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A few weeks ago, I went to New Orleans for Collision Conference. I only knew two people at the event, which was perfect, because my goal was to blend in with the crowd and learn about funding my company and hiring talented people.

The conference was massive. With 20,000 people and a ton of booths, I parked my ass in a chair and spent most of my time watching the keynote speakers on the main stage. I didn’t spend nearly enough time networking, which sucks because Collision tries to make relationship-building a little easier by creating open spaces and inviting attendees to party and drink at after-hour events.

Networking at conferences is tough stuff. Even for a seasoned veteran like me, it’s difficult to walk into a place where I don’t rank and start a conversation with a total stranger. Also, I know that most of the significant action at conferences happens at offsite meetings and dinners. I wasn’t at those dinners because I don’t rank in the technology industry. (It’s not imposter syndrome if it’s true, y’all.) So, it was a weird feeling to know that I was firmly planted all day long with the cattle and the riff raff.

I started thinking about the upcoming SHRM conference in June. I won’t be there, but I would do that conference entirely differently in 2017 versus a few years ago. I used to publish party lists, a tradition that was carried on by Jessica Miller-Merrell, but nobody liked having their private events posted on my website. But if I were invited to a fancy party in 2017, I would try to bring someone new.

Maybe I’d grab that person out of a coffee line. Maybe I’d find someone eating lunch alone or looking at her phone. I’m not sure. But I would ask that person to be my guest whether or not I had permission to bring a +1. I would figure out the details later.

I would also attend fewer of those snobby dinners and try to create my own party. Why participate in someone else’s marketplace when there is such an emotional and economic benefit from being friendly to strangers? People are well connected and surprisingly generous when you ask them to participate in something fun. If you’re going to the annual SHRM Conference & Exposition, think about how you can make your own spontaneous fun and invite others to join you.

I don’t mind being an anonymous conference-goer and sticking to the script, but the Collision Conference was a little lonely towards the end of the show. When I call something lonely, you should know that I spend ten hours each day alone and in relative silence with my cats. Then my introverted husband comes home, and we watch television during dinner. I don’t get very lonely in life. In fact, I crave quiet time to process and reflect on life.

But there’s something about being an individual in a crowd that gets to me, and I know it gets to some HR conference attendees, too. So, if you see someone who needs a friend at SHRM, make a friend. If you’re going to a party, bring someone new. And don’t forget to post photos. I want to see you having fun. That’s what these conferences are all about!

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I’m on a lot of lists in real life, not just in my head.

Most important lady in HR.
Most influential human being in human resources.
The top best greatest HR blog in the history of blogging.
Top people who make stuff happen.

I made it! Me! I’m number one!

If there was ever any doubt that I should be on influence lists, let it be put to rest by John Sumser who said that I should be at the top of all lists everywhere. I also have an inbox full of people telling me that I’m amazing and influential. There are a few other individuals in HR who are okay, but I’m the best.

My influence is so yuge that I’ve told people to stop putting me on lists. First of all, duh. Of course, I’m on your list. Second of all, don’t use my face and likeness to sell your stuff unless I’m getting a finder’s fee. The purpose of a list is to make your company seem like it knows stuff with the express intent of gaining buyer confidence and selling more of your shit.

It’s not an honor to be on a list as much as it’s someone benefiting from my brand and ideas. Thanks but no thanks. Keep me off. Nevertheless, marketers persist and add me to lists. I don’t blame them. What’s the risk? It’s not like I’m lawyered up like Taylor Swift. Not yet, anyway.

Every once in awhile, some blogger will get mad that another list has come out. Aren’t lists dumb?! Aren’t they stupid?! Who are these people on the list, anyway?! They’re just poseurs!

I’m like, right? But, also, don’t be jealous. It’s how Tim Sackett Day started, by the way. Tim was never recognized for his contributions in the recruiting field, and we got so sick of his whining that we made him a day. Now we honor other unsung HR and recruiting heroes who don’t make any of the lists.

