Thursday, March 28, 2013

Leadership is NOT for Sissies

Leadership is a privilege that comes with a tremendous amount  of responsibility.  At 48 years old I am just now learning how to become an effective leader.

What I now know is you can't be a great leader in a vacuum.  You have to be visible to lead.  You have to inspire and engage your employees/volunteers.

I also have learned you can't be a great leader until you look in the mirror.  I mean a long hard look. What has served you well in the past and in other situations may not be your formula for success in your current situation.

I have been holding that mirror up now for almost 4 months.  I have learned that I have some great leadership characteristics around getting things done, crafting a vision and possessing a lot of credibility and integrity.  Those are all great and I am proud to have them.

Just like the old adage goes...ok what's the bad news.  Well, there is no bad news when you are dealing with leadership development.  It's all "good news" as my business partner said, because now you are aware of what issues need to be worked on.

I have a big personality and more than my fair share of confidence.  I see a goal and I will get there until it kills me or leaves dead bodies.  That style doesn't work for long and it certainly doesn't foster creativity, collaboration and idea generation.  People are too afraid to speak up, disagree or challenge me.  In certain situations my confidence fades to arrogance which is not a desired situation for me or those that I lead. The only emotion I show at work is anger, frustration and aggravation because individuals don't meet MY expectations.

If you think about my style it is very Jack Welch like, very hard charging CEO like.  I lead like a man.  I believe I learned this style coming up in industries where it was male dominated and I felt I had to be "one of the boy's" to survive.  I developed a very tough exterior, I did not want anyone to see me sweat.   My personality obviously is perfect for this role.  I have heard I need to read the new book, Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, as it describes some of these same situations.

Fast forward to today...not such a great way to lead.  I have now learned a few things about leadership from the best in the business, The Turknett Leadership Group.   You have to balance your emotional mastery with your responsibility (task) and all of that is grounded by integrity.  Check out their leadership model here.  Well, at least I have two out of the three.

So for now, I am on a journey.  I have taken the first step, "Hi, My name is Cathy and I am low on Emotional Mastery."  It's interesting that I have discounted the people side of the leadership equation and I am in Human Resources.  But, if I look at my work in HR it's all about strategy, metrics and performance management.  I have never been good at employee relations...go figure!

I write this today, because now I am experiencing how difficult leadership is.  When we see excellent leaders you have to wonder, have they been down this same path of learning to be great?  I guess it goes back to; is it nature or is it nurture? In my situation I have to say its both.  I encourage those of you that are inspiring leaders to start this journey sooner rather than later.  Get that mirror out!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

How HR Gets in its Own Way of Being Awesome

I have been delivering many sessions, panels, classes, workshops and discussions regarding HR's journey to becoming what it thinks it should be...a true business partner.  (my word is Business Leader)

I always pose the question, "what are some roadblocks for you (HR) in becoming ____________.  (Fill in the blank with awesome, valuable, strategic, effective business partner, business leader, etc.)

Here is what I have been receiving as answers:

1. I don't have the executive support
2. I don't have the resources (technology, budget)
3. My staff is not strategic (skills)
4. My managers don't buy in to it, they think they will have more work
5. I don't have time
6. I can't do that stuff, I am busy doing _______________.  (employee relations, payroll, benefits, etc.)
7. Our employees need hand holding
8. I have to be involved in all employee relations issues
9. It's a difficult change and the business is not ready
10. A different HR model is difficult to get used to (generalist, specialist, support center)

The bottom line is this.  IF HR can't show how it impacts the bottom line and how what they do is a critical function of the business then the game is over.  It's hard to draw a line from processing paychecks to a result.  (I know getting paid is important, let a third party do that)

Think about these activities for a moment:

1) HR having the ability to identify competencies that drive results in the organization and develop those competencies rather than a generic set from the talent management system.
2) HR having the ability to predict the success of HR expenditures before the check is written.
3) HR having the ability to predict and identify those high performers that contribute most to the bottom line, that are at risk for leaving.
4) HR having the ability to create a high performer profile that predicts what a successful candidate "looks" like in terms of knowledge, skills and abilities.
5) HR having the ability to lead strategic execution to the point of cascading goals all the way down to the front line where execution is critical.

Now, those things above are what I would rather be doing in HR.  All of the roadblocks listed earlier can be overcome by educating leaders and managers on "what could be." Another tool to use, is creating a business case for a different HR model.  This task in not an easy one but leaders are used to business cases that speak the language of the business.   It's worth the effort and trust me, it's a lot funner than processing paychecks and benefits forms.

Another thing HR is going to have to do is this...let go.  Yes, you heard it from the biggest control freak on the planet.  So what, if you don't sit in every routine termination.  So what, if you don't sign every routine disciplinary form for attendance issues.  Who Cares?

I do see a shift...I have seen some bright HR professionals who are making a difference everyday in their organizations, we just need more people on that train.  As businesses deal with change and strategic shifts at a faster and faster pace, what a great time for HR to jump in head first.

How have you made the transition from transactional to strategic?  What were your roadblocks?