Not Sure What to Say

It’s rare that I don’t have words readily available to type and share. I have been struggling with all of the unrest happening around the country and in my city. I wanted to say something, and I’ve been apprehensive for a few reasons. First of all, I don’t want to make a statement that would be taken out of context which is easy to have done with anything that is but a snapshot of words in time. Secondly, writing about a racial issue when I’m a white man makes me anxious as well. I don’t want my words to be taken in a way that lessens or marginalizes anyone. However, I needed to say something.

I recently read that in a time of crisis, people of courage take a stand. I choose to step in on this with grace and a yearning to understand. Along with everyone else, I hear people screaming for people to pick a side and be held “accountable.” In fact, I’ve had friends cast their sentiments and shame on me for not instantly, and emotionally, respond to all that’s happening. I realize that I’m a visible person in the world of HR, and I choose to be one on purpose. With that, I don’t feel you can only comment on all that’s good, but you should also respond when things are challenging and uncomfortable.

I ache for what is happening. I truly do. I don’t pretend that I have the same background, fear and anger that many do because my life has not been made up of the same experiences. I understand that I am treated differently because I am white and not black. I don’t agree with it and I never have. To me, I am disheartened because people have lost their lives. There are families who have lost those dear to them forever when it didn’t need to happen, and we all know that in a moment a bad decision can be made that will change the course of a person’s life forever.

The country has been filled with angst, emotion and frustration for some time. All that has been happening with the pandemic, endless political rhetoric and a constant focus on all that’s “wrong” with our existence has consumed the majority of our thoughts and conversations. I’ve seen injustice occur when a spark is lit and the bucket of emotions unleashes. It’s honestly a cycle we refuse to address and break from.

And, here’s where I get stuck for words . . .

You see, I don’t dare be prescriptive or should that “this” action should happen or “that” person should be addressed. That’s only because there are far too many of us who need to act and speak up. It’s not only the people involved in the loss of life.

I’ve seen many contacts and friends who are beside themselves and have very publicly shouted that they’re getting off social media because they just can’t handle it anymore. I’m concerned when people step away only because it can lead to a trap of isolation, intimidation and indifference. I would hope there’s a chance and a window to engage, understand and have dialogue even when emotions are running high.

This past weekend, I was in Indianapolis with my wife visiting our daughter. As we were walking through the neighborhoods around Mass Ave., I saw this piece of art which captured what I can do during this time. It’s a crossing sign that has two alternative messages on it versus the traditional Walk/Don’t Walk. It shows “Don’t Care/Care” and the button below says, “Push button to change.” As we came up on the sign, it was on the blue light saying, “Don’t Care,” and we pushed the button to make the sign express “Care.”

Now, I know this is an analogy and just a visual cue. However, I believe that in all this unrest what I can do more than ever is care. I choose to do that by reaching out to friends who I know are angry and fearful. I’ve had conversations already and plan to reach out to others to check in. I’ve asked for context and not “why” when we’ve talked. I want them to know that I’m here for them no matter what.

That may seem minor and not doing “enough” in the eyes of many. What you need to understand though is that I have lived my life with the belief and behavior of meeting you WHERE you are and for WHO you are in every aspect of your life. While the world keeps ripping itself apart over ignorant words, self-aggrandizing tweets, and a cult of personality, I choose to engage people as humans, and I will continue to do so.

I value our differences and see them as strengths and attributes that make you a wonderful person worth engaging and knowing. I refuse to be someone who is called upon to only know others if I have to compartmentalize, label, judge, marginalize or generalize them.

I care about people and I ache that once again race has become something that divides us. I want to see that change and I am going to do that one person at a time. It’s been said for centuries that “actions speak louder than words.” I hope you are reflecting on how you can genuinely express care for people for who they are and where they are in life. To me this is basic and foundational.

In getting ready to write this, I did find some words that captured my heart well from of all places – Nike. Take a look and let’s do all we can to bring people together and move forward.

