The Entire Catalog

This weekend I had a ton of yardwork facing me. I relish time in the yard even though it wears me out. I always make sure to have music playing as my work accompaniment. It helps pass the time and I love having tunes constantly playing most of my days. My phone was acting a bit wonky before I headed out so I pulled out my old, yet reliable, iPod. Yes, iPod.

I’ve had a classic iPod for almost 20 years. Sure, it’s old school, but it still works. One other great thing about it is that its music I enjoy. I know that these days you can stream the music you enjoy and make your own channels. Trust me, if it involves music, I’m on top of it. One of the differences with storage units like iPods is that you can load an artist’s entire catalog onto it.

Years ago when people had to purchase albums, tapes, or CDs they usually bought a complete collection of songs. You could get singles but I rarely did. I wanted to take in everything an artist created. It gave me a broader picture of their vision and talent. There were some “misses” on these pieces of work, but somehow they seem to fit the picture as well. When albums and CDs were the choices you had to get music, I would work on purchasing everything artists recorded. I enjoyed the hits that were usually in the tracks, but I also loved the deeper cuts that few listened to.

The longer I was in the yard, the more songs played. I heard a variety as it randomly chose one tune after another. I was able to add 12,449 songs to my iPod before Apple decided to no longer support their once popular music system. I had more albums and CDs to add, but it is no longer supported. But I digress . . .

I was able to think and let my mind drift during my tasks and the endless flow of music made me think of “talent” in our organizations. You see, I think we are making a few mistakes as we look to add people to our companies. We all look for rock stars and I’m sure we have some success in doing so. However, when we source, recruit, interview, and eventually hire people, we only ask for and look for, a person’s “greatest hits.”

It’s how we write our job descriptions and it’s how we frame the gauntlet for people to get through in order to join us. We only scratch the surface of who these people are and what their capabilities truly are. Digging too far into those deep cuts takes too much time. Something we convince ourselves that we just don’t have. The pressure to find people in an ongoing talent shortage takes precedence over fully considering someone.

It doesn’t stop us from adding people. The problem with only looking for people based on their greatest hits is that those wear out and they get stagnant because they’ve stopped creating new material. This brings us to our second miss . . . we stop thinking of people as “talent” once they’re hired. Even the term we use is talent acquisition which means that acquiring is key. Odd isn’t it? Shouldn’t we look at people as talented all of the time?

I think we can change this narrative if we decide to hire people and their entire catalog !! That means valuing their strengths, understanding where and how they can grow, and how they can be aligned to contribute over a longer period of time. During the time they work with us, you’re sure to get some great hits from them. They may even have enough to build their own greatest hits album from their efforts. Wouldn’t that be amazing ??

It’s time for us not to only ask people to bring their whole selves to work. It’s time for us to engage, elevate and embrace their full talent from the time they join us until the time they leave. The organization has an obligation to create a culture that is holistic and expects people to be able to play every track they’ve recorded. It will make our companies and our team members richer. Make sure you’re tapping into the entire catalog of the talented people around you !!

(The track on the screen in the picture is from the album The River in Reverse by Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint. Here’s the tune so you can enjoy a deep cut from a catalog of one of my favorite artists !!)

Dump Your Bucket

My wife and I are very fortunate. We have a solid relationship with our kids. One of the things I’ve worked on with them over the years is that I’m always available as an outlet. It doesn’t matter the timing, the subject matter, or how “big” of an issue it is to them. This has resulted in some very emotional conversations over the years. They involve a mixture of tears, raised voices, and sometimes some “colorful” language. I never get upset when these convos pop up because I want them to know they have a safe outlet to help them work through the various ups and downs of life. They know that they can dump their bucket with me.

The key to making this work is to not automatically jump to potential solutions. We’re wired to try and solve whatever is presented to us within moments. Too often, we don’t even allow sentences to be completed before we start offering options to work through whatever is presented to us. Ironically, we think that is being helpful and why someone sought us out in the first place. That is so far from the case, but it’s our typical response. This “jump to a conclusion” approach is so limiting and narrow, but it is what we lead with. This is most likely because, if we were honest with each other, we just want to solve and move on.

We feel that people are worth our time and attention only if we can provide the expertise to pull them through the situations they find themselves in. In turn, this gives us a great, warm feeling because we convince ourselves we’ve been such a critical help. I don’t want to seem that there isn’t value in these interactions. The majority of business is conducted with these solution-based snippets with little to no depth or context expected.

