People are the Purpose — You Can’t Love HR Without a Heart for PEOPLE

Note: I wrote this October 24, 2019, and the blogging equivalent of leaving an email in the draft folder happened…

I attended a workshop yesterday on mental health in the workplace. It was helpful, informative, and I feel more prepared when a situation arises as a result. The focus was on identifying and responding to possible signs of struggle in the workplace, including but not limited to: anxiety, depression, psychosis, suicide, and substance use disorder.

At one point in time, when the instructor was teaching us techniques and questions to ask to gain understanding of the situation, one of the attendees expressed that she was not comfortable asking an employee if they were thinking of committing suicide — that this person wasn’t their close friend or family member, and that they would prefer to get someone else to talk to them.

Despite my best efforts to be objective and listen non-judgmentally – a skill we had literally just gone over, I had a visceral reaction to this statement, and I said out loud that we don’t always get a choice to be comfortable in our conversations. The purpose of the workshop is to be better prepared when these situations happen. We don’t get to filter out the uncomfortable conversations. Our people need us when they need us. We can’t just tap out or tag in someone else.

We don’t get to filter out the uncomfortable conversations. Our people need us when they need us. We can’t just tap out or tag in someone else.

Pretending that this isn’t an epidemic doesn’t prepare us to help our people when they need it. I highly recommend for anyone to attend this training. There have been times in my career when I felt that I wasn’t the most prepared for the direction the conversation turned, and I’m encouraged to see that we have identified this skills gap and are providing these programs.

During lunch, I overheard a conversation where someone was referring to their soda fountain at work having 2 specific types of pop because it was what she preferred. The “perks” of being in charge of the project, she said. I was so disappointed that a peer, representing HR to her organization, completely missed an opportunity to love on her people and get what they might have preferred. It’s a little thing, but the focus was way off the mark.

My faith in humanity was restored attending #DisruptHR last night. These are my people. No one talked about how to make their job better for them or how to use the system to benefit themselves. In fact, there were discussions of enlisting the help of non-HR people to be grassroots culture ambassadors and appeal to various pockets of the population – not just the typical ideas. You can learn more about DisruptHR here: https://disrupthr.co/.

The Power of Community

A few weeks ago, I had a pretty significant health scare and ended up in the hospital. I openly joked how inconvenient it was the week before Christmas, and I almost waited it out because I’m a stubborn, independent woman, but that’s a post for another day…I called one of my best friends, scared, and she came over immediately and drove me to the ER satellite by my house.

I believe in the power of prayer. That’s my belief. I don’t require that you also have that belief. You can talk to any of my friends. We don’t have to have the same beliefs whatsoever in order to have a relationship. Because of this belief, when I arrived at the ER, scared and not knowing what was going on, I went to Facebook – which is my more private social media account, and I simply asked for “prayers, please.” The response was – and continues to be overwhelming.

In that post alone, 77 people commented that they were praying for me, or if prayer wasn’t their connection to healing, they were doing their thing. Let me tell you, I felt the support. Not long after that post, I received countless FB messages, Twitter DMs, and texts. Not just texts from my friends that I talk to every day, people that I have only occasionally connected with took time out of their evening to reach out to me and lend their support and words.

The next day, one of my dearest friends came to visit me, lamented over the outrage that I wasn’t allowed to have anything to eat or drink, and we even took a very much out-of-focus selfie to commemorate the visit. She’s an amazing human, and I’m so thankful to have her in my life.

I also received a visit that day from someone who works with me. She brought me a care package, including a cell phone charger, facial wipes, and lip balm — I had definitely not planned to be admitted into the hospital when I went to the ER the night before. She has no idea how much it meant to me that she took time out of her day to visit with me and bring me those things so that I could stay connected and keep my family and friends updated.

The photo on this post is from the Ohio SHRM Conference Committee, which I am so thankful to be a part of. They arrived within minutes of my discharge from the hospital, and it completely brightened my day. You see, we (my mom was there with me) had just gotten that call that my grandmother had passed away. She was 93, no longer in pain, and she was with my grandpa now, but nevertheless, it was a loss, and we were grieving.

Flowers, packages, kind words, phone calls – those things mean so much to me because they all require a priceless commodity: TIME. We all have it, and yet we don’t all use it the same. Each person that reached out to me or sent me flowers or came to visit me took TIME out of their day to do so, and I am truly thankful for that.

I continue to receive, even today, check-ins from those in my community, asking how I’m feeling, and extending their support and well wishes.

Friends, can I tell you that we are so incredibly blessed to have this global group of people, looking out for one another, sharing in our joys and our tragedies? Thank those that are in your squad, cohort, crew, tribe, band, team – whatever applies to you.

To my amazing circle of outstanding humans in my life: THANK YOU.

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.

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.

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!

Intentional Perspective — #HRRedefined Takeaway

Disclaimer: I had the honor of being a guest of Namely to attend their conference, #HRRedefined2019. As a guest, I was compensated for being there. This blog post is entirely my content – hence taking 4 weeks to find the time to put it together…

I was impressed with the speaker lineup for the conference being so young. One person that I had no idea would be there was none other than Valorie Kondos Field – “Miss Val”. She captivated the room and kept us all fully engaged and entertained.

Miss Val shared a story of her battle with cancer and her treatment. She called her chemo treatment the “chemo spa” because a spa is a place you go to feel better. Talk about perspective! She could have chosen to be discouraged and depressed because she was receiving chemo treatment, and instead she saw it as the thing that would make her better, and she embraced it.

How amazing would our own workplaces be if we were to adapt this mindset? Instead of I “have to” do something, start saying I “get to” do it. It’s a privilege. Not everyone has the same opportunities that you may have – even if the opportunity is waking up another morning and breathing in and out.

I say it often, but I truly mean it. The only person that you can control is yourself. Why not starting with being more intentional in your thoughts and your mindset?

I challenge you to bring optimism and positivity to work tomorrow, and I’d love to hear about your experience!