Think like a quarterback to hone your HR skills
By Elaine Varelas, 1/2/2007
The New Year is here, and for football fans that can only mean one thing: the Super Bowl! The big game is just a few weeks away and we'll soon know which teams will clinch their conference (Go Pats!) and make that trip to Miami. Whether you watch every play with rapt attention, or use the game as an excuse to eat massive amounts of guacamole dip, we can all learn something about being effective leaders-and better HR professionals-from our shoulder pad-clad friends.
Football coaches and players are constantly analyzing their game-their strengths, weak spots, and opponents. Good teams (those not plagued by injuries) usually don't repeat the same mistakes two weeks in a row. That's because they've reviewed the tape of the previous game and learned from their errors. By the next week, they already have a plan in place to beef up their weaknesses and play to their assets.
When was the last time you, as an HR professional, reviewed your "game?" Most HR executives preach professional development as a key component in fostering a skilled, dynamic, and creative workforce and leadership team, but when it comes to their own development, they don't do it.
Many HR professionals get so caught up in the daily tasks of their jobs they lose sight of how polishing their skills can impact their careers. Only when they start looking for a new position do their shortcomings become apparent, and they think, "Uh oh. I'm not as marketable as I thought." Don't wait until you are in the middle of a job search to start-do it now. Not only will you be a more desirable candidate when you do decide to hunt for a new job, but you can provide more value to your organization now.
The first thing you should do is a general assessment of your skills-your strengths and weaknesses-and create a working development plan for yourself. Review that game tape: where are you lacking? Enlist the help of a trusted colleague to assist you in your assessment. This person should be (or act as if) he or she is in a position to hire you (ie, if you're a manager, work with a VP). If the right person isn't in your network (even though you know they should be!), you could work with a recruiter or search firm that knows the market. An informal assessment should be sufficient, or you could use the SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) certification exam as a guide.
Most executive-level HR professionals have kept abreast of changes in their field and the industry in which they practice. The skills that are usually weakest are the "me" skills-those having to do with managing people or leadership abilities. These include presentation skills, conflict resolution, communication, and risk-taking.
One area in particular where many HR executives can improve is vision-the ability to anticipate. It is one of the most important talents for any leader to possess and is a way for HR professionals to prove their value to the company's leadership team. It is easy for all of us to get so caught up in what is happening tomorrow at work that we become blind to the challenges the organization will face next year or in the next decade.
Here's where HR executives can take a cue from Tom Brady. A good quarterback doesn't throw the ball to where the receiver is. He throws it to where the receiver will be.
When you finish your assessment, think about your vision for your own career: What skills do you need to improve, and how will you accomplish those goals? Do you need another degree, training in one particular area, or one-on-one work with a development coach? Create a career plan to reach your vision.
This same approach should also be applied to your company: What challenges do you anticipate for the organization? How will the company prepare for retiring baby boomers? Are there any labor or skills shortages on the horizon? What other workforce issues do you foresee? Once you've examined what those challenges might be, develop an action plan recommending how your company can prepare for these changes. This plan should consist of tangible tactics and goals that can be implemented now and in the future to help your organization adjust.
Of course, creating the plan is only the first step. Next, present that plan to the organization's leadership. Not only will communicating this plan benefit the company by outlining how you anticipate and prepare for issues of workforce, labor, or skills deficits, it will also help solidify your value to the organization and guarantee you a spot at the leadership table.
Avoid having to throw a Hail Mary pass by anticipating challenges for your organization and your career and creating a plan to meet those challenges. Take the time to invest in yourself now. Not only will it help in your own career, but your organization will benefit from your foresight and preparation.