The Importance of Connection — and Twitter Chats!

I can’t say it enough how important it is to connect with people. I don’t mean to say hi at monthly meetings or to have 3,000 LinkedIn connections. I mean to connect.

I just spent the last hour or so chatting with Jon Thurmond. If you don’t know Jon, you are missing out. I reached out to Jon for advice as I have recently undertaken additional responsibilities in my volunteerism, and he is the social media guru. TRUST ME.

What’s great about giving back in HR is that we can chat about work, life, our volunteering, and we are always willing to help out the next person. The next time someone asks me about social media, I have some new tips to share!

What do you have to share? How can you give back? You don’t have to be an expert at anything. Start small.

Participate in a Twitter chat.

I started with #Nextchat years ago when I joined Twitter and found it. I have made so many wonderful connections just through that chat! It’s at 3pm EST on Wednesdays. Check it out. The topic is micro-internships this week. Who doesn’t want to learn more about that?

I am a co-moderator of #JobHuntChat on Mondays at 9pm EST. I’ve plugged this before, and it’s volunteering, so no one is paying me to tell you to join in. If you are looking for a job or are able to offer advice for those that are, I encourage you to join in!

Jon and Wendy host the #HRSocialHour which is an awesome monthly chat where HR professionals and enthusiasts chat about goals, pop culture, beverages, and everything in between. I’m usually cooking dinner at 7pm EST, so I’m usually late and share gratuitous photos of my food.

Take a chance. Join a chat. Thank me later.

Legacy: What Do You Want to be Known For?

I had a manager call me about an issue this week, and the guidance that I provided on how to handle the situation reminded me of something I witnessed in my very first HR job, and it got me thinking that I will always remember my first HR boss for the way she handled that situation.  That is the legacy she left with me.

YEARS ago, when I was in my very first HR Assistant role, we had a receptionist up front at our organization who was the first impression to every candidate, customer, you name it.  This receptionist came to us via a temp to hire situation, and I’m pretty sure it was the first job she had where she was supposed to dress professionally.  She did her best, but they didn’t quite fit – especially the skirts.  If you haven’t had the honor of having the “your clothes are inappropriate for the workplace conversation,” you really aren’t living.  Yes, I’m being facetious.

It wasn’t just the fact that my boss handled the situation that has always stood out to me, it was HOW she handled it.:

She didn’t send a blanket e-mail to the entire company, reminding everyone of our dress code policy.  HR is not the dress code police, and don’t let anyone make you the dress code police. 

She did 2 things:  1.  She talked to the employee, privately, and asked her how she could help her.  During the conversation, the employee confided to my boss that she could not afford nice clothes, and so she was buying her suits in the juniors department – hence the short skirts.  My boss did not judge her or give her some ultimatum about the dress code policy.  My boss bought her clothes that she could wear to work.  2.  My boss didn’t tell a soul, and the only way that I found out was because the receptionist shared the story.

How amazing is that?  We don’t all have the ability to buy our teams new clothes, but we have the ability to meet people where they are and ask them what they need.  I will never forget the way she handled that, and I can only hope that at some point in my career, I leave a similar impression with my team:  I tried every day to be better for them than I was the day before, and I helped them to be the best they could be for their future teams.

What is the legacy you want to leave behind?  What are you doing today to work towards that?

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.

What is a Servant Leader?

I was invited by my pastor to participate in a Bible.com Study last week on Servant Leadership called “Kingdom Leadership in Your Workplace,” and I LOVED seeing this perspective.  Whatever your particular faith or beliefs, I believe we can all agree if we are focusing on being better leaders, and in my case, being a servant leader, the quote below will resonate.

In the study, this quote stood out to me:

“Servant leaders value the development of people around them; they build their communities, act authentically, and share power.” [Oxford comma added by me because that’s the right thing to do.]

When we think about our behavior in our organizations, are we showing up in this way?

Value the development of people around you:  Are you focusing your resources and efforts for professional development on yourself, or are you sharing with your team?  Do you support professional growth and development, or are you secretly intimidated by the growth of one or more of your team members?  Examine yourself and share the wealth.

