Be Different !!

Have you ever had someone tell you that you’re “different”? ┬áIf you have, I’ll bet you didn’t like it. We don’t want to be seen as being outside the norm. Throughout our lives we do our best to blend in because it’s more comfortable for us, and we feel safer being in groups. It’s not easy to stand away from the pack.

What if you did step away from the crowd? What would happen? Would you have the stamina to stay outside and be different?

The reason I’m asking these questions is that many HR practitioners take the safe path. Trust me, I’m not calling for you to be contrary just for the sake of standing out. However, I am asking you to consider how you practice HR. Doing things traditionally within organizations will allow you to be effective . . . to a point. There are tasks that we need to perform in order to keep structure and parameters in our companies. This aspect of our function should occur naturally and provide a foundation for HR practices, polices and procedures.

be-differentDo you move past the foundation? If you do, then you’re beginning to be “different.” It’s true. What we need to take to heart is that organizations expect us to have a strong base, but they are looking for more. It’s not enough to just make sure that things are in order.

One thing to note is that stepping away from the crowd isn’t negative. It’s not going to cause you to do things that take away from practicing great HR. It should allow you to be the businessperson you were meant to be. We need to come to terms that it is no longer enough to only practice HR. It just isn’t. We can’t continue to think that we’re needed in organizations if we aren’t contributing to the success of the company as a whole.

There are many ways to differentiate yourself. Some things are specific to the type of service/product your company does, but there are three items that can be implemented in every type of company.

Solutions not problems

I received a great piece of advice from an HR executive. He said, “Everyone brings me problems. I need you to bring me solutions.” He was talking about others in HR. His experience was that he could tell if an HR person was strategic or not by how they approached him. If they only brought up problems, he knew they weren’t strategic. We need to bring solutions to organizations. It makes us different.

Span the Levels

People tend to work and interact with people at the level they personally hold. Executives work with fellow executives. Middle management hangs with and collaborates with those in similar roles, and the front line staff stay with their peers. Great HR practitioners don’t see the levels. They move up, down and across with ease. It takes great effort to not get stuck at your level. However, when you do it, it makes you different.

Build Relationships

There is a step that goes past the ideal of making the workplace more human. That’s thankfully becoming the norm, and I’m geeked to see that. The next step is to build relationships. There’s a healthy way to do that across departments. The reason to do this is so that you can understand your employees better and more intentionally. Knowing information about their family, their interests and their hobbies matters. People are longing for acknowledgement and connections in their work. Step out as an HR person to make build their relationships and be different.

The small plaque pictured above is where I plan to stay and I hope it becomes the mantra for you and all of HR. Once you find ways to be different, don’t change. Stay that way.

7 thoughts on “Be Different !!”

  1. This is so true and so many HR organizations lack people who are willing to “step out on nothing,” if you will. They don’t want to take chances in order to make things better. They are extremely risk-adverse and that’s why they are standing still. Great advice, thanks, Steve!

  2. Things won’t change unless we, as individuals change! Getting caught up in the “we’ve always done it that way” mantra will stifle change in a heart beat.

    Over the course of my career, I ran into situations in all facets of HR and other areas that needed to be addressed in a new or different way.

    Not withstanding some of the looks I got from other managers and some cases my boss, I applied a different approach. Most of the time we got good results, although not in all cases. That’s how we learn and get the courage to be different.

    I like your thought and the small plaque, doesn’t even begin to describe how different you are!

  3. Excellent post Steve. For many, many years, I felt inferior and feared criticism because I didn’t see the world the way most did. But once I realized that the opposite of different is ordinary and that in business, ordinary soon becomes invisible, that is when I saw the value and power of being different. Thanks again for being and sharing this message.

  4. Interesting. I like the “solutions, not problems” thought. In addition, I think this advice applies equally to job seekers. You need to be different, to stand out, in order to be noticed by employers.

  5. I like it and couldn’t agree more. however, in my experience, this only works within the same environment within the same “tribe” but for a foreigner like me, not at all easy. In fact, it had a negative impact on my career. Especially nowadays, when sentiments seem to be at all time highs, but as always, you’re way ahead of your era Steve. Please keep it up!!

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