Just Twirl !!

Every week I get to see joy unlike anything else around. I’m a greeter at my church and there’s a young family who has two kids – a boy and a girl. As they come up to the front door, their daughter comes running up and jumps in the air to come to a complete stop. She then looks up and her eyes are sparkling with anticipation. She waits for me to ask, “Well, are you going to twirl?”

She then puts her arms out as far as she can and twirls so her dress spins in a perfect circle. She giggles uncontrollably as she twirls. When she comes to a stop, she gathers herself and runs inside. She does this every week regardless of the weather or if there’s just me at the door or a gathering of people. She is fierce and undaunted.

I stopped her mom one Sunday and told her how much I enjoyed her daughter’s enthusiasm. Ironically, when I mentioned that, she sighed with exasperation. I asked her what was causing her sigh. She explained that her daughter looks at dresses for hours the night before trying to decided which one to wear. I told her that I thought this was magnificent !! Her daughter couldn’t wait to get ready to share her joy.

The young mother said she never looked it that way. Then she smiled, gave me a hug and said, “Thank you. Thank you for noticing my daughter.” I told her that her daughter’s joy is catching and that people can’t wait to see her.

I hope that this little girl never loses her unabashed joy as she grows up. Chances are though, she will. “Life” will start happening and she’ll hear more and more adults scold her to keep her in line to make sure she fits the norms of school, church, work, and her social interactions will become muted. People will expect that she falls in line because that’s what we want from everyone.

I know this sounds harsh, but it’s the reality that we face. Now, I don’t agree with it whatsoever. In fact, I try to push against this shaping of people any chance I can. Organizations are built around conformity and we willing participate. HR must be the field that turns this around. We must.

What would a culture look like if people had joy and were able to express it? It’s gets me geeked to even imagine it !! In order to do this we need to reshape our approach on a daily basis. It starts with us and no one else. I know way too many HR peers who are miserable. I wish they’d be more honest with themselves. You don’t have to be in a bad place. HR can, and should, bring you joy. If it’s not currently doing that, then I encourage you to take steps to get out of your funk.

Once you have joy, it spreads. You can’t help it or stop it. This sounds simple, but practicing it is hard. Taking the steps is worth it because as people experience joy interacting with you, they’ll start catching sparks themselves. They in turn will start spreading joy.

We’ve forgotten how to twirl.

This week jump up and come to a complete stop. Throw your arms out to your side and look fiercely forward. Then . . . twirl. It’s time to recapture your joy.

A Little Piece of My Heart !!

This week has been one of transition.  My mother-in-law passed away at the age of 77 after a battle with Parkinson’s disease and dementia.  Also, a dear friend of mine, who I sang alongside in our church choir, passed away gracefully at the age of 89.  I doubt that few who read this blog know these two great people who impacted my life in tangible, meaningful ways.  I am thankful that I can celebrate their lives and what they meant to me.

These two people also had an impact on my amazing wife, Debbie.  I don’t mention her much on social forums because she’d prefer to be in the background.  You see, she is a perfect reflection of the quote from Jerry Maguire – she completes me.  She and I are almost complete polar opposites and everything I do poorly, she does well.  I don’t know how my life would look without her.  I don’t think it would be nearly as positive and great as it is because she so gracefully and effortlessly fills the voids and blind spots I have.

The majority of the people who touch our lives are more like my wife, my mother-in law and my friend from church.  They are meaningful to us individually and the sphere of who they’re connected to varies greatly.  Even though I may be personally connected to them, I may not be connected to the other amazing people who they know and interact with.

I want to take the time this week to share something that you may not know.  Just like these three wonderful people – you have a piece of my heart !!

Too often, we downplay the impact EVERY single person in our lives has.  We keep thinking that people only make an impact if they have visibility, notoriety or celebrity.  Sadly, many people keep chasing those shallow attributes of our society thinking it will give more substance and meaning to their lives.

Piece of My HeartYou need to know that YOU matter – at least to me.  I don’t take any interaction I have with any person lightly.  It may be the one and only time we ever cross paths.  That matters.  I may not personally see how this affects either your life or mine.  But, I know that because you came across my path and in my life – you impacted me and made a difference.

I don’t view life in the manner that most people do.  To me, the “humans” are key because my life is not defined by my profession.  It’s just what I happen to do.

The losses I experienced this week reminded me that I don’t take enough time to let people who are in my life know how much I value them.  I guess I assume they know, but that is a missed opportunity.  This is something so critical to all of us as people to communicate how people touch our lives.

Make sure to notice everyone you come across this week !!  Don’t ignore, brush off or move past some ONE to some THING you think is more important.

I don’t take our connection lightly.  The fact that you would take the time to read this blog as well as connect in person and/or socially drives me and fuels my passion for people more than you know !!

I’m glad you are a piece of my heart !!  I know that I am better because of it !!

Image Courtesy of Deviantart.com

Time for the 2nd Half !!

This week I get to celebrate a true milestone . . . I turn 50 years old on Friday, 1/3/14 !!

Now, I know that turning 50 is not that big of an accomplishment for most people.  However, in the Browne genealogy line, I’m a senior citizen.  My father passed away when he was 26 and my uncle passed away when he was in his late 30’s.  My other uncle made it into his 60’s.  But this isn’t a sad post – just some back story.

Most people look at 50 as something nearing more of an end of things they used to do with ease, or as being over the hill.  If you have been reading this blog, you know that I tend to look at things a bit differently.  You see, I’m looking forward to the second half of my life !!

Now, I’m not naive or arrogant in thinking that fifty more years are any sort of guarantee.  But, why look at things as “less than” when you don’t even know what is lying ahead of you?  I could never have foreseen what amazing things have happened during my first half century !!  (An example of this is that I’m writing a blog that others actually read from a laptop computer that is wirelessly connected to the internet as I sit typing in my living room.)

What's NextI honestly can’t wait to see what’s next !!  I don’t have to know the details, or have any absolute assurances in the least.  In fact, not knowing makes it a bit more exciting because I’ll get to experience whatever’s next as it happens.

As we enter another year, I find myself even more encouraged and passionate about life than I have been in the past !!  I’m sure there are literally thousands of people who I will get to meet, know and share situations with in the second half.  I’ve already been fortunate enough to experience this, and value it more than you know.

How about you?  Are you looking forward to what’s coming?  Or, do you have doubts, concerns and fears?  I know there will be obstacles, challenges, failures and other big unknowns that will come my way in the years to come.  But, that doesn’t concern me.  It intrigues me !!

I hope that as a New Year unfolds for each of us, that you choose to be wildly passionate, fiercely intentional and abundantly optimistic !!  It’s really a fascinating way to live each day, and I think it’s how we’ve been naturally wired if we allow it to happen.

Now I need to get ready.  The second half is about to start !!

It Was 20 Years Ago Today !!

I’m very excited about Christmas coming this week !!  It is always an amazing time for faith, family, friends . . . and gifts.  This isn’t a post about the materialism of the season.  It’s about true gifts !!

You see, 20 years ago on Christmas day, my daughter was born.  I wrote about the miracle of her birth a few years ago.  It’s hard to believe that two full decades have passed.  Now, as a young woman, she continues to grow, flourish and amaze me.  She truly has been a gift to me and our family.

I consider myself very fortunate to be a father and enjoy every moment that I have with my daughter and son.  At the holidays, I think it’s important to reflect and be thankful for the important things in our lives.  My children DEFINITELY fall into this category.  I know that not all parent/child relationships are healthy, and that is unfortunate.  I wish that both parents and children would see the value in having each other in their lives !!

Gift GivingYou see, to me the best gift a person can give to others at Christmas, or any other time, is themselves.  That may sound idealistic in today’s cynical world, but I believe it to be true.

People are gifts !!  The opportunity we have is to look at each other that way, and also treat each other that way.  At Christmastime, we anticipate gifts and can’t wait to see what is hidden beneath the thin, colorful wrapping.  There is a tangible rush just to get beyond the wrapping to see what’s really inside.  I think that people are the same.  Just below the surface of safe introductions, small talk and demographic information, lies an untapped gift waiting to be taken in and enjoyed !!

I know that viewing people in this way may put you in the minority, but what a great group to be in.  It’s challenging and others will want you to walk away from this perspective, but don’t cave in.  Why not make this the norm versus the exception?

Here’s how you can get started . . .

During this holiday season, write someone in your life a note, a card, or even give them a call.  Let them know how much they mean in your life.  It may seem to come out of the blue, but it matters.  Be intentional about this and let folks know that they are the best gifts in your life !!

My life is only better because my daughter came into it twenty years ago on Christmas Day.  And, for the many friends and family members who read this blog, you are gifts to me as well.  The people in my life enhance it and that is something I treasure !!

I wish you all the best Christmas and holiday season you’ve ever had !!  May you be surrounded by “gifts” of those that love and cherish you for being in their lives, and may you be a gift to others !!

Thanks Mom !!

Yesterday we had the chance to thank all of those fortunate to be mothers.  It is incredible to see the outpouring for moms, and every bit of it is perfect !!  I hope you took time to thank the moms in your life yesterday because they deserve your thanks EVERY day !!

Honestly, this is a huge work issue as well.  Please note one thing here . . . I think ALL moms work !! The mothers who are able to be at-home-moms work hard every day with their families, communities and kids.  Don’t ever think that this isn’t valuable.  It’s an incredible gift that they give with immeasurable value.

For those great moms who also have a job outside of the home, I think we need to give you more validity and attention.  It’s an amazing testament to you as a professional to be able to do all that you do in the workplace !!  You see, I have a marvelous example to draw from – my mom.

thank-you-momMy father passed away when I was 4 and my brother was 2 back in 1968.  So, my mom became a “single” mom as a widow during a time when that was much more of an exception than today.  We have an amazing extended family who pitched in to watch my brother and I during the day so she could work an entry level administrative position as well as take college courses to become a teacher.  She earned her degree from Bowling Green State University and began teaching in the vocational school system.  She taught future administrative assistants who were predominantly women.  So, she modeled her success to those who would go on to have careers of their own.

Now, I know everyone says their mom is the best.  I’d have to chime in with that as well but with a twist.  My mom has influenced and encouraged hundreds and hundreds of young women to pursue a skill and impact workplaces.  She has seen them grow into incredible adults, been to their weddings, held their children and seen many of her student’s children graduate.

Before she retired after 30+ years of teaching, she received her Master’s Degree, remarried a phenomenal man, and started her career as world’s best grandmother.  She continues to put forth a witness of grace, joy and encouragement to all that she encounters.

So, today, I’d like to say THANK YOU !!  Thanks to my mom and to all the moms who are out there in homes and in the workplace.  You make the world a better place because of who you are and all you do !!

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 . . .

Hot Chocolate Made With Milk !!

A few weekends ago an amazing person passed away !!  She influenced more people than she ever knew and she never would have taken credit for any of it.  Did you see her passing in the press/social media?  No, I’m sure you didn’t.

You see, it was my Aunt Elaine.

After 81 phenomenal years, Aunt Elaine moved onto the next stage of life where I’m sure she was welcomed with open arms !!  I was at the SHRM Leadership Conference when her funeral services were held and I was disappointed to not be there for my extended family and the myriad of people who came to show their respects and shine as an example of who she touched.

You see, my brother and I were incredibly blessed when we were very young.  Our Dad, a Vietnam Vet, passed away in 1968 after losing a battle with Hodgkin’s Disease cancer.  We were 4 and 2 at the time.  Living in the mighty metropolis of Luckey, Ohio (yes, it is a town) would have been difficult for my Mom to raise two young boys except for our incredibly tight knit family.  Most days we were with my Grandma and Grandpa as Mom went to work.  However, we were often at Aunt Elaine’s , a mere mile and a half away as well.

