Next year is a milestone year for my wife and I. We will be celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary and we’re both also turning 60 years old. I’m so fortunate that she said she’d marry me decades ago when I proposed to her at the Cincinnati Zoo (where we first met.)
Since this is momentous for both of us, we’re looking into an adventure to mark these passages in time and our lives together. We’re considering taking a Viking River Cruise that will take us through Hungary, Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands. It’s fascinating to plan and we both already feel the anticipation growing. To prepare, Debbie challenged me to refresh and relearn how to read and speak German.
I have picked up the gauntlet and have started doing daily language lessons using the Duolingo app on my phone. I’m a little over a week in and I love it !! I know I could use Google Translate or some foreign language AI bot instead, but that seems like an easy out.
I wanted to accept her suggestion for many reasons. The first is that it would be cool to be conversant and understand the language and signage we’d encounter throughout the majority of our trip. Secondly, I took German for one year in college and it was wonderful. My heritage is a mix of German on my mother’s side and Irish on my father’s side. Also, I was born in Nuremberg, West Germany (that’s what it was called back then) on an Army base where my father was stationed. Finally, one of the stops on the trip is Nuremberg. To be able to speak to local people in the city of my birth would be amazing !!
The other benefit of jumping into learning a second language is the reality that there are untold advantages to being a person who is constantly learning. I’ve always been a curious person who is more willing to take risks than others. I get itchy if I fall into too many predictable patterns in life. There is always something you can learn. There is no possible way you can get to a point in life where you know everything that you need to know. Something new is just around the corner if we’re willing to look for it.
Back in the 1990’s and 2000’s, there was a concerted effort for people to become “Lifelong Learners.” I remember blog post after blog post on the topic. I probably wrote one or two of them myself. It’s a great aspiration but many of us learn only when told to for a reason. The focus at work is production and that’s it. The trend has shifted to produce, produce, produce, and then fix mistakes when they occur (which they will). Hitting our numbers, driving results, analyzing data, and then coming up with methods to get them consistently better is the message of the day.
I don’t think learning and performing are separate functions. Far from it. They are intertwined. We would perform far better and consistently if we took the time to learn first. We have the time. We just choose to blow through it because of the incessant pressure to produce at all costs. This is a miss. A big miss.
As HR pros, we should be the ones pulling the brake inside our organizations. We should always take the position of being intentional in having learning and development become the fabric of our company culture. These efforts shouldn’t be a program or a reactive response to another inane performance review list of goals.
Learning, like work, should be continuous. It should seamlessly flow and be encouraged to pursue so our folks, as well as us, don’t get stagnant and stuck in our ways.
This week, see where learning can occur for yourself and others, and then jump in. I’ll be continuing my German lessons while looking for other opportunities myself. I’m geeked to do this and I hope you are too !!
(BTW – “Geeked” is universal and the same in every language – as it should be.)
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 !!
We seem to be in a funky pattern when it comes to Social Media. There are people who love platforms while others can’t stand them. New platforms arrive and others diminish. This fluctuation has caused a malaise that honestly isn’t warranted.
The primary function and purpose of Social Media is to communicate and share ideas !! This has been the purpose since its inception even though many have tried to either dampen it or make it argumentative.
The Carnival of HR (#HRCarnival on Twitter) has always been a fortress that has survived storm after storm over the years. I was asked if I’d host this month’s Carnival and I jumped at the chance. It’s an opportunity to rekindle the flame of great content and spread the word of HR practitioners from around the globe. When I put the call out for posts, the response was massive !! I dropped a spark on multiple platforms to show we can continue to break through the darkness and bring light to the profession and the industry.
Listed below are the twenty-four entries I received !! It’s a mix of veteran bloggers and new voices. I made sure to share which corner of the world each post came from. Make sure to check out each one and connect with the authors. Get ready, here we go . . . time to spread the word !!
I’ve mentioned before that my wife and I are empty nesters. We enjoy this stage in our lives because it’s given us the freedom to do more things as a couple while also staying connected to our kids. Looking back over the years, we made sure to invest time and attention in each of our kids knowing someday we’d be living in different places.
What’s ironic though is that when we get a phone call from Josh or Melanie, our first thought isn’t positive. When their name pops up on the screen, our minds automatically come up with a multitude of potential situations. Each one is worse than the prior one. You can feel your pulse and blood pressure elevate just a bit and you clench as you hit the “answer” button. Nine times out of ten the conversation is positive and even a bit benign. They’re just checking in.
All of the years of investing time in having relationships with our kids have paid off. That doesn’t change the sinking feeling of a potential catastrophe looming around the corner. Now, you need to take note that we don’t want something horrible to happen when we chat. It’s the last thing we’d want. So, why do we catastrophize something that should be positive? How would we respond if the call wasn’t positive and something dire was truly facing our kids?
