Work

I flew out to San Francisco last week for 24 hours. I wanted to stay longer, but my husband was out of the country, and my cat 16-year-old cat needed his medicine.

So I got on a plane, flew through a blizzard, met a guy who works for The Shins at an airport bar who invited me to a show and it wasn’t creepy, landed in San Francisco, went to bed, woke up, spoke to HR ladies about feedback, did SoulCycle, took a meeting and then took a shower (in that order), and flew home on the red-eye.

It was pretty exhausting, but I’ve inadvertently found myself in hustle mode. I fucking hate hustle mode, by the way. It’s awful. Who lives like this? My god, nothing stresses me out more than not having control of my calendar and acquiescing to other people’s schedules. That’s no way to work! That’s how savages work!

Unfortunately, I’m a savage until I move from pre-revenue to revenue. I’ll be getting my hands dirty for the next few years since it’s not like building a software company takes 21 days and then you dive into a swimming pool of money. Long story short: I’ll be hustling for awhile.

If I had kids, I would complain even more about hustle mode because whining is my favorite thing to do when I’m not crushing it. I commend my friend Sabrina for kicking butt and taking names on her entrepreneurial journey.

And, speaking of complaining, whizzing around the country delivering keynotes and having meetings is exhausting. If I learned anything from my earlier careers (plural), it’s that travel can wear me down. I already think my life is hard for no reason, and I can’t tolerate SSRIs or anti-anxiety medicine. So I’ve made a commitment to myself: intensive cardio six days a week.

I’m happy to report that, so far, the commitment is holding up. I’ve had to do some weird things like forewarn people that I’m arriving at their offices in workout clothes and sweaty armpits, but, at this moment, nobody has died from my body odor.

And the good news is that my friends are joining me on this crazy journey. Both Sarah and Jennifer are doing Orangetheory. Sarah-Beth and my niece are my SoulCycle sisters. My friend Dominique ran up a skyscraper with me. I’ve got my pilates and yoga practice, which makes me stronger and is helping me reconnect with my core, and I’ve picked up my running routine.

At some point, I need to take a look at my diet and align my fitness goals with my dietary restrictions. Wait, I don’t have to do that. I never have to do that. Nevermind. That’s a horrible idea. I’m in hustle mode. I’ll eat whatever the hell I want.

Whether I like it or not, I’m in hustle mode. I have goals, I have dreams, and I have a future that requires my full attention. And the only way I can manage all the chaos and the noise is to sweat and grunt my way through a workout.

When I want something, nobody works harder than me. It feels good to have a fire in my belly, again, along with pizza and ice cream. Thankfully, cardio will help on a lot of levels.

A couple of years ago, I sat in a marketing meeting with a client that had just gone through a major pivot. They were moving from an established product to a fresh way of doing business. Everything was different: new logo, new message, new leadership, a new vision for the enterprise. But what was the same?

Well, the buyer was the same. That’s a problem. Those imaginary leads who live on the cutting edge of HR and recruiting weren’t materializing. The reputation of the brand didn’t move, either. And while some leadership was new, the executive team largely remained the same. The company’s pivotal efforts were unrewarded.

Now, software has a long sales cycle. You invest energy and action into product development, marketing, sales enablement, customer success, and all the other tedious functions of a company so that you reap the rewards in 36 months. And it’s a matter of leadership: can with you withstand the pain of change in those early months, and can you financially afford to keep going?

And there’s the question of getting it wrong. Just because you have a hot take doesn’t mean it’s going to sell — or even that it’s a unique offering. These HR technology companies are myopic. You would think that businesses take some time and test out new ideas before they spend a lot of money, and some do, but most don’t. Even mature ones. There’s a hedonic treadmill, and HR technology companies feel pressured to keep up with the competitors and look good doing it.

“You’re a talent company? So are we. Look at our new platform.”

And there’s a moment when you discover your buyer isn’t buying what you’re selling, and you’ve burnt through your emotional and reputational capital. It’s a painful lesson. That’s when I’m often called into a room to help brainstorm new ideas.

So, in that period where my client was struggling and it had yet to see any return on its development and marketing investment, I offered guidance: you can keep pouring money into marketing campaigns and making toolkits for your sales team, or you can stop right now and work collaboratively with sales and engineering to ask better questions.

