Why HR needs to lead with courage

Why HR needs to lead with courage

Last week I attended the HR Professional Association (HRPA) Annual Conference. It’s the annual 3-day event the Association puts on with several high-profile keynote speakers and dozens of concurrent sessions covering all areas of HR.

Can I tell you, I was blown away! It was one of the most value-packed, energetic events I’ve attended in many years. In fact, there was so much value, I think I have blog post fodder for several weeks to come. You’ll be hearing a LOT about the conference. If you didn’t attend, definitely stay tuned.

The keynote speakers were all awesome, but the two that really stuck with me were Jade Simmons and Cy Wakeman. If you don’t know who they are, I strongly urge you to check out their stories and follow them. Their journeys were so poignant, and so hit the mark on the theme that I want to talk about today: Courage.

Both women were (are!) pioneers in their respective (very different) fields. Both talked about the myths of fitting in, how pushing boundaries elevated their careers, and how they continue to lead change and do big things. When you think about it, we, as HR Business Partners, are perfectly poised to make BIG changes. But how many of us can honestly say that we have put ourselves out there and actually made those big changes? Or even tried to?

So I have a confession to make. Some of you know that I started my business in the summer of 2017, leaving behind an amazing corporate job. Many people thought it was the ultimate act of courage. Some were envious. Many were worried that I’d gone crazy. But the truth is, I was not courageous. I had a big financial safety net and extremely low overhead. It took me 3 months to get my first client and I charged him 15% of what I was worth because I was too afraid of losing him. 15%!

Beyond that, my courage failed when it was time to broadcast my message. I knew from the very beginning that I needed to create original content, get my thoughts and views out there into the world, build my brand. Yet I couldn’t make myself do it.

I was terrified of putting myself out there.

Everyone told me I was so brave to quit corporate, but I wasn’t brave at all.

You see, for 18 months, I played a safe game. I kept my ideas to myself. I only “liked” posts that others liked first. I didn’t share a single original blog post on my personal LinkedIn profile for fear of what people would think of me. I didn’t want to piss off that one influential person who might give me business but because I wrote the wrong thing now wouldn’t. I wrote blog posts that were boring and I didn’t have much to say so I blogged inconsistently. In wanting to please everyone, I was pleasing no one.

Jade Simmons and Cy Wakeman changed that for me.

Here’s what I realized. People want to see others carve a different path. They want to root for the new kid who’s doing something different. They want to be inspired. And inspiration doesn’t have to come from profound, eloquent trailblazers. Regular everyday people like you and me can inspire. We don’t need to start organizational-wide movements, but we can say one thing to one person that will help them change one thing about themselves.

But perhaps the most important lesson I learned last week is that you can’t inspire everyone. And if you’re too afraid of saying what you think for fear of upsetting one person, the person who really needs to hear your message will never hear it. If Jade Simmons hadn’t spoken up to her music teacher for fear of being expelled (or them dying! – you have to read her story), we would never have discovered her exhilarating, unique style of music.

So, in light of my new-found wisdom, I’m here to share something with you.

Whether you’re in HR or not, the world needs to hear from you. But particularly if you are in HR and support a client group, you have an obligation to be out there spreading your brand of wisdom. They want a passionate, real person guiding them and counseling them to be better.

Here’s one thing I know for an absolute fact. No one comes into work every day to be mediocre. Everyone wants to make their mark, make a contribution, and be fulfilled in their jobs. HRBPs, you have an obligation to the people at your organization to help them realize their potential and find their way.

Raise your hand, how many of you know at least one manager who should not be a manager? Not because they’re deficient in any way, but because their passion is in doing the job, not managing it. Guess what? Being a manager is not the holy grail of a corporate job. Why is it that we’re so accepting of people who tell us that they don’t want executive responsibility, but when someone says they don’t want to manage people, we think they’re unambitious?

Now, I know having courage is not easy. But that’s the thing about courage. You can’t be courageous without being afraid.

Another show of hands, have you ever known the answer to a question in a forum/presentation and have not raised your hand? I’ll bet there are a few of you out there. So, let’s start with this one. The next time you’re at a large meeting, or a conference and the speaker asks the audience a question, raise your hand. It’s a simple thing, but it will help you start.

We have to start small in order to get to the really big stuff. The world desperately needs us to get to the big stuff, but unless we can speak up about the little things, we don’t stand a chance with the company-wide things.

I was brave in the corporate world. I raised my hand, I was vocal about what I felt was right and what was wrong and I made an impact. But when I was dropped into a new world, I went silent again. I stopped talking and I’ve robbed the world of my viewpoint. You see, it’s irrelevant whether people like what I have to say or not. I don’t know either way unless I speak. I’ve decided to break my silence now and I hope that you’ll come with me and break yours.

I’d like to invite you to my community. Head on over to www.carasconsulting.com and sign up for my weekly updates. I promise to share regularly and I want to hear your viewpoints about HR and about the world. I’ll see you there!

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