Stand Up Against the Odds !!

My family and I just rented (yes rented) The Hunger Games.  We were enthralled !!  No one had read the books, so we had no preconceived notions.  It was intense, dark, dramatic and hopeful !!  If you haven’t seen it, please do.

In the story, Katniss, the heroine, goes through an adventure none of us would venture to volunteer for or dare to endure.  One of the incredibly moving images of the movie is from the inhabitants of her District.  She hails from District 12 which is a mining area and the poverty is devastating.

The people watching her compete in the Games all lift their hands in a three-finger salute of solidarity supporting her and against the State.  It is moving and causes them to rise up in action to fight the oppression they are under.

Sorry to be so geeky – but there is a point to all this.

As HR professionals, we often find ourselves in the middle of “everything”, but still on our own.  HR folks are one of the few professions who continues to try and perform in isolation within companies.

It’s time for us to raise our three-finger salute in solidarity.  Not “against” anything – but FOR each other !!  Too many of us feel like Katniss in the Hunger Games out surviving for ourselves and doing our best to fend off the fires that we rush to put out.

We need to be more connected as professionals and as a profession.  In doing so, we will be better able to lead in our companies, mentor others and move things forward.  If we keep trying to do things in isolation, then we’ll be picked off and no longer be in the Games at all. (Read the books and see the movie – shameless plug.)

So, if you have a chance to go to an HR Conference – do it.

If you have a chance to reach out and attend an HR chapter meeting or professional development event – do it.

If you can connect with people on Social Media forums like Linked In, Twitter, etc. – do it.  Don’t be afraid of these.  See how to use them best !!

And most of all, if you can personally connect with other HR pros “in person” by phone or face-to-face – then don’t pass up that chance !!

As you are reading this, my right hand is raised in a three-finger salute looking for you to join me as we stand together in HR !!

 

Go Tagless !!

I love the new campaign from Hanes with Michael Jordan.  The most recent ad shows a man trying to cook at his grill while the tag is telling him everything to do.  (Watch it here).

The “tag” line at the end of the commercial is fantastic !! “Tags are annoying. So we got rid of them.”

The message sticks with you and you see yourself nodding as the tags in your clothes mysteriously start to itch.  But I digress . . .

We tag people all the time (or label them).  It happens in all facets of life, but especially in the workplace.  By labeling someone, we feel we can contain them and that they should fit in our box of who we think they should be.  I’m not specifically calling out the classic EEOC categories here either.  We put labels on people and expect them to live within those.  Most of the time those labels aren’t communicated either.  They are just whispered by management, or they are our filter on performance reviews.

HR has a chance to really impact an organization when it comes to removing tags !!  However, we need to start with ourselves.  You can’t expect others to follow this movement, unless you first remove your own tags.

For instance – remove the tag that you’re “only” in HR.  We are a vital facet of all organizations due to the simple fact that they have people.  If they have people – they need HR.  Secondly, remove the tag that you only exist for either management or employees.  You exist for ALL employees and can therefore be a consistent force and voice for all levels of the organization.

When you’ve removed your tags, then look at the various HR systems in your Company to see where things need a little trimming.  Allow your employees to develop, grow and move throughout the company instead of making sure they fill a certain niche.  It doesn’t mean promoting everyone “up or out,” but it does allow people to excel by taking on work where they can add value and utilize their strengths.

One “tag” you should keep is “genuine.”  It’s missing in many corners of our profession, and it needs to be sewn back on.  Helping organizations remove their labels is essential and it is an area where we can shine !!

What do you say?  Can you do it, or do I need to have Michael Jordan come over and say, “Hand it over.”  Go tagless with me.  It rocks !!

Stop the Definite Maybe !!

As we are headed into the midst of the great State SHRM Conference season (Ohio SHRM is just a month away !!) , I continue to see sessions on “being strategic.”  Don’t get me wrong, it is imperative that we are strategic in what we do.  It just confuses me that this topic is at every conference . . . every year, and it has been for at least the last 10 !!

