Tag: human resources

My Five Year Woriversary

Five years (and one day) ago, I walked into the doors of a medium-sized credit union as the newest person of their HR team. And, oooh, boy. What. A. Ride.

I wasn’t looking for work when I applied to work where I’m at right now. I had s job. It paid the bills. I was good at it. It was comfortable. And part of that job was finding people to do customer service people for the call centers of that medium-sized credit union.

They were so obsessive about what they wanted in candidates and it was killing me. The candidates needed to really get what it meant to go above and beyond with customers and how to really get to know them, but it was totally cool if they didn’t have any experience.

The whole role, I kept hearing about the “culture” at this credit union and I had no idea what that meant because where I was working didn’t know what that really meant either. And whether it was fate or luck or pure randomness, one night I got an Indeed alert that they’d posted a job in their HR department. I thought about it for 12 seconds, updates my severely neglected resume, and applied.

I got a call on my birthday to schedule a phone interview and that whole culture thing started making itself incredibly evident during the entire interview process and I REALLY WANTED TO WORK THERE.

And here I am five years later.

I’ve learned a lot. My leader asked last Friday about some of my best moments here. At the very top of the list was being on stage in front of the entire (now large-sized) company when someone from my team got to announce that we were rolling out a six week paid parental leave. And it’s also anytime a leader calls me ready to offer a job to someone I’ve told them they’re gonna love or another leader wants to tell me that they’ve been working with one of their employees on something and they can see it start to click. Those are the best. Those are my jam. Those are why I <3 HR so much.

This company, the people I work with and the people that lead me have been incredible guides for the past five years in my growth every day, both professionally and personally. I feel like I got a pretty good deal with this job!

Here’s to five more!

Phone Interviews: You Called, I Can’t Hear a Thing

Hello, hello, baby. You called, I can’t hear a thing.
I have got no service in the club, you see, see
Wha-Wha-What did you say?
Oh, you’re breaking up on me
Sorry, I cannot hear you, I’m kinda busy.

– Lady Gaga

My first gig in HR was as a recruiter/staffing consultant/placement specialist (or whatever title they wanted us to use at any given day) for a smaller temporary staffing agency. There was no training. I don’t think I even shadowed anyone prior to jumping on the phone and doing my first phone interview. I started out just interviewing candidates to fill data entry or basic reception positions. I’d never done either, so it was really a trial by error situation. But then that was my gig, all day, every day.

In my world, here are the things that have helped me not only become successful when it comes to recruiting, making recommendations to hiring leaders and getting some pretty amazing people started in their career:

  1. KNOW YOUR HIRING MANAGER. Get to know them. If you think you’re going to get the hiring right for someone without having some really in depth conversations, you’re wrong and you’re just causing yourself more work. Even if you’ve hired for the manager one million times before, you still need to check in with them. You need to know what’s working and what’s not working for their team. It’ll help. I swear.
  2. LISTEN. Seems easy, right? But we have the distractions of open offices, emails coming in, to-do lists growing, etc. and that’s fine for you to deal with on your time. Not the candidate’s time.
  3. ENGAGE. That means don’t treat your standard list of questions like a checklist. I’m sure you’ve asked the same questions for the same position for years on end if you have that one role that you’re always recruiting for. I don’t care. That candidate has never interviewed with you, so don’t take it out on them. They’re talking to you with the idea that this could be an amazing opportunity for them. And it’s one for you, too – you could be getting the ball rolling for hiring someone fantastic.
  4. ASK. As much as the questions you’re asking are probably somewhat canned, so are the answers you’re going to get. Nobody’s fault! It’s your job to go past those canned questions with words like “why?”, “tell me more”, and “what did you learn from that?”.
  5. LEARN. You can learn SO much when interviewing someone for any position. It might be something you’ll never even need to think about again, I get that. But in your role as an HR person, that should be far from the truth. I like to make the candidate the expert in whatever work it is they do and I’ve learned so much. And really, the more I learn from a candidate, the more I want them to move on to the next round and the more I’ve increased my knowledge of something else, which is always a good thing.

