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ruettimann commencement

Last month, I delivered a speech to the 2016 graduating class at Regent’s University London. They have eight colleges under the larger university, and I spoke to the American College (which I attended) and the school of fashion and design.

The ceremony was at St. Marylebone Parish Church where Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning were married in secret back on September 12, 1846. So it’s pretty much me and two famous poets. Not a bad roster.

I’m not going to go full Trump on my speech, but I thought it was pretty great on paper. I had to deliver a shorter version due to time constraints, and it was fine except for the part where I nervously put my hands in the pockets of my dress. (Oh my god, such a rookie move.)

Jennifer McClure came with me and said that the hands-in-the-pocket thing wasn’t so bad. (Mostly because I was behind a large podium.) Then she made me say three things that went well about the day. So I told her — I inspired the next generation of adults, I made a bunch of people happy, and I look okay in blue.

I’m not good at self-affirming statements, obviously, but I know that the speech was earnest. I told the kids — Don’t listen to adults. Do whatever the hell you want to do with your life. Just make sure it’s in the service of others. Then I quickly told them to join the alumni association. I failed to mention that I don’t belong to the alumni association, but that’s precisely the spirit of my speech. Don’t listen to me. Even I don’t trust my advice.

After the ceremony, a very old man in a wheelchair called me over. He said, “I have something important to tell you. You are never so alone in this world that your alumni association can’t find you.”

Truer words have never been spoken.

Countless graduates and parents came up to me and thanked me for my message. The parents, in particular, were hilarious. One said, “I can’t believe you told my child not to listen to me. But it’s true. I didn’t listen to my parents.”

In one case, proud parents were very eager to introduce me to their oldest daughter. She is the first kid in the family to earn a degree, and she graduated first in her class. They were so spirited, and I was moved by the family’s story.

So the verdict is in: speaking in London was an incredibly meaningful experience in my life. If you ever want me to deliver a commencement speech for your graduating class, I’d like to do it again. I think this could turn into a full-time job: motivating and inspiring the next generation of adults one graduation speech at a time!

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EOS ModelA friend of mine recommended a book called Traction. Have you heard of it? He thought that my consulting company and my software company could benefit from implementing The EOS Model™.

What is the EOS Model™? Well, it’s a framework to help founders and CEOs understand everything from people to internal processes. Very simply, it’s just another way to run your business. There are a million models out there. Pick one.

I liked the book because I’m bad on processes. (“It’s all in my head, man.”) That’s the curse of the sole proprietor who is trying to grow. My language and behaviors are okay for me, but they’re not great for my CFO and the other people who are paid to support me. I waste a lot of time on inefficient business practices.

And as I was reading this book, I was simultaneously negotiating a new contract with a client. The procurement department told me, “We have a culture of Net 45.”

Let’s back up.

First of all, this chick was telling me that her company will hold on to my invoice for nearly a month and a half after I do the work because that’s how they do things. I sign a contract, perform a service over the course of a month, and then wait another 45 days to get paid. Wow, the gig economy is awesome!

But she was also telling me, “Our procurement department stakes its identity on Net 45. If I negotiate differently with you, I don’t know who I am. How do I add value?”

All I kept thinking is — Wow, that’s not culture, lady. It’s your process.

And if your process is your identity, you will never grow.

Process-dominant cultures are clandestine killers of innovation. If who you are as a company is defined by how you do things — rather than what you believe or create — you are never going to develop as an organization.

As I start to think about the next version of my business, I know it’s important for everybody to be aligned on what matters. Consistency is key. Alignment is critical. Let’s get our processes and language locked down, of course. But let’s not be captive to the system.

You and me? We’re better if we remember that corporate functions like procurement and HR are meant to support the enterprise — not define it. If there’s no flexibility built into the way you do business, you won’t do business for very long.

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Hey, guys. I’ve had to pivot my race schedule due to my lack of fitness and the heat. I’m now running the City of Oaks marathon for the second time (instead of the Chicago Marathon).

What does this mean?

  1. I get four extra weeks of training.
  2. I can do my longest training run in October after my epic 60 days of travel.
  3. The weather will be much cooler on race day.
  4. I can roll out of bed and run this marathon.

