I currently coach a couple of Human Resources professionals, both at the Director-level. Interestingly, they both asked me, in a span of two weeks and independent of each other, how to really grow and succeed in HR; how to become a real “player” in the business, to command respect, and to develop the credibility necessary to make real-life strategic contributions.
Of course, I had comments — I never promise that what works for me will work for you; only that these DID work for someone… me.
1. Read voraciously. Understand the concepts and philosophy along with the application. Management and leadership theory are necessary foundations — not so you can spout them and sound all mensa-like, but so you can use credible theory when developing your own method of application.
2. Take responsibilities others don’t want, or aren’t doing well. I’m not talking about bush-league stuff like parties and picnics, either. I’m talking about a broken purchasing effort, an underperforming quality or regulatory shop, or something similar. Relevance to HR isn’t the key — relevance to business is.
3. Regularly exceed authority. Forgiveness IS much easier than permission. Many CEOs may not want to see/hear this, but prudent, well thought pushing on your limits of authority allow that authority to grow. It also creates an added base of credibility, as you’ve survived the heat that comes from deciding “outside the box.”
4. Decide, if true, that only the top job will work. Then don’t accept the #2 role for anyone, regardless of size or paycheck. Takes a degree of personal fortitude, and untoward personal confidence, but it pays off. The #2 person is the tactician, not the visionary.
5. Put on boots and jeans, and spend real time “in the business;” learning how knobs are twisted, metal is melted, and trucks are driven. Literally work shifts for weeks sometimes to learn the intracacies of the biz. Get smart on how things work around here.
6. No templates at all. Ever. Develop everything custom for the company you are with. Read, get general ideas, but stop short of using someone else’s compensation plan, bonus effort, human capital plan, or related document to craft yours. Be unique; that’s what your organziation is paying for.
7. Underpromise, overdeliver. Always. Don’t get caught up in saying “yes” so much that you look like one of those Tiger Woods bobble-head dolls in the back window. Say “no” when you need to, so existing commitments are not compromised. Do what you say you will.
And the most important piece — be prepared at all times for plain old “luck.” As in golf, so with a career: Take luck over skill; it’s more frequent and usually more dependable. Particularly if you prepare for that luck in advance.
Cheers, and good luck.