The First Cut !!

One of the great things about living in the Midwest is that you experience four distinct seasons. Spring “officially” began March 21st with the vernal equinox, but Spring doesn’t really start until you get to work out in the yard. I truly enjoy working out in my yard. It’s a chance to listen to music with my ever present iPod (old school), clear my head with any of life’s pressures, and get my hands dirty working in the beds.

So, this weekend Spring officially began at my house. There was a forecast for warmer weather without rain for a few hours. I put on some clothes that I knew would get dirty, slapped in my earbuds and hit “play”. As Your Gold Teeth by Steely Dan started playing, I jumped into action. It was fantastic !! I moved from the front beds, to the side beds to the beds that serve as a perimeter to our back porch. There was a mixture of tasks ranging from picking up dead leaves, destroying weeds and removing the dead growth from plants just starting to turn green and reemerge.

Then, the lawn. I’m kind of old school on some things including walking behind my mower to cut the 1/2 acre lot I live on. As I get older, the yard seems to get a bit larger and a little more challenging to complete. However, it’s normally the best 1 1/2 to 2 hours I have every week. Exercise mixed with some sweat and tunes. Almost perfection.

There’s one thing to note that happens after the first cut of the season. The grass now has the okay to grow once again. A bit of trimming stimulates the innate nature of the lawn and growth is rekindled. I don’t know the science behind this, but the action which you’d think would be detrimental to a living organism, is exactly the opposite. It’s the stimulus it needs in order to fulfill its purpose !!

Have you looked around the “lawn” at your workplace lately? How does it appear? Is it dormant or eager to grow? Is your focus on the entire environment where you work?

Too often HR is stuck in the weeds – literally. We spend so much of our time on the exceptions of the people we have the privilege to coexist with that we never feel we even have time to tend to anything else. This is a mistake and we need to change our focus. We have the chance to put on our work clothes and interact with every department just like my lawn and flower beds. We can remove the clutter and unnecessary items that keep people from performing. We can make sure that everything has room to blossom and spread out. And finally, we can “cut the grass” and stimulate employees to no longer remain dormant and stuck in their ways.

The question is, where do you spend your time now? I choose to be the HR person who works the land and encourages it to flourish !! At the end of this weekend’s yard session, I was spent. In fact, I came inside and washed up before collapsing into a deep nap on the sofa. That same sense of giving all I have to make employees and the workplace thrive is something that I strive to do on a regular basis.

How about you? Ready to make the first cut of the year? Put in your earbuds, hit play and let’s go !!

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 !!


Give It Up !!

As you head into work this week, how does your plate look? I’m sure it’s full. I’d be surprised if it’s not. Knowing that’s the case, how are you going to start the day? Are you going to pull your big boy/big girl boots on and jump into the fray? You probably will and it will have limited success. It will probably lead to frustration and a feeling that you’re never getting ahead.

I’m not being critical because you may have things all together. I’m not one of those folks. I get distracted often. The distractions are a mix of what is natural in HR by being pulled in several directions at the same time, and the reality is that I can follow a shiny object if it gets into my field of vision. I think it’s important to be reflective and honest about how you’re wired. However, I don’t think it should be an excuse for being effective in your role.

I recently attended a great training class at work on Planning. The reason that it rocked was that it wasn’t about “method,” it was about components. I have struggled with the idea of planning my entire career because it has always been presented to me as a series of must do steps and endless to do lists. This training broke things down into components that emphasized focusing on the “big rocks” in front of you and work from there.

DelegateInterestingly enough, one of the tools that helped you keep your eyes on the big rocks was delegation.

Ah . . . the D word !! We espouse that it’s necessary, but we struggle to do it with any sort of consistency. There are many reasons for this that are myths, and it’s time we faced why we choose not to delegate.

Loss of Control – We’re control freaks, especially if you work in HR. We are so protective of what we do. Some of that “close to the vest” approach is needed, but we are way too overprotective. We make the assumption that others can’t handle certain aspects of HR because of confidentiality. The problem is that even though that may be the case on some issues, our profession is so broad that there is a ton that we can give to others. We need to quit thinking that HR is a cloak and dagger job.

