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Our Chief People Officer, Karishma Patel Buford, joined Josh Clarke on the latest episode of the Heidrick & Struggles Leadership Podcast to discuss how the role of HR has changed, what she looks for in a leader, how her team manages fatigue, and much more.
Speaking with Clarke, a partner in Heidrick & Struggles’ Boston office and the co-leader of the firm’s global Health Tech practice, Karishma reveals what she looks for when identifying leaders who can thrive in a hyper-growth environment—both cognitive horsepower and the grit, resilience, passion, and perseverance that comes with a strong EQ.
“Our mission is to eliminate every barrier to mental health, so of course our leadership competency is around breaking barriers,” she says, explaining that she is looking for “a person’s ability to be relentlessly resourceful in breaking those barriers.
“That is about the IQ and EQ piece, because it’s about identifying what are those most critical problems, breaking through the noise, and then the process is bringing the people along to actually drive change and meaningful outcomes.”
In the wide-ranging conversation, Karishma delves into the nuances of attracting and retaining great leaders. One benefit of Spring Health, she notes, is that the mission and purpose around improving mental health draw in talented and passionate people. Investing in strong managers who can support the growth and development of their teams is also key to Spring Health’s strategy.
Discussing her own role at the company, Karishma shares her thoughts on how the expectations around HR leadership have changed, and which capabilities and skills are critical for those interested in the field today.
“Previous to the pandemic, the HR function was seen as much more operational—much more of a services function as opposed to that strategic partner,” she tells Clarke. “And because of the pandemic, the mental health challenges that so many employees experienced, the political divisiveness, our social climate, DEI, and all of those things happening together in a remote world…CEOs are seeing the importance of having a strategic partner in a CHRO or a Chief People Officer.”
“To me, strategic partnership looks like being a trusted advisor and coach to the CEO and board, being able to lead enterprise-level change—how do you win hearts and minds and obtain massive buy-in for the changes we’re facing internally and externally—and another important criteria and skillset has been around assessing and developing executive talent,” she adds.
“The strategic partner view has changed as a result of the pandemic, and I think the skillset that CEOs are looking for is much higher level than it was five or even three years ago.”
Karishma is a clinical psychologist who joined Spring in April 2022, and has been leading the charge on our investment in our people and how we work. She was previously Chief People and Customer Officer at OppFi and has held roles at Groupon, BAE Systems, and Korn Ferry.