HR Haka !!

A new workweek is upon us. How are you doing? Are you ready for what’s ahead? Have you bought into the pattern that Mondays are supposed to be horrid and a sluggish way to start the week? Are you someone that needs some motivation to get moving that even coffee can’t address? Worse yet, are you filled with dread or anxiety?

It is astonishing to me that we have perpetuated the idea that workweeks are destined to start poorly, work to some roller coaster hump mid-week, and then careen blissfully to the release at the end of the week so we can just get away from everything and everyone. Makes you want to wake up and jump to the commute doesn’t it?

Pile on top of this that we don’t fill our thoughts going in to work with positive vibes about people either. It’s true. We don’t anticipate seeing smiles and warm welcomes. We expect the worst, and we get it. It reinforces our malaise and we strap our our martyr gear and jump into the fray. Welcome to what HR has become !!

But wait . . . .

Why buy into the “norm” ?? Who is the person or entity that we can hang this on? The answer stares at you in the mirror every morning as you don your work clothes and head out into the midst of your work.

You are the reason this attitude and approach exists. It’s not others who cast their nets of darkness on you. They may be doing this, but if you’re defeated before you even enter the office, then you’re already conceding the worst is about to occur.

At SHRM16 this year, one of the keynote speakers was Dr. Amy Cuddy from Harvard University. She wrote a spectacular book called Presence which calls for people to bring their “boldest self” to their biggest challenges. Her work shows how that even though we teach fierce independence in our western society, most people are far from bold. She had great research and examples of people who felt open enough to embrace being bold.

One of my favorite things she shared was a video of the New Zealand All Blacks rugby team and their pre-game ritual where they get geeked before a match by performing a haka. According to Wikipedia the haka is “traditional war cry, dance or challenge from the Maori people of New Zealand.” When they perform this, they are facing their opponent and they are so animated and intense !! It’s awesome !!

HR HakaWhen I gave my presentation, I encouraged all of the folks in HR that we should do a haka every day before we start a thing. Think about it !! It would absolutely freak out your staff and other employees if they heard you getting ready to face the day this way. I showed everyone how mine would look and it felt freeing.

Imagine this. Starting your day boldly, intentionally and fiercely !! All of the junk that tends to want to clutter our mind and our efforts blows away and disappears. Also, you’re ready to be proactive and jump into whatever comes your way willingly.

It’s overdue my HR friends. People will be bold if we are bold first !! Shake off the Monday blahs and get ready. It’s time for your HR Haka !!

Sparklers and Candles !!

This past week we had an amazing celebration at work !! We had two Team Members retire which isn’t common at our company. We’re so fortunate to have a great culture where people work for us for many years. It’s a true anomaly in today’s workplace environment, but it’s a true differentiator for us.

One of our retirees worked for us 11 years and the other for 35 years !! During the celebration, one of the owners shared the following . . . “Companies have two types of people, sparklers and candles. The sparklers shine brightly and are brilliant, but only for a short time. The candles are steady and burn slowly over time. They may not get as much attention as the sparklers, but they are more reliable. You two have been great candles for our company, and we are better for the contributions you gave over time.”

They were some of the most poignant words I had heard to celebrate people. In HR we tend to focus on the sparklers in our companies because they appear to be more vibrant and exhilarating. We may call them different things like “high potentials”, but are we looking for a little wax that goes along with the shine? We need people who bring life, energy and light to our cultures. However, the candles of our companies do this every day.

CandlesWhere is your focus? Are you being asked by senior management to pay attention to the sparklers? What about your systems? Who do they recognize and highlight? I think most of us would see that we get distracted by a group that may not be with us for the long run.

The question that faces us is can you convert a sparkler to a candle? The answer is – it depends. It doesn’t depend on HR however. It depends on the employee. You see, everyone starts a new job/role with exuberance, anticipation and maybe even a bit of anxiety. People want to prove themselves and add value. They often burst onto the scene and everyone notices them. It’s hard to sustain this level of energy and you see them transform over time to either become a steady contributor who is part of the company fabric or they burnout. HR can step in and help encourage people so that their flame doesn’t extinguish.

