Lava Lamps in India !! #SHRM14

I am slowly, and I mean slowly, coming down from my high state of euphoria I experienced at #SHRM14 !!  I really don’t want it to end, but it will have to suffice as my HR peer fix until the next great event.

The entire event was a whirlwind of interactions at a level I hoped would occur.  To get jumped in the hallway outside the Exhibition Hall by Simone Carroll saying “Hello Steve !!” in a beautiful Australian accent followed by a hug to exchanging music, ideas and insights with the SHRM HRblog Squad, my time at the Conference was never dull.

I enjoyed the Keynotes for various reasons.  I don’t expect them to “hit” or change HR because they are brought to the Conference to give it some “star” power. My fave was David Novak, CEO of Yum! Brands because he was Geeked about people in his business and I truly connected with his approach to HR – especially in the restaurant business.

I loved the concurrent sessions I saw with Jennifer McClure, Jason Lauritsen and Clint Swindall. Each of them had takeaways on how to do things like build the business case for HR and leadership (Jennifer), Become a Social Architect in HR (Jason) and how to become a Weekday Warrior (Clint).  Yes, I went to sessions to try to improve humans around me.  I just can’t get enough of it to be honest !!

The Exhibit Hall rocked !! I loved the SHRM Store and the Volunteer Leaders lounge was a great place to rest and catch a snack with friends who give their time and efforts to SHRM at the Chapter and State Council level.

The event that sent me truly over the top was the opportunity to speak myself.  It was a rush to be opening the activities on Monday at 7:00am to a full room.  I am thankful that friends came to show support because I love seeing them all the time.  I was even more excited to see a room of unfamiliar faces (at least when we started).  I met HR peers from Uganda, Saudi Arabia, Denmark, Nigeria, Turkey, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Canada and India all in my session.  Having a chance to share HR from a different perspective and also reach folks from across the globe . . . . amazing !!

I think the attendees at my session weren’t quite ready to be jacked up that early in the morning.  To be able to show HR people that you can have fun, mess with your employees and truly impact the business you work for seemed new to most there.  I thought everyone was a bit tentative to start, but by the end of the session people were laughing, smiling and learned what it’s like to be Geeked about HR !!

I challenged the attendees to do something completely radical and say, “Hi !!” to all of the attendees at SHRM14 who weren’t in my session for the rest of the week.  I told them I would check on them throughout the week to see how it was going.  Amazingly, they told me that others were wondering why they were greeting them.  I asked if that discouraged them, and they began to glow with excitement !!  They eagerly told me, “No, I keep saying ‘Hi !!’ to more folks now.  This is awesome !!”

You see, I think a lot of HR needs to be simplified.  People want to engage and be connected – but the difference is that WE have to be the ones to do it instead of expecting folks to just “get it.”  One thing to start this is making your office fun.  At my session, I closed everything out by telling folks I was adding them to the HR Net (a free resource open to all HR folks) to keep them connected, and I gave away a lava lamp.

Jaya at SHRM14When I pulled the name, I stumbled.  It was a longer name and I didn’t want to mispronounce it.  I got the name out and a wonderful, young lady quietly stood and said, “Yes, that is me. I won.”  Meet Jaya from India !!

How cool is it that the 1st time I get to speak at SHRM National, I can plant a cool, hippie HR vibe in another country ??

You see HR – It’s time for us to shine our light within our organizations, our profession and with each other.  Well, I’m geeked again just by writing this !!  I hope the Conference was fab for everyone who went – and I hope to see YOU at another great HR event sooner than later !!

 

Friends.

After a great Easter weekend, it’s easy to come back to work because I had the chance to take in something that I value more and more.  I hope that I have always valued what I experienced this weekend, but I would have to say that sometimes I take it for granted as well.  What am I talking about?  Friends.

