A Tale of Three . . .

Dinner with Friends

This past week I was invited by some dear friends who all work in different facets of HR. It was a chance to network, share stories, laugh and get to know each other better over a great meal. I was tickled to be invited because I never take that for granted. To be asked to come to an event on purpose is a feeling I never want to assume is going to happen. Also, I had an ulterior motive. Another person was invited to attend and I had longed to connect with him.

As people gathered and started to introduce themselves to each other, he entered the room. He had a quiet self-assuredness about him and he seemed very at ease with everyone although it was obvious he knew few, if any, people attending. He was in the midst of an intentional conversation and I wanted to interrupt. I didn’t. I waited for their conversation to hit a natural break and then stepped in.

He looked up as we caught each other’s glance and he said, “I know your face.” I said, “Hi Torin, I’m Steve Browne.” His eyes widened and we shook hands. “I’ve been wanting to meet you for years,” I said. We jumped into a conversation as if we’d known each other for years even though we had only ever “connected” online. It was deep, moving and something I had yearned for.

We moved to separate tables and enjoyed a meal with those around us. As I rose to leave, I went back over to my friend and thanked him. I told him once again about the joy I felt in getting to spend time with him. We exchanged our contact information and I told him I’d be intentionally staying in touch with him going forward. He said, “I hope you do.” We then embraced as friends should.

Hey Neighbor !!

My wife and I have lived in our neighborhood for 31 years. We are in a quiet cul de sac in an “older” set of homes. The development was build in the mid 1970’s and we’ve loved it. We had been married only two years when we moved in. The other houses were filled with families who had been there since the neighborhood popped up. We were the “new” family.

Turn the clock forward three decades and now we’re the established family while others have moved on. We’ve seen slow movement over this time, but it has happened naturally. The ranch house directly across from us recently changed from a rental property to one for sale. People refurbished the house and wanted to flip it and take advantage of the hot housing market. Unlike many other homes, this didn’t sell instantly. In fact, it stayed available for months.

Then, this last week, it sold !! We saw it online and were curious as to who was going to move in. After going out to see a small town and just meander (a fave activity for my wife and me), we pulled into our driveway and saw a family standing in the adjacent driveway. Our hearts jumped. My wife asked if I was going to introduce myself. The extrovert in me was eager to jump out of our moving car and go see them. I controlled my urge and decided to walk out and check our mail.

As I did, our new neighbor looked up, raised his hand and exclaimed, “Hi there.” I was in. I walked over, extended my hand and said, “I’m Steve, welcome to the neighborhood.” He replied, “I’m Byron. Nice to meet you and nice to be here.” We talked for a few minutes when my wife and his wife joined us. “I’m Debbie.” “I’m Jill.” “It’s great to have you in the neighborhood,” my wife shared. “We hope you feel welcomed and at home.” We continued chatting and getting to know each other for a little while longer, and then said we’d catch up more after they got settled.

I’d Like to Catch Up

One of my closest and dearest lifetime friends, AJ, texted me this week and said he’d like to jump on a call over the weekend. I said, “Of course,” and we planned to talk Sunday afternoon. AJ was one of my “kids” during our time at Ohio University. I was the Resident Assistant in a freshman dorm and AJ originally lived on the 3rd floor while I worked/lived on the 1st floor. He had a challenging roommate his first semester and he had found his way down to my section. I saw him hanging out more and more often. He asked if he could transfer to join my floor, and we made it happen.

We connected instantly, and I could tell he was accliamating more with new friends. He found his way and we became fiercely close. He stayed connected with me throughout college and he moved to Cincinnati. During his time in Cincy, we hung out just as we had in college. He was here for the birth of our kids and we shared many “life” moments together. We stayed close until he moved out to Seattle. It was harder to stay in touch, but we managed. He was even kind enough to ask me to be his best man in his wedding.

Time passes too easily and we connected less and less. We have remained close though because every time our paths crossed, we picked up right where we left off with ease. The call this Sunday was no different. There was only one noticeable change. During the call, he told me, “Hey, I know we haven’t stayed as close as we had been. I want to change that. I miss you and Debbie and want Kiki (his wife) and I to rekindle things.” He then told me some very heartfelt feelings about how it mattered that I had reached out to him when he was a freshman, stayed true to him as he worked through his 20’s and remained with him even now so many years later. I told him it wasn’t cool to make me weepy.