We can do this because HR is the “keeper of the flame” of an organization. We have to be able to ignite people and let them sparkle as well as nurture them to make sure that flames don’t go out. In order to do this, we need to stay lit ourselves. Who are the candles of HR that you know? Who are peers in the field that you can connect to that will keep your candle burning?

We need to own this role of what we do for employees and our companies. We have the ability to help people continue to burn and thrive in what they do in their various roles. Light the flame of others and keep your eyes and focus on the candles all around you.

Remember the Who !! #SHRM16

I’m catching up on rest after an exhilarating SHRM Annual Conference. It was truly wonderful the entire time. This year I experienced a new view of the conference as a member of the SHRM Board of Directors.

I have hesitated to write about being on the Board because stating it drums up different emotions for people. Let me give you my perspective about the role. I am truly honored and humbled to be on the Board of Directors for the profession and the membership association that I love. These aren’t hollow words, they’re a fact !!

I get to wear a cool badge that denotes my new role and it gives you the ability to have access throughout all of the venues. I cherished this and didn’t take it for granted because it gave me the ability to connect with more people.

It started on my first day when I met one of the hotel staff who was helping with breakfast, Ahmed. He greeted me with a smile and was kind enough to be up and in uniform at the crack of dawn to serve me and others a meal. I introduced myself and thanked him for being there. Ahmed used the same “trick” I did and read my name tag and said, “Good morning, Steve.”

Now, many people reading this may think that he’s just doing his job like he should. We’d overlook him more often than not to rush to get a plate of bacon and eggs. Our impending meeting, and the others at the meeting, would get more of our attention.

Why did this small introduction matter? On Monday, at a luncheon during the conference, guess who was serving the group? Ahmed. He saw me first this time and said, “Good afternoon, Steve. How is your day going?” I said, “It’s great Ahmed, thanks for asking !!”

I used my badge to walk into all of the different areas all week to thank volunteers, SHRM staff, hotel staff, convention center security and the transportation crossing guards. This isn’t to seek a pat on the back. Trust me. I wanted to be intentional to make sure these people weren’t overlooked. Why ??

These folks are the “who” that keep things going.

There were over 15,000 attendees as well as countless vendors who worked the Exhibit Hall. Without the “who” this event would never have occurred. Mike Rowe exemplified this during his keynote address and it has been his focus for much of his career. He noted how important it was to never overlook people at work because everyone matters.

Everyone MattersThis is key in our organizations as well. We are enveloped in such a rush of distractions that we walk past the “who” that help our companies succeed every day. HR has the ability to break this pattern because we have the ability and the latitude to make acknowledging others part of our job daily. Honestly, it needs to be in the fabric of our Human Resources DNA. It can’t be something that we ignore or hope that others will do.

People want to be acknowledged for what they do. This is more basic than appreciation. That is key and important, but we need to step back and acknowledge folks. When you take this approach, all of your systems and procedure look different and positive.

People want to do good work. This week step back and thank others. You’ll see that this will change your organization for the better !! Remember the “who” around you every day.

 

Your Stadium Moment !!

I’ve mentioned this in the past, but in case you missed it, I am a music freak !! I have music playing pretty much all throughout every day and in everything I do. There’s even a hashtag that a few of my friends and I started called #HRMusicShare on Twitter. It captures what people are listening to and it’s a ton of fun. Music is something that brings us all together.

During the summer, I get to enjoy my fascination with rock music even more because the community I live in has free outdoor concerts each week in several venues. My wife and I love to throw our chairs in the back of the car and go to catch two hours of tunes !! This week we went to a new venue and listened to a great cover band who played classic rock hits. They were tight as a band and they got the crowd out of their seats and out dancing.

While they were deep into their second set, the drummer, who was the leader of the band, shouted out over his microphone – “Who has seen our band play before ??” There was a “roar” from the crowd because many had seen them before. He said, “Thanks !!” (and then quietly) “I live for that.” It was his stadium moment !!

Rock Crowd from StageIf you’ve ever been to a rock concert, the front man usually yells out to the crowd, asks how everyone is doing, and then they wait for the swell of yells and screams as their response. They let it wash over them, and I have to think they are like the local band I saw and that they “live for that.”

HR practitioners need to have a stadium moment as well although most rarely experience one. Why is that? The key for me is that most of us are hesitant to take the mic and “be on stage.” I appreciate that we do better behind the scenes at most times, but we often blend in too much. HR in the shadows is limited in its exposure and its influence. So, you may not want to rock the boat, but you may not be rocking things at all.

