A few weeks ago, my wife and I were able to get out on the town and catch a live show. It was magnificent !! To be able to get to see live entertainment would have been wonderful enough, but on top of that we were able to laugh for almost two straight hours. We went to see a comedy improv show featuring two of the regular cast members of the showWhose Line is it Anyway? – Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood.
If you’re not familiar with the TV show, it’s all improv comedy. They come to the stage with some general ideas of the scenes they are going to play, but they rely on the audience for suggestions and clues to character and direction. They have incredible skill because even the most outrageous suggestions are easily woven into their work without missing a beat. It’s a wonderful art form. I sat in the audience completely captured by every moment, shift and adaptation with what seemed to be absolutely incongruent fragments of ideas as they all came together.
Of course, it reminded me of HR !! I don’t know if we get to have nearly as much laughter as I did at the show, but every day we’re faced with the unknown. To me, this is what makes the profession so wonderful and attractive. Not knowing what will come next is invigorating. It really is. In fact, because we get the privilege of working with people, our days can’t be predictable. That’s because each person is unique and sees things through a lens that is linked specifically to them.
Ironically, we complain about this. We want to have everyone be the same. We long for the same behaviors, the same reactions and that everyone would just “stay in line.” We believe the myth that if this is how working with people was, then HR would be much easier. However, it would also be dull and lifeless.
We were meant to be improv artists in HR !! Think of it. Each day you’re given just a few snippets of a situation and then you have to assess, create and act to make everything “come together.” Isn’t that fantastic ??!! When you do this, you’ll see that you have an innate ability to work with each person for who they are instead of trying to make them conform to a listless script.
So, this week instead of trying to make everything fit into a predictable pattern that can’t truly exist, step into your reality and get ready to improvise. It’s far more natural and even – entertaining !!
For the past several years, I’ve contributed to the #AdventBlogs series. It’s a great series from a multitude of global HR pros, and it’s a joy to be included. The series is now hosted by my friend Gary Cookson. I would recommend you connecting with Gary and read all of the Advent Blog posts from this year. I’m sure you’d get connected to some HR folks you don’t yet know – but should !!
Here is my submission. I hope you enjoy it and join me in expanding your personal horizons by breaking some bubbles.
I’ve always been a person who has multiple interests. Growing up, I was fortunate to be in a loving, caring home nestled in a small town in the Midwest. This environment allowed me to explore a variety of activities. I wasn’t limited by the scope or number of things to try. What was ironic about this now reflecting years later is that I didn’t know that this was unique. I assumed everyone growing up at the time I did had the same experiences and opportunities I did. I understand now that this was a bit naïve because I didn’t have exposure to people who were much different than me.
Even though I had such a positive childhood, everyone I knew was similar to me in race, background, education, and belief systems. I was in the classic “you don’t know what you don’t know” setting. It was like I lived in a Norman Rockwell painting. Before I talk about how my perspective was broadened, let me share one more advantage of my small town. I didn’t think in terms of barriers or obstacles when it came to participation. I was involved in sports, academics, music programs, drama, and civic/faith communities all at the same time. I was a member of every stereotypical high school group. I hung around people who chose to be in only a few groups and relished that I could have relationships with people regardless of who they were or what their interests were. That was “normal” for me. My parents encouraged me and my brother to try everything and then stick with what interested us. We both were as well rounded as possible. Most of my core friend group also had this multi-faceted approach to life. It was exhilarating !!
When I went to college, my horizons were instantly expanded. It was the first time in my life that I met people who grew up in large metropolitan cities and foreign countries. I made connections with people who were vastly diverse from me and I loved it. I was disappointed that I wasn’t aware of how amazing and unique people were. Even in this, I realize now that college was only a microcosm of how limitless the variety of humanity truly is. However, it was a great way to challenge what I had known and experienced in my small town. I had to decide to stay cocooned in my small bubble or break that bubble to take in everything around me. I broke the bubble, and I’m glad I did.