Has “being strategic” changed that much over the past decade?  I think we need to quit thinking that we are going to reach a business “awakening” and experience nirvana.  As if, one day you walk in and it hits you that you have reached some plateau.  We need to eliminate one thing in our way, and the journey to being consistently strategic will be at hand.

Stop the “definite maybe.”  Other, than being an incredible song by the Kinks on their State of Confusion set, there’s no place for being indecisive. HR needs to be decisive in order to be strategic.

I’m the first one to absolutely follow the “it depends” model of HR because circumstances are never the same when you’re in the midst of employee issues.  Being adaptable to move within, around and through situations will allow you to truly consider a well-rounded decision.  But . . . the key is to decide !!

Recently, I’ve been faced with many people who want policies to be concrete laws that are carved into stone tablets that we can smash people with when they are violated.  However, we’re rarely consistent when we choose to take a hard line stance because the “it depends” factor will come into play.  You like one person more than the other.  One person’s a “high performer” and the other’s a “slacker.”  The list goes on and on. Even though people beg for absolutes, they pull back when, and if, the absolutes affect them.

The two keys to remember are: (1) Policies are parameters that allow people to move and perform within them, not rules to look for ways to discipline and terminate and (2) Come to a resolution on things understanding that that resolution may bend, mold and morph the next time you’re faced with a similar situation.  People react well when you’re decisive – even if it’s bad news they’re getting.

HR, this is a chance for us to shine !!  Senior Executives want people who can bring things to closure and move things forward.  It’s great to get in the fray and slug things out a bit if it means that things move ahead.

So, this week, get out of the mire and trap of indecision !!  Plant your flag !!  Take a stand !!  Be the champion for ALL  of your employees and stop the definite maybes !!

Release Your Inner Pop Artist !!

Last week my family and I enjoyed an incredible week of vacation in Chicago !!  We took in sites such as the harrowing Skydeck of Willis Tower, the incredible Lincoln Park Zoo and the Cloud Gate “Bean” sculpture in Millenium Park. We ate well in local restaurants and had a glorious time !!

A true highlight for us was the Art Institute of Chicago.  My kids are old enough to “tolerate” art and they even sought out some pieces/artists on their own that they “just had” to see.  It was cool to experience this with them.  They know that I’m an art buff and love to see how people express themselves creatively.  A true surprise during our visit was the Roy Lichtenstein exhibit.

Ironically, we walked into the back of the exhibit which featured his work from his final years and we worked our way backwards.  What was fascinating was that when we got to the “beginning” of where we should have started, we saw that he started out like other abstract artists of his time.

He hadn’t developed his style like you see here from his painting “Whaam!” from 1963.  His colors, styles and brush strokes could have been mistaken for other artists of his time.  He chose to develop his own style and approach to art and he ended up one of the most dynamic and memorable creators of Pop Art ever !!

It made me think of HR.  (I know that’s geeky, but go with it.)  Most HR people I know are great copiers, mimics and people who take on “best practices” that they admire from others.  This type of HR is very effective and you can be very successful doing this.

But, what if you released your creativity and took your work, and profession, in a different way?  What if there was a Pop Artist just waiting to burst onto the scene to be heard?  What if your “work” and art was someday seen in museums and exhibits?

Sound crazy?  I don’t think so.  Not in the least.

You see, I believe that there is creativity in each of us.  Some may repress it or ignore it, but we love creating things as people.  HR needs creativity in so many facets.  There really are no limits as to what can be done in your role, your company and your field.

Why not be like Roy Lichtenstein who learned from his peers and then took a step out in a whole new direction?  Just think of what you could do !!  I try to be creative every day in at least one way.  This week see if you can join me and release some of the creative brilliance in you just waiting to hit the canvas !!  I look forward to seeing your work !!

Image courtesy of Art Encyclopedia 2012

Great HR is messy !!

Just recently I was involved in conversations with supervisors who both said, “I wish people would just do what I say !!”  It wasn’t a passing phrase.  It was emphatic !!  They were both frustrated with employee situations and felt they had hit a wall.

