Intuitive Leadership – When Restraint Is What’s Needed

Lots and lots and lots gets written about Leadership. It’s a great subject, so of course it’s popular. I’ve written about it too.

When so much get’s written about a subject, every aspect ends up being scrutinised, second-guessed and over-analysed. Its easy to start wondering what is real, what is effective and what you ‘should’ believe. Leadership development programmes can easily become more about the shine than the talent.

At work, in conversations with other HR pros, in the media even, you see strong leaders. Leaders who just “get it”.

But who are we, really, to define what good leadership is, what style should work, and what approach isn’t right? We know the answer to those questions, but it’s worth the periodic consideration. Its worth the food for thought.

We’ve heard successful examples of positive leadership as well as the horror stories of draconian fear-based management, and i’m sure we all know what style we prefer to have, to work with, and to work for, but i’m pondering more and more at the moment on intuitive, organic leadership. 

I’m pondering more on those who haven’t been developed within an inch of their lives. Those who haven’t been changed beyond all recognition of who they once were. Those who haven’t read a book to know how to conduct themselves.

I’m pondering more on those leaders, who are effective leaders because they intuitively act in a senseful, respectful way, that is authentic and human.

I’m pondering more on those who might have been subjected to a management development programme, learned the best elements but stood back and thought “I’m not using that bit, because that’s not me”.

Instead of holding up examples from books, from popular culture, and from the world of ‘Ted Talk Celebrity’, i’m becoming more drawn to identifying and observing leaders who have something at their core that they should try never to lose, to try to harness but not at the expense of its effectiveness.

In this profession, it’s normal for it to be our responsibility to help build leadership development. But it’s also vital to remember that sometimes its our responsibility to see what’s right in front of us, and leave it alone.

#HRHour

HR Hour Logo

I’m getting lots of questions around what ‘The HR Hour’ is, including when it will be kicking off and what I hope to achieve with it, so here goes.

In 2015 when I started using Twitter for both professional and personal use, I stumbled across a fantastic community of HR, L&D and OD Professionals all of whom to this day I regularly converse with on a daily basis and many of whom I am pleased to say have become friends. I didn’t really use the term ‘network’ but I quickly discovered that this group of people referred to one another as members of their own #PLN which stands for ‘Personal Learning Network’. 18 months on from when I became a Social HR professional, I recognise how very fortunate I am to have discovered this group, and to keep discovering HR professionals and extending my PLN further, because these HR pros, without a shadow of a doubt, have given me the opportunity grow as an HR professional.

Twitter has now become my place of learning. Yes, that’s right, Twitter! Before becoming a Social HR Professional, if anyone had said that Twitter was one of the best places to learn I wouldn’t have taken them seriously, and now here i’m saying it, because it’s so true. Through using Twitter and connecting with other HR Professionals, i’ve discovered the HR blogging community, where interesting articles are posted every day on a range of HR and related topics. I’ve also discovered great HR pro’s with a range of different specialisms, and i’m yet to connect with anyone who won’t offer support or help with a query if you have a question either about a topic generally or about that professionals expertise. It’s also a great place to discover emerging HR trends and information, usually right at the point of breaking.

One of the things i’ve enjoyed most is some of the live Twitter Chats, in particular the awesome work of @LnDConnect. Every Friday at 8am GMT, a moderator on the LnDConnect Twitter account launches a question, and HR professionals (mainly L&D and OD) get involved in a fantastic discussion. People dip in and out depending on if they have the time and if they have the inclination, and the really great thing about it is, there’s no pressure to get involved or participate, with some users watching the discussion through following the hashtag #LDinsight, whilst others respond and get involved with the various different discussions that branch off from the initial question. It really is a great idea, run by a great group of people, with smart, often humorous and regularly thought-provoking discussion.

