A Window into HR !!

This past week you may have heard me laughing so loud from the great thing that happened at our offices. Seriously. I couldn’t control myself and it was fantastic.

You see, working for a restaurant company, our Team Members have been present and essential throughout the entire pandemic. We took every safety precaution we could and they pulled through in a magnificent way. We honestly wouldn’t be where we are today without them. (That’s not a new reality by the way. Our team members are the reason we succeed all the time.)

Our corporate office went through the cycle of fully remote, partially remote, hybrid and then in person. We have always had a flexible approach to work so we don’t have a policy. Instead, we have an expectation – Wherever you are, do your work. As things have changed over time and vaccinations have been available, we’ve seen more people choose to be back in person.

An adjoining department to HR is our operations, communications, and training group. Two of my co-workers had put up a plexiglass barrier to make sure they were safe in the office during all that had been going on. With things getting back to “normal”, I stopped by to visit (as I do every day) and made a quick side comment that it was okay to move the barrier if they wanted to. This week they moved it and put it up on top of a file cabinet. It took me by surprise and I commented how I loved where they put it.

Without blinking an eye or missing a beat, they stated, “It’s our window into HR.” I thought that was spectacular and told them how much I loved it. I happened to step out for a late lunch and got a text from them asking if I was coming back. If I was, could I come back and visit again. I was intrigued and hurried back.

When I turned the corner into their department, I lost it and the laughter ensued. Here’s the evidence . . .

They decorated the window into HR and I was touched. It was so personal and showed that we had a great relationship. I’m grateful for that. My team and their team work together often and it’s a joy to work with them. I asked them to keep it up and they reassured me they would.

Their fun office addition did make me think. Do people in your company have a window into HR? When I hear stories from employees I would question whether most truly do. I don’t think that should be the case.

We should have learned over this past 15+ months that everything at work is people-related. It always has been, but now people have acknowledged this truth. I have a feeling that most people’s “window” into our world is when an issue arises. Unfortunately, that may be the only time they interact with us. We should stop complaining that this is how we’re viewed and change what they see and experience.

I would love the window into HR to become where people look forward to interacting with us and that we intentionally reach out to everyone on a regular basis. We have the ability to foster and build our company’s cultures, elevate the performance of people and be the connector to pull together departments and levels of the organization so there is more cohesiveness. I don’t think this is out of reach or Utopian. I think it’s a choice.

This week get some cleaner out and see what your window looks like. Make sure that people not only have a view into who you are and what you do, but that they get to know you and work with you on purpose. Let people in. Remove the blinds and include them in the great work you do in making your company a people-first environment !!

Being a Dad

It’s Father’s Day once again. This can bring up a variety of memories for people. I know that not everyone has had a great relationship with their father. I’m fortunate because the experience with my fathers has been great for different reasons and for different periods of time. In the past, I’ve written about my biological dad who passed away when I was only four years old. I’ve also been able to capture the amazing time I had with my “stepdad” who was around for the majority of my life who passed away at the end of 2020. This year I wanted to share my reflections about being a dad.

I’ve been a dad for over 27 years now. My wife and I have two wonderful kids who are now adults – Melanie and Josh. I don’t take it for granted that we fit into the stereotypical nuclear family model. We have had far more ups than downs. Please understand that doesn’t mean we haven’t had our struggles, arguments, and disagreements over the years. It’s intriguing to me that when people share experiences that are positive, it’s met with skepticism and critique. There’s this insinuation that there must be something else that just isn’t being shared. Sorry to disappoint.

I love being a dad. It is probably the “work” that I value more than any other personal accomplishment I’ve been able to have. You see, I want my kids to know that they are loved just as they are and through whatever they face. I want to be the dad who laughs with them and holds them when things get emotional. I want to listen so that they are heard, and offer solutions only if they ask for options. It gives me great joy to celebrate with them when they have new life experiences. And, it touches me deeply when they contact me for advice.

You see, the most important thing I get to do is to be a model for them. They’ve seen when I’ve been loving and affectionate with my wife and with them. They’ve also witnessed when I’ve failed them and others. At times they’ve heard me yell at something I thought mattered SOOOOOO much when it usually didn’t. I’ve always strived to be genuine, vulnerable, and transparent with them. I cherish when they make fun of me when I tear up at a TV commercial. They eagerly wait to pounce on the first senseless tear and howl with glee when it happens (which is often.)

