Write This Down

This past weekend a significant life event occurred for me and my family. My dad passed away. I’ve written about him often here on this blog and in my books. I have incredible peace about this and let me tell you why.

Technically, Don Fleming is my stepfather. My biological father, John Browne was a Vietnam veteran who passed away from cancer in 1968 and I was four years old. My mother had been a widow for about eight years when Don came into our life. He and my mom connected right away, dated for a while, and then got married in 1976. It was a full-blown 1970’s gala where my dad, my brother and I all wore the obligatory polyester suits. (They were powder blue by the way. Rockin’ the fashion even then !!)

As soon as Don married my mom, we never called him “Dad” because we were pre-teen knuckleheads. However, he didn’t push back and handled it with grace as he did everything in life. As my brother and I got older, we realized how amazing he was and “Dad” replaced “Don” naturally. My father was an incredible role model of so many attributes that define my life now. I mentioned how he showed grace because he was a man of faith. He would never press this upon others, but he also was very self-assured of who he was. He also was the model husband. He was openly affectionate with my mom and would make sure to give her a kiss when he left for work and when he returned. He never missed a day – ever.

He always emphasized that my brother and I should be “couth” (a word that isn’t used anymore) when it came to respecting our mother and other adults. He expected us to do our share around the house, and he is responsible for our work ethic because of how he modeled it professionally and personally. My dad was never strict, but he was direct and intentional. He expected accountability from us which he always defined as following through on what we had committed to. He came to every. single. event my brother and I were involved in at school. He was supportive, proud, and kept us grounded to be thankful for any honor we received.

As we all grew older together and my brother and I went off to college, we saw my dad less and less because his goal was for us to get on our feet and provide for ourselves. In fact, the day I graduated from high school, Dad hugged me outside the school, told me he loved me and asked when I was leaving. True story. This transition happens to most families, so as life continued, we’d see each other less and less. As my brother and I started families of our own, those gaps naturally grew longer and longer.

Every time I’d visit Dad in Ada, at my house in Cincinnati or at family events all over the Midwest, he’d make sure to share his thoughts and opinions on life. He would grab your attention by saying, “Write this down . . .” Then he’d share a quote he had memorized, a quip or quick story and most assuredly a joke or two. He wanted me to remember these points because he knew they had an impact, reach and meaning. It became so common that I’d hear him pause, raise his hand and I’d jump in and say, “I know. ‘Write this down . . .”

I didn’t realize how ingrained this short phrase had become in my life, but even now, when I give a presentation at a conference I will find myself pausing, looking out to the audience, and say “Write this down . . .”

I am grateful for this man who came into my life 44 years ago. The man who married and loved my mother so incredibly deep and made me who I am today as a husband, father, friend, man of faith, and a professional. Without my Dad, I wouldn’t have had the model of grace, respect and humor that also make me who I am.

I know that as I write this, that not everyone has a great relationship with their parents and/or family. I do not take this for granted or feel that my example is greater than anyone else’s experience. I have learned from both my mother and father to be others-focused and value every person for who they are and where they come from. If I can ever be someone to confide in, converse with, weep with or laugh with, I am here for you. That is a fact and not an idle aspiration.

So, as I close I want to share something that Dad told me to write down. It’s from the poem Desiderata which was one of his absolute go to quotes.

Louise

Friends, I wanted to share something because I experienced a loss this weekend. One of our long-term team members passed away who had left a lasting impact on me and to those she worked with for many decades. Our encounters meant so much and I learned from her. Louise was unorthodox in how she approached people and yet she was incredibly endearing. Our first meeting was so powerful, I captured it and shared it in my new book, HR Rising !!

So, please forgive me for sharing this excerpt. It isn’t meant to bring attention to my book at all. It’s a way to say “Thank You” and “Good-bye” to Louise. We can all learn from the Louise’s in our life !!

