Why Your HR Exec Should Be Your Most Trusted Advisor

As captain of the organization, your role is to make bets on strategy as well as bigger bets on people to carry out that strategy. This is the understood dynamic, but the problem is with the reality of the people/strategy matrix.

On paper, that all makes sense. To grow it you need a strategy, to realize it you need the people. So here’s the question: Where is HR in this dynamic formula?


Price of Admission

If, as so many companies are prone to say, “People are our greatest asset,” then the assumption would seem to be that HR is the guider of that asset. So taking it a step further, knowing that this is what’s needed for organizational success, why are HR executives (or the CHROs) not invited into the inner sanctum? What is the price of admission? Finance, marketing, IT surely have a ticket, but in a lot of companies HR is on the outside looking in.

According to two recent studies by the Conference Board as well as PWC CEO Surveys, human capital was shown as either No. 1 or No. 2 for CEO’s concerns. (Small note: The Conference Board survey showed human capital as No. 2 with innovation being No. 1. — so how can we innovate without that most important asset?)

Again, why is the CHRO not one of the CEO’s most trusted advisors? It’s kind of like having a specific medical problem and turning to the family doctor. Normally in those circumstances your family doctor will refer you to a specialist who deals with your disorder every day — a specialist steeped in the knowledge of your ailment.

People-Driven Strategy

So if human capital/talent is the major determinate in reaching organizational goals, then the role of your top HR executive should be as the main trusted advisor to the CEO. And being the main trusted advisor does not mean having to go through the CFO or CAO — it means reporting directly to the CEO.

Talent has taken on such an importance in organizational life today. “A” talent will be the differentiator of great organizations in the future. Innovation, the elephant in the room, is driven by talent and not the other way around.

The lifeblood of successful organizations is going to be centered on attracting and retaining talent. For organizations to be winners in their market there must be a high level of talent within all levels of the organization.

Talent Determines Trajectory

When I worked at Martha Stewart as VP of HR during its infancy, we had an extraordinary level of talent within the organization. Recipes, design ideas, magazine stories, etc. were all created by an amazing group of talented individuals. Sure, Martha had the final say, but those ideas came through the stable of talent that we assembled.

The offshoot of having top talent is that when your organization becomes known as a talent marketplace, prospective employees are clamoring to get in. I noticed an article the other day about Yahoo getting 12,000 resumes per week. This is because they have taken a company that was on the ropes and made it hot again. With heat comes talent.

Sure, Yahoo has the strategy in place, but it is the people and the culture that will drive this company back to both profitability and stature. Out of that treasure trove of resumes will be game changers who could drive the disruptive innovation that all companies are thirsting for. Bringing in or nurturing top talent and creating a culture that thrives on challenges will always produce innovative ideas. Talent will be the key to the kingdom.

Let the Experts Be Experts

The CHRO’s domain of expertise is people, culture and the dynamics for building optimized workforces. We have distinctive knowledge and insight about the importance of an organization’s human capital, and how to situate that capital in a way that allows for the success of that organization’s strategy.

The human capital/talent dynamic is not only a critical business function in itself, but it is also directly connected with innovation, operational excellence and other challenges within the organization. People-driven strategies will create value for years to come, enabling your company to create a garden of talent within the confines of your own office that will yield a bountiful harvest over the long term.

But you have to let the gardener into the garden.


By Ron Thomas, a Chief Human Resource & Administrative Officer currently based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. 

Charisma isn't something you have. It's something you earn.


By Jeff Haden

Some people instantly make us feel important. Some people instantly make us feel special. Some people light up a room just by walking in.

We can't always define it, but some people have it: They're naturally charismatic.

Unfortunately, natural charisma quickly loses its impact. Familiarity breeds, well, familiarity.

But some people are remarkably charismatic: They build and maintain great relationships, consistently influence (in a good way) the people around them, consistently make people feel better about themselves--they're the kind of people everyone wants to be around...and wants to be.

