So Much Room to Move !!

Rain for hours.  Mud everywhere. Solemn flag retirement.  Scavenger hunt.  Tons of Euchre games.  Food that is flat amazing.  Big word Saturday (you got credit if you used big words during your conversations). Flames shooting from a lantern, and everyone points and says, “Mr. Browne – look !!  Cool !!”

As I type this week’s post, I’ll be honest, I’m exhausted.  I just returned from a weekend of scouting with the great boys and adults of Troop 941. It’s our annual “advancement outing” where we get our new scouts started along their way, and the older scouts also work on things to advance in their ranks. It seems that every Advancement Outing is filled with challenging weather and unexpected surprises.  This one was no different !!

One of the things I truly love about Scouting is that the focus is to let the boys learn, fail, learn again, teach and then move forward.  The hope is that they get the spark to someday reach Eagle Scout.

It’s interesting because the Troop is a microcosm (big word) of the workplace.  Every boy is different and has quirks that make them truly standout.  As adult leaders, we do our best to guide them to making the decisions that will allow them to truly develop.  We are constantly fighting the urge to jump in and fix it all because we learn that our greatest trial is . . . patience.

The beauty of the system is that the boys can do so many things in so many ways to reach their goals.  This drives some adults (and boys) crazy because they feel that tight structure will lend a successful end for one and all.  Some kids don’t even see the structure (which warms my heart !!)

In the workplace, we in HR use policies as our “structure” and we do our best to enforce, cajole and discipline everyone who falls outside of them.  We think we’re doing our job, but not really.  I think policies are broader than most.  They should be parameters that allow people room to move and perform.  They should never be vehicles for control than can never be fully reached and will most certainly not allow people to be consistent.

We need to be like the scouts who look at eminent danger and say, ” Oooh, cool !!”  I learn something every time I get to go and lay under the stars and the rain and the mud.  Amid all that, you only hear playing, laughter and memories being made.  It’s a great “workplace.”  Maybe we’d all enjoy what we did a bit better if we loosened the reigns and allowed people room to move !!

It’s Opening Day !!

This week I participated in a true Cincinnati tradition !!  My family and I went to Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds.  It was truly a spectacle to behold !! Everyone was smiling, laughing and anxious for the start of a new baseball season.  The smell of bratwurst, pizza, beer, popcorn and peanuts filled the air.

People didn’t want to miss any second of the festivities.  The Reds have always valued this tradition since they were the first Major League team ever.  Fans are loyal and educated about the storied past as well as being encouraged about the current team.  They know stats, performance indicators and have strong opinions about their favorite players.

All eyes were glued to the field when they paid honor to wounded veterans who had proudly served our country.  Next was the unveiling of a gigantic American flag that covered the outfield as an enormous plane flew over the stadium at the perfect moment amid roaring cheers !!  The ceremonial first pitch followed and then we moved onto the game.  You could hear all types of conversations going on all around you, and every “ooh” and “ahh” of the plays on the field was palpable.

Seeing this event was truly a treat for my family and me.  It also made me think . . .

42,000+ people were filled with awe, joy and hope for baseball players that don’t even know they exist.  We go to work everyday with a team of people we need to have succeed more than any sports team ever will.

So, what if we treated the beginning of the day like Opening Day at work?  We were geeked to see everyone !!  We cheered their performance on and wanted to see them bring their best in all they did !!  We knew that each person had a role that made the team thrive and we built on it, encouraged it and gave them the equipment to “knock it out of the park.”

As you start this work week, you can have that Opening Day feel !!  What do you say?

Who gets your attention ??

The past few weeks are some of my most favorite as a basketball fan with the NCAA tournaments (both the men’s and women’s tournaments.)  I’m a giant basketball fan having played since I was young, seeing my kids play and being an AVID fan of my alma mater . . . Ohio University !!

You know Ohio University, it’s that one in Athens, Ohio.  The 1st public university in Ohio.  The one who’s mascot is a Bobcat . . . NOTBuckeye !!

So, you can imagine my excitement when the men’s team won their conference tournament and made it to the “Big Dance” !!  They were matched up against Big 10 power – Michigan in the first round, but you wouldn’t know that because the commentators from CBS focused on the “more talented and more recognizable” school.

NOTE:  This is not Michigan’s fault and I actually admire their school, and all the schools who worked hard enough to make the tournament.  Please read on . . .

After Ohio U. pulled off the upset to advance in the tournament, CBS then struggled because their next opponent was the University of South Florida from the Big East.  Who would they focus on?  Well, it honestly was a mix, but the commentators stammered throughout the broadcast because neither school was considered “premier.”  OU triumphed again and moved on to play a truly legendary program – the University of North Carolina.

