Are These The Right Things?

I am a member of a Facebook group called New Business : Next Steps, run by Ann Hawkins and Ed Goodman, authors of an excellent book by the same name. Ann often bookends our working week with some good questions about what we’d like to achieve, and how we’re getting on.

Lately I’ve been feeling lost, and somewhat withdrawn. These are things that happen from time to time, that’s life, etcetera. I’m no complaining, just acknowledging. When I feel like this, I tend to withdraw from responding to Ann’s questions too. Lately I’ve been nurturing a bias for action, so today, I chose to reply to this prompt from Ann:

Check in Friday: What was the most useful thing you did this week that made a difference to your business?

Here’s how I replied.

  • Wrote 4,000 words towards my book.
  • Asked people in my network for help with some questions to provoke more content for the book.
  • Kicked off plans for a Berlin/London art meets work mini tour.
  • Made a conscious effort to stream my thinking and to do stuff, it’s been far too messy lately.
  • Wrote a farewell email to a group I’ve been working with.
  • Attended the quarterly business review of a partnership I joined a few months ago. Doing this helped me see first hand and in more detail, the exciting work we can do together.
  • Shared a video of my talk about the art and soul of better work from this year’s All About People event.
  • Made what I think is a lovely piece of art for my weekly local free art drop.

Clearly I cheated, this is not the most useful thing I did this week, it is several useful things. Are they the right things? Who knows, and what they are, is evidence that in among the doubt, I am taking action. Thank you for the prompt, Ann.

In case you are interested, here is the art work I mentioned, and the video of the Art and Soul of Better Work talk.

Winged Heart II

Have a lovely weekend.

 

Who Said That?

Disrupt HR is an event made up of short form Ignite talks, and while the talk format is very popular and increasingly common, yesterday’s session was the first time a series of talks like this were offered under the Disrupt HR banner in London. I couldn’t make it to the event, and when time permitted, I was keeping an eye on the Twitter feed. One of the talks was titled HappyOrNot and the constant pulse of employee satisfaction. During the talk, the speaker stated that real time continuous measurement and feedback of your employees pulse is essential in our changing world, and for this feedback to be effective it needs to be:

  • Easy
  • Effortless
  • Anonymous

Putting aside a nagging concern I have about the somewhat Orwellian nature of continuous measurement and feedback, it feels right that the process of gathering data should be easy. I’m less convinced about the idea that feedback should be effortless. I may have misunderstood where the speaker is coming from here, and I’d like to think that some effort has gone into the feedback I exchange with you, colleagues, and customers.

Next on the list is anonymity – and my feedback alarm bells are ringing off the hook. I do not understand why our default option is to insist on hiding our feedback behind a veil of anonymity. I accept that this is the way we’ve always done it, and I believe this needs to change. I wrote about enforced anonymity in a little more detail back at the beginning of 2015, and in essence my point at that time was:

If I have ideas about how we might work differently and you really want my opinion, then you need to know who I am so we can act together. In these circumstances, anonymity is completely disempowering. What your enforced anonymity says to me is that you don’t really want to work coactively with me and with others; you are just using the opportunity to survey our feelings and attitudes as a means of satisfying yourself.

Throughout my work – two things people frequently ask for in their working relationships are openness, and honesty. Look around and you will find these two qualities among many sets of company values too. Often – when I dig deeper, people tell me that in reality – they feel a need to be anonymous in order to be honest. There’s not a lack of feedback issue here, this is about a lack of trust. Anonymity should be an option, not the norm, not enforced.

At last week’s PPMA seminar, one of the conversations which arose in the Reflect and Connect session Meg Peppin and I facilitated was around how HR can loosen off control, in pursuit of more adult, human relationships. The feeling was that currently, we manage and control to mitigate the rogue element, the spanner in the works, when it would be more satisfying, if we could trust more, control less, and accept that anomalies will occur (just like they do already) and work with them as they arise. Challenging? Sure. Worth pursuing? I think so, to do otherwise simply risks reinforcing the perception of HR as the employer’s police/enforcement, and here we are back to Orwell again.

One last observation – this discussion percolated on Twitter, a place where trolling is rife. What facilitates that trolling? What makes it easy, effortless? Anonymity.

When I challenge the view that enforced anonymity is a good thing, and ask for any data or research to support this assertion – I don’t receive any. It may be out there, and I cannot find it. Please help if you can, I’d love to understand more about why we cling so tightly to this belief.