This stuff is all Interviewing 102. Interviewing 101 should be where you learn all that legal stuff, okay? And we all need constant reminders of both of those when it comes to interviewing. If we don’t have them, we end up doing the same thing over and over and that’s rarely the right thing to do.

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Starting Strong with Phone Interviews for Candidates

Love ’em or hate ’em, whether you’re a hiring for a job or looking for one, you’re bound to run in to a phone interview one of these days. It’s a introductory chat, kind of like those conversations you have at your friends’ barbecue with someone you don’t know – could be awkward and painful or it could be an opportunity to meet your new BFF.

For my talent acquisition/recruiting friends: your post is coming. Sometimes these phone interviews get incredibly routine and I get that. Regardless of how mundane they might feel, you’ve got a big responsibility to get these things right!

For my jobseeker friends: the rest of this is for you. If you want an invitation to meet someone in person, you gotta nail this phone interview.

Things You Should Do (especially if the phone interview is with me):

  • Be ready. When you schedule it, make sure you’re actually available at that time. And please make sure that you’re somewhere with solid phone reception where there aren’t going to be a lot of distractions.
  • Do your research. Refresh your memory on the actual job you applied for and do a little bit of homework about the company. An answer of “not too much” when the recruiter asks you what you know about the company or the job is 9 million percent not cool.
  • Understand your own experience and how it matches the role. Does the position ask for someone with customer service experience and you’ve worked in childcare your whole life? That is some serious customer service experience. Paranoid parents are not exactly peaches and I know this because I am one.
  • Get off your ass. Sit up. Stand up. Walk around. Those theories about walking meetings being more productive apply to phone interviews. You’ll sound better and project yourself clearer.
  • You better ask some questions, man, and you better put some thought into it. You always have questions. Don’t ask about the job description unless you have something very specific you want details on. This is a chance for you to engage the person on the other end of the phone. This is where you get to interview them to make sure they’re the right company for you.

Things You Should Not Do (especially if the phone interview is with me):

  • Don’t act surprised when the phone rings. You should already be prepared for the call and expecting it five minutes before it’s scheduled. You wouldn’t run into an in-person interview at the very last minute (I would hope), so treat this the same way.
  • Don’t act like the phone interview is a formality. In a way, it is. I’ll give you that. But it’s really likely that the person interviewing you has a strong relationship with the hiring manager and isn’t going to risk that by sending through someone that isn’t really engaged during this first talk regardless of how perfect your resume might look. We’re normally hiring for more than just a list of skills on a piece of paper.
  • Don’t oversell yourself. Confidence is rad. It’s encouraged, but you gotta be realistic. By stretching your actual skills in an unrealistic fashion, you’re not only wasting your time and the interviewer’s time, you’re going to fall hard on your face if you get hired and that’s not gonna feel good.
  • Don’t forget your manners. Thanks for the call. I appreciate your time. It was great to talk to you. I hope we can talk again soon. Those things set you apart. They indicate you’re a decent human. We like to hire decent humans.

I love conducting phone interviews. I really love awesome phone interviews. When I wrap up a phone interview I really loved, I immediately hang up the phone and call the hiring manager to let them know THIS IS THE ONE. And I want That One to be you!

Have other tips for phone interviewees? Have a phone interview coming up and want to chat through it? Comment below or shoot me an email! I’d be glad to chat.

Photo Credit: Wesley Quinn

What else can I get for you?

First things first, here’s your formal introduction to Ellis Berry. Born on January 3rd at 2:49pm. He weighed 9 lbs 14 oz and 21 inches long at birth. I can confidently say we’re all in love over here.

We experienced a lot of really amazing care from everyone during our hospital stay – nurses, doctors, acupuncturists, nursing assistants, room cleaning folks, you name it. It’s been exactly what we’ve needed to get through these last few emotion-filled days.

What I’ve noticed is that we were constantly asked, “What else can I get for you?” by these folks. And they mean it. It’s not a yes or no question, because we’re all “fine” and don’t need any other help because we don’t want to put anybody out or be a burden or all those other things we tell ourselves because we don’t want to ask for help. And it’s because these people who work at this hospital are working in a culture where they really want to help.

