Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Why is BEING Strategic so Hard?

Many professions besides HR talk about being strategic.  I was speaking with an operations manager on a plane last week and he said that he was told he needed to be more strategic.  Why is it so hard to do?  It finally dawned on my this year that I'm not sure what "being strategic" means.  Do you sit around and think big thoughts?  Do you run scenarios all day to see which ones are right for the business?  Do you conduct external scans until a big idea comes?

I believe its more about THINKING strategically than just BEING strategic.  I can get my arms around thinking strategically.  According to Forbes magazine:
First of all, what exactly is “strategic thinking?” To think strategically requires founders and key team members to continually assess your business and your industry, and to apply new business insights. The goal is to use these insights to reinforce a company’s differentiation in the marketplace to achieve competitive advantage. You need to think strategically before your team can move on to the long or short-term strategic planning. You need both of these to make smart decisions on a daily basis. If you don't know where you're going, you'll have a hard time getting there!
I love the above definition and I think it applies to all functional areas of a business.   Thinking about HR for a moment, I believe you can apply the concepts this way:

In order to assess the business and apply new insights HR must:

  1. Understand that insight comes from taking what you know combined with key data, turning that into information and developing something that is relevant to the business.  I believe HR has struggled in this area due to the slow adaptation of metrics and analytics as tools to obtain insight.  
  2. Use critical thinking skills to be able to make connections between external and internal factors that lead to insight for the business. 
  3. Insight comes from understanding one's business inside and out.  Enough said.
If you don't know where your going, you'll have a hard time getting there unless HR plays a key role in strategic execution.  
  1. By being involved in the strategic planning process HR can lead the communication efforts on what the strategy means and WHY it is important to the business.
  2. HR has a perfect tool for setting strategic goals and cascading those down to the front line.  It's all about performance management.
  3. Because strategy fails most of the time at execution, HR can use its change management and communication skills to make sure the strategy is understood and executed.  
I guess the question is can you learn how to think strategically?  I have my opinion what's yours?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

How HR Can Transition from Business Partner to Business Leader

I have the honor of being a writer for Halogen's TalentSpace blog.  I have written a two-part series on HR Business Leadership.  I believe HR can be a business leader that just happens to be great in HR!

Click here to read part one.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What’s Your Super Power?

Today, I am honored to have an awesome colleague and friend as a guest blogger.  Angela Alper not only understands HR but she understands how HR can contribute to organizations by using insight to solve problems and develop world class talent.  Angela and I have collaborated on a workshop, "Using Influence and Impact: Becoming an Effective HR Business Leader," which focuses on three very important areas for HR professionals; insight, influence and impact."

What’s Your Super Power?

There are lots of good quarterbacks.  What makes Tom Brady better than someone else?  There are lots of good CEO’s.  What made Steve Jobs different?  Thankfully, there are many fabulous cooks out there.  So what makes Chef Jamie Oliver worth over $100M?

These people see the world differently than their peers; and they’ve figured out how to translate that vision into exceptional results!  We call that Insight. 

When combined with Excellent Execution, Influence and Impact, you can render yourself a force to be reckoned with.  Many HR folks ask us if this kind of impact is realistic in our profession.  The answer is definitely YES!  But, if you’re one of the many leaders we hear lamenting “not having a seat at the table” or “not having your voice heard,” there’s a good chance you need to work on one of these areas.

Think about Insight.  When you look at some exceptional leaders, one of the powers that make them unique is their ability to SEE things differently.  They see the big picture…They see the little picture…They see things completely outside the lines of the picture…And they connect all of those dots to bring an understanding to their world that others just don’t have. 

Steve Jobs could see the demand for play, ease and personalization in technology before the user even knew enough to ask for it.  Brady can see the shift in the defense, process his options and settle on a course of action in the blink of an eye.  Jamie Oliver can intuitively imagine and design a world where a love for food and the call for more conscious consumption can start in school.  I call that INSIGHT.  The ability to see more than others and the knowledge to use that vision to make an impact.

In a recent Fast Company article, Robert Greene, author of Mastery, a study of history makers like Darwin, Ford and Mozart, was quoted to say, “The worst thing you can do to your career—and your life—is to allow your brain to get stale…”  He advises developing an interest in a study of science or literature.  "Spend some free time delving into this new field that interests you but is not directly related to what you do," he says. Your goal here is to broaden your perspective and ideas. 

