You Can’t Help if You Don’t Take the Oxygen Mask

At some point in your career, you will inevitably encounter a situation where the most important aspect of your job will be supporting someone else – maybe one person, maybe a department, maybe your entire organization.

Here’s the thing. If you don’t first take care of yourself, you will be in no position to take care of anyone else. This is the reason for the flight attendant saying to put the oxygen mask on yourself before placing on anyone else.

Understand that it’s not selfish to practice self-care – or whatever you call it. You can’t bring your best if you don’t first take care of yourself.

You are also showing your team and your org that you are human, humans require care, and it’s not only safe for you to be human, but it’s safe for others as well, and you will support them as they care for themselves as well.

It is our responsibility as leaders to not only take care of ourselves, but to also create that safety for others to understand the strength both required and displayed at recognizing when you need to take a breath.

Your breath may not look the same as someone else’s. What refills and renews you is personal, and what works for you may not work for someone else, but it’s not for them – it’s for you.

Take care. Love yourself enough to be healthy to help others. You have no idea how much they need you – even if they don’t ask.

A Lesson in Compromise – Be Like Carol

The image associated with this post is of my dear friend Carol’s jewelry box.

Carol was born in England, and when she emigrated to the US, the left behind her jewelry box that her uncle had given her. She discovered the box at her sister’s house, and the two got into quite a discussion about who the box belonged to.

Do you see the paper below the jewelry box? That’s an envelope.

Every year, on her sister’s birthday, Carol gives her sister the jewelry box and puts a piece of jewelry or other token in the box for her to enjoy. Then, in November, her sister gives it back to her! This way they can both enjoy this beautiful wooden keepsake. What a wonderful lesson in love and compromise!

What is your “jewelry box”? Do you have anything you are holding onto or withholding from others that you could share, or at least compromise? It doesn’t have to be something tangible, it could be your time, your money, your resources.

What can you do today to be more like Carol and her sister?

#Workhuman Takeaway — Resilience and Grit

I had the extreme fortune of attending #Workhuman this week in Nashville. I am very fortunate to work for an organization that believes in professional growth and supports me attending conferences like this one. I know that not all organizations share this same sentiment or simply don’t have the budget to send their leaders to conferences for professional development, and I am grateful.

I attended every keynote at the conference, and I’m sure every attendee took away something different and certain aspects resonated more than others. For me, it was a theme of resilience and grit. Resilience resonated with me so much, in fact, that it was my word that I had engraved on the leather key fob as a conference attendee.

While I was most excited to see Brené Brown (and she was fan-freaking-tastic), I was most impacted by Viola Davis‘s story. The spectacular Steve Pemberton, Chief People Officer for Workhuman, formerly known as Globoforce. Steve’s story is all about overcoming obstacles, so it was no surprise that he was the one chosen to interview Viola in the closing keynote on the Workhuman stage.

I knew a little bit of Viola’s story already. She was featured in Braving the Wilderness, my first exposure to Brené Brown, so I knew she had grown up in abject poverty in Rhode Island, her father was an abusive alcoholic, and that she didn’t let it define her or live in fear or shame. What I didn’t know, was how she continued to overcome no matter the obstacles.

In her interview with Steve, Viola shared how she had received a hand up, a wonderful opportunity to attend a performing arts school via a scholarship because someone believed in her. The school, however, was not located remotely close to where she lived. She had to leave 3 hours early and take 3 different buses to get there. She was poor, you’ll remember, so she didn’t just pay 3 bus fares and go to school. She shared that sometimes she would walk the first leg of the trip to get to the second bus, then walk the last leg. The school, like many, had a late policy. There was no consideration of the why, if she was late, she was late.

What struck me the most about this was the grit and determination that Viola had to make it work. She could have turned down the scholarship, citing the commute, waiting on something closer or waiting on someone else to solve the distance problem for her. She could have stopped going when it got tough. So many times she could have given up, and yet she kept going and worked hard to succeed – despite all odds.

How many times in our own organizations or households have we seen opportunity squandered or explained away because it was going to be too much work or sacrifice our time? The world is a much better place because of people like Viola sharing their stories, and I can only imagine the impact that she will continue to have.

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.

Resolutions? Simple. Be Kind. Stay Positive

It seems simple enough, but I hope that we all share a resolution this year and every year:  Be Kind.  Stay Positive.

