Leadership and HR

I had a great human resources mentor. She taught me how to work with leadership, even if leadership didn’t want to work with me.

When I start a new job, I always communicate with my new boss they will always get the truth from me whether they like it or not. Whether it is good news or bad. I will speak truth to power every time so don’t shoot the messenger. I try not to say no all the time. I would rather say, “here’s how” instead.

Howdy, Partner!

I appreciate leaders that invite me to the executive strategy meetings. Any growth they want for the organization most likely includes new employees or positions which I have experience in. Making me a partner in growing the company will help get you to the finish line.

Instead of having me clean up your mess, let me help you build. As the saying goes, “Measure twice, cut once” If you let me and my team in, you’ll save on buying more lumber.

New HR Directors should meet with each of the department heads when they join a company. Sit down for a few hours and find out what their needs are. Let them provide you with feedback of what has worked for them with the last HR team and what didn’t. Give them the opportunity to show you their style, then you can give them a synopsis of yours. This will begin the building of the trust between you. During this initial meeting you may find things that you can fix immediately. Repeat this process with each of the department leaders and you will have started down the path of excellent communication and a trusting partnership with each of them.

Don’t Go Changin’

I never want to walk into a new situation and immediately start changing everything. However, if warranted, a quick fix here and there to maintain order is appropriate. I like to see what each month brings in the cycle of this new organization and take notes. That way when it comes around again, I have new ideas to try or keep things the status quo. Sometimes it is better to leave well enough alone and build on what is already there. I am a fixer by nature, so I tend to be a bit controlling and want to change everything. I have learned over the years to sit back and watch the processes first while asking lots of questions as to why we do it this way. It makes for a much better transition if I do decide to change something down the road.

Look in the Mirror

I always try to look in the proverbial mirror as well. Am I portraying myself as the leader I want to be or am I being a dictator, passive-aggressive, or a controlling jerk? Let’s hope it’s the former not the latter. I analyze everything before sending out to the world. I want to be sure that there are zero to minimal trickle-down effects of my decisions. You can’t please everyone all the time but if decision you are making are well thought out ahead of time, you have a better chance at succeeding.

Why Do I Love HR?

HR can be a thankless job, but I love it. So many people will tell me, “Oh, I could never do what you do!” I’d like to say, they’re right. Not because they don’t have the patience or character, but because they have no idea what I really do.

HR Gets a Bad Rap

These same people think that I just fire employees all day. I’m the “hatchet lady.” If I fired people all day, the office would be empty.

So what is it that I do differently? Maybe it is not different, but it is me. I like to keep it real.

I work very hard to establish relationships with all of my employees. Yes, I call them mine. I want to know about them. I want to hear what their dreams are, career goals, and of course, what they need from me.

Never Promise What You Can’t Deliver

I try to follow through on my promises to them. I never promise something that I can’t deliver. You don’t build trust that way.

If they come and knock on my door, I know they want to talk. Before I let them start, I make sure they know that how I react is dependent on what they say to me. I always let them know that I have three virtual filing cabinets in my brain. The first one is for verbal vomiting that is mainly a place I put the information that they are giving me and it doesn’t need further inquiry. I may offer tools and suggestions to help them through their crisis, but it is usually a safe place for them to come and let off some steam. The second virtual filing cabinet is for those issues that involve a co-worker or supervisor that need coaching or mediation. I make sure that I tell the employee that I will help them as much as possible. Most of the time they don’t want me to do anything. The third and final virtual filing cabinet is reserved for when the employee says keywords or phrases that would lead me to open an investigation. Things like feeling as though they are in a hostile work environment, or they are being bullied, or that person sexually assaulted me. These issues are immediately dealt with. This is the hard part. The employee usually tells me they don’t want to get anyone fired. I have to explain that I would start an investigation before that happened. I also remind them that we have policies and procedures that we need to abide by. I remind them that at this point, I don’t have a choice and I must move forward. In the end, they are appreciative that I have done my job to protect them.

Yes, I Have to Discipline Sometimes

I do have to follow the disciplinary action processes that are set up in each organization. I prefer to train employees on what they should and shouldn’t be doing and monitor their progress. You also have to train the managers and supervisors to document. We try to live in a world where there are fewer disciplinary actions and more education, but there are times when we have to drop the hammer. I want all employees to be set up for success. Have we given them the tools to do their jobs correctly in the first place? Have we explained the behaviors and norms we expect to see at your offices? If, not then we haven’t done our jobs yet.

