Dear Sir or Madam, Would You Read My Book?

The world has changed. It’s too early to tell if that’s for the better or not, but there’s no denying it has changed. So too has the world of work. As with most shifts we experience in the business world, people are speculating, posturing, and predicting in order to give our new working environment definition and structure. Most of it is trying to reflect the obvious with words like “dealing with”, “managing” or “measuring” the remote workforce. You’ll also see pieces on “managing the effort to return to work” and “what policies do we need now?”

You see, work has changed . . . but we haven’t.

At a time when HR stepped forward to lead through all that landed on us throughout 2020, we are quickly falling back into the patterns which have limited us for decades. We were quick to be agile and adaptable, but now that we’ve been in a continuous crisis response mode for over a year, we want to return to limiting and restricting work in order for it to fit into various compartments of control. We need to move forward. We need to step out, and we need to lead !!

Last year, right in the middle of everything hitting the fan, I released my second book; HR Rising !! From Ownership to Leadership. I wrote it as a call for our profession to step out of the shadows we have so willingly stayed in for far too long. Ironically, the book was complete and sent to publishing before the world turned upside down.

It was reassuring to me to see HR step up and lead last year and show organizations that ALL issues in companies are people issues. To be relevant and sustainable in the present, and the future, companies need to become people-centric in order to perform and not only in response to a series of global crises. There were countless examples of how Human Resources pros showed the value of empathy, consistency, equity, social responsibility, and genuine focus for the care of employees.

This should be a springboard for us and not just a moment in time. When I wrote HR Rising it was a call for the profession to embrace change and move forward. It was a challenge to no longer settle for a traditional approach to culture, employee relations, and the overall practice of HR. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be a vital, integrated business function ALL the time. It is not a stretch for us to lead from the positions we currently hold, and I feel we are called to do so.

Just think what our companies will look like and how meaningful work would be if we switched to a focus on development, encouragement, and equipping staff. How exciting would it be for you to drive strategy, organizational change and see an engaged workforce because HR leads the way? Not just now, but all. the. time.

We can’t think that we can continue to practice HR the way we have. It’s outdated, and if we don’t move now, we will be as well. I wrote this book to change the profession that I love. The profession that I intentionally plan to grow with for the rest of my career. I ask you to check it out and see how you can evolve in how you practice HR. I ask you to choose to lead. Let’s reshape the profession and the world of work so people-centric cultures focused on performance, resilience, and vitality become our norm !!

The title of the post came from four lads whom I have always found to be revolutionary. And now, it’s our time !!

All You Need Is . . .

It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m exhausted. It’s not physical exhaustion. It’s that I’m emotionally and mentally drained. I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel that I’m alone in feeling this.

I know there are a multitude of factors that play into this, but the main one is the constant message bombardment of fear, negativity, and inflammatory stories I see from the “news” regardless of the outlet. It seems that we continue to put out information that is meant to put us on edge and evoke some overly charged response of disdain or disbelief. Add on top of this that once something is posted, shared or released, then the wave of comments starts hitting the shore. People reply in snippets of raw emotion and rarely seek, or ask for, context. It is far easier to launch a volley. And, I think people long for a returned volley so the comments can spiral into a deeper and deeper hole of disparagement.

Ironically, it’s come to the point that when people choose to post something positive, people launch on that as well. They claim that people are faking their lives and only showing good things. Pause. Reread that sentence. We’re pissed that someone has something positive to share.

I understand that the world is filled with horrific things. I’m not naive to think that these things can’t be shared or unearthed. When things get overlooked or buried, the terrible actions and/or behaviors continue. I just think that we can change the approach and method of how we communicate with each other – including the tough things.

(Random side thought – My head is already wondering if people are just sitting there waiting to counter each word of this post. That saddens me to even have that thought. Back to the post . . .)

I believe in people. I believe in those who share my views, likes and opinions just as I do with those who don’t share them. Do I struggle with people? Yes. Just as sure as I think others struggle with me. We’re human and we live in a broken world. Even in the midst of that, I believe most people are good. I really do.

Just having that posture makes people scoff and throw up skepticism. We share experiences of how someone hurt another person. I’m sure each of those experiences are valid and personal. I’ve been hurt. I’ve had people hurt others in my immediate family. I’ve experienced loss of family and dear friends throughout my lifetime.

I don’t view life as a mass of either/or situations where I’m forced to land on one side or another. I’m an if/then person and in every circumstance in my life I choose to say that “if” such and such happens, “then” I choose to respond as positively as possible – even in the most difficult of incidents. You may think that’s unrealistic, but it’s something I hold on to.

