Is This the Real Life ??

“Is this just fantasy? . . .”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vote.

There is always some level of risk when you delve into the world of politics. I’m cool with that because this is a topic that is critical in my opinion. Now, take a deep breath before you read on. This isn’t a post that is for or against any candidate or issue. I don’t know how to do that objectively because everyone has different views, beliefs and affiliations.

One thing I hope we all can agree on is this . . . voting.

I believe in voting so much because I know the power that casting your ballot has. I’ve been able to vote over the past 30+ years and I’ve never missed the opportunity. Not once. It didn’t matter to me if the issues were “insignificant” to most. It was important to me to vote. This included ballots for local school levies (and my kids are grown), emergency services levies, local political offices to be filled, etc. My parents instilled this behavior in me, and they both have been personally active their entire life. In fact, my Mom still works the polls and she just turned 80.

There are a few observations that I do want to mention that I see as obstacles for people participating. The first is the unending negativity that comes at us from every forum, platform and form of media. You never hear what a person can do or desires to do. You only hear how horrible their opposition is. Amazing that we are asked to make choices on who is less awful. If you know me at all, I’m not a negative person and don’t understand it. It takes some time and effort to look past the barrage of crud to see where people and/or issues stand, but it’s worth it to be educated and informed.

Secondly, when people say that they “don’t have the time” I shake my head. Millions of people have no problem voting often for their favorite reality show characters on a variety of shows each week. We can make time to vote for entertainment choices, but not on candidates that may shape policy for years to come. It doesn’t make sense. I know that voting makes us drive out of our way on our normal commute, and that it doesn’t “fit” our regular schedule. However, it’s worth being put out.

I’ve seen local school levies pass by less than ten votes. I’ve seen people get into office more because people chose not to show up to the polls than to actually receive votes. I’d rather see people be active in making a choice than to see someone take office just because voting was inconvenient.

This week I encourage you to go to the polls and choose. I understand that we live in challenging, divergent and even divisive times. One thing you can do to affect this takes only a few minutes.

This week . . . vote.

 

Follow the Flow !!

If you’ve been reading my blog for any time, you know that I’m sort of an HR hippie. I love tie-dye clothes, psychedelic classic rock and  . . . lava lamps. Now, you need to understand that this isn’t a “new” phase for me. These things have been an interest of mine for decades. The difference that exists is that those interests are also something that defines me. I surround myself with these components in my work space, and I am more than willing to share how they keep me at ease.

Over the past few years, I’ve taken the lava lamp mantra out with me during presentations at HR conferences. It’s not uncommon for me to have a lava lamp going while I’m speaking. Most of the time, I give this great piece of lighting away to an attendee. My only requirement if someone wins a lava lamp is that they actually use it in their office. They need to take it to work, turn it on and send me a picture of it in action. What’s so cool about this is that everyone who has won a lava lamp has added it to their office and has sent me a picture as evidence.

Now, the coolest thing is happening in workplaces across the globe. HR peers have been getting their own lava lamps, taking pictures and letting me know about it on Facebook, Linked In and Twitter !! It is surreal. What gets me geeked is what they say for reasons to get a floating masterpiece themselves. The descriptions range from just wanting to have something colorful in their office to stating that it was a reminder to have a positive outlook about HR and towards employees.

The more pictures I’ve received made me think about why this simple object is having such an impact. You see, I think HR people are often tired and on the edge of being burned out. The constant push and pull of interactions with people can drain you. This doesn’t have to be the case, but I get it because it’s something that is a constant force that pushes against me as well.

Since that is the case, I recommend that you “follow the flow” and surround yourself with items that give you a sense of serenity and calmness. I’m sure you have interests that could give you some much needed peace during your hectic day. You need to take care of yourself in the midst of taking care of others. There are far too many folks in HR who skip taking care of themselves. This is a simple release and a small respite. Remember, it’s small things that make a difference far more than massive shifts.

Here’s a picture from my office. When things get pressured and hectic, I look to my right and see the blobs of lava serenely moving up and down and I exhale. For me it’s perfection. (The Magic 8 Balls are a bonus too, but that’s a post for a different time.)

This week take a second and reflect to see if you have something in your work space that provides a healthy diversion to recalibrate your day. It’s simple to do. I, of course, would highly recommend getting your own lava lamp. In this way we can change HR, and the workplace, one lava lamp at a time !!