This decision feels right to me. It’s the first decision I’ve made in ages that feels easy. I will run City of Oaks and defer Chicago’s entry until 2017. And I’ve already signed up to visit Mary Ellen Slayter and run the Louisana half-marathon with her in January 2017. Next year is already busy.

So I’m feeling good about the race calendar. And the good news is that I’ll be injury-free and stronger for being able to flex and change my plans!

I’m ready for the fall. Whoo hoo!

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I just finished The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone.

The book chronicles the author’s experience with loneliness but also weaves in stories of art, AIDS, masculinity, feminism, sexual deviance, and the emergence of technology as a mechanism to overcome social isolation.

Yeah, totally uplifting.

But it was so superbly written that you forget you’re reading about pain, despair, and emotional disconnection. In fact, the book was comforting because it was a reminder that loneliness can be an affliction but isn’t necessarily a permanent state of being.

In those times where you feel lonely, all is not lost. You can learn, reflect, and even make great art.

I was also taken with the author’s historical retelling of how we used technology in the 20th century to affirm social connections without making an emotional investment. Social networking, or the lack thereof, isn’t new. From Andy Warhol’s use of tape recorders to the late 20th-century use of nascent web technology to stream video and create hyper-real life on the internet, Americans have been using tech to create weird and sanitized communities for decades.

(TL;DR social networking isn’t new. Loneliness isn’t new. And as we rely more and more on technology, many of us grow exponentially lonelier.)

Strangely enough, I was just talking to my friend Kristen Harcourt about the regrets from my earlier career. My biggest regret is being such an advocate for social networking without thinking about how the social web can separate us from ourselves and our communities.

Where I am today is so different than ten years ago. Back then, I was an early advocate for social media. I traveled the world and taught people to be on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Now I’m teaching people how to unplug and reconnect with the messy, fleshy, complicated reality around them. I’m trying to make the case for in-real-life loneliness and a better and more authentic experience than the loneliness of mindlessly clicking on Instagram.

And I’m constantly re-learning how to do it, too.

So if you get a chance, pick up a copy of The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone. You’ll learn a little bit about art, but you’ll also learn about the unifying features of the human heart.

It’s worth a read.

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Being a small business owner is something else. I’m having a weird week, culminating in a meeting that never should have happened.

Here’s the story. A company reached out to me because it thought I could offer some help with an organic marketing plan, which means free advice.

I’m in a weird spot. As a marketing generalist, I always take the call. I’m not looking to provide free advice, but when someone is referred to me and thinks highly of my skills, I’m always happy to help with guidance and connections. Plus I find that these informal meetings yield significant and profitable relationships down the road.

We had to postpone the call a few times. When we finally connected, the first thing one of the team members said to me was, “Remind me again why we’re meeting?”

And it was over in about 11 minutes.

I feel like this is a teachable moment for every young professional in America. If you don’t know why there’s a meeting on your calendar, investigate before the meeting. Use your words. Ask clarifying questions. Nobody likes good meetings, let alone pointless meetings. Show some empathy. Be respectful and don’t waste time.

Meetings are essential tools for communication and progress, but you owe it to your colleagues to be prepared. And you certainly owe your best to someone who is trying to do you a favor.

I took that meeting instead of doing a million other Laurie-related things. I feel like a chump. That won’t happen, again, which is too bad. I really like that brand, and they could use my help.

Nobody wins.

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I’m traveling a lot for work, over the next few months, and I’m sorta worried about my cat.

Jake is 16 years old. He’s nearly deaf. Has a whole host of problems. We’re coming at him twice a day with medicine. And there’s nothing more that he wants to do than crawl up inside of me like a reverse-fetus-kitty.

My other cats are happy when I come home from these trips, but Jake turns into a velcro cat. And I worry about that because I’ve tried to instill “together but separate” in my cats.

We can be together on the couch without you being in my grill. We can be in love with one another without being the same entity. You can sit on my lap, but you can also sit other places, too.

“Together but separate” is of particular importance to me because — if anything happens to me on the road — I want my cats to feel some level of attachment to my husband.

And I take this concept into all of my relationships, by the way. It’s great to hang out with you. I love you a lot. But I’m my own woman. There are no squads.

Jake is beyond annoyed when I enforce the “together but separate” rule. (Like, you know, when I’m eating or peeing.) But that’s okay. A little personal space is a healthy thing.

