Six years ago I had a blog post with this same title because I was sharing the news that I had written a book about HR called HR on Purpose !!I was not sure what would happen by taking the time to put down my thoughts about the profession I love. The goal back then was to put something out in the industry that ran against the grain of what had been the tenor of people trying to tear down HR. It has been very successful and I’ve heard from people all over the globe who’ve read it. It was humbling, to say the least.
I was glad to see that a message of positivity and encouragement had made its way out to try to stem the negativity that seemed so prevalent. I felt I had accomplished what I had intended and I’d be done with the book business. Three years passed by and my publisher dropped me an email and asked – “Do you think you have another book in you?” I hadn’t given it much thought, but I was wondering if I could do it again. In the first book, I wanted to rally my peers to own who we are and what we do. Be proud of being an HR practitioner. I felt led to lay out an approach to show how HR people can be leaders in what we do. I pulled out my laptop and started writing to see what would happen. A month and a half later, I had put together book number two – HR Rising !! It felt good to keep writing.
When my second book was to be published, the world shut down. We all had far more important things to focus on. I was pleased to see how the world pulled together for a time in order to survive. I also loved how organizations finally woke up to the reality that people are essential. It’s a shame we needed a global crisis for this to be known. HR professionals were asked to step up and lead . . . and they did. HR showed it should be put into a leadership role.
As we continued to try to navigate our way through the pandemic, more and more uncertainty hit everyone like never-ending waves constantly crashing against a beach. I was touched by the wonderful folks I work with who made a giant poster of my second book and they all signed it. To be acknowledged and recognized in this way was so touching. It hangs in my office to this day. Two books. I was good with this.
We had a major leadership shift change at work occur at the end of 2020 which was completely unexpected. My boss, our COO, passed away from a heart attack. He had been with the company for only 47 years. We went through a full reset and my role changed considerably. As we worked our way through new methods and approaches, I was in several meetings where I shared many of the people-centric ideas I had written about more openly. I also threw out new ideas because they seemed to fit.
During one of these meetings, Michael, our CEO, quipped, “Is this going to be in your next book?” I was stunned. He was serious. I asked just to double-check and he really wanted me to do it.
So, six years after attempting to capture my thoughts about HR, I have written book number three – HR Unleashed !! The thought behind this book is to encourage HR not to retreat to the practices of how we had been doing HR before the pandemic. We need to move forward and drive organizations to be intentionally people first. The book is filled with stories and examples of how you can make this happen. I believe companies that make this come to life will remain relevant. It’s the key for HR to stay ahead of the future.
This book was published at the SHRM Annual Conference just as my prior two books were. I’m floored by the response so far and grateful for the opportunity to get another dose of positivity to elevate HR out into the world. I’ve enjoyed being a paperback writer. We’ll see where things go from here . . .
The year was 1980 and I was a junior in high school. I was geeked to jump into more college prep courses and one of those was Chemistry. This class was only open to juniors and seniors. Many of my friends signed up as well, but we weren’t really sure how it was going to go. We heard that a new teacher was going to teach Chem and that brought about an air of uncertainty.
We didn’t handle “new” well. I joined the Ada school system in 7th grade and it took me almost an entire year to break in to find my way and make friends. That’s because the vast majority of my classmates had been together since Kindergarten. Now that I’d been accepted into the mix and going to my fifth year with this cohort of peers, I was as skeptical as they were about any new teacher.
As we took our seats, this slender man with large glasses entered the room and turned to the blackboard. With a piece of chalk, he printed his name . . . Mr. Lusk.
It didn’t seem to fit. He was VERY young compared to the much older teachers in our high school. He had a mild demeanor and softly introduced himself.
“Hi there. My name is David Lusk and I’m your new Chemistry teacher. I recently graduated from Ohio Northern University and this is my first class and first day teaching full-time.”
Our jaws hit the floor. He was brand new !! I’m sure he had some student teaching experience, but nothing like taking on a group of juniors and seniors who were extremely close and familiar with each other. We were sure that this was going to go south. Being immature, even though we had all of life already figured out, we made up our minds we were going to give him a shot, but we were going to stretch the boundaries as much as possible too.
