I Say Hello – #SHRM22 Thoughts

The lanyards are ready to be hung on my hook of past conferences. The conference bag full of swag I thought I needed is bulging as I get ready to haul it into the office and add “toys” to my ever-growing office menagerie. The memories of incredible food at several places steeped in Cajun spices still make me salivate. And, the incredible improv blues/jazz/rock melodies from the jam session where any musician could bring in their instrument and jump on stage at Cafe Negri still resonates fondly in the recesses of my mind.

Oh, yes, then there was the ocean of people moving like a giant system of streams throughout the endless New Orleans convention center. Each one trying to find a concurrent HR session to make sure they were getting a full dose of professional development. The thousands of attendees of SHRM22 were constantly on the move. Session rooms were filled and emptied. The lines for coffee, food, vendor swag, box lunches and chances to win a ticket to SHRM23 ebbed and flowed with ease. The parties and gatherings that once again came to life throughout the city were all magnificent, colorful, and energetic !!

The SHRM22 Annual Conference and Exposition was fulfilling in so many ways. To see HR peers gather together en masse was thrilling to see. Watching people shop in the SHRM store, have conversations with each other off on the side, seeing the SHRM Executive Network grow and participate, as well as a full contingent of HR students from around the country filled my heart. On top of this, there were several global attendees that filled the halls. I met folks from Korea, Canada, India, Barbados, Bahamas, Ireland, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and more.

Yes, I’m a fan of the Annual Conference. I’ve been fully immersed in them for over the past decade as a volunteer leader from the local to the national level. I’ve been fortunate to be a speaker for several years and I get to sign books. I get a thrill every time I get to meet a person willing to chat and tell me their story as I sign my name. This year was a “return” for me because I was able to be an “attendee.” Yes, I had social media commitments and I spoke at two sessions, but that was stepping back from the past when almost every moment was scheduled with obligations and appearances.

I loved it !! It was freeing to swim in that ocean of people.

I wanted to make sure people felt a bit of that same passion. So, I chose to throw down a gauntlet to see if my peers would willingly pick it up. They did and it was magnificent !!

I noticed, as with most HR conferences, that people are far more concerned with getting their lanyard, their badge, their conference bag, etc. than they are in greeting and meeting the people milling around them. Attendees rush to sessions to grab a seat. It’s great to see full rooms, but the effort to run to sit is astonishing to watch. Few, if any, look up to see the thousands of amazing humans within arms reach.

People who are talented, experienced and disconnected. It’s true. In the 35+ years I’ve been in this field, HR pros eagerly take in as much content as they can at every session, but they miss the chance to meet the most incredible resources available to them. If even a fraction of the attendees at SHRM22 met each other, we’d see a gathering of such phenomenal HR knowledge exist that we’d have a natural bank of intelligence we could tap . . . if we connected.

The gauntlet I threw down was during one of my sessions when I challenged the capacity room to stop looking down. Pause. Look up and notice the other humans. Then . . . say “Hello !!”

The challenge was to be carried out throughout the venue including escalators and I said I’d be watching to see if people did. Oh, boy did they !! That was on a Monday afternoon and from then on you could hear people greeting each other out loud for the rest of the conference. The energy at the event jumped even higher as you saw smiles, laughter, and cheerful greetings happening everywhere. It spilled out into the events, the streets, and all over the city !!

It was a simple reminder that we need to show life ourselves in order to breathe life into others. What we do as HR pros is challenging work. We need to not only enjoy our time at HR conferences, but we need to return to our workplaces and bring encouragement, strategy, humor, fun and light. It’s not enough to say you attended SHRM22. You now have the chance to shape, shift and improve your role, your company, AND yourself !!

The gauntlet has been lifted, a positive wave has gripped many and they are now going forth to their corner of the HR Universe until we meet again. (And I can’t wait !!)

Being a Dad

Father’s Day is a wonderful time filled with a mix of emotions. It’s a day to be thankful and fondly recall my two dads. My biological father, John, passed away when I was four years old. I don’t have a ton of memories of him, but my extended family has told me we have the same walk, same loud laugh, and the same dose of extroversion. My dad never met a stranger. He would make quick friendships at every turn. It served him well as a Seargent who served in Vietnam because he was always focused on his men instead of himself.