That’s when I introduced the concept of the premortem:

Take 90 seconds. Ask yourself why this relaunch has failed. Let’s compare the answers on our team and see what we learn. Then let’s ask some trusted customers why this pivot fell flat.

Well, that went over like a lead balloon. Nobody wanted to talk about failure because, my god, am I nuts? In a room with peers and colleagues? Also, what the eff is a premortem?! That sounds depressing. We want to talk about success!

That’s when I knew my future. I walked away from that client shortly after that and doubled-down on GlitchPath, my premortem software, which sometimes still gets the same general reaction.

Dammit.

Collaborative failure platform? Yes, okay, that’s great for someone else. But over here, we want solutions. And quit telling me that the person closest to the problem is the one with answers. I don’t want to fix things. If I knew how to fix it, I’d do it. I want to pay you to fix things.

Man, this is why I hated working in HR. Some people are so lazy and disengaged.

But there are people out there who see systemic problems at their companies and want to raise their hand — or wave a red flag — and stop the insanity. I know this because, after the meeting with my client, I was pulled aside and asked for tips and tools to help make the post-pivot business case for change.

GlitchPath is still committed to creating a platform to help people beat failure at work and in life. We’re obsessed with helping people communicate more effectively and have less drama in their lives. And, personally, I’m all about solving problems early instead of waiting until things fail.

If we make you successful, that’s great. You seem like a nice person who deserves happiness. But if we make you smarter and help you fight back against bureaucracy and stupid problems at work, even better.

So I’m still working on the premortem along with a more thoughtful way to help you find solutions. If you are disengaged and burned out, and if you’re tired of working with people who keep screwing up your career plans, I’m pivoting slightly and will have something for you and your colleagues soon.

Did you read the reporting that the US Supreme Court Nominee, Neil Gorsuch, allegedly said that women manipulate companies to extract maternity benefits?

Yeah, those sneaky broads start an interview with the intention of pulling a fast one on business owners by having kids!

He also allegedly believes it’s okay for employers to ask women if they plan on having kids while making no mention of asking men if they plan on starting a family.

So, first things first. If by manipulate you mean maximize benefits, the answer is yes. Recruiters and HR professionals help in the process, too. Maternity leave is so paltry in America that it’s like manipulating a jellyfish into a baseball bat. No matter what you do, the programs lack a spine and have a microscopic impact for working women who are trying to balance the demands of a career and parenthood.

(Advice to new moms: find an HR Generalist who knows how your STD, LTD, PTO and FMLA policies all work together and buy her a nice lunch. Make her your ally.)

What’s worse are the paternity plans. Not that Gorsuch cares, but when they exist, they often suck. Men manipulate companies, too, by hoarding sick days and vacation days to spend at home in those early days when the baby doesn’t need anything except its mom.

(Advice to new dads from almost every HR professional out there: save your paternity leave manipulating to months 3-4 when the baby is fussy, and the demands of parenthood are wearing your partner down.)

Gorsuch thinks it’s okay to ask women about their intentions to start a family during the interview process, which shows you how little he knows about the world of work. If he had any smarts, he’d support questions that are more relevant such as, “Do you plan on saying racist things to your coworkers disguised as passive-aggressive jokes? Will you be late every day and blame everybody — including the GPS voice who navigates your route on Waze — instead of taking responsibility for your life? In your opinion, is it okay to park in the disabled space because you have cramps?”

(That’s the real world of work.)

HR professionals sit at the intersection of work, power, politics and money. All over America, they’re working with companies to find the best and most talented candidates. Your government has no idea how business works, including those so-called business-friendly-Republicans who think the best way to strengthen America is to let hegemonic corporate power run amok.

What’s best for America is to empower talented and educated workers to do their thing in a free market environment. And to Gorsuch’s surprise, I think he will find that the best employers out there want men and women to take the time they need when a baby is born with no manipulation required. Heavily-regulated maternity leave is over. Parental leave, and treating employees like adults, yields better results.

Welcome to the intersection, HR professionals. While there’s nothing more boring than SCOTUS hearings, it’s time to start paying attention.

Every Friday night is the same around here: I’m hungry, the internet has me down, and I demand an early dinner.

