Reinventing Human Resources from Native American Wisdom

If you want to know how to make your company retreat transformative, I recommend you get some advice from Jennifer J. Riley, who invited me to join her team this week to teach them how to authentically brand themselves on LinkedIn so that they attract “their” people and help their people find them – clients, employees, vendors, partners, etc.

Branding helps you find “your” people, meaning the kinds of people you enjoy working with and for. It helps you engage with people who need what you offer, know people who need what you offer AND appreciate the approach you take. Successful branding results in building connections that are most likely to achieve tremendous outcomes from working together.

Jennifer’s business is family law, and she is a curator of people. I am one of those people.

Jennifer does not just provide legal services. She has a very inspiring vision of reinventing family law to provide the support that people need to rebuild after legal matters, such as divorce, devastate their lives and their shared resources.

The theme of the company retreat I presented at was New Horizons. All of the retreat’s programming was intentionally designed to stabilize her staff after tremendous growth during one of the most challenging times on the planet to be alive, so that the team can lay a strong foundation from which to build these programs and services.

Jennifer was very fortunate to have grown up around Native American elders who would frequent her parent’s store. She is in the process of setting up a third office location and home in Tucson, AZ, where she hosted her retreat at the ridiculously gorgeous Hilton El Conquistador Resort.

To honor the traditions of the land, the hotel welcomed Larry Redhouse, a Native American flutist, to perform a sunset fire ceremony. At the time Larry started, the evening’s banquet was just beginning and the photographer sent us down to get a group photo. So we all happened to be on the lawn in front of him. As he began, we all fell silent in full reverence of this ethereal sound while the sun blazed the mountains that loom behind the resort with brilliant colors – pink, bronze, and gold.

I am not ashamed to admit that tears fell out of my eyes from the sheer beauty of it all. I felt transported. As he ended a song he turned to us and asked if we were all together in a group, to which we proudly replied that we were the JJR Law Firm party. Then he turned to face us and imparted some Native American wisdom to us along with the rest of his captive audience, all of it deepening our connection as the colors of the mountains grew richer and richer.

A few of his words made the tears drop faster. For one, he advised us to “let it go.” Let go of the pain and anger of wrongdoings against us. Don’t let the pain distract you from the treasure all around. He also shared the philosophy of Mother Earth. Larry pointed to the mountain, which seemed to be shining from within down upon us rather than just reflecting the sun, and told us that to Native Americans, the earth is not a resource; it is a life source. Native Americans appreciate every gift the earth provides, and as we witnessed later that evening when the Yellow Bird Indian Dancers came to share even more about the Apache culture via dance, song, and storytelling, they pay tribute with dance and song for all of the gifts it provides.

Imagine for a moment if this was our normal way of being, not only at home, but at work – paying tribute with song and dance to the pen that signs the accord, or the software that computes the data, or internet that connects us all. Sometimes I do wish I could dance and sing and make technology work better, especially lately. However, the elder dancer of Yellow Bird said that the rain dance they performed was a song of gratitude after the rain, not to will the rain. These traditions are not of asking, but of gratitude. They gladly give back to Mother Earth and take care of Her needs.

I think you know by now where I am going with this.

So, now imagine if companies recognized people as their life source. It would probably look a lot like the retreat, for starters. Jennifer wasn’t just concerned with upskilling her people so that they would produce more. She recognized what they have already produced, especially under extraordinary circumstances. She provided them with training on tools that will enable them to make an impact on the planet that they find meaningful, as well as to protect their data.

She made sure I took the time to help one of her attorneys, Patrick (PJ) McGinnis, craft a LinkedIn invitation to those interested in learning how to protect equine therapy locations from compliance issues, a passion of his.

Another member of her tribe, Cara McClintock-Walsh, secured world-renowned author Colum McCann as a keynote speaker to engage their intellectual and emotional intelligence by being led through his Narrative 4 process.

Jennifer nourished not only her team’s minds, but also their bodies and spirits. She had a nurse teach them how to better care for their physical, emotional, and mental health through the pandemic and beyond.

And yes, they learned team building from a Trader Joe’s team developer.

All the while, she made sure we ate the best food and experienced the beauty of the area by immersing us in it with a fascinating guided hike at Catalina State Park followed by standing yoga.

The resort was not just gorgeous, but highly tuned in to the needs of the group. Someone merely overheard Jason Warburton, Jennifer’s husband and Facilities Manager, say that he forgot his sunglasses and dropped off three free pairs to his table!

Now imagine what this looks like every day. Imagine if company leaders really understood that their workforce is – more than a transactional exchange of output (production) to input (salary), but an ecosystem that needs balance to sustain itself. Furthermore, companies are a part of larger ecosystems, and need to consider the interconnection of their actions and decisions on the world around them.

What if the job of Human Resources or Human Capital was not to get the most out of their investment, but to put back what they harvest? What if doing no harm to their life source was a priority and a minimum standard?

Imagine if companies saw people, not money, as their life source. And what if the individuals of these companies also recognized the earth as a life source? How differently might decisions be made?

If a company really embodied these Native American philosophies, what would we call Human Resources?

Maybe if companies prioritized offering their talent something in the hiring process instead of focusing on what they can garner from candidates, the Talent Acquisition Department would instead be called the Opportunity Center.

Since many people seem interested in disrupting HR, it now makes perfect sense to me to not look to build a better model from scratch, but to borrow from the models gifted to us from wise civilizations around the world – an integrated model. It also makes sense to me to do the same for all the other models that need disruption.

Once these values are imbued into your corporate culture, please, don’t let what happened to indigenous cultures and traditions happen at your company! Find ways to make sure that the elders of your company pass on their wisdom and that the newer members keep the traditions alive!

Make sure your company is not only offering a living wage, health benefits beyond “sick care”, and ample time and conditions for rejuvenation of mind, body, and spirit, but also make sure your people are celebrated and appreciated.

Karen Huller, CEO of Epic Careering, is the co-founder of The Consciousness Conference (ConCon) and the C3: Corporate Consciousness Co-op community on LinkedIn. She is the creator of the Corporate Consciousness Ripple Blueprint and author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days. She founded Epic Careering, a conscious career and leadership development firm specializing in executive branding, talent-values alignment, and conscious culture, in 2006. 

While the bulk of Mrs. Huller’s 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales. Her solutions incorporate breakthroughs in neuroscience, human performance optimization, bioenergetics, and psychology to help leaders accelerate rapport, expand influence, and elevate engagement and productivity while also looking out for the sustainability of the business and the planet.

Mrs. Huller was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer, Certified Career Transition Consultant, and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot. 

Mrs. Huller was an Adjunct Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department and an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. As an instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, she has helped two of her students win the 2018 National Competition to be named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs, to win the 2019 People’s Choice Award, and to land in the top 8 during the (virtual) 2020 National Competition.

She serves on the board for the Upper Merion Community Center, which she helped establish, and is an advisor to Florida International University for their Women in Leadership program. For her service as Vice President of the Gulph Elementary PTC, she received recognition as a Public Education Partner and Promoter from the Upper Merion Area Education Association. Mrs. Huller has also been the lead singer for Harpers Ferry, a rock cover band, for 20 years. She lives in King of Prussia, PA with her husband, two daughters, and many pets, furry, feathered, and scaly.

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