Allow Grace

Have you ever made a mistake at work? Have you ever talked poorly about someone else you work with, or that you know, without that person knowing about it? Have you ever disappointed someone else because you didn’t follow through on what you said you’d do? Have you ever said something that you thought was harmless, but it hurt someone deeply?

The answer for me is a resounding “Yes” to all of the questions listed above. I’m not proud of that, but it’s a reality. I’m human. I’m sure to fall and fail others. Hopefully that’s not intentional, but it could be. I could have filled this entire post with more questions which feature how people fall short of positive and/or ideal behavior.

The challenge in today’s workplace, and in society overall, is that when we fail each other that there is no room for grace. We demand an instant response along with a staunch stance to be taken that has little room for a right/wrong position. We usually want others to hear our opinion and then we make arguments for others to come to our side. In the midst of this type of reaction, we completely run over our humanity.

Now, please understand that I’m talking about when someone makes a mistake and is insensitive or thoughtless about others and their feelings and/or diverse viewpoint. I’m not talking about overt actions and/or poor behavior. That is at a much deeper, and more concerning, level. Poor behavior should always be addressed. Even then though, I would offer that you can allow grace when entering into these difficult situations.

As HR professionals, we are daily in the midst of people. (At least I hope you are !!) People are messy and will fail each other. It’s unavoidable. When it occurs we have a choice. We can either rely on a system of unrealistic policies and procedures as a list of do’s/don’ts as our response, or we can be humans ourselves.

I would recommend that you try a new approach and allow grace to occur.

This may be foreign to you, and I can almost guarantee that it’s foreign to how employees have been approached in the past. We don’t feel that we have the latitude in our roles to show grace to others when they mess up. I just don’t think it’s true. We have more latitude and ownership in how we approach others because it’s our own personal style.

I know that when others have shown me grace when I’ve stumbled, I’ve been thankful. It allowed both of us to breathe, calm down and look at the situation in a fresh and open way. More often than not, it led to a productive outcome and a stronger relationship. Trust me when I say that allowing grace in our interactions with others will be positive most of the time.

This week buck the trend of others who tend to be reactive and destructive when people fail them. Instead of talking ABOUT others, talk TO them with an attitude of grace first so that you seek to understand them, the situation they’re facing and how to potentially move forward. If you try this, I think you’ll see the people aren’t as bad as you think. Also, it will make HR, and your life, more balanced and fulfilled. It works.

You Never Know

I’m still recovering from SHRM18. There were so many memorable experiences that it’s hard to capture them all. I had the chance to see old friends, meet some folks who’ve I’ve only known through social media and also meet a ton of new people. If you haven’t gathered my focus yet, the SHRM Annual Conference, and any HR event for that matter, is about the people.

I was in a very unique position this year in that I spoke at two Mega Sessions during the conference. They’re called “mega” because the room you are in is usually vast. I mean it. Vast !! I scoped out the room for my first presentation the day before people arrived for the conference and it took my breath away. No one was even in the room yet. As the time arrived for me to speak, the room filled up. The entire room and there were folks outside the hall in an overflow section. I was geeked by the turnout and a bit anxious to be honest.

I don’t normally like to talk about when I present because I consider it an honor any time I get an opportunity to do it. There’s no greater thrill than to speak to my peers. That’s a fact.

After the first presentation, I was overwhelmed by the response. I couldn’t leave the room for many minutes. I was floored by the people who came up for a hug and some reassurance. There were many laughs and tears shared. I was surprised by how many people stated that they were considering leaving HR, but they were reinvigorated and said they’d stay in the field after I spoke. That is humbling beyond measure. You have no idea.

You never know how you’ll be received if you have the opportunity to speak at an event. I never take it for granted. I heard several people say they just were glad to hear something positive for a change about the work they did. It seems so simple, but it is unfortunately missing in our profession. Instead of lifting each other up, we spend more time criticizing and tearing down our circumstances and the people we work with. It still floors me that there are so many HR peers who spend so much time being discouraged.

The second day was even more overwhelming than the first. I spoke after the final keynote and it’s when many attendees head home. The next room was overflowing once again. It was hard to hold back tears just looking out over the crowd. Once I was finished, I had to do my best to get back to the SHRM Store to do the other surreal thing I get to do now – sign books. However, I needed to make sure to get back. As I was leaving, the most amazing encounter happened.

A young man asked to talk with me and he saw I was in a rush. He introduced himself as Usman from Pakistan and he just wanted a few moments of my time. I asked him to walk with me, and he was kind enough to oblige. He told me how exciting it was to hear about having HR be people-centric, and it’s something he wanted to see happen where he worked. He told me he was going to buy copies of my book for his entire staff. I was crushed by this. Others had done this (also amazing), but he was going to buy 38 copies and take them home to Pakistan from Chicago !!

