Against the Grain

I’m exhausted. I’m fairly sure if I asked you, that the answer would be the same. The past few months have been trying for everyone. The pandemic would have been enough for anyone, and now it seems to be gaining momentum which is going to prove to be another challenge. On top of the constant fight against the virus, there is legitimate social unrest, political disarray among other things. People seem to have blamed the year 2020 as the framework for wave after wave of discord. I don’t think the year is to blame, I think it’s us.

Everywhere you look people are making disharmony and divisiveness the norm. Remember several months ago when we wondered what our “new normal” would be? I don’t think this is what we expected. There are so many things that need to be addressed now that have been overlooked for far too long. I’m not going to be presumptuous and offer solutions for all that is surrounding us.

However, I can’t agree with the norm. I can’t partake in dialogue that seeks to only bring opposition. I can’t tolerate the incessant conversations that only seem to have the purpose of keeping people apart. Instead, I choose to go against the grain.

To me, it is far more important to believe in others than it is to focus on differences. I want to learn who people are and where they come from. I want to hear their perspectives and views on any subject they choose. I want to meet, connect, and understand anyone who is willing to do the same. Even those who think differently or come from angles I don’t personally agree with, I want to know them as well.

This isn’t just some personal crusade, mantra or lifestyle. I want to encourage others to do the same, but if they don’t I still plan to go against the grain. Instead of discord, I choose kindness. Instead of divisiveness, I choose to believe in others. Instead of opposition, I choose inclusion. This is true for me personally and especially at work.

As HR pros, we are surrounded by people all the time. I understand this may now be virtual for some, but it doesn’t change the fact that we are around others. Since that is the case, we should be the ones who choose non-conformity with all that is going on and do what we can to bring people together. I am astounded by the number of people who are struggling with various aspects of life and we would rather focus on completing tasks and measuring performance instead of ensuring the wellbeing of others.

Going against the grain takes discipline, an intentional spirit and courage to not bow down and join the forces trying to make life negative and frustrating. Being positive, kind and encouraging will not get the likes, retweets and self-focus that tries to dominate our attention. We cannot wait and continue to muddle through in the hope for relief. We must act and bring consistent positivity, kindness and encouragement through our behavior and our interactions.

I choose to go against the grain, do you?

Adjust Your Shelves !!

My wife and I had a significant event happen this past week. We emerged from our basement after four months !! This wasn’t due to the never-ending pandemic. The renovation of our home’s first floor was completed. Now, please understand that we had this transformation planned before the world changed forever.

We have been very fortunate to have lived in the same house for 29 years. When we had been married for two years, we purchased our home which was originally built in 1977 and we moved into it in 1991. Over the nearly three decades, we’ve changed paint, carpet, decor, roofs, appliances, etc. However, the basic look of our family room and kitchen still had that late 70’s vibe. We had a discussion at the end of 2019 when my wife said she wanted to remodel or move.

That’s quite a decision !! Do you spend money to redo the house you’ve enjoyed for so many years and “update” it, or do you go through the adventure of finding a new home that brings its own level of stress? I’m fairly comfortable with change, but I hesitated when I was faced with these options. We raised our two kids in this house and have had many family gatherings, scout meetings, dinners with friends, and more. I know we could do that in a new house, but I wanted to stay. That decision meant that we would go through a patience exercise that you’ve never planned for. We got everything designed and once the project began, we went down the stairs to our new living quarters . . . for four months.

We completely altered how we normally live, and then the pandemic hit. Honestly, we got through life together in a much smaller space with very little conflict. As we came back up to the first floor, it felt like we were emerging from a bunker. The work of replenishing, reorganizing, and getting rid of things we didn’t need was at hand. This too went very smoothly and ended up taking multiple trips of donations to Goodwill and finding new homes for our old furniture and appliances. Everything went well . . . until the shelves.

On the “end” wall of our family room, we had two built-in bookshelves added to frame a fireplace. One bookshelf came with five shelves and the other with four. That was the first discrepancy. The next one was the placement of the shelves. My wife and I are very different which is what makes us a great couple. She balances me in so many ways. One area where we differ though is she likes order and I like variety. The shelves we added have clips on each side and it takes considerable effort to unsnap them before they can be moved.