There are very few situations in life and business where a little kindness and positivity can’t help.  When a mistake is made, humility and kindness go a long way.  Likewise with communication mishaps or misunderstandings.

Kindness and a spirit of curiosity vs judgment is essential in conflict and when dealing with uncharted territory as well.  There are very few things that are irreparable.  They may take work to correct – and sometimes a LOT of work, but very few things can’t be fixed, and if we can all keep that in mind, I think we’ll treat each other a lot differently.

Assuming AND COMMUNICATING positive intent can be the difference behind “We are trying this new process to improve the business, and we are excited about it – please provide feedback along the way so we can make sure we all succeed!” vs. “Look, don’t shoot the messenger.  They have no idea how much work we already have to do, and now they are changing it AGAIN.  I tried to go to bat for you, but they don’t listen to me, either.”  Positivity and kindness – difference makers.

If you lead teams, you represent the organization for them.  Resolve to be a positive representation of the organization.  If you are optimistic for the future of your department and the organization, your team will take their cues from you.  Let’s all aim to build more bridges, lift our teams up, and to begin 2019 with 365 chances to have a fresh perspective each day.  We will inevitably catch ourselves not living this value.  Forgive yourself and do better the next day.

Be kind and stay positive – to yourself and others.

It’s Okay to Ask for Help

Being in HR for nearly 15 years, I can tell you that I know my strengths and my weaknesses.

Patience is not one of my virtues.  However, it is vitally important when you are unemployed.  In my prior role, I had a rule with my team that when we had an applicant, we responded to them within 24 hours – even if all we were saying was “I don’t have an answer, yet.  I will get back to you.”  When someone is unemployed or currently employed and contemplating making a change, every hour counts to them.  We didn’t always meet 24 hours – sometimes it was 48 hours or the next business day, and we took advantage of every automation possible to help us be more efficient.  A good ATS should help you communicate more effectively with your candidates – not hinder it.  That’s a post for another day, though.

Asking for help is another struggle for me.  When you have a servant leader mentality, you want to help others – not yourself.  My blog is HR Without Ego because I don’t ask for praise or thanks.  I take satisfaction from helping others and knowing I made an impact.  In the current state of the job market, however, I have learned that it’s okay to not only ask for help but to accept it.  I have always built my network based on a pay it forward mentality, and I was very uncomfortable asking anyone to reciprocate.  However, that changed thanks to coffee one morning with John Rhoads who I met at the HR Roundtable moderated by the fantastic Steve Browne.

John is a life coach, and trust me, when you think you’re going to retire from your current company, the harsh reality that you’re not is hard to take.  He was the first person that I had spoken the words “my last day is next Friday” to at the Roundtable that morning, and I nearly cried saying it.  I’m sure I looked like it because he looked at me and said:

“It’s going to be okay.  You’re going to be okay.”

I was nervous to meet him for coffee that morning for a multitude of reasons.  First, I was embarrassed that I had lost my job.  Second, I didn’t want to ask anyone for help.  I was in HR, after all, I do this for a living.  Shouldn’t I know how this works?  Third, I was facing unemployment, so if he was selling something, I wasn’t buying.

I survived the meeting, nerves and all, and I was so glad that I had not talked myself out of going.  John had just posted this video that morning, the importance of owning our story.  He reminded me that it’s okay to ask for help, and that I’m most valuable helping my next organization, so I need to focus my efforts, own my story, and in the meantime, I will blog about the journey of being “in search” (where did that name come from?) and hopefully help others that are in a similar circumstance.

Thank You. It has been my privilege.

Today, I sent a message that I wasn’t ready to send.  I’m still not ready.  I haven’t helped enough.  I’m not in a place where I can say “I’ve done all I can do, and now it’s time to help someone else.”  I just got started with my amazing team, and I’m not ready to go.

It’s not about my timing, though.  This is the best decision for the organization, and so I am saying goodbye to the company I love with all my heart and the people I have grown with and learned from for the last 5 years.  It has been my esteemed honor and privilege to serve them.  I want to thank them, no matter the position or title, for teaching me about compassion, selflessness, and for the amazing work that they do every day to care for our patients and their families.  They truly live their passion, and it has been my esteemed honor and privilege to serve them and watch them grow.  I have put my heart and soul into this, and I will be forever grateful to have had the opportunity.

If you have a job that you love, supporting amazing people, doing valuable work, appreciate it a little more today.  It is your privilege to support them.