I love seeing them grow up to learn about life. I want to jump in and take care of everything, but know that I need to step back so they learn from life just like my dad did for me. I make sure to check in on them often to hear what’s happening in their corner of the world while also sharing what’s happening in mine. I share my faith, my successes, and my frustrations. We jostle over politics, social issues, and musical tastes.

They have always known that I’m the dad who was willing to jump in, be goofy, and make sure their friends always felt our house was a second home for them. I continue to strive to be the dad who encourages and takes interest in the people in their lives. I want to be the dad who can’t wait to see the next Marvel movie or ride the scary amusement park ride with them.

I know that this may sound sappy and sentimental (and I’m cool with that in so many ways.) I wouldn’t trade a second of the time I’ve been a dad. Not one. I look forward to growing old and staying an intricate part of their lives whatever comes. I don’t have a set of goals for them to meet or unreal expectations to measure whether they’ve “made it” or not.

It’s just a privilege to be a dad. I love it !!

No Comparison !!

I remember moving to Ada, Ohio in 1976. It was the bicentennial in America and everything was adorned in red, white and blue the entire year. I was going into the 7th grade which is just an awful transition year no matter what you do. On top of this, I had a new stepfather (who turned out to be an amazing human), moved into a new house, a new town . . . and a new school.

I don’t know if you remember what it was like in 7th grade, but EVERYTHING was awkward and you felt that every action you took was watched, judged and commented on. The school in Ada, Ohio was small. Note – I said “school” – singular. The entire school system of Kindergarten through 12th grade was in one building. Every school-age child in the town and the ones from the country homes around the village made the trek to the same building each day.

Most of the kids in my class had already been classmates and friends for seven years before I even arrived. Did I mention that I was very tall and geeky? That helped as well. On my first day, I actually got lost in one of the three hallways in the school. A teacher was kind enough to help me get started, but I was soon labeled as the tall, geeky new kid who was crying in the hallway.

The transition to meet new people, make friends and learn the social ropes of my new environment was bumpy. I was extroverted even then, but that didn’t make it easy. I didn’t know the established social norms or groups. I just wanted to be accepted and fit it. I didn’t want to be left out. It took the better part of the first half of the year to make my way through this jungle of social pressure. I had to join clubs, teams and slowly meet others who turned out to be fantastic people.

The pressure of comparison was immense. You never knew how to navigate through the minefield of what to wear, what to say, who to hang out with and what to join. There were tons of days of missteps filled with those who were mean, superficial and those who reveled in misdirecting me.

That was when I was 13. Not much has changed in humanity. We are so comparative and judgemental as a society that it’s no wonder people struggle. This is true at work, in our communities and on social media. We’re more concerned about how others view us because that desire to be connected and “fit in” is so powerful. We still are so critical about where people live, what job/profession they hold, and what they post/say on forums.

We have forsaken the art of conversation and discussion in the pursuit of likes, follows, and retweets. We live out part of our lives in a quasi-public way without seeing if the images we see truly encapsulate who people are completely. Add on top of that how many times people still enter a “new” environment like a job, a neighborhood, a church, a civic group, etc. We live in a sea of comparison and it’s exhausting.

Let’s look back to that time in 7th grade . . .

I didn’t enjoy trying to figure this out on my own and took note of how hard it was to be new. I made sure that whenever any other kids were new I did my best to help them get settled and connected. I didn’t want them to go through what I did. It was foundational to how I have tried to interact with people ever since.

I would much rather get to know you for who YOU are. I would like to know all of the intricacies of what makes you unique. The more I know, and that you’re willing to share, helps me think of ways to connect you with other great folks. I intentionally try to not be comparative. I don’t want to have my joy stolen.

How would you approach work, social media and interpersonal interactions if you enjoyed what you heard and learned? How would new hires feel if you went past the motions of onboarding and took more time to make sure people were anchored? What would our neighborhoods and communities look like if we were consistently checking in on each other just because?

I know life would be better for most. This week compare less and connect more.

The Days of Malaise

It feels like we’ve been in a fog for over a year now, doesn’t it? Even though things are easing up in regards to regulations in the US, other areas of the world are still facing lockdown, restrictions and uncertainty. I hope we are moving forward and there are signs we are. What’s intriguing to me is that instead of trying to walk out of the pandemic, we’re trying to set limits and new organizational constraints. We’re willingly falling back into old patterns and I think there’s a contributing factor.

We’re stuck.

