6 Ways To Become Awesome in HR — No Matter How Much (Or Little) Experience You Have!

by Alan Collins

A few nights ago, I saw Wonder Woman 1984 on HBO Max.

Even though it wasn’t quite a good as the first movie, I loved it!

Why? Because I’m a big comic book and super-hero geek.  As a kid I fantasized having powers like Spider-Man.

I’m sure many of us did and had our own favorite hero.

And, maybe we still do.

Envision for a moment being HR super hero in your organization.

That’s what it’s like when you gain a reputation with your clients as someone who is awesome at what you do in Human Resources. 

It’s like being your favorite super hero, gifted with super powers.

When this happens, you’ll find a lot of things become irrelevant.

It won’t matter how much HR experience you have.

It won’t matter what college you went to.

It won’t matter what degree you have.

It won’t matter whether you’re HR certified or not.

No one will give a crap about that stuff.  Instead, they will be spellbound by your powers and your awesomeness. 

You will face fewer obstacles in your climb up the ladder of success.

And no one ever forgets the experience of working with this type of HR pro.

So, how do YOU become awesome?

Here’s how:

 *   *   *

Stop making excuses and start
taking responsibility.

No one wants to hear why you couldn’t do something.

So make a conscious decision right here, right now to stop awfulizing and giving excuses.

That’s what REAL super heroes like Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman do.

They grab responsibility by the throat, wrestle it to the ground and own the results.

You should as well.

That means when something goes wrong (and it usually does), you should own that too.

Don’t blame the CEO.
Don’t blame your boss.
Don’t blame your clients.
Don’t blame your team members.
Don’t blame “the culture.”

If you aren’t comfortable with this mindset, it will be hard for you to build an HR reputation for being awesome.

“Average” HR people quickly make up excuses and point fingers at other people or situations when things don’t go as planned.

They’ll criticize the “design” of the brand new performance appraisal program rather than work with their clients to customize it to make it work.

They’ll blame the high turnover in their client groups on the lack of a company-wide onboarding program, rather than take steps to create one themselves.

Remember this: no statue was ever erected to honor a critic.

You can’t be awesome if you prefer spending your time on sidelines booing those on the playing field, rather than trying to make a difference yourself.

*   *   *

Take charge and lead when
no one else will.

Super heroes don’t wait for others to step up.  They do.

Here’s a tiny example. From time to time you’ll arrive at a meeting where it’s not clear who is in charge. An example is a meeting to launch a new HR initiative which includes colleagues of equal rank. Here is how to handle this:

Step 1: Assess the situation to determine the leadership skills of the other attendees. Remember that your goal is to get things done and make other people look good.

Step 2: Take initiative without taking control. Be helpful, ask questions, and offer to accept tasks on behalf of the group.

Step 3. At the end of the meeting, provide a quick recap based on the actions the group agreed to. “OK, so Susan will contact the Legal Department, I’ll do the research and contact Finance…” and so on.

Step 4. If no one else is openly taking notes, do it yourself. Type them up and email them out to the participants within 24 hours of the meeting to “ensure we’ll all on the same page.”

A Note on Notes: being the recorder accomplishes two things. 1) You are viewed as awesome for taking the initiative and capturing information for everyone else, and 2) You get to put your own bias on how the notes are written.

You can apply this mentality to bigger meetings as well if there isn’t a project manager or meeting leader to do this for you.

*   *   *

Get help from others.

It’s no secret that super-heroes team up with others.

The Avengers and the Justice League are examples of the hundreds of heroes who reach out and collaborate with each other to multiply their effectiveness. 

As you pursue your plans for complete and total awesomeness in HR, you’ll should naturally reach out to others who have made the same decision.

You’ll learn from them and vice versa. Awesome HR people are all minorities in a world of average HR.

As an awesome HR pro, you’ll attract help and assistance in all kinds of unexpected places and from people you never knew before.

No one really knows how this works, practically speaking.

It’s okay; just accept the gifts that are given to you. They are given for a reason.

The Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho put this best:

“When you want something, all the universe conspires
in helping you achieve it.”

*   *   *

However, learn how to say no.

One of the quickest ways to rise in HR is by saying yes.

Yes, I’ll take on this new project.

Yes, I’ll work through the weekend to get the employee engagement survey results analyzed for that big presentation.

Yes, I’ll tackle the compensation project that’s outside of my comfort zone.

