Time for the 2nd Half !!

This week I get to celebrate a true milestone . . . I turn 50 years old on Friday, 1/3/14 !!

Now, I know that turning 50 is not that big of an accomplishment for most people.  However, in the Browne genealogy line, I’m a senior citizen.  My father passed away when he was 26 and my uncle passed away when he was in his late 30’s.  My other uncle made it into his 60’s.  But this isn’t a sad post – just some back story.

Most people look at 50 as something nearing more of an end of things they used to do with ease, or as being over the hill.  If you have been reading this blog, you know that I tend to look at things a bit differently.  You see, I’m looking forward to the second half of my life !!

Now, I’m not naive or arrogant in thinking that fifty more years are any sort of guarantee.  But, why look at things as “less than” when you don’t even know what is lying ahead of you?  I could never have foreseen what amazing things have happened during my first half century !!  (An example of this is that I’m writing a blog that others actually read from a laptop computer that is wirelessly connected to the internet as I sit typing in my living room.)

What's NextI honestly can’t wait to see what’s next !!  I don’t have to know the details, or have any absolute assurances in the least.  In fact, not knowing makes it a bit more exciting because I’ll get to experience whatever’s next as it happens.

As we enter another year, I find myself even more encouraged and passionate about life than I have been in the past !!  I’m sure there are literally thousands of people who I will get to meet, know and share situations with in the second half.  I’ve already been fortunate enough to experience this, and value it more than you know.

How about you?  Are you looking forward to what’s coming?  Or, do you have doubts, concerns and fears?  I know there will be obstacles, challenges, failures and other big unknowns that will come my way in the years to come.  But, that doesn’t concern me.  It intrigues me !!

I hope that as a New Year unfolds for each of us, that you choose to be wildly passionate, fiercely intentional and abundantly optimistic !!  It’s really a fascinating way to live each day, and I think it’s how we’ve been naturally wired if we allow it to happen.

Now I need to get ready.  The second half is about to start !!

It Was 20 Years Ago Today !!

I’m very excited about Christmas coming this week !!  It is always an amazing time for faith, family, friends . . . and gifts.  This isn’t a post about the materialism of the season.  It’s about true gifts !!

You see, 20 years ago on Christmas day, my daughter was born.  I wrote about the miracle of her birth a few years ago.  It’s hard to believe that two full decades have passed.  Now, as a young woman, she continues to grow, flourish and amaze me.  She truly has been a gift to me and our family.

I consider myself very fortunate to be a father and enjoy every moment that I have with my daughter and son.  At the holidays, I think it’s important to reflect and be thankful for the important things in our lives.  My children DEFINITELY fall into this category.  I know that not all parent/child relationships are healthy, and that is unfortunate.  I wish that both parents and children would see the value in having each other in their lives !!

Gift GivingYou see, to me the best gift a person can give to others at Christmas, or any other time, is themselves.  That may sound idealistic in today’s cynical world, but I believe it to be true.

People are gifts !!  The opportunity we have is to look at each other that way, and also treat each other that way.  At Christmastime, we anticipate gifts and can’t wait to see what is hidden beneath the thin, colorful wrapping.  There is a tangible rush just to get beyond the wrapping to see what’s really inside.  I think that people are the same.  Just below the surface of safe introductions, small talk and demographic information, lies an untapped gift waiting to be taken in and enjoyed !!

I know that viewing people in this way may put you in the minority, but what a great group to be in.  It’s challenging and others will want you to walk away from this perspective, but don’t cave in.  Why not make this the norm versus the exception?

Here’s how you can get started . . .

During this holiday season, write someone in your life a note, a card, or even give them a call.  Let them know how much they mean in your life.  It may seem to come out of the blue, but it matters.  Be intentional about this and let folks know that they are the best gifts in your life !!

My life is only better because my daughter came into it twenty years ago on Christmas Day.  And, for the many friends and family members who read this blog, you are gifts to me as well.  The people in my life enhance it and that is something I treasure !!

I wish you all the best Christmas and holiday season you’ve ever had !!  May you be surrounded by “gifts” of those that love and cherish you for being in their lives, and may you be a gift to others !!