Chapter 15: Grace

Have you ever made a mistake at work? Have you ever talked poorly about someone else you work with, or that you know, without that person knowing about it? Have you ever disappointed someone else because you didn’t follow through on what you said you’d do? Have you ever said something that you thought was harmless, but it hurt someone deeply?

The answer for me is a resounding “Yes” to all the questions listed above. I’m not proud of that, but it’s a reality. I’m human. I’m sure to fall and fail others. Hopefully it’s not intentional, but it could be. I can fill this entire book with more questions that show how people fall short of positive or ideal behavior.

The challenge in today’s workplace, and in society overall, is that when we fail each other there is no room for grace. We demand an instant response along with a staunch stance to be taken with little room for any other position. We usually want others to hear our opinion, and we make arguments for others to come to our side. During this type of reaction, we completely run over our humanity.

Now, please understand that I’m talking about when someone makes a mistake and is insensitive or thoughtless about others and their feelings or diverse viewpoint. I’m not talking about overt actions and misconduct. That is a much deeper, and more concerning, level, and poor behavior should always be addressed. Even then though, I would offer that you should allow grace when entering these difficult situations.

As HR professionals, we are surrounded by people daily. (At least I hope you are !!) People are messy and will fail each other. It’s unavoidable. When it occurs, we have a choice to either rely on a system of unrealistic policies and procedures as a list of do’s and don’ts, or we can be humans ourselves.

We struggle with this because of the continued need for “accountability.” This is one of the most misinterpreted terms in organizations. Accountability should be defined as following through on what you commit to doing. However, more often than not, we misconstrue this term by alluding to the fact that accountability equals punishment. When it comes to situations involving employees, we often forget to breathe first. We jump to the nearest set of policies and comb through them to see what level of discipline needs to be metered out. It amazes me as an HR person that when employees slip up, the reaction is usually swift, harsh, and doesn’t really take anything else into consideration.

Our systems of progressive discipline and layers of breaking Rule 1.0.1, Subsection A, litter our field with little regard of how these actions affect the person who broke said rule. We act as if they are the most disloyal, uncaring, and detrimental person who ever worked for the company.

Here’s a question for you . . . Have you ever made a mistake or broken a rule at work?

Did the appropriate action take place? Were you written up, counseled, suspended, or fired? What if you were in this situation? How should the company treat you?

When I began working in the restaurant industry, I was disappointed by many of my HR peers. Instead of being geeked that I had found a new role, they piled on concern after concern that I wouldn’t enjoy this new environment because restaurant employees and cultures made it difficult to do good HR. That was their opinion at least. Please note that few of these folks have ever worked in the restaurant industry, but that didn’t stop them from sharing their opinions on the inevitable turnover present in hospitality jobs, the challenge of having a workforce that predominantly works part-time schedules on ever changing shifts, and the idea I’d be spending most of my time disciplining and terminating people. Astounding, simply astounding. Each facet of what they thought HR would be like in restaurants was either negative or daunting.

I didn’t have any preconceived notions about working in restaurants. I looked at my new HR gig as a chance to work with a whole new batch of humans. When I took on this role, HR didn’t have a good reputation internally either in the office or in our pizzerias. This was primarily because of the approach of my predecessor. They did a great job of establishing HR systems that hadn’t existed in the past, but the company needed structure on the people side of the business. The difference that I brought to the mix was that I didn’t believe HR needed to be practiced in a traditional manner which focused more on compliance than relationships.

Compliance needs to be respected because of the myriad of laws and regulations that cover and protect the workers, the workplace, and the company as a whole. Most situations and issues involving compliance are common sense. Also, you can be far more compliant when you have relationships with people because you can talk about the situation and the behavior they’re exhibiting. Then you can give folks context around rules and systems. This is far more effective than ensuring people “stay in line.”

Before I joined the company, HR typically showed up in the pizzeria when something needed to be “addressed.” We rarely went out to visit just to see how people were doing. There had to be some sort of agenda item and purpose. The entire approach was task-oriented and transactional. Any visit was short, concise, and involved the least amount of conversation and personal interactions possible. This led the team members in the pizzerias to be apprehensive any time a person from HR appeared. Sound familiar?

