Something to Believe In !!

Do you remember the movie Bull Durham ?? It’s one of my all-time favorites. There’s a scene where Susan Sarandon meets with Tim Robbins (the talented pitching rookie) and Kevin Costner (the long-term minor league catcher), and she’s deciding who’ll she’ll be dating that season. Costner gets fed up being treated like he has to prove himself and stands to walk out. Sarandon challenges him and asks him what he believes in, and he gives one of the best answers ever captured in the movies. She responded almost breathlessly, “Oh my !!”

Costner’s character was ready to act on what he believed, and he held to it. I know it’s just a movie, but I appreciate the example. Belief in something greater than yourself is needed because it gives you direction and clarity. In today’s never ending stream of chaos, it seems that being someone who has beliefs isn’t popular.

Just using the word “belief” raises the defenses of others. This seems odd to me because having beliefs doesn’t mean that you are automatically contrary to others. I admire people who will be definitive and state what they believe in and stand by it. It doesn’t upset me or offend me that others have different beliefs than I do. In fact, I wouldn’t expect it to be otherwise because people are unique. Even if you picked one particular belief that two people “shared”, they would interpret it differently.

It also seems to me that people don’t want to talk and dialogue about having varying points of view. Instead, people want to scream their beliefs with the expectation that you support what they believe . . . or else. This saddens me. I value that people look at the world from different viewpoints and perspectives. I learn from others even if I don’t hold to what they believe. I don’t think that we should want everyone to be the same. All I’d like to see is that people respect differences. I think that if this occurred, then we’d have a chance to reach consensus on many things that would hopefully move us forward.

The reason I wanted to tackle this potentially volatile topic, is that I think it is a facet of what we do in HR. We work with people who come from drastically different backgrounds. Even when we think there may be similarities in people, they are far outweighed by the uniqueness that everyone brings to the workplace every day. Each of our employees has beliefs. They may, or may not, express them. But, you need to know they exist. It drives how they behave and how they perform.

We tend to shy away from asking about what our team members believe. I understand that because we’re not sure what we’ll hear. I think what’s key is not what you hear, but how you respond. I have found that when I take the time to listen to my team members I hear what they believe. Those thoughts and perspectives give me a better understanding of them as a human, and that’s the key.

I can’t lose sight that we’re in the business of humans. Ever.

So, this week, I want you to take the chance to understand that having beliefs is innately human. Then, I want to also challenge you to listen to what other’s believe in and not judge. You may not agree with them. Most likely you won’t. But, understanding humans is needed now more than ever.

Like I said in the beginning, I have beliefs. I believe that people want to do good more often than not. I believe in having faith and showing grace. I believe in encouragement and lifting others up consistently. I believe in creativity, laughter, enjoying tie-dye and all types of music. I’m defined by my beliefs . . . and you are defined by yours.

Encourage Daily !!

We all have things that have become daily habits. They range from when you wake up to whether you have breakfast or not to how you commute to work. These daily activities are so ingrained into our lives that we actually notice if something is slightly off. In fact, those slight variations can throw us off greatly (but we’re good with change – remember?)

Consistency is needed in our lives. We like consistency, and it gives us comfort knowing our daily routine. What’s interesting about our patterns is that they are most likely self-focused. We take care of ourselves far more than others. There is value in this, but it also may set up blinders. We can become numb to our routine and just glide through it without thinking about it.

When my kids were very young, I would take them to daycare everyday. It was a given part of my morning ritual Monday through Friday. I enjoyed getting their day started before heading into the office. One day, I packed my son into the car and started my commute. This day, however, I turned onto the highway and was blissfully moving in and out of traffic. About five miles along, a small voice from the back seat said, “Dad, am I going to daycare today?” I snapped out of my haze, and there was my son waving to me as I looked in the rear view mirror. He laughed hysterically with glee about my panic. We turned the car around and I dropped him off before heading back to work.

My routine had lulled me into just going through the motions to the point that I ignored my son !! I think this happens to too many people as we go into work. Why do you think people came up with the term “the daily grind”?

Aren’t you tired of this? Wouldn’t you like to break out of the doldrums and have a vibrant, engaged day – every day ?? I do and I have a way for you to break out of the doldrums as well. Encouragement.

