In Praise of Single Parents


In the process of unwinding from my last trip, I indulged in a short marathon of my TV pleasures, including The Walking Dead, The Flash and (germane to this post) Arrow.  Specifically, I had a moment in watching The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak that inspired me to stop watching and write.  In it, one of the principle characters (the aforementioned Felicity, played by Emily Bett Rickards, is visited by her mother, Donna (played to the hilt by Charlotte Ross).  Donna, as we learn, is a cocktail waitress from Las Vegas, and is somewhat of an embarrassment to her daughter.  Her father was a genius who disappeared at some point, leaving Donna to raise Felicity on her own.  It’s worth noting here that Felicity is a genius in the tech world.  (And part of a long running storyline with Firestorm, one of my favorite characters, who may be introduced in the Flash series at some point.  But I digress.)


ANYWAY, at one point Felicity is held at gunpoint (long story).  Donna threatens her captor (Cooper, a former boyfriend, played by Nolan Funk), who is as submissive as buy guy code dictates.  Here’s the relevant exchange:

Donna: Don’t you dare threaten my daughter.

Cooper: And here I thought you were all nails and hair.

Donna: Try a single mom who’s worked 60 hour weeks in six in heels for tips in order to raise that genius child you see right there.

(Truth, I get a little teary watching that scene.  What?  I’m not a robot!)

Look, we all have responsibilities that we deal with.  It’s part of growing up.  But it is easy to forget that the normal sacrifices we make on a regular basis to do right by those tiny humans we dragged into this world are magnified for the single parents among us.  Even if they aren’t alone, the splitting of the martial unit, for any reason, amplifies the burden on the primary caregiver.  (If you are a parent, and the phrase “primary caregiver” makes you wonder if that is you, it isn’t.)

For most of us, we work to provide something better for the next generation than we had.  For the singles, from those I know, there is something else as well.  A drive to succeed in the face of their challenge.  To overcome the perceived deficit faced by a child of divorce.  The need to prove that you can do right by your children and by yourself.  And you can.  As has been proved so many times over.

This isn’t a groundbreaking thought, and it’s not one that many will argue with.  But I’ll say it anyway.  I respect the hell out of the single moms and dads that I know, including both those that have managed to work out a co-parenting scheme and those that haven’t.  Out jobs as parents is to raise the next round of adults, and the burden laid at their feet is not just difficult, but critical to our society as a whole. Thank you for your service and your moxie.  You all deserve more recognition than you are likely to get.  But my pledge to you is that I will buy you the beverage of your choice, day or night, any time you can find me.

It’s not much, but it’s the least I can do.


My #HRevolution 2014 Playlist




The HR Social Media family reunion is upon us once again.  Saturday, Dallas will host the annual love-bomb known as HRevolution.  It’s an event I look forward to every year, never comes soon enough, and is over far too quickly.  A couple of years ago, a threw together a playlist based on session titles and topics, inspired by Paul Smith.  We don’t see Paul enough these days (but he is universally loved and missed), so in the spirit of our friend, I thought I’d put together a list for this year.

There are no hidden messages here.  Just tunes that I dig that came to mind.  Since the agenda features fewer overall sessions this year (but, as I’m not presenting, I will assume they will be of higher quality!) I’ve dropped in a couple of tracks for each session.  If you are attending, you can expect to hear this list on loop in the Lay Wine and Scotch Lounge, opening soon in the Dallas area.

(Oh, and if you are in Dallas this weekend and you DON’T have plans to attend?  Still time to fix that.  There are a handful of seats left.  Someone is always sad they didn’t attend.  Don’t be that guy.)

So here are the tracks per session.  The Spotify playlist is right below, if that is your thing.

Franny Oxford – Reality-Based HR

 – Reality Used to be a Friend of Mine – P.M. Dawn

 – I’m Waiting for my Real Life to Begin – Colin Hay

Bill Boorman – Blueprint for Modern Talent Acquisition

 – Building the Perfect Beast – Don Henley

 – Method of Modern Love – Hall and Oates

Lois Melbourne – Sally Can’t Doodle, and It’s Your Fault

 – Sally MacLennane – The Pouges

 – Lay Down Sally – Eric Clapton

Jason Seiden – Beyond Social: The Rise of Workforce Marketing

 – Social Narcotics – MC Serch

 – One Step Beyond – Madness

Frank Zupan and Tammy Colson (or the ZuCo Collective, if you prefer) – Recruiting and HR: Sibling Rivalry or Tribal Warfare?

