Reflecting on a Career

It’s hard to believe it was 32 years ago when the first issue of Human Resource Executive® rolled off the presses.

I joined LRP Media (then LRP Publications) roughly seven months earlier, in November 1986, as editor-in-chief, with about 10 years of business-to-business journalism experience and a limited knowledge of human resources (which, then, was primarily called “personnel”) under my belt. Who would have thought I’d be here in 2019 writing my final editorial? Certainly not I.

Yes, after more than three decades at the editorial helm of HRE, I will be folding up my laptop and retiring June 3. (That won’t be news to those of you who read the special section in last month’s edition, prepared by HRE’s crafty and conniving editorial team behind my back, about my career and approaching retirement.)

Reflecting on my career here, I can say with complete sincerity it’s been a truly amazing journey. I’ve had the privilege of working side by side with some incredibly dedicated and talented individuals, including everyone on our current team, during a time when HR, as a profession, was undergoing a major metamorphosis. What more could I have asked for?

Granted, long before “C-suite” became part of business’ vernacular, HR leaders were having a profound impact on their organizations. But it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the extent of that influence has grown exponentially throughout my time at HRE.

The reason for this is obvious: Boards, CEOs, C-suite colleagues and even investors have a much better appreciation today of the importance of talent strategy and the role it plays in driving organizational success.

So, what does this mean, if you’re an HR leader? Well, it means you’re in the driver’s seat. That what you do or, for that matter, fail to do can have a profound effect on your respective businesses.

Generally speaking, in my travels and conversations, I’ve noticed that the most extraordinary and successful HR leaders seem to share several similar traits.

First, they realize that they bring a unique and important perspective to the C-suite conversation. No one is better positioned to explain the talent implications of each and every business decision. Not the CEO. Not the CFO. Not the CMO. The best HR leaders make sure their voices are being heard.

They know their businesses inside and out. They understand the dynamics that are at work in their given industries and develop their talent strategies accordingly. You’re regularly going to find these leaders out on the frontlines.

They aren’t afraid to take risks when it’s called for. Sure, you can count on them to pay close attention to compliance issues. But they’re not going to let that stymie their creativity or ability to innovate.

They understand technology and how it can be fully leveraged to improve the employee experience and drive HR—and how to successfully apply data to the decision-making process. (This point speaks to why we launched the HR Technology Conference 22 years ago.)

They’re always looking two or three steps ahead. Or, as one HR executive once put it, they’re able to “see around corners.”

And finally, and most importantly, they’re guided by an ethical compass. Always! Meaning, they don’t bend to pressures to take shortcuts or wrong turns as they attempt to take their organizations from point A to point B.

Sure, not every HR executive fits this description to a T; some may fall noticeably short. But the fact is—and I say this with total confidence—there are a lot more of them out there than HR’s critics might have you think.

I consider myself fortunate to know my fair share.

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