Two Ways to Enhance Your Power in HR


To feel more powerful stand more powerful.
To feel more powerful stand more powerful.

There is an ongoing struggle for respect in HR. We read about it, we hear about it, we talk about it amongst ourselves and we envy those that we perceive have it. We often wonder what we can do ourselves to get that respect. Here are two ways to enhance your power in HR and get that respect you would like to have.
 Step One- Be competent
To be honest with you there is nothing secret about this step. We all know that if you are lousy at your job you are not going to get any respect. If you are unorganized and let things drop through the cracks no one will care what your strategic input it. So make sure you do what you do very well.
Beyond that however, is the list of the competencies that the modern and effective HR leader is supposed to have. Ulrich et al. in their book Global HR Competencies provide us with a list of competencies that include:

  1. Strategic positioner- This means understanding how the global business context impacts their own business and translating that information into implications for their own organization. You can do this even in a small company.
  2. Capability builder: You help create an effective and strong organization by defining and building upon what the company and employees are good at. You can work with managers to create meaning and purpose at work.
  3. Change champion: This is ensuring “a seamless integration of change processes that builds sustainable competitive advantage.” We all deal with change every day, large or small. HR’s role can be as simple as encouraging adaptation and not being the “naysayer” to ensuring that all the resources needed are available.
  4. HR innovator and integrator: This is summed up by saying “the appropriate HR practices, processes, structures, and procedures are aligned to create and sustain those capabilities.” To me this means no HR person should ever say “we have always done it this way.”
  5. Technology proponent: Technology has been around in HR for quite a while. But today the new technologies of digital social interaction are more prevalent. Some HR has been hesitant to adopt it. Additionally the management and retention of information is no longer just an IT issue. Knowledge retention is critical to an organizations success and HR should play a large role in this.

If you are a sole practitioner this may sound like a daunting list. But it doesn’t have to be if you work at a piece every day.
Step Two- Be aware of your body language
I have written about body language several times, most recently in Improve Your Ability to Get a Job in One Step. Most of us are aware of body language in terms of the signals we pick up from others we are dealing with. What many of us are not aware of are the signals we are giving off to others. As I said in the blog post “Your posture speaks volumes about how you feel about yourself. We all know that because we have an inherent built-in biological ability to recognize body postures signals. What we usually fall down on is the ability to recognize when we ourselves are sending the wrong signals about our confidence” Being aware of our own body language can change how we are perceived by others. Beyond that, however, is research that shows that our body language also has an effect on how we perceive ourselves.
Pay attention to how you sit or stand when you are with people from whom you feel you would like more respect. Do you have a closed stance? Do you sit with your legs crossed and arms folded? If you do you are probably being perceived as weak and you are also feeling that way. Researchers have shown, through measuring testosterone and cortisol, that subjects who adopt power stances change increase the level of testosterone and decrease the level of cortisol, which is tied to stress. As a result the subjects felt more confident and in control of the situation.

The power pose.
The power pose.

The researchers suggest that to change your attitude about how powerful you are feeling you change your stance and adopt power positions, as shown in the picture. They suggest you practice these, before a meeting, or even every morning. The change in your attitude will take place. You will be more confident and will instill more confidence. Many self-help gurus offer this advice and basically they say “fake it until you make it.” So the next time you are trying to gain respect and instill confidence in y our abilities, adopt the “super hero” pose before you have a meeting. You will be pleased with the results.

2 thoughts on “Two Ways to Enhance Your Power in HR”

  1. Great stuff! I do 2 minutes of the power pose before every deposition, every court appearance and every potential confrontation. It doesn’t make me more aggressive but it sure makes me aware of the need to fill every inch of my personal space.

    • My wife is now in the job market. I had her read the post as well and suggested that prior to any interview she try the power pose to bump her confidence. Since many people in HR tend to be in the proverbial group that will ultimately inherit the earth, practicing the power pose may make them feel better in their jobs.

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