Hornets Nest !!

My wife and I are following a typical pattern that happens once your kids grow up and move out on their own. We’ve been in our home since 1991 and I’m very fond of it. I love the neighborhood, our yard and the house itself. Debbie and I were chatting and she said, “It’s time we either moved and downsized (the typical pattern) or remodel and update.” After some consideration of both options, we chose to remodel.

So, we’re going to update our kitchen and our family room. This is a major undertaking because it means we’ll be “living” in our basement for 6 to 8 weeks IF everything stays on schedule AND there are no surprises. Are you someone who watches the home improvement shows on HGTV? We are. Now, I know that it’s television and I’m sure things are staged and filmed in such a way to keep your attention, but it seems that some unknown challenge pops up that no one expected.

This past Saturday, we had our contractor start the work at hand by tearing down the drywall ceiling in our kitchen. Our house was built in 1977 and there are many lingering and dated features such as a stamped ceiling. The two young men made quick work of their task and had the ceiling down and cleaned up in about two hours. When they finished, their dad who leads this family owned business, shared with me what they found.

A picture of our unexpected “guests.”

The ceiling is filled with HVAC ducts, various pipes for plumbing and electrical components. We’re trying to see if we can relocate things to get the ceiling raised to match the rest of the house. As he was walking me through everything, he casually remarked, “Oh yeah, you have a large dormant hornets nest that we found in the soffit.” He, and the boys, didn’t seem fazed in the least. I’m sure they’ve seen all types of things. This was just like the HGTV shows !!

As with most things, finding the hidden hornets nest, reminded me of HR. Based on the size of what was uncovered, the hornets have been nestled in our wall for quite some time. We never have seen any hornets in the house or flying around. That didn’t make the discovery any less disturbing though.

In HR we have similar experiences. Hornets nests are well hidden and disguised within the mix of work environments. You may hear the buzz of something going on, but you’re not sure where the nest exists. A hornet or two may escape and sting you, but you don’t think a bigger problem could be present. When you do find the nest, chances are a swarm happens and a full-on attack occurs !! This isn’t good because your natural reaction is to overreact just to get the hornets off you. This is when senseless knee jerk policies and programs come to life.

You can help prevent the construction of hornets nests by two actions that may seem simple. They are, but the practice is not as easy.

Be Out with Your Employees

This isn’t “new”, but we find more excuses to avoid getting out among our people than we do in putting in intentional time to do this. The more you are out with the “hornets”, the more you’ll be in the know. People will be less likely to sting others when they know their HR person genuinely wants to know who they are and what’s going on in their lives. Stop feeling you are handcuffed by your work. People need to be your focus all the time, not in just reacting to situations.

Listen to Hear, Not to Solve

We are impatient. It doesn’t matter what role you fill or level in which you work. There is an invisible pull of time that keeps us from having meaningful conversations with others. Once we talk to people we tend to come up with a solution in about three words before any full message is even communicated. The majority of people just want to be heard. That’s all. They’re not looking for you to solve or fix them. Taking this approach will relieve so many potential nesting activities that it’s worth trying. You’ll be pleased when you do !!

So, I’m calling a professional exterminator to come to my house to remove our nest. He is sure to have expertise I don’t. Hopefully, he’ll also be able to find the source of where the critters came in my house. I’m hoping we don’t encounter any more surprises during our remodel. We’ll have to wait and see !!

The Music in You !!

This past weekend my wife and I were invited to a friend’s house. We’ve known this family for 20+ years and our children grew up together. It’s not uncommon for all of us to see each other from time to time, but this was a momentous occasion. Their oldest son, DJ, is a junior at Miami University majoring in Piano Performance. We were invited to come over to see a preview of his junior recital.

I was so geeked to be able to attend because I knew he had been working very hard to get ready for this show. This preview would give us a glimpse of his real performance that will occur next week. As we entered their house, we were given a program DJ had composed sharing his theme of the recital and the pieces he’d be playing. The theme is “In der Nacht” (At night) and had pieces from Johann Sebastian Bach, Sergei Prokofiev, Ludwig van Beethoven and Robert Schumann. The house was filled with family and friends who caught up on life, shared stories and our anticipation of the in-house concert we were about to witness.

