Tag Archives: HR

Nail Bar : Responding to Differences

I was at the CIPD conference in Manchester recently, and decided as the continuation of experimenting with difference, to have my nails done for the second year running. Why? Two main reasons. First, I was curious to see how people reacted, and second, overall I enjoyed the experience the first time and simply wanted to repeat it.

In 2015 I chose a dark purple as my colour, this year I went with green. Both times I enjoyed the experience of the manicure itself – thanks to the good people at Peter Marcus. and the subsequent reactions from people fascinated me.

While reflecting on this recently, a friend asked me how I reacted to myself. Here’s what I recalled:

Part One.

In 2015 I had my nails done for the first time. Keira and I have played around with nail varnish at home loads of times, this was the first time in public. The person in the nail bar commented I was the first man customer who had asked for a manicure and polish. I chose a deep purple varnish. I left the nail bar and immediately scuffed a nail – went back and was fixed up again. Left for a second time feeling very self conscious. That feeling stayed with me and I attracted a range of feedback. Surprise, delight, confusion, acknowledgement of bravery, curiosity (why would I do such a thing?), and disapproval. The uncertainty stayed with me. I remember hiding my nails from view on the tube on the way home.

Part Two.

In 2016 I went back for another go. The person in the nail bar remembered me, we had a few laughs, made sure my nails were properly dry this time! I felt much less self conscious this year, and I think as a result of this, I attracted far fewer comments. I occasionally found myself hiding my nails but for the most part, I think they looked good and I liked what I’d had done and enjoyed the experience.

Part Three.

Based on this experiment, it seems that I invite reactions from other people more than I previously thought I did. There is no good reason why I felt awkward, beyond my own hangups and my perception of the prejudices of others. This is a small experiment in how people, me included, respond to difference. As an older white man, I have all/most of the privilege in many situations. The nails is a way of me disarming and enjoying myself, and I still get nervous/uncertain etc. I’m keeping going.

Part Four.

Best £25 I’ve spent in ages!

nail-bar

In addition to the nails experiment, which I will be repeating soon, I sometimes choose to wear shorts to work in the summer months. This is another one of those small differences which in some cases, attracts interesting responses. Internally I wrestle with ‘is it acceptable to wear shirts to work?’ even in very high temperatures. I frequently talk myself out of shorts and into trousers, then regret this when I’m overheating on a crowded tube in London. Additionally – I note that people (it is nearly always men) who react in any way to the shorts situation, do so by mocking me for my choice. To what extent I invite this reaction, I am unsure.

I find this kind of experiment fascinating – in terms of what I learn about others and myself, and as a reminder of my own prejudices, and as a reminder to be kind. If you’ve tried anything similar – I’d love to hear from you.

Big Tent : Narrow Door

When thinking about change, how do you enable greater diversity in your processes?

This week I attended the Future of Work is Human Big Tent. There were lots of interesting, necessary and at times fascinating subjects on the agenda.

  • National alienation and class
  • Power
  • Implications of the 100 year life
  • Helping enterprise flourish
  • The human responsibility of business
  • A universal basic income
  • Actively removing fear of discrimination: the economic case
  • Pay and incentives – the need for fundamental reform
  • Education: time for a system by-pass?

I scribbled a lot of notes which I’ll write up and share soon.

The tent (it wasn’t a real tent, we were at Central Hall Westminster) was indeed big, and I felt it had a very narrow door through which we passed.

I heard some good stuff, and would have preferred a more involving, inclusive, action orientated approach, with less reliance on the sage on the stage, which was loaded with white privilege*. I’m not saying the views from speakers weren’t valid, they often were, and I think a richer picture would have been painted with a more diverse approach. If the shock I experience since Brexit has taught me anything, it’s that I frequently exist in a bubble, and I need to diversify where and how and from whom I seek understanding.

During the event, there was an acknowledgment of how we hire in our own image, and general agreement of that being a limiting and often flawed concept, yet the audience seemed to have been recruited in that way. There is a risk this will lead to a lack of diversity in thinking, the success of this work requires a shake up in how people are engaged with it.

big-tent-doodle

At times, the discussion felt quite abstract, quite overwhelming. I developed a headache towards the end of the morning which I managed to ease through a bit of doodling, then someone at our table called out the abstract nature of the discussion, and suggested we tell stories of small things we’re already doing to make change. Stories of togetherness, trying something new, dog walking, art, and parties all followed. That lovely, useful, and simple idea brought the conversation back to a more applied level, and I felt it beginning to galvanise us at the table. Coincidentally, and in support of this, Johnnie Moore shared thoughts from a book by Shawn Achor called The Happiness Advantage on Facebook later:

“Goals that are too big paralyze you. They literally shut off your brain, says Achor. Here’s what happens to your brain when faced with a daunting goal or project:

The amygdala, the part of the brain that responds to fear and threats, hijacks the “thinker” part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex, says Achor. The amygdala steals resources from the prefrontal cortex, the creative part of the brain that makes decisions and sees possibilities.”

I’m grateful for the invitation and pleased I went. An interesting morning indeed.

*Someone had the courage to call this out part way through the event. I don’t know his name, but thank you, whoever you are.

Why Do I Do What I Do?

Today’s blog post is inspired by Julie Drybrough and Niall Gavin. Julie recently reminded me of a process called ‘wild writing’ where you just write. Don’t think any more than you have to, just get on with it. Julie describes this in more detail here. I took a look at her work and tweeted my appreciation. Niall then approached me and suggested I try it. I did so, and in the spirit of working out loud, of showing my work, here is what fell out of my brain onto my keyboard with in a minute or two last night.

Why Do I Do What I Do?

I don’t like answering this question. I have doubts about why I do what I do. It doesn’t pay as well as my old corporate life, and my work is packed full of uncertainty, but I often enjoy it. I get satisfaction from my work and from seeing people realise there are others ways to think feel and act. I’m drawn to difference, and I’m drawn to integrating difference, without losing it. I enjoy paradoxes, I enjoy sharing my vulnerability to demonstrate that when I do so, interesting curious things can happen. I do what I do because I get the opportunity to travel, and to develop and share my story. Part of my story is my art, and part of the story of my art is that you never know where your story will take you if you remain open to the possibilities. Try it, you might like it. What is it? I’m not always sure. I do what I do to test myself – to challenge myself, so that I might then challenge others. Maybe not challenge others, encourage is probably a better word. I’m anti ignorance, anti coercion. I get angry, happiness is over rated. I’m straying from the why do I do path, I like to wander. I don’t appreciate certainty – it binds and restricts us, so I do what I do to help people overcome the certainty epidemic. I am conscious of the power and privilege that being a white man affords me. I often see this power and privilege wielded with ugly ignorance, and even uglier intent. I do what I do in pursuit of inclusion, even though I exclude at times. I’m frequently conflicted – I believe most people are, and many are not willing to acknowledge this, which strikes me as another inhibitor. I do what I do because there is more to life than following orders, and doing what is expected of you. Do the unexpected sometimes. I am learning that you can proceed until apprehended and do so with kindness. This is my answer to the question, Why do I do what I do? I will have another go at answering this question tomorrow.