My husband bought a Street Sense paper from a sidewalk vendor the other day. For those of you who are not DC locals, Street Sense is a bi-weekly newspaper that focuses on issues of homelessness, and many of the articles are written by people experiencing homelessness. My husband does volunteer work with people experiencing homelessness, so he routinely buys and reads Street Sense.
Street Sense vendors are entrepreneurs working to improve the quality of their lives in the midst of their homelessness. Many people don’t realize this, and walk by the vendors in the same way they walk by anyone panhandling. This observation led us to a conversation about why some people give to panhandlers, some don’t, and some buy Street Sense and some won’t. The issues around homelessness are deep and complex, and this is an HR blog, so I won’t go into those issues here.
But one thing my husband said stayed with me all the way to my HR self. Some people are only willing to give if they are assured of an outcome that they approve of. As an HR professional, I started to wonder – are there people that I don’t invest in because I don’t have confidence in their outcome? Are there some that I just ‘know’ won’t grow in the way that I want, despite my best coaching efforts? Are there managers that I am so convinced don’t have what it takes that I stop training them? Are there ‘bad hires’ that aren’t worth my time and energy?
Our role as HR professionals is not to guarantee a particular outcome. Every person is unique, and brings their own personality, background and even baggage with them. Maybe your ‘bad hire’ is a great employee in the wrong position. You can help him find the right one. It’s entirely possible that the manager you think doesn’t have what it takes really never will be a stellar manager. Maybe you can help her find another opportunity for career growth that doesn’t include management. But maybe you need to redefine what a successful manager looks like, and allow that person to grow in ways that you never expected.
There are articles out there encouraging us to treat our star performers differently than our ‘non-stars’, and I agree. The kind of energy and commitment you give to growing a star looks different than coaching someone developmentally. Sometimes the best opportunity for an employee is outside your organization, and you need to lead them there. But if we want to be HR pros who practice, as Steve Browne says, #HRonPurpose, we must intentionally bring our best selves to every interaction with every employee, no matter what their current level of stardom looks like. That’s the only way to be an HR star yourself.