Jason Lauritsen - Crushing talent dogma to free human potential

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Hip and Sage Consultant Conference – Debrief

Yesterday, I had the privilege to be a part of the agenda for a funky little conference in Omaha called the Hip and Sage Consultant Conference.  It was hosted by the Omaha Chapter of the ODN and was largely attended by people who carry a title with Organizational Development in it and other external OD consultants.  I was able to attend about half of the conference and I enjoyed my experience.  Here are some of my observations from the day.

1.  The Hip and Sage part of the name comes from the title of a book called Hip and Sage that was written by Lisa Haneberg.  The conference was wholly designed around Lisa and her content.  She gave the opening keynote presentation to set the tone for the day.  Then, she gave her Hip and Sage keynote over lunch.  Finally, she did a closing exercise for the conference attendees to help them bring together their learnings and leave with something actionable.  This was a cool concept.  Granted, this wasn’t a large conference, but I really liked this format.  Lisa is clearly someone who’s got a lot to say (having written over a dozen books I think) and she had compelling content.  I’m sure she enjoyed having more than an hour to shape our minds, and I certainly think that attendees enjoyed having more time with her.  Certainly, this approach would only work if the person you build your conference around doesn’t suck (because that could mean a guaranty bomb), but if you vet your speaker well enough, it’s a great idea.

2.  As for Lisa herself, I’d recommend picking up her book(s).  Her content seems to be a mix of professional guidance for HR/OD/Training professionals packaged in solid personal development messages.  Check her out if you haven’t already.

3.  Leaving the conference yesterday, I’m more confused than ever about what OD really is.  From what I observed, it seems like most OD people are working on projects in the areas of talent management, learning programs/systems, succession planning, and some change management.  I also heard about things like compensation design and org design.  That all sounds like work I’d consider to be core to strategic human resources, but I found that OD practitioners for the most part consider themselves non-HR.  This was a little disheartening to me because I don’t think that HR or OD folks can afford to bicker over who does what within an organization.  Regardless of what we like to tell ourselves, the rest of the organization puts us all in the same bucket–the people who do people stuff.  OD and HR (and training) needs to work as one.  If anyone should know how to collaborate and work together, it’s us.

4.  My session was on the topic of power and politics in organizations.  Here were my underlying points:

  • Power and politics are not four letter words.  As HR and OD professionals, we need to stop demonizing these dynamics and instead study and embrace them.  By doing this, we can use these forces for good.
  • Politics, by definition, is an unwritten process for how group decisions are made that largely revolves around considerations of authority and power.  Politics, in and of itself, is not good or bad.  If we change our perspective to see our organizations more like a game of chess where politics is the rules of the game, we can be much more intelligent and strategic about how we navigate and get things done.
  • Power comes from many places beyond the formal authority of title or position.  Social capital, resilience, and focus are examples of other types of power than can help you to be effective.  Power is also not something that has to be bestowed upon you, you can build your own power by doing some intentional things.  
  • Finally, the sales profession holds the secrets for how to successfully navigate the waters of power and politics to exert influence within your organization.  If you want to take your HR game to the next level, study sales.  Read books on sales.  Go to sales seminars.  This training will propel you further faster than any HR seminar you will attend.  I guarantee it.  
I was really pleased by how many people in my session seemed to really “get it.”  I hope that they take these concepts and can leverage them to be more successful.  
5.  I was energized by the energy that the people in this room have for the work they are doing.  This was a group of the torch bearers for the good work of development.  They seem resolved and encouraged to do great work to help people grow and in turn help their organizations grow.  
6.  There are a lot of talented and smart folks in Nebraska.  This is an exciting place to live and work because of so many people doing so many cool things within their work and community.  
Thanks again to the folks at ODN for inviting me to be a part of your event.  Great job to Todd Conkright and team for putting on a really cool and valuable event.  
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  1. Jill

    Thanks for the Cliff's Notes version of your time at ODN, Jason. Interesting stuff.

    Quick follow up on the idea of attending sales seminars. I've completed two multi-day sales trainings and found them both to be a waste of time and money. My coworkers (at two different organizations) largely disagreed with my assessment, though. The issue I take with the training sessions I attended is that they simply reiterated common sense strategies: listen to what your customer wants/needs, customize what you are offering to fit these needs, don't smarm your audience but do be authentic…and on and on. 'Advice' like this that costs my employers a lot of money and weeks worth of combined work time has made me extremely skeptical of attending any similar seminars. Have I just gotten in on subpar training sessions or do you think periodic reminders that we shouldn't be on autopilot are worth it? (The positive reaction of many of my coworkers indicates that could be the case.) If it's the former, can you recommend training series or particular speakers who *are* worth the cost in terms of money and work time lost?

    Thanks! Jill Thayer

  2. Jason Lauritsen

    Hi Jill – Thanks for the comments and question. My first comment is that you seem to already have a pretty good foundational understanding of sales and the process involved, so perhaps you don't need to go to these basic sales seminars. Your peers may not be as advanced in their knowledge or understanding, so that may be why they had differing experiences with the training. Picking up some books that talk about more strategic selling or relationship building might be a better strategy for you. One of my favorite books in this regard is Clients for Life by Sheth and Sobel. If you are specifically looking for more seminar type learnings to attend, I'd seek out some advanced negotiation training. Best of luck. If you'd like to exchange more thoughts on this, feel free to shoot me an email.

Jason Lauritsen