Debbie wanted everything to match so when you faced the built-ins they would have symmetry. We hadn’t added anything to adorn the shelves yet, so we didn’t account for different sizes of items. I didn’t care. There didn’t need to be symmetry for me. As I was trying to get the levels right and have things match, I started to lose patience. I just wanted things to be completed, and my wife wanted things done correctly. You’d think that something so “easy” would not have added so much consternation. Sound familiar ??

This simple act of adjusting shelves reflects what we face at work every day. You have at least two parties working on the same task. I guarantee that many sides will be taken because no one approaches work the same way. We claim to be so good with change and being adaptable, and that just isn’t true because we overlook one simple fact. We’re “good” with adjustments if they match how WE want the outcome to be. People want to get their own way. I feel it is the underlying obstacle we hit whenever two or more people interact – which is the majority of every. day.

The shelves were adjusted. They’re symmetrical and they look wonderful !! The other part of adjustments to be successful is compromise. There is value in evaluating other people’s perspectives because we should learn from each other and stop knocking heads with each other. The goal is to move forward, not just be right and get your way.

Our house will keep coming together, and I’m sure that more adjustments will face us along the way. This week take a look had how good you are/aren’t with adjusting, and be honest with yourself. Once you assess this, then start applying new methods to move forward and truly get comfortable with adjustments.

Now to the kitchen cabinets . . .

Lost in Transition

Have you ever been between jobs and unemployed? It sucks. There’s no greater truth. Throughout my 30+ years of my career, I’ve been in transition twice when I wasn’t working in HR. I wanted to spend some time on this topic because I’m seeing a very unsettling trend. Even though there are millions of people who are unemployed, little is being done to help them.

I’m not talking about social assistance or making a political statement. We need to step back, be reflective, and evaluate this situation because we can make a difference in the lives of others if we choose to. The reality in our lives is that we may genuinely feel bad for those who are unemployed, but we expect them to buck up and shoulder the work (and it IS work) to find a new job. If we were honest with ourselves, we’re concerned if we’re personally employed first and foremost. I understand that and it is important because you want to be able to provide for yourself and those you support. Don’t you think that the same sentiment is important for those in transition as well?

Being in transition is draining, frustrating, and stressful. Like it or not, much of how we define ourselves is through our occupation. If you don’t think that’s true, take note of the first question most of us ask, and receive, when we meet someone for the first time. It’s, “So, what do you do?” We ask about their work and employment. It shouldn’t be the first things we ask, but that’s for a different post.

After time, people in transition lack the confidence, energy, and initiative to keep plodding on. They feel isolated and may even feel like a failure. It isn’t true, but no words of encouragement can breakthrough. The emotional toll that hits people in transition is significant. They may not share it with you, but it’s present and makes any job search of any length even more challenging.

Now, this is the point in most HR blogs where there are tips and tricks for jobseekers including effective networking, resume construction, how to use social media, etc. There are several people who have solid insights and suggestions which can be referenced and used. I want to offer a different suggestion that falls outside giving people more work in order to find work.

Ask those in transition one question – How can I help you?

That’s it. It sounds simple but it will call for you to make a commitment that requires consistency, follow-through, and being willing to put others ahead of yourself.

We don’t do this as often as we could. As HR professionals, we should have more natural connections with our peers and other employers than any other profession. Since that is the case, how can we be more intentional in making connections for people? I’m not talking about filling openings in your own organization. I’m talking about helping people in transition just because you can !!

I’ve been facilitating an in person HR Roundtable for 20+ years. It pains me that we haven’t been able to meet in person for several months due to the pandemic. Several years ago, a peer of mine came up to me after one of our meetings and asked if I’d consider putting people’s resumes out on a table at the back of the room. I was a bit confused. I explained to him that this was an “HR” Roundtable, and he countered without hesitation, “Then why wouldn’t the people who work with people help others? It seems natural to me. By the way, I’d like to put my resume out too.” I was floored and embarrassed by the oversight.

