. . . And I Feel Fine

When you head into work this week, I’m sure you have a million things on your mind. Everyone does. The majority of these items which fight for our attention all want to have top billing. Even the smallest of thoughts can become all consuming.

The question is, how do you parse through all of these things effectively? There is a sinking feeling that every, single item deserves our full attention and that is nearly impossible to do. You may have great intentions, but more often than not, you get stuck attending to just a few things and the emotions that keep building up have nowhere to go.

The ironic fact in this description is that you are not the only person who feels this build up. It’s every employee who walks into work each and every day. Having all of those emotions swirl around with no outlet isn’t healthy.

As HR professionals, we need to be that release valve. I know this may sound daunting, but it’s an opportunity to be an incredible asset to others and to your company as a whole. I was chatting with my dear friend Victorio Milian recently, and our conversation kept circling back to this reality. The challenges with providing this outlet for employees are two fold – (1) We wait too long to provide this for people in most cases and (2) Who’s going to be our outlet?

We need to come to terms that our “reason for existence” is people. I know that it’s a point that I keep harping on, but it needs to keep coming up until the needle genuinely moves and workplaces embody this. In order to take steps in this direction, you need to be unflappable. It’s hard to do, but here’s an alternative way to get you started.

In the 1980’s, I became obsessed with a band that got it’s start on college radio, R.E.M. I have almost every album they’ve ever released. One of their best songs is entitled – It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine). I love this because even though the lyrics list all of the forces that are playing on the singer, he says that he’s fine. I know it may be a bit tongue in cheek, but it’s a great perspective to hold from our end.

By being the outlet for employees, we can help them work through their “stuff” and get back to a point where they feel less anxious, stressed or frustrated. I know there may be greater situations that would call for outside expertise, but you can’t even get to those recommendations without being an outlet yourself to start. Being unflappable means that no matter how incredible the situation is that your employees are facing, you stay “fine.” They think that their world is ending so they don’t need you to get caught up in their emotions. They’re looking for stability.

This investment of your time and focus is imperative. It will make HR more fulfilling than it is right now. Pouring into the lives of others and relieving their concerns doesn’t have to be overwhelming. We assume we’re going to hear some horrific ordeal, when someone may just need some attention. Walk into these encounters without any preconceived notions. Just stay and genuinely listen to what they’re facing and go from what you hear.

i-feel-fineSo, who is our outlet? You may be fortunate enough to have someone at work you can confide in as a release, but that’s rare. We deal with too many human issues that honestly can’t be shared with others at work regardless of their position. You may have a release at home, but they be difficult to do as well. Your family may look to you as their outlet just as much as the employees do as work.

My recommendation is that you find peers that understand and experience HR just like you. Having a strong network of friends that can empathize and listen is priceless. I have worked on building and maintaining this for years. I’m fortunate enough to be able to pick up the phone and call just to chat with HR folks around the globe. Being able to share stories, seek perspective and reciprocate and be an outlet for them keeps me balanced.

This week take a breath and understand that you get a chance to be there for others. When you do this you’ll see that we’re all fine !!

Be Different !!

Have you ever had someone tell you that you’re “different”?  If you have, I’ll bet you didn’t like it. We don’t want to be seen as being outside the norm. Throughout our lives we do our best to blend in because it’s more comfortable for us, and we feel safer being in groups. It’s not easy to stand away from the pack.

What if you did step away from the crowd? What would happen? Would you have the stamina to stay outside and be different?

The reason I’m asking these questions is that many HR practitioners take the safe path. Trust me, I’m not calling for you to be contrary just for the sake of standing out. However, I am asking you to consider how you practice HR. Doing things traditionally within organizations will allow you to be effective . . . to a point. There are tasks that we need to perform in order to keep structure and parameters in our companies. This aspect of our function should occur naturally and provide a foundation for HR practices, polices and procedures.

be-differentDo you move past the foundation? If you do, then you’re beginning to be “different.” It’s true. What we need to take to heart is that organizations expect us to have a strong base, but they are looking for more. It’s not enough to just make sure that things are in order.

One thing to note is that stepping away from the crowd isn’t negative. It’s not going to cause you to do things that take away from practicing great HR. It should allow you to be the businessperson you were meant to be. We need to come to terms that it is no longer enough to only practice HR. It just isn’t. We can’t continue to think that we’re needed in organizations if we aren’t contributing to the success of the company as a whole.