Who You Are to Me

Recently, I’ve noticed an unfortunate malaise when it comes to being active on social media. It seems that you can’t post anything without someone making a comment to the contrary. It doesn’t matter what the subject matter is or the opinion that was shared. If you shared that you were, “having a great day with your family and enjoying the beautiful weather and the blue skies”, inevitabily someone would say something like, “well it’s raining here.”

What has happened? Why has it become so prevalent to make sure that no comment is supported, but we make sure it is criticized? I know some dear friends who even say things like, “Well, life just can’t be that good. Look at how their picture is perfect . . .”

I understand that we are going through a difficult time globally. This is a first for many because now this situation affects us personally. We tend to forget, or not know, that challenges exist everywhere and every day. They may be visible and get news coverage if they’re horrific enough because that is what we seem to thrive on. However, many people are facing challenges which are not visible to others. You may never know the extent of what they’re going through.

Now, as a realistic optimist myself, I don’t find myself stuck in dark places often. It happens, but I try my best to focus on those areas of my life where I have the most interaction including my faith, my family and my friends. I even make sure that this is how I view my interactions on social media. I would much rather see the light of recognition and acknowledgement be on others and their good work.

Recently, a dear friend of mine, broke through the veil of negativity which seems to try and continue to divide us with a simple postcard. The message on the front instantly captured my attention. It said – “Who You Are to Me.” I had no idea who it was from or why I had received it. I hastily flipped it over eager to read if there was another message. It was a simple message just as the one on the front. At the top I read, “5 words I’d use to describe you” and there were five numbers with lines next to each number. Then, my friend, wrote five descriptive words to fill the card. She then signed it, “Laurie.”

The words she used were personal, heartfelt and meaningful. I’m sharing them just so you get the feel of how touching this act was. The words were: “Trailblazer, Leader, Community builder, Compassionate communicator and Friend.”

I read the card over and over. I was floored that this is how she viewed me. We have been friends with her for several years. kI always enjoy when we chat or see each other. Honestly, this piece of mail was such a perfect ray of light and a reminder that personalized encouragement leaves a long-term and significant mark.

I would love to see everyone, especially those in HR, practice this in person and on social media. Think how much more positive your daily activities would be knowing who you are to somebody else !! We have no problem expressing feelings which divide us. Let’s turn that around and let those who are in our lives know how much they matter. Laurie did this with a 50 cent stamp and five words.

This week pick three people who positively make a difference in your life, and the lives of others, and tell them how much they mean to you. Use a method like this one and share five descriptive words to let them know how you feel. Make it personal. Do it because you want to and not because it’s a task.

I will be doing this going forward and on purpose. I want to take the opportunity to shed light on others and break through the darkness. I want to see everyone lifted up as we move forward. It costs you nothing to share what’s on your heart, but it may be the one piece of encouragement that someone needed at just the right time !!

Dear Graduates . . .

I’m sure you’re seeing graduation “ceremonies” happening all over the country in a variety of new formats. The traditional gatherings which make each spring come to life had to be altered because of the current environment. I’m excited to see every type of ceremony occurring which have ranged from virtual Zoom commencements to semi in person walk throughs to meeting at drive-in theaters to a drive by parade.

It’s important regardless of how graduation is occuring that the students get recognized for this milestone in their lives. There are students finishing up their time in high school, colleges and military acadamies. It will be a benchmark moment in their lives because no one has had to make such a shift in order to mark this accomplishment in the past. It hopefully will launch them forward to the next step in their lives and careers.

My kids are far past graduations of their own, so I was taken by surprise when I received a request from an HR peer who I have a unique tie with. Professor Mindy West from Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business. She teaches multiple HR courses at ASU along with Professor Eric Knott, Professor Karen Stafford and Professor Lisa Macaffe to help students graduate with a degree in Human Resources !!

The unique tie I have with Professor West is that she grew up in Ada, Ohio with me. Our families were very close and I knew her all through junior high and high school. A few years ago, I was speaking at a SHRM Annual conference when Mindy came up to talk to me after my presentation. I was geeked to reconnect and was tickled she was not only in HR herself, she was teaching the next generation of HR professionals.