The one-hour conversation filled us both and we committed to no longer drift apart. I know that will be the case !!

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The reason for these three tales is simple. Connections matter and people matter. Every. Single. Person.

We tend to take the relationships we have for granted and overlook how impactful they could, and should, be. We get swallowed by shallow comparisons, differences of opinions or perspectives and the ridiculous pace we follow throughout our daily living.

We need to pause, slow down and not miss any chance to connect. People want to know they matter. They don’t hear it or see it enough.

Change this. Start having experiences where you can tell tales. Show others that it’s important to have them in your life. Trust me. In doing this you’ll see that life is full, meaningful and valuable. Wouldn’t that be an amazing position to face each day ??

Just My Imagination . . .

Last week my wife and I were able to do one of our favorite things – go to the theater !! We saw the incredible show – Ain’t Too Proud – which chronicles the remarkable career of The Temptations. The moment you see the marquee lit on the stage you can feel tingly anticipation. We were pretty familiar with many of their songs and when the first note hits you were instantly transported back to 1960’s Motown.

The show is a mix of hit after hit sung beautifully by the cast while also being craftily narrated by the character playing Otis Williams. He is the founder of The Temptations and the only living original member at 80 years young. The group’s story is filled with a series of amazing highs as they reached the heights of fame over several decades. They broke barriers and crossed over from being seen only as a black R&B group to becoming one of the all-time best-selling and recognized groups around the world. Their music is timeless and has outlived their heyday.

As magnificent as their success was, they were also plagued and marred by dramatic lows including struggles with egos, infighting, drugs, alcohol and untimely death. The show candidly covers these lows just as much as they did the aspects of success. The destructive behavior of some of the original members led to the difficult decision to ask them to leave the group. When group members were replaced, they experienced the magic of being a Temptation until their humanity crept in and the same set of harmful behaviors started showing in new members as well.

Towards the end of the show, Otis shares that there have been 26 members that have been Temptations over their 60+ years of existence. It’s a factual, sobering statement. It’s not one of pride and joy. It’s more an observation of survival.

Like most things, I see a parallel that applies to HR in my life experiences. When it comes to talent in our organizations, we will often overlook behavior that pulls teams apart if someone is talented “enough.” We will suffer through whatever shenanigans they do because they produce results. We need to be honest about this. Leaders will turn the other way and say things like “that’s just the way __________(insert name here) is.” We excuse detrimental actions without so much as a peep.

Otis Williams did just the opposite. David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks were once in a lifetime talents as musicians and performers. However, when Ruffin’s drug addiction and Kendricks’ dissension about the group’s direction tried to alter the trajectory, Williams asked them to leave. Think of the courage that took. It was very possible they wouldn’t survive the loss of these two originals. Thankfully they did.

It’s very challenging when talented team members become “bigger” than the organization. There is no doubting their skill level and contribution, but there is more value in having a collaborative and cohesive culture. ALL people are talented, not only a few. Make sure that you keep consistency in your culture and value the contribution from every person. That has far more longevity than focusing predominantly on the bright shiny stars.

One of The Temptations most stirring hits was “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” As I close, take a listen and see the power and beauty of a group that performs as one. Let’s make sure we do the same in our companies !!

On Loan

Do you have neighbors? I’m fortunate to have some great ones all around me. With Spring just starting to burst forth, it’s time to get out in the yard. I know that if I need a hand or to borrow a tool (or two) from one of my neighbors, they’d be very willing. I am the same. It’s great to be in a position where we’re willing to help each other out.

The key to any tool borrowing is the understanding that they’re returned in good shape after they were used. It’s wonderful to have the right implement to complete the tasks at hand, but there’s never an expectation you get to keep the borrowed tool(s). In fact, if you did keep your neighbor’s tools, they’d be less likely to let you borrow any more in the future.

