All We Have Is . . .

This past weekend I was back in my hometown of Ada, Ohio. I know I write about this tiny village often and it may seem that I romanticize it at times. I’m good with that. I’ve had far more amazing experiences there than most other places.

You see, a combination of two events collided all at once. The first was the 109th Farmers & Merchants Picnic, the longest consecutively running festival in Ohio. It brings the entire town together at the only park for a full day of activities ranging from an opening parade to people playing Bingo to a tractor pull. The park teemed with people of all ages visiting with each other and taking in everything they could. The weather was a bit cloudy and cool so more people were drawn out to enjoy the picnic.

The second event was my 40th High School reunion !! 40 years.

I graduated as a member of the Class of 1982 from Ada High School. I have fond feelings and memories of my classmates and my time in high school. There were 73 people in my class. I know this is considered small by many, but it was the perfect size for me. It was the kind of school where you could participate in as much as you chose. I was in everything. I mean it. Everything. Clubs, sports, choir, and all things academic. I thought that was normal because many of my classmates did the same things.

Now, when it comes to reunions, many thoughts pass through your head. You wonder who’s going to come. You wonder what people will look like, where they live, what they do, and how they’re doing. I mean it’s been four decades since we graduated !! I know that I’ve had a ton of “life” that has occurred and I’m sure my friends had as well.

I have gone to a few of the 5-year gatherings after graduation, but not all of them. I felt pulled this time to be there . . . and I’m so glad I did.

We met at the house of one of our classmates. She had hosted before and it was just the perfect place because it gave us the chance to be relaxed and informal which fits our class to a tee. We even had a potluck dinner which is a staple of most small towns. Again, an inviting way to reconnect and catch up.

What was even better was that 40 years laid the path for genuine, incredible joy and affection when we saw each other. As each classmate made their way to the patio in the backyard you saw smiles that stretched across each face followed by a long, warm embrace. That was before one word or story was shared. We were just glad to see each other once again.

What we had come to realize is that we all had one thing in common . . . time.

Time is the only connecting fabric of every human life. It can be our friend and our enemy. It can be something we’re blessed with, or it can be cut short. Time, and only time, is our common bond as people.

The question you have to ask is – What do you do with the amount of time you get to experience during your lifetime?

I think my classmates have come to terms with this and it only took 40 years !! We didn’t spend time being comparative. We didn’t spend time judging whether or not someone was “successful.” Instead, we savored every moment we had and listened to all that had happened to each of us since the last time we were together. People shared joys, challenges, and rich anecdotes. Each of us talked about the addition and loss of family members over the years. We also took time to see if we could recall and locate those that weren’t able to come to the reunion. We did this because we missed them and hoped they had been able to join in.

The majority of our time together was filled with laughter. That was perfect because no matter what we had gone through since 1982, joy was where we landed. We committed to staying in touch with each other, and I’m hopeful we do until we meet for our 50th reunion in 10 years.

We all have the opportunity to be mindful of the time we’re given. I hope you have decades and decades of time to share with others. That would be a blessing. But, don’t take it for granted. Don’t wait 40 years to realize that every moment you have can be cherished.

Remember . . . all we have is . . . time.

Keep it Weird !!

This past weekend, my wife and I ventured to Austin, Texas. I was fortunate to be part of the Austin SHRM Conference. We added some extra time so we could explore the city. We’re trying to do this now whenever we get the chance.

Austin has a VERY cool vibe and it felt like my kind of town. There was art and music everywhere throughout the city. Murals adorned countless buildings with styles ranging from traditional to modern to abstract. The music flowed freely through the air and it changed with every step you took. You heard folk, rock, country and bluegrass all intertwining to make a symphony of eclectic sounds that provided a soundtrack as you toured the neighborhoods.

As we wandered into our first small, local shop a coaster instantly caught my eye and I picked it up without hesitation. It wasn’t only the tie-dye pattern which would have been enough. The message resonated the moment I read it. It was an instant purchase.

