Legacy

For those of you who know me, I am rarely at a loss for words. This past week, however, has left me speechless.

There are countless accounts of the challenges we have all faced in 2020. They range from personal loss of loved ones to jobs being affected to swimming in a constant sea of uncertainty. Not one person’s experience is the same. We all hope for this barrage to stop, but it doesn’t. Life has been filled with far more trials than joy.

I had a text on my phone very early Tuesday morning before work asking me to call. I hadn’t responded when the second text stated, “I have some really bad news.” I wasn’t sure what this was going to mean, so I called. I heard the news on the other end and wept. I couldn’t form a word. I wept with my entire body and stood shocked and stunned.

My boss had died unexpectedly and suddenly.

This didn’t seem real, and it still doesn’t. This news was devastating because Kevin, my boss, was also a dear friend. I was asked to share the news with some others, and their response was the same as mine had been. The whole idea of him being gone was surreal and painful. No one was sure how to move forward.

You see, Kevin held a very special place in my life personally and professionally. A little over 14 years ago, we sat across from each other in a booth in one of our pizzerias. He was interviewing me to see if I could join the company as their HR Director. I enjoyed his warmth, laughter and accessibility the moment I met him. Fortunately, he put me forward and I’ve been with the company ever since. I can say that we’ve either seen each other or talked almost every day over those 14 years.

Kevin modeled a behavior I have adopted and valued more than any in my career. Each time I met with him, we talked about people. He talked about them candidly and fondly because he knew so much about everyone. He worked with our company for 45 years, and he could tell you something about each person he encountered whether they worked in our corporate office, manufacturing plant, pizzerias or franchises. He knew every person’s spouse, partner, children, grandchildren and extended families – by name !! He would make “rounds” around the office daily and have rich conversations to make sure others were okay.

He also had an incredible wit and sense of humor. He’d make a comment that would catch you off guard and laugh. He poked fun, and I always enjoyed that. I laughed with him and made sure to share barbs with him as well. He naturally made work human and I admired that. He emphasized that the workplace should always be people-first and that I should always value the work every employee did – especially those on the front lines. He had grown up in the organization as many had starting out in a pizzeria and then growing up in the company.

Kevin also developed others who worked for him. He was very intentional and kept high expectations of people to perform and be accountable. The key to his approach is that he developed others in a very human way as well. It never seemed forced or formal. After some time, you’d see how far he’d encouraged you to grow.

He built a legacy with all of those around him. He invested his time and attention with others throughout every workday. People knew they mattered to Kevin. I don’t think he was even aware he was making such a lasting impact on those around him. With him leaving, we have lost part of our soul. There’s no other good way to describe it. That’s why it hurts so deeply.

This last week has been different. The person I was most connected to wasn’t there to catch up on work items, share a quick story, or check in on how others are doing across the organization. It’s a hollow feeling.

I plan to follow his lead and make sure to invest in others, keep a people-first focus and take time to laugh. I feel there is no greater legacy.

Untangle the Knots !!

I don’t know what the weather has been like where you are, but it’s been extremely hot and humid where I live. It’s the kind of humidity that feels like you’re constantly swimming through thick steam. Even though it’s so moist and sticky, life continues and chores need to be tended to around the house.

I live in the suburbs and am fortunate to have an 1/2 acre lot with very mature trees. Our house seems to be an animal sanctuary because we have birds of every sort, squirrels, rabbits, and deer. We don’t have a “wooded” lot, but we still regularly get deer who travel through to eat the bird seed and chew on different vegetation. We are trying to grow two types of tomatoes and some green peppers in planters out on our back patio. The tomato plants were full of the first round of tomatoes, and I was set to harvest them the following day when they were all gone !! I’m sure our friendly deer had a nice snack.

