Together as one !!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend the SHRM Leadership Conference. It is a true favorite for me because it is made up of fellow HR volunteers from all over the United States !!  I also had the chance to meet some great people from SHRM India !!

What continues to amaze me at these intentional gatherings is that people still tend to run in the groups of people that they know.  People stick within their State more than cross boundaries to meet others even though we are all in the same profession and we also have the commonality of volunteering !!

Fortunately, I have always believed in expanding boundaries.  I love connecting with new people wherever I go and SHRMLead was a great opportunity to “reach across the aisle” and make this happen.

When I did this, along with my compatriot John Friend from North Dakota, incredible things began to happen !!  People began to recognize the great things that bring us together.  We have a passion for HR, people and seeing the profession strengthen and grow now and into the future.  We also want to see it be relevant and necessary in all businesses and industries.

However, this won’t happen unless we start to realize that we are all in this together !!

If we want HR to be better – we need to be together !!

If we want SHRM to be better – we need to be together !!

If we truly want to be global – we need to be together !!

The only thing that keeps us from doing it is that we need more folks to reach out and be willing to connect with each other.  We grow stronger as a whole when we incorporate the phenomenal ideas, approaches, strengths and diversity of our geography and our opportunities we face !!

By the end of the week I had been meeting and hanging out with people from Ohio (gimme since it’s where I’m from), North Dakota, Michigan, Iowa, Minnesota, Nevada, Hawaii, Illinois, New York, California, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Montana, New Jersey, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Washington, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arizona, Arkansas, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, and India !!

These weren’t just chance meetings or passing each other in the halls.  We spent time together advocating on Capitol Hill, sharing ideas in breakout sessions, sharing meals and the occasional adult beverage, and laughing about the incredible field of HR !!

I’ve written that one of my favorite groups of all time is U2 and their song “One” captures it all – “We’re one, but we’re not the same.  We get to carry each other – Carry each other”

This week reach out.  Make that intentional connection with other HR people. Join me in starting to bring us together.  It’s going to happen !!  And I’d love it if you were part of us . . . together !!

 

Don’t You Forget About Me !!

Over the weekend, I saw the new movie Pitch Perfect.  Part of me wanted to see it because I love comedies, but the other part of me wanted to see it because I was in a Show Choir – the Varsity Singers – during high school.  It seemed like a great combination, and I was right !!  (Make sure you see this flick !!)

What made it EVEN better was the reference to an essential movie that I lived through – The Breakfast Club.  I was surrounded by all of those characters in the movie, and let’s just say I could “connect” with Anthony Michael Hall.

The key theme in this legendary movie, was that these people didn’t even know each other until they were forced into a situation during detention.  Even then, they had incredible filters and stereotypes of what each person was like, or so they thought.  The Pitch Perfect movie plays on this by pulling together another unlikely group of people together to make an amazing team !!

Too often, as HR professionals, we want to group people together in our organizations instead of celebrating their individuality.  We’re concerned that if people don’t “play by the rules” or “fit in,” then they’ll surely be trouble makers.  Also, in the classic closing song by Simple Minds, the lyrics remind us not to “forget” people.

Organizations tend to reward, promote and recognize those that are the most vocal and visible.  The people who may be the true talent who underpin those that are public are often relegated to anonymity.  Since they never speak up, we are okay with it.

This needs to change.  ALL employees have the opportunity to add value.  ALL employees !!  These great, unmined talents need someone to take note of who they are and not “forget” them.  This is squarely upon our shoulders as HR people.

I’m not talking about the exercise where everyone shares on every answer during a meeting or training session.  I’m talking about seeking these employees out intentionally and giving them our attention to let them know that they matter !!

So, this week, be like the end of The Breakfast Club !!  Break down the filters, seek out the greatness that works all around you and lift them up !!  They’re waiting for you !!

 

Go Tagless !!

I love the new campaign from Hanes with Michael Jordan.  The most recent ad shows a man trying to cook at his grill while the tag is telling him everything to do.  (Watch it here).

The “tag” line at the end of the commercial is fantastic !! “Tags are annoying. So we got rid of them.”

The message sticks with you and you see yourself nodding as the tags in your clothes mysteriously start to itch.  But I digress . . .

We tag people all the time (or label them).  It happens in all facets of life, but especially in the workplace.  By labeling someone, we feel we can contain them and that they should fit in our box of who we think they should be.  I’m not specifically calling out the classic EEOC categories here either.  We put labels on people and expect them to live within those.  Most of the time those labels aren’t communicated either.  They are just whispered by management, or they are our filter on performance reviews.

HR has a chance to really impact an organization when it comes to removing tags !!  However, we need to start with ourselves.  You can’t expect others to follow this movement, unless you first remove your own tags.

For instance – remove the tag that you’re “only” in HR.  We are a vital facet of all organizations due to the simple fact that they have people.  If they have people – they need HR.  Secondly, remove the tag that you only exist for either management or employees.  You exist for ALL employees and can therefore be a consistent force and voice for all levels of the organization.

When you’ve removed your tags, then look at the various HR systems in your Company to see where things need a little trimming.  Allow your employees to develop, grow and move throughout the company instead of making sure they fill a certain niche.  It doesn’t mean promoting everyone “up or out,” but it does allow people to excel by taking on work where they can add value and utilize their strengths.

One “tag” you should keep is “genuine.”  It’s missing in many corners of our profession, and it needs to be sewn back on.  Helping organizations remove their labels is essential and it is an area where we can shine !!

What do you say?  Can you do it, or do I need to have Michael Jordan come over and say, “Hand it over.”  Go tagless with me.  It rocks !!

Great HR is messy !!

Just recently I was involved in conversations with supervisors who both said, “I wish people would just do what I say !!”  It wasn’t a passing phrase.  It was emphatic !!  They were both frustrated with employee situations and felt they had hit a wall.

I asked them both if things would be easier if what they said came true.  If people jumped at every word, command or thought from a person above them, would things be better?  They didn’t waste one second in telling me, “Yes, of course it would.”  I couldn’t let this coachable moment pass . . .

(Steve) “So, if people would never disagree, never have their own ideas and input, you’d be good with that?”

Silence.  They stammered and said that they didn’t mean it to be so concrete, but I think they did.  I understood their frustration and it all boils down to this . . . Working with people is messy !!  That is why it ROCKS to work with people !!

I don’t think anyone wants to be in a situation of constant turmoil.  However, that is not usually the case for people in most workplaces.  We tend to manage and lead to the extremes, so when frustrating people and/or situations arise, we think that ALL people are now awful.  It really is intriguing because another component that usually comes along with these impasses is that the OTHER people involved are the frustrating ones . . . never us.

Too many HR people want to manage from the outside and keep things clean and tidy.  The more “defined” everything is at work, the more control you wield.  It isn’t true actually, but it’s how we feel.

If you truly want to practice diversity, leadership and development in your companies, then you need to dive into the fray and get messed up yourself !!  Show people your quirks, your vulnerabilities and your willingness to show them how HUMAN you are !!

I readily admit that I’m a mess.  It’s how I approach things because it allows me to meet people where they are and not where I think they should be.  It has led to more situations working themselves out versus causing more frustration.

This week, get messy !!  You’ll love it !!

Everyone needs a Homer !!

This past week was tough, and something that no one in HR looks forward to.  One of my co-workers passed away.  His name was Homer.

Homer was amazing !!  He was the first person I saw everyday as I came into the office.  He greeted me with a smile and a warm handshake.  We exchanged jokes, laughed about life and talked about the day, our families and our work.  He loved working for LaRosa’s, and it wasn’t something to “say”, it was what he believed.  His pride in his work showed.

By the way, Homer cleaned the parking lot of the Corporate Office and also two of our nearby restaurants . . . and he was 79.

Homer was a great loving husband, father and veteran.  Also, he was my friend.

Lately, I’ve been seeing a trend in HR and in the blogosphere to group folks together so that we can better “address” or “handle” their generation.  I’m concerned by this because I think it waters down the spectacular fact of our diversity as individuals.  When I was born can be proven, but who I am as a person is an individual characteristic.  I think HR suffers when we try to group people into different categories so they can be more homogeneous.  It may seem “easier,” but it devalues what each person brings to work each and every day.

I’ve said it before, but I truly feel that HR should be practiced person-by-person.  Our employees deserve our focus, attention and care.  If you ever hope to be a diverse organization, then you need to really look at how HR is practiced in your place.  If everyone fits into a giant herd, or a “generation”, then you need to make an adjustment.

This week our company lost a dear individual who impacted the lives of many.  He did this intentionally and unabashedly.  I hope to carry on his example so that others can see how amazing each person who touches our lives really is.  I deeply miss him already.

Look around you this coming week at work.  Is there a Homer at your place?  There should be.

What’s at the end of your tunnel ??

I love being in HR !!  For those of you who know me, this isn’t some random blogger’s statement.  I’m genuinely passionate about HR and love to see how the field can to continue to develop, evolve and grow.  That brings me to this week’s observation . . .

The majority of folks in HR suffer from “tunnel vision.”

