What’s Your Name ??

Your name.

Everyone has one. The truth is that it is the most significant identifier of who we are as a human. You prefer to have others know your name when they talk to you because it provides a more personal connection. What is unique about names is that we’re very content knowing our own, and that’s about it.

The majority of people I meet willingly share that they struggle remembering the names of others. I find that fascinating and disappointing at the same time. It’s just not true. You know the names of many, many people, but you just don’t recognize it. For instance, you know the names of your immediate family and all of your extended family. Those names may actually extend for generations, and you’re able to recall every one without any effort.

You also know the names of many celebrities that span over decades. You can name the movies or television shows they were in, or the music that they perform. I’m not a celebrity follower, but I know too many of their names myself because they surround us.

So, you know more names than you think. However, the names of the people who pass by you every day are ignored and we “can’t” remember them because we’re “not good with names.”

I think this should change. People were given a name for a reason. To blow this off due to a lack of interest is not a good excuse. I don’t buy it. Why ?? I am good with names. I think that I have the names of thousands of people in my head at one time or another. Some of this may be that I’ve worked at this, but I think it’s also a set of factors that are a bit different than you may consider.

If you’re in HR, then I think it’s imperative that you are good knowing the names of those in your workplace at a minimum. There shouldn’t be an employee that walks through work anonymously. Now, I understand that we all work in company’s of various sizes. It could be very challenging to know every single team member’s name. That doesn’t make it less important, and I have some ways to make it less daunting.

Know that it matters – As mentioned before, our name is our unique identifier. We were given one on purpose. Remember that because remembering the name of other’s will keep you “others” focused which is the best type of HR.

You remember those who impact you or influence you – Remember the celebrity example? You remember those folks with ease because they’ve left some imprint on you. The same is true with your family and friends. So, treat those you work with with the same weight. Be an influence on them and expect them to be an influence on you.

Invest the time to remember names – It’s not as hard as we make it. The truth is that we’ll put our time towards things that matter to us. People should matter !! Knowing someone by their name will establish the foundation of a relationship. It’s key to all areas of your life.

Don’t be afraid to ask – We seem to hit a wall of fear if we forget someone’s name. The truth is that people are very forgiving if you take the time to ask them again. I’d work on it not happening regularly, but people will give grace since they struggle with remembering names as well.

This week start a new trend and approach. Work on remembering the names of others. It will change your perspective on relationships as well as other’s view of you. By the way, my name’s Steve.

Be Good

A few weeks ago I received a nondescript envelope in the mail at work. It was from my dear friend, Brad Galin, who also happens to be in HR. Inside the envelope was a small scrap of paper and a sticker. The note said, “Saw this and thought of you. – Brad” I looked at the sticker and smiled.

A small black circle with a positive message that fit in the palm of my hand stated – Be Good to People.

It’s a simple message. Four words that carry incredible weight and meaning.

It’s interesting that there’s an entire company that produces this message on a variety of products. (You should check them out !! – Be Good To People) Their whole mission is to spread this message in many different ways so that we all have a visible reminder. They want to see kindness be a constant in our lives and our society.

So, you need to ask – Why would we need this reminder? Unfortunately, it’s necessary because the majority of all that we see, consume and share isn’t good. I appreciate people speaking out against wrongs and ills that are happening in our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our cities and our country. It just seems that we’re constantly in some form of battle that pits people against each other. It’s exhausting and disheartening.

It’s also ironic when someone brings up a simple solution such as “be good,” the response is a scoff and skepticism. Now, THIS is something worth challenging. I’m an unapologetic optimist. I believe in humans without having them go through hoops to earn my trust or respect.

I dig that Brad thought of me when he picked up this sticker. I also appreciate that he took the time to reach out and mail it to me. That personal touch is so meaningful and it gives me a framework on how “being good” can work.

Small actions make a huge impact !!

That’s it. Simple. We need to understand that much of human interaction can turn from ugly to positive by small steps that happen on purpose. When you have that first encounter at work or at home tomorrow to start your week, the move is yours. If you are pressed and you feel your face begin to get flushed with your reactive response, breathe and then be good.

The reason this call to action is so difficult is that we need to fight against our inclination to instantly respond and try to solve something. Being good fights against the urge to react and move on. This call asks you to go against the flow of not only what you’re used to doing, but also how others expect you to respond.

