You Just Should Know How To !!

You know you’ve said this.  You may have even said it today to start the work week !!  We wish others would just “get it” because we sure know that WE do !!  I’m serious.  We want others to just know what to do because we’ve covered it over and over and over (or so we tell ourselves.)

This approach isn’t just true at work.  We want others to know how to do things because we told them to do it at home, in our civic activities, at church, at school – almost any environment has the issue of “assumed culture.”  This is when the people who have been around for some time assume that others get what to do through some form of mystical symbiosis, and then we get upset when they don’t do things right.

People, more than ever, are frustrated in their jobs and with their companies.  As an HR person, I hear this frustration coming from the C-Suite down to the front line on a daily basis.  Almost every day I can place the shared frustrations to assumed culture.  You see, we strive to make people conform because we feel that if everyone is pretty much the same, then things will go more smoothly.

However, this just isn’t the case.  I don’t know if there are things such as HR “formulas”, but if their were, I would have one that goes like this:

 Assumed Culture = Conformity which lessens Diversity or AC = Cf < D

This weekend my Boy Scout Troop camped near Old Man’s Cave in Logan, Ohio in the Hocking Hills State Forest.  One of the natural formations is called the Devil’s Bathtub.

The waterflow of the river that goes through the park rushes rapidly toward this formation and the water’s force has cut it into the constantly swirling whirlpool until it forces the water out this small opening several feet under the opening.  This is very reminiscent of how your employees feel when they are told they should “just know how to” do things.

This week take a new approach.  TEACH don’t TELL.  It may be frustrating to cover the same things more than once, but teaching people what to do and how the assumed culture works at your organization will make them better performing team members.  The time it takes is far more rewarding than building the frustration that eats at you !!  Try it out and let me know what happens . . .

The Inner Sanctum !!

One observation I’ve had about HR professionals is that they have historically been very isolated both professionally and personally.  This has to be either by choice or by design within organizations.  This observation continues to be affirmed when I attend conferences of any size.  HR people seem astonished that others would intentionally like to be connected to them.

Something I’ve been trying at my work, and toying with in general is this philosophy – Model the behavior you expect in others.

To that end, I’d like to talk to you about the Inner Sanctum !! (cue scary theme music)  What I mean by this is that I have a tight knit group of HR professionals who make up my personal inner sanctum.   This isn’t a “Personal Board of Directors” as you may have seen in other blogs.  There is something more substantial to this group.   They have some incredible shared characteristics that I think are essential for this to work.  They are:

  • They all challenge me in some way !! – These are boundary stretching folks and I need that in order to not remain stagnate myself.
  • They are willing to be candid !! – They speak their minds openly both positively or critically. They aren’t afraid to address my blind spots.
  • They are consistent !! – Each of them is incredibly consistent while remaining creative and unpredictable. They each have strengths that I learn from.
  • They are all genuine !! – Something I cherish in others is to be “who you are.” These folks don’t have pretense and don’t support it in others.
  • They are all my friends !! – I mean that. We talk about all things in our lives. Families, work, faith, ups, downs, etc. All subjects are regularly discussed.

Without this group of people to gird me in what I do in HR and business, I would be less effective. It’s just a fact.  I think that having folks you can count on is a professional differentiator.  This isn’t networking or being in a clique.  It’s intentional, fascinating and exhilarating !!

This week step out.  Start looking at who would make up your Inner Sanctum and then pursue it.  If you choose to do this, you’ll see a marked difference in how HR looks, feels and acts !!  I hope you do it and let me know if you do !!

 

Rehumanize Yourself !!

As my iPod continued on its endless shuffle at work, Rehumanize Yourself by The Police came on, and I found myself hitting repeat several times.  The song tells of people in “everyday” jobs who are reminded to humanize themselves because their work doesn’t really mean much.  Who knew that this song still has significance 30 years later?

I’m not writing about employees who seem to slog through the daily grind, I’m talking about HR practitioners !!

The job that HR does these days ranges from the ideal to the mundane.  It’s hard to find a sweet spot to truly excel in HR within organizations due to a myriad of reasons.  I’m not trying to define what may be ideal for some and mundane for others.  Where I’d like us to focus is this . . . humans are more important than systems !!

Systems are needed and provide great structure and definition.  Without them people make things up because they really want to do a good job. But without definition, they’ll make it up to fill time and make sure they are “busy.”  These folks are the sloggers.  They come in every day, knock out a job and then go back to what truly interests them.  Their jobs are a necessary evil to pay the bills.  Oh, yeah, I’m still talking about HR people.

