Take Your Shot !!

A few weeks ago my wife and I got to experience something we had been anticipating for over two years. We went to see the musical Hamilton !! We had heard all the hype and hoped it would live up to it. We even did some show prep by listening to the soundtrack on Spotify and looking up the history of Alexander Hamilton’s life.

It. Did. Not. Disappoint !!

From the opening scene to the dropping of the curtain after the second act, every moment was wonderful. We loved the orchestra, the staging, the continuous movement and the story. It was different than anything we had ever seen. The songs weren’t what we were used to. The pace was new as well. The lyrics had life, movement and swagger !! It was wonderful to take it all in.

All of the songs were powerful in their own way and were key in telling the story of his life. I was fascinated by the third song in where Hamilton exclaims that he’s not going to miss his shot. He was very vocal about wanting to be involved with all that was happening in the birth of America as a nation. He didn’t want to miss out. He wanted to be someone who made a lasting impact and legacy. He was overt in making sure he was in the mix of those that were starting the coming revolution.

Do you feel like that as an HR pro? Do you ever have the desire to be someone who makes a lasting impact through your work or in your field? I think you should and I know you can !!

Too often we feel that HR should remain in the shadows or out in the hallway waiting for when, or if, we’re needed. We’ve taken on the mantle of “support” so willingly that we rarely step out of this approach. Please understand that providing support to others is necessary in our roles. Don’t think that I’m stating that we should walk away from this aspect of human resources. However, I don’t think it should be how we’re expected to be defined. It’s far too limiting.

I think we lack the zeal and confidence that Hamilton and his peers seemed to have. Now, they had a big, audacious goal to achieve in fighting for independence and then designing the structure of our first governing body. Hamilton and his peers were far from perfect. They were extremely flawed. Even though that was the case, they pressed on to lead and bring about significant change. I understand that giant shifts and projects come about rarely. It shouldn’t discourage you though.

There are opportunities for you to take your “shot” on a regular basis in your workplace if you choose to see them. You don’t have to be perfect or have a senior level in the company. You can take leadership as well as provide support. You can put yourself in the mix of the people who are looking to change and shape your company. I don’t buy the response that senior leadership won’t “let you” take this on. Companies are always looking for people to step up and lead. Always.

This week take stock of all you do in HR. I’m sure it’s incredible !! Now see where there are opportunities to take your shot. This time though instead of letting it pass you by, step up. Don’t miss taking your shot !!

Convenience or Community ??

This past weekend I ventured out once again to finish my Christmas shopping. The weather was absolutely atrocious because of an endless, soaking rain. I would not be deterred because this was my one completely free day. I didn’t mind the rain, the snail like traffic, or the myriad of people who must have had the same idea I did.

One stop along my day long trek was at a brand name store that was an anchor location at a shopping mall. I was able to find what I was looking for there, and I wanted to stay dry for a bit longer so I decided to walk through the old mall. I was floored by the vast emptiness of the once robust gathering place. It was honestly a bit unnerving. Over 3/4 of the store fronts were blacked out and their logos were nothing but faded outlines that could barely be made out.

Now, I understand that business evolves. People do less and less shopping out in public. Many of us sit in our living room on our couch and place orders online. I’m not against this at all because it is easier to press a button and have something placed outside your front door. What I miss though is seeing people. Seriously. I love the hustle and bustle of people milling among each other. I don’t mind waiting in lines and listening to what people are discussing. I get energized by it !!

You see the empty shopping mall reflects one thing that is occurring that I’m not geeked about. More and more people are choosing convenience over community. This is a pretty broad generalization, but there are countless examples of how we want to have things brought to us so we don’t “waste time.” There is nothing wrong with being efficient. But, in doing this we aren’t coming together in other ways. We’re becoming increasingly isolated intentionally. The major concern about this move towards isolation is that we accept it as the norm. There is little push back against being slowly lulled apart.

I understand that I am an off the chart extrovert, and that weighs into how I feel. However, I see convenience being touted as being so much more attractive in all facets of life. During the holiday season, it’s well known that people struggle. There are many reasons for this and all of them are valid. With that before us, the last thing we need is a move to more isolation.

