The success of HR professionals depends in good measure on the quality of their conversations with a wide range of stakeholders. Given that the heart and soul of HR work is listening, consultation, advice, expertise sharing, data gathering, collaborating and joint problem solving, and rests on trust, confidentiality and credibility, effective conversations are at the very core of what makes all this effective.
Based on my personal experience, I am able to identify at least seven contexts calling for great conversations from HR professionals.
Conversations to build trust
All good relationships are built on trust. For trust to develop, HR Professionals must move out of their role boundaries and communicate with candour and openness and of course sensitivity. They must learn to connect at a human level with the leader or manager in the business. Such candor becomes especially important in owning up failures.
Conversations to demonstrate empathy
Leaders and managers may often express issues, concerns and problems. HR Professionals should resist the temptation and anxiety to offer ready-made solutions and instead tune into their worlds, listen with empathy and respond with understanding. To be seen as someone capable of listening and understanding is by itself a huge virtue.
Conversations to bring new perspectives
HR Professionals often need to share with leaders and manager organizational issues and concerns arising out of their sensing effort. They may also need to present their professional views and opinions when called for. This will call for being precise, firm, respectful, objective and sensitive and of course open to engage in a dialogue.
Conversations to shape agendas
HR Professionals need to spend a fair amount of time having conversations with managers and leaders to give shape to their HR agendas and plans. This will require them to ask the right questions and take an outside-in view to the business. The focus in these conversations is to find out what HR needs to do.
Conversations around the leader’s agenda
Leaders and managers often look to HR as a neutral platform to discuss some of their dilemmas and use them as a thinking partner to make certain critical decisions. In these conversations the partner must not only be a great listener but also ask good questions and present his or her perspectives in an neutral and unbiased manner to facilitate clarity and decision making.
Conversations to bring a teachable point of view
There are times when leaders and managers look to HR for expert advice or guidance. These are typically in areas where HR has expertise. In these conversations the partner has to present his or her knowledge and insights with precision and confidence.
Conversations around immediacy
There will always be times when the relationship between the HR professional and the leader or manager is broken because of a conflict, or a particular issue. It is important that he or she has the skill to talk about things that are coming in the way of their relationship with the objective of addressing the issues and restoring the relationship.
When HR professionals learn to have these seven conversations well, their leaders and managers find it a pleasure to work with them, seek them out and will always have time for them.