The Importance of Giving Back

The mentors in my career have provided invaluable support, feedback, and a gut check or reality check, when needed.

As we grow in our careers as leaders, it is our honor and privilege to also give back. Suggestions and advice that seem like no-brainers to us because we have been in the workplace for as long as we have, are sometimes just the Epiphany someone else needs.

We also have the ability to use our vast network for others. For example, I met a wonderful, bright, and engaging “girl,” @ohiogirlkate, to be exact. We connected on Twitter awhile back, and we finally connected in person this year at OHSHRM. I saw her in the Expo and later saw her again, and she joined me in helping a vendor unload their free beer. Picture Oprah, but with beer. “You get a beer, you get a beer!”

She even won a prize from a vendor on the last day, and we managed to snap a picture together! Success, right?

Not long after we returned from the conference, she reached out to me to let me know her position was being eliminated.

Now what is the point of having a network of thousands if you can’t use it to help a young HR pro land her next gig? It’s pointless, so I shared her info with my network, and it was shared by others and I’m sharing it here as well. http://linkedin.com/in/coxmary.

Your network is not for you. It’s to help and impact others. I can’t wait to post the story of the power of networking and Mary Kate’s wonderful new opportunity!

There’s No Lukewarm HR

I engaged in a conversation yesterday that went something like this:

Person: “I see you work in HR…how’s that treat ya? Can be a tough job.”

Me: “I’ve been in HR for 15 years. I love it.”

Person: “It’s a position of passion for sure…”

Me: “It can be, but also has the potential for the greatest impact.”

Person: “Indeed.”

Me: “You either love it or you don’t. There’s no lukewarm HR. When done right and with passion, it can be the greatest asset to a company — when done poorly – or “just enough,” it can sink the culture.”

I’m not alone in this sentiment. My good friend Steve Browne (yes, that Steve Browne) expresses this sentiment in his best selling book HR on Purpose: Developing Deliberate People Passion:

If employees are a pain point or source of frustration for you professionally, then get out of human resources. It isn’t the career for you. Quit trying to tough it out because you are this administrative superstar who can make systems hum. Administration is an important facet of HR, but it is not the reason we exist. Without people, we are nothing.

Steve is 100% accurate with this statement. HR is the for the people. It’s our job in HR to help and to support. Yes, we are there to advise, consult, and provide guidance. Yes, we are there to analyze trends and to make suggestions using predictive analytics. We are there for all of that, but at the end of the day, the people are the reason we are there. The rest is just details.

Whether you have authority or not, you have the potential to have a great deal of influence and impact in HR. Why? Because you impact the people directly. You are quite often the first impression of the company to a candidate. You are quite often the first person they meet on Day 1. You are the person who explains benefits (or someone on your team is, but you get it.) You have the possibility to make a tremendous impact on the employee’s view of the organization.

While HR is there for the happy moments: anniversaries, promotions, expansion, development, etc., it is the times of tragedy that are the most important part of our job. When someone leans on you, they are trusting you. Be present. Be there. Don’t make it about you. It’s not about you ever in HR. Come to terms with that and find your joy and satisfaction in others.

One of my favorite quotes that I apply to our work: ” Do everything with a good heart and expect nothing in return and you will never be disappointed.” I don’t mean that cynically. I genuinely mean that if your focus is not yourself, you would be amazed at the happiness in your work.

One final note of distinction: You notice I didn’t say: You are the dress code police. You are the time card police. You are the [insert control measure here] police. We are not. It saddens me when people are afraid of HR – even in jest. If you got into HR to control people or things, kindly see your way out. You are there to be there for the people, and if you ever forget that, do whatever self-care you need to remind yourself of that or kindly vacate this field that myself and so many of my amazing and passionate cohorts love.

Be on fire for people. Work hard. Do great work.

One Week Later — #SHRM19 Reflection

I mentioned earlier that this was my 4th time attending SHRM National. I can tell you without hesitation that it was by far the BEST SHRM National conference, yet!

Many of my fellow #SHRM19Bloggers have shared their experience at #SHRM19, and I have enjoyed reading each and every post that I have seen so far.

My reflection on #SHRM19 is not just on the content of the sessions, but on the people and the connections. One of the main reasons that I value attending SHRM National is the sheer volume of passionate HR professionals in one place!

This year, there was a creative addition in the Connection Zone called Convos & Coffee. Not only was there a seating area for conversations, a full service coffee bar, and all the fixings for your favorite coffee drinks, there was an interactive floor with conversation starters! There were conversation starters in bubbles that moved around, and if you tapped on it, you could drag the conversation starter to the group you were standing in. It was a very popular area, needless to say, and it was interesting to hear the different perspectives to some of the questions. Kudos to the SHRM19 planning committee for coming up with such a creative way to spark conversations!

