A Farewell to my Best Friend

May be an image of dog and indoor

My dog Max passed away last week after more than 16 yrs. with my family. Max was my best friend and I miss him dearly.

We picked him up in early spring of 2005 at LaGuardia Airport here in New York. We had selected him from a litter from a pure breed Havaneese breeder in Ohio. This little 4-month-old puppy arrived in a crate at the U.S. Air special luggage pickup area. My daughter and wife were with me, and I sat in the back seat of our car with my daughter as Alisa drove 35 minutes back to our home. He was the cutest little man weighing little more then 5 or 6 pounds at the time. He would grow to a robust 14 lbs. over the next 6 months.

From moment one we were smitten with this little puppy. He was so scared and sat on my lap and licked my face once or twice on the way home. His arrival created a major change in the house. We tried unsuccessfully to get him to sleep in his crate in a spare bedroom. He would cry each night and I would lie on the ground next to the crate trying to settle him. Eventually I took him into my bedroom with the crate and tried to get him to sleep with us and again he would cry for an hour or longer.  Eventually he made his way out of the crate and onto the bed sleeping up against my wife or myself  where he would remain for the next 16 years.

He was always a very active dog. He loved to play, and I would swing him around on his leash as he grabbed the leash with his teeth as a pup, he was super strong for his size, and he was supper friendly too. He would play ball toss with a tennis ball for 20 or 30 minutes every night before he settled down for the night. It was his favorite thing to do for many years.  He liked to lick our faces on occasion and his tail was constantly wagging. He also was mischievous getting into the hamper on more than one occasion and liked to grab tissues from night tables or pockets if he saw the opportunity, chewing them up, but never eating the tissues.

Once my father in-law visited from Florida and had a BIC pen in his pocket. Max grabbed the pen and proceeded to turn our living room rug blue. Early on he was attached to my wife Alisa following her from room to room in the house and never leaving eye contact with her. If Alisa went up or down stairs, so did Max. Occasionally Alisa would get annoyed by this obsession, but quietly enjoyed Max’s company and attention.

As my daughter grew up moving from elementary school to middle and then high school, Max became a fixture on Morgan’s bed whenever she was home doing homework or socializing with friends on her computer. Morgan and Max grew up together and had a special bond. When she left for college Max would go in her room looking for Morgan and had a sad look when she wasn’t there. Her trips home would bring a little extra happiness to Max, and he would sit for hours on her bed while she was home.

Life was not always easy with Max. He had health issues which resulted in two bladder surgeries. He spent several years on a special low sodium diet, and we had to curb table food except for an occasional slice of turkey breast (his favorite!).   Several years back Max had a near death episode when he tried to bite his way out of his crate one afternoon when we were all out of the house. The incident resulted in a broken jaw, but Max was resilient and a tough little dog. After the incident we stopped crating him and we had to time our days and nights out of the house as his bladder issues necessitated him being walked more then most dogs. We regularly timed our schedules out of the house to insure we got home before the proverbial accident in the house. We made many sacrifices in caring for him.

Over time Alisa and I switched roles with Max. I was working from home during the day and spent more time with Max as he got older. When COVID hit I was literally with Max 24 hours a day and when Alisa went back to her office it was the Mark and Max show. Max would go with me regularly when I ran errands. The post office, the drug store, the cleaners, and the deli. Max always loved to sit in the passenger seat as my co-pilot on short 15- and twenty-minute errands. Max also liked to hang with me each night watching TV in the Den after I finished teaching for the evening. Sometimes I would talk to him and believed he knew what I was saying. I am sure it was more my body language and tone, but Max enjoyed hanging out with me in the DEN every night. Each evening ended with a walk and then he would cuddle up leaning against me as we both went to sleep.

All our family and friends loved Max. He always would gravitate to my sister in-law Jodi when she came to the house. Jodi loves dogs too and I think in some strange way dogs know when people love dogs. Max also was not big on playing with other dogs except for our next-door neighbors that also had a haveneese named Chase who was five years older than Max and came from the same Ohio breeder. For years Max would play with Chase. On summer nights Max would sit at the top of stairs on our backyard deck looking for Chase across the way in our neighbor’s backyard. When Chase passed away Max would look for Chase constantly and looked sad in not seeing his one old dog friend.

Over the past year Max started to suffer from seizures and became disoriented. His last few weeks saw him deteriorate. It was sad to see this proud, loving, and stoic dog suffering. In the end we made the difficult decision to put Max down. I have had several dogs growing up, but he was the first that I ever had to do this with. I cried as I spoke to the vet and cried as we said goodbye to my best friend. Alisa commented that I cried more over Max then any of my family members that had passed. She was right. I had spent more time with Max then any single human being over the past 18 months. He was my little wingman. He welcomed me each time I entered the house as if I had been gone for weeks or months. Sometimes I had only been gone for an hour. But Max gave me unconditional love. He never judged me. He was always wagging that tail until the very end. He listened to me vent and just licked my nose in response.

