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Rambling musings from recent travel (it’s a long one…)

I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog lately. Part of that is due to work and travel. Part of it is due to not really sure if I have something meaningful to put out there in the universe. (Unlike super successful bloggers, I am not good at the whole “write on a schedule” thing. That’s probably why I haven’t been able to retire and live the life to which I’d like to become accustomed.)

I mentioned travel. I recently returned from a very fun, very exhausting, and very different kind of vacation (for me). I had a chance to do an East Coast Swing – fly out to Philly for a couple of days to piggyback on my husband’s work trip and see what the city is like, and then we took a train to NYC. I had never been to either city. I am not a person who typically does well in big cities. Too many people. Too little sky.

I had a blast.

I mean, not ALL the time. Good lord, it’s still travel – have you done that recently? Oof. However, the fact that this trip was to a new place that forced me to do new things meant a lot. It also got me thinking differently about stuff in general. Of course, none of these thoughts were sufficiently long enough for an entire blog post, so you get random thoughts from the road.

Musing #1: The walkability of cities out east was really, really nice. It changes the way you interact with your environment. You notice things about the area you wouldn’t see in a car. We found lots of fun little shops and other things to see as we were walking around. We stumbled upon Christ Church in Philadelphia after grabbing a sandwich for lunch. We ended up in the cemetery where Ben Franklin is buried because we thought it looked cool. And we found Trinity Church and Alexander Hamilton’s grave while meandering about downtown Manhattan. None of these was on our list of things to see.
Lesson learned: Get out and walk around. You’ll see things you never expected to. Oh, and Times Square is THE WORST. 

Musing #2: Speaking of things not being on our list to see…we didn’t have a list of things to see. Typically when I go on vacation, I learn about the area and all that there is to do and then when we get there, we see what happens. (Seriously, we hate scheduling things because then we feel like we HAVE to do something.) I didn’t really do that this time. We had show tickets for one Broadway show (more on that later) and that was it. The rest was up in the air. Every day, we picked a destination, and then wandered around until we got there and let the day take us where it would. It’s how we ended up at The Intrepid Museum (very cool). It’s also how we ended up getting tickets for a second show on a whim. Not having it all in my head up front was a little frustrating at times, but it also meant I wasn’t worried that we’d miss something I’d read about.
Lesson learned: Sometimes you just go with the flow and take what the world gives you.

Musing #3: One of the cool things about travel is getting to meet people you only know from online. We got to have dinner with the incomparable Vadim Liberman. We had such a good time. We made him eat too much food, and forced him to consume sorbet against his will. (He made me say that so you wouldn’t think he’s fat.) Seriously, though, we had fun and it was great to finally connect in person. It was like we’d known each other for years.
Lesson learned: Online relationships CAN be meaningful and solid. And it’s even better when you can reinforce in real life.

Musing #4: The subway in NYC was not as awful as I was worried it would be. Which is silly, because we rode The Tube in London with no problems. As you can see, I had NO frame of reference for NYC (except maybe Law & Order, which probably isn’t super accurate). We took the subway from Times Square to downtown, walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, had pizza and ice cream, and then took the subway back. Good times!
Lesson learned: We often make things out to be much worse in our minds than they actually are.

Musing #5: One of the things I have always wanted to do was see a Broadway show with its original cast. Hamilton was one I wanted to do, and that didn’t happen for various reasons (cost being a big one). So when Dear Evan Hansen came out and I saw some clips of how amazing Ben Platt was in the lead role…that was the show I picked. So we went. And…wow. I’ve seen live musicals and plays before. I have never seen someone commit like that. Damn. The show itself is good and all…but the actors are what elevate it to astounding. I’m curious to see how it fares when the original cast moves on. We also got tickets to see Hamilton (finally!). Totally lucked into not having to pay a million dollars, so it can be done! Also fabulous. As a show, Hamilton is far more brilliant than Dear Evan Hansen – staging, writing, choreography, etc. But I think the performances of Dear Evan Hansen stuck with me a little bit more. Either way – both shows were stupendous to see. As I sat there, watching the fantastic talent onstage, I realized I was watching people do what they were put on this Earth to do. It’s transformative.
Lesson learned: Go watch people do what they were meant, and built, to do. And see a show on Broadway at least once. It does make a difference.

