teams structured around centers of expertise such as total rewards or leadership development. I love surrounding
myself with people who have curiosity about their work. I
tend to hire individuals who are strongly goal-oriented and
look at everything we do in HR in terms of how it serves
INTO THE FUTURE
The generations coming into the workforce—the Millennials and Generation Z—have diferent ideas of how the
workplace should operate. They want access to their organizations’ leadership and key data about the business. Nimble leaders will embrace that openness and transparency,
pushing their enterprises in a direction where innovation
and creativity can thrive.
DON’T GET TRIPPED UP BY TRENDS
I’m not a big fan of fads. Whatever you’re
doing as an HR leader must tie back to the
outcomes you are trying to achieve—which
will be specifc to your organization. In other
words, you can’t just pick up what’s working
for another company and embed it into your
culture. That doesn’t work. I’ve had greater
success by searching for the gold nugget contained in others’ ideas that I can adapt to ft
my business’s context and platforms.
LET SELF-DOUBT SERVE YOU
I am constantly curious about what’s possible and where I can contribute, both personally and professionally. That inquisitiveness
helps me to challenge myself and my team.
But there’s also a certain level of insecurity in me about
whether I’m good enough, smart enough, bold enough; it
pushes me to stay relevant and set high standards for myself and others.
SPARKING A SENSE OF URGENCY
What drove a lot of the work I did in the for-proft world
was having shareholders and investors to be accountable to
and measuring progress in terms of earnings. It was a race
to get through each quarter. There was a natural drumbeat. Coming to a philanthropic organization, those same
conditions don’t exist, so you have to create your own metrics—and a sense of urgency to meet your goals. I work to
cultivate a culture designed for achieving results. Bill and
Melinda have high expectations about the impact they want
the foundation to have around the globe. It’s one of the main
reasons I wanted to serve in this role.
ADAPT OR DIE
There are so many dynamics that are changing the way
work gets done. HR must constantly ask, “Do the pro-
cesses we have still serve us? If not, how do we break them
down and rethink them?” One example for our organiza-
tion was getting rid of performance ratings, which tend
to be backward-looking and punitive, and replacing them
with frequent, constructive conversations with employees
around a person’s contributions, connections, capabilities
and career—our four C’s. Doing that has paved the way for
important discussions about what great work looks like in
today’s business environment.
Two leadership lessons that really resonate with me are “fail
fast” and “trust your intuition.” The frst one is about learning how to accept failure, recover quickly, and then move
on so setbacks don’t weigh you down.
The second is something I picked up from a former boss
at HP who told me that, while she valued my expertise, as
a leader I sometimes came across as too analytical. She
advised me to trust my intuition. Her insight was a gift
that I will never forget.
FAVORITE BUSINESS BOOK
When attending a conference years ago, I remember thinking
to myself, “If I get one or t wo big ideas out of this, I’ll be happy.”
Luckily, I did. The presenter talked about how to align passion and proft and cited research from The Firms of Endearment by Rajendra Sisodia, David Wolfe and Jagdish Sheth
(F T Press, 2007). The book explores the connection between
personal brand and an organization’s people practices. The
idea was that who you are on the inside—as a person or as
an organization—should match who you are on the outside.
For example, the Gates Foundation is heavily invested in promoting gender equality around the world, so we work hard
to ensure that our pay practices don’t have disparities based
on gender and that they refect the principles we advocate.
Bringing in perspectives that align with our mission is how
we drive innovative HR practices.
Desda Moss is managing editor of HR Magazine.
‘We need to minimize the
language of HR and stay
focused on the impact we
can have, and not on how
the sausage is made.’