Human resource leaders are often under-utilized.
Many organizations don’t include the top HR leader on their executive team. Other senior leadership teams may include HR representation, but if they do, the HR leader isn’t typically tapped to advise the team on their group dynamics and leadership performance.
That’s why most senior leadership teams would benefit from coaching, and a skilled internal HR leader could step into that role.
In our Handbook of Coaching in Organizations, Douglas Riddle describes the opportunities HR leaders have to provide coaching to senior leadership teams given the many barriers.
3 Ways to Become a Coach to Senior Teams
1. Via partner coattails. Some senior HR leaders developed a strong relationship with a business leader when they were in previous roles and maintain that tie.
If you were indispensable, collaborative, and trustworthy as a lower-level manager or HR business partner, you are in a good position to work with that business leader and their senior team in new ways. You may stay in a behind-the-scenes advisory role, or you could grow into a position as a facilitator or coach for the team as a whole.
There may be opportunities to facilitate a work session or introduce new learning practices into the group’s work through projects or steps along the way.
2. Via talent processes. HR leaders have a natural spot working with executives and other senior teams on talent matters, and then they’re able to expand their scope of influence.
For example, as you work with senior teams on talent reviews or succession planning, you may broaden the discussion to the future talent strategies or the organizational culture and leadership needed to execute the business strategy.
3. Via a crisis. Sometimes an HR leader is called upon in a moment of panic or significant crisis — possibly a crisis of leadership.
You may be responding as part of the reaction force and could provide valuable process and behavioral coaching, either on-the-fly or as a clear and urgent mandate.
Crisis is not a chosen path to gain valuable experience and build relationships, but it’s a powerful one.
Whichever path opens up to you, don’t shrink away from the chance to earn the trust and credibility of your senior team.
While doing so takes courage and judgment (along with professional skill and the right approach), playing it safe is unhelpful — even harmful — to you and your organization.
The costs of disengaged or ineffective leadership are too high to ignore.