The Importance of Pause

I’m writing this from the airport in Dallas after a wonderful weekend full of connection, friendship, and love. I was at a wedding for one of my girlfriend’s daughters. It was beautiful. The photo is our group, minus some who were unable to make it but no less dearly missed.

What was even more beautiful, however — or maybe equally as beautiful was the fact that I was able to completely trust my wonderful team and unplug and be PRESENT during this time. I understand fully that I set the example for this for my team.

It’s not enough that I have this disclaimer at the bottom of my signature:

“Please note: we work flexibly at MVAH, and I’m sending this at a time that suits me to do so. Please be aware there is no expectation for you to respond outside of your own working hours.”

You have to practice what you preach: you have to practice pause. I left home on Thursday evening. My flight was delayed and canceled, so I didn’t actually leave until Friday morning, but that didn’t matter. I unplugged on Thursday late afternoon after delivering on my commitments and ensuring that my team was setup for success in my absence.

Notice that I didn’t just completely abandon my responsibilities before leaving on this trip. It’s no one’s fault but my own if I overcommitted (which I didn’t), and if my timeline got tight and caused a flurry of work before leaving. Don’t be that leader that gets so wrapped up in their own agenda that they let things fall to their team to clean up because they weren’t able to wrap it up before they leave. You wouldn’t want that from your team. Don’t behave that way. You are training your team how to behave as the next generation of leaders. You have a responsibility to be the example of how they should behave with their future teams.

Along the lines of being an example of a leader who sets clear expectations, makes commitments, honors those commitments, and delivers on expectations, you also need to be the leader that demonstrates how to truly take pause and be present in your life with those you care about.

I owe it to my team to NOT be checking in, checking e-mails, bird-dogging tasks, etc. I owe it to them to know that I have a team of highly skilled, highly competent, passionate people who want to do good work — and let them do it. I owe it to my team to know that by me not visibly checking in, I am demonstrating my trust and that I did everything I needed to do to set them up for success prior to me going out of town.

Likewise, I owed it to my friends to not revolve our schedule around me needing to be on-call, checking in, near a computer or on my phone all the time. Why go if you can’t be present? I spent Friday afternoon by the pool with my beautiful friends, talking, catching up, and being completely in the moment with one another. We are all business owners and/or business executives, and not one of us was chained to our phone. We created safety with each other, and if someone would have needed to get away and work, there wouldn’t have been any shame, but we seemed to breathe a collective sigh that we would simply be together and be present.

As you take plan time away in the future, make sure that you are being kind to your team and kind to those that you need to show up for. Plan appropriately, make sure that your lack of planning is not someone else’s emergency, and set the example for your team that you not only want them to take time, but that they are in good hands and are not expected to be heard from until they return. Be kind. Take a pause.

Pace Yourself — SHRM21 Edition

It’s been a whirlwind since about September 2nd for me! Yes, I know #SHRM21 didn’t technically start til September 9th, but I was fortunate to be surrounded by people I love to celebrate my birthday Labor Day weekend, and it was a CELEBRATION!

The “me” of 5-10 years ago would have gone all out, saying yes to every invitation, double and triple booking myself, staying out way too late, getting up way too early or missing something important because I had overextended myself and couldn’t actually be in more than one place during that time — imagine that.

Thankfully, this birthday was a milestone which brought some additional wisdom, space for downtime, and very intentional yeses. I also made sure to take care of myself — both physically and mentally in Vegas, and I was so encouraged to see, on the big stage in a general session, Michael Phelps with a call to action for us all to normalize ensuring that we are not only physically taking care of ourselves, but mentally as well.

I did not walk into the conversation with Michael Phelps thinking this would be in my top 3 at an annual conference. I’m fortunate to have seen Mike Rowe, Coach K, Robin Roberts among others previously. It was so incredibly timely for this conversation at this time, though, and I’m thankful that I was there to listen.

As a superstar athlete, vulnerability and humility would not have been top of mind to describe Michael Phelps until I saw him in person for myself, and let me tell you, I’ve not witnesses such a genuine, vulnerable, REAL conversation. There were no buzzwords, nothing to promote himself, and when he essentially let us all know that he got (what my children and I affectionally refer to as being) “squirreled” while talking, the room leaned in just a little bit more.

He was humble, funny, relatable, and he made a room full of exhausted HR pros release a deep breath that I doubt many of us even realized we were holding.