We pass by a countless number of people every day without even noticing. They aren’t part of our daily habit. That needs to change. A friend of mine, Carlos Escobar, blogged and shared a video of a subway transit worker who greets every single person every day. He intentionally takes the time to say “Hello” to every person.

Encouragement is so simple and yet so difficult. The act of encouraging and saying something to lift someone up takes seconds of your day. Seconds. Not hours, seconds. We come up with excuses of why we shouldn’t encourage others. We may even fall into the awful mindset that if we encourage others they’ll “expect it” !!

In order to fight the urge to avoid, I want to encourage you to make encouragement a daily habit. Also, I want you to lift up everyone you encounter – even those who may not want it. This simple act will completely alter your daily outlook on life, work and interactions. Encouragement is the baseline for healthy relationships.

Tomorrow, as you start your work week, begin to notice others. Start a new daily routine. You’ll see the dark part of your days lighten up. You’ll see people respond positively where that may not have been the case. It’s worth the effort. Encourage others daily !!

I Like What I Like !!

When my kids were small, eating out was an adventure to say the least. Our options included any restaurant that had some form of chicken nuggets. I don’t know how that gets into their DNA, but it did. We couldn’t vary from this extremely limited option. Ever.

The lack of variety seemed as if it would last for eternity, but as they grew we could try other exotic foods like hot dogs or even a hamburger. With so many choices available, I couldn’t understand why the kids were so reluctant to try new things. Other foods wouldn’t harm them, and many of them are delightful. That didn’t matter to them. They were steadfast on what they liked. There was no reason to change. They were fed and they liked chicken nuggets. I still shudder when I see them listed on any menu !!

My kids have now grown up into young adults and they are fantastic humans who have a larger palette. My daughter was visiting this weekend as a break from graduate school and we reminiscing about how she, and her brother, ate as a kid. We laughed and she said something profound.

“Dad, you have to remember – I like what I like !!”

Why is this profound? She expressed the reality of every single person on the planet. We all have certain likes and dislikes, and we do our best to limit or avoid those items we dislike. The more I thought about this I was struck at how powerful our likes are.  It’s staggering !!

We tell everyone at work that they should be open and welcome to change. Change that is meant to be positive both personally and organizationally can’t budge people if they don’t “like” it. And yet, we continue to pound and pound the change because it has to happen. Rarely do we ever seek input and feedback because we’re concerned that someone will alter the change we feel is best.

I think we can learn some lessons from my kids. Change can happen and it will, but we can be more effective if we consider some factors.

Change takes time – Change that is sustainable takes time, not an instant demand or flip of a switch. That may be frustrating and test our patience, but the investment of time is needed.

Change need to be incremental – Massive shifts never work. You spend more time picking up pieces and making alterations to get to where you wanted to go. Make small changes that are easy to understand and implement.

Have faith and believe in people – When you involve the people who are affected by the change you want to implement, the chance of success rises incredibly. People expect context, and the more they get there is a better chance they will “like” the change.

It’s time for us to recalibrate  how we make change occur in our organizations. We need to take into consideration what people like as our framework to build from. If you do this and take the time to be intentional with your change, chances are more people will “like” it !!

Just Flourish !!

Unless you’re a self-avowed hermit, you’re surrounded by people. It’s inevitable that there are humans around you the majority of your day. Since that is the environment you find yourself in, you have a choice to embrace it or avoid it. This isn’t due to where you fall on the extroversion/introversion scale. You will choose how much human interaction works for you – and you should. We all have a limit. If we cross that, we tend to get frustrated, flustered and annoyed.

Being with people is more than just swimming among others as you pass through the hallways to their office/cubicle to have work related conversations. That type of interaction is necessary in order for good work to be accomplished. I would almost categorize those instances as “forced.” I don’t mean that you are reluctant to have conversations. It’s more like you have work conversations in order to get the next facet of your work at hand to move forward. They can be friendly, cantankerous or obligatory. They happen whether you “wanted” to have them or not.

