Introducing Dave McLean, Executive Advisor at McLean & Company

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Dave joined McLean & Company in January 2022 as an Executive Advisor. In this Q&A, Dave talks about his career, what drew him to this role, and what challenges are top of mind for HR leaders.

How did you get your start in HR?

I’ve been very fortunate to have a career in leadership that cuts across a range of sectors, including transportation and logistics, healthcare, fitness, and higher education. I spent the first part of my career as regional manager and national operations manager for a transportation and logistics firm working with clients like Canada Trust and The Bank of Montreal. This operations experience outside of HR ensured that I would never forget what it’s like to be the client of the HR function and how essential service excellence is when it comes to HR service delivery. In my operational leadership roles I was given the opportunity to lead a number of HR projects, which led me to discover my passion for the HR profession. My real start in HR came when I began working in an organizational development role for the Attorney General of Ontario, where I honed my consulting skills, HR strategic thinking, and organizational development acumen. More recently, I had the privilege of leading the Human Resources function in both the private and public sectors for organizations ranging in size from 800 to 6,000 employees.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a proud father of three amazing children who have taught me more about life and about myself than anyone else. Professionally what I enjoy most is my work coaching executives and leaders, which I have done for over 20 years. A personal career highlight was going back to school later in life to complete a Master of Leadership Studies degree and building amazing relationships with a cohort of experienced leaders in the program. In 2022, I was very honored to be named to the US list of LinkedIn Top Voices: Company Culture, alongside two thought leaders I have admired for years: Dave Ulrich and Amy Edmondson. Overall, I am passionate about the HR profession, and I am truly grateful to be part of a profession that impacts the lives of so many.

What does your role as Executive Advisor involve? What drew you to it?

I often say I was drawn to this role because I share the same last name as the company. Of course I frequently clarify with my clients that I am not the McLean in McLean & Company, which usually gets a chuckle. Truthfully, what really appealed to me most was having the privilege of working with HR leaders from a wide variety of sectors who face significant challenges and are in roles that are pivotal to their organization’s success. As an Executive Advisor, I partner with our Leadership members to build out meaningful and executable strategies for their HR priorities. I listen and ask questions to understand their emerging issues, challenges, and longer-term strategic objectives, acting as a navigator and thought partner to help them leverage the full suite of McLean & Company resources, diagnostics, and training offerings.

What is top of mind for HR leaders right now? What challenges are they facing?

  • Leadership development is an evergreen topic. How do we accelerate the development of first-time frontline leaders and avoid making hiring errors in who we place in frontline leadership roles?
  • Developing more robust HR analytics capabilities that are relevant to the business and help the organization improve the effectiveness of key strategic decisions continues to be a big opportunity.
  • Managing culture is an essential topic. The most progressive HR leaders are recognizing that culture needs to be proactively managed and tended to – actively managing culture can be the gateway to creating sustainable competitive advantage.

What do you do to take care of yourself?

I am very fortunate to have two Newfoundland dogs, Lucy and Mac, who act as my personal trainers. Self-care for me starts with mindset – I am more resilient when I am operating from a constructive set of beliefs and I have a learning orientation to any setbacks I face. I am a big proponent of the idea of “energy management.” I try to pay attention to what gives me energy and be intentional about how I recover and replenish my energy. I love tennis, hiking, cycling, and back-country canoe trips with friends.

What advice do you have for someone starting out as an HR leader?

Never stop learning. Seek out a variety of experiences. Ask yourself, “Do I have 20 years of experience or one year of experience repeated 20 times?” Take stretch assignments outside of HR or take a lateral move and learn a new body of knowledge in another area of the HR function. Look for opportunities to build your business acumen and strategic thinking – interact with and learn from your organization’s customers. If HR is to be relevant, we need to be thinking “how will this initiative support or inhibit our employees’ ability to deliver value to the customers of the business?” Finally, HR leaders have an ethical responsibility to influence employee experience and the creation of healthy work environments where employees can thrive.

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