Below is an excerpt from my book in progress: NakedHR. If you’d like to learn more and receive a free copy of chapter one, click here.
In 2015, I began working for a new director who I affectionately refer to as my work mom. We shared a similar background in that we both came from other departments to HR so we usually approached HR issues with a more client centric lens versus the traditional HR focus. Over time, she saw my internal struggle and began to coach me how to be comfortable in my own skin and find my voice. (Sometimes I think she may have regretted it though.)
In one particular situation, I was struggling to find the best communication method to a project team. The project was super frustrating because of the leader’s communication style and personality, further complicated by a lot of internal politics. She knew from our one on one coaching times these two types of problems tended to send me into a world of freak out and internal struggle. The real me wanted to showcase the nuclear explosion going off in my head while the “HR” me tried to keep things cool, calm and collected while sugar coating my communication. That’s when she shared with me the three rules I now live by. Be real, be raw, but be respectful.
I think the lack of authenticity is not just an HR problem. Although the tide is slowly changing, I believe there are still many organizations that spend too much time dancing around subjects versus being direct and real. One of the core principles of NakedHR is to be naked which means no hiding, no covering up, just being you.
Confession. This was a long and difficult process for me. There were times when I went too real and times when I didn’t feel I had the courage to be real enough. It’s still a battle for me sometimes but I have learned that when I am real with people, there are numerous benefits including:
- An increase in productivity because more time is spent on identifying obstacles and opportunities versus determining the correct verbiage to use or putting on a façade.
- It allows me to deepen the relationship with my clients and their employees. Once I set the tone for authenticity, it become reciprocal and there is a development of mutual trust in the process. An increase in trust most certainly leads to a deeper relationship.
- It has helped me recognize failures quickly, admit them and begin the learning process. When we wear a mask, failures get hidden for the sake of pride. Being real forces you and the other party to admit the failure but not dwell on it. This leads to a shorter time period between the failure and the learning/growth phase.
So if being real sounds tough, being raw is going to be even harder. Raw is defined as natural, unrefined and crude. How does this translate to the NakedHR principles?
First, it’s ok to say something sucks and not feel guilty about it. Furthermore, it’s even more important to be raw in your communication style with your clients, especially when confronted with a tough or sensitive matter. Hiding emotions or mincing words during such situations only causes internal frustrations which may cause you to lose your focus, overlook important details and/or make a wrong decision. All are recipes for disaster.
As mentioned before, I tend to ask permission before going raw if it is the first time I have worked with someone. A simple, “Can I be frank?” or “I need to be blunt about something” can prepare the other participant for what’s about to be said. Most times, after being raw and getting whatever it is out of my head and on the table, I am able to think more clearly and address the needed behaviors decisions etc. that led the client to the situation we are dealing with.
It’s not fun to do but it is liberating and effective. A NakedHR professional is not always the cheerleader, sometimes we have to be the coach that grabs the player by the facemasks and asks them, “what the …. Are you thinking?”
It may sound contradictory to have this as one of the rules considering the previous two but it is necessary. Being real and raw should never give someone the right to degrade the other person. You can identify the stupid actions or processes that led you to the conversation without calling the other person stupid, idiotic or a moron. (Even though sometimes you want to.)
Also, being real and raw with your clients is a form of respect. You are showing them your concern for them as a human first by removing any masks or “pretty” language. Your honesty and authenticity will reinforce your first priority is their well-being and growth.
Side-Effects of working with NakedHR professionals:
In a world of make-believe politics and shenanigans, it’s nice to work with others who value the precept of being raw, real and respectful. I have had the blessing to surround myself with co-workers and a team who embody these traits and when we begin working on something, we kick ass because of this commitment to truth and respect. Side effects include:
- Kicking ass on projects because you spend less time playing games and more time getting shit done.
- Less worry about who’s taking what angle and what you should or should not say to accomplish a goal.
- Mutual accountability and enhanced personal growth.
- Better sleep at night because you’re not mentally exhausted from all the regular bullshit fake and unapproachable HR have to deal with daily.
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