Don’t Be an Entertainer !!

If I was able to ask you how you’re doing as a human right now, how would you answer? I’m sure there would be a myriad of responses. Some would be genuine and some would be polite. Some would be in-depth and raw while others would be short and concise. There’s no telling what the answer could be, but it’s a question I think we should be asking on a more regular basis.

You see, I’m concerned. I’m concerned about my peers in HR who are plastering on a smiley face every day just to make it through. There are those who are not faking it and are intensely positive because it’s how they’re wired. I love when you encounter those folks, and I wish there were more people who adopted this approach to life and work. The reality is that people are struggling. There are varying degrees of what people are experiencing, but struggling is becoming far more the norm for everyone in the workplace – especially if you’re in HR.

The reason I feel it’s more prevalent in Human Resources professionals is that many don’t think they are allowed to be “human” themselves. We adopt an arm’s length facade to keep people from knowing who we are. We can show all of the necessary empathy and understanding for others, but rarely is that reciprocated back to HR pros. We’re expected to be the “entertainers” of the organization and it’s exasperating.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m a giant music freak and one of my favorite artists is the legendary Billy Joel. One of my favorite songs came from one of his earliest albums, Streetlife Serenade. It’s called “The Entertainer” and it captures exactly what I see happening in HR. The first verse goes like this . . .

“I am the entertainer
And I know just where I stand
Another serenader
And another long-haired band
Today I am your champion
I may have won your hearts
But I know the game
You’ll forget my name
And I won’t be here in another year
If I don’t stay on the charts, oh”

HR people always feel the pressure to be “on.” Trust me. We feel we need to “stay on the charts” if we’re to have any meaningful impact on the company. It’s true with everyone I know whether they’re a new practitioner just starting or a CHRO. It’s great that we are the “people” people in companies as long as we don’t express our humanity ourselves. This needs to stop. There’s never been a great reason for us to take this posture, and it honestly has distanced us within organizations.

It’s safe and okay to be vulnerable, flawed, quirky, uncertain, and curious. We can drop the guarded wall we put up and allow ourselves to be as emotional as every other person we work with. We can share our life experiences and our ups and downs. We can be frustrated and elated. However, we can’t experience that freedom if we keep holding on to the “entertainer” mantle.

We need to realize that employees today expect to have an HR connection that they can relate to. The days of being the compliance enforcer have evaporated. There continues to be a group of “experts” who pound the drum of processes/policies/procedures that should lead everything we do, but they’re wrong, old-fashioned and irrelevant.

With more and more organizations moving to a people-first approach, HR has to set the standard by being people first themselves. This is the expectation of how the workplace has evolved over the past twenty months. There isn’t going to be a retreat. It’s time to blaze the trail that awaits us. Stop being an entertainer and embrace being a human . . . in HR.

One last nugget. You can’t reference this incredible song without letting you enjoy it as well !! So, here you go.

You Gotta Minute ??

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind because I was able to speak to my HR peers at both the SHRM Annual Conference and the Georgia SHRM State Conference in person and the Pennsylvania SHRM State Conference virtually. It’s been a long time since I’ve had these opportunities and I relish them. Any chance I get to be with others who practice HR, I’m geeked !! Seriously. Very few things fill my bucket as much as this.

I was able to spend more time in person at the SHRM Annual Conference and I was humbled to be able to speak at two Mega sessions. When I walked into the room, my jaw dropped. As I stood on the stage, I couldn’t see the back of the room. I couldn’t believe that I’d have the chance to ever speak in such a vast space. It’s hard to not be anxious wondering if the room will fill or not. I don’t take that for granted because I know that I’m usually one of many great options. So, when people choose to attend I appreciate them more than they probably know.

The room was filled each time with the second session having even more folks than the first. We laughed, learned, and even made it through loud thunderclaps as a torrential thunderstorm came up right when I started to speak. It was a wonderful time !!

After I finish a presentation, the most humbling thing occurs. People are kind enough to come up to chat and share their thoughts about what they heard. They also share their experiences which I always like to hear. Some ask questions and some even want to take a selfie. The biggest thing they are looking for is my time and attention. I never take this for granted and give them as much time as they’d like.

Throughout the week, I made sure to walk through the conference, hang out at the SHRM store, and just hang with the attendees. More than a few times, people came up to me and asked, “You gotta minute?” I always said, “Yes.” I have to admit that these conversations were so meaningful and touching because the folks who stopped me wanted to share what they were facing personally in their current HR role. Most of them were very emotional and there were several tears shed. I’m not ashamed of that. If you know me at all, I’ll cry at any time. I love it when people exhibit their emotions.

