Archive for lance

Time to Push Some Buttons

Yesterday I was pondering about courage.

And a few days ago Julien Smith had a post at “In Over Your Head” about disobedience.

Is being disobedient part of finding your courage?  And not just being disobedient in small, pathetic, passive-aggressive ways.  But rather,  indulging in BIG, BOOMING, SHOWY and SPECTACULAR acts.

Are you ready for this?  Will you push some buttons?

image courtesy of photobucket

Marky Mark and the Courageous Bunch

We in HR can be a timid bunch.

While there are numerous opportunities to move this profession and organizations constantly forward, there continue to be strong, knowledgeable HR folks who are as shy and disinterested as the wallflower at the 8th grade cotillion.  Is it, perhaps, a lack of courage?


It’s a shame to let talent and smarts go to waste. The collective women/men of HR  need to move away from the wall and grow some cojones courage. Forthwith – the ‘pep talk’:

  • SPEAK UP!  Don’t shy away from conflict and don’t ever fail to speak up for what is right or appropriate.  Open your lips and share the good, the bad and the hard-to-hear.
  • Show some initiative. Step up and take on additional responsibilities.  And I don’t mean offering to start a blood-drive or managing the company’s recycling
    program or adding another couple of vendors to the Annual Open Enrollment Health Fair.  Initiate action in areas outside of your job/department/function/organization.
  • Be confident.  Believe in yourself and take some risks.  Deep down, you’ve got the knowledge and the savvy, so don’t be afraid to show what you can do.  Embrace your credibility – and put it to work.

Now that’s a Good Vibration.

Influencing an Extraordinary Future; a 9/11 Legacy

I’m honored to share a beautiful and moving guest post today from my friend Christine Lewis-Varley.  As you reflect and observe on this 9/11 anniversary, I encourage you to read this post which demonstrates the resiliency of the human spirit.


This weekend we’re going to be inundated by media hype – we’re going to see the planes go into the Towers time and again. We’re going to switch the TV off because it’s so incredibly sad and there’s nothing we can do to make it better.  We can’t take it back, we can’t rewind the movie.

In some ways it seems like a life time since September 11th 2001 and in other ways it seems like yesterday. Certainly none of us will ever forget where we were, what we were doing and how we felt.  I wanted to share a story with you.

Amongst the thousands of memories that I have of September 11th 2001 I have one very special one that is forever imprinted on my heart.  A young woman, by the name of Anya, was living in Brooklyn with her husband Alexander – they were from Siberia.  Alexander was a very young technology guru who was brought to the US by Leman Brothers to work in New York.  Alexander brought with him his young twenty year old bride, Anya.  After several months in the US Cantor Fitzgerald contacted Alexander and offered him a job working for them in the World Trade Center.  Alexander was very excited, it was more money and he and Anya had not realized how expensive it would be to live in New York and so additional money was going to be tremendous for them.  The rest is history! 

Alexander called Anya just before he died and told her what was happening.  All alone, Anya watched the television for hours and days until someone from Cantor realized that she must be alone – they sent people to sit with her, to comfort her until her young sister arrived from Siberia.  Anya was 20 and her sister was 19 and neither spoke English! 


After September 11th 2001 I was very honored to join a small group of New York female executives in the rag trade who opened their hearts and their businesses to the women who had been left behind after their husbands, fiancées and significant others had been killed.  The mission of this small group was to help the women talk, share, explore and start to get involved in completely different areas of work than most of them had ever dreamt of.  The idea being to that these new and different areas would help the women have something different to think about as they moved through this agonizing period of their lives.   As a side note – it was amazing – the CEOs of fashion houses such as Ann Taylor, Perry Ellis, DKNY and others that I can’t think of right now, offered the women jobs, apprenticeships, days in the life of – anything they could think of that would provide a distraction for just a little while!  It was amazing and truly an experience that none of us will forget. (WITHH = Women in Transition Helping and Healing.)

