My wife and I are almost completely opposite people. We’ve known this since the first time we met. It’s almost hard to quantify that we came together because I’m an extreme extrovert and she’s a rational introvert. We were volunteers with Young Friends of the Zoo at the Cincinnati Zoo. I came to one meeting and volunteered to chair the group’s annual fundraiser. It didn’t seem too out of reach. The other volunteers were both grateful someone stepped up and shocked that I would ask to lead after just attending one meeting.
I tried to meet every. single. person at each monthly meeting to get to know them and encourage them to join in to pull off the fundraiser – The Beastly Ball. It was a costume party that happened around Halloween each year. My future wife was so put off by my overtness, she walked around the perimeter of the meeting space to avoid me.
As volunteers, we met offsite at a warehouse to design, create and build the massive decorations and sets for the ball. We transformed an empty industrial space into an Egyptian tomb. One evening as I was walking around to each group of people to thank them for coming and pitching in, Debbie stopped me and asked me what I was doing over the weekend. I replied, “Nothing.” She quickly asked, “Want to do ‘nothing’ together?” I was so startled that she took this bold step, and I was intrigued. I said, “That would be great.” It was the best decision I’ve ever made over 36 years ago !! (BTW – Our first date was going to see the epic movie – The Princess Bride.)
Fast forward to the present day . . .
Just recently Debbie had a total knee replacement. Everything went well and she’s been recovering magnificently. As one who cherishes abiding by the rules and valuing structure, she’s the perfect patient. Now that things have been progressing, we took advice from our daughter who’s an Occupational Therapist to go mall walking. We’re also old enough now that mall walking isn’t out of the norm !!
Debbie went walking a few times during the day while I was at work. She asked me to start walking with her, and I needed to have a way to be more consistent in making sure I stayed healthy. I was geeked to join in. I went a few times on my own to get the feel for it.
The first time we went to the mall as a couple we entered through the set of double doors and were set to go – she started walking to the right and I went to the left. We took a few steps and paused. She said, “I like to go this way,” showing the path she had followed the few times she went without me. I explained that I was following the path I liked. We shrugged our shoulders and then commenced to walk in opposite directions. It fits us perfectly.
I share this because if we truly want to value diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging then we need to come to terms that none of us are the same. And, we shouldn’t be. It’s okay to be opposites and still be connected to each other on purpose. So, embrace your uniqueness and be cool with who you are AND who others are. It works !!
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 !!)
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 . . .
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 !!
Have you noticed, or felt, that we’re stuck? My wife and I were hanging out with another couple enjoying a few Moscow Mules and we caught up on life. Instead of talking about the various activities of our grown children or the status of our jobs, we talked about the constant wave of global events that have happened throughout 2020. Each one has had a profound experience on each of us personally as I’m sure it has for you. There doesn’t seem to be and “end” to any of these events, and maybe that’s the point.
When the pandemic hit (and it’s still happening to some exent), people longed for normalcy and a return to the life and patterns of what we’d been accustomed to doing. Now, the civil unrest, protests and call for social justice has moved us in a new direction emphasizing that we should not return to how things “have been.”
People are frustrated, angry, anxious and uncertain as to what lies ahead for our society and for each of us personally. When this happens, there are three possible reactions which will occur – (1) You’ll stay put because that gives you some sense of stability and less volatility; (2) You’ll do all you can to slide back into comfort zones and make efforts to get out of all that’s going on; and (3) You move forward and carry on.
As I was thinking about writing this week, I had the Grateful Dead radio station playing on Spotify. I am a hippie in the 21st century. The station plays a variety of artists from a similar genre, and one of my favorite groups started playing – Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The song they were singing was Carry On which is one of my favorites.
The song is about a relationship that has broken off, but it is laced with a message of encouragement to carry on because “love is coming, love is coming to us all.” With everything that is daily affecting us, I want to assure you that we can, and should, move forward by carrying on. We’re all tired and reaching the end of our ropes emotionally, physically and spiritually. The people I talk to are exasperated. They want to move forward, but are just so spent they don’t know how. If movement doesn’t occur soon, then they’ll become stagnant and ambivalent. This doesn’t have to happen.