Carlos Escobar, myself, and Julie Doyle at Convos & Coffee — See the floor?

Another area for connection was the Volunteer Leaders lounge. If you are not a volunteer for your state or local chapter, I can’t think of a better way to give back to this profession we love. The staff in the Volunteer Leaders lounge worked tirelessly to ensure that the visitors to the lounge truly had a VIP experience, and, speaking of VIP – if you checked into the lounge, you received a special VIP tag that had some pretty neat perks, such as reserved seating in general sessions, etc. We definitely do not volunteer for any of these perks, but it was nice to see SHRM recognize and reward the passion dedicated to these individuals.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Bloggers Lounge as a special area of connection. Andrew Morton (who is transitioning to a new role in SHRM and will be sincerely missed) and Mary Kaylor (completely selfless and wonderful human being) created the ideal environment for connection, creativity, and building lasting relationships. Special thank you to these two and their team. It was a tremendous experience, and in a conference with 20,000 people, having the opportunity to connect with the fellow bloggers in a quiet (sometimes) setting was invaluable.

Too many wonderful people to tag, but an all-star cast of Bloggers!

Oddly enough, the highlight of SHRM19 this year was not the amazing keynotes. I do love Brené Brown. I have written about her before, and I have seen her speak previously. She is amazing, and if we could all do one small change each day to shift our mindset to align more with her Dare to Lead model, we would be much better leaders for our teams. There is always room for improvement. When you stop improving, you stop growing. I, for one, always want to strive to be better than the person I was yesterday. If you did not get a chance to attend this year’s conference, and you are interested in incorporating the model, she is giving it away on her website!

At the end of the day, your experience at a conference as large as SHRM National is what you make of it. The sessions were wonderful and well thought out. I highly recommend purchasing the SHRM eLearning service so that you have access to the sessions that you may have missed due to competing time slots or being full. Bonus: you can share what you learned with others or just watch/listen back sessions that were especially powerful to you. Bonus 2: you have access to other content, not just the conference you recently attended.

If you haven’t attended before, have I convinced you to join us at #SHRM20 in San Diego, yet?! Click Here for early bird registration, and I’ll see you there!

The Importance of Connection — and Twitter Chats!

I can’t say it enough how important it is to connect with people. I don’t mean to say hi at monthly meetings or to have 3,000 LinkedIn connections. I mean to connect.

I just spent the last hour or so chatting with Jon Thurmond. If you don’t know Jon, you are missing out. I reached out to Jon for advice as I have recently undertaken additional responsibilities in my volunteerism, and he is the social media guru. TRUST ME.

What’s great about giving back in HR is that we can chat about work, life, our volunteering, and we are always willing to help out the next person. The next time someone asks me about social media, I have some new tips to share!

What do you have to share? How can you give back? You don’t have to be an expert at anything. Start small.

Participate in a Twitter chat.

I started with #Nextchat years ago when I joined Twitter and found it. I have made so many wonderful connections just through that chat! It’s at 3pm EST on Wednesdays. Check it out. The topic is micro-internships this week. Who doesn’t want to learn more about that?

I am a co-moderator of #JobHuntChat on Mondays at 9pm EST. I’ve plugged this before, and it’s volunteering, so no one is paying me to tell you to join in. If you are looking for a job or are able to offer advice for those that are, I encourage you to join in!

Jon and Wendy host the #HRSocialHour which is an awesome monthly chat where HR professionals and enthusiasts chat about goals, pop culture, beverages, and everything in between. I’m usually cooking dinner at 7pm EST, so I’m usually late and share gratuitous photos of my food.

Take a chance. Join a chat. Thank me later.

Legacy: What Do You Want to be Known For?

I had a manager call me about an issue this week, and the guidance that I provided on how to handle the situation reminded me of something I witnessed in my very first HR job, and it got me thinking that I will always remember my first HR boss for the way she handled that situation.  That is the legacy she left with me.

YEARS ago, when I was in my very first HR Assistant role, we had a receptionist up front at our organization who was the first impression to every candidate, customer, you name it.  This receptionist came to us via a temp to hire situation, and I’m pretty sure it was the first job she had where she was supposed to dress professionally.  She did her best, but they didn’t quite fit – especially the skirts.  If you haven’t had the honor of having the “your clothes are inappropriate for the workplace conversation,” you really aren’t living.  Yes, I’m being facetious.

