Thursday, February 26, 2015

One Thing Leads to Another

As a parent, I have the articles and books that speak to the importance of structure in raising kids.  Some of it goes really far (like posting schedules of what’s going to happen every minute of the day…I need a little spontaneity!), but overall, the intention is clear.  If my kids don’t understand process, boundary and authority, it will prove to be a difficult life for them.  They will fight against “the man” most of their lives and waste the great talents they have.

In the workplace, structure is just as imperative.  Have you ever worked for a company that is a bit of a free-for-all?  Holy guacamole, is that frustrating or what?  I mean, who is getting stuff done?  I’ve watched employees meander from one cubicle to another discussing all sorts of stuff, whether work related or not, as if life is one big latte.  Even the professionals at Google and URBN have structure, people!  Not everyone is walking around with a dog, a cappuccino and a copy of “The Fountainhead” while wearing Toms (if you’re walking around work like that as you read this, um…sorry).

Process points to purpose.  Giving structure in various areas of duty, responsibility and performance shows care.  Employees want to know they fit and are contributing.  Honestly, they don’t really want to wander.  It does no one any good if an employee lacks the structure to do his/her job.  Further, it actually dumbs down the skill set he/she has.  Without practice and use, it will atrophy and weaken.
In high school, I was on the track team.  My favorite event to compete in was the long jump.  While I cannot say that I was the best on the team (because that would be a lie), I can say that I practiced daily.  I ran down the long jump runway into a pit of sand dozens of times each day.  I practiced sprinting so that my speed improved to catapult me further in my jump.  I practiced on hurdles so that my “ups” would improve for takeoff from the long jump board.  I lifted weights and stretched to strengthen those muscles needed for the in-air motion to extend my jump distance.  And I knew to do this because my coach gave me structure.  He led me and my teammates through the process of working out, through drills, through conditioning…in the cold, in the heat…daily.

Without the cliché, anything worth striving for has to be practiced and pursued consistently.  Michael Phelps didn’t just happen to win all of those Olympic medals because he has a few good weeks over 12 years.  He devoted himself to the structure needed to win.  Our staff has to be invested in similarly.  We need to have process in place for skill improvement, for discipline, for praise, for critique, for job enlargement, for job enrichment.  We can lead them through the structure of career advancement within our organizations.  We can offer resources to help them handle the processes better.

Having structure is not the enemy.  Having purposeless structure, however, is demotivating and can lead an organization to think the structure is the enemy.  What is the structure like where you are?  Does it need improvement?  Is it just not known and so a different tactic for communication has to happen?  Are staff members afraid to offer some process improvement?  Do they even know how to report improvement suggestions?

Perhaps you can take time this weekend while you are working out to think through one area that needs structure or needs it enhanced or needs it communicated better.  Yeah, I know, I am making an assumption that you’ll workout this weekend.  Maybe I am pushing you a bit.  Maybe it’s time for this structure to be placed into your life.  Maybe I will find myself back on the track this weekend working on my long jump skills.  Maybe. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

(Why You Gotta Be So) Rude?

Positivity is so…positive. When I am referred to as the warm, huggy HR guy (stop laughing, it still happens once in a while), I smile.  I mean, it’s certainly better than being seen as the obnoxious, pencil-pushing, rule-following, do-gooder HR guy.  And while I don’t think that my career has hinged on my positivity, it certainly hasn’t hurt it!

Yes, I’ve done the birthday parties, the collection of funds for the family of a recently deceased employee, the bridal shower, the retirement dinners and countless company holiday parties.  And you know what?  It’s okay.  I’m not Martha Stewart.  I’m not David Tutera.  I’m not on the panel of The Chew.  But, I am willing.

Approaching the fullness of the HR role with a willing, positive spirit invites others in.  It can opens doors for conversation and perspective-sharing that may not have otherwise occurred.  I have learned much from employees when we’re working on a project together.  Years ago, I worked on a “prom” being held during the summer for a group of temporary workers, as a thank you for their efforts.  It was hilarious.  Everyone went to a thrift shop and got awful tuxedos and bad bridesmaid dresses.  We laughed and laughed as pictures were taken under the balloon arch that we made.  And yet, one of the best parts of the whole thing was how much I got to know other staff who helped me get this craziness together.  We spent time decorating, making picture frame gifts for each employee, etc., which all allowed for conversation.  I learned so much about facets of the company, of process, of the good others were doing that I would not have had reason to know otherwise.

I know, I know.  Many of you are saying, “OK, Baldino, you’re always telling me not to just be the party-planner.  What gives here?”  My answer is that you’re right.  I don’t want you to be JUST the party-planner.  But that does not mean you shouldn't be a part of it.  An organization’s cultural improvement and enhancement is going to need leadership…that’s us, HR.  Don’t be afraid.  Love the chance to foster team through these opportunities.

And be authentically positive.  There’s so much in our world that is tough, draining, annoyingly compliant (if ACA, FMLA and the like don’t make you want to pull your hair out, you have issues).  Leverage opportunities for proactive organizational investment through positive approach with defined plans.  Too many of us walk into these opportunities with the look of “I have to” on our faces.  You won’t get the type of return possible with that kind of attitude.  Find the genuine reasons to be encouraged which will allow you to display the positivity needed.

Sometimes, the crankiest person in the department becomes your best friend after a shared experience.  There’s nothing like sharing hot dogs, beers and fries at a baseball game to bond people (at least for me).  Create memories, encourage camaraderie and set the mood for laughter.

Take stock of your demeanor.  I know how entitled you are to be pissed.  I get that most of the people you see each day suck the life out of you.  I am aware that you’ve had to cover the butts of people in the office for years.  Keep it in check.  Ever think what others are thinking of you?  Do you think you’re alone in categorizing and judging others?  Someone has to stop the carousel of negativity.  We are the cultural ambassadors of our organizations.

Take hold of that role and don’t apologize for the smile on your face.  No one should steal your joy.  I’m positive that you can do this (see what I did there?).