HR Leads Business

Jun 22, 2018 | Tim Lemke, HRCI Staff Writer

Four Tips for HR Pros to Land in the C-Suite

Many HR professionals aspire to move up in their organizations and reach a position of true strategic influence, perhaps serving as Chief Human Resource Officers, sitting alongside other executives as key members of a leadership team.

Sheryl Simmons, PHR, is the CHRO for Maestro Health and finds herself in that spot.

“I’m so incredibly fortunate,” she says. “They highly value the HR function within [my] organization. They know it’s more than just playing the role as ‘the office psychiatrist and party planner.’ The CHRO is a very trusted adviser.”

In an interview with HR Means Business, Simmons offers her thoughts on how HR professionals can find themselves in positions of true influence as members of the C-Suite.

She spoke on June 19 at the SHRM 2018 Annual Conference and Expo, offering a presentation titled, ”Making Your Case to the C-Suite: Why You Should be at the Table.”

“The CHRO has one of the best views of the company,” Simmons says. “They are one of the only people with that bird’s eye view and who knows what’s going on.”

Here are a few tips from Simmons on how to reach that perch.

Find a Company You Love – It’s not enough to simply desire to be a CHRO. You must also genuinely be passionate about serving the organization in a leadership capacity. This can’t happen unless you have an affection for the company and share its vision. “Know you are at the right company,” Simmons says. “If you are at a company that does not value what you value, it won’t be a happy marriage.”

Have Good Emotional Intelligence – Simmons says this is one of the key qualities of someone in a CHRO position. It’s hard to define but recognizable when you see it. Emotional intelligence comes down to communicating clearly and positively, listening well, and working through solutions. It’s about being aware of your own feelings and the feelings of others.

“It’s the ability to control your own emotions and knowing how to express yourself in a way so that rather than hearing a dreaded ‘or’ in a conversation you come to the ‘and,’ Simmons says. “You create a win-win instead of a win-lose.”

Know Your Stuff – Typically, a CHRO reaches the C-suite level only after years of experience in HR, and often years of working in other capacities at a business. Their knowledge of the company is deep and well rounded. They know people, but also have a strong business acumen. “Bringing a myriad of experiences to the table is a very powerful thing,” Simmons says.

Understand the Language – Executives communicate in certain ways. A chief financial officer might talk with numbers. A chief executive officer may talk in the big picture. When dealing with any member of the C-Suite, a CHRO must understand these nuances. It also comes down to understanding what issues each member of the C-Suite finds most important. “If you want to play in that ballpark, you must know how to talk to their language,” Simmons says.