Don’t Be Sisyphus !!

How’s your new year shaping up? Is your plate full? Chances are it’s overflowing. I know this may be stating the obvious for most people. I’m not just referring to work either. Yes, work may take up the majority of your daily time, effort and attention. We need to remember that each person we encounter has their version of “life” going on. You may be addressing personal/family situations and struggles with spouses, partners, kids, or parents. You may be in between jobs now or you’d like to change your role/company if you had the chance. I’m not going to try and capture all that is in front of you. I’m just sure that you’re full (too full).

What’s interesting about being full at work is that we don’t view this positively. We complain. Incessantly. It’s true. So much of our daily routine includes bemoaning all that we have to do. On top of that, we complain about co-workers that are intertwined with our mountain of work. We exhale a gigantic sigh as if to get the attention of others so they can commiserate with us. Others follow this pattern and they grouse as well. For some reason, we find comfort in this mixing of conversations which look at all that is wrong with our day . . . because we’re full.

I remember a time when I went to a restaurant in downtown Cincinnati by myself (pre-COVID) to run an errand. It is a great, local Mexican place that I try to visit when I get the chance. I was by myself which is a rarity in itself. I ordered the daily special and found a table to sit in the middle of a full gathering who were “enjoying” their lunch break. Instead of scrolling through endless social media threads, I sat quietly and listened to the conversations of those around me. I know it’s a bit intrusive, but I curious to hear what others were talking about.

Every single conversation was negative. Every one. The people eating around me weren’t upset or animated. They were speaking at ease because this was, and is, normal for them – as it is for all of us. They were complaining about the work they had in front of them and the people that had to “deal” with in order to try and move forward. I’m sure there was a smattering of constructive input during the chats, but that was hard to assess. Since no one was phased by how the conversations occurred, I’m positive people went on with their day oblivious to the tone.

I understand that being full can be overwhelming, and it may even feel that we’re going to sink rather than swim. But, isn’t that a great position to be in? Seriously. When you are full, then, chances are, you’re either adding value or others are counting on you to come through because of your talent. So, we need to quit being Sisyphus !!

Illustration by Temujin Doran and Max Robinson

Who’s Sisyphus? He was a character in Greek mythology who was not a good king. His lifestyle of deceit and conniving angered the gods and he was given the task of rolling a massive stone up a hill with the hope that he’d clear the peak and the stone would roll down the other side. He would struggle and push against the boulder, but he could never clear the precipice. Oh, and he only has to push this immovable object up the hill . . . for eternity !! Sound familiar? THIS is how we sound when we talk about our work. We come off more like martyrs than contributors.

This needs to turn around and disappear. If we want to have people-centric organizations filled with performers, then we need to do all we can to destroy how work is talked about. And . . . it starts with us HR !! I understand that working with people can be daunting, challenging and even disheartening IF you view people as a problem first. Our mentality and mindset have to be reset. We must talk about how the work in front of us is an opportunity and not a burden. We must embrace the conversations we have with other employees as a chance to learn, hear new ideas and perspectives and work together collaboratively towards moving things forward.

I’m not a Pollyanna, but I am an optimist. I am grateful I am both full and overwhelmed with the good work I get to be a part of in my role. It’s very easy to go dark and complain. Very easy. I just choose not to. I plan to get that rock up over the hill so that I can see past the peak, go into the next valley and get the next boulder that is sure to be there.

If we would shift and become beacons of light as HR practitioners in our organizations, then others would see the great work they have in front of them positively as well. Organizations would thrive and cultures would improve. We’d actually have “best places to work” because you’d see people embrace their place as the talented people they already are. Be glad you’re full.

Every Moment

This post represents quite a few milestones !! It’s a New Year, it’s my birthday and it’s the 10-year anniversary of my blog. Hard to grasp that all of these events convened at the same time. It also is a great example of what I wanted to “talk” about this week.

You do tend to reflect more as you get older. I never thought that would be the case, but it happens because I think you realize your time on this planet is on the downward side of the curve. Please don’t think I’m being pessimistic because that rarely occurs in how I live and see life. I’m being realistic though because I’m much closer to my sixth decade roaming the earth than my first !!

So many people have sentiments about escaping 2020. I am not one of those people. Yes, it was a tough year for most everyone I know including me. The loss of my father and my boss will alter my life. There is no doubt about it. I can’t adequately capture the myriad of events that happened around the world that seem that we’re far more unsettled and divided than we are cohesive.