We don’t mind having the deer come through because we had babies born each year for the last four years. I saw a new fawn just yesterday and we’re geeked that another new life has joined us. I did want to try to also enjoy our vegetables, so I went out to put a fence up to surround all of the plants. The fencing and the posts went up easy enough and I had some twine to secure the posts to the fencing. When I tried to get enough twine to cut pieces for the many posts, all I found was one giant knot. It took forever to even find an end to work from.

I started finding an end and then decided to take the time to remedy this giant intertwined mess. Did I mention it was hot? I was determined. I stood with the sun beating down on me trying to untangle the knot so the twine could be used for it’s given intention. As I slowly worked loop after loop through each other, my thoughts made me feel that this situation was very similar to everything that is going on around us.

People are all in knots over a variety of large scale, societal issues on top of all of the knots I’m sure they’re facing in their personal life. When we get bound up we don’t like it. We respond in a few ways to try to get things back in order. We fight against each strand which inevitably leads to more and more knots magically forming. Everything seems to constrict into tighter and tighter circumstances. Another response is to stop moving. The entanglement seems too daunting and we don’t have the energy to address anything, so we stay put. The third response is to just cut the knotted section out. Instead of trying to work through things, we hit a point where we feel that just cutting the knotted section out will fix everything. It never does.

I heard Trevor Noah the host of The Daily Show make an astute observation that he feels Americans look at things from only two sides. There’s only one choice or another, and when we only have those options they are automatically pitted against one another. We have lost sight of nuance and the inherent variety we have as people. When we limit our choices in life to either/or then we are doomed to become entangled and knots start forming. Our reactions are then in front of us – try to work it out, stop moving or just cut those that disagree with us out of our lives.

To be specific in today’s climate I agree that racism shouldn’t exist in any form in our communities, our workplaces or our approaches toward each other as humans. Also, we all want to feel safe, healthy and for the pandemic to end. Fear and uncertainty seem to be the prevalent leading emotions to every conversation and interaction. My hope is that we see that even in these difficult times, there is room for nuance, dialogue, opinion, action and diversity. There is no one way to address these items. There are a myriad of approaches and I’m encouraged that people are trying to take steps forward.

I was reminded of an Ernest Hemingway quote from his book, The Old Man and the Sea, which felt like it fit all that’s in front of us these days. Here it is . . .

One of the main causes of the knotted experience I’m seeing between people is that we focus on what we don’t have currently in place. We don’t look at our circumstance and environment and see what we can do with what exists. I think we need to find the end of the twine and work together to see how we can come together to untangle the many knots facing us.

I am willing to stay open minded to hear from others because they’re perspective may get one loop, or many, free and help us make progress. The key is knowing that this isn’t a program only in response to heightened emotions. It’s the first step in both moving forward AND connecting us more intentionally.

This week take a look at where knots are happening for you at home, at work, with your family and with your friends. Reach out and say that you’d like to do what you can to untangle the knots. You’ll be glad you did !!

Hello in There

This on-going pandemic is pressing in on people from all angles. It is causing distrust, angry comments, judgement and assumptions. People run the spectrum from full lockdown to unprotected flaunting. Throw in the middle of this that we have lost the ability to seek context or have discussions anymore. People take a thread of information or an image and make comments based on where they stand on an issue insisting that others absolutely agree with them. It’s exhausting and it doesn’t feel like we can treat each other as people anymore. We have decided to judge people based on taking sides.

Honestly, I feel people are doing this because they care. I don’t think its malicious or mean spirited (in most cases). People want to be seen and heard. This isn’t a new sentiment. It just happens to be front and center in almost every interpersonal interaction. I wanted to frame how I’m seeing, and experiencing, communication before sharing a story. It’s a story that has more meaning now to me than it did ever in the past . . .

A few weeks ago, my daughter came home to visit and see her friends. They discussed this beforehand and made sure they were being responsible where and when they met. She felt compelled to come back because one of her dearest friends just got engaged and she wanted to congratulate both of them in person. Since I had her home, I did what I had been taught – use her help with chores around the house. My daughter has always been fit and athletic and I could use her muscles to get some things attended to. We had a ball fixing a split rail fence, visiting the hardware store all masked up multiple times (because you never get everything on the first trip), and catching up on how life is going.

