Two Years Too Long

July 28, 2018. That’s the last date I posted anything on this site. Two year. Two years too long.

I started this blog in June of 2011 as a way to explore ideas, share thoughts, and connect with the world. A lot has happened in the nine years since then, but the that purpose has been a constant across the years. This blog brought me in touch with amazing people, created fantastic opportunities, and served as both a creative catalyst and outlet in my pursuit of helping bring out the greatness in others.

Then I discovered podcasting. The last post here was an announcement about a limited run show I co-hosted with Dan Waldschmidt.  I had even more fun than I thought I would so after that run ended I started my own podcast called  “Imperfect Action” (available at BrocEdwards.com or wherever you listen to podcasts). One hundred plus episodes and lots and lots of amazing guests later and it’s still going strong. I find podcasting does almost everything this blog did and more. But…

Lately, I’ve been missing writing.

Time to fix that.


got to move it, move it

Moving On

Head ‘Em Up, Move ‘Em Out

Ok, the last time I did an update was back in April. Things had gotten crazybusy and I hadn’t been blogging much. It’s now the end of July and things have been crazybusy and I haven’t been blogging much since April. Sigh. Apologies all around and some updates on what’s happened and what’s happening.


I Left My Job & Moved Across the Country

After five and a half years as Director of Learning & Leadership for a great organization in Central Texas, I left to return to my hometown in Northern Nevada. Family reasons prompted the move and I’m using it as an opportunity to redefine my career and contribution to the world.

My last day was Friday, June 13, we loaded a 26’ moving van on the 14th, and my kids and I started driving on the 15th. After three days, one destroyed windshield, a few whiteknuckle moments of 19,000 pounds of vehicles and stuff getting squirrely, a snowstorm (!) over a mountain pass, and too much time spent looking for gas stations with enough space for the van and trailer, we arrived. If everything goes as planned over the next few days, my wife will have her last day at work, close on our house in Texas, and arrive in Nevada with horses in tow and dogs in the cab of her truck. Looking forward to having a complete family again.


Wait! I Left My Job! What Will I Do?

I’m back on my own as an independent. Much like an outrageous roller coaster, being independent is an exhilarating, uncertain, fun, terrifying place to be and I’m enjoying it. My calendar over the next several months is filling up with:

  • Advising a very cool training and assessment tech start-up on content.
  • Coaching new leaders as they go through a year-long development program.
  • Providing leadership and professional development for a government agency.
  • Ghostwriting blogs / content development.
  • Speaking and presenting conferences.
  • ???? Have ideas on how I could help you and your company? Know someone I should meet?  Please reach out. I am always excited to add more interesting work with interesting people to the list.


Speaking of Speaking and Conferences

This has been a fun year for conferences. Most I have or will attend are smaller or aimed at shaking things up. What’s great about those conferences is the people who show up are full of ideas for change and the speakers are all very accessible. Such a great chance to pick up new perspectives and insights (if you’re into that kind of thing). Here’s the list so far:

(March) TalentNet Interactive, put on by Craig Fisher and crew. Even though it’s targeted at recruiters and I haven’t recruited in a long time, I still came away with lots of ideas and fantastic conversations.

(April) Louisiana SHRM. Once again, Robin Schooling brought together an amazing group of speakers. The list of speakers and sessions read like the Woodstock of HR (minus the mud). It’s a state conference that would be well worth coming in from out of state to attend.

(May) HR Reinvention. Here’s a tip: if you come across any sort of workshop or conference held in Omaha and it involves Jason Lauritsen and Joe Gerstandt, just go. Not only are they fantastic speakers with kick-you-in-the-back-of-the-head-why-didn’t-I-think-of-that ideas, but they attract and surround themselves with other phenomenal people. And they do it in an amazing, three story working art gallery that inspires creativity and conversation and leaves you wondering why other conferences don’t find more original spaces and formats.

(May) TLNT’s High Performance Workplace. The first year for this conference and I expect it will grow substantially as more people hear about it and it gains traction.

(July) Bank Trainer’s Conference. It was the second year for this niche conference and this is another one that I anticipate will continue to build momentum.

(August) Illinois SHRM. A favorite of mine. Like Louisiana SHRM, this is a state conference with a list of presenters worth traveling out of state to see. You still have a few days to register at get a plane ticket.

