Louise

Friends, I wanted to share something because I experienced a loss this weekend. One of our long-term team members passed away who had left a lasting impact on me and to those she worked with for many decades. Our encounters meant so much and I learned from her. Louise was unorthodox in how she approached people and yet she was incredibly endearing. Our first meeting was so powerful, I captured it and shared it in my new book, HR Rising !!

So, please forgive me for sharing this excerpt. It isn’t meant to bring attention to my book at all. It’s a way to say “Thank You” and “Good-bye” to Louise. We can all learn from the Louise’s in our life !!

Chapter 15: Grace

Have you ever made a mistake at work? Have you ever talked poorly about someone else you work with, or that you know, without that person knowing about it? Have you ever disappointed someone else because you didn’t follow through on what you said you’d do? Have you ever said something that you thought was harmless, but it hurt someone deeply?

The answer for me is a resounding “Yes” to all the questions listed above. I’m not proud of that, but it’s a reality. I’m human. I’m sure to fall and fail others. Hopefully it’s not intentional, but it could be. I can fill this entire book with more questions that show how people fall short of positive or ideal behavior.

The challenge in today’s workplace, and in society overall, is that when we fail each other there is no room for grace. We demand an instant response along with a staunch stance to be taken with little room for any other position. We usually want others to hear our opinion, and we make arguments for others to come to our side. During this type of reaction, we completely run over our humanity.

Now, please understand that I’m talking about when someone makes a mistake and is insensitive or thoughtless about others and their feelings or diverse viewpoint. I’m not talking about overt actions and misconduct. That is a much deeper, and more concerning, level, and poor behavior should always be addressed. Even then though, I would offer that you should allow grace when entering these difficult situations.

As HR professionals, we are surrounded by people daily. (At least I hope you are !!) People are messy and will fail each other. It’s unavoidable. When it occurs, we have a choice to either rely on a system of unrealistic policies and procedures as a list of do’s and don’ts, or we can be humans ourselves.

We struggle with this because of the continued need for “accountability.” This is one of the most misinterpreted terms in organizations. Accountability should be defined as following through on what you commit to doing. However, more often than not, we misconstrue this term by alluding to the fact that accountability equals punishment. When it comes to situations involving employees, we often forget to breathe first. We jump to the nearest set of policies and comb through them to see what level of discipline needs to be metered out. It amazes me as an HR person that when employees slip up, the reaction is usually swift, harsh, and doesn’t really take anything else into consideration.

Our systems of progressive discipline and layers of breaking Rule 1.0.1, Subsection A, litter our field with little regard of how these actions affect the person who broke said rule. We act as if they are the most disloyal, uncaring, and detrimental person who ever worked for the company.

Here’s a question for you . . . Have you ever made a mistake or broken a rule at work?

Did the appropriate action take place? Were you written up, counseled, suspended, or fired? What if you were in this situation? How should the company treat you?

When I began working in the restaurant industry, I was disappointed by many of my HR peers. Instead of being geeked that I had found a new role, they piled on concern after concern that I wouldn’t enjoy this new environment because restaurant employees and cultures made it difficult to do good HR. That was their opinion at least. Please note that few of these folks have ever worked in the restaurant industry, but that didn’t stop them from sharing their opinions on the inevitable turnover present in hospitality jobs, the challenge of having a workforce that predominantly works part-time schedules on ever changing shifts, and the idea I’d be spending most of my time disciplining and terminating people. Astounding, simply astounding. Each facet of what they thought HR would be like in restaurants was either negative or daunting.

I didn’t have any preconceived notions about working in restaurants. I looked at my new HR gig as a chance to work with a whole new batch of humans. When I took on this role, HR didn’t have a good reputation internally either in the office or in our pizzerias. This was primarily because of the approach of my predecessor. They did a great job of establishing HR systems that hadn’t existed in the past, but the company needed structure on the people side of the business. The difference that I brought to the mix was that I didn’t believe HR needed to be practiced in a traditional manner which focused more on compliance than relationships.

Compliance needs to be respected because of the myriad of laws and regulations that cover and protect the workers, the workplace, and the company as a whole. Most situations and issues involving compliance are common sense. Also, you can be far more compliant when you have relationships with people because you can talk about the situation and the behavior they’re exhibiting. Then you can give folks context around rules and systems. This is far more effective than ensuring people “stay in line.”

Before I joined the company, HR typically showed up in the pizzeria when something needed to be “addressed.” We rarely went out to visit just to see how people were doing. There had to be some sort of agenda item and purpose. The entire approach was task-oriented and transactional. Any visit was short, concise, and involved the least amount of conversation and personal interactions possible. This led the team members in the pizzerias to be apprehensive any time a person from HR appeared. Sound familiar?

