In my long career as an HR professional and specifically as a leader, I have had my share of ups and downs.  It turns out that I am not alone in that realization and there are some signs that can help us recognize when our leadership needs improvement. Recognition of these signs can be crucial to the development of a positive work environment, high performance and team unity. Here are some ideas for how to improve leadership when you feel such improvement is needed.

  1. Give complete instructions or vision.  Direction that is vague and nebulous does not promote the strategy and directional intent of the business or the department. When leaders are “under the gun”, they can assume things are obvious or straight forward when, for others, they are not. When asked for input, instructions or clarification, speak in specific terms and do the thinking necessary to consider strategy, application, impact, business needs, and people. Good leaders take a breath, are patient, find out what is needed, and ALWAYS provide a why.
  2. Build up your teammates.  Many leaders feel that teasing is harmless in the workplace.  However, such teasing or comments can be a dangerous and destructive practice.  Being kind in public and corrective in private is the golden rule for positive, impactful leaders.  If “venting” is necessary, find a coach, consultant, or a mentor outside the business or work group to talk with.
  3. Follow through on commitments.  The “example” factor is powerful.  If the leader commits personally with the team to a project, activity or a change, he or she is also committed to respond and perform.  No excuses will suffice and failure in following through is devastating. However, caution should be exercised here. In doing your portion or keeping your commitment, nobody wants a leader to devalue what they have done or need to do by hyping or overstating their own personal efforts.  Celebrate the team publicly and your efforts privately.
  4. Make the hard decisions.   Indecision can cripple a leader and their team.  Employees love confidence and certainty and sometimes even the greatest of leaders doesn’t have an immediate answer.  Shooting from the hip, hiding and avoiding, or deflecting responsibility to others are not the answers here. Communication and authenticity during these times can help bridge the gap between uncertainty and a decision.  Counsel with co-workers and other leaders. “Admitting it and owning it” is a great practice that people seem to appreciate. Remember, no one person is smarter than the group.
  5. Tell people the truth about their performance.  Many leaders are afraid to upset the balance in their department by being honest with their team. They think they are keeping the peace, but in truth they are limiting team members from reaching their potential. It is important to be kind but authentic and this can be a very delicate balance.  Some employees want it straight and others don’t. Giving direct, yet balanced feedback is a wonderful leadership characteristic worthy of emulation. It may also take practice and real intention on the leader’s part.
  6. Be present in the moment.  In this day of phones, texts, tweets, workloads, or unending email, work-related distractions take us away, and quickly, from personal connection.  

This was described to me in a consulting session by a frustrated team member, who said about her leader, “if I only get 20 minutes of her time during the week, I’d really like the full 20 minutes or something close to it.” We can create an environment of being authentic in circumstances when we need our authenticity to come through, by making the people in front of us our priority. 

By sharing these simple, practical suggestions, I hope I can help others be more effective and efficient and not make some of the mistakes I made.  Better leadership is hard-fought, evolving, and is also worthy of our efforts if we want our teams to succeed. #commitmenttoleadwell!

Written by Bruce Boucher
President, Roos Advisors

The Talent Mindset is the idea that the most effective leaders have an understanding of who their employees are, where their strengths lie, and what they are capable of accomplishing to benefit their department, customers, and the company. The goal of any company should be to perform at the highest level, and in many studies, it has been proven that high performing companies have leaders who possess the Talent Mindset. 

The Talent Mindset consists of several key characteristics. 

  •  A leader should have a deep conviction that better talent, equals better performance. Simple to say, but not as simple to achieve. When looking for someone to fill a position we often settle for “who fits the requirements and how fast can they start.” Sometimes we have to wait for the right candidate to ensure we get the best talent out there.

  • A leader should spend 20% of time in talent reviews, staff planning, etc. Leaders who value talent spend meaningful and purposeful amounts of time grooming talent, finding it, and talking about it.

  • They should have a sense of the Gold Standard of talent in their particular organization, as well as in their market. How does your company compare with others in what you view as top tier talent? Are you willing to provide the salary, benefits and work environment to ensure that talent wants to work for you?

  • A leader takes direct responsibility for building talent pools and succession plans. It all starts with the highest leaders in the organization.  They should lead out and devote time to this.
  • They hold all leaders accountable for talent pools and work environment. Talent and its’ development are a part of the leaders’ evaluations and are a requirement to be successful in the company.

  • The best leaders are teaching other leaders constantly. The best leaders inspire those in their influence to improve, and in order to do that, they constantly teach others the importance of adopting the Talent Mindset. 

[Adapted from Forman, David C. (2015) Fearless HR. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, p.14]

Wise leaders constantly think about ways to incorporate these characteristics into their own leadership style.  Success in improving keys results is sure to follow.

