Society for Human Resource Management

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?

can’t wait for ILSHRM13

August 19 and 20th. Chicago, Illinois. ILSHRM13. BOOM!

This is the event I’ve been looking forward to all summer. The folks at Illinois SHRM have put together a tremendous line up of speakers and I’m really excited about attending. Daniel Crosby’s keynote has the fantastic title: “You’re Not That Great: A Motivational Speech”. Dwane Lay is doing both a keynote and a concurrent session – I’ve seen him a couple of times and he’s always entertainingly thought provoking (or is that thought provokingly entertaining?). Kris Dunn and Laurie Ruettimann were two of the first bloggers I followed and inspired me to start blogging myself. For me it’ll be worth the trip to Chicago just to see them present.

In the concurrent sessions, there’s Doug Shaw, Paul Hebert, Susan Avello, and so many more. All folks with strong reputations for thinking differently and bringing new perspectives to the issues we all face. I haven’t seen Paul or Susan present (yet) but I’m a big fan of Doug’s take on HR and business and his down to earth presentation style. Attend his session if you can.

I’ll be there too. This year, my boss and co-conspirator Cheryl Gochis and I have been on a world tour*, speaking at several different conferences. I don’t want to brag too much about our skills, but I’m confident we are the only speakers who have used a life-size cardboard cutout of Chewbacca to make a point about employee engagement.

In Chicago, we’re presenting two concurrent sessions: “Creating Culture Change on Cruise Control” and “HR: Simplifier or Complicator”. No Chewbacca this time around but we’re ready to bring our energy, passion, and perhaps a different take on HR.  I like to believe that the company I work for does HR different than many companies and it’s fantastic fun to share what’s worked for us (and what hasn’t), learn from all the participants, and meet people who are trying to move the field forward. No matter how good I think we’re doing, there is always so much to discover and so many ways to raise our own game even more.

So What Are Our Presentations About?

Changing cultures is difficult – really difficult – so the “Creating Culture Change on Cruise Control” session looks at ways we can leverage existing HR processes to make that change easier. Cruise control isn’t autopilot and it’s doesn’t make the journey instantaneous. We still have to steer, but cruise control lets us make steady progress uphill, downhill, around corners, while allowing us to focus on more important aspects of the drive.

The “HR: Simplifier or Complicator” session is based on the idea that people are either simplifiers who make it easier to get work done and accelerate results or are barriers who complicate and slow things down with drama, politics, and “War and Peace” sized policy books. Laws, regulations, and human nature are complicated enough so we look at some ways that HR can help cut through all that and be a simplifier. A little bit of fair warning for you: it’s at 7:30am on Tuesday, we’ll be ready to rock full force, and we like plenty of interaction, so this will not be a session to ease you into the morning. Get up, get your coffee, and get excited.

Say “Hi”.

If you are attending the conference, please find me and say “hi”. One of the best parts about conferences is meeting new people and kicking around ideas.

See you there!




*World tour in the sense that we’ve spoken at different places on the world, not necessarily around the world. A subtle difference to be sure.


it’s not about social media, but it is about HR

Social media and HR. Two great things I saw working together fabulously. Seriously. Everyone I consider a peer uses social media in some form. I’d met and shared ideas with great people around the world and could see an interconnected network of smart, passionate folks come together. With a couple of clicks I was interacting with rock stars of the field – people I’d otherwise have no access to – and over time it built into something more. Information and thoughts flowed from one end of the internet to the other.

And then I went outside my little happy world and saw that they don’t always to go together. I knew some didn’t get it, but I has shocked at how many don’t. I don’t mean at the corporate level of using social media to recruit. (Robin Schooling (@robinschooling) over at HR Schoolhouse did a great post on this recently. You should go read it.) I mean at the personal level of individuals in the field of HR using social media as a networking, communication, and information gathering tool. Whythehellnot?

At the Louisiana State SHRM conference in early April there was a ton of buzz about social media. Any session with “Social Media” in the title was well attended, there was a Social Media Street to answer anyone’s questions and a team of social media volunteers to tweet in real time about the sessions, and both the conference and the speakers had been heavily promoted on social media. I was thrilled for the chance to meet many people in person whom I only had met and only knew via the internet. In fact, I found out about the conference and ended up presenting largely thanks to social media. In my mind, there was this enormous social media connection running throughout.

And then… and then I realized that the only people discussing the conference on Twitter were the presenters and the social media team. I don’t recall one mention by participants. Maybe I missed it. In his session on “Building Social HR Leadership”, Doug Shaw (@dougshaw1) did a quick poll of the participants. If I remember correctly, roughly two-thirds claimed to be on LinkedIn, a smaller number admitted to Facebook or Pinterest, and Twitter trailed in popularity.

Huh? I assumed conference goers were there to network, to learn about new happenings in the field, and to get ideas to take back to their jobs. All things I’ve found social media to be brilliant for. I’m not a power user or social media evangelist and I don’t think everyone needs to be on every form of social media. I’m just surprised that the adoption rate was so low, particularly given that those I consider to be thought leaders in the field are so active in social media.

There has probably always been a gap between those actively building relationships, sharing ideas, learning from each other, trying to advance the field etc. and those just showing up for another day’s work, but I get the sense that social media is rapidly (radically?) widening this gap.

It’s not really about social media because social media is just a tool, just a means to an end. It’s really about HR and the bigger question is: What are you doing to learn, share ideas, build relationships, and move the field forward?