The Next Step

Our lives are ever-moving. We try to maneuver through a flurry of activity and make it seem like we have it all together. Internally we are bound in knots because just as we feel like we make progress in one area of life, we get upset that another area slips. It can be overwhelming and feel like you’re trying to run in quicksand. Add to this the fact that every person walking around you feels just like you do.

We tend to do one of two things in reaction to this hurried pace. We either suffer and complain about the state we find ourselves in, or we add more activities. It seems odd we’d choose to take on more thinking everything will balance out. The math doesn’t work. Living in a state of hurriedness is neither healthy nor sustainable. Few of us, however, do much to combat it. If anything, we supplement this rapidity with caffeine, poor eating habits, or worse.

There’s nothing wrong with living a robust and full life. It would be fantastic if that was true for everyone as long as it would be filled with activities that brought us joy. This includes the work we do. We can’t get torn up about our jobs because we need to work. Now, our jobs could be difficult and challenging for many reasons. We could have managers who make work miserable. You may need to change where you work and who you work for, but you’ll still do better having a job.

There’s another facet that impacts our life journey. Too many people look to try to determine the end of what they’re facing. You’ll hear terms like “work with the end in mind.” It appears to be an optimistic, forward-thinking aspiration, but when you feel out of control you can’t see an end to anything. So many moving parts and so many people vying for your time and attention lead to people getting more stuck than moving in any distinct direction.

I’ve always been a person who is involved in a multitude of endeavors at the same time. I usually have multiple projects moving at work, a list of to-do’s at home, keeping up with several different groups of people on social media daily along with involvement in my church and civic organizations. This doesn’t include regularly writing a blog and trying to compose a third book on HR. Those are just a few of the things I am doing. Nor does it include what’s also happening with my wife, kids, and extended family.

It sounds like there’s too much happening in my life, but this is “normal.” I’m sure it’s the same for you. I rarely feel like I’m sinking though because my focus is not on the end of the activity – it’s the next step.

You may think this is short-sighted, but I beg to differ. Having a “next step” approach keeps me moving at a regular steady pace. I don’t take one step and then freeze. The first step leads to the next step then the next step and the next step, etc. Doing this allows me to maneuver from one area of life to another since each one involves the next step of one kind or another.

One “next step” may require a high level of energy and intensity while another may call for calm. A next step could be to pause and reflect, or it could mean concerted time for an extended period. The key to all of this is simple – stay at a next step pace on a regular basis. It’s more important to experience consistency than it is to wallow in a state of hustle and bustle.

This next week make the decision to get off the unending treadmill. Be assured you can still be involved in as much as you choose, but determine what the next step will be. Then take it.

A “New” Year

It’s hard to believe it’s the year 2023. It truly is. The fear and pandemonium of Y2K are now two decades behind us. Sure, there continue to be significant shifts of global magnitude which throw us, but we’ve made it. It will be interesting to see what another year brings to each of us.

It’s ironic that we expect a drastic alteration to all facets of our lives when the calendar moves from December 31st to January 1st. It’s as if we hope for some imaginary switch to flip in the universe and then anything which is less than where we’d like gets magically fixed. I wonder who created this mindset. I understand there will always be things to improve in all areas of our lives. The movement of one day to the next will not automatically make that happen.

I don’t mean to be negative in looking at this. I consider myself an optimist in most things and with most people I encounter. I believe in humans now more than ever. Looking at all we’ve been through, it could be easy to see the worst in people. Some have even earned some consideration to lose faith in them. However, it’s because of this tendency to think the worst that I want to offer a better, yet contrary thought for the year ahead.

We need to move forward.

That’s it. Wherever you find yourself in life, there is room to move forward. That may be all the “new” you need. It may be all the “new” you can handle.

You may be saying to yourself, “Life isn’t that simple. You don’t know what I’m facing, or you just ‘don’t understand.'” I don’t want to presuppose or assume I’m aware of what’s in front of you. That wouldn’t be possible honestly.