As I reflect on getting the chance to celebrate another year of life, I’ve come to realize something is so true that I never grasped until late last year. My brother was with me and our mom as our dad was passing. As we were discussing all that was happening, a well-intentioned surgeon was telling us he was sure he could perform a procedure which may have a sliver of success for my dad. We discussed this as a group, and my brother, a doctor himself, shared a piece of advice he received from his Chief Nursing Officer. She told him, “Mark, you need to remember that we see people for only a few moments of their life.”

That struck me. It’s true. We act on very little information with very little time in each other’s lives. When you step back to look at it, the majority of how we live, what we believe, and how we view the world is made up of a series of very small moments. For some reason, our brain takes these various interactions and pulls them together to make thoughts, opinions and perspectives.

We need to keep this in mind because it seems that we are acting on these small moments to make massive assumptions, judgments, and movements. We tend to expand these encounters to make our feelings and attitudes absolute. We fill in the pieces on people without even thinking about asking them for any details or context. This concrete approach leads to putting people into compartments that validate our personal view and outlook on life . . . and they may be very skewed and we don’t even see it happening.

The surgeon I mentioned earlier was trying to do his best based on his talent, skills, and experience to help our dad. Fortunately, my brother remembered the advice he was given and called his colleagues to explain the situation and get input from others. It confirmed his suspicion that the chances of my dad recovering were remote. So, we thanked the surgeon and chose not to proceed. The surgeon was indignant about our decision. He was very confident in his abilities. I’m sure he was talented, but he didn’t realize that he had little knowledge of who my dad was and what his wishes were if he were in a life-ending circumstance. He was only in my dad’s life for a moment but didn’t recognize that.

As we all take our next trip around the sun, I’d ask you all to join me in stepping back to acknowledge that we are in each other’s lives for mere moments. Hopefully, you have family and friends who get to experience more moments than others and that is positive. I know that may not be the case with family or friends, but as I mentioned earlier, I’m an eternal optimist.

I don’t want to overlook any opportunity I have to be in a moment with others. Not one. I want every person I meet to know they matter and that I would rather enjoy our time together regardless of the circumstance. You never know. The one time you are with another person may be the ONLY time you’re together.

Why wouldn’t you take that brief time to make it the best possible moment you could? You need to remember that you will be remembered by whomever you encounter – every. time. You have the choice to make that a positive experience. I would encourage you to embrace that !!

I typically write to an audience of HR pros because I feel we can always improve how we work with others. I believe this approach of enjoying every moment should be the baseline for great human resources. If you choose to adopt this, I guarantee that you will enjoy not only the work you do but (more importantly) the fabulous people around you.

Enjoying every moment with all people is an even bigger expectation, but I think it’s needed now more than ever. If we would cherish the moments we have with each other, I think we would appreciate people as the wonderful, creative, and humorous works in progress we ALL are. I know there will continue to be trials, disappointments and failures. However, I can be assured that I will have people who will be doing life with me and the moments we share together will help us work through whatever we’re facing.

Start your year with a positive outlook which will take you forward through the years to come. Enjoy every moment !!

Legacy

For those of you who know me, I am rarely at a loss for words. This past week, however, has left me speechless.

There are countless accounts of the challenges we have all faced in 2020. They range from personal loss of loved ones to jobs being affected to swimming in a constant sea of uncertainty. Not one person’s experience is the same. We all hope for this barrage to stop, but it doesn’t. Life has been filled with far more trials than joy.

I had a text on my phone very early Tuesday morning before work asking me to call. I hadn’t responded when the second text stated, “I have some really bad news.” I wasn’t sure what this was going to mean, so I called. I heard the news on the other end and wept. I couldn’t form a word. I wept with my entire body and stood shocked and stunned.

My boss had died unexpectedly and suddenly.

This didn’t seem real, and it still doesn’t. This news was devastating because Kevin, my boss, was also a dear friend. I was asked to share the news with some others, and their response was the same as mine had been. The whole idea of him being gone was surreal and painful. No one was sure how to move forward.

You see, Kevin held a very special place in my life personally and professionally. A little over 14 years ago, we sat across from each other in a booth in one of our pizzerias. He was interviewing me to see if I could join the company as their HR Director. I enjoyed his warmth, laughter and accessibility the moment I met him. Fortunately, he put me forward and I’ve been with the company ever since. I can say that we’ve either seen each other or talked almost every day over those 14 years.

