I had my Jerry Maguire moment last year. After more then 25 years of corporate roles and a decade as a C- suite HR exec I had that moment. I realized so many things I thought were wrong with business and how they impacted the people that worked in them. Many of us have had those moments. No manifesto circulated around the company, but mine resulted in a change of career direction, much like Jerry’s only his had a happy ending, he got the girl, the job, and all the stuff he was yearning for. Unfortunately that’s Hollywood and not real life.
Soul searching usually follows those moments or in my case those dramatic changes in direction. I set out to run my own advisory firm with a good friend and awesome OD guru only to end up 8 months later in another CHRO role. HR folks, especially those who rise to senior roles, often have those moments of yearning for something better as they see, hear, and act on the ugly side of work. We often convince ourselves we are there for a ‘Purpose” only to be shaken by the realities of the big bad world we work in.
But what really is that purpose?
HR folks like to think they can impact moral, change or set culture, and be a value add. Corporate cool aid does that to you, the sugar high makes you believe you can have an impact. At Leviton, during my decade plus tenure , we actually did…and its was very cool. Unfortunately that’s the exception and not the rule. False sense of hope and optimism sets in…if you can do it in one place, why not at the next. So you try at your next organization and realize that “valuing their people as their most important asset ” is nothing more than a pipe dream.
Three plus years later I am still searching for that magical answer. More importantly for my purpose.
I belief I am on the right path at Success Academy. As their new head of HR I have a huge challenge to move an organization that has grown 6 fold in 4 years. We have no HRIS system to support an employee base of approximately 2000 employees ( with plans to double in the next 2 yrs.). My staff of close to thirty is almost completely Gen-Y. They think and work in a completely different cadence then anything I have ever experienced. I get in at 815 in the morning and want to get going, often by myself…they start much later and go well into the night. They are tech savvy and can multi-task at a speed that I could never imagine in my previous roles . Honestly we don’t have much in common except for one thing…a mission to reform public education…this is not an HR mission, its much bigger and bolder. I get to do really cool work without processes and systems in place. That will change in the next few months and I will get to play a big part in this. My whole team works very hard as does virtually every employee across our entire organization with the same goals.
Maybe that’s part of the secret sauce to finding ones purpose…its starts with having a mission. something everyone can rally around, in HR and throughout your organization. In my particular case there is no financial motive to our mission, there is a societal one. Public education is broken, especially in our inner cities. As our CEO states constantly, it’s not about the adults…Its about the kids. We run great schools despite some of the controversial press. We are making the world a better place through education reform.
There are so many things we need to fix in our society. I urge those looking to find a purpose to choose one and then go use your skills and passion to make a difference.
You can do HR anywhere, why not do it where the organization you work for is making an impact in the lives of others instead of just helping a few people make a lot of money.