Exit Stage Left

Marsha:  John?

John: Yes Marsha?

Marsha: I know that our relationship is ending because you have decided to move on, but I was wondering if I could ask you something…one last small, teency-weency thing?

John: What is it Marsha?

Marsha: John, I know it didn’t work out between us, but I was hoping that you would take a few minutes to tell me why it didn’t work?  Can you tell me what I did or didn’t do that might have contributed to the demise of our love?

John: …

Marsha: And while we are chatting, could you also think back about what I did well, what did I offer you that might appeal to my future partners, and what I need to improve on.

John: …

Marsha: I’m very serious John.  You can tell me.  Was it money? Was it too much attention? Not enough attention?  Did I not tell you I love you enough?  Was my cooking unsatisfactory?  Were the living conditions less than desirable?

John: …um…

Marsha: John, I don’t want you to hold back.  This feedback will be incredibly important for my development – how else will I be able to learn and grow if you don’t share with me.  I know that we are over, but I’m thinking about how I might be more successful in retaining my next partner.

John: …well…

Marsha: I mean think back to when you first met me – what was it that attracted you to me?  Was it my looks, my brains, my reputation?  And when did it change for you…it was after our first anniversary wasn’t it…you told me not to make a big deal about it, but I knew that you were just saying that and that deep down you really want me to go over the top.  I still cannot believe that I embarrassed you, but I had to announce our love publicly.

John: …oh, but…

Marsha: So John…will you do this for me?

John: So let me get this straight – you are asking me now…now that we are finished…what you could have done to keep me? You are asking me to help you be a better partner for the next guy that comes around?  You want me to share all my frustrations and memories now that I am walking out the door?

Marsha: Why yes…

John: And you will listen to what I will say? And you will actually do something about it?

Marsha: Exactly!

John: Yeah, I don’t think so – that’s kind of messed up.

It is isn’t it?

Food for thought

I know that the last time I popped in, I implied that I was coming back.  I wasn’t trying to be a tease.  I honestly thought that I was ready to come back, but I wasn’t.  I frequently thought about blog posts – I composed them, developed them in my ahead and then filed them away.  I just wasn’t ready to commit to writing them down.

Initially I thought I was just getting lazy or even bored, but the reality is that I was dealing with some house-cleaning items that required me to focus on other things.  I know I’m far from the only person to experience this – from what I’ve seen, it’s pretty common.  In fact, it’s the people who never take a break, those that are constantly producing and constantly on that I wonder about.  It seems so exhausting.

So, I will put it out there that this blog post is not going to be very HR-ish.  If you are someone come across my blog because of searching HR, or if you have been here before and are looking for HR insight, you may want to take a pass on this.

This blog has always been for me – I make no apologies for that.  As such, I am taking the liberty to work though one of the many reasons I have been on hiatus (doesn’t that make it seem legit?).

Would you believe that it has to do with food?  Seriously.

It would be so much easier to say that I developed some disease, disorder or allergy that left my in such a state that I was not able to function normally; however, the truth is that I started following a new path and I kind of got lost. And confused.

I have posted a few things about wanting to clean up my eating (which is a good thing) and try to improve my health and energy level.  These are all good goals to have – I don’t think there is anyone out there that would disagree with me on this.  I made a few changes on my own and then started looking for meal ideas and inspiration and came across the Whole 30, Paleo, and grain-free eating.  I Googled and Pinterested my way through some great recipes and started using ingredients that I hadn’t before.  I decided to take the challenge and cut out all grains, exploring the paleo options, and see where this took me.

It went well, I didn’t feel like it was that big a deal…I was pretty much convinced that this was the real deal and was okay with constantly having a modified version of whatever everyone else was having, be it at home or elsewhere.  I was good with my choices.  This went on and well for quite a while – I became more aware of what I was eating, more devoted to my way of eating, and constantly looking for another recipe.

And then almost a year and half later I hit a wall.  I realized that I no longer enjoyed food because it had almost become clinical to me.

One day I was running late and needed a bite to eat. I didn’t have time to make anything and took a quick look in my cupboards.  I froze.  Despite the fact that my kitchen was filled with food, I couldn’t convince myself that there was anything I could eat.  Looking at half a baguette from my family’s previous evening’s meal I was mentally unable to make myself cut a piece to eat.

This was bread made with five ingredients, all of which I could pronounce and identify, and I was treating it like it was a jar of Cheez Whiz.

As a reminder, I do not have any food allergies, I have not been identified as having gluten sensitivity, and have not nor do I have issues with my health or weight.  And yet, I could not bring myself to eat things that I had allowed myself to believe were not food.

