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modest

The thing about being an HR blogger is that I meet a lot of people who think they’re really good at what they do for a living. Even without saying it, they walk into a room and believe that they’re rock stars or geniuses.

Some of these men and women are awesome. They make me jealous. But that’s a small group. 

We’ve been living in a post-recessionary world where people with swagger need to make as much money as possible before the next crisis hits. And I’m a little tired of it.

You know who I’m talking about. The leadership guru with all the answers. The hotshot social media strategist with the recommendations on the latest app. The woman who will lead you through to promised land of webinars or deliver high-quality email marketing campaigns.

I think there’s a shift coming with branding and messaging. The shift is towards humility and modesty.

In as much as my OBGYN is a rock star — and there’s no doubt that she’s the best of the best in her field — she’s also a human being, a business owner, and a mom. When she walks in the room, she doesn’t try to impress me with the latest research on disruptive IUDs. She asks me how I’m doing.

I think audiences are sick of TED talks and gurus on Snapchat. Consumers don’t want to hear from the guy hawking his expertise to tens of thousands of people. They want insights and advice from the individual who is quietly advising some of the most influential leaders in the world.

How do you find that individual who has smart things to say but isn’t offering the same rote advice to his 450,000 Twitter followers? Well, expertise is a funny thing. Audiences have been tricked into believing that reach is the same thing as resonance.

Look for small, intimate gatherings of like-minded professionals. Seek out experiences where you don’t just get entertained, but you also get a chance to have a conversation. And judge the expert for yourself. 

And if you’re at a conference seeking advice with 10,000 other people, I think you should get up and walk out. The chances are that advice isn’t for you.

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I know I’m running because I’m spending money.

My newest purchase? This PEET dryer for my shoes. Oh my god, my friend Sara told me about it and she’s right: it’s a game changer. My shoes smell better and less moldy already.

shoe dryer

(Yes, moldy. It’s hot down here in the summer.)

I also single-white-femaled Sara and bought her running watch, too. My old watch had about a two-hour battery life. This one syncs with the training app used with my coach, but it doesn’t sync with the equipment at Lifetime Fitness.

I’m happy with it, though.

tomtom watch

As I start to increase my mileage, I’ll probably start to increase my spending. Honestly, it’s a privilege to have the time and money to train for another marathon. Sure, it’s free to run. You can do a race without the gadgets and the additional training. But I haven’t found a way to run 26.2 miles without spending money on entry fees, clothing and other miscellaneous items.

(This is why I’m still doing webinars!)

I may regret some of the crappy stuff I buy, but I’m never going to regret this shoe dryer.

It’s that great. 

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woman descending staircaseMy favorite painting in the entire world is Woman Descending the Staircase by Gerhard Richter.

The woman in this painting DGAF about anything. Her shiny dress is like armor. Her face is a mask. She’s older, she’s ghostlike, and her posture tells you that she is absolutely confident about everything in life.

I love it. I have this image up in my office.

I don’t have dreams of being glamorous, but whenever I think about how I want to present myself on stage, I think of this nameless woman. I like being smiley and approachable, but I want to be less girlish. There’s nothing girlish about this woman.

I also love how Gerhard Richter paints in these silver-blue and metallic hues. At first glance, Woman Descending the Staircase looks like a chrome photograph that’s been photoshopped to look blurry. It’s not. His photo-paintings are quite famous. Now that you’ve seen this one, you’ll spot his work in modern art museums all over the world.

But if you ever have a chance to see this particular painting, do it. It was on display at the Art Institute Chicago for many years. Now it’s in a traveling roadshow of some kind.

(I’m bummed because it was a favorite of mine in their modern wing.)

I’ll probably never have the poise or the posture of this woman, but I want her calm demeanor and steely spine. That’s why this is my favorite painting in the world.

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gay rights human rights

There’s a respected HR blogger on the market by the name of Suzanne Lucas. You may know her by the name Evil HR Lady. She’s an early influencer in our community — someone who is admired by dreamers and skeptics alike.

At the beginning of June, she wrote an article that criticized companies for getting political on LinkedIn. One example of politicization? Booz Allen Hamilton changed their LinkedIn banner to show their support of Pride Month.

She writes:

Do you want your firm to be known for your social activism or for your business services and products? Just like clicking that I support “poverty alleviation” and “science and technology” on LinkedIn’s list of things that matter doesn’t indicate that I know anything about how to alleviate poverty through science and technology, changing a logo doesn’t indicate that a company is an expert in this area.

