HR Leads Business

Sep 24, 2020 | Victor Patterson, Director, Human Resources, HB Fuller

Your Business Partner: Understanding Their Strengths and Weaknesses

This second blog in a series by Victor Patterson, intended to inspire, encourage and change how Human Resources practitioners add value to their organizations.

As a trusted human resources business partner, we are often viewed as a complement, and extension of, functional leaders. This view does not come easily. Even today, many leaders are responsible for coaching, developing, supporting, influencing – and ultimately have a profitable impact on their organizations. Your awareness and willingness to persevere, despite the perception, positions you well.

Let's explore understanding your part of the journey to becoming a trusted HR business partner. The value for understanding their strengths and weaknesses is that you gain insight to a leadership style, business function and culture, while securing an initial needs assessment. Through this, you begin to see where your greatest strengths are as a Human Resources practitioner.

The first step to understanding your functional partner is scheduling a one-on-one meeting with your manager. If an overview of the leader(s) did not occur prior to your appointment in the organization, it's imperative that your onboarding include a discussion related to your functional partner(s).

Next, you'll want to visit with the functional leader(s) direct leader. In each of these conversations, it's important to ask, "What are the strengths?" and "What are the opportunities?" The clarity in answers that you'll receive will lead to a deeper dialogue and context to help you further understand your functional partner.

Likely, the most important step is time with your functional partner. This will allow them to learn more about you.

During your meeting, you will learn about the leader's operating style, business concerns and strengths, as well as learning how best to collaborate. Please repeat the need to ascertain comprehension of the task(s) at hand. Doing so will clarify expectation and help plan how to achieve business goals. One way to prepare for this meeting is planning from a business owner’s perspective.  More importantly, prepare with the following categories in mind: Relationships, Rewards/Recognition, Engagement, Talent Management and Career Planning.

Oftentimes, we are attending meetings or traveling with our functional partners. It's through these experiences that conversations are validated and/or new strengths or opportunities surface. Once you have a firm assessment of your functional partner(s), this helps you take action, provide feedback, deliver coaching and position yourself to have a tangible impact on the business through the leader.

Observation of Direct Reports. The same discussion can be conducted with direct reports and it is a great source for learning. First, this provides an opportunity to build relationships. By spending time with this group, you'll cover both categories (strengths/opportunities), often in a very candid way. Additionally, if you are supporting a decentralized (or field-based) business, employees below direct reports may offer some insight, too.

Next: Establish A Fundamental Understanding of the Business