It’s okay to ask “Why ??”

My wife and I are fortunate to have two amazing kids !!  They do well in school, are active in our church and our community.  I’m proud to say that.  For those of you who have kids, or if you’ve even been a kid, you know that kids ask one question infinitely.  “Why ??!!”

It doesn’t matter if things are crystal clear and there’s no reason for this question, it happens anyway.  More often than not, I just want them to do what I say and have some faith that I am not leading them down some dark path with my request to clean their room.

Recently, I heard a presentation where the speaker pulled back my eyelids on this question that often seems so annoying.  He explained that people in the workplace ask “Why” because they’re seeking context, not to annoy.  They want to understand the reasoning for decisions.  Seems to be a great trait actually.  I actually agree with him and when I sat back to think about it, I ask “why” all the time.  So, why do I get annoyed when others do it?

I think it goes back to the feeling that we’d like people just to do what we say when we say it.  If we have to spend time explaining things, then that means we’ve lost time doing something else that “matters.”

It’s time for all of our eyelids to be pulled back in HR.  If we’re not asking why for context, and even to challenge, then we can’t expect the status quo to ever move.  Just going along with everything doesn’t show well and we shouldn’t settle and sit back.  Also, we can foster a culture where it’s not only safe for employees to ask “why,” but it’s encouraged !!

If we continue to promote that we want a learning environment that focuses on development, then we must allow people to ask “why.”  What are we afraid of if we did this?  If employees felt safe, and inquired about their work, wouldn’t there be a greater chance of an enriched workforce?  How cool would that be?

So, start a new behavior today and allow people to ask that infinite question. This time when it’s asked, answer them.  Give them context and see what happens.  I think you’ll enjoy the results !!

Put a Little Love . . .

This past weekend I was at the University of Indianapolis with my daughter who decided after this visit to join them next year as a Freshman.  It’s a time of transition for me, my family and my daughter.  Why should that matter to anyone but us ??

Good question.  You see, I’m experiencing a “transition” in my personal life and it just hit me because SEVERAL of my friends have been facing transitions as well.  Just this past month the following has happened:  four HR friends lost their jobs, one HR friend lost her father and another his mother-in-law, three HR friends are struggling with their marriages and/or divorce.  It shouldn’t matter . . . but it does !!

As HR people we don’t take time to know what’s really going on in people’s lives because we think it takes too much time.  Also, if we know about what’s happening we might have to DO something with that information.  Another pressure we face is we have managers who think that personal situations just get in the way of work that REALLY matters.  Ironically, if a personal situation comes up that involves them personally, then they want us to take note.  Huh !!

What would happen if we did take notice of people’s personal situations?  I don’t mean to take it to a creepy level.  Instead, I propose this.  Take note of the various highs/lows that people choose to share and SHOW GENUINE INTEREST instead of passing glances and quick “Hello’s”.  We keep asking people to handle change, and yet we ignore the transitions and changes that are happening to them everyday.  Just by listening, we may relieve the anxiety, pressure and uncertainty of what they’re facing.  I take great joy in laughing with, crying with and rejoicing with people I work with and know that because those events truly matter to them, they likewise matter to me.

You can’t keep asking people to put the “H” back in HR if you aren’t willing to model it yourself.  It made me think of the great 70’s song “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.”  I love the Annie Lennox/Al Green version (in this link).

So, I’m excited about the new transition about to happen as my daughter continues to grow and head off to college next year.  I’m excited about your transitions too because it truly makes “the world a better place for you . . . and me . . . you just wait . . . and see !!”

Are you full ??

This past weekend I had a real treat by spending it in Amish Country in Ohio.  It gives a whole new perspective on life because this culture chooses to live life differently than the vast majority of us !!

This post isn’t a commentary on the Amish, but it is an observation.  As I watched the buggies passing me by and sampling way too much amazing cheese, I noticed a sense of contentment that I don’t see in many people.  These good folks lives are not only are based on their faith, but also on what they choose what to fill their lives with.  The brash realities of a world that exists in a completely opposite realm faces them every day, and yet they continue to live their lives with pride.

As an HR practitioner, much of my day is surrounded by people – and I dig that !!  One of the true challenges I run into is how to respond to people who consistently seem frustrated with almost all aspects of their work and the people they work with.  The more I listen, and sometimes pry, I notice a pattern.  Much of their frustration is based on the sense that they’re “too busy” and “no one understands.”

