#SHRM22 Recap Part 1 — Care for your People

Someone asked me on LinkedIn the other day the age-old HR dichotomy: “Is HR’s job to protect the company or the people?” My response? “You protect the company by taking care of the people. When you take care of people, they feel valued, seen, and appreciated. They will take care of your business every time.” My takeaway from #SHRM22? I’m not alone in this belief — we need to take care of our people.

I had a healthy dose of skepticism for Sunday’s opening general session with two healthcare insurance carrier executives on the stage. Please don’t tell us the solution to this mass exodus of talent is found in benefits…However, shortly into their discussion, I saw the most beautiful display of vulnerability and kindness as a leader. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room, including Humana’s President and CEO, Bruce Broussard as they recalled a story about the personal medical challenges of the Chief Administrative Officer, Tim Huval. The obvious care, compassion, and concern for this person on the CEO’s team was palpable in the room. It was a living demonstration of empathy and culture – setting the example from the top. What a way to start the conference!

The theme of humanity and taking care of ourselves and one another continued throughout the conference experience. Humanity was present in the halls — as per usual, there was a DJ in the main area to get people moving. A time or two, you could find me and several others, connecting through a mutual love of the Cha-Cha Slide, letting loose and forgetting about e-mails, HRIS demos, and anything outside of the four walls of the convention center.

In the Expo Hall, an unfamiliar site reminded us all of the importance of culture 365 in our companies. Motivosity had a sign in their booth that clearly demonstrated their culture. The expo started on Sunday, but that was a protected time for “Yeti families,” as they called their team members, and they were spending Sunday with their families. This value wasn’t situational — Sundays are for family unless we have a conference to attend.

The leadership at Motivosity lives their values 365 — conference or no conference. What a powerful message they sent to their teams and their prospective customers! I know I made a note to return the next day.

Speaking of culture…Steve Browne, CPO of LaRosa’s reminded us the importance of taking care of our people and being people-first, sharing with his attendees a photo of a simple block of wood they made and handed out to each team member with “We are PEOPLE FIRST” AND “2,4,4,2 KEYS TO SUCCESS” carved into the block.

Steve shared that the meaning behind the “2,4,4,2” was this:
“If you do more to people than for people, your life will not be successful. Do more for people than to people for your life to be successful.” – Mike LaRosa, via Steve Browne, SHRM-SCP

Imagine joining that team and knowing that your leadership is not only people first, but they are promoting that value and holding themselves and others accountable to it.  Is your organization practicing people-first leadership?

If you attended SHRM22 or even simply followed the hashtag #SHRM22 SHRM22Influencer, you can find photos, videos, and tips for making your organization people first.  It can be a little overwhelming during the conference itself to absorb all the great content that is shared.  That’s the purpose of the Influencer team.  We capture soundbites and ideas and share them – not just during the conference, but long after!

Stay tuned for Part 2!

#SHRM22 Annual Conference & Expo: Power Skills with Rachel Druckenmiller!

We are in the homestretch, and if you’re anything like me, you are in the app planning your sessions carefully so that you can make the most of your #SHRM22 experience!

Whether you are in person at the conference or virtual this year, I invite you to check out Rachel Druckenmiller on Tuesday, June 14th at 3:30pm CST for her session: The Soul Behind the Role: Igniting the Power Skills of Intentional Leadership.  I’ll be there, and I’ll save you a seat.

Rachel is the Founder and CEO of Unmuted, and she is the daughter of two entrepreneurs, so she always had the drive and ambition in her to start her own business. If you aren’t already following Rachel, I encourage you to start with her LinkedIn.  She goes live frequently to share her heart and her voice – literally and figuratively. Rachel is known for her singing key notes! Rachel says that it’s part of her “unmuting” when she sings:

“I think all of us can think of an area of their life, where they silence themselves or hold themselves back, or they doubt themselves or mute an aspect of who they are because there’s a certain way you’re supposed to show up.”