This weekend for our Easter gathering, my family got together with two of our closest families. Our children are now all young adults and we have been together since the birth/infancy of each of the seven kids.  We aren’t related biologically, but these two families are as close and as dear as any family member could be.  There was nothing unique, magical, or overwhelming when we got together.  We went to church, shared an incredible lunch where everyone pitched in, played outside, laughed, shared stories and memories and ended the day with warm hugs as everyone went on their way.

So, what in the world does this have to do with HR ?? Absolutely everything !!

You see, many HR pros continue to struggle and practice in what they do because they try to gut it out on their own.  You can be somewhat effective in this approach, but the key word is “somewhat.”  Now, I’m not talking about having a “network” or your own personal “Board of Directors.”  Those are important, but this is something more basic and essential.

Because HR folks are in a field that has more challenges than rewards at times, you need friends.  Friends are people you can open up with and not fear about being judged.  Friends are people you can laugh with, share with and encourage through all types of situations.  Friends may have answers for you as a resource.  At other times, they might just be present for you when you feel no one else will.

For far too long, HR has been taught that you aren’t supposed to develop relationships at work.  You’re supposed to keep an arm’s length distance from others  in the event that you have to be the negative voice sometime in the future.  This stance has put a dark mark on our profession and the people who practice it.  How in the world can we say we’re in a field to care for people, but we’re not allowed to be close to them?  It seems way too out of kilter for me.

FriendsI do my best to develop as many friendships as possible as I can with other HR folks.  I want to make sure that people have at least one person who wants to know who they are, what’s going on in their lives, how things are in their corner of the HR universe, and what they love to do.  I usually call folks every night on my long commute home just to check in and see how they’re doing.  I don’t schedule it or make it formal.  I just call them to let them know that I’m there for them and can’t wait to hear what’s happening in their lives.

When I go to conferences, I do the same thing.  I want to meet and get to know as many humans in HR as I can.  We need friends.  It’s something that keeps us grounded.  It’s something that needs to be the norm and not the exception.

So, this week as you head back into work, reach out to someone else in HR.  Check in to see how they’re doing.  Be a friend.  Trust me, you’ll love every moment !!

Image courtesy of Oozie

A Daily Mantra !!

This past week we celebrated a Team Member’s 30th anniversary !!  This is a rarity in any organization these days.  She truly is beloved.  When we sent out the notice that we were going to recognize her, many people, including several Executives and Senior Leaders, cleared their schedules to make sure they were present.

Our recognition program is very personalized.  We meet our Team Members during their shift and at their location. We finally learned that recognition needs to be focused on the employee and not the HR program or benevolence of the company !!  This simple shift has made recognition meaningful for all involved.

What made this occasion so great was the impact that this Team Member has had.  EVERY person who came to say congratulations had worked with her including the CEO and the President of the company !!  She has literally touched the lives of an incredible number of people who passed her to take on loftier roles in the organization.

When everyone gathered, there were loads of hugs, laughs and stories shared.  She had at least one story about everyone who came.  Here’s mine . . .

She is truly unique and salty !!  When I started in my role, my first interaction with her was because she had hung signs in the kitchen that said, “Make sure to put away your mother*$#*%ing glasses !!” She heard that HR wanted to talk to her and she was ready for me.  I told her that I’d like to take the signs down, and asked her why she felt the need to say these things.  She didn’t miss a beat. “Do you see all the glasses sitting around ??”  There was never any ill will or intent in her approach.

No one has ever felt threatened or hurt by her coarse language.  When I talked to her I got to know her better and she got to know me as well.  I make sure to drop by and see her every once in awhile and she says, “Hey, Steve, I haven’t put up any f*#$ng signs lately.”  And, we howl !!  We’ve both learned from each other over the years.

The whole time we were recognizing Louise, it was very emotional.  We shed tears, laughed until it hurt and reveled in the stories from her 30 years with us.  It was fantastic !!

Laughing Ha HaAs we were wrapping up, the President of the company shared this . . . “Recently, I read that to have a full life people should laugh out loud, cry out loud and touch someone else’s life every day – and Louise that describes you perfectly !!”  You can guess that tears flowed freely.