He shared with us how he embraced his humanity and stopped thinking of himself as a swimmer first. If you check out his Twitter profile, you’ll see that he’s living that humanity. While most of us think of him as an Olympic Gold medal swimmer first, he’s thinking of himself differently:

My dear friend and fellow #SHRM21Influencer, Kyra Matkovich summed it up perfectly:
Michael Phelps made it just a little bit easier and acceptable for us all to embrace the state of our own mental health as well as those in our care as HR leaders in our organizations and communities.

As Phelps stated in his discussion, we can’t take care of others if we aren’t taking care of ourselves, and if we want to be our best self, we have to take care of our physical and mental health.

Taking care of your health (physical and mental) looks different for everyone. For me, it meant that I did not attend the 4pm PST session and FaceTimed with my 13 year-old daughter for 50 minutes. It was 7pm in Ohio, and she had a full week of school to tell me all about. I can’t help but think that maybe I felt a little more okay, a little less guilty for taking that time to do that because that’s what self-care looked like for me at that point in time.

Thanks for the reminder, Michael Phelps.

Connection in Times of Quarantine

Yesterday, one of my favorite groups of humans, the Workhuman Live attendees, got together virtually for the event we didn’t realize that we all needed most. Sure, we knew that we needed connection. We knew we loved the content that Workhuman provides. We knew we missed one another. I’m not sure any of us realized just how much.

As many of us are on the people side of business, we are going non-stop during this time. We are “over-functioners” as our patron saint Brené Brown would say. In those times, we are doing so much, we don’t stop to feel the trauma of the events going on around us.

Simon Sinek made sure to end his time by ensuring that we are taking care of ourselves and asking for help when the trauma catches up with us. We can’t outwork or outrun it. It will sink in eventually, and we need to know what that looks like and be kind to ourselves and others when it happens.

He warned that many of us are in ‘mission mode,’ and we will have to deal with this trauma at some point. It’s normal and we can’t escape it. Ask for help. People will process this trauma at different times. Be aware and be alert. Help others and yourself.

One way to stay aware and alert is keeping the pulse of the organization. There was an exciting announcement from our friend Eric Mosley, CEO of Workhuman, at the conclusion of the event: Moodtracker is available free to everyone – current Workhuman client or otherwise, with the intent to go beyond surveys and get to the heart of organizational issues. What better way to identify when those around us are starting to feel the impact of our current climate?

Thank you to the wonderful team at Workhuman for putting this together. It was what our souls needed right now – whether we realized it or not.

Let’s Err on the Side of Human

Things are crazy right now. That’s not a secret. You may be tired, overwhelmed, and unsure of what to do next. That’s okay. No one expects you to have all the answers – right now or frankly ever. They do expect you to get answers. They do expect you to make the best decision with the information you have in front of you.

You have to keep going. You have to make decisions. When you go radio silent, that’s when people let their fears and insecurities get the best of them. Have confidence that you were put in your position because the organization believed in you. Believe in you.

Lean on your network. If you are an HR professional, search #HRCommunity or ask questions and add that hashtag. We are here to help. There are so many wonderful resources right now to help you. This is new to all of us. We’re all taking things day by day.

You will have times when you feel overwhelmed. That’s okay. Take a breath and wait until you are calm and clear headed before you respond or react. Keep the assumption of positive intent in others at the forefront. I know it’s not easy, and not everyone is behaving with positive intent, but you must keep that assumption in your own behavior. Other people’s behavior does not dictate yours. If you feel you are losing control, close the e-mail, walk away from the chat, close your eyes. BREATHE.

If you find that you are getting the same questions, schedule a call to get people together to talk through things. Something wasn’t clear, and you getting frustrated with people not reading your e-mails and being able to read your mind and your intent is not helpful to anyone — especially to you, my stressed friend.

If you are fortunate to support an essential business, that’s your honor and privilege right now. They are so fortunate to have you. We all thank you and want to support you. Not everyone has the same style under stress. Grant grace to people who are scared and may not be the best version of themselves right now, including yourself. If you have a misstep, own it, apologize, and make it right.

Now is the time for real, human communication. Now is the time for compassion to yourself and others. Now is the time to check in with people daily and ask for feedback. You want to be effective and add value. You cannot be helpful and effective if you are unable to communicate with people.

We don’t know a lot about the days ahead. What we do know is that while we don’t know how long this will last, it’s not going to last forever, and we are all doing everything in our power to take care of those in our care. Maintain perspective and remember that you have a 100% survival rate for difficult things and you are not alone in this – no matter how isolated we may be right now.

I’m rooting for you. We all are — from 6 feet away. You’ve got this.

