I had several interesting conversations this week with clients (all from different industries) and in each discussion there was a common theme: people leadership skills need to be improved in their organization and there is a commitment to do so from their leadership team. This is great news. It’s what HR and L&D professional work so hard to achieve. They often have to spend months or years “convincing” senior leaders that by investing in their people they will improve business performance and move their organizations from good to great. So getting the thumbs up to “make it happen” is fantastic news.
However, there was also a consistent recognition from the clients I spoke with, that while their organizational leaders had verbally committed to making the changes necessary for change, there was concern that these changes may not take place. They realize that the road to get to their desired state is long, bumpy and requires an on-going commitment from the leadership team. HR leaders aren’t scared of the challenge. They welcome it. They know it will be hard work to hold leaders more accountable for strong people leadership and will require tough decision making along the way. They know the results will be worth the energy, effort and financial resources spent. However, senior leaders aren’t always as committed for the long haul. Because of the strength needed to shift an organizational culture in a new direction, our clients are concerned that a few things might occur:
- Leaders will lose commitment to the long term vision
- Budgets will be cut
- Change won’t happen fast enough to demonstrate a ROI
- Managers won’t see the connection between people leadership and business outcomes
- Business priorities will override time for learning, coaching, mentoring etc.
- Tough decisions around hiring the right people, letting the wrong people go, and investing in high potentials won’t be made
- Small wins and successes won’t be publicized enough to demonstrate improvement is occurring
The question remains, is your organization putting their money where their mouth is? This does NOT mean just approving budgets and spending dollars on learning and development. It means is the business prepared to do what is required (at all levels operationally) to achieve your desired future state? When push comes to shove, will the status quo be challenged internally so that real change can take place?
For example, will your leaders hire the same types of employees over and over yet expect a different result? Will they place greater weight on technical skills over people leadership skills despite saying they want strong leaders? Will they have transparent career development conversations with employees even if they are in front line roles that typically don’t progress up the corporate ladder?
Step one is having leaders create a vision and set strategic goals for a future state where:
- their organizations are high performing
- managers are account for people leadership
- employees are rewarded, supported and developed to achieve higher levels
- learning and development is an on-going process not a singular event
Step 2 is building the organizational fortitude to do what is necessary to make the vision come to life and achieve the strategic gaols. This will require you as an HR leader to be:
- committed to the outcome
- comfortable managing through tough times
- willing to defend the vision / goals
- positive about the ability of managers to improve and grow
By demonstrating these characteristics you will be able to champion the change internally that your leaders have committed to and achieve what you know is possible.