Musing #6: The 9/11 Memorial is heart-breaking and powerful. I was surprised by the impact it has, all these years later. The Memorial team places roses in the names of victims on their birthday. The sight of those flowers is beautiful and sad. Please, if you ever go – don’t take smiley family pictures like it’s Disney. It’s basically a burial site.
Lesson learned: None really. Just incredibly moving.

We took almost 1,000 pictures. We walked what must be about 100,000+ steps in NYC (roughly 20,000/day). And I’ve written about 1,000 words about it because we saw so much and it made me think. A wise person once said, “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.” As I get more opportunities to travel to new places, I agree with that 100%. I am grateful to have these opportunities and the wherewithal to take advantage of them. I get that not everyone can. I’m just asking you to try. So if you’ve been putting off that trip, don’t. Go book it now. Even if it’s just a quick drive over to the next town. Explore the world as much as you are able to do, especially the nooks and crannies of your hometown.

 

 

You never know what you’ll find.

 
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Posted by on July 19, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Gratitude – it might be enough

I am attending the WorkHuman conference in Phoenix, AZ this week. This is the third year in a row I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of this conference, and I like it because its focus is less on “how to” and more on “why.” The conference organizers try to find speakers and keynotes who align with the message of rewards, recognition, and living one’s authentic self – a phrase a few years ago I would have snorted at. Actually…I do still kind of snort because the word is overused, but in today’s world of social media with increasing pressure to put on a good public life while struggling in private, I think the message is valid.

In yesterday’s opening session on the big stage, we watched a Q&A with Chaz Bono, a transgendered individual who knew from an early age he didn’t fit the female body he was born into. His story is rather well documented – being the child of celebrities must have compounded the challenges of dealing with these feelings of “different” – and he was open about the challenges he faced with substance abuse. Chaz shared he was 13 years clean and sober, an impressive accomplishment for anyone.

Chaz has refocused his efforts to make a living as an actor (including a secret project he can’t talk about…mysterious!) but continues to use his celebrity to support people (including kids) who are going through the emotions of transitioning and to help them understand they are not alone.

There were a lot of powerful messages in Chaz Bono’s Q&A, but one stood out to me. He was telling the story of going through his journey to sobriety and shared the advice a mentor gave him. The key to sobriety and not relapsing, this person said, was GRATITUDE. Be grateful for what you have, and you won’t dare relapse.

Now, not all of us struggle with substance abuse. But we are human beings who go through life with one burden or another. We may wallow in self pity. We may think life isn’t fair. We may dream about the next big thing without paying attention to what we have RIGHT NOW.

All of this got me thinking…am I grateful? Do I practice gratitude?

If I’m honest with myself, I would say…sort of. I do have a tendency to dwell on things. As an affirmed introvert, I internalize a lot of things, turning it over and over in my mind, wearing out my thoughts like a well-handled piece of paper. This can be an addictive way to live – stress and anxiety can be comforting because there is little accountability to act on things. And it’s easier to be stressed and anxious when you think you don’t deserve what you have.

On the other hand, I do step back from time to time and recognize that I am incredibly fortunate. I have a well-paying job. I have an amazing husband. I live in a beautiful state. I have the flexibility to make daily choices that millions don’t. So I recognize those things and AM grateful.

I just don’t say it out loud very much.

Therefore, my takeaway from Day One of WorkHuman is to be more vocal about my gratitude; to tell those around me I’m grateful for their presence; to vocalize to those who are struggling that sometimes the ability to draw breath is enough to be grateful for today…and we can figure out the rest tomorrow.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Self-Awareness, Uncategorized

 

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Not every hero wears a cape

Sometimes you hear a story about a person that makes you stop in your tracks and think, “Whoa. I could never do what that person is doing.”

Last night, I saw a story on the news about Darius Matsuda, a soon-to-be sophomore in high school who is visiting local middle schools to tell his story about growing up with autism. He shares with the students his experiences – including being forced into a circle with another boy while the others chant “Fight! Fight! Fight!” He explains what it’s like to live with autism – how it impacts your sensitivity to sound, light, and your ability to make friends.

