Dave UlrichGuest AuthorLeadership

Developing HR Professionals with a Playbook and Personal Coaching

By | Dave Ulrich | Speaker, Author, Professor, Thought Partner on HR, Leadership, and Organization

We just completed the 38th HR Learning Partnership (HRLP)—a nine-day immersive learning experience—with remarkable HR professionals from around the world. In company teams of five, we explored the playbook for HR to deliver value, applied insights to timely projects and engaged in personal coaching (three Ps). From this experience, I was able to observe and learn more broadly about challenges and opportunities for HR development.

Playbook for HR

We shared a simple but robust framework for HR value creation, which leads to a playbook for HR going forward. The environment we work in sets the context, strategy highlights where to compete, human capability defines HR’s unique contribution, and analytics tracks impact for improvement (see figure 1). In order to link these areas of HR, we ask “so that” or “because of.” The “so that” query starts with human capability, and by asking “so that,” we move to strategy and then to environment (e.g., create a culture “so that” strategy happens “so that” customers are better served). When we ask “because of,” we start with context and move to strategy and then to human capability (e.g., succeed with customers “because of” strategy “because of” culture).

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Within these four sections of the HR playbook, we identified 63 emerging initiatives that HR professionals can pursue to deliver value (see figure 2).

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Doing 63 initiatives is a large playbook for HR. We explored how to determine which of these 63 human capability initiatives would add the most value to stakeholders by using an organization guidance system (see www.rbl.ai to do a prioritization exercise) based on an algorithm:

                 Weakness                   x            Impact              x           Opportunity

(where to improve the most)         (on key outcomes)           (chance to improve)

This playbook confirms the vibrancy of the field of HR and the importance of prioritization to guide HR investments.

Personal Coaching

In personal coaching sessions with these HR professionals, I recognized many challenges that they (and likely other HR professionals) must wrestle with to rise to the opportunities of the new HR playbook. Let me share my observations and suggestions as if I were coaching you, the reader of this post.

1. Accept and manage imposter syndrome. To add value in a rapidly changing world, you are often expected to deal with challenges for which you may not feel fully qualified, such as navigating digitally enabled hybrid work, interacting with investors, or managing mental health in emotionally demanding circumstances.

To overcome your feeling of being an imposter, which might include self-doubt, fear of failure, and risk aversion:

  • Adopt a growth mindset by seeing challenges as opportunities to grow rather than impediments that restrain.
  • Focus on what you know and are certain about regardless of the changing circumstance.
  • Set realistic and often simple expectations. Start small; often good is good enough.
  • Celebrate successes to see progress.
  • Acknowledge and be transparent about failures.

Managing the imposter syndrome expands your skills, allows you to take professional and personal risks, and builds your self-confidence.

2. Be clear about what you want. Clarifying your definition of personal success comes from having a clear self-identity. Ask yourself, “What would I like to be known for by those whom I work with?” You might look at the list of possible identifiers in figure 3 to select the two to four that capture your desired identity.

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Your answer becomes your desired identity, often built on strengths, adapted to situations, and tailored to your ambition. Your identity becomes your personal brand that helps you be comfortable with your expectations and shapes how others respond to you.

3. Take simple actions. Sometimes responding to new challenges feels so overwhelming that any movement is paralyzed. Identify simple and doable actions to get started and make progress. To determine which actions to start with:

  • Observe others you admire who model the identity you seek. See what and how they act. Adapt their behaviors to your personal style.
  • Identify actions that are within your control.
  • Have and rely on mentors who become your personal advisory board and who give you regular guidance.
  • Experiment and try something new to see how it works and how you respond.

Simple actions that move you forward often culminate into a tipping point and are more likely to succeed than large grandiose initiatives that promise more and deliver less.

4. Learn—fail forward. When outside of your comfort zone, you will (and should) occasionally fail. If you are not failing, you are not likely stretching or growing. Inevitably, things will not happen as you always expect or intend. Relish this misstep to learn how to better step. Run into the failure: learn from it and move forward. For example, I clearly made mistakes in this recent HRLP teaching setting. At one point, I called a participant named Sandra B— “Sandra Bullock.” (Oops! And in front of her boss’s boss.) I quickly acknowledged the mistake, apologized, and she and others took it in good humor. With a learning mindset, you don’t have to be perfect to make progress, and you can endear yourself to others. If you are learning, others around you are likely to learn as well.


Playbooks for the professional and personal growth for individuals are pathways for progress.

I left this immersive experience connected to some outstanding HR professionals but also feeling more confident and optimistic about the HR profession. While more is expected of HR, the HR professionals I meet worldwide are ever-more prepared with both a playbook about what to focus on and personal skills to move forward. I end almost every session like this: “The best is yet ahead.”

If your organization would be interested in sending a team of five to a future HRLP program, please let me know.

Republished with permission and originally published at Dave Ulrich’s LinkedIn

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