A Tale of Three . . .

Dinner with Friends

This past week I was invited by some dear friends who all work in different facets of HR. It was a chance to network, share stories, laugh and get to know each other better over a great meal. I was tickled to be invited because I never take that for granted. To be asked to come to an event on purpose is a feeling I never want to assume is going to happen. Also, I had an ulterior motive. Another person was invited to attend and I had longed to connect with him.

As people gathered and started to introduce themselves to each other, he entered the room. He had a quiet self-assuredness about him and he seemed very at ease with everyone although it was obvious he knew few, if any, people attending. He was in the midst of an intentional conversation and I wanted to interrupt. I didn’t. I waited for their conversation to hit a natural break and then stepped in.

He looked up as we caught each other’s glance and he said, “I know your face.” I said, “Hi Torin, I’m Steve Browne.” His eyes widened and we shook hands. “I’ve been wanting to meet you for years,” I said. We jumped into a conversation as if we’d known each other for years even though we had only ever “connected” online. It was deep, moving and something I had yearned for.

We moved to separate tables and enjoyed a meal with those around us. As I rose to leave, I went back over to my friend and thanked him. I told him once again about the joy I felt in getting to spend time with him. We exchanged our contact information and I told him I’d be intentionally staying in touch with him going forward. He said, “I hope you do.” We then embraced as friends should.

Hey Neighbor !!

My wife and I have lived in our neighborhood for 31 years. We are in a quiet cul de sac in an “older” set of homes. The development was build in the mid 1970’s and we’ve loved it. We had been married only two years when we moved in. The other houses were filled with families who had been there since the neighborhood popped up. We were the “new” family.

Turn the clock forward three decades and now we’re the established family while others have moved on. We’ve seen slow movement over this time, but it has happened naturally. The ranch house directly across from us recently changed from a rental property to one for sale. People refurbished the house and wanted to flip it and take advantage of the hot housing market. Unlike many other homes, this didn’t sell instantly. In fact, it stayed available for months.

Then, this last week, it sold !! We saw it online and were curious as to who was going to move in. After going out to see a small town and just meander (a fave activity for my wife and me), we pulled into our driveway and saw a family standing in the adjacent driveway. Our hearts jumped. My wife asked if I was going to introduce myself. The extrovert in me was eager to jump out of our moving car and go see them. I controlled my urge and decided to walk out and check our mail.

As I did, our new neighbor looked up, raised his hand and exclaimed, “Hi there.” I was in. I walked over, extended my hand and said, “I’m Steve, welcome to the neighborhood.” He replied, “I’m Byron. Nice to meet you and nice to be here.” We talked for a few minutes when my wife and his wife joined us. “I’m Debbie.” “I’m Jill.” “It’s great to have you in the neighborhood,” my wife shared. “We hope you feel welcomed and at home.” We continued chatting and getting to know each other for a little while longer, and then said we’d catch up more after they got settled.

I’d Like to Catch Up

One of my closest and dearest lifetime friends, AJ, texted me this week and said he’d like to jump on a call over the weekend. I said, “Of course,” and we planned to talk Sunday afternoon. AJ was one of my “kids” during our time at Ohio University. I was the Resident Assistant in a freshman dorm and AJ originally lived on the 3rd floor while I worked/lived on the 1st floor. He had a challenging roommate his first semester and he had found his way down to my section. I saw him hanging out more and more often. He asked if he could transfer to join my floor, and we made it happen.

We connected instantly, and I could tell he was accliamating more with new friends. He found his way and we became fiercely close. He stayed connected with me throughout college and he moved to Cincinnati. During his time in Cincy, we hung out just as we had in college. He was here for the birth of our kids and we shared many “life” moments together. We stayed close until he moved out to Seattle. It was harder to stay in touch, but we managed. He was even kind enough to ask me to be his best man in his wedding.

Time passes too easily and we connected less and less. We have remained close though because every time our paths crossed, we picked up right where we left off with ease. The call this Sunday was no different. There was only one noticeable change. During the call, he told me, “Hey, I know we haven’t stayed as close as we had been. I want to change that. I miss you and Debbie and want Kiki (his wife) and I to rekindle things.” He then told me some very heartfelt feelings about how it mattered that I had reached out to him when he was a freshman, stayed true to him as he worked through his 20’s and remained with him even now so many years later. I told him it wasn’t cool to make me weepy.

The one-hour conversation filled us both and we committed to no longer drift apart. I know that will be the case !!

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The reason for these three tales is simple. Connections matter and people matter. Every. Single. Person.