DJ showing us his incredible talent !!

We all took a seat around a well-worn grand piano which engulfs the family room. As DJ came into the room, he set up a camera to videotape his performance and the room fell silent as he addressed us. He told us the inspiration of his recital theme and why he chose each musical piece. He encouraged us to read the descriptions he had written so we could try to hear the music as he did with its variation of emotion and the “stories” they each told. After he set the stage for his performance, he turned toward the keyboard, took a seat on the piano bench, stretched his arms and fingers, and then lightly placed his hands above the keys. He drew in a deep breath and let loose !!

You need to get some context about the difficulty and complexity of DJ’s recital. The first piece by Bach has seven movements alone. The Prokofiev piece is radically opposed in style and pace to the Bach suite. Beethoven’s sonata has two masterful sections, and the Schumann piece has eight sections. I followed the sheet music from the Schumann piece which is over 30 pages long. DJ had memorized the entire recital. The ENTIRE thing !! There wasn’t one piece of sheet music used. He played for 45 minutes and it was simply magnificent. When he finished the last piece, tears were streaming down my face.

DJ’s talent was evident. I can’t imagine how much practice occurred to get to the stage we witnessed. It had to be hours upon hours. I was touched about his performance for a few reasons. First and foremost, I was proud of him because I’ve been in his life since his birth. To see him reach this level of accomplishment was personally fulfilling. I was proud of him as were his parents and everyone who had gathered.

Secondly, his performance gave me a picture of looking at talent. You see I play the piano. I took lessons for eight years from Mrs. Lindemann. She was a dear older woman who taught me scales, notes and songs in the hope that I’d learn how to play proficiently. I can still “play” but I never reached the same expertise as DJ. I never had wanted to put in the time and dedication needed. I enjoy playing, but it’s more of a hobby for me.

That is how talent works. Both DJ and I can use that same 88 keys to make music. Where he can play Bach as it was written, I can play some songs from my youth that interested me from Billy Joel and various rock artists. The instrument is a common tool for us to use, but the type and level of our talent is vastly different. Each one of us has the ability to bring music out from pounding the keys to release the hammers upon the piano’s strings.

In organizations, we try to evaluate, measure and judge the talent of people. Instead of releasing their talent, we do our best to confine and restrict it in order to keep some misaligned semblance of order. What if we saw each of our employees as a keyboard just waiting to be played? What would happen if we allowed them to share their talent in the manner they did best? Can you imagine the incredible variety, creativity and ingenuity that could be released?

It’s time we gave our people the tools they need in order for them to share the music locked in each one of them. They all have a recital ready to perform. They know each note and their contributions will range from the majesty of the most complex classical composition to the simplest banging out of Chopsticks. Each song that comes forth is needed in order for the good work of organizations to perform and move forward.

This week pull up a bench in front of the proverbial keyboards in your workplace and encourage everyone to sit down and start playing. Release the talent that is all around you. When you do, you’ll see that you’ve been surrounded by virtuosos this entire time !!

Just to give you a taste of the recital I heard, here’s a video of another pianist playing the Prokofiev sonata DJ shared. Enjoy !!

Runnin’ Down YOUR Dream !!

This Sunday something happened that hasn’t happened for an entire month. The sun came out. Now, I know the sun is always present, but it hasn’t shown itself in Greater Cincinnati during the month of January. Seeing sunlight was a welcome break from the never ending gloom of gray skies. As I was driving to church, I had the Tom Petty radio station blaring on Sirius XM. This is one of may favorites channels which I listen to often.

As I was enjoying the bright blue skies and warm touch of the sunlight, the song “Runnin’ Down a Dream” started playing. It captured the moment perfectly as the first few lyrics started to be sung . . .

“It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down, I had the radio on, I was drivin'”

Listening to this song made my thoughts wander which is a very common occurrence for me. I was taking time to reflect to see if I was someone who ran down my dreams. I think I have. Most everything that has happened throughout my life has led to exciting and adventurous outcomes.

