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Blog Commentary Life Relationship Workplace

Are You In or Out?

Recently, I thought how funny it was that, when it comes to a pool in the summer who can only let 50 people in at a time (no thanks, Coronavirus), if you want a line, you should start a line, keying into the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) that plays so deeply in human nature.

In fact, an interesting thing I noticed is that when everyone was in line, people talked and joked with each other amiably — a sort of communal suffering brought us all together while standing in a line for a pool.

But the moment the gate to the pool was about to be opened, the very intention of the line changed. Like a physical change happened, the gate was not a resting place any more. It was a vehicle. A means to an end.

The game was now afoot and, I imagined to myself the gears turning in others’ heads as they sized up the lady two feet in front of them with three small kids and a Target store’s worth of pool toys, or the grandmotherly woman they were exchanging now-vacant pleasantries with, grinning to themselves as they deduced they could easily beat her to one of the scarce poolside umbrellas that were just out of reach, past the pearly (wrought iron) gates blocking our access to Shangri-La.

Marketers Play on our FOMO

In fact, marketers are so savvy to this primal need of ours to fit in, they often position their products with this exact pitch, letting you know you’re out unless you know that Choosy moms choose Jif, you could be saving 15% or more on your car insurance, that hipper, more active/creative people than you wear the Apple Watch, that going to McDonald’s is actually a lifestyle choice, and that wearing this makeup is not only good for your skin (spf 15!) but if your daily walk to work accidentally turns into a photo shoot for Vogue, you’ll be ready.

We see this constant us vs them show up in so many forms throughout life:

  • Graduating from the kids table at grandma’s Thanksgiving Dinner!
  • Being invited to the cool kids table at lunch.
  • Being on the (insert sport/club) team in high school.
  • Acceptance to your college of choice.
  • Receiving a highly contested scholarship.
  • Getting the job you know so many others applied for.
  • Receiving a raise when you know others did not.
  • Keeping your job when others lose theirs.

Even silly things make us feel important when, really, we’re absolutely no different than anyone else. Here’s a few I have to admit to:

  • My GPS app getting me around traffic smartly, saving me exactly 37 second of drive time. Suckers.
  • Checking out of the big club discount store using their app, skipping the 30-minute checkout line. Smiling condescendingly down on others from around my cinnamon dusted churro.
  • Being able to use the HOV lane on my commute, mocking the unwashed masses stuck in traffic as I comparatively and arrogantly fly by.
  • TSA Pre-Check enabling me to skip the slower airport security lines for the common-folk.

Comedian Brian Regan got it right when he noted that what we’re really saying about ourselves in situations like this is “I think I’m more important than I really am.”

In fact, in life, it seems the only constant is that in every sphere we are in, we are, by definition, out of some others, and that can be a source of intense unseen bias if we are not aware of it.

  • People who retort “all lives matter” to Black Lives Matter sentiments because, in their spheres of influence, they have never experienced the haunting systematic injustice many minorities live with as a daily backdrop to their lives.
  • Not having empathy that its hard to get a job sometimes when you, yourself, have always been employed.
  • Recruiters ghosting candidates because they are very busy getting offers out to the successful candidates.
  • Demanding VIP treatment because of your past donations or “platinum status” or some other so-called qualification.

If you are employed today, with 40 Million unemployed in the United States, you are a very lucky member of a very “in” crowd right now.

What can you do to avoid thinking you are more important than you really are?

Categories
Blog Life Lifehacks Relationship

Give > Receive

Our parents or grandparents taught us this principle, often in the middle of our requests for some grand thing.

“Grandpa” a photo of a woman kissing an old man’s cheek outside an apartment building or storefront in a busy urban environment. He smiles and you can tell she loves him.  Photo by Treddy Chen on Unsplash
grandpa”, photo by Trendy Chen on Unsplash.

At the time, we probably didn’t hear it or felt it was a cop out or distraction technique to change the subject from the thing we begged for.

“Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

To say I didn’t understand his urging—that giving was somehow better than receiving—is an understatement.

If you’re like me, this puffy, patriarchal principle seemed something passed down from another time, an age gone by. A time when things were scarce, not plentiful. A time when pictures were black and white, not color, and things were hard to come by, not easy to accumulate like they were in my childhood (and easier than ever now). To me, this advice was from a bygone time marked by saving everything and “making due” (whatever a 9 year old could make of that strange phrase), and of a long, faraway look in my grandfather’s eyes when he thought perhaps too much of those hard, lean times when he was a boy.

