Put Up Or Shut Up = Mommy or Yoda?

I‘ve been thinking a lot lately about the conflict between the two different schools of thought regarding goals and the effort it takes to meet them.  One is represented by the inspirational saying “Shoot for the moon – you may land among the stars.”  Remember your mother saying “I don’t care if you succeed – only that you try your best”?  These statements represent the idea that it is the effort that matters, and that a strong effort  IS the success, or at least brings some kind of success. I’ll call it the “Mommy” school.

The second school of thought is the Yoda school, illustrated by his statement: “Do or do not. There is no try.”  Remember  Gene Kranz in the movie Apollo 13?  “Failure is not an option.”  Either the Apollo 13 astronauts returned safely or they didn’t.  Advocates believe that it is failure, and/or the fear of it, that will keep you from achieving success, and that only completeness represents achievement.

So which one of those ideas should prevail if I am examining my 2010 Put Up Or Shut Up  goals, originally posted on Victorio Milian’s Creative Chaos blog?  Here is what I Put Up a year or so ago:

  • I will step up my efforts with SHRM, local and national, to improve the HR community and help increase collaboration among members.
  • I will do something every day that helps me develop professionally – attend a webinar or conference, write a blog, read or write a white paper, etc.
  • I will become a more active networker – phone calls, Skype, etc. This is the hardest part of all for me because I am kind of shy!

Here is what I did with each:

1.  I volunteered for my local SHRM communications committee, and became a regular contributor to their newsletter. I also started encouraging members to become aware of HR bloggers and I continue to publish a feature called “5 to Follow” in our local newsletter, suggesting blogs.  I have regularly contributed to the group on LinkedIn.  My efforts to get the local more involved in Twitter, though, have completely failed. I have offered to run free classes for members, and have offered suggestions for the chapter to use and get involved in Twitter.  All of those efforts have been rebuffed outright. Nationally, I went to the SHRM Legislative/Legal update in Washington, DC and made some new connections, but haven’t done much else at the national level.

2.  Okay, I admit to not actually doing something every day.  BUT – on some days I do several things.  I clearly do far more, overall, than I did before I made the pledge.   I have done enough to earn about 80% of my SPHR recert requirements in just one year.  I repeat, though, I don’t do something every day.

3.  I have developed my network greatly, and my network is about 3  times larger than it was a year ago.  It certainly could be better, and it could be more diverse, and it could have more local people.  I am still finding it hard to connect with people locally, even though I have made some special local efforts.

Do  you now see my conflict? Did I fail, because there isn’t one item that couldn’t have been achieved more completely?  The Yoda school seems to say I failed.  The Mommy school, on the other hand, might argue  that I had sufficient success because I tried quite hard.  I may not have reached the moon, but I probably reached the stars.

I’m repeating these goals for 2011, so maybe that’s the answer; if I hadn’t failed, my goals would be entirely new.  What do you think, though?  Which school of thought is more relevant? Or reasonable? Or sensible?  Did I fail or succeed?  Have you been faced with the same choice?  Use the comments to tell me!

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We Have No Secrets – or do we?

I’ve spent the past 30 days trying to decide how to resume blogging after a long, unintended absence.  Being an open and straightforward person, I considered a highly personal “here’s what went wrong” post.  Since I am also an apologist, I was certainly going to include profuse offers of regret, and promise to never let it happen again.  Another consideration was to post as if I hadn’t been gone at all.  Or maybe just say “I’m back” and drop it.  What to do, what to do?

Finally, I consulted the best expert I know – my daughter Amy.  Being a professional writer and long-time blogger, she is highly qualified to advise me.  I know she has my back.

My daughter pointed me toward some resources, and advised me that there are a whole lot of blogs out there that are apologizing for not blogging. In fact, blogs that resume after extended absences generally follow one of the formats I’d already considered: explanation, apology, or acknowledgment only.  Good information, but not the kind of “do this” kick-in-the-butt that I was looking for.

Finally, while listening to one of my old albums, I made my decision.  I’ve been gone, and now I’m back.  I’m not going to explain, because Carly Simon told me not to. :-)

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HRevolution – Rants and Raves

Mark Stelzner as Donald Trump - sort of

Back in March I did a post following a SHRM conference called Rants and Raves.  Since I have no desire to re-invent the wheel, and I find that the title is the hardest part of my blog to write,  I am going to take the easy way out and offer this  HRevolution version.  This time, though, the rants and raves are not mine – at least not until the end.  These are comments made directly to me by some of the attendees, and not based on anyone’s blog post or tweet.


