So, who am I to be writing this for you to read?

I am someone who was born to be different; to challenge the status quo and to make a difference.

Well what else is life about?

What other reason is there for us to be here?

I expect that sounds really cheesy but that’s what I really believe. I never set out in life to be where I am today, and if we are all honest I suspect that there are not many who are. Who have a clear defined plan from a young age that they stick to and really REALLY enjoy and are satisfied with.

I kind of fell into my profession by default. I never really knew what I wanted to be in life. I can remember being asked from time to time, but I cannot ever remember a clear defined place for me to be me. I grew up in the hospitality industry and was involved in the family business from a very young age. I always say that I could pull a pint when I was 6 years old, that may just be a dream, but I do remember quite vividly standing on a crate behind the bar when we were open, understanding far too young what a lager top was, serving milkshakes to the boys from the navy in the restaurant and making lots and lots of beds….all before I was 16!

When I was a child I ran my own tea and coffee business during the school holidays. I made signs, hung them up, bought supplies from my parents and when visitors arrived, was eager to provide. I wanted my own flute you see, and I was told we couldn’t afford it. So I was challenged to raise my own money. The entrepreneurial spark was lit from a young age. I got my flute, in fact I still have it almost 40 years later. I don’t play anymore but it is there as a sign of what can be achieved if you put your mind to it.

The spark faded over the years. An incompleted degree due to ill health, and then into employment. I always was a people pleaser. I would work hard, really hard, and I could say that I didn’t progress as much as others, because of my gender, and it is an element of that which I won’t go in to now, but the reality was I was shy, I wasn’t pretty, I didn’t travel in the right circles, and I never ever played the political game.

For over 25 years I worked for others, unhappy most of the time, frustrated by others progressing not through skill but by shouting louder. And then I snapped. I burned out. I had done too much for others, my health was poor and to be honest I was really broken. We have all seen and heard about these situations, and possibly been in them ourselves. There is no specific age when it might happen, there may be signs that you don’t understand and then it dawns on you. If someone told you this could happen beforehand, the likelihood is that you wouldn’t have necessarily listened.

As you grow older your priorities change. You have a family, you need more financially to provide for the family, that leads you to working harder, stuck in a rut, in a job you possibly resent because you need the finances. And without being in that cycle, your whole world could come crashing down around you.

Invariably the crash happens….and when it does it is hard. You could lose everything you have worked so hard to get. Material things could disappear and as that happens so can the people around you. But not the ones that are understanding, see the little glint in your eye, and are prepared to stick by you for better and for worse, to help you over this hump in your life.

My crash happened before I started my own business, and even now these are still tough times. But now I have clarity. Now I have people around me who genuinely want me to be successful in what I do. I still want to make a difference and now I have the vision to do that. When I talked to Kezia about some of what I have shared, she called me a “warrior”. At the time I laughed, I’m just me, I’m not important, but as the days turned in to weeks, I understood that I was a warrior, leading a change, empowered to make a difference like I had wanted to from a very young age. Now was my time to really shine. The people that are around me now, truly have helped me see the light.

But what is that I do I hear you ask? I am an international speaker, author and founder of Leap HR, an HR Consultancy that is building the World’s most supportive community for HR specialists and small business owners to engage, embrace and enhance a unified approach to their business growth strategy.

My real passion lies in really making that step change, the difference to businesses within my profession. Every single year around the world there are thousands of businesses losing time, money and good people, including suppliers and clients, simply because they didn’t include a HR Specialist at the beginning when creating their business growth strategy. This causes massive financial losses to the business, a negative impact on customer service, unnecessary stress to the business owner and ultimately irreparable damage to their reputation that often leads to closing the business. As a result of seeing 1 in 5 businesses closing every week, I believe it really doesn’t have to be this way. So I created a Global community that brings HR experts and small business owners together to provide simple, realistic support both ways.

It is early days in my mission, but I speak to businesses and professionals every day, and every day I am further motivated to continue in my quest. It is wanted and needed. I must confess that when I started this journey I was surprised by the amount of HR professionals saying that they were frustrated by their field. I failed to understand why they hadn’t done anything about it themselves. They too have been frustrated by the perception of HR. Everywhere in the world our perceived role is similar, we are the problem solver, the policeman, the one who will have those difficult conversations, the pooper scooper in a business.

The role of the HR professional is heavily stereotyped. Typically female, not always but there is a prevalence in this position, suited and booted, the role to breathe dragons fire for anyone who deigns to even consider questioning but what if…? I don’t believe that HR can be solely black and white; whatever the situation there is always an element of grey. Yes, there is legislation to follow, and I agree that I should, I don’t always agree that the legislation is right, but there is a huge amount of interpretation to be had in the majority of employment laws around the world. HR is, to use the analogy, shades of grey. Every situation is different, with different people, different reasons, yes there are similarities, but I have yet to find a case where there is complete uniformity.

But HR are also not the pink and fluffy brigade, I firmly believe that HR should be pragmatic, open to challenge and change, but also be simple. There shouldn’t be any mysticism around our profession, we should be open, honest and transparent. If it looks like a spade and acts like a spade, it probably is a spade….why would it need to be a rake? HR should be one of the first recruits of a business not the last. We can add value, help recruit the right people, develop individuals to reach their potential, support business growth.

The role of the disciplinarian needs to be the minority not the majority. Leap HR will lead from the front on this quest.The majority of those I speak to are with me, the perception of HR needs to change globally. We need to be the Switzerland of the World, the neutral territory that supports both the businesses and the people. That’s my passion, to lead the global revolution of change in a profession dominated by women, to be that woman of contribution at the forefront of change that is clearly needed and wanted.

If I could travel back in time, would I change my life? Yes, probably.

There are things in my life that I would do differently.

I don’t have regrets in life, but I have made mistakes like everyone does, and I have learned from them and in some cases all too late. There are odd things that perhaps with hindsight would have helped me get on this path sooner than I did. Because I was different I was bullied, and rather than retaliate, I became full of fear and withdrew into myself. Right now, given the chance to help the younger me, I would encourage me, to gain the confidence that was taken away from me at such a young age and to follow my dream.

“There is no harm in being different; the bullies who act in such a horrible way, can only see that you are better than them, that you will be the best. Just laugh at them and with them, and don’t ever ever give up on your dream”

I am now following my dream, to make that difference in the world today for my profession and for business. Yes it took a while, and there are hard days, but I know with the support of those around me now, I will be successful.
And I know that in continuing my quest, that the profession will become more, that I have succeeded in making that difference to people around the globe.

My legacy will be that change. When I am gone, my legacy will stand firm, “she really made a difference”.

This months guest post is written by Leanne Pogson, Founder of Leap HR and Financial Contributor to The Pay it Forward Series: Notes to My Younger Self book.