No one said that HR had to be mundane !!  In fact, great HR is far from it.  However, it means getting outside the systems we create and enforce to the real heart of our businesses – the humans.

Where are you on the spectrum?  I get it that you can be creative in making new systems and that you can be broad in the “things” side of what HR has to offer.  But I’d challenge you in that those things impact people.

At the recent OHSHRM Conference, I challenged the attendees to be positive the whole time at the conference.  Sounds odd that you’d even have to say that doesn’t it?  But, I felt it was needed because I hear so many people stuck in what they’re NOT doing vs. what they do so well !!  I only heard positive things from people because they knew a different expectation was set for them.

In organizations, HR has to set that expectation themselves !!  So, this week be positive and encourage others to see what amazing things are truly happening all around you that you’ve been missing.  Make sure to  . . . rehumanize yourself !!

 Image courtesy of Dan White Jr.’s blog

 

Got an idea ??

Why has HR become passive within the organization?  There’s an on-going movement that is somewhat disheartening, and that is that HR feels it’s role is to be reactive and prepared.  To always play defense is not a healthy way to approach daily work.

Granted, HR does have to react because of the intangibles that people have each day, but if you’re just waiting for the red alarm phone to ring furiously off your desk, so you can jump into action, you’re doing things backwards.  Also, I can’t imagine how stressful you feel HR is by approaching the field this way.  When I talk to my peers, too many of them put themselves in this camp.  They also feel that this is what is “expected” of them from Senior Management.  Yikes !!

Time for something new . . .

Do you have ideas?  If so, do you share them, implement them, or shy away from them?  Do you feel you do/don’t have permission to act on your ideas?

Have you fallen into the pit of doing things the same way every day and for every situation?  If that is the case, let me share that I think that you have missed the value of how vastly different people and each situation you face truly is.  Most of us stopped either having, or sharing, ideas because we listened to others who beat us down when we want to try something new.

The other pitfall to ideas is that we think that systems “fix” people.  If we have the best system, it won’t matter who the people are. (I’ve heard this quoted verbatim at a company !!)  People are the difference at work and great people make great systems shine !!

Back to ideas . . .

I’d like to challenge you to follow my personal model.  I intentionally try to come up with 3 to 5 ideas a day to try something new at work.  Some are massive ideas, and some are small, trite things that take little to no effort.  The second step is that I try EVERY idea out.  EVERY ONE !!  That isn’t an exaggeration.

The response I can hear those of you reading this is – “But how do you have the time to have 3 to 5 ideas a day and then try them out?  My day is so full, I couldn’t possibly do that !!”  The fact is, my day is overflowing and I love that !!  With 3 to 5 ideas every day, it’s also new, challenging, fresh and positive.  Is that true with your full day ??

So, try it.  You have to remember that you don’t need permission to think and create.  You’re EXPECTED to think and create !!  Need to go now.  New idea brewing  . . .

Time to Stage Dive !!

This coming week I’m attending the 39th Annual Ohio HR Conference, HR Rocks !!, as its Chair. It has been an incredible year in planning this event.  You see, this event only comes together because of my amazing Committee !! (See last week’s post . . .)

And, this week, I get to enjoy the main reason I attend ANY conference . . . the people !!

As I type we are over 700 attendees and there will be another 180+ staffing the booths of our incredible Resource Partners as well as 20+ speakers/presenters.  That means I’ll get to see, meet and hang out with almost 1,000 great folks who are all about HR !!  That may not get others outside our profession geeked, but I can’t tell you how amped I am to encounter each and every person !!

Last week we launched a new facet to our Conference by conducting a pre-Conference conference call and attendees could call in to get the lowdown on the activities and events happening throughout the week.  When I asked for feedback, it was overwhelming to hear that people valued the personal touch that we were offering even before they hit the doors.

We’re trying to set a new trend in SHRM conferences by expecting everyone involved to be engaged and ready to have the best conference experience they’ve ever had !!  As I’ve mentioned before, people can only change their behavior if it’s modeled for them by others.  HR professionals need to take note that this is something that we hope is a takeaway for them from our Conference and it then permeates their workplaces.

I get in the van tomorrow packed with materials, goodies and surprises to head across the State to land at beautiful Sandusky, Ohio and the Kalahari Resort.  Just mere hours before I get to meet great new folks !!  I may not even sleep tonight because of the excitement !!

Behind the stage . . .