I am not wired that way. I am probably far more conversational and relationship-focused than the average human. This is how I’m naturally wired. After my first few months being tied to my office and desk, I decided to venture out and visit our locations. Every time I entered a restaurant, I would get distrustful looks combined with a murmur of mumbling wondering why HR had come to visit. Who was in trouble? Who was getting fired? This barrier presented itself right as I hit the door, but I didn’t get discouraged. In fact, it fueled my desire even more to break through the wall of negativity about HR.

There was one visit that helped me recalibrate team member interactions that I will always remember.

I was walking through the kitchen of one of our high-volume pizzerias when I saw a piece of paper mounted on one of the prep tables. It was at eye level, and you could tell it had been posted there to make sure the message was visible to every single employee. I had seen notes posted before, and I didn’t care for them because they were usually a negative message. I felt that it showed that managers weren’t talking to their staff. They were just dictating something that wasn’t being performed or attended to. This note, however, was something I had never encountered before. It read:

“Look you motherf*#%ers, You need to put your f*#%ing glasses in the dishwashing area. If you bastards don’t start doing this, you will be f*#%ing fired. The Management.”

To say I was stunned would be an understatement. At first, I wasn’t sure how to respond to what I just read. The first thing I did was look around at the other team members moving back and forth in the kitchen. No one seemed to be shocked, offended, or surprised by this mandate laced with creative language. It was fascinating!!

Before I tell you how I did respond, let me take a break to share how I assume many HR pros would have reacted . . .

The first response would be feigned offense, indignation, and disbelief. How could anyone allow this to be posted in the work environment? What were the managers thinking? The next step would be to tear the posting down in disgust with a tinge of embarrassment. Then, it was time to find out who was responsible for this obvious policy violation and hold them “accountable.” This surely would result in some discipline. It could even mean a suspension with a good chiding, or even a termination. There wouldn’t be joy in doing this, but the emotion of how awful this message from management was would have to be immediately dealt with and addressed. Heads would roll. An example would have to be made that this would never be tolerated ever again. Cue scary music in the background as the HR pro glares at the crumpled posting in their shaking hand.

Now let me share what really happened . . .

I carefully took the paper down and found the GM who happened to be working the shift. I calmly asked, “Having problems with team members and glasses?”

Their head dropped below their shoulders. “I didn’t write that note. It was Louise.” That didn’t register with me because I didn’t know who Louise was. “Is she a manager here?” I asked. “No, well, it’s hard to describe,” they stammered.

The GM went on to let me know that Louise was a long-term team member who came in very early in the morning to clean and get the store ready to be open every week day. She had her own crew, but she wasn’t officially a manager. She had been such a regular part of the store that she had seen managers come and go while she remained. I appreciated the background and asked if she was still at work. “Yes,” they sheepishly replied. “She’s right over there.”

In the back of the kitchen stood an older, slender woman with an apron on. She was busily working, and the other team members seemed to enjoy being around her. I went up to her and introduced myself.

“Louise?” I asked, noticing I towered over her. I’m fairly tall, and she was not.

“Yep. Who are you? I’ve never seen you here before,” she stated.

“I’m Steve,” I replied.

“Uh huh. You from the office?” she wondered.

“Yes I am. I’m the new human resources director. Can I ask you about this note?” and I pulled out the instructions about how used glassware was to be properly placed.

“Oh yeah, I wrote that,” she willingly admitted.

“Okay. Well, did you need to cuss when you wrote this? That’s a pretty harsh way to describe our team members,” I explained.

“Have you met some of them yet?” she calmly responded.

I laughed out loud. I know that may not have been the “proper” response from the HR 101 Operation Manual, but she caught me off guard, and it was funny.

“No ma’am. I haven’t met many team members yet,” I said.

She smiled back at me and said, “I suppose you don’t want me to post my notes.”

