by Alan Collins
I thought I’d take the opportunity here to share 50 things I’ve learned from twenty-five years in the HR trenches. About two lessons per year.
These are truths I’ve gained from lots of personal screw-ups, some successes, three companies, sixteen HR jobs and other HR professionals that I’ve worked with who either guide me or inspire me.
Hopefully, there are a couple here you might find helpful. While they are in no particular order, I try never to ignore #50.
1. It’s easy to impress your clients with your HR knowledge, when you’ve impressed them with your knowledge of their business first.
2. What others say about your HR reputation is 100 times more convincing than what you say – even if you’re 10 times more articulate.
3. Stay current and on top of your game: Just when you think you are winning the rat race, along come faster rats.
4. You need an HR specialty. Even if you’re a generalist and jack of all trades, you need to be a master of ONE.
5. Go first. Waiting for others to reach out to you – creates success in waiting, not in building relationships.
6. Unless your boss knows you’re great and so does her boss…and anyone else who could be your boss… advancing your HR career will be nearly impossible.
7. Without commitment at the top, making real progress on any culture change or workplace transformation initiative (e.g. diversity, employee engagement, etc.) is like pushing water uphill with a rake.
8. HR pessimists complain about the wind. HR optimists expects it to change. HR leaders adjust the sails.
9. Be authentic and be yourself. Everyone else is taken.
10. Do HR work that truly inspires other people and helps your company succeed and career opportunities will chase you.
11. Never underestimate what you know. What may be common knowledge to you may be a revelation of immense value to someone else.
12. HR leaders faced with ambiguity and uncertainty keep in mind that in the land of the blind the one eyed man is king.
13. When seeking career advice, avoid mentors who belittle your HR ambitions. The poor ones do that. The great ones make you feel that, you too, can become great.
14. You will advance much farther in HR if you trust people first, rather than mistrust people first.
15. As an HR leader, if you’re never disappointed, your expectations are not high enough. Raise your bar and start expecting more.
16. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that the fastest way to change results is to change the people producing them.
17. When your HR workload is taking priority over your family or taking care of yourself, you’re not prioritizing or delegating enough.
18. If your company’s culture doesn’t allow you to bring your real, authentic self to work, you will be uncomfortable short-term and miserable long-term.
19. The way to receive huge amounts of recognition and credit in HR is to give away as much of them as you can.
20. Enthusiasm and passion will cover many of your deficiencies in HR.
21. The only 2 ways to get people to change is through creating inspiration or desperation …and as much I prefer the former, I’ve learned the latter is more effective.
22. The HR leader’s job is change. If you’re not spearheading and guiding change, you’re managing not leading.
23. If you want to master your time, invest 10% of your time planning how you will maximize the other 90%.
24. Three people that need to know your salary — the IRS, your spouse & the headhunter finding you a better job.
25. Take action. Motion beats meditation! He who goes from notion to motion fastest wins!
26. I’ve learned that one year after you leave college, if you’re knocking it out of the park, no one cares what your GPA was.
27. In HR, when one door closes, another opens. Don’t let anger over the closed door blind you to opportunities in the open one.
28. When wrestling with a tough HR problem, it helps to find a dark room and shut your eyes in order to see things more clearly.
29. A truly great HR leader searches for eagles, not turkeys, and then teaches them to fly in formation.
30. The best way to protect yourself in potential employee litigation situations is to: Document, Document, Document.
31. You don’t have to wait for great opportunities for your chance to do great things. Seize small everyday things and do them in a great way.
32. Learn to listen. HR opportunities sometime knock very softly!
33. Flying under the radar may be good for geese, but it’s a terrible strategy if you want to advance your HR career.
34. When I complain about my time management problems, I remind myself that I have the EXACT number of hours in a day as Steve Jobs, Michael Jackson, Oprah and Lady Gaga.
35. When traveling on the road, put a card in your wallet with your name, your phone number, the phone number of a friend/relative & the motel you’re staying at – just in case.
36. If you’re an HR leader, let your direct reports hear you say complimentary things about them to their clients or the higher ups.
37. I’ve learned that encouragement from a great boss can turn your HR career around in an instant. Be that boss to someone else.
38. Keep a note pad, pencil or blackberry on your bedside table. Great HR ideas or solutions sometimes strike at 3 AM.
39. Treat your permanent HR position as a temporary job disguised with benefits…because in today’s economy, it is.
40. In HR as in life, your supporters make you happy but it’s your critics that make you better. An honest critic is your best friend.
41. You don’t progress in HR based on how smart you are, but based on how many actions you take to succeed!
42. Great HR folks are unafraid to take a stand and express their point of view. Sometimes when you straddle the fence, you sit on a spike.
43. When negotiating your salary, think of what you want; then ask for 10% more.
44. When you find an ideal HR job, don’t sweat the pay. If you’ve got what it takes, your salary will soon reflect your value – if not where you are, then elsewhere.
45. Always stand when greeting a visitor to your office. It shows respect.
46. Don’t expect others to listen to your HR advice and ignore your example.
47. Watch for big organization problems. They disguise big HR opportunities you can leverage to advance your career.
48. In HR, every knock on your door, e-mail, or call can potentially ruin your day…or be an opportunity that can make your career. Be prepared.
49. Take the stairs when it’s four flights or less.
50. Accept a breath mint if someone offers you one.
About the Author: Alan Collins was Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses. He is Founder of Success in HR, Inc. and the author of the two HR best sellers, UNWRITTEN HR RULES and BEST KEPT HR SECRETS. His NEW book, YOUR HR GOLDMINE is now is available on Amazon.
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