For years, the husband and I earmarked Friday as date night. We grabbed a geriatric meal at the local Mexican place before seeing a movie. And, because my life unfolds online, I would bring the world with me and tweet about my margaritas and guacamole.

It was a fun phase of our lives. Having “geriatric Mexican” made me feel like I was having a moment with my husband and my readers.

But then our favorite Mexican joint shut down. We shopped our business around but couldn’t find a place that made us as happy. Also, movies started to suck. We’re in peak TV, right now, and all the good stuff is happening at home. I have no interest in seeing Logan or any other depressing movie out there.

So, our new ritual is to have no idea what we’re doing on Friday night. Maybe we’ll do Mexican, but sometimes we get Himalayan or Thai. And we don’t always see a movie because our DVR is full of good shows, plus we have Amazon Prime and Netflix. We watched Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and we both liked it, which is unusual.

I’m a big fan of rituals when they serve me. Finding a routine in my life hasn’t been routine at all — it’s been liberating to know that good stuff is on my calendar. We visit the same places in North Carolina to see farms and goats and even lavender fields. I feed the cats at the same time each day and have standing names for those rituals — noshes, boo boo kitty crunchies, and poo poo party (don’t ask). And during the summer months, I try to drive to the beach on a weekly basis.

But rituals can get stale. When the calendar serves itself instead of serving me, or when I become attached to the ritual and not the reason behind the ritual, it’s time to change things up.

I can’t say no to geriatric dinners entirely, just like I know you can’t ditch the routine of carpool or making school lunches. I won’t tell you to take a different route to school or break the golden rule of parenting and pack Lunchables, but maybe there’s one thing you always do that needs revisiting.

As for me, it’s Friday and I have no idea where I’m going to eat dinner. Last week, we ate Mexican food at 8:30 PM instead of 6:30 PM. There were no kids or elderly people in the restaurant, which was shocking. I’m not sure how I felt about it. If rituals are commitments we make to show the world what’s important, let it be known that I’m starving on Friday nights by 6:30 PM.

I don’t live in Spain where it’s okay to eat late. I’m not French, so I don’t snack lightly all day and have a great dinner with wine. I didn’t vote for Trump — and I don’t have a huge chip on my shoulder about the coastal elitists in America — but I want my dinner and a margarita while it’s still light outside. I don’t want to be judged about it, either.

That’s my ritual. That’s my routine. And it makes me happy. It stays!

As a rookie HR girl, I thought it was my responsibility to change the world and make everybody feel good about work. No tragedy was too big and no task was too troublesome to save me from my passion for getting involved in other people’s lives.

Unfortunately, other people’s lives are messy.

While working at a candy factory on the north side of St. Louis, I made a grand observation that everybody seemed depressed and anxious. I wasn’t far off. We hired workers from economically depressed areas in the region, including people from Ferguson. We had quite a few meth addicts at the factory. And we also hired refugees fleeing genocide in Bosnia.

My big plan was to practice the Fish! Book before the book was even in existence. I would have fun, smile, and try to make everybody’s day. One of my ideas was to put stickers on the factory workers’ timecards and write them notes of encouragement at the beginning of the week.

You matter!
Keep up the good work!
I like watching Melrose Place, too!

My boss pulled me aside, one Monday afternoon, and didn’t look happy. I asked, “Is everything okay? Am I in trouble?”

She said, “I need to give you some feedback. It’s a gift.”

Turns out, a group of factory workers had been planning to kick my ass before a more seasoned employee intervened and spoke to my boss. I was too smiley, which was honest and accurate feedback. One of them thought I was making a move on her boyfriend. That wasn’t correct, but I could see her point.

So, yeah, her feedback was a gift. But my boss wouldn’t say that I was in trouble — she just kept telling me that it was best if I don’t deface timecards because they are, technically, company documents that might need to be used in legal proceedings.

I asked, “Am I going to get fired because of this?”

She sighed deeply and said, “No stickers. No notes. Got it?”

Believe me, I got it. Nobody wants a beatdown in a candy factory parking lot over stickers.

I also understood that the word “feedback” had a lot of meanings. Feedback can be constructive, or it can be the equivalent of a cease-and-desist letter. So, before you use the word “feedback” at work, pause for two seconds and check this quick and dirty guide to help you figure out what you’re about to communicate.

