Be Present

Our world, and our lives, seem like they are nothing but an endless chain of distractions. Items rarely catch our attention for more than mere seconds at a time. If fact, it’s a bit ironic to write this observation on a blog that may get read and possibly shared, liked or retweeted – but only for a moment.

I’m not complaining. It’s our reality regardless of age or background. We seek instant knowledge and instant recognition. Because of this immensely rapid pace, we miss the majority of what is actually happening around us. That is especially true when it comes to people. I love seeing when other bloggers bemoan how people are buried in their devices, but that’s where ALL of our posts go. Electronic forums are the primary means of communication for everything from life milestones to choices of food and drink to images of almost anything you can imagine. Again, not complaining, just trying to frame the world we have built.

Now, put this environment into the workplace, or at home, or in any social gathering . . .

Regardless of the constant buzz, ping and snap, we’re surrounded by people. People who still want to, and have to, communicate directly. Ideally, this would be face-to-face, but that’s not always the case. However, more and more video is being used through various channels to give people the face-to-face interaction they desire. Let’s be honest. When you communicate with someone in person, it’s a completely different feel, message and outcome than if it’s done electronically. That’s because humans were wired to communicate TO and WITH each other.

The true challenge in making communication better is that we have to fight the distractions. We need to be present.

The harsh reality is that we aren’t present during conversations. We either partially listen as we’re trying to end this interaction as quickly as possible, or we flat out do other things while people are talking to us. Be honest. We all do it. Since, our behavior is to somewhat engage, or at least fake attention, the outcome is that communication fails. All. The. Time. Messages are misunderstood or interpreted based on the scant snippets of what broke through the cloud of distractions loud enough to hit our brains. I want you (and me) to shift this approach to something that is much more effective !!

A dear friend of mine, Steve Boyd, said one of the most sage things I’ve ever heard during a training session at my former workplace years ago. He was sharing how he used to lead an 8-hour training class on Listening Skills. EIGHT HOURS !!  I joked with him and said, “Couldn’t you just start the class and say, ‘We’re going to practice listening today,” and then just be quiet for the rest of the time?” We both chuckled at the image of that. However, he was serious when he was talking about the power of being present. He saw how inane his class really was, and he came up with this:

“When you’re with other people, BE there when they’re there !!”

This simply means pay attention to the person wanting to talk with you on purpose. Drop the phone or keyboard. Get off social media. Eliminate the distractions around you and hear what they have to say. Don’t try to jump to conclusions, rush to an answer, or figure out a way to shorten the conversation. Listen from start to finish. Then – respond and continue the conversation.

When you start practicing this at home, at work, or in social gatherings, you’ll be amazed at how full and colorful communication still is !! You want to be heard, and so does everyone else. This week – start being present !! You’ll be glad you started.

Doors

I’d bet a significant amount of money that if I looked in your company’s employee handbook I’d find a statement that says you have an “open door policy.” This infers that people have access to anyone at any level at any time. I’d love to say that this is really the common practice in organizations, but it often isn’t. That’s because being an open door is tough.

Doors can exist in one of two positions – open and closed. I know that sounds obvious, but doors play a bigger part of our careers than we recognize. You hope that people would be willing to communicate openly, but we hesitate, or think that people have some hidden agenda, when they meet with us. That may happen every once in awhile, but it isn’t the norm. The challenge is that negative experiences have such a huge impact on us that they override any positive ones that we have. We end up communicating less than we should or we give partial messages to folks hoping they can come to the conclusion we have in our heads.

I find this to be the case with HR peers as well. I understand that we work with people at all levels and that it can be challenging. However, shouldn’t we be the ones who set the standard and expectation of being accessible? If you ask people in your company who work in other departments, I think you’ll hear that we’re not as accessible as we could be.

So, how can we become open doors?

The easy answer is practice. The hard reality is that it takes courage, patience and a willingness to meet and listen to ALL people. This includes the people that you tend to interact with only when you have to. We all spend more time with people who we’re comfortable with. It’s human nature. Well, we need to fight human nature. Every employee deserves our time and attention. You may be the only person who’s giving an employee an audience. It could keep them engaged, and even better, understood so that they know they’re connected to your company.