Build your community:  Are you building your team?  How are you supporting your organization?  Do you give back?  Are you a member of your state or local chapter?  Twitter chats?  LinkedIn posts?  There are tons of volunteer leadership positions available through online, local, state, and national professional association chapters – SHRM and otherwise.  I’m in HR, so I became a volunteer leader on the board of my local SHRM chapter, GCHRA.  I’m also now a co-moderator of #JobHuntChat where I help facilitate the conversation between those “in search” and those helping those “in search.”

Act authentically:  Are you being your true authentic self?  If not, what is holding you back?  Is it safe to be authentic in your workplace?  Do you make it safe for others?  If not, what is holding you back?  Are you behaving as the leader you always wanted?  What can you do tomorrow that will bring you closer to bringing your authentic self to situations?

Share power:  We are entrusted with our teams for a reason.  It is our esteemed privilege to serve our teams and our people.  We do them a great disservice by not empowering them to one day lead their own teams.  Empower your people.  Share information.  Communicate often.  Do not be an information miser.  Foster a culture of accountability within your team to empower them.

Are you a servant leader?

PSA: Participate in #JobHuntChat

Are you participating in the Twitter chat #JobHuntChat?  It will take an hour out of your day, and you will get to:

  1. Help others
  2. Learn something new
  3. Meet new people

These all sound great, right?  I have been participating for a while, and I’ve very recently tried my hand at moderating and lived to tell the tale.  It took a minute to get used to which handle I was using.  I was among friends, and it wasn’t life or death, so it all worked out.  It wasn’t about me anyway – I was there to facilitate the conversation.

The #JobHuntChat met this evening at 9pm EST (8pm CT/7pm MT/6pm PT), and it meets every Monday at that time.  The format is similar to other Twitter chats:  Q1, Q2, Q3, etc.  There are #jobseekers, #jobhelpers, and #HRPros ready and willing to help in any way they can.

It is guaranteed to be a good time, and I hope to see you there!

Greetings from the Beach!

Just a friendly reminder of the importance of family and spending intentional time with those we love.

Yes, I’m still #insearch, but this vacation was pre-planned, and my family is the most important medicine to my mended heart after my position was eliminated, and I was “promoted to client.” 😉

So I sit on the balcony, listening to the ocean, counting my blessings as I watch my daughter sneak Fritos instead of eating her sandwich and my son contemplate life in his captain’s chair, I am completely at peace and ready for the next chapter.

At least for the moment, I’m going with the flow, not worrying about things I can’t control, and living in the moment.

Happy Thursday, friends. Enjoy every minute!

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.

Why Are You Saying No?

This will be very short and sweet, but I feel it is vitally important lately…

Why are you say No?

Is it life or death?  Illegal?  Unethical?

Maybe.  Maybe not.

Maybe you are afraid of letting go of control.  FYI – if this is you, you already have a reputation for this, and your goal this year should be to change that reputation.  You can do it.  I have faith.

Having a reputation for having to control everything in your purview shows two things about you:

You don’t trust others.

If you do not share the knowledge, teach others, and share or give control, you are showing people in your actions that you don’t trust them.  Why do these people work here if you don’t trust them in their role?  If they truly want to grow and learn, and you are the miser of control as well as their manager, they will leave you, I promise you.

You don’t trust yourself.

If you don’t share, cross-train, etc., you are showing others that you don’t trust your own value in the organization that you could possibly do more than simply being the SME on this particular system or department.  You know what happens in that case?  You are not promotable because there is no one else to do it.

Was that your plan?  Probably not.

As a recovering control freak, I can tell you it’s possible.  As a leader, you must relinquish control, share, help others learn, and support them.

The next time you receive a request, give it a try.  Say yes.

How to be Patient at Work

In your career, you are not going to agree with every decision is made.  If you have already experienced this, you’re thinking “Duh” in your head, if not, wait for it, it is inevitable.  It’s not always negative, either.  There have been plenty of times, especially early in my career, when I may not have understood or agreed with a decision at first, but it turned out to be the best thing for the company.

We are in a service-oriented career, and we want to help people.  I care about the people I serve and support, and if you are in Human Resources (or any iteration of it), I’m sure that you do, too.  As my good buddy Steve Browne says in his book HR on Purpose, “If employees are a pain point or source of frustration for you professionally, then get out of human resources.  It isn’t the career for you.”  If you haven’t read his book, download it or pick it up today.

This is not to say that those making the decisions do not care about people.  I feel that is a common misconception.  Having been the one making unpopular decisions at times, I can promise you, I cared.

