Workplace Astigmatism

For the last 10 years, I’ve boasted that my vision has not changed. I laugh at optometrists when I walk into their examination rooms because I know that the result is going to be the same…”Well Mr. Harris, everything is fine…no difference…here’s your prescription.” to which I say buttholishly, “I know! Told ya things are the same.”

eye-exam-checkupBecause of this status quo, I take eye exams for granted; only going when I actually need new glasses due to wear and tear…which is like every 5 years. I actually get tired of putting myself (and my money) out there to have my time wasted…until my visit a week ago.

This trip I entered confidently as I usually do, preparing my normal giggle and forming my mouth to say my usual know-it-all words, until Dr. Eyedude says, “Your right eye has changed. We’re going to switch your prescription and it may be a little drastic.”

When you think that nothing has changed, everything has

Not having had to look through “different” lenses for so long, I found myself being uncomfortable on my way home. The change was making my head hurt. Things were blurry. I didn’t like it. Was it because it was unexpected? Was it because something was different? Was it because it was unwelcomed? Maybe it was because I had gotten too comfortable. Too used to knowing what everything looked like and how everything was supposed to feel. The moment a new process was introduced, a new person was brought aboard, a new policy took effect…wait, am I describing your office or my eyes? Hmm? Maybe both.

As we get older, more experienced, more tenured, we must face the inevitable fact that things must and will change. Our vision, our surroundings, and the ways our businesses must operate all change. We can either roll with it, adjust or we can resist and remain in denial. That denial stems from the fact that we think things are fine just the way they are and we think that if we don’t acknowledge it, it’ll just go away.

Resistance to change can be costly

If I had paid regular attention, not been so arrogant and stubborn, maybe a drastic change could have been avoided or eased into. The gradual change would’ve helped me to make better adjustments. Being open to changes in the way our companies must do business will help our employees make better decisions as it relates to the new normals. Maybe they need regular examinations and consultation…I mean evaluations and one-on-ones…so that any issues can be identified early before they become problematic and cost us in the end.

What’s better? One or two? Two or three?

The next day, I could see things better. The headache had gone away. Those moments of temporary discomfort turned into my new, clearer reality. It took me getting broken down and taken out of my cocky comfort zone to realize that acceptance, flexibility and acknowledgement helped the headaches to go away and for things to seem clear again. I had to be humbled by the fact that I don’t know how bad things are until someone shows me something better, different, clearer.

Does your job give you “headaches”? Is it them or is it you refusing to adapt? 

Let’s not wait until it’s too late to let someone check us out. Let’s take some feedback and let it make us better. Let’s understand that us becoming more seasoned is when more changes need to occur…as opposed to things always having to change to our liking. Yielding to necessary adjustments may be blurry at first, but it can ultimately help you to see your vision more clearly in the end.

Professional Irrigation

According to Justin’s Labor Statistics, a lot of people get unhappy with their jobs during this time of year.  Holiday sadness and stress can make people feel as if they need a change and the cold and blahness outside affects everyone’s moods.

The-Grass-is-Greener-on-the-Other-SideBut the worst thing to do when feeling blah is to make dramatic, life-altering decisions, like leaving a job just because something looks a little greener across the street.

I liken it to the grass in my yard. I know that during this time of year my yard looks like crap. Everything is brown and dead. But as I drive through my neighborhood, there’s this one house where the landscaping is still immaculate, despite the climate. The yard is full of color and all kinds of pretty crap (I’m a yard hater). While I never see the residents actually in the yard, it’s evident that they are doing something that I’m not. But yet I use their end result as a barometer to measure my success, not fully considering their effort and struggle to achieve the results.

If I want my grass to be green like theirs, I have two choices…take over their house or figure out what it takes to improve MY yard. Notice I didn’t say “figure out what they’re doing and replicate it at my place” because my grass might need different care than theirs.

Even if I were to kick them out and move in, I’d soon learn that if my habits and actions do not change, that once green and supple yard will begin to look just as dry and brown as the one I so eagerly ran from. Just wanting it to be a certain way isn’t enough.  It’s about the work we’re willing to put in to something that yields the results we seek.

Hate your job? Are you watering YOUR grass!?!? Are you tilling the soil, researching what it needs and caring for it properly? Are you investing enough time to make it work or are you just doing the bare minimum that just keeps it presentable? Are you spending the time to get to know it, what it reacts to, much like the relationships with co-workers and clients? Are you tackling your issues with a one-size-fits-all solution (like a mower) or are you using a variety of tools and focusing on details.

Man-watering-grass-in-desert-550x550Picking up and moving without a plan doesn’t fix the issue, you fix the issue. And if it’s deemed unmanageable after you’ve tried everything, by all means, call in the experts or relocate.

By watering your own lawn (current situation), it can be just as green and productive as the next person’s. We can’t prosper always worrying about what someone else has and always thinking that you have to find something else to be happy. The reality is that if you do something different or creative where you are, you’ll create something that others will want to emulate…and there will be no reason or time to hate on the plush greenness in someone else’s yard.

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!

