Be a Trailblazer !!

I’ve been very fortunate to have worked at the same company for the past 13 years. I don’t take it for granted. What you may not know is that having this length of tenure is still considered “new” to many whom I work with. It’s true. I get to regularly celebrate anniversaries with our Team Members, and it’s not uncommon to have people reach their 15th, 20th, 25th, 30th and even 40+ year milestone.

Having a company where people can grow, thrive and contribute for what most would consider a “career” has it’s advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are obvious. You get to work with amazing, talented individuals who offer stability and consistency both personally and organizationally. It’s also very comforting heading to work and seeing folks you enjoy being with. You get to go through life with many of them. You get to experience life events with your fellow employees including families growing, kids graduating and even weddings and funerals. Many companies claim that they have a “family” environment. Ours actually does.

The disadvantage to a company that has such extensive tenure is that you can easily get into a rut of thinking. It’s easy to take things at face value because you’re around the same people every day. You may question things less because everyone seems to be “on the same page.” (My least favorite corporate phrase.) You don’t even realize that you’re following in step because it’s your daily norm.

My boss and I have a weekly check-in which we’ve done since I’ve been at the company. It’s a great time to catch up on projects, HR items, team member issues and life. We didn’t know that we were being so forward thinking since check-ins and regular feedback are the newest craze in HR circles. I guess we didn’t realize it because it was the best way for us to stay connected and do our jobs well. We haven’t approached this as a program.

The key to these meetings is that we’ve always been open and candid with each other. That’s refreshing and challenging at the same time. However, I don’t think we could have made it successfully for 13 years if that wasn’t a foundational expectation of our meetings. A little over a year ago, we had one of those challenging conversations.

My company has been very supportive of my involvement in the greater HR community. That’s been true when I’ve been in roles locally, at the State level and also nationally. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to see what other companies do, and how they practice HR and business as a whole.

So, he said, “You know you go to these events all over and hear/see all kinds of approaches to work.” I agreed. Then he said, “Funny, you seem to be becoming more like us. I don’t hear those different ideas and viewpoints much anymore.” That was it. I sat there silently because he was right. I had fallen into the pattern that tenure can lead to and didn’t even notice.

Before I joined LaRosa’s almost 15 years ago, I worked for another great company and boss. When I told her that I was going to change jobs and leave her after 9 years, we just wept. I was so close to her and words wouldn’t adequately express how much she had meant to me and my career. A few weeks after I had left to take on the new HR role at LaRosa’s, I received a card from her with a quote in it.

It was from the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson. When I read it, I wept again and then taped it to my office wall. She wrote in the card – “I saw this and thought of you. Always remember to make new trails.”

It was great advice then, and it still is today. You see, we have the opportunity to blaze new trails in our organizations from both an HR and a business perspective. It’s easy for us to lose sight of this, and too often we feel we don’t have the time or energy to go where there is no path. That shouldn’t be the case. We shouldn’t be lulled into any pattern at work that dulls us or keeps us just plodding along.

HR was meant to drive change. I know that even typing this, many will disagree. I will hold to this belief though. We can look at the various human interactions which occur in every department. Then we can make suggestions and maneuver them so that people are in alignment in order to perform at their best. This often means changing the path and making a new one so others can follow the trail.

This week step back and see if you’re being a trailblazer or if you’re following the path that has been set before you. If you’re on a path that hasn’t changed much, step off and explore new directions. You don’t know what great things lie before you !! This week blaze a new trail.

Stop the Sighs !!

We’re about to embark on yet another week of work. As you get ready to make your commute, what is your mindset? I’m sure the answer is “it depends” which is a fair answer for any day. In the midst of whatever is ahead of you, are you geeked about what lies ahead or do you have an overwhelming sense of dread?

Now, I know these hypothetical questions are broad generalizations. Rarely do we have a day that is an either/or reality. Our days don’t present themselves in such absolute terms. However, you wouldn’t know that because the vast majority of people heading to their jobs tomorrow start with the same reaction before they enter their workplace.

They pause, take in a massively deep breath and then . . . SIGH !!