Fortunately we can, because being remarkably charismatic isn't about our level of success or our presentation skills or how we dress or the image we project--it's about what we do.

Here are the 10 habits of remarkably charismatic people:

1. They listen way more than they talk.

Ask questions. Maintain eye contact. Smile. Frown. Nod. Respond--not so much verbally, but nonverbally.

That's all it takes to show the other person they're important.

Then when you do speak, don't offer advice unless you're asked. Listening shows you care a lot more than offering advice, because when you offer advice in most cases you make the conversation about you, not them.

Don't believe me? Who is "Here's what I would do..." about: you or the other person?

Only speak when you have something important to say--and always define important as what matters to the other person, not to you.

2. They don't practice selective hearing.

Some people--I guarantee you know people like this--are incapable of hearing anything said by the people they feel are somehow beneath them.

Sure, you speak to them, but that particular falling tree doesn't make a sound in the forest, because there's no one actually listening.

Remarkably charismatic people listen closely to everyone, and they make all of us, regardless of our position or social status or "level," feel like we have something in common with them.

Because we do: We're all people.

3. They put their stuff away.

Don't check your phone. Don't glance at your monitor. Don't focus on anything else, even for a moment.

You can never connect with others if you're busy connecting with your stuff, too.

Give the gift of your full attention. That's a gift few people give. That gift alone will make others want to be around you and remember you.

4. They give before they receive--and often they never receive.

Never think about what you can get. Focus on what you can provide. Giving is the only way to establish a real connection and relationship.

Focus, even in part and even for a moment, on what you can get out of the other person, and you show that the only person who really matters is you.

5. They don't act self-important…

The only people who are impressed by your stuffy, pretentious, self-important self are other stuffy, pretentious, self-important people.

The rest of us aren't impressed. We're irritated, put off, and uncomfortable.

And we hate when you walk in the room.

6. …Because they realize other people are more important.

You already know what you know. You know your opinions. You know your perspectives and points of view.

That stuff isn't important, because it's already yours. You can't learn anything from yourself.

But you don't know what other people know, and everyone, no matter who they are, knows things you don't know.

That makes them a lot more important than you--because they're people you can learn from.

7. They shine the spotlight on others.

No one receives enough praise. No one. Tell people what they did well.

Wait, you say you don't know what they did well?

Shame on you--it's your job to know. It's your job to find out ahead of time.

Not only will people appreciate your praise, they'll appreciate the fact you care enough to pay attention to what they're doing.

Then they'll feel a little more accomplished and a lot more important.

8. They choose their words.

The words you use impact the attitude of others.

For example, you don't have to go to a meeting; you get to go meet with other people. You don't have to create a presentation for a new client; you get to share cool stuff with other people. You don't have to go to the gym; you get to work out and improve your health and fitness.

You don't have to interview job candidates; you get to select a great person to join your team.

We all want to associate with happy, enthusiastic, fulfilled people. The words you choose can help other people feel better about themselves--and make you feel better about yourself, too.

9. They don't discuss the failings of others...

Granted, we all like hearing a little gossip. We all like hearing a little dirt.

The problem is, we don't necessarily like--and we definitely don't respect--the people who dish that dirt.

Don't laugh at other people. When you do, the people around you wonder if you sometimes laugh at them.

10. ...But they readily admit their failings.

Incredibly successful people are often assumed to have charisma simply because they're successful. Their success seems to create a halo effect, almost like a glow.

Keyword is seem.

You don't have to be incredibly successful to be remarkably charismatic. Scratch the shiny surface, and many successful people have all the charisma of a rock.

But you do have to be incredibly genuine to be remarkably charismatic.

Be humble. Share your screwups. Admit your mistakes. Be the cautionary tale. And laugh at yourself.

While you should never laugh at other people, you should always laugh at yourself.

People won't laugh at you. People will laugh laugh with you.

They'll like you better for it--and they'll want to be around you a lot more.