(November) HR Evolution. Cannot, cannot wait. Like HR Reinvention, just go.

 (????) What am I missing? What other conferences should I be seeking out or speaking at?


Enough about me. How are things in your world?

quick update

I’ve been pretty quiet lately so thought I’d give a quick update:

The biggest news is that I’m leaving my job and Texas to move to my hometown in Nevada for family reasons. It’s a small town in the middle of everywhere and I am starting to explore what I want work to look like and who I want to work with/for (and, of course, who wants to work with me). More on that later.

I’m prepping to co-present What if Employee Engagement was Actually Important? at Louisiana SHRM in Baton Rouge on Monday the 7th. It’s a fun presentation based on the idea that although everyone says engagement is so important the engagement numbers stayed flat for the past decade plus. So what would we do different if we actually thought it was a problem worth solving? Robin Schooling and crew organize a great conference and I’m excited to be invited back.

Started reading Igniting the Invisible Tribe by Josh Allan Dykstra. Haven’t finished it yet but so far it’s good stuff about changing the game of work in the vein of Betterness by Umair Haque and Culture Shock by Will McInnes. Find it, read it, and maybe even love it.

I registered to attend HREvolution in Dallas in November and HR Reinvention in Omaha in May. Both events promise to be fantastic and I’m really looking forward to meeting, talking to, and learning from some of the most interesting folks in HR.

Finally, I’m no longer running the Tough Mudder in May. I discovered my son has a martial arts tournament that day so that’s the priority. I’ll find another event later in the year.

How are things in your world?

will it have mattered?

“Here is the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: if you’re alive, it isn’t.” ~ Richard Bach


Will it have mattered that I was here? Mattered in my life, my work, in my family, in the world? When I move on to whatever’s next, will anyone notice? Have I made full use of talents given? Have I developed other talents? Is the world better for my being here; am I better for having been in the world?

Have I loved, been loved, created more love in the world than was here when I arrived? Were my relationships strong or just people I knew and “liked” (thumbs up)? Did the people in my life know just how important they were to me? How far did I influence and how strong was my presence and what difference did it have?

Did I move humanity and humanness forward or hold it back? Have my thoughts and actions enlightened or darkened? Did I live with purpose or just get through another day? Did I contract or expand? Was every day a fuller day of life or just one day closer to death?

Did it matter? Did I matter? Have I eased pain and suffering, created ways for others to do better, helped at all? Was it all about me or all about them or all about us? If I had to account for privilege of living and show my results and justify the blessings given, could I? Did I care? Did anyone care?

Have I made excuses and justifications or owned every decision and action? Are the outcomes in my life mine or did I give those choices to others? Did I anchor myself to my limitations or set off to find new boundaries? Will others look past my life or will they find inspiration and possibility and hope for their own?

The clock ticks, the second hand moves, the days slide past. It’s so easy to get caught up in the day and forget to live; so easy to get it done while neglecting to make it matter.

Will I pass with the satisfaction of giving it all or the agony of wondering if it were a mistake? Will it have mattered?

presenting and playing bigger

Would you do it again?

I had just finished my second presentation in two days. In a rare moment of down time at the recent Illinois State SHRM Conference (#ILSHRM13), my friend and fellow presenter Doug Shaw (@dougshaw1) was asking if I’d ever again pitch two brand new presentations for one conference.

Sitting there with both presentations finished, I was in a bit of a post-event daze. The past several weeks had been a huge push by me and my co-presenter to have both presentations ready. In truth, they’d been ready to go weeks before but I couldn’t get happy with them and kept making significant changes right up until it was time to present. That perfectionist streak plus personal issues, work issues, and an ever-present desire to play bigger took their toll and left me drained. Even though I was extremely pleased with the participants’ responses, energy, and feedback, my initial thought was, “No, it’s too much effort.” But I know better. I’d do it again in a heartbeat and I’d relish the challenge. The tiredness I was feeling was the good exhaustion that comes from giving your all.

Most of my inspiration as a presenter comes from athletes and musicians. Both fields require tremendous mental and physical preparation. There is a Hollywood myth that the truly talented just show up and are naturally great because of their heart and desire. Reality plays out different. Legendary motorcycle racer Bob Hannah once said something to the effect of: “On race day it doesn’t matter who wants to win more. Everyone wants to win. What matters is who wanted to win most six months ago.” Results go to those who gutted out the prep work and practice far away from the glitz and glory.

