The reality of being a HR Director

In 2017 I took my first Senior Management position within HR. HR is a strange role as we walk the intersection of business and people. We need to balance being approachable, with keeping a professional distance. The more senior you become, you learn to be both part of the Executive Management Team and the conscience of the business. In reality it’s quite a lonely place to be!

I felt this most during periods of change and restructure. Redundancies are very emotive, often triggering for people. Whilst the process is there to protect, it typically creates distrust, resentment and bad feeling. The process overlooks the traumatic experience redundancy has on the whole of an organisation. As a result, the emotional reactions tend to be levelled at HR. This can be a tough place, especially if you care about people.

And that’s the rub… I joined the HR profession because I like and care about people. I have empathy and compassion for others.  Making a difference so people enjoy their jobs, develop and unlock their full potential is why I do what I do. Being in HR is personal for me. So when someone is upset or something goes wrong, I naturally take it to heart. It’s just how I’m wired. Whilst some may see this as a weakness, for me it’s my superpower. It’s what makes me so good at what I do, because I genuinely care. This level of compassion though, has taken its toll over the last 18 months.


The pandemic was a next level challenge.  In many organisations it fell to HR to navigate these unprecedented and fast moving times.  It was difficult supporting others, when I was processing my own emotions and worries. As the pandemic progressed, I saw the impact on colleagues’ wellbeing during prolonged lockdowns. I started to spot signs of isolation, burn-out and stress. I did everything I could to work with people managers, to find support, resources and makes changes to ways of working to support people.

What I overlooked was me (which is very common in HR Professionals). We recognise the signs of stress and burn-out in others, but we often neglect ourselves in the process. Who do you turn to? Who do you talk to about your fears, concerns and emotional wellbeing? Whilst I had great relationships with my Executive and HR team, it was difficult to admit and open up to those in the business about my true challenges and fears.

So what did I do…

I got myself a coach.  Having a coach has been transformative for me.  It helped me gain clarity of thought and focus, in an otherwise confusing and complex time. I was able to speak freely about how I was feeling and the challenges I was facing, without fear of it impacting how I was perceived within my role.

My wellbeing was also supported, by developing my self-awareness. Together with my coach, I explored my thought processes and how they were impacting how I was feeling and responding to situations. I found my inner critic was working overtime and I was starting to believe everything it was saying, which impacted my confidence. Through talking freely and exploring the challenges I was facing, my wellbeing improved and my confidence grew.

Reflective Practice

I also found reflective practice a really useful tool in processing my thoughts, behaviours and decision making. By taking time to reflect on a situation and learn from it, I’m able to find patterns in my thinking that are limiting me, getting in my way and impacting how I’m feeling about things. I’m able to reframe my thinking, to stop beating myself up and quieten that inner critic.

The good news is that it’s really easy to do. Get yourself a lovely notebook. Write two sides with whatever is going on in your thoughts. It could be situation you encountered today, a challenge you’re facing or a feeling you’re experiencing. Write about it freely. You can also ask yourself questions to deepen your reflection, here’s a few to start you off:

  • Why are you feeling the way you are?
  • What is your inner champion saying?
  • If there was no fear or limitations what would you do?
  • What have you learned from this?
  • What will you do differently?
  • What will you start, stop and continue doing?

Coaching Harmony

The pandemic gave me a chance to reflect on my career and what I really enjoy doing. Through co-creating ‘The People Experience’ with Vicky, when I was Chief People Officer at Satellite Applications Catapult, I saw first hand the positive impact Coaching Harmony has on a business. I therefore jumped at the opportunity to work with Coaching Harmony to take this important work to many more businesses. We provide creative coaching and wellbeing solutions for you, your team and the whole of your business.

If you are a HR Professional or leader who is feeling the strain of the last 18 months please get in touch to have a chat about how we might be able to support you.

07443 438 204


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt