Take a Chance on Me

By Steve Browne, SHRM-SCP June 25, 2020
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Take a Chance on Me

Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from HR Rising!! (SHRM, 2020), the second book from Steve Browne, SHRM-SCP, a director-at-large on the Society for Human Resource Management's Board of Directors and vice president of human resources at LaRosa's Inc.

Do you remember disco music? I do because I lived through it, and I'm here to admit that I loved it as well!! Every disco song had a fierce beat keeping the genre upbeat and positive. One of the superstars of the disco movement was the Swedish group ABBA.

Their songs were pop music masterpieces filled with catchy lyrics that were easy to memorize. If you're an ABBA fan, you can sing every song from the moment it starts playing.

One of their biggest and most well-known hits is "Take a Chance on Me." The lyrics express one person's availability and hope of having a relationship with someone else. You never know if the couple connects and gets together, but you are hopeful that they do. Regardless of the outcome, the person singing the song is voicing their interest and stating that they're available. Does this approach make you uncomfortable and a bit tingly? For many, being so "forward" is not in their nature, especially when looking at this from a perspective within an organization.

As HR practitioners, we are conditioned to fall into place. We have defined roles and the expectation is for us to stay within the lines written in some form of a job description. Since we feel this is the only area from which we can perform, we in turn force this narrow approach on others as well. Everyone in their place. No exceptions. We tend to get highly agitated when people decide to work outside of these defined parameters.

Another factor that influences our internal professional limitations is that we're nice and polite. Isn't it awful that these attributes are viewed as negatives? They are viewed in a negative light because we have mistakenly labeled "empathy" as a soft skill. Empathy is a business skill, and it always has been. It should be present across the entire enterprise and not just seen as the warm and fuzzy side of HR. It's a shame that the emotional side of our profession restricts our growth in the eyes of others.

'As HR practitioners, we are conditioned to fall into place.'

What's even more disconcerting is the fact we don't fight the buttonholing of our profession. We may hem and haw in the isolation of our office, but we tend to shrug our shoulders and step in line. I have spoken with countless HR professionals in person, online and at HR conferences who are tired of feeling like they're relegated to a tight set of position boundaries. They want to step out of this corral, but they don't know how to do it.

Let me suggest this: listen to ABBA. Show the organization why it should take a chance on you as a leader who is willing and able to work outside the parameters of HR. This involves some risk taking and a willingness to be vulnerable and even stumble along the way. Unfortunately, the call for the company to take a chance on you requires initiative on your part. If you continue to sit and wait for some magic day when senior leadership wakes up and sees you're an incredibly talented professional, you may be waiting your entire career.

'Courage is risky. You need to put yourself out there because if you don't, you will never be seen.'

Stepping forward and asking for a larger role or a bigger reach doesn't make you less empathetic. In fact, being courageous will only benefit you. Know that you will face some skepticism and questions from others wondering why HR is working outside their normal world. It's natural. You need to assure your co-workers you're bringing the "people perspective" to projects. The vast majority of all activity that occurs in companies involves people at some level. I'm sure there are a few non-people functions, but they are the exception.

Courage is risky. You need to put yourself out there because if you don't, you will never be seen. It's ironic that almost every other profession has no problem stepping forward. They seek to broaden their horizons and take on larger roles. HR has to stop acting like a shrinking violet. It has hindered how we're seen and how we're treated. We need to quit the practice of departments only working with HR when they "have to." Stepping out into the space where others are already working is the solution you need to embrace.

What does this look like in your current situation? I'm not sure, to be honest. Each HR role is unique. This is true because of the people who occupy these roles and because of how your company currently views the scope of what human resources should be doing. If you take the first step and no longer allow HR to be a last-minute, forced choice when involved, you'll make incredible progress. You should be confident in how HR is viewed. This shouldn't be defined by others. You can give life to your entire function, whether you're a giant department or a department of one, by starting your journey of professional courage here.

The next step forward is up to you. I can't presuppose your culture, situation or circumstance. This doesn't mean the next step is vague, but it is up to you to assess your environment and decide where you should go next. It won't be prescriptive. Taking this action may make you uncomfortable but asking others to take a chance on you is always mixed with uncertainty. A bit of anxiety will be present any time you venture forward. Remember this anytime you encourage others to step up. We are good at telling others to have courage, but we are hesitant when it comes to being courageous ourselves.

It's time for you to be the first in line. Let others know you're still free and it's time for them to take a chance on you!!

 Steve Browne is an accomplished speaker, writer and thought leader on human resource management. He is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management's Board of Directors, writes the nationally recognized HR blog "Everyday People" and is the author of HR on Purpose!!: Developing Deliberate People Passion (SHRM, 2018).


cover of HR Rising!!HR Rising!! is available to preorder or download.


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