Who do you really support?

The most important career lesson I ever learned was to understand the business.

There seems to be a lot of back and forth about HR being business professionals/or not being business professionals. In my opinion the easiest way to win this discussion is to make sure you understand the business you support-not just the people portion, but the whole picture.

How does your company make money? What are the products/services your company provides? How do they provide it? Like really, how? What other areas do your HR policies or actions impact and how.

From where I sit, you can make better decisions about the HR support you provide when you understand the business. Looking beyond your schedule and how quickly (or slowly) you choose to respond or how much information you decide you want to share can move your department forward.

People (managers especially) choose to not value HR when you choose to ignore the bigger business picture and only do things the way you want to do things. When HR isn’t valued it’s hard to see them as business professionals.

In 2019 don’t just try to teach the business HR, let HR learn the business.

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Only HR during the day

It’s important that us HR professionals maintain our knowledge when we are fulfilling our volunteer roles.

In my 10 years of volunteering with groups related to my professional day job I have seen a lot of issues that could have been avoided if we applied our strategic HR thinking to our volunteer problems.

It baffles me that we get in a group with a bunch of HR professionals and then forget that we have critical skills to defuse communication problems and apply strategic business thinking to road blocks.

The most baffling is when we slip up and say things out of line that would get our organizations in trouble if someone at work tried to do the same. For instance, thinking that someone has to be a certain age to do a job:

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My way

Be your most productive self by learning that there is more than one way to do things.

I order what I know I like from restaurants, I usually take the same route to places I frequent, I have specific routines, and I don’t want you kids on my lawn. I like things done a certain way, mostly my way.

thank you but i prefer it my way

Sometimes my way holds the team back though. My way isn’t the only way. My way works for me, but may not work for everyone else.

To keep from letting my way get in THE way, I focus on the outcome. The end goal can get me to overlook someone else’s way that maybe isn’t as fast as my way would be, or as efficient, or as thorough…

You’ll be a better team player and co-worker if you let yourself learn more than one way to do things.

 

HR doesn’t make the rules

This one deserves more attention than I’m giving the short 33 career lessons, but this one is important so don’t let the brief summary fool you.

HR friends, you don’t make the rules. You may get to make some decisions, but you don’t make the rules.

If HR is sitting in their office making rules from afar that impact managers and employees we are doing business wrong. Our primary business service to the organization is to help facilitate solutions. Yes, we have to take into consideration all the data that helps us do a reasonable risk analysis, present solutions, and partner with folks for the right answer-but we don’t make the rules.

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We may offer guidance on what the safest solution is, but we don’t make the rules. We may even recite case-law and updated state and federal  laws, but we do not make the rules…

If you get defensive when a manager has an idea or suggestion and have to flex on them so they know you are in control, you are in the wrong field my friend. You’ll be miserable at work and you’ll hold your organization back.

If you hold up a process so you can remind people HR is an important function for getting work done, they are going to think less and less of HR and start working around you.

Don’t flex on folks and embarrass HR in 2019. Be useful, collaborate, build solutions and take your organization to the next level. Otherwise, you may be building the case for your company to not value HR at all.

 

What’s really going on here?

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I’ve had this blog for many years now, but every year I write less and less on it. I still write for other people (some under my name and some ghost writing), but I’ve neglected little ol’ hrpockets.

I’ve been thinking about ways to reunite with my blog and get back to putting out regular content. So many times I think of this great idea for a post, start my notes, say I’m going to finish it (lets not talk about how many draft posts I have) and push it further and further down my to-do list.

The truth is I enjoy putting out the occasional blog. I find it helpful to connect with readers and engage via email or social media to learn other folks perspectives, I just haven’t made myself sacrifice other things to focus on writing here.

I remember Sarah Morgan talking about how she was advised to find a 30 day writing challenge to reconnect with her writing and I finally decided maybe I could do that to re-engage here. FYI, Sarah created the #BlackBlogsMatter movement from her writing challenge and its about to start for 2019 so please bookmark her page and follow the hashtag and twitter account, she (and many others) are going to be bringing the content!

My writing challenge is just for me, it’s sort of a new years resolution, I guess? A stab at building a habit of showing some attention to where my writing started. 33 days of career lessons in honor of turning 33 (today).

Today makes lesson 10. We will all find out together if I make it through all 33. No writing ahead, no set time to post by, no word count, or ultimate goal other than the 33 lessons I made a list of back in December.

Lesson 10 is do what you want to do. Sure you have to get some experience, but don’t do something you don’t want to do for too long-you may get stuck there.