At some time, we all will need to carry on. Now, I’m not going to be so bold as to list specific steps and a model to help you do this. I will say though that in order to start carrying on, you need to acknowledge that you can’t stay put where you are. It’s not easy and the urge to remain where you currently are is powerful and hard to break. You may even feel that others will chime in and tell you they’re not moving forward themselves, and they will do their best to have you join them. We can’t afford to do that as people or as HR professionals.
It’s time for us to take beliefs, words and sentiments and turn them into actions. We can’t continue to be aspirational and hope that someone will pick up the mantle and run with it. This is our task and our opportunity. So, what can you DO to ensure inequality and racism isn’t present in your practices and organizations? What can you DO to care for former employees who are now in transition after the pandemic? What can you DO to show your company that every situation in your company is centered around people? Every. Situation.
It’s easy to get caught up in the ground swell of emotions of all that is going on. I’m sure you’ve experienced strong feelings yourself. After time, this level of emotion, passion and outcry for sustainable change will subside. It always does. A good friend of mine and I were talking about this, and he had a great suggestion which he finds works well.
Write down what you want to accomplish in your calendar and then write out steps you need to reach that accomplishment. Set them all up as reminders so they don’t disappear. Let them be gentle nudges for you to continue to carry on.
As I mentioned before, I’m not going to give you absolute suggestions for you to pursue. I don’t know what is facing you – but you do !! Let’s all commit to not remain stagnate. Let’s be intentional in putting accomplishments out in front of us to see ourselves, and our companies, improve. Let’s make our words turn to action. Let’s all carry on !!
Just so you have a little reminder and inspiration to get you started, here’s the CSNY classic for your listening pleasure . . .
It’s rare that I don’t have words readily available to type and share. I have been struggling with all of the unrest happening around the country and in my city. I wanted to say something, and I’ve been apprehensive for a few reasons. First of all, I don’t want to make a statement that would be taken out of context which is easy to have done with anything that is but a snapshot of words in time. Secondly, writing about a racial issue when I’m a white man makes me anxious as well. I don’t want my words to be taken in a way that lessens or marginalizes anyone. However, I needed to say something.
I recently read that in a time of crisis, people of courage take a stand. I choose to step in on this with grace and a yearning to understand. Along with everyone else, I hear people screaming for people to pick a side and be held “accountable.” In fact, I’ve had friends cast their sentiments and shame on me for not instantly, and emotionally, respond to all that’s happening. I realize that I’m a visible person in the world of HR, and I choose to be one on purpose. With that, I don’t feel you can only comment on all that’s good, but you should also respond when things are challenging and uncomfortable.
I ache for what is happening. I truly do. I don’t pretend that I have the same background, fear and anger that many do because my life has not been made up of the same experiences. I understand that I am treated differently because I am white and not black. I don’t agree with it and I never have. To me, I am disheartened because people have lost their lives. There are families who have lost those dear to them forever when it didn’t need to happen, and we all know that in a moment a bad decision can be made that will change the course of a person’s life forever.
The country has been filled with angst, emotion and frustration for some time. All that has been happening with the pandemic, endless political rhetoric and a constant focus on all that’s “wrong” with our existence has consumed the majority of our thoughts and conversations. I’ve seen injustice occur when a spark is lit and the bucket of emotions unleashes. It’s honestly a cycle we refuse to address and break from.
And, here’s where I get stuck for words . . .
You see, I don’t dare be prescriptive or should that “this” action should happen or “that” person should be addressed. That’s only because there are far too many of us who need to act and speak up. It’s not only the people involved in the loss of life.
I’ve seen many contacts and friends who are beside themselves and have very publicly shouted that they’re getting off social media because they just can’t handle it anymore. I’m concerned when people step away only because it can lead to a trap of isolation, intimidation and indifference. I would hope there’s a chance and a window to engage, understand and have dialogue even when emotions are running high.
