Where good stuff happens. Where good people explore

Whatever is in your calendar just cancel it… just go ahead and rearrange your day on either the 13th or 14th of May. Come and meet me and have a coffee and then I’ll introduce you to people significantly smarter and better than me.

I now work for the CIPD, which means I get my pick of free conferences. It’s an impossibly good perk. I’m also getting to have some input into them, as the Conference Team here are lovely people and increasingly open to saying ‘we’ll give it a go’. I’ve been delighted with the increase of ‘fringe’ activity at recent events, the stuff that doesn’t feel like a traditional conference. This trend continues with the upcoming L&D Show where there is massive range of free activity and content for anyone attending. Over my career I’ve been able to experience most areas of HR (nobody would ever trust me with payroll…wisely) but at the core of my career is the desire to help people and organisations improve. L&D is uniquely charged to do just that. If an organisation can’t learn then it is can’t sustain advantage. That’s a commercial fact.

Over the two days of the L&D Show I’m looking forward to the following things in particular

  • Talking to Andrew Jacobs and Julian Stodd. They are people I respect hugely and always enjoy sharing ideas with and learning from
  • Listening to Andy Lancaster talk about the new CIPD qualifications for L&D, which are shaping up to be truly innovative. He is so bouncy that I’m pretty sure part of his salary is covered by a sponsorship arrangement with Red Bull.
  • Hearing more about smart ways to enable and support informal learning
  • Meeting people I haven’t met yet
  • Attending the social gathering on the Tuesday night. Relaxed environment… good people…
  • I was supposed to be speaking – but then I joined the CIPD and now, instead, I’m chairing a session on Collaborative Learning Partnerships to Drive Business and People Success

What I’m also looking forward to is creating things with great people. The show is a wonderful learning environment – maps, peers, experts, content, areas to sit and explore with people and thousands of people who share common ground. They spend a chunk of their lives working out how to help the learning experiences of others.

If you attend for no other reason than to meet people then it is still potentially some of the best time you can invest this year. Think ROI. It’s all about ROI isn’t it?

Last year I was playing about with a flipchart and ended up writing 3 simple rules for culture that ended up popping up all around the world (including, bizarrely, on t-shirts and more rewardingly in a group for teachers in the US) . This year I’m looking for two people to partner with me on writing a couple of exploratory papers. If you are there then please give me a shout. I’ll be explaining more later in the week. We need to beat the below for popularity…

culture rules

I’m also keen to meet L&D folk from across London and say ‘hi’. I’m lucky to have a role supporting the profession in London and I’m hoping to chat to as many people as possible to make sure we keep heading in the right direction.

I’ll be updating and republishing some of my blogs that are more L&D focused over the next few days. Long term readers – please forgive me if the odd one feels familiar…

I realise this may feel like an advertorial, but trust me, I’m genuinely excited.

Will you still be authentic?

I recently started work with the CIPD. I’ll be doing a role that I consider to be genuinely worthwhile. If you live in London and work in HR or L&D feel free to connect. We’ll be doing some good things and I’d love more people to benefit from them. If you currently don’t think we are doing good things then I’ll buy you a coffee and you can tell me why. We are probably doing more good things than you think.

I’ve only ever wanted my career to pass a test of ‘worthwhiliness’ so I’m currently very happy. There is no doubt, however, that the role is a significant change. Having ambled around conferences for a couple years saying whatever I like and looking scruffy, this career move has raised some interesting questions over ‘voice’ and ‘authenticity’.

The questions I got asked most often in the run up to me starting were around stuff like…

– will you still be you? You know… authentic
– are you still allowed to blog?
– will you keep the beard?
– will you have to wear a suit?

I’ve never really understood the concept of authenticity. I understand it academically, but really I don’t find that many people ‘fake’. People talk about authentic leadership, but for me it is more a question of integrity, intent and adapting to context. My wife, my daughter, my friends, my family and people I work with will all see a different side to me – and I’ll talk to them all in different ways. Adapting your style to connect better with people isn’t inauthentic. It’s human and natural and healthy, because life isn’t about you; it’s about the relationships between you and others.

I won’t be changing my values and I’ve joined an organisation that is about championing better work and working
lives, so it’s a pretty good match for what I’ve always tried to do when I get up in the morning.

