Right Role, Right Time

WHO DEY !!!

I know this isn’t the traditional way to start an HR blog, but I’m a Cincinnati Bengals fan. I have been for decades. The last time they were this good was just after I moved to the Cincinnati area in 1986 !! Sure, we’ve had a few years where we made the NFL playoffs since then, but there hasn’t been this type of excitement for 30+ years !!

To be a Bengals fan is to be someone who has known long-suffering. For years, you’d watch games on TV and listen to the broadcasters talk primarily about the other team. They’d list the multiple years the team never won a prime time game. Or, they’d talk about how we hadn’t won a playoff game for over 30 years. Last night was the first “away” playoff game they won . . . EVER !!

It’s hard to capture the joy and exuberance that I experienced when our rookie kicker hit the game-winning field goal as time ran out. I was clapping and screaming in my family room by myself and I didn’t care. It was wonderful to see the local media, social media and the entire city come together to celebrate. In fact, our local news is covering every possible Bengals aspect for the majority of each broadcast. It’s ironic to see how something so simple can drown out the noise, negativity and divisiveness that tries to fully consume every moment of every day.

What made Saturday’s victory over the Tennessee Titans even better was listening to the post-game press conferences. Every player and the head coach talked about the team as a whole. When pressed to talk about their own personal play and accomplishments, they deferred and talked about how other players did better. They are performing as a unit and they understand that each member of the team has something of value to offer. They wouldn’t be swayed to lift one individual over another. It was refreshing to hear how they’ve adopted a culture that proves that ALL succeed when you play TOGETHER.

Of course, it made me think of HR and organizations today. I think we aspire to have fully functioning teams made up of people who are aligned in roles where they can perform. I truly do. However, I don’t think we do all we can to organize our companies in ways that can make this come to life. I feel that most still follow old models of identifying “hi-po’s” and force rank people to falsely put people into more significant roles. Our approaches are still laced with inherent bias and a popularity contest where those we “like” can advance. It’s tiring for people to know how to maneuver the hidden internal politics on a daily basis just to ensure they have a place . . . at all.

It’s time to ditch the old models completely. They have never given us the sustainable outcomes we’ve aspired to. Never. Aren’t you tired of complaining about people who seem to be out of place? I don’t fault employees for this misalignment. I think it falls to senior leadership to be equipped by HR to get this fixed. What would your day be like if everyone was in their “right” place and all they did was perform? It would be magnificent !!

You see, we’re riding a short-term dose of euphoria as Bengals fans. We’re caught up in the swell of the moment. Nothing wrong with that. The difference is that the team already believes this is the beginning of how they expect to perform not only for this postseason run but into the future. They don’t want it to be another flash in the pan or flavor of the month. Sound familiar ??

I’ve been taking the approach listed in the picture above over the past year of having the right person in the right role for the right time. It’s tough to do. Honestly, you fight decades of how people have been crammed into roles more to fit a job requisition than being thoughtful in getting people where they can excel on a regular basis.

This is the good “hard work” that lies ahead of us as HR professionals as we navigate this new landscape of work. It has to happen if you want to see your people, and your organizations, thrive. I’m tired of decades of aspirations just as much as I was being a Bengals fan “hoping” that things would change. Do what you can to assess, realign and get people where they need to be. They’re longing for it personally and the company is yearning for a set of teams full of talent to move things forward.

Oh, and for at least one more week . . . WHO DEY !!

Time to Develop

We live in a world of “instants.” We desire instant affirmation, adoration and adulation. We are impatient during our commutes, the delivery of goods that we order or any time we are required to wait in any line of people more than one. We truncate our communication and make broad decisions based on snippets of words without seeking, or asking for, context.

We binge our entertainment and get frustrated when the next season may, or may not come out. For those who can’t even sit through an entire show, we consume TikTok and YouTube videos in larger volumes which ironically take the same amount of time. We have even bought into the thought that these behaviors help us “relax” when they seem to make us more entrenched in taking in more and more.

Put on top of this environment that we have raised at least two generations of humans who know no other reality. Every moment of their lives has happened at an exponential pace. Every. Moment. They only know immediacy and wonder why those who are older fight against what they see as normal. Add to this the rapid expectation of work, reward and advancement are pressing its way into the workplace and culture of every company.