You have to figure out for yourself what you want and you have to learn to articulate that to your managers and mentors. If you can’t articulate it, you’re losing out on resources you need. Being able to articulate your goals and what you really enjoy working on will help you facilitate conversations where you get the most useful feedback from others and have the opportunity to ask valuable questions. Rarely do things just fall in your lap and work out exactly the way you had hoped, you have to use your voice.

This also means you are allowed to leave good opportunities without guilt. You can have a great job and enjoy your co-workers, but need to leave for your own career path and professional development. That is OKAY! You shouldn’t feel bad for leaving a good company if the new opportunity is right.

The easiest way to navigate how to get to where you want to be is honesty and transparency. If you’re working for someone who doesn’t value your honesty and transparency, you’re probably not where you ultimately want to be anyway.

In 2019 I hope you find yourself doing what you want to do.

You can’t do everything

One of the hardest lessons of my life, let alone my career, has been that I can’t do everything.

I’m that employee who is always willing to do whatever needs to be done. You tell me where you need me and I’m there. Recruit for these other positions? Sure! Order lunch for a meeting? I can give it a go! Clean the toilets? No problem!

Sometimes I should say no when I say yes.

Recently I had scheduled at least a day to handle a task for work and a teammate kept telling me she could do it. I was like no way, I’ll figure it out. She said it was no big deal. I said my poor planning shouldn’t cause more work for her. She said, really its no big deal. I handed over the project and what was going to take me at least a day took her a couple of hours.

I was floored. I’m also excited to get some pointers from her because if I was going to make that task last a minimum of a whole day I was looking at it all wrong.

I could have given her this part of the project a couple of weeks ago, but I kept telling myself I would get to it. I sure wish I would’ve given it to her then instead of trying to fit it into my schedule.

The thing is, I was holding up progress. I was hanging onto something to keep from creating more work for someone else, but someone else was better suited for this task (obviously). I should have used my resources better.

As you navigate 2019 just know that not every ‘Yes’ is necessary. Sometimes you aren’t the best person for the task. Sometimes you need to let someone else take the opportunity to be great. Sometimes the task won’t be worth your time. Make wise decisions this year. Own your time and be a great teammate.

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Because you are one

Since it’s my husbands birthday today I’ll tell y’all one of his favorite work stories of mine.

When I was a young-know-it-all-staffing-manager I acted like it. If I knew I was right about something, I didn’t back down. If I knew someone on my team (errr corporate didn’t really feel like they were on my team though) was not going to be as nice as they could be to one of my customers I refused to let them talk to my customers. I prefer to handle it myself than have to clean up a mess after someone who knows nothing about, or even laid eyes on, my customer has been rude.

I had gotten in a situation where I did not want the person over AR talking to my customers anymore. I wanted her to tell me what she needed and I would go and chase it down. Any of my customers who talked to her complained about how rude and disrespectful she was, even if it turned out to be an error on our part and not the customers. I even remember the owner of the company saying she was “his bulldog.” I always shudder when I think about that because he said it like it was a good thing, some sort of twisted compliment.

On one of the visits from the owner he asked me why I didn’t like the person over AR. I didn’t answer him right away because I wasn’t prepared to give a business reason over a purely emotional opinion. I tried really hard to think about all the business reasons I could provide to why I didn’t want to talk to her, or let her talk to my customers but it really boiled down to the fact that she was a jerk. So I sent an email answer to the question (I had to send the email to the VP because the owner didn’t have an email address). In the email I answered his question and I flat-out typed that it’s because she’s an asshole. Plain as day, I used those words in black and white.

Now, I got a phone call and was asked why I would do that and specifically why I would do that in an email. Well, because I believed I was right. I knew for a fact that it was a correct label for her and that was that.

Here’s the kicker. The owner would use GD and other swear words on a regular basis when we would have meetings. Just pepper them allllll through the conversation. I had no reason to believe that I would get in trouble for using that word. I also thought it was perfectly fine to put it in an email because I stood by what I said.

What I can tell you I eventually realized is, you can’t always emulate the behavior you see. The owner and I were not judged by the same standards so we could not behave in the same way.

I think that’s pretty much true of the hierarchy right? You’re held to different standards depending on where you are in that. It could be as simple as how well you abide by the dress code to how you can get away with talking in meetings. I’m not saying its right, what I’m saying is be aware of it. When you can, you should step back from a situation and try to map out the possible consequences to your behavior and determine what you’re comfortable with. In that example, I would probably send the email again. I still believe it was an environment where the impression was it would be accepted and it’s not like I got in real trouble over it. BUT 33-year-old me is pretty much ashamed of that behavior because I know there are better alternatives to how I handled it.

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Worst case, when in doubt call your mentor. Or just remember Justin Minyard’s advice that he gives me any time he thinks I’m leaving for work frustrated “Just don’t call anyone an asshole in an email today.”