We can also take note that our employees are looking for their stadium moments as well. We tend to downplay recognition and want to make sure things are more “fair” than over the top. Individuals deserve individual attention. The continue attempt to make all things fit all people has never worked, and it never will. Each person in your company brings a uniqueness to what they do. All together they make up an incredible ensemble. To do this they need someone to bring them to the mic as well. HR can be that person. Make the time to elevate the strengths and talents of all of those great people around you.

HR step out. Be bold. Look out over the crowd and take in all you see. It’s time for your stadium moment !! Go out there and seize it !!

 

What’s Your Motor ??

I think it’s fascinating that we have so many amazing people in our lives, and that most of them are acquaintances. There’s nothing wrong with this because people have a certain capacity on how many people they’re both willing to know deeply, or can dedicate the time to do that.

The challenge with people only knowing each other at a surface level is that you don’t know enough about them that gets them geeked !! You may wonder why that’s important, but in HR you really can be a step ahead of the pack if you take note of what motivates and excites people. There’s one caution to finding out this information about others because it has . . . wait for it . . . NOTHING to do with their work !!

Just making this statement is already making people shiver. You see, there’s a myth the permeates organizations that the only subject people talk about when they have conversations is work related. We tend to try to limit our communication to work related interactions because it’s safe and comfortable. If we have disagreements, it’s about work. If it’s positive, it’s about work. I am going to go one step further and speculate that the vast majority of these “work only” conversations are hardly effective. It’s not the content, it’s the reality that we have so many items we’re juggling in a day that the length of time a conversation captures our attention is minuscule.

It amazes me that so many HR people rush to the situation at hand, and don’t take a couple of minutes to talk about the person and what drives them first instead. When I hear that people want to humanize the workplace more, but they’re not willing to take the time to talk about the human in front of them and their interests, I’m skeptical about their approach.

Motor RunningPeople are fascinating !! There is so much going on in their lives that would amaze you about what gets their motor going. The question is – are you willing to dive in ??

I am. In fact, I spend a large portion of my day catching up with people about their interests, their families and their lives in general. You need to realize the your employees are aching to have someone acknowledge them and take just a few minutes for you to be genuinely interested in them. I realize that they may bring up topics that you aren’t particularly interested in, but that’s part of the gig if you want to differentiate yourself in HR.

If I’m not aware of a certain interest a person has, I take more time to listen to them to let them share even more. You see, you have the ability to get people reenergized and release their passion in a work setting. When you do this, people will perform and do almost anything you ask. This approach also works when you need to address difficult situations as well. Taking the time to see what’s behind what may be frustrating an employee and causing challenging behavior is worth the time !!

Let me close with one reminder to make sure this works for you. What gets your motor running ?? You need to know this and you need to make sure that you’re filling your days with these things on a regular basis so that you remain passionate yourself. You can’t fake this, and you shouldn’t. There is absolutely nothing wrong with renewing yourself to keep you motivated.

Me ?? My motor gets going when I meet new people (especially if they’re in HR), going to HR events, being active in my church, time with my amazing wife and kids, endlessly playing music, movies, a great book, tie-dye anything and lava lamps. And that’s just a start !!

I surround myself with things that motivate me because I know that it’s key that I motivate others. It’s one of the bright spots about HR !! So, step back, list out your “motorvators” and get geeked !!

Be An Influencer !!

I’ve been active and visible on Social Media forums for many years now. I enjoy them immensely and find them to be great methods of connecting with others across the globe, a simple mechanism to share the work of others and an overall great way to communicate. If you’ve been out here for any length of time, you see lists. The lists have great intent, but often bring up harsh emotions.

People struggle with lists if they aren’t included, and that reaction is senseless. One of the serious downsides to social media is that we are so fixed on wanting to see our name, face, and posts. We measure and obsess over the number of shares, likes, retweets and followers we have. It’s odd because they are just ways of measurement. How can something not have value if you’re not included ??

I understand that many folks use social media to conduct business, make sales and establish/maintain their brand. I’m all for it, but it gets way too much of our attention and it seems one-sided. A great example of this where you see people really jump is when people are considered “influencers” in these lists.

