Thanks Is Better Than “Seat At Table”

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Some HR Pros aspire to have a seat-at-the-table.  That’s cool.  It’s a great ambition to have.

I’ve been at the table, I’ve been off the table, I’ve been at the kids-table (imagine Thanksgiving dinner but at work), so I know from where I speak. But there is one thing better than that seat and some of the real and perceived perks that go with it.  Perks like perceived control (none of us has this), better than real power, better than ego-rushes, better than money, better than un-warranted pandering, better than important strategy sessions (truly they are important), better than board-approval, and definitely better than all the negotiating that goes into proving “HR is a more than a cost-center Damn it!”, even when you get your budget approved.  Talk about a Purple Squirrel.

That one thing is unexpected, unsolicited, heartfelt, authentic “thanks” you and your HR team gets from a team member.  When you least expect it.  When you are wore out.  When you are not wore out.

Regarding the picture above:  A few days ago one of Daxko’s team members left a hand written note for our team and some Krispy Kremes (oh, yeah…).  He later came over and told us how much impact our team had on the lives of team members, the professional development of leaders, and the integration efforts we were a part of for a company we newly acquired.

I think I had a tear in my eye.  I will remember that note and box of donuts more than many of the interactions I had “at the table”.

A few take aways:

  • I regularly remind my team:  the work you do impacts people lives.  If you say and believe that mantra, you will live that mantra.
  • Tell people around you “thank you” often.  You can read lots of articles about sincere vs insincere thanks, over-thanking, yada, but let’s cut through that.  Let’s not overthink this.  When people tell you “thanks” it makes you feel good and makes you want to continue to work at a higher level.
  • HR really doesn’t have a lot of measurables– it’s true (that’s another blog post).  So honest “thanks” are a measure of success.

Most importantly, when you get a heartfelt thanks, it give us hope HR can be and should be a helpful partner and not the policy boogeyman.

If you need more “academic” fodder > Check this out.


(Oh — and thanks for reading this post)





HR Tip> Make ‘Em Love You with Video

HR Leaders >> here is a quick tip for you.  Start using video more instead of text to get your messages out.Why?  It makes people fall in love more easily than text.

To see an example > check out the “President’s message” video (above) I sent out to the Birmingham Society of HR Management members

Let me explain.  HR folks want to accomplish two things with messaging:

  • To be heard
  • Create empathy (that’s the people side)

Video helps you do both.  And it only takes 5 minutes to do!

Here is a great article from Psychology Today that will give you more tasty tidbits, stats, and info on using Video vs. Text than I ever could.  But here are some take aways from the article:

  • Videos are processed by the brain 60,000 times faster than text“.  So, if you want something absorbed more quickly, video may help.
  • Video’s are easy to digest:  folks who use the internet typically prefer video.  It’s just easier for your brain. According the Psychology Today article, reading text is active; watching videos are passive (aka easier).
  • “Videos create an empathetic connection“. When you see that video of the dog greeting his master who just got back from Afghanistan, or the “Twist Like A Tornado, Girl” (which is actually quite touching) you have an visceral response. Employees feel a connection with you more easily that text.

Tools to create quick video: 

  • Use any smart phone
  • Use a program called eCamm to record Skype video calls
  • Typically every laptop has a camera/video feature built in
  • Hit the record button
  • You – talk


  • Be yourself
  • Make it quick (ish)
  • Just like any text email, it will linger, so make sure it is work appropriate.
  • If you aren’t personable in front of a camera — practice first.  If it is a medium that makes you nervous and can’t overcome it – assign someone from your team to do it. I’m not a fan of videos that are like “press releases”.  Those defeat the point of “connection”

So, Cecil B. DeMille — get filming.


David Bowie: Hero.

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OK- you knew it was coming. A David Bowie blogpost. Throw a rock at my head. Or, “oh baby, just you shut your mouth”.  I prefer the later.

I really like David Bowie.  Always have.  As a matter of fact, if you check out my bio over at Fistful Of Talent, you’ll see I reference David Bowie’s “Heroes” as my theme song (I think I posted that in 2009).  What’s not to like?  Just Google David Bowie right now and you’ll  find a million reasons to really like him.