He was kind enough to stand in line with others and I asked him to wait to be the last person because of so many purchases. He agreed and then he called a member of his team in Pakistan to get the names of his staff. She worked to get the names and asked for ten minutes to get him the names. It was 11:00pm at night where she was !! She sent a list and I sat with Usman and personalized each book.

Then . . .

We ran out of names and he had six copies remaining. He said that one was for him and the other five were for people that he was planning to hire in the future. They weren’t even on his team yet. He said that he wanted them to have the same positive message to work from as the people they would be joining.

You see, you never know . . .

This week make sure you encourage the people who come into your life at work, at home, at school or out in public. They long to be like the people I met. They want someone to believe in them and they want to belong. You can make that happen. You may be the one connection that makes a difference.

You never know !!

Something to Believe In !!

Do you remember the movie Bull Durham ?? It’s one of my all-time favorites. There’s a scene where Susan Sarandon meets with Tim Robbins (the talented pitching rookie) and Kevin Costner (the long-term minor league catcher), and she’s deciding who’ll she’ll be dating that season. Costner gets fed up being treated like he has to prove himself and stands to walk out. Sarandon challenges him and asks him what he believes in, and he gives one of the best answers ever captured in the movies. She responded almost breathlessly, “Oh my !!”

Costner’s character was ready to act on what he believed, and he held to it. I know it’s just a movie, but I appreciate the example. Belief in something greater than yourself is needed because it gives you direction and clarity. In today’s never ending stream of chaos, it seems that being someone who has beliefs isn’t popular.

Just using the word “belief” raises the defenses of others. This seems odd to me because having beliefs doesn’t mean that you are automatically contrary to others. I admire people who will be definitive and state what they believe in and stand by it. It doesn’t upset me or offend me that others have different beliefs than I do. In fact, I wouldn’t expect it to be otherwise because people are unique. Even if you picked one particular belief that two people “shared”, they would interpret it differently.

It also seems to me that people don’t want to talk and dialogue about having varying points of view. Instead, people want to scream their beliefs with the expectation that you support what they believe . . . or else. This saddens me. I value that people look at the world from different viewpoints and perspectives. I learn from others even if I don’t hold to what they believe. I don’t think that we should want everyone to be the same. All I’d like to see is that people respect differences. I think that if this occurred, then we’d have a chance to reach consensus on many things that would hopefully move us forward.

The reason I wanted to tackle this potentially volatile topic, is that I think it is a facet of what we do in HR. We work with people who come from drastically different backgrounds. Even when we think there may be similarities in people, they are far outweighed by the uniqueness that everyone brings to the workplace every day. Each of our employees has beliefs. They may, or may not, express them. But, you need to know they exist. It drives how they behave and how they perform.

We tend to shy away from asking about what our team members believe. I understand that because we’re not sure what we’ll hear. I think what’s key is not what you hear, but how you respond. I have found that when I take the time to listen to my team members I hear what they believe. Those thoughts and perspectives give me a better understanding of them as a human, and that’s the key.

I can’t lose sight that we’re in the business of humans. Ever.

So, this week, I want you to take the chance to understand that having beliefs is innately human. Then, I want to also challenge you to listen to what other’s believe in and not judge. You may not agree with them. Most likely you won’t. But, understanding humans is needed now more than ever.

Like I said in the beginning, I have beliefs. I believe that people want to do good more often than not. I believe in having faith and showing grace. I believe in encouragement and lifting others up consistently. I believe in creativity, laughter, enjoying tie-dye and all types of music. I’m defined by my beliefs . . . and you are defined by yours.

Hi There !!

I just had the pleasure of being the opening keynote speaker at SHRM Georgia  yesterday and it was a blast !! Any time I can get in front of, and among, my peers is a pleasure. I mean it. When I get a chance to be with other HR folks I get more and more geeked !! Why ?? It’s because I get to surround myself with folks who are in the best profession in the world.

Some reading this may disagree, but I’d go up against you to defend HR. Yes, we have our challenges and there may be pot holes in how we practice, but that’s true in every industry.

What made this experience with my peers greater was that I was in a culture that I don’t get to see often. From the moment I arrived something very cool happened. Honestly, it’s something that I try to do myself, but I rarely am surrounded by others who do it.

What happened ??

Every person I’ve met said, “Hi there !!” or “Hello !!” Every. Single. Person.

I’ve heard of Southern hospitality, but I thought it was a cliche. It couldn’t be true across the board. I was wrong. I’m not kidding. I have been greeted by every person that I passed. Being someone who really enjoys this I felt I was in my element.