We live in a time when people don’t feel they have anyone who believes in them. It fills conversations at work, on social media platforms and in public forums. I understand that it’s not feasible to reach everyone and close this gap. However, for those I’m fortunate enough to have in my life, I can act and lift them up.

I have faith that this small action will make a difference – even for a moment. I want to see the tone of conversations change to become a rich dialogue where people are heard and valued regardless of their perspective. If they are struggling with an issue in life or society, they know they have someone who is there for them to listen – not to solve or jump to conclusions. I don’t want them to feel invisible, unheard or ignored. I want to be someone at work, in HR, online, and in-person who is willing to challenge the norm and change the narrative. I want to show that there are amazing, positive and uplifting things happening all the time around us. It’s not all awful. In fact, it’s far from it.

It’s ironic to me that we set one day aside each calendar year to “celebrate” love on Valentine’s Day. I would rather suggest that love become our norm every day. I know it’s easy to think it can’t be this simple, but you need to start somewhere. For you see, all you need is . . .

Connecting

I’m a fan of Twitter. I know that may run contrary to the majority of people out there. I’ve been active for 13 years on the platform and I still enjoy it every day. I don’t enjoy it for news, celebrity gossip or politics. I’m not naive to think that this platform, along with many others, can be used for dissension, negativity and anger. That is honestly true with any form/method of communication. Any forum can be used in a myriad of ways. I choose to be positive.

I participate because I love the people. Seriously. I see Twitter as a way to connect with people around the globe in a matter of seconds. How cool is that? For me, it’s a quick way to see the good work of others and share it to make sure that many voices are heard. I can go on and on about the attributes I find attractive, but I want to share about one in particular.

When Twitter first began, people used Fridays as a day to put the hashtag #FF (Follow Friday) out there to recommend and encourage others to connect more. You have to remember that back in 2008, people weren’t connected nearly as much as they are now. It was fun to find HR peers and get everyone to know each other. It eliminated the boundaries of geography and time zones and started to pull the profession together more intentionally.

Like most efforts, you can tire of things. What once brought energy and excitement turned into seeing many of the same faces and names over and over again. It even became negative among some people and it, unfortunately, became comparative because you’d see some people often and new people rarely. So, people stopped doing #FF or they took potshots at it. That was sad because its intent never changed. The way people viewed it did.

I didn’t get dragged down or discouraged by people no longer participating though. I saw value because I looked at it as a way to truly connect and not be a popularity contest. Now, I did stop doing it weekly because that level of repetition was ineffective. Fast forward to 2021 . . .

This past Friday, I took the time to launch an extensive set of tweets for #FF. Believe it or not, this is now a bit risky because I was put in Twitter “jail” awhile back because they thought that I pre-programmed my tweets and they didn’t understand why I listed so many names in a short burst of time. They may have thought my account was a bot or that I was spamming and phishing others because this approach isn’t the “norm” of how people connect. I reached out to Twitter, as much as they’ll allow, to explain that I was not a bot, but they just kept me in detention for a bit.

This past Friday, a friend from the UK asked how I listed all of the names and I shared the truth. I type in each person’s name. Every. Time. I always have. There’s a reason for this.

I list each person by “name” because I want those with whom I’m connected to know that they matter. It’s important that we’re connected because I consider them part of my community. I don’t see this as a who’s who list. I want people to know that I see them and value who they are and what they contribute.

We don’t take the time to remind people about this nearly enough. I do my best to have some form of a relationship with anyone who is kind enough to want to be connected to me. I don’t take it for granted. Too many people aren’t encouraged or given affirmation. It’s something I can’t see overlooked. Please note that this is true for me with my family, my friends and my co-workers.

I heard a quote recently that hit me. “Community isn’t built on convenience. Community is built on time, effort and energy.” That’s the truth. My hope in listing people is that someone connects with someone else and that leads them to build a community. How you do it is up to you. The key is that you have one based on how you truly connect. It’s also important to stay true to your capacity. If you’re someone who is good with giving your time and effort to many people, then have a large community or several communities. If you would feel more comfortable with a smaller community, then make that happen as well. There is no one way to do this.

This week, I encourage you to connect with someone. Check to make sure they aren’t alone or isolated. Let others around you know they matter. You may be the one person who connected with them at the perfect time. Remind others they matter as well. In doing this, we’ll come together in ways that are meaningful and lasting.

