Encourage and Lift Up !!

You may, or may not, know this but I am EXTREMELY passionate about most areas of my life !!  I was reminded of this recently when I read a blog post from a friend who asked people to truly be who they are – both in person and on-line.  I didn’t see that as being critical, but as being encouraging.

In HR I get the opportunity to be around a myriad of people who are going through a myriad of things all the time !!  Too often, when I encounter them, it starts our negatively.  I don’t mean that they are negative people.  Just the contrary, but we live in a world where “negative” is our 1st line filter.

I love it when people cloud this fact and say, “I’m just being realistic !!”  No, you’re being negative and justifying your realism.  There are difficult things all around us.  We tend to have the mindset that NO ONE can be going through the challenges that we are facing.

This isn’t a post about “downer truth or dare” because that gets ugly quick !!  There are so many people in HR and in the workplace who need to be encouraged.  I’m not talking about recognition (although that is usually encouraging).  I’m talking about noticing the little things around you in the lives of others and lifting them up – on purpose !!

Most people are hesitant to encourage others.  There’s the fear of a “hidden agenda,” or that people just are nice to get something from you.  (Remember, people start from a negative filter . . .)

Also, people want others to make the first move.  We are much more likely to reciprocate encouragement if it’s genuinely given first.  Well, I’d like to “encourage” you to be that first person who steps out on a regular basis to lift others up wherever you are.

I’m not talking about a formal program with a goal of so many positive comments a day.  I’m talking about turning off your negative tendencies and replacing them with positive ones.  It may seem tough at first, and people may even mock you for being different.  But, isn’t that cool?  Your efforts could be the one difference that someone needs just at the time you encourage them.

Don’t pass this up !!  It’s time for you to unleash your passion !!  HR has been lacking this and it can only improve when YOU join in !!

Let me start . . .

Thanks for being in HR !!  I know people are tough – but remember – you’re a person too !!  I’m glad that I get to know, learn and grow from people like you.  Continue to know that you’re making a difference !!  You truly are !!

It’s Just Dough !!

Have you ever made a comment thinking it was innocuous, but it really had damaging effects ??

Let me help you out with this.  Your comment usually starts with “It’s just . . .”  You don’t mean this to be harmful, but you don’t see how your position is calling the situation simple or “below you.”

I’ve heard people say, “What’s so hard about what you do?  I mean, it’s just HR !!”  Needless to say, I didn’t feel to good about how that person viewed me or the work that I did.  You see, this post isn’t an indictment of others, it’s a confession of my behavior.

At LaRosa’s, we have a bakery that makes our pizza dough.  The great Team Members that work there start as early as 3:00am and the 2nd shift wraps up around midnight.  They make thousands of pizza doughs a week.  One of the positions in the plant is along our two lines where the dough balls get flattened and then sent down a conveyor and people stretch and shape the doughs as they pass by.

Imagine if this was your job.  Now, imagine if you stretched dough for 40 hours a week for 20+ years !!

Could you do it?  I am at the Bakery often and there have been some Team Member issues, as there are in all locations.  People one day were having conflict over how one person on the line stretched dough vs. another person.  I said, “Seriously?  It’s just dough !!” The brilliant Admin. Asst. who works at the Bakery quickly corrected me.  “No, Steve, it’s their job and they want to make sure that it’s done right.  It matters to them.”  You could have seen my shoulders sink into the floor because I knew she was right.

This weekend I went to the retirement party of one of our doughline Team Members.  She has been stretching dough for over 20 years.  I came to realize that without her, and others who do great work, I wouldn’t even have a job.  If we don’t have dough, we don’t have pizza !!

Look around your organization.  Are there people or positions that you feel don’t contribute much?  How arrogant is that?  If you’re in HR, you should feel the weight I felt when I made this trite comment.

ALL people add value !!  ALL of them !!  It’s time we did our best to rid our companies and our profession of any more of the “It’s just” comments.

I felt very fortunate to be invited to Joyce’s retirement and loved seeing her pass to her next phase of life.  What she did was critical to the foundation of our company and our customers.  I will never belittle someone and what they bring to work again.  How about you?

Talent Takes Time !!

This weekend I had an incredible time with my son and 5,000 other Boy Scouts at Peterloon.  This isn’t a post about scouting, it’s about talent.

You see, this weekend my son was the “Senior Patrol Leader” meaning that he was in charge of the entire weekend.  He made sure everything was packed, ready to go, the camp was set up and the boys/adults had a productive time during the event.  He had to organize activities, keep track of details, encourage great behavior and address behavior that was a little more “challenging.”