When she got back to her home in Indianapolis, she texted, “Dad, I’m becoming like you because you fix things for your mom and dad when you go visit them.” I beamed through glistening eyes. The next phases of our lives were in process. The following weekend, I went home to Ada, Ohio to visit my elderly parents. I am the trustee of their lives now, and they can’t sign certain things without me present. Again, we checked with each other to make sure everyone was healthy and safe before I trekked north.

I made it up for the day and went to a bank to sign some papers. Here’s where reality hits. I drove my parents over to Kenton, Ohio which is about fifteen minutes away. They felt I was putting them out, but I reassured them I was fine and glad to be their Uber. As we arrived, we masked up and I needed to assist my father who walks with canes and can’t see well at all. My father is now legally blind, and I had to help guide him the one block to the bank. When we were signing papers, I gently guided his hand to the line on the forms to fill in his signature. I had to repeat what the banker was saying because my mom is losing her hearing. My dad is a talker and he likes to connect and spin a yarn with everyone he encounters. He tried to do that with the young banker, but he was disinterested and just wanted to get through the task at hand. I’m sure he wanted to leave the bank as quickly as he could to get back to the family activities he was anticipating for the weekend. I could see my mom was hurt that the banker was impersonal because that just isn’t who she is.

I was the mediator and kept things moving. I chuckled at my dad’s stories and memories because they’re really funny, and I reassured my mom that we were getting everything taken care of. We went back to their house, had an incredible meal of homemade potato soup with sausage links, and then headed to the project list for the day. My mom wanted me do three things: (1) Put a new rope on a flag pole out front so they can fly the American and Ohio flags, (2) Clean out the gutters and fix some seams, and (3) Install a window air conditioner in one of their rental apartments. No big deal – right?

We took each task one by one, visited the local hardware store where my mom has a basket filled with homemade masks, she sewed which are free to the citizens of Ada, and got everything completed by dinner time. We laughed, caught up on life and talked about my remaining aunts and uncles’ health. Dinner was special because we ordered carryout pizza from their favorite local haunt. I was spent after it all but drove home satisfied knowing that a few hours with my parents helped them close out tasks that were on their mind.

This pandemic has kept us away from each other which has allowed us to be safe and evaluate how we can better connect and interact. I feel that for too long the incessant, rapid pace of life made almost every encounter with people trite and trivial. We were too busy to invest our time in others. One of the fallouts of being apart has been that older people are isolated even more than they already were. Now that we’re trying to maneuver our way through how we’re going to be around each other again, we can’t go back to the brush by approach.

I hope we’ve realized that we’ve always had time for others. Now we have a chance to pour into people in a more constructive way. You need to realize you work with, and possibly live with, people who are aching to connect and be recognized. They want to talk, see you and share stories that may have no significant meaning to you but mean the world to them.

This coming week, I want you to stop and assess how you can make time for others on purpose. Are there elderly people who could use a smile and an hour of your time? You need to be safe and follow guidelines so that someone isn’t put at risk, but you don’t have to avoid others. Wouldn’t it be great to know that every person around you had someone check in on them? Wouldn’t it be amazing to know that every person in your life felt connected, not alone and cared for? Take the time to say, “Hello in there” and let people know that you’d love to spend some time with them.

Praise You !!

This weekend my wife and I took a road trip. We did it for two reasons. One was to get out of the house and just see the world around us. She noted as we were driving that she hadn’t left the house except to go to the grocery store for a month. I was glad I could get her out for a drive. The second reason was more important to be honest. Our daughter lives in Indianapolis and we live in Greater Cincinnati. We’re about two hours from each other. She agreed to meet us halfway to have lunch in a parking lot.

