Through The Looking Glass

I was heading into London last week when I spotted this on Twitter:

Can Anyone Help?

I knew I would be passing by the Moleskine store in Covent Garden so I offered to take a look. That branch had sold out and the staff directed me to another outlet in Regents Street which was also close to where I was travelling. I headed off, and voila!

Through The Looking Glass

The notebook has been purchased and has since arrived at its destination. What did I learn?

If you don’t ask (preferably nicely – which Ed did), you don’t get, and…
it’s a pleasure to be of service.

I since found out that two other people offered help to Ed, even though he’s not (yet) met them in person. In the overall scheme of things – a story like this is tiny, and sometimes, small things make big differences.

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Lately I’ve been feeling lost, and somewhat withdrawn.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.