Editor’s Note: Women of HR contributor Rowena Morais will be writing a series of posts over the coming months featuring successful HR leaders who talk about the habits made the biggest impact in their professional lives. Today’s post is the first in that series.
Self-described kibitzer on all things enterprise HRM and HR technology, Naomi Bloom is well-known for having built the only vendor-neutral HRM domain model and application architecture “starter kits”. Her IP has been licensed across the industry from 1995 through 2013 and has been considered a primary contributor to many of today’s best practices in HRM enterprise software. Her early start was as a Programmer at John Hancock Life Insurance in the 1960’s where she was trained in programming, software design and systems analysis.
I got in touch with Naomi to talk about the habits that led to her success because the research I had done indicated that she was renowned in the HR technology industry. With more than 17,000 Twitter followers, Naomi is a frequent speaker at HR conferences and the author of Human Resource Management and Information Technology : Achieving a Strategic Partnership. Her industry contributions have been recognised with the IHRIM’s Summit Award and in 2011, and Naomi became a Fellow of the Human Resource Policy Institute at Boston University. Naomi’s BA is from the University of Pennsylvania, with a major in English Literature and a minor in natural science. Her MBA is from Boston University.
In discussing the most powerful habits that Naomi has relied on, in running her solo practice over the last two decades, it was clear that the experience of her early years was impactful. She found the questions on habits particularly useful because it is important to see the distinction between habits and KSAOCs (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities and other Characteristics) – they are not the same thing.
Habit #1 – Disciplined work
The first habit Naomi drew reference to was her habit of disciplined work.
Her mother passed away when Naomi was young. However, she was surrounded by three generations of family and her grandmother proved to be a big influence on her.
“This early life taught me about the value of hard work, living up to commitments and about sticking to a schedule. I am smart but I’m not a genius. If you add good work habits to your normal habits though, this becomes a force magnifier,” she shared.
Habit #2 – Critical thinking and lifelong learning
This second habit is an interesting one for the fact that it’s a two part combo. It’s a challenge in itself to develop the mastery associated with thinking critically, let alone the dedication or quest for lifelong learning.
As Naomi puts it, “Lifelong learning is really about a commitment to always be vesting yourself in your skills and your knowledge.”
To never stop learning is a skill that may take a lifetime to develop and certainly, one that needs to be worked on with dedication, ambition and relentless energy.
Combined, this would mean being on the lookout to gain alternative points of view and teaching yourself all kinds of new things. But where it all comes together is when you apply critical thinking to that whole process.
Habit #3 – Tikkun Olam
Tikkum Olam is a Jewish concept which literally means “repair of the world” and is being interpreted by modern movements in Judaism as a commandment for people to behave and act constructively and beneficially.
Naomi explained it as representing a moral obligation, in every Jew, to leave the world a better place than they found it.
Overwhelming as it sounds, this may be achievable by ordinary folk because you are expected to do what you can. You can do this by raising your child properly, by embarking on a recycling initiative or even doing volunteer work. It would mean that if you had a dollar, you would give part of it away. If you could teach, you would devote some of your time to teaching someone else.
These were the three primary habits that Naomi referred to.
Were these habits consciously developed from when she was young? She did not think so. Naomi was greatly influenced by the adults around her as she grew. Her father was an early riser – he worked hard and for long hours which meant Naomi did not get to see very much of him. She spent a lot of time with her grandmother, who being religious, imparted strong values in her.
It did not mean, however, that everything she was taught, was accepted so easily. There were things Naomi resisted.
For example, coming from a modest family, Naomi grew up at a time when there was a lot of anti-semitism in the air – you learned not to call too much attention to yourself.
Yet, Naomi couldn’t help crying out against the injustices she saw. As she put it, “I didn’t know it when I was a young kid but I realised in my late 20’s that I was a feminist from my earliest days. I rallied against the discrimination I saw; I just called it out”.
She almost got fired for asking too many questions, when early in her career, she discovered that men received more pay for the same work. She protested the Vietnam war, much to the chagrin of her family. But the point Naomi made about all of this is that you are in charge of and responsible for your own life.
You get to a point in your life when you realise that you cannot blame your parents for where you are in life. You get to a point where you begin to accomplish things and – happily – you give yourself credit for that.
The habits you choose however – because it is a choice – are what will set you apart. And while Naomi considers herself fortunate for having picked up some really good habits along the way, you and I both know, these were choices she made for herself that have led her to where she is today.
What habits do you aspire to build that you believe will make the difference in your life?
About the Author: Rowena Morais is the Editor of VerticalDistinct.com, helping individuals develop their professional abilities and career to the fullest in either Human Resources or Technology. She is also Editor of the quarterly human resource magazine, Accelerate. She graduated from the University of Glamorgan, Wales with an LL.B (Hons) and is a regular blogger on personal growth.