By this I mean that too often we take the stringent and narrow when it comes to our policies, procedures and systems.  We continue to create and develop systems to keep folks in check (i.e. attendance systems, don’t do this/that policies, etc.)  At the same time, I continue to hear HR folks who are frustrated with what we do.  We belabor the fact that people continue to work around our systems and we don’t know how to get things back in line.

The reality of this frustration is that you can’t get things back in line – nor should you !!  There is absolutely nothing wrong with structure and focus.  People work well when they know there are boundaries.  But, boundaries are different than walls !!

I continue to find that people are vastly different.  This fascinates me because it makes it all the more difficult to come up with HR systems full of absolutes and must have’s.  So, I take a different path and I’d like you to consider it as well.  Here’s what I do . . .

My tunnel is a kaleidoscope !!  Like you, I need to focus, but by looking at each person and situation on their own within the parameters of the systems we have, you get a new image every time !!

Doing HR this way IS more challenging, but isn’t that cool ??  Also, I find it to be incredibly less frustrating and even more consistent because people know that I’ll evaluate the circumstance based on what they’re facing.  It has led to things being more decisive in most cases, and it’s also given my department more flexibility and the ability to make sure that we take the time to look at all facets of what’s facing us.

I used to say that HR is gray and not black/white.  I’m changing that to HR is psychedelic because that is the landscape that I see people moving through.  Why don’t you join me and turn the tunnel to see what new images you get ??

Image courtesy of Worldwide Hippies

 

Forever in Blue Jeans !!

When Neil Diamond sang the iconic song Forever in Blue Jeans, I don’t think he knew he was dealing with such a taboo subject for the workplace !!  Seriously, you do know that denim is evil, don’t you ??

This coming week I’m traveling to Washington, D.C. for the annual SHRM Leadership Conference (#SHRMLead).  I’m very excited to go because I have the honor of being the next SHRM State Council Director for Ohio in 2012 !!  I can’t wait to work with the 26 SHRM chapters in the State as well as with other leaders throughout the country.  I think it will be a great way to continue to keep the profession relevant in general as well as another way to keep trying to bring our whole profession together and connect them !!

A true highlight for me will be on Thursday when I get to join other HR professionals on Capitol Hill to visit lawmakers and lobby on behalf of HR.  I really am geeked !!  To get ready, those attending listened to a webinar put on by SHRM to get an overview of what the visit would entail and the issues we were going to focus on.

It was very well done and was just a glimpse of what we needed to learn in order to have a successful visit and leverage the time we had with our representatives and their staff.  During the webinar people could post questions, which I thought was cool.  I think it’s amazing that I live in a country where I can go to have an audience with the national leaders of the government and express my opinion to them.  It truly is astonishing !!  I submitted a question asking who the two people were in Congress who had an HR background because it was noted in the webinar.

So, when the moderator started to relay the questions to the leaders of the forum, my jaw hit the floor !!  We spent the first 15 minutes of the 20 minutes we had left for questions talking about clothing.  “What should we wear?”  “Can I wear blue jeans with a suit coat?” – and then the firestorm happened.  People sent in myriads of comments (not questions) about the evil of jeans.

When I hear my peers question why companies don’t take HR seriously – here’s your answer . . . We continue to focus on the splinter issues when we miss the lumber all around us !!  When we could have been focusing on the issues for this lobbying opportunity, people chose instead to focus on proper attire !!  I’m not sure what I’ll wear to visit Capitol Hill.

On Friday, night our State Council, Ohio SHRM, is up for a Pinnacle Award which is the highest award for volunteers from SHRM, and we have a tradition of wearing logo’d clothing to these things.  At the banquet we’re wearing these great gray fleece jackets . . . . and blue jeans !!  I wonder where the focus will be ???

No accomplishment is too small !!

This past Friday night I had the incredible honor of being the commencement speaker for a college graduation.  I was humbled to even have been asked, but not nearly as much as I was after I attended this amazing event !!  This was the Fall graduation ceremony for Brown Mackie College.

I don’t know how much you know about Brown Mackie, but the majority of it’s programs are either Associates Degrees or Certificates.  Most of the students are “non-traditional” and they are phenomenal !!  While others may take education for granted, these folks are usually well past high school, are working while going to college and may be raising a family at the same time.

As I entered the Lakeside Christian Church where the ceremony was to be held, I saw every seat filled as family, friends, and children were buzzing about their family member becoming a college graduate.  It was noisy and people came from all walks of life and many of the graduates may have been the first of their family to reach this level of education.  To say this was an “accomplishment” would be an understatement.