They won’t do it “right” – Yikes !! This is said many times a day in the workplace. We state we won’t delegate because we know others won’t do it the way we do. There are so many things wrong with this outlook. First of all, you are assuming that others will underperform because we do it so well. Who gets to judge that? Secondly, we assume that when people do things differently than we do, then it’s wrong. If you take away anything from this post, please remember this HR !!

Different isn’t wrong – it’s just different.

How can we claim to value diversity in our organizations if we think that doing things in alternative ways is wrong? Seriously. Examine this because if you allow this thought and behavior, you can guarantee that you aren’t genuinely diverse. Diversity is a strength and delegation would show you that it is.

We’re afraid – Whenever you give something up, there is a feeling of uncertainty. You can’t shake this. It will happen every time you delegate. However, you can reduce this anxiety if you give expectations and clarity to others when you delegate. That doesn’t mean that you do 90% of the work and then “allow” someone to finish the last 10%. Practice makes perfect with delegation. Keep doing it regularly and you’ll be more comfortable with it over time.

It was great to learn the power of delegation and how it relates to planning. I wanted to add one more perspective to this. Delegation is a powerful way to develop your staff. Giving them projects and tasks allows them to stretch, grow and perform.

So, this week change your view and start emptying your plate. Take a breath, calm your nerves and take a step to give it up !!

More Folks I Learn From !!

In November, I started to share some folks I learn from and wanted to continue that effort as we enter a new year.  I hope that one of the things ALL of us do as we move into 2014 is that we strive to continually learn.  We can’t afford to be stagnant in any way.  I hope that these recommendations spark an interest for you to check out someone new and see if what they say helps you think of HR in a different way.  I value what they do and who they are !!  Let’s get started . . .

John WhitakerJohn Whitaker (@HR_Hardball on Twitter) is a force !!  Being from Texas, that shouldn’t surprise anyone.  When I first talked to him he said he was giving me a nickname because he gives everyone a nickname.  In fact, he goes by “Whit” and not John himself.  Whit brings it every time he strikes a keyboard to write a post.  He is a featured contributor to Fistful of Talent (an incredible HR compilation blog of great HR voices by the way !!), and his own blog, HR Hardball, flat rocks !!  I know that John also does presentations as HR events which stretch the everyday practitioner to look at the profession from different angles.  We all need folks who can bend our brains a bit.  Whit does this effectively and is a treat to take in !!

Gemma ReucroftLet’s now go over to the UK for Gemma Reucroft (@HR_Gem on Twitter).  Gem brings a grounded sensibility to HR, but doesn’t “settle” for the norms.  In fact, she challenges norms every time she posts.  As a fellow HR practitioner, she isn’t just espousing things HR folks “ought” to do, she’s practicing what she writes about.  I love that she keeps things simple and stripped down.  It makes her work very accessible and applicable to what you do in HR.  Her blog – hrgem: Thoughts on HR, work and doing good people stuff – captures who she is and her approach to our field. I have her blog highlighted in my Feedly list and eagerly wait to see what she has to share.  Make sure you connect with her !!

Mary FaulknerBack to the states and to beautiful Colorado !!  That’s where you can find Mary Faulkner (@mfaulkner43 on Twitter).  I met Mary at the SHRM National Conference in Chicago this year, and found out what a brilliant leadership, training and OD professional she is.  I have found it hard to connect with many OD folks because for many of us, it’s wrapped up in our HR generalist roles.  Mary is solid and her blog, Surviving Leadership, is one of the most straightforward blogs around.  She is just “breaking onto the scene” in social media, but you wouldn’t know that.  Her content is fabulous and is something I take to heart when looking at the leadership and OD efforts at work.

Make sure to connect with Whit, Gemma and Mary !!  You’ll be glad you have new outlets for resources in your work.  Be on the lookout for more folks I learn from.  There are a ton and I hope that there will only be more and more throughout the year !!



Folks I Learn From !!

Recently, I’ve been trying to think of more ways to put resources in the hands of other HR pros. When I saw the recent post from Trish McFarlane on HR Bloggers as well as the new e-book from David D’Souza Humane, Resourced: A Book of Blogs, I wanted to chime in as well.

You see, I have this incredibly audacious goal !!  I want to see the ENTIRE HR community connected, informed and able to rock in their roles.  I desire to see the “social” HR folks connect with HR practitioners and vice versa.  I believe that the more we’re genuinely connected, then we can share the resources we enjoy in order to do a better job in Human Resources.