It’s true. Whatever is sitting at our desk, out on the floor or in the field, we see the worst outcome first. Think of that !! We head into another new day with a sigh because our mind assures us that something negative is sure to smack us squarely in the face. How often has that truly happened? I would think that it’s rare unless you are seeking that because it’s been your typical experience. (If a negative outcome is your regular experience, I would encourage you to find a new job !!)

I’ve noticed something about how people view their work that is very unsettling. Everyone feels that the only reason for their existence is to solve problems because “everything” is broken. It truly isn’t, but that’s how people approach their jobs. We feel better when we fix things because we think it defines our worth. It is very important that we do “get things done” on a daily basis, but it isn’t because everything is broken.

Organizations keep perpetuating and expecting this martyr approach to performance. In fact, we reward and promote those who are great “doers” far more than we do those who are strategic and accomplish things as well. If you step back and look at this, “everything” can’t be broken or companies wouldn’t exist in the first place. So, why do we keep making this the norm for our daily existence all the way from the C-Suite to the front line?

Let’s change this. Seriously. Let’s stop the sighs.

How would your day look if you were eager to jump in and take on the work laid in front of you? Instead of looking as everything as fractured and ineffective, what if you looked at the opportunities to take existing systems and improve them?

We should perform and make work better. As HR professionals, that “work” is humans. I’m sure you don’t look at your role this way, but it’s the truth. We have the opportunity to jump into the work week, and honestly every day, to engage, interact and encourage every person we encounter. Our approach to our work and the great people we work with is the key. You can’t expect people to have a positive attitude towards their roles if you aren’t positive yourself. So, if your day starts with a sigh, guess what you’re going to expect from others who are coming with work with you.

This week turn things around for yourself and, eventually, your workplace. We’re fortunate to have jobs that provide a living for ourselves, our staff as well as a product/service valued by our guests and consumers. What an incredible landscape that is full of options and an environment where we can utilize our talents and strengths. This isn’t Utopian, it’s what truly lies in front of you every. single. day.

Stop the sighs. Believe in yourself and in others instead !!

Hidden Gems !!

If I asked you if you were an adventurer, what would you say? Most people I know tend to fall into patterns because we like the stability and predictability. I try to fight this pull because I don’t want to get into a rut. I’ll be honest, it isn’t easy. I like traveling on the same route to and from work and I have some favorite places to eat on a weekly basis. I understand patterns and respect people who have the discipline to follow them.

This weekend, my wife and I went on an adventure. She is very tolerant of my desire for constant change which is ironic because she is VERY pattern driven. It gives her comfort and an understanding of what most potential steps are going to be. A friend of ours sent me a Facebook message about a restaurant she thought I’d enjoy. It’s located on the edge of Pleasant Plain, Ohio (population 140). The restaurant is called the Plain Folk Cafe.

She thought the restaurant would be appealing because it’s a hippie themed place that features local live bluegrass and country music. I was immediately intrigued and wanted to make the trek no matter where it was located. My wife and I jumped in the car, turned on Google Maps and headed out. It took us almost 40 minutes to find the cafe. We went through a few small towns and plenty of rural landscape. As the phone indicated we were close, we saw an old school house on our left surrounded by a small gravel parking lot.

It turns out that the cafe sits inside an old two-room schoolhouse that was built in 1913. The moment we entered I was hooked. The walls were covered in album covers and a large blackboard had only positive vibes written on it including – “Practice kindness everywhere.” The staff was in tie-dye shirts or Grateful Dead gear. The music that played overhead was a mix of the Dead, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and other folk and rock artists. They also played very cool bluegrass artists. There was a stage on one end of the restaurant and a back patio which also was set up for live music.

The cooler was covered in peace and hippie related bumper stickers. There were also several small model VW buses scattered throughout the cafe to match the real vintage one used by the owner sitting in the parking lot. The whole menu was made up of hippie related names for their sandwiches, paninis and salads.

I couldn’t take in enough of the vibe and ambiance of this hidden gem. It reflected much of what I enjoy because I’ve been someone who’s always enjoyed tie-dye, folk music and a lifestyle that promotes peace, kindness and community. The staff talked to every person who came in and engaged them about their day and their take on being at the cafe. It was like sitting in someone’s house and taking in their home cooking. I haven’t been this relaxed in a restaurant. I even showed one of the staff the new tie-dye tapestry I just put up in my basement earlier that day.

