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Do you remember a couple of years back when the “hero persona” was all over?

“Be a hero and save HR. Be a hero and rescue recruiting. Be a hero and bring some donuts to the meeting.”

A few years ago, I attended an executive summit where none of the CHROs wanted to be HR heroes. They yearned to be respected by their colleagues and bosses, which meant ditching the HR moniker and being seen as business leaders.

I asked, “You are successful men and women who are the pinnacle of your careers. If you are not HR heroes, who is?”

Turns out, they thought I could do it. Maybe Kris Dunn. Had they heard of Tim Sackett, he might have been a good candidate.

These CHROs acknowledged that HR workers needed heroes. They didn’t mind when human resources professionals looked up to them. But when it comes to shaking hands and kissing HR babies, they’d rather avoid flyover country and have someone else do it.

It’s so distasteful. That’s why I wrote my little book called I Am HR: 5 Strategic Ways to Break Stereotypes and Reclaim HR. If those arrogant jerks don’t want to be HR heroes, I wanted to fill a void. In my book, I showcased prominent leaders who do phenomenal work in human resources and recruiting.

I’m due for a second edition. I should get moving. However, part of me understands exactly why those HR executives didn’t want to mingle with the riff-raff.

HR doesn’t deserve any heroes.

Last year, I conducted an offsite meeting for HR professionals at a global corporation. Nobody in the room held anything less than a director-level role. The attendees were intelligent, sharp and opinionated. But they weren’t lighting the world on fire, which is why I was there doing HR for human resources leaders instead of spending the day at home with my cats. The CHRO wanted me to shake things up.

Instead of leading a groundbreaking session on disruption and innovation, my greatest accomplishment was uniting everyone in the room in hatred towards me. I’m not new at this. Sometimes that’s the best you can do as a consultant. But one of the highest ranking members of the team told me at the onset that the session was doomed to fail.

“Laurie, I’m not sure how you can stand being here. We don’t have a wind machine for your hair.”

Nice, right?

So now I’m of two minds when people tell me that HR needs heroes. Part of me feels that men and women in the trenches of human resources need examples of strong leadership. The other part of me — the libertarian side — wants to tell HR people to be their own heroes and to start setting a good example for one another.

Honestly, what are you waiting for? You don’t see finance people standing around waiting for permission. Oh, wait, you do. That’s why they work in accounting. Come on, man. You’re better than that. Do you want to be a self-empowered HR leader or like Bobbi in accounting who can’t process an invoice without seventeen signatures?

(Be you. Don’t be Bobbi. She is miserable.)

I’m a sensible woman, and I know that the correct answer is somewhere in the middle. HR professionals should look for role models, seek out smart and compelling human resources professionals who have something to say, and never doubt themselves when it comes to their HR bona fides.

I’m here to tell you that you don’t need a wind machine to be an HR hero. Although, now that I think about it, it doesn’t hurt. (Look at me. I’m doing fine. Life is good.) Get yourself a wind machine, and while you’re at it, grab a bottle of champagne. Real HR heroes deserve recognition, good hair and bubbly!

5 Responses to Be Your Own HR Hero
  1. susan lantz

    This is the blog is just about the only thing that gets me through the day some days.

    Preach it, sista!

  2. Renee

    And THIS is why I love your work.

  3. Micole Kaye

    Why can’t we be both HR Heroes and respected business leaders? Just saying!

    Hope you’re well! See you at SHRM?

  4. Lesa

    Oh Laurie! I am so incensed at the rudeness of that person who commented on the wind machine and your hair. As if that has anything to do with anything other than her/his own prejudice and projections. What a creep! No wonder their CHRO thought they needed shaking up. It turns out they needed fundamental business and people skills.