Living a Legacy

This past weekend I experienced one of those milestone moments in life. My father passed away in October of 2020, but we didn’t have the opportunity to bury him at that time. That was because both of my parents decided years ago to donate their bodies to science. So, my dad first went to Wright State University then he was cremated. The pandemic then threw the proverbial wrench into this situation just as it has everything else. His headstone was delayed and we weren’t sure when we’d have the chance to celebrate him one more time.

We were fortunate to have spectacular weather and my family was all able to come home to be with my mom to support her. We traveled a mile outside of town and all gathered around his final resting place. The blue skies, billowy white clouds, and bright sun added to the peaceful breeze and covering shade under a mighty oak combined for the perfect setting for our graveside ceremony.

I was grateful to be able to be in this “final” goodbye. My dad was incredible and lived a full life. I miss him but have been at peace since 2020 with his passing. That was because he lived his legacy far more than “leaving” one.

He taught me the power of honesty, integrity and being intentional with everyone you meet and in all you do. He lived his faith publically and showered love on my mom every moment of every day. He filled our lives with humor, folksy sayings, and steadfastness you could always rely on. He was always in my corner and a ready sage to give advice, direction and encouragement.

All of these attributes have been woven into how I approach life now. Every interaction we had was a chance to teach, impact and shape me. He modeled life in how he’d like to see it in others. He never lectured, he showed. His approach was to work alongside you. Sure, we tussled, disagreed and even argued over things. It never got in the way of our relationship. It enhanced it because I always knew he loved me no matter how heated moments got.

You see, over the history of humankind a minuscule percentage of people made such a historical impact as to have had a visible and lasting “legacy.” We know their names and their contributions whether they were positive or negative. They may have attained some level of notoriety or celebrity, or their contributions affected large sections of society.

I’m not saying that you could be one of those people, but most likely you will not be. That shouldn’t inhibit you from being like my dad. You can live your legacy every day. We need to realize that we encounter people for a short period of time when we consider the times we truly cross paths. Since that is our reality, why not leave a positive mark when you meet?

If we’re honest with each other, it only takes a small situation for us to become frustrated and say things that are harmful or destructive. Someone could cut you off in traffic or not move fast enough in line. They could let you down with what they’d say they’d do or their approach is just different than you when you work together. Those negative emotions just come out and when we react, we say things we didn’t need to. It’s hard to fight back and not fall into this trap.

We have the opportunity to be more mindful. Knowing that each interaction leaves an impression may influence us to react differently. I want to be someone who lives in a manner that is intentional, positive and encouraging. When I fail others, and I will, I want to show grace and ask people to forgive me when I get frustrated or disappoint them.

I want to be someone who lives the legacy I want to leave. I won’t get to see or know if I’m “remembered”, but I have the opportunity to live in a way now that can make a difference in the lives of all I encounter. You can do this as well. I encourage you this week to join me as someone living their legacy daily.

Not in Charge

I was listening this weekend to the Top 40 songs of 1985 on Sirius XM’s 80s on 8 channel. It’s definitely one of my go-to stations because it covered the transitions of life from high school to college to starting my career in HR to marriage. It was a big decade !! A staple song of the 80’s and especially 1985 was the phenomenal “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears.

Quick aside – they have a new album that just came out in 2022 entitled The Tipping Point and it’s epic !! Now back to the post . . .

Listening to this tune for the millionth time made me reflect on how accurate the title and the lyrics are even today. When you look around society and in the workplace, people want to “rule.” It is rarely overt and clearly obvious, but there’s an underlying tone of ruling. You see it all the time in the workplace. People use titles and levels to make sure others know that they are supposedly “in charge.”

There is a real draw for people to feel in charge. I guess that’s okay if it makes sure work and communication have clarity and removes uncertainty. However, when people yearn to be in charge they tend to want to be over people in an unhealthy manner. There’s an expectation that when those in charge bark, people automatically jump without question. I’ve seen this throughout my career and it’s never been good.

