Failure is Feedback…

I saw a post on from the fabulous Sarah Hathorn on Twitter a while back:

 Jan 31

I thought to myself.  “Right.  It’s feedback.”  So I replied to her:

“Failure is feedback. It allows us to change our approach and improve the process.

Stop and take an honest inventory of your view on failure.  Do you view failure as an opportunity to improve, or do you view it as being “less than” or “not good enough” because Plan A didn’t work out?  What drives those feelings?  Where is your focus and mindset?

I was talking to a friend of mine about the idea to this post and he said “I fail every day.”  I love that.  He didn’t say “I quit every day.”  He said he failed – this implies he’s trying daily.  We don’t have all the answers.  We are not always going to get it right, but we are 100% more successful when we try than when we are paralyzed by fear of failure.

Did you know that there are over 534,000 videos that talk about how many times some of the most successful people failed before they got it right?  These are meant to be inspirational videos.  If they can do it, I can do it.  Right?  Michael Jordan, Steve Jobs, J.K. Rowling, Henry Ford, all faced adversity and failure, but they stuck with it.  They kept going.

Below is one of my favorite quotes by J.K. Rowling:

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

― J.K. Rowling

In some cases these people faced monumental setbacks, but they didn’t let it define them.  They continued to try.  They rebounded until they succeeded, and then they continued to work hard and continue trying new things.

In order to dare to do great things, two important aspects must occur:  you must put yourself out there to try AND you must engage with others who encourage continuous learning and continuous improvement.  Far too often we engage in cultures where there is such a stigma around failure and so much effort is placed on perfection and the pursuit of it.  Spoiler alert:  no one and no organization is perfect.  We could all save a lot of time and heartache striving to something unattainable.

We see it every day in the news – especially lately with the #MeToo movement:  organizations learn somewhere along the way that a catastrophic lapse in judgment has occurred, and in many cases, lack the courage to admit it, learn from it, and make it right.  We all make mistakes.  We are all human.  Why do we try so hard to convince those around us otherwise?

The Power of Vulnerability

“Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”
― Brené BrownRising Strong

I was on the phone with one of my amazing members of my team when she was interrupted by an employee entering her office. She put me on hold, but I could hear the employee talking. The employee had a question about her paycheck. I listened as the employee asked her questions. I heard silence as I could tell my team member was thinking of what scenario could have happened, then she proceeded to ask questions.

Not one time did she defend herself or seem to be reacting to the apparent mistake or misunderstanding. She genuinely sought to understand so she could determine how she could help her. I was so proud to have her on my team.

I know I say I have an amazing team a lot. I do. They are some of the most talented, caring people I have had the privilege to work with, lead, develop, and learn from.

After she had a pretty good idea of what happened, she explained to the employee what happened and how to prevent it in the future. She also explained that she would take care of the correction, and confirmed that it was okay that it was on the next paycheck or needed a manual check cut. The employee confirmed the next paycheck was fine, thanked her, and left.

She got back on the phone and asked me questions about how to best audit for a situation like this in future processing. As we chatted, she realized that she had misspoke in her direction for the protocol for the future to the employee. Within minutes, I was bcc’d on a message to the employee, thanking her for coming to gain clarity on the issue. She then explained how she was wrong in what she had told her for future steps, and she wanted to let her know and clarify the proper process.

Once again, I was proud she was not only a part of my team, but that our employees had such a wonderful human being taking care of them. She’s only been with our organization for less than 90 days, and there are bound to be mistakes in the learning process. She could have reacted defensively and immediately pointed out how the employee didn’t follow the protocol or blamed something or someone else. She didn’t do that. She didn’t react. She was vulnerable and asked questions to focus on the problem and how to best remedy it and prevent it from happening in the future.

The power of vulnerability met the employee where she was and made her feel like they were in it together to find a solution. I hope we all approach problems like this.

