Career suicide for HRDs: the pitfalls you might be unaware of

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Between balancing the interests of the board, C-suite and employees – as an HRD, you certainly have your work cut out for you.

But what if you are undermining your own career without even knowing it?

According to the Centre for Creative Leadership’s Dr Ronald Smith, APAC VP and MD of the firm, there are two key areas in which HR leaders can be participating in self-sabotage.

1.    Being a trusted confidante and not being able to speak the truth

“I think that’s what the CEO and the board wants of this person – a trusted confidante,” Dr Smith said.

But that doesn’t mean you just tell the boss what he or she wants to hear.

“I would say being a good trusted confidante is the ability to speak clearly, directly, respectfully, and to be the person that can provide clarity to a senior leader.

“What we know about senior leaders is that as they get higher and higher in the organisation, they end up getting a little more insulated than they need to be.

“A pitfall is not being the one to speak the truth, or being afraid to.”
There are three different potential scenarios, Dr Smith said.

“An HR person can kind of be left out of the decision making circle, they can become the right hand of the senior executive or CEO, but necessarily right hand with their peers, or they can have the best scenario, where they have that role as not only the trusted advisor to the most senior leader, but also their peers on that executive committee.”

2.    Functional expertise that is too narrow

“It’s assumed that the HR person is an expert in their field, but they are also expected to have gone beyond the silo of HR to understand at least one or two other functional areas – whether that’s accounting, finance, marketing, distribution or operations,” Dr Smith said.

“I think there’s more and more need for the scope of experience to be broader than just the traditional HR field.”

But overall, it’s about having positive talent conversations, he said.
“I think a senior HR person who can improve an organisation’s ability to have positive talent conversations with talent will result in the best return on investment.

“We know that coaching has three elements – it’s called ACS. Assess, challenge and support.

“Senior leaders are very good at challenging people. They think they are good at assessing, but what we have learned over time is that they are not very good at supporting, or using supporting language.

“A senior leader’s ability to improve their capability around supporting talent will unleash not only the power of that talent but extend the time that that talented person will stay with the organisation.”

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