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 !!

A New Decade !!

I’m sure that I will be one of many posts about what to look forward to in 2020 and beyond. I’m good with that. I strive to be a person who looks ahead. I value the past and the experiences I’ve had so far over my lifetime, and hope that I’ve learned from both the failures and successes.

It’s odd that we’re now going to be 20 years into the 21st century because I can remember sitting at a friend’s house in 1999 when all of us were sure that everything connected to computers was going to fail as the clock passed midnight because of Y2K. My friend played a hilarious prank at the time as all of us were watching Dick Clark count down from 10 to 1 as the ball descended in New York’s Time Square. Exactly at midnight, he turned off the power to the entire house. We all screamed and thought that Y2K had happened. He waited about 30 seconds and turned everything back on. It was fantastic !!

Going into this new decade we don’t have the fears of all technology failing, but we do have challenges all around us. These include personal and professional areas for everyone. I don’t want to be presumptuous and note any certain factors because I’m sure they’re unique for each person. Also, I don’t look at challenges as obstacles per se. They just “are,” and I hope to be adaptable enough to work in and through whatever lies ahead.

I have to say that I continue to remain geeked about HR and life in general !! Sure, there are areas where the industry can improve, but that makes it all the more enticing to me. I’ve never seen an advantage to tearing things down thinking that if I’m negative enough, then things will turn around. I believe in looking things over, being critical when needed and look for opportunities to move things forward. In the end though, I will be positive first and foremost.

With that being said, I’m looking forward to making more HR peers connected to others. I feel that I’ve been making headway over the past decade in seeing more and more people reach out to do this. It’s astonishing to me that people continue to choose to practice HR on an island. It costs you nothing to connect with a peer other than your time. Trust me. It’s worth the investment. If you are in HR, I would welcome the chance to connect, get to know you and help you find others who could be a resource for you. This isn’t about hitting some invisible goal or number of likes, followers or friends. To me this is about improving the profession by bringing people together.

Here’s my journal with my new llama mug because you just need llamas around if you practice HR !!

Now, I’ve never been a person to make resolutions because I fail at them within days just like most who make them. I do have a new “tool” though that I feel will keep me on track for 2020 and for several years past that. My good friend, Bruce Waller, came up with a journal called Milemarkers that allows you to keep a daily journal for five consecutive years. It’s a simple yet brilliant concept. Every page lists a day and then there are five lines that say “20__” with another set of lines for you to capture a thought for that day.

I plan to start my five-year trek on 1/1/20. I’ve struggled with journals almost as much as I have in keeping resolutions. I’m going to do my best to make this stick as a record of what happens over this time. I’m sure there will be all sorts of ups and downs because that’s what happens in life. That isn’t discouraging in the least. It’s encouraging.

I hope that you’re looking ahead as well. I will be reaching out to ask the folks in my HR community how they’re doing and offer to help where I can. Here’s to 2020 !! Here’s to a decade where people lift each other up and strive to bring people together.

Take the Stage !!

This past weekend my wife and I took a trip to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Knoxville, Tennessee. It’s always great to get together because we’ve always been very close siblings. Unfortunately we don’t live as close to each other as we’d both like, but that just means that when we do get together it’s even more meaningful. After the normal “catching up” about our gaggle of adult children, we settled in to just visit and talk.

One of the wonderful things about my family is that we’re very easy going. We don’t feel the need for a ton of structure which allows us the flexibility to be more adventurous. We had never really explored downtown Knoxville together, so the four of us decided we’d try to fill our Saturday visiting some very local attractions. We kicked off the morning meandering through the East Tennessee Historical Society, and it was magnificent !! The displays were thorough and interesting. Each artifact revealed a point in time with such flavor and color. We were near the end of the exhibits when my brother hustled us along because he had a surprise planned.

I was a bit bummed that we rushed out, but our next stop was well worth it. We walked down a few blocks to the Knoxville, Tennessee Visitor’s Center. I wasn’t sure why this would be better than where we had just been. However, my brother was right. It was incredible. In front of us were two sections of folding chairs with five rows in each. Ahead of the chairs stood a stage and a microphone on a stand. You see, the Visitor’s Center is also the home of the public radio station WDVX. It’s also the home of the “Blue Plate Special” radio show which offers a “heapin’ helpin’ of live music.”

My new magnet and reminder to unlock the talent in my organization !!