-Rachel Druckenmiller, Unmuted

Rachel’s talking about power skills of intentional leadership in her session this year, and she shared a preview of one of those skills with me: Curiosity.

This session will be both in-person as well as virtual, and Rachel has plans to keep the virtual attendees engaged and feeling like they are part of the in-person! You’ll have to tune in/head over to see just what those tricks and tools are.

I asked Rachel how this session will empower attendees to #CauseTheEffect in their organizations and impact the future of work:

“It starts with practicing the behaviors you want people that you work with to practice. Turn the mirror on yourself. How could you show up with greater curiosity?”

I hope this piqued your curiosity, and we’ll see you on Tuesday, June 14, 2022 at 3:30pm!

#SHRM22 Annual Conference & Expo: The Introvert’s Guide to #Conferencing

#Conferencing is a term that has been coined by the #SHRM19Blogger contingent that took on Las Vegas.  The annual conference is an EVENT, and it can be overwhelming for those that are first-timers or even recurring attendees.  There are a LOT of blog posts by my fellow #SHRM22Influencers that will help you every step of the way for first-time attendees.  We are HR people, People people, and we are here to help!

This guide is a little bit different.  I’m a card-carrying Introvert, INTJ, and I’m here to help.

#Conferencing is not a spectator sport as I’ve shared before.  Conferences are designed for a few purposes:

Connect in person. I hear you, you’re an introvert, and you’re happy with the people you’re already connected with — or you don’t know where to start.  Lucky for you, I have some card-carrying extroverts that would LOVE to help you.  It’s a little-known fact that extroverts love helping out their introvert friends.  Allow me to introduce you to a few of the #HRCommunity’s pals:

My friend and unofficial mentor, Steve Browne.  Steve not only wants to connect with you, he wants to help you!  Find Steve, and tell him Nicole sent you!  Also check out Steve’s sessions!

In the event you don’t know him, this is Steve.

One of my favorite humans ever and wine buddy, Kyra Matkovich. Kyra is the keeper of the #HRShenanigans and held down the fort with the virtual conference last year.  She will be in NOLA with us this summer, and she’d love to meet you!

Speaking of making life-long friends, this is Josh Rock and Kyra — in Kyra’s hometown.

Attend the events!  There is Tuesday night entertainment, Sunday reception in the Exhibitor Hall, and plenty of other events provided throughout the conference.  Attend the events and don’t just go back to your room at the end of the day!  Sign up for Jess Miller-Merrill’s VIP Text Alerts from Workology’s Party People.  Text ‘SHRM’ to 512-548-3005 and get live updates on where all the activities are taking place!

Pre-Conference Meet-Up at SHRM21!

Connect virtually. As mentioned, Kyra held down the fort for the virtual conference last year, and SHRM is offering a virtual option for those unable to join in person in New Orleans this year as well!  Follow the following hashtags: #SHRM22, #SHRM22Influencer, #CauseTheEffect (our 2022 theme). I can’t tell you the number of genuine connections I’ve formed with my virtual #HRCommunity that have become real-life friends that I’m sure I’ll have for a lifetime.

Learn New Things and SHARE IT: There are 11 content tracks with 200+ expert-led sessions in store for you at SHRM22 this year.  Check out the full conference schedule and PLAN your experience.  The app will be coming out shortly.  Pay attention to where sessions are located and when you arrive, don’t barricade yourself with your bags at the end of the row and check your e-mail until the session starts.  Get comfortable and be open to meeting others around you.  Chances are if you’re in the same session, you share interests in the subject matter. Take a chance and introduce yourself, and if you don’t take the first step, at least be open to those sitting around you.  Be present and ask questions/participate. Share your key learnings on social media — and don’t forget the hashtags!

Hope this helps!  Remember to make the most of your time while also still being true to yourself and your boundaries.  These are suggestions from one introvert to another.  Enjoy and please connect with me if I can help in any way.  See you there!

The Importance of Pause

I’m writing this from the airport in Dallas after a wonderful weekend full of connection, friendship, and love. I was at a wedding for one of my girlfriend’s daughters. It was beautiful. The photo is our group, minus some who were unable to make it but no less dearly missed.