So what HR/Leadership wisdom does Bowie’s life provide us.  Lots.

  • He wasn’t perfect. And he never acted like he was.  Actually, parts of his life were very, very messy. Good leaders don’t hide from their mess.  Good leaders don’t pretend they aren’t mistake-making goofs just like everyone else.   Then they pay it forward by sharing that messiness with others, when appropriate, in the right medium.  Their authenticity is attractive and, dare I say, even classes up the messy.
  • He was humble.  Quote, “Fame itself… doesn’t really afford you anything more than a good seat in a restaurant.” The sense of humbleness leads to the next bullet point.
  • He was a notorious collaborator.  I mean, every rockstar is damaged, self-conscious and has something to prove. Some turn that energy into super-competitiveness, others into self-indulgence, still others into asshole-ness.  Then there are a few that turn that self-consciousness inside out.  They find others who just might be as damaged and self-conscious (which is everyone) and support them.  Make a tribe.  Many artists recollect that Bowie was the least jealous rockstar they ever met.  And his work with Lennon, Mercury, Pop, and Reed, to name a few, show what great collaboration can result in.  And let’s not even get into all Bowie’s acting collaborations.  Many don’t know, Bowie considered himself more an actor than musician.
  • He was NEVER stagnate.  I couldn’t title this “he was innovative” or “inventive” or “trend-setting”.  That’s just too easy.  Fact is, he didn’t stop or settle. HR must learn from this.  I mean, let’s pretend, for just a minute that David Bowie did nothing but Ziggy Stardust.  Can you even imagine?  Imagine Bowie said, “this formula works!”, and just stayed there.  He’d be considered ineffective and out of touch.  Maybe even boring.  Completely irrelevant.  Also, he would have been forgotten long ago.  HR: get out of Ziggy and move onto Thin White Duke for God sake. Good news is you are close.
  • He worked until the end.  Just listen to his last album, Blackstar. The album he recorded when he was terminally ill.  The album released days before he died.  It’s brilliant.  Bowie never stopped trying, learning, creating.
  • He shared his talents.  Good leaders should share their strengths and talents.  Great leaders should create environments where others can share their’s as well.


And by sharing those talents openly Bowie connected with the freaks and geeks, the forgotten and the self-conscious.  His authenticity made it OK for others to be authentic.  Thank you Mr. Bowie – here is to your next adventure and oddity.




#Boondoggle ’15 > Leaders Must Carry The Weight


I attended a leadership event, Boondoggle that got me singing again. Literally. Below is the track to prove it. Why did this event get me singing again? I had the revelation it is OK to be a professional and an artist. It’s OK to be a leader and a learner. It’s OK to be messy, scared, and complex yet simple, thoughtful and strong. More on this at the end of this post.

Here is the Track >> Carry The Weight . (Harmonies are sweet around 2:00).


So, I attended an event called Boondoggle last week. My pals Jason Lauritsen and Joe Gerstandt pulled together a small group of folks to spend 2 days in a cabin in Omaha and talk about the future of work. This fab cross section of folks included trench-HR execs, software entrepreneurs, leadership consultants, and national speakers. In addition these folks are experts on millennials, diversity and best places to work.

A motley yet, engaging, thought provoking, and frankly, caring group. Yes- caring. Which means they were not afraid to be vulnerable. When the courage to be vulnerable split this group wide open that is when the true work began (Or as Charlie Judy might say #truwork – look it up). So what were the take-aways?:

  • Effective next-generation leaders must carry the human weight of their teams. Emotionally. Intentionally. At least they must support the weight.
  • Effective next-generation leaders MUST embrace the duality of every human being. We are too complex. Team members can be both simple yet complex, put-together and messy, process-driven and creative.
  • Companies have to throw away one-word “success factors” that describe ideal cultures. Those are too limiting.
  • Effective leaders need to get out of the way. They should hold a mirror up to folks and let them come up with their own revelations and outcomes, both for work and life purposes.

Most importantly next-gen leaders need to model it (empathy, caring, getting out of the way, vulnerability). If you can model it you can start a movement within your organization.