Hello, I’m Here to Help…

“The value of our lives is not determined by what we do for ourselves. The value of our lives is determined by what we do for others.”  –Simon Sinek

I’ve been a fan of Simon Sinek since before it was cool.  If you aren’t familiar with his stuff, check him out and thank me later.  He’s going to be at #WorkHuman this year, and although I’m not able to attend in person, I’ll live vicariously through you all that do.  If it wasn’t the same week as my kids’ spring break, I would have lobbied a lot harder to get permission to attend, but packing up the family to head to Austin while Mom is geeking out in a conference all day is not what I consider “Mom of the Year” criteria, so I’ll let you all enjoy, and I’ll read all the tweets.

The thought of “Hello, I’m Here to Help” has been a frequent one lately.  HR is the epitome of servant leadership.  We are here to help.  That is why we have our positions.  We are here to help our employees, our management teams, and the company.  This is what we are trained to do.  We know what we’re doing, and we take a great deal of pride in being that resource.

It has come to my attention lately that while we’re here to help, how we help is not always how we may have originally offered.  The theme of HR Without Ego is real.  We are servant leadership, here to help.  However, we don’t dictate how we help.  We approach conversations and prepare for meetings with an entire scenario laid out how we plan to offer our help and support.  By the end of the meeting, we have scrapped Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C.  We collaborated on Plan D, and while it’s not what was originally planned, we are supporting the solution.  We need to focus on the end game when offering our support and not be emotionally invested in our original plan.

There are also times when our help is not accepted.  Take a deep breath, accept that fact, don’t take it personally, and move on.  It’s okay that our help was not accepted.  We must focus our efforts where they are best utilized.  There is always something to do, someone to support, and focusing on what we can’t do will only drive us crazy.  Change your focus.  Change your mindset.  After all, we’re here to help…

Has HR Lost the Trust of Employees?

It was a nice little Sunday.  We went to the Cincinnati Auto Expo.  I had been looking forward to this all week.  When I was a little girl, my Dad always had a “race car.”  He had a ’76 Corvette for most of my childhood, and would take my older sister and I to car shows.  My Dad lives in New Mexico, and I miss him dearly.  The Auto Expo was the highlight of my week to connect with my Dad, thousands of miles away.  The Expo did not disappoint.  It was wonderful.  I sat in several cars, breathed in that new car smell, reminisced about my childhood, and life was good.

We got home, I settled in with a nice cup of tea, and my husband forwarded me this article that took my breath away within the first few sentences “Human resources has to be one of the greatest bait-and-switch professions one can join today.”  OUCH.  I had to read on.  Surely there was more to the story.  There seemed to be some serious pain here for such a statement.    “…the field often attracts starry-eyed idealists, people who seek a mission-oriented, perhaps even noble profession for their careers. They join thinking they are going to make a difference.”  Yep.  That sounds like me, 14 years ago.  I wanted to help people and make a difference.  That’s still one of the things I love the most about HR.  We have the potential to make an impact.

The article goes to on to describe scenario after scenario where corruption occurs in the organization, calling them “HR abuses.”  I bristled as I read the accusations against my beloved profession, but again, I read on.  After all, perception is reality, right?  Isn’t that what we coach and teach others?  We have to manage perception?  And just like there’s no crying in baseball, there’s no ego in HR.  If there is a perception that we are not there to support our people, we need to talk about that – no matter how hard those conversations may be.

The crux of the article explained how various apps and third-party agencies could coach employees to have difficult conversations when faced with situations at work, calling this “network-based HR resources that can be responsive to worker concerns in real-time.”

Rather than looking outside of the organization for support, HR Pros, let’s challenge each other to open our doors, open our ears, take down our walls, and talk to people.  Really talk to people.  Spend time with managers, coaching them, sharing resources to help refine communication skills, empowering them to be better leaders for their teams.  Encourage our leadership to live a culture of accountability.  HR can’t “fix” the issues.  Despite popular opinion, that’s not our role.  We’re not “fixers.”  We are supporters, coaches, facilitators, and it is up to us to ensure that our organizations not only see us for who we are, but utilize us in that manner.  I accept the challenge.  Who’s with me?