Mindy reached out through Linked In and asked if I would be the commencement speaker for the ASU HR grads. I was touched and humbled to be considered. Secretly I’ve wanted to be a commencement speaker at some time during my life, so this was perfect.

The ceremony was to be virtual and through Zoom. I set up in my basement and joined the students and professors who were sitting in their houses with their caps and gowns on. Everyone jumped on the call and you could feel the joy and excitement of the students and their families as the chatter was going back and forth between all of them all at once. After a great orchestral prelude, Jennifer Pigeon, an HR pro who is active in SHRM of Greater Phoenix, sang the National Anthem and crushed it !! The emotions were even higher and there were a few tears shed.

Then my fellow Adaite introduced me and I got to congratulate the students and share with them how proud I am of them being not only my peer but also my future. I encouraged them to embrace HR as a phenomenal profession where they can lead, thrive and help their perspective companies by adding value and ensure a people-centric culture. I also asked them to network now and throughout their career.

After I finished, the students recevied a taped message from Cheryl Sandberg of Facebook !! It was amazing. However, the best part of the night was about to occur. The professors all took a few minutes to congratulate the students which was so heartfelt. You could see the time and effort they had invested in each other. Then . . . the students were recognized.

Professor West shared unique facts and future plans of each student and then she’d say, “Okay, unmute and let’s hear from you and your family.” The small squares all over the screen erupted in screams, yells and words of praise and congratulations. Each student had their own time and we cheered for them as much as we could.

At the end of the ceremony, tears were streaming down my face that was smiling as broadly as I could manage. I will remember and cherish being a part of this graduation for the rest of my days. I’m sure my six minute speech will long be forgotten, and that is absolutely fine. What matters is that in the midst of what seems like endless bleakness, you find light.

This graduation, and the thousands happening everywhere at this time are a sign of hope and of moving forward. It’s time that we find more of these moments of life and celebrate them. It’s time to push back the darkness and take steps forward toward the future. I know these students are eager and we should be as well.

This week, continue to stay safe and also understand that you are a part of the present and future of the lives of everyone around you. Congratulations dear graduates !!

Fado’s

As of this year, I’ve been an HR volunteer leader for 20 years. It’s hard to believe that time has flown by so quickly !! I remember when I first got involved, I went to a Volunteer Leaders Summit in Crystal City, Virginia. I was an officer on my local SHRM chapter’s board. It was great to go to the conference to learn and be around other volunteer leaders. We went to an Irish pub down the street from the hotel where we were staying and we had a blast !!

Little did I know that it planted the seed for a gathering place for years to come.

The first time we went out though, we only hung out with the people from our chapter in Cincinnati. We didn’t interact with anyone else. It didn’t strike me as odd at the time, but as the years kept passing, it started to really eat at me. You have to keep in mind that this was long before social media. It made sense to hang out with folks you knew, but I wondered why we didn’t try to meet other HR peers because we were literally surrounded by them.

At subsequent Volunteer Leader Summits and at HR conferences in general, people continued to congregate based on geography. This was true during the event itself in sessions or when people gathered for lunches/dinner. People kept within the boundaries of their cities or states. It didn’t make sense to me and I wanted to see something change.

When I was the State Director of Ohio SHRM, we met for the Summit at the Gaylord Hotel in Maryland. I decided it was time to break the geographical model. So, I found another Irish pub and took a group of Ohioans along with me. While we were at the pub, I left my friends to introduce myself to everyone else in the pub and asked them to join us. I know – radical. However, I couldn’t recall it ever being done. Soon our group was full of people from Montana, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, California, Nebraska, North Dakota, Arizona, New Mexico and more !! We realized that we needed to be together as people and HR pros. It was a natural and easy connection to make.

After a few years, our conference location moved to downtown Washington, D.C. When we were “done” for the day with sessions, it was time to venture out once again and I found the best haunt EVER for us to assemble in the middle of the Chinatown district – Fado’s Irish Pub & Restaurant.

