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.

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.

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.

Every “No” Makes Space for a “Yes”: Advice for When You Don’t Get What You Thought You Wanted, and How to be Remain Grateful

True gratitude, like true happiness, comes from within.  We are all going to encounter “no’s” in life when we really really thought we wanted a “yes.”

It’s easy to get discouraged and to be disappointed when this happens, and I want to offer a reminder when that happens:  Every “no” makes space for a “yes.”  This is true both in how you handle requests of your time as well as in how the universe responds to your requests.

When you receive a “no,” say “thank you.”  Trust that the timing wasn’t right this time or that there was more to the situation than you realized, and it truly wasn’t the right opportunity for you.

If you are the one delivering the “no,” to the extent possible, share with the person the why behind it, and if it’s a skills gap or some other roadblock to success, help that person understand how they could improve to be considered the next time the opportunity presents itself.  Is there more training this person could take?  Is there a stretch assignment that would better prepare them for the next step?

I read (listened to on Audible) a wonderful book about this called “The Best Yes:  Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands” by Lysa TerKeurst.  She provides valuable insight into the power of saying no and reserving your yesses – your best yes.  Guard your time and make sure that you are putting your energy into what is best for you and for those you serve.  Every opportunity is not created equal and will not have the same impact.  There are no do-overs.

Use your time wisely and be thankful always for every experience.  Have even more gratitude for the “no” and “not yet” that make a space for the right “yes.”

“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.