Don’t think that I’m positioning this as a complaint. I personally am someone who has realized the climate I live in even though I’m old enough to remember when you couldn’t get access to almost anything you wanted instantly. In fact, the majority of my life has been lived before the age of instancy. It’s something that is starting to reemerge in the workplace. People want to know how to slow down, how to breathe, and how to develop.

I fondly remember the days when we had cameras that required actual film. It seemed nearly impossible to load the camera correctly with the roll of film the first time. You then had to advance the film until you saw the indicator on the back of your camera show the number “1” just to get ready to take a picture. After all of that effort, you had to hope that the scene you wanted to capture held still enough for the click of the button for the mechanism to close and open to imprint the negative image on the film tucked away inside the camera. You couldn’t even enjoy the picture you took until the entire roll of film had been used AND after you dropped it off to get developed.

Ironically, I don’t ever remember anyone complaining that this process took so much time. You had actual anticipation when you went to the drug store to pick up the prints to see if the pictures even turned out well. The issue of time was built into the art of photography whether you were an amateur or a professional. You couldn’t make it go faster. You were at the mercy of taking your time in order to enjoy the outcome.

This is what is reemerging in the workforce even today. People yearn to be developed more than being measured. They want the time and attention of their managers, their peers and senior leadership. Employees understand that this desire exists even in the middle of the mad rush of the day. Many are now choosing to make the decision to change jobs and/or companies. I think this is happening in part because companies are choosing to not take the time to develop people.

This is a giant blind spot. We keep fostering the myth that pace and production are far more important than people equipped to perform. HR would be an even more strategic leader if they’d be willing to step up and fight the myth. I have made a conscious effort to put development as a priority this coming year and going forward. It’s something that I hope to assess, define and create on a person-by-person basis from executive leadership throughout the organization.

I’m not quite sure what it will look like, but I know that it’s needed and that people are longing for it. Time is our best ally if we choose to use it intentionally as we continue to move rapidly. Development can happen in every company naturally as long as there is someone willing to stem the tide.

You see, I love that I can now take a picture whenever I want with the “camera” on my phone. I’m grateful for the advancements in technology that have improved this process because now I have more time to develop those I work with. Reallocate your time. Adjust who gets your attention. Take time to develop others. You’ll love the pictures that come from doing it well !!

Glad to Help

This past weekend our daughter made her first big adult purchase – a new car !! My wife and I drove up to be with her for support and advice if she needed it. We wanted to be there just in case things got challenging, but we expected her to be the decision-maker throughout the entire process. To say she was anxious and excited would be an understatement. It took about 30 minutes to drive from her apartment to the car dealership. That only made her anticipation grow even more. She felt she had prepared for every potential question and possibility.

As we arrived at the dealership, she boldly walked in and asked for Chris – who had been her contact for the past few months. He wasn’t there. She stammered and began to have a twinge of doubt about what she had envisioned as a perfect day. “But, I have an appointment at 11:00am.” The person who greeted us was so gracious and told us not to worry. She would make sure to get us someone to help with the car purchase. I could see her becoming nervous, but that soon changed. Enter Dave.

This young man came over directly to Melanie and said, “I understand you’re here to get a new car. I’m sorry Chris couldn’t be here. I’ll be glad to help you through this. It’s going to be a great day.” There was no pressure and he didn’t come across as being put off for having to fill in for Chris. In fact, he apologized for the mix-up and assured us over and over that everything was going to be fine. He was right. We were at the dealership for three hours !! However, it didn’t feel like it. The folks working were attentive, courteous, diligent and mindful. They kept us informed each step of the way from turning in her old car, to financing, to let us test drive the car before she made a final decision to whether we needed anything to drink. The entire process was excellent.

As we were going through everything, I sat back and watched as other potential customers came through the dealership. Each person was treated the same way and they either walked away being informed since they were “just looking” or they ordered a vehicle to get their process going. In fact, Dave took potential customers while also attending to our daughter.

During one of the many conversations throughout our time there, Dave explained they were short-staffed (like most employers these days). He stated over and over how much he appreciated our patience. We were all so impressed with the service that was given that it was easy to be patient. In the back of my mind though, I felt he thanked us because not every customer had been patient on other days. You could sense his relief.

