For as long as I’ve been in and around HR, I’ve heard HR professionals bemoan the fact that they don’t have a seat at the table.
But when I look around, I see plenty of strong HR leaders driving change and moving their organizations forward, both inside and outside of the C-Suite.
Is it just a matter of competency or personality that determines who ends up in positions of leadership?
On today’s episode, our guest Bruce Waller says that no one gets a seat at the table by accident.
And there are specific strategies professionals inside and outside of HR can employ to sell their ideas and create more influence inside their organizations.
During this thirty-minute episode, the speakers talk about strategies that will help you sell yourself, your ideas, and create more influence for you in the workplace… starting with building trust.
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Bruce Waller is the Vice President of Corporate Relocation for Armstrong Relocation and Companies in Dallas, Texas. Bruce has enjoyed many roles in relocation from operations to general management for over 25 years, and currently arranges services for organizations that need to relocate talent across the US and abroad. Bruce is a former President and Chairman of the Board for DallasHR, the 3rd largest SHRM chapter in the US and currently serves as a Director of Leadership Development for Texas SHRM State Council. Bruce is certified by both HRCI (Human Resources Certification Institute) with a PHR, and SHRM (Society of Human Resource Management) with a SHRM-CP.
Bruce also serves on the North Texas Relocation Professionals Board of Directors and is certified by WorldwideERC as a Certified Relocation Professional (CRP). Bruce is a former recipient of the 2014 Saul Gresky Award presented to NTRP’s Relocation Professional of the Year, and has received many awards including UniGroup Masters Club and Armstrong Relocation Presidents Club.
Bruce graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a degree in Business Administration.
Bruce writes a weekly blog on Leadership, HR, and Mobility called “Move to Inspire” that you can subscribe to at brucewaller.com … it’s a quick inspirational read to jumpstart your week! He also published other leadership books such as “Find Your Lane” to inspire people with a “Career GPS” approach to help people navigate a career with purpose and “Milemarkers”, a five year journal to record your daily highlights and live with more purpose each day. In October, Bruce will publish his 3rd book called “Life in the Leadership Lane”; Moving Leaders to Inspire and Change the Workplace!
Bruce is the host of “Life in the Leadership Lane”, a weekly podcast where he interviews leaders making a difference in the workplace. You can find his show on your favorite podcast platform. Be sure and subscribe, post a review, and share with others.
Some fun facts about Bruce… He has bowled 10 perfect 300 games and loves diet coke, peanut butter, and spending time with grandkids Crosby and Sutton!
In 2021, Bruce was selected Global Mobility Top 100. The most admired service providers in 2021 by Benivo and was selected as the Texas SHRM Volunteer Leader of the Year.
Bruce Waller: Here’s the challenge. If it doesn’t align with our business goals, it’s not the right problem. So, we have to go out and first we have to understand, we know the business, all right? Okay.
Now what are our goals? What are our objectives? Like for our organization, you mentioned Armstrong Relocation, we’re very focused on quality, we’re very focused on safety, and revenue, and profit. So, if I’m going out and I’m looking for a way to help the organization, and I’m trying to identify the problem. If it’s not around those four areas, it’s probably not going to get a lot of attention.
Mike Coffey: Good Morning, HR.
I’m Mike Coffey and this is the podcast where I talk to business leaders about bringing people together to create value for shareholders, customers, and the community.
Please follow, rate and review Good Morning, HR, on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also find us on Facebook or at Goodmorninghr.com.
For as long as I’ve been in and around HR, and that’s almost 30 years now, I’ve heard HR professionals bemoan the fact that they don’t have a seat at the table. But when I look around, I see plenty of strong HR leaders driving change and moving their organizations forward, both inside and outside of the C-suite. So, is it just a matter of competency or personality that determines who ends up in positions of leadership?
Today’s guest says that no one gets a seat at the table by accident. And there are specific strategies professionals inside and outside of HR can employ to sell their ideas and create more influence inside their organizations.
