Photo on 3-4-15 at 1.22 PMI’ve been telling HR professionals to be brave, bold and curious since 2007. I learned that from Oprah, and by now, those words have no meaning.

“Be brave? In human resources? That’s dumb. And bold? Okay, let me be bold about stuff I don’t control. But I am curious about a new job. You got one for me?”

HR people are always so literal.

I would offer that great HR needs people who are brave, bold and curious. But sometimes you got to be you. I was on a hangout with one of my clients, and Roxy popped her head into the video frame. We laughed at my adorable kitten, and I remarked how weird it is to be a forty-year-old mother of a kitten. It seems harder than I remember.

“It’s fun, but she is busy. There are a million ways kittens could die, and I haven’t slept a solid night since she came into the house. She wakes me up at 3:30 AM to kiss my face.”

So then we had a twenty-minute discussion about how the single thing that unites humanity is the love of animals. There’s a guy in Syria who, at this very moment, is taking care of stray cats and dogs affected by war. There are people in the Russian republic of Chechnya who are passionate about trap-spay-neuter initiatives. And there are men and women fleeing armed conflict all over the world who grab everything they can carry with them before abandoning their lives forever.

The list includes their children, a gun and the family dog.

Many HR professionals make the mistake of trying to impress an executive with spreadsheets, numbers and weird anecdotes from leadership books. If you want to be an effective human resources leader, and if you want to practice great HR, I think you need to be brave, bold and curious — but you also need to be human.

Be highly relatable. Have something to talk about other than HR.

It’s great that you’re passionate about your job, but sometimes the best thing you can do is give that passion a rest and talk about something that someone else might care about.

Dogs and cats always work!


  1. I’ll never forget one of the first work-from-home video chats I had with a former boss. Geri sat in Denmark, I was in Colorado, trying to be very professional. Then Boo, the roving Akita, decided she needed to be a part of the conversation. Geri was THRILLED! She asked me to put her on speaker so she could talk to Boo, and to this day (3 years later) any time Geri and I connect, she asks about the dog.

    I think being willing to be human SHOWS boldness, confidence, all that stuff. You need competence…but you also need YOU.

    Great post, Laurie! (as always)

  2. I’ve often connected with employees by talking about pets. Good to know I’m on the right track. I thought I was just a dork.

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