People are the Purpose — You Can’t Love HR Without a Heart for PEOPLE

Note: I wrote this October 24, 2019, and the blogging equivalent of leaving an email in the draft folder happened…

I attended a workshop yesterday on mental health in the workplace. It was helpful, informative, and I feel more prepared when a situation arises as a result. The focus was on identifying and responding to possible signs of struggle in the workplace, including but not limited to: anxiety, depression, psychosis, suicide, and substance use disorder.

At one point in time, when the instructor was teaching us techniques and questions to ask to gain understanding of the situation, one of the attendees expressed that she was not comfortable asking an employee if they were thinking of committing suicide — that this person wasn’t their close friend or family member, and that they would prefer to get someone else to talk to them.

Despite my best efforts to be objective and listen non-judgmentally – a skill we had literally just gone over, I had a visceral reaction to this statement, and I said out loud that we don’t always get a choice to be comfortable in our conversations. The purpose of the workshop is to be better prepared when these situations happen. We don’t get to filter out the uncomfortable conversations. Our people need us when they need us. We can’t just tap out or tag in someone else.

We don’t get to filter out the uncomfortable conversations. Our people need us when they need us. We can’t just tap out or tag in someone else.

Pretending that this isn’t an epidemic doesn’t prepare us to help our people when they need it. I highly recommend for anyone to attend this training. There have been times in my career when I felt that I wasn’t the most prepared for the direction the conversation turned, and I’m encouraged to see that we have identified this skills gap and are providing these programs.

During lunch, I overheard a conversation where someone was referring to their soda fountain at work having 2 specific types of pop because it was what she preferred. The “perks” of being in charge of the project, she said. I was so disappointed that a peer, representing HR to her organization, completely missed an opportunity to love on her people and get what they might have preferred. It’s a little thing, but the focus was way off the mark.

My faith in humanity was restored attending #DisruptHR last night. These are my people. No one talked about how to make their job better for them or how to use the system to benefit themselves. In fact, there were discussions of enlisting the help of non-HR people to be grassroots culture ambassadors and appeal to various pockets of the population – not just the typical ideas. You can learn more about DisruptHR here: https://disrupthr.co/.

Sharpen the Saw

If you haven’t read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by the brilliant Stephen R. Covey, I highly recommend it. Although it was published over 25 years ago, and yet the paradigms are as applicable today as they were then.

It’s the end of the year, and what a year it has been!

Professionally, the organization that I support has grown 300% since I joined just 18 months ago. I’ve had the esteemed privilege of building a powerhouse team, and we have completely overhauled the HR department and processes so that we would be staged for this rapid growth. So, if you have been wondering why I haven’t published much lately, that’s part of it. I’m very thankful to be spending this week between Christmas and New Year’s with my children on PTO.

Personally, I’m readjusting to life as a single parent. I’m being super intentional with my time – ensuring that the time with my children is quality time, making time for the amazing friends that I have been blessed to have in my life, and spending time with those I love.

Also personally, I’ve been working on my Masters degree. Who needs free time? Me. I’m pretty sure that after I finish this program, I’ll start my 12 step program to stop being such a masochist with my schedule. Step 1 – I admit I have a problem.

Back to Covey: the 7th Habit is Sharpen the Saw: the habit of renewal. My mantra in my life and my work is continuous improvement and increasing effectiveness in all areas. What better time than the new year when we’re all working on our resolutions to commit to renewing our body, heart, mind and soul?

What are you going to do today to renew yourself?

Do you have an accountability partner — or two?

My dear friend Corin is my workout buddy and my accountability partner to make sure that I’m not just making a monthly donation to Planet Fitness – I’m actually using it. My children are my accountability partner for my heart as they keep me grounded and remind me that people and the experiences are more important than the stuff and things. My team reminds me that together we can do anything. We had some seemingly insurmountable challenges this year, and my team exceeded my expectations with their ability to work together and take care of the organization and the talented, hardworking people we support.

It’s vitally important to surround ourselves with those that will support us and challenge us to become the best possible version of ourselves.

Looking forward to closing out this decade of lessons learned and putting energy into renewal for 2020.

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.

There’s No Lukewarm HR

I engaged in a conversation yesterday that went something like this:

Person: “I see you work in HR…how’s that treat ya? Can be a tough job.”

Me: “I’ve been in HR for 15 years. I love it.”

Person: “It’s a position of passion for sure…”

Me: “It can be, but also has the potential for the greatest impact.”

Person: “Indeed.”

