Virtual Gluttony and Cries For Attention

As a huge proponent of Social Media and all that is right with it and all the good that it can do, it also has a way of making us feel as if our life sucks…comparatively speaking. Especially when things seem to be going well for everyone around you but you’re stuck in neutral. Or even when it seems that everyone is bigger, faster and stronger than you and that it’s not even worth competing anymore.

ladiesYour connections are traveling the world, but two weeks ago they asked you for $20. “Friends” letting the world know that their kindergartener, middle-schooler or teenager is smarter than yours…God forbid we have “regular” “non-superhuman” children. Or the ones that are sooooo successful and inflate themselves online, because no one is doing it for them in real life. Then those that are online tough guys or gals but wouldn’t say a contrary word to anyone face-to-face. 

We all know them. And as much as those things frustrate us, de-motivate us or annoy us to a point that we obsess over what we aren’t and what we don’t have, we keep subjecting ourselves to more. We are gluttons for punishment and wait in line asking, “May I have more please?”. We can’t put our phones down and we have to see what people are saying. We can’t help it. We’re addicted to virtual realities. And we don’t feel validated unless we’ve hit a certain amount of views or “Likes”. I’m guilty too, so don’t think I’m preaching. 

“If you’re not trending, you’re not living.” – Society, 2014

So was the introduction of social media into our lives and workplaces really done to help it, or was it done because that’s the only way to communicate to people these days. Were we getting so few pats on the backs that we only feel good about ourselves when strangers click a thumbs-up bottom? Was its invention a matter of innovation or was it a matter of necessity, because no one knows how to converse anymore? I don’t know, we could Chicken or the Egg it all day long, but it is here and we have to be smarter with how, why and when we use it. Or just not use it at all. I’m perfectly fine with some people being banned. Because it’s those people that turn others off from social media and keep the people it could benefit away.

If Social Media is replacing the news and entertainment mediums, we should be able to log in and be informed and entertained, not made to feel like failures. We should be able to check statuses during a boring meeting without being surprised and embarrassed by loud, stupid videos of a fights, people twerking, or the latest challenge where someone is lighting themselves on fire, choking or giving themselves pneumonia. A lot of things can be kept to ourselves, and if it is really an accomplishment, we’ll get the accolades and recognition that we deserve when it’s time.  Give people a chance to tell you that you’ve done a good job, or that your kids are well-behaved…because when you beat us to it, you seem like a braggart and like you need attention from thousands of people that normally wouldn’t talk to you. 

Everyone doesn’t like to talk about themselves, and that’s ok. Some people like to let their work and efforts speak for them, and they shouldn’t feel like they have to keep up and advertise online just to be relevant. Tell a joke, share a real news story, share an entertaining kid story or ask for legitimate support (and tell us what the hell we’re supporting without us having to say, “What’s wrong?!?!). But let’s chill with telling people how great we are…because they actually know us. 

20140805-215920-79160132.jpgThe very tools that are supposed to connect us are actually causing resentment and reclusion. And once there’s resentment, we stop. We stop responding when you need help. We stop “Liking” when good things actually happen. We stop clapping when there’s been an accomplishment. And ultimately, we mute you. No more acknowledgement. And if we become starved of acknowledgement, Lord knows what app they’ll have to come up with to fill the gap. I’m actually afraid. 



Is Technology The Answer?

Have you ever had a manager say, “Research the best program that will fix X,Y & Z.” and you want to say, “We just need to fix you/us first!”? 

When processes are broken, we want to immediately automate. When people are not doing what’s expected, we think technology is the magic solution. When we can’t get organized, we run to the app store on our tablets or the vendor with the flashiest presentation. At the end of the day, we must understand that you cannot automate inefficiency (you can tweet that if you’d like).

Now I love automation, but I’m aware enough of my own inefficiencies to know that an app or a new form won’t automatically make me productive. Software does not excuse or cover up my weaknesses. Using technology to mask or cover up laziness, poor management and cowardice to champion change will not work. If there is a process that is fundamentally flawed and we input that jacked up info or process into a new shiny system, we will simply go from a mess to an automated mess. 

Automation can assist in getting us on track or to make things quicker, but a solid foundation has to be laid first:

  • Departments must be on the same page about what they are trying to accomplish
  • Groups must clearly define what they want “success” to look like
  • Expectations and standards must be clearly established and communicated to employees

Let me offer an example of how my organization got it right. As a government entity, every personnel action requires multiple levels of approval from various offices. The old process entailed physically signing off on documents, mailing it around to the different offices until it got to HR for final approval and processing. This process generally worked, but it was slow, papers would get lost under piles on desks and it was difficult to hold people accountable for doing their part. 