You see, one of Austin’s slogans as a city is “Keep Austin Weird.” It is everywhere you look. I found out from a friend who is a resident that the slogan came about as local shops were trying to keep big box stores from coming in to crimp the cool Austin culture as well as put them under. They won out and the slogan stuck.

You see, I feel this reminder helps with how you can practice HR. We often state that we want people to bring their whole selves to work . . . but we don’t really mean it. That may sound harsh, but if you step back and review the majority of actions that HR takes, it’s not built to encourage individuality. If someone was trying to “keep things weird,” we’d take steps to get them back into the fold. We view those who express themselves openly as someone we have to “deal with.”

This has to stop. We need to understand that every person is wonderfully different and unique. They have their weird already wired in. It’s not something they create, it’s how they live. Weird doesn’t mean abhorrent behavior. We’ve made this assumption for far too long and it’s never been right. HR spends too much time trying to confine, control and conform, and it’s exhausting.

I’d rather learn how each employee I work with is unique. I’d rather see how I could encourage them to amplify their strengths and see how their approach and perspectives bring new angles to the work we have in front of us. I’d also love to see HR embrace its weirdness to breathe life, empathy, grace and a people-first approach in all we do. We have the chance to carry this mantra forward and no longer settle into the traditional approaches which are worn out.

The coaster is going to take its rightful place on my desk at work so there is always a visible reminder in front of me. This week see what YOU can do to “keep it weird” !!

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.

Dump Your Bucket

My wife and I are very fortunate. We have a solid relationship with our kids. One of the things I’ve worked on with them over the years is that I’m always available as an outlet. It doesn’t matter the timing, the subject matter, or how “big” of an issue it is to them. This has resulted in some very emotional conversations over the years. They involve a mixture of tears, raised voices, and sometimes some “colorful” language. I never get upset when these convos pop up because I want them to know they have a safe outlet to help them work through the various ups and downs of life. They know that they can dump their bucket with me.

The key to making this work is to not automatically jump to potential solutions. We’re wired to try and solve whatever is presented to us within moments. Too often, we don’t even allow sentences to be completed before we start offering options to work through whatever is presented to us. Ironically, we think that is being helpful and why someone sought us out in the first place. That is so far from the case, but it’s our typical response. This “jump to a conclusion” approach is so limiting and narrow, but it is what we lead with. This is most likely because, if we were honest with each other, we just want to solve and move on.

We feel that people are worth our time and attention only if we can provide the expertise to pull them through the situations they find themselves in. In turn, this gives us a great, warm feeling because we convince ourselves we’ve been such a critical help. I don’t want to seem that there isn’t value in these interactions. The majority of business is conducted with these solution-based snippets with little to no depth or context expected.

Because we don’t take time to let people dump their buckets, you’ll find that their buckets start leaking. People want to have that safe outlet at work. They don’t want to continue to walk around feeling like they’re about to burst. The question to ask organizationally is – Are we willing to do this? There is a risk in allowing people to dump their buckets, but it’s a risk worth taking.

Whenever I am available for my kids, I know the release they experience helps them clear their heads, balance their emotions and work through a path toward resolution. The release is what is needed more than any solution. It’s a much healthier method to try than letting the pressure and stress build up over time. I’ve been there when my kids start leaking. It’s not pretty. They don’t enjoy it and neither do those around them.

This past year, our company has been upfront that we’d like people to have the ability to dump their buckets when needed. It’s been quite the journey and we’ve had some bumps and stumbles along the way. However, it’s been the most freeing cultural shift we’ve ever embarked on. Please don’t think that it’s a constant dumpfest with people grousing all the time. It’s just the opposite. Now we have more constructive conversations because people have had the ability to clear the air and their heads before jumping into the old quick solution pattern. We’ve seen more context, more shared perspectives, and healthier relationships. It’s been needed and it was sitting right in front of us all the time.

I’ve found that more and more of my time leading HR is making sure that people are dumping their buckets. I’m not always the person involved in the conversations, but I am making sure they’re happening. It’s such a valuable use of my time because enabling these sessions to occur is making people healthier, and it puts them in a better position to perform.