You see, I think that the work of HR is hard. It’s hard because we intentionally work with people, and people can be exhausting. That includes us as HR pros too by the way . . . because we’re people too. Too often we don’t have a strong network of peers that we can reach out to, rely on, or dump our bucket with. We try to slog through our circumstances on our own and don’t realize the power of having HR peers you can reach out to.

The peers I spoke with wanted to be heard, listened to and valued. They wanted to be reassured that the work they did mattered – just like everyone in our workplaces. I don’t want you to think this is a “woe is me” type of situation. We’re far too busy doing work that we completely ignore the people. As HR pros, we propagate this and it slowly sucks out our souls.

This needs to change. And, it needs to change now. You see the ONLY thing that every person has to give is time. AND people are worth our time !! The best thing about the conferences I participated in was the interactions I had with the attendees – not that they got to listen to me. I wouldn’t exchange those chats for anything else. Let’s make our profession stronger by intentionally giving each other our time and attention.

If someone asks, “You gotta minute?” – I hope you say, “Yes” as well. You’ll be glad you did !!

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.

Be an Olympian !!

The past two weeks have been captured by the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo. I have made sure to watch coverage when I could and check on the outcomes of events throughout each day. My family has watched the Olympics as far back as I can remember. As I had a family of my own, I made sure the kids were glued to watching both the winter and summer games.

There are so many reasons why I enjoy taking in the competition. I try to take in the lesser-known events too because I just love seeing people doing their best as they strive to reach the medal stand. It takes a bit more effort to do that, but it keeps me grounded. It’s easy to get a bit cynical by the coverage from the States because our lens is so focused on gold medals only and we tend to feature our athletes.

The best feature of the Olympics in my opinion is that it’s an example of how the world can come together for a common cause. Yes, the goal for each athlete is to win, but the reality is that only three individuals/teams in each event actually attain the podium. That leaves several hundred folks who have trained for years, if not a lifetime, to get a chance just to compete at the highest level of their chosen sport.

It’s reassuring to see that the Olympics came through this year and that they’ve weathered challenge after challenge throughout the decades in order to occur. It’s a great example of resilience in the midst of countless efforts to bring them down. Whether it has been controversy, doping, political upheaval, or questionable judging, camaraderie and sportsmanship prevail.

I wish that humanity as a whole, and especially my peers in HR, would realize that we ARE a global community that will exist and pull through the more we come together for a purpose and cause far more than only responding to a crisis. It seems that we are surrounded by dissension, hatred and constant negativity. These factors consume every channel of communication and we get swallowed by it too easily (and unfortunately willingly at times).

What would our daily lives look like if we embraced each other globally? If we took the same approach as Olympians who have the discipline, desire and focus to perform at our highest levels all of the time? What if we understood that even though we are diverse in our backgrounds and our perspectives that those differences would allow us to consider things from all angles instead of from a narrow set of biases?

We keep seeking perfection in ourselves and others instead of understanding that at our best we’re still flawed . . . if we stand alone. The more we come together the gaps one person has will be filled by someone else who has that gap as a strength. It’s time we stop tearing each other down thinking that in some way it will end up building others up.

We all belong together as HR professionals and as humans. Together we can compete and move forward. When we fail each other, and we will, we can pull each other up to get back to the race together. I’m looking forward to connecting more and doing what I can to pull together fellow Olympians to make a team that will do what it can to improve relationships, workplaces and the cultures of organizations worldwide. I hope you’ll join in as well !!

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 !!

HR Shouldn’t Be Puzzling !!

I have a phenomenal family !! I don’t take that for granted. They allow me to be myself and it’s something that we value in each other. Recently, we celebrated Father’s Day and, true to form, my kids got creative. I’m not your typical dad. I’ve always been someone with more eclectic tastes and am more comfortable with non-traditional things. I was tickled that the kids reached out to have a Facetime call and I said about two words after they wished me a happy Father’s Day. They just talked, laughed, poked fun at each other and didn’t even realize I was on the call. It was magnificent !!