Me: “You either love it or you don’t. There’s no lukewarm HR. When done right and with passion, it can be the greatest asset to a company — when done poorly – or “just enough,” it can sink the culture.”

I’m not alone in this sentiment. My good friend Steve Browne (yes, that Steve Browne) expresses this sentiment in his best selling book HR on Purpose: Developing Deliberate People Passion:

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. Quit trying to tough it out because you are this administrative superstar who can make systems hum. Administration is an important facet of HR, but it is not the reason we exist. Without people, we are nothing.

Steve is 100% accurate with this statement. HR is the for the people. It’s our job in HR to help and to support. Yes, we are there to advise, consult, and provide guidance. Yes, we are there to analyze trends and to make suggestions using predictive analytics. We are there for all of that, but at the end of the day, the people are the reason we are there. The rest is just details.

Whether you have authority or not, you have the potential to have a great deal of influence and impact in HR. Why? Because you impact the people directly. You are quite often the first impression of the company to a candidate. You are quite often the first person they meet on Day 1. You are the person who explains benefits (or someone on your team is, but you get it.) You have the possibility to make a tremendous impact on the employee’s view of the organization.

While HR is there for the happy moments: anniversaries, promotions, expansion, development, etc., it is the times of tragedy that are the most important part of our job. When someone leans on you, they are trusting you. Be present. Be there. Don’t make it about you. It’s not about you ever in HR. Come to terms with that and find your joy and satisfaction in others.

One of my favorite quotes that I apply to our work: ” Do everything with a good heart and expect nothing in return and you will never be disappointed.” I don’t mean that cynically. I genuinely mean that if your focus is not yourself, you would be amazed at the happiness in your work.

One final note of distinction: You notice I didn’t say: You are the dress code police. You are the time card police. You are the [insert control measure here] police. We are not. It saddens me when people are afraid of HR – even in jest. If you got into HR to control people or things, kindly see your way out. You are there to be there for the people, and if you ever forget that, do whatever self-care you need to remind yourself of that or kindly vacate this field that myself and so many of my amazing and passionate cohorts love.

Be on fire for people. Work hard. Do great work.

Welcome to Las Vegas! #SHRM19 Let’s Do This!

Are you ready? #SHRM19 officially starts tomorrow, and I’m currently in flight from Cincinnati to Vegas! I can’t wait to see my fellow #SHRM19Bloggers and meet new friends!

This is my 4th National SHRM Conference. My first was in 2014 in Orlando, then Vegas in 2015, DC in 2016, and now back to Vegas!

What’s so great about National SHRM? Well, for starters you get to join over 17,000 of your closest HR pals! On top of the experience itself: development, education, and sharing tips and ideas with one another, you have the opportunity to meet your social media pals in real life and make new friends that were once strangers.

True story: I met my #conferencepal4life @jon_thurmond on Twitter and then in person at SHRM16. I am fortunate be introverted and shy, though, so it was a short first meeting. We reconnected when he and Wendy asked me to be a guest on their awesome podcast #HRSocialHour, and we have been buddies ever since. This year alone, we have already been to #workhuman and #HRRedefined together – hence #conferencepals4life!

So join in! Engage on social media. Follow the hashtags: #SHRM19, #SHRM19Blogger, #NotAtSHRM19 and when you share, please use these hashtags as well!

I’ll see you there!

Intentional Perspective — #HRRedefined Takeaway

Disclaimer: I had the honor of being a guest of Namely to attend their conference, #HRRedefined2019. As a guest, I was compensated for being there. This blog post is entirely my content – hence taking 4 weeks to find the time to put it together…

I was impressed with the speaker lineup for the conference being so young. One person that I had no idea would be there was none other than Valorie Kondos Field – “Miss Val”. She captivated the room and kept us all fully engaged and entertained.

Miss Val shared a story of her battle with cancer and her treatment. She called her chemo treatment the “chemo spa” because a spa is a place you go to feel better. Talk about perspective! She could have chosen to be discouraged and depressed because she was receiving chemo treatment, and instead she saw it as the thing that would make her better, and she embraced it.

How amazing would our own workplaces be if we were to adapt this mindset? Instead of I “have to” do something, start saying I “get to” do it. It’s a privilege. Not everyone has the same opportunities that you may have – even if the opportunity is waking up another morning and breathing in and out.

I say it often, but I truly mean it. The only person that you can control is yourself. Why not starting with being more intentional in your thoughts and your mindset?

I challenge you to bring optimism and positivity to work tomorrow, and I’d love to hear about your experience!