Are You the Grit of the Company?

gritI was listening to NPR this morning, as I do every morning after dropping my kids at school.  Normally, they are doing the market report when I’m in the car, but today, my timing was off and the show hosts were discussing how difficult it can be to predict the future of organizations with a former Intel futurist.  As he described the role and how he handled it, at one point he referred to himself as the “grit” inside the organization that often had to tell other leaders what no one else would say.

I started thinking about how I behave inside organizations and ultimately, how you behave too.  There are many times I’ve found myself being the grit in organizations.  Grit, or being abrasive, is thought of as a negative.  I don’t think it has to be a negative label though, it’s quite the opposite.  Being seen as the grit should mean you’re a go-to person who will be honest and tell leadership where the gaps in thinking may be.  In fact, it goes beyond that to being able to tell leaders which paths they should not be taking.

The key to being the “grit” in a positive way is finesse.  One thing I’ve learned over the last twenty of my career is that being disruptive may be fun, but it does not make for the ability to bring change on a consistent basis.  Since many people still enjoy working for one employer for a long period of time, understanding how to be influential without being completely abrasive is an art.  Those are the leaders that actually drive change in organizations.  I found a fascinating article on Forbes that details the 5 Characteristics of Grit.  I encourage you to check it out to see which characteristics you have.  Things like resilience,  endurance, excellence, conscientiousness, and courage are all important in determining the level of grit you have.

So now that we’ve determined that grit can be a positive in the workplace, how can you tell if you’re style of grit is disruptive vs. influential?  

DISRUPTIVE OR INFLUENTIAL?

  • Do the C-Suite execs avoid you because you are constantly telling them to do things differently?  Disruptive
  • Are you the first person the executives call when they have an issue?  Influential
  • Have you tried, unsuccessfully, to “sell” the same idea to every executive and can’t get anyone on board? Disruptive
  • Do you curse or swear a lot at work for no real reason? Disruptive
  • Do people eventually come around to your ideas, even if they need a little time to digest the idea before embracing it?  Influential
  • Are you honest?  Influential
  • Brutally honest at all costs?  Disruptive

Like most people, I want to change the world.  I’m sure you do too.  And while there are a few “disruptors” who make a name for themselves and get positive change in spite of their approach, most people prefer to be influenced.  I learned early on that being influential is not about your job title.  It’s all in your style and the way you bring other people over to your way of thinking.  It’s also about being open to new ideas….even if it means discarding your own ideas.

So, which are you? I’d love to hear from you…

HBR is Getting it Wrong: The Internal RISE of HR

I love HRThis HR lady is fired up!  Lately, there is no shortage of posts and articles about Human Resources not being strategic, not being valued, and needing to change in order to make everyone else in the C-Suite feel better. From articles in  HBR (including their current magazine cover saying “It’s Time to Blow Up HR”), to Forbes to the Korn Ferry Institute, people are questioning whether or not HR can be strategic, what they need to do to become strategic and whether we should just start over from scratch.

As someone who has dedicated my entire career to working in HR and trying to further our profession, I can assure you HR leaders are strategic.  The issue as I see it from the trenches is a lack of respect for the value HR brings to the organization and for that, I don’t believe that “blowing up HR” is the way to correct it.  What HR needs is a re-brand.

If I were asked to describe my “ideal” HR department, it would be one in which every HR pro would:

  • Know the business- Speak the language of the particular industry they support.
  • Understand the financials- This is key to being able to strategically advise leadership on people issues. Ensuring you have a solid understanding of exactly how your organization makes and spends money, then be able to equate the people costs to the bottom line.
  • Get honest– They wouldn’t sugarcoat what is going on.  The only way to really make things better is to examine the issue at hand by being honest and transparent.
  • Encourage innovation– Include HR at all levels in brainstorming to truly challenge the traditional ways of doing things.  Some processes will remain the same.  Others will be taken to new and better levels.
  • Be recognized publically (internally AND externally) – Other work teams publicize their “wins”.  So should HR.

How do we get to the ideal? We RISE to a new level of awareness:

  • Reduce or outsource administrative functions where possible
  • Innovate to come up with fresh approachs to business issues about people, then aggressively share with the C-Suite and other leaders
  • Spread the word about what HR is and what it isn’t and  really publicize HR “wins” and successes
  • Engage all levels of the organization

I had the opportunity to speak to a group of HR leaders in Kansas City last night and one conversation was focused on how to rebrand HR in higher education.  This leader was describing how he is taking business principles to rebrand the HR team.  Instead of the employees working off old assumptions, he’s breathing fresh, new life into the HR team and then publicizing the interactions so that the overall opinion about HR changes.  It’s steps like his that will make HR rise….not blowing up the profession or tearing it apart.

All this feels like the culmination of many different approaches all leading to the same result.  A new HR. A refocused, redefined, re-branded HR.  The ball is rolling.  How do we gain momentum?