The reason I want to suggest this notion is I find too many people who are stuck. It may be because of circumstances they’re facing or their general outlook on life and the status of the world. Instead of moving in any direction, people remain stagnant and inertia keeps them exactly where they are. The longer someone remains immobile, the less likely movement will occur at any time.

I plan to take my own advice. When I look at all that could be moving ahead at work, I get excited. There are so many ways to continue to integrate HR throughout the company so we can strive for performance as a whole. When I think about HR as an industry we have to move forward and not settle back into patterns that keep us on the “outside” looking in. We stepped up during the pandemic and now it’s time to move forward.

This doesn’t include how I’d like to see the relationships in my life also move forward. I’m looking forward to having quality time and experiences with my wife and adult kids throughout the year. Regularly connecting with my peers across the globe to make sure they know someone is always in their corner. I want to see them move forward as well in whatever is in front of them as an opportunity. Add to that some fantastic opportunities to speak and publish another book.

I’m not naive. I know there will be obstacles and challenges which will pop up. That’s no different than any other prior year. The difference is I won’t allow them to stop me from making progress.

I hope you feel this advice makes sense and is attainable for you. Yes, the year is new. Let’s make sure we all move forward and see what happens !!

The Impression That I Get

We took the trek to Indianapolis once again to our daughter’s house for Thanksgiving. She wanted to host the gathering since it was her first one there. So, my wife and mom brought some dishes and we spent time enjoying each other’s company, some incredible food and tons of laughter. My family has never been very sedentary. If there’s a chance to get out and enjoy some activity, then we’re going to do it.

We piled into a car on Friday and drove out to Newfields and the Indianapolis Museum of Art to see the newest immersive “Monet & Friends” exhibit. We had seen the VanGogh experience a few years ago and were excited to see what this would entail. You enter a room and find yourself surrounded by flowing images of artwork covering the various walls and the floor !! There is a soundtrack that compliments the show and pulls you deeper into the artwork. It’s not possible to see everything that happens. You don’t really need to. It’s better to get lost and flow with the colors, images and sounds.

Interspersed with the famous works of the French Impressionists were descriptive slides to give you context about the time, society and culture these artists experienced. One of the slides which caught my attention described how radical this group was because they broke for the traditional art world. Most art, up to that point in time, had been more portrait driven. Artists depicted historical and religious figures and scenes. The paintings looked more like what we would consider pictures taken by a camera or phone. They’re beautiful but they lacked much variety. The impressionists chose to paint everyday life and “common” people.

Monet’s Water Lilies at the LUME Indianapolis

They looked at the world around them and captured the “impression” of the situation they personally observed. They also deviated from portraiture and created a new form of art using a full palette of colors and various levels of light. They didn’t consider the life moving around them as mundane. Everyday life had a purpose, and the artists wanted to make sure their canvas kept each moment in time perfectly frozen. The result of their efforts has made their work considered classic now.

As I stood enraptured in the ever-changing visuals, I wondered how many scenes have flown by me and I never even recognize they occurred. They didn’t warrant enough of my attention to warrant an impression. However, maybe they should have because I’m sure those scenes involved people. People who wanted to be seen, noticed, or acknowledged, and I was focused elsewhere. It doesn’t mean I was trying to be dismissive or ignore them, it’s just how we experience life.

I didn’t like that feeling whatsoever. If this small group of artists could stop in the midst of the bustle of Parisian life in order to put their brushes to canvas, why couldn’t I do the same? What’s keeping me from taking in the impressions happening all around and savoring them? Nothing. I can enjoy every situation if I just choose to.

I think this is a better approach to follow at home, at work, and with those whose paths we cross. Taking the time to enjoy the humans and the situations we find ourselves in gives life so much more fullness and depth. This coming week slow down, look around you and see what impressions are happening. Jump into them and put them on a “canvas” of memories. See how much each day becomes brighter and more purposeful !!

