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What (the ‘f) were you thinking? A new calling for HR…


As trusted colleague Mark Stelzner said, if you’re going to earn a couple of new luxury vehicles for giving a speech you should at least spend 30 minutes tailoring it to your audience. We heard a lot of what we’d expect to hear from Al Gore this morning at the SHRM 2010 Annual Conference, but I think he really showed the HR community that he gets what it is we have to contribute…and he cares about it. I’ve always liked Al, our “former president elect.” I maintain this world would be a different…and better place…had he taken the Oval Office back then. And I respect him even more for having moved above that – still contributing as much, if not more, than any other public figure (and please don’t use this blog as a soapbox for any distaste you might have for his alleged improprieties…that’s a defeatist measure).

So I left that room – and hope many of you did – with something that might just be a calling. As Mr. Gore offered up to us, generations to come will ask one of two questions of ours:

  1. What were you thinking? or
  2. How did you find the moral courage to rise up and solve this crisis?

I’m extremely found of asking, “WTF?” But I don’t think the average HR professional asks it enough. Who else is really going to stand up and call “foul”? Who else is going to question the longer-term impact on our people in a world where our focus is increasingly short-term…measured in milliseconds? Who else is going to draw out the diverse (yet often quiet) perspective of others who might just have something revolutionary to offer? Who else is going to implore the leadership team to leverage the hidden benefits of conflict and crisis? Who else will really put the smoke machines away and break those mirrors? Who else is going to break the chains of organizational enthrallment with the most popular flavor of the month? I really think the HR community is the only one that has the delicate skills for being that (loud) voice of reason when it’s needed most. You’re the only one who can buy into that role, though. Rarely will you be granted the invitation. Just know that Mr. Al Gore, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, gave you that invitation today.

Photo Credit: The Jewish Carrie Bradshaw

  • Chris Osborn

    Great post, CHarlie. Love to ask WTF myself. It’s hugely important for us to push and pull at the status quo.

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