How does this tie into what we do as HR professionals? I think it’s pretty obvious. Isolation, you see, is occurring in our workplaces as well. We spend more time with our tasks than we do in actual interactions with others. On top of this, most people want to have little time with others that isn’t “work only” because we’re wasting time. (This includes how most HR pros approach employees.)

Well, I for one, don’t want HR and the workplace to go the way of the shopping mall. It’s going to happen if we don’t pivot and change now. I mean it. The call for convenience is hoping that we move farther and farther apart. I understand that you may not feel comfortable connecting with tons and tons of people. Please don’t take this request to the extreme.

You have the opportunity to start/build your community by intentionally reaching out to ONE person. One !! This is true because it takes only one person to step out of isolation and into the midst of another’s life on purpose. I can’t tell you how much I am driven by this feeling to see this change in our profession and in our company cultures.

This week, reach out to one person. You may be the absolute break from the isolation they’re experiencing right at this moment. It’s time for all of us to make a difference in the lives of others. Let’s finish 2018 building our community so that 2019 and the future will evolve as others come together. Always remember . . . we are better together !!

Is This the Real Life ??

“Is this just fantasy? . . .”

The opening lyrics to the Queen classic anthem “Bohemian Rhapsody” grab me every time.  This weekend I went to see the movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, because I am a huge Queen fan, and have been for many decades. I loved it !! Now, I understand that it’s been getting some push back because of some inaccuracies, but it’s a movie. I didn’t go to critique it. I went to enjoy it, and I truly did !!

The music was, and still is, magnificent and I loved singing along in the theater. What intrigued me even more was some of the dynamics that were portrayed throughout the movie. I think there are some very interesting lessons we can learn from about being in a band that can be reflected in the workplace.

Unique Talent – Each member of the band brought something new to the makeup of them as a unit. This both brought them together and tore them apart. It’s difficult when you put various talents together because we tend to compare and desire that other’s share our talent. That isn’t usually possible. I think that we should encourage the strengths that each person brings and see how to meld those together.

Diversity of Thought – This is something that isn’t valued nearly enough. Each member of the band contributed different ideas and perspectives towards their various hits. At times, ideas can run contrary to the flow of where a team (band) is heading. It is hard to listen to contrarian thoughts, but great leadership makes space for all thoughts to be shared and considered. You may want to see if you encourage this diversity. You may be missing some great ideas waiting to be known !!

Incredible Bonds – The band realizes that they are much stronger together than they are apart. They each play their part which allows them to make incredible music. When a team hits their stride in the workplace, they can have this same type of success. It takes incredible work and a component we tend to avoid – conflict.  Rarely does a team come together to take on a project and get everything accomplished smoothly. Conflict is something that will occur. Since you know that the bond is critical, help people work through conflict instead of avoiding it.

Risk taking and Creativity – More voices can lead to a team to rally together. When the band recorded their classic anthem, the record company balked because it was longer than the standard three minute radio play of the day. The band wasn’t willing to accept that roadblock because they felt their work was worth it. In the end, their risk worked. We always say we desire risk taking and creativity in the workplace, but we rarely truly allow it. Teams can come together to be a “safe” lab to try things out and move in exciting and new directions.

So, when you get your teams (bands) together at work, I hope you look at all of the great facets they can bring to each other, the workplace as a whole and the contributions they can make. Who knows? Maybe they have an anthem in them as well. Take time to nurture teams and expect them to thrive, and this can be the real life at work and not a fantasy.

Paperback Writer !!

Did you ever know someone who always seemed to have their head in the clouds? They seem to see the world from different angles and make observations that may not seem congruent with others around them. They may be seen as contrarians, but they’re good with it. They don’t seem to fit a category because once you try to put them in one box, they’re off somewhere else.

I’m one of those dreamers. It’s a bit unnerving to even talk about it because I want you to know that this post is much more about ideas and an approach than it is about me as a person. I’ve never felt comfortable when someone self-proclaims something because it brings about skepticism and doubt. We have a “prove it” lens we use, and we honestly wait for people to fail versus expect them to succeed.