It’s pushed me to realize there is zero reason why I shouldn’t do that every day as an HR professional and as a leader. Think about the millions of applicable ways you can fit that question into your world.

Here are a couple from mine:

  • Employee has a question about X benefit. You answer exactly what they ask. But benefits are tricky sometimes. You ask them what other questions they have about it. You just opened a door that will all you to make them confident on something that impacts their lives. With one extra question.
  • As a leader, you try to meet with your employees regularly, right? Maybe it tends to be just a bunch of status or project updates or maybe it’s a difficult conversation for one or both of you. Before that meeting is over, what if you said, “What else do you need from me?” after every single meeting? (To be fair, I’m stealing this example from a couple of incredible leaders I’ve had.) That builds a partnership and a piece of support that encourages your employee to feel comfortable asking you for help.

In both examples, you will build trust. You’ll be able to better help the next person. You can begin to identify areas of improvement in what you, your team or your company does. You’ll be able to keep open lines of communication and foster so much more collaboration.

As long as you’re genuine and authentic in asking, I don’t know how you could possibly go wrong with asking just one more question.

The Robots are Coming. And They Might Bring Dennis Rodman.

They are. And as soon as they get here, there won’t be a need for people to work in HR departments. The robots have it under control and it will be glorious. (I’ve mentioned I speak fluent sarcasm, right?) There was a pretty great discussion about the shift of Artificial Intelligence into the Human Resource arena last week via the #NextChat twitter stream. The recap is on the SHRM blog if you’re really into that kinda thing.

The ATM just celebrated it’s 50th anniversary and there are now zero banks left in the world, thanks to John Shepherd-Barron. (FYI: The first one was at Barclays, which is the same company that’s installing sensors to see how often their employees are at their desks.) Robots have taken control of all of our money and will distribute it as the data sees fit. Please do not make eye contract with Robot Cashman. His infrared eyeballs will blind you and then turn you into a robot, too, which is actually pretty beneficial because then you’ll have a job!

The self-checkout made it’s appearance into the world back in the 1980s by a dude named David Humble. And since then, retail stores haven’t hired anyone at all because the machines are ALL OVER IT. You see those robots at Target all the time asking me if I’m finding everything okay six times in 20 minutes, making sure I have a RedCard so I can save 5% and stocking those damn end caps in such a beautiful, beautiful way that I want to buy everything.

Listen. I say this in jest, but it’s a fear that I’m pretty sure everyone has either felt or heard someone talk about at some point in their life. Probably 10 or 11 years ago, my BFF chastised me for using a self checkout at a grocery story because it would take away the cashier’s job. My bestie is not a conspiracy theory wackadoodle. My point in sharing what might embarrass her is this: IT’S OKAY TO BE NERVOUS.

Humans still need humans. That’s why I married my wife and not my quesadilla maker. The only thing that’s going to change is how those interactions happen. If I’m at my credit union and I need cash, but notice there’s a giant line in front me, I’m probably going to opt for the ATM in the lobby. But if I’m at my credit union (side note: here’s why you should join a credit union and ditch your big bank) and I need to figure out if I can get a better rate on my car loan, I’m going to talk to someone about it and I’m cool if the line is a little longer. A person is going to understand my situation much better than something that relies solely on artificial intelligence.

That works for HR, too. We’ll use AI to make sure we’re continuing to improve an applicant’s process, provide quicker responses to employee questions about their benefits or payroll and all that predictive analysis stuff that sounds super duper cool and helpful. But we’ll still use humans to do things like celebrate an employee’s 25th anniversary in a meaningful way, send an email to someone that works miles and miles away with a link to an article that reminded you of them, and spend more time developing, and, most importantly, take all the information we get from AI to make the workplace even better. See? It’s a gonna be a win for all us HR practitioners out there and we can’t be scared of it.

Dennis Rodman joined the Chicago Bulls back in 1995. He wasn’t much different in the 90s than he is now, minus palling around with Kim Jong-un. He wore dresses. He had a lot of tattoos. He punched a lot of people. I would imagine some of those championship level NBA players and coaches, along with millions of bandwagon Bulls were pretty terrified of that dude. He very well could have clocked Michael Jordan right in the face the very first day he walked into practice. But he didn’t. He was amazing and he helped the Bulls win three more NBA championships in a row.