During the camp tear down, I was about to “direct” some scouts to take care of things, when my son stepped in and said, “Dad, that’s not what we’re going to do.  That’s not a good use of our time.  I want to see the boys move the dining flies, tear down the chairs and then put things in the trailer.  Then we’ll eat.  We need to get these things done so we can stay on track.”

Did I mention my son’s 15 ??

This is the same young man who has done all of the goofy things boys do.  He’s incredibly funny, creative, witty and caring.  I am sure he will be successful in whatever he chooses to pursue.  His ideas are so far out of the box as to how to approach people that he finds people following his lead and innovation.

He’s a great example of why talent takes time.  If you would have told me that my son would become the young man I saw taking charge this weekend when he was young, I would have laughed out loud !!

Too often in organizations, HR follows the bright shining star who bursts onto the scene.  Everyone follows this person exclaiming their talent and the gold mine of leadership that he/she is sure to be for years to come !!  At times, this plays out.  However, too often the supernova is just that – a super nova.  They dazzle, draw attention and may do something short-term that astonishes everyone around and has great initial success.

Talent happens over a slow burn.  Talent is sustainable.  Talent is consistent and remains constant . . . over time.

So, when you clamor for the next “Talent Management” seminar or best practice, step back and review the employees around you.  Who is that person or department that consistently builds others up?  What person(s) make others shine through bringing their whole team along?  Are you trying to develop a series of supernovas, or true talent?

I can’t wait to see what happens in the future for my son.  I know it’s impossible to predict.  He’s surprised me so far.  I’m sure the great people around you will surprise you as well . . . if you just look out for the talent all around you !!



Don’t You Forget About Me !!

Over the weekend, I saw the new movie Pitch Perfect.  Part of me wanted to see it because I love comedies, but the other part of me wanted to see it because I was in a Show Choir – the Varsity Singers – during high school.  It seemed like a great combination, and I was right !!  (Make sure you see this flick !!)

What made it EVEN better was the reference to an essential movie that I lived through – The Breakfast Club.  I was surrounded by all of those characters in the movie, and let’s just say I could “connect” with Anthony Michael Hall.

The key theme in this legendary movie, was that these people didn’t even know each other until they were forced into a situation during detention.  Even then, they had incredible filters and stereotypes of what each person was like, or so they thought.  The Pitch Perfect movie plays on this by pulling together another unlikely group of people together to make an amazing team !!

Too often, as HR professionals, we want to group people together in our organizations instead of celebrating their individuality.  We’re concerned that if people don’t “play by the rules” or “fit in,” then they’ll surely be trouble makers.  Also, in the classic closing song by Simple Minds, the lyrics remind us not to “forget” people.

Organizations tend to reward, promote and recognize those that are the most vocal and visible.  The people who may be the true talent who underpin those that are public are often relegated to anonymity.  Since they never speak up, we are okay with it.

This needs to change.  ALL employees have the opportunity to add value.  ALL employees !!  These great, unmined talents need someone to take note of who they are and not “forget” them.  This is squarely upon our shoulders as HR people.

I’m not talking about the exercise where everyone shares on every answer during a meeting or training session.  I’m talking about seeking these employees out intentionally and giving them our attention to let them know that they matter !!

So, this week, be like the end of The Breakfast Club !!  Break down the filters, seek out the greatness that works all around you and lift them up !!  They’re waiting for you !!


Read a Good Book Lately ??

A good friend of mine (and of many), Becky Robinson, started this great new group calle Team Buzz Builder.  If you are part of the the “team,” you are asked to read new books and then give your opinion about them.  This is new to me, but I wanted to be involved because I am a voracious reader !!

In fact, right now I’m finishing up the first book of the Hunger Games trilogy, just wrapped up the great read Social Gravity by Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen as Talent Anarchy, finished a book by Thomas Cahill and am about to pick up a book by Dietrich Bonhofer.  I love having 3 to 5 books going at one time.  It may be a little erratic, but I dig it.

Every once in awhile a book stops you in your tracks and makes you delve more into it and enjoy every moment.  I recently came across just such a book.  It is Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go by Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni.  I couldn’t put it down – literally !!  The book is fast paced and yet the most insightful book around the topic of professional development that I’ve ever encountered !!

The book struck a true cord with me because it’s approach made so much sense.  As HR professionals, we keep looking for THE system that will finally address the lack of feedback and/or performance metrics in our organizations.  We continue to hold onto the ancient notion that the annual “sit in front of my supervisor who rarely tells me how I’m doing so he/she can focus on my weaknesses” is effective.  It’s not.