NOT ENOUGH TIME BETWEEN SESSIONS FOR DISCUSSIONS/NETWORKING/CONVERSATIONS – This was by far the most prevalent and consistent comment I received.  People did not want to miss the sessions, but they wanted time to start and continue substantive conversations.  The tweet-ups, with a party-like atmosphere, were good for meeting and greeting, but they wanted quieter time for serious stuff, too.  When asked, people were willing to attend a 2-day session in order to rectify this.

NOT ENOUGH SPACE – Several people thought that Catalyst Ranch, while fun and funky, was not large enough for the attendees to find spots outside of the sessions to talk or even break out into a smaller group.  A related comment was that there were just too many people, making the sessions a little too large for comfortable discussion.

GENERAL SESSION/TRACK GRIPES – Some people wanted more topics lead by working HR practitioners and directly relevant to daily HR functions.  Some wanted fewer sponsor/consultant/non-practitioner speakers and facilitators. While many of the people I spoke with felt some uneasiness with the sessions, they did not articulate their feelings or dissatisfaction as well in this area (unlike the time and space rants).


EVENT PLANNING AND LOGISTICS – As a member of the planning committee, it is almost embarrassing to admit that this was the number one rave I received. People were quick to recognize the work involved and seemed happy with the food, tweetups, transportation, information, and cupcakes.

CHICAGO – Even though there are rumblings on Twitter about having a future HRevolution in Hawaii or Las Vegas, many attendees commented to me how perfect the Chicago location was for them from a transportation and travel standpoint.  They liked Chicago and the choices it afforded them.

CONNECTIONS MADE – Many people came specifically for the opportunity and ability to meet others and extend connections with online friends and acquaintances.  While some wished they had been able to do more, many were enthusiastic about the connections they did make.

Now that I have reported on the most frequent rants and raves made by attendees (to me), I am going to indulge myself  just a little and give you a personal rant and rave (just one each!) because I can only shut up for so long. 😉


There have been a lot of blog posts and tweets about HRevolution.  Some were positive, some were not. Fair enough.  I get the distinct impression, though, that many people made their feelings known only through a blog post or a tweet. No personal contact with, or email or phone call to, a planning committee member – even though contact information for every committee member was given to every participant. Was this you?  It makes me wonder if some people actually listened to some of the messages that were given about the value of connection and communication.  If you have something to say about HRevolution – good or bad – say it on your blog or on Twitter, but say it directly to the people who brought you HRevolution, too.  You can’t have influence and credibility in 140 characters,  so make a meaningful connection and help HRevolution – and yourself – move forward.


I was a very small part of a talented and dedicated group of people who helped bring HRevolution to life.  I learned much about effective collaboration and valuable teamwork from this experience, and I have to thank Trish McFarlane, Ben Eubanks, Crystal Peterson, Steve Boese, Mark Stelzner, and Jason Seiden for allowing me to be a part of this team. I am raving about all of them!


I chose not to personally comment on the rants and raves of the attendees, because I want to know what YOU think!  Were you there?  Do you agree with anything?  Nothing?  Do you have other experiences that could help make an event like this better for everyone?

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Why I- And You Should – Love Sponsors

Last week I went to a conference called the Institute for Continuing Legal Education‘s 35th Annual Labor and Employment Law Institute. Given that exasperatingly long name, I don’t think I have to tell you any more about what material the conference covered.  Hundreds of Michigan attorneys and HR pros descend on this conference every year to receive updates, information, and training related to employment and labor law developments.

Even though I have attended this conference several times in the past, this year I paid attention to something totally new.  Something that I either ignored, or, even worse, scoffed at during previous conferences.  This year I paid special attention to THE SPONSORS.

In conferences past, I paid no mind to sponsors.  I always thought that sponsors were money-hungry vultures, looking to make a buck from a captive audience that probably didn’t have a choice about whether or not they really wanted to hear the sponsor’s name or message. Look the other way and walk by fast – that was my motto.

I had a change of heart this year.  Several months ago I was asked to be a part of the planning committee for HRevolution, an unconference of cutting edge, forward-thinking HR topics.  I had been an attendee at the very first HRevolution last November, and I was thoroughly delighted by the experience.  I was humbled when asked to participate, and more than happy to help.