I continued to be involved in as many different activities and social groups as I could throughout my college years. What I found is that the fabric of people I encountered gave me experiences I would have never had if I hadn’t ventured forth and taken risks to be fully engaged with people regardless of their background, culture, and experience. I never felt confined to be connected only to certain social groups.
Unfortunately, it was also during college that I learned that people also chose to not be as open to others as I was trying to do. I remember taking a class my senior year which studied the life and efforts of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. We had to do some form of visible non-violent activity and then write about our experience with the reactions we experienced. It was a group project. Four of us decided to “march” with banners and sheets with messages on them to bring attention to inequities we saw at that time happening at the University. As we walked through areas that were filled with the housing of our fellow students, we were jeered, cussed at and people even threw things at us. I was confused, angry, and hurt. My group’s experience was more visceral and emotional than some of the other groups in the class. It has stuck with me ever since. I didn’t understand why we received such a reaction from people just by walking down a street. It was hard to process.
This leads me to today. What if people intentionally chose to connect and have meaningful relationships with others just because they are fellow humans?
I understand that each person on the planet is unique and different. That doesn’t intimidate me. It fascinates me !! If I could spend each day I walk on this earth to meet and know every single person that I’m around, I would be fulfilled. I mean that. I would be completely content listening to the story of every person I encounter to try to learn from them and understand their life experience.
I was sitting on the steps of the New York Public Library a few years ago having a coffee with a dear friend while visiting New York City for a meeting. I said, “I wish I could stop and talk to every person walking around us. Don’t you?” He said that would be uncomfortable and uncertain. He’s right, but I’d love to take the risk.
I’d love to see the world, in general, come together and get to know each other and understand our various outlooks on life, work and society. I want to take the background I’ve grown up with and apply it to all aspects of human connection. I don’t feel we’ll ever come together until we take the time to learn, listen, respect and value where people come from. It doesn’t mean we’ll always agree, and it may lead to deep, intense dialogue. Isn’t that worth pursuing?
I have never felt comfortable when people want to put me in a box to say that you must be this or that or be part of this group or that one. Why can’t you move across all groups and types of people? I’m going to keep working on my “What if” because I know it works. I’m not sure where it will lead me, but I feel the world has so much to offer because of its people. I know that in doing this I will discover ways to view and experience a much bigger slice of life than if I only stayed complacent and within a defined bubble.
I’d encourage you to join me and break your bubble because I’d love to get to know you as well !!
We’re all building up to the Christmas and Holiday season this time of year. There seems to be an even greater emphasis on the need for generosity after all that has occurred during 2020. I think that is great and have those same feelings to reach out to lift others up. Yes, the holidays will look different this year than they have in the past. That seems to be the overall theme for the entire year. The world has changed. I don’t think it’s a matter of yearning for a rebound or a return to life as we knew it either.
We all have a choice as we enter a new year. We can move forward or remain stagnant. I choose to move forward. I’m not sure what lies ahead and I’m not a person who makes resolutions. I am not naive either. Challenges are sure to continue to occur in 2021 personally, professionally and as a society. I hope you don’t get discouraged, and I have a suggestion that just might work.
Find your inner llama !!
You may wonder what that means. Let me explain. Several years ago a dear friend of mine, Trish McFarlane, and I were catching up on a phone call and we started making up stories about HR and llamas. There was no rhyme or reason for it, but we laughed every time we mentioned them. It stuck with me and I’ve been a proponent of HR Llamas ever since.
The main reminder of the llamas for me is that they bring a smile to my face and overall joy !! In fact, others have embraced this symbol and have sent me llamas to add to my collection. They share that they appreciate me giving them something to rally around. I’ve received several of them as gifts over the years with incredibly touching stories from people. My wife and I were out at Lowe’s recently and walking through the Christmas decorations section when she saw this massive inflatable llama. She quipped, “I suppose we’re going to get that for our yard.” I was stunned, and then it was purchased !!
Every night as dusk arrives, you can hear the soft whirr of a motor as our new llama majestically fills with air and rises from the ground. A light comes on to shine out and break away the darkness. Our neighbors have already stopped by to say how they love the new addition to our decorations. They say it makes them smile every night !!
