Employee engagement numbers are low all over the world, and sometimes I think HR professionals forget that they’re employees, too. Work sucks for them as much as it sucks for other people. And many HR resources professionals are unhappy with their jobs because they have a lot of autonomy but no power.
Let me explain.
When you work in HR, your day is largely yours. While you’re at the mercy of crazy employees and demanding executives, you still have a ton of freedom to determine how you accomplish your work. Sure, you have meetings and calls. But you are self-governed and free from the control of a time clock and a quota.
What you don’t have is the decision-making authority, also known as power. You don’t run a P&L, and you don’t have much leverage to change enterprise-level behavior beyond your power of persuasion. You can make mindful decisions on how and where to spend your energy, but you can’t force a company to change its policies based on your word alone.
When HR professionals enter the part of the Venn Diagram where they have no autonomy and no power — and when somebody is questioning the validity of human resources and making decisions outside our span of control — we lose our shit. We feel as if our very essence is challenged.
So, if you want to survive the trenches of HR and boost your engagement, it helps to have a non-judging mind. If you’re at the intersection of “my CFO is an asshole” and “nobody listens to me or consults me on important issues,” don’t judge it. Don’t try to fix it right away. Be a journalist of your own experience, and ask yourself questions like, “Is how I feel actually true? Why does this keep happening to me? How can I do this differently, next time?”
The non-striving mind in HR will help you, too. The world works against those who try too hard. The more you endeavor, the harder it is to succeed. If you find yourself pushing up against power and losing, return to your non-judging mind. Watch how power is expressed — and contained — within your company. Try to understand how decisions are made in your organization and copy those behaviors that are healthy and productive.
Finally, all the autonomy and power in the world doesn’t matter if you don’t have good ideas about HR and your organization. And, if you’re new to your career, you probably don’t have good ideas. I know that hurts to hear, but you aren’t good at recruiting or HR — or anything in life like parenting, leadership, marriage, writing — unless you’ve done it for more than a few years.
So be patient, trust that you’re on the right path, and try to be mindful that autonomy and power are wasted on arrogant and selfish people. And remember that, no matter how much you currently hate your job, you’ll always hate your job if you’re rushing to judge experiences and people — including your own — before you know anything about them.
I’m all about teaching you how to blog and speak. There’s a holistic method to make money on your blog, earn income from speaking, and generate revenue from your area of expertise.
It takes a lot of work. It’s a full-time job. Here’s a general overview that knits it together.
First, you need knowledge of a particular area like human resources. Write about it for free. Maybe you’ll get residual sponsorship and ad revenue from a vendor. Probably not at the beginning, and by beginning, I mean for a few years.
Then apply to speak at small conferences and events that align with your content. Every conference is different. There’s no single path. Unless you’re a keynote speaker or presenting a content-heavy workshop with your materials, it’s rarely paid. And just because it’s paid at one conference doesn’t mean it will be paid by another. It’s a frustratingly inefficient process. Suck it up.
If you’re lucky enough to speak, meet with the event planner and the social media coordinator. Understand who will be at that event and what they hope to accomplish. Tailor your content. Most speakers are lazy and have their people call the event’s people. You shouldn’t do that. Ever. Take a vested interest, dammit. Showing up and being fabulous works for 1% of the 1%, and maybe not even then.
Once you start booking smaller events, connect with everyone you meet on LinkedIn and Twitter. It’s amazing how many paid opportunities I receive in 2017 because someone saw me speak for free in places Evansville and Carbondale (google those places) back in 2009. It’s never too early to start an email list, by the way, and there’s a lot of information on the internet. You could also ask Mary Ellen Slayter for help. But, in the beginning, beefing up LinkedIn works fine.
And, whoa, don’t forget about your blog, by the way, because it always needs love and attention. Maybe you’re not the kind of person who publishes original research and white papers, but you can write about hot topics and interesting subjects that relate to your primary audience. A daily writing practice helps train you as a professional writer and speaker. And the stakes are low. Nobody is reading your stuff in the early days.