Just recently, Mary Faulkner published a helpful piece to assist HR professionals who want to get on lists but don’t make it. I wrote her, and I’m like — Why don’t you just write about how you feel? You got missed for another list, and you’re mad about it.

Mary was diplomatic about it and nicely told me not to tell her how she feels, which is fair. But a lot of the angst in our HR community behind “lists” stems from the fact that people who work hard and have smart things to say are often overlooked and excluded.

Being ignored sucks. Never cracking a Top 10 list — even when those lists are for marketing purposes — still hurts. I wish more people would write about that. I want a blogger to tell me how it feels to get on the internet, read another list of the top 10 people who are awesome, and know that you’re better than those people.

What do you do with that anger? How do you stay motivated? How do you deal with feelings of discomfort? How can I apply your lessons to my life?

It’s great to rage against the multi-level marketing machine that creates internet lists. It’s interesting to learn how to crack one of those lists, too. But I want to know what to do with my very human and natural feelings of rejection when someone tells me that my work isn’t good enough and doesn’t include me in the mix of thought leaders.

Because one day shortly imma be off these HR lists, and it will probably hurt my feelings. I’d like to know how to process my emotions. Lessons about rejection and self-worth are necessary for popular bloggers like me, too.

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The problem with a lot of people in the workforce is that they confuse doing things for having power.

Don’t make that mistake. Power has very little to do with effort. In fact, it’s one of those weird circumstances in life that powerful people don’t work very hard. If you’re working on a super-interesting project at the office, it may be all encompassing and critical to your professional growth. But it doesn’t make you powerful. The person who let you in on that project? She’s got the power.

It’s tough to watch the ways in which people try to attain power. They work late. Say yes to tasks and projects. Make big powerpoint presentations like powerpoint is going out of style. I think some of those efforts build character and competency, but the path to power isn’t through more work and proving yourself to your boss: it’s through building relationships.

(Being born with money and power doesn’t hurt. Neither does being a white guy over 40.)

People spend gobs of money on coaching and leadership classes to become more influential and powerful. Let me offer you a quick life hack: be more discerning with your time and energy. Pay attention to how powerful people in your world spend their days. Be a journalist of your life, go undercover, and spy on the most powerful and influential people at your office.

While they might work hard, they’re working smarter than you. That’s how they became powerful.

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Last week, I spoke to a conference of 400 logistics/delivery executives and owners about Millennials and generational differences in the workforce. Well, I talked to about half of them. The other half were at another session or possibly still sleeping off the night before.

Turns out, the logistics industry is interesting because they’re super-focused on technology and innovation while not having the luxury to talk like a bunch of Valley assholes. Sure, the robots are coming to a highway near you, but no robot is delivering your mattress anytime soon. Logistics and delivery professionals are intensely focused on driving the last mile from the road to your door, and providing you with excellent customer experience.

Who knew? Not me. I had no idea, which is the joy of being a public speaker. As your audience grows, you have the pleasure and privilege of learning and growing as a multifaceted human being. That’s what I love most about my job.

So I’m prepping for this event — and remember, my session is about Millennials — and I’m told two things about my audience.

    These dudes (and it’s almost all white men at this event) operate under exceedingly difficult timelines. They can’t be late for anything. Traffic. Weather. Illness. Injury. Doesn’t matter. The concepts of “logistics” and “delivery” are built on the notion that you’ve got to be on time, which is especially stressful. If you’re not five minutes early, you are late.
    These dudes hate artifice. I would fail as a speaker if I showed up and tried to be Suzy HR Lady with a stuffy presentation and a rigid delivery style. No jargon, no funny tricks with the audience, and no boring stories. Be authentic and wake them up because they’re gonna be hung over.

So, of course, my flight is super-delayed getting to the conference. I’m paranoid that I’ll be the first asshole-speaker to miss an event solely dedicated to logistics experts who pride themselves on being on time.