So why have I launched #HRHour – because i’ve been inspired to do so by @LnDConnect. As an HR Professional, i’d personally like to take part in the same type of discussion as #ldinsight but on HR topics unrelated to L&D, so we are giving this a go. If we get traction and great discussion then we’ll persevere, if we don’t then we tried, but what’s the harm in trying? I’m also hoping to continue with my quest to make HR a more Social-Media friendly profession that embraces sites such as Twitter and I hope some participants get the same privilege i’ve had and build great PLN’s of their own.

As for topics I hope to cover, it’s the full gambit of HR, including employment law, reward, talent management, employee relations, engagement, culture, data and everything in between.

So this is going to take place on Thursday evenings at 8pm GMT (chosen to try to capture worldwide participation) and for now I will be facilitating the discussion, but if it sticks and other HR professionals want to take over the account and share the duties – then by all means please get in touch with me and volunteer.

I’ve got 293 followers on the @HR_Hour account as this blog is being published – when we get to 300, we’ll launch. So please spread the word and I hope to see lots of you get involved in the discussion.

 

Split-Personality Insights

I started my day today by completing the IBM Personality Insights test which analyses your personality based on your last 200 tweets. Before I even completed this test I was skeptical, which is ironic for a reason you will find out shortly.

For context, I believe my online presence is a fair and largely honest representation of who I am personally. I have one Twitter account and one LinkedIn account. LinkedIn I keep strictly professional, but I fully embrace Twitter and those connected to me will know all about me, mainly my profession and related thoughts, my family life and my hobbies and my love of Boxing and Swansea City FC. But I am also aware that in this modern world its sensible to ensure a positive reflection of oneself is portrayed online as my career is important to me, so I hold off on the bad language, I never ‘drunk-tweet’ and I do choose to keep things to myself that should be private.

So here is what the report said about me;-

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Here’s what I agree with;-

  • I’m skeptical (I prefer discerning, but i’ll take skeptical)
  • I am reasonably authority-challenging
  • I am philosophical, I am open to and intrigued by new ideas and I do love to explore them.
  • I care more about making my own path than following what others have done.

Here’s what I disagree with;-

  • I am not inconsiderate (this is contrary to every other personality test i’ve ever completed)
  • I am not tranquil (but boy, I wish I was!)
  • I am not generally serious and I do my fair share of joking around.
  • I am not really bothered about prestige.
  • I am very concerned with helping others – this is so hugely important to me.
  • Perhaps most controversially, I absolutely love Country Music (my favourite band is The Band, I love Merle Haggard, The Carter Family, The Byrds and don’t get me started on the Flying Burrito Brothers!)

There are one or two other comments that I neither agree nor disagree with but the above is the general overview.

I must admit that I was taken aback by the thought I could be perceived as inconsiderate and unconcerned with helping others and I felt almost offended by the results. In fact, what I should have done, is read the small print…

I believe (although I can’t validate this as I can’t find the supporting material) that it reviewed my previous 200 tweets, so this probably covers a period of around 3 weeks, during this time I watched my beloved Swansea City lose, a boxing match that genuinely disappointed and angered me, and a government budget that didn’t sit comfortably with me, so this was probably a ‘heightened’ period for me which was reflected in my tweets.

So I have a range of questions from this so far.

  • Is your SoMe profile a fair reflection on which to take a personality test?
  • Is 200 tweets enough to gain a proportionate view of your personality?
  • How does the tool consider your own tweets versus the re-tweets and quotes you make of other tweets?
  • How does the test detect humour and sarcasm?

Fundamentally, this brought me on to this question.

Am I looking for ways to disprove the accuracy of the test because I don’t like what the test said?

And as a follow-up…

If the test has this perception of me based solely on my SoMe presence, do other users have this perception of me too, and does this mean my presence needs TLC?

This second question is more worrying largely because I don’t want anyone thinking I’m not helpful or considerate, and I certainly don’t want anyone thinking I dislike Country Music!

I believe human users can look beyond these personality insights and form insights based on sense, emotional intelligence and existing knowledge whereas a test such as this IBM Watson test, is essentially ‘Garbage In, Garbage Out’. Yet, this test has still left me uneasy, and somewhat paranoid.