I asked them both if things would be easier if what they said came true.  If people jumped at every word, command or thought from a person above them, would things be better?  They didn’t waste one second in telling me, “Yes, of course it would.”  I couldn’t let this coachable moment pass . . .

(Steve) “So, if people would never disagree, never have their own ideas and input, you’d be good with that?”

Silence.  They stammered and said that they didn’t mean it to be so concrete, but I think they did.  I understood their frustration and it all boils down to this . . . Working with people is messy !!  That is why it ROCKS to work with people !!

I don’t think anyone wants to be in a situation of constant turmoil.  However, that is not usually the case for people in most workplaces.  We tend to manage and lead to the extremes, so when frustrating people and/or situations arise, we think that ALL people are now awful.  It really is intriguing because another component that usually comes along with these impasses is that the OTHER people involved are the frustrating ones . . . never us.

Too many HR people want to manage from the outside and keep things clean and tidy.  The more “defined” everything is at work, the more control you wield.  It isn’t true actually, but it’s how we feel.

If you truly want to practice diversity, leadership and development in your companies, then you need to dive into the fray and get messed up yourself !!  Show people your quirks, your vulnerabilities and your willingness to show them how HUMAN you are !!

I readily admit that I’m a mess.  It’s how I approach things because it allows me to meet people where they are and not where I think they should be.  It has led to more situations working themselves out versus causing more frustration.

This week, get messy !!  You’ll love it !!

Savor Every Moment !!

I am digging that the Olympics are on !!  I’ve loved watching both the Summer and Winter Games since 1972.  The thing that is unfortunate, to me, this year is that people on Social Media are raking NBC over the coals because our “instant society” has results before the athlete even completes an event.

On top of that, people are scathing about how the network is slower than we can post, blog or tweet.  In doing this, I think they take away the performance of the athletes, the compelling human drama and the visual appeal of watching the event unfold.  I never look for the results, and if I happen to see one, I still watch the event with anticipation.

You may say this is naive or old fashioned, but I think it calls to mind an imbalance in life that social media has afforded us.  Let me share two quick stories . . .

On Friday, I went to the retirement dinner of my 70 year old Dad.  He had worked for the Mid-Ohio Energy Cooperative as the Accountant. His career for the last 22 years was for a small company in a rural town in Ohio.  It was spectacular !!  They told stories about my Dad and his “Donisms” which brought the room to tears with laughter.  When my Dad spoke, he got a bit choked up thanking the company for the ability to earn a good wage with benefits.  He pointed to his family and said, “Look how much you have provided for me so that I am blessed to have provided for my family.”  Amazing !!

Tonight we had a cookout with four close girls basketball families and their Coach (w/ family) one last time before the girls head to college.  We laughed, reminisced and enjoyed our company one last time as a tight knit group.  We vowed to meet every Christmas break and summer to make sure we stayed in touch as a group.  Phenomenal !!

When it comes to HR, we are tending to be more like the instant world of Social Media versus the picture above called “Holding a Piece of Time.”  We rush to immediate action and/or judgement without taking in all aspects of what is involved.  We think the “stories” that surround us honestly get in the way of our real jobs.

This week try something new !!  Savor the moments around you.  Take in everything and see that, more often than not, great things are happening.  You can still take in all of the events, enjoy the movement and come to great decisions.  In fact, your results will be spectacular.  Don’t rush . . . savor !!

 

Buffaloes, Planes and Wiffle Ball !!

This past week I was completely unplugged as I was at Summer Camp at the Pioneer Scout Reservation with the Boy Scouts. To say it was spectacular would not capture the experience enough !!  I know that the idea of camping for a week in 100+ degree weather for a few days followed by 14 straight hours of monsoonlike rain isn’t for everyone, but I wouldn’t trade it in for the world !!

There were so many memories forged, but let me highlight just a few . . .

