Calling HR Leaders, Are Your People Leaders Stepping Up?

Calling HR Leaders, Are Your People Leaders Stepping Up?

Calling HR Leaders, Are Your People Leaders Stepping Up?

Whether I’m speaking at an event, delivering training or facilitating a workshop, there are generally a few people representing a HR function in my audience. HR business partners, HR leaders, Directors of People and Culture.

One of the consistent things that I hear from them is they’re just so busy. They’re busy answering questions, they’re busy giving advice, they’re helping people to find policies. And this is really diverting them from the things that could otherwise be doing that add value and move the strategic people capability of the organization forward.

People who gravitate to work in HR tend to be incredibly generous with their time and they want to help, so they naturally fall to mentoring, to providing advice, to giving guidance, to answering questions, sometimes even taking on the responsibilities that others should be taking on. Yes, I’m talking about what the people leaders in the rest of the business should be doing.

Leaders and managers must take responsibility for dealing with the ‘people’ stuff in relation to their own team members. They shouldn’t be palming it off on you. Otherwise you don’t get to do your job, you get to do theirs.

I believe that an important part of the HR function is about getting people leaders to step up and be accountable for their people, what and how they deliver. If you want to be a people leader, then that’s exactly what you need to do, lead your people. The good, the bad and the ugly.

If you’re a HR Leader this is what I believe you need to do. If you’re not already doing this, you need to move from mentoring, advice giving and suggestion making – to coaching. You need to move accountability back to your people leaders.

By all means help them. They’ve got experience, so coach them to  answer their own questions. Coach them so they’re equipped to have the tough conversations with their own people. Coach them so they can clearly set expectations with their people. Coach them so they know how to give feedback effectively. Coach them so they can manage performance and recognize performance and value great contributions in their team.

This is not rocket science. These are the basics of being a people leader.

What does coaching your people leaders do for you as a HR Leader? It gives you:

  • Your time back
  • A way of having really effective conversations with leaders across the business
  • A way to grow capability in your people leaders
  • A way to effectively move accountability back where it belongs, with each people leader
  • A way to sustain learning through the coaching process …so next time they can handle it on their own.
  • The opportunity to focus on your own areas of accountability, rather than doing a people leader’s job for them


Of course your people leaders will benefit from your coaching approach as they become even better managers and leaders. Their team members will benefit too.

So how can you make this happen?

Mentor less often and coach more often. Shorten your conversations, get your people leaders to use their initiative and experience, and to take learning from each conversation that you have so you’re not having repeat conversations.

Get your leaders to step up and do their jobs so that their people are clear about what’s expected of them and clear about how that will happen. And you need to set the expectations with your people leaders about how they need to manage things going forward. They are responsible for their people.

Yes, there are exceptions but that’s exactly what they are, exceptions.

Then you need to get yourself back on track and do the things that will make a difference in your own role as a leader in HR.  Whether you’re a HR Business Partner, a Director of HR or People and Culture, or the Head of Organizational Development.