“Why HR Still Isn’t a Strategic Partner” asks J. Craig Mundy in HBR. The answer is because the function is a fudge and the term “HR” is outdated. The CEO should be wholly responsible for people supported by a Chief of Staff.

See HBR Blog

The author makes excellent suggestions as to how HR Directors might add more value.

However, the issue in my view is systemic.

It’s the CEO’s job to focus on creating an environment in which people can do their best work. It cannot be delegated.
CEOs often shirk this demanding reality. HR colludes. It is because of this fudge that HR remains the Cinderella of the Boardroom. Why is it that no other function – CFO, COO, CTO, CMO etc. – has a similar and ongoing identity crisis? The answer is that their roles are clear and HR’s isn’t. The solution is to transfer all compliance, governance and transactional activity to the CFO or General Counsel’s office and create a new role: that of Chief of Staff, on the White House model. The role of Chief of Staff would be occupied by best of breed leadership development practitioners. Their primary function would be to support the CEO on people issues. The snag is that, by definition, this could not be a board director level post because the CEO should be the director, responsible to the Board, for people issues. This might upset many. However, by giving up their aspiration of a seat on the Board the best HR people could secure one of the most influential and important jobs in the business. They could become very effective gatekeepers and agents of significant change without stepping on the toes of the directors.

The benefits: HR’s endless agonising over “how to influence the corporate agenda” would disappear over night; good, top HR people would have a clear and hugely respected role; corporate governance should improve immediately under one boss – the CFO or GC.

Above all, the CEO would be forced to do his/her job properly and spend 70% of their time on people issues. What has HR got to lose? Nothing that it hasn’t lost already.

Ciaran Fenton

[Pron: kee-ron]



“Coaching [traditionally] offers too much support and not enough challenge” says John Blakey in the Sunday Times yesterday.

He goes on to say that coaching has “sucked in a lot of attitudes from the world of therapy” which he feels are inappropriate for senior executives.

I would go further and suggest that senior executives don’t need coaching, they need “management” as in sport and the arts. In addition, anyone who sets themselves up in a one to one advisory relationship of this sort should do at least one year’s personal therapy so that not only would they know the difference between therapy and what they do – and there’s a big difference – but also so that they can avoid bringing their own emotional baggage to the relationship. In addition, it can help fine tune their listening skills and raise their own emotional intelligence.

You can read the piece here

He is co-author of a book entitled “Challenging Coaching: Going beyond traditional coaching to face the facts”

Ciaran Fenton