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!
Dawn Burke, founder/advisor for Dawn Burke HR, is an HR leader, speaker and writer specializing in new HR practices, engagement and workplace culture. Her HR/leadership career has spanned the last 20 years, most recently serving as VP of People for Birmingham, AL’s award-winning technology company, Daxko (And yes, Kris Dunn and Dawn are making Bham the HR capital of the world! Who knew?). You can also check her out at DawnHBurke.com and a variety of other interesting places. Google her, it’ll keep you posted on what she is up to.