Wanna Be Taken Seriously? Quit Being A Wingman, Damn It.

Dawn Burke Audacious Ideas, Dawn Burke, Good HR, HR, HR (& Life!) Advice, HR Technology, Innovation, Recruiting, Selection, The HR Profession, Tim Sackett

To be taken seriously, looked at as credible, to feel valued, to be your CEO/COO/CFO’s confidant, of course, having a seat the table.

HR, you really want it? Quit putzing around. Quit sabotaging yourself. Quit whining. Most importantly have a little self-respect. How?

Quit being everybody’s “Wingman.”

Remember Top Gun (“I feel the need, the need for speed”)? Heck yeah, you remember. So an HR Wingman is the “Goose” (Anthony Edwards) to everybody else’s “Maverick” (Tom Cruise). And what good did Goose’s wingman position get him? He died at the end of the movie.

What’s a Wingman you say?

Traditional definition: It refers to the pattern in which a fighter jet flies. The second pilot is called the “Wingman” because he or she primarily protects the lead by “watching his back.”

Social definition: The subordinate stooge who sets the stage for his “Top Gun” buddy to pick up chicks. The Wingman does the work; the “Top Gun” gets the reward. Oh, and the Wingman gets little credit.


What’s an HR Wingman?

Likely you. You just don’t know it. Many HR pros think their greatest values are protecting managers from less-than-smart decisions and helping managers keep on track with compliance and or administrative measures. That’s how we partner. That’s how we help.  That’s how we are relied upon.

Only thing missing: It’s not how you are respected. And frankly these actions make managers less affective leaders. You are hindering their development.

Recruiters are the worst offenders.

I had a great conversation with fellow FOTer, Tim Sackett, President of HRU Technical Resources. We were talking about recruiting and he said something that gave me an “a-ha” moment.

He decided his recruiters (in many cases) would not do any more recruiting administration.  So in my case that would include: administering all the resumes, filling out job requisitions because a manager didn’t have the time, setting up manager interviews, continuing to “remind” managers to turn in interview notes and scorecards, and disengaging the managers’ rejected candidates because, well, managers were uncomfortable doing it.

Here’s the Tim Sackett “a-ha”: Equally important, managers didn’t want recruiters to do that work. The managers wanted recruiters to recruit—to bring in the best talent. The managers actually wanted more control of their own scheduling, for instance—recruiters were just middlemen that gummed up the process.


I immediately did a “time” study of all my recruiters. 35% of their time was doing admin. That bears repeating. 35 PERCENT. Let’s just say I reconciled that quickly. I reconfigured my HR team and purchased a more current Applicant Tracking System to automate these functions.

So, there you are. You can’t be an HR “Top Gun” if you don’t set boundaries and “teach” your internal customers your expectations through actions. Redefine the true value your HR expertise brings your organization. You and your company will be better for it.

Be on the lookout later this month for the new FOT video series called “No Scrubs”—brought to you by Chequed.com.