My mom remarried when I was 13 years old to my second dad, Don. It wasn’t easy for him to jump into a family with two teenage boys. However, he made it work. He was a glorious example of work ethic, serving others and the community you lived in. He was always the wittiest person in the room, and he taught me countless lessons on how to be a consistent husband and father. He passed away at the end of 2020 and I miss him daily.

My “kids” are now adults. They are out on their own and I couldn’t be more proud of them. They are finding their way in life, their careers, and their relationships. We are having real conversations about every topic possible and I love seeing them continue to grow and develop. There have even been a few times where they’ve asked my advice !! I nearly fainted the first time it happened and cherished it at the same time. Making the transition where we are now has been the best stage of fatherhood yet.

I know I have been fortunate with my two dads. Trust me. We have had our ups and downs and disagreements. I’ve had the same with my kids. But that’s honestly just life. Life happens and I wouldn’t change a moment. My two dads were with me through all the facets of my life and I plan to be there for my kids for as long as I’m on this planet.

I’m not sure what the future will hold for me, my wife, or my kids. I hope that one day they have fond memories of their dad and share the experiences they had with me over the years.

For everyone who is a fellow dad – Happy Father’s Day !!

It’s quite an adventure. An adventure worth taking.

Fatigue

I’ve lived in the same house since 1991. It was the first house my wife and I bought on our own. Hard to believe that 31 years have passed !! One of the attractive features of where I live is that we have a half-acre lot. There are some massively mature trees scattered throughout, but the majority of the lot is the lawn.

As you know, you can’t keep up with growing grass. We live in the Midwest and we’re fortunate to have fairly consistent rain. I’m grateful for that because I love seeing a green lawn out my picture window . . . until it’s time to mow it once again. I’ve always had a push mower because I enjoy the exercise (seriously) and the time in the yard. I put some headphones on, pick a playlist from Spotify and start down the first row.

When I was younger and had just purchased the house, I could mow the entire yard in 1 1/2 hours and on one tank of gasoline. Now, I do the front yard one day and the back yard the next. I may even sneak in a break during each cut if the grass is overly long. I was 27 when we moved into our house. You can do the math . . . Time is winning as it always does.

Recently, we’ve had an abundance of rain. Inches of it !! I can usually get by with cutting the lawn once a week, but not at this time. A few weeks ago though, I didn’t have any time to cut after work. I am going into the office and am usually spent after a “normal” day. So, a full week went by and my grass must have been trying to overachieve because it was well over six inches when I finally was able to attack it.

This go-around was draining at a level I hadn’t experienced. I ended up splitting the days for the front and back lawn but needed to cut each one twice just to get it back to a manageable height. The usual one and half hour cut turned into five hours !! I was completely spent after both days. When I get finished with a cut, I fall into a chair on my front porch to rehydrate and catch my breath. After tackling the entire lawn for over two days, I could barely move.

As I was trying to regenerate on the front porch, I understood complete fatigue. There was nothing I could do to recover. It was concerning. I took some deep breaths and calmed myself down. I chose to sit and relax for as long as I needed. My wife brought me a giant cup of ice water and some small snacks. It gave me some time to think.

I feel people at work are experiencing this same level of fatigue more often than not. Still, they go to their jobs dutifully as they struggle. They make it through days barely, but they make it. I’ve seen it trickle down to interactions between people throughout their days as well. They can’t escape it.

If you try to capture the cause(s) of the fatigue people are experiencing, you fall short. There is no one circumstance that is consistently facing every person. Everyone is looking at the landscape of ever-increasing costs for day-to-day items such as food and gasoline, the global turmoil happening on various stages, the endless ripping and tearing of political diatribes from all angles, and that doesn’t include the situations in each person’s home/family structure. Throw on top of this the often unclear expectations and communication pressing people in the workplace. It’s overwhelming to determine all that could possibly be overwhelming those we work with.

Is there anything we can do? Do we just succumb to the crushing weariness and shuffle our feet while mumbling complaint after complaint? I don’t think so. There are ways to assess where we are and how we can move forward in a healthy manner.

