Engage Energize Evolve

January 23, 2007

Of Smoke Breaks and Misanthropy in Corporates

Penelope Trunk at Brazen Careerist says -

"The point is that people judge your work skills as incompetent if you are not likeable — no matter what your work skills are. It may not be fair, but it’s what people do. So if you want to keep your job, you need to do enough politicking at work to make people like you"

A few years back, I would have scoffed at this. Why would have..I think I did scoff. After all, when you are fresh from Bschool, armed with delusions about your work speaking for yourself and delivery being the only thing you would want to focus on, a statement like this would be so "uncool" to make.

It takes the tough terrains of the corporate territory to bring you to a level playing ground and make you ask the important question - "If we are all so good, how do I get better?"

Lets face it, in today's information age, every individual has the knowledge and skills he needs to perform his job. If he does not have it, he can get it at the click of a button. It is hardly a competitive advantage.

On the other hand, what gives him the advantage is the "how".

You have a great idea...How do you sell it?
You have a great team...How do you manage them?

At the heart of these questions is a very very fundamental ability - "The ability to enhance your delivery by leveraging people / relationships" (Point to note - Leverage is not a euphemism for manipulate. A seperate blog post on what will follow)

So what are the elements of this ability?

Timing: Many ideas flop, not because they are bad, but because they have bad timing. Had you spent time with your customer understanding his preoccupations, you could have timed it better and increased chances of its acceptance.

Style: Very subjective, but crucial nevertheless. To put it simply, behaviours that demonstrate openness and willingness to accept feedback definitely find more acceptance amongst people.

Addressing the "Whats In It for Me". A sharp "people's person" will have mapped this out at the outset. He will know exactly what each of his stakeholders value and build that into his proposition.

And how will you know all iof us? Only when you engage with people, no matter how much you hate them or how much they tire you. There is no alternative to this, you cant delegate this, you cant outsource it. You need people around you, and you have to make them listen to you if you are to succeed.

So go ahead and take those smoke breaks, especially if you are NOT a smoker. You will be surprised at how many key decisions get made there!

January 11, 2007

The 3-2-7 principle!

My HR generalist friend recently introduced me to an interesting concept.

He said, with his inimicable sense of humour - "HR generalists always operate on the 3-2-7 principle". On seeing my quizzical look, he explained," On a scale of 1-10, an HR generalist typically enters at Point 3 (when its time for roll out / communication to employees), pushes himself to Point 2 (since he has incomplete information and needs the full picture), and then exits at Point 7 (because most review and decision making happens at a corporate level).

Thats the 3-2-7 principle for you!

I thought this was an extremey powerful way of describing what is a pertinent problem today across many organizations in India. A central HR function - with Business interface through HR generalists - who play multiple roles, wear multiple hats, do balancing acts, cajole, convince multiple stakeholders - and all of this - without having the complete picture ever! Can HR be really effective in this scenario?

As i try and answer this question, I have some ideas on how the generalist interface can move from 3-2-7 to 1-9:

Let corporate / specialist roles define the "what", let generalists define the "how". So, we may have a common framework for a particular initiative (eg, mobility), which outlines the objectives, the boundaries, definitions, terminologies, etc - the way it gets implemented may differ from business to business, depending on the profile of their people. Some business may encourage mobility through "Internal Job Postings", others may want to link it the advancement process, still others may want to look at global mobility only. The true worth of an HR generalist comes to play when he is able to advise the line managers on what is the best option given the motivational needs of his team members and the challenges in his business environment.

Specialists to start viewing generalists as internal customers. Think about it. Would you ever go to your customer AFTER you have finalised your deliverable? It would be sacrilegeous right? Ditto for our internal HR customers. They need to be actively involved in the input process - be it training need identification, specification gathering or new system implementation.

Just as a Business Head makes a contribution to the performance review of his / her HR generalists, a specialists' performance evaluation should have one component that comprises Business HR feedback. This should be made an integral part of a Specialist scorecard - and reviewed on a frequent basis.

I've started my goal setting for the year, and as a Specialist, these three points have been / are going to be the pillars of my goal sheet.

Long live the 3-2-7 principle!