This past week I was enjoying an episode of the HR Social Hour Half Hour Podcast featuring a friend from Scotland – Scott Leiper. He shared a wonderful perspective he heard from the incredible Kirsty Mac who reminded him to look at employees who work at our company as being “on loan.” I loved this the moment Scott shared it. He went on to frame that he loved this as well and it helped him view people in a much healthier way.

You see, we don’t view people as being with us for a period of time. We think of them in permanent terms very quickly after they join our companies. In fact, we’re quite put off when someone decides to leave our organization. We may even become indignant because we just don’t understand why someone would “turn” on us. If we were honest, we may miss someone if they change jobs, but we’re more likely upset because we worry about how this transition will impact us !! It’s true. We continue to talk in terms of job requisitions to be filled instead of humans bringing talent to our teams.

Add on top of this the sentiment expressed by most employees that they’re rarely engaged or recognized if they stay with a company. The mantra we continue to perpetuate is about work, tasks, procedures, strategies, and goals regardless of who is accomplishing those things. It’s astonishing that we keep people at our companies at all !!

Let’s turn the narrative around. Let’s embrace the reality that we have our people for a period of time. Let’s encourage them to stay awhile and value them every day for all they do. Let’s get excited for the entire time we have “borrowed” them to allow them to perform, thrive and drive our organizations forward. How would your culture and workplace look if you understood you only have a finite amount of time to work with those around you? I’d bet it would matter and you’d make sure everyone was anchored, involved and valued. You would make sure their talent was used to do the good work you had in front of you each day.

Let’s quit talking about, and focusing on, people changing jobs as part of some Great Whatever !! We have to quit following the next big trend to just mimic and bemoan our circumstances. Let’s celebrate the time we get to have with our people instead. We should use the full term of our loan so when it’s completely paid we get excited for the next step of their career.

From now on remember that our people are on loan. They’re going to be given back to our “neighbor” throughout their career. Trust me. When you do this you will start making the first foundational step of truly being a people-first organization !!

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 !!

Clear the Fog !!

Last week I was getting ready for work like I normally do. After having breakfast, I loaded up my laptop and jumped into my car to head to my office. I’ve been working in person (safely) for the majority of the pandemic.

(Quick aside – I am fortunate to work for a regional pizzeria company and I made the decision to be in person because our amazing Team Members have been in person every day. I wanted to make sure to support them. Now back to the post . . .)

I turned on my favorite morning radio show and 45 minutes later I pulled into the parking lot. There was nothing notable about my commute. But, that was the problem. I didn’t recall a single moment of the commute. No recollection of whether the traffic was heavy or not. No idea if someone cut me off or if I drove too close to someone myself. I don’t recall the weather or what was playing on the morning show. The only thing I remember is parking my car and heading into my office.

That’s not good. It was as if I was in some fog that clouded every facet of my morning. When I arrived at work, I couldn’t say I was “prepared” for the day at all. I was unconsciously going through the same pattern I had become accustomed to. Later that day, I felt like I was lost and the fog kept infringing on all that was going on.

Sound familiar? I don’t think I’m alone in this at all. I understand that people head to their jobs because they’re used to the patterns that define how they face their day. This is true whether you’re working in person or remotely. What are you missing when you’re mind is covered in fog? The truth is, you’re not sure.

The whole experience was unnerving and I was shaken about it when I headed out to lunch. I don’t want to be a person who goes through the motions of work, has convenient conversations, plods through project work, and then heads back home feeling I’ve had a “day.” Not a full day. Not a day that seemed to slip away, but a “day.”

I was determined to clear the fog that had so easily encapsulated my mind the very next day. I’m sure there are a myriad of methods and approaches that people postulate to clear one’s head. I’m also sure that following prescriptive steps works for some. I’m not that person. I knew I needed to break my pattern and I kept it simple. Before jumping into my car in the garage, I walked outside and looked around. I slowed down to take some deep breaths and listened to the birds chirping in the trees. The brisk winter breeze slapped at my cheeks and even brought some tears to my eyes.