Kevin modeled a behavior I have adopted and valued more than any in my career. Each time I met with him, we talked about people. He talked about them candidly and fondly because he knew so much about everyone. He worked with our company for 45 years, and he could tell you something about each person he encountered whether they worked in our corporate office, manufacturing plant, pizzerias or franchises. He knew every person’s spouse, partner, children, grandchildren and extended families – by name !! He would make “rounds” around the office daily and have rich conversations to make sure others were okay.

He also had an incredible wit and sense of humor. He’d make a comment that would catch you off guard and laugh. He poked fun, and I always enjoyed that. I laughed with him and made sure to share barbs with him as well. He naturally made work human and I admired that. He emphasized that the workplace should always be people-first and that I should always value the work every employee did – especially those on the front lines. He had grown up in the organization as many had starting out in a pizzeria and then growing up in the company.

Kevin also developed others who worked for him. He was very intentional and kept high expectations of people to perform and be accountable. The key to his approach is that he developed others in a very human way as well. It never seemed forced or formal. After some time, you’d see how far he’d encouraged you to grow.

He built a legacy with all of those around him. He invested his time and attention with others throughout every workday. People knew they mattered to Kevin. I don’t think he was even aware he was making such a lasting impact on those around him. With him leaving, we have lost part of our soul. There’s no other good way to describe it. That’s why it hurts so deeply.

This last week has been different. The person I was most connected to wasn’t there to catch up on work items, share a quick story, or check in on how others are doing across the organization. It’s a hollow feeling.

I plan to follow his lead and make sure to invest in others, keep a people-first focus and take time to laugh. I feel there is no greater legacy.

What If You Broke Your Bubble ??

For the past several years, I’ve contributed to the #AdventBlogs series. It’s a great series from a multitude of global HR pros, and it’s a joy to be included. The series is now hosted by my friend Gary Cookson. I would recommend you connecting with Gary and read all of the Advent Blog posts from this year. I’m sure you’d get connected to some HR folks you don’t yet know – but should !!

Here is my submission. I hope you enjoy it and join me in expanding your personal horizons by breaking some bubbles.

*************************************************

I’ve always been a person who has multiple interests. Growing up, I was fortunate to be in a loving, caring home nestled in a small town in the Midwest. This environment allowed me to explore a variety of activities. I wasn’t limited by the scope or number of things to try. What was ironic about this now reflecting years later is that I didn’t know that this was unique. I assumed everyone growing up at the time I did had the same experiences and opportunities I did. I understand now that this was a bit naïve because I didn’t have exposure to people who were much different than me.

Even though I had such a positive childhood, everyone I knew was similar to me in race, background, education, and belief systems. I was in the classic “you don’t know what you don’t know” setting. It was like I lived in a Norman Rockwell painting. Before I talk about how my perspective was broadened, let me share one more advantage of my small town. I didn’t think in terms of barriers or obstacles when it came to participation. I was involved in sports, academics, music programs, drama, and civic/faith communities all at the same time. I was a member of every stereotypical high school group. I hung around people who chose to be in only a few groups and relished that I could have relationships with people regardless of who they were or what their interests were. That was “normal” for me. My parents encouraged me and my brother to try everything and then stick with what interested us. We both were as well rounded as possible. Most of my core friend group also had this multi-faceted approach to life. It was exhilarating !!

When I went to college, my horizons were instantly expanded. It was the first time in my life that I met people who grew up in large metropolitan cities and foreign countries. I made connections with people who were vastly diverse from me and I loved it. I was disappointed that I wasn’t aware of how amazing and unique people were. Even in this, I realize now that college was only a microcosm of how limitless the variety of humanity truly is. However, it was a great way to challenge what I had known and experienced in my small town. I had to decide to stay cocooned in my small bubble or break that bubble to take in everything around me. I broke the bubble, and I’m glad I did.

I continued to be involved in as many different activities and social groups as I could throughout my college years. What I found is that the fabric of people I encountered gave me experiences I would have never had if I hadn’t ventured forth and taken risks to be fully engaged with people regardless of their background, culture, and experience. I never felt confined to be connected only to certain social groups.

Unfortunately, it was also during college that I learned that people also chose to not be as open to others as I was trying to do. I remember taking a class my senior year which studied the life and efforts of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. We had to do some form of visible non-violent activity and then write about our experience with the reactions we experienced. It was a group project. Four of us decided to “march” with banners and sheets with messages on them to bring attention to inequities we saw at that time happening at the University. As we walked through areas that were filled with the housing of our fellow students, we were jeered, cussed at and people even threw things at us. I was confused, angry, and hurt. My group’s experience was more visceral and emotional than some of the other groups in the class. It has stuck with me ever since. I didn’t understand why we received such a reaction from people just by walking down a street. It was hard to process.

