The Road Untraveled

road untraveled

I have several friends who are avid hikers. They love nothing more than strapping on a pair of boots, grabbing a backpack and heading out for a long and vigorous walk criss-crossing the local trails.  

I understand the allure as some have described it; setting out in peaceful solitude through a tranquil and unspoiled forest. Traversing a windswept dune adjacent to a large body of water. Climbing rugged hills and descending into wild flower filled ravines with only the sounds of chirping birds to break the silence.

Yet, even in these seemingly pristine landscapes, they may come upon, quite unceremoniously, a discarded beer can.

The thought the hiker had, when setting out in isolation, was they were the sole human in years and years to access this pocket of nature. I would imagine there’s a bit of a letdown, even sadness, as they can’t ignore the irrefutable evidence they are not the first person stepping foot on uncharted land.   

After all, we like to think that our choices – the paths we view ahead and upon which we choose to walk – are unique. We search for importance and meaning. We don’t want our decisions to be trivial; we want the weighty choices in our life to have significance. 

It’s part of the human condition, isn’t it, that we inevitably find ourselves wondering at later times in our life… What if I had…” “Would it have meant more if I had done…?”  “Why didn’t I…?”

Yet we are forced to make choices. We must determine which road we shall go down even when we have neither guidance nor enough facts upon which to base our decision.

So choose a path we must.

There is, at the end of our days, no need to look back (perhaps with a sigh of regret) and wonder what we missed. It’s fruitless to speculate on the unknown that we never encountered.

While there may not be one right path there is, inescapably, the path we choose. And then there’s the other path.

Not better. Not worse. Merely untraveled.

The Road Not Taken

(4th stanza)

(by Robert Frost)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

*****

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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There’s Nice. And Then There’s NICE.

service

Last week a video was posted of a customer’s drive thru experience at a Popeye’s here in Louisiana. It captures one of the most joyous service experiences ever; even without considering the customer also got to leave with some delicious chicken.

Ms. Cynthia (just “keepin it real over here!”) needs to be promoted to the customer service hall of fame.

But Ms. Cynthia’s exuberant spirit and warmth (I just want her to envelop me in a hug!), while registering at a 15 on a 10-point scale, is fairly representative of what I often experience in service interactions. Whether at the gas station, grocery store or a restaurant there’s a natural human element to the simplest transactions. At the corner gas station the patrons and store clerks always catch up – “how’s your daddy doing Mr. Jimmy?”. A quick trip to grab some snacks and adults beverages on game day often includes a discussion about plans – ”now you have fun today baby! Who dat!” A trip for an oil change will lead to a group discussion amongst the mechanics and customers in the waiting room about everyone’s favorite seasonings, preferred ingredients (artichokes always a plus IMO), and methodologies for a crawfish boil.

When we moved to Louisiana I was initially taken aback at how interactions seemed to be on a whole new level here. I was accustomed to “midwest nice” which was all about efficiency and (stern) politeness. Were people friendly in the midwest?” Yes. Was it customary to help others? Absolutely. Was it ingrained to apologize (“Whoops! Sorry!”) when one happened to bump into a fellow citizen in a crowd? You betcha. But the “niceness,” I decided, felt different here.

And I become more cognizant of it whenever I return home after a trip to the land of my birth.

I recently spent a week in Wisconsin and experienced surly staff at a restaurant when I went to pick up dinner. (After I had to practically climb over rude patrons sitting at the bar to even reach the server and get her attention). I found myself being the only person in the checkout line at the grocery store who said “hello” to the cashier who then, after not making eye contact, mumbled a reluctant “oh… hey” before glancing back down at the conveyor belt.

Do I have shitty customer service experiences close to home? Of course I do; I run into my share of sullen service workers. But, in general, I give them a modicum of grace and don’t question why they are cranky. At all.

But the Ms. Cynthia’s of the world? They do exist and we need to celebrate them

You already know.

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Let’s Do the Time Warp Again: 15 Years of the Carnival of HR

HR Time Warp
Images of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” are copyright 1975 by 20th Century Fox.