There are many ways to differentiate yourself. Some things are specific to the type of service/product your company does, but there are three items that can be implemented in every type of company.

Solutions not problems

I received a great piece of advice from an HR executive. He said, “Everyone brings me problems. I need you to bring me solutions.” He was talking about others in HR. His experience was that he could tell if an HR person was strategic or not by how they approached him. If they only brought up problems, he knew they weren’t strategic. We need to bring solutions to organizations. It makes us different.

Span the Levels

People tend to work and interact with people at the level they personally hold. Executives work with fellow executives. Middle management hangs with and collaborates with those in similar roles, and the front line staff stay with their peers. Great HR practitioners don’t see the levels. They move up, down and across with ease. It takes great effort to not get stuck at your level. However, when you do it, it makes you different.

Build Relationships

There is a step that goes past the ideal of making the workplace more human. That’s thankfully becoming the norm, and I’m geeked to see that. The next step is to build relationships. There’s a healthy way to do that across departments. The reason to do this is so that you can understand your employees better and more intentionally. Knowing information about their family, their interests and their hobbies matters. People are longing for acknowledgement and connections in their work. Step out as an HR person to make build their relationships and be different.

The small plaque pictured above is where I plan to stay and I hope it becomes the mantra for you and all of HR. Once you find ways to be different, don’t change. Stay that way.

Our Future

I never thought I’d be the type of person who reminisces as he got older. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t yearn for the past when things were better and people had a stronger work ethic, etc. Trust me, I am doing what I can to debunk the continued effort to separate, isolate and categorize generations. I think it’s short-sighted and runs contrary to what HR should emulate – the bringing together of all of our differences to make us even stronger !!

I’m wondering what the future of HR will be. I still plan to be a big part of it’s present and future for some time to come, but I also know that the field needs to evolve, be disruptive and stay relevant. This will happen primarily with one group of HR folks  . . . students.

The “reminiscing” mention I noted before was thinking back to when I was a student. I graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Interpersonal Communications. I happened to go into HR as a recruiter, but I was taking a leap of faith because people were just starting to use the term “Human Resources.” The working environment was still very much in the world, and practice, of Personnel. No one came to campus to look for HR practitioners. The career services office was polite, but students had to do most of the leg work to find jobs.

Looking back, I don’t want to see that happen to students anymore.

One of the highlights of my career so far is working with HR students. I have had the opportunity to speak to classes at universities, serve as a judge at SHRM Student competitions and also speak at SHRM student chapters. It’s something that can give students encouragement and a reassurance that they’re entering a great industry.

I take a different approach than most because I don’t meet with them to regale them with my HR conquests and successes. It isn’t a chance for them to meet an “expert”. Ick.

past-present-futureInstead, I ask them questions and then answer whatever they ask. Everything is allowed because I want to clear up any misconceptions about HR as well as what it’s like to join an organization. You see, they are my future, and they’re yours as well. We have a chance to share our knowledge as well as our challenges. We can help them avoid some of the struggles we’ve experienced professionally. There’s no need for them to sink or swim like many experienced when they entered the HR field.

There are only two things you need to have to make this investment in our future – Your willingness and your time.

You don’t have to have all of the answers. In fact, it’s better that you don’t. Students are just like every other person in that they want to have you get to know them, not just preach to them. It’s a fantastic opportunity that I’d love to see those who are “seasoned” step up and give back.

Just so you know this isn’t some theoretical practice, I’m trying to help an HR student attending St. Norbert University with her Senior research project. Her name is Kalli Seglund and you can see what she’s doing on the HRPositive Linked In Group. Why don’t you join me in helping Kalli to get started helping students yourself?

Help me turn the tide. Stop separating generations and start investing in them !! Make a difference in other’s careers that you may not of had yourself. We can intentionally leave our mark on HR now and into the future. It’s worth it !!

Never Look Back !!

I have some questions for you. Do you enjoy being in your job? Is it what you expected? Are you engaged yourself?

These are the types of questions you would use to have a conversation with an employee to help them gauge whether they are enjoying their work or not. In HR we may do this as part of coaching or it could come up in an employee review. It seems like a natural occurrence when we are trying to assist others, but do we ask them of ourselves?

In HR we are very comfortable and willing to help other employees, but we rarely take care of ourselves. We think that career management is for everyone else. To be honest, I’ve fallen in to this trap during periods throughout my career. It’s easy to do. We’re willing to tell people to be reflective and we may even assist them in finding different roles. This is a great facet of our job and something that most enjoy.

