Create a present focused on the future

The pandemic of 2020 has provided ample opportunity for those of us who need time to think and process to do just that. It’s been a time where the chance to do good work in the moment cannot be lost and has given me the time to think more deeply about such lofty things. Indeed, the pauses are essential and this pause has been one forced upon so many, unfortunately with tragic results for way too many.

As hope for a vaccine begins to become more real and a glimpse of what could be a return to something more normal, we have the chance to not only return to what we had before, but to improve on what we do and how we do it. In short, we need to create a present that is less focused on the here and now, and build an existence where the future is just as important as the present.

So much of the resistance happening now to everything designed to keep us safe is rooted in the need for instant gratification that dominates society right now. If we can think about the possibilities the future holds, it makes it much easier to make needed sacrifices now.

Of course, that’s easy for someone like me to say. I’m fortunate to be stable in all areas of life right now. It’s not as easy for those struggling to make ends meet or even to survive from day-to-day. This pause in our normal life has only exasperated the chasm between the haves and the have-nots in our society. This is not good for anyone. We have done an admirable job in privatizing the benefits of our hard work while getting the risk more spread out. This is leading to greater inequities, which do not move us toward any type of sustainable future.

There is a direct impact to the work that HR does in all of this. The demand for a skilled workforce is increasing even faster than the supply of workers with college degrees. This results in rising wage inequality by education levels, and companies facing a skills gap.

So, my challenge to you for 2021 is as follows. What is one thing you can do through your work that creates a present that is focused on the future? 

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As snow softly falls this evening here in southwest Michigan, I find myself looking forward to 2020 and the possibilities that still await us upon the dawn of the new year. While I am not one for making resolutions, I have over the last few years done the one word exercise to attempt to help steer and define the year that is to be for me.

For 2020, I have settled on “read”. Up until a few years ago, I was what many would call an avid reader. Starting in childhood, including reading 22 Hardy Boys’ books during a 21 day stay on Cape Cod, I was rarely found without a book nearby. However, that has changed in the last few years and I have found myself missing the joys of a good book in favor of time in front of a screen. I want to make that change in 2020.

So, my word is “Read” and I am taking a few steps to help myself do better in this realm. Today, I bought 6 books of various genre and have them ready to go for the new year. If I devote 30 minutes a day toward reading that is not on a computer or smartphone, at a minimum I will have 183 hours done before the end of 2020.

While my external presence remains more limited than in years past, I will be at WorkHuman Live in San Antonio this May and at least one other event which is yet to be determined. Other known excursions will include a #StateLineCrew meetup with some of the great HR pros of Illinois and Wisconsin and a family vacation (minus one ): ) to Mallorca.

As always, the future is unknown but I remain positive about the possibilities that we all can embrace in the days, weeks, months, and yes, years ahead.

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Radical Mutuality

The first time I read the term “radical mutuality” I became giddy.

I was reading a piece my boss shared with our team, A Nation of Weavers, written by David Brooks of the New York Times when that term entered my lexicon. Its meaning, while not specifically defined, connected with me on a level that few other terms have in a long time. In the article, they write about experiences that they had while researching hyper-individualism. My favorite quote from one of the people they interviewed stated “We don’t do things for people, we don’t do things to people, we do things with people.”

What many don’t realize about me is that I am science-oriented person by nature. I majored in biology, not business or HR, in college and while I think I’ve done pretty well in my chosen field, I still have a love for science, specifically, the life sciences.

This term, “radical mutuality” resonates with me because it reminds me of the symbiotic nature of so many relationships that we need to have as humans. This goes beyond our mere need to be needed, but instead suggests that there is a very real connection that happens whether we intend for it too or not. It’s these interconnected elements that can lead to our ultimate success in life.

In one of my previous positions, we debated whether we should be striving to build up people’s independence without ensuring that there was an interdependence that was just as strong. Thankfully, we landed in a place where we emphasized connection with the larger community rather than a singular focus on an individual’s own ability (or disability).

One of the challenges many of us right now in an economy that has low jobless rates is finding the talent we need in our organizations. I suggest that the concept of radical mutuality can help us in attracting and retaining valuable talent. Building interdependence and treating people the right way can make an organization stand out. Pair that with a valuable mission and vision, you can achieve great things with the great people you are certain to attract.

Do even better. Figure out how you can help push this radical mutuality not just in your own organizations, but in the larger world as well.



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Good teams

For the 1st time in my nearly six years as the HR Director in our local school district, I have the opportunity to hire someone onto my own team. This is prompted by the retirement of one of my team … Continue reading

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This is a post that has been lingering in both my mind and on my hard drive for while. While there is certainly some love spoken about, pain and emptiness are part of this story too.