And I am trying to make sure the “together” part is meaningful. For example, I don’t try to jam a syringe of prednisolone down his throat the moment he wakes up in the morning. Let’s ease into the day and do some rubs before I dose you with medicine.

I’m excited about my upcoming trips. I know my cats will be in good hands. And while I know that Jake will miss me a lot, I know he’ll be happy to receive attention from my husband.

The medication part? Yeah, not so much!

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Hold the phone. You know it’s the 90s when we’re discussing politics and sexual harassment.

I received a barrage of email from disaffected readers who are aggrieved by yesterday’s article on human resources, sexual harassment, and Fox News.

Aggrieved!

The emails fall into one of two categories.

  1. My advice was horrible.
  2. Chicks lie.

Let’s take the first objection first.

I wrote, “for every one victim [of sexual harassment], there are two who haven’t come forward.”

Some readers feel like that guidance is profoundly wrong.

The original bit of advice was bestowed upon me when I was a very young HR professional. It was back in the waning days of the first Clinton administration, which makes me feel very old. Here’s the quick story: I was working with a senior investigator from a prestigious HR consulting firm who was investigating claims against a member of our executive team.

You know what? His math played out.

Some readers weren’t directly offended by the mathematical formula, but rather, the assumption that someone is guilty before an investigation takes place. How can you do the math before you find out more information?

I’m bad at math. But when someone comes to me and tells me that she’s been sexually harassed, I tend to believe her. The burden of proof is so high that nobody in her right mind would make that up.

Is that wrong? I don’t think so. Call me a militant feminist — which is accurate — but I don’t like to hassle potential victims.

Now, on to the second major bucket of complaints: “Chicks lie, Laurie.”

Yeah, okay. Have women lied? Sure. But the rate at which women lie about sexual harassment reminds me of the rate of voter fraud in America: exaggerated.

I don’t find any problem in listening to someone and assuming she’s telling the truth. Then you investigate. And if you discover that someone has surely been sexually harassed, you can expect that two other women are remaining silent.

The math, in my professional opinion, stands.

So you can email me all you want, but I’m immovable on both points. And, for the two readers who accused me of being reverse-sexist, I’m just as supportive of dudes who have been sexually harassed at work.

When we discover that Roger Ailes sexually harassed twenty-five men at Fox News, I’ll criticize him thoroughly.

I totally love reader email messages, but sometimes I forget just how “human” and messy things can get in the world of human resources. I would just say this: if you’re ever in a position where you want to email me and defend Roger Ailes, just don’t. You are busy, and I won’t appreciate your nuanced and hyperbolic point-of-view.

Thanks for reading my blog!

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I’m not surprised by anything, anymore, but I am shocked by the number of women who have been allegedly harassed by Roger Ailes and other members of the Fox News executive team.

Dozens have come forward.

In HR, we have a rule of thumb when it comes to sexual harassment complaints: for every one victim, there are two who haven’t come forward. So we multiply the victim number by three to comprehend how many people were harassed.

And speaking of HR, where the hell were they during the past decade at Fox News?

I know, I know. Most human resources departments operate at the behest of the CEO and executive leadership team. However, at some point, it becomes unethical to sit back and watch company leaders behave in such unscrupulous ways.

There’s a point where HR becomes complicit. That seems to have happened at Fox News. And when HR becomes complicit, it hurts all of us. As I wrote in my book about human resources, you don’t need to be a liberal activist to intervene and protect your workers. Doing the right thing for employees will always benefit the bottom line and enhance the reputation of HR.

So here’s another example where a select group of elitist men operates without regard for company policy or decent human behavior. And it seems like HR did nothing about it.

What’s worse is that some of my friends are defending Roger Ailes. I kid you not. Here is what I’ve heard:

1. “This is political.” While everything always seems political, it’s not always true. Roger Ailes is a grown-ass man. When you violate your company’s harassment policy, you’re living on borrowed time. If anything is political about the story, it’s the fact that it was buried within the RNC convention news cycle. Most people are too stupid to pay attention to more than one news item at a time.

2. “There are two sides to every story.” Are there two sides? To sexual harassment? What if your mom was propositioned by Roger Ailes? Or your wife? Are you the kind of generous person who would patiently listen to Roger Ailes’ menservants explain on national TV that maybe your mom has it wrong? Good for you. You’re a saint.

