Go Into The Storm !!

We seek comfort in all facets of our lives. It’s something that gives us peace and certainty. We don’t like to be uncomfortable at all. Even though that’s what we strive for, it’s difficult to maintain because storms inevitably come. Storms come in all shapes and sizes ranging from personal challenges to natural disasters. What may seem to be trivial to some could be overwhelming for others.

The reality of ongoing storms has been on my mind because I’m fortunate to work in Human Resources. Yes, fortunate. I don’t take my career choice lightly because I have the opportunity to be involved in the lives of others. I don’t know that many of my peers view HR in the same manner. I think that’s because we have decades of practice that have sought to reach that state of comfort and a sense of calm as our primary goal.

Think about it. During your day, are you spending more time keeping things in line than anything else? Don’t get me wrong, there is value in reaching comfort at times. However, those in HR tend to make this their primary reason for being in the role, and I think this completely overlooks the humanity of the people we work with. We skate along the surface of polite and courteous interactions while skirting around any potential for conflict, controversy, or any action that would be unsettling.

By doing this, I think we are missing out on making a deep and lasting connection with our employees. It’s time we ran into the storms !! There’s a unique characteristic of buffaloes. You may wonder where this is going, but you need to know that when a storm comes upon a herd of buffalo, they band together and run toward it to get through it quicker rather than avoid the storm for protection.

What would your workplace look like if you were the one who stepped in to know your people more? When you heard about what they were facing, what if you slowed down and listened to them? Just listened.

I’m not suggesting that you be cavalier, reckless or arrogant feeling you could solve the storms swirling in the lives around you. This isn’t about bringing about solutions. It’s merely encouraging you to be the person who runs into the storms to help others get through them. You can do this by standing up for those who aren’t regularly seen or heard. You can do this by not always saying “Yes” and challenging supervisors, people managers, and senior leaders in order to do the right thing.

Running into storms takes courage and a willingness to be intentional even when others will advise you not to. The urge to conform and flee from the storms in our path is difficult to overcome. Keep this in mind though.

If YOU don’t run towards the storm, who will?

The people in our lives and at our workplaces are yearning for someone who will come alongside them to weather all they are facing. Let’s band together as a profession, an industry and as a community as HR professionals. Storms are brewing on the horizon. Let’s start running right at them !!

Imprints

This past week, my wife and I were fortunate enough to get away for a vacation traversing across the great State of Tennessee. It was fantastic and I had some experiences that I was prepared to share in my blog, and then I received a text from a friend on Friday. The entire bottom of the world dropped as soon as I read it.

You see, my friend Mat Davies, passed away on Friday after a valiant fight against cancer. I sat in my hotel room and wept. I know this isn’t unique or new, but when it hits you personally you are reminded of how brief this adventure we call life really is.

Mat and I “met” via Twitter six years ago. I really enjoyed his blog and his activity on social media, so I decided to reach out to connect more. Thankfully he said yes. Again, this isn’t “unique”, but it was a chance to cross geographical boundaries because Mat was from the UK and I live in the States. I soon found out that we both had a fierce love for music of all genres and we connected even more. We communicated off and on throughout the years, but never in person.

That changed in 2019 when my wife and I went to the UK for an extended vacation. There was a Tweetup at Doggett’s Coat & Badge pub on the River Thames in London where tons of HR peers gathered to meet us in person. I spotted Mat immediately and made sure that we spent time together having a chat. Even though we had just “met” it felt like we had been friends for our entire life. He also was amazing by spending time talking to Debbie while I meandered around to make sure to meet everyone. Before the night ended, we made sure to capture the moment in a picture.

Me and Mat at the Tweetup on the Thames.

It is one of my favorite memories. Seriously. If you look at the picture, you can see rays of sunlight coming over Mat’s shoulder. That’s not a coincidence. He was always someone who brought joy, passion, wit and life to every conversation and interaction you had with him. Every. Time.

I have always believed that people leave an imprint on your life every time you encounter them. Those imprints can be positive or negative. Encouraging or frustrating. Uplifting and full of life or difficult and disheartening. You get the image. You leave an imprint on people whether you intentionally try to or not.

I don’t think we realize that we are in each other’s lives for a relatively short period of time. That’s true for the vast majority of people we know outside of our spouse/partner, parents, children and immediate family. We have moments. Since that is the case, we can choose to make an imprint that matters.

Mat knew this. He was someone who was positive, encouraging and thoughtful. Whenever we chatted during his chemo treatments, he was the one encouraging me and sharing some musical tidbit that he just enjoyed. I know he had to be struggling during his battle, but you’d never know it.