I get concerned that HR people don’t manage their own careers. I get the sense that many (not all) trudge through their function on a daily basis. There’s a more prevalent vibe that we “tolerate” what we do instead of thriving in it with passion. It caught me when I was shuffling through my endless, and constant, stream of music this weekend when I was enjoying “Could Have Been Me” by The Struts. When you get to the chorus of this rocking song you hear:

“I wanna live better days, Never look back and say, Could have been me, It could have been me.”

never-look-back-quoteThat hit me because I don’t want to ever be the person who has regrets about what could have been in the past. I don’t want to be in a situation or job where I have more “what if’s” than I do accomplishments. When I started working, I never had these types of thoughts because the expectation of the workplace was more that you went to work out of need or obligation. The social norm was that you worked because you were supposed to.

I don’t look back and have poor feelings about some of my jobs, but I wish someone would have encouraged me to own what I do and where I do it. I have to say that when I finally started to do this, I began to truly enjoy HR and all it has to offer. It changed how I practiced and it drove me to make sure that others in my profession step back as well.

When we are engaged in what we do, we can model it for others. If HR isn’t personally engaged, then they can’t expect others to be engaged. People will replicate the behavior they see more than they will in responding to some program you throw together.

I love what I do and I love the company where I get to practice HR. It doesn’t stop me from managing my career. Far from it. I’m always looking at what I do and how I can impact the organization and our people. It has allowed me to look ahead and never look back.

This week I encourage you to reflect, refuse to just trudge along and move forward. You owe it to yourself, your company and to those you impact !!

 

Changing Lives

I’ve mentioned in the past that I am fortunate to have amazing kids. They’re really adults now, and they’re still amazing !! I remember that when they were young they asked what I did for a living. When I told them that I was in Human Resources, they didn’t have a clue what that meant. It was difficult to explain employee relations, compensation, training and development, benefits and strategy. So, I simplified it for them.

“I hire people and give them jobs.”

They nodded and understood, but then asked, “Do you fire people too?”

I’ve always been candid with my kids and explained that firing people was part of what I did as well. There faces wrinkled up and they shook their heads as they said that that wouldn’t be fun to do. I told that that I agreed and that I never enjoyed that part of my job.

Termination is a hidden facet of HR. We don’t talk about it enough, and when we do, it’s about the legal aspects of it and our insurmountable fear of litigation. I understand that there could be potential legal considerations involved with terminations, but it shouldn’t be our primary focus. We lose the perspective that is as the base of anyone losing their job.

It changes people’s lives.

changing-livesThink about it. When a person came to work on a particular day, the last thing that entered their mind was that they were going to be let go. This may not be the case if a company has a history of downturns and layoffs, but those are usually the exception and not the rule.

Since termination changes the lives of those affected, I think it’s key to keep some things in mind in how we can approach this facet of our job from a human perspective.

People should “earn” it – What in the world does this mean? I follow a rule of thumb when it comes to termination. I only want to see someone terminated if their behavior warrants it. I don’t believe in building cases for, or against, someone. If a person’s behavior and actions are unacceptable, they should be talked to directly and intentionally. If their behavior doesn’t change, they should know that it could lead to dismissal. Having this context is much healthier and actually leads to fewer terms.

Show grace – When you have a termination discussion, show grace. This is never easy and should never be something you enjoy. Even if the employee has been very challenging, losing their job changes everything at the moment it occurs. There’s no exception. Your approach makes this process either easier or more difficult. I have been in HR for over 30 years now and I still get anxious any time terminations are involved. You need to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Treat them with dignity and grace. It matters.

Be a bridge – If the termination isn’t volatile, I would recommend that you provide assistance to see how you can help them with either networking or landing their next great gig. You can be a positive influence during a negative time in their career. This may seem out of bounds or not what companies normally practice, but it differentiates you and helps with you being with them throughout their entire life cycle with your company.

Terminations are a fact in our field. You have a choice to do this well or continue to struggle with it. When you remember that what you’re doing changes lives, you’ll do it better I promise.

 

Stand.

The world around us seems to be doing its best to rip itself apart. We are bombarded with examples of social unrest, protests, and a political climate that is far from friendly. It’s hard to not have these, as well as many other, situations fill every corner of media that is present. Those are only descriptors of the U.S. and don’t take into account the many challenging situations happening globally.