The worst was this was creeping into so many parts of my life.  Other things that I previously enjoyed did not appeal to me.  It’s like I was associating anything that I liked doing before with being bad for me.  This left me even more confused about what I wanted and even more, what I needed.

What I do have to admit is that I developed a really messed up relationship with something that I formerly enjoyed.  And I did this at a time when I was deciding to leave my job.  I then decided to join a new organization, a situation, which at its best is stressful.  I did this at a time when I threw myself into a completely new culture, with new people, new expectations, and new challenges.  I did this at a time when I was sure I made the right choice in leaving, but was unsure about where I had decided to go.  Throw in a couple of teenagers and a partner dealing with his own work-related and health issues.

I think I was looking for a way to have control over some part of my life when the rest of it seemed somewhat chaotic and unpredictable.  I became consumed with my consumption and absolutely unsure of whether I was making good choices.

Over the past three months I have had to let go of many things and people and embrace new and sometimes uncomfortable realities.  It was only when I decided to trust myself, things started to smooth out.  I have not gone 180 because that would negate all the things that I have learned both about myself and food,  but I have started to relax and enjoy things again.

The final step in all of this actually wanted to sit down and write, not because I was supposed to, not because I read that I should, but because I genuinely wanted to talk again.  I realized that I needed to start with all of this, which is probably another reason why I’ve put this off.

Again, I am sorry if you were in search of recruiting or employee engagement advice and rants.  Those will resurface, I assure you, but for today I just needed to chew on this.

Cheers!

Addendum: Okay, I couldn’t just end this without some sort of tie into HR.

What I have seen happen in HR and business in general, is someone becoming completely fixated on a new idea, new movement, or new philosophy to the point that they lose sight of why they were doing it in the first place.  It is easy to set off on a path where you are aiming to improve the employee experience or performance management, but then you can easily cross over into zealot-land…a place where you are unable to consider other options or even traditional approaches.

The end result of a situation like this is not unlike what happened to me.  Failure to progress, loss of creativity, and lack of enjoyment.  It’s a hard lesson to learn.  And take it from me, humble pie is allowed on all diet plans.

Be careful what you say to people – they may just listen

So…it’s been awhile. I would like to say it was self-imposed cleansing from all things technological and social media related, but the truth is that I sat back and just didn’t have anything to say. I have been tired, lazy, and drained. But that’s changing.

I’m a firm believer in not talking just for the sake of talking, which is why you will not receive daily blog posts from me and also why I will probably not write that book that I sometimes think I can.

What’s new?

Well, as I’ve both alluded to and directly mentioned, I’ve started a new job with an new organization. It’s been nothing short of a culture shock and adjustment. Do not let anyone tell you that culture doesn’t exist in an organization or that it doesn’t matter. It matters. It matters so much that I left a job because of and for it.

I have been told that I’m a good listener, but the truth is that I listen to what people say and then I am thinking one of three things: 1) How can I make a witty retort? 2) Are they trying to tell me something? ; 3) I really wish they would stop talking.

Ok, I’m not quite that bad, but sometimes it feels that way.

I DO listen to what is being said and even more to what isn’t being said. Sometimes there are subtle messages that can make a big difference in how you will handle a situation or advise someone else to handle a situation. There are often undercurrents of fear, anger, or giddiness that change the meaning to the words that are actually being said.

And then there are messages like: “If they don’t like what we are doing, then they can go work somewhere else”.

On the subtley-meter, that one is pretty low…falling into the blatantly obvious category.

I really hate when people say it. I really hate when senior management says it. And I hate it even more when HR echoes.

What it means to me is: we don’t care about the reasons that are causing you to not like working here, and we do not want to put any effort into finding out if there is something we can do about it.

I know that there are exceptions to this. If the job requires you to work a set amount of hours or do a certain task and you don’t like those things…then maybe you need to find another job that better suits your needs. We wish you all the best in that.

However, if the organization decides to make changes to programs, structures, jobs, people, transparency, irrational decision-making whatever…and there are people that are having a hard time with this, well I am fairly certain that telling them to get on board or get off the bus is not the most motivating thing. Oh sure, you’ll keep people, but they aren’t going to be staying because they saw the light. They are staying because they need to stay employed as they look for a new job.

I mentioned that I hate when senior management pulls this line, and even worse, when HR stands behind it. Well, I was there. I actually said it. And I realized that the message was for me as much as any other employee.

The truth is that I couldn’t get on-board, so I got off the bus.

