It’s a beautiful, quiet Sunday morning on Lake Seminole as I write this. I’ve enjoyed the solitude and a great time of reflection following a frenetic week. My thoughts have been rather random, but all centered around this profession that I love and have had the opportunity to watch evolve.
I am 18 months into the 24-month term as president of HR Florida State Council. In this role, I have an opportunity to interact with a variety of human resources professionals. Some are just beginning their careers and are eager to apply their education-gained knowledge to real-life situations. Some are in the twilight of their careers and can quickly share stories from when it was just “Personnel.” Others are somewhere in between those two extremes. I love meeting and talking with kindred human resources professionals. We all have many, “You won’t believe this!” kind of stories. They never get old.
Of more interest to me than the stories, however, is how the HR pro handled the situation. I enjoy listening to the resolution as much as the events leading up to it because it’s the how that reveals the leadership qualities of the individual. I learn from the how.
As I reflect on my long career in human resources, it’s very obvious that when I blundered, it was because I failed to focus on the long-term goal. I allowed the moment of thrill, glory and recognition, i.e., my ego, to sway me from the purpose of my role. Once, I rushed a new initiative into execution because I was so thrilled it was finally approved. My peers had said approval was impossible because of the associated cost. So as soon as I got the green light, I swiftly moved into full publicity mode. It was a great initiative—one that was in the best interest of the employees. But the value of the initiative was soon diminished by the poor rollout. And, it was my fault. I lost focus. I took my eyes off how this initiative was going to benefit the employees and instead focused on flaunting my victory before my peers.
I have more similar stories that I could share. If you’re honest, you do, too.
When we see organizations fail, it’s often for this same reason. The leaders ignored the purpose of their role and instead focused on their personal gain. Remember Enron? There were many reasons for the failure, but the one we all remember is individual greed on the part of the leaders.
I recently read Nance Guilmartin’s book, The Power of Pause. In it, she defines a leadership pause as, “any space between an action and your reaction. It’s the safety mechanism offering you an opportunity to make a different choice than the one you might make if you speed ahead…”
If there is an ultimate leadership gift, I’d say this is it. “Pause” is what all HR pros need. We need time to socialize decisions with those that might be impacted. We need a moment to gather our thoughts before having a difficult conversation with an employee. Sometimes just an instant is all that’s needed to diffuse an emotionally charged situation.
Give yourself this gift: Be the organizational leader that’s respected for thoughtful execution of initiatives. Demonstrate poise when others are panicked. Be a deliberate coach to those who struggle.
Let’s avoid the egotistical need to shine in the short term. The gains are short-lived and the fallout can be devastating to your career and our profession. Let’s allow ourselves a pause to gain perspective.
Stay true to the purpose of your role.
Joyce Chastain, SPHR