Tag Archive for SHRM

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

HR: ‘Merica Style

US_Flag_WavyAs any member of SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management) can tell you, for 65 years the organization has maintained a strong political presence and worked to be influential in shaping employment policies and laws.  Staff members in SHRM’s Government Affairs Department attend political conventions, regularly testify to congress, and promote activities that ensure HR’s voice is heard when politicians and policymakers are debating, crafting and promoting legislation. Within the last few years, in an effort to enhance HR’s visibility among policymakers, SHRM launched the SHRM Advocacy Team; a network of SHRM member throughout the 435 US Congressional districts. The Government Affairs team also puts together resources for members and the public including the 2014 Guide to Public Policy Issues.

And yet…

… I’ve recently chatted with several HR professionals who made it clear this doesn’t matter.  “I don’t follow politics” said one with a dismissive wave.  I sensed a bit of preening as this badge of honor was proudly affixed to her HR lady blazer.

I’ve run into HR colleagues who don’t know who their US Congressional representative is, nor do they seem to care.  In a recent discussion there was no recognition when I mentioned the name of the state’s US Senator…who is up for re-election in 4 short months.  A blank stare, a few blinks of the eyes, and a resigned shrug.

I’m not even sure it’s a case of, as Tip O’Neill famously said back in the 30’s, “all politics is local.”  There are numerous US citizens (not just HR ladies) who have fully divorced themselves from politics.  Is it apathy or disgust that has led to many no longer even seeming to care up about the relatively simple and pedestrian issues that affect their neighborhood, borough or city?

I’m not here to contemplate the failures of the US political machine or the disengagement of voters.

I’m here to point out that HR practitioners are doing a great disservice to the profession and to their organizations when they don’t know – and don’t care.

Office politics, one of HR’s well-worn phrases, is nothing compared to POLITICS.

Time to give a damn.


image courtesy of wikimedia

Dominatrix Games: Employee Recognition Edition #SHRM14

Cat_o'_nineEvery year when I attend the big show (#SHRM14) I find myself focusing on one specific area. Occasionally this has been purposeful – such as the year when I visited HRMS vendors in anticipation of purchasing a new system or the year I threw myself headlong into lots of compliance-focused sessions as I was in the midst of doing a major revamp on policies/handbook.  More often than not however I let the theme, as it were, organically emerge during and after the conference.

When I returned home at the end of last week I realized that what tickled my fancy and piqued my interest in 2014 were discussions and observations in the area of “recognition.”  I spent quite a bit of time with Globoforce discussing social recognition (they hosted an HR Influencer Series Live event in their booth and I was thrilled to be asked to participate) and I also made a point of visiting my friends at Achievers who had World Cup coverage (smart!) streaming in their booth.   I purposefully took a stroll through the section in the Expo Hall where the Rewards/Recognition/Incentive vendors were set up; I saw exhibitors working to convince HR ladies that the secret to productivity engagement retention is as simple as providing service/milestone awards, fresh fruit in the break room, gift cards, candy with the company logo, and jewelry.

Well…I do like jewelry.

Look…SHRM itself likes to play the recognition game.  Embedded within the DNA of the conference is an enhanced awareness of shining the light, if even momentarily, on individual members and attendees.  The writers for the Conference Daily (the magazine dropped off at hotels and handed out at the convention center) make a point of interviewing attendees and highlighting their individual experiences at the event.  I saw HR practitioners going into apoplectic shock on the twitter stream with a hint of recognition: “OMG. I just saw my tweet up on the big screen in the general session! #shrm14”  HR gals and guys paraded proudly with 15 ribbons dangling from the bottom of their conference badges informing each other that they were, in fact, “PHR” “Chapter President” “HR Diva”

Is it any wonder that HR practitioners, detoxing after caffeine and chocolate fueled delirium swag grabs in the Expo Hall, desire to replicate the heady rush of getting “stuff?” They stream back to the office after 4+ days living in a Cloud Cuckoo Land eager to hand out useless tchotkes to underpaid and overworked employees.

It’s easy.

It’s much easier than doing the hard work required to truly understand  organizational culture, values, vision and purpose.  It’s not as daunting as educating leaders, empowering managers, and determining how to link recognition and rewards to business objectives.  It’s the type of HR ‘metric’ that feels comfortable; measuring activities or efficiencies (“We only spent $5k and everyone got a tshirt on Founder’s Day!”) rather than outcomes.

Yet…I had numerous conversations with attendees around the “why” and “how” of recognition as opposed to the “what” which seemed to signal a shift in thinking and understanding. Even those who became submissive to the dominant vendors who exist primarily to promote shiny stuff (sexy technology, branded catalogs, badges – sheesh!) are stepping out of the fog and asking “wait…why are we doing this?”


On my way out of town I stood next to an incentive vendor in the TSA pre-check line. Upon seeing his laptop bag emblazoned with company logo (and thus knowing he was escaping #SHRM14) I struck up a conversation.  As we wound our way between the stanchions the conversation progressed and he began to expound upon the need to recognize workers in different ways based upon their generations.  “I speak at a lot of conferences,” he informed me. “I make sure people understand their younger workers need to be recognized differently. Older workers don’t need the same things.”

“That’s a bunch of crap and stereotyping the generations drives me mad,” said I.  “If you were to run me through your ‘generational checklist’ I can guarantee my needs/desires for recognition will not fit your stereotypes; I’m a Boomer but I’ll look like one of your 23 year olds.”

And then, I kid you not, he rolled his eyes. “You need to be thanked 7 times a day?  You expect to be told that you’re doing a good job?  All the time?”

“You bet I do,” I replied.  “I’m a human being.”

He couldn’t grab up his bag fast enough and get away from me.

Probably eager to get home and await the multitudinous phone calls from the conference attendees who bought his spiel … and will buy his goods.


image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons


The Power of Optimism with @RobinRoberts #SHRM14

robin robertsThe 2014 SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition kicked off this afternoon with opening keynote speaker Robin Roberts. Anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America,” in 2007 Robin was diagnosed with breast cancer and then, in 2012, she underwent a life-saving bone marrow transplant for myelodysplastis syndrome. She needed a bone marrow donation and, in her case, received the donation from her sister Sally-Ann Roberts, an anchor at WWL in New Orleans. (note – although Robin grew up in Mississippi, we in Louisiana have always considered her one of ours; she attended Southeastern Louisiana University and graduated cum laude with a degree in communication).  

Roberts is a motivating force and fierce advocate for the Be The Match (BMT) donor registry and #SHRM14 attendees will be able to sign up to become donors in Hall B1.  Others who are interested can find information about Be The Match at www.bethematch.org.

A few thoughts that Robin shared with the audience:

“I know a thing or two about transformation.  Those experiences, good or bad, have transformed my life.”

The challenge, the tragedy is not what are facing, the tragedy is if we don’t take time to understand the reason, the meaning or the purpose – THAT is the tragedy.  It’s a lost opportunity for us to transform.

“Optimism is a muscle that gets stronger with use.”

“Dream big; but focus small.”  

Don’t become so rigid in your dreams.  Allow for the possibilities that life can provide.

Life is a roller coaster.

“People will forget what you said; people will forget what you did.  But people will never forget how you make them feel.” 


Robin was a great choice as an opening speaker (and perfectly fit the speaker archetype as outlined by Matthew Stollack); the audience was inspired and revved up.

I hope she left HR professionals with a renewed vigor to face challenges head on (whether they be personal or at work) and to do so with a positive attitude.  Let go of the ‘woe is me’ and the ‘we’re not respected or invested with the power to implement change.’

There ARE infinite possibilities.

Now onward with the conference.