The next month we set up a resume table and have had one ever since. We also allow anyone in transition to attend regardless of their background. I opened up the forum for two reasons. First, HR professionals need to realize we are businesspeople first. We should embrace that and own it. Secondly, people in transition needed a way to show they are talented, smart, and willing professionals who just happen to be between gigs. It’s not uncommon to announce at the end of roundtable gatherings that several people have found jobs.

You see, people need to get healthy emotionally before they land again. YOU can be the person who helps them along that path !! This week, reach out and talk to those who are looking for work that are in your sphere. It may be a neighbor, a friend’s spouse or partner, or a stranger. (Yes, a stranger.)

We can be the solution to helping others find themselves and stop them from being lost in transition. I hope you take this to heart and reach out a helping hand. It only takes one question . . . How can I help you?

Lessons from Lava Lamps !!

If you’ve read this blog for any time, or if you know me personally, I’m pretty much a hippie. Now, I don’t have the “look” much anymore, but I do have the vibe. I’ve always related to the general positive approach to life that embraces people for who they are and where they are in life. I dig tie-dye as a personal fashion statement even though it went out of style decades ago. It’s a natural choice for me.

One of the iconic items from this approach to life is the lava lamp. I remember seeing them in a neighbor’s house when I was a teenager. I was fascinated by the warm glow and the globs of liquid moving up and down the colored water. He was a stereotypical kid of the 70’s with his room filled with blacklight posters, incense, and a bead curtain that hung at the entrance to his room. I felt at home and have held onto this fascination with this simple, decorative item.

As a confession, I have four lava lamps in my office and three more at home. I was even given one this past Christmas as part of a secret Santa exchange. It has a Bluetooth speaker in it which you can stream through as it’s glowing and moving !! It’s epic. I love having the lamps on, and they are the first switches I throw on when I hit my office door.

Now, this may sound a bit “out there,” but I think we can take lessons from lava lamps which apply both to practicing HR and in interacting with people. You see, by themselves, lava lamps are fairly non-descript. There’s a metallic base and cap at the top of a tapered cylindrical piece of glass. The liquid inside may be clear or colored, but it is nothing more than a filled tube that is basically inanimate.

Sitting motionless at the bottom of the liquid is a chunk of some colored waxy goo which could honestly be a candle. The lamp will be another piece of furniture unless you take a simple action. You need to click the switch to turn on the lightbulb which is hidden in the base of the lamp !! That simple motion will give this throwback novelty the energy it needs to bring it to life.

The waxy substance will start to liquefy due to the heat and, over a few hours, it will start to separate and move to form ovals of various sizes which float to the top of the lamp and slowly glide back down. Once it’s fully heated, the lava lamp sets the mood of movement, peace, and calm. It’s fulfilling its purpose.

What does this obsession with lava lamps have to do with HR and interacting with people? Everything !!

Too often we sit inanimate in our offices just waiting for some tragedy to unfold. Too many HR pros feel their only reason for existence is to be called upon when some uncomfortable employee relations issue arises. We begrudgingly jump into action well after we could have been involved. This becomes our general approach to work and HR is seen in a negative light throughout the organization. We shrug and take on the burden of what we feel is our calling and we’re miserable. Makes you want to go into HR, doesn’t it ??

It never has to be this way. If you took a new approach and saw the amazing people around you like lava lamps, you could take the simple action of flipping their switch to turn on the lights that are hidden inside each of them. It may take hours, or much longer, for them to warm up to you. But, take heart, they will because each of us is looking for the intentional move by someone to acknowledge and value that we exist and want to contribute. At times, we make HR far too complicated and hard. Each person in your organization wants this uncomplicated act to occur every day.

What would your company look like if every person knew they had value, were cared for, and were believed in? Trust me, it would transform the world of work as we know it !!

So, this week instead of falling into the mindless pattern of task and compliance which you think defines you and how HR is accomplished, flip the switch on the lives waiting for attention all around you. Go out and get a lava lamp !! Put it on your desk wherever you’re working now and turn it on every day as a reminder that you can be the spark which brings life to others. Click !!

