Be Realistic

Author: Joel Peterson

In keeping with what it’s like to be an HRDEPT1, I’ve been so swamped at work lately that my attempt to write the second installment in my series about life as an HRDEPT1 in a timely fashion has fallen prey to various deadlines and other priorities.

I intensely dislike not being able to live up to my commitments. But in truth, the lag time in my writing this next installment couldn’t be a more perfect example of one of the challenges of being a one-person HR department.

The challenge: to be realistic about what you can achieve and when you can achieve it.

I’m an all-in, can-do kind of HR guy.  I’ve built my personal brand around the philosophy that if you have the need, I have the will and together we’ll find the way to get done what needs to be done.

I’m being perfectly honest though when I say that as great as my personal brand is – and it is awesome – it still requires a level of realism in order to have integrity.  More specifically, as an HRDEPT1, I am constantly having to practice setting (and re-setting) realistic goals and boundaries with my colleagues and co-workers around what I am capable of.  Here are three ways I do that…over and over and over.

Be honest about the length of time it will take to get something done.  

Identify the length of time a task will take. Now double it.

Perhaps you already know how long it will take to get a task done.  If you don’t, make an educated guess. (Come on, you’re a department of one – who’s going to argue with you…besides you? Heh.) Now, double that guesstimate and share it with whoever gave you the task to do.

Why do this, you ask?  Remember that Christmas when your parents told you they didn’t think they could afford that super cool whatevermawhozits you told them you wanted?  So you ate all of the cookies meant for Santa to help you cope only to discover on Christmas Day that your parents not only got you the super cool whatevermawhozits but they got the limited edition version?  They powerfully demonstrated one of the best skills you have at your disposal as an HRDEPT1: to always under promise and over deliver.

Be specific about how much you can get done in a day.  

Focus on quality of work not quantity.  It’s better to get three things done well and done right than ten things done partially well and wrong.  More importantly, you’re good to no one, yourself or your colleagues, if you’re over-committed and therefore stressed out.  You’re human.  Set yourself up for success by acknowledging that you’re good at what you do but only to a point.  If you don’t champion yourself, who will?  A polite yet direct “no” is much better than a stressed out “yes” that you can’t follow through on.

Be bold about asking for help.   

There is absolutely no shame in needing support.  Just because you’re an HRDEPT1 doesn’t mean you can’t ask for help.  Ask for what you need in terms that are actionable and solution-oriented. And remember, just like you, your colleagues get busy so one request for support may not be enough.  As I said, be your own champion and keep asking for support until you get it.

This all sounds simpler than it really is, especially when you’re an HRDEPT1.  Do you agree?

What tips do you have for establishing realistic boundaries with yourself and your colleagues?  Please share in the comments below.

Thanks for reading (which is really listening. Only with your eyes.)  Be encouraged. You’re an HR department of one…in a million and not on your own.

Joel Peterson is Director of Human Resources and Administration at Goshow Architects in New York City.  Joel began his career as a professional actor before transitioning into Human Resources.  His diverse, creative background spans a variety of industries ranging from international education, the pharmaceutical industry, and public television. For the last eight and a half years, Joel has worked in the architectural industry where as an HR pro he helps build the people who build the buildings.  Outside the office, Joel is the Social Media Director for the New York State SHRM Council and volunteers for the New York State Special Olympics.

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