HR professionals need to seek to understand themselves, others and the organisational system in which they are working in order to improve their influencing skills writes Michelle in a recent article on the INSIDE HR website.

Technology is driving a wave of change so great that the World Economic Forum has dubbed it the fourth industrial revolution. This change is fundamentally evolving the nature of work – what is done and how it’s done. HR professionals play a critical role in influencing and shaping how this impacts their organisation and helping executives and leaders to best thrive in this complex, ambiguous and ever-shifting environment.

To do that, the HR leader needs the optimal mix of technical and behavioural skills. Being technically brilliant is one thing, but it’s not the foundation on which to build a platform for influence. This is not self-serving influence, but influence which is focused on ensuring balanced outcomes, considering the needs of all stakeholders. Influential HR leaders, who strive to serve the greater good, do many things differently including:

  • Taking the long view with relationships. They don’t sacrifice a relationship for short term, self-serving gain
  • Treating everyone they meet with respect. They know that every interaction they have with a person matters because everybody wants to feel valued
  • Not being afraid to take a stand and speak up against the majority on the things that are important – not just for them, but for other people as well
  • Taking the time to listen to people and ensuring people feel fully heard when they are raising an idea or a concern
  • Welcoming different thoughts, ideas and opinions as they know they don’t have all the answers
  • Hiring people who are smarter than them. They know they need an awesome team around them if they are to make progress
  • Being willing to admit when they make a mistake. They appreciate that it is only through understanding a mistake and why it happened that real change can occur
  • Acknowledging the efforts of others and not taking the glory for successes that were not there’s or there’s alone

“Being technically brilliant is one thing, but it’s not the foundation on which to build a platform for influence”

In taking on board this approach and encouraging it in the leaders they work with, HR professionals need to seek to understand themselves, others and the organisational system in which they are working. If you want more influence in your HR role here are 10 tips to get you started:

1. Understand yourself. Examine the mindset you are applying to your work and relationships. Letting assumptions drive your thought processes, and ultimately behaviour, can negatively impact your decision making and interactions with colleagues and stakeholders.

2. Understand others. Take the time to understand what intrinsically motivates those around you. Having insight into others better enables you to work with them, and encourage and inspire them to secure common goals.

3. Understand the system. Know the system in which the organisation operates, and how the players inter-relate, make decisions, and secure outcomes. By understanding how the system works you are better able to navigate the complexity and find your way through the back door.

4. Maintain your integrity. Integrity once lost is almost impossible to regain. Guard it carefully and push beyond self-interest. Seek to play the better game in discussions and advocate positions that are not self-serving, but serve the greater good.

5. Get busy, on purpose. Influential people get things done. Be deliberate about how you use your time. Be decisive in how you make decisions. And lastly, be determined in the face of set-backs.

6. Play the long game. Seek to secure long term, constructive relationships which are mutually beneficial. One sided relationships – where it’s all about one person – don’t last. One person will eventually walk away.

7. Design your network. Be conscious about how you build your network. Identify relationship gaps and weaknesses, and put a plan in place to address.

8. Lead consciously. Be conscious of your actions and how they are seen by other people. Inconsistencies in what you say and do are easily seen by others. Your leadership is constantly on display, and remember that leadership isn’t defined by hierarchy.

9. Craft your communication. It’s not how much you talk, but what you say that matters. Ground your messages in reality and what people need to know. Keep it simple. Be empathetic, authentic and transparent.

10. Negotiate wisely. Strive to secure outcomes that leave all involved with their dignity intact. Build the necessary relationships early. Be ready for the negotiation process, and have the resolve to see it through.

As Chinese Philosopher, Lao Tzu said: “He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened”.


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