During these past few months of planning, I learned something very critical –  a conference, or even an unconference, costs a lot of money.  There is the facility cost, food costs, programming, signage, badges, perks or prizes (swag), and lots of little things that attendees have come to expect and that good planners want to provide.  The downside is that you can’t charge the full cost to the attendee, or they never would be able to afford to participate.  What can be done?  Ask a sponsor for donations to help defray your costs.

This is why I paid special attention to the sponsors at my employment law seminar last week- they gave money so that I could learn something new.  And this is why I am profusely thanking and loving the HRevolution sponsors.   They are giving money or items or food so that the attendees can gain knowledge and professional development.  They certainly hope for more business, but are not assured in any way of receiving it.  They are believers in the message and goals of HRevolution, and they are opening their hearts and pocket books to prove it.

Sponsors, I have learned, are the angels of the conference world.  The sponsors of HRevolution, shown below, are special angels.   If I ever need the kind of service they provide, I’m calling them first, because I already know they “get it.”   Join me if you can.

Unbridled Talent, LLC

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My Dog Is Not A Rock Star – Does Your Employee Have To Be?

Gypsy, the pit bull-lab-rottweiler-who know what else-mix

Yesterday I took all four – yes, four – of my dogs to the vet for routine care, like vaccines and wellness exams. They each weigh around 40 pounds and the bill was enormous.  During the exam, the vet asked the same kind of questions your doctor does during a routine physical, trying to determine if there are any issues or problems that need to be addressed.

During the exam of Gypsy, who was rescued from an abandoned crack house in an ugly part of the city of Detroit, it occurred to me that she has never had any physical problems at all.  She has never thrown up on my carpet or floor, never had kennel cough (despite plenty of exposure in closed quarters to other dogs), and never has ugly gunk running out of an eye.  I will admit that she had a genetic defect (luxating patella) when she was very young, which had to be surgically repaired, but that knee has never given her, or me, a stitch of trouble since. Even her teeth looked the best of the pack, per the vet, even though she is the second-oldest.

My other dogs are Border Collies.  BCs, as we are fond of calling them, are premier athletes.  They play silly dog games like agility, disc dog, and flyball (my game of choice).  They are considered the smartest breed of dog in the world.  They are rock stars of the doggie world.

These rock stars can have health issues, though.  Vomit, kennel cough, eye infections, torn or ripped pads and toenails – my dogs have had or done them all.  One dog has a mysterious arthritic condition in his spine that required two MRI tests and means monthly visits to the chiropractor.  Don’t even ask about the costs.

Gypsy doesn’t play flyball or any other silly doggie sport, but she is loving, energetic, and devoted – the perfect companion dog.

So, to the recruiters and HR pros of the world who might read this, I ask a favor:  The next time you need to hire an employee, think about whether you REALLY need to hire a rock star.  I know the market is buyer friendly right now, so you can get big talent for less money.    Rock stars can do amazing things, but at what cost – particularly in the long term – to you and your organization?

Non-rock stars need and deserve good jobs, too. They may come from humble circumstances without a fancy degree, and they may need a little coaching or patience in the beginning as they find their way in your organization.  The long term return on investment will be substantial, though, and you will find yourself with a rock-solid, devoted employee.

Or would you rather have an employee that burns more brightly for a shorter period of time, with substantial upkeep costs thrown in?

Ike the Border Collie playing flyball
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Luck, Fate, or Divine Intervention?

I walked out of my hotel room in Madison, Wisconsin, suitcase in tow, preparing to check out and leave town.  I walked about 30 feet to the elevators and abruptly stopped.  I turned around, walked back to the door, and fumbled for my key card.  I found it and went back into the room, set my suitcase by the door, and stopped.

Why did I come back to the room?  Truthfully, I. had. no. clue.

“I must have forgotten something”, I thought to myself.  So I looked in the bathroom, in the closet, opened all of the drawers.  Nothing.

Just when I grabbed the handle of the suitcase, preparing to leave again and kicking myself in my not-insubstantial- butt for being a dotty old woman, I saw it.  My light grey (or gray) blazer, its color washed out by the bright Wisconsin sunshine streaming into the room, lying on the unmade bed sheets.  I picked it up and left the room again, complete.

Losing this blazer wouldn’t have meant the end of my world, or hugely impacted my life,  and I don’t know if it was luck, fate or the divine. I am glad for it anyway, although  I do wish it would help me find my primary set of car keys, which have been missing for 3 weeks now.

Which do you think it is? Do you have a story of luck, or fate, or divine intervention?  Let’s hear it.

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