Keynote speaker, OD and Business Consultant, Coach and Mentor Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock
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I Wanna be a Rock’n’Roll HR Star

14th Jan 2013
Keynote speaker, OD and Business Consultant, Coach and Mentor Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock
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This week marks the departure of Cath Everett as Editor of the HR Zone to South Africa.  Cath has worked tirelessly to establish the HR Zone’s position in thought leadership, however it’s not my normal style to use such words.  I’d prefer to call Cath a Rock’n’Roll HR Star.  Before we delve into what that actually means for others seeking to be their best, let’s hear what David Bowie means by the title:

How to be Rock’n’Roll HR Star in five moves

I learned these lessons through 10 years of "hard HR labour", camping on the board of the CIPD Council, leading CIPD Kent and operating in HR for a Pharmaceutical Company.  They are all common sense, but not commonly used.

1.    Understand the business that you operate in

That means learning about finance and accounting, what the business does (products / services) and so on.  It does not mean that you have to be a better expert than the people you serve in the business.  It does mean taking a genuine interest in what your business does for a living, even if it’s not your specialism or background.  Business people will forgive you for not being able to understand their business in detail but they will not forgive you for not trying.

2.    Learn the lexicon of HR but operate in the customer’s language

All professions have their shorthand and jargon.  It would not be possible to get through life without it when working with peers.  However HR jargon has limited impact on business people and, in the worst cases, it places a barrier between you and them.   Be a good translator of HR shorthand into what business people understand and can act upon.

3.    Service does not mean servile

Some HR people agonise over whether they have a seat on the board.  They see board membership as being inconsistent with being a service to the business.  Au contraire.  Providing a great service is one of the easiest ways to get recognition.  However people mistake the idea of service with being servile – never offering a contrary view and just keeping everyone sweet.  What Prince calls slavery.  Great people appreciate challenge, especially if it gets them out of a hole or makes them look good.  Great HR people are masters of artful confrontation.

4.    Top to bottom and back again

Some HR people say they are a strategist, others a practitioner.  This is unhelpful.  To be a great HR person, you need to understand both.  It’s no good having a grand strategy if it cannot translate into everyday practice on the ground.  It’s also no good having great policies and procedures if none of them connect to the overall HR posture or business strategy.

5.    Get some HR attitude

HR stars such as Perry Timms, Doug Shaw, Bina Briggs, Megan Peppin, Alison Chisnell, Mervyn Dinnen, Natasha Stallard, Ian Pettrigrew, Julie Drybrough and many more are leading exponents of what I’d call HR with attitude – straightforward, authentic and skilled at dealing with difficult HR issues.  Check them out on Twitter.  To meet some of them face to face, come along to the Unconference on 28 January.

Cath scores 11/10 on all of these factors and I wish her every success in her new life in South Africa.  To celebrate, I offer her another song about stardom:

If you enjoyed this post, you will love the new book “The Music of Business”, acclaimed by Harvey Goldsmith and available to pre-order via ORDER, ORDER.  The book will also feature on Jeff Randall's anchor news programme at Sky News on Wednesday 30 January.  To preview the book, check this slideshow out:


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By Doug Shaw
15th Jan 2013 08:12

 Hi Peter - neat blog post with some useful learning thanks. I appreciate the inclusion in your list and wish you well with the new book. Most importantly - thanks for a nice tribute to Cath, you and I have both worked with her and it's fun and useful - for all I hope. Good luck Cath - enjoy your adventure.


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By Peter Cook
15th Jan 2013 09:47

 Thanks Doug and see you on the 28th

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By Peter Cook
15th Jan 2013 13:11

Here's the current list of HR Rock Stars attending the L&D Unconference on 28.01.13

Mike Collins, Meg Peppin, Jon Bartlett, Peter Cook, Marion Cain, Ian Tetlow, Sukhi Pabial, Deborah Carter, Ian Pettigrew, Esther Flatley, Ruth Maughan, Julie Drybrough, Douglas Shaw, Simon Gibson, Natasha Stallard, Martin Saville, Bev Holden, Niall Gavin, Andy Lancaster, Victoria Fletcher, David Goddin 

That's enough for 5 super groups. 

Check the event out at


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