Please say “Thank You” !!

Sitting at my keyboard in my house on Labor Day, I am thankful that I have a holiday to spend with my family and recharge my batteries.  At a time when more and more people focus on what is wrong with our economy, our political infighting and world turmoil, I again am thankful for the day to gather my thoughts.

As I was on a morning walk today, I was reminded of something that I too often forget on days like Labor Day.  As I enjoy a holiday, there are thousands of people who are working today to serve others.  If you didn’t know, I’m an HR professional in the Restaurant Industry.  The company I work for, LaRosa’s, Inc., is a true iconic tradition in Cincinnati. Today, the majority of folks I work with will be at our restaurants serving people who so graciously choose to dine with us.

There are others who are working in gas stations, hospitals, retail locations, hotels, and more while others celebrate the holiday.  Ironically, most people take this service for granted and actually expect people to be there to meet their needs.  In fact, few people who use these services take time to say, “Thank You !!” to the people who are working while they enjoy their day off for the holiday.

This really needs to change.  I know that I hear stories of employees who don’t think their employer gives them feedback or thanks them for their efforts, and they hate it.  They should.  The lack of constructive feedback in the workplace is a shortfall that too many people encounter on a regular basis.

So, today when you’re enjoying the holiday and you go to purchase something at the hardware store to work on a home project, or you go grab a pizza at a restaurant – say “Thank You” to the people who are working today.  It is deserved and will go a long way into making our workplaces better each time someone takes the time to do it.  Have a great holiday !!

 

How do you start the week ??

This past week my two fantastic kids went BACK to school !!  My wife and I are truly blessed with two great kids.  Our daughter is now a Senior and our son is a Freshman at Lakota East High School.  What was so intriguing about their return to school is that when you asked them about the impending school year, they would both huff, sigh and drop their shoulders and say, “Yeah, we have to go BACK to school.”

Now, I know they’re both anxious about what the new year will bring and I’m sure they look forward to seeing old friends, and possibly making new ones.  They also will do amazing things this year that they don’t even know exist yet.  However, they look at the drudgery of the end of summer and the regiment of school.

It made me think . . . Isn’t this the same thing that the vast majority of workforces do each week?

Seriously.  How many of you reading this on Monday morning said, “Ugh, I have to go BACK to work !!”

Even if our weekend was absolutely horrific, we feel it has more value than going back to our jobs.  Now, I understand that there are tons of bosses, workplaces and cultures that aren’t going to make the “Best Places to Work” list soon.  However, you’re working.  Think of those, maybe even in your family, who aren’t working.

Your attitude is the difference when you either go BACK to work, or go TO work. Sure you will face challenges, but isn’t it cool that you have challenges to face?  Sure, people will disappoint you and let you down, but couldn’t you do the same?

In order for workplace culture to excel and be truly “engaging,” then it starts with each individual and their approach.  It isn’t someone else’s responsibility to make Monday great – it’s yours !!

I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but I make sure that the weekly entry from this blog comes out on Monday.  Do you know why I do that?  I’m not into SEO rankings or other quantitative metrics to determine my reach.

I want you to have a great start to the week !!  Really.  I may never meet those of you kind enough to read this blog, but I’ve chosen to be encouraging because it’s needed in all of our lives.

So, I’m off TO work.  Can’t wait to see what the next week brings.  I’m sure it will be an adventure !!

Maybe I’m Amazed !!

This must just be my “bucket list Summer.”  On Thursday, I got to see a second dream rock concert !!  In July, I saw U2 with three of my closest and dearest friends at Soldier Field in Chicago.  This week I saw Sir Paul McCartney in Cincinnati !!!  To say I was geeked would be an understatement !!

To see one of my rock heroes live was amazing.  He was more than I even thought he’d be live.  And, I think that was true of the 40,000+ people that went to see him.  We all had images in our heads, or ideas of how we’d hope he’d perform.  Everyone was probably also hoping for him to play “their” favorite song during the night.  I know I felt that way and he did play my favorite song of his incredible career . . . ALL of them !!!