It’s a powerful, personal story, and he’s already told it nine times to kids not that much younger than he is. All in the hopes that kids learn a little compassion for their fellow students, and understand that just because someone is different doesn’t mean they’re lesser than. Darius is going for Eagle Scout, and this is his service project.

This kid is amazing. Talk about putting yourself out there.

I bet that if we look hard enough, we all have someone like Darius around us. Someone with a story to tell, who has learned lessons in their life and are willing to share them. Not because it will help them…but because it will help those who come after them.

These are the heroes in your community and in your workplace. Listen to their stories. Learn their lessons.

Nice work, Darius.

 

If you want to learn more about autism and how to get involved, visit the Autism Society website

 
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Posted by on May 17, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Can you change your industry if you don’t consult?

It happened again. One of those The 25 Most Influential Whatevers Changing the Industry lists. The ones that inevitably have the same core group of names you see on every other list in the same industry. And the ones that seem to consist solely of consultants.

I’m not saying those people don’t deserve to be on those lists. The folks who make those lists have clearly gotten their message to a wider audience and are typically looked to as an expert in their field. And they work hard to earn that recognition.

What I am saying is that you almost never see an in-house person on those lists, what might be referred to as a “practitioner.” Oh, you see folks who own their own businesses and do it well, so it’s not like they aren’t working their butts off in “corporate America,” but they still tend to be on the outside looking in.

There are a lot of reasons why this might be the case, none of them nefarious; it’s just the nature of the work you do as a practitioner. First, let’s look at why consultants tend to make lists more often:

  • Consultants depend on getting their name, brand and messaging out there on a regular basis to build their business. You have a day job, the basic need of getting your name out there for a paycheck isn’t as strong.
  • Consultants are a third-party voice, and as such they get the “fresh eyes” credibility boost. Remember when you were new at your company and everyone thought you were brilliant? It’s the same effect sometimes for consultants.
  • Consultants know that they need to stay current to stay credible, so they do their homework on the latest and greatest stuff that’s going on. Also, a lot of them tend to be invited to speak at conferences, which means they see the most recent products and research…and it raises their visibility in the field.

So that begs the question – can you be recognized as an industry trailblazer when you’re working a 9-5?

Pigeons. In holes. Get it?

 

The short answer is yes…it just takes a lot more work.

First, figure out WHY you want to change your industry. Is it for personal glory? Or do you really think there’s got to be a better way to do it? If it’s personal glory….well, feel free to promote yourself out there and see how long you last. But if you really think there is a better way to do work within your industry, there are a few things you might consider doing on your way to trailblazer status:

  • Be a Mad Scientist: Your current organization is a great testing ground for new ways to do things within your industry. Think of it as your own little laboratory. When you get some interesting results, start sharing it with people in your industry.
  • GET ON SOCIAL MEDIA: I know, I know…EVERYONE is on social media. You know why? Because it’s a great place to network with other people who do your job, too! You can talk to people, ask them how they’re handling certain issues, share your expertise. And you don’t have to go to awkward after-work happy hours to meet them, either. It’s like an introvert’s dream.
  • Put yourself out there: This is sort of related to the social media one, but has a broader focus. If you want to impact your industry, you need to see more of your industry. Go to conferences (if you can). Volunteer locally if there is an industry membership group nearby. Reach out to similar organizations and see if you could visit to learn a little more about what they do. Don’t bury yourself in your bubble and assume you’re a rock star because you have figured out your company’s system. You need to find out about other systems before you can help change the industry.
  • Publish your findings – successes and failures: Publishing might seem kind of formal, but depending on your industry, it could be the way to go. Or, you know, you could start a blog. Or maybe apply to speak at some of those industry conferences you’ve heard so much about. Sharing what you’re doing with people outside of your organization is the best way to get feedback on what you’re doing AND to help influence what is going on in the industry.

Does that sound like a lot of work? It can be. You’ve got a day job, and a lot of this may need to happen at lunch breaks, evenings and weekends. No one said change was easy, but if you really want to impact your industry, you may need to burn the midnight oil every once in awhile.

Oh, and one last thing you might think about as you embark on this quest….

  • Be okay with making YOUR company better: Sometimes it’s enough to make a difference at your own place of business. Not every change will be industry-changing – often, it’s enough to know you’ve made work better for the people around you. And really…isn’t that the best kind of change?
 
