This is one of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite movies – Serendipity – I know, I know, but what can I say? Im a sucker for a love story 😉 The quote is from the scene when Dean reads out a make believe Obituary:
“The Greeks didn’t write obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died: Did he have passion?”
I was reminded of this word twice today, firstly by my 12 year old daughter. To say she is passionate about the environment is an understatement. She constantly follows us around the house, turning off the lights as she goes, or bursting into tears if I leave the car running for a nanosecond more than is absolutely necessary! Today, without any thought about the risk, she remonstrated with a man in his car because he threw his litter out of the window. Passion in overdrive! You can’t knock it though, we need more like her if we are going to really save the planet. But I digress…
The second was when I read this excellent post from Sukh Pabial, @naturalgrump on twitter. It was his review of the CIPD’s #hrd12 conference and is an excellent read. He makes some great observations and also gives credit where it’s due. The comment stream is also great which is a testament to the value of the post. I could feel the passion coming through from Sukh. Yes, the conference fell short of his expectations in some ways, but he cares, and genuinely want’s it to get better. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t have invested his personal time in writing about it.
However, the more I thought about it, the more it occurred to me that the HR profession lacks some of this passion. That’s not to say there are not any passionate people in HR – the people I have met through ConnectingHR and twitter are great examples, and there are too many to list here. But the list is small overall. When I consider the profession as a whole, the picture looks very different. I see process, detail, procedure, caution, data, metrics, jargon and a good dose of angst. Plenty of other things, very little passion. I can also say that in my 8 years at Courtenay HR, meeting HR folk as a day job, I didnt see much of it then either. And I met a lot of HR folk during that period.
When I studied for my CIPD – back in the 80’s – yes I know I don’t look old enough 😉 – One of the course leaders had a mantra:
“If you are interested in Personnel because you are interested in people, you had best get out of it.”
At the time I convinced myself he was right, but I have since come to believe he was totally wrong. Perhaps the overall direction of HR in the last 20 years has been influenced by this view – keep it scientific, focus on the process, not the person. Do everything to increase our commercial credentials. Maybe so, but in doing so we have, in my view, ripped the passion for people – for relationships, emotion, conversation, collaboration – from the profession and ultimately, from organisations.
We face a global financial crises of proportions not seen in most of our lifetimes which doesn’t say much for the quality of leadership in organisations does it? Or politicians for that matter. Perhaps if we could get the passion back into business, get closer to the people, each other, we might just find the answers. The leadership of Kodak didn’t seem to have a grasp of what ailed their business, but I bet the people standing around the watercooler did.
So what say you folks? How do we put passion back on the agenda for HR? How did we lose it in the first place? Did we lose it along the way or did we have it kicked out of us?