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December 12, 2005
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 The H.R. Doctor Is In

It’s All About the Dash!

Friend and colleague Vernon Hargray is not only an assistant city manager, but also a passionate pastor on occasional Sundays. He shared a concept with me which is significant in the way we work and the way we live. It derives from the fact that the older you get the more likely you are to attend funerals more often than weddings.

The HR Doctor realizes part of going to a cemetery is a walk thoughtfully between the tombstones. One common element is apparent in virtually every one of them. That is, a dash (-) between the birth year and the year of death of the deceased.

A dash (-) really is a metaphor for all that we do in our life, from the time that we start until the time that we finish. My last walk through a cemetery made me think of the dash (-) and the importance it has as a mile marker in my own life.

Will I have filled the dash (-) with success, joy, contribution and inspiration to others? On the other hand, will that precious dash (-) be squandered by arrogance and sloth? What fills your dash (-) is a fundamental question about how you live your life.

The HR Doctor has written often about the importance of avoiding arrogance and inertia in our lives. These two life enemies waste our potential and limit how much good in the world we can do.

Live your life as an optimist, focused on inspiring others to grow and succeed and the dash (-) in your own life should be rich with success and leadership.

The metaphor is also very important at work. The way you start a project and move toward its completion or the way you begin helping the career of a colleague by being a mentor or a coach is a very important part of what gets etched into that dash (-).

It’s time to roll out two quotes by very smart people. Both go to the definition of leadership. The first is a simple one from Napoleon. Short in stature, he was, however, tall in the legacy of his imprint on the history of France and the world in general. He defined a leader as a "dealer in hope." He meant, no doubt, being a "carrier of a strain of infectious hope" and encouragement for the positive outcomes that other people can generate when they stay focused and combine knowledge with passion for their work. In fact, human resources in government and in business is really about exercising the skills that inspire others.

The second quote is from the sixth president of the United States, John Quincy Adams. Perhaps you would not do well in a final exam about the contributions of Mr. Adams, but consider this quote and its connection to how we live our lives. "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."

Apply the concept of filling in the dash (-) in your own life, at work, with your family, and in general by focusing on your own leadership skills. Be an inspirer of others, and your own legacy will be enriched by the success of others in which you had some small role.

In Human Resources and in life, it’s all about the dash (-).

The HR Doctor hopes that all of your dash space is well filled!

Phil Rosenberg
The HR Doctor


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