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  • Writer's picturePaul LaLonde

Be Seen and See Others – Street Level Influencer: Get to Know Olga Piehler

No act of kindnessno matter how small, is ever wasted. – Aesop


I’ve been writing a lot about the power of the Street Level Influencer. I argue that some of the most impactful people in our lives are right in front of us! We just need to remember to tap into those around us for their wisdom and influence.

So, I’ve been working hard to put the spotlight on some HR pros in my network who have provided me with life giving energy recently! My next few blog posts will be a series where I get to share stories of some amazing individuals that you should connect with!

So far in the series, I have introduced you to:

I continue this series by introducing you to Olga Piehler. I first came into contact with Olga on Twitter when she reached out to connect! I was immediately captivated by her positivity. Olga always has an encouraging word to say or comment to give. She will go out of her way to help pick a person up, even if that means digitally! Olga is altruism personified!

My growing friendship with Olga is a perfect example of the power of the internet to bring people together. We may have never gotten to know one another if neither of us chose to be intentional about reaching out to others via social media. I am very excited to bring her story forward.

The most interesting aspect to this Street Level Influencer story is that Olga is not an HR professional! Yet, she found it important for her to connect with HR professionals on social media. She’s a testament to how influential HR can be, and how important the profession is to the business world. She cites examples below as to why HR is important and why she is connecting with HR professionals despite her not being in that world professionally. It is important to Olga to cast a large net and learn from as many differing perspectives as she can.

That’s a lesson everyone should believe in! Olga is a sweet, empathetic person, whom I hope you connect with! She will definitely brighten your day!

 1. Where do you currently work and what is your role?

I help people during one of the worst times in their life.

I am a team member in North America’s largest single provider of funeral, cremation and cemetery services. We are dedicated to compassionately supporting families at difficult times, celebrating the significance of lives that have been lived, and preserving memories that transcend generations, with dignity and honor.

Interestingly, and perhaps somewhat unusual in this day and age, my experience has been with ONE company for 18 years. I was employee number 8 for a small start-up company called Making Everlasting Memories (MeM). MeM delivers Software As A Service (SaaS) that aids Funeral Homes (and staff) in the personalization of the services they provide to honor a life lived.  In this manner, we work in a B2B environment although the output of our software/platform is received by a consumer family.  My beginnings at MeM were very humble … I came in to help with filing after having left my PhD. program in Australia (after the 9/11 events) and having to “figure” out what to do next with my life.  Fast forward 18 years, I am currently ​part of the executive leadership team at MeM.  My team is a cross sectional team of extremely talented individuals and our mission is to ensure that our customers trust, know, and want to use our platform so they can provide the highest level of benefit to the families they serve. We work closely with the delivery team (IT side) to ensure solution-based product development and we advocate to represent the goals and interests of our clients. In between, I have gained​ ​extensive experience supporting software deployment in a SaaS platform. We work in an agile environment and deploy software to over 2,000 properties across North America. I oversee all change management and implementation; negotiate with the Director of Technology product releases as to minimize impact to our customers while maximizing value; provide guidance and recommendations in product enhancements/changes based on customer feedback; involved in aspects of software platform design to ensure usability and scalability to meet the needs of our multiple customers. I am also responsible for the design, development and oversight of all strategic, revenue-generating initiatives that achieve customer acquisition and retention objectives.

  1. As a professional not with an HR background, how do you see HR fitting into the success of an organization from your perspective?

I believe the role of HR teams is extremely critical in organizations, particularly given the current climate of Digital Transformation during the 4th Industrial Revolution.  For a long time, and given older management and business models supporting command and control practices, HR teams in most organizations became compliance and process keepers and administrators of the rules governing the organizations.  I believe this contributed to many team members viewing HR teams as individuals to fear instead of partners in their success.

HR Teams have been PROCESS focused and they must become more HUMAN focused.

As organizations start to wake up and make the necessary changes from within to enable them to be successful in today’s world, HR Teams will be required to become Strategic Business Partners to aid in the transformation required to get teams/organizations ready for the Future Of Work (which really is the Present of Work).  I believe HR teams of progressive and successful organizations will be engaged regarding what are the organizational strategies and how the organization will deliver them by helping define the people strategy with a focus on the employee experience.  Develop career intelligence by re-scaling and up-skilling jobs within the organization by understanding which jobs will grow or shrink in the upcoming years and creating an environment of flexibility, adaptability and continuous learning that supports internal mobility. Understanding what skills are currently present INSIDE of the organization and how to tap into them.

  1.   What do you like about HR that has you connecting and interacting with so many in the profession?

Over the last little bit in my life, I have come to understand that I am an HR person on the inside – I guess I don’t have the credentials behind my name to make me one on the outside.* I didn’t strive nor aimed to connect with HR professionals in particular.  The connections organically grew as I followed and participated in conversations with like-hearted individuals who believe in the innate value each one of us possess and have a deep commitment to leave the world better than we found it.  Before I knew it, I found myself in the middle of this beautiful community and most of their inhabitants happened to be HR professionals (on the inside AND outside!). I believe ANY true servant leader is an HR professional on the inside.

