If you’re a business leader looking for an opportunity to have a real impact on your company — and position yourself for the top job — which career path is best? CFO? COO? CMO? What if we told you that the CHRO  role might be the best job you could ever have, with real opportunity for reshaping an organization? That the Chief Human Resources Officer role, although at first, it may look career limiting, can have more impact than any other position reporting to the CEO?

Lucia Luce Quinn is Chief People Officer at Forrester Research. Earlier in her career, she left a position as SVP of business development and emerging businesses to join Boston Scientific in a senior line job. Upon arriving, she flatly refused the CEO’s offer of the CHRO role. He had to ask her four more times, including once on a conference call with the whole executive team, before she finally relented.

Technically Savvy CHRO ‘s Are On High Demand

Nontraditional CHROs see their role as pushing leaders, but they have often found that traditional HR thinks in term of partnering with or serving leaders. You must look at every leader within your organization and decide if they are the right fit for the job they have. If they are a push and push hard – be their leader. If they aren’t you must make right adjustments to their capabilities, reach and responsibilities so that they excel in what they do. Help them drive higher performance.

When Quinn accepted the CHRO role at Boston Scientific, her HR organization planned to implement a program even though they knew it probably would not work. Why? Because organizational leaders wanted it. Quinn insisted that her HR team devise a program they believed would work, and she pushed organization leaders to adopt HR’s better alternative. If you would be the kind of CHRO who thinks in terms of driving success instead of supporting leaders, then you could have a huge impact across the organization.

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Their application of diverse business skills to the role. Fourth, nontraditional CHROs approach HR with skills and frameworks that reflect a variety of business disciplines. While traditional Human Resource leaders might rely too exclusively on function specific HR disciplines. “I was surprised by how much I personally enjoyed running the HR function versus taking on a CFO role,” said Reses. “HR was a position where I had a view of the biggest challenges of everyone’s business — leadership issues and how to allocate people across teams. It was a vehicle for changing the growth trajectory of the company.”

“I don’t love telling people I’m in HR, but I love leading HR. Many leaders experience HR as administrators who can be barriers rather than enablers. I discovered that HR doesn’t need to be like that, and as Chief Human Resources Officer I use every skill I ever learned.” – Quinn

Other articles and research suggest that transformational HR is not the sole province of nontraditional HR leaders. It can be achieved by those with traditional HR backgrounds, too, with the right view of results, relationships with fellow leaders, attitudes toward risk and opportunity, and diverse business skills.

HR, like all professions, requires specialized talent and knowledge. Nontraditional CHROs emphasized that their transformational role was only possible with the support of HR leaders with deep traditional knowledge and capability.

Often underutilized and overlooked as a lever for business impact, a shift into the CHRO role — done correctly — can be a great career move. 

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