessible as we could be.

So, how can we become open doors?

The easy answer is practice. The hard reality is that it takes courage, patience and a willingness to meet and listen to ALL people. This includes the people that you tend to interact with only when you have to. We all spend more time with people who we’re comfortable with. It’s human nature. Well, we need to fight human nature. Every employee deserves our time and attention. You may be the only person who’s giving an employee an audience. It could keep them engaged, and even better, understood so that they know they’re connected to your company.

Secondly, I think you need to open doors for others. Too often HR is categorized as the group that shuts people down. That may be needed in certain situations, but it’s an awful moniker to carry with you. We live in a time that is extremely self-focused. I’ve never seen this work long-term. You may see short-term success or visibility, but you can’t sustain it. Opening doors for others is something you can do for your entire life.

Recently, an HR friend of mine was in transition. She contacted to let me know. I wanted to make sure she was okay and let her know she had someone willing to make connections for her that she may not be able to do on her own. I also encouraged her to see if she could create her own role and position within a company. I told her to share that she could open doors for their organization by bringing her knowledge, skills and experience. I reached out to two dear HR friends who lived in her area of the country and asked them all to meet each other and network with each other on purpose.

At SHRM17, she was able to share all that had happened after our conversation. She is now a close connection with the two folks that I introduced to her, she found a few new HR roles to consider and convinced a company to allow her to create a role that they had not seen in the past. I was geeked to hear all the great things that occurred from a phone call and two e-mails. Three opened doors.

This week, take a look at two things: (1) Are you truly an open door at work for ALL of your employees and (2) Are there folks in your life that you could open doors for?

When others shut doors on you, and they will, don’t get discouraged. Just look for the next opportunity where you can step in, reach for the knob and pull open a door. It may change your life and the life of others. Trust me. Opening doors is worth it.

Are You Congruent ??

The majority of us work for our lifetime. Seriously. We are in a job of some sort from either our late teens/early twenties until our mid to late 60’s (if not longer). I’m not bemoaning this fact. Having a job is essential for all of us to be able to earn a living, provide for others, give generously and possibly have a family. With so much time invested, why do we hit times where things just feel a bit wonky?

Do you know what I mean? Every person I know hits a patch, or patches, where things seem misaligned. It’s hard to discuss because we’re afraid if we do that our company will think poorly of us and develop doubts about our “loyalty.” This has nothing to do with whether a person is loyal or not. When things aren’t congruent, we’re not sure what to do or where to go. It can affect how we perform because uncertainty causes anxiety. We may even get thoughts in our heads that have no merit, but that doesn’t make them feel any less real.

How do we get things back in line and balanced? This is an area where HR can, and should, step in. However, it will cause you to step into an arena where we tend to skirt by the edge. You need to be very connected to your employees. This goes far beyond just knowing the superficial demographic information about folks. That is very important and should never be overlooked. However, I’m talking about genuinely knowing about where people feel they are in their role/career and where they want to go.

Too often we have conversations about people’s career desires during annual reviews. But, honestly, those are superficial as well. Companies fear that if you have meaningful chats and someone says that they want to grow and/or take over another person’s role, then they’ll actually want to work toward attaining that goal !! Eek !! Since we don’t take the time to pour into others, we end up making decisions to move people ahead who may not be a good fit. They also may never have wanted to take on that next role, but it may result in larger wages, authority and exposure which are hard to look past. Remember – we need our jobs.

Another group of folks who face the challenge of congruency are those in transition already. I’m fortunate that I know a group of people who are in this situation because they regularly attend the HR Roundtable I facilitate. Being in transition is difficult, not challenging, difficult. That may not even accurately capture the emotional strain that you go through when you’re trying to find a new job. People just want to be employed again. I get that and know it’s critical for many reasons.

However, if possible, you need to find a role where things fit for you as much as the company is looking to see if you fit them. Being congruent in existing roles as well as when you take on a new role when you come out of transition is essential.

Managing your career over the entire span of your career is the mindset to have if you haven’t been doing that already. You’re going to hit those patches of uncertainty. It doesn’t mean you’re going to leave your job or organization, but it does mean an adjustment is needed.

This week step back, take a breath and reflect. Are you balanced? Do you need realignment? Take the time to do this and make sure you are doing your best to manage what you do and where you do it. Be congruent !!

Golden Years !!

“Don’t let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere . . .” David Bowie

As you read this, you’re probably starting your next work week. What does that look like for you? I can’t venture to say what the details are in what you do because everyone’s job is different. What I’m wondering is – do you have a “job” or are you in a stage of your “career” ??

This year I hit a milestone that never seemed within reach when I graduated college. I am entering my 30th year in Human Resources !! I haven’t been in the same role or at the same company, but I’m still in the field I began. I honestly would have to say that I’m more geeked about HR now than when I started !!

Now, I can’t say looking back that I saw each position I held as a step in my career. In fact, I would even say that the goal coming out of college was not to have a career, but to secure a job. I wanted to be out on my own and be able to provide for myself. It never dawned on me to think of anything but short-term objectives. Also, I have to admit the focus of work was to keep my job and make sure I didn’t lose it.

When I look at the profession, and also at all types of occupations, I think the predominant thought of employees is to keep their job versus growing in a career. This is a reflection of a company’s culture. Honestly, we have more of an expectation for people to “show up” than we do for them to contribute, perform and thrive.

CareersThis needs to change. It’s a hidden obstacle within a company’s make-up that is hindering it from excelling by not expecting the best from its people and encouraging them to grow. We tolerate people taking up space each day and think that this is how work works.

I’d love to see HR take the lead in shifting how we view our roles, but we need to be willing to make the first step. HR people don’t typically manage their own careers. We assume positions within organizations, but we never step back and evaluate if this is where we want to be or if it’s what we want to be doing. Aren’t you tired of going to work and just “existing” in your role ??

You really shouldn’t settle. I understand there are times over the course of your work life cycle where you may have to take a job because there aren’t other options. Even then you can choose to approach each job you have differently. It shouldn’t be “taking you nowhere.”

I would encourage you to find HR folks who have managed their career well and connect with them. Ask them what has worked for them and what hasn’t. See how they evaluate work, HR and their lives in general. ┬áTrust me when I tell you that they won’t find this intrusive at all. The folks I know that manage their careers well are willing to share their ups and downs.

This week, step back and take a look. Do you just have a job or are you performing at the most recent stage in your career? If it’s only a job, it’s time to change. This may mean changing your role, or it may only mean changing how you approach what you’re doing and understand that it’s part of your career.

You have to understand that you’re in your golden years right now. Don’t wait for some mythical time that is supposed to be bestowed upon you in the future. Time to take hold of who you are and flourish now !!