What was surprising to me was that there were tons of people who thought he may have lost a step, couldn’t sing as good as he used to.  After all, he’s very close to 70 years old !!

Then it struck me.  This is how most people view people at work.  Most of us look to compartmentalize, or label, people based on our perceptions of what, or who, we think they are.  This is not good.  We continue to feed on the notion that people are bound to disappoint or detract from us.

In fact, I came across a person this week in a conversation at an outside meeting, and our discussion focused around how he felt that EVERYONE would take advantage of things, or them at work.  When I said I disagree and I thought that was a pretty cynical way to view people, they said, “Steve, you’re just naive !!”  I disagreed with them and we left the conversation at an impasse.

By the way, the conversation was with another peer in HR !!

I love that I’m naive !!  I love that I went to see a childhood hero of mine expecting to be blown away by him and I was !!  He played for three hours and had more energy than 99% of the people who came to see him.  He told genuine and gripping stories of John Lennon, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton (all his mates) and also about his kids, why he wrote the songs he did and more.

I happened to go to the concert with my amazing wife (crushed when Paul played Maybe I’m Amazed sitting next to her !!)  I also was there with another best friend (who’s my HR mentor) and his wife.  We were all geeked going in and even more so coming out !!

So, this next week at work, quit thinking the worst about those around you.  Instead, be amazed !!  Because, the truth is, the great humans around us are amazing !!

Come on Get Happy !!

When you saw the title of this post it either made you smile or cringe.  Do you need to be “happy” at work? Heck, can you even be “happy” in HR ??

The cynics out there, many of whom are my dear friends, would be saying things like, “It’s not the 70’s again !!  This isn’t The Partridge Family !!”  Some people at work, and life in general, feel that making someone happy is imposing on their personal space or beliefs.  Others, refusing to be happy, come to work everyday in a dark mood while ominous dirge-like music plays in the background.  There are countless statistics that now show that most people want to leave their job for something else.  For some – ANYTHING else !!!

So, why am I going on and on about being happy?  It’s because I’m knee deep into a great new read called The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor.  It’s a fascinating book that hit at the right time.  The premise is counter to most of the history of the field of psychology and that is this . . . If you are happy, you’ll be successful.

Achor points out poignantly that all of us have been looking at this the other way around – When I get successful, I’ll be happy.  However, the research shows that people never feel they’re successful enough – ever.

So, what does this have to do with HR?  EVERYTHING !!!

Many HR people I know are miserable in what they do.  They are burdened by the reality that working with and dealing with people is rough.  There is no doubt about that.  But, you don’t have to be miserable.

One of my friends visited one of our franchise locations a few years ago when I just had joined LaRosa’s, Inc.  He asked the owner if he knew me and he said, “That’s the new HR guy isn’t it?  Man, what’s wrong with him?  He’s happy all the time !!”  Great isn’t it?  The owner and I know each other more now and he’s a great guy.  He still wonders how I can be happy and be in HR.

So, this week ask yourself . . . happy ??  I think Achor is dead on by his premise that a person needs to be genuinely positive before they’ll ever be successful.  What do you think ??

 

You never know . . .

This past week I was in the woods at Summer Camp with my phenomenal son and 34 other scouts at Camp Frontier  in Pioneer, Ohio. Like most of the country it was as hot as the face of the sun, but my boys and adults were amazing !!  We got through the week with sore bodies and an immense amount of bug bites, but they were minimized by the lasting memories that we made together.

As Troop 941’s Scoutmaster, I have two expectations for Summer Camp: (1) FUN !!!!! and (2) Be engaged – both scouts and leaders.  This is never a problem for our Troop.  They jump into Summer Camp with anticipation and excitement.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s a ton of work !!  My son took three Eagle Merit Badges along with Kayaking.  That’s brutal for a schedule, trust me !!

