Parting Pearls of Wisdom

By: | November 27, 2017 • 4 min read
Susan R. Meisinger, former president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, is an author, speaker and consultant on human resource management. She is on the board of directors of the National Academy of Human Resources. She can be reached at

[Editor’s note: This is Sue’s final HR Leadership column. We here at HRE thank her for using her distinctive voice to share her perspective and insights in the almost 60 columns she’s produced over the past seven years.]

Earlier this year, I realized something while doing some overdue electronic housekeeping. By reviewing months of emails all at once, I had a better perspective on the nature of the emails coming and going through my inbox. I now had a much better metric of where and how I was dedicating my time and attention.

And here’s the thing: I saw that I’m spending a lot less time on HR-related activities and I’m spending a lot more time on non-HR related activities. I’m serving on nonprofit boards and engaged in other volunteer work as well as spending more time with friends, family and traveling.


I realized that while the HR profession — and more particularly, HR professionals — have owned a piece of my heart for so many years, I’m not giving them the time and attention that I think they deserve.

Simply stated, it’s time for me to move on.

So, after decades working with and for the HR profession, and with thanks to the editorial staff at HR Executive magazine for being such a pleasure to work with, I’ll share some final advice on being an effective HR leader.

First, please stop asking for “a seat at the table.”

Can we all agree to just ban that clause from any discussion about the profession? It’s like nails on a chalkboard for me. “Asking for a seat” is the wrong question.

The question you should be asking is “How can I add value and become essential to my organization?”

No one owes you a seat at any table. It’s earned.

How do you earn that coveted seat? As I’ve written before, I think it’s the Four Cs.

Be competent.

This means knowing the body of knowledge that’s required to be in the HR profession, and being able to use that knowledge effectively within an organization. Certifications and competency models can help you confirm that you have the knowledge required and the ability to use it effectively.

But HR competency alone isn’t enough. Being competent also means understanding the language of business, understanding how your organization makes money and knowing where your industry is headed. It means paying attention to and understanding the social, demographic, economic, technological and political forces that will impact your business.

Gaining competency isn’t the end goal. It’s the journey you should always be on.

Be curious.

If gaining competency is a journey you should always be on, curiosity is one tool you should be using on the journey. Curious people are always learning because they’re always asking questions, reading up on topics outside their field of expertise and generally exploring.