Choose If/Then

One of my favorite activities around the house is to mow my lawn. I mean it. I enjoy it because it takes between 2 to 3 hours to do it. I’m a bit old fashioned in that I walk to mow. It’s incredible excercise which allows me to let my thoughts wander and have a good think.

As I was dripping with sweat this weekend taking my weekly lawn mowing jaunt, I was pieceing together something that has been troubling me lately with how people are choosing to interact in person, on line and through the media. More and more it seems that we are becoming an “either/or” society. Every situation and every issue tries to be dissected into two sides. The sentiment that is prevailing is that I either need to believe in what you believe, or I am adamantly against you.

It doesn’t help that we get snippets of information, or opinion, and we call that “news.” News that infuriates most and raises the temperature with every story that is shared. In looking at this, it shocks me how we take these tidbits of information and form full fledged approaches to our daily living. We have become so self-consumed and self-focused that anything happening around is also is either for us or against us.

I have never been comfortable with being presented with only two choices in life. To think that the amazing, complex, intricate and ever-changing world we live in can be simplified into such concrete black and white terms seems constricting and narrow. Truth be told, I think people want an “either/or” pattern in life because we don’t like variability. Each day we think our existence is to trod to work to fix everything because it’s ALL broken. (That’s not true, but we like to think it is because that’s how we find purpose in our work. That’s for another post some day.)

People also want to be “right” and have some sense of control. Uncertainity gives us the shakes and we want things defined. Change is our enemy even though change occurs whether we want it to or not. I’d like to offer a different approach to implement when it comes to facing each day.

Choose an “if/then” approach.

If you remember geometry, you had to figure out mathematical proofs using if/then statements. What this did was take the situation/circumstance/fact you start with and say, “If this . . . then that.” The then statement would give you options to consider. This method gives you the opportunity to take an objective look at things as they come forward.

A few weeks ago, my wife Debbie and I went on an Art Walk in Elk Rapids, Michigan. It was a meandering trail through a local park where artists had created and displayed their work. You had a flyer which led you from piece to piece and it was very cool and relaxing to see. The canopy of the trees provided a break from the heat and you could hear the rustling of leaves, the chatter of squirrels and the various calls of birds. It was a true escape. One of the sculptures we saw was called “Peace Signs” by Scott Froschauer and it captured my attention both because of the message as well as the if/then thinking. I was grateful to have a break from my normal overly full life to take this hike and discover a message that rang true with me. Normally, I would be consumed with the day-to-day pull for my energy and attention and may have missed this literal signpost which caused me to pause.

This coming week what would happen if you adopted some if/then approaches to all you do both at work and at home? Here are some I’ve been trying:

✦ If I take time to talk to my neighbors more intentionally, then we may have a true neighborhood.

✦ If I make sure to interact with my peers at work all the time, then we would communicate better and not just meet because of “issues.”

✦ If I choose to listen to those who disagree with me, then I may learn a new perspective to consider.

✦ If I encourage others on purpose, then they may have a better day then they were expecting.

The opportunities are endless. The key to an if/then approach is that it focuses on action and movement. I choose to do this so I can be positive regardless of the constant push of darkness, gloom and cynicism which keeps trying to swallow us all.

If you’ll take this new approach, then think of how each day you have will be better for you and those around you !! Peace.

To Dream . . .

If you took a poll right now in workplaces, the title of this post might be “to survive” or “just exist.” It’s tough right now. The work environment is being tested and challenged in ways it hasn’t in our lifetime. You have those who have been working remotely for months that have altered their living space, their schedules and their approach to work. There are also people who have been working ever since the pandemic began and haven’t missed a beat. Even though that has been the case for them, “work” doesn’t look like it used to. Unfortunately, there is also a very large number of people who are in transition and are not working. Any time that occurs you face personal, professional and economic obstacles while you’re trying to successfully land once again.