 

Leo

This past weekend I stepped out of my normal surroundings and into my past. My wife and I, along with two other couples, went to visit another couple, Clay and Kelly in rural Carroll County, Ohio. They live in a wonderful house located on a 400 acre farm. It’s a beautiful landscape made up of rolling hills, streams, fields of grain, cattle along with a few chickens.

This was a step into my past because I grew up on, or around, farms. My grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins have  run farms for generations. I loved farm living because you were outside between 90% to 95% of your day. My imagination ran wild as I created worlds around me by playing in pastures, fields and barns. I fondly remember helping out where I could with chores, fixing things and hanging around the various barn animals.

That brings me back to this weekend. I took in every, single moment and loved once again being outside with the sights, smells and sounds of the farm. I even got to make a new friend – Leo !! Leo is one of the steers on the farm who loves to eat treats from your hand. It was great to hear him eagerly moo as he quickly skipped up to the fence to say, “Hi !!”

What does this trip have to do with HR ?? – Everything.

You see, my friend Clay is a fellow HR practitioner who also farms. Kelly is a nurse who also farms. If you met them in their “normal” job, you wouldn’t readily know much more about their lives unless they shared it with you.

We are surrounded by people each and every day, and yet  we know so little about each other. If we were honest about it, we don’t really want to know because having conversations about someone’s life outside of work would cut into our “precious” time. Isn’t that sad?

I know that this type of time investment has been a regular theme of mine lately. I think that’s because I know that learning more about the people around us makes an incredible impact. People are almost shocked that you’d step out of your self-focused bubble to learn about them. I’ve found that the more I learn about others, the more meaningful our relationship is professionally.

I know this may be out of the norm for most people, but look at it this way. Someone in your life has taken an interest in you and what you were experiencing at least once. I’d wager it’s happened many times. Tap into the feeling that occurred when someone took the time to take interest in you. Remember how great it felt and then turn it towards others around you.

This week try something different. Instead of launching into the lives of everyone, reach out to a peer in HR. Learn who they are outside of what they do professionally. Set aside time to see how much more in depth their lives really are. I’m sure they’ll be touched you did.

And, who knows, you may get to meet your own Leo !!

Spice It Up !!

This past weekend I had the pleasure of being the closing keynote of the Wisconsin SHRM State HR Conference !! This was a bucket list item for me because I always love the chance to be among my HR peers, and this time I was able to send them forth with encouragement as they headed back to their companies.

My wife traveled with me, and we took some time to explore the Wisconsin countryside. We also stopped to visit one of our dear friends in Milwaukee. This visit was especially awesome because our friend unexpectedly lost her husband in a car accident 16 months ago. We have been in touch, but hadn’t seen each other since his funeral. It was a touching moment as we pulled into the driveway and exchanged warm embraces and some tears.

We spent a few hours catching up on life, family, and work because we just had to fill the gaps. Seeing each other in person is always more powerful than talking online or over the phone. We then asked our friend to show us Milwaukee. We told her that we didn’t want to specifically see the tourist attractions most people expect to see. My wife and I like to see places through the eyes of others. See the city based on what is important to them.

Our friend thought about this for a bit, and then we headed to the car. She drove us around the suburb she lived in and pointed out various landmarks including the high school her kids had attended, where she shopped, her church and a neighborhood called The Shire that had a Hobbit Hole at the front gate. (The HR Nerd in me was so geeked about the Hobbit find !!)

She kept driving for a bit and then we pulled into a retail shopping center. We weren’t sure what we were stopping to see, but she assured us we’d love the store. We walked over to Penzeys which is a store that sells spices. That’s it. Spices.

The mixture of smells enveloped you as you entered the store. On top of that, the staff greeted us warmly and was genuinely excited that we chose to stop by. One of the staff went to our friend and hugged her warmly and asked how she was, how her kids were and how she was improving each day. The encouragement seemed to drip from every square inch of this amazing store. I never knew there were so many variations of salt, pepper, paprika, cinnamon, vanilla, etc.

What made Penzeys amazing was that each spice had a full description written out along with suggestions on how to use the spice to bring out its fullest potential. It was noted that you only needed a small amount of spice to improve whatever cooking you were attempting. They also offered spice themed magnets, dish towels, gift boxes and other accompanying items that all had positive messages on them. I was floored by this approach.