  • I slept through a heat lightning thunderstorm in an open field approximately 100 yards from a herd of buffalo at the Wild Winds Buffalo Preserve.
  • My son flew an airplane including lift off . . . and he’s 14 !!
  • Our Troop built a wiffle ball field inside our campsite.  They made the bases from log pieces cut by them with a two-man saw.
  • The kids challenged the camp staff to a wiffle ball game on our field and beat them 16 – 6.  I was deemed a “traitor” because I put on a staff shirt and hat and played for their team !!

The list could go on and on.  The amazing thing is that even when I’m away from the “normal” world of work – HR still happens.  Our leaders and scouts went out of our way to bond with the Staff and encourage them in all the great work that they do.  Everyday staff members were in our site to socialize, play Euchre (an essential of scouting life !!) and even ask for advice.  They are talented young men and women who choose to take their summers to help boys advance in their scouting career.

The best lesson I learned from camp this year was that, because I was disconnected from the outside/electronic/social media world, I could focus.  I could focus on what mattered the most . . . the people around me.

Whether it was calming a young kid down from a serious bought of home sickness, or seeing my son become a young man and lead others, you didn’t have the chance to focus on anything else.  You could take in every challenge, obstacle and opportunity and encourage, coach and guide people to be successful in what they were pursuing.

We hosted the leaders from the summer camp’s other Troops at our site and I taught them how to share one great thing about their kids and they stayed at our site for 2 1/2 hours sharing amazing things !!

This break from the wild pace of life reminded me that I want to continue to be an HR professional who focused on people first.  You know that when we focused on the boys they completed their work, laughed for hours and hours, and worked together to do things that they’d never try on their own.

I think we make HR too hard.  I am taking the lessons from this past week and implementing them even more.  So, each night I’m going outside to gaze into the night sky and breathe deep to keep me grounded.  Of course I’ll be wearing tie-dye, and you can see that this legacy will continue with at least a handful of young men for years to come.

Knowing Others . . . On Purpose !!

I’m about to disconnect for the next week as I head with my son and Troop 941 to Summer Camp.  It’s one of the best things I do each year !!  It allows me to take in nature, be around great kids/adults and meet others that I never would have known before !!

It made me think of something that has been happening more and more often.  I LOVE networking with folks !!  I have this huge capacity to try to connect with as many people as humanly possible.  That’s just how God wired me.

I do this a bit differently than I’ve seen others lately doing somethings I’d love to see change.  I wanted to encourage each of you who are kind enough to read this blog to try something when it comes to this “networking” thing . . . be intentional !!

I get a ton of Linked In requests each week.  It’s cool because, like I said, I love connecting with people.  However, most of the requests I get use the standard line from the platform.  It says that we’re “friends” even though we’ve never met, and there’s no reason given why someone wants to connect.  I find this intriguing !!

I always send a note giving a reason for someone to consider if they want to accept, if they want to connect, or why we should try to do this !!  I do this on purpose because if you’re willing to be a connection, then you need to know that you just entered into a relationship that will be fully intentional.

Valuing people and what they bring to relationships is missing these days.  Some people spend time “collecting” others to beef up their social media numbers thinking that volume gives them more credibility or a voice.  Odd.

Now, I’m connected to literally 1,000’s of people.  Here’s what’s different.  I do my best to reach out to folks and drop them a line, give them a surprise call, note what’s happening to them through Facebook, Twitter, Linked In etc.  These platforms can be used to truly connect people, but they are just a gateway.  The next step is up to you !!

So, I plan to keep connecting and meeting folks everywhere I can.  I hope that they want to reciprocate and be intentional as well.  When that happens, then you can see amazing things occur.  It also allows you to be sincere in making your connections link with others.

This week . . . let’s make “different” the norm.  Be intentional !!  You’ll love it !!

I’m Certified !!

Three years ago, I went through one of the most harrowing professional experiences that you can have in HR !!  I sat for my SPHR certification.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this trial, let me explain . . .

To get your certification in HR (either your PHR, SPHR or GPHR) from the HR Certification Institute (HRCI), you need to pass an exam which takes up to 4 hours to complete.  It is monstrous !!  When I went to take my exam, I entered a testing facility where you had to empty your pockets and put any personal items in a small locker before entering a room full of computer monitors.

