When Kids Grow Up . . .

This past weekend I led our Troop Advancement Outing.  As the Scoutmaster, it’s my one outing where I am officially “in charge.”  That term is used very loosely because the boys plan everything.  I only make sure that the outing is focused on helping the new kids work on things that help them advance in rank.

It seems that every campout I run for the Advancement Outing has a unique weather element to it !!  This year we had below freezing temperatures, rain and sleet. Yipee !!  You have to love Ohio in April !!  The amazing thing about this weather anomaly was that the boys didn’t even flinch an eye.  Sure, it was cold, but they were camping and that was good enough for them.

During this full weekend, the older Scouts taught the new Scouts how to build fires, wield axes, identify plants and animals as well as basic First Aid.  One requirement we always include is a five mile hike.  I always go with the kids because I love doing the activies with them !!  The hike rocked !!!  We saw evidence of deer, raccoons and beavers.  We saw plants and trees we’d never seen before and the highlight of the hike was the break we took.  We stopped at a creek and I told the boys they could spend 15 minutes creeking.  They literally jumped off the bridge and straight into the freezing water !!  They searched for crayfish, fossils, caves, etc.  The energy level skyrocketed !!

Later, our First Aid walk was truly epic !!  The boys walk through the woods and come upon various injured people and they have to identify the problem and a solution to how to help them.  My amazing son led this and came up with Attack of the Insane Doll !!  So, each injured scout along the route had been attacked by a stuffed childhood toy and left the boys punctured, blistered, burned, rabid and broken – with a compound fracture.  The boys who acted out the walk were spectacular and the make-up and props were of Hollywood quality.

So, what does this have to do with HR or the workplace ??  Everything !!

You know what happens to kids when grow up ??  They become our employees !!

So, the bright-eyed and creative kids who jump into a freezing creek and get muddy and soaked may be CEO’s !!  The victims of the insane doll may be engineers, factory workers or managers.

However, when they grow up and come to WORK we have to do our duty to suck their souls out to make sure they “perform” and don’t bring their whole self to work.  We have standards to uphold for goodness sake.

Also, if employees actually did bring their entire being to work, what would happen ??  The sad thing is that we don’t know.  People put on their work face to make sure that things get done and order is ensured.  Also sad !!

Blur the LineWe have a great opportunity in HR to eradicate this and get the kid factor back into our workplaces.  When I think of culture, I want to see people who are engaged, genuine and playful.  I’m fortunate to be at a company that not only allows that – it expects it.

So, this week be a kid.  You know you want to and the other kids around you are just waiting for someone to break out and make it FUN versus it being WORK.  The creek’s waiting . . . just watch out for that doll !!

Geeked !!

If you know me at all, you’ve heard the word “geeked” !!  My wife would even say that I use the word a little too much.  I can’t help in though.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to be the opening keynote at the SCIHRA Conference.  We had a great time, and a true highlight for me was when an attendee came up to me after the presentation and said, “Wow, it was great to hear HR in a positive and fun way !!”  I thanked her, but then thought that it was telling if someone had to come to an event to get HR pros geeked about what we do.

I couldn’t let this pass so I asked her how she saw HR. (Get ready . . .)

“Well, most everyone we read or hear from is either negative, snarky or sarcastic.  It’s hard to be motivated when so few are encouraging.  You took the things we do everyday and brought passion and humor.  It was great to laugh !! ”  Ouch !!!  I thanked her again and it made me think.

GeekedYou see, being geeked to me isn’t just being “positive.”  It’s really a choice of how to approach life – not just HR.

Trust me, I know what it’s like to be in a blue funk, have a frustrating day, or be negative.  To take a different approach to life takes a ton of effort and a commitment to being intentional.

Being geeked isn’t always taken very well by others either.  Unfortunately, most people start every day with a heavy sigh and a negative thought about what’s not done.  Then, it usually gets darker from there.

I’m sure there will be folks who read this and think that being geeked is some “act” or just being naive and a utopian.  Someone who’s dodging reality.  Not true in the least.

People relish the chance to have someone with them who’s excited about who they are, what they do and what’s happening in their lives. It’s an incredible feeling to see folks come to life when you get them all geeked up !!

You see, there are tons of blogs, books and articles on people bringing their “whole self” to work.  I get that, but few practice it.  If you try this approach, you might get to see your whole self emerge.  That would be awesome !!

So, this week pick something and go for it.  Get geeked and tell others about it.  Post it on Twitter or Facebook.  Send it in an e-mail.  Take a picture.  Whatever works for you, do it.  Trust me, you’ll love your day just a bit more when you do !!

I’ll be looking for the great things you’re doing.  Need to go now and see the next new thing.  You know I’ll probably be . . .

What box ??

Creative people are dangerous !!  At least, that’s how it feels.  You see the word “creative” is bantered about in blogs, articles and books.  There are several “step” plans to help people be more creative, but it seems to take some superhuman effort.

Why is that?

What is so scary about being creative?  Is it that when we hear the word we give it a massive scale like painting the Sistine Chapel?  Or, is it thought to be too scattered, unfocused, blue sky, etc.?

Being creative in HR is necessary.  It’s not something that is even an option really because great HR is in the midst of humans.  If you don’t have a creative approach in how to work with, for and around people, then HR is going to be massively frustrating !!  It doesn’t have to be, but I think that the general malaise and jadedness that fills the vast majority of the social space communicates that HR is rough.

I have to disagree !!  I recently had a great conversation with a friend who said, “Man, you (and a few others) always seem to be positive.  And, you’ve been in HR a long time, but it still seems fresh every time I hear you talk about it.”

Outside the boxThere’s a reason for this.  I call it the “what box?” approach.  This isn’t another rally cry for you to be outside a box.  It’s not allowing yourself to have a “box” at all.  Is that possible?  It is.  Let me share why . . .

I think that the fact of structure and processes still allow for vast amounts of breadth, depth and creativity !!  I don’t see them as the enemy or opposite of creativity at all.  We need to have vision, direction, focus and structure.  People feel comfortable and can perform exceedingly well when they know what the parameters are for them.  It clears up ambiguity which is what we all truly long for.

When it comes to approach, however, that’s where you can truly differentiate yourself and not conform to any particular box.  Great HR can jump from box to box to box and still be wildly effective.  In fact, by meeting people in their comfort zone, you can connect, communicate and create in amazing ways.

I follow a great book that was given to me by a friend who came to an HR Roundtable.  He said the coolest thing to me when he said, “I read this book and thought of you.”  It’s called Orbiting the Giant Hairball. It’s a personal tale of being creative at Hallmark Cards. He had to fight to be creative in a company who is supposed to be creative in order to make it’s products !!  It’s a fascinating and practical read.

You only have to dive into the hairball (box) when it’s needed.  If you don’t need to be in it, then you can orbit and create.  So, HR where do you find yourself ??  Are you stuck in your own box, or in the boxes of what others expect HR to be ??

This week, get rid of it.  Get to the point where you can say . . . what box ??

Photo credit – Outside the Box, Inc.

Dissolve the layers !!

The field of HR is vast.  I dig that.  You can seek a career in HR and going in many different ways.  Not many other fields can do that.  The ironic thing about this breadth though is that we don’t embrace it.  In fact, we do our best to have massive barriers built between the different areas so that each one can place its stake in its respective ground.

Here’s an example . . . vendors.

HR people don’t like vendors.  Vendors, in turn, don’t like HR people.  However, we need each other in order to do our job well.  But, instead of embracing each other and seeing each other as resources, we tend to tell each group to stay in their camp.

Another one . . . Sr. HR Executives.

I know I’m heading into treacherous water in calling this out.  But, when did Sr. HR pros forget that they weren’t always Senior ??  Is there an apex in our profession where we can avoid those “below us” because we don’t deal in the transactional work that lower level HR people have to address?

DissolveI don’t get it and I refuse to.  I have a different approach that I’d like us all to consider.  Let’s dissolve the layers that separate our profession and work together as talented parts of an amazing whole !!  I’m not asking us to become an HR commune.  I’m asking us to truly be strategic and understand that each part of our profession brings a strength and value to what we bring to the business community.

Last week I spoke at a very small HR chapter along which had four students from a SHRM Student chapter.  An a “Sr. HR professional,” I could have taken the stance that I wasn’t with those “of my kind” and that this was a waste of time.  Or, I could see it as an opportunity to meet great new HR folks that I didn’t know and maybe, just maybe, one of those students could meet someone that remembered how hard it was to start in HR and give them my time and attention.

So, let’s rally together !!  Vendors, recruiters, OD, Training, Consultants, Generalists, Comp & Bens folks, HR Admins, HR Analysts and Executives.  Together we make up HR.  Let’s quit trying to splinter our field.  Let’s be the example of how together we are a vital, relevant and strategic business entity !!


When someone wrongs you, how do you react?  Are you angry, vindictive, ready to pounce?  For most of us, the answer is “it depends.”  We’ll take a breath and then decide the best course of action.

However, when it comes to employees, we often forget to breathe first.  We jump to the nearest set of policies and then 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 take anything into consideration – really.

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 . . . ever make a mistake or break 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 ??

GraceIt’s time for a different approach to HR.  Please take note that this path is much more difficult, painful and intentional.  However, it works !!


Before launching into the employee handbook, remember that your decision and actions are actually affecting another person’s life.  That may be their life at work, or their life in general.  I don’t think that as HR professionals, we ever think about the person we’re addressing.  Our system is more important because we feel we are acting justly and, in doing so, we’re protecting the Company.

I’m not saying that discipline and termination aren’t warranted at work.  However, I use a yard stick which says that these only occur based on an employee’s behavior and actions.  Even with that benchmark, I still review each case and take into account 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 personally inside work and outside of work.  It’s not a popular position because most people want a pound of flesh when they are wronged.  I’ll hold out until the last moment that I can 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 know this works.  And, I have reassurance as well because I’ve seen the results.  It’s like U2 says in their phenomenal song – Grace from All That You Can’t Leave Behind – “Grace finds goodness in everything.”  Try it and see !!

HR Evangelism !!

When I look out today across the HR landscape, I see something that is a great opportunity !!  Those in the HR social media community have the chance to truly bridge the gap with the profession as a whole.

I love seeing the great work that others produce in their blogs, their books and in their presentations.  There is an amazing amount of material out here that ranges from HR generalist topics to compliance to development.  The spectrum is amazingly broad, but not that deep.  I don’t mean that as a shot.  I think that there are an incredible amount of HR pros who truly are longing for resources, but they aren’t connected to “us” or the work we’re producing.

You see, we tend to want people to “come see” what we do.  Whether that be a blog, a webinar, or at events.  I want to start a new movement where we PUSH resources out to HR professionals without worrying about membership or revenue.  I also think we need to quit trying to qualify which “level” of HR person we should reach.  When we splinter and categorize people into levels of importance or impact, we divide our profession – not bring it together.

Mind the GapThere is a gap that exists between those in HR that truly have resources and connections, and those that continue to rely on their own efforts.  It’s a HUGE number of people.  I think we have an obligation to close this gap so that these folks can be great professionals in their corner of the HR Universe.

So, I have a plan.  This isn’t just a random observation about our field.  I plan to take to be an HR evangelist to truly bring the HR community together.  It will take the effort of many, but I think it can be done.  Here are the steps:

  • I am going to push other people’s great work out to the HR community through Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, and other forums.  I want people to have your work to see what’s being done, and done well.
  • I am going to continue to intentionally reach out to HR pros who aren’t as well known as others and ask them how they would like to get resources.
  • The focus is going to be on ALL HR professionals and not just those who are vocal and visible.
  • I am going to highlight the good work of others on my blog as they produce it like their books and events they produce.
  • I am going to continue to look for ways to inform, educate and encourage HR pros to get connected where it makes sense for them.
  • I will not do this on a short-term basis.  This will be my intention going forward.
  • I will highlight the passion of others to show how HR can be relevant personally, professionally and throughout all businesses and industries.

This is meant to be intentional and ungovernable.  It is meant to be persistent and far reaching.  It is meant to wake up the HR community and get them jacked up about who we are and what we do.  I’m like the Dancing Guy in the First Follower video.  A friend of mine shared this with me and said, “The video made me think of you.”  The question is . . . who’s going to follow ??

Be a Giant Slayer !!