This leads me to today. What if people intentionally chose to connect and have meaningful relationships with others just because they are fellow humans?

I understand that each person on the planet is unique and different. That doesn’t intimidate me. It fascinates me !! If I could spend each day I walk on this earth to meet and know every single person that I’m around, I would be fulfilled. I mean that. I would be completely content listening to the story of every person I encounter to try to learn from them and understand their life experience.

I was sitting on the steps of the New York Public Library a few years ago having a coffee with a dear friend while visiting New York City for a meeting. I said, “I wish I could stop and talk to every person walking around us. Don’t you?” He said that would be uncomfortable and uncertain. He’s right, but I’d love to take the risk.

I’d love to see the world, in general, come together and get to know each other and understand our various outlooks on life, work and society. I want to take the background I’ve grown up with and apply it to all aspects of human connection. I don’t feel we’ll ever come together until we take the time to learn, listen, respect and value where people come from. It doesn’t mean we’ll always agree, and it may lead to deep, intense dialogue. Isn’t that worth pursuing?

I have never felt comfortable when people want to put me in a box to say that you must be this or that or be part of this group or that one. Why can’t you move across all groups and types of people? I’m going to keep working on my “What if” because I know it works. I’m not sure where it will lead me, but I feel the world has so much to offer because of its people. I know that in doing this I will discover ways to view and experience a much bigger slice of life than if I only stayed complacent and within a defined bubble.

I’d encourage you to join me and break your bubble because I’d love to get to know you as well !!

I Will Follow

I don’t know if you knew this, but I am a gigantic fan of the band U2 !! I am pretty sure I have their entire catalog of music including some pretty rare bootlegs. I am even fortunate to have a signed copy of their classic album The Joshua Tree hanging in my office at work. They launched as a group during my mid-teens and I couldn’t get enough of them (still can’t). I’d honestly love to meet them in person just to chat and share a pint. It’s on my bucket list. So, if anyone reading this can hook me up . . .

This weekend I was listening to U2-X Radio on Sirius XM when I was reminded of a significant anniversary the band was celebrating. Their first album, Boy, was released 40 years ago !! It’s hard to grasp that so much time has passed. It still stands as an incredible first release. The band members were just entering their 20’s and I was 16. I couldn’t believe that these guys were my peers (in age). The first single from the album was the first track – “I Will Follow.”

When it comes to following, we’re hesitant. We’re taught to lead and/or be independent at all costs. Following is perceived as weak when it comes to organizations or social media. In a time when society values self-promotion almost more than any other facet, it’s easy to see why people stand alone. Put on top of this that following is difficult because we tend to distrust others. That may sound harsh, but there seems to be some invisible gauntlet people need to pass through before they are accepted by others. Some caution may be warranted and no one should put themselves in harm’s way. However, when we assume the worst in someone before interacting with them, we’ll get what we expect.

Another factor that causes us to pause is that we tend to give our attention to those who are more visible and vocal. We tell ourselves we can’t be “like them”, so we hesitate in connecting. Countless lists that promote a select few folks doesn’t help with this comparative lens either. It’s humbling to be recognized for your contribution, but not at the expense of keeping others from participating.

When Twitter first started years ago, an activity called “Follow Friday,” which is denoted by the hashtag #FF, was very popular. It got people to connect, and since the platform was new, people regularly sent out tweets with recommendations of others to connect with. It was fun and gave the forum energy. It also opened your eyes to others in your profession that you most likely would not meet in person. It expanded your network, your reach, and your perspective.

As with most things, time erodes our interest. Those that were active when Twitter launched are less active now. Not all, but many. I was bummed about that because I’ve been active on Twitter for 12+ years now. I continue to find new folks in HR around the globe. I learn new things, hear new voices and see a desire for a profession that wants to collaborate and come together to improve the workplace for employees.

I haven’t given up on #FF and still send out a barrage of tweets every few weeks to keep the HR community connected, vibrant, and interested. The point of this effort is not so people focus on me or a select few. In fact, I type out each tweet every time and don’t program or automate them. Each of these accounts is a person, a peer, and someone I am grateful to be connected to. The recommendations include those who have different outlooks and opinions because I feel it’s important to surround yourself with diverse thoughts, cultures, and backgrounds. A dear friend of mine, Perry Timms, recently wrote about “fellowship not followership” which encourages folks to join together as a fellowship that isn’t focused on a single person or a few people. I dig this very much and am fully into seeing this happen in HR and business across the planet.