I am not wired that way. I am probably far more conversational and relationship-focused than the average human. This is how I’m naturally wired. After my first few months being tied to my office and desk, I decided to venture out and visit our locations. Every time I entered a restaurant, I would get distrustful looks combined with a murmur of mumbling wondering why HR had come to visit. Who was in trouble? Who was getting fired? This barrier presented itself right as I hit the door, but I didn’t get discouraged. In fact, it fueled my desire even more to break through the wall of negativity about HR.

There was one visit that helped me recalibrate team member interactions that I will always remember.

I was walking through the kitchen of one of our high-volume pizzerias when I saw a piece of paper mounted on one of the prep tables. It was at eye level, and you could tell it had been posted there to make sure the message was visible to every single employee. I had seen notes posted before, and I didn’t care for them because they were usually a negative message. I felt that it showed that managers weren’t talking to their staff. They were just dictating something that wasn’t being performed or attended to. This note, however, was something I had never encountered before. It read:

“Look you motherf*#%ers, You need to put your f*#%ing glasses in the dishwashing area. If you bastards don’t start doing this, you will be f*#%ing fired. The Management.”

To say I was stunned would be an understatement. At first, I wasn’t sure how to respond to what I just read. The first thing I did was look around at the other team members moving back and forth in the kitchen. No one seemed to be shocked, offended, or surprised by this mandate laced with creative language. It was fascinating!!

Before I tell you how I did respond, let me take a break to share how I assume many HR pros would have reacted . . .

The first response would be feigned offense, indignation, and disbelief. How could anyone allow this to be posted in the work environment? What were the managers thinking? The next step would be to tear the posting down in disgust with a tinge of embarrassment. Then, it was time to find out who was responsible for this obvious policy violation and hold them “accountable.” This surely would result in some discipline. It could even mean a suspension with a good chiding, or even a termination. There wouldn’t be joy in doing this, but the emotion of how awful this message from management was would have to be immediately dealt with and addressed. Heads would roll. An example would have to be made that this would never be tolerated ever again. Cue scary music in the background as the HR pro glares at the crumpled posting in their shaking hand.

Now let me share what really happened . . .

I carefully took the paper down and found the GM who happened to be working the shift. I calmly asked, “Having problems with team members and glasses?”

Their head dropped below their shoulders. “I didn’t write that note. It was Louise.” That didn’t register with me because I didn’t know who Louise was. “Is she a manager here?” I asked. “No, well, it’s hard to describe,” they stammered.

The GM went on to let me know that Louise was a long-term team member who came in very early in the morning to clean and get the store ready to be open every week day. She had her own crew, but she wasn’t officially a manager. She had been such a regular part of the store that she had seen managers come and go while she remained. I appreciated the background and asked if she was still at work. “Yes,” they sheepishly replied. “She’s right over there.”

In the back of the kitchen stood an older, slender woman with an apron on. She was busily working, and the other team members seemed to enjoy being around her. I went up to her and introduced myself.

“Louise?” I asked, noticing I towered over her. I’m fairly tall, and she was not.

“Yep. Who are you? I’ve never seen you here before,” she stated.

“I’m Steve,” I replied.

“Uh huh. You from the office?” she wondered.

“Yes I am. I’m the new human resources director. Can I ask you about this note?” and I pulled out the instructions about how used glassware was to be properly placed.

“Oh yeah, I wrote that,” she willingly admitted.

“Okay. Well, did you need to cuss when you wrote this? That’s a pretty harsh way to describe our team members,” I explained.

“Have you met some of them yet?” she calmly responded.

I laughed out loud. I know that may not have been the “proper” response from the HR 101 Operation Manual, but she caught me off guard, and it was funny.

“No ma’am. I haven’t met many team members yet,” I said.

She smiled back at me and said, “I suppose you don’t want me to post my notes.”

I wanted to make sure I had a good response for her. “I guess you’re frustrated with others here. Would that be safe to say?”

“You’re damn right I am. These kids don’t have any work ethic. I come in here every f*#%ing day and pick up after them. Lazy f*#%ers. The whole bunch of them,” she stated without batting an eye. It didn’t matter that I was in human resources or from the corporate office.

She kept on going, but I stopped her and said, “Louise, I understand you’re frustrated, but do you have to cuss when you’re talking about others?”

“I don’t f*#%ing cuss honey. I’m just talking,” and she meant it. She didn’t even notice that she was swearing. Did I mention that Louise was in her early 70’s during this encounter with me? I know that doesn’t excuse coarse language, but it didn’t really upset me. I had been around employees who swore during work for years. Many times, I joined in just so we could converse.