There’s a modicum of assumed power that people enjoy yielding over others. It gives people a false sense of worth, influence, and attention. They feel that they are the “go-to” people when it couldn’t be farther from the truth. It can be crippling in organizations because the self-centered nature of ruling tends to lead others to work around and circumvent interactions. There is far more effort in avoiding those who try to wield their scepter in order to work with others who effectively lead.

There’s a massive misconception about leadership in that this infers being in charge. Effective leaders may get things accomplished, but the focus is rarely directly on them. You’ll find true leaders direct, shepherd, encourage and approach others willingly and naturally. Their role may afford the chance to finalize decisions, but it’s not the primary driver for them.

As HR professionals, we need to jump into the midst of breaking up the ruler complex. Instead of grousing about the behavior of people who regularly hold themselves above others, jump in and address it. Make sure people know that this approach is ineffective, limiting, and unnecessary. We need to start in our own backyard as well. Too many HR pros wield assumed power because we’ll throw out the fear and “you might get sued” excuse. This isn’t effective and never has been.

There are many ways to make sure you foster a culture of leadership versus allowing those in people management roles to rule over others. Here are three I have found most effective. They work regardless of industry type.

Model the behavior you expect in others – People respond more to what they see than what is said. You can set the standard by your example of how you work with others before you give one word of coaching or advice. Your behavior is what people respond to. Be mindful and intentional. It works.

Be aware of how you approach others – There may be no greater attribute to work on in human interactions than this. How you approach others sets the stage for productive or destructive outcomes. A collaborative, willing approach will go so much farther than ever telling/demanding people listen and respond just because you said so.

Show grace – People may not be aware of their behavior and approach. You don’t know how they’ve learned from others or what has been modeled to them. So, instead of correcting them, give them grace and meet them where they are. Shaping people into leaders takes time, effort and patience. Failure will occur and it’s hard to break from old patterns. People need to know you’re going to come alongside them in a safe way. Then, over time, they’ll respond and evolve.

This week, cue up some Tears for Fears on your Spotify and keep it playing as a reminder of what we’re facing. It’s time to transform rulers into leaders. Trust me, your organization will be better for it !!

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 !!

Trick or Treat ??

I took the past couple of weeks off from blogging. It wasn’t because I needed a break. I just didn’t have something to write about. Work had been moving along with a few bumps and things at home were good as well. Then, I hit a tough week. I mean every. single. day.

Nothing seemed to be falling into place. People around me were stressed for one reason or another. There was a heightened sense of urgency on some items that came up unexpectedly while other items that needed attention seemed to fade into the mist. For every good thing that happened (and they did), the countermove that followed seemed to create a deeper and deeper rut. It was unsettling because there was no reason for what was happening. You couldn’t step back and point to certain triggers or causes because each situation felt like it appeared out of nowhere. I was in a place I rarely find myself which was disconcerting.

I understand that ups and downs or ebbs and flows are natural. I’m grateful for those because they ensure variety occurs which everyone enjoys. We don’t want things to be mundane. If last week had followed this pattern, I would have felt that work was happening “normally.” These seismic waves of emotions that came up though were much more drastic than the regular high tides and low tides of work.

The question that you have to ask yourself when you experience these massive sways is – How should I respond?

This year Halloween falls on a Sunday and the last time that happened was in the year 2010 !! I enjoy the holiday and I especially love the kids who visit our house for candy. I’m a traditionalist and expect the kids to exclaim – “Trick or Treat !!” It’s always a treat for everyone who stops by and makes handing out candy so enjoyable.

Back to my rough week. Would I respond as if what I’m facing is a trick or treat? The natural urge is to quickly lash out emotionally because we think that a quick release will work. We think this reaction will at least get the ball of angst out hoping it will quickly dissipate and things can fall back into balance. It never works. Ever. Pulling a “trick” on others will give you a short high and a feeling of fulfillment as your vengeful action takes place. The fallout though will be far worse than the situation you’re facing.

