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Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

My words are insufficient. My sincere and heartfelt thanks goes out to all of those who are currently serving our country and to those who have paid the ultimate price. You are the greatest heroes. 

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Motivational Message - We've all got issues

"If all misfortunes were laid in one common heap whence everyone must take an equal portion, most people would be contented to take their own and depart."
~ Socrates

When I'm having a crappy day, feeling sorry for myself or just feeling jilted by the way the ball bounced, this is the quote that comes to mind. For me, it puts everything into perspective.

Let me be clear...I have issues. But guess what? So do you. So do your employees. So does your boss. So do your customers.  

We've all got issues

We all have baggage that we're carrying around day in and day out. At times I think we forget that nobody has this "life thing" all figured out. Not one of us is immune to calamity, drama or misfortune in our lives. Some people have more and some people have less. Some handle it well and some never had a handle on it at all.

I don't know what kind of crap you've got going on in your life, but I can't assume that it's more trivial than what I'm dealing with in my life. Is it different? Sure. Is it less important? I seriously doubt it.

So here's the deal. The next time I choose to make assumptions, whine about my station in life or throw proverbial stones, I'm gonna think about this quote and do my best to exercise a little more grace and patience.

Who wants to join me?

Friday, May 18, 2012

The devil is in the details

Celebrities put some pretty strange requests in their contracts. Consider these...
  • 12 8x10 glossies of the reigning Pontiff (Sinead O'Connor)
  • A pork-free environment, Big Red gum and Doritos (Ice Cube)
  • All rooms must be 65 degrees or lower (Joan Rivers)
  • Dressing room must be fully wrapped in plastic (Prince)
  • A bowl of M&Ms in the dressing room that has all of the brown M&Ms removed from it - say what?!
Van Halen's odd M&M request has been well documented (here, here and here) over the years. If you're not familiar with it, here's a quick summary, pulled from
An excerpt from David Lee Roth's autobiography revealed the following:
Van Halen was the first band to take huge productions into tertiary, third-level markets. We’d pull up with nine eighteen-wheeler trucks, full of gear, where the standard was three trucks, max. And there were many, many technical errors — whether it was the girders couldn’t support the weight, or the flooring would sink in, or the doors weren’t big enough to move the gear through.The contract rider read like a version of the Chinese Yellow Pages because there was so much equipment, and so many human beings to make it function. So just as a little test, in the technical aspect of the rider, it would say “Article 148: There will be fifteen amperage voltage sockets at twenty-foot spaces, evenly, providing nineteen amperes . . .” This kind of thing. And article number 126, in the middle of nowhere, was: “There will be no brown M&M’s in the backstage area, upon pain of forfeiture of the show, with full compensation.”

So, when I would walk backstage, if I saw a brown M&M in that bowl . . . well, line-check the entire production. Guaranteed you’re going to arrive at a technical error. They didn’t read the contract. Guaranteed you’d run into a problem. Sometimes it would threaten to just destroy the whole show. Something like, literally, life-threatening.
Freakin' brilliant! I love the way this cat thinks. 

How do we, as leaders, managers and HR pros take a lesson like this and put it to work for us in the workplace? Do you have any "brown M&Ms" of your own?

Now I'm not suggesting that we bury obscure, irrelevant details and data points in our work and play the "gotcha" game with our employees, vendors and/or customers. Nothing like that. But I'd like to get your take on how a principle like this might fit in the HR/management space. Maybe it doesn't.
Post a comment. Let's discuss.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Motivational Message - Plan Ahead

"Failing to plan is planning to fail."
- Alan Lakein

Back in the day, when I was a Psychology major at the University of Texas, there was a plaque that hung on the wall on one of the offices of Mezes Hall. It looked a lot like this...


I know...some of you are amazed/impressed that I remember trivial details like this, let alone the fact that I actually remember where the Psychology department was based. The department has since moved into bigger and better facilities, even without the donations that the College of Liberal Arts has not received from one particular Texas Ex who shall remain nameless. But I digress...

For some reason, the image of this plaque has always stuck with me. When I was young, carefree and knew everything, I didn't think much of it. I thought it was funny and amusing, but the real concept of "planning" was lost on me at the time.

Over the years, my mind has gone back to that building, that office, that wall, that plaque so many times. There's so much wisdom to be found in that image. The words alone don't carry much weight. But when you consider the image, it brings the words to life.

Thankfully, in time, I've gotten better at planning. Not only that, but I now fully understand and appreciate the value in planning, whether it be your time, your finances, your career, your DVR schedule or your fantasy football roster. Planning is important. I get it.

When it comes to HR work, there's a lot of planning involved. We've got change management plans, communications plans, organizational plans, budget plans, headcount plans, performance plans, contingency plans, staffing plans, on-boarding, transition plans, training plans - you get the picture. All of these plans are great, except for one minor detail.

We're dealing with people.

