My best and worst decisions: Joanne Machers, chief personnel officer, Hartlepool Borough Council

Best decision

The best decision I ever made was one I took 25 years ago. I had the opportunity to apply for a job in what was then called personnel, but I had to take a drop in salary. As a much younger person, with lots of financial pressures and responsibilities, it was a big decision to make. But I accepted a position as a trainee personnel assistant, and it was the start of my HR career within local government.

It developed well, and within a couple of years I’d made up the salary difference and found that this was a job that gave me great satisfaction.

I sometimes ask myself now where I would be if I had not made that decision. I’d been in an administrative role in my local council – I could have continued in administration but I would never have been the master of any particular profession.

It was a safe and comfortable route, andI could see how I could have made progress – that certainly had its attractions at the time.

I decided to move because I’d realised that the route mapped out for me in my current job was limited in terms of the difference that I could make, whereas HR allowed me to make a difference on a very personal level. The post that I hold now is also very much on an organisational level, so it’s certainly increased my sphere of influence and impact.

Worst decision

My worst decisions have all been about the same thing- misplaced trust in somebody who says they’re committed to something, that they’ll do it, that they’re on board, but then they don’t deliver. You learn with that person, and think “I’ll know next time”.

But the eternal optimist in me always looks for that open, up-frontpromise again, in the next person. I’m more pragmatic now.

I understand that people can’t always carry out their promises, for the best of reasons. But it is difficult sometimes to spot the person who is deliberately trying to deceive.

I would always rather give people the benefit of the doubt, and it’s only on reflection that I realise that a project may not have gone as well as hoped, because of misplaced trust.

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