No matter the platform, a few rules apply: be interesting, be witty, be brief. Be the best version of yourself, which means being selfless while also being confident. And don’t forget to rewrite your sentences and speeches. Practice a lot. Remove the “I” from your stories and replace it with “you.”
That’s how you start to knit this together.
Everybody has the capacity for leadership. I know that’s not a trendy thing to write, but there isn’t much art or science in leading people or an organization.
Some people choose to lead, and some don’t. It’s a decision, not a triumphant act of courage.
Those who say yes are often given an unfortunate path where they can “improve their skills” and polish their presentation styles. Those courses benefit consultants who run those sessions, not the individual leaders. Potential leaders are fed inspirational quotes, and they’re taught to be servants and parental figures who can save you from yourself because you’re too stupid to lead. That’s why you’re not in that class.
The ones who opt-out of leadership are lumped into the masses of “those who need to be motivated.” They’re assigned a leader, who probably has a leader, who definitely has a leader, who reports to an even bigger leader who wants to be the supreme leader.
That’s how the great multi-level marketing pyramid of leadership works. Just when you think you’re at the top, the organization is restructured. It’s fifteen more years until you become “the guy.” And not even then.
Leadership in 2017 is all about being the guy who wants to be the guy who ascends the throne. Except you have to do it humbly, of course. Pretend that you care more about the masses while still enforcing the chain of command decision-making formalities within the enterprise.
But what if you think differently? What if you believe that everybody has the capacity for leadership? What if you believe Maya Angelou was right and that life is like this:
Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.
Swap out leadership for adulthood in any article on Forbes, and you’ll see that it’s all about accountability. Do the best you can, keep learning, do better. The goal isn’t to change someone’s life. The result is that you change your life, and, in the process, make things better for other people.
When leadership becomes vaunted and fetishized, it becomes dangerous. When only a few hear the calling and put on the uniform, and when even fewer wear the crown, the implied message is that leadership probably isn’t for you.
But you can lead a team, a division, a company, or even a new organization. You are capable of great accomplishments, and you have the ability to do new things. Everybody has the capacity for leadership.
The first step? Leading yourself.
There’s some talk that the Republicans aren’t done with healthcare, and I don’t blame them for taking a stab at the Affordable Care Act.
Right now, private premiums are daunting for many families. I have friends who left the freelance world for “real jobs,” and they did it solely for affordable healthcare. And whenever I talk to technical or creative talent, one of the first things they talk about is how the cost of healthcare is getting in the way of their entrepreneurial dreams.
Healthcare is a mess for many people because the job is left undone. We know that consistency breeds efficiency, and yet there isn’t a single public health plan in America. The federal government could provide universal access to Medicaid, but, instead, citizens are at the mercy of petulant politicians who don’t believe that government has any role in healthcare except to interpret the Bible and tell women what to do with their bodies.
(tl;dr Because there isn’t a single plan with adequate standards of care, and because Mike Pence is the American Taliban, people suffer.)
And, by the way, a single American healthcare plan could be awesome. We’re a creative country. We made Facebook and ice cream sundaes. I’m pretty sure we could make healthcare great again and offer inclusive coverage. Don’t want an abortion? Don’t get one. Don’t want birth control? Skip it. Don’t want to vaccinate your kids? Well, yeah, fuck you. Vaccinate your kids.
But you know what? Some private health insurance coverage is amazing because American companies know it’s hard to find good people. And, here’s a spoiler alert, there are smart and savvy HR ladies & dudes who are doing cool things to keep expenses down and offer comprehensive coverage.
For example, many of my HR friends have implemented programs to help people quit smoking, lose weight, eat right, get enough sleep, meditate, and get some balance in the work environment so that you’re not sick all of the time. They openly encourage women to take care of their healthcare needs, and they’re asking men to pay attention to silent killers like stress and depression.