It’s easier to show grace, generosity, and joy during the holidays. It seems like our hearts soften for about thirty days. Then, we slip back into a pattern that is not so joyful. People all around us are yearning for ways for everyday life to be positive. We should do all we can to not regress. That is why I want you to find your inner llama – whatever that is. It doesn’t have to be a llama. Find what works for you and reminds you to share encouragement, laughter, and joy year-round !! It works. It’s needed. It’s time.
Now that we’re in December, expect to see a flurry of posts that will be overly hopeful for 2021 landing all over the internet. There will be countless “predictions” and a series of aspirations. I love seeing this optimism but feel most posts will just be calling for the end of 2020. It’s hard not to echo that sentiment because there are so many things we’d like to get past.
However, I think we’d be remiss if we didn’t reflect and see what we learned this past year. The entire landscape of work changed. I think that much of this change will take hold and there will be few who will revert back to how things were. I’m still amazed by the ability to easily connect with people virtually now. It has eliminated the barriers of geography and time in a way that we haven’t seen before. In fact, last week I was on two separate “calls” talking to people from the HR community that included people from Prestwick, Scotland; Dallas, Texas; Barbados; Manchester, England; and Bradford, England !! We were in the same room and having great conversations. It still amazes me because I’m old enough to remember the cartoon series, The Jetsons, when talking to people virtually seemed to be something that would only be in someone’s imagination. I know there are downsides to constantly being connected, which brings me to the focus of this post . . .
The pandemic “forced” HR to change. It was something that was overdue for so many reasons. The long-held yearning of getting a seat at the table was instantly eliminated because organizations had an epiphany – ALL situations in companies are people issues !! Therefore, who better to have a people perspective than those in Human Resources? Well, who?
If you asked HR professionals, they would exuberantly proclaim that they are the perfect resource for leading the “people” focus of companies. If you asked people from other departments, there might be a different answer. I’m being realistic and not critical. I know many HR pros who excel in approaching the work they do as true leaders. The pandemic has allowed them to step up and shine without having to ask if they have earned a seat or not.
My peers who have struggled in becoming more adaptable and agile struggle with one main thing – a box.
There is a long tradition within organizations that clear, succinct, and restrictive boxes work best. If rules are set forth and adhered to, then we know when people step outside those boundaries. Then, we established measurements and performance reviews which are largely based on how often you stepped outside of your boundaries and whether or not you were productive. Mind you, “productivity” is also typically measured by how busy one appears and if you’re good at knocking out tasks. We want, in fact, to demand that people land in boxes. We are uncomfortable when people seem to roam around. Those folks freak us out.
At the same time, we desire creativity, innovation, flexible work environments, fully autonomous staff, and the ability to not confine people. The two approaches don’t sync up because the wish list just stated is what leadership aspirationally talks about while it practices box building in the background. Please note that this won’t show up when you conduct employee engagement surveys either because employees are hesitant to be as candid as they are when they’re talking as peers. They’ll complete surveys which affirm the box factory because that matches the culture they live in.
Even though we have two systems that co-exist, it’s time for one to be broken down. It’s time to take the sides off the boxes in our organization. Now, I’m not talking about being “outside the box” (catchphrase) or to promote unfettered chaos (which won’t happen anyway). I want to see HR, as a profession, stop trying to restrict and confine. We need to be the profession that expects performance and gives people the scope and latitude to do that in the fashion that best suits a person’s strengths and abilities. We should be agitators and deconstructors. Taking this next step would keep us relevant as a profession. We should lead all the time and not only during a crisis.
The conversations I mentioned I had before virtually were talking about movements which opened boxes. This group of HR folks, along with many others, are the ones who are roaming around and are doing their best not to be constrained or constrain others. I’m encouraged by this and hope to be an agitator and deconstructor myself. This is a key takeaway from 2020 for me. Since things have shifted . . . keep shifting and taking down the sides of boxes.
One of my favorite activities around the house is to mow my lawn. I mean it. I enjoy it because it takes between 2 to 3 hours to do it. I’m a bit old fashioned in that I walk to mow. It’s incredible excercise which allows me to let my thoughts wander and have a good think.
