Revealing the Remarkable Roots of Alignment Partnership
HR etc!! began out of my truck in 1991….literally! It started as an answer to my personal frustration of being in the wrong role within corporate America.
I knew I had an underutilized aptitude to better serve my employer and that my job was not a good “fit” for me. Yet, a Human Resource policy forced me to stay in my role as supervisor of the Employee Benefits and Medical department.
I had a yearning – an unyielding yearning to learn more about my innate strengths and how to use those strengths consistently to earn my living. I was determined to know more of my own human nature and to help others overcome similar frustration.
Best-selling author and management-practice leader Marcus Buckingham defines a “strength” as an activity that leaves you feeling strong. This is our true nature. In my role with that employer, the only time I felt strong was while presenting benefit change information to large groups of employees and during individual benefit and retirement counseling sessions. I loved it! My team and I were on fire! I knew I had to do more of this – I had to educate.
But when I applied for a position within the newly formed Training department at that company, I was told it was policy, and therefore practice, that employees remain in their current role for five years. I couldn’t wait another four months! I was shriveling. My life, livelihood, confidence and reputation were on the line. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do, I just knew I had to do something!
So, in October of 1991, I quit my job. During my exit interview, my boss (VP of Human Resources) told me of his regret; that he had done a poor job of managing my creative side and how this had ultimately hurt the company – and me. All I could think was: “Why didn’t you tell me this before?” His comment simply provided more conviction for my yearning.
My quest for knowledge took five months, four states, 30,000 miles, cashing in my 401(k), unconditional focus, lots of helpful people and tons of initiative, perseverance and resilience. And you know what? It was totally worth it. I have absolutely no regrets.
Being a lifelong student of Mother Earth and an avid outdoorswoman, I preserved my 401(k) money by living out of my truck while camping with my dog Mollie. You should have seen the looks on my fellow campers’ faces when I would emerge from the campground shower house in a business suit, hose and heels on my way to meet a potential client!
Cell phones had been invented. I trusted this new technology to allow me to make appointments and sell what I knew and, more importantly, to learn as much as possible about what I didn’t know. What I did know was that I had lots to learn, people to meet and places to go!
This was during the height of “experiential learning” – also known as action learning and learning by doing. Being an outdoorswoman and a kinesthetic learner, I was naturally drawn to ropes challenge courses as a training medium.
I presented two resumes to outdoor learning centers. One highlighted my years of outdoor experiences in rappelling, rock climbing, canoeing, whitewater rafting, caving, single rope techniques and backpacking. The other resume summarized my Human Resource experiences in Corporate America. I was readily hired.
My choice of aligning my true nature with my knowledge was completely logical. Designing and facilitating experiential training sessions in the great outdoors came quickly and easily. I was a natural. I was compelled to teach companies with solid Human Resource infrastructures – guiding managers and leaders in fair and consistent people-management practices. And that’s just what I did.
During these sessions I observed that people would say one thing, yet do something else. This seemed unnatural! With co-facilitators, I helped managers, leaders and their teams innately understand, through their behaviors, that words aligned with actions create trust. Without this alignment, distrust manifests, creating a downward spiral of morale and performance – another basic law of human nature.
To help satisfy my yearning, I found incredible mentors: Mike Lair of Camp Joy in Ohio, Dave Knobbe of Wyman Center in Missouri, Michael Knight of Camp Collins in Oregon, and Simon Spiller of the Tecumseh Leadership Center in Indiana. They were generous, knowledgeable, supportive, challenging and enjoyable. They shaped my future! I am forever grateful to these awesome people – all of whom are integral parts of my world today.
These mentors and our clients taught me about the practical side of people management – that by doing the right things with aligned words and actions, fairness and consistency, and respecting and listening to employees, leaders and managers could provide what’s required for employees to be their most productive.
Over the next six years, I learned about group development and process, team formation, motivation, adult learning, training methodologies, organization development and theories, performance coaching, facilitation and, most importantly, the laws of human nature.
Most critical in all of this: I learned about my own true nature, my strengths –something I was unable to accomplish without mentors who believed in me. They helped me learn that by aligning the true nature of my strengths with the work that had to be performed, I could consistently surpass expectations, goals and benchmarks, and ultimately achieve success.
I was very pleased when the Organizational Leadership and Supervision School at Purdue University contacted me, asking that I teach an undergraduate class in Organizational Behavior. Definitely a career highlight!! Being a client, they knew the power of the experiential processes I created and facilitated … and they wanted me to make the Organizational Behavior curriculum COME ALIVE. I happily accepted for the next three semesters!
My yearning was sated. Honoring my true nature had allowed me to do activities that left me feeling strong and productive. But now it was time to take all I had learned and go home.
In October 1997, I returned to my roots in St. Louis, Missouri. Even with my newfound insights into human nature, I found myself once again wondering what exactly to do next. Yet, unconditionally, I knew I had tons of initiative, perseverance and resilience!
First, I sought out incredible mentors: Lynn Courier of Resolved Consulting, Barbara Levin of Washington University and Don Eggleston of SSM Health. While teaching me about the St. Louis workforce and its employers, these mentors have co-created and co-facilitated, and have connected me with many clients. They believe in me, support me … and never stop teaching me.
Next, I became the St. Louis chapter president of both the Organization Development Network (ODN) and the Association for Training & Development (ATD). I also became a qualified practitioner of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and certified trainer for DiSC.
My roots keep growing. And they keep getting stronger.
Alignment Partnership, a company of HR etc!! is entering its 27th year of business and, like me, is evolving to reflect all I’ve learned about what it takes to help leaders, teams and companies flourish. The Alignment Partnership represents the confluence of the successful strategies I’ve taught in the past and my acquired, deeper understanding of how to best help my clients in the future. With my team of seven talented individuals consistently applying our own true natures and using our strengths in activities that leave us feeling strong and productive, our renewed mission is to help leaders understand and realize the benefits alignment – ease, harmony, creativity, contribution and goals met – can bring within their own organizations.
I continue traveling throughout the United States and Canada, educating managers and leaders on the Alignment Partnership – a proprietary system showing leaders and managers what employees require to be their most productive.
As I look back over the years, I appreciate the willingness of others to help me and to have such unwavering belief in me. I could never have satisfied my yearning or become the woman I am today without the support of my family, friends, colleagues and especially clients. I AM FOREVER GRATEFUL. And I readily give back to others requiring the same.
It has been an incredible journey! The road I have traveled has had many turns. Through it all, I have always known that my value of lifelong learning will continue, providing me with the initiative and resilience to persevere.
I continue my quest to learn more of my own human nature. I am committed to helping others overcome their frustration with being unable to do activities that leave them feeling strong so they can be their most productive. When employees are flourishing, so are you and your company! I know that firsthand; after all, I’m also a company owner.