Now, since we broke the invisible geographical barrier a few years earlier, people were more interactive during the conference and were asking where and when we were going to meet. I asked everyone to meet me at Fado’s because it had a cool vibe, great food, adult beverages and space for us to all meet. The first night we had about 25 folks come out. Each night the number grew and more people ventured out to meet new friends as well as hang out with those they knew. We shared so many laughs, stories and experiences. We truly were becoming an HR community !!

Then, as fate would have it, the SHRM Annual conference was in Washington, D.C. in 2016. This meant there would be a larger group of HR pros that we could coax to Fado’s. And, we did. Every. Night. If there were social events planned, we’d go to Fado’s afterward. It became a go-to gathering place for us. One night I will always cherish was when I first joined the SHRM Board of Directors and everyone was eager to get me to come out to the pub. I was planning on it, but didn’t know why there was such a sense of “urgency.” It didn’t seem like any other night. I was mistaken.

As I showed my ID (which was required regardless of your age), I looked up and tears filled my eyes as everyone in the pub was wearing tie-dye to celebrate my new role. Some of the pub staff were also wearing the shirts. It was spectacular because it showed the power of what coming together as people means.

Since that night, we’ve been back to Fado’s many more times including last year in November. Little did I know that this would be the last time I’d get to enjoy the darkened wood, sticky floors and smell of Irish ale. Fado’s announced that it was permanently closing its doors as of April 2020. This wasn’t because of the current pandemic, it was due to their lease and relationship with their landlord. When they made the announcement on Facebook, there was an outpouring of stories, photos, memories and thank you’s.

I would like to add this one more “Thank You” to all that’s been shared to date. I can tell you that I’ve developed, and built on, friendships I cherish and am reassured will last for my lifetime. The familiar feel and welcoming spirit of Fado’s gave us the perfect environment to foster healthy relationships across boundaries.

I know that people are getting together more often now even if it’s virtually. My hope is that the efforts we make to come together intenionally only builds and doesn’t wane when we get back to our old patterns of life and work. I know that I will continue to do my best to bring folks together and hopefully we’ll find a place as great as Fado’s has been to do so.

We all need a Fado’s in our life !! So, I lift a pint and offer Sláinte !!

Our Time is Now !!

Can you feel and see the rumblings of the next phase of the COVID-19 crisis on the horizon? We’ve been in a mix of constant change, uncertainty and regulatory direction. People are getting antsy. People are getting even more expressive and emotional. The feeling isn’t all good either. With the inevitable lifting of restrictions, people are voicing their opinions on timing, the extent of movement and political posturing is growing. To be honest, this next phase can be almost as unsettling as the front part of this time in our history.

We were asked to take drastic and immediate action when this all started, and now we’re asked to slowly return to . . . normal. Let’s be clear – normal isn’t going to be what it was. It just isn’t, and it shouldn’t be !!

I am so pleased that HR has stepped up and into leadership during the crisis. It has been long overdue. There are several blogs which have featured senior HR leaders and how they’ve been the voice of strategy, response and direction. It is unfortunate that we were only looked to as leaders because potential tragedy loomed in organizations and workplaces. I don’t want to take away from any of the great work that has been done to date in the least. The circumstances we find ourselves in have allowed HR to flex their muscles and show how a people-centric approach was needed in our companies. Because, like most issues in the workplace, the center of them is people. It always has been . . . and always will be.

People are now seeing HR as it should be seen. This isn’t a call to take advantage of a crisis. It’s a chance for us to step into leadership because that is the vantage point from which HR operates best.

My hope is that we don’t return to any semblance of normality as HR practitioners. We can’t step away from being leaders. We should take up the same mantle we’ve assumed during this time of crisis and be those who help organizations perform through its people. We need to be present and visible from now on and not shrink back to our places of feeling we’re merely a support function.

Our time is now !!

I mean this with every inch of my being. I am calling out and throwing down the gauntlet to my peers to continue leading in every facet of your work. There is no reason for us to be on the sidelines or in the shadows. We need to break from the traditional pattern of yearning and hope that “one day” we’ll be called upon. That day has arrived. The opportunity which lies before us is wide open and can be defined by us through a continued movement which we are currently facing.