The game Friday was incredible and Ohio University took the mighty Tar Heels to the very last second and just missed a basket that would have clinched the victory.  Instead, they played overtime and UNC won.  I was sitting in my basement so excited about how great my alma mater had played, and was interested in seeing what would be said after the game by Roy Williams, the UNC coach.

Both he, and one of his stars, Tyler Zeller, said that Ohio played a great game and they were fortunate to win.  They both wanted to give Ohio credit.  There was one Bobcat fan who had tears in his eyes.

You see, this is so similar to what we do in organizations.  We focus on the “stars” and the “high performers” because they are well-known, visible and (in most cases) performers.  But where do future stars come from?  What do we do with people who are a great team, but may not have a superstar?

Our feedback to employees tends to be like the commentators from CBS who did this with EVERY team that wasn’t well known or listed as a better seed.  Isn’t it time we look for those who bring great strengths to the workplace every day?

What would happen if we had a great focus about ALL our employees?  What if we expected the best from everyone and gave them the opportunity to perform?  What if we quit focusing on negative and what isn’t working with things, and instead, encouraged people to do their best?  Then, when they do, give them feedback on their success !!

I’m proud of Ohio University and what they accomplished.  I can’t wait to see what happens next season !!

Image courtesy of the College Book Store, Inc. page on Facebook

 

What we gain through loss . . .

This past week I lost a large part of my past. The church I grew up in, Ada 1st United Methodist, burned to the ground.

NOTE: Now, please know that I’m well aware that the “church” is not the building.  I hope you read on to see what I’d like to talk about . . .

Many memories happened at this church.  Weddings of my cousins and friends.  Funerals of dear people from Ada including grandparents.  Making pumpkin pies and hard tack candy for our youth group fundraisers.  Holding hands with my first girlfriend while I was supposed to pay attention to the service.  And most of all, tons of experiences that shaped me as a young man and helped define my faith.

Also, this past week, I learned of a friend’s, Dawn Hrdlica-Burke, loss of her father.  Three others facing serious, if not life threatening, health situations.  A continued group of people who remain jobless, and several folks near me recovering from the devastation of recent tornadoes.

Now, if you read my blog with any regularity, you know that I’m generally an extremely positive person !!  It’s not a facade or on-line persona, it’s who I really am.  So, when significant things hit home they really hit home.  It made me think . . .

You see, when I posted on Twitter and Facebook that my hometown church had been destroyed, I received messages of empathy and encouragements from literally around the globe.  That floored me !!  I was so thankful that I had people that cared enough to reach out and give a kind word.  And then I thought again . . .

Every day in the workplace the people around me are going through “stuff” just like this or worse.  Do I take the time to see if they’re truly okay?  Or, do I do the obligatory “Hi, how are you?” waiting for their inevitable answer of “Fine.”  We continue to be polite with each other because that next e-mail or task is really what we’re focused on vs. taking the time to see how someone truly is.

The fact of the workplace is that we want people to focus on the “stuff” we think is truly important like processes, projects and time frames.  We don’t want to deal with people’s “stuff” because that takes too much time, and what if they truly want me to care?

As I mentioned before, I was floored at the responses I received and am thankful that I have people who feel close enough to share their thoughts.  However, I truly feel that many people walk through the doors at work every day with life’s struggles in front of them, and they may have few, if any, people supporting them through what they’re facing.

It’s time for HR to be the model and break this distant approach with people.  People DO matter and it SHOULD matter to us how they’re doing.  It may get messy and you may have to act, but isn’t that great?  We need to be the ones taking the time to see how people really are.  It may be the ONE thing they’re looking for – a genuine connection at work.

This week, break the mold.  Be the Human that others need.  Take the time to get involved with their “stuff.”  It will change the world !!

Get Your Hands Dirty !!

This weekend my wife asked me to start sprucing up the house for the impending graduation gathering for my daughter in three months.  I needed the nudge because I was dreading the work ahead.  I love being outside, but this level of yardwork was going to be massive !!

One task was to realign the wall I constructed several years ago around our front landscaping.  There are 150+ pavers that span the front of the bed.  Now, this wall has needed attention for some time, and I would see that one or two pavers were out of line, and I’d get them back into the wall with minimum effort.  However, when I looked at the work in front of me it was more like an orthodontist facing a challenging set of crooked teeth.

The chore almost put me in the ground.  To repair the wall and get it where it should be took over four hours of digging, removing roots, being covered in mud and replacing about 1,000 worms who were wondering why they home was being “remodeled.”

I had to get my hands dirty and fully throw myself into the project in order to see a better end result.  As I sit here typing, I’m exhausted and yet invigorated !!  This simple project reminded me that we all need to reexamine how we do HR.