Will I change my writing or things I say? A bit. I’m probably not going to publish a ’10 things the CIPD needs to do better’ blog. But then that’s because I get to spend my days helping the CIPD try to do things better, which seems a more constructive use of my time. I will keep writing, I will keep thinking. Nobody has spoken to me about changing tone or content. Nobody has told me what I can or can’t speak about. The CIPD should be about exploring a complex world and how we have the best impact in that world as a profession, not about a clone army with one single stance or thought. We have a few vacancies currently, we are looking for smart capable people. I like to think we aren’t doing that with the intent of telling them to turn their brains off on day 1.

Will the beard go? No. It keeps me warm in winter, hides spare chins when I’ve had a week of multiple takeaways and it matches my Twitter avatar. If I lose another stone it might go…

Will you wear a suit? Sometimes, as I’ll be meeting organisations that take you more seriously in a suit. I don’t particularly agree with that mindset, but I’m doing my job to make a difference and my preference for clothing is a reasonable sacrifice for making work better for others. I won’t enjoy it though… Occasionally I’ll get to wear my on brand trainers. On the days that I can, when I don’t have external meetings, I will wear jeans. Clothes do not maketh the plan.

Oh. And yes I mean ‘worthwhiliness’, it sounds more fun than ‘worthwhileness’.


How to harness half-baked ideas

I find one of the best ways of being creative is having other ideas to ‘bounce off’. The broader those ideas are the better. I always try to think of the extreme polar solutions to a problem and then work from there. That stops me always going for the safe choice and allows me to choose from ‘whole of market’ ideas.

So if someone is having trouble with performance I might start with extreme responses of:

Exit them from the organisation by just walking them out of the door now and sorting out paperwork later
Give them a huge promotion, pay rise and a team of people to manage to see what that does

Then I’d work out the consequences of each scenario and then see which one feels closer to a solution. I’m not staring from a point of looking for what is right, I’m starting by hunting for options.

This approach stops you thinking ‘on the rails’ and gets you thinking about a whole range of options. I appreciate that it seems time intensive. Which is a good thing.

The more you simply process things  – rather than think about how to solve them – the more likely you are to end up having a bigger and more time consuming problem further down the line.

I also think being relaxed helps me come up with ideas and laughing helps people relax. So as my weekend gift to you I will reveal one of my favourite websites. The repository of half-baked ideas. Enjoy.

I’ll get you started by linking to a different way of thinking about contracts… Here. And if you’d just like to laugh, check out what happened below…


Feedback would happen all the time if

Helen Amery set a challenge recently to think about why feedback doesn’t happen all the time. I couldn’t decide on one thing to write, so I didn’t write about one thing.

So feedback would happen all the time if….

Every company was a talking shop and we didn’t have any work to do
If we made time for the important things
If we stopped thinking of it as formal and a defined activity and making it complicated and started ‘no label coaching’, otherwise known as chatting
If companies could make profit based on hot air
If line managers were better equipped to do it
If people cared more
If people were less self centred
If there was more trust in organisations
If we valued education and growth as much as delivery
If organisations had leadership teams that modelled it
If we could articulate the value of it more
If we were more grown up about how we received it
If we just had more time
If we invited it more often
If we measured it’s presence in organisations
If we stopped measuring everything we can in organisations and freed up time for feedback
If we were as concerned for the careers of others as we are for our own
If we were confident in our abilities to give the tough messages without causing harm
If we were more arrogant and valued our own opinions more

All and any of the above

The #HR April Fool Test

At some point I’m going to release a book of organisational tests. But not quite yet.

To tide people over until that momentous event here is the April Fools Day Test for HR.

1. Sit down and work out the silliest email that your HR Department could send to the business that people might believe to be true
2. Spend 10 minutes working out why they might believe you would say or think something that stupid
3. Work out what you need to do differently for the business to believe that you share the same reality and are not stupid…

When people talk about HR having a credibility issue a good way to quantify the gap is to stretch reality until it becomes uncomfortable.

PS. I did this once. We issued a note on April 1st saying due to a health and safety directive we were switching off the lifts to ensure people walked more. If you wanted to take the lift regularly you needed a written business case to be presented to facilities. We had several complaints. That showed our credibility gap…pretty big.


PS I saw this recently. The sign says the office doesn’t give train info. It sort of necessarily does.