Humans are unfortunately built to assume the worst is possible. It doesn’t matter if it’s a parent/child interaction or a work encounter. Our minds jump to a catastrophic level just in case something does present itself in the worst possible way. How sad is that? We’ve become so used to catastrophizing the potential outcome of meeting with others that it’s become our norm. That just shouldn’t be the case.
What steps could we take to not expect the worst is inevitably going to occur? The first thing is to intentionally have the discipline to see the positive aspect of every engagement we have with others. Develop a mindset that the best is going to occur. This simple step of going into conversations expecting something positive is a good start.
Secondly, believe that people have good intentions first. Understand that others want to avoid catastrophic thinking just as much as you do. Even if you’re the only one assuming positive intent, it’s better than both parties assuming the worst.
Finally, live in the moment. I don’t mean to belittle the future. Not in the least. I am a person who eagerly looks forward expecting good things. Being in the moment though allows you to focus on what’s in front of you. It also keeps you in the best frame of mind if something is bad or catastrophic. As humans, we respond when a crisis is upon us better than we do facing our regular day-to-day patterns.
We shouldn’t need our circumstances to hit a crisis level in order for us to act. It’s not healthy or sustainable. Think about it for a moment. If we only feel comfortable acting when the worst truly is what we’re facing, then we’re living with a constant catastrophic mindset !!
This week, make the change to be positive, and believe the best is going to happen with every conversation you have with every person that crosses your path. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how easily your day goes by with few bumps when fewer negative thoughts take up space. Stop catastrophizing and expect the best !!
Last year, my wife and I traveled to Houston, Texas. It was our first time there and I was speaking to an HR team from a construction firm. It was a small event in a cool, industrial warehouse that was converted into a meeting space. We had a great time and got solid recommendations of where to go and where to eat from the local folks. We gathered all our belongings and traveled less than a mile to our hotel. We added a few days of PTO to extend our stay and visit the city.
As we wheeled our suitcases down the hall, we turned the corner and I heard a voice jubilantly exclaim – “Welcome to my hotel !!”
I perked up immediately and sauntered up to the hotel check-in counter when the clerk cheerfully said, “Welcome to my hotel. I’m Yolanda. Are you here to check in?” I was floored by her exuberance and replied, “Why, yes we are !!” My wife rolled her eyes a bit and whispered, “That’s what she’s told to say,” and I’m sure she was. That didn’t deter my excitement.
Yolanda went on to tell us about the hotel’s amenities and offered to be available for us whenever we needed it. I was so geeked by her approach and thought she went above and beyond in showing her hospitality. My wife and I went out to be tourists and as we strolled back into the lobby hours later, we heard Yolanda say, “Hi there Mr. and Mrs. Browne !! How was your time out in my city?” I was giddy once again. “We had a great time Yolanda !! Thanks for asking.” One thing to note – The lobby was teeming with people moving back and forth involved in various things, and yet Yolanda took the time to check on us in the midst of this hurried activity.
On the day we were going to leave to fly back to Ohio three days later, I was having problems getting our boarding passes to load on my phone. I decided to go down to the lobby and try out the “business center.” It didn’t work because I’m sure it’s overused. I decided to go to the front desk and ask for help and I heard, “Hello, Mr. Browne. Can I help you?” You guessed it. Yolanda was manning her post yet again. She was so helpful and we were able to get checked into our flight and print our boarding passes.
While I was spending more time with her, I was filled with curiosity. I asked her about her approach and her joy toward the guests of the hotel. She brimmed with delight and shared she had been a front desk clerk for 20 years and she couldn’t be more proud of the work she did and the place she worked. I told her I was in HR and I was so moved by our experience and I knew she offered this same level of engagement and service to everyone she encountered.
This made such an impression on me that I incorporated our experience with her in one of the presentations I give at conferences and I end by asking – “Is this how YOU view your job in HR ??” The response is a mix of “not really” or “I wish I did.”
I first used the story while speaking at the SHRM Annual Conference in New Orleans in 2022. After the presentation, someone came up to me at the front of the stage and pulled me to the side. “Hi, my name is Kimberly. Did you stay at the Embassy Suites while you were in Houston?” I told her I did and then she floored me.
“I work with Yolanda !! My team and I heard your story and we’ve been texting her during your speech to tell her that you were bursting with elation as you told this room filled with thousands of people all about her.” I burst into tears. I couldn’t believe it. We hugged and I asked Kimberly to tell Yolanda thank you for letting me share our time with her with others.
A few weeks passed, and Kimberly sent me a picture through Linked In. Here’s what I received. That’s Kimberly on the left and Yolanda on the right.