I’d encourage all of us to look at connecting. I know it’s a common theme you hear from me, but I believe in continuing to push forward. There are so many amazing people in our field !! Each time I do a #FF I get tweets back from people who are talented, passionate and eager to follow each other as well. I still get geeked to see a new professional join social media, a new podcast which elevates thought and causes us to stretch, or a new blog that gives a platform for someone to share their thoughts and ideas. I hope you connect. I hope you follow. I hope you build fellowship.

And, of course, I need to celebrate that anniversary I mentioned earlier !!

Grateful

I’m geeked about this week because one of my favorite holidays is happening – Thanksgiving !! I love intentionally taking time to pause, reflect and give thanks for life in general. Yes, it has its ups and downs and difficulties. However, I am grateful for every aspect of life. It’s not some false pretense or posturing. It’s how I choose to face each day – grateful.

I’m not blind to all that is going on in the world. Far from it. I would contend that everyone is being touched and/or affected by many things ranging from the political environments which are not positive globally, the reality that the pandemic can (and does) reach anyone in any corner of the world, as well as the personal situations faced in every family which run the gambit of a myriad of circumstances.

On top of being barraged with the on-going waves of trial after trial, people are more divided now than any time I can remember. I’m not trying to make a right/wrong statement with this. It’s just our reality. Unfortunately, the majority of taking sides seems to only pull us apart and exacerbate the general malaise we find ourselves facing.

However, I am still grateful !! Truly. I have an amazing wife who is my partner in everything and two phenomenal adult children who are also trying to navigate the same world of uncertainty. I have an incredible extended family scattered all over the globe who have been more connected and in touch with each other to try to remind us of the family bond we all share. If that wasn’t enough, I have a global professional HR community that is filled with talented, diverse, thoughtful and passionate people who want to see things healed in all facets of society and the workplace. This doesn’t even capture my grateful list completely, but I hope it gives you a glimpse of how I view life.

All of these thoughts, feelings and “nudges” have been pulling at me. I feel that similar forces are at work around the globe because I am having more and more similar conversations with folks. When I get in this mindset, I feel the urge to write. Long before I had a blog or wrote two books, I wrote poetry. I still write a “poem” regularly when I do the song parodies for the HR Net forum I facilitate. It has been quite some time though since I wrote some verse. So, I want to close this blog post with a new set of stanzas.

(Friendly disclaimer: Please note that the poem below isn’t specifically about and one certain division occurring in the world. Please don’t misconstrue, label, or read more into it. I am trying to capture the general sense I feel and see and also how I hope things improve and move forward. )

I am grateful for you, the reader, who is kind enough to read my regular thoughts. I appreciate you, the work you do and the lives you touch. I wish you only the best this Thanksgiving and hope that you see life in an encouraging light. Peace to all !! – Steve

THE GREAT DIVIDE

We cannot run
  We cannot hide
We’re living in
  The great divide
 
Things uncertain
  Nothing’s clear
We seem to live
  In hate or fear
 
If you speak up
  Or if you post
Few will agree
  And some will boast
 
We’re choosing sides
   No matter what
With words that pierce
   And words that cut
 
We do not talk
  We only state
And if opposed
  Choose to berate
 
I am concerned
  For those I know
The gap between folks
  Seems to grow
 
I’d like to see this
  Turn around
With dialogue
  While voices sound
 
I’d take the steps
  To understand
Listen first
  And not demand
 
Start with grace
  Don’t jump to solve
Hear new perspectives
  Then evolve
 
Measured steps
  The gap will close
Value others
  Compassion shows
 
This won’t be quick
  It will take time
But it is worth
  The rugged climb
 
Be positive
  And strive for peace
Exhibit kindness
  Let light increase
 
I ask you to join
  And decide
Together, we bridge
  The great divide

When in doubt . . . grout

Doesn’t it seem like we cram a multitude of life events together all in a short period of time? It’s not advisable to group so many things together at the same time. You add unnecessary stress even though you have the best intentions.

My wife, Debbie, and I decided to remodel our kitchen, flooring and family room late in 2019. We had saved for it and thought it would be exciting to give some life to our house. Doing a remodel at this scale is a big deal because it meant that we would be “living” in our basement for several months. Of course, right when construction was scheduled to start, a global pandemic hits. We went forward with the project because we had it planned. We never anticipated that we’d be working from home and not at our workplaces on top of everything.

