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Sugar my tea baby



Last night I was lucky enough to meet Laurie Ruettimann. I know I don’t need to explain who she is and if I do, then you need to get a life…..or a browser….or a cat magazine or something.  It wasn’t a work meet it was an informal beer but inevitably we talked a little about blogs and blogging. In this world I am a new-born and Laurie is a wizened old woman. In fact if you’ve seen the picture…… When I started I was always drawn to Laurie, not because I agreed with her, because here was someone who was willing to take a position and stand by it.  Often I disagreed completely, but the one thing it did was to start me thinking, to make me argue, to make me work out my position.

HR as a profession is notoriously crap at having balls. In fact there used to be a blog called HR with balls….not sure what entirely happened to them…..castration? I digress.  Having a position, making a stance is not a weakness, far from it.  Managers, fellow professionals respect you if you say what you believe.  The moment you say, “this a decision for the business” not only have you disempowered yourself, but you’ve also added a further degree of separation between HR and “the business”.

You don’t influence by giving choices, you don’t change peoples’ opinions by asking them what they want to do and you don’t get better decision-making from submissive compliance.  You get it through debate.  And in order to have a debate, you need to have a position.  How you express that position is going to be different depending on who you are dealing with.  I have colleagues where conversations are the office equivalent to cage fighting and others where it is a game of chess. But each time I know what my position is and I make it clear.

If we’re serious about this profession (and I know I am, ‘cos its all I’ve got) we need to start standing up and being counted. We need to bring something to the party other than snivelling subservience. We need to start adding something. We need to bring a position.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. 11/24/2010 10:27

    Bang on Theo. I’be been known to take a deliberately ludicrous position on occasion, just to bring out the real beliefs in others. Once that happens, progress can be made.

  2. Robjones_tring permalink
    11/24/2010 10:35

    The hugger is resting. The agent provocateur is back….

    Couldn’t agree more with the sentiment of this post. Am fed up of personnel people masquerading as HR people blathering on about 99% process compliance. From my perspective if we are to ever add proper (not cliched) value for the business we need to become part of it, understand it challenges and levers and ask THE question that will provoke action or change

    This will involve becoming more commercial using “the big stick” less and taking risk, yes real risk…

    Thanks for the call to arms, next stop P45 🙂

  3. 11/24/2010 10:49

    Absolutely right – in my own business I an often called ( mainly by my partner ) intransigent and inflexible Not quite true because I will listen and debate but no-one is ever in any doubt about my position – there is absolute clarity about where I stand. If thats a bad thing then mea culpa!!

  4. 11/24/2010 11:18

    On the money. Challenging dogma and the status quo is becoming a bit of a theme in sources and people I listen to.

    I heard Baroness Susan Greenfield recently talking at a breakfast meeting about the future of work. She was explaining that forming new neural connections started with challenging existing ideas, which meant breaking and discarding old connections. I probably poorly paraphrasing what she actually said. Anyway, my interpretation makes sense to me.

    Metaphorically and practically, this is what needs to happen inside organisations. Easier said than done.

    The 2010 IBM Global CEO Survey says that the CEOs responding to their survey “selected creativity as the most important leadership attribute”. The report also says:

    “Creative leaders invite disruptive innovation, encourage others to drop outdated approaches and and take balanced risks. They are open-minded and inventive in expanding their management and communication styles, particularly to engage with a new generation of employees, partners and customers.”

    Creative leaders – for HR that would be the #CHRU crew. More power to your elbows!

  5. 11/24/2010 13:40

    OK you’ve redeemed yourself.


    How about The Blog written by an ex- good bloke who suddenly got all up himself??

    Stay on top of it, HRD.

  6. 11/24/2010 17:27

    Well at least you’re answering comments now!

  7. Corporate Daycare permalink
    11/24/2010 17:51

    First of all – you met Laure F-n Ruettimann. How cool is that?!

    Second, and more related to your post, I agree with you point; however, this theme is becoming a bit like that “let us sit at the adults’ table” cry that HR has been putting out there for years.

    Someone makes a bold statement and HR people everywhere rally around shouting, “here, here” and then the crowd scatters and everyone goes back to what they were doing.

    I support the idea of taking a stance. I am all for supporting others who take a stance. But people, we need to do something once we have the floor. Be prepared to back up your words, otherwise you risk doing more harm than good.

    To add value, you need more than a voice – you need substance.

    Thanks for another engaging post.

  8. 11/24/2010 19:14

    Spot on as usual. Since I started offering HR support to local SME’s a year ago, I have been amazed at the number of business owners who have been surprised by my ability to actually make a decision or have a strong opinion. It’s depressing to be seen as part of a profession with a reputation for sitting on the fence and being wishy washy.

    You raise a really valid point about how you express your position. One essential for debating issues in the workplace is having the people skills to accurately judge the appropriate tone, language, volume, level of humour etc in each unique situation. Imho this is one of the most fun and satisfying parts of the job.

  9. 11/25/2010 12:10

    Laurie is a wizened old woman

    Why can’t I be a lovely YOUNG woman with some wisdom??

    Good grief. I’m going home.


  10. NZHRGuy permalink
    11/26/2010 20:37

    Interesting. I’ve come to this at the end of a week where our country has seen 29 men die in a coal mine disaster. Throughout the fruitless rescue attempt, we’ve seen a CEO who took control of the situation from the off, who knows his industry and his workforce inside out, who made a decision that the mine wasn’t safe to enter and has fronted everything and to everyone to defend his position. As you can imagine, it wasn’t a particularly popular decision initially particularly with the families of the trapped miners and people who didn’t understand the dangers or lessons learned from previous similar tragedies, but ultimately he was proved right by two subsequent huge explosions that literally killed off any lingering hopes that any of the 29 might have survived the initial explosion.
    Throughout it all he handled himself with absolute integrity, dignity and earned the respect of the nation. His clarity and strength of thought in balancing his position in a situation where he knew everyone of the men individually is something I will long remember from this tragic episode and a lesson for us all.

  11. 11/29/2010 10:21

    @James Mayes – Absolutely….until we get the real views on the table all we are ever doing is rearranging deckchairs…..

    @robjones_tring – I’m having that framed…..ask THE question…..

    @Tracey Dunn – I never would have noticed…….. 🙂

    @Anne Marie McEwan – Disruptive innovation……I love that phrase!

    @Henry – I’m not talking to you anymore!

    @Corporate Daycare – You mean….Laurie Reuttimann met TheHRD….how cool is that? Right? 🙂

    @Jennie Horchover – Sadly we are the fence sitters of the business world. Time to get off I say.

    @laurie reuttimann – Did I write that? Damn….I thought I only thought it….. 🙂 Hope your return was untroubled.

    @NXHRGuy – A terrible tragedy and I guess a complete example of proper leadership.


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