The endless barrage of virtual meetings. The ongoing argument of the new way work is being done pitting remote vs. in-person vs. hybrid environments. The misconstrued lens of communication coming primarily from a white-collar perspective while overlooking any blue-collar reality. The underlying divisiveness of people demanding one-sidedness to their viewpoint without considering other’s perspectives. Should I go on?

These factors of our new reality don’t take into account actual work. The efforts and contributions of the great people who have been diligently keeping companies afloat. We succumb and argue about the noise while overlooking our people. It keeps us . . . stuck.

I’ve been talking to many of my peers around the world and they feel overwhelmed, dulled, and disheartened. They want to do great work and be filled with passion once again, but they aren’t sure what to do. They’re not looking to leave their company or the field of HR. They just want this feeling of malaise to dissipate. I understand this and empathize.

I’m not writing about burnout. If you find yourself burnt out, then you need to take more drastic steps and you should probably change roles, companies or make a career shift. What I hear, and have felt myself at times, is the yearning to break free and enjoy not only what I do, but help those around me to get unstuck themselves.

This past weekend my wife and I took a road trip to see a nearby town just to do it. This is something we do when we feel stuck ourselves. A small day trip to explore always excites us. It seems simple, and it is. You see, making a small shift is far more within our reach than making some massive shift. Exploring the small town was phenomenal !! The main street through town was fascinating because almost every home was from the 1830s and had some amazing historical significance because they were a key conduit for the Underground Railroad. Few of the homes were residences anymore. Many had been transformed into small retail shops which were wonderful to meander through.

One of the shops had a piece that caught my eye and gave me the spark I was looking to find. It had a simple message. It was spot on.

What a wonderful piece of encouragement with a straightforward sentiment. We aren’t mediocre. We shouldn’t remain set in place. We have to fight the pull of malaise. That can happen by first believing in ourselves.

I’ve long been a proponent of modeling the behavior I want to see in others. This isn’t some hollow catchphrase. It’s something I practice because behavior can’t just be talked about, it has to be visible and shown.

When we feel that “mediocre” is our reality or we allow it to be our standard, we’re going to experience mediocrity for sure. Trust me, if you feel that mediocre is all that is needed, then you’ll never escape malaise.

It’s time for us to breathe, step back and defeat the current environment we are experiencing professionally. It’s time to light the fire of bringing life to the work, and world, of HR. As much as we’ve led throughout this global pandemic, it’s now time to lead and guide our companies out of the fog. Let’s be creative once again. Let’s continue to be intentional. There are far too many ideas and methods to rekindle yourself and I don’t want to be prescriptive or presumptuous. You know what you need to do for yourself. Whatever steps you choose, remember this . . .

Don’t be mediocre. Don’t remain stuck. Be passionate and let’s move forward !!

A Better Way

This past weekend my wife and I traveled to see our daughter and help her through a monumental life event. She is preparing to buy her first car on her own. I don’t know about you, but fewer things bring me dread than the car buying process. She had done her research, knew the types of cars she wanted to test drive, and the locations of the dealerships near her. She had her personal information all accounted for and was prepared to make a purchase if everything fell into place. We planned to all pile into her tiny car she had been driving for 11 years so we had it available as a trade-in. Everything was ready and we were confident that nothing could dismantle our day.

Then we left her apartment.

The first dealership we went to was the brand our family traditionally had purchased. We love the brand and this was sure to be the leader. The people who met us were friendly and welcoming. They passed the first test by making sure they worked directly with my daughter and not me as the Dad. It was odd that we weren’t allowed to test drive on our own and we had to stay in the parking lot with one model and were allowed to go one city block with the other. We were a bit perplexed by that but were still positive. That didn’t last long. We got the obligatory question, “Is there anything you didn’t like?” My daughter said no but expressed that this was the first dealership we had visited and we wanted to see other cars.

The salesperson left to get another salesperson and then offered to evaluate our possible trade-in and give us some comparative data sheets to see why their car couldn’t be beaten. We had been there an hour by this time. The rest of the debacle took another 1 1/2 hours with various moves and distractions trying to get us financed, explore lease options, and hollow promise after hollow promise. My wife and I stepped in after staying on the sidelines to ask for our daughter’s key so we could leave. There was more stalling and then the dealership manager came out to fake plead with us about our poor decision to not make an instant (multi-thousand dollar) purchase.