“Well Louise, I’m going to take down this note. I tell you what. I’ll come visit you on a regular basis and you can share any frustrations you have with me, and we’ll take a look at things. How does that sound?” I wasn’t sure of the response I was going to get.

“I’d like that.” She smiled again. “Nice to meet you.”

I didn’t write her up or discipline her. I crumpled up the sign and threw it out in a waste basket sitting next to us. I then left and went about my day, and so did she. The GM was watching our conversation the whole time. I’m sure they were curious to see how I was going to respond. We went to a part of the restaurant where we could talk, and she told me Louise’s history. “She doesn’t even know she’s cussing, and the other team members love her. She loves them too. My restaurant is better with her in it. That’s a fact.”

I kept my commitment and visited Louise often. We grew very close, and she never stopped swearing. I learned about her family and how she had grown up with our founder’s wife as a childhood friend. She was endearing just as the GM had told me.

I chose to respond with a tool that has worked for me my entire HR career when I found myself in these awkward circumstances. This is a very effective tool that is available for every person throughout your organization.

Grace.

This may be foreign to you, and I can almost guarantee that it’s foreign to how employees have been approached in the past. We don’t feel that we have the latitude in our roles to show grace to others when they mess up. I just don’t think it’s true. We can take ownership of how we approach others with our own personal style.

I know that when others have shown me grace when I’ve stumbled, I’ve been thankful. It allowed both of us to breathe, calm down, and look at the situation in a fresh and open way.

Often, it led to a productive outcome and a stronger relationship. Trust me when I say that allowing grace in our interactions with others will result in a positive experience most of the time.

I’m not saying that discipline and termination are never warranted at work. However, I use a yardstick that says that you only need to implement these steps based on an employee’s behavior and actions. Even with that benchmark, I still review each case and consider all of the factors as well as the person who’s about to be disciplined. I want them to come out of any conversation understanding the situation, its context and how we move forward from there.

Now, so you don’t think I’m being utopian or an idealist, understand that I practice this both inside work and outside of work. It’s not a popular position. Most people want a pound of flesh when they are wronged. I’ll hold out until the last possible moment before making difficult decisions because I believe in people, even in the darkest situations.

You see, I make mistakes and I have disappointed others—even those closest to me. How can I expect grace from others if I am not willing to be graceful myself? Also, how will others show grace if it isn’t given to them?

I recommend that you try a new approach and allow grace to occur.

I’d also recommend that you make grace the norm when people work with each other regardless of their position and level in your company. If you can teach those who manage people the power of this tool, you’ll see a genuine shift in how people treat each other. It’s time for us to buck the trend of others who tend to be reactive and destructive when people fail them. Instead of talking about others, talk to them with an attitude of grace first so that you seek to understand them, the situation they’re facing, and the way to move forward. If you try this, you’ll see people aren’t as bad as you think. It will also make HR, and your life, more balanced and fulfilled. It works.

One last note . . .

I had worked with Louise for over a decade when age started to finally catch up with her. She had lasted through two additional GMs since we first met. They moved on to other stores in our chain and she remained a constant. She had to retire when her memory started to fade, and she’s living in an assisted living facility now. The last GM to work with her had kept a folder with her notes that she had posted in it. When she was getting ready to leave on her last day, he showed Louise the folder and said, “This will always be here in the store because we want you to always be here with us.”

That, my friends, is grace.

Legacy

I’m just getting back into the swing of things after enjoying a week with my amazing wife wandering through New England. We did more of an “off the beaten path” vacation with a mix of historical sites, lighthouses, touring towns and just soaking in a different culture. One place we visited was Concord, Massachusetts. Yes, it was interesting to see the site where the Revolutionary War began, but it wasn’t what I’ll remember most.

In the heart of this quaint town is a cemetery. It’s called the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. What makes it stand out is something called Author’s Ridge where several noted American authors are buried including Louisa May Alcott, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. We walked through the winding paths until we saw the headstones of these memorable folks.

Standing there under the trees while a light breeze blew by was moving. I just stood there taking it all in.  I wondered if any of them thought that 150 plus years after their passing that anyone would be visiting their graves. I doubt it. However, I do believe that they wanted to share the creativity and thoughts within their minds. I believe they wanted to capture the world around them as they saw it. Their legacy is still read and studied throughout high schools and colleges around the world. I think they’d be somewhat surprised to know that their written word would have such a lasting effect.

I blog to share my voice, as do many others. I want to capture the world around me and help shape a view point that runs counter to the culture that continues to want to tear things down instead of build things up. I don’t pretend to think that my words will be remembered or celebrated 150 years from now. In today’s society, it’s rare if a blog post lasts more than a few days.

