HR Is Art

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“But if your work is your art, a personal reflection of who you are, the only person who can do that better than you, is a future you.” — Bill Crawford

My wife and I love cooking shows. The other evening, we were watching Chef’s Table: Pizza on Netflix. The show is a behind the scenes look at culinary masters making waves in kitchens around the world. It’s a documentary style. The episode we watched centered around Gabriele Bonci, the Roman baker and chef known as the “Michelangelo of pizza.”

It struck me that throughout the episode Bonci discussed his craft as if it were art. Everything that went into his pizzas needed to be pure and an extension from whence it came. The dough was made only from wheat grown a certain way. The cheese was made only from sheep who were loved and cared for. The meat only came from animals who lived a great life. When he put it all together, kneading the dough, crushing the tomatoes, forming the mozzarella, and cutting the vegetables – all of this was done in a way that mimicked artistry. Bonci’s pizza was his art, and he made it only if he could put his entire being into the process.

Again, we love cooking shows, and we watch a lot of them. This is not unusual. A lot culinary masters refer to their work as art — Grant Achatz, Carla Hall, Gordon Ramsey, Masaharu Morimoto, Christina Tosi, . They treat their work differently. They seem to put a different level into what they do. It makes sense when someone says, “my craft.” To those, work is more than work. It becomes art.

Bonci relies on what he calls “agriculture as culinary art.” It means, from what I was able to gather:

  • quality without compromise,
  • use only the freshest, natural ingredients available,
  • using ingredients produced by people who share the beliefs and respect the true value of culinary and nutrition,
  • ever-changing toppings on the Roman-style crust,
  • a mix of meats, herbs, cheeses, and seasonal produce,
  • choosing the size of your slice so it’s easy to try more than one.

I wondered what would happen if I treated my work as art. I’ve always had an artistic side to me – writing, drawing, sketching – but I’ve never really thought of “work” as art. Obviously, my work is different than baking a pizza. My work is people, but I see a lot of overlaps with the principles and philosophies that Bonci uses to guide his life.

  • Quality without compromise – All too often we accept mediocrity for whatever the reason. Being great requires more. Accepting mediocrity is allowing your art to be less than it SHOULD be. People we work with deserve the best, and YOU deserve the best. Settling helps no one.
  • Use only the freshest, natural ingredients available – Often times, we don’t have the best support to work with! Maybe we don’t have HRIS. Maybe we don’t have the right knowledge. Over time, we need to make changes to GET the best ingredients, or in the case of HR, supporting systems. Much like growing the best tomatoes or onions, we need to plant seeds and cultivate them, so they sprout the ingredients we need! Do the work, and the plant grows.
  • Using ingredients produced by people who share the beliefs and respect the true value of culinary and nutrition – Surround yourself with a supporting cast that sees what you see and helps get you there! As the famous philosopher Seneca stated: “Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those who you are capable of improving. The process is a mutual one: men learn as they teach.” Echoed by Epictetus, “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” Professionally, if the organization doesn’t share your values, then find one that does. It may take a while, but the effort will be worth it.
  • Ever-changing toppings on the Roman-style crust – The only constant is change. The best way to deal with it is to act as water and flow with it, or be carried away by it. Change can be an incredible time to lean into creativity! Change presents an opportunity to dust off old skills, develop new ones, work with colleagues you don’t see often, or become something altogether different. This takes vision and inner strength. Much like chisel to marble, embrace the inside of the block and see what comes out.
  • A mix of meats, herbs, cheeses, and seasonal produce – Diversity is the spice of life, so it is said. I don’t need to restate all the amazing statistics to prove the value of diversity in the workplace when it comes to people. It’s true. Different lived experiences coming together in a crescendo produce better results. Period. Art has a multitude of color strokes, techniques, attempts. Taken separately, and it means nothing. Put it all together to make the masterpiece!
  • Choosing the size of your slice so it’s easy to try more than one – Similar to diversity, having more than one experience is key to living an artistic life. But don’t stop there. Get diversity of experiences, diversity of skills, diversity of jobs. All of these can produce different outcomes and solutions no one saw coming. Apply experiences from one field to strengthen another! I’ve seen this work so many times. It’s worth finding the answers in places others don’t see them.

Most of all, being an artist is seeing the image in the unknown and being able to extract it for the world to see and benefit from. Being an artist is knowing something exists that no one else can see and bringing it into the world. Whether that is pizza, or whether that is a new culture that can provide greater results for your organization.

The key to being an HR artist is the same as being a culinary artist, or regular artist – it is putting all your skills, thoughts, passion, and logic into proving that something is more than it appears.

By the way, Bonci has only two restaurants worldwide. One in Rome. The other in Chicago. Luckily, being a Chicagoan, I know pizza. I’ve had Bonci’s art, and I can say, it is beautiful!

My visit to Bonci’s Chicago November 2022.

In whatever it is you do in life, Buon appetito!!

© 2023 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved

Paul’s Top Five Reads in 2022

“…a mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone. That’s why I read so much, Jon Snow.” – Tyrion Lannister

Reading is a gateway to wisdom. Harry Truman was quoted as saying, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.”

Whether you’re leading a multiunit HR team, or leading an HR department of one, reading is a must for every HR professional. Without reading and thinking, the mind – much like the body without exercise – becomes withered and useless. I encourage everyone seeking to be a leader, or a better version of themselves (often the two are not mutually exclusive), that reading opens the pathway to many abilities some consider to be marketable!

But HR professionals should not stick to HR books only. We can find wisdom, encouragement, solutions, and so much more in books that expand beyond our normal horizonal interests. Be open to different sources. Challenge yourself and grow.

So, in that spirit, I wanted to share my top five favorite reads of 2022!

Discipline Is Destiny: The Power of Self-Control by Ryan Holiday

Long time readers of this blog know that Stoicism has influenced who I am as a person. When Ryan Holiday announced that he was releasing a series of books on the four key virtues of ancient philosophy. In the second book of his series, he tackles temperance, moderation, self-discipline. Today we live in a world of extremes. There seems to be no room in the middle for balance. Without balance there is no discipline, and without discipline work isn’t accomplished as well as it can be or should be.

Key take away: Discipline is the ability to keep oneself in line. It’s the ability to ensure that we stay on course, our course. That takes courage (the virtue from Holiday’s first book). Cultivating self-discipline takes time, commitment, and determination. Eventually, results follow.

Key passage: “This is what you find when you study the true masters of any profession. They don’t care about winning, about money, about fame, about most of the things that have come their way as a result of their success. Their journey has always been toward something bigger. They aren’t running a race against the competition. They are in a battle with themselves.” (pg. 283)

The World According to Star Wars by Cass Sunstein

I am a Star Wars nerd. Not just original trilogy nerd. I am a nerd for so much more! I love the Disney+ TV series, I love the Clone Wars series, and many of the comics. I dig into the philosophy of what made Star War, well, Star Wars. Cass Sunstein is a foremost expert on human behavior and how it relates to economics and public policy. As a fellow nerd, you could feel his passionate take on the legend of George Lucas and how his vision shaped society, families, public policy, economics, and political uprisings. There’s so much for HR pros in this book!

Key take away: Everything boils down to choice. Our outside environment does have influence over our internal environment, but ultimately, we can only control one. In fact, choice is a key theme in Star Wars philosophy and canon. The biggest storylines in the Star Wars world center around choice – Anikan Skywalker turning to the dark side, Luke Skywalker leaving his home planet of Tatooine and join the rebellion, Han Solo sacrificing himself for Leia and Chewbacca, and Darth Vader turning back to the light. There are so many more, but according to Sunstein, the freedom of choice is the deepest lesson from George Lucas.

Key passage: “Star Wars pays due tribute to the importance of distance and serene detachment. But its rebel heart embraces intense attachments to particular people, even in the face of lightning bolts from the Emperor himself. At the decisive moment, children save their parents. They are grown. They announce their choice: ‘I am a Jedi, like my father before me.’” (pg. 184)

Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

From one book discussing the power of choice to THE ultimate statement that codifies how powerful choice is. In 2001 I toured Dachau Concentration Camp in Bavaria, Germany. It was one of the most haunting feelings I ever experienced. Seeing the showers, the ovens. Arbeit macht frei. I cannot quite explain how I felt. The silence of the visitors was deafening. It was as if the ghosts of the fallen were with us as a warning of man’s malevolence. Viktor Frankl survived the camp. His entire family did not. He codified his experience and the psychology around it in this masterpiece. It should be mandatory reading for all students in every country. I’m somewhat ashamed it took me this long to read it.

