Leave the Cupboard !!

This weekend I’ve been binging Harry Potter movies . . . once again. It’s hard for me to turn away when they come on. This weekend the SyFy channel picked them up and it’s been great !!

If you’re not familiar with the stories, Harry originally stayed with his aunt and uncle who didn’t want him there. In fact, he live in a “cupboard under the stairs.” They didn’t like him being in their house and they didn’t like that he was “different.” When he was young, he was at his relative’s bidding and wasn’t able to get out. After Harry finds out he’s a young wizard, the series takes off and he is no longer held captive.

This information is readily available in the books, the movies, online and fan clubs I’m sure. I know this is rather nerdy, and I’m good with that. You see, I also tend to see HR applications in almost everything.

For far too long HR has remained in the cupboard under the stairs organizationally. We continue to practice as a fringe support function that is accessed when, and only if, needed. It leads to a lonely, frustrating existence. And yet, we do little to push against the way we’re treated. It’s as if we’re being held back just like Harry because what we offer our companies is seen as different.

I love that my peers are empathetic, caring people towards others in the company. By stepping out and leaving our normal surroundings, we don’t forsake this. It’s an attribute that should define us as humans overall and especially within the workplace. It shouldn’t, however, mean that we cower in the shadows only to step out at certain times. We are overdue in standing up, being confident and being seen, heard and valued.

I understand that this can be a daunting undertaking for most. It can be so challenging that it may force people to stay in place because that is more comfortable. There is an easy step that you can take which will start to broaden your perspective and give you the courage to move forward.

When you ask people what consumes the majority of their time during the day, they’d immediately respond “their work.” This isn’t really the case. Our reality is that our days are consumed with people. Conversations with people. Interactions with people. Issues with people. And so on . . .

So, the first step is something that I make sure to practice every day. Leave your desk and be out among others. It seems so simple, but very few willingly do it. We tend to talk to others in our company using our HR face and HR voice. I mean that we feel we “have” to talk to others in order to get some transaction completed. I understand that we have deadlines, tasks and administration that needs to be current. It shouldn’t be the main reason we meet with others. The main reason for interaction is . . . because they showed up !!

Your days will be so much more fulfilling when your out among others. You’ll learn more about the conversations that are happening, the feelings that are being shared and also the pulse of the organization. You cannot do this behind your desk or computer screen. It’s not possible !!

This week, step away from whatever’s holding you back from having intentional and meaningful encounters with other people. I encourage you not only to do this with co-workers, but HR peers as well. Don’t stay under the stairs. You have too much to offer your organization and your profession !!

Step Out of Line !!

I’ve just returned from SHRM18, and this was one of the best SHRM Annual Conferences I’ve attended. It was the largest and most attended in SHRM’s history, and yet it felt very accessible and easy to maneuver. The attendees were geeked whether they were in sessions, browsing the SHRM store, enjoying the keynotes or taking in the wonder of Chicago.

At the end of one of the days, the 17,000+ attendees all seemed to be leaving at the same time. I was in the midst of everyone else and was hot and tired – just like the masses. I walked out into the city heat to grab a cab and was told to go back in line. I didn’t know there was a line, so I headed back inside. What I saw was staggering !! The queue for the cab line was enormous and folded back on itself many times. The lines for the shuttles seemed to go on forever as well. I also looked at a countless number of attendees looking at their phones waiting for their Uber or Lyft to arrive.

After observing all of this, I tried to lighten the tension by suggesting people step out to get a drink. I was met with scowls and grumbling. This didn’t seem to be going well in general. So, I made a decision.

I stepped out of line !!

I walked out of the cavernous McCormick Center and started walking down a street. I looked at a map on my phone and saw that I had a short 46 minute stroll in front of me as the sky above me darkened with thunderstorm clouds. I didn’t care and kept walking. After about eight expansive Chicago blocks, I spotted a cab by itself across the street. The driver was checking something in his trunk, and he was heading back to get in. I screamed across traffic, “Sir !! Sir !!” He saw me and beckoned me over. I zig zagged through passing traffic and collapsed into the cab dripping with sweat.

The driver calmly greeted me and asked, “Hello !! Where to sir?”