  • How many times do we see systems that need our attention, and we do a quick fix or update just to give it a little more life, when it needs a true overhaul?
  • How often do we sit behind our desk and shoot off an e-mail when we could go and see someone face-to-face to see what their situation entails first hand?
  • How often are we critical of how others handle HR situations, when we could be more integrated with them to help them succeed?
  • How often do we look for “best practices” when we should be creating “next practices” ourselves?

This list could go on and on.  So, the opportunity before us is pretty simple.  We need to get our hands dirty.  This week take a look at the “wall” that you see every day and see if it can be torn down, reconfigured and brought back to life.  It’s worth the work !!

Try a new flavor !!

You may know this, or you may not, but I work in HR for a restaurant company – LaRosa’s, Inc.  It’s a pizzeria that is truly an iconic company !!  We’ve been in business since 1954 and we’re doing well.  To be in business that long and stay relevant, you have to have some staples mixed in with new innovations to keep things fresh.

What does this have to do with HR ??  – EVERYTHING !!

Just recently, we began adding the new Coke Freestyle machine at our locations.  It allows you to get a drink in over 100+ options.  (My favorite is raspberry Coke Zero).  When the machines go into a store, there is a lot of buzz and experimentation.  We also do our best to let you know of new options and flavors for you to enhance your dining experience.

With over 100 choices, you’d think that people would jump right in and try every flavor they could.  Even if it was only to eliminate the ones they didn’t quite like for the ones they do.  Amazingly, many people venture out to drink . . . Coke and Diet Coke.

This isn’t “right” or “wrong,” it’s just that people are used to the norms in their lives and change is more difficult than we think.  All this machine is doing is offering something you already like (a soda or pop) with new alternatives.  Doesn’t seem like a big jump, but it truly is.

When I hear HR folks tout that they are “change agents,” I get concerned.  I’ve met very few HR folks who are comfortable with change, which is the same as our employees.  Change is difficult, but what we’ve missed along the way is that “change” occurs daily whether we want it to or not.

HR tends to think change happens in broad strokes or inventive initiatives.  In reality change occurs most of the time in small, incremental bits.  This tends to be much more sustainable than making huge strides.

So, where are you in this change continuum?  Are you someone who drives change?  Are you someone who shepherds change as it goes along?  Or, are you someone who cleans up after changes happen?

I propose that you be on the leading edge of change in your area, your profession and at your company.  HR has the ability to be innovative, creative and sustainable.  However, we need to understand that change is a vital part of what we do.  Businesses change and we need to be there in stride with them.

So, this week try a new flavor !!  Step out a bit from what you normally do and try something new.  Make “change” a regular part of who you are and what you do in HR !!  I think you’ll like it !!

 

 

A Sort of Homecoming . . .

This past weekend I was at the SHRM Regional Council Summit.  It sounds like a very formal name, but it’s not that kind of event.  It’s where the State HR Council Directors get together to get updates from SHRM, share best practices and meet others that are in similar roles from all over the country.

I have to say that going into the weekend, I didn’t know what to expect.  However, at the end of the conference I was even more assured of how amazing HR really is !!  You see, I was able to meet friends from all over the country that I had never met.  We had much more in common than we even imagined.  I’m not talking about being SHRM volunteers.  I talking about great HR pros who are making a difference in the profession and in their companies.

I continue to be amazed that when you experience this kind of camaraderie and energy, that HR people still don’t want to be connected because it takes too much effort or time.  Trust me, being more connected to other great folks only gives me access to more resources and insight into what HR does.

Most of you know that I’m a gigantic U2 fan !!  When I was thinking of putting this together, the song A Sort of Homecoming came to mind.  It talks about a person who’s searching because they’re isolated until they come home.

When I go to events like this at the local, regional and national level, I feel like this by “coming home” to friends who I don’t get to see that often, but I know they’re always there.  I saw the same reaction from others that I met.  We WANT to be together and need to be both as people and as professionals.

I saw many folks get connected on Twitter and social media this weekend because they met others who find it successful.  I saw people share incredible resources from SHRM and their states that make HR better in every aspect from Employee Relations to Advocacy to Compliance to Culture and Professional Development.

So, this week, quit trying to do HR on your own.  Reach out and get connected !!

Try a conference, attend a local HR meeting, or send an e-mail to Link In or join Twitter.  You are part of an amazing community who wants to be connected to YOU !!  Take the step and make that happen.

 

What’s at the end of your tunnel ??

I love being in HR !!  For those of you who know me, this isn’t some random blogger’s statement.  I’m genuinely passionate about HR and love to see how the field can to continue to develop, evolve and grow.  That brings me to this week’s observation . . .

The majority of folks in HR suffer from “tunnel vision.”

By this I mean that too often we take the stringent and narrow when it comes to our policies, procedures and systems.  We continue to create and develop systems to keep folks in check (i.e. attendance systems, don’t do this/that policies, etc.)  At the same time, I continue to hear HR folks who are frustrated with what we do.  We belabor the fact that people continue to work around our systems and we don’t know how to get things back in line.

