Tuesday, October 13, 2009

5 Simple Life Lessons Every HR Professional Should Embrace…

by Alan Collins

This article is a bit of a change of pace.  If you’ve read Chapter 22 in book, Unwritten HR Rules, you know I’m big on people who use life lessons  as inspiration to drive their HR careers forward.  In that spirit, here are five more for you…

Life Lesson #1 – The Cleaning Lady

During my second month of college, our professor gave us a pop quiz. I was confident that I had nailed this test and breezed through the questions until I read  the last one: ‘What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?’
Surely this was some kind of joke. I had passed by the cleaning woman many times.  She was short, white-haired and in her 50’s, but how would I know her name?
I handed in my paper, and left the last question blank.  Just before class ended, someone asked if the last question would count toward our quiz grade.
‘Absolutely,’ said the professor. ‘In your careers, you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say ‘hello.’
I’ve never forgotten that lesson. I also learned her name was Olivia.

Life Lesson #2 – Pickup In The Rain

One night, at midnight, an older African American woman was standing on the side of the highway in Alabama during a terrible rainstorm. Her car wouldn’t start and she desperately needed a ride.
Soaking wet, she decided to flag down the next car. A young white man stopped to help her, clearly something that didn’t happen everyday in the South during the 1960’s.  The man took her to safety, helped her get assistance for her car and put her in a taxi.
She left in a big hurry, but wrote down his address and thanked him. Seven days went by and a knock came on the man’s door. To his surprise, a giant console color TV was delivered to his home. A special note was attached.
It read: “Thank you so much for assisting me on the highway the other night. The rain drenched not only my clothes, but also my spirits. Then you came along. Because of you, I was able to make it to my dying husband’s bedside just before he passed away.  Thank you for helping me and unselfishly serving others.”
Sincerely, Mrs. Nat King Cole.

Life Lesson #3 – Serving More Than Ice Cream

In the days when an ice cream sundae cost much less, a 10-year-old boy entered a hotel coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him.
“How much is an ice cream sundae?” he asked.
“Fifty cents,” replied the waitress.
The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied the coins in it.
“Well, how much is a plain dish of ice cream?” he inquired.
By now more people were waiting for a table and the waitress was growing impatient.
“Thirty-five cents,” she brusquely replied.
The little boy again counted his coins.
“I’ll have the plain ice cream,” he said.
The waitress brought the ice cream, put the bill on the table and walked away. The boy finished the ice cream, paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back, she began to cry as she wiped down the table. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies.
You see, he couldn’t have the sundae, because he had to have enough left to leave her a tip.

Life Lesson #4 – The Obstacle In Our Path

In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king’s wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.
Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded.
After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.
The peasant learned what few people in the world truly understand: Within every obstacle lies a golden opportunity to improve your current situation.

Life Lesson #5 – Giving When It Really Counts

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at a hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare & serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.
The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes I’ll do it if it will save her.”
As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheek. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”
Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her but he had chosen to save her anyway.

Here are the five HR takeaways….

1) In our HR careers, we will meet many people. All are significant. They all deserve our attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say “hello.”

2) As HR professionals, we all have a unique opportunity and platform for serving others. Never underestimate it.  Even our smallest gestures that show we care can affect lives profoundly.

3) Always remember your team members who serve you, even in the smallest way.  Never take them for granted, even if they take you for granted!

4) Within every obstacle lies a golden opportunity to improve your current situation and to move your HR career forward.

5) Give when it counts. Give without counting. Give!

For additional life lessons as well as stories, anecdotes and examples that can help move your HR career forward, check out:  Unwritten HR Rules: 21 Secrets For Attaining Awesome Career Success in Human Resources (including two free chapters you can download immediately) athttp://UnwrittenHRRrules.com

I’d like to thank Geir Ove Knutsen for sharing these stories.

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