How We Respond

Whew !! That’s the best expression I can state after getting some much-needed rest after a phenomenal SHRM24. I was surrounded by 26,000 of my HR peers, and it was glorious. This is my favorite environment of every year.

I’m sure you’ve heard by now about how the opening keynote, Jason Sudeikis, was a last-minute cancellation. He chose to attend a WBNA game instead of speaking so he could see Caitlyn Clark play. He has been a visible fan of hers in college and as a pro. It was incredibly disappointing because I wanted to hear what he had to say about his role as Ted Lasso. I bought a “Believe” shirt and was primed as most of the attendees were.

What struck me though was the response from the attendees. The cancellation was unexpected and shocking. I’d never seen a keynote cancel at a SHRM Annual Conference. The fact that he was attending the WBNA game in an arena attached to the McCormick Center at the time he was to take the SHRM stage made things sting even more. I was stunned by the vitriol and anger that was expressed by those at the conference and those watching in. The launch was quick and unforgiving. It seemed as if everyone’s “entire” conference was completely ruined.

I didn’t feel that way at all. Was I disappointed? Absolutely. Did I think it showed a lack of character by not following through on his commitment? Of course. Did it ruin my conference ??? Not one bit.

You see, I think there are two things to remember about this experience. The first is this – we all disappoint people and miss commitments. I’ve done it with my wife, my kids, my co-workers, and my peers. It is a fatal flaw of being a human. When others disappoint me, I feel a mix of being hollow and wanting there to be some form of payback. However, I do my best to show grace instead. The world is lacking in being graceful towards others. It’s not expected from the person who caused the disappointment, but I feel it’s the best remedy.

I know the chances of me ever encountering Jason Sudeikis in person are slim. I’ll still be a fan of the Ted Lasso series because it’s a TV show and he played a character. He made a choice. I have a choice in how to respond as well. I choose grace which leads me to my other point.

I never go to an HR conference to see one person. I go to see EVERY person !!

This year I was fortunate to have my wife join me at SHRM24. She walked through the halls with me and went to the SHRM store. It was especially meaningful for me to have her meet the many friends I have made over the years. She’s heard stories about them and now she was able to meet them face-to-face. She also was able to attend the two mega sessions where I presented. I was floored to stand on stage in a stately theater which was filled both times !!

(One quick note: Please know that I never take it for granted that I get the opportunity to speak in front of my HR peers. It humbles me and I am grateful for each chance I get.)

She got to hear how I got to experience the Annual Conference when people came up to me in the hallway, in sessions, and in line to sign my books. She heard story after story about how they responded after attending a session, reading one of my books, or having a conversation with me. I spent this time laughing, crying, and hugging each person because they told me that I had made HR personal for them. She and I made homemade tie-dye bookmarks that people could take with them for free. It was our way of giving them a token of our time together.

I made sure to give any person who came up to me all the time they’d like. It’s how I choose to respond.

This week you’re sure to have a variety of encounters with people. They may be great (which I hope) or they may bring disappointment. Whatever may come, you will have the choice of how you respond. I hope you express grace, curiosity, and joy.