See? It’s a gonna be a win for all us HR practitioners out there and we can’t be scared of it. If the greatest NBA player of all time (that’s Michael Jordan for you people that were incorrectly thinking Lebron what’s his name) can adapt to something scary and win some championships, then we can adapt to an addition to our daily lives that’s going to make us better, too.

What if we didn’t wait around in the locker room for AI to show up and throw his stuff in the locker next to ours? What kind of value could we bring our entire organizations if we proactively brought a case to our executive teams surrounding the benefits AI could bring from a business standpoint?

14 Years of Finding Strengths

The first time I ever took the StrengthsFinder assessment, I was working in a high volume contact center for a Fortune 500 company. It was the second job I’d had after moving to Minnesota in 2002, so I was feeling like kind of a big shot working for a company that was five times the size of my hometown. (I don’t even know.) The requirement of answering your phone after no more than two rings has been ingrained into my soul forever and I’m not mad about it.

I really wish I had those full results. I know our managers printed out all five of them for our cubicles, but I don’t ever remember going over them or knowing why we were doing it. I only remember one of my strengths: WOO. It stands for “winning others over”. It makes sense, right? I’m in my early 20s, fresh to a new state and a new company, and really only knowing about three people. I’mma woo the hell out of some people.

In either 2012 or 2013, I took it again. In my personal life, I was well into dating the person I would eventually marry and had managed to build up a pretty incredible group of friends. I was much more comfortable in my own skin, had more confidence in myself and had a better idea of what grown up life was about. Professionally, I was in my first HR job, working as a recruiter for a small staffing agency, where I’d started back in 2008. I was working 50+ hours per week and the culture was like riding a janky wooden roller coaster that could have fallen apart at any given time. But I loved what I was doing. All of that yielded these results, with my interpretation, of course. (Now, it’s no Buzzfeed quiz that tells me what type of tropical fruit I am based on the number of Kenny G songs I can identify in the first four bars, but stick with me.)

At this point in my career/life, these were my strengths: Activator, Command, Competition, Individualization, and Learner. Based on where I was both personally and professionally, I’d say it was pretty accurate!  I had a lot of metrics to knock out of the water, lots of things were time sensitive and it was a straight-up aggressive job where if you didn’t fill a position someone else was and you had to explain why.

I had to fill jobs and I had to fill them fast. I couldn’t quite grasp when people didn’t either didn’t want to or couldn’t do the same. Part of my job was putting together the puzzle of the right candidate for the right job and the evidence to that wasn’t often paper, so I had to know people – what they’d done, how that could match up to what we needed them to do in a job, where they’re at in their head when they go work each day. A resume wasn’t enough for that job (nor is it ever really…) and that’s where all the learning came into play. I had to at least understand things like polymer engineering, three way matching in the accounting field, and how pee samples were handled in the lab from start to finish. (I even made up a song about recruiting for that last position. I wouldn’t call it one of my greatest hits.)

My strengths in 2017 switched up a bit to: Activator, Developer, Maximizer, Communication, and Harmony. My personal life included being married for almost four years and having a two year old. My professional life was much different, too. I’m in a HR position that involves a lot more than just recruiting. I’m in a leadership position. I’m working for a company whose culture is consistently amazing and led with transparency and authenticity from the top down. I feel appreciated when I come to work every day and I feel like I make an impact every single one of those days.

I do hate conflict, but I also really love a healthy debate. If I don’t agree with you, it doesn’t mean I have to be right.  It means that I want to understand better. I’m not super into the whole sitting around the campfire, holding hands while we all agree about everything. That’s boring. The communication strength is also supposed to be something where you enjoy hosting or speaking in public, and noooooooo. I like to get shit done. I set my own standards high and sometimes that’s not a good thing, because not everyone does that. And that’s okay. I’m not surprised that my activator-like tendencies have remained consistent. I feel like it’s the most accurate of all five, especially when you consider that doesn’t always mean I’ll see it through to the end once it’s up and running. Area of improvement for this HR pro. No sense in hiding that! I think being in my HR role, often as a coach or someone to offer guidance, is what brings those developer and maximizer strengths to the top of the list, too.