My daughter was almost in tears and felt sick to her stomach when we finally extricated ourselves from the dealership. She didn’t even want to continue. We did. The second experience was incredible and positive !! The salesperson took time to show every facet of the car and asked what my daughter wanted. She was exhausted and said she didn’t really know. He was patient, thorough and treated her like an adult. The time we spent at the dealership from start to finish was less than an hour and he was in the mix with a brand she wasn’t planning on fully considering.

Let’s just say the third salesperson should find another job. He was apathetic and relied on us to read the tags on the cars to learn about the options available. He did let us drive on our own, but didn’t really care we weren’t interested. The fourth dealership has a salesperson who passed by us and shouted he’d get us keys if we saw a car we like and then proceeded to turn to his “bros” and shout some inane greeting which was far more important than a potential sale.

The day that had started so promising had fallen apart. We convinced our daughter to trust us and try a different dealership from our favorite brand even though it would require us to drive to the other side of the city. We looked things up to see if the model she wanted was even available and it didn’t look like it was. We went anyway, and we’re glad we did !!

At this dealership, salespeople didn’t rush like they were desperate for their commission. The person at the front desk asked us to take a seat and she’d make sure someone helped us. It was systematic, measured and intentional. After a few minutes, we met Chris. He invited us to his desk and spoke solely with our daughter. He was helpful, engaged and patient. He looked to see if the model she wanted was available and one had literally been unloaded into the lot minutes before we arrived. Even though all of the systems weren’t yet activated, he slowly explained everything, answered every question and let us take the car out on our own.

Oh, and we had arrived at the time the dealership was closing for the day. Chris didn’t care. He waited for us to return and then took more time to answer Melanie’s questions and gave her every piece of information she asked for. He didn’t ask for the sale. He just let her know he was available and would welcome any further questions whenever she had them. Then, we left. No car purchased, and he was completely at ease.

Guess who my daughter is going to work with ??

The reason for this story is that I see the same continuum of approaches from vendors and salespeople daily. The focus is primarily on the product or service they offer. Rarely, if ever, does someone ask anything about what I am/am not looking for. Linked In has become more and more a system for cold calling and pressure to accept invitations so people can make their sales pitch. If someone gets your email address, the approach is a mix of shaming, degrading and wondering if they’ve found the “right” person. And, if they hadn’t, would we please forward them on?

Sadly, I don’t feel this is how the best salespeople in our space do business. Fortunately, I am connected to more of them than the ones who keep trying to hammer me with approaches I just don’t see working. They are more like Chris and I believe they are more effective when it comes to selling to HR.

I know that HR owns part of this broken relationship as well with vendors. We don’t return calls, won’t make time to meet people and ostracize people who could be a real resource. We need to be more open as well.

We need to change because we are both important to each other in what we do. I’d love to see us take the steps to do this. Let’s quit the traditional/old school approaches and have some faith in each other. Let’s make better connections with the knowledge that sales will happen when they should and with whom they should. It’s needed now for our industry. Let’s do this a better way !!

Respond Instead

If I asked you how your day was going, how would you answer? I’m 99.9% sure you’d easily say “Good” or “Fine” because it’s polite and expected. The person being asked is hoping with all that’s in them that these one-word retorts will placate the inquisitor enough that they’ll move on. We say these responses because it is the norm of a shallow acknowledgment as humans. We may care how the other person is when we greet them, but chances are we care “ish.”

You see, far more daunting and important battles lay ahead of us. We are sure of it because why else would we venture to work if it wasn’t to slay the dragons that no one else is capable of handling? We tell ourselves we are indispensable due to a mix of self-assuredness and a need to feel valued as a contributor. So, now that the obligatory greetings of our co-workers are complete we can get to the day ahead which is sure to be far more fulfilling. As we open our “to do” list, the inevitable happens . . . something arises that catches us completely off guard. We didn’t want to be interrupted and we can feel our faces start to get hot because we want to stick to the list that we had so carefully crafted sometime before.

Then it happens. The instant it occurs we grasp the air trying to get the words that just spouted out back inside because the tone they carried was sure to sting. We snap. We react. We’re bothered that our idea of a perfect, lined out, step-by-step existence was thwarted because someone had the audacity to break the pattern !! Our reaction is swift, emotional and contrite. We blurt it out because, again, we want to return to what is more important to US. Don’t they understand that by asking for our input they’ve created an imbalance? Don’t they understand that this is so unsettling that I won’t be able to get back into my rhythm?