That made me reflect on what is happening in the service industry today. You see, this hits home because I work for a restaurant chain that relies on the amazing frontline people in our locations, our manufacturing plant, and our call center. I hear countless stories of guests who lose their patience at the drop of a hat. It takes very little for some to yell, confront or walk away from an interaction when they came to enjoy a meal. If you read about how people who give service are experiencing work these days, this is becoming the norm and not the exception.

The difference today is that employees are willing to leave themselves instead of being treated poorly. That shouldn’t be surprising. No one wants to be treated poorly when they’re trying to genuinely meet a customer’s needs. Grace is being shown less and less and it’s affecting our workplaces.

We all can change this approach and we can do it immediately !! The experience we had with Dave should be an example of how to keep calm, assess the situation and see how to move forward. He stepped in and my daughter was grateful that he did. She didn’t bemoan the fact that her original contact had something come up. Life happens and there is SOOOOOOOO much more in life than having something take a different direction unexpectedly.

We need to remember that we leave an impression on every person we encounter every time we encounter them. Every. Time. That impact can be memorable in a positive way just as much as it can be in a negative way. Those who work in frontline roles don’t get to choose how you’re going to treat them. They experience things based on the choices you make.

This week start to keep in mind those who serve. They strive to do great work to take care of you. Thank them. Treat them well and let them know you value what they do. This should be true in your own organization and also with anyone you meet in other situations.

At the end of our time at the dealership, Melanie got her car and we ended up with an incredible experience. I plan to tell everyone about him and the good folks at Bill Estes Toyota. We’re thankful they were glad to help us and set an example of how workplaces and interactions can be all the time !!

A Little Respect

It seems that almost every conversation these days is tenuous. People are hesitant to talk to each other about the most mundane subjects because they’re concerned about the potential reaction they’ll receive. This has led to people becoming more and more separated. The separation in turn leads to very slanted opinions and people dig their heels in on whatever is being bantered about.

We need to be able to have opinions and we need to be able to share them. We learn from each other and hear many perspectives when people feel they can not only give their thoughts on topics but that they will be heard. I wish this were the case versus what is currently happening in society, on social media, and in the news in general. This constant edginess has eroded one component which could pull us together – respect.

In the workplace, we cannot let this erosion occur. We have to foster diversity of thought and varying viewpoints so that we experience collaboration and interconnectedness. This isn’t some Utopian encouragement. It needs to be the foundation and expectation of your employees. Respect each other and what each person brings to the table. People want to add value through their contributions in their roles. This is true at every level of the organization.

What are you seeing at your company? Do people respect one another? Are you aware of whether they are or aren’t?

We spend so much time trying to dictate behavior through programmatic efforts hoping that if people follow certain steps of a process, then collaboration will magically occur just “because.” We limit intentional interaction and relationship building because we believe the myth that productivity will be adversely reduced if people are spending too much time talking with each other.

HR has the opportunity to step in and create an environment and a culture that brings people together. By giving respect to each employee and acknowledging that their efforts make an impact and meaningful difference to the success of the company, you’ll find that you create engagement. It’s not something to measure. It’s something to practice. We can do this by giving people two things – our time and attention.

Honestly, that’s what every person wants more than anything each day. And yet, it’s what we struggle with more than any other aspect of our job. Isn’t it ironic that human interaction is where we spend the least amount of our time? We fall into the trap that time is being wasted when that just isn’t the truth.

This weekend I was fortunate to attend the retirement celebration of my wife’s boss who has worked in her role for 45 years. The night was wonderful because people came in from all over the country who had worked with her through the years to tell her congratulations and “Thank You.” When it came time to give speeches, each person talked about the unending impact she made by giving each person her time, attention and listening ear. They didn’t talk about her sage advice or visionary direction. She gave them respect and they now had a chance to show her how impactful that was.

She has always been a people person and when she took the podium the room fell silent. Through teary eyes, she thanked everyone and said, “You need to know that every one of you I worked with over this time mattered. Every. One.” She was overwhelmed and humbled by the turnout and the adulation.

You see she lived out the key to respect – In order to get respect, you need to give it first.

This coming week take a few moments to gauge where your time, focus and efforts are being spent. If it’s not investing your time in others, you’re just missing a chance to lay the groundwork of a culture that will be far more inviting, engaging and meaningful than what you’re experiencing now. Turn the tide of division and step into the gap to give respect to those around you. It works.

