Who gets your attention ??

The past few weeks are some of my most favorite as a basketball fan with the NCAA tournaments (both the men’s and women’s tournaments.)  I’m a giant basketball fan having played since I was young, seeing my kids play and being an AVID fan of my alma mater . . . Ohio University !!

You know Ohio University, it’s that one in Athens, Ohio.  The 1st public university in Ohio.  The one who’s mascot is a Bobcat . . . NOTBuckeye !!

So, you can imagine my excitement when the men’s team won their conference tournament and made it to the “Big Dance” !!  They were matched up against Big 10 power – Michigan in the first round, but you wouldn’t know that because the commentators from CBS focused on the “more talented and more recognizable” school.

NOTE:  This is not Michigan’s fault and I actually admire their school, and all the schools who worked hard enough to make the tournament.  Please read on . . .

After Ohio U. pulled off the upset to advance in the tournament, CBS then struggled because their next opponent was the University of South Florida from the Big East.  Who would they focus on?  Well, it honestly was a mix, but the commentators stammered throughout the broadcast because neither school was considered “premier.”  OU triumphed again and moved on to play a truly legendary program – the University of North Carolina.

The game Friday was incredible and Ohio University took the mighty Tar Heels to the very last second and just missed a basket that would have clinched the victory.  Instead, they played overtime and UNC won.  I was sitting in my basement so excited about how great my alma mater had played, and was interested in seeing what would be said after the game by Roy Williams, the UNC coach.

Both he, and one of his stars, Tyler Zeller, said that Ohio played a great game and they were fortunate to win.  They both wanted to give Ohio credit.  There was one Bobcat fan who had tears in his eyes.

You see, this is so similar to what we do in organizations.  We focus on the “stars” and the “high performers” because they are well-known, visible and (in most cases) performers.  But where do future stars come from?  What do we do with people who are a great team, but may not have a superstar?

Our feedback to employees tends to be like the commentators from CBS who did this with EVERY team that wasn’t well known or listed as a better seed.  Isn’t it time we look for those who bring great strengths to the workplace every day?

What would happen if we had a great focus about ALL our employees?  What if we expected the best from everyone and gave them the opportunity to perform?  What if we quit focusing on negative and what isn’t working with things, and instead, encouraged people to do their best?  Then, when they do, give them feedback on their success !!

I’m proud of Ohio University and what they accomplished.  I can’t wait to see what happens next season !!

Image courtesy of the College Book Store, Inc. page on Facebook

 

What we gain through loss . . .

This past week I lost a large part of my past. The church I grew up in, Ada 1st United Methodist, burned to the ground.

NOTE: Now, please know that I’m well aware that the “church” is not the building.  I hope you read on to see what I’d like to talk about . . .

Many memories happened at this church.  Weddings of my cousins and friends.  Funerals of dear people from Ada including grandparents.  Making pumpkin pies and hard tack candy for our youth group fundraisers.  Holding hands with my first girlfriend while I was supposed to pay attention to the service.  And most of all, tons of experiences that shaped me as a young man and helped define my faith.

Also, this past week, I learned of a friend’s, Dawn Hrdlica-Burke, loss of her father.  Three others facing serious, if not life threatening, health situations.  A continued group of people who remain jobless, and several folks near me recovering from the devastation of recent tornadoes.

Now, if you read my blog with any regularity, you know that I’m generally an extremely positive person !!  It’s not a facade or on-line persona, it’s who I really am.  So, when significant things hit home they really hit home.  It made me think . . .

You see, when I posted on Twitter and Facebook that my hometown church had been destroyed, I received messages of empathy and encouragements from literally around the globe.  That floored me !!  I was so thankful that I had people that cared enough to reach out and give a kind word.  And then I thought again . . .

Every day in the workplace the people around me are going through “stuff” just like this or worse.  Do I take the time to see if they’re truly okay?  Or, do I do the obligatory “Hi, how are you?” waiting for their inevitable answer of “Fine.”  We continue to be polite with each other because that next e-mail or task is really what we’re focused on vs. taking the time to see how someone truly is.

The fact of the workplace is that we want people to focus on the “stuff” we think is truly important like processes, projects and time frames.  We don’t want to deal with people’s “stuff” because that takes too much time, and what if they truly want me to care?

