HRBP Kindness

Moving towards Partnership and away from Commodity

Gary A. DePaul, PhD (he/him/his)


The author owns the image publishing rights

Rekia, the CIO and your business partner (BP), wants you to change to the CIO Retreat. In the morning, she wants you to facilitate communication training. Attendees will be direct reports and their direct reports — 37 VPs and senior directors. What do you do?

As HRBPs, we are tempted to please. When we deliver what is asked, we think we will have earned our place with the BP. Doing so feels good unless we disagree or question the request. When we proceed with the questionable request, we slowly slip away from having a partnership to being more of a commodity.

Chart that shows “time”​ as the x-axis. At the top of the y-axis states “Partnership”​ and at the bottom, “Commodity.”​ Graphed are two lines. For the period of the first six months with a new BP, the two lines dip towards Commodity. After that, one line shifts towards Partnership but the other continues towards Commodity.
Image created by the author

The HRBP role isn’t to appease BPs like Rekia and do what is asked without question. That is the path towards being a commodity and offering a reduced value. What results is a minimal contribution towards achieving business goals. The BP doesn’t need you if you fail to bring perspective and insight.

A genuine partnership begins with raising a BP’s awareness by asking powerful questions to keep the BP focused on achieving business needs.

Stating this differently, you are being nice when you do what BPs ask while knowing that the ask may not be in the BP’s best interest.

When you reframe the requested solution as a business or performance problem, you may expose flawed thinking. If you do this effectively, you are being kind.

Being nice vs. being kind

Scrabble pieces that spell Kind and Nice
The author owns the image publishing rights

In Unlabeled Leadership podcast episode 087: Ed Gash on Gratitude for Feedback, Ed shares a story to explain how niceness and kindness differ. In his example, he is facilitating a leadership workshop. In the morning, unbeknownst to Ed, his pants zipper is down. While obvious to the class, Ed is unaware. Later, he discovers his mistake. He’s embarrassed but alarmed. Ed asks the class if they knew what he did. Yes. He then learns that the class didn’t say anything because they didn’t want to…