Every time I have entered the house this past week since his passing, I instinctively think to look for him to take him out for a walk and to get a tail wag. I look at a chair in our living room occasionally looking for him as he would nap on a little rug every morning and occasionally during the day.

My friends ask me if I will get another dog and the answer is no. Max was special and can’t be replaced. I miss him dearly, but we need to regain some freedom to come and go. I also do not think I can go through a family pet passing again. It was too painful.

Unlike most blog posts written for my colleagues and friends, this blog post was for me. Humans get eulogies at their funerals. Max deserves one too. He was important, he brought joy and love to our household. He mattered.

I miss him and cherish the memories from the past 16 plus years.

Goodbye my best friend.

Time to Reboot!

Here's Why You Should Reboot Your Computer At Least Once a Week

I know it has been a while since my last post. A lot of catching up to do. My mother in-law past away, my daughter got engaged, I made my way through four classes in my Doctorate in Strategic Leadership and have a 3.91gpa. Life is bittersweet.

Consulting is still a little slow but hopefully the summer and fall will get back on track. I taught my first SHRM Talent certification class in June and played in my first Pickleball tournament too. Life goes on and as much as things change, some things remain the same. Fistful of Talent has gone in a new direction with Kris and Tim taking over biweekly posts so I don’t know if I will be doing any writing over there in the near term, although I may get them to throw a one off guest post to me in the future. I have ratcheted down some of my volunteer work as my time has become sparse with my doctorate work. For the first time in many years, I have no speaking gigs on the schedule and have even turned a few down…I am not ready to get back on a plane for a conference yet and video conferences are at best ok….so I am being very picky. I will be teaching a full schedule of grad classes at Adelphi in the fall along with two SHRM certification classes. Right now is my down time and a good opportunity to write a quick post.

With COVID in the rear view mirror it is now a good time to reboot. With an anticipated return to the office for many in the next few weeks it is an opportune time to hit the reboot button on your work and life. What happens when you reboot? Well your computer scans for viruses, does updates, and clears your cache. For all of us rebooting is restarting, clearing out the bad and updating for the future.

What do you need to fix? What do you need to discard or stop doing? What are your new goals?

Time to hit the reboot button!

Let us make 2020 a Mulligan

I want to put 2020 behind us. In fact, let us go so far as to say we all need a “DO OVER” along with a  do different. In golf we refer to this as a Mulligan and rest assured I am an expert at Mulligans with a 19 handicap.

For those who do not know a Mulligan is a do over of a shot. Many golfers take one or even two or three in a round. What if we could take a Mulligan on work in 2020. Let us tee it up again and hit a different  shot. What would you do or do differently now that we are about to emerge from one of the most challenging years in the past century?

Time at work policies: How about we start by looking at our attendance policies, specifically for exempt work. Do we need to work a fixed schedule? Do we need to work Monday to Friday? Does any of it matter anymore? Who cares if you start at 7a.m. and take a two hour break mid-day to take a run? What if working on Saturday or Sunday is more efficient or effective or you are a night owl and 10pm is when you first kick it into 5th gear.

Meetings and meeting culture: Do you remember when you chatted with colleagues for 5 minutes before the meeting started? Do you set aside social time on ZOOM? Should you? I would argue yes. The water cooler is now a jpg. Sitting behind you on the screen, but we are social animals and we still need to have a little small talk. We need to build socialization back into the workday.

Leadership engagement: What is that? Well since March of 2020 we have not seen much if any. Leaders need to step back up and back in to engaging folks.

Recruiting: We have now been totally online for a year. Do we really need to go back to live interviews till maybe the last one? I do not know on this one. Food for thought and I will let the talent folks weigh in.

Work/Life Balance: Many in the HR space have worked more during COVID then prior. Others have had their personal time invaded. One of my best friends shares that he often takes calls up until 10pm at night as employees think that since you are working from home your available all the time. On the flip side many of us have added back hours a day without commuting. On a personal note, my pickleball game is now at a 4.0 rating (that’s pretty good intermediate plus) because of having extra time in the morning. Some days last summer and fall I was out on the court at 6:30am and home by 8:30 to start my day. What do we do next with work/life?