That’s why I want to encourage you to do something different than what I see happening.

First of all, if you feel you have something to share – write. Start a blog for whatever you want to put out there. It could be about HR, business, your hobby – literally anything at all. I know there are people who say that there are already too many blogs, but I don’t buy it. Blogs are a way to communicate. It’s worse to keep it in. Give it some thought before you jump in, but give it a shot.

Secondly, share the blogs of others. The authors I visited didn’t write to just hear themselves. They wanted others to experience their work. I see most people write their blog and then share it over many social media forums. I think that’s wonderful to see. However, I think it’s only a start. Sharing the writing of others has more reach, impact and gives things more life than only posting your own blogs.

This practice also runs counter to the norm, but it makes sense to me. I enjoy the work of others and want everyone to learn from them as well as connect with them. I think the way to break the “echo chamber” is to keep sharing the blogs that I read and not just my own.

There are many facets to one’s legacy. I know that writing is one way to establish yours. So, start composing and then start sharing. Let’s see where it goes. One thing for sure is that it has a better chance to last !!

Jay.

This past week I lost a dear friend. His name is Jay.

His passing wasn’t expected. He was driving home after work when debris came through his windshield and killed him instantly. The news was as staggering as the way he passed. It doesn’t seem possible that a peer is gone. Life isn’t supposed to progress this way. We had hoped to grow old together and spend time with our families, children and (hopefully) grandchildren.

Fortunately, I was able to travel out of town to participate in his visitation and funeral service. That meant the world to me because Jay was one of my closest friends on the planet. I was one of the people asked to share at his service and it was the most challenging speech I’ve ever given. I’ve been fortunate to speak in front of thousands of people at a time, and that was easier than this.

When I was putting my remarks together, there were tears mixed with laughter. Jay was one of the smartest people I’ve every known – literally. He was a PhD scientist who did research to try to help cure cancer. He was a model husband and father who loved them with his life, his time and his focus. He only ever said kind and positive things about them. Jay and I could “nerd out” together while enjoying conversations ranging from the genius of Monty Python to the deep meaning of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and movies.

Our families literally grew up together through the birth of our kids until now some 20+ years. We’ve laughed together, worshiped together, camped together and shared many other experiences. I saw Jay every week for the 13 years we lived in the same city. His job took him to Illinois and finally Wisconsin, but we never grew apart.

The greatest thing I can share about Jay is that he made an eternal impact on my life. Now that he’s gone, I feel that impact even more. Jay literally took in every aspect of life. He didn’t miss a thing. He was very observant and it was a joy to be with him on hikes out on a trail because you’d experience the fullness of nature instead of hurrying to get your number of steps in.

Jay also did this with the people in his life. He never missed a person and made sure to get to know you and interact with you. Ironically, he was a quiet, humble man who would meet you with ease versus bravado. He listened to your stories and laughed often !!

His life is a reminder and an example for me and for others. In today’s world everyone seems to be consumed with politics and taking sides or the misadventures of celebrities we will probably never meet in person. I would challenge you to get out of these constant distractions and look at the people you encounter every. day.

That is where we can leave a mark. You see, you leave an impact every time to you interact with others. You just need to choose if that will be a positive impact or a negative one. Either way, it will happen. I choose to be like Jay and pour into the lives of all the people who cross my path. Intentionally meeting them and seeing who they are and what their life is like. It matters.

One of the final experiences I had in person with Jay that left an impact on us both was seeing U2 live in Chicago at Soldier’s Field with two more best friends. We took in every note and sang every lyric. It was another lifelong memory as every one was with Jay. He loved U2 just as we all did, and still do.

I’ll leave you with one of their songs, Grace, which has a lyric which says “Grace finds goodness in everything.”

That was Jay. I loved my friend and miss him immensely. I know we’ll see each other again some day, and it will be just as wonderful as it has been for all these years.

Shadowcasting !!

I’m a fairly tall HR pro. I’m 6’4″ tall and have always been one of the tallest folks in a crowd all the way back to Kindergarten. I mention this because I notice this more when I attend HR conferences. As I lurch down the hallways of the conference centers, I see the crowd mill around me and I wonder what they’re thinking and experiencing as they head from session to sessions.

One other thing you need to know about me. I dig HR conference sessions. I really do. I tend to go to see speakers who stretch and challenge me to look at things differently. Over the past few months, two speakers really stuck with me – Mary Faulkner and Jennifer McClure. Mary presented at the SHRM Annual Conference on leaving a legacy as a leader and used an analogy of a shadow. Jen just did a presentation on building your personal brand and noted that you have a brand whether you cultivate one or not. As I mulled over these two presentations, a new thought came together !!