You may have noticed by now, but people are fickle creatures. People change their minds. People lie. People cheat. People outperform. People quit. People rise to the occasion. People forget. People make mistakes. People surprise you. People are the proverbial "x factor" that make it so hard to accurately plan for what's going to happen next. 

But HR pros don't get off that easily. All of these plans must still be made and carried out. You can prepare yourself, and your team, for the "what ifs". You can plan for the worst, and hope for the best. But work is messy. Things don't always go the way they're supposed to go. A solid HR pro can help you control the chaos and navigate the rough waters that are sure to follow once you throw people in the mix.

Ironic that this image, this plaque, stuck in my head from so many years ago, when I didn't even know what Human Resources was, let alone that it was going to be my profession, has finally found meaning for me.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Motivational Message - Defying the odds

"Never, never, never give up."
Sir Winston Churchill
One of my all-time favorite quotes. So simple, yet so profound. Repeating the word, “never” three times provides just the right amount of emphasis to make an incredible impact. Think about it.

“Never give up”

It sounds so rote, so nonchalant, so pedestrian, so...uninspiring.

“Never, never, never give up”

The repetition brings conviction, purpose and a call to action!

I came across this clip and could not help but think of this famous Churchill quote. I hope you’ll take the five minutes that I took to check out Arthur Boorman’s story and be inspired. 


Can you imagine being told, for 15 years, that you’re never going to walk on your own again? Fifteen years of inactivity, weight gain and slipping into depression. Arthur could’ve easily given in and succumbed to the naysayers.

The odds were against him.

But he never gave up. He dug down deep and found the will to overcome the obstacles and defy the odds. I’m thankful for his service to our country and I’m grateful for the fact that he recorded his journey and chose to share it. Way to go, Arthur!
"Just because I can't do it TODAY, doesn't mean that I'm not going to be able to do it SOMEDAY."
- Arthur Boorman

By the way, mad props to Arthur for sharing his yoga falls. I’ve tried doing Warrior One, Warrior Two, Reverse Warrior, etc. There’s only one way to describe the way I look doing it – a Wounded Warrior. Yoga is tough stuff! Rock on, Arthur! You’re a better man than I!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Second Place is for suckers!

Maybe I'm simple-minded, but I like visual aids. I'm a visual learner, so it only makes sense that visual aids help me "connect the dots" and make sense out the topic at hand. At the office, I like to use white boards to capture my thoughts and explain things to others. In church, I actually enjoy a sermon that's sprinkled with a video clip or two that help illustrate a point. Visual aids work for me and some leave a lasting impression.

One such impression is nearly 20 years old. It's from college and my days as an active Texas Wrangler. Our weekly meetings were held on Thursday nights and essentially consisted of each chairman (Social, Service, Recruitment, President, Vice President, etc.) providing an update on upcoming service projects, sorority mixers, general reminders and usually ended with the Treasurer giving a report that consisted of three simple words - pay your dues! But I'll never forget the night that our Intramural Chairman (we'll call him Eric) got up in front of the group of about 75 guys to give his update. 

The previous weekend, we had participated in the annual Alpha Delta Pi Kickball Tournament. This kickball tournament is a big deal and raises thousands of dollars every year for Ronald McDonald House Charities, which happened to be an organization that we served as well. I did not play in the tournament and I was not there, but apparently our team kicked ass (we've fielded some pretty amazing intramural teams over the years) and made it to the championship round of the tournament. Eric went on to tell us that the fraternity that we were competing against was whining, playing dirty, raising hell with the umpires and contesting every call. At some point, our guys had enough, took the high road and reminded themselves that it was a charity kickball tournament. We ended up losing the game and the championship. We came in second place. At that point, Eric pulled this big trophy out of a paper bag that he'd been holding onto, raised it in the air and said, "Gentlemen, here's to second place!", then hurled that trophy across the room and up against a brick wall where it shattered into pieces. The room erupted and the crowd.went.wild. 

I remember that meeting like it was last week. It was an image that left an incredible impression on me. I actually saw Eric last weekend and we reminisced about that story. It wasn't about the trophy. It wasn't about losing and coming in second place. It was about integrity and fair play. It was about what could have been. If we could have finished that game fairly, without the drama and without the whining, perhaps the ending would be different. Maybe we still would've lost. But there's more dignity in losing a fair, hard fought fight than giving in to a dishonest opponent. Eric sent a message loud and clear that night - Second Place is for suckers!

I've seen similar visual aids in the workplace. Thankfully they haven't involved large, wooden objects shattering against brick walls. One leader I partnered with made a statement by literally ripping up the existing Balance Scorecard sheet, onstage, at a team meeting to drive home the point that we were moving away from that standard of measuring performance and moving to something new, more accurate and far more sophisticated. Did it get the team pumped up? You bet!

Visual aids work and can be a great way to drive home your point. I mean who can forget how Al Capone demonstrated the importance of teamwork in The Untouchables? That left a mark.

Visual aids may not be your thing. Maybe they don't work for you. Visual aids work for me.

Here endeth the lesson.