You could also retreat and swallow the mix of emotions swirling around you. This response is as damaging as the vocal burst. People may think you’re doing well on the outside, but inside you’re dying. Putting up a facade may feel effective, but the situation you’re facing is still moving in full force. Stepping aside is more of a personal “trick” on yourself.

I’ve found the best course of action is two do two things – (1) Breathe and collect yourself and then (2) Intentionally move into all that is swirling around and take it on. I can’t guarantee the outcome will be positive, but it’s far more of a “treat” than other options. This is true for you personally AND it gives you an approach to teach others when they find themselves in the midst of their own rough weeks – which will happen.

You need to know that I followed my own advice. Even though I felt like I was being buried by an avalanche, I kept moving forward to not let things swallow me. I fought the strong urges to bellow at a few folks when I could sense it coming on. I also made myself shake off the small voice in my head that was encouraging me to just sit back because everything would work out.

I’m looking forward to this coming week. I don’t anticipate another rough week ahead, but it could happen. You never know. The reassurance that I have an approach I can rely on puts me at ease. I hope you follow this approach as well.

Don’t Be an Entertainer !!

If I was able to ask you how you’re doing as a human right now, how would you answer? I’m sure there would be a myriad of responses. Some would be genuine and some would be polite. Some would be in-depth and raw while others would be short and concise. There’s no telling what the answer could be, but it’s a question I think we should be asking on a more regular basis.

You see, I’m concerned. I’m concerned about my peers in HR who are plastering on a smiley face every day just to make it through. There are those who are not faking it and are intensely positive because it’s how they’re wired. I love when you encounter those folks, and I wish there were more people who adopted this approach to life and work. The reality is that people are struggling. There are varying degrees of what people are experiencing, but struggling is becoming far more the norm for everyone in the workplace – especially if you’re in HR.

The reason I feel it’s more prevalent in Human Resources professionals is that many don’t think they are allowed to be “human” themselves. We adopt an arm’s length facade to keep people from knowing who we are. We can show all of the necessary empathy and understanding for others, but rarely is that reciprocated back to HR pros. We’re expected to be the “entertainers” of the organization and it’s exasperating.

I’ve mentioned in the past that I’m a giant music freak and one of my favorite artists is the legendary Billy Joel. One of my favorite songs came from one of his earliest albums, Streetlife Serenade. It’s called “The Entertainer” and it captures exactly what I see happening in HR. The first verse goes like this . . .

“I am the entertainer
And I know just where I stand
Another serenader
And another long-haired band
Today I am your champion
I may have won your hearts
But I know the game
You’ll forget my name
And I won’t be here in another year
If I don’t stay on the charts, oh”

HR people always feel the pressure to be “on.” Trust me. We feel we need to “stay on the charts” if we’re to have any meaningful impact on the company. It’s true with everyone I know whether they’re a new practitioner just starting or a CHRO. It’s great that we are the “people” people in companies as long as we don’t express our humanity ourselves. This needs to stop. There’s never been a great reason for us to take this posture, and it honestly has distanced us within organizations.

It’s safe and okay to be vulnerable, flawed, quirky, uncertain, and curious. We can drop the guarded wall we put up and allow ourselves to be as emotional as every other person we work with. We can share our life experiences and our ups and downs. We can be frustrated and elated. However, we can’t experience that freedom if we keep holding on to the “entertainer” mantle.

We need to realize that employees today expect to have an HR connection that they can relate to. The days of being the compliance enforcer have evaporated. There continues to be a group of “experts” who pound the drum of processes/policies/procedures that should lead everything we do, but they’re wrong, old-fashioned and irrelevant.

With more and more organizations moving to a people-first approach, HR has to set the standard by being people first themselves. This is the expectation of how the workplace has evolved over the past twenty months. There isn’t going to be a retreat. It’s time to blaze the trail that awaits us. Stop being an entertainer and embrace being a human . . . in HR.