It was exactly a year ago this week that I watched the NBA and college basketball shut down in a 24-hr. period to which the country followed. I watched St. Johns and Creighton locked in a tight Big East tournament game cancelled at half-time and the domino effect of almost everything shutting down there after.

Life is interesting that after wildfires forests grow back, after tornadoes people rebuild, and after COVID we start anew. How we do it is up to us. Will we learn an adapt?

The March madness draw gets announced tonight. They will be playing with 68 teams although with different logistics. College sports are adapting, how about you?

Where Have You Been Lately?

Image result for where have you been lately

Some might be wondering why they have not seen anything since year end from me on Fistful of Talent. Well Kris and Tim are reworking the site and at least for now are going it alone. I feel a little left out but get that everything runs its course, even FOT. So, we will see when I will be back on the site…either way I am proud and appreciative of having 3 plus years as a contributor.

In my introspection on not appearing on FOT and a few other sites in recent weeks and months I spent an hour glancing at some of my posts over the past 3 yrs. and realized at least a few were really – good. Ok a little hubris from the HR guy with an attitude should be expected. But honestly, I did not realize that a few posts were better than I thought I was capable of writing. I talked about HR failure over on Workology and I dished on politics on FOT.

I was recognized for writing on Recruiting Brief last year well actually in 2019…and two of my articles on the SHRM blog hit historic numbers. My favorite is on the Litmus test of HR reporting to the CEO.

Reminiscing can be cathartic. I am gearing up some new and different content for the spring…so be on the lookout….till then be safe.

Twilight

ATLANTIC SKIES: Did you know there are three stages of twilight? |  Regional-Lifestyles | Lifestyles | SaltWire

Twilight ; a condition or period of gradual decline following full development, achievement, glory, etc.

I am in the twilight of my career. I have accomplished a lot, have a few trophies (literally and figuratively) and have no regrets.

I have been writing on some of the most prevalent HR and Talent blogs for several years including Fistful of Talent, TLNT, ERE, Workology, and the SHRM blog.

I have had the honor of presenting at close to two dozen major SHRM conferences since 2006 and another 30 plus conferences in the HR stratosphere.

I have some major metal too. Winning the SHRM National leader of the year in 2007 and HR Executive Honor role in 2010 are nothing to sneeze at. With the HR Executive magazine accomplishment, I finished as a runner up to Lazlo Bock at Google. Unfortunately, no one ever remembers the runner up. Do you remember who lost to Kansas City in the Super bowl last year?

As an educator, I have instructed hundreds of our current HR and business leaders. My life as an educator dates to the late 1970’s as I can honestly say I taught over a thousand kids to swim, many are connected with me on social media and this may be my one of my proudest accomplishments of all.

Of course, my proudest accomplishment is my daughter Morgan’s success as a student and professional as a civil engineer. We do a lot wrong as parents and adults, but sometimes we do a few things right. My contributions to my daughter’s success are definitely more meaningful then my own.

So now I have a few good years left to do a precious few things to write my own legacy.

I am starting a doctoral program this coming week as I am just a few short years from retirement and social security. Many of my family and friends have challenged me. Why not just kick back and enjoy this time?

Well, I am not ready to kick back just yet. Yes, I love playing pickleball, golf and tennis whenever I can. But I still have some goals to accomplish. Getting my Doctorate is one of them.

I want my next few years to be about helping others and what better way then to enhance my own knowledge to give back to the next generation.

Maybe I am not as relevant in the HR community and that is ok, my voice is silencing to a whisper. But I still have a lot to give to the HR community and will continue to as the opportunities present themselves….

Birthday Musings

Pro-Trump Protest DC Jan. 6, 2020: US Capitol in Lockdown - Bloomberg

I am appalled by what is going on in Washington today.

My Birthday is a side show to the world we live in. It does not matter which party you affiliate with. We are supposed to be be the example of Democracy to the world. As I watch the capital stormed by protestors I can only state my support to law enforcement to settle the situation.

I get as most folks do, the right to voice dissent with the presidential election. However, after multiple law suites and 6 weeks of craziness we are at a point that our government needs to hit pause and accept the realities without drama.

Maybe my comments are to little and to late. All I wanted to do today was have a nice dinner with friends…

So much for celebrating my birthday….

what is ‘that’ time when if you’re going to do it, you better do it now?

Watch Better Late Than Never Episodes at NBC.com

Thanks to my friend Tim Sackett over at Fistful of Talent for the great title and so true for me personally as we head into 2021. Tim makes a bold statement that “We all get to certain points in our life where you can no longer just go do ‘it’. Whatever ‘it’ is for you.”

The topic for today is if not now then when? And are you past the point of “when”?

