Fear and Influence in the ATL

I am not risk averse. I estimate and manage risk. I consider mitigation and what could go wrong. If you’ve ever stopped by my safety blog, you know this about me. I think through options and decide on a course of action.

Except when it came to HRevolution 2011: Atlanta. I have followed many of the people involved in this event for about two years now. I almost made the trip to Louisville for #1, and talked myself out of Chicago for #2. I followed the back-channels and read the post-event blogs and watched a few video clips. And I told myself that I might go the next time.

So when the incredible crew of Trish McFarlane, Crystal Peterson, Ben Eubanks and Steve Boese announced Atlanta for #3, I got on board immediately. Not only that, I wrote Trish and asked what I could do to help in advance, seeing as how I live here and all.

Trish suggested that maybe I could put some feelers out in the HR community here and we could lure some HR Pro or even a CEO from one of the big companies to come speak to the group, something to kick off the day.

Well, I’m not that connected locally, and I don’t usually manage up, so now I’m out of my comfort zone. But I offered to help.

Liz Gottung, the eventual keynoter and the CHRO at my workplace, likes to walk around and check in on people. She’s good that way. And late in December she sat down in my office and asked what I was working on beside the work I was doing for her at the time. I told her about a couple of projects and then said “Liz, have I ever told you about my virtual networking?” So I explained to her that I read a lot of HR blogs, and that I listen to some internet radio shows and this incredible group of people likes to gather in one place once in a while to share, argue, and innovate, and they would be in Atlanta in the spring.

Now, the risk manager in me would have let that sink in, and in a couple of weeks I might get back to her and ask if she or someone on her team might speak to them as part of the day. But nope, I went to risk #2.

“Liz, I’ve never met one of these people, but I know that they represent action in HR. They do things. They push limits, and I’d like to ask you to speak to them. Tell them a little about your journey, about our journey, and what you think the emerging demands are for HR professionals.”

“OK,” she said. “Get it on my calendar.”

Here’s where I start to wonder “What am I doing?”. Fear took hold.

  1. I’ve told someone I’ve never met that I’ll find her a speaker.
  2. I’ve asked my boss’s boss to give up a Saturday to share and to learn with people I don’t know.
  3. I have no idea if she will even connect with these people, meaning both she AND the attendees could be disappointed.

But here’s where faith comes in. Each of the people I have been following and reading in this space have shown themselves in the content of their blogs, their contibutions to rich discussion in HRHappyHour and DriveThruHR, and their routine contact and exchange in Twitter. And as I suspected, they were exactly as they show themselves to be online. Without exception.

Honest, genuine, true to everything they put out there. All-in.

And when Liz got up to speak, they welcomed her. They laughed with her. They challenged her. And they respected her. They respected everyone in the room. No showboating, no arrogance. Genuine. Human. Warmth.

And each and every session that I attended was a whole lot of learning packed into a short time. Well prepared and relavent, you could have randomly chosen which to go to and you would have had a great experience.

I learned a lot about influence on Saturday. I learned that my interest in this fabulous community of HR pros has enriched me and made me more capable. I learned that I have let so many of you influence me. With your ideas. With your comments. With your support. I learned the value of influencing up, and will continue to do that. No more fear. Time to make things happen.

We learn best when we learn from each other. And that learning is the basis of our ability to influence our organizations.  And we all are influencers.

Y’all are amazing. Thanks for sharing your time, your intellect, and your heart.

22 Responses to Fear and Influence in the ATL

  1. I’ve managed up all my life. By doing so, I have managed to get things done, to get ahead, and to get ahead in trouble.

    It is usually worth it. Keep up the good work, Tim.

    And thanks for bringing Liz. She rocked!

  2. Tim, meeting you was such a treat for me! I appreciate your attendance and your willingness to bring Liz along. Keep up the great work and I hope to see you again soon!

    • Ben- You did a great job with the conference, and I’ll bet you are doing an even better job as a husband and father – your true calling. We’ll see each other soon, I’m sure.

  3. Thanks so much for all the help and support, Tim. It was a pleasure to meet you at the event, and now you have no acceptable excuse not to attend the next one!

  4. Great post, Tim. And great job stepping out of your comfort zone and landing a big fish in Liz for the conference. We all owe you big for that. 🙂

    • I was repaid many times over. There was not one wasted conversation or handshake. This is sort of a conference that’s been leaned out to the essential process elements, don’t you think, Dwane?

  5. Tim, I’m glad you pushed through. It was great that you came and that Liz shared her story with us. I’m curious what she thought of the day. I hope you will come out for more of these in the future. Well done.

    • Jason – Liz LOVED it. She had a call with all the North American HR folks today and she committed to broadening her reach to them. She has asked me to work on how we can replicate some of the interaction she knows happens with this group daily. She was very impressed by the commitment to the function and to supporting each other. I plan to be in Vegas.

  6. Hi Tim: So great to meet you. Thanks so much for inviting to Liz to speak. Her story was so compelling and it was really inspiring to hear her talk about the HR challenges at KC with such candor. It was a superb opening to the conference. Well done!

  7. Hi Tim, what a great post. So many truths in there, especially around the genuine warmth, openness and honesty. And also about how consistently true people are to their virtual selves when you meet them.

    Well done you for stepping out of that comfort zone!

    Great to meet you and chat a bit about KC and the plants! Still have fond memories! Hope to see you at one of the other events – maybe in the UK?!

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