Thursday, August 14, 2014

How I Met Your Mother

Dear Sam -
Happy Birthday Buddy! I cannot believe you are 9 years old. You know by now that you were born one year to the day that your Mother and I got married. I just wanted to let you know how very proud we are of you and how important your contributions to this world continue to be. I am so very happy that you are my son!

I'm hoping years from now you can look back on the things I write in this blog and share the credit for all the wonderful things we have achieved together.

There is nothing more important in this world than family and friends. All of our energy is powered by love. I heard once in a movie a guy said the love inside him made him strong, so strong that he could beat up anyone. I don't recommend beating up anyone, but finding someone to love always helps. There was this song this guy wrote and he was requesting of a friend to look after his girl. Please look after your Mom and Sister when I'm not around. Girls like it when you guard their honor.

I hope you find some great friends to share your life with. I hope you feel free enough to dance in public. I hope you learn as much as you can and share with as many people as possible. I've discovered that people who teach are immortal. That when what we teach is shared there are parts of us that grow in others... like branches on a tree. I take a lot of comfort in that.

Don't fear anyone but respect everyone. In the bible, Matthew speaks of treating everyone equally. You should treat hard working people with the dignity they deserve. You should ignore people who talk too much. It's also good to know that people are going to make mistakes and that they appreciate it when you show them empathy in their times of self-doubt. Never doubt yourself!

I've worked really hard my entire life. I've also gotten really lucky. If I turned a different corner, I may have never met your mom... what a sad thought that is. I think I was always going to find her and that you were always going to be my boy. You are always going to be my boy! I'm so glad to have found so much love in my life and I wish the same for you. In order to find it you have to be willing to search.

Give your Mom and Sister some kisses for me.

Happy Birthday Sam!



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Being Philip

The paper on my doorstep speaks of war, sports accolades...and death. I see a name that initiates memoriam to a person who has left a piece of themselves with me. They are immortalized by films, record albums, photo albums or years of blog posts. Many people have diaries that are locked up in dusty drawers, others have opened their journals to armies of strangers.

People know us for the work we do. Who we are outside of the office is seldom revealed. So we leave behind that which is documented. We are seldom our true selves when we know the camera is rolling. So we form of a version of ourselves who we become in the perception of others.

Some times we take solace in places with inviting door mats. These are not always the places that we really need to be but they may be safe from judgement. No one wants to be criticized, but how long can we ignore responsibility for the sake of what is comfortable. 

Do you fear change or responsibility? Are you afraid of how wonderful you can be?

Men like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Robin Williams may have gotten too large for life. They may have lost the ability to remember the little things. People may be disillusioned by those who had it all and chose to conclude their stories by their own pen. We don't get to see the words in the diary locked in the drawer. We only know what has been documented and shared.

To recognize potential lost makes it even more difficult to say goodbye. 

It is possible to be honest with ourselves without settling into a life that is not challenging. Our greatest challenge is accepting honesty and using it to better ourselves (and others).

We all just want to be loved. How much time do we waste pretending to be tough.

Nothing is hopeless. The answers are everywhere.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, August 8, 2014

The Contribune

I've just returned from Oxford, Ohio where I had the pleasure of teaching a 3 day intensive Leadership course to some of the world's brightest young minds. In teaching, I often learn as much as my students. In being around young people, my soul is always replenished.

We cannot ignore the generational tug-o-war that exists in today's workforce. Many Baby Boomers are retiring while the youth of today are refilling the human intelligence funnel. We see those new to the workplace striving to become relevant while the old guard is hoping to stay relevant. In prior posts, I have sighted my frustration with senior leaders who protect their knowledge base. Over the past few days, I spent time with older people who were overwhelmingly intense about sharing as much as they could to strengthen their legacy. 

It's become increasingly apparent to me that if we are able to share our ideas with multiple people, we can live forever. That which we share can be the fertilizer to grow trees under which we may never sit... our challenge is to celebrate that. 

People don't always say Thank You but that doesn't mean they are not thankful. 

I had the chance to talk to a person who said he saw me present 3 years ago and that inspired him to get more involved in our organization. This massively rewarding interaction is not unique. Changing the world requires developing and sharing ideas in rapid fire. It takes the guts to try, the willingness to fail, and the foresight to know you will be criticized. There are days when we are unsure if we've made any difference at all.

Keep Filling the Bucket...
If we are aware that sharing can create an immeasurable legacy how can we measure our success? 

I've dedicated my life to proving the relevance of the programs I create for world's finest companies.... sharing ideas without measuring their traction is metaphorical wind pissing. With that said, faith matters most! If it is evident that we believe in what we are sharing someone will put it in their bag and save it for a rainy day. We will all need an umbrella at some point in our lives.

