People Artists

People Artists

In April 2015 I received a lovely note from my friend David Zinger, asking if I would like to make a contribution to a forthcoming book, titled People Artists. With a title like that – how could I refuse? David asked me a handful of questions which I answered as follows:

How would you define a People Artist at Work in your own words?

I believe we are all born artists, so we all have the potential for people artistry. Here are a few things I practice which can help define a people artist and ensure your artistic flame can flourish.

Being open to possibilities
Accepting your own vulnerability
Showing your work

We Are All Artists

What makes you or the person you are thinking of a People Artist?

Developing a habit of awareness and presence helps make someone a people artist. A willingness to suspend judgement when new ideas are forming helps too, as does being kind. Never underestimate the artistic power of simple things.

Can you offer one or two specific examples of where and how People Artistry was demonstrated?

Follow this link. It takes you to a series of images cocreated by learning and development professionals invited to think about the future for their profession. For me – this collection represents a facet of people artistry.

What do you see as the results of the demonstration of People Artistry?

When I see people artistry at work I see smiles, I see people getting to know one another better, I see people supporting and encouraging one another and making work better, together. I see people…simply being people.

Is there anything you would like to add about the topic?

People artistry is partly about encouraging creativity, and creativity isn’t something you just switch on. It ebbs and flows according to the environment and attitude around you. I like to invite people to consider this question. What levers and dials do you need to be aware of and be able to adjust, to help bring out creativity and people artistry in yourself and those around you?

I sent my response to David and got on with my life. Yesterday morning there was a knock at the door and a large parcel was delivered. I had no idea what I was signing for…

People Artists

Inside the package is a signed copy of the new book, and a wonderful signed, framed print of the painting used for the book cover. People Artists is a beautiful collection of thoughts, feelings and ideas about how to make work better, twinned with a series of images painted by Peter W Hart.

People Artists will be available for sale very soon and I’ll update this post with more information, and share details of how to buy it on Facebook, Twitter et al. For now, thank you David and Peter for putting an excellent book together and for such a lovely way to appreciate the contributors.


Nail Varnish : Change is Hard

While visiting Manchester recently to take part in the 2015 CIPD conference, I had my nails done. I wasn’t driven by anything in particular, beyond the simple curiosity of trying something different, so I booked myself in for a manicure and off I went. The woman who painted my nails did an excellent job (sorry I cannot remember her name but here’s a link to the salon), and as she worked we talked, and I learned that although plenty of men come in for a nail clean up – I was the first in 18 months who had asked for their nails to be painted. Job done – I left and almost immediately ruined one of my new nails. Looking after these bad boys is hard work! I dashed back and after a quick repair I went on my way again.

Purple Nails

Matching nails and conference bag – on brand ;)

As I headed back to the conference I began to feel extremely conscious of my new fashion accessories and I became aware I was hiding them from view. I checked myself and tried to act naturally, at least as naturally as the first client in 18 months to have a nail makeover can.

As people spotted my nails, I began to receive feedback. The first person who saw them looked straight down their nose, blasting me with a first class Paddington Bear stare, before exclaiming ‘What on earth did you do that for?!’ I fumbled some kind of embarrassed response and excused myself. Others told me I was ‘brave’, and some folk told me they thought my nails looked great.

I kept my nails on for a few days (well I had invested £15 in them) and I was really interested in how I, and others, continued to react. My own prejudices surfaced a few times when I hid my nails from view as, with no evidence, I judged how some people might respond, based on nothing more than a split second analysis.

Nail Varnish

Sunday breakfast – shortly before the demise.

My nails were returned to their former unglory a few days later – this photo above is their final outing. For me – what started as a bit of curious fun, turned into an observation of how we respond to change, and to difference.

My experience reminded me of this excellent story by Bob Marshall, A Difficult Message to Hear. His poignant tale is of his own Mum, who when faced with a need to change her lifestyle for health reasons, chose not to. Marshall uses this powerful example to illustrate just how hard change is, and yet we have come to expect, and demand change from people in an organisational context, almost as if it were as simple as flicking a switch, or turning a tap.

My own ‘lifestyle change’ was simple to apply and simple to remove, and as far as I know, has had no lasting affect on my health. The experience has had a lasting affect on my learning though, through the simplicity of a manicure I’m reminded:

We often rush to judgment
We often react suspiciously to difference
We often find change hard

Not All Who Wander Are Lost – CoCreated Conversations On The Future of HR

For the third year running, the CIPD has kindly invited Meg Peppin and me to their annual conference in Manchester. One of the main reasons we go is to facilitate some cocreated conversations about work, under the banner of HR Unscrambled. Everyone’s invited and our guests are asked to suggest the questions they want to discuss together, over breakfast. Our experience shows this is a welcome opportunity to reflect on and synthesise some of the learning people are absorbing at the conference.

This year – the questions offered up for discussion were:

How can we influence wellness?
How can we drive analytics?
Is employee engagement just about doing the right thing?
If we started again, would we invent HR?

The essence of the conversations were transcribed by Meg and we have now shared them on Slideshare. If the questions interest you, please take a look at the conversation summaries.

In addition to some suggested answers to the questions, further questions emerged too. That’s a benefit of giving people the time and space to talk, and ultimately, action is what really matters. By way of illustrating that, I overheard this snippet as people were in discussion: ‘After this conversation, we need to act. Cary Cooper’s been talking about wellbeing for the last 20 years, and nothing has changed’. You may or may not agree with the detail of this observation – but I’m sure you can relate to this frustration to some extent.

Here are a few more signals and snippets that wafted past my brain as I listened.

On wellness:

We should pursue wellness for its own sake, and if we need to link it to £ in order to release budget, so be it.

Use ‘stealth mode’ – this brings to mind Proceed Until Apprehended and Trojan Mice.

Part time fully present beats full time not there (physically and/or mentally).

Ban internal email two days a week. I’m not a huge fan of banning stuff but if this stick can be used to stir the pot of conversation then maybe it’s worth a go?

On the inclusion of women at work:

What is the gender make up of your future employer? How is that make up represented at senior level – do the two match up? If your work force is diverse and your senior management is stale, male and pale, is this a place you want to invest yourself in?

Consciously target and recruit – make it easier for those women who want to return to work. Truly flexible working – attitude shift away from presenteeism. Job share.

Meg subsequently wrote a powerful piece on diversity and inclusion. Here’s a short extract from it, the whole thing is well worth a read.

Meg Peppin Blog Post Extract

Thank you to the CIPD for their ongoing support and sponsorship and to everyone who came and participated in these cocreated conversations. Without people, you’re nothing.

HR Unscrambled Cartoon

Thanks to Simon Heath for the HR Unscrambled cartoon.