Meet #WonderWoman Margaret Spence

In a Twitter conversation not too long ago, Sarah Morgan reminded us that HR is full of women and people of color, and that patriarchy and white supremacy impact how we are viewed and promoted. Thinking about HR’s perpetual quest for ‘a seat at the table’, I was reminded of what Tarana Burke said at WorkHuman last year: hiring and promoting women isn’t enough. We have to untrain the effects of being steeped in the patriarchy. This brought me back to Margaret Spence’s SHRM18 session on ‘Radically Rethinking Empowerment and Engagement: Transform Your Approach to Developing Women Leaders.’ Margaret believes that one of the fundamental hindrances in seeing women rise in leadership is that traditional leadership development has been designed by men, for men. Trying to fit women into that design, rather than addressing their specific needs, holds women back.

There are two ways to apply this lesson. The first is for female professionals in HR to think about ourselves. Margaret challenges us to think first: who am I as a leader? Women, she says, often need to be told they can lead in order to see themselves in that role. Isn’t that true for many of us in HR? How have we been negatively influenced by a cultural narrative that requires us to change who we are in order to succeed? Or creates a definition of success that doesn’t resonate with who we are at heart?

The second way we in HR need to apply this is in how we function within our HR role. We are the gatekeepers of training, development and promotion. There is a serious problem in our businesses: women are 46.8% of the workforce, and only 6.4% of Fortune 500 companies have women CEO’s. Let’s drive that home: in 2018, there are only 24 women CEO’s leading Fortune 500 companies. And only 2 are women of color. None are African-American. None. There are no African-American women leading a Fortune 500 today, even though African-American women earn more MBA’s/PhD’s than any other subgroup.

Margaret Spence is on a mission to change the way women, especially women of color, experience leadership development. She wants to break down barriers to the C-Suite and change the dismal status quo. Margaret, a successful CEO in her own right, is moving away from her traditional consulting company to focus her energies on the Employee to CEO Project, which, as Margaret puts it, is “closing the diversity gap between the Executive Suite and the C-Suite by ending career plateaus and off ramps that derail the careers of minority women and men. There’s a tiny space between making a difference and accepting the status quo – we work within that gap.” Part of the Employee to CEO Project includes the new 10-X Leadership Academy, workshops developed by women for women to help leaders grow their careers.

Wendy Dailey and I had a chance to talk with Margaret recently for an upcoming special episode of the #HRSocialHourHalfHour podcast as part of a new series, #WonderWomen, where we focus on amplifying the voices of women of color who are making a difference in HR. According to Margaret, women need coaching and training specifically designed for women. We need to ask what they want and listen to their responses. And if you are an HR professional and a woman, ask yourself the same questions:

What is the message that you’re telling yourself about your career?

What can you learn about yourself today?

What is absolutely essential to your career development?

Where are your opportunities? What are your biggest barriers to success?

What goal do you have that takes your breath away every time you think about it?

What do you want to achieve? Why do you want it? Why don’t you have it now?

How committed are you to seeing it through?

When we ask these questions of the women in our organizations and listen to their answers, and when we answer these questions for ourselves, we’ll experience the transformation that Margaret envisions. Check out the #WonderWomen podcast to hear more as Wendy and I talk to Margaret Spence.

Building inclusive spaces by reaching outside our walls

There are some common buzzwords we use in HR when we talk about diversity. To start with, there’s that word diversity, as well as inclusion, and equity. We talk about people bringing their ‘full authentic selves’ to work. I do believe that many of us are quite sincere in wanting to create spaces where people can be their full authentic selves, whatever that means or whatever that looks like. We want our companies to be diverse in every kind of way, whether racially and ethnically, generationally, or any other -ally. We want to be inclusive and make room for everyone whether disabled or non-disabled, LGBTQ or straight. We know that our organizations will thrive when we welcome and include everyone. We know that innovation happens in diversity and not homogeneity.

But when these concepts get reduced to buzzwords, we end up with diversity programs without real inclusion. We end up with people who may look or sound different, but underneath function the same, whether they are all authentically the same or they just learn to fit in to get ahead.

Regardless of our level of sincerity and commitment, I have come to realize that it is almost impossible to create truly diverse and inclusive spaces. Because no matter what we do, no matter how welcoming we are, no matter how much of the heavy work of self-assessment, and confronting bias, and tearing down walls and building inclusivity into our organizations we do, we only influence a small part of the world our employees live in. At the end of the workday, everyone leaves your building, or signs off from your company server, or clocks out, and goes back out to the world.

