THRIVE ON: HR After SHRM-Las Vegas

July 6, 2015

THRIVE ON: HR After SHRM-Las Vegas

Las Vegasthe city we all love to hatebecame the site of 2015 SHRM Conference last week, the largest HR convention ever worldwide. A record 15,600 attendees plus the limitless HR firms and services expo made it worthwhile spending a few days in the 112 degrees Fahrenheit furnace in the Mojave desert.


SHRM CEO Hank Jackson's opening address set the bar high by raising a challenging question to the stadium-size audience: "HR has no options—we must lead. ... We're in the right place at the right time. The only question is what are we going to do about it?"


All key notes that followed tried to live up to Hank's challenge, but perhaps the best and most authentic came from legendary Coach K,  Mike Krzyzewski, head men's basketball coach at Duke. Even for those of us who know little or nothing about American sports connected with the coach's simple but powerful message.


After disclosing to us that he has "no rules on [his] team" but he has "standards" and his team can "own them rather than obey them,"  Coach K revealed to the spellbound HR audience his secret formula of three fundamental tenets

  • Adaptability. You must be adaptable and must trust that you will make the adjustments before "bad" things happen.
  • Taking Ownership. How do you get people to own what they are doing?
  • Feelings. Open up your heart and feel what you are doing and why you are doing it.

With these three simple principles, hard work, and bottomless humility, Coach K has worked magic leading his dream teams to the pinnacles of success year after year. The sheer energy of Coach K's delivery worked the HR conference as powerfully as it has worked basketball stadiums.  


Listening to Coach K's story made me realize that what HR needs most is to find and own our own unique voices, to know what our purpose really is and why we are called upon to stand with our business.—just like coach Mike stood by his players on good days and bad. Most importantly, HR needs to thrive and do the personal work Mike so eloquently outlined. Seeing that simple message delivered so powerfully was worth the journey to the middle of the Mojave Desert.

The Authors: 

Anna A. Tavis, Ph.D., is executive editor of the People + Strategy journal and an adjunct graduate professor at New York University. She can be reached at or