Where Are You From ??

I am fortunate to travel to HR events all over the place. When I do that, I also get to do my favorite thing – meet people !! Meeting people has always come naturally to me. I feel comfortable meeting anyone at any time in any place. I know this is rare and I don’t expect others to be nearly as comfortable with this as I am.

When I meet someone though, I try a different approach than most. The first thing I make sure to do, every time, is to slow people down from the inevitable traditional greeting launch. I pause and ask their name – even though they’re most likely wearing a name tag. Then, I make sure to share my name again to keep a steady pace.

Here’s where things veer in a different direction . . .

Most people then open a conversation with, “So, tell me what you do.” or “So, where do you work? I never do this even if the other person I’m meeting starts this way. Now, this took an incredible amount of discipline to break the habit because I have been using this opening barrage just like everyone else.

I do this instead, “Hi, Mary, where are you from?”

People freeze. They weren’t expecting a question that fell outside the normal pattern of human interaction. Once they get their bearings, you see something amazing happen. Their shoulders drop and a smile starts spreading across their face. “Oh, I’m from . . .” and then they warmly share this tidbit about themselves.

The entire tone and tenor of this interaction becomes welcoming, warm, and genuine. People don’t posture or try to justify their role in their organization or the brand they work for. It puts people at ease.

Recently, when I was speaking at the Oklahoma SHRM State Conference, I tried my elusive tactic on people and many replied, “I’m from the City.” Not being from Oklahoma I had no idea where that was. I’d kid, “Well, I’m from a city too.” Then they’d blush and stammer to say, “The City is what we call Oklahoma City.” I learned something new and it was fun to do so.

You see, when we ask people to recite their occupation and company, we truly don’t care. We won’t remember it and it’s a clumsy way to get to know someone. When people talk about where they live, they’re open to sharing so much more about themselves willingly.

One caution in the “where are you from” approach. Don’t downplay your location. If you’re from a smaller town or village, share the name of it and where it is proudly. You may need to explain it’s located near a larger, or more well-known city, but that’s okay. When you say, “Oh, you don’t know where this is . . . , ” – you diminish yourself and the conversation.

I was just in a conversation where a friend said, “Yeah, I get to serve in churches in Jumbo and Roundhead.” I knew exactly where these minuscule burgs were in Ohio. He didn’t have to explain or give me more details. I already had the picture that these were small towns and I loved that he was willing to meet people where they lived.

Next week the SHRM Annual Conference is going to happen in Las Vegas, Nevada. The convention center will be teeming with literally thousands of people and it can quickly become overwhelming. I recommend you relax and use this new tool in your “get to meet you” quiver. Trust me, you’ll start enjoying networking far more than you have in the past.

So, when our paths cross, and they will, ask me where I’m from and I’ll do the same !!

Intersections

As much as we’d like our lives to play out in a straight line, they just don’t. We’d love to live in such a manner that we have only positive experiences and little to no conflict. It sounds perfect, but we know this isn’t the case. We can go through ups, downs and quick moves sideways within the same hour !!

Since this is our reality, we have a choice to try to maneuver through this erratic pattern alone or with others to come alongside us. Honestly, too many people are trying their best to just slog through whatever is facing them primarily on their own. I don’t think they’re trying to be defiant or elusive. I just think it’s just the messaging we believe or hear from others. We don’t want to put someone out because of what we’re facing. We’re sure we’d be a burden and it’s not that big of a deal really.

I don’t buy it. We weren’t created to go through life alone. We’re wired to be connected and available for those that pass through our lives. We all have intersections we go through over time. They may be life events like school graduations, marriages, getting a job or death. Those types of intersections get the most attention, but they are few and far between over the course of our lifetime. There are a multitude of other times when our paths cross with other people.

Photo by Kaique Rocha from Pexels

At the crack of dawn this past Friday, I was buying some donut holes at our local Meijer to take to my men’s group when I encountered Jane at the self-checkout. I was the only patron in the store and her eyes lit up when I walked up to scan my items. She asked if I was ready for the Spring snowstorm which was predicted for Saturday morning. I said I was, and then she told me it would be “nothing” compared to what she was used to.

One thing to note – Jane is most likely in her mid to late 70’s. She is a treat and she seems to be working at Meijer 24/7. Back to the story . . .

