You can count on me !!

You may, or may not know, that I am an incredible music freak !!  I can’t get enough of it and this Thanksgiving weekend a true classic popped into my head – Count on Me by Jefferson Starship.

When my extended family gathers for either Thanksgiving or Christmas, we call it BIG Thanksgiving or BIG Christmas because there are so many family members that attend.  Before we eat and open with a prayer, we count off – literally.  We have had a few family members pass away over the years, but we never stray from this tradition.

So, it begins 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . . . etc. until we get around the oval. (It’s never a circle because there are too many folks.)  This year we had 35 and it’s been as high as 60.  Included are aunts, uncles, cousins, their kids, and starting this year the newest generation has it’s first engaged couple.

I know that you need to be careful about what you do/don’t share on-line, but I’m 47 years old and completely cool with that.  If you met me you’d say I’m at least 28, so age is not the focus here. My family has been getting together intentionally between 50 to 60 years because I have aunts, uncles and cousins older than I am.

Think about that.  Being together, intentionally, for 5 to 6 decades and NEVER missing a holiday.  We’re not unique in this and I’m sure there are families who have met for centuries, but the point of the gathering is this . . . we COUNT on each other to be there all the time.

It’s a great example for you personally as well as an HR professional.  You NEED to be counted on, and others NEED to count on you !!  Too many employees are out on their own within a company and they need someone they can rely on.  Remember, you aren’t their for Management, nor are you there for employees.  You’re there for EVERYONE !!

Is that how you approach HR?  Have you even stepped back to look lately?  Just think how HR would be viewed in organizations if people knew they could be counted on !!

This week, start something new and reach out to someone in our profession and get connected. Be someone that others can count on !!

Forever in Blue Jeans !!

When Neil Diamond sang the iconic song Forever in Blue Jeans, I don’t think he knew he was dealing with such a taboo subject for the workplace !!  Seriously, you do know that denim is evil, don’t you ??

This coming week I’m traveling to Washington, D.C. for the annual SHRM Leadership Conference (#SHRMLead).  I’m very excited to go because I have the honor of being the next SHRM State Council Director for Ohio in 2012 !!  I can’t wait to work with the 26 SHRM chapters in the State as well as with other leaders throughout the country.  I think it will be a great way to continue to keep the profession relevant in general as well as another way to keep trying to bring our whole profession together and connect them !!

A true highlight for me will be on Thursday when I get to join other HR professionals on Capitol Hill to visit lawmakers and lobby on behalf of HR.  I really am geeked !!  To get ready, those attending listened to a webinar put on by SHRM to get an overview of what the visit would entail and the issues we were going to focus on.

It was very well done and was just a glimpse of what we needed to learn in order to have a successful visit and leverage the time we had with our representatives and their staff.  During the webinar people could post questions, which I thought was cool.  I think it’s amazing that I live in a country where I can go to have an audience with the national leaders of the government and express my opinion to them.  It truly is astonishing !!  I submitted a question asking who the two people were in Congress who had an HR background because it was noted in the webinar.

So, when the moderator started to relay the questions to the leaders of the forum, my jaw hit the floor !!  We spent the first 15 minutes of the 20 minutes we had left for questions talking about clothing.  “What should we wear?”  “Can I wear blue jeans with a suit coat?” – and then the firestorm happened.  People sent in myriads of comments (not questions) about the evil of jeans.

When I hear my peers question why companies don’t take HR seriously – here’s your answer . . . We continue to focus on the splinter issues when we miss the lumber all around us !!  When we could have been focusing on the issues for this lobbying opportunity, people chose instead to focus on proper attire !!  I’m not sure what I’ll wear to visit Capitol Hill.

On Friday, night our State Council, Ohio SHRM, is up for a Pinnacle Award which is the highest award for volunteers from SHRM, and we have a tradition of wearing logo’d clothing to these things.  At the banquet we’re wearing these great gray fleece jackets . . . . and blue jeans !!  I wonder where the focus will be ???

No accomplishment is too small !!

This past Friday night I had the incredible honor of being the commencement speaker for a college graduation.  I was humbled to even have been asked, but not nearly as much as I was after I attended this amazing event !!  This was the Fall graduation ceremony for Brown Mackie College.

I don’t know how much you know about Brown Mackie, but the majority of it’s programs are either Associates Degrees or Certificates.  Most of the students are “non-traditional” and they are phenomenal !!  While others may take education for granted, these folks are usually well past high school, are working while going to college and may be raising a family at the same time.

As I entered the Lakeside Christian Church where the ceremony was to be held, I saw every seat filled as family, friends, and children were buzzing about their family member becoming a college graduate.  It was noisy and people came from all walks of life and many of the graduates may have been the first of their family to reach this level of education.  To say this was an “accomplishment” would be an understatement.