Each day is consumed with extenuating circumstances that have very little to do with the role we are expected to perform. The stress levels are higher and people are more emotional than I can remember. Throw on top of all this the constant level of uncertainty that seems to hang over everyone like a constant shadow. What can we effectively do in these challening times ??

We can dream.

“What?” you may think. Is it possible to break out of the mire and darkness that is trying to swallow us? Yes, it is. And, I’d also throw out there that we all need to gather ourselves to see how we can once again be creative in who we are and what we do.

Please note I’m not suggesting that you dream just to be aspirational. I feel it’s a great time to expand our approach to HR, people practices, workplace culture and how we conduct business. It would be a shame for us to just try to wait things out in the hope that things would return to “normal.” We all need to come to terms with the reality that the world of work has changed. It won’t, and shouldn’t, be the same any more.

The dreams I’m asking you to consider need to lead to tangible action both within your organization and in the profession of HR as a whole. This will take incredible effort to pull yourself out of all that’s going on. Your mind will tell you that you don’t have the energy or the time to come up with anything new. The pull will be immense and it will be easy to stay where you are, but fight it and dream.

I don’t want to be presumptuous and tell you to incorporate your new ideas in any particular area because each of you has a vast landscape of opportunities. Even if the topic was the same, the factors of each person and workplace would be different. Instead of looking to mimic someone else’s practices, step out and make something that fits you, your people and your company.

Look at every facet of an employee’s experience and see if it can be improved. There’s room for growth all around you. The key is to dream. You can. It’s time. We’ve been brought to the forefront of leadership over the past few months. Don’t let this time pass.

Lift your eyes up, be encouraged and dream. I’m geeked to see what you’ll create !!

Discipline(d)

I’ve been trying to read more and listen to more podcasts because I enjoy hearing the perspectives of others. My hope is to learn from what they are experiencing. In the midst of this when I listen to the HR voices, I see a common thread of reverting to creating and developing mountains of policies in order to address the current work environment and situation.

There are blogs and webinars about Return to Work policies. Now that we’re seeing that uncertainty is becoming more of the norm, there are more calls for discipline and punishment for those we KNOW are falling outside the boundaries we expect them to stay in. We keep striving for control and a lack of variablity in a time when variability is the norm !!

If you lead with “policy” as your first step, then I contend you’re completely missing the people aspect of your work. This is more reflective of how your company, and HR, truly view those who are your “greatest asset” on every mission statement adorning every company lobby. It continues to astonish me that people feel if we punish, address and confine people more tightly, then we’re sure to get the behavior we expect.

This has NEVER worked, and it NEVER will !!

I can already hear the traditionalist espousing that without stringent policies for every aspect of a person’s work life, abject chaos is sure to occur. They’re already listing one hundred HR horror stories of what happened when policies weren’t forcefully enacted. That has been their experience when working with people. This is flat miserable HR in my opinion, and I want to offer a different way to look at how discipline could occur in your organization.

Be disciplined first yourself.

It sounds simple and trite, but it takes incredible effort and energy. People struggle with being personally disciplined. We have no problem citing chapter and verse and then eagerly running to grab the form we spent days creating to make sure it was perfect in every possible way so we can enforce what is truly needed to maintanin order. That is simple.

Being disciplined yourself calls for you to be consistent, approchable, and willing to coach up rather than punish. There are many other ways to be disciplined physically, emotionally and spiritually. What I’d like you to consider is being displined yourself so you have to discipline others less.

Let me ask you this . . . Do you interact with others because you “can” or because you “have” to? Do you only spend more than 30 seconds with someone because of some assumed problem? Do you spend time with people because they’re great humans who come to work every day to do their best?

The number one reason I’m in HR is that I have the joy of being with people every day on purpose. That’s not some idyllic motivational aspiration. It’s a fact. People are amazing, messy, wonderful, challenging, inspirational, curious beings who seek to add value and be acknowledged – just like you are. We forget that everyone is a person.

You see, by being self-disciplined in how I view others, I can see the best in them. By working on being consistent, intentional and approachable, I can enter any interaction between two or more people with confidence. The approach is to have a conversation and assess what’s in front of us. If someone has gone out of bounds, then I coach them back in. Along with that I explain that if they choose to keep going out of bounds, there will be consequences.