But in doing this, don’t be a doormat for people to step on.

Super-heroes are many things, but being a doormat is not one of them.   

If you truly say yes to everything, you’ll quickly burn yourself out, and then you won’t be producing your most creative or innovative work. The work that will truly separate you from the rest of the pack.

What’s more, you’ll over-commit yourself and disappoint your boss or team members when you can’t meet deadlines or complete all that you’ve said you’d do.

So instead of saying yes all the time, learn how to accurately estimate long a project will take and balance that against the other tasks currently on your plate.

Then, learn how to give polite but firm NO’s when necessary, a compromise or other options.

For example, if the boss asks for a time-consuming project to be done on an impossibly short deadline, you might say,

“Getting you the talent review summaries for all 40 sales locations by Monday isn’t doable given the other priorities on my plate.  But I CAN get it to you by Wednesday at noon, or by Tuesday morning if I can borrow a colleague to help me out.”

*   *   *

Over-deliver in your
personal relationships.

In any given work environment — including HR — almost everyone is focused on one goal: to make themselves look good.

If you can change things around and focus on making other people look good, you’re well on the way to being awesome.

That’s what super-heroes do. 

Being known as a backstabber, brown-noser, boot-licker or a self-centered jerk is not a recipe for awesomeness.

Instead, give others more than you get. Never find yourself in relationship debt. From time to time, you’ll screw up. When that happens, apologize like this:

“I’m really sorry. It was completely my fault. I hope you’ll forgive me, and here is how I am addressing this in the future.”

Buy thank-you cards and write 2-3 every day.  In the world of email and texts, almost no one does that these days.

Use your calendar to keep up with the birthdays of as many people as possible. Then separate yourself by writing real birthday notes or cards instead of leaning on e-mail.

Whenever a casual or business relationship is coming to a close (the training class ends, colleagues move to another project, etc.) write the person a quick email. “I enjoyed working with you… thanks for doing a nice job.”

When bad things happen to others, be quick to forgive the following: mistakes, weaknesses, shortcomings. (No one is exempt from these things, even awesome people.)

However, you should worry about the following: dishonesty, passive aggressive behavior, chronic tardiness, whiny-ness. (These patterns do not usually get better with time.)

Radically shun people that waste your time. This is NOT being impolite – it is showing respect for the people you have committed to serve.

Remember that people will basically act the same no matter who they are around. If the people you hang out with are always complaining about other people, chances are they probably complain about you too. The point is: don’t put others down when they’re not around, or at least make sure you’re comfortable with whatever you say being repeated.

*   *   *

Enlarge your vision of success.

Super-heroes build their reputations by doing big things like saving the world. 

As an HR pro, you DON’T have to do anything close to that.  But, you can model their success by creating larger, more compelling goals.

Goals that stretch you out of your comfort zone.

How?  Start by just taking what’s already working well in your HR career and exponentially add to it.

Grow your professional HR network by 300%.

Apply for positions two levels above your current role.

Identify five HR mentors instead of one.

The funny thing about big goals is that they often take less time to achieve than you expect.

And, even if you fall short (which you often will), you’ll learn faster and wind up far ahead of where you expected.,

*   *   *

There you have it, six ways to become awesome in HR.

But watch out: being awesome can be addicting.

It’s like regular exercise.

When you first start, it’s a struggle. But after 3-6 months of doing it consistently, you build up a natural addiction to it.

And you’ll feel bad when you’re not doing it.

The same is true with being awesome: do it once, and it’s scary.

Do it a few times, and you love it. Stop doing it, and you’ll get depressed.

One final thing…

Don’t expect everyone to understand your decision become awesome.

They won’t get it. .

Ignore them and just stay the course.

Concentrate on just being awesome.

Just like Wonder Woman, Batman and Superman.

That’s all it takes.


CLICK HERE to add your comments and additional suggestions on his article.


Want to discover even more ways to become awesome in HR?  Then check out:  UNWRITTEN HR RULES: 21 Strategies For Attaining AWESOME Career Success in Human Resources.  Additional details can be found HERE.

About the author: Alan Collins is Founder of Success in HR and the author of a variety of best selling books for HR professionals  including UNWRITTEN HR RULES.   He was formerly Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses.

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32 Responses to “6 Ways To Become Awesome in HR — No Matter How Much (Or Little) Experience You Have!”