The project went well through every phase . . . until we started to reach the end. Materials were slow to arrive and the tile crew who put the new backsplash up didn’t follow the design. We had lived in the basement for 3 1/2 months and the tension was starting to mount. Let’s be honest, the whole “made for TV” shows on HGTV aren’t how projects truly proceed. They’re great television, but they’re not realistic. Things don’t get resolved in an hour.

Since we were nearing the end of our project, the final touches started to drag out and communication started to dissipate. Please understand that we have had a very good experience with the company, the designers, and the work crews who had done the work so far. We just wanted to be done !! Several calls and texts were shared to try to get the tile mistake repaired. We seemed to have hit an impasse.

Just when it seemed like things were going to escalate, I got a text from Aaron. It said, “Hey man, I heard you needed me to come out and fix the tile work. I’ll be out in a few days. This is my cell. We’ll get this taken care of.” The temperature instantly receded. He texted a few more times and we hit a few more delays, but we finally landed on a day for Aaron to work on the tile. He was the regular tile guy the company used instead of the first crew who didn’t do the work the way we had wanted.

I was working from home when Aaron and Ted, his assistant arrived. I had papers scattered across our new island and was typing away on a spreadsheet I needed to finish that day. Aaron was very gregarious and talkative. Ted was steady and silent. As they came into the house, Aaron exclaimed, “Hey man. Aaron. Nice to meet you. This is Ted.” Ted nods his greeting. “So, I see we need to finish up this tile and get it back to how you’d like it. Let me grab my tools, some drops (drop cloths), and we’ll knock this out and get out of your way.”

I instantly connected to these two guys and was grateful they had arrived. Aaron pulled out this large black square which I knew was a speaker. “You mind if I play some tunes man?” I replied, “No, that’s fine. I always have music playing when I work.” (In fact, I had Spotify playing in the background as he asked.) “You cool with country music?” he asked. I stated, “If that’s what helps you tile, I’m good with it.” “Cool. I may switch to some classic rock though. Just depends on what I’m feeling.” I let him know I was good with whatever style he chose.

Before, I continue you need to know that Aaron and Ted are artists. That is a fact !!. They worked smoothly and collaboratively. Aaron took measurements and Ted cut tiles so that the entire space came together seamlessly like a puzzle. They didn’t have to remeasure or recut any piece. Each one fit the first time. My conversation with Aaron continued as well. Having two extroverts in the same room ensures that talking will occur. We talked about our occupations, our families, the pandemic, politics and more. We did it with ease and it was so reassuring to experience.

As he was finishing up, he noted that he’d need to come back one more day. We were short with some detailed pencil tiles. I asked him about the framing of those tiles around our window. He noted, “Yeah, I see you’re window’s crooked. The other guys tried to make some cuts to cover that. I would have made some different cuts, but we can frame it and get it finished.” I replied, “Won’t it look a bit odd because you’ll have to match how the others started the job?”

He paused and smiled. “No problems, man. I follow the philosophy – When in doubt . . . grout.”

I didn’t know what he meant. He gleefully explained that he would use grout between the seams of the tile and pull it all together. If a space needed a little more grout, he’d add it. If it needed less, he’d thin it out so that the tiles all looked like they naturally were in their designated place.

I never expected to gain perspective from my tile guy, but I was wrong. His philosophy is exactly how we should approach HR. We are the grout that brings people together !! Since everyone is naturally different in how they work, look at life, and have a mix of unique skills and approaches themselves, someone needs to bring cohesion while still allowing them to be who they are.

Some people will need a bit more “grout” to add them to their place in the tile, and some will need less. The key for us is that we’re not trying to keep people set in their ways or conform. Employees are looking for ways to contribute while being connected. They want to be part of the bigger picture and understand how what they do adds value to the overall results of the company.

This week, take Aaron’s advice and see how you can reshape how you practice HR. Are you being the grout that fills in the seams? If you aren’t, I suggest you change and start bringing folks together. It is far more enriching and you’ll love how the workplace and culture looks when you’re done !!

The Fellowship

I am an avowed nerd and proud of it !! I have been nerdy since I can remember. It never really bothered me because I was also able to fit in with the jocks, the band and choir groups, and many academic factions. I’ve felt comfortable being involved and connected with whatever group of people I’ve been around. This is challenging for others because we would rather have people stay in their “assigned” group. I hope that I’m never that narrow because there are far too many amazing humans on this planet to get to know and affiliate with.