 

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Lisa Rosendahl, awesome person: This year’s Tim Sackett Day Honoree!!!

lisaEvery year, the HR blogging community gathers together to honor someone in the profession who is pretty darn cool. This is my third year to participate in such a cool tradition. (Year One and Year Two posts, in case you’re curious.)  In that past, I didn’t really know the people I had a chance to write about. I knew OF those people, and through this tradition, I had an opportunity to get to know them even better.

This is a rare year in that I have actually MET Lisa. In real life. In the lobby of a convention center (because that’s how classy HR people do it).

I met Lisa when I spoke at MNSHRM in 2015 (I think. Seriously, I have no idea what year this is. HELP ME!) Frankly, everyone I met there was a delight. Kate Bischoff gave me a Gopher hat. Josh Rock gave me a “Hi-eeee!” We tried to help Paul DeBettignies find happiness. It was a fun time. Don’t believe me? Check us out. (Yes…I have Beyonce hair in this picture. I’m just that cool. Lisa is the person directly behind me on the right. Avoiding my Beyonce hair. And kindly not laughing AT me.)

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And I also met Lisa at that conference. She is a wonderful person to talk to – smart, funny, wry, empathetic, tough as nails (seriously, when I met her, she was mad that she couldn’t run because she had an injury!). Lisa is a veteran and a mom. She’s also a mentor for so many bloggers out there who are just getting started or want to get better. And she’s one hell of a writer. Lisa is far too humble to believe the impact she has had on the community, so we are happy to toot her horn for her.

If you don’t know Lisa, do yourself a favor and get to know her. If you’re in Minnesota and want to meet an amazing person in real life, you would not be disappointed. I count myself lucky to be connected with her, no matter how tenuously.

So, thank you, Lisa Rosendahl!!! And happy Tim Sackett Day. We are so grateful to know you!

 

To learn more about Lisa, you can find her through any of these links:

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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2017 and the need for a plan

In general, 2016 kinda sucked.

I mean, there were some good things that happened. Captain America: Civil War was released. As was Rogue One, Deadpool, Star Trek: Beyond (I liked it), Doctor Strange…you know – decent movies. People were married and people were born, which I assume made several folks happy.

But there are a lot of you out there who have expressed your overall disgust with 2016. Too many amazing talents died (David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Gene Wilder, Garry Shandling, Arnold Palmer, John Glenn….it’s a depressingly long list). X-Men Apocalypse was released (good lord, that was awful). Discriminatory laws were passed around the nation, and then we went through that godawful presidential election that has left so many people in fear and despair for the future, or at the very least – not optimistic.

I think this tweet pretty much sums it up:

tweet

So who’s excited for 2017?

I am. But I’m not walking in with my eyes closed. I’m going to be prepared.

Glitchpath shared an approach that I think will work for 2017 – I’m going to do a premortem for my year. But I’m going to keep the scope small. I can’t worry about celebrities and movies (please don’t suck, Episode IIX or Dark Tower), so I’m going to focus on my workplace.

After thinking through that premortem, I’m building a contingency plan for things I think might happen so I’m ready for when they totally do. This isn’t a complete list (that would be a book), but I can bucket some of the areas of potential failure. This helps me think through a game plan to be ready for next year.

Plan A B or C Choice Showing Strategy Change Or Dilemma

  • Potential Failure #1: Employee Issues
    Let’s face it. Employees are great, but they bring on all sorts of variables that will throw your workplace into a tizzy. It could be performance issues, interpersonal issues, illness, turnover, business changes, etc. It’s a lot to plan for.

Contingency plan: Document all processes and cross-train as much as possible. Seriously, have a backup for your backups. Teach your team conflict management techniques (an no, that doesn’t mean “pretend it never happened”). Next, have open career goal discussions with each member of the team – are you happy? do you want to stay? if you stay, what can we help you do better? Be sure to set clear expectations with the team so there are no surprises. Work hard to cultivate a culture of trust and flexibility.

  • Potential Failure #2: Internal Customers
    Bless their hearts. We’re all on the same side, but for some reason, internal customers will occasionally go off the deep end and take you off the rails. They go around you to complain to those above you. Or they spread vague rumors about perceived problems. Issues can include unreasonable expectations, lack of response, not following the process, change in their business needs, budget constraints, etc.

