Men Love Oprah… really they do. HR peeps and the power of influencing haters.

I’ve said it before. 

I’ll say it again. 

I love Oprah.  I’ve just been watching her show for too long not to love her.  My husband doesn’t get it. My dad doesn’t get it. All my girlfriends do.  For a long time I chocked it up to a girl thing. And I don’t really care if she is a sell out or a mogul gone too far or if she is overexposed.  Her show has introduced me to things I frankly would not have been exposed to on my own.  I guess I am just not esoteric enough to have found Eckart Tolle on my own.  Whose book is really, really good.

So I was watching her big farewell bash from the United Center in Chicago (the greatest city on earth) and amid the many celebrity “surprises” and over-the-top farewell songs (Aretha’s Amazing Grace, for all its greatness…fell flat) was one segment that truly brought me to tears.  Oprah too.  And I don’t mean the “Oprah is welling up a little bit as she thanks a guest who got over their Hoarding problem”.  I mean, Oprah cried the heartfelt cry that you just can fake or shy away from.

The entire show consisted of tributes from a plethora of people who Oprah influenced, helped, or changed for the better.  But one segment stood out.  This segment highlighted all of the African-American Men who received Oprah Winfrey scholarships to attend Morehouse College in  Atlanta.  Many brilliant who would have never afforded school had it not been for the scholarship; several are now doctors, lawyers, etc. 

So, the United Center went dark; Kristen Chenoweth took the stage.  She started singing the first bars of “For Good” (from Wicked) and a slow long procession began.  From the back of the United Center 400 men holding candles processed out through the audience to take the stage.

I love theatrical drama only if it is done well; this my friends was done well.  Don’t believe me?  Here is the video.

So Oprah cried. Big time.  And I would suggest for one reason and one reason only. She likely got what she has longed for many years.  Validation from a segment of the population frankly never linked to her or her works. A segment who usually openly loathes her.  Men.  More importantly, she did change their lives for the better and she likely never knew it.

So this is not a piece to slam men.  If I were a dude I wouldn’t dig her either.  But I guess what I am getting at is you, HR rockstar, have more influential power, more will, more interaction with, more ability to Change Peoples Lives At Work.  You can CHANGE PEOPLES LIVES. If you are open to that possibility, you are positioned better than anyone else in your entire organization to CHANGE PEOPLES LIVES for the better.

Hear me?

You will likely never know it. But it is happening right now. Because of you.

Do not abuse that privilege or let it slip through your fingers.

Horatio and the Art of Letting Go: The Fail Monster Part II

Not to jump on Laurie Ruettimann’s brand…but my cat Ray (short for Horatio) is not doing well.  Many think I named him after Romeo’s pal in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But since pretension is not by bag, in actuality his real name is Horatio since he was found on Horatio Drive in Chicago, IL.  He is 15 or 16…don’t really know exactly but he is old.  He has been my pal for many years.  However, for the past 10 months we have seen a slow steady decline for no other reason than he is old.  Just when we are about to throw in the towel Ray bounces back.  We never stop trying new treatments: whether a new medicine, saline treatments or a very expensive trip to the vet….for a few days or a few weeks or sometimes a few months he bounces back. 

Unfortunately the bounce backs are becoming shorter and shorter; not surprisingly. Up till now I have been pretty optimistic– however Ray’s quality of life is becoming an increasing thought to me (and no doubt my cat).  So it’s time to start trying something different. Or in the very least, thinking differently.

As I stated in my last post–I am working on a change management course for my company, Daxko.  And I huge chunk of my research is from a fab book called, Survival Is Not Enough by Seth Godin.  For those bloggers and HR thought leaders who have been around a while–this may be considered an oldie-but-goodie.  But for those of you new to the scene it is still a stellar read on change, the new speed of business (the new “norm”) and staying agile.  Staying agile means you have to flex, bend, and sway with the constant change.  And to do that you have to let go of failures quickly and move to other things.  You have to let go.

Human beings are not hard-wired this way.  We have evolved to survive, stay comfy, and defend our status quo.

This strategy is not working for Ray, my cat.  And likely it is not working in your business either.