Tim makes some great points of timing for certain things in your life. If you are interested, click the link to read the whole post. For now, let us just focus on doing something while you still have the time and energy to do it.

For me, that something is going back to graduate school for a doctorate in business. Many who know me casually are probably shaking your head as the official time clock of days on earth click over the 60-year mark next week. At best I will be 3 or 4 years short of Social Security age when I hopefully complete the task.

I have never been one to go with what others believe are appropriate. My career moves from Operations to HR and from retail to other industries all broke the naysayer’s rules that you just cannot make the leap. I did and here I am again with a lot of folks saying why? This is not foreign territory for me.

For background I have been teaching for over a decade at Adelphi University’s business school and you can go back another 12 years to my time teaching at F.I.T (Fashion Institute of Technology) as I cut my teeth doing executive recruiting at Limited Brands. In fact, I could probably teach several of the courses I will be taking. I am also successful in the college classroom having been awarded the teaching excellence award a few yrs. back and then promoted to “senior” adjunct; a position normally reserved for retiring tenured professors.

So, here is the why….Because I always made or had an excuse why I did not have the time before and now I do not. I have wanted to do this for a long time. Some folks want to go into their twilight career years taking that great vacation or buying a second home. Others cherish the chance to recreate and enjoy family and activities that they could not fully enjoy earlier in life. Do not get me wrong…I want some of those things too. But now I have a real chance to pursue this and I am before the grey matter dissipates and leaves me intellectually challenged to complete this much  sought-after accomplishment.

In a few days I will be starting my first two classes online at Liberty University’s graduate business school in pursuit of a Doctorate in Strategic Leadership. I have marked hundreds of term papers, projects, and presentations over the years and yes, I can feel the anxiety of being on the other side for the first time in over 3 decades.  I have not written a term paper since grad school in 1984. Back then I was still using a typewriter and only started to use a computer. So, this will definitely be a challenge. My first class is all about using APA (what???) and citing peer review journals….oh and there is a religious bend to the first class, well it is Jerry Falwell’s school…if nothing else this will be interesting. Especially as I am not of the religion of the school. Can you all pray for me?

If you really want something go for it. What is the thing you have always wanted but have not summoned the courage to go after? What is your WHY and is it still a reason to avoid pursuing a dream?

If it is your time, don’t let it pass you by. Just go for it….the worst that will happen is you you won’t succeed, but with the knowledge that you tried.

Wish me luck. Have a great New Year. Pursue your dreams!

I Like Working From Home

If work from home is here to stay, what are the implications for  individuals and companies?

With the vaccines finally coming to market for COVID the question for 2021 is should we keep working from home.

I will be the first to admit I miss some of the face to face (literally). However, I also have become accustomed to not having to travel 3 to 4 hours daily to our major clients and leaving during rush hour to teach evening grad classes.

I take issue with SHRM’s recent return to office antics at the height of the pandemic. Their CEO even dished on this topic in the most recent SHRM magazine “From The CEO” introductory editorial. Out of fairness he presented different angles and did focus on HR’s role in insuring culture, communication, and commitment were focused on regardless of where an employee works from.

In regards to teaching, I have found the sweet spot of using ZOOM breakout rooms for activities (note to Microsoft: improve your breakout room technology for assigning and reassigning folks as it is clunky) and my students actually have come around to virtual instead of live. There are still some challenges to providing tests as Moodle and Blackboard are not where they need to be for creating online testing, but with that said, I much prefer ZOOM over classroom.

For clients we provide three core services. First our leadership training has not skipped a beat online. Second, we are able to do coaching and 360 work as well if not better online. Finally, the project work only suffers from being in an office to ask questions, however with technology we have been able to work around this and access data via technology.

So for me there is no question that work from home or from anywhere is a plus. In fact this Spring and Summer I am tee’ d up to do some conference speaking potentially live and being able to do work from a hotel room in between is a huge plus.

Now I understand, not every job or industry can provide the same dynamics as my own, however the past 8 months have acted as a litmus test for the future.

What do you think? Inquiring minds would love to hear from you!

Where have you been lately?

I know I have not posted on my own blog in a while. Maybe it is COVID. Maybe just a lack of something important to share. Or a little apathy…

I have kept up with my FOT posts. In a way I feel obligated. The folks at Fistful of Talent have given my voice a large audience and for that I am grateful. Plus, I seem to do some of my best work for them. So, it is a quid pro quo of sorts, plus I love the medium and the folks I collaborate with there. Chris and Tim even did a special appearance for my classes this fall on a ZOOM call.

So, consider this my catchup for the past few months of inactivity in of all places my very own blog.