The first few weeks were pretty tame. We jumped into learning the Periodic Table and started with the very basic building blocks of Chemistry. He seemed to be chill enough and the classes were interesting. He gave us a schedule of labs we’d be doing and our interest peaked. I hung out with three of my close friends and we maneuvered our desks to be like a little pod in between the two large, long lab stations. We didn’t ask. We just shuffled together and watched to see how Mr. Lusk would respond. He didn’t mind and we didn’t pay attention to the seniors or the other juniors in the room. The seniors were marking time and had little interest in the subject or the new teacher. The girls who were in the class were crazy rule followers and they felt the four of us should get back in the rows of desks like all of the other kids. Upsetting them was icing on the cake.
After about a month, we had an unusually early snow. Our room was on the first floor in the “new” wing of our school. We had a large paned window with a small panel that would jut out just about ten inches. As class was going on, my buddy, Tom leaned over and said, “Watch this. It’s time.” He ducked out of his desk went back to the window and popped it out. Mr. Lusk was writing formulas on the blackboard and people were frantically taking notes.
Tom popped back into his desk with a giant, fresh snowball. “What are you going to do with that?” I asked. “You’ll see.” He stood up and threw the snowball to the front of the room easily and it smashed into the blackboard !! We sat there in awe and anticipation to see how the new teacher would react. Tom was ready to get busted and go to the Principal’s office. It was an epic act of anarchy and we were sure he was going down.
What happened next set our opinion of Mr. Lusk going forward. He reached up calmly, wiped off the wet streaks of snow and kept writing the formulas. Not a word. He didn’t turn around. No reaction at all. As we received evil glares from the rule girls about what dorks we were, we sat there in pure admiration. Class ended about thirty minutes later and Mr. Lusk still didn’t bite on our attempt to rattle him.
The four of us formed a group called The Conclave (we were massive nerds in school) and we decided we’d be Mr. Lusk’s champions and supporters from then on. It was the best decision Tom, Jamie, Greg and I ever made. We ended up learning lesson after lesson from Mr. Lusk. He even added Chem II and taught Physics our senior year. We were the first to sign up. Tom and I also scheduled it so that every, single study hall, we went to the Chem room to hang out with Dave.
After graduation, we still made sure to stay in touch with Mr. Lusk and drop in every so often to see how he was doing. Every time we did, he’d explain that we were his first class with pride. He continued to check in with us long after we completed college, got married, had kids, and stepped into our careers.
This weekend, I was able to go to his retirement party 43 years after he stepped into that Chemistry room with a bunch of goofy juniors. He has been honored year after year as the best teacher and most beloved teacher at the high school. He has taught well over 1,000 kids the joy, magic, and importance of Chemistry and Physics. He was active in tons of additional activities including running the school Quiz Teams, overseeing Student Government, and taking trips to Cedar Point to let kids enjoy the amusement park.
The receiving line for Mr. Lusk started at 2:00 pm and didn’t wane until the reception was over at 5:0o pm. An endless group of people including community members, former teachers, members of his church, and alumni from the many years he taught came to tell him “Thank you” for all he had done.
Greg Lavan and I were the two members of his first class who came back. You need to remember when Dave was starting his teaching journey, he was 22 years old and we were . . . 17 !! We were basically peers. We’re on the precipice of entering our 60s and he is just a bit ahead.
When I was able to have some time with him, we embraced with a deep fondness. I tried as best I could to express to him how he changed my life and I wouldn’t be who I am without his investment. We both had tears welling up in our eyes as we shared our moment and I giggled as he stood in his Monty Pythonesque “I’m not dead yet . . .” t-shirt and jeans.
I spent hours with Greg and another classmate, Dave West, who was a year younger than us and we shared hours of stories, laughs and joy about Mr. Lusk and his impact on our lives and the lives of others.
Left to right: Dave West, Steve Browne, Mr. Lusk and Greg Lavan
I spent five hours a week with Mr. Lusk for a year in class and then ten hours a week my senior year in class and infinite hours skipping study hall. He embraced The Conclave and every. single. student. who entered his classroom over his 43 years. He left a mark that set direction in my life and had as much of a meaningful, lasting impression as my parents. I love him and he knows it.
I share this story not only to honor him but to remind you dear reader that you leave a mark on people every time you encounter them. This is true whether you intend to or not. Don’t overlook this. Choose to leave a positive, long-lasting impact and influence as Mr. Lusk did.