We tend to take the relationships we have for granted and overlook how impactful they could, and should, be. We get swallowed by shallow comparisons, differences of opinions or perspectives and the ridiculous pace we follow throughout our daily living.

We need to pause, slow down and not miss any chance to connect. People want to know they matter. They don’t hear it or see it enough.

Change this. Start having experiences where you can tell tales. Show others that it’s important to have them in your life. Trust me. In doing this you’ll see that life is full, meaningful and valuable. Wouldn’t that be an amazing position to face each day ??

Contribute vs. Consume

It’s astonishing how much the workforce has evolved and changed over the past three years, isn’t it? We’ve moved from in-person as the primary mode of “work” to a mix of in-person, remote, hybrid and gig. Employees no longer accept their roles and jobs as their status quo just because they’re supposed to. They are empowered to own and manage their careers. All of these things are healthy and were honestly overdue.

We don’t need a company full of people who blindly punch the clock and take up space just to earn a wage and care for themselves and their families. I’m not going to even recognize the trend of catchphrase after catchphrase that pop up to try and describe the work landscape. They’re hokey and clickbait to get people all riled up. They also become massive overgeneralizations that we apply to every person when it may not be the case at all. Sure, people are quitting and changing jobs . . . but this has happened since work has occurred. We’re just frustrated and upset because having these changes forces us to do more work in sourcing, recruiting and landing talent.

Isn’t it ironic that we see this as a burden? We have the opportunity to bring amazing people in to add to the work we do as an organization. Yes, it’s harder to find people and there may be fewer people to consider. Instead of bemoaning the challenge, what are we doing to be agile and respond to the problem facing us?

We need to be creative and see what we can do in the midst of this current trend as well as look to the people who remain in our companies. It’s an “if/then” reality and not an “either/or” situation. How much healthier would we be if we looked to add great folks AND retain great folks as well?

When looking at people we retain there is a measurement we should look at because it is a mitigating factor that takes up so much of our available time. Let me lay it out for you . . .

As humans we are consumers. It’s a fact. We consume time, effort, money, food, entertainment, etc. It’s a never-ending facet of our daily existence. There’s value in consuming IF it’s balanced. That’s a big IF !!

The other side to this human equation is being a contributor. This is where you bring something to the table through your performance, your attitude, your approach to others and your willingness to put yourself aside for the “whole” to work. That could be at home, school, church, in the community or at your workplace.

Hopefully, in the workplace, people are both contributors and consumers. The sad reality is that we all have people who consume far more than they contribute. These folks tend to demoralize the culture and suck the soul away from what you’re trying to maintain. They also get the most attention – when that should not be the case.

People who are contributors watch to see how HR and the company responds to employees who are primarily consumers. When this is out of whack, contributors will leave. This is facing the workplace today. We need to switch the lens and set the expectation that we value contributions. We want to equip and value contributions from people at all levels of the organization. Then, when they consume, it will be healthy and you’ll see people stay. Knowing this balance is the “norm” of how you approach work will be the strongest retention tool you can offer.

As we approach another year-end, take note and see where your people stand on the contributor/consumer scale. Make sure to see where you stand as well. This is more effective if you look at all employees from executives to the front line. Talent isn’t only the front end of the process. People are talented all the time for as long as they’re with you. Help them to be contributors !!

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.

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 !!

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.

On Loan

Do you have neighbors? I’m fortunate to have some great ones all around me. With Spring just starting to burst forth, it’s time to get out in the yard. I know that if I need a hand or to borrow a tool (or two) from one of my neighbors, they’d be very willing. I am the same. It’s great to be in a position where we’re willing to help each other out.

The key to any tool borrowing is the understanding that they’re returned in good shape after they were used. It’s wonderful to have the right implement to complete the tasks at hand, but there’s never an expectation you get to keep the borrowed tool(s). In fact, if you did keep your neighbor’s tools, they’d be less likely to let you borrow any more in the future.

This past week I was enjoying an episode of the HR Social Hour Half Hour Podcast featuring a friend from Scotland – Scott Leiper. He shared a wonderful perspective he heard from the incredible Kirsty Mac who reminded him to look at employees who work at our company as being “on loan.” I loved this the moment Scott shared it. He went on to frame that he loved this as well and it helped him view people in a much healthier way.

You see, we don’t view people as being with us for a period of time. We think of them in permanent terms very quickly after they join our companies. In fact, we’re quite put off when someone decides to leave our organization. We may even become indignant because we just don’t understand why someone would “turn” on us. If we were honest, we may miss someone if they change jobs, but we’re more likely upset because we worry about how this transition will impact us !! It’s true. We continue to talk in terms of job requisitions to be filled instead of humans bringing talent to our teams.