We live in a world where US citizens with US passports can live in fear of deportation (is it even deportation if you were born in the US? Isn’t it exile?) because their skin is brown and they were born in a border state. We live in a world where black parents have to teach their children how to act when pulled over by the police, and yet those same parents fear that no matter how well their child behaves, he might still not make it home. Where white supremacists march openly, and the rights of those who are LGBTQ are constantly at risk of being stripped, where the simple human dignity of walking into a public bathroom is something that must be fought for, and often not won.

If you want to measure how inclusive you are, start listening to the conversations your employees are having. Can they talk openly about their fears and frustrations? Is everyone able to talk about their experiences outside your office? Do people speak about the systems and institutions that perpetuate oppression? When was the last time your employees had a candid conversation about redlining and how it affected their families? Patriarchy, white supremacy, these are hard words that we tend to want to shy away from, but they are words that impact our employees in every aspect of their lives. If folks can’t talk about these things, your organization isn’t really inclusive.

How do we build inclusive spaces? Safe spaces? We start by building honest spaces, where being your full authentic self means sharing your full authentic story. Where people grapple with the very real results of the systems that got us all here. Where those who benefit from those systems own that knowledge, and work to effect change, not only in the office but in the world. Because until we reach outside of our company walls and into the world, our best and most sincere efforts towards diversity, inclusion and equity are doomed to fail.

SHRM18: Expanding my world one relationship at a time

I spent 4 days and 4 nights in Chicago for the SHRM 18 conference, and in all that time I saw very little of Chicago. I didn’t see the bean, or Wrigley Field. I didn’t get to the House of Blues or eat a Chicago-style hot dog. I wouldn’t have even had a slice of deep dish pizza if it weren’t for fellow blogger Keith Enochs finding a place that delivered to the convention center so we could eat it in the blogger lounge.

Some people might consider that I missed out on this trip, and they have a point. Chicago is a vibrant city with much to offer, and on this, my first trip to the city, I did not take advantage. However, I did what was more important to me – I connected with other HR professionals, and attended sessions that challenged me to practice HR in new and better ways.

The SHRM18 conference theme was ‘Expand Your World’ but for me personally, the theme was ‘grow your relationships.’

I connected with my Twitter #HRTribe in real life, getting to meet other HR pros who I regularly interact with on social media. I went to crowded happy hours and shared smaller, intimate meals with just a handful of folks. We talked shop, but we also talked about life, making deeper connections that will help undergird our online interactions.

I also met new HR pros who haven’t been online and haven’t been part of that tribe. I got to share what goes on online and invite them to be part of things. Some will, others wont, but now they know that there is a whole online HR life they can tap into if they ever need.

I had lunch with a colleague I met at the SHRM Diversity and Inclusion conference last October; we don’t connect on a regular basis, but we’ve become ‘conference friends’ and I look forward to seeing her again at future events.

I attended keynotes, mega sessions, concurrent sessions, and smart stage sessions, learning in each venue. I practiced live tweeting; I still need to hone those skills – sometimes I gave up and just retweeted what other, faster folks put out. I focused on the tweeting knowing that the #NotAtSHRM18 folks were counting on those of us who were there to keep up on what was happening in. Those tweets are a way of honoring our online relationship whether we ever meet ‘IRL’ or not.

Relationships were a theme in many of the sessions I attended as well. In all the keynotes, the ongoing theme of listening, communicating, choosing to be generous, and making sure everyone has an opportunity invite us as #HR pros to think about the relationships we build, and the relationships we are responsible for at our organizations. Our ability to influence culture directly relates to the relationships our employees experience.

I learned how to have positive disagreements, how to navigate office politics in a way that deepens relationships so that everyone wins, and how to advance women as leaders, a process that is more relational than traditional leadership development models. Even a session on developing strategy focused on building relationships with those who can support your strategic objectives – not using people, but building real relationships that involve give and take and allow people to bring their best selves to the work.

All weekend I’ve been reading lots of great takeaways from the SHRM18 Expand Your World conference. I’ve enjoyed the pictures and stories from bloggers who got to see Chicago up close and personal. I’m sure I will continue to blog about individual sessions as I continue to process what I learned and think about how to apply that knowledge to my day to day life. But for now, as I jump back into my day to day life, I’m focusing on expanding and deepening my relationships. I hope that however your world expanded from attending #SHRM18 or #NotAtSRHM18, your relationships will grow as a result, too.