Several months ago I had the chance to see the Swedish metal band Sabaton and I wrote a bit about the show in rock and roll presentation skills. They are a relatively unknown in the US but big enough to play at and headline festivals in Europe. They’ve performed to audiences of thousands and thousands, yet I saw them in a large bar with maybe 100 or so attending. Rather than being discouraged or thinking it was beneath them, they played like it was the most important show in their careers. Dripping sweat three songs in, there was an enthusiastic, bombastic joy to their playing and an amazing connection with the audience. Big crowd, small crowd, it didn’t matter, they held nothing back. Since then, that performance has been my inspiration when I’m preparing to speak.

I love presenting. Love as in I want to be among the best, yet I’m so far from it that the gap hurts. Love as in it is painful to not yet be able to write and deliver the presentations I see in my mind – I know the beauty of where it could be and I see where it is and get frustrated at the space between the two. Love as in I’m perpetually on an emotional pendulum swinging between the cockiness of thinking I’m pretty good at it and the despair of thinking I’ll never be good enough. Love as in I enjoy that pain, frustration, and heartbreak because I know it’s pushing me to be better.

Although I’ve been a facilitator for years and lead classes in six countries, I’d never really spoken much at conferences. Facilitating and presenting are similar, but different and this has been an amazing year so far. Huge thanks and appreciation to the folks at Louisiana SHRM, Illinois SHRM, Voice of the Customer (VoC) Fusion, and Central Texas HR Management Association for the opportunities to speak, share ideas, learn, and be a part of moving HR and business forward.

I’m excited for the opportunities 2014 will bring. My co-presenter and I both have day jobs so our participation is voluntary and has to be balanced against all of our regular responsibilities. But that’s no reason not to play bigger. In my dream world, we will return to all the conferences above plus some, do a keynote or two, and speak outside the States.

But enough about me. What’s your love? What are you needing, wanting, desiring to do that you may never get paid for doing, yet tickles at your brain? What pushes, drives, burns, torments, and taunts you to be better and play bigger?

hr’s missed opportunity to generate revenue

Blatant product placement or morning prep to speak at #ilshrm13 ? Does Red Bull sponsor HR speakers? What if I promise to be “extreme”?

I posted this comment along with the picture at the right while waiting for my co-presenter so we could go over our notes before presenting later that morning at the Illinois SHRM conference (yes, those are my authentic, actual speaker notes). I thought it was really funny in a ridiculous sort of way. Red Bull sponsoring “extreme” HR? So many paradoxes and contradictions. They sponsor stunt planes, insane jumps on bicycles and motorcycles, parachuting from record heights. Their image is all about athletes pushing the boundaries of possibility, not the middle age guy talking about company culture. Funny, right?

Almost immediately, Kris Dunn (@kris_dunn) from HR Capitalist and Fistfull of Talent responded, “Hey Broc, believe it or not, at FOT we got contacted about placement… Workforce application of red bull, etc…

Apparently there is nothing so ludicrous that it isn’t true somewhere.

I think this just might be HR’s chance to generate revenue through product placement, sponsorships, and advertising. What are some of the natural fits? Pharmaceuticals, diet and fitness, health care? How about day care, dry cleaning, and maid service? Car dealers and home builders? Universities?

When it comes to placement or ads, there’s the obvious approach of putting posters in the hallways or covering our desks or company shirts with logos until they look like race cars straight outta NASCAR. But what about sponsoring company picnics and the requisite Christmas party? Attaching ads to the side of email like in gmail or Facebook like ad placement in the Learning Management System? What about training – there’s so much that could be done inside of training programs that it really feels like a missed opportunity.

What if we named HR programs after the sponsor? For example, we could have the University X Tuition Reimbursement Program. Could we take it to the policy level? Is any sponsor willing to slap their name on or in the handbook? Anyone want some publicity every time the dress code is mentioned? (“Sorry, that beard is in violation of the Sponsor Y Grooming Guidelines.”)

I’m going to stop myself right there. Before I close, I need to emphasize three points:

1. I’m kidding.

2. If companies are not already doing this, I’m confident we’ll be seeing it inside of three years. After all, it’s already in the school system with advertising sponsored “educational” news content.