Benefits and PTO and 401(k)’s Oh My!

Yes, an HR team is responsible for making sure that each employee is also enrolled in all of the eligible benefits. If you are in an organization that has high turnover, this can be challenging for the HR team. Give them a break. Timing on benefits is everything. Making sure people are signed up and/or removed from coverage based on their start/stop dates is not always easy. We have to make sure the invoices from these vendors are correct at all times on top of taking care of the employee’s needs.

Sounds Like a Lot, Right?

I haven’t really scratched the surface of what an HR team really does, but you can catch a glimpse of the complexity. Give your HR Director the budget to staff the team they need so you don’t lose them from being overworked. Make sure you pay them what they are worth too. Don’t always look at the industry you are in, look at their skills, abilities, and experience. Ask them what they believe they should be making and negotiate. All in all, I love my job. I enjoy the people and I enjoy the challenge.

You’ve Got Style

I am pretty sure we have all read about the seven leadership styles. What I would like to do is pick one or two and see if we can dissect them a bit to see how effective they may or may not be.

Seven Styles:

  • Autocratic
  • Democratic
  • Coaching
  • Strategic
  • Transformational
  • Laissez-faire
  • Charismatic

We’re going to chat about three of them.

  • Coaching
  • Transformational
  • Democratic

Coaching

The Coaching Style offers hands-on advice to problem solving. This type of leader believes that people come before profit. So, If you put the professional growth of the team first, then the profit will follow. They should not be confused with a coach, but do have coaching skills. This is done by receiving and providing valuable feedback and having motivating conversations with their team members.

This style is popular because it can level the playing field, it builds confidence, promotes individual and team excellence, develops strong commitment to common goals, and produces valuable leaders.

Big Picture Thinking

Coaching leaders show how the work fits into the overall goal by encouraging employees to try new things on their own. This shows them how they have the different pieces to put together into the final product. Coaching leaders use their empathy and self-awareness to encourage each person on the team to develop their individual strengths even though they assign challenging assignments. The key is providing them with the tools for their success.

Transformational

The Transformational leader boosts morale, motivation, and performance by creating a singular sense of identity and purpose for a project. In it’s ideal form, it creates valuable and positive change in the followers with the end goal of developing followers into leaders.

Having a vision is the starting point. Then through inspiring the employees with influence, motivation, intellectual stimulation, and individualized consideration the team makes sacrifices for the good of the whole.

Is this you?

Have you ever taken control of a group situation by explaining the end goal, conveying a clear vision and a passion for the work? If you did and then energized the rest of the group to get you to this goal, then you might be a Transformational Leader.

Democratic

This leader makes decisions based on the input of each team member. The leader with make the final decisions but each team member has an equal part of the project.

This is an effective style because it allows the employee to exercise authority at different levels. Something that they will use later on in their careers. Everyone is given the opportunity to participate, ideas are freely exchanged, and discussion is encouraged while the democratic leader is there to offer guidance and control.

How do you compare?

Many people believe that the Democratic style is the most effective style and works well in organizations that desire innovation. Using this style you get the reward of group member participation, high productivity, and more ideas and creative solutions.

How do you develop your own leadership style?

It is important to be yourself, authentic, and always professional. Think about your natural way of being and use those skills to show authority in your own positive way.

Having flexibility in situations will require you to access different types of leadership approaches but this will allow you to be sensitive to the needs of the team members you are working with while attaining your goals.

Don’t be afraid to try something new or different. Ask for feedback from your senior leadership team and really listen to how you could have approached a situation differently than you did.

Why is all of this important?

It goes back to my previous article on employees not leaving their jobs, but leaving their managers. Leaders have people follow them. Managers have people work for them. Leaders inspire and engage and create of vision that their people (followers) turn into reality. They make people become a part of something bigger than just reaching a goal. When this happens, you receive employee engagement, higher morale, and higher productivity. Turn over decreases and you have the basis of a positive company culture. You can sell a good company culture. Your team members will talk about it and people will want to work for you because of it.