Article: Dear CEO… please stop and listen!


Dear CEO… please stop and listen!

I am your confidant, your sounding board and I even keep your sanity in check. Guess who I am?
Dear CEO… please stop and listen!

You are a Chief Everything Officer and in order to keep the plane flying in the air you also need a co-pilot. I can complement your weaknesses and temper your strengths


While your word is gospel for most leaders in the company, if it is implemented uni-dimensionally, it can lead to disaster. I’m your sanity check!


Dear Chief Executive Officer,

As you think through your company’s strategy and future direction, you are I am positive, consulting your chief financial officer, sales and business heads on their points of view. You would probably be in a room debating and brainstorming with this select group. May I please take this opportunity to draw your attention to a certain someone you may probably never think of, or think of only when the document is done, dusted, presented and everybody’s raised a cheer.

I know, I may be blowing the bugle here, but this person is probably your best bet and has access to the most important stakeholders for the success of your business.

Any guesses CEO? If you got it, you still have a chance and if you are still blinking and nodding your august head in frustration, I got to run really fast from you!! Here’s introducing your HR Head who is now sporting a newly acquired CXO title of ‘CHRO’ or even better ‘Chief People Officer’. Hmm! I hate this title. I’d much rather prefer ‘Jedi’ but we will stick to this for now.

How can this Jedi (sorry, HR officer) help you run your empire? They are so many roles rolled into one… let’s introduce them to you, one by one:

  1. Your Confidant: You’re a CEO- a Chief Everything Officer and I am certain it gets lonely at the top. When you are lonely, your HR Officer can be your confidant who you can speak with, with no fear of being quoted or manipulated. Allow them into the heart of things and it won’t be long before you realize that this is a true friendship where you ought to never conceal a thing. They will soon be that someone you seek out for advice that goes beyond their described expertise and the one who maintains relationships that aren’t just technical.
  2. Your Sounding board: In business, the competition will bite you if you keep running; if you stand still, they will swallow you. Gone are the days when HR officers were used as a punching bag for difficult employee situations only. So, who can you rely on to give you unbiased feedback, with no personal agenda? You got it! That somebody who will ensure you don’t become another modern day rendition of the Emperor’s New Clothes.
  3. Your Co-pilot: While business leaders and finance leaders form a part of your team that keeps your plane in the air, your HR officer will ensure you pay attention to the most important part of your business: Your people! Do they have your complete trust? Do you consult every business decision with them to ensure the people angle is considered? This could be your competitive advantage. As the commander of your aircraft, you must have a trusted and able co-pilot who complements your weaknesses and tempers your strengths. Your HR Officer could be that!
  4. The Pain in the Posterior: If your HR officer is a person you like, I have a problem. They should be a pain for you, questioning you and taking you to task for not doing enough for the people. They should be your long-term pain for long-term success. Every time strategy is formulated and tactics are planned, they should be asking the people questions and ensure that it is on the agenda. Please note that this is not about benefits and people care, this is about answering the critical questions – Do we have the right talent? What happens because of this strategic direction change? Do we have the right leaders? What does it take to build nurturing, yet performance-oriented leadership? Does our compensation plan support the behaviours required for success? The list is endless – do you have an HR Officer who is helping you focus on these critical aspects?
  5. Your Insurance Policy: Whether we like it or not, every company, especially if you are large in size, is prone to litigation—both sane and insane. This can be costly and distracting. Here is somebody who, if competent enough, can be your insurance against this by doing the right thing always. The right thing is not about tying up the company in red tape, but balancing speed with compliance. This person should help you do the tight rope walk, without falling off or losing sight of your goals.
  6. Your Sanity Check: As a CEO you are very, very powerful. Your word becomes the gospel with which your leaders drive the company. You have got to be careful, with what you say, what you write. Many a time your decisions, even though they are right, if implemented uni-dimensionally without questioning, can lead to disaster. This person can help you do that sanity check!

You get the drift? You agree with some not all, see the value but don’t think your current HR officer is competent or deserves the time? Do yourself a favor, see if you can help them get there. And if you don’t think that’s possible, fire them and get somebody who fits the bill.

What you can’t afford is not have somebody play these different roles for you. There are a lot of good people out there; give them your trust, nurture them and hold their feet to the fire – they will deliver. Here is a quick check on whether the current one fits the bill and if not, what to check for when you get the new one in:

Does he/she run HR like a small business or are they still stuck with the ‘support-function’ mindset?

Does he/she understand how and why your business works the way it does?

Does he/she have a strong network of HR and business professionals?

Is he/she outwardly focused and adept at bringing in new thinking, talent and practices?

Does he/she enjoy the trust of their peer group?

Does he/she have the confidence to give unbiased feedback?

Does he/she have a distinct point of view?

Is he/she metric driven, able to spot trends and ask the tough questions?

Good Luck and may HR be with you in your quest for world domination!

Your Well Wisher

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Topics: C-Suite, #HRInsights

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