At what point on that path did becoming CHRO become a real possibility?
I think it probably took me maybe a little longer than most to discover that. I am very honest with people that I think I suffered a little bit from the imposter syndrome. There was always the little person on my shoulder, questioning myself and my capabilities, wondering when everyone was going to figure me out. I was very fortunate to be surrounded by people who believed in me and my potential and kept pushing me to do more than I thought was ever possible. That was important, because whenever anyone asked whether I wanted to be the CHRO, I usually answered that I was still looking to learn and grow.
In my last HR generalist rotation, my leader encouraged me to create a development plan aimed at becoming CHRO. I dug deep to understand my own personal focus as it related to work, talking with some of my early career mentors and examining the values that I held most dear. Through that work, I recognized that my value of human connection is what gives me purpose in my work. The idea that I could do that at scale inspired me to put that goal on paper.
We built a personal and practical development plan anchored around three things. First was identifying and then gaining exposure in places where I hadn’t yet, including exec comp, HR policy and board governance. The second was broadening my leadership with a rotation into the talent center of excellence. And third was the inner work — becoming comfortable and confident in my ability to step into such a visible role.
I spoke with Brian about what was important to him in a CHRO and the partnership, and to share who I was, what I valued and how I think about the job. It was a great conversation. I walked away inspired to bring my true self to the role and supported to learn and grow along the way.
One question in that conversation really stands out. Brian asked me about how he could help me prioritize being a working mom in an executive role, and a model for the organization. I had two very young kids at the time. As a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister and a community member, taking on this role and being allowed to be an example for Target was a real privilege.
What experiences earlier in your career best prepared you for CHRO?
The combination of my HR business partner experiences and leadership of the Talent COE were great building blocks. HR at Target has a strategic seat at the table. So there’s an expectation that you have a high degree of business acumen. These experiences deepened my understanding of the business and my ability to develop and lead a highly-integrated talent and culture strategy.
Exposure to the board was also important. My leader started inviting me to conversations with the HR and comp committee through the lens of my talent management role. I knew that success would also be dependent on building and broadening relationships, and I got a lot of permission to start building some of those relationships that helped me inside and outside the boardroom. I’ll never forget my first board meeting. Brian pulled me aside seconds before and said, “Remember to just be yourself. This is a team effort and we’ll do this together.” I felt really safe and supported in that development experience.
Looking back at the pandemic and social unrest of 2020, what leadership capabilities and characteristics stood out?
We knew from the start that leadership was going to be infinitely more important. I don’t believe the role of the leader is going back to what it was like before the pandemic. I think human-centered leadership, focused on empathy, vulnerability, humility and authenticity, is going to be a big part of leading, no matter how technical your job is.
While there were many systemic and programmatic things we did to take care of the team during 2020, leaders were critical for cultivating what we call a culture of care. Our leadership development team invested in studying the leadership characteristics that were thriving during the pandemic, and then layering that into how we worked with our leaders.
We identified six characteristics of leadership at Target that were going to be of outsized importance: empathy, resilience, inclusion, prioritization, clarity and communication. Then we doubled down on tools, resources and just-in-time training for all of our leaders. We also took a close look at how we define our C-suite roles, and made sure that characteristics like humanity, community leadership and empathy would remain parts of the success profile for future leaders.
What will the CHRO of the future look like?
The CHRO is becoming even more central to the success of the business. Skills like general management, broad-based business acumen, strategic mindset and emotional intelligence are going to remain non-negotiable for the CHRO job. If you look at just the past year, in addition to digitizing a full employee life cycle overnight, many of us extended into crisis management, communication, risk and reputation. We became obsessed with a world of work where the health, safety and wellbeing of your people is top priority. And then you layer on top of that all of the rules around work that have changed and how that's been really catapulted us to reimagining the organization.
I tell my team all the time that I think this is such an exciting time to be in HR — and particularly at Target. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play a leadership role in the current global conversation about the future of work, starting with the future of how we work at Target.