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.”

 

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And another thing…Her too

Another thing that unexpectedly took up a lot of brain space for me in 2018 goes all the way back to a conversation that started in 2015.

For several years now I’ve been part of the SHRM Blog team that gets a pass to conference each year in exchange for writing about the event. All other notions about SHRM aside, it’s usually a pretty great team of people and I’ve found some incredible mentors and friends through this avenue. Back in 2015 the annual conference was in Vegas and the fundraiser (back when we also had an annual fundraising event for NKH) that was organized for the group to participate in was a poetry slam.

Even though this was my third time being at annual conference, I still didn’t know a lot of the group and I kind of stuck to myself  at these events and a handful of familiar faces. One of the people who participated in the slam shared her horrible experiences from multiple conferences through her poetry. I sat so still when she was talking. It was the first time I heard someone who was in the same field as me talk about the way she was treated by males in the industry, and sometimes other females. How she was talked to, how she was propositioned, how certain things were expected of her… I very distinctly remember someone I knew at my table leaning over and saying “she and I are clearly not going to the same conferences.”

But here’s the deal, we are going to the same conferences. It’s happening at conferences that YOU and I are attending. Conferences full of HR professionals! And lawyers! And other business leaders!

After the slam was over I kept telling myself to go over there and talk to her. I was so shocked about what she shared and I truly felt for her, I could relate. I couldn’t think of any words to say so I said what really turned out to be the worst thing I could think of “Why do you keep coming back to these?”

I’m not going to share specifics of what she shared that night in front of the whole crowd because I have literally never talked to her again and did not get her permission to share the details. I’m not going to share specifically what she said in response to my question because that’s for her to share, but I can say she handled it with more grace than I probably would have. I mean, I basically asked her why she continued to come to a conference related to her field that also was a source of potential clients which ultimately turns into revenue. Her livelihood. I asked her why she came back to something that represented a connection to her livelihood.

I have replayed the poetry she shared that night and my idiotic question in my mind so many times since 2015, but most of those times were during the year of 2018.

I was part of the problem that night in Las Vegas. I asked a question that implied it was her fault that these things kept happening because she kept coming back. I asked a question that implied if she would stop coming, these things would stop happening EVEN THOUGH I know these things can happen to anyone, anywhere.

The Vegas conference was a weird conference for me. I felt that a lot of the content was “just playing it safe,” and not challenging us to be bold in our profession. We HR professionals need to hear the hard truth, and this hard truth is that we cannot sit in our offices, behind our desks, and help create a narrative that the victim is to blame. We cannot ask questions that imply a worker put themselves in a position to be harassed just by showing up.

Think about the last time you heard about someone being harassed or being a victim outside of work? How did you react? Did you ask a really dumb question like me? Did you assume the victim should’ve done something different? Were you impartial? Did you look for the facts? Were you sure you knew the victim was lying because you know something about their character already? The truth is, who we are at home is who we are at work-you can’t fake it forever.

That incident in Las Vegas in 2015 is burned in my memory forever. The good thing about that is, I learned something about myself that night and I’ve equipped myself with the resources to handle that differently in the future.

Friend, what are you going to do differently in 2019?

To kick off 2019 lets talk fees

In 2018 I committed to one thing for my career that took far more energy than I had planned. I decided that I needed to stop accepting lower fees for my side work than my male counterparts. I don’t mean accept less than males who do speaking and writing, I mean stop accepting less than males who do speaking and writing in the same arena I do who have comparable experience, knowledge, exposure, etc as me.

Y’all… this was hard. Sometimes it meant saying no to opportunities I really wanted to take and sometimes it meant pressing on with difficult negotiation conversations. Sometimes the first offer was sufficient, plenty of people let me set my own rate, and sometimes I still failed at negotiating the right price and accepted way lower payment than I should have.

I know I’m not the only one up against this. I’ve worked on this for my day job and overlooked the much needed negotiations for my “side gigs.” 2018 was the first time I had enough confidence to start the conversation to earn better pay for my side gigs so I started it.