I think it’s something that all of us as humans can take on as our mantra.  This isn’t just an “HR” thing.  You see I believe that our workplaces are full of people like Louise.  It’s just that so many people continue to think that HR’s focus is on the negative. I hate when I hear people trying to learn from HR horror stories because that’s when idiotic policies, procedures and programs come to life.

I could have jumped her when I saw her signs.  I could have written up a tenured employee because she was using harsh language.  I could have overreacted and jumped to conclusions, created a massive anti-cursing policy with 5 levels of progressive discipline. Or, I could talk to her and hear her side of things.

I’m so glad I took the last approach.

I made sure I was Louise’s last hug.  It was warm, caring and I told her how much she meant to me and to the lives of so many.  She pulled back and said, “Thank You.  Now get out of here you . . . “

Red Card. Green Card.

I am writing my weekly post a bit later because I’m  fighting off a food coma !!  A group of friends and I just went to Boi Na Braza – a Brazilian steakhouse. It was spectacular and way too much food, but loads of fun.  Anytime you can mix friendship and food is great.  More relationships are built and deepened when breaking bread is involved.

The system the restaurant uses is incredibly effective and very simple.  The servers walk around with skewers of different types and cuts of meat.  You can have as much, or as little, as you’d like.  The staff never has to ask if you want to consider trying something new because they follow a simple two color card system.

Green Card 2Red Card 2Green means that you would like to see what’s being offered and red means that you want to take a break or stop for awhile to catch your breath (and make some more room.)  Since I work in the restaurant business myself, I was fascinated that service was broken down to the flip of a card !!

I wondered what would happen if we could have this two-sided card at work?  What if we could use this system in HR when we had to address behavior in the workplace?  We could show the green side for all of the behaviors we liked, and quickly turn it over to red the moment a behavior came up we didn’t care for. Wouldn’t that be simple enough?

Unfortunately, I think we get stuck on the red card too much.  We think that we can affect, change and control behavior through endless policies and procedures.  We spend more time saying “No” than we do “Yes” in our jobs too.  I think we get set on this pattern of practicing HR and think that by saying no first we are addressing the situation. However, we really aren’t being effective at all.  We’re just avoiding taking the time to analyze, contemplate and come up with a resolution to the situations we face.

I’d love to see us use the green card more often in all that we do in HR.  If we tried it, I think we’d develop a more consistently positive approach to what we do.  I’m not talking about mindlessly agreeing with things as they come up.  You can face situations, look them over and then move forward.  It may mean stopping a practice or eliminating something that no longer has use.  But, that can be positive as well.

You see, at the restaurant, you kept the green card up to see new things, try new flavors and have a broader experience.  That kind of life and approach to HR is exciting and fulfilling !!  So, which card are you going to turn over when you go to work this week ??  My green one is already turned up !!

HR is Wicked !!

Last week my wife and I took in a musical.  We love to see shows every once in a while and this was one of the best ones we’ve ever seen !!  We saw Wicked and were entranced by every single moment of the show.

The story is a much different tale of Elphaba the Wicked Witch and Glinda the Good Witch in the mythical land of Oz. After taking it all in and seeing something “familiar” brought to light in a different way, I noticed a troubling twist to the story.  When Elphaba meets the Wizard of Oz, she is put into a position where she is the enemy, and therefore, “wicked” !!  The Wizard even states that the people want someone bad so that he can look good.  To that point Elphaba was just trying to fit in because her green skin made her completely different than all of the other characters.

Wicked PosterI think Elphaba is a lot like HR in many organizations !!  She wanted to care for all of the animals in the kingdom of Oz – the outliers of their society.  She wanted to use her powers for good, but people didn’t understand what she did or why she wasn’t like everyone else.  All in all, she wanted to be included, but others didn’t want to do that.  In fact, they forced her to become wicked because they others could “deal with her.”

