Part 2. Book summary - The 9 Faces of HR

Part 2. Book summary - The 9 Faces of HR
  1. The Natural
  2. The Mentor
  3. The Judge
  4. The Assassin
  5. The Fixer
  6. The Cop
  7. The Rookie
  8. The Clerk
  9. The Machine

After a while, you learn to ignore the names people call you and just trust who you are.

— Shrek

There’s no such thing as a “good face” or a “bad face” in the 9 Faces of HR. It all comes down to fit. HR shops in big Fortune 500 environments need all 9 Faces to effectively deliver HR services. While some might think the more controlling personas are non-desirable, the reality is that these personas are necessary on large HR teams and can also be the most effective persona in some smaller companies as well. It all depends on the environment and the expectations of the organization in question—there’s no bad persona, only bad fits with the organization they serve.

The Natural

I feel like I’m too busy writing history to read it.

— Kayne West

The Natural -individuals who fit into the Natural profile are senior-level HR Leaders with maximum ability to innovate, drive change, and add value to their organizations.

While Naturals of the HR world can rise from the ranks, they are rare birds in the world of human capital. Our experience estimates that less than one percent of the HR world fits into this persona, significantly lower than the other personas present at the senior level— the Judge and the Mentor.

Things to know about the Naturals of HR:

- They are routinely viewed as creators and innovators.

- They are good at incubating culture inside organizations.

- HR teams reporting to the Natural respect them as visionary but at times wish they were more connected to the day-to-day work.

- They are highly curious about the world around them.

- At their core, they don’t view themselves as HR pros.

- They are better marketers than any of their peers in the HR world.It’s easy to love a Natural as the leader of your HR function. Love them now because they may not be around next month. They’ve got options that transcend our function.

The Mentor

A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.

—Oprah Winfrey

The behavior of the Mentor is driven by balance. In order to be a leader capable of maximizing their team motivationally while dealing with the dysfunction and narcissism of the senior team, a mix of traits is needed. The mentor never gets too high—or too low.

High Cognitive/High Processing Speed. There’s a lot going on in the world of any senior HR leader, so it makes sense that the Mentor needs high cognitive skills to make quick, accurate decisions.

The Judge

Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it is raining. This is my courtroom and I can say what I want. When you become a judge, we will talk.

— Judge Judy

Within the 9 Faces of HR profile, the Judge is a senior-level HR pro with low ability/willingness to innovate, drive change, or add incremental value. The profile of Andrea provides a quality snapshot into the mind of the Judge.

The Judge has a simple mandate: enforce rules and limit risk. The Judge didn’t make it to the top by greenlighting a bunch of innovative stuff and watching half of it fail. They got to the top the old-fashioned way—by respecting the command and control roots of HR, delivering to the manageable expectations of their peers, and being an absolute master of the political game inside their company.

The Assassin

Why join the Navy when you can be a pirate?

— Steve Jobs

The Assassin is one of the most distinctive personas in the 9 Faces of HR. Fast thinking, ready for change and not really giving to think about other people’s feelings, the Assassin is the person you call or assign when you know people are going to resist change that needs to happen, but you don’t have the stomach to deal with it.

The Assassin is defined as a mid-career HR pro with the high- est ability to innovate, drive change, and add value in the 9 Faces of HR model. The Assassin is a specialist, and their superpower is making change happen. Assassins live among us on HR teams, at times underperforming in the day-to-day tasks of their HR role, but they shine on projects with a lot of moving parts involving multiple influencers.

Things to know about the Assassin:

- They’re smart as hell.

- They like chaos.

- People respect them.

- People grow to hate them.

- They do difficult things that others on HR teams can’t or won’t do.

- They sleep like babies after doing difficult things.

- With notes like that, what could possibly go wrong with the Assassin? Let’s dig into what makes them tick.

The Fixer

I took care of the autopsy; it’s handled.

— Olivia Pope

Mid-career HR professional with mid-range ability to innovate, drive change, and add incremental value. The definition of a fixer in pop culture/business/the mafia goes something like this:

- A person who makes arrangements for people and helps them out of tight spots.