I fondly remember spending the night and waking up before dawn with my cousins to go out and work in the barn doing chores to care for the farm animals.  It was hard work for a young boy, but every aspect of it was spectacular !!  The warmth, the smell, the sounds – all of it permeated every inch of you and made you feel connected to the life of being a farmer.

After chores, we would all bounce back into my Aunt and Uncle’s simple farm home to a table overflowing with food !!  Farm fresh eggs which we had just gathered, bacon from the farm, toast from homemade bread and of course – hot chocolate made with milk !!  The chance to have breakfast, or any meal, at my Aunt’s house was an incredible treat.  We thought this was “normal” for when we were at the farm and revelled in it !!

Why does this all matter ??

You see, we all leave a legacy in our lives whether we choose to or not.  My Aunt Elaine touched countless numbers of people with her laughter, her charity, her positive glow and outlook on life and her love for family.

In HR we work around people every day and we have the chance to be a positive imprint on their lives.  We often think that by focusing on the “business” of what we do is more important than caring for others as people.  Just remember – that leaves an imprint as well !!

So, this week, what can you do to be that simple mug of hot chocolate?  Be intentional and value all of those whose lives you touch !!  It will matter eternally !!

Believe in Miracles !!

Normally, I don’t post twice in a week. My “regular” day to compose is Sunday. But, with Christmas Day being Sunday, I won’t be posting.  There’s a much bigger reason for this that deserves a story . . .

 In 1993, my wife and I had her extended family over for Christmas Eve and were preparing the obligatory feast when my wife exclaimed, “Steve, I think my water just broke !!”  You see, we were expecting our first child who wasn’t due until mid-January of 1994.  She asked, “What should we do?”  And, being the ever empathetic husband, I said, “Let’s eat !!” – and we did.  We shared our meal with our family, calmed down, and then we headed down the highway to the hospital.

That year in Cincinnati we had snow and ice all over.  Did you know that you can travel without much traffic on a Christmas Eve night even in bad weather?  I think we saw 10 cars in the twenty mile trek we had to the hospital.  During our trip my wife was riding next to me crying.  She didn’t want our child to be born on Christmas.  We talked about every bad scenario about how our child would be “cheated” because their birthday was on a holiday.  Odd, that we weren’t focusing on the amazing miracle about to happen !!  When we arrived at the hospital, my wife was one of two women who were about to give birth.

Our beautiful daughter, Melanie, waited the night and arrived early Christmas morning !!  It was amazing and something I will never forget or regret.  Here she was five weeks early, and the best Christmas present I will EVER receive !!

She was cooing and healthy when she was carted down the hall to the nursery.  After giving my wife a kiss for making it through the delivery like a champ, I wandered down the hall to get another glimpse of my daughter.  There was fresh snow on the trees, buildings and streets that I saw in the hallway window as I sauntered down to see her.  It was just like the movies.  And then . . . the miracle.

Looking through the nursery window, I saw my daughter stuffed into a large stocking being held by Santa Claus in a rocking chair.  Tears exploded from my eyes.  I couldn’t believe what I saw sitting before me.  Santa looked up at me, smiled, hugged my daughter and waved to me as if to acknowledge the beautiful gift of life that came to us that morning.

I ran down the hall to tell my wife what I just saw.  I ran back to see if I could get a picture, and he was gone.  Of course he was because he was off to do what Santa does for all families and children.

Our “miracle” turns 18 on Sunday.  This stocking baby is now a young woman about to embark on her next stage in life when she leaves our home to attend college in the Fall after graduating in the Spring.  She is amazing and continues to be a blessing to me and all she touches.