They were both kind enough to get me a gift, and my kids get me. They know that I’d be grateful for anything, but that I wouldn’t truly enjoy getting tools, ties or a gift card. My son, Josh, floored me with a giant LEGO kit of an English double-decker bus. My wife and I are huge UK admirers so this was perfect. Hours of activity with an anticipated cool outcome to add to my home and office toy menageries. My daughter Melanie bought something that was not only meaningful but also reflected a hobby we learned to share together – a puzzle. This one was even more special because was an old-fashioned chart of minerals !! You see, I collect rocks and minerals as another side of my fragmented interests.

Newest puzzle in progress . . .

As I opened the puzzle and started constructing it, my mind wandered and I saw so many connections to HR. You see, we make human resources far too puzzling for those we work with. We have our own “language” filled with terms, applications, and acronyms that sound foreign to anyone not working in the field. Too often when people interact with us there’s usually some situation that has escalated too far because that’s how we’ve allowed our profession to become. That saddens me.

We have an opportunity to change how, and when, we interact with people so that it’s more constructive, positive and valuable. We just need to take lessons from puzzles to stop being so puzzling !!

Be Face Up !! – When the puzzle is emptied out on the table, some pieces are face up and others are face down. As HR pros, we are face down more often than we are face up. We get buried in our work, spreadsheets, emails, phones, etc. and we never look up. If we would just take a simple step and pull away from the tasks we think deserve our attention and face those we work with more intentionally, you’d see a new way to set the foundation of practicing HR – face your people !!

Find the Corner Pieces !! – The frame of any puzzle is critical, but if you don’t find the four corners, the frame can’t come together. Recently, our company has chosen to adopt and practice The 4 Agreements from the book by Don Miguel Ruiz. I like these four components especially for practicing HR because they help shape our behavior and the behavior of others. I recommend you check out the full book for the great context behind the agreements. But to get you started, here they are: (1) Be impeccable with your word, (2) Don’t take anything personally, (3) Don’t make assumptions, and (4) Always do your best.

Put Every Piece in its Place !! – The beauty of puzzles is that pieces can only go where they were designed to go. What would our companies look like if we made sure this was true with every employee in their roles? When the pieces are all correctly aligned you see the picture that was there all along. Making sure people are developed and aligned is a much better use of the strengths of HR than just being the fire brigade waiting for the next crisis to arise.

I just finished the frame before I sat down to write this post. I can’t wait to get back to my basement to put the pieces inside and see the minerals start to appear. This week, step back and take the steps needed to pay attention to your people, build your four foundational pieces and get people better aligned. I’m sure you’ll love the way your company transforms and you’ll no longer be puzzling to work with as HR !!

Do Some Pruning !!

Last weekend I had a chance to head back to my hometown to visit with my mom. My wife and I always love traveling to Ada, Ohio because it’s honestly like stepping into a Hallmark movie. A small, midwestern town with a dedicated Main Street. It’s incorporated as a village because it’s not big enough to warrant other titles.

We went up not only to visit but to take in the 4th of July festivities !! My hometown hadn’t had fireworks for over 50 years and we got to experience this coming back. Even better, we watched them with our extended family in my cousin’s backyard. So very cool. We also heard the Lima Symphony Orchestra play an outdoor concert and it was spectacular to hear live music once again.

Those two things would have made the visit complete. However, I always make sure to see if there’s anything I can do for my mom around the house. It’s cathartic to be able to help her out and take care of some chores that she shouldn’t do as much anymore. She’s still very vibrant, active and engaged at 82 years young, but I don’t want her getting up and down ladders or doing more physical things when I can help. After cleaning the gutters, I went to the bigger task of the day – pruning.

My parents have always had great landscaping and curb appeal around their ranch-style house. So, we weren’t trying to work our way through a jungle of various plants. We were going to shape and prune some things to give them more definition and get them off the house and the siding. Also, cutting plants back allowed the sun and rain to reach smaller plants that surrounded the ones getting attention.

As I went to work with some electric shears on the first shrubbery, I noticed some overgrowth at the base of the plant that was honestly taking away nutrients from the main core of the bush. That needed to be pruned by hand. This is much slower, concentrated and meticulous. I had to crawl on the ground and reach up into the middle of various branches which poked and prodded every movement. After several well-placed cuts, the bush looked less frazzled and frayed. You could see the base of the beautiful shrub and it now was a focal point of the front corner of the house.

I continued working my way around the house with the hand pruners at the ready to give each plant some love and attention. It was wonderful to have some quiet time to myself and concentrate. As I was clipping and trimming, I began to see how the work I was doing was essential for the plant to thrive. Of course, it made me think of how this same action could be utilized in the workplace.