The answer is – No, they don’t. Nor, do they really care. They’re coming to you for a valid reason . . . they feel you are the one who can help them get things done too !!

I know it’s radical, but we weren’t meant to be isolationists in this world. That is especially true in the workplace. I also don’t think it’s feasible for you to constantly be surrounded by people all day because it would be exhausting and ineffective. (This is coming from one of the biggest self-avowed extroverts you’ll ever meet.)

Since we’re meant to interact, we would be better off by seeking a balance of being prepared and structured while allowing for interruptions and interactions weaved throughout our days. The way to find, and keep, this balance is to choose to respond vs. react. Doing this requires us to resist the environment we all currently find ourselves in.

In today’s rapid mad dash, reactions have become the norm. People expect you to snap back an answer on the fly and without context. We have bought into the myth that if answers aren’t given instantaneously, then they don’t have merit. The pace of social media, snippets, and partial scenarios drives this expectation. Then, if you do react, a multitude of similar reactions come flying back requiring us to react once again – or so we think. We have to break this incessant volley.

You have time. You have time in almost every, single situation of your regular day. I understand that some things may have more urgency, but even in those rushed circumstances you have time to breathe, pause, contemplate, consider, gather context . . . and then respond. You really do.

If we keep in mind that all humans are one giant ball of emotions, reacting is our natural tendency. We can’t help ourselves. That’s why responding takes practice and discipline. You need to take my word for it that this disciplined approach is far more effective and sustainable than being reactionary. Also, it’s not an either/or type of approach. Life never has fallen into two distinct camps where you can pull an answer from a set playbook with certainty to ensure the outcome you’re seeking. This is because people are involved and we just muck it up . . . because we’re human.

This week try to respond more and react less. It will take time and you won’t do it well every time. If you choose to follow this more constructive approach you will see better interactions, more collaboration, in-depth and contextual discussions and you’ll start developing relationships. Also, you’ll make more well-rounded decisions when that interruption hits you.

From now on . . . respond instead.

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 . . .

I Will Follow

I don’t know if you knew this, but I am a gigantic fan of the band U2 !! I am pretty sure I have their entire catalog of music including some pretty rare bootlegs. I am even fortunate to have a signed copy of their classic album The Joshua Tree hanging in my office at work. They launched as a group during my mid-teens and I couldn’t get enough of them (still can’t). I’d honestly love to meet them in person just to chat and share a pint. It’s on my bucket list. So, if anyone reading this can hook me up . . .

This weekend I was listening to U2-X Radio on Sirius XM when I was reminded of a significant anniversary the band was celebrating. Their first album, Boy, was released 40 years ago !! It’s hard to grasp that so much time has passed. It still stands as an incredible first release. The band members were just entering their 20’s and I was 16. I couldn’t believe that these guys were my peers (in age). The first single from the album was the first track – “I Will Follow.”

When it comes to following, we’re hesitant. We’re taught to lead and/or be independent at all costs. Following is perceived as weak when it comes to organizations or social media. In a time when society values self-promotion almost more than any other facet, it’s easy to see why people stand alone. Put on top of this that following is difficult because we tend to distrust others. That may sound harsh, but there seems to be some invisible gauntlet people need to pass through before they are accepted by others. Some caution may be warranted and no one should put themselves in harm’s way. However, when we assume the worst in someone before interacting with them, we’ll get what we expect.

Another factor that causes us to pause is that we tend to give our attention to those who are more visible and vocal. We tell ourselves we can’t be “like them”, so we hesitate in connecting. Countless lists that promote a select few folks doesn’t help with this comparative lens either. It’s humbling to be recognized for your contribution, but not at the expense of keeping others from participating.

When Twitter first started years ago, an activity called “Follow Friday,” which is denoted by the hashtag #FF, was very popular. It got people to connect, and since the platform was new, people regularly sent out tweets with recommendations of others to connect with. It was fun and gave the forum energy. It also opened your eyes to others in your profession that you most likely would not meet in person. It expanded your network, your reach, and your perspective.

As with most things, time erodes our interest. Those that were active when Twitter launched are less active now. Not all, but many. I was bummed about that because I’ve been active on Twitter for 12+ years now. I continue to find new folks in HR around the globe. I learn new things, hear new voices and see a desire for a profession that wants to collaborate and come together to improve the workplace for employees.