Why would I leave my Northern California sanctuary to sleep on a cot in Oxford, Ohio? Because I don't want to die with my ideas. Why create anything that is not intended to be shared...?

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, August 1, 2014

Matters of the Heart

Zach Braff had a dream... to make a film financed by normal people. He was able to create a contributory viewer experience produced by more than 40,000 people. Those who contributed got a dogs eye view of the film making experience.. the songs, the dialogue, the images of life fading and the rebirth of the soul.

Process aside, there are lessons to be learned from a person who dares not adjust artistic content for marketing purposes.

Hiding in a Fishbowl
I know people who have suffered a loss from which they never recovered: a deal that could have made their career, that job they really wanted but didn't get, the time they got fired for trying something new. Winning is easy, getting your ass kicked only to stick your chin out and ask for more... that's down right heroic.

I have won more than I have lost in my life. I've adopted the practice of celebrating the victories and taking lessons from the losses. No one bounces out of bed with the intent to be inferior to anyone else. Champions have enough confidence in their ability to know that if they try again their odds of victory increase.

The world is a fire breathing dragon...grab some marshmallows and make s'mores!

Remembering What it Feels Like to Try
I would never want to disappoint my children. In the heat of the moment, I fail to recognize that letting my kids down is an impossibility. They have far more faith in me than I do in myself.

Our challenge is not to be perfect but to fail famously with the courage to understand why an occasional loss can be more important than winning all the time.

Interpretive Faith
Faith is a bench in our favorite park. It's always there and at times it provides an excellent resting place.

Every faction of life has its fanatics; people who see only in black and white. The world is painted in water color for a purpose. With every splinter of sunlight comes a new opportunity to figure out what genuinely matters... and to allow that to guide us.

The film Wish I Was Here is a reflection of human struggle. Our frustrations are rooted in what isn't. The only way to change the past is to make the future better.

The Future is Yours to Determine.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Generation Now

We've all grown tired of generational stereotypes in the workplace. Baby Boomers are giving presentations on how to manage Millennials, Millennials are sick of being picked on, and Generation X has all but vanished. I recently read an article sighting the behavioral traits of Generation Z (now the Millennials have someone to pick on). It's all a stupid attempt to simplify human beings into manageable categories to limit our desire to transcend simplicity. People are not simple!

It cannot be ignored that we are on the crest of a major sea change in the working world. With this shift comes a massive opportunity for change that has created a great deal of uncertainty. Regardless of when we were born into this beautiful world we all share insecurity when it comes to our uncertain future. Those who find opportunity in the wake of change will win the day.

Will You Be My Peer...?
Those joining the workforce have a desire to be accepted, not as the children of executives, but as established professionals.

The one thing new workers get a ton of is advice. A great deal of said advice is mislead. More often than not the "this is how its done around here" cautionary tales are mired in the failures of those who squandered their early work years accepting bad advice. Don't follow suit.

Can I Lead Now...?
Generation X has been lost in the shuffle. We watched reality bites, shrugged, and got on with our lives avoiding the generational stereotypes that have been piled upon the Millennials. With a new group of workers charging the workforce gates and an aging group of executives unwilling to give up their post, will Generation X get lost in the shuffle? Will they even care?

Loyalty is not what it used to be. Those who thought they would follow their parents legacy by being with one company their entire career have faced unanticipated disappointment. Companies have been critical of "job hoppers" but those who have given their lives to a company (only to receive a pink slip) have learned to know better. You can wait for your company to develop you or you can develop yourself.

Your Not Going To Tell Me What To Do...!
It seems as the sun sets on the extraordinary careers of so many Baby Boomers that they would be willing to share their knowledge. I've seen many examples that prove otherwise. Far too many senior staff members are protecting their knowledge base in an effort to maintain their careers. While it has been deemed a best practice for Baby Boomers to stereotype Millennials, the avenue to reciprocate has been identified as a road to nowhere. The road is shifting. What purpose does it serve to be alone with all you have learned?

We should exist in the workforce with the intent to collaborate in an effort to challenge one another. Titles, tenure, or years on this earth should be secondary. We love the new girl with big ideas and the confidence to share them. We love the middle manager who listens more than he talks. We love the old guy who still acts like a 25 year old. We're really not all that different....

We all have insecurities, we all want to be validated, we all want to be relevant... we all just want to be loved.

