Credibility as an Human Resources professional is based on action and results, not theory and intellectualism. Terry Meyer and Lydia Cillie-Schmidt explore the role of the credible activist and just how courage and conviction can be utilised to further personal and client ambitions.
by Terry Meyer and Lydia Cillie-Schmidt
The role of credible activist involves both strong individual performance through effective relationships and strong business performance which has a bearing on the general effectiveness of the business. Personal credibility combined with the ability to influence the organisation is an essential differentiator between highly effective HR leaders and those who are only technically competent HR professionals. So what do HR leaders need to become to be credible and what skills do they need to develop to influence people in an impactful way?
Credibility Personal credibility is less about what you can do and more about who you are. Technical competence is important but it is not sufficient to earn a seat at the Board room table. Our experience suggests that the following are key to being visibly credible:
Defining who you are and what you stand for;
Defining what your professional offering is and how it adds value;
Building a personal brand;
Building and leveraging a network; and
Being master of your craft.
In trying to define who you are and what you stand for, one of the breakaway questions at a CEO Summit was, ‘As a leader, what do you stand for?’ This question resulted in some profound insights into what leaders felt was important to them, what this meant to them and how an understanding of this guided their behaviour. In leadership one is forced to make choices (often very difficult ones) which demand high levels of courage and conviction. Leaders who stand out are those who are seen to consistently make choices based on what they stand for rather than expediency. It is about the application of deeply held values. In HR, more than any profession, leaders need to understand what they stand for and have the courage to stick to these values. Most people when asked about what they stand for, will rattle off a number of ‘motherhood’ value statements. However, what really determines credibility is behaviour. Highly credible leaders do not spend time talking about values, and frequently would have difficulty articulating their own — but no-one is in any doubt about what they 'stand for'. Such professionals would in all probability, be prepared to give up their jobs if certain lines are crossed. A key component of what HR professionals stand for has to be that of integrity. Here HR must play the role of ‘honest broker’ in relationships with stakeholders. This value is reinforced in the (Strategic Human Resource Management) SHRM research. Delivering results on its own is not sufficient — integrity and sustainability are essential in the process of delivering results.
Adding professional value In order to define what your professional offering is and how it adds value, an exercise in which participants have to design a web site for themselves proves insightful. Prepare two pages in which you answer the following questions:
Who am I?
What products and services do I offer?
As HR professionals are increasingly expected to fulfil the role of internal consultant, these questions become all important. Most people in a corporate environment have great difficulty defining who they are and what their products and services are. In most cases, in response to ‘who am I?’ a traditional CV is produced setting out a job history. Not only is that insufferably boring but it tells the client absolutely nothing about what has been achieved, what the HR professional stands for and why the client should have confidence in their ability to help in solving their problem. Participants find the challenge to describe their products and service (i.e. their value proposition to the organisation) profoundly difficult; yet it is this that largely defines their professional identity and credibility. Professional consultants are normally very clear about what they offer and the better amongst them define what they offer in terms of the value it adds to their client. HR Leaders need to create a résumé which sets out their achievements and what they stand for and which builds confidence in their ability to solve their client’s problems. In the future internal HR consultants will need to have their own web pages on a corporate Intranet which they design and maintain and which becomes the basis for a competitive marketing of their services.