I couldn’t believe it !! I added this picture at the end of my presentation and have been fortunate to share it many more times. At SHRM23 this year in Las Vegas, I shared about Yolanda again, and after the presentation, as I was signing books at the SHRM bookstore, another person approached me. “Hi there. I’m Jamie and I work with Yolanda. Thank you so much for continuing to share about her. I wanted to get her one of your books so she had a note from you.” I started weeping again. I couldn’t grasp what continued to happen.
This past week I spoke at the HRUnite! conference in Frankenmuth, Michigan. It was an amazing smaller HR conference which was more intimate than others I’ve been fortunate to speak at. After I presented, I received a note from Kimberly through Linked In. She said, “I thought you’d like to see this . . .”
I read the post from Avion Hospitality and the tears began to flow again. You see, Yolanda was recognized at her national conference. They showed me speaking on the stage using the closing slide I’ve been using showing the picture of Kimberly and Yolanda. They said –
“For the second year in a row, Yolanda Johnson was highlighted at the National Society for Human Resource Conference and shown on stage as an example of finding a company and career you love. Yolanda is Guest Services Manager at Embassy Suites Energy Corridor and clearly had a positive impact on this guest. Congratulations, Yolanda, on succeeding in your quest to welcome every guest and make them feel like family. We should all be so lucky to encounter your energy and enjoy our work as much as you.”
I left a comment on the post and the Embassy Suites account wrote me back. Yolanda’s story just keeps going on and on.
So, I’ll ask again. Is this how you view what YOU do? If not, why not? Yolanda has chosen to bring her whole being to all she does and her story is now touching people around the globe. May we all learn from her and change how we view our jobs. You never know who will tell your story to others !!
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 . . .
I am fortunate to travel to HR events all over the place. When I do that, I also get to do my favorite thing – meet people !! Meeting people has always come naturally to me. I feel comfortable meeting anyone at any time in any place. I know this is rare and I don’t expect others to be nearly as comfortable with this as I am.
When I meet someone though, I try a different approach than most. The first thing I make sure to do, every time, is to slow people down from the inevitable traditional greeting launch. I pause and ask their name – even though they’re most likely wearing a name tag. Then, I make sure to share my name again to keep a steady pace.
Here’s where things veer in a different direction . . .
Most people then open a conversation with, “So, tell me what you do.” or “So, where do you work? I never do this even if the other person I’m meeting starts this way. Now, this took an incredible amount of discipline to break the habit because I have been using this opening barrage just like everyone else.
I do this instead, “Hi, Mary, where are you from?”
People freeze. They weren’t expecting a question that fell outside the normal pattern of human interaction. Once they get their bearings, you see something amazing happen. Their shoulders drop and a smile starts spreading across their face. “Oh, I’m from . . .” and then they warmly share this tidbit about themselves.
The entire tone and tenor of this interaction becomes welcoming, warm, and genuine. People don’t posture or try to justify their role in their organization or the brand they work for. It puts people at ease.
Recently, when I was speaking at the Oklahoma SHRM State Conference, I tried my elusive tactic on people and many replied, “I’m from the City.” Not being from Oklahoma I had no idea where that was. I’d kid, “Well, I’m from a city too.” Then they’d blush and stammer to say, “The City is what we call Oklahoma City.” I learned something new and it was fun to do so.
You see, when we ask people to recite their occupation and company, we truly don’t care. We won’t remember it and it’s a clumsy way to get to know someone. When people talk about where they live, they’re open to sharing so much more about themselves willingly.
One caution in the “where are you from” approach. Don’t downplay your location. If you’re from a smaller town or village, share the name of it and where it is proudly. You may need to explain it’s located near a larger, or more well-known city, but that’s okay. When you say, “Oh, you don’t know where this is . . . , ” – you diminish yourself and the conversation.
I was just in a conversation where a friend said, “Yeah, I get to serve in churches in Jumbo and Roundhead.” I knew exactly where these minuscule burgs were in Ohio. He didn’t have to explain or give me more details. I already had the picture that these were small towns and I loved that he was willing to meet people where they lived.
Next week the SHRM Annual Conference is going to happen in Las Vegas, Nevada. The convention center will be teeming with literally thousands of people and it can quickly become overwhelming. I recommend you relax and use this new tool in your “get to meet you” quiver. Trust me, you’ll start enjoying networking far more than you have in the past.
So, when our paths cross, and they will, ask me where I’m from and I’ll do the same !!
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.
As I mentioned last week, my travels have filled my quiver with new stories and experiences. I would encourage you when you have the opportunity to attend events to make sure you do this as well. It never made sense to me that people would go to events to get credit hours to ensure they kept their letters behind their names. I know it’s important and I turn my hours in too, but it’s the last reason I go to anything.