Feed Your HeadAlso, I’m a voracious reader who always yearns to learn.  There are so many great ideas, thoughts, concepts, trends and movements to be taken in.  Often, people shy away from information because they load in the filter of “Well, I can’t do that in my organization . . .” and they shut down.  If you do this, stop it !!  What company wants an HR person who only focuses on what can’t be done ??

What if you took the stance of, “I’m not sure if I can use this, but it’s important for me to learn about it.”  Who knows?  You may be able to take something from all you take in and apply it to your culture and situation.  How do you ever plan to change the norms in your organization if you continue to practice only what you know today?  If someone reading this uses the “I just don’t have time” excuse at this point, then just stop reading.

It is an opportunity to use your time differently, creatively and constructively !!  Wouldn’t you love to have that freedom everyday?  I do, and it is exhilarating !!

So, I wanted to put some folks out there in front of you and off the blog roll so that you can consider connecting with them and learning from them.  I do this each week when I send out the HR Net, and now I wanted to highlight some folks every so often to make sure you’re being exposed to folks I learn from !!

Paul HebertFirst up is Paul Hebert.  He works for a cool company called Symbolist.  Paul and I have known each other for years now and we chat often.  I learn from his blog writing as well as our deep conversations.  I mean that.  We say hello, ask about families and then jump in deeply to talk about all facets of HR !! He’s an incredible resource and you will enjoy how he looks at the human facets of engagement, culture and recognition.

Michael CartyNext is Michael Carty.  We’ve only known each other through social media, but I know that we share an incredible amount of similar likes (HR, Global HR and Rock Music) !!  Michael is the consummate curator and works for a phenomenal HR resource – XPertHR.  He hails from the UK and it is on my bucket list to meet in person sooner than later.  Michael is someone who has a pulse on the global perspectives in HR.  Whether it’s through his writing or in his compilations of tweets and blogs on Storify, he keeps others aware of a broad pallet of issues and trends.  He’s a phenomenal person (and resource) to know !!

This is just the start and I hope to feature more folks each month.  Make sure you’re getting more and more connected to the greater HR community !!  You’ll only be better for it !!


Listen to the Deep Tracks !!

I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic lately.  If you don’t know this about me, I’m a huge music freak !!  I have music playing constantly in the car, in my office and when I’m working around the house.  I’m not very particular when it comes to styles of music either.  I prefer to keep the iPod on shuffle so that there is a constant mix flowing around me.

The reason I’ve felt nostalgic is that I grew up in the era of Album Rock.  You looked forward to the full LP from an artist vs. anticipating the next hit single. This isn’t a rant against Pop Music.  There have always been artists who are more known for their hits more than their body of work and there always will be. Unfortunately (in my opinion), the pendulum has swayed back to the hit single now instead of enjoying an artist’s full album.

Vinyl RulesI love vinyl records.  Everything about vinyl is great.  The look of the record.  The size of the album.  Knowing that you have to turn the record over in order to hear all the songs.  And, yes, I love the scratches, pops and snaps that emanate from the speakers while the songs play.  When you hear the first crackle as the needle drops and you don’t hear any notes for a few seconds, it’s bliss !!  Enough reminiscing . . .

The true joy of vinyl is that you are almost forced to listen to an entire side of an album.  It’s really difficult to skip a song, so you make time to listen to all of it.  That’s when it happens.  You discover a gem of a song by an artist you enjoy.  If you were given the chance to pick and choose songs, you’d probably only listen to the hits from the set.  But now you find that the deep tracks of the LP are actually better, more creative and show the depth of the artist.  Granted, there are some misses, but not that often.

In the workplace, we tend to pay attention to the employees who put out “hits” and are very visible, and we ignore the steady folks who are those “deep tracks.”  HR needs to play the part of the stereo arm and guide management to pay attention to the “whole album” vs. being enamored with the employee who may be a “one-hit wonder” !!  HR has the chance to take the hitmakers and show them how to develop their body of work into classic albums as well.

I know there a tons of comparisons to music in this post, but seriously, look at your systems HR.  They reward the people who have your attention at a particular moment.  This is true of performance management systems, compensation systems and how you promote people.  We need to be more focused on development so that we can enjoy all of the contributions people make.

