As I mentioned, I’m on the road discussing creativity and innovation in human resources. This is a dry subject.

“Employer branding? Social recruiting? Multitenancy? It’s pure ecstacy!”

I’m hired to deliver these workshops with a bit of humor, but sometimes this is a challenge for me. I once delivered a luncheon talk and my friend Lizzie said, “You didn’t smile once.”

Yikes. I’m smiley. That’s a problem.

If you are a human resources leader, thinking “strategically” and working “creatively” is part of your job. I don’t feel like doing creative and innovative work deserves a parade. And I always think to myself, “Who gave these other HR people permission to take risks and be clever? Nobody. They just did the work and—worst-case scenario—dared the universe to fire them.”

What can I say? My midwestern pragmatism is tough to overcome.

Luckily, I have a mentor who gave me an alternative perspective on how to deliver this material. She told me that my role isn’t to beat the drum for great HR or drop a roadmap into the laps of HR leaders, but rather, to show them what other great HR teams are accomplishing and then give them permission to do it—or something better.

And my mentor encouraged me to be as fun as I can possibly be whilst discussing HR. Don’t lose my edge. But at the end of whatever I say or do with my workshops, always give people permission to blow the fucking roof off of whatever they’re doing (within reason) and become a future case study for great HR.

I like that approach. I’ve been using it more and more. Less lecture, more inspiration and aspiration. And I’m trying to smile!