So, just as I’d recommend for people to leave their activism, their religion, and their hobbies off their LinkedIn profiles, I recommend that businesses do the same.

Yeah, no.

The article was published before the Orlando massacre, but even then it struck me as offensive and tone deaf. Supporting LGBTQ rights isn’t considered “social activism” by anybody except the most bigoted and vile members of our society.

Gay rights are civil rights. It’s pretty much a settled debate for corporate professionals under the age of 35.

There is a generational divide between those HR professionals who feel like politics should be discussed at work and those who don’t. But Suzanne Lucas is a seasoned HR expert. She knows the ins and outs of employer branding strategies. In the case of Booz Allen Hamiton and others who display the Pride Flag during the month of June, they’re telling potential candidates that bigots and zealots need not apply.

I think that’s a smart HR strategy.

I admire Suzanne Lucas. She has a smart take on all things HR. But this specific article is gross, and I hope she takes another crack at it. If supporting basic human rights on LinkedIn is wrong, I don’t think your company wants to be right.

Here’s my HR advice: Fly the Pride Flag. Fly it at work, fly it at home, and fly it on LinkedIn. And boldly ignore bad advice from HR ladies who tell you to take it down.

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hr heroes

If there’s an overused marketing trope in my industry, it’s the notion of HR heroes.

Have you noticed the campaigns and advertisements? Companies celebrate human resources professionals who swoop in and save the day when you need something at work.

Here’s the thing about HR heroes: They’re not heroes. HR professionals don’t leap tall buildings in a single bound. They tell their workers to stop leaping because it violates the employee handbook.

So what makes a hero? In the real world, heroes are active. They get involved. They become political. They fight for social justice and equal pay. The place themselves in precarious situations on behalf of others.

HR doesn’t do any of that, which is fine. Nobody is asking your friendly neighborhood staffing specialist to file a brief with the Supreme Court. At best, HR facilitates discussions on important issues. At the other end of the spectrum, they enforce rules that are unfair and hurtful to certain members of society.

Yes, there’s a lot of good work being done in HR. There’s also work to be done.

That’s why I’d like to suggest that we take the hero-worshipping down a notch.

I’m all for celebrating everyday heroes, but wearing a cape and fighting bad guys — while participating in an economy with stagnant wages, systemic inequality, and low employee engagement rates — isn’t something to brag about.

Don’t be an HR hero. Strive to be a great HR professional. That’s a good place to start.

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weed
I can see why people still need HR. On a regular basis, I have people writing and asking about drugs. Mostly marijuana. Questions like, “My employee smells like weed. What can I do?”

Part of me sympathizes with business owners and managers. It hardly seems fair that you have to show up to work sober while some other dude rolls into the office high. I’d love to smoke weed all day, too, but adulthood beckons.

But another part of me is like, really, how do you know what this employee smells like? There are a lot of reasons why people might smell like marijuana. And, depending on the job, does sobriety matter?

[Sidenote: That last question isn’t easy. Some say that sobriety always matters at work. Employees have an obligation to be present, be engaged, and create a culture of safety. Others think that weed is no big deal, and given certain circumstances, it might increase engagement by abating anxiety or other medical issues.]

If your employee smells like weed, I think it’s important to “work human.” Just because she smells like weed doesn’t mean she’s high. And just because you smell it doesn’t mean that other people smell it.

I would also ask you to consider your own biases and personal life experiences when determining whether or not this is a big deal. Lots of successful people smoke weed and get high. Are you bringing your own fears and assumptions to this encounter? Do you have political or religious beliefs that are impacting your judgment on this situation?

Then there’s the messy intersection of health privacy laws and local drug regulations, too.

If I’m in your shoes as an employer, I would take a pause. Check your assumptions, and definitely talk to someone in human resources before you even consider writing to a blogger.

You need information and support from a source that can help. That resource is HR.

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I’m obsessed with the movie Cedar Rapids. Have you seen it?

Tim Lippe has no idea what he’s in for when he’s sent to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to represent his company at an annual insurance convention, where he soon finds himself under the “guidance” of three convention veterans.

This movie is an exact depiction of every HR conference I’ve ever attended since 2008. Insurance brokers in Iowa get crunk. Hijinx ensue. What’s not to love?

Since watching the film, I’ve been laser focused on doing a conference in Cedar Rapids. I swear to god, this is true. It’s a bucket list item.