So I am going to start thinking differently.  I’ll keep doing my treatments (I’m not cruel for God’s sake)…and if there is something new (a new medicine or food) I’ll give it a go.  But my different approach will include keeping my cat comfy, hugging him more, letting him sleep on my head if he wants and loving him more than treating him. Who knows what will happen; maybe something I can’t imagine or foresee now.

Think differently in your work worlds. Let go of that project that just isn’t working. Let go of your preconceived notions of your 3 year plan that will likely change after 2 months. Let go of thinking your team will stay in their roles for good.

Try something new and you may be surprised; maybe something you can’t imagine or foresee now will rock your world.

The Fail Monster: I Can’t Shake It

Failure is not sexy:  no matter how you spin it.

I’m creating a Daxko Leadership Academy class for all our Team Leads/ VPs here in Bham.  So I’ve been emerged in a world of change articles, thought leadership, channeling my inner Seth Godin (which is still a joy).  More to come on him this week…

The topic of failure comes up a lot in the” new-world” change model.  More importantly accepting failure as a norm.  Really it’s not about the failure it’s about the rebound.  Guess what— I suck at this. Actually, I need a word more melancholy cause failure rocks me to my core.

I’m hard on myself:  in retrospect I have had many failures, transitions and successful rebounds:

  • a rebound from acting “career”–I use that term loosely
  • a rebound from singing “tryst” — I again use that term loosely
  • a career transition from retail to corp HR
  • a decades long transition from HR admin to HR VP.  There were so many failures, rebounds and rebirths during this period I can’t list them all.
  • a marriage to a divorce to a remarriage
  • a transition from Mississippi to Memphis to Chicago to LA to Birmingham
  • going from skinny to “not-skinny” to “sorda skinnyish”
  • etc

I’ve learned many lessons from these “failures” which have evolved to successes. But the failures have taken me on a ride and, well…. made me the HR insomniac.

So what’s an HR pro to do (other than get a prescription to Ambien):

  • Do look at failure as the new norm in business.  Like in life it is evolutionary.
  • After you’ve ‘failed’ you do look at things like you have “nothing to lose”.  That feels damn good.
  • Network with other HR folks going through the same things.  It’s hard to open up at work in our roles but more HR pros have these failure evolutions than don’t. Cept maybe Kris Dunn…I mean some people are wired to not pay it mind.
  •  It’s OK to hate failure.  I mean whoever tried to make failure sexy is a buffoon. 
  • It’s not OK to treat your failure like an ex-boyfriend you make drunk calls too.  Let. it.go. really. It gets you nowhere.

So even though failure is not sexy (you get that ugly cry face and wipe your nose on your sleeve while you wear your comfy pants), afterwards you can put your fav gloss, a new black dress and start your next evolution.

HR Lesson in Getting It Wrong via 80’s Worst Song Ever (bang, bang..)

So today I’m in the car…XM is on the fritz so am listening to one of  a million classic rocks stations in Birmingham, AL. Don’t get me started on the radio music scene….

So this morning the Patty Smyth/Scandal song “The Warrior” comes on.  You know the 80’s anthem (good god it is hard to repeat the lyric) “shooting at the walls of heartache, bang, bang….”.  Dear lord I cannot continue…..and I am from the 80’s and can appreciate an anthem.

I tweet out my distaste of this song that I despised even back in the day and to my surprise a myriad of my coworkers/ twitterati, etc respond.  For the love of God, most favor the tune; Love the song. Most don’t understand why I don’t like it.  Several said “so you’re not a warrior?”, “I’m a warrior”, “can’t believe you’re a hater”.

I was in shock and awe folks; shock and awe.

So the HR takeaway:  remember your perception of employee likes and dislikes is always wrong.  Always. If you don’t believe me check out this cool Dan Pink Video! (love the 80’s references on it). Getting a handle on what they think is vital to strategic success. Study after study show what employees favor is almost always different from what leaders think employees favor (or are motivated by or engaged by).  Since corporate success hinges on employee engagement, HR rockstars need to embrace this concept of, oh…I don’t know, asking employees what motivates them.

If not you may be shooting at the walls of heartache….o god I can’t believe I went there.