Unfortunately, HR acts in much the same way.  In the end, we too, allow an organization to put us into a box which they’re comfortable with even though we are not.  Why is that productive?  How does that enable us to practice what we do well in the company?  Why have we become a profession that tends to “accept” our fate?

I won’t tell you the end of the show (if you haven’t already seen it), but it’s really fantastic because Glinda and Elphaba sing about how each other have “changed each other for good.”

I think that we have this opportunity as well.  In order for HR to “change for good” we have to be comfortable with who WE are and not how others define us.  Also, we need to not allow folks to label us as “wicked” – other terms you may be familiar with is “the No People” “The Police” a “Necessary Evil” or the famous “Ssshh, it’s HR !!”  Step in and show people that we are far from wicked. We don’t let other employees treat each other this way, and we shouldn’t let other departments treat us poorly either !!

The great thing about HR is that we DO look at things differently !!  We bring the human factors of situations to life and make sure they aren’t overlooked.  Don’t ever apologize for doing that – ever !!

Wicked has a great ending for all of the characters.  The ones who are truly wicked get their due, and the ones who are truly good have the perfect fairy-tale ending.  It’s time for HR to understand the good we offer, the good we are and the good in others.  It’s not a make-believe situation.  It’s WHO WE ARE !!

What’s Your Approach ??

At times Human Resources feels like it moves at an amazingly fast pace !!  There may be some peaks and valleys, but each day is more likely a blur.  I know many folks who have to double-check their Outlook calendars just to remind them what day it is.

With things moving so quickly all the time, there is the possibility that the field we should love becomes the job that is more drudgery than joy.  If you don’t think this is true, go to an HR Conference and listen to the conversations in the crowds.  Most of them are not positive and are laced with unending frustration.

There’s a way out of this constant drain of negativity.  It does, however, take a huge intentional effort which many aren’t willing to do.  It’s not “hard” but it is different from the norm.

It’s all about your approach . . .

ApproachYour approach to your life.  Your approach to HR.  Your approach towards your employees.  And, your approach towards others around you.

Let me share an example that just happened.  We are entering the SHRM Conference season.  There are phenomenal regional and State events that you should check out and attend.  I just attended and spoke at the 48th Annual Northern Ohio HR Conference (NOHRC) in Cleveland.  It’s a great event full of great programs, business partners and, most importantly, HR pros.

Often when folks go to Conferences, they are much more focused and concerned with which sessions have Strategic Credit, where are the best seats, who should they go see and what is going to happen . . . every . . . single . . . minute.  They willingly walk past every other attendee to get to their session without even greeting each other.  The session is FAR MORE important than the other attendees.

Having experienced this more often than I like, I opened my session by asking all of the people who came to take 30 seconds and meet the people around them. The energy level in the room jumped !!  People started smiling and they shook off the full day of sessions and activities.  Their minds were clear, they were ready for something different and we launched.

I shared with everybody my observation that we struggle with HR because of how we approach it.  Just like the conference setting, we are so much more concerned and focused on systems, policies and procedures than we are the people who work with us.  People who come to work and want to do great work, be recognized for it by person-to-person feedback and also want to see their company succeed !!

The other example I shared at my session was that when I attend an HR conference, I spend my time almost primarily seeking out friends, meeting new people and getting connected to them.  I also attend sessions, but usually to meet others.  When people go to conferences with me they better get used to delays because I will get, and give, countless hugs, handshakes and hellos.

You see, PEOPLE are my approach !!

This isn’t an admonishment, it’s an opportunity.  People make us who we are as a profession and it’s the most fulfilling approach I know.  So, this week, drop one system.  Ignore one policy.  Skip one procedure.

But . . . approach EVERY person with a new view !!  I guarantee you’ll love it !!

Image courtesy of Dragyn Studios

Giver or Taker ??

