Thursday, 31 May 2012

Vote for me?

It’s great to be nominated for an award. In itself it’s often a great achievement, let alone actually winning one. Once nominated though, it’s often the case that people like you & me get a chance to vote for that winner. 

All fair enough but what if you’ve never seen a nominees work or performance? 

Could you vote for a stranger? 
I was recently approached on Twitter by someone I vaguely know. They are a coach and I have no reason to believe that they don’t work to the set of coaching ethics that I do. We’ve met once, briefly at a conference in a group exercise. We follow each other on Twitter but we’ve not connected elsewhere and have never picked up the phone to each other. 

They wanted me to vote for them for a coaching award they had been nominated for & to retweet the fact that they’ve been nominated. 

I could have ignored their direct request to me but that didn’t feel like the right thing to do. I have respect for them based on what I know of them and that respect encouraged me to respond with my dilemma...  I explained my feelings and asked them on what basis do I vote for them in particular over the other candidates? 

My gut feel for the situation was rewarded with the sense of having done the right thing and with a prompt and reasonable reply. Their suggestion was that I could look at all the nominees videos and decide based on what I feel is in line with my values and integrity. A fair & respectful response I think. 

That feeling of being Chugged... 
I’ll do nothing about the voting – the videos say what you’d expect the nominees to say. Perhaps more importantly, in my heart I feel that you can only genuinely vote for someone when you have an appreciation of their abilities & how they perform. 

But here’s the thing. The experience felt a bit like when you are approached by a “Chugger” on the street. They may be nice people. Their cause may be worthy. But their manner of approach and apparent motivation feels wrong... 

Unfortunately, this experience has made me question this persons judgement. I’m wondering if really they are just trying to win the nomination not on merit but by mobilising their Twitter followers to vote for them. I wonder if this approach risks making the award a hollow popularity contest...

Do I know you well enough? 
So I look at Twitter and the people I follow and wonder who do I know well enough to vote for them if they were nominated for an award in their area of expertise. There’s plenty of folk I like, respect & want to support but sometimes that isn’t enough. I have great friends on Twitter who I trust but I’ve rarely seen them at work. 

So I look at myself on Twitter and wonder who knows my work well enough to vote for me in the work that I do? Of my 900 followers who would I genuinely approach? 

I’m not chasing awards but the answer makes me realise that what I’m doing on Twitter is not enough. For all the great learning, sharing, support, debate and friendships I have thanks to Twitter there’s very few people in a position to endorse my work in this way. That’s something I’m going to change. 

In the meantime, I have a couple of questions for you... 

How would you have responded to the ethical situation I described above? I’d like to learn from others' perspectives on this example.

Looking at your Twitter interactions, do you also find few people know your work well enough to vote for you? Perhaps I’m in the minority!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Beecroft – Who is Under Performing?

OK there’s a lot being written about the Beecroft Report at the moment and I’ve hesitated to write anything at all. However, there’s an important aspect to this story which just doesn’t seem to be coming out loudly. Who is underperforming? 

Current perspective 
The Telegraph’s story yesterday included a headline saying : 

“The majority of employers back controversial proposals to allow “no-fault dismissals” for under-performing workers, a survey has revealed.” 

The story then reveals it’s not the majority of employers – it’s the 1,100 respondents to an IoD survey where 76% backed the proposals. The director-general of the Institute of Directors, Simon Walker, is quoted as saying : 

“Our members prefer Beecroft’s ideas on unfair dismissal to the watered-down model being promoted as an alternative, so the Government should not waver”. “Beecroft’s changes to dismissal procedures would reduce regulatory burdens and encourage businesses to recruit more people — anything less would have a considerably weaker effect.” 

I’m not going to assume what the UK business community do or don’t feel about the Beecroft report. Plenty of others are already doing this. However, the positioning of the promoted benefit to business overlooks a fundamental part of good business. 