PS– Patty Smyth seems to be doing OK despite my wholehearted distaste of this song==>> she and hubby John McEnroe seem to be living the good life.  So kudo’s to you Warrior Lady…

Relationship 101: In Lust with your Company?…They Just Aren’t That Into You


Is anybody at work really into you?  

Indulge me in a quote from the book, He’s Just Not That Into You. This book was my Bible after my divorce and I was thrown into mid-thirties dating (that is another adventuresome story for another time):

Cut your losses and don’t waste your time. Why stay in some weird dating limbo when you can move on to what will surely be better territory? Don’t want to hear it?  Fine… But please don’t be surprised if he dumps you or continues to drag you through a completely unsatisfying relationship.

What does that have to do with HR?
I had a conversation with a CEO-type person I respect and he gave me advice on how to handle a situation with a coworker.  No melodramatics here…I just needed a little navigational advice.

Ultimately I was advised if I wanted to get through to my coworker I should forget the “relationship building” angle and just get to the meat of my point. Time is money = and this gal ain’t got time for a Lifetime Moment. This was practical, relevant advice that I will likely heed.  However….

Isn’t it all about the relationship?  Always.  Since we are human. And we cry. And we laugh. And we don’t very well differentiate between turning on and off emotions at work vs. life?  After all isn’t work/life one now.  Craig Fisher, guru from Ajax Social Media (@fishdogs) called his network “Prof-ersonal” .  There is no line anymore.

So, just like “if a tree falls in a wood and nobody is there to see it, did it really happen?”, I would ask, “If you try to build a relationship and no one cares, does it really matter”? Is the common HR “let’s build relationships” fallback always the proper fallback?  I say no.

I’m a fan of building relationships to advance HR business ops because we only have influential power. But if others don’t roll that way, and their non-relationshipy style seems to get things done, should you care? Seems some of your effective C-Suite does not care nor do they have to.  So just like He’s Just Not That Into You, should you HR Rockstar, cut your losses, quite wasting time, and get out of that weird, corporate, relationship building limbo?

If it keeps you HR strategy from advancing and puts your program in a perpetual limbo…..may you should get a new “fallback”.

My Kingdom for an HRevolution

Chillin’ at my BFF’s house after HR attending my first HRevolution, I picked up the latest Vanity Fair.  See me and my BFF love to relax to Vanity Fair, US weekly and the Real Housewives of Atlanta. It was a good chillin’ moment after the conference at Georgia Tech. In between stories about Rob Lowe and the Royals, there was a small one pager about Harold Bloom.  Bloom is the preeminent US scholar on all things Shakespeare; he should be–he’s 80, has written 39 books (mostly on the subject o’ thee Bard),  and has been teaching on the subject at Yale for 55 years.

Whuuu…. makes your head spin. Oh and he thinks Shakespeare is God.  Duh.

Then the article swung me to an HRevolution place.  At that time HRevolution was in my headspace pulling a full-frontal on me.

Bloom was frustrated with biographies of Shakespeare.  To illustrate the point he stated,

“Let me quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, best mind ever to come out of America:  Shakespeare is the only biographer of Shakespeare.  In other words, don’t look for the man in the work; look for the work in the man…”

This is the very reason why HRevolution worked for me. After reading lots of material from a lot of the attendees at the HRevo, it’s been easy to infer who they are from their work: blogs, tweets, job titles, etc. But in the live, kinetic, authentic context of the conference/unconference you were able to see the value, voraciousness, and depth of the work through the person.

For example—Charlie Judy through his blog HRFishbowl writes about Simply Engineered HR.  Premise = quit over thinking HR and get back to the basic, human element of the profession.  Reading his blog you can interpret Charlie through his work.  Charlie is a smart HR guy so there is a lot to take away. However, in real life when you see how he interacts with people, very open, welcoming–dare I say Charming (not in a creepy way @DwayneLay) you begin to be to see “the (HR) work in the man”. When you see his talk about his children, family you begin to see “the (HR) work in the man”. The HR context is full circle.

So that is the beauty of the HRevolution.  And a beauty you should share on your own HR stage.  

And as Shakespeare said…all the world’s a stage.