It wasn’t just the fact that my boss handled the situation that has always stood out to me, it was HOW she handled it.:

She didn’t send a blanket e-mail to the entire company, reminding everyone of our dress code policy.  HR is not the dress code police, and don’t let anyone make you the dress code police. 

She did 2 things:  1.  She talked to the employee, privately, and asked her how she could help her.  During the conversation, the employee confided to my boss that she could not afford nice clothes, and so she was buying her suits in the juniors department – hence the short skirts.  My boss did not judge her or give her some ultimatum about the dress code policy.  My boss bought her clothes that she could wear to work.  2.  My boss didn’t tell a soul, and the only way that I found out was because the receptionist shared the story.

How amazing is that?  We don’t all have the ability to buy our teams new clothes, but we have the ability to meet people where they are and ask them what they need.  I will never forget the way she handled that, and I can only hope that at some point in my career, I leave a similar impression with my team:  I tried every day to be better for them than I was the day before, and I helped them to be the best they could be for their future teams.

What is the legacy you want to leave behind?  What are you doing today to work towards that?

Do It Anyway

We’ve all been there.  Someone on our team or in our organization is behaving in a manner that would not exactly motivate us to want to help…may cause us to want to react defensively or simply ask “why should I help them when they are being so difficult?”

Do it anyway.  Help because that’s the right thing to do.  You are not in leadership and certainly not in HR for the accolades, so keep that in mind, perform whatever visualization exercise you need to get through it, and help anyway.

There is no ego in HR.  I repeat:  THERE IS NO EGO IN HR.  I’m sorry if you didn’t read the brochure through to the end, but we are servant leadership for the organization.  I’ve been fortunate in my career that my senior leadership, i.e., the C-suite had my back and supported not only me but HR.  I know that not everyone is as fortunate as I have been, and I’m truly sorry to hear that, but that is not an excuse to not care and to not help in whatever way you can.  Your behavior is not defined or dictated by other people’s behavior – EVER.

Not everyone will want your help.  Not everyone will value HR or understand why they should value HR, and you have a unique opportunity to demonstrate that value and maybe change a mindset, but don’t spend too much effort there.  People change when they want to.  Don’t take it personally.

Good news:  there are thousands of other professionals like you dealing with the same types of things, and we all have your back.  We’ve been there and survived, and you will, too.

We all made the choice between focusing on ourselves or focusing on others.  I can tell you that I have never regretted helping.

Be kind anyway.

Succeed anyway.

Be happy anyway.

Do good anyway.

Give your best anyway.

HELP anyway.

It’s never been about them.  You know what’s right, do it.

“Because I Said So” Management is Weak Leadership

I put a lot of thought into my decisions.  I hope you do as well.  I want to make sure if someone, seeking to understand, inquires as to my decision-making process, I can point to how I got there.

I care about people and how my actions may affect them.  I truly care.  This is not a weakness.  I don’t care too much.  In my opinion, you can’t care too much.  You can certainly care too little – but not too much.

In the same token, if I make a suggestion, it’s simply that – a suggestion.  Getting emotionally attached to your big idea clouds the process.  Is it really a great idea, or do you feel that way because you came up with it, and you are not open to the input of others?

While I put considerable thought into my decisions, they are very rarely absolute.  My work is in a state of continuous improvement.  Who doesn’t want to be better?  Sign me up!  I’m constantly reading, listening to podcasts, and seeking feedback to be a better leader, professional, boss, friend, and mother.  I want to make good decisions and do the right thing.

My litmus test:  What’s my reason?  Why do I care about this particular request or guideline?  If the possibility of “because I said so” would even begin to enter my brain, that tells me that I am making a decision to make my life or job easier, and not for others.  I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, but that’s weak.  Being a leader isn’t about making our jobs easier.  Leadership is selfless.  Leadership is finding creative ways to say yes instead of always saying no.

I once had a person on my team who was dedicated, passionate about her work, and also happened to have a life outside of work.  Telling people to leave their personal life at home is ridiculous and quite frankly impossible, and I’m proud of us as leaders that we are realizing that.  People have stuff.  Giving them a hard time about their stuff doesn’t make it any easier and certainly doesn’t allow them to focus on their work.  This rockstar on my team had stuff, and you know what?  I let her go handle her stuff and still do her job.  I certainly could have told her that her personal stuff had nothing to do with her job and made a “because I said so, and I’m your boss” decision.  No one wins in that scenario.  She appreciated being treated like a human – with compassion.  She worked hard and was loyal and cared about doing a good job.  My hope is that if she is put in that situation in the future with someone on her team, she remembers to offer compassion instead of judgment or criticism.

Check your ego.  Do the right thing.  Be kind to one another.