Charles Green, who authors the Trust Matters blog, posted a fascinating analysis of the trust challenges and opportunities facing the "Big 4" staff functions: IT, HR, Legal and Finance. Challenges and opportunities that exist whether you work inside or outside the organization you are striving to support, although he pays special attention here to the internals. The capstone of his post is a chart outlining the five trust enhancing opportunities facing these key functions; he identifies "Improving Credibility" and "Lowering Self-Orientation" as the biggest opportunities for HR.
From Charlie's post...
Improving Credibility. More an issue for HR than the others, remember that credibility is not only—in fact, not even mainly—an issue of credentials. The average internal client is not impressed that you have advanced degrees, or that you are a recognized expert in OD. You can argue that’s not fair, but arguing fairness just digs the hole deeper.
What improves credibility is the capacity to apply your knowledge to a specific client situation--in their language. Instead of letting the client know that you’ve seen the latest, greatest research on teaching emotional intelligence—instead, use emotional intelligence yourself to help identify, and identify yourself with, client issues.
Ring true? I think it does. I think we're prone, as a profession, to focus on HR expertise as the "end" in itself, when from our clients' point of view it brings value only as a "mean", only to the extent that it helps solve the business problem. Often as not, we can only bring our expertise to bear in a valuable way by taking the time necessary to understand the deeper context of the business problem, embracing their language and point of view - rather than insisting on ours. Which takes us directly to Charlie's second opportunity for improvement...
Self-Orientation. We find that nearly everyone can improve their trustworthiness by getting better at lowering their self-orientation. Within the Big Four staff functions, this is particularly useful for the HR and IT organizations. Too many clients see HR as whiney, and lawyers as officious, both of which are forms of overly developed self-orientation.
The solution is harder than for the other issues, but well within reach. Simply be very, very sure to see issues from the client’s vantage point—not just from yours. No one’s asking you to abdicate your professional perspectives, just to see it as well from the other side of the table. If a client says to you, “We want to do X, how can we do it?” make sure to start with, “Interesting idea; let me make sure I understand what this means to you. Tell me more about what you could do with this, how it would make you more successful. I want to make sure I know where you’re coming from before I try to comment.”
Frankly, I think this second one really nails it. We are enormously self-oriented as a profession, and it is not to our credit.
Can we embrace this good advice from someone outside our profession looking in? Forget the seat at the table; this is about earning our chops as trusted advisors to our line compatriots. This is about adding bottom line value.
Remember, the first step is admitting that we have a problem....
Ann Bares is the Editor of Compensation Café, Author of Compensation Force and Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group LLC, where she provides compensation consulting services to a wide range of client organizations. Follow her on Twitter at @annbares.
Image: Creative Commons Photo "/wink" by striatic