We drove to Batesville, Indiana and met at the LaRosa’s Pizzeria. Yes, it’s one of the locations of the company where I work and it’s also a fave for our family. I was able to run in and check on our Team Members, and get some great food to have brought out to our cars. We never left our car to get close to our daughter because we wanted to maintain social distance and she also works in healthcare. She’s on the front line working with people who are recovering from COVID-19 as an occupational therapist.

It was so great to see her in person !! We’ve been having video chats with both of our kids because we all live in different parts of the country, and we want to stay as safe as possible. We spent an hour and a half talking, checking on her and listening to real world stories of lives being affected. We asked about her co-workers and many of her closest friends who are also in healthcare at various hospitals.

I made sure to do one more thing while I had Melanie “close” to me. I thanked her for all she’s doing. I told her how proud her mother and I were of her going into work everyday during this turbulent time. She appreciated it and said, “Dad, this is where I should be.” (Yes, I got weepy.)

I am so pleased with how people are praising those who are working in all types of industries to help us cope with all that’s going on. People are actually thanking folks they typically ignore. It’s needed now AND into the future !!

You see, we tend to react at heightened levels when situations directly affect us. We’re taking time to thank healthcare workers and deeming them as heroic (which is true !!) We’re thanking those working in restaurants, grocery stores, sanitation, emergency services, education, etc. It’s wonderful to see and it’s also overdue.

We should be grateful and appreciative of every person for the job they do. It shouldn’t occur only because we’re in the thick of a crisis. As the countries around the world are now getting agitated and impatient about not being able to break out of isolation, I’m concerned that when we go back to our normal patterns, this outward level of praise will subside. And, it will subside quickly.

I’m concerned we’ll fall back into our patterns of complaining about our commutes, the co-worker we’ll talk “about” but not to, as well as the things about our job we don’t enjoy. Yes, we want to get back to work and I hope it happens soon as well as safely. The question is – Will we relapse?

You see, when you see parents with kids giving praise is easy. We encourage our kids at every step of any activity. We do this because we want them to respond and understand they’re learning skills and reaching accomplishments. As we grow older, we forsake that pattern and expect people to “get to work” and “stay focused.” Our days are filled with far more converstations that tear people down, and we focus on what isn’t being done versus anything that is being accomplished.

This tidal wave of praise needs to become our norm in every workplace, every industry, every school and every family !! I know that’s a bold ambition, but you have to understand the power of praising others. I heard a person describe praise as “accelerated, amplified gratitude.” How cool is that ??

I am grateful for my daughter and for every person who is working at this difficult and uncertain time. My plan though is to continue to praise everyone for all they do every day. Every. Day. I encourage you to do the same. Let’s not relapse ever again. Value the people in your life for all they do !!

I want to leave you with two reminders going forward. One is the great effort from Workhuman where you can thank healthcare workers. Their effort is called “Thank You Healthcare “. Just click on the title and you can sign up to share some praise and gratitude. Secondly, we all need music to remind us to take action so I leave you with Fatboy Slim . . .

(One thing to note – the people who filmed the video did this as an impromtu flash mob. They’re regular people willing to be bold and express themselves. Note that someone tries to stop them because they’re not acting as they “should” but they aren’t swayed in the least. Enjoy !!)

A Good Cry

I needed a break. A break from the constant barrage of news, regulations, statistics and a seemingly endless stream of bad news. It’s as if nothing else is happening in the world. Everyone is focused on COVID19 every. single. moment. It’s getting to be too much.

So, I went outside my house to sit on my porch and look at the green grass mixed with the spring flowers and the buds coming out on the trees. The birds were chirping and flying around and a chilly breeze blew across my face. Then I cried. It was wonderful and cleansing.

The beauty of viewing my front yard and escaping the madness that is trying to consume our every thought and conversation was just what I needed. The tears were a bonus. You see, I’m a very emotional person and always have been. I don’t hide it either. Whenever I was watching a television show with my kids and a heartfelt story came on, they’d stop watching the show and say, “Look, there he goes again.” It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is. If it touches my heart, then I will cry.