I understand the need for parameters and definitions for how to work well, and I believe in them. What I don’t believe in is an archaic system built on punishment. I know people will disappoint me just as I could disappoint others. However, making the time to invest in others to learn who they are, what they’re interested in and how they’d like to perform well leads to a culture where hard core disciplining of others diminishes. It does.

When people know they’re valued by you and the organization, they are more likely to perform.

What would HR look like for you if you followed the expectation of pouring into others because they came to work that day? No other reason. You intentionally interactied with everyone you encountered just because. No agenda. No yearn to get in, get out and get back to your other tasks. Instead, you made the time to converse because you could. If you have to jump into a conversation more around the work at hand, fine, but don’t make that the reason you start the conversation.

I’m telling you if you developed this discipline, you’d start to believe in others and expect they would give their best. HR would then become the profession you’d always hoped it would be !!

This week start being discipline(d) yourself and see people for the great contributors they always have been !! You’ll soon be astonished how full and rich your days become.

Untangle the Knots !!

I don’t know what the weather has been like where you are, but it’s been extremely hot and humid where I live. It’s the kind of humidity that feels like you’re constantly swimming through thick steam. Even though it’s so moist and sticky, life continues and chores need to be tended to around the house.

I live in the suburbs and am fortunate to have an 1/2 acre lot with very mature trees. Our house seems to be an animal sanctuary because we have birds of every sort, squirrels, rabbits, and deer. We don’t have a “wooded” lot, but we still regularly get deer who travel through to eat the bird seed and chew on different vegetation. We are trying to grow two types of tomatoes and some green peppers in planters out on our back patio. The tomato plants were full of the first round of tomatoes, and I was set to harvest them the following day when they were all gone !! I’m sure our friendly deer had a nice snack.

We don’t mind having the deer come through because we had babies born each year for the last four years. I saw a new fawn just yesterday and we’re geeked that another new life has joined us. I did want to try to also enjoy our vegetables, so I went out to put a fence up to surround all of the plants. The fencing and the posts went up easy enough and I had some twine to secure the posts to the fencing. When I tried to get enough twine to cut pieces for the many posts, all I found was one giant knot. It took forever to even find an end to work from.

I started finding an end and then decided to take the time to remedy this giant intertwined mess. Did I mention it was hot? I was determined. I stood with the sun beating down on me trying to untangle the knot so the twine could be used for it’s given intention. As I slowly worked loop after loop through each other, my thoughts made me feel that this situation was very similar to everything that is going on around us.

People are all in knots over a variety of large scale, societal issues on top of all of the knots I’m sure they’re facing in their personal life. When we get bound up we don’t like it. We respond in a few ways to try to get things back in order. We fight against each strand which inevitably leads to more and more knots magically forming. Everything seems to constrict into tighter and tighter circumstances. Another response is to stop moving. The entanglement seems too daunting and we don’t have the energy to address anything, so we stay put. The third response is to just cut the knotted section out. Instead of trying to work through things, we hit a point where we feel that just cutting the knotted section out will fix everything. It never does.

I heard Trevor Noah the host of The Daily Show make an astute observation that he feels Americans look at things from only two sides. There’s only one choice or another, and when we only have those options they are automatically pitted against one another. We have lost sight of nuance and the inherent variety we have as people. When we limit our choices in life to either/or then we are doomed to become entangled and knots start forming. Our reactions are then in front of us – try to work it out, stop moving or just cut those that disagree with us out of our lives.

To be specific in today’s climate I agree that racism shouldn’t exist in any form in our communities, our workplaces or our approaches toward each other as humans. Also, we all want to feel safe, healthy and for the pandemic to end. Fear and uncertainty seem to be the prevalent leading emotions to every conversation and interaction. My hope is that we see that even in these difficult times, there is room for nuance, dialogue, opinion, action and diversity. There is no one way to address these items. There are a myriad of approaches and I’m encouraged that people are trying to take steps forward.