 – Brothers in Arms – Dire Straits

 – Big Sister’s Clothes – Elvis Costello

Ravi Mikkelsen – Go Home Assessments, You’re Drunk

 – I’m Going Home – Tim Curry (From the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack)

 – Dead, Drunk and Naked – The Drive-By Truckers

Broc Edwards – Bold HR

 – Comfort Eagle – Cake

 – Bold as Love – Jimi Hendrix

William Tincup and Matt Stollak – HR Half-Baked Ideas

 – A Good Idea at the Time – OK Go

 – Brain Stew – Green Day


Be The Match at #SHRM14



SHRM 2104 is officially underway!  First up a quick look at one a great cause, Be The Change.  They are championed by Robin Roberts, today’s keynote, and are helping to identify bone marrow donors and potential matches with those in need.  It’s quick, easy and painless.  Take a look, then come by the booth!



What’s Your Omaha?

As we gear up for the Super Bowl, we are inundated with the stories surrounding the game.  Will Manning be able to throw in cold weather?  Can the top offense beat the top defense?  Will Richard Sherman snap and  eat a baby?  Anything is possible!

One of the stories we have heard quite a bit is about Peyton Manning’s “Omaha” call.  What is it?  According to Manning, it could be a lot of things.

“Omaha is a run play, but it could be a pass play or a play-action pass depending on a couple things: the wind, which way we’re going, the quarter and the jerseys that we’re wearing. So it varies, really, play to play, so, that’s — there’s your answer to that one.”

The truth is, apparently, that Omaha is a hurry-up call to get the ball snapped.  Usually.  Unless it is a non-hurry-up call to try to draw the defense.  But let’s stick with the first use for a moment.

The idea of an audible around the need to move quickly or in a pre-defined way isn’t all that new.  Heck, we used them playing Dungeons & Dragons when I was in college high school junior high school.  Anyone called out “red flag,” everyone knew to turn their attention in that direction for one round, usually to deal with a wraith, dragon or Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal.  So most of us know from an audible.  But are you using them in the workplace?

Often the default setting for letting people know something is important is to be REALLY LOUD about it.  That’s also the setting for being angry, working in high winds, or finding yourself  in a country where you do not speak the local language (though this includes speaking slowly as well).  How useful would it be to have your own Omaha that, when called, let’s everyone know “hey, this is really important, we need to move quickly, and I’d really appreciate if anyone with a free moment could jump in to help take care of it, knowing that I will have your back as well should the situation ever call for it.”  Think of all the hurt feelings and misunderstandings that you could avoid, not to mention the productivity surges on critical items with no need for long project meetings.

You aren’t required to use Omaha, of course.  Feel free to use any Nebraska town or Counting Crows song.  You’ll be better for it.




A Look Ahead

Hey there!

It’s been a pretty quiet year on the blog, though that doesn’t mean I was idle by any means.  Some of the highlights from 2013 included publishing my first book and a lot of speaking events, including keynoting several state SHRM events and my first overseas engagement.  I was lucky enough to work with friends on some big events, and to have a few grand discussions about changing the world. I was on the road for about half of the year, most of that in the second half.  And I met a ton a new people that helped make the time memorable.

All of that will, of course, put a damper on things like writing.  But this year is, at the moment, not as packed with activities, so I’m hopeful that will lead to more writing and more engagement in projects.  I’m working now on book #2, based on the workplace culture sessions I’ve delivered.  I’m also working on new content that I’ll be exploring in this space over the next few months.

Thanks for stopping by.  Hope to see more of you this year!

Why My Cardinals, In Fact, Do Not Suck

Baseball is a game of passions, especially for those of us raised on it.  Every so often, it fuels some vitriol that needs to be answered.  This is one of those moments.

Drew Magary shared a post yesterday, “Why Your Cardinals Suck.”  You can read it here.  I’d like to share some thoughts overall, then a few point-by-point responses.

I was born and raised in St. Louis.  Still live there.  Being a Cards fan is part of your life.  My earliest memories include sitting at my grandfather’s feet while he sat in his recliner, smoked his pipe, listened to the game on the radio and cursed at Mike Shannon for three straight hours.  (He hated Mike Shannon.  I don’t know why, but I kinda hate him too for no good reason.  Nature vs. nurture, I suppose.)  I vividly remember Joaquin Andujar taking a line drive off the knee from Ted Simmons in game 3 of the 1982 World Series, then limping back to be the game 7 winner.  Watching the Denkinger call in ’85.  Coming so close in ’87.  But I also remember proudly wearing Cardinal Red while watching guys like Gregg Jefferies, Todd Zeile, Scott Coolbaugh and Ozzie Canseco.  Good or bad, they are our team.  They are part of our identity, and proudly so.