She went on to tell me about growing up on a 500-acre farm that had livestock and crops. She shared details about monumental snowfall, endless chores, hard work, and how she loved every moment. I also learned about the family restaurant her parents started after her father sold the farm so her mother could continue to work. She was tickled that it was one of the few restaurants on the way from Cleveland to Pittsburgh so everyone who passed by would inevitably stop in to try her mom’s famous cooking.

I was just checking out to buy some donut holes.

However, Jane wanted to connect and talk. She felt the need to share her life and be a welcoming start to my day. I had a feeling that she’d have these impromptu conversations with anyone who was willing to stop and give her a few minutes. I met her at an intersection. Those few minutes were rich, meaningful and worthwhile. It was a great way to start the day !!

Yesterday, as I was reading through Twitter, I saw a tweet from an HR peer who shared about his current job search. He was being vulnerable and shared his frustration. He was questioning whether he should stay in HR or not. This caught my attention because someone tagged me and a handful of other practitioners as examples of people who believe in HR. They noted that we do our best to encourage, elevate and move the field forward.

I didn’t take this as a pat on the back. I saw it as another intersection. I sent a direct message to the young man working to land his next great HR role and offered to help him in any way I can. We don’t live in the same city and I don’t yet know what he is/isn’t looking for or what his journey has been. However, I know that I can do something with my network to try and open a door for him. We’re talking on Tuesday and I can’t wait to get to know him more and see where it leads.

I don’t believe these encounters are random or coincidental. I look for people intentionally all the time. I make myself available in the event an intersection presents itself. Also, I’m open and looking for others when I’m crossing intersections in my life. I welcome those who take the time to stop and listen.

This week make sure you’re looking for intersections with those who cross your path. Or, if you need someone to meet you at your intersection, be open to whoever shows up. The key to either way is to not just walk past. Stop and see what happens !!

Fado’s

As of this year, I’ve been an HR volunteer leader for 20 years. It’s hard to believe that time has flown by so quickly !! I remember when I first got involved, I went to a Volunteer Leaders Summit in Crystal City, Virginia. I was an officer on my local SHRM chapter’s board. It was great to go to the conference to learn and be around other volunteer leaders. We went to an Irish pub down the street from the hotel where we were staying and we had a blast !!

Little did I know that it planted the seed for a gathering place for years to come.

The first time we went out though, we only hung out with the people from our chapter in Cincinnati. We didn’t interact with anyone else. It didn’t strike me as odd at the time, but as the years kept passing, it started to really eat at me. You have to keep in mind that this was long before social media. It made sense to hang out with folks you knew, but I wondered why we didn’t try to meet other HR peers because we were literally surrounded by them.

At subsequent Volunteer Leader Summits and at HR conferences in general, people continued to congregate based on geography. This was true during the event itself in sessions or when people gathered for lunches/dinner. People kept within the boundaries of their cities or states. It didn’t make sense to me and I wanted to see something change.

When I was the State Director of Ohio SHRM, we met for the Summit at the Gaylord Hotel in Maryland. I decided it was time to break the geographical model. So, I found another Irish pub and took a group of Ohioans along with me. While we were at the pub, I left my friends to introduce myself to everyone else in the pub and asked them to join us. I know – radical. However, I couldn’t recall it ever being done. Soon our group was full of people from Montana, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, California, Nebraska, North Dakota, Arizona, New Mexico and more !! We realized that we needed to be together as people and HR pros. It was a natural and easy connection to make.

After a few years, our conference location moved to downtown Washington, D.C. When we were “done” for the day with sessions, it was time to venture out once again and I found the best haunt EVER for us to assemble in the middle of the Chinatown district – Fado’s Irish Pub & Restaurant.

Now, since we broke the invisible geographical barrier a few years earlier, people were more interactive during the conference and were asking where and when we were going to meet. I asked everyone to meet me at Fado’s because it had a cool vibe, great food, adult beverages and space for us to all meet. The first night we had about 25 folks come out. Each night the number grew and more people ventured out to meet new friends as well as hang out with those they knew. We shared so many laughs, stories and experiences. We truly were becoming an HR community !!

