Bringing Practitioner-Focused Research to People Management Practitioners
In This Issue…
The HR Professional's Role in Building Organizational Success
The Paradox of Leadership: Cooperating to Compete, Following to Lead
Flashback Feature: Negotiations: Why Do We Do It Like We Do?
The HR Professional's Role in Building Organizational Success (or… this hitchhiker's guide to an interesting galaxy) Sandi Cardillo, Queen's IRC Facilitator
At some point in his or her career, a human resource (HR) professional will encounter the notion of “earning a seat at the table.” This overused buzz phrase is fraught with meaning and can result in a serious case of consternation. Sitting at “the table,” from this writer's perspective, is all about understanding the management systems of the organization, the organization's relationship with its external customers, and the organization's approach to change. It is a bit like Arthur Dent's experience in Douglas Adam's (1979) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy consternation over being chosen to take an interesting ride through new space and time, while attempting to hang on to the backpack of our past experiences.
In my work with senior management teams, I often hear the frustrations that senior managers experience with their HR staff. That frustration comes in the form of comments such as “they're too rigid,” “they don't understand the business” or the infamous, “it seems like they are always about saying ‘no’ when we need them to help us figure out how to make it work.” On the other hand, as HR professionals we often find that we are offered a seat at the table just in time for dessert. The common complaint from HR folks in this dilemma is “if only they would have called us sooner.”
The Paradox of Leadership: Cooperating to Compete, Following to Lead Bernie Mayer, Ph.D., Queen's IRC Facilitator
For most of my adult life I lived at the foot of the Rocky Mountains (the Colorado ones), and I have frequently led family, children, and others on hiking, ski touring, and mountain biking trips. I wasn’t mostly the formal leader (and others in my family may dispute this characterization), but I often felt that it was my responsibility to make sure we got to where we intended to get to, when we intended to, safely. Almost always, the best position for me to take to make sure we stayed together, that those who needed help or encouragement received it, and that the needs of the group were attended to, was at the back of the pack.
“Leading from behind” is a natural approach in the outdoors. It is natural in organizations too. It may sound like a passive or ineffective way to approach the challenge of being an effective leader, but I found, both in the outdoors and in organizational leadership positions, that this is the most powerful way to guide a group. The idea of leading from behind is not a new one for organizations or for communities,(1) but learning how to do this, particularly in a hierarchical structure, is no easy matter. One key dimension of this is defined by our approach to conflict. How we set the stage for the effective use of conflict and how we respond to conflict is critical to our effectiveness as leaders and to our capacity to “lead from behind.”(2)
Flashback Feature: Negotiations: Why Do We Do It Like We Do? George W. Adams
George Adams presented this paper in May 1992 at the Annual Spring Industrial Relations Seminar. As a labour lawyer and a professor of labour law, he mediated many disputes over the years. His views on the negotiation process were timely in view of the competitive challenges facing the workplace of the 1990s. In his paper he noted:
Negotiating sessions should be brainstorming efforts aimed at inventing as many solutions for joint gain as possible. Brainstorming requires an honest look at all possible solutions and a candid examination of interests.
Solutions arrived at through ‘principled’ negotiations are more elegant, more satisfying and more enduring.
Principled bargaining requires earlier preparation, constant communication, training and, possibly, earlier party involvement.
Collective bargaining conducted on this more sophisticated plane will achieve the kind of outcomes consistent with increasingly competitive and global marketplaces.