"It's OK if you don't know everything" - Ben Folds

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, July 11, 2014

Chasing Paper

"Don't Chase The Paper, Chase The Dream" ~ Sean Combs 

LeBron James, the world's most recognized sports star is leaving the glitz and glamour of Miami to return home to Cleveland. It is a tale of humility that has given many a renewed faith in humanity. James left his home team to form an all star team in the sunshine state a few years back, they won 2 championships. Today many are applauding the superstars decision to get back to his roots while other are questioning his motives.

I believe LeBron James had three reasons for his career transition:

More Time To Make Things Right...
Most anyone will tell you that they regret making decisions that were motivated by money. Being broke sucks! Having a little extra dough levitates stress. But, what price do we pay for money? Do unrealistic expectations come with a larger paycheck? Is purpose lost in the pursuit of success at any cost? In accepting more money do we give away our ability to oppose organizational expectations? Google is the greatest place to work in the world and their managers remind their employees of that every day.

Many of us look back with anguish on the times we stepped on others to get ahead, took short cuts, or lost our direction. I know I do... and I bet LeBron James has as well.

Making a ton of money is awesome, making amends is priceless.
He's The Boss
Basketball Legend Pat Riley is known for his hard-edged motivational tactics. His coaching of the Lakers in the 80's will forever be enshrined in basketball lore. But its not the 80's anymore. When I heard Pat Riley give a fist pounding rant at the expense of his players, I knew his reign of greatness was over. It may be said that after a long year of trying his ass off only to fall short of an NBA title, LeBron James did not want to hear an out-of-touch Executive call him a coward.

Today's workforce will not be managed by fear and intimidation. Employees (especially Super Star employees) will take six months off, work for less money, or start their own company if their work conditions are adversarial. Managers who still think they can push their employees around with the option to find a replacement (who respects authority) are high. The "my way or the highway" ethos is done. It may still be working for you right now, but the sand is hitting the bottom of the hour glass.

Winning (the right way) Is Everything! 
Any of us could make backroom negotiations to build a winning team. Offer certain people more money, steal top performers from competitors, or slick talk people into empty promises. Personally, I'd rather coach my son and his friends from the block to a championship than to offer the dad's of superstars perks to join our team.

Anyone can buy a championship. Earning one is something completely different.

Leaders are people who recognize potential and help individual contributors seize their greatness.

We all come to a point in our lives when we can no longer fool ourselves. We would rather walk hand in hand with our children than to board a plane in an uncomfortable suit. Time is far more precious than money. We can always pay back a loan but we do not get the hours back.

I would venture to guess that the greatest basketball player of our time got tired of the madness. Like the rest of us, he faced the reality of dying with more dollars than people around him, and saw no wealth in that manufactured future. Destiny is created by those who choose to take control of their lives and to live on their own terms. Because they know they are far more capable than others and are willing to do something about it.

The heart is stronger than the head. Always leave the door open on your way out.

Don't Forget To Remember!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014


I'm a morning person. Each day I get up slightly before 5am to get a head start on the day. My first few hours are usually spent among a few others whose occupation call for their early awakening. Occasionally, the guys who manage the shop across the street will drop in. They sit at a table with their eyes on their workers making sure they make no mistakes nor reveal their humanity. They complain relentlessly about their shitty lives masked in the criticism of those who work for them and those who they work for. These guys have to be in their late 60's and they hate every second of their waking life. Only one question visits me when I see their rotten faces:

When Did They Give Up?

Were these guys always miserable or was there a happy time in their lives? How did the good times vanish? Did they make bad decisions? Have they come to realize the err of their ways? Surely, all 24,820 days they have spent on earth couldn't have been bad. Do they take comfort in criticizing others because they have tried and failed so many times? Have they even tried at all?

It seems to me that a person after doing so much living should be filled with joy. We should look back on life with wonderment and know that everything we do creates a legacy for others.

But then again, if we have compromised our existence to the lowest extreme, maybe looking back only brings us pain.

The next thought that visits me:

How Can I Avoid Turning Out Like Those Guys?

Dream Big!
Do you ever awake from a dream feeling completely energized? Something empowering happened in your unconscious state that reminded you anything is possible. Maybe you caught inspiration from a movie or song. Maybe you had a few beers and your imagination created a new beginning in your minds eye.

And then you wake from your trance, forget your potential, and get back  to reality.

No chance! If you can imagine it, you can dare to put your dream into action. Hold on to one part of the story in your mind. Too often we are scared to take chances. Very seldom does our fear manifest itself into failure. With every inaction failure is inevitable.

Cowards ignore their dreams and spend their lives with arms folded in judgement of those who dare to dream.

