There comes a time when those feet start getting itchy and though you’ve been content in your role in your team, you know you’re ready for a change. You’re ready to step into leadership.
Greater responsibilities and opportunities beckon and you know it’s only a matter of time before you make the jump, polish your CV and go for it.
If you’re like most HR professionals, it’s probably those important and impactful initiatives that really inspire and drive you. When you’re looking to step up to a leadership role that finally gives you the chance to make things happen, a few key mindset shifts will help you prepare for the challenge.
Having worked with hundreds of HR professionals, managers and directors, we’ve seen what makes the difference between those who step up and those who don’t.
Here are the four mindset shifts that separate great HR leaders from everyone else:
1. Thinking strategically
This is perhaps the biggest mindset shift to overcome and is difficult when you’re dealing with day-to-day issues in your team. Thinking strategically involves looking at the ultimate business outcomes and understanding what actions you need to achieve to help deliver that outcome.
For example, we have one customer undergoing a major business transformation project. This organisation will look and feel very different in a few months and certainly in a few years. HR could carry on working as they are today and get by, however, if they did – they would become rapidly out of date and increasingly marginalised as an administration/operational unit only. The new HRD is changing the HR structure; people and systems to better prepare for this ‘brave new world’. Essentially, a new HR team more aligned to a business that is moving from an out-of-date, legacy ‘old world’ business – to one employing leading-edge IT millennials, with a feel more akin to Google and its ‘campus environment’ than a business stuck way back in the 1960’s.
When you start thinking this way, it becomes clear very quickly how very few of your current day-to-day activities are moving you towards your ultimate goals. Understanding how to connect daily activities with long term goals is a key indicator that a team and its leader are thinking strategically.
2. Thinking about new ways to solve old challenges
It’s an attractive route to simply follow what everyone else is doing when it comes to dealing with the challenges within your organisation.
While sharing knowledge and best practice has its value, the ability to look beyond ‘traditional’ ways of meeting the needs and solving the challenges in your organisation puts you head and shoulders above the crowd.
Visionary HR leaders are able to see beyond the edges of HR into other sectors and industries, identify what is working and apply these lessons to their own situation.
For example, do you use exactly the same resources and tools every other HR team use? Why?
Just because one resource is known as the best for a whole sector, does that mean it’s the right one right now? Is there are better way? Can we learn from what other industry sectors and management disciplines are doing? Who are the innovators and winners in business that we want to analyse and learn from?
This mindset shift is about seeing your everyday challenges through fresh eyes. You’ll need this when you step into a leadership role, whether for your own organisation or for another.
Being able to discern what gives you real value as an HR leader is one of the mindset shifts needed for anyone aspiring to this role.
3. Communicating at every level
It goes without saying that communication skills are a must-have for any ambitious HR professional. Yet, communication skills become even more important when you’re looking to step up to a leadership role – and it’s not just communication within your team.
Sure, that’s important. If you are a good communicator; influencing, inspiring and moving your colleagues and peers with you is hugely beneficial to the team. Spelling out your vision for the team and then understanding how to adapt your style with each team member to bring the best out them will move you further and faster than a team which struggles to communicate with each other.
But your communication skills need to be tested beyond the team.
Knowing how to speak to the board, the executive team and senior management is so important, as it will often be their approval you will need for initiatives and projects you want to launch.
Also, knowing how to communicate across the organisation with other departments – sales, marketing, operations, etc. – is also vital to delivering your vision.
Being able to pitch an idea and gain buy-in will be a highly valuable skill for anyone who wants to step into that leadership role.
Ask yourself this…Does the business and its key stakeholders really understand your vision as to what HR means to you; what it means to your organisation right now and where it can be in a few years – given their support (both intellectually and financially)? If the business doesn’t ‘get’ what ‘big HR’ really means – how will you really progress anything meaningful and of real strategic value?
4. Willing to be action-oriented
The one major quality we’ve seen from HR leaders who make an impact is their decisiveness and willingness to act quickly when they see an opportunity for improvement or change.
This is where the other qualities come in because taking action quickly requires thinking strategically and buy-in at various levels. Only when you can influence and persuade do you have the capacity to move quickly.
That’s one of the challenges identified in our white paper, ‘HR Director: The First 90 Days’. Making smart, strategic actions when you step into a role helps set the agenda and puts you in the driving seat – vital for a visionary HR leader.
Of course, this doesn’t mean bypassing discussion or consulting. Great HR leadership does all those things but identifies quickly where action needs to be taken and what small hinges can swing big doors. And focuses their effort and their team’s on getting it done.
Want to know more about how to make an impact in your first few months in a new HR leadership role? Your first 90 days set the tone for the rest of your time in that role – make sure you know exactly what to do to leave your mark early on. Discover how by downloading the report HR Director: The First 90 Days.