I told the driver my destination and then he began talking. He asked me how my day was and where I was from. He told me he was originally from Lagos, Nigeria and that he had been in Chicago for over ten years. His only job in the states has been driving a cab in Chicago, and he loved it. He loved talking to passengers and hearing about who they were, what they did and why they were visiting Chicago. He was wonderful, welcoming and fascinating !! All of my anxiety and stress of rushing back to get to the next HR event wanted, and we had a fantastic conversation.

As we pulled up to my hotel, I extended my hand out to the driver and said, “My name is Steve.” He replied, “My name is Sunday.” I thanked Sunday for the best experience of my time in Chicago yet.

I never would have met Sunday had I stayed in line. The lines were the most obvious choice because they were the system that was provided and that people were used to. There’s nothing wrong with the system, but it was bogged down. It was leading to frustration and angst because people wanted to get out of the building for the day.

This sounds like HR and the world of work that all of us face. If we would have the courage to step out of line vs. trying to contain people within lines, we’d have a completely different experience every day. We would see what’s happening all around us because we’d be in different environments. We’d have to fend for ourselves and learn how to solve situations from a fresh perspective, and we’d enjoy the adventure !!

All of the “learnings” we can encounter can occur in the most unlikely places. The key for all of us is that we intentionally – step out of line !!

Be A Door Opener !!

Recently, it seems like Linked In has unlocked some vault of invitations. I’m not complaining, but it’s a bit daunting to get a constant stream of requests to connect. I’m not an “open networker”, but I am very comfortable in making connections. I have a slightly different perspective than most though.

Networking seems to be a regular subject for bloggers (including myself). I write about the topic because I don’t see many people network on an on-going basis. Most folks seem to “network” when they’re in the need of a job, and once they land their next gig, they slip back into professional isolation. I don’t understand that. How can people matter when you have a need, but once that need is met they don’t?

I view networking and making connections as a business skill. Having connections gives you the ability to make your company thrive through learning new methods, information and resources that you may not have known about. We tend to work within our four walls and barely lift our head during the day. I know it feels right, and it gets work accomplished. But,¬† what if there’s a better way?

We need to get past the thought that meeting and connecting with others is a waste of time or a hindrance to “real work.” It’s just not true. So, I have a suggestion for you to consider in making networking effective and fulfilling.

Be a door opener.

What does this entail? It means that connections don’t have to end when you meet with someone or accept their invitation on Linked In. You can take a next step and connect them with another person.

(Quick disclaimers – I understand that we all have a finite amount of time, focus and attention. Not every connection is going to lead to something long-term. Also, I’m not too keen on Linked In becoming the new salesperson’s cold call, but that’s for another time. Let’s continue . . .)

Someone reached out to you at one time to make a connection on purpose. There may have been several factors that led to that connection occurring, but they took the first step. So, if someone did that for you, why wouldn’t you open the door to someone else to make that next connection?

Here’s an example. When I meet someone who is in transition, I let them know that if I’m connected to someone in a company they’re trying to join, I’d be glad to reach out and drop my connection a note on their behalf. I’d open a door. I believe that good people should have great roles in great companies. I rest on the belief that opening these doors will not only help people, but it will also improve companies in the long run.

This is worth my time and it’s my personal choice to do this. The person seeking a job still needs to do the work of interviewing and landing the job. However, opening a door may be the one thing they can’t do solely on their own.

Taking this approach doesn’t only have to work with job seekers. I often meet with vendors who I know that I probably won’t use at the company where I work. However, I feel it matters to meet them because I may know someone else who could use them. If they can grow their business from a connection that I made, then people succeed. That’s always positive !!

This week change your approach to connecting and networking. Refuse to let connections stop with you. Instead, be courageous and connect them to at least one more person down the line. You never know, you may be making a connection for a future teacher, salesperson, entrepreneur, CEO or HR professional. Going forward – open doors.

What’s Your Name ??

Your name.

Everyone has one. The truth is that it is the most significant identifier of who we are as a human. You prefer to have others know your name when they talk to you because it provides a more personal connection. What is unique about names is that we’re very content knowing our own, and that’s about it.

The majority of people I meet willingly share that they struggle remembering the names of others. I find that fascinating and disappointing at the same time. It’s just not true. You know the names of many, many people, but you just don’t recognize it. For instance, you know the names of your immediate family and all of your extended family. Those names may actually extend for generations, and you’re able to recall every one without any effort.

