By John Sumser

Valerie Frederickson v1.25 The Sage

The amazing thing about Valerie Frederickson is that she is really easy to like and a fun conversation partner. Equally comfortable with a stuck, neurotic mid-career bureaucrat and the all-star executives she places, Frederickson is the model of grace and sophistication. She is uniquely able to tell you about her accomplishments without sounding egotistical.

Success is often a matter of clearly and simply seeing what you want and going after it. After the funeral of a hyper-connected Silicon Valley HR leader, Valerie decided what she wanted. She would build a network of HR leaders and CEOs to rival the deceased’s accomplishment. She would become the person HR people trust to give them the unvarnished truth, spot-on brutally honest feedback.

15 years later, Frederickson is living the reality she imagined. Sought after for speaking engagements, the organizational troubleshooter of choice, confidante of Valley CEOs and headhunter extraordinare, Valerie figures out what she wants to do and then starts doing it. What sounds impossible to onlookers seems to fall gracefully beneath her momentum.

Her eponymous company has a client list that includes most of the top tier Silicon Valley companies, a host of non-profits and deep penetration of the Biotech market. A full-service HR consultancy, the company specializes in the placement of HR executives and organizational alignment.

Having her hand in a huge percentage of Valley HR executive placements, Valerie talks about matchmaking with the ease of a pro. “It all depends on what the organization needs. A trophy HR manager? A competent executor? A player who will integrate with the other executives? A mommy? A staff sergeant? The CEO’s new confessor? You’ve got to be conscious of the power dynamics and the needs of the executive team when you fit the HR person on to the team. When I place someone, I look to keep them in place for a decade. “

If I’m allowed to go with my gut, the process can be very quick. Zeroing in on the one person who can do the job is easier than navigating a complex set of obstacles set up by the selection team. My success rate is higher when I operate from my intuition.”

Valerie’s influence extends in a variety of dimensions. A frequent speaker at HR conferences around the world, she uses her straight talking style to help audiences consider and shape /component/option,com_virtuemart/page,shop.pdf_output/showpage,shop.browse/pop,1/output,pdf/product_id,0/category_id,7/vmcchk,1/Itemid,1/”>is their careers. She has always got a group of emerging professionals under her wing, helping them navigate hurdles and opportuniti

She has a long history of helping to build companies. As a result, you’ll often find well known executives hanging out in her office wrestling with a business problem. She also places a great deal of emphasis on passing on what she’s learned. Her white papers and case studies include practical tips on career development for HR leaders. Here’s an example:

Fortunately, being a star is a discipline that can be learned. What kind of HR executives are stars? What kind of behaviors do they exhibit? Conversely, what traits are danger signs, and how can these traits be self-monitored?

Here are some of the traits of HR executives who are stars:

  • They are energetic, brilliant, knowledgeable, prepared and humble about their abilities.
  • They are direct with people.
  • They know how a new project should work, who should be involved, and how it should be presented.
  • They use technology (that is, do their own spreadsheets, programs, etc.) better than anyone and never brag about their ability to do so.
  • There is something surprising and unique about their lives and families.

Most successful, HR stars routinely hire subordinates much better than themselves and milk their peers and consultants for their ideas and insights. If an idea can make them more successful, make them look good at their jobs, and help them fix a problem, they will not hesitate to use it.

Senior vice presidents of HR from the valley’s top networking and Internet companies are easily identified and emulated as stars. Stars are directors and vice presidents at hot software start-up companies, serving as HR business partners and HR senior managers at biotech companies, and they manage both HR and MIS at engineering companies.

To be a successful HR executive, have the fun, and make the big bucks, one must learn to think, feel, act, and react like a star.

(From Frederickson’s Human Resources Executives: Stars vs Sustainers)

Influence can be built and developed over the course of time. Regular speaking engagements, publication, networking, building an audience, consistent delivery of career navigation and continuous personal improvement are the essential elements. Valerie Frederickson is a case study herself.

John Sumser is the founder and CEO of TwoColorHat, a company specializing in market strategy for HR – Recruiting Vendors. You can keep up with his other stuff at Follow the rest of the Top 100 Influencers project.

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