*Editor’s Note: Having HR certification does NOT an HR practitioner make. Yes, having credentials is a great achievement worth celebrating, and I am a SHRM Certification Ambassador who believes in getting certified IF ONE WANTS. However, there are thousands of amazing HR professionals that are not certified. An HR professional’s worth comes from within themselves and through the work they accomplish on a daily basis helping employees and organizations. It doesn’t come from arbitrary letters following their name! – Paul L.

  1.   What was your biggest professional success? Why was it important to you?

My TEAM. I joined MeM as employee number “8” and helped it grow and be what it is today. At the beginning, like in most “start-ups” roles were very loosely defined – we had titles but the title did not “define” what we did … we simply just DID.  One of my early roles was to lead the Customer Service Team – and I’m proud to say that my first hires are still within our organization (now in very senior roles – software developers and creative design).  I have people in my team who have been with me for their entire career in most cases probably over 12 years. We are recognized within our parent company (Service Corp International) for our Customer Service – best in the company! Other Team members got advanced degrees while being part of the team and have left the organization and are doing GREAT things in other places.  Yet, when they are in town they stop by for a hug, to see how we are doing and share what they are doing and may even organize a small get together outside of work.  That gives me a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment.

  1. What was your biggest professional failure? What did it teach you?

Leadership Absenteeism – during my 18 year career, there was a period of about 2 years where I just “didn’t have it in me.”  I was exhausted, emotionally drained, unable to personally cope – after the birth of my second child, I developed postpartum depression. I never told anyone at work. I just kept “working” and wearing the “mask” that all is ok. Shortly after, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and what followed were 6 years of one crisis after another until her passing. Then, a year later, my grandmother passed.  I say all this as to contextualize where I found myself as a leader and how my inability to healthily cope with it all transformed my performance resulting in Leadership absenteeism. I DISAPPEARED to my team.  I couldn’t serve them as I had no reserves in my tank. I even grew resentful at times. This was a very dark period in my life and career. I felt inadequate as a leader and unable to lead.

What did it teach me? I learned that the concept of “COMPARTMENTALIZATION.” It’s the WORST advice we can give our team members as they struggle inside or outside of work.  It’s a fantasy to think someone can do that in a healthy way as they work through BIG challenges for an extended period of time. As a young leader, I was conditioned to think that way – emotions have no place in the workplace and was penalized for an inability to hide them or “compartmentalize” well.

As leaders we must create safe spaces for our team members to bring their full-selves to work each and every day.  A big part of who they are, it’s their emotions and the issues they may be trying to cope with.  It’s our responsibility to be there for them and with them in periods of growth, periods of challenge, life events (good or bad). That’s how we lead.

  1.     Who’s one person in your network that readers should know about?

Minda Harts – author of The Memo: What Women Of Color Need to Know to Secure a Seat at the Table.

  1.   How can people connect with you?

LinkedIn and Twitter are the two social platforms that I’m most involved in.  I deeply enjoy connecting with others and contributing to conversation.

  1.   What’s one thing you think the world should know about you – personal or professional? Have fun with this one!

I deeply believe that it is my responsibility to make an impact for the better – to use my time on this earth to bring my LIGHT to others so that they can bring their light in return and convert energy into JOY and LOVE and BELONGING. Every interaction in my life provides an opportunity to do so – as a mother, a partner, a friend, a colleague, a neighbor, a stranger. EVERY interaction. I believe WE ALL are walking miracles, and we have a responsibility to grow to our fullest potential to repay back the universe for the investment it made in our creation.

​ Be Seen and See Others​ – is my message to the world. Be seen: Know thyself, and be courageous to bring YOU into light for others to “see” you. See others: Provide a safe space for others to know themselves and be courageous to bring their light for others to see – Witness YOU and Witness OTHERS.

My purpose is to help remove obstacles that stand in the way of others from fulfilling their purpose. And my vision is to bring beauty, joy, inspiration and love into the world one interaction at a time.

My super power is ​Ignition – I can see potential, and I can transfer the energy I feel from that potential onto others so they can move forward, I can create excitement and momentum and provide an environment conducive to forward movement. I can make others “feel” what is possible and “want” what is possible.

I LOVE my children​ – two incredible humans. Being a mother is all about Leadership. I always felt like that innately, and then when I heard Bob Chapman shared that thought I felt validated – like, YES! I knew it! It’s having this incredible “seed” in you care that has within it the potential to become all it is to become and you get to provide the right conditions for it to flourish.

I LOVE my dog​ – like I never “got” dog-moms, and then I became one, and it was game over!  She provides me with this sense of UNCONDITIONAL LOYALTY. She is companionship and everyone in the family claims she is “my favorite.” I deny it of course (but wink, wink!)

I LOVE people​ – I genuinely DO. I know I embarrass my family at times because I don’t know a stranger, but I also know they feel more connected to this world because that’s the case. We don’t live in isolation (that was something I couldn’t get used to moving from Spain to the States – how anonymous one became). We are surrounded by walking miracles with stories and hearts. We are all TEAM HUMAN and in each interaction – however small – we are given the gift of being present and meet another member of our team.

I LOVE life itself​ – the mere fact that we get a chance every day to go at it again.

Message from Paul: Thank you for reading! Thoughts, views and opinions on this site are solely my own or my interviewees and do not represent those of my employer or any other entity ​with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

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