You also know the names of many celebrities that span over decades. You can name the movies or television shows they were in, or the music that they perform. I’m not a celebrity follower, but I know too many of their names myself because they surround us.

So, you know more names than you think. However, the names of the people who pass by you every day are ignored and we “can’t” remember them because we’re “not good with names.”

I think this should change. People were given a name for a reason. To blow this off due to a lack of interest is not a good excuse. I don’t buy it. Why ?? I am good with names. I think that I have the names of thousands of people in my head at one time or another. Some of this may be that I’ve worked at this, but I think it’s also a set of factors that are a bit different than you may consider.

If you’re in HR, then I think it’s imperative that you are good knowing the names of those in your workplace at a minimum. There shouldn’t be an employee that walks through work anonymously. Now, I understand that we all work in company’s of various sizes. It could be very challenging to know every single team member’s name. That doesn’t make it less important, and I have some ways to make it less daunting.

Know that it matters – As mentioned before, our name is our unique identifier. We were given one on purpose. Remember that because remembering the name of other’s will keep you “others” focused which is the best type of HR.

You remember those who impact you or influence you – Remember the celebrity example? You remember those folks with ease because they’ve left some imprint on you. The same is true with your family and friends. So, treat those you work with with the same weight. Be an influence on them and expect them to be an influence on you.

Invest the time to remember names – It’s not as hard as we make it. The truth is that we’ll put our time towards things that matter to us. People should matter !! Knowing someone by their name will establish the foundation of a relationship. It’s key to all areas of your life.

Don’t be afraid to ask – We seem to hit a wall of fear if we forget someone’s name. The truth is that people are very forgiving if you take the time to ask them again. I’d work on it not happening regularly, but people will give grace since they struggle with remembering names as well.

This week start a new trend and approach. Work on remembering the names of others. It will change your perspective on relationships as well as other’s view of you. By the way, my name’s Steve.

Fighting Distractions !!

Recently, I went out of town for the first SHRM Board meeting of the year. It gave me a break from the norm of heading into the office every day. Taking a short mental break from your normal pattern is incredibly refreshing. Now, I was going from one type of work to another, but it was a break nonetheless.

Having an interruption in my normal pattern helped because it broke up the myriad of distractions that exist on a regular basis. HR is never the same every day. This isn’t a complaint, it’s our reality. Because we’re in the business of humans, the unexpected is what we’re sure to face the moment we head into the office. Since we work within this unpredictable environment, we can easily become distracted. There are so many different situations that present themselves that it becomes overwhelming to try and pick through everything to find a clear path.

You need to understand one thing about this constant flow of distractions. I wouldn’t trade it in for the world. I would not function well in a job where things moved from A to B to C to D to . . .

I would much rather stay in the world of A to 7 to Purple to Llama to B. I know that doesn’t “make sense”, but I do think it’s a more accurate flow to the day of a human resources practitioner. Since this is our reality, how can we flourish within this miasma of being pulled in thousands of ways? There are a handful of suggestions I’d like to propose that will help you cope.

Accept your reality – I can almost hear your deep sigh as you read this, and you’re mumbling, “Really ??” Yes, really. You will be less frustrated when you own this. Life isn’t linear. It never has been. Understanding that there are very few predictive patterns in your “normal” day will allow you to try other mechanisms to fight distractions.

Be decisive – This is the bane of almost every HR person I know. This doesn’t mean that you should overlook alternatives. You absolutely should because the situations we address are never black or white. However, you need to stop the flow of distractions by making a decision and then implementing it. Taking a more firm stance on items will remove some of the things that push and pull for your time – at least for a moment.

Take a walk – This may be literal or figurative. Whatever constitutes a “break” for you is something you need to regularly do to stop the noise. Get away from the pace and the people who long for your time and attention. Not forever just for a moment. Having that intentional break from your normal day will help clear the fog. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to jump back in.

You aren’t the only one – We often get exasperated with our own days, and we think we’re the only ones facing distractions. That is narrow thinking. The truth is that in today’s non-stop pace of work, technology, life, family, etc. – all people are swimming in distractions. Understanding this is critical because when you interact with someone else you’re entering their world of distractions. Let others know that the push and pull they’re facing is okay and you both can work within this every changing flow.