Pruning isn’t natural at work. We are far more focused on innovation, creativity and production. All movements are geared toward making more and more and more. It’s how we measure performance and how we reward and compensate people. We don’t feel we have time to ever step back and pause. It isn’t true, but we tell ourselves it is. With this incessant pace to always press ahead, work becomes misshapen, fragmented and unruly. We can’t keep up with all of the separate areas of growth. We need to be pruned!!

All of the benefits that I gave to my mom’s plants are true with work and people. If we cut back on some activities, then people can grow from their core and their strengths. If we untangle the things that pull at our base and foundation, then our people can stand firm and assured in what they do. Also, if we pull things back in line, we may see other people who have been overshadowed and need some light and nourishment themselves.

As HR pros, we would benefit our organization if we were those who recognized and made sure pruning happens. I’m not talking about reducing the size of your workforce. I’m talking about being the gardeners who see when things need more attention, care and some clipping. Doing this helps those that lead people to see the need for ALWAYS being mindful of their people.

This week get the pruners out and move around the office to see where your handiwork may reshape people in order for them to blossom, thrive and grow with purpose !!

17 Years !!

I live in the great State of Ohio are we are in the midst of a generational event. Brood X has emerged from their slumber to take over every outdoor space imaginable. What’s Brood X? It’s a giant number of cicadas. You can’t really picture how many there are without experiencing it. What makes this a different situation than most years is that broods only come to life after 17 years in the ground !! 17 years !!

Once they start arriving and burrowing out of the ground, they typically crawl up whatever’s closest to them to latch on. Our trees are covered with them because they live around tree roots while they are in the ground of their 17-year trek. They start as an exoskeleton that is much harder than their final appearance. The insect cracks open the exoskeleton and comes out fully formed with wings and an adult body. It’s an amazing transformation.

After they are fully formed, they go on to the next phase of their very short lives above ground. They make an incredibly loud sound to attract other cicadas. They find partners, mate, lay eggs on tree branches and then die. The eggs mature and turn into small larvae that drop to the ground. They burrow down and down and down to start the 17-year cycle over again.

Just a few of my “friends” on one of our fence posts.

When you see this many cicadas, you get the willies. It’s like being surrounded by countless aliens that chirp, fly, crawl and . . . creep you out. They don’t bite you or sting. They’re like big insect puppies who don’t really notice you at all. They’re extremely focused because the future existence of their species counts on them finding others and mating.

This is the third brood I’ve experienced in person. I’m 57 now and Brood IX was around when I was 40. My kids were 10 and 6 respectively and they still have memories of us camping surrounded by cicadas that crawled all over our tent as we slept. The ground pulsated, literally, with the mass of bugs around us. One of my favorite pictures of them is the two of them plus two of my friend’s kids who have a line of cicadas covering each of their forearms !! Brood VIII was present when I was 23 and new to Cincinnati. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw.

Think about it. How much has your life changed in 17 years? Chances are you can’t remember a tenth of what has happened. Since I’ve now experienced three broods, thirty-four years have passed. It’s staggering when you think about it !!

I’ll be honest, I kind of dig the cicadas being around. I think they have some lessons for us to learn. Here’s what I notice:

Live with Purpose – Cicadas go through very slow phases of life for almost two decades without any interaction with others. So, when they get their chance, it’s on !! I don’t mean to be lewd. They know instinctively that their time above ground is short so they don’t waste a moment. Everything they do has purpose. Everything.

We don’t do this. In fact, we spend far too much of our time “above ground” consumed with what’s wrong in our lives, the world, our families and our careers. There are moments when we feel in a groove that has purpose, but they are more mountaintop experiences than a full lifetime. Wouldn’t life be more full if we were intentional and existed with purpose?

Live with Passion – Again, no inappropriate intent with this. We aren’t passionate. We mull through life with all of its challenges and they consume us. I’m not making light of this. Everyone has challenges that may range from something life-threatening to difficult relationships. It can be daunting and crippling.

So, what if you turned this around as well. What would life look like if you threw yourself into it every day? This doesn’t deflect the challenges ahead, but it does change your energy and outlook. Passionate people are usually positive people. They see the obstacles in front of them as something to address and work through. The challenge may win in the end, but the light they shine constantly is attractive and engaging.