The reality of this frustration is that you can’t get things back in line – nor should you !!  There is absolutely nothing wrong with structure and focus.  People work well when they know there are boundaries.  But, boundaries are different than walls !!

I continue to find that people are vastly different.  This fascinates me because it makes it all the more difficult to come up with HR systems full of absolutes and must have’s.  So, I take a different path and I’d like you to consider it as well.  Here’s what I do . . .

My tunnel is a kaleidoscope !!  Like you, I need to focus, but by looking at each person and situation on their own within the parameters of the systems we have, you get a new image every time !!

Doing HR this way IS more challenging, but isn’t that cool ??  Also, I find it to be incredibly less frustrating and even more consistent because people know that I’ll evaluate the circumstance based on what they’re facing.  It has led to things being more decisive in most cases, and it’s also given my department more flexibility and the ability to make sure that we take the time to look at all facets of what’s facing us.

I used to say that HR is gray and not black/white.  I’m changing that to HR is psychedelic because that is the landscape that I see people moving through.  Why don’t you join me and turn the tunnel to see what new images you get ??

Image courtesy of Worldwide Hippies

 

It’s okay to ask “Why ??”

My wife and I are fortunate to have two amazing kids !!  They do well in school, are active in our church and our community.  I’m proud to say that.  For those of you who have kids, or if you’ve even been a kid, you know that kids ask one question infinitely.  “Why ??!!”

It doesn’t matter if things are crystal clear and there’s no reason for this question, it happens anyway.  More often than not, I just want them to do what I say and have some faith that I am not leading them down some dark path with my request to clean their room.

Recently, I heard a presentation where the speaker pulled back my eyelids on this question that often seems so annoying.  He explained that people in the workplace ask “Why” because they’re seeking context, not to annoy.  They want to understand the reasoning for decisions.  Seems to be a great trait actually.  I actually agree with him and when I sat back to think about it, I ask “why” all the time.  So, why do I get annoyed when others do it?

I think it goes back to the feeling that we’d like people just to do what we say when we say it.  If we have to spend time explaining things, then that means we’ve lost time doing something else that “matters.”

It’s time for all of our eyelids to be pulled back in HR.  If we’re not asking why for context, and even to challenge, then we can’t expect the status quo to ever move.  Just going along with everything doesn’t show well and we shouldn’t settle and sit back.  Also, we can foster a culture where it’s not only safe for employees to ask “why,” but it’s encouraged !!

If we continue to promote that we want a learning environment that focuses on development, then we must allow people to ask “why.”  What are we afraid of if we did this?  If employees felt safe, and inquired about their work, wouldn’t there be a greater chance of an enriched workforce?  How cool would that be?

So, start a new behavior today and allow people to ask that infinite question. This time when it’s asked, answer them.  Give them context and see what happens.  I think you’ll enjoy the results !!

Put a Little Love . . .

This past weekend I was at the University of Indianapolis with my daughter who decided after this visit to join them next year as a Freshman.  It’s a time of transition for me, my family and my daughter.  Why should that matter to anyone but us ??

Good question.  You see, I’m experiencing a “transition” in my personal life and it just hit me because SEVERAL of my friends have been facing transitions as well.  Just this past month the following has happened:  four HR friends lost their jobs, one HR friend lost her father and another his mother-in-law, three HR friends are struggling with their marriages and/or divorce.  It shouldn’t matter . . . but it does !!

As HR people we don’t take time to know what’s really going on in people’s lives because we think it takes too much time.  Also, if we know about what’s happening we might have to DO something with that information.  Another pressure we face is we have managers who think that personal situations just get in the way of work that REALLY matters.  Ironically, if a personal situation comes up that involves them personally, then they want us to take note.  Huh !!

What would happen if we did take notice of people’s personal situations?  I don’t mean to take it to a creepy level.  Instead, I propose this.  Take note of the various highs/lows that people choose to share and SHOW GENUINE INTEREST instead of passing glances and quick “Hello’s”.  We keep asking people to handle change, and yet we ignore the transitions and changes that are happening to them everyday.  Just by listening, we may relieve the anxiety, pressure and uncertainty of what they’re facing.  I take great joy in laughing with, crying with and rejoicing with people I work with and know that because those events truly matter to them, they likewise matter to me.

You can’t keep asking people to put the “H” back in HR if you aren’t willing to model it yourself.  It made me think of the great 70’s song “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.”  I love the Annie Lennox/Al Green version (in this link).

So, I’m excited about the new transition about to happen as my daughter continues to grow and head off to college next year.  I’m excited about your transitions too because it truly makes “the world a better place for you . . . and me . . . you just wait . . . and see !!”