One of the biggest struggles for HR professionals is getting that elusive seat at the table. In some cases, we are trapped as specialists: spend a few years doing benefits and that is all anyone will think you can do.

In other cases, we are trapped as generalists: one-person HR departments must do everything and therefore are masters at nothing. It can be a frustrating cycle from which to break free. Instead of giving up, give these three steps a try.


First thing first: realize that leaders do not have to be in leadership positions to lead effectively. It is not necessary to have a powerful title to secure a reservation at the table; it is necessary to actively look for — and take — opportunities to lead.

While the opportunity itself may not be strategic, taking the opportunity and showing leadership skills are strategic moves. And looking like a leader is a critical step in helping others shift their perspective.

After all, most of the people working at a strategic level in the organization are leaders; thus, it is critical they see you as a leader as well.

Stop being tactical

This is harder than it sounds: after all, if most of our work is tactical, we cannot exactly just stop doing it. However, we can take a more critical approach to determining what we must do and what we can delegate, defer or delete.

In some cases, when we are specialists or a department of one, we lose perspective of how important our work really is. In other words, if it is tactical, does it really have to take as long to complete or have we made it into a bigger deal than it is?

It can be hard to determine if we have made our work seem more important and thus takes more time than it should. One way to figure it out is to start by approaching the work from a strategic standpoint.

What are the implications? What is the potential impact? Most strategic leaders are asking the big questions first and then (sometimes they) focus on how to get it done; whereas most tacticians are focused on how to get something done instead of the bigger picture.

Start big and it will be easier to act more strategically and reprioritize the tactical steps.

Be consistent

Showing leadership skills, thinking strategically and taking a strategic approach are all essential steps on the way to being viewed as a strategic player. It is also important to realize that while the transition could happen overnight, it likely will not. Thus, stick to it.

By consistently thinking and acting bigger, it will become clear whether growth opportunities exist within current organization or whether it is time to consider moving on. Practicing strategy also helps develop our strategic muscles, shifts our perspective and improves our understanding of the organization.

The bottom line is, we have the ability to break free from the limited perspectives that keep us from the strategic conversations and it starts with shifting our own perspectives about our work, our approach and our ability to be strategic.