I wanted to thank all of you who take the time to read this blog.  I value each one of you and want to wish you, and yours, a blessed Christmas and Holiday season !!  May the coming year be filled with miracles for all of you !!

No accomplishment is too small !!

This past Friday night I had the incredible honor of being the commencement speaker for a college graduation.  I was humbled to even have been asked, but not nearly as much as I was after I attended this amazing event !!  This was the Fall graduation ceremony for Brown Mackie College.

I don’t know how much you know about Brown Mackie, but the majority of it’s programs are either Associates Degrees or Certificates.  Most of the students are “non-traditional” and they are phenomenal !!  While others may take education for granted, these folks are usually well past high school, are working while going to college and may be raising a family at the same time.

As I entered the Lakeside Christian Church where the ceremony was to be held, I saw every seat filled as family, friends, and children were buzzing about their family member becoming a college graduate.  It was noisy and people came from all walks of life and many of the graduates may have been the first of their family to reach this level of education.  To say this was an “accomplishment” would be an understatement.

Too often, we as HR professionals, look for the big splash – the MAJOR accomplishments that people are supposed to achieve.  We base entire systems on the vast, life-changing initiative (even though most are short-lived), and we reward people for them.  I’m reminded often by my colleague Paul Hebert and his good work on his blog, that we have much to learn when it comes to doing recognition and incentives well. Also, we belittle accomplishments like the one I witnessed at this commencement.  We say it’s “just” an Associates or a Certificate.  And, we completely miss it.   Completely !!

You weren’t there to see how MAJOR this really was to each and every graduate and family member.  These folks go to school 4 hours each night after a full day of work for 2 years to reach this milestone.  It was inspiring to say the least !!

Oh yeah, I gave my ten minutes and got people pumped up and motivated about their future, but I took a cue from what was going on around me first.  Before I gave one thought of my remarks, I asked the audience to rise to their feet and give the graduates the loudest standing ovation they’ve ever given.  The rafters shook !!

People have already probably have forgotten my words during my ten minutes.  But, they will cherish the accomplishment they reached for a lifetime.  I was blessed to be a part of it all.

So, this week, look around you.  Catch a glimpse at the myriad of small accomplishments that happen every day.  Celebrate them !!  Cherish them !! Then note how truly impactful each one of them is !!

 

Come on Get Happy !!

When you saw the title of this post it either made you smile or cringe.  Do you need to be “happy” at work? Heck, can you even be “happy” in HR ??

The cynics out there, many of whom are my dear friends, would be saying things like, “It’s not the 70’s again !!  This isn’t The Partridge Family !!”  Some people at work, and life in general, feel that making someone happy is imposing on their personal space or beliefs.  Others, refusing to be happy, come to work everyday in a dark mood while ominous dirge-like music plays in the background.  There are countless statistics that now show that most people want to leave their job for something else.  For some – ANYTHING else !!!

So, why am I going on and on about being happy?  It’s because I’m knee deep into a great new read called The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor.  It’s a fascinating book that hit at the right time.  The premise is counter to most of the history of the field of psychology and that is this . . . If you are happy, you’ll be successful.

Achor points out poignantly that all of us have been looking at this the other way around – When I get successful, I’ll be happy.  However, the research shows that people never feel they’re successful enough – ever.

So, what does this have to do with HR?  EVERYTHING !!!

Many HR people I know are miserable in what they do.  They are burdened by the reality that working with and dealing with people is rough.  There is no doubt about that.  But, you don’t have to be miserable.

One of my friends visited one of our franchise locations a few years ago when I just had joined LaRosa’s, Inc.  He asked the owner if he knew me and he said, “That’s the new HR guy isn’t it?  Man, what’s wrong with him?  He’s happy all the time !!”  Great isn’t it?  The owner and I know each other more now and he’s a great guy.  He still wonders how I can be happy and be in HR.

So, this week ask yourself . . . happy ??  I think Achor is dead on by his premise that a person needs to be genuinely positive before they’ll ever be successful.  What do you think ??