CAHR19 Speaker Spotlight: Interview with Stacey Lewis

At the 2019 California HR Conference, we’re all about elevating HR’s position in the corporate world. Come get the knowledge you need to transform your role and ensure that you’re seen as a strategic business partner – especially at speaker Stacey Lewis’s Monday session, You Have Finally Got A Seat At The Table………Now What?!?!. Get the inside scoop on Stacey Lewis’s session in our CAHR19 Speaker Spotlight!

This interview is brought to you by Darlene Cohen, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, an official #CAHR19 writer. Darlene is Chief HR Strategist with HR On Call Solutions. Darlene’s interviews with CAHR19 Speakers feature key questions from an HR perspective to help you find the sessions and speakers that will best serve you and your HR career. Learn more about Darlene below.


Written by Darlene Cohen
Featuring Stacey Lewis, CHRO & Director of HR, Port Of Long Beach

As HR professionals, we’re used to hearing the question, “how does HR get a seat at the table?” Stacey Lewis, CHRO for the Port of Long Beach is a leader in command who owns that “seat” HR professionals yearn for. You can hear her command of leadership in her voice, and her passion for human resources is inspiring.

Stacey Lewis at CAHR19

In college, Stacey Lewis majored in psychology, and her HR career started as summer internships at a real estate company and the FAA. After college, she landed a role as a technical recruiter, and the rest, as they say, is history. I had heard about the fascinating Stacey for years in conversations with one of my favorite HR Gal Pals who reported to Stacey at the Port of Long Beach. Stacey is an engaging, smart articulate HR professional with infinite energy, personality, and extensive HR experience. 

Stacey earned the CHRO role and her seat at the table using the same strategies she will passionately share with us during her session on Monday, August 26, 2019 at 11:15am to 12:30pm appropriately titled “You Have Finally Got A Seat At The Table………Now What?!?!” I spoke with Stacey to learn her thoughts, ideas along with recommendations on how anyone and everyone can earn a seat at the table.

Here are the results of our animated conversation.

CAHR19 – The current binary choices for HR is the term people and culture instead of human resources. In your opinion, what makes the focus on people and culture different from human resources?

Stacey Lewis – HR is the synergy, consciousness, and culture of organizations. All of those fancy titles focus on only one piece of HR. When talking about people, culture, and experience, we have to be careful these titles don’t box us in. Yes we want to be progressive, however we need to ensure these new titles accurately reflect our actions, deliverables, knowledge, competencies in alignment with our people, culture, business acumen combined with everything that is now human resources.

CAHR19 – As HR in most organizations continues to evolve, how can HR leaders navigate past outdated negative perceptions of HR as paper pushers and position themselves with not only a seat at the table but as independent confidants to the CEO? 

Stacey firmly believes HR professionals are so much more than “just HR,” we are strategists in addition the center of gravity for most organizations. According to Stacey, “if you’re in HR, you already have a seat at the table.” The CEO owns the dining room and to use Stacey’s words, “we are the table.” HR professionals should stop asking for something we already have. We need to position ourselves in alignment with the CEO and other leaders to navigate and execute sustainable organizational essentials.

CAHR19 – A critical component for having a seat at the table is business acumen. Please share any wisdom on how HR practitioners can sharpen business acumen and align action with organizational strategies?

Stacey Lewis – Development of assertion navigation techniques is required for HR practitioners to effectively assert themselves. Critical primary steps include learning the business and the operations side during meetings with leadership. An important rule, Stacey says is “never assert yourself in strategies you know nothing about which has the potential to ruin your success and potentially destroy your credibility.” Stacey recommends “offering” to attend CFO meetings, and other high-level meetings by contributing proactive HR support during the session. Conversely, another recommendation is extending HR meeting invites to the CFO and other highly visible leaders. Stacey refers to this as a strategic tradeoff” for the coveted seat at the table. HR professionals should frequently secure information on how HR can navigate and support organization leaders. Having leaders attend HR department meetings ensures leaders are not threatened by HR attending department meetings.

CAHR19 – HR continues to be the profession of choice for college graduates and individuals seeking career changes. What are your recommendations for transitioning into HR?

Stacey shared the first question, she asks anyone interested in an HR career is “why” are they interested? Stacey frequently speaks to undergrad business students at Cal State Long Beach. During these engagements, she shares her love for HR and informs students, HR is not for the faint-hearted, and interested candidates must be comfortable stepping out of cozy comfort zones into the fire. Being diligent and continuously studying your craft is also a requirement. Acknowledging and knowing when to push and when to step back is also of equal importance. It’s also imperative to be okay with identifying the pink elephant in the room and pointing out discrepancies.

CAHR19 – What books would you recommend to HR professionals?

Once I asked this question, Stacey’s excitement was evident, she is an avid book reader with an appetite for reading inspirational books. I have included her comments regarding the four books she firmly recommends any HR person should read:

  • Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell –  “I love this book, it’s an excellent book, a must-read, this book continues to inspire and impact my success as an HR professional.”
  • It’s Time For Something Different, by Lucy Adams – “I’m digging her”
  • Dare To Lead, by Brene Brown –  “Phenomenal book, I absolutely love it, it speaks to all the things I embrace as an HR leader.”
  • Make Your Bed, by Admiral William McRaven –  “A daily affirmation book, if you don’t manage the small tasks in life, no way are you able to do bigger things.”
  • The Year of Yes, by Shonda Rhimes –  “This book speaks to how HR professionals typical take care of everyone and frequently says yes to everybody but ourselves. This book inspires people to think I can do this or something else.”

CAHR19: What are three key takeaways for this program?

Stacey Lewis: One is the “Seat At The Table To-Do List.” You’ll have to come to the program and learn the other two.

It was an absolute joy speaking with Stacey. If you’re seeking to learn more about the HR seat at the table, please join Stacey for 75 minutes of highly engaged learning, fun, along with an impressive execution at the 2019 California HR Conference!

Written by Darlene Cohen
Darlene Cohen, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, is Chief HR Strategist with HR On Call Solutions. As PIHRA VP of Professional Development from 2014-2018, Darlene was instrumental in curating HR sessions at the 2015-2018 California HR Conferences.

A SHRM Certified Professional and certified Senior Professional in Human Resources, Darlene earned her Bachelor Degree in human resources management and organizational management, and earned a Master’s Degree in organizational leadership from Nichols College.

Darlene blogs on LinkedIn and you can also follow her on Twitter. Darlene is an esteemed member of the #CAHR19 Writers Coalition, covering the 2019 California HR Conference in Long Beach. Register today to join us August 25-28 for HR best practices and California fun!