Consider the findings of a Credit Suisse 2014 study.  Evaluating the results of 3,000 companies around the world, the conclusion was that businesses with at least one woman on the board outperformed those with no women by an average of 5%.  While the study did not attempt to address causality, it might not be a huge leap to assert that companies with more diverse perspectives might see more dots and, by connecting those dots differently, be able to arrive at more effective solutions.

If you’re not convinced, consider Booz and Company’s Global Innovation Study of why some companies outperform others.  Booz & Company’s annual study of the world’s biggest R&D spenders shows why highly innovative companies are able to consistently outperform. Their secret? They’re good at the right things, not at everything.  So how do they figure out what’s right?  These innovative companies rely on Need Seekers, Market Readers and knowing their Technology Drivers (the company’s internal capabilities.)  They are building the strategic and intentional formation of Insight into their model!

So ask yourself, HR Leader, can anyone do your job as well or better than you?  If the answer is yes, well, that’s another subject for another day.  If the answer is no, then why not?  What makes YOU younique?  Can you put your finger on it?  Can you articulate it?  Even better, can you leverage it to expand your impact? 

Do you have Insight?  Do you have a point of view?  Do you intentionally and continuously cultivate it?  Do you use it strategically to interpret the landscape in front of you and decide where and how to go?  If not, there’s no better time than now to become Insightful!  Until then, bon app├ętit!

(photo from canstockphoto.com)

Monday, January 5, 2015

15 Ideas for HR Leadership in 2015

Never has the need for HR Leadership been stronger.  The HR profession has definitely seen its fair share of negative press over the last few decades.  What is needed today is STRONG HR BUSINESS LEADERS.  We need business leaders that know and understand business and by the way, get HR.  In other words, we need business people first and HR specialization second.  Not the other way around.

The call for business acumen by organizational leaders has almost reached the broken record level.  The problem is that HR as a profession has not stepped up and answered the need.  The need for problem solving, financial acumen, ROI modeling for people investments and workforce planning that uses the business needs first not HR's.

The next question is HOW do get more business leadership in our profession?  I wish I had all the answers but here are a few ideas that I have captured over the last year from attendees and clients when this subject came up in conversation:

1) When considering an advanced degree, think about an MBA.  An MBA exposes students to all facets of the business, so a strong business foundation is laid.
2) Become best friends with your CFO and ask him questions about the financials.   Participate in financial overviews and meetings
3) Get familiar with HR Metrics and the story they are telling
4) Spend time with you sales teams to understand the products and services your company delivers, understand the customers and the competition
5) Understand how a dollar flows though your organization.  What is the profit margin?  Is it good or bad?
6) Solve business problem proactively
7) Participate in all strategic discussions
8) Take the lead on the execution of business strategy as the execution piece is where strategy fails
9) Fix performance management. Period.
10) HR needs to learn the language of the C-Suite and Finance.  It's universal language spoken by all business leaders.
11) Ask compelling questions to everyone
12) Link all data, insights and investments to IMPACT using ROI/Costs/Profits as the basis
13) Participate in external business activities that continue to hone your business acumen
14) Surround yourself with other effective HR Business Leaders
15) Be courageous...getting out of your comfort zone takes courage

This list is not exhaustive by any means.  Please comment and let me know how you think HR can up its game as far as leadership is concerned.  Maybe you think we are already there....do tell!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Why HR Needs to be Influential and Why Now?

At the end of last year, I wrote a blog on HR and Influence.  Since that time, I have been doing a lot more thinking and researching on the topic and why it matters to HR.  I really became interested in influence and why it matters to HR when I spoke to HR professionals in Shanghai, China.  Its a concept that seems to be universal amongst our profession.

I have had the pleasure of working with Angela Alper on our new workshop, "HR Business Leader: Elevating Your Strategic Influence and Impact" this year.  We have learned some very interesting concepts as it relates to influence.

First, its important to understand what we are talking about when it comes to insight, influence and impact and how they relate to one another.

-The ability to understand people and situations in a very clear way
-An understanding of the true nature of something
-The power or act of seeing into a situation
-The act or result of apprehending the inner nature of things or of seeing intuitively 

-The power to change or affect someone or something without apparent exertion of force or direct   exercise of command 
-A person or thing that affects someone or something in an important way
-The power of capacity

-To have an effect on, to influence, to alter,
For me, the relationship on the three concepts above is this:  
You have to be able to use insight to gain influence in order to create impact
Why is influence important to HR professionals today?