One last nugget. You can’t reference this incredible song without letting you enjoy it as well !! So, here you go.

You Gotta Minute ??

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind because I was able to speak to my HR peers at both the SHRM Annual Conference and the Georgia SHRM State Conference in person and the Pennsylvania SHRM State Conference virtually. It’s been a long time since I’ve had these opportunities and I relish them. Any chance I get to be with others who practice HR, I’m geeked !! Seriously. Very few things fill my bucket as much as this.

I was able to spend more time in person at the SHRM Annual Conference and I was humbled to be able to speak at two Mega sessions. When I walked into the room, my jaw dropped. As I stood on the stage, I couldn’t see the back of the room. I couldn’t believe that I’d have the chance to ever speak in such a vast space. It’s hard to not be anxious wondering if the room will fill or not. I don’t take that for granted because I know that I’m usually one of many great options. So, when people choose to attend I appreciate them more than they probably know.

The room was filled each time with the second session having even more folks than the first. We laughed, learned, and even made it through loud thunderclaps as a torrential thunderstorm came up right when I started to speak. It was a wonderful time !!

After I finish a presentation, the most humbling thing occurs. People are kind enough to come up to chat and share their thoughts about what they heard. They also share their experiences which I always like to hear. Some ask questions and some even want to take a selfie. The biggest thing they are looking for is my time and attention. I never take this for granted and give them as much time as they’d like.

Throughout the week, I made sure to walk through the conference, hang out at the SHRM store, and just hang with the attendees. More than a few times, people came up to me and asked, “You gotta minute?” I always said, “Yes.” I have to admit that these conversations were so meaningful and touching because the folks who stopped me wanted to share what they were facing personally in their current HR role. Most of them were very emotional and there were several tears shed. I’m not ashamed of that. If you know me at all, I’ll cry at any time. I love it when people exhibit their emotions.

You see, I think that the work of HR is hard. It’s hard because we intentionally work with people, and people can be exhausting. That includes us as HR pros too by the way . . . because we’re people too. Too often we don’t have a strong network of peers that we can reach out to, rely on, or dump our bucket with. We try to slog through our circumstances on our own and don’t realize the power of having HR peers you can reach out to.

The peers I spoke with wanted to be heard, listened to and valued. They wanted to be reassured that the work they did mattered – just like everyone in our workplaces. I don’t want you to think this is a “woe is me” type of situation. We’re far too busy doing work that we completely ignore the people. As HR pros, we propagate this and it slowly sucks out our souls.

This needs to change. And, it needs to change now. You see the ONLY thing that every person has to give is time. AND people are worth our time !! The best thing about the conferences I participated in was the interactions I had with the attendees – not that they got to listen to me. I wouldn’t exchange those chats for anything else. Let’s make our profession stronger by intentionally giving each other our time and attention.

If someone asks, “You gotta minute?” – I hope you say, “Yes” as well. You’ll be glad you did !!

Go Into The Storm !!

We seek comfort in all facets of our lives. It’s something that gives us peace and certainty. We don’t like to be uncomfortable at all. Even though that’s what we strive for, it’s difficult to maintain because storms inevitably come. Storms come in all shapes and sizes ranging from personal challenges to natural disasters. What may seem to be trivial to some could be overwhelming for others.

The reality of ongoing storms has been on my mind because I’m fortunate to work in Human Resources. Yes, fortunate. I don’t take my career choice lightly because I have the opportunity to be involved in the lives of others. I don’t know that many of my peers view HR in the same manner. I think that’s because we have decades of practice that have sought to reach that state of comfort and a sense of calm as our primary goal.

Think about it. During your day, are you spending more time keeping things in line than anything else? Don’t get me wrong, there is value in reaching comfort at times. However, those in HR tend to make this their primary reason for being in the role, and I think this completely overlooks the humanity of the people we work with. We skate along the surface of polite and courteous interactions while skirting around any potential for conflict, controversy, or any action that would be unsettling.

