HR Influencers
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Pursuing Potential

By Lisa Gordon


Lisa Zangari has built her career on the pursuit of potential.

After 25 years of human resources experience in the high-powered global mining and technology sectors, she is now the CEO of her own consultancy firm, Toronto-based Epic Engagement.

The name of her company says it all: Zangari makes it her personal mission to empower leaders to achieve excellence on a grand scale. Nothing less will do.

It’s a vision she has seen clearly since she was a teenager considering her future career. Today, Zangari’s passion for helping others is reinforced by solid real-world experience and a results-based mindset that helps people uncover their true potential.

HR Professional caught up with Zangari to discuss her work and its very best reward: that “ah-ha” moment when clients find their voice and begin to navigate their path to success.


When did you decide you wanted a career in human resources?

Lisa Zangari: I think I was about 18 years of age and as I was contemplating university, I knew I wanted a business degree. HR interested me because it was just being recognized as a professional discipline and it was the vehicle to impact the lives of others. I had a passion, even at that young age, to help people reach their full potential and help business achieve results through people. So, I pursued my Bachelor of Science in business and HR from Lake State University in Michigan.


What was your first HR job?

LZ: Growing up in Timmins, Ont., I guess mining was in my blood. After school, I was hired by Placer Dome as an HR coordinator at a mining site in Northern Ontario. It was a remote mine and so my schedule was four days on site and three days off site. I loved it because the spectrum of opportunities was large and my manager was very hands-off; he let me get involved with everything – compensation and benefits, union work, everything from soup to nuts. I was immersed in the business and felt I had the best induction into the profession.


Tell me about your current job. What are your main areas of responsibility?

LZ: I spent about 25 years working for big international mining and technology organizations. In January 2016, I decided to step out of the corporate environment to start my own consulting practice called Epic Engagement. I had great experience from every aspect of my career, which is vital to what I’m doing now. I concentrate on three areas: helping CEOs and C-suite executives in strategic planning sessions to optimize their organizational design; offering facilitation – such as leadership sessions, training and also the human resources business partner curriculum from HRPA; and performance coaching, where I focus on the C-suite as well as HR executives looking to develop their own capability, structure and strategies. I enjoy working with people who really want to get the job done and achieve extraordinary results!


What do you love about your job?

LZ: I love the “ah-ha” moment when people realize they have the answer; they have the ability to reach their potential and do what they were meant to do! Whether through facilitating a leadership or strategic planning workshop or in a one-on-one session, I love helping people find their answers and do things they didn’t believe were possible.


What are the challenges you experience in your job?

LZ: When we’ve achieved a project’s desired outcome, it’s time for me to say goodbye to my clients. What I find most challenging is disconnecting. I am very invested and a part of my client’s team – so even though my job is done, I don’t always get to see the outcome of my work. Saying goodbye is difficult.


What’s key to leading HR during a difficult time for a client organization?

LZ: I think agility is extremely important. I believe one size doesn’t fit all and I don’t subscribe to theoretical answers for every situation. I think that every business and every leader is unique. Working closely with them, understanding the root issues and looking at all the available resources to customize the right solution is very important.


What are the necessary competencies for success in HR and how do you think those have changed throughout your career?

LZ: For me, authenticity is the number one requirement for a successful HR professional. Understand your own values and how they contribute to the work you do. Second, have courage. As you progress through your career, find your inner courage to make your point of view known. Articulate your passions in a way the business will understand. Next, be strategic. Being strategic means understanding the business from an internal and external perspective. What challenges are coming and what solutions should you implement in order to stay current and deliver the strategy? Finally, be consultative. You are a partner to the business in every regard. You must understand where it is and where it’s going and then bring out your HR toolbox to provide insight and solutions that will help leaders deliver their strategy more effectively.


What tips do you have for new grads or those in entry-level HR jobs who want to move up the ladder?

LZ: Get involved with everything! When a new opportunity arises that may not be in your direct line of sight, take it anyway. The more experience you have in every facet of HR, the more credibility you will have in the future. Second, make your intentions known. Make sure your manager understands that you want to progress and what opportunities you would take. Finally, I would say it’s important to listen to your gut, find your voice and deliver results.


The HR field has been evolving. What changes excite you the most?

LZ: The whole notion of the future of work: automation, technology and its uses. These are key considerations in HR. I think that HR leaders have a very important role in helping the business define how it can be most efficient with its use of technology, artificial intelligence and actual talent. Every business is different, but these things are upon us and they are changing the landscape of the business world in general. I think we are at a point in time where we can recreate what an organization actually looks like!


What’s the future of HR?

LZ: If we follow this trajectory, I see HR as a very important consultant to the business. I think it’s very exciting because we have so many options at our disposal. There are no limitations to how we can help the business become more profitable while leveraging talent!



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