This week start looking around at those you work with. How are their buckets? I’m sure they’re overflowing and even leaking a bit. See what you can do. Figure out how to set an environment where bucket dumping can happen. Put on your wading boots and see the great things that lie ahead !!

What’s Stopping You ??

This rainy Sunday gave me some time to jump into another writing exercise. I’ve decided to write another book which would make three for me. I’m anxious and eager at the same time. I don’t take anything for granted in starting this. It’s both exhilarating and daunting because I’m sure I’ll hit some patches where it will get slow and challenging to push through.

Writing a book was not in my line of sight in the past. I was encouraged by several people to give it a shot after doing public speaking at conferences for years. It sounded like an insurmountable challenge and I ignored the suggestions from others. On top of that, internal voices of doubt also kept me from moving forward. I came up with countless excuses of why and how I couldn’t write an entire book.

Finally, one day I took my laptop down to my favorite lunch haunt and told myself that if I could type one chapter of new material, I could write a book. I started typing. The words began to flow from the ideas I had, and then at the end of lunch, I had a chapter. I was geeked to have taken the step to break through my doubts, insecurity, and uncertainty.

Do you have something that’s been nagging for you to accomplish or attempt? I’m sure there is. It doesn’t have to be a book. It could be something monumental or something simple. There’s no set list of what you can do in your life personally or professionally. Too often, however, the same doubt that held me back is the same for others. It takes an intentional effort to break through this wall which will appear to be impossible to do.

The truth is it takes more energy to be inactive than it does to be active.

We believe just the opposite. We convince ourselves that the energy, knowledge, talent, etc. to take the first step is too much. So, we sit and start to have feelings of regret which only piles on our ability to move. Soon we’re stagnant and unsure we can ever reach those accomplishments which had filled our hearts and imagination. As time continues to naturally flow by, we are less and less likely to attempt anything.

Let me encourage you to turn that around !! You see, the only certainty in life is time. We hope we will have decades and decades to live a full life, and I hope that is the case. However, there is no guarantee. Thinking we have endless time ahead of us is a positive way to approach life, but it also gives us a reason to procrastinate. Please note that I live in the hope I have many years ahead of me. There’s nothing at this time to show me that isn’t true.

I just don’t want to live hoping the accomplishments that could be ahead of me will fall into place by themselves. I will never have “enough” time or a big amount of time with nothing pulling at me for my attention. It just isn’t how we experience daily living.

This week pause for just a bit. Reflect and write down those things you would like to accomplish. The list you feel you’ve been unable to get to. If you want to change jobs, what steps do you need to take to make that happen? If you want to make more of an impact in what you do in your current role, who do you need to collaborate with for it to become a reality? If you want to travel to a location you’ve always wanted to see, what budget can you put aside in order to save and reach that destination? If you had people encourage you to write a book . . .

I think you get what I mean. It’s time to quit living in quicksand. It’s time to see what’s stopping you and then see how you can take that first, difficult step. You’ll be amazed at what happens when you do !!

Roomie

This past week the clock turned back a few years to a time that continues to have had some of the most lasting impacts on my life. I pulled into the parking lot of Sinclair Community College to pick up my best friend, Fred, as we launched north to the Kalahari Resort in beautiful Sandusky, Ohio.

We were going up for the planning of the Ohio SHRM State Conference happening later this year in September. It’s the conference’s 50th anniversary, and Fred is an emeritus member of the planning committee. I’m fortunate to be this year’s emcee and keynote speaker. Those are just the trappings of what is truly important – the people we’ll see and hang out with in a few months.

Fred is more than a best friend to me. He’s been my mentor and confidant for close to 20 years. He has long since retired from being an HR practitioner, but he still has a heart for making the profession great. I used to be on the conference committee with him for years. In fact, at the first State Conference I attended, Fred introduced me around to his peers who had been active from all over the State for years prior to my involvement. It was a great way to see those who had been solid role models of engagement, passion, humor and dedication.

