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Use of Self as an Instrument: Becoming a more powerful HR Business Partner

Martin Saville introduces the key principles of an embodied approach and looks at how it can enable people to be better resourced when under pressure.
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Later this month, Mayvin Director Martin Saville is facilitating a Key Skills workshop on embodied leadership for HR Business Partners, organised by the Central London branch of the CIPD. Here, Martin introduces the key principles of an embodied approach and looks at how it can enable people to feel centred and better resourced when under pressure.

I believe that great HR Business Partnering is about who we are, not what we know. Of course, there is a place for intellect, skills and know-how and these are missing there is a problem. But I’d argue that ultimately the difference between a good HR Business Partner and a great one comes down to what it’s like to be ‘on the receiving end’ of them. For example, when the pressure is on, can they:

  • Speak unpalatable truths to powerful people and get their voices heard?
  • Facilitate conversations so that there is less blame and finger-pointing, and more collaboration?
  • Notice what’s really going on in a meeting and make the right intervention, based on what the situation needs and not on their need to feel right or important or secure?

This is what I mean when I say HR Business Partnering is more about who you are than what you know. The skills it takes to do this are embodied. Different traditions and schools of thought have different names for this idea. In the field of Organisation Development, it is sometimes referred to as Use of the Self as an Instrument.

There are many different approaches to developing our use of self. At the upcoming CIPD event, I will be working with participants using an approach called Leadership Embodiment. Grounded in ideas and practices from Japanese martial arts, this approach allows people to notice how they respond to what the world throws at them and offers physical practices to help people settle and centre themselves while under pressure.

The key principle here is that when we are centred, we are more resourced. The version of us who is wiser, more connected to others and more confident is able to show up because our body is less preoccupied with keeping us safe. In operating from this centred place, we see more, make better choices and become more skillful. By showing up in this way we also invite others to do likewise. The beauty of looking at the use of self through an embodied lens is that there are physical practices we can take on in order to build our capacity to show up in the way we choose.

At the event we will play with these principles, working experientially with simple physical practices. Participants will leave with a sense of their own reactive patterns to pressure and a sense of what to practise in order to be able to centre themselves under pressure. We’ll also look at how this connects to their work as HR Business Partners and how this can make them more powerful as HRBPs.

Find out more about the CIPD Central London Branch’s activities.

Download our free resource on embodied leadership.

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