Courage from the Bayou
I had the pleasure of traveling to Baton Rouge this past week to speak at the Louisiana State Conference on HR. I’m dubbing this conference one of “courage.” While it wasn’t the theme, nearly all of the significant messages I am taking home with me are about bravery, valor, nerve or grit.
Jay Kuhns, Vice President, Human Resources of All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg Florida, spoke of having the courage to lead. His keynote covered issues such as making the right decisions, even when they aren’t popular, and daring to fail.
Further, we fail to realize the value…and dare I say necessity…of throwing the blanket aside and doing something different, doing something that makes a positive impact, doing something that actually helps move the company move towards its goals.
I attended Jeff Waldman’s breakout session on diversity and inclusion. The content of his message was what I expected…he encouraged his audience to think outside of typical “inclusion” or “acceptance” initiatives such as recruitment and outreach and instead, systematically integrate inclusion, diversity, acceptance, appreciation, etc. into all aspects of the business.
His delivery, however, screamed of courage. Jeff, severely hearing impaired since birth, told stories of his own life that called to mind my tendency to take things for granted and my extremely limited idea of what “courage” and “gumption” really meant.
As a Human Resources professional and leader, I think it’s healthy to have these gentle reminders…or perhaps even “in your face” reminders…that help everyone realize that our “stories” explain so much! I also think it’s our duty to develop activities and initiatives that ensure knowledge, acceptance and appreciation of individual differences can occur.
I was lucky during this trip to stay with a friend, Mary Ellen Slayter. While she presented a topic that inferred courage (the courage and confidence to employ remote workers in her own business), it was the “off conference” discussions in which she shared her insight about personal sacrifice, fear and courage that resonated most with me.
Our discussions reminded me that from time to time, we have to leap into the unknown. We do this not because we are so damned excited about what we’re leaping towards but because staying where we are is damaging. Does this take faith? Of course it does, but it’s not faith that gets you to jump – it’s courage.
As a manager, of course I want to “know” what lies ahead…so I can plan and act accordingly. However, this is a luxury I don’t often have and instead, I must have the courage to move forward anyway.
Finally, on my last evening in Baton Rouge, I couldn’t sleep and ended up connecting online with an old friend. He and I had a conversation about courage that, while similar to those I had with Mary Ellen, had a slightly different meaning.
Our discussion validated that it takes courage to walk away from something somewhat “comfortable” knowing full well that the days, weeks and perhaps even years ahead will be incredibly difficult, painful or otherwise. But we do it anyway, because it’s the right thing to do. We do it because staying “comfortable,” while always an option, is a cop out, is wrong, and conflicts with what we believe in.
As a leader, I need to be constantly aware of my values and the principles that guide me in my decisions and actions. Likewise, I need to be cognizant of when a situation is in conflict with those values and dig deep for courage to do the right thing and move me, my team or the situation away from it.
I knew this wasn’t going to be “just another HR Conference” and a simple trip to the quaint little city of Baton Rouge, Louisiana; I had no doubt that Robin Schooling and the LASHRM14 conference committee would have created an incredible event. Indeed, they did not disappoint and I received valuable information and I met an incredible group of professionals to add to my “posse.”
But in addition, I flew home with some much needed reminders of what my role is as an HR Professional, leader and manager. Indeed, I was reminded of what my role is as a mother, sister, daughter and friend.
Courage…do you have it?