The Best Day !!

This weekend my wife and I took a day to have an adventure. We’re trying to make sure to get out and try new things and see new places. We went to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky. We had perfect weather and arrived just as the gates opened. I personally was geeked because I grew up next to a horse farm and always enjoy anything I can do to get to farm-related events.

We made our way to one of the barns to see the horses being groomed. The stalls were filled with magnificent draft horses. After a show featuring some horses that were racing champions, we made our way to the Parade of Breeds. As we took our seats on some metal stands a young boy crawled up behind us and sat on his mother’s lap so he could see. He was fascinated by every, single horse that entered the arena. One horse was covered in a full costume as if he was in a medieval joust and his rider was costumed as well. The young boy squealed with delight and exclaimed that for Halloween he wanted to have a horse that wore a costume and he would wear one too !! His mom was so encouraging and told him that would be great.

After the show, we grabbed a wonderful lunch of loaded nachos. As we were starting to eat, the same young boy came strolling by with his family. He saw what we were eating and he shouted, “They have walking tacos ?? THIS IS THE BEST DAY !!!

His exuberance was heartfelt and palpable. He couldn’t contain himself. One quick note. He was the only child in a large group of adults and it didn’t phase him in the least. Every activity he participated in brought him unadulterated joy. I was taken by his response and it made me wonder.

Do I have “best days?”

I am a consistently positive person for the most part. I get frustrated at times and even angry. It happens more than I’d like to admit. As I reflect while writing this, most of the things that detract from being positive are minor and self-focused. For instance, I could get ticked that someone cuts me off on the road during my commute. Instead of thinking that the others around me are on a commute as well, my blood pressure rises. When someone is critical of my work, I want to step back and breathe, but that usually occurs after my emotions take hold first.

I’m sure you could come up with examples just like these and more. It doesn’t help that the majority of people you encounter throughout the day look at what’s wrong with the day first. On top of that, we are surrounded by news, social media and conversations that spend more time tearing down than building up.

I refuse to follow that trend. I want to be like the young boy taking in life as an endless picture of wonderment. I don’t think this is unrealistic or naive. I don’t want this to be something that is aspirational. I want it to be seen in my behavior and my interactions with others. In fact, I would love to see more people join me in this endeavor.

This is something that I will strive for personally and would also challenge those in HR to adopt it as well. Think what our profession and our workplaces would look like if every day was a “best day.” First of all, people would be stunned. How cool would that be? We could set our companies on edge by having a genuinely positive outlook. Seems radical doesn’t it? Secondly, how amazing would someone else’s day be if they saw you having a best day?

This calls for us to take in life and all that it offers and see the joy and opportunity in front of us instead of falling into the trap of negativity and sullenness. This also requires us to be others-focused and have faith that things will go well for them and for us as we work together.

The young boy probably didn’t realize how refreshing and countercultural he was this weekend. I’m grateful that we crossed paths and that I was reminded of how to have a best day every day !!

HR Shouldn’t Be Puzzling !!

I have a phenomenal family !! I don’t take that for granted. They allow me to be myself and it’s something that we value in each other. Recently, we celebrated Father’s Day and, true to form, my kids got creative. I’m not your typical dad. I’ve always been someone with more eclectic tastes and am more comfortable with non-traditional things. I was tickled that the kids reached out to have a Facetime call and I said about two words after they wished me a happy Father’s Day. They just talked, laughed, poked fun at each other and didn’t even realize I was on the call. It was magnificent !!

They were both kind enough to get me a gift, and my kids get me. They know that I’d be grateful for anything, but that I wouldn’t truly enjoy getting tools, ties or a gift card. My son, Josh, floored me with a giant LEGO kit of an English double-decker bus. My wife and I are huge UK admirers so this was perfect. Hours of activity with an anticipated cool outcome to add to my home and office toy menageries. My daughter Melanie bought something that was not only meaningful but also reflected a hobby we learned to share together – a puzzle. This one was even more special because was an old-fashioned chart of minerals !! You see, I collect rocks and minerals as another side of my fragmented interests.

Newest puzzle in progress . . .

