I had an interesting relationship with my grandmother. On one hand, she worked hard to keep me hidden from her friends in her Orthodox Jewish community given my brown skin. On the other hand, she was my biggest advocate, always pushing me to go to law school and be a strong and confident person. I was never allowed to go to family gatherings, but she and I enjoyed visiting the kosher deli when she visited me in Colorado. No photos of me lined the walls of her home, but mine were the only ones to be seen in her bedroom after her death. No matter her shortcomings, I could always see the light in her.
My best friend in college would always ask me how I could love my mother’s side of the family. Not surprisingly, she never understood my very complicated relationship with them. How could I expect her to? Her experience was different than mine. Her frame was not filled with as much rejection, feelings of being unworthy and a deep desire to belong.
After a lifetime of living inside that complexity, I found myself in a gifted position; I could see people as multi-dimensional and forgive their imperfections in a way that others could not. Thankfully, I had this way of seeing the smallest of positive changes even in the most broken people. I had a deep belief that people could be good, wanted to be better, needed to fight harder to get there, but they needed help.
After introspection, I think this belief is what made me a caring manager, makes me an empathetic coach, and helps me meet my clients where they are when partnering with them for cultural change. I can’t help myself in seeing the light in others!
This frame, or way of walking through the world, is not always easy, because people often disappoint. I know I disappoint as well. Sometimes, I am more disappointed in their disappointment in themselves. I hope so much for their fruitful growth. I think that I see my hope as an elixir to uplift others. It’s worked before. Maybe, it can work next time too?
This might all sound like a naïve way to live, but it is my way. I could have chosen to be an unforgiving pessimist who mistrusted everyone and fell victim to my circumstances. I chose a different path. As such, today and every day, I choose to see the light in everyone who comes my way. I watch for it! I don’t ignore the darkness, but I don’t rest in it, and I intentionally switch my lens. By doing so, I find the most fascinating truths in the most unlikely places. It also allows me to truly be a catalyst for deep transformation.
I hope the same for you as well.
With fondness, I still hear my grandmother’s voice calling me, “Hedda Hoppa”, which was just a loving nickname she would call me. In my heart, I will never forget her telling me to, “Keep your chin up and never let’em see you sweat!”. Yes, I choose to focus on those memories.
In this episode, Heather Younger speaks with Dr.T. Renata Robinson, Chief Human Resources Officer at Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, about the complexity of leading an organization that serves the poor and at times, employs the poor. She also shares a story of her leadership mishap and some key ways to thrive as a leader.
Understand that often, we encounter our people in their brokenness.
Humility is the highest honor.
Admitting your mistakes as a leader is a sign of strength.
You must build relationships first before strategy.
Provide your people the right resources to do good work.
Dr. T. Renata Robinson is a professional of many firsts. She is currently the first Chief Human Resources Officer of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, as well as the Principal and Chief People Officer of her consulting practice MeekAdvantages, LLC. Dr. Robinson was the first Chief Diversity Officer for the City of Boulder, CO, and Director of Organization Development and Talent Management for Total Long-Term Care Solutions. She has been Vice President of Human Resources for Teach for America Colorado and the Human Resources Manager for Comcast.
Dr. Robinson spends her days cultivating an inclusive culture, bolstering employee morale, and developing leadership skills in others. She has been consistently successful in creating and implementing inclusive human resource programs and initiatives. Having extraordinary change management and strategic leadership skills, she is a high-energy people leader with 15+ years of success in building top performing diverse teams, increasing employee engagement, and developing culturally action-oriented organizations. Her unique approach to innovation, engagement, and culture has improved communication between teams, stakeholders, and executives in non-profit organizations, fortune 100 and 500 companies.
In her free time, she is a wife and mother of two, and she gives back to her community through coaching, mentoring, and helping individuals design and accomplish their career path goals. She teaches youth workshops on public speaking skills, how to become bully-proof through confidence building, personal branding, and interviewing skills.
Dr. Robinson’s educational background consists of a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Leadership, a Master of Art in Organizational Management, and an Educational Doctorate of Organizational Management.
I have accomplished a lot of things I wanted, but there’s so much more out there. I’m still on a journey to accomplish more. I have more to give back and to help people, as well as to develop personally and to grow professionally. Even though I might have accomplished some job positions I aimed for, that’s not necessarily the whole reason I’m here.
I think about life as that dash in between; I look at every morning and ask myself what I do and why I am on earth. I am in a place of wonder, growth, development, and I pull people along with me on my journey.
As a leader, you have to understand that it’s not all about you. It’s about the people around you, helping you to get there.
I am results-driven person, but I am not the type to just run over someone to get the results. To me, the result is not always winning and success, because sometimes, you fail.
Bottomline, you must ask yourself: Did you try? Did you do your best? How did you get there? If you hit your head, let’s not hit your head again. Let’s figure this out. As a leader, that’s how I lead my team. I am flexible and open.
I really care. I know there always different analogies on leadership. But, I would define myself personally as a caring leader because I actually care about my people. It is important to build relationships that support people to get the results.
Understanding relationships is so significant. Afterwards, we need to communicate the plan, be aware of what is happening, and provide the resources needed to get the results. I am very results driven, but in order to get there, I look at three levels: how I look at my relationships, how I communicate, and how I create access.
Finally, the fourth most important thing to me is autonomy. The worst thing a person can do to me is to micromanage me. I don’t believe in micromanagement as a leader. I believe in people giving people the autonomy to do their job.
That also means you have to hire right. You must ask the right questions. Find out what a person can or cannot do. Remember you’re hiring for their strengths and not their weaknesses. You have to make sure you’re placing people to right positions, too.
If you’re having a tough week, you just have to pause. Often, we feel like we should have all of the answers in the moment. But the reality is, you don’t have all of them.
You also have to reach out to your peers, take a moment, give affirmation, and come back with more insight in order to drive forward. Remember that you just need to take time out for you. Take an emotional day-off of work to recover.
If you’re finding yourself in a challenging place, sometimes you’re in there because of pride. While you don’t want to be wrong, and you’re fighting everyone to be right, the truth is, sometimes you are dead wrong.
It’s not about you. It’s about perspective, and how to shift the narrative. Pause is so important. Get away from the office. Sometimes, the best time to work is when we are not in a building, we are away where we can have transparent conversations, and strategic planning.