I believe the reason will become clear as you continue. However, I feel compelled to warn you, this is not a post that will either be fully complimentary or one that simply throws rocks through windows. As Perry Timms so eloquently stated in a post he recently wrote, “Stones thrown rarely comfort anyone.” That includes this writer as I put on paper what I am thinking.

However, I’ve reached a point where my silence and frustration is not doing me any good. While I value relationships beyond all else, I write this knowing that some relationships I have may be irrevocably damaged depending on the priorities of those reading it. That may be a price to be paid and that realization is ever present and acknowledged.

Since starting my journey in human resources back around the turn of the century, I’ve been a member of the Society for Human Resource Management or SHRM. This is an organization that I credit for giving me both professional and personal satisfaction over many years. In fact, it’s not a stretch or an exaggeration to say that the majority of my friends have come because of my involvement with SHRM on either a local, state, or national level. Some of these friends date back to some of my earliest days being part of the organization while others are new as of last year’s annual conference in Chicago.  As a past recipient of a SHRM Foundation scholarship, I credit them with providing the kick I needed to start grad school and obtain my MBA.

An active volunteer on many levels, I certainly admit guilt to “drinking the Kool-Aid” and encouraging people to join and get involved. These volunteer opportunities have opened doors to me that I never would have imagined possible. It’s even conceivable that my volunteer roles have brought me farther along professionally than have some of my paid roles over the years. On the professional development side, I was one of the first to get my SHRM-SCP certification and openly steered others toward it. As a member of the SHRM Foundation’s Leadership Circle, I’ve made an on-going commitment to give back to an organization that provided so much to me.

And, yes, I freely admit to owning more than one item of SHRM clothing (including socks)!

So, having said that, why is this so hard. Because, I’ve stepped away from this organization I credit for providing me so much. It’s a matter of feeling like the organization no longer can credibly represent me and my feelings while opening embracing narcissism in leadership and seemingly ignoring or looking away from the ethics that have guided it for so long.

As of last August 31st, I have been a lapsed member. Despite dozens of messages laced with numerous incentives (a tote bag, hot chocolate, a free month of membership, etc. ) asking me to renew, I have not. This hurts to my core but not as much as my renewal would hurt and conflict with my own sense of right and wrong. While there is no “one thing” that was a final straw or trigger point, there have been a series of events that prompted me to internally reflect and reach this hard decision. Listening to people I know and care about express their concerns and having the benefit of knowing people who have been affected by changes in the organization makes one pause to see if I’m part of the problem or part of the solution. Sadly, this is still a piece I cannot answer with certainty. However, being part of the organization was not helping and my voice inside SHRM, despite being valued by some, is only one voice in a much larger chorus.

To be clear, while actions are being taken which are, in my view, not aligned with the integrity of the organization, there must also be the realization that not everything an organization does is going to be agreeable to its members.  A few examples where I believe the integrity is lacking include:

  • The current leader’s alignment with the Trump administration.
  • Some elements of reorganization that were (reportedly) not handled in a manner that a good HR person would handle it.
  • The blacklisting of a longtime member because they dared to question the current leadership of the organization.

Each of these points deserves some explanation. First, while I expect SHRM and any business oriented organization to have a politically rightward lean, the cozying up to an administration that is so blatant in its disregard to groups of people based on who they are removes the ability for the organization to legitimately state that it can stand up for elements in its own code of ethics. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Respect the uniqueness and intrinsic worth of every individual.
  • Treat people with dignity, respect and compassion to foster a trusting work environment free of harassment, intimidation, and unlawful discrimination.
  • Assure an environment of inclusiveness and a commitment to diversity in the organizations we serve.

Before you think I am thoughtless political extremist with only progressive views, I am not. In 2016, I voted in the Republican primary here in Michigan and am more comfortable talking to my Republican Congressional Representative, Fred Upton, than I am to either of our state’s two Democratic Senators.

The second point is one that is only conjecture and based on indirect information received and my own observations as an experienced human resource professional. I am a firm believer that a leader has the need to have their own people advising and guiding them. However, how you treat existing people when a change is made provides great insight into the character of the leader. While departures, both voluntary and involuntary do generally rise with the change at the top of an organization, the manner in which they are handled are important. Again, relationships matter and I always want to see people treated with dignity and respect. When you tout yourself as the world’s leading authority on HR, you damn well better have HR practices that match that mantra.

The third point is admittedly a point of personal hurt.  Yes, I am that member. While I do understand membership has its privileges, being ostracized in a manner that makes it appear that leadership in an organization is making personal attacks is, to me, an unmistakable sign that being challenged is threatening and that voices of dissent have no role. Professional responsibility requires us to adhere to the highest standards of ethical and professional behavior.

It’s this final point that has sealed it for me and prompted me to publish. Until substantive changes occur with the leadership of SHRM, I cannot in good conscience be part of the organization. As stated in the beginning, this hurts me to my core. I have grown as a professional because of SHRM. I am a better person because of SHRM. My life is a richer one because of SHRM.  Sadly, this growth, betterment, and richness is no longer worth the price. I will certainly miss some opportunities but at the end of the day, it is my own sense of dedication that will shift unless SHRM chooses to make some changes of its own.

