A few weeks ago one of my best friends and I saw a fave band of mine from the early 2000’s – CAKE. They played at an outdoor venue where you had to stand for the entire show. There were 3 rows of “VIP seats,” but they stood as well. The band was tight and their musicianship was astonishing !!
The people who came to see CAKE were anxious for them to hit the stage. You could hear the hum of a murmur wondering when we’d see the band. Now, if you aren’t familiar with their music, they’re truly unique. The band has a lead singer who “sings” while sometimes talking through the songs and playing a rhythm guitar. The lead guitarist is a genius who drops incredible hooks while strumming every note. A bassist and a drummer provided a solid background foundation for each tune. Their work blended in seamlessly. In addition, there’s a true artist who plays a solo trumpet, keyboard, and ancillary percussion. He’s amazing !!
Everyone throughout the venue sang all the songs we knew and if you stumbled through the lyrics, your fellow concertgoers didn’t care and didn’t correct you. The idea of having a shared experience was far more the focus than being accurate or correct. If you swayed or madly danced, it was fine. Everyone was in sync. The lead singer led several crowd sing-a-longs with ease. He didn’t have to coerce the masses to perform. They were eager for the opportunity !!
You’ll have to trust me that when he split the crowd in two to sing the fab song – Sick of You – it was magic. People who would most likely never sing in public or take a stage belted out their part with ease. Men and women, younger and older, fans or curious concert attendees sang. Not one person stood there quietly. Not. One.
Now, this isn’t a concert review. It’s an observation.
What if we could make our company culture have this same vibe ?? Everyone comes to work with anticipation about the day ahead. Your co-workers are geeked to see you and are actually elated that you are. No one harps on mistakes that are made. There’s a sense of camaraderie where people lean in and make sure everyone succeeds.
There’s a “lead singer” who captures the vibe of the workplace and together the organization performs a mix of hits and rare deep cuts. Sound out of reach ?? I don’t think it is. The key is our approach and how we view people. If we could look out on our “crowd” and get them to all sing along, imagine how fulfilling our days would be.
Aren’t you tired of always trying to repair and fix the multitude of factions that break out in the workplace? Is this all you think HR and leadership have to offer? It would be easy to think so because we swim in this mess daily. We’re so used to the constant fragmentation of people we don’t even look for a solution. We just exhale a deep sigh, drop our shoulders, and dive in.
It’s never worked and we may experience minor successes here and there, but it will be short-lived. I think it’s time we took the concert approach and become lead singers in our organizations. We know the songs and we can rally our fellow musicians to play the notes in the correct order to pull everyone together. You can emphasize that they play their part and their instrument because that is the skill and talent they bring to their role and the company.
It’s possible and it works. Time to step up to the microphone, raise your hands, and reach out to the people eager to follow and participate. Take the lead !!
If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you know I’m a person who is on the go most of the time. Activity fills my bucket. I have a driving urge that my next experience is going to be an adventure !! I’m not talking about something grandiose either. Meeting a unique person in a shop in a small town. Having an encounter with a stranger that turns out to be unexpected and interesting. Working on our daughter’s house to repair, paint and give it her touch. The list can be endless.
I eagerly enter each day with anticipation that something amazing is sure to occur. I know. This sounds naive and superficial. I can assure you it’s not. Ever since I can remember, I have seen life as robust with opportunities to look around the next corner at something completely new. Always being on the go has a price though . . .
I’m not good at resting. Never have been. This endless yearning of wonderment runs counter to slowing down even for a moment. I tend to collapse even after a full day at work. The energy I try to pour into others while also getting them to see life from a brighter perspective is exhausting. I’m not complaining. I’d have it no other way. I just want you to know that the science of expending energy affects me greatly as I’m sure it does you.
Most people I know collapse or burst. They either run themselves into the ground with countless tasks they attack and at times accomplish. Or, they sprint as if there is no end to a race and then explode emotionally. This results in a few days off either from your body slowing you down because you won’t pay attention or a mini vacation just to remove yourself from the hectic pace.
Bursting is as unhealthy as collapsing. We convince ourselves this isn’t the case and we tell ourselves that our company, department, project, etc. would surely fail if we weren’t constantly diligent and present. I fully believe in self-worth and self-assuredness in life. However, if we delude ourselves into feeling we are indescribably valuable, then we lack the most important “self” – self-awareness.