Contingency plan: Build some good relationships. Create a responsive, adaptive, consistent communication cadence for all customers. Know your process and understand what you can and cannot compromise in the name of customer service. Share your process with your customers and outline roles and responsibilities on both sides.

  • Potential Failure #3: Executive Leadership
    You’ll notice that I put this group outside of internal customers. While executive leadership IS usually an internal customer, their real impact is greater because they are making decisions that touch on everything you do – how decisions are made, what can be communicated when, policy decisions, budgeting decisions, etc. There are so many potential pitfalls that I can’t possibly list them. They are legion.

Contingency plan: Find allies on the leadership team and build strong relationships. Leverage these relationships to learn about potential hidden agendas to help you navigate the politics of the situation. Develop an effective dashboard that quickly and easily communicates what’s happening in your team to leadership so you can build credibility and visibility.  KEEP YOUR BOSS IN THE LOOP AT ALL TIMES. (Nobody likes to be blindsided. Nobody.) And worst case scenario – win Powerball.

No, this isn’t an exhaustive list. There will still be crappy times ahead, and I can’t possibly plan for everything that can happen. Hopefully it gives you some idea of how I’m approaching 2017. I’m being proactive and cagey, instead of reactive and quick on my feet. I want to feel in control in 2017, rather than feeling like I survived the year.

So don’t mess with me, 2017. I know what I’m doing.

 
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Posted by on December 20, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

We’re all difficult to someone

On Monday’s #FailChat (on Twitter every Monday, 11am MT/1pm ET – join us!), we were discussing the challenge of managing difficult people (down, across and up) and examining our failures with it. Laurie Ruettimann made the comment that “When managing difficult people, assume you are also difficult. Helps a lot to be humble.” And she’s absolutely right. And because I have a pathological need to weigh in on everything, I responded with:

We are all difficult to someone. #failchat 

The comment got some likes and a couple of “yeps” and we moved on with the conversation.

I’m still stuck on my comment, because it’s true. No matter how charming we think we are, or how many people blow sunshine up our butts, to someone out there we are an archenemy. We are the Lex Luthor to their Superman. We are the Emperor to their Luke Skywalker. We are the Lucille Bluthe to their Michael. hilarious

It’s really hard to accept that.

After all, we work hard to build relationships. A lot of us try to be kind (or at least, not actively toxic), and we attempt to get through our day productively and with limited drama.

And yet, there are people out there who hate us.

“But,” you might say, “how can you possibly know that? Everyone likes me.”

Here’s the test: If you’ve ever had to say “no” to someone at work, you were being difficult to them.

Maybe not all the time and they probably got over it (we hope), but right then and there – you were difficult. You didn’t let them do something they wanted to do. In fact, you probably had a REALLY good reason to not let them do it. But still – difficult.

Think about it – how did you react the last time someone told you that you couldn’t do something…especially if it was a super cool idea! Did you think ill of that person? Did you accuse them of saying no out of spite. Did you get a teensy bit grumpy? Well, other people are thinking the exact same thing about you.

Don’t take it personally – we’re all difficult people. The best way to deal with it is to remember that the other person is coming from a different perspective. A couple of tips:

  • Find out why they think you’re difficult. Try not to discount the feedback automatically. It could be your approach. It could be they have their own issues. Get data and respond appropriately.
  • Explain your thinking. This can go a long way to changing your perceived difficulty. And on the plus side – if you can’t explain your thinking, there is a good chance that you ARE just being difficult out of spite.
  • Ask the other person why. Don’t dismiss something outright. Maybe their end goal is a really good one, but their proposed approach is bad. By knowing their why, you can help them find a better path.
  • Don’t try so hard to be liked. If the thought of being considered “difficult” distresses you, figure out why. If you’re certain your actions were done with the best outcome in mind, you’re going to be okay. It’s okay not to be everyone’s best friend.

“Difficult” is not a title. It’s not a trophy. It’s an adjective – and a common one, at that. So the next time you’re tempted to call someone difficult, just remember – you are, too.

And it’s all going to be okay.

I never give in to the temptation to be difficult just for the sake of being difficult. That would be too ridiculous.    ~ Jacques Derrida 

 

 
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Posted by on November 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

 
 
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