conferences

#boldHR at #HRevolution

boldHRevolution is this weekend. Saturday, November 8th, near Dallas. If you’re in human resources, you’re going, right? It’s not too late.

I attended two years ago in Chicago and it changed my life. That’s a strong statement, but not hype. In so many ways, I can trace where I am now back to that event, the people I met, and the opportunities that began opening up because of it. It was pivotal for me.

It was the first HR conference I’d attended since the 1998 SHRM National conference while I was in grad school. That conference left me painfully disillusioned about the field of HR. I’d gone, figured school would lag the industry and anything I had learned was already common place status quo. Instead, the things being discussed in whispered tones as bleeding edge at the conference were all things I’d already read about in textbooks. I discovered there was a huge gap between what excited me about HR and what I thought the field could be versus where it actually was.

I first started reading blogs in 2009 and discovered people who also thought bigger about HR, people who approached it from different angles, people who had the same vision of the field as mine. I heard about HRevolution after the fact and kicked myself for somehow missing the first couple.

In 2012, three of my biggest heroes were leading sessions and there were many other people whose names I recognized presenting and attending. All at small conference intended to give the field a shove beyond its comfort zones. How could I miss?

I bought a plane ticket with my own money and went, staying in some wretched hotel far beyond the expensive hotels near the conference center. The next morning, the sleepy cab driver almost hit several other cars as he struggled to stay between the white lines and then missed the exit.

Happy and thankful to arrive, I wandered through the massive conference center to find the three or four rooms being used for HRevolution. And was welcomed by people I’d never met as though I were a friend. The whole day was a blur of amazing people, great ideas, and better discussions.

It feels silly to acknowledge it, but I have a strong emotional connection to that event. I met my heroes, made friends, greatly expanded the depth of my network, and launched my career forward. I left inspired, encouraged, and challenged to play bigger professionally.

Two years ago I awkwardly volunteered to participate in a session called “HR Improv”. This year I’m leading a session called “Bold HR”. There are also sessions by Franny Oxford, Bill Boorman, Lois Melbourne, Jason Seiden, Frank Zupan and Tammy Colson, Ravi Mikkelsen, and William Tincup and Matthew Stollak. Plus, many of the attendees are folks you’d normally see keynoting conferences attending as participants just because it’s a fantastic event.

Rather than the “sage on the stage” approach at so many conferences, everyone at HRevolution is down to earth, friendly, and completely accessible. So many great people to meet, share ideas with, and help raise the game.

This year, I’m very excited to meet new friends, see old ones, and learn from everyone. You’re running out of time, but if you’re at all on the fence about attending, there are still a few tickets left and I hope to see you there. Please find me and say hi.

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heroes and friends

Social media gave me heroes. When I first started playing with social media I was awed by a handful of standout people working hard at sharing knowledge, shaking up the status quo, and kicking at the boundaries of their fields. Their larger than life perspectives arrived in my little corner of the world without fail through blog posts and Twitter updates. I began digging down, finding their influencers, and one hero led to another and another and another.

I discovered the magic of social media and learned the obvious secret. I could contact – contact! – these heroes and they would respond. Their ideas were big, but they weren’t the untouchable rock stars on the 15 foot high stage. They were open, liked sharing ideas back and forth, and responded quickly.

Then, I personally paid to attend a conference over 1,000 miles away for the chance to attend presentations by several of my biggest heroes, learn from them, and meet them in real life. That conference changed my world. After a few embarrassingly starstruck-tweenage-girl-meeting-the-boyband-of-the-week moments I realized these online celebrities of my world were, just people. People reaching out to the world and trying to make a difference in between all the dull-normal moments of life. Yes, they were outstanding at what they did, but they still had jobs to go to, spouses to hand them chore lists, kids to take to the zoo, and minivans in need of replacement. Their weekends looked like my weekends; their workweeks like my own.

Another conference followed, then another, and another. At each one, I arrived meeting another hero or two and left with much learning, fantastic discussions, and more friends.

Conferences took away my heroes and gave me friends. Friends dedicated to personal missions of changing the world of work. Friends who give their time and advice freely and eagerly. Friends I count on to push me, cheer me on, and inspire me to play bigger in this world.

If you go to conferences, when you go to conferences, I encourage you seek out your heroes. Go find them, meet them, talk to them. It’s good to have heroes; it’s better to have friends.

 

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?

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…

DIY, mosh pits, and HR conferences (repost)

Motorhead probably won't be playing any HR conferences this year. Shame.

Everything louder than everyone else.  Not coming to an HR conference near you. Shame.

Why conferences?

Are you going to a conference this year? Why?

No really, why? As an HR professional, why are you taking time out of your life to go? Is it because you’re a professional and professionals go to conferences because other professionals go to conferences? Is it because you need to keep up on your certifications? Is it because you have no other opportunity to talk to vendors? Is it because you feel it is the best or most cost effective way to keep up with the field? Is it because you really need a three day drinking binge? Is it because your company pays for you to go? Why go?

