By Dasha Kelly Special to Published Mar 01, 2008 at 1:44 PM

Have you ever stopped to consider the skill inventory of human resource (HR) professionals?

True, most of us only experience their know-how upon the entry and exit of a company, during the unforgivably narrow window for benefits enrollment or (cue scary music) to mediate between you and an evil co-worker or manager (because, as everybody knows, the problem is never you).

Other than this limited exposure, no one really knows what happens on the HR floor. We're not even sure what qualifies these folks for their jobs. Best I can tell, they either carry certificates from the Marquis de Sade Academy or started their careers as sunshine-cheerful kindergarten teachers.

Well, throughout my years as a working adult, I've managed to glean a little insider intel about these mysterious people. Namely, I've pocketed some of the golden nuggets they use in the "human" part of their jobs. Common sense stuff, once you say it out loud, yet powerfully simple enough to dismantle, diffuse, expedite and elevate hundreds and thousands of employee charges: progressive discipline, work / life balance, "sandwiching," performance consulting strategy, etc.

This weekend -- surprisingly, I must admit -- one of the HR gems popped into my head: be specific when giving praise. Bustling about behind their curtain, they've discovered that giving compliment and showing appreciation tends to go a lot further when the words are attached to precise events.

Thank you for helping with that project; your enthusiasm kept everyone on motivated.

I like what you wore to this event; you look polished while still appearing approachable.

I appreciated your input on our report; I know those reference lists can be tedious.

I thought of this little HR jewel after complimenting a trainer on an absolutely electric presentation. What had sprouted in my heart by the end of her 40 minutes was a pulsing, glowing, deep-in-my-soul gratitude. What came out of my mouth when I approached her, disappointingly, was "You were fantastic." She hugged me, thanked me, stood patiently while a speedily blathered a bit before I stepped aside and allowed her to hug and thank the next person.

Walking away, I could practically hear the shameful hiss of my enthusiasm deflating. I wanted her to know how intense her energy was, how engaging her stories were, how insightful I found her advice to be, that both her passion and confidence were practically palpable, snuggling between every molecule inside the small conference room.

I wanted to tell her that she made me cry. She made me proud. She made me want to reach deeper. She made me want to be more.

You were fantastic?

What a bonehead.

In the elevator, I remembered the HR folks and their specific praise. I knew then what I needed to do to give this unsuspecting angel her due:

Dear Yvonne Marshall,

I wanted to share with you, once again, how much I enjoyed your presentation at the MIC training. You did more than make an impression on me, you gave me several gifts:

You demonstrated a fresh brand of energy that I can strive to incorporate into my own public speaking.

You reassured me that "roads less traveled" can, indeed, wind themselves into one's life purpose.

You added the missing two dimensions for the profile of "that kid" and "those people" who want and need our words, even when they don't act like it.

You convicted me to embrace my passions where they are and reminded me that passion is an internal fuel, not a measure for expended effort.

These gifts, as you can imagine, will be paradigm shifting for me. Thank you for sharing your experiences and thank you for allowing me the opportunity to tell you what an impact the session has had -and will continue to have-with me.

Oh, yeah, Yvonne, you were fantastic!

Dasha Kelly Special to
Dasha Kelly is an eloquent and accomplished writer who is able to unfold the spoken word into a variety of precision tools: as a performer, lecturer, or instructor. On the creative side, Dasha has published a novel, All Fall Down and three audio compilations of her original poetry. These earned her a place in Written Word Magazine as one of the Top Ten Up-and-Coming Writers of the Midwest. The Milwaukeean performs her work regularly throughout the nation and has opened concerts for comedians Tommy Davidson and Damon Williams and neo-soul artist Angie Stone. In 2007, Dasha will appear on the sixth season of HBO presents Russell Simmons' Def Poetry Jam.