Next week an event over one year in the making takes the “stage” when the 2011 Ohio HR Conference, HR Rocks, comes to life !!  It looks like the hard work will pay off because the event offers phenomenal HR Rockstar speakers as well as 17.25 HRCI hours.  This post isn’t about the event so much as it is a sincere “Thank You” to the crew – my fabulous OHRC Committee.

Too often in today’s lighting fast society, we pay attention to those that are the most visible.  We make our judgements as to whether we like them, or not.  And, we judge what they do to see if it has value or credence based on every move.  This is a shame because behind the most visible people are a group of people who truly are the stars and make things come together.

The Ohio HR Conference (#OHSHRM on Twitter) is planned, designed and executed by HR volunteers – 100% !!  This can’t ever be the work of one person, nor should it be.  When I see so many questioning SHRM and it’s Board, it’s position on things and transparency, I think too many HR professionals forget the amazing work of State Councils, Chapters and State Conferences !!

Remember, if you want to find something negative in anything, you can.  It’s easy.  But, to find and thrive in something positive takes more effort which, in the long run, is much more worth it !!

So, I want you to meet, and get to know my crew this year.  Each of them is a successful and forward thinking HR practitioner who want to see HR excel and be relevant.  That is why they work so hard (along with their full-time jobs, families, other civic activities, etc.) to put together such an amazing event !!

They are listed and linked with their Linked In or Twitter profile so you can connect with each of them (which I highly recommend): Fred Eck, SPHR and Heather Speer-Edwards, SPHR(Programs); Katrina Plourde, SPHR and Kara Kilby (Registrations); Ashley Patterson, PHR and Sheri Caldwell, PhD, SPHR, CIR (Resource Partners) ; Clay Morris, SPHR, Sandy Manjura, PHR and Julie Stephens, SPHR (Arrangements); Mike Medoro (Marketing), Karen Luther, SPHR (Treasurer), Chris Henning, SPHR, (Secretary), Martine Scheuermann, SPHR (Past Chair) and Andrea Gurcsik, SPHR (Ohio SHRM State Council Director).

I’ve been on the State Conference Committee for eight years with a vast majority of these folks and I consider them dear friends.  I have been with them through life events, job changes, tears and tons of laughter !!  They are the reason that #OHSHRM will be great next week !!

So, when you come as an attendee to the Ohio HR Conference, I want you to stop each of these folks to say “Thank You” along with me.  They are extraordinary and unparalleled in the HR profession !! I am thankful to be their friend and humbled to be their Chair.

See you in a week when you will see how HR Rocks !!

 

Image courtesy of Stage Crew 

Gir and a Mix CD . . .

Did the title grab your attention?  Hope so because last week I had two very cool things happen !!  I received two surprises that solidified my contention that we have to quit talking about the “echo chamber” of HR folks in social media.

The first event was the arrival of Gir – the constant companion of Shauna Moerke (the HR Minion). Gir has been around many different HR Conferences and events.  When Shauna asked if anyone would like Gir visit, I couldn’t pass up the chance for him to experience LaRosa’s. We visited one of our locations to have a calzone.  I actually took Gir with two of my staff and when I said that he was joining us, they said, “Of course he is.”  I guess working with me for awhile, they have come to understand that I look at HR differently.

After a great meal, we came back to my office to find the second cool gift of the week.  I received a mix CD from David Kovacovich from Michael C. Fina.  It is an incredible mix of newer Indie music.  David told me he made it because I write a song each week that makes fun of HR on the HR Net.  I tend to parody more of the Classic Rock genre and David wanted to make sure my tastes stayed current as well.  To capture the moment, I took a picture of Gir with the mix CD (songs handwritten on the back) with some of the decorum from my office.

The reason I find these two events so cool is that we tend to think of people who are active in Social Media as HR pros as either avatars or people that exist electronically.  It is so far from the truth !!

We have to realize that first and foremost, we want to have true connections in our lives.  This isn’t a “brand” thing or a response to people who choose to have an on-line persona that doesn’t match them in real life.  Reaching out like this just shows how we still like to share things that matter with others.  It reminds us that we can always stay young at heart and do simple things that matter.

This week, I’m writing to those who are also active in the “echo chamber.”  Two things to leave you with.  (1) Reach out to others and make the connection to show others how amazing you really are !! and (2) The chamber will only expand and someday include all HR pros only if you wish to become connections and not personalities.

I’ve been fortunate to meet many of the voices who are truly moving HR forward and they rock !!  Reach out this week.  Take the action to do something cool.  It still matters.  I need to go know as Gir and I listen to Track 3 on my new CD from Noah & the Whale.

 

 

 

Maybe I’m Amazed !!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come on Get Happy !!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

You never know . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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