Look Behind You!

How can facing out into the organisation be a mistake for HR?

Happy New Year! I hope 2016 brings you success, enjoyment and learning in all that you do.

“Look behind you!” I know pantomime season is all but over, but HR professionals would do well to heed the classic refrain. While you’re working incredibly hard to make your people initiatives work, you’ll know that you’re battling all sorts of problems and opposition to their success. Ironically though, the biggest barrier to success is much closer to home than you might think.

There’s a paradox for anyone in an HR role. The harder you try to make your HR projects deliver, the less attention you’re likely to be paying to the single biggest determinant of their success of failure.

For people interventions to make the change that’s needed, you need the active (and aligned) support of the most senior leaders in the organisation. In short, an ineffective top team is the key barrier to delivering a meaningful people agenda, so developing an effective top team is the key to unlocking the door.


Almost all HR professionals are frustrated by the same things

  • They want a stronger voice at the top table of the organisation
  • They need senior leaders to lead by example on people issues
  • Poor and patchy leadership throughout the organisation compromises the effectiveness of every HR initiative

Their response is to keep trying ever harder, shouting louder at the top table and putting even more effort into HR initiatives. Without the drive and ownership of the top team, though, it’s incredibly hard to get proper traction with initiatives so results are disappointing. As a result, the organisation remains unconvinced of the importance of the HR and the People Agenda. Without such support, the cycle goes on.


Why should HR care about the Leadership Team?

All of the most important people initiatives span the whole organisation – and require members of the leadership team to act in concert to deliver success. Only the most effective leadership teams can do this – so creating one is critical to the success of every HR professional.

However, few HR professionals, and even fewer leaders, know how to take a poor or adequate Leadership Team and turn it into a great one – the sort of team that leads by example, truly grasps the real underlying people issues and takes the organisation to new levels of performance.

Those in HR who do succeed in developing their Leadership Teams, find that it transforms their working experience. The most senior line managers in the organisation start to own and drive initiatives which had previously been stuck in organisational treacle. Real change happens and makes a visible impact on bottom line results. The influence of HR increases and organisational resistance to HR becomes a hunger for new people and development ideas. Suddenly, the skills of the HR team become in demand – but for the kinds of work that they have always wanted to do.

How to develop your Leadership Team

In my Book, JUMP! ,  I set out in detail why Leadership Teams matter, what differentiates the best ones and how to develop them. Over the next few issues, I’ll expand on how HR professionals can apply these ideas to improve the effectiveness of their Leadership Teams – and use this to make truly transformational change to the people agenda in their organisation.

For now, you can get your free copy of JUMP! (hardback or eBook) here.


A personal turnaround

When I first met Mandy, she was frustrated and bitter. She was the HR Director in a division of a global manufacturing company and she was on the point of leaving. She’d done a lot of really good work over the preceding few years, but any success had been achieved despite rather than because of any support from the leadership of the organisation. Neither the local Leadership Team, nor the European Divisional HR team, gave her any credit or attention.

We met because I’d been engaged to work on the effectiveness of the Leadership Team. Whilst she could see the team needed help, she was deeply sceptical that it could be developed. Even if it could, she was doubtful that it would change anything for the people in the rest of the organisation.

To her surprise, as the programme started to shift the team, it was the HR issues that rapidly forced themselves to the top of the agenda. Of the seven priorities the Leadership Team identified, three were causes that she’d been campaigning on unsuccessfully for years – leadership development, talent management and culture. Suddenly resistance to investing in these areas became pressure to deliver big changes.

With the CEO and the rest of the Leadership Team behind her, progress was rapid. She introduced some powerful and innovative programmes and results were spectacular. The shifts made measurable effects on a range of bottom line results as well as people measures including a huge leap in employee satisfaction.

Even more surprising to Mandy, was the impact on her reputation and that of the HR Team. She was promoted to join the European HR Board. The demands on her team increased – both from line managers internally and also from others visiting to find out more about the great work they had been doing. She was able to recruit a talented head of Management Development as well as bringing on a number of very capable, but previously underused, members of her team.

When we met to review the programme, she was emotional. “When we first spoke, I was sitting on an offer to leave. I didn’t want to go because of the loyalty I felt to the team and people in the company, but I felt I had no choice. Against my better instincts, I decided to give the programme a chance. It was the best decision I ever made.”


Free help with your team

If you’d like to explore how you might go about developing your team, and winning support for that work, we would be happy to meet you for a free Leadership Team Strategy Session.

In that session you’ll get:-

  • Simple strategies for developing your Leadership Team to get you the results you’ve been longing for – faster and with less effort
  • Clarity on the bottom line business benefits of improving your team – so that you can make the case to others for change
  • A straightforward roadmap to a more effective team – including the first few steps to engage those around you, generate the necessary support and get started
  • A new sense of excitement about what is possible.

Changing your team is simpler than you might think. These fresh ideas and practical steps will leave you both knowing how to begin and also energized for the journey.


Read more…

Please visit our website to read more about The Six Conversations Leadership Team programme or download our article, the Seven Illusions of Leadershipwhich shows what it looks like in practice — based around a real case study. Better still, give us a call on 0845 519 7871 to explore your issues further or to arrange a free Strategy Session.



Chris Henderson