Greatness. It is something to be recognized in those who display it, even if they don’t know it. Some individuals run hard after it. It may be the finest compliment that a person can offer to another. Greatness is the stuff of legends and heroes. Enter HR.
With our focus on company culture and, therefore, the intensity around finding the right corporate fit (“fit” is a whole other discussion – insert eyeroll) in our talent, we look for Wonder Woman to walk in the door at every interview. The nuances of people development, even in our enlightened current environment, are underappreciated by management, if not senior leadership. Hurry, fill, promote/replace, hurry, fill, promote/replace. Developing talent is not a transactionally-based hope; it is an intentional push and plan.
For some HR pros, they look a bit like Mickey Goldmill from Rocky. There is a gritted determination to push those in his charge to greatness. Mickey pushed Rocky to get out of his own head, to see what more there could be, and most practically, how to get there. Mickey took his experiences – good and bad – and crafted a training plan for Rocky. His passion and determination, however uncaring they appeared at times, were focused on the betterment of his trainee. Mickey was committed.
This posture has its downside. Rocky would lament, at moments, regarding Mickey’s curmudgeon approach to life. Mickey would allow his stubbornness to affect his ability to see other options and opinions. He may not have swayed from his duties as Trainer and Manager, but he would have taught Rocky as to why those other options and opinions would not work. Rocky would know better how to think more critically and how to be able to handle future occurrences and distractions.
For some HR pros, they take a more Karamo path. On Queer Eye, Karamo is the effective pep talker. He is attentive to and a student of his client, and he crafts necessary messaging back to that person. Karamo has been known to cause a client or two to weep as a result of his good questions and thoughtful responses. He is a believer in the greatness within each person he deals with, and he won’t be swayed.
Expectedly, this position has a downside as well. Tears don’t necessarily mean change or acceptance. Having a moment with a manager may be nothing more than just a moment. The experience itself is not going to affect lasting change and growth for the majority of people. It’s a good memory and a cool experience, but the accountability and the measured effectiveness aren’t there. We have all seen health regimens, diets and makeovers that don’t last. In HR, this is often seen in group training and checkbox learning management. There is no lasting effect for many.
Encouraging greatness is a daily commitment. It may have better days than others, but it’s still day by day. As HR, crafting and planning opportunities for development is an ongoing responsibility. Putting the “You Can Do It” Cat poster up on the breakroom wall is not a developmental exercise. Just because someone tells me that I can be great at something does not mean I will. Not everyone is meant to manage, to tune up a car, to cut hair, to draw blood, to start a company, let alone do any of these with greatness. Pithy messages might do more harm than good in these instances.
How are you developing people? How are you working with others who need to develop their people? If this is new for you, start with the last coaching chats or performance appraisals. Where are there themes in a department, if not the company? It is, also, a good idea to ask those in need of development about where they see shortcomings or about desired areas of growth. Just know that if you ask them, you’re going to have do something as part of the response (darn!).
Everyone has greatness in them. That’s not trite or idealistic. It does, however, require assessment and opportunity to figure out where that greatness will take hold. Sometimes a person thinks that a particular path is where greatness will be found. You may need to be the voice of encouragement towards a different path, one where they have demonstrated skills and passion. That person may not see it yet but opening the door for exploration and attempt is what HR can do, for the benefit of the person as well as for the company.
Just because I think I am the greatest karaoke singer out there does not mean it’s true. Maybe my greatness should be directed in other areas. I belt out the songs, but do I do it in the right key? A greatness question for the ages.