Now, I know that this is something that I enjoy. What did my wife think? She loved it !! She stated, “I can’t believe you’re so excited about going to a restaurant that you’ve never seen before. However, I love that you’re adventurous. Let’s see what it’s like.” After our time there, she was the first to say that she wanted to come back again.

I think there are hidden gems all around us in life and at work. We tend to miss them because they often take extra effort and a willingness to try something new. In fact, I think there are folks who want to contribute, but we overlook them because we’re used to going to the same people over and over again.

As HR practitioners, we can’t let people stay hidden. Every person in your company is worth the effort to go out of your way to see who they are and how they want to add value. No one should be seen as too distant or difficult to engage. You need to make sure that you break out of your rut and take a new path to make sure that everyone is connected in your organization.

We can’t wait to go back to Plain Folk Cafe !! I’m going to make sure to tell everyone about it so they can see the joy in finding a hidden gem.

Age is Just a Concept !!

When do we start complaining about our age? Is there a certain birthday that sends us over the edge and make us feel that we’re deteriorating more than we are living? Is it different for different people?

I’ll admit that when I get up from the couch, or wake up in the morning, there are far more snaps, creaks and groans than there were 30 years ago. That’s not a complaint. It’s a fact !! I get it that there’s no way to stop the natural process of aging. I honestly wouldn’t want to change a thing as the years roll by. Sure, I hope that my health and mental state don’t fade. There are positive choices I can make with my diet and exercise that will assist in hopefully doing well. I also know that all of this could be taken away in a second without my choice.

This summer I’ve been doing something that I haven’t done regularly in over 20 years. I’m going to rock concerts !! The majority of the artists I’ve seen so far were ones I grew up with. I still listen to their music often and have been geeked to see them perform live before they hang it up. You see, the majority of the artists I’ve seen are in the “way over 50” club.

On the Saturday evening before the SHRM Annual Conference started, some friends and I went to see Aerosmith !!!! (that’s really not enough exclamation points by the way.) They just started a residency in Las Vegas, and the concert was mind blowing !! The played a little over two hours and crushed every song with the same energy they had when they started in the early 1970’s. The set list included hits and some deep cuts. Phenomenal !!

During the conference, the ageless Lionel Richie played for the Tuesday night conference. He moved seamlessly from ballads to the hard funk of his time with the Commodores. He was engaging, funny and great to take in.

That should have been enough for one summer, but this weekend I saw two more great acts. The first was Jason Bonham‘s Led Zeppelin Evening. For those of you who say, “So what ??” Jason is the son of John Bonham, the original drummer of Led Zeppelin who passed away over 30 years ago. This band just ripped into amazing versions of Zeppelin songs and I was screaming out the lyrics right along with the lead singer. Zeppelin broke up years ago and they are one of my favorite bands of all time. So, to hear something even remotely close in a live venue was perfection !!

Bonham was the opening act for another fave of mine, Peter Frampton !! He is on his final tour and I couldn’t believe I got to see him one last time. This was my third time seeing him. What was amazing about the show is that he shared very poignant stories throughout and it made the experience even better. Later this summer, I’m going to see The Doobie Brothers and Santana together !!

What does my summer of concerts have to do with HR ?? Everything !!

You see there continue to be countless articles, blogs and conference sessions on the younger generations either in the workforce or entering the workforce. I can’t handle any of them personally because I think it’s a shame that we separate anyone for any reason in life or in the workplace. Age is a fact. Categorizing someone because of their age is unnecessary.

You see we think it’s just one generation getting crotchety and becoming the grumpy old folks they swore they’d never become. Some of that unfortunately is true and needs to stop. However, the same light is being cast on those who are older workers. It seems that once someone crosses the half century mark (that’s 50), then a person’s value has to automatically diminish. Doesn’t it ??