I can tell you this, I’d much rather have a stack of vinyl to work with all the time instead of a quick single from iTunes from someone I may never hear from again.  This week dust off your vinyl, drop the needle and enjoy Track 8, Side 1.  It will be great !!

Get Real HR !!

As you start the work week, what’s the first thing you are thinking about?  Are you geeked up to go into the next challenge or opportunity? Or, instead, are you fretting about the inordinate amount of drama you have to wade through?  I’ll bet you’re putting on your waders right now !!

Drama in the workplace is commonplace.  In fact, some HR people ONLY exist because they thrive on it, or they feel that HR’s role is to quell the drama.  People don’t fit into nice little boxes even though we try our hardest to make that happen.  There’s a huge difference though between a person’s diversity (of thought, ideas, approach, insight) and drama !!  We need diversity.  We don’t need drama !!

Reality Based LeadershipThis was perfectly captured in Cy Wakeman’s book, Reality Based Leadership.  I know it’s been out for a few years, but some things in HR and Leadership are never “dated.”  This is one of those resources !!

Cy lends a mix of her own personal experience as a leader in the Healthcare arena with her interactions with some of her client companies.  The examples are tangible and when you read them you can almost always see yourself either involved in a similar situation, or know folks in your company who are struggling with the same things.

What seems to be obvious and simple when you read it is completely different than how most of us practice in our workplaces.  I agree with Cy in her take on how much of our daily work in HR is addressing drama.  It’s honestly tiring and unnecessary.  It was extremely refreshing to read about how this is prevalent in companies everywhere.  It was also encouraging to see a method to address the drama and . . . get real !!

Get RealIt’s amazing to me that employees ask for you to be “real” with them, but what they really mean is that they want things to be seen and addressed their way – whether that’s real or not.

When we are faced with these situations in HR, we more often than not, strive to get to a neutral standing in order to squelch any conflict.  This isn’t getting real, it’s pretending that you’re Switzerland.  In the end, you may feel that things are settled, but the turmoil that is still continuing behind your back is usually bigger than the situation was in the first place.

I really dig Cy’s approach and have been practicing much of what she outlines in her book.  Employees truly appreciate you being straightforward with them and cutting through the mists of ambiguity.  It’s doesn’t mean you have to be a bulldozer.  It means you have the chance to be genuine – which ALWAYS works !!

I’m not going to highlight the key points or chapters in the book because I think resources truly become a resource when YOU read them yourself !!  This great book will stay active with me and on my desk as a quick reference and reminder of its value.  I highly recommend that you get a copy and have one for yourself !!  I promise you that it will give you great context on how you can get real in HR and love what you do !!

What are you reading ??

Whenever you talk to HR people these days, heck really ALL people these days, they always bemoan that they don’t have enough time.  I don’t buy it.  If your perspective is that you’re too “full” it’s because of the things you are choosing to fill your time with.  It’s true !!

Look.  I know we all lead incredibly full lives, but there are amazing statistics about how much time people spend watching TV, using technology, etc.  And, many people don’t have a problem catching a movie or a great dinner out on the town.

This isn’t a post on time management because I honestly don’t believe in it.  Instead, I think you need to look at life as – what do I choose to fill my time with ??

ReadOne thing that almost consumes me is reading !! I find myself taking on two to three books at a time plus countless blogs.  Why ??  Because reading allows me to continuously learn about endless things.  Those within my field and about life in general.

Recently I’ve read QBQ! – The Question Behind the Question by John Miller and two great books by Andy Andrews – The Traveler’s Gift and The Noticer. I’m also waist deep in trying to take in The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.  What’s so cool about the Ayn Rand book is that it was a gift from the great folks at Kinetix.  Each year at Christmas they send out a classic book.  I take it as a reminder to delve in and read something that I may have not seen in years.  It’s a fantastic, and memorable, thing to do for people.

As for blogs, it’s hard to highlight them enough.  There are so many folks who do great work.  I have them listed in my blogroll on the site, but here’s the difference.  I have all of these blogs in my Feedly reader.  I make sure to read them all because I think that there are tons of information that needs to be taken in, used at work and shared with others.

