Yesterday, I had the privilege to be a part of the agenda for a funky little conference in Omaha called the Hip and Sage Consultant Conference. It was hosted by the Omaha Chapter of the ODN and was largely attended by people who carry a title with Organizational Development in it and other external OD consultants. I was able to attend about half of the conference and I enjoyed my experience. Here are some of my observations from the day.
1. The Hip and Sage part of the name comes from the title of a book called Hip and Sage that was written by Lisa Haneberg. The conference was wholly designed around Lisa and her content. She gave the opening keynote presentation to set the tone for the day. Then, she gave her Hip and Sage keynote over lunch. Finally, she did a closing exercise for the conference attendees to help them bring together their learnings and leave with something actionable. This was a cool concept. Granted, this wasn’t a large conference, but I really liked this format. Lisa is clearly someone who’s got a lot to say (having written over a dozen books I think) and she had compelling content. I’m sure she enjoyed having more than an hour to shape our minds, and I certainly think that attendees enjoyed having more time with her. Certainly, this approach would only work if the person you build your conference around doesn’t suck (because that could mean a guaranty bomb), but if you vet your speaker well enough, it’s a great idea.
2. As for Lisa herself, I’d recommend picking up her book(s). Her content seems to be a mix of professional guidance for HR/OD/Training professionals packaged in solid personal development messages. Check her out if you haven’t already.
3. Leaving the conference yesterday, I’m more confused than ever about what OD really is. From what I observed, it seems like most OD people are working on projects in the areas of talent management, learning programs/systems, succession planning, and some change management. I also heard about things like compensation design and org design. That all sounds like work I’d consider to be core to strategic human resources, but I found that OD practitioners for the most part consider themselves non-HR. This was a little disheartening to me because I don’t think that HR or OD folks can afford to bicker over who does what within an organization. Regardless of what we like to tell ourselves, the rest of the organization puts us all in the same bucket–the people who do people stuff. OD and HR (and training) needs to work as one. If anyone should know how to collaborate and work together, it’s us.
4. My session was on the topic of power and politics in organizations. Here were my underlying points:
- Power and politics are not four letter words. As HR and OD professionals, we need to stop demonizing these dynamics and instead study and embrace them. By doing this, we can use these forces for good.
- Politics, by definition, is an unwritten process for how group decisions are made that largely revolves around considerations of authority and power. Politics, in and of itself, is not good or bad. If we change our perspective to see our organizations more like a game of chess where politics is the rules of the game, we can be much more intelligent and strategic about how we navigate and get things done.
- Power comes from many places beyond the formal authority of title or position. Social capital, resilience, and focus are examples of other types of power than can help you to be effective. Power is also not something that has to be bestowed upon you, you can build your own power by doing some intentional things.
- Finally, the sales profession holds the secrets for how to successfully navigate the waters of power and politics to exert influence within your organization. If you want to take your HR game to the next level, study sales. Read books on sales. Go to sales seminars. This training will propel you further faster than any HR seminar you will attend. I guarantee it.