Then, as fate would have it, the SHRM Annual conference was in Washington, D.C. in 2016. This meant there would be a larger group of HR pros that we could coax to Fado’s. And, we did. Every. Night. If there were social events planned, we’d go to Fado’s afterward. It became a go-to gathering place for us. One night I will always cherish was when I first joined the SHRM Board of Directors and everyone was eager to get me to come out to the pub. I was planning on it, but didn’t know why there was such a sense of “urgency.” It didn’t seem like any other night. I was mistaken.

As I showed my ID (which was required regardless of your age), I looked up and tears filled my eyes as everyone in the pub was wearing tie-dye to celebrate my new role. Some of the pub staff were also wearing the shirts. It was spectacular because it showed the power of what coming together as people means.

Since that night, we’ve been back to Fado’s many more times including last year in November. Little did I know that this would be the last time I’d get to enjoy the darkened wood, sticky floors and smell of Irish ale. Fado’s announced that it was permanently closing its doors as of April 2020. This wasn’t because of the current pandemic, it was due to their lease and relationship with their landlord. When they made the announcement on Facebook, there was an outpouring of stories, photos, memories and thank you’s.

I would like to add this one more “Thank You” to all that’s been shared to date. I can tell you that I’ve developed, and built on, friendships I cherish and am reassured will last for my lifetime. The familiar feel and welcoming spirit of Fado’s gave us the perfect environment to foster healthy relationships across boundaries.

I know that people are getting together more often now even if it’s virtually. My hope is that the efforts we make to come together intenionally only builds and doesn’t wane when we get back to our old patterns of life and work. I know that I will continue to do my best to bring folks together and hopefully we’ll find a place as great as Fado’s has been to do so.

We all need a Fado’s in our life !! So, I lift a pint and offer Sláinte !!

Hands Across the Water !!

I’m not sure if you noticed, but I took a few weeks off from blogging. That’s because my wife and I went to England for a two week vacation to have an early celebration of our 30th wedding anniversary !! (Before I go any further, you need to know that my wife, Debbie, means the world to me.) Every aspect of our trip was fantastic. Every. One. One factor that made this possible was that I left my laptop back home and disconnected from work, social media and from constantly staring at one screen or another. I’ll be honest, I didn’t miss it that much.

Having more time to focus on everything going on around us allowed us to be sponges. We enjoyed long walks around West Hampstead where we were renting a flat. We also visited various towns and historical sites from Bath to Cambridge to Notting Hill to York and all over London. I could write for weeks and weeks if I tried to share all of our adventures.

One of the many bucket list items I experienced was visiting the Abbey Road Studios where The Beatles recorded their music. Paul McCartney recorded a song after The Beatles had broken up with his new band The Wings called Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey. It’s a very Beatlesque tune which I really enjoy. In the chorus, there is a phrase “Hands across the water (water), Hands across the sky (sky).” The reason I share this lyric is that the BEST thing that happened during our trip was meeting fellow HR peers. Not kidding. It was the biggest highlight.

For those that know me, I love meeting people !! The environment doesn’t really matter. Throughout our trip, I met people on the Tube, at restaurants and pubs as well as at the various historical sites we visited. People intrigue me. Getting to interact and know them gives me a perspective that is more real than any tour you could purchase. Debbie and I were fortunate when two HR friends who I had only “known” from Twitter met us and started our vacation by taking us all over. We connected immediately and we started developing our friendships in person.

This culminated later our first week when we had a Tweetup. A Tweetup is an excuse to get together with your peers, have a drink or a bite to eat and network. We met at Doggett’s Coat and Badge Pub on the banks of the Thames overlooking St. Paul’s Cathedral. The view was spectacular and the weather was perfect. That alone would have been enough, but then folks started arriving. In the end, there were 40 people who came. It was astonishing and humbling because many of the people traveled an incredible way to be there. Some took trains from hours away just to meet.

We had hours of fun meeting each other for the first time, learning about each other’s lives and laughing. Tons and tons of laughing !! We didn’t feel like strangers in the least. After some time, we wanted to make sure to capture the moment, so we asked our server to take a picture. I will cherish this forever !!

