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Member Spotlight - April 2014
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James Papiano
Executive Coach, Team Performance, Organizational Effectiveness
James Papiano Organizational Strategies


What do you value most about your HRPS membership?

The people at HRPS are very committed to a broad and deep understanding of what HR is and what it can be. This shows up in the content of the conferences, in the People & Strategy journal, and in the conversations that take place throughout the year.

Do you volunteer with HRPS and if so, how?
Yes, I have volunteered as a member of the Engagement Committee and as a co-chair for the 2014 Global Conference.  I am co-chairing again this year for the 2015 Global Conference along with Cheryl Getty and Sally Stetson.

Why did you join the HR profession?
I didn’t so much "join,” as backed into HR.   In fact, it was a bit of a blind spot until some friends and colleagues brought to my attention that I was doing talent management and leadership development as a manager, consultant, teacher and other roles I have had over the years.  We see this crossover to HR more and more these days.  But at the time, I wasn’t making the connection.  In retrospect, it seems obvious.

While my roles have changed over time, the reason I get up every morning is essentially the same:  Most people need to work for a living and the vast majority of those folks work in organizations—shouldn’t we be working everyday to make that as rewarding and gratifying as possible? 

What has been your greatest success in your HR career?
I have realized that my greatest successes are marked by creativity, courage… and the realization that "success” is an ephemeral state of mind.   Achievements—whatever they are, come and go because the need for adaptive change is so great.  (I.e., The transformative strategic initiative will benefit from continuous tweaking and the crazy-successful project you just launched will need an upgrade/redo in 18 months.)  That said, it is the relationships with clients and colleagues that are my greatest "accomplishments” and sources of inspiration. 

What has been your greatest challenge in your career?  How have you overcome it?

The biggest challenge is breaking the old mindsets around HR.  Even now, overcoming this challenge is a work in progress.  It requires 1) demonstrating the value of emerging practices (in ways that are verifiable), and 2) thinking from first principles rather than recent history or a certain set of solutions/products.  Fortunately, the needle has moved on this. The growing body of research, the pressing need for something better and the experiments/initiatives of leading companies help light the path forward.

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