The level of stress, anxiety and fear we are experiencing personally is unprecendented. Most people have not lived through a situation affecting the entire globe at one time. We should take note because there have always been challenges and daunting circumstances which occur daily. It’s getting our attention now because it is potentially affecting us. It’s a great reminder of why we should ALWAYS be others focused !!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve shed quite a few tears. There hasn’t been a particular reason or negative encounter. I just was about to pop with the swirl of emotions that only seem to escalate and manifest themself during every second of the day. I’ve found myself to be restless when I try to sleep which rarely happened in the past. I may have had a handful of times where I was anxious or anticipating what may occur the next day, but those were exceptions.

During this trying time, we need to take note that we’re not the only ones experiencing these heightened emotions. Everyone is. Everyone. We need to come to terms that expressing ourselves is normal and “allowed.” We grandly state that we want our employees to bring 100% of who they are to the workplace (except for their humanity and their emotions.) Sound harsh? It’s true. We want people to “tone it down” and be about their work, and their work alone.

Well, just like we didn’t anticipate forced telework, we’re now experiencing the full tidal wave of emotions that are always present in people. The only difference is that the daunting environment we’re all facing is lowering the walls so that these emotions can come out. I think it’s great and overdue. You can’t turn off emotions because we’re . . . . human. We were created and built filled with a full range of emotions. They bring us joy, show our anger or concern and allow us to share our fear, sadness and empathy.

HR it’s time we embrace the reality of emtions in ourselves and in our people. In my opinion, we can’t be effective business leaders when we try to supress the natural humanity brimming inside us. Trust me, my boss has often said, “Now, I know you’re going to cry about this . . .,” but he embraces who I am. It’s not seen as a fault or a weekness. It also doesn’t diminish my effectiveness to perform, make decisions or be rational. It does verify my humanity.

I know that practicing HR during this crisis is something none of us were prepared for. How could we be? However, we can choose how to face this. You have to uncork your emotions is a safe way. If you don’t you’ll take it out on others around you, or you’ll seek behaviors that may not be healthy for you either.

We can’t take care of others unless we take care of ourselves.

So, when you start to well up and you feel the first tears puddle up at the corner of your eyes – have a good cry. You’ll be glad you did !!

Take It In !!

This past week I celebrated another trip around the sun and became another year older. I find that I now look at each new year as a time to reflect. This is something newer for me and something I wish I would do more. For instance, I have now been alive 30 years longer than my biological father was. That is staggering to me !! I’m fortunate that I am still walking this planet, but sometimes wonder what life would have looked like had he lived as well. I’m sure it would have been completely different and I wouldn’t be writing a weekly blog, just as one example.

My kids and wife are an amazing and significant component in my life. Now that I’m older, I tend not to get any “things” as birthday gifts. I’m grateful that I get time with them far more than any material object. Debbie, my incredible wife, did get me something that will have incredible value – a set of experiences. She got me some tickets to Xavier University basketball games – my fave college basketball team – and some tickets to see part of the “Whose Line is is Anyway?” cast perform an improv comedy show. I can’t wait to go to these events. She made the gift even more meaningful by saying that I can take others with me to some of the games because she knows I’m a massive extrovert.

The reflection that has hit hard this year is this – You need to enjoy the experiences in your life !! Every. Day.

You need to be honest about this. You rarely take in what’s going on around you. We’ve been programmed to stay focused on whatever task is laid out in front of us. This isn’t only related to work. It is how we approach every aspect of our lives. We miss the majority of any event or encounter, and that’s a shame.

Don’t believe me? Tomorrow when you go to work watch how others interact with each other. Greetings are cursory and polite as everyone rushes to what they want to get to. No one seems to notice or care. Conversations are curt, concise and matter of fact. You will hear most people share some personal stories, but to say that both parties are “present” during the interaction would be startling. We feel the invisible push to move on. The vast majority of our daily experiences are more like a series of pass-by movements. There are short pauses in the rush of pass-bys, but they are limited on purpose.