I always believe in modeling the behavior you expect from others. So, if the boys had a tough schedule, so would I.  I volunteered to be a Camp Commissioner which meant that I got to visit and inspect other scout sites for the Baden Powell Award.  This is the award given to Troops who meet an extensive list of achievements during the week.  Our Troop has earned the award the past three years and I’m very proud of them.

It’s also a great chance to network with other adults who care about Scouting and their boys succeeding.  I also volunteered our site to host all the leaders for a social.  During the social, I practiced voodoo HR on an unsuspecting crowd by asking them all to introduce themselves and share something exceptional about their Troop.  These socials normally last 20 to 30 minutes.  They left our site after two hours !!

I have two incredible stories to share with you about making an impact on others.  You never know if you’re truly making an impact on someone else.  You rarely get to see or hear results.  Check these two stories out . . .

As my Senior Patrol Leader, Zach, and I were walking back to our site, the Program Director stopped to chat and asked how the week was going for us.  Both Zach and I shared great tales of excitement and the positive aspects of the camp.  The Director said that was great because their staff looks through the weeks and notes that some Troops are “magical” and that included 941.  We were humbled.  In fact he said, “When 941 comes to camp we know we have to step it up even more !!” My young scout leader was stunned when he heard this and said, “Mr. Browne, I didn’t even think we were making an impact.”

The second story is extremely touching to me.  One day, two adult leaders from another Troop visited myself and one of my leaders.  They had a difficult situation at their site where some older scouts were bullying a 1st year scout.  We didn’t judge or want jump to the rescue.  We just gave advice which is what they asked for.  The leaders went back to their site, talked to their boys using our advice and the young man who was leading the bullying came to them, apologized and asked how he could make things right.  The young man who was bullied had left camp, but he returned and finished the week due to these leaders learning how to model behavior vs. going back and yelling at everyone.

I could write for days about camp.  It’s a great reminder to understand that everyone impacts everyone with every interaction. So, as you go to work this next week, think about who you’re impacting.  You never know . . .

Do you care ??

I recently read a great post by my friend Jay Kuhns on his MUST read blog – No Excuses HR where he talked about unmet expectations.  I find his work to be so thought provoking and it made me wonder something . . .

Do we care about what matters to our employees?

I keep seeing posts on how to “fix” HR and yet few of them ever mention employees.  We use phrases like “talent” “human capital” “assets” and I could go on and on.  I followed much of #SHRM11 on-line and it was fascinating to see what was talked about !!  It looked like a great Conference and that is great to see.  But, again, I noticed that we talked about our profession, social media, legal updates and many of the same themes we see at all conferences.  What’s missing ??  . . . Employees.

We continue to spend so much time on systems, culture, transactional items and compliance which all affect people, but do you spend time wondering what matters to them?

Let me give you an example . . .

I’m sure everyone has a “bucket list” that they’d like to complete before they no longer have a chance to do that.  Next Tuesday, I get to check something off the list when I get to see U2 in concert in Chicago with three of my lifelong best friends.

I can’t wait !!  I’ve been a major U2 freak ever since they came out as a group in the mid-70’s.  I have all of their music (including bootlegs) and have read about them in books, blogs, articles, etc. Now, you may not be a U2 fan, and it may not matter to you.  I get that.  Not everyone should like the same things.

As HR professionals, though, do you find out what matters to your employees?  Or, does that take too much time?  I find myself more and more learning about the lives and bucket list items of those I work with because it has so much value.  It may not be my interest, or what I would choose to do, but it matters to them.

I think if HR people spent more time with their employees vs. worrying about their own identity within the organization – HR would blossom into what it is called – HUMAN Resources.

So, my challenge to all of us in this phenomenal profession is this – take the time to know those around you.  Don’t get mired in systems and other things that make you feel “busy” while ignoring the best thing around you – people.

Have a great holiday weekend !! I’m going to be with thousands of new people jammin’ with Bono and the boys !!! Peace to all.

What do you see ??