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Like A Foot In A Glove

Being a father of two small children, I witness first hand how quickly things change and especially how quickly people grow. My sons favorite shirt from last summer can’t be worn and enjoyed this summer because he’s outgrown it. Those princess shoes that my daughter wants to play in can’t be worn just yet because they’re too big. Sometimes they realize the inevitable, but oftentimes someone has to explain to them that if something doesn’t fit, something different needs to be done.

round-peg-square-holeSome things just don’t fit, no matter how hard you try to make them. Square pegs into round holes. Oil, water. That employee, this job. And just like that little shirt, even if one manages to get it on, it will never be comfortable. And it hurts worse trying to get it off.

And there’s nothing more unfortunate than watching employers and employees trying to force their opposing styles and beliefs on one another. When there are differences in work-place philosophy and business ideology, how much one likes the other won’t compensate for the professional disconnect. Someone will always be chasing their tail trying to change an environment that doesn’t want to change, trying to alter how they think or how they approach work, which ultimately results in trying to change the address on their business cards. Relationship isn’t always a fix for disengagement and poor fit.

You’ve seen it. The employee that had so much potential at first…did everything right, maybe too quickly. Once they started to settle in, she begins to understand the company culture and she doesn’t like it. It doesn’t feel right anymore. Thoughts of the next day keep her awake at night. Her work doesn’t suffer while she’s searching for a means of escape, but it doesn’t get better. Now on top of regret and employer remorse, there are impromptu “heart-to-hearts” from management about lofty expectations and why she should like it there. She’s productive, but the results of their full potential will not be seen there. It just may not be the right fit.

You’ve seen it.  Companies making sacrifices for their employees, but they never seem to get the desired reaction. As a whole, they feel good about the tools they’ve provided, the wealth of knowledge they’re making available, but the employees just aren’t buying in. Management tries changing the approach, nothing. They change a process or two to accommodate, but employee behavior doesn’t change along with it. No matter how badly the company wants them to, the employee doesn’t take hold to the values and mission that are being preached. It just may not be the right fit.

Ultimately, the employer begins to think the employee is not working hard enough…and the employee is thinking that the leadership is out of touch. While a strong Human Resources team can help to bridge this gap, that same team, if its worth its salt, should be advising managers and employees alike when it may be time to move on…when it’s time to stop the madness and the vicious cycle…when it’s time to throw the little shirt away or to put the big shoes away and wait.

Who Moves First?
At some point, there has to be a wake up call and an admission that its not working. HR can help, but its better when the involved parties can draw the conclusion themselves. Employers hate admitting that they’ve failed in hiring, training or creating atmosphere…and prideful employees hate admitting that they can’t adapt to the companies requirements, expectations and culture. Similar to a fizzling relationship, no one is necessarily wrong, they may just be different. Just like the growth spurt from last summer or not growing fast enough, it’s just reality and it has to be faced. And for both employer and employee’s sake, the denial can’t last for too long.

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ROI Begets Passion

Have you ever encountered a leader that had so much passion for the business that they lacked compassion for their people? Management expecting employees to bust through the door on day one willing to die for the organization? Seen execs that frowned upon employees for not happily and voluntarily putting in 60+ hours a week and weekends? Had tenured co-workers look at you funny for not jumping up and down excited during staff meetings? Ever had your calm demeanor mistaken for being nonchalant and lacking passion?

I think that we all have at some point. And I believe that those at the receiving end of those types of expectations know that employees have to grow into that level of passion for a company. And in order to justify the sacrifices, they have to feel and see the Return On Investment (ROI) for their efforts. Dangling carrots disguised as promotion and advancement no longer cut it. Employees, just like employers, are seeking ROI to determine if the relationship will be beneficial sooner rather than later…and that ROI will create the passion they’re looking for.

True passion is built through demonstrated trust, respect and flexibility. It is created by ensuring resources, access and reward. While it is very beneficial to have employees that share the same level of commitment and excitement as management, leaders have to be heavily involved by teaching and developing employees to get there. Leaders and peers have to be a part of getting new and old employees to that level of excitement, not by forcing one’s own passion down their throats, but by acclimating them and demonstrating why it’s worth the long hours. Why its worth missing a child’s field day at school. Why its worth calling a spouse and saying I’ll be home later…we’ll have to change our plans. Not just expecting it because “that’s what leaders do.”

When one’s passion is forced on employees, it creates a disdain and disengagement because they are more concerned about how they are being perceived rather than how much they’re producing. People stop idolizing the work ethic of leaders and start looking at them like they’re crazy. They stop admiring the sacrifices made to start and grow a business, and began to wonder if they’ve joined a cult.

photo (3)So don’t give employees 150% of that over-the-top passion right off the bat. Don’t floor it; go 0 to 150 gradually so the engine doesn’t get worn out too soon. They’re not ready for all of that at once, nor will that inspire them to do their best, giving you the return that you want. Show enough of it that they’re not weirded out by you. Show enough to give glimpses of something to look forward to. Show enough to encourage fighting through communication failures and confusion. Show enough to keep them from watching the clock and wanting to rush through life to the weekend. Give it in stages so that employees want to buy in to the organizational philosophy and not feel as if drinking the Kool-Aid is the only way to get management approval. Just be real, and in turn you’ll get employees that will grow into being passionate about your company and not just those that act like it to impress the brass.

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