I know we can’t reach every person in the world. I also know that struggles, tragedies and challenges are in every person’s life to some degree. We can’t reach everybody BUT we can reach those we are fortunate to cross paths with.

I encourage you to model Mat and be a person whose imprint is not only positive, but it’s one that is lasting and meaningful. I hope to be someone who consistently follows this model. I already miss my friend, but I am thankful that we met. I carry his imprint with me . . . always.

I must do one thing to honor my friend by closing with a bit of music. I heard this just after hearing the news and it’s perfect because it’s a mix of the legend and artistry of Bob Dylan and the more current talented group Maroon 5 singing the classic “I Shall Be Released.” It fits because now my dear friend Mat is released from this life and to the next. Peace my brother.

The Best Day !!

This weekend my wife and I took a day to have an adventure. We’re trying to make sure to get out and try new things and see new places. We went to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. We had perfect weather and arrived just as the gates opened. I personally was geeked because I grew up next to a horse farm and always enjoy anything I can do to get to farm-related events.

We made our way to one of the barns to see the horses being groomed. The stalls were filled with magnificent draft horses. After a show featuring some horses that were racing champions, we made our way to the Parade of Breeds. As we took our seats on some metal stands a young boy crawled up behind us and sat on his mother’s lap so he could see. He was fascinated by every, single horse that entered the arena. One horse was covered in a full costume as if he was in a medieval joust and his rider was costumed as well. The young boy squealed with delight and exclaimed that for Halloween he wanted to have a horse that wore a costume and he would wear one too !! His mom was so encouraging and told him that would be great.

After the show, we grabbed a wonderful lunch of loaded nachos. As we were starting to eat, the same young boy came strolling by with his family. He saw what we were eating and he shouted, “They have walking tacos ?? THIS IS THE BEST DAY !!!

His exuberance was heartfelt and palpable. He couldn’t contain himself. One quick note. He was the only child in a large group of adults and it didn’t phase him in the least. Every activity he participated in brought him unadulterated joy. I was taken by his response and it made me wonder.

Do I have “best days?”

I am a consistently positive person for the most part. I get frustrated at times and even angry. It happens more than I’d like to admit. As I reflect while writing this, most of the things that detract from being positive are minor and self-focused. For instance, I could get ticked that someone cuts me off on the road during my commute. Instead of thinking that the others around me are on a commute as well, my blood pressure rises. When someone is critical of my work, I want to step back and breathe, but that usually occurs after my emotions take hold first.

I’m sure you could come up with examples just like these and more. It doesn’t help that the majority of people you encounter throughout the day look at what’s wrong with the day first. On top of that, we are surrounded by news, social media and conversations that spend more time tearing down than building up.

I refuse to follow that trend. I want to be like the young boy taking in life as an endless picture of wonderment. I don’t think this is unrealistic or naive. I don’t want this to be something that is aspirational. I want it to be seen in my behavior and my interactions with others. In fact, I would love to see more people join me in this endeavor.

This is something that I will strive for personally and would also challenge those in HR to adopt it as well. Think what our profession and our workplaces would look like if every day was a “best day.” First of all, people would be stunned. How cool would that be? We could set our companies on edge by having a genuinely positive outlook. Seems radical doesn’t it? Secondly, how amazing would someone else’s day be if they saw you having a best day?

This calls for us to take in life and all that it offers and see the joy and opportunity in front of us instead of falling into the trap of negativity and sullenness. This also requires us to be others-focused and have faith that things will go well for them and for us as we work together.

The young boy probably didn’t realize how refreshing and countercultural he was this weekend. I’m grateful that we crossed paths and that I was reminded of how to have a best day every day !!

Follow the Flow !!

If you’ve been reading my blog for any time, you know that I’m sort of an HR hippie. I love tie-dye clothes, psychedelic classic rock and  . . . lava lamps. Now, you need to understand that this isn’t a “new” phase for me. These things have been an interest of mine for decades. The difference that exists is that those interests are also something that defines me. I surround myself with these components in my work space, and I am more than willing to share how they keep me at ease.

Over the past few years, I’ve taken the lava lamp mantra out with me during presentations at HR conferences. It’s not uncommon for me to have a lava lamp going while I’m speaking. Most of the time, I give this great piece of lighting away to an attendee. My only requirement if someone wins a lava lamp is that they actually use it in their office. They need to take it to work, turn it on and send me a picture of it in action. What’s so cool about this is that everyone who has won a lava lamp has added it to their office and has sent me a picture as evidence.