You never know what will come of this. Being intentional and cognizant of this reality will shape your attitude and approach toward others. I have taken the example Mr. Lusk exhibited to heart. I do my best to be mindful of leaving a positive impact on people every time I have a chance to be with others.
To thank Dave, I found a mint copy of Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police issued in 1980 the first year he taught. Greg and I signed it as two members of The Conclave. One last chance to leave a memento. So grateful that he swiped the snowball off the board and kept going. He has made an everlasting and eternal investment in the lives of many because he did.
As I mentioned last week, my travels have filled my quiver with new stories and experiences. I would encourage you when you have the opportunity to attend events to make sure you do this as well. It never made sense to me that people would go to events to get credit hours to ensure they kept their letters behind their names. I know it’s important and I turn my hours in too, but it’s the last reason I go to anything.
It brings me to this week’s story. I was fortunate to meet and connect with the wonderful and talented, Rachel Druckenmiller !! I knew she was a fellow speaker at the conference, but I wanted to get to know her as a fellow human. (This is another thing I do at conferences. Treat speakers like approachable humans and get to know them.)
We hit it off and jumped into conversations as if we had been friends for years. I loved hearing about her family and getting to know all about her. Taking the time to hang out made it even more meaningful when I saw her take the stage to open day two as a keynote. I loved her people-centric message and approach. She had tons of relevant content that was instantly applicable to every person at their company.
One point she brought up was how all of us tend to view others in the workplace. We, unfortunately, overlook the amazing people around us and get sucked into the vortex of those who are challenging. If you don’t think that’s true, step back and listen to the conversations happening in the halls. I guarantee you that the talk is negative and focused on how people disappoint us. I think we secretly enjoy talking about people this way because we then feel we have value when we address and “fix” this.
It’s not healthy and it’s misaligned. I was agreeing with Rachel when she dropped a bomb to switch this approach altogether. She said, “Too often we say the person is the problem when it may be that the person has a problem.”
Look at that sentence again !! Changing one word from “is” to “has” completely reframes everything. Imagine how HR and the workplace would look if we had a “has” mentality in working with others. I believe it would radically transform you personally and would assuredly transform your workplace.
Yes, people can be challenging. With this, we need to remember that we are people too !! I would want others to see if I was facing a problem or working through some facet of life instead of having people label me and talk about me negatively. I’m sure you would as well.
I find talking about people as if they’re the problem is exhausting and never-ending. This must change. If we want to foster, develop and sustain a people-first culture, then we have to come at our work from a positive perspective. This week adopt a “has” approach and drop the “is” approach. Trust me, you’ll see immediate results and begin to understand you have always been surrounded by amazing humans.
I haven’t been writing the past few weeks because I took some time “off” to pursue one of my other passions – speaking. I was fortunate to have been asked to present at three conferences – Workhuman in San Diego, the Oklahoma State SHRM HR Conference in Oklahoma City, and the New Mexico State SHRM Conference in Albuquerque. Being that I live in West Chester, Ohio just outside of Cincinnati it’s taken me some time to understand and acclimate to the different time zones I found myself in. I’m just now getting back into a regular wake/sleep cycle.
Each event was magnificent in its own way !! I could write blog posts about each one for weeks and weeks to come. A highlight for me at each conference involved a mix of seeing familiar friends I’ve met over the years accompanied by meeting scores of new people. There is nothing that captures my attention as much as this. I’ve always been wired around people throughout my life. I can’t get enough of meeting and engaging with new folks.
At New Mexico SHRM, the incredible volunteer leaders burst into the main room and brought people to their feet with music, dance, clapping, and extravagant purple sequined coats and hats. Energy and anticipation were high as they set the mood for the full conference ahead. They shared details of the schedule, thanks for all of the work people had done to pull the conference together, encouragement to visit and chat with exhibitors and sponsors, and more. I was used to this cadence because it reflected a pattern I’ve seen at many SHRM State Conferences. It was so well done and I personally was getting more geeked myself to be a part of what was about to happen.
While waiting to take the stage and open the event, I was fortunate to experience something that put things into perspective in a way I’ve rarely experienced at past HR gatherings. Margaret (a new friend by the way) took to the podium. She is Navajo and she explained the conference had a Native track and then she introduced the amazing Gabriel Ayala to open the conference with a prayer and a song. He is a singer, musician and artist also from the Navajo nation.