For several years, I’ve been fortunate to share my thoughts on this blog, as a guest writer for other HR related blogs and as a speaker. It’s something I truly enjoy and look forward to. It’s nice to have a platform to take the ideas that keep rattling around internally, and get them out to share with others and see if they stick and have merit. There’s a risk in doing this because you need to be willing to be vulnerable and know that there may be those who absolutely disagree with you. That’s cool because dialogue and conversations should be welcome instead of forcing someone to just take your side.

After having many opportunities to share my perspectives and approach on HR, I had some friends say, “You know what? You should write a book and capture this. I’d read it.”

This is very kind and humbling. When I first heard people say this to me, I was intrigued with a mixture of cautious anxiety. All of the voices that pull at you questioning whether you should move ahead or not on a venture like this are powerful and loud. I’ve never been someone who feels comfortable in the status quo or staying stuck in a pattern, but the urge to just continue what I’ve been doing was attractive.

Each week I go to a local haunt called JTaps which is close to where I work. It’s great because there are not many people there and you can get away from the buzz and pace of the world and the workplace to think. I opened a journal and started writing down themes, ideas and thoughts. One week I took my laptop, opened a Word document, looked at my journal, ordered a Gyro, chips and a Diet Coke and started typing on a blank page.

After awhile, words became paragraphs and paragraphs became chapters. I had the beginnings of a book and decided to share it with a few close friends to see what they thought. They liked what they saw and so I reached out to see if someone would consider publishing it. As most of you know, I’ve been active with SHRM for almost 20 years as a volunteer leader. I mentioned that I was trying to create a book about HR and they asked to see it and then put together a proposal for them to consider.

(Here’s the exciting bit . . . .)

They chose to publish the book and this week at the SHRM Annual Conference in New Orleans, my book – HR on Purpose !! – launches.

It’s so surreal and I’m so geeked that I can hardly contain myself !! The book looks at HR from a positive viewpoint and gives you examples, real-world stories from the trenches and encourages people to own and thrive in human resources.

The book captures the belief that I have, and live, that people have value and that HR is the best profession that anyone could ever be in. It shows how you can enjoy HR . . . on purpose !!

I’ve shared before that I’m a music freak. I have some playing now even as I type this. This week, I get to live out one of the songs from my fave group, The Beatles, because now I’m a paperback writer !!

I’d be geeked if you took the time to check out my book, and I hope you enjoy it and enjoy HR even more !!


The Beatles Paperback Writer Rain 1966 by moss3516

Grow or Control ??

Coffee shops are inspirational. You knew that didn’t you? They really are and have to be. Most are full of people who are on laptops or tablets as well as groups of folks having great conversations. My fave coffee haunt, Cavu Coffee, is one of these inspirational locations !!

Recently, I was in the midst of a great conversation at Cavu with a friend and we talking about leadership. In the midst of a sip of some hot coffee, she laid this out for me – “You know Steve, there are two types of leaders. Those that help people grow and those who want control.”

I stopped sipping my coffee. I was struck by how accurate that was. When I think of the workplace, I definitely see this dichotomy at play. The tendency, however, is not usually focused on growth. I don’t mean to be negative, just realistic. Managers and supervisors live in a constant state of frustration because people just won’t do what they demand, I mean, ask.

We aren’t clean in this area either HR. The majority of our efforts in HR are to constrain and control. This is true from policies to performance “management” systems. I know many of my peers who are handcuffed by spending the majority of their time and contributions towards keeping employees in line.

How does this help people excel? How does this help companies thrive and perform? Why is the standard of how we allow managers and supervisors behave so low? The questions could go on and on . . .

We need to be a profession focused on growth – both personally and throughout our organizations. Trust me, this is healthier than what is being done currently. We all have to come to terms that “control” is a myth. It always has been.

Don’t believe me? Do you have kids, know kids or were a kid yourself? (I want to make sure to cover everyone). Parents miss so much of the phenomenal side of their children because they want their kids to behave, listen and stay within very tight boundaries. I believe in structure, and I was one of those parents who was more strict than I probably should have been. When I allowed my kids to just be themselves, they flourished !! Their creativity and imagination jumped out of them. There was little they wouldn’t explore or try. They were limitless.

The more I tried to keep them in line, the more I saw the edges get chipped off and they moved more and more to the “norms” that everyone expected of them. Why does this matter? You know what happens when kids grow up? They become our employees.