Because we don’t take time to let people dump their buckets, you’ll find that their buckets start leaking. People want to have that safe outlet at work. They don’t want to continue to walk around feeling like they’re about to burst. The question to ask organizationally is – Are we willing to do this? There is a risk in allowing people to dump their buckets, but it’s a risk worth taking.

Whenever I am available for my kids, I know the release they experience helps them clear their heads, balance their emotions and work through a path toward resolution. The release is what is needed more than any solution. It’s a much healthier method to try than letting the pressure and stress build up over time. I’ve been there when my kids start leaking. It’s not pretty. They don’t enjoy it and neither do those around them.

This past year, our company has been upfront that we’d like people to have the ability to dump their buckets when needed. It’s been quite the journey and we’ve had some bumps and stumbles along the way. However, it’s been the most freeing cultural shift we’ve ever embarked on. Please don’t think that it’s a constant dumpfest with people grousing all the time. It’s just the opposite. Now we have more constructive conversations because people have had the ability to clear the air and their heads before jumping into the old quick solution pattern. We’ve seen more context, more shared perspectives, and healthier relationships. It’s been needed and it was sitting right in front of us all the time.

I’ve found that more and more of my time leading HR is making sure that people are dumping their buckets. I’m not always the person involved in the conversations, but I am making sure they’re happening. It’s such a valuable use of my time because enabling these sessions to occur is making people healthier, and it puts them in a better position to perform.

This week start looking around at those you work with. How are their buckets? I’m sure they’re overflowing and even leaking a bit. See what you can do. Figure out how to set an environment where bucket dumping can happen. Put on your wading boots and see the great things that lie ahead !!

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.

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 !!

Let Love Rule

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m a self-avowed HR Hippie. I dig the vibe, approach and general sentiment of seeking balance in all areas of life. That includes physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Before you read further, please know this isn’t a New Age post. I’m just sharing a viewpoint from my perspective that I’ve seen work over and over.

Just when we think that the world is coming to its senses, we find it pulling itself apart once again. Like most, I’m very concerned with all that is unfolding on the world stage. It’s a bit daunting because I’m sitting on my laptop thousands of miles away while others are wondering about their basic safety. To try and position anything of note during this time seems incongruent and frivolous. However, life continues to move in and around us while the conflict advances.

I feel that we’re in a time when we could reach out to each other intentionally instead of following the feeling that the fabric of society continues to unravel. It may seem like we’re in a loop of self-destruction everywhere we turn. I don’t want to succumb to that myself, and I don’t want to see those around me breaking down either. In the end, we can take action in a measured and effective way.

We can choose to love others regardless of how they treat us. You may feel that’s naive and Utopian, but as I mentioned before, it works. The difference is that I’ve seen it work when you stop to notice the individual in front of you. Mass efforts may bring a swell of great intentions, but they’re not sustainable. Most people also don’t have the capacity to effectively continue with a large number of relationships. This shouldn’t dissuade you though from approaching others from a loving vantage point.

I can hear the detractors screaming that we can’t say, or show, that we love our employees at work. It’s out-of-bounds or unwanted. People only desire a professional, arms-length relationship with their employer. It’s bad HR and bad practice in general to express love for others in the workplace.

I disagree.

Today, more than any time that I can recall, people are looking for ways to anchor and belong. That is true personally and professionally. This is much deeper than “engagement.” Every day in my role, I spend the vast majority of my time intentionally one-on-one with people. I know firsthand that this matters to their wellbeing, their balance, and how they will most likely approach others. It doesn’t matter if I’m spending time with fellow executives or people on the front line. They want to be seen, heard, valued and understood. They want to share their thoughts, opinions, joys and concerns.

Therefore, I choose to love them so that all of those actions can happen openly and without any sense of fear or hesitation. Please don’t misconstrue this as something that is flowery and squishy. Just the opposite. It is very intentional, respectful and direct. When people know that you are seeking them out and paying attention to them, you are going to be more successful than not in helping them feel safe, perform and thrive.

I may not be able to change the world stage, and I ache for those who are facing situations and an environment that is potentially life-threatening. I can, however, chip away and show a different way one person at a time. I can choose to let love rule.

Do Some Pruning !!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be the Reason !!

Can you feel the change in the air? Spring is upon us and that’s exciting. With the change in seasons, there’s a renewed hope with everything budding and breaking through the ground. I can’t help but sense the energy around me lifting. I hope you sense it as well.

The question is, what will you do with it? Will you embrace the influx of newness or will you look past it? Instead of embracing the bright colors emerging everywhere, you keep your head down and remain focused on what you think truly matters. All of this stepping back and being reflective is seen as a waste of time and not productive. Each moment that isn’t consumed with work, completing tasks and taking on more is unacceptable. How can you even afford to step away from the multiple drivers that pull you in numerous ways?