First of all, we need to acknowledge it’s all around us and affecting people at all levels of an organization. We need to affirm what people tell us and not dismiss it as someone slacking off. The next step is to assess each person’s situation for what it entails. No broad stroke movements. No overarching declarations. Possibly no easy solutions. Just listen and assess.

The next step is critical and runs contrary to all we do in companies. Allow people to have a personalized path to fight their fatigue. One by one. You need to stick to this individualized approach because no one is experiencing fatigue in the same manner or for the same reasons.

Finally, be patient, empathetic and genuine. This sounds simple, and it can be if we allow HR and employees to work their way through their own path for their personal wellbeing. Step into this my friends. You can be there for each other.

Time for a change . . .

I’ve been in an HR role for my entire career – on purpose. I didn’t fall into the field or find it accidentally. I know several of my peers who have done that, and I love that they found the field. If you’ve been in the profession for any amount of time, you’re sure to hear or see, the perception that others have of HR. We hope that we’re viewed in a positive light. Honestly, everyone is regardless of their profession.

This past week, my friend Erich Kurschat posted the first eight emojis when he typed in “HR.” This is what came up . . .

Interesting set of emojis aren’t they? When I saw them, I replied to Erich and asked, “Is that how others feel when they work with HR, or is it how HR feels about working with others?” He stated he thought the same thing.

I wasn’t kidding. The range of emotions pictured above is merely eight of the thousands we encounter on a daily basis. Heck, you may run through all of them in one interaction alone !! It concerns me that the ones that came up during the search are all negative or ambivalent. It doesn’t bode well for what we do and how others view their interactions with us in an HR capacity. It’s also disappointing that many of you reading this who work in HR would say, “Yep, that’s how it is.”

Who wants to work in a field where the descriptive imagery is negative? I can’t think of one person who would willingly run to join it. Let’s state what people are experiencing. Chances are people work with HR when there’s some situation that is already tenuous. That’s because we’ve allowed ourselves to take on that mantle. Organizations and senior leadership put us in the “call when there’s a people emergency” box and we dutifully stay there. We feel we dare not push back or rewrite the narrative because at least we have a role to fulfill.

I’m tired of the self-defeatist mantra of HR. It’s old, worn out, and outdated. Sure, there are bad HR pros . . . just as there are in EVERY other profession !! We continue to wallow in the muck because we are the only profession that is intricately intertwined with humans all the time. Our actions affect the work life and personal life of others.

That is a great thing !! In fact, it is the best facet of working in HR. Without people, HR can’t exist – and it shouldn’t. The same truth is foundational for companies and it’s time we own, lead, shape and make this a reality and not an aspiration.

If we want the emojis to change when someone searches them in the future, then HR needs to be intentional in turning the perspective around. This has to occur one encounter at a time. We need to be cognizant that we are involved when things get sideways or ooky at work. Isn’t it great that we’re called in to assess, address and resolve situations? Each situation is a chance to build in a good outcome. You can show how empathy, consistency and a positive approach can work through anything constructively.

Let’s not allow the negative images to continue. Let’s step up and show through our behavior, our words, and our presence the value of human resources. It’s imperative. It’s overdue. And . . . it’s attainable. Yes, we may stumble and fail at times. Yes, we may be frustrated or frustrate others. However, it remains an incredible profession that makes a tangible impact on the lives of others.

It’s time for a change. I’m going to do all I can to change the images and I hope you’ll join in.

Not in Charge

I was listening this weekend to the Top 40 songs of 1985 on Sirius XM’s 80s on 8 channel. It’s definitely one of my go-to stations because it covered the transitions of life from high school to college to starting my career in HR to marriage. It was a big decade !! A staple song of the 80’s and especially 1985 was the phenomenal “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears.

Quick aside – they have a new album that just came out in 2022 entitled The Tipping Point and it’s epic !! Now back to the post . . .

Listening to this tune for the millionth time made me reflect on how accurate the title and the lyrics are even today. When you look around society and in the workplace, people want to “rule.” It is rarely overt and clearly obvious, but there’s an underlying tone of ruling. You see it all the time in the workplace. People use titles and levels to make sure others know that they are supposedly “in charge.”

