Tag Archive for change

Rock (Hammer), Paper, Scissors

the-shawshank-redemption-escapeI recently had the chance to participate at the inaugural #DisruptHR event in Cleveland.  Described as “an information exchange designed to energize, inform and empower people in the HR field,” the series is taking off thanks to the efforts and support of chief disrupter Chris Ostoich and his group at BlackbookHR.  DisruptHR kicked off last December in Cincinnati and moved on to Denver in April before landing in Cleveland; NEW events are already scheduled for Denver (August 21) and Cincinnati (September 10).

And I absolutely loved it.

There were 14 of us who spoke to the 150 attendees; we each had 5 minutes with 20 slides that auto-advanced every 15 seconds. Ignite style.  It was a fascinating preparation process – defining a grabby topic (provocative and on-the-edge) and finding ways to make the message and content memorable and ‘sticky.’  No time for fluff or filler; every word spoken had to lead the audience to the point and slides/pictures had to reinforce yet not distract.

The gist of my talk was that HR needs to stop collecting things merely for the sake of preservation;  placing them in a dusty and forgotten cabinet of curiosities.  Rather, I opined, we must begin to collect – and use – NEW things: Knowledge (which gives us power), Information (to provide us with options), People (for support), and Ideas (so we can take action and create something new). I also shared some fun facts about Napoleon’s penis.


Friend and fellow disruptor Melissa Fairman wrote a great recap of the event over at HRremix: This Ain’t Yo Momma’s HR Conference and my buddy Steve Boese captured some thoughts on the overall Cleveland and DisruptHR experience in his post Selling your non-glamorous city: 5 observations from 2 days in Cleveland. And yes; the Cleveland Indian’s Social Suite was pretty damn fun!

So what did I learn?

  • This style of event is sorely needed in HR to take our conversations about talent, people and HR in new directions. I wish every HR practitioner could attend and participate in a DisruptHR event but I also know this wouldn’t have a strong reception in every locale. This was definitely 21+ (language! alcohol! shorts and flip flops!) and there was no holding back.  Some of our more traditional/conservative/old-skool HR brothers & sisters would get offended which is a shame; the perpetuation of HR holding itself aloof and aside from real, honest conversations all for the sake of “propriety” (yes, an HR lady used that word with me) continues in certain areas.
  • The members of Cleveland’s HR Community are smart, fun, friendly, curious, and enjoy each other’s company. The event kicked off at 5:30 PM (on a school night!) with drinks & apps. Presentations and other fun rocked from 6:30 to 8 PM, and then a HUGE group headed down the street for a social at the funkalicisous Lava Lounge until about 11 PM.  This was amazing and also served to remind me that in my community we can’t get HR people to attend anything after 5 PM….let alone want to hang and discuss talent and technology and people and culture into the evening.


You know what though?  Those of us in HR who push and provoke and try to drive change are a bit like Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption, slowly digging a tunnel with our rock hammers.  It took Andy 20 years to finish that tunnel and escape into the light on the other side.

I hope it doesn’t take HR quite that long.

Thanks to Cleveland SHRM for being a primary sponsor and organizer for the event and to Frank Zupan, Tammy Colson Zupan, Lauren Rudman and Michelle Salis for working tirelessly to bring this event to Cleveland and inviting me to join in the fun! 

The Art of Leadership (Live) – #ILSHRM14

ART-word-friends-leaves-smallThe Illinois SHRM 2014 Annual Conference and Exposition (#ILSHRM14) kicked off this afternoon with a great pre-conference workshop – “The Art of Leadership” with Joe Gerstandt and Doug Shaw.

It was a wonderful afternoon exploring creativity and the possibilities that arise when we open our minds. Joe and Doug challenged us to consider what happens at the intersection of communication, style and intent. We sketched, we drew, and we laughed. We practiced storytelling techniques and we co-created. It was a safe, positive, encouraging environment and a super way to get our brains operating in a different manner than the way in which we often walk into a conference.

Joe pointed out that in HR we sometimes design things because they need to be done and not necessarily because we think through how they will work.  And as we moved through some ensuing exercises we saw how this plays out; when we change the dynamics of a group, or perhaps the messenger this can have an impact on not just the interaction but also on the end result.

The over riding takeaway that i got from the workshop was the need for those of us who work in HR to think about how we can ‘humanize” ( to shamelessly steal a word used by others) not just how we practice HR, but also how we operate as leaders…and co-workers to all the employees in our organizations.

After an exercise on using improv techniques (practicing “yes…and…”) at our tables, an attendee in the workshop pointed out that “building on the ideas of other people is much more difficult than disagreeing.”

Think about that. Whether you work in human resources or any other business function. Whether you are interacting with people on the job, in a volunteer organization or even, let’s face it, with friends and family.

Quite often, in a rush to get things done or with a personal desire to “sell our idea’ to all any who will listen, we perhaps move past both seeking support and being supportive … and right into battle mode. Winning mode.

Is it wrong to want to be victorious? Of course not. But it’s not just about “winner takes all.”

