4am

It’s 4am.

An unfamiliar city. A lonely, identikit hotel room.

All around is still and dark.

Wondering if I am the only one awake.

Looking out of the window, the city sleeps, even if I don’t.

Feeling disconnected and far from home.

But of course I’m not disconnected at all. Literally.  An internet connection is all that I need.

And there they are. My friends, my tribe. My cheerleading squad.  In my timeline.  Via DM.  On that inspirational Slack channel.

The geography and the time zone don’t matter.  Everyone and everything that I need is just a tweet or a gif away.

And I’m loving social media just a little bit more today.

YOLO

I’ve had a couple of YOLO conversations lately.  Both virtual and IRL.

It might be an annoying acronym, but it is a familiar script for me.

It is my default position when I apply for a fitness event. That along with my favourite coaching question ‘what is the worst thing that than can happen?

There’s a reason for this. For much of my childhood my mother was ill with a condition that remained stubbornly undiagnosed.  Years and years of doctors and consultations and hospitals and treatments – of the traditional and distinctly alternative kind.  Five long miserable years.  And then, diagnosis, treatment, recovery.

And a new mind-set.

You only come this way once. My mother said this almost every day.  Often as a precursor to opening a bottle of wine or buying some expensive shoes if I am honest.  It imprinted upon me.

Cliché it may be. But true all the same.  All we really have is this moment.  Tomorrow is another day, but it is by no means guaranteed.  Too many recent events have taught us so.

On Saturday, I am taking part in an endurance event that, in truth, I’m not fit enough for. I’ll be one of the weakest and slowest in the field.  It involves water, something that I am frightened of.  Plenty of reasons to stay at home. But that direction leads to a life that is less than it really could be.

Live, laugh, love. Take risks.  Do all of the things that you always wanted to. Don’t wait.  Carpe that diem. Just do it.

Because, you know…. YOLO.

The imposter within

Lately, I’ve found myself talking often to folk about imposter syndrome.  I’ve been feeling it too. Don’t we all, from time to time?

If you are new to the term, then it’s all about the fear of being exposed. Of being thought a fraud. Of not deserving to be where you are.  It is the ‘what I am doing here, they are going to find me out any minute now’ brain tape.  One that often plays when we need it the least.

It is debilitating. Confidence zapping.

If you follow my fitness blog, you will know that I have been studying to become a personal trainer. Never before have I felt imposter syndrome so keenly.

Imagine this. There are ten people on the course including me.  Everyone else there is in the industry.  Has a long history of fitness.  They have done the event and got the t-shirt, and in a couple of cases were actually wearing it.

There were the two female body builders. The girl who had just left the army.  The woman who was an established fell runner.  A gymnast.  A Pilates teacher.  And me.  I’m the least fit person in the room.  Even at a size 10, I’m the biggest woman there by some distance.  We start the first day with a detailed discussion about advanced weight techniques.  And the tape starts to play.  What exactly am I doing in this room, with these people?  In a minute it will be my turn in the circle to answer a question and then everyone will know that I don’t belong here. 

It didn’t get any better. Our afternoon topic? Learning how to take body fat measurements.  On each other.  The old school way, with measuring tools.  Which involved stripping down to your sports bra and taking hold of each other’s fat.  If there is one thing guaranteed to kill your confidence it is standing next to a girl who has12% body fat whilst other people practice poking at yours.

And on and on the tape played.

An urge to run. Somewhere, anywhere.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I have talked to many people who find imposter syndrome crippling.  Because it gets in the way.  Because when I told someone this story they were surprised to find that I felt this way too.

From what I have read about imposter syndrome, many of those who suffer from it don’t realise that it’s not just them.  That it is a thing, not just their confidence and secret fears.

You don’t know when imposter syndrome is going to show up. I can stand in front of a room of several hundred people and talk about HR.  I can write a book and a blog and put my thoughts out into the world for anyone to see.  But in another context, in another place, I had to ride the wave of panic.  I had to persuade myself that I was okay. That I wasn’t suddenly going to get found out or exposed or kicked out or have an epic fail.

We can talk about leaning in or showing up with presence. We can talk about faking it till we make it.

But these are not always easy things to do. Not for everyone.

I’m just for recognising about it and talking about it.  As leaders, we can share when we have felt it and let others know that it isn’t all that unusual and it isn’t just them.  By recognising imposter syndrome for what it is, we can start to control it.

We can tell the imposter within that this time, we are not listening.

Be More Awesome

be awesome.png

I am partial to the word awesome. There is even a warning in my Twitter bio to this effect.  Yesterday I saw a postcard that said; be awesome or don’t bother. I’m not entirely sure about the don’t bother part, but I did get to thinking…… what is the people stuff version of this little statement?

Be awesome…. Be more HR awesome.

Some ideas from me on that……

Promise to never again use the phrase ‘it might set a precedent’.

Promise also never to introduce something because Google did.  Or some place very similar.

Review all those standard letters that you send people with the eyes of a recipient. How would they make you feel and what do they say about your department?  Change as appropriate.