We met many times with various groups of women and we talked and talked and it was at one of these gatherings that I had the pleasure of meeting Anya for the first time.  She was the most beautiful young woman, as you can imagine, blonde and blue eyed.  She and her sister sat quietly together, listening intently to the other women as they shared their stories.  I watched Anya very carefully and I could see that she was trying to figure out how to say something in English – I reached for her hand and squeezed it gently and attempted to send as much supportive energy as I could.   She started to speak – you could hear a pin drop.  Very carefully and quietly she shared with the room of strangers, united by a bond that nobody wanted, many of whom were understandably angry and frustrated and others who were silent and crying as they listened to the women share their feelings. 

Anya told of the horror she experienced – how she had sat in her apartment alone for the first few days and how she would hear the heavy footprints in the hallway outside her apartment; she would know they were coming for her to sign a receipt that another fragment of Alexander’s remains had been identified.  She told of her difficulty in understanding what was being said; she told of her loneliness and terror in a foreign country.  She told of her sister’s arrival days later and the comfort she’d found in being able to talk to someone in her own language.  She spoke for several minutes – nobody cared that she struggled hard to put the words together to make sense and often used her hands to show her meaning and other times asked for help to clearly make her point understood. 

She completed her story and then she shared something that was extraordinary coming from anyone, especially someone so young.  Anya said that she didn’t want her wonderful memory of Alexander to be marred by hate.  That she didn’t hate the people who had done this.  She said that she felt sorry – terribly sorry.  She wanted to understand why they hated so much and why they could do something so horrendous.  She said she would spend the rest of her life teaching love and helping children build bridges of love and understanding rather than hate and terror. 

You can imagine – the women in the room received Anya’s message with very mixed feelings – they certainly had a right to hate but here was a young women, who had gone through this terror alone, who was in a foreign country away from her parents – and her message was of love not hate. 

I was very fortunate to become Anya’s surrogate mother in the US until she left three years later.  We spent many hours on my porch in West Hartford, talking about her future, her past – what she was going to do with her life and how what had happened to her was going to influence her future.  Anya went on to graduate from NYU and is now home in Siberia with her family, she has found a new love and one day she says she may get married.  She’s a teacher, and best of all, she has founded an organization with a friend in New York to bring Siberian children to the US and American children to Siberia.  Anya would often tell me, as she laughed with delight, that when people found that she came from Siberia they immediately asked “how?”  She said the Americans she had met thought that Siberia was made up of snow and bears – they had no idea people actually lived there.  The truth is that Anya lived on the second floor above an open shopping mall – she would make me laugh when she told me how she would have a date and have to run downstairs to the shops to buy a pair of tights!  (FYI – her clothes were off the charts – fashion in Siberia is very high style).


I will never forget Anya and her amazing soul – old and wise beyond her years and blessed with a grace that is almost impossible to comprehend.

I met so many women, there were so many stories – those are the people I want to hear from this weekend.  I don’t want to watch the planes go into the towers – that happened, there’s nothing we can do to change it.   I want to hear and see about the incredible guts and determination that those left behind have harnessed and used to do extraordinary things with their lives – those are the people I want to hear about. 

This Sunday I will go to church and thank God for standing by my side – even when I ignore him as I have done so many times.  I will hang my American flag this weekend and I hope you will too.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on the media – I have just heard another great story of a wife of a young husband and father of three who lost his life in September 11th 2001.  She has started a foundation to help Afghanistan women create small businesses so that they can make their own money to buy materials and build schools to educate their children. 

I wonder what I would have done had I been one of the women left behind – would I have had the guts to carry on?  I wonder! 

“A Hooligans’ Game Played by Gentlemen” (and Women)

In recognition of the Rugby World Cup which starts tomorrow, I thought it might be fun to celebrate with a blast from the past – also known as a blog post from the archives.  My friend Trish McFarlane over at the HR Ringleader was kind enough to let me guest post on her blog way back in February 2010 in the pre-HR Schoolhouse days.  Go visit Trish and don’t forget – you still have time to join her at HRevolution this year.


On many Saturdays throughout the year, I’m either attending or watching a rugby match.  Rugby is a worldwide game, although nowhere near as popular in the US as it is in other parts of the world.  My husband, being from South Africa, grew up playing the game and even as an adult he continues by coaching a local team.  It has always been part of his life.

