How To Be a Successful HR Leader

HR Leadership

Being an HR leader in today’s business environment takes courage, conviction and fortitude.

~ Courage to stand up for initiatives that organizations need to survive in these tough economic times
~ Conviction to
follow through with developing and implementing programs that will ensure organizational growth
~ Fortitude to
make the tough decisions that are not popular but necessary for success of our organizations.

This all sounds well and good, but how do we actually “pull it off?” How do we, as HR leaders, earn the trust of the rest of the organization that allows us to sell and implement our ideas to sustain and grow our organizations?

Walking & Talking

From my three decades as an HR professional, I have learned one can’t make it happen by sitting behind a desk.

It starts with MBWA (management by walking around.)

You need to meet your customers on their turf . . . whether it is the customer service rep that works second shift or the CFO that thinks in terms of dollars and cents. You need to talk to them, speak their language, and develop their trust by showing them you do add value to the organization and you are not just overhead.

If you don’t do these things, you will be considered a foreigner in a foreign land.

Steps To Take

Try taking these steps to increase your influence:

  • Develop your organizational skills and build a strong team allowing you to spend less time in your office and more time with your customers.
  • Surround yourself with people smarter than you.
  • Train them, empower them, and then let them run the day-to-day operations.
  • Consider outsourcing some of the more mundane tasks that add no value.
  • Build a strong business case for doing it. Remember, it is all about the bottom line.
  • Enlist the help of an external mentor, someone you can meet and bounce ideas off to get constructive feedback.
  • Make it a part of your routine to network with other HR folks to get ideas and discuss current initiatives.
  • Have regular contact with your leadership team.

What can you do to make them more successful?

First remember this: “It‘s all about them, not you…”

  • Develop a rapport with them; go to lunch; ask them what their people challenges are.
  • Learn their language; productivity, customer service, quality; profitability, etc.

How can you impact these areas to help them?

Question them on things on which others may not comment.

Our role is not necessarily to agree with everything, but to question and say “what if you did this a different way?” or “have you thought about this?

  • Do they have turnover or attendance issues or problems filling key positions?
  • Do they have associates that are not in the right role or maybe need to “move on?”
  • Do they have managers that lack leadership skills?
  • Are these issues common across the organization?

Conduct an analysis, then develop and implement initiatives that address these issues.

It takes courage to develop the leadership relationships necessary to build trust of your HR organization. It takes conviction to follow through with implementing HR initiatives to improve the bottom line. And it takes fortitude to make the tough decisions that may not be popular but necessary to ensure sustainability of your organization.

Are your leaders trained and rewarded for exhibiting positive leadership skills? Are your peers the executive staff? When there is a leadership issue, are you the first person the CEO calls? Can you speak the business language of your organization? Do you have the courage, conviction, and fortitude to be a successful HR leader?

Mark Fryer is owner of Mark Fryer and Associates
Helps clients with Succession Planning, Exec Coaching, & Org Development
EmailLinkedInTwitterWebBlog | 706.718.2349

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2 responses to “How To Be a Successful HR Leader

  1. Mark,
    Thanks for some good points here. Like you, I have been on both sides of the door, so to speak, with 15 years inside a company, primarily in HR leadership roles, and 15 years outside the company proving consulting to both HR and business leaders. One question that the internal HR people may want to consider asking them is what business challenges they are facing. Armed with that information, perhaps the HR folks can develop some people oriented solutions to address the business challenges. At the very least, the business people will appreciate that the HR person cares enough to ask about the business. An old adage says that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.


    Bill Bliss

    • Bill,

      Thanks for your insight regarding having HR folks ask about what business challenges their customers are facing and then developing people oriented sollutions. It is greatly appreciated.


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