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Challenging the boundaries – my corporate experience

by Rachel Kochany - an Executive Coach, Consultant and part of The HR Agenda family



I’ve written this piece in a reflective way to show why I have chosen to support The HR Agenda - but also to outline one of HR’s biggest obstacles – that of the limiting organisational infrastructure that so many people work within. Let's chart our own path.

I've believed in releasing potential in people and situations for many years. I've worked alongside gifted, loyal and creative colleagues and served team leaders with great intentions. I've invested much of my energy, effort and belief in organisations whose values I share. It has been wonderful to see colleagues grow in confidence and go on to achieve great things.


I gained some satisfaction from knowing that the energy invested, skills and judgement applied, perseverance to achieve project goals, and persistence to meet timelines, made some difference to the organisations we served.


However - alongside all this positive activity and good intention, HR policies and systems have formed a large part of the context, governing what can be done - in which way, by whom. Sometimes rules could be interpreted more freely to allow innovation, growth and encouragement for employees; on other occasions policies had to be adhered to - even if all the logic and benefit to the team was completely contrary to them.


HR partners could advise on the limits of flexibility and discuss the boundaries that could not be crossed. They could push further up the chain for agreement to unusual requests. However, the full development of possibilities was often not realised because of the limitations of the systems we were working in. The limitations might have stemmed from many places – time, budget, change, ability to adapt, bureaucracy and an unwillingness to challenge any of it. Again, that unwillingness might stem from a number of places – having little time to change things, being wary of testing the politics of an organisation, being seen to be an unsettling influence – we have seen and heard everything.


As an employee, it often felt as if all of us - workforce/managers/HR colleagues - were hemmed in by some invisible cloak of immovability. It seemed as if there was a need for us to march on along some inevitable path - with few taking the time to stand back, reflect on what could be done better, and in a new refreshing way, to the benefit of individuals and those organisations.


Each of us is so incredibly valuable, and our potential contribution so needed. What we can bring to the world and our organisations is unique, tailored for this time, and of benefit to the places we spend our days working.


Questions we may ask ourselves:

  1. How do we tap into and make best use of this potential?

  2. How do we best support individuals to grow and contribute their part in the most effective way?

  3. How do we inspire colleagues to stay in organisations, plug in and make the difference they are already wired to make?

  4. How do we get to enjoy and share in those skills, and in that inspiration - to everyone's benefit?

  5. How do we enhance our working lives, so they are fun and satisfying and awesome, as well as loyal, hard-working and box ticking?

  6. How do we develop our people skills, so we can help others unlock all they have to give - and go home at the end of each day more fulfilled as a result?

  7. How best to get to know people's individual gifts and strengths, and begin to weave them together in a way that furthers organisational success?

  8. In which ways can we develop trust with people, so they share with us their experience and insight, and grow the palette of colours that makes up learning and talent to everyone's benefit?

  9. Can we provide the space and time so that people's dreams and hopes for the organisation, and the impact they want it to have, are heard and valued, and fed into high level thinking?

  10. How, in practice, do we nurture people with an urge to contribute to organisational success - and provide them with a route to achieve this?

  11. Do we give ourselves the time and space to reflect, to refuel, and to re-engage with the people agenda - maybe reconnecting with our own values and purpose, and reasons for first joining the HR profession?

  12. How can we connect with people in similar busy HR roles, be inspired, build community, and get that support we need?


I believe that the HR Agenda Community of Practice will provide the space to allow these questions to be aired and considered and rethought. It will provide new energy and insight to grow inside those present and the cascade effect on our organisations will be significant. Maybe by working in a confidential, empathetic group, we can work on pushing back the boundaries and creating better work opportunities for individuals and the companies they serve. Maybe we can bring solutions to life through shared experiences and creating our own unique practice that is right for our organisations?


Like a tiny seed I believe this much needed initiative by Debra Cadman could grow into a large tree which will inspire others, and under whose shade we will enjoy spending our days.


Rachel Kochany:


Rachel's experience is in project management for projects in the UK, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Nigeria, India amongst other countries;  Business analysis for IT projects; SAP business process leadership and configuration. She now works as a freelance coach and consultant. 

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