Sometimes (okay, all the time), I wonder if this is similar to the whole chicken and the egg thing. I feel pretty confident saying my current position in my current company, where I feel like there’s a career path in place for me, are responsible for highlighting my current strengths to the top of the list. I’m fascinated with this type of thing and want to try to remind myself to take it every few years to see where things have changed. I can’t imagine you’re born with your strengths already picked out for you. Life hands you things and you get stronger from them… or so I hear!

Do you dig these kind of things? Are your strengths so far off that they make you laugh or so dang accurate that you’re a tiny bit scared? And I’m totally cool if you think it’s a giant pile of crap, too! I mean, after all, I’m all about harmony apparently.

 

Don’t Lead with Bias. Just Stop.

This morning when I giving my 2 year old a frozen chocolate chip waffle, America’s elected leader was making an announcement via Twitter banning transgender people to serve in the U.S. military because it’s a “burden” and “distraction”. No, it’s not a surprise, but that change the fact that it’s damaging and dangerous.

Once again, individuals are impacted by someone who allows his personal opinions affect the decisions he makes as a leader. This article is a couple of years old, but it doesn’t take away the accuracy of it or the way that it almost describes the current administration’s decision making over the past six months. I’m sure there are more than Five Common Unconscious Biases That Lead To Bad Decisions, but this is a really great start. If you don’t want to read the article and think about how closely it relates to the person that lives part-time in the White House, then read it and apply it to your own decisions that you have to make as a leader or as an HR professional. Here’s another article full of 7 Cognitive Biases That Impact Your Decision Making.

We often say biases are unconscious, but I don’t really know if that’s necessarily true. Merriam-Webster defines unconscious with other phrases like “not knowing”, “not aware”, “not deliberately planned out”, or “free from self-awareness”. The thing about all of those phrases is that each person, including you, has the power to eliminate things like that once you become aware of them.

You don’t always know what these biases are or one would assume you wouldn’t have them. If someone approaches you to call you out for your bias, hear them out. Listen to them. Understand them. Now your bias isn’t unconscious. It’s out in the open and you have privilege of being aware of it. You’re now equipped with the power to change it.

I know this doesn’t apply to everyone. There are people that will go to their grave with amazingly inappropriate biases that will make a negative impact every single day, but they’ll never acknowledge it. Those kind of people apparently wind up in the White House.

And What Do You Do?

My wife and I are expecting are second child together sometime in late December/early January, so we’ve been to a multitude of different doctors in the last several months, both pre-pregnancy and normal prenatal stuff. Normal prenatal stuff for parents in their late 30s/early 40s is a lot more involved than parents that are below what medical professionals deem “geriatric maternal age”. Some doctors are nice and replace the word geriatric with advanced, which is something we don’t quite hate as much. “Advanced” in school meant you were smarter than people, didn’t it? With all these visits, they always ask my wife what she does, then ask me what I do. It’s happened twice so far.

The first time:

CNM: And what do you do, Wendy?

Me: I’m in Human Resources.

CNM, with a slightly tentative tone to her voice: Oh, here at (insert name of clinic)?

Me: Uh, no. For a credit union.

CNM: Well, somebody has to do it, right?

Yep, someone totally has to do it. And I do it every day and I really love doing it. Those are the things I wanted to say. And then I wanted to say, “Yeeeeeah, and someone has to do your job, which I would never want to do because health care? That’s a big ew for me, ma’am.”

The second time:

X-Ray Tech: And what do you do, Wendy?

Me: I’m in Human Resources.

X-Ray Tech: Ohhhh.

It’s funny/not funny really. I never thought I’d want to be in Human Resources up until I was actually in Human Resources, but here I am. And I’m not going anywhere, so I’m gonna have to work on making it sound a little more exciting to people that don’t quite get the same excitement towards HR that I do.