What this test has taught me, is whilst I have a fairly newly adopted SoMe open-book policy, if users share this perception of me or run similar tests on me in the future, then its very possible that I need to be more careful, and need to be proactive on this front too. I’m not saying I need to change my personality, but need to understand how tests such as this work so that the results are a more accurate reflection of the real me.

I suggest you complete your own test, and let me have your opinion on your own test results. The link is here -> http://gwen-systemu.mybluemix.net

This post is a to be continued… this needs more thought.

Please come dancing, all day and all of the night, back in Neath once more Mr Davies

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A letter to Ray Davies of The Kinks from a resident of Neath.

Dear Ray,

I write to you on behalf of the good folk of my home town, Neath, South Wales.

You know Neath, a lovely place 8 miles from Swansea, 40 miles from Cardiff, 3 miles from the sea and 30 miles from the Brecon Beacons, known for a historically well respected Rugby team (the Welsh Rugby Union was formed in Neath), birthplace of music stars Bonnie Tyler and Katherine Jenkins as well as sports legends Paul James (Wales & Ospreys Rugby) Mark Bowen (assistant manager Stoke, formerly Wales, Spurs and Norwich) and Ben Davies (current left back for Spurs and Wales).

But unfortunately I understand you know all about Neath, for the wrong reasons.

It was recently brought to my attention by children’s author and fellow local, Mr Gavin Puckett, that during a discussion at the Hay Festival in 2014 you explained to the room that you were involved in an “altercation” in the changing rooms of a venue in Neath that you were playing in with The Kinks in the early days. Following this altercation, the story goes that you were told you were ‘finished’ in Neath and as a result you never returned.

This is both tragic and unacceptable so let’s put that right. You are far from finished in Neath and we can’t let that experience finalise your view of the place.

On behalf of your thousands of fans from this great town, I would like to extend an open invitation for you to return any time you like. Your ban has been rescinded. From the Dedicated Followers Of Fashion, to the 20th Century Men we will all make you welcome, for there are no Dead End Streets here anymore. There are Better Things here now and we are Tired Of Waiting. We will entertain you or you can entertain us on a Sunny Afternoon, even on the Village Green. Let our residents live A Rock n Roll Fantasy and we promise we wont Forget To Dance.

If you are reading this This Time Tomorrow, your fans here would like an opportunity to enjoy your music and take some snaps for their Picture Book. Strangers and Lola want to share a Waterloo Sunset with you and will sing along until The End Of The Day.

Please return…. we’ll even pay for the bridge!

I await your response in anticipation

Let’s not leave it like this!

Regards

Mark Hendy

A Well Respected Man (hopefully…) and husband to Victoria.

(Photo courtesy of Darren Prosser)

6 Tips For Business Reorganisation

restructureReorganisations are commonplace in the world of work. They always have been, and probably always will be.

Continuously changing environments mean that businesses will always need to adapt, to disrupt, to fracture and to realign themselves in order to respond and remain competitive.

Reorg’s are often a daunting task and a bad reorg can take years to neutralise and correct, leaving a trail of disruption in its wake, with distrust, and disappointment becoming a hallmark of the culture left behind. But a good reorganisation can help give the business room to grow, address issues that the current design simply cannot solve, and create a ‘clean slate’ with which to transcend.

Here’s my 6 tips to you, that I have learned from my experiences with reorganisations in the past, that I hope will help you in the future.

1 – Start with lots of ‘what’ questions

I know it sounds simple, but before any form of reorg is being planned, ask yourself lots of what questions, such as;- what you are trying to achieve, what are all the issues that you are trying to solve, what will success look like, what will failure look like, what will failure feel like, what are all the options to be considered instead of a reorg, what makes a reorg the best option, what issues will you come across during the process, what group of employees will you need to discuss the reorg with and what will you tell them? Keep asking ‘what’, it’ll be worth it.