Several people were “amazed” that when we met in person that we were the “same” people as we are online. I never suspected that we would be any different. It was instantly comfortable to hang out with every person. We found that we had tons in common and it was if we had known each other for years. On the following Saturday another friend traveled 3 1/2 hours by train to come meet, and we met more HR friends when we traveled to York. I hope that all of the people we met remain lifelong friends. I know that will take work and effort, but it will be more than worth it.

The experience Debbie and I had is something that should be the norm and not the exception. I feel that whenever you get the chance to meet and connect with HR friends in person, you should take advantage of that. We are a global community, and we’re better the more we step out and connect.

We all have to be willing to stretch our hands across the water !!

Phone A Friend !!

Do you remember the television game show hosted by Regis Philbin Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? When it first aired my wife and I had two very young kids and we were glued to the set for every episode !! I have always been a trivia buff so this fed into me trying to guess the answers of the questions without any clues. Inevitably during the questions, contestants would get stumped either because they didn’t know the answer, or the stress of being taped while millions of people watched may them stumble.

The show had some “outs” for the contestants where they could either “ask the audience” or “phone a friend.” Those two options didn’t always help, but they were great to get an outsider’s perspective and insight as well as reassure your hunch.

I love phones. Always have. You see I’m old enough that I predate the computers we all carry in our pockets. In fact, I go back to a time where you only had to dial a “4” and the last four numbers of a phone number in my home town – on a rotary phone !! The call went through every time. I also fondly recall that you could talk to a friend (or significant other) on a phone FOR HOURS and it never got old.

Today though, even though we communicate and check in constantly through endless social media platforms, emails, blogs, pictures and texts, we can still be isolated. Don’t get me wrong, I think you can effectively communicate through all variations and forums. I’m actively involved in many myself on a daily basis. In the end though, nothing ever beats a phone call. Nothing.

What we’ve forgotten is that people long for direct, human contact and interaction. We want to hear people’s voices and see their faces. If this is electronic, so be it. The technology today is so incredible that you can sit in front of a screen and see a friend anywhere on the planet !! In person communication tops even phone calls because you can sense the emotion and context of another person face to face.

I’m a caller. A phone caller. I try to call people every day.

I have a long commute where I’m on the road driving at least 45 minutes each way. My job also takes me into the field to visit the great people in our company who work in our various locations. This means more screen (windshield) time. I love filling that time calling friends, peers and compatriots from all over regardless of time zone or time of day. I get geeked to hear their voice and all that is happening in their lives.

A dear friend of mine framed this approach very aptly this week, and I wanted to share it with you. You see . . .

“In your life, you are either spending time or investing time.”

I take time to talk to others because it has immeasurable value to me. I choose to invest my time in others. I truly feel nudges to give people calls because they’re on my heart or mind. If I don’t get them, I leave an encouraging message so they know that they matter and that someone is thinking about them. It doesn’t bother me if you think this is pie eyed optimism because it is !!

Just today as I was returning from a workout at the gym, I felt a nudge to call one of my best friends. When he answered, he started laughing before I even said, “Hello.” I asked him what was so funny and he said, “Of course you’d call right now. I have been so mad about things going on in and around my life and your goofy, smiling face pops up.” Then we chatted for 30 minutes. We didn’t solve one thing. But each moment was worth it.

I didn’t mention the two chats I had with folks thinking about going into HR, the person who wanted to chat about a potential job change and asked me to help her network, or the endless conversations I had at work. Every one of them was marvelous even though many were full of challenges.

This week, carve out some time to phone a friend. Just check in. Let them know that they’re not alone. It’s worth your time !!

Convenience or Community ??

This past weekend I ventured out once again to finish my Christmas shopping. The weather was absolutely atrocious because of an endless, soaking rain. I would not be deterred because this was my one completely free day. I didn’t mind the rain, the snail like traffic, or the myriad of people who must have had the same idea I did.

One stop along my day long trek was at a brand name store that was an anchor location at a shopping mall. I was able to find what I was looking for there, and I wanted to stay dry for a bit longer so I decided to walk through the old mall. I was floored by the vast emptiness of the once robust gathering place. It was honestly a bit unnerving. Over 3/4 of the store fronts were blacked out and their logos were nothing but faded outlines that could barely be made out.