You see, everyone can cast a shadow as well as have a personal brand. I think that HR misses out on this because we tend to be great workers, but not folks who intentionally stand out to impact others. Aren’t you tired of just existing around others? What if you stepped back and put together a plan to live by and revolutionize HR for yourself and your workplace?

I think it’s possible and within your grasp. However, in order to be a shadowcaster, you need to take some steps that are guaranteed to make you uncomfortable.

Shadow Selfie 2Get out of the Dark !!

Shadows need light. Too often HR wallows in the dark underbelly of organizations. There is a reality in this face because we are tasked with addressing difficult situations between people. These situations can either consume you, or you can take them head on. There will always be difficult situations because there will always be employees in the workplace !! When you bring light into your approach, you’ll see how differently the outcomes become. You’ll also see that HR is a field where you can thrive and not just struggle through.

Be intentional !!

People want to connect, but they typically won’t take the first step to make that happen. You’ll hear people say that they don’t care if they’re connected to others, their jobs or the company, but that isn’t true. You need to be the person who initiates those connections. To me this isn’t a matter of being extroverted or introverted. You’re in HR and that means that you are in the midst of people on purpose. Be the one who cares. Be the one who casts their shadow over others and engulf them to let them know that they matter to you and the company.

Act Now !!

Remember, you have a brand and a shadow already within your role and your company. The question is, what does it look like? I’m pretty sure most people don’t know because this type of personal reflection is counterintuitive with how HR usually functions. We ask others to focus on development, but we don’t take care of ourselves. It isn’t selfish to take care of yourself personally and professionally. Having a direction and a vision for who you are and how you’ll practice is essential. Don’t keep wishing for this transformation to occur. Take steps to make it happen !!

The pic above is my tall shadow. I want to be an HR professional who lives in the light and influences others. I have this radical goal of pulling all HR professionals together globally into one community. I know that I can cast my shadow at home with my family and in my community as well. Being intentional takes time, energy and determination.

I’d love to see you join me and step into the light yourself so that together we can bring HR out of the shadows and start casting our shadows positively on others !!

Time to Reignite !!

Many people are trying to shake the winter doldrums in the hope that spring will renew them. This happens every year and is very predictable behavior. Instead of enjoying the season we’re in, we keep looking forward to a rebirth in the next season to come. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying the thaw that is finally upon us and am glad to see the snow start to dissipate.

I think many HR pros look at their career with the same anticipation they have with the changing of the seasons. There seems to be a push that ANYTHING would be better than the situation they currently find themselves facing. There is also a feeling of professional isolationism because they feel that no one is experiencing the levels of disgust, frustration and angst that they are. When I hear stories of despair I get concerned. I’m concerned because if that is how you are approaching your role, it will reflect in your performance and with the employees that work alongside you.

There are seemingly countless stories and sentiments of HR pros who are just flat burnt out. They can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.  In fact, all they see is the tunnel and it keeps getting deeper and darker. This isn’t healthy in any way whatsoever. Why would you continue to go back to a difficult HR environment just to be a martyr everyday?

It’s time for HR practitioners to come to terms with a reality in our careers. There is only one person who’s responsible for how Human Resources is in your role and that’s YOU !! Your career may be influenced by others around you, but in the end, you are the only person who can impact who you are and what you do.

Has the fire gone out for you?  Or, has the fire consumed you and eaten away at what you think HR should be in your company?

Lit Matches in a rowTake a different approach intentionally and reignite the fire of passion around Human Resources !! Everyday you have the opportunity to make a positive difference in the people around you and also add value to the growth and success of your company. You can, and must, be the model of making this happen in your culture. Believe me when I say that this isn’t a pep talk to motivate you.  Motivation is internal and you alone can build that energy up. You could spice in a great rock tune, say something from AC/DC, to get you jacked up, but this isn’t a peak and valley approach. Once your passion is reignited, you need to fan the flame so that others around you start catching this fire.

I’ve recently been talking with some friends who either just changed HR roles, or want to. In every case they expressed that they want an HR role where they can flourish and make a difference in what they do. This needs to be the expectation of everyone in HR !!  The conversations I had weren’t somber or melancholy. They were a chance to share some encouragement and give them a nudge to no longer settle for mediocrity in what they do. The companies they work(ed) for didn’t view HR in a positive, integrated and broad way. That’s fine if companies want to limit HR – but YOU don’t have to be a part of that !!

People wonder if my level of passion and excitement is some shtick for some on-line persona. You can trust me, it’s not. It took me several years to understand that HR can be on fire all the time. It also took some searching to find a role and a company that was as passionate and excited about what they did so that this ignited form of HR could grow and exist.

