Experience and personal resilience can have a deep impact on an organisation and its people. Keeping connected with all stakeholders is vital for success.
RN: Your broad experience in areas of law, professional services, education, aerospace engineering and the public sector has given you much to draw upon when helping people in the everyday challenges. Is there a core value or skill that has been fundamental to your ability to help solving problems that others can’t do as successfully?
SB: The role of an HR professional is a constant oscillation of both satisfying and demanding situations. During my career I have drawn upon numerous experiences and lessons learned to assist me in meeting the challenges and situations presented to me. I would say that one of the most fundamental skills is resilience. Resilience, perseverance, the ability to bounce back and focus on the situation and its best solution.
HR is essentially about people. As we know, we work in environments of constant change and uncertainty. This is despite, at times, our ability to anticipate issues before they occur. We know it’s not always possible to prevent problems and obstacles, however I have always believed that resilience can help you strengthen your capacity to deal with the situation at hand and importantly, help others in solving those problems.
By being resilient, we help others by maintaining a positive mindset, a willingness to improve and a solutions-focused approach. In turn our own resilience as HR professionals can and should have a motivating, constructive impact on others.
The ability to remain calm and determined also enables other problem-solving capabilities such as strategic thinking, decision-making and setting short-long term goals. It can also be pivotal in taking decisive actions, pursuing success and good, practical outcomes.
I should add, a little hope and some humour also go a long way!
RN: Too true, and along with a good sense of humour must come a good sense of what is appropriate or not. Unfortunately sometimes humour can pass ‘it’s amuse by’ date and can undo all the good things that have preceded the comment or joke. While humour is certainly the shortest distance between two people knowing how to be appropriately humorous in a timely way will almost always guarantee a more successful outcome.
RN: What initiative would you take or what would you do in HR if you knew it could not fail? Why?
SB: This is an interesting question. An initiative I would take if I knew it could not fail – for the roles that manage and lead teams or individual, is to go for the candidate with the higher motivational, people skills (EQ) over the technical skills. The ability of a leader who is self-aware, temperate, and able to motivate and connect with others can make the difference between a good (or competent leader) and a great leader. Research also tells us that teams who are engaged and supported by a great leader generally perform better and more cohesively on most fronts.
RN: Correct, and the evidence is true in just about every organisation where people want to improve their work life experiences. Yet, the research also tells us that at least 25% of people are risk averse and would not want to be part of an initiative that may have element of the unknown or could as they see it ‘potentially backfire’. However in my view I feel HR needs to be be open minded to new ideas that they may not initially consider viable and smart enough to read the data and respond with intelligent facts supporting the data.
What are the greatest lessons you believe others have learnt about communication and connection that you and HR have taught them and how do you see this playing out in everyday work?
SM: I was once told earlier in my career by my CEO at the time that one of the best motivators of people in organisations is their ability to have true input in an organisation, or their role. Many years on I still believe this to be true. I would also add, from my own experience, that people really wanted to be listened to and understood, even if the end result is not always the desired one. I believe this is what in great part communication is about.
As HR professionals, it is about ongoing communication, feedback and connecting with people in everyday work. People should feel that we are approachable and able to listen to their concerns in an open, respectful and comfortable setting. Our answers and responses should be clear, realistic and unambiguous; and it is possible to be sincere and behave with integrity, without over promising or diverging from the work or business expectations at hand.
RN: Clearly, the role of the diverse and differentiated HR Manager in today’s workplace must be listening to what people are saying but listening for what the underlying pain or challenges are so together they can create a respectful workplace that enables people to make a positive difference in world that is positively different.