This past weekend, I was in Indianapolis with my wife visiting our daughter. As we were walking through the neighborhoods around Mass Ave., I saw this piece of art which captured what I can do during this time. It’s a crossing sign that has two alternative messages on it versus the traditional Walk/Don’t Walk. It shows “Don’t Care/Care” and the button below says, “Push button to change.” As we came up on the sign, it was on the blue light saying, “Don’t Care,” and we pushed the button to make the sign express “Care.”
Now, I know this is an analogy and just a visual cue. However, I believe that in all this unrest what I can do more than ever is care. I choose to do that by reaching out to friends who I know are angry and fearful. I’ve had conversations already and plan to reach out to others to check in. I’ve asked for context and not “why” when we’ve talked. I want them to know that I’m here for them no matter what.
That may seem minor and not doing “enough” in the eyes of many. What you need to understand though is that I have lived my life with the belief and behavior of meeting you WHERE you are and for WHO you are in every aspect of your life. While the world keeps ripping itself apart over ignorant words, self-aggrandizing tweets, and a cult of personality, I choose to engage people as humans, and I will continue to do so.
I value our differences and see them as strengths and attributes that make you a wonderful person worth engaging and knowing. I refuse to be someone who is called upon to only know others if I have to compartmentalize, label, judge, marginalize or generalize them.
I care about people and I ache that once again race has become something that divides us. I want to see that change and I am going to do that one person at a time. It’s been said for centuries that “actions speak louder than words.” I hope you are reflecting on how you can genuinely express care for people for who they are and where they are in life. To me this is basic and foundational.
In getting ready to write this, I did find some words that captured my heart well from of all places – Nike. Take a look and let’s do all we can to bring people together and move forward.
Pretty straightforward isn’t it? If that’s how I introduced myself, how would you react? I bet you’d be “offended” or put off because you would wonder why that had any bearing whatsoever on our meeting. The next thought in your head would be wondering why in the world I would start a conversation in such a rude way. You’d wonder if I was judging you or making assumptions about you as a person just because of a number. That’s assuming that you’d even answer me.
Seems pretty outlandish doesn’t it? However, we continue to do this as HR professionals and think nothing of it. In fact, we have conference sessions, books and blogs about how to “deal” with these young whipper snappers disrupting OUR workforce !! (Insert the “Get off my lawn” with the obligatory fist shaking motion here . . .)
Every HR conference has a “Working with Millenials” speech that you can get credit for. Sadly, the room will be packed because we’re so mystified by such a difficult challenge. Ironically, the presenter most likely won’t be a millenial. It will be someone older complaining about how different these folks are from us. Sad. Just freaking sad.
How did the profession that espouses diversity and inclusion become the profession that delineates employees based on their age? Who said this was a good idea? And, why in the world would you pay anyone as a speaker on consultant to come in and teach you how to “DEAL” with people who are different than you? One other quick fact, the next generation after the millenials is already entering the workplace. I can’t wait until the next phase of generation separation starts happening !!
I hope you can tell this ticks me off. It’s disappointing on so many levels and it has to stop. Here’s how . . . embrace the folks who will replace us !!
A few weeks ago I was fortunate to have HR students from Ohio University visit me as part of a field trip. They visited four employers from different types of industries to learn about the companies and how HR was practiced. I was geeked to have them come learn about LaRosa’s, Inc. You see, I am a proud OU Bobcat alumni !! I mentioned that I graduated from college before the internet existed. There were audible gasps.
We had a phenomenal time together !! They were eager, engaged and hilarious. We spent the whole afternoon together, and I let them ask me anything they wanted to know. They asked pointed questions about how I viewed/practiced HR and what workplaces were “really” like.
Not once did the students hold my age against me as a barrier. I didn’t treat them any differently than any person I encounter on a daily basis. It never came up. Nor, should it.
I encouraged the students to take a serious look at the cultures of the companies they were visiting as a benchmark for what workplaces are like. I told them a truth that I know which is people will stay or leave a company because of it’s culture. I also wanted them to ask their future prospective employers to describe how they view HR and the role it plays in their organizations. I told them to listen to the response because it would reflect the company’s culture and would be the best measure of whether they should join that company or not.