Now, I understand that business evolves. People do less and less shopping out in public. Many of us sit in our living room on our couch and place orders online. I’m not against this at all because it is easier to press a button and have something placed outside your front door. What I miss though is seeing people. Seriously. I love the hustle and bustle of people milling among each other. I don’t mind waiting in lines and listening to what people are discussing. I get energized by it !!

You see the empty shopping mall reflects one thing that is occurring that I’m not geeked about. More and more people are choosing convenience over community. This is a pretty broad generalization, but there are countless examples of how we want to have things brought to us so we don’t “waste time.” There is nothing wrong with being efficient. But, in doing this we aren’t coming together in other ways. We’re becoming increasingly isolated intentionally. The major concern about this move towards isolation is that we accept it as the norm. There is little push back against being slowly lulled apart.

I understand that I am an off the chart extrovert, and that weighs into how I feel. However, I see convenience being touted as being so much more attractive in all facets of life. During the holiday season, it’s well known that people struggle. There are many reasons for this and all of them are valid. With that before us, the last thing we need is a move to more isolation.

How does this tie into what we do as HR professionals? I think it’s pretty obvious. Isolation, you see, is occurring in our workplaces as well. We spend more time with our tasks than we do in actual interactions with others. On top of this, most people want to have little time with others that isn’t “work only” because we’re wasting time. (This includes how most HR pros approach employees.)

Well, I for one, don’t want HR and the workplace to go the way of the shopping mall. It’s going to happen if we don’t pivot and change now. I mean it. The call for convenience is hoping that we move farther and farther apart. I understand that you may not feel comfortable connecting with tons and tons of people. Please don’t take this request to the extreme.

You have the opportunity to start/build your community by intentionally reaching out to ONE person. One !! This is true because it takes only one person to step out of isolation and into the midst of another’s life on purpose. I can’t tell you how much I am driven by this feeling to see this change in our profession and in our company cultures.

This week, reach out to one person. You may be the absolute break from the isolation they’re experiencing right at this moment. It’s time for all of us to make a difference in the lives of others. Let’s finish 2018 building our community so that 2019 and the future will evolve as others come together. Always remember . . . we are better together !!

You Never Know

I’m still recovering from SHRM18. There were so many memorable experiences that it’s hard to capture them all. I had the chance to see old friends, meet some folks who’ve I’ve only known through social media and also meet a ton of new people. If you haven’t gathered my focus yet, the SHRM Annual Conference, and any HR event for that matter, is about the people.

I was in a very unique position this year in that I spoke at two Mega Sessions during the conference. They’re called “mega” because the room you are in is usually vast. I mean it. Vast !! I scoped out the room for my first presentation the day before people arrived for the conference and it took my breath away. No one was even in the room yet. As the time arrived for me to speak, the room filled up. The entire room and there were folks outside the hall in an overflow section. I was geeked by the turnout and a bit anxious to be honest.

I don’t normally like to talk about when I present because I consider it an honor any time I get an opportunity to do it. There’s no greater thrill than to speak to my peers. That’s a fact.

After the first presentation, I was overwhelmed by the response. I couldn’t leave the room for many minutes. I was floored by the people who came up for a hug and some reassurance. There were many laughs and tears shared. I was surprised by how many people stated that they were considering leaving HR, but they were reinvigorated and said they’d stay in the field after I spoke. That is humbling beyond measure. You have no idea.

You never know how you’ll be received if you have the opportunity to speak at an event. I never take it for granted. I heard several people say they just were glad to hear something positive for a change about the work they did. It seems so simple, but it is unfortunately missing in our profession. Instead of lifting each other up, we spend more time criticizing and tearing down our circumstances and the people we work with. It still floors me that there are so many HR peers who spend so much time being discouraged.

The second day was even more overwhelming than the first. I spoke after the final keynote and it’s when many attendees head home. The next room was overflowing once again. It was hard to hold back tears just looking out over the crowd. Once I was finished, I had to do my best to get back to the SHRM Store to do the other surreal thing I get to do now – sign books. However, I needed to make sure to get back. As I was leaving, the most amazing encounter happened.

A young man asked to talk with me and he saw I was in a rush. He introduced himself as Usman from Pakistan and he just wanted a few moments of my time. I asked him to walk with me, and he was kind enough to oblige. He told me how exciting it was to hear about having HR be people-centric, and it’s something he wanted to see happen where he worked. He told me he was going to buy copies of my book for his entire staff. I was crushed by this. Others had done this (also amazing), but he was going to buy 38 copies and take them home to Pakistan from Chicago !!