(But perhaps, they are times more and more of us may be facing again)

Of course, this proberb’s lesson, as they are wont to do, seems to sweeten and perfect itself over time.

Giving Of Your Time Actually Gives You More Time

Our rise and grind culture of worshipping at the altar of the eternal hustle dissuades this belief, but for centuries, people have found that the more you see and be with other people around you, or open yourself up to the humanity that is present when we just stop and listen for it, the happier and more abundant your life will become.

And I argue you will have more time, and you will be more productive with your time because you will be happier, think clearer and have more energy.

If you are struggling, lonely, find yourself frustrated, anxious or afraid, I am moved by the calm that can come as you pull yourself away from the tightening, shrinkingly claustrophobic cares and concerns of your own life and open your heart wider to allow the life of another.

Perhaps a forgotten friend or a struggling neighbor.

A widow or a stranger.

Even getting to know your postal worker or the Amazon delivery person, or making a concerted effort to graciously thank your DoorDash delivery person can open your heart a little wider than before.

Thanking employees your come across for working and brightening their shift as you check out from the store or buy your take out meal can brighten your day as well as theirs. If this feels challenging to you, remember that they would probably rather be (and might need to be) home caring for a loved one rather than working, but they are deemed essential and have to work instead (which carries less and less paycheck and more and more risk these days).

In times of COVID-19, many people’s support systems are shrinking smaller and smaller. Rediscovering the joy of a phone call, letters across town like a pen pal, or baked goods delivered carefully to another’s door can lighten or brighten a day, a week or a year.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only gift is a portion of thyself.”

And, it turns out, giving is much, much better than receiving.

What will you give or give up today to have peace and more happiness tomorrow?

Categories
Blog Life

Make the ‘Good-er’ Choice

I dont know what challenges you will face today, or what decisions you will have to make, and I’m not going to tell you if your choice is right or wrong.

I can encourage you to keep choosing the good.

But, if that brings some kind of remorse or shame or pressure to make sure you’re making the right choices, then let me break it down for you a little better:

Just choose the good-er one.

As you pick between

  • Two potential new jobs
  • A job versus caring for a member of your family
  • Or for caring yourself (for a change)
  • Saying no to the busy work you always get left with
  • Or to stop pretending you’ll make time for that relationship when things settle down (spoiler: they won’t)
  • And every other choice you make in a day

Choose the one that feels even 1% good-er than the other one, and you will be alright in the end.

Because that 1% more of the good things you choose builds and builds over your life, leaving you the result of a good, rich life, over time.

Side note: Turns out that good-er is usually not the one with the most money involved, at least at the outset.

  • That relationship you finally made space for
  • That mental peace and emotional resilience you developed through meditation, exercise, and/or working through past trauma
  • That ability you finally developed to say No to things that made you look one way but feel another

All these good choices have a compounding effect.

A goodness about you that will pay its own dividends in peace, good work, centeredness, full love, and better alignment of your reality and your expectations.

And, instead of searching for riches, you will find richness—in your heart, your life, faith and work.

That, my friend, is a good, good life.

Categories
Blog

People AND Recruiting? Why Not Both?

Spoiler alert: Most startups do it wrong

Photo by me, on Unsplash

A lot of entrepreneurs talk about the power of “and”. It’s a mental shift where you walk someone through the journey from “I hate work. I need better life balance” to “What work can I do AND have better life balance?”

See that? Subtle, but powerful.

We do it all the time in our lives. Eggs AND bacon. Dinner AND a movie. Peanut butter AND jelly. Two is better than one, economies of scale and all that.

So it’s natural when i see companies who need their first HR teams/experts because they need good policies, but they’re also hiring a ton so they need good recruiting, so they naturally combine these roles into a People AND Recruiting function! Problem solved!

Right?

Not so fast.

Reality is, in our bacon and eggs example above, you would never ask the chicken to make both eggs and bacon. They are fundamentally different things.