It’s easy to follow the inner voices which tell you to overlook all that is going on around you. We believe if we pause, then something “critical” surely won’t get done. It’s not true. It never has been. Even though we know that we have more than enough time available daily, we act as if we don’t. When we refuse to slow down for even a moment, we miss the most important thing in the world – the people around us.

Just this weekend I was at church grabbing a cup of coffee, and as I was taking a sip, a friend noted, “Hi there !! It’s great to see your face again.” You see, we’ve been behind masks for over a year, and I had forgotten the reality that we only see half of our faces. The best attribute each one of us has doesn’t get seen nearly as much as it had in the past – our smile.

My friend got to see a brief glimpse of mine between sips and it reminded me how easy it is to overlook the simple things. By taking a moment to notice me, she made me smile. She was able to capture the energy that is all around us. We have been longing to recapture the spark that pulls us together and binds us as humans for over a year. I understand that we see each other’s faces, but the majority of that happens virtually. It isn’t the same as seeing each other in person.

We have a great opportunity staring at us if we choose to embrace it. What would your day look like if you were the reason to make them smile? What simple act could you do to make a genuine connection and break them out of the malaise that threatens to swallow us? What would your life be like if you made this a regular practice and not just a response to get away from the experience we’ve all gone through?

People are aching to reconnect. People are struggling because of isolation and the lack of time to be with each other socially. It’s affecting our wellbeing and, unfortunately, it’s prevalent.

We should consistently be the reason someone smiles. I think we’ve lost the willingness, and the ability, to do this because we’ve remained in that trap of being focused on everything but people. It needs to change, and it needs to happen now.

We can make this our own personal Spring. Let’s come back to life. Let’s plant a seed of kindness and joy all the time. Will you join me?

Be the reason.

Experience Needed ??

It’s hard to believe that I’m entering the 35th year of my career. I can distinctly remember the challenge of finding my first job. You see, I was trying to land a role in the newly renamed field of “Human Resources” before the internet was anything to be reckoned with. In fact, I went to a library on the campus of Ohio University at the beginning of my senior year and found a book called The Million Dollar Directory. It was a list of companies and their profiles. I picked out a list of 200 brand name firms and typed (yes, typed) a cover letter and resume for each one, and mailed them out.

I had to patiently wait for responses by mail. (yes, mail) Of the 200 letters I sent across the country, I received a handful of rejections and one positive response. I interviewed with this Fortune 500 giant and was fortunate to get hired. Did I mention that the country was in a recession when I was graduating from college? Also, unemployment was at a record high at the time. Sound familiar?

The one difference is that the company I joined was just starting to look for recent college graduates to join the recruiting department. I was the first college graduate they hired. Every other manager in the department had grown up by moving up the career ladder of the organization. I was an “experiment” in response to a directive that said that HR was going to start using the model the revenue-driving departments had used for some time. I was at the right place at the right time. I didn’t have any tangible experience. I just wanted to go into human resources.

I’ll never forget this story because it runs against the grain of ALL companies when it comes to hiring people. We continue to rely on old models and expectations with the myth of experience. If we review a resume that states someone has between “x” and “y” years of experience in a role, we attribute talent and skillset purely based on tenure at a company. That is the first hurdle candidates MUST pass in order to hit the next incremental step of consideration. If people can’t pass this barrier of chronology, then we keep digging until we find someone who matches.

You’d think after 35 years things would evolve. You’d hope that with AI, ATS, chatbots, digital methods, etc. we’d have moved the needle. We haven’t and, honestly, we refuse to because we feel if we eliminate the “experience” parameter then we’ll get a mish-mash of underqualified people. Here’s a more current example . . .

My son, Josh, graduated from Ohio University in 2019 with high honors. He’s a great, talented young man with a degree but he didn’t secure an internship or co-op during his time in college. I understand that is a choice, but again, there’s no measure as to what students did during internships. It’s just key for people to list one on their resume because it reflects . . . experience. This story isn’t true only for my son. It’s how HR and organizations continue to filter out new graduates, those trying to change industries, and people making career changes from one field to another.

When we were on a recent call, he was telling me the steps he was pursuing in his continued job search when he choked up a bit and said in frustration, “How am I supposed to gain experience if no one is willing to give me an opportunity?”

There it is. There’s the crux of this long-held myth. How does one gain experience to match the job requisition when companies aren’t willing to take the chance/risk on investing in someone first? We have all been lulled to sleep and complacency as business professionals because we’ve forgotten that when our careers began someone opened a door for us and invited us in. We lose sight of this because we’re working. I hate to be this candid – but if you have a job, you typically don’t care about those who don’t.

