Someone Needs to Hear This: Put More White Space on Your Calendar

We, as a society, have morphed into a celebration of busyness. Don’t believe me? Take a look at your calendar, and tell me how much white space there is…Now tell me how much peace vs. pressure you feel not to occupy the white space?

A few things happen when we pack our calendars and to-do lists to the point of capacity: We leave no margin for the ability to spend extra time as wanted or needed, we leave no room for the last minute “must do now” project or conversation, and we leave plenty of room for error from simply being so rushed and overwhelmed – which we brought on ourselves.

I’m my own worst critic. Most of us are. I’m also the one who controls my calendar – down to scheduling calls during my 60+ minute commute. I like to think that I’m making the best use of my time, but what I’m taking away is my white space. White space is the time that you take to brainstorm, decompress, process your day, plan your day, etc. This is necessary time, and I would bet $5 that most of us don’t have enough of this time on our calendars.

The announcement of retirement by Andrew Luck this weekend put my own priorities into perspective. I admire his ability to make the choice that he made. What about you? Would you make the same choice? Does it feel safe to do so? Would you be called a quitter? Would you be playfully chastised for throwing in the towel? How much of other’s opinions of your ability to keep all the balls in the air determine your “yes” and “no”?

We often talk about setting realistic expectations with others, and my dear friends, it is time that we set realistic expectations with ourselves. Take time to evaluate what you have committed to, what truly matters most to you, and make adjustments – guilt-free, as needed. Your stress will decrease, your productivity will increase, and your quality of life will improve. I know this because I have done this before, and I have reached the point of needing to repeat the exercise.

Someone needs to hear this – and today, that someone was me.

You Can’t Help if You Don’t Take the Oxygen Mask

At some point in your career, you will inevitably encounter a situation where the most important aspect of your job will be supporting someone else – maybe one person, maybe a department, maybe your entire organization.

Here’s the thing. If you don’t first take care of yourself, you will be in no position to take care of anyone else. This is the reason for the flight attendant saying to put the oxygen mask on yourself before placing on anyone else.

Understand that it’s not selfish to practice self-care – or whatever you call it. You can’t bring your best if you don’t first take care of yourself.

You are also showing your team and your org that you are human, humans require care, and it’s not only safe for you to be human, but it’s safe for others as well, and you will support them as they care for themselves as well.

It is our responsibility as leaders to not only take care of ourselves, but to also create that safety for others to understand the strength both required and displayed at recognizing when you need to take a breath.

Your breath may not look the same as someone else’s. What refills and renews you is personal, and what works for you may not work for someone else, but it’s not for them – it’s for you.

Take care. Love yourself enough to be healthy to help others. You have no idea how much they need you – even if they don’t ask.

#Workhuman Takeaway — Resilience and Grit

I had the extreme fortune of attending #Workhuman this week in Nashville. I am very fortunate to work for an organization that believes in professional growth and supports me attending conferences like this one. I know that not all organizations share this same sentiment or simply don’t have the budget to send their leaders to conferences for professional development, and I am grateful.

I attended every keynote at the conference, and I’m sure every attendee took away something different and certain aspects resonated more than others. For me, it was a theme of resilience and grit. Resilience resonated with me so much, in fact, that it was my word that I had engraved on the leather key fob as a conference attendee.

While I was most excited to see Brené Brown (and she was fan-freaking-tastic), I was most impacted by Viola Davis‘s story. The spectacular Steve Pemberton, Chief People Officer for Workhuman, formerly known as Globoforce. Steve’s story is all about overcoming obstacles, so it was no surprise that he was the one chosen to interview Viola in the closing keynote on the Workhuman stage.

I knew a little bit of Viola’s story already. She was featured in Braving the Wilderness, my first exposure to Brené Brown, so I knew she had grown up in abject poverty in Rhode Island, her father was an abusive alcoholic, and that she didn’t let it define her or live in fear or shame. What I didn’t know, was how she continued to overcome no matter the obstacles.

In her interview with Steve, Viola shared how she had received a hand up, a wonderful opportunity to attend a performing arts school via a scholarship because someone believed in her. The school, however, was not located remotely close to where she lived. She had to leave 3 hours early and take 3 different buses to get there. She was poor, you’ll remember, so she didn’t just pay 3 bus fares and go to school. She shared that sometimes she would walk the first leg of the trip to get to the second bus, then walk the last leg. The school, like many, had a late policy. There was no consideration of the why, if she was late, she was late.