What you need to know is that it’s worth the effort. It doesn’t matter what role you hold in your organization. This call isn’t only for HR because we’re the “people” people. Being good is for all people.

This week look for areas where you can take a small step. When you see that opportunity, take it. It will change your day, your week and possibly your life. Remember this – Be good to people.

What You Say . . .

. . . matters.

This may seem like an overly obvious statement. However, I don’t think we believe it because we are extremely careless with our words – especially when it comes to people.

It’s so easy to get frustrated with how others treat you, or the situations you find yourself in. Words that describe your immediate feeling and reaction usually aren’t positive. And, if we’re honest, we feel “better” by taking a shot at someone else – at least for the moment. I think we do it so often that we’ve become desensitized to how we casually describe others. It has become an expected response . . . and that is sad.

Now, trust me, I’m not pointing fingers at others because this is something that I struggle with as well. It’s not something I’m proud of, and it’s actually something I’m trying to turn around.

People don’t deserve to be called names that belittle or degrade. No one. Ironically, most of this happens out of earshot of the person we’re frustrated with which makes it even more underhanded. On top of this, we unfortunately highlight name calling and labeling almost incessantly in our social media forums or in the news. The juicier, or more vicious, the better. The response to when these barbs are thrown about is to take it up a level so it gets more and more harsh. I want you to note something.

Tearing someone down has NEVER improved a situation or a circumstance. Not once.

I mentioned before that I’m working on this. That’s the truth. I don’t mean this as an HR professional. I mean this as someone who’s a husband, a father, a friend, a volunteer and a co-worker. I observe that the ease at which others are torn down is the norm, and I can’t accept that. I understand people can be frustrating. However, what I think gets completely glossed over is that we’re ALL people !! I have to be someone who frustrates others. So, is the same name calling being used towards me when I push someone’s buttons? Of course it is. Even if I don’t hear it directly.

I had a conversation recently with a friend, and we were letting off some steam about a person who wasn’t in the conversation. It wasn’t positive. I’m embarrassed to say that. Afterwards, I decided that this isn’t how I want to behave. It’s an easy excuse to justify venting, but it isn’t how I want to see others treated, or be treated myself.

I believe we can, and should, be encouragers of people. This doesn’t count just for people we like. It’s for everyone because it honestly doesn’t happen enough. I know that when a kind word is given that is has meaning and impact. It matters. Now, it may be the exception in what people hear, but that means that kind words should be used even more regularly !!

We will all still be critical and there is value in that. We should be critical of the behavior we see and experience and not the person. Most people reading this will not agree with this position because it takes effort and grace to not bundle the human in our response.

This week I’m asking you to join me in changing the tide. Take time to encourage people and lift them up. When you’re faced with the urge to lash out, don’t do it. Breathe and then assess what was said. See how to respond positively and then act. It’s not what we’re used to doing in our interactions with others. What’s cool though is that people won’t be expecting a positive response either.

What we say matters. I choose to encourage and I hope you will as well !!

Be the Change !!

SHRM17 just wrapped up this week in the midst of tropical storm Cindy knocking on the door as everyone finished the conference and headed home. Ironically, the energy that emanated from the event was almost as moving as the storm !! The vibe this year was positive, collaborative and you could feel a sense of togetherness throughout the entire week.

I had a lofty goal to meet every attendee, and I fell a bit short. It wasn’t for a lack of effort though. I was astonished how many people I observed that continued to move from session to session without meeting a single person. Please note that I don’t think people had to meet me, but I did hope that they’d connect with someone !!

I noticed this continued “eyes forward” approach while people were waiting to hear me present. As I saw this, I asked the AV folks to turn up my mic, and I implored the people who were kind enough to choose my session to look up from their phones and meet the people around them. The energy jumped through the roof, and I actually heard from someone later who said, “I appreciated the reminder to meet others because I was caught up in the stuff at work, and lost sight of others sitting right next to me. I liked meeting everyone.”