This weekend, I decided to be intentional and embrace the reality of rest. I put down my phone, went out with my wife and friends to music trivia and some drinks, and even slept in on Saturday morning !! All day Saturday, I limited my activity and drive to always do something. That resulted in watching a movie, getting some ice cream after making dinner in our Instant Pot, and even squeezing in a nap. Just one day of slowing down helped me mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Today I went to church, washed our cars, and sat down to write this blog. Limiting my activity didn’t hurt one bit and as far as I can tell, the world is still spinning. I was on social media but barely. Later, I plan to pick up a book and read or even start a puzzle without a screen in sight.
People are still milling around and falling into the trap that hustling and running is a needed component in today’s society while I chose to rest. We can’t advance the cause of well-being if we don’t take care of ourselves. Rest is needed SO we can get back in, stay active and thrive.
This week break the pattern of collapsing or bursting. Encourage others to do the same throughout your family and your workplace. Build in rest. When you do, you’ll see you actually have more energy and time than you expected !!
Six years ago I had a blog post with this same title because I was sharing the news that I had written a book about HR called HR on Purpose !!I was not sure what would happen by taking the time to put down my thoughts about the profession I love. The goal back then was to put something out in the industry that ran against the grain of what had been the tenor of people trying to tear down HR. It has been very successful and I’ve heard from people all over the globe who’ve read it. It was humbling, to say the least.
I was glad to see that a message of positivity and encouragement had made its way out to try to stem the negativity that seemed so prevalent. I felt I had accomplished what I had intended and I’d be done with the book business. Three years passed by and my publisher dropped me an email and asked – “Do you think you have another book in you?” I hadn’t given it much thought, but I was wondering if I could do it again. In the first book, I wanted to rally my peers to own who we are and what we do. Be proud of being an HR practitioner. I felt led to lay out an approach to show how HR people can be leaders in what we do. I pulled out my laptop and started writing to see what would happen. A month and a half later, I had put together book number two – HR Rising !! It felt good to keep writing.
When my second book was to be published, the world shut down. We all had far more important things to focus on. I was pleased to see how the world pulled together for a time in order to survive. I also loved how organizations finally woke up to the reality that people are essential. It’s a shame we needed a global crisis for this to be known. HR professionals were asked to step up and lead . . . and they did. HR showed it should be put into a leadership role.
As we continued to try to navigate our way through the pandemic, more and more uncertainty hit everyone like never-ending waves constantly crashing against a beach. I was touched by the wonderful folks I work with who made a giant poster of my second book and they all signed it. To be acknowledged and recognized in this way was so touching. It hangs in my office to this day. Two books. I was good with this.
We had a major leadership shift change at work occur at the end of 2020 which was completely unexpected. My boss, our COO, passed away from a heart attack. He had been with the company for only 47 years. We went through a full reset and my role changed considerably. As we worked our way through new methods and approaches, I was in several meetings where I shared many of the people-centric ideas I had written about more openly. I also threw out new ideas because they seemed to fit.
During one of these meetings, Michael, our CEO, quipped, “Is this going to be in your next book?” I was stunned. He was serious. I asked just to double-check and he really wanted me to do it.
So, six years after attempting to capture my thoughts about HR, I have written book number three – HR Unleashed !! The thought behind this book is to encourage HR not to retreat to the practices of how we had been doing HR before the pandemic. We need to move forward and drive organizations to be intentionally people first. The book is filled with stories and examples of how you can make this happen. I believe companies that make this come to life will remain relevant. It’s the key for HR to stay ahead of the future.
This book was published at the SHRM Annual Conference just as my prior two books were. I’m floored by the response so far and grateful for the opportunity to get another dose of positivity to elevate HR out into the world. I’ve enjoyed being a paperback writer. We’ll see where things go from here . . .
The year was 1980 and I was a junior in high school. I was geeked to jump into more college prep courses and one of those was Chemistry. This class was only open to juniors and seniors. Many of my friends signed up as well, but we weren’t really sure how it was going to go. We heard that a new teacher was going to teach Chem and that brought about an air of uncertainty.
We didn’t handle “new” well. I joined the Ada school system in 7th grade and it took me almost an entire year to break in to find my way and make friends. That’s because the vast majority of my classmates had been together since Kindergarten. Now that I’d been accepted into the mix and going to my fifth year with this cohort of peers, I was as skeptical as they were about any new teacher.