The difficulty I see that happens all around me is that these pass by conversations make up the vast majority of communication today. It’s not only at work either. When people are using social media, you get quick snippets of partial thoughts. Or, you may get a picture in time of a great event or accomplishment. People taking time at home to truly interact without distraction is becoming an extinct approach. Again, I’m not making a right/wrong judgement here. It’s our reality and we need to acknowledge it. However, it doesn’t have to define us !!

Taking time to develop relationships has become a lost art. Unfortunately, the word “relationship” has been tarnished because of the unacceptable actions of some. That doesn’t have to be the case. Investing your time with others is incredibly valuable, and also necessary !!

We are never fulfilled when we only have pass-by conversations. We feel that something is missing because we can’t keep current with the pace. We don’t push through it enough because we’re concerned that the other person won’t reciprocate. I haven’t found that to be the case. In fact, I think people flourish when you give them your intentional time and attention.

I’d like to propose a different approach for you personally and especially if you’re in HR. Choose to have relationships that flourish !!

I think there are different gradients in this and you need to read the other person to see when they feel that things are full. Respect that. I mean it. Flourishing relationships have balance, mutual levels of input and especially authenticity. You can’t “fake it to  you make it” and have a meaningful friendship.

I’ve mentioned this in the past, but I use my commute differently than most. I’m in the car about an hour each way to and from work. Every night I call people and have long conversations. We talk about work, HR, life, etc. There are inevitable times of laughter as well as times of deep philosophy. We may argue various styles of music and ask for each other’s support in the situations we are each facing in life.

The point is this. I want to pour into their lives so that they will pour into the lives of others !! I know that every moment I can invest in the lives of others that they will invest in others as well. When this happens, then lives improve. When lives improve, relationships improve. And, when relationships improve that grows into other relationships to improve the workplace. This isn’t Utopian. It works.

So, this week in the midst of the pass-by snippets of conversation that will still fly around you, invest in someone. Start with a close friend. Make that relationship flourish and then build from there. You’ll be glad you did !!

Be Good

A few weeks ago I received a nondescript envelope in the mail at work. It was from my dear friend, Brad Galin, who also happens to be in HR. Inside the envelope was a small scrap of paper and a sticker. The note said, “Saw this and thought of you. – Brad” I looked at the sticker and smiled.

A small black circle with a positive message that fit in the palm of my hand stated – Be Good to People.

It’s a simple message. Four words that carry incredible weight and meaning.

It’s interesting that there’s an entire company that produces this message on a variety of products. (You should check them out !! – Be Good To People) Their whole mission is to spread this message in many different ways so that we all have a visible reminder. They want to see kindness be a constant in our lives and our society.

So, you need to ask – Why would we need this reminder? Unfortunately, it’s necessary because the majority of all that we see, consume and share isn’t good. I appreciate people speaking out against wrongs and ills that are happening in our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our cities and our country. It just seems that we’re constantly in some form of battle that pits people against each other. It’s exhausting and disheartening.

It’s also ironic when someone brings up a simple solution such as “be good,” the response is a scoff and skepticism. Now, THIS is something worth challenging. I’m an unapologetic optimist. I believe in humans without having them go through hoops to earn my trust or respect.

I dig that Brad thought of me when he picked up this sticker. I also appreciate that he took the time to reach out and mail it to me. That personal touch is so meaningful and it gives me a framework on how “being good” can work.

Small actions make a huge impact !!

That’s it. Simple. We need to understand that much of human interaction can turn from ugly to positive by small steps that happen on purpose. When you have that first encounter at work or at home tomorrow to start your week, the move is yours. If you are pressed and you feel your face begin to get flushed with your reactive response, breathe and then be good.

The reason this call to action is so difficult is that we need to fight against our inclination to instantly respond and try to solve something. Being good fights against the urge to react and move on. This call asks you to go against the flow of not only what you’re used to doing, but also how others expect you to respond.

What you need to know is that it’s worth the effort. It doesn’t matter what role you hold in your organization. This call isn’t only for HR because we’re the “people” people. Being good is for all people.

This week look for areas where you can take a small step. When you see that opportunity, take it. It will change your day, your week and possibly your life. Remember this – Be good to people.

HR Kaleidoscope !!