I may sound like a broken record, but, taking a page from Patrick Lencioni, I will keep reminding people of what seems simple – because people aren’t doing it. I find it so hard to grasp that HR pros almost refuse to meet their peers. They seem so set on getting to a class or training session to wait to see the person at the front of the room speak. I hope that those speakers rock and that you learn from each of them. But, what if the person sitting next to you was facing the same issues and challenges you were, and all you had to do was say, “Hi, my name’s ________. And you are?”

I closed my session this year with my most favorite quote from history. Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I don’t mean to overstate, or simplify this, but I truly want to see HR become a global community that is connected though people – on purpose !! I know that if this happens, then the desire for us to look at our field, and the people in it, positively won’t be some aspiration, it will be a fact.

I loved meeting the new folks that I did during SHRM17. The ranged from a room full of students and young professionals on Sunday, to HR folks who were from Cincinnati (where I’m from) whom I hadn’t met in the past, to people from Guam, Australia, Canada, India and Brazil. Each one of these HR pros is now a connection and I hope we stay connected for years to come !! In fact, I wish I had more time reconnecting with some of my friends who I get to see more regularly, but our paths didn’t cross as often as I’d hoped.

I ask those who attended SHRM17 to not let the energy and vibe of such a massive event slip by as we all return to our regular roles and duties. You experienced a shift and not it is up to YOU to be the change in your world. I plan to keep the movement going, and hope you join in !!

Paperback Writer !!

Did you ever know someone who always seemed to have their head in the clouds? They seem to see the world from different angles and make observations that may not seem congruent with others around them. They may be seen as contrarians, but they’re good with it. They don’t seem to fit a category because once you try to put them in one box, they’re off somewhere else.

I’m one of those dreamers. It’s a bit unnerving to even talk about it because I want you to know that this post is much more about ideas and an approach than it is about me as a person. I’ve never felt comfortable when someone self-proclaims something because it brings about skepticism and doubt. We have a “prove it” lens we use, and we honestly wait for people to fail versus expect them to succeed.

For several years, I’ve been fortunate to share my thoughts on this blog, as a guest writer for other HR related blogs and as a speaker. It’s something I truly enjoy and look forward to. It’s nice to have a platform to take the ideas that keep rattling around internally, and get them out to share with others and see if they stick and have merit. There’s a risk in doing this because you need to be willing to be vulnerable and know that there may be those who absolutely disagree with you. That’s cool because dialogue and conversations should be welcome instead of forcing someone to just take your side.

After having many opportunities to share my perspectives and approach on HR, I had some friends say, “You know what? You should write a book and capture this. I’d read it.”

This is very kind and humbling. When I first heard people say this to me, I was intrigued with a mixture of cautious anxiety. All of the voices that pull at you questioning whether you should move ahead or not on a venture like this are powerful and loud. I’ve never been someone who feels comfortable in the status quo or staying stuck in a pattern, but the urge to just continue what I’ve been doing was attractive.

Each week I go to a local haunt called JTaps which is close to where I work. It’s great because there are not many people there and you can get away from the buzz and pace of the world and the workplace to think. I opened a journal and started writing down themes, ideas and thoughts. One week I took my laptop, opened a Word document, looked at my journal, ordered a Gyro, chips and a Diet Coke and started typing on a blank page.

After awhile, words became paragraphs and paragraphs became chapters. I had the beginnings of a book and decided to share it with a few close friends to see what they thought. They liked what they saw and so I reached out to see if someone would consider publishing it. As most of you know, I’ve been active with SHRM for almost 20 years as a volunteer leader. I mentioned that I was trying to create a book about HR and they asked to see it and then put together a proposal for them to consider.

(Here’s the exciting bit . . . .)

They chose to publish the book and this week at the SHRM Annual Conference in New Orleans, my book – HR on Purpose !! – launches.

It’s so surreal and I’m so geeked that I can hardly contain myself !! The book looks at HR from a positive viewpoint and gives you examples, real-world stories from the trenches and encourages people to own and thrive in human resources.

The book captures the belief that I have, and live, that people have value and that HR is the best profession that anyone could ever be in. It shows how you can enjoy HR . . . on purpose !!

I’ve shared before that I’m a music freak. I have some playing now even as I type this. This week, I get to live out one of the songs from my fave group, The Beatles, because now I’m a paperback writer !!

I’d be geeked if you took the time to check out my book, and I hope you enjoy it and enjoy HR even more !!