So, why wouldn’t you want employees who saw their work as having no limits? What if HR was less about “crossing the line” and more about boundaries and parameters that allowed people to perform? We need to step in and change the landscape of the workplace. It just has to happen.

People want to grow. They want to do this within their role and the organization. This doesn’t mean that everyone desires promotions and the out-of-date career ladder. They want to grow in how they do work. They want to grow in their responsibilities. They want to grow in how they move the company forward.

They want to grow . . . and so do you !!

I encourage you to eliminate the illusion of control and build an environment of growth. Go to a coffee shop and see how your inspiration blossoms !!

The Next Generation !!

I’m a nerd and always have been. I’m very cool with who I am. I’m a big fan of all things science fiction and fantasy. One of my faves is Star Trek. It’s quite amazing to think that a campy TV series that lasted only 3 seasons has become part of our culture for over 50 years now. The original series has evolved to an animated series, three successful spin-off series and multiple movies. They all paint an adventurous, balanced, humorous and diverse universe that coexists in the future.

Now for the present day . . .

This past week I was fortunate to speak at the Northern Ohio HR Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. I always enjoy the opportunity to present to my fellow HR peers. This conference (which is one of my faves) was even more meaningful because I was able to take my son with me. As I mentioned last week, he’s home on spring break from Ohio University. And, nothing screams spring break fun more than attending an HR conference !! He had never seen me give a presentation before and I was geeked to have him there. I also wanted him to see other HR pros and get a feel of how to interact and network with others.

While I was presenting, I made the statement that I hate that HR continues to separate the next generation by name. The whole “millenial movement” is not good. When did it ever make sense for our profession to segment and isolate a group of people because of their age? There are many who are trying to make a living by separating us, and there’s no room for it.

Ironically, on the drive up to the conference, Josh and I talked about how he disliked being labeled, generalized and isolated as a millenial. He said, “People know nothing about me and yet I’m put in a category. Also Dad, if we’re so bad as a generation isn’t that on you as our parents?” I could have stopped the car and hugged him. He gets it and I dig that about him.

At the conference, I conducted a 1/2 day workshop and spoke at a concurrent session. It was enthralling and exhausting to teach for five hours. After both sessions, I had younger people (you know THOSE M’s) who came up to me to thank me for dismantling this separation of an entire generation. To a person they told me how disappointing and challenging it is when they see countless blogs, books and workshops that are meant for others to learn and understand how to “deal with” and work with them as individuals and as a whole.

Back to Josh (and the folks from other generations) . . .

The folks at the conference ate him up and made him feel welcomed. They connected with him and he was able to meet other young professionals who were excited to meet another person considering HR.

And jump forward to the future . . .

Star Trek got it right. Every new edition of the franchise builds on the one before it and they honor and respect those that laid the ground work. There is never one iteration that states that the “new” version needs separate attention because those that went before just didn’t get them. Actually, there are several references to original characters and how people learned from their strengths, struggles and leadership.

We need to be more like Star Trek in how we look at the next generation that is going to rule, lead and transform our workplace. I’m geeked about who they are, what they believe and feel that they will be more successful than we’ve ever been.

In order to do that, I want to be like the original Star Trek cast who laid the foundation of inclusion, curiosity and the yearn to see what’s next. I want all of those who follow me in the workforce to bring others along and lift them up. The future’s bright because of these new folks. Let’s let them shine !!

Given First

Trust.

It’s a topic that’s getting a ton of attention these days. It’s in our discussions, our social media and in societies around the globe. People are trying to determine if people are/aren’t trustworthy and there’s never a clear answer because everyone’s opinions and definitions are different.

I’m not here to define what “trust” is. However, I do want to tackle the first aspect of trust – and that is whether it is earned or given. The majority of people I know feel trust has to be earned. If trust isn’t earned, how do we know how people will act or treat each other? In the workplace, and life in general, people want you to tally a series of activities so that people will finally establish a certain level of comfort so that they can open up to each other incrementally over time.

I don’t think this works, and I never have. I give trust first.

You don’t have to earn my trust, my time, my empathy or my attention. I will give it to you. You don’t have to hold a certain level of job, have a minimum level of education, come from a similar family background, or share the same beliefs I have. I will give you trust the moment I meet you.