As I’ve mentioned several times in the past, I’m a music freak !! I enjoy most forms and genres of music – especially if it’s live. On the stage was a young musician named Jared Hard. He was singing his original music which was being simultaneously broadcast on WDVX. He has an engaging approach along with fantastic skills as a storyteller. The Blue Plate Special show only airs original music from local and regional artists. So, some of the people who appear are there for the first time to share their talent and get more people to recognize them. This was the case for Jared and I was geeked that I was able to hear his music and appreciate his talent. I will make sure to keep an eye on him and pick up his new album.

After listening, it made me think of how this applied to HR. I loved that this public radio station set the example of taking a chance on talent. Is this something that we do in our companies? Do we give people the stage or just expect them to show up in their cubicle or work space? Have we tapped into all that someone has to offer, or do we expect them to fit neatly into some typed job description?

Unfortunately, I think far more time is spent confining people to pre-defined roles than allowing them to show what they can do. We still follow the outdated model of someone earning their stripes over some imaginary gauntlet that we say “everyone” had to go through. Why do we continue this practice when we complained about it happening when we began a new job?

We are overdue in eliminating this approach. I feel we should learn from this local hidden gem and set up the “stage” for our employees to come forward and show what they can do. You are sure to find some true artists who’ve been yearning for their chance. You have nothing to lose in trying this. The more you learn about what people can do, the better they can contribute across your enterprise.

We have to understand that “talent” isn’t only about hiring the best possible people. It’s allowing them to flourish and share all they can do. Unlock the hidden talent in your company. Let people take the stage !!

Get Established !!

Earlier this month, my wife and I celebrated our 30th anniversary of marriage. I’m very fortunate that Debbie said “Yes” three decades ago !! I mean it. We are very compatible because we’re opposites. As extroverted as I am, she isn’t. As detail oriented and organized as she is, I’m not. It works for us, and I’m grateful for her every day.

I’ve written about our kids here on the blog over the years as well. This weekend we hit a true life milestone by “officially” becoming empty nesters. Both of our adults have moved to different cities, San Diego and Indianapolis, as they start the next stage of their life. We’re excited to see them grow and can’t wait to see what will come next for both of them.

Our anniversary occurred in the midst of both of our kids transitioning which was fine with us. So, we didn’t have a giant night out or some massive celebration. That really isn’t our style. The kids wished us well and told us to keep our eyes out for a package. We hadn’t seen anything, so we forgot about it. We just completed the move to Indy for our daughter this weekend. After two fairly full and exhausting days helping her set up her apartment, we came home to an unexpected surprise.

A large, flat, square cardboard package was leaning against our front door on the porch. We were eager to see what it was !! Once we opened it, we both smiled and were very touch. Here’s what we opened . . .

We couldn’t believe it !! The gift from our kids was perfect. This would be a daily reminder that we “established” our lives together. It seemed to give our family a sense of permanence. In fact, my wife was tickled that we were now finally established.

It made me think of other areas of my life. Our kids are now taking steps to become established themselves in new cities and with new jobs. It is our hope that they will do well and start having milestones of their own.

What about work? Was I established there? I’ve been with the same company for 13 years now so I guess you could say “Yes” from a tenure standpoint. But, had I put my stake in the ground to make HR and the organization better in what I had done over this time? I’d like to say “Yes” to this as well.

However, it made me think about others in HR. Far too often I hear of stories where HR practitioners don’t feel they’re grounded or have their place identified within their organization. This is extremely frustrating and people feel defeated in their roles. Why don’t people take steps to address this when they find themselves in this situation? Why suffer unnecessarily?

You can turn this around. You can. It isn’t as difficult as you may have been lead to believe. Organizations want HR to be relevant, successful and needed. We just need to see it in ourselves and believe it. The steps you need to take are unique to your role and your organizational culture. I can only offer one piece of advice that will get things started.

Ask the organization what they expect from HR and inform them of what you expect from them. Establish this with the leaders of every department. It will be different for each one, and that takes effort to keep track of the various expectations that will be shared. This type of effort works. You shouldn’t leave your relationship to chance or ambiguity.

Setting expectations of each other is something my wife and I have done over these past three decades. As life has evolved, so have our expectations. The years have been filled with far more joy than challenges, and part of this is because we know where each other stand.

This week set your expectations and get established. It would be great to get your own sign to put up on your wall starting this year !!

Make the Climb !!

When my wife and I went to England recently, it seemed like everything was an adventure !! Some of that was because each experience was new. You couldn’t help but be awestruck by the deep, rich history that surrounded you at every turn. Before we went on the trip, we made a list of possible places to visit. I then reached out to friends via social media and asked their opinion. This was so helpful because we were able to hear from people who had experienced the various places we wanted to try and visit.