I felt more centered and aware of my surroundings. I then committed to stay aware of all that I saw and heard. When I did this, it seemed like color entered my line of sight once again. I saw things that had been there for some time as if they were brand new. I enjoyed everything as I took them in. The fog dissipated right away. I felt more energized and eager to take on the day. I no longer felt trapped in a haze. The day was enjoyable right off the bat.

I was able to consider the items and situations I was going to face. I looked forward to interacting with everyone once again and I felt renewed. I know that I need to be intentional in taking steps like this so that brain fog doesn’t creep back in and fill my head. I’m sure that I could fall back into the mists very easily if I don’t stay on top of this.

I wanted to share this story because I have a feeling that there may be others around you who struggle with brain fog themselves. You may be the nudge that breaks through for someone else. They may not realize they are meandering themselves.

There is too much to life to be covered in layers of fog. Take the steps that work for you to make sure your mind stays clear and sharp, and be alert that you may be able to help others as well. Let’s clear a path so we can take in all that is ahead !!

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 !!

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 !!

Thread People

Did you know that my wife is amazing ?? It’s true. Not only because she’s been my better half for nearly 32 years (in October of this year), but she balances me in a way few others do. She always nudges me every Saturday to make sure I write a blog post on Sunday. How freaking cool is that ??!! Then, she coyly says, “Do you need me to give you an idea again this week?” She giggles and continues. “You know, you rely on me for these ideas EVERY week.” I roll my eyes and we laugh. She’s the best.

This week SHE is the theme behind my post. Debbie is unique in today’s workforce. She’s held two jobs during her career. Two. Her first role lasted 15 years and has been at her “current” employer for 21 years. What’s even more astonishing is that we were talking about her boss who is retiring after . . . 45 years !! (I’ll wait until you get back up off the floor from shock.) So, to help you with some HR math, Debbie’s boss Gilda was at their employer for 24 years before Debbie joined. Astounding !!

During their time they have seen turnover in leadership and coworkers. People have come and gone. Some moved up into greater roles and others were at the company for a relatively short period of time. There were those who moved voluntarily for new opportunities at other companies or locations by moving out of the area. Some were asked to leave. This occurs at every company. The regular movement and mobility in companies aren’t unique.

However, Gilda and Debbie represent something that is too often overlooked and taken for granted in organizations. They’re thread people. They’re the employees who provide stability, continuity, and reassurance which is vital to a healthy culture. Please note, I’m not talking about tenure on its own. That is valuable, but it doesn’t automatically translate that long-term employees are performing/productive employees. It does in many cases, but being a reliable thread that is woven throughout a company is far different.

The reality of those who provide consistency is that they are such an integral part of a company’s fabric. You need to make sure you have those who fill roles that are threads. People in these roles should be valued in a way that is celebrated. If you can go to someone who is a fountain of knowledge, is approachable, willing and capable of helping you, you should be grateful. They make work seem seamless and they make sure you don’t have nearly as many obstacles in your way to perform your job.

So often, we focus on those we deem high potentials (don’t get me started on this myth) or senior leadership. We get enamored with people who are the most visible, vocal and charismatic. They are bright, shiny objects who demand our attention. They are the subject of interoffice conversations. We feel they’re going to represent our companies future. We’re just sure of it !!

Then we see that this hi-po, or that one, finds a new role in a different company. We question whether they were loyal or not and the sparkle seems to dim quite a bit. Or, someone gets chosen to go into a larger role without support and infrastructure to help them thrive. They were “anointed” and . . . it fails. We aren’t taking the time to develop people to move into roles. That takes too much time and effort. (Can you feel the sarcasm ??)

During these various shifts and staff movements, threads quietly keep being added to the company. These wonderful folks roll with every change and new face they work with and keep doing the work that sits behind the curtain. They aren’t the subject of interoffice conversations, and yet they remain constant.

It’s time for us to get our head out of the clouds watching and paying attention to the employees who may/may not grow and advance. We should have a consistent development program that tests the capability, willingness, approachability, and capacity of EVERY employee !! See how everyone contributes and performs. Make sure that each person is included, valued, and given credit for how they move the company forward.

This week thank those incredible thread people who keep your company afloat and functioning. They deserve it every day.

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.