I was worried about putting this out there because it sounds like such a cop-out. Shouldn’t I have stayed and fought the fight on behalf of others? Shouldn’t I have stood up and said fuck that? Maybe I could have waited to see if things (management) would change and with it the messages and attitudes.

Trust me, I thought of all those things. It still wasn’t enough for me to get past the fact that the people empowered with authority appeared to believe that everyone there was utterly disposible. I don’t mean replaceable – we are all replaceable. I mean disposable in the sense that when they are done with you, there wouldn’t be a second thought (unless, of course, you sought legal counsel).

And I do admit, that it’s a contagious attitude because I sat talking with a colleague and we were going over a recent change, or a soon-to-be released communication and we were talking about the inevitable response and I said: “oh well, if they don’t like it – they can always leave”. And that comment sat with me for the rest of the day (and then beyond), because I had to ask myself whether I actually felt that way?

And the truth is that I DID feel that way, but not towards others, but rather about my own situation. I didn’t like it and I needed to remind myself that I could always leave.

So I did.

See, I do listen. And in this particular instance I selected Door #2: “Are they trying to tell me something?”

My To Do list

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Things that I need to do:

  1. Write on my blog
  2. Read other people’s blogs
  3. Catch up on Twitter
  4. Tweet
  5. Accept that I have moved on from my last job
  6. Embrace my new job
  7. Re-prioritize this list.

Okay, let’s start again…

  1. Read other people’s blogs so that I will be inspired to…
  2. Write on my own blog
  3. Then tweet about writing on my own blog
  4. Catch up on Twitter
  5. Embrace my new job
  6. Emerge from the shell-shock state induced by my last job
  7. Question my priorities again

One more time…

  1. Read other people’s blog to inspire and motivate me
  2. Actually take the time to comment on these blogs
  3. Don’t bother catching up on Twitter…you can’t…it’s over..move on
  4. Tweet something irreverent or edible
  5. Embrace my new job and the new team I get to work with
  6. Do not look back (“…it distracts from the now”)
  7. Write about my priorities on my blog

That’s it…that’s the one.

Every day is performance review day

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When I was a kid I remember asking my parents why, if there was a Mother’s Day and a Father’s Day, was there no Kid’s Day.  I’m sure you can all predict what there answer was…because it’s the same thing I said to my kids when they asked the same question: EVERY DAY is Kid’s Day.

I’m sure that answer was unsatisfying and ridiculous to my kids as it was to me.  I mean, what does that mean?!  Every day is kids’ day..whatever.

But I can see the wisdom in this answer because since then I’ve basically applied it to other areas – like Performance Reviews.  No wait, don’t bail on me now…keep reading.  I know that performance reviews  are pointless wastoids of our time. Sure they are unreliable, prescriptive and limiting.  I get it that they are insincere, guilt-inducing and just pieces of paper.

But think about why this is. Maybe it’s because they are only done once a year.

Kind of like that card you whipped up on lined writing paper using pencil crayons for your mom the night before Mother’s Day because you realized that,despite the fact that you didn’t want to buy into the commercialism of Mother’s Day brought to you by Hallmark, you couldn’t ignore it.  Guilt wins out and you go through the motions.

But what if you eschewed the one day “celebration” and made it a weekly habit? You know, called your mom, stopped rolling your eyes, and hung out with her.  Then maybe you wouldn’t feel obligated to compensate for a year’s worth of negligent behaviour on one defined day.

So it goes with performance reviews.  I mean, who told you that you could only do it on one day, the deadline for submitting review reports?  No one.  I dare you to find me an HR team or organization that has actually advised you to only review your employee once a year.  I double-dare you.

So stop bitching about the “process” and time-consuming “paperwork” that you have to fill out and commit to give feedback on performance all the time.

After all, EVERY DAY should be performance review day.

(Image:timemanagementninja.com)

Why dancing lessons might improve your performance at work

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The other day I was in the wine store trying to decide whether I was looking for a bottle of inspiration, relaxation, or something to go with chicken.  As I stood there contemplating my choices I realized that they were playing really good big band swing music.  You know the kind that leaves you physically incapable of not tapping your toes to the beat?

And so there I was, only half reading the labels because the other half of me was listening to the music and imaging myself dancing. I love swing music. I mean, I like music in general, but there is something about swing music that just makes me smile and wish that a younger Jon Favreau would ask me to dance.

I like to think that I have a have a decent sense of rhythm and I have no problem picking up the beat to a song and (some might say annoyingly) tap my feet, fingers, whatever in time to the song.

I digress.

Back to the store. I’m tapping away, feeling like I am in time with the music and getting closer to choosing my poison, when out of the corner of my eye I see someone standing further down the aisle.

