Wanna Screw Up Engagement > Multi-task During a Call

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Wanna suck the life out of your engagement strategy.  I mean really take your engagement credibility to new lows.  Multi-task while you are on the phone.

You know what will immediately make your employees think you don’t care…the sound of your clicking keyboard. When you are talking to someone. During a scheduled call.

Since I’ve been around the block a time or two, it really doesn’t bother me too much anymore.  If I hear a clicking keyboard when someone is talking with me, I just say let’s reschedule.  I certainly have lots of other things to do, so I don’t sweat it.  But imagine if you are an employee who has finally scheduled some precious time with you, Sr. Leader.  If you don’t think they’ve been nervous about that call, you may may need to come back down to the Trenches.  They call you, they are prepped, and then they hear the click of your keyboard.  Then they feel… well, not angry, and likely not sad… but just, like a schmuck.

Or imagine you are a candidate and you hear the sound of a clicking keyboard during your interview.  The interview your’ve been sweating for 2 weeks.  The one that is for the dream job you’ve been coveting.  That sound totally sucks.  Then they think you totally suck. Then they think your company totally sucks.  And you know what – they’re right.

I’ll give all of you a break — it is super easy to do this unintentionally.  I know most  mean nothing by it, that is why it doesn’t bother me so much when it happens to me.  And frankly, I’d be a complete liar if I said I have never done this.  BUT….

If someone heard my keyboard clicking over the phone, especially if I was interviewing them or if they really needed my advice as a Sr. Leader or if they had prepped for my time, no matter what the reason — I suck.

Pragmatic HR Tip >  If you feel you still have the right to suck by multi-tasking, or if for some reason multi-tasking it is prudent:  MUTE YOUR FRIGGIN’ PHONE.













My Dad Died & All I Got Was This Old Song


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4 years ago today my Dad died.

Oh, and I’ll let you know about the Old Song” later in the post. You need to read to the end and listen to the recording to get this. For real. And, yes, there is a leadership lesson in all of this.

Way, way before my Dad was even diagnosed with lung cancer I remember a conversation our whole family had over dinner. Somebody we knew had just died and my family started talking about this person’s life. Reminiscing about good times we had with this person, talking about the funeral, how good the service was, how sorry we felt for so-and-so, and how much this person would be missed. Without skipping a beat my Dad said, “you won’t remember this person in 2 months.” My sister and me were like, “Say WHAT?? You are clearly insane.” Dad replied, “The reality is about 2 months after someone dies, people just forget you.”

This is one time my father was simply, emphatically wrong.

Since he died there has not been one day I have not thought about him in some small way. These days the thoughts are more lighthearted than sad thank goodness.

I think the context my Dad may have framed his comment was by correlating how many times someone visits a gravesite with how much that person is missed. Now… I can’t tell you the last time I went to Dad’s gravesite and yes, I feel guilty about that, and yes, when I go and see someone else has put flowers at the site (yes, that would be you Sara and Joe Warren, the greatest people I know) I let out a big ole sigh of relief, then feel guilty, then feel relief, yada.

But here is the deal. The people who loved him, think about him every day.

So, leaders – here is your take away.

People who spend great deals of time with you remember you. 

People remember what you did for them. People remember what you didn’t do for them. People will remember until the day you die if you treated them like crap, remembered their kid’s birthday, or threw them under the bus. They will remember when you advocated for them, when you taught them a new skill and when you made their spouses feel welcome at the company Christmas party. They will remember when you kicked them when they were down, abused your power or gave them a BS reason for not given them a raise.  They will remember if you loved them. 

People remember.

So about that song. I used to sing in a band in college. My mom and Dad came to every local gig. I mean every one. They sat at the back of every dive bar and drank beer and clapped and cheered . They watched me and the guys sing and drink and smoke (cigarettes) and have fun and be young (see below!). Everyone in the crowd knew them.

Our band covered Neil Young’s song, Old Man, played it every gig, and we always dedicated it to my Dad.

So on this 4 year anniversary, me and my lifelong friend and musical partner, Scott Rogers, did a version of Old Man for my Dad. Here it is.

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License To Ill>> I Suffer From Chronic Illness; Still Thrivin’

I have Ankylosing Spondylitis: scary name for a crappy condition.

Now it’s out there. To know me, you need to know I  suffer from chronic illness.  I have since I was diagnosed at 30.  And for the last 2 years (up until about 4 months ago), I have been really sick.  But I still thrived! The catalyst to write this? I was looking at some videos I shot over the last 18 months and I was shocked at how worn down I looked compared to now. I mean, it was like cold water to the face. It was like a before and after President of the US pic. Check this out:





I mean I’ve never been Giselle, and I do like cheese and wine– so a little puff is the norm.  But wow.