What struck me the most about this was the grit and determination that Viola had to make it work. She could have turned down the scholarship, citing the commute, waiting on something closer or waiting on someone else to solve the distance problem for her. She could have stopped going when it got tough. So many times she could have given up, and yet she kept going and worked hard to succeed – despite all odds.

How many times in our own organizations or households have we seen opportunity squandered or explained away because it was going to be too much work or sacrifice our time? The world is a much better place because of people like Viola sharing their stories, and I can only imagine the impact that she will continue to have.

Resolutions? Simple. Be Kind. Stay Positive

It seems simple enough, but I hope that we all share a resolution this year and every year:  Be Kind.  Stay Positive.

There are very few situations in life and business where a little kindness and positivity can’t help.  When a mistake is made, humility and kindness go a long way.  Likewise with communication mishaps or misunderstandings.

Kindness and a spirit of curiosity vs judgment is essential in conflict and when dealing with uncharted territory as well.  There are very few things that are irreparable.  They may take work to correct – and sometimes a LOT of work, but very few things can’t be fixed, and if we can all keep that in mind, I think we’ll treat each other a lot differently.

Assuming AND COMMUNICATING positive intent can be the difference behind “We are trying this new process to improve the business, and we are excited about it – please provide feedback along the way so we can make sure we all succeed!” vs. “Look, don’t shoot the messenger.  They have no idea how much work we already have to do, and now they are changing it AGAIN.  I tried to go to bat for you, but they don’t listen to me, either.”  Positivity and kindness – difference makers.

If you lead teams, you represent the organization for them.  Resolve to be a positive representation of the organization.  If you are optimistic for the future of your department and the organization, your team will take their cues from you.  Let’s all aim to build more bridges, lift our teams up, and to begin 2019 with 365 chances to have a fresh perspective each day.  We will inevitably catch ourselves not living this value.  Forgive yourself and do better the next day.

Be kind and stay positive – to yourself and others.

If I Can Do it, You Can Do it…

You may or may not have noticed that I have taken some time off from writing lately.  I have done a few pieces for a new concept at SHRM  #NotionsByNicole found here: https://blog.shrm.org/search/node/%23NotionsByNicole.

To say it’s been quite a year is an understatement.  There is a saying that with adversity or challenge that you have survived it 100% of the time, so why second guess it now?  It’s true.  I have.  You have.  Let’s first and foremost be thankful for that.

This year has been tough.  I lost my job.  I lost a dear, sweet friend who my daughter simply adored.  I started a new job (thank you, Jesus).  My marriage ended…

You know what else I did?  I walked across the stage in Indianapolis on November 3rd at the Western Governors University Commencement, and my children got to watch their mom overcome any obstacles and earn her Bachelors Degree in Human Resource Management.  My parents were there, too.  Don’t underestimate the pride in the eyes of a parent watching their child graduate – whether she’s 21 or 37.  I have also been accepted to begin my Masters in Management & Leadership, starting in January 2019!

The moral of the story?  If I can do it, anyone can do it.  YOU CAN DO IT.  I started my degree EIGHTEEN YEARS AGO at Wright State University, in a traditional, brick and mortar campus.  I changed my major twice – sorry Mom, and when I was a sophomore/junior, I was offered a full-time job working in HR.  This is what I went to school for, right?  To get a job.  I took the job and never looked back.  My career progressed, and there were plenty of times that I was not considered for a job based on not yet having completed my Bachelor’s degree.  I worked hard, and I was promoted and progressed to more amplified roles throughout my career.  I earned my PHR and my SHRM-CP Certifications.  I tried to go back to school a few times, and despite the claims of being for the “working professional,” they were not for this working professional.

I found WGU last Spring, and I began on May 1.  This was also the first day of my promotion at work.  I had to write a Vision statement as one of my first assignments, and this was mine:

I will be an example to my children and my current and future employees of what hard work and dedication can materialize into – no matter when you start or how many times you’ve tried before.  What matters is that you finish.

I did it.  You can do it, too.  It doesn’t matter when you start or how many times you’ve tried before.  What matters is that you finish.

What are you waiting for?

How to Make Decisions in Business

How do you make decisions?  Are there charts, graphs, spreadsheets, pages of data?  Yes, data is important, but so are the humans in our care.  Do you include input from those affected, if possible, in your decision-making process?  Perhaps you could glean insight from another perspective that would completely change how to approach a situation.

