Are You Open to Disruption?

There are only a handful of times in life that can be magical, disruptive, important moments. It could be a dramatic moment involving a birth or the loss of a loved one.  It could be one of those moments where someone says the exact thing you needed at the exact moment you needed it, good or bad.  I recently had one of those moments.


Last week I was honored to deliver the keynote for the SilkRoad Connections conference in Chicago.  (Thank you to the folks at SilkRoad for the opportunity and their hospitality).

As I walked through the empty ballroom early that morning, I felt the twinges of nervousness. As someone who often speaks publicly, I found this shocking and delightfully satisfying. The reason my nerves were at attention was not the event, nor the size of the crowd.  It was the fact that I was sharing material that was personal — my personal story of disruption that led to life changes.  I knew I wanted to talk to attendees about personal disruption.

Disruption often gets a bad rap because it invokes thoughts of people or events that shake things up in a negative way.  I was going to talk about how disruption, whether negative or positive, can have a very positive learning outcome. To do this, I shared my story and I have never felt so vulnerable. It was almost impossible to keep my emotions in check, but I did. I then related it to the personal disruption of the audience. By the time I left the stage an hour later, something very special had occurred.  I had created my own disruption. I will never again approach public speaking in the same way.

Disruption can be a valuable influencer in terms of taking your professional or personal life to the next level.  It inspires us, even forces us, to make changes that lead to new opportunities. This is critical in any business role, especially human resources where we tend to be a little more cautious about risk.  Knowing that we are the gatekeepers of legal and compliance issues for an organization, we spend much of our time reacting to organizational issues. This leaves us scrounging for time to spend on strategic planning and leaves virtually no time to focus on our own skill development.

Until … disruption.

Proactively creating a disruption in your thinking can be just the spark that you need.  As the human resources industry changes and evolves, so does the need for your skills to change and develop in new ways.  According to a recent SHRM report, HR professionals surveyed listed the following as the 4 most critical competencies in the next 10 years:

  1. Business Acumen (42%)
  2. Organizational Leadership & Navigation (40%)
  3. Relationship Management (37%)
  4. Communications (35%)

When you think of your skills in each of those areas, would you rate yourself high on the scale of competency?  If not, now is the time to disrupt your approach to your career.

In a recent Brandon Hall Group benchmarking survey of more than 300 respondents, leadership development was the top priority for accelerating business performance, yet only 25% of respondents rated their leadership development programs as very or extremely effective.  If this is the case in your organization, you will need to take charge of your own training and development.

The good news is there are many free learning sources that you can tap into in order to get started.  By focusing on learning around business acumen, technology, accounting and finance, marketing and internal communications you will strengthen your skillset and prepare yourself for HR of the future.  Look to MIT Opencourseware, Khan Academy and YouTube business videos to start your skill building.

By piloting your own career, you will feel less pressure and be less reactionary when dealing with your current role.  Embrace the disruption.

Trish McFarlane, VP of Human Resource Practice and Principal Analyst, Brandon Hall Group

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Trish McFarlane



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