I Love Flying First Class

I love flying first class. It’s not just the comfy seats, ample leg room, a beverage before takeoff, and a choice of snacks – it’s also the company. In the very few times I have flown first class I have always enjoyed the company of an executive much higher up in his/her food chain than I am in mine. Usually they are very open to discussion.

Last week was no exception. I sat next to a Senior VP of a national energy company. After the pleasantries I thought I would see how much info I could learn about his company. I learned a lot. That is what I want to share with you here.

Next week the CEO, President, all the EVPS, Senior VPs, and VPs are meeting for an entire day just to discuss the talent of the organization. This was very interesting to me. Why would they spend an entire day just talking talent?

Roughly 2 years ago their CEO hired a new EVP of HR. This HR Executive was hired and almost given carte blanche on leadership and talent development. Too much in the opinion of many in this organization.  This message was voiced by the CEO and translated all the way down to the bottom throughout the entire organization. This was a big change for the company who had deep roots in doing things they way they had always been done. Their previous HR VP had almost no voice at the table. Things are different now.

This HR executive is very aggressive. But despite her aggressiveness it has taken 18 months to receive full support and endorsement from the senior executives of the company. Here are some of the things she is implementing:

  • Consistent and regular performance reviews
  • Public accountability of goal achievement
  • Promotions based on performance and not tenure
  • Creating a leadership pipeline and making a clear stand who is in it, and who is not
  • Allowance for lateral movement for leadership experience, mentoring, and professional growth

It was explained to me that these are difficult things to implement.  Even now, though the executives are fully bought in, middle and lower management is still having a difficult time adjusting.

This has become a new culture. There is now a culture of accountability. An entrepreneurial culture stemmed from performance based incentives. And a culture that is easy to lead because everyone knows where they stand, everyone knows what they are going to be held accountable for, and everyone knows the rules to play by. It’s the same for everyone.

Some of the challenges this airborne colleague of mine expressed were having difficult conversations. One of such was telling a long-time friend and associate that he just wasn’t ever going to be a VP. Another time in a performance review he was giving negative feedback. His report was so comfortable with him that he responded saying the development challenges were not his fault, but the fault of this VP and asked to be mentored by somebody else. This person listened and agreed. Now this director level person is in the pipeline and has a much brighter future than he had had a year ago.

I just want to conclude by saying that this is not a unique scenario. Organizations that are giving voices to HR, focusing on people instead of budgets, are performing well. We have read it over and over again and I agree. People are the lifeblood of any organization. Take the human element out and all you have is a spreadsheet. Focus on the people and your organization has the ability to make leaps and bounds.

So what is your experience? Does HR have a voice in your company? Do you know where you stand? How do you know?


About James Keddington

I have been a marketer for over 12 years. I enjoy snowboarding, playing water polo and cooking.
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