So, if you’re burnt out – rekindle !! If you’re an ember that’s just barely holding on and smoldering – add fuel and energy !!  If you’re in a role where HR cannot be exciting and passionate, then maybe it’s time to find a place that let’s you rock it out !! Reignite yourself and radiate great HR in all that you say and do !! It’s really the only way to practice.

You Take Me Up !!

Encouragement.

It’s a simple word that carries incredible power.  When it occurs, you see people light up and respond in ways that they hadn’t mere moments from receiving it.

Encouragement.

It’s something we’re hesitant to do – especially in HR.  People tend to hesitate because we don’t know when you’re either doing it “enough” or “too much.”

Discouragement.

It’s the epicenter of human interaction.  It is more comfortable to tear down than to build up.  It’s what people have come to expect from their supervisors, their peers and even strangers.  Discouragement is the norm.  Don’t believe me?  Turn on the news whether it’s local, national, or a 24-hour feed.  We can’t get enough of the exposure of the most tragic events and the worst in human behavior.  Anything that has a positive tone to it is filler at best, and it’s rarely completely positive.  That’s too risky !!

Encouragement.

What would happen if you personally took the first step to not allow discouragement to be your filter?  What would the workplace look like if people saw HR approaching and they were eager to see you because they anticipated a positive experience?  What if you REFUSED to promote, spread or be connected to communication that tore others down?  How would work be for you, and others, if  encouragement was your benchmark and not your exception?

Courage.

In the middle of both words – Encouragement and Discouragement – is the word “Courage.”  When you are discouraging, it takes no effort whatsoever since people base most of their interactions on some level of discouragement.  To really encourage someone takes an intentional step out to make sure it happens.  It is challenging because people are skeptical.  They have experienced encouragement so inconsistently and also often wrapped in some hidden agenda.

You Lift Me UpEncouraging Courage.

I read too many HR posts that are also discouraging in nature.  In fact, I’ve had conversations that “negative things are what people want to hear” from fellow HR bloggers and practitioners.  That is unfortunate and I disagree with this preconception.

I want to encourage you !!

You are in HR for a reason, so make that a reason that has an impact on people intentionally.  If you are discouraged yourself, I would suggest a few things to consider:

  • Connect with an Encourager !! – There are positive people in HR.  I know a ton of them and I enjoy being with them and talking to them on a regular basis.  They may challenge how I see things, but in the end we lift each other up.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice !! – There are many ways to do this, but it won’t be easy.  Start a journal and list who you’d like to encourage, why you’d like to encourage them and then note how it went when you acted on it.
  • Know this matters !! – People are always looking for context and a “purpose” in what they do as a profession.  Being an encourager will turn the tide of your Company’s culture and even our industry !!
  • Never stop !! – There will be people who will be resistant no matter how encouraging you are.  It is tempting to quit encouraging others.  It is also tiring to be an encourager.  However, planting positive seeds in the lives of others around you will make a difference.

There may be people who read this and want to tear it down because I’m not being a realist in what they face each day.  That would be a bummer, but I would meet them and encourage them as well.  There is always something that can be lifted up in another’s life.  You just need to be willing to invest the time and effort in others to uncover that and bring it out.

You should know that I am unapologetic about willingly being in HR and in encouraging others.  I know you can do this and I will love hearing about what happens when it becomes your norm and no longer your exception !!

 

The Real #FF !!

As 2014 draws to a close, we take time to reflect on what was and what will possibly be for the coming year.

For those of you who are active on Twitter, there has been a hashtag called #FF which stands for “Follow Friday.”  It’s where people recommend others that are on Twitter for you to consider following.  When Twitter was in its infancy, this was huge every Friday and you’d see tweets flying so quickly that your head would spin.  People were excited to connect and see who else was out on the social platform.

Inevitably, you’d see the same names week after week because, like any system, there is a bell curve of activity.  There are many who are very visible, active and they do a great job of posting their material and the material of others.  There are also many who “lurk” and watch what people write and post.  Nothing wrong with lurking because I’m assuming that you are trying to see what has value to you and this allows you to filter what information you like and avoid that which you don’t.

There is also a significant group of people who dabble in social media because someone encouraged them to, but they lose interest quickly. For whatever reason, it just doesn’t capture enough of their attention to merit ongoing effort.  They may show up in a #FF once in a while, but they rarely reciprocate.

Friends and FamilyThis isn’t specifically a post about Social Media though.  You see this past week during the holidays was filled with the Real FF – Friends and Family !!  People gathered from all over to make sure to see each other and catch up.  These times of seeing people in person has immeasurable value.  It’s great to hear new stories or relive old memories surrounded by warmth and laughter.