#SHRM17 All Wrapped Up

I say #SHRM17 is all wrapped up and it almost sounds like I’ve put all the Christmas decorations in a box and put them in that closet in the basement that I only go on once a year. That’s definitely not the case. It’s more like the ornaments that have fallen off the tree, either by way of cat or toddler, and hung out in the living room with us all year ’round unbeknownst to any of us until the aforementioned cat or toddler manage to find them. (Note: add “awesome at analogies” to resume.)

I’m still referencing notes and slide decks, sometimes quoting the speakers I heard (with appropriate attributions, of course), listening to podcasts (which I’d always avoided in the past), asking questions outside the walls of my office, reading blogs and Twitter with intention and not because I’m bored. I loved HR before. That’s why I stay in it. But I feel like I LOOOOOOVE HR now, even more than I thought I could.

Did I just manage to get lucky in the sessions I went to? Did I just accidentally stumble upon this group of people that feel like my kindred HR folks? Are there constantly little HR Jiminy Crickets sitting on my shoulder all the time and reminding me that it’s important to be intentional as opposed to provide some immediate rapid response? I don’t know and I don’t even really care. I came back from this conference feeling motivated and inspired and all of those words that most people walk away feeling from things like this. And I also felt like I was coming back to my same job and my same company with a new sense of purpose and abilities I might not have realized I had six weeks ago.

I’ve been back for over a month. Life has been crazy because it always is. Work has been crazy because, hi, HR. My kitchen is clean right now, which I feel like is notable. (I’m also using this as documentation, documentation, documentation in case my wife doesn’t believe that I did actually clean the kitchen. Most of it anyway.) I finally managed to put together summaries of my days there, including most of the sessions I went to. There were a few where I didn’t really feel even remotely equipped to summarize the takeaways, because new ones are continuing to pop up.

Here they are, listed by day:

  • #SHRM17 Bound: I literally wrote this on the first leg of our flight to New Orleans, somewhere between Minneapolis and Atlanta.
  • #SHRM17 Upon Arrival: Arriving in New Orleans and making myself “network”, which gave me a great start to this whole conference.
  • #SHRM17 The Conference Commences: New Orleans, Kat Cole (so much love), more “networking”, more New Orleans.
  • #SHRM17 A Full Day: Otherwise known as The Day I Met All of the HR Blogging/Tweeting People I Love, with a subtitle of “and also learned HR stuff”.
  • #SHRM17 Another Jam-Packed HR Day: Most of my favorite sessions had been strategically scheduled on this same day.
  • #SHRM17 The Final Countdown: Soaking in every last bit of knowledge and a hell of a lot of rain thanks to Tropical Storm Cindy.

 

The Annual SHRM Conference was leaps and bounds more inclusive, comprehensive and enjoyable than any other conference I’ve ever attended. Truthfully, that’s not comparing it to a lot, but I’m cool with that. This experience has completely revitalized the way I look at my own HR skills and my own leadership skills. I’m trying to decide if I have the intestinal fortitude to get the 2018 Annual SHRM Conference approved this early in the game, because I really enjoy saving money, but I also can’t imagine not being back in 2018 in Chicago. I gotta hang out with these people again!

#SHRM17 The Final Countdown

Last day. Super bummed when I woke up, too! I felt like I still needed to learn more and more.

The closing session with Laila Ali didn’t start until 8:30, which was awesome because it meant the hotel breakfast was actually an option for us instead of the dozens of free breath mints I’d picked up from the various vendors. We checked our bags at the hotel and jumped on the shuttle to the convention center for one last time. Yep, I did say Laila Ali. You didn’t read that wrong. Boxing, reality TV, HR – it’s all really the same.

I’m not going to try to pretend that Laila Ali was the best speaker I’ve ever heard in my life because she’s not, but I also don’t think she’d be surprised if I said that to her… but she’s a really, really good boxer so I might not say that to her. Hearing her story and the different types of changes she’s had to make in her life, both personally and professionally, to get to where she is today. She tried to tie it into HR a couple of times, but it was a pretty tough stretch even though there are some days where I have wondered how often managers might consider hand-to-hand combat instead of approaching difficult conversations. The short of the message I felt like she brought to the table was something like this: Life isn’t easy. Things get in the way. You make your own path.