The same narrow thinking and stereotypes towards younger workers is also being applied to older workers. Seeing these rock legends of my time reminded me that you can still ROCK regardless of your age. Because, you see, age is just a concept. The work we do should be based on expectations to perform and not what year we were born. HR absolutely has to step in and address anyone who is starting to treat older workers poorly. We may be the only voice who does this.

I know people much younger than me who are stymied by facets of life or obstacles at work that aren’t that challenging. I also know people much older than me that can, and do, work circles around me. Also, please don’t say “age is just a mindset.” Catchphrases aren’t necessary at any age. One other thing to remember . . . EVERYONE gets older !! So, if you’re allowing this behavior now, one day when you’re older don’t be surprised when this same narrow treatment gets applied to you.

Let’s make a pact HR. Stop ageism regardless of the generation. Treat people as Steve, Sally, Jorge or Dee – humans. It’s time we right this inequity in the workplace for good !!

Now, sit back and enjoy some of the music I heard . . . Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun covered by Peter Frampton on his Grammy winning Fingerprints set. It’s ageless !!

Take Your Shot !!

A few weeks ago my wife and I got to experience something we had been anticipating for over two years. We went to see the musical Hamilton !! We had heard all the hype and hoped it would live up to it. We even did some show prep by listening to the soundtrack on Spotify and looking up the history of Alexander Hamilton’s life.

It. Did. Not. Disappoint !!

From the opening scene to the dropping of the curtain after the second act, every moment was wonderful. We loved the orchestra, the staging, the continuous movement and the story. It was different than anything we had ever seen. The songs weren’t what we were used to. The pace was new as well. The lyrics had life, movement and swagger !! It was wonderful to take it all in.

All of the songs were powerful in their own way and were key in telling the story of his life. I was fascinated by the third song in where Hamilton exclaims that he’s not going to miss his shot. He was very vocal about wanting to be involved with all that was happening in the birth of America as a nation. He didn’t want to miss out. He wanted to be someone who made a lasting impact and legacy. He was overt in making sure he was in the mix of those that were starting the coming revolution.

Do you feel like that as an HR pro? Do you ever have the desire to be someone who makes a lasting impact through your work or in your field? I think you should and I know you can !!

Too often we feel that HR should remain in the shadows or out in the hallway waiting for when, or if, we’re needed. We’ve taken on the mantle of “support” so willingly that we rarely step out of this approach. Please understand that providing support to others is necessary in our roles. Don’t think that I’m stating that we should walk away from this aspect of human resources. However, I don’t think it should be how we’re expected to be defined. It’s far too limiting.

I think we lack the zeal and confidence that Hamilton and his peers seemed to have. Now, they had a big, audacious goal to achieve in fighting for independence and then designing the structure of our first governing body. Hamilton and his peers were far from perfect. They were extremely flawed. Even though that was the case, they pressed on to lead and bring about significant change. I understand that giant shifts and projects come about rarely. It shouldn’t discourage you though.

There are opportunities for you to take your “shot” on a regular basis in your workplace if you choose to see them. You don’t have to be perfect or have a senior level in the company. You can take leadership as well as provide support. You can put yourself in the mix of the people who are looking to change and shape your company. I don’t buy the response that senior leadership won’t “let you” take this on. Companies are always looking for people to step up and lead. Always.

This week take stock of all you do in HR. I’m sure it’s incredible !! Now see where there are opportunities to take your shot. This time though instead of letting it pass you by, step up. Don’t miss taking your shot !!

Change the World !!

Something has been truly puzzling to me lately. In the swirl of events, there seems to be a larger and larger focus on upheaval and dismay versus anything positive. I am not naive and ache for the constant wave of tragedy that fills every form of media. Honestly I do take time to step away and reflect just to break the pattern.

It’s odd to me that we continue to pile on more and more negativity that is happening either to us, or around us, and we expect that the more we scream and tear things down that we’ll hit some basement. I don’t think it’s possible because your “bottom” may not even be close to what’s happening to others.

I do my best to personally fight this and encourage others on purpose. I find that even in doing that, there is a push back that occurs because people feel better if you suffer with them. Enough is enough. I will not fall into the trap that I need to tear things down in order to build things up. I just won’t.

