HR/life – 10 golden nuggets

Since I’m away for the week I thought I’d lazily schedule a blog that most readers won’t have seen…it will seem like I’ve written something new, whereas in fact I’ve been hanging out with Mickey Mouse.

Throughout your career you have people and moments that stick with you. 

There are also words and concepts that stick with you too and I’ve compiled my Top 10 in this blog. Feel free to add yours in the Blog comments or through Twitter.

I have included a couple of my own in there, in the distant hope that in 20 years somebody quotes one back to me…and I can explain that I came up with it. And they’ll deny it and I’ll produce this Blog in a moment of absolute triumph. 

10 gems of wisdom

You can’t fat the calf just by weighing it

My very first HR Manager taught me this bit of wisdom early in my career. Seeing a problem is only useful if you take action. Now, whenever I hear someone explain their engagement strategy in terms of the survey – rather than the actions – I always think of her fondly.

I’m going to paint you a picture so large that you can walk straight into it

The same Manager used to say this – and what followed was always wonderfully vivid context, bringing to life the challenge at hand

Cold assessment of the facts, warm development of behaviours

I love this mantra, as it perfectly couples the fact that you need to be clinical in your assessment of what is going on, but with a commitment to dealing with issues in a human way. 

Credit where credit is due, not credit where credit is available

I may have overheard it,  but I remember the first time I used this when a member of my team described a piece of a work that they had contributed to but as if it was all their own. I was pleased with their input, not their attitude to sharing success. I let them know.

The most valuable thing someone has to give is their time

You only get to live this life once. If someone gives you the gift of their time make sure you appreciate it and respect it. Someone offered this gem when we were waiting for a colleague who was always late for meetings. What someone who is regularly late is really saying is “my life is more important than yours and I don’t value your time”.

Sometimes to change the people, you have to just change people 

Sometimes cultural change isn’t about who you take with you – it’s also about who leaves and who comes in. We can get trapped in the lovely development and intervention planning and forget about the tough choices which could make things better for everyone

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

It isn’t an original quote, but this was a timely shot across the bows for me a few years ago and made me more mindful of my impact on others. 

No company ever got great due to the strength of their paperwork, but plenty have on the strength of conversations

I was having a debate with an MD on Performance Management paperwork. I was explaining that I wasn’t concerned about completing paperwork by a deadline, because completed performance paperwork that has no significant business outcome – I was concerned that we were missing opportunities to improve through coaching and the lack of paperwork was a symptom. If you are going to be a tick box manager then make sure the box you are ticking is ‘be excellent’ and not ‘met deadline’.

Don’t poke the bear and don’t ignore the elephant in the room

A combined animal quote, requiring you to balance an elephant and bear – you should manage your stakeholders well and not get into unnecessary arguments, but never be afraid to say what other people are afraid to. It is always your job to say what other people are afraid to. That is how you keep pushing for excellence.

I think your main development area is that you need to shave

I admit this isn’t a normal one to crop up in a list like this – and I didn’t expect it to crop up in my annual review. I hate shaving, but it turned out the senior team had me pegged as some kind of hairy anarchist due to a stubbly beard. A quick visit from Mr Gillette and suddenly Directors were stopping me in the corridor to say how smart I looked – and I was being mentored by the MD, with him stating that my shaving showed a willingness to change. 

It always reminds me that I had one development area that I didn’t think was important  – but what mattered was that everyone else did.

Update with further contributions (I can take no credit for these)

“organisations are perfectly designed for the results that they achieve” – @ChangeContinuum


8 thoughts on “HR/life – 10 golden nuggets

  1. I love this blog post! I’m with Bruce. Those are my favourites too.

    I’d like to add “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” or “If you can’t be positive, then at least be quiet”. Admittedly it’s not always easy to remain positive, but it can be an opportunity to reflect and find a solution or the answer to a difficult or challenging situation.


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