Let’s take a few points from the article.

“The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Pittsburgh Pirates last night, because the Cardinals don’t like it when another team like the Pirates or Nationals dares to threaten their self-appointed status as America’s Baseball Sweethearts.”  That’s not actually why the Cardinals won.  They won because Wainwright was great on the mound and the offense and defense played well.  I don’t imagine the team image was part of the locker room pep talk.  If it was, they might have beaten the Giants last year.

“…somehow the Cardinals and their fans will brand themselves lovable underdogs to LA despite boasting a top-10 payroll.”  Actually, they are 14th per ESPN.  Who are they paying?  Matt Holliday (acquired via trade), Yadier Molia (homegrown), Carlos Beltran (free agent, signed for two years), Adam Wainwright (acquired as a minor leaguer, never thrown a pitch in another uniform), Jake Westbrook (acquired via trade, and isn’t even in the conversation at this point, but they let him start a game at the year’s end to thank him for his time with the team).  Only ten players make more than a million per year.  Sixteen of the twenty-three players listed on that page have never worn a big league uniform other than the Cards.  That’s a pretty great way to build an organization.  When you mistaken quote a top-ten payroll, there is an implication that they went out and bought a bunch of great players.  Clearly, this isn’t the case.  In fact, their payroll is less than half that of the Dodgers or the Yankees.

“They are Tim Tebow in baseball organization form.”  If you mean adored by the many, then yes.  The Cardinals have drawn more than 3 million fans fifteen of the last sixteen years.  Including the years we were below .500 (two of those) and the years we were double digits out of first place (three of those). We crossed 3.5 million twice.  For a metro area that is under 3 million in population, it’s pretty impressive.  But if you mean a hollow reputation with no real winning to back it up, then no.  So I guess you mean the former.

“It’s no coincidence that sabermetric punching bag David Eckstein spent a few years playing for the Cardinals, because no team in any sport puffs up its grittiness credentials quite like this one.”  This one confuses me.  A scrappy middle infielder who doesn’t lead the league in any category, a guy who had to put his whole body into every throw, a near .300 hitter with just defense and enough clutch performance to win the 2006 WSMVP award (and have his name botched in the process).  And beloved by the city for leaving it all on the field.  Because we understand that the stats don’t always tell the whole story.  Are you arguing for us or against us as a great baseball town?

“I don’t trust any fanbase that brands itself as being the Best Fans In Baseball…”  It’s not just us.  Plenty of others agree.  Over and over.  Even the players agree.  And we roll with it, because we were brought up to believe its not polite to argue with guests.

“The Cardinals are a giant sucking red hole of good old-fashioned Midwestern piousness, with a fanbase that does “classy” things specifically so that it can humblebrag about doing classy things.”   Actually, it is just kind of who we are.  And while this kind of statement begs for a response, any examples I give will be met with an “AHA! HUMBLEBRAG!” retort.

“You are poorly disguised Yankees fans in ugly Christmas sweaters carrying a Jell-O mold to your neighbor’s door. And your constant attempts to turn every October into an extended production of Our Town makes me want to hang myself with a extension cord.”  Ok, fine.  I will give you three examples.

First was being at a game in 2004.  Ray Lankford had rejoined the team after spending a couple of summers in San Diego.  He was 0-4 with three strikeouts, I believe.  He was playing part time and struggling, eventually ending up hitting .255 in his final season.  He comes up in the late innings with runners on base.  And the crowd went crazy, chanting his name and willing him to come through.  He didn’t.  And not a single boo was rained upon his head for it.  At least, not that could be heard.

Second was later that year.  The Red Sox came into our house and busted their curse, sweeping us in the World Series.  Their fans, who were out in large numbers that night, were estatic.  And while were a little concerned they might burn down our town in their euphoria, we watched them celebrate.  No stabbings, no gunfire, no network-newsworthy brawls.