It’s time!

SHRM18! It’s time to pack my bags and head for the airport. As part of the SHRM Blogging team, I’m looking forward to sharing my insights through the SHRM blog. I’m excited about meeting my #HRTribe #Nextchat #SHRMBloggers in real life. There are brunches, happy hours and photo opportunities in the works. As an HR professional, I’ve been poring over the schedule, making my 1st, 2nd and even 3rd place choices for different session times. I have my ‘must see’ and ‘want to see’ sessions picked. I’ve noted vendors I want to look at for products and services that might benefit my organization. I’ll spend some time at the Smart Stage, something I neglected last year. I’m also looking forward to seeing a bit of Chicago and eating some deep-dish pizza.

But in another real way, I’m not looking forward to this trip. The timing isn’t meshing with my personal life. I hate to be away from my family at this moment in time. Work has been busy, too, and I feel less prepared to be out of the office than I typically do when I attend a conference.

Is that you, too? Maybe you’ve got young kids at home, and it’s hard to leave them behind. Are you worried about your child care plan? Maybe, like me, you have older relatives that are needing care and attention. Maybe your company just won a big contract and you are deep into ramping up staffing. Maybe someone recently brought a #MeToo allegation to your attention, and you need to manage an investigation.

These are all real-world situations that affect many of us on a regular basis. It can be hard to walk out the door, board that plane, and let it all go. You might be second guessing your decision to attend the conference. If that’s you, be encouraged. Life is messy, and there is never a perfect time to travel. Work will always have fires, and family will always need you. But you’ve made your plans and going away for a few days is a good reminder that the world will keep spinning while you are away.

Do your best to fully disconnect from work. Set up good processes and know who in your office is going to be responsible for each task while you are out. Trust your staff. Trust the processes you’ve created. At the SHRM conference, you will be refreshed. You’ll get to hang out with 15,000 of your closest HR friends, and get reenergized for the work you do each day. The SHRM Annual Conference is a great time and place to renew your passion for HR and deepen your skill set. Whatever your professional goals for this conference, you’ll have wonderful opportunities to expand your world. I can’t wait to see you there!

Falling Down

When my son was little, anytime he came home with a scrape or bruise and we asked what happened, he’d look at it in surprise and say, ‘fell down.’ I’m not sure what the words ‘fell down’ meant to him, but he wasn’t describing the act of falling. He was busy playing with his friends, and the random bump or bruise didn’t slow him down.

I ‘fell down’ recently. I said something thoughtless to a business acquaintance, and I feel terrible, because I inadvertently insulted this acquaintance. It wasn’t that I said something untrue, but my phrasing was unkind. This person and I were passing acquaintances, so I can’t even go back and apologize. But they mentioned it to someone we know in common, and in the way of the world, they probably told two people, who told two people, and so it goes. I may be making too big a deal of this; perhaps I’m not that important to all these people, and no one is really talking about me. But what if they are?

We are known by our words and our deeds, not by our intentions. And the only real social capital we have is to be trustworthy. We need to be people that others can trust. According to, trust means reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.

This is true for everyone, but for those of us who are HR practitioners, there’s an added layer. The employees in our company must not only believe that we will do what we say, but they must trust our motives. They must be confident that we have their best interests in mind as we create strategy, set policy, and make recommendations to senior executives.

Our goal as HR professionals is to do good work. We want to improve the lives of the employees we serve and foster better business outcomes at the same time. We believe that the two are not only not incompatible, but that they are closely linked. And on our best days, we live this out in multiple ways, deepening our own sense of career satisfaction.

And yet, we all make mistakes. We get busy with the day-to-day urgency of our work, and we ‘fall down.’ Sometimes, like in my recent situation, we say something we wish we could take back. Sometimes we might get caught up in a new and shiny technology and ignore the impact it will have on some of our staff. What if we design a new policy but we don’t test it out well, or we don’t think it through enough, and it ends up hurting the very staff we hope to serve? What happens when the outcome of our decisions or actions brings about the very opposite of what we strive for everyday?