Many people suffer from some sort of illness (yes, I consider workoholics ill too) – so from a leadership perspective my own experience gives me great empathy for those struggling with, really, most anything. If you are a leader or an aspiring leader – I share my short story so you may gain some insight as well.

Why? Empathic, nurturing behaviors make for better leaders.

So here it is. I have a genetic condition that runs in my family called Ankylosing Spondylitis (AnkSpond), which I was diagnosed with at 30. One day I could move. The next day I could not. Like that, I couldn’t get out of bed. It was scary. Actually, the lead singer from Imagine Dragons, Dan Reynolds, just announced he has it. Also, for 80’s buffs, Mick Mars from Motley Crue has it (that is why he was a recluse for decades). And, get this, Ed Sullivan had it too. That’s why he walked so stiffly and never turned his head (just his whole body) to look to the side. He couldn’t turn his neck. People made fun of him, and had no clue he was suffering. Ain’t life a b***h.

AnkSpond is a systemic, genetic, autoimmune disease you are born with where your body attacks itself. There is no cure. The best way to describe it…It is just like (or really is) severe rheumatoid arthritis but it primarily effects the spine, ribs, neck and hips. If AnkSpond is not treated your vertebra fuse together and you get bamboo spine – you hunch over permanently. That is HORRIFYING. UGG. It inflames hands, wrists, knees and shoulders too. Also, it inflames the lining of the eyes that can lead to blindness, it inflames your aorta which can’t be good, and makes it hard to breath. When your sternum and ribs get attacked, your rib cage can’t expand. So, you feel like you can’t take in air. Good news is my diaphragm works, so I can breathe. It’s just really hard. And hurts.

Like Ed Sullivan, turning my neck is sometimes impossible – imagine having to turn your whole body to look for oncoming traffic. And forget about sleeping. When you stop moving, your whole body stiffens up – the weight of bedsheets hurt.

Proof?  Check out this crazy-ment.  I have to take pics to show the doc.


And some people must think I’m a nut. I remember being at an HR conference and my eyes were really red. I know people noticed, they didn’t hide it, and thought I just had a “late night”. Uh, no. Other people see me puffy/swollen and likely think, put down the grub sister. I just think “blame it on the pred, pred ne, pred ne, prednisone”…I just have to laugh. Oh, and then put on my fun pants (stretchy yoga pants). Still others hear what appears to be a sigh of frustration, it’s really me trying to get in a deep breath when my ribs lock up.  Don’t judge a book.

Good news! There is treatment. Better treatments than ever. The treatments stop disease progression so I will not be a hunchback (sweet!). Bad news, some of them are literally low doses of chemo. They make you sick to your stomach. Others just tear up your stomach. Prednisone works like a charm, but then I look like the Michelin Man.  Also, meds suppress your immune system, so chest colds are the norm. When you always hurt, fatigue is real. And the expense of the meds is – well – shocking.

I’ve gotten very used to giving myself copious amounts of shots, because when you get the medication doses correct, which can take years, then it is like a miracle. I’m close to the treatment miracle mix! That is why I feel/look rested.  Finally.

I also have support at work, great benefits, freedom to go to the doctor and a rheumatologist that simply is saving my life. His name is Dr. Nop Unnoppett and his sister sold me the “Strong Girl” shirt you see in my Twitter picture (see above). Don’t cry for me.

So, what’s the point?

  • When I saw my pics I had a visceral reaction to what I saw. A stark reminder that long term stress (pain, work-overload, etc) can change a person and they don’t even know it.
  • Good leaders are empathetic leaders.
  • You don’t have to have a certifiable illness to have the same physical response I have had with a chronic illness. Too much work, not enough sleep, chasing kids, and keeping up with The Jones’s can do the same thing.
  • I never stopped or altered my commitments in spite of this situation. Stopping would have killed me. Going on much more would have hurt me terribly too. Advocate for yourself and take care of yourself. No one else will.
  • If you are a leader and notice a shift in and employees attitude, demeanor, or anything else, it’s always a nice gesture to see if your employee is all right. I know some legal folks will say “don’t ask if someone is ill!” Y’all are adults here. If someone is struggling for God sake see if they are OK.
  • Again, this is who I am, so to know me through this blog, I thought it right to share.

One thing I do feel very strongly about though – don’t give any chronic illness the power to stop you altogether. Rest and get back up. Cry and then feel better. I’ve seen some folks who let illnesses define them and it is just a sad, sorry sight. There is truth to fake it till you make it. Fake it through the bad days – a good day is around the corner!

Last but not least there are only two people who truly know what I have endured.  My husband, Bo, and my starter husband (first husband), Chad.  Thanks to both of them for what they have had to go through on my bad days.  More people to thank — you know who you are.

If you want to give, check out:

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.