It made me think of how HR people can be the folks who spice it up with the employees we work with. If we would be the one ingredient that could encourage and lift someone up, imagine what our workplaces would be. And, just like the store, you don’t have to use the same spice for each person. In fact, each interaction you have will require a different ingredient in order to make it come to life !!

This week instead of thinking you need to make massive movements in order for change and improvement to occur, just add a pinch of spice.

Choose

A new workweek is upon us. I’m sure it’s going to be filled with both challenges and opportunities. If you’re like most people, you probably feel that the challenges far outweigh the opportunities. That may not be the case, but it gives you the illusion that you’re going to be better at your job because you feel that solving problems is why you exist.

I think taking this position is difficult personally. If our days our chock full of a majority of challenges, then how can we see any glimmer of hope? I don’t mean to make light of the conditions of other’s lives. That would be short sighted and presumptuous.

I want to throw something out there that may seem naive, but I find it to be true. In the midst of all that is swirling around us, we have a choice on how to start our day. Every. Day. We can either make the conscious decision to be positive or not. I used to think that the choice was positive or negative, but that is too much of a generalization.

Choosing to be positive frames everything even in the middle of legitimate challenges. It’s not naive, but it is difficult. Most forces in our personal lives and our lives at work want us to focus on what’s wrong as the point where things start. That gives us a jumping off point to move away from because the less something is broken, the more we have a sense of accomplishment.

In HR we are constantly surrounded by people. People who are going through life just like we are. It’s easy to hear how people are facing their days and become sarcastic and embittered. You get tired of the unending waves of struggle. There doesn’t seem to be a viable way out. So, you get swallowed along with it.

Choosing to be positive changes the playing field because you don’t enter the encounters you have with others as something you’re obligated to solve. You may get a chance to be part of a solution, but it doesn’t have to be your only purpose. When you approach others expecting things to be positive regardless of what you come across, you put yourself in a position to be available. That, honestly, is more than most people expect when it comes to daily interactions.

I know this is a big ask, but I want to put an option out there for others. There needs to be something for you to latch on to because what you do matters. When you spend time with people you may be the one spark that turns the tide for them.

This week choose.

 

Drop the Mic !!

This past week I was fortunate to be a part of the Illinois SHRM State Conference. I was scheduled to be a speaker and was geeked to have the opportunity !! As I was sitting in the terminal before my flight from Cincinnati to Chicago, I received an email from the conference organizer. She put a question to me that was completely out of the blue. She asked if I would be the conference emcee.

I’ll be honest. I wasn’t expecting to see this request because I knew who was going to be the emcee and was at first concerned. It turns out that a work issue came up that he had to address. When I knew he was okay, I enthusiastically said that I’d step in !!

Being the emcee allows you to set the tone for the event. I was fortunate because I personally knew each of the speakers that I introduced. I also had a relationship with the Illinois SHRM volunteer leaders, and that set the stage for something I’ve always wanted to experience at an HR conference.

You see, when I go to an HR conference, I want to meet every attendee. This isn’t an exaggeration. I truly do. I know that this isn’t normal and that’s okay with me. It’s always been hard to try and reach this goal because people tend to avoid contact – even HR people. Most people have so many things going on in their personal lives as well as situations at work that they are looking for an escape. Sure, they want to learn from sessions and they’re also looking for credits towards their HR certification. But I find that few people want to genuinely meet others that they don’t already know.

I understand that I’m off the chart on the extroversion scale, and I’m good with that. What I can’t understand is why you’d pay to go to an event with peers who are potential resources and completely ignore them in order to grab a seat in a session or a plate of food in a buffet line.

So, since I had the microphone, the tone I chose to set was one that expressed the value of having personalized connections. Not one speaker that I introduced had a bio read. Instead, I shared stories about them as people and how much I learned from them and their insights. I was also able to thank Dave Ryan, the ILSHRM State Director, for his service by writing him a note full of song titles from The Eagles (one of his favorite groups.)

Then, the goal I have yearned for at an HR conference happened. I dropped the mic and was able to meander throughout the entire venue to greet everyone. With every “Hello” came a smile and a “Thank you” for them choosing to attend. I didn’t let one person get by me. Oddly enough, everyone returned both my greeting and my smile. Many also laughed and engaged with me.