When I step back from these conversations I try to look and see what is making them “busy.”  All of us are full.  No one says they have extra time on their hands – quite the contrary.  But, what are we filled with?  Are the things that consume our daily lives productive, or not?  It’s not hard to fill your day with “stuff,” or to focus on the areas you’re most comfortable.  It’s human nature.

But, what if we sat down and made a list (paper or electronic) of what our day consists of?  Would we like what we see?  Do we like what we fill our lives at work with?  Too often I hear people churn on what isn’t happening, or what’s not being done.  There’s validity in that, but the approach isn’t constructive.  Making strides forward with intent with what you have available (culture, resources, staff, etc.) is much healthier.

It reminds me of the good people I was with this weekend.  Maybe we would all benefit if we were a little more “full” like the Amish.  What do you think?

It’s Been Quite a Year !!

One year ago, I jumped into the blogosphere after I received my site as an incredible gift from my sister-in-law, Kathi Browne.  Quick side note – she’s incredibly talented and I think you should click through on this link to get more connected to an incredible business and HR resource  . . . but I digress.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect entering the world of blogging.  It was daunting to be honest because I read the great work of so many each day.   I wanted to make sure that this wasn’t a hobby, but would strive to be three things: genuine, consistent and encouraging.

I understand that there are many things in business and HR that raise both concerns and frustrations.  I’m not naive, and I experience those things in my roles both as an HR Director and in my volunteer life with SHRM and Boy Scouts.  The difference is that I choose to take a different path, and suppose I always have.

There are more opportunities to be positive than people choose to take.  It isn’t how most people look at things, and that’s a shame.  So, as I enter my next year of blogging please note that I hope to lift our profession up even more and move it ahead.  It doesn’t mean that you can’t have a critical eye toward things, but it does allow you to approach things differently.

Thanks for sticking with me this first year.  I truly appreciate everyone who chooses to read this blog.  I hope that we continue to connect.  If you feel so inclined, drop me a line at sbrowne@larosas.com or write a comment.  Connect on Linked In, Twitter, Facebook, or join the HR Net, etc.  We can only get better as a profession if we do it together.

Until next week . . . and hopefully years to come . . . Peace to all !!

What Are YOU Looking For ??

This weekend my son and I had to catch the opening of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  My quick review is that it is AWESOME !!  Visually beautiful, great story, action and intrigue.  But that’s not the focus of this post.

In the movie, Holmes sees everything !!  Subtle clues abound even in the midst of constant, heart-pounding action.  By following them, he is able to deduce the intentions of his archenemy, Professor Moriarty.  Nothing is missed and everything has meaning.

Now to a real life story . . .

This Friday, I met a friend at one of our LaRosa’s restaurants for lunch.  Service was spectacular from everyone involved and the food was great.  Yes, I know I’m biased, but I wasn’t the only one who saw this.  My friend asked me if the manager knew that I worked for LaRosa’s in HR.  I told him that I hadn’t met the manager on duty, but knew his name.  I explained that I like to just go to our locations and be more low key.  I don’t want to add any undue pressure.

After the manager had stopped by our table to ask how things were, he did something wonderful (as we both observed).  Instead of doing the “How are things?” and pass by before an answer’s even given, he stood and talked to us.  He waited for our response and then talked some more.  My friend exclaimed, “I love when they do that!  When someone takes the time to truly see how things are is what I expect.  This is great !!”

After my friend left, the restaurant, I walked back into the kitchen and introduced myself.  The reaction from the manager and the Team Members around him is what I’m used to.  It’s the “Oh no, it’s HR !!  I wonder what he wants ??”  I reassured him that I was just meeting someone for lunch, but wanted to share how amazing the service was and my friend’s positive reaction to his experience.  The manager glowed.  The “barriers” of talking to HR dropped, and we talked as people (as it should be).

So, what are YOU looking for ??  My friend and I expected to have a great time together at our restaurant, and we did.  The employees were all performing and people were doing a great job.

Do you look for the great things ??  Maybe it’s time we all did this a little more . . .

Image Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

Have You Played Lately ??

I have !!  Man, the past few weeks have been full of FUN !! And, I work in HR !!  How cool is that?

We had our Christmas Party for our store Managers at Star Lanes at Newport on the Levee.  There was bowling, eating and billiards surrounded by tons of laughter and stories.  It was very casual and loads of fun !!

I also had the privilege of speaking at the chapter meeting of the Greater Cincinnati HR Association (GCHRA) and the event sold out !! Yikes !!  The presentation was on Leadership through HR, and I had a blast.  Lots of laughter, stories and food !!