Positive feedback: probably praise
Neutral feedback: information that can be relayed in the “stop/start/continue” format
Negative feedback: a command

Instead of beginning a sentence by telling someone that you have feedback, which is often an emotional buffer, just get down to brass tacks. Say what you mean to say. Organize your thoughts, anticipate the recipient’s reaction, and be concise. Then be ready to answer questions or offer real-time suggestions on how a situation.

Don’t tell me you have feedback for me. Say what you want to say and move forward.

It’s just too bad we can’t move forward with stickers!

It’s that time of year when HR nerds get together and talk policy and legislation at the SHRM Employment Law & Legislative Conference.

I’m not going to lie, it’s my favorite event on the calendar because it affirms my career-long thesis that HR sits at the intersection of work, power, politics and money. I always walk away smarter when I attend that conference, too.

Here are the issues on my mind. I’d love to hear HR professionals, consultants and academics talk about these issues a little more.

The workforce is too surveilled. From assessments to genetic testing to the internet of things, your boss knows more about you than you know about your CEO. I used to think transparency was a two-way street, but now I realize that I’m naive. While nobody has a right to privacy when committing unlawful acts, I fear that it will soon be illegal to do anything other than work fifty hours a week and keep your mouth shut. I hope the “human” part of human resources will advise employers that there’s a fine line between risk management and stalking.

People drop out of the workforce because they can’t afford to work. People are underemployed or working as contractors because it just doesn’t pay to show up for work and get hassled for less and less money. Lots of people like to blame Obama and regulations. I blame executives who are motivated by cash but tell the average worker that happiness has a threshold that caps around $75,000. Want to pay somebody less but offer a culture of happiness? Let’s put that to the test on the executive spectrum.

We work too much. I love being American, and I don’t want to be Italian or French. But I might like a government that supports the mental and physical health of its citizens. If Congress wants to increase its approval rating, it can win me over with mandatory paid leave.

Finally, I’m paying attention to the overall health and wellbeing of women in the workplace. It’s not like women’s health care rights are being challenged, and it’s not as if women are asked to perform their job duties in hostile work environments.

Oh, snap!

Human resources professionals sit on the front lines of work, power, politics and money. But they also sit on the front lines of intensely personal issues that affect workers to their core. It’s time to start treating our employees like humans — with wholly differentiated lives — and not commodities. And it’s time to create a better work experience for women.

I hope everybody at the SHRM event has a good time. I’ll be watching from the sidelines. Please channel good and creative solutions this way, and I’ll do my part to share and evangelize innovative ideas.

Every weekend, millions of people around wake up early, dress their kids in cute clothes, and drive to a local house of worship to get good with God.

Then they get to work on Monday and act like assholes.

Churches, mosques, and synagogues are filled with loving and thoughtful people who hate their jobs. About 51% of the workforce is disengaged, which means that people right beside you in a pew or on a prayer rug are dealing with a stupid boss, a long commute, or a toxic work environment.

And they’re miserable.

I wonder how many choose to ignore the lessons of scripture — and I mean any scripture from the Old Testament to the Bhagavad Gita — and look externally for blame. It’s easier to get angry with HR than to figure out the root cause of suffering, just like it’s much easier to blame a higher power in the form of a supervisor or CEO instead of looking within for answers.

There’s a second-tier of people who are actively disengaged. They go to church on Sunday and ask for mercy for being born in sin and shaped in iniquity, but they don’t offer forgiveness to those around them. And they probably don’t realize how much Grace is bestowed upon them by their colleagues and supervisors, either.

Actively disengaged workers have no problem spending a majority of the week with a chip on their shoulder blaming everybody from their coworkers to Barack Obama for their lack of purpose and meaningful experiences in life. They sabotage meetings or company endeavors and make the world harder for the people around them. Then it’s back to church on Sunday.

It’s insanity.

I’m always curious about what comes next for people who are bitter and can’t move from anger to action. What happens to chronic victims who can’t catch a break? Do we ignore them? Do we keep putting them on performance plans? Do we send them back to pastors and EAP counselors hoping that someone might get through to them?

