Steve Forbes, Al Gore, & Marcus Buckingham
When I got to the door it was an hour before the presentation and I knew I wouldn't be the first in line. In fact, a colleague had told me the night before that she might sleep by the doors rather than go back to her hotel room. Sure enough, Collette was there, chatting away, excitedly discussing the philosophy and the man we were there to hear.
In the previous 3 days at this national HR convention in San Diego we heard from the editor of Forbes Magazine, Steve Forbes. I don't know if anyone slept in front of the doors the night before he spoke: I had no trouble walking in and finding a seat up front. Forbes promised us all would be well, told us how key the human resources professionals are going to be to the recovery, the US monetary policy will be one of the best indicators for that recovery, and, oh, by the way, a flat tax would really help. Wearing a neck brace, he said, "The end of the world will only happen once, and this is not it." That got a cheer.
We 11,000 attendees had heard from former Vice President, Al Gore, too. He had our rapt attention as he urged us to take the long view on current HR challenges and advocate for long-term solutions, rather than quick fixes. Gore addressed the long-term benefits of diversity and inclusion, development of employee competencies, a flexible workforce, and he told us that human resources professionals were key to business success.
There was also a panel of HR execs from Google, Kaiser, Northrop Grumman, & Deutsche Bank moderated by the editor of the Harvard Business Review, and their message was one word: flexibility. But I slept in that morning so I don't know what they meant.
I didn't sleep in the morning of Marcus Buckingham's presentation, though. I didn't spend the night on the floor in front of the doors, but once the door opened, Collette and I speed-walked to the front, congratulated ourselves on the great seats, and shared what we thought about this guru of the "strengths movement". We've discussed strengths-based hiring in this column: Jim Collins called it getting the right people on the bus, and in the right seats, in his book, Good to Great. Don't ask a person who needs direction after every task to tackle a long-term project; don't hire me to be a bookkeeper - I can do it but you will spend a lot of time & resources getting me up to speed. Hire someone who loves numbers and let me work on my strengths: the payoffs will be greater.
Well, like returning from Y camp - it takes awhile for the hyper-positive energy of a conference like this to level off, and I returned so pumped up and full of ideas that I had to warn my boss that I might be a bit over enthusiastic for awhile. "No such thing", said my boss, "besides, HR is the key to our success". (I made that last part up, but wouldn't it have been the perfect response?)