What’s at the end of your tunnel ??

I love being in HR !!  For those of you who know me, this isn’t some random blogger’s statement.  I’m genuinely passionate about HR and love to see how the field can to continue to develop, evolve and grow.  That brings me to this week’s observation . . .

The majority of folks in HR suffer from “tunnel vision.”

By this I mean that too often we take the stringent and narrow when it comes to our policies, procedures and systems.  We continue to create and develop systems to keep folks in check (i.e. attendance systems, don’t do this/that policies, etc.)  At the same time, I continue to hear HR folks who are frustrated with what we do.  We belabor the fact that people continue to work around our systems and we don’t know how to get things back in line.

The reality of this frustration is that you can’t get things back in line – nor should you !!  There is absolutely nothing wrong with structure and focus.  People work well when they know there are boundaries.  But, boundaries are different than walls !!

I continue to find that people are vastly different.  This fascinates me because it makes it all the more difficult to come up with HR systems full of absolutes and must have’s.  So, I take a different path and I’d like you to consider it as well.  Here’s what I do . . .

My tunnel is a kaleidoscope !!  Like you, I need to focus, but by looking at each person and situation on their own within the parameters of the systems we have, you get a new image every time !!

Doing HR this way IS more challenging, but isn’t that cool ??  Also, I find it to be incredibly less frustrating and even more consistent because people know that I’ll evaluate the circumstance based on what they’re facing.  It has led to things being more decisive in most cases, and it’s also given my department more flexibility and the ability to make sure that we take the time to look at all facets of what’s facing us.

I used to say that HR is gray and not black/white.  I’m changing that to HR is psychedelic because that is the landscape that I see people moving through.  Why don’t you join me and turn the tunnel to see what new images you get ??

Image courtesy of Worldwide Hippies

 

It’s okay to ask “Why ??”

My wife and I are fortunate to have two amazing kids !!  They do well in school, are active in our church and our community.  I’m proud to say that.  For those of you who have kids, or if you’ve even been a kid, you know that kids ask one question infinitely.  “Why ??!!”

It doesn’t matter if things are crystal clear and there’s no reason for this question, it happens anyway.  More often than not, I just want them to do what I say and have some faith that I am not leading them down some dark path with my request to clean their room.

Recently, I heard a presentation where the speaker pulled back my eyelids on this question that often seems so annoying.  He explained that people in the workplace ask “Why” because they’re seeking context, not to annoy.  They want to understand the reasoning for decisions.  Seems to be a great trait actually.  I actually agree with him and when I sat back to think about it, I ask “why” all the time.  So, why do I get annoyed when others do it?

I think it goes back to the feeling that we’d like people just to do what we say when we say it.  If we have to spend time explaining things, then that means we’ve lost time doing something else that “matters.”

It’s time for all of our eyelids to be pulled back in HR.  If we’re not asking why for context, and even to challenge, then we can’t expect the status quo to ever move.  Just going along with everything doesn’t show well and we shouldn’t settle and sit back.  Also, we can foster a culture where it’s not only safe for employees to ask “why,” but it’s encouraged !!

If we continue to promote that we want a learning environment that focuses on development, then we must allow people to ask “why.”  What are we afraid of if we did this?  If employees felt safe, and inquired about their work, wouldn’t there be a greater chance of an enriched workforce?  How cool would that be?

So, start a new behavior today and allow people to ask that infinite question. This time when it’s asked, answer them.  Give them context and see what happens.  I think you’ll enjoy the results !!

What Are YOU Looking For ??

This weekend my son and I had to catch the opening of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.  My quick review is that it is AWESOME !!  Visually beautiful, great story, action and intrigue.  But that’s not the focus of this post.

In the movie, Holmes sees everything !!  Subtle clues abound even in the midst of constant, heart-pounding action.  By following them, he is able to deduce the intentions of his archenemy, Professor Moriarty.  Nothing is missed and everything has meaning.

Now to a real life story . . .

This Friday, I met a friend at one of our LaRosa’s restaurants for lunch.  Service was spectacular from everyone involved and the food was great.  Yes, I know I’m biased, but I wasn’t the only one who saw this.  My friend asked me if the manager knew that I worked for LaRosa’s in HR.  I told him that I hadn’t met the manager on duty, but knew his name.  I explained that I like to just go to our locations and be more low key.  I don’t want to add any undue pressure.