It brings me to this week’s story. I was fortunate to meet and connect with the wonderful and talented, Rachel Druckenmiller !! I knew she was a fellow speaker at the conference, but I wanted to get to know her as a fellow human. (This is another thing I do at conferences. Treat speakers like approachable humans and get to know them.)
We hit it off and jumped into conversations as if we had been friends for years. I loved hearing about her family and getting to know all about her. Taking the time to hang out made it even more meaningful when I saw her take the stage to open day two as a keynote. I loved her people-centric message and approach. She had tons of relevant content that was instantly applicable to every person at their company.
One point she brought up was how all of us tend to view others in the workplace. We, unfortunately, overlook the amazing people around us and get sucked into the vortex of those who are challenging. If you don’t think that’s true, step back and listen to the conversations happening in the halls. I guarantee you that the talk is negative and focused on how people disappoint us. I think we secretly enjoy talking about people this way because we then feel we have value when we address and “fix” this.
It’s not healthy and it’s misaligned. I was agreeing with Rachel when she dropped a bomb to switch this approach altogether. She said, “Too often we say the person is the problem when it may be that the person has a problem.”
Look at that sentence again !! Changing one word from “is” to “has” completely reframes everything. Imagine how HR and the workplace would look if we had a “has” mentality in working with others. I believe it would radically transform you personally and would assuredly transform your workplace.
Yes, people can be challenging. With this, we need to remember that we are people too !! I would want others to see if I was facing a problem or working through some facet of life instead of having people label me and talk about me negatively. I’m sure you would as well.
I find talking about people as if they’re the problem is exhausting and never-ending. This must change. If we want to foster, develop and sustain a people-first culture, then we have to come at our work from a positive perspective. This week adopt a “has” approach and drop the “is” approach. Trust me, you’ll see immediate results and begin to understand you have always been surrounded by amazing humans.
I haven’t been writing the past few weeks because I took some time “off” to pursue one of my other passions – speaking. I was fortunate to have been asked to present at three conferences – Workhuman in San Diego, the Oklahoma State SHRM HR Conference in Oklahoma City, and the New Mexico State SHRM Conference in Albuquerque. Being that I live in West Chester, Ohio just outside of Cincinnati it’s taken me some time to understand and acclimate to the different time zones I found myself in. I’m just now getting back into a regular wake/sleep cycle.
Each event was magnificent in its own way !! I could write blog posts about each one for weeks and weeks to come. A highlight for me at each conference involved a mix of seeing familiar friends I’ve met over the years accompanied by meeting scores of new people. There is nothing that captures my attention as much as this. I’ve always been wired around people throughout my life. I can’t get enough of meeting and engaging with new folks.
At New Mexico SHRM, the incredible volunteer leaders burst into the main room and brought people to their feet with music, dance, clapping, and extravagant purple sequined coats and hats. Energy and anticipation were high as they set the mood for the full conference ahead. They shared details of the schedule, thanks for all of the work people had done to pull the conference together, encouragement to visit and chat with exhibitors and sponsors, and more. I was used to this cadence because it reflected a pattern I’ve seen at many SHRM State Conferences. It was so well done and I personally was getting more geeked myself to be a part of what was about to happen.
While waiting to take the stage and open the event, I was fortunate to experience something that put things into perspective in a way I’ve rarely experienced at past HR gatherings. Margaret (a new friend by the way) took to the podium. She is Navajo and she explained the conference had a Native track and then she introduced the amazing Gabriel Ayala to open the conference with a prayer and a song. He is a singer, musician and artist also from the Navajo nation.
Margaret and Gabriel welcomed everyone as fellow “five-fingered beings.” They explained that the Navajo described humankind as five fingers because it is something that binds us all together as humans. I was floored. Something so visible, obvious, and yet overlooked by all of us.
Gabriel encouraged us to embrace each other as fellow five fingers. He noted it is far better for us to see how we have a common bond than it is to continue to try and tear each other apart. He acknowledged we are all unique and have known differences that make us strong as fellow five-finger beings. He then sang a prayer in his original language as tears rolled down my cheeks.
It was perfection. To recognize and affirm we are all humans should be at the opening of every HR event !! Too often we focus and dwell on those situations and circumstances that exhaust us. As HR pros we forget we have a common bond and we fall into the trap of the dark side of human behavior. We don’t see how to step back and get out of the muck.
Take heart !! The majority of people around us are fantastic most of the time. As humans the “all of the time” standard is out of reach. However, most of the time is very adequate. We need to take the advice of Margaret and Gabriel and call upon our five fingerdness.
This week when the urge to focus on the negative starts to well up within you, look down at your hands. Then, remember the people you will work with have those same five fingers. Value them as fellow humans first and foremost. Trust me, it will reshape your day, your outlook, and your approach.
(The artwork above is Gabriel’s native take on The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” album. You know I needed to have this !!)