If you don’t know me, I’m a fairly content person. I tend to go with the flow of things. When bumps occur, I ride them out and do my best to remain genuinely positive. This has been my approach to all aspects of my life since I can remember. It’s odd to share this because people don’t think people can be positive and encouraging in this day and age. When I hear those that choose to think differently than I do, I try to get to know them and hear them out. I may not agree with their perspective and outlook, but I’ll do my best to encourage them if they’re open to it.

So, when it comes to dreams, I guess I frame it like this. I like looking forward and pursuing different opportunities knowing that some will work out and others will not. In the past I wanted to become a public speaker, and now I’m fortunate to get to present at events across the globe. I thought it would be great to write a book, and now I’m close to having my second one published. I hoped to have a wife and family, and I’ve now been married over 30 years and I’m getting to see my kids start to figure out life and pursue dreams of their own.

My mind kept wandering and I thought of others who I’m fortunate to have in my life. They are a mix of people who have been successful in a variety of ways along with those who seem to get hung up on obstacle after obstacle. Every person is at a different place on this continuum.

I want to be supportive and encouraging for each of my friends and connections without giving them absolutes. Sure, I have my thoughts and am willing to share advice, but that’s what it is – advice. I’ve never been comfortable giving people a distinct path which much be followed to the letter. Life isn’t like that. It’s full of twists, turns, mountain tops and valleys. Each person’s path is as unique as they are as people.

I think Tom Petty captured my approach in his lyrics in this song. Life is a mystery. We would love for every moment of every day to be concrete and have little variability. But, life won’t conform to set patterns and is constantly unpredictable. Since that’s the reality of each day, the choice we have left is how we will move. We can either move forward, refuse to move, move sideways, or even backwards. There are countless maneuvers we can take.

Take note of the other phrase in Petty’s lyrics. “Going wherever it leads . . . ” Can you do that? Are you willing to step out not knowing what the next step will lead to? You see the mysteries of life are going to continue to present themselves. Having dreams and things to look forward to give us a brighter outlook on the lives we currently lead. Instead of being filled with worry and discontent, try to embrace the chance to go wherever life takes you.

Your career, the choices you make in your family and the people you bring into your life should be those who move you forward. People that embrace your dreams and do what they can to lift you up towards seeing them come true.

If you want to write a book or start a blog, then find those who have done those things and talk with them about what their experience was. If you want to travel to places unknown to you but familiar to others, reach out to them to see those places through their eyes and then take steps to get to them yourself one day. If you want to become a public speaker, an executive or leader in your company, or active in some professional or civic group, seek out others who have paved the way before you.

Remember, you are not doing life alone. You are among those who want to hear your dreams and see them come to fruition. I don’t know what your dream is, but it’s time for you to claim it, pursue it and see where it leads !!

Friends

This weekend the weather was a mix of clouds, mist, sleet and brisk winds. Everything was wet everywhere you looked. The wind made it feel colder than the actual temperature. This isn’t a blog post about the weather in West Chester, Ohio. These are the conditions I was facing when I went to visit my best friend Fred. He was moving this weekend from his current house to a new one that had just been completed. He and his wife were downsizing and moving into a ranch house which will most likely be their final home. Fred and Karen have been retired for quite a few years.

The move was invigorating because Fred and Karen were both excited to get their things moved and into their new abode. There were members of Fred’s family who came to assist with everything along with a young HR peer who is being mentored by Fred. If you’ve read my book, you’ll know all about Fred. He’s not only my best friend, but he’s my mentor. We chat at least once a week and try to see each other every two weeks. We’ve known each other for almost 20 years now, and he is an important part of my life.

The reason he’s important is that he’s my friend. Every once in awhile a post will be out on the internet that questions whether or not you can have friends at work. I personally think you can, but it is challenging especially for HR pros. It isn’t that HR folks aren’t friendly, it’s just that our roles deal with so much sensitive information that it’s difficult to develop many friendships. We can’t afford to get too close to many other employees.