It’s intriguing to me that people are pushing against the boundaries of the restrictions we’ve been placed in to keep us safe. They’re looking for the ability to move around, interact and return to work. There is a palpable energy that is about to be unleashed. We should ride that train of emotion and stop our continued systems of confinement and restriction in HR.

People have been working from home and redefining productivity, innovation, collaboration and connection. So, why would we push for people to get back into their place in line? This is a time for us to unleash the talent which people possess and expect them to continue to produce, develop and grow !!

It’s also time for us to embrace the skill of being agile and adaptable. We were forced into this a few weeks ago, but now we can continue to practice agility and adaptablity !! My good friend Paul Hebert recently wrote a post on HR Examiner asking – “Can HR do their future job?” My answer is a resounding, “YES !!!” There’s absolutely no reason to seek normality. It’s our time to launch forward and construct the new workplace, create the new expectations of performance plus encourage the development of talent throughout the organization.

I plan to move forward. Will you go with me ?? My hope is that we continue to lead, grow and thrive personally, professionally as a global HR community.

Our time is now !!

Praise You !!

This weekend my wife and I took a road trip. We did it for two reasons. One was to get out of the house and just see the world around us. She noted as we were driving that she hadn’t left the house except to go to the grocery store for a month. I was glad I could get her out for a drive. The second reason was more important to be honest. Our daughter lives in Indianapolis and we live in Greater Cincinnati. We’re about two hours from each other. She agreed to meet us halfway to have lunch in a parking lot.

We drove to Batesville, Indiana and met at the LaRosa’s Pizzeria. Yes, it’s one of the locations of the company where I work and it’s also a fave for our family. I was able to run in and check on our Team Members, and get some great food to have brought out to our cars. We never left our car to get close to our daughter because we wanted to maintain social distance and she also works in healthcare. She’s on the front line working with people who are recovering from COVID-19 as an occupational therapist.

It was so great to see her in person !! We’ve been having video chats with both of our kids because we all live in different parts of the country, and we want to stay as safe as possible. We spent an hour and a half talking, checking on her and listening to real world stories of lives being affected. We asked about her co-workers and many of her closest friends who are also in healthcare at various hospitals.

I made sure to do one more thing while I had Melanie “close” to me. I thanked her for all she’s doing. I told her how proud her mother and I were of her going into work everyday during this turbulent time. She appreciated it and said, “Dad, this is where I should be.” (Yes, I got weepy.)

I am so pleased with how people are praising those who are working in all types of industries to help us cope with all that’s going on. People are actually thanking folks they typically ignore. It’s needed now AND into the future !!

You see, we tend to react at heightened levels when situations directly affect us. We’re taking time to thank healthcare workers and deeming them as heroic (which is true !!) We’re thanking those working in restaurants, grocery stores, sanitation, emergency services, education, etc. It’s wonderful to see and it’s also overdue.

We should be grateful and appreciative of every person for the job they do. It shouldn’t occur only because we’re in the thick of a crisis. As the countries around the world are now getting agitated and impatient about not being able to break out of isolation, I’m concerned that when we go back to our normal patterns, this outward level of praise will subside. And, it will subside quickly.

I’m concerned we’ll fall back into our patterns of complaining about our commutes, the co-worker we’ll talk “about” but not to, as well as the things about our job we don’t enjoy. Yes, we want to get back to work and I hope it happens soon as well as safely. The question is – Will we relapse?

You see, when you see parents with kids giving praise is easy. We encourage our kids at every step of any activity. We do this because we want them to respond and understand they’re learning skills and reaching accomplishments. As we grow older, we forsake that pattern and expect people to “get to work” and “stay focused.” Our days are filled with far more converstations that tear people down, and we focus on what isn’t being done versus anything that is being accomplished.

This tidal wave of praise needs to become our norm in every workplace, every industry, every school and every family !! I know that’s a bold ambition, but you have to understand the power of praising others. I heard a person describe praise as “accelerated, amplified gratitude.” How cool is that ??

I am grateful for my daughter and for every person who is working at this difficult and uncertain time. My plan though is to continue to praise everyone for all they do every day. Every. Day. I encourage you to do the same. Let’s not relapse ever again. Value the people in your life for all they do !!

