The Nature of Your Jobs

The Nature of Your Jobs

For long time readers (that’s both of you) my aversion to Apple as an organisation and the near cult of Steve Jobs is well documented. However, I’m also pretty ‘whole of market’ about where I get my wisdom – because I think learning is so precious that you should try and grab it wherever you find it.

It would be ridiculous to say I didn’t like Apple so there are no lessons to be learned from that organisation or its history.

The other day I passed an ice cream stand that had a Steve Jobs (attributed) quote written on a board.

‘If you want to make everybody happy all the time then don’t become a leader… go sell ice creams’

I think at the heart of that is something really important. That helping people and organisations get better – and helping them achieve – isn’t the same as making people happy.

It certainly isn’t about making people unhappy (that’s toxic), but most of us have benefitted from tough but necessary lessons at some point in our careers. Most of us have recognised our luck in having people who are prepared to have the uncomfortable conversations with us which prompted us to reflect and grow. Once the conversation is over most of us were thankful that our manager/boss/colleague cared. Most of us – longer term – were happier.

I think it’s largely a false choice to ask people to pick between being respected and being liked. They aren’t mutually exclusive. But don’t ever lose sight of the fact that leaders get paid to do the stuff you respect them for, not to enhance their own popularity. My caveat to this is that once you accept you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs then it gives some people with a predilection for breaking eggs a nice excuse for poor behaviour. As with many things the truth lies somewhere in between.

If you are leading people then what they need and what they want aren’t always aligned. It’s your job to support those conversations to reconcile those things even if you are unpopular for a bit.

If you are leading people then their standards and those of the organisation might need to get a bit closer. It’s your job to step towards those conversations as quickly as possible for their benefit.

If you are leading people then sometimes the conversations with one person about their impact on the broader group fall may in your lap – it’s your job to handle them with grace and care.

If you don’t fancy that job or if you just want to be liked…

Well, you can always go and sell ice cream.

(please note if you work as a leader in the ice cream industry then you’ve got all angles covered. Kudos)

Did you find what you were looking for?

Superquick NYE blog.

Dilbert
Dilbert (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I only started blogging back in May and it’s been a fun ride. I named the blog ‘101 Half Connected Things’ to allow me freedom to write about whatever popped into my head or I saw that day.

It isn’t an HR/business blog in a literal sense – it is normally about people and how they work (in and out of work). Sometimes it is serious, mostly it is not.

Over the course of the last 7 months the following search terms have led people to my blog. I can only hope to generate more randomness in 2014 and that people continue to spell ‘arc’ in that fashion.

Thanks for all you support, comments and criticism – they all help. Have a great New Year.

dilbert rocket acceptable losses
sexy love alive
disabled hr professionals
michael jackson blind fans
david d’souza humane
thoughts in half things
the letter (to post) in half an hour
good points and bad points of half people
innocent drinks organisational structure
hacking into hr
i love sexy wp
indiana jones didnt have a role in the outcome of raiders of the lost arc
random things that when put together make sense
do you think george bailey from its a wonderful life to be a role model

Update: The Book of Blogs 22/07

Quick recap: The Book of Blogs is an upcoming book of HR/OD/L+D/Business blogs that we are attempting to produce as a crowdsourced project, with conception to publication on Amazon in a total of less than 2 months. Currently we are making amazing progress. Thanks to everyone who has agreed to contribute.

This week’s milestones

Milestone 1 – I’ve just finished the next phase of the experiment. This involved exporting the content that we have so far to an Amazon Kindle.  There are some problems with spacing, but it has worked. I have been able to open the book and the links within it using my PC, android devices and an original Kindle. I may have jumped up and down in excitement a small amount. Bloggers:  It’s worth noting that links to video will work on all of these except the original Kindle

Milestone 2 – not only did we have our first blogs added via the online software, but we are now up to 7 having been added, well in advance of the deadline of 16/08. Thanks to @dougshaw1 for kicking it off. If we can keep a steady stream coming in then that will really help me manage my time effectively and help ensure the formatting is correct etc. Apparently the upload process is pretty painless, which is good news

Milestone 3 – the goal last week was to hit 30 contributors. Given that we are now standing at 49 and counting we have definitely exceeded expectations

Milestone 4 – I am delighted to welcome a number of US contributors to the project, something I wanted to happen last week,  including 2 bloggers who were in the top 10 of the recent Huffington Post  list of Social HR Influencers. I’m really happy about this, not just because I know they’ll provide great quality, but also because I think it will be amazing for some first time bloggers to be published alongside them

