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.

Someone Needs to Hear This: Put More White Space on Your Calendar

We, as a society, have morphed into a celebration of busyness. Don’t believe me? Take a look at your calendar, and tell me how much white space there is…Now tell me how much peace vs. pressure you feel not to occupy the white space?

A few things happen when we pack our calendars and to-do lists to the point of capacity: We leave no margin for the ability to spend extra time as wanted or needed, we leave no room for the last minute “must do now” project or conversation, and we leave plenty of room for error from simply being so rushed and overwhelmed – which we brought on ourselves.

I’m my own worst critic. Most of us are. I’m also the one who controls my calendar – down to scheduling calls during my 60+ minute commute. I like to think that I’m making the best use of my time, but what I’m taking away is my white space. White space is the time that you take to brainstorm, decompress, process your day, plan your day, etc. This is necessary time, and I would bet $5 that most of us don’t have enough of this time on our calendars.

The announcement of retirement by Andrew Luck this weekend put my own priorities into perspective. I admire his ability to make the choice that he made. What about you? Would you make the same choice? Does it feel safe to do so? Would you be called a quitter? Would you be playfully chastised for throwing in the towel? How much of other’s opinions of your ability to keep all the balls in the air determine your “yes” and “no”?

We often talk about setting realistic expectations with others, and my dear friends, it is time that we set realistic expectations with ourselves. Take time to evaluate what you have committed to, what truly matters most to you, and make adjustments – guilt-free, as needed. Your stress will decrease, your productivity will increase, and your quality of life will improve. I know this because I have done this before, and I have reached the point of needing to repeat the exercise.

Someone needs to hear this – and today, that someone was me.

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.

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.