I want to leave you with two reminders going forward. One is the great effort from Workhuman where you can thank healthcare workers. Their effort is called “Thank You Healthcare “. Just click on the title and you can sign up to share some praise and gratitude. Secondly, we all need music to remind us to take action so I leave you with Fatboy Slim . . .

(One thing to note – the people who filmed the video did this as an impromtu flash mob. They’re regular people willing to be bold and express themselves. Note that someone tries to stop them because they’re not acting as they “should” but they aren’t swayed in the least. Enjoy !!)

Do Good. Be Kind.

How are you holding up? It’s a question we should be asking everyone we know. I’m positive I never thought I’d live to see a situation where all of life as we know it was altered in a matter of days. So, how are you holding up?

I think this is more important to know than “how are you doing?” I’m sure even in the midst of all that is occurring we’d give folks a positive nod of “I’m good” whether that was the case or not. I hope you are holding up well even though we are surrounded by stress, anxiety and uncertainty because things seem to still be a bit unknown. There is an overwhelming wave of “information”, but most are starting to get numb to the barrage. We’re all yearning for distractions of some sort.

This Friday, I had one of those needed distractions and it changed me. Literally changed me.

As I ventured out to the end of my suburban driveway to check the mail, I turned around and a pretty substantial box was sitting on my front porch. The deliverer didn’t ring my doorbell or knock on the door to say something had arrived. In today’s climate, that’s very understandable. I was curious because I hadn’t ordered anything. I grabbed it and took it to my kitchen island eager to see what was inside.

When I opened the box, my jaw dropped to the floor. I couldn’t believe all that was waiting inside !! There were two beautiful tie-dye shirts (which only adds to my collection), a mug, a notebook, some stickers, a button to wear and several Smarties candies. It was so cool and I was honestly speechless. Not only was the swag cool, the slogan grabbed me because I knew who it was from.

My friend, Chris Kurtz, started a company called Do Good. Be Kind. I’ve only connected with him, so far, online through Twitter. I was drawn to Chris because of his approach, his message and his general sense of being a positive and encouraging human. He sent me this care package because he thought that I fit his message and vibe as well. To say I was humbled wouldn’t be an accurate enough sentiment.

I instantly went out to the company’s website here and took in every aspect. I was floored to see how their efforts are touching schools, students and businesses. The message of “Do Good. Be Kind.” is not only needed now in a time of crisis, but it’s something we should live daily from now on. Think of it in the perspectives of your life at home, your community and your workplace.

Seriously, what would your company culture and HR look like if you lived the mantra of doing good every day with all of your efforts and interactions? How about if you were kind with every employee including those you find difficult?

Remember this always – HR is the ONLY profession where they get to work with every, single person within the organization.

With that knowledge imagine how fulfilled you, and those with whom you interact, would be because the foundation of your behavior is – Do Good. Be Kind. This next week I want you to go to Chris’ company’s site and look around to see how you can get connected yourself. Check out their incredible story, visit their shop and get some swag yourself that you can both display and share.

I’m grateful for everyone who is in HR and am thankful that we’re peers. Trust me in that I will continue to live this approach myself and know you will thrive if you do as well !!

Getting Together !!

As I write this, the entire world has changed. It’s unprecedented and has caused an environment of isolation in order to hopefully ensure safety in the long-term. Emotions range from anxiety and fear to confidence and hope. The whole situation has caused us to reevaluate how work is done and what we focus on in life in general.

I have to say that in the midst of this challenging time, I love that people are finding ways to get together even though it’s not in person. There are folks having virtual happy hours and coffee clubs. This is so encouraging because I’ve always been someone who believes that we are wired to be connected as people. This is true for everyone.

Cheers during our Zoom chat !!

Recently I joined a Zoom call with a group of friends who happen to also be in HR that have been daily connected for the past 3+ years. We have a GroupMe and talk every day. Every. Day. Even with that, we felt the need to see and hear each other. In moments we were laughing, telling stories and checking in on how we’re responding to everything going on around us. We talked for 1 1/2 hours !! It was magnificent in every possible way. We got to see each other’s houses even though we live all across the country. This made sense to get together because it’s what we’re used to.