He was kind enough to stand in line with others and I asked him to wait to be the last person because of so many purchases. He agreed and then he called a member of his team in Pakistan to get the names of his staff. She worked to get the names and asked for ten minutes to get him the names. It was 11:00pm at night where she was !! She sent a list and I sat with Usman and personalized each book.

Then . . .

We ran out of names and he had six copies remaining. He said that one was for him and the other five were for people that he was planning to hire in the future. They weren’t even on his team yet. He said that he wanted them to have the same positive message to work from as the people they would be joining.

You see, you never know . . .

This week make sure you encourage the people who come into your life at work, at home, at school or out in public. They long to be like the people I met. They want someone to believe in them and they want to belong. You can make that happen. You may be the one connection that makes a difference.

You never know !!

Just Ask !!

This past week I had a business owner from another town reach out to me for advice. That may not seem odd to you, but this isn’t that common for most folks. Let me give you a little background. We’ve met once or twice in passing at HR conferences. I think he’s a great businessperson with a heart to help others. We’ve never worked on anything directly, and he is not a vendor that I use.

Now, if you don’t know this, I’m a massive extrovert !! I thrive on human interaction from any front and in any circumstance. I don’t know if they make an “E” big enough on the Meyers-Briggs to describe how I enjoy interacting with others. So, when this business owner reached out, I felt it was normal. I was geeked to see what he needed and if I could help.

I responded to the e-mail he had sent me and then followed up with a phone call. He happened to be at a conference in New York, but said he’d give me a ring during a break. We connected later in the day and had a great conversation. I was able to hear what he was facing, give him some ideas and resources and ease his concern about the people situation he was addressing.

Please note a critical point here. It didn’t matter that this business owner reached out to me specifically. The key is – He was willing to ask for help !!

Again, we aren’t that familiar with each other. He needed someone to talk to, and he liked my approach on things from what I’ve written and what he’s heard from my presentations. That takes quite a leap of faith to reach out, and I admire him for taking a chance to do it.

I think it’s a brilliant example that we should use ourselves personally and professionally. Too often we feel that we must be fiercely independent in all we do. That is silly, selfish and naive. The myth of self-sufficiency in the workplace is what leads to isolation, separation and silos.

There are far too many people who want to ask questions, but they are hesitant to do so because they’re afraid you won’t take the time out of your day to answer them. It’s true. We would rather struggle and eek through our circumstances instead of asking a question because we’re afraid to impose on others. That breaks my heart.

You have the time to help others. This isn’t a “job duty” or part of your some insurmountable burden. I get discouraged when I see others who won’t take time to invest in other humans. You have to understand that you’re missing out when you can’t take the time to answer questions.

The 15 minutes I spent answering questions for this business owner will hopefully get him out of the funk he was in so he can move forward. THAT is worth my time. I know that we don’t work together. But, I want to see others succeed in what they do. It may sound Utopian, but I’m good with that.

I urge people to connect with other HR people intentionally on a daily basis. I do it through this blog and social media platforms. I continue to fight against the tide of people who want to do things just on their own. I do this because I have questions, and I relish the chance to reach out and ask someone for their insight and advice.

Always remember two things  . . .

We’re better as professionals and as humans when we’re intentionally connected, and

We’re better when we have the courage to break out of our independence and ask questions !!

This week take the steps to connect with others and remember to Just Ask !!

 

Doors

I’d bet a significant amount of money that if I looked in your company’s employee handbook I’d find a statement that says you have an “open door policy.” This infers that people have access to anyone at any level at any time. I’d love to say that this is really the common practice in organizations, but it often isn’t. That’s because being an open door is tough.

Doors can exist in one of two positions – open and closed. I know that sounds obvious, but doors play a bigger part of our careers than we recognize. You hope that people would be willing to communicate openly, but we hesitate, or think that people have some hidden agenda, when they meet with us. That may happen every once in awhile, but it isn’t the norm. The challenge is that negative experiences have such a huge impact on us that they override any positive ones that we have. We end up communicating less than we should or we give partial messages to folks hoping they can come to the conclusion we have in our heads.

