Just Another Manic Thursday: #SHRM17 After Action Report



Ever have a Thursday feel oddly like a Monday?

For me, and probably some other #SHRM17 attendees getting their feet back under them post-conference, getting settled back in definitely makes for a Monday mood. Before leaving for my first SHRM Annual Conference, my department’s manager requested that I simply come back with something that I could share with the team.

Even as I write this, it’s difficult to narrow down the exhaustive library of knowledge downloaded to my brain over the course of four days to one singular, standout takeaway point. Truly, how do you easily round up and summarize all the insightful and influential content shared during sessions, by speakers, and on the Smart Stage?

More importantly, still bouncing through my mind is contemplating how do I best digest ALL of this information when I dove into #SHRM17 with one of my primary goals to determine how I can proceed in developing into the HR leader (and maybe even disrupter!) that I someday hope to be.

During opening general session we heard from the magnetic Kat Cole, who became CEO of Focus Brands (you may best know them for their deliciously gooey, sweet cinnamon rolls the size of your face – Cinnabon) at the astounding age of 32. She delivered lessons that struck right to my core: saying yes before you’re 100% ready to dive into a project or opportunity, but know you need the #hustlemuscle in working hard to quickly get up to speed. She shared about the potential rewards in learning from your mistakes, and that to be an effective leader, you must balance humility and curiosity with courage and confidence. All of the above are things I’m getting pinned to the top of my mind while I consider how to go about growing into the HR leader I want to be.

Former Sr. SVP of People Operations at Google, Laszlo Bock, spoke to us about giving our employees meaning in their work – even if it’s housekeepers in a hospital ward who move the pictures on the wall to make the patients feel better, there is always a way to do this. He also shared how we all can make a difference, even in making the smallest changes and without any authority required by nudging people into environments where it’s easier to make smart choices.

Patrick Lencioni spoke on the three ideal values of a team player – hunger, smarts, and humility – and while great team players need all three traits in balance, humility is actually the most important trait of all, sharing the C.S. Lewis quote, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

Lastly, but certainly not least, indomitable pro-athlete and entrepreneur, Laila Ali shared her experiences in finding success through dogged determination and never stopping hard work even as you surpass individual goals.

Beyond our major general sessions, we also were encouraged by Steve Gilliland to “hide your goat” and make a difference in your workplace by maintaining positivity when surrounding by negativity (or the all too frequent petty office drama). In a session that particularly could speak to professionals early in their career, Valerie Grubb shared strategies including thorough preparation and constant persistence to make influential change in your organization without being in a position of authority.

I also put a permanent mental thumbtack in the advice from Carol Schulte to strike a power pose (picture Wonder Woman!) while building confidence to deliver intentional and effective communications, while also touching on the catchphrases that SO MANY of my peers stumble through in trying to powerfully communicate their message while still tiptoeing around being perceived as aggressive: “I just..”, “I think..”, and “I’m sorry..” – that last one is a minefield to avoid especially when you truly have nothing to apologize for.

So, have I figured out what kind of HR professional I want to be, and, most importantly, how to get there? I’m going to wrap up by saying that I consider myself a work in progress, BUT I do have some clear concepts that I’m going to begin incorporating into my everyday HR practice starting now!

  • Do not avoid leaping into potentially scary projects and opportunities where you’re in unfamiliar and uncharted waters – use that #hustlemuscle
  • Find the work where you find meaning – HR professionals have the power to change lives of those around them
  • Even without authority, I can make a POSITIVE difference and influence effective change
  • It is okay to be confident and poised in my communications without needing to apologize for everything with “I just..” and “I’m sorry..”

My last, final takeaway? The scary thing I’ve made the decision to leap into, without fearing my mistakes? I am being pursuit of my Master’s Degree and SHRM-SCP! While I definitely attended more soft-skill related sessions relating to communication, leadership, and approaching challenging issues, it also made me realize the limited scope of my technical HR expertise in coming out of recruitment.

So, I’m going to make a change – starting with the (wo)man in the mirror. Grad school, here I come! I’m really excited about taking this step, and know I would not have had the courage or confidence in my decision without having experienced the connections, presentations, and engagement from the amazing attendees, presenters and SHRM staff that I encountered at #SHRM17. It feels great to have my first annual conference under my belt – and I am already amped up to see you all in the Windy City at #SHRM18!



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