When Your HR Business Partner is your BEST Business Partner

We recently had lunch with an HR leader and client whom we adore working with.   She's smart and dedicated to the success of her organization.  She thinks in terms of individual and departmental strengths and paints a vision.  She sounds like what an HR leader should be, right? It's not nearly as common as you'd think.

We've worked with dozens of HR leaders, and collaborating with her has gotten us thinking about what makes them Partners like her – or rather Gatekeepers or Complainers who impede progress – in their organizations every day.


Some HR leaders see themselves strongly as gatekeepers. There's value in some corralling the flow of information and connections, but it becomes problematic when they erect too many gates, often in the wrong places. Their exercise in control freezes out other leaders and possibilities.


HR can be a really frustrating role to have: many expectations, little actual authority.  Too often the HR leader serves as the inbox for all of the organization's gripes. We empathize. But, there's a dirty little secret here: HR doesn't have the luxury of being part of their organization's dysfunction; they have to be above it.


The best HR leaders are collaborative partners. Here's how they show up:

•   Respect – they have respect for leadership in their organization, and also for outside help

•   Strengths-focused – HR Partners see the best in the people around them and don't get weighed down by foibles or limitations

•   Possibilities – they see how relationships at work can be improved and be strong

•   Courage – they name the organizational dysfunctions and elephants in the room and work to change them. 

We will look more closely at Gatekeepers and Complainers and how they can become Partners in future blog posts. In the meantime, we can't wait to continue working with our HR partner!  We left our planning lunch buzzing!

What do you love OR struggle with about HR in your organization?