How Deep Listening is Essential Fuel for High Performance Teams

with Amanda Bailey, Vice President of HR at Boston University


Written by Dr.Jim, Host of the HR Impact Show podcast.

Interview Key Takeaways


  • Restructuring talent teams requires aligning values and understanding the culture of the organization.

  • Listening to employees and understanding their pain points is crucial for driving meaningful change.

  • Technology solutions should be informed by desired outcomes and the experiences of employees.

  • Talent alignment involves upgrading skills, identifying roles for development, and considering hybrid work and mental health.

  • Prioritizing resources and creating a timeline based on the HR organization's culture is essential for successful change.

The Power of Restructuring Talent Teams

Amanda's journey from an individual contributor to a senior HR leader has shaped her perspective on building high-performance teams. She wants us to understand the importance of viewing our careers as a lattice rather than a ladder. It means embracing diverse experiences and learning opportunities along the way. When Amanda transitioned into a people leadership role, she realized the value of collaboration and understanding different functions within an organization. This insight laid the foundation for her future success in leading large teams.


The Framework for Building High-Performance Teams

Amanda's game-changing realization centers around a framework that HR leaders can follow to build high-performance teams. The first step is to accept the existing culture of the organization and understand the values of the leadership team. By aligning with these values, HR leaders can effectively drive change and create a culture that supports strategic initiatives. The next crucial step is to embark on a listening tour, gathering insights from employees and supervisors to identify the most pressing challenges. This deep understanding of pain points enables HR leaders to prioritize and take action.


"Listen long and listen always as your first posture."

Amanda Bailey


Balancing Limited Time and Resources

In the face of limited time and resources, HR leaders often feel pressured to rely on technology solutions. However, Amanda cautions against this approach without a clear understanding of the desired outcomes. Technology should be informed by the experiences and needs of employees, ensuring that it enhances their journey rather than complicating it. By focusing on the alignment of values, prioritizing resources, and understanding the pain points, HR leaders can strike a balance between efficiency and meaningful change.


"Technology solutions have to be informed by experiences and our desire to create successful experiences."

Amanda Bailey


Talent Realignment for Strategic Impact

Talent realignment is a critical aspect of building high-performance teams. Amanda highlights the need to upgrade the skill sets of the existing workforce and identify areas for development. By understanding the organization's culture, maturity in talent strategies, and available resources, HR leaders can tailor their talent strategies accordingly. Amanda's experience at Boston University exemplifies the power of talent realignment. By restructuring the talent model, they were able to improve efficiency, reduce cycle time, and enhance the experience for new hires.


The Challenge of Paralysis by Analysis

While deep listening is essential, HR leaders must avoid falling into the trap of analysis paralysis. Amanda acknowledges the challenge of synthesizing multiple data points and prioritizing actions. To overcome this, she emphasizes the importance of cascading priorities from the highest-impact initiatives to those that require fewer resources. By aligning priorities with available resources, HR leaders can ensure sustainable change and build credibility within the organization.


"Prioritization cannot be achieved without the necessary resources."

Amanda Bailey


Conclusion and Future Outlook

Building high-performance teams requires a strategic and thoughtful approach. By embracing the lattice career model, HR leaders can gain diverse experiences and develop a deep understanding of different functions within an organization. Amanda's framework for building high-performance teams emphasizes the importance of aligning with organizational values, listening to stakeholders, and taking action based on insights.

Balancing limited time and resources is crucial, with technology solutions being informed by desired outcomes. Talent realignment plays a pivotal role in driving strategic impact, and HR leaders must prioritize skill development and tailor talent strategies to the organization's culture and resources. By avoiding analysis paralysis and cascading priorities, HR leaders can achieve sustainable change and make a lasting impact.

As we look to the future, the role of HR in building high-performance teams will continue to evolve. HR leaders must stay agile, adapt to changing environments, and leverage technology to enhance the employee experience. By embracing the principles shared by Amanda Bailey, HR professionals can navigate the complexities of talent management and drive meaningful change within their organizations.


Amanda Bailey

Vice President of HR at Boston University




Amanda Bailey joined Boston University as the Vice President of Human Resources in August 2021. Prior to her role at Boston University, Amanda served as the Vice President of Human Resources at Brown University and held the roles of Associate Vice President and Acting Chief of Staff at Morehouse College.

She brings nearly thirty years of professional experience in human resources and has held senior human resources leadership positions over the past two decades at secondary and post-secondary educational institutions.

Amanda has been featured in several publications and recognized as an influencer in HR in 2023 by Who’s Who in America for Top Executives, INC Magazine for Top HR Business Leaders in 2023, Making Boston University Resemble Boston by Vision Magazine, and Top 10 Influential Business Leaders in 2022 by CIOViews.

Amanda remains an active member of SHRM, the Boston HR Council, and many other CHRO Roundtable groups, and she previously served on the board of the SHRM-Brevard County chapter. Prior to joining the education industry, Amanda held HR positions at private and public organizations such as American Express and the National Labor Relations Board. When available, Amanda enjoys volunteering at local food banks and mentoring first-gen students in high school.

Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn



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