What is glaringly obvious to me now is so many organizations still do not have a solid compensation strategy. I don’t know how far away we are from more folks getting this right, but I sure hope we can collectively step our game up this year.

I mean this as HR professionals with a voice in our organizations. I also mean this as HR professionals planning conferences for our profession. I know its tough. I’m helping plan a conference with a limited budget, so limited that one of the speakers we really wanted quoted me a price larger than the entire speaker budget that’s set aside to pay multiple speakers. Multiple speakers people!! We can’t do much this go around, but we can do something and I intend for that something to be as fair as possible.

Together, lets agree to start somewhere. Find a way to get the revenue or the sponsorship’s. Talk about a number your team is comfortable with, and don’t pay someone twice as much as you pay someone else for no good reason. Reach out to other people who have planned conferences and ask advice. Use your resources.

I’ll get better at negotiating my rate properly. You’ll get better at a solid compensation strategy. We will all get better at something this year.

Friends, secure your bag in 2019. If I can help, let me know.

cheers

 

The first time I tweeted

Hot off the heels of #SHRM18 and I have to share that I’ve been quite sappy about it!

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First reason being because Chicago is where it all started for me. #SHRM13 was the first time I was invited to be a part of the bloggers team and I was absolutely overwhelmed with the experience. I was introduced to so many wonderful, intelligent HR professionals from different industries and backgrounds, heard speakers that I probably never would have heard otherwise, went to Chicago for the first time, played a pretty fun kickball game with complete strangers for a good cause, went to a party where DJ Jazzy Jeff was the entertainment and saw firsthand how important it is for #HR professionals to have other #HR people in their circle. I was welcomed into a group of people who were trying to do good HR and help others do the same. The other reason being how twitter changed everything for my professional development and career path. Seriously.

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The first time I tweeted was at an Alabama SHRM State conference back in 2012. The conference organizers had set up two screens in the main session room that would scroll through tweets of people using their hashtag in real-time. I sat close to the front and kept seeing the same few tweets over and over from two, maybe three people ( I have determined two were April Dowling and Pam Werstler). I was uncomfortable, I was slightly embarrassed for the conference organizers (I had empathy for conference organizers far before I ever helped organize a conference) and decided to pull my phone out and create a twitter so I could start tweeting about the session. It didn’t help much, but I was doing my part to throw some variety on the tweet screen set-up. My plan was to delete my twitter after the conference, but I didn’t. I’m so glad I didn’t.

Fast forward to today and I’m connected to thousands of #HR professionals across the globe via twitter. I interact with hundreds of them regularly, call some of them my friends, and have used them as resources when I need fresh perspectives on a challenge or some expert guidance. I’ve been inspired by #HR pros on twitter, I’ve been furious because of some of the content from #HR pros, I’ve been a voice in the conversation for our profession thanks to twitter, and I’ve listened to other voices of our profession, also thanks to twitter. I’ve found mentors through this social media tool, role models, people who are smarter than me, people who also make mistakes, people who are better writers than me, people who have experienced things I have not, people who love me, and some people who don’t. I find updates in the legal realm of HR via twitter, I get to see takeaways from events and conferences in real-time via twitter, I see people helping others solve their challenges through twitter, and one time I met Boyd Tinsley because of twitter. He’s a hugger, as you can see below. Good things happen on twitter.

 

Good things happen on twitter if you let them. All things that can be used for good can also be used for bad (or even evil). In my experience the good outweighs the bad. If you are still hesitant to get on twitter, try it for 30 days. If you are afraid that your employees will see what you are tweeting, make your account private. If you go the route of private you can control who follows you, but I recommend putting HR in your bio so other HR pros can tell they should follow you back when you follow them. You can also practice “what if my boss reads this” or “what if employees read this” and screen your own tweets. Believe it or not, there are some things I want to tweet that I actually never hit send on. If you are afraid of being yourself out there and feel the need to make an anonymous account that works for some people, but I think you’ll have a hard time building real relationships that route and you are really missing out if you can’t build real relationships.

