San Francisco HR Consultant
When someone asks what I do for living, it’s tempting to point out three-decade track record for helping to transform world-class companies into sharper, smarter, better versions of themselves. It’s true; my mission is to help management teams create such high levels of economic value that together we redefine our respective industries.
But that's only part of the story.
The rest of the story is about my way of doing things—intangibles that can't be financially measured or modeled but that truly make the difference. As my clients have outperformed the S&P by four to one, one by one, they experience the power of those intangibles.
I work across all types of industries, with all kinds of clients:
· Large multinational corporations
· Leading private equity firms
· Midsize companies
· Small start-ups
· Nonprofit organizations
But what unifies my clients, is that they all tend to be bold, ambitious business leaders.
· They think and act like owners.
· They are not satisfied with the status quo.
· They want a sparring partner to challenge them.
· They want a personal trainer to push them to their best, not a "yes-man."
On every case, I look at the business from a chief executive's perspective. I start by asking the right questions, and then dig deep into the numbers to unearth the right solutions. I don't settle for off-the-shelf solutions; my approach and recommendations are highly customized. I help clients decide where they want to go, and how to get there.
And I don't stop there. I make sure those decisions get translated quickly into action and that the client's team can sustain the momentum into the future. I commit to leaving organizations stronger than when we arrive.
My approach can be summed up by one phrase: Shared Ambition, True Results.
What does it mean?
Automotive & Assembly
Consumer Packaged Goods
Healthcare Systems & Medical Services
Hospitality & Hotel
Pharmaceuticals & Medical Products
Restaurants and Food Products
Social Sector & Organized Labor
Presently, I am a candidate for Doctor of Business Administration at Liberty University. For more about me see my Labor and Employment Perspectives blog hosted by Harvard University. blogs.harvard.edu/labor/amirkohan
I have helped people and organizations thrive in the business, nonprofit, and public sectors since the early 1990s. I have consulted for organizations ranging in size from startups to global and Fortune 500 organizations. I am an experienced facilitator in whole system change and numerous organizational improvement and decision-making processes. I specialize in decentralizing the role of leadership in organizations so as to enhance the ability of employees to work productively toward common goals, and the managerial and institutional changes needed to build more sustainable enterprises—those businesses that foster social and natural as well as economic well-being. My work articulates a cornerstone position of human values in the workplace: namely, that vision, purpose, reflectiveness, and systems thinking are essential if organizations are to realize their potential.
I am interested in leadership, strategy, and organizational issues. My recent work explores leadership and strategic challenges for building high growth organizations in turbulent markets. Some of my prior work has focused on the enablers and implications of within-firm and inter-firm collaboration. I have looked at both when and how firms should leverage greater connectivity within and across their boundaries to enhance performance.
1. What is the role of human resources in a company?
I believe human resources should be the most powerful part of an organization. However, in reality, is its impact more often feels in a negative way.
Human resources, unfortunately, often operates as a cloak-and-dagger society or a health-and-happiness sideshow. Those are extremes, of course, but if there is anything, I have learned over the past many years of traveling and talking to business groups, it is that HR rarely functions as it should. That’s an outrage, made only more frustrating by the fact that most leaders aren’t scrambling to fix it.
HR should be every company’s killer app. What could possibly be more important than who gets hired, developed, promoted, or moved out the door? Business is a game, and as with all games, the team that puts the best people on the field and gets them playing together wins. It’s that simple.
It all starts with the people companies appoint to run HR—not kingmakers or cops but big leaguers, men and women with real stature and credibility. In fact, companies need to fill HR with a special kind of hybrid: people who are part pastor (hearing all sins and complaints without recrimination) and part parent (loving and nurturing, but giving it to you straight when you’re off track).
Pastor-Parent types can come up through the HR department, but more often than not, they have run something during their careers, such as a factory or a function. They get the business—its inner workings, history, tensions, and the hidden hierarchies that exist in people’s minds. They are known to be relentlessly candid, even when the message is hard, and they hold confidences tight. With their insight and integrity, pastor-parents earn the trust of the organization.
But pastor-parents don’t just sit around making people feel warm and fuzzy. They improve the company by overseeing a rigorous appraisal-and-evaluation system that lets every person know where he or she stands, and they monitor that system with the same intensity as a Sarbanes-Oxley compliance officer.
Leaders must also make sure that human resources fulfills two other roles. It should create effective mechanisms, such as money, recognition, and training, to motivate and retain people. And it should force organizations to confront their most charged relationships, such as those with unions, individuals who are no longer delivering results, or stars who are becoming problematic by, for instance, swelling instead of growing.
If you have a negative experience with human resources—and you are hardly alone—this kind of high-impact HR activity probably sounds like a pipe dream. But given the fact that most leaders loudly proclaim that people are their “biggest asset,” it shouldn’t be.
2. What is your management style?
I think, in general, a good manager gives clear directions and actually stays pretty hands-off, but is ready and available to jump in to offer guidance, expertise, and help when needed. I believe my team would say I respect their talents and provide open communication and clear direction, while also allowing them enough space to get their work done without constant check-ins. I have a vested interest in understanding what motivates each person to do his or her best work.