As I mentioned before, I was floored at the responses I received and am thankful that I have people who feel close enough to share their thoughts.  However, I truly feel that many people walk through the doors at work every day with life’s struggles in front of them, and they may have few, if any, people supporting them through what they’re facing.

It’s time for HR to be the model and break this distant approach with people.  People DO matter and it SHOULD matter to us how they’re doing.  It may get messy and you may have to act, but isn’t that great?  We need to be the ones taking the time to see how people really are.  It may be the ONE thing they’re looking for – a genuine connection at work.

This week, break the mold.  Be the Human that others need.  Take the time to get involved with their “stuff.”  It will change the world !!

Get Your Hands Dirty !!

This weekend my wife asked me to start sprucing up the house for the impending graduation gathering for my daughter in three months.  I needed the nudge because I was dreading the work ahead.  I love being outside, but this level of yardwork was going to be massive !!

One task was to realign the wall I constructed several years ago around our front landscaping.  There are 150+ pavers that span the front of the bed.  Now, this wall has needed attention for some time, and I would see that one or two pavers were out of line, and I’d get them back into the wall with minimum effort.  However, when I looked at the work in front of me it was more like an orthodontist facing a challenging set of crooked teeth.

The chore almost put me in the ground.  To repair the wall and get it where it should be took over four hours of digging, removing roots, being covered in mud and replacing about 1,000 worms who were wondering why they home was being “remodeled.”

I had to get my hands dirty and fully throw myself into the project in order to see a better end result.  As I sit here typing, I’m exhausted and yet invigorated !!  This simple project reminded me that we all need to reexamine how we do HR.

  • How many times do we see systems that need our attention, and we do a quick fix or update just to give it a little more life, when it needs a true overhaul?
  • How often do we sit behind our desk and shoot off an e-mail when we could go and see someone face-to-face to see what their situation entails first hand?
  • How often are we critical of how others handle HR situations, when we could be more integrated with them to help them succeed?
  • How often do we look for “best practices” when we should be creating “next practices” ourselves?

This list could go on and on.  So, the opportunity before us is pretty simple.  We need to get our hands dirty.  This week take a look at the “wall” that you see every day and see if it can be torn down, reconfigured and brought back to life.  It’s worth the work !!

A Sort of Homecoming . . .

This past weekend I was at the SHRM Regional Council Summit.  It sounds like a very formal name, but it’s not that kind of event.  It’s where the State HR Council Directors get together to get updates from SHRM, share best practices and meet others that are in similar roles from all over the country.

I have to say that going into the weekend, I didn’t know what to expect.  However, at the end of the conference I was even more assured of how amazing HR really is !!  You see, I was able to meet friends from all over the country that I had never met.  We had much more in common than we even imagined.  I’m not talking about being SHRM volunteers.  I talking about great HR pros who are making a difference in the profession and in their companies.

I continue to be amazed that when you experience this kind of camaraderie and energy, that HR people still don’t want to be connected because it takes too much effort or time.  Trust me, being more connected to other great folks only gives me access to more resources and insight into what HR does.

Most of you know that I’m a gigantic U2 fan !!  When I was thinking of putting this together, the song A Sort of Homecoming came to mind.  It talks about a person who’s searching because they’re isolated until they come home.

When I go to events like this at the local, regional and national level, I feel like this by “coming home” to friends who I don’t get to see that often, but I know they’re always there.  I saw the same reaction from others that I met.  We WANT to be together and need to be both as people and as professionals.

I saw many folks get connected on Twitter and social media this weekend because they met others who find it successful.  I saw people share incredible resources from SHRM and their states that make HR better in every aspect from Employee Relations to Advocacy to Compliance to Culture and Professional Development.

So, this week, quit trying to do HR on your own.  Reach out and get connected !!

Try a conference, attend a local HR meeting, or send an e-mail to Link In or join Twitter.  You are part of an amazing community who wants to be connected to YOU !!  Take the step and make that happen.

 

Thanks Coach !!

This weekend my daughter’s basketball career came to an end.  She is a senior in high school, and her team was beaten in their first tournament game.  I knew that we’d have these “last” things during her senior year, but it was still very tough.