Recently, as I was working out walking and sweating on a treadmill, I heard a song that I hadn’t heard in years. The song is “Change the World” by Eric Clapton. It is a beautiful song and the words just tear at me. It’s a song that he sings to another person claiming that he’d pull down a star and shine it on his heart to show how much he loved and cared for another person. He would do anything if he could “change the world.”

I know that I’ve written on this topic in the past, and yet it still tugs at me. You see it seems that HR has chosen more to conform to be like the rest of everyone at their company instead of choosing to make a change. We’d rather blend in than stand up. I think we’d do better in understanding that our interactions could literally change the world !!

One of my favorite quotes ever is from Ghandi when he encouraged others around him to “be the change you want to see in the world.” We tend to shy away from this expansive aspiration because we think that changing the world would involve some massive effort beyond our abilities. I don’t think that’s the case at all. We just need to reframe how we look at making change.

I think there is far too much focus on results in all facets of work and our lives. Results are important, but they don’t lead. They lag. Relationships are far more important and you make change through those relationships. These lead to stronger results. Every. Time.

Changing the world isn’t about effort. It’s about people. It always has been.

In HR you’re surrounded by people and you can be the ONE person who makes a positive impact for them. A kind word, a listening ear and a willing heart can build up others. These aren’t “soft skills”, they’re human skills. And, make no mistake about it, human skills are what drives business and allows for world shaping change.

This week I hope you turn away from the negative noise and choose to be a person who can change the world. Pull a star from the heavens and reach out to others and show them that they matter and have value. Trust me, the more of us that make this effort will be the change we want to see in the world !!

Tradition !!

This past week my wife and I went to see Fiddler on the Roof as part of the Broadway Series in Cincinnati. We love seeing live theater, and this is honestly one of my favorite musicals ever !! This version did not disappoint either. It had your attention from the moment the lights went down until the cast was “walking” out of their town of Anetevka to end the musical.

If you’ve never seen this great musical, I would highly recommend it. It has a great story line and the songs are all very memorable. The show starts with the powerful song “Tradition” where the various members of the little town in Russia during the turn of the 20th century all sing about their designated role. The main character, Tevye, is both narrator the one who carries the torch of tradition for himself, the townspeople and especially his five daughters.

During the opening song, Tevye has a line that says, “You may ask, ‘How did this tradition get started?’ I’ll tell you. I don’t know.” That seems to be the case with most traditions whether they be ones you have in your family or those within organizations. Even though we may not know the origin of traditions, we follow them fully just as they do in the show . . . at least for a while.

You see, I think there is value in tradition. Many people get this mixed up with the practice of doing things the same way because that’s “the way things have always been done.” If you come across this type of stagnation, then you have to challenge it and/or change it in some way. There is a natural change that happens in companies just due to the fact of the passing of time and the addition and deletion of people. Any time you get new folks involved on work and projects, change occurs simply because they aren’t the people who were involved in the past.

Traditions have their place in companies because they can give you a picture of what has worked in the past. Remember, you can always learn from the past. You just can’t constantly dwell in it. Traditions are an essential part of a company’s culture. They give flavor, distinction and help shape the fabric of what your company offers. These on-going facets are those that critical components of retention. Traditions can be a very positive aspect if they are healthy, living and inclusive.

The key movement in the musical is also a great lesson for us as HR professionals in organizations. Tevye wants to desperately hold on to the traditions of his past that you assume happened for generations. His daughters challenge him in every way and break with tradition by choosing a spouse when spouses had been traditionally agreed upon by the father and another family. He reluctantly gives in on the three who choose a partner because he sees all sides of what the change will bring. This includes the hope that his daughters would benefit from breaking with tradition.

We should look around within our companies to see what traditions need to be tweaked or altered all together. One reason for this is that making changes will allow for diversity to be present on purpose. You can seek the input of others and make sure the voices of everyone have a chance for input. The goal would be for them to benefit from the changes that happen.

Traditions are all around us and we can benefit from having them personally and in our companies. The key is to make sure they are current and relevant. Know why and how you have the traditions that make you great !!

Convenience or Community ??