The certification test is multiple choice, and you’re thinking, “Multiple choice?  That’s cake.  I loved those types of tests in school.  If all else fails, guess ‘B’ ” Remember?  Not the same by a long shot.  They have study classes that last 8 to 10 weeks just to get you prepared to take this test !!  I remember taking the practice exams between 40 to 50 times just to learn material.  (And those were old tests whose questions didn’t appear on the one I took !!)

The test allows you to skip questions, go back to them, line out answers you think are wrong, and then choose what you think is “right.”  Most of the questions have at least two of the four choices that could be right.  When you see “All of the Above” as an option, you start to get the shakes !!  How could ALL of the answers be right?

I finished the test with about 45 minutes to spare.  I reviewed my answers and made sure I was ready to “submit.”  Then in classic SHRM/HRCI style, when I hit submit a survey popped up asking me what I thought of the process and the exam.  I was ticked !!  All I wanted to see was pass or fail.  I rapidly hit “5” for everything was awesome, now please give me my results.  Then when I submitted the survey, the screen went blank.  BLANK !!  I thought I was going to pass out !!

Then . . . it said I passed.  I received my SPHR !!  I wanted to scream, but I thought the test proctor would taze me.  So, I hurried out of the room and burst into tears.  The proctor looked up and said, “You must be one of those HR folks.  Congratulations.”  Through my sobs, I thanked her, gathered my belongings from the locker and went home.

This week I recertified which means that I had enough professional development to retain my certification for three more years.  So, what does this story have to do with anything?

One of the keys that CEO’s, who were interviewed by SHRM, said was needed from HR in their organizations was that HR was knowledgeable in what the field does.  This was more than the administrative necessities of the job.  It meant that Senior Management expects us to be experts in what HR is, does and contributes.

When we yearn to be “part of the business,” the first thing we need to do is be experts in all things HR.  Being well versed in what HR does, and then gaining professional development to keep current and relevant is critical !!

It’s time for YOU to take that step that I honestly avoided for too many years of my career.  Getting your certification shows you have credibility and allows you to be in a position to take that step into a senior role when it arrives.

Harrowing or not – it has been the best thing I’ve done professionally and I encourage you to do the same !!

Ah, Creativity !!

This past weekend, my wife and I celebrated “date night” by going to see the new movie Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson.  It was spectacular !!  A quirky love story that was colorful, insightful, well acted and involved incredible visual images and dialogue.  Also, it portrays Scouting in a perfect way which made me proud to be a Scoutmaster.  But I digress . . .

This post isn’t a movie review, but an observation.  You see, this movie is rare in this day and age of film.  Companies tend to opt for the bombastic blockbuster with the hopes of pulling in mass amounts of revenue regardless of the quality of the characters or the story. Don’t get me wrong, I’m right in line to see these visual joy rides as well.  My son and I have an agreement to see all comic book related movies (except Ghost Rider – I mean . . .)  We love the distraction and the ability to pretend to be Superheroes.  It is fun !!

But . . . it is also short lived.  We keep wondering “what’s next?”  Will there be a sequel, and will it “live up” to the one we just saw?  It’s honestly a lot like many people approach HR.

We want to have the blockbuster program, change, initiative that would make the Senior Management team take notice and give us that strategic position that we yearn for.  So, we focus so much on grand moves and positioning within our organizations to get noticed and justified, that we stop being creative.

Whenever I hear the term “best practices,” it just means that you’re copying what someone else is already doing.  That may work for you and certain components to transfer between companies in their HR efforts, but many do not.

It’s time for us to be creative !!  When you were a kid, you could take ANYTHING and make it into something incredible and limitless !!  As adults, we keep forcing ourselves, and our employees, to be rational and pragmatic beings.  Creativity gets sapped when it runs into policies, procedures and rules.

So, what can YOU do about it?  Willing to be the Moonrise Kingdom in your organization?  Willing to look at things differently and see how they lead to have long-lasting, meaningful change?

I am.  I hope you join me !!  It’s a far brighter adventure !!