After the manager had stopped by our table to ask how things were, he did something wonderful (as we both observed).  Instead of doing the “How are things?” and pass by before an answer’s even given, he stood and talked to us.  He waited for our response and then talked some more.  My friend exclaimed, “I love when they do that!  When someone takes the time to truly see how things are is what I expect.  This is great !!”

After my friend left, the restaurant, I walked back into the kitchen and introduced myself.  The reaction from the manager and the Team Members around him is what I’m used to.  It’s the “Oh no, it’s HR !!  I wonder what he wants ??”  I reassured him that I was just meeting someone for lunch, but wanted to share how amazing the service was and my friend’s positive reaction to his experience.  The manager glowed.  The “barriers” of talking to HR dropped, and we talked as people (as it should be).

So, what are YOU looking for ??  My friend and I expected to have a great time together at our restaurant, and we did.  The employees were all performing and people were doing a great job.

Do you look for the great things ??  Maybe it’s time we all did this a little more . . .

Image Courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

Have You Played Lately ??

I have !!  Man, the past few weeks have been full of FUN !! And, I work in HR !!  How cool is that?

We had our Christmas Party for our store Managers at Star Lanes at Newport on the Levee.  There was bowling, eating and billiards surrounded by tons of laughter and stories.  It was very casual and loads of fun !!

I also had the privilege of speaking at the chapter meeting of the Greater Cincinnati HR Association (GCHRA) and the event sold out !! Yikes !!  The presentation was on Leadership through HR, and I had a blast.  Lots of laughter, stories and food !!

Then, this weekend I went to the National Museum of the US Air Force on the Wright Patterson Air Force Base with my Boy Scout Troop.  We went through the miles of planes and years of history on a scavenger hunt, took in an IMAX movie and even got to tour through past Air Force One planes.  The boys (and certain adults) let their imaginations run wild and pretend we were fighter pilots.  We all picked our favorite planes that we just HAD to have !!  Again, more laughing, fun and memories.

The ironic thing during all of these activities . . . no one got hurt.  No one was upset.  No one was negative.

It made me start to reflect about what we do in HR.  Is it fun?  Do we allow people to play?  Or, are our processes more important than people?

How about our Associations, Conferences and gatherings?  Fun ?? Parts of them are, but there are also a myriad of rules and structures with good intentions, but limit people from enjoying themselves.

Why is this?  Is someone playing at work, or having fun that threatening?  I’ve said this before. Do you know what happens to kids when they grow up?  They become our employees !!

This week start a new practice before people make silly New Year’s Resolutions that they will strive to break vs. keep.

Have fun at work !!  Quit looking for others to engage you.  Be engaged first yourself !!  Fun is different for all of us, but look around at your company’s culture and see if it fosters creativity or compliance – innovation or conformity.

I plan to play more and more and pull others along with me. Let’s see who’s more productive in the end !!

 

Get rid of the “n’ts” !!

This may seem like an odd title, but I was slapped back into reality at our OHSHRM Leadership Day for Chapter Presidents.  We had a great, upbeat day which featured a Leadership Bootcamp lead by Tom Terez to open and then Bruce Boguski to close with a great motivational piece about how we approach each day as people in HR and our lives in general.

One item Bruce hit on is the words we use.  Seems simple, but it’s amazing how many negative words just fill each and every moment of our days.  We use these words when we talk about others and even ourselves.  It was especially telling when he asked us to reflect on these words in our work as HR professionals and leaders.

What are the words ??  You know them all too well.  Most of them end in “n’t”. Words like “Don’t”, “Can’t”, “Shouldn’t”, “Couldn’t”, “Won’t” . . .

Does this sound familiar?  You wake up to head to work and you tell youself you don’t want to deal with so-and-so today . . . You can’t handle how another department is handling a certain situation . . . etc.

When you sit back and think of how many “n’t” words fill every sentence that we use, you’ll be shocked.  (I had to really had to be intentional in writing this post to see if I could even do it without n’t words other than for examples !!)

Now, think about our HR practices and policies.  The vast majority of the ones I see are written with more don’ts vs. do’s.  If we continue to approach our employees with what they can’t, or shouldn’t, do – how can we expect them to look at what they do from a positive perspective ??

It’s time for us to change this !! We can, and should, be genuinely positive !! Who says that we have to continue to go with the flow of darkness that seems to take up most aspects of media, entertainment and culture?

We’ve come to a point where positive people bother us.  Well, I plan to bother people.  A LOT of people !!

It’s a real challenge, and I’m only one day into it, but I’m going to do my best to reduce and get rid of the “n’ts” – I hope you join me !!  Think how much better our workplaces would be if HR took this approach !!

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