The very first Carnival of HR ran 15 years ago this week (February 21, 2007) when Suzanne Lucas kicked off our long-running tradition with this post.

In the intervening years there have been hundreds of Carnivals as various people took on the role of Ringmaster: Alison Green (aka @AskAManager) in 2008; Shauna Griffis from 2009 -2016; Robin Schooling (hey that’s me!) from 2016 – 2021; and John Baldino (2022 – beyond!).

There have been numerous shifts in the online HR community since the halycon (and experimental) early days of HR professionals getting on social media, participating in Twitter chats (RIP weekly Thursday night #HRHappyHour) and creating blogs left and right. (check out The Unofficial (and totally non-scientific) History of HR Blogging written for the 10 year anniversary of the HR Carnival).

Is ”blogging” as we knew it, dead? Maybe. But it’s been supplanted with newsletters (so.many.newsletters), podcasts, and “live” events on LinkedIn and Facebook. And that’s a GREAT thing…because those of us working in/around HR have a LOT to say. And now we have increasingly more ways of getting our message out into the world.

So let’s take a jump to the left and then a step to the right…and check out some recent HR content. Shall we?

*****

“You look like you’re both pretty groovy!”

Dr. Frank “N Furter

Golden Girls – Betty White/Rose Nylund – Anthony Paradiso at AllThingzAP

How to Prevent and Manage Burnout – Joey Price at While We Were Working (podcast)

“If only we were amongst friends… or sane persons!”

Janet

Employer Branding Can’t Fix a Poor Candidate Experience – Kevin Grossman at TalentBoard  

Just Because You Can Do Something, Does It Mean You Should?- Wendy Dailey at My Dailey Journey

“It’s astounding, time is fleeting, madness takes its toll.”

Riff Raff

Leadership Barriers to DEI and How to Address Them – Kelly Primus at LeadingNOW

We Don’t Talk About Bruno: Acknowledging Former Employees – John Baldino at Humareso

The Return of Candidate Resentment – Kevin Grossman at TalentBoard

******

Peace out HR.  “’Don’t Dream it. Be it.”

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Tips for Your Virtual Happy Hour #workfromhome

We’ve been doing virtual team Happy Hours at Peridus Group since WELL before virtual team Happy Hours became the new normal. Now, with numerous people working from home for the first time, they’re finding ways to socially interact from a safe distance. Replicating the joie de vivre that results when a co-worker says “let’s pop down to the pub after work” is an easy way to maintain one’s sanity and promote a sense of normalcy. 

In the interest of helping our fellow humans, here are a few of our top tips guaranteed to make your HH rock: 

  • Unless you’re doing your home-office/remote-workin’ from your kitchen (and thus with ready access to the refrigerator), make sure to bring the entire bottle of wine (or liquor and mixers) to your home office. That way, when it’s time to pour a fresh one, you don’t even have to step away from the festivities!
  • Put someone in charge of music; assign a walk-in tune to each team member and play it when they enter the chat room. My preferred walk on tune is “SexyBack” by JT.

  • A fun game to play is “let me show you my neighborhood/backyard/favorite restaurant down the street.” Give someone screen sharing capabilities, pull up Google Maps, and take a virtual tour of BFE!

  • Props and costumes add a certain pizzazz to any Happy Hour. We have one team member who occasionally dons a tiara and another that we like to make put on her super-hero cape. Lots of LOLZ!
  • Give new hires a thrill when they realize the invite to “drink alcohol on the clock” comes from the HR lady! (actual quote” “wow! I never worked anywhere where HR planned and coordinated the Happy Hour!”) 
  • Play a game together – live! For our virtual holiday party this past December (eons ago…), I created a holiday trivia quiz (somewhat NSFW) using Kahoot. Everyone downloaded the app and we played together (20 seconds per question!) with the ability to watch the leaderboard while sipping our adult beverage of choice.

Raising my glass to everyone – stay safe, wash your hands and CHEERS!

Photo by Yutacar on Unsplash

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Company Values: Not the Same as It Ever Was

I have, over the course of time, participated in and/or facilitated numerous activities designed to create, define and encapsulate company “Mission, Vision & Values.” 

