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 !!

Time to Develop

We live in a world of “instants.” We desire instant affirmation, adoration and adulation. We are impatient during our commutes, the delivery of goods that we order or any time we are required to wait in any line of people more than one. We truncate our communication and make broad decisions based on snippets of words without seeking, or asking for, context.

We binge our entertainment and get frustrated when the next season may, or may not come out. For those who can’t even sit through an entire show, we consume TikTok and YouTube videos in larger volumes which ironically take the same amount of time. We have even bought into the thought that these behaviors help us “relax” when they seem to make us more entrenched in taking in more and more.

Put on top of this environment that we have raised at least two generations of humans who know no other reality. Every moment of their lives has happened at an exponential pace. Every. Moment. They only know immediacy and wonder why those who are older fight against what they see as normal. Add to this the rapid expectation of work, reward and advancement are pressing its way into the workplace and culture of every company.

Don’t think that I’m positioning this as a complaint. I personally am someone who has realized the climate I live in even though I’m old enough to remember when you couldn’t get access to almost anything you wanted instantly. In fact, the majority of my life has been lived before the age of instancy. It’s something that is starting to reemerge in the workplace. People want to know how to slow down, how to breathe, and how to develop.

I fondly remember the days when we had cameras that required actual film. It seemed nearly impossible to load the camera correctly with the roll of film the first time. You then had to advance the film until you saw the indicator on the back of your camera show the number “1” just to get ready to take a picture. After all of that effort, you had to hope that the scene you wanted to capture held still enough for the click of the button for the mechanism to close and open to imprint the negative image on the film tucked away inside the camera. You couldn’t even enjoy the picture you took until the entire roll of film had been used AND after you dropped it off to get developed.

Ironically, I don’t ever remember anyone complaining that this process took so much time. You had actual anticipation when you went to the drug store to pick up the prints to see if the pictures even turned out well. The issue of time was built into the art of photography whether you were an amateur or a professional. You couldn’t make it go faster. You were at the mercy of taking your time in order to enjoy the outcome.

This is what is reemerging in the workforce even today. People yearn to be developed more than being measured. They want the time and attention of their managers, their peers and senior leadership. Employees understand that this desire exists even in the middle of the mad rush of the day. Many are now choosing to make the decision to change jobs and/or companies. I think this is happening in part because companies are choosing to not take the time to develop people.

This is a giant blind spot. We keep fostering the myth that pace and production are far more important than people equipped to perform. HR would be an even more strategic leader if they’d be willing to step up and fight the myth. I have made a conscious effort to put development as a priority this coming year and going forward. It’s something that I hope to assess, define and create on a person-by-person basis from executive leadership throughout the organization.

I’m not quite sure what it will look like, but I know that it’s needed and that people are longing for it. Time is our best ally if we choose to use it intentionally as we continue to move rapidly. Development can happen in every company naturally as long as there is someone willing to stem the tide.

You see, I love that I can now take a picture whenever I want with the “camera” on my phone. I’m grateful for the advancements in technology that have improved this process because now I have more time to develop those I work with. Reallocate your time. Adjust who gets your attention. Take time to develop others. You’ll love the pictures that come from doing it well !!

No Strangers Here

This past weekend I was able to enjoy a great birthday gift. My grown kids know me so well, and they pulled their funds together to get me tickets to see a Xavier University basketball game. Ever since I moved to the Cincinnati area in the mid-’80s, I’ve followed and been a fan of, Xavier basketball. The other cool aspect of this incredible gift was that it was an away game against Butler University which is in Indianapolis where my daughter now lives. So, we got to go to the game together. My son lives in the San Diego area and it would have been even greater to have him there, but he couldn’t make it.

If you’ve never been to Butler University, they play in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse where part of the iconic movie, Hoosiers, was filmed. Walking into this arena was amazing in its own right. I’ve always been the fan who gets to games early and I stay until the very end. I have indoctrinated my kids with this expectation, and they enjoy doing this as well. My daughter and I sat in our seats in a predominantly empty stadium taking in all of the sites. Slowly, the arena began to fill up, and seats were becoming occupied. You always wonder who’s going to sit next to you, or if the seats next to you will remain open giving you a little more room to not feel cramped.