Eventually, I rolled into the hotel at two o’clock in the morning and found a bunch of executives closing down the bar. I was pleased to see that they really do let loose. The conference organizers weren’t lying, which was a relief.

I went up on stage the next morning with three hours of sleep. I wore a blazer and slacks and sensible shoes — just like Suzy HR Lady — but I deployed my shock-and-awe methodology of swearing within the first thirty seconds. Then I made fun of Millennials. Well, that’s not true. I made fun of everybody. Millennials. Gen Xers. My parents. The audience itself. I tried to use my mindfulness + improv + stand-up skills to make a session on Millennials seem fresh and new.

It was the best time I’ve had on stage in years.

Two highlights:

    I got heckled once by a guy who told me that I was mistaken. Thirtysomething wasn’t a TV show, it’s Twentysomething. I’m happy to report that he was summarily booed by his colleagues before I could even correct him. Then I asked him to get on stage and mansplain my presentation for me.
    Another guy asked me how to get Millennials to put down their phones, and, as you can imagine, this dude was my age and his phone out for my entire presentation. So I’m like, buddy, you put down your phone first before you criticize Millennials.

After the presentation, I was mobbed. The Thirtysomething guy came up to the stage and apologized to me. Also, he was humble and super good-natured. Other people came up and told me that I’m little and fierce, which are super-secret feminist compliments. I’ll take that. Most importantly, everybody told me that they learned something.

That’s a win.

I’ve been working hard on GlitchPath and trying to move away from the world of human resources. Like anybody trying something new, I’m full of doubt and fear. I’m also incredibly hard on myself. I’m willing to allow other people to fail while holding myself to an unreasonably high standard. It sucks to be bad at something new. It also sucks to be so public about sucking.

That’s why it felt pretty good to get on stage and get the W. It feels good to be up above the clouds. I want more of it. Please!

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Every once in awhile, a word will take over America.

Back in the late 2000s and early 2010s, it was totes. Remember that phase? Things were totes crazy. Your new girlfriend is totes pretty. Do I want to have a drink on Friday night? Totes.

No word has captured America and the internet like totes, but there are phrases in the vernacular that are both popular and stupid at the same time. For example, it was trendy for a few years to talk about narrative. Her narrative is dark. The movie was boring because there’s no narrative. My childhood narrative had its share of peaks and valleys.

Everything and a chocolate bar had a narrative in 2015. The word has been replaced with tell the story, and now everybody is walking around trying to be storytellers of their boring lives. As a professional storyteller, I sorta hate it. I’d ask you if I want to hear your story. Can you please make my coffee faster?

A few years ago, probably closer to mid-2013, we were in peak right. That Costco near the house is slow, right? The quarterly reports are due and it sucks, right? Right, these pants are ugly?

People mean what they say whether they know it or not. When people add the word right to a sentence, they’re making a declarative statement and fighting against the divided attention in our society, right?

Right.

We’ve still got a lot of rights in our vocabulary, but it’s not as popular as it was in 2016. Although it’s still hanging on, unlike literally, which is literally on the decline.

But here’s some good news: we’ve got a new phrase that’s lighting the world on fire: think about it. This phrase is on the rise, and I believe we’ve reached peak think about it. From television to movies to general conversations, everybody is emphasizing their finer points with think about it!

Again, we say what we mean. The world is so noisy, and, as communicators, we’re trying to tell people that we’re saying something important. Think about it.

What’s hilarious to me is that peak “think about it” is intersecting with a strong trend of “right.” So what you have are sentences like these:

Think about it, right? Right? Think about it!

If I had a nickel for everybody who talks like this, I’d have enough cash to fund my summer vacation up to Seattle, then Vancouver, then Bowen Island, then Squamish, then on to Whistler with a stop in Pemberton, and then a drive back to Seattle to fly home. We still haven’t planned this vacation because I’m busy, but, think about it, the vacation sounds awesome.