Secondly, I think you need to open doors for others. Too often HR is categorized as the group that shuts people down. That may be needed in certain situations, but it’s an awful moniker to carry with you. We live in a time that is extremely self-focused. I’ve never seen this work long-term. You may see short-term success or visibility, but you can’t sustain it. Opening doors for others is something you can do for your entire life.

Recently, an HR friend of mine was in transition. She contacted to let me know. I wanted to make sure she was okay and let her know she had someone willing to make connections for her that she may not be able to do on her own. I also encouraged her to see if she could create her own role and position within a company. I told her to share that she could open doors for their organization by bringing her knowledge, skills and experience. I reached out to two dear HR friends who lived in her area of the country and asked them all to meet each other and network with each other on purpose.

At SHRM17, she was able to share all that had happened after our conversation. She is now a close connection with the two folks that I introduced to her, she found a few new HR roles to consider and convinced a company to allow her to create a role that they had not seen in the past. I was geeked to hear all the great things that occurred from a phone call and two e-mails. Three opened doors.

This week, take a look at two things: (1) Are you truly an open door at work for ALL of your employees and (2) Are there folks in your life that you could open doors for?

When others shut doors on you, and they will, don’t get discouraged. Just look for the next opportunity where you can step in, reach for the knob and pull open a door. It may change your life and the life of others. Trust me. Opening doors is worth it.

Be the Change !!

SHRM17 just wrapped up this week in the midst of tropical storm Cindy knocking on the door as everyone finished the conference and headed home. Ironically, the energy that emanated from the event was almost as moving as the storm !! The vibe this year was positive, collaborative and you could feel a sense of togetherness throughout the entire week.

I had a lofty goal to meet every attendee, and I fell a bit short. It wasn’t for a lack of effort though. I was astonished how many people I observed that continued to move from session to session without meeting a single person. Please note that I don’t think people had to meet me, but I did hope that they’d connect with someone !!

I noticed this continued “eyes forward” approach while people were waiting to hear me present. As I saw this, I asked the AV folks to turn up my mic, and I implored the people who were kind enough to choose my session to look up from their phones and meet the people around them. The energy jumped through the roof, and I actually heard from someone later who said, “I appreciated the reminder to meet others because I was caught up in the stuff at work, and lost sight of others sitting right next to me. I liked meeting everyone.”

I may sound like a broken record, but, taking a page from Patrick Lencioni, I will keep reminding people of what seems simple – because people aren’t doing it. I find it so hard to grasp that HR pros almost refuse to meet their peers. They seem so set on getting to a class or training session to wait to see the person at the front of the room speak. I hope that those speakers rock and that you learn from each of them. But, what if the person sitting next to you was facing the same issues and challenges you were, and all you had to do was say, “Hi, my name’s ________. And you are?”

I closed my session this year with my most favorite quote from history. Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I don’t mean to overstate, or simplify this, but I truly want to see HR become a global community that is connected though people – on purpose !! I know that if this happens, then the desire for us to look at our field, and the people in it, positively won’t be some aspiration, it will be a fact.

I loved meeting the new folks that I did during SHRM17. The ranged from a room full of students and young professionals on Sunday, to HR folks who were from Cincinnati (where I’m from) whom I hadn’t met in the past, to people from Guam, Australia, Canada, India and Brazil. Each one of these HR pros is now a connection and I hope we stay connected for years to come !! In fact, I wish I had more time reconnecting with some of my friends who I get to see more regularly, but our paths didn’t cross as often as I’d hoped.

I ask those who attended SHRM17 to not let the energy and vibe of such a massive event slip by as we all return to our regular roles and duties. You experienced a shift and not it is up to YOU to be the change in your world. I plan to keep the movement going, and hope you join in !!

Paperback Writer !!

Did you ever know someone who always seemed to have their head in the clouds? They seem to see the world from different angles and make observations that may not seem congruent with others around them. They may be seen as contrarians, but they’re good with it. They don’t seem to fit a category because once you try to put them in one box, they’re off somewhere else.

I’m one of those dreamers. It’s a bit unnerving to even talk about it because I want you to know that this post is much more about ideas and an approach than it is about me as a person. I’ve never felt comfortable when someone self-proclaims something because it brings about skepticism and doubt. We have a “prove it” lens we use, and we honestly wait for people to fail versus expect them to succeed.