3. Given points #1 and #2 and my love of paradox, if Red Bull wants to sponsor my global adventures as an HR speaker, I’m more than willing to talk. I already have a few ideas on which metal bands I want to have open for me…

rock and roll presentation skills, pt 2

I see many, many parallels between musicians and presenters. Both groups are faced with the challenges of building connection with large groups, of creating interaction, of sharing messages, of standing apart from their competition and creating their own unique identity. Both are in the spotlight and build and create energy from the crowd, and both can be very uncomfortable if the crowd isn’t on their side. So, as I try to sharpen my presentation skills I look to live music performances for inspiration and ideas. A few months back I wrote Rock and Roll Presentation Skills after attending a live show. Today I want to learn from two specific video clips that really resonate for me as a presenter.

The first is from AC/DC playing on a British music show in about 1977. This is before they were global stars and they are on a musical variety show so it’s unlikely that more than a few in the audience had heard of them or were excited to see them play. This is very clear in the expressions of the crowd. Some look horrified, some bored, some confused, and only a few look interested, let alone enthused.

So, it’s a semi-interested crowd at best. You’ve got a sound (message) that won’t connect or resonate with many in the audience. In fact, you’ve got a sound (message) that’s different than everything else that’s popular at the time. You have a small time slot and then you’re done. What do you do?

The “safe” way would be to play it safe, tone down the sound (message), do a song that most would be familiar with, and try not to turn anyone off. OR… you can turn the amps up to 11 and play like you’re trying to blow the roof off of the place. Unapologetic full force rock and roll. Do the unexpected. Send the strong message that this is who you are, take it or leave it. Don’t let the crowd bring you down, just play bigger than ever and leave everything on the stage. Don’t even acknowledge the doubters and haters, just build love with those who are interested. This has been Seth Godin’s message for years – ignore the masses, build your tribe.


The second video is Arch Enemy playing at the Download Festival a few years back. A warning: they are not for everyone. The vocalist has a style practically all her own and is one of the very few women to bring that sound. And, no apologies, she doesn’t care if you don’t like it. The band has a style full of paradox that brings out the haters, even among those who like heavy metal, but they aren’t trying to please everyone. Again, this is playing to the tribe, not to the masses. But what really stands out for me as a presenter is her stage presence. Turn the sound off and watch her body language. Her presence is huge and she owns the stage like few others. Yet, she also clearly has a connection with the audience which is tens of thousands of people strong. That is a deep certainty about who she is and what she’s doing. There is no hesitation, no “I hope you like me”, just full ownership of the message and performance.

(Second warning: there is one brief bit of swearing at the end, but if you make it that far, I doubt it’s an issue for you.)

What’s my lesson as a presenter? Learn from the best but be myself. Play to my strengths. Trying to please everyone is counterproductive and actually pleases no one. Bring myself 100% and don’t hold back – never finish a presentation thinking I could have done more. No matter the size or interest of the audience, present like it’s the most important presentation of my career. Push myself and the presentation to 11. Preparation matters. It’s impossible to give my full self without knowing the presentation at the sub-conscious level because thinking about it builds barriers between me and the audience. Oh, and go where the moment takes you.

What have I missed? What other lessons are there for us presenters?


overthinking the human condition on a friday morning

Two of the most powerful human emotions are fear and hope. Interestingly, they are both future focused. Fear and hope are always about situations that might not exist or events that have not yet played out.

Pain and pleasure are the two great motivators. Whether we’re talking about the physical, emotional, or spiritual, us humans are always trying to organize our lives to minimize pain and maximize pleasure. Paradoxically, the choices and actions that create near-term/immediate pleasure often lead to long-term/future pain. And vice versa.

Pessimism and optimism are the filters and philosophies through which we take in and interpret data. Pessimism seems to focus on fear and pain while optimism concentrates on hope and pleasure. Pessimists tend to see pleasure as fleeting and temporary. Optimists view pleasure as the natural state, pain as a brief interruption. Fortunately, both approaches are useful.

Fear and a healthy desire to avoid pain helps keep us from making terminally stupid decisions. It drives us to plan ahead and save for the rainy days. Hope and a healthy belief that “this too shall pass” and tomorrow will be better than today has kept us moving forward through some really bleak, horrible, and desperate times. It is the inspiration and vision of tomorrow that keeps us going when things get overwhelmingly, crushingly bad.