And finally, on the other side of that ledger, the 2011 series.  I was there for games 6 and 7.  There were a lot of Rangers fans in attendance as well.  Game 6 was amazing.  Greatest World Series game ever, by just about any yardstick you’d like to use.  But even better was the celebration after game 7.  The sea of red included a few drops of blue, as dejected Texans trudged back to their cars.  But rather than meet them with scorn or narcissistic triumphant calls, the most common reaction was, “Hey, thanks for being here.  Your team played great.  Sorry it didn’t work out.”  And every word was sincere.

If that kind of sportsmanship and love for the sport is offensive to you, might I suggest you take up watching basketball.  We don’t have a pro team any longer, so you’ll be safe there.  But I think most people would agree that acting like civilized fans instead of savages in those moments are what we need more of, not less.

“St. Louis, the town, is a fucking dump.”  Maybe.  But it’s our dump.  And you are always welcome to visit, take in a game, and see what we are really like.  Here’s a hint:  We don’t really suck.  We’re pretty nice.  Come and see!


ND SHRM Swag Video

With special guests John Friend,Jenna Wilm, Josh Rock, Amber Unser, Roxanne Hanson and Stephanie Winterquist working the camera!


The Road Ahead


If you are a regular reader, semi-regular reader or highly irregular reader (which, let’s face it, is the most likely choice), you may have noticed a drop in volume on the blog lately.  There’s  a reason for that.


I’ve been channeling my creativity into other areas, notably into my work at Dovetail Software, keynote speaking and writing.  So what’s happening on those fronts?


Dovetail is great, and I’d thrilled to be part of such a great team.  We’re doing some fabulous work with our clients, and I’m happy to get to be part of it.


I’m scheduled as a keynote speaker at Louisiana SHRM and Missouri SHRM, sessions at LEHRN and IHRIM, and a few more in the discussion state.  Stay tuned.  Better yet, pop over to the CeVoke site and see the great things happening there!


Finally, I’m pleased to share that I’ve completed work on my first book, and it will be available in the early spring.  I’ll share more information as it becomes available, but it is coming!


I am, as always, grateful for the support I’ve received over the last couple of years from all of you, and will continue my efforts to earn it.  While the volume of content on the blog will probably never be back to five days a week, I’ll work to keep a regular supply of new material both here and on the Dovetail blog for your consumption.


2013.  It’s going to be a heck of a ride.  Buckle up!

#HRTechConf 2012 Swag Video!


It’s been a year since our 2011 swag video, and Paul Smith are still hearing about how much people loved it.  Since we love nothing more than the adoration of strangers, we give to you the 2012 edition.

No bunnies were harmed in the making of this film.



Debates and Leadership

I am a big nerd, meaning I’m excited about the first round of Presidential debates.  Well, I’m excited about debate season, but especially the first one, which is almost upon us.  I know that I won’t get straight answers to most questions, and the time will be used to spew part rhetoric for evening new sound bytes.  I also know that there won’t likely be any groundbreaking ideas or pronouncements made.  Stay the Course, 1000 Points of Light, No New Taxes…Come to think of it, we haven’t had a great debate quote since Poppy Bush.  OK, maybe Admiral Stockdale, but still, it’s been a while.

I’m mostly excited, though, because we are knee deep in election season, and I am always fascinated with the peaceful transition of power that is a hallmark of our society.  A few politicians will be unemployed in a matter of months, and some will be back for another go. But in the end, we will more forward and do it again soon.  And for more than 200 years,that’s been how we roll.

In contrast, we often see leadership decisions in the business world made in secrecy.  A small group gets to talk to the candidates, ask some standard questions, and then take their best guess as to who will be a better fit in the roll.  Ever see two CFO candidates stand up at a town hall meeting to debate the right debt ratios for an organization?  Maybe two potential CEOs taking their view of international expansion to the company picnic for a rousing discussion?  Maybe two first time supervisors arguing on the shop floor for that they would be the best choice to oversee the new shipping bays.  I’ve never seen it, but it sounds like an interesting approach.

We don’t often get the luxury of choosing our leaders.  And, sadly, once they are chosen the rank and file put their heads back down and assume nothing will change.  But that doesn’t have to be the case.  New leaders, by and large, are looking for those who will support them.  That means a great opportunity is there to get to know them and hear their platform, even without a campaign.

Tired of working for the man with no idea what they are planning?  Go ask.  Leaders need followers.  Get involved, ask questions, and, at the right moment, share your thoughts.  Make it an interactive relationship.  Put in the effort on your part to be an influencer.

Not bad advice for the election, either.


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