This is not really about business growth is it?
If you are planning to grow your company through recruiting more people then your focus is on growth not the regulatory burdens of removing staff at some theoretical point in the future when they have failed to perform. So “the story” here to a large extent doesn’t really deal with the dynamics of successful businesses enjoying growth. 

The issue is then more one of how you can replace under-performing staff in businesses regardless of their economic success. The process of staff replacement may on occasion be business enhancing… it could involve recruitment… but the net effect is not necessarily greater employment or business growth, in the short term or possibly ever. 

Are the headline grabbing stories persuading us to think of the Beecroft report as a way to business growth? Possibly… regardless, this not about business growth in successful businesses is it? 

This is about underperformance. By whom? 
There are a multitude of reasons why staff may under perform. However, if you can’t deal effectively with someone who is underperforming with current legislation etc. then what does it actually say about you as a business or as a manager? 

In my experience, it’s those who can thrive through adversity who are successful. 

If you can’t effectively deal with under-performance in your business today, then can you actually nurture great performance through people at all? 

Could revised legislative changes help perpetuate underperformance of managers who are not able address performance through developmental conversations? 

The Irony of Beecroft
Have you seen the reported explanation from Adrian Beecroft of what/who influenced his thinking… 

“It is actually a human resources director whom Mr Beecroft was once forced to dismiss, an experience that made the venture capitalist determined to reform the system. “We had an HR man who was very good at the technical stuff, but hopeless with people so we dismissed him, having thought we’d gone through the process,” Mr Beecroft explains. The company then placed an advert for a replacement who was “good with people”. “And he sued us for discrimination on the grounds that everybody knows that people who are good with people means we want a woman. We went to the lawyers and said this is ridiculous and they said we’d have to pay and so we paid him.” The £150,000 payoff that Mr Beecroft’s firm had to make to the under-performing employee was, he says, a typical experience for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Many people simply do not bother to hire because of the problems it can cause, he claims.” 

What is not said by Mr Beecroft is how his firm managed:
  • the hiring decision/process. 
  • the performance management process. 

Then what is said but won’t be addressed by his recommendations… 
  • the bone of contention being an issue of discrimination.

It’s easy to read this and think red-tape & legislation led to an extortionate payout of £150k… the reality is that perceived or actual discrimination led them to settle out of court as the lawyers must have perceived there was a risk of being found wanting in a tribunal. 

Ironic isn't it? What does this say about his firms ability to lead and manage people let alone manage their performance?

Recommended Further Blog Reading 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Communities Take Action

I’m just returning from latest Coaching & Mentoring “research day” run by Sheffield Hallam Business School (SHU). For those of you who don’t know, the round trip to Sheffield from my home in Norfolk is over 7 hours by train. Not something I undertake lightly but these “research days” are worth every minute!

The train journeys also give me time to work & blog... 

The value of the Unconference format 
Run with an OpenSpace format by the Coaching & Mentoring faculty at SHU these “research days” might also be described as quarterly unconferences.

I’m a big fan of the unconference format but I believe there’s always a risk that they won’t produce any tangible community action. There may be lots of great individual learning, connecting and discussion but leading to what? 

Assuaging my unconference fears was last months’ first #LDConnect Unconference (#ldcu). This has generated some great thinking which has continued and developed after the event and is in my opinion building towards real action. 

Today’s “research day” went one further. 

Community Action 
In one session, a very lively group of us explored the dynamics around Coach Supervision and the expanding number of coaches becoming Coach Supervisors. 

On the one hand there was appreciation for the role of Supervision as part of our development & professional practice. On the other hand, the rapid growth of income generating Supervision with a focus on coaches and not mentors felt like a big warning signal. 

After some great discussion a vision for the future was loosely developed. I won’t go into too much detail here & now as it’s going to be developed into a co-created article for the Industry magazine “Coaching at Work”... 

A positioning paper from a group of professional coaches/mentors & academics to challenge the status quo. To share our collective thinking on how the industry could adopt a more suitable approach to developing professional practice. 

Now that is what I call action! 