Prove Them Wrong!
I'm always one to do my talking on the field so I am not a big fan of post-game interviews. One of my favorite moments in sports history was when reporters asked Tiger Woods what he would consider a decent result in his first professional golf tournament... without a moment's delay he said,

"A Victory"

Some laughed, others shook their heads, and there were those who sought to talk some sense into him on the spot. He listened to none of it and went out to become the greatest golfer of all time. Because he did not allow the limitations of others to dictate his path in life.

If you allow the naysayers to crush your spirit, things will forever remain in the realm of the uninspired existence that they were too cowardly to change.

Keep Fighting
Coward is the most offensive word that can enter our ears. I think of times I have wimped out and done the safe thing. I will never get those moments back. We have to live every day with the understanding that if we are not willing to prove others wrong, their version of right will forever exist.

Dream...dream big....fear not the consequence and do what is necessary to make it happen.

If you are measuring the ROI of your actions a slanted scale glares you in the face: there is a 0% chance of achieving what you do not attempt. And yet we choose to do the safe thing, again and again. I don't like those odds.

We have to try harder. We have to be creative and to surround ourselves with people who will amplify our ambitions. At the very least I can encourage this:
  • Dispel negativity by eliminating people who hold you back from your social circles.
  • Ignore those who say you can't.
  • Believe in yourself so strongly that no one's voice is louder than your own.
  • Try harder than everyone else (its not as hard as you think).
One day, I may ask those bitter old men at what point in their lives they gave up. But then again, without their ugly existence, I would not know who not to be on any given day. 

Don't Forget to Remember!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Your Turn

The debate has raged on....

Is cultivating Employee Engagement the duty of Executives or Middle Managers?

What if the answer is: neither!

If we are being honest with ourselves, we can genuinely determine our own level of engagement.

Your success each day is driven by your perception and your attitude. You determine what you pay attention to and how that shapes your day. Each day you find yourself in your current job is the result of the choices you have made. You have the power to ignore the insignificant, to focus on the good stuff, and ultimately to quit your job.

So while there is an expectation of a fair salary and ample benefits... the rest is up to you!

Step One: Ignore What Doesn't Matter!
I used to get bent around the axle when an exercise was proposed by my manager. I'd ask the significance of the exercise and he seldom had an answer. I shouted at the mountain top, enraged by stupidity of this fruitless waste of time and effort. I called a hundred people, talked to senior managers and wrote letters to executives. I spent hours complaining about an exercise I could have completed in a half hour.

If you wake up with the perception that today is going to suck.... it will!

Step Two: Push Yourself Harder Than Anyone Else!
I remember being in a college orientation class when a recruiter was asked:
"Should I take the hard classes and get C's or should I take the easy classes and get A's" which he replied.

"Take the hard classes and get A's"

Why not? Any logical person knows their limitations. The stronger people use their limitations to set their baseline (and then exceed it). A little skepticism is healthy, too much is crippling.

You should set the expectations higher for yourself than any else... and over-perform. Expectations are merely a collection of limits previously established. There are no limits.

Step Three: Smile!
I've never felt bad about being over optimistic. My regrets in life revolve around alienating people through my negativity.

Positive thinking is not a sign of weakness but an ultimate strength. It's easy to fold your arms, do nothing, and criticize those who dare to try.... and then you die with a meaningless existence.

Final Credits
Each day you face yourself in the mirror. You interact with several people but ONLY YOU live inside your head every second. You know if you've done enough, you know if you took short cuts, you know if you cheated. Achievements are trophies on a shelf and regrets hang like chandeliers.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Friday, June 27, 2014

Deprogramming The Robots

As I limped through the Exhibitor Hall at the Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference (I have a slightly fractured ankle) a thought came over me:

If all of these vendors have it figured out. Why is only 13% of the Global Workplace engaged?

I passed thousands of sales people trying to differentiate themselves from one another until I got to a corridor thinking I had escaped the madness.... then, I realized I was only half way through the Exhibitor Hall. 

Mother F-er (my ankle hurt, my brain was tired, and my soul was unfulfilled)!

It struck me that the burnout I felt meandering the Exhibitor Hall was a metaphor for today's employee. With so many tasks, portals, forms, meetings, mandatory training sessions, and peer emotions to navigate; when do we get time to do our actual job? 

In this hall full of madness transactions were being made in rapid fire. 

While I understand that the SHRM Annual Conference would not exist without vendor sponsorship, I couldn't help but wonder if the badge scanning and swag hand outs would help any business solve any problems. 

The thrill I felt at the SHRM Annual Conference came not through transactions but genuine human moments. Presentation bravado, infographics, branded merchandise, gift cards, demos.... None of it matters and transactions fail to leave a memorable impression.

Your Life's Memories
In decompression from the conference I spent the plane ride home with John Roderick in my head phones. He spoke of his strange ability to remember seemingly random events. I was reminded of a toast I gave at a friend's weeding:

It is not the grandiose events we remember but the moments in-between...

