Whether you are an HR consultant, an outsourced solution provider, an internal HR professional, a senior HRBP, or a CHRO, everyone wants to become a valued partner in the business. Given the current talent landscape, more and more of the big decisions being made about the future of any business seems to center around people. HR is finally getting its rightful seat the table when these decisions are being made.
But that isn’t true at every company. At a recent talk that I gave at the local annual HRMA conference, I had a CHRO in the room tell me that the CFO “still wags the dog” at his company. This CHRO was looking for ways to ensure he was part of the discussion before the conclusions were reached.
Before I get to that, let’s discuss one surefire way to NOT be included in future key strategic conversations: By forcing your way into the process. Forced inclusion never works.
It doesn’t matter if you coerce your way to the table, play bull in the china shop, or if the CEO demands that others accept your inclusion and let you in the door; it will backfire on you.
This is one of the few instances where who you know can actually sometimes hurt you more than help you. Being the son-in-law of the business owner doesn’t automatically make you a valued partner. Becoming truly valued takes time and has to be earned in the hearts and minds of others. If they don’t value your contributions to the conversation, if you are not perceived as being necessary to reach the best decisions, they will simply schedule meetings without you. They will ask for forgiveness later, rather than permission, or simply claim that they forgot to include you.
To truly be included, you need to be invited. And you will only be invited if you are seen as absolutely essential to the decision-making process. Here are four tips to help you become a valued partner:
1. Deep knowledge — You must have a true understanding of every aspect of the business, how all the moving parts work together, the obstacles ahead, and intimate knowledge of the competition in the marketplace. And you must be able to articulate your understanding to anyone involved in the decision-making process in a manner that demonstrates that you truly get it.
2. Big picture thinking — Having a strategic vision requires you to see all areas of the business, internal and external. If you only have a deep understanding of one area, you are more likely to be tactical in your decisions, rather than strategic. You must be able to foresee problems from the stakeholders’ perspective in order to offer the most highly valued and comprehensive solutions. When it comes to problem solving, if you are thinking several moves ahead of your colleagues, you will become the go-to. And if you can predict future problems, you can often prevent them.
3. Walk the talk — A partner helps others within the organization achieve their goals. If you help your colleagues hit their goals, while still exceeding your own, you will get noticed and recognized more quickly. Nothing speaks louder than results. And results require actions, not just words. The better the results you get, the more likely you are to be invited into the conversation.
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4. Listen well — Everyone loves to feel that they have been heard and understood. One of the most valuable attributes of leadership is being known as a good listener. Listening well takes practice and focus. The ability to disengage from multi-tasking, eliminate distractions, and just focus on what is being said to you, is a key skill that takes time to develop. And if you can reiterate and articulate what has been said, you will be valued as a partner in the decision-making process.
Tying all of this together, the best way to be treated like a valued partner is to act like one. The more you demonstrate your value, the more you will become recognized as the go-to person in the organization. That is when you will be included and have a voice in the big strategic decisions.