As I opened the puzzle and started constructing it, my mind wandered and I saw so many connections to HR. You see, we make human resources far too puzzling for those we work with. We have our own “language” filled with terms, applications, and acronyms that sound foreign to anyone not working in the field. Too often when people interact with us there’s usually some situation that has escalated too far because that’s how we’ve allowed our profession to become. That saddens me.

We have an opportunity to change how, and when, we interact with people so that it’s more constructive, positive and valuable. We just need to take lessons from puzzles to stop being so puzzling !!

Be Face Up !! – When the puzzle is emptied out on the table, some pieces are face up and others are face down. As HR pros, we are face down more often than we are face up. We get buried in our work, spreadsheets, emails, phones, etc. and we never look up. If we would just take a simple step and pull away from the tasks we think deserve our attention and face those we work with more intentionally, you’d see a new way to set the foundation of practicing HR – face your people !!

Find the Corner Pieces !! – The frame of any puzzle is critical, but if you don’t find the four corners, the frame can’t come together. Recently, our company has chosen to adopt and practice The 4 Agreements from the book by Don Miguel Ruiz. I like these four components especially for practicing HR because they help shape our behavior and the behavior of others. I recommend you check out the full book for the great context behind the agreements. But to get you started, here they are: (1) Be impeccable with your word, (2) Don’t take anything personally, (3) Don’t make assumptions, and (4) Always do your best.

Put Every Piece in its Place !! – The beauty of puzzles is that pieces can only go where they were designed to go. What would our companies look like if we made sure this was true with every employee in their roles? When the pieces are all correctly aligned you see the picture that was there all along. Making sure people are developed and aligned is a much better use of the strengths of HR than just being the fire brigade waiting for the next crisis to arise.

I just finished the frame before I sat down to write this post. I can’t wait to get back to my basement to put the pieces inside and see the minerals start to appear. This week, step back and take the steps needed to pay attention to your people, build your four foundational pieces and get people better aligned. I’m sure you’ll love the way your company transforms and you’ll no longer be puzzling to work with as HR !!

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 !!

Respond Instead

If I asked you how your day was going, how would you answer? I’m 99.9% sure you’d easily say “Good” or “Fine” because it’s polite and expected. The person being asked is hoping with all that’s in them that these one-word retorts will placate the inquisitor enough that they’ll move on. We say these responses because it is the norm of a shallow acknowledgment as humans. We may care how the other person is when we greet them, but chances are we care “ish.”

You see, far more daunting and important battles lay ahead of us. We are sure of it because why else would we venture to work if it wasn’t to slay the dragons that no one else is capable of handling? We tell ourselves we are indispensable due to a mix of self-assuredness and a need to feel valued as a contributor. So, now that the obligatory greetings of our co-workers are complete we can get to the day ahead which is sure to be far more fulfilling. As we open our “to do” list, the inevitable happens . . . something arises that catches us completely off guard. We didn’t want to be interrupted and we can feel our faces start to get hot because we want to stick to the list that we had so carefully crafted sometime before.

Then it happens. The instant it occurs we grasp the air trying to get the words that just spouted out back inside because the tone they carried was sure to sting. We snap. We react. We’re bothered that our idea of a perfect, lined out, step-by-step existence was thwarted because someone had the audacity to break the pattern !! Our reaction is swift, emotional and contrite. We blurt it out because, again, we want to return to what is more important to US. Don’t they understand that by asking for our input they’ve created an imbalance? Don’t they understand that this is so unsettling that I won’t be able to get back into my rhythm?

The answer is – No, they don’t. Nor, do they really care. They’re coming to you for a valid reason . . . they feel you are the one who can help them get things done too !!

I know it’s radical, but we weren’t meant to be isolationists in this world. That is especially true in the workplace. I also don’t think it’s feasible for you to constantly be surrounded by people all day because it would be exhausting and ineffective. (This is coming from one of the biggest self-avowed extroverts you’ll ever meet.)

Since we’re meant to interact, we would be better off by seeking a balance of being prepared and structured while allowing for interruptions and interactions weaved throughout our days. The way to find, and keep, this balance is to choose to respond vs. react. Doing this requires us to resist the environment we all currently find ourselves in.

In today’s rapid mad dash, reactions have become the norm. People expect you to snap back an answer on the fly and without context. We have bought into the myth that if answers aren’t given instantaneously, then they don’t have merit. The pace of social media, snippets, and partial scenarios drives this expectation. Then, if you do react, a multitude of similar reactions come flying back requiring us to react once again – or so we think. We have to break this incessant volley.