3. What makes you unique?
In terms of what makes me unique, I go out of my way to make sure I know when my team needs help. I don’t hang around and wait to be called upon by my direct reports—I go to them. That means plenty of informal check-ins, both on the work they’re doing and on their general job satisfaction and mental well-being.
I remember one project in particular at my most recent position where I supervised seven staff that involved everyone working on a separate aspect of the project. This meant a lot of independent work for my team, but rather than bog everyone down with repetitive meetings to update me and everyone else on progress made, I created a project wiki that allowed us to communicate new information when necessary without disrupting another team member’s work. I then made it my job to make sure no one was ever stuck on a problem too long without a sounding board.
Ultimately, despite the disparate project responsibilities, we ended up with a very cohesive product and, more importantly, a team that wasn’t burnt out.
4. How would you address dysfunction within a team you are leading?
In my experience I have found that it is essential to address an issue at its source. Therefore, my first step is to review how the team is supposed to function to pinpoint where the issue lies. Depending upon whether it is directly related to an employee’s character or performance, or if it is related to a program that is not functioning properly, I move forward. I make sure to approach each situation with tact, but I also make sure I am clear and to the point.
5. How well do you handle leading groups of individuals with diverse backgrounds?
I work very well with individuals from diverse backgrounds. I appreciate different cultures and backgrounds, and understand that it has a strong impact on how individuals interact with one another. Also, I have studied different learning and personality styles to understand how they impact individuals at work. I utilize all of this knowledge to lead and encourage individuals in the way that they best receive it. I believe this helps to enhance communication and to make me an effective leader.
6. What would you say are the best ways to elicit cooperation from team members?
Motivation is key to eliciting cooperation and productivity of people individually and as a team. So, I believe one of the most effective ways to get team members to cooperate is to recognize their strengths and delegate tasks accordingly. For example, in a recent project I lead I was overseeing three team members. I had the team member who was highly organized to create and maintain the measuring tools, the individual who was most personable spoke with the employees and the last individual is quite analytical, so I had her compile the data in the report. This way, each team member was allowed to play to her or his strengths, which kept both the motivation and morale high.
7. Give an example of how you handled a conflict within your team?
Especially in a team atmosphere, it is critical that conflict be handled properly, otherwise it can hurt the morale. That is why I strive to first identify the source of the issue and isolate it as much as possible. I have taken a mediation course, and I utilize those skills to counsel the parties involved and to come to an amicable resolution. I check in with the parties periodically to ensure that the resolution is effective.
For example, I recently had a conflict with an employee in another office who had a project which was dependent on work being done by myself and two other members of our team. He had sent a rather urgent e-mail accusing us of derailing his project. I had not met him before, so I asked to get together with him for coffee. I asked him to walk me through his project and the interdependency of his project with our project. I then walked him through our project and timelines. Once we had the opportunity to communicate our independent priorities, we could begin talking about our shared priorities. We agreed to a timeline that would help us both meet our goals and the conflict was resolved before it became a major incident.
8. Describe your hiring strategy?
In my opinion, the right candidate is not just the one with the greatest education and skill set. It is important that the individual be able to work in a team and support the company culture. Therefore, as the HR professional, I take time to tailor my questions to the information provided in the resume. I watch for body language and consistency of information throughout the interview. I also ask about knowledge of the company to gauge whether the applicant is looking for a job or a career.
9. How do you handle your mistakes in the workplace?
As a manager I think it's important to have personal accountability. That sets the standard for the rest of the team. If I don't admit and correct my own mistakes, how can I ask my direct reports to do it? When I know I made a mistake I apologize to the people involved and explain about how I will do better in the future.
10. How do you ensure that your HR managers are properly trained to administer the policies of the company?
I believe that every individual can succeed in her or his career with the proper training. It is essential that HR managers under me are not only aware of and well-versed in the company policies regarding personnel, but also able to sincerely understand how these policies are beneficial to both the employees and the management. With the proper buy-in from those administering the policies, I find that there is greater cooperation company-wide in abiding by the company’s policies and procedures.
11. What do you look for when recruiting someone for management?
Good managers are a vital part of any company. In my experience, managers who have even some experience doing the job of those under them are more effective than those who have only ever worked in management. I try to hire managers who are people-oriented rather than process-oriented. When managers are focused on helping people achieve their goals and have meaningful connections with others, they are able to inspire more productive and satisfied workers.
Service Area: Diversity Consulting, Human Resources Consultant / HR Consultant and interim or long term HR Management engagement in San Francisco Bay Area, including the City of San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, South San Francisco, Richmond, San Mateo, San Jose. Fremont, Palo Alto, Belmont, Hayward, Walnut Creek, Mill Valley, and Napa with HR, recruiting, administrative, and general human resources consulting. Organizational Development Consulting, OD Consulting. High performance organizations Consulting. Organizational Culture Consulting. Layoff Consulting.