We still need friends though. HR can be a very lonely profession because we don’t have close relationships. Therefore, we need to look outside of our workplaces. Trust me. One of the primary reasons I’ve stayed in HR is due to the friendships I’ve developed throughout my career. I’m fortunate to have friends around the globe who are in this field. I reach out to them often to check in and ask how they’re doing. If you’re kind enough to be friends with me, I will make sure that we’re intentionally connected.

One of those global friends is Michael Carty who is from the UK. He and I share many interests including music, art and blogging. He penned an incredible post about the recent passing of Terry Jones who was famously part of the comic troupe Monty Python. Jones’ best friend was Michael Palin, a fellow Python. In an interview after Jones’ passing, Palin says that he’ll miss having a pint at the pub with his dear friend. They were professionals who had learned to become friends. (The interview is very touching. Make sure to read Michael’s post and watch the short clip.)

Being active in social media has opened the ability to connect and develop friendships as well. You can “meet” and interact now without having to be in the same place. These platforms can be far more than a place to generate content and have people focus just on you. The amount of likes and follows are inconsequential compared to the relationships you can make. These people will become your community.

The friends I’ve been able to make are there for me personally far more than they are professionally. Yes, they are great resources of information when I need it, but most of our conversations are about life. Those are more deep and rich. I cherish each one I have.

So, let me ask you this. Do you have friends who happen to be in HR? I hope you do. I hope you have someone you can call when you need to move, need to share your thoughts and concerns, or need to grab a pint. This week evaluate where you are in regard to this. I know there are tons of great humans who would welcome the chance to foster and establish friendships with you. Reach out and make this happen. You’ll be glad you did !!

Make Your Work Art !!

This week one of my musical heroes passed away. Neil Peart was the drummer and lyricist of the legendary progressive rock band Rush. Whenever you admit that you’re a fan of Rush, you get mixed reactions. There are those who are die hard fans, and then there are those on the exact opposite side of the spectrum. There is very little middle ground. I’m cool with that. I’m on the die hard side. In fact, there are a group of my HR compatriots who post a Rush tune every week as part of #RushSaturday on Twitter. We have been posting well known hits, deep cuts and covers from popular artists as well as local acts.

The great thing about music, like any art form, generates emotion. It should. I love having discussions and disagreements about music. I’m sure there are many acts and genres I enjoy that others do not and vice versa. If music brings forth passion, then you’ve made a genuine connection. I am passionate about the entire catalog Rush has produced. Every song.

One of the amazing attributes of Neil Peart was his anonymity. That is almost unheard of in the rock and roll world. You find most people who become musicians in rock band seek notoriety, fame and especially visibility. There are countless stories of rock stars who live very public lives often riddled with bad choices. Peart was the complete opposite of the stereotypical rock star throughout his entire career. I admire that.

He was an accomplished author of several books, and he and his band mates were finally elected to the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2013 which was 45 years after Rush had formed. You never heard him complain about not being recognized with accolades. He was about his music. For him, his work was his art. Many consider him one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, rock drummer of all time.

Peart’s example of allowing his work to do the talking for who he was, in part, is something that is worth emulating. When I think about those whom I look up to in the world of work are similar to this rock legend. They are artists in what they do on a daily basis who rarely call attention to themselves. They appreciate acknowledgement of their contributions, but they aren’t seeking to be someone in the spotlight. Organizations are filled with reliable, consistent performers who make their work seem effortless. At the same time, people go to these reliable folks because they are known for their phenomenal work.

Too often, companies look to the bright and shiny employees because they call for attention. In fact, you’ll hear about making sure that focus is placed on “high potentials” (or hi-pos). I despise this term and this approach. It is laden with favoritism and an unbalanced sense of those who are politically astute because they spend much of their time trying to take the stage whenever possible. I understand that there are people who exhibit stronger performance and even show genuine leadership capabilities. I would venture to bet though that the ones who will be truly successful are the ones who are genuine, humble and seem to make their efforts . . . reliable first.