First knowing exactly what needed to be done, we found a company that could automate this process, allowing actions to be approved electronically, move through a database to the next decision maker, complete with email notification of what needed to be done and when. With this system, we were able to see exactly where each action was at all times and who to call if their was a bottleneck in the process. Ultimately, actions that use to take months to complete could be done in a matter of hours or a few days.

When companies first identify exactly what they are trying to accomplish and learn how to effectively manage it, thousands of dollars and countless hours trying to force broken processes into new shiny computer programs can be saved. 

circuitboardTechnology should be used to enhance processes and systems that already have a workable foundation, or at the very least a team of people that are dedicated to getting it right…not just trying to make it paperless. Technology should not be a bandage for a broken leg. We have to put a splint on that leg, develop processes to keep it from breaking again and then enhance it with technology that makes sense for what we specifically do or need done. 

So before we run out and spends thousands of dollars on new toys and the latest and greatest from a conference (be careful my #SHRM14 peeps), lets invest in the basics first; clear communication, creativity when tackling issues and holding the right people accountable…because if we can’t do that before the tech, we’re probably not going to successfully do it after the tech.

Now What?

I am fresh back from a wonderful conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (LASHRM) and I am still pumped up and excited about my profession.

As I emptied my conference bag and began sorting through all of the pamphlets, pens and notes, I reflected and thought to myself, “Now what?”

We go to all of these conferences for development , fellowship, and to meet our Social Media peers and friends in person, but what good is all of that development and fellowship if the organizations that we return to don’t see and reap any benefit?

What are we going to do? What are we going to change? How are we better and will the colleagues we work with daily see it? Or are we just going to hoard all of the cool stuff we learned and keep all of the free pens and water bottles to ourselves.

I saw something special in that convention center, and because of that I’m motivated to share until my colleagues get tired of me.

I had the pleasure of working with my Performance I Create colleagues as the Social Media team for the event. We had a ball, sharing session content, promoting social media, blogging, etc. As the River Center staff began breaking down the exhibit tables and attendees were clearing out, we thought that our work was done. Just then a volunteer approached us and said that there were a couple of attendees that really needed to talk to us. Agreeing, a couple of us walked out to where our Social Engagement Portal was (that staff broke those tables down fast!) and we were immediately hit with a series of questions about how “Social” could help them in their workplace. They wanted to know how to move their thoughts from ideas to execution…and which tools and mediums would be best for what they were trying to accomplish.

connectAs we engaged them (my colleague did most of the talking, ahem), you could see light bulbs not only coming on but exploding. The concepts we spoke of were not complicated. They just needed some of that stuff that we teach and talk about to come off of the screen, out of the blogs and made plain to them in person…right there in their hands so that they could grab it and implement. What they needed was the knowledge that we had gained from doing…ideas that we got from conferences….strategies that we picked up from our peers. They needed it to make sense and tie in to what they were dealing with every day in their organization…and that if they had questions afterwards that they could reach out and get support.

“Don’t just help light bulbs come on, help them explode!” – Justin Harris, 2014

That’s what stuck with me. That’s what made me realize that it’s not that the people upstairs from me don’t care to do things differently, it’s that they don’t know exactly where to start. They have ideas, but they need help planning. Those of us that say we’re experts are needed to reach out occasionally and break it down for them. Because sometimes our messages are too big and they can’t run with that load. If we break the messages into manageable chunks, focus on process instead of the presentation, we’ll see more people grab hold and put the stuff in action.

So it starts in my shop. Being the change that I talk about and helping others to implement. Helping others to get involved and learn more about the tools of our trade. Because the Resources that we have are no good if we are not sharing them with other Humans.

Blogaversary | Holy Grail

In May of 2012 I was forced to make many tough professional decisions. While trying to find my way, I did what self-help folks have been preaching for years…make goals, write them down and post them where I can see them everyday.

Holy GrailI accepted the challenge. Because these goals were being drafted at a professionally unfulfilling time, it was difficult planning long-term while short-term hell was all around me. To escape the hell, I had to run toward something, not just from something. I had to make sure that the goals I set were not a destination, but a never-ending journey for sustained success. I needed a “Quest” to prove myself to myself, but I didn’t want to find comfort in achievements as we often times do.

