The leadership abyss is what I like to call the absence of impactful leadership in the organizations I’ve worked with.  Dictionary.com defines abyss as a deep, immeasurable space, gulf, or cavity; vast chasm. 

When I started using the word abyss, I was referring to what I saw as a problematic absence of quality leaders. Now the word abyss represents more for me. It also represents hope because where there is absence, there is an opportunity to fill the absence with something. What we fill it with is the question. 

Now, I picture an abyss like this…

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It’s plush. It’s green. There is life.  Yet as we stare off into the distance, we don’t know where the light will take us.  There are so many possibilities if we go towards the light.

Often we focus on what is missing rather than the opportunities nothingness presents. Shifting our thinking is challenging but can be done with practice.  In business, you hear buzz phrases such as “solution-oriented.”  Yet, when we are faced with a problem we often focus on, how many ways in which, whatever idea presented, can’t be done.

How can an organization shift this way of approaching problem solving?

I suggest following the creative problem solving process or CPS. Read more about CPS by clicking on Creative Education Foundation.  At the heart of the process is the belief that all ideas should be accepted without judgment and that there is power in generating many ideas before collapsing into that one best idea. CPS guidance is to defer judgement, diverge (collect many ideas) to converge (narrow down to fewer options) placing a focus on “Yes, and…” rather than “No, but…”

Engaging in the CPS process is anti the way we think of problem solving in organizations. We think of risk mitigation rather than embracing “mistakes” and learning from them.  I put mistakes in quotes because even considering something a mistake reflects a limited view. For every idea that you implement that doesn’t solve the problem you initially thought you had, you uncover that the mistake solves a different issue or offers a different and valuable perspective.

Open your mind to CPS and you will experience exponential returns both in terms of solving your company’s central issue and in terms of the problem solving experience.

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There is no passion to be found in playing small; in settling for a life less than you are capable of living ~ Nelson Mandela

I recently did a TEDx Talk.  It awakened in me something I’d forgotten… My love of the stage.  I’ve genuinely already forgotten at least 1/3 of those 15 minutes because I was just flowing.  I do mean flowing.  I remember nailing the voice inflections, the body language, the anger, the reflective moments… all of them.  It truly felt good.

Then I was off-stage and interacting with the audience during intermission. One lady held my hands, visibly shaken, and said, “It’s like we’ve lived parallel lives. Your story is so much like my story.”

It was in that moment, that TEDx moment, I realized, that my voice was a gift and I needed to share the gift and use the gift responsibly.

While I was feeling great, someone was moved by the story and the way the story was told.  The story resonated with her in a way that she had to talk to me and share what my talk meant to her.

I reflected a lot that weekend. I embraced the idea that I needed to find the core of what drives me. Not what I am good at but rather, what gives me energy.  Public speaking is definitely a love but what is even more compelling is playing a part in changing a life, moving people to action, awakening souls.  It is almost evangelist like without the religious connotation.

Now I’m following my passion full throttle. I want to know where this will take me. I encourage every reader to reflect on what gives you energy. What feels like fun rather than work?

Be courageous. Take that step. Live a life of no regrets.

Ask yourself, what are your strengths, where does your passion lie? Are you living a life that is less than you are capable of living?

This song from Lira is everything!

I just wanna feel good everyday
I wanna wear smile upon my face
I wanna feel the joys of the day
I wanna feel allright in every moment
Said I won’t wast time on feeling blue
I won’t waste time on things I can not change
I’m gonna live these days as best as I can
Doing everything that feels right

Singing la la la lala la

I wanna hear the laughter of a child
I wanna fell the hug from a loving friend
I wanna hear “I love you” every now and then
I wanna show somebody that I care
Cause feeling good is a choice that we all make
Just like a smile is a small effort you make
I love to feel the nudeness of a brand new day
Happy to be allright today

 

This is what we all want to feel as HR professionals, no? We want to feel good about our work and the people we help even when they don’t know we are helping. Which means we often feel underappreciated and, in some environments, abused would not be too strong of an adjective.