I wanted to make sure I had a good response for her. “I guess you’re frustrated with others here. Would that be safe to say?”

“You’re damn right I am. These kids don’t have any work ethic. I come in here every f*#%ing day and pick up after them. Lazy f*#%ers. The whole bunch of them,” she stated without batting an eye. It didn’t matter that I was in human resources or from the corporate office.

She kept on going, but I stopped her and said, “Louise, I understand you’re frustrated, but do you have to cuss when you’re talking about others?”

“I don’t f*#%ing cuss honey. I’m just talking,” and she meant it. She didn’t even notice that she was swearing. Did I mention that Louise was in her early 70’s during this encounter with me? I know that doesn’t excuse coarse language, but it didn’t really upset me. I had been around employees who swore during work for years. Many times, I joined in just so we could converse.

“Well Louise, I’m going to take down this note. I tell you what. I’ll come visit you on a regular basis and you can share any frustrations you have with me, and we’ll take a look at things. How does that sound?” I wasn’t sure of the response I was going to get.

“I’d like that.” She smiled again. “Nice to meet you.”

I didn’t write her up or discipline her. I crumpled up the sign and threw it out in a waste basket sitting next to us. I then left and went about my day, and so did she. The GM was watching our conversation the whole time. I’m sure they were curious to see how I was going to respond. We went to a part of the restaurant where we could talk, and she told me Louise’s history. “She doesn’t even know she’s cussing, and the other team members love her. She loves them too. My restaurant is better with her in it. That’s a fact.”

I kept my commitment and visited Louise often. We grew very close, and she never stopped swearing. I learned about her family and how she had grown up with our founder’s wife as a childhood friend. She was endearing just as the GM had told me.

I chose to respond with a tool that has worked for me my entire HR career when I found myself in these awkward circumstances. This is a very effective tool that is available for every person throughout your organization.

Grace.

This may be foreign to you, and I can almost guarantee that it’s foreign to how employees have been approached in the past. We don’t feel that we have the latitude in our roles to show grace to others when they mess up. I just don’t think it’s true. We can take ownership of how we approach others with our own personal style.

I know that when others have shown me grace when I’ve stumbled, I’ve been thankful. It allowed both of us to breathe, calm down, and look at the situation in a fresh and open way.

Often, it led to a productive outcome and a stronger relationship. Trust me when I say that allowing grace in our interactions with others will result in a positive experience most of the time.

I’m not saying that discipline and termination are never warranted at work. However, I use a yardstick that says that you only need to implement these steps based on an employee’s behavior and actions. Even with that benchmark, I still review each case and consider all of the factors as well as the person who’s about to be disciplined. I want them to come out of any conversation understanding the situation, its context and how we move forward from there.

Now, so you don’t think I’m being utopian or an idealist, understand that I practice this both inside work and outside of work. It’s not a popular position. Most people want a pound of flesh when they are wronged. I’ll hold out until the last possible moment before making difficult decisions because I believe in people, even in the darkest situations.

You see, I make mistakes and I have disappointed others—even those closest to me. How can I expect grace from others if I am not willing to be graceful myself? Also, how will others show grace if it isn’t given to them?

I recommend that you try a new approach and allow grace to occur.

I’d also recommend that you make grace the norm when people work with each other regardless of their position and level in your company. If you can teach those who manage people the power of this tool, you’ll see a genuine shift in how people treat each other. It’s time for us to buck the trend of others who tend to be reactive and destructive when people fail them. Instead of talking about others, talk to them with an attitude of grace first so that you seek to understand them, the situation they’re facing, and the way to move forward. If you try this, you’ll see people aren’t as bad as you think. It will also make HR, and your life, more balanced and fulfilled. It works.

One last note . . .