I glanced over to see an older woman doing the same thing I was – yes, oddly enough she too was looking to buy wine in a wine store. Of course, I meant aside from that, she was also tapping her foot in time to the music, but what made me actually look at her was that not only was she tapping her foot, but she had a whole other rhythm going…she was subtlety bouncing up and down to a whole other beat AND tapping her foot to another.

If a dancing partner had appeared in that aisle – it wasn’t me he would be asking to join him!

So where could I possibly be heading with this?

I’m often asked by employees about what the difference between “meets expectations” (formerly known as “average”) and “exceeds expectations” (formerly know as “kicked ass”) when it comes to their performance.

The difference is not about putting in 60 hours versus the required 37.5 hours per week.  It’s not even about handing in a 15-page report, instead of the required 5 pages.  And I assure you that it’s not about laughing along with the Executive’s jokes when all you want to do is cringe.

If you go to work and do your job and do it well – that’s good.  If you provide exactly what is expected from you and you deliver consistent, quality work. Then you are meeting expectations because that’s exactly what you were hired to do.

However, if you do all that and you offer more in terms of information, analysis, recommendation and, above all, value. You find and offer something that others are missing, well then you are exceeding expectations.

You see, we are all hired to tap our toes to that main beat – it’s those that hear and understand the other rhythms that get more out of and more for the experience.

Parting ways

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I remember reading a list of things that Audrey Hepburn put together about beauty tips.  There was one point that struck me, not necessarily because I thought it was accurate, but because I thought…how can I do that?

“People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anybody.”

In principle I agree with this.  In practice…well, not so much.

I won’t go as far as saying that I’ve thrown people out, but I have walked away, distanced myself, parted ways, drifted apart, and unFriend-ed (oh yes, I went there) a whole lot of people throughout my life.

I don’t feel bad about this because I have limited space and time in my life for people who are no longer part of my life.  There are friends and acquaintances for moments (that 3-day seminar you are taking), seasons (the fellow student who you partnered with in Intro to Philosophy in first term), and for years (your best friend forever in high school..that you have not had contact with since graduation).

I was friends with this one girl and she was fun.  She helped me get out of my comfort zone, introduced me to new people, and helped me find my backbone.  Unfortunately, by doing all this, the dynamics of our relationship changed – I was far from the DUFF, but my role was definitely meant to be supportive and of the sidekick variety.  When I finally came to realize this and, more importantly, realize I was not okay with this – things changed and we drifted apart.

And this idea works for the relationship you have with your employer.

There are positions and jobs that are meant to teach you something – good or bad – before you move on.  You will always remember it, the people you work with, and the lessons that you learned, but you do not need to re-connect with them weekly or creep their Facebook page.  You just need to move on.

So this is where I am now.  Moving on.

I came to my current employer broken.  I didn’t realize the extent of this  until I was here a few weeks and noticed that my neck no longer ached, that my eye no longer twitched, that I hadn’t had a migraine, and that I was laughing.  Actually laughing.  My friends and former colleagues saw an almost immediate positive change.

I had gone through an experience that was not a good fit for me and I paid the price for it. Word to the wise – do NOT ignore the warning signs during your interview.  You will regret it.

My current role has let me rebuild my confidence, allowed me to find my voice again, and given me hope that despite all the bullshit that HR can encompass, there are people who truly do want to make a difference.  I have been working with people who have been supportive, who have challenged me, and who have accepted and liked me for me.

So, it seems strange that I would say all this and then announce that I’m leaving.  However, like those other moments in my life when I’ve parted ways with people, there is a reason.  Staying will not improve or strengthen my relationship – in fact, it puts it at risk. I would not want to go from appreciating to resenting someone, because of my own personal changes.

I’m also at a point in my life and career when I can step forward and do things for me without worrying about how it might be taking away or impacting others.  Ah yes, the familiar parental dilemma (and yes, I did say “parental” and not women, because it’s friggin’ 2015 and if you think that some fathers don’t feel this way then go back to thinking Mad Men is a reality show).

So now, just like that high school friend,  I’m faced with the fact that my supportive and somewhat of a sidekick role needs to evolve and because of this – I have decide to make a change.

I always stayed on good terms with that girl – when I saw her from time to time over the years I was happy to say hello and find out what was new in her world.

Sometimes that is the best that I can do in terms of not “throwing people away” – it’s not up to me to “restore, renew, revive, reclaim and redeem” them, but I can accept who I have become and what they have become in my life and move forward from there.

Photo: www.flickr.com