Too often, we as HR professionals, look for the big splash – the MAJOR accomplishments that people are supposed to achieve.  We base entire systems on the vast, life-changing initiative (even though most are short-lived), and we reward people for them.  I’m reminded often by my colleague Paul Hebert and his good work on his blog, that we have much to learn when it comes to doing recognition and incentives well. Also, we belittle accomplishments like the one I witnessed at this commencement.  We say it’s “just” an Associates or a Certificate.  And, we completely miss it.   Completely !!

You weren’t there to see how MAJOR this really was to each and every graduate and family member.  These folks go to school 4 hours each night after a full day of work for 2 years to reach this milestone.  It was inspiring to say the least !!

Oh yeah, I gave my ten minutes and got people pumped up and motivated about their future, but I took a cue from what was going on around me first.  Before I gave one thought of my remarks, I asked the audience to rise to their feet and give the graduates the loudest standing ovation they’ve ever given.  The rafters shook !!

People have already probably have forgotten my words during my ten minutes.  But, they will cherish the accomplishment they reached for a lifetime.  I was blessed to be a part of it all.

So, this week, look around you.  Catch a glimpse at the myriad of small accomplishments that happen every day.  Celebrate them !!  Cherish them !! Then note how truly impactful each one of them is !!

 

You Just Should Know How To !!

You know you’ve said this.  You may have even said it today to start the work week !!  We wish others would just “get it” because we sure know that WE do !!  I’m serious.  We want others to just know what to do because we’ve covered it over and over and over (or so we tell ourselves.)

This approach isn’t just true at work.  We want others to know how to do things because we told them to do it at home, in our civic activities, at church, at school – almost any environment has the issue of “assumed culture.”  This is when the people who have been around for some time assume that others get what to do through some form of mystical symbiosis, and then we get upset when they don’t do things right.

People, more than ever, are frustrated in their jobs and with their companies.  As an HR person, I hear this frustration coming from the C-Suite down to the front line on a daily basis.  Almost every day I can place the shared frustrations to assumed culture.  You see, we strive to make people conform because we feel that if everyone is pretty much the same, then things will go more smoothly.

However, this just isn’t the case.  I don’t know if there are things such as HR “formulas”, but if their were, I would have one that goes like this:

 Assumed Culture = Conformity which lessens Diversity or AC = Cf < D

This weekend my Boy Scout Troop camped near Old Man’s Cave in Logan, Ohio in the Hocking Hills State Forest.  One of the natural formations is called the Devil’s Bathtub.

The waterflow of the river that goes through the park rushes rapidly toward this formation and the water’s force has cut it into the constantly swirling whirlpool until it forces the water out this small opening several feet under the opening.  This is very reminiscent of how your employees feel when they are told they should “just know how to” do things.

This week take a new approach.  TEACH don’t TELL.  It may be frustrating to cover the same things more than once, but teaching people what to do and how the assumed culture works at your organization will make them better performing team members.  The time it takes is far more rewarding than building the frustration that eats at you !!  Try it out and let me know what happens . . .

The Inner Sanctum !!

One observation I’ve had about HR professionals is that they have historically been very isolated both professionally and personally.  This has to be either by choice or by design within organizations.  This observation continues to be affirmed when I attend conferences of any size.  HR people seem astonished that others would intentionally like to be connected to them.

Something I’ve been trying at my work, and toying with in general is this philosophy – Model the behavior you expect in others.

To that end, I’d like to talk to you about the Inner Sanctum !! (cue scary theme music)  What I mean by this is that I have a tight knit group of HR professionals who make up my personal inner sanctum.   This isn’t a “Personal Board of Directors” as you may have seen in other blogs.  There is something more substantial to this group.   They have some incredible shared characteristics that I think are essential for this to work.  They are:

  • They all challenge me in some way !! – These are boundary stretching folks and I need that in order to not remain stagnate myself.
  • They are willing to be candid !! – They speak their minds openly both positively or critically. They aren’t afraid to address my blind spots.
  • They are consistent !! – Each of them is incredibly consistent while remaining creative and unpredictable. They each have strengths that I learn from.
  • They are all genuine !! – Something I cherish in others is to be “who you are.” These folks don’t have pretense and don’t support it in others.
  • They are all my friends !! – I mean that. We talk about all things in our lives. Families, work, faith, ups, downs, etc. All subjects are regularly discussed.

Without this group of people to gird me in what I do in HR and business, I would be less effective. It’s just a fact.  I think that having folks you can count on is a professional differentiator.  This isn’t networking or being in a clique.  It’s intentional, fascinating and exhilarating !!

This week step out.  Start looking at who would make up your Inner Sanctum and then pursue it.  If you choose to do this, you’ll see a marked difference in how HR looks, feels and acts !!  I hope you do it and let me know if you do !!