Key take away: Mankind can be evil. Mankind can be unimaginably cruel. I’m not sure if the Holocaust is the worst thing humanity has done to itself, but I’m hard pressed to think of something worse. Yet, through all of it, humanity retains a beautiful kindness, a wonderful sense of purpose and selflessness. Ultimately, we retain the choice to be good, even in the presence of unmitigated malevolence. Not to degrade or downplay the real struggles we all face, but if someone doesn’t lose themselves in the pit of Auschwitz, what excuse do the rest of us have?

Key passage: “…everything can be taken from a man except one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” (pg. 66)

How to Have Difficult Conversations About Race: Practical Tools for Necessary Change in the Workplace and Beyond by Kwame Christian

Earlier in my career, a company leader made a racist remark in front of me. I regret to this day not confronting them about it then and there. It’s not an excuse, but at the time, I wasn’t equipped or prepared. I froze because I lacked the courage to say SOMETHING. Since that moment, I never wanted to be caught off guard again. So, I dedicated myself to education – to learn how to handle this situation if it ever happened again. I dedicated myself to justice, so I dove in and read whatever I could, talked to Black colleague, shut up and learned! I call on all WHITE professionals to do the same. Thankfully, Kwame Christian’s book has been released as an amazing primer for building the knowledge and courage to do what NEEDS to be done. Folks have no excuse and cannot look to others to solve this problem. White folks have to be active, steadfast, and act accordingly. Christian’s book is an amazing starting point.

Key take away: Talking about race is hard for everyone. However, it’s not only necessary, but it’s the only way through the problems we face to get better on the other side. Being scared isn’t an excuse. Being ignorant isn’t acceptable. Being avoidant doesn’t solve anything. The only thing that works is getting uncomfortable and doing the work.

Key passage: “There’s no easy way around it. The best way to begin to reclaim your power in these conversations is by leaning in and having them. Every conversation is a practice opportunity.”  (pg. 35)

When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink

I’m not so certain of the old adage, “timing is everything.” I don’t think it’s everything, but it’s certainly a HUGE part of the equation. Sometime, timing is out of our control. Sometimes, it’s the right project but the wrong time. Much of the time, however, timing can be within our control. When do we do our best work? When do we make better decisions? When can we focus best? These things can be controlled, argues Daniel Pink, and not only can we control them, but the BEST leaders learn WHEN to control them!

Key take away: The best part about this book is two fold. First, Pink uses really powerful scientific studies and data to define his arguments, and he does it in a way that distills it down into easy to understand talking points. Second, he takes these talking points and builds a “how to guide” at the end of each chapter. He melds science with actionable tips to help the reader take the next step. It’s done quite brilliantly!

Key passage: “Calls held first thing in the morning turned out to be reasonably upbeat and positive. But as the day progressed, the ‘tone grew more negative and less resolute.’ … In other words, even when the  researchers factored in economic news or firm fundamentals, afternoon calls ‘were more negative, irritable, and combative’ than morning calls.” (pg. 18)

HR’s Karma: Legacy HR Must Pass

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“Karma means your life is your making. Karmic accumulation can either be a Boost or Burden – that is your choice.” — Sadhguru

I just finished the article “What Will HR Look Like in 2030?” I’m strategic. I want to know that I am three moves ahead. So, I read up to see where I stood according to industry experts. What I read instead gave me pause.

Overall, HR is not situating their organizations for future needs, and therefore, success. At least that’s the message I got from reading the article. It made me wonder if I am in the right profession. I am in human resources for people. I want people to succeed, to grow, and to become something more. According to the article, the professional I associate with is none of those things.

When it comes to technology and working with employees, “HR leaders are stuck in yesterday’s world,” said Suneet Dua, products and technology chief revenue and growth officer at PwC.

Regarding the employee experience, Keahn Gary, a senior manager and innovation and disruption strategist at Cognizant, a global IT services and consulting firm in Los Angeles, says this isn’t a job for HR. Why is that? She states that “HR, in its current state, is there to protect the company. Their purview is more along the lines of ‘How do we get employment to happen?’ rather than ‘How do we get work to happen?’ ”

To be fair, HR had over 100 years to focus on the employee experience in some form or another and neglected to do so. Gary continued by saying organizations are “way too focused on shareholder return. We have to stop looking at employees as cost centers and look at them as an investment.”

The story continues. Florian Pollner, a partner with McKinsey & Co. who is based in Zurich, believes that HR is adverse to data. “HR needs to make a mindset shift from ‘data automation is evil.’ If you don’t see data as our best friend … you’re not doing your job.”

Ultimately, what is going on here? HR shouldn’t be thought of as a monolithic body. It is a profession that takes on diverse roles across diverse organizations across a diverse world. However, there is a central theme all HR professionals need to spend time studying.

I’ve shared at least a dozen times the importance of the book Redefining HR: Transforming People Teams to Drive Business Performance by Lars Schmidt.

This book is a game changer. It NEEDS to be on the mantel of EVERY HR practitioner. It’s that important and groundbreaking, in my opinion. Schmidt’s main theme is that HR is changing (or needs to change), and HR professionals must take ownership in this change – be active in it, not simply be passengers in the revolution.

Schmidt’s emphasis is on changing “legacy HR” to “modern HR.” For any HR system to thrive, he argues, it needs to shift and embrace Modern HR, as outlined below:

Legacy HR: 

  • Elaborate programs with them as gatekeeper of corporate decisions 
  • Needlessly complex processes, forms, policies 
  • Go to HR when you’re in trouble 
  • “That’s the policy.”  
  • “You need to file this form before we can process.” 

Modern HR: 

  • Refocus on the “people” 
  • Common sense programs supporting an environment where employees can do their best work 
  • Go to HR when you need strategic support and guidance – strategic thought partners 
  • Solutions based ideas – get to “yes” unless it’s illegal or stupid 
  • Analytics – DATA driven 

Growing up, my mom always told me “What goes around comes around.” She tried to impart wisdom unto me that how I treated others would come back on me. Treat people like garbage, and I will be treated like garbage. Treat people well, and I will be treated well. Not necessarily by those people from whom received my actions, but in the largest sense, the Universe.

Ultimately, this was my mom’s way of saying the Universe (or God) is watching and will dish out what I deserved. Said another way, karma’s a bitch. Or sometimes it’s a sweetheart!

Legacy HR has prompted the Universe to rain upon my profession an acidic rain. I seek restorative justice for people, but decades of Legacy HR has left us vulnerable and our people suffering. HR has much to overcome – a majority of it done to itself.

It’s more complicated, I’d argue, of course. Good things happen to bad people. Bad things happen to good people. Good and bad are just concepts that humans attach to neutral events and situations, so even there, good and bad are just reflections of the owner.

But I can’t help but notice that ultimately in my experience, there does seem to be a mystical karmic spirit in the Universe. Maybe the Universe truly is watching. Or maybe the Universe is largely indifferent and uncaring. Ultimately, we are what we think, and those who put good vibes in the world tend to see good vibes return to them. The same can be said of those who put out negative vibes.

According to Hindu philosophy, Karma is any action. Every action or intention, whether physical or mental, creates an energy that is sent into the universe, which comes back to you in the future. Some consider it a spiritual equivalent of Newton’s law. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

I recently read an Instagram post about the “12 Laws of Karma.” This article from wellandgood.com here, on which I base much from this article, is a great primer. If what we put out into the Universe is returned to us, what does this mean for those HR pros who want to move on from Legacy HR and to usher in Modern HR? Well, maybe the 12 Laws affect us in these ways…

1. The Great Law: Whatever we put into the universe will come back to us.

HR Implications: This one seems easy enough. Be kind, and you will have kindness. Work hard, and others will work hard for you. Respect, and you will be respected. The beautiful thing is that each of these beginnings are within our sphere of control – we can choose to be kind, work hard, and be respectful. What we get in this life is under our direct influence (mostly). If you want HR to be seen as impactful, do impactful things. If you want HR to be respected, do respectful things. Knock down old barriers to success within the organization. Craft and implement policies that enhance others, add value to their experiences, and build them up. Work for others, and you will have this returned to you.

2. The Law of Creation: Life doesn’t happen by itself. We must actively go out there and make it happen.

HR Implications: Legacy HR is something we need to actively challenge! When someone says “Uh oh, HR is here. Who’s fired?” This is Legacy HR. When a team is talking about the water cooler and then goes silent when HR walks in. That’s Legacy HR. When someone needs to turn in their mother’s obituary to get Bereavement Leave approved, that’s Legacy HR. The world is changing. HR practitioners must change with it, and actively! We cannot sit on the sidelines and let the world dictate what HR is. We know it better than anyone else, and we must show up with humanistic, people-focused solutions. Otherwise, our world will be dictated to us, and Legacy remains reality.