My friend, Bruce Waller, is a Vice-President of Corporate Relocation for Armstrong Relocation in Dallas. He’s the author of two books, Find Your Lane and Mile Markers: A 5 Year Journey. He also blogs and hosts The Life in the Leadership Lane Podcast. Bruce and I are also speaking at Fort Worth HR’s Strategic Mindset Conference on September 17th.
I’ve known Bruce for over 15 years, and I’ll say he’s absolutely one of the most sincere and optimistic people that I know. So, thank you for being on Good Morning, HR, Bruce.
Bruce Waller: Mike. It’s so good to see you. Good Morning, HR. I’ve got my coffee ready to go.
Mike Coffey: There you go. Well, so at the Strategic Mindset Conference, your presentation is titled Strategies to Get More Buy-in from the C-Suite. So, you refer specifically in that title to strategies. Does that mean that you believe who has influence in an organization it’s more than just luck of the draw?
Bruce Waller: Yeah, no. Hey, thanks again for having me on. I really appreciate it, Mike. I was actually thinking back, as I was thinking about this recording, and I was thinking back in 2018, I got a chance to speak at the Strategic Mindset Conference when I put it out the book Find Your Lane. And since then, I’ve been working on another book and one of the chapters in the book is about influence, and it’s about getting buy-in. Because I often hear people in business, HR in particular, talk about what you’re talking about. “Hey, how do we get a seat at the table? How can we get more influence?”
And the way I’ve looked at that is, “Hey, we need to put on our sales hat.” So, we’re all in HR. It’s all about people. But we’re also all in sales. I mean, think about it. When we’re recruiting, we’re trying to sell someone candidate, or “Hey, maybe we want to promotion.” I mean, anybody want a raise, sometimes we have to sell ourself. So, when we talk about strategies to get buy-in with the C-suite, actually, there’s a sales process that we all must go through. And if you try to skip steps, you’re going to have a hard time.
And just real quick, there’s five steps. There’s building trust. There is finding a problem or finding the right problem. We’re going to talk about that. Once you find that problem, then you’ve got to build that business case, you’ve got to sell that idea.
And then, of course, then you have to have people within the organization, I call them sponsors. You need to develop relationships and sponsors to help you move that idea forward. Then, of course, lastly, it’s all about being persistent. The great Jim Valvano, “Never give up, don’t ever give up.”
So, one thing I think is important is that we all just take a step back and say, “Are we applying these things as we grow in our organization?” So, that’s what I’m hoping to share with everyone and hopefully some people will get a good takeaway from it.
Mike Coffey: Well so, in HR there are recruiters and then there’s everybody else. And the recruiters are salespeople, let’s face it. I mean, they will tell you “This is the best place to work. Quit your job, divorce your wife, whatever you’ve got to do to come work at this place”
And then there’s everybody else who deals with the aftermath of what the recruiter does. But, I mean when you talk to sales about sales to most HR people, they get cringey, right? It’s intimidating or their idea of being salesy looks like buying a car second hand at a used car lot. Talk to me about- when you’re talking about sales, what does that look like for a professional trying to sell their ideas inside the organization?
Bruce Waller: It’s a great point. I remember when I joined Armstrong Relocation, I was on the operations side before Armstrong for about eight years. And when I joined Armstrong, I joined on the sales and marketing side. And I remember thinking, “Sales.” It’ like, think about a used car salesman, you’re driving up and there’s five white shirts come out that want to sell you a car. That’s not what this is really all about.
This is all about really building… Let’s just start with building trust, developing relationships within the organization. One of the things that I think is important to point out here is that the reason why I think salespeople get a bad name is because three out of four salespeople are not listening. They’re just out there pitching their products. They’re not out there trying to figure out what’s needed or what needs to be shared or whatever the case may be.
So, that’s one of the reasons why a lot of times, when people have a hard time developing influence in the organization, it’s because they skip that very first step. The very first step is building trust. Well, building trust requires building relationships. A lot of times that takes a long time to do. And a lot of times people will… I’m going to call a mediocre salespeople, “I don’t have time. I just need to make the sale.” They skip that first step, and they go right to trying to find the problem. Well, if you haven’t built that trust, you’re going to have a hard time even getting someone to buy in on the problem.
