Chutzpah. There are many words to describe its meaning. Call it cheek, gall, gumption, a go-getter attitude, initiative-taking, leadership, bold or brave – these roughly sum up one of the most important workplace qualities. Many entrepreneurs run on chutzpah as part of their success. Doing it “your way” despite what everyone else says. It's undefined and difficult to pin down, but can be magic in the workplace if used correctly.
To what extent is chutzpah an important part of the job? Put simply, it’s essential in business leaders. Like everything else it has a good and bad side. Used positively chutzpah shows a sense of assertiveness and independent thinking. It can be a charismatic quality. The downside of chutzpah is that it is seen as brashness, hustling and a disregard for the feelings of others. It's not taught in business school or university and is often learnt from accompanying a parent on the shop floor, in their office, in the full swing of business.
There is not nearly enough chutzpah in HR. As an occupation HR is a female dominated ghetto. All too often the work done by an HR representative is not respected and it is not seen as having business value. It’s process driven, it plays safe. No amount of re-branding by the CIPD makes a difference. HR in general has not been seen as good at grasping the workings of the business. As well as HR issues we need to understand data, efficiency, technology, project planning and business decision making.
If they want to be taken seriously by business, HR professionals need to make a fundamental shift in what they do and how they do it. They need to come from an operational background (I hate the idea of doing a degree in HR then going straight into HR); they need to be far less process driven and far bolder in their thinking. They must develop their own form of chutzpah. I have lost count of the times I have had to solve problems with a mix of HR knowledge, creative thinking and sheer balls. They can be cliffhanging moments but they work. My approach regularly shocks HR people because it’s such a departure from the traditional HR way.
In the context of workforce performance management, there are several ways to develop chutzpah.
- Be bold in your think, your decision making and your actions.
- Think creatively, test your plan, take action.
- Be prepared to take intelligent risks.
- Be a little cheeky – go out on a limb.
- Hold your nerve, even if others are quailing round you.
- Have belief in yourself. It is essential to getting others to follow your lead.
- Take ownership of what you do.
But do take note. You can have too much chutzpah! As ever, taking the balanced view is essential.
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