Have you ever been unemployed?  I have.  It’s happened a few times in my life.  I’m not talking about transitioning from one job to a new one.  I’m talking about not working in your profession.  It’s hard.

The reality of the financial implications hit first and you’re kind of taken over by fear.  You think that EVERYONE would want to hire you immediately, and that you’re sure to land your next job quickly.  That rarely happens. These items aren’t “new” and there are countless blogs and pieces of advice for jobseekers.

However, I think there’s a HUGE opportunity for HR to make a difference and turn the tide for people who are in transition.  Likewise, there’s a HUGE opportunity for jobseekers to take a different approach in their search as well.  It takes a different mindset for both sides of the unemployment quandary.

I grew up in Ada, Ohio (otherwise known as the center of the universe). It’s a rural village in Northwestern Ohio that can be compared to growing up in Mayberry from the Andy Griffith Show.  People are very down to earth and full of sage advice.  My Dad has lived in and around Ada his entire life.  He pulled me aside one day and said, “Steve, there are two types of people in this world – givers and takers.  You need to decide which one you’ll be.”

Givers and TakersI know my Dad didn’t come up with this saying. However, he and my Mom have been the model of givers in all areas of their lives.  I’ve tried to live this in my life as well.  It’s where HR needs to be too in my opinion.

I think HR folks should make themselves available for people in transition.  I have been working with people who are between jobs for years.  Here’s a big difference – I haven’t hired any of those people, and I haven’t charged them a dime for my time and efforts.  Sometimes, I meet for coffee, take a phone call, review a resume or make a call to someone as part of my network.  At the HR Roundtable I facilitate, people in transition are welcome to come, share their resume and network with HR pros to show others that they have always been talented pros themselves.  I truly get geeked when a person sends me an e-mail to tell me they’ve landed !!

You see, I believe great companies who hire great people will be companies that differentiate themselves from the pack.  Why wouldn’t I help other companies get better?  To me it’s the benchmark for great HR !!

Here’s what I’d like to challenge HR and jobseekers to do . . .

  • Intentionally network with each other even if the person in HR isn’t hiring.  HR folks know others in HR.  So, even if the company isn’t hiring, a person may open a door to someone who is !!
  • Don’t ignore the long-term unemployed HR.  Talented people are everywhere around us.  Look at people for what they bring to your company, not how long they’ve been between jobs.
  • Remember to help others first.  Too often jobseekers get their next job and forget the network who helped them land.  Don’t be a taker !!  Be forewarned on this.  Folks I know who have only used others to get a job are usually looking for another job in 18 months.  Avoid this behavior and keep networking.
  • HR folks – connect with other HR folks.  We still have miles to go before we truly become the “community” people write about.  Link In with each other.  Follow each other on Twitter.  Meet each other in person.  We can help others by being more connected ourselves.

Finally, understand that my Dad’s saying is true whether you read this and act or not.  So choose who you want to be.  I know this – by giving to others, my life is richer every day and I wish the same for you !!

 

Sochi, the Media and HR !!

The 2014 Winter Olympics are in full swing, and I have to tell you that I’m a fan.  It’s a chance for the entire world to come together for a common purpose through sports.  I’m not a skier, skater, bobsledder, luger or curler.  Although, I think being on the US Curling Team would rock !!

With all of the pomp and circumstance, bright colors and international community comes an unfortunate dark side.  It is truly almost unbearable to listen to the blathering commentators.  During the opening ceremony, one of the visual special effects where snowflakes were supposed to transform into the five Olympic rings failed.  It caused a global uproar and Twitter exploded !!  In fact there’s an account on Twitter that focuses on the things in Sochi which are “wrong.”

The negativity doesn’t stop with the talking heads of NBC in their studios, during the Today Show or the Evening News.  It continues during EACH event !!  We’ve never been a country who admires that other countries actually send athletes who also compete alongside us.  The coverage is so U.S.-centric that we only get to see an extremely small portion of the actual competition even though it’s hours and hours of TV coverage.  Then, during the coverage, the analysts talk about all of the errors people make instead of focusing on how amazing it is that this athlete is representing an entire country !!