For several years, I’ve been fortunate to share my thoughts on this blog, as a guest writer for other HR related blogs and as a speaker. It’s something I truly enjoy and look forward to. It’s nice to have a platform to take the ideas that keep rattling around internally, and get them out to share with others and see if they stick and have merit. There’s a risk in doing this because you need to be willing to be vulnerable and know that there may be those who absolutely disagree with you. That’s cool because dialogue and conversations should be welcome instead of forcing someone to just take your side.

After having many opportunities to share my perspectives and approach on HR, I had some friends say, “You know what? You should write a book and capture this. I’d read it.”

This is very kind and humbling. When I first heard people say this to me, I was intrigued with a mixture of cautious anxiety. All of the voices that pull at you questioning whether you should move ahead or not on a venture like this are powerful and loud. I’ve never been someone who feels comfortable in the status quo or staying stuck in a pattern, but the urge to just continue what I’ve been doing was attractive.

Each week I go to a local haunt called JTaps which is close to where I work. It’s great because there are not many people there and you can get away from the buzz and pace of the world and the workplace to think. I opened a journal and started writing down themes, ideas and thoughts. One week I took my laptop, opened a Word document, looked at my journal, ordered a Gyro, chips and a Diet Coke and started typing on a blank page.

After awhile, words became paragraphs and paragraphs became chapters. I had the beginnings of a book and decided to share it with a few close friends to see what they thought. They liked what they saw and so I reached out to see if someone would consider publishing it. As most of you know, I’ve been active with SHRM for almost 20 years as a volunteer leader. I mentioned that I was trying to create a book about HR and they asked to see it and then put together a proposal for them to consider.

(Here’s the exciting bit . . . .)

They chose to publish the book and this week at the SHRM Annual Conference in New Orleans, my book – HR on Purpose !! – launches.

It’s so surreal and I’m so geeked that I can hardly contain myself !! The book looks at HR from a positive viewpoint and gives you examples, real-world stories from the trenches and encourages people to own and thrive in human resources.

The book captures the belief that I have, and live, that people have value and that HR is the best profession that anyone could ever be in. It shows how you can enjoy HR . . . on purpose !!

I’ve shared before that I’m a music freak. I have some playing now even as I type this. This week, I get to live out one of the songs from my fave group, The Beatles, because now I’m a paperback writer !!

I’d be geeked if you took the time to check out my book, and I hope you enjoy it and enjoy HR even more !!


The Beatles Paperback Writer Rain 1966 by moss3516

IRL !!

I’ve been active in social media for over a decade now, and I’ve done it intentionally. It’s amazing to me in a world where social media forums are methods to communicate literally around the world that there are those who still see it as a “waste of time.”

Do you honestly feel that connecting with other humans is wasting your time? That is hard for me to comprehend because I truly think that we’re wired to be connected to other people. I don’t think that we’re meant to be isolated or alone. I know that I have an abnormal perspective on meeting others. I get geeked with every single new person I encounter. I don’t mean to project my approach on others because I know it’s not how most others see meeting people.

The point I’d like for you to consider is that when you have a chance to meet others – that you understand it makes you both better for having that encounter.

This is something that is lost by HR pros because we buy into the myth that it’s so important to “get things done” more than any other factor of their job. The same is true with social media. We talk about the people who share their ideas through posts, blogs, and podcasts. Yes, the content is important, but in the end, we tie it to the people who create the content. What is funny about all of the people we follow and like is that the number one thing they enjoy – is meeting each other IRL (in real life). It’s true more that people are willing to admit. Behind the avatar, people want to get to know each other as people.

This past weekend a good friend from my past, Curtis Midkiff, made IRL come to life !! Southwest Airlines opened some new routes at the airport in Cincinnati and he coordinated so that two of my great friends, Dave Ryan and Joey Price, flew in from Chicago and Baltimore respectively to commemorate this event. We saw each other and greeted each other with hugs (because I’m a notorious hugger) and caught up on life and family. Our time in person mattered so much more than just following each other online.

In less than two weeks, I’ll be at #SHRM17 with Dave and Joey as well as other social media folks. I can’t wait to see them all !! There will also be 15,000 other folks at the conference and it will include known friends and friends to be made. I want you to know that if you’re attending the SHRM Annual Conference, I really want to meet you IRL !!