3. The Law of Humility: In order to change something in your life, you first have to accept it as it currently exists.

HR Implications: We need to do a self-audit. Anyone who clings to Legacy HR needs to retire, change professions, or change their minds. And anyone with modern tendencies need to help them with this journey! Nothing will change without an honest look at what we do and how we do it. We must acknowledge that Legacy HR is real, and we need to do away with it! If it doesn’t add value to the journey onto Modern HR, then it needs to go. There is no movement without friction, and honest self-acceptance bridges the gap between friction and progress.

4. The Law of Growth: When we change ourselves, our lives follow suit and change, as well.

HR Implications: Once we accept that HR as it has been (and in some instances is) practiced is a big part of the issue, then we can open up the doors towards true change. The only people who can advocate and change themselves are themselves. Continue to be better. Continue advocating and making changes for the betterment of our people, and overtime, we will see growth and change in the profession and our professionals.

5. The Law of Responsibility: We must take ownership for what is in our lives.

HR Implications: This is related to the Law of Humility. We must humble ourselves and take radical ownership in changing the profession. Radical ownership requires humility and is a consequence of humility. Jenn Kennedy states it perfectly when she writes that radical ownership is “when you put that radical responsibility into action. You have a plan, and you own the hell out of it. You take the initiative, and you realize that you and only you are responsible for executing your plan. You are the one that’s accountable for it all.”

6. The Law of Connection: The law of connection states that everything (including nature, people, time) is connected in some way, including the past, the present, and the future.

HR Implications: This is one of the hardest things for many to conceptualize – especially in the west where individualization takes such a priority. Individualism is important, yes, but it cannot be at the expense of balance. All living an non-living things are part of one existence – one being. Time as well is an illusion. The past is connected to now. It’s the reason that we are struggling as a profession with lasting impact and being taken seriously. However, the future is connected to the now. We cannot change the past, but we can change tomorrow if we actively work towards our plan. Similarly, HR is connected to every part of the organization, so we are prime to fight the stigma that Legacy HR has bogged down our profession.

7. The Law of Force (or Focus): The law of force states that you cannot put your energy toward two things simultaneously. One cannot think of two things at the same time.

HR Implications: Many people claim to be excellent at multitasking, but the research continues to show this is not the case. People cannot split their attention without splitting their results. We get distracted, less effective when we try focusing on too many initiatives at once. Like the old saying goes, a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. Focus on changing HR with one thing at a time, and we will accomplish much more, and with better results.

8. The Law of Giving and Hospitality: Our behaviors should match our thoughts. Think selflessness, being giving to others, and practicing what you preach.

HR Implications: Many folks talk about being people centric, but policies say the opposite. To create true change requires dismantling those parts of the system that create distress, distrust, and disgust. It will take courage, justice, patience, but it is important to walk the walk. Talking is meaningless at best, and detrimental at worst, without accompanying action.

9. The Law of Here and Now: One cannot be present if one is looking to the past or to the future.

HR Implications: Mindfulness is something of a misunderstood term, if not an annoying buzzword. The concept has been around for millennium in religions and philosophies both eastern and western. Modern science confirms what ancient mystics knew. Mindful practice boosts mood, gratitude, and health. The only moment that truly exists is this one. The past doesn’t exist. The future doesn’t exist. Only the here and now matters toward ultimate change and positivity. Focus on what needs to be done today and do the work.

10. The Law of Change: To make change, we must acknowledge and learn the lesson.

HR Implications: Pema Chödrön wrote in When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” Learning is part of growing. This is why failure is the greatest teacher. But it is only a great teacher if we are good students. We must listen to the lesson. We need to pay attention to what the Universe is trying to show us. This requires humility, reflection, and acknowledgement.

11. The Law of Patience and Reward Consistent work pays off.

HR Implications: Show up and do the work, and rewards follow. Keep moving forward. Don’t stop. We can slow down as needed – it’s a must at times, especially when our health is at risk. But we must never stop moving forward. The journey commands it. The future of our profession truly needs those who consistently battle against the Legacy HR that still plagues our people. Do the work for them, and we all see the rewards.

12. The Law of Significance and Inspiration: We all have value due to our unique gifts.

HR Implications: This journey will take many amazing HR folks, folks with different skills, experiences, and ideas. We all have amazing talents, unique abilities, and gifts. Our role is to share our gifts with the world and make a meaningful impact. It will happen. Not immediately but slowly over time – little by little, brick by brick until a new foundation is created for a brilliant city! This new city will be one where people are valued. Just remember, you are not small nor unimportant. Your contribution to the world is needed. It is important – we are all connected, and your connection is as vital as anyone else’s.

HR pros, our karma was sent into the Universe over the past decades. We are seeing the outcome from this inattentiveness to people. We get back what we put forth. Those professionals who succeed us deserve better, and they will get what we put forth. What we do affects our lives, their lives, and the lives of our people in a major ways, whether we’re aware of it or not.

Karma helps provide us a compass towards a better environment. It helps us understand that what we do affects us and the world around us. The more good we can collectively put out into the Universe helps provide us all a better place to live. But it starts with our selves.

Do good. Be good. Good returns.

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved

#WISHRM22: A Recap of Conferencing Exploits!

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” – African Proverb

The restorative power of conferences is well known or should be. We go to conferences for many reasons – learning and development, the primary one, but these events can be so much more if one decides for them to be.

This past week, I took part in the Wisconsin State SHRM Conference. This was my second time attending the event, and it was phenomenal in every sense of the word. This was without a doubt in my mind the best HR conference I have been to in a long while – for many reasons.

New principles, new ideas, old friends and new friends, powerful presenters and speakers, books and vendor halls… I made memories that will last for a lifetime. It was incredibly well organized, and the Conference Committee, every single volunteer, and the entire WISHRM group should be lauded and celebrated. Truly, a fantastic effort.

WISHRM 2022 reminded me why I got into the people profession, and it helped give me refocused purpose. Here are my top takeaways and memories from WISHRM 2022.

1. My Community

There is a fantastic Vox article titled: Why community matters so much — and how to find yours. “A community can serve as a social safety net, but finding one and becoming a part of it is different from simply making friends,” the article’s tagline states, and I couldn’t agree more!

This event is a reminder that I have found a community in the human resources and people ops space. I have found friends, colleagues, and mentors. Though, I feel, I have found so much more. The #HRCommunity is special. Whether it’s the empathy that pulls people towards the profession, or the kindness, I have found an amazing bunch of folks to lean on and learn from. There can be bad apples in any profession or group, and many times there are, but this event cemented to me that the best of the best rise to the top and overshadow negative influences.

Thank you:

Kyra Matkovich

Tina Marie Wohlfield

Mary Williams

Jeff Palkowski

Christie Engler

Tom Daniels

Cheri Brenton

Taylor Forshee

Emily Smith

Andrew Marcotte

Matthew Stollak

Jay Stephany

And SO MANY OTHERS who couldn’t be there in person but were there in spirit. It’s impossible to name everyone who has contributed to this wonderful community of friendship, respect, and perseverance.

2. Greg Hawks and the Rapids of Change

I had the pleasure of seeing Greg Hawks at Illinois State SHRM Conference in 2017. It was my first HR conference, and I was blow away. Greg, particularly, was inspiring, so seeing him again was something I was looking forward to, and he didn’t disappoint!

I noticed that a lot of his “Rapids of Change” keynote, whether intentionally or not, reminded me of the Stoicism I so value.

  • #ILoveObstacles (The obstacle is the way…)
  • Control what you can, navigate the rest (the Dichotomy of Control)
  • Take time to build relationships and community (Sympatheia)
  • Time isn’t our issue, it’s how we use it (Memento Mori)
  • Own you “suckage” and use it to overcome insecurity (Ego is the enemy)
  • Make a decision! It’s a gift. You’re in leadership! (The duty and privilege to do what is necessary)
  • Terrain change – lean in, grab hold, and hang on! (Nothing is permanent, and everything is change)
  • Misaligned values at an organization will lead to friction for the individual (The Cardinal Virtues)

I think it goes to show that if we study ancient wisdom, again whether knowingly or not, we have unlimited chances to address modern challenges/opportunities. What is happening, has happened before, and will happen again. We just need to make connections with the past to the present for a better future – and ACT accordingly!