  1. Nyemo Says:

    Many Thanks Alan, This is real helpful. For me I am still struggling in planning this makes me to do a lot of works in adhoc and in reactive way. I will appreciate your advice how do you plan your works/activities.


  2. Bill Olson Says:

    Great ideas and I would add implementing great Talent Management Systems with 360 Reviews.
    Thanks again.

  3. Leah Says:

    Once again, you are so on-point Alan. Well put!

  4. Ahmed Kmail Says:

    Very practical and implementable 7 ways All that you need is to stretch beyond your comfort zone and keep moving forward.

  5. Grace McBeth Says:

    Thanks Alan, this an excellent and very timely as I need to move to the next level

  6. josephine iyasele Says:

    Many thanks Alan, this is really helpful and do appreciate.

    Thank you.

  7. Shumaila Hameed Says:

    These are awesome inputs. Really helpful.

  8. Catherine Says:

    Excellent article Allan.Thanks

  9. Michalis Kairinos Says:

    Straight-forward and helpful tips! Thank you for sharing your knowledge

  10. Nahid Islam Bithi Says:

    Simply aweosme, clear concept and easy to implement ! Thank you so much Allan

  11. Ahmed Rashid Says:

    This is an excellent article. Well put and you can never go wrong with the steps given. Thanks a lot

  12. Diana Says:

    Another loud sounding ‘Thank You’, Alan! Great article and messages shared are so valid not only for the HR work arena but also ring as effective for many other positions. Reading it, the first person I was thinking to share it with – is my son – who is at start of his career. He is a Finance Audit, however the 7 points will provide a useful learning opportunity to him as well. Thank you and all the best!

  13. Tawina Says:

    This is awesome indeed. So educative and informative. It just came at the right time. Thanks Alan

  14. Marie Says:

    Your articles are always ‘rich’ in knowledge and very practical. This can be useful guide in all work sectors to middle managers and senior mangers, not just for HR practitioners. I will definitely be using these guides. Thank you.

  15. Alan Says:

    Thanks Marie for the kind comments, glad you found this info helpful. Best, Alan.

  16. This is very good and has helped me to deal with my appraisal documents 2 thanks Says:

    I wish this was given to me 10 years ago. It has helped be a successful career person at my job. Thank you Allan

  17. Jesca Says:

    With this great knowledge I’m very sure to make it in life about my HR work in life.

  18. Emma Says:

    wow..thats a great one.

  19. Chickie Says:

    This couldn’t have come at a better time. Sure needed this article. As always, great information that I intend on exercising.

    Thank you

  20. Festus Says:

    Very enlightening tips for Hr professionals struggling with getting recognition,relevance and identity.Thanks Allan

  21. Jean P. Says:

    Well done. Very informative article. I learn a lot from your articles.

  22. Susan Says:

    Excellent advice, as always. I plan on using the one’s I don’t have in place to make sure I am an awesome HR professional.

  23. Diana Dema (Hysa) Says:

    Thank you Alan, a very comprehensive and useful article. I think it speaks directly and louder to other professionals being committed to become awesome in their area of expertise. All my best to you!

  24. Judy Says:

    Thanks much Alan,

    I will be sharing this tips. Hope you don’t mind.


  25. Olabiran, O. Says:

    As usual,a very informative write-up from Alan.I reckon it will make a good read for anyone who aspires to become awesome in his/her field.

  26. Muhammad Tahir Says:

    A very good one. Thank you for the insight.

  27. william Birech Says:

    Alan – Great work indeed.

  28. Muhammad Tahir Says:

    Correct! You’re absolutely on point.Thank you.

  29. Helder Figueiredo Says:

    Great article Alan, thanks for sharing with us all

  30. Joy A Says:

    Thanks Alan! Brilliant points

  31. Pooja Says:

    Thanks, Alan,
    Meaningful information, I will share it in my network.


    Alan – thanks as always. You always “hit the mark”. Sometimes I do feel like Super Woman – I’m continuing to “save the day” and help our company be successful. While I do not have a college degree or HR certificate, I have been involved in running/managing businesses most of my life beginning at age 16. So I understand the business perspective well and the HR part of my job is a complement to my other responspibilities. I love it when I’m informed by employees that I’m the best HR person they’ve ever worked with. I really consider myself a business partner and team closely with all CEO’s I’ve worked with. I will be happy when we can get COVID behind us though. Sorry for the long post. You can edit if you like 🙂