Untitled

This past weekend I was in Chicago for a combination of events. First of all, I was a speaker at the HR Conference for Legal Professionals through ALA. Secondly, I was also celebrating my 28th wedding anniversary with my amazing wife !! We’ve been in Chicago several times and it is one of our favorite cities to visit. We’ve arrived in a different phase in our lives because we like to see sites that are off the beaten path that others may overlook for the big (traditional) attractions.

This time we decided to take in art. We did a walking tour to see the gigantic sculptures from Picasso, Chagall, Calder, Kapoor and Dubuffet. Those are hard to miss. We also went to the ground floor of Macy’s (the old Marshall Field store) to see the Victorian Age stained glass panels. We stumbled upon the Chicago Cultural Center¬†and ended up taking a tour of the building as well as enjoy the Architectural Biennial exhibit going on. We took one more adventure to see the Museum of Contemporary Art – Chicago. At the MCA, we met Ray who was a docent at the museum. He was going to give us a tour of the 50th anniversary exhibition entitled “We Are Here.”

Now, I don’t know if you’re into art or not, but I’m a fan. My wife is learning, but is a bit more skeptical about some items classified as “art.” That’s probably how many folks feel, and Ray even noted that because we tend to think we could splash paint on a canvas. The tour he gave took an hour through one room of the museum. One room. It was spectacular !! He described the nuances of pieces that I would have normally passed by with disinterest or disdain.

As he was leading our group through the exhibit, he stopped and said something that really stuck with me. He pointed out an abstract piece hanging on the wall and said, “Do you know why many art pieces are called ‘Untitled’?” We all shook our heads and no one offered an answer. He then said, “The artist does this because it allows YOU to see it however you’d like. There’s no right or wrong. It’s whatever you want it to be according to your interpretation.”

After he said this, I began to look at each piece of art with an appreciation. There are still pieces I don’t comprehend, but that’s on me and not the artist for creating it. I actually found myself enjoying the separate pieces more, and took time to look more intently at them to think about what I could take in. I even began to speculate more than one possible explanation about paintings and sculptures.

It made me think about how I approach people both in HR and in general. People are truly works of art themselves !! Too often we want to “title” them with some label or stereotype so we can better frame them within our point of view. When people don’t fit those labels we dismiss them or ignore them because we can’t fully make them fit into our perspective.

That’s sad when you think about it. How many decisions are made each day because of how we “title” someone? I would venture to say that most decisions are made based on our biases. We need to change our approach towards people.

From now on I challenge you to see people as “untitled.” People who are mysterious, unknown, creative, intelligent and full of idiosyncrasies and nuances. People weren’t created to fit. They were created to add to the experience and existence of others. Just. Like. Art.

Drop the titles and start enjoying the uniqueness of the people in your life. I assure you that you will start appreciating folks for who they are, and not who you think they should be.

Bailey

There’s a very cool place that is a five minute drive from my house called Station Road Farm. Many towns have a place like this where you can buy flowers, produce, mulch, pumpkins, etc. It is a popular location because it’s a farm that seems to have been dropped in the middle of a suburb. This has been a favorite shopping option for my family for years. It gave me a chance to keep close to my roots because I grew up on or near a farm for most of my youth, and my kids got to have a quasi-farm experience.

I remember on my relative’s farms that there were always animals. There would be multiple dogs and cats that just seemed to come with the whole environment. So, when we visited Station Road Farm, I wasn’t surprised when I saw the same thing. When my kids were very young, we were making a visit to pick up tomatoes and corn when they were distracted by new kittens roaming around the property. The cashier was very observant and she looked down to my daughter and said, “The kittens are free to a good home. Would you like to take one?” My daughter got those big eyes that kids get when they want something, and she cooed, “Can we Dad?” We didn’t have any pets at home, and I couldn’t say no to those eyes. I said, “If you see one that comes up to you, I’ll think about it.”

As if divine providence was upon her, a small yellow kitten started wrapping itself around and around my daughter’s legs. She squealed and said, “Dad, look !!” We drove back home and picked up my wife and son and brought them back to see the kitten. They loved him too. That was the day Bailey came home with us. We weren’t prepared and had nothing needed to take care of a new pet. So, we made a trip to the store and bought everything we needed – and then some.