- A local hired by a foreign journalist, often as a translator and guide, and often helps the journalist gain access to interviewees and stories.

- A person or thing that fixes; repairs.

It’s notable that the term “fixer” doesn’t always come with the positive connotation depicted by Hollywood. It’s often related to organized crime or shady dealings. I’m going to defend the idea of a fixer being tied to HR because lawyers and other professions will sometimes intercede on behalf of clients. When they get involved as fixers, they execute offers of non-nondisclosure agreements in exchange for some benefit or advising people of the potential legal consequences of unduly incriminating others.

The Cop

He sees the uniform and he runs? He did it.

— Detective Vic Mackey

The Cop is an HR persona that everyone knows. HR used to be called personnel, which served as a shout-out to its administrative roots. We’ve been preventing bad stuff from happening ever since.

In the 9 Faces of HR, the Cop is a mid-career HR pro (HR manager or HR director depending on the size of the company) with a low ability to innovate, drive change, or add incremental value. They thrive on structure and saying “no” as a means of maintaining control and minimizing risk.

The Rookie

I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.

— Maya Angelou

Rookies are early-career HR pros with a high ability to innovate, drive change, and add value. They’re normally seen as bright, young stars within the modern HR practice. They tend to outshine their peers and even many mid-career HR pros with a mixture of aggressiveness, ambition, personal expectation, and delivery.

Large consulting firms (management consulting, accounting, and technology) base 90 percent of their staffing strategy on hiring the equivalent of the Rookie in their industries. They pump extensive resources into college recruiting machines designed to attract as many smart kids as they can to their organizations.

Once recruited and signed, the model for these consulting firms is pretty simple—up or out. Young professionals who do well get promoted, with many of the high performers becoming part of the succession plan at various levels of the organization over a ten-year period. Low performers either get fired or are left to stagnate at the entry level as long as they perform at a base level.

The Clerk

Hey, You know they’re all the same.You know you’re doing better on your own so don’t buy in Live right now, Just be yourself. It doesn’t matter if that’s good enough for someone else

– Jimmy

The Clerk is an early-career HR pro with a mid-range ability to innovate, drive change, and add value. What makes The Clerk reside at the intersection of center street and median avenue? The following things come to mind:

The Clerk doesn’t have as much ambition as the Rookie. The Rookie wants to be a CHRO by the time they’re thirty. The Clerk is thinking about a new monitor sometime next year, and they were wondering if they could get an Adobe Cloud subscription, so they could tinker around with their reports.

The Clerk isn’t really sure what they want to do with their life. HR seems okay. That’s as far as they can take you related to their commitment to the field.

The Clerk always knows more than they tell you about. They’re likely the systems admin and power user for the various systems you use and care about in HR, and they’ve quietly built up a sizeable knowledge base about the guts of human capital in your company.

The Clerk doesn’t see things in black and white. The world view of the Clerk is based on shades of gray, and they seek out data first when deciding their stance on any internal issue.

The Machine

Never send a human to do a machine’s job

— Agent Smith

The Machine is an early career HR pro who has the low ability and willingness to innovate, drive change, and add incremental value you don’t expect. They can generally be found in titles like HR assistant, HR coordinator, and a variety of other titles that suggest, “I’m taking care of the details, process, and transactions so you don’t have to.”

The Machine likes things to be in order. Things the Machine has been known to say in HR departments around the world include:

- “It’s not that hard, people.”

- “Open enrollment is my tax season.”

- “You should talk to your HR manager about that—that’s above my pay grade.” (Used when some walk-in starts sharing an employee relations situation with lots of messy grey areas that’s likely to take twelve hours of interviews to resolve).

- “We need more rules about what people can put in the HR suggestion box.”

- “I’ve always enjoyed the smell of payroll in the morning.”

The fact that the Machine is coded as an entry-level persona is complicated. HR employees can start here and move up if they have the right stuff, but it’s also not uncommon for the early career HR pro to start here and remain in the entry-level of the HR industry for a decade or more. If that happens, the Machine has likely found the only home in HR they’ll be happy, or successful, in.

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