Human Resources as politically-savvy Business Partners
Every HR decision has a political dimension that demands care both intellectually and behaviourally. In other words, to misquote Bananarama, it is what you say and the way that you say it – that’s what gets results.
Which of these scenarios do you recognise?
- We’ve done the research and know we’ve proposed a great solution and yet we failed to make the right impact in a key meeting where the decisions were made.
- We tried to implement a new intervention and couldn’t get the support we needed. We realised that we hadn’t paid due attention to the way power works in our organisation.
- We had some really powerful arguments about something we needed to tackle, yet failed to get the hearing we deserve. Others don’t seem to realise that we need to take action.
These are the kind of challenges we’d love to help you with. When we researched our enable-hr framework, we identified 7 Facets that work together. When we think about the typical political challenges we face, two Facets that combine very effectively are Perspective and Connection. They deliver a combination of practical insight – including what some call ‘context savvy’ and ‘business savvy’ – with building effective and productive relationships.
Reaching out to gain Perspective
Most of the HR people I’ve coached have thoroughly enjoyed getting out of the office. It’s usually shortage of time that gets in the way and yet it reaps rich rewards that save time later. One of the most productive days I spent in my corporate HR career was a day out with one of our pharmaceutical sales reps. The learning from that day gave me true insight into the front-line challenge of winning business against competitors, and did wonders for my credibility. A true story has much more impact. For example, ‘when I was with James at his meeting with the Consultant (a key influencer) he could have positioned our product better if he’d asked better questions. We lost him’. It beats hands down general arguments like ‘sales reps need better listening skills’ and helped me stand my ground (Push) when justifying measures to keep our best reps and train those with less confidence.
Building deep and productive Connection
What we care most about in HR is getting things done that improve performance and engagement, and thus profitability. And yet we can’t do it on our own. We rarely have control over the people who will be turning our ideas into reality. There’s an invisible web of understanding and commitment that has to be in place when we’re out of the room. Whether it’s a line manager handling a poor performance issue, or a Director giving clear and aligned messaging, we have no actual control over what comes out of their mouth.
Political intelligence is about navigating the human landscape
There’s an added human benefit that works both ways. We can build the kind of relationships that sustain us as people and as professionals even when facing tough times. We build trust in each other’s competence and understanding. The business benefit comes from the straight conversations and robust discussions that deliver the most effective and implementable solutions.