3. “Bill Clinton sexually harassed his intern.” Yeah, okay, here we go. This is never going away.

4. “It’s not like these women didn’t benefit from working at Fox News.” Is sexual harassment okay as long as women get paid? And exactly how much of a pay differential was earned for getting harassed by Roger Ailes? By the way, is it enough to overcome the wage gap in TV news?

5. “These women could have quit.” Sure, that’s true. Some did quit. I recommended this tactic and was criticized by Jezebel. But leaving doesn’t change the culture or leadership of a company when a confidentiality clause governs employee contracts and separation agreements.

I’ve heard more. So much more. (“He’s not Bill Cosby, Laurie.”) I could write this post for days.

The whole experience reminds me of when I was in Cuba, last year. Our American HR delegation met with a senior leader at The National Union of Jurists of Cuba. We came together to discuss labor laws in a changing economic and political environment.

One of my colleagues asked about sexual harassment in Havana and beyond. An elder statesman, one of the most senior officials of Unión Nacional de Juristas de Cuba, told us that sexual harassment is not a problem in Cuba.

My colleague said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t believe you.”

The esteemed leader doubled down and stated that he can only remember one case in his lifetime: An old, fat woman sexually harassed two young men. She was punished. Otherwise, sexual harassment just doesn’t exist in Cuba.

And — just like in the super transparent and free society of Cuba — some people believe that sexual harassment doesn’t exist at Fox News. Guess what, everybody? HR didn’t let anybody down.

That’s depressing.

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Lifetime Fitness It’s hot in America. Too damn hot. Wildfires are flaring up, asphalt is buckling, and I’m over here trying to figure out ways to beat the heat and train for my GDMF-ing marathon.

Not gonna happen.

Since I pay a monthly fee to Lifetime Fitness, which should be considered a charitable donation, I decided to do my weekly “long run” on a treadmill.

That’s right. I ran for two hours and twenty minutes on a treadmill.

Let me tell you what: it was pretty awful.

I tried to make things easier and break the run into four stages so that I could hydrate and eat something. Didn’t help. I wasn’t going that fast, but the air conditioning could not keep me fresh and clean.

When I finished running, I had salt streaks on my face and a rank body odor. Normally I’m hanging out with other nasty runners, and we cancel our smells out. That’s science. But with Lifetime’s air conditioning and a gentle breeze from overhead fans? Yeah, didn’t do much for my sweatiness. I pretty much infected an entire row of treadmills with my funk.

After my run, I tried to clean up as much as possible. Then I realized I would have a hypoglycemic anxiety attack if I tried to drive home without eating. So I went to the cafeteria and ordered a veggie burger, and I noticed that people kept a healthy distance from me.

I was the most disgusting thing in Raleigh since Donald Trump’s last campaign stop here.

This isn’t my first rodeo, and I’m not put off by an awkward and smelly run. But I’m pretty sure that running the Chicago Marathon in October will be easier than running double-digits on a treadmill.

But thank god for Lifetime Fitness. Boy, it’s hot outside!

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My friends are bad with computers.

It’s interesting because they are the earliest adopters of social media and blogging. They’re not just early adopters in the human resources industry. They’re among the earliest adopters in the world.

But they just don’t do computers. That’s fine. Leave the infrastructure stuff to the experts. 

Unfortunately, they are currently hosting their blogs on some two-bit server in another friend’s basement. And the friend with the server? He’s awesome, but he’s not an IT help desk. He’s got a life.

So my friends need some help moving their blogs to new hosts and doing some routine maintenance. But they’re like, yeah, we’d rather complain than pay someone to fix this for us.

That stops today.

America’s big sister is swooping in to do a job search. I’m now “hiring” someone for myself — reporting to me — who will be an IT/blogging resource to the HR community. And while it won’t be free, it will be a good price because this is not an expensive proposition and we can do this.

So let me know if you’re a web generalist (everybody’s favorite!) who can move blogs, set my friends up with hosting, and provide regular web support. Maybe do a new WordPress theme. Link all that shit to social. You know the drill.

The contact form is below. I’d like to know what you’d charge each blogger for set-up and ongoing support. And please tell me why you’re awesome and/or capable. I’d like to know.

I’ll respond to serious applications within 24 hours.

Thanks for your interest.

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