As we took our seats, this slender man with large glasses entered the room and turned to the blackboard. With a piece of chalk, he printed his name . . . Mr. Lusk.
It didn’t seem to fit. He was VERY young compared to the much older teachers in our high school. He had a mild demeanor and softly introduced himself.
“Hi there. My name is David Lusk and I’m your new Chemistry teacher. I recently graduated from Ohio Northern University and this is my first class and first day teaching full-time.”
Our jaws hit the floor. He was brand new !! I’m sure he had some student teaching experience, but nothing like taking on a group of juniors and seniors who were extremely close and familiar with each other. We were sure that this was going to go south. Being immature, even though we had all of life already figured out, we made up our minds we were going to give him a shot, but we were going to stretch the boundaries as much as possible too.
The first few weeks were pretty tame. We jumped into learning the Periodic Table and started with the very basic building blocks of Chemistry. He seemed to be chill enough and the classes were interesting. He gave us a schedule of labs we’d be doing and our interest peaked. I hung out with three of my close friends and we maneuvered our desks to be like a little pod in between the two large, long lab stations. We didn’t ask. We just shuffled together and watched to see how Mr. Lusk would respond. He didn’t mind and we didn’t pay attention to the seniors or the other juniors in the room. The seniors were marking time and had little interest in the subject or the new teacher. The girls who were in the class were crazy rule followers and they felt the four of us should get back in the rows of desks like all of the other kids. Upsetting them was icing on the cake.
After about a month, we had an unusually early snow. Our room was on the first floor in the “new” wing of our school. We had a large paned window with a small panel that would jut out just about ten inches. As class was going on, my buddy, Tom leaned over and said, “Watch this. It’s time.” He ducked out of his desk went back to the window and popped it out. Mr. Lusk was writing formulas on the blackboard and people were frantically taking notes.
Tom popped back into his desk with a giant, fresh snowball. “What are you going to do with that?” I asked. “You’ll see.” He stood up and threw the snowball to the front of the room easily and it smashed into the blackboard !! We sat there in awe and anticipation to see how the new teacher would react. Tom was ready to get busted and go to the Principal’s office. It was an epic act of anarchy and we were sure he was going down.
What happened next set our opinion of Mr. Lusk going forward. He reached up calmly, wiped off the wet streaks of snow and kept writing the formulas. Not a word. He didn’t turn around. No reaction at all. As we received evil glares from the rule girls about what dorks we were, we sat there in pure admiration. Class ended about thirty minutes later and Mr. Lusk still didn’t bite on our attempt to rattle him.
The four of us formed a group called The Conclave (we were massive nerds in school) and we decided we’d be Mr. Lusk’s champions and supporters from then on. It was the best decision Tom, Jamie, Greg and I ever made. We ended up learning lesson after lesson from Mr. Lusk. He even added Chem II and taught Physics our senior year. We were the first to sign up. Tom and I also scheduled it so that every, single study hall, we went to the Chem room to hang out with Dave.
After graduation, we still made sure to stay in touch with Mr. Lusk and drop in every so often to see how he was doing. Every time we did, he’d explain that we were his first class with pride. He continued to check in with us long after we completed college, got married, had kids, and stepped into our careers.
This weekend, I was able to go to his retirement party 43 years after he stepped into that Chemistry room with a bunch of goofy juniors. He has been honored year after year as the best teacher and most beloved teacher at the high school. He has taught well over 1,000 kids the joy, magic, and importance of Chemistry and Physics. He was active in tons of additional activities including running the school Quiz Teams, overseeing Student Government, and taking trips to Cedar Point to let kids enjoy the amusement park.
The receiving line for Mr. Lusk started at 2:00 pm and didn’t wane until the reception was over at 5:0o pm. An endless group of people including community members, former teachers, members of his church, and alumni from the many years he taught came to tell him “Thank you” for all he had done.
Greg Lavan and I were the two members of his first class who came back. You need to remember when Dave was starting his teaching journey, he was 22 years old and we were . . . 17 !! We were basically peers. We’re on the precipice of entering our 60s and he is just a bit ahead.
When I was able to have some time with him, we embraced with a deep fondness. I tried as best I could to express to him how he changed my life and I wouldn’t be who I am without his investment. We both had tears welling up in our eyes as we shared our moment and I giggled as he stood in his Monty Pythonesque “I’m not dead yet . . .” t-shirt and jeans.