It saddens me that in any of this that we have lost the ability to discuss and work through items. We get upset when someone states their opinion or takes an action for what they believe. Everything is put in terms of extremes and that makes us uncomfortable. It feels like you can’t be for something without alienating someone who doesn’t share that belief.

In all of this we’ve lost sight of how this affects the workplace. When people are uncertain about the environment around them, it seeps into all areas of life including work. As HR practitioners, we do our best to drive uncertainty out of the workplace. We go so far as to enact policies that try to limit discourse, differences of opinion and diversity. We want people and things to be the same. Our goal is conformity and that is something that hurts not helps.

Groupthink, singular lines of thought or approach and limiting expression just add to the tensions that surround us. Does it make sense to you that we spend so much of our time and effort in organizations striving for uniformity and control when we could, and should, be doing so much more?

For decades we have yearned for a “seat at the table.” Think of that. We have worked and worked as well as compromised ourselves to act and look like those in senior roles to gain “presence.” It’s not who we are and it’s not what organizations need. We must take a much more intentional approach and . . .

Stand.

take-a-standHR has an obligation to lead. We have to shed the mantle of striving for normalcy. We need to those that stand for people allow them to express their beliefs and then work with them in the workplace.

In order for us to take this new approach, we must take a stand personally as well as a profession. This has been missing for too long and it has limited us in our effectiveness. There’s no reason why HR can’t lead daily in all that they do. Remember – we work with, and for, people. We can do this from an encouraging and positive perspective. This doesn’t mean that we should ignore or downplay the upheaval around us. In fact, it forces us to jump into the midst of conversations or even generate them ourselves.

People are talking. They will continue to talk and share the thoughts, ideas and concerns. We have the ability to be the conduit for those conversations to be productive, provocative, civil and meaningful. The days for sitting have past.

It’s time for us to take a stand !!

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 !!”

You Have A Choice !!

Have you been watching social media lately? Even if you aren’t on the forums, the media makes sure to share tweets from political candidates. There’s one consistent feel to the majority of what is being shared – negativity.

Honestly, most of what we consume is negative. We either swim in it willingly, or we get frustrated because it seems that we can’t escape it. What is ironic is that we’re expected to make a decision on things like an election by all sides slinging mud at each other. It isn’t only politics. Stories of the failures of others makes up the majority of our “news,” and we don’t cover all items – just the ones that are the grimiest.

A great friend of mine and I had an exchange this week on social media where he stated that he might just stop participating on the forums because all he sees is negativity. It was a solid observation, but I jumped in and challenged him. I agree that there is so much darkness that is around us, but I think you can be genuinely positive.

choiceYou have a choice !!

One of the choices you have, which my friend shared, is to step away and stop being active on social media. I’m floored by the number of my peers who used to encourage and espouse the value of social media who are now silent. I miss hearing their perspective and insights. I respect this choice, however I would much rather hear from them.

Another choice is how you use social media. Every time you get on a social media platform, you have a moment before you post. It may be a brief moment, but it exists. Instead of instantly lashing out and reacting to what someone says, step back and think. Then respond.

I don’t feel comfortable in throwing out extreme views, although I understand why people share them. When you’re as emotionally vehement in return, why are you surprised when people dig in on their sides of an argument?

When I respond, I choose to be positive. It’s not hard for me to do, but it goes against the tide of the majority of messages. I think that going against the flow is what is needed – especially on these forums. You have to trust me that I’m not naive or sheltered on what is happening in the world today. However, adding to the negativity of a situation only continues to pile on and drive it further down.

People are looking for an alternative voice, and that voice is positivity. I’m not talking about puppies and unicorns. I am talking about seeing what’s good in others and how to arrive at solutions. I am talking about having discussions, and even disagreements, on items. I am talking about lifting others up to encourage them and show them that they can contribute, add value and succeed.

This is the choice I make when I use Social Media. Will you join me in going against the flow? I hope you do. You just have to make a choice.

I Will Follow !!

Followers.

It’s amazing to see how a word can transform and become something completely different. I’ve always thought of the word as a group of people who were willing to get behind someone, or some effort, that they believed in. I still do.