#HRSocialHour Half Hour Podcast, for life.

3. Shawn Gulyas and the “Force” of Your Culture

The theme of this year’s conference was Star Wars inspired, so I was geeked – literally! A huge Star Wars fan and a culture nerd, I had to go to an event about the Force and organizational culture!

Shawn Gulyas was inspirational with his realistic approach to ELEVATING workplace culture. He was engaging, and I quickly connected with him on LinkedIn, so I could continue learning from him. There were so many key take aways form this session, but here are my favorite (which were admittedly hard to narrow down):

  • Endurance – it doesn’t have to be pretty! Just move.
  • The Three Minds – There is the cognitive mind (IQ), affective mind (EQ), and the conative mind, connecting IQ and EQ to behavior. Shawn asks, “how would you do it your way if there were no rules?”
  • New Leadership Model for 2023 – What do you expect from people leaders? Set CLEAR expectations and then hold folks to them. (It’s not really “new” but for many folks, it might be!)
  • “Batteries Included” – All reviews should be simple and easy for ownership. People own their performance, not managers! Managers are facilitators who provide feedback and resources and accountability.
  • Gratitude – All meeting should have the following: BIG, RIG, FIG… Begin in gratitude, respond in gratitude, and finish in gratitude.
  • The Eight

Also, Shawn had a cool lightsaber from Star Wars land in Disney. I told him about my Darth Vader model, and he said he needed the Yoda model. To each their own! 😊

#ThumbKyra made several appearances at the conference!

4. Tina Marie Wohlfield and HR’s Value Chain

I have been in the nonprofit sector my entire career. Value chains are something I am aware of but unfamiliar with at large. I’ve never needed to know about them outside of theory in college. So, I was very curious to see Tina Marie’s presentation to see how I could (1) learn something new (or refamiliarize myself with value chains) and (2) figure out how to adapt this idea to the nonprofit sector.

Tina Marie DID NOT disappoint. She had one of my favorite slides of the event (see below). Porter’s Value Chain model was adapted by Tina Marie for HR. As an academic nerd, this floored me!

If Tina Marie’s model doesn’t clearly outline the integrated nature of HR at most organizations, then I’m not sure what can! This isn’t the end all be all, however. HR pros need to put value and metrics to this model – translated as dollars and cents. This is the language of most businesses, and yes, even nonprofit organizations. Without money, how can they achieve their mission?

HR is not a necessary evil that functions as a compliance arm only. HR is a DRIVER of value, expansion, culture, and innovation. It needs to be treated as such for any organization to succeed in the 21st century landscape.

HR’s Role in the Value Chain by Tina Marie Wohfield

5. Dima Ghawi and DEI+B

Dima Ghawi is an inspiring individual. She shared how she immigrated to America, got out of an abusive marriage, and received a chance opportunity at a bank, which helped launch her career. DEI+B is more than a catchphrase or trend for Dima. It is about all of us. Aside form her personal stories, the one thing that will stick with me the most is her story about bamboo.

She explained that bamboo grows roots for five years. It works to get completely grounded until it shoots up and up and up! Progress is slow. Change is resisted. Sometimes it doesn’t look like you’re making progress, but your roots are getting stable and deep. Just keep moving, and you will grow and blossom!

Dima’s slide on bamboo.

6. The Ripple Guy

WISHRM 2022 saved one of the best for last. I love when a conference can close on a really strong note! Paul Wesselmann is known as the Ripple Guy. He started a weekly email that sent a quote to those who signed up as a way to inspire people. What began as an organic way of bringing joy blossomed into a massive community. As Paul said, a tiny pebble can cause massive waves! Some of the key take aways from his session include:

  • You are worth getting nervous for! You have value!
  • Our jobs in this world isn’t necessarily to become someone or something different, but to find out who we already are and become them!
  • There is no perfect version of yourself. Keep swimming, give yourself grace. Growth is not linear!
  • There is no mental health. There is no physical health. There is only health.
  • Find the greatness in your smallness!
  • What is it time to let go of?

7. My First HR Conference Session

I’ve had the honor of speaking at conferences before – mostly on HR topics such as trends, best principles, etc. Until this week, I never spoke at an HR conference. (I did speak at Disrupt HR St. Louis, but that was for five minutes 😊).

Social Media and the HR Professional! My first HR Conference session!

WISHRM 2022 changed all that! I got to speak in front of a room of 100 HR professionals. I got to speak on my own life stories. I got to provide a different point of view to a room of eager listeners. It was awesome, validating, transformative! My story was about the power of social media for HR professionals. I got to share how social media changed me as a person for the better, opened doors I never knew existed, and provided me confidence in ways I never expected. I am so grateful and thankful for all my peeps who supported and encouraged me along the way. I won’t forget my first HR conference as a speaker, and I am excited to take on Illinois SHRM Conference in a week! Who knows what is next, and it doesn’t matter. I’m enjoying the ride now!

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved

Change Only Thyself

Photo by S Migaj on Pexels.com

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” — Leo Tolstoy

Note: I wrote this as a random scattering of thoughts following a tumultuous June. Mass shootings, the end of Roe v. Wade, January 6th Hearings – a United States in crisis. It was therapeutic to write… I’m not projecting any solutions other than continuing to work on myself. I can change nothing but myself. If you want to change the world, change yourself. I learned this from a very intelligent source.

I had a whole bunch of new blog post ideas that I was working on. I was reaching out to folks to discuss their ideas, work on some collaborations, and tease out some really cool posts.

All that just seems… I am unsure… pointless? That isn’t the right word. It’s too strong. I will eventually write about the ideas I had. But for now, there seems to be bigger things going on in the world, and I lack motivation… that’s a me issue, though.

I am an amateur historian. I majored in it in college; and though I didn’t pursue it in grad school, history has always remained with me in spirit. If one studies it intently and purposefully, they will realize there is nothing new under the sun.

Marcus Aurelius reminded himself:

“To bear in mind constantly that all of this has happened before. And will happen again—the same plot from beginning to end, the identical staging.”

As far as American History is concerned, we never were one country. The divide we now see has been with us since 1776 – probably longer. It’s just been masked at different times, subdued during different eras, magnified in others.

South of the Mason-Dixon Line, this territory has always been what it is today – conservative, slow going, religious. Racism has existed here since the advent of chaining Black folks into Constitutionally sanctioned bondage simply because they were Black.

North of the Mason-Dixon Line isn’t “pure,” however. Slavery existed there, too, sometimes well past the time it was abolished. Chicago, for example, is considered one of the most segregated cities in the US, north or south. One of the worst race riots in history happened in East St. Louis, Illinois in 1917.

If you look at the political lines today, they almost mirror the political lines from the Civil War. America was never a country of E Pluribus Unum. Likely, E Pluribus Divisa makes more sense, or turbat societatem – “uneasy alliance.” Like Aurelius had wrote, more eloquently, America today is the same shit, just different century. Our tumultuous time isn’t new. It isn’t a changing America. This is and always has been America.

This recent article by the Atlantic does a superbly better job than I could at outlining this Country’s complex (and sometimes overlooked) history.

Our world continues to appear shattered at the seams, but I am not so certain it was ever tightly woven to begin with. I don’t have answers. All I have is my actions, how I behave. I’m not perfect, but I continue to try as hard as I can to behave with compassion, courage, kindness towards our fellow communities.

Ultimately, I circle back to myself. Where am I? How am I? What am I doing to make myself better, and thus the world around me better? I try to have a micro-focus as anything I do will not change the world. Anything I do will not end racism. Anything I do will not end hatred. Anything I do is ultimately nothing but dust in a universe that is large, unforgiving, and careless.

However, I focus on the micro because I may not end racism, but I can end my contributions to racism – around my world. I don’t have to tolerate it, and thus it becomes weakened in my presence. The same for hatred.

“I am convinced that people are much better off when their whole city is flourishing than when certain citizens prosper but the community has gone off course. When a man is doing well for himself but his country is falling to pieces he goes to pieces along with it, but a struggling individual has much better hopes if his country is thriving.” — Pericles, Athens 431 BC.

I believe in this quote by Pericles now more than ever. It seems like this is where we are now, and it’s a place many of us have forgotten. I want only “me me me me,” and I want it at the expense of everyone else. When the bee suffers, the hive suffers. When the hive suffers, so does the bee. Humanity has seemingly lost sight of this fact, if they ever believed it. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

I cannot change the world, but I can change myself. I can’t stop the world from burning, but I don’t have to spread the flames. And sometimes, maybe through my actions, I can help put out a little bit of the fire.