I consider myself someone who consciously makes time to focus on others, and I have to constantly remind myself to be present in conversations. I have to fight the urge to follow distractions which are always tugging at me. I feel this is true with most people. I don’t think that this has to be the case. I know that we have time to be present when we interact with others throughout each experience we have.

Now that Debbie and I are empty nesters, we are doing more activities as a couple. We’re relearning what it’s like to spend time together just as a pair. We aren’t committed to running to this event or another for either of our kids who are now grown. So, we go out to dinner or make dinner together after a full day of work. We’ll go to the gym and also go to a movie in a theater (we’re old school like that.) Whatever we’re doing, I’ve decided that I am going to be present and take in every second we’re together. I don’t want to miss something because I’m yearning to get to the “next thing.”

I want to be like the two young kids I saw at the grocery store this weekend. They had pulled two of the bags you use to put produce in and were throwing them into the air. The bags would puff out and float slowly back and forth toward the floor. The kids would squeal, catch their bag and throw it back into the air. They were exuberant and present in the moment while their mother was trying to get her shopping done. Instead of chiding the kids, she laughed along with them and commented how beautiful the new “toy” they had created was.

The new year is still young. You can change your approach to how you embrace every day, and in turn, every person you meet. Slow down and take it in. Everything. Every. Single. Thing. You’ll be astonished how much more you’ll enjoy life !!

By Name

I’m a child of the late 60’s and early 70’s. During my early childhood, I was raised by my grandparents because my mom was working after the untimely, early death of my father. Growing up on a farm in Luckey, Ohio was wonderful !! My brother and I had countless adventures that were mostly outdoors. You used your imagination to make your surroundings come to life. We watched very little television because our grandmother wanted us out from under her feet. When we did watch on their tiny black and white set, we watched PBS. Yes, PBS. Grandma made sure we watched the Public Broadcasting System because it was filled with educational programming. One of our favorite shows was Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

We loved visiting his neighborhood with the various characters in the Land of Make Believe. You learned something every time you watched. We never thought the show was simple, easy-going or even “cheesy.” The messages he gave rang true, and he always seemed so interested in you as a person.

Fast forward to 2019. My wife and I just went to see the new Tom Hanks movie where he plays Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It is magnificent !! Granted, I already had fond memories of Mr. Rogers, but this movie made some facets of his life more visible and poignant. I highly recommend you go see the movie to get the entire feel and impact of the message so I don’t want to reveal too many components.

The one characteristic that resonated deeply with me was that Mr. Rogers made sure to know everyone he met by name. He didn’t overlook anyone he encountered either on the set of his television program, or if he met you in person. People mattered to him. One scene, shown in the preview, shows the main character’s wife, Andrea, squeal when Hanks calls their home and introduces himself to her. She is trying to pass the phone to her husband, but Mr. Rogers stops her to take time to intentionally talk to her. She says, “Mr. Rogers knows my name !!” It obviously moved her.

They note that Rogers, a man who had a strong personal faith, prayed for the people in his life by name. Every. Day. This wasn’t some parlor trick that showed he had a great memory. He valued being connected to people and wanted to know them personally.

I am a person who shares the same conviction of Mr. Rogers. I think it’s critical to meet, know and interact with people by name. Whenever you meet someone for the first time, you have to make the time to get to know (and remember) their name. Our names are the most significant identifying trait of who we are as humans. When you share your name with someone and they share theirs with you, you are connected immediately.

We were given names on purpose when we were born. Even though people may share the same first name, it doesn’t diminish the reality that they are unique. No one “Steve” is the same as another. The reason it’s important to know someone’s name is that when you interact, it’s more intimate and meaningful. You will remove the distractions of the day which constantly vie for our attention because you have called someone out by name. You’re locked together and those conversations will be more rich and meaningful than just trying to catch someone on the fly.

