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 !!

Live Again !!

As I went slowly down the escalator, my heart began to race. A table came into view with rows of attendee badges perfectly lined up in alphabetical order. There was a section for attendees, vendors and speakers. I quietly walked by as my face was plastered with the largest smile I could muster even though the volunteers couldn’t see it behind my mask. I didn’t care because I was filled with joy !!

I probably didn’t look like I belonged in the conference center because I was in a t-shirt, shorts and a baseball cap. I kept walking around and waved when I made eye contact with folks. I peeked in the vendor hall and then made my way to the ballroom. I opened the doors and stepped inside. I saw rows and rows of round tables with empty chairs placed around them. I looked to the front of the room and saw the stage that was well lit with spotlights. A podium was in the middle and a colorful banner was in the background announcing the conference theme. It was heavenly !!

I took a few pictures of the room, posted them on Twitter anticipating the event’s beginning the next day. It gave me a chance to share my excitement. You see, I was the opening keynote speaker the next morning. I did what I normally do when I go to conferences by walking through the spaces and getting a feel for what everything looks like. I like to have a mental picture of the environment and get a feel of the event’s vibe. I did my best to blend in because I didn’t want to interfere with the good work happening all around me.

The next morning I got ready quickly, went to the coffee shop, and hustled to the conference ballroom. I set up my table showing my office menagerie and donned my microphone. The attendees started to roll in and take their seats at the various table. I kept getting more and more excited as the tables kept filling up. The conference had an excellent emcee who I had interacted with for a few minutes prior to everything started. He did a great intro and then I heard it.

For those of you who don’t know, I’m a music freak and a giant U2 fan !! Overhead I heard one of their many great songs, Beautiful Day, start to play as I took the stage. It was perfect. I pulled up my first slide and started with a story.

The hour I was to speak flew by as if it was a mere few minutes. The crowd was great, engaged and we laughed a ton !! Afterward, the best part of the entire day happened. I got to talk to people in person. There was a mix of greetings ranging from fistbumps to nods to full-on hugs. It was magnificent !! I am always humbled to get the chance to present and talk to my peers and encourage them in the good work they do. I didn’t realize how much I missed this form of human contact.

I was able to stay for the full first day of the conference. Throughout the day I caught up with old friends and met a ton of new folks !! I walked across the street to grab dinner at a restaurant that was filled with fellow attendees. I was invited to join a table and the night ended as fully as it had begun.

I am geeked that people are moving toward in-person events. I understand that there is still a great need to be cautious, safe and respectful of where things stand. However, we also need to move forward even in small ways. People want to see each other. THAT is the best reason to reconvene and have HR conferences.

I would be completely fulfilled to see more and more folks in the years to come. I know that each time will be a beautiful day !!