Too often, we as HR professionals, look for the big splash – the MAJOR accomplishments that people are supposed to achieve.  We base entire systems on the vast, life-changing initiative (even though most are short-lived), and we reward people for them.  I’m reminded often by my colleague Paul Hebert and his good work on his blog, that we have much to learn when it comes to doing recognition and incentives well. Also, we belittle accomplishments like the one I witnessed at this commencement.  We say it’s “just” an Associates or a Certificate.  And, we completely miss it.   Completely !!

You weren’t there to see how MAJOR this really was to each and every graduate and family member.  These folks go to school 4 hours each night after a full day of work for 2 years to reach this milestone.  It was inspiring to say the least !!

Oh yeah, I gave my ten minutes and got people pumped up and motivated about their future, but I took a cue from what was going on around me first.  Before I gave one thought of my remarks, I asked the audience to rise to their feet and give the graduates the loudest standing ovation they’ve ever given.  The rafters shook !!

People have already probably have forgotten my words during my ten minutes.  But, they will cherish the accomplishment they reached for a lifetime.  I was blessed to be a part of it all.

So, this week, look around you.  Catch a glimpse at the myriad of small accomplishments that happen every day.  Celebrate them !!  Cherish them !! Then note how truly impactful each one of them is !!

 

You Just Should Know How To !!

You know you’ve said this.  You may have even said it today to start the work week !!  We wish others would just “get it” because we sure know that WE do !!  I’m serious.  We want others to just know what to do because we’ve covered it over and over and over (or so we tell ourselves.)

This approach isn’t just true at work.  We want others to know how to do things because we told them to do it at home, in our civic activities, at church, at school – almost any environment has the issue of “assumed culture.”  This is when the people who have been around for some time assume that others get what to do through some form of mystical symbiosis, and then we get upset when they don’t do things right.

People, more than ever, are frustrated in their jobs and with their companies.  As an HR person, I hear this frustration coming from the C-Suite down to the front line on a daily basis.  Almost every day I can place the shared frustrations to assumed culture.  You see, we strive to make people conform because we feel that if everyone is pretty much the same, then things will go more smoothly.

However, this just isn’t the case.  I don’t know if there are things such as HR “formulas”, but if their were, I would have one that goes like this:

 Assumed Culture = Conformity which lessens Diversity or AC = Cf < D

This weekend my Boy Scout Troop camped near Old Man’s Cave in Logan, Ohio in the Hocking Hills State Forest.  One of the natural formations is called the Devil’s Bathtub.

The waterflow of the river that goes through the park rushes rapidly toward this formation and the water’s force has cut it into the constantly swirling whirlpool until it forces the water out this small opening several feet under the opening.  This is very reminiscent of how your employees feel when they are told they should “just know how to” do things.

This week take a new approach.  TEACH don’t TELL.  It may be frustrating to cover the same things more than once, but teaching people what to do and how the assumed culture works at your organization will make them better performing team members.  The time it takes is far more rewarding than building the frustration that eats at you !!  Try it out and let me know what happens . . .

Rehumanize Yourself !!

As my iPod continued on its endless shuffle at work, Rehumanize Yourself by The Police came on, and I found myself hitting repeat several times.  The song tells of people in “everyday” jobs who are reminded to humanize themselves because their work doesn’t really mean much.  Who knew that this song still has significance 30 years later?

I’m not writing about employees who seem to slog through the daily grind, I’m talking about HR practitioners !!

The job that HR does these days ranges from the ideal to the mundane.  It’s hard to find a sweet spot to truly excel in HR within organizations due to a myriad of reasons.  I’m not trying to define what may be ideal for some and mundane for others.  Where I’d like us to focus is this . . . humans are more important than systems !!

Systems are needed and provide great structure and definition.  Without them people make things up because they really want to do a good job. But without definition, they’ll make it up to fill time and make sure they are “busy.”  These folks are the sloggers.  They come in every day, knock out a job and then go back to what truly interests them.  Their jobs are a necessary evil to pay the bills.  Oh, yeah, I’m still talking about HR people.

No one said that HR had to be mundane !!  In fact, great HR is far from it.  However, it means getting outside the systems we create and enforce to the real heart of our businesses – the humans.

Where are you on the spectrum?  I get it that you can be creative in making new systems and that you can be broad in the “things” side of what HR has to offer.  But I’d challenge you in that those things impact people.

At the recent OHSHRM Conference, I challenged the attendees to be positive the whole time at the conference.  Sounds odd that you’d even have to say that doesn’t it?  But, I felt it was needed because I hear so many people stuck in what they’re NOT doing vs. what they do so well !!  I only heard positive things from people because they knew a different expectation was set for them.