Employees long for development regardless of their level in an organization.  The notion of “up or out” doesn’t come close to how lean organizations operate these days.  Beverly and Julie have written out a perfect method to address all forms of development and have made it relevant to ANY industry type.

HR – please take note of this.  I’m not a person to just share my opinion if it’s not something I’d be willing to practice.  I’m using this book as our “script” at looking at development internally at the Leadership level and in our pizzerias.  I’m getting a copy of the book for each of the SHRM Chapter Presidents in Ohio because I want to see them develop as leaders and for them, in turn, to develop the HR folks in their chapters.

The book is a must read because it’s applicable.  How often do you find that ??  I recommend you read the book first and make your determination.  I’m all in !!  I hope you will be too !!


Where Everybody Knows Your Name !!

This past week was the Ohio HR Conference.  It was phenomenal in each and every way !!  This was my 14th year as either an attendee or SHRM volunteer at the event.  There are so many aspects of the conference that resonate with people ranging from the great programming and professional development opportunities, the gigantic themed resort at Kalahari or the social times together.

I’m fortunate to have several of the speakers as friends, and I made sure to ask them what resonated with them.  More often than not, they said that they felt truly welcomed and a part of the fabric of the Conference.  (Side note – we invite the speakers to stay all week with us at OHSHRM and let them attend sessions, social gatherings, etc. just like the attendees)  Now, we have speakers who don’t do this as well, but the ones that do notice the vibe.

Growing up in the 80’s as a young adult, I was a HUGE Cheers fan.  Every episode of the sitcom was great because the cast of characters wanted to see each other and share their lives and experiences.  Even the theme song captured the “culture” of their beloved Boston pub . . . “Sometimes you want to go Where everybody knows your name, And they’re always glad you came; You want to be where you can see, Our troubles are all the same; You want to be where everybody knows your name.” Theme by Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo.

HR people long for that camaraderie just as everyone else.  It’s great to have a culture that promotes that because the hope is that those HR pros can continue that effort in their organizations !!

You see, sometimes the best “professional development” is to remind us that we need to recharge our batteries and be welcomed.  This coming week, make sure to be welcoming yourself and show employees the value of being welcomed each and every day !!

Play Ball !!

This week I head out to the 40th Annual Ohio HR Conference – HR: A League of Our Own !!  Geeked isn’t even a strong enough word for how excited I am !!

The Conference Committee has once again put together a spectacular event including national speakers, buckets of HRCI credits, incredible Resource Partners and other surprises that will make for a sold-out show !!  Standing room only !!

I know that we are in the midst of State Conference season.  As I was packing my gear getting ready to head north to Kalahari Resorts in Sandusky, Ohio, I wanted to share some things I’ve found that make a conference successful !!

Have a game plan !! – That goes for every aspect of the conference.  How long does it take to get there?  Are you firm on which sessions/speakers you want to see?  There are many more questions to consider, but by planning ahead, you won’t be rushing to decide when you arrive.

Meet the team !! – No game is complete without meeting the great folks around you.  I know this may come easier to some than others, but we’re in HR – we should be able to get out and make some great new professional connections.  This includes both attendees and Resource Partners !!  The vendors may be the perfect piece you’ve been looking for to enhance your efforts at work.  Don’t just get the swag.  It is fun, but meet the great folks too !!

Start the Wave !! – This is a big step for most folks, but conferences are not only a great venue for professional development, but they’re also a great place to stretch a little.  Go to sessions that may show a different perspective than what you’ve traditionally attended.  You may find great information that can make your HR efforts a “grand slam” in your organization !!

So, in the end, get off the bench and hit the field.  It’s time to Play Ball for all of us !!  Make sure you are getting out to a phenomenal SHRM State Conference around you.  They are amazing and you’ll love them !!



Stand Up Against the Odds !!

My family and I just rented (yes rented) The Hunger Games.  We were enthralled !!  No one had read the books, so we had no preconceived notions.  It was intense, dark, dramatic and hopeful !!  If you haven’t seen it, please do.

In the story, Katniss, the heroine, goes through an adventure none of us would venture to volunteer for or dare to endure.  One of the incredibly moving images of the movie is from the inhabitants of her District.  She hails from District 12 which is a mining area and the poverty is devastating.

The people watching her compete in the Games all lift their hands in a three-finger salute of solidarity supporting her and against the State.  It is moving and causes them to rise up in action to fight the oppression they are under.

Sorry to be so geeky – but there is a point to all this.

As HR professionals, we often find ourselves in the middle of “everything”, but still on our own.  HR folks are one of the few professions who continues to try and perform in isolation within companies.

