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Raising the ante Steve?

Indeed, I have never been able to adequately explain to students the reality of leadership is the hard times : hold Calais until the last man. Sounds good when uttered by a General in London. Quite a different matter when said by the Major commanding the troops at Calais looking into the eyes of a man who is being asked to die.

My lecture theatres go cold (some good architecture there - emotions reverberate) and I have never managed the bounceback as they collect their thoughts and imagine themselves as leaders in tough times. In small groups yes, but then largely with students whose families own businesses and they relate employees to families. The sense of responsibility in the sons of family businesses is awe inspiring. I have seen them go chalk-white as they think of the responsibility of making good decisions for 100 or more so other families, and also seen the stiffening of the backbone and a little more attn to their finance & accounting or whatever so that they will lead the business competently in the future.

As a positive psychologist I would say this. Loss of employment is disappointing and humiliating. Not to be sexist but to play out the worst case scenario: a man has to go home and say to his wife, son and daughter - I am redundant - not needed. That is what we need to attend to. We don't want that to happen. The objective reality of loss of job and income is one thing. The social equivalent of a traffic pile up is another. If we begin early enough we can help people reorganize and keep their dignity. Whatever the objective realities, they will do better with their dignity intact. And who knows, it could be us tomorrow. Solidarity is a good word.

Steve Roesler

Good morning, Jo,

You bring up a population that I wasn't even considering when I wrote the article: smaller, family-owned businesses. (70%of my work is in larger corporations). It is easy to see how employment decisions may actually be more difficult as a result of being even more personal.

Forget the notion of sexism in the comment; it doesn't ring true. As a man I have had a life-long, built-in sense of responsibility to provide for my family. And yes, my self-worth is, in fact, partially predicated on fulfilling that. Forget that I understand my inability to control events in the world. That isn't the point. The point is: my family depends on me and I gain deep satisfaction from making them as secure as humanly possible.

This brings up a point: What about women in the workforce?

My career has spanned enough years that I can recall being in meetings, workshops, and conferences where there were no women to be seen. As that dynamic finally changed, I sensed (and still do) that high-performing, committed women do not attach the same sense of self-worth to their jobs as men. Of course there are exceptions but my experience has been that they actually are exceptions.

Let me emphasize: This isn't about performance or dedication; it is about self-worth related to ability-to-provide (intuition says that single mothers may bring another dynamic to the mix).

I would think that managers, HR folks, and men and women in general would benefit from understanding more about each other's take on this one.

Maybe this should be a separate post. What do you think?

Wally Bock

HR should be helping with all of that, including costs cutting, and, as a subset of that, headcount reductions if necessary. The downturn does provide an opportunity to shape the larger tactical and strategic actions of the company. Those that are ready will snap it up.

I suspect, though, that most HR folks will be like a dog we had once. There was a clothesline that his lead was hooked to so he could run and run but not get away. One day the lead broke. The dog kept running back and forth on the same worn track, unheeding the vistas that beckoned.

It would be nice to think that the reason many HR folks haven't got that good old "seat at the table" is that they've been blocked by manipulative management and competing execs. But the reality is that a whole lot of folks simply don't bring anything but high-level clerk skills.

For those who can help formulate the tactics necessary to get through the downturn and power out of it, this is, as you suggest, a marvelous opportunity. But you have to be ready and willing to seize opportunity when it comes.

Dan McCarthy

Steve –

How about HR as Consigliere? Think Robert Duval’s character from the Godfather.

Chris - Manager's Sandbox


Interesting article. I do agree that HR has an opportunity to be more visible when it might not have been before. But a lot of what you describe as "seat at the table" work is, in my opinion anyways, just strategic administrative work. It's strategic - no doubt about it - but strikes me as more of the administrative and/or softer stuff that HR has always had its fingers in.

HR's true value to an organization comes from being able to analyze what behaviors are needed from employees to achieve and exceed the business strategies. For example, if your company prides itself on service, what sorts of behaviors do you need from employees to fulfill that strategy? Calm demeanor in stressful situations? A willingness to make sure the customer is always satisfied? How do you motivate employees to demonstrate those behaviors? What are your incentive programs? Do you offer any training? And how do you demonstrate that those things translate to a higher bottom line (it CAN be done)?

The problem, I think, isn't that HR hasn't been given an opportunity to sit at the table. It's that too often we fail to bring anything with us to put there. You wouldn't go to a dinner party and not bring wine - why is this any different?

I would suggest that HR professional should take advantage of the new visibility you highlighted in your article to show off their other, more long-term value added abilities.

- Chris

Chris Young

Great post Steve! You are absolutely correct in your post - HR is being forced to make tough economic/business decisions and if they do it well they might be able to keep that much coveted seat at the table.

I shared your post with my readers in my weekly Rainmaker 'Fab Five' blog picks of the week which can be found here: http://www.maximizepossibility.com/employee_retention/2008/10/the-rainmaker-3.html

Be well Steve!

Steve Roesler


Carpe Personnelum.

Steve Roesler


Clearly, you have an advanced copy of the as-yet-unreleased The HR Father:

[Tessio brings in Lucy Brazi's bulletproof Kate Spade messenger bag, delivered with a fish inside]

Sonny: "What the heck is this?"

Clemenza: "It's a Sicilian message. It means Lucy Brazi sleeps with the facilitators."

Coming soon to a meeting room near you.

Steve Roesler

Chris Ferdinandi,

I'm with you on your distinction because it points out where the real contribution lies. So, no argument here.

The glitch that I see all too often is the banging of heads between HR folks who really know how to bring something meaningful to the equation but, in fact, do get blocked by more senior people who simply want them to do admin stuff and shut up. In these cases it's not a matter of competence or willingness; and, they've tried making the case without success.

In these instances a change of scenery is probably in order.

Thanks, Chris.

Steve Roesler

Chris Young,

Much appreciated as always...keep up the good work out there.

Chris - Manager's Sandbox

@Steve - I agree 100%. And unfortunately, those senior people are, in many instances, HR folks themselves.

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