Written by Bruce Boucher
President, Roos Advisors

Chief Executive Officers are as distinct as the companies they lead or the people that work for them. What they want from Human Resources could be as distinct, so we asked some key executive friends and associates what they want from HR. This was not an exhaustive research study. However, within the control group, it seems that where HR is concerned, there are some common threads of expectation that, if followed, might lead the CEO and other Executives to a better understanding and appreciation for the difficulties HR faces. Meeting these expectations can also help HR professionals to focus more on key internal customer’s deliverables.

Here, in no particular order, are 6 P’s of particular “wants” or “expectations” of the CEOs and the E-suite that we talked with or surveyed specifically about their experiences with their HR departments. 

PULSE – CEO’s want their HR leaders to know what is going on with their people and the business. They need a “go-to” group that can credibly inform them of how people are.

As one CLO suggested, “HR has to be in touch with its employees, departments, managers and be able to honestly inform the CEO of both the good and the bad.”

Likewise, from a former CHRO, “HR should understand which departments or geographic areas are struggling or are not engaged, and which are excelling. HR should be prepared with credible reasons as to why.”

PEOPLE – I once had a CEO jokingly say to me, “I would love my job if it wasn’t for the people.” Helping the CEO with their role in understanding, motivating, and improving the human capital of the business is critical for the HR role. 

One VP of HR said, “HR should understand how to handle workforce issues when the business expands or contracts. They should also have some response to the question: How do we help people understand what is happening with our business strategy and how we are going forward?”

Yet another CLO said, “HR needs to be an accurate and unbiased judge of character/abilities to assist the CEO in important hiring/promotion decisions. The CEO should feel like he/she wants to discuss important promotion or hiring decisions with HR, which requires discretion as well as being a quick and accurate judge of abilities.” 

Finally, this from a COO, “HR also should remain unbiased about these decisions, and not get too emotional with the successes or failures of others. We can be too involved and biased, the CEO needs our help to be fair and accurate to make the best “people” choices possible.”

PROOF – Data analytics may perhaps be the biggest necessity in HR. 

HR can use data/metrics to draw correlations for the CEO on issues the organization is facing. They can also share such information to represent trends to expect. Examples of this from my years as a CHRO and a consultant would be:

  • A CEO thinking that their company is Baby Boomer friendly when it has no flexible work schedules, no retooling training, and they have no track record of hiring capable, qualified retirees. Solid, internal data helped change this CEO’s opinion.
  • Data showed a CEO that retention of relocated employees was VERY low. HR asked the question of the C-Suite, “Should this push the company to change the relocation process?” The process was changed.

Here is some practical advice to be the HR professional who can provide solutions. For years, HR has had a reputation for lacking practical, business-related alternatives. In this area, Dave Ulrich, noted HR guru, would invite HR professionals to be “credible activists”. That is, provide credible solutions and understand the business. 

One CEO said, “If my HR Director gives me one more SHRM article as some kind of Holy Grail fix or idea for what we are facing, I will barf…”

A CFO suggested that HR should, “please, please, PLEASE give me affordable, practical ways to build excellent teams that drive profitability.”

A COO recommended, “As (NAME WITHHELD) continues to understand our business, her solutions become better and more practical.” 

Please note the obvious distinction between the first two comments above versus the third. Getting beyond talking about being a business partner and achieving that is a real desire of both the CEO and the C-Suite! 

PROTECTION – While we all hope that HR is not viewed as the corporate police force, we can be very enforcement oriented. In this regard, it seems CEO’s and Executives would like HR to be:

  • “A self-reliance builder for employees. Get the stuff that keeps people safe, secure and treated fairly right and get it to the level of employee ownership.”
  • “A department that protects all employees and requires systems that ensure compliance to mitigate liabilities because employee issues are some of the biggest risks a business faces, especially in today’s environment.”

PROBLEMS WITH SOLUTIONS – A CLO friend described this in this manner: “HR needs to not be just an issue spotter, but also a problem solver. The CEO may decide not to adopt the solution, but at least try and offer a solution along with realistic cost/timing.”

Here is an example from one C-Suite member. “Our HR leader noted a real problem in our Company with turnover. As he described the problem, he then asked the E-Team this question: “Does this company want employees to stay for a long period, for their career? This started a dialogue that yielded 3 specific things we, as a company, could do better.” 

This idea also includes ensuring that HR is constantly evolving. One CEO said, “Please challenge yourselves so I don’t have to do it.”  With such feedback, HR can continue to seek improvement in a world of work that is constantly changing by understanding and implementing the 6 P’s. This is not easy but what this exercise suggested was that CEOs and Executives do want HR to help them successfully run the business. 

As a final thought, I give you a profound observation from a successful CEO answering this question: What is the best thing HR can provide for you as the CEO? The answer: “Please be a REAL, dedicated business partner.” 

Written by Bruce Boucher
President, Roos Advisors