I have a feeling that the moment influencer lists are published, the doubt, skepticism and scoffing ensues. When it does, it’s brutal and unfortunate. I’m sure when people were compiling their lists, they had the hope that who they listed would be geeked and share that they were included. That happens, but the wave of sentiment against the lists far exceeds those who are excited.

InfluenceThe overall problem to all of this is that I think we’ve absolutely missed what influencing others means. It has so little to do with social media, but that’s where we feel it should be. Influence naturally lies within all of us. The question is whether we recognize and own it or not.

You see, in HR, we are rarely alone. We swim in a sea of people. Unfortunately, I hear too many of my peers complain about this constant reality. We miss the opportunity to truly “influence” people because we tend to down play our interactions with others. Instead, we give our attention to the situation or problem we’re addressing, and then coming up with some rock solid solution.

If the only reason you’re in HR is to solve other’s problems, change occupations.

People aren’t problems. We may all have problems and struggles in some fashion, but to immediately categorize someone as someone to fix, you have a negative view of humans.

Influence can be, and should be, positive !! When it’s used for negative reasons, it is often short lived but it also can do incredible damage. You have a choice to not allow influence to be used in that way. It’s incredibly difficult to be a positive influence in today’s workplace and society. However, it is what we are called to do.

You have the chance to influence every, single person you come across. Not one person should pass you by without you interacting with them. Not one. That may seem daunting, but it’s very doable with some effort and the desire to be intentional. Something as simple as a smile, a “Hello”, and the willingness to stay and listen to how they respond, may seriously make all the difference they needed that day.

That small action is more influential than any list on social media EVER will be !! The chance to be an influencer is available to you and it’s time you step in. People need your influence, and I can’t wait to see how you positively impact and change the lives of those around you !!

 

The Second Day

Have you ever started a new job? Do you remember what it was like? I remember anxiety about what I wore, how to drive to the office, where to park and what would happen. You weren’t sure who you were going to meet and wondered what they’d think about you. What would your work space look like? Where do you eat lunch and when do you do that?

The are countless questions and thoughts that run through your head. Most of them also assume the worst even though nothing has even happened yet. After you settle in the parking lot wondering if you’re in someone’s space, you hesitantly go to the front door and the receptionist. All of a sudden you’re warmly greeted and they call into your new boss who comes out and takes you to their office to explain how your first day will unfold. Your shoulders relax and you let out a heavy sigh. The first day then flies by with the mandatory HR paperwork, a tour of the company, multiple introductions to people who say their name too quickly, and then you land at your desk. Lunch is still a mystery because you seemed to either miss it or work through it. Then, the commute home.

You’re all geeked up after a positive experience on day one. You liked the majority of people you met. The work seems to match what you heard in the interview and you dig your new boss.

Day 2Then the second day comes . . .

You’re first day fears have been squelched and you are comfortable with the commute and how to get into the building and to your desk. Oddly, no one is there to greet you and the receptionist is already up to their eyes in guests, calls and e-mails. You go past your boss’s office and they wave, and say “We’ll talk later” – which never happens. You go to your desk and you have to figure things out on your own. You still don’t know what to do about lunch.

Sound familiar ?? It happens every, single day in companies across the globe regardless of industry. No one ever explains the existence of “assumed culture.” This is where we just think employees will “get it” because we don’t want to spend time with them because we’re too busy with our own work. When we miss those new folks they start making decisions as to whether they’ll stay or not much more quickly.

I’m heading to the SHRM Talent Conference and I’m geeked !! I think the sessions will be great and I’m looking forward to meeting new HR folks from around the country. I’m also sure that the majority of sessions will encourage HR to look at employees as “talent” because we honestly don’t. We are still stuck in the mire of filling job requisitions and keeping hiring managers calm. Also, the focus will be on the front end of the business or attracting and recruiting people.

Until we start viewing ALL employees as “talent” within our organizations, then our labeling of them will not change. I received some great advice from my boss when I started in my current role some 10 years ago. He wanted HR to be with employees for their entire life cycle – from candidate until the time they leave the company. He wanted to make sure that people didn’t get lost on Day Two.

This is another opportunity and reminder that HR needs to firmly be focused on people and not processes such as on-boarding. New employees aren’t things and tasks and we need to keep that in front of us.