Now, 99% of the people I encountered had nothing to “do” with me and I had no direct business with them. And yet, they still made sure to make eye contact and say, “Hi !!” There was no segmentation of extrovert or introvert. Just humans making sure to acknowledge each other.

It made me wonder something from an HR/workplace perspective. I don’t see this happening. People don’t genuinely greet each other. We make sure to be pleasant and utter something as we quickly pass by each other to get to things we think that really matter like our desks, spreadsheets or e-mails. You know it’s true, and I’m unfortunately guilty of this as well.

We knowingly pass by the reason we even have work to get to stuff which didn’t even miss us. This has to change !! You’d think this would be simple, but it takes effort to alter our behavior and approach people differently.

hiI want to put a challenge out to every HR person. For the next 30 days when you see an employee I want you to say, “Hi there !!” with everyone you encounter. Don’t skip anyone. Don’t rush it. Be intentional and make eye contact to greet those around you.

Trust me. If you don’t already do this naturally, it will take practice. But, you can also be reassured that if you start making this your approach, you will see your workplace transform – for the better !!

Once you get good at this and you can consistently feel comfortable you need to implement the next step. This is a two-step challenge. Now, you need to get your department heads to do the same thing. They will think it’s silly and won’t matter, but you need to press forward.

When you do this, the culture will begin to shift right before your eyes. Something so simple will move an organization. You’ll see conversations start to occur face-to-face vs. being secretly held in hallways. You’ll find people being positive and looking forward to seeing each other. It’s amazing to experience.

So, start today. Quit avoiding people. Just say, “Hi there !!”

I Am Groot !!

I am an avowed HR Nerd. This is something I embrace and have since my high school days.  Growing up I collected comic books (unfortunately my mother thought they took up “too much space” . . .) and I loved them.  I couldn’t get enough of the action, the heroes, the villains and the stories.  I’ve kept that hobby going with my son.  He has a collection of comic books too, and we’ve been able to share something else – comic book movies !!

Whenever a Marvel or DC movie comes out, we are at the theater on opening night. This past summer we absolutely had to see Guardians of the Galaxy !!  It was phenomenal from start to finish (and my amazing wife bought the DVD for my birthday). If you don’t even finish this post, you should make sure you see this movie !!

I Am GrootMy favorite character by far is Groot. You’ve never seen anything like him because he’s like a giant tree and the only thing he can say is, “I am Groot.”  It doesn’t matter what the situation is he doesn’t have any other vocabulary.  In the movie he is the most empathetic individual in the group.  He is caring, heroic and even sacrificial in his friendship.  In one scene he protects the other Guardians and when his partner protests, he says, “WE are Groot.”

And this ties into HR how ??

I went to an Ohio SHRM State Council meeting at the Capitol Square Sheraton in Columbus, Ohio recently. When I arrived in our meeting room, there was George one of the Sheraton staff.  He turned quickly and said, “Steve !!” and hugged me.  “I was hoping you’d be here. Where were you last time?”  I explained that I just couldn’t make it and was sorry to miss seeing him. George left the room to tell Theresa and Mike that I had made the meeting.  Theresa shared with me that at the end of December she was named Employee of the Month for the hotel and Employee of the Year for the chain regionally.  We hugged.  Mike came out on a break to tell me about his family and we hugged.  The meeting went well and then Sammy came to the room after we had finished for the day just to say, “Hi !!” and said he couldn’t miss seeing me.  We hugged.

This is humbling in ways that are hard to express.  These great folks aren’t my employees and I see them at most three times a year for less than a few minutes each time. It is always great to see the staff at the Sheraton because we are Groot !!

Too often we get caught up in HR focusing on the people who are only within arm’s reach. Many HR practitioners I know struggle to make connections with people they work with, and that is tough.  I understand that it’s hard to encourage you to take in people who are outside your day-to-day environment, but I’d like to have you consider something different.

We can “practice” HR wherever we are and whoever we interact with.  This is because people are the basis for who we are and what we do.  You don’t have to limit yourself to the systems that you feel you control.  People all around you desperately want someone to connect with them, notice them and understand that what they do has value.

You can be that person who reaches out.  You can be the person who takes a few minutes to make sure someone isn’t missed.  You can be the person who people miss if they expected you to be there.  You can be the hug someone melts in because it came at the right time.

This week, take a look and see who is around you.  Take the step to be different and reach out.  I know this works and I know you have it in you because in HR – We are Groot !!

Spending Your Time !!

The one commodity that people state they don’t have enough of is time.  Our lives are so full that we have this constant sense that we’re either always behind or that something important isn’t being done.  This attitude puts us in a position where we are stressed and often focused on minutia that we feel, if handled, will put things back in their rightful order.

This isn’t a post about balance.  This isn’t a post about workforce flexibility.  This post is about choice.

