HR future leader of the month: Toby Lott

HR magazine speaks to the future leaders of the industry to discover what makes them tick

I started out as a client staff development advisor for a training firm, before becoming the training manager at a small but rapidly-growing start-up. As is often the case with exciting start-up businesses operating in high-growth environments, my role soon morphed into an HR manager position and that was where I really began to experience the variety and challenge that comes with working in HR.

I was attracted to HR because of the sheer complexity that working in the profession involves. I love problem-solving and helping people and organisations realise their potential in whatever small way I can – whether through strategic planning with senior leaders and managers, or during one-to-one discussions with employees.

The profession needs to be more focused on the business fundamentals
and discuss people matters in a way that balances the needs of both the individual and the employer. We must be business managers first and understand the core operational workings, particularly to design change and organisational development initiatives. While governance and compliance are important, I like to provide pragmatic solutions rather than hide behind policies and procedures.

My biggest worry for the profession is that we’re still talking about getting a seat at the table. I’ve always found this rhetoric slightly cringe-worthy. If your input is truly valued then you’ll naturally find your views and insight being sought. I think it’s counterproductive to mandate that HR must be included in key decisions; it seems like a signal of insecurity in our value.

I’m currently reading The HR Change Toolkit by Lucy Adams, which sets out some really pragmatic ways of adopting a more contemporary approach. She echoes some of the views of other people I consider to be true contemporary HR/business leaders, such as Patty McCord [ex-Netflix] and Claude Silver [VaynerMedia].

I’m currently listening to the Jocko Podcast, presented by ex-US navy SEAL Jocko Willink. His book Extreme Ownership provides a fascinating framework of leadership concepts. I also regularly listen to the London Real podcast presented by Brian Rose, who interviews some truly inspirational leaders and achievers.

My advice to others just starting out would be to jump at any opportunity to do something new, particularly project-based work. Real knowledge comes from experience, and adopting a growth mindset is critical.

Toby Lott is regional people manager at PKF-Francis Clark

This piece appeared in the September print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk. If you would like to be featured in our future leader column please get in touch