As I was dripping with sweat this weekend taking my weekly lawn mowing jaunt, I was pieceing together something that has been troubling me lately with how people are choosing to interact in person, on line and through the media. More and more it seems that we are becoming an “either/or” society. Every situation and every issue tries to be dissected into two sides. The sentiment that is prevailing is that I either need to believe in what you believe, or I am adamantly against you.
It doesn’t help that we get snippets of information, or opinion, and we call that “news.” News that infuriates most and raises the temperature with every story that is shared. In looking at this, it shocks me how we take these tidbits of information and form full fledged approaches to our daily living. We have become so self-consumed and self-focused that anything happening around is also is either for us or against us.
I have never been comfortable with being presented with only two choices in life. To think that the amazing, complex, intricate and ever-changing world we live in can be simplified into such concrete black and white terms seems constricting and narrow. Truth be told, I think people want an “either/or” pattern in life because we don’t like variability. Each day we think our existence is to trod to work to fix everything because it’s ALL broken. (That’s not true, but we like to think it is because that’s how we find purpose in our work. That’s for another post some day.)
People also want to be “right” and have some sense of control. Uncertainity gives us the shakes and we want things defined. Change is our enemy even though change occurs whether we want it to or not. I’d like to offer a different approach to implement when it comes to facing each day.
Choose an “if/then” approach.
If you remember geometry, you had to figure out mathematical proofs using if/then statements. What this did was take the situation/circumstance/fact you start with and say, “If this . . . then that.” The then statement would give you options to consider. This method gives you the opportunity to take an objective look at things as they come forward.
A few weeks ago, my wife Debbie and I went on an Art Walk in Elk Rapids, Michigan. It was a meandering trail through a local park where artists had created and displayed their work. You had a flyer which led you from piece to piece and it was very cool and relaxing to see. The canopy of the trees provided a break from the heat and you could hear the rustling of leaves, the chatter of squirrels and the various calls of birds. It was a true escape. One of the sculptures we saw was called “Peace Signs” by Scott Froschauer and it captured my attention both because of the message as well as the if/then thinking. I was grateful to have a break from my normal overly full life to take this hike and discover a message that rang true with me. Normally, I would be consumed with the day-to-day pull for my energy and attention and may have missed this literal signpost which caused me to pause.
This coming week what would happen if you adopted some if/then approaches to all you do both at work and at home? Here are some I’ve been trying:
✦ If I take time to talk to my neighbors more intentionally, then we may have a true neighborhood.
✦ If I make sure to interact with my peers at work all the time, then we would communicate better and not just meet because of “issues.”
✦ If I choose to listen to those who disagree with me, then I may learn a new perspective to consider.
✦ If I encourage others on purpose, then they may have a better day then they were expecting.
The opportunities are endless. The key to an if/then approach is that it focuses on action and movement. I choose to do this so I can be positive regardless of the constant push of darkness, gloom and cynicism which keeps trying to swallow us all.
If you’ll take this new approach, then think of how each day you have will be better for you and those around you !! Peace.
If you took a poll right now in workplaces, the title of this post might be “to survive” or “just exist.” It’s tough right now. The work environment is being tested and challenged in ways it hasn’t in our lifetime. You have those who have been working remotely for months that have altered their living space, their schedules and their approach to work. There are also people who have been working ever since the pandemic began and haven’t missed a beat. Even though that has been the case for them, “work” doesn’t look like it used to. Unfortunately, there is also a very large number of people who are in transition and are not working. Any time that occurs you face personal, professional and economic obstacles while you’re trying to successfully land once again.
Each day is consumed with extenuating circumstances that have very little to do with the role we are expected to perform. The stress levels are higher and people are more emotional than I can remember. Throw on top of all this the constant level of uncertainty that seems to hang over everyone like a constant shadow. What can we effectively do in these challening times ??
We can dream.
“What?” you may think. Is it possible to break out of the mire and darkness that is trying to swallow us? Yes, it is. And, I’d also throw out there that we all need to gather ourselves to see how we can once again be creative in who we are and what we do.