As an American, however, I’ve had to learn the game primarily by watching and asking a LOT of questions.  There are about 45 referee signals alone; the only one I always remember is the one for “bleeding wound” (don’t ask).

And while there are many awesome things I enjoy about the sport, there are some key attributes of rugby that have always struck me as being closely related to our world of HR:

Rugby has “laws,” not rules

The International Rugby Board establishes the laws that apply to rugby played all over the world; laws which serve to provide clarity and understanding among players, referees and spectators.  In addition, the rules assess punishment for violation in proportion to the infraction.  When a player continues to commit the same infraction incrementally, it may ultimately lead to the referee issuing a yellow card and sending the player to the “sin bin” where he is banished for 10 minutes to think about/contemplate his actions.   However, severe misconduct will lead to a “red card” – banishment from the rest of the match.

HR LESSON: HR policies are based on law; this is why we have Harassment Policies for example.   And we are certainly well-served by having HR policies that provide clarity and understanding of consequences.   I would much rather communicate practices based on reasoning than enforce “rules” which implies governing the actions of many due to the behavior of a few (Hello?  Dress Code policy?). 

Rugby has a fundamental value of being “gentlemanly”

There’s a saying that “football is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans, and rugby is a hooligans’ game played by gentlemen”.  While the game, if watched casually, appears to be violent, the behavior and demeanor by the players is truly “polite.”  No one argues with the referee; in fact, even in the most heated moments, teammates will quickly restrain a teammate who even appears to be thinking of questioning a decision.  And they all call the referee “sir.”  A field full of hulking, sweating, hard-breathing players referring to the referee deferentially and politely as “sir” is a sight to behold.

HR LESSON: If we embrace a culture and manner of treating others respectfully, that attitude and behavior can infiltrate throughout our organizations.

Anyone can play rugby

This is truly an equal-opportunity sport.  If you watch a rugby match, you will note that players are short, tall, stout, thin, fast and slow.   While there are 15 players on the pitch (field) at any one time, each position requires characteristics and skills specific to that position.   That being said however, each player MUST possess the same core competencies because everyone has to be able to tackle, catch, carry and pass the ball at any time. And every single player participates fully throughout the duration of the match.

HR LESSON: Recognizing that individuals bring something unique and special to the organization is what workplace diversity is all about.  If we can get all employees on board and “solid” in the core skills and organizational competencies, we can allow them to be free to use their INDIVIDUAL and unique talents for the betterment of themselves AND the organization.

Rugby players regard their injuries as badges of honor

At every match or gathering of rugby players, one is bound to see cauliflower ears, black-eyes, well-worn scars, and even a dislocated limb or two….and hear the history behind it.   Rugby players “play hard” but they are also well-trained and conditioned to be physically and mentally prepared.  A good rugby player is constantly accessing the risks and planning play on what he assesses.  Playing smart is what’s important.  This includes being physically in good condition since endurance and stamina are important as the play in rugby is “straight through” the two 40-minute halves – no time outs!

HR LESSON: Taking well thought out risks can lead to a positive outcome, and it’s a given that we may endure some bumps and bruises along the way. But if we encourage people to endure and “play on” and make it OK for them to occasionally fail, they can look back at the lessons learned as THEIR badges of honor.

Rugby players are bound together by their “passion” for the game

There is truly a community within rugby, and at any gathering of current or former players, NO ONE is a stranger.  This comes from the history, values and traditions of the sport.   There are shared songs and stories, and rugby players emit a very strong passion for their game.   This camaraderie among players builds strong social networks, and while two teams may engage in a hard-fought match, once the referee signals the end of the game with his whistle, ALL the players unite in celebration; I think it’s really a mandatory element of the game!  And yes, there will be ‘several’ glasses of ale, beer or some other libation hoisted.

HR LESSON: Building, living and sharing your organizational culture can lead to a sense of community, excitement and passion for your employees.  Move beyond the “mission statement” and do some cultural story-telling to build a true workplace community.

So while I may not have grown up as a fan of rugby, I have found it to be an exciting sport to watch and a vibrant and fun community in which to be involved.  Plus, rugby is just sort of cool……………… and isn’t that what we want HR to be?