My HR friends do it all. They bring in healthcare providers to administer flu shots to keep the costs down, they run weight loss clinics in conference rooms, and they offer fantastic discounts to local gyms — the nice ones, not the sketchy one next to the auto dealership that smells like socks.
HR professionals have been largely silent during the healthcare debate. That needs to end now. If you’re doing something cool to expand coverage at your company to keep the costs down, we need to hear your voice.
Tell your story. Write a letter to the newspaper. Speak at HR events. Speak at non-HR events. Tell job seekers about your approach to healthcare. Ask new hires to sing your praises. Tell a blogger so she can feature you. If you’re saving money and improving healthcare outcomes at your company, the world needs to know. Share your ideas and your success stories, and help make the Affordable Care Act even better.
For once, America needs HR now more than ever. HR has remained silent on the healthcare debate, and that needs to end right away.
When we started working on GlitchPath back in early 2016, we created a premortem on paper. We called it a Failure Toolkit. I’m not sure it got any better than that.
Our Failure Toolkit asks teams to imagine a project has just failed. We walk you backward from your imaginary failure so you don’t make the same dumb mistake twice.
Print it out. Use it. Share it. If you like it, tell a friend.
If you’re someone who wants to be a technical co-founder and is looking for a different project, this is it. GlitchPath needs you to help us beat failure so we can help other people succeed.
We are a team of mature business professionals. We have a solid work ethic, a progressive understanding of the world, and dozens of years of experience with bad bosses. We lead busy lives with kids, animals, hobbies, and we’re not here to mess around.
(It looks a lot like this blog post.)
Then send me an email! I’d love to hear from you.
Why do people hate HR?
From start-ups to conglomerates, very few people show love for a critical and important department within a company.
1. They don’t like to hear women tell them what to do. Or gay people. Or anybody who seems as if they’re in a lower socioeconomic class. Look at your company. HR is a majority-minority department. So when people say that institutional sexism (and racism and classism) isn’t a thing, I wonder why they take direction from CEOs and outside advisors but not their local HR representatives.
2. They don’t respect men who act like women. Life is a lot easier for dudes in human resources, but it’s not that much easier. Guys are still hassled and asked to explain themselves much more often than most other departments, which is why HR is often on the cutting edge of using data and analytics. It’s also why we need to be data-driven if we’re not. We can tell you why you need to make decisions, but you won’t believe us. So let us show you with manly tools like sophisticated spreadsheets and jargon-laden reports.
3. They have issues with control. It’s easier to take direction from someone in your department or division because they’re part of your tribe. You’ve built a relationship, and you trust their judgment. And it’s easy to transfer that confidence to similar work units because, for the most part, they look and act like you. They’re just trying to get the job done. But HR doesn’t look and act like you. And as hard as HR works to earn your trust, most people don’t believe what they can’t envision controlling.
4. They don’t trust themselves. Let’s be honest: if people could show up for work and behave themselves, whatever that means in a complicated world, we wouldn’t need HR. But, instead, people come to work and act selfishly. It’s ego first, team second. While it’s not your local HR lady’s job to be your mom, your boss somehow lacks the character to have a crucial conversation with you. So it falls to an external force, your human resources team, to help with corrective action and training. Instead of holding one another accountable and appealing to the highest common denominator, people resent HR instead of resenting themselves.
5. They hate thinking about other people. When you hear people complain about HR, you hear them say things like, “HR gets in the way.” It’s true that HR gets in the way, my friends. It slows people down from making horrible mistakes that affect others. If HR gets in your way, thank your lucky stars. You were probably about to do something stupid and selfish.
Why do people hate HR? Well, sometimes we hate ourselves and our behaviors but lack the language to express our personal and profound disappointment. So we transfer that anger to others, especially those who don’t have the power to fight back. Luckily, your local HR lady feels sorry for you and wants you to be the best version of yourself. So she’ll take your abuse if it means that, in the end, you turn it around and do your job better.
And here’s something you need to hear: HR might not make you happy. It might drive you crazy. But people hate HR because they see something in themselves that they don’t like.