Be Disruptive !!

This past week I hope you felt a shift in the time warp continuum in the HR universe !!  Over 200 people gathered at the incredible Rhinegeist Brewery for the beginning of a new movement – DisruptHR !!  I was fortunate to work with Chris Ostoich, from BlackbookHR, and Jennifer McClure, from Unbridled Talent, in making this groundbreaking event come to life.

The employees from BlackbookHR and the sponsors we had made the event literally seamless and “set the stage” for what erupted.  13 speakers from a variety of backgrounds and companies took the mic to give their presentation in a way that was truly new to the normally conservative Cincinnati.

Disrupt HR logoTo be a presenter, you were given five minutes and 20 slides which automatically transitioned every 15 seconds.  Even though I’ve given many presentations, I never had to compress everything into that tight of a time frame.

The rules were cool because the audience was encouraged to be supportive of the brave souls who stood in between the two gigantic screens that seemed to be racing as fast as they could !!  The presentations ROCKED !!  The styles ranged from a more traditional feel to complete presentations with pictures only and no words.  People were much more relaxed and felt at ease after Chris became the first martyr speaker to take the stage.

Now, I know that Ignite talks, TED talks and Unconferences may be the “norm” in other cities around the globe, but DisruptHR was truly a pioneering effort !!  It’s not often that you can be on the ground floor of a new movement and direction for HR.

There were some key observations that came from the night:

  • There are MANY more voices in HR that we need to pay attention to and get to know.  It was exciting to meet new folks and hear their perspectives.  I think we get too narrow too quickly to follow certain people.  This isn’t being critical – it’s a call to open our horizons and make sure we continue to take new voices in.
  • There are TONS of HR people who aren’t connected to the greater HR community !!  There were so many people who came to DisruptHR that aren’t normally at other HR events.  What a great opportunity !!  This forum drew a new group out to connect and get engaged.  So cool to get a chance to meet more HR people !!  Seriously.  I am geeked whenever I can meet new HR people !!
  • People are wanting to hear new messages in a new way !! We can’t continue to think massive conferences that take days away from the office as well as immense amounts of training/traveling dollars are the way to reach people.  One night, in a brewery  . . . for FREE and people flocked to be a part of it.  We need to change our models if we truly want to reach HR people where THEY are vs. where we expect them to be.

The coolest thing about DisruptHR wasn’t its initial success.  It was the fact that it’s only beginning !!  This was just the inaugural event.  Now it’s going to grow to other cities and to other venues.  So, be on the lookout !!

Get ready to attend, or even better, get ready to present !!  In the end, I hope ALL of you are disruptive from now on in HR !!

Here’s a little taste to get you hooked !!

DisruptHR – Cincinnati 12/4/2013 from BlackbookHR on Vimeo.

Keep Your Head Up !!

This past week I went to the SHRM Leadership Conference in Washington, DC.  It’s one of my favorite events because the SHRM local Chapter and State volunteer leaders come together to network, learn and share great ideas on how to get HR pros connected, engaged and involved.

The past few years I’ve started the week by advocating in front of the Senate and the House of Representatives on legislative issues that affect business, employees and HR.  I broke away from our larger Ohio group to support one of our other Ohio SHRM volunteers because she had never advocated before, and I wanted it to be a great experience for her.  As we were walking over to the Congressman’s office, she said the most poignant thing.

“You know I can’t believe I’m here.  Most of the time in my role I find myself with my head down doing my HR job.  I need to keep my head up more to see all that is around me.  I would miss great things like this if I didn’t try to be more aware.”

We had a great session with the Congressman’s staff and shared our position on the issues.  When we were done, she wanted to go over to the Senate offices as well to see them.  As we entered the building, I noticed several cameras up on the 2nd floor of the rotunda we had just entered.  I said, “Let’s go see what’s happening !!”  So, we walked up confidently and saw a press table outside the Kennedy Caucus Room and it was packed with people.  The folks at the table asked if we’d like to go in, and we jumped at the chance not knowing what we would find.