Please note I’m not suggesting that you dream just to be aspirational. I feel it’s a great time to expand our approach to HR, people practices, workplace culture and how we conduct business. It would be a shame for us to just try to wait things out in the hope that things would return to “normal.” We all need to come to terms with the reality that the world of work has changed. It won’t, and shouldn’t, be the same any more.
The dreams I’m asking you to consider need to lead to tangible action both within your organization and in the profession of HR as a whole. This will take incredible effort to pull yourself out of all that’s going on. Your mind will tell you that you don’t have the energy or the time to come up with anything new. The pull will be immense and it will be easy to stay where you are, but fight it and dream.
I don’t want to be presumptuous and tell you to incorporate your new ideas in any particular area because each of you has a vast landscape of opportunities. Even if the topic was the same, the factors of each person and workplace would be different. Instead of looking to mimic someone else’s practices, step out and make something that fits you, your people and your company.
Look at every facet of an employee’s experience and see if it can be improved. There’s room for growth all around you. The key is to dream. You can. It’s time. We’ve been brought to the forefront of leadership over the past few months. Don’t let this time pass.
Lift your eyes up, be encouraged and dream. I’m geeked to see what you’ll create !!
I had a unique experience growing up in Ada, Ohio because every grade of our school was in one building. You could attend kindergarten and graduate from your senior year in the same place. It was all I knew so it was normal to me. Every class you took was relatively small and there were 20 to 30 classmates with you. I enjoyed this class size because you got to know the teacher, and they also took the time to know you.
Being in such a small environment also led to some interesting interactions. Our teachers chose to engage us and allowed us to challenge things at times. At times. One year, my best friend, Tom, and my brother, Mark, were in Geometry together. The teacher was new to the school and wasn’t familiar with the community culture that had been built over years. One day she was discussing the number zero and stated it was an even number. Tom and Mark respectfully disagreed. They felt the number was neutral and was neither odd nor even. The teacher didn’t like that they were challenging her. She felt they were being disrespectful when they were only trying to offer an alternative thought.
She shot back at them to “prove it” and gave them a day to do so or they’d get detention. Now, we were going to school before the internet existed. In fact, there weren’t personal computers at all. If you wanted to find information, you needed to go to the library and look up things in books. There’s a college in Ada and Tom’s dad worked for the university. Tom and Mark went to the college library and dove into as many math books as they could find. They copied pages from the books on a photocopier and triumphantly returned to Geometry the next day.
When they arrived, the teacher asked them for what they found. They were pleased to show her they found supporting information which said the number zero could be seen as “neutral.” Therefore, it was neither odd or even. The teacher did not like being upstaged and gave them detention anyway.
This is what happens in organizations all the time. We claim to want environments which are innovative and support new ideas, but when new thoughts are given we pause. Ideas are needed all the time to keep organizations moving. However, if they’re not ours we are not as keen to accept them. We can be just like my brother’s teacher and shut things down instead of looking at situations from various angles.
As HR professionals, we can change this. We are in a position to bring people together and encourage differing ways of thought. We can do this by having a culture focused on development and enrichment. Give those who manage others the latitude to experiment and explore a variety of ideas to address operational obstacles. Allow people to challenge how things have been done in the past to see if they could be improved. You may find out that the methods being used are still effective, but you may also hear/see a new way of working.
We need to listen to what people have to offer. They may come across just what is needed. Take the steps needed to give people the latitude and permission to share ideas. Learn from each other. You’ll be pleasantly surprised what happens when you do !!
Recently my wife and I went to the fabulous Cincinnati Art Museum to see the traveling Burning Man exhibit. It was incredible !! The different art pieces and memorabilia brought out my inner bohemian. The whole event is not for those who want to just observe if you attend the actual event in the desert. This isn’t for spectators, it’s for participants. The pictures of those attending are very comfortable with who they are, how they look and how they see creativity all around them.