When I hit 7th grade, I was tall, gangly and looked like a giraffe that didn’t quite fit in its body. Clumsy was more of the norm than having graceful moves physically or socially. I was trying to figure out the mystery of being a teenager in a new town and a new school. I had to make new friends out of thin air. The overwhelming majority of my classmates had been going to school together since they were in Kindergarten. I was completely out of my element.

One day I found myself in the stacks of the school library and I found the book The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein. I had found my place !! The book took me to an entirely new world where I could lose myself. It gave me something to latch onto with all of the changes going on in my “new world.” I learned that this great book was the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and as soon as I could open the first book, I did. It was time for The Fellowship of the Ring.

If you don’t know this book or haven’t seen the incredible Lord of the Rings movie, stop reading this post and go see them. I own them all and have read the trilogy several times as well as watched each movie over and over and . . .

The Fellowship was amazing because it brought characters together who were very diverse and not cohesive at first. They had several agendas and dislike for those who weren’t from their kingdom. Over time, as their adventure continued, they realized that each member of the group had talent and skills which were needed at various times of their quest. They were trying to get the ring to a very dark and evil place to destroy it so that evil would not be able to take over their world.

When I think of how this unlikely combination came together, I thought of HR. (Again, remember I’m a nerd and see HR in most aspects of life). I see so many amazing movements happening around the globe right now. I also am encouraged by more and more HR voices who are sharing on social media platforms. Top that off with podcasts that feature HR practitioners who express new thoughts and perspectives.

Unfortunately, there are also still those who feel they have to justify their work in HR personally and in their organizations. And, there are still those who write blogs, have podcasts and make presentations which diminish the profession in order for others to focus on them for personal gain. It’s frustrating to see that we continue to seem as if we exist outside the recognized business world.

So, I think it’s time for us to form a Fellowship of HR !! Seriously, it would be phenomenal to see the entire profession come together to move forward. The infighting and divisiveness would cease and we would lift other professionals up so they could succeed personally and professionally. Wouldn’t it be amazing to elevate the many voices and perspectives from around the world so that organizations became intentionally people-first all the time?

I think we can if we follow the example from the book on how the group came together. The most unlikely character, Frodo who was a Hobbit, stepped forward to say he would take the ring to have it destroyed in the midst of all of the other characters from various kingdoms argued as to who should lead or be in charge. The fellowship rallied around someone who had no visible strengths, stature, or personality. However, he showed a willingness to take a risk and humility that others overlooked or lacked.

The time to come together as a profession is now. The time to move the industry forward as a cohesive, diverse, and inclusive community is now. There are elements springing up everywhere that together form a fabric that is creative, authentic, and relevant. Let’s embrace all and give everyone access to join this fellowship. No one leader. No one effort. Instead, a fellowship that shares a common bond to improve the humanity of the workplace, and in turn, a more well-rounded society as a whole.

This isn’t aspirational. It’s needed. The quest is at hand. Will you join in the fellowship? It would be great to move ahead with each one of you !!

Too Much Time !!

This past Saturday is one of the most eagerly anticipated days of the year. No, not Halloween. It’s daylight savings time when we turn our clocks back for one hour. One hour. We get giddy about “adding” a single hour to our days. Most often it’s positioned so you can rest and get an “extra” hour of sleep. That’s cool, but I usually miss this because I think that having another hour lets me stay up later !! (I’m a night owl though.)

I’ve been spending some of this new found extra time contemplating why everyone gets so excited about daylight savings time. What I’ve landed on is that our days are so full that we want to feel some relief. Any relief. I’ve written about this in the past that most everyone you meet is exasperated all the time. They never feel that there are enough hours in the day in order to live life effectively.

This state of exhaustion has led to the work/life balance quest and other initiatives to see how we can squeeze one more minute out of our days. Our constant yearning for complete closure of every task and facet of our days seems unattainable . . . because it is !! There is value in completing tasks and getting things done. What we forget is that time never stops and neither does life. We live in a continuum and not a series of starts and stops. Layer on top of this that when we finish something, we’re devastated that another item looms in front of us. It’s easy to see how people can feel burdened and trapped by these feelings of incompleteness.

If you know me, or if you’ve read this blog for any time, you know that I look at life through a different lens. I feel I have too much time on my hands. (This is also a phenomenal Styx song by the way !!) It’s true and not because of the additional hour we celebrated.