There is a real draw for people to feel in charge. I guess that’s okay if it makes sure work and communication have clarity and removes uncertainty. However, when people yearn to be in charge they tend to want to be over people in an unhealthy manner. There’s an expectation that when those in charge bark, people automatically jump without question. I’ve seen this throughout my career and it’s never been good.

There’s a modicum of assumed power that people enjoy yielding over others. It gives people a false sense of worth, influence, and attention. They feel that they are the “go-to” people when it couldn’t be farther from the truth. It can be crippling in organizations because the self-centered nature of ruling tends to lead others to work around and circumvent interactions. There is far more effort in avoiding those who try to wield their scepter in order to work with others who effectively lead.

There’s a massive misconception about leadership in that this infers being in charge. Effective leaders may get things accomplished, but the focus is rarely directly on them. You’ll find true leaders direct, shepherd, encourage and approach others willingly and naturally. Their role may afford the chance to finalize decisions, but it’s not the primary driver for them.

As HR professionals, we need to jump into the midst of breaking up the ruler complex. Instead of grousing about the behavior of people who regularly hold themselves above others, jump in and address it. Make sure people know that this approach is ineffective, limiting, and unnecessary. We need to start in our own backyard as well. Too many HR pros wield assumed power because we’ll throw out the fear and “you might get sued” excuse. This isn’t effective and never has been.

There are many ways to make sure you foster a culture of leadership versus allowing those in people management roles to rule over others. Here are three I have found most effective. They work regardless of industry type.

Model the behavior you expect in others – People respond more to what they see than what is said. You can set the standard by your example of how you work with others before you give one word of coaching or advice. Your behavior is what people respond to. Be mindful and intentional. It works.

Be aware of how you approach others – There may be no greater attribute to work on in human interactions than this. How you approach others sets the stage for productive or destructive outcomes. A collaborative, willing approach will go so much farther than ever telling/demanding people listen and respond just because you said so.

Show grace – People may not be aware of their behavior and approach. You don’t know how they’ve learned from others or what has been modeled to them. So, instead of correcting them, give them grace and meet them where they are. Shaping people into leaders takes time, effort and patience. Failure will occur and it’s hard to break from old patterns. People need to know you’re going to come alongside them in a safe way. Then, over time, they’ll respond and evolve.

This week, cue up some Tears for Fears on your Spotify and keep it playing as a reminder of what we’re facing. It’s time to transform rulers into leaders. Trust me, your organization will be better for it !!

One Note

This past Friday, my wife and I were fortunate to take in the season finale of the phenomenal Cincinnati Pops Orchestra !! Not only was it the 10th anniversary of their acclaimed conductor, John Morris Russell, but a favorite group of mine was a featured guest – Over the Rhine. If you’re ever in Cincinnati, I highly recommend seeing the Pops perform while enjoying the majesty of Music Hall.

As a self-avowed music freak, I couldn’t contain myself. I was going to get to see live music once again, and it was a night out with my wife. The program was full of current hits, older standards, and great accompaniment with the guest musicians. It was easy to get lost in each piece as the orchestra played. You could fully take in all of the moving melodies and harmonies as the music wafted out over the audience. It was challenging to see which section would take the lead and the conductor led each section with ease. It was both enthralling and surprising at the same time.

You may not know this about me, but I’m easily moved by most things. I can be brought to tears at the drop of a heartfelt story or a well-played musical piece. Heck, I’ve even welled up during a TV commercial !! I am cool with this emotional response and feel it’s something that defines me.

Well, during the night at the Pops, I was teary several times. It was glorious !! I wasn’t thinking about those seated around me or embarrassed in the least. My wife knows what’s coming any time we’re out. The first song of the second half of the concert was the debut of a piece written by the conductor’s friend who had been working on it for 10 years. It was his interpretation of the well-known Prelude in C Major by Bach.

The hall was silent when the harpist started plucking out the familiar arpeggio and I could feel my chest start to swell. It was as if I was witnessing this on my own with no one else around me. When the full orchestra came in, the violins played one prolonged note for several measures, and the tears started rolling down my cheeks.

One note. Just one and my emotions burst forth.