What was even more beautiful, however — or maybe equally as beautiful was the fact that I was able to completely trust my wonderful team and unplug and be PRESENT during this time. I understand fully that I set the example for this for my team.

It’s not enough that I have this disclaimer at the bottom of my signature:

“Please note: we work flexibly at MVAH, and I’m sending this at a time that suits me to do so. Please be aware there is no expectation for you to respond outside of your own working hours.”

You have to practice what you preach: you have to practice pause. I left home on Thursday evening. My flight was delayed and canceled, so I didn’t actually leave until Friday morning, but that didn’t matter. I unplugged on Thursday late afternoon after delivering on my commitments and ensuring that my team was setup for success in my absence.

Notice that I didn’t just completely abandon my responsibilities before leaving on this trip. It’s no one’s fault but my own if I overcommitted (which I didn’t), and if my timeline got tight and caused a flurry of work before leaving. Don’t be that leader that gets so wrapped up in their own agenda that they let things fall to their team to clean up because they weren’t able to wrap it up before they leave. You wouldn’t want that from your team. Don’t behave that way. You are training your team how to behave as the next generation of leaders. You have a responsibility to be the example of how they should behave with their future teams.

Along the lines of being an example of a leader who sets clear expectations, makes commitments, honors those commitments, and delivers on expectations, you also need to be the leader that demonstrates how to truly take pause and be present in your life with those you care about.

I owe it to my team to NOT be checking in, checking e-mails, bird-dogging tasks, etc. I owe it to them to know that I have a team of highly skilled, highly competent, passionate people who want to do good work — and let them do it. I owe it to my team to know that by me not visibly checking in, I am demonstrating my trust and that I did everything I needed to do to set them up for success prior to me going out of town.

Likewise, I owed it to my friends to not revolve our schedule around me needing to be on-call, checking in, near a computer or on my phone all the time. Why go if you can’t be present? I spent Friday afternoon by the pool with my beautiful friends, talking, catching up, and being completely in the moment with one another. We are all business owners and/or business executives, and not one of us was chained to our phone. We created safety with each other, and if someone would have needed to get away and work, there wouldn’t have been any shame, but we seemed to breathe a collective sigh that we would simply be together and be present.

As you take plan time away in the future, make sure that you are being kind to your team and kind to those that you need to show up for. Plan appropriately, make sure that your lack of planning is not someone else’s emergency, and set the example for your team that you not only want them to take time, but that they are in good hands and are not expected to be heard from until they return. Be kind. Take a pause.

Pace Yourself — SHRM21 Edition

It’s been a whirlwind since about September 2nd for me! Yes, I know #SHRM21 didn’t technically start til September 9th, but I was fortunate to be surrounded by people I love to celebrate my birthday Labor Day weekend, and it was a CELEBRATION!

The “me” of 5-10 years ago would have gone all out, saying yes to every invitation, double and triple booking myself, staying out way too late, getting up way too early or missing something important because I had overextended myself and couldn’t actually be in more than one place during that time — imagine that.

Thankfully, this birthday was a milestone which brought some additional wisdom, space for downtime, and very intentional yeses. I also made sure to take care of myself — both physically and mentally in Vegas, and I was so encouraged to see, on the big stage in a general session, Michael Phelps with a call to action for us all to normalize ensuring that we are not only physically taking care of ourselves, but mentally as well.

I did not walk into the conversation with Michael Phelps thinking this would be in my top 3 at an annual conference. I’m fortunate to have seen Mike Rowe, Coach K, Robin Roberts among others previously. It was so incredibly timely for this conversation at this time, though, and I’m thankful that I was there to listen.

As a superstar athlete, vulnerability and humility would not have been top of mind to describe Michael Phelps until I saw him in person for myself, and let me tell you, I’ve not witnesses such a genuine, vulnerable, REAL conversation. There were no buzzwords, nothing to promote himself, and when he essentially let us all know that he got (what my children and I affectionally refer to as being) “squirreled” while talking, the room leaned in just a little bit more.

