Paperback Writer !!

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 . . .

Dear Sir or Madam, Would You Read My Book?

The world has changed. It’s too early to tell if that’s for the better or not, but there’s no denying it has changed. So too has the world of work. As with most shifts we experience in the business world, people are speculating, posturing, and predicting in order to give our new working environment definition and structure. Most of it is trying to reflect the obvious with words like “dealing with”, “managing” or “measuring” the remote workforce. You’ll also see pieces on “managing the effort to return to work” and “what policies do we need now?”

You see, work has changed . . . but we haven’t.

At a time when HR stepped forward to lead through all that landed on us throughout 2020, we are quickly falling back into the patterns which have limited us for decades. We were quick to be agile and adaptable, but now that we’ve been in a continuous crisis response mode for over a year, we want to return to limiting and restricting work in order for it to fit into various compartments of control. We need to move forward. We need to step out, and we need to lead !!

Last year, right in the middle of everything hitting the fan, I released my second book; HR Rising !! From Ownership to Leadership. I wrote it as a call for our profession to step out of the shadows we have so willingly stayed in for far too long. Ironically, the book was complete and sent to publishing before the world turned upside down.

It was reassuring to me to see HR step up and lead last year and show organizations that ALL issues in companies are people issues. To be relevant and sustainable in the present, and the future, companies need to become people-centric in order to perform and not only in response to a series of global crises. There were countless examples of how Human Resources pros showed the value of empathy, consistency, equity, social responsibility, and genuine focus for the care of employees.

This should be a springboard for us and not just a moment in time. When I wrote HR Rising it was a call for the profession to embrace change and move forward. It was a challenge to no longer settle for a traditional approach to culture, employee relations, and the overall practice of HR. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be a vital, integrated business function ALL the time. It is not a stretch for us to lead from the positions we currently hold, and I feel we are called to do so.

Just think what our companies will look like and how meaningful work would be if we switched to a focus on development, encouragement, and equipping staff. How exciting would it be for you to drive strategy, organizational change and see an engaged workforce because HR leads the way? Not just now, but all. the. time.

We can’t think that we can continue to practice HR the way we have. It’s outdated, and if we don’t move now, we will be as well. I wrote this book to change the profession that I love. The profession that I intentionally plan to grow with for the rest of my career. I ask you to check it out and see how you can evolve in how you practice HR. I ask you to choose to lead. Let’s reshape the profession and the world of work so people-centric cultures focused on performance, resilience, and vitality become our norm !!

The title of the post came from four lads whom I have always found to be revolutionary. And now, it’s our time !!

We All Have Stories To Tell

This past week my wife and I ventured out and went on vacation. We toured the north and west coast of Michigan and it was fantastic !! Yes, things have changed, but we felt safe and were safe ourselves. We liked seeing people adapt and still be able to enjoy the small towns, the sprawling sand dunes off Lake Michigan and countless lighthouses. (Quick aside – I’m a HUGE fan of lighthouses, but that’s for a different post.)

On the drive back, we were able to stop by and visit my parents. Any time I get to spend with them is something I cherish. They hadn’t seen Debbie since the beginning of March so this visit was even more special. I’ve written often about my hometown of Ada, Ohio where my parents still reside. This is because it offers a break from the maniacal pace of life that seems to swallow us in our “regular” daily routine.

Every time I visit, there’s always some task or chore that needs attending to. I’m glad to pitch in because I’m fortunate to have two of the best parents on the planet !! Yes, I’m biased. However, I see them show grace, support, encouragement, humor and hospitality to everyone they encounter. They continue to be great role models to learn from.

One special surprise for them was that I brought them a signed copy of my new book, HR Rising !!, for them. It’s funny that I still get butterflies in my stomach when I get to share accomplishments and moments from my life and the lives of my wife and kids with them. It’s like still beaming when they’d put a school paper up on the refrigerator. I was nervous because I dedicated the book to them and they didn’t know that. My mom read the dedication and started to tear up which made me tear up as well. We’re a very openly emotional family which is another thing I cherish.

