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HR Leaders Need To Evolve From Trusted Advisor To Credible Activist

Depositphotos_79687290_s-2015-1.jpgThere is a lot of content on the internet on how HR Leaders can secure a more strategic role in their organization.

One of the better insights that I have found comes from Dave Ulrich, one of the foremost thought leaders in HR.

In a groundbreaking article "Why Chief Human Resource Officers Make Great CEO's" he outlined a thoughtful rationale why HR can be a career path to the top.

According to Dave Ulrich, for HR Leaders to move into the top roles they need to evolve from “trusted advisor” to “credible activist”. What does this mean?

It means that HR Leaders need to:

  • Develop strong business acumen on what are the key drivers of their business.
  • Understand and connect with all of their key internal and external stakeholders.
  • Have a strategic opinion on how to drive results for their organization.

In an article by Josie Sutcliffe, VP of Marketing at Visier (HR From The Outside-In: Learning From Dave Ulrich, Father Of Modern HR) she notes:

In some ways, Ulrich explained, HR is its own worst enemy. If you look at the results of Ulrich and Filler’s mapping of leadership traits, while CEOs and CHROs were very similar, they differed the most in one trait: confidence. When it comes to confidence, the CEO and COO took top marks, followed by the CIO, CMO, and CFO, and lastly the CHRO.

To build confidence, HR needs to know the organizational strategies and communicate the value of workforce programs, plans, and decisions in the terms of the business.

As Ulrich explained, “HR that starts with the business, doesn’t get as much resistance from the business.” In other words, value is in the eye of the receiver. Connect your ideas and plans to specific business issues or goals, and you are more likely to win support.

 Sutcliffe goes on further to say that HR Leaders need to be willing to accept higher levels of risk as they move towards being more active participants in driving strategy. They cannot remain observers but have to take a position, be willing to push it forward, defend it and accept the results. Sutcliffe in her blog discusses how HR Leaders can become more comfortable with managing risk:

In his book, Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success, best-selling author John C. Maxwell discusses how the difference between average and achieving people is their perception of and response to failure. Most people — not just those in HR — are never prepared to deal with failure. Rather, failure is something feared, misunderstood, and avoided.

To fail forward you need to reduce your fear of failure and — when failure happens — focus on learning from it instead of being defeated by it (as Maxwell expresses: “Stop failing backward and start failing forward!”).

The future for HR Leaders is bright.

They will be well-positioned to move into more strategic roles in their organization as long as they fully develop their business acumen, strategic skills and risk tolerance.