In organizations, HR has to set that expectation themselves !!  So, this week be positive and encourage others to see what amazing things are truly happening all around you that you’ve been missing.  Make sure to  . . . rehumanize yourself !!

 Image courtesy of Dan White Jr.’s blog

 

Got an idea ??

Why has HR become passive within the organization?  There’s an on-going movement that is somewhat disheartening, and that is that HR feels it’s role is to be reactive and prepared.  To always play defense is not a healthy way to approach daily work.

Granted, HR does have to react because of the intangibles that people have each day, but if you’re just waiting for the red alarm phone to ring furiously off your desk, so you can jump into action, you’re doing things backwards.  Also, I can’t imagine how stressful you feel HR is by approaching the field this way.  When I talk to my peers, too many of them put themselves in this camp.  They also feel that this is what is “expected” of them from Senior Management.  Yikes !!

Time for something new . . .

Do you have ideas?  If so, do you share them, implement them, or shy away from them?  Do you feel you do/don’t have permission to act on your ideas?

Have you fallen into the pit of doing things the same way every day and for every situation?  If that is the case, let me share that I think that you have missed the value of how vastly different people and each situation you face truly is.  Most of us stopped either having, or sharing, ideas because we listened to others who beat us down when we want to try something new.

The other pitfall to ideas is that we think that systems “fix” people.  If we have the best system, it won’t matter who the people are. (I’ve heard this quoted verbatim at a company !!)  People are the difference at work and great people make great systems shine !!

Back to ideas . . .

I’d like to challenge you to follow my personal model.  I intentionally try to come up with 3 to 5 ideas a day to try something new at work.  Some are massive ideas, and some are small, trite things that take little to no effort.  The second step is that I try EVERY idea out.  EVERY ONE !!  That isn’t an exaggeration.

The response I can hear those of you reading this is – “But how do you have the time to have 3 to 5 ideas a day and then try them out?  My day is so full, I couldn’t possibly do that !!”  The fact is, my day is overflowing and I love that !!  With 3 to 5 ideas every day, it’s also new, challenging, fresh and positive.  Is that true with your full day ??

So, try it.  You have to remember that you don’t need permission to think and create.  You’re EXPECTED to think and create !!  Need to go now.  New idea brewing  . . .

Please say “Thank You” !!

Sitting at my keyboard in my house on Labor Day, I am thankful that I have a holiday to spend with my family and recharge my batteries.  At a time when more and more people focus on what is wrong with our economy, our political infighting and world turmoil, I again am thankful for the day to gather my thoughts.

As I was on a morning walk today, I was reminded of something that I too often forget on days like Labor Day.  As I enjoy a holiday, there are thousands of people who are working today to serve others.  If you didn’t know, I’m an HR professional in the Restaurant Industry.  The company I work for, LaRosa’s, Inc., is a true iconic tradition in Cincinnati. Today, the majority of folks I work with will be at our restaurants serving people who so graciously choose to dine with us.

There are others who are working in gas stations, hospitals, retail locations, hotels, and more while others celebrate the holiday.  Ironically, most people take this service for granted and actually expect people to be there to meet their needs.  In fact, few people who use these services take time to say, “Thank You !!” to the people who are working while they enjoy their day off for the holiday.

This really needs to change.  I know that I hear stories of employees who don’t think their employer gives them feedback or thanks them for their efforts, and they hate it.  They should.  The lack of constructive feedback in the workplace is a shortfall that too many people encounter on a regular basis.

So, today when you’re enjoying the holiday and you go to purchase something at the hardware store to work on a home project, or you go grab a pizza at a restaurant – say “Thank You” to the people who are working today.  It is deserved and will go a long way into making our workplaces better each time someone takes the time to do it.  Have a great holiday !!

 

How do you start the week ??

This past week my two fantastic kids went BACK to school !!  My wife and I are truly blessed with two great kids.  Our daughter is now a Senior and our son is a Freshman at Lakota East High School.  What was so intriguing about their return to school is that when you asked them about the impending school year, they would both huff, sigh and drop their shoulders and say, “Yeah, we have to go BACK to school.”

Now, I know they’re both anxious about what the new year will bring and I’m sure they look forward to seeing old friends, and possibly making new ones.  They also will do amazing things this year that they don’t even know exist yet.  However, they look at the drudgery of the end of summer and the regiment of school.

It made me think . . . Isn’t this the same thing that the vast majority of workforces do each week?

Seriously.  How many of you reading this on Monday morning said, “Ugh, I have to go BACK to work !!”

