Everything I Know about HR, I Learned from Clair Huxtable

At the age of eight, I wanted to be a ballerina dancer when I grew up but my ballet instructor told me I danced like an elephant.

When I got a bit older, I wanted to be a doctor but looking through my mom’s RN magazines and journals made me say, “EEEEWWWW!”

When I was in 5th grade, I wanted to be a model but someone told me the best option I had was to wear some “pretty plus” sizes for a local fashion show.  (Egads…that resulted in a few pounds of tears)

When I became a teenager, I wanted to be a lawyer…more specifically; I wanted to be Clair Huxtable.  My mom let me watch one hour of TV on weeknights and on Thursday nights; “The Cosby Show” was my show of choice.  For those of you old enough to remember, you’ll recall Cliff and Clair had five children, a whole host of family issues and a barrel of laughs.  It was a great sitcom and I consider my time in front of the TV on Thursday nights time well spent.  (BTW, the other ½ hour was spent mooning over Michael J. Fox in Family Ties)

Looking back over my years spent watching the Huxtable family; I realize how much I learned from Mrs. Huxtable, and how much of that is being applied to my career.

Clair was unapologetic for the fact that she was a working mom

She demonstrated a continued commitment to her career while outlining the probability that one could do that AND be a good parent.  I hope I have done the same thing in my 18+ years of work, thereby sending a strong message to the youth I influence as well as the colleagues I respect.

Clair was focused on her vision and values

Her resources, her decisions and her behavior were fully aligned with her objectives and her values.  Had she been a CEO, she would have been ahead of her time when it comes to both.  Nowadays, we know we should be following her model in our companies.  (Shoot, half of my leadership courses are called “vision based…” so that should tell something about what I believe!)

Clair was consistent

Certainly there are many times in a parent’s life when it’s “easier” to be inconsistent, but, with Clair, inconsistency wouldn’t have been fair.  I deal with this every day – whether it’s with the implementation of policies and procedures or considering mitigating factors regarding a disciplinary issue, I must analyze and identify “fairness” in the execution of my duties.

Clair was a strong role model and mentor

She mentored other professionals and coached her own and neighborhood kids on issues ranging from work to relationships.  I am asked to do the same thing and therefore, I need to set the example and take the time and energy to mentor/coach those in the workplace who need additional help.

Clair was an assertive communicator

She spoke her mind and she communicated her feelings openly and honestly.  We rarely saw her engage in aggressive communication.  With the exception of the occasional passive-aggressive behavior regarding Mr. Huxtable’s diet and food choices, we didn’t see her act in this type of childish manner either.  I try to do the same!  How else can I expect and encourage employees to play nice in the sandbox if I am unwilling to do so?

Clair was persuasive yet never pushy, bossy or antagonistic

(Ok, perhaps she was, on occasion, with Mr. Huxtable, but his behavior cried out for it!) She demonstrated great listening skills and used logic and reasoning when explaining things to others.  I, too, need good listening and negotiating skills.  I also need to demonstrate sound logic and critical thinking skills when using rhetoric.  I use these skills when I talk a manager off the ledge or stop some executive from shooting him/herself (and the company) in the foot!

Clair was playful

Whether it was with her kids, husband, friends, colleagues or clients, she made things fun.  I was smart enough to realize that “real life” wasn’t that easy and jovial but nonetheless, I saw the benefit of lightening the mood, poking fun at a situation, etc.  This is indeed valued in the workplace and thus, I try to keep things lighthearted when I facilitate team building sessions, work staff through interpersonal conflict, etc.

Clair was human

She lost her patience, she had a few slips of the tongue, she (at times) held resentment towards others, etc.  However, she always came full circle and took accountability for her feelings, her actions, her behaviors, etc.  The last I checked, I was human too, but I try to have the courage and self-discipline to take full responsibility for what I do, or fail to do!

So there you have it, what I learned from Clair Huxtable was far more than you would expect when it comes to learning from most situational comedies.

By the way, I’m not a lawyer, although I have played one in my career (totally legit…I promise).

I entered a career far more challenging and rewarding than law; I’m a Human Resources Professional.


This post was written by Heather Kinzie, SPHR, GPHR.

With expertise in recruitment and selection, training and development, job analysis and design, labor and employee relations, and investigations/risk assessment, Heather provides business leaders, HR professionals and management staff practical, relevant and valuable HR consultation through her consulting company, A Leading Solution. She offers a variety of engaging facilitation services including workforce planning, strategic planning, team-building, and process analysis and redesign.

I connected with Heather on twitter a few months ago and we became fast email buds. She is super intuitive, fun, funny and candid! Heather lives in Alaska and, in addition to her HR business, she runs a successful yogurt shop! Read more of her writings and connect with her HERE.


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