This week see who’s joining the company and make sure their first day rocks, but also greet them on the second day  . . . and every one after that so they know that they truly are the talent you sought in the first place !!

A Rocking Chair

This past weekend I was fortunate to be part of a celebration at work. It was a chance to say “Thank You” to a Team Member for an incredible accomplishment. One of our delivery drivers had decided to retire. This may seem like a normal occurrence in the life of a company, but when it happens at our company, it’s a big deal !!

This is true because we’re an anomaly in the restaurant industry. We have several Team Members who have many years of service which is fantastic. Yes, we have turnover but it’s not our focus. Celebrating folks who have 10, 15, 20,25 and more years of service is common.

This retirement celebration, however, set a new standard. You see we’ve been in business for 62 years and this Team Member has been with us for 55 of those 62 years !! That is ridiculous and phenomenal !! I knew he had been with us for a long time, but I had no idea it was this extensive. He started with us when he was 15 years old and has been taking care of guests for a lifetime – literally.

To get ready for this day, we asked around to see if there was anything we could get to commemorate his retirement. His wife was wonderful and she told us, “He’d like a rocking chair so he can sit on the porch and drink a Coke.”

55 years and thousands of hours of service, and he wanted a place to rest and reflect. Epic.

Rocking ChairsWe met at the restaurant where our driver had worked the majority of his time with us and we did our best to make it a surprise. The turnout of family, friends and co-workers was inspiring. So many people couldn’t wait to also say “Thank You.” As everyone gathered in a party room, we got the jet black rocking chair out of my car and walked through the restaurant. You could hear oohs and aahs as we walked by. I heard “look at that chair !!” and “I wonder who that’s for?”

It was so cool to witness. You have no idea how humbling it was to experience this anticipation as to how he’d react. I asked everyone to have a seat, said a few words of thanks and then asked our retiree to say a few words. He stepped up and was visibly moved. Very graciously he said, “I’ve enjoyed my time here and the people I’ve worked with. It’s been a great family to work for. I appreciate everyone coming out for this. Thank you.” That was it. Beautiful.

I asked him to try out the chair for pictures. He sat down, looked up at me and said, “Look at that, it fits just right !!”

Too often we overthink recognition when it comes to our Team Members. We put our focus on programs and not people. Recognition can be broken down into asking what matters to someone. The differentiator in how HR and companies approach this is whether or not you’re willing to allow individual requests. This takes more work, but it’s worth it.

It’s another example of how we complicate and layer HR when it is begging to be simplified. More does not mean better, it just means more. This week break the mold of conformity in recognition and look at the individuals you need to recognize instead.

Who knows? You might need to go out and buy a rocking chair.

What’s HR Like ??

This past week I had a very cool experience !! One of our Team Members is going to college and wants to go into Human Resources. He asked if it would be okay to meet. I jumped at the chance !!

Abstract technology background. Cog wheel theme
Abstract technology background. Cog wheel theme

I went out to the restaurant where he works and we sat in a booth after we made the obligatory introductions. As we settled in, I started, “So, how can I help you?” Out of the blue he gives the most massive question possible, “So, what’s HR like ??”

I’ll be honest. I was speechless for a moment. It wasn’t the question I expected. He didn’t want to hear the oddyssey of my career or honestly anything about me. It was incredibly refreshing !! He wanted to learn about the field, the profession, the ins and out as well as the ups and downs. By the way, he’s a millenial.

According to the myriad of HR writing that exists in the blogosphere, this young man wasn’t living up to his stereotype. He was engaged, interested and curious. He wasn’t a slacker who was looking for something inane like work/life balance or how to make a gigantic salary while being a lone wolf who doesn’t know how to communicate because he grew up with technology. Have I covered them all yet ?? But, I digress.

It was the best hour of my week. A chance to sit down and talk about how and why you can be passionate about HR and thriving in it as a career. So, what did I tell him HR was like ?? Here are a few of the key things I shared.

HR is Essential !!

This may seem a bit crass as an assumption, but it is a deep held belief by me. If an organization has humans, it has a need for human resources. I don’t mean to belittle this at all because too often organizations think they can just wing it and hope that nothing horrid happens without HR. I understand that not all companies can have a full-time HR pro, but you can get HR resources that can assist you.

