13 Minute Read

A list of reasons you should shut up:

Lists. Love em or hate em, they’re part of every industry, never more so than when people make them as a marketing ploy. But lately the level of vitriol, and frankly, complaining has reached a fever pitch. And I have decided to say something about it. Why? Because every time a list comes out (and it’s up to about 3 times a week these days) the kvetching commences:

Why isn’t the HR lady from my hometown on here?

How come the head of this advisory firm isn’t on here?

Do these people really influence HR professionals?

When was the last time this person actually recruited?

How much did any of these people bill last year?

This isn’t representative of my region/experience/career/online consumption habits!

I place no values in these lists…I just came here to say that. I’m too busy to make my own list or be on social to make these lists but not too busy to endlessly debate on every single list how worthless they are.

I used a methodology of my own making to judge this list and have deemed everyone on it an idiot, even though I’m on it, which is why I’m sharing it but really let’s give the credit to people who aren’t social, ergo aren’t on these lists, ergo don’t give a SHIZZ about being on these lists or this insipid conversation I’m having on Facebook right now.

I’m not mad. I’m a little mad.

Some people thought I was mad at them on Facebook for stating my issue with the people who “pooh-pooh” lists. I’m not mad at any specific person, except those who explicitly says or implicitly implies that everyone who IS included on a list (no matter how infrequently), is naturally “full of hot air” or not a “real influencer”. (A word that my Grammarly plugin doesn’t even identify as a real word FYI).

So….I now find myself in the awkward position of defending lists that never really mattered to me one way or the other. I long ago learned that Twitter followers don’t translate into cash, Klout perks are generally free Youtube shows and McDonalds and the only thing being a LION gets you is lots of requests to “review your resume”. While I am always flattered to be on lists, I don’t think they mean much from a billing or professional stand point (other than they DO grow your influence). What DOES mean a lot is when my professional character is impugned BECAUSE I am put on lists. P.S. No one tells you when you’re going to be put on these lists.

While I was in the middle of a “sorta” debate with Jason Warner and Paul DeBettignies, two men I call friends and colleagues (on Rob McIntosh’s wall no less, also a friend and colleague) I was placed on yet another list, immediately mocked. Of COURSE. (Note: the list is linked and here is the description: So we’ve compiled a list of over 100 of the top human resources leaders on Twitter. These are the thought leaders, experts, and mentors of the HR industry who can help keep you at the top of your game.) 

Still, when I walked into the office today, I learned that one of my employees, Shaley McKeever had been put on a list with noted notables like the CEO of Buffer, Sharlyn Lauby, Stacy Zapar, Michale Wolfe and lots more. The title of the list is: Hiring for Growth: 10 Twitter Accounts You Need To Follow. You know what? You may not know the name Shaley McKeever, but that company does and the readers of several blogs do and I personally have been training her for over a year for this moment, which she is incredibly proud of. (Note: Here is the description of that list: Featuring HR heroes, recruiting rockstars, and some founders and CEOs, too, here’s the definitive “Clinch list” of 10 Twitter accounts you should be following if yours is company that’s hiring for growth.)

And she DOES influence people. As we speak, she’s creating candidate personas for an international food client and they’re damn good.

So here’s my stance on lists. Pooh-pooh them all you want.

1) Lists are subjective so shut up.

Our digital media manager, Eric Foutch, wrote a list awhile back that simply stated who had influenced him. Guess who was on the list? PEOPLE WHO INFLUENCED HIM. How do you get a say in that?

2) Influencer is not the same as doer.

Sometimes it is, but not always, and that’s okay. A university professor may no longer work in public relations, but he influences generations heading to work in that capacity. For example, I talked to Jason Lauritsen the other day about how sometimes being a leader and developing people means putting my own work to the side. Instead of writing every day, I edit like 10 articles. Do I still influence those in the HR space? You bet your ass I do.

3) Just because you’re not on a list

doesn’t mean you aren’t good at something. I….shouldn’t have to explain this.

4) Just because someone is on a list

doesn’t mean they’re bad at something. How about checking out their work before fussing? Doing social properly in addition to your job isn’t nothing.

5) If you do not like lists

do not spend literally all your time talking about them. Or? Use that time to create your own list. I promise it’s harder than you think. Crowdsourcing is fine. But don’t expect a marketer who wants people to talk about their product to create a list to your specifications, why would they?

6) Stop mocking marketing folks.

They have their ultimate aims. You have yours. Build your list to your aims and let them build theirs. Just be nice.

7) Finally, here’s my “500-word run-on sentence” directly from Facebook:

Okay but what is frustrating about all these conversations is the implicit correlation between the “lazy listmakers” and the people placed on the lists. It’s as though if you MAKE a list, you cannot possibly be an influencer and that is flat out, not true. Also it seems that everyone has ideas about what the lists should be, but save John Sumser no one has done it “right” so far, maybe because it’s a heck of a lot harder than anyone thinks in addition to one’s regular duties (when I was at RecruitingBlogs, I saw how long that project took with three people working on it in some capacity). So if that’s difficult in addition to your regular duties wouldn’t promotion and consultation, strategy (do NOT get me started on strategy) and social be just as hard to manage in addition to the every day duties? And shouldn’t there be some credit given to those who do it, and do it well? And finally, if it is SO hard to find these people, to glean information from what they are doing, and how, then what is their influence TRULY? It’s one-to-one and maybe their budgets, policies and decisions impact their employees directly — but to the new recruiter in Oregon who doesn’t work for that person and has no idea how to write a compliance policy or administer benefits to their 58 employees or how to deal with ACA or which ATS to select — and sees an article of Jessica Miller-Merrell’s or listens to a podcast of Rayanne Thorn to get some inspiration and how-to advice or downloads an article from one of my clients or blog to get some insight, how on god’s green and fruitful earth…is that NOT deserving of the title influencer? Multiply that by the body of work of any of these folks I so kindly name-dropped and many others on the list who have been around for quite some time and thousands of follwers, updates, sharing of information and some pretty amazing careers with some of the world’s biggest brands….Sorry I don’t buy it. Please do not get me wrong. The hard workers on the front lines who influence individually should get credit and recognized for their influence, and to Andrew Gadomski’s point, I bet they do with bonuses, titles and the deference of their team as well as classic corporate recognition. But if you work socially, and promote socially and other people notice it, it should not be assumed that the work is not good or worthy or that it’s not influential. Finally, if everyone hates the lists, make a list that meets your criteria. Let us know how long it takes. /rant

This rant wasn’t directed at any one in particular, more the way it seems cool to poke fun or put “thought leaders” in quotes as a way of implying that one’s body of work is somehow inferior. Or to give these lists more importance than they deserve, but to shine the light on what seems to be a spirit of complaining and tearing people down (whether marketers or bloggers or the people on the lists). I think it started 2-3 lists before the infamous Glassdoor list and has continued on with every list since. Can we all just agree that while flattering, these lists are clickbait and not rush to judgment either way about who is on them?

Master Burnett said this, which I agree with: I don’t have a problem with lists, but I do have a problem with lists that have a title and are based on easy to get data that has nothing to do with the titles (sic) scope.


P.S. Lists are, by nature, finite. Not everyone gets to be on them…