This past week I was fortunate to present to my home SHRM chapter the Greater Cincinnati HR Association (GCHRA). It was special to me because this is the place where I “grew up” as an HR professional. They provided the laboratory to get to meet peers in the field, learn and develop HR skills and learn to grow in the role as a volunteer leader. To be asked to come back and now present to the chapter was amazing.

Please note that I never take the opportunity of speaking at HR events for granted. It is something that gives me energy because few things in life get me more geeked than being with other HR peers !! I was also eager to try out a new “personal workshop” based on my book – HR on Purpose !! The reason I was eager was that I was trying out a new concept for attendees.

The concept is this – I think attendees at HR events expect the speaker to wave some magic wand through their presentation and give people black and white takeaways. These takeaways will be perfect when used regardless of the industry or how HR is viewed in their organization. This just isn’t true. If it was, then we’d all need to hear one presentation from one speaker and then all of our challenges would be solved.

The reason this was framed as a personal workshop is that we discussed topics and concepts, and then everyone took time to write down what mattered to them. Here was the next radical move – no one shared what they wrote down !! No one complained or felt on the spot.

I think that every HR practitioner follows many of the same concepts in their role. However, every company is different. Also, HR has to be pliable and morph into different shapes and sizes because people are unique. We can’t keep thinking that the one approach fits all works. It never has and never will. Why ?? Because HR is a kaleidoscope.

Did you ever have a kaleidoscope as a kid? They are one of the coolest toys because no matter how many times you look through them, the pattern is different. It’s a simple toy. Metal tube (the best are made of tin.) Tiny bits of colored plastic enclosed at one end of the tube that move loosely while still being a bit contained. The end of the tube where the colored bits are can be twisted and rotated to make things roll around and give you a new picture. The only other aspect is looking up towards the light so you can catch the different fractals as they move.

This is just how HR is in reality. We need to look to the light (or positive) side of what we do. Then, move things around and we’ll see the colorful bits (our people) move, shift and perform to make new pictures and results.

After the workshop, several people came up and shared that they had been looking at HR the same way for years and years. Having some time to hear a different perspective and then write down some things to act upon reenergized them. They left eager to apply something they learned based on what THEY needed !! It’s not a novel concept, it’s just something we’ve not done.

Going to HR events, chapter meetings and conferences is essential so that you get your batteries recharged and you also meet, and hang out with, your HR compatriots. The key is to twist your kaleidoscope and no longer go just to be motivated and jacked up by a speaker. Try something new and take notes that work for YOU so that you can continue to grow and thrive in all you do !!

I recommend that you do one more thing. Buy a kaleidoscope for yourself and keep in in your workplace as a reminder to keep HR fresh and colorful all the time. I have one that I look at all the time. It works !!

What Are You Reading ??

I know that it is a bit odd to ask what you’re reading when it’s currently this blog. But, I want to delve a bit deeper than the obvious because I’ve seen a flurry of posts and efforts asking if you’re reading books. And, if you are, which books are you reading?

I don’t think this is a mistake and I’m encouraged that interest in book reading has surfaced once again. I’m a book reader. I love being a traditionalist when it comes to books. I understand that using readers are convenient and you can take them everywhere. I just happen to be someone who likes to feel the pages and read from either a hardcover or paperback.

I love that books are having a resurgence because we honestly don’t read enough. We are a society of “watchers.” This isn’t right or wrong. It’s just how we spend our time. The reading we do is in snipets and quick hits because we feel we don’t have enough time for more. We’re glued to screens. Trust me. As I type this, I’m including myself in this mix.

There are many reasons to read books. My favorite reason is that they continue to expand your horizons and keep your imagination alive. We need to use something to feed this urge because if we don’t, our thoughts atrophy. This is career limiting and we don’t even see it.

Too often we get stuck in a pattern that seems to mimic walking around in circles. This is true in our work and in our lives. If there isn’t something that adds a spark of interest, or a distraction, we’ll just keep plodding on and on making a deeper and deeper rut that keeps us from looking around.

One of the great opportunities that we have in HR is that we can infuse life and new ideas into our roles and into the workplace. I would even be so bold as to say that HR would be more valuable than it is already if we took this approach. Instead of working so diligently to keep people “in line”, why don’t we take new approaches to help them perform?