You see people want to be acknowledged. People want to belong. This is especially true for those of us in HR. We spend so much time pouring into the lives of others that we often forget ourselves. I think this needs to change for ALL of HR and at EVERY HR conference.

A friend of mine on Twitter asked this week what would make HR conferences better – this is it.

From now on, take the time to look up and meet the others in your profession who came to learn just like you. Don’t settle for just attending sessions. Meet the great people you’re with as well. You’ll be glad you did !!

 

Happy John Jorgensen Day !!

One of the best things about social media is that it brings people together that would never have met without the various forums. The worldwide community of HR became markedly smaller. There are a few HR folks who I would consider “early adopters” of social media. They saw the power to connect, bring folks together and break the boundaries of geography.

One of those pioneers is John Jorgensen. John has been a long-term SHRM volunteer leader and our paths crossed at a few events. Once we connected in person and understood how social media could be leveraged to communicate and improve human resources as a whole, we were bound together.

The cool thing is that that initial bond grew and grew over time, and we became dear friends. I’ve always admired John’s dedication to volunteer leaders and I’ve learned a ton from him. We both were State Council Directors and State SHRM Conference chairs. As with all volunteer roles, those had their time and others step up into leadership. John has nurtured and grown volunteer leaders at the local and State level. He has invested his time and championed others who became leaders after he finished his terms. That is a characteristic that should happen in any organization. Great leaders find those who will lead after them.

I could go on and on sharing stories of the people that John has influenced. However, what I cherish most is our friendship. You see, in the SHRM world we all “know” each other in a friendly environment. Most of the conversations are around speakers, conferences, best practices, etc. Few people move past that to develop friendships, and that is a shame because when it occurs it’s fantastic !!

John is a very caring man who is a fierce friend. We talk to each other at least once per week during my commute home. It’s something I look forward to because we talk about everything. Sure, we talk about HR and SHRM because John cares deeply about the organization at all levels. He has always been member focused and he wants to see that be the direction and mantra for SHRM at all times.

What you probably don’t know is that John is an amazing lover of all types of rock music. He and I share a love for various groups, concerts and movies. He is a huge trivia buff, voracious reader and an expert on all things Gettysburg !! We talk about family, friends and work. He is a great brother and uncle in his family, and I was there during the passing of both of his parents. He still fondly cares for them and honors their memories.

John and I also share an affinity for Irish pubs and enjoy sharing an adult beverage. I’m so glad to take some time to highlight my friend because he deserves it. There’s a lot more to John than most know. I can honestly say that my life is better because John is a big part of it.

There are many, many people that pass in and out of our lives. When you find a dear friend, invest in them and let them invest in you. This is what John and I have together.

He will always be . . . my friend.

 

Do You Have a Minute ??

Do you remember the classic cartoon The Jetsons? I loved watching this show because it was a cool version of what people thought the future would hold. One of my favorite aspects of the cartoon was the video calls that George Jetson would make with his boss Mr. Spacely. The thought that you could make a “phone call” and see the person you were talking to was unthinkable in the past. It was some fantastic idea that you could only see from someone’s imagination.

Little did I know that a video call would become a reality !! This weekend I participated in something I could have never imagined would EVER happen in my lifetime. Let me backtrack for a second . . .

This summer at the SHRM Annual Conference in Chicago I had the opportunity to speak at two mega sessions, and it was incredible for many reasons. One of the many highlights was meeting Usman Abid from Pakistan. He came to one of my sessions and then proceeded to floor me by buying 38 copies of my book HR on Purpose !! for his entire HR team. Now, fast forward back to the present . . .

Usman sent me an email and asked if I had a minute to join him and his team for a Skype call over the weekend. He had taken my book and developed a two-day workshop based on it !! I was astonished to say the least. He came up with hashtags, themes and even shirts with double exclamation points. He also came up with this logo. The whole concept was humbling and overwhelming.

I jumped at the chance to talk to Usman and his HR team. I set up my laptop in my dining room and when the beep, beep, beep of Skype chimed, I answered and was seeing a room full of my peers on the other side of the globe. The. Other. Side. of the Globe !! It was surreal. The video call that I only knew from cartoons was now happening.