And, you guys, I’m doing it!

The Iowa SHRM State Conference asked me to keynote their fall conference. It’s happening on September 21st – 23rd. I told myself that I wouldn’t accept any additional speaking opportunities in September because of my upcoming marathon, but I can’t say no to Cedar Rapids. I would never forgive myself.

(Well, technically the conference is in Coralville, Iowa. You fly into Cedar Rapids. Close enough!)

So I hope the Iowa SHRM contingent knows how thrilled I am to attend their event. I’ll be talking about failure, which is a topic close to my heart. There’s a cocktail reception the night before, and I can’t wait to have fun and learn more about the fabulous people who are making my weird dream come true.

This is why I love HR.

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I have attended SHRM’s annual conference since 2008, but I’m sitting this year out.

The one thing I love about the event is that I make enduring “SHRM memories.” I thought I’d share some of them with you.

Chicago 2008.

I applied for a press pass and was accepted as one of the first bloggers to attend SHRM. Why does it matter that I was first? It doesn’t. At all. Except I owned the SHRM social media properties and Sue Meisinger was on leave. I couldn’t find anybody interested in taking them back. (For free! With no obligations!) I even went to the booth where they gave out those conference badge ribbons and said, “My name is Laurie Ruettimann. I own the SHRM YouTubes and Twitters. Do you know if there’s someone I can talk to?” I remember eating cookies at a booth and seeing Stedman Graham. Those were weird times.

Clothing memory: I wore my old Pfizer HR lady clothes and tried to keep a low profile.

New Orleans 2009.

SHRM wanted to give back to the residents of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, so they scheduled the annual HR conference in one of the hottest and dampest months of the year. I remember being on a panel moderated by China Gorman. We talked about social media and HR because it was new. I hung out with all the old school HR bloggers for the first time. It was sweet and innocent fun.

Clothing memory: There was a tweet-up, and I wore a DVF wrap dress. This is before Instagram, and there are photos of that night that I’ve never seen.

San Diego 2010.

It’s the year when I first spoke to students at SHRM. My back was sore. I had the worst posture and decided to take pilates after Matt Stollak laughed at how I was standing. Mary Ellen Slayter hosted a great dinner. (She always hosted great dinners.) Mark Stelzner and I bonded over being permanently sweaty. I met Tim Sackett’s wife for the first time on the rooftop of The Hard Rock Hotel. I also made a very popular video that defined the modern HR lady: tan — with a french manicure — and clutching a Coach purse. I regret that video. It’s not cool to talk about how people look. I was an idiot.

Clothing memory: I wore an olive jacket. I loved it. I’ve kept an olive military jacket in my closet ever since that conference. It’s a simple but important staple in my wardrobe.

Las Vegas 2011.

It was probably peak SHRM for me. I roomed with Jennifer McClure, who went to a private dinner with Mario Batali and gave me a signed cookbook. We had a huge suite at The Wynn. Some crappy vendor gave me an oil painting as a piece of swag. I jumped off the Stratosphere. (Lance videotaped it.) There was a late night at a club where Maren Hogan’s purse was stolen. I had Redbull and vodka for the first and last time.

Clothing memory: I wore a dark gray suit and looked like a real estate agent. I was growing out my hair and it looked like a mullet.

Atlanta 2012.

If you ever want to lose weight quickly, go to Atlanta in June and wear business casual clothing. Synthetic blends work best for maximizing your sweat. This conference was gross. The one bright spot? I worked for a company that straight-up organized one of the dirtiest parties in the history of HR conferences. I’d like to say that I’m not proud of myself, but I’m extremely proud of myself. That event made me into a badass marketing professional who knows how to give people what they want: alcohol and a good time.

Clothing memory: I kept it simple due to the heat. At the end of the conference, I gave up on my appearance. It was so hot. I wore an Eddie Bauer shirt and looked like a camp counselor. It’s immortalized forever in a shot with John Nykolaiszyn.

Chicago 2013.

Chicago is my hometown and where my SHRM conference journey began. I spoke to students and told them not to major in HR, which pissed off everybody at SHRM. I roomed with Jennifer McClure, and we had our hair and make-up done at Elizabeth Arden. They are my go-to spa on the road. I remember hanging out with Mary Faulkner and also falling in love. I ran into Sara and Andy Headworth. At some point, a bunch of us went to the Sprinkles ATM and had cupcakes. Good fun.