Maybe I can start by pushing through and writing those other collaborative pieces I discussed earlier on.

Be good to one another. We’re all we really have, or ever will.

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved

Street Level Influencer – Meet Aly McKinster

Aly McKinster.

“The business of business is relationships; the business of life is human connection.” — Robin Sharma

For the first time in almost 10 months, I bring you the Street Level Influencer series! It’s been a minute, that’s for sure! Now more than ever, we need reminders from those individuals at the ground level making an impact in our daily lives – many times without us knowing it – that life is overwhelmingly good, even when it’s “bad.”

Street level influencers provide that for us.

COVID, social unrest, systemic racism, insurrections, hatred from seemingly all over. These things have caused cracks in even the most tempered of personality foundations. Concrete, eventually, will crack under the weight of the burden.

When I began my idea of the Street Level Influencer, I had no idea how positive people would respond to it! I’m excited that it struck a chord with people. Remember, the Street Level Influencer is a reminder that everyone has the ability to radiate positive light in the world around them, and light is brighter when surrounded by shadows.

So far in the series, I have shared stories from:

  1. Kirk Hamsher
  2. Kristy Freewalt
  3. Sue Oswalt
  4. Okie Smith
  5. John Newton
  6. Olga Piehler
  7. Blake Quinlan
  8. James Woods
  9. Anthony Eaton
  10. Jane Murtaugh
  11. Rhonda Owens
  12. Dan Huber
  13. Shenise Cook
  14. Scott McCullough
  15. Kim Bozeman

One of the most consequential lessons I learned in workplace life (or just life in general) is the importance of relationships. Relationships guide and direct all we do, especially in an HR context. If the relationship sucks, chances are the experience will suck. If the relationship is awesome, chances are the experience will be awesome.

The next Street Level Influencer is a MASTER of the relationship! Aly McKinster is a Client Manager at Wipfli, Inc., and her expertise is in the Predictive Index (PI) behavioral assessment.

I first met Aly in 2021 when we were bringing PI into my workplace. The main reason we wanted PI was that it offered a comprehensive tool to strengthen relationships, communication, and development of our staff.

I could not be happier to have Aly by my side as I took on the massive undertaking of introducing PI to the organization! Aly was kind, patient, understanding, and pretty much an amazing human being the entire time! Since I first met her, I can honestly say that she’s now a good friend. She has challenged me to think differently, and she has been an advocate in my corner – propping me up when I want to slump! She is simply, awesome.

So, without further ado, here is my interview with Aly! ENJOY!

So, tell us about Predictive Index. What is it about PI that you find so valuable?

I am a scrappy human that likes creative solutions that solve problems quickly, without a ton of pain. I also like anything in life that helps bring people closer to their authentic self. PI’s tools support this from multiple facets.

I’m also an artist so a lot of business things are challenging for me, so I like to remove as much friction as possible and then teach other teams how we achieved this.

I HATED team sports growing up. I am a perfectionist; I over think literally everything (including all parts of human behavior) so the chance that I could perform in a way that would ever affect others negatively is really tough for me. I have never found a tool that works as quick and well as PI as it relates to understanding teams.

My Why is to help as many people not feel the way that I have in multiple dynamics in my life. I like to remove any friction I can between people, systems, and technology. PI empowers humans to have better relationships and team dynamics where open communication is encouraged.

The tool also encourages diversity of thought which is so so important in today’s world. If we come at a problem only viewing it from a few degrees, we are missing the totality of the issue. We therefore cannot create the best solution and outcome.

I care a lot about mental health, more on this in a later question… but poor mental health is either enflamed by or originates from stress. When you stop making people work in a way that drains them, they can have more energy for their work, families, and communities. These tools help identify the things that really drain and stress each person out. When you’re working with your gifts you feel valued.

Do you have any stories you’re willing to share of you using PI to improve a workplace relationship?

PI has improved all of my workplace relationships. We use the tools internally at Wipfli when we have any discussions around people. Often, when two people are very similar, or completely opposite, they can have the most dissonance. It’s human nature to form connections between data (people’s actions) and then assume things based on previous experiences. These tools break down the barrier of communication and allow people to objectively describe themselves so that they feel more comfy discussing the more subjective topics with their colleagues.

PI doesn’t solve all things in relationships, but it does pull back the curtain so that deeper topics that need to be discussed can be discussed.

I have too many stories with my clients to share here, maybe that could be another blog!

We’ve discussed before the importance that mental health advocacy has played in our worlds. Why do you feel mental health conversations need to happen more frequently?

This is a topic I am deeply passionate about! I believe every situation is an opportunity to find strength and use our gifts in unique ways.

If we’re talking from a pure business standpoint, mental health issues critically affect team dynamics and the way we engage in peer relationships and client engagements. But it doesn’t need to be a negative.

For example, one employee may have had challenging family dynamics. These folks may often turn to people facing roles with lots of collaboration. They can have gifts in assembling teams and noticing literally everything no one else sees as they often had to find creative ways to get their needs met in their family dynamic. They will also bring that strength to their clients, no one will care about clients more than these people.

Business is about relationships. Relationships between people, processes, and technology. When a product is broken, it’s noticed and fixed. When a process is broken, it’s noticed and fixed. And hopefully, the pain points are minimized due to addressing the needs.

When a person is broken, though, a lot of times no one sees it. Ultimately, when someone can’t get help or get an opportunity to get a fix (like a process or product), the organization has unattended, unseen pain points.

People need time, space, and opportunity to heal. Some of the smartest people you have ever worked with in business have been through some very complicated things mentally.

Being open and talking about mental health is the only way to address the pain points – it’s not only the human thing to do, but it’s good for business as it allows people to address and hopefully fix their pain points. They can then get back to sharing their gifts with the company and world.

Something that is also close to my heart is the connection between neurodiversity and mental health. It is so important to talk about neurodiversity from a mental health context in the workplace. Neurodiverse people have special gifts and special challenges. For example, I have ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), and OCD, which leads me to overthinking.  I need quiet to best focus and reset, but the gifts I’ve been granted are hyper-creativity and the ability to quickly connect and share stories with people. I’ve been able to build communities and teams rapidly. The blind spots, well there is a lot of them, so thank goodness for PI tools and great mentors!

You mention that Wipfli has been such a great company to work for. What makes them a great place to work?

I truthfully never thought I could sustain working in the business world as the creative that I am, until I met Wipfli. Wipfli is the first company I have worked with that’s truly seen my gifts and allowed me to use them without putting me down when I fail. Wipfli lets us use our gifts to best serve our clients. They support growth in a nurturing way like something I haven’t experienced before.

Leaders in this organization saw things in me that I had yet to discover about myself. Example, aligning me to the nonprofit industry. Employees in nonprofits have a level of empathy that a lot people cannot understand. They often serve people that are just like them growing up. This means, they really, really get it. Sometimes too much. There is no lack of passion, people all care so much about others that they sometimes need someone to remind them to care about themselves. Back to my why, I love to help empower others to be the best version of themselves and this includes a ton of self-care (communication tools are self-care).

Lastly, and probably most importantly, I get to be myself. I feel seen. I feel heard. I could not sing better praises about Wipfli, and I plan to retire here if they will let me. 😊

What is one simple thing that HR leaders can do today to make their place of employment a better place to work?

Bring tools to the workplace that can help people feel seen and heard – tools that highlight individual strengths. These tools allow us to bring the human to the forefront. When people feel seen and heard, they feel safer, they form better relationships, and they do better work. Period. We are all humans that ultimately seek connection, love, and acceptance. Start with figuring out how everyone in the org can have the opportunity to feel these things if they so choose.

What is one book you’ve read that has influenced your leadership style? Why?

Start with Why by Simon Sinek. I have always been an incredibly curious person. I have found if you can discover what motivates everyone at their core (their why), you can connect with that person much quicker and discover what they actually need and what can help them. Life is so complicated at times.

Oddly enough, Co-Dependent No More by Melody Beattie is another one. I have always struggled with being in an environment where others are upset because I am a “people feeler” myself (naturally inclined to respect feelings).  Especially in the workplace because I know how hard it is to get things done when people are feeling disconnected and/or are in a space where they are not open. This book allowed me to realize that I cannot change others’ feelings. All I can do is become the best version of myself. Don’t adapt to the room – influence the room!

Who’s one person in your network that readers should know about?

I have to pick 2, and this is hard as I have been blessed with more mentors than I could have ever hoped for at Wipfli.

