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I hate giving and receiving professional feedback. It’s the worst.

• • •

That’s why I agreed to write a six-part series on the Saba Halogen blog about giving and receiving feedback. If I’m ever going to get better, I need to learn how to communicate with other people effectively.

The first two posts are up.

My series forced me to research “best practices,” and I tried to find ways to apply those recommendations into our everyday lives as workers and leaders. We have a webinar coming up at the end of June, too. If you’ve ever struggled to give someone feedback, or if you don’t know what to do with feedback that’s wrong, you might want to sign up.

The whole time I wrote those posts, I thought back to a time when I gave feedback to a blogger in the human resources industry. She was young, energetic, and wanted me to be her mentor. Her writing skills were okay, and I thought it would be fun to have a protege and build a legacy.

Unfortunately, this young woman suffered from acute insecurity and felt inferior to others. Girls are like that, and so part of my job was to build her up while challenging her to find a voice and point-of-view. She started reading great bloggers like Tim Sackett and Kris Dunn, and I noticed that some of her writing mirrored their posts. Also, she mimicked my tweets and my writing style.

So I gave this woman some feedback. We all learn how to do things in this world by mirroring and mimicking. At some point, you either have the confidence to produce a new idea or you don’t. It’s fine to jump on the bandwagon and pay homage to writers whom you respect; however, it’s totally uncool to watch people and try to associate yourself with good work by literally parroting what other people say.

Because I’m an HR lady who was schooled on documentation, I had specific examples of where I felt this writer was mimicking and mirroring writers. I also had examples of how I thought she could expound on ideas and make them her own. In retrospect, I should have realized that nobody wants feedback. Not millennials. Not baby boomers. And I should know this because Tim Sackett literally wrote a blog post saying that nobody wants feedback.

(If only I had parrotted him more, I would have learned something.)

But sometimes you have to give feedback to change someone’s life. I felt that it was my job as a mentor to communicate a particular message with examples of how to improve. And you know how the story ends, right? No good deed goes unpunished, and this blogger now hates me. Furthermore, she mimics and mirrors me so much that she gave me feedback and examples of how I copy people like Ryan Estis, Robin Schooling, and Jennifer McClure.

Naturally, I heard that feedback and got defensive. I grew up in this industry with a core group of people. We have shared interests. We’re nearly the same age. And we have a passion for disrupting a conservative industry. Right around 2009, we all took risks in our careers and tried to break through the noise of SHRM and do something daring. My friends and I are part of a community, which means we sometimes see the same patterns and have similar messages.

But that feedback got into my head. Instead of mindfully listening and being thoughtful about my response, I pretty much told her to get a life. I’m not saying that I don’t stand by that action because I do. I can’t be in a professional relationship where feedback is responded to with mirrored feedback. It’s meta, and, ultimately, unhealthy. And it doesn’t respect my role as a mentor.

However, since that experience, I’ve been itching to explore the world of how to give and receive feedback. I’ve learned that trust and respect are core components of all relationships. If you don’t have confidence and esteem of someone, most of your efforts — including giving and receiving professional feedback — are a waste of time.

So, please have a look at my Halogen Saba series, and please tune in for my upcoming webinar. I’ve done the deep dive on giving and receiving professional feedback, and I’m excited to share what I have learned.

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I’m in the middle of pretty big changes in my life. I’m no longer working as an HR blogger. I’m not doing HR consulting. I’m trying to launch my nascent software company. And there’s always something going on with one of my cats. Right now, Emma has a hernia. You know, of course, my cat has a hernia. That’s how this world works.

I’m pretty stressed. Not mid-life-crisis stressed — mostly because I can’t afford a young girlfriend and a fast car — but I’m really fucking stressed.

Thankfully, I can get out of bed in the morning. The rest of the day surprises me, though. Old work habits are gone because old work is gone. New conversations about unfamiliar subjects sometimes confuse me. And HR ladies still come around and try to hassle me, which is annoying.

But I’m so stressed that I’m having crazy dreams where I’m at a speaking event, and my dearest friends are trying to unmask me. I’m rushing through buildings to tell my audience, “Don’t listen to Jennifer McClure! I am a software CEO! I know what I’m doing. My speech is going to be awesome!”

Imposter syndrome isn’t a syndrome when it’s true. I’m honestly faking my way through this new phase of my life, just like entrepreneurs before me. I feel pretty alone, right now, and it’s because I am alone. It’s the thing about being an entrepreneur that only entrepreneurs know: while it takes a village to raise money and commercialize a product, it can’t get done without you.

Also, it doesn’t help that my husband didn’t sign up for any of this. Writer? Speaker? Entrepreneur? What the hell? We never talked about any of this, and he was relatively happy with his HR lady wife who rescued cats and complained about her job. At least that woman kept a small financial footprint and was aligned with core values of retirement and opening an animal shelter.