Margaret and Gabriel welcomed everyone as fellow “five-fingered beings.” They explained that the Navajo described humankind as five fingers because it is something that binds us all together as humans. I was floored. Something so visible, obvious, and yet overlooked by all of us.
Gabriel encouraged us to embrace each other as fellow five fingers. He noted it is far better for us to see how we have a common bond than it is to continue to try and tear each other apart. He acknowledged we are all unique and have known differences that make us strong as fellow five-finger beings. He then sang a prayer in his original language as tears rolled down my cheeks.
It was perfection. To recognize and affirm we are all humans should be at the opening of every HR event !! Too often we focus and dwell on those situations and circumstances that exhaust us. As HR pros we forget we have a common bond and we fall into the trap of the dark side of human behavior. We don’t see how to step back and get out of the muck.
Take heart !! The majority of people around us are fantastic most of the time. As humans the “all of the time” standard is out of reach. However, most of the time is very adequate. We need to take the advice of Margaret and Gabriel and call upon our five fingerdness.
This week when the urge to focus on the negative starts to well up within you, look down at your hands. Then, remember the people you will work with have those same five fingers. Value them as fellow humans first and foremost. Trust me, it will reshape your day, your outlook, and your approach.
(The artwork above is Gabriel’s native take on The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album. You know I needed to have this !!)
In the past, I’ve been sharing about home repair adventures at our daughter’s home in Indianapolis. Every time we visit we’re sure to be doing some sort of project, and we love being able to help. During Easter weekend, Melanie reached out and surprised me by asking if I’d like her help to repair our split rail fence. I jumped at the chance !!
My wife and I have lived in the same home since 1991. When we moved in, we were excited about the beautiful split rail fence that bordered our backyard. The family we replaced had a dog so there was an extra wire fence attached to the split rails. I took the interior wire fence down soon after we established our home. We didn’t anticipate getting a dog ourselves and I wanted to fully enjoy the wooden perimeter.
Over time we’ve had rails rot to the point of needing to be replaced. The horizontal pieces aren’t much of a challenge. The hardest part is getting them from the hardware store back to our house while protruding out the back of my SUV. I’ve figured the slow-motion transportation out, and find that I’m replacing three to five rails each year. I’m good with that. The extreme hurdle that has only occurred three times in 32 years is when a vertical post breaks off.
This usually occurs at the post’s base but it results in six rails being affected. Something you may not know is that split rail vertical posts reside in a hole about 2 to 2 1/2 feet deep. So, getting the partial, buried part of the post out of the ground is physically difficult. However, you need to get it out before replacing it with a new post.
When Mel got home we traveled to one of the big box hardware stores near us to buy a vertical post and five replacement rails. We had two remaining from when the fence breach occurred and I was sure we could replace a few more around the yard. After two hours, lots of mud and water were removed along with the buried post remnant, and a hole appeared. We placed the new vertical post and made sure it was level. We put the two past rails in their place and added four brand-new rails. The fence had been in disrepair for over two years. I didn’t have the right weather, enough time, or a willing helper. It was easier to leave the gaping hole and make excuses than face the work needed to fix the fence.
We all have relationships in our lives that could use some mending – personally and professionally. I’m not going to venture into when there’s splintering in our personal lives. I’m sure there are circumstances and experiences I have little context about to give any specific advice. I would like to mention this though – Our time with the people in our lives is limited. Why have that time wasted with fences that could be mended if you took the time and steps needed to attempt that? I know some personal relationships in my life need more of my intentional attention. I’m willing to try and hope I can get them back in place.
At work, we’re better when there aren’t broken fences. Too often we spend time talking about how relationships are fractured to other people who aren’t part of the relationship. We avoid going to the people involved for some of the same reasons I chose not to fix my split rail fence. We tell ourselves we don’t have time, and we’re sure that it won’t help. This can’t be the case. Companies that continue to work in a manner where factions of people pull each other apart will never be as successful as they could be.
HR pros need to be the ones who go to the hardware store, get the materials needed, and then pull the people together who need the mending. Being willing to step in to bring the organizational fence back in order is essential to leading from the HR chair. Instead of listening to the complaints and conversations where people keep the fences broken, take the time to turn things around by resolving that you won’t allow for any gaps in your perimeter anymore.