Milestone 5 – we still need a name, that will be the next milestone. Please make any suggestions you have to me and I’ll set up a vote in a few weeks time

  1. @simonheath1 – Simon Heath – as well as contributing an entry, the incomparable Simon Heath, will also be creating the cover illustration. 
  2. @Projectlibero – Jon Bartlett
  3. @TimScottHR – Tim Scott
  4. @HR_Gem – Gemma Reucroft submitted: A little more conversation
  5. @OD_optimist – Meg Peppin
  6. @dougshaw1 – Doug Shaw – submitted: In Fear of Fear 
  7. @LadyLoki – Niki Rosenbaum
  8. @ruchikaabrol – Ruchika
  9. @Malcolmlouth – Malcolm Louth
  10. @StephenTovey13 – Stephen Tovey submitted: Watch the children play
  11. @paperclipgirl – Louisa de Lange
  12. @Jawaddell – Julie Waddell
  13. @HRManNZ – Richard Westney – submitted: Collaboration is the new Competitive Advantage
  14. @sterling_amanda – Amanda Sterling
  15. @Jsarahwatshr – Jane Watson
  16. @KateGL – Kate Griffiths-Lambeth
  17. @KingfisherCoach – Ian Pettigrew
  18. @conmossy – Conor Moss
  19. @dds180 – me
  20. @bphilp – Bob Philpin
  21. @fourgroups – Four Groups – submitted: A Physics of People
  22. @sukhpabial – Sukh Pabial – submitted: What is hope?
  23. @verawoodhead – Vera Woodhead – submitted: No need to act like a Man. Women in leadership
  24. @myhr_nz    – Jason Ennor
  25. @Joolztybura – Julia Tybura
  26. @BenMorton2 – Ben Morton –submitted: Leadership in a VUCA world
  27. @IanandMJ -Ian Davidson –submitted: Why thinking in averages is below average thinking
  28. @ariadneassoc – Simon Jones
  29. @octopusHR – David Richter submitted: How to recognise and nurture disruptive innovation
  30. @MrAirmiles – Jose Franca
  31. @MorrisElise – Elise Morris
  32. @sineadcarville – Sinead Carville
  33. @engagingemma – Emma Lloyd submitted: It is decision time ~ Round 1 ~ Heart vs Brain?
  34. @kat_hounsell – Kat Hounsell
  35. @TashTasticNZ – Tash Pieterse
  36. @fuchsia_blue – Julie Drybrough
  37. @pontecarloblue – Amanda Arrowsmith
  38. @wendyaspland – Wendy Aspland
  39. @HRswitchon – Nicola Barber
  40. @mervyndinnen – Mervyn Dinnen
  41. @damiana_HR – Damiana Casile
  42. @EmilydouglasHC – Emily Douglas
  43. @MeghanMBiro – Meghan Biro
  44. @DwayneLay – Dwayne Lay
  45. @PamelaRoss – Pamela Ross
  46. @Nicky_T – Nicky Texeira
  47. @Lembitopik – Lembit Öpik  submitted: HR challenges on the USS Enterprise
  48. @LetSdeG – Leticia S. de Garzón
  49. @zoemounsey – Zoe Mounsey
  50. @Susanpopoola – Susan Popoola
  51. @academyofrock -Peter Cook
  52. @mindstrongltd – Tracey Davidson
  53. @brocedwards – Broc Edwards

FAQ (it stands for Faked Anticipated Questions)

Why did you decide to do this? 

I had the idea on a whim when I was thinking about crowdsourcing and in particular this list of HR social influencers http://list.ly/l/5qg. It seemed like a nice community project and, as I enjoy the content shared on HR blogs so much, I thought it might be nice to collate it. I then shot out an impulsive tweet and things took off from there.

So, what is your motivation?

My motivation is very much about giving people an open space to create as individuals, whilst at the same point creating something as a group. I’m unlikely to get a job from this (if you’d like to hire me have a look at goo.gl/fySbh  ) but  I currently have some space in my days I thought it would be fun to build something. The book will be priced at free, so this isn’t a stealth commercial project. It is a community project, plain and simple. I like ideas, I have the time to invest in helping and motivating people to share theirs. If you agree to take part then please understand that this is the ethos and don’t ask be complicated questions about who owns the rights etc. I simply don’t know and am probably disinclined to make things more complicated, if you are worried about this then just don’t take part. If you can think of it as a giant collection of guest blogs then you are in the right place.