One of the recommendations was the city of York. We checked it out and decided we would be sure to visit there. It was hard to believe that our experience would be affected starting at the train station, but it absolutely was !! We took the tube to King’s Cross Station. For those of you who are Harry Potter fans, this is awesome because I got to see Platform 9 3/4 where the Hogwart’s students would go through a pillar to catch their train. I’m a big kid stuck in an adult’s body. Seeing the platform only set the stage for what was to come.

Our trip went quickly and we took a short walk to our beautiful hotel The Principal York. We settled in and then walked to a site that dominates the city and its skyline – The York Minster. The Minster is a church and you’re probably more familiar with Westminster Abbey in downtown London. It’s hard to describe how massive the York Minster is. When you walk up to its doors, you are dwarfed by the size. It truly envelops you. We had a feeling that it would take several hours to take it all in.

When you get your ticket to go through the beautiful church, you have the option to buy an additional ticket to climb the steps of the Central Tower. Before the clerk allows you to buy a ticket for this extra experience, they point to a disclaimer. The one page sheet is full of warnings telling you that you need to be fit, have no breathing or heart issues, and are good with very tight confined space. I said that I’d be fine because I was eager to try this. I paid the extra five pounds and had a ticket to climb.

Debbie and I went through some of the Minster before I got in a queue to scale the steps of the tower. There was quite a buzz from the 30 or so folks waiting to climb. One of the staff came out to give one more word of caution before she opened the door. Everyone nodded their willingness to go, and then we entered the tower. What you saw were narrow stone steps going up in a very tight spiral. The first few minutes of the climb were easy and then my breathing became very labored as well as everyone else on this trek. We climbed for a good ten minutes and saw some daylight streaming into the staircase. You could hear sighs of relief and some joy as we exited a door and came out on the edge of one of the roofs of the church. Everyone pulled out their phones to snap pictures when someone noticed that this was only the first half of the ascent.

A view from the top of the Central Tower of York Minster.

You crossed the roof line and entered another door with another spiral staircase that was even more narrow and confined. Now people started to shake and heave with every step as we continued to do our best to keep moving upward. Another ten or fifteen minutes and we got to the top. The view was amazing and breathtaking. We had climbed 275 steps to a height of 235 feet. To give perspective, the Central Tower is above the two prominent spires at the front of the Minster. Everyone was smiling between trying to catch our breath. You could walk around the entire perimeter of the tower and take pictures.

After some time, you realized that you had to go back down, and there was only one way to do that. So, you took a deep breath and started to wind back down the steps you just struggled to climb. It didn’t take as long to get back to the floor of the Minster, but the constant turning made you very dizzy. When I came out of the stairwell, I was exhausted and went to sit on a chair to collect myself. My wife came and checked on me and I told her all about the trip. We spent several more hours in the church to make sure we saw everything. It was wonderful, but I was still spent several hours later.

Making the climb was worth it and reflecting back on it made me think of HR and work. How many times do we have the opportunity to pull ourselves out of our surroundings and ascend to a new place? Why do get stuck when we see/hear the warnings about potential serious outcomes? How often do we stay right where we always are wondering what making the climb would mean?

We hear that the view is amazing and needs to be experienced personally, but the power of breaking our inertia paralyzes us. Isn’t it time you paid the small price and take the first step up? Yes, it could be daunting and physically/mentally difficult. But, the effort and work is worth it. The view is captivating !!

This week look around and see where you could move forward and/or up. Get in line regardless of the potential risks or obstacles. Feel the excitement and anticipation. Then, make the climb !!

Hands Across the Water !!

I’m not sure if you noticed, but I took a few weeks off from blogging. That’s because my wife and I went to England for a two week vacation to have an early celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary !! (Before I go any further, you need to know that my wife, Debbie, means the world to me.) Every aspect of our trip was fantastic. Every. One. One factor that made this possible was that I left my laptop back home and disconnected from work, social media and from constantly staring at one screen or another. I’ll be honest, I didn’t miss it that much.

Having more time to focus on everything going on around us allowed us to be sponges. We enjoyed long walks around West Hampstead where we were renting a flat. We also visited various towns and historical sites from Bath to Cambridge to Notting Hill to York and all over London. I could write for weeks and weeks if I tried to share all of our adventures.

One of the many bucket list items I experienced was visiting the Abbey Road Studios where The Beatles recorded their music. Paul McCartney recorded a song after The Beatles had broken up with his new band The Wings called Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey. It’s a very Beatlesque tune which I really enjoy. In the chorus, there is a phrase “Hands across the water (water), Hands across the sky (sky).” The reason I share this lyric is that the BEST thing that happened during our trip was meeting fellow HR peers. Not kidding. It was the biggest highlight.

