What’s Your Counterbalance ??

The breeze is blowing on a beautiful sunny day as I rock back and forth enjoying every moment on my front porch. My earbuds are in and my iPod Classic is easily shuffling through the musical array I have collected. Oh yeah, I’m writing a blog too.

When you talk to others, is this how they describe their day? I doubt it. They may have experienced a great day in some form or fashion recently, but most people tend to express disdain for either the pace of their lives or the work that they conduct. What’s intriguing to me is that people would rather grouse and wallow in each other’s frustrations than listen to how someone stepped out of that endless cycle and enjoyed what was around them.

HR is tough. This is not a new thought in the least. What we miss though is that the same pressures that we may experience are happening to every single person around us. We’re not unique in this and we should be mindful of that. The primary way we’ve chosen to address this experience in the workplace today is to seek a “work/life balance.” Trust me, it would be sweet to be able to unplug from one facet of our lives and plug into another, but it’s not realistic.

It’s not realistic because we don’t want it. We don’t seek “balance”, we seek relief. We want to escape from whatever is straining and causing stress. If those factors are lessened we feel we have achieved balance. It’s wonderful that the strain is less, but we’ve really only shifted to something else for a moment in time. And, I think that is very healthy !!

I want you to try a new idea on in this arena. Instead of having separate areas of your life, which you won’t maintain well, what if you had a “counterbalance” ?? What’s a counterbalance? It’s something that provides you an out. It breaks the daily grind and allows you to breathe deeply just for a short period of time. There’s no set method that will work for everyone. I know there are a myriad of 3, 5, 7, 9 and 21 steps to happier lives. These may be uplifting slogans, mottos and look good on coffee cups, but I think they’re too cliché.

I don’t feel that I can prescribe what a counterbalance is for others, and I’ll be honest, I have some “go to” escapes mixed with others that vary on a regular basis. The biggest advice I could share on this is that you need to build a counterbalance into your day EVERY day !! This isn’t just something to do during the workweek. Counterbalances work year round.

My counterbalances include time reading non HR/business books, music playing everywhere, “surprise” phone calls to friends on my commute home, time with my faith, volunteering, and sitting on my porch enjoying nature. I have built counterbalances into my daily routine so that I have fewer times where the weight of the day consumes me. It still happens every once in awhile, but not often.

I also believe that we can be counterbalances for other people. We can provide that “out” that breaks whatever cycle they’re spinning in. It takes an intentional mindset and a lack of fear that you’re intruding. I enjoy practicing HR this way knowing that entering into conversations with employees can be a counterbalance for them even if they don’t realize it’s happening. It’s a great way to be disruptive in a positive way. You should try it !! If I can ever be a counterbalance for you, reach out and let me know. I’d dig it very much !!

Mums2This week break the cycle which I know is tugging at you !! And, take that next bold step and break the cycles of others around you at work, at home, at church, at school – wherever you encounter people. I never think that the people that we meet is a coincidence. We’re in each other’s lives for a reason and for a purpose.

Now, I’m going to go back to enjoy my counterbalance. Here’s what I’m looking at as I type. I hope you enjoy our mums, and here’s the song playing – Statues by Foo Fighters – which just fits if you don’t get those counterbalances going.

 

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 !!

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 !!

Some People . . .

” . . . are worth melting for.” – Olaf

My wife and I went to see Disney’s Frozen this weekend.  It is magnificent !!  If you take nothing else away from reading this post – go see this movie !! One of the best characters, and a real show stealer, is Olaf the snowman.  He is hilarious and beautifully naive and caring.

Olaf MeltingDuring a key scene, he does his best to keep Anna warm in front of a fire even though he begins to melt.  She is worried that he will be harmed when he breaks out the line that “some people are worth melting for.”  Yes, I was crying and I’m good with that !!