What are the entry criteria?

Anyone can contribute – it can be their first blog or their hundredth. It can be new or their favourite old blog. It just needs to make sense standing alone. I’m sort of hoping that we do get to showcase some new bloggers and that the experience helps them go on to create more, that would make the project worthwhile in itself. There is no quality control – if someone has taken the trouble to write it then I will take the time to publish it. I haven’t approached anyone directly as I wanted people who were involved in the project and didn’t want to place any pressure on people to contribute. Please don’t attempt to sell a product – that is the only thing that won’t be acceptable.

What are the timescales?

A month from today for the content (!) should be enough for the length of writing required. So by 16/08 please have your content submitted or uploaded (see below). If you are able to do it earlier then please do, as there is only one of me so having 30 arrive on deadline day will doubtless cause issues.

*cough, cough* but you don’t know anything about publishing do you? 

No, I don’t, good spot. I do, however, love new technology and I’m also able to use Google. The combination of these things has led me to PressBook which is like a communal WordPress tool that will allow people to upload their own content and then for me to publish the content as an eBook to make available on Amazon etc.

So we are all uploading our own material?

It would be really helpful if once you have written it you could upload it yourself. If you write it in WordPress it brings everything over quite painlessly.Send me your email, I’ll send you a log in and then you can just paste your material in as a new chapter *update 22/07 – apparently this is quite painless*. Click on text and then new chapter…

If this seems like the scariest process in the world then there is a two step process

i) attempt it yourself, you only get to live this life once and being in fear of useful things isn’t very useful

ii) send me your content directly – I don’t want anyone to suffer undue emotional distress in what should be a pleasant process

How will the book be structured?

I’m undecided. I might attempt to collate similar entries together or deliberately leave them apart. Who knows? It’s fun embracing an open approach.

What if everyone writes on the same topics? 

I don’t think they will, but if they do then we will still have a book – just on a narrow range of topics. My experience is that people have their own style which means at the very least people will offer different angles on topics.

Is there anything I can’t do?

Please don’t link to any material that we don’t have rights for.  I like putting video and pictures in my blogs, if you are doing so then please make sure you aren’t breaking the law when you are doing so.

What will it be called?

I haven’t a clue. I’m accepting suggestions. In fact if you send me suggestions I’ll run a poll and we can choose together. That is how collaborative this can be.

Can I contact you with questions?

Yes, I’m weak on Geography, but I’m pretty strong in most other areas.

Simple things – language and HR

The Official Dilbert Website featuring Scott Adams Dilbert strips, animations and more

It isn’t that hard.

I’m not saying it’s easy, but the things we do actually aren’t rocket science. Unless you are currently a very involved Business Partner for NASA ( in which case, apologies – but it’s hardly brain surgery).

It does seem that s all too often we require the comfort blanket of credibility that is jargon. How can HR become more ‘commercial?’  – is it by asking people to ‘have a bluesky roundtable, lasered in on improving synergistic dialogue that will improve idea socialisation and then to carpark any issues to take them offline’?

Do we really believe that the leadership teams we work with hear something like that and think ‘great idea, team!’ – or are we hoping they will be so confused that it will act in a way similar to Latin in a legal document – to distance understanding to the point where most believe they are reliant on an ‘expert’ to make sense of what is going on.

If we want transparent and inclusive organisations (most people do) then don’t make language a barrier make it an ‘enabler’ – better still, just make it helpful.

So here is my brief list of words that we could probably kill without anybody thinking less of us, feel free to add more

Add value – try just helping. Everyone understands help. ‘Am I helping you?’ is a powerful question. ‘Am I adding value?’ is asking for reassurance

Engagement – if you can’t define engagement  in a way that doesn’t immediately make someone think of a survey – then try another word. Are you scared of people being passionate about working for you and believing in what you do? Does it sound too woolly? Or was that what you wanted in the first place.

Stakeholder management – you have customers, shareholders and colleagues.  Which ones does this impact? Go make them happy. When I think of stakeholders I think of this drawing by the fantastically talented Simon Heath (@Simonheath1)

Contracting – try just agreeing. You are agreeing something with a person, don’t turn them into a transaction – you both lose out.