For those that know me, I love meeting people !! The environment doesn’t really matter. Throughout our trip, I met people on the Tube, at restaurants and pubs as well as at the various historical sites we visited. People intrigue me. Getting to interact and know them gives me a perspective that is more real than any tour you could purchase. Debbie and I were fortunate when two HR friends who I had only “known” from Twitter met us and started our vacation by taking us all over. We connected immediately and we started developing our friendships in person.

This culminated later our first week when we had a Tweetup. A Tweetup is an excuse to get together with your peers, have a drink or a bite to eat and network. We met at Doggett’s Coat and Badge Pub on the banks of the Thames overlooking St. Paul’s Cathedral. The view was spectacular and the weather was perfect. That alone would have been enough, but then folks started arriving. In the end, there were 40 people who came. It was astonishing and humbling because many of the people traveled an incredible way to be there. Some took trains from hours away just to meet.

We had hours of fun meeting each other for the first time, learning about each other’s lives and laughing. Tons and tons of laughing !! We didn’t feel like strangers in the least. After some time, we wanted to make sure to capture the moment, so we asked our server to take a picture. I will cherish this forever !!

Several people were “amazed” that when we met in person that we were the “same” people as we are online. I never suspected that we would be any different. It was instantly comfortable to hang out with every person. We found that we had tons in common and it was if we had known each other for years. On the following Saturday another friend traveled 3 1/2 hours by train to come meet, and we met more HR friends when we traveled to York. I hope that all of the people we met remain lifelong friends. I know that will take work and effort, but it will be more than worth it.

The experience Debbie and I had is something that should be the norm and not the exception. I feel that whenever you get the chance to meet and connect with HR friends in person, you should take advantage of that. We are a global community, and we’re better the more we step out and connect.

We all have to be willing to stretch our hands across the water !!

Resurrecting HR !!

HR is dead.

(At least that’s what people want you to believe.)

It’s staggering to me that there continues to be this on-going conversation that is desperately trying to kill Human Resources. Blogs, magazine articles, conference presentations, etc. It’s happening throughout the profession, and very few people are standing up against it !! Why in the world should we allow people to degrade, belittle and tear down our profession? It’s especially disheartening when some of those voices are coming from inside HR itself !!

I believe that there should always be discourse, dialogue and critique. If that doesn’t occur, then change doesn’t happen. However, trying to move things forward through tearing it down has never worked. Never.

The reason for this post, and the title, is that I truly believe there is a problem and HR does need resurrecting !! Also, with it being Easter, how could you not use this title ??

The problem, as I see it, is that we are working so hard to maintain the status quo, that we’ve lost the urge to stretch and dream to see what HR could be. We feel that keeping things comfortable and in line will make our role effective and needed in organizations. It helps to have some of that, but not as your primary approach. It’s interesting that we encourage others not to settle, but we don’t see that this advice also applies to us.

Still AliveI’d like you to consider some ideas to make HR alive for you personally and collectively as a profession !!

Stand up and be heard !!

When you hear someone taking a shot at HR and what you do, respond. If that happens in your organization, push back. Bring solutions that elevate the human element of your employees and pull the company together. Quit making efforts to manage to the exception and recognize the whole. If you see negative comments online, respond. Being frustrated behind a screen will not bring about change. Comment, share and respond !!

Get connected and involved in the profession !!

HR is a field of isolation by design because we deal with the difficult side of employee issues. They have to have a safe haven they can work with and come to. After awhile, that isolation builds up and you have nowhere to go. (or so you think). The best thing about being in HR is the other people who practice it !! Having a viable, interactive and living network of HR professionals is essential if you want to thrive in this field. There was never anything written in your job description that stated that you had to quietly suffer.

Reach out. Connect with others who are near you. Make social media the communication vehicle it was intended to be and find out that there are thousands of ┬ápeople who do what you do, and they’re looking to connect as well !! Go to conferences to meet people. Join organizations like SHRM nationally as well as locally. Do it because it makes you a better HR pro, not just because you were told to do it !!

Believe in what you do !!

HR is alive and well. It’s not just a blog post or a rallying cry. It’s a fact. Every day senior management is seeking HR to step up and make sure that organizations are more human. It’s a natural instinct in most of us and the time for suppressing it is past. It’s not time for us to be wildly optimistic, but it is time for us to say – How can we make the workplace better?

There is value in what you do my peers and friends. Inherent, tangible value. As you head back to work this week shake off the cobwebs, drudgery and negativity which can swallow the best of us. It’s time to resurrect HR !! Will you join me ??