I find this to be the case with HR peers as well. I understand that we work with people at all levels and that it can be challenging. However, shouldn’t we be the ones who set the standard and expectation of being accessible? If you ask people in your company who work in other departments, I think you’ll hear that we’re not as accessible as we could be.

So, how can we become open doors?

The easy answer is practice. The hard reality is that it takes courage, patience and a willingness to meet and listen to ALL people. This includes the people that you tend to interact with only when you have to. We all spend more time with people who we’re comfortable with. It’s human nature. Well, we need to fight human nature. Every employee deserves our time and attention. You may be the only person who’s giving an employee an audience. It could keep them engaged, and even better, understood so that they know they’re connected to your company.

Secondly, I think you need to open doors for others. Too often HR is categorized as the group that shuts people down. That may be needed in certain situations, but it’s an awful moniker to carry with you. We live in a time that is extremely self-focused. I’ve never seen this work long-term. You may see short-term success or visibility, but you can’t sustain it. Opening doors for others is something you can do for your entire life.

Recently, an HR friend of mine was in transition. She contacted to let me know. I wanted to make sure she was okay and let her know she had someone willing to make connections for her that she may not be able to do on her own. I also encouraged her to see if she could create her own role and position within a company. I told her to share that she could open doors for their organization by bringing her knowledge, skills and experience. I reached out to two dear HR friends who lived in her area of the country and asked them all to meet each other and network with each other on purpose.

At SHRM17, she was able to share all that had happened after our conversation. She is now a close connection with the two folks that I introduced to her, she found a few new HR roles to consider and convinced a company to allow her to create a role that they had not seen in the past. I was geeked to hear all the great things that occurred from a phone call and two e-mails. Three opened doors.

This week, take a look at two things: (1) Are you truly an open door at work for ALL of your employees and (2) Are there folks in your life that you could open doors for?

When others shut doors on you, and they will, don’t get discouraged. Just look for the next opportunity where you can step in, reach for the knob and pull open a door. It may change your life and the life of others. Trust me. Opening doors is worth it.

IRL !!

I’ve been active in social media for over a decade now, and I’ve done it intentionally. It’s amazing to me in a world where social media forums are methods to communicate literally around the world that there are those who still see it as a “waste of time.”

Do you honestly feel that connecting with other humans is wasting your time? That is hard for me to comprehend because I truly think that we’re wired to be connected to other people. I don’t think that we’re meant to be isolated or alone. I know that I have an abnormal perspective on meeting others. I get geeked with every single new person I encounter. I don’t mean to project my approach on others because I know it’s not how most others see meeting people.

The point I’d like for you to consider is that when you have a chance to meet others – that you understand it makes you both better for having that encounter.

This is something that is lost by HR pros because we buy into the myth that it’s so important to “get things done” more than any other factor of their job. The same is true with social media. We talk about the people who share their ideas through posts, blogs, and podcasts. Yes, the content is important, but in the end, we tie it to the people who create the content. What is funny about all of the people we follow and like is that the number one thing they enjoy – is meeting each other IRL (in real life). It’s true more that people are willing to admit. Behind the avatar, people want to get to know each other as people.

This past weekend a good friend from my past, Curtis Midkiff, made IRL come to life !! Southwest Airlines opened some new routes at the airport in Cincinnati and he coordinated so that two of my great friends, Dave Ryan and Joey Price, flew in from Chicago and Baltimore respectively to commemorate this event. We saw each other and greeted each other with hugs (because I’m a notorious hugger) and caught up on life and family. Our time in person mattered so much more than just following each other online.

In less than two weeks, I’ll be at #SHRM17 with Dave and Joey as well as other social media folks. I can’t wait to see them all !! There will also be 15,000 other folks at the conference and it will include known friends and friends to be made. I want you to know that if you’re attending the SHRM Annual Conference, I really want to meet you IRL !!

Remember this above everything else . . .

The people you meet in person will be the BEST resource you’ll ever get at a conference !!

So, take the time to with people in person and on purpose. You have the chance to do this every day in your role and when you attend events. Make the step forward to make friends and establish relationships. Trust me, when you do this, you will become a better HR pro and, even more importantly, a better human !!