Buy a book –¬† Now, relax because this isn’t a shameless plug, it’s a recommendation. One of the best gifts I ever received was the book Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon MacKenzie. He accurately captures the workplace and shows how you can “survive with grace.” It’s worth the read, and you’ll find it a resource you’ll reference often.

We are distracted. It’s not wrong, it’s what we face. Thanks for taking a “break” to read this. Now, jump back in the mix.

Encourage Daily !!

We all have things that have become daily habits. They range from when you wake up to whether you have breakfast or not to how you commute to work. These daily activities are so ingrained into our lives that we actually notice if something is slightly off. In fact, those slight variations can throw us off greatly (but we’re good with change – remember?)

Consistency is needed in our lives. We like consistency, and it gives us comfort knowing our daily routine. What’s interesting about our patterns is that they are most likely self-focused. We take care of ourselves far more than others. There is value in this, but it also may set up blinders. We can become numb to our routine and just glide through it without thinking about it.

When my kids were very young, I would take them to daycare everyday. It was a given part of my morning ritual Monday through Friday. I enjoyed getting their day started before heading into the office. One day, I packed my son into the car and started my commute. This day, however, I turned onto the highway and was blissfully moving in and out of traffic. About five miles along, a small voice from the back seat said, “Dad, am I going to daycare today?” I snapped out of my haze, and there was my son waving to me as I looked in the rear view mirror. He laughed hysterically with glee about my panic. We turned the car around and I dropped him off before heading back to work.

My routine had lulled me into just going through the motions to the point that I ignored my son !! I think this happens to too many people as we go into work. Why do you think people came up with the term “the daily grind”?

Aren’t you tired of this? Wouldn’t you like to break out of the doldrums and have a vibrant, engaged day – every day ?? I do and I have a way for you to break out of the doldrums as well. Encouragement.

We pass by a countless number of people every day without even noticing. They aren’t part of our daily habit. That needs to change. A friend of mine, Carlos Escobar, blogged and shared a video of a subway transit worker who greets every single person every day. He intentionally takes the time to say “Hello” to every person.

Encouragement is so simple and yet so difficult. The act of encouraging and saying something to lift someone up takes seconds of your day. Seconds. Not hours, seconds. We come up with excuses of why we shouldn’t encourage others. We may even fall into the awful mindset that if we encourage others they’ll “expect it” !!

In order to fight the urge to avoid, I want to encourage you to make encouragement a daily habit. Also, I want you to lift up everyone you encounter – even those who may not want it. This simple act will completely alter your daily outlook on life, work and interactions. Encouragement is the baseline for healthy relationships.

Tomorrow, as you start your work week, begin to notice others. Start a new daily routine. You’ll see the dark part of your days lighten up. You’ll see people respond positively where that may not have been the case. It’s worth the effort.¬†Encourage others daily !!

Be Good

A few weeks ago I received a nondescript envelope in the mail at work. It was from my dear friend, Brad Galin, who also happens to be in HR. Inside the envelope was a small scrap of paper and a sticker. The note said, “Saw this and thought of you. – Brad” I looked at the sticker and smiled.

A small black circle with a positive message that fit in the palm of my hand stated – Be Good to People.

It’s a simple message. Four words that carry incredible weight and meaning.

It’s interesting that there’s an entire company that produces this message on a variety of products. (You should check them out !! – Be Good To People) Their whole mission is to spread this message in many different ways so that we all have a visible reminder. They want to see kindness be a constant in our lives and our society.

So, you need to ask – Why would we need this reminder? Unfortunately, it’s necessary because the majority of all that we see, consume and share isn’t good. I appreciate people speaking out against wrongs and ills that are happening in our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our cities and our country. It just seems that we’re constantly in some form of battle that pits people against each other. It’s exhausting and disheartening.

It’s also ironic when someone brings up a simple solution such as “be good,” the response is a scoff and skepticism. Now, THIS is something worth challenging. I’m an unapologetic optimist. I believe in humans without having them go through hoops to earn my trust or respect.

I dig that Brad thought of me when he picked up this sticker. I also appreciate that he took the time to reach out and mail it to me. That personal touch is so meaningful and it gives me a framework on how “being good” can work.

Small actions make a huge impact !!