I get sick of it.  Ironically, it reminds me of how the majority of HR is focused.  Entire company cultures go to work each day to focus on “what’s wrong” with work and especially with their employees.  I know I’ve been guilty of this because it’s so much easier to be negative vs. being positive !!  It has to stop.

Happy face amongst sad faces.Just think what would happen if your culture refused to be negative !!  I understand that there are challenges in every workplace.  But those are opportunities, not obstacles.  HR should make it there mantra that ALL systems that touch, or affect, people in the organization should be intended to encourage, develop or address folks where they are.

If someone is lacking a skill, then take the time to teach them what they need.  If someone is struggling with a person/boss/management, talk to them directly without having the approach of “making a case.”  If there are differences between people or departments, be the glue who connects the dots and show how to integrate people’s strengths instead of harping on people’s differences.

I could fill an entire post on these types of if/then statements.  The key is that we need to be more like Sage Kotsenburg who won the Olympics 1st gold medal of the games and the first in his inaugural event.  He was stoked about his performance and his press conference is a great mixture of awe, excitement and “dudeness.”

He only focuses on what he was able to do and how cool it was to do it !!  If we in HR, were like this and could be positive and excited about what we did, just think of the possibilities !!  Turn off the negative and see what happens.  I think you’ll be geeked !!

Who Are You ??

I am an unabashed music freak !!  Seriously, I have music on constantly.  In my car.  In my office. When I do work around the house.  Almost everywhere.  My office has a signed copy of U2’s The Joshua Tree album (vinyl), a signed microphone from Peter Frampton and a huge collage of the legends of rock.

To keep my musical intake going, I’ve been listening to the autobiography of Pete Townshend, from The Who, called, Who I Am. It is incredibly raw, candid, deeply detailed and fascinating !!  This post isn’t meant to glorify the rock life because, honestly, he has made MANY choices that are detrimental in many ways.  The cool thing about it though is that he recognizes that and owns up to both his successes and failures.

However, one thing I am taking away from this deep dive into rock lore (he casually mentions how Jimi Hendrix was his friend . . .) is that Townshend is exactly who he is.  It’s not a charade.  It’s not an act.  It’s real at an almost uncomfortable level.

This brings me back to HR.  I think that too many of us in our profession are guarded in our approach to most of what we do.  We are hesitant to be ourselves at work because we’re “HR”.  This is odd to me.  How do we expect others in the workplace to be real and open when we’re not willing to be part of the tribe?

I think we’re missing out when we’re not transparent about our likes, beliefs, joys, concerns, successes, faults, etc.  In The Who’s epic anthem – Who Are You? – one lyric that Roger Daltrey screams is – I REALLY WANT TO KNOW !!

Most people I know, especially those in HR, are reluctant to put themselves out there because we feel we have to take on some corporate persona that distances us from everyone.  And you wonder why people take pot shots at who we are and what we do?  If we’re not willing to be genuine and accessible, then how do we expect others to take the first step?

Be Who You Want to BeHere’s how I have ALWAYS looked at life (and HR).  I make myself open and vulnerable the moment I meet you.  Does that mean that I’ve been hurt?  Yes.  Does that mean that some people take advantage of that? Yes.  Has it resulted in more lasting, sustainable and meaningful relationships in all areas of my life?  Most definitely !!

There is an amazing amount of risk and reward if you choose to live this way.  Overall though, it’s opened doors to be a more intentional person and HR pro who can more effectively connect with the humans all around me.  That matters.  And, it makes HR so much more meaningful and worthwhile.

To be the “Human” in HR you have to be the “human” first !!

So, this week start peeling back the layers and let people see the great person you are.  I have a feeling you’ll see how freeing this is, and I hope (truly) that I get to meet you, know you and see who you are !!

Image courtesy of Quote Diary

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 !!