I’m off the to the CIPD Northern Area Partnership Conference today. It’ll be just the second time I’ve been back to York since I moved back ‘down South’ 3 years ago.
I spent 15 years in Yorkshire – learning to love a good pint of bitter, play cricket with a bit more aggression and to be able to mentally plot a route through York’s snickleways that avoided the droves of tourists. I left good friends there and didn’t keep in touch as much as I should, but London is relentless and York seems like another life.
My favourite lessons from those 15 years are things that I think will probably stick with me throughout my career
“You can’t fat the calf by weighing it” – my first HR manager used to say this frequently and as we move towards more of a focus on analytics it is worth remembering that assessing a problem isn’t solving a problem.
“You need to paint them a picture so big that they want to walk into it” – we talk about the importance of vision, but I think some people forget the point isn’t to have it because books tell you that you need it. It’s to give people a desire to travel somewhere new. That’s the trick. That’s why it needs to sound good to your people, not to your leadership team.
There is a ‘good lad’ test – I’m sure that there is an equal ops version of the statement, but I learnt the importance of introductions in Yorkshire. Conversations flowed easily and casually with new people when you were introduced with the all important endorsement “Jim, meet Dave, he’s a good lad, you’ll get on”. If you didn’t get that initial endorsement you were starting from scratch.
Patience helps pace – I worked for M&S for a few years at the start of my career. Retail is a great place to learn both business and HR. It is fair to say the average employee at M&S at that time was female and about 55. I basically was treated like a spare son by most of the workforce. If I made a mistake (and I do, frequently) the typical response was ‘bless you, you are a daft one aren’t you?’. Sometimes my hair was affectionately ruffled. It was a fast paced environment with pressure on the whole time – so people were less exacting rather than more with new starters. You don’t always see that, but it helps.
Plain talking works best when you care – I worked with some brutally honest people. People who would “call a spade a spade”. That was a very Yorkshire thing, there was a big emphasis on it, but it worked for some people and not others. Why? Because tough honest messages delivered with care will gain you respect. Running your mouth off because you feel that you can will lose respect. Tact and truth aren’t opposites.