Let's stop pining for board seats

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I absolutely love this - what a great refreshing article. A lot of the time the board is caught up in talking and there is a lack of action, good to have both but making a difference should be the ...


Read More Miss Jennifer Griffiths
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It should not be about having a seat at the table. It’s about getting stuck in and making a difference

I was recently chatting with some of my people leader network colleagues about a recent promotion of a colleague. The conversation went something like this: “Did you hear Brian has been appointed to the board?”. “I didn’t, that’s a surprising move; especially when they won’t consider us for directorships.” “I know, how do they expect us to transform the business if we aren’t at the top – it’s ridiculous.”

I thought about giving my two cents but decided against it. Why? Because this was a very similar conversation to one I’ve had with several leaders; and it would have needed a lot more time than I had to truly get into the subject.

Having been in the HR profession for more than 25 years I’ve been asked many times for my views on HR in the boardroom. Should HR be a standard board position along with finance, sales and marketing? Now you’re ‘at the table’ are you more effective?

With the changing face of HR – moving from transactional to transformational – we’re seeing more high-profile HR leaders argue that HR should have a seat at the table. However, I’ve also heard equally strong arguments from business-savvy people leaders who say HR doesn’t need a seat and they themselves are quite happy where they are.

My view is simple. And it’s the same now I’m ‘at the table’ as when I wasn’t. Regardless of function it should not be about having a seat at the table. It’s about being present in the business, knowing the operation, getting stuck in and making a difference, not getting het up around whether we’re inside or outside of that elusive boardroom. It’s certainly not about wasting time pining for a seat. It’s hard to believe at times we are still having this conversation.

A couple of years ago Purple Cubed research found that the majority of those who hold boardroom positions do not believe HR is any more effective when they sit on the board. In some cases C-suite professionals believed their HR counterparts to be less effective when holding a seat.

While I appreciate that this is just one piece of research the findings should not be dismissed. If fellow boardroom colleagues do not see any change in effectiveness then surely the desire to be at the table is more about our own ‘esteem’ as a profession – born out of years of believing our function was held at a different regard to others.

But continuing with this line of thought only hurts our profession. We won’t come as equals if we are not happy with our lot. If we, as HR professionals, really want to help ourselves then I strongly believe we all need to understand this now and not spend time going about trying to convince others that we should have that voice, that presence, that state of mind.

Wasn’t it German writer Jean Paul who once said: “You prove your worth with your actions, not with your mouth”?

Because it really doesn’t matter where we are situated on the organigram if we’re empowered to do what is right to create the best workplaces possible.

This is something I believe very strongly. And I take every opportunity, when speaking to the future leaders of our organisations, to share my views. Some will agree, others will not. However, it’s important for all people – regardless of function – to recognise that it’s not about focusing on a title or racing up the ladder to a ‘top spot’. Instead it’s about building strong foundations, working on key skills every single day, and focusing on making a measurable impact.

So let’s move beyond this circular conversation, and instead focus on what we do best – creating great people strategies that get results. With the right tools and mindset we don’t need to be in the boardroom to make an impact.

Comments

I absolutely love this - what a great refreshing article. A lot of the time the board is caught up in talking and there is a lack of action, good to have both but making a difference should be the role of HR, I guess the thing is when you do get that seat you know you have gone some way to succeeding in making HR a value add function to the business, so its about perception - sometimes perception leads to true impact being felt - but if you concentrate on achieving results you will get the seat as a secondary bonus so its a better place to focus!


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