So Much Room to Move !!

Rain for hours.  Mud everywhere. Solemn flag retirement.  Scavenger hunt.  Tons of Euchre games.  Food that is flat amazing.  Big word Saturday (you got credit if you used big words during your conversations). Flames shooting from a lantern, and everyone points and says, “Mr. Browne – look !!  Cool !!”

As I type this week’s post, I’ll be honest, I’m exhausted.  I just returned from a weekend of scouting with the great boys and adults of Troop 941. It’s our annual “advancement outing” where we get our new scouts started along their way, and the older scouts also work on things to advance in their ranks. It seems that every Advancement Outing is filled with challenging weather and unexpected surprises.  This one was no different !!

One of the things I truly love about Scouting is that the focus is to let the boys learn, fail, learn again, teach and then move forward.  The hope is that they get the spark to someday reach Eagle Scout.

It’s interesting because the Troop is a microcosm (big word) of the workplace.  Every boy is different and has quirks that make them truly standout.  As adult leaders, we do our best to guide them to making the decisions that will allow them to truly develop.  We are constantly fighting the urge to jump in and fix it all because we learn that our greatest trial is . . . patience.

The beauty of the system is that the boys can do so many things in so many ways to reach their goals.  This drives some adults (and boys) crazy because they feel that tight structure will lend a successful end for one and all.  Some kids don’t even see the structure (which warms my heart !!)

In the workplace, we in HR use policies as our “structure” and we do our best to enforce, cajole and discipline everyone who falls outside of them.  We think we’re doing our job, but not really.  I think policies are broader than most.  They should be parameters that allow people room to move and perform.  They should never be vehicles for control than can never be fully reached and will most certainly not allow people to be consistent.

We need to be like the scouts who look at eminent danger and say, ” Oooh, cool !!”  I learn something every time I get to go and lay under the stars and the rain and the mud.  Amid all that, you only hear playing, laughter and memories being made.  It’s a great “workplace.”  Maybe we’d all enjoy what we did a bit better if we loosened the reigns and allowed people room to move !!

We’re Everywhere !!

I just returned from an incredible conference in San Antonio, Texas for the HR/TD group of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA).  This was my second time with this group of HR professionals and I have to say that, as a whole, they are some of the most welcoming folks I’ve met in our field !!

I never take it lightly when I get the opportunity to speak in front of any group – especially peers in my field.  I know the challenges they face in their organizations, how others outside of HR view the field and that working with people can be tough.  However, I also know that they have the ability to be amazing in what they do and where they work !!

It was truly fascinating to be inside an HR group within an industry.  Because, you see, most of us don’t even know these great HR pros exist !!

The majority of people in HR have a very narrow focus.  You can read all you want about being “broad,” but most people have either a comfort zone or a personal capacity where they keep their HR community pretty close.  Be honest, we tend to look for HR “voices” either in Social Media or through SHRM National, or local chapters.  These are all great avenues to connect with HR people, but it’s not the only place we exist.  The fact is . . . HR people are everywhere !!

Since that is the case and HR people are everywhere, what keeps us from connecting?  Let me throw this out to you . . .

We’re surrounded by people every day, and we lose site that there would be an advantage to get to connect with other great HR pros.  The “negative” voices rear their ugly head like – “They’ll probably want something from me.”  “What if they’re creepy?”  “I really don’t have time for more people in my already busy life.”

We’ve bought into the myth that our current relationships can provide all we need to be effective HR folks.  In fact, some companies HR people NEVER leave the confines of their own organization because they’re gigantic and they feel they have all the resources they need internally.

Don’t buy it !!  I can give you countless stories of great HR people I continue to meet, interact with, and connect to others.  I’m glad this faction of the HR world asked me to venture to Texas.  I told them that I was writing about them and hope to see more of them get connected in the greater HR universe.

My hope is you do this as well !!  This week, step out.  Meet one new HR connection.  I guarantee it will only improve what you do and how you look at HR !!

I Don’t Get it !!

This past weekend I had the privilege of seeing my cousin’s daughter get married.  My generation is getting older and now our kids are adults !!  It’s cool to go through this though to see the continuation of life pass through the generations.

I don’t know if I mentioned this or not, but I grew up on a farm with my grandparents.  My mom was a widow and had to work, so my brother and I grew up (and worked) on the farm as young kids.  I mention this because the wedding this weekend was between two farming families.  It is always great to be with my extended family and get reminded of the joy that farming offers.

You see, farmers have EVERYTHING pulling against them !!  The weather could be too hot, too dry or too wet which all affects planting and harvest.  Can they control the weather? No.  Then there are pests, weeds, disease, etc.  These affect and attack crops and livestock.  You can limit some of the damage these things can do, but it’s never ending.  A farmer’s day starts at sunrise, involves some form of hard labor throughout the day and you fall into bed late after sunset.