Now, the coolest thing is happening in workplaces across the globe. HR peers have been getting their own lava lamps, taking pictures and letting me know about it on Facebook, Linked In and Twitter !! It is surreal. What gets me geeked is what they say for reasons to get a floating masterpiece themselves. The descriptions range from just wanting to have something colorful in their office to stating that it was a reminder to have a positive outlook about HR and towards employees.

The more pictures I’ve received made me think about why this simple object is having such an impact. You see, I think HR people are often tired and on the edge of being burned out. The constant push and pull of interactions with people can drain you. This doesn’t have to be the case, but I get it because it’s something that is a constant force that pushes against me as well.

Since that is the case, I recommend that you “follow the flow” and surround yourself with items that give you a sense of serenity and calmness. I’m sure you have interests that could give you some much needed peace during your hectic day. You need to take care of yourself in the midst of taking care of others. There are far too many folks in HR who skip taking care of themselves. This is a simple release and a small respite. Remember, it’s small things that make a difference far more than massive shifts.

Here’s a picture from my office. When things get pressured and hectic, I look to my right and see the blobs of lava serenely moving up and down and I exhale. For me it’s perfection. (The Magic 8 Balls are a bonus too, but that’s a post for a different time.)

This week take a second and reflect to see if you have something in your work space that provides a healthy diversion to recalibrate your day. It’s simple to do. I, of course, would highly recommend getting your own lava lamp. In this way we can change HR, and the workplace, one lava lamp at a time !!

 

HR Like An Artist !!

I don’t consider myself a “typical” male. I have many interests and enjoy all of them. I can talk sports with the best of them, but I don’t limit myself to sports alone. I love engaging in conversations about politics, religion, music, travel, random trivia and art. I LOVE art in all its forms. Just like most, I have certain preferences and not everything called “art” seems very artistic to me. But, that is the beauty of art. People can take it in and then decide what they like or what they detest. It doesn’t make a piece any more or less art. It allows for a wide variety of perspectives, emotions and opinions.

Lately, I have truly enjoyed watching Genius: Picasso on National Geographic. The series is capturing the eclectic life of Pablo Picasso. He chose to live life to its fullest and was quite a bohemian. His passion to paint consumed him, and it drove him to break more and more boundaries of what was considered to be how art should be expressed. There seems to have been many lives left in his wake as well as many relationships that fueled his passion along the way. His ego never was in doubt, but that meant that few people were very close to him. They were drawn to him because of his fire and charisma, but in the end, he put himself and his art before anything else.

Picasso was no different than us. We all have flaws, and some of them may be detrimental. What does make him different than most was that his drive to never settle runs contrary to how most people experience life. Settling gives us the illusion of comfort. What we miss in seeking a level of comfort is that we end up stagnate and immobile.

One of the reoccurring statements in the TV series is that when pressed about “rules,” Picasso defiantly shouts, “I don’t follow rules !!” This stance intrigues me because much of what is considered traditional HR is built upon the existence of a myriad of rules. In fact, and I know this may be an over generalization, I think most HR people feel they thrive in creating and enforcing rules. There seems to be an allure to make sure that all employees “fit” inside neat, confined systems. Personally, it baffles me.

How can limiting people help them? Please note that I support ideas like structure and framework in the workplace, but I feel that rules constrict. Rules are rarely applied consistently even though we say they are. I think our intentions are good, but our practice is inconsistent. It just is.

I believe in breaking rules and always have. In the show, Picasso says he wants to smash the rules artists were following. He wanted to set a new direction and path. Whenever I mention this to others in HR, I see the gleam in people’s eyes. They want to experience new ways and paths, but the pull of stability often dims the spark that is ignited.

How can we move past the spark? How can we be a profession that frees people to perform, express their creativity and allow them to contribute? The quote listed above is the key. Learn the rules that exist. Know the environment and situation you work within. Then . . . “break them like an artist.”

This coming week be willing to act like Picasso. See what is around you, but refuse to settle for the norms. Quit adding to the stagnation. Instead, be creative yourself to see what can be broken and redone in a new and imaginative way. This week become the artist in HR you were meant to be !!

Rest for Work !!

Have you ever been exhausted? Or, is a better question, when aren’t you exhausted? When you meet most people the two answers that are given most when you ask how someone’s day is going is either “busy” or “tired.” Neither option sounds that appealing. Honestly, if those are your only two options for how life is going, it seems rather limiting as well.

When we talk about rest it’s usually in response to whatever pace we run in our daily activities. We yearn for an escape most likely so we can collapse. Whenever you collapse, you’re overdue for anything you can truly consider as getting rested. It’s as if your body takes over and finally shuts you down just to make sure you don’t hurt yourself.