Maybe go work on that.
How hard is it to ask for help? For me, it’s nearly impossible. Earlier this year, I reached out to a colleague — a fellow speaker — and asked for a pep talk. I felt like I was doing everything the wrong way, and I needed to hear some kind words. I promised not to take up too much of his time.
He responded back that he was pretty busy with his super-successful life, right now, but I could sign up for one of his coaching classes and he could help me.
So, yeah, to say that I was hurt was an understatement. That’s when I decided to be the opposite of this guy and give it all away for free. I would proactively share everything I know about writing, speaking, blogging and HR technology marketing. I hope it helps someone who needs it right now. You don’t need to sign up for anything. It’s free.
So, last week I told you about what makes a great HR post. Now I’d like to share with you what makes a great HR speech. Here’s the first lesson: it has nothing to do with HR and everything to do with solving a problem, which sounds cliché but it totally true.
If you’re up on stage with the goal making someone’s life better, you are off to a good start.
If you want to get “good” on stage, there are tried and true experts who can help you write a speech and communicate it with intention. For specific advice, go follow Nick Morgan and Ita Olsen. You can also follow Jennifer McClure and Kris Dunn. They are the top tier speakers in the HR space, right now. You could do worse than to achieve their level of success.
The best way I can help you give a great HR speech is by showing you how to beat failure. And I’ve got some video to illustrate my points.
Nail the Introduction with a Story
Rookie speakers get too caught up in themselves trying to prove that they deserve to be in the spotlight. Paul Hebert taught me that you should begin your speech with an excellent introduction from someone else. Let the event planner or the conference chairman share your accomplishments. Don’t waste time with stupid intros and chit chat, strain your voice to get everybody excited, and talk about yourself. Get going by nailing the introduction with a story that illustrates the problem you’re trying to solve.
Here’s what a bad into looks like, and I should know because I’ve given this intro far too often.
Note the shoulders by my ears and the closed eyes. That’s what happens when your ego is in the way, and you are thinking about your anxiety and not the audience.
Use Emotion to Your Advantage
Have you ever seen a great speaker who makes you cry? I have, and those moments are so powerful and important. It’s an honor when someone shares her story on stage and hopes that you’ll learn from it, too. But far too many speakers take a personal struggle and turn it into a barely tangential, emotionally manipulative anecdote to teach people about HR.
I’ve heard a lot about dead parents, autoimmune disorders and cancer. It’s all very moving, but sometimes I’m like — What just happened here? If you’ve been through some trying times, my only request is that you make sure there’s something in that experience for your audience. Don’t try to force a link to HR where none exists. When done poorly, this is how it looks:
And, for the record, trauma and healing are rarely linear. Most people don’t learn anything from tragedy and misfortune. So whenever a speaker tugs at my heartstrings, I’m cynical and want to ask — Did it really happen the way you said it happened? Is this true?
Verify Your Scientific Data
Finally, pseudoscience is the handmaiden of HR. People love to use scientific studies that haven’t been replicated and apply those “findings” to the world of management and human resources. Sometimes science is valid, but mostly it’s garbage. Even Amy Cuddy’s power pose theory has been debunked. If it makes you feel good, do it. But let’s not call it science.
Use science and research to illustrate your point, but be careful not to hang your hat on a TEDTalk.
So, What Makes a Great HR Speech?
A great HR speech is a work of art, and, like most works of art, the artist must practice and refine her techniques. This requires a ton of practice, and, honestly, some rejection. Not every speech you give will change someone’s life. Sometimes you’ll bomb. But if you try to keep your ego out of the equation and don’t emotionally manipulate your audience into liking you or applauding because of a tragedy, you will learn and grow.
And then, one day, you can speak at an HR conference. You’ll stand on stage, deliver the keynote speech of your life, and someone will leave you a comment that your skirt is too short or your tattoos are too unprofessional. And you’ll reach out to a fellow speaker for a pep talk, and he’ll try to get you to buy something from him.