Of the course of the conference, it was fascinating to watch how more and more of the attendees became more comfortable talking to each other as they trekked across the convention center. Some of that might have been because we’d all been seeing each other for the past four days, either in sessions or somewhere in the French Quarter. I also couldn’t help but wonder how many of those people had taken something away from what they were learning in different breakout sessions or maybe even by following #SHRM17 on Twitter where they were hearing the repeated theme of PUT DOWN YOUR DAMN PHONE. Either way, I think if the conference would have lasted for a couple more days, we all would have been BFFs. That’s what HR professionals do, right?

There were two more sessions to wrap up the day before heading back to real life.

 

How to Deliver Bad News and Build Trust at the Same Time with Andrea Howe and Gary Jones

First off, Andrea Howe (co-author of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust) and Gary Jones present really, really well together. I think this topic is something that everyone wants to master in about five seconds, but I think we all know that’s not how we get better at harder things. Anyway, Andrea and Gary were engaging, they drew the audience in with partner activities that aren’t painful  and I really appreciated the way they applied things to examples that actually made sense. I also took three pages of notes and have already referenced some of the takeaways in a couple of work situations of my own. This is my one big takeaway, which is also broken down into four parts, but also the four biggest reminders to keep tucked away for those difficult conversations/bad news:

  • There are four main problems with delivering bad news. While I can think of about 3920 more problems I have with delivering bad news, here are the four that problem work for everyone:
    • It’s uncomfortable. This makes us naturally not want to have these conversations, because they are terrible and horrible and nothing good will come of them. Not true, but it’s still something that lingers in our brains. We also have the fear that having these conversations will hurt what trust we have. And really, it might, but it’s still the right thing to do if anyone is going to succeed. Candor is important. (More to come on candor because I’m obsessed with this podcast and still want to read Radical Candor.)
    • Conventional wisdom really sucks. Being objective and factual at this moment in time is fine, but you have to remember there’s more to it than that. You need to lead with vulnerability at this moment in time if you expect the other person to do the same way. Don’t automatically jump to answers and provide all of the solutions and tell them everything is going to be “just fine”. You’re not the one sitting there getting the bad news, dude. Let them have a moment to react and process. When they’re ready for answers or next steps, then you get there. They need room to react and, really, they might not really care about the solutions you’re ready to provide after getting that bad news from you. You need to be okay with that, too. You’re a human, they’re a human. There’s no difference.
    • It’s a tug of war. Ooh, what about a difficult conversation with – GASP – someone above your pay grade? Whaaaaaat? Oh, it’s gonna happen and the delivery might even feel even worse depending on the type of relationship you have with senior management. The thing is, the people that are in those senior management positions have probably had to have difficult conversations, so they’re going to know where you’re coming from. You might have to deliver bad news to your boss because you skipped a big part of something you were supposed to do. Major suck. But when you own it, admit your mistake, fall on your sword, whatever you want to call it, it’s one more step in getting better at this bad news thing. And then you learn from it.
    • People are watching. Oh, man. They sure are. From an HR perspective, I absolutely know that there are people who watch when someone walks into our office and waits to see what kind of expression they have on their face when they walk out the door. If that person walks out shell-shocked or in tears or full of rage, everyone else that sees that person for the next hour is going to feel that in some capacity. It could be co-workers, customers, other managers, you name it. That’s a hard thing to avoid and that’s why I’m glad my HR team doesn’t handle those conversations in our office and why we partner with our leadership team to handle them on their own. It’s my belief that a direct manager is going to have a much better way to address their own employees than HR.

 

There was a second session. I don’t remember the name of it. Probably because there was a tornado warning five minutes after it started and our entire session got evacuated since the room we were in was against a wall of windows. I grew up in tornado country and don’t get too worked up about tornados. People in New Orleans get even less worked up. Here’s all I have from that last session. I call it Die Hard HRing in an Interior Hallway. SHRM emailed out the presentation and the actual session itself since most people weren’t able to find room in any of the overflow rooms, but I haven’t had the chance to check it out yet.


We had lunch. Took a Lyft to the hotel to get our luggage and to the airport. Flight had been delayed an hour but we got home before midnight. I just wanted to get home by 9am the next day to go to our unborn baby’s ultrasound.