The Beatles Paperback Writer Rain 1966 by moss3516


This past week I lost a dear friend. His name is Jay.

His passing wasn’t expected. He was driving home after work when debris came through his windshield and killed him instantly. The news was as staggering as the way he passed. It doesn’t seem possible that a peer is gone. Life isn’t supposed to progress this way. We had hoped to grow old together and spend time with our families, children and (hopefully) grandchildren.

Fortunately, I was able to travel out of town to participate in his visitation and funeral service. That meant the world to me because Jay was one of my closest friends on the planet. I was one of the people asked to share at his service and it was the most challenging speech I’ve ever given. I’ve been fortunate to speak in front of thousands of people at a time, and that was easier than this.

When I was putting my remarks together, there were tears mixed with laughter. Jay was one of the smartest people I’ve every known – literally. He was a PhD scientist who did research to try to help cure cancer. He was a model husband and father who loved them with his life, his time and his focus. He only ever said kind and positive things about them. Jay and I could “nerd out” together while enjoying conversations ranging from the genius of Monty Python to the deep meaning of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and movies.

Our families literally grew up together through the birth of our kids until now some 20+ years. We’ve laughed together, worshiped together, camped together and shared many other experiences. I saw Jay every week for the 13 years we lived in the same city. His job took him to Illinois and finally Wisconsin, but we never grew apart.

The greatest thing I can share about Jay is that he made an eternal impact on my life. Now that he’s gone, I feel that impact even more. Jay literally took in every aspect of life. He didn’t miss a thing. He was very observant and it was a joy to be with him on hikes out on a trail because you’d experience the fullness of nature instead of hurrying to get your number of steps in.

Jay also did this with the people in his life. He never missed a person and made sure to get to know you and interact with you. Ironically, he was a quiet, humble man who would meet you with ease versus bravado. He listened to your stories and laughed often !!

His life is a reminder and an example for me and for others. In today’s world everyone seems to be consumed with politics and taking sides or the misadventures of celebrities we will probably never meet in person. I would challenge you to get out of these constant distractions and look at the people you encounter every. day.

That is where we can leave a mark. You see, you leave an impact every time to you interact with others. You just need to choose if that will be a positive impact or a negative one. Either way, it will happen. I choose to be like Jay and pour into the lives of all the people who cross my path. Intentionally meeting them and seeing who they are and what their life is like. It matters.

One of the final experiences I had in person with Jay that left an impact on us both was seeing U2 live in Chicago at Soldier’s Field with two more best friends. We took in every note and sang every lyric. It was another lifelong memory as every one was with Jay. He loved U2 just as we all did, and still do.

I’ll leave you with one of their songs, Grace, which has a lyric which says “Grace finds goodness in everything.”

That was Jay. I loved my friend and miss him immensely. I know we’ll see each other again some day, and it will be just as wonderful as it has been for all these years.

Not Sorry

The title of this post is not something you’d typically see from an HR blog. It comes from a recent lunch I had with a friend. She was talking about working with a new co-worker who said, “I’m sorry . . .” before every response she gave in regards to her work. I asked her how she was trying to change this behavior, and she calmly responded, “I’m beating the sorry out of her !!” I almost spit out my water with laughter. What a great saying.

Please don’t mistake this as asking people to not show empathy in how they practice HR. Empathy is an essential skill we all need, but apologizing all the time isn’t. When I think about how I hear HR peers talk about what they do, “I’m sorry” (or something like that) is usually the lead in phrase. Have you heard (or said) these?

“I’m sorry that our benefit costs are going up . . .”

“I’m sorry that wages are being frozen this year . . .”

“I’m sorry that your supervisor is difficult to work with . . .”

You could continue this list of apologetic phrases for hours. I understand that part of our role is delivering difficult news and/or dealing with challenging employee relations situations. However, we don’t have to state how sorry we are to try and ease into how things are occurring. It seems trite, defensive and lacking confidence. We may think we’re showing a softer side, but if you listen to it from the receiver side of the interaction, it sounds wishy-washy.

One of the marks against our profession is that people see us as indecisive within organizations. We may be great “support” functions, but we aren’t viewed as others are when it comes to leadership. I’m tired of seeing this happen. It also doesn’t make sense that downplaying who we are and what we do is a position that should ever be taken. We can’t just hope that someone will bestow the mantle of leadership upon us.