So about that singing. For 20 years I was a performer. Actually studied for it. For the next 20 years I was an HR professional. An ambitious one. I’ve always had a reason why one side of my life (artist) needed to be overcome by another (professional). There is a time and place for everything- and I think that my performance studies have made me a much better HR pro. However, to deny the full-depth of humanity for the sake of my profession was a mistake.

After Boondoggle I called my songwriting partner/ bandmate from college, Scott Rogers (who is now a professor) and we started recording. He in Utah, me in Alabama. No excuses. I bought the equipment and sang. Took and hour. Totally worked, just like riding a bike. Once  he posted the tracks, several of my other band mates connected and wanted to participate. Scott and I modeled actions and started a movement.

Carry the weight. Cool things may happen.

No Kid Hungry #shrm15 poetry slam: doing something is easy

I attended a great event at #SHRM15.  A few social media influencers Rayanne Thorn, Dwane Lay, and Jason Lauritsen organized a fundraiser for “No Kid Hungry”.   Here’s the deal:

  1. They pulled it off in about 3 weeks.
  2. Found a venue (shout out Public House at the Luxor, Las Vegas) that worked with budget.
  3. Got cos they work for to sponsor (Quantum Workforce/Dovetail– maybe some others?). Actually Quantum chose to skip the #shrm15 vendor booth to sponsor this social event.  Folks can relate to empathy better than swag.
  4. Had about 80 in attendance.
  5. Raised to date $3k — still taking pledges.  Click here to do contribute.

You want to do something like this for your organization.  Easy steps: 

  1. Find charity you feel compelled to help >
  2. Find a fundraising platform > 
  3. Have fun; here are some ideas >
  4. Connect the audience to those who have been impacted by the charity. You must connect folks hearts to the cause.  Just stats or just a flyer about the group doesn’t cut it.  
  5. Go for the ask.  Don’t be afraid to ask for donations. And don’t just ask your family (the easy ones).

Simple. No excuses.

Late preppin’ for #SHRM15 conference; no sweat

I’m busy.

You’re busy.

You are probably sitting in the airport on your way to #SHRM15 going what.the.hell.  I’m not ready.  Where do I go.  I just sat at gate C3 and recognized 20 others from my small town going to the conference.  Multiply that times a jillion other cities.  Crap.  It’s a big conference.

DON’T SWEAT.  you’ll be fine.

If you are late on the upswing prepping for the conference, here are a few things that will ease your mind.

  • The App is where it’s at.  Download the SHRM15 app.  It really will walk you through a bunch of stuff.
  • Use your air-flight time wisely.  Spend the 10$ on wi-fi you cheap-skate and work on the plane.  And this is easy work.  All it takes is one hour to surf the #SHRM15 app or webpage to navigate the speakers/schedule.
  • Don’t over-schedule.  Just like anywhere else, enjoy a little breathing room.  I say pick 4 must see speakers.  The rest of the time…..
  • Check out the Smart Stage.  Lots of speakers talking about innovative things.  You can hang out there most of the time.  Problem solved.  Or…
  • CHECK OUT THE EXPO FLOOR.  Check out all the new technology.  Please, don’t miss this part of the conference.  If you are an HR pro you must learn how to leverage technology to help you do your job better.
  • Make scheduling easy:  pick two speakers that will help your organization and two that will help your professional development.  Looking at the speakers in terms of “tracks” is helpful.
  • But I want to give back!  I forgot to register for the SHRM Foundation event!  Give to No Kid Hungry.  A bunch of great HR pros have championed this cause.  Click here to give.
  • Forget to pack shaving cream?  You are going to Vegas not the moon.  You can get some at the Airport, the hotel, a block down any street.  Vegas is build for people who at any given moment forget stuff.  That’s there thing.
  • What about my luggage!??  Fretting that you won’t be able to land, go to the hotel, then make it to the conference to hear Coach K?  Or the Expo?  No worries.  They have a big luggage pen at the convention center to park you stuff while you attend.
  • My nails look like crap!  Airport = nail file + clear coat = good to go.
  • Please have fun.  I mean it’s Vegas.