In the past few years, I have been facilitating and leading People and HR teams in defining their technology strategy, execution roadmap and then helping them through the implementation of those initiatives. In this process, the most important requirement to succeed is the presence of Leadership. I am not talking about a Steering Committee or a CHRO or Head of…. I am talking about an ever-presence of leadership at all levels in these functions and organisations. This is the lynch pin to success, it really makes or breaks the outcome.
WHY is this so important?
I am going to start answering this question with another question, what makes any project or anything as a matter of fact successful? From personal and professional experience, it has always been taking ownership of the outcome; a strong desire to achieve an outcome coupled with a strong work ethic that has led to success.
Then why would it be any different in terms of HR and technology landscape? Technology is ONLY an enabler of a successful outcome which could range from streamlining HR processes to ability to attract and retain the best talent. So that requires you already have a clear vision and ownership of the ultimate goal. THIS is leadership and without this no matter what your criterion for success is, you (your company) aren’t going to get there. This doesn’t need to come from the top down, in traditional companies it does though, but it NO LONGER works in the 21st century. It needs to be ever-present in every layer of your organisation without which you are left with this great divide between the so-called Leaders and the ‘rest’ of the organisation.
So if you’re planning to embark on a HR Technology or any project at work or in personal life, start with being a leader and being crystal clear of what is it that you want to achieve, own it, and work hard to get it.
HOW do organisations make sure they cultivate a leadership culture?
It is as simple as empowering every individual and team with the view that they OWN the outcome they want to achieve.
I recently implemented two projects simultaneously for a large Australian organisation. Interestingly, these two projects had very different goals and were initiated in different parts of their organisations but both supporting different stakeholders. One was supporting mostly internal stakeholders and another one supporting mostly external stakeholders.
In both these projects, the internal stakeholders involved were all under the ‘same’ company culture which promotes transparency, ownership, courage and team work. But there was a massive difference between the individuals. One team was completely empowered to own the outcome and the other was forced to achieve an outcome which would outsource the administrative responsibility on an external provider. In the empowered team, each individual was 100% committed to the success, and in the other team, each individual tried to point fingers in all directions when things didn’t get done.
In the empowered team, the project was delivered on-time, in order to achieve the deficiencies that the team desired, the other project was delayed (yes you guessed it) by at least 5 months.
So you get the picture, but HOW do you empower people to own the outcome? As a management consultant would do, start with a strong change management planning process, introduce a new culture, embark on a 2 year long culture transformation project, etc. But how about doing something simpler? I, for one, vote for the simple things in life. Start by empowering yourself and once you’re done, empower your team. It doesn’t matter where you sit in the hierarchy, if you want something, don’t let depending on someone else come in the way. Next time, you want something, tell people why you want it, what will it achieve for you and the team/organisation, own the outcome, and bring people on the journey. It might seem like a drop in the ocean, but if you can display the skill you want to cultivate, you will create a ripple effect.
Overcoming Obstacles and bring others along
My husband rightly questioned me, “Juhi, this is great. How do you deal with obstacles? After all you implement technology in teams.” I decided to add this section to enable this conversation as I see this as the next and very important step that you or your organisation will face once you’ve empowered yourself.
Leadership skills don’t work in isolation, they need to be combined with other complementary skills that all leaders possess. Negotiation skills, ability to talk factually instead of reacting emotionally, learning about other people and how defense mechanisms work are all skills that will be required especially in a team situation. An obvious question is how do you enable people to cope with change especially if they disagree with your idea or approach? It is key to understand that you need to remove yourself from idea or recommendation and think about the fact that you have just given another person new information and they need time to cope with the new idea. You need to acknowledge their apprehensions, this will demonstrate you’re ready to adjust and change. This is a great display of walking the talk. Be flexible in your approach, as long as it enables you to stay on the path to achieve the successful outcome you’re looking for.
WHEN should you start?
Now, there is no better time than now. You can practice the skill in personal and professional life.
Get together with your manager or your team, discuss it, tell them why you think this is important and how you can create the ripple effect. It makes for a great development conversation.
WHERE should you start?
With yourself, don’t set out to change the whole organisation at once, you can try, but the simpler you make it to embrace this change the more likely you’re able to stick to it.
It could be a simple interaction with a customer (internal or external), make sure you solve their problem by displaying ownership of the outcome. Remind yourself, for every outcome that is successful, you will strengthen your will to succeed and learn along the way. You will also create the ripple effect, and show everyone what a leadership attitude can achieve!
And don’t forget the world-wide web, that thing called Internet! There are an incredible amount of resources on leadership as well as how to navigate the HR Technology landscape. A good resource for this is https://hrtechgirl.com/ and to learn about good discipline and project management, read about Conscious Project Management here http://www.colindellis.com/conscious-project-management/.
WHAT will happen if organisations ignore this?
If you haven’t taken a recent glance at the working age demographics, I encourage you to do so http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/0/1CD2B1952AFC5E7ACA257298000F2E76?OpenDocument While this is an Australian link and shows comparison against other countries, it gives you insights into who is going to be ‘working’ in the near future in your organisations and what age bracket they will belong to. This will give you an interesting perspective on WHO will the leaders in your company in the next few years. If you’re in USA, Australia or UK, then you’re looking at a median age of a worker to be 35 and over in 2015, that is staggering, and tells you specifically, that your workforce is aging. And if you look into your company structure, and there are very few leaders at the top, you’re into a lot of trouble now and in future.