It’s time we make sure that we are cognizant of ALL of our employees !! We are surrounded by people who make their work art on a daily basis. When you step back to do this, you’ll find that they have been worthy of your attention because of how they approach their work. These artists seek to contribute, add value and let their work speak for itself.

This week, broaden your vision and notice your people on purpose. You’ll see that they’ve been making beautiful music every day !!

RIP Neil Peart. I’m grateful for you, your music and how you shared your gift.

Take It In !!

This past week I celebrated another trip around the sun and became another year older. I find that I now look at each new year as a time to reflect. This is something newer for me and something I wish I would do more. For instance, I have now been alive 30 years longer than my biological father was. That is staggering to me !! I’m fortunate that I am still walking this planet, but sometimes wonder what life would have looked like had he lived as well. I’m sure it would have been completely different and I wouldn’t be writing a weekly blog, just as one example.

My kids and wife are an amazing and significant component in my life. Now that I’m older, I tend not to get any “things” as birthday gifts. I’m grateful that I get time with them far more than any material object. Debbie, my incredible wife, did get me something that will have incredible value – a set of experiences. She got me some tickets to Xavier University basketball games – my fave college basketball team – and some tickets to see part of the “Whose Line is is Anyway?” cast perform an improv comedy show. I can’t wait to go to these events. She made the gift even more meaningful by saying that I can take others with me to some of the games because she knows I’m a massive extrovert.

The reflection that has hit hard this year is this – You need to enjoy the experiences in your life !! Every. Day.

You need to be honest about this. You rarely take in what’s going on around you. We’ve been programmed to stay focused on whatever task is laid out in front of us. This isn’t only related to work. It is how we approach every aspect of our lives. We miss the majority of any event or encounter, and that’s a shame.

Don’t believe me? Tomorrow when you go to work watch how others interact with each other. Greetings are cursory and polite as everyone rushes to what they want to get to. No one seems to notice or care. Conversations are curt, concise and matter of fact. You will hear most people share some personal stories, but to say that both parties are “present” during the interaction would be startling. We feel the invisible push to move on. The vast majority of our daily experiences are more like a series of pass-by movements. There are short pauses in the rush of pass-bys, but they are limited on purpose.

I consider myself someone who consciously makes time to focus on others, and I have to constantly remind myself to be present in conversations. I have to fight the urge to follow distractions which are always tugging at me. I feel this is true with most people. I don’t think that this has to be the case. I know that we have time to be present when we interact with others throughout each experience we have.

Now that Debbie and I are empty nesters, we are doing more activities as a couple. We’re relearning what it’s like to spend time together just as a pair. We aren’t committed to running to this event or another for either of our kids who are now grown. So, we go out to dinner or make dinner together after a full day of work. We’ll go to the gym and also go to a movie in a theater (we’re old school like that.) Whatever we’re doing, I’ve decided that I am going to be present and take in every second we’re together. I don’t want to miss something because I’m yearning to get to the “next thing.”

I want to be like the two young kids I saw at the grocery store this weekend. They had pulled two of the bags you use to put produce in and were throwing them into the air. The bags would puff out and float slowly back and forth toward the floor. The kids would squeal, catch their bag and throw it back into the air. They were exuberant and present in the moment while their mother was trying to get her shopping done. Instead of chiding the kids, she laughed along with them and commented how beautiful the new “toy” they had created was.

The new year is still young. You can change your approach to how you embrace every day, and in turn, every person you meet. Slow down and take it in. Everything. Every. Single. Thing. You’ll be astonished how much more you’ll enjoy life !!

A New Decade !!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Do You Think ??

This past week I renewed the domain name for my blog. To me it’s a milestone because in January I’ll be starting my 9th year of blogging. The site was actually a Christmas gift from my sister-in-law !! I remember when I opened the small envelope she had given me. I read the message on the paper inside and wept. I was touched by her gift.

I asked her why she decided to establish a blog site for me. She replied, “I think people want to hear what you have to say.”