So it makes sense that I’m stressed (and having stress dreams). It got so bad that I reached out to my friends who are more successful than me and told them what’s happening. I also said, “I’ve identified one thing about your personality that makes you successful. I’m going to copy it and blog about it. Maybe do some videos.”

I don’t believe in being a mimic, but I believe in taking the best of what people have to offer and learning from it. For example, Steve Boese is wicked smart and reads challenging books that have nothing to do with HR. I told him that I wanted to read a book that I would never consider and then talk to him about it. He agreed with a caveat.

“I choose the book.”

He assigned But What If We’re Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past, which is absolutely a book I’d never read. We’re going to read it together and talk about it on his podcast.

And my friend, Tim Sackett, is the kind of guy who tries anything once. I told him that I’d eat a Chick-fil-A sandwich, but he would prefer that I take a surfing lesson. TBD on that one because I’m not a strong swimmer, but you get the idea.

I am committed to not losing my shit or getting divorced while changing careers, which is why it’s important to occupy my brain in another way. So, I’ll be distracting myself with personal growth projects while we dissect data from the most recent GlitchPath survey.

Please take the survey if you can, and please wish me good luck. And wish Emma good luck, too. She’s having an ultrasound, today, and I’m excited to spend money on my cats while my HR blogging and consulting income has dissipated.

Sheesh, I can’t wait to get past the “nearly having a mental breakdown” entrepreneurial rite of passage. Life will never be normal, but a break can’t come soon enough.

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Hey, guys. I’m getting ready for my Facebook Live experience in San Diego, next week. So it’s important to calm down and communicate from a place of strength and power instead of going on stage and being a nervous idiot. My friend, Ita Olsen, is my coach. And she let me record our relaxation exercises. Have a peak.

Is it ridiculous? Yes, it looks funny and maybe even cringeworthy. But we normally do these exercises on Skype without an audience, and it works. We create tension in the body, we release tightness with the breath, and these “workouts” help approximate what it feels like to be nervous on stage and screen.

I’m a very flawed and inexperienced communicator. Public speaking never came naturally to me. But now I can exhale and remember that breathing calms my central nervous system and focuses my mind. It’s science. It works. And it pairs nicely with my MBSR training, which has also changed my life.

You might not need someone like Ita Olsen, but you probably need to work on something in your lives. Every job requires you to learn and grow, even the fun jobs. Whenever I’m lost and confused about my career, I find that my coaches and mentors always have wise words to offer that get me back on track.

Ita Olsen is definitely one of my favorite coaches, and I’m lucky enough to call her a friend. And because of her work, I’ll be super chill and relaxed at CSOD Convergence in San Diego. Hope you can take a few minutes next week and have a look.

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When I was a kid, I wanted to do TV weather. I would’ve been really good at it, too, except I don’t know science. Or how to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit. Or how to spell Fahrenheit without a spellchecker even though I ought to know better because Ray Bradbury is the man.

I never did make it onto The Weather Channel, but I once turned down doing a segment on Fox & Friends back in 2010 because I didn’t want any part of that show. I had a failed attempt at a reality TV show that introduced me to Walter Bond and the lucrative motivational speaking business. Plus I’ve done my fair share of local TV and whatnot.

So, I’ve done TV. Local cable access TV stuff, but never the weather. Dang it.

Here’s some good news. Next week, I’ll be pivoting away from my role as HR blogger and joining my friends in San Diego. I will host a Facebook Live event for Cornerstone OnDemand.

What’s a Facebook Live? Well, it’s like TV for people like me who don’t have the talent to make it on regular channels but have access to a computer. Do people watch Facebook Live? Some people do, which is why I’ve been invited to host two shows on “Learning Technology of Tomorrow” and “Motivating People.” What’s Cornerstone OnDemand? Well, it’s an awesome company that’s putting me on newfangled TV.

It’s not the weather, I know, but it’s never too late to tackle your dreams.

I’ve been working with my dear friend, Ita Olsen, to get ready for the event. She helps to calm my nerves and lower my voice. She’s a speaking coach, and, honestly, a therapist. Here’s a video of our warm-up, today, and it’s pretty fun to see how the sausage is made.

I’ll show more videos later this week.

I hope you can watch me on Tuesday and Wednesday, next week, as I get closer to my dream of doing TV weather. And I’m really super grateful that the folks at CSOD took a chance on me to host their live event. Because it’s the internet, they’re serving champagne while we’re on the air.

I don’t know, man. This might just be better than real TV. I’ll keep you posted.

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I’ve been attending a class at Duke to learn about mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques, and today is the last day. It’s bittersweet. I’m grateful for the experience. My personal and professional relationships have improved over the past ten weeks, and I’m making better decisions. But being mindful is exhausting.