Lucky you, what a career choice!
Choose your outfit, choose your life.
I want to be healthy and active, but there are a lot of obstacles and excuses in my way. DNA, junk food, my travel schedule. You name it, I have a reason why I can’t exercise.
So my super-secret trick is to put on my workout clothes on in the morning and wear them until I exercise. I might be in those running pants until 7 o’clock at night, but it helps to remind me that I need to run. Then I shower and put on pajamas.
My other trick is that I now travel in my workout clothes so that I have no excuse for not working out on the road. Yes, I’ve flown in first class wearing Lululemon and Athleta. I don’t fly on family travel passes, nor do I fly United. But I sometimes get weird looks from people who are like, “Is she in leggings? What’s this all about?”
I don’t need to explain myself to anybody. And neither do you.
So, maybe don’t show up to your super-corporate office with your meshy yoga pants and strappy bra, but keep a workout kit in your car. Stash a pair of gym shoes in your trunk. Go to bed wearing your exercise clothes so that you can squeeze in an early-morning round of cardio in your basement before the kids are awake.
Your outfit tells the world your intentions. Dress like an athlete and be an athlete. Dress like a frumpy, disengaged employee and be a frumpy and disengaged employee.
I want better for you!
Set your intention, pick your outfit, and get moving. And know that I’m right beside you in my Target sports bra and faded black running pants getting after my goals, too.
Do you feel like your life is unnecessarily stupid and hard? Do you feel like you’ve accomplished a lot and wonder why other people can’t work as hard as you?
I heard a podcast, the other day, with Drs. Tom Gilovich and Shai Davidai. They explain why things seem needlessly hard for you in a paper called, “The headwinds/tailwinds asymmetry: An availability bias in assessments of barriers and blessings.”
Here’s my take on it.
Let’s say it’s a breezy spring day. Maybe you’re in Chicago headed towards the lake for a lunchtime walk. Maybe you’ve got the kids, and you’re walking from your car to the grocery store. It’s super windy outside, and you are moving forward into a headwind. Your hair is blowing everywhere, and your nose is running. Your eyes might be watering. All you can do is think about the wind in your face.
Now let’s pretend you forgot something at the office or in your car. You turn around and head back. Now breeze is at your back, and you’re thankful for the break from the wind in your face. No more runny nose or watery eyes.
But your gratitude doesn’t last long. Within moments, most of us totally forget about the wind that was just stinging our face. We take it for granted that the wind is now pushing us closer to our destination. And some of us act as if the wind doesn’t matter.
When facing a problem or a difficult challenge, Gilovich and Davidai found that most of us overstate the forces working against us (headwinds) and underestimate the things in working for us (tailwinds). When the wind blows in our face, we notice it. A lot. When the wind is at our back, we forget all about it and think we’re sailing along on our own accord.
That’s where gratitude, the practice of showing appreciation for the blessings in our lives, becomes important. Gratitude can shift your focus from the headwinds that get you down to the tailwinds that push you forward towards your goal.
But Gilovich and Davidai know that you can’t just tell people to be grateful. It’s a practice that you have to embrace on the individual level. They also mention that it’s helpful to do a premortem before you get started so that you know where you might fail. Then you can work backward and set yourself up for success, taking into consideration all the advantages in your life that can make you successful.
Since hearing the podcast, I’ve been doing the GlitchPath premortem on paper. I’ve been identifying why I might fail, and I’ve been pairing it up with the headwind/tailwind gratitude exercise. I created a little document for this process, and it’s working. For example, I’m taking a new class at Duke. I’m nervous about it. My personal worksheet looks something like this:
Here’s a downloadable sheet. If it helps you to put your life in perspective, use it.
But, more importantly, please remember to check out the aforementioned podcast and paper from Drs. Tom Gilovich and Shai Davidai. And start to think about how you can put your challenges in perspective. In a world where fear and anxiety are escalated, it’s good to know that gratitude — and the recognition and appreciation of our tailwinds — can help us to beat personal failure.