We need to realize that when our boundaries are in place and relationships are healthy, then people can perform. When they perform, the company succeeds as a whole and among each employee involved.
This week, look around your company’s backyard and determine where your fence needs attention. Then, get to the store buy the rails needed and start mending.
A situation recently occurred that I can’t shake. I share about my family often, and I’m fortunate to have such an amazing, supportive wife and incredible kids. They are well on their adulting ways which is a new parenting adventure itself. It’s wonderful to take the steps of life together including the highs and lows, the joys and challenges.
Our son lives in the greater San Diego area while my wife and I are in Ohio. Having him thousands of miles away has its downside because it would be great to see him in person more easily and often. However, I’m also geeked he is in a place where he can stretch boundaries and make a life for himself. One thing Josh won’t readily admit is that he and I are more alike than not. He is creative, emotional, passionate, and talkative and struggles when he feels confined by authority (just like the author of this post).
We have an agreement that if he ever feels like he’s going to lose it, I’m his first call before he reacts. Please don’t think he’s ready to pop at any random moment. Sometimes, the emotions just build up and I’d rather be a safe outlet than have that release be detrimental to him or others. I’m proud of him and love him more than I can express. So, if I get a call that doesn’t quite fit my time zone but it fits his, I pick up the phone.
A few weeks ago that happened. He called me as both his Dad and his HR counsel. His work situation isn’t good. He works for a branch of a nationally known bank for a difficult manager. Please understand every time we talk about his work environment, I make sure to talk about what he’s facing AND his part in it. It’s too easy to have him, or someone at work, just complain about their supervisor. Everyone does this to some extent at some time. You need to make sure to see if there is an issue or if it’s a mismatch of styles and approaches.
In his current job, he’s hit both. The branch has the highest turnover of all branches for people in his role. He has stuck with them through all of this and has the most tenure even though it’s only a little over one year. I won’t go into details of why I received his call because he’s going to work through it – as he should personally and professionally.
The part of the conversation that broke me was that he was two words into the call, “Hi Dad . . .” when he burst into tears. The kind of crying where you can’t catch your breath. I felt helpless sitting at my desk knowing I couldn’t get to him and embrace him for comfort.
“You told me to call you. I don’t want to f&*#ing go back to work. I just don’t. I can’t take it anymore,” he was able to get out between the sobs.
“You don’t have to. You can walk out. I don’t know that you should, but you have that ability. Before you do that, tell me what’s going on,” I inquired.
Fifteen minutes later, we landed in a good place and he went back to work. Even though the call was so emotionally charged, I was grateful he reached out to me first. I got another call a few weeks later because of another incident. He shared what happened and we went through more time together calmly so he could continue to move forward. I’m not sure where this will land, but I hope he leaves this situation with a challenging manager to find another opportunity where he can apply himself. I know it’s just around the corner if he takes the first step.
No one wants to see their children struggle. Life is tough. It will have struggles. No one is exempt from this. You wonder if you’re making enough of a difference and an impact to make sure they know they are loved and supported. Not just with words, but with actions and behavior.
I share this story because I know I go to work with a multitude of others who are also working through “life” in various ways. It may involve children, parents, finances, decisions, disappointments, etc. Regardless of what is in front of everyone, they bring what they’re facing to their jobs. They do their best to put those interactions aside to focus on their work. Most of us mask things enough as to not let others in because we don’t want to burden them with our “stuff.” I get that. However, to be flippant, ignorant, or dismissive of what others have going on is unacceptable.
We can’t pretend we’re interested in the well-being or mental health of others if we ignore what people are experiencing. It’s naive and narrow-minded. I’m not going to give you a method, approach, or steps to follow because I don’t have the context and knowledge of the people you’re around. This is only a request for all of us to be more conscientious and aware that the work people do is literally a very, very small portion of their lives. It may be where we interact, but it is strongly influenced and swayed by life’s circumstances.
Just knowing you’re available to genuinely be present for others is enough. It’s a start many long for because too few have that assurance. You need to be that “first call” like I am for Josh for others. It makes a huge difference !!
After the first call, Josh texted my wife and me to thank us for being there for him. He shared a song that he said he plays to remind him of this truth. He said it gets him through because it’s how life has been so far. He knows we are always his “home” even though we’re miles apart. He shared the link in the text and I began to weep. These weren’t tears of sadness. They were tears of love and support.