After the amazing night, I reflected on that moment. How incredible was it that one note could bring so many joyous emotions to the surface? Seriously. One. Note.

When we look at the privilege of working with other people we tend to focus on what isn’t accomplished or how someone approached us in a way that frustrated us. If you listen to the conversations happening in the halls, or online, you get barraged with negative comments about others. They dominate how we talk about the people we allegedly value. The “talent” of our organizations must be full of more shortcomings than real skills.

I know this isn’t the case. We rely on others, and we should. So, instead of talking about what people “don’t do,” what if we helped find their one note? What if we found the one thing that unlocked their passion and helped their emotions flow out of them freely and positively? I think our workplaces would be overflowing with employees who couldn’t wait to contribute and excel if we found their one note.

This week, change your approach and your conversations. Don’t allow people to keep talking about others through a negative lens. Take up your instrument and start playing. Soon you’ll see people connect and respond. Trust me. It will bring tears to your eyes.

To give you a nudge, here’s some Bach . . .

Let’s Explore !!

A highlight of our trip to Houston was the NASA Johnson Space Center. It was a pleasant surprise because we didn’t expect it to be so rich and full. We thought we’d spend a few hours milling around and then we’d head to another site. However, we ended up spending our entire day there and we didn’t get to fully experience all the Space Center has to offer.

As we looked at the various displays, we’d get lost reading the intricate details which described each item. We saw space suits, moon rocks, different pieces of equipment used on missions and so much more. Even though it was a vast collection, I’m sure that it doesn’t even scratch the surface of all that it has taken to accomplish the many milestones and new boundaries throughout the history of the space program.

There was a common thread woven through the museum. The men and women of the space program all had a sense of adventure, a willingness to take risks, and the faith that success was sure to occur. It’s hard to grasp the depth of all that went into making space exploration a reality. The hours of math. The countless experiments. The innovative new materials that were developed. You can’t possibly name all of the different things that came to life prior to any semblance of the level of technology we have today.

They were, and are, explorers. They have a perspective of always looking ahead to what could possibly happen. It evolved from rockets, to space flight, to Skylab to the International Space Station, and possibly flying to Mars. The telescopes and satellites keep reaching farther and farther to the ends of our galaxy trying to capture visuals of the universe itself !! It’s fascinating and ever-changing.

Of course, it made me think of Human Resources. I thought to myself – What would HR look like if we reached for the next horizon?

You have to know we’re the ONLY profession that is far too self-reflective while also being self-destructive. We aren’t looking for what’s ahead. Instead, we bemoan all that is “wrong” and our endless shortcomings. If you spend any time at all reading about HR or taking in webinars and conference presentations, you hear the message of endless fixing and patchwork attempts to repair a never functioning industry.

Yuck. Seriously. Does that type of approach make ANYONE excited about being in our field? We’re having ongoing, in-depth arguments about how to “rename” what we do thinking that will position us to finally take on a tangible, relevant leadership mantle. It needs to stop. Now.

I think we need to be explorers !! We need to look out into the abyss of our profession and the approach of our organizations and see how we can venture out to reshape, redefine and renew it all. If we were more like astronauts, we’d eagerly work toward seeing what’s next. We’d have the passion and anticipation of making a discovery that would alter how work is done and how people are treated.

We need to take all of the good work that has been done in HR and treat it as a solid foundation from which to launch. We need to cease retreading one program and initiative after another hoping to uncover a hidden gem. They may exist, but not in what we’ve done so far.

It’s time for us to explore. I’m tired of listening to the message that tears our profession down. I believe in what we do. I believe in humans and that most of them are good. I know that companies can be people-first AND perform !! We can reach heights never before seen or thought of.

Will you join me as we tackle the immense, complex and inviting HR universe which lies before us? I hope you will !!

Tell Me Something Good !!

I took a few weeks off from writing a blog for some much needed PTO and a chance to get away to be with HR peers and also family. A few weeks ago my wife and I got to explore the wonderful city of Houston, Texas. I was invited to speak to a company’s HR team as part of their off-site team-building gathering.

Our travel was uneventful and I was geeked to get to the venue to meet the Perry Homes folks. We were unsure of where to go because we had never visited this sprawling metropolis before. I was a bit anxious because we were getting uncomfortably close to the time I was supposed to speak. I hadn’t set up yet. I didn’t know what the room looked like. How would the AV work? And, how many people would be present?