Update

Trish McFarlane got in touch to share this article written by Ben Eubanks on why confidential is better than anonymous.

 

 

Leading People In A Disrupted World

This blog post is based around a talk titled ‘Leading People In A Disrupted World’, given by Lucy Adams at the PPMA summit in Birmingham, on June 23rd 2016.

Lucy Adams used to be HR Director at The BBC, then this happened. In her post BBC world, Lucy Adams refers to herself as ‘a recovering HR Director’, and she is with us today to give her talk about leading people in a disrupted world – which begins looking through the lens of the BBC, something everyone in the audience is very familiar with, and I expect many are affectionate towards.

Disruption : Setting The Scene : The BBC

Technology : Then, four channels. Now, too many to count.

Divisions : The BBC working as tribes, all fiercely proud of their own domain, and all hate each other.

Competition : Then, precious little. Now, Amazon Prime just one example which no one would have predicted, even just a few years ago.

Structural change : Then, London. Now, closing buildings, introducing hot desks, moving big chunks of the BBC north, from London to Salford, as a physical statement, recognising the need to be less London, more UK. Among the complaints and resistance, Lucy Adams recalls one email stating, ‘I can’t possibly move to Salford, I’m a vegetarian!’

Costs and Contracts : Then, final salary pension, incremental pay rises, job for life. Now, pension reforms, huge reliance on a contingency/freelance workforce, lots of anger as a result.

Scrutiny : Then, not much. Now, public, political and media. The BBC went from its highest ever approval ratings immediately post London 2012, to its lowest, in the aftermath of the Jimmy Savile scandal.

That’s a lot of change, and Lucy Adams believes that HR is needed for organisations to cope, to survive, yet she tells us that 42% of executives say HR is not up to the job.

The need to see employees as adults, consumers, humans.

HR feels a need to interfere, to sustain a relationship akin to parent/child. There’s low trust (should that be no trust?). For example – why does HR feel a need to log annual leave? Why can’t we trust that everyone can manage something like this independently, and deal with the odd anomaly – rather than set up a system which assumes people can’t be trusted, need to be managed? Working this way creates child like responses in people – and we are surprised?

Lucy Adams says that in her search for new ideas, she finds no innovation in HR – so where might she find it? In consumer led businesses. Well run consumer led businesses often have:

Customer Insight – a level of data HR would kill for.

Segmentation – market, customer, employee. These businesses understand the different archetypes, and yes, having ’12 different customer types’ may be too simple at times – but we deal with the anomalies as anomalies, rather that over engineer everything to cope with the ‘just in case’.

User centred design – cocreated, not designed in isolation then enforced. Staff surveys came in for a real pounding at this point. In summary, Lucy Adams sees them as telling us stuff we already know, in order that we can do nothing about it.

Our processes and our leadership should be with humans in mind. Humans which have needs and wants, which we currently don’t meet, by design. For example, an annual performance review measures you as an individual, yet almost no one works alone. The whole process starts from a completely disconnected place – why do we expect it to be useful? ‘Can I give you some feedback’ evokes a similar fearful response to the sensation of being stalked at night by someone wearing a hoodie.

Leadership was framed simply as:

Resilience
Engagement : The ability to help someone to do their best work
Insight
Curiosity
Humility

Closing comments I noted included:

When you write – write as yourself. Encourage people to be ok with ‘I don’t know, what do you think?’ and ‘Lets’s give it a try, we’ll learn something’.

I enjoyed Lucy’s talk. Starting the story from a place where many of us feel familiarity and affection, worked well. The talk has clearly been well crafted and practiced, I found it useful.

Epilogue : Reflect and Connect

After the talk – Meg and I facilitated another of our Reflect and Connect sessions. Lucy’s talk sparked some interesting conversation, and the people who showed up for the session seemed to enjoy unpacking a few thoughts, snippets of which are shared here.

Putting a process around a conversation is inhibiting, would you talk like that to a client? Following a process is not very satisfying, creates them and us. Can we build our work on respect, behaviours, and an expectation that we trust you to get it right?

Why does compassionate leave need a policy. We’re all different – the emphasis should be on ‘compassionate’. Operate in the grey areas, the soft edges. Tribunals frame things around a ‘range of reasonable responses’, could we do that – in lieu of policy?

Promotion – often done yo retain good technical skills, without regard for the person having management and leadership skills, which we are often constrained/reluctant to invest in.

Worth seeking clarity and quality. HR as a facilitator, an enabler, not a dictator. Where can we encourage opting in and out, over mandatory?