Group HRDs aren’t Clones

I’ve just finished the last module of our Aspiring Group HRD programme. I get the privilege of listening to some great participants who are the future of the profession and to some amazing speakers including a selection of great Group HR directors: Celia Baxter, Peter Blausten, Daniel Cloak, Jenny Duvalier, Sarah Hamilton Hanna and Hugh Mitchell amongst them. We were reflecting yesterday at the end of the third module about people’s take aways. The consistent theme was that there is no template and my reflection is that anyone who says there is a competency framework that predicts future success in HR hasn’t actually done the job. Everyone was unique and approached the role in a different way but there were some common themes:

  • They all started with the business. They were all deeply invested in their business and had a profound understanding of how it makes money, how they will sustain this and how to use this to drive what they did.
  • Having said that they also all knew what they stood for that went beyond simply making money to building a sustainable business for all its stakeholders. They were the conscience of their leadership team.
  • They have all shown enormous resilience in their careers. They have all had set backs, relationships that didn’t work, projects that went wrong. They haven’t all started with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouths. They’ve all had to fight to get where they are.
  • Building on this they all showed humility. None of them pretended they were perfect. They were all willing to share their mistakes but they had all learnt from them and never repeated them. This was enormously reassuring for the audience though you had to convince them at their stage in their careers they shouldn’t compare themselves to the speakers as they are today but to who they were at the same stage in their careers.
  • Equally they all had self-confidence but none of them were arrogant and as a result senior leaders trusted them. None of them were shrinking violets. They had enough of an ego to take their ego out of the equation.
  • They all had innate judgement, intuitively knowing what was right and what wasn’t. They saw the need for data but recognised HR goes beyond data because much of HR is deeply ambiguous. The challenge is can you develop judgement? I think the answer is you can’t go on a course but you can develop it if you are reflective, indeed curiosity was another common theme.

The final learning point wasn’t about the common traits but about the importance of context. The business context to drive what was appropriate rather than becoming a solution looking for a problem but also the context to know you can be great in one organisation and not so good in another. Great HR people have the choice to be the best they can be but also to secure a role that allows them to be the best they can be.

The fourth cohort starts on September 14th and you can find details here.

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