I had worked with Louise for over a decade when age started to finally catch up with her. She had lasted through two additional GMs since we first met. They moved on to other stores in our chain and she remained a constant. She had to retire when her memory started to fade, and she’s living in an assisted living facility now. The last GM to work with her had kept a folder with her notes that she had posted in it. When she was getting ready to leave on her last day, he showed Louise the folder and said, “This will always be here in the store because we want you to always be here with us.”

That, my friends, is grace.

Dads.

I am very fortunate to be a father. I mean that. This is something that I wanted to become at some point in my life. I am also very fortunate to have grown up surrounded by an extended family where I saw strong fatherhood models both from their personal example and how they loved their spouse and their children.

In today’s society, fatherhood has a tarnished image. Most of this is honestly earned because of those who haven’t been able to be a model father. Please note that this post isn’t in any way meant to exemplify one father versus another. Parenting is not easy. It never has been. No one gives you an “owners manual” once you are blessed to be able to have children in your family.

Most dads I know have followed the example of being men who work hard and often too long. They are trying to provide for their families, but their extended hours often eat into time that could have been spent with their kids. Kids may not understand the sacrifice that is being made while it is happening, but I hope they do see it as they grow older.

My wife and I have two kids who are now adults. As I type this, I’m being a “dad” who is off at a conference for HR which is my chosen profession. I will be out of town and away from them on Father’s Day. My entire family is incredibly supportive of me professionally, and they always have been. Now, get ready for an amazing story . . .

Outside of our house we had a dwarf evergreen in our front flowerbed. It was there when we moved in back in 1991. We enjoyed it as part of our landscaping and gave us some “curb appeal.” I was told by a friend who is a landscaper that it would never grow much because of the type of evergreen it was. He was wrong.

This small tree grew more and more every year. The tree became a prime background for family pictures. My wife and I stood in front of it as did my parents and friends who visited. It also was a great tree to decorate with lights every Christmas season and when the snow fell on it with the lights twinkling through, it was beautiful.

When our daughter Melanie was born, we took pictures of the three of us in front of the tree. As our son Josh came along we now had a family of four and the tree had grown along with our family. The biggest tradition we had was taking the kids picture in front of the pine on the first day of school each year. We did this from Kindergarten through their Senior year in High School. As the kids grew, so did the tree. They were never taller than the pine that wouldn’t grow, and we had to use a step ladder to get lights all the way to the top each year after awhile.

Recently, the tree began to die and become browned and brittle. We decided just this Spring to take it down. It was an emotional day because of so many memories.

Now to today . . .

As I settled in my room and began to unpack my clothes and get ready for the conference, I saw three envelopes with cards and a small white bag with green tissue paper covering some odd shapes. The cards were for Father’s Day. As I opened them, tears streamed down my face. The cards were hilarious and filled with handwritten notes that made me laugh through my tears. I then pulled out the tissue paper and unwrapped it to find this . . .

Kids and Tree

My “adults” had taken the trunk of the pine and cut two sections off to make this as my Father’s Day present. The ornament is our family initial for “Browne” and the other is a picture of them in front of the tree at Easter. Speechless.

This Father’s Day hug a Dad. The majority of them are doing the best they can. Yes, they work hard and put in long hours. They all hope that over the years they have planted seeds in their kids to leave a legacy and some deep roots of faith and family. They’re the tree that is the background of their family’s pictures.

Happy Father’s Day to one and all !!

 

 

Mom.

In very early 1964 on an Army base in Nuremberg, Germany (West Germany at the time), a young woman became a mother for the first time. The challenge was that her son was one month premature. The doctor’s reassured her and did everything they could to take care of this newborn. He spent time in an incubator, but eventually became healthy enough to head home.

As if this wasn’t enough, her young husband had volunteered to serve in the Army and he was about to take one of four tours to Vietnam to fight for his country. After the young family returned to the States, the young mother had a second son in Columbus, Georgia. Soon after this, her husband who served as a Staff Sergeant fell ill. He battled the best he could, but cancer won and left her with a 4 year-old and a 2 year-old.

