Don’t HR Me !!

This past week I had one of my many “commute convos” on the way home from work. I have a pretty long commute and I love to fill it with calls with friends. I know it’s a bit archaic to have actual conversations with people these days, but I’m sticking to it. They are often exhilarating because I catch up with people and hear the great stories and experiences they are having.

During this one particular call, my friend (also in HR) was telling me about a recent chat with her husband who was struggling with his job. He wanted to throw in the towel and look for something different. (We’ve ALL had that kind of talk with someone !!) His wife was being awesome and listening to him. As he paused, she pulled out her expertise and started coaching and exploring options for him when he held up his hand and exclaimed – “Don’t HR me !!”

We both howled about this story because she was doing what comes naturally. All people in every profession do this. We tend to keep things at the surface level and talk about our profession. Not true ?? When you meet someone for the first time and learn their name, what’s your first question? I’ll bet you that it’s “So, what do you do for a living?”

We are fiercely defined by our career and occupation. If you want to test how true that is, talk to someone in transition. One of the driving challenges of getting that next new job is getting over the feeling that our job IS who we are. Don’t get me wrong, it is a huge component of our life, but it is only one component.

Confined WallsWhat’s the harm in getting to know people past their profession? If all we have to talk about is work with each other, the conversations would get pretty predictable don’t you think? It may give you the illusion of some safety bubble, but it keeps people at arm’s length.

I have dear HR friends right now who are celebrating new accomplishments, mourning loss of friends and/or family, looking for their next great gig, seeing life through the eyes of their children, trying on a new city they just moved to, etc.

I love hearing about every aspect of what they’re going through !! They’re very cool in reciprocating as well. You see other than my great HR job, I’m a husband, father, musician, writer, comic book movie nerd, sold out musicophile, Scout leader and social media wonk to name a few things.

In just a few weeks, I’m going to the SHRM Annual Conference in Las Vegas and I’m geeked !! I’ve had a goal the past few years to try to meet every attendee, and last year I  made some serious strides. This year, I’m keeping the same target, but I won’t ask one of them what they do. I already know they’re in HR !! I want to be different and get to know them for the phenomenal people they are !!

It may make some folks uncomfortable, but I’m good with that and I have a motive to do this other than being an extrovert. I think that the more HR people are connected as humans, the better HR people we will be in our organizations. You see, you won’t look at your employees other than people you happen to work with unless you’re connected to other humans yourself.

This week reach out and make a call during your commute. Fill your travel time with connections to those friends that you promise yourself you’ll call. Don’t pause anymore. Give them a call and ask them how life is going. I know they’d love to hear from you !!

You never know, I may be calling you as well !!

As You Wish.

Tomorrow I am celebrating a true milestone in my life, and the life of another.  My amazing wife Debbie and I will have been married 25 years !!  It’s incredible to think that we have literally been married for half of our lives (so far).

So, if you will allow me, I’d like to step away from penning an HR post to share our story . . .

I moved to Cincinnati back in 1986 after graduating from Ohio University.  I only knew a small handful of people in town and had no social circle.  One day at work a flyer came across my desk for Young Friends of the Zoo. This was a group of young adults from all over Greater Cincinnati that met to volunteer at the world famous Cincinnati Zoo.  It sounded interesting so I gave it a try.

At the first meeting I attended, the leaders of the meeting were looking for a Chair for the Beastly Ball – the group’s largest fundraiser.  I have never been one to shy away from things, so I volunteered to chair the event. The group was a bit shocked I stepped up without being “known,” but they gave me a shot.  The Ball was a huge costume party and we transformed an empty warehouse into an Egyptian tomb.

Every meeting I stood up and introduced myself, “Hi, I’m Steve Browne, chair of the Beastly Ball.  I need your help to make this happen and I’ll be around to see all of you during the meeting.”  The extrovert in me was glowing, and my future wife would make sure to leave the meeting or shuffle around so as to not meet me on purpose.  She thought that I was too over the top and brash to want to intentionally meet everyone.