A trend that still gets attention when it comes to wellness and HR circles is the myth of work/life balance. The premise is that we need to “get away” from work in order to embrace and enjoy life. Again, it’s a means of escape from one facet of our lives. There’s no balance per se. It’s an attempt to make everything feel stable so that work doesn’t swallow us. The intention is good, but the reality is not fully attainable.

It’s odd to me that in order to rest, we’re succumbing to a feeling (or a reality) of not being able to carry on. That seems backwards to me. Now, please note that this is how I’ve approached rest for most of my life. I never feel fully rested because it’s as if I’ve run some sort of endless marathon that I’m going to have to rejoin in a matter of hours.

This past week, I heard a different approach that caught my attention that I’d like for you to consider. What if you rested FOR work ??

If you looked at resting yourself to get prepared for instead of escaping from work, how would that change your day? Seriously. If you were rejuvenated and geeked to jump into what was ahead of you versus falling onto your bed or sofa, think of what you could accomplish !! It would transform you and how you approached your work and those you would encounter.

I am planning on changing how I look at, and obtain, rest for myself. I want to be proactive in all that I do. Getting rest for work will take discipline. Most great things that prepare you for life take discipline and are well worth it. Making time for rest is much more appealing because you know that it’s a more regular part of your day. You wouldn’t settle for what you could get. You’d enjoy the rest that you plan to take.

There’s another reason I’m turning this around in my life. I work with humans every moment of every day. Being rested and ready to meet folks on purpose is a much healthier perspective to have. I believe that HR should be proactive as much as possible. Turning the corner on this facet of life would allow me to be at my best regardless of who I encounter.

What about you? Aren’t you tired of being tired? This week change your pattern and start resting for work !! You’ll be glad you did.

 

What’s Your Name ??

Your name.

Everyone has one. The truth is that it is the most significant identifier of who we are as a human. You prefer to have others know your name when they talk to you because it provides a more personal connection. What is unique about names is that we’re very content knowing our own, and that’s about it.

The majority of people I meet willingly share that they struggle remembering the names of others. I find that fascinating and disappointing at the same time. It’s just not true. You know the names of many, many people, but you just don’t recognize it. For instance, you know the names of your immediate family and all of your extended family. Those names may actually extend for generations, and you’re able to recall every one without any effort.

You also know the names of many celebrities that span over decades. You can name the movies or television shows they were in, or the music that they perform. I’m not a celebrity follower, but I know too many of their names myself because they surround us.

So, you know more names than you think. However, the names of the people who pass by you every day are ignored and we “can’t” remember them because we’re “not good with names.”

I think this should change. People were given a name for a reason. To blow this off due to a lack of interest is not a good excuse. I don’t buy it. Why ?? I am good with names. I think that I have the names of thousands of people in my head at one time or another. Some of this may be that I’ve worked at this, but I think it’s also a set of factors that are a bit different than you may consider.

If you’re in HR, then I think it’s imperative that you are good knowing the names of those in your workplace at a minimum. There shouldn’t be an employee that walks through work anonymously. Now, I understand that we all work in company’s of various sizes. It could be very challenging to know every single team member’s name. That doesn’t make it less important, and I have some ways to make it less daunting.

Know that it matters – As mentioned before, our name is our unique identifier. We were given one on purpose. Remember that because remembering the name of other’s will keep you “others” focused which is the best type of HR.

You remember those who impact you or influence you – Remember the celebrity example? You remember those folks with ease because they’ve left some imprint on you. The same is true with your family and friends. So, treat those you work with with the same weight. Be an influence on them and expect them to be an influence on you.

Invest the time to remember names – It’s not as hard as we make it. The truth is that we’ll put our time towards things that matter to us. People should matter !! Knowing someone by their name will establish the foundation of a relationship. It’s key to all areas of your life.

Don’t be afraid to ask – We seem to hit a wall of fear if we forget someone’s name. The truth is that people are very forgiving if you take the time to ask them again. I’d work on it not happening regularly, but people will give grace since they struggle with remembering names as well.

This week start a new trend and approach. Work on remembering the names of others. It will change your perspective on relationships as well as other’s view of you. By the way, my name’s Steve.

Be Good

A few weeks ago I received a nondescript envelope in the mail at work. It was from my dear friend, Brad Galin, who also happens to be in HR. Inside the envelope was a small scrap of paper and a sticker. The note said, “Saw this and thought of you. – Brad” I looked at the sticker and smiled.