The more planning that takes place the better, but that planning must also take place before a reorg is decided, not after it’s been decided, so that important questions are not missed.

2 – Decide who owns the decision and project – it probably shouldn’t be HR.

Agents of change we are, owners of change, in this context, we probably shouldn’t be. If the above ‘what’ section has been carried out correctly, then the reason for the change should be clear, and ‘to make HR’s lives easier’ will not be the main driver! This process will be to better serve the organisation and so business leaders should take ownership over it. No manager I have ever met has enjoyed decisions being forced upon them or things being done ‘to them’, so their ownership, and critically their input, is vital. If they aren’t on board and don’t take accountability for it’s success, then they aren’t appropriately invested in making it work.

3 – Plan, Plan, Plan

Great reorganisations can still result in toxic situations if they aren’t handled correctly, and quite often, badly handled reorg’s are only as a result of poor planning.

I’ll save you the ‘5 P’s’ line, but planning is everything and this really is one of those situations where you should try to plan for as much as you possibly can. Plan a sequence of events, create a communication plan, plan for unlikely but possible issues as well as likely issues. Plan for things going wrong and plan for ‘word getting out’. Plan for things not going to plan. Plan for workplace disruption and uncertainty. Plan, plan, and plan some more until you are comfortable that you have what you need to do a professional job.

4- Communication Is Key

Knowing what to communicate and crucially, when, is absolutely key so always try to manage the message from start to finish, but remember that people are people, and things that might affect them personally, will resonate with them on a more sensitive and deeper level.

People have a right to now what is going on around them in relation to matters that affect them, but as business leaders you also have an obligation not to create unnecessary hysteria. So create a communication strategy and put real effort into it – good comms is often the decisive factor in whether things have been handled well or handled badly.

If you envisage that the reorg is not going to result in any redundancies then get that out there straight away, and unfortunately if redundancies are possible, then treat your workforce with respect and be honest with them. If you are going to take any special measures to ensure that nobody’s livelihood is affected in any major way, such as ‘red-circling’ of salaries and so on, then alleviate those concerns early on, after all, what moral reason would you have for not alleviating these concerns?

5 – Treat everyone with respect

Things might get awkward, complicated, personal even, but always try to treat people with respect. Reorg’s are emotive and this often brings out the best and worst in people, but if you keep focused,  remain dignified and treat everyone respectfully, then it will just be that little bit easier for all concerned.

6 – It’s not over when it’s over

The reorg is complete, reporting lines changed, new contracts issued, development plans in place, the last line on the communication plan is done so it’s over, right? Wrong. Most reorgs forget the post-activity evaluation although it’s really important. Post-activity evaluations will help identify any areas that need to be redeveloped or amended, and don’t take it personal if something you designed didn’t quite work during the implementation – organisations are fluid and reorganisations will need to be considerate of that. What is important is recognising that some changes and tweaks will always need to be required.

Finally, learning lessons during the evaluation will be massively helpful to you in the future – because it’s inevitable that you’ll probably need to reorganise again in the not-to-distant future.

I hope this helps.

The Art Of Employee Relations

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We hear more and more about collective workforce disputes as businesses continue to look to restructure their operations in order to survive, compete, or grow, and these disputes have received something of a renaissance in recent years.

A quick glance at the national news outlines the various ballots and strikes continuing to take place at businesses right throughout the UK, such as Southern Rail, the Prison Service and Tata Steel. This industrial action is for a range of reasons too, including changes that could affect the health and safety of workers, employee’s working conditions or changes to pension arrangements.

An interesting development recently occurred at Southern Rail where employees who were members of the ASLEF union rejected a deal to resolve the ‘driver-only’ train dispute, a deal that ASLEF was recommending that their members accept, with this case being of particular interest due to the fact that Unions usually negotiate to the point of being confident that the deal they put forward to their members is more than likely going to be accepted.