As HR professionals, this should be a skill that matters to you. I know that it can be difficult to remember names, but that’s an excuse. We all need to take the time to learn and recall the names of the people who are in our daily lives. If you need to make lists, then do it. If you need to make associations that spark your memory to remember a person’s name, then keep track of those attributes. Be intentional about this. We can’t fool ourselves to think that our companies are people-centric if everyone remains nameless.

Once you know someone by name, you can get to know them as a person. Having knowledge of who they are is far more important and lasting than anything they do. I mean it. They, in turn, can get to know you more as a person as well. I see it every day. People want to connect and be known for who they are.

This week start interacting with people by name on purpose. It will make a huge difference for you personally and professionally. Be like Mr. Rogers and make it matter. It will make our various neighborhoods the great environments they were meant to be !!

Read the Signs !!

Recently my wife and I went to the fabulous Cincinnati Art Museum to see the traveling Burning Man exhibit. It was incredible !! The different art pieces and memorabilia brought out my inner bohemian. The whole event is not for those who want to just observe if you attend the actual event in the desert. This isn’t for spectators, it’s for participants. The pictures of those attending are very comfortable with who they are, how they look and how they see creativity all around them.

When special exhibits are brought in to most museums, they’re able to confine them into a relatively gallery size location. They do this so they’re more concentrated and it’s also a way for museums to generate much needed additional revenue. They can charge an extra fee to see something special. I’m absolutely cool with this. This exhibition couldn’t be contained into such a size which is indicative of the Burning Man event as well. The pieces ranged in size to such an extent that they were placed throughout the entire museum. This allowed everyone to see the entire museum as well as release their inner bohemian.

One of the favorite pieces I saw caught my eye instantly and also made me pause. Once you look at it, you can see a much different message versus what you expected this iconic symbol to convey.

What do you think? Do you see it? If you came into an expansive gallery room, turned the corner and saw this hanging on the wall, would you have the same reaction I did? Be honest. When you see this familiar red octagon, you’ve been conditioned to expect the letters spelling out “STOP”. You see many of these on a daily basis on your commute to and from work. When you see the sign you’re expecting, you halt, look around and then move in some direction.

Seeing this piece of art made me think of how HR is what you expect when you see this symbol. We are known for telling people to “stop” when it comes to behavior and the majority of systems that we design and monitor. At times this may be necessary. Unfortunately, it seems to have become the majority of how we spend our days both in reality and perception.

This doesn’t have to be the case !!

What if you took this piece of art for what it is? What if you slowed down to see the signs of those who work with you. Are you already acting as if they’re easy to define, assess and move past? Do you think that you don’t have time to notice everyone? I mean honestly, you have work to do that is far more important than connecting with your employees. Don’t you?

I wish there was a professional development class that taught people to observe nuances at work. There are countless subtle signs that happen all around us in the workplace !! How people interact with each other. How departments act when working inter-departmentally. And, how people interact when their roles are at different levels within the organization.

You can see signs in every interaction you personally have as well as all of the interactions you observe. However, if you’re too concerned with “real work” you’ll miss most of them.

Remember this – EVERYONE watches the interactions they have with you and how you have interactions with others. All. The. Time.

So, if others are taking in the signs around them, shouldn’t you as an HR practitioner?

This week follow the example of this Burning Man art piece. Slow down and then START watching and reacting to the signs happening with your people. They deserve someone who’s willing to be different and do the unexpected. Release your inner HR bohemian and see the new results which will occur !!

No Words

Sunday night is when I sit down to pen my weekly blog. Usually, the words flow easily and I can put something together relatively quickly.

If you don’t know, I am an extremely positive person 90% of the time. It’s natural and genuine. Honestly, it feels a bit odd to type it out because I don’t mean this in either an arrogant or naive way. I believe in the good in life and in people.

Then, the mass shootings of El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio happened this Saturday. Dayton is a mere 25 miles north of my home. These tragedies are always horrible and senseless. So, I am floored by this weekend and the mass loss of life. We often get moved by the horror until something else grabs our attention.

