Virginia Human Resources Today - Winter/Spring 2018 - 8
VA LEADERSHIP 2018
By Michael G. Latsko, JD, PHR, SHRM-CP, State Director-elect, VA SHRM
oloring books, paint-by-numbers, finger painting?
Colored pencils, crayons, magic markers, pastels,
watercolors? Generally, kids-as-artists fell into
one of two camps: you recklessly (in the name of artistic
expression) colored outside the lines or fastidiously
worked to stay within the lines.
These were questions under consideration as the
VA SHRM State Council convened in January for its
first meeting of 2018 at the Richmond Omni. Held in
conjunction with the annual leadership conference, and
anticipating the upcoming VA SHRM annual conference
"Color My World HR," attendees considered the "Many
Colors of Leadership: Inside & Outside the Lines"
Keynote presenter Chic Thompson describes his
passion as "inspiring executives, MBA students and
children to be curious first...critical second" while
creative problem solving. Thompson is an entrepreneur
whose résumé includes product development at
W.L. Gore (maker of Gore-Tex); marketing at Disney;
founding his own cartoon company; and WAGiLabs,
an incubator for kids' ideas; and teaching creative
leadership at the Federal Executive Institute, the
YPO University (Young Presidents' Organization), and
the Brookings Institution. Now a Batten Fellow of
entrepreneurship at the University of Virginia's Darden
Graduate School of Business Administration, Thompson
says, "The most common question that I get asked is
how did you go from dropping out of college to working
as a chemist to drawing cartoons to now teaching at
schools that would never accept you as a student?"
His answer is simple. "I see in opposites," he says,
a perspective he attributes to "the gift of dyslexia."
It causes him to "take a lot of supposed missteps,"
but ones that have led him to success. "I love the
magic of opposite thinking, because at first glance
opposite ideas sound absurd, contradictory, illogical
and fly in the face of all reason." But on second look,
he says, "They can open up possibilities, break
through mental blocks and pull the rug out from under
The author of two books, What a Great Idea! and Yes,
But..., Thompson exhorted HR professionals to color
outside the lines as much as possible, acknowledging
that complying with laws and regulations ("inside
the lines") is very much part of the job. Outside the
lines may cause discomfort because it's "wrong," but
in fact "a person open to creativity accepts failure."
Thompson continued, "Indeed, the person who is
open to creativity expects failure. They want failure.
For without failure, there's no innovation going on. At
first, "expecting failure" might sound counterintuitive.
After all, failure means a loss of money, self-esteem,
and status. However, thinking in opposites, we
validate the wonderful words of wisdom, we learn
through trial and error not trial and rightness."
The second keynote presenter, Metro Area District
Director Deron Lehman, led an interactive presentation
based on the concepts in the book, Humility Is the
New Smart: Rethinking Human Excellence in the Smart
Ed Hess, co-author and UVA Darden Graduate School
of Business Administration professor, describes this
as the most important of his dozen books: "This book
is about human excellence - how human beings can
excel at the skills that smart machines and smart robots
will not be able to do well in the next few decades. It
is our Paul Revere's ride - a call to action - the smart
machines are coming and we humans must take our
cognitive and emotional skills to a much higher level
and this book puts forth a game plan of how to do that."
The importance for the HR profession is profound,
according to Hess. "In my opinion, HR needs to position
itself as a human development function to help optimize
human performance in concert with technology since,
quite frankly, most of the compliance, benefits and other
administrative work will be automated." What Hess calls
"smart machines" (bots, automation through workflow
in cloud-enabled systems, and artificial intelligence) are
already able to handle customer service routing, conduct
standardized transactions, and even author newspaper
box scores. Because technology will ultimately be
readily and cheaply available, the differentiator in
performance will be the human component.
"Technology will dehumanize orgs because it will
enable reductions in headcount. At the same it will
require organizations to become much more humanistic
VIRGINIA HUMAN RESOURCES TODAY | WINTER/SPRING 2018