When special exhibits are brought in to most museums, they’re able to confine them into a relatively gallery size location. They do this so they’re more concentrated and it’s also a way for museums to generate much needed additional revenue. They can charge an extra fee to see something special. I’m absolutely cool with this. This exhibition couldn’t be contained into such a size which is indicative of the Burning Man event as well. The pieces ranged in size to such an extent that they were placed throughout the entire museum. This allowed everyone to see the entire museum as well as release their inner bohemian.
One of the favorite pieces I saw caught my eye instantly and also made me pause. Once you look at it, you can see a much different message versus what you expected this iconic symbol to convey.
What do you think? Do you see it? If you came into an expansive gallery room, turned the corner and saw this hanging on the wall, would you have the same reaction I did? Be honest. When you see this familiar red octagon, you’ve been conditioned to expect the letters spelling out “STOP”. You see many of these on a daily basis on your commute to and from work. When you see the sign you’re expecting, you halt, look around and then move in some direction.
Seeing this piece of art made me think of how HR is what you expect when you see this symbol. We are known for telling people to “stop” when it comes to behavior and the majority of systems that we design and monitor. At times this may be necessary. Unfortunately, it seems to have become the majority of how we spend our days both in reality and perception.
This doesn’t have to be the case !!
What if you took this piece of art for what it is? What if you slowed down to see the signs of those who work with you. Are you already acting as if they’re easy to define, assess and move past? Do you think that you don’t have time to notice everyone? I mean honestly, you have work to do that is far more important than connecting with your employees. Don’t you?
I wish there was a professional development class that taught people to observe nuances at work. There are countless subtle signs that happen all around us in the workplace !! How people interact with each other. How departments act when working inter-departmentally. And, how people interact when their roles are at different levels within the organization.
You can see signs in every interaction you personally have as well as all of the interactions you observe. However, if you’re too concerned with “real work” you’ll miss most of them.
Remember this – EVERYONE watches the interactions they have with you and how you have interactions with others. All. The. Time.
So, if others are taking in the signs around them, shouldn’t you as an HR practitioner?
This week follow the example of this Burning Man art piece. Slow down and then START watching and reacting to the signs happening with your people. They deserve someone who’s willing to be different and do the unexpected. Release your inner HR bohemian and see the new results which will occur !!
This past Friday my wife and I were invited by a friend to come to the soft opening of her new business. She had once been in a Corporate Wellness role, but recently was affected by a downsizing. This is never easy. To be between jobs is challenging for anyone. She reflected on what her next step should be, and after some time and talking with her husband she decided to open a Pinot’s Palette franchise !! These stores are where you can go and paint your own masterpiece with friends and family or on your own.
That’s a giant step for anyone. To make the move from a role where you’re part of a larger organization where you have co-workers and resources to becoming an entrepreneur takes faith. I wanted to make sure to be a supporter of her new endeavor, so we attended the opening.
Now, we honestly thought we’d come to congratulate her and share a drink and some finger food. We’d take a tour of her new place, meet her husband and wish them the best. However, as we opened the door we were greeted with life, upbeat music and MANY friendly faces. We looked over at the tables and there were 40 small easels all with a blank canvas on them. I thought that was a good representation of what a normal night would look at the business.
One of the new staff said, “Pick out an apron from the wall. We have a space marked out for both of you.” My wife and I looked at each other and then back at the staff member. I said, “I’m sorry. We’re supposed to grab an apron?” She replied, “Well, yes. You’re going to paint tonight !! We’re all doing Van Gogh’s The Starry Night.” We were caught off guard.
We grabbed an apron, moved to our places and stared at a blank canvas in front of us. My wife had never gone to a painting class, and I had only been once. As the room filled up, you could hear most of the people who were associated with the new owners share their same anxiety about what was about to occur.
Before we started, we both shared some food and a drink hoping it would calm our nerves. We also introduced ourselves to our table mates. The instructor asked us to take our places and get ready to paint. My wife leaned over to me and quietly shared, “I’m not sure I can do this.” I reassured her that she’d be fine, and then the painting began . . .
Let me break away for a second.
