Faster, higher, stronger… that is the essence of the Olympics…
How do Olympians become the best they can be? We don’t see the team behind star performers when they are standing on the podium. It’s all about the gold medalist, and rightly so – they have jumped further, run faster, rowed harder than anyone else in the world. In that moment, they deserve the spotlight.
But as the HR team well knows, the skills and experience required by the team which coaches the best from these champions cannot be underestimated. It is fair to suggest that HR isn’t always coaching – you might be challenging, engaging, changing, inspiring, or insisting* depending on the situation. *Insert hundreds of other “influencing” related verbs here.
The question of how you get the best out of the Olympic team is impossible to answer properly without a whole host of considerations. No one Olympian is ever the same, what is their discipline, what skills do they require, what training do they need? There is no definitive rule-book of how you can create a gold medalist, but there is a unifying need for a culture of high performance, in which your aspiring Olympians can thrive and reach their ultimate goals… What an incredible task! …And yet that is what we expect HR to do, day in day out, in every company. Surely that is a task of truly Olympian proportions!
HR professionals understand the subtleties of “what works” for their companies. They are masters of flexibility, working with ambiguity, influencing stakeholders in disciplines that are frequently entirely at odds with one another. HR is the coach, the manager, the trainer of this incredible group of people called a company, so it’s no wonder that the role of the HR leader almost defies definition. If you can’t see the HR team on the podium, it is easy to forget about it! HR often works in the shadows, a trusted and valued advisor, in the good times and the tough, and like many unsung heroes, the extent of their influence often remains concealed.
HR, like the coach, the trainer, often only seems to be recognised when it is solving a problem, and by the time they “appear to” get involved, it is perceived as damage limitation, fire-fighting, reactive. The camera zooms to the HR function on the sidelines when under-performance is identified, and with lazer-like beam the fingers of blame are pointed… but what about that winning team? HR’s role in keeping the organisation healthy, focused, and committed all year round is in itself a feat of enormous stamina, skill and determination!
The team behind the Olympians works behind the scenes, but the Olympians themselves know that they would be nothing without the support, the frameworks and skill of the people who have cleared the path of obstacles to the podium.
And whilst HR isn’t on the podium, it doesn’t mean they don’t like winning!