It’s time for us to raise our three-finger salute in solidarity.  Not “against” anything – but FOR each other !!  Too many of us feel like Katniss in the Hunger Games out surviving for ourselves and doing our best to fend off the fires that we rush to put out.

We need to be more connected as professionals and as a profession.  In doing so, we will be better able to lead in our companies, mentor others and move things forward.  If we keep trying to do things in isolation, then we’ll be picked off and no longer be in the Games at all. (Read the books and see the movie – shameless plug.)

So, if you have a chance to go to an HR Conference – do it.

If you have a chance to reach out and attend an HR chapter meeting or professional development event – do it.

If you can connect with people on Social Media forums like Linked In, Twitter, etc. – do it.  Don’t be afraid of these.  See how to use them best !!

And most of all, if you can personally connect with other HR pros “in person” by phone or face-to-face – then don’t pass up that chance !!

As you are reading this, my right hand is raised in a three-finger salute looking for you to join me as we stand together in HR !!


Go Tagless !!

I love the new campaign from Hanes with Michael Jordan.  The most recent ad shows a man trying to cook at his grill while the tag is telling him everything to do.  (Watch it here).

The “tag” line at the end of the commercial is fantastic !! “Tags are annoying. So we got rid of them.”

The message sticks with you and you see yourself nodding as the tags in your clothes mysteriously start to itch.  But I digress . . .

We tag people all the time (or label them).  It happens in all facets of life, but especially in the workplace.  By labeling someone, we feel we can contain them and that they should fit in our box of who we think they should be.  I’m not specifically calling out the classic EEOC categories here either.  We put labels on people and expect them to live within those.  Most of the time those labels aren’t communicated either.  They are just whispered by management, or they are our filter on performance reviews.

HR has a chance to really impact an organization when it comes to removing tags !!  However, we need to start with ourselves.  You can’t expect others to follow this movement, unless you first remove your own tags.

For instance – remove the tag that you’re “only” in HR.  We are a vital facet of all organizations due to the simple fact that they have people.  If they have people – they need HR.  Secondly, remove the tag that you only exist for either management or employees.  You exist for ALL employees and can therefore be a consistent force and voice for all levels of the organization.

When you’ve removed your tags, then look at the various HR systems in your Company to see where things need a little trimming.  Allow your employees to develop, grow and move throughout the company instead of making sure they fill a certain niche.  It doesn’t mean promoting everyone “up or out,” but it does allow people to excel by taking on work where they can add value and utilize their strengths.

One “tag” you should keep is “genuine.”  It’s missing in many corners of our profession, and it needs to be sewn back on.  Helping organizations remove their labels is essential and it is an area where we can shine !!

What do you say?  Can you do it, or do I need to have Michael Jordan come over and say, “Hand it over.”  Go tagless with me.  It rocks !!

One Small Step . . .

This weekend one of my heroes passed away – Neil Armstrong.  Maybe because he was a farm boy from Northwest Ohio, or because he was proud to be “nerdy,” or because he was humble and genuine.

I vividly remember being in my Grandfather’s house in tiny Luckey, Ohio with my aunts, uncles and cousins crowded around the TV as Walter Cronkite reported the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon.  When Armstrong actually came out onto the ladder and began moving toward the surface of the moon, there was awe and silence in the house.  After he uttered his immortal words and stepped onto the moon, my Grandfather – the epitome of the hard working farmer – just kept saying, ” I’ll be damned.  I’ll be damned.”  The general disbelief of what we all just saw was burnt into our lives forever.

If you’ve ever seen interviews with Armstrong after this life- changing event, he remained unassuming, thoughtful and curious.  He wanted to see people continue to stretch boundaries, just as he had.  The Armstrongs live about 30 minutes from my current house just outside Cincinnati.  So, this legend, was living a regular life and that is a great example !!

When he said “One small step,” he inspired a nation.  It makes you think.  What could I do if I took one small step?  So often, in our lives, and especially at work, we think that change has to occur in giant chunks, or earth-shattering movements.  In reality, it only takes those small, incremental steps.

What are some steps you could take in HR to be this type of “explorer”?  Could you make sure to say “Hi” to ALL of your employees (and not just the ones you’re comfortable with)?  Could you challenge something that needs to be corrected, but no one will step forward?  Would you join a local HR chapter, go to a regional or State Conference to meet other HR folks?

The questions and efforts are all within our reach.  This week, find your Neil Armstrong moment and take one small step forward in some area of your life.  Who knows – it might end up being something that is a “giant leap for all mankind” !!

Image courtesy of NASA