RFK AwardIn the room we stumbled into history . . . literally !!  We were able to see the 30th Annual Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award being given to Egyptian Human Rights attorney – Ragia Omran.  The event was emceed by Soledad O’Brien and we heard RFK’s daughter, Kerry, speak about Ms. Omran’s accomplishments and the actual award was given by Ethel Kennedy – RFK’s wife !!  It was amazing that by “keeping our head up” and taking a risk to see if we could be involved, we saw something we NEVER would have seen if we were just stuck on following the patterns that were set before us.

This experience was just another example of how I feel HR should be ALL the time !!  Too often we are criticized because we think that by keeping a narrow focus we are diligent.  The fact is that by being narrow we can miss what’s happening with the people even though we’re cranking out the tasks laid before us.

There has to be a mix of these two worlds.  You can, and should, be diligent in your HR practice.  However, your perspective should be as broad as possible because the great people you work with may have the insight, input, or knowledge you need.  You can’t keep your head down any longer !!

The rest of the week was even MORE eventful than our experience in the Senate !!  I’m even more geeked and energized about HR, my profession, my volunteer role and SHRM than I ever have been !!

I hope you join me as we look to the horizon to see what’s next.  It will be awesome, I’m sure !!

Thank You.

My post title is missing its normal, and grammatically incorrect, double exclamation points ( !! ) for a reason this week.  I had the most amazing experience and just had to share it with you !! (oops, there they are)

In my role at LaRosa’s, I get to do some pretty amazing things as an HR professional.  My job is broad, deep and strategic.  It’s also very hands on.  You see our goal at LaRosa’s is to Reach Out and Make Smiles in all we do with our guests and our Team Members. We started this “radical” new recognition program this year, and this week I was floored by how amazing something so simple can be.

You see, we recognize people on their anniversary whenever they hit a 5-year interval. That may seem like a long timeframe for a restaurant business, but this year alone we’ve recognized a delivery driver who’s been with us 15 years, a server who’s been with us 20 years and even a Shipping Supervisor at our manufacturing plant who’s been with us 40 years !! The tenure at our company is phenomenal.  In fact, I’ll have been with the company 7 years this November and I’m a “newbie” !!

The radical part of our program is that I meet with the Team Member on their shift when they work.  You see we’re open 7 days a week and are open from 11:00am to 11:00pm. Our team members may work weekend nights only – and that’s fantastic !! We used to make all folks who celebrated an anniversary come to a big dinner once a year.  The event was nice, but we made people fit our schedule instead of us meeting theirs. This simple shift has made all the difference in the world !!

This week proved that more than ever !! A person celebrating a 5-year anniversary receives a gift card, a note from our owners and two Smiley faced cookies to thank them for helping us Reach Out and Make Smiles. (We add-on balloons and trays of cookies for folks who hit 10 years or higher.)  I was taking the gift bag out to see Richie for his 5-year anniversary.

When I arrived at our pizzeria, the manager greeted me and I said, “I’m here to see Richie.”  He said, “I know. He’s right over there.”  A young man was standing with his back to me folding small pizza boxes.  I called out his name, but he didn’t acknowledge me or turn around. Then a gentleman standing next to Richie in a flannel shirt, glasses and gray hair pulled into a pony tail that went down to the middle of his back reached out his hand and said, “Hi there.  I’m Richie’s Dad.”  I noticed that Richie was “talking” to himself but wasn’t very coherent.  His Dad gently touched his arm and said, “Richie, someone’s here to see you.” Richie turned around and looked straight through me without really seeing me.  He kept talking.

Richie has profound autism.  I didn’t know that before going out to the store.  Here’s a young man who’s been coming to work for us for 5-years to fold pizza boxes.  I beamed !! “Richie, I wanted to thank you for your time with us at LaRosa’s !! What you do is so great and here’s a little something for you.” I reached into the bag and pulled out the cookies. “Now, these are for you and not for your Dad. (hoping for a laugh – nothing). Please know that you help us Reach Out and Make Smiles.”  His Dad then gently grabbed Richie’s arm and he said, “Tell Steve thank you Richie.”