This reality of being essential gives HR a bright, tangible and valued future. This isn’t about “how” HR is practiced. It is, however, the anchor for our existence !!

HR is NEVER the same !!

I explained that if you want to get into a field that is predictable, mundane and full of absolutes then don’t go into HR. I did warn him that there are HR pros, and companies, who limit the scope, involvement and impact of what HR does for them. It saddens me that this exists, but I wanted him to have a holistic view of what he was pursuing. I think the constant ebb and flow of variety in HR is what sets it apart from most professions. You have to remember that you’re whole professional existence is surrounded by people. And people are NEVER the same . . . ever !! I explained that this can either be exhausting and frustrating or it can be energizing and exhilarating !! I think he knows which set I follow.

HR is a great career choice !!

I told him that this factor was hard to find and I appreciated that he was checking out the field by talking to HR pros. You see, I wasn’t the first person he talked to. I was the third. I was geeked when he said, “I haven’t heard this positive outlook about HR yet.” I told him I wasn’t surprised. I told him that I have a big, hairy audacious goal for ALL HR pros to be connected as well as passionate about who we are and what we do. He liked that and said THAT is what he was looking for in a career.

We closed the meeting by getting him connected on Linked In, adding him to my global HR network (The HR Net) and one more critical thing . . .

I told him that I’d be available for him whenever he needed me and for whatever other insight and advice he needed as he entered the world of HR.

You see, I didn’t want him to see a stereotype of a generation either. I’m geeked for his present and his future !! And to think it all started with one question. If someone had to ask you, what would you say ?? What’s HR like for you ??

I hope it’s full of hope, positivity and passion because then you’ll understand how incredible Human Resources really is !!

The Eyes Have It !!

Every so often I am fortunate enough to travel for HR. I’ve been an active volunteer for SHRM for over 15 years now and it’s always cool to me to get to go to a place away from home and see my peers. I never take it for granted and I’ve been able to venture out to places I may have never gone to on my own.

Travel is a unique thing. When I first began to travel, I think I was like many of the folks I encounter now. I was anxious and uncertain of where to go and what to do. People are constantly milling around you and they look as anxious as you feel. Many people are rushing without care or concern of any other human within 25 feet of them because they need to get to their airplane gate, taxi or desk at the hotel.

I decided that if I traveled like this, I would be miserable, frustrated and impatient with others. That runs completely counter to who I am and how I see others. So, I slowed down and looked up. I no longer buried my head down to join the mad rush to the next destination. Instead, I really took a different approach . . .

Eye ContactIf you don’t know, I’m a very intentional person. I sincerely want to meet and know every person that I cross paths with. I’m intrigued as to who they are and what they do. I know there’s a chance that I will meet someone that may not be “safe” or could take advantage of me, but my experience says that this is rare. This brings me back to my new approach – I make eye contact with people.

I don’t gawk or stare. I don’t fix on someone to be overt or creepy, but I look at people and if we connect, I really take a giant leap !! I say, “Hello !!” That’s it. Nothing more.

If someone wants to chat, I chat. If someone gives me the head nod, I reciprocate. I do this with the driver from long-term parking, to the ticketing agent, to the TSA ID checker, to everyone I meet. When I do this I get one of two responses. The one that is unfortunately the majority is that people avoid making eye contact because they don’t want to interact. I get that, but it’s disappointing. When people do make contact and chat, it’s fantastic !! Why ?? Because I truly feel that people today want someone to notice them.

We are all constantly surrounded by people and yet we act as if we’re completely alone. We surround ourselves with social media, but we really only look to see if people notice us. It’s time we change our approach – especially in HR.

Each and every day we’re surrounded by employees, clients, vendors and new people. Are you taking the time to pause, make eye contact and greet them? Do you stay long enough to see how someone is really doing or are you in your own mad dash because your e-mail is more important than the person you just passed ??

It’s time we looked up from whatever we think is more important and notice the people around us. You never know if the “Hello !!” you give will be just the thing that someone else needs more than anything. Trust me when I say that people aren’t doing this. People deserve to be recognized and noticed.

This next week start making eye contact. It will change your view of others, your work and the world around you. I’ll be watching and when I see you, I’ll be making eye contact – guaranteed !!