But, it was amazing as well.  You see this year was different than most with basketball.  My daughter is phenomenal.  If you remember nothing else from this post, you need to remember that.  Two days before tryouts, her coach asked to talk to her before practice started.  The coach told my daughter she needed to make a choice.  She told her how much she cared for her, and that there was a place for her on the team, but she would never play.  This was devastating to say the least.

My daughter, like all kids, had worked for countless hours and years playing basketball.  She’s always been a great role player and never the star.  She knew that and so did the coach.  The coach told her that she’d like to offer my daughter another option for her Senior year – to be an Assistant Coach.  My daughter balked because she thought that was another word for “manager.”  She was hurt and didn’t know what to do.  The coach asked her to think about it overnight, talk to her parents about it as well as other girls on the team to get input.

That night I received a call from the coach asking me how my daughter was doing.  I told her that she was hurt, confused, and there were a lot of tears.  The coach asked me if my daughter told me about their conversation, and I said she had.  She told me how much she cared for Mel and our family being involved with the program.  I told the coach that I absolutely understood her position and that I appreciated her being up front with my daughter.

Then, the amazing part happened.  I said, “Coach, you’re running a team and you need to put the best team out there. I deal with this every day in HR and I understand that you’re doing what you can to succeed and I support that.”  The coach said, “That’s why we chose Mel to be an Asst. Coach because I knew you and Debbie would understand.”  I told the coach, “Thanks (many tears).  You see, my job is to raise an adult, not a basketball player.”  The coach said, “You’re doing a great job because she’s a great kid !!”

So, my daughter was Coach Mel this year.  She helped in many ways and was more included in things than she ever was as a player.  A few weeks ago, my wife and I escorted her across the court during Senior Night along with all the Senior players.  My daughter showed her strength as a team player and a leader as a coach.  We couldn’t be more proud.

Mel’s coach did something that we in the HR and business world need to do more of: (1) Care for our employees, (2) Recognize their strengths, (3) Be candid about their role and how they can best contribute and (4) Allow them to do that and flourish !!

I really appreciate that Mel’s coach took the time to keep her indcluded and create this role for her this year.  She has been, and will continue to be, an incredible part of our daughter’s life.  She has left a permanent mark of a positive role model.  She’s imprinted our family’s lives as well along with the other girls and families in the program.

So, even though the season ended this weekend, her actions will last forever !!

What’s at the end of your tunnel ??

I love being in HR !!  For those of you who know me, this isn’t some random blogger’s statement.  I’m genuinely passionate about HR and love to see how the field can to continue to develop, evolve and grow.  That brings me to this week’s observation . . .

The majority of folks in HR suffer from “tunnel vision.”

By this I mean that too often we take the stringent and narrow when it comes to our policies, procedures and systems.  We continue to create and develop systems to keep folks in check (i.e. attendance systems, don’t do this/that policies, etc.)  At the same time, I continue to hear HR folks who are frustrated with what we do.  We belabor the fact that people continue to work around our systems and we don’t know how to get things back in line.

The reality of this frustration is that you can’t get things back in line – nor should you !!  There is absolutely nothing wrong with structure and focus.  People work well when they know there are boundaries.  But, boundaries are different than walls !!

I continue to find that people are vastly different.  This fascinates me because it makes it all the more difficult to come up with HR systems full of absolutes and must have’s.  So, I take a different path and I’d like you to consider it as well.  Here’s what I do . . .

My tunnel is a kaleidoscope !!  Like you, I need to focus, but by looking at each person and situation on their own within the parameters of the systems we have, you get a new image every time !!

Doing HR this way IS more challenging, but isn’t that cool ??  Also, I find it to be incredibly less frustrating and even more consistent because people know that I’ll evaluate the circumstance based on what they’re facing.  It has led to things being more decisive in most cases, and it’s also given my department more flexibility and the ability to make sure that we take the time to look at all facets of what’s facing us.

I used to say that HR is gray and not black/white.  I’m changing that to HR is psychedelic because that is the landscape that I see people moving through.  Why don’t you join me and turn the tunnel to see what new images you get ??

Image courtesy of Worldwide Hippies

 

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 !!