Lately, I’ve been coming across a syndrome that isn’t distinct to any company or civic organization, but it is prevalent in all of them.  What is this syndrome?  It’s the “forest through the trees” syndrome !!

So often we churn and churn over the smallest issue in order to make sure it’s either taken care of or “fixed,” while we miss the world going on around us.  I don’t think this is distinct to HR, but we really do well at it !!

I try to stay connected to a myriad of HR and business folks from all types of industries on a regular basis. It amazes me that when we get to talking about work, I NEVER hear about the amazing people that work for their company, only the problems.  You hear descriptors like “everyone” feels this way, or that an HR issue affects “everybody.”  However, when you dig into it some more, it is usually a few folks that take up the majority of our time. So, is the problem those few people?  Or, is it us?  Do we relish the chance to go after the problem instead of having to focus on the majority?

It seems that we like the comfort zone of going after the problems because I think we feel that it justifies our positions.  Let me ask you this though . . . How does it feel to always muck around in the dark underbelly of the Company?  Doesn’t it get old?

I think it does.  In fact, this past weekend I went camping again with my scouts from Troop 941.  We were outside the entire weekend for our “Sporting Outing” which was a great way for the adults and kids to play team games together ranging from soccer to Ultimate Frisbee to kickball (with the regulation red ball I may add !!)  I went with a group of the boys on an 18-hole disc golf course which took us six hours to complete !! Vicious and invigorating at the same time.

After the weekend, I’m sore, sun burned and I think I have poison ivy in at least five places on my legs.  Now, the “tree” way to look at this is to focus on my run down body. But the “forest” way I truly live is that I wouldn’t trade an ache or itch for the memories of laughter, competition and camaraderie.

So HR, which is it?  Are you a “tree” or a “forest” in your organization?  Step back, reflect and then . . . change (if you need to).

The forest rocks !!  I can’t wait to find you there !!

Pump it up !!

I don’t know if you celebrated it or not, but I declared yesterday “Favorite Human Day !!”  What is this day, you may ask?  It’s a day dedicated to telling your favorite humans how wonderful and amazing they are !!  That’s it.  Pretty simple.

Now, when some of you read this, you’ll think “Why would I tell someone that they’re amazing with no other reason and/or agenda?” Or something like, “Well, if I do that, won’t they expect something from me?”

You see I think there’s a serious thing missing not only in our lives at work, but in our lives in general.  And that is . . . encouragement !!

Really, it’s true.  Try this . . . when you get/receive feedback – is it negative or positive most of the time?  I’ll pause for the answer.  It’s negative isn’t it?  In fact, the majority of our systems in HR are built on negatives including our policies, performance reviews and general employee relations when we have to “deal” with people and their issues.  Ask yourself this – do you spend your time telling people what NOT to do, or what TO do?  I think I know the answer.

How do we expect our cultures to change when we don’t encourage one another?  Why do we think that if we’re positive with people that they’ll just eventually turn on us?

Not me.  I encourage others.  I do it all the time without being asked and expecting nothing in return.

I follow the prophetic words of one of my rock n’ roll icons – Elvis Costello in his classic tune “Pump it Up” from This Year’s Model:

“Pump it up when you don’t really need it.  Pump it up until you can feel it.”

You don’t need a reason to encourage people.  In fact, if you just do it randomly and genuinely, you’ll probably be met with cynicism because people just aren’t used to it.  Don’t be discouraged.  Keep doing it.

This week I spoke at a local one-day SHRM Conference and the attendees and I were laughing (in fact howling at times) and having a great time – at a conference !!!  It was such a great relief to see HR people having fun and enjoying themselves talking about what we do for a living !!

Oh, and just so you know, my first “faves” were my wife and two amazing kids.  Then I called a few other faves and just left a voice mail to encourage them and tell them that I think life is better because they’re around and a part of my life.  Got another person today and we laughed and laughed and he even said, “Man, I needed a call like this today.”

I’m not going to list who I called or name drop.  These people mean the world to me, so I tell them directly.  Remember that all of us are humans.  Humans need encouragement.