This past weekend I traveled up the road for two hours to my hometown. I was there to visit my Mom and help her with some tasks. We’re at the stage of life where I’m now the trustee of all her financial decisions. Quick note – my mom is 84 and is in excellent health !! She is far more active than most people I know.
I know whenever I visit there will be places where I can lend a hand. I love doing it and am grateful to have such a healthy relationship with my mom. I’m fortunate to say I have healthy relationships with my extended family. I tend to see more relatives from my mom’s side, but it’s true with my stepdad’s side of the family too. My relatives from my biological dad’s side of the family are scattered all over the globe. We connect every so often and it’s wonderful as well. I don’t take this for granted. I’m well aware of many people who don’t have healthy or strong relationships with those in their lives. It touches my heart and I wish it wasn’t the case for anyone.
Mom and dad have had some rental homes for decades and she’s trying to get them sold now that my dad passed in 2020. So, after signing papers at the local law firm’s office, meeting the new landlords, and signing papers at the local bank, we squeezed in some other errands and items she wanted to be attended to. The entire time I was with my mom we were talking. We talked about the work at hand, my job, my wife’s job, our kids, and life in general.
There has always been an ease in talking with my mom. This is not only true with me and our family, but with every person she encounters. It’s almost as if you feel compelled to share openly with her. No matter who she’s with, they get her full attention and interest. She never states something and then moves on before a response is given. Time seems to stand still for her when it comes to other people. Even though she has the next “thing” to do, the person engaging in a conversation with her would never know it.
The best time where we chat is over meals. There’s a regular cadence of getting the meal ready, saying a prayer over the food and for things happening in our lives, and then we dig in. She may be one of the best cooks on the planet. I know I’m biased, but her home cooking is always on point. We talk and talk even though we know other tasks need to be addressed later in the day. And, of course, you end with a dessert of some sort because she has the most enormous sweet tooth. Saying “no” isn’t even an option.
After a magnificent dinner of Irish Stew, we cleared the table because my aunts and uncles were coming over for the Friday night tradition of playing dominoes. My aunts and uncles are also in their 80s now. They didn’t know I was visiting and there was true joy, warm embraces, and a gentle kiss when we saw each other. I headed into the dining room to start playing when my mom grabbed my arm and said, “We visit first.” So, everyone went to the living room and an unhurried conversation ensued. It was glorious !!
We covered the obligatory “catch-up” items since we don’t see each other regularly. Then we easily transitioned to talking about what was happening in their lives. I was a keen observer who chimed in every so often but spent more time listening and enjoying hearing them share with each other. There was laughter, friendly poking at each other, and also updates on concerns about the health of family and friends. (Remember, they’re in their 80s.)
After about 45 minutes, my mom said, “Well, Steve was hopeful he’d get to join in our weekly dominoes game.” And, it was on !! How cool is it that I got to play a game with my mom and my aunts and uncles? There are 13 rounds in a full game of Mexican Train and I hadn’t laughed so hard during several ooh’s, aah’s and “Why did you play that there Steven?” The game flew by and we ended with the mandatory dessert and coffee. We had cherry pie for Februcherry (insert groan here) and vanilla ice cream.
The unhurried conversation flowed throughout the hours while we played the game. It was a thread keeping everything knit together. The ribbing of who was in what place was also wonderful. I ended up in 4th place out of the six of us and it didn’t matter at all. Having meaningful time with my family was what mattered.
The time at home was a reminder of the value of slowing down, paying attention, and enjoying each word that is spoken and shared. In our world, we spend far too much time sprinting from task to task like a giant pinball. Nothing, and no one, gets our total focus or time because we tell ourselves if we dare to alter our lightspeed life, then our world will fall into utter chaos.
IT JUST ISN’T TRUE !! (and it never has been)
I don’t know how long or how many times I’ll get to see my mom and aunts and uncles over the coming years in the future. I hope there are many more times versus fewer. We’re not guaranteed a certain amount of time on this planet. I wish we were, but it’s a true unknown.
Since that’s our reality, I’m going to be more conscientious and spend my time like I did this weekend. I’ve learned from my mom. I cherish unhurried conversations and do my best to have them with everyone every time we meet. Nothing is more important to me than giving others my time. Nothing.