Winners can share; stories, emotions, ideas, and support.

And so can leaders.


image credit via Art is A Way

Choosing Darkness over Light

darkness lightYesterday I spent some time lamenting the reluctance of HR practitioners to adapt to change and embrace the future. I get on that wagon every now and again.

The information is right there!  How can you not see it?  It’s shiny!  It’s bright!  My god – everyone is talking about < insert it here >!

  • “You absolutely must be able to fully articulate your employer brand.”
  • “I can’t believe your career site isn’t optimized for mobile.”
  • “What do you mean you’re not doing social recognition with an embedded dashboard?”
  • “Seriously?  Posting ads on job boards is not recruiting.”
  • “You still don’t have an ATS?  Are you a luddite?”

Imagine two men seeking out the same object.

The first man, knowing what he is looking for, enters a well-lit room, sees the object of his desire, picks it up immediately, and puts it to use.

The second man enters a darkened room so his vision is not as clear.  As he seeks out this one unique object that bears some similarity to other items he must take his time.  He touches multiple things, turns them over and examines them from different angles.  He mentally categorizes each one, tests them to see how they fit with other existing pieces he owns, and works to understand if this IS, in fact, what he has been seeking.

Perhaps…just perhaps…that second man who struggled to locate the object developed a deeper understanding than the man who picked it up straight away.

Something to think about.

Will We Be Able to Make the Case for HR De-Extinction?

wooly mammoth

Much like scientists who classify living and fossil organisms into domain, kingdom, class, family, genus and species, we in HR often do the same:

  • small/medium-sized business or large business
  • industry A or industry B
  • traditional or cutting-edge
  • local or regional or global
  • stodgy industry or sexy industry
  • well-known brand vs. unknown local organization (“She worked for Nike while he only worked for Acme Community Bank.”)

We use this shorthand in a misguided attempt to categorize the knowledge and competency of any given HR professional.  We make assumptions that if Debbie HR Director worked for a local entity she won’t have the ability to understand the complexity of a regional, let alone global, organization.  This also manifests itself in job postings that require specific industry experience; the assumption being that even though Debbie spent 20 years leading HR functions in health care and technology she would not have the capacity to immerse herself into learning and understanding the banking industry.

We pigeonhole people for any number of reasons; in an attempt to screen candidates, when creating an invite list for an event or conference or, quite frankly, when being cliquish and elitist.

Now there is, I have to admit, one demarcation listed up there that makes sense to me although I may have used the wrong terms. Perhaps they should be:

Traditional: dreary, tedious, humorless, out-of-touch, rooted in the past, focused on HR as compliance…primarily.  Focused on HR as compliance … only.

Cutting edge: future focused, ever evolving, not content with the status quo. Restless, curious, excited.  Ready to challenge and be challenged.


I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit as I’ve been preparing to head to Cleveland this week for DisruptHR. We’re going to talk about talent, culture, technology and people – in a new way – because DISRUPT is an information exchange designed to energize, inform and empower people in the HR field.

Lord knows we needs some energizing.

I’ve had a few moments over the last several weeks where, in various conversations with mid-career human resource professionals I hit anew a level of frustration.  Why, I wondered yet again, is there such aversion to acknowledging that the old-ways-you-learned-to-do-HR in 1991 are no longer sufficient?  Why, I marveled during one discussion, do HR practitioners sink in their heels and adamantly refuse to explore the potential benefits of change?

Am I being cliquish and elitist myself?  Are those of us who attempt to push, pull and drag our colleagues to places where they don’t wish to go guilty of emphasizing these segmentations?

I don’t think so.  Nor do I believe that’s the intent of any individual or group. Rather there’s a conviction that a rising tide lifts all boats; collective change is required for the survival of both the HR function and individual HR practitioners.

At some point in the very near future the CEOs, COOs and CFOs who are hiring HR professionals will demand a different kind of HR. When the boomers in charge (finally) retire and the next C-level exec (born during the Reagan administration) in charge of hiring the HR leader takes over, s/he isn’t going to put up with traditional crap; no matter the industry.  No matter the size.  No matter the brand.  Stacks of spreadsheets, outdated and cumbersome hiring practices, love for command-and-control, and an aversion to technology already pegs many HR practitioners as out of touch dinosaurs; keeping up the same old same old means they will soon be merely fossilized remains.

And if our profession perishes will anyone care enough to bring us back a la the Australian gastric-brooding frog?  Or will our business partners be happy to say good riddance – relegating us to museums to cuddle up alongside the skeletons of the wooly mammoth and the T-Rex?

I don’t want to run the risk that someone, somewhere, will have to make the case for HR de-extinction. Unless we all push the boundaries a bit more I don’t think there will be a lot of support for the revival of the HR species.

It’s time to face it; there’s already been disruption in the workplace.

It’s time – well past time – to disrupt HR so we can catch up.


image: The Woolly Mammoth at the Royal BC Museum, Victoria, British Columbia. (wikicommons)