I wrote 20 goals in all, 12 of which I actually accomplished. 4 of the main goals/checkpoints for the year were:

  • Start and maintain a blog
  • Get a twitter account and attract 500 meaningful followers
  • Get more involved with SHRM, locally and nationally
  • Attain HR certification

Checkpoint 1: Blogging
I barely knew what a blog was a year ago. On July 16, 2012, I started because I couldn’t let my thoughts and philosophies be buried in the bureaucracy and routine of “traditional” HR. My first post was Are You Listening To Your Body, addressing the lack of communication I saw coming from management in these traditional environments.

My little blog now has a regular following and I also contribute to a multi-contributor site called Performance I Create with 9 other rock stars. But I’m thirsty for more.

blog picCheckpoint 2: Social Media
This time last year I had a barely active twitter account that I hardly looked at. It was hard for me to get into it and I couldn’t figure out why everyone was using “pound signs”! But I was amazed at the number of practitioners that were willing to teach and share their expertise with me through this medium. When people down and across the hall would hold back info and knowledge, my connections around the world poured into me directly and indirectly. In one year I’ve obtained over 900 meaningful followers and I’m learning from them daily. But I am still thirsty for more!

TNSHRMCheckpoint 3: MTSHRM and SHRM
Having never attended a SHRM conference, I’ve been really looking forward to opportunities to meet many of my fellow practitioners face-to-face and to soak up as much knowledge as possible. Shortly after rejoining my local chapter, I was given the opportunity to join the Social Media team for the TNSHRM13 state conference here in Nashville. I’ll be treating my time there like I’m headlining…and ensuring that everyone there knows how to do the Wobble. It’s still not enough though. I want more.

phrCheckpoint 4: Certification
At the time I had written out my goal list, I had already failed my Professional in Human Resources (PHR) once. So that was my grail of grails. I spent an insane amount of time preparing. Maintaining balance was extremely difficult…family time, work, and my new writing commitments. On June 8, 2013, after 2 years of attempts and exactly 1 year to the date of putting the goal on paper, I attained my HR certification. I learned a lot not only from the books and tests but also from the process itself. Though the PHR has been attained, the desire for more knowledge and understanding cannot end with the letters.

This post serves as a challenge, and a reminder for myself that we cannot get complacent when accomplishments are marked off of our lists. Our goals should merely be checkpoints and rest stops along the way to bigger and better things. Reaching one grail must motivate and propel us to the next.

This has been a great year for us. And I will continue to chase multiple grails, because they can only hold so much at a time…and my thirst for impact and achievement in this world can’t be contained in just one. And while the cup runneth over and I drink, I’m already planning for the next…and I believe that we will all benefit from the overflow.

Stay thirsty my friends!

Photo Credit

Are you listening to your body?

“Listen to your body! It’ll tell you when something’s wrong.” Great advice given by doctors and mothers for years. How much healthier would our workplaces and companies be if leadership listened more to their “organizational” bodies/employees.

Upper management is in the position of making decisions about what they feel their employees need and want. Oftentimes, these decisions are made from management perspective. Thousands of dollars are invested in trainings for employee development, put toward incentive programs and all types of activities in hopes that the return on investment is a happy, engaged, productive employee. So why are so many employees unhappy?

Just like any healthy relationship, it will not flourish until the “decision maker” decides to include the recipient of the investment in the planning. No adult wants to be consistently told what is best for him or her! Not to say that employees should have control over how a company handles its operations, but sometimes, just sometimes, it helps to simply ask, “What do YOU need?” and “How can we help YOU” achieve YOUR organizational goals.” Managers would be surprised of the answers (and looks of shock) they’d receive.

Not only would new ideas be thrown into the mix, but also the employer would have the most important piece to make any employee relations initiative work…Employee Buy-in.

If an employee feels like they have a voice, like their opinion mattered and was even remotely considered, they will ultimately be happier with whatever was decided upon. Those on the front line grow tired of being told what they want, and having ideas shoved down their throats. They merely sit back, sigh and say, “What are they gonna have us do next?”, all while searching for new employment where they feel their opinions will matter.

Before decision makers start making decisions for others, it pays (literally and figuratively) to poll those who you are trying to reach and ultimately affect. Listening to your “organizational” body can definitely make the workplace a happier and healthier place to be.