First, when this happens, and it will, forgive yourself. While we must own the impact of our actions, we also know our own intentions. It can be easy to get into our own heads and get mired in our own failures. Don’t get stuck there, but you do need to take responsibility. Trust is built through transparency. Own the impact of your actions and decisions and make them right where you can. If you do this consistently, then those around you will trust your integrity and believe in your good intentions.

I can’t go back and change what I said. But I can learn from it, and do better in the future. I hope that if those two people are telling two people, that they all take a closer look at me going forward. They may be looking to catch me in the act, but what they’ll see is someone who fell down and got right back up. They’ll see someone who does her best to be trustworthy. HR pros, let’s continue to act in a manner that invites a closer look.

Let’s build it so they will come.

Field of Dreams came out in 1989, and became an instant classic. It’s taken on a life of its own in pop culture, and today we all recognize the line ‘if you build it they will come’. In the movie, Kevin Costner’s character, Ray, is compelled to build a baseball diamond in order to attract the ghosts of old players, including Shoeless Joe Jackson and his character’s own father. Ray is willing to plow over his own cornfield, putting the family farm in jeopardy, because he believes in his dream of bringing these baseball giants to life. His dream is bigger than his own interests, and at the same time his interests will be better served by following this dream.

In our organizations, diversity is a dream, but it’s a dream that comes at a cost. Those baseball players didn’t show up on the corn field and say, ‘let’s play ball’. Ray didn’t invite them to come plow up the field and lay the baseball diamond or help build the stands. He was willing to do the hard work and take the risks himself, trusting that if he did it right, they would show up and make the place come alive.

We don’t do that in our businesses. In fact, we do the opposite. We say we value diversity, and we do all kinds of crazy gymnastics to attract a diverse workforce. But we haven’t plowed up the field or made a baseball diamond. We think we are welcoming, but when people of color, people who are disabled, people who are LGBT, women, come into our space, we say ‘we’re so glad you are here. Now, build us a baseball stadium – after all, you are the ones who want to play baseball.’ It’s the opposite of welcoming – it’s exhausting. And worse, no matter how hard they work, it will never succeed. Because we don’t really want to plow down our cherished corn field. We want them to wear a baseball uniform while they join us in farming.

There’s an HR quote we all know: ‘diversity is is being invited to the party, inclusion is being invited to the dance floor’, but there’s an additional line I love that says ‘belonging is having my music playing’. We have worked hard to invite people to our parties and onto the dance floor, but we want them to dance to our music. Look like a baseball player, but learn to farm. How can we change it up so everyone’s music is playing on that dance floor?

My granddaughters are enamored of series of children’s book about Elephant and Piggie. One particular favorite is called ‘I am Invited to a Party!’, where an exuberant Piggie is invited to a party and enlists the help of her staid friend, Gerald the elephant to prepare. Under Gerald’s guidance, the pair dresses for a fancy party, a pool party, and a costume party cumulatively. There are two important points to this story. The first is that it turns out Gerald is right. The party is a fancy pool costume party. All of their outfitting is appropriate.

Our workplaces ought to be like that – open to all kinds of ways of being. We say we want people to be their full authentic selves at work, but do we really? Are we open to different world views that might clash with our own? Are we only throwing a costume party and those who come prepared to swim are left out? Can people come in baseball uniforms and be welcomed for who they really are? What can we do differently to create a culture where differing voices not only welcomed but celebrated? We’ve all had the experience of being invited to a party where we arrive and feel totally out of place. Is that what work is like every day for some of our employees?

The second thing about this story is that Piggie has never been invited to a party and she needs a guide. Some of the workforce that we want to attract has never been invited to our parties. They aren’t all lucky enough to have an elephant around who can show them the way, and they also need a guide. We can create places that are truly welcoming and send out the invitations. But then we need to get out and meet the people we want to attract. Let’s tell them all about the party we have planned. Let’s make sure they know that our parties are fancy, pool and costume, and that they are welcome. Let’s plow up our own corn fields, because if we build it, they will come.

When you’re the disengaged employee

A month or so ago I posted a blog about what to do when a highly engaged employee becomes disengaged. This led to some conversation on social media, and the question arose: ‘what if I’m the disengaged employee? How do I decide whether I should re-engage or if it’s time to leave the organization?’ I think we’ve all been there. There have been times that I’ve had to learn how to re-engage and find my passion for my job, and other times it’s been the signal that it’s time to look for a new opportunity. Let me also be clear – losing your passion for the job is not the same as losing your passion for the field. You can be a passionate HR professional, involved and giving back to the community, and still tap out in your current job for a variety of reasons.