Big data – you probably don’t know what this means. Have a look http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_data Suprised? Stop using it because it is trendy – try doing some basic analysis of your data

Performance management – when you say you are ‘performance managing’ someone do you mean ‘I’m finally accepting I might have to sack them so I’ve started some documentation’? Thought so. What were you doing before? When they are performing you weren’t managing their performance? That’s a bit embarrassing – you only appear to have a role in failure. Awkward

Employee attrition – you made a bad hire or someone found somewhere better to work. It is unlikely that someone ‘attrited’ – it just feels nicer to say it because when we use technical language it loses some of the immediacy. ‘What percentage of our people didn’t want to work here anymore last year?’ is actually a far scarier and useful question than ‘what is our annualised attrition rate YTD?’. People leave, they don’t attrite. At the point you apologise for ‘having to attrite the party early’ it will be acceptable.

Managing expectations effectively – just let them know why you are going to miss the target. They are a grown up, you are – have a chat instead of attempting to manage them

Generation X/Y/Z – imagine how you would feel if you went out for a meal and were allocated your food based on age… How annoyed would you be? Or if the cinema automatically ushered you away from the movie you wanted to watch – because you were 6 months older than their target demographic. Doesn’t feel like a great way to run a business does it? So don’t do it internally, learn about your people and be flexible in how you treat them – not because generations are different, but because people are. Kierkegaard wrote ‘if you label me you negate me’ . If even his generation understood that….

Significant culture change –this appears to be interchangeable with ‘transformation programme’ which in turn seems to involve ‘significant structural change’ which in turn seems to require HR professionals who are ‘experienced in consultation’ which in turn seems to involve people ‘familiar with large scale redundancy programmes and TUPE’.  They aren’t interchangeable terms, I appreciate the interdependency, but changing a culture does not primarily involve needing to be able to sack people with minimal risk

So, that is my list of shame, please feel free to add more in the comments or on Twitter.

Dave

Rodin’s longest success

So, for this blog I’m going to be reflecting on what you can learn from Rodin

The De Niro film, with the epic car chase – where they are all fighting over a briefcase with unknown contents?

No, that is Ronin. This is about the sculptor Rodin who created The Thinker and The Kiss. I was recently invited for a tour of the Royal Academy – and I recalled that, to my shame, the only other time I had been there was to visit a Rodin exhibition, which I found genuinely fascinating.

I knew very little about Rodin before the exhibition – but The Thinker holds a special place for me as I am, ashamed to say, a toilet reader, and we had a small scale version of it in the most private of rooms when I was younger.

You read on the toilet?

Look, it’s called lifelong learning and you can’t let the call of nature get in the way of the acquisition of knowledge. I’m moving on from this now…

Private reflections

In 1880 Rodin was commissioned by the Directorate of Fine Arts to create an entrance for a (still to be built) Decorative Arts Museum in Paris – with the theme and design being left to Rodin’s choice. The museum was never built and therefore the piece never got to fulfil its purpose.

The work Rodin created was called ‘The Gates of Hell’ and based on the work of Dante. Rodin worked and toiled on the piece for 37 years until he died he. It was incredibly complex piece of art that he had put time, creativity and effort into – but that never made it to public exhibition in his lifetime. 

So, Rodin wasted a huge part of his career then?

The interesting thing is that Rodin recycled this work into at least 11 other pieces of art during his career. The Thinker and The Kiss are essentially extracts from this larger body of unfinished work. 

Not only did Rodin recycle his work, but he did it multiple times, I had always laboured under the misapprehension that there was only one sculpture called The Thinker, but in fact there are at least 28 different casts of it on display around the world. 29, if you count my parents’ toilet. 

Rodin commercialised fragments of his one initial vision and then deployed the results on multiple occasions. Making repeated success out of a failed commission

The Gates of Hell – The Thinker in the centre


Lessons for HR

  • Even unfinished work can be brilliant – it still has value to you (and value to others) in both what you have learnt and what is new that you can use elsewhere
  • Once you have something that is uniquely you – the cast or model that forms your work – it can be deployed again and again in new environments and still feel fresh,. So don’t be afraid to change environments – you’ll just find somewhere else to make a difference
  • When you see brilliance, then just let it loose – these pieces all may not have arrived had Rodin not been given the ability to choose his own subject matter
  • Next time that you feel that your work is wasted – just reflect on someone who spent 37 years on something because he considered it a worthwhile endeavour in the first place. Time spent on things we value is never wasted – even if the results may not match our initial expectations
  • Failure is just a perspective. Rodin either spent 37 years on a piece that never fulfilled it’s purpose or 37 years creating his greatest piece of work. It just depends on how you tell the story

Thanks to Doug Shaw (@dougshaw1 )for the tour and the conversation that prompted this