HR Executive Tip #1 – Know Thyself

The Background

When my co-author, Bill Joiner, and I conducted research for our book Leadership Agility, we discovered something interesting about HR executives. I’ll get to that in a minute, but first a little background.

Leadership Agility is based on adult developmental psychology and our observations of leaders operating at different stages of development. While leaders at every stage make important contributions, those operating at higher levels of maturity have distinct advantages. In a word, they are more agile. And they tend to create agile teams and organizations under them.

The HR Exec’s Dilemma

As we interviewed various leaders we discovered a trend among HR executives. They tend to operate at a stage that is beyond the executives they support. This posed some interesting challenges:

  1. Because of both the nature of their role and their stage of agility, HR execs are more perceptive observers of systems. They see things others do not. If they had the freedom to do so, they would operate much of the time as the Chief Cultural Officer.
  2. But often others on the executive staff pay less attention to the health of the culture and how the organization’s leaders affect it. Some of the HR executives we interviewed said they felt as though they were watching a slow train wreck that no one else could see. At the same time, they recognized the potential to create a profitable company that was a great place to work.

Their dilemma is how to make others care about the culture when their non-HR roles tend to make them tactical. This is not merely a difference of interest. It’s a difference in levels of Leadership Agility. How to bridge the gap? The tips that follow will help, but the first step is to reflect on this and see if it is true for you. In other words, know thyself.

To get insight about your stage of agility, read this chapter from Leadership Agility – The Five Ed’s