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.

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