5 Reasons Employee Engagement Programs Fail


The latest State of the American Workplace report from Gallup tells us once again that only about 30% of Americans are engaged at work. The number of disengaged workers costs the U.S. $450 billion to $550 billion per year.

This engagement crisis is the same story we’ve been hearing for over a decade, yet most organizations still fail in their efforts to increase the commitment of their workers. Why?

Based on my own journey from bad boss to Best Place to Work award winner, and on my reviews of hundreds of case studies, these are the most common reasons executives’ employee engagement efforts fail:

1. They confuse engagement with happy.

Often engagement initiatives crater in the C-suite because senior executives don’t know what employee engagement is. They may confuse it with nice but “soft” efforts to make employees “happy.”

Engagement is the emotional commitment one feels to their organization, and to the organization’s goals. When engaged, employees give discretionary effort—the secret sauce to gains in productivity, sales and ultimately profits.

2. They don’t think engagement can be measured.

Even some notable business gurus were quoted recently as saying, “Don’t try to measure engagement or you’ll kill it.” Or you can’t measure engagement, but you know it when you see it.

To the contrary, HR consultancies from Gallup to Kenexa have found ways to measures proxies of engagement. Measurement is the first step in managing better outcomes.

3. They measure it but don’t share results.

Typically, when an engagement survey is completed, the results are scrutinized by the C-level executives and the HR professionals. Rarely are all the results shared throughout the company. Only when individual managers get their own team scores can transformation occur.

4. All the ideas for improvement come from the top.

Related to No. 3 above, senior execs often work as a council of wise men and women, brainstorming better benefits or new award programs for the whole company. The secret to engagement is that it comes from the relationships front line managers have with their direct reports. Only action planning at the individual team level will generate the ideas that will move the needle.

5. They think it’s about picnics and parties.

Unfortunately, top-down ideas typically include things like summer picnics, dress down Fridays and Employee of the Month awards. The true drivers of engagement are growthrecognitiontrust andcommunication. While people might feel “happier” during the time of a party, only a true change in their daily and weekly work experience will make them feel emotionally connected to their organization.

The employee engagement crisis has gone on long enough. All organizations that strive for excellence should implement an annual measurement survey, share the results down to the front-line managers, and insist on team-level action planning to move the scores in the right direction.

Kevin Kruse is a NY Times bestselling author, speaker and serial entrepreneur. His latest book is Employee Engagement for Everyone.

Great Employees Are Not Replaceable

One of the most important lessons I learned during my years as a CEO was that great employees are not replaceable. It isn’t the technology or the product that make a company great, it’s the people. And companies who see their good employees as “replaceable” are wrong. Good employees are not replaceable. Let me clarify what I mean by “replaceable.” Can a company hire someone to fill a position to replace someone else? Of course they can. In today’s market, the world is ripe with candidates who are eager and willing to take the job. But putting a behind in a seat doesn’t replace a great employee. It simply puts a new behind in a seat.

The Millwright Died

One of my favorite book on leadership is a short book called Leadership is an Art by Max DePree. In a simple and straightforward fashion, the author tells the following story in this excerpt entitled, “The Millwright Died”.

My father is 96 years old. He is the founder of Herman 
Miller, and much of the value system and impounded energy of the company is…a part of his contribution. In the furniture industry in the 1920’s the machines of most factories were not run by electric motors, but from pulleys from a central drive shaft. The central drive shaft was run by a steam engine. The steam engine got its fuel from the sawdust and other waste coming out of the machine room – a beautiful cycle. The  millwright was the person who oversaw that cycle. He was a key person. 

One day the millwright died.

My father being a young manager at the time, did not particularly know what he should do when a key person died, but thought he ought to go and visit the family. He went to the house and was invited to join the family in the living room.

There was some awkward conversation – the kind with which many of us are familiar. The widow asked my father if it would be all right if she read aloud some poetry. Naturally he agreed… When she finished reading, my father commented on how beautiful the poetry was and asked who wrote it. She replied that her husband, the millwright, was the poet.