Back in 2004, Fred asked me if I’d like to room with him at the Conference. He had been rooming with another committee member, Tom, for years but Tom was the Conference Chair that year and had a separate room. I said I’d be glad to and we’ve been roomies ever since. Why is that important ?? Let me tell you.

Over the years, we have taken the time to be in each other’s lives through ups and downs, job transitions, family growth and challenges and more. He has continued to be an encourager as I was fortunate to grow in volunteer roles at the State, Regional and National levels. We keep in touch weekly and live in the same city. There is always a chance to jump on a call, send a text or share a story. We make time for each other intentionally and it’s always done with ease.

Coming back to the State Conference, Fred reached out to this year’s chair, Meghan, and said, “Make sure Steve and I are rooming together.” She touched base with me and wanted to see if that was cool with me. I laughed and said, “I’d have it no other way.” Our 4-hour drive to Sandusky felt like 10 minutes because of the rich conversation, world problem solving and constant laughter filling our car. The commute home was the same.

At the conference center, Fred and I made sure to invite the entire committee to our room to hang out, share tales, have a few adult beverages and just get to know each other. You see, that’s what Fred and I do as roomies. We pull everyone together so they can experience what is more meaningful than any work we ever do. It’s time together to develop friendships. We’ve been doing this for years at every event we get to attend together (and when we’re on our own.)

We invite any who will gather to join us. We take time to hear about them, who they are, what they do, and what’s happening in their lives. There’s no precursor or gauntlet to run through. There’s no judgment, labels, or obstacles to being included. The invitation is to be a human and build a relationship.

This time, as in times past, the energy and joviality of people coming together happened seamlessly. We shared why we’re roomies and why this is the “norm” for us. We hope it’s an example that they can have with others in their workplaces, their communities and their homes. This isn’t overstated. It’s a fact.

This week, I’ll make sure to reach out to Fred and I’ll open the text or conversation with a heartfelt “Roomie !!” The smile will cover my face and my heart will warm once again. There’s nothing better than to have people like Fred in your life.

I Say Hello – #SHRM22 Thoughts

The lanyards are ready to be hung on my hook of past conferences. The conference bag full of swag I thought I needed is bulging as I get ready to haul it into the office and add “toys” to my ever-growing office menagerie. The memories of incredible food at several places steeped in Cajun spices still make me salivate. And, the incredible improv blues/jazz/rock melodies from the jam session where any musician could bring in their instrument and jump on stage at Cafe Negri still resonates fondly in the recesses of my mind.

Oh, yes, then there was the ocean of people moving like a giant system of streams throughout the endless New Orleans convention center. Each one trying to find a concurrent HR session to make sure they were getting a full dose of professional development. The thousands of attendees of SHRM22 were constantly on the move. Session rooms were filled and emptied. The lines for coffee, food, vendor swag, box lunches and chances to win a ticket to SHRM23 ebbed and flowed with ease. The parties and gatherings that once again came to life throughout the city were all magnificent, colorful, and energetic !!

The SHRM22 Annual Conference and Exposition was fulfilling in so many ways. To see HR peers gather together en masse was thrilling to see. Watching people shop in the SHRM store, have conversations with each other off on the side, seeing the SHRM Executive Network grow and participate, as well as a full contingent of HR students from around the country filled my heart. On top of this, there were several global attendees that filled the halls. I met folks from Korea, Canada, India, Barbados, Bahamas, Ireland, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and more.

Yes, I’m a fan of the Annual Conference. I’ve been fully immersed in them for over the past decade as a volunteer leader from the local to the national level. I’ve been fortunate to be a speaker for several years and I get to sign books. I get a thrill every time I get to meet a person willing to chat and tell me their story as I sign my name. This year was a “return” for me because I was able to be an “attendee.” Yes, I had social media commitments and I spoke at two sessions, but that was stepping back from the past when almost every moment was scheduled with obligations and appearances.

I loved it !! It was freeing to swim in that ocean of people.

I wanted to make sure people felt a bit of that same passion. So, I chose to throw down a gauntlet to see if my peers would willingly pick it up. They did and it was magnificent !!

