Tag Archives: HR

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.

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.