She returned back to her small rural hometown, Luckey, Ohio (yes it is a place !!) and went to college while she held a full-time job. She earned her Bachelor’s in Education and became a teacher in a vocational school. She later earned her Master’s Degree and worked 30+ years teaching students to become Administrative Assistants. She remarried after being a widow nine years and she will be celebrating her 40th anniversary with this great man in June 2016.

She always encouraged her two sons to do their best and expected them to excel. She was always positive and wanted both of them to succeed. Throughout her life she has focused on others in her church, her community and in her school. Whenever, she meets anyone she gives them her full attention, and is genuinely interested in who they are and what they are sharing. Quick to laugh as well as shed an emotional tear, you know that she is fully invested in you. Most of the time that ends up in deeply warm hugs when she sees you and when she leaves.

Her two sons have been very blessed and fortunate as well. One is a doctor who now serves as an executive in a large healthcare system in Tennessee, and her other son is an executive for a regional pizzeria working in Human Resources !! She welcomed two amazing women when they chose to get married (25+ years both) and she still is enamored with her five grandchildren who are now all young adults.

Just this weekend, she saw her granddaughter, who earned her B.S. in Psychology as a summa cum laude, become a college graduate. Being the consummate Mom, she brought snacks of monster cookies and trail mix that she made which she gave her granddaughter, her grandson and their parents. Each paper lunch bag had their names on them (of course), and she took enough pictures to fill a photo album !!

MomBy now, I hope you know this is my mother, Connie. She has left an indelible legacy on me and her family that will last eternally. She’s honestly the type of person that never talks about herself only others. However, when you get a chance to talk to the people whose lives she has touched, you only hear about her.

It’s odd to me that we only set aside one day a year for Mothers. Moms don’t get days off and they deserve our appreciation every day of the year. I am so fortunate to be from a family that is full of positivity, faith and selflessness. It’s been a great model to learn from and, hopefully, share with others in my life.

Over the years there have been far more hugs than tears. Far more lasting memories than struggles. And, far more love, joy and stories that will never fade. She continues to be someone who deeply touches everyone she encounters naturally.

Thanks mom.

Shadowcasting !!

I’m a fairly tall HR pro. I’m 6’4″ tall and have always been one of the tallest folks in a crowd all the way back to Kindergarten. I mention this because I notice this more when I attend HR conferences. As I lurch down the hallways of the conference centers, I see the crowd mill around me and I wonder what they’re thinking and experiencing as they head from session to sessions.

One other thing you need to know about me. I dig HR conference sessions. I really do. I tend to go to see speakers who stretch and challenge me to look at things differently. Over the past few months, two speakers really stuck with me – Mary Faulkner and Jennifer McClure. Mary presented at the SHRM Annual Conference on leaving a legacy as a leader and used an analogy of a shadow. Jen just did a presentation on building your personal brand and noted that you have a brand whether you cultivate one or not. As I mulled over these two presentations, a new thought came together !!

You see, everyone can cast a shadow as well as have a personal brand. I think that HR misses out on this because we tend to be great workers, but not folks who intentionally stand out to impact others. Aren’t you tired of just existing around others? What if you stepped back and put together a plan to live by and revolutionize HR for yourself and your workplace?

I think it’s possible and within your grasp. However, in order to be a shadowcaster, you need to take some steps that are guaranteed to make you uncomfortable.

Shadow Selfie 2Get out of the Dark !!

Shadows need light. Too often HR wallows in the dark underbelly of organizations. There is a reality in this face because we are tasked with addressing difficult situations between people. These situations can either consume you, or you can take them head on. There will always be difficult situations because there will always be employees in the workplace !! When you bring light into your approach, you’ll see how differently the outcomes become. You’ll also see that HR is a field where you can thrive and not just struggle through.

Be intentional !!

People want to connect, but they typically won’t take the first step to make that happen. You’ll hear people say that they don’t care if they’re connected to others, their jobs or the company, but that isn’t true. You need to be the person who initiates those connections. To me this isn’t a matter of being extroverted or introverted. You’re in HR and that means that you are in the midst of people on purpose. Be the one who cares. Be the one who casts their shadow over others and engulf them to let them know that they matter to you and the company.