My wife was patient and reassuring as she usually is. She said to skip checking into our hotel and just get to the retreat. She’d stay with me and we could check-in after I was done. This was just what I needed to hear. She provided the first good thing to happen on our adventure. We soon met the second good thing and that was Angela.

Angela was the contact from Perry Homes who was eagerly awaiting our arrival on the first floor of the converted industrial building. I approached her because I felt we were lost and she calmly said, “I’m waiting for our speaker and his wife.” I let out an audible sigh of relief and said, “That would be us.”

“Fantastic !!” she exclaimed. “We’ve been very eager to meet you and look forward to what you have to share.” Then she showed us up to the theater room (a legit one with big, comfy recliners) and I was able to get things ready to go. My wife was going to wait outside and Angela went out and invited her in. “You should join us.”

The room had 20+ members of the HR team and I was fortunate enough to hear the business at hand. The leaders were positive, encouraging and upbeat. They shared current success stories and news of good things to come. This was a phenomenal environment to jump in and give my presentation. We laughed, learned and shared a good hour together. As the team got ready for a volleyball game, food and drinks, Angela handed my wife a list of things to do and places to eat while we were in town. I also received recommendations by email from some of the HR team. They wanted us to have a great weekend together in their city. Good thing number 3 !!

After sharing in the Tex-Mex lunch buffet, we headed just a few miles away to check in to our hotel. Standing behind the desk was good thing number 4 – Yolanda. “Welcome !!” she exuberantly greeted us while we were a good five feet from her station. “I’ll bet you’re here to spend some time at our great hotel. I’m so glad you chose us. Now, let’s get you settled.” She continued to gleefully talk to us throughout the process. She let us know that she’d be available for anything we needed throughout our stay.

You may be skeptical and think that Yolanda just had great training and she was reciting a script for exceptional customer service. You’d be wrong !! We saw her over the next few days and she remembered us and asked how our stay was going. I watched her treat every person with interest, engagement and grace. It oozed out of her. She and I had a chat and she said, “I’ve been doing this for 20 years at this hotel and I just love it !! I’m going to be 60 soon, and I know that I won’t be doing this forever, but I’m going to enjoy it while I can.”

My wife and I had an incredible time in Houston. We went to the restaurants the Perry Homes folks recommended. We took some of the sites in town including the NASA Johnson Space Center and the traditional game of miniature golf we play on every vacation. Yes, we had a few snags during our trip like traffic and a few bumps in our plans. However, the majority of our time was exceptional.

Too often we walk through our daily lives burdened by fret, concern and the perceived anticipation of what will go wrong. Our focus is based more on obstacles, problems and potential pitfalls than it is on anything good. What a difference it makes when you intentionally refuse to get swallowed by those negative influences. There is so much in front of us that is good.

I’d love to say “great”, but I’m a realistic optimist. Good works. Good is available and sitting right in front of us. This week take a deep breath and clear your mind. Then, as you step into what’s ahead of you, look for the good things. They’re waiting for you !!

To get you in the mood with a dash of funk and soul, here’s some Rufus and Chaka Khan !!

Just My Imagination . . .

Last week my wife and I were able to do one of our favorite things – go to the theater !! We saw the incredible show – Ain’t Too Proud – which chronicles the remarkable career of The Temptations. The moment you see the marquee lit on the stage you can feel tingly anticipation. We were pretty familiar with many of their songs and when the first note hits you were instantly transported back to 1960’s Motown.

The show is a mix of hit after hit sung beautifully by the cast while also being craftily narrated by the character playing Otis Williams. He is the founder of The Temptations and the only living original member at 80 years young. The group’s story is filled with a series of amazing highs as they reached the heights of fame over several decades. They broke barriers and crossed over from being seen only as a black R&B group to becoming one of the all-time best-selling and recognized groups around the world. Their music is timeless and has outlived their heyday.