We closed the day in a very cool, and humbling, way. I was able to give them a copy of my book and when I signed the copies I put “OU ’86” under my name. One of the students said “Like 1986 ?? Whoa !!” I laughed. I loved that they thought I was ancient.
The future of HR is bright because of students like these !! I take any opportunity I can to meet with and speak to students because I believe that they need to hear from business people who won’t treat them differently. Instead, you engage them as talented, wonderful future employees.
This week, stop the generation separation. I mean it. We’re better than that. Let’s make our present as bright as our future !!
This past week has been an interesting week of interactions. They ranged from conversations in my office to various connections on-line in social media forums. I tend to take in as much as possible on a regular basis because I enjoy all of the contact. Yes, I am an extrovert. In fact, when I’ve taken assessments that measure this, I’m off the chart. That isn’t always a good thing.
I only mention that because my extroversion is only one small facet of who I am. We tend to take our “vert” and use it to lead in describing us as people. This is solid because it’s a fact. However, we often use it as a label to explain what we’re not instead of highlighting who we are. Knowing who we are is essential because self-awareness, in my opinion, is the baseline of healthy relationships, interactions and even leadership !!
One of the unexpected interactions this week was from my friend Paul LaLonde. He just started a new blog called the HR Philosopher and he described how we met each other in person at last year’s SHRM Annual Conference. I love that he described me as “a giant man with a booming voice and a tie-dye shirt” because it makes me smile. He also shared how he stepped out of his comfort zone to be intentional that we met. I love this because I’m the opposite. If I see you in a room, I want to meet you.
The reality of your “vert” is that it drives how you process thought, how you tend to communicate and how you approach meeting others and the relationships you develop. Your vert is your lead in. That is spectacular and not a hindrance. Respecting that people land all across the scale of extroversion and introversion is imperative because we start interactions based on who we are and regardless of who the other person is. I would challenge you to not charge, or creep, into interactions. Feel things out. See if there is receptivity in initiating contact. It’s safer for all the verts to do this.
The other unexpected connection I made this week was listening to a podcast. I love listening to the HR Social Hour 1/2 Hour Podcast because it features fellow HR practitioners. You get to learn about them more as people including how they arrived in the field of HR, their varied experiences and some personal faves in movies, TV and music. This week’s episode featured Natasha Desjardins, an HR pro in the non-profit sector in Washington, D.C. She lit up the microphone with excitement and passion which was an instant draw for me personally.
She shared an incredibly profound statement which she stated is a personal philosophy that she has adopted which is an African proverb – “I am because WE are.” She described it so well stating that who she is as a person is because of all of the great variety of people in her life that are connected to her. She never said, “Because I’m an ______vert . . . We are __________verts.” Her joy about how she is intentionally connected to others was spectacular to hear. Honestly, I clapped in my car when the episode ended.
This week enjoy the interactions with everyone you encounter because of who they are and not because of some label !! We are far more than our “verts”, but we are also who we are because of them. Connect on purpose my friends. Show others how amazing the whole you really is !!
(P.S. – Start by connecting with Paul and subscribing to his blog and listen to Natasha on the podcast. You’ll be glad you did !!)
This past week my wife and I went to see Fiddler on the Roof as part of the Broadway Series in Cincinnati. We love seeing live theater, and this is honestly one of my favorite musicals ever !! This version did not disappoint either. It had your attention from the moment the lights went down until the cast was “walking” out of their town of Anetevka to end the musical.
If you’ve never seen this great musical, I would highly recommend it. It has a great story line and the songs are all very memorable. The show starts with the powerful song “Tradition” where the various members of the little town in Russia during the turn of the 20th century all sing about their designated role. The main character, Tevye, is both narrator the one who carries the torch of tradition for himself, the townspeople and especially his five daughters.