By doing this, I think we are missing out on making a deep and lasting connection with our employees. It’s time we ran into the storms !! There’s a unique characteristic of buffaloes. You may wonder where this is going, but you need to know that when a storm comes upon a herd of buffalo, they band together and run toward it to get through it quicker rather than avoid the storm for protection.

What would your workplace look like if you were the one who stepped in to know your people more? When you heard about what they were facing, what if you slowed down and listened to them? Just listened.

I’m not suggesting that you be cavalier, reckless or arrogant feeling you could solve the storms swirling in the lives around you. This isn’t about bringing about solutions. It’s merely encouraging you to be the person who runs into the storms to help others get through them. You can do this by standing up for those who aren’t regularly seen or heard. You can do this by not always saying “Yes” and challenging supervisors, people managers, and senior leaders in order to do the right thing.

Running into storms takes courage and a willingness to be intentional even when others will advise you not to. The urge to conform and flee from the storms in our path is difficult to overcome. Keep this in mind though.

If YOU don’t run towards the storm, who will?

The people in our lives and at our workplaces are yearning for someone who will come alongside them to weather all they are facing. Let’s band together as a profession, an industry and as a community as HR professionals. Storms are brewing on the horizon. Let’s start running right at them !!

A Window into HR !!

This past week you may have heard me laughing so loud from the great thing that happened at our offices. Seriously. I couldn’t control myself and it was fantastic.

You see, working for a restaurant company, our Team Members have been present and essential throughout the entire pandemic. We took every safety precaution we could and they pulled through in a magnificent way. We honestly wouldn’t be where we are today without them. (That’s not a new reality by the way. Our team members are the reason we succeed all the time.)

Our corporate office went through the cycle of fully remote, partially remote, hybrid and then in person. We have always had a flexible approach to work so we don’t have a policy. Instead, we have an expectation – Wherever you are, do your work. As things have changed over time and vaccinations have been available, we’ve seen more people choose to be back in person.

An adjoining department to HR is our operations, communications, and training group. Two of my co-workers had put up a plexiglass barrier to make sure they were safe in the office during all that had been going on. With things getting back to “normal”, I stopped by to visit (as I do every day) and made a quick side comment that it was okay to move the barrier if they wanted to. This week they moved it and put it up on top of a file cabinet. It took me by surprise and I commented how I loved where they put it.

Without blinking an eye or missing a beat, they stated, “It’s our window into HR.” I thought that was spectacular and told them how much I loved it. I happened to step out for a late lunch and got a text from them asking if I was coming back. If I was, could I come back and visit again. I was intrigued and hurried back.

When I turned the corner into their department, I lost it and the laughter ensued. Here’s the evidence . . .

They decorated the window into HR and I was touched. It was so personal and showed that we had a great relationship. I’m grateful for that. My team and their team work together often and it’s a joy to work with them. I asked them to keep it up and they reassured me they would.

Their fun office addition did make me think. Do people in your company have a window into HR? When I hear stories from employees I would question whether most truly do. I don’t think that should be the case.

We should have learned over this past 15+ months that everything at work is people-related. It always has been, but now people have acknowledged this truth. I have a feeling that most people’s “window” into our world is when an issue arises. Unfortunately, that may be the only time they interact with us. We should stop complaining that this is how we’re viewed and change what they see and experience.

I would love the window into HR to become where people look forward to interacting with us and that we intentionally reach out to everyone on a regular basis. We have the ability to foster and build our company’s cultures, elevate the performance of people and be the connector to pull together departments and levels of the organization so there is more cohesiveness. I don’t think this is out of reach or Utopian. I think it’s a choice.

This week get some cleaner out and see what your window looks like. Make sure that people not only have a view into who you are and what you do, but that they get to know you and work with you on purpose. Let people in. Remove the blinds and include them in the great work you do in making your company a people-first environment !!

Respond Instead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From now on . . . respond instead.