I noticed, as with most HR conferences, that people are far more concerned with getting their lanyard, their badge, their conference bag, etc. than they are in greeting and meeting the people milling around them. Attendees rush to sessions to grab a seat. It’s great to see full rooms, but the effort to run to sit is astonishing to watch. Few, if any, look up to see the thousands of amazing humans within arms reach.

People who are talented, experienced and disconnected. It’s true. In the 35+ years I’ve been in this field, HR pros eagerly take in as much content as they can at every session, but they miss the chance to meet the most incredible resources available to them. If even a fraction of the attendees at SHRM22 met each other, we’d see a gathering of such phenomenal HR knowledge exist that we’d have a natural bank of intelligence we could tap . . . if we connected.

The gauntlet I threw down was during one of my sessions when I challenged the capacity room to stop looking down. Pause. Look up and notice the other humans. Then . . . say “Hello !!”

The challenge was to be carried out throughout the venue including escalators and I said I’d be watching to see if people did. Oh, boy did they !! That was on a Monday afternoon and from then on you could hear people greeting each other out loud for the rest of the conference. The energy at the event jumped even higher as you saw smiles, laughter, and cheerful greetings happening everywhere. It spilled out into the events, the streets, and all over the city !!

It was a simple reminder that we need to show life ourselves in order to breathe life into others. What we do as HR pros is challenging work. We need to not only enjoy our time at HR conferences, but we need to return to our workplaces and bring encouragement, strategy, humor, fun and light. It’s not enough to say you attended SHRM22. You now have the chance to shape, shift and improve your role, your company, AND yourself !!

The gauntlet has been lifted, a positive wave has gripped many and they are now going forth to their corner of the HR Universe until we meet again. (And I can’t wait !!)

Fatigue

I’ve lived in the same house since 1991. It was the first house my wife and I bought on our own. Hard to believe that 31 years have passed !! One of the attractive features of where I live is that we have a half-acre lot. There are some massively mature trees scattered throughout, but the majority of the lot is the lawn.

As you know, you can’t keep up with growing grass. We live in the Midwest and we’re fortunate to have fairly consistent rain. I’m grateful for that because I love seeing a green lawn out my picture window . . . until it’s time to mow it once again. I’ve always had a push mower because I enjoy the exercise (seriously) and the time in the yard. I put some headphones on, pick a playlist from Spotify and start down the first row.

When I was younger and had just purchased the house, I could mow the entire yard in 1 1/2 hours and on one tank of gasoline. Now, I do the front yard one day and the back yard the next. I may even sneak in a break during each cut if the grass is overly long. I was 27 when we moved into our house. You can do the math . . . Time is winning as it always does.

Recently, we’ve had an abundance of rain. Inches of it !! I can usually get by with cutting the lawn once a week, but not at this time. A few weeks ago though, I didn’t have any time to cut after work. I am going into the office and am usually spent after a “normal” day. So, a full week went by and my grass must have been trying to overachieve because it was well over six inches when I finally was able to attack it.

This go-around was draining at a level I hadn’t experienced. I ended up splitting the days for the front and back lawn but needed to cut each one twice just to get it back to a manageable height. The usual one and half hour cut turned into five hours !! I was completely spent after both days. When I get finished with a cut, I fall into a chair on my front porch to rehydrate and catch my breath. After tackling the entire lawn for over two days, I could barely move.

As I was trying to regenerate on the front porch, I understood complete fatigue. There was nothing I could do to recover. It was concerning. I took some deep breaths and calmed myself down. I chose to sit and relax for as long as I needed. My wife brought me a giant cup of ice water and some small snacks. It gave me some time to think.

I feel people at work are experiencing this same level of fatigue more often than not. Still, they go to their jobs dutifully as they struggle. They make it through days barely, but they make it. I’ve seen it trickle down to interactions between people throughout their days as well. They can’t escape it.