She shared with my dad that the book was dedicated to them and he smiled. You see, my dad is almost blind now in his old age. He has been a diabetic for almost 60 years. I’m fortunate that he’s still with us, but each year another aspect of the disease limits another area of his daily existence. He’s not saddened by this. He is grateful he’s lived as long as he has because he’s been fighting the disease long before the great advances that are currently available.

As we continued to share the details of our vacation, I mentioned that in the book, the introduction was about an encounter, or “life lesson” as my dad called them, between my father and I some decades ago. My mom and wife said, “Why don’t you read it to us?” I got shaky. Now, you need to know that I am an avowed extrovert who rarely shies away from any chance to express myself. But, reading a story to my dad just hit me.

The story is about a time when he was still fit, hard working and able to figure out any situation which involved work with your hands. He had grown up on a farm and had been able to do literally any type of home repair. As I sat on the couch to read, he scooted his wheelchair up closer and said, “I want to be close to hear you. Now, don’t mumble.” This was typical of dad – always coaching.

I told him that this is how I remember the story, so hang in there. As I opened my mouth to start, the tears poured down my face. Here I was sitting in front of the father I love and admire and reading him a story I wrote. I’m sharing something that we experienced together and it’s captured on a written page forever. It really impacted me that I, his child, was reading to his parent.

I struggled to read the story and the pages because the whole time I was wondering how he would take it. I didn’t want him to feel misrepresented or seen in a bad light. That’s not how the story goes by the way. When I finished, he beamed and laughed about how everything had happened. It was a moment I will always hold dear and it was the perfect end to our vacation.

Whose story can you tell? Do you see the people around you as part of your life story? Could you take time to invest and pour into others for simply a few moments of your day? How do you think it would go if you showed kindness by intentionally spending your time with others this next week?

You need to remember that every person is part of your story. Therefore, pay attention to everyone and let them help write the fabric of life around you. Tell them your story and that they are a part of it. Let them know they are a meaningful part of your life. It matters.

It’s Geaux Time !!

This past weekend has been spectacular !! My wife and I traveled to Baton Rouge, Louisiana for the Greater Baton Rouge SHRM Fall Conference. I was fortunate enough to be the closing keynote speaker. Any time I get a chance to interact with my HR peers in person is a joy for me. It fills my bucket because I want to genuinely meet them, encourage them, and laugh with them.

This conference had an extra twist added to it because the theme was based on my book, HR on Purpose !! That was surreal and something I never thought would occur during my career. Seeing HR practitioners gather to understand that we all do better in our roles and in our organizations if we do it with purpose was invigorating. The conference was wonderful from start to finish, but our trek to Louisiana was just beginning.

If you’ve never been to Baton Rouge, then change that and make plans to visit. The hospitality from every single person is heart warming. Honestly, we didn’t encounter one person who didn’t greet us and make eye contact. If the rest of the world would treat each other with these simple gestures intentionally, think how much more positive every day would be in our lives. Add to the hospitality and endless world of tastes and smells. The food in Baton Rouge is phenomenal !! It didn’t matter where we went, we found dishes filled with spices and flavors that you don’t experience in many places.

We took in local sites like the State Capitol and the Old State Capitol as well as visit a historical plantation. My wife and I are history nerds, so these attractions were wonderful. We appreciated that each site was true to ALL of the history surrounding their past. Even though some of it was very troubling, it was candid and honest. We thought that the stories we heard of the people who had lived before us was a great learning experience.

It wouldn’t be a proper trip to Baton Rouge if you didn’t get to experience an LSU football game !! We happened to be in town for a home game, and it’s hard to capture the energy and camaraderie we saw. We were engulfed in a giant sea of purple and gold. Every person attending the game had these colors on. Every. One. We made sure to make it in time to see the team come down “the hill” to the stadium followed by the magnificent LSU marching band.