How can you do this? Read. A. Book.

Take an assessment of what is/isn’t going on in your workplace and then find books that can help you learn about different methods. It doesn’t mean that you will find a single method/model to solve what you’re facing. But, if you don’t learn about new ideas, you’ll continue to do what you know and nothing else. You don’t have to only read HR and business related books either. It’s great to read books from all types of genres because your brain gets charged and is interested to take in more and more. We make our company’s better when we bring new ideas to be considered.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started. The first is to subscribe to Goodreads. We always do better when others join in around us. If you’re a part of Goodreads, you share the books you’re enjoying and see what your friends are reading as well. You may get ideas for books you never considered !! The other effort is being launched by Laurie Ruettimann called the #HRBookClub. Laurie is encouraging people to join in and read a book a month. Think of that !! You’ll have 12 books read after one year. Very cool.

I’m not going to try to sway you to read one book or another. I will encourage you though to read. You have the time. I hope you join in this movement because you may find the idea that has just been out of reach. Expand your horizons and get out of your rut. It’s worth it !!

 

The Best Present !!

As the clock ticks toward Christmas, the hype and push for more purchasing increases. It almost reaches a frenetic pace. It seems that the message is that if you don’t make that one final purchase, then your entire holiday season will be less wonderful. The stress that people put on themselves and others in order to gain one more gift that will keep their interest for a day or less is incredible.

Please understand that this isn’t a rant against the cultural trappings of Christmas. My house if fully decorated in almost every room and our light display outside can be seen for blocks. I look forward to going to worship for Christmas Eve and singing Silent Night with a lighted candle in my hand. I enjoy Christmas time and all of it’s sounds, smells and sights. It is a time for me to explore my faith and look forward to the coming year ahead.

This year, something hit me more directly than it had before. I finally have come to terms with what the best present is that I can give someone else. You can’t find it in any store or on any website. It is the easiest gift to give, and yet it often is the hardest to willingly release.

The best present I can give anyone is my presence !!

The one thing I have the most of is my time. It’s something that my family and friends deserve without distraction. I’ve said this before, but I feel it needs to be said again and again. I have more time than I know what to do with. If I don’t have enough time, it’s because of what I choose to do with the time I have. I’m not unique in this. It’s the truth for everyone. The challenge is that we’d rather give people “stuff” than we would ourselves.

I would love to see this change in the coming year. I’d love to see people being present when they have conversations at work, in HR and wherever you encounter others. It may seem impossible because we’re so connected to countless forms of technology. We can’t seem to peel away for even one minute in case we miss a “like”, a retweet or a video. We rarely look up to see the eyes of those we’re talking to. This is happening in meetings, hallways and break rooms.

I’m not against being connected. Far from it. I enjoy the various forums that have allowed me to become more and more connected with folks from around the globe. What I’m asking you to consider is that when you are having a conversation with someone, pay attention to them – and them only. This will take a concerted effort and won’t feel natural. You’ll have to trust me that if you do this, both your day and the day of the person you’ll talking to will improve. It won’t matter if the situation is easy or difficult. What will matter is that the person you’re talking to will see that you’re present. It’s worth your time to listen, and it will be something so different than what others are normally used to.

This year, give a gift to others that you already have – yourself.

 

Moved to Tears

The holidays seem to raise the level of emotions everywhere you go. My wife has the Hallmark Channel on seemingly 24/7 to take in every Christmas movie she can. I peek in every once in awhile as well. It’s great to watch a story with a positive ending !! The mad rush of people gathering gifts that they feel compelled to give to others that may/may not need them. People are more generous during this season and do more to volunteer their time and resources to worthwhile causes.

There also heightened levels of stress, depression and a myriad of feelings when it comes to family gatherings, times of  worship and the inevitable holiday parties at work. All of those make me even more sensitive to my surroundings. You see, I’m emotional all of the time. I know. I know. Everyone is emotional all of the time. However, I am moved at the slightest movement of emotions all around me.