The inaugural #HRPubQuiz !!

Then, yesterday I joined a chat that was predominantly made up of friends I’ve only “met” on social media from the UK. Selena Govier put out a call to have an HR Pub Quiz which she was going to run virtually. So, at 9:00pm GMT the quiz began with five rounds of ten questions. This was great because I got to see and hear the voices of friends I’ve only seen online !! The questions were tough because I’m in the US and don’t have a ton of knowledge of UK only trivia. It didn’t matter one bit because we also laughed and had fun sharing all of the answers. I scored a 22 out of 53 and was pretty geeked about that. Selena plans to have the #HRPubQuiz each week while we’re all at our homes.

Hanging with the State Line Crew !!

Once that wrapped up, another group of HR friends who identify as the #StateLineCrew had a chat as well. They are near the border between Illinois and Wisconsin, and the person putting the call together asked if I could join as a surprise. She also reached out to friends in Virginia and South Dakota to join in. We had another hour of rich conversation, laughter and some commiserating because that was a welcomed relief. It was a great reminder that HR folks don’t have a ton of people they can share with inside their organization because of the nature of the work we do.

No one really knows how long we’ll be apart from each other as this global crisis continues. So, take the time to get together virtually with your family, friends and co-workers. With technology there are no geographic boundaries to stop you. Put together a video chat or use social media forums to connect. Invite others and ask them to join in with you.

This is a time for us to make sure everyone is noticed and included. Having gatherings like this is worth your time because you’ll feel encouraged, connected and know that we’re in this together. Reach out !! I know I will be.

Hornets Nest !!

My wife and I are following a typical pattern that happens once your kids grow up and move out on their own. We’ve been in our home since 1991 and I’m very fond of it. I love the neighborhood, our yard and the house itself. Debbie and I were chatting and she said, “It’s time we either moved and downsized (the typical pattern) or remodel and update.” After some consideration of both options, we chose to remodel.

So, we’re going to update our kitchen and our family room. This is a major undertaking because it means we’ll be “living” in our basement for 6 to 8 weeks IF everything stays on schedule AND there are no surprises. Are you someone who watches the home improvement shows on HGTV? We are. Now, I know that it’s television and I’m sure things are staged and filmed in such a way to keep your attention, but it seems that some unknown challenge pops up that no one expected.

This past Saturday, we had our contractor start the work at hand by tearing down the drywall ceiling in our kitchen. Our house was built in 1977 and there are many lingering and dated features such as a stamped ceiling. The two young men made quick work of their task and had the ceiling down and cleaned up in about two hours. When they finished, their dad who leads this family owned business, shared with me what they found.

A picture of our unexpected “guests.”

The ceiling is filled with HVAC ducts, various pipes for plumbing and electrical components. We’re trying to see if we can relocate things to get the ceiling raised to match the rest of the house. As he was walking me through everything, he casually remarked, “Oh yeah, you have a large dormant hornets nest that we found in the soffit.” He, and the boys, didn’t seem fazed in the least. I’m sure they’ve seen all types of things. This was just like the HGTV shows !!

As with most things, finding the hidden hornets nest, reminded me of HR. Based on the size of what was uncovered, the hornets have been nestled in our wall for quite some time. We never have seen any hornets in the house or flying around. That didn’t make the discovery any less disturbing though.

In HR we have similar experiences. Hornets nests are well hidden and disguised within the mix of work environments. You may hear the buzz of something going on, but you’re not sure where the nest exists. A hornet or two may escape and sting you, but you don’t think a bigger problem could be present. When you do find the nest, chances are a swarm happens and a full-on attack occurs !! This isn’t good because your natural reaction is to overreact just to get the hornets off you. This is when senseless knee jerk policies and programs come to life.

You can help prevent the construction of hornets nests by two actions that may seem simple. They are, but the practice is not as easy.