I consider myself fortunate that I have a strong network of talented HR professionals that I can access as needed and that knowledge sharing among my colleagues is something that can happen without SHRM resources being available. No matter what organization I am involved with, I will always strive to share knowledge, provide support, and help advance the profession I love. Thank you friends, you are the best! It is all of you who deserve a letter devoted to love and dedication!




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10 Percent

In my world, so far, 2019 hasn’t been a year worth savoring or celebrating. The combination of crappy winter weather (otherwise known as living in SW Michigan!), the sudden death of a valued colleague because of the winter weather, and … Continue reading

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Inspiration can be anywhere

Inspiration can be defined as the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. It’s said that Salvador Dali found inspiration for his famous painting The Persistence of Memory by seeing melting Camembert … Continue reading

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The last 3 weeks have been nice ones in the Galin household. While the holidays with its expected hustle and bustle added joy, it was especially nice having my oldest home again after he completed his 1st semester at college.

More than once while he was home, my wife and I remarked about the changes we noticed. While we expected there to be changes, we weren’t certain how they would manifest and what would be different versus the same for this first extended time at home. I can confirm they were positive! I know for me, I am confident that the path ahead for him will be bright, even if it doesn’t exactly follow the path he anticipates. While, like any parent, I hope beyond all hopes that what he wants to do is where he ends up, I know from personal experience that the path ahead is uncertain.

Even as I look at the 19 year old growing before me, I am forced to recognize that my own path ahead is still an unwritten future. This doesn’t bother me in the least and, after some time away, I’ve allowed that same calmness to work for my son as well. I’ve been fortunate that my path has led me to where it has so far. The faith that I have in that for me must be true for my children as well.

The path ahead leads where it is meant to lead

So, as he pulled out of the driveway this afternoon to head back for the Spring semester, my optimism for him matches the optimism I have for my own path too.  I must simply remind myself that every journey has obstacles yet these do not automatically prevent us from moving forward and in some cases provide just the spark needed to accomplish great things. So, the path ahead leads where it is meant to lead. Enjoy the journey and know that growth can come from every step forward we take.

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Writing fits the bill quite nicely!

While I am not one to propose New Years’ Resolutions, I have for the last few years used the One Word approach each January to have a focus for the year. This has worked well for me and for 2019 I have decided to make it a bit more formal and action oriented.

The title of this post is my word for 2019. I’m pairing this with a commitment to myself to write something each day. Even when not for public consumption or toward a bigger goal, I intend to write at least little each day. Writing is something I enjoy (thanks to my HS AP English teacher Mr. Gilmer!) and I have gotten away from writing over the last couple of years.

I know some of you take the same approach as I by picking a word over resolutions. Please share so that we may support one another as the year unfolds.

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So…Can I Bring My Bong to Work Now?

The post below was originally written for the internal blog of my employer. The advice and guidance provided is meant to be specific to Michigan and to the organization. However, many employers have similar policies and can adopt similar positions as we continue to see legalization efforts spread around the country. Michigan is the 10th state in the country to make recreational marijuana legal.

The short answer is: NO!

While today, December 6, 2018, does bring a significant change to drug laws here in Michigan, this does not make it ok to have, use, or otherwise be under the influence while working. While legal in Michigan for those over 21, marijuana remains an illegal controlled substance under Federal Law and as a recipient of Federal funding, we are subject to the Federal laws dictating a Drug Free Workplace.

The newly enacted state law says, in part,

Isn’t it OUR time, Mr. Hand?!?

“This act does not require an employer to permit or accommodate conduct otherwise allowed by this act in any workplace or on the employer’s property. This act does not prohibit an employer from disciplining an employee for violation of a workplace drug policy or for working while under the influence of marihuana. This act does not prevent an employer from refusing to hire, discharging, disciplining, or otherwise taking an adverse employment action against a person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of that person’s violation of a workplace drug policy or because that person was working while under the influence of marihuana.”

The District has several Board policies that deal directly with this issue. One clear example is Policy 3122.01:

“The Board of Education believes that quality education is not possible in an environment affected by drugs. It will seek, therefore, to establish and maintain an educational setting which is not tainted by the use or evidence of use of any controlled substance.

Employees are prohibited from reporting to work under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.

The Board shall not permit the manufacture, possession, use, distribution, or dispensing of any controlled substance, alcohol, and any drug paraphernalia, by any member of the District’s professional staff at any time while on District property or while involved in any District-related activity or event. Any staff member who violates this policy shall be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with District guidelines and the terms of collective bargaining agreements.”

So the bottom line, nothing has changed when it comes to the workplace and marijuana.


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