I know that there are millions of people who are continuing to move on and live life well. They may see the news online or through social media, and feel remorse or disbelief. And yet, life continues.

This week, instead of writing about the good in people (which I still firmly believe in), I’m taking a break to reach out to those close to me. I’m being intentional to tell them how much they mean to me, and the impact they make in my life and the lives of others. I can’t take the chance that I’d miss the opportunity to do this. I don’t want to take any day for granted.

For those of you kind enough to read my blog, please know that you matter. Every. Day.

Sandwiched !!

This past weekend I was fortunate enough to drive two hours north of my house with my wife to visit my parents – Connie and Don Fleming. Of course, this also meant that I was able to return to Ada, Ohio (center of the universe.) I spent the day cleaning the gutters, removing dead rose bushes and tightening all of the shutters on the windows. My mom stayed with me to give me “direction” and my dad stayed inside to chat with my wife.

The cool thing about seeing my parents now is that our lives have once again transitioned. You see, my mom is 80 years old and my dad is 76. If we hadn’t taken the time to visit, my mom was planning on getting on a ladder to do the gutter cleaning !! Add to this the fact that the past few months have been rougher than most because my dad has been in the hospital and a rehab facility more than he’s been home. It’s been challenging for him and my mom. She’s his sole caregiver at this point in time. We’ll need to keep watching this for both of them.

Even though my parents are relatively close for me to get to within a relatively short period of time, my brother is almost eight hours away. Even with that time separation driving is quicker than flying because Ada isn’t near an airport. We all keep in contact, and I wish that the majority of our conversations weren’t about our parent’s health status or the news of another elderly relative or friend of the family passing away. But that’s where we are . . . sort of . . .

You see, my brother and I also have great kids who are now technically “adults” according to their ID’s. They’re all embarking on the next phase of their lives by landing jobs, adding friends and meeting significant others. It’s exciting to see them maneuver and struggle as they find their way. We give them guidance and assistance, if they ask for it, and we see what decisions they make.

In the midst of all of this great “life” stuff going on, we all have our careers and jobs ourselves. We’re sandwiched !! We’re in the middle of caring for our aging parents and also taking care of our kids. This isn’t unique by any stretch of the imagination. This is the norm for the majority of people now. This wasn’t always the case for families, but with people being able to have a great life for many years, it’s our reality.

Now, I’m fortunate in that I have a great relationship with my parents. I know that isn’t the case for everyone and don’t take it for granted. Regardless of the relationship status, we all have parents. This “sandwich generation” is now a huge work challenge, but it doesn’t have to be !!

When I hear about most workplaces, time off is cordoned off into days and hours. We “allow” people to have time off if they’ve earned it, it’s been appropriately accrued, and if they fill out the proper 7-page over detailed form for HR which must be approved by anywhere from one to three people. It’s ridiculous and archaic. Our HR systems continue to be based on “showing up” and being visible versus performing.

What if you knew your people so well that you could give them the grace to take time when needed to help a parent or a child? What if you did this and didn’t have unlimited PTO? Would doing this lead to complete and utter anarchy in an organization ???

Here’s a different perspective . . .

Understand your people enough to learn about their circumstances and situations. Allow them to have a work schedule that meets their needs as well as allows them to perform in their role. Give them time to both address “life” things and do their work. Allow your systems to ebb and flow instead of being locked in concrete.

My experience has been if your workplace can accommodate people individually, they will, in turn, be more engaged, loyal and grateful for you as a company. If someone takes advantage of this in a detrimental way, address it – just like you can with ANY person’s behavior. You will have far more success if you aim for consistency versus compliance because someday YOU will need some latitude in your life as well.

I know that this approach takes more work, effort and attention. However, aren’t your employees worth it? This week take a look to see if you have folks who are sandwiched. Get to learn their story and see how you can be a partner in helping them through life AND work !!