The Best HR Pros Are Self-Directed

You know what kills HR?

A lack of self-direction.

At Kemper Insurance, I was promoted from a recruiter to a regional HR manager. I had to lay off several hundred people, which was totally sad. I had no idea what I was doing. I asked my CHRO, “Where’s the checklist?”

She said, “You are the checklist. I pay you to figure this out.”

Yikes, okay. Not intimidating. Not at all.

I was smart, though. I was working on my SPHR, which empowered me in a strange way and made me fearless. I told myself, “You got this, Laurie.”

So I got down to business, developed an internal network of colleagues who knew about payroll + benefits + pensions + basic legal stuff, and I figured it out.

The only way I learned how to “practice” human resources was by talking to other nerds, rolling up my sleeves, and trusting my instincts. Throughout my entire career, I realized that I couldn’t get HR wrong because no one else was doing it right.

My thoughts?

  • Change your attitude. Whatever you think you can do, you can do.
  • Whatever scares you is exactly what you should be doing. Conquering your fear gives you the edge in HR.
  • If there is someone out there who could do it better than you, he would be doing it. You are it.

When your skills are a little weak and you are new to a task, confidence and self-direction are the keys to getting it done.

And once you learn something new, teach someone else how to do it!

FOT Background Check

Laurie Ruettimann
Laurie Ruettimann is a former HR leader and an influential speaker, writer and marketing advisor. Her work has appeared in many mainstream print publications and major news media outlets. You can find her on twitter at @Lruettimann.


  1. Paul Hebert says:

    My first “manager” when I was made a manager said – “Now comes the hard part – you have to create the work that needs to be done.”

    Good managers – top performers – always wee the work that needs to be done vs. being given a list of the work that needs to be done.

  2. HRKaley says:

    Thank you! This is exactly what I needed to read at this very second. It’s all smoke and mirrors…

  3. Mary F says:

    Agreed. And I would add, “Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do something without demanding to know why.”

  4. Great thoughts and not just applicable to HR. I champion “whatever scares you is exactly what you should be doing”

Comments are now closed for this article.

Contact Us | Hire FOT to Speak | About FOT