(To give you some initial inspiration here’s a great tune from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones !!)

Three Trips (at least)

I know I’ve been writing about the adventures of our daughter becoming a homeowner. It’s because I’ve always been someone who experiences and sees stories come from more of everyday life than life-altering shifts. Those monumental occurrences happen so rarely compared to the beauty of what we encounter daily.

A few weekends ago, my wife and I traveled to Indianapolis for the next project on the list. Melanie purchased her “new” home when it was only 105 years old. Seriously. This fabulous abode was built in 1917. As you can imagine, with age you find new opportunities to bring things into the modern day. This weekend we were tackling her bathroom. The walls and floor needed attention. I didn’t dare try my hand at plumbing because . . . I know better.

My wife was putting her incredible organizational prowess into action while Melanie and I focused on the bathroom. We thought our projects would be “simple” and that we’d knock them out with ease. As you all know, home improvement projects are never, ever easy !! Within moments we were making a trip to the hardware store for something we didn’t anticipate we’d need.

Let me digress for just a bit . . .

My father LOVED hardware stores. That’s not an exaggeration. They were his favorite places on the planet to visit. He was content roaming up and down the aisles whether he needed something or not. Every time he visited me, he was sure to lean over during the weekend visit and gently say, “Don’t you think we need something at the hardware store?” I’d agree and we’d jump in the car to visit either the local mom-and-pop store or one of the big box behemoths. I relished those walks through the hardware store with my dad. They were some of my favorite times with him.

Now back to the present . . .

My dad’s love for all things hardware had now been ingrained in me, and I’ve been doing my best to pass this on to my kids. It just so happens that there’s a local hardware store within a mile of Melanie’s house. It’s nondescript and when you see the storefront you’re not quite sure it’s even open. I told her that we just HAD to visit the store because I was sure it would have anything we needed. She stayed back with mom and I went out to explore.

As I entered Suding Hardware, my jaw hit the floor. One of the staff greeted me with “Hey, brother. How can I help you?” I knew I was in the right place. I told him we needed something to remove/kill mold, some finishing nails for paneling, and more of “these” as I held up a fastener. He walked me through the store which was an endless conglomeration of stuff from floor to ceiling. Of course, he knew what “these” meant as he found the bin for the fastener I needed.

When I returned to the house, I made sure my daughter knew about this gem so she had a local store to visit in addition to the big box stores which got plenty of our business as well. The rule of thumb is that you’ll visit the hardware store at least three times to complete any project. This came to fruition this weekend as we visited Suding’s and Lowe’s five times. We needed to make these trips because each time we found a new component to make sure our project was a success. The trips were worthwhile and our “simple” project was finished in a mere 22 hours over two days.

I’m not complaining. This was the effort needed. The many hardware trips reminded me of work and how we choose to face obstacles sure to occur. We can either throw up our hands in exasperation bemoaning why we need to make ANOTHER trip to get more supplies, or we can embrace the chance to be better equipped. If we chose to look at adding additional trips to the business “store,” we’d understand and value that more people bring in new thoughts, perspectives, and energy.

Each project will require different involvement and unique skills. We can’t keep thinking everything we need only resides in the few people who are assigned to the tasks at hand. There’s bound to be someone who wants to greet you warmly and lead you to the part you needed that was missing.

This week make three trips (at least) to those outside your project circle and do some shopping. I’m sure you’ll find the perfect items to bring your projects to life.

The Avoidance Box

I have a fantastic men’s group !! We meet weekly and I’m sure to get many takeaways from our time together. This week, my dear friend Larry gave me a true nugget.

We were talking about behavior and things that make us uncomfortable when he said, “Oh when that happens I put it in the avoidance box.” I stopped all of the other conversations going on around the table. “What? What is an avoidance box?” I asked.

“You know. It’s the place you use when you’d rather avoid something instead of facing it. We all have one,” he replied.