First, Marcie Bomberg. She is my mentor at Wipfli, and my life has been completely transformed by her brilliance, kindness, generosity, and time. Marcie leads strategy for our organizational performance sector. If you have a business or organizational strategy, just call Marcie. Marcie is a master in helping people and businesses/organizations reframe the way they think so that they can become the best versions of themselves. She has helped me change the way I view myself as a professional and has empowered me to bring my gifts to the world. She taught me that being myself is my power, what I’ve been through is my power, and that I do not have to dim my light to uplift others. She has helped me reframe the way that I view myself in business, which was needed for a hippie like me! 😊

Second, Kathleen Dubois. She is the leader of our Non-Profit sector at Wipfli. She cares about people in a way that is incredibly rare to find in business these days. If you have an issue, Kathleen is the guide you need to find the solution because she just simply gets it, and cares. Everyone feels better after being in a room with Kathleen.

I know some people say that work should not be family, but for me it is. Being around energy like what Kathleen and Marcie bring to work helps me in all areas of my development and life.

What do you feel is HR’s biggest challenge going to be over the next six months?

People are burnt the F out. Mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally. Many studies have shown that our brains are literally short-circuiting short-term memory situations as our brain is trying to the pandemic from our memories as a defense mechanism. The pandemic changed the way that people look at the world, how they relate, and fit into it.  Business changed; relationships changed.

Not everyone fills their cup and regains energy the same way which is also why I love the PI tool set. It helps you understand, quickly, what motivates, demotivates, and drains a person. It also shares what will help people gain their energy back (for me it’s getting in with a team, helping them all figure out their best and highest use and how to make work easier so there’s more energy for them outside of work).

How can people connect with you?

Message me at Alyson.Mckinster@Wipfli.com! I would love to hear from you. I am also on LinkedIn.

What’s one thing you think the world should know about you – personal or professional? Have fun with this one!

I’ve been writing music since I was 4! I play 8 instruments and have written over 1,000 songs. I try to use my knowledge for song writing in the way that I engage with business. I also love to create food without recipes as part of my neurodiversity. I literally cannot read directions! 😊

Oh, and I’ve sang at Carnegie Hall, and also fell asleep singing for Pope John Paul II in the Vatican. It was a long flight over there. 😊

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved

It’s Not About the Tattoos

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

“When you dominate other people’s emotions, the time has to come when you have to pay, and heavily, for that privilege.” – Ethel Waters

“Force can overcome force, but a free society cannot long steel itself to dominate another people by sheer force.” – Dean Acheson

I got my first tattoo when I was 18. My father wasn’t too keen on the idea. I had made up my mind when I was 16 or 17, so it didn’t matter. It’s an Irish cross on my left shoulder. The ink, it has held up well over the years. I am lucky that my skin takes well to tattoos. One never knows, right?

I’ve gotten many more since. I like them all. No regrets. I have two half sleeves. They can all be covered up if I wanted to. And that was by design. I didn’t want them to interfere with my professional advancement. Tattoos were (and still are in many circles) seen as unprofessional.

Originally, this blog post was meant to discuss why tattoos shouldn’t factor in any definition of professionalism. However, a recent conversation on Twitter made me rethink the meaning and reasoning behind what I was writing, and why.

It’s not about the tattoos.

Laurie Ruettimann recently posted an unprovoked message she received from Brad, who disapproved of her tattoos. Apparently, Laurie needed to work in a gas station, and not in HR.

As an admirer of Laurie’s, and fellow tattooed professional, I jumped to her defense. “Tattoos are OK for the workplace, yada yada yada,” was essentially my response. Laurie kindly pointed out that this isn’t about tattoos. It’s about policing women’s bodies, in her words.

Wendy Daily piggybacked:

The light bulb went off.

I used to be obsessed with finding the meaning of the word “professionalism.” The more I dig, the more I’m beginning to believe it’s a made-up word used by power mongers to get people to act the way they want them to, not by any true means that deliver impact in a community or organization.

Professionalism, in these folks’ definition, is about power over others. I mean, think of these sayings:

  • Working certain hours isn’t professional.
  • Working remote or from home isn’t professional.
  • Wearing hoodies isn’t professional.
  • Tattoos aren’t professional.
  • Black hair styles are not professional.
  • Short skirts aren’t professional.
  • Colored hair isn’t professional.
  • Piercings aren’t professional.
  • African-American Vernacular English (AAVE, Ebonics, whatever) isn’t professional.
  • Men acting feminine and women acting manly isn’t professional.

None of these things has ANYTHING to do with the actual WORK that is being accomplished. The output, the results are what I thought mattered, not how it got done, much less the physical appearances of the folks DOING the work.

Shame on me.

Also, notice to whom most of these unprofessional attributes are directed towards… Women and persons of colors. Those demographics bear the brunt of these unwarranted and ruthless attacks because they had the audacity of being born different from the traditional powerholders.

It’s not about the tattoos.

Franz Oppenheimer was a German Jewish sociologist and political economist. His main works centered on the area of the fundamental sociology of “the state” – specifically, how states, or governments, are formed.

In his seminal work, The State (1908), Oppenheimer rejected the idea of the “social contract” (as put forth by John Locke) and espouses the “conquest theory of the state.”

“The State, completely in its genesis, essentially and almost completely during the first stages of its existence, is a social institution, forced by a victorious group of men on a defeated group, with the sole purpose of regulating the dominion of the victorious group over the vanquished, and securing itself against revolt from within and attacks from abroad.”

Essentially, governments come to be because on group dominates and conquers another group. One group of people dominate another and force their views, their customs, their ideas on the vanquished.

Take this idea to the microlevel, say the workplace, and one can see clear parallels. The victorious group of people, namely White males, dictate the rules of the game, most of the time at the expense of other player, which is the point of power. Power ensures a clear winner to determine what works and what doesn’t, or what is and isn’t professional, even when there is evidence to the contrary.

Flexible work arrangements? Nope. You need to be in the office.

Dress for your work “dress codes.” Nope. You need to look a certain way.

Expressing your culture and heritage. Nope. Not on my watch!

It’s not about the tattoos.

All these overused and annoying buzzwords – the Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, or whatever the next “it” thing will be – have a foundational cause. It comes from people being treated like garbage at work. People being treated like garbage in society. People are sick and tired, and they won’t want to take it anymore.

I hope the following quote from another famous Oppenheimer isn’t true, but I’m not so sure anymore. The creator of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, said:

“The optimist thinks this is the best of all possible worlds. The pessimist fears it is true.”

So, what should be done? Well, it depends on what organizational leaders want. Do they want results, growth, innovation, respect, kindness? Then they will build an organization that lends itself to these ideals. This means using privilege to give up privilege. Put another way, those leaders will let go of power. Thy will allow others to be themselves, and they will hold those accountable who want to police other folks’ bodies, ideas, attitudes, experiences.

Easier said than done because ego is the enemy. And ego wants power.

If organizational leaders want a harder time hiring folks, a bad employment reputation, harassment and EEOC lawsuits, unhappy workers, and lower profits overall, then they will keep the historical infrastructures in place. They will enforce dress codes. They will enforce work at the office mandates. They will enforce no tattoo policies, no piercing policies, no diversity policies. They will allow Brad to call out women online for having tattoos – despite never having met the woman, knowing what she’s about, or how much good she’s done for the world.

They will give into their egos, and allow the world to be the “best of all possible worlds” despite it being able to be much better.

So, after all my years of looking for the perfect definition of professional, I believe I have found my definition.

Professionalism, to me, is about allowing other people to be themselves. It is about non-judgment. Being a professional is about treating other people the way they want to be treated, so long as they get the work assigned to them done at the appropriate and agreed upon quality. Professionalism has nothing to do with dress, or hair, or gender, or tattoos. Professionalism is about anything but superficial garbage.

It’s not about the tattoos.

Nine Quotes by Thích Nhất Hạnh That Could Change the Way You Do HR (and Life)

Thich Nhat Hanh fake oil painting by Alvin Alexander

“Thích Nhất Hạnh is a real poet.” – Robert Lowell

I have maintained since day one of writing this blog that philosophy offers professionals a difference making outlook on life, work, love, and everything. To me, philosophy is about living one’s best life and acting on what is right.

Doing HR right is an act of philosophy to me. It is always important to create space to think, put things into perspective, and act well and correctly.

Buddhism straddles the line between philosophy and religion. The religion has monks, prayers, rituals, sacred texts, and all the things that make a religion a religion – well except a god (or gods).

