If you’re an HR leader, you know that HR doesn’t always get the respect it deserves. 

Everywhere you look, there are HR leaders who are frustrated that they don’t have more influence with the C-suite. 

They wonder what’s missing and why the C-suite isn’t more satisfied with their work. 

It really boils down to one thing – CEOs want an HR leader who really knows the business inside and out. 

CEOs Want HR Leaders Who Deeply Understand Business 

Whether they know how to express it or not, every business leader wants an HR leader who knows how businesses work on a fundamental level. 

If you look at college curriculums for HR or HR certifications, they cover a lot of ground. These programs generally teach students all about employment law, compensation and benefits, recruiting, professional development, labor relations, and so forth. 

What they DON’T cover is foundational business concepts! 

Heck, most HR leaders don’t even know how to read a P&L statement. 

Don’t get me wrong, the above topics are very important. But the problem is, if HR leaders don’t really know how the business operates at a high level, they get lost in the weeds. They forget how all of those pieces affect the business in the big picture. 

Spend Some Time with the CFO 

The good news is that HR leaders don’t have to go back to school to learn how the business works. Ask to spend some time with your CFO. Learn how and why the business makes money. Ask lots of questions. 

Learn about the challenges the organization faces in making money. Try to connect the dots between the “people” side of things and the financial side. Compare the cost of salaries to equipment, rent, and so forth.  

You may think you know all of the above, but I guarantee you won’t regret spending some time with the CFO to learn more! 

Talk Dollars and Cents with the C Suite 

Spending time with the CFO and learning how the business operates in this fashion will be invaluable for advancing your career in HR. 


Because it arms you with the right perspective and verbiage to approach the C-suite and speak their language. 

It helps you frame issues in a way that the CEO and other executives will not only understand, but really care about. 

Say you need to ask for money for employee development or engagement initiatives. By understanding how the business works, you can frame it as an investment and talk about the return. You can also contrast this with the opportunity cost – the cost of doing nothing.  

Connect the people side with the P&L sheet – how specifically will ignoring engagement or employee development affect the businesses’ bottom line? 

Tie it to dollars and cents – you’ll be surprised at how ears perk up in the C-suite! 

If You Want to Influence a CEO, Speak Their Language 

CEOs are like anybody else. They’re focused on their own problems first and foremost. It just so happens that their problems are the same problems facing the organization as a whole – and tend to be centered around the organization’s bottom line. 

If you want to catch their attention and build influence with them, you have to frame any discussions in terms they understand. Make them care about HR by linking it to their own big concerns. 

Much of the disconnect between HR and the C-suite comes down to communication. If you change the way you communicate, it can make a world of difference! 

If you’re serious about increasing your effectiveness as a leader or developing your leadership internally, check out my leadership development experiences. I teach from my own experiences, successes and failures in over 20+ years of business leadership – and give you the tools to inspire your teams to perform.