This has to change. There is no reason for people to continue to have to fight through unneeded steps in order to prove that they made it through some imaginary gauntlet and have earned the right to work for a company. It’s archaic and unproven. How can we state we are hiring for “talent” when we’re really looking for people to match buzzwords, overly complicated job descriptions and hidden preferences and biases in our current approach?

It’s time for all of us to open doors. As HR and talent acquisition professionals, we need to redefine the landscape that allows everyone access to jobs and then go through a process of consideration which measures aptitude, character, strengths and potential. We need to come to terms that we can train the details of the jobs they’ll take on. We’re going to anyway.

We should value the skills, knowledge and experience people earn over time. But, instead of playing organizational match game, we should see how we can take those attributes to our organization in order to have their talent move us forward by adding value. It’s time for this current generation of professionals in HR to change the landscape.

I’m not sure how it’s supposed to look. I’m not sure the facets needed to make a design that is inclusive, consistent, and accessible. I just know it can, and must, exist. I plan to start by opening doors for others. As an HR practitioner myself, I can reach out to job seekers and be a person who helps make connections in other organizations if I don’t have roles available myself. We have to think of others outside of ourselves and our companies. Think of how companies would excel if we opened doors to introduce them to talent all over because of the connections we have.

I hope someone opens a door for my son. I know that when it happens, he’ll remember his experience of landing his first job and he’ll open doors for others. You see, experience isn’t needed . . . genuinely helping others land in roles is !!

Don’t Be Sisyphus !!

How’s your new year shaping up? Is your plate full? Chances are it’s overflowing. I know this may be stating the obvious for most people. I’m not just referring to work either. Yes, work may take up the majority of your daily time, effort and attention. We need to remember that each person we encounter has their version of “life” going on. You may be addressing personal/family situations and struggles with spouses, partners, kids, or parents. You may be in between jobs now or you’d like to change your role/company if you had the chance. I’m not going to try and capture all that is in front of you. I’m just sure that you’re full (too full).

What’s interesting about being full at work is that we don’t view this positively. We complain. Incessantly. It’s true. So much of our daily routine includes bemoaning all that we have to do. On top of that, we complain about co-workers that are intertwined with our mountain of work. We exhale a gigantic sigh as if to get the attention of others so they can commiserate with us. Others follow this pattern and they grouse as well. For some reason, we find comfort in this mixing of conversations which look at all that is wrong with our day . . . because we’re full.

I remember a time when I went to a restaurant in downtown Cincinnati by myself (pre-COVID) to run an errand. It is a great, local Mexican place that I try to visit when I get the chance. I was by myself which is a rarity in itself. I ordered the daily special and found a table to sit in the middle of a full gathering who were “enjoying” their lunch break. Instead of scrolling through endless social media threads, I sat quietly and listened to the conversations of those around me. I know it’s a bit intrusive, but I curious to hear what others were talking about.

Every single conversation was negative. Every one. The people eating around me weren’t upset or animated. They were speaking at ease because this was, and is, normal for them – as it is for all of us. They were complaining about the work they had in front of them and the people that had to “deal” with in order to try and move forward. I’m sure there was a smattering of constructive input during the chats, but that was hard to assess. Since no one was phased by how the conversations occurred, I’m positive people went on with their day oblivious to the tone.

I understand that being full can be overwhelming, and it may even feel that we’re going to sink rather than swim. But, isn’t that a great position to be in? Seriously. When you are full, then, chances are, you’re either adding value or others are counting on you to come through because of your talent. So, we need to quit being Sisyphus !!

Illustration by Temujin Doran and Max Robinson

Who’s Sisyphus? He was a character in Greek mythology who was not a good king. His lifestyle of deceit and conniving angered the gods and he was given the task of rolling a massive stone up a hill with the hope that he’d clear the peak and the stone would roll down the other side. He would struggle and push against the boulder, but he could never clear the precipice. Oh, and he only has to push this immovable object up the hill . . . for eternity !! Sound familiar? THIS is how we sound when we talk about our work. We come off more like martyrs than contributors.

This needs to turn around and disappear. If we want to have people-centric organizations filled with performers, then we need to do all we can to destroy how work is talked about. And . . . it starts with us HR !! I understand that working with people can be daunting, challenging and even disheartening IF you view people as a problem first. Our mentality and mindset have to be reset. We must talk about how the work in front of us is an opportunity and not a burden. We must embrace the conversations we have with other employees as a chance to learn, hear new ideas and perspectives and work together collaboratively towards moving things forward.