It was so fantastic to tell some stories, share some laughs and talk about a people-centric view of HR. The call lasted about fifteen minutes. I didn’t get a question, but someone did notice that I was wearing tie-dye with the #HRTribe hashtag on it. In fact, the folks in Pakistan cheered when I stood up and showed them the shirt. As we were ending our time together, I was overwhelmed with emotion as I thanked the team for the chance to be a part of their workshop through some tears.  Usman and his team said good-bye to me in Urdu which was very cool.

In my wildest dreams, I never thought that one day in my career I’d write a book. A book that would be purchased by a peer and then taken around the world. A book that would be developed into a workshop, and result in a video call between fellow HR practitioners in different global locations and time zones.

One thing to note . . . Usman’s did all of this work BEFORE anyone on his team even received their copy of the book !! They’re going to get their personalized signed copies at the end of the workshop.

I felt compelled to share this story for a couple of reasons. One – it’s amazing and overwhelming. You have no idea how much it humbles me that this has happened. Secondly, I think it’s important to remember that regardless of where we are in the world, we have common bonds as humans and as professionals.

The entire experience encourages me that there remains so much good in this world. As people, we can come together on purpose to lift each other up and do great work. Our humanity is a far greater bond than all of the distractions, anger and negativity that everyone seems to want to dwell on.

This week please remember that it only takes a minute to bring us together. I think we have the time to do that now and going forward !!

Replacement Parts

My Mom is an amazing human in almost every way !! This November she will celebrate her 80th birthday and I’m geeked to see that come along with family and friends. If you met my Mom, you wouldn’t think that she’s roamed this planet for eight decades. She is active, vibrant and a true servant leader in her community.

Just this past week, she had a hip replaced. This wasn’t due to an injury. She just needed some new parts. Her doctor has asked her for months if she was in any pain. My Mom always replied that she was “fine.” Evidently she had arthritis building up and her doctor was concerned that if she fell at some time, her hip would break and it could seriously hurt her. Thankfully, she had the procedure in time.

Seeing her go through this made me think of HR of course. How many systems, programs, policies and procedures have you created that are out dated, stale and stagnate? Do you even know? Chances are the vast majority of all of your human resources efforts need a check up. I’m sure that you are oblivious to how your systems are performing. I know I am. That may be a hard thing to admit, but it’s true. Most HR processes only get dusted off when there’s some “crisis” or policy violation. I know there are times when I ask to buy some time so I can pull up a Word document from some long forgotten file to make sure that I respond correctly.

This is not an effective way to practice HR. There are so many instances when we are reactive because we just don’t have a good reason to utilize our systems on a regular basis. I think it’s time we look at some replacement parts for what we do and how we practice.

I’m not sure what specifically needs to be replaced in your systems, but I’m sure there are ways to make things current and relevant. I’d suggest that you do some of the following steps to see what happens.

Does anyone know it exists? – We all have policies and procedures that were developed years and years ago. If you pull up one of these to review it and it says “As of . . .” and the date is over two years old, you need to see if people even know it exists. Chances are they don’t, and you didn’t either.

Is it relevant? – Our companies go through change on a daily basis (at least). I remember going through an old handbook I had written about the use of pagers. Pagers !! (If you don’t remember these technological miracles, look them up on Wikipedia). At the time, we HAD to have a policy because people spent too much time on them. Sound familiar? It was stupid then and senseless now. These gems are riddled in your documents. Trust me. Find them and get rid of them.

Can you be consistent? – This is the one piece of advice that I hope you use for anything you create in HR. It has to be able to be applied and implemented consistently. If it can’t be, then  keep working on it until it is. My rule of thumb is that any program, system, policy or procedure has to affect the majority of employees and not the exceptions. That runs contrary to how most HR products are created. You can’t be consistent when you’re systems are geared towards exceptions.

Try them out !! – The last piece of advice is based on my Mom’s surgery again. The hip she received is brand new and shiny. However, unless she can walk easily and have mobility and range of motion, it’s just shiny. So, instead of having constant launch parties for your HR efforts, try things out in focus groups or departments. Test them to see how they perform. If they need tweaked, then do that before you release it to the entire organization.

My Mom was up and walking within hours of her surgery. It was amazing to see. She’s walking better than she had been for months. She still had little pain still and I’m thankful for that. She’s going to continue to be amazing. She just needed a tune up. This week, start the tune up you need in HR as well !!