This past weekend I ventured out once again to finish my Christmas shopping. The weather was absolutely atrocious because of an endless, soaking rain. I would not be deterred because this was my one completely free day. I didn’t mind the rain, the snail like traffic, or the myriad of people who must have had the same idea I did.

One stop along my day long trek was at a brand name store that was an anchor location at a shopping mall. I was able to find what I was looking for there, and I wanted to stay dry for a bit longer so I decided to walk through the old mall. I was floored by the vast emptiness of the once robust gathering place. It was honestly a bit unnerving. Over 3/4 of the store fronts were blacked out and their logos were nothing but faded outlines that could barely be made out.

Now, I understand that business evolves. People do less and less shopping out in public. Many of us sit in our living room on our couch and place orders online. I’m not against this at all because it is easier to press a button and have something placed outside your front door. What I miss though is seeing people. Seriously. I love the hustle and bustle of people milling among each other. I don’t mind waiting in lines and listening to what people are discussing. I get energized by it !!

You see the empty shopping mall reflects one thing that is occurring that I’m not geeked about. More and more people are choosing convenience over community. This is a pretty broad generalization, but there are countless examples of how we want to have things brought to us so we don’t “waste time.” There is nothing wrong with being efficient. But, in doing this we aren’t coming together in other ways. We’re becoming increasingly isolated intentionally. The major concern about this move towards isolation is that we accept it as the norm. There is little push back against being slowly lulled apart.

I understand that I am an off the chart extrovert, and that weighs into how I feel. However, I see convenience being touted as being so much more attractive in all facets of life. During the holiday season, it’s well known that people struggle. There are many reasons for this and all of them are valid. With that before us, the last thing we need is a move to more isolation.

How does this tie into what we do as HR professionals? I think it’s pretty obvious. Isolation, you see, is occurring in our workplaces as well. We spend more time with our tasks than we do in actual interactions with others. On top of this, most people want to have little time with others that isn’t “work only” because we’re wasting time. (This includes how most HR pros approach employees.)

Well, I for one, don’t want HR and the workplace to go the way of the shopping mall. It’s going to happen if we don’t pivot and change now. I mean it. The call for convenience is hoping that we move farther and farther apart. I understand that you may not feel comfortable connecting with tons and tons of people. Please don’t take this request to the extreme.

You have the opportunity to start/build your community by intentionally reaching out to ONE person. One !! This is true because it takes only one person to step out of isolation and into the midst of another’s life on purpose. I can’t tell you how much I am driven by this feeling to see this change in our profession and in our company cultures.

This week, reach out to one person. You may be the absolute break from the isolation they’re experiencing right at this moment. It’s time for all of us to make a difference in the lives of others. Let’s finish 2018 building our community so that 2019 and the future will evolve as others come together. Always remember . . . we are better together !!

Step Out of Line !!

I’ve just returned from SHRM18, and this was one of the best SHRM Annual Conferences I’ve attended. It was the largest and most attended in SHRM’s history, and yet it felt very accessible and easy to maneuver. The attendees were geeked whether they were in sessions, browsing the SHRM store, enjoying the keynotes or taking in the wonder of Chicago.

At the end of one of the days, the 17,000+ attendees all seemed to be leaving at the same time. I was in the midst of everyone else and was hot and tired – just like the masses. I walked out into the city heat to grab a cab and was told to go back in line. I didn’t know there was a line, so I headed back inside. What I saw was staggering !! The queue for the cab line was enormous and folded back on itself many times. The lines for the shuttles seemed to go on forever as well. I also looked at a countless number of attendees looking at their phones waiting for their Uber or Lyft to arrive.

After observing all of this, I tried to lighten the tension by suggesting people step out to get a drink. I was met with scowls and grumbling. This didn’t seem to be going well in general. So, I made a decision.

I stepped out of line !!

I walked out of the cavernous McCormick Center and started walking down a street. I looked at a map on my phone and saw that I had a short 46 minute stroll in front of me as the sky above me darkened with thunderstorm clouds. I didn’t care and kept walking. After about eight expansive Chicago blocks, I spotted a cab by itself across the street. The driver was checking something in his trunk, and he was heading back to get in. I screamed across traffic, “Sir !! Sir !!” He saw me and beckoned me over. I zig zagged through passing traffic and collapsed into the cab dripping with sweat.