I’m not a Pollyanna, but I am an optimist. I am grateful I am both full and overwhelmed with the good work I get to be a part of in my role. It’s very easy to go dark and complain. Very easy. I just choose not to. I plan to get that rock up over the hill so that I can see past the peak, go into the next valley and get the next boulder that is sure to be there.

If we would shift and become beacons of light as HR practitioners in our organizations, then others would see the great work they have in front of them positively as well. Organizations would thrive and cultures would improve. We’d actually have “best places to work” because you’d see people embrace their place as the talented people they already are. Be glad you’re full.

Every Moment

This post represents quite a few milestones !! It’s a New Year, it’s my birthday and it’s the 10-year anniversary of my blog. Hard to grasp that all of these events convened at the same time. It also is a great example of what I wanted to “talk” about this week.

You do tend to reflect more as you get older. I never thought that would be the case, but it happens because I think you realize your time on this planet is on the downward side of the curve. Please don’t think I’m being pessimistic because that rarely occurs in how I live and see life. I’m being realistic though because I’m much closer to my sixth decade roaming the earth than my first !!

So many people have sentiments about escaping 2020. I am not one of those people. Yes, it was a tough year for most everyone I know including me. The loss of my father and my boss will alter my life. There is no doubt about it. I can’t adequately capture the myriad of events that happened around the world that seem that we’re far more unsettled and divided than we are cohesive.

As I reflect on getting the chance to celebrate another year of life, I’ve come to realize something is so true that I never grasped until late last year. My brother was with me and our mom as our dad was passing. As we were discussing all that was happening, a well-intentioned surgeon was telling us he was sure he could perform a procedure which may have a sliver of success for my dad. We discussed this as a group, and my brother, a doctor himself, shared a piece of advice he received from his Chief Nursing Officer. She told him, “Mark, you need to remember that we see people for only a few moments of their life.”

That struck me. It’s true. We act on very little information with very little time in each other’s lives. When you step back to look at it, the majority of how we live, what we believe, and how we view the world is made up of a series of very small moments. For some reason, our brain takes these various interactions and pulls them together to make thoughts, opinions and perspectives.

We need to keep this in mind because it seems that we are acting on these small moments to make massive assumptions, judgments, and movements. We tend to expand these encounters to make our feelings and attitudes absolute. We fill in the pieces on people without even thinking about asking them for any details or context. This concrete approach leads to putting people into compartments that validate our personal view and outlook on life . . . and they may be very skewed and we don’t even see it happening.

The surgeon I mentioned earlier was trying to do his best based on his talent, skills, and experience to help our dad. Fortunately, my brother remembered the advice he was given and called his colleagues to explain the situation and get input from others. It confirmed his suspicion that the chances of my dad recovering were remote. So, we thanked the surgeon and chose not to proceed. The surgeon was indignant about our decision. He was very confident in his abilities. I’m sure he was talented, but he didn’t realize that he had little knowledge of who my dad was and what his wishes were if he were in a life-ending circumstance. He was only in my dad’s life for a moment but didn’t recognize that.

As we all take our next trip around the sun, I’d ask you all to join me in stepping back to acknowledge that we are in each other’s lives for mere moments. Hopefully, you have family and friends who get to experience more moments than others and that is positive. I know that may not be the case with family or friends, but as I mentioned earlier, I’m an eternal optimist.

I don’t want to overlook any opportunity I have to be in a moment with others. Not one. I want every person I meet to know they matter and that I would rather enjoy our time together regardless of the circumstance. You never know. The one time you are with another person may be the ONLY time you’re together.

Why wouldn’t you take that brief time to make it the best possible moment you could? You need to remember that you will be remembered by whomever you encounter – every. time. You have the choice to make that a positive experience. I would encourage you to embrace that !!

I typically write to an audience of HR pros because I feel we can always improve how we work with others. I believe this approach of enjoying every moment should be the baseline for great human resources. If you choose to adopt this, I guarantee that you will enjoy not only the work you do but (more importantly) the fabulous people around you.

Enjoying every moment with all people is an even bigger expectation, but I think it’s needed now more than ever. If we would cherish the moments we have with each other, I think we would appreciate people as the wonderful, creative, and humorous works in progress we ALL are. I know there will continue to be trials, disappointments and failures. However, I can be assured that I will have people who will be doing life with me and the moments we share together will help us work through whatever we’re facing.

Start your year with a positive outlook which will take you forward through the years to come. Enjoy every moment !!