I was reminded of an Ernest Hemingway quote from his book, The Old Man and the Sea, which felt like it fit all that’s in front of us these days. Here it is . . .

One of the main causes of the knotted experience I’m seeing between people is that we focus on what we don’t have currently in place. We don’t look at our circumstance and environment and see what we can do with what exists. I think we need to find the end of the twine and work together to see how we can come together to untangle the many knots facing us.

I am willing to stay open minded to hear from others because they’re perspective may get one loop, or many, free and help us make progress. The key is knowing that this isn’t a program only in response to heightened emotions. It’s the first step in both moving forward AND connecting us more intentionally.

This week take a look at where knots are happening for you at home, at work, with your family and with your friends. Reach out and say that you’d like to do what you can to untangle the knots. You’ll be glad you did !!

Carry On

Have you noticed, or felt, that we’re stuck? My wife and I were hanging out with another couple enjoying a few Moscow Mules and we caught up on life. Instead of talking about the various activities of our grown children or the status of our jobs, we talked about the constant wave of global events that have happened throughout 2020. Each one has had a profound experience on each of us personally as I’m sure it has for you. There doesn’t seem to be and “end” to any of these events, and maybe that’s the point.

When the pandemic hit (and it’s still happening to some exent), people longed for normalcy and a return to the life and patterns of what we’d been accustomed to doing. Now, the civil unrest, protests and call for social justice has moved us in a new direction emphasizing that we should not return to how things “have been.”

People are frustrated, angry, anxious and uncertain as to what lies ahead for our society and for each of us personally. When this happens, there are three possible reactions which will occur – (1) You’ll stay put because that gives you some sense of stability and less volatility; (2) You’ll do all you can to slide back into comfort zones and make efforts to get out of all that’s going on; and (3) You move forward and carry on.

As I was thinking about writing this week, I had the Grateful Dead radio station playing on Spotify. I am a hippie in the 21st century. The station plays a variety of artists from a similar genre, and one of my favorite groups started playing – Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The song they were singing was Carry On which is one of my favorites.

The song is about a relationship that has broken off, but it is laced with a message of encouragement to carry on because “love is coming, love is coming to us all.” With everything that is daily affecting us, I want to assure you that we can, and should, move forward by carrying on. We’re all tired and reaching the end of our ropes emotionally, physically and spiritually. The people I talk to are exasperated. They want to move forward, but are just so spent they don’t know how. If movement doesn’t occur soon, then they’ll become stagnant and ambivalent. This doesn’t have to happen.

At some time, we all will need to carry on. Now, I’m not going to be so bold as to list specific steps and a model to help you do this. I will say though that in order to start carrying on, you need to acknowledge that you can’t stay put where you are. It’s not easy and the urge to remain where you currently are is powerful and hard to break. You may even feel that others will chime in and tell you they’re not moving forward themselves, and they will do their best to have you join them. We can’t afford to do that as people or as HR professionals.

It’s time for us to take beliefs, words and sentiments and turn them into actions. We can’t continue to be aspirational and hope that someone will pick up the mantle and run with it. This is our task and our opportunity. So, what can you DO to ensure inequality and racism isn’t present in your practices and organizations? What can you DO to care for former employees who are now in transition after the pandemic? What can you DO to show your company that every situation in your company is centered around people? Every. Situation.

It’s easy to get caught up in the ground swell of emotions of all that is going on. I’m sure you’ve experienced strong feelings yourself. After time, this level of emotion, passion and outcry for sustainable change will subside. It always does. A good friend of mine and I were talking about this, and he had a great suggestion which he finds works well.

Write down what you want to accomplish in your calendar and then write out steps you need to reach that accomplishment. Set them all up as reminders so they don’t disappear. Let them be gentle nudges for you to continue to carry on.

As I mentioned before, I’m not going to give you absolute suggestions for you to pursue. I don’t know what is facing you – but you do !! Let’s all commit to not remain stagnate. Let’s be intentional in putting accomplishments out in front of us to see ourselves, and our companies, improve. Let’s make our words turn to action. Let’s all carry on !!