I am not sure where to start so I will just jump in. I have been challenged as all of us have been with COVID. Everyone in my immediate family is fine. We experienced a lock down here on Long Island in Mid-March. My business was temporarily impacted as all of you were. My teaching continued and luckily, I had just finished mid term tests as we went into an extended spring break. As we emerged from break all my university teaching was online.

As far as my business we were fortunate that our largest client allowed us to test doing leadership classes online in mid-April and we were able to restore most of our contracted work. So, from a business standpoint my hit was not as extensive as it could have been.

My summer was a blur as we moved from lock down to phased opening. I spent most nights walking with my good friends in the neighborhood and when Memorial Day weekend came, I was able to start playing pickleball outside. I got hooked on the sport and would play 4-5 times a week all summer. I now have a pretty good 3.5/4.0 game! For those not familiar I am a solid intermediate player.

We were lucky here on the Island as we had maybe the best summer and early fall weather in more then a decade. We also did a lot of Barbeques in my back yard and we were the weekend destination for our extended family. The weather was a big plus as there was really not much to do or watch on TV. So being outside was a great distraction.

I also got to play golf with my regular group weekly. The one caveat was we walked all summer to help with social distancing. Now that winter is approaching my clubs have been mothballed for the foreseeable future. My pickleball games are mostly indoors 2 -3 times a week with my weekly tennis added on.

My business model has survived with online accessibility. The fall saw a couple of significant projects and I am grateful to my clients. It is really rough out in this climate getting and just maintaining client work. Thankfully most of my capabilities translate well to online.

I am also tinkering with starting my doctorate in 2021 in HR. You are never too old to learn. I have been thinking about it for a couple of years and just needed something to push me to action. I think the pandemic has done that.

I also committed to being the programming chair for SHRM Long Island. It is time for me to turn my attention from national to my backyard, although you still may get to see me speak at future national conferences. So be on the lookout for new and innovative stuff!

So that is it in a snapshot. Oh, I forgot to mention I dropped some weight this past year. Sometimes adversity brings opportunity. I feel better too.

I’ll try to get back in the swing of posting at least once a month….Wishing everyone a great end of the year….Be safe!!!!

Movie Night

The pandemic has created a void in things to do, especially here on Long Island where we have only entered phase one of opening this past week. So my out of the house activities are a daily am walk to the local deli for coffee, an evening walk most nights with a couple of friends, and golf on the weekends. The majority of my free time other then taking care of personal life activities is watching television. My TV time has been dominated by cable news, which sucks because there is no live sports (except Nascar and German Soccer) to occupy my down time from work.

Add to this I have gone from teaching online 5 nights a week between Adelphi, Manhattanville and HR Jetpack, to zero as the semester ended last week. So I now look  forward at least twice a week to catch a movie. Lets just call it MOVIE Night. And tonight was a movie night!!!! I Watched the Guardian with Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher. Its probably the 5th or 6th time watching it over the past few yrs., but its a great movie. Action, drama, and a good story line. It hit me personally 30 minutes in when Costner’s Commander tells him he needs to know when it is time to  get out of the water. Costner obviously disagrees. I won’t ruin it for you if you haven’t seen it (go rent it  or watch it on the Paramount network).

“You need to know when it is time to get out of the water.”

A classic line and a metaphor for saying you need to know when you need to move to the next phase of your career. Most of us can’t see it or accept it. Professional athletes often hang on one or two yrs. to long with diminishing returns. As I look at my own career it is difficult to decide if I have some mileage left to run HR for another company one more time, or am I better suited to continue on my consulting and college teaching trajectory?

I am not alone or unique in facing this dilemma. We all face it at some point and sometimes more then once. I felt a little empathy for Costner’s character having to go from Rescue Swimmer to Instructor. He was in a way “a fish out of water”. Well actually he was perfect to be an Instructor, he just yearned to get back to his true passion. Was he to old, battle warn, a step to slow? He held all the records until he meets his protege in Kutcher. The opportunity to pass the baton was to a certain extent, satisfying and distracting. My own business accolades with SHRM, HR Executive Magazine, Adelphi, and local business are much like Costner’s characters records. Meaningful at the time but eventually just a name plate on the wall. We all have gifts and some of them get rewarded with ribbons and trophies. More importantly it is what you do with your talent. Do you help others? Do you make a difference?

We all look for importance in our life. Some of us even create bucket lists. Do you have one? It helps us make sense of our goals, desires, and accomplishments. It keeps us focused.

From adversity comes opportunity.

Movie night lets us dream.

Make a difference. Use your talent to the fullest.

I gotta go get a towel and dry off…. I will see you at the pool when it opens up…..

I love movies!