Part of me feels like there’s no going back to the old way of living. Stressed, rushed, and making stupid decisions where I’m not breathing or thinking through alternative ways of coping. Another part of me welcomes the return of long summer nights on the porch, drinking champagne and wondering why I can’t move forward with my life.

Dammit.

There’s a clinical program where I could learn how to apply mindfulness to my start-up company. We are helping teams (and, really, people) make better decisions at work through our online platform. It’s exciting stuff.

But it’s not quite ready for commercialization. In the interim, I’d have to apply the coursework to people. Unfortunately, thanks to my ten-week MBSR course, I’m now mindful of how fundamentally pissed off I get when people ask me for advice and don’t take it.

Why are you wasting my time? If you made good decisions, you wouldn’t be asking me for help. So maybe just shut up for two seconds and hear what I have to say.

At the same time, my MBSR class has made me mindful enough to see that sometimes people ask for advice because they don’t know how to ask for a blessing and support. Would it kill me to take a breath and nod my head?

Yes, it does kill me a little bit.

I’m working hard on offering up a little loving kindness and wishing people good luck on their journeys. I would rather not know about your problems instead of knowing about them, offering good advice, and being ignored. That doesn’t feel very good, and it hurts to watch you suffer.

Which is why GlitchPath is so very near and dear to my heart. Prophet is rarely recognized in its own house. You won’t listen to me and make better decisions, so maybe I can create a mechanism where people proactively reflect on what might go wrong and then fix their behaviors.

Gary Klein says it works. My earlier user testing is positive. Lots of companies apply the premortem to running clinical trials, building bridges, and constructing aircraft carriers. NASA uses it, too. I never thought that analyzing language and behaviors could help people beat failure, and I never believed that beating failure could be so mindful. I’m glad to learn that I was wrong — being mindful can change lives.

So, in that way, my MBSR class has truly changed my thinking. Maybe I will enroll in the formal foundational program. I just wish I liked people more. Ugh.

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One of my mentors, Nick Morgan, believes that every public speaker is a motivational speaker. I think he’s right, and it applies to bloggers and writers like me.

If you’re on the internet telling other people how to live, you’re a player in an industry full of people like Jim Rohn, Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, and Gary Vaynerchuk. You hope to move people from inaction to action, and your primary tool is your voice.

Having tried to be a motivational writer and speaker for over a decade, here’s what I know about successful people: I’m not one of them. The best of the best understand that they are flawed and broken, and they are relentlessly committed to improving their lives and taking you along for the ride.

That’s not me.

At my core, I’m just an HR blogger who couldn’t cut it. While I was noisy and flashy, I was mostly early to social media. I benefitted from being a big fish in a small pond. And I blew it. I didn’t offer mature or humble advice. I wasn’t one of those speakers who whispered wisdom in your ear and set your world on fire. I also wasn’t brave enough to bare my soul. I was an HR chick with a snappy URL who found myself somewhere in the middle, hedging my bets and hoping people don’t poke too many holes in the fragile narrative that I constructed to get through the day.

It never paid off.

I was never able to crack the upper echelon of writing and speaking because I was smack-dab in the mediocre middle, speaking no truths and sparing myself from criticism from the powerful. The middle-road is crowded, by the way, and full of middle-aged white men decked out in Landsend slacks telling you that your best effort is nothing more than amateur hour.

Assholes.

Now it’s 2017, and I’m committed to ending my career as an HR blogger. The truth is, my career ended years ago. My traffic is down, my advertisers are gone, and nobody wants to hear me half-heartedly rage against a machine that earns them a paycheck. When I’m paid to speak and attend events, I’m now there as someone who encourages and promotes a larger message that’s not my own.

So if I have any wisdom about HR blogging and speaking, it’s this: either burn the motherfucking boats and go all in on your journey, or toil away in mediocre misery and wonder why you’ve never been paid to speak at a national conference and can’t get above 500 page views.

Writers and speakers who try to play it safe are losers and, ultimately, imposters. And audiences can see through cowards who are attempting to half-ass their way into being motivational speakers.

So if you’re going to blog, blog. If you’re going to speak, speak. Do it with a sense of purpose and direction, or be prepared to waste a decade of your life waiting for success and wondering why it hasn’t arrived. It’s not coming for me — not on this blog, anyway — and I can only hope to God that my ongoing example of failure fulfills my ultimate goal of motivating you from inaction to action in your personal and professional lives.

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I should have known it was coming.

Last year, around Halloween, I had an allergic reaction to a bite of food. It’s not my first bout with anaphylaxis. Thankfully, I was able to apply good self-care and survive the very scary episode. But I knew something like this was coming because my body was completely inflamed for a few months beforehand.