This weekend my whole family went to see Jack The Giant Slayer.  We love going to movies in general, and I have to say that I enjoyed this take on an old fairy tale because it gave it a new spin.  Jack was truly involved in the tale as a hero with character and not someone who was out to dupe the giant.

It got me thinking about HR because EVERYTHING can be tied back to HR !!  So often I find myself, and my peers, getting stuck on the minute and minuscule things at work.  We spend endless time and effort on something that gives us angst, but has little to do with the scheme of things in general.

Why is that?  Why does our focus jump to something so insignificant?  Do we feel that if we address whatever it is, we’ll be free and unfettered to do something amazing?  No, in most cases we jump to the next small item.

Giant SlayerIn the movie Jack and the princess “long for adventure” in their lives.  Both feel that there is something out across the horizon that will bring excitement, thrills all mixed with the knowledge that the “unknown” is driving them.  That’s what I long for as well !!

HR should never been mundane or minimized !!  Seriously, when you have the chance to work with people, the landscape of what can happen is truly endless.  What would happen to your perspective if you saw every day as an adventure and that there were giants out there for you to go after and slay?  I’m telling you that you would be geeked and couldn’t wait until the next challenge showed up !!

Many HR people I meet are exasperated with their work and they don’t understand why HR truly invigorates me.  I honestly don’t know if I can explain it.  It’s just the way I’ve always approached it.  I’m not naive.  I know there are daunting aspects to HR.  But, to me they’re an adventure !!

So, this week see where your adventure can begin.  Identify the giants that are in your path and seek them out instead of avoiding them.   Take hold of your corner of the HR kingdom and jump in with both feet !!  When you do, our paths may cross because I am already seeing what’s next on the unknown horizon !!

It might be good for your soul.  Take a note from the great group They Might Be Giants !!

Image courtesy of Film.com


Are you a safe haven ??

Too often we hear people say “Shhh !! Here comes HR !!”  I know that most HR folks shudder when they are treated in that manner. When that happens, what does that say about how people view HR in your organization?

Now, this isn’t a post that chides HR for not being visible, or tries to geek you up about making HR more vibrant and engaged.  Those should be active ways of approaching HR everyday in my opinion.  They should be in your fabric.

What needs to be added is the ability to be accessible and available.  Do employees look to you as a safe haven?  What does that entail?  It’s a bigger jump than you may think.

You see, most employees do the “hush thing” when we come by because the only time they interact with HR is when there is a problem or something has to be addressed.  If employees only feel that they can approach HR at times of dire need, or the classic need to put out a fire, then you’ll never be a safe place for them to share.

Safe PlaceAlso, this isn’t just for a certain level of employees in the company.  You need to be a safe haven for front line staff as well as executives.  It’s like we’re Switzerland – a neutral body that is open and willing to listen, counsel and empathize.  In my opinion, it’s an opportunity to be an incredible asset within an organization !!

If you want to bring the “human” factor into your workplace, and make it a fact versus a passing trend, then you need to become a resource that is known to be safe.  Trust me, people yearn for this but few HR people do it.  We feel that we need to take sides with either Senior Management or the staff.  Great HR needs to position itself to say – I’m here for the people.  ALL of the people !!

Don’t you love it when you have someone you can confide in?  Those conversations may lead to working through tough situations and stronger employee relations.  I’m not asking you to cover for someone, or do something unethical or illegal.  However, turn off your Compliance First mentality and try the Human First approach.  Trust me, people want it from all of us.

This approach takes patience, energy, an open heart and most of all a genuine willingness to be there for your people.  I encourage you to become a safe haven.  It will make HR more rewarding than you ever thought it would !!

Leave a Mark !!

A huge event just happened, but you probably didn’t notice it.  No, it wasn’t the Grammys.  It was something much more relevant !!  What was it?

My dad turned 70 years old !!

So what?  People hit milestone birthdays every day.  What’s so big about this one?  Let me share a story . . .

You see, my “Dad” is technically my stepdad.  My biological father passed away when I was four years old, and my mom raised my brother and I on her own for nine years until she met Don.  Again, not a significant tale . . . yet.