Simply Special
Was this group special? Yes and no...

We developed this thinking collectively around an area of common interest. We saw something wasn’t quite right but we were keen to develop our understanding through open dialogue. We came to a joint conclusion on what could be done to constructively (not destructively) create a better future. We decided to take action - collectively. 

It was that simple and for that it is also a bit special. 

What you going to do?
I know we’ve not completed our journey yet. We’ve not yet shifted the thinking of the industry let alone the professional bodies. But we’re going to try in a constructive & collaborative manner. 

We could all do similar - something simple, something special.

So why don’t we just do it?

Monday, 21 May 2012

You did it! Right?

Great weekend?  Fabulous!  Last week was busy wasn't it & I'm sure this week will be too.

You read Friday's post here didn't you?  Great!

So you had that phone call... You emailed some folk to arrange to talk... You committed those fantastic plans to paper and shared them... Yes?  Great!  How did it feel?

Oh I'm sorry...  You didn't have time?  You didn't read the post?  Nothing happened last week worth sharing?  Really?

You're better than that I'm sure.  Have another think...

What made last week stand out?  What can you take from last week and do something with this week?  Who are you going to tell about it?

Before the tide of this week washes you into Friday, find the energy to do something with whatever last week washed up on the beach. If it's elusive and you can't find it, reach out and ask for the help of a friend to do a bit of beachcoming.

If you're not quite ready yet then watch this video and find your story for tomorrow.

Thanks to @KingfisherCoach & @Brainpicker for sharing this video.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Will it go 'round in circles?

It's the end of the week and we've all been very busy.

Lots of talking. Lots of thinking. Lots of inspiration.

It's OK.  It's Friday and the weekend is coming to rest our weary minds.

But there's the problem... as a salve the weekend can't help but take away some of the energy you have built this week. If you're not careful those great ideas will stumble...  Will it go 'round in circles?

Maybe that's as it should be.  Or maybe you want to turn those plans into something more than just talk, thoughts & dreams.  Maybe you've got a song but perhaps you haven't got a melody yet.

Do yourself a favour...

Pick up the phone and tell someone your dream.  Email some folk and arrange to talk about how to turn that dream into a plan.  Write a blog about what you are committing to do and invite people to join you.

Take some inspiration from @RafaDavies  and read what he's doing here.

Listen & watch this group of people come together and do something.  Feel the energy.  Then do something!

If you don't will it go 'round in circles? Have a great weekend!

Friday, 11 May 2012

The Wondering Wanderer

By Jtneill [CC-BY-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Once upon a time a man lived in a big city. In some ways he was an ordinary bloke but he noticed things. Things others didn’t seem to notice. 

He noticed that although everyone had all that they needed, many were unhappy.

He noticed that in the big city, those who lived in the tallest parts never mixed with those in the rest of the city. Yet the whole city was governed and controlled by those in the big white palace on the hill. In his heart he felt this was wrong but he didn’t know why. 

Being a man to follow his heart, with the arrival of summer he decided to wander to far away lands to see if every town and city was the same. An ambitious endeavour but his goal was set. 

The Communal Conundrum 
The first town he came to he noticed was quite different to his own. In fact there were no buildings at all. All the people lived happily together in a group of caves but with no sign of any shops. 

Upon asking an old man about why this was, the old man said he had never heard of a shop. Everyone gathered & made what they needed each day as it came. The Wanderer commented that it seemed very sensible and all the people seemed very happy. 

The old man agreed that everyone got on together very happily but often the people were hungry. Each day the people would gather and go out together to find food. However, they all stayed together. So when they managed to find a tree with fruit, each had some but never enough to fill their bellies. 

Even though they were happy with each others company, they remained constantly hungry and the winters in the caves took their toll. Puzzled by their communal conundrum they carried on as best they could. 

The Wanderer realised just how fortunate he was because this never happened in his city. 

