Making Space for Excellence with Paaras Parker and Jessica Baron
Jessica Baron, Vice president of Centennial Inc, talks with Paaras Parker, the Head of Human Resources at Kroger Digital. They start things off with a conversation about family.
Family Principles Through the Generations
Paaras’s family moved to the Cincinnati area from Pakistan when she was just about to enter kindergarten - and this is a huge move for any family. They navigated through the transition the same way. Paaras lives her life now - according to 4 principles: Be honest, do good work, give back, value something bigger than you. There really shouldn’t be a distinction between your personal life and your work life when it comes to these principles.
Starting at Victoria’s Secret
Back when Paaras was starting work, there was no digital, but she needed a job in between semesters of the university. Like most people back then, she printed off her resumes and walked the mall until she got to Victoria’s Secret, where she was interviewed, and then hired on the spot. She wasn’t expecting it but loved the company, their values and how they invested in her training and education. Her family wasn’t wild about the idea initially but trusted that Paaras would make the right choice for herself and her career. Looking back, she thinks that the mix of great experience in business at Victoria’s Secret, and the psychology classes she was taking were an absolutely winning combination.
Connections and Transitions
Paaras’s position at Global Lead is where things really came together. As a consultant who is also a woman of color, getting to help other organizations optimized employee success. As a consultant, you learn the method of your firm, but you also need to spend time learning about the businesses you’ll be working with - this means building relationships, giving yourself time to learn and make mistakes, solidifying your network. Having mentors has also been critical to Paaras’s success, including Dr. Janet Reid, who taught her that you need to find people who are going to be honest with you.
Helping Others Succeed
There’s a big difference between help and enable. Paaras talks about what it means to help someone vs enable them to take action on their own. She talks about how she uses this idea at home with her children and draws parallels for how it can be done in the workplace. Jessica points out that Centennial and the Talent Magnet Institute believe strongly in the connection between how you show up at work and how you show up at home, and she and Paaras discuss how you need to create the space for people to be their best. Paaras leads with trust and believes her fundamental role is creating those spaces. She’s grateful that other people have done that for her in the past.
Is Independence Ever a Problem?
Letting people take the lead and make all of their own choices can definitely backfire. Everyone processes information and goes about work differently. This means it doesn’t always work the way you want it to. Paaras shares her process for giving people room to grow and experiment, but make sure that objectives and outcomes stay prioritized. When you start with the outcome you need and empower people to meet it, more often than not - they will, and all you have to do as a manager is coach and check-in.
Human Resources is Changing
HR, historically, has been the department you call when you need to fire someone, or were otherwise in a bad situation. Now, HR’s function is shifting into how people work, how to support them, and how to make sure you have the right people doing the right things. The focus is on the talent of the individual rather than solving a problem.