The driver calmly greeted me and asked, “Hello !! Where to sir?”

I told the driver my destination and then he began talking. He asked me how my day was and where I was from. He told me he was originally from Lagos, Nigeria and that he had been in Chicago for over ten years. His only job in the states has been driving a cab in Chicago, and he loved it. He loved talking to passengers and hearing about who they were, what they did and why they were visiting Chicago. He was wonderful, welcoming and fascinating !! All of my anxiety and stress of rushing back to get to the next HR event wanted, and we had a fantastic conversation.

As we pulled up to my hotel, I extended my hand out to the driver and said, “My name is Steve.” He replied, “My name is Sunday.” I thanked Sunday for the best experience of my time in Chicago yet.

I never would have met Sunday had I stayed in line. The lines were the most obvious choice because they were the system that was provided and that people were used to. There’s nothing wrong with the system, but it was bogged down. It was leading to frustration and angst because people wanted to get out of the building for the day.

This sounds like HR and the world of work that all of us face. If we would have the courage to step out of line vs. trying to contain people within lines, we’d have a completely different experience every day. We would see what’s happening all around us because we’d be in different environments. We’d have to fend for ourselves and learn how to solve situations from a fresh perspective, and we’d enjoy the adventure !!

All of the “learnings” we can encounter can occur in the most unlikely places. The key for all of us is that we intentionally – step out of line !!

HR Like An Artist !!

I don’t consider myself a “typical” male. I have many interests and enjoy all of them. I can talk sports with the best of them, but I don’t limit myself to sports alone. I love engaging in conversations about politics, religion, music, travel, random trivia and art. I LOVE art in all its forms. Just like most, I have certain preferences and not everything called “art” seems very artistic to me. But, that is the beauty of art. People can take it in and then decide what they like or what they detest. It doesn’t make a piece any more or less art. It allows for a wide variety of perspectives, emotions and opinions.

Lately, I have truly enjoyed watching Genius: Picasso on National Geographic. The series is capturing the eclectic life of Pablo Picasso. He chose to live life to its fullest and was quite a bohemian. His passion to paint consumed him, and it drove him to break more and more boundaries of what was considered to be how art should be expressed. There seems to have been many lives left in his wake as well as many relationships that fueled his passion along the way. His ego never was in doubt, but that meant that few people were very close to him. They were drawn to him because of his fire and charisma, but in the end, he put himself and his art before anything else.

Picasso was no different than us. We all have flaws, and some of them may be detrimental. What does make him different than most was that his drive to never settle runs contrary to how most people experience life. Settling gives us the illusion of comfort. What we miss in seeking a level of comfort is that we end up stagnate and immobile.

One of the reoccurring statements in the TV series is that when pressed about “rules,” Picasso defiantly shouts, “I don’t follow rules !!” This stance intrigues me because much of what is considered traditional HR is built upon the existence of a myriad of rules. In fact, and I know this may be an over generalization, I think most HR people feel they thrive in creating and enforcing rules. There seems to be an allure to make sure that all employees “fit” inside neat, confined systems. Personally, it baffles me.

How can limiting people help them? Please note that I support ideas like structure and framework in the workplace, but I feel that rules constrict. Rules are rarely applied consistently even though we say they are. I think our intentions are good, but our practice is inconsistent. It just is.

I believe in breaking rules and always have. In the show, Picasso says he wants to smash the rules artists were following. He wanted to set a new direction and path. Whenever I mention this to others in HR, I see the gleam in people’s eyes. They want to experience new ways and paths, but the pull of stability often dims the spark that is ignited.

How can we move past the spark? How can we be a profession that frees people to perform, express their creativity and allow them to contribute? The quote listed above is the key. Learn the rules that exist. Know the environment and situation you work within. Then . . . “break them like an artist.”

This coming week be willing to act like Picasso. See what is around you, but refuse to settle for the norms. Quit adding to the stagnation. Instead, be creative yourself to see what can be broken and redone in a new and imaginative way. This week become the artist in HR you were meant to be !!