As I looked to my right, I saw a frail, elderly couple come into our row with a middle-aged couple. As they worked slowly toward their seats, the older gentleman leans down to me with an extended hand and says, “Hi there !! I’m Chip.” I know he saw my immense smile as I shook his hand and replied, “Hi there !! I’m Steve.”

He settled into his seat and then leaned over. He saw my Xavier hat and sweatshirt and wryly he stated, “Steve, just want you to know I won’t be rooting for your team tonight.” I warmly replied, “That’s okay Chip. I’m not going to be cheering for yours either.” He chuckled and we started a conversation. He asked if I was from Indianapolis and if I was with my daughter. He told me about his attending every game he could and that he wished they would play better. He was incredibly welcoming and we talked as if we’d known each other for years. He was very approachable and naturally comfortable with me even though we had never met.

He didn’t view this encounter as something odd or forced. He genuinely wanted to connect and make sure that I enjoyed my time visiting “his” school. We talked throughout the entire game gently ribbing each other about the plays, the fouls, the crowd, the cheerleaders and the overall experience. It was magical. I lost my Dad just over a year ago and it was as if I was sitting with him one more time. It couldn’t have been better. We said “Goodbye” to each other at the very end of the game even though Xavier ended up with the win over his beloved Butler Bulldogs.

I thoroughly enjoyed Chip and was touched that he didn’t see me as a stranger. He would have greeted whoever was seated next to him. I’m sure of it. He wasn’t awkward or too forward. To him, it was the most natural interaction possible. It was honestly refreshing to meet Chip and have such a memorable time with him. I wouldn’t have classified him as an extrovert. He was purely someone who felt that it was better to know who was next to him.

It reminded me how people have an innate need to connect and belong. We want to share our lives together and not be strangers. Too often we put up invisible barriers or do our best to avoid each other. I know it may seem a bit naive or old-fashioned to be so open to meeting others as Chip did. However, I’d beg to disagree. I think it’s heartwarming and missing in today’s society.

I may never cross paths with Chip again in this life, but he reminded me to be open and willing to extend a greeting to those around me. It is something I plan to do on a regular basis. No strangers. Just new connections.

This Year . . .

2022. It’s a New Year and I have to be honest, I’m looking forward to what lies ahead. You see, when this post goes live, I’ll actually be a year older myself. It’s one of the things I’ve learned to accept in having a birthday so close to the holiday season. I used to be bothered by its proximity to the festivities, but now it just marks time.

I don’t mind getting older. Sure, I have more aches, pains, and creaks than when I was younger. That isn’t as enjoyable, but it’s expected. I’m inching ever so closely to have been on this planet for six decades (I’m within 2 years) which is astounding to me. This is fairly significant for my dad’s side of the family because we haven’t had a ton of “older” people. I hope I’m fortunate to break that cycle and set a new standard.

It’s intriguing to me to listen to others I work with, interact with, and observe. The uncertainty that gripped the world over two years ago is still as present as ever. The lack of patience, grace, and willingness to hear differing opinions still get more attention than those who regularly are practicing these behaviors. I’m not discouraged by this because I feel the positive side of people will always win out. It may just take some time and diligence.

I’ve never been a person who makes lists, resolutions or goals. I know that works for many and admire people who can create and follow these methods. I haven’t followed these approaches because I get caught up in interactions with others. I want to take each one in and cherish them. That sounds Utopian, but it’s true. Not every conversation goes well and there are times of conflict just as much as there are times of collaboration. That doesn’t concern me. Every conversation has the opportunity to be full, rich and interesting. I can’t get enough of them.

Interestingly enough, one of my dear friends, Garry Turner, caught my attention when people were wishing each other a Happy New Year. His message stood out to me in the midst of several folks sending warm sentiments. He wanted to wish me a year that would be “impactful.” That stuck with me and gave me the impetus I needed to look forward going into 2022.

Choosing to make an impact has a deep meaning for me. You see, you make an impact of some sort with every exchange you have with other folks. Those times can either be positive or negative. There’s no guarantee as to the outcome. However, you personally can take steps to hopefully have a positive result in your demeanor, tone and intentionality.

Having the knowledge that you can move behavior in a constructive way is being impactful. Valuing the other person’s time, opinion and circumstances are also factors in how successful you can be. You can’t predict or control how others will respond or how they’re entering the interaction. However, you have all of the control as to the direction conversations can take.