Still, in many respects, its teachings are incredibly philosophical in ways other religions aren’t. The Buddha said:

  • “If anything is worth doing, do it with all your heart.”
  • “Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.”
  • “Work out your own salvation. Do not depend on others.”
  • “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.”
  • “If we fail to look after others when they need help, who will look after us?”
  • “The past is already gone, the future is not yet here. There’s only one moment for you to live.”
  • “The trouble is, you think you have time.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh is one of the most prolific Buddhist teachers of this age. Along with the Dalai Lama, no one individual is so influential to 20th and 21st century Buddhist thinking.

Thích Nhất Hạnh passed away this past January. I wrote about it here. While I am no Buddhist, his teachings have deeply influenced my line of thinking – personally and professionally for neither can be separate. The way one acts personally is how one acts professionally. I learned that from Thầy (Vietnamese for “teacher” – Hạnh’s nickname).

As such, here are nine powerful quotes from Thích Nhất Hạnh that can help us all become better professionals, and people!

  1. “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

It’s been said ad nauseum. HR is a hard job. People are messy. Empathy has its limits and takes its toll. I’m not saying anything that isn’t new. One of the few ways to combat this is to live a life of peace. Live a life that is so full of peace that even how we walk represents our love and affection for the universe.

  • “Because you are alive, everything is possible.” Living Buddha, Living Christ

It’s a mistake to say you only live once. You live EVERY DAY. You only die once. While alive, remember that anything is possible. Don’t put limitations on yourself. Don’t tell yourself it cannot happen. If you do, you’ve already lost. Don’t do that to yourself.

  • “Many people think excitement is happiness…But when you are excited you are not peaceful. True happiness is based on peace.” The Art of Power

I believe many have a warped understanding of happiness. Happiness is not a feeling, like joy. Many folks confuse joy and pleasure for happiness. Joy or pleasure are not happiness. They can help create the condition for happiness, but ultimately happiness is a state of mind. In the ancient context, happiness meant “a flourishing life.” Peace is the ultimate in flourishing. Work for peace – internal and external – and happiness follows.

  • “My actions are my only true belongings.” Understanding Our Mind: 50 Verses on Buddhist Psychology

Everything we have will disappear. Our cars. Our jobs. Our families. Our hair. Our health. Our feelings and emotions. Our lives. Everything is ephemeral. All of life is change. The only things that never goes away, never changes are our actions. The things we do. The echo in eternity. Remember that before each action, and hopefully, the right action follows.

  • “For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.” Being Peace

The old saying, perception is in the eye of the beholder, rings true. But how true are perceptions? Can you trust your eyes? Can you trust your ears? Can you trust your thoughts? Maybe. Maybe not. Ultimately, the truth often lays somewhere in the middle void – the middle path. Few times are things so concrete that new information or new experiences cannot make us think again. To let things become clear, we need to let go of our ego, and let go of our attachments to what we want. This can allow space to allow what is.

  • “Our own life has to be our message.” The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology

A poetic, beautiful way of saying – walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.

  • “It is my conviction that there is no way to peace—peace is the way.” The Art of Power

Often, humanity makes simple things complex. Peace is not hard. Pease is rather easy. Treat others well. Do not harm others. Be kind. Be nonjudgmental. Be grateful. However, human history, despite having many examples of these actions, is dominated by people treating others poorly, harmfully, unkindly, judgingly, ungratefully. Ultimately, we want peace (at work, in our lives, in the world), we need to embrace the simplicity of peace.

  • “What you are looking for is already in you…You already are everything you are seeking.” You Are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment

“When I get that new job, I will be happy.” “When I get married, I will be happy.” “When I get respect at the office, I will be happy.” The world is littered with people saying, thinking, feeling such phrases. However, as I wrote earlier, happiness is not a thing that can be brought from external sources. It can only come from internal sources. If one is not happy here, now, no amount of anything will bring it about.

  • “People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.” Peace Is Every Step

Truly, a revolutionary insight. Why do people stay at a toxic workplace? Why do people stay in toxic relationships? Why do people stay in communities they are not invested in? It’s because change is harder than doing nothing. Familiar pain is more comforting that unfamiliar happiness.

Bonus Quote:

“To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. When you are born a lotus flower, be a beautiful lotus flower, don’t try to be a magnolia flower. If you crave acceptance and recognition and try to change yourself to fit what other people want you to be, you will suffer all your life. True happiness and true power lie in understanding yourself, accepting yourself, having confidence in yourself.” The Art of Power

I don’t need to add anything. This is beautiful as is. 😊

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved

#HRUnite! Conference 2022: Key Take Aways from an #HRAwesome Event!

Me at the HRUnite! 2022 Conference in Frankenmuth, MI. I’m excited I found it!

“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” – Chinese Proverb

There are those rare events that reinvigorate you, inspire you, help you remember why you do what you do. This is the point of “conferencing!” It is meant to help attendees learn new things while helping them recharge their batteries.

Remember, motivation doesn’t last. But neither does bathing, and it is recommended to do it often! 😊 So, conference going, learning, motivating events should be our norms! If we don’t nurture our growth, we stop growing and eventually whither.

I recently attended #HRUnite! Conference 2022 in Frankenmuth, Michigan. For those unfamiliar with HRUnite!, it is the adventure of Tina-Marie Wohlfield (who has quickly become one of my favorite people in the HR Community, nay, favorite people I know). From the website:

HRUnite! brings together HR professionals at all levels and specialties to provide opportunities to connect and build powerful professional relationships with others in the #HRcommunity. It is an outlet for those trying to enter the profession, advance their careers and surround themselves in a judgement free and supportive community with a purpose to share knowledge, resources, ideas and professional development opportunities in a non-sales solicitation environment.

I have admired HRUnite! from afar the last few years, and I was thrilled to join their conference live and in person. I got to hang out with longtime friends, friends I haven’t seen in real life for years, and new friends I have yet to meet in real life!

Writers take liberties from time to time, but this is not hyperbole – This was one of the best conferences I have ever been to! It was simple, which made the learning much more impactful. It was intimate, which made for better networking. Overall, I highly recommend HRUnite! Conference for any HR pro willing and able (Conference Committee deliberately caps attendance to maintain intimacy) to attend.

In fact, I am incredibly excited to announce I was asked to be a speaker at HRUnite! 2023 July 12-13, 2023! What topic will I speak about? I have a while to decide, but you know it will be, as Tina-Marie would say, #HRAwesome!

Until 2023, however, here are my top key takeaways from the HRUnite! Conference 2022.

