7 Sure Fire Ways to Fail as an HR Leader

It’s tough being an HR leader these days!

You have all these boomers retiring and taking their typewriters and knowledge with them, you have all these Gen X’ers who think they are now the second coming, the GenYs/Millennials who have been told they are the second coming, and now we have these Generation @’s who think they can work from where ever since they grew up with a smartphone and a iPad in their crib.

On top of all this, somehow in the last 10 years executives decided HR is no longer HR, but now we are these business partners.

So on top of having to take care of all these people issues, we now have to be concerned with business issues, teach our leaders how to be leaders, continue to train our workforce to stay current, fight off talent sharks from our competition, make sure the corporate picnic still runs smoothly, and oh, by the way, can you put a nice internal blog post together for the CEO and make it real “people-ish?”

7 things to stay away from

I get it. It’s hard being a leader in HR, that’s why I’m going to help you out and give you some tips of things to stay away from:

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  1. Think of yourself or your company as “the” industry leader. As soon as you do, someone will knock you off.
  2. Identify so strongly with the company that you no longer have a clear boundary between your personal interests and the corporation’s interests. Yes, you should be committed, but don’t be “committed.”  Too often leaders doing this fail to differentiate between their personal agenda and the corporate agenda and start empire building.
  3. Have all the answers. This is tough because it’s common leadership training that we all know – use your people, surround yourself with people better than you, make group decisions, etc. But until you put your butt in that seat you never realize how many things will come your way, where people want a decision, and, that they are unwilling to make it – so they look to you for the answer. Don’t get sucked into this trap; push back and make them bring you solutions.
  4. Hunt down and kill those who don’t support you. Don’t think this happens? Look at turnover numbers of departments when a new leader takes over – they are almost always higher than those of the organization as a whole.
  5. Become obsessed with the company image. Your company image is hugely important, but it is not the most important thing you have going on. Make sure your operations match the image you want to create, not the other way around.
  6. Underestimate or take obstacles for granted. As a leader you want to be confident during hard and challenging times, but don’t let yourself get fooled into believing your own confidence will get you through. Having a clear understanding of the reality you are facing, and being able to communicate that without fear to your team with a plan of action, is key.
  7. Stubbornly rely on what you’ve always done.Well, when I was the leader at GE we did it this way…” Look, this isn’t the 80?s and this isn’t GE. Might it work? Sure. But be open to new ways of doing things while being confident of what you know will work. Don’t put yourself or your organization in jeopardy, but be willing to try new things when time and circumstance allow.

Adapted from The Seven Habits of Spectacularly Unsuccessful Executives in Forbes by Eric Jackson.

Tim Sackett will speak on What Your CEO Wished HR Would Do at the TLNT Transform conference in Austin, TX Feb. 26-28, 2012. Click here for more information on attending this event. 

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.


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