Remember this above everything else . . .

The people you meet in person will be the BEST resource you’ll ever get at a conference !!

So, take the time to with people in person and on purpose. You have the chance to do this every day in your role and when you attend events. Make the step forward to make friends and establish relationships. Trust me, when you do this, you will become a better HR pro and, even more importantly, a better human !!

Get Rid of the Can’ts !!

Have you ever reflected about your perspective and approach on things in life? Do you tend to look at things logically or emotionally? Are you someone who sees the worst in others or the best?

Chances are you’re a blend. Most people are. I tend to start from a positive perspective on life, people and the situations I face. It’s interesting that being positive is unnerving to some. I’ve had people wonder if my approach is genuine or something that just comes on when I’m surrounded by others. Sorry, that’s just not the case.

It’s appropriate to write about this because I honestly can tell you that my approach was built over years by watching . . . my mother. My mom is the case study for positivity. She sees the best in others the moment she meets them. There’s no cautionary period or gauntlet that she requires people to struggle through before they earn her favor. The other amazing aspect of my Mom’s approach is that she isn’t over the top. It comes natural to her and people are drawn to her. She also is comfortable with people regardless of their background, status or heritage. She’s sees others in one way – as humans. So, growing up with this role model set the stage for who I am and how I view others as well.

My Mom also taught me to look at what you “can” do versus what you “can’t.” I never realized how critical this was going to be throughout my career. You see, the majority of people tell you what they can’t do when they are presented a situation. It’s our first instinct to look at obstacles. I don’t know why that is what we do, but we do. Once this stance is established, the dialogue continues to drum up more and more obstacles. The “cant’s” just pile up on top of each other. Then, when we hit a certain level, we feel that we can finally take things on to fix them.

It amazes me that the majority of people who go to work feel that their only true worth is when they are fixing problems. I don’t understand that. Do we go to work to perform or to repair? If everything is messed up, how does anything ever get accomplished? It’s seems to be a defeatist approach to work.

The folks who tend to say “can’t” the most are the people in HR. I say this with assurance because of how I was taught to practice human resources, and how I hear many of my peers discuss what we do. This has to stop along with one other thing. I know that many people state that HR says “No” too much. I disagree. You see, we’re supposed to say “No” because one of the primary values we add to organizations is to reduce liability. Saying no doesn’t curtail things moving forward. It allows people to move in a direction which has fewer chances to fail !!

We have the ability to be encouragers in our roles and throughout our organizations. We need to be the ones who show others how they CAN perform. We need to be the ones who believe that people CAN work from their strengths. We have to be the ones who are positive first. Every time and in every situation.

You CAN do it !! I believe in you !!

Time Frames !!

We’re getting ready to have a Rummage Sale at our church at the end of May and that means people are bringing donations in. It’s heartwarming to see people so generous, and it’s fun to go through the items to see what “treasures” they’ve decided to give. My kids are home from college, and they were automatically roped in to help. As we were organizing items, I heard an audible squeal from them.

“Look at this !!” they exclaimed. “Can you believe it?”

They held up a box full of video game cartridges, controllers and a precious Nintendo 64 gaming system. Also, buried in the bottom of the box was a Sega Genesis system. They both wanted to leave instantly and plug it in to see if it worked. When we got back home, they wasted no time running to the basement to see if a glimpse of their past would come to life.

I don’t blame them. They’re acting like all of us. We relish and cherish the past. One of the great realities of how our mind is wired is that our past (even if it’s been challenging) is remembered fondly in some aspect or another. We may remember a favorite vacation spot we visited, or a certain toy that we always played with, or a song that evokes certain memories.

The music side of the past is where I find myself living. Sirius XM just announced it’s going to have a Beatles station, and I can’t wait !! As I thought about this though, I’m geeked about a group that started over 50 years ago !! The more I contemplated this, the more I realized that the majority of the music I enjoy is 30 to 50 years old. Eek !!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I dig finding new artists and music to enjoy as well, but it takes a conscious effort to do that. I’m much more comfortable listening to the catalogs of artists I already have in my music collection.