Just so you have a little reminder and inspiration to get you started, here’s the CSNY classic for your listening pleasure . . .

Not Sure What to Say

It’s rare that I don’t have words readily available to type and share. I have been struggling with all of the unrest happening around the country and in my city. I wanted to say something, and I’ve been apprehensive for a few reasons. First of all, I don’t want to make a statement that would be taken out of context which is easy to have done with anything that is but a snapshot of words in time. Secondly, writing about a racial issue when I’m a white man makes me anxious as well. I don’t want my words to be taken in a way that lessens or marginalizes anyone. However, I needed to say something.

I recently read that in a time of crisis, people of courage take a stand. I choose to step in on this with grace and a yearning to understand. Along with everyone else, I hear people screaming for people to pick a side and be held “accountable.” In fact, I’ve had friends cast their sentiments and shame on me for not instantly, and emotionally, respond to all that’s happening. I realize that I’m a visible person in the world of HR, and I choose to be one on purpose. With that, I don’t feel you can only comment on all that’s good, but you should also respond when things are challenging and uncomfortable.

I ache for what is happening. I truly do. I don’t pretend that I have the same background, fear and anger that many do because my life has not been made up of the same experiences. I understand that I am treated differently because I am white and not black. I don’t agree with it and I never have. To me, I am disheartened because people have lost their lives. There are families who have lost those dear to them forever when it didn’t need to happen, and we all know that in a moment a bad decision can be made that will change the course of a person’s life forever.

The country has been filled with angst, emotion and frustration for some time. All that has been happening with the pandemic, endless political rhetoric and a constant focus on all that’s “wrong” with our existence has consumed the majority of our thoughts and conversations. I’ve seen injustice occur when a spark is lit and the bucket of emotions unleashes. It’s honestly a cycle we refuse to address and break from.

And, here’s where I get stuck for words . . .

You see, I don’t dare be prescriptive or should that “this” action should happen or “that” person should be addressed. That’s only because there are far too many of us who need to act and speak up. It’s not only the people involved in the loss of life.

I’ve seen many contacts and friends who are beside themselves and have very publicly shouted that they’re getting off social media because they just can’t handle it anymore. I’m concerned when people step away only because it can lead to a trap of isolation, intimidation and indifference. I would hope there’s a chance and a window to engage, understand and have dialogue even when emotions are running high.

This past weekend, I was in Indianapolis with my wife visiting our daughter. As we were walking through the neighborhoods around Mass Ave., I saw this piece of art which captured what I can do during this time. It’s a crossing sign that has two alternative messages on it versus the traditional Walk/Don’t Walk. It shows “Don’t Care/Care” and the button below says, “Push button to change.” As we came up on the sign, it was on the blue light saying, “Don’t Care,” and we pushed the button to make the sign express “Care.”

Now, I know this is an analogy and just a visual cue. However, I believe that in all this unrest what I can do more than ever is care. I choose to do that by reaching out to friends who I know are angry and fearful. I’ve had conversations already and plan to reach out to others to check in. I’ve asked for context and not “why” when we’ve talked. I want them to know that I’m here for them no matter what.

That may seem minor and not doing “enough” in the eyes of many. What you need to understand though is that I have lived my life with the belief and behavior of meeting you WHERE you are and for WHO you are in every aspect of your life. While the world keeps ripping itself apart over ignorant words, self-aggrandizing tweets, and a cult of personality, I choose to engage people as humans, and I will continue to do so.

I value our differences and see them as strengths and attributes that make you a wonderful person worth engaging and knowing. I refuse to be someone who is called upon to only know others if I have to compartmentalize, label, judge, marginalize or generalize them.

I care about people and I ache that once again race has become something that divides us. I want to see that change and I am going to do that one person at a time. It’s been said for centuries that “actions speak louder than words.” I hope you are reflecting on how you can genuinely express care for people for who they are and where they are in life. To me this is basic and foundational.

In getting ready to write this, I did find some words that captured my heart well from of all places – Nike. Take a look and let’s do all we can to bring people together and move forward.