Every farmer I know loves what they do.  They understand the challenges, and they can be monumental with the slightest shift in everything from the economy to equipment failing.  They are some of the most wholesome people I know and I’m proud to have grown up in a family that still continues this tradition to provide for others.

As I am driving home, I think of all that I have.  Phenomenal job, fantastic wife and great kids.  A home, transportation, etc.  As I listen as I enter back into the burbs, all I hear about is what people don’t have and how we’re missing the newest bauble of technology or convenience.

And I think to myself – I don’t get it !!

Don’t get me wrong, my farming relatives have many of the same things we’re fortunate to have, and I know they’d like to have new things as well.  However, with all this plenty that surrounds me, my family and my friends/co-workers – why is there never enough?

I don’t have an answer to this.  It just puzzles me because in HR we constantly deal with the “not enough” syndrome in the workplace.  Oddly, the farmers get up every day to do amazing things and life moves forward.  I think I’m going to get a model tractor to put on my desk to remind me of my roots . . .

How about you ??

It’s Opening Day !!

This week I participated in a true Cincinnati tradition !!  My family and I went to Opening Day for the Cincinnati Reds.  It was truly a spectacle to behold !! Everyone was smiling, laughing and anxious for the start of a new baseball season.  The smell of bratwurst, pizza, beer, popcorn and peanuts filled the air.

People didn’t want to miss any second of the festivities.  The Reds have always valued this tradition since they were the first Major League team ever.  Fans are loyal and educated about the storied past as well as being encouraged about the current team.  They know stats, performance indicators and have strong opinions about their favorite players.

All eyes were glued to the field when they paid honor to wounded veterans who had proudly served our country.  Next was the unveiling of a gigantic American flag that covered the outfield as an enormous plane flew over the stadium at the perfect moment amid roaring cheers !!  The ceremonial first pitch followed and then we moved onto the game.  You could hear all types of conversations going on all around you, and every “ooh” and “ahh” of the plays on the field was palpable.

Seeing this event was truly a treat for my family and me.  It also made me think . . .

42,000+ people were filled with awe, joy and hope for baseball players that don’t even know they exist.  We go to work everyday with a team of people we need to have succeed more than any sports team ever will.

So, what if we treated the beginning of the day like Opening Day at work?  We were geeked to see everyone !!  We cheered their performance on and wanted to see them bring their best in all they did !!  We knew that each person had a role that made the team thrive and we built on it, encouraged it and gave them the equipment to “knock it out of the park.”

As you start this work week, you can have that Opening Day feel !!  What do you say?

Are you reaching out ??

A few weeks ago, my good friend Dave Ryan was the guest host of the Hire Friday Chat (#HFChat).  It’s a chat on Twitter for both HR folks and job seekers.  Dave’s topic was, “Do you have an HR Buddy?”  It was a fast paced chat that really intrigued me.  I was thinking to myself, “Do HR people see themselves as a resource for others – especially those in transition?”

The economy is still rough.  A telltale sign of this was something that happened to me the day after the chat.  I was asked to present a one-hour session on writing a resume and job search tips for local teachers who were losing their jobs.  Over three sessions, I saw 100+ teachers who were upset, confused, disillusioned and not sure what to do.  Oh, by the way, this is the district where my kids go to school.

The sessions were upbeat and I made sure there was a ton of laughter !!  They needed to just let it out a little more than listen to someone tell them what to do.  I also explained that I understood what they were facing because I had been in transition over my career as well.

At the end of the sessions, I was spent.  I went home and crashed on the couch because I had really gone through the whole roller coaster of emotions with the teachers.

I challenged the teachers to start networking and reach out intentionally.  One way I did this was by not giving them business cards.  I gave them my e-mail address and said that the first step in moving forward is to take action.  So, if you want to connect, then you need to reach out first.  An amazing number of them did and I was jacked up once again !!  I also asked them to Link In with me, start searching my contacts and the companies I might know.  Again, an incredible response !!

As HR professionals, I feel that ALL of us (ALL !!!) need to do more to reach out to those in transition.  Here’s why:

  • We can give sage advice on how to deal with HR people – and not have them want to kill us !!  Remember – the last person most of these people talked to was an HR person.  Soften the blow on dealing with HR and show them that we truly can be “human.”
  • We have skills in recruiting and interviewing.  Let people in transition “behind the curtain” so they can be more successful in their search.
  • There’s incredible talent out there right now.  There are many still available and looking who may be that great fit you’re looking for in your company.  Reaching out to the transition community makes you that first choice !!

I could list many, many more reasons why HR should be reaching out.  I know it takes time and effort on top of already full days/schedules.  However, remember this . . .

One day you may be in transition too.

Wouldn’t you want someone who would reach out to you ??

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 !!