We are all given the same amount of hours each day.  Our lives have patterns that we have chosen that involve our work which consumes most of our time during the week.  We rarely look at how those hours are used because we become set in certain methods that keep things relatively stable.  This is alluring because we accomplish the things we enjoy completing more often than not if this pattern is maintained.

The challenge with this is that our patterns become our expectations and any deviation from this throws us for a loop.  The other aspect of this repetitiveness is that it limits the number of people we regularly interact with and keeps us from having the chance to interact with the countless others who pass by us every single day.

Spending TimeSo, a big question for us is WHO do you spend your time with?  I think if you sat down and wrote down the number of people who get your time, it would be fairly small.  That may be comfortable for you, but why choose to be limited?  Why forsake the opportunity to meet and learn about others who, if given your time, could benefit from knowing you and you knowing them.

I have always been a person who is surrounded by people.  This has been my choice and I can’t get enough of it.  I don’t expect others to have this same perspective.  I understand that we all have a certain capacity for the number of people in our lives.  My contention is that you should see how full that capacity should be !!

I recently went to a fundraising dinner for the Boys & Girls Club of West Chester/Liberty which is the community where my family and I live.  During the presentation, the Executive Director quoted a study that says that kids spend less than 4% of their time with adults these days.  Think of that.  It’s staggering to think that kids, who will one day be our future leaders and employees, have so little meaningful interactions with adults.

How can we expect them to be the next great generation, when we aren’t willing to spend time with them?  This is just one example.  There are so many ways to have a positive impact on those around you for the present and to be a legacy for the future.  You need to choose if that is something you’re willing to do.

The story which gives us all the perspective of why how we spend our time matters is best told by Lauren Hill.  Lauren is a freshman at Mt. St. Joseph University in Cincinnati and she has inoperable brain cancer.  Her story has gained national attention because she had a goal of playing at least one college game.  Today, she did that and she scored the first two points and the last two points of the game.  She may not live until December of this year, but her goal was set and accomplished.  When you hear her tell her story of her shortened life, she only focuses on reaching those around her.

This week slow down time.  Take a look at how your spending it and who you’re spending it with. Make the time with those you’re with the fullest it can be and then see if you can take on even one more person. You’ll see that it’s the best way you could ever use of your time !!

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” !!

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 !!

Believe in others !!

One summer while I was in high school, I worked as a counselor at an Easter Seals camp for disabled adults.  Going to this camp genuinely changed my perspective on life !!  I entered the camp a bit freaked out honestly.  Everyone around me was vastly different that me, and what I was “used to.”  People in wheelchairs.  People who couldn’t speak clearly.  People who couldn’t feed themselves, or pretty much care for themselves on their own.

Remember, I was a teenager.  Arrogant, self-assured, indestructible, etc.  This was too much for me. The adult who had asked me to work was a counselor I had a Church Camp for years.  He was a mentor and knew me better than I knew myself.  The first night at camp, I cried myself to sleep because of the challenged people and my inability to accept them.

The first full day of camp, Duane (my mentor), asked me to sit in a wheelchair and he tied my left hand (I’m left handed) to the arm of the chair.  He then told me that I was teaching art class all day for campers, but wouldn’t be allowed to leave my chair.  I had to eat all of my meals, use the restroom and live the life of the campers.  I didn’t handle it well !!  I was frustrated at how limited I found myself.  Duane had told the campers to really push me – and they did with fervor !!

As the day came to a close, one of the campers, Bill, who had severe cerebral palsy and “spoke” with a rudimentary computer, pulled me aside.  He said something that changed me forever.  He said, “Steve, don’t be frustrated.  We ALL have disabilities !!  Some are just more visible than others.”

Believe34 years later, Bill’s words rang true once again . . .

This past week I was honored enough to be a part of Disability Awareness Day at the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio.  One of our LaRosa’s Team Members, Mark, was going to speak about being able to work and be independent.  Mark was born without arms and he is one of our Customer Service Representatives and has been with us for 7+ years.  As he came to the podium and microphone, he boldly spoke of his work and how he loves taking people’s orders so they can enjoy our great food. He doesn’t view himself as being different.  He knows he is a person who is able !!

The room was at capacity and was filled with people whose disabilities were “more visible than others.”  They cheered for Mark when he finished and a person in a wheelchair gave me a high five as I came off the stage as well.  The great people on this day reminded me that we need to believe in ALL people !!  Everyone at the rally felt you were included and not separate.  We all came together – as it should be.

So, this week make sure to change your perspective on people from now on.  Everyone has value and a life worth living to its fullest extent.  Don’t pass someone over, or avoid them because of their appearance.  Instead, reach out and let them know that you believe in them.  It will change your life as it has mine.