Leadership Matters

Perspectives on the key issues impacting senior leaders and their organizations
May 3, 2024

Navigating the C-Suite: 10 Tips for HR Professionals

For HR professionals, navigating the often-delicate dynamics of the C-suite is a key element of success. With that in mind, I put together the list below on how best to achieve that critical goal — something of a “navigation checklist.”

As you read each, ask yourself: Can I honestly rate myself an 8 or above on how I do each? Would my boss, my peers and my team agree? In the areas where you rate yourself lower, you may find an opportunity to improve your performance and boost your influence and impact.

  1. Business partnership. Do you understand your business and its leaders at a deep strategic and personal level? Do you know the business goals, challenges, strengths and preferences to provide effective and tailored HR solutions?
  2. Trust. Trust is your influence capital. You need to build and maintain trust with your stakeholders, both internally and externally. Trust is the foundation of your credibility, influence and impact as an HR business partner.
  3. Relationships. Your peer relationships are every bit as important as your relationship with the CEO. Your ability to collaborate and coordinate with other HR business partners, specialists and leaders to ensure alignment and consistency of HR policies and practices across the organization is critical. When the going gets tough (and it will), the strength of your relationships is "money in the bank" that you can tap into when you need to deal with difficult or sensitive issues.
  4. Aligning the strategic HR agenda. How well do you communicate and cascade the HR vision, strategy and priorities to your business units? Are you ensuring they are aligned with the organizational goals and values?
  5. Feedback. Solicit and act on feedback from your stakeholders, both positive and negative. Feedback is a valuable source of learning and improvement for you as an HR professional. If you stop receiving feedback, it may indicate a loss of trust or interest from your stakeholders.
  6. Courage and integrity. You need to demonstrate courage and integrity in your role as an HR business partner. You need to speak up, challenge and influence when necessary, even if it means going against the grain or risking conflict. You also need to uphold the highest standards of ethics and professionalism in your work.
  7. Inspire and lead. Be a role model, run a great shop and develop great people. You need to embody the qualities and behaviors that you expect from your business leaders and employees.
  8. Celebrating others. Recognizing and appreciating the achievements and contributions of your business leaders and employees is a key part of strong leadership, and to helping your people grow and develop as leaders.
  9. Visibility, accessibility and marketing. You need to be visible and accessible to your stakeholders, both physically and virtually. Take the initiative and be responsive in your communication and engagement. You also need to market and promote the value and impact of HR to your business units and the organization.
  10. Balancing act. You are balancing five distinct constituencies with competing agendas: your function, your HR peers, your HR leaders, the business units and yourself. This is hard, tricky — and critical. You need to balance the needs and expectations of these constituencies and manage potential conflicts and trade-offs among them, in order to find optimal solutions that benefit the organization.