Quite often, because some training facilitator settled on a way to approach this exercise in 1987, this process has involved a cross-section of employees and other stakeholders settling themselves into a room armed with flip charts, markers, and cartons of post-it notes. There may have been focus groups, assessments, surveys and iterative discussions prior to this day but THIS one-day event (with catered lunch!) has been the culmination of hours upon hours of work. I’ve seen some raw emotions too; at one organization a senior leader, not accustomed to a collaborative process, stormed out of the room flinging papers and markers in her wake.

Good times.

Certainly there are some people who think this is a colossal waste of time; fluff dreamed up by management consultants and HR folks. After all, thinks Mr./Ms. MoneyBags CEO, “our missionis to make money, our visionis to make MORE money, and our valuesare to make that money in whatever way we need to make it.”

I, however, have always believed that clarity around M/V/Vs not only aligns people across an organization but provides a guiding point – a lodestar if you will, for everyone to follow. 

We recently went through this exercise at my company and, let me say, it was GREAT! No conference rooms with post-it notes for us though; we’re 100% virtual so we worked through the process via Zoom calls and whiteboarding things out on Google Docs. There may or may not have been adult beverages involved.  

What I have determined, over the years, is that the mission and vision part is relatively easy; why we’re here and we’re going. Most every company can easily articulate this with just a modicum of prodding.

It’s the values part that leaves people flummoxed, confused and exasperated. It can be an arduous task for leaders to allow employees to not partake of some serious self-reflection but also to have the discussions around the “not so good things” about a company’s deeply-held beliefs. (Inverting the question and asking “what is our company NOT” or “what do similar organizations do that we would NEVER do?” can lead to some interesting discussions).

So because it’s hard, and then because it’s safe, these M/V/V teams end up just tossing word-salad up on the wall and calling it a day. This, my friends is why 99.9% of organizations have the same values: teamwork! communication! service! integrity! (blech). Watered down pabulum. 

But in our recent foray into encapsulating and defining our company values we didn’t settle for the mundane.  I’m telling you, not only was the process great but I so love what we came up with that I feel the need to share. Let me present, the Strio Consultingvalues:

  • No Doors and Open Windows Lots of companies talk about an “open door” culture but we embrace a culture with no doors and wide-open windows. We’re transparent and accessible to our clients and to each other. Got a question? Ask it. Need access to someone? You got it. Think something sucks? Bring it up.
  • Doing Things Right Means Doing the Right Thing We’re honorable and trustworthy in all our interactions; integrity is non-negotiable. We play it straight from the get-go and, if we screw up, we own it. The needs and interests of our clients are top of mind. Always. 
  • Embrace That Which is UnusualWe’re OK with being weird. Really. We consider it a badge of honor to be of strange or extraordinary character. Got humor? We like that too.
  • Unburdened by Tradition We’re not bound by the traditional walls of an office nor are we stuck in the typical nine-to-five grind. With a reverential nod to workplace customs that have served us well, we take great delight in consigning the soul-sucking, outdated ways of doing things to the trash heap of business practices as we focus on the future of work. We pride ourselves in the way we work; we’re creative, adaptable and fast-moving – and we help our clients work this way too.
  • Bold and Brainy We surround ourselves with people who exhibit insatiable curiosity; people who read, learn, explore and debate. We like people who ask “why?” and we love nothing more than answering that question.
  • Ubiquitous Uniqueness Our community – our company – is made up of human beings and we celebrate the individual. Be yourself. Be unique. Be special. Live your best life.

What we believe, how we operate and what’s important. These are ours and no one else’s; and most definitely NOT the same as it ever was. 

********* 

Heading to WorkHuman? Join me for the panel Beyond Buzzwords: Real Talk on What it Takes to Create an Amazing Culture”with Michelle Prince, SVP, Global HR, Global Head Learning & Development, Randstad; John Baldino, President, Humareso; and Niamh Graham, VP of Global HR, WorkHuman.

Haven’t registered yet? Use code WH19INFRSC for a discount! 

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