That was 14 years ago. He has been a wonderful part of our family who had some very unique qualities. Every night when the kids came home from school, or Debbie and I came home from work, he was at the door to greet us. Every. Night. He also loved playing fetch by chasing a small rainbow striped ball up and down our basement steps forever. Bailey was never a lap cat, but he was ever present. If we were in a room, he was there with us. He always knew where we were and he did his rounds to check on everyone to make sure things were good.

This weekend Bailey passed. We fondly shared stories of his life. There were visits to elementary school for Show & Tell with both kids. Then there was the time of how he survived a thunderstorm when he fell out through a screen on our second floor and stayed on a small strip of the roof soaked and mewing until we pulled him in. He begged at the table and was a fan of lunch meat and licking tuna cans clean. Everyone is biased about having the “best” pet ever, but I would say that Bailey was the best fit for our family. I don’t think there’s any better description that fits him. I’m so thankful he chose to wrap around my daughter’s legs.

I know that I normally write about how to make HR better, but we need to remember that our lives are so much more than our chosen occupation. We have so little actual time truly interacting with people even though we feel it consumes every waking moment of our time at work.

Instead of being overwhelmed by the encounters and interactions you have with people, I challenge you to cherish them instead. People pass in and out of our lives daily. Instead of letting them pass you by, be intentional and connect with them. Who knows, you may be the exact connection they needed at the exact time they needed it.

Value others. Celebrate their lives and the time you have with them. Never take it for granted and be thankful for the time you have.

Thanks Bailey for being a vital member of the Browne family !!

Be An Influencer !!

I’ve been active and visible on Social Media forums for many years now. I enjoy them immensely and find them to be great methods of connecting with others across the globe, a simple mechanism to share the work of others and an overall great way to communicate. If you’ve been out here for any length of time, you see lists. The lists have great intent, but often bring up harsh emotions.

People struggle with lists if they aren’t included, and that reaction is senseless. One of the serious downsides to social media is that we are so fixed on wanting to see our name, face, and posts. We measure and obsess over the number of shares, likes, retweets and followers we have. It’s odd because they are just ways of measurement. How can something not have value if you’re not included ??

I understand that many folks use social media to conduct business, make sales and establish/maintain their brand. I’m all for it, but it gets way too much of our attention and it seems one-sided. A great example of this where you see people really jump is when people are considered “influencers” in these lists.

I have a feeling that the moment influencer lists are published, the doubt, skepticism and scoffing ensues. When it does, it’s brutal and unfortunate. I’m sure when people were compiling their lists, they had the hope that who they listed would be geeked and share that they were included. That happens, but the wave of sentiment against the lists far exceeds those who are excited.

InfluenceThe overall problem to all of this is that I think we’ve absolutely missed what influencing others means. It has so little to do with social media, but that’s where we feel it should be. Influence naturally lies within all of us. The question is whether we recognize and own it or not.

You see, in HR, we are rarely alone. We swim in a sea of people. Unfortunately, I hear too many of my peers complain about this constant reality. We miss the opportunity to truly “influence” people because we tend to down play our interactions with others. Instead, we give our attention to the situation or problem we’re addressing, and then coming up with some rock solid solution.

If the only reason you’re in HR is to solve other’s problems, change occupations.

People aren’t problems. We may all have problems and struggles in some fashion, but to immediately categorize someone as someone to fix, you have a negative view of humans.

Influence can be, and should be, positive !! When it’s used for negative reasons, it is often short lived but it also can do incredible damage. You have a choice to not allow influence to be used in that way. It’s incredibly difficult to be a positive influence in today’s workplace and society. However, it is what we are called to do.

You have the chance to influence every, single person you come across. Not one person should pass you by without you interacting with them. Not one. That may seem daunting, but it’s very doable with some effort and the desire to be intentional. Something as simple as a smile, a “Hello”, and the willingness to stay and listen to how they respond, may seriously make all the difference they needed that day.

That small action is more influential than any list on social media EVER will be !! The chance to be an influencer is available to you and it’s time you step in. People need your influence, and I can’t wait to see how you positively impact and change the lives of those around you !!