That Time I Urinated on Myself at an HR Conference

wc-265278_1280-1-1For years, I resisted getting a cell phone. Until peer pressure eventually caught up to me. So by the time nearly everyone else on the planet was sending emojis, GIFs, and dick pics on fancy devices, I finally got a flip phone.

People, we aren’t talking the ’90s here. Not even the early aughts.

I didn’t start T9ing on my iPhone 0.5 until some time after 2010. And for a while, that sufficed. I shuddered and shunned at the idea of owning a smartphone. I saw what having one did to my friends, how the growth of a third appendage that promised greater connection spurred persistent disconnection, how something that was supposed to be a tool ended up making you a tool. No thanks.

Besides, word on the streets of Newark was that the CEO of Prudential (my employer for a couple of years starting in 2014) used a flip phone. Maybe this was an urban legend, but I figured, hey, if such a device was good enough for John Strangfeld, then I was obviously on the path toward becoming chief executive of a Fortune 50 company.

In 2016, peer pressure caught up to me again. I got my first smartphone — the iPhone 5s, originally released in 2013. Baby steps, OK?

Flash-forward to today. I still have that same 5s. I am afflicted with a third appendage. I am connected but disconnected. I am the tool I feared and predicted I’d become.

This was really clear a few months ago when I attended DisruptHR Long Island. During a break between speakers, I went to the bathroom. Even though I needed only to urinate, I decided to sit in a stall to multitask by checking texts and emails.

Quick aside: I’m no amateur at this. I’m often on the toilet at home with my laptop, pretending to pay attention to my workplace’s daily morning meetings. “Sorry, peeps. I was on mute. Oh, and yeah, my camera is kind of glitchy right now.”

Back to DisruptHR: It wasn’t until I finished answering a couple of texts and deleting some CVS and Seamless crap that I realized a national tragedy had just happened: Having paid more attention to my phone than the direction of my urine stream, I ended up drenching parts of my jeans.

OMG, OMG, OMG! I thought. I have to walk out of this restroom and through the crowd sporting pee-soaked pants. Worse, I have to take the stage as a speaker in about 20 minutes — and you know that denim takes about 55 years to fully dry! Granted, my shirt was able to conceal some spots, but only some spots.

I rushed to my seat and texted my friend Mary Faulkner, who coincidentally organizes DisruptHR Denver. Something terrible happened, I told her. “I spilled a drink all over my jeans.”

“Just tell the crowd you peed on yourself,” she joked.

So I did. I also followed up by explaining that I was kidding. It was clearly just some spilled water. Clearly!

I nailed my presentation because, you know, I’m a professional (something that you might be doubting right now). Nonetheless, the moral here is probably evident. I let my addiction to technology take over. I couldn’t even allow a few moments to relieve myself because of my compulsion to what? I don’t know. Get a dopamine rush by clearing junk email and answering some dumb texts? (The irony that I messaged Mary about pee-gate almost immediately after pee-gate is not lost on me.)

Look, I recognize that technology isn’t the problem. The problem is me. It’s probably you, too. So let’s all do better in 2019. Let’s do our bathroom business without mixing in other business. Let’s not check our phones 8 billion times a day. This is one of my resolutions this year. Maybe it can be yours — if for no other reason than because pee pants are not a cute look for 2019. Urine is never in.

By the way, here’s my DisruptHR Long Island presentation, “Shut Up About Authenticity”:

Will This Blog Post Get Me Fired?

I majored in fashion design in college. When you watch the video above, that will be hard to believe. I wanted to wear something that conjured Americana, something that screamed, “USA! USA! USA!” Unfortunately, no number of stars and stripes could save my ensemble. And speaking of, this clip proves that, no, vertical stripes are not always slimming. So much for my fashion education.

Shame on Me

Notice how I haven’t yet mentioned the content of the video. Shame on me for obsessing about my appearance when what matters more are my ideas and opinions. I need to get better at not judging myself so harshly. There are enough other people that already do that for me, or to me.

I guess that comes with public speaking, though. Numerous peers of mine have mentioned some of the feedback they’ve received after their presentations. If it’s not about their shoes, then it’s their shirts, or their hair, or their makeup. Sure enough, I’ve had well-intentioned people point out my wrinkles and fat.

Now, I’m pretty self-deprecating and have no trouble poking fun at myself. (I’m also fairly self-aware and have already identified ways to present better next time. And incidentally, you should check out Jennifer McClure’s “5 Mistakes Successful Speakers Never Make.”) But at some point, the focus really does need to shift to Herbert Robinson.  Continue reading “Will This Blog Post Get Me Fired?”

Oh No! Not Another Performance Management Blog Post!

One year ago today, corporations across the country—the world!—decided to scrap their performance-management models. They stopped their Sisyphean attempts to fix systems that were never really broken—because they never worked to begin with. They realized that achieving outcomes and assessing people based on achieving outcomes are not the same. They understood the following:

Focusing on results may be the worst way to get results.

What happened on January 11, 2016, to spark this revolution? That evening, I gave a DisruptHR presentation to a room of HR and business leaders called Oh No! Not Another Performance Management Presentation!


Here’s some of what I said:

  • SMART goals are pretty stupid.
  • You can set objectives, but gauge the worthiness of the goals themselves, not people based on meeting them.
  • Stop focusing on output and start emphasizing input.
  • Measuring by results can ruin your coaching and development efforts.
  • Given luck’s influence on outcomes, current frameworks may be sabotaging workers.

I said a lot more. Of course, my talk didn’t incite the insurgence I imagined above…yet! Nonetheless, I’m hopeful that as the neverending exploration to improve performance management continues, more companies will not simply stick extra Band-Aids on their processes but truly transform performance management into behavior management.

Check out my talk and let me know what you think!