Delete probation periods from your contracts of employments. You know they are kind of pointless so why bother?

Put the coffee machine on free vend for a while. What would it cost you anyway?

Apply for a job at your own company. Think about how the process made you feel. Change as appropriate.

Smile at people. (Try not to scare them).

Do a random act of kindness. Anything that takes your fancy.

Hold a Fika. Invite other teams to join you. It is, erm, awesome.

Let your team go home early.

Send a thank you card. Make thank you cards available for anyone to come and take and send.

Buy Crunchies on a Friday. Because, you know.

Go out and buy a load of plants for the office. Green it up.

Find out what websites you block on the corporate network for no good reason and go and talk to IT and see if they will change their minds.

Celebrate National Donut Week. Yes this is really a thing.  And it is next week.

Find an employment policy that states the bleeding obvious and delete it. See if anyone notices.

Have your next meeting outside, or go for a walk while you are talking.

Talk to all of the people who have joined your organisation in the last six months. Ask them what it was like and what would have made it better for them.  Amend as appropriate.

Go onto your internal social media network and share something useful or interesting that other people might learn from.

Do some wellbeing stuff. Anything. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Let your people know that you give a damn about them outside of whether or not they hit their KPI.

Little things add up to big awesome. Over to you……

What is the most awesome thing you can do today, at your place?

 

In other news, on Sunday I am running Leeds Half Marathon in aid of Retrak Charity – their mission is a world where no child has to live on the streets.  If you fancy it, you can sponsor me here.

Articulate your awesome

The title of this blog post was prompted by a collision of conversations. Some with friends, some at work.

And I got to thinking….. how often do we do this?

How often do we believe in our own awesomeness, how often do we shout about what makes us special and different and unique? Your very own individual contribution. With confidence and belief.

We show appreciation for our colleagues and our teams and our friends. As leaders, we know the value of building up and encouraging others. Of providing positive feedback and recognition.

But how often do we articulate our own awesome?  To ourselves and to others?  More often we spend time worrying. If we are good enough, if we belong on this course or in this job or this particular place right now.  We think about what people think about us.

Self-limiting beliefs.

Imposter syndrome.

Lack of confidence.

Embarrassment.

Fear.

Constantly questioning.

Not wanting to seem arrogant or boastful.

The voice in our head that gives us doubt.

 

We’ve all been here, sometime or other.

But what if you just decided to park the head stuff?  Just for a moment. Right  now. And instead of focusing on the maybes and the negatives, to believe instead that you got this. Take that one moment to articulate your own awesome.  To you, to everyone else.

Just do it.

 

Run the race you are in

f0080_running_shoe

I ran the Leeds 10K yesterday.  It was my first run at this distance; usually I just stick to a much easier 5.  I wasn’t very fast, compared to many in the field.  But I was good for me.

The term ‘run the race you are in’ is often quoted.  It applies to running, to organisations, to HR, to life. It is a phrase that I often say to myself when I get frustrated, when I’m slower than I want to be.

The term has two meanings for me.  Firstly, it is about this race.  It is about now.  Not the next one or the last one but simply this run, right here, right now.  The second meaning is about context; good is different everywhere, and for everybody.

When you are running, your real competitor is only yourself.  You care about your performance, your time.  That is why runner crave the elusive Personal Best.  You might know that you can’t compete with the elite runner, but you can be good for you, in your context and with your resources.  There is no point in comparing my time to the time of the fittest, fastest runner in the race. Just like there is no point in comparing what HR I’m delivering against some of the alleged best.

Look to others for inspiration.  But at the same time, don’t worry too much about what they are doing.  They are running their race.

Good running form also means running with your head up.  Work stuff is like that too.  Look up and out. This is what gives you ideas and helps you learn.   But ultimately do what is right for you, at your place and in your race.  My friend Tim Scott is fond of saying that there is no such thing as best practice.  Striving for it is akin to trying to run someone elses race.  Good practice for the context is a much better goal.  The HR PB.

There is another running quote that I like that is as equally applicable to work in general and people stuff too.  Slow is better than did not finish, which is better than did not start.

Run the race you are in.

 

Everyone needs someone to help them get to the finish line. Thank you to Mark, for getting me to mine.

 

Image by Graham Smith @AATImage

 

 

HR Experience Required. 

I’m doing some work on Customer Experience.  I’m starting from the beginning.  Researching and reading. Scribbling notes and ideas as I go.  A notebook full, so far.

One of my Google searches took me to some research.  About what it is that people say about those organisations that get their customer experience oh so right, again and again.

Here’s a selection:

They are easy to do business with.

They are helpful when I have a problem.

The attitude of their people.

They personalise it.

They do what they promise.

They are quick.

The technical knowledge of their people.

They are consistent.

They are reliable.

The way they treat me.

The way they make me feel.

A straight forward list. Simplistic even.  No surprises here.

And then I thought to myself…   that sounds like a list describing what a great HR experience would feel like too, to those employees and managers on the receiving end of it.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?