Talk to me

Reflecting on work at the moment, and just thinking – so many of my conversations centre around what we say, what we don’t say, what we want to say and want we can’t say to each other.

If we don’t say it, we act it out.

I want you to listen to me so I talk louder to make you hear me.

I don’t understand you so I get things wrong to let you know.

I need to know you care about me – I test you and push you to see how much you will take.

I am confused – I behave inconsistently to demonstrate my confusion.

I am frightened – I fight or I take flight – I let you know I am fearful through my aggression or my passivity.

If you’re leading a team, in a relationship, have a friendship, if you interact with the world, then you will have been the person who doesn’t say what they need, what they want, what they are thinking.    You will have been the actor.

If you’re leading a team, in a relationship, have a friendship, if you interact with the world, you will have been on the receiving end of behaviour that you don’t understand.  You will have been the audience.

If you’re in the audience, say what you see and see where it gets  you.  “You look confused”.  “you’re behaving inconsistently”.  Name it, call it.

If you’re the player, notice yourself.    Say, “I am frightened” and see what happens.

You may be the both the actor and the audience;  I shout in order to be  understood, you hide from your fear.

Just talk to me.

HR – a damp squib or a firestarter?

HR, the hard worker, the Cinderella of organisational life.  Can’t go to the Christmas party because someone has to stay behind and turn the lights off;  fearful of being friends with people, often the least coached, trained, developed, supported function.   At worst, the least trusted function.

No wonder  HR appears to have a permanent identity crisis.  Does any function analyse itself so much?    Oh the existential angst.    So much is written about the design, the roles, even the very name of the function creates debate, – HR, Personnel, L&D, OD etc (the most recent suggestion I heard is Human Capital – yuk).  Questions often asked include:

  • How can HR get a seat at the board table?
  • How can HR have more influence?
  • I joined HR to be a people person, but discover it’s the least trusted function in the organisation.  How can I get them to like me?
  • How can I demonstrate my understanding of “the business”.

And somehow, the HR hopeful finds themselves torn between their desire to be a listening ear, to be a sympathetic saviour, to help people be more effective in their role, and the requirements of their MD to restructure, to get rid of,  to cover backs, to protect and – to keep their own needs to themselves and to crunch numbers for an anonymous hungry data monster.  “Give me ROI, give me more”.

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps

Perhaps there’s been a massive over complication (bring in the consultants); perhaps there’s a simple solution.    Perhaps those people people should be managing the people.  I have always thought that the most effective managers are those who genuinely like other people, quite like themselves, are curious, smart and are lacking in ego.    They enjoy solving problems and helping people resolve conflict.  Is that you?  Perhaps you should consider moving out of HR and moving into management where your generalist knowledge and desire to effect change can be put to good use.

HR often good intentions, but unintentionally can get in managers way.   A paradoxical dilemma.

Managers need to be able to make mistakes and to experience the consequences of their mistakes,  Owning recruitment, designing their own function, attending tribunals if they have messed up,  or haven’t, owning and managing their budget for training and development.  Designing and co-delivering their own training, managing their teams absence, coaching their people, developing their people and delivering results through their people.

So what could HR be?  A small  team of super generalists who have influence,  competence, confidence, and knowledge to ensure they support and challenge the managers to grow in their own confidence, competence and knowledge to become HR generalists.  HR can be powerful and influential, but only if it is freed from operational constraints.    And they let managers get on with it.  Advise but ultimate decision lies with the manager.      They get out of the managers’ way, and the manager and their manager are responsible for success or failure.

Managers could be great HR generalists but only if they are given the empowerment both to flourish and to fail.

The people people work with the people, the problem solvers work with the problems.

HR fulfils its promise and becomes a behind the scenes strategic thinker and planner – with the skills of a super generalist.