Live for Others – Life is too short to do it on your own. The cicadas know this. They don’t throw up a bunch of limitations about how people are different and how will they look at me. They don’t have voices in their heads that accentuate weaknesses and they aren’t comparative. They look at others and instantly connect with them.

What would life look like if we all were more comfortable connecting with others? I can tell you from experience that each day is more full knowing you have people in your corner who are encouraging, supportive and available. There is no need for isolation. We have to be more committed to making connections. It will enrich your life in ways you can’t imagine !!

I’m not sure what the next 17 years will look like and I’m not concerned or worried. I’ll be 74 when my friends come back as the next brood. Most likely I’ll be in the next phase of my life if I’m fortunate to make it. (I’m confident I will). I choose to live life with purpose, passion and with others. I hope you learn from the lessons as well and do the same.

Be a Culture Maker !!

Do you remember when you were a little kid? If not, do you know little kids? I’m sure you do. Little kids are brilliant because they love everything around them. The world is a place to be explored, and they are filled with endless curiosity. They also have few, if any, lenses to help them define their world. However they process it, they’re comfortable with their assessment.

You see this when you ask them to draw or color something. If you give a child a blank piece of paper and some markers, crayons or paint, you never know what the final outcome will be !! After they passionately create their image, they eagerly hold it up to you for your approval. Your first instinct is to ask them what the picture is and they proudly declare, “It’s a pony !!” when it is a mish-mash of squiggly lines with no form, “proper” color usage or assignment. As their parent, you swallow the instant challenge to your logic because they’re your child and you affirm them. “That’s the best pony I’ve ever seen.” Then, you grab a magnet and place it on the refrigerator for everyone to see. You don’t hide their creation. You proudly display it . . . as you should.

Recently, my wife was cleaning out some boxes in a closet and she came upon some of those wildly imaginative creations our two kids (now in their 20’s) made when they were young. She snapped pictures of them and sent them out to everyone to ask who these brilliant artists were. The same exultation and joy they showed when they made these “pictures” decades ago came through their replies. They argued which one was the most creative and a friendly competition ensued. It was magnificent !!

Of course, seeing this interaction and freedom in creation reminded me of HR. However, my reflection wasn’t as joyful.

You see, we don’t allow the same creativity in our organizations as we do with young kids. Why is that? What are we afraid of? Would it be so awful if someone came up with an idea that fell outside the normal pattern of work? Do we think that someone will come up with something that will send the company in a tailspin if we allowed them unencumbered freedom?

It’s interesting, isn’t it? As HR professionals, we are the shepherds of a company’s culture. I actually contend we own the culture far more than senior management, but that is seen as a “coloring outside the lines” by many in our profession. We are much more content to take our place inside a corporate structure and act as culture constrainers vs. culture makers.

Don’t believe me? My wife was just given a policy at her work that ALL masks worn (due to the current pandemic) may be solid colors ONLY !!!!!!! Any pattern and/or writing is not allowed and you will be addressed if you dare cross this. So, is the emphasis to wear a mask to provide protection for yourself and others to promote a safe work environment? Or, is this yet another example of something that could have been addressed with a few conversations with the employees who were wearing masks that were acting as advertisements for something that went against the companies values or mission?

(Quick side note: This isn’t an argument about face coverings. It’s an example of how HR misses the boat on their actions in the context of the culture they have a chance to create. Back to the post . . .)

We should be culture makers !! We have the ability to give people permission to do their work in a variety of ways that don’t have to be prescriptive. I understand there may be methods and processes which are proven and work well. But, if no one ever steps back to evaluate, test and challenge those processes we end up with a group of people who go through the motions. Then we praise predictability, repetitiveness and normality. These, in turn, become the metrics for performance and the chance for innovation is impeded and discouraged.

This starts with us as HR practitioners. We have to get out of our rut and practice of confining people. It’s time to open the gates and allow people to have input, insight and ideas about how their job should be done. We should evaluate our processes and procedures to see if they give people the ability to fully engage and do their job, or if they’re just a set of do’s/don’ts. (They’re mainly don’ts by the way.)

I challenge you to start coloring like you did when you were a kid. Don’t worry if you stay in the lines or if the color you use is the “right” one. When someone asks you what you just created, say, “It’s a pony !!” even if they don’t see it. Trust me. The more willing you are to be creative and unconventional in HR, the brighter culture you will help create.

So, I’ll get the blank piece of paper and a bunch of crayons and markers. Let’s see what cultures we can make !!