We had several work nights to make the decorations for the Egyptian tomb, and Debbie was there every time.  One night she came over to me (after having avoided me for months mind you) and she asked what I was doing that weekend.  I said, “Nothing.” (because I’ve always been good with words).  And she responded with the best line of all time – “Want to do nothing together?”  I was floored and said, “YES !!” immediately.

As You WishOur first date was a movie, The Princess Bride. We had no idea that we were seeing a movie about true love and saw this merely as a first date.  In this classic film, the main character Wesley, always responds to Princess Buttercup with “as you wish” regardless of what she asks.  We loved every moment of the movie and felt connected from that point on.

Fast forward about one year and Debbie and I were going to the monthly Young Friends of the Zoo meeting yet again. I asked her to come a little early and meet at the King Cheetah area.  It was there that I proposed to her because the King Cheetah is one of the few animals who mate for life.  It just felt right to do.  She fortunately said, “Yes” and here we are 25 years later.

Debbie is the perfect balance for me.  She is the organized, introverted, brilliant, loving and sensible side that I lack.  I am thankful for every moment that I’ve had with her.  She is an amazing wife, mother and partner who stepped out of her comfort zone to connect with me.

We come across people every day who can impact our lives.  They may be reaching out to see how they can connect.  Are you paying attention to this?  You never know, you may find someone who will be with you for the rest of your life !!

So, now, I look forward to what will truly be a new adventure as we move towards our next milestone.  We are more of the exception in today’s society by being married for 25 years and I dig that.  We have found true love just like the movie and, I get to be Wesley, now and forever, who will look to Debbie to respond “as you wish” !!

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

Walk a Dog !!

After returning from SHRM14, I was faced with the reality of a very full plate at work and at home.  I’m sure this is no different than all of the attendees as they made their way back to their non-conference lives.  It’s very easy to jump back into the incredibly fast pace of life and have things seem overwhelming. Nothing ever seems to fall into place even for those who are phenomenal planners.  The reality of things moving in and out of each day means that you have to react and respond because people expect to be heard.

LabradoodleSo, like most of us, instead of just going back to what I already had in front of me, I volunteered to watch our neighbor’s dog while they went on vacation.  Normally, my great son watches the dog, but he was going to be in Atlanta, Georgia for a mission trip with his youth group.  Now, you have to understand that Piper is an extended part of our family.  We are very close to our neighbors and have known Piper since he was a puppy.  Did I mention that Piper is gigantic ??  I’m a big fan of large dogs, and he definitely fits the bill.  Piper is a Labradoodle, and he can easily put his head on the kitchen table just to check out what happens to be “available.”

I used this opportunity to start my wellness program by walking Piper early each morning.  We went for it by walking 1 1/2 to 2 miles each day.  It has been magnificent !!

What in the world does this have to do with HR ??  Everything.

You see, I’m a person who is constantly on the go.  I am a person who says “Yes” all the time because I feel I have the capacity to take things on and I enjoy being full all the time.  In doing this, I rarely take time to reflect and clear my mind.  This isn’t a good approach, but it is what I think everyone practices.  People are always bemoaning how busy they are, but we don’t take steps to do anything about it.  We may go on vacation to break away, but even those trips are filled to the max to “enjoy” our time off.

Taking a walk allowed me to start the day unencumbered because Piper was the focus.  He knows how to start the day !!  First of all, he can’t wait to see you.  As soon as you hit the door, he’s excited that you showed up.  Secondly, he can’t wait to start the day and be with you as you share a walk together.  Every day the same path is new to him.  He doesn’t complain about ritual or pattern because it’s never the same.  When he sees fellow dogs, he greets them and can’t wait to talk to them regardless of who they are, where they live, how they look or how they act.