However, with the constant flood of Social Media, the term has taken on a new life. Now the word “followers” is associated with those that click a button on a social media platform in order to connect with another person. This action may have substance, or it may mean that they’re connecting to follow a trend. It’s a false sense of popularity and visibility that also carries weight. Countless lists that rank people on social media look at the number of followers as a metric to show “influence.”

Now, before you get all riled up, I’m not against these lists, this level of visibility or having a method for people to connect with each other. What does concern me is that leadership is watered down because following is no longer something that has significance.

In organizations, senior management invests in many people who they identify as “high potentials”. I’m not a fan because people perform at different times of their careers at a peak level due to the work they do as well as the environment or economic climate they are experiencing. I do believe that all employees have potential, but the isolation of a select few rarely leads to optimal results. The assumption is that high potentials are great leaders. In most cases these folks are charismatic and very visible to the “right” people. There are countless examples of people who are deemed to be the future of the company that either don’t pan out or leave because they were able to get someone else’s attention.

Leadership is written about daily in several blogs. It is something that is critical in organizations and people are striving to continue to define it, identify it and make it thrive. What is intriguing to me is that HR rarely jumps in on this topic either personally or organizationally. We typically position ourselves to support and respond to others who take on leadership roles. This needs to change.

Lead and FollowHR is in a perfect position to lead in all they do, and this is especially true in identifying those who should assume leadership roles within a company. I want you to consider a different, and much simpler benchmark, when seeing what leadership looks like.

Look to see who others in your company congregate around. See who is the person whose opinion is sought on a regular basis. This may, or may not, include people who hold current “leadership” roles by title. Titles don’t automatically infer leadership. Leadership is said to be better defined when you look over your shoulder and you see people there. In others words, do they have followers?

People want to follow and rally around someone. They look for leaders who focus on others and not just themselves. This is where having followers is key. As the observer of the organization, HR needs to see where this is occurring and take note. These are the people to check out and see how they are leading. They may be your real potentials that will continue to grow and succeed !!

This week step into a leadership role HR. Find out where the leaders and followers are in your organization. It’s imperative that we do !!

Do Good.

Have you been through a season in your life when everything either seems to be passing you by, or seems to overwhelm you? Have you been at a point when something that seems should be simple turns out to halt you in everything you do?

These questions are the reality of many people who surround us every day. We may, or may not, know that they are struggling, but it happens. Chances are the people you call co-workers are trying their best to work through life. Is this something that we should concern ourselves with as HR practitioners? We’re honestly taught not to even allow “life” to come into the workplace because people are supposed to show up to WORK.

We write, speak and pontificate about methods and numbered steps that will ensure stronger employee engagement or emotional intelligence, but we skip over the situations that people are in. It’s yet another example of how we complicate HR when it could, and should be simplified. I think that when it comes to working with others, it boils down to a simple phrase . . .

Do good.

Do GoodWhen you are with others at the workplace – do good. When you find yourself in situations involving conflict and differences of opinion – do good. When things elevate and may get heated and people lose their cool – do good.

I may be in the minority here, but I believe that this is the foundation block of what Human Resources even is. Without it, we are no different than any function within an organization. There is another component to this approach, never stop or tire of doing good.

When you step back and understand that people mask the facets of life, both great and challenging, in order to even make it in for another day of work, you’ll realize it can become exhausting. However, no one is stepping into this gap and providing an outlet for people. HR has to be the profession that willingly and genuinely steps into the lives of others. When people know that they have someone they can connect to and that you will genuinely listen to them, you can honestly feel the pressures of life slowly release. As that release occurs, their heads will clear and it will allow them to PERFORM and not just work.

There is one last facet you should consider if you become an HR person who follows the approach of doing good. It’s about you. Where, and who, do you go when you are constantly dealing with the lives of others? How do you make it without breaking down yourself?

We have the same pressures and situations in life that our employees have. However, HR people tend to be isolated in companies because they don’t have people that they can confide in themselves. Here’s a chance for us to transform our profession.

It’s time for HR to do good . . . for each other by being there for each other.

The absolute key for me remaining in HR is the network of peers that I have who are my friends. They are people who also “do good” in their roles and we make sure to reach out to each other intentionally to know each other, our lives and what is happening. Joys and concerns. Highs and lows. Struggles and opportunities.

You need this in your life. You need others who understand you. This is essential to thriving in HR.

So, reach out to each other and connect on Social Media, make a phone call, drop someone a note. Be an encourager in another HR person’s life. Never stop and never tire of . . . doing good.