Seth Godin defines the new American Dream as: “Be remarkable. Be generous. Make art. Connect people and ideas.” Today’s strategic HR executive embraces this concept. As I see it, four attributes or characteristics make or break an HR executive’s ability to generate powerful relationships (of course, these four factors apply to everyone else, too). They are: Trust, direction, communication, and commitment:
Trust. The first concern every business owner or executive should be to surround themselves with people they can trust. What makes a person trustworthy is the fact that they can do something and have a desire to do so because they have the skills, training, and experience.
One way to become a trustworthy human resource executive is to become a PHR or SPHR. Another way is to be a constant learner: Turn off the TV and pick up a book, or read one of the many reports on HR That Works. Desire motivates the successful HR person to get things done – new things, not just familiar ones.
Direction. Superstars have a clear sense of their direction, vision, mission, values, goals, and plans. Unfortunately, as Mary Kay was famous for saying, “Most people plan their vacations better than their careers.” Just how good do you want to be? What do you have to do to get there? Have you mapped out a plan to get you there step by step? Is your plan in alignment with the greater needs of the organization? Have you had this conversation with your boss or the owner?
Then, give yourself benchmarks to determine how you’re doing. How would you know if you were on course? What results must you achieve, and by when? Break these benchmarks down into a clear plan for the week. What are your typical recurring tasks, and when will you perform them? What value-added tasks will you accomplish this week? When? How long will they take? At the end of the week, evaluate how you did, make adjustments, and set your plan for the next week.
Remember, successful executives have a clear sense of direction. As Napoleon Hill stated in Think and Grow Rich, “They have a burning desire for a particular purpose.”
Communication. One of the top challenges in any relationship involves communication, including how you talk with yourself. To be a good communicator is an inside-out job. What’s your daily “self-talk”? One business school study found that 80% of self-talk is about what we want to have that we don’t, or who we want to be that we’re not. What an incredible waste of time!
Instead, look to the Scriptures. For more than 2,000 years, the 23rd Psalm has reminded us that we “shall not want.” Focus on your gifts: Your intelligence and drive, the people around you, your clients, the fact that people need your work, and so forth. When my self-talk focuses on glorifying what I’ve been given, life becomes far richer both emotionally and financially. That’s good self-talk.
What’s the value of your communication with others? If I asked your significant other, BFF, or a colleague what you could do to communicate more effectively, and then asked you to guess what they said, you’d be fairly accurate. Most of us know what we can do to become better communicators. For one thing, we can listen more closely. This requires us to be present and stop running for a moment so that we can focus on the other person. Try this for five minutes. You’ll be amazed by how others respond to it.
Next, focus on making more positive deposits than negative ones. The authors of the excellent book Leadership and Self-Deception point out that most people deceive themselves into believing that they do more positive communication than negative. This is a natural by-product of running 75 miles per hour. Ask yourself this: When you’re running 75mph and someone’s trying to talk to you, how does it feel to them? Does it feel like a positive experience? Does it feel like you care? Probably not. This is why, although you might have good intentions, your outcomes might not be good. Finally, focus on creating a positive experience in your relations with others by making them feel good about themselves – finding the good that’s in them. Then you might even laugh together.
Commitment. Successful executives are committed. Good old Zig Ziglar provided me with a favorite quote about commitment: “Commitment is doing those things you said you were going to do long after the mood you said them in has worn off.” How committed are you? You might get the things I’ve stated above, but are you committed to delivering on them? Think in terms of rainy day commitments. Successful people commit to getting things done even when it doesn’t feel good to do them. “Sunshine commitment” is always easy. Our personal culture shows up when things feel unfair, not when everything is nice and sunny.
If it feels unfair that your success isn’t coming fast enough, consider the “flywheel effect.” As Jim Collins states in Good to Great, success doesn’t happen overnight. Like a flywheel, it takes some time to kick in. Then you’ll wonder what took it so long. Commitment requires a balance between urgency and patience. Because nothing happens without people taking action, we need a sense of urgency. At the same time, like a Zen master, we have to allow things to unfold as they are – not necessarily as we wanted them to be. I can tell you from personal experience that if you remain committed to something long enough, you will achieve success — just not when or how you expected it!
So, let’s sum up.
If you’re in the HR role, what makes you trustworthy to your superiors? They can trust you with payroll and benefits administration, but can they also trust you to think strategically in a way that helps grow the bottom line? Do you have a written plan for this, with short and long-term goals, and specific benchmarks? Just how good do you want to be? What expectations do you have of yourself? How well do you work with others? Do you play team? Are you a pleasure to work with? Do you give as much as you take? Are you capable of being present and in the now, if even for short periods? Just how strong is your commitment? How would your superiors know this without you saying anything about it? What actions would they expect to see? What bridges are you willing to burn and what are you willing to stop doing as part of this commitment?
Here’s hoping that this either confirms the path you’re on and helps to reinforce it, or alternatively, serves as the good swift kick you might need. Success is a choice. Every one of these strategies should inherently feel right. Apply them toward your success.