Advice & Consent

You sir, are no Jack Kennedy.

People thrust into leadership sometimes are well-prepared, often times not. Events dictate whether leadership emerges and greatness alights.

Behind every leader lie a phalanx of hangers-on, would-be wonders, toadies and perhaps even some good people. You're probably in the last camp as toadies and would-be's don't often read my work.

Congratulations.

Role of HR

HR as a function in the US is less than 120 years old: if you consider accounting goes back to pre-Roman times and you'll understand why some HR people suffer from an inferiority complex.

Indeed, the current-state HR is only about 20 years old. Administrative pieces and process we used to focus on have largely been outsourced. If your company hasn't yet done so, it will. Process is a cost center, not a profit center.

So, along with our cousins in Training and OD, we have been migrating to leadership developmentas practice. Today's HR is Talent Management, but absent a recruiting background (always be closing) many opt to stay on the development side of the equation.

This is fine as long as we remember the nature of advice: it may be accepted or not.

Perdition

The road to perdition is filled with the spent bodies of HR types who forgot the essence of advice: it can be rejected.

Our role is to advise leadership even as we build the development pipeline. Provide options, preferred choices and keep the culture intact. Its a tough but exciting job. Our role is not to assume we know how to – or are charged with – running the organization better than these same leaders.

Its a heady thing to rub shoulders with GMs, Vice Presidents and division managers. The travel, pace and challenge of the demands are intoxicating. But just as we need to know our limit as we enjoy a single malt we need to know where our role ends and the leader's begins.

Boundaries are a good thing.

I've noticed in countless hallway talks and chats in airport lounges the tendency for HR and backbench players to critique leadership often caustically. You can see this same dynamic today via Twitter chats and Google handouts.

Beware. Pride goeth before a fall.

Our role is to help, guide and advise leaders and in the end to faithfully execute their plans to the best of our ability. But we have hubris in HR: we don't always want to execute the plan unless its ours. Unless we approve.

But that's not our job.

Future

If you believe you can run the business better than management leave HR and become a business leader in your own right. You owe it to the organization.

Otherwise fulfill the important responsibilities of HR in delivering sound advice. Think hard before confusing developing leadership and being leadership.

You may not be who you think you are.

 

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