How would your HR role look if that’s how you approached each day?  What if everything was new and exciting instead of mundane and repetitive?  What if EVERY single person mattered for who they are, what they do and what they bring to work each day?  What if you were so excited to see everyone each time to encountered them?

Clearing my head on these walks actually improved my perspective on people.  I’m going to keep walking every morning, even without Piper.  Having some time just to break the pace is healthy for all of us.  I hope that each of you find your own way to break out of the pace. Trust me it’s worth the walk !!

I Need a Hero !!

We drove to the theater with great anticipation hoping to get tickets in time for the 7:45pm showing of the brand new Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  The great ticket seller at the box office confused us when he said, “7:45 ?? The next show is at 7:15pm.”  We were early, but that meant we couldn’t get dinner before we went to see the show.  We decided to stay and head in to the theater.  The staff had us stand against the wall and form a line because the prior showing hadn’t ended.  We were an hour early.

As we stood there, the line to get in grew . . . and grew . . . and grew.  I didn’t remember a line forming before a movie like this since I saw the various Star Wars movies as a teenager. Everyone was patient, but you could feel the energy building and building as we got closer to the showtime.  The line was opened, and my son and I walked in and got the perfect seats for us.  The entire venue was filled in the next 10 minutes.

I didn’t know if others had a tradition like I do with my teenage son.  You see, every superhero movie that comes out means that we will be there to watch it.  I think we’ve made every Marvel, DC Comics, and smaller brand movies that have been released.  It is a shared experience that I truly cherish !!

It was a great movie !!  (You really should see it !!)  I loved it because Captain America is “odd” compared to most superheroes and most people in general.  You see, he’s completely selfless.  He is 100% others focused.  I love this attribute about him and want to encourage this in others as well.

By the incredible turnout at the movie, I can surmise that people find this attribute attractive as well.  We don’t see it often enough.  We live in a society, and work in companies, that are more self-focused than others-focused.  It seemed that people are looking for a “hero” of some sort.

Business HeroI’m not going to get into the definition of what a “hero” is because most heroes are active behind the scenes doing things that others never notice.  You see, I believe you can be heroic by being there for others and meeting their needs.  It doesn’t have to be something magnificent, but it does need to be something tangible.

So often in HR, and in articles about culture, we focus on making sure to identify the WIIFM (What’s In It for Me) factor.  What if YOU were what’s in it for others?  What if YOU chose to reach out and be there to meet the need of someone else in work, life or the community?

What would happen if YOU helped someone else AND expected nothing in return?  I think the world would be an amazing place !!  I know that it’s unlikely that many people will read this and try this, but I believe that the “Captain America” effect can happen in your life and in the lives of others.

So, this week shed your ego.  Open your eyes and see who could use a hero.  Then step up and act.  You’ll be glad you did !!

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 !!

Getting to Know You !!

This past week I was able to “return home” for Thanksgiving with my parents in the Village of Ada, Ohio !!  This booming metropolis of 5,900 people is my hometown.  I’ve been fortunate to live in many small towns throughout Ohio, but this is where I grew up.  I love coming back home because it is a mix of a small town surrounded by acres and acres of farmland.

We wanted to get out and do something instead of constantly eat, so we decided to take in a movie.  I thought we’d have to travel to Lima, Ohio (a mere 15 minutes away), but fate was smiling down on us.  The Ada Theatre in “downtown” Ada was showing Catching Fire which is what we wanted to see. I was geeked (as you could suspect) !!!

Ada TheatreI wanted my family to go experience the movie house that I grew up with.  It’s said that you can’t go back to your home, but that just isn’t true in Ada.  It’s a one-screen theater with wide rows and 300 red upholstered seats.  The admission was a staggering $4.00 per ticket !!  We decided to splurge for popcorn and a soda for another $4.25.

The whole experience was spectacular !!  The movie was great and the whole feel the entire time gave my family a small taste of the small town I was fortunate enough to call home.  People said, “Hi” even though they didn’t know you and no one was pushing or shoving in order to get their place.  Every seat was a great seat to watch the movie.