It made me think of those around me in my life that are in this category.  I’m very fortunate to say that there are several.  I’m very thankful that I’m surrounded with people who I value and would do almost anything for.  I hope that you have people in your life that you would “melt for” too.

In HR, I think we lose sight of this because our focus is often on those that may be challenging or frustrating.  We tend to slink back behind procedures, policies and processes because those things aren’t emotional, unpredictable and ever-changing.

If you don’t look at others as someone you would “melt for,” you may want to evaluate why you’re in HR.  That may seem harsh or extreme, but I don’t think so.  Olaf doesn’t see what he’s doing as a sacrifice, or something out of the ordinary.  In fact, it’s natural because he cares for Anna – which should be our focus on everyone we come into contact with.

This is also tough in today’s social environment because the majority of what is being written, retweeted, and shared is self-focused.  People beg and seek to see their name and their work publicized.  I struggle with this to be honest.  I love seeing the work of others !!  I learn from others and, in many cases, I’ve reached out to get to know the authors personally and not just treat them as some avatar that is unapproachable.

I’d really love to see this change on the social forums and in the workplace.  I think that if we had the approach that we would be willing to deeply connect with others, naturally, we’d find that the “community” everyone writes about would exist as a tangible, viable force.  This group would innately move companies, professions, associations and lives forward.

So, can you do this?  Will you join me?  Is this feasible, or utopian?  In the end, I choose to be like Olaf and put myself out there for others because there are some people truly worth melting for !!

Image courtesy of Walt Disney World for Grown Ups

Keep Your Head Up !!

This past week I went to the SHRM Leadership Conference in Washington, DC.  It’s one of my favorite events because the SHRM local Chapter and State volunteer leaders come together to network, learn and share great ideas on how to get HR pros connected, engaged and involved.

The past few years I’ve started the week by advocating in front of the Senate and the House of Representatives on legislative issues that affect business, employees and HR.  I broke away from our larger Ohio group to support one of our other Ohio SHRM volunteers because she had never advocated before, and I wanted it to be a great experience for her.  As we were walking over to the Congressman’s office, she said the most poignant thing.

“You know I can’t believe I’m here.  Most of the time in my role I find myself with my head down doing my HR job.  I need to keep my head up more to see all that is around me.  I would miss great things like this if I didn’t try to be more aware.”

We had a great session with the Congressman’s staff and shared our position on the issues.  When we were done, she wanted to go over to the Senate offices as well to see them.  As we entered the building, I noticed several cameras up on the 2nd floor of the rotunda we had just entered.  I said, “Let’s go see what’s happening !!”  So, we walked up confidently and saw a press table outside the Kennedy Caucus Room and it was packed with people.  The folks at the table asked if we’d like to go in, and we jumped at the chance not knowing what we would find.

RFK AwardIn the room we stumbled into history . . . literally !!  We were able to see the 30th Annual Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award being given to Egyptian Human Rights attorney – Ragia Omran.  The event was emceed by Soledad O’Brien and we heard RFK’s daughter, Kerry, speak about Ms. Omran’s accomplishments and the actual award was given by Ethel Kennedy – RFK’s wife !!  It was amazing that by “keeping our head up” and taking a risk to see if we could be involved, we saw something we NEVER would have seen if we were just stuck on following the patterns that were set before us.

This experience was just another example of how I feel HR should be ALL the time !!  Too often we are criticized because we think that by keeping a narrow focus we are diligent.  The fact is that by being narrow we can miss what’s happening with the people even though we’re cranking out the tasks laid before us.

There has to be a mix of these two worlds.  You can, and should, be diligent in your HR practice.  However, your perspective should be as broad as possible because the great people you work with may have the insight, input, or knowledge you need.  You can’t keep your head down any longer !!

The rest of the week was even MORE eventful than our experience in the Senate !!  I’m even more geeked and energized about HR, my profession, my volunteer role and SHRM than I ever have been !!

I hope you join me as we look to the horizon to see what’s next.  It will be awesome, I’m sure !!