Political power game

In
many ways getting promoted is similar to getting elected. You have to act and speak
convincingly, and be seen in the right places with the right people. So with
the General Election looming, and with tongue firmly in cheek, we present our
own promotion-winning manifesto for the profession. By Jane Lewis

PERSONNEL
OFFICER

Where
to be seen
At the annual CIPD conference – acting on the principle that the
best way to get ahead is by behaving as if you’ve already been promoted.

What
to wear
On the same principle as above, dress like your manager. If this is
a disaster-zone (probably quite likely) dress in the way you think your manager
should be dressed. At this stage it’s important to play safe with appearance.
Pay particular attention to grooming. For women: A pair of well-shaped eyebrows
can prove a very useful indicator of efficiency, dedication to detail and pride
in oneself. But don’t overdo it or you’ll be perceived as a hard-liner.

What
to say
“I’ve got a few problems with this title ‘personnel officer’. Is it
possible for me to have a title that doesn’t sound like it’s come from an
episode of Some Mothers Do ’Ave ’Em?” Or: “HR is the new marketing.”

What
not to say
“Clear off, you little troll.” (HR is notorious for preaching
how to treat people nicely – and then doing exactly the reverse).

Who
to be seen with
That astonishingly able New Dealer you argued for, hired
and brought on, and who now considers you his mentor.

Who
not to be seen with
Other members of your own department. What a waste of
networking opportunity! For your own good, get in with the business groups.

What
to carry
The latest Nokia phone (still the most stylish). Ideally you
should be seen to be habitually texting away in business-like fashion. This
hints at a great range of contacts.

Pitfalls
to avoid
Appearing on The Weakest Link (involves a 90 per cent chance
of humiliation).

Opportunities
to grab
Shift all that tiresome payroll stuff over to that obliging doormat
in accounts. Make sure you do your CCP and CIPD qualifications.

Eye-catching
initiatives
Run a prominent charity scheme and get it written about in the
local paper.

PERSONNEL
MANAGER

Where
to be seen
Inspiring your team in a range of transformational exercises in
retreat at Babington House, Gloucestershire. – scene of BBC2’s recent programme
Confidence Lab. Make sure you make an impression at any conference specific to
your industry. Have a distinctive view on how business ought to work from the
people point of view.

What
to wear
For women: Show your cutting edge by dressing up while everyone
else is dressing down. This season’s fashion is on your side, the 1980s
semi-androgynous look is back, so an ideal outfit this spring would be a
pin-striped trouser-suit. If a return to 1980s style is more than you can bear,
suits with zip-fronted jackets still look modern and on the pace. Above all,
ditch last year’s feminine frippery look – beaded/braided cardigans and pretty
skirts.  For men: Dressing down with
style is still where it’s at. Nobody ever got fired for wearing Paul Smith.

What
to say
The priority here is to get across a credible explanation as to why
you are in middle HR management (possibly the worst strategic position to be in
if you want to make it to the top). Something like “If you have to set policy
you should also have to implement it,” might do. Or: “I believe in doing the
day job well.”

What
not to say
“The unions are our partners” (recent events at Corus show the
sheer wrong-headedness of this).

Who
to be seen with
Any fast-track HR director (choose one from another firm if
yours isn’t up to pace). Being seen as a camp-follower of someone good is one
of the best ways of eliciting interest from headhunters.

Who
not to be seen with
One of the many hordes of business psychologists now
stalking the business scene. The point is you can take “soft” only so far. The
losing brief at a high-profile industrial tribunal.

What
to carry
The latest executive toys – especially a next generation
palm-pilot like Visor Handspring. That said, you should also still offer
properly printed business cards.

Pitfalls
to avoid
Exposing flabby arms in a spaghetti strap dress at professional
award ceremonies. Assuming responsibility for yet another failed implementation
of the HR software that was supposed to issue in a new era of knowledge
management.  Becoming known among staff
as the person who insisted on e-mail content scanning.

Opportunities
to grab
Change management of any sort. It might be worthwhile campaigning
for any sort of change, just so you can say you managed it. Shape the company
intranet into something really worthwhile logging on to.

Eye-catching
initiatives
Champion any scheme guaranteed to help build up your personal
power-base among staff. Delta Airline’s idea of putting a PC in every
employee’s home is a winner – especially if they log onto your zappy, happening
intranet.

HR
DIRECTOR

Where
to be seen
Out and about in the City (whether your company is listed or
not). Standing up to Paxman on Newsnight (but make sure you do).

What
to wear
Time to up the dress stakes. Women: Need to inspire respect from
other women, whether senior or junior, by wearing recognisably designer suits
and choosing exactly the right kind of heel for their court shoe (conical this
year, apparently). If you’re dealing with men, don’t worry – they won’t notice,
so just look smart. Men: Need at least two properly tailored suits, several
shirts from Pinks, and discreet cufflinks. On no account wear gimmick
cufflinks. If you’re feeling racy you might consider a pair of braces: Michael
Douglas’ Gordon Gecko character in Wall Street is still an icon in terms of the
go-getter business executive look.