He was humble, funny, relatable, and he made a room full of exhausted HR pros release a deep breath that I doubt many of us even realized we were holding.

He shared with us how he embraced his humanity and stopped thinking of himself as a swimmer first. If you check out his Twitter profile, you’ll see that he’s living that humanity. While most of us think of him as an Olympic Gold medal swimmer first, he’s thinking of himself differently:

My dear friend and fellow #SHRM21Influencer, Kyra Matkovich summed it up perfectly:
Michael Phelps made it just a little bit easier and acceptable for us all to embrace the state of our own mental health as well as those in our care as HR leaders in our organizations and communities.

As Phelps stated in his discussion, we can’t take care of others if we aren’t taking care of ourselves, and if we want to be our best self, we have to take care of our physical and mental health.

Taking care of your health (physical and mental) looks different for everyone. For me, it meant that I did not attend the 4pm PST session and FaceTimed with my 13 year-old daughter for 50 minutes. It was 7pm in Ohio, and she had a full week of school to tell me all about. I can’t help but think that maybe I felt a little more okay, a little less guilty for taking that time to do that because that’s what self-care looked like for me at that point in time.

Thanks for the reminder, Michael Phelps.

Culture Check: Is it Safe to Make a Mistake?

When mistakes happen, what is the go-to behavior in your organization? Do you have people who will vehemently defend their actions, try to solve problems in a vacuum, attack others, or deflect/misdirect the attention? Do you have people who will attempt to hide or cover up mistakes? Do you have people who will reach out to their teams and leadership to get guidance, support, and help? Do they own their mistakes, acknowledge their part, and look for ways to improve?

If your organization is more aligned with the “own your mistakes and ask for help” vs. “blame and CYA”, you have a healthy organization. Your people should never be afraid to make a mistake. Mistakes are where we learn what doesn’t work. Mistakes are where we have the opportunity to look at a problem from another perspective and problem solve, brainstorm, and come up with a solution together. Healthy cultures take the ego out of their processes and are open to the possibility that there is a better and more effective way to do things.

Where does your HR/People Operations (whatever you call it) team fit in here?

Do you have a culture of service, support, and help, or are you punitive and focus far too much on the past and what can’t be changed vs. the future and how to move forward and make things better? Are you the policy police? Are you the principal’s office? Are people afraid when you show up unannounced? If so, make efforts, even small ones today, to change that. HR is not the principal’s office or the policy police. Your leadership teams are not judge, jury, and executioner. If you observe a leader being punitive with someone, have the courage to speak up and address it. Behavior not addressed is behavior condoned.

We want to have healthy cultures where our teams and leaders reach out for help when they need it. We want to be given the opportunity to address a situation and to get the support needed. We have to create safety to ask questions, make mistakes, and ask for help. We need to be the go-to for counsel, support, consultation, and guidance. If people aren’t reaching out for help, it’s indicative that they don’t truly believe that reaching out will have an impact.

Disengagement doesn’t happen overnight. Unsafe cultures aren’t built overnight. There is a consistent trend of unmet expectations, and eventually, people lose faith that their situation will improve. Just as this doesn’t deteriorate overnight, it also can’t be repaired overnight. Trust in you, your team, and the organization starts slow — commit to doing something and then do it. That builds trust. If people trust you for the small things, they’ll trust you for the big things, and we all need to be trusted and relied upon for the big things.

Where does your organization line up? Where do you? Are you proud of the culture you foster? If not, what are you doing today to make an impact and start the transformation?

Connection in Times of Quarantine

Yesterday, one of my favorite groups of humans, the Workhuman Live attendees, got together virtually for the event we didn’t realize that we all needed most. Sure, we knew that we needed connection. We knew we loved the content that Workhuman provides. We knew we missed one another. I’m not sure any of us realized just how much.

