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.