Avoid these Ruinous Rookie HR Mistakes to Achieve Leadership Credibility

Your Rookie HR Leader Guide to Surviving the First 60 Days On the Job Successfully

Congratulations, freshly minted HR Leader.

Your star has been rising as an individual contributor to the business’ HR function.

Perhaps, you ‘inherited’ the HR responsibility and function in a rapidly expanding start up.

No matter how you got here; Congratulations! You have just landed your first HR leadership role.

Your personal achievements and your individual style got you here. But now it is no longer about you. It is about YOU leading and facilitating others to achieve.

It is your opportunity to impart meaning and value to the business, through and for your employee community.

  • Where is the best place to start?
  • What is a rookie HR Leader to do?

You want to be sure that your new mantle of leadership doesn’t turn into a poisoned chalice filled with disappointment and regret.

Here is my top pick words of wisdom which were generously gifted to me when I was a rookie HR Leader.

I have mixed in some golden nuggets which, if I hadn’t stubbornly ignored, would have saved me some unnecessary pain through hard lessons. Of course you too are quite at liberty to ignore this advice.

Here are some pitfalls to avoid and practical action you can take to win your HR Leader Credibility in the first 60 days of taking office.

You Needn’t Sabotage Your New HR Leader Credibility Before You Even Start

1. ‘L’ is for? ‘L’ in these circumstances is NOT for Learner; but for Leader. You will be leading whilst learning.

Not for you, the new HR Leader,  the luxury of the first 100 days in post to set out your plan and make a positive impact.  The period of one hundred days intense scrutiny is reserved for Presidents, Prime Ministers, minor Heads of State and Captains of Industry.

Not for you, the new HR Leader, a 90 day probation period to acclimatise to the role. That is reserved for members of the wider employee community and its leaders.

In HR you get 60 days maximum.  “Sixty days!!” I hear you cry.

In the first 30 days you need to make an impressive first impression.

Thereafter, the next 30 days must be dedicated to doing and delivering tangible results and meaningful difference.

2. Ignore your job title: Take extra care if your new title has words such as “Vice-President”, “Strategic”, “Chief” and “Director” etc. Preoccupation with prestige can be a seductive trap. The more ostentatiously eye-catching the title, the increased risk of it being used to bamboozle and befuddle you from doing what actually matters to people and the business.

I understand the traditional need to label and bestow titles. In reality, your job title is an occasionally glamourous, sometimes obsolete and often useless distraction from doing meaningful work.

4. ‘Normal’ feelings: As with any new position, get ready for the emotional roller coaster ride. It will include exhilaration, feeling overwhelmed, and triumph washed with fearful waves of self-doubt. Add to all this, your inner critic is whispering that you may have bitten off more than you can chew. These are NORMAL feelings.

Showing a stressed, panicked or aggressive demeanour will hurt your leadership credibility. Be human. Find different ways and alternative places to channel your nerves positively.

Don’t be like the HR Leader so consumed by the crazy pressure to impress, they routinely answered emails from Corporate, at 2am in the morning in the bathroom. This is not only unhealthy but also insane. This is a true story!!

Be a follow-worthy leader. Don’t expect to have all the answers. Mistakes will happen and trying to cover them up will always make it worse. Set the tone and model the values of the culture you want to create or promote.

Do you want a transparent culture where everyone sees mistakes as learning opportunities to improve? Lead the way!

5. Objective 3rd Party: Don’t be a mouthpiece for senior management nor employees. There are no sides to choose. Don’t throw away your fledgling authority.

“People will always try to stop you from doing the right thing if it is unconventional.”Warren Buffett, Investor, Philanthropist.

Build on strong values and position your HR as a driver for what is right for the business and the employee community.

6. Find out what your EX saying about you! No not that Ex; this EX.

As a savvy HR professional, you know that it is business critical to have a clear understanding of what your EX (Employee Experience) is saying about you as an organisation at each state of the employment experience and across multiple media.

Your business leaders may be all about the CX (Customer Experience); but that is only one piece of the human puzzle that makes up a thriving business environment.

Until the robots completely take-over the business world, employee to customer connection, continues to drive business growth and brand reputation.

I love this deliciously sacrilegious (to some) business focus. “Treat employees better than customers.” Annette Franz.

7. HR is a value-centre not a cost-centre: It’s easy to say it. Now you have to live it and prove it.

You may inherit an HR strategic plan.  If you are lucky, it is current and closely aligned with the organisation’s strategy. If you are unlucky, it is an outdated pile of unmentionables.

You need to move fast. There is little time to waste on creating an HR plan that can quickly become irrelevant almost before you can get it ring-bound and distributed.

Set your own agenda and anchor it to what is important to HR’s customers (employees’ needs and managers’ pain points) and the business’ priorities (growth, new products etc.)

Speak to operational managers, understand the sales and marketing focus and get a grip on the financials at play. Carry out a HR Value Audit.

With this information create your 60+ day HR Action Plan, clarify expectations with your internal stakeholders, execute and deliver.  Be sure to regularly communicate clear milestones and progress.

8. Embrace complex challenges: Don’t shy away from complex challenges in your 60+ day HR Action Plan. This is where precious opportunities to make a meaningful difference and create value lie.

The easy pickings of low impact busywork must be avoided at all costs, if you are to survive your first 60 days on the job successfully.

Now success in the first 60 days isn’t an automatic guarantee for success later. Early missteps, if handled correctly, will not condemn a new HR Leader to disaster or mediocrity.

In the first 60 days as a rookie HR Leader you will be like a bug under the microscope. But with courage, care and creativity, this is your opportunity to build your credibility and play a key role in leading the business to achieve its goals.

This is by no means an exhaustive list; but it is enough to get you safely on the path to becoming a savvy HR Leader.

There are so many cautionary tales and inspiring stories about how to navigate the early days of your first HR Leadership role.

Experienced HR Leaders what other tips can you add?

New HR Leaders what are your thoughts on this post?

Drop a note in the comment box.

This post was originally posted in full in the blog The HR Rabbit Hole on 10th April 2016. It has been tweaked only a little by the author and now freshly served for the Recruiting Blogs community.

Nicole is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Aquarius Human Resources Consulting Ltd. Passionate about HR as Art, she is an advocate of Creative HR and transforming HR. Connect via Twitter @AquariusHRLtd.

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