Got a fave ??  Take time this week and let them know.  They’ll love it !!

Let’s go camping !!

The forecast said – High temperature 37, low 21 with a 90% chance of precipitation . . . makes you want to camp, doesn’t it ??

Well, that’s exactly what I did this past weekend.  You see, I’m very fortunate to be the Scoutmaster for Troop 941 in West Chester, OH.  My son is in the Troop and we went on our first campout of the year to go horseback riding with 23 other boys and 6 adults.

It was amazing !!  I love going on these weekend jaunts with my son and with the other kids.  I learn so much with them.  We laugh, tell stories, play tons on Euchre, and most importantly, I get to see people grow into adults right before my eyes.

Today, there is so much that can be daunting, tragic and even horrifying.  We continue to fill our days with junk when the majority of our “news” isn’t news at all.  When the lead in story is about some celebrity train wreck vs. the real human condition that all of us face, I can see how we get cynical.

But I digress . . .

From Friday to Sunday I had no cell coverage, no Twitter, no Linked In, no e-mail.  However, I had EVERYTHING I needed and more.  To hear my son recount the exhilaration of his first ride on a horse, Zeus, was better than any distraction I fill my life with.  To sleep in the cold, to eat fresh meals cooked in a dutch oven from recipes my son found, to sing I’m a Little Teapot at a campfire to the tune of We Will Rock You by Queen, and to have kids pick you to imitate during Adult Impersonations – phenomenal.

In the midst of all that is going on around us, I have to ask . . . do you enjoy yourselves?  Are you taking time to take everything in?  Do you see the miracles that happen literally everyday with the people you work with?

Or, are you too busy rushing to check that next e-mail, make sure you get that next appointment entered into Outook, while ignoring the great people you work with so you make sure YOUR needs are being met?

When my son and I got home on Sunday, I collapsed from the full weekend.  My body isn’t as young as it used to be.  But, I collapsed full of joy and great experiences !!

Here’s my challenge to those of you kind enough to even read my blog – take time to enjoy what life brings you !!  Ask the person you work with what they did this weekend and  . . . stay there long enough to really take in what happened !!  Quit ignoring all that is good going on all around you.

Now, I have to get recharged.  We camp again in 2 weeks (and I can’t wait !!)

What Do You Expect ??

This post asks HR what their focus is when it comes to their employees. Do they dread seeing them, or do they think they’re amazing?

When you think of your employees, what comes to mind?

Do you have positive thoughts?  Are you fondly reminded of how amazing the folks are at your company ??

What do you expect?  Seriously.  Have you taken the time to reflect on how your focus is as an HR practitioner when you go into work each day?  Are you looking forward to working with the people around you, or do you dread it?

If I asked you this in person, I’m sure I’d hear a positive response because you’d feel a little awkward because we’re only supposed to talk about surface level things to keep things within a social norm.  It may be the way you truly feel, and I hope it is.

However, when I keep my ear to the ground and listen to other HR pros, I hear more negative things than positive things.  I hear people grousing about the difficult person who did this, or the person who takes ALL  of my time, etc.

Don’t you think your employees see that in you?  Don’t you think that they’ve come to expect HR to be the department who brings the bad news?  Not very encouraging is it?

I think that we’ve made the rock prophet Don Henley’s words come true from his vintage song “Dirty Laundry” on his debut album I Can’t Stand Still.

“Dirty little secrets
     Dirty little lies 
 We got our dirty little fingers in everybody’s pie 
     We love to cut you down to size
We love dirty laundry”

I know that sounds harsh, but when I listen to HR people they tend to talk about the 10% of people who cause them the most problems instead of focusing on the 90% of people who are GREAT !!

I love HR Horror Stories as much as the next person, and I could add my share of them – believe me.  However, it’s time to change the tide.

People will see HR as a positive force in organizations when, and only when, HR is positive itself !!

So, what do you expect ?? Let me know.

Image courtesy of Amazon.com