It is now nearly 60 years since the millwright died, and my father and many of us at Herman Miller continue to wonder: Was he a poet that did millwright’s work, or was he a millwright who wrote poetry?

In our effort to understand corporate life, what is it that we should learn from this story? In addition to all of the ratios and goals and parameters and bottom lines, it is fundamental that leaders endorse the concept of persons. This begins with the understanding of the diversity of people’s gifts and talents and skills. Recognizing diversity helps us to understand the need we have for opportunity, equity, and identity in the work place.

Recognizing diversity gives us the chance to provide meaning, fulfillment and purpose, which are not to be relegated to  private life any more than are such things as love, beauty, and joy.

When we think about leaders and the variety of gifts people bring to corporations and institutions, we see that the art of leadership lies in polishing and liberating and enabling those gifts.



The Path from Dysfunctional to Functional

teamsUtilizing your team to drive business and maintain productivity is the goal of building a team in the first place. But sometimes, the grand dream of teamwork becomes a nightmare. When this happens, how can you get your team back on track and better than they were before?

The first step is to identify the signs that your team is dysfunctional; you may not even realize that the actual state of things unless you are monitoring your team to see if they are experiencing temporary difficulties, or if they are truly not working together anymore. The International Institute of Management lists many symptoms of a dysfunctional team, among them

  • Ineffective meetings
  • Negative office politics and backstabbing
  • Continual crisis mode
  • Looking good instead of acting effectively
  • People leaving the company

When these sort of things are happening around you, the work atmosphere has become toxic, and it’s only a matter of time until it explodes.

The journey back to functionality takes time, but your team will come out of it stronger than before.

It’s necessary to start out with an atmosphere of security: people who are scared of losing their jobs are going to do anything to keep themselves safe—and that’s not going to be what’s best for the team as a whole. Maybe later in the process you will find that one person is bringing down the group and it will be necessary to remove them, but at the beginning, your team needs to know that they are in a place where they can ask questions, talk about conflicts, and bring up alternate ideas for the future without being afraid of recrimination or condescension. If you just fire the troublemakers from the beginning, you’re only getting rid of a symptom of a nonfunctioning system, and within months, that system will produce another troublemaker. (And who’s to say the person causing turmoil isn’t actually the person brave enough to stand up and point out where things need to be fixed?)

This leads into the next step, improving communication. Many teams become dysfunctional because members are unclear on their roles, hear different information from different sources, and as a result are unable to rely on their leaders or colleagues. If you are working on a project, share as much information as you can with your team; refuse to let rumors and confusion grow. When they are allowed to sprout, your team members will start working in opposite directions, to the detriment of the entire team.

Last of all, make sure that your team members know they are valued. Validate their efforts to let them know when they are on the right track, and acknowledge them for jobs well done—not only will they feel appreciated, but you will get more productivity out of them when they trust themselves and the skills you hired them for in order to perform excellently. There is nothing that kills morale faster than knowing there is no light at the end of the tunnel when they’re having a hard workday, so figure out appropriate rewards for the goals they meet, both individually and together as a team.

The #1 CEO Mistake That Will Kill Your Company

Christine Comaford, Contributor @forbes

Bob’s business was growing by a consistent 30% per year.

Then it stopped.

Two of his key sales people had left, followed by his VP of Marketing. A handful of his most promising emerging leaders were moving toward the door too. Bob’s revenue had flatlined. I was called in to stop the exodus and turn things around.

Sue’s business was growing by 100% per year. The speed at which the company was expanding was barely manageable. At any given time her company had 20+ job searches under way.

And there was no sign of a slowdown.

Until her people’s performance started to falter. Accountability became wobbly. At 5pm the office was a ghost town. The previous palpable energy in the office now was dull and dreary. Everyone looked burned out and tired.

Both Bob and Sue had the same problem: no People Plan.

What Inflection Point Are You Headed Toward?

In my 30 years of helping CEOs build highly profitable businesses, I’ve consistently correlated company challenges to what I call Inflection Points. At each Inflection Point your business is reinvented–there are profound people, money and business model changes. The people ones are the hardest. Without mastering them, the money and business model become irrelevant, because your business isn’t going to make it.