Clarity came over me. We have given up on engagement because we think it is a transaction. Technology cannot create genuine human moments, annual rewards and disingenuous speeches cause people to quit, and people hate training. With all due respect, most vendors suck at what they do. The Global Engagement Crisis is the fault of two things:

1. Vendors who pretend to care about culture while selling transactions.
2. HR Professional who do not demand more of those to whom they outsource human moments. 

Employee Recognition is a meaningless transactional waste of money that serves nothing more than an insult to your employees intelligence. In truth, you cannot outsource human moments. 

Employee Engagement is something completely different. Without true partnership, Engagement is impossible. This takes deep analysis of business objectives and employee preferences along with a team of champions who will not allow others to ignore the love they feel for their company.

Can You Teach Engagement... Yes, You Can!
What's worse than demos and badge scanning are speakers who talk of humanity in the workplace but compose no strategy for improvement.

The Truth You've Ignored:
a. Industry surveys are meaningless... what matters is what YOUR employees think.
b. Your shelf-stored solutions continue to insult your employees.
c. Technology drives transactions which only create entitlement.
d. Recognition is a benefit not a strategy.
e. If you view your job as a series of transactions, you are easily replaceable.
f.  Transactions between HR Administrators & Vendors will lead to only one thing...

Mass Unemployment!

SHRM has entered the certification process because they are hell-bent on making HR professionals more strategic. I know people who will make sure they stay true to that mission. I believe their commitment is to transform the HR profession. Those insulted by this transition may be afraid that their transactional existence is threatened. I hope it is. 

The vendor hall may never be cut from 5,000 vendors to 500, but it would be nice to see the forest through the trees.

We need to transform not transact. This takes a genuine investment in people that requires consistent human interaction and an uncompromising commitment to evolving organizational strategy. Very few people have the guts to continue to splash in the wishing well whether they are an HR Professional or a vendor. We prefer to throw coins into the fountain, let them sink to the bottom, and hope something comes of the transaction.

If we continue to act like robots, the robots will replace us. No company will exist without interactive human commitment. We are differentiated not by our tools but in our ability to take off the tool belt.

Don't Forget to Remember!


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Debriefing SHRM14 - The State of The Workplace

The sun has set on the 3rd day of programming here in Orlando and those of us who were lucky enough to attend the 2014 Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference know how the US Soccer Team felt playing in Brazil. Through our blood, sweat and tears we got closer to (re)certification, attained an exorbitant amount of knowledge, found solutions to unmet needs and made a few new friends. This was my favorite of the last 7 SHRM Conferences thanks to the quality of content delivered! Applause to everyone who makes this monstrosity of an event possible!

I met a thousand people and heard from the industry's boldest thought leaders. It was a perfectly Human event filled with Resources. Allow me to share my thoughts on the State of The Workplace as it relates to what I learned at SHRM14.

It Take A Village
A few myths dispelled at SHRM14:
- Innovation is not a symptom of technology.
- Engagement is not a symptom of rewards.

The advances in technology have made it increasingly easier to start a business. Find a concept, make it systematic, and program accordingly. While our organizations rely on technology, it's overuse has opened a flood gate run dry of human connection. The days automating a solution are being trumped by people who simply don't want to be reliant on a system to connect them. The best presentations this year shouted one great certainty:

Our Employees need Humans as a Resource!

Why Not You?
Who did you admire at SHRM14? A speaker, a person you met, a new business partner who solved a problem for you? As I looked over the thousands of people from the 3rd level of the convention center I was overwhelmed by a thought:

What if everyone in this place shared one idea with everyone else? 

You Didn't Expect It To Be Easy... Did You?

In the world of Employee Engagement we talk about being happy at work. We want fair pay, a boss who understands us, flexible work schedule, the ability to wear whatever we want, and a Thank You for our every action. While the world of work is evolving, we still have to earn our pay check.

Engagement cannot happen without our divine effort toward something we believe in. There is not a platform, app, or prize that can engage us. We have to know what we want, to be willing to fight for it, and to bring the village along with us. Many chose a career that was convenient and went through the motions. Some get to the point of self-actualization and realize they cannot merely be satisfied with their job. There are those people who do not enjoy work, feel they are out of options, and wait to retire to be happy.

The Human Resources world is more determined than ever to find a cure for our Engagement Crisis. What if all it takes is a whole lot of knowledge, some great resources, and a network of people who believe in you?

Because you acquired all of that at #SHRM14. Now its time to have the guts to makes difference!

Until next year.....

Don't Forget to Remember!