It’s not possible to know all that will come throughout this new year, and I’m good with that. Regardless of that, I’m going to be more mindful of making a positive impact on those I connect with. I may miss the mark at times, but I want those to be an exception. I hope you’ll join me so that this coming year is filled with impactful encounters. The more we have positive interactions, the more uncertainty that we have been moving through will begin to dissipate. Let’s go make an impact !!

Clear the Fog !!

Last week I was getting ready for work like I normally do. After having breakfast, I loaded up my laptop and jumped into my car to head to my office. I’ve been working in person (safely) for the majority of the pandemic.

(Quick aside – I am fortunate to work for a regional pizzeria company and I made the decision to be in person because our amazing Team Members have been in person every day. I wanted to make sure to support them. Now back to the post . . .)

I turned on my favorite morning radio show and 45 minutes later I pulled into the parking lot. There was nothing notable about my commute. But, that was the problem. I didn’t recall a single moment of the commute. No recollection of whether the traffic was heavy or not. No idea if someone cut me off or if I drove too close to someone myself. I don’t recall the weather or what was playing on the morning show. The only thing I remember is parking my car and heading into my office.

That’s not good. It was as if I was in some fog that clouded every facet of my morning. When I arrived at work, I couldn’t say I was “prepared” for the day at all. I was unconsciously going through the same pattern I had become accustomed to. Later that day, I felt like I was lost and the fog kept infringing on all that was going on.

Sound familiar? I don’t think I’m alone in this at all. I understand that people head to their jobs because they’re used to the patterns that define how they face their day. This is true whether you’re working in person or remotely. What are you missing when you’re mind is covered in fog? The truth is, you’re not sure.

The whole experience was unnerving and I was shaken about it when I headed out to lunch. I don’t want to be a person who goes through the motions of work, has convenient conversations, plods through project work, and then heads back home feeling I’ve had a “day.” Not a full day. Not a day that seemed to slip away, but a “day.”

I was determined to clear the fog that had so easily encapsulated my mind the very next day. I’m sure there are a myriad of methods and approaches that people postulate to clear one’s head. I’m also sure that following prescriptive steps works for some. I’m not that person. I knew I needed to break my pattern and I kept it simple. Before jumping into my car in the garage, I walked outside and looked around. I slowed down to take some deep breaths and listened to the birds chirping in the trees. The brisk winter breeze slapped at my cheeks and even brought some tears to my eyes.

I felt more centered and aware of my surroundings. I then committed to stay aware of all that I saw and heard. When I did this, it seemed like color entered my line of sight once again. I saw things that had been there for some time as if they were brand new. I enjoyed everything as I took them in. The fog dissipated right away. I felt more energized and eager to take on the day. I no longer felt trapped in a haze. The day was enjoyable right off the bat.

I was able to consider the items and situations I was going to face. I looked forward to interacting with everyone once again and I felt renewed. I know that I need to be intentional in taking steps like this so that brain fog doesn’t creep back in and fill my head. I’m sure that I could fall back into the mists very easily if I don’t stay on top of this.

I wanted to share this story because I have a feeling that there may be others around you who struggle with brain fog themselves. You may be the nudge that breaks through for someone else. They may not realize they are meandering themselves.

There is too much to life to be covered in layers of fog. Take the steps that work for you to make sure your mind stays clear and sharp, and be alert that you may be able to help others as well. Let’s clear a path so we can take in all that is ahead !!

Be the Spark !!

I’ve never been someone to sit on the sidelines. Whatever the situation or opportunity is, I tend to fully jump in quickly. I may make a quick assessment of what is going on around me, but I guess I feel more comfortable diving in than waiting around. I am not the kind of person who waits for “just the right time” to get involved. Most of the time, things have worked out well by following this approach. There have been a few misses. I’m sure that’s going to occur if you are someone who also jumps in.

The reason I have always leapt first is that I’ve been surrounded by others who did the same thing. My parents were always active at home, at our school, our church and in the community. Those I was close to were also people who felt more “complete” the more they were involved in a variety of groups and activities. The model was community and involvement. I rarely remember a time when we weren’t in situations involving several people coming together.