I was floored by that. Why in the world would others willingly read my thoughts and ideas? It seemed to be a pretty big leap to share on a regular basis with the hope that you’d develop an audience. She reminded me that this was already occurring because of the presentations I had been giving at conferences.

I am still so grateful that she had a vision for something that I have truly enjoyed. I look forward to sitting down every Sunday to jot down ideas, thoughts, encouragement and a message to let others know they have value in who they are and what they do. In fact, my wife asks me every Sunday, “Did you write your blog yet?” It’s become part of the fabric of my life.

I wanted to give you this background to ask you some questions . . .

What do you think? Really. How do you learn from others? Do you take time to do this, or are you comfortable with what you already know?

You see I love to learn from others !! I regularly read several blogs daily. I also make sure to listen to various podcasts as I make my commute to and from work. I also travel to several pizzerias as part of my job so I have time to listen to the thoughts of others.

I don’t want to sit still and stay put mentally. There are far too many people who have fascinating ideas and concepts to share. When I get a chance to read the perspectives of others, I try to take away key nuggets even if I disagree with their approach. It’s important to see the world from all angles. I don’t want to ever want to be in a position where I’m not well versed in different aspects of life, thought and views on HR and the workplace. You can never know enough. I think it’s critical for us to continue to take in information so that we remain current, informed and relevant.

I do have one value that I stick to when participating in the forum of blogging or sharing on podcasts where I’m asked to be a guest. I will use the gateway I’ve been given to be positive. Please don’t ever misconstrue this as not willing to be intentional or take on issues. I just feel that it’s far too easy to be negative and tear others down. Being positive is something that I hope to continue because I’d rather see light pierce the darkness and give others a viable alternative to what they may hear/see on social media.

If you’re not regularly learning from others, I’d encourage you to give yourself a “gift” this holiday season. Find blogs, podcasts and speakers who you can learn from. Start making this a habit so that continuous learning isn’t some aspirational wish, it’s how you choose to improve yourself and the others around you.

See the Lights !!

This time of year can lead to a variety of emotions. For some, the holidays are difficult while others are ecstatic. It runs the gamut and it’s hard to know how people are facing the season. It would be best if we had the courage to have safe conversations with each other. We tend to steer clear of anything that could lead to vulnerability or sensitive issues. We’re afraid we won’t know how to “properly” respond if someone gives an answer for which we’re not prepared. So, instead of interacting we avoid. That saddens me. It truly does. We’re at a time in society where more interaction would be more beneficial versus avoiding each other.

I’m a person who goes through periods of joy and also times of stress. The stress in unrealistic and brought on by the thoughts in my mind. Like most people, they tend to wander and make up scenarios with absolutely no context. I do love the music, the chance to decorate our house and to exchange gifts with my wife and kids. I don’t even mind going out among the crowds who seemingly come out of the air and fill shopping centers. The stress comes because of time and how we try to cram a year’s worth of activities into a very small window.

Thankfully, my wife introduced a tradition from her childhood that keeps me balanced. She used to get in the car with her family and they would drive around neighborhoods to see the lights. The displays weren’t the houses of friends and families per se. They were random people who had decided to have outdoor displays to capture the feel of the holidays.

When we were first married (before kids), Debbie and I kept up with this tradition and we loved it. After our kids were born, we continued driving around to see what people had put up. Now that they’ve “left the nest”, we’ll have our first season to go and see the various lighting displays as a couple once again. I’m geeked to get a thermos filled with hot chocolate to enjoy as we cruise through the night to see how creative people are.

There are several reasons why I enjoy seeing the lights each holiday season.

Time together – I am fortunate to have a phenomenal wife and kids (adults). I don’t take that for granted in the least. I know that family dynamics may not always be the best for people. But, when you take time to do things together, you have a better chance to have positive experiences which lead to positive memories.

Reduced stress – It’s easy to get caught up in the pace of life and its various pushes and pulls of the holidays. It’s an even stronger level of stress than you experience the rest of the year. However, when you’re slowly driving through a neighborhood looking at lights, the pressure you may be feeling melts away. That release is so valuable and it helps you get things back in some semblance of order and sanity.

