Embrace technology. Seek therapists if you feel out of control. With the emergence and growth of teletherapy, many will be able to get the help they need right in the comfort of their own homes and work on various coping behaviors and stress managers.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to develop serenity and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard Polak.
Richard Polak is a 35-year HR veteran who specializes in HR forensics, benefits consulting, workplace productivity, diversity and inclusion. He is on the board of the Alliant and American Benefits Council Global Leadership team and based in Los Angeles, California.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
I was always interested in people vs finance. Having a father who was in the US Army afforded me an opportunity to grow up in many countries around the world and become very cultured at a young age. I chose to specialize in global human resources these past 42 years because it my upbringing that gave me an appreciation for other cultures, their way of life and how they do business.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
My most interesting story stems from my Forensic HR Consulting work. The world is global now, more than it’s ever been. Employers are now receiving emails from around the world directly to the CEO about stealing or nefarious acts within their companies. I get called in by the CEOs to investigate these issues. They’re all very interesting and unique. One story was in China when I was actually in Wuhan 18 months ago where a client of mine received an email that the head of HR and the director of sales have started their own company, competing against the firm just two blocks away. I went to China to investigate and what I discovered was quite fascinating.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
There’s a simple formula to “thrive” and that’s to make sure that you love what you do. If you love you’re the work, it’s not really works and therefore something you truly enjoy. If you enjoy what you do, you will be more engaged. If you don’t love your work it may be because you’re in the wrong company, have the wrong manager, or you’re in the wrong industry. Assess all three of these areas because each one of those can be changed at any moment and change the trajectory of your life. Avoid burnout by ensuring that you regularly take breaks. Even if you enjoy your work as much as I do, I take a nap every day. Sometimes those naps last 10 minutes and sometimes 30 minutes. I don’t recommend taking a nap longer than 30 minutes though. At night, turn off emails so that you get some down time and take a proper vacation every year.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
The way I run my companies looks quite unique. I called it the inverted pyramid: Employees first, customers second and money third. Employees are the company’s most important asset. There is no company that has a more important asset. If you value employees first, even over your customers, then they will be at their best to service your customers which will then lead to more money. I find it a better business model.
Is there a book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
There are many books that have had a profound impact on me. If it’s a business book, then I’d probably say ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’ because of the different ways each dad viewed the world. Outside of traditional business books, I believe biographies to be more relevant in business because they look at the human experience. If you look at the human experience and learn from it, you’ll be a better leader because you can identify with people more. People used to stay the like working with me because they knew I cared about them. They therefore tried harder and did better plus improved their own lives from what I’m being told.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious just from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each?
- Embrace technology. Seek therapists if you feel out of control. With the emergence and growth of teletherapy, many will be able to get the help they need right in the comfort of their own homes and work on various coping behaviors and stress managers.
- Get in regular exercise. It is proven that regular exercise is a great destresser.
- Have a well-planned out schedule. With so many things out of our control because of coronavirus, it helps to maintain a sense of normalcy by knowing what to expect each day that is within our control such as breakfast, lunch, and dinner schedules, work activities, etc.
- Spend time on financial education: finances are a stress trigger. Now is a great time to reallocate and create new budgets and aware of unnecessary spending habits.
- Take a 10–30-minute break each day and either mediate, nap, or take a walk to clear your mind.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Care about the people around you and the rest will follow organically. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care as the adage goes.
- Share resource support groups. Anxiety is a real condition and it helps to be able to talk to others who share in those same emotions and feelings. It can be very therapeutic.
- Create virtual get togethers such as yoga classes, dinners, or Netflix watch parties. Focus on activities that create a tribe mentality of supportive friends and colleagues.
- Seek out wellness and employee assisted programs.
- Read books that focus on self-help and opportunities to both learn and grow.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
Depending on your level of anxiousness it may be best to speak with your HR representative and see if your employer has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), that may be the first place to start. These programs are designed to offer free and confidential assessments that include short-term counseling. If your anxiety issues are deeper in psychoanalysis or psychotherapy, I suggest finding a qualified therapist and many are now offering teletherapy sessions as I said before.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Be who you are because everyone else is already taken,”- Oscar Wilde. There were so many times I’ve tried to fit myself into a position or a circumstance that just wasn’t right for me. 7 years ago, I sold my company to a big public Fortune 500 company and then became the head of their International Department; in fact, I created the international department for them. I just didn’t like working in a large company where politics of jacking one into a position exceeded the caring for employees and the customers. I realized that was not going to be a good fit for me.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
For an organization: Employees First; Customers Second; Money Third
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!