What
to say

There
are two opposing schools of thought here. One insists that most successful HR
directors are characterised by their ability to talk (often meaningless)
strategic babble – it doesn’t matter if you can’t put it into practice as long
as it sounds good and includes the phrase “human capital”.

But
a second school of thought insists this approach is an absolute no-no – unless
you’re in the position to back up your nebulous remarks with hard evidence.
“When I hear the phrase ‘people capital’ it makes me reach for the sick-bag,”
says one investment banker.

What
not to say

“People
often ask how I cope with the administrative and, let’s face it, psychological burden
of having some 1,200 souls in my care…but I can just about manage if all the
Myers Briggs indicators add up.”

Who
to be seen with
Any self-respecting HR director needs to have a couple of
tame academics in tow. Big cheeses to aim at: David Norburn, Dean of Imperial
College London; Lynda Gratton at London Business School (being associated with
her Leading Edge Forum will boost your business HR credentials). If you can
hook up with a prominent international academic, so much the better for
gravitating upwards to a global position. Any inspirational change agent:
George Davies (ex-Next and Asda, now M&S hoped-for saviour is a good
example.)

Who
not to be seen with
Geoff Armstrong: or any of the old guard at CIPD.
Unless: a) you’ve been brought in to overhaul the organisation b) you’re after
a role in a super-trad Blue Chip. Headhunters: It’s bad business manners to
wear your disloyalty on your sleeve (and an even worse move to be suspected of
making a career change into headhunting).

What
to carry
A copy of Harvard Business Review with your influential article on
“Transformational Business Practice” in it.

Pitfalls
to avoid
Giving out tickets to the opera or ballet to people in the City
you want to influence (unless female). “I’ve slept through Giselle six times,”
is a common refrain. Much better to play safe with big sporting events that
everyone wants to attend.  Having your
company blacklisted as unethical by student unions – predicted to be a newly
potent political force.

Opportunities
to grab
Lunch with Unilever chief executive officer Niall Fitzgerald in the
penthouse conservatory of the company’s Blackfriars’ HQ. Not only is Fitzgerald
considered the new wave CEO, but he’s credited with trying to get to grips with
the HR Paradox (whatever that might be). Also, the food is among the best
served in corporate Britain.

Eye-catching
initiatives
Follow BAe Systems’ example and announce you intend to subject
your company’s senior management to “trial by workforce” to establish salary levels.
(Important caveat: make sure you keep senior management sweet by ensuring the
scheme has no teeth).

GLOBAL
HR DIRECTOR

Where
to be seen
Taking part in any international “arts in business” installation
– being a patron of the avant-garde arts has huge snob value in top corporate
circles and also ensures access to quasi-political circles. On board the
inaugural flight of the re-vamped Concorde.

What
to wear
Women: At this stage you can afford to look haughtily
unapproachable: and you need to stress your international glamour. American
Vogue editor Anna Wintour (dark glasses, severe fringe, cashmere everything)
might be a good role model. Men: Tailored suits as before, but you might go for
a more interesting colour, so long as it is taupe, beige or stone. Look as if
you’re ready to do a TV interview at any time – and wear Paraboot shoes (French
equivalent of Church’s –  but much more
sassy).

What
to say
“The main conundrum facing HR is how to deal with the very different
perspective on loyalty. We need to find ways of encouraging those employees who
leave to build up their careers to see us as their alma mater.”

What
not to say
“Doesn’t anyone speak English round here?”

Who
to be seen with
For ultimate new-business credibility: Naomi Klein, author
of No Logo. Any international hard-hitter from the Murdoch dynasty through to
ex-Pearson chief Valerie Scardino and Oracle chief Larry Ellison.

Who
not to be seen with
Any dodgy, or potentially dodgy, politician. Bill
Gates.

What
to carry
A copy of The Economist with you pictured on the cover shaking
hands with Nelson Mandela. Any number of Louis Vuitton luggage accessories.

Pitfalls
to avoid
Over-exposure to air travel: continually bloated stomach, becoming
an airport bore, forgetting to take off your Virgin long-haul snuggly slippers
before attending an important meeting. Spending too much time away from HQ and
losing your grip on boardroom politics. Doing any kind of texting whatsoever –
no senior executive should risk arthritis of the thumb by sending stupid messages.

Opportunities
to grab
Managing a massive global expansion programme. Hiring a really good
firm of due diligence people: useful to get some dirt on rivals for the CEO
job.

Eye-catching
initiatives
Organising an international office swap. Broadcasting a regular
personal message to staff worldwide over the intranet.

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