Leadership takes action and being intentional. That doesn’t mean you need to be a jerk or some hard head in order to he heard and taken seriously. However, we can’t keep coming in with an apology either. The shift that is needed isn’t difficult to adopt, but it does take discipline and a willingness to step forward in confidence in the decisions for which you are responsible.

The two best ways to stop apologizing include your approach and the use of context. Approach is something that you control personally. How you assess a situation, how you react and who you involve are factors with every interaction. We should address people who are involved in HR related situations directly and not in hallway gossip. Being direct (with empathy) is what employees would love to see on a regular basis.

The other aspect of approach is context. “Because that’s the policy” is not context, it’s a crutch. It may not feel great to give the hard answer on the reality of circumstances, but it’s needed. Know this – if you give up being the person who brings context to employee relations, then someone else will. It will most likely be their version of context, and it won’t be the truth. We can’t afford to keep forfeiting an area of culture which we should own and lead.

This week stop apologizing when you start talking. State what you want to say and move forward. People may be shocked at first that HR is using a new approach. Trust me though that they’ll appreciate this new HR so much more than what had been there before !!

Get Tagged !!

Do you remember playing Tag when you were a kid? I think every child since the dawn of time has played Tag at least one time. To refresh you’re memory – there’s a person who’s “it” and they run around trying to tag others and transfer being “it” to someone else. Usually, there are tons of screams, giggles and taunts as people run around to avoid being tagged. It’s a great game where people typically quit only after becoming exhausted from running around.

This past week, I took a short vacation to Washington, D.C. with my wife. We really enjoyed seeing the sites from Arlington National Cemetery, to several monuments, the sobering United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, George Washington’s homestead Mount Vernon and a walking tour through Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. It’s amazing that we can walk about freely in our nation’s capitol and take in all of this history. We were surrounded by literally thousands of people that seemed to move like waves from attraction to attraction.

As I continued to read plaque after plaque about people who impacted our nation and world, I was struck by something. When they were tagged, they were okay with being “it.” They stepped into the situations before them and acted. It didn’t mean they were perfect in character or background by any means. They had faults because they were humans just like us. But . . . they acted.

As I look around at people today, I hope they are willing to be tagged. In the childhood game, the goal is to avoid the tagger at all costs because you don’t want to be “it.” This is also somewhat prevalent in our society. We’re very concerned about what affects us personally, but we don’t step up to act. I think we feel that if we act that it will infringe upon our personal time to such an extent that we’re stymied against moving at all. We also fall into the trap that we’ll be required to do something we’re not capable of doing. Our minds make us think that we’re not able to do well in what we’re pursuing, so we stay put.

I want to challenge everyone to understand that action is not some monumental task. It’s just the willingness to break out of inertia when needed. As HR pros, I want to encourage you to be a person who’s willing to be tagged. We can step up and get involved in areas both inside and outside our company. I fiercely believe that HR pros who are others focused are people who will be successful in ways they’ve never expected.

We can’t continue to sit idly by. I’m not going to presume where you can plug in, but I know that it’s needed. You see, if we don’t act then we can’t affect the outcome of situations. Something that could be worked out and have a positive result may not because it made us uncomfortable to be “it.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t let that be the case.

I am not under some misconception that some day people will be walking around reading some plaque about my actions. However, reading what others were willing to do rekindled the fire in me to continue to be tagged. And, since I’m “it”, I’m looking to tag others. Be watching. You may soon hear – “Tag, you’re it !!”

Image Courtesy of Brainless Tales


Grow or Control ??

Coffee shops are inspirational. You knew that didn’t you? They really are and have to be. Most are full of people who are on laptops or tablets as well as groups of folks having great conversations. My fave coffee haunt, Cavu Coffee, is one of these inspirational locations !!

Recently, I was in the midst of a great conversation at Cavu with a friend and we talking about leadership. In the midst of a sip of some hot coffee, she laid this out for me – “You know Steve, there are two types of leaders. Those that help people grow and those who want control.”