I don’t mind when I hear think about it because we need a more mindful society that thinks before it acts. I just wish we had a culture of communication where we think before we speak. Think about it, right? That could be cool.

So if you’re speaking to anybody shortly, mind your think about its and rights. You want to stand out by saying something interesting and compelling, but you won’t stand out if you sound like everybody else.

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I just finished Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. As a side note, I keep wanting to call this book Plan B, which is messing with both my Amazon search results and Facebook ads.

Figure me out, algorithms! I dare you!

Option B is the saddest book I’ve ever read about resilience and joy. Sheryl Sandberg anchors this book with the death of her husband and her grief. Adam Grant weighs in with the science of resilience and joy. And it works because the book tells stories while also giving useful tips should your worst nightmare come to life.

Jesus. I won’t lie. This book is sad. But in a marketplace full of motivational speakers and happiness merchandise, this book delivers an honest conversation about how life sucks and then you die. If you want to thrive in-between those tough moments, you’ll need a new language around what it means to be happy and joyful.

In some ways, this book is like Year of Magical Thinking. It’s not uplifting, but it is interesting.

Sheryl Sandberg also offers advice on how to be helpful if your friends or colleagues are suffering. Chances are you’re doing it wrong, by the way. There’s no singular way to help a friend or colleague through grief and heartache, and most of us respond selfishly even if we mean well. Throughout the book, readers are given plenty of examples of how nice people get it wrong and make her grief worse.

But we also get some examples of how to do it right, thanks to stories about people who offer up the right thing to say at just the right moment. And with Adam Grant’s background in psychology, readers are given tips for helping people with everything from divorce to job loss to widowhood.

I’m happy to report that Adam Grant is speaking at WorkHuman, this year. I’m excited to hear more about his research behind the book. Well, excited is probably not the right word. I can’t say that I enjoyed Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy. But I learned a ton about how to manage difficult situations, and I also feel better equipped for the moment when I have to face my own worst nightmare.

I’m not looking forward to that day, though.

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Creating unique content on a regular basis has its fair share of challenges. Unless your blog is your full-time job — or you see it as a legitimate side hustle — the quality will vary depending upon what’s happening in your real life. Do the kids have soccer practice? Is your spouse traveling for work? If you don’t invest time and energy into your blog, what you’ll have is a sloppy journal of your thoughts instead of a legitimate body of work.

But what’s the ROI of blogging? What can blogging help you accomplish in life that no other platform can?

    The ROI of blogging is better communication. For some people, writing creates a meditative state within their minds that carries over into the real world. Thinking and speaking become easier. For others, writing helps to release tension and anxiety that clouds judgment. For me, writing is meditative. It can be a substitute for — and an extension of — my mindfulness practice. It calms me down so that I can have more meaningful conversations in real life.
    The ROI of blogging is better work-life habits. Regular writing creates regular schedules, which begets better work-life habits. If you only have thirty minutes to write, the discipline for your blog becomes the foundation for better habits in the rest of your life.
    The ROI of blogging is better relationships. I’ve had my fair share of weird experiences on the internet, but blogging has opened new doors. Friendly, like-minded people have walked into my life. It doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere, either. There’s so much content on the market, and the chance that anybody reads your blog is slim. If someone reads your work and has something to say, it’s worth listening. That person is trying to be your friend.

When jammed into a traditional blogging format, the ROI of blogging sounds boring and limiting. Will you make money? Will you have a better personal brand? Will you have better sex? If you do, please write a blog post and tell us how. I’d like to know.

Blogging can be a single element of a broader life strategy, or it can be a brave act of sitting down at your computer and telling your truth. When it’s the former, blogging can change your life if you let it. When it’s the latter, blogging can change someone else’s life.

The beautiful thing about blogging is that it seemingly has no ROI. It’s just a blog. Do it, anyway, because it’s a skill that can lead to greater life experiences. It’s changed my life, and I think it can change yours.