Add on top of this the sentiment expressed by most employees that they’re rarely engaged or recognized if they stay with a company. The mantra we continue to perpetuate is about work, tasks, procedures, strategies, and goals regardless of who is accomplishing those things. It’s astonishing that we keep people at our companies at all !!

Let’s turn the narrative around. Let’s embrace the reality that we have our people for a period of time. Let’s encourage them to stay awhile and value them every day for all they do. Let’s get excited for the entire time we have “borrowed” them to allow them to perform, thrive and drive our organizations forward. How would your culture and workplace look if you understood you only have a finite amount of time to work with those around you? I’d bet it would matter and you’d make sure everyone was anchored, involved and valued. You would make sure their talent was used to do the good work you had in front of you each day.

Let’s quit talking about, and focusing on, people changing jobs as part of some Great Whatever !! We have to quit following the next big trend to just mimic and bemoan our circumstances. Let’s celebrate the time we get to have with our people instead. We should use the full term of our loan so when it’s completely paid we get excited for the next step of their career.

From now on remember that our people are on loan. They’re going to be given back to our “neighbor” throughout their career. Trust me. When you do this you will start making the first foundational step of truly being a people-first organization !!

Right Role, Right Time

WHO DEY !!!

I know this isn’t the traditional way to start an HR blog, but I’m a Cincinnati Bengals fan. I have been for decades. The last time they were this good was just after I moved to the Cincinnati area in 1986 !! Sure, we’ve had a few years where we made the NFL playoffs since then, but there hasn’t been this type of excitement for 30+ years !!

To be a Bengals fan is to be someone who has known long-suffering. For years, you’d watch games on TV and listen to the broadcasters talk primarily about the other team. They’d list the multiple years the team never won a prime time game. Or, they’d talk about how we hadn’t won a playoff game for over 30 years. Last night was the first “away” playoff game they won . . . EVER !!

It’s hard to capture the joy and exuberance that I experienced when our rookie kicker hit the game-winning field goal as time ran out. I was clapping and screaming in my family room by myself and I didn’t care. It was wonderful to see the local media, social media and the entire city come together to celebrate. In fact, our local news is covering every possible Bengals aspect for the majority of each broadcast. It’s ironic to see how something so simple can drown out the noise, negativity and divisiveness that tries to fully consume every moment of every day.

What made Saturday’s victory over the Tennessee Titans even better was listening to the post-game press conferences. Every player and the head coach talked about the team as a whole. When pressed to talk about their own personal play and accomplishments, they deferred and talked about how other players did better. They are performing as a unit and they understand that each member of the team has something of value to offer. They wouldn’t be swayed to lift one individual over another. It was refreshing to hear how they’ve adopted a culture that proves that ALL succeed when you play TOGETHER.

Of course, it made me think of HR and organizations today. I think we aspire to have fully functioning teams made up of people who are aligned in roles where they can perform. I truly do. However, I don’t think we do all we can to organize our companies in ways that can make this come to life. I feel that most still follow old models of identifying “hi-po’s” and force rank people to falsely put people into more significant roles. Our approaches are still laced with inherent bias and a popularity contest where those we “like” can advance. It’s tiring for people to know how to maneuver the hidden internal politics on a daily basis just to ensure they have a place . . . at all.

It’s time to ditch the old models completely. They have never given us the sustainable outcomes we’ve aspired to. Never. Aren’t you tired of complaining about people who seem to be out of place? I don’t fault employees for this misalignment. I think it falls to senior leadership to be equipped by HR to get this fixed. What would your day be like if everyone was in their “right” place and all they did was perform? It would be magnificent !!

You see, we’re riding a short-term dose of euphoria as Bengals fans. We’re caught up in the swell of the moment. Nothing wrong with that. The difference is that the team already believes this is the beginning of how they expect to perform not only for this postseason run but into the future. They don’t want it to be another flash in the pan or flavor of the month. Sound familiar ??

I’ve been taking the approach listed in the picture above over the past year of having the right person in the right role for the right time. It’s tough to do. Honestly, you fight decades of how people have been crammed into roles more to fit a job requisition than being thoughtful in getting people where they can excel on a regular basis.

This is the good “hard work” that lies ahead of us as HR professionals as we navigate this new landscape of work. It has to happen if you want to see your people, and your organizations, thrive. I’m tired of decades of aspirations just as much as I was being a Bengals fan “hoping” that things would change. Do what you can to assess, realign and get people where they need to be. They’re longing for it personally and the company is yearning for a set of teams full of talent to move things forward.

Oh, and for at least one more week . . . WHO DEY !!