I don’t feel pressed by the constraints of time. This isn’t some ethereal philosophy or aspiration. I choose not to be anxious about deadlines or schedules, but I make sure to follow them. They just don’t rule my day. Also, I have always believed people have the same amount of time in their days. It’s purely a matter of how you choose to use your time.

If you sat down and wrote ALL that you accomplished in your day from the time you get up until you sleep once again, you’d see how much is happening naturally each day. You may get anxious because of other pressures, but time continues whether you feel pressured or not. Also, if you wrote down the amount of time you spend on work, eating, social media, TV (or streaming services), conversations, etc., you’d be stunned at how your time is actually allocated.

Here’s an example . . .

Yesterday, before the hands of the clock jumped backward – I slept in and then got up to make a full breakfast for my amazing wife (including raspberry scones.) I did some chores around the house, signed some books to be sent out to some special folks, sent some messages and tweets to folks because I choose to be connected and active on social media, then made my way out to my “task” for the day. We have very mature trees surrounding our house and this is the time of year when I have to conquer the leaf blanket that covers our yard from corner to corner. The mulching of leaves, mowing of the yard and other lawn cleaning took five hours. I ached all over my body. However, the day was not even close to coming to an end.

I had a quick snack and some water before joining the weekly HR Pub Quiz that has been going each Saturday through the pandemic for an hour of trivia and laughs. Then came a quick reheating of leftovers, decorating a pumpkin and getting ready for trick or treaters to visit for the annual candy harvest of Halloween. After we had our last visitor, my wife and I watched a movie on Netflix for two hours and then decided to head to bed. The time change was still technically hours in the future.

See what I mean? A full day and that honestly doesn’t capture everything I did. The reason I feel I have too much time (and I do) is that I don’t spend my time on things that are negative, derogatory, or divisive. I don’t. You see, I think those things are a time suck that only leads to feelings of being overwhelmed.

You have a choice. Each person who reads this. Your time is your own even when it involves caring for a spouse/partner, kids, family, or your job. You can enjoy what you do while you’re doing it. When you do this and reframe your mental approach to what lies ahead, you’ll find that you have more time available than you thought you did. Try it and see what happens !!

To keep this front of mind, enjoy some Styx . . .

Against the Grain

I’m exhausted. I’m fairly sure if I asked you, that the answer would be the same. The past few months have been trying for everyone. The pandemic would have been enough for anyone, and now it seems to be gaining momentum which is going to prove to be another challenge. On top of the constant fight against the virus, there is legitimate social unrest, political disarray among other things. People seem to have blamed the year 2020 as the framework for wave after wave of discord. I don’t think the year is to blame, I think it’s us.

Everywhere you look people are making disharmony and divisiveness the norm. Remember several months ago when we wondered what our “new normal” would be? I don’t think this is what we expected. There are so many things that need to be addressed now that have been overlooked for far too long. I’m not going to be presumptuous and offer solutions for all that is surrounding us.

However, I can’t agree with the norm. I can’t partake in dialogue that seeks to only bring opposition. I can’t tolerate the incessant conversations that only seem to have the purpose of keeping people apart. Instead, I choose to go against the grain.

To me, it is far more important to believe in others than it is to focus on differences. I want to learn who people are and where they come from. I want to hear their perspectives and views on any subject they choose. I want to meet, connect, and understand anyone who is willing to do the same. Even those who think differently or come from angles I don’t personally agree with, I want to know them as well.

This isn’t just some personal crusade, mantra or lifestyle. I want to encourage others to do the same, but if they don’t I still plan to go against the grain. Instead of discord, I choose kindness. Instead of divisiveness, I choose to believe in others. Instead of opposition, I choose inclusion. This is true for me personally and especially at work.

As HR pros, we are surrounded by people all the time. I understand this may now be virtual for some, but it doesn’t change the fact that we are around others. Since that is the case, we should be the ones who choose non-conformity with all that is going on and do what we can to bring people together. I am astounded by the number of people who are struggling with various aspects of life and we would rather focus on completing tasks and measuring performance instead of ensuring the wellbeing of others.

Going against the grain takes discipline, an intentional spirit and courage to not bow down and join the forces trying to make life negative and frustrating. Being positive, kind and encouraging will not get the likes, retweets and self-focus that tries to dominate our attention. We cannot wait and continue to muddle through in the hope for relief. We must act and bring consistent positivity, kindness and encouragement through our behavior and our interactions.

I choose to go against the grain, do you?