How did I know that it was inflamed? Well, I was slow and sluggish. My body was in pain for no reason. Running was challenging and sometimes nearly impossible for no apparent reason. My skin was a mess, and I had gained 10 lbs.

When my throat started to close, I wasn’t surprised that I had an anaphylactic reaction. Mostly because nothing surprises me. Trump? The FBI? Russia? Anaphylaxis? Whatever, man. It’s just another part of the story that makes life so interesting.

In retrospect, I brought this on myself. I was drinking too much, my diet was horrible, and my behaviors were expressions of the larger inflammation in my personal life. I was not taking good care of my emotional health. I was justifiably upset with people in my inner circle but unable to express my unhappiness in a normal, mature way.

On top of that, I was angry with myself being so stuck. I felt like shit, so I mindlessly ate shitty food that my body obviously cannot digest. In the short term, it made me feel good. But instead of getting enough rest and drinking enough water, I woke up early and stayed up late drinking too much champagne while sitting on the couch.

I’ve now come to see that you can’t run the marathon of your life when your body and mind are in a chronic state of inflammation. You also can’t run a real marathon — or go to work, create art, enjoy life — when your body and mind are always recovering from chronic abuse and misuse.

So, have I flipped the script and overhauled my life? Yeah, well, not entirely. Nutritional science is hot garbage, but I’ve been on the anti-inflammatory diet and experimenting with different foods to see how they make me feel. I’ve tried to avoid trigger foods that send my body into a state of bloated shock. And I’m trying to calm my brain so that, when I’m angry, my wrath is justified and not part of an ongoing and unhealthy way of living.

Adulthood sucks, man. I want to go out for dinner, eat whatever the hell I want, and drink myself into a coma. I also want to tell everybody how I feel with no consideration of how draining that is on my heart, on other people’s emotional wellbeing.

But inflammation is the trigger for the most common illnesses that kill people over the age of 40. Cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and suicide are byproducts of physical and emotional inflammation. So if I want to experience more of adulthood — and run the New York marathon in November — I need to calm down.

For so long, my life was like a bonfire. Inflamed, uncontained, potentially uncontrollable. Now, as I get a little older and slower, I’m looking for a nice little firepit on the beach. I could do worse than live a life that’s welcoming, warm, and contained.

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I’ve been studying up on different meditation and stress-reduction methods because, for some reason, this blog has led me down the path of being everybody’s big sister who is immediately ignored when she gives smart advice.

(Just like my real life! How great!)

Nobody knows how to make good decisions, especially at work where we are caffeinated, stressed, and exhausted from holding ourselves in awkward positions all day long. That’s right. You don’t let the chair do its job, and you keep your body in a rigid position and aggravate all kinds of muscles in your back, neck, and shoulders.

And nobody is breathing at work, by the way. Everybody has the potential to take one good breath and oxygenate the body. Very few are doing it. The brain and organs are running on empty, and the body is operating at a sub-par level. So when the shit hits the fan at the office, it’s no wonder that people explode — internally, externally — and make poor decisions.

Then they wind up on my blog after having googled I+hate+my+boss or I+hate+work and look to me for advice.

Should I quit my job? Why does my life suck so much? Can you help me write my resume?

If I had a nickel for every person who wrote to me about a broken professional relationship or a failing marriage, I’d have a Great-Gatsby-style swimming pool full of spare change and silver coins.

I’ve gone down the path of offering advice on my blog, but nobody takes it. I’ve tried to create a consulting model based on solving problems, but I’ve repeatedly learned that most individuals (including me) only want to address superficial challenges in their lives. Depression and anxiety are seductive and alluring states of mind.

Now I’m on to a software company to help codify and clarify a methodology to solve problems and beat failure. Does it work? Yes. Does anybody really want to solve their own problems? Not at this moment. Almost two-thirds of the professional workforce only shows up and collects a paycheck. Nobody is incentivized to solve problems and take ownership of their relationships and emotional wellbeing at the office.

That’s why I’m taking classes on stress-reduction and decision-making to bridge the gap between what people say they want and what they actually want to achieve in life. But I realize that I’ll continue to make poor decisions, and so will you.

Helping people make better decisions — and making better decisions in my own life — is the challenge of a lifetime. While I figure all of this out, I’m focused on breathing and self-regulating my emotions. I’m offering goodwill, kindness, and warmth to the people I love and the people who write to me in a state of panic and dismay. And I’m trying to offer kindness to those around me whom I find the most challenging.

Most of all, I’m offering my very best and most sincere good wishes to you. Especially my HR readers. Many of us are living lives that are incongruent with our values, including me. You can’t make smarter decisions and have a better quality of life unless you’re breathing. So I’m starting there. I hope you find your way there, too.

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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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