Will you disappoint me? Yes. But, I will disappoint you as well. Will I fail at some point in our relationship? Absolutely. Are there differences we have that will be possible points of disagreement and contention? Of course there are.

These happen because we’re humans.

If everyone has to earn trust first, how will trust ever happen or occur? Someone has to step up and be willing to be vulnerable and open up. Does being open mean that you are naive and blindly unaware of actions or stances that don’t match up with who you are? No, it doesn’t.

As an HR professional, I believe that giving trust first is the approach to take with everyone. Please note that when you take this stance you’re going to get bruised. People don’t trust those that give trust first. (Sorry for the pun, but it’s true). Employees are wary because most of them live in the “earn it” world. I want to encourage you that when the bruises come, trust people again. The next time it happens, do the same. I don’t want you to be a martyr, but I do think you have to fight through the disbelief with your consistency and your willingness to be intentional with people.

If you get to know me personally, and I hope you do, you need to know that the next step past trust is that I am fully in with getting to know you. I can see how many people do “drive by” relationships where I give you snippets of my time and attention. Those result in a multitude of acquaintances that may be miles wide but an inch thick. You have the appearance of connections and relationships, but at the most you’re nice to a bunch of folks. There’s value in that, but there’s also so much more available.

Employees want someone they can trust. It’s almost palpable in workplaces all over. It’s time for us to be the people who make that happen. Let’s turn the page and be the profession made up of people where trust is – given first.

I Will Follow !!

Followers.

It’s amazing to see how a word can transform and become something completely different. I’ve always thought of the word as a group of people who were willing to get behind someone, or some effort, that they believed in. I still do.

However, with the constant flood of Social Media, the term has taken on a new life. Now the word “followers” is associated with those that click a button on a social media platform in order to connect with another person. This action may have substance, or it may mean that they’re connecting to follow a trend. It’s a false sense of popularity and visibility that also carries weight. Countless lists that rank people on social media look at the number of followers as a metric to show “influence.”

Now, before you get all riled up, I’m not against these lists, this level of visibility or having a method for people to connect with each other. What does concern me is that leadership is watered down because following is no longer something that has significance.

In organizations, senior management invests in many people who they identify as “high potentials”. I’m not a fan because people perform at different times of their careers at a peak level due to the work they do as well as the environment or economic climate they are experiencing. I do believe that all employees have potential, but the isolation of a select few rarely leads to optimal results. The assumption is that high potentials are great leaders. In most cases these folks are charismatic and very visible to the “right” people. There are countless examples of people who are deemed to be the future of the company that either don’t pan out or leave because they were able to get someone else’s attention.

Leadership is written about daily in several blogs. It is something that is critical in organizations and people are striving to continue to define it, identify it and make it thrive. What is intriguing to me is that HR rarely jumps in on this topic either personally or organizationally. We typically position ourselves to support and respond to others who take on leadership roles. This needs to change.

Lead and FollowHR is in a perfect position to lead in all they do, and this is especially true in identifying those who should assume leadership roles within a company. I want you to consider a different, and much simpler benchmark, when seeing what leadership looks like.

Look to see who others in your company congregate around. See who is the person whose opinion is sought on a regular basis. This may, or may not, include people who hold current “leadership” roles by title. Titles don’t automatically infer leadership. Leadership is said to be better defined when you look over your shoulder and you see people there. In others words, do they have followers?

People want to follow and rally around someone. They look for leaders who focus on others and not just themselves. This is where having followers is key. As the observer of the organization, HR needs to see where this is occurring and take note. These are the people to check out and see how they are leading. They may be your real potentials that will continue to grow and succeed !!

This week step into a leadership role HR. Find out where the leaders and followers are in your organization. It’s imperative that we do !!

Drop Your Work Face !!

As you read this you’re probably getting ready for the work week. How do you do that? I’m sure it’s probably different for everyone, but there is preparation of some sort. You get your outfit together. You look at your calendar for the next day or even the whole week. The question I have is, “Which face did you choose to put on ?”

For some reason, people choose to act one way at work and another outside of work. In fact, they may have different work faces depending on who they’re interacting with during the day. One for senior management. One for your department. Another for your peers and one more for those who are in roles lower than yours. Gets tiring doesn’t it?