When in doubt . . . grout

Doesn’t it seem like we cram a multitude of life events together all in a short period of time? It’s not advisable to group so many things together at the same time. You add unnecessary stress even though you have the best intentions.

My wife, Debbie, and I decided to remodel our kitchen, flooring and family room late in 2019. We had saved for it and thought it would be exciting to give some life to our house. Doing a remodel at this scale is a big deal because it meant that we would be “living” in our basement for several months. Of course, right when construction was scheduled to start, a global pandemic hits. We went forward with the project because we had it planned. We never anticipated that we’d be working from home and not at our workplaces on top of everything.

The project went well through every phase . . . until we started to reach the end. Materials were slow to arrive and the tile crew who put the new backsplash up didn’t follow the design. We had lived in the basement for 3 1/2 months and the tension was starting to mount. Let’s be honest, the whole “made for TV” shows on HGTV aren’t how projects truly proceed. They’re great television, but they’re not realistic. Things don’t get resolved in an hour.

Since we were nearing the end of our project, the final touches started to drag out and communication started to dissipate. Please understand that we have had a very good experience with the company, the designers, and the work crews who had done the work so far. We just wanted to be done !! Several calls and texts were shared to try to get the tile mistake repaired. We seemed to have hit an impasse.

Just when it seemed like things were going to escalate, I got a text from Aaron. It said, “Hey man, I heard you needed me to come out and fix the tile work. I’ll be out in a few days. This is my cell. We’ll get this taken care of.” The temperature instantly receded. He texted a few more times and we hit a few more delays, but we finally landed on a day for Aaron to work on the tile. He was the regular tile guy the company used instead of the first crew who didn’t do the work the way we had wanted.

I was working from home when Aaron and Ted, his assistant arrived. I had papers scattered across our new island and was typing away on a spreadsheet I needed to finish that day. Aaron was very gregarious and talkative. Ted was steady and silent. As they came into the house, Aaron exclaimed, “Hey man. Aaron. Nice to meet you. This is Ted.” Ted nods his greeting. “So, I see we need to finish up this tile and get it back to how you’d like it. Let me grab my tools, some drops (drop cloths), and we’ll knock this out and get out of your way.”

I instantly connected to these two guys and was grateful they had arrived. Aaron pulled out this large black square which I knew was a speaker. “You mind if I play some tunes man?” I replied, “No, that’s fine. I always have music playing when I work.” (In fact, I had Spotify playing in the background as he asked.) “You cool with country music?” he asked. I stated, “If that’s what helps you tile, I’m good with it.” “Cool. I may switch to some classic rock though. Just depends on what I’m feeling.” I let him know I was good with whatever style he chose.

Before, I continue you need to know that Aaron and Ted are artists. That is a fact !!. They worked smoothly and collaboratively. Aaron took measurements and Ted cut tiles so that the entire space came together seamlessly like a puzzle. They didn’t have to remeasure or recut any piece. Each one fit the first time. My conversation with Aaron continued as well. Having two extroverts in the same room ensures that talking will occur. We talked about our occupations, our families, the pandemic, politics and more. We did it with ease and it was so reassuring to experience.

As he was finishing up, he noted that he’d need to come back one more day. We were short with some detailed pencil tiles. I asked him about the framing of those tiles around our window. He noted, “Yeah, I see you’re window’s crooked. The other guys tried to make some cuts to cover that. I would have made some different cuts, but we can frame it and get it finished.” I replied, “Won’t it look a bit odd because you’ll have to match how the others started the job?”

He paused and smiled. “No problems, man. I follow the philosophy – When in doubt . . . grout.”

I didn’t know what he meant. He gleefully explained that he would use grout between the seams of the tile and pull it all together. If a space needed a little more grout, he’d add it. If it needed less, he’d thin it out so that the tiles all looked like they naturally were in their designated place.

I never expected to gain perspective from my tile guy, but I was wrong. His philosophy is exactly how we should approach HR. We are the grout that brings people together !! Since everyone is naturally different in how they work, look at life, and have a mix of unique skills and approaches themselves, someone needs to bring cohesion while still allowing them to be who they are.

Some people will need a bit more “grout” to add them to their place in the tile, and some will need less. The key for us is that we’re not trying to keep people set in their ways or conform. Employees are looking for ways to contribute while being connected. They want to be part of the bigger picture and understand how what they do adds value to the overall results of the company.

This week, take Aaron’s advice and see how you can reshape how you practice HR. Are you being the grout that fills in the seams? If you aren’t, I suggest you change and start bringing folks together. It is far more enriching and you’ll love how the workplace and culture looks when you’re done !!