I stopped sipping my coffee. I was struck by how accurate that was. When I think of the workplace, I definitely see this dichotomy at play. The tendency, however, is not usually focused on growth. I don’t mean to be negative, just realistic. Managers and supervisors live in a constant state of frustration because people just won’t do what they demand, I mean, ask.

We aren’t clean in this area either HR. The majority of our efforts in HR are to constrain and control. This is true from policies to performance “management” systems. I know many of my peers who are handcuffed by spending the majority of their time and contributions towards keeping employees in line.

How does this help people excel? How does this help companies thrive and perform? Why is the standard of how we allow managers and supervisors behave so low? The questions could go on and on . . .

We need to be a profession focused on growth – both personally and throughout our organizations. Trust me, this is healthier than what is being done currently. We all have to come to terms that “control” is a myth. It always has been.

Don’t believe me? Do you have kids, know kids or were a kid yourself? (I want to make sure to cover everyone). Parents miss so much of the phenomenal side of their children because they want their kids to behave, listen and stay within very tight boundaries. I believe in structure, and I was one of those parents who was more strict than I probably should have been. When I allowed my kids to just be themselves, they flourished !! Their creativity and imagination jumped out of them. There was little they wouldn’t explore or try. They were limitless.

The more I tried to keep them in line, the more I saw the edges get chipped off and they moved more and more to the “norms” that everyone expected of them. Why does this matter? You know what happens when kids grow up? They become our employees.

So, why wouldn’t you want employees who saw their work as having no limits? What if HR was less about “crossing the line” and more about boundaries and parameters that allowed people to perform? We need to step in and change the landscape of the workplace. It just has to happen.

People want to grow. They want to do this within their role and the organization. This doesn’t mean that everyone desires promotions and the out-of-date career ladder. They want to grow in how they do work. They want to grow in their responsibilities. They want to grow in how they move the company forward.

They want to grow . . . and so do you !!

I encourage you to eliminate the illusion of control and build an environment of growth. Go to a coffee shop and see how your inspiration blossoms !!

Be Unlikely !!

When I was young, I remember watching Christmas specials on TV with my family. As a point of reference, this was long before cable TV and 1,000’s of channels. There were four networks to choose from – ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS. We didn’t think we were being slighted by having so few choices. It was our reality and we accepted it.

The most memorable instance I can recall happened during a Bing Crosby special. My Mom and Dad were huge Bing Crosby fans, and my brother and I didn’t get much of a say on what we watched. As we huddled together to watch the show, the most unlikely thing happened. Bing was in a set depicting a large, warm house and a neighbor came to the door. The neighbor was . . . David Bowie !!!

My Dad looked at my brother and I and asked who this British person was and if we knew him. I jumped at the chance to say how fantastic Bowie was, and I now had immense interest in this show. They did some forced dialogue and then sang a duet to The Little Drummer Boy. My Dad hated it, but I thought it was beautiful – and still do.

I’m sure the network execs wanted to bring someone young on their Christmas special to hopefully connect with young viewers. I don’t know if it worked, but it was great to see something so unexpected happen. Seeing something that is unlikely grabs your attention and leaves an imprint.

As we wrap up another year, it’s time for us to sit back a bit and reflect where we are personally and professionally. I know that you will have the chance to step out next year at least once into an area that won’t seem to fit. You’ll be the unexpected neighbor who shows up. You’ll have a choice to either see how to make this odd pairing work, or you can walk away.

I think it’s time for HR to willing be the unlikely person to show up. This needs to occur at the executive level of your organization as well as every department. We can no longer be the department that people “go to.” We need to be the people who make things happen for others. It’s the natural evolution of our profession, and we need to be intentional in seeing this through.

Don’t settle in being a part of the scenery and background of your company. That’s where we’ve been for far too long and people have come to expect that this is the norm. I think that this leads to many folks in HR becoming frustrated and tired. You have the opportunity to turn this norm around and set a new one.

The time is overdue to make this shift. You have to know that you might be the missing piece to an incredible duet that is just waiting to be sung. This next year . . . be unlikely.

NOTE: I’m going to take the remainder of the year to be with family and friends. I appreciate you for reading my blog and hope it is a regular dose of encouragement for you in what we all do in HR. I also hope that you have a phenomenal Christmas, New Year’s and overall Holiday Season !!