Why do we feel the need to carry multiple personas? What’s so hard about being ourselves? Let me share a story . . .

Early in my career, I worked for a Fortune 100 company as a recruiter. These were the days before “business casual” existed. Our department was going to go together to a company sponsored night at the Cincinnati Reds. We had seats in the stadium and weren’t in a suite. I had never been out with my co-workers socially because I was much younger than them. So, I had never seen them in “non work” clothes. I was geeked to go to the game. I chose to wear a Reds shirt, shorts, a Reds hat and, of course, my red Chuck Taylor low top Converse shoes !!

My co-workers actually stared at me and asked me if THAT was what I was going to wear to the game. They were in casual clothes, but very nice ones. I smiled, said “Yep, trying to show team spirit !!”

Work FaceI was given the tickets for me and my friend that were separate from the rest of the group from work. You see, I didn’t have the right work face on. I didn’t know I needed one !!

I don’t work at that company any longer, and I’ve watched over the places I’ve worked since then and I keep running in to more and more work faces. This needs to change – especially for HR !!

HR folks need to be genuine all the time and with everyone. You can’t expect people to be genuine themselves unless they see it modeled for them. Doing this will make you vulnerable, transparent and emotional. In other words – human.

Trying to play a game of being different personalities for different people within an organization only hurts you and your company. Also, you need to understand that employees are yearning for someone to be “real” with them. It’s missing in companies today, and that’s a mistake.

This week stop putting on a work face and be yourself. When you see others with work faces, make it safe for them to let them take it off. You’ll be pleased with more and more folks being genuine. Once that happens, then you’ll see true performance occur !!

Don’t Be a Bobblehead !!

Everyone has their quirks. Most of the time we keep them to ourselves, but I’m cool with you knowing one of mine. I’m a collector. Not a hoarder, a collector. I have always collected things that interest me. When I was young, I was even trying to get a world record collecting bottle caps with my younger brother !! We ended up with over 20,000 bottle caps that we stored in an old console TV box, but I digress.

Bobbleheads2Since then I’ve curbed my collections (somewhat). Now I only have collections of marbles, fossils and rocks and . . . bobbleheads. Now I know there are bobbleheads for all sorts of things now like TV shows, movies and even cartoon characters. I am more of a “purist” and collect them from my favorite sports teams. They capture a point in time and players that were popular or legends from the organization’s history. Living in Cincinnati, I am a Cincinnati Reds fan. I try to get to several games a year and especially if it’s a bobblehead game. Here’s the collection so far.

I’m very cool with collecting bobbleheads, but not being one. Unfortunately, I feel that many HR pros act like bobbleheards in their organizations. Very often we find ourselves nodding acceptance from Senior Management because we don’t want to rock the boat. We may not agree with what is being said, but we don’t push back. We just do our best to make things happen. HR folks are great implementers when we should be great instigators !!

Acceptance for acceptance sake diminishes our role and what we could be doing in organizations. Ironically, great leaders in senior management don’t want people who just say “Yes” and bobble their head up and down. They expect people to give their input and have meaningful discussions as well as potential solutions. When HR continues the myth of receiving some special invitation from senior managers to engage and be strategic, we are fooling ourselves.

I want to encourage you to take on a new posture as an HR pro. There are many reasons that we need to quit saying “No” to people. Also, there is just as much harm in blindly saying “Yes.” So, the posture to take is where we perform best  . . . “It depends.”

I know that people hate this, but hear me out. The only reason people want that instant “Yes” or “No” answer is so that you agree with their take and position on what they’re presenting. Now, if you say “it depends” only to buy time and hope things get better, that’s poor as well. Using “it depends” allows you to look at all sides of a situation. The key is to follow that response with a decisive stance base on your expertise.

The stance we should all take is to be daily strategic in all that we do. It is a stronger position to lead from. Yes, lead from. HR has the obligation to lead in organizations and not settle for being a support function that nods its head. You see, the bobble heads I have are kept on a shelf and we have been on the shelf for way to long as a profession !!

This week get off the shelf and start anew in your role. Bobbleheads are cool to collect, but stop being one professionally !!