Be Out with Your Employees

This isn’t “new”, but we find more excuses to avoid getting out among our people than we do in putting in intentional time to do this. The more you are out with the “hornets”, the more you’ll be in the know. People will be less likely to sting others when they know their HR person genuinely wants to know who they are and what’s going on in their lives. Stop feeling you are handcuffed by your work. People need to be your focus all the time, not in just reacting to situations.

Listen to Hear, Not to Solve

We are impatient. It doesn’t matter what role you fill or level in which you work. There is an invisible pull of time that keeps us from having meaningful conversations with others. Once we talk to people we tend to come up with a solution in about three words before any full message is even communicated. The majority of people just want to be heard. That’s all. They’re not looking for you to solve or fix them. Taking this approach will relieve so many potential nesting activities that it’s worth trying. You’ll be pleased when you do !!

So, I’m calling a professional exterminator to come to my house to remove our nest. He is sure to have expertise I don’t. Hopefully, he’ll also be able to find the source of where the critters came in my house. I’m hoping we don’t encounter any more surprises during our remodel. We’ll have to wait and see !!

Travels

This past weekend I happened to travel. I’ve come a long way personally when it comes to trips. I used to get very anxious about almost every aspect from finding a place to park at an airport to talking to a desk clerk at a hotel. It’s not rational. I know that. I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m an uber-extrovert. I easily approach folks and find it energizing to meet strangers and get to know about them. So, the anxiety I experienced while traveling was even more troubling because in every other situation I rarely hesitate to interact with others.

Over the years in my volunteer roles with SHRM, I had to face my anxiety more and more. As I took on larger positions, travel became much more regular. Fortunately, I have a dear friend who was patient with me who taught me how to have confidence during my travels. I learned how to not get overwhelmed and started enjoying the time I had in airports and in new geographic locations. Now, I’m at a much different place because I’ve put in place some simple patterns I follow to keep things in order. You have to understand that this is a giant challenge for me because I tend to be carefree and spontaneous.

Since I’m more at ease with travel, I’ve slipped back into what I normally do – observe others. I’m an avid people watcher !! People fascinate me. I love seeing how everyone is unique in their appearance and their approach to traveling themselves. The vast majority of people have a destination mindset. They will do all they can to get through security quickly and without incident because they don’t want to slow down. Once they’ve cleared this first hurdle, they keep their head down and their pace increases as they dash to their gate. If anything inhibits people, they will audibly huff, groan or sigh. They only care about their destination and everyone else is honestly seen as being in their way.

I get it. I see the anxiety and stress on the faces and in the voices of my fellow travelers. I’m not judging because there are so many factors that can upset your plans. You’re hoping for each moment to go smoothly, and you convince yourself that something will go wrong. Unfortunately, it can. The volume of people who are traveling is only increasing and many of the systems are over capacity or not modernized. Also, not one airport is the same. There is variety in how everything is handled.

Because I know my triggers, I’ve learned to be more patient with other travelers. I’ve also decided to show grace, appreciation and thanks to those who help us along the gauntlet from the parking lot to our final destinations. The employees on the travel side get bombarded with all of the people who are wired and on edge. They deserve to be treated well instead of launched upon. Many of the delays and idiosyncrasies that pop up are out of their control.

This past weekend I noticed a piece of art which captured who I try to be and how I thought I’d travel. I’ve seen it in the past, but it truly caught my eye this time. I’m sure I’ve missed so much in airports, hotels and even the towns I’ve gone to because I was focused on arriving more than enjoying the journey. That’s a shame. It truly is.

I’ve been doing my best to keep my eyes and ears open so I can take in the experience around me far more than worrying about where my gate is. I’ve found that it’s lowered by stress, anxiety and probably my blood pressure. I don’t want to miss the people, sights and interactions that swirl around me. I am now embracing the pace with all of it’s chaos.

It’s a great reminder to use this same approach at home with my wife, at work with my peers and out in public. This week I hope you slow down and calm down. Life is short. We casually say this all the time, but we don’t take steps to do anything about it and savor where we are and who we’re with. Change that today. Our lives can be full and abundant if we embrace the experience during all of our travels as well as our destinations !!