I told him, “I’m keeping that one !!” – and here we are. His phrase made me pause and reflect wondering if I had, or used, an avoidance box. The more I thought about it, I do. I’m also positive that this storage place is used by everyone around me. Please note, I don’t believe this is a “right or wrong” situation. We all avoid things. We may avoid interactions, situations, or circumstances for safety. We assess the potential risks and then decide whether to jump in or let it pass.

There are also people we avoid. This avoidance is more challenging for me to accept because I see every person as someone to learn from. We know people avoid each other because we see it at work, in families, and in social interactions. There are myriad reasons why we justify steering clear of others. It’s a shame but it’s also a reality.

Many people go through the majority of their day practicing tactical avoidance. They limit interactions with others because there’s an innate assumption that each conversation will involve something negative. It may mean more work. It may be the feeling that they won’t truly listen or consider your idea/feedback. You may have also had a time in the past when an interaction didn’t go well with that person so you assume it will happen again.

Add to all of these voices of doubt the unpredictability of the emotions of the people involved. You may be having a great day when someone else isn’t. Or, the opposite may be true. We keep trying to fool ourselves that emotions aren’t present when we talk to others because we’re focusing on the task in front of us. Emotions lead. Always. We can’t turn them off.

So, is an avoidance box a great tool? It depends.

There may be a time for you to step aside and address something in the future. It may help emotions balance or reduce potential risk. There’s value in buying time. If this is the case, the avoidance box should be used on rare occasions instead of it being a primary practice.

There is far more value in having encounters and interactions with people than avoiding them. I’d venture to say that 90% of those occurrences are productive and positive. The negative voices are rarely right. Sure, there’s that 10% of people who will be difficult regardless of the situation. That’s a small percentage we should keep in its place and step into that 90% which should go well.

This week look into the closet and see how full your avoidance box is. See if it needs to be emptied a bit and pull out those items you should tackle. You don’t have to empty it completely, but see what you can do to clear it out a bit. You’ll be glad you did !!

Clear the Brush !!

The past few weekends have been very full and exciting. We helped our daughter move from an apartment to her first house. We’re so proud of her because she was able to find and purchase the home on her own. Anytime you move from place to place, there is work to be done because you want to make it your own.

The weekend before the big move, I was “assigned” the task of getting the yard to look the way she wanted. When I surveyed all that was in front of me, I knew there would be more removal than adding to her landscape. The family who lived in the home before seemed to do just as much as they needed to so that things looked okay, but I wouldn’t say things were in shape. This was especially true with the backyard and the sides of the property adjacent to the alleys that run alongside and behind our daughter’s house.

One of Melanie’s dear friends, Paige, was eager to join me in tackling the jungle we saw. We grabbed our gloves and our tools and went after it !! There was a lot of grunting, pulling, cutting and trimming as we removed some troublesome honeysuckle and got other shrubs into shape just around the home’s perimeter. This set of tasks seemed manageable and we were hopeful the rest of our work would be as easy. It wasn’t.

As we moved further back on the property, we gasped and paused at what we saw. It looked like the tall shrubs skirting the fenceline were hidden because an overgrowth of vines had intertwined themselves. You couldn’t distinguish what was a vine and what was a shrub. We jumped in with full force to free the shrubbery and we found this amazing decorative wall hiding below the mass of greenery. That was quite a surprise and it added to the decor of the property.

(Quick aside – We didn’t really take into account what this maze of vines was as a plant. Let’s just say we should have paused before attacking it . . .)

Slowly the fenceline took shape and now it was safe for cars to travel down the alleys and not have their vehicle scraped with branches. Also, we unearthed buried random trash and could also get to the electrical lines that led to the house. We had one last task of trimming back a gigantic maple tree so that the roof of Melanie’s garage as well as the garage of her neighbor no longer had branches looming over them.

After all we had removed, we were spent. It was a good feeling of exhaustion though. Clearing the brush revealed so many beautiful facets of the house which may not have been seen for some time.