The massive stadium teemed with thousands of people all coming together for a bonding experience – to cheer their team on to victory. This Saturday the Tigers were playing a school that wasn’t at their same level, and it was a one-sided victory. However, that didn’t dim the exuberance from the fans yelling and cheering their support for every play that occurred. It was great to be a part of all of this fervor. I have to be honest that I was screaming “Geaux Tigers !!” as loud as the LSU faithful.

This trip made me think about how this all applies to HR because I tend to see HR in everything. It showed me, once again, that people want to join and belong together. They want to be around fellow humans to learn and grow (like at the conference), or rally around a common goal and share their excitement (the LSU game). You could be as engaged as you chose in both environments, but the key was to be included.

Do you include others? When you’re going through your day are you more focused on “work” or the people you encounter? By recognizing the innate need to be included, we should make sure we are cognizant of this and make it part of our daily routine. Think what your day would look like if you helped someone learn something new, or if you congratulated them for being a part of your team.

It’s Geaux Time HR !! This week make sure that YOU are the one who is the stimulus for inclusion. You’ll be glad you did.

What Are You Reading ??

I know that it is a bit odd to ask what you’re reading when it’s currently this blog. But, I want to delve a bit deeper than the obvious because I’ve seen a flurry of posts and efforts asking if you’re reading books. And, if you are, which books are you reading?

I don’t think this is a mistake and I’m encouraged that interest in book reading has surfaced once again. I’m a book reader. I love being a traditionalist when it comes to books. I understand that using readers are convenient and you can take them everywhere. I just happen to be someone who likes to feel the pages and read from either a hardcover or paperback.

I love that books are having a resurgence because we honestly don’t read enough. We are a society of “watchers.” This isn’t right or wrong. It’s just how we spend our time. The reading we do is in snipets and quick hits because we feel we don’t have enough time for more. We’re glued to screens. Trust me. As I type this, I’m including myself in this mix.

There are many reasons to read books. My favorite reason is that they continue to expand your horizons and keep your imagination alive. We need to use something to feed this urge because if we don’t, our thoughts atrophy. This is career limiting and we don’t even see it.

Too often we get stuck in a pattern that seems to mimic walking around in circles. This is true in our work and in our lives. If there isn’t something that adds a spark of interest, or a distraction, we’ll just keep plodding on and on making a deeper and deeper rut that keeps us from looking around.

One of the great opportunities that we have in HR is that we can infuse life and new ideas into our roles and into the workplace. I would even be so bold as to say that HR would be more valuable than it is already if we took this approach. Instead of working so diligently to keep people “in line”, why don’t we take new approaches to help them perform?

How can you do this? Read. A. Book.

Take an assessment of what is/isn’t going on in your workplace and then find books that can help you learn about different methods. It doesn’t mean that you will find a single method/model to solve what you’re facing. But, if you don’t learn about new ideas, you’ll continue to do what you know and nothing else. You don’t have to only read HR and business related books either. It’s great to read books from all types of genres because your brain gets charged and is interested to take in more and more. We make our company’s better when we bring new ideas to be considered.

Here are a few suggestions to get you started. The first is to subscribe to Goodreads. We always do better when others join in around us. If you’re a part of Goodreads, you share the books you’re enjoying and see what your friends are reading as well. You may get ideas for books you never considered !! The other effort is being launched by Laurie Ruettimann called the #HRBookClub. Laurie is encouraging people to join in and read a book a month. Think of that !! You’ll have 12 books read after one year. Very cool.

I’m not going to try to sway you to read one book or another. I will encourage you though to read. You have the time. I hope you join in this movement because you may find the idea that has just been out of reach. Expand your horizons and get out of your rut. It’s worth it !!


I Am HR !!

I am SpartacusIn the classic film Spartacus, Kirk Douglas leads a revolt against Rome.  He and his fellow slaves are face-to-face with the Roman troops when the commander demands that Spartacus reveal himself.  All of his fellow slaves stand and declare that THEY are Spartacus until the entire throng claims to be Douglas.  He stands defiantly facing his enemy while everyone rallies around him.  It is timeless and a call to arms for people to support a just cause and overthrow the empire !!