  1. The demand for people-related insight is in high demand from the C-Suite
  2. HR is at a professional crossroads again being pressured to show impact, prove impact and demonstrate impact
  3. If HR has influence then the whole discussion about the very tired table would never be an issue
  4. Its about raising our profession to the next level
  5. It's time

Why do you think influence is important to HR?  Maybe it's not...do tell.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

An HR Surprise in Shanghai

I have just returned from Shanghai, China a trip of a lifetime.  Ed Nangle sand I had the honor of delivering our workshop,  "Moving HR from Transactional to Strategic: Becoming an Effective HR Business Leader" to approximately 16 top HR leaders from multi-nationals companies with operations in Shanghai and Beijing.  

I didn't know what to expect when I arrived for our first day of class.  I was definitely nervous.  "How was the language barrier going to play out?"  "Will our HR best practices translate well?"  "Does their political and governmental situation impact the way they do HR?"

Well, language was not an issue, matter of fact I had one attendee say "Bless your heart" to me.  Also, since the firms are multi-national firms, they employ best practices in HR form the US, Germany, Great Britain, etc.  Even though China is a communist country they have some of the same legal implications as we do regarding contracts and overtime for example.

What I thought was fascinating were the similarities faced by HR professionals in China and the US.  When we asked what their top issues were they sited:
  1. Talent shortage (skills)
  2. Employee productivity (getting more with less)
  3. Employee engagement
  4. How to demonstrate HR's value to the organization
Do those sound familiar?  

What was even more interesting is that HR is a relatively new discipline for these companies.  It's maybe 15 years old.  But, what they have learned and absorbed in those 15 years is phenomenal when I think of where we are in the USA after having an HR discipline for 100 years.  

I have never seen a group who wanted to stay AFTER class to chat and ask questions.  We gave them a choice of 3 assignments to compete upon our return in September.  Most of them wanted to do all of them not just one.  Their thirst for HR knowledge was so refreshing.  

I believe the Chinese HR professionals will make great strides in HR.  They have and the advantage of lessons learned and what not to do.  SO, they are taking that knowledge and building on that.  So their attitude is not one of "why aren't we valued" and more of "I'll prove our value."

I think we could use a little bit of the latter in the US!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Changing a Profession Takes Courage

Taking the bull by the horns

Making decisions quick and asking for forgiveness later

Speaking up, demanding to be heard

The three statements above have one thing in common.  It takes courage to do all three.  I have been thinking about some of the common themes I have heard from over 600+ HR professionals that have come to our workshop, "Moving HR from Transactional to Strategic: Becoming an Effective HR Business Leader."  One of the themes I have been giving some thought to is the idea of courage in HR.

I think it's time to rustle up all the courage we have as a profession.  At a time where we have our National Association fighting like siblings over our credentials, our profession continues to struggle.  We have made strides post recession, but as Joe Gerstandt would say, "we need to fly our freak flags."  HR needs to do an about face and revolutionize the way companies manage their most precious asset, it's talent.  We need to make sure we use our INFLUENCE and IMPACT to make our businesses successful AND profitable.

In our workshops, we have heard statements like:
"I feel like I can go back to my company and demand to be involved in strategy.  The absence of HR in those discussions could be the difference in executing flawlessly on strategy or failing miserably."
I could not agree more.   When I ask our attendees why they don't BE MORE DEMANDING, I hear responses like these:

  • HR has been told its broken for years so why bother
  • HR professionals do not realize how what they do IMPACTS the bottom line
  • HR professionals that understand the impact, can't MEASURE it
  • Business leaders outside of HR have preconceived notions that HR is administrative 
  • Courage is not a characteristic usually associated with HR professionals due to lack of respect
The last one of course made me pause for a minute, but then I realized:
 Courage is something that everybody wants — an attribute of good character that makes us worthy of respect
And then it hit me...finance and accounting may be a necessary evil, but when they talk people listen.  Those functions are respected.   The same sentiments for sales, the are respecting because they have tangible results.

It's not about the piece of furniture...the question becomes how can I gain my company's respect.  Answer....Be bold, don't wait on invitations, speak up, solve problems, do something innovative, dye your hair, get a tattoo....BE COURAGEOUS!!!