Seeing the light – The most stunning part of seeing the displays all around us is that the light pierces the darkness. The tiny bulbs emanate all of their energy to brighten the shadows. The colors are clear, distinct and welcoming. They bring a smile to your face every time and show how powerful light truly is.

Think what your days would be like if you enjoyed the time together with those around you. How would they feel if you stopped, paused and took a breath in the midst of the daily pace of work/life and realized you didn’t need to be that stressed. And, how would your day be if you saw the light in others instead of darkness?

You have the opportunity to keep in mind the serenity of seeing the lights as you approach your day. This next week do two things – (1) See the positive side of others and be the light in their day that breaks through any potential negativity and (2) Go out yourself at night and drive around.

Take the time to go and see the lights !! You’ll be glad you did and it may become a tradition for you as well.

By Name

I’m a child of the late 60’s and early 70’s. During my early childhood, I was raised by my grandparents because my mom was working after the untimely, early death of my father. Growing up on a farm in Luckey, Ohio was wonderful !! My brother and I had countless adventures that were mostly outdoors. You used your imagination to make your surroundings come to life. We watched very little television because our grandmother wanted us out from under her feet. When we did watch on their tiny black and white set, we watched PBS. Yes, PBS. Grandma made sure we watched the Public Broadcasting System because it was filled with educational programming. One of our favorite shows was Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

We loved visiting his neighborhood with the various characters in the Land of Make Believe. You learned something every time you watched. We never thought the show was simple, easy-going or even “cheesy.” The messages he gave rang true, and he always seemed so interested in you as a person.

Fast forward to 2019. My wife and I just went to see the new Tom Hanks movie where he plays Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It is magnificent !! Granted, I already had fond memories of Mr. Rogers, but this movie made some facets of his life more visible and poignant. I highly recommend you go see the movie to get the entire feel and impact of the message so I don’t want to reveal too many components.

The one characteristic that resonated deeply with me was that Mr. Rogers made sure to know everyone he met by name. He didn’t overlook anyone he encountered either on the set of his television program, or if he met you in person. People mattered to him. One scene, shown in the preview, shows the main character’s wife, Andrea, squeal when Hanks calls their home and introduces himself to her. She is trying to pass the phone to her husband, but Mr. Rogers stops her to take time to intentionally talk to her. She says, “Mr. Rogers knows my name !!” It obviously moved her.

They note that Rogers, a man who had a strong personal faith, prayed for the people in his life by name. Every. Day. This wasn’t some parlor trick that showed he had a great memory. He valued being connected to people and wanted to know them personally.

I am a person who shares the same conviction of Mr. Rogers. I think it’s critical to meet, know and interact with people by name. Whenever you meet someone for the first time, you have to make the time to get to know (and remember) their name. Our names are the most significant identifying trait of who we are as humans. When you share your name with someone and they share theirs with you, you are connected immediately.

We were given names on purpose when we were born. Even though people may share the same first name, it doesn’t diminish the reality that they are unique. No one “Steve” is the same as another. The reason it’s important to know someone’s name is that when you interact, it’s more intimate and meaningful. You will remove the distractions of the day which constantly vie for our attention because you have called someone out by name. You’re locked together and those conversations will be more rich and meaningful than just trying to catch someone on the fly.

As HR professionals, this should be a skill that matters to you. I know that it can be difficult to remember names, but that’s an excuse. We all need to take the time to learn and recall the names of the people who are in our daily lives. If you need to make lists, then do it. If you need to make associations that spark your memory to remember a person’s name, then keep track of those attributes. Be intentional about this. We can’t fool ourselves to think that our companies are people-centric if everyone remains nameless.

Once you know someone by name, you can get to know them as a person. Having knowledge of who they are is far more important and lasting than anything they do. I mean it. They, in turn, can get to know you more as a person as well. I see it every day. People want to connect and be known for who they are.

This week start interacting with people by name on purpose. It will make a huge difference for you personally and professionally. Be like Mr. Rogers and make it matter. It will make our various neighborhoods the great environments they were meant to be !!