The first question to ask is: is this me, or is this my company? Does the company experience a high turnover? Does senior leadership have unrealistic expectations of its employees? Is there a lack of direction as to where the organization is going? If this is the case, and you’ve given it your all to influence leadership and be a change agent, you may have to realize that the problem is bigger and more systemic than you can fix, and it’s time to move on.

Maybe the company overall is great, but your manager or department is in disarray. If the leader of your department is unclear on her objectives or is constantly changing the expectations, and you’ve tried to address this directly, it might be time to look for a new opportunity.

Is the job what you signed up for? Maybe you were told there was tremendous growth potential but it turns out there isn’t. Maybe you were told that administering benefits would be a small piece of your role, but it turns out that it’s the bulk of what you are doing. Whatever the case, if you thought you were taking a particular position and it didn’t live up to the promise, consider – if you knew what it would be before you accepted the offer, would you have? If the answer is no, it might be time to move on.

Sometimes, the job is exactly what we thought, but then the organization goes through significant change and the job changes. This can be a great opportunity to learn and grow, or it can be a time of chaos with no end in sight. Only you can determine what the changes mean for you.

But sometimes, we just get tired. Maybe you had a new initiative that you really believed in, but senior management shot it down. Sometimes we take that rejection personally and start to disengage. You’ve seen it in your employees; don’t think you are immune. If an employee came to you with this situation, how would you coach them? Would you encourage them to look at the company holistically and understand why their idea isn’t right for the company at this time, but that doesn’t mean that they should give up, or would you suggest that nothing is going to change and they might want to consider leaving? I’ve actually coached employees both ways. If someone feels that there is an element to their current situation that has become a deal breaker, and I know that specific element is integral to their position and the company, I let them know. If if means them leaving, then they get to find a better fit, and we get to find a better fit to replace them. It’s painful in the moment, but in the end everyone wins.

So you are disengaged. Think it through. Can the things that bother you be changed? If so, then change them. If not, are they deal breakers? If so, then start looking. If not, then put them to the side and focus on what’s working. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. But if you’re struggling to decide, think about how you would coach an employee in your company who came to you with the same situation. That might be your own answer.

Managing Vendor Relationships

I met with a colleague recently, and over coffee we chatted about the job. Somehow, we started swapping open enrollment stories, and I was struck by how much the success or failure of an open enrollment experience is dependent on the insurance broker we were working with at the time. For an HR department of one, or any small HR team, vendors can make or break the success of the operation.

A small HR department means that we represent smaller organizations. We’ll never be a big client or bring our vendors high sales numbers. There are some great boutique vendors that serve smaller companies, but they also tend to be smaller themselves and can be stretched thin. How can we ensure that our vendor relationships fully support our work? By managing expectations, both our own and our vendors.

When looking for a vendor, whether a health insurance broker, HRIS or payroll system, outside anti-harassment training, or any other of the many functions a small company may outsource, it’s important to know what is reasonable to expect. Read up on some of the ATS functions available, and you can be star struck by the options out there. However, some of the more advances technologies are really expensive. It might be cost effective when you have thousands or tens of thousands of employees, but when your employee count numbers in the hundreds or even smaller, those options might not be reasonable for you. Educate yourself and know what services and technologies make sense for a company of your size.

Once you know what you can and cannot expect, it’s time to manage your vendor’s expectation. Know what is important to you. Do you want a dedicated service representative that will know you and your company personally? Or is 24/7 call-in support more important? Do you need a company that offers to go over your needs and suggest additional services that you might not be aware of? Or do you dislike the upsell and want to control exactly what you are going to see? There are many right ways to work with a vendor and knowing what works for you is critical. Communicating those preferences to your vendor is critical.

Finally, be a good customer. Make sure you’ve read your vendor contracts thoroughly and you know exactly what they have promised to provide. Don’t ask for things outside the scope – or be prepared to pay for it if you do. Communicate your needs to your vendor; don’t just wait for your vendor to contact you. If the makeup of your workforce changes significantly, don’t wait until your broker brings you renewal rates for the year – reach out and talk through how your insurance needs might be changing.

Part of being a small HR department means partnering with vendors in order to provide our employees the full range of services they deserve. Knowing how to manage those vendor relationships can make our lives easier, and our departments a success.

