5 minutes with…Bill Robinson, CHRO at Sabre

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Travel technology company Sabre has about 10,000 employees in 60 countries, and leading their management is Bill Robinson. He shares on pride, pet peeves and the crucial criticism that changed his style.

Where were you when you finished college? Did you think you’d be where you are now?
I majored in communications and when I graduated I thought I would move into broadcasting, but I was very fortunate to get a role right out of college as a technical recruiter, so recruiting and being a headhunter was my first job right out of college. I was very fortunate to join General Electric in 1990 and move into HR, and GE was a great company to be in HR as they really valued the function from a business standpoint.

What makes you different?
My focus is making sure that the HR function is aligned with the business, meaning that all of our activities are focused on doing things that help the organization win in the marketplace, that our HR is focused on becoming more competitive in the marketplace.

Are you a morning person or a night person?
I’m more productive in the morning. Each morning I have my action list to prepare for the day and I have a good idea of what needs to be done.

What’s some criticism you’ve received?
Early in my career the feedback I received was that I was too intense. They told me to smile more, to lighten up and to be more engaging. I think I am a serious person, but the key to being a HR leader is to be very engaging at the same time, so you have to balance that. You have to connect with the organization.

Favorite part of the job?
Finding great talent, whether it’s bringing great talent externally into the company, or finding great talent that already exists in the company. It goes back to my roots as a recruiter. There’s nothing more energizing than finding great people and seeing their contribution in the business.

Memorable candidate encounter?
I did interview a gentleman many years ago who, as I was interviewing him, kept rearing back in his seat and ultimately reared too far and toppled over. I had to help him up from off the floor. I don’t think we hired him.

Pet peeve in the workplace?
My pet peeves are people who put themselves ahead of the organization or their teams. I’ve learned through my career that the most successful people always put their teams first and their own career needs second.

What are you most proud of?
I’ve been very fortunate to work with a lot of great teams, and I think I’ve always made every place that I’ve gone better. And that’s always been my goal.

Last book you read?
It’s called Halftime.  It’s about thinking through and figuring out what you want to do personally and professionally in the second half of your life.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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