This blog goes out to all those passionate and aspiring Human Resource professionals trying to “win over” their business partners and secure that proverbial “seat at the table”.
We’ve observed and learned over the years that in order to become that critical “strategic business partner”, one needs to understand the nature of the business they support and according to one of my professional idols – David Ulrich – one must understand the external environment that affects the organization so as to develop internal solutions successfully (see HR From The Outside In).
With all this said and done (and yes…I am using a broad brush here), we “HR’s” still seem to be stuck in the old quagmire…i.e. we tend to present ourselves as mechanistic, systematic, narrow, rule-based with “sharp sticks” for non-compliance to rules and procedures etc. Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m certainly not saying that rules and procedures are not important…they are critical in ensuring a sense of structure and accountability in any operating environment. The problem I see is that all of these adjectives are typical functions of our left brains and our left brains only.
Most, if not all of us, will adamantly stand our ground and insist that we possess these right brain qualities and I would agree with you, but possessing and using these qualities are two different things. Allowing yourself to flex the right side can be a daunting challenge but is absolutely essential to the success of the profession of Human Resources. Our world has changed dramatically and is quickly moving toward right-brain orientation, which means we have to move just as quickly if we want to add true value to the companies we support. This will only come about when we really focus on how we deliver our expertise vs. what we deliver.
The interesting irony here is that HR stands fast and reinforces right brain “soft and fluffy” qualities that business leaders need to possess, yet we insist (consciously or unconsciously) on delivering our expertise from a left-brain perspective. Most passionate HR professionals are deeply knowledgeable in what they do…but many can’t successfully build a foundation to persuade someone with this knowledge. At the end of the day, we are as effective as the knowledge/text we have stored deep in our left brain….the operative word is “stored”.
The only way to access this information and make it palatable so we persuade and have influence in what we do is accessing the strengths that our right-brain functioning has to offer us. Trying to persuade through being mechanistic and rule-based (only left brain functioning) is not at all sustainable. What we want to achieve is a balance of left and right brain functioning…simply put, we want to persuade our business partners with the knowledge we have (i.e. left brain) and be able to deliver this knowledge in order to appeal intrinsically to our business partners, so they want to do it not just because of external consequences (e.g. legal issues) but because of who they are and what they stand for.
The following steps will assist you in working yourself through this process:
- Left brain: Ensure you have the applicable knowledge so as to deliver your message
- Left brain: Make sure the knowledge in your mind is structured in a logical and sequenced manner. If the knowledge doesn’t make practical sense to you, it’s not going to make sense to someone else.
- Right brain: Ensure you start off really understanding what drives your business partner. People are self-driven and want to find internal meaning in what they do.
- Right brain: Work with your business partner progressively so they can master the information themselves and continue to build and progress with this information. Trying to give them the information just because you have the answer (knowledge) stored in your left brain brings very little to the table as it relates to sustainability. Remember, you may not achieve your ultimate objective initially, but have the patience to help your business partner achieve mastery.
- Right brain: Finally, if there’s one single biggest achievement you can make, is helping your business partner “see the light” by helping him or
herfind the intrinsic purpose for moving in a particular direction you need them to move toward. People are not going to do something and continue doing it because they have been told to do it “or else”. They might comply because of external consequences (e.g. legal consequences), but when “no one is looking” they revert to the riskier behaviour you tried so hard to help them correct in the first place. This is not a sustainable business practice but we as HR professionals are responsible for ensuring that the solutions we propose are as sustainable as possible. One way to ensure sustainability is to help your business partner achieve purpose so, at the end of the day, they continue the correct behaviour because it is part of who they are and not what they have been told.
Most of what and how Human Resources is delivered today is left brain orientated. This is unfortunately not perceived very positively for most in business. It does indeed come across as being mechanical, linear, rigid and rule dominated which becomes an obstacle to business and not something that stimulates and leverages business. There is certainly a time and place for this, but our world (socially and professionally) is changing dramatically to the right-brain way of thinking and doing business. Focusing on empathy, inventiveness and big-picture thinking ultimately supports our ability to be strategic in what we need to improve on.
Remember, in order to be able to show your “right-brain mojo“ to the business you support, focus on building rock-solid professional relationships first that will provide you with the foundation to be innovative and strategic which can only be brought to fruition by the right hemisphere of our brains. See Daniel Pink in A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future.
Until our next blog…may the business force be with you all!