Act Now !!

Remember, you have a brand and a shadow already within your role and your company. The question is, what does it look like? I’m pretty sure most people don’t know because this type of personal reflection is counterintuitive with how HR usually functions. We ask others to focus on development, but we don’t take care of ourselves. It isn’t selfish to take care of yourself personally and professionally. Having a direction and a vision for who you are and how you’ll practice is essential. Don’t keep wishing for this transformation to occur. Take steps to make it happen !!

The pic above is my tall shadow. I want to be an HR professional who lives in the light and influences others. I have this radical goal of pulling all HR professionals together globally into one community. I know that I can cast my shadow at home with my family and in my community as well. Being intentional takes time, energy and determination.

I’d love to see you join me and step into the light yourself so that together we can bring HR out of the shadows and start casting our shadows positively on others !!

LLAP !!

This past week an entertainment icon passed away – Leonard Nimoy. He was mostly known for his immortal TV character, Spock from Star Trek. As a devout HR Nerd, Spock has always been my favorite Star Trek character.  I admired him because of his loyalty in his relationships and his willingness to always explore who he was and what humanity was all about.

Live Long and ProsperSpock had a signature greeting, or salute, that he gave to others by raising his right hand, splitting his fingers into a V and state, “Live Long and Prosper.” Looking back now, it truly reflected Mr. Nimoy’s life and his journey. He struggled with being identified as Spock for his entire career. He even wrote a book called “I Am Not Spock.” Everyone wanted him to stay in this role because that’s how they saw him. They didn’t know he was a very thoughtful man, poet, musician and artist. After some time, he came to terms with who he was and the legacy his role had. He actually wrote a second book entitled “I Am Spock.”

Did you know the original Star Trek series only ran three years and stopped in 1969? That’s forty-six years ago !! What an incredible legacy !! Yes, there have been subsequent movies, books and other Star Trek series. Those existed only as a legacy to the original show. In fact, Star Trek and Spock have become a part of social culture.

Now, think of how you approach your role in HR. Are you looking at how you practice what you do, or are you just making sure your job gets done? Do you have an “impact approach” or a “legacy approach”?

You see, you make an impact every day whether you are intentionally choosing to or not. Your impact is determined by your behavior, outlook and effort with others in your company. That doesn’t ensure that your impact is positive though. One can impact others in negative ways which have a much longer effect than you can even imagine.

A legacy approach is just slightly different because it still involves your impact. Remember, Mr. Nimoy’s original run as Spock was only three years. If you knew that your “run” as an HR practitioner had a limited time to it, would your daily look at your job be different? Would you put everything you had into what you did so that when you were done, it would be remembered and sustained?

I think that too many of us in HR are either concerned about keeping our job, advancing in our job or just existing in our job. There is an opportunity to not only have an impact, but an impact that truly makes a lasting difference in the lives of the people around us. When you change your approach to one that will leave a legacy, you will see each day in a fresh new way.

I love that Leonard Nimoy came to terms with who he was and his legacy. He was active on Twitter and would finish his tweets with #LLAP for Live Long and Prosper. Every tweet. Every time he would communicate to others.

That is my hope for everyone who practices HR. It’s how I approach what I do and I hope you join me in having a legacy approach to what you do !! #LLAP

It Was 20 Years Ago Today !!

I’m very excited about Christmas coming this week !!  It is always an amazing time for faith, family, friends . . . and gifts.  This isn’t a post about the materialism of the season.  It’s about true gifts !!

You see, 20 years ago on Christmas day, my daughter was born.  I wrote about the miracle of her birth a few years ago.  It’s hard to believe that two full decades have passed.  Now, as a young woman, she continues to grow, flourish and amaze me.  She truly has been a gift to me and our family.

