Have you ever done that team building exercise, where you stand in a circle and everyone is given a string? The goal is for you to hand the other end of your string to someone else, so you don't have to carry the burden of your string by yourself. Many years ago, I was in a mid-management HR position and I was doing this exercise with our Operations team. So, the exercise began. Then, after a whirlwind of activity (of which I don't remember), the coach called for the end of the exercise. There I was in the middle of the circle holding everyone else's string! There were 8-10 other people in this circle and I had most (and maybe all) of their strings. I'm not even sure what happened to my string. (I probably dropped it onto the floor. 😟) So my string, likely on the floor, while the 8-10 others got to sit happily around the circle with only 1 hand on their own string, their other hand freely waving around doing whatever it wanted....and they were fully supported by me! Hmmmm? What's wrong with this picture? I can tell you it made for some pretty powerful coaching conversations afterward with my coach!
So, what did I learn from this exercise? Why is it that I felt that I needed to be on the other end of everyone else's string? Why did I abandon my own string? Was I being an HR Hero?
I do believe there is an unwritten expectation in the HR field. It seems so obvious to me now, but at the time, I had no clue that I was figuratively holding everyone else's strings:
always reacting quickly when there was a problem
always offering to help even if they didn't ask
being the place where others could unload their problems
helping to solve other's problems
etc, etc, etc.!!!
Then I found this:
To all my HR friends, does this sound about right?
It doesn't have to be this way! Through coaching, I was able to learn some new skills to help me become a much better HR Leader, grow in my career and frankly become a better person overall.
1) First and foremost, I learned how to hold my own string. That meant prioritizing myself and my well-being by putting up some well-intentioned boundaries. By investing in myself, I could better take care of others.
2) Second, I learned better coping mechanisms. The nature of HR work means we are often taking on others' emotionally charged situations and therefore the negative energy associated with that. I learned how to listen, be empathetic & compassionate, and then clear the negative energy.
3) I learned how to flex my Prioritization muscle. This may seem simple or obvious, but the reality is, in HR, you can get slammed with a bunch of different problems all at once, in addition to the pile of work you already have. Being able to quickly sort through all of the different things that are in front of you, weigh the priority and take action regularly throughout the workday is a very practiced skill. I've known many who drown this way and get burnt out quickly.
4) I learned how to say 'no'. Sometimes, someone else's problem really isn't a priority or really isn't your problem to solve at all. This is an incredibly freeing skill to use regularly.
The bottom line is, coaching saved me! And, it can save you too. All of these skills I learned through coaching, I was able to bring into my whole life.
If you are in HR and you feel like you are the one holding all of the strings, it's time for us to have a chat! Just connect with me and DM me. There are many ways I can help you.
You too can have balance in your life, be an awesome HR professional, and grow your career!