How will you decide which conference to attend? Location? Price? The keynote speaker(s)? The size of the conference? Reputation? Theme? Topics?

I have a confession to make: I haven’t been a huge fan of conferences. My sense is that conferences have often been more about the status quo, rubbing elbows, and comparing merit badges. The organizers seem to follow a set formula: play it safe and stay (far!) away from controversy, have a known keynote, offer professional/educational credit to justify the employer paying for it, and make sure that everyone has a pleasant time. It seemed less about advancing the field than celebrating where it is right now.

So what about those who see the status quo as a very low bar? Where do those who want to create, innovate, and push the boundaries go? What’s available for those who simultaneously love Human Resources and ask, ask, and ask again those tough and awkward questions about how to make it truly better – those who want to tear it down, shake it up, and create something meaningful and powerful?

This fall I went to a conference for the first time in probably six years and discovered the world changed while I wasn’t looking. More and more options seem to be springing up. Unconferences, small non-traditional conferences, conferences that are re-thinking the model. Conferences I’d be excited to attend.

Conferencepalooza

Back in the day, before blogs, there were ‘zines. ‘Zines (short for “fan magazines”) existed on the edges of the music world. Self-published, they ranged from a few pages slapped together at Kinko’s to actual magazines with (sort of) national presence like Maximum Rock ‘n Roll and Flipside. This was a place where the status quo was kicked, the unknown could voice their opinion, and those who hadn’t quite made it yet were first introduced to the world. If you knew who Nirvana, Soundgarden, or Rage Against the Machine were prior to ’91 you were likely reading ‘zines.

Did HR have the equivalent? It amuses me to think of the contrarians, innovators, and boundary pushers sitting around the office after everyone has gone home and creating crudely photocopied flyers and ‘zines with tips, editorials, best practices, rants, and ads for HR seminars being held in someone’s basement or an old warehouse. It makes me smile to think of the DIY punk spirit infusing the old model uptight bureaucratic world of “personnel”. And in its own weird way, I think it has.

Today, we meet the misfits, the voices in the wilderness, and those screaming out for better through social media. In its own way, social media has turned the punk rock misfits of HR into rock star thought leaders. Thanks to social media it’s easier than ever before to know of and about the people who are pushing the boundaries and asking “why?” and “what is possible?” It’s bringing legitimacy and momentum to innovation and change.

I suspect that’s really changing the conference model to look more like a music festival than a conference. An event where the lineup matters at least as much as the topics. A place where the new, exciting, loud, and challenging are brought together. A place where there is the main stage big names and the side stage up and comers. A place where people are there because they really dig HR and want to feel it, enjoy it, and do it better.

Social media has made rock stars of thought leaders, but it’s also humanized them. Made them accessible. Through their blogs, tweets, comments, and postings, it feels like we really know the person. We probably have a good sense of their family situation, their jobs, their hobbies, favorite books, etc. It feels like we really know them. As though they are old friends we just haven’t met. I want to go to conferences where, not only can I see my heros, but I can talk and interact and share ideas and just hang out with them.

The golden question of conferences

Until this year, every conference I attended was paid from of my own pocket. I suffered both the cost of the conference and the loss in billable hours. When I’m losing money two ways, whatever I’m spending it on better have a very high return on investment.

Consequently, that has become my standard for conferences: would I pay my own way without hesitation? Does it provide so much value for me that I would burn up vacation days to go? Would I be as excited to pay for it as I would be to buy tickets to see my favorite bands? Would I get on an airplane to go? Would I make apologies to my family while I was packing my bags? Would I enthusiastically inconvenience myself in several ways and on several levels to attend?

HR mosh pit

What makes me excited to open my wallet? I want speakers whose ideas challenge me to rethink and think again. I want participants who are enthusiastic, passionate, and are creating so much Awesome-with-a-capital-A for the world that I’m inspired to raise my own game. I want to be so fired up and enthused that I’m hassling my boss and team with all the ideas pouring out of my head before lunch on the first day. I want speakers and presenters who want to rub elbows and learn from me as much as I learn from them.

I don’t want to have safe, neatly packaged thoughts handed to me while I look on and clap politely as though I were at a niece’s piano recital. I want to mix it up in a chaotic stage diving, slam dancing, mosh pit of HR ideas, philosophies, innovations, maybe-could-be’s, and practicality. [Have I pushed the analogy too far yet?] I don’t want to be a passive attendee, I want to be an active participant.

Tomorrow is today

I’m clearly not alone and that has me looking forward to 2013 in a big way. Lots of great conferences, big and small, out there with more springing up all the time. Let’s talk, question, push boundaries, and #playbigger.

Which conferences are you most excited about?

[I originally posted this on November 4, 2012. THE national level HR conference for the US is happening in Chicago this week. I’m not able to attend this year, but it seemed like a good excuse for reposting.]

[A note about the photo. For whatever reason, the photo of Lemme from Motorhead came up right near the top when I did an image search on “conferences”.  I couldn’t ignore the beautiful, humorous, serendipity of it. Photo Credit: Kris Krug via Compfight cc]