So, when I’m talking about sales in the organization, I’m talking about really selling yourself, building relationships with others. And like I said before, I mean, a lot of times, even as an HR leader, you’re going into the leadership team and you’re trying to sell your ideas or what you tried to accomplish with your leadership team as well. So, that’s really what it’s more about. It’s not necessarily selling, but it’s more about, “Hey, let’s all come together and let’s build some relationships and let’s work together to try to figure out how we can move forward.”
Mike Coffey: And that’s interesting. I think a lot of those relationships are damaged, at least from the HR side of the desk, because so many HR people are focused on being transactional and on being doctor no, telling people what they can’t do all day long. And in some organizations, that’s necessary, because you’ve got a lot of cowboys. But I think what you’re talking about with understanding and hearing the other side and what somebody is trying to accomplish. And there may well be something that, “Hey, you can’t do that because of title seven or the ADA or whatever.”
But if you stop and listen to what the other side is saying, so at least understand what the problem is they’re trying to solve, you can be more helpful than just telling them, “No, because we’ll get sued.” And I think there’s a lot of HR people that aren’t listening beyond, “Oh, we can’t do that.”
Bruce Waller: I love that you brought that up. Before I put this presentation together, I actually went out. So, you mentioned Life in the Leadership Lane Podcast. I’ve interviewed many, many, many high performers, top business leaders, many of them serving HR. I went out to them and I asked them, “Hey, on these five strategies, what’s your perspective around these?” So, for example, on the first one, we’re going to talk about building trust, it comes from developing relationships. We talked about that, right?
But one of the business leaders said, “Hey, you got to know the business. You have to learn the business and not just know the business, but the acumen.” He talked about quickness is understanding and dealing with the business situation. What’s the financial performance? The underlying? Then, many of them talked about the importance of, you mentioned this before, listen, relate, understand, and listen more. So, you’re right. A lot of people are just like transactional. They’re like, “Hey, I’ve got a laundry list of things I got to get done today. Let’s just get them done,” versus just pausing and saying, “Hey, let’s look at the business as a whole.”
So, I think a lot of these different things that are under the building relationships, they take time, they take a real focus on putting yourself in that position to be that go-to person. Right?
Mike Coffey: Right. What would you say to somebody who’s the new HR person in an organization who doesn’t have existing relationships outside of whoever they happen to meet in the interview and on the way in to work the first day? What would you say a strategy for building those relationships would look like if you’re new to the organization?
Bruce Waller: Yeah. I think the first and foremost thing is you got to walk through the crowd, walk slowly through the crowd. I heard John Maxwell say that years ago. And it’s taken me a while to figure that out. But what he’s basically saying is, “Get up from behind your desk, go out and talk to the people.” And not just about what are you doing business-wide, get to know them.
So, it’s interesting, I was talking to a good friend of mine, she’s a Chief People Officer at On The Border. And she mentioned that, a lot of times, whenever she has a challenge, she’ll go out and she’ll talk to different people in the organization and get their buy-in, so that way, when she goes to the leadership table, she’s already got everybody’s buy-in.
Every once in a while, you’re going to find someone that doesn’t necessarily agree with what you have to say. And she said, “Those are the people that help her the most.” And I just love that because she said, “Now, what I do is I will first go to those people and say, ‘Hey, tear some holes in this, what I’m thinking, tell me what you’re thinking.'”
And then all of a sudden she takes it back and she answers all these objections, so now when she goes to the table to try to get buy-in, she’s already answered the objections. Now, she has that buy-in. So, what I would say is this, you just got to get out and you’ve got to develop those relationships, get to know people, ask those questions, “Hey, what’s going good here? What can we improve on?” And just start demonstrating the importance of value and how you are there alongside them to help them.