I consider myself very fortunate to be a father and enjoy every moment that I have with my daughter and son.  At the holidays, I think it’s important to reflect and be thankful for the important things in our lives.  My children DEFINITELY fall into this category.  I know that not all parent/child relationships are healthy, and that is unfortunate.  I wish that both parents and children would see the value in having each other in their lives !!

Gift GivingYou see, to me the best gift a person can give to others at Christmas, or any other time, is themselves.  That may sound idealistic in today’s cynical world, but I believe it to be true.

People are gifts !!  The opportunity we have is to look at each other that way, and also treat each other that way.  At Christmastime, we anticipate gifts and can’t wait to see what is hidden beneath the thin, colorful wrapping.  There is a tangible rush just to get beyond the wrapping to see what’s really inside.  I think that people are the same.  Just below the surface of safe introductions, small talk and demographic information, lies an untapped gift waiting to be taken in and enjoyed !!

I know that viewing people in this way may put you in the minority, but what a great group to be in.  It’s challenging and others will want you to walk away from this perspective, but don’t cave in.  Why not make this the norm versus the exception?

Here’s how you can get started . . .

During this holiday season, write someone in your life a note, a card, or even give them a call.  Let them know how much they mean in your life.  It may seem to come out of the blue, but it matters.  Be intentional about this and let folks know that they are the best gifts in your life !!

My life is only better because my daughter came into it twenty years ago on Christmas Day.  And, for the many friends and family members who read this blog, you are gifts to me as well.  The people in my life enhance it and that is something I treasure !!

I wish you all the best Christmas and holiday season you’ve ever had !!  May you be surrounded by “gifts” of those that love and cherish you for being in their lives, and may you be a gift to others !!

Forever in Blue Jeans !!

When Neil Diamond sang the iconic song Forever in Blue Jeans, I don’t think he knew he was dealing with such a taboo subject for the workplace !!  Seriously, you do know that denim is evil, don’t you ??

This coming week I’m traveling to Washington, D.C. for the annual SHRM Leadership Conference (#SHRMLead).  I’m very excited to go because I have the honor of being the next SHRM State Council Director for Ohio in 2012 !!  I can’t wait to work with the 26 SHRM chapters in the State as well as with other leaders throughout the country.  I think it will be a great way to continue to keep the profession relevant in general as well as another way to keep trying to bring our whole profession together and connect them !!

A true highlight for me will be on Thursday when I get to join other HR professionals on Capitol Hill to visit lawmakers and lobby on behalf of HR.  I really am geeked !!  To get ready, those attending listened to a webinar put on by SHRM to get an overview of what the visit would entail and the issues we were going to focus on.

It was very well done and was just a glimpse of what we needed to learn in order to have a successful visit and leverage the time we had with our representatives and their staff.  During the webinar people could post questions, which I thought was cool.  I think it’s amazing that I live in a country where I can go to have an audience with the national leaders of the government and express my opinion to them.  It truly is astonishing !!  I submitted a question asking who the two people were in Congress who had an HR background because it was noted in the webinar.

So, when the moderator started to relay the questions to the leaders of the forum, my jaw hit the floor !!  We spent the first 15 minutes of the 20 minutes we had left for questions talking about clothing.  “What should we wear?”  “Can I wear blue jeans with a suit coat?” – and then the firestorm happened.  People sent in myriads of comments (not questions) about the evil of jeans.

When I hear my peers question why companies don’t take HR seriously – here’s your answer . . . We continue to focus on the splinter issues when we miss the lumber all around us !!  When we could have been focusing on the issues for this lobbying opportunity, people chose instead to focus on proper attire !!  I’m not sure what I’ll wear to visit Capitol Hill.

On Friday, night our State Council, Ohio SHRM, is up for a Pinnacle Award which is the highest award for volunteers from SHRM, and we have a tradition of wearing logo’d clothing to these things.  At the banquet we’re wearing these great gray fleece jackets . . . . and blue jeans !!  I wonder where the focus will be ???