Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity.
Seneca said it first, then everyone from Oprah to Mary Engelbreit quoted it. Luck is what happens when you get yourself
ready for opportunity. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, with respect to leaders and how they approach HR. A lot of people admire those business leaders who seem to see things coming, long before they get there. Most of those leaders read voraciously, not just about business but about sociology, politics, biographies of great historical figures, science, medicine, fiction and more. They’re preparing themselves to see what changes are coming around the bend that might cause them to pivot.
If you’re in charge of the mission, that’s a big part of your job. Of course, you can’t prepare for everything. But in HR there are so many things you can prepare for. You can prepare for a growth spurt by looking out on the horizon and finding out what the market is for sales people, developers, whoever you might need. Keep your eye on good pools for finding candidates, pay attention to the going salary rates and most popular benefits packages.
Practice your pitch about why your company is a great place to work. You can create succession and replacement plans so if you lose key people, you’re not scrambling. You can make sure your worker’s comp insurance will cover you if someone runs into an open drawer or trips on a rug and bangs his head—serious accidents happen at offices, too. You can make training part of your daily operations. You can have a documentation process everyone follows in case you need to fire someone for cause. (Your employment attorney will love you for this.)
HR–your people and how you recruit them, retain them, inspire them, and treat them–is arguably the most important part of your business. Motivated, innovative people create the ideas and customer experiences that make businesses thrive. So how brilliant is it for business owners to prepare themselves to be great people leaders the way they might prepare themselves for changes in the market or technology.
Preparing yourself means understanding all you can about how to woo the best candidates—and that’s probably not just a salary issue. Preparing yourself means engaging with employees about things like benefits and culture, understanding what they want and need, building that communication infrastructure that makes it easy to resolve issues and build teams.
This isn’t just about systems, although I was thinking about systems the other day at kickboxing class. I’m taking kickboxing for the fun and exercise. But it dawned on me that I’m also building muscle memory. If I ever am in a situation where I must defend myself, my body will know what to do. If you’re running a company and you have employees in conflict, a crisis with a customer or client, or other problem or opportunity, the more you’ve talked it through and built policies and systems to deal with it, the less chance you’ll pick the wrong solution out of the air in the intensity of the moment, and possibly make it worse.
People always talk about the pace of change with technology. But human beings are much more wonderful, capricious and volatile than even the world of apps. Having a sense for who you’re dealing with and what to expect makes it much easier to respond to situations with a sense of “I know what this is. I know what to do.”
You make your own luck.