Tag: ongoing learning

2017 in Review

I’ve been reflecting so much on the past year. I’m usually in the camp that moves forward at 12:01am on January 1 because, hey, that stuff is in the past. This year was different for all sorts of reasons, some personal and others professional. There were amazing things, many amazing things.

There were some not great, heartbreaking, absolutely crushing things. I breezed my way through some things. I limped through others. And there were even some that I pretended didn’t even happen because it was easier that way. Or maybe I clicked the like button on Facebook when someone I knew was leading a march for justice of any kind or I clicked on the sad face when someone was assaulted or murdered because of their color or gender or beliefs. That’s not me. And if it is, I want and need to change that.

2017 had some things that definitely fell into the Giant Thumbs Up category.

  1. I stood up in front of 500+ of our employees during our annual meeting and got to see the reaction on their faces when we announced two amazing new benefits: six weeks of paid parental leave and a paid day off on your birthday. I have a fear of public speaking. For real. But I liked it a lot. Challenge accepted and won. I’m ready for more.
  2. We finally, on our last attempt at creating a human that would have been mostly covered by insurance, managed to conceive our soon-to-be baby boy. There were strings upon strings of follies that we ran into during this round of insemination, so it wasn’t too shocking that it worked. I’ve decided that Science + Prayer = Miracle. I can’t wait to meet him.
  3. I went to #SHRM17 and because more involved in social media surrounding HR life. It’s been slow going for me to find relationships with people in my field for many years. I managed to find this crew of folks that know and understand what a day in the life of my job often is has been phenomenal when it comes to expanding my knowledge in HR. I still have infinitely more to learn about this world and it’s easier to do it when you surround yourself with others you connect with and believe in.
  4. I read more. After I graduated with my BA in 2016, I vowed to read more and I did. True crime may very well still be my favorite, but I’m also a sucker for a good memoir, the occasional self help book and a sprinkling of chick lit. YES, I ADMITTED TO THAT. You can find something in everything you read that will open your eyes to someone else’s world.

2018 will undoubtedly come with its own mountain of challenges. One is scheduled to be here on January 3rd and will be a challenge for 18 more years. The rest, I’m as ready as I can be for them, whatever that might look like. I’m with each of you in any way you need it.

Happy New Year, friends. Let’s take ’18 and own it.

Sneak peak of Challenge J Berry:

Less creepy alien picture coming soon.

Leadership Lessons from a Four-Time WNBA Championship Team

 

I went to Game 5 of the WNBA Finals a couple of weeks ago to keep tabs on my Minnesota Lynx and make sure they won the 2017 WNBA Championship. They did. You’re welcome. I had goosebumps from the minute we got our seats. Pretty sure my deodorant stopped working, so I tweeted about it. I almost chewed a hole in the giveaway shirt we got because a score that close in the last two minutes is not my favorite thing. I was able to breathe once there were 57 seconds left in the game and the Lynx were ahead by nine points. And really, I just wanted the Lynx to not even get close to any of the Sparks players because they are… something. The timeouts were killin’ me because listen. You are down by that many points? It’s not gonna happen and you’re just prolonging my high blood pressure from going back to a somewhat normal state. Okay – Lynx won. I was stressed out and trying to distract myself during the FIVE BILLION unnecessary timeouts and really terrible halftime show, so, you know, I was thinkin’ about HR-type stuff. (Shut up.  I love it.)

Backstory for my non-WNBA friends: Lindsay Whalen is my favorite WNBA player, possibly my favorite athlete. She’s a 13 year veteran point guard of the WNBA, graduated from the University of Minnesota, got drafted by the Connecticut Sun, came back home to the Minnesota Lynx in 2010 and now has four championship rings. That’s the short story. Even shorter story: she’s a true leader in every since of the world. She’s not the taller player, the best shooter, or the fastest runner, but she doesn’t have to be. She just knows how all those things work together well and where she fits into the mix.

Here’s my favorite example over the course of the WNBA Finals: Game 4. Lynx are down 2-1 in the series. They lose again, they lose the Finals. Not an option for Whalen. 1:30 into the game and she flattens the Sparks point guard to put an end to a fast break and gets a flagrant foul called. The Sparks hit both their free throws. Didn’t matter. The energy that Whalen fueled by putting the stop to that play sent the Lynx into a place where they desperately needed to be and it sent the Sparks into the opposite direction. The Lynx won.

You’re thinking I’m just telling you this story because I like reliving the mental picture of Whalen clothes-lining another point guard. You’re half right. The other reason is because it’s a pretty great example of how a leader can let other people focus on their jobs while figuring out how to  make things better in ways that other people aren’t focusing on.

I don’t think anyone else on the team knew how to get that energy back, including the coach. They knew the gist of how to win a game: play hard, score points, shift the momentum, all those sportsing things. But Whalen knew that something had to give, and I’m pretty sure the court gave a little bit when that other player hit the floor. Not the most orthodox approach, but one that was worth trying because nothing else was working. And it did.

This isn’t a personal story or a work story. It’s a combo of two of my most favorite things and it’s an observation of what an amazing, hard working, in the trenches leader looks like from a different perspective. And it was awesome.

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.