Mike Coffey: Mm-hmm (affirmative). And understanding the business, I think, is real key. There are so many HR people that I’ve known over the years, who I say, “Well, what do y’all do? What does XYZ company do?” And, “Oh, well, we sell widgets.” “Okay. So, tell me about that.” “Well, we sell widgets.” “Well, what do your customers use the widgets for? Or where’s your place in the market? How do you differentiate between the other widget makers and things like that?” And they don’t know.
And I think that’s a sign of a person who’s, all they’re ever going to be able to do is transactional HR. They’re going to be able to get payroll out on time. They’re going to be able to write policies and procedures to keep you from getting sued. But if they don’t understand how the business makes money, I don’t even understand how they can recruit the right people if they don’t understand the strategy and just the basics of why the business exists and who they serve.
Bruce Waller: When I was taking my HR certification many years ago, I remember Barbara Hoover, the very first thing she said, day one in class, “You have to know the business.” So important. I was thinking about also, as we talk about some things we can do, you can ask someone for a 15-minute meeting and not just to go in and just say, “Hey, how’s it going?” And talk about the weather.
It’s really having questions in front of you saying, “Hey, listen, I want to help you. I want to learn more about your department or your side of the operation. What challenges are you facing? What’s important to you? How does this impact our financial goals?” And I think when we approach things like that, then people look at us differently too. They’re like, “Hey, you know what? They mean business here. They’re here to like really learn and try to figure out how can we help.” So, I think we can certainly make traction there as well.
Mike Coffey: One of your other strategies, after relationship, I think it was identify the problem that you want to solve. So, by that, do you mean go out and figure out what’s the problem that I can contribute the most to solving and help develop an answer to? And then go sell it to my peers or to the leadership, looking for that first big win? Is that your approach? Or tell me what you mean by identify the problem.
Bruce Waller: Yeah. No, that’s a great question, Mike. And I think a lot of times, we often approach it that way, but here’s the challenge. If it doesn’t align with our business goals, it’s not the right problem. So, we have to go out and first we have to understand, we know the business, all right? Okay, now what are our goals? What are our objectives? Like for our organization, you mentioned Armstrong Relocation, we’re very focused on quality, we’re very focused on safety, and revenue, and profit. So, if I’m going out and I’m looking for a way to help the organization, and I’m trying to identify the problem, if it’s not around those four areas, it’s probably not going to get a lot of attention.
It may go on the… I have a yes list and a not yet list, it may go on the not yet list. And then all of a sudden I’m frustrated because, “Wait, I think this is the problem.” But yet, the organization trying to reach where they want to go, it’s not a big enough problem. So, I think, first and foremost, we’ve got to go out and we’ve got align what’s the business goals? What are our objectives? And how can we improve those numbers? And when you find those problems, I think that you’ve got something there.
Mike Coffey: And let’s take a quick break.
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And if you’re listening to this program after September 9th, you can still watch the recorded webinar on our website for credit. Now back to my conversation with Bruce Waller.
Mike Coffey: When you’re talking to about building sponsors, that’s something, I think, that’s intimidating also to a lot of HR folks. Outside of HR, they don’t have a lot of those connections. And especially if HR reports up to the CFO maybe, or somebody like that, and they’re all black and white numbers and we’re HR and there’s a lot of gray area and ambiguity sometimes. How would you suggest somebody go find, I guess you identify the problem and then is it just a matter of figuring out who that problem affects the most and starting with that person?
Bruce Waller: Yeah, I think, yeah, you identify that problem, and now you’ve got to build that business case and develop these sponsors. It’s interesting, I love to say this, your network is your net worth. You have to build a network, and not just outside the organization, but inside the organization. I use a term, invest in the people zone, but I’ve always tried to use a couple of things.
Number one, you’ve got to use the 100/0 rule. The 100/0 rule says this, “You serve 100% and you expect zero in return.” You figure out a way to help people, and eventually they will help you too. But I had a colleague in our organization, he always talked about the importance of connect four. He was a great, great salesperson in that organization. And what he meant by that was, I want to know two people across my vertical, and I want to know two people up and down.
