Recently on a hot, late summer afternoon I shared an iced tea and revealing conversation with a fellow senior HR colleague. We reminisced back to the beginning of our careers, asking each other why we originally decided to enter the human resources field several decades ago when it was still known as “personnel management.”
We found as we chatted that our reasons for choosing HR as our vocation were the same: that we were challenged by solving people problems and that we wanted to make a difference in the workplace and the quality of our employees’ lives.
After the meeting, I reflected more about the guiding principles that have served me over the years to excel in the HR field plus upwardly manage my very own career path. Now, I’m sharing with you my 6 “A-HA’s” that can do the same for you.
A-HA #1). You Can’t Be Everybody’s Friend. This is a tough one, particularly for women because we’ve been conditioned to please others as children. Managing HR is a balance between being authentic and caring and acting as a sincere resource for your employees, but also holding a firm line on doing what’s in the Company’s best interest when necessary.
Some people never find this critical balance. Of course, you do build professional relationships with your co-workers, though it’s best to keep most employees at “arm’s length” so you’ll never have to compromise your role in managing HR. For the most part, keep your personal life separate from your work life. It will pay off for you in the long run.
A-HA #2). Do the Right Thing. Particularly in managing employee relations issues that include potential disciplinary action or termination, it’s critical to research all of the pertinent facts before you decide how to proceed. Sometimes even after you have all of the information you need to make an informed decision, it still boils down to what feels like the right thing to do in your gut. After all is said and done, you still have to be able to sleep at night! If you follow this rule, you’ll be able to sleep with a clear conscience. Remember, it’s all about consistently using integrity as a guiding force in making your decisions. This is truly one of the key qualities of exceptional HR professionals.
A-HA #3). Stay Out of Politics. Being a “straight-shooter,” company politics were never of interest to me. In my golf game, I even putt greens with a clear line of sight, not attempting to figure out the elevations and curves! Maybe I am a little naive or just plain dumb about politics, but I never really “got it.” And because I never got politics, NOT having to deal with them anymore is one of the huge perks I now enjoy as an entrepreneur! It takes way too much energy and effort to remember what you said to whom at what time, and then you have to track it all. Just do your job well and you’ll be recognized and rewarded over time.
A-HA #4). Treat Employees the Way That They Want to Be Treated. This is so simple, yet so powerful to your ability to effectively resolve all of those people problems!! Years ago, I thought that I should treat employees in the manner that I would like to be treated. As time went on, it became apparent to me that each individual holds truly unique preferences and priorities. It’s downright arrogant to assume that others have the same values and beliefs that you hold to be true. Don’t assume that you know this information from the beginning. Instead, ask them in your first discussion of the issue, “What do you expect as an outcome from this meeting?” Then you’ll know what you need to do to resolve that employee’s issue (or be able to manage their expectations).
A-HA #5). Be Results Oriented. Nothing drives me crazier than dealing with passive aggressive types who talk a good game, but never produce. Employees come to you to help them solve whatever problems they are experiencing in the workplace. Make a commitment to get back to the employee within a certain timeframe and do your best to honor that timeline. Follow up and communicate with all parties to effectively resolve workplace or employee issues. Communication is paramount to ensuring all involved parties are “on the same page.”
A-HA #6). Continue Learning. You know that I’m a big believer in becoming an expert in your field to distinguish yourself from everyone else. In my 30’s, I got my CCP from World at Work, and in my 40’s I went back to school and got my Master’s degree. You have continually learn to keep on top of your game. Read voraciously and set your own career development path to get where you want to go.
These guiding principles have served me well in my own career development enabling me to advance to senior level human resources jobs with Fortune 500 companies. My intention in sharing these with you is that you’ll incorporate some of my principles into ones you already practice to take you to the next level in managing your own career path.