A small black circle with a positive message that fit in the palm of my hand stated – Be Good to People.

It’s a simple message. Four words that carry incredible weight and meaning.

It’s interesting that there’s an entire company that produces this message on a variety of products. (You should check them out !! – Be Good To People) Their whole mission is to spread this message in many different ways so that we all have a visible reminder. They want to see kindness be a constant in our lives and our society.

So, you need to ask – Why would we need this reminder? Unfortunately, it’s necessary because the majority of all that we see, consume and share isn’t good. I appreciate people speaking out against wrongs and ills that are happening in our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our cities and our country. It just seems that we’re constantly in some form of battle that pits people against each other. It’s exhausting and disheartening.

It’s also ironic when someone brings up a simple solution such as “be good,” the response is a scoff and skepticism. Now, THIS is something worth challenging. I’m an unapologetic optimist. I believe in humans without having them go through hoops to earn my trust or respect.

I dig that Brad thought of me when he picked up this sticker. I also appreciate that he took the time to reach out and mail it to me. That personal touch is so meaningful and it gives me a framework on how “being good” can work.

Small actions make a huge impact !!

That’s it. Simple. We need to understand that much of human interaction can turn from ugly to positive by small steps that happen on purpose. When you have that first encounter at work or at home tomorrow to start your week, the move is yours. If you are pressed and you feel your face begin to get flushed with your reactive response, breathe and then be good.

The reason this call to action is so difficult is that we need to fight against our inclination to instantly respond and try to solve something. Being good fights against the urge to react and move on. This call asks you to go against the flow of not only what you’re used to doing, but also how others expect you to respond.

What you need to know is that it’s worth the effort. It doesn’t matter what role you hold in your organization. This call isn’t only for HR because we’re the “people” people. Being good is for all people.

This week look for areas where you can take a small step. When you see that opportunity, take it. It will change your day, your week and possibly your life. Remember this – Be good to people.

What You Say . . .

. . . matters.

This may seem like an overly obvious statement. However, I don’t think we believe it because we are extremely careless with our words – especially when it comes to people.

It’s so easy to get frustrated with how others treat you, or the situations you find yourself in. Words that describe your immediate feeling and reaction usually aren’t positive. And, if we’re honest, we feel “better” by taking a shot at someone else – at least for the moment. I think we do it so often that we’ve become desensitized to how we casually describe others. It has become an expected response . . . and that is sad.

Now, trust me, I’m not pointing fingers at others because this is something that I struggle with as well. It’s not something I’m proud of, and it’s actually something I’m trying to turn around.

People don’t deserve to be called names that belittle or degrade. No one. Ironically, most of this happens out of earshot of the person we’re frustrated with which makes it even more underhanded. On top of this, we unfortunately highlight name calling and labeling almost incessantly in our social media forums or in the news. The juicier, or more vicious, the better. The response to when these barbs are thrown about is to take it up a level so it gets more and more harsh. I want you to note something.

Tearing someone down has NEVER improved a situation or a circumstance. Not once.

I mentioned before that I’m working on this. That’s the truth. I don’t mean this as an HR professional. I mean this as someone who’s a husband, a father, a friend, a volunteer and a co-worker. I observe that the ease at which others are torn down is the norm, and I can’t accept that. I understand people can be frustrating. However, what I think gets completely glossed over is that we’re ALL people !! I have to be someone who frustrates others. So, is the same name calling being used towards me when I push someone’s buttons? Of course it is. Even if I don’t hear it directly.

I had a conversation recently with a friend, and we were letting off some steam about a person who wasn’t in the conversation. It wasn’t positive. I’m embarrassed to say that. Afterwards, I decided that this isn’t how I want to behave. It’s an easy excuse to justify venting, but it isn’t how I want to see others treated, or be treated myself.

I believe we can, and should, be encouragers of people. This doesn’t count just for people we like. It’s for everyone because it honestly doesn’t happen enough. I know that when a kind word is given that is has meaning and impact. It matters. Now, it may be the exception in what people hear, but that means that kind words should be used even more regularly !!

We will all still be critical and there is value in that. We should be critical of the behavior we see and experience and not the person. Most people reading this will not agree with this position because it takes effort and grace to not bundle the human in our response.

This week I’m asking you to join me in changing the tide. Take time to encourage people and lift them up. When you’re faced with the urge to lash out, don’t do it. Breathe and then assess what was said. See how to respond positively and then act. It’s not what we’re used to doing in our interactions with others. What’s cool though is that people won’t be expecting a positive response either.

What we say matters. I choose to encourage and I hope you will as well !!

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 !!