Dear Workforce How Do I Work With a CEO Who Thinks He Knows About HR, but Doesn't

I am working for an HR consulting firm. My CEO has hired me for business development here. He does not know anything about HR but claims to be an expert. What am I supposed to do in such a situation?

September 7, 2011

Dear Children Leading Kindergarten:


What the CEO claims to know is less important than what you can promise and deliver, both to the CEO and to your clients. If your CEO is making it difficult for you to fulfill your business development responsibilities, ask for some time on his calendar. Explain that you would like to discuss his and your needs to build the business more effectively.

Use this discussion period to clarify the results he wants from you and to make commitments to him. Likewise, describe to him in nonjudgmental language how his actions are negatively affecting the business. Request the changes you need from him to better serve the business and fulfill your commitments to him—and provide the corresponding business case to support your request.

Also, consider defining yourself less in terms of the human resources activities you can perform and more as a businessperson who generates bottom-line results for clients. Many traditional HR practices have evolved as protections against lawsuits, rather than in response to market demands. Define yourself by the ways you help clients succeed in the marketplace. Your CEO will undoubtedly have a renewed appreciation for your contributions.

Instead of being concerned about how well the CEO knows HR, think of ways the two of you are able to help your clients run successful businesses, using your collective expertise. If there are opportunities for either or both of you to improve your abilities to make client businesses more profitable or “customer responsive,” have a conversation about it. Focus on how to strengthen your offerings and the measurable effect it would have on the success of your HR consulting business.

SOURCE: Kevin Herring, Ascent Management Consulting, Oro Valley, Arizona, July 17, 2009

LEARN MORE: The issue of HR's role, and how it is viewed by various parties within a company, continues to be a point of contention.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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