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I’ll be at Collision Conference all next week plus a speaking gig in Orlando. I’ll have limited access to my blog. Find me on Twitter and the GlitchPath blog. Also, here’s a video that I forgot to record in HD, earlier this week, about my passion for making the HR blogging community a little better.

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Everything you do on the current iteration of the web has been funded by rich men.

Well, for the most part.

Dudes who’ve amassed wealth — thanks to sheer talent, institutional sexism, and pay inequality — invested early in the core components of the internet. They gave you everything you need to hate your job and engage in petty acts of narcissism throughout the day to make you feel better about your shitty life decisions.

(Google, Box, Uber, Dropbox, Intuit, Cisco, Microsoft, Evernote, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Hulu, Words with Friends, Siri, iMessage and even chat. Everything.)

Wealthy guys made it all. When they didn’t make it with their two hands, they funded other talented guys who made it. And some chicks. And persons of color. But mostly other dudes.

It’s heartbreaking to me when one of those guys retires from startup investing. Early-stage investing is one of those thankless tasks where you kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince. Or, more accurately, someone on your team kisses those frogs and you only see the frog who has a 10% chance of being a prince — if at all.

And the process of kissing frogs involves a lot of acronyms, hypothetical math and spreadsheets. It’s a bullshit and exhausting process made more bullshitty by the fact that there are so many bad ideas out there — and so much noise — that’s increasingly hard to find the good stuff. More and more of these early-stage investors are like, “I’m out. Time to spend my money elsewhere.”

But, selfishly, it sucks when one of the smart investors says goodbye. Chris Sacca is a good example.

I have an emerging idea and want to get funded down the road. Thanks to all the assholes who pitch Snapchat 2.0 — which is never going to be a thing because Snapchat is already on version 10.0 without you, moron — the likelihood of someone like Chris Sacca hearing my idea and funding my journey was already low. When you add VC burnout and exhaustion of having a job where everybody is asking you for something, and a shrinking cohort of serious investors who can spread risk over their healthy portfolio, there’s no patience for a nascent idea like mine. And I’m exactly the kind of nontraditional founder that will take feedback, conservatively manage my cash, and avoid the dumb mistakes of other companies in order to be successful.

Yeah, that’s depressing.

And, on a related note, these retirement announcements from investors always make me laugh. As a failed HR, I wish Chris Sacca well in his next life. I applaud people for leaving their jobs before it pulls them under and kills them. But a retirement announcement from anybody — investors, accountants, your dad — reminds me of Chloe from Pitch Perfect when she announces that she has nodes.

She’s brave, I guess, but come on.

The question for these retirees comes down to legacy. It’s great that you’re taking time for yourself. You earned it. But have you set up a succession program like Chloe did to ensure that The Barden Bellas reach nationals without you,? Or are you going to let future iterations of your beloved acapella group flounder?

Because startups, especially those run by women and POC, will fumble and waste money if more and more people like Chris Sacca see the signs of a contracting market (isn’t that what he sees?) and walk away from startup investing.

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Did you know that Arianna Huffington runs an HR technology company? No? Neither did I until someone pointed out that she’s running a wellness company meant to reduce stress, eliminate burnout and improve work.

Arianna wrote a book about burnout and her lack of sleep, and she made the rounds to a few HR events to talk about what it was like to be successful and exhausted. She left HuffPo and launched a tech company that aims to end the stress and exhaustion epidemic in our lives. Her new enterprise, Thrive, has three branches: bespoke corporate services, content that drives awareness, and e-commerce solutions to help improve specific outcomes.

That three-pronged structure is exactly how new technology companies should be shaped, by the way. All technology should start on a blank sheet of paper, so take whatever you’ve created on paper and turn it into a real-life consulting experience. Then generate content to build a market and drive brand awareness. If your primary product isn’t ready, find a way to create some apps and give them away for free until you have an enterprise solution. Collect data and email addresses along the way.

Dammit, it’s just that easy.