And that way I’ve got connect these four in this sphere, and if somebody leaves the organization, I don’t lose that relationship, I still have these other three. And I just continue to know these people. So, I had a guest on my podcast, week seven, his name is David Windley, and he is a former Chairman of the Board for SHRM National. And he mentioned this about sponsors, I was asking him about the importance of mentors in an organization. And he said, “Mentors are great. They can give you advice. They can help in a lot of ways. But sponsors, sponsors can move your projects through the organization. They can move them over the finish line.”
So, we got to find those sponsors and the way to do that is just to continue to serve people. And you’ve heard the WIIFM, what’s in it for me? You got to figure out what’s in it for that other person, figure out how can you help them? And you continue to serve, and serve, and serve. And then one day, when you need help and you need advice, then all of a sudden, you’re there in position to get that from them. So, Seth McColley, he’s a VP of HR for Kirby-Smith, and he called it relationshipping, I love that term. Just keep building relationships, keep serving. And that’s really how you do that.
Mike Coffey: You called it a zero to 100, give them 100% and expect zero back. So it’s, in other words, karma, you lay it out there, and we’ve said for years, that Imperative’s primary marketing strategy is Mike Coffey’s a nice guy. And then when people are in need, what I can do, after I’ve helped them, and they’ve got a problem Mike can eventually solve, hopefully they’ll call me. And it’s worked for 22 years, at least. So, I think that’s really good. And I can see how that would apply inside an organization as well.
Bruce Waller: Yeah. No question, I’ve even had high performers tell me, “Hey, maybe even consider a meeting before the meeting.” So, in other words, you’re getting ready to go into your big meeting, schedule a little 10-minute meeting beforehand with whoever you’re wanting to help sponsor that project and say, “Hey Joe, or, Hey, Sally, here’s what I’m trying to do here. What do you think about this?” And even start that drip campaign. So, you’ve heard drip campaign marketing, well, start dripping ideas to different people in their organization, these sponsors, and you don’t have to give it all to them at once, a little bit here, a little bit here, a little bit here. And then all of a sudden, you’re having a deeper conversation. And now, all of a sudden, they’re helping you drive that initiative where you want to go.
Mike Coffey: Interesting. Let’s go back to that sales thing. I’ve watched you for… I mean, we met at Inn On The River in Glen Rose, Texas at a small HR conference easily 15 years ago.
Bruce Waller: I remember that with Brad Smith.
Mike Coffey: With the great Brad Smith, that’s right, yeah. And Jesse Owens was there. I mean, it was an all-star event. But I’ve watched you over that time build a brand. And I’m curious, what do you think comes first confidence or the personal brand? Because I think they’re both really key, but which do you think is, is it a fake it till you make it kind of thing? Or is it a, I need some inner dexterity before I go out there and start putting myself out there?
Bruce Waller: No, that’s, man, listen, that’s… I’ll tell you, for me, I can only speak for what I’ve done. But for me, it’s all been about the day I decided to lean in and share my vulnerability. And just, “Hey, you know what? This is who I am. This is what I’m all about.” That’s when it really changed for me, even when I started serving at DallasHR. I remember, when I first started attending those meetings, I was thinking about me, how can I help people move or relocate?
But when I started changing my mindset to, you know what, I’m just going to go in here and I’m going to serve, I’m going to learn about these people, find out what they do, how can I help them, how can I be resourceful. The more I did that, the more the confidence came, because I was like, “You know what? I’m really fulfilling my mission to serve others.”
So, to answer your question, I think that people just have to be vulnerable enough to just say, “You know what, I’m going to put this out there.” And not just because you want to see if you get some likes or some comments, but because that’s how you’re feeling. Many times, I put things out, because that’s how I’m feeling, I’m faced with challenges. So, all of a sudden, I’ve put something out there that’s on my heart. And now, all of a sudden, I’m finding people relate to that. So, I’ve just been doing that. I think the biggest thing though is you just got to be consistent. This got to be your every day.
