Fearless HR

A Fearless HR LeaderLast week, one of my favorite HR bloggers, called on HR to get in Formation.  Reflecting on Beyonce’s Super Bowl performance, Sarah Williams wrote a nuanced article not only discussing Beyonce but also the implications of her Formation message in our organizations. This is one of my favorite parts of the article:

“… As leaders, it is time to get in Formation. It is time to use our influence to send clear messages about the things that are important. It is time to actively create opportunities for people who wouldn’t otherwise get them without our help. I’m not talking about throwing all caution to the wind to promote purely personal agendas …I’m talking about holding our organizations accountable for and moving them toward walking the talk on the issues they say they care about.”

I thought about those words as I responded to questions about Black History Month, family friendly workplaces and gay pride at work. People know I work in HR and regardless of company size I get some questions on these topics. In the diversity space, people are quick to see when the company’s message doesn’t fit the representation (i.e., a company is promoting a diversity initiative but the senior leadership doesn’t contain a single woman or minority). Continue reading “Fearless HR”

Embrace It or Change It

It will be a while before we have drinks on the patio
It will be a while before we have drinks on the patio

It’s a classic winter day here in Cleveland.  Highs in the 30’s and 8-10 inches forecasted to fall between Sunday and Monday morning.  Along with the snow comes the usual amount of reactions: panic rushes to the grocery store (I thought this only happened in Richmond, I was wrong),  complaints about the snow and cold and of course delight from those that love winter weather.


Living in northern climates can be tough on the body and mind when the winter seems endless and you haven’t seen green grass for a month but I find that a big portion of coping is determined by your attitude.


My un-scientific observation is that people either embrace the cold and snow (yea its 35!) or they spend 4-5 months of the year miserable and complaining.  Yes,  the snow gets old and yes layering up gets old but on the other hand its January.  What do you expect when you live in a cold climate?


To survive a long, cold winter you either embrace it or change it.


I feel the same way about work.


Most of us have to work. We don’t have the option to holiday for three months while deciding our next job.  Where and who we work with has a huge influence on our personal happiness just like the climate we live in. For some, the cold climate of the Midwest is too much. Others, couldn’t fathom living in an area so hot you don’t get a true change in season.  Companies and work places are similar. Some love the long hours and ultra- competitive nature of some companies, others enjoy a slower pace where they don’t have to worry constantly about an “up or out” mentality.


To survive the 30-40 years most of us will spend working you have to determine what you can tolerate, what you can embrace and what you want to change.


An example from my early work career: I started off my post-college career with a job in customer service.  Which I hated. I hated it with a passion.  The problem is that I liked everyone I worked with, I just hated my job in customer service. I weighed the plusses and minuses and decided I could not embrace the customer service role, there was literally nothing positive about that job except for the people I worked with. From that experience I learned two valuable things:

1. A good team can make a bad job tolerable

2.  I was not meant to be tied to a chair answering phones and getting screamed at by people all day


Throughout my career I have done something similar when I contemplated a change: 

I’ve asked myself if the problems I have with my job are petty annoyances, serious issues or just a fact of life (we will always be asked to do more with less)

I’ve asked myself if I can change my current circumstance

If I embrace my current circumstances will that be compromising my ethics? Morals? Or personal beliefs?


The Only Quote You Need in 2015


“I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show, and all 30,000 had one thing in common: They all wanted validation. If I could reach through this television and sit on your sofa or sit on a stool in your kitchen right now, I would tell you that every single person you will ever meet shares that common desire. They want to know: ‘Do you see me? Do you hear me? Does what I say mean anything to you?” – The Oprah Winfrey Show, final episode


This quote should be a guideline for how we (HR) interact with people at our organizations.  We talk a lot about engaging and recognizing employees and those are good, necessary discussions but I think it starts at a much more basic level. It starts with respect.  That is what Oprah’s quote gets at.  Are we respecting the people in our organizations that dedicate 40+ hours a week to their jobs? How are we treating the people who want to work at our companies? The people whose jobs we have to eliminate? The people who maybe need a little more guidance and support to do their jobs?


This week, you, me and the rest of the world are heading back to work.  We’re tired, we didn’t get as much rest as we should have, there is stuff around the house we didn’t finish and now we have no holidays or time off for the next couple months.  Oh and its January, cold and bleak.  At some point this week someone is going to walk into your office or call or email you and that interaction will make you roll your eyes or mutter “WTF?” under your breath.  I want you to take a deep breath, pause and listen.


That’s it. Just listen.  You don’t have to agree with the person. I’m not suggesting you withhold judgement or your original thought. Just listen.


Maybe you will change your mind. Maybe you won’t. But acknowledging and validating that someone is there and acknowledging their concerns goes a long way to building a great company that people want to work for.




How To Get A Promotion


All this talk about the Olympics has me thinking about the hard work and dedication necessary to get to the top level of your field. I can’t help but be astonished by the years of training and effort that go into reaching Olympics level achievement.

To reach the Olympics alone is an amazing accomplishment, to take it to the next level and medal even more so.

I wish people would apply 10% of an Olympic athlete’s effort to maintain and enhance their career.  To get ahead and get promoted you need at least that much dedication, effort, and hard work.

What does it take though? How do you convince your company you are ready for bigger and better things?

Well, a lot of it depends on the kind of company you work for and if you are looking to move ahead in your department, cross departments or move into a completely different part of the company.  Although situations vary, here are some basic tips to get you started:

1. Understand the politics in your organization.  Yes, you need to spend time understanding and even playing a little politics. I’ll take a pause here while outraged readers tell me about how THEY don’t do politics…OK here is why you need politics:  Understanding and playing the political game helps you understand how to go about getting the promotion you want.  Is kissing up important? Working on the XYZ Money Generating Account? Taking an overseas assignment? Or working at corporate headquarters?

2. Now that you understand the politics, select your target.  What you want to do is going to determine this step.  Do you want to be a manger? Start working on your people skills.  Talk to managers inside your company.  What skills do they have? What makes them successful in their job?

3. Get the skills – You know what you need to do now get it done. This is where you start working on the skills you need to develop to get that promotion. This could mean taking some classes at night, getting certified in your field, or taking on some stretch assignments.

4. Make the case – You know what you need to do and you’ve gotten the skills.  Now it’s time to make the case for your promotion.  This could be in the interview or it could be pitching the idea to your boss.  Regardless the venue, make sure you present a reasonable, professional case that highlights how your skills fit and will enhance the new role.  This is not the time to ask for the 25% raise.


After all that what if you don’t get the job? Well that stinks and you have to try again (sorry no secret HR advice here) but whatever happens, remain gracious and professional.  How you handle the negative is just as important (if not more so) then how you handle the good stuff.

This post originally appeared on TalentZoo.com on August 22, 2012. 

Step Into the Arena

Stepinto the Arena


The Arena is anything. It’s that business you want to start, the job you want, the novel half-finished or whatever you haven’t done yet. How many of you are sitting outside the arena telling yourself that when the situation is “right” you will take the leap? 


     “When I have more money saved up.” 

     “When I finish my degree.” 

     “When my kids are in college.” 

     “When the grand-kids are older.” 

“When I’ve lost 10 pounds.”


When. When. When. Is the repetition as annoying to you as it is to me? Stop saying it! Open the door and just do it. 

Note: this comic is adapted from an excellent Tedx talk, click here to view it.