I’m super-interested to see how Arianna applies her knowledge of media and commerce to the world of corporate wellness. Right now, her efforts are all over the map — take note of the shopping and the charitable donation portals — but I can appreciate firsthand how her team is trying to find a groove and a voice.

Is sleep the 21st-century problem that technology needs to solve? Will Arianna help you sleep better at night? Will she make bosses less thoughtless and rude? Ha, no. But sleep is important. Work-life balance in America is a joke. And her efforts should provide a reasonable measure of validation that human resources professionals, and the technology that supports the function, are an important part of the corporate ecosystem.

Think about it. The world of HR technology isn’t very glamorous no matter how many times some jamoke with a new dashboard tells you that he’s disrupting recruiting. So it’s fun to see someone with real clout — spelled with a c and not with a lame-ass K — enter this industry.

HR technology could do worse than have Arianna enter the space with this endeavor. I welcome more women like her in our industry, and I hope she leaves her mark!

Finding Beautiful People at Collision Conference

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The first time I ever saw a beautiful woman, it was on Fifth Avenue in New York City. I had just been to the Red Door Salon. People were smiling at me. It was starting to freak me out. How do all these people know I just spent $65 to get my hair blown out?

Then I turned around and realized I was standing next to a supermodel. I’m not sure which one. Does it even matter? She was the thinnest, fittest human being I’ve ever seen. She had natural sombre highlights before “sombre” was a word at any local hair salon in America.

The second time I saw truly beautiful women was also in New York City. I was leaving work and traffic was at a complete standstill. That’s because Korean Air flight attendants were lining up to board a bus on 42nd Street outside of the old Helmsley Hotel.

Police sirens wailed in the distance. It was rush hour, and this traffic jam was out of control. But it wasn’t just the street. Even the traffic on the sidewalk stopped. These women, in their light blue uniforms, were stunning. Skin the color of milk, hair so thick and shiny they could star in a shampoo commercial. I stood there and was grateful for the opportunity to swoon, as well.

The third time I saw beautiful women was in Michigan, stepping off the escalator and walking to my office. My building was hosting a pharmaceutical representative conference. A group of 50 new hires, all young women over 5’9″, rounded a corner and headed to a meeting room.

In another life, they could have been surfers or beach volleyball players. Each woman donned a short navy skirt and long jacket. They wheeled impressive pharmacological suitcases, and the act of wheeling a heavy container made them all look super-tall with bold shoulders.

Grown men gasped. Office traffic stopped. As they walked past, I thought, “Am I really this short?”

Keep all of those beautiful women in mind. I was just warned that I might not want to attend a tech and marketing event called Collision Conference in New Orleans, next week, because it’s probably not my cup of tea as a middle-aged technology founder and CEO. The conference is full of three things that might offend me: alcohol, startups with hard-charging cultures, and pretty girls trying to establish their careers.

Not a lot of diversity in expression, thought, or behavior.

That’s an intimidating scene for some people. But I’ve been on the conference circuit for ten years, and I know what happens when some people come together and collectively lose their bearings due to the disinhibiting factors of travel and liquor. And I know what it’s like when the rest of us live our daily lives, too. We attend conferences, act responsibly, and we do okay for ourselves.

And just how pretty are these girls, yo?

I’m laughing out loud as I write this, but is Collision Conference full of women who are 5th Avenue pretty? Are they Korean Airlines pretty? Could they be colleague beach volleyball turned pharmaceutical rep pretty? And are they really using that power to steer the careers in a positive direction?

As a feminist and a storyteller, I want to know.

I’ve seen symmetrical beauty in this world. I’ve witnessed the power of women who can stop vehicular and pedestrian traffic just by being themselves. I know what it’s like when beauty is paired with intelligence. So, if there are really a bunch of pretty women on the floor of this conference using their magic to fund their start-ups, I gotta see this phenomenon in person.

I suspect it’s just normal people of all ages trying to get their hustle on and fund sketchy tech businesses. In that way, the event will be right up my alley. I’ll be on Twitter, and I’ll keep you posted.

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