Marshall Goldsmith: HR must look beyond compliance

Marshall Goldsmith has urged HR professionals to look beyond compliance matters and to constantly challenge senior leaders and themselves.

He recognised the importance of doing the best to engage employees but noted that employees needed to be responsible for their own engagement too.

The leadership coach added that senior leaders should be open to continuing to improve themselves if they were to excel.

Delivering a keynote address at the HR Directors Business Summit, Goldsmith encouraged the audience to have fun in their roles because “if you can’t have fun in HR, don’t wait for finance as it’s not going to happen there.”

Speaking afterwards to HRD Connect, he suggested two further key points that HR professionals should follow in their work: “Do what you can to help people, that’s a blessing about the job.” And second, to “Go for it; the industry’s changing, do what you think is right, you may not win, at least you tried.”

Listen to or download the full HRD Connect interview podcast with Marshall Goldsmith below:


Goldsmith’s key message was to look beyond the regulatory role that HR must take.

“It’s important to do the compliance work. On the other hand it’s important not to do only the compliance work,” he said.

“Because if you look at a HR leader, it’s very important they expand that role. Some of the HR leaders I’ve trained have done a great job of really working with top management and coaching them, helping them to become more effective as leaders and that’s well beyond something like compliance.”

Watch the exclusive HRD Connect interview with Marshall Goldsmith below:

Coupled to this, he suggested HR leaders needed to be pushing successful people within the organisation to constantly improve and to use this as a method to encourage wider people development.

“It’s important to challenge people. And what’s hard to do is challenge successful people. I work with incredibly successful leaders and my job is to help them get better,” he said.

“You might think ‘Why do they need to get better, they are already CEOs?’ Well the best ones realise that, to quote Bob Dylan, he who is done busy being born is busy dying. And the world changes so rapidly, if you’re not focused on continued improvement you’re probably going backward.”

Goldsmith added that continued challenging and development of top managers encouraged the rest of the workforce to push themselves.

“The best thing a leader can do to help other people get better is let everyone watch you try to get better, don’t just preach at others, because if top managers preach at the next level, they then preach at the next level and then at the next level. Everyone’s just preaching; no-one’s trying to improve.

“When top management leads by example and personally demonstrates a commitment to improvement everyone else does too.”

Goldsmith also called on HR professionals to try and imagine what an older version of themselves would want them to prioritise in life.

When asked what decisions he would change about his life, Goldsmith noted: “sometimes our own success is a challenge. I was successful, I was doing well, but I was not becoming the person I could have been.”






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