HR have always played a key role in employment disputes and yet it does not seem to be mentioned as a core skill in the future direction often talked about by HR stakeholders. In the continued quest for HR to become strategic business partners, working proactively to develop organisations and the like, it is always important to remember that good employee/industrial relations and the management of such from a HR point of view, truly is, an art.

I was really fortunate to grow up in a true IR climate in the world of steelmaking. With colourful characters from a management and union side, I was given fantastic exposure as an up and coming HR professional to experience that world and understand how it works. I got to understand how important the mutual relationship was, and how issues could be addressed behind closed doors, out in the open, and even in those ‘tricky situations’ where the deal agreed behind closed doors was then played out in the open for full effect.

I often recall my first day in Steelmaking where I was introduced as a HR apprentice to a union representative who asked my boss if that meant I was a ‘Trainee Bastard’. I know it sounds bad, but I found it amusing, and I loved every minute in that environment.

But what I and my other ‘junior’ HR colleagues learned during this period, was a set of skills that nothing could have prepared us for, not the world of academia, not through our professional membership, and not in non-unionised environments. We learned the art of employee relations through watching how Employee Relations managers and Industrial Relations Directors operated. We watched them strategise, develop consultation plans, play a ‘chess game’ when considering what decisions they could and couldn’t make, watched them pick their battles and know when to deal. We also watched them love, almost every minute of it, unless the consultation was to discuss job losses, when conversations were more reserved and respectful. These skills were critical in the industries in which we operated.

My concern is that I gather this is now something of a dying skill, but if the recent news stories as I mentioned above are anything to go by, then these skills need to continue to be developed or businesses will suffer. Unions have continued to develop these core skills, largely as this continues to form a fundamental part of their job description, so if businesses fail to develop skills to represent their interests and their side of the debate, then employee relations disputes are in danger of no longer being a level playing field.

The rise of technology, automation, the fear of ‘robots are going to take our jobs’ and a difficult economic climate, means that businesses are going to need to consult and modify their working practices, terms and conditions, and even physical environments in the not-to-distant future which I predict will mean continued industrial action as it is inevitable that any proposed changes will not be to everyone’s satisfaction. And if the industrial action is going to continue, then the skills within the business environment to respond to this, will continue to be needed. So maybe developing HR professionals in the art of employee relations, needs a renaissance too.

Anti-Social Mobility

career-ladder

I find social class as a subject, difficult.

I can only talk about my own experience and situation, and so here’s my story.

I’m exceptionally proud of my working class roots and when the subject is raised I define myself categorically as working class although the truth is, by most definitions, I suppose these days, i’m middle class.

I grew up on a council estate in Neath called Meadow Road, a collection of a couple of hundred council houses and flats, identical looking, scattered in a circular fashion that had its own mini social structure depending on where in the street you lived.

I have fond memories of a strong feeling of community spirit, a happy childhood of using the full expanse of the council estate for the best games; football and British bulldog on the grass banks, fox and hounds around the lanes and gardens, and making dens in the neighbouring field and woods. And sure, the estate had its problems, but we would somehow turn those problems into interesting events.

I still vividly remember watching Chris Higgs, a lightning quick winger for Neath RFC who made his living as a police officer, easily outrunning a drug-addicted, recently released criminal, who within less than a week of being released from prison, was being recalled. I remember watching the chase and thinking it was incredibly exciting but on reflection, it was clearly very serious.

What I didn’t ever feel growing up, was restricted. I never felt that because of where I was living and where I was growing up, that this would affect my life choices or career options. I remember learning about social mobility in school and thinking that it was easily achievable. Certainly moving upwards in social class. Maybe I was naive, maybe I was being ignorant, maybe I was neither and maybe I was both. Now I see that its not been quite as easy for some as it is for others.

We moved out of the council estate when I was about 14 as my parents bought a house in a nearby street. Social mobility in action. At 16, just after leaving school and not knowing what to do with my life I took up a job as a claims handler in an insurance company. It had a referral scheme where I would get £250 if I recommended a friend to come and work there too and so I recommended one of my best friends. After the interview, where he was offered the job, he was clearly not himself. I asked him what was wrong and the interviewing manager had told him that in order to be successful within the company he would need to ‘drop his council estate accent’. Great GCSE’s, brilliant work ethic and yet he was defined in this interview by the way he talked. Disgraceful.