So, what does this tale from the Midwest have to do with anything ??  I think it’s very relevant to the whole social media “space.”

We spend countless hours on-line looking at posts, surfing Facebook to post all types of personal experiences, retweet items that we found interesting, etc.  But, we spend very little time getting to know the people we “follow” or “friend.”  I want to see that change.

You see, the more we get to know someone, then we can be confident in sharing their great content because we have more of a relationship with them.  I continue to see friends (real friends) who are becoming more and more sporadic on-line and I truly wonder how they’re doing.  When I get to connect with them, they’ll share how full and robust their lives are and I’m fine.  I want to get to know WHO you are and WHAT you do.

To me, the social media forums are a great way to share content and provide resources to the masses.  It’s essential that we do this intentionally and not just automatically.  Yes, it takes time to get to know folks – but what can be a better use of a person’s time than to get to know another human?

Seriously, what has more value than getting to know people better?  If you’re just about visibility and quantity, then you’re a persona and not a person.  Let’s change this.  Let’s make the forums we enjoy being on truly personal.

I think by doing this we’ll put out more thoughtful content, more insightful looks into things and be a stronger social community.  Don’t be surprised if I reach out to you to get to know you better.  I will take the time because I know it matters and makes a difference.

I hope sharing something happening in my life sets an example of how we can get to know each other better !! Now, I have to go !!  We’re heading over to Findlay, Ohio next to catch a basketball game.  I can’t wait !!

 

All Keyed Up !!

When’s the last time you had an event truly shape or change your life?  I know that we all have these types of events and once they occur you need to decide how you are going to respond.

Last week I experienced an event that truly changed my life !!

I just returned from Sea Base which is a national Boy Scout camp located in the Florida Keys. The past week was spent doing everything from kayaking in the Gulf of Mexico to swimming off a boat in 600 feet of water in the Gulf Stream !!  If I wrote the post on every amazing activity I experienced, it would be too long to read.

Key West Southernmost PointI spent the week with six phenomenal young men, including my son and another dad from the Troop.  Two other dads traveled with us and hung out on vacation while we experienced the adventures of Sea Base.  Here we all are at the Southernmost Point in the US in Key West !!

It’s hard to capture the emotions that happened throughout the week because every day brought something unique and new to each of us.  At the beginning of the week there is an “adult meeting” to explain what was going to happen.  The point that struck me was when the Camp Commissioner said, “There will be things this week that challenge you.  I encourage you to take a risk and stretch yourself.  When you do, you’ll see you have the ability to do more than you think.  Also, your boys will see that you are involved and will want to join in with you.”

That’s when the life changing moment happened.  Mind you, this was on the 1st day of the week !!

How often do we not heed this advice in our work as HR professionals?  This wasn’t someone throwing down a gauntlet.  It was someone who gave encouragement with context.  He laid down the opportunity, explained the potential for success and failure and how that opportunity would be a model for others.

I was on fire after that !!  It was the first week where EVERY single day was positive from start to finish !!  I mean it.  EVERY SINGLE MOMENT !!  There were incredible challenges that we faced both physically like being in the ocean as well as living on an out island that was more like Survivor than anything I’ve ever seen.  Throughout each day there was constant laughter and an incredible bond with the staff as well as the chance to do things with the boys that we never dreamt of doing before with ease !!

Several people bemoaned when I came back – “Oh, now you HAVE to go BACK to work !!”  Are you kidding ??

I GET to return to a place where more great people are looking for (1) encouragement with context who (2) want to take risks to (3) succeed or fail and I get to (4) model it myself for others.

I’m keyed up (aka as Geeked !!)  Sea Base took off the filters, edges, doubt and frustration with things that lay before me.  I’m a better person for stretching this week and I hope you do the same !!

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 !!