Bruce Waller’s HR Superstars Series, meet Steve Browne

Sharing Leadership Lessons in an interview with Bruce Waller…

10 Answers from HR Leaders that make a difference! 

I once heard Sara Blakely, (CEO Spanx) say, “The more you experience in life, the more you have to offer others.”  Today, I want for you to experience more by learning from some Super Stars serving in HR! I am inspired by people every day who model great leadership for others through their daily actions in human resources. These leaders have common threads that include empathy, love and care for people. They value people and the importance of relationship building.

In this HR Super Stars interview series, I want to introduce you to some of the best of the best in HR! These leaders make impact and will share challenges, successes, and perspectives on their journey as a business leader and in their personal lives. My hope is each person will inspire you and challenge you to become more for others on your journey.  So, let’s get started and meet our HR Superstars!

Today, we are going to hear from my friend Steve Browne, VP of Human Resources, LaRosa’s, Inc.  Steve serves the HR community well as a Director at large for SHRM, as well as a speaker, author, and HR advocate in the great state of Ohio. He is not only a great resource in the profession, but he is also one of the most genuine and  caring leaders I know. It’s an honor to  share this interview with you. 

Now, let’s meet Steve! 

  1. Where did you grow up?  Ada, Ohio
  2. How did you get started in business/career?  I’ve been in HR, and only HR, since I graduated from college over 30 years ago. I became interested in the field because I needed to be in a profession where I can directly work with people. When I started my career, the field was barely being called Human Resources. After I took a class on Interviewing and my classmates voted that I should be the person who interviewed myself, I decided to find a role in recruiting. I began my HR journey in recruiting at a Fortune 100 company right after college. 
  3. Do you remember a challenge or life lesson that you had to overcome early in your career which made you a better leader? Leaving the Fortune 100 company to become an HR Generalist was the biggest challenge I faced early in my career. You have to understand that people don’t willingly leave this company. In fact, when I shared that I wanted to find a different and broader role, I found a ton of resistance from recruiters and companies. They yearned to work for this company and couldn’t comprehend why someone would walk away from that type of opportunity. My search for my next role was very hard because of this. However, it made me look for an HR role where I could impact the culture instead of being pigeonholed into a narrow position. After several months, I landed at an entrepreneurial start-up where I was an HR department of one. I loved the company and the chance to truly interact with all of our employees. It made me see that HR has been, and always will be, about people and culture !! 
  4. What was that moment when you knew that you had found your lane, your purpose? I learned this while working at the entrepreneurial start-up because I saw that HR could be intentional, hands on, emotional and raw. It didn’t have to be buttoned up and restrictive. I found that I could meet people where they worked and lived and allow them to perform, excel, contribute and grow. The company was like a giant laboratory where I could experiment with a more people-centric approach to work and HR. Once I experienced that, I made sure that I was able to continue that type of experimental and evolving form of HR every place I’ve worked. 
  5. What is your most valued achievement, and why? Becoming a father is my most valued achievement personally. It’s a gift that I will always cherish. My kids are now adults and I can’t wait to see who they become. Along those lines, I was the Scoutmaster of Troop 941, and I was able to see 23 young men earn their Eagle Scout rank under my leadership – along with other great dads. To know that I was a part of their journey gives me great joy because they’re already launching into the world to make it a better place. 
  6. Is there any one person who inspired or mentored you along the way? I have a best friend who happens to also be my mentor named Fred Eck. Fred is a retired HR pro who showed me the value of being involved and connected in the greater HR community. He connected with me several of his peers who became my friends as well. We touch base weekly even now just to check on each other. We don’t just talk about work and HR. We mainly talk about life. He is an anchor in my life. 
  7. Do you have a saying or creed that you live by? I don’t know that I have one saying or creed. I do believe that you should model the behavior you expect in others. I believe in lifting others up and meeting them where they are in life. So, I’d say I’m more of a person of belief, faith and action than I am of a saying/creed. 
  8. What book(s) are you reading or audio to help grow your leadership right now I’m a voracious reader and have two to three books going at the same time. So, I’m reading “A Storm of Swords” from the Game of Thrones series, “The 9 Faces of HR” by Kris Dunn and I plan to start “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown. 
  9. Can you share any of your daily disciplines that help you stay focused as a leader? I make sure to say “Hi” to every employee in the office and stop to see how they’re doing. Every. Day. I also do this when I visit our locations in the field. It’s the simple principle that I learned from my boss – “Acknowledgement is the best form of recognition.” So, I won’t miss the chance to see a Team Member, greet them and see how their day is going. I make sure to daily invest my time in the lives of others. 
  10. What advice would you give others to help them on their leadership journey? Be genuine and authentic. Without these two facets in your daily life, you can never become a leader. People need to see, and know, you care. When they can see that they matter to you, they’ll begin to see you as credible by your behavior. Then, once you’ve earned that, you can begin to consistently lead.

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and insights, Steve. This was so inspiring! 

Some of my takeaways include… I didn’t even know they had interview classes in college. Self-awareness is so important for us in our career and in life. Don’t be afraid to step out… and into something that is on your heart. Warning – courage is required. I love how your approach to a new company is like a “giant laboratory”. What a great way to learn about people and how to connect with their hearts. Being a father is truly a gift and an incredible achievement. Everyone needs a Fred Eck! It’s important to have someone to talk with on a regular basis about your career, as well as in life. I always say it doesn’t matter if you are a mentor, or a mentee, just be one! Absolutely love this… model the behavior you expect in others, lift them up, and meet them where they are in life. Acknowledgement is the best form of recognition. Go out and connect with your team members- everyday! Get to know them… Books are one of our keys to growth! “Dare to Lead” was one of my favorites this year and getting ready to dive into “The 9 faces of HR” by Kris Dunn. I want to also plus your great book “HR on Purpose” as one of my favorites too! …and lastly, I appreciate and value the advice you share —- be genuine, authentic, and caring. This is when you build real influence as a leader.

We truly appreciate you sharing and letting us get to know you better, Steve. You are an HR Superstar and inspiration to many because of the way you model leadership for others in the HR community! Keep being you my friend. The best is yet to come! 

What are your takeaways? Please share in comments below and be sure to pick up a copy of Steve’s book, “HR on Purpose”. It is available on Amazon, as well as Audible. I have read it and highly recommend it! Steve also has resources you can access at THE HR NET! Check it out…

Congratulations, Steve Browne! You are making a difference!

This interview was submitted by Bruce Waller, CRP, PHR, SHRM-CP, Vice President of Armstrong Relocation and Companies in Dallas, Texas. If you have questions, or would like to recommend someone to be featured in Bruce Waller’s HR Superstars Series, call 972-389-5673 or email bwaller@goarmstrong.com. You can also sign up for the weekly blog and read in “A Relocation Minute” at brucewaller.com

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