The night Don proposed to my mom, he came into the bedroom that my brother and I shared.  He quietly said, “Boys, your Mom and I are going to get married and I wanted to ask you something.  Do you want to call me ‘Dad’ or ‘Don’?”

Now, I was the man of the house as the eldest son, and I was also an ignorant teenager who defiantly replied, “You’ll NEVER be our Dad !!  He’s dead and you can’t replace him.”  Don looked back at us and said, “That’s fine.  I just wanted to ask,” and he humbly left our room.  I thought I had put him in his place and didn’t think that I was being awful at all.

That was 1976.  He still married my mom and for years I held true and called him Don.  He was still the model father and husband regardless of my not claiming that he was.  Then high school graduation hit.  I was valedictorian of my small school and gave a speech.  This was very important to my dad because he loves a great public speaker.  I was nervous, but it went well.  As I walked out of the gym after the ceremony, he hugged me (for the first time) and said, “I love you Steve.”  I broke down and said, “Thanks, Dad !!”

He’s truly been my Dad from the day he came into my life.  You may still be asking why this should matter to you as a reader.  Here’s why . . .

Leave Your MarkMy Dad has stuck with me ever since he came into my life.  He knew that it was his role to leave a mark on my life.  He modeled everything I have hoped to be as a father, husband, citizen, man of faith, humorist, speaker, etc.  He never walked away even though I wasn’t accepting of him at first.

In HR, we meet people every day and in various situations.  Do you look at those interactions as a place to leave your mark, or are you too rushed and busy to see that you could make a difference?  Are “things” more important than the time you spend with people?

My Dad showed me the example of who I am, and who I plan to be for the rest of my life.  Every person I encounter has purpose and meaning.  I have a chance to leave a mark ever day, every moment, everywhere.

So do you.  The question is  . . . will you?

Eat. Sleep. Do HR.

Hey HR folks !!  Is the first word that comes out of your mouth when you head into work – “Ugh !!”  Seriously, does the dawning of a new day in your corner of the HR universe generate excitement and anticipation, or drudgery and a loathsome feeling?

The answer most people reading this would say – “It depends on the day !!”

You know, that’s fair.  The question you have to ask youself is what mood, or tone, do you regularly set as an HR pro?  As a department?  Do people like interacting with you, or do they do the classic, “Shhhh, it’s HR !!”

The are approximately 4 zillion posts on HR and engagement out there on the Internet now.  I suppose that even as I type, more are being typed and posted.  Rarely, however, do I see a post asking if HR is engaged.

Eat Sleep Do HRLet’s go back to how you approach this field that deals with people.  A friend of mine recently gave me this fabulous button.  ( I collect buttons, by the way.  Great hobby !!)

When I saw it, I just had to add it to my collection !!  I wear this button along with my “HR Rocks !!” button on my coat.  When Team Members see them, they either snicker or roll their eyes.  I’m actually cool with that because I want to get a reaction from them.  I ask them why they give the reaction they do, and the answer I get the most is “You sure are an HR geek !!”  Sweet !!

The other reason I got this button is to turn those of my peers who see our field as a giant mire pit of one problem leading to the next.  If any of you reading this feel this way, it’s time to reflect and see if this is the field for you.

I don’t want anyone to ever leave HR, but if any profession is defined by a black cloud or black hole approach, then you should get out of it.  I think HR is dynamic, challeging, uplifting, passionate and messy !!  How many fields can say that?  I don’t want HR to be soft and fluffy.  I don’t want HR to fall into the stereotypes that people often tie to us.

I do want HR to be inclusive, intentional and individualistic !!  We should meet people where they are – not where we think they should be !!

Recently, I met with a Team Member for the first time to recognize her for her 5 year anniversary.  We have over 1,200 Team Members who work various shifts on various days.  I wish I could know all of them personally, but that’s very difficult.  When she met with me her eyes were huge and she was anxious because she was meeting the head of HR.  When I explained that I was there to recognize and thank her for her 5 years of service, she burst into tears and gave me a bear hug !! “I love what I do !!  Thank you so much for this !!” Messy and emotional.  HR at it’s finest !!

So, this week as you get ready to jump back into the mix.  You have to ask yourself – am I going to just DO HR – or am I going to ROCK IT ??!!  I think you know the answer I hope we ALL say . . .