Then, this weekend I went to the National Museum of the US Air Force on the Wright Patterson Air Force Base with my Boy Scout Troop.  We went through the miles of planes and years of history on a scavenger hunt, took in an IMAX movie and even got to tour through past Air Force One planes.  The boys (and certain adults) let their imaginations run wild and pretend we were fighter pilots.  We all picked our favorite planes that we just HAD to have !!  Again, more laughing, fun and memories.

The ironic thing during all of these activities . . . no one got hurt.  No one was upset.  No one was negative.

It made me start to reflect about what we do in HR.  Is it fun?  Do we allow people to play?  Or, are our processes more important than people?

How about our Associations, Conferences and gatherings?  Fun ?? Parts of them are, but there are also a myriad of rules and structures with good intentions, but limit people from enjoying themselves.

Why is this?  Is someone playing at work, or having fun that threatening?  I’ve said this before. Do you know what happens to kids when they grow up?  They become our employees !!

This week start a new practice before people make silly New Year’s Resolutions that they will strive to break vs. keep.

Have fun at work !!  Quit looking for others to engage you.  Be engaged first yourself !!  Fun is different for all of us, but look around at your company’s culture and see if it fosters creativity or compliance – innovation or conformity.

I plan to play more and more and pull others along with me. Let’s see who’s more productive in the end !!

 

You can count on me !!

You may, or may not know, that I am an incredible music freak !!  I can’t get enough of it and this Thanksgiving weekend a true classic popped into my head – Count on Me by Jefferson Starship.

When my extended family gathers for either Thanksgiving or Christmas, we call it BIG Thanksgiving or BIG Christmas because there are so many family members that attend.  Before we eat and open with a prayer, we count off – literally.  We have had a few family members pass away over the years, but we never stray from this tradition.

So, it begins 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . . . etc. until we get around the oval. (It’s never a circle because there are too many folks.)  This year we had 35 and it’s been as high as 60.  Included are aunts, uncles, cousins, their kids, and starting this year the newest generation has it’s first engaged couple.

I know that you need to be careful about what you do/don’t share on-line, but I’m 47 years old and completely cool with that.  If you met me you’d say I’m at least 28, so age is not the focus here. My family has been getting together intentionally between 50 to 60 years because I have aunts, uncles and cousins older than I am.

Think about that.  Being together, intentionally, for 5 to 6 decades and NEVER missing a holiday.  We’re not unique in this and I’m sure there are families who have met for centuries, but the point of the gathering is this . . . we COUNT on each other to be there all the time.

It’s a great example for you personally as well as an HR professional.  You NEED to be counted on, and others NEED to count on you !!  Too many employees are out on their own within a company and they need someone they can rely on.  Remember, you aren’t their for Management, nor are you there for employees.  You’re there for EVERYONE !!

Is that how you approach HR?  Have you even stepped back to look lately?  Just think how HR would be viewed in organizations if people knew they could be counted on !!

This week, start something new and reach out to someone in our profession and get connected. Be someone that others can count on !!

Spanning Boundaries !!

This past week I went to the SHRM Leadership Conference . . . on purpose !!  I have the honor of becoming the next State HR Council Director for Ohio SHRM in January 2012.  This is the same Council that this year won a Pinnacle Award from SHRM and also donated $40,000 to the SHRM Foundation for training resources regarding bringing vets back to work. Humbled !!!

I went to the Conference to meet other volunteer leaders from around the country as well as hear about the direction and vision of SHRM.  (Let me slip my obligatory HR disclaimer here – I dig that I’m involved with SHRM !!  It rocks to be a leader in this group and I’ll explain more in a bit.)

I went early to be involved with Capitol Hill Day and to be an advocate for HR.  It was so extremely cool to have the ability to talk to Congress staff about issues that are affecting employers across the country.  There were 400+ HR folks who participated and I can’t wait to “storm” the Hill again next year.

The State Council breakout session was phenomenal as well.  To hear the great things that other states are doing in HR was encouraging to say the least.  Also, there were several social media HR friends in the same forum.  We were able to be vocal in supporting social media, share success stories about State Conferences and also learn from others.

The highlight of the Conference for me though was meeting HR pros from other states.  It was so cool to break down the boundaries that so many put up in meeting one another.  I met several social media friends in person for the first time, and it’s always cool to put avatars and faces together !!  Each one of them were such great humans and I knew they would be.