You have time. You have time in almost every, single situation of your regular day. I understand that some things may have more urgency, but even in those rushed circumstances you have time to breathe, pause, contemplate, consider, gather context . . . and then respond. You really do.

If we keep in mind that all humans are one giant ball of emotions, reacting is our natural tendency. We can’t help ourselves. That’s why responding takes practice and discipline. You need to take my word for it that this disciplined approach is far more effective and sustainable than being reactionary. Also, it’s not an either/or type of approach. Life never has fallen into two distinct camps where you can pull an answer from a set playbook with certainty to ensure the outcome you’re seeking. This is because people are involved and we just muck it up . . . because we’re human.

This week try to respond more and react less. It will take time and you won’t do it well every time. If you choose to follow this more constructive approach you will see better interactions, more collaboration, in-depth and contextual discussions and you’ll start developing relationships. Also, you’ll make more well-rounded decisions when that interruption hits you.

From now on . . . respond instead.

Lower Seeds !!

This weekend one of my favorite events began – the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. I’ve always enjoyed watching all of the games because I played basketball all through high school and even had a few offers to play at the collegiate level. So, when the tournament comes on, I’m hooked. I make sure to fill out brackets and love that people get excited to participate as well.

I don’t usually have connections with the teams who participate, but that doesn’t lessen the interest. This year, however, my alma mater Ohio University, made the tournament !! This isn’t new. They have been to the tournament several times and have done well. However, it’s a smaller university so they will rarely have the opportunity to come in as one of the higher (favored) seeds. That’s okay with me though. Getting to participate is the first hurdle in this tournament.

This Saturday, they were the #13 seed and they played the #4 seed the University of Virginia who also was the team that won the last National Championship. The odds were not in our favor. That was amplified by listening to the announcers who rarely talked positively about Ohio’s efforts. It was more about what Virginia wasn’t doing. This isn’t different in other games either. I’m sure the network tells the announcers to talk up the higher seeds because they are typically bigger schools, larger brand names and . . . potential revenue because more people will watch teams they know vs. a bunch of underdogs.

Photo by Midge Mazur @midgemazur on Twitter – from Ohio University Twitter page @ohiou

I’m geeked to say that OU beat Virginia and I was screaming and jumping up and down as if I was in person. As the game was coming to a close, the announcers were forced to acknowledge that the lower seed had won. It gave me great joy both as an alum and because I LOVE seeing the lower seeds win !! It’s a great facet of the NCAA tournament because any team can win and advance. The big-name programs do win more often than not, but it’s not a guarantee.

I find that we give far too much attention to the big names and brands when it comes to the world of work as well. When giant, global conglomerates make a move, it gets national press online immediately. If a smaller company made the same moves, just on a smaller scale, you wouldn’t even know it. We are enamored with those that are biggest, most visible and generate the most revenue. That’s ironic to me because the vast majority of people work for companies that would be considered “lower seeds.”

You see, I think talent exists in all companies. The brand name and notoriety of an organization is admirable, but it shouldn’t infer that they have better internal talent. I’m sure they are full of talented people as well as those that can grow with development . . . Just like every other company !! We shouldn’t get enamored and blinded by size alone.

I don’t think there’s a singular answer or approach that works to address this lack of exposure and participation. We can’t help but focus on the Fortune “x” companies because of their scale and resources. It’s true they may have more leverage to move the needle in some areas, but it’s not an accurate assessment that they influence the majority of work. Great work is happening everywhere.

What would our profession look like if we made sure to listen to HR voices from all types of industry and from companies of various sizes? How much more would we influence, shape, and transform our own organizations if we took a look at the whole field instead of just the top seeds? What if senior HR pros from small, midsize, and large companies filled Board seats and were able to participate in larger arenas?

Let me encourage you if you work in HR for a “lower seed.” I have for the majority of my career and it’s been amazing. It’s outstanding if your efforts move your company forward because that should be your goal on a regular basis. You can also make an impact on the profession as a whole. It can happen locally, nationally and globally. Go into each game with confidence. You’re in the tournament for a reason. Go out, play hard and see what happens !!

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.