That’s it. Simple. We need to understand that much of human interaction can turn from ugly to positive by small steps that happen on purpose. When you have that first encounter at work or at home tomorrow to start your week, the move is yours. If you are pressed and you feel your face begin to get flushed with your reactive response, breathe and then be good.

The reason this call to action is so difficult is that we need to fight against our inclination to instantly respond and try to solve something. Being good fights against the urge to react and move on. This call asks you to go against the flow of not only what you’re used to doing, but also how others expect you to respond.

What you need to know is that it’s worth the effort. It doesn’t matter what role you hold in your organization. This call isn’t only for HR because we’re the “people” people. Being good is for all people.

This week look for areas where you can take a small step. When you see that opportunity, take it. It will change your day, your week and possibly your life. Remember this – Be good to people.

HR Kaleidoscope !!

This past week I was fortunate to present to my home SHRM chapter the Greater Cincinnati HR Association (GCHRA). It was special to me because this is the place where I “grew up” as an HR professional. They provided the laboratory to get to meet peers in the field, learn and develop HR skills and learn to grow in the role as a volunteer leader. To be asked to come back and now present to the chapter was amazing.

Please note that I never take the opportunity of speaking at HR events for granted. It is something that gives me energy because few things in life get me more geeked than being with other HR peers !! I was also eager to try out a new “personal workshop” based on my book – HR on Purpose !! The reason I was eager was that I was trying out a new concept for attendees.

The concept is this – I think attendees at HR events expect the speaker to wave some magic wand through their presentation and give people black and white takeaways. These takeaways will be perfect when used regardless of the industry or how HR is viewed in their organization. This just isn’t true. If it was, then we’d all need to hear one presentation from one speaker and then all of our challenges would be solved.

The reason this was framed as a personal workshop is that we discussed topics and concepts, and then everyone took time to write down what mattered to them. Here was the next radical move – no one shared what they wrote down !! No one complained or felt on the spot.

I think that every HR practitioner follows many of the same concepts in their role. However, every company is different. Also, HR has to be pliable and morph into different shapes and sizes because people are unique. We can’t keep thinking that the one approach fits all works. It never has and never will. Why ?? Because HR is a kaleidoscope.

Did you ever have a kaleidoscope as a kid? They are one of the coolest toys because no matter how many times you look through them, the pattern is different. It’s a simple toy. Metal tube (the best are made of tin.) Tiny bits of colored plastic enclosed at one end of the tube that move loosely while still being a bit contained. The end of the tube where the colored bits are can be twisted and rotated to make things roll around and give you a new picture. The only other aspect is looking up towards the light so you can catch the different fractals as they move.

This is just how HR is in reality. We need to look to the light (or positive) side of what we do. Then, move things around and we’ll see the colorful bits (our people) move, shift and perform to make new pictures and results.

After the workshop, several people came up and shared that they had been looking at HR the same way for years and years. Having some time to hear a different perspective and then write down some things to act upon reenergized them. They left eager to apply something they learned based on what THEY needed !! It’s not a novel concept, it’s just something we’ve not done.

Going to HR events, chapter meetings and conferences is essential so that you get your batteries recharged and you also meet, and hang out with, your HR compatriots. The key is to twist your kaleidoscope and no longer go just to be motivated and jacked up by a speaker. Try something new and take notes that work for YOU so that you can continue to grow and thrive in all you do !!

I recommend that you do one more thing. Buy a kaleidoscope for yourself and keep in in your workplace as a reminder to keep HR fresh and colorful all the time. I have one that I look at all the time. It works !!

These Days

As another year comes to an end, I’ve seen sentiments ranging from “good riddance” to “thank goodness that’s over.” We have been surrounded by news of violence, turmoil, political upheaval, personal failure, on-going war and massive natural disasters. That isn’t the only news about what is going on, but it’s all that fills the airwaves and social media.

This dark approach can make these days seem difficult and even impossible to face. Throw on top of this the real personal challenges people face. I have friends going through serious relationship struggles, facing unknown medical situations and those going into 2018 without a job. Again, it can be seen as bleak.

I realize that there will always be a dark side pressing upon us personally and as a society. At times, it may even take hold and be prevalent. However, I don’t think it is our reality. There are amazing things happening all around us. I have friends who have thrived in 2017 and had some incredible personal accomplishments. I’ve seen people reach out and lend a hand to lift others up and get them through whatever they’re facing. I’ve had friends share great times together filled with endless laughter and joy.

