I recently attended the HRD Summit in Birmingham with its key themes of ‘passion and purpose’. As with most conferences, I came away with something (or should I say someone) that resonated with me – this was Nilofer Merchant.
Nilofer kindly gave away signed copies of her book ‘The Power of Onlyness – make your wild ideas mighty enough to dent the world’; a bold statement you may be forgiven for thinking. Nilofer, however, is ranked by Thinkers50 as one of the world leading thinkers, has netted 18 billion dollars in sales and her TED talk ‘Sitting in the Smoking of our Generation’ is in the top ten percent of TED’s most viewed talks.
The book starts with Nilofer giving an insight into her background: When Nilofer’s potential husband and family said they would not support her having an education before she got married, she decided to leave them behind, taking with her nothing but the clothes on her back. Her ambition became to put a ‘dent’ in the world and her book encourages us all to do the same. Her story is an inspiration as she became successful against all odds and despite her ‘support system’ not believing in her. The key to take away from this is that if she can do it, anybody can.
Her mantra is simple:
‘Make your dent in the world by valuing your ‘only’ i.e. the thing that makes you unique, which rather than being the route to loneliness is the key to connectedness’
‘Value the power of ‘us’ by finding your co-denters and creating your ‘tribe’ to give you the sense of belonging for your ideas to have a shot.’
‘Explore how this tribe can act as one without sacrificing the individual meaning that started the journey. Communities cannot be coalitions, the connections we make have to be by choice through having a shared purpose and reason to ‘be’.’
Put simply, anyone can make a difference as only you stand in the spot where you stand. Refreshingly, she guards against fitting in as that means adjusting yourself to meet the expectations of others. Repressing yourself represses the ideas you bring, and potential creativity is lost. Ideas also come from a place of caring so don’t suppress your passions for others who are not convinced by your cause.
Last summer, I started #loveyourHR as I felt I was stood in a spot looking around me at some remarkable work being done by HR professionals; A group of people who really care about what they do but were not being acknowledged and even disparaged.
As HR, driven by the work of Ulrich, we are increasingly connected with business – particularly in the public sector where we become connected to a ‘cause’ or something we care about. We can therefore evolve from policy shapers, to people who through collaboration and the right mindset can mobilise cultures to make a real difference to our communities. I believe HR is at the heart of cementing partnerships to make this happen. The world is constantly changing its perceptions to issues and people, so there is a movement to think about. Care to join my tribe?
The last paragraph has to go to Nilofer who borrows a quote from J.Ruth Gendler
‘Power made me a coat. For a long time, I kept it in the back of my closet… I didn’t like to wear it much, but I always took good care of it. When I first started wearing it again, it smelled like mothballs. As I wore it more, it started fitting better and stopped smelling like mothballs. I was afraid that if I wore it too much someone would take it, or else I would accidentally leave it in a dressing room.
‘But it has my name on the label now, and it doesn’t really fit anyone else. When people ask me where I found such a becoming garment, I tell them about the tailor, Power, who knows how to make the coats that you grow into. First you must find the courage to approach him and ask him to make you a coat. Then you must find the patience inside you to wear the coat until it fits’.
If you are inspired by Nilofer’s story and would like to read her book for yourself, you can find it here.
If you would like to hear more about how you can collaborate and change your mindset, join us at our #LoveyourHR Conference as we hear from an excellent line up of key note speakers and presenters on these key themes.
For more information and to book your space head to loveyourhrconference.org.uk/.
Article by Michelle Harte – Head of HR, West Midlands Employers