The business world is moving too fast to tolerate CEOs who don’t prepare for their next Inflection Point. Let’s look at the Inflection Points then we’ll lay out your People Plan.

Image Credit: Copyright Christine Comaford Assoc 2012

How’s Your People Plan?  13 Questions To Ask Now

Rate yourself on the following questions. Answer each with Yes or No, then total them up at the end.

1-Is your revenue growing as quickly as you want it to?

2-Is your profit growing as quickly as you want it to?

3-Do you have the right people in the right roles doing the right things?

4-Are you retaining or losing your superstars?

5-Are you using specific proven techniques to help your executive team lead better by seeing into their blind spots, overcoming challenging behaviors, expanding their vision and ability to elevate others?

6-Have you identified your next generation of leaders?

7-If so, are you following a specific proven process to cultivate them?

8-Would you like to get more accountability, communication, execution from your team?

9-Are you navigating rapid growth or turnaround where internal priorities are frequently shifting and the team is challenged to quickly adapt and stretch?

10-Are you frequently resolving conflict between key executives or team members?

11-Does your culture have a prevalent victim mentality where problems are focused on versus outcomes?

12-Do you know how to scale and allocate your human resources to get more done with fewer people?

13-Are you keeping your finger on the pulse of the culture and implementing programs to increase emotional equity?

If you have five or more “No” answers you likely have no People Plan. Keep reading to remedy this.

4 Key Components of Your People Plan

People Plans evolve over time. The reason most CEOs want one is three-fold: greater profit, greater revenue, greater retention and development of their key team members. With an effective People Plan you’ll get:

  • 35% more productivity from your team members
  • Close sales 50% faster
  • Double revenue or net income annually

For version 1 of your People Plan you’ll need the following:

1-Individual Development Plans: Each team member across your company should know their next two possible evolutions (promotions imply a raise/title change, which may not occur)—whether they are up, across or within. The “within” evolutions are when their current role takes on significant new responsibility or acquires a new skill set. Think of a customer service rep who has now been trained in up-selling, down-selling, cross-selling and thus can now receive performance bonuses when their new skills are demonstrated. Plan out 1 year at a time.

2- Leadership Development Programs:  Every team member in your company should have the opportunity to apply for a Leadership Development Program. This program is a six month training and coaching intensive where the person develops significant new skills and changes previously limiting behaviors. Your next generation of leadership will come from the people who graduate from this program, and everyone who participates needs to “pay it forward” by mentoring a person in your company on enhancing their own leadership.

3-Lean Training: See my blog on Crushed Culture to learn the four short and sweet trainings (2.5 hours each or less) every staff member on your team must receive. Don’t assume since Joe works in the warehouse that he doesn’t need training on smart skills (aka management skills). Au contraire. One of our clients had a warehouse worker named Marv. He took our Neuroscience of Leadership training and one month later had optimized  warehouse efficiency and reduced costs by over $300,000 per month. Needless to say Marv has been promoted.

4-Accountability Structures and Rewards/Consequences: I covered super effective accountability structures in my Accountability Blog, so I won’t repeat it here. The main point is everyone must know their key “Needle Movers” for the year, quarter, month and be delivering results consistently. They get rewards for results and consequences when they miss them.

Don’t let your growth grind to a halt. And don’t tolerate a Crushed Culture like United Airlines and Hilton Hotels–two brands that I used to love–now have. (Hint: surly employees and inconsistent quality are huge signs).

Both Bob and Sue now have a People plan. Their cultural chaos is a distant memory. Bob’s growth is now at 42% annually, Sue had another year at 100% growth then we moved our focus to cranking up her profit and operational efficiency.

Christine Comaford has created and implemented People Plans at many of America’s most successful companies for the past 30 years. She’s also the author of the NY Times bestseller “Rules for Renegades.” Follow Christine on Twitter: @comaford