Expanding my world

I’m so excited to be part of the SHRM18 blogging team as I count down the days to the 2018 SHRM conference in Chicago this June 17 – 20. The theme for this year’s conference is ‘Expand Your World’. That is the perfect theme for my journey to this conference.

Like so many, I came into HR through the back door, and for a long time I didn’t even realize I was doing HR. When I figured it out, it was time to get serious and get an education. For most of my career I’ve been a department of one (DOO), and that can be an isolating position, especially if you fell into the job and don’t have a built-in network. Being a full time HR DOO and going to school is not super conducive to networking – when is there time? – so while I was gaining important knowledge, I was still alone in my profession.

After graduating and obtaining my SHRM-SCP, I knew I needed to get out there and meet people, so I registered for the SHRM 17 conference in New Orleans. I didn’t know anyone! But once I registered, I started getting email about how to prepare for my conference experience. And then magic happened: I got an email from some woman I’d never heard of, Mary Kaylor, telling me that I could join the SHRM 17 bloggers on something called #nextchat. So, I dusted off my old, unused twitter account and joined in. Can I just say, #nextchat is a little scary for a twitter newbie.

But the #nextchatters and the #SHRM17 bloggers were so welcoming and gave me so much good info about what to expect in New Orleans, I felt confident as I packed my bags. SHRM 17 was amazing! I made friends, I learned SO much, I left feeling more confident and equipped as an HR pro. While at SHRM17, I attended the #nextchat reception to meet my virtual colleagues IRL. It was wonderful to put a face and a name to a twitter handle. At that reception, that same Mary Kaylor encouraged me to start blogging. I was hesitant, but the conference experience and the consistent conversation on #nextchat helped me find my voice.

I started the blog, and people read it. And now, as I prepare for SHRM18, I’m part of the blogging team. My HR world has expanded beyond my wildest dreams, and now I’m part of the team that gets to welcome others to learn and grow and find their HR voices as well – whether you start a blog or make new friends or learn new things, you’ll leave the conference more connected to an amazing HR community. You’ll be energized and excited about your profession, and you’ll be equipped to be a better HR pro. Come to Chicago and expand your world!

HR, we’re not that awesome.

I was at an education conference recently where Dr. Howard Fuller was the keynote speaker. If you ever have a chance to hear Dr. Fuller speak, do it. He’s a tremendous presenter. In fact, he’s awesome. Speaking to educators, Dr. Fuller cautioned against the constant striving to be awesome. ‘It’s not about being awesome,’ he said, ‘it’s about being regular and getting awesome results.’ This is true in education, but it’s also true in HR.

HR friends, we are really not that awesome. Let’s be honest, being awesome takes a tremendous amount of time, energy and attention. And that time and attention has to be focused on ourselves to make ourselves awesome. That’s not the goal of good HR. Our goal should be to embrace our ordinariness, and channel it into awesome results. The work we do is what should be awesome.

What does being regular and getting awesome results look like? For a DOO like me, it looks like employees who have a seamless experience with their HRIS interface, no matter how much work I have to do on the back end. It looks like managers who are confident in doing annual reviews because they’ve been equipped know how to do it well. It’s an organizational culture where people talk about how their work explicitly ties to the organization’s mission on a regular basis. It’s low turnover because people have no reason to leave the company.

If you specialize in your area of HR, awesome results will look different. If you are a recruiter, making that perfect connection and seeing that both hiring managers and candidates have an amazing experience – even the candidates who aren’t selected – is an awesome result. Having clients reach back out with future needs and recommend you to others is an awesome result.

We don’t accomplish these things by being awesome. We do it by working hard. We make mistakes and pick ourselves back up and keep going. We give it our all, we keep learning, and we do the best we can.

Not only are we not awesome, our employees aren’t either. They are regular people doing their best and accomplishing amazing things. Your superstar employee? Probably isn’t innately more talented than her coworkers. She puts in more time, or she gives more focus, or in some other way just works better. Maybe she taps into the knowledge of others around her in a way that is unique. Maybe he reads up on work-related news on the weekends. Whatever it is, it’s something that is attainable to anyone else on the team.

As we engage our employees, as we think about what success looks like for them and for us, we need to remember that we don’t have to be awesome, and neither do they. We have to be invested in the outcome. We have to be willing to do the hard work that earns success. HR, we aren’t awesome. But we are delightfully regular people achieving some awe-inspiring results.