This past week a true revolutionary in our field of HR, Laurie Ruettimann, released her new e-book, I Am HR: 5 Strategic Ways to Break Stereotypes and Reclaim HR.  To put it simply, it is magnificent !!

Laurie has been a trendsetter in Social Media and HR for several years.  Her punk rock approach to what we do is edgy, challenging and intentional.  She hasn’t settled for HR to remain in stasis, and that doesn’t always sit well with people.  In fact, I know that people tend to either be hot or cold with Laurie since she rarely takes a stand in the middle of the road.

I respect Laurie for being a boundary stretched in a field that cries out so desperately for this.  For too long HR has bemoaned how it “isn’t this” or “isn’t that.”  We are the ONLY profession that does this by the way !!  Laurie and I have different approaches to being passionate about HR, but I consider her a dear friend who makes me think and not accept the norms that are often set as standards for our industry.

I am HRThis e-book takes the stereotypes of HR and peels them back.  It doesn’t pile on or reinforce them, but it does ask you as the reader to face what we’ve become.

The true appeal to Laurie’s work is that she offers some tangible solutions for each of these stereotypes to be addressed and thwarted.  Some HR books give lofty theoretical models filled with catchphrases and false motivation to get you jacked up to “act” into yet another phase of corporate ambiguity.  This book doesn’t do that.  In fact, Laurie gives real world examples of HR professionals that she has observed as people who break these stereotypes.  You can find each of these HR pros active in all facets of the field and from all types and sizes of industries.  Ironically, each of the people she lists are also visible and active in Social Media trying to move the entire profession forward as well as where they work.

This book will push you to look introspectively and then ask you to stand and proclaim.  I know that when I read it, I readily exclaimed, ” I AM HR !! ” as if I was rallying with Spartacus.  I encourage you to download the book, keep it on hand, refer to it often and join the throng to proclaim that YOU ARE HR !!

Become a Contrarian Craftsman !!

You have to know that I’m incredibly passionate about HR !!  I’m really passionate about most things actually.  Most of the blogs, conferences and resources out there are incredible in their observations, perspectives and approaches.  You can get people geeked about something pretty easily, but what people want is how they can apply what they read and learn in their everyday roles.

Too often we lack tools to apply the great things we learn.  That’s about to change !!  I how that you are a voracious reader as an HR professional.  It’s a needed attribute because you can stay current and relevant in the field.  My newest “find” to do that is something that gives you applicable tools as well.

Lean HR BookYou need to pick up Dwane Lay‘s new work – Lean HR !!

“Lean” is not a new concept by any means, but it IS a fantastic and unique approach to Human Resources.  Dwane takes the tools that have been traditionally used in manufacturing and shows how they can bring efficiency and reduce waste in HR.

The concept of reducing waste is SO needed in HR !!  Don’t think so?  There are so many layers of unnecessary tasks that it would take thousands of blogs to even try and capture it all.  I can remember in one of my roles where a company had an 8 page coffee making policy !!!  Eight pages !!  Not to mention a policy to make coffee !! Don’t even get me started on my wife’s company who has a current 10-page dress code policy !!

One of the key things that Dwane starts off with is the ability to be a contrarian – a person who takes an opposing view on things.  His reasoning is that you need to be comfortable in asking “Why?” and that is something that usually annoys us.  However, it’s key to be able to look at things from many vantage points to see if it can be done more efficiently.  This is where the cool tools come in !!  They are very understandable and you can use the data that exists around you.

I love this book and it’s a double bonus that I know the author !!  He’s an incredible resource and has introduced a work that will truly transform HR and give us a new method to make us the business partners that we long to be.  You’ll make HR a craft like it deserves to be instead of a field where you feel like you face constant obstacles.

Make sure to get a copy and start eliminating the waste that so desperately needs to be eliminated !!  You’ll be glad you did !!