Connecting the dots (and by dots, I mean people)

Note: This week I am at the annual National SHRM Convention in Las Vegas, NV. And in case you’re wondering if it it’s hot in Las Vegas in July, the answer is HELL YES. The heat…my god, man, THE HEAT.

As we enter the final day of this national gathering of HR folks, the attendees will be thinking about what they really got out of this experience.

  • Were the sessions worth it? Many of them were. Hopefully you chose wisely!
  • Were the keynotes good? Mika Brzezinski was. Her message about knowing your value resonated. And even if you disagreed with her, she made you think about WHY you disagreed.]
  • Were the boxed lunches good? No. 
  • Was the Expo Hall helpful? Depends on your goals. May you connect with many good vendors!
  • Did you have fun at Jennifer Hudson? No one called me for bail money, so you must have balanced it right!

What strikes me about this week as I talk to fellow attendees is how much they talk about different people they’ve met. About the woman working in Iowa as an HR Department of One and how much she has in common with the man in California facing the same challenges. About the folks on the shuttle bus chatting about their day, laughing knowingly about a session as if they were old friends. About the online friends who have been connected for a couple of years who finally got a chance to meet face to face.

I attend SHRM not just because I want to see the sessions, or keynotes, or go to Vegas. (Wait…what?)connect-the-dots

I attend SHRM because I want to connect with the online community who has welcomed me, supported me, mocked me (I’m looking at you, Stollack), and embraced me as one of their own. I am not here in any sort of official blogging/social media capacity and yet I’ve been able to hang with these folks, participate in fantastic conversations, and share my opinions with this fascinating, smart group of people.

Last night at dinner, Jason Lauritsen (yes, I’m name dropping) stopped for a moment and reflected on the growth of this little online family, and how SHRM has become a type of family reunion – a chance to reconnect on a human level with people who have been scattered around the nation.

Jason’s right. SHRM really is about the connections we make. But what’s more important are the connections we SUSTAIN.

My challenge to you as you go back to your homes and to your lives (or to the casinos) is to ensure you sustain the connections you make in life. Help connect people to those who can help each other. And plan ways to keep those connections fresh through face-to-face meetings.

The simple truth is that for all the process and product our companies deal with, it’s the PEOPLE that matter.

Connect. Sustain. Refresh.

It’s that simple.

Ninjas in our midst: in praise of undercover leaders (dispatch from #SHRM15)

Note: This week I am at the Annual National SHRM Convention in Las Vegas, NV. And in case you’re wondering if it it’s hot in Las Vegas in July, the answer is HELL YES. The heat…my god, man, THE HEAT.

Not everyone likes to go to conferences.

There are a lot of people. Vendors looks desperate. There are too many sessions that seem to look the same, and if you have to get on one more shuttle bus, you may burst into tears.

Now multiply that by about 15,000.  Because that’s how many HR professionals have descended upon Las Vegas for the annual SHRM National Convention.

They come for a variety of reasons – some come to get their recertification credits, some to see specific speakers, some to raid the Expo Hall, and yes…some come just because they want a company-sponsored trip to Vegas. (Don’t judge – you’re just mad you didn’t think of it.)

I would argue, however, that the vast majority come to reconnect with others who share their experience, skills, and intereninja2sts. They come because they want to meet the people they’ve connected with over the years. They come because they want to learn from others.

And they come because so many of these HR professionals are LEADERS.

No, they don’t have the fancy title. In fact, many of them don’t even think of themselves as leaders. They are HR folks doing the best they can to help their organizations be successful. And in the process, they prove their leadership.

These folks ask good questions in sessions. They stay behind to challenge the speaker on points made during a session. They engage with their peers on the Expo Floor or while waiting for the shuttle. They ask how the conference is going when riding the elevator down to the lobby each morning. They challenge the thinking of those around them, aren’t afraid to call something bullshit when it is exactly that, yet they don’t tear down – they help build.

This wouldn’t surprise the people who know them, because back in the office, these same HR professionals nudge and influence, support and coerce the employees and leaders working in their organizations. They keep the trains running AND challenge the status quo – all without calling attention to themselves. It’s about the outcomes, silly.

They are leadership ninjas. You don’t even realize they were there – but you feel their effects long after they’re gone. (And some of them are partial to black. No idea why.)

Are you noticing the “ninjas” in your organization? Are you willing to recognize leadership based on actions, not words? Are you able to empower based on behaviors, not title?

Don’t underestimate the power of these covert leaders…because I guarantee there are others in the organization who notice their influence and rely on their leadership capabilities.

When these HR professionals return to their organizations, eager to share what they experienced and itching to try some new things, give them some grace. Leaders DO. Leaders ACT. Leaders TRY. The worst thing you can do is look at them like they’ve grown a second head because these people want to implement something new.

So be quiet. Stand back.

You may be surprised what a ninja can do.

SHRM and the art of leadership

This is a slightly different post today, and it’s pretty HR focused, but stuff is going on in the HR world that highlights leadership. This “stuff” also highlights the fact that leadership can look and sound very, very different – and still be 100% leadership.

For the uninitiated:

SHRM (the Society of Human Resource Management) announced earlier this year that it was launching a separate new certification for HR professionals. HRCI (Human Resources Certification Institute) will continue to offer the existing certification. If you want to read more about all this, click here, here, or even here.

This post isn’t about the new certification.

What I want to focus on is the way leaders in the HR community have stimulated conversation.6-blind-men-hans

On the one hand, you have the esteemed Laurie Ruettimann – her approach has been to ask some very pointed questions about the need, efficacy and impact of the new certifications. You can read her excellent article about it here.  Go ahead, read it.  I’ll wait. Done?  Good.

On the other hand, you have the also-esteemed Steve Browne – his approach has been to focus on what the future can look like, and the progress that has been made since the announcement first happened. You can read his excellent take on the situation here. We’ll wait. It’s cool.

Chances are, you were provoked, annoyed, or in fervent disagreement with one of them, rolling your eyes at their comments. Or you may have been smiling, nodding emphatically, or fist-pumping because you totally agree with their comments. Either way, you’ve been exposed to two different perspectives and you thought about where you stood.

That means these folks are Leaders with a capital L.

I don’t mean leadership is about arguing. Leadership is about making people think. Or asking the tough questions. Or being optimistic about possibilities.

Leadership isn’t just about what YOU want it to look like. It takes all kinds, all voices, all backgrounds.

I love that Laurie and Steve come from different points of view. And I love even more that they keep the conversation going.

This, my friends, is what leadership looks like.

Keep the conversation going.  Post a comment here, post a comment for Steve and/or Laurie.  Let’s talk!