All this to say that really I’ve experienced so much because of my first tweet. I really believe that if it weren’t for the opportunity to connect and build relationships via twitter, my career would’ve stalled out years ago. I would’ve learned far less than I have and had a much smaller network of HR friends and colleagues to cheer me on and challenge me to be better. I’ve had opportunities to speak to groups, write for other companies, travel to new cities, etc. and all of that can be traced back to my first tweet!

The Most Awkward Position on Your Board

My faithful readers know that I’ve been involved in my local SHRM chapter since about 2008 and that I’ve held a lot of different volunteer roles through those years (holy cow that’s ten years, which I think makes me a chapter historian by default). Side note, if you’re still a faithful reader of my inconsistent blogging, you deserve an award and all of my appreciation! Focus Kristina.

My favorite role was Legislative Director (or Governmental Affairs) and I did that one for a few years! I’ve also been on the Community Relations Committee that later evolved to the Community Relations and Education Committee (and yeah I was on that too). I was Chapter Administrator and a workshop magician with Michelle (good story, you should keep one or two of these in your chapter). I rolled out the chapters social media (that we are STILL working on-cmon HR pros use the social media powers for good already and stop fighting it)! I’ve supported Programs and Membership via subcommittees and helped anyone who ever had more than they could handle on their plate execute their volunteer commitment in a way that ensured our members wouldn’t miss a beat. I’ve helped coordinate membership events, vendor appreciation events, updated chapter info, suffered through HOURS LONG board meetings where we all had to share 1 large pizza (It’s worth mentioning here that I can literally eat an entire large pizza by myself), supported SHRM Foundation through calling companies begging for donations, marketed everywhere I could think of, changed our sponsor strategy, partnered with many a local initiative, raised money, recruited volunteers, balanced a budget or two, stressed over menu options and I actually wore a t-shirt that said “HR for hoo-hahs” in public to support an event that a board member signed our chapter up for. She thought “hoo-hahs” were your boobs… no one calls their boobs “hoo-hahs.” I’ve been president-elect, I’ve been president, I’ve been many a presidents “get stuff done” person, I’ve asked people to stop soliciting to members, I’ve been accused of not providing enough tech support to members who were trying to figure out their gmail (turns out it wasn’t me she was looking for, Ben helped her set up her gmail-how did she even confuse me with him?).  I’ve even endured an awkward conversation with a member that suggested I should be submitted to a psychiatric study, but by far the most awkward position I’ve ever held for our chapter has been immediate Past President.

That’s the actual title, immediate Past President. I get the purpose of this role and I’m thrilled to still be on the board (and back in a support role), but this one is weird! I sort of feel like I’m in the way and that maybe a good ol clean cut changing of the guard was in order. I love our members and I enjoy serving them, but I feel like I’m in the boards way now. I knew it was time to roll off the board and make way for new members and fresh ideas on the board, believe me I’m all for me getting out of the way. We have a board filled with excitement and great ideas for the chapter, but I find myself having an internal conversation of “be seen and not heard, they will let you know when they need you.” I get the idea of a Past President, its great to have the continuation and someone to pass along a bit of history for the newer board members, but sometimes I just feel like the person in the room getting in the way of creativity. Really all I need to do is pass on what I know doesn’t work (and why it didn’t work for us) and what I know works (and why) and then get out of the way.