This “living in the past” mentality is something that hinders us personally and organizationally. There’s nothing wrong with having great memories and experiences from years gone by. However, using the good old days as our frame of reference keeps the status quo as the norm. It also explains how challenging it is to move things forward in companies. People desire innovation, but few make that happen because they’re trapped in the past.

You can learn from history, and you should. Your past accomplishments can be a great foundation from which to build. The key is . . . build !! Being excited about the past is not generational (as noted above.) Every generation wants to keep hold of those great instances. Another challenge that arises though, is that each generation thinks their idea from the past is the one that should drive how things are done.

As HR pros, we need to be wary of the trap of time ourselves. Things changes too quickly now and thinking that we can just maintain the status quo and be successful is a mistake. I think WE should be the one who help honor the past, but force things to move forward and not allow things to get stuck in the mire.

Always remember, we are given the responsibility of caring for humans. Let’s keep them moving !!

To show that I believe in modeling the behavior you expect in others, here’s a great new musical find that a friend shared with me recently aptly fitting HR. Take some time to enjoy “Human” by Rag’n’Bone Man !!

Not Sorry

The title of this post is not something you’d typically see from an HR blog. It comes from a recent lunch I had with a friend. She was talking about working with a new co-worker who said, “I’m sorry . . .” before every response she gave in regards to her work. I asked her how she was trying to change this behavior, and she calmly responded, “I’m beating the sorry out of her !!” I almost spit out my water with laughter. What a great saying.

Please don’t mistake this as asking people to not show empathy in how they practice HR. Empathy is an essential skill we all need, but apologizing all the time isn’t. When I think about how I hear HR peers talk about what they do, “I’m sorry” (or something like that) is usually the lead in phrase. Have you heard (or said) these?

“I’m sorry that our benefit costs are going up . . .”

“I’m sorry that wages are being frozen this year . . .”

“I’m sorry that your supervisor is difficult to work with . . .”

You could continue this list of apologetic phrases for hours. I understand that part of our role is delivering difficult news and/or dealing with challenging employee relations situations. However, we don’t have to state how sorry we are to try and ease into how things are occurring. It seems trite, defensive and lacking confidence. We may think we’re showing a softer side, but if you listen to it from the receiver side of the interaction, it sounds wishy-washy.

One of the marks against our profession is that people see us as indecisive within organizations. We may be great “support” functions, but we aren’t viewed as others are when it comes to leadership. I’m tired of seeing this happen. It also doesn’t make sense that downplaying who we are and what we do is a position that should ever be taken. We can’t just hope that someone will bestow the mantle of leadership upon us.

Leadership takes action and being intentional. That doesn’t mean you need to be a jerk or some hard head in order to he heard and taken seriously. However, we can’t keep coming in with an apology either. The shift that is needed isn’t difficult to adopt, but it does take discipline and a willingness to step forward in confidence in the decisions for which you are responsible.

The two best ways to stop apologizing include your approach and the use of context. Approach is something that you control personally. How you assess a situation, how you react and who you involve are factors with every interaction. We should address people who are involved in HR related situations directly and not in hallway gossip. Being direct (with empathy) is what employees would love to see on a regular basis.

The other aspect of approach is context. “Because that’s the policy” is not context, it’s a crutch. It may not feel great to give the hard answer on the reality of circumstances, but it’s needed. Know this – if you give up being the person who brings context to employee relations, then someone else will. It will most likely be their version of context, and it won’t be the truth. We can’t afford to keep forfeiting an area of culture which we should own and lead.

This week stop apologizing when you start talking. State what you want to say and move forward. People may be shocked at first that HR is using a new approach. Trust me though that they’ll appreciate this new HR so much more than what had been there before !!

All In !!

In two months, the largest annual gathering of HR professionals happens when people come from around the world for the SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition. This time we’ll be convening in New Orleans for SHRM17 !!

If you’ve never been to the this event, it’s a true spectacle in regards to its size, scope and scale. The room that hosts the keynote speakers is massive and seats thousands. The resource partner hall takes literally days to traverse through if you visit every booth (which you should). The Smart Stage is fun and give people a series of quick hit presentations that are full of energy and content. The SHRM Store holds a plethora of great books and resources with a mix of HR swag for your office or team. The Blog Squad  has a broad mix of social media folks who are great to know and interact with throughout the conference. Also, there are many phenomenal concurrent sessions ranging from solid technical trench HR material, to relevant legal updates, to folks who are stretching and reshaping the boundaries of the profession.

