What It Takes to Be a Human Resources Hero

J.R. Ball Human Resources, Issue 07 - Sept/ Oct 2013 Leave a Comment

Colliers International’s Mindy Geisser has the resumé of a HR officer, but the reputation of a rockstar.

By J.R. Ball

Imagine you’re a contestant on the hit 70s game show “Match Game.” Gene Rayburn poses the following question: “In order to excel in the role of Human Resources (HR) Director, a person would have to have plenty of ____.” 

What word would you choose? “Moxie,” perhaps? What about “mojo?” Maybe “attitude?”

None of those, you say? Fortunately for you, “Match Game” was cancelled 31 years ago and this is a make-believe scenario where you won’t be subject to a ribbing from Jack Klugman or Charles Nelson Reilly.

That aside, if you’re not accustomed to thinking of HR directors as passionate individuals full of gusto and vigor, perhaps it is time to get aquatinted with Mindy Geisser, Global HR Officer at Colliers Intl., based in Seattle. When people describe her, they use terms typically reserved for rock stars and beloved patrons made famous by good deeds and charity.

“She’s unbelievable”, said Melissa Lukes, Office Manager at Colliers, of Geisser. “She’s just so charismatic and giving of herself, personally and professionally. She genuinely cares about the community and goes out of her way to help people. On top of that, she’s my mentor and consistently challenges me to grow as a professional. I look at her, and I think, ‘Wow, I want to be like her.’ I don’t know how she does it.”

mindy_geisser_2Big Breaks

Due in large part to her humility and affable personality, Geisser credits others for the opportunities that led her to her current role as HR Chief in an organization comprised of more than 14,000 employees in nearly 500 offices across 62 countries.

“I was fortunate enough to have two big breaks,” Geisser said. “The first came after I graduated from college. I interviewed for an executive admin position at a small startup. A few days passed until the hiring director called me and said, ‘Look, I can’t hire you for that role because you don’t have the experience, but I really like your enthusiasm and mojo. Why don’t you come work for me in HR?” I replied, ‘What’s HR?’”

Despite her innocuous beginnings, her competencies in HR quickly gained traction. A year into her first role, Geisser was accepted into the HR Masters Program at the University of Minnesota. It was there a professor suggested that she move to a larger company in order to grow in the field.

“At the time, my professor was a former executive at Pillsbury who put me in touch with their HR manager. I flew to Louisville for an interview, and met a woman who—to this day—is one of my greatest mentors,” Geisser said.

The meeting would result in Geisser’s second big break—regardless of whether she believed it at the time.

“Coming out of that meeting, I didn’t expect to get the job,” Geisser said. “On paper, I just didn’t think I had the experience needed to land that role.”

What Geisser lacked in mastery, though, she more than made up for with intensity, verve and spirit.

“The next day, the HR Director called to tell me I had the job,” Geisser said. “I was shocked. She said she wasn’t hiring me for what I know, she was hiring me for who I am. And I remember the phrase she used to describe me: She said I had moxie.”

Keeping the Faith

Moxie, as well as mentorship, have become overriding themes in Geisser’s career—one that has spanned two decades and includes stops at such Fortune 500 companies as Amazon and Ingersoll Rand.

“When I started out, I was so lucky to have people who believed in me,” Geisser conveyed. “People who saw potential in me. In both instances, these mentors said ‘I want to teach you’ and ‘I want to invest in you’. Now I’m at a point in my career where I can invest in others.”

These days, Geisser has taken her desire to bolster the strengths in others to the next level, partnering with Harvard University to build a customized leadership program aimed at further developing individuals who are on succession plans for C-level leadership roles (see sidebar).

“The Harvard name carries such panache,” Geisser said. “But really and truly, we’ve been able to tailor their executive leadership program for our specific needs at Colliers. Developing the right tools and putting the right pieces in place to internally develop the next generation of corporate leaders is something I’m incredibly proud of it.”

Colliers_Mindy_061313Balancing Personal & Professional Life

But what Geisser is most proud of is not found inside the walls of Colliers’ corporate headquarters or within the Harvard executive training program. It is her family. Married with four children—including a set of 10-year-old triplets—Geisser says striking the right balance between motherhood her professional goals has been the greatest challenge of her life.

“My job as a mother is constantly something I’m thinking about,” Geisser said. “The biggest challenge is making a meaningful life with my family and my career. But the most important investment I make is with my kids.”

The beauty of the situation, she says, is that her family forces her to examine her work-life balance.

“I tend to be workaholic,” she said, “but when I start to get off balance, my kids bring me back to reality.”

Family, coincidentally, is what Geisser credits for her rock-solid work ethic. Her father, a self-made property developer, was the example she used to model her own character.

“My father recently passed away, but I can remember the positive impact he had on other people’s lives, including the way he treated those he did business with, and how he genuinely cared about the community and our neighbors,” Geisser said. “I think because of him I’ll never stop reassessing my own goals and making sure they are aligned to the changing needs of my family.”

If her intensity and commitment to others is any indication, it seems a safe bet Geisser’s goals will always coincide.

Colliers Goes Crimson.

J.R. Ball is a freelance writer based in Dallas, Texas.

Mindy's Key Partners:
Bluepoint (Leadership Development) | Dialexis (Sales Training) | Harvard Business Publishing (Management Training Materials) | Lee Hecht Harrison (Talent Mobility Solutions) | Nigel Frank International (Recruiting) | PI Worldwide (HR Consulting) | Pinnacle Performance Company (Communications Training) | Robert Half International (Staffing) | Towers Watson (HR Consulting) | WideNet (Web Development)

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