This is a serious leadership learning opportunity for me because I’m sure I can find a way to add value and not be in the way, I just haven’t figured it out yet. Fading out would be the easy way to deal with this, but I had other members make it a point to ask me to my face if I was going to “disappear like all of the other past presidents” on multiple occasions so I came into this role with the drive to be present, be supportive, and be a set of hands when needed but sometimes its hard. I’ve been around long enough to see almost every other president disappear (one or two actually moved away and didn’t disappear in the sense of not showing up to our events anymore) and I always wondered how to get those past presidents involved again. In my efforts to get them re-engaged through the years I did find out that some just needed to feel included, some just needed a break, but now I know at least one of us needs a safe place to say “I’m sorry for being so freaking awkward.” If you’re reading this and you’re a super awesome leader and you didn’t have this problem, good for you! I am apparently still learning leadership lessons and figuring out how to best lead from where I am without getting in the way of the actual leadership.

As a reward for your faithfulness and sticking it out to the end of this post, here’s the t-shirt proof. I tore my closet apart looking for the shirt so I could just take a picture of it for you all, but I couldn’t find it so I dug through Facebook to find the actual proof that I wore this in public… to support my fellow board member of course. Being immediate Past President is more awkward than showing you all the proof that I wore this shirt… in public.

hooha shirt
It was a breast cancer awareness 5k (I feel compelled to tell you that neither of the ladies I’m pictured with here had anything to do with this shirt). 

Learning into action #SHRM17

As I sit in another general session for #SHRM17 I wonder with my colleagues if this information is new to people in the audience. Great speaker, great information, fun delivery, but is the core of the message still new?

We have to remind ourselves that there are over 15,000 folks in this session & some of them are entry level so it is BRAND NEW to them. Some of our attendees this year have never been to any conference let alone a national conference. Some of our attendees are so busy at work that they don’t make time to read up on “new things” in our profession. So yes, for some of the audience this is new.

It’s going to continue to be new until our profession as a whole get better at it. If you haven’t been to a general session this week, “it” could be anything from improving recruitment and selection processes to building teams. So take what is inspiring you here and put it into action when you get back to work. Make a plan to present your case and turn your new information into a solution.

A few steps to not skip when turning this into action:

-Make sure it makes sense for your organization. If you can’t make a sound business case for it or identify the ROI you probably don’t need to waste your time on it.

-Don’t try and copy what you’ve heard, figure out how it applies to your organization.

-The 140 character words of wisdom floating around with the hashtag are only a tiny piece of the story. Paint the bigger picture so you can make a sound decision.

-Solve the problem your organization has. Don’t create a problem to solve, solve the one that exists.

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5 ways to be “All In” at #SHRM17

The countdown is on for #SHRM17!! I get so excited for the SHRM Annual Conference and Exposition every year because I’m guaranteed to see some of my extremely smart HR pals, discover some awesome presenters, learn a thing or two, and have a great time. All of these things have been true of my conference experience every year, regardless of the location so bringing it to New Orleans is just the cherry on top for me this year! I’ve only been to New Orleans one other time and I absolutely loved it-I’m thrilled to have a reason to go back!

This year is a great opportunity for us to challenge each other to be “All In” given that is the theme for the conference and when I thought about what that means for me I realized it means the following few things.

First, it means I’ve got to increase my behavioral competencies knowledge because that was my lowest score on my SHRM-SCP results. I was really happy with the rest of my results so I’m going to take this opportunity at conference to find sessions to help me improve in this area. Second, I have to grow my network some more, let more people into my circle. I’ve made some great connections through the years at these events so I can’t stop now- after all something like 15,000 people go to this conference, I only know a small FRACTION of those folks! Also, I have to be intentional about finding knowledge and people who can help me solve my HR problems rather than cluster around and complain about our HR problems. This is tough because as HR professionals we cannot typically vent within our organizations when we are troubled by something so it’s easy to let it all out at a conference away from work with our HR brethren. Fourth, I have to be “All In” with what I learn at conference this year. That means when I get back to work, I need to use what I learned. I need to bring back ideas to Huntsville and share with our chapter. I can’t just take notes and never look at them again. Finally, I’ve got to challenge my peers to be “All In” on taking HR to the next level. I will not enable you to complain about what you “don’t have” in your organization (resources, table, support, etc.) instead I will empower you to use what you’ve got to get you what you need!

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