Each one of these facets would be enough to attend the event on their own. However, I go for one primary reason – the people. Seriously. I want to meet my peers who are in HR from around the world. There are thousands of people who attend the SHRM Annual Conference.

Most attendees come on their own without many connections when they arrive. It can be completely overwhelming if you’re not connected to others. There is a never ending sea of people who move from one room to another. Ironically, most of this movement is also done in an isolated manner. People are either looking at their phones or are rushing to grab a seat at a session.

I plan to break through that maneuver and intentionally meet people. Too many HR practitioners are on their own enough as it is. They are trapped in organizational silos or work with the rest of the company only when someone comes to them. This is unacceptable in my opinion. There is no reason for separation personally or professionally.

So, I’m going to step across whatever invisible boundary people put up and interact with them. I plan to network, connect and take time to get to know others as people. I want other HR folks to be encouraged and know that someone believes in them. To make this successful, I want to encourage other attendees to do this as well. Let’s make sure everyone is engaged and welcomed. You’ll still get to experience every facet of the conference, but you don’t have to try to do it on your own.

When I first got into HR, I didn’t even realize there were others who were in HR. I know that sounds a bit naive and myopic, but it was my point of view. I don’t think it’s much different today. I know that there is social media, SHRM itself, local SHRM chapters, etc., but the majority of HR professionals continue to exist separately and in a state of disconnection.

No more. It’s never been a good practice, and it needs to stop. We need to be “all in” to bring our community together locally, nationally and globally.

If you’re going to attend SHRM17, I plan to meet you. Every. One. Of you. It will be great and I hope you’ll help me make this happen !!

Get Tagged !!

Do you remember playing Tag when you were a kid? I think every child since the dawn of time has played Tag at least one time. To refresh you’re memory – there’s a person who’s “it” and they run around trying to tag others and transfer being “it” to someone else. Usually, there are tons of screams, giggles and taunts as people run around to avoid being tagged. It’s a great game where people typically quit only after becoming exhausted from running around.

This past week, I took a short vacation to Washington, D.C. with my wife. We really enjoyed seeing the sites from Arlington National Cemetery, to several monuments, the sobering United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, George Washington’s homestead Mount Vernon and a walking tour through Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. It’s amazing that we can walk about freely in our nation’s capitol and take in all of this history. We were surrounded by literally thousands of people that seemed to move like waves from attraction to attraction.

As I continued to read plaque after plaque about people who impacted our nation and world, I was struck by something. When they were tagged, they were okay with being “it.” They stepped into the situations before them and acted. It didn’t mean they were perfect in character or background by any means. They had faults because they were humans just like us. But . . . they acted.

As I look around at people today, I hope they are willing to be tagged. In the childhood game, the goal is to avoid the tagger at all costs because you don’t want to be “it.” This is also somewhat prevalent in our society. We’re very concerned about what affects us personally, but we don’t step up to act. I think we feel that if we act that it will infringe upon our personal time to such an extent that we’re stymied against moving at all. We also fall into the trap that we’ll be required to do something we’re not capable of doing. Our minds make us think that we’re not able to do well in what we’re pursuing, so we stay put.

I want to challenge everyone to understand that action is not some monumental task. It’s just the willingness to break out of inertia when needed. As HR pros, I want to encourage you to be a person who’s willing to be tagged. We can step up and get involved in areas both inside and outside our company. I fiercely believe that HR pros who are others focused are people who will be successful in ways they’ve never expected.

We can’t continue to sit idly by. I’m not going to presume where you can plug in, but I know that it’s needed. You see, if we don’t act then we can’t affect the outcome of situations. Something that could be worked out and have a positive result may not because it made us uncomfortable to be “it.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t let that be the case.

I am not under some misconception that some day people will be walking around reading some plaque about my actions. However, reading what others were willing to do rekindled the fire in me to continue to be tagged. And, since I’m “it”, I’m looking to tag others. Be watching. You may soon hear – “Tag, you’re it !!”

Image Courtesy of Brainless Tales