Set realistic goals for yourself and your team, says CHRO Wendy Sloan

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In this way, leaders can stay ahead of potential problems before they become major issues.

When Wendy Sloan joined Rheinmetall Laingsdale as Human Resources executive in 2020, she had a clear vision of shifting the company’s culture by setting realistic goals.

These goals included creating a clear plan that would be understood by technical experts who did not know how to lead people well, shifting the culture from tech-first to human-first, changing the company’s purpose statement, mission and values, creating a unified team working towards the same goal, as well as building capability and operational excellence in the people function.

This well thought-out approach can be attributed to her more than 23 years of experience working as a strategic partner to executive teams and business groups in the retail, exports, and manufacturing industries.

It was over these two decades in industry that Wendy honed her skills and learnt that having definitive goals can help organisations to prioritise, and reduce stress and burnout.

These lessons also helped Wendy on a personal level, allowing her to stay focused and to execute these goals even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and related lockdowns.

“You cannot be everywhere, be there for everyone, make everyone happy, and be at 100 places all at once. This can be a difficult reality to accept, but it is essential to set realistic expectations for yourself and your team,” she says.

Clear expectations

One of the key ways to manage this reality, according to Wendy, is to prioritise responsibilities and focus on the tasks that are most important to the success of the organisation.

“This may mean delegating certain tasks to other team members or outsourcing certain responsibilities to third-party providers,” she explains.

Wendy notes that proper planning can give the company guidance in identifying where there
is a need for an executive to step in and where the executive can delegate tasks to others.

“By leveraging the expertise of others, you can ensure that important tasks are being handled effectively, even when you are not able to be there personally,” she adds.

For Wendy, setting goals can help a leader stay ahead of potential problems before they become major issues, and take action to address them.

These problems include stress, burnout, resolving conflict, tackling performance issues and having to deal with sensitive issues like death, sickness and mental health.

She says that leaders with a plan can learn to approach these challenges with a level of objectivity and impartiality, while also being empathetic and understanding of the individuals involved.

“Communication is your superpower, and providing clear guidance and support to employees is your sidekick in these situations,” she adds.

She further advises on the benefit of having and communicating clear expectations with employees and stakeholders about what you can and cannot do to “help manage their expectations and prevent disappointment or frustration”.

An important role
“Leaders who lack adequate goals will find themselves doing a disservice to themselves because they try very hard to be relevant in places where they are not needed, causing unnecessary stress to themselves,” she says.

Wendy cautions, “HR leaders are strategic business partners with a very important role to play. If they lose focus, they will become the doormat of the company.”

She also believes that companies should make use of “proper” performance management systems to help managers better understand their staff employees.

“Managers should have a system that can view data and conversations that will help them to see what their staff needs to develop, where they need training, and how to help them become the best they can be,” she says.

Wendy holds a number of qualifications, including completing short courses in advanced human resources, change management and labour law as well as completing leadership programmes at the University of Cape Town, Academy to Innovate HR and the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business.

When not at work, Wendy loves spending time with her husband and three children, a 16-year-old daughter and nine-year-old twins, “playing board and card games".

“So, you know, we're a bit of a nerd family. We read together, we play together. We swim together, we work together. That's what's important to us,” she says.

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