Best HR Execs Gladly Divorce Their Teams

divorce HR team

I’ve been grieving a loss.  A loss I instigated.  I decided to divorce my HR team.

Did you know research shows the average time it takes to get over a divorce is 17 months, 26 days.  I’ve heard other accounts of up to 3 years which is about what I experienced after my first marriage.  I’ve found this to be the case in my HR world too.  Let me explain….

Two and a half years ago I was fortunate enough to land my first executive HR job.  As I interviewed I had a predetermined vision of what the role would entail:  networking with other HR execs, sharing best practices with national thought leaders, seeing the organization through growth and profitability, creating innovative HR engagement practices, and presenting ideas to local groups via speaking engagements.

Oh, and I can’t forget all that “sitting at the table” jazz including partnering with others on product development, corporate budgets and sales strategies.  Pretty sexy stuff. The stuff I dreamed of years ago as an HR Administrative Assistant.

In a blink of an eye 2 years had passed and something was missing.  I was involved in several of these things, but found myself discontent. Frankly didn’t know why. Was I failing? No, my team helped facilitate 177% headcount growth during my tenure.  Did my boss think I was failing?  Shoot, I don’t think so; at least I hadn’t been told that.  Then why did I feel like a failure? 

Because I was too “married” to my team.  And I didn’t know when it was time to let go. 

What do I mean?  I fell victim to being lost with competing goals.  In a smaller company, executives still have a good amount of day-to-day interaction with their team members.  Frankly, my role did entail a good portion of this.  But as companies grow, if you want to instigate true transformation, you must… I

mean must step away.  I felt like a failure because I defaulted to the skills I learned in past jobs, to what I knew best, to what was safe:  how to transform teams. But I took the job because I wanted to transform companies.

Some lessons learned:

  • Know your purpose: Are you there to transform your team or your company? Both are noble.  And you do need to have your team on par before you can do the latter.
  • Divorce your team sooner than later (once your team is on par): If you want to transform most companies (very small ones perhaps excluded), you have to get away from day-to-day.  Period.  Many of you will say “I don’t have the resources to do that”.  Find the resources or you will stall.  See next bullet-point two.
  • Identify an HR manager/director asap.  If company needs demand you spend time in the trenches, spend a majority of time developing this role.
  • Don’t underestimate how much time it may take to learn the business: To be effective you don’t have to know all details of product pricing models, but speaking the corporate language is huge.  It is hard.  It will take twice as long as you think.
  • Divorce is more frightening than you imagine.  I’ve done some grieving; I miss the comfort of team management.  The sooner you face this reality the sooner you can get through the discomfort.
  • Enjoy your bliss.  Once through this you will enjoy double bliss.  I find great joy in seeing my new HR manager flourish.  I find great bliss focusing on one purpose instead of two.

For more tips, this article on how long typical “divorce” recovery takes has much cross-over merit into the corporate world.

p.s. Happy Valentine's Day!

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FOT Background Check

Dawn Burke
Dawn Hrdlica (PHR) is VP of People at DAXKO. That's right - the very DAXKO that our very own KD is an alum of because there are only so many people (okay, just one) in the big B'ham who are worthy of that VP of People title. Dawn would be it. Former actor/singer/retail guru, her HR career has spanned the last decade. A true Generalist she’s done a little bit of everything, but recruiting and training is where she gets her mojo. She's based in the good 'ole blogging capitol of the south, Birmingham, Alabama, where you can frequently find her listening to the Beatles and REM, watching tons of Sex in the City reruns, drinking copious amounts of coffee and wine, and wondering how in the world this theatre grad ever got into football or HR…. Talk to Dawn via emailLinkedIn, or Twitter...

2 Comments

  1. Deb McClanahan says:

    Great article, Dawn… timing is so important in the creation and dissolution of great teams.

  2. This is a really insightful article. Maybe I don’t know anything about HR teams specifically, but this is certainly true with any team within a corporation or business.

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