Also, hanging out with folks from Illinois, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Alaska, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Florida, Michigan, Washington, Virginia, Tennessee, Indiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kansas, California, New Jersey and Wisconsin on purpose just plain ROCKED !! (I tried to meet as many people as I could to really connect with them !!)

Back to my disclaimer . . .

I am geeked about where SHRM is going because of the intentional people who crossed those imaginary state boundaries to truly connect.  There are amazing HR people who really are moving the profession forward including people working within SHRM.

So, as I get to dive into this new leadership role please know this – the boundaries are down.  We’re now going to keep working to bring our profession together and move it forward intentionally.  It’s going to be something that hasn’t been seen . . . yet !!

Make sure you’re connected as well !!

Image “Human Bridge” Courtesy of Iurikothe

No accomplishment is too small !!

This past Friday night I had the incredible honor of being the commencement speaker for a college graduation.  I was humbled to even have been asked, but not nearly as much as I was after I attended this amazing event !!  This was the Fall graduation ceremony for Brown Mackie College.

I don’t know how much you know about Brown Mackie, but the majority of it’s programs are either Associates Degrees or Certificates.  Most of the students are “non-traditional” and they are phenomenal !!  While others may take education for granted, these folks are usually well past high school, are working while going to college and may be raising a family at the same time.

As I entered the Lakeside Christian Church where the ceremony was to be held, I saw every seat filled as family, friends, and children were buzzing about their family member becoming a college graduate.  It was noisy and people came from all walks of life and many of the graduates may have been the first of their family to reach this level of education.  To say this was an “accomplishment” would be an understatement.

Too often, we as HR professionals, look for the big splash – the MAJOR accomplishments that people are supposed to achieve.  We base entire systems on the vast, life-changing initiative (even though most are short-lived), and we reward people for them.  I’m reminded often by my colleague Paul Hebert and his good work on his blog, that we have much to learn when it comes to doing recognition and incentives well. Also, we belittle accomplishments like the one I witnessed at this commencement.  We say it’s “just” an Associates or a Certificate.  And, we completely miss it.   Completely !!

You weren’t there to see how MAJOR this really was to each and every graduate and family member.  These folks go to school 4 hours each night after a full day of work for 2 years to reach this milestone.  It was inspiring to say the least !!

Oh yeah, I gave my ten minutes and got people pumped up and motivated about their future, but I took a cue from what was going on around me first.  Before I gave one thought of my remarks, I asked the audience to rise to their feet and give the graduates the loudest standing ovation they’ve ever given.  The rafters shook !!

People have already probably have forgotten my words during my ten minutes.  But, they will cherish the accomplishment they reached for a lifetime.  I was blessed to be a part of it all.

So, this week, look around you.  Catch a glimpse at the myriad of small accomplishments that happen every day.  Celebrate them !!  Cherish them !! Then note how truly impactful each one of them is !!

 

What are you afraid of HR ??

When people ask me what profession I’m in, I don’t hesitate to proudly say, “HR !!  You know, Human Resources.”  Even when the response is, “Oh, sorry,” I’m not bothered in the least !!  Really, I’m not kidding.  Being in HR excites me and I wouldn’t trade it for any other profession (some of which truly do scare me !!)

One of the primary things that scares most folks I know in HR is that they aren’t quite sure where they fit in, or where the profession is going.  When your view on HR is “unknown”, I can understand why there might be some apprehension.

Too often people are paralyzed by fear and it makes them cautious, conventional and stuck.  These attributes aren’t attractive in any profession and especially HR.  So what can we do, if anything?

Glad you asked.  I don’t know if you’re connected to the good folks at Focus.com, but you should change that and get connected to them.  Recently, they published a survey that was given to HR practitioners entitled, Focus Research Study: 2011 Crowdsourced HR Survey.  It’s brilliant !!  You really need to click on this link, download the .pdf and see what people had to say.  It covers Trends in HR, the use of Social Media in HR and views on HR’s position in the organization.

I try to participate in all HR related surveys because I want to make sure to have a voice in things and also see what others are saying.  I can honestly say that this has been the most effective survey on HR that I’ve seen in quite some time.  It is reflective, critical and realistic.

You also need to read this to alleviate your fears.  Instead of wondering “what’s happening in HR?,” you can take these results in and see for yourself what your peers are saying. A special shout out to Charlie Judy and Caty Kobe who are working to keep HR relevant through work at Focus !!

So, on this Halloween change your outlook from being an HR Zombie to someone who’s no longer afraid and is excited to proclaim that you too are in HR !!