Nobody is getting through to them. Not right now, anyway.

I have an alternative thought for all workers on this beautiful Monday morning. Let’s pretend that going to work is another opportunity to get good with God. Shut your eyes, calm your mind and breathe. Listen to stories. Be humble, generous, and put other people’s needs first.

People of faith know that you can’t get good with God until you get good with yourself. I think you can’t get good with work until you do the hard work, put in the hours, and get good with yourself.

My blog has been baptized by fire and water.

It began with a passion for understanding myself and has since become a passion for helping people better understand themselves and the role of work in their lives.

It’s a fire that often overwhelms me, but I don’t run from the flames. I sit down at the computer and write my innermost thoughts to gain clarity through the heat and the haze.

After thirteen years of continuous writing, I have an extensive and recognized body of work in other digital and print publications. I have an Amazon author page. I’m recognized as an HR expert. It’s the honor of a lifetime to be a professional writer, but when I meditate on what makes me feel so much joy, the answer is clear: it’s the blog.

At this point in my career, I don’t need someone to tell me that my blog is exceptional and makes a difference. I don’t need industry recognition or external validation to encourage me to write.

I know it.

The act of writing purifies my soul and pushes me to write more. The only critic that matters is the inner critic who knows if I’ve done my best work and written something that’s true. And, while I want to mentor the ever-living-hell out of everybody who writes to me and asks how to become the next great HR blogger, there is only one answer.

Write.

You’ll go through three phases before your writing is any good. The first phase is where you find your voice by journaling. You may think you’re writing cogent material that relates to your field of expertise. You’re not. It’s awful. But you are figuring out how to structure sentences and tell stories in a voice that mimics other writers you admire and might morph into an original way of storytelling.

Mimic the hell out of those writers. Stumble your way through the rules of grammar. Get brave and ignore the rules. Find your voice. Hit publish and don’t be too hard on yourself. This phase takes at least a year. Probably longer if you don’t write daily.

The second phase is where you do a deep dive into your industry (or field of inquiry) and solve problems for your readers. The Forbes and Entrepreneur models are built around this phase. Those websites feature writers who have a mature but relatable voice, and they provide commonsense advice.

A lot of phase-one bloggers want to be regarded as “thought leaders” and get caught up in phase-two. They never make it. Just as many phase-two bloggers think they’ve achieved nirvana by writing about leadership, business or the cult of happiness. They never get better.

I want to tell phase-two writers: Keep pushing because there’s more to your body of work.

Phase-three blogging is where you have permission to create content anywhere you want to create content. If you’ve worked hard enough on phase one and two, you’ll be invited to contribute to print magazines, newspapers, journals, podcasts, conferences, webinars, on Instagram, on video, or anywhere you want.

These bloggers get to be choosy with their art because it’s art. They’re at a place and time where it’s possible to publish universal truths that are relevant and meaningful for broad and diverse audiences. And those bloggers aren’t afraid to dip back into phase one and two to practice writing and thinking and clarifying their messages.

So how do you get to be a phase-three blogger?

I only know my journey. And the only way to be a phase three blogger is to write.

Do it for thirteen years. Do it every day. Do it when nobody is reading your blog. Don’t get caught up in writer’s block or grammar. Don’t listen to the external critic who tells you that your blog isn’t very good. It might not be very good, right now, but the tough love is the affirmation you need to keep writing.

So if you want to be a successful blogger, be a blogger. Start your journey right now, aim high, and don’t stop. You can’t be baptized by water and fire if you’re on the sidelines consumed with uncertainty and fear.

There are two types of people in this world:

1. People who like to learn new things.
2. People who don’t.

I fall into the second category. It’s hard for me to learn new things. I’m not a good student, and I don’t have the attention span or the desire to sit through a lesson and admit that I’m a beginner.

So, keeping that in mind, I’m enrolled in a bunch of new courses. Today I’m back in Boston meeting with Public Words to work on storytelling and a grand plan. I’m back in Pilates, slowly working on the basics so I can potentially pursue certification. I’m enrolled in an MBSR course that starts at the end of the month. And I’m also all over online classes to catch up on how to run a start-up.

