It’s not a secret. The strength of your company’s vision and the health of your company’s culture will dictate its potential for success. As a human resources leader, you are pivotal in making the connection between vision and culture. But how can you do that when you feel locked out of the C-suite decision-making process?
It happens more often than most companies would like to admit. Decisions get made that affect the people in the company, and the Vice-President or Director of Human Resources is expected to find a way to “sell” the decision to the employees. Often the human resources leader isn’t even consulted prior to decisions that set a company culture at odds with the company vision. This short-sighted approach results in higher turnover for the company when frustrated leaders leave rather than deal with having no voice in the process.
War Garven, managing director of Stanton Chase argues that “the reason so many talented and seasoned human resource executives leave the post include lack of input into the larger decision-making process, no clear expectations or understanding of ‘fit’ within the role and a deficiency in communicating goals for that role. The result is an increasingly high level of turnover.”
Fortunately, more and more CEOs are recognizing the value of involving human resources leaders in the decision-making process. Some companies have taken the initiative to include human resources in C-suite decision-making, using the title Chief Human Resources Officer to emphasize how vital the role truly is to the company’s success.
If you as a human resources leader are not feeling heard, that communication break-down can lead to a disconnect between the corporate vision and the actual supporting culture. Vision and culture must work together for a company to maximize its potential.
So how can you ensure you make the most of your influence with the CEO and other C-suite leaders? Try the following five ways to help position you to make the most of every interaction with the rest of your company’s leadership:
1. Invest 10X. You show your value to the team when you value the time of other leaders. Instead of demanding respect from them, start by showing respect to them. Management author Charles C. Gibbons said, “One of the best ways to save time is to think and plan ahead; five minutes of thinking can save one hour of work.” Before engaging with C-suite leaders, invest ten minutes preparing for every one minute you spend together. Be ready when your time comes to communicate effectively and show you value the time of others.
2. Don’t Make Others Think for You. Be prepared to ask good questions of C-suite leaders. Never ask questions that you could get answered elsewhere. Your questions send a message to them about how seriously you take your role and how much you value them. The kind of questions you ask them will leave one of three impressions:
- Asking questions because you can’t think leaves them thinking we’re in trouble.
- Asking questions because you’re lazy leaves them thinking you are in trouble.
- Asking questions so everyone can move faster and perform better leaves them thinking we’re all headed for success.
3. Bring Something to the Table. Not everyone contributes to the conversation in a meaningful way or adds value to others in a meeting. No wonder such people never get asked to contribute if leaders can avoid asking them. Instead, look for ways to bring something to the table for other leaders—perspectives, ideas, resources, or opportunities. Go into each meeting expecting to find a way to add value to the ideas of others without concern for who gets the credit. By giving to others you unleash the wisdom of the proverb: “A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great.”
4. When Asked to Speak, Don’t Wing It. When you get a chance to have a voice, use it wisely. Even if you think you are good at concealing it, after a while people know when you are not prepared. Why? Because it all starts to sound the same. Make sure that when you talk with other leaders in your company, they aren’t hearing the same things they heard last time. You will lose credibility and they will see no reason to include you in future decision-making.
5. Get to the Bottom Line. Playwright Victor Hugo said, “Short as life is, we make it still shorter by the careless waste of time.” Good leaders want to get quickly to the bottom line because they want results, not conversations. When you first begin to work with other leaders, you may need to spend more time giving insight into the process by which you came to a decision. Early on, you have to earn your credibility. But as the relationship builds, just get to the point. You don’t always have to share all the data. If other leaders want it, they can ask you for it.
You can’t always “fix it” when you feel locked out of decision-making in your company. Sometimes the problem has nothing to do with you. But by putting these five reminders into practice, you can position yourself to become more influential and valuable with other leaders in your company.
The results will be better relationships between human resources and C-suite decision-making, increased job security for you and your team, and eventually a company vision that works with company culture to expand growth and corporate potential for success. That’s a scenario where everybody wins!