As many of us are on the people side of business, we are going non-stop during this time. We are “over-functioners” as our patron saint Brené Brown would say. In those times, we are doing so much, we don’t stop to feel the trauma of the events going on around us.

Simon Sinek made sure to end his time by ensuring that we are taking care of ourselves and asking for help when the trauma catches up with us. We can’t outwork or outrun it. It will sink in eventually, and we need to know what that looks like and be kind to ourselves and others when it happens.

He warned that many of us are in ‘mission mode,’ and we will have to deal with this trauma at some point. It’s normal and we can’t escape it. Ask for help. People will process this trauma at different times. Be aware and be alert. Help others and yourself.

One way to stay aware and alert is keeping the pulse of the organization. There was an exciting announcement from our friend Eric Mosley, CEO of Workhuman, at the conclusion of the event: Moodtracker is available free to everyone – current Workhuman client or otherwise, with the intent to go beyond surveys and get to the heart of organizational issues. What better way to identify when those around us are starting to feel the impact of our current climate?

Thank you to the wonderful team at Workhuman for putting this together. It was what our souls needed right now – whether we realized it or not.

Let’s Err on the Side of Human

Things are crazy right now. That’s not a secret. You may be tired, overwhelmed, and unsure of what to do next. That’s okay. No one expects you to have all the answers – right now or frankly ever. They do expect you to get answers. They do expect you to make the best decision with the information you have in front of you.

You have to keep going. You have to make decisions. When you go radio silent, that’s when people let their fears and insecurities get the best of them. Have confidence that you were put in your position because the organization believed in you. Believe in you.

Lean on your network. If you are an HR professional, search #HRCommunity or ask questions and add that hashtag. We are here to help. There are so many wonderful resources right now to help you. This is new to all of us. We’re all taking things day by day.

You will have times when you feel overwhelmed. That’s okay. Take a breath and wait until you are calm and clear headed before you respond or react. Keep the assumption of positive intent in others at the forefront. I know it’s not easy, and not everyone is behaving with positive intent, but you must keep that assumption in your own behavior. Other people’s behavior does not dictate yours. If you feel you are losing control, close the e-mail, walk away from the chat, close your eyes. BREATHE.

If you find that you are getting the same questions, schedule a call to get people together to talk through things. Something wasn’t clear, and you getting frustrated with people not reading your e-mails and being able to read your mind and your intent is not helpful to anyone — especially to you, my stressed friend.

If you are fortunate to support an essential business, that’s your honor and privilege right now. They are so fortunate to have you. We all thank you and want to support you. Not everyone has the same style under stress. Grant grace to people who are scared and may not be the best version of themselves right now, including yourself. If you have a misstep, own it, apologize, and make it right.

Now is the time for real, human communication. Now is the time for compassion to yourself and others. Now is the time to check in with people daily and ask for feedback. You want to be effective and add value. You cannot be helpful and effective if you are unable to communicate with people.

We don’t know a lot about the days ahead. What we do know is that while we don’t know how long this will last, it’s not going to last forever, and we are all doing everything in our power to take care of those in our care. Maintain perspective and remember that you have a 100% survival rate for difficult things and you are not alone in this – no matter how isolated we may be right now.

I’m rooting for you. We all are — from 6 feet away. You’ve got this.

People are the Purpose — You Can’t Love HR Without a Heart for PEOPLE

Note: I wrote this October 24, 2019, and the blogging equivalent of leaving an email in the draft folder happened…

I attended a workshop yesterday on mental health in the workplace. It was helpful, informative, and I feel more prepared when a situation arises as a result. The focus was on identifying and responding to possible signs of struggle in the workplace, including but not limited to: anxiety, depression, psychosis, suicide, and substance use disorder.

At one point in time, when the instructor was teaching us techniques and questions to ask to gain understanding of the situation, one of the attendees expressed that she was not comfortable asking an employee if they were thinking of committing suicide — that this person wasn’t their close friend or family member, and that they would prefer to get someone else to talk to them.