I haven’t given up on #FF and still send out a barrage of tweets every few weeks to keep the HR community connected, vibrant, and interested. The point of this effort is not so people focus on me or a select few. In fact, I type out each tweet every time and don’t program or automate them. Each of these accounts is a person, a peer, and someone I am grateful to be connected to. The recommendations include those who have different outlooks and opinions because I feel it’s important to surround yourself with diverse thoughts, cultures, and backgrounds. A dear friend of mine, Perry Timms, recently wrote about “fellowship not followership” which encourages folks to join together as a fellowship that isn’t focused on a single person or a few people. I dig this very much and am fully into seeing this happen in HR and business across the planet.

I’d encourage all of us to look at connecting. I know it’s a common theme you hear from me, but I believe in continuing to push forward. There are so many amazing people in our field !! Each time I do a #FF I get tweets back from people who are talented, passionate and eager to follow each other as well. I still get geeked to see a new professional join social media, a new podcast which elevates thought and causes us to stretch, or a new blog that gives a platform for someone to share their thoughts and ideas. I hope you connect. I hope you follow. I hope you build fellowship.

And, of course, I need to celebrate that anniversary I mentioned earlier !!

The Fellowship

I am an avowed nerd and proud of it !! I have been nerdy since I can remember. It never really bothered me because I was also able to fit in with the jocks, the band and choir groups, and many academic factions. I’ve felt comfortable being involved and connected with whatever group of people I’ve been around. This is challenging for others because we would rather have people stay in their “assigned” group. I hope that I’m never that narrow because there are far too many amazing humans on this planet to get to know and affiliate with.

When I hit 7th grade, I was tall, gangly and looked like a giraffe that didn’t quite fit in its body. Clumsy was more of the norm than having graceful moves physically or socially. I was trying to figure out the mystery of being a teenager in a new town and a new school. I had to make new friends out of thin air. The overwhelming majority of my classmates had been going to school together since they were in Kindergarten. I was completely out of my element.

One day I found myself in the stacks of the school library and I found the book The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein. I had found my place !! The book took me to an entirely new world where I could lose myself. It gave me something to latch onto with all of the changes going on in my “new world.” I learned that this great book was the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and as soon as I could open the first book, I did. It was time for The Fellowship of the Ring.

If you don’t know this book or haven’t seen the incredible Lord of the Rings movie, stop reading this post and go see them. I own them all and have read the trilogy several times as well as watched each movie over and over and . . .

The Fellowship was amazing because it brought characters together who were very diverse and not cohesive at first. They had several agendas and dislike for those who weren’t from their kingdom. Over time, as their adventure continued, they realized that each member of the group had talent and skills which were needed at various times of their quest. They were trying to get the ring to a very dark and evil place to destroy it so that evil would not be able to take over their world.

When I think of how this unlikely combination came together, I thought of HR. (Again, remember I’m a nerd and see HR in most aspects of life). I see so many amazing movements happening around the globe right now. I also am encouraged by more and more HR voices who are sharing on social media platforms. Top that off with podcasts that feature HR practitioners who express new thoughts and perspectives.

Unfortunately, there are also still those who feel they have to justify their work in HR personally and in their organizations. And, there are still those who write blogs, have podcasts and make presentations which diminish the profession in order for others to focus on them for personal gain. It’s frustrating to see that we continue to seem as if we exist outside the recognized business world.

So, I think it’s time for us to form a Fellowship of HR !! Seriously, it would be phenomenal to see the entire profession come together to move forward. The infighting and divisiveness would cease and we would lift other professionals up so they could succeed personally and professionally. Wouldn’t it be amazing to elevate the many voices and perspectives from around the world so that organizations became intentionally people-first all the time?

I think we can if we follow the example from the book on how the group came together. The most unlikely character, Frodo who was a Hobbit, stepped forward to say he would take the ring to have it destroyed in the midst of all of the other characters from various kingdoms argued as to who should lead or be in charge. The fellowship rallied around someone who had no visible strengths, stature, or personality. However, he showed a willingness to take a risk and humility that others overlooked or lacked.

The time to come together as a profession is now. The time to move the industry forward as a cohesive, diverse, and inclusive community is now. There are elements springing up everywhere that together form a fabric that is creative, authentic, and relevant. Let’s embrace all and give everyone access to join this fellowship. No one leader. No one effort. Instead, a fellowship that shares a common bond to improve the humanity of the workplace, and in turn, a more well-rounded society as a whole.

This isn’t aspirational. It’s needed. The quest is at hand. Will you join in the fellowship? It would be great to move ahead with each one of you !!