I describe my time in high school as being involved in almost every extracurricular club that was offered. The clubs ranged from athletics to academics to the arts. In most of the groups I participated in, I also took on a leadership role. I wanted to be in a position where I could encourage others and get them geeked about their involvement in the club as well. This same approach continued through college and throughout my career.

Over the years, I’ve been a volunteer leader in HR, for our zoo, in my church, in our kid’s schools and sports teams, and in Boy Scouts. Each time I ventured into a new group, I became more and more motivated by the new people I met. I have treasured getting to know peers in my profession, kids and their families and other great people from all walks of life.

You see, I don’t view leadership in these activities as being “in charge” of anything or anyone. I see them as being in a position to be the spark someone needs to unlock their talent. It’s been key to see each person who is engaged in groups be valued, acknowledged and seen as talented regardless of their role or level or participation. People want to do their best and have a genuine opportunity to participate. They became a part of a group to be included and not overlooked. It’s astonishing to see what happens when you see someone’s spark turn into a flame and hopefully into a full-blown passion.

I’ve seen kids who never thought they’d succeed in sports play with intensity and drive because I believed in them as their coach. I’ve seen scouts who would never speak in front of a group grow, develop and become leaders in the Troop and in their community. I’ve seen HR peers become stronger businesspeople that moved from being transactional to strategic within their organizations. The list goes on and on because I was willing to be a spark in their lives.

I list these “accomplishments” purely as an analogy. You can also be the spark in others’ lives. Think what our organizations would look like with you as a firestarter that viewed your employees as the immense talents they already are. With your attention and encouragement, you could unlock a passion that has yet to be revealed.

People want to go through life filled with passion far more than you realize. All they need is someone who believes in them. YOU have that ability to be the spark in all those in your life. You need to know this !! This coming week as you head to all that you’re doing, strike the match of passion that is waiting to burst forth. Be the spark !!

Practice Gratitude Daily

We just celebrated Thanksgiving this past week and it was wonderful. We had a small gathering of my wife and daughter. Our son just started a new job, so he couldn’t get away to travel home. We enjoyed a traditional feast of turkey and a multitude of sides including a batch of old-fashioned ambrosia salad !!

We took time to turn off all of our devices and screens so we could just focus on each other. It was perfect . . . as a moment in time. In the midst of all of the ongoing turmoil and challenges facing society and each person in some form or another, we gave thanks. It’s intriguing that we set aside one day in 365 to give thanks. One. Day. I’m not blind to the fact that some feel they can’t even enjoy this one day because of all that may be facing them.

It takes an effort to express gratitude. It seems to come naturally for some, but for most of us, there needs to be a defined focus to break through the muck and darkness that we continue to swim through. This is a shame because there is so much to be grateful for personally. We have a chance to be the light that breaks through the shadows people walk in, but it will cost you something. It’s the one thing that we feel is already scarce and fleeting each day. Our time.

It’s been proven that something becomes a habit if you practice it daily for at least 21 days. As small of a hurdle as this is, we perceive it to be an insurmountable mountain. There is no mountain. The obstacle is only the small voice in our head that says that we should be shackled to other things that “matter.” What if the action that “mattered” to you was expressing gratitude to others around you?

How would someone else’s day go if you said “Hello” and then actually stayed put to see how they’re doing? What would their day be like if you celebrated with them about an accomplishment in their family’s life? Would you see different outcomes in your interactions if you complimented and encouraged someone for their work and effort?

I think you know the answer to these questions because when someone else did this for you, it made your day brighter. How much “time” do questions and conversations like this take? We don’t even know because we either think doing this is daunting or a waste of our precious time. We couldn’t be more wrong.

Trust me on this. The time you spend investing in the lives of others is the most productive use of your time possible. It’s time to turn the tide of how people interact in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our workplaces. Instead of falling into the muck of negativity, pause, breathe and express gratitude about something, anything. Fight the urge to follow the surge of uncertainty and be an anchor of positivity as an alternative. It may give those you encounter the brief respite they needed and you didn’t even know it.

Daily gratitude isn’t about you. It’s about others. This week start a new habit that will be fulfilling in ways you can’t even yet fathom. Switch from setting aside one day per year to be thankful for everything, to practicing daily gratitude so that every day is filled with at least one grateful occurrence. See what happens . . .