We all have different circumstances we face. I’m not here to judge or tell you to suck it up and just push through. Life is tough and yet magnificent at the same time. There’s a great song song by the Foo Fighters called These Days which puts things into perspective when it opens with these lyrics.

“One of these days, the ground will drop out from beneath your feet; One of these days, your heart will stop and play it’s final beat”

We have a New Year in front of us and we can continue to wallow in the muck and mire of things, or we can make a choice to approach life differently and positively. I don’t follow in the practice of making resolutions because I know that they’re fantastic aspirations, but they fall apart quickly when the first sign of resistance arrives. I want to suggest that you list choices to follow instead. Here are mine for 2018 and I hope they speak to you as well.

Choose to connect – There have been many posts lately from others in HR about the power of having a community. This is something I have believed in for years and have seen it make a difference. You can face the ups and downs of life when you have others you can reach out to because they are your friends.

Choose to care – I state this because it doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should. I think people are willing to be vocal and share their concern or disdain over situations, but they are hesitant to act. Caring takes action and being intentional. If someone is hurting, reach out to them. If you seen injustice, step in and act to make it disappear. Don’t just complain and grouse – act.

Choose to share – I see so much great work being published on blogs, in books and in various articles. We have no problem in generating content. However, it just sits there. Be different and share the good work of others. Yes, it gives them the spotlight, and that is awesome !! Good work deserves to be shared. The more we share great content, the better our profession becomes. Think of others first !!

Choose to encourage – Life is so much brighter when we lift others up. It may seem that this takes so much effort, but that just isn’t the case. Being positive is natural if you practice on a regular basis. Trust me when I say that encouraging others is worth it every. time.

A New Year is sure to be filled with more of “these days.” I hope you make choices so that 2018 is a great year for you personally as well as for all of the people you’ll encounter. I look forward to next year, and I hope you do as well !!

Shine !!

I look forward to the weekend after Thanksgiving because that is when my family traditionally decorates for Christmas. I’ll hold out every year even though society keeps trying to make the holiday season start earlier and earlier. My favorite part of decorating is putting up lights outside. It’s special because my kids (now adults) always jump in to help. They get geeked about stringing lights, building massive electrical connections and making sure that the coverage is balanced and colorful.

Our family also has a tradition where we’ll get in the car and drive throughout neighborhoods to see the various displays that people have constructed. I like to see actual lights and not these projection systems because I enjoy seeing the creativity that people have. The homes that go crazy and try to drain the local power grid are fantastic !! However, I also enjoy someone who can use light subtly, and still convey an artistic display. I’m also a bit biased to multi-colored lights versus vs. monochromatic yards. But I digress . . .

What does this have to do with HR ?? Everything.

You see we can be the ones who shine in our workplace. We can be that attractive display that people would get out of their office to meet and work with. What would HR be like for you if you were the light in the office and not the bearer of darkness?

I think shining your light is essential for HR. It’s actually easier that you may think because you are in control of how you approach your work as well as how you interact with others. I’m not talking about putting on some fake trappings to be peppy just for show. No one wants that. Shining to dispel the darkness is much more welcomed, and needed, in our workplaces.

We tend to think that making people feel good and enjoy what they do is a “waste of time” or an unnecessary “soft skill.” People are supposed to come to WORK, and that is all. (Insert giggle of disbelief here). The idea that people show up only to do their job is a misguided myth. Yes, they do their jobs. And, more often than not, they do it willingly even though they receive little encouragement or regular feedback.

Shining your light breaks up the drudgery of work. Being a beacon of light allows employees to look up from the grind of what they do to catch their breath and know they’ve been acknowledged and recognized. It’s time that HR intentionally be the light within their organization and push back the attitudes and approaches that look to force control and possibly anguish.

I understand that being someone who shines may not come naturally to some, but I encourage you to push through. Trust me. If you are someone who brings light to situations, you will be successful in all you do. It’s such a missing facet of today’s workplaces, that people will respond because they’re longing for it.

The key is to be the light in your organization year-round and not just during a season. It will be surprising to others at first, but how cool would it be if it became the norm? It would rock !!

(To give you a little nudge, I leave you with this gem from the 90’s !!)