Even if our weekend was absolutely horrific, we feel it has more value than going back to our jobs.  Now, I understand that there are tons of bosses, workplaces and cultures that aren’t going to make the “Best Places to Work” list soon.  However, you’re working.  Think of those, maybe even in your family, who aren’t working.

Your attitude is the difference when you either go BACK to work, or go TO work. Sure you will face challenges, but isn’t it cool that you have challenges to face?  Sure, people will disappoint you and let you down, but couldn’t you do the same?

In order for workplace culture to excel and be truly “engaging,” then it starts with each individual and their approach.  It isn’t someone else’s responsibility to make Monday great – it’s yours !!

I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but I make sure that the weekly entry from this blog comes out on Monday.  Do you know why I do that?  I’m not into SEO rankings or other quantitative metrics to determine my reach.

I want you to have a great start to the week !!  Really.  I may never meet those of you kind enough to read this blog, but I’ve chosen to be encouraging because it’s needed in all of our lives.

So, I’m off TO work.  Can’t wait to see what the next week brings.  I’m sure it will be an adventure !!

Maybe I’m Amazed !!

This must just be my “bucket list Summer.”  On Thursday, I got to see a second dream rock concert !!  In July, I saw U2 with three of my closest and dearest friends at Soldier Field in Chicago.  This week I saw Sir Paul McCartney in Cincinnati !!!  To say I was geeked would be an understatement !!

To see one of my rock heroes live was amazing.  He was more than I even thought he’d be live.  And, I think that was true of the 40,000+ people that went to see him.  We all had images in our heads, or ideas of how we’d hope he’d perform.  Everyone was probably also hoping for him to play “their” favorite song during the night.  I know I felt that way and he did play my favorite song of his incredible career . . . ALL of them !!!

What was surprising to me was that there were tons of people who thought he may have lost a step, couldn’t sing as good as he used to.  After all, he’s very close to 70 years old !!

Then it struck me.  This is how most people view people at work.  Most of us look to compartmentalize, or label, people based on our perceptions of what, or who, we think they are.  This is not good.  We continue to feed on the notion that people are bound to disappoint or detract from us.

In fact, I came across a person this week in a conversation at an outside meeting, and our discussion focused around how he felt that EVERYONE would take advantage of things, or them at work.  When I said I disagree and I thought that was a pretty cynical way to view people, they said, “Steve, you’re just naive !!”  I disagreed with them and we left the conversation at an impasse.

By the way, the conversation was with another peer in HR !!

I love that I’m naive !!  I love that I went to see a childhood hero of mine expecting to be blown away by him and I was !!  He played for three hours and had more energy than 99% of the people who came to see him.  He told genuine and gripping stories of John Lennon, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton (all his mates) and also about his kids, why he wrote the songs he did and more.

I happened to go to the concert with my amazing wife (crushed when Paul played Maybe I’m Amazed sitting next to her !!)  I also was there with another best friend (who’s my HR mentor) and his wife.  We were all geeked going in and even more so coming out !!

So, this next week at work, quit thinking the worst about those around you.  Instead, be amazed !!  Because, the truth is, the great humans around us are amazing !!

Come on Get Happy !!

When you saw the title of this post it either made you smile or cringe.  Do you need to be “happy” at work? Heck, can you even be “happy” in HR ??

The cynics out there, many of whom are my dear friends, would be saying things like, “It’s not the 70’s again !!  This isn’t The Partridge Family !!”  Some people at work, and life in general, feel that making someone happy is imposing on their personal space or beliefs.  Others, refusing to be happy, come to work everyday in a dark mood while ominous dirge-like music plays in the background.  There are countless statistics that now show that most people want to leave their job for something else.  For some – ANYTHING else !!!

So, why am I going on and on about being happy?  It’s because I’m knee deep into a great new read called The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor.  It’s a fascinating book that hit at the right time.  The premise is counter to most of the history of the field of psychology and that is this . . . If you are happy, you’ll be successful.

Achor points out poignantly that all of us have been looking at this the other way around – When I get successful, I’ll be happy.  However, the research shows that people never feel they’re successful enough – ever.

So, what does this have to do with HR?  EVERYTHING !!!

Many HR people I know are miserable in what they do.  They are burdened by the reality that working with and dealing with people is rough.  There is no doubt about that.  But, you don’t have to be miserable.

One of my friends visited one of our franchise locations a few years ago when I just had joined LaRosa’s, Inc.  He asked the owner if he knew me and he said, “That’s the new HR guy isn’t it?  Man, what’s wrong with him?  He’s happy all the time !!”  Great isn’t it?  The owner and I know each other more now and he’s a great guy.  He still wonders how I can be happy and be in HR.

So, this week ask yourself . . . happy ??  I think Achor is dead on by his premise that a person needs to be genuinely positive before they’ll ever be successful.  What do you think ??