Clothing memory: On the first day of the conference, I wore a white dress and had lipstick on my teeth.

Orlando 2014.

We’ve reached the denouement. If I’m honest, the conference wasn’t all that great. I had a very drunk HR executive try to hug me without proper control of his motor skills. The story doesn’t end well. His PR team later apologized to me for his behavior. Sometimes you outgrow the things you love.

Clothing memory: I wore a Michael Kors dress, and Jennifer McClure taught me how to pose like a sorority girl.

Las Vegas 2015.

I decided not to attend SHRM, but I had meetings and client obligations. A bunch of old-school HR blogger friends managed to have a nice reunion at The Chandelier Bar at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. We saw a woman descend a staircase while not wearing any underwear. Not sure if she worked in HR. My friend Fishdogs ordered Sazeracs for everybody. I tried to connect with my friend Matt Kaiser who lives in Singapore. We never connect. Every year. Drives me crazy.

Clothing memory: I wore a blue dress, white sweater, and flats. Sometimes dressing up is fun.

Those are my best SHRM memories. While I’ll miss everybody at the 2016 conference, I’m going to the beach and spending time at home with my family. Hope you get lots of photos, and make good choices!

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I got a call from an HR technology vendor telling me that I’m in this month’s HR Magazine. Then he asked me to do a free webinar for him.

Yeah, okay. I must look new.

So let’s back up. What is HR Magazine? Well, it’s a monthly publication from SHRM, an HR association. And it’s terrible.

This month’s edition is especially dreadful. There’s a cover photo of a woman from a much-admired company. She’s a VP of innovation, making her a shining example of a successful woman in the technology industry. Strategic. Technical. Approachable. Leading the push for innovation at one of American’s best places to work.

But somebody isn’t providing wise counsel to this woman because she looks like a mime who’s hatching from a Georgia O’Keefe painting.

HR Magazine

Surprise! I’m here! Let’s innovate!

Now look at the bottom right corner above the tiny SHRM logo. You’ll see two major articles in this magazine:

1. New thinking on dress codes.
2. Why does hiring take so long?

You don’t need to read HR Magazine to know that the new thinking on dress codes is that it’s 2016. Stop talking about dress codes. Also, lemme summarize why hiring takes so long: it’s usually because of HR.

I couldn’t go any further than the cover. I threw the magazine in the recycling bin and never found my name.

HR Magazine is terrible, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s lots of interesting content about HR all over the web. The leadership of SHRM — the people who pay themselves millions of dollars, oversee a shrinking membership base, and pretend like an ad on CNN is the same as improving the careers of its members — should be braver and bolder. Feature content that will expand and enhance the perspectives of their membership.

But that won’t happen.

I just hope that when I make the cover of HR Magazine, it looks less like an image of a birth canal and more like that time Khaleesi emerged from the flames with dragons.

You wouldn’t ask Khaleesi to give a free HR webinar, would you?

Daenerys_and_dragon

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Most of you know that I’m toiling away at a side project: a software company. It’s going slowly because I’m trying to be deliberate and diligent while also having fun and not taking myself too seriously.

It’s amazing and horrible at the same time. Mostly amazing. (Well, ask me how I feel in a few more weeks.)

Whatever happens, though, this is my path. The timeline is mine. I have a clear vision of what I would like to accomplish. I’m answering to nobody. I don’t feel pressure to compromise.

And I’ll probably fail.

Eh, that’s okay. In some ways, everything fails. Your car, your kids, your career, your marriage, your liver, your water heater. Things end. The warranty expires. If you’re smart, you’ve contained that risk. You’ve got a good plan. You pick up the pieces and grow.

And when things fail, my go-to strategy is to take a hike in the woods. There is no failure in nature, only adaptation.

As romantic as it sounds to lose yourself in thoughts among the trees, it’s not a safe strategy when you’re a petite woman wandering in the woods. So I snap back to reality by looking for the next loblolly pine in my line of sight.

There’s always a loblobby pine around here. You can’t miss it. The bark is distinctive.

hike

I’m also forced to stay rather mindful in the woods. If I’m consumed with self-doubt and don’t pay attention to my surroundings, I’ll step on a snake.

hike 1

I’m trying my hardest to make an effort at something new, maintain an even-keeled perspective, and have a little fun with my life. When all of that seems really hard, sometimes it’s just nice to take a hike in the woods.

Might be a good strategy for you, too.

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