THANK YOU on speech bubble price labelsHe stopped his chatter, looked at me clearly and quietly said, “Thank You.” He immediately started his chatter again and went back to his boxes because he loves his job !! His Dad broke through one more time and asked Richie to stop for a second and take a picture with me.  We stood together and I put my arm around him.  His Dad said, “Smile !!” Richie had another moment of clarity, smiled, the picture snapped, and back to work he went.

We keep thinking that everything in recognition has to be on a grand scale when that’s just not the case.  HR works incessantly to craft these incredible programs with thousands of dollars and numerous gift levels without ever thinking about getting to people directly.

Try this instead.  Meet people where THEY are and when THEY work !!  Thank them for what THEY do for your company.  It was a lesson we overlooked for too long.  But now, we get to see genuine recognition the way it was always meant to be !!

Folks I Learn From !!

Recently, I’ve been trying to think of more ways to put resources in the hands of other HR pros. When I saw the recent post from Trish McFarlane on HR Bloggers as well as the new e-book from David D’Souza Humane, Resourced: A Book of Blogs, I wanted to chime in as well.

You see, I have this incredibly audacious goal !!  I want to see the ENTIRE HR community connected, informed and able to rock in their roles.  I desire to see the “social” HR folks connect with HR practitioners and vice versa.  I believe that the more we’re genuinely connected, then we can share the resources we enjoy in order to do a better job in Human Resources.

Feed Your HeadAlso, I’m a voracious reader who always yearns to learn.  There are so many great ideas, thoughts, concepts, trends and movements to be taken in.  Often, people shy away from information because they load in the filter of “Well, I can’t do that in my organization . . .” and they shut down.  If you do this, stop it !!  What company wants an HR person who only focuses on what can’t be done ??

What if you took the stance of, “I’m not sure if I can use this, but it’s important for me to learn about it.”  Who knows?  You may be able to take something from all you take in and apply it to your culture and situation.  How do you ever plan to change the norms in your organization if you continue to practice only what you know today?  If someone reading this uses the “I just don’t have time” excuse at this point, then just stop reading.

It is an opportunity to use your time differently, creatively and constructively !!  Wouldn’t you love to have that freedom everyday?  I do, and it is exhilarating !!

So, I wanted to put some folks out there in front of you and off the blog roll so that you can consider connecting with them and learning from them.  I do this each week when I send out the HR Net, and now I wanted to highlight some folks every so often to make sure you’re being exposed to folks I learn from !!

Paul HebertFirst up is Paul Hebert.  He works for a cool company called Symbolist.  Paul and I have known each other for years now and we chat often.  I learn from his blog writing as well as our deep conversations.  I mean that.  We say hello, ask about families and then jump in deeply to talk about all facets of HR !! He’s an incredible resource and you will enjoy how he looks at the human facets of engagement, culture and recognition.

Michael CartyNext is Michael Carty.  We’ve only known each other through social media, but I know that we share an incredible amount of similar likes (HR, Global HR and Rock Music) !!  Michael is the consummate curator and works for a phenomenal HR resource – XPertHR.  He hails from the UK and it is on my bucket list to meet in person sooner than later.  Michael is someone who has a pulse on the global perspectives in HR.  Whether it’s through his writing or in his compilations of tweets and blogs on Storify, he keeps others aware of a broad pallet of issues and trends.  He’s a phenomenal person (and resource) to know !!

This is just the start and I hope to feature more folks each month.  Make sure you’re getting more and more connected to the greater HR community !!  You’ll only be better for it !!


Planting Seeds !!

I have been in HR forever !!  Seriously, I’ve been practicing HR for 27+ years, and it’s the only field I’ve known.  You see, I’m one of those rare HR folks who has been in this profession on purpose since the beginning of my career.

Even though I’ve been in HR for an extended time, I am more excited and passionate about what we do than ever !!  This past Friday I had a great opportunity !! I was the keynote speaker for the Indiana University HR Association’s inaugural annual dinner.  It was so cool to talk about “HR Behind the Curtain: What It’s Really Like” to a room full of eager, attentive and interesting students.