Snug but Hungry 
Moving on, the Wanderer came to the second town. This town was quite different being made of wood, mud and thatch and outside of each house were baskets of fruit & other foods. Approaching another old man, he remarked on how different this town was to the last.

The old man said that once upon a time they too had lived in those damp caves. However, they had realised that if each morning they discussed what they needed, the people could go out in groups to different places to gather as much as was required. Over time it had meant they could gather the materials they needed to build these nice snug homes. Winters still came harsh but the warm houses made a difference.

The Wanderer could see the sense of this.  He wished he could return to the first village and help them understand how they too could achieve this with a little foresight.

However, summer was progressing and he felt there was more to explore and understand. 

Best Laid Plans 
Journeying further, the Wanderer came to a third and final town. All seemed very similar to the second town except it was much larger. He commented on this to an old lady. 

She agreed that indeed a few years ago they had been almost exactly the same as the town he'd just visited. However, with the harsh winters and their warm, snug houses came larger families! Because of this they needed to provide more food and to store some for the hard winters. So the people had sat down and discussed how they might do this. They had no idea where to start but over a few days they managed to agree how they might attempt this feat over the coming seasons. 

In that first year, they made mistakes but because they all had a shared vision and wanted to help each other they managed to improve their fortunes.

The old lady went on to tell how the next year they sat down again and discussed how they could do this each and every year. They wanted to ensure that the children born that last winter could safely survive the coming years. Sure enough they agreed a way forward and in time the town grew and was filled with the sound of children all year round. 

He marvelled at the sense & success of this and how they had still managed to foster a happy community, unlike in his city. The Wanderer congratulated the old lady on the way she and her people had improved their town. 

Flattered by his praise, she smiled and whispered quietly, “Would you like to see something even more special?”. 

Agreeing, she led him out of the village to a small hill where the elders of the town were gathered. They were all admiring a large white square in the ground created from stone. The Wanderer asked the lady what it was. 

With great pride she said, “We’ve found a way to make our town even more successful! As we get older our houses are less comfy but we treasure the wisdom of our elders. So we are going to build them an Ivory Tower!” 

The Wanderer looked around him and wondered where it had all gone wrong… 

Background Footnote 
A funny little story, this blog was in response to a provocative conversation on Twitter started by @DougShaw1 with the following tweet : 

“Can you see into the future? Nope - neither can I. Which is why strategic planning is such a waste of time and money. Follow your heart.” 

The ensuing dialogue between Doug, Sukh Pabial, Jonathan Wilson and myself led to Doug writing “I Have A Dream” over on his blog.  This little story was a way to express the value and perils of "strategic planning" without us arguing over the commercial merits in the workplace. I hope I achieved at least some of that sentiment!

Why not join in the discussion and comment here or here?

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

HR - Saviour of the Universe

It feels like nearly every week I see a blog post, discussion or tweet about how HR are going to be the saviours of the working world... how HR will revolutionise & humanise the workplace... how HR are going to save the universe...

Similarly, there's a constant stream of conversation about HR becoming more strategic & commercially focused; gaining a seat at the table...

Perhaps they are laudable aspirations but sometimes it just feels a bit like a Flash Gordon plot...  Ming the Merciless is going to destroy us but Gordon will be our saviour!

Maybe it's a generational thing but surely corny 80's fantasy film plots and Queen songs weren't this influential?!?

Role Model Reality
Every great HR professional I work with just gets stuck in and makes the difference. There's no running around after the "shiny-shiny". There's no quantum leap to their blue sky thinking.

They earn their respect and place in the organisation through their actions and their quality of thinking.

Sometimes they are innovators.  Sometimes early adopters. Being an aspirational thought leader is not as important as being a good leader.  

They are trusted advisors and role models.  When they can't make a difference, they move on. They have purpose.

That's my experience; my reality.  What's yours?

The Blessed Effect
In the spirit of being lighthearted but serious this post has to be concluded with a very short clip of the quite wonderful Brian Blessed.  Perhaps HR could sometimes do with a bit more of him instead!