Mike Coffey: Yeah. I think that’s really true. I’ve been involved with Fort Worth HR since I was in frontline HR. So, it’s got to be at least 25 years. And I’ve watched representatives of companies that sell into HR show up, come and go, come in, pour vinegar all over everybody trying to hard sale everybody. And this is Fort Worth, which HR is a relational business, and most of your purchases are relational, but even more so than Dallas, Fort Worth is relational.
And we’ve built our business off of relationships and the SHRM communities all over the state and the country, including Fort Worth HR. And I tell folks who call and say, “Hey, I sell,” God help us, another… “I sell benefits.” Because that’s what every HR association needs, one more benefits broker. But I sell benefits should I go to Fort Worth HR? My answer is always, show up for six months before you sponsor anything, before you ever really try to ever talk to anybody about what you do, show up and volunteer as a greeter, sit at a different table every month, meet people and look for ways you can help them that won’t generate you any revenue, be trusted.
Then start, when its time saying, “Hey, you’ve got open enrollment coming up in four months. Where are you with your broker right now? Is there anything I can do to help?” But I think too many folks are salespeople [inaudible 00:25:56], always be closing. And I just don’t think that works in most modern sales contexts. And I definitely don’t think, if you’re inside the organization, that kind of sales would work either.
You got to have that brand that says, “Hey, this is a guy who’s actually interested, or a girl, a gal who’s actually interested in helping me do what I need to get done.” And in this occasion, it may benefit them as well, or it may not. But I trust them that they’re going to act in my best interest in this relationship. And I think that’s a hard thing for most salespeople to understand. But I think it’s a hard thing for a lot of HR folks or any profession who want to sell their ideas internally, they often haven’t done the spadework yet inside the organization to have the relationships where they’ve got that credibility. So, I think that’s helpful.
Bruce Waller: Mike, you’re right on. I mean, listen, I said it at the first of the program, but most people try to skip that first step, because building trust takes a long time. And you mentioned six months, absolutely. For me, it was six months before I started figuring out who’s who in the organization, or even when you are in a new company, or join a new organization, it just takes a while to build those relationships and people will figure out what you do, or what you need, or how they can help you if you just help them.
One of the things I’ll share at the end of the presentation, at the Strategic Mindset Conference, is I’m going to share some common threads for success. And one of those, I’ll share it now, and that is you cannot rush the influencing process. That’s what you’re talking about. They’re trying to rush into it. “Hey, how you doing? I’m Bob. Yeah. I’ve been with XYZ company for three years and you want to buy, you want to buy, you want to buy?” No, I don’t. And it’s a turnoff.
So, that is definitely not the way you build trust. You build trust by what we talked about earlier. You’ve got to go in and you’ve got to find out what’s important to that other person. And just one day at a time, one brick at a time. And then, one day you look you’ll say, “Hey, where’d that house come from?” You built that house and I’ve been with Armstrong now for 17 years and it just takes time. But if you stick with it, good things can happen.
Mike Coffey: And that’s a great place to leave it. Thanks for joining me, Bruce. And I know we’re both on stage at Strategic Mindset and this is I think the 12th annual one, and I was privileged to be on the committee that came up with that idea for Fort Worth HR years ago, before I was president there. And I’m glad that they’ve continued it. So, for those who aren’t familiar, if you’re HRCI certified and you need business credits, it’s a full day of business credits and we’ll have the link in the show notes, but you can go to fwhr.org for details on that too. Thanks a lot, Bruce. I really appreciate you being here.
Bruce Waller: Hey, Mike, thanks for having me on. I cannot wait to see you on the 17th, my friend.
Mike Coffey: We’ll see you then.
And thank you for listening. You can find previous episodes, show notes and contact info for our guests at Good Morning, HR, or on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube. And don’t forget to follow us wherever you get your podcasts.
Rob Upchurch is our Technical Producer and Imperative’s Marketing Coordinator. Katy Bautista keeps the trains running on time. And I Mike Coffey. As always, don’t hesitate to reach out to me if I can be of service to you personally or professionally. And I’ll see you next week. Until then, be well and keep your chin up.