As magnificent as their success was, they were also plagued and marred by dramatic lows including struggles with egos, infighting, drugs, alcohol and untimely death. The show candidly covers these lows just as much as they did the aspects of success. The destructive behavior of some of the original members led to the difficult decision to ask them to leave the group. When group members were replaced, they experienced the magic of being a Temptation until their humanity crept in and the same set of harmful behaviors started showing in new members as well.

Towards the end of the show, Otis shares that there have been 26 members that have been Temptations over their 60+ years of existence. It’s a factual, sobering statement. It’s not one of pride and joy. It’s more an observation of survival.

Like most things, I see a parallel that applies to HR in my life experiences. When it comes to talent in our organizations, we will often overlook behavior that pulls teams apart if someone is talented “enough.” We will suffer through whatever shenanigans they do because they produce results. We need to be honest about this. Leaders will turn the other way and say things like “that’s just the way __________(insert name here) is.” We excuse detrimental actions without so much as a peep.

Otis Williams did just the opposite. David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks were once in a lifetime talents as musicians and performers. However, when Ruffin’s drug addiction and Kendricks’ dissension about the group’s direction tried to alter the trajectory, Williams asked them to leave. Think of the courage that took. It was very possible they wouldn’t survive the loss of these two originals. Thankfully they did.

It’s very challenging when talented team members become “bigger” than the organization. There is no doubting their skill level and contribution, but there is more value in having a collaborative and cohesive culture. ALL people are talented, not only a few. Make sure that you keep consistency in your culture and value the contribution from every person. That has far more longevity than focusing predominantly on the bright shiny stars.

One of The Temptations most stirring hits was “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” As I close, take a listen and see the power and beauty of a group that performs as one. Let’s make sure we do the same in our companies !!

On Loan

Do you have neighbors? I’m fortunate to have some great ones all around me. With Spring just starting to burst forth, it’s time to get out in the yard. I know that if I need a hand or to borrow a tool (or two) from one of my neighbors, they’d be very willing. I am the same. It’s great to be in a position where we’re willing to help each other out.

The key to any tool borrowing is the understanding that they’re returned in good shape after they were used. It’s wonderful to have the right implement to complete the tasks at hand, but there’s never an expectation you get to keep the borrowed tool(s). In fact, if you did keep your neighbor’s tools, they’d be less likely to let you borrow any more in the future.

This past week I was enjoying an episode of the HR Social Hour Half Hour Podcast featuring a friend from Scotland – Scott Leiper. He shared a wonderful perspective he heard from the incredible Kirsty Mac who reminded him to look at employees who work at our company as being “on loan.” I loved this the moment Scott shared it. He went on to frame that he loved this as well and it helped him view people in a much healthier way.

You see, we don’t view people as being with us for a period of time. We think of them in permanent terms very quickly after they join our companies. In fact, we’re quite put off when someone decides to leave our organization. We may even become indignant because we just don’t understand why someone would “turn” on us. If we were honest, we may miss someone if they change jobs, but we’re more likely upset because we worry about how this transition will impact us !! It’s true. We continue to talk in terms of job requisitions to be filled instead of humans bringing talent to our teams.

Add on top of this the sentiment expressed by most employees that they’re rarely engaged or recognized if they stay with a company. The mantra we continue to perpetuate is about work, tasks, procedures, strategies, and goals regardless of who is accomplishing those things. It’s astonishing that we keep people at our companies at all !!

Let’s turn the narrative around. Let’s embrace the reality that we have our people for a period of time. Let’s encourage them to stay awhile and value them every day for all they do. Let’s get excited for the entire time we have “borrowed” them to allow them to perform, thrive and drive our organizations forward. How would your culture and workplace look if you understood you only have a finite amount of time to work with those around you? I’d bet it would matter and you’d make sure everyone was anchored, involved and valued. You would make sure their talent was used to do the good work you had in front of you each day.

Let’s quit talking about, and focusing on, people changing jobs as part of some Great Whatever !! We have to quit following the next big trend to just mimic and bemoan our circumstances. Let’s celebrate the time we get to have with our people instead. We should use the full term of our loan so when it’s completely paid we get excited for the next step of their career.

From now on remember that our people are on loan. They’re going to be given back to our “neighbor” throughout their career. Trust me. When you do this you will start making the first foundational step of truly being a people-first organization !!