This week slow down. You can and you should. There is an unhurried conversation waiting for you to initiate or join in. Life is too short to miss these. Be unhurried.
We took the trek to Indianapolis once again to our daughter’s house for Thanksgiving. She wanted to host the gathering since it was her first one there. So, my wife and mom brought some dishes and we spent time enjoying each other’s company, some incredible food and tons of laughter. My family has never been very sedentary. If there’s a chance to get out and enjoy some activity, then we’re going to do it.
We piled into a car on Friday and drove out to Newfields and the Indianapolis Museum of Art to see the newest immersive “Monet & Friends” exhibit. We had seen the VanGogh experience a few years ago and were excited to see what this would entail. You enter a room and find yourself surrounded by flowing images of artwork covering the various walls and the floor !! There is a soundtrack that compliments the show and pulls you deeper into the artwork. It’s not possible to see everything that happens. You don’t really need to. It’s better to get lost and flow with the colors, images and sounds.
Interspersed with the famous works of the French Impressionists were descriptive slides to give you context about the time, society and culture these artists experienced. One of the slides which caught my attention described how radical this group was because they broke for the traditional art world. Most art, up to that point in time, had been more portrait driven. Artists depicted historical and religious figures and scenes. The paintings looked more like what we would consider pictures taken by a camera or phone. They’re beautiful but they lacked much variety. The impressionists chose to paint everyday life and “common” people.
They looked at the world around them and captured the “impression” of the situation they personally observed. They also deviated from portraiture and created a new form of art using a full palette of colors and various levels of light. They didn’t consider the life moving around them as mundane. Everyday life had a purpose, and the artists wanted to make sure their canvas kept each moment in time perfectly frozen. The result of their efforts has made their work considered classic now.
As I stood enraptured in the ever-changing visuals, I wondered how many scenes have flown by me and I never even recognize they occurred. They didn’t warrant enough of my attention to warrant an impression. However, maybe they should have because I’m sure those scenes involved people. People who wanted to be seen, noticed, or acknowledged, and I was focused elsewhere. It doesn’t mean I was trying to be dismissive or ignore them, it’s just how we experience life.
I didn’t like that feeling whatsoever. If this small group of artists could stop in the midst of the bustle of Parisian life in order to put their brushes to canvas, why couldn’t I do the same? What’s keeping me from taking in the impressions happening all around and savoring them? Nothing. I can enjoy every situation if I just choose to.
I think this is a better approach to follow at home, at work, and with those whose paths we cross. Taking the time to enjoy the humans and the situations we find ourselves in gives life so much more fullness and depth. This coming week slow down, look around you and see what impressions are happening. Jump into them and put them on a “canvas” of memories. See how much each day becomes brighter and more purposeful !!
(To give you some initial inspiration here’s a great tune from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones !!)
The past few weekends have been very full and exciting. We helped our daughter move from an apartment to her first house. We’re so proud of her because she was able to find and purchase the home on her own. Anytime you move from place to place, there is work to be done because you want to make it your own.
The weekend before the big move, I was “assigned” the task of getting the yard to look the way she wanted. When I surveyed all that was in front of me, I knew there would be more removal than adding to her landscape. The family who lived in the home before seemed to do just as much as they needed to so that things looked okay, but I wouldn’t say things were in shape. This was especially true with the backyard and the sides of the property adjacent to the alleys that run alongside and behind our daughter’s house.
One of Melanie’s dear friends, Paige, was eager to join me in tackling the jungle we saw. We grabbed our gloves and our tools and went after it !! There was a lot of grunting, pulling, cutting and trimming as we removed some troublesome honeysuckle and got other shrubs into shape just around the home’s perimeter. This set of tasks seemed manageable and we were hopeful the rest of our work would be as easy. It wasn’t.
As we moved further back on the property, we gasped and paused at what we saw. It looked like the tall shrubs skirting the fenceline were hidden because an overgrowth of vines had intertwined themselves. You couldn’t distinguish what was a vine and what was a shrub. We jumped in with full force to free the shrubbery and we found this amazing decorative wall hiding below the mass of greenery. That was quite a surprise and it added to the decor of the property.
(Quick aside – We didn’t really take into account what this maze of vines was as a plant. Let’s just say we should have paused before attacking it . . .)