This is similar to our workplaces and our cultures. We let things become overgrown and consumed with “brush” because tending to everything and everyone takes time. We tend to stay in our place and do our work expecting someone else will address the endless clutter filling our environment. Soon the beautiful attributes of all we have to offer disappear and become forgotten.

As HR pros, we should be mindful of the entire work landscape. It’s a great opportunity to make sure that it remains fresh, attractive and cleared. The effort to remove the brush initially will be challenging. You’re sure to encounter pesky vines and unknown obstacles. The vines may even be a bit poisonous (as ours turned out to be), but even that is needed to be removed.

This week look around your workplace to see what has become overgrown. Then, get all your gear on and jump in !! Clearing the brush is needed so that all that is meant to grow and thrive can happen. After you put in the work, you’ll enjoy the culture and vibe you’ve uncovered.

Howdy !!

This past weekend my wife and I were fortunate to experience a milestone with our daughter as we helped get her new home in order. She bought her first home on her own in Indianapolis. We joined her to get things cleaned and just the way she wanted it because she wasn’t planning to move in permanently until next weekend.

Whenever you move into a new location, you wonder how the people who lived there prior to you lived. It’s a sure thing that things won’t match. Overall, the house is in good shape for being 105 years old !! Our main efforts were cleaning the inside of the house and clearing the property of landscaping that was fiercely overgrown. My wife and daughter started in on Friday for several hours before I was able to make it on Saturday.

It doesn’t take long for your body to remind you that you are no longer in your 20s !! Debbie and I kept up with the “kids” most of the time, but we were exhausted at the end of our day. I think I’ve discovered new joints in my body that I didn’t know existed years ago. When your knuckles ache just to bend your fingers, you know you’ve tapped into every part of your body. Putting some sweat equity into our daughter’s new adventure was well worth the pain.

When we hit our wall, we told Melanie we needed to stop and go eat. The word “hangry” was uttered often. We went back to her apartment, cleaned up, and headed to a nearby restaurant. The food and environment were spectacular. We felt somewhat renewed by getting something to eat. There was a tiny spark of energy that called for a well-deserved dessert. Our family loves ice cream. Probably too much to be honest.

Melanie suggested we stop by the market near her apartment where we could grab a pint or two and go back to collapse. Suddenly, she remember that a brand new ice cream shop had opened adjacent to the market. That sounded wonderful, so we decided to try it. Debbie stayed in the car and asked us to bring some back. Her day of extensive movement was done. We absolutely understood.

So, Mel and I walked down to the shop and as we opened the door, we heard an exuberant and warm greeting.

“HOWDY !!”

You couldn’t help but smile because an overt greeting of that sort is very uncommon these days. The greetings continued as we made our way to the display of beautiful vats of ice cream. Homemade ice cream !! We asked about the flavors and which ones were the worker’s favorites. The man who greeted us so gregariously told us every flavor was his favorite. We knew he meant it because of the joy that covered his face.

The same server looked at my daughter and said, “I love your shirt !!” It was a nondescript t-shirt, but she loved that he was so kind and was engaging in a conversation. We took our time getting our cups of ice cream, made sure to pay and take in the entire experience. As we were heading out the door, all four workers wished us a good night and asked us to come back again soon. We promised we would and headed on our way.

The reason this encounter was so remarkable was that Howdy Homemade Ice Cream is unique in how they hire its talent. They primarily hire team members who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. Two of the four people working were special needs folks. It was glorious !! The joy, engagement, and attention we experienced were second to none. The employees were naturally intentional and loved serving us. They made sure they performed exceptionally to show their talent and make sure we benefitted from their good work.

To see an employer make such an indelible impact through its mission and hiring efforts is encouraging. To realize that all people have abilities should be foundational for every employer. They just happen to exhibit themselves differently in each person.

There is joy in this world and in the workplace !! We just need to be willing to see it, acknowledge it, and see how we too can bring joy in what we do. Maybe it starts with a simple greeting . . .

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.