My wife’s response in facing a blank canvas is very similar to most people I know. We don’t like the unknown. When faced with a task that seems daunting and beyond our capability, we doubt ourselves. It’s how many face work daily and keep their anxiety to themselves.
Are you there to reassure others that they are capable? You have a great opportunity in HR to be an encourager on a daily basis. I wish more HR practitioners would do this. Employees yearn for acknowledgement and someone who believes in them. I hope you willingly step into that role.
Now back to painting . . .
Layer after layer was added to our canvases. What started as several brush strokes of deep blue paint now took form and started to look like a landscape. The conversations that people had ranged from people in awe they could paint to inevitable comparisons. Everyone stated that their painting wasn’t good enough. They didn’t look anything like Van Gogh’s work.
Back to employees and workplaces . . .
Sounds just like work doesn’t it? Instead of being encouraged for the performance people give through their effort, we compare. We have entire systems which measure what people don’t do and how they fall short. How backwards is this? And yet, we do nothing to eliminate this archaic and ineffective approach. We can, and should, change our approach to focus on the work that people do and expect them to be creative and perform. Workplaces would thrive if this became the norm and not the exception.
And now we finish . . .
Everyone ended up with their version of The Starry Night. Not one was the same, and that was perfect. Each person worked from their skill set and their interpretation of the instructions and what they felt and saw. My wife and I had a great time. We made new friends and went home with a shared experience our own “masterpieces.”
You can treat every day as a blank canvas because it is. Instead of doubting your ability, pick up a brush, dab some paint on it and start covering the white space. You can also be someone who adds color, life and vibrancy to other’s and their blank canvas. Do this on purpose and see how much better you enjoy your work, HR in general and the amazing accomplishments of others.
I remember that when I was young my brother and I would pull out as many blankets as we could and start “building.” We’d drape them over and piece of furniture we could find and make our fort. Some forts were small, but most were massive and seemed to fill the entire room. We’d bring in various toys, create some scenario from our minds and then play for hours and hours.
We didn’t have the ability to look things up on the Internet back then. We relied only on our imagination. That didn’t limit us at all. Whenever we built forts, we’d come up with something completely new. We’d make up names of characters and incredible lands that never existed in “real life.”
Back then the majority of our day involved our imagination and creativity. I’m sure there were times we were bored, but I don’t remember many. Please note that this isn’t some rant about the “good old days” or how kids were more free thinking because we didn’t have the same technology kids have today. It is, however, a yearning for the days when I relied more of my imagination than I do today.
Imagination and creativity is stymied in today’s organizations because we don’t view those facets as “work.” We think that anything that takes away from traditional approaches to production is inefficient. There are calls for innovation which usually lead to random retreats to get the juices flowing and break away from the daily routine. We only look to tap into people’s creative potential when something is critically wrong or stuck.
My kids made blanket forts when they were young, and now that they are entering the workforce. I’m concerned that they too will fall into the trap of the mundane daily grind. That’s sad to me and it needs to change.
This past weekend, I was reminded about the joy of a blanket fort !! The ironic thing about this experience was that it didn’t involve kids at all. I made a trip to the SHRM headquarters to meet with the great folks who helped me publish my book – HR on Purpose !! The reason for the trip was another surreal opportunity. I went to do an audio recording of the book which will be on Audible in the future. I was geeked to have this chance, and couldn’t believe it was happening.
Where does the blanket fort come into the picture? Take a look at my recording “studio.” The staff at SHRM took a soundproof room and set up this makeshift wonder out of blankets !! I had someone apologize that there wasn’t something more “professional to make the recording. I told them that the studio couldn’t have been more perfect.
I sat in a chair in front of a microphone with headphones on and began reading. Six hours later we finished and everyone was spent. We had time to share stories in between chapters, laugh a ton and also each of us reminisced about the blanket forts we all had made when we were young.
This week step back and reignite your imagination. Take some time to find the joy and creativity that you used to enjoy. See how you can make this a regular occurrence once again. See how many ideas are just waiting to be let loose. Build a “blanket fort” at work. It’s sure to be fun, and I know that you’re looking for a way to break out of your rut !!