It turns out, my instincts were right about the online coursework. Can’t sit through the video lessons, and most of the stuff is business 101 that I learned the hard way by running my LFR consultancy. Also, I can’t always remember business acronyms and abbreviated jargon. Can’t we just say the words out loud?

But, the IRL courses aren’t too bad.

Being an adult student in a classroom setting requires more rigor than being a kid and plopping into a crappy wooden desk. It goes without saying that you need to turn off your electronic devices, but I truly need to power mine down and leave them in the car. Sorry if something bad happens while I’m refining my teaser, yo, but this blogger has big plans for her life!

Also, I have to tell everybody that I’m taking classes to apply social pressure to myself to complete the coursework. Note this blog post, please. If you’re like me, you’ll need to tell everybody from strangers to homeless people just to keep yourself accountable. I had a pleasant conversation with a barista about being a better storyteller, but I caught myself relaying an anecdote and not actually telling a story. I’ve learned something!

Finally, I have to remind myself that being an adult student is no big deal. People learn all of the time without throwing a parade or patting themselves on the back. Let’s de-escalate this venerated notion that being a lifelong student is special. It’s normal. If you live and breathe, you ultimately learn something.

I’m envious of people who can jump into new experiences, learn cool things, and demonstrate personal growth. Maybe that’s you, and I’m totally jealous. It’s fabulous that being a lifelong learner is easy for you. I’m trying to follow your lead and enroll myself in classes and endeavors that will pay dividends.

I just can’t do it through MOOCs or YouTube videos.

Surprise birthday was a success. #auntsofinstagram #americangirl #chicago

A post shared by Laurie Ruettimann (@lruettimann) on

I got a flat tire while driving my niece around, a few months ago. It was only my third flat tire in my adult life. We were on a highway. Because I lack life skills, I had to call roadside assistance.

Before waiting too long, a nice guy in a truck pulled up alongside my rental car and offered to help. He told me his name, gave me a few details about his life to let me know that he wasn’t a serial killer, and changed my tire in about 60 seconds.

Super fast.

Words cannot express my gratitude. I’ve never had a flat tire with a seven-year-old-girl in the backseat of my rental car. She peppered me with 100 questions, and it was a little stressful.

Are we going to get hit by a truck? Who’s going to help us? How much longer in the car? Who are all these people in the other cars? Why is our rental car red? Were there other colors? Why doesn’t my mom’s car have a backup camera like this car? Should we get out and walk? Is there a Starbucks nearby? Could we get a cake pop?

Thankfully, my Good Samaritan had us ready to go in a matter of moments.

In my head, I was already planning on sending this guy a big thank you box of goodies. Maybe some flowers for his wife. I don’t know. But I wanted to show my appreciation. But he told me, “There’s no need to thank me. In fact, don’t reach out to me.”

It turns out, this guy once helped a young woman who was hit by a car. She got a sketchy lawyer and tried to convince a judge that he was part of the accident. He almost stopped helping people on the side of the road after that. He continued because he’s a good man. But — and he made it clear to me — he didn’t want to be found.

And I was like, wow, that’s awesome. Thank you. To be honest, I was relieved. Not every experience in life needs to lead to a relationship. In fact, not being obligated to someone is sometimes the best gift in the world. It’s nice when someone does something nice for you and doesn’t expect anything in return.

There’s a myth out there that you can’t have a good experience without first having a good relationship. Companies are obsessed about it, right now. Recruiters want relationships with prospects. Marketers want relationships with customers. Grocery stores want a relationship with shoppers.

And, while a relationship is nice, that myth is wrong.

Good experiences can come from people and brands that act with integrity, behave with good intentions, and deliver on their promises. That’s it.

Relationships are important, but they’re two-sided and take a lot of work. They take accountability and honesty, too. And not everybody wants a relationship with you. In fact, sometimes not having a relationship is the best experience.

So just keep in mind that relationship-focused business models are great, but it’s not applicable to every customer or prospect who walks through your (virtual) door. And no five-point plan for customer experience can overcome someone who is clearly saying, “Thanks but no thanks.”

When you hear someone tell you to back off, respect it. That’s what I did with the guy on the side of the road, and his act of service with no strings attached was the best part of the gift.

But now I know that I really need to learn how to change a flat tire.

1 2 3 56  Scroll to top