In my case, these gatherings are also generational.  There are Grandparents, Aunt, Uncles, and cousins of various ages and from various backgrounds.  They live in urban settings, rural settings and suburban settings.  It’s a broad spectrum that continues to grow as the families grow.

Getting together with people in person is energizing for me. To take the time to get to connect with friends is something I look forward to every time I get to go to an event.  I am a big proponent of the #FF movement on Twitter and try my best to keep active because I believe these electronic introductions can lead to meaningful connections and friendships.

Going into to 2015, I hope to make more of the #FF that I do socially come to life in person.  I believe that the more intentional we are in making these connections become a reality, we experience that “friends and family” high of getting to know one another.

So, be on the lookout !!  I plan to make sure to rekindle existing friendships as well as develop new ones.  I hope that you are one of those #FF folks who truly becomes a friend.  Don’t be surprised when I find you !!  It will be magnificent !!

Sorry, We’re Closed !!

This weekend, my son took a giant step of leadership and initiative !!  He began work on his Eagle Scout project.  He started building a shed to replace a POD for the Animal Friends Humane Society who currently has to pay to have the POD for food storage for the animals.  The project is massive, but he is more than able to take it on.  Have to say the “proud father” tears often swell to the surface when I think about how amazing he is !!

One of the keys in doing a project like this is that you get first-hand experience on when things go well . . . and when they don’t.

Josh had ordered the shed from one of those big box hardware stores and everything was scheduled to be delivered on site (a mile from the store) the Friday before his first workday on Saturday.  We stopped by the store on Friday night just to make sure that everything was ready.  The shipping supervisor looked a bit confused and dumbfounded when Josh asked about the delivery.  It looked like it was “supposed” to have happened, but another employee hadn’t entered the firm delivery in the computer, so it didn’t exist.

Another key to an Eagle Scout project is to adapt.

Josh asked if we could compromise and get a rental truck and get some of the material to make the shed’s base and floor for the next day because people were scheduled to come and help.  The store agreed and waived the rental fee for the truck and apologized for the mistake and confirmed that they could deliver the remainder of the materials on Sunday.  Josh added an extra work day, but still moved forward.

On Saturday morning, we arrived to get the rental truck and pick up the material for the floor.  We were directed over to the lumber yard, and we were the first customers for the day.  A young man in a Security shirt came out of the guard shack and the following happened.

Guard:  May I help you?

Steve:  We were told to come back to the lumber yard to get material.

Guard:  Sorry, we’re closed.

Steve:  What ?! (confused and frustrated from the original delivery being mixed up)  They told us to come back here.

Guard:  Sorry, they must have told you the wrong information.  We’re closed.

Steve:  But we need to get the lumber.  You don’t understand, we have people . . .

Guard:  It’s okay.  I’m just messing with you.  We’re open.  Come on in.  Can I help you get to where you need to go?

We busted out laughing !!  The young man saw that we were in a hurry and had to “get things done.”  He noticed we were missing out on starting the day getting some material to do some project.  We weren’t there to enjoy the experience and he was supposed to just do his job.

The thing is – he was doing his job better than anyone could have imagined !!  He chose to take a rather mundane job (checking people in and out of a lumber yard ALL DAY) and make it enjoyable.  I loved his creativity and told him that I appreciated his approach.

Love Your WorkI’m sure if typical supervisors had seen this interaction, the guard would have been coached if not disciplined or terminated.  We want people to WORK and be productive.  We have spent years beating the passion out of people, and yet we expect them to bring the workplace to life through their jobs.

I had to come back later Saturday morning, because you always have at least 3 return trips to hardware stores during a project, and I saw the guard again.  I couldn’t resist, so I said, “I see you’re open now !!”  He didn’t miss a beat, “Yeah, you just caught us because we were closed ten minutes ago.”

HR needs to take note to give employees permission to love what they do and who they interact with.  Work would be a better place if we looked at how to make people smile in what we do regardless of our role.

That young man made our day !!  I’m sure glad he was “closed” !!

The Campaign for HR !!

We’re getting closer and closer to another election season.  Even though this is a “light” year for elections locally, that doesn’t stop the candidates who are running for office from filling the airwaves with commercials. And, true to form, there are few candidates who say what they’re going to do.  Instead, they spend millions of dollars to smear their opponent.  People must feel it works because it gets worse the closer you are to the actual election day.