We learned the difference between right and wrong long ago, and it would appear that we have forgotten how simple that litmus test can be.  The bottom line in any decision first and foremost should be “what is the right thing to do?”  If you can’t do the right thing, go back to the drawing board and work harder.  It’s not always easy to do the right thing.  There can be considerable pushback – it’s not always the easiest, most cost-effective, etc.  However, doing right by our people is priceless in terms of trust, transparency, and confidence in leadership.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to do the right thing by our people.  This is why we are in positions where we have been entrusted to serve others.  It is our great privilege to serve our people, and they are trusting us to keep their best interest at heart when we are making decisions that often have a ripple effect in our organizations.

We must have the courage to make the right decisions – to do that right thing.  We also must work hard to ensure that we are making our workplaces a safe environment with a strong culture of integrity.  We must empower other leaders in our organizations and support them in their courageous efforts.

I’m not naive.  I know this isn’t easy.  I also know that there are times when tough calls have to be made, jobs have to be cut, locations have to be closed, layoffs have to occur, pay has to be frozen.  In times like this, it is in the best interest of the business overall to make these decisions.  We are preserving the business and the ability to continue to operate by making these moves.  This is for the greater good.  I’ve been there.  I’ve done that.  I once had to lay off 20% of the workforce in the morning and co-star in a commercial for the business in the afternoon.  Yes, it was brutal.

While it’s sometimes inevitable to do these things, you always have a choice in how you conduct yourself in the process and how you treat others.

Always behave with integrity in your actions.

Always treat those affected with the utmost care, compassion, and respect.

Always provide as much information behind decisions as possible.  Letting someone know just how difficult the decision was can help them feel a little less like their hard work was in vain.

Always take responsibility for your actions.  Do not blame “corporate” or “your boss” when delivering the news.  Make sure that you understand the why behind what happened so that you can speak to it.  People lose respect for you when you are reduced to a headpiece for “the establishment.”

Do the right thing.  Ask questions when something doesn’t seem right.   Teach your teams to do the same.

It’s Okay to Ask for Help

Being in HR for nearly 15 years, I can tell you that I know my strengths and my weaknesses.

Patience is not one of my virtues.  However, it is vitally important when you are unemployed.  In my prior role, I had a rule with my team that when we had an applicant, we responded to them within 24 hours – even if all we were saying was “I don’t have an answer, yet.  I will get back to you.”  When someone is unemployed or currently employed and contemplating making a change, every hour counts to them.  We didn’t always meet 24 hours – sometimes it was 48 hours or the next business day, and we took advantage of every automation possible to help us be more efficient.  A good ATS should help you communicate more effectively with your candidates – not hinder it.  That’s a post for another day, though.

Asking for help is another struggle for me.  When you have a servant leader mentality, you want to help others – not yourself.  My blog is HR Without Ego because I don’t ask for praise or thanks.  I take satisfaction from helping others and knowing I made an impact.  In the current state of the job market, however, I have learned that it’s okay to not only ask for help but to accept it.  I have always built my network based on a pay it forward mentality, and I was very uncomfortable asking anyone to reciprocate.  However, that changed thanks to coffee one morning with John Rhoads who I met at the HR Roundtable moderated by the fantastic Steve Browne.

John is a life coach, and trust me, when you think you’re going to retire from your current company, the harsh reality that you’re not is hard to take.  He was the first person that I had spoken the words “my last day is next Friday” to at the Roundtable that morning, and I nearly cried saying it.  I’m sure I looked like it because he looked at me and said:

“It’s going to be okay.  You’re going to be okay.”

I was nervous to meet him for coffee that morning for a multitude of reasons.  First, I was embarrassed that I had lost my job.  Second, I didn’t want to ask anyone for help.  I was in HR, after all, I do this for a living.  Shouldn’t I know how this works?  Third, I was facing unemployment, so if he was selling something, I wasn’t buying.

I survived the meeting, nerves and all, and I was so glad that I had not talked myself out of going.  John had just posted this video that morning, the importance of owning our story.  He reminded me that it’s okay to ask for help, and that I’m most valuable helping my next organization, so I need to focus my efforts, own my story, and in the meantime, I will blog about the journey of being “in search” (where did that name come from?) and hopefully help others that are in a similar circumstance.