Business Sexy

Let’s talk about sex.

Brief Encounter
Brief Encounter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently I read a blog by Neil Morrison about making HR sexy (http://change-effect.com/2013/09/29/get-your-sexy-on/). I agree with it entirely, if you want people to do things differently they need to be interested, if you aren’t going to make things interesting – well, you fall at the first hurdle.

Quite often we take lessons from ‘real life and apply them to business. I think that sometimes we can benefit from doing the reverse. It reminded me of a conversation I had a few years ago about how business best practice can be applied to both relationships (and sex).

Before I continue I’d like to make the following disclaimer: I’m happily married (‘no recent experience’) , I’m useless with the opposite sex (‘no track record in this sector) and I’m therefore giving this advice confident in the fact I’ll never need to use it.

Think of it like being a bit like bad exec coaching.

So, on to the lessons from business that you can apply to your very private life…

Market strategy – when choosing a partner you either need to be first to market (not literally, they may have had other joint ventures previously) or you need to be able to commit wholeheartedly to delivering a differentiated offering. Try to stay away from crowded sectors when advantage may be competed away before you can establish a commanding market position. You want to enter an untapped market and create significant barriers to entry for other interested parties. Occasionally you may find an opportunity that is potentially high yield, but has been dismissed by other investors. Depending on your risk appetite you may want to ‘go early and go big’ in this instance.

Recruitment policy – recruit for attitude and train for skills. This is where the sex comes in. The conversation I had was with a lovely woman looking for a new partner and they listed all the attributes any potential partner would need. It took some time. It was a long list. It finished with ‘good in bed’.

I explained that their wish list would exclude every male on the planet, except a younger George Clooney – and I’ve always told my wife that everybody knows he is really poor in bed. Accept that if you find someone you like then you should invest time working on the team dynamics in the bedroom. Whether you attempt this inhouse or as an away day event over a weekend is entirely up to you – but the point is the hiring decision should be based on fitness and potential, rather than current competence. Yes, I suppose you could read ‘fitness’ in a couple of ways in that last sentence.

If you do use psychometrics within the recruitment process be clear on how much of the