Yet, pushed too far, both are crippling. Pessimism can convince us to never try, never strive, always suspect, always fear. The world looms big and we see everything both beyond our control and against us. Optimism can convince us we can do anything, to jump and leap without thought, preparation, or contingencies. We see everything and everyone as good: we trust those we shouldn’t and take on responsibilities we can’t handle. When we make blatantly irrational decisions, one of these mindsets has a bigger hold on us than it should.

Fear/pain/pessimism and hope/pleasure/optimism are hardwired into us for survival – it’s a part of the human condition and always operating in the background. It is so constant that it’s easy to overlook, to forget about, to think that us humans are now too sophisticated for such primitive drives. Yet, when we look for it, it’s pretty easy to see how fear/pain/pessimism and hope/pleasure/optimism shows up in business and our daily lives. Every product or service advertised, everything you’ve ever purchased, every career choice you’ve ever made has been out of fear of pain or hope of pleasure – likely both.

Ok, I’m not a psychologist – these are just observations and ideas I’ve picked up over the years. I don’t know for sure that it’s true or not. But if it’s true, how does that change how you sell, lead, dream, or decide? If it’s always there whether we give it’s due or not, how can you use it to your advantage to improve your communication, inspire others, and get out of your own way to play bigger?

hard won lessons on presenting

I really enjoy speaking and facilitating and wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned over the years.

It’s always about the participants. Always. The worst, most boring, least engaging presenters make it about themselves. And no one cares. The best presenters think through every single aspect from the participants’ point of view.

 They are participants, not an audience. This may be semantics, but in my mind participants are involved in understanding and applying the material to their own lives while an audience is passive and just along for the ride. Great presenters engage everyone in the room.

 The participants don’t know what they don’t know. This was the single most freeing concept I ever learned about speaking. The participants don’t know what you intended to say so they don’t know when you skipped something. No point in getting hung up on your mistake. If it’s important, loop it back in appropriately. If not, let it go.

 “Winging it” is for complete amateurs. There is a huuuuuuge difference between knowing your material so well you are able to adjust to audience needs on the fly and making it up as you go. Very, very few presenters are able to go off the cuff and those who are able to are tapping into years of experience and material. Some people complain that preparing makes it mechanical, but if your presentation is mechanical it means you haven’t prepared enough to truly own the material. Respect your participants (and yourself) enough to prepare.

 PowerPoint is a great enhancement, but a lousy focal point. The best speakers I’ve seen have very, very little content on their slides. By only having the most important points, the slides are used to support the mood and tone and enhance and underscore the most crucial information. Anything more risks becoming a distraction and a crutch. Think of it like a tie – it needs to match the suit, it can stand out but should never be the focal point, and if you took off the tie the suit should still look great without it.

 Technology breaks. I was at a conference recently and watched as a speaker went through three laptops, two connecting cables, and several staff and volunteers before he was able to get his slides on the screen. Fortunately, he wasn’t dependent on his slides and just rolled into the presentation while the staff and volunteers got his presentation to work. Once the projector was working, he smoothly transitioned to using it. Never rely on technology more sophisticated than flipchart and markers. Use the technology, but be ready and able to give a full presentation without it.

Everything has a purpose. Every-little-thing. Everything. Don’t do that activity, don’t tell that funny story, don’t show that slide unless it directly supports your presentation. If it doesn’t have a purpose don’t do it. Ever.

Introverts can be great presenters. Never confuse introversion with shyness. Some of the best presenters I know are introverts and they use it to their advantage because they are naturally good at staying on point, keeping the focus on the participants, and never talking just to hear themselves speak. Introversion doesn’t matter and it’s not an excuse. A good presenter is a good presenter.

Mistakes are the best teachers. We all screw up, forget stuff, get it out of sequence, and say just the wrong thing. I can say I’ve learned the most about presenting and made the biggest improvements to my presentations from my errors, not my successes.

Care. This one is simple. If you don’t care, neither will your participants.

Have fun. Relax and enjoy it. Once you get past the nervousness and adrenalin dump, presenting can be great fun. And your participants will reflect your energy. If you’re enjoying it, they will too.

Your thoughts?