It may sound a little odd, but I am swallowed by the emotions of others. It isn’t just media that I watch. It’s everything. I can be moved to tears by a conversation that happens in my office that wasn’t expected in the least. I always have a ready box of tissue for those who visit me, and for me as well. I realize that there are many folks who view this as a weakness both personally and professionally. There are blogs written about keeping our emotions in check all the time. We are scolded and told to keep those pesky feelings to ourselves. We are to gather for “work” for goodness sake !!

Can’t do it. Won’t do it. It’s difficult to sense the ups and downs of those that work with me and not be affected myself. I’ve shed tears when having conversations with my staff, my boss, executives, volunteer leaders, pizza cooks and many more. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t weep daily. I just make sure to stay open and willing to engage people based on how they’re feeling.

I believe it’s far more valuable to be vulnerable than it is to be jaded.

There are risks in being someone who is moved to tears. There are those who will work with you who will be vocal and may even scoff or deride you. I don’t agree with pitting people against each other ever. It’s detrimental to a company’s culture and it’s leadership. I believe that people should be genuine. Period.

I feel that employees are looking for an HR function that understands the emotions they experience. They aren’t hoping for a system, process or policy. It’s so much more simple than what many consider “go to” methods to practice HR. People want to be heard, acknowledged and understood. That means getting emotional.

I want to encourage you to stop bottling in all that is going on when the feelings and emotions of others come at you. It’s not healthy, and it will assuredly lead to burnout, judgement of others and bitterness. None of those things will allow you to be an effective human resources practitioner.

My kids often poke fun because I’ll get misty at human interest stories at the end of a newscast, a SC Featured story on ESPN, or an episode of This is Us. I will even hear a piece of music and my eyes will well up. I’m good with that. You see, I don’t view being moved to tears as something that makes me a lesser person. I do it because I strive to see the beauty in others. I hope you will too.

(Here’s an example that gets me every time. It is just beautiful !! Take a few minutes out of your day to enjoy Freddie Mercury from Queen and acclaimed soprano Monserrat Cabellé. Yep, shed a tear when I posted it.)

One Thing Leads to Another !!

There’s a myth in the workplace that I’d like to take on, and hopefully debunk. The majority of work that occurs every day regardless of industry is that we strive to be “done.” It consumes us. Entire strategic plans are regularly based on things getting done.

We compensate based on things being done. We establish on-going, and often unrealistic, goals so that people can spend all of their daily efforts towards getting things done. It’s the basis of management theory and it’s how we make organizational design and allow for promotions.

Now, I understand that we need to have completion on projects and tasks. We can’t just keep floating in a constant state of partial accomplishments. The challenge is that when we seek to just get “done”, we’re actually looking for relief. We don’t want to have things completed, we want them to stop. Every task and project has a life. But, if our goal is to have things end so we can breathe, what does that say about how we approach work?

I think this mentality, approach and organizational drive is limiting how much can truly be accomplished !! I mean it. Because our focus is so narrow and limited to getting things “done,” we shrink the possibilities of things unknown, untested ideas and new innovation. I think that if we keep following the mantra of getting things “done” we will never realize the greatness that organizations, and their people, should easily achieve.

The group that is most notorious for this mentality is HR !! We want every box checked, every signature authenticated and every policy followed. When things don’t get done (i.e. performance reviews), we hunt people and shame them into making sure things can be checked off a list. Ugh. We perpetuate the fact that if items have any sort of fluidity chaos will surely ensue. It’s just not true. It never has been. The fact is that most work occurs like clockwork with little to no monitoring at all.

I think it’s time for understand the reality of work and that it’s on a continuum. The great band from the 80’s, The Fixx, captured this when they sang “One Thing Leads to Another.” It’s true. Work is an on-going flow of one thing constantly building on top of another.

Don’t you see this? This fact actually leads to frustration as well because people feel they can’t ever get off the never ending treadmill.  We complain about the next item that comes up instead of understanding that it’s natural. If we would step back and know that another item is waiting for our attention and skills, I think we’d be in a healthier place.

I recommend that you strive for completion of milestones and benchmarks. Yes, I know that means you’re “done” with a phase or facet of what you’re working on. However, it establishes your mindset to get ready for the next step. Celebrate your accomplishments !! Take a breath because nothing is that urgent that you can’t collect yourself, and move on to the next thing – which leads to another !!