  • Always remember that FMLA/ADA overlaps. Any seasoned HR pro knows that just because FMLA ends doesn’t mean that it’s time to terminate the employee. ADA likely kicks in! And let me say, any HR professional worth their weight in gold knows it’s not about terminating and moving on from employees anyway! It’s about HELPING them, SUPPORTING them! But that’s an aside. James Reid reminded attendees that if it is not an undue hardship, additional leave of absence following FMLA exhaustion can be a reasonable accommodation under ADA. What is reasonable amount of time? Well, in classic lawyer speak, it depends. But this reminder is always important to keep top of mind.
  • Leave people better than when you found them. This prompt from Terry Bean can never be said enough. It is a reminder that leadership is for the follower, not the leader. How you do that is through better questions! Terry reminded us of the Toyota Five Why technique.  This is a simple but powerful tool for getting through the symptoms of a problem to reveal its underlying causes, so that one can deal with it once and for all. A lot like an inquisitive toddler, continually asking why is a simple approach to finding the root cause and then addressing it. See below chart for an example. When coupled with active listening, leaders can craft ways to treat people well, listen to them, show them they care and are valued, and hopefully leave them in a better place.
  • HR needs to be on a Performance Improvement Plan. Dear HR, according to Tina-Marie, you’re now on a PIP. Please sign the form after adding any commentary of your own. We will meet again in 30-60-90 days to ensure you meet the plan! Here’s your PIP:
  1. Create processes that correct and support your people.
  2. Make every interaction with your stakeholders incredible regardless how small.
  3. BE CURIOUS!
  4. Avoid complacency – inaction costs more than action.
  5. Hold HR to the same standards you hold other leaders/departments.
  6. Acknowledge opportunities, and learn from failure.
  7. Embrace your #HRCommunity (support and network).
  • What’s new on LinkedIn in 2022. Anyone who knows me knows I am a HUGE social media proponent for ALL HR folks! I give talks on the subject! There is so much untapped potential for HR professionals on social media – LinkedIn in particular. Brenda Meller gave an awesome presentation on how HR pros can use LinkedIn as a platform to expand networks, get their name out there, and have fun! For 2022, she discussed that LinkedIn had a lot of new features including profile videos, name pronunciation, gender pronouns, newsletter links, and so much more. I purchased her book Social Media Pie and I cannot wait to dive in and learn more from her!
  • Agile doesn’t mean HR needs to be all things to all people. Dr. Melanie Peacock is one of the most authentically wonderful people I have ever met. She is genuine, positive, warm, funny, and encouraging! She gave a talk about change management for HR professionals, which she wrote a book about. Agility and change go hand in hand. To be agile, we need to not fight against the current of change. To be agile is to be like water. Change is neither good nor bad but thinking makes it so. You can’t deny that we’ve seen A LOT of change these past few years, and it’s not stopping. We are all likely going through some sort of change fatigue. Even those who embrace change need some stability from time to time. The human mind evolved to rely on stability. But to be leaders, HR needs to accept changes are always going to occur, and we need to embrace helping our employees through the journey! This doesn’t mean HR needs to be all things to all folks. It means we help people where they are through vision, creating dissatisfaction with the status quo, and encouraging first steps. Remember, you can lead an employee to the water fountain, but you can’t make them drink. Do your part. That’s what matters!
  • It is NOT hard finding people. It IS hard convincing them to join your company! Tim Sackett is a great follow for those in the recruiting and talent acquisition space. His years of experience and innovation are meaningful. I always try to listen to what Tim Sackett is talking about. His talk at HRUnite! did not disappoint. His point is well taken that there is a lot of talent out there, but it is increasingly hard to convince them to join a crappy company for crappy pay to work with a crappy hiring manager. I can’t say I disagree with him. It’s about managing the disease, not the symptoms. Can’t hire folks? Start with the “why” – like Terry advised – with what’s wrong with your company, and not what’s wrong with the talent.
  • Before you ask how DEI shows up at work, ask how it shows up in your life. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so many wonderful folks over the years. At every conference, there is always at least one person who shocks me at how awesome they are. Niki Ramirez was that person for me at HRUnite! Her genuine warmth and care was evident the moment she greeted you. It was even more evident in her conference presentation. You could easily tell how much she cared about her fellow human beings, and she went out of her way to provide personal stories to break down walls of vulnerability to make her point. Ultimately, I learned so much from her in such a short amount of time. For one, she reacquainted me with the idea of “discretionary effort,” or the effort one reserves for those they care about. This is a great concept for work. We don’t have to like one another at work, but it does make it easier to work with other people when you do! Ultimately, though, some people don’t deserve respect, but we must always act civilly to others. I agree. And lastly, she mentioned that for many disadvantaged communities, knowing how to show up to a job interview isn’t something they learn. She mentioned that when she is scheduling an interview, she sends candidates an email with a note saying “if you wish to prepare, please review some of these questions which may ne asked.” I thought that is a game changing tip that can help lessen the gap between those who know and those who never had the opportunity to know.
  • HR, be unapologetic! One of the best for last. Dr. Lee Meadows closed the conference with his slide-less presentation. It was old school, and I loved it! His message was one EVERY HR PRO needs to hear. He wants us all to know that sharpening our swords through the daily grind makes us all much better wielders of the steel! HR issues – issue with an “s” – make us better! And, others need to recognize this! He wants HR pros to have a mantra of being unapologetic about our value as professionals (and people). Remember, YOU KNOW HR! You know what you’re talking about! Do not accept being undervalued, being under-recognized! No more apologies. Other leaders in the organization need to know what WE KNOW, and we know people! I am doing Dr. Meadows a disservice by typing this here, as I cannot appropriately or adequately state how his delivery added to his message. It was powerful, inspiring. It made me want to stand up and proclaim loudly: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this anymore!” Thank you, Dr. Meadows. Your talk has reminded me – I know my shit. I’ll make sure I speak up to let others know.

Ultimately, HRUnite! did what it was supposed to do – it refilled my cup! I’m reenergized in a way I haven’t been in a while. The love, positivity, and kind no-nonsense talks were infectious. I’m hooked again on our profession. It was the message I needed to hear. Thank you, Tina-Marie, the Conference Committee, and all HRUnite! speakers.

Next year I humbly get to take the stage… 😊 July 12-13, 2022… see you then, but until then, remain #HRAwesome!

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved.

Random Thoughts as the World Burns

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” — Leo Tolstoy

Note: I wrote this as a random scattering of thoughts following a tumultuous June. Mass shootings, the end of Roe v. Wade, January 6th Hearings – a United States in crisis. It was therapeutic to write… if not projecting any solutions other than continuing to work on myself. I can change nothing but myself. If you want to change the world, change yourself. I learned this from a very intelligent source.

I had a whole bunch of new blog post ideas that I was working on. I was reaching out to folks to discuss their ideas, work on some collaborations, and tease out some really cool posts.

All that just seems… I am unsure… pointless? That isn’t the right word. It’s too strong. I will eventually write about the ideas I had. But for now, there seems to be bigger things going on in the world, and I lack motivation… that’s a me issue, though.

I am an amateur historian. I majored in it in college; and though I didn’t pursue it in grad school, history has always remained with me in spirit. If one studies it intently and purposefully, you will realize there is nothing new under the sun.

Marcus Aurelius reminded himself:

“To bear in mind constantly that all of this has happened before. And will happen again—the same plot from beginning to end, the identical staging.”

As far as American History is concerned, we never were one country. The divide we now see has been with us since 1776 – probably longer. It’s just been masked at different times, subdued during different eras, magnified in others.

South of the Mason-Dixon Line, this territory has always been what it is today – conservative, slow going, religious. Racism has existed here since the advent of chaining Black folks into Constitutional bondage simply because they were Black.

North of the Mason-Dixon Line isn’t “pure,” however. Slavery existed there, too, sometimes well past the time it was abolished. Chicago, for example, is considered one of the most segregated cities in the US, north or south. One of the worst race riots in history happened in East St. Louis, Illinois in 1917.

If you look at the political lines today, they almost mirror the political lines from the Civil War. America was never a country of E Pluribus Unum. Likely, E Pluribus Divisa makes more sense, or turbat societatem – “uneasy alliance.” Like Aurelius had wrote, more eloquently, America today is the same shit, just different century. Our tumultuous time isn’t new. It isn’t a changing America. This is and always has been America.

This recent article by the Atlantic does a superbly better job than I could at outlining this Country’s complex (and sometimes overlooked) history.

Our world continues to appear shattered at the seams, but I am not so certain it was ever tightly woven to begin with. I don’t have answers. All I have is my actions, how I behave. I’m not perfect, but I continue to try as hard as I can to behave with compassion, courage, kindness towards our fellow communities.

Ultimately, I circle back to myself. Where am I? How am I? What am I doing to make myself better, and thus the world around me better? I try to have a micro-focus as anything I do will not change the world. Anything I do will not end racism. Anything I do will not end hatred. Anything I do is ultimately nothing but dust in a universe that is large, unforgiving, and careless.

However, I focus on the micro because I may not end racism, but I can end racism around me – my world. I don’t have to tolerate it, and thus it becomes weakened in my presence. The same for hatred.

“I am convinced that people are much better off when their whole city is flourishing than when certain citizens prosper but the community has gone off course. When a man is doing well for himself but his country is falling to pieces he goes to pieces along with it, but a struggling individual has much better hopes if his country is thriving.” — Pericles, Athens 431 BC.

I believe this quote by Pericles. It seems like this is where we are now, and it’s a place many of us have forgotten. I want only me me me me, and I want it at the expense of everyone else. When the bee suffers, the hive suffers. When the hive suffers, so does the bee. Humanity has seemingly lost sight of this fact. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

I cannot change the world, but I can change myself. I can’t stop the world form burning, but I don’t have to spread the flames. And sometimes, maybe through my actions, I can help put out a little bit of the flame.

Maybe I can start by pushing through and writing those other collaborative pieces I discussed earlier on.

As Ryan Holliday writes:

Be good to each other, that was the prevailing belief of Marcus’s life. A disease like the plague, “can only threaten your life,” he said in Meditations, but evil, selfishness, pride, hypocrisy, fear—these things “attack our humanity.”

“Which is why we must use this terrible crisis as an opportunity to learn, to remember the core virtues that Marcus Aurelius tried to live by: Humility. Kindness. Service. Wisdom. We can’t waste time. We can’t take people or things or our health for granted. 

“Even if we may now lack the kind of sacrificial leadership who can show us the way by example—we can turn to the past to tell us what that leadership looks like and to teach us about all these things we must cherish.”

In other words, be good to one another. We’re all we really have – for now….

© 2022 HR Philosopher. All rights reserved.