(Follow my logic here one more second)

We love the outcome of the combo. But precisely because they are so different do they pair so well together! “Eggs and Chicken” is just not as appealing, although the supply chain and scaling opportunities would be exponentially simplified!

In the end, it’s a little silly to ask one person to be in charge of such vastly different things and do them all well:

  • Care about all employees. Make them feel valuable.
  • Write policies for all employees. Make sure things are fair and everyone’s rights are maintained.
  • Hire new people to the team. All the teams. Make sure they are the best people, too.
  • Onboard and hire everyone. That employment paperwork is the worst. Make sure we don’t get in legal trouble.
  • Oh, make sure we cut costs, too. Gotta keep and eye on the bottom line.
  • We have to keep up our hiring in sales or we won’t hit our sales numbers.
  • An engineer left. Can you find another replacement?
  • We think an internship program would be great. Mind slapping one of those together. Has to be awesome.
  • Ah, there’s some questions about remote work and office expenses. Can you do a thing about that? Make it fair but not too generous.
  • This person needs a work visa renewed? Can you make that happen?
  • We always did annual reviews around this time of year. But they suck. Can you fix that and make them not suck, but make sure we also do them?
  • I think we need a better PTO policy. Will you get me some options?
  • Are we paying people fairly? We can’t break the bank, but let’s check into that.
  • I want to hire this person in Minnesota. No problem, right? I told them you’d get them the offer. Oh, they started last Monday, actually.
  • I’m not sure the employees are getting enough attention. Can you make sure that happens?

Going a little bonkers yet?

Though this is the life I see many “startup” HR, people and talent individuals go through. (And burnout from)

It’s mind-numbingly complex and each of the above scenarios is fraught with legal, logistical and other socially complicated issues.

Do you really want to hinge the legal liabilities AND success of your company’s growth on asking one person to be an expert in employment law, interpersonal relationships, management coaching, all the whole sourcing, screening, attracting and closing top talent across your company?

Would you ask your operations leader to also sell and do tech support? Of course not. But HR people are tasked with these disparate duties all the time

In short, having one person do all these things well is, ridiculous.

For years now, my team and I have been helping companies manage these complexities through a blended, hybrid model of embedded/external consulting and work.

For example:

  • We provide a proven Senior level HR person to directly work with the founding team/C-suite on high level issues. This is often your “point person”, allowing one-point of contact to drive progress and get results/reports.
  • Backing them up is a team of HR certified professionals who have their hands on all the best, state of the art policies and procedures across the spectrum of “full stack HR”. From vacation policies to workers compensation. Soup to nuts.
  • We also can consult with your HR system vendors (or find you one) and implement systems and tools to automate your world.
  • We can work with your attorneys (or ours) to ensure you and your people are compliant and protected.

AND

  • We are a very, very good recruitment agency too.
  • Your hiring managers get ONE PERSON to work with, a senior recruiter with many years of experience recruiting the people they are looking for.
    • Engineers? We compile the best .
    • Accountants? We’re all credits and no debits.
    • Operations? We’re well documented leaders here.
    • Sales & Success? We’ve got your number.
    • Tech support and customer service? We’re standing by.
    • C-level executives? We’ll corner-office the market for you.
  • We can place one-off or multiple roles.
  • We work under various models ranging from hourly or retained to contingent direct placement, all with an eye on growth, speed, agility and cost-controls.
  • Got your own internal recruiters? We’ll augment your team and even train them up if you like.

AND

We can start providing you all these services immediately, with a cost structure that would be comparable to hiring just one senior person to your team.

Need more flexibility to control cash? No problem. We start with what you need. AND can provide everything else on demand.

Your company AND ours, we can do great things for your people AND you can get back to business.

Ready to have your cake AND eat it, too?

Let’s talk.

Categories
Allyship Blog Commentary Life Workplace

You Are ‘Amy Cooper’ & So Am I. Now What?

A confrontation in Central Park sparks outrage about privilege and race in the United States

A few years ago, my teenager asked if we could watch The Hate U Give, a movie based on the book of the same name. I knew the subject would be controversial, and I wanted her to watch it, though I was adamant that we watch it together because I wanted to talk with her about it.  I am glad I did, and I highly recommend this movie to you so you can better appreciate other’s lived experiences if you have not lived them yourself.