We aim to be transparent yet our work is confidential which by definition is NOT transparent. The lack of complete transparency leads to suspicion about our motives and the continual questioning of our decisions and decision making process.

So that’s who we are. We are sounding boards. Part therapist. Part cop. Part supercalafragilistic… A little bit of everything.

It’s depleting and, like parents, if we are not careful we can lose ourselves in the process. The non-stop quest to be the ultimate professional mastering the delicate balance of employee advocate and organizational risk averter! Ok, that’s a bit melodramatic. But truthfully, it does feel like a constant tug of war.

So just choose to Feel Good today.

Cause feeling good is a choice that we all make

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Obama to Unveil Overtime Proposal

Have you heard?

This is a major one for HR professionals to watch. In summary, if this proposal becomes law, all salaried workers now earning between $23,660 per year and $50,400 per year will be overtime eligible for all work performed in excess of 40 hours per week.

If you are in a strategic HR role, you should begin thinking (if you haven’t already) about how your organization will implement this change. Do you hire more people to ensure that employees in this wage range do not work more than 40 hours a week? Do you raise your company minimum pay to some number above the $50,400 per year? Is this a good opportunity to promote work-life balance and how will that affect employee morale? What business processes do you need to review and take a Lean approach?

Of utmost fun for us HR folk… How do get out of the executive team meeting where the CEO completely flips out if this becomes law?

Lots to chew on with this move. Watch closely.

As much as I absolutely love to write, it’s been several months since I’ve blogged. I’ve attempted to blog dozens of times since my last post but… you know…. life gets in the way.  Plus, if you have ever attempted to write anything, you know that coming up with original content is no small feat. Sometimes it’s simply easier to read an article on Facebook and click “share” than it is to give your opinion on the content you’ve shared. But I digress…

Today I found myself reflecting on the last 2 years of my career. During that time, I was fortunate enough to be presented with several career opportunities (7 to be exact). It’s more activity than I’ve ever gotten in my life in such a short period of time and in such a competitive field. In 4 cases, I made it through multiple presentations and interviews with panels of the people “in charge” only to be told at the end that I was 1 of 2 finalists and they went with the other person. Sigh… The let down each time was devastating, even if I wasn’t really that into the opportunity. Then there are the two positions where I went through the interview process, got the offers but decided to reject the offers.  Neither offer felt like the right fit for me and my long term goals.  I still wonder why I even went through the motions. A part of me thinks I did it to validate for myself that I could get an offer. It’s sort of an insane way to function, don’t you think?  In any case, I realize now that the devastation I felt came from an unhealthy place where anxiety was driving my emotions and affected my ability to clearly see each “opportunity” for what they truly were.  I was wearing those rose colored glasses, so to speak. Every email and phone call from a prospective employer was met with glee, followed by worrying about what they thought of me, when or if they would call me for a 2nd or 3rd interview, whether or not they will make an offer… and so on. I was completely consumed by the whole process. This is an example of unhealthy anxiety vs healthy anticipation.

Anxiety – a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.

Anticipation – a feeling of excitement about something that is going to happen; the act of preparing for something

These two words bring me to today’s reflective moment. I am once again faced with a couple of career options. One feels more sure than the other and while it’s a great option, it’s not the amazing, life changing opportunity the less sure option could be. Yet, I don’t feel anxious in the same way that I did in 2013 and 2014 when I was faced with my previous career dilemmas. I am experiencing hopefulness and healthy anticipation.  Last year I orchestrated, then accepted the 7th opportunity that presented itself which was to stay with my current employer in a new role. You know what?  It’s actually not terrible! Ha! It’s not perfect but what is? So I guess what I’ve finally realized is that any choice is the right choice because it’s the choice you’ve made. You have to own it, live with it and artfully spin your decision in a way that produces a net positive outcome. Life is a series of peaks, valleys, and slow crawls. It’s the overall upward trajectory of the quality of your life that is within your control regardless of high the highs feel or how low the lows feel.  That’s why you can’t allow yourself to see your situation through the lens on anxiousness which breeds fear of the unknown but rather see your choices through the lens of anticipation which nurtures excitement about the great outcomes any decision you make could have.