Despite my best efforts to be objective and listen non-judgmentally – a skill we had literally just gone over, I had a visceral reaction to this statement, and I said out loud that we don’t always get a choice to be comfortable in our conversations. The purpose of the workshop is to be better prepared when these situations happen. We don’t get to filter out the uncomfortable conversations. Our people need us when they need us. We can’t just tap out or tag in someone else.

We don’t get to filter out the uncomfortable conversations. Our people need us when they need us. We can’t just tap out or tag in someone else.

Pretending that this isn’t an epidemic doesn’t prepare us to help our people when they need it. I highly recommend for anyone to attend this training. There have been times in my career when I felt that I wasn’t the most prepared for the direction the conversation turned, and I’m encouraged to see that we have identified this skills gap and are providing these programs.

During lunch, I overheard a conversation where someone was referring to their soda fountain at work having 2 specific types of pop because it was what she preferred. The “perks” of being in charge of the project, she said. I was so disappointed that a peer, representing HR to her organization, completely missed an opportunity to love on her people and get what they might have preferred. It’s a little thing, but the focus was way off the mark.

My faith in humanity was restored attending #DisruptHR last night. These are my people. No one talked about how to make their job better for them or how to use the system to benefit themselves. In fact, there were discussions of enlisting the help of non-HR people to be grassroots culture ambassadors and appeal to various pockets of the population – not just the typical ideas. You can learn more about DisruptHR here: https://disrupthr.co/.

The Power of Community

A few weeks ago, I had a pretty significant health scare and ended up in the hospital. I openly joked how inconvenient it was the week before Christmas, and I almost waited it out because I’m a stubborn, independent woman, but that’s a post for another day…I called one of my best friends, scared, and she came over immediately and drove me to the ER satellite by my house.

I believe in the power of prayer. That’s my belief. I don’t require that you also have that belief. You can talk to any of my friends. We don’t have to have the same beliefs whatsoever in order to have a relationship. Because of this belief, when I arrived at the ER, scared and not knowing what was going on, I went to Facebook – which is my more private social media account, and I simply asked for “prayers, please.” The response was – and continues to be overwhelming.

In that post alone, 77 people commented that they were praying for me, or if prayer wasn’t their connection to healing, they were doing their thing. Let me tell you, I felt the support. Not long after that post, I received countless FB messages, Twitter DMs, and texts. Not just texts from my friends that I talk to every day, people that I have only occasionally connected with took time out of their evening to reach out to me and lend their support and words.

The next day, one of my dearest friends came to visit me, lamented over the outrage that I wasn’t allowed to have anything to eat or drink, and we even took a very much out-of-focus selfie to commemorate the visit. She’s an amazing human, and I’m so thankful to have her in my life.

I also received a visit that day from someone who works with me. She brought me a care package, including a cell phone charger, facial wipes, and lip balm — I had definitely not planned to be admitted into the hospital when I went to the ER the night before. She has no idea how much it meant to me that she took time out of her day to visit with me and bring me those things so that I could stay connected and keep my family and friends updated.

The photo on this post is from the Ohio SHRM Conference Committee, which I am so thankful to be a part of. They arrived within minutes of my discharge from the hospital, and it completely brightened my day. You see, we (my mom was there with me) had just gotten that call that my grandmother had passed away. She was 93, no longer in pain, and she was with my grandpa now, but nevertheless, it was a loss, and we were grieving.

Flowers, packages, kind words, phone calls – those things mean so much to me because they all require a priceless commodity: TIME. We all have it, and yet we don’t all use it the same. Each person that reached out to me or sent me flowers or came to visit me took TIME out of their day to do so, and I am truly thankful for that.

I continue to receive, even today, check-ins from those in my community, asking how I’m feeling, and extending their support and well wishes.

Friends, can I tell you that we are so incredibly blessed to have this global group of people, looking out for one another, sharing in our joys and our tragedies? Thank those that are in your squad, cohort, crew, tribe, band, team – whatever applies to you.

To my amazing circle of outstanding humans in my life: THANK YOU.