They were engaged, laughed, answered questions and were, may I say, GEEKED about HR !!  Oh, by the way, none of them have HR as a major.  They have HR as a minor and are active in their local student SHRM chapter.  They have two incredibly supportive faculty and a local chapter that is very connected to them.

This is more than a report of an incredible event.  It’s setting the stage for something I want to say, especially to Senior HR practitioners !!

I was humbled and honored to be asked to speak to these students !!  Yes, it took time to do this.  But, it was time well spent.  I wanted to get students excited about the profession that, I hope, they will pursue and replace me some day.

I keep seeing efforts by SHRM and HR chapters to try and reach Senior HR professionals.  They almost beg them to come and attend events so that others can learn from them.  However, most of my peers, don’t see the value in being with folks who don’t do things as strategically as they do.  Somehow, taking time to share your experience is seen as being “below” us.  I absolutely and unequivocably disagree with this stance !!

In fact, how dare we look at those who are less experienced as people we shouldn’t connect with.  When I was at Ohio University those 27 years ago getting ready to enter the workforce, I never heard from a businessperson about what to expect.  I never understood the nuances I would need to succeed, or how to learn the values and work ethic expected from organizations.  It is an absolute shame that a quarter of a century later that we still think that distancing ourselves from the people who will enter the workforce and continue HR aren’t worth our time.

NurturingSo, I have a challenge for Senior HR practitioners !!  The gauntlet is being thrown down.  Take what you’ve learned and what you practice and share your knowledge with others.  Do it willingly and do it often !!  If we plant seeds in others, our future will be better than our past, or present, has ever been.

Take a student under your care.  Be a mentor !!  Talk to student organizations.  Instead of complaining about what the newest generation does/doesn’t do, change their perspective by giving them your time and insight.

Also, don’t ignore the professional association who wants to have you involved.  What is a better use of your time?  Sharing with others to make HR better, or making sure the topic is lofty enough for you to expound upon ??

I am fiercely passionate about this !!  This is very serious and a true opportunity for Senior HR people to shine !!  I plan to plant seeds for as long as possible.  Then, one day, when I’m no longer around, one of those seeds I planted will blossom, grow and continue my work and legacy.  Get planting !!

Now’s Your Time !!

One of the absolute best things about living in Ohio is that we experience four distinct seasons.  The winters can be a little bleak at times, and the summers can be extremely humid.  However, spring and fall are magnificent !!

Fall is especially fantastic and my favorite season of all.  The crisp weather that is more chilly than warm brings about football, pumpkins, apple cider and hot chocolate !!  The most brilliant spectacle during fall are the leaves.  To see the trees all around you transform into their natural state which has been hidden under its green mask all year is breathtaking.

Fall LeavesI have a 40 to 45 minute commute to work each day one way.  Having this extended time allows me to enjoy the changing foliage more than most, and I relish it !! The variety of different shades of reds, yellows and oranges just splits the early morning and early evening skies giving them more life than normal.

So, what does this have to do with HR?  I think it’s pretty obvious.  You see, leaves wait for months to shed the cover of their original green coloring to reveal their natural beauty. It’s intentional, vibrant and visible !!  We should do likewise.  I don’t think we should wait for months, but when you see your time to shine – then you should burst forth !!

When this happens with leaves, people travel to see the panorama of color.  They drop everything to make sure they don’t miss it. Too often, HR stays in the background and misses the chance to step out and show its value.  The more this is done in organizations, the deeper HR fades into the backdrop.  Remember this, being visible doesn’t make you arrogant.  Bringing forth valuable solutions, viewpoints and approaches is what is expected of us.  You don’t forsake your ability to help others.  In fact, it allows you to bring to the surface methods that can become your company’s regular practice.

Don’t sit back any longer.  Make the transformation and let your true colors take their rightful place.  Trust me.  Having this happen will not only change you, but it will improve HR and your company’s culture for many seasons to come !!

Stop the Just a’s !!

Not sure if you know this, but my life during the day is being the head of HR for LaRosa’s !!  We’re a regional pizzeria that is a true Cincinnati tradition.  I’m very fortunate to work for a known brand, and our pizza is honestly the best on the planet !!