I’m not a therapist nor do I pretend to be one. I’m not talking about the clinical definition of anxiety but rather that overwhelming sense of worry we have all experienced regarding things we can’t control. That unrealistic desire to make the perfect choice… That concern that if we make any choice it could be the wrong one.  That feeling that immobilizes us… prevents us from moving forward. If you choose to see your world through grateful eyes, you quickly realize that few choices are bad or good. They are just that… Choices. List out the pros and cons of every career move and then just pick one. It’s that simple. In my current situation, I’ve decided to take a leap of faith and hold out for the opportunity that may be life changing and absolutely amazing. It wasn’t an easy decision to come to because it means potentially saying no to a sure thing in anticipation of the unknown.  It may not work out the way I anticipate but, in the end, that doesn’t really matter. This whole process has forced me to think of bigger more grand possibilities for my career. I’ve been forced to expand my consciousness and embrace the belief that sometimes, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Said “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”  

It’s new territory for me.  I’ll let you know how it all plays out. 

Selah

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I’m often asked this question by people preparing for an interview. What’s really appropriate for the interviewer to ask? What’s appropriate for me to say?

The answer to what is legal for an interviewer to ask is rather easy to answer because there are multiple laws that govern the work of HR professionals that determine this. The Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (UGESP) provides us with the framework we need to determine equitable and legal selection processes.

But the other side to this question is rather difficult. It’s an HR professionals instinct to tell a candidate never to share any personal information. Leave the kids, family, etc out of the conversation. Personally, I’ve always found this to be a challenge to adhere to and I’m not sure I believe it’s advisable in some cases.

For example, I work in the education field. Naturally, the question of why I have chosen this path versus finance or technology, which are both areas I have degrees in and have worked in, comes up in an interview. My real answer is a very passionate one that is deeply rooted in my personal experiences.

So let me tell you the story…

Prior to having children my mother had a 5th grade level education and my father a 3rd grade level education. My mother has since finished high school and took some college courses. I am the last of 10 children. One of my brothers passed away in his childhood. Of the remaining 9 of us, we all finished high school. One of my sisters had her first child at 16 and still finished. Of the nine, 6 of us have bachelors degrees. Of the six, 4 of us have masters degrees or higher. Among the four of us is a medical doctor, college professor, recently retired director of planning and natural resources for the United States territory we grew up in and there’s me. I think I’m fairly successful. You be the judge. 🙂

A lot went in to making us, an immigrant family and a minority family, who we are. Some of it is complicated. Some of it is painful, to be honest, but what we have in common was the benefit of committed parents and excellent teachers. We had teachers that saw our potential and not our circumstance. That is why I am drawn to education. That is why I want to have a direct impact on the kinds of people who educate children.

So is that appropriate to say in an interview? I don’t know. I know I say it if asked because it’s the truth and it relates to why I am specifically seeking out an HR position in an education environment. If a potential employer wants to pass on me because they feel I was too forthcoming to be a sound HR professional, then they weren’t the right employer for me.

I see this exactly the same way I see placing information on a resume that could potentially identify your race or gender. I am from the school of thought to always let it be known in the most professional way possible. So yes, I list that I am a member of the National Association of African-Americans in Human Resources. If the reason why you don’t want to hire me is because I’m Black, then please don’t waste my time. I’m not interested in helping you check a box on a government survey. Find someone else to help you meet your “diversity interviewing” goals. I only want to be contacted for viable opportunities.

So is it appropriate? I guess only time will tell if my approaches work for me or not but it is food for thought.