Slowly the fenceline took shape and now it was safe for cars to travel down the alleys and not have their vehicle scraped with branches. Also, we unearthed buried random trash and could also get to the electrical lines that led to the house. We had one last task of trimming back a gigantic maple tree so that the roof of Melanie’s garage as well as the garage of her neighbor no longer had branches looming over them.
After all we had removed, we were spent. It was a good feeling of exhaustion though. Clearing the brush revealed so many beautiful facets of the house which may not have been seen for some time.
This is similar to our workplaces and our cultures. We let things become overgrown and consumed with “brush” because tending to everything and everyone takes time. We tend to stay in our place and do our work expecting someone else will address the endless clutter filling our environment. Soon the beautiful attributes of all we have to offer disappear and become forgotten.
As HR pros, we should be mindful of the entire work landscape. It’s a great opportunity to make sure that it remains fresh, attractive and cleared. The effort to remove the brush initially will be challenging. You’re sure to encounter pesky vines and unknown obstacles. The vines may even be a bit poisonous (as ours turned out to be), but even that is needed to be removed.
This week look around your workplace to see what has become overgrown. Then, get all your gear on and jump in !! Clearing the brush is needed so that all that is meant to grow and thrive can happen. After you put in the work, you’ll enjoy the culture and vibe you’ve uncovered.
This past weekend my wife and I were fortunate to experience a milestone with our daughter as we helped get her new home in order. She bought her first home on her own in Indianapolis. We joined her to get things cleaned and just the way she wanted it because she wasn’t planning to move in permanently until next weekend.
Whenever you move into a new location, you wonder how the people who lived there prior to you lived. It’s a sure thing that things won’t match. Overall, the house is in good shape for being 105 years old !! Our main efforts were cleaning the inside of the house and clearing the property of landscaping that was fiercely overgrown. My wife and daughter started in on Friday for several hours before I was able to make it on Saturday.
It doesn’t take long for your body to remind you that you are no longer in your 20s !! Debbie and I kept up with the “kids” most of the time, but we were exhausted at the end of our day. I think I’ve discovered new joints in my body that I didn’t know existed years ago. When your knuckles ache just to bend your fingers, you know you’ve tapped into every part of your body. Putting some sweat equity into our daughter’s new adventure was well worth the pain.
When we hit our wall, we told Melanie we needed to stop and go eat. The word “hangry” was uttered often. We went back to her apartment, cleaned up, and headed to a nearby restaurant. The food and environment were spectacular. We felt somewhat renewed by getting something to eat. There was a tiny spark of energy that called for a well-deserved dessert. Our family loves ice cream. Probably too much to be honest.
Melanie suggested we stop by the market near her apartment where we could grab a pint or two and go back to collapse. Suddenly, she remember that a brand new ice cream shop had opened adjacent to the market. That sounded wonderful, so we decided to try it. Debbie stayed in the car and asked us to bring some back. Her day of extensive movement was done. We absolutely understood.
So, Mel and I walked down to the shop and as we opened the door, we heard an exuberant and warm greeting.
You couldn’t help but smile because an overt greeting of that sort is very uncommon these days. The greetings continued as we made our way to the display of beautiful vats of ice cream. Homemade ice cream !! We asked about the flavors and which ones were the worker’s favorites. The man who greeted us so gregariously told us every flavor was his favorite. We knew he meant it because of the joy that covered his face.
The same server looked at my daughter and said, “I love your shirt !!” It was a nondescript t-shirt, but she loved that he was so kind and was engaging in a conversation. We took our time getting our cups of ice cream, made sure to pay and take in the entire experience. As we were heading out the door, all four workers wished us a good night and asked us to come back again soon. We promised we would and headed on our way.
The reason this encounter was so remarkable was that Howdy Homemade Ice Cream is unique in how they hire its talent. They primarily hire team members who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Two of the four people working were special needs folks. It was glorious !! The joy, engagement, and attention we experienced were second to none. The employees were naturally intentional and loved serving us. They made sure they performed exceptionally to show their talent and make sure we benefitted from their good work.
To see an employer make such an indelible impact through its mission and hiring efforts is encouraging. To realize that all people have abilities should be foundational for every employer. They just happen to exhibit themselves differently in each person.
There is joy in this world and in the workplace !! We just need to be willing to see it, acknowledge it, and see how we too can bring joy in what we do. Maybe it starts with a simple greeting . . .