The role I have is very strategic and is expected to be.  I get the chance to work with our 1,200+ Team Members over 15 pizzerias, a manufacturing plant where we make our incredible dough, a call center and our corporate office.  This isn’t a bio or a “look what I do” post.  It’s a reminder.

You see, I hear a phrase in my company that occurs in every company around the world.  It’s a phrase that relegates people and doesn’t show the value they truly bring to work every . . . single . . . day.  Whenever you hear someone say, “Well, they’re just a (insert position here)”

If you ever say this, or hear it said by someone else, you should correct the person who says it and tell them to cut it out.  There isn’t one position in an organization that is more critical than another.  All employees play a role and it is critical that we see the value of what they do.  For example . . .  If the phenomenal cooks in our restaurants don’t do their best, it has an adverse affect on the guest’s experience and possibly the company.  They aren’t “just” cooks.  They are the first chance to make a person’s visit to our location the best meal they’ve had !!

I think most people reading this will be cool with addressing the “just a’s” of other roles in our companies.  Now . . . let’s talk peer-to-peer.

HR pros need to quit saying, and acting, that we’re “just” in HR !!  Seriously.  There is no other position, or field, that is so critical of itself.  We continue to belittle what we do and it makes absolutely no sense.

Yoda QuoteI think we need to position ourselves differently by our actions and our behavior by being Businesspeople who practice HR.  We need to see ourselves as being integrated throughout our company, and make the steps to do this on a regular basis.  This isn’t a “try” position.  It’s a “do” commitment !!

I’ve had some people be skeptical about my enthusiasm about how much HR rocks !!  It doesn’t dissuade me in the least.  In fact, it makes me want to try even harder to get our field out of the mode of being a 2nd class position in organizations.

This week DO something about this.  (1) Stop allowing others to sell your employees short. (2) Value and elevate the great people who make your company successful !! and (3) Don’t ever, ever, ever say you’re “just” in HR again !!

Image courtesy of Inspiration Boost

Take it All In !!

I’m glad to say that I’ve survived another phenomenal Ohio State SHRM HR Conference !!  It was spectacular from stuffing the conference bags and setting up the vendor booths all the way to the final session.  It truly is an exhausting week for many of us (by choice).

It’s fascinating to watch the interactions that happen at an HR conference.  I think this is mainly because HR folks love to be around others from their profession.  There’s camaraderie, laughter and a truly evident bonding that is needed at least once a year.  You have to know it’s fantastic to be around people who are working in very similar circumstances ranging from compliance to employee relations.

Another very interesting facet that I keep coming across is how involved people choose to be throughout the conference.  I get the fact that ALL of us are taking time away from our families, our workplaces and the projects that will be jumping to life come Monday morning once again.  Since this time is more focused around HR intentionally, it would make sense to me that you would fill every moment with everything you possibly could at the Conference.  Ironically, this doesn’t happen.  This isn’t to be critical – it’s an observation.

I think what is telling about this though is the issue of capacity.  People take in as much as they can handle in all areas of work, life and activities.  The question you have to ask yourself is – what is my capacity?  What if I could take in one more thing that may give me THE answer I need to do my role better?  What if I met one more person who could be THE one who connects me to resources, a career opportunity or other great HR pros who could make HR come alive?

SHRM CardAt the Conference we asked everyone to sign a birthday card for SHRM because it’s their 65th birthday this year. It was a simple thing to ask for a very small commitment. When people saw that their contribution was within reach, easy to accomplish and they had someone there to encourage them to do it – there was instant participation.  Once there was one signature, the next one seemed natural.  By the time one side of the card was filled, the next side began to take shape.  People wrote in all directions, sizes and locations.  No one argued and everyone joined in.  We even bled over to the back of the card because more and more people wanted to be included.

It was a card.  A piece of cardboard that still had room to take on more people. It hadn’t reached it’s capacity – and most of us haven’t either.

So, the next time you’re at an event – take in everything.  I mean it.  EVERYTHING !!  Don’t miss out on one moment. It is so fulfilling and you’ll take all that you’ve experienced and learned back to work and be an even greater HR person !!