To me it seems similar to what I see from other bloggers in the “space” when they write about Human Resources.  People feel that if they continue to tear down HR, it will somehow get better.  I don’t follow the numbers and metrics of posts, including my own, but negativity must sell.  When I see posts that focus on division and separatism I get concerned.  Why would people want to work in a field that only wallows in things that are wrong?

I had toyed with the idea of seeking political office in the past and I determined back then that if I would ever run, I would only be positive. I think people should make choices on what you can bring and not focus on one and another’s faults.  Therefore, I am launching a campaign in support of HR !!

think, do, be positiveWhen is comes to HR, I am literally ALL in !!  It’s been my career of choice and I try to be active and visible through volunteer work, social media and speaking at events.  I only see HR growing and becoming more and more relevant in my organization and in many organizations across the globe.  There are creative and innovative people who are changing their approaches and their cultures to have workplaces where people can perform their best and move their organizations forward.

Here are the planks of my platform to share to make this campaign come to life !!

Be Others Focused

We are in the one profession that is built with a focus on other people.  Think of what a great opportunity that is !!  Seriously, you have a chance to work with people on purpose.  It’s built into your job and it needs to be the base of your thinking and approach every day.

Be Certified 

I refuse to continue to argue on one certification versus another.  Certification should be our ticket to moving ourselves, and the field, ahead.  The key to being certified is more than passing a test.  Having a professional certification gives you credibility and gives you the base on which to be a continuous learner and seek professional development.  We need to know HR to practice HR.  Take the time to get your letters and then build on your education from there going forward.

Be Connected

HR on its own is career suicide.  You will struggle if you aren’t connected to great people, great resources and great events.  Every time I read something, I look to learn from the author and their perspective.  When I find resources that help me do HR better, I share them with others.  Most importantly, when I go to events, I make sure to meet others to build my network in order to connect others.  We’re only better when we’re together as a profession.

So, can I count on your support ??  Will you join me in moving HR forward in a positive way ??  I would love to have you join in and stem the tide of negativity.  I know we can do it and am geeked to see what happens !!

I’m Steve Browne, candidate for the Campaign for HR, and I support this message !!

What’s Your Sentence ??

As I write, I’m recovering from the Ohio SHRM State Conference. It was another incredible event full of learning, fun, laughter and engaged HR pros. Everyone there found something that they could use as a takeaway to improve their role back at the workplace.

Personally I was geeked to be able to give a presentation myself !! It is always a highlight for me when I get to speak to my peers. I also enjoyed participating in a Town Hall to update folks about the new SHRM Certification with Nancy Conway from SHRM.

I enjoy going to events like this because I seek out sessions that will stretch me and how I look at what I do. I want to hear new thoughts and approaches to see how I can approach HR in my organization in a fresh and relevant way. I was encouraged that the entire conference would have sessions like this when Bill Taylor opened as the conference’s first keynote. Taylor is the author of “Practically Radical” and I was intrigued as he shared real world stories from today’s companies that are differentiating themselves.

He also shared a story when John F. Kennedy was President and a noted female Republican member of Congress met with the young leader. She confronted the President and questioned his scattered approach to his job. She told him that he needed to be someone who would be remembered by what he did in one sentence.

Kennedy took that advice to heart and Taylor challenged the conference attendees to reflect on this advice as well. He asked what your sentence is for HR? What is the sentence for your company and what is your sentence for you?

I think it’s something that calls for you to set up your legacy, but I’d like to challenge you to make it your present approach to HR !! Think about it. You don’t have a legacy until after you’re finished. To get to that level of being positively remembered, your actions have to start now.

I think it starts by reflecting to see if how you’re practicing is genuine or manufactured. Are you putting on a facade which is fraught with stereotypes of HR and the myths of what others say about us? Are you putting on this shield over your clothes because you feel that’s how you are “supposed” to act?

Be Who You AreYou can’t expect others to be genuine if you aren’t willing to be genuine yourself. The fact is that if you’re genuine, you will be more attractive to the people around you. I’m not talking about your physical appearance. Genuine people are a draw and attract others. If you attract others, you can establish a relationship with them. If you have a relationship, you can talk about anything and influence the behavior and performance of others.

To get this going, I want to share with you my sentence. I hope that it comes true. I need to establish this in order to make it come to life. Here it is . . .

” I want to make a difference in people’s lives every single day.”

Not sure what that difference will be.  Not sure that I’ll even get to see it.  However, it’s what I can do that matters.  It can shape my attitude, my behavior and my approach.  It will keep me grounded and mindful that my actions affect others.

I’m glad I went to OHSHRM just for this.  Trust me, there was much more that I learned, but this will serve as a cornerstone for how I practice HR from now on.  I have my sentence.  Now you have to ask yourself – what’s yours ??