I left the insurance company not long after to take up an apprenticeship in Corus, formerly British Steel and now Tata, at the huge steelworks in Port Talbot. I was immediately thrown into a situation with people of all ages, all academic backgrounds and from all over the world and I distinctly remember feeling welcomed. I had landed this apprenticeship programme because I had good GCSE results and I passed the interview and aptitude test – nothing else mattered. Corus developed me and judged me only on performance, giving me opportunities because they saw potential in me. I owe that company a huge debt. 

Other than being cathartic, writing about my background serves a purpose for this blog post.

Today, on Twitter, one of my #PLN, general CIPD Legend and fellow member of the Bearded Welshmen Club (not an actual club), David D’Souza wrote;-

 

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The last line struck a chord.

An exchange ensued and David pointed me in the direction of an article on Huffington Post with the headline ‘Working Class People Earn £7,000 Less Than Privileged Colleagues, Research Shows’. You should read this article, the link is below. I responded to David by saying that whilst I agree with the article, I find it difficult to accept that it has led to such an impact on me personally. David helpfully encouraged me to be humble, but to follow the data. So i’m trying to do both.

The article itself explains amongst other things that ‘those from poorer backgrounds are less likely to ask for pay rises, have less access to networks and work opportunities or, in some cases, exclude themselves from promotion for fear of not fitting in’. It also explains that other reasons for the ‘class pay gap’ could include , conscious or unconscious discrimination or more subtle employment processes which lead to ‘cultural matching’ in the workplaces’. Even the terminology starts to make me feel uncomfortable.

Why do I find this a difficult subject? Because it has me torn.

This form of discrimination is obviously disgusting and elitism is clearly alive and kicking much to my dismay, and would I have wanted my social background to have been considered at any point in my career thus far, when assessing in particular, my remuneration and worth? Absolutely not. Has it affected me asking for remuneration in line with my value, or affected my ability to build a network? No. Although, its entirely plausible that some of these issues have occurred, without me realising it.

I’ve never, ever wanted people to treat me adversely or negatively in any way because of my working class upbringing and roots, but in the same line of thought, I too don’t ever want it to result in me being treated more favourably either. Like everyone else, I just want to be treated equally.

I don’t want my social background to be a factor at all when considering my level of success. I don’t want to be treated favourably because I have mobilised socially, and I certainly don’t want the ‘haven’t you done well’ type attitude towards me as a result of this either.

But maybe, i’m just one of the survey outliers and my story isn’t common – yet lots of people I grew up with in the same estate or nearby, grew up to be successful, who would also probably be considered ‘established middle class’ in the UK social class system, so maybe we aren’t outliers after all.

But here’s where i’m really torn.

I get that while my situation appears out of sync with how many others are being treated (possibly), hence the research in the article as well as the headline, I get that to address the issue, social background needs in some way to be considered. If only to safeguard against discrimination and close the gap. But how can this be achieved, sensitively, without upsetting people like me.

I have no idea.

So do we underestimate social background in terms of success? I’m sure Dave’s right and we do. But should we consider it at all – not necessarily. If I don’t want to be judged on my social background to be either negatively or positively treated, then why does it even need to be considered. Because working class people earn £7,000 less than priveleged colleagues, that’s why.

As I said, no answers – just my personal experience and opinion.

The song for this post – Merle Haggard – Working Man’s Blues

Huffington Post Article – http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/working-class-pay-social-mobility_uk_588928dae4b02af0a3d57008

Here’s a bit about Chris Higgs and other fantastic Welsh rugby players who were unlucky to never get a Senior squad welsh cap, in case you are interested – http://www.walesonline.co.uk/sport/rugby/rugby-news/definitive-list-unluckiest-welsh-rugby-9203471