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Situational Fluency - If You Can't See Yourself In This Picture, You Can't Be An Authority

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Can you see yourself in the picture above?  If not, you probably can't do what it takes to be an authority in Talent Management, Human Capital, Human Resources Management or whatever the hell we're calling it these days.

Background of two events I participated in last week that got me thinking along those lines:

1. Presentation and Workshop in Omaha: I did a presentation and workshop in Omaha this week entitled, "How to Raise Your HR Game By Thinking Like a Money-Hungry VP of Sales".  The concept was that HR pros can learn a lot from Sales pros.  When we were starting the workshop, I purposefully was animated in pulling chairs from the audience and setting them up on stage.  The workshop audience knew what that meant - Someone was going up on stage to display the skills we were going to cover.  You would have thought I was asking them to come up and beat a dog.  

2. Plateau Software panel on Authority on Talent:  I participated in a panel that asked the question, should and can HR ever be the "Authority on Talent"?

My take at the intersection of my experience in these two events this week:  Unless an HR pro can go up on a stage in front of their peers and display a skill that's in their wheelhouse, they won't be able to perform the skill and deliver the knowledge in a pressure-packed situation that's real.  At least not to the level that everyone expects when they talk about "great HR".

Translation:  Most won't be the authority they want to be if they're unwilling to stretch themselves from a "performance on command" perspective.  Life's a stage, and if you really don't want to do a simple role play on stuff in your knowledge area, you won't perform up to par when the ammo is real and people have high expectations.

My friend Ed Newman called this "Situational Fluency" on our panel on Thursday.  When Ed was building his last business and looking for consultants, he looked for people he thought could display the ability to go into any situation without knowing what was coming and not only survive, but thrive.

That takes command.  That takes presence.  It also takes situational fluency, which is basically going into a professional form of improv and knowing that you can thrive - with a combination of technical knowledge, confidence and yes, acting skills.

Life is improv.  So's HR.  Get on the stage if you want to be an authority to people outside of HR.


Jim D'Amico

Kris, as you know I couldn't agree more. As a Second City alum, I credit that education as being equally important as my college education to my sucess. I constantly urge new members of the HR community to take improv classes to learn: teamwork, presentation, quick thinking, negotiation, adaptability, and confidence. On top of the great nationally known organizations such as Second City, Groundlings, Improv Olympics, UCB, etc. There are several other smaller organizations that do a great job of teaching the craft. It's time and money well spent.
If you can't find a class you can always read Truth In Comedy, which is the defacto improv training manual.


When I was 16 years old, taking a Counsellors in Training program at camp the single best piece of training we received was "Fake it 'til you Make it". To this day I think this is the mos important piece of leadership advice I've ever received.

Ben Martinez


I listened to the recorded version of your webinar on "Authority on Talent". I also picked up on the term of situational fluency b/c it is something that I have had to improve for myself over the years.

One organization that helped me improve my ability to do improv speaking was Toastmasters. I would recommend this to anyone that wants to improve their communication, influence and speaking skills.

In order to practice situational fluency you need to know and be aware of your situation and be confident in what you are recommending to help the person. Kind of like a doctor and patient scenario. The patient goes to the doctor and the doctor understands the patient's condition in order to diagnose and then recommend a solution. In regards to HR's situational fluency example, the HR practitioner needs to be confident in themselves so they feel comfortable recommending a solution.

Look forward to some more talk on this topic and future ones...Ben

Michael Haberman SPHR

An excellent post Kris. Being able to stand in front of a group and take questions requires situational fluency. Being a great speaker is not enough. You have to be able to wing it with out the teleprompters.


Great post Kris. I was in Omaha and just didn't want to go up! :Þ The risk reward equasion just wasn't there for me. You make a great point, however, the room did take on the air of a dog beating. (Assuming we know what the air at that sort of event would be.) Although I hate roleplaying as much as the next guy, I consider myself very situationaly fluent. Keep up the great posts, I'm a fan.

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