Why This is Relevant

The very real and needed debate that is happening right now where, in the same week, a white woman named Amy Cooper called the cops on a black man who asked her to obey Central Park Rules and leash her dog, though she claims she was in fear of her life, and George Floyd, a black man suspected of forgery in Minneapolis, who died after being taken into police custody when a police officer knelt on his neck (video: MSNBC) for an extended period of time, even when Floyd repeatedly noted he could not breathe, of course, hearkening us all back to Eric Garner’s death in 2014 under similar circumstances — circumstances in which no federal indictments were brought.

There are many debates, and I would say changes, that need to happen in our society that these two incidents, so close in time and so terribly visible on camera show, but in the more narrow scope of this writing, I think one question needs to be asked, in terms of Amy Cooper, what do you do when someone in your company is spotlighted like this. How do you react?

Kate Bischoff, an employment attorney, poses it this way on linkedin and further follows up on her website:

You’re in #HR . Over the weekend, an employee engages in racist behavior that’s caught on video. The video goes viral. What do you do?

Do you immediately fire the employee? What do you say to other employees? Do you tell everyone not to talk to the media? Should you just let it be?

Doing nothing is disastrous. HR needs to take the lead in addressing employees, holding forums with staff, drafting talking points for leadership and managers, and fostering an environment where employees feel safe to raise issues stemming from this incident and others.

Do you ultimately fire her? Abso-fricking-lutely. Not only is there a legal risk for her employment decisionmaking, but the organization’s commitment to being a fair, harassment-free workplace is now squarely in the spotlight. Keeping her will forever damage the organization for both employees and customers.

What do you think?

More important than that, the reality is that ALL of us have faced real situations where either we are ‘Amy Cooper’ or we behave in a way like ‘Amy Cooper’ toward others.

Those of you in leadership positions, this becomes especially tricky because, what if ‘Amy’ is someone in your team? Even more, what if he/she is your top performer?

As I noted on Katie’s post, “what do you do if there is NO video and the employee in question has ‘always been a team player’ and ‘consistently ranks above average on evaluations’?

No. Really. When there’s no spotlight, what do you do?”

This is not an easy thing to grapple with, and likely is more real than any of us want to admit.

Allyship Requires Action

Jodi-Ann Burey, a writer and speaker, poses the following suggestion to each of us who look in the mirror and realize the problem may be more “us” than we wanted to otherwise believe:

Please Note: Central Park Karen is not the exception, she is the rule. You work with women like her… everyday. You care about women like her. You may very well be her. Allyship requires action. If you want to exercise your allyship, talk with each other as white folks about what you all can do to help each other stay accountable to being better.

So… Now What?

So, today, May 27, 2020, what are you going to do differently, seeing so much that needs to obviously change?

Part of the answer, as Jodi-Ann notes, is Allyship.  This means getting clear about what your part in all this might be, and realizing you may be complicit more than you know.

Tolerating even a little racism or sexism leads to cultural challenges personally, organizationally and, as we see too frequently, nationally.

People will do what they see their leaders do. Actions > Words. Serve and care for those around you and, if you are a leader, then lead from the front and from the back, cheering those on who are struggling, and carrying those who otherwise could not make the journey.

Resolve, today, to be part of the solution.

Is That What It’s Really Like?

A few days after we watched The Hate U Give movie, my teenager asked me openly, “Is that what black neighborhoods are really like, or was that just for the movie?”

The question set me back a bit, I admit.  We don’t live in a glitzy, fancy neighborhood. Our homes are very moderately priced. Even underwhelmingly priced. Yet, our quiet community South of Salt Lake City is markedly different from the streets depicted in the film.  But, they were not too different from some of the streets I knew as a kid in Indianapolis (though I lived in the quiet suburbs, I spent a moderate amount of time in the city).

I relayed back to her that I thought it was a pretty fair depiction of what life in black communities was like in a lot of the country.

She thought about it and said she appreciated the chance to see things through the eyes of the teenage girl in the film — torn emotionally between her black roots and the predominantly white prep school she attends — and then a secret witness to the death of her friend at the hands of a police officer.

She has been different since we watched that movie together. These stories and other lived experiences have helped her want to lift up and care about people around her in ways I think most teens would not spend time on.

I hope she will continue to be an ally to those around her. I hope to continue helping her have those experiences as well.