So, this week – start reading.  You’re kind enough to read my blog and I truly appreciate that.  Expand your scope even wider.  Take up a book.  Find a new blog to read and follow.  You’ll be amazed at what you’ll discover !!

Challenge for you as well – List what you’re reading in the comments section below.  Let’s share the great items you enjoy.  Fill it up and let’s see what happens !!

Talent Takes Time !!

This weekend I had an incredible time with my son and 5,000 other Boy Scouts at Peterloon.  This isn’t a post about scouting, it’s about talent.

You see, this weekend my son was the “Senior Patrol Leader” meaning that he was in charge of the entire weekend.  He made sure everything was packed, ready to go, the camp was set up and the boys/adults had a productive time during the event.  He had to organize activities, keep track of details, encourage great behavior and address behavior that was a little more “challenging.”

During the camp tear down, I was about to “direct” some scouts to take care of things, when my son stepped in and said, “Dad, that’s not what we’re going to do.  That’s not a good use of our time.  I want to see the boys move the dining flies, tear down the chairs and then put things in the trailer.  Then we’ll eat.  We need to get these things done so we can stay on track.”

Did I mention my son’s 15 ??

This is the same young man who has done all of the goofy things boys do.  He’s incredibly funny, creative, witty and caring.  I am sure he will be successful in whatever he chooses to pursue.  His ideas are so far out of the box as to how to approach people that he finds people following his lead and innovation.

He’s a great example of why talent takes time.  If you would have told me that my son would become the young man I saw taking charge this weekend when he was young, I would have laughed out loud !!

Too often in organizations, HR follows the bright shining star who bursts onto the scene.  Everyone follows this person exclaiming their talent and the gold mine of leadership that he/she is sure to be for years to come !!  At times, this plays out.  However, too often the supernova is just that – a super nova.  They dazzle, draw attention and may do something short-term that astonishes everyone around and has great initial success.

Talent happens over a slow burn.  Talent is sustainable.  Talent is consistent and remains constant . . . over time.

So, when you clamor for the next “Talent Management” seminar or best practice, step back and review the employees around you.  Who is that person or department that consistently builds others up?  What person(s) make others shine through bringing their whole team along?  Are you trying to develop a series of supernovas, or true talent?

I can’t wait to see what happens in the future for my son.  I know it’s impossible to predict.  He’s surprised me so far.  I’m sure the great people around you will surprise you as well . . . if you just look out for the talent all around you !!



Read a Good Book Lately ??

A good friend of mine (and of many), Becky Robinson, started this great new group calle Team Buzz Builder.  If you are part of the the “team,” you are asked to read new books and then give your opinion about them.  This is new to me, but I wanted to be involved because I am a voracious reader !!

In fact, right now I’m finishing up the first book of the Hunger Games trilogy, just wrapped up the great read Social Gravity by Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen as Talent Anarchy, finished a book by Thomas Cahill and am about to pick up a book by Dietrich Bonhofer.  I love having 3 to 5 books going at one time.  It may be a little erratic, but I dig it.

Every once in awhile a book stops you in your tracks and makes you delve more into it and enjoy every moment.  I recently came across just such a book.  It is Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go by Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni.  I couldn’t put it down – literally !!  The book is fast paced and yet the most insightful book around the topic of professional development that I’ve ever encountered !!

The book struck a true cord with me because it’s approach made so much sense.  As HR professionals, we keep looking for THE system that will finally address the lack of feedback and/or performance metrics in our organizations.  We continue to hold onto the ancient notion that the annual “sit in front of my supervisor who rarely tells me how I’m doing so he/she can focus on my weaknesses” is effective.  It’s not.

Employees long for development regardless of their level in an organization.  The notion of “up or out” doesn’t come close to how lean organizations operate these days.  Beverly and Julie have written out a perfect method to address all forms of development and have made it relevant to ANY industry type.

HR – please take note of this.  I’m not a person to just share my opinion if it’s not something I’d be willing to practice.  I’m using this book as our “script” at looking at development internally at the Leadership level and in our pizzerias.  I’m getting a copy of the book for each of the SHRM Chapter Presidents in Ohio because I want to see them develop as leaders and for them, in turn, to develop the HR folks in their chapters.

The book is a must read because it’s applicable.  How often do you find that ??  I recommend you read the book first and make your determination.  I’m all in !!  I hope you will be too !!