Full disclosure:  Patience is not one of my virtues.  My team is giggling at this right now, and my husband is sighing, I’m sure.  It’s a work in progress.  I do, however, have an appreciation for having patience in the workplace, and I greatly admire those that exercise patience.

To be a great leader, and to serve people, you must exercise at least a modicum of patience.

Being patient at work does not mean that you are blindly following orders, without question, without a second thought.  It does, however, mean that if a decision is made, and you don’t understand the rationale, respectfully request more information, asking your questions, etc.  Focus on the issue or the situation – not the decision maker(s).  Assume positive intent that those that made this decision have done so with all the information available to them at the time – some of which you may not be privy to, and that the decision was made in the best interest of the business overall.

If you are the person that will inevitably deliver this news, it is imperative that you make sure that you are clear on the rationale and underlying understanding of the decision.  YOU WILL BE ASKED.  Be prepared for the questions.

Choose your moments to challenge wisely.  You don’t want to get a reputation for being the person that continuously pushes back or challenges decisions.  Do not behave in a way or create a reputation for yourself that you are difficult to do business with.  If and when you do pose a question or respectfully challenge a decision, you will have greater impact if you have typically demonstrated support from your position.

That being said, even if you believe that you have a valid business case for why this decision is either not living the company values, is not the right thing to do for the employees, etc., your belief is exactly that – a belief.  If your feedback is taken under advisement (or not) and there is no traction, do not take it personally, focus on understanding the rationale, and move forward.  Becoming emotionally attached to decisions will emotionally highjack you.

At the end of the day, our role is to support our people.  Whether we agree with what has happened or not, we must trust our senior leadership to make the best decision for the business overall, and we must do our best to support our people as the decision impacts them.  They will take their cue on how to react and handle things from us.

Demonstrate patience.

 

Spoiler Alert: There’s No Prize for Being a PTO Martyr

Work/Life balance.  We all talk about it.  We all tell our friends, family, spouses, and employees to take their time, but do you take your time?  Like many professional I know, I used to leave days on the table every year.  My unused PTO doesn’t carry over anymore, but even when it did, I still didn’t take my allotted time that was carried over.  There it was, just sitting there, accumulating with no hopes of being used.  Crazy, right?

I’m not alone.  Did you know in 2016, 662 million vacation days were left on the table?

At one point in time, it wasn’t worth it to me to take the time off because I would be so far behind when I got back.  Plus, who was going to do my job when I was gone?  I started to take time off, but I would still “keep up with my e-mails” while I was out.  I had convinced myself that if I kept up with my e-mails while I was out that it would lessen the “catch up” when I got back.

Guess what?  My children were off for Spring Break this year from March 30th until they grudgingly return tomorrow, and I was very fortunate to be able to take the entire break off as well to spend time with them.  Confession:  I have never taken off their entire Spring Break before.  Ever.  My oldest is in the 7th grade.

I have a photo on the lock screen of my phone with a picture collage of two photos:  a picture of my kids and I during their winter break in our pjs and a quote that says “You will never look back on life and think ‘I spent too much time with my kids.'”  You could apply that logic to kids, family, friends, fur babies, etc.  The bottom line is that we don’t regret the time we take off with friends and loved ones, and it makes us better humans doing it.  Win/win.

I’m proud to say that despite a few cursory checks of my e-mail and two replies, I have stayed on vacation since I put my out of office message on the morning/afternoon(ish) of Friday, March 30th.  Yes, I know that was my vacation day.  Old habits die hard.  I made sure that my team knew to text me if they needed me as I wouldn’t be checking e-mail regularly.  However, as I’ve mentioned before, they are absolute rock stars, and there was nothing they couldn’t handle.

My kids will never be this age again.  It took me a while to learn to let go and have balance, but I’m so thankful I did.  We had absolutely ridiculous weather for “Spring” in Ohio, but the memories we made and the experiences we shared more than made up for it.

I know that in order for me to encourage others to practice balance, I have to show it for myself first, and I’m so thankful I did.  I’m returning tomorrow morning refreshed, restored, and ready to dig in and work hard.  I’m not going to win the prize for most outstanding PTO at the end of the year, and I’m thankful that I’ve finally learned that’s a good thing.

Image Credit: http://s7d2.scene7.com/is/image/Baudville/TRAVELING-TROPHY