I spent hours with Greg and another classmate, Dave West, who was a year younger than us and we shared hours of stories, laughs and joy about Mr. Lusk and his impact on our lives and the lives of others.
Left to right: Dave West, Steve Browne, Mr. Lusk and Greg Lavan
I spent five hours a week with Mr. Lusk for a year in class and then ten hours a week my senior year in class and infinite hours skipping study hall. He embraced The Conclave and every. single. student. who entered his classroom over his 43 years. He left a mark that set direction in my life and had as much of a meaningful, lasting impression as my parents. I love him and he knows it.
I share this story not only to honor him but to remind you dear reader that you leave a mark on people every time you encounter them. This is true whether you intend to or not. Don’t overlook this. Choose to leave a positive, long-lasting impact and influence as Mr. Lusk did.
You never know what will come of this. Being intentional and cognizant of this reality will shape your attitude and approach toward others. I have taken the example Mr. Lusk exhibited to heart. I do my best to be mindful of leaving a positive impact on people every time I have a chance to be with others.
To thank Dave, I found a mint copy of Zenyatta Mondatta by The Police issued in 1980 the first year he taught. Greg and I signed it as two members of The Conclave. One last chance to leave a memento. So grateful that he swiped the snowball off the board and kept going. He has made an everlasting and eternal investment in the lives of many because he did.
In the past, I’ve been sharing about home repair adventures at our daughter’s home in Indianapolis. Every time we visit we’re sure to be doing some sort of project, and we love being able to help. During Easter weekend, Melanie reached out and surprised me by asking if I’d like her help to repair our split rail fence. I jumped at the chance !!
My wife and I have lived in the same home since 1991. When we moved in, we were excited about the beautiful split rail fence that bordered our backyard. The family we replaced had a dog so there was an extra wire fence attached to the split rails. I took the interior wire fence down soon after we established our home. We didn’t anticipate getting a dog ourselves and I wanted to fully enjoy the wooden perimeter.
Over time we’ve had rails rot to the point of needing to be replaced. The horizontal pieces aren’t much of a challenge. The hardest part is getting them from the hardware store back to our house while protruding out the back of my SUV. I’ve figured the slow-motion transportation out, and find that I’m replacing three to five rails each year. I’m good with that. The extreme hurdle that has only occurred three times in 32 years is when a vertical post breaks off.
This usually occurs at the post’s base but it results in six rails being affected. Something you may not know is that split rail vertical posts reside in a hole about 2 to 2 1/2 feet deep. So, getting the partial, buried part of the post out of the ground is physically difficult. However, you need to get it out before replacing it with a new post.
When Mel got home we traveled to one of the big box hardware stores near us to buy a vertical post and five replacement rails. We had two remaining from when the fence breach occurred and I was sure we could replace a few more around the yard. After two hours, lots of mud and water were removed along with the buried post remnant, and a hole appeared. We placed the new vertical post and made sure it was level. We put the two past rails in their place and added four brand-new rails. The fence had been in disrepair for over two years. I didn’t have the right weather, enough time, or a willing helper. It was easier to leave the gaping hole and make excuses than face the work needed to fix the fence.
We all have relationships in our lives that could use some mending – personally and professionally. I’m not going to venture into when there’s splintering in our personal lives. I’m sure there are circumstances and experiences I have little context about to give any specific advice. I would like to mention this though – Our time with the people in our lives is limited. Why have that time wasted with fences that could be mended if you took the time and steps needed to attempt that? I know some personal relationships in my life need more of my intentional attention. I’m willing to try and hope I can get them back in place.
At work, we’re better when there aren’t broken fences. Too often we spend time talking about how relationships are fractured to other people who aren’t part of the relationship. We avoid going to the people involved for some of the same reasons I chose not to fix my split rail fence. We tell ourselves we don’t have time, and we’re sure that it won’t help. This can’t be the case. Companies that continue to work in a manner where factions of people pull each other apart will never be as successful as they could be.
HR pros need to be the ones who go to the hardware store, get the materials needed, and then pull the people together who need the mending. Being willing to step in to bring the organizational fence back in order is essential to leading from the HR chair. Instead of listening to the complaints and conversations where people keep the fences broken, take the time to turn things around by resolving that you won’t allow for any gaps in your perimeter anymore.
We need to realize that when our boundaries are in place and relationships are healthy, then people can perform. When they perform, the company succeeds as a whole and among each employee involved.
This week, look around your company’s backyard and determine where your fence needs attention. Then, get to the store buy the rails needed and start mending.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I went down to Tampa, Florida. Going from gray and dreary Ohio in February to bright and sunny Florida is a treat !! We combined a trip around meeting HR peers as I spoke at an HR Tampa chapter dinner meeting. We decided to add a few days away and recharge our batteries to break the winter doldrums.
The time with the folks at the chapter meeting was a wonderful start to our trip. We had asked some people who visited Tampa often along with the locals for ideas of places to see and activities to do. Everyone was eager to give us suggestions of restaurants off the beaten path and small towns full of charm. One of those locations was Tarpon Springs, Florida. It’s a little over 30 miles northwest of Tampa and is nestled close to the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a kitschy little burg which has a center of town full of souvenir shops and Greek restaurants. You may wonder why a Florida town would have such a strong Greek presence, and that is its wonderful secret !!
Years and years ago Greek nationals traveled across the Atlantic to settle and work in Tarpon Springs because they could “fish” for sponges. Yes, sponges. Most people don’t realize or know that sponges are living organisms anchored to the ocean floor. They act as filters, shelters, and homes for various creatures. Just like the sponges you have around your house, these really can be used to absorb liquid and clean surfaces. The difference with these beauties is that they come in various shapes, sizes, and types. My wife and I learned about so many different types of sponges we never knew existed.
As unabashed tourists, we meandered and tarried through every single store. We took our time and looked at the rows and shelves full of tchotchkes and sponges. There was so much to consider and take in and we weren’t sure which one would be “just right” for us to take home. My wife was keen on finding a Vase Sponge. After an incredible Greek lunch at Costas (you MUST try this place if you’re ever in Tarpon Springs !!), we worked our way to a few final shops and we found what we had been seeking. We picked up a magnificent sponge and took it home with us.
We weren’t sure where to display this spectacular creation of nature, but then it found its way to our coffee table in our family room. It grabs and holds your attention the moment you enter the room. There are countless nooks and crannies throughout. It has a defined pattern that builds upon itself and you can almost picture it sitting in water even though it is now on dry land.
I really enjoy having the sponge in our house as a visible reminder. The reminder is that everyone, including myself, should be a sponge themselves that is constantly seeking to take in new information, perspectives, and learning.
There used to be a strong movement for people to choose to be lifelong learners which captured the focus of learning and development initiatives. It had a spark and energy behind it and many organizations and HR pros put together efforts for this to occur. Like most initiatives, it lost steam and couldn’t be sustainable. That’s a shame because it’s more than an aspirational desire.
Being spongy and learning helps us to remain sharp, current, and relevant. If we only stick with the knowledge and experience we currently possess, then we actually become stagnant and stuck. Why would you want that to be how you approach work and life?
This week get out of the tarpit you find yourself in and read a book, listen to a podcast, read some blogs, attend a webinar or plan to go to a conference. See what is floating and flowing all around you. Then, be a sponge to take in all you learn and absorb it so you can grow yourself and help your organization move forward. You’ll be surprised how much you can take in !!
I was recently thinking about my dad. He, unfortunately, passed away at the end of 2020 after a fall and a brain bleed. I miss him for many reasons. One of the biggest things I miss the most is hanging out and chatting with him. He had a razor-sharp wit and loved to recite quotes he had memorized. We would tussle each time we had a conversation. It was friendly banter which always led to meaningful discussions.
My dad spoke often about leadership. He admired when he saw good leadership in practice. He also didn’t tolerate weak or poor leadership. He understood how a strong leader could positively impact a group or organization. I agree with him. The challenge is that there are so many approaches to what leadership is and how it can look.
I believe leadership is most effective when people are given context and can see what lies ahead. This type of approach is not focused on any one person. It’s focused on the action given. It’s an example of “so that” leadership.
My wife has always liked to have a clean, organized house. I appreciate that and concur even though I tend to be more of a cluttered person. One of the daily activities we do to start the day is to make our bed. I know people reading this will counter and give reasons why this is not needed or even a waste of time, but it gives her serenity and order. When our kids were young, our daughter dutifully made her bed, but our son . . . not so much.
This simple household task turned into a point of contention because Josh didn’t see any reason to make his bed. Whenever Debbie would ask him to do it, he’d dig in his heels ready to confront and launch into a diatribe filled with objections. It was easier to walk away from the argument instead of fighting to get him to do this task.