During the opening song, Tevye has a line that says, “You may ask, ‘How did this tradition get started?’ I’ll tell you. I don’t know.” That seems to be the case with most traditions whether they be ones you have in your family or those within organizations. Even though we may not know the origin of traditions, we follow them fully just as they do in the show . . . at least for a while.
You see, I think there is value in tradition. Many people get this mixed up with the practice of doing things the same way because that’s “the way things have always been done.” If you come across this type of stagnation, then you have to challenge it and/or change it in some way. There is a natural change that happens in companies just due to the fact of the passing of time and the addition and deletion of people. Any time you get new folks involved on work and projects, change occurs simply because they aren’t the people who were involved in the past.
Traditions have their place in companies because they can give you a picture of what has worked in the past. Remember, you can always learn from the past. You just can’t constantly dwell in it. Traditions are an essential part of a company’s culture. They give flavor, distinction and help shape the fabric of what your company offers. These on-going facets are those that critical components of retention. Traditions can be a very positive aspect if they are healthy, living and inclusive.
The key movement in the musical is also a great lesson for us as HR professionals in organizations. Tevye wants to desperately hold on to the traditions of his past that you assume happened for generations. His daughters challenge him in every way and break with tradition by choosing a spouse when spouses had been traditionally agreed upon by the father and another family. He reluctantly gives in on the three who choose a partner because he sees all sides of what the change will bring. This includes the hope that his daughters would benefit from breaking with tradition.
We should look around within our companies to see what traditions need to be tweaked or altered all together. One reason for this is that making changes will allow for diversity to be present on purpose. You can seek the input of others and make sure the voices of everyone have a chance for input. The goal would be for them to benefit from the changes that happen.
Traditions are all around us and we can benefit from having them personally and in our companies. The key is to make sure they are current and relevant. Know why and how you have the traditions that make you great !!
The opening lyrics to the Queen classic anthem “Bohemian Rhapsody” grab me every time. This weekend I went to see the movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, because I am a huge Queen fan, and have been for many decades. I loved it !! Now, I understand that it’s been getting some push back because of some inaccuracies, but it’s a movie. I didn’t go to critique it. I went to enjoy it, and I truly did !!
The music was, and still is, magnificent and I loved singing along in the theater. What intrigued me even more was some of the dynamics that were portrayed throughout the movie. I think there are some very interesting lessons we can learn from about being in a band that can be reflected in the workplace.
Unique Talent – Each member of the band brought something new to the makeup of them as a unit. This both brought them together and tore them apart. It’s difficult when you put various talents together because we tend to compare and desire that other’s share our talent. That isn’t usually possible. I think that we should encourage the strengths that each person brings and see how to meld those together.
Diversity of Thought – This is something that isn’t valued nearly enough. Each member of the band contributed different ideas and perspectives towards their various hits. At times, ideas can run contrary to the flow of where a team (band) is heading. It is hard to listen to contrarian thoughts, but great leadership makes space for all thoughts to be shared and considered. You may want to see if you encourage this diversity. You may be missing some great ideas waiting to be known !!
Incredible Bonds – The band realizes that they are much stronger together than they are apart. They each play their part which allows them to make incredible music. When a team hits their stride in the workplace, they can have this same type of success. It takes incredible work and a component we tend to avoid – conflict. Rarely does a team come together to take on a project and get everything accomplished smoothly. Conflict is something that will occur. Since you know that the bond is critical, help people work through conflict instead of avoiding it.
Risk taking and Creativity – More voices can lead to a team to rally together. When the band recorded their classic anthem, the record company balked because it was longer than the standard three minute radio play of the day. The band wasn’t willing to accept that roadblock because they felt their work was worth it. In the end, their risk worked. We always say we desire risk taking and creativity in the workplace, but we rarely truly allow it. Teams can come together to be a “safe” lab to try things out and move in exciting and new directions.
So, when you get your teams (bands) together at work, I hope you look at all of the great facets they can bring to each other, the workplace as a whole and the contributions they can make. Who knows? Maybe they have an anthem in them as well. Take time to nurture teams and expect them to thrive, and this can be the real life at work and not a fantasy.