If you try to capture the cause(s) of the fatigue people are experiencing, you fall short. There is no one circumstance that is consistently facing every person. Everyone is looking at the landscape of ever-increasing costs for day-to-day items such as food and gasoline, the global turmoil happening on various stages, the endless ripping and tearing of political diatribes from all angles, and that doesn’t include the situations in each person’s home/family structure. Throw on top of this the often unclear expectations and communication pressing people in the workplace. It’s overwhelming to determine all that could possibly be overwhelming those we work with.

Is there anything we can do? Do we just succumb to the crushing weariness and shuffle our feet while mumbling complaint after complaint? I don’t think so. There are ways to assess where we are and how we can move forward in a healthy manner.

First of all, we need to acknowledge it’s all around us and affecting people at all levels of an organization. We need to affirm what people tell us and not dismiss it as someone slacking off. The next step is to assess each person’s situation for what it entails. No broad stroke movements. No overarching declarations. Possibly no easy solutions. Just listen and assess.

The next step is critical and runs contrary to all we do in companies. Allow people to have a personalized path to fight their fatigue. One by one. You need to stick to this individualized approach because no one is experiencing fatigue in the same manner or for the same reasons.

Finally, be patient, empathetic and genuine. This sounds simple, and it can be if we allow HR and employees to work their way through their own path for their personal wellbeing. Step into this my friends. You can be there for each other.

Time for a change . . .

I’ve been in an HR role for my entire career – on purpose. I didn’t fall into the field or find it accidentally. I know several of my peers who have done that, and I love that they found the field. If you’ve been in the profession for any amount of time, you’re sure to hear or see, the perception that others have of HR. We hope that we’re viewed in a positive light. Honestly, everyone is regardless of their profession.

This past week, my friend Erich Kurschat posted the first eight emojis when he typed in “HR.” This is what came up . . .

Interesting set of emojis aren’t they? When I saw them, I replied to Erich and asked, “Is that how others feel when they work with HR, or is it how HR feels about working with others?” He stated he thought the same thing.

I wasn’t kidding. The range of emotions pictured above is merely eight of the thousands we encounter on a daily basis. Heck, you may run through all of them in one interaction alone !! It concerns me that the ones that came up during the search are all negative or ambivalent. It doesn’t bode well for what we do and how others view their interactions with us in an HR capacity. It’s also disappointing that many of you reading this who work in HR would say, “Yep, that’s how it is.”

Who wants to work in a field where the descriptive imagery is negative? I can’t think of one person who would willingly run to join it. Let’s state what people are experiencing. Chances are people work with HR when there’s some situation that is already tenuous. That’s because we’ve allowed ourselves to take on that mantle. Organizations and senior leadership put us in the “call when there’s a people emergency” box and we dutifully stay there. We feel we dare not push back or rewrite the narrative because at least we have a role to fulfill.

I’m tired of the self-defeatist mantra of HR. It’s old, worn out, and outdated. Sure, there are bad HR pros . . . just as there are in EVERY other profession !! We continue to wallow in the muck because we are the only profession that is intricately intertwined with humans all the time. Our actions affect the work life and personal life of others.

That is a great thing !! In fact, it is the best facet of working in HR. Without people, HR can’t exist – and it shouldn’t. The same truth is foundational for companies and it’s time we own, lead, shape and make this a reality and not an aspiration.

If we want the emojis to change when someone searches them in the future, then HR needs to be intentional in turning the perspective around. This has to occur one encounter at a time. We need to be cognizant that we are involved when things get sideways or ooky at work. Isn’t it great that we’re called in to assess, address and resolve situations? Each situation is a chance to build in a good outcome. You can show how empathy, consistency and a positive approach can work through anything constructively.

Let’s not allow the negative images to continue. Let’s step up and show through our behavior, our words, and our presence the value of human resources. It’s imperative. It’s overdue. And . . . it’s attainable. Yes, we may stumble and fail at times. Yes, we may be frustrated or frustrate others. However, it remains an incredible profession that makes a tangible impact on the lives of others.

It’s time for a change. I’m going to do all I can to change the images and I hope you’ll join in.

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 !!