One day, I pulled him aside and decided to talk to him about the bed making. I told him, “Josh, do you know why I make our bed with mom?” “No. It’s stupid,” he retorted. “Not really,” I shared. “You see, I make our bed so that she starts her day in a great way. It gives her a sense of order and that’s important to her.”
He told me understood . . . and then . . . didn’t make his bed. Ironically, when he moved out on his own he started to make his bed. He told me it gave him a sense of peace and order. Huh !!
“So that” leadership is easy to incorporate into how you work. Giving others a simple reason for the direction and decisions you’re making takes little time or effort. We tend not to do this and we get the same reaction my wife got from our son. Without context you invite confrontation. Wouldn’t your day go better if you took the few moments it takes to give others context?
This week, start using some “so that” leadership yourself and teach others how to do it as well, and see how much smoother your day goes. Trust me. You’ll find people you once viewed as challenging soften and consider taking the action you suggested. Give your people the “why” so that they feel they’re aware of your expectations. (See how easy this is ??)
I know I’ve been writing about the adventures of our daughter becoming a homeowner. It’s because I’ve always been someone who experiences and sees stories come from more of everyday life than life-altering shifts. Those monumental occurrences happen so rarely compared to the beauty of what we encounter daily.
A few weekends ago, my wife and I traveled to Indianapolis for the next project on the list. Melanie purchased her “new” home when it was only 105 years old. Seriously. This fabulous abode was built in 1917. As you can imagine, with age you find new opportunities to bring things into the modern day. This weekend we were tackling her bathroom. The walls and floor needed attention. I didn’t dare try my hand at plumbing because . . . I know better.
My wife was putting her incredible organizational prowess into action while Melanie and I focused on the bathroom. We thought our projects would be “simple” and that we’d knock them out with ease. As you all know, home improvement projects are never, ever easy !! Within moments we were making a trip to the hardware store for something we didn’t anticipate we’d need.
Let me digress for just a bit . . .
My father LOVED hardware stores. That’s not an exaggeration. They were his favorite places on the planet to visit. He was content roaming up and down the aisles whether he needed something or not. Every time he visited me, he was sure to lean over during the weekend visit and gently say, “Don’t you think we need something at the hardware store?” I’d agree and we’d jump in the car to visit either the local mom-and-pop store or one of the big box behemoths. I relished those walks through the hardware store with my dad. They were some of my favorite times with him.
Now back to the present . . .
My dad’s love for all things hardware had now been ingrained in me, and I’ve been doing my best to pass this on to my kids. It just so happens that there’s a local hardware store within a mile of Melanie’s house. It’s nondescript and when you see the storefront you’re not quite sure it’s even open. I told her that we just HAD to visit the store because I was sure it would have anything we needed. She stayed back with mom and I went out to explore.
As I entered Suding Hardware, my jaw hit the floor. One of the staff greeted me with “Hey, brother. How can I help you?” I knew I was in the right place. I told him we needed something to remove/kill mold, some finishing nails for paneling, and more of “these” as I held up a fastener. He walked me through the store which was an endless conglomeration of stuff from floor to ceiling. Of course, he knew what “these” meant as he found the bin for the fastener I needed.
When I returned to the house, I made sure my daughter knew about this gem so she had a local store to visit in addition to the big box stores which got plenty of our business as well. The rule of thumb is that you’ll visit the hardware store at least three times to complete any project. This came to fruition this weekend as we visited Suding’s and Lowe’s five times. We needed to make these trips because each time we found a new component to make sure our project was a success. The trips were worthwhile and our “simple” project was finished in a mere 22 hours over two days.
I’m not complaining. This was the effort needed. The many hardware trips reminded me of work and how we choose to face obstacles sure to occur. We can either throw up our hands in exasperation bemoaning why we need to make ANOTHER trip to get more supplies, or we can embrace the chance to be better equipped. If we chose to look at adding additional trips to the business “store,” we’d understand and value that more people bring in new thoughts, perspectives, and energy.
Each project will require different involvement and unique skills. We can’t keep thinking everything we need only resides in the few people who are assigned to the tasks at hand. There’s bound to be someone who wants to greet you warmly and lead you to the part you needed that was missing.
This week make three trips (at least) to those outside your project circle and do some shopping. I’m sure you’ll find the perfect items to bring your projects to life.
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.
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 !!