06: Zig Zag Your Way to the Top

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Marie Armenio shares her career journey to the top of HR
In this episode, Kyle O’Connor interviews Marie Armenio, a business consultant and former CHRO. As a global business executive, change consultant and executive coach, Marie has demonstrated strengths in the areas of organizational design and development, change management, leadership coaching, talent management, and mergers and acquisitions in a wide variety of industries. She rose to the position of Chief Human Resources Officer via various leadership levels in Fortune 500 and smaller organizations. Marie’s organizational value and reputation precede her. She’s a business person who happens to practice HR very well.

Key Learnings From This Episode

  • Marie’s career journey has not been a direct path, but one she describes as an interesting one that she would not do differently. She began her career in a small unionized manufacturing organization and subsequently took on progressively senior roles within diverse industries,  including manufacturing, publishing, pharma and real estate. 
  • Take-away from career journey. Career journey “zig-zag” was beneficial in hindsight as it allowed Marie to take deep dives within all segments of HR - compensation, benefits, systems and processes, employee relations, strategic HR, talent management and succession planning.
  • What Marie has learned from her HR career journey? 
    • The art of flexibility and compromise. Because HR is tasked with administering rules and compliance (government/external and internal), learning how to marry those demands with what her client group was trying to accomplish without being perceived as the “police” or an obstacle. Working in a creative and flexible manner to support client group/business needs.
    • Creativity and partnership. Understanding the business and the position of your client to effectively partner and come up with best options to achieve their goals.
  • What one word describes your passion? This is reflected in Marie’s career path from corporate HR to her current consulting role. Her passion for mentoring and coaching: sharing experiences and lessons learned throughout her career to help others apply without making mistakes. Navigating today’s organization today and understand nuances. 
  • Most important trait of a successful HR leader? Relationship building and the ability to influence your stakeholders. Understanding who your stakeholders are. Being able to state your business case. For HR to “get to the table”, you have to understand the business landscape, trends and goals of a particular business unit. How to influence in a win-win fashion so that leaders develop their mentoring and coaching skills to effectively manage their people. Engagement is essential! True leaders make it happen.
  • What excites you about the next generation of HR Leaders?  The energy and excitement they bring. They seek things out; out of the box thinking; strong social consciousness (lost for some time in the function). Social media skillset and how they engage.
  • Challenges faced by younger professionals? How do you appropriately challenge the status quo? Move forward in a way that the existing culture is willing to hear. Influencing skills are critical, as is how you approach and recognize the culture that exists. Recognizing and respecting the current culture and the investment made by those who got us here.
  • What advice for a young HR professional:
    • Ask as many questions as you can
    • Learn the business inside out
    • What the business person need to achieve his/her goals
  • What she wished she knew 10 years ago?
    • How to insulate yourself from recession to avoid being caught flat-footed
    • Drive your own development in other areas where you can learn new skills
  • How to be successful in the first 90 days of entering a new leadership position?
  1. Identify and meet with key clients and stakeholders
  2. Meet and greets to assess how to partner, exchange ideas/info
  3. Start with leadership team and then run focus groups
  4. Build on relationships
  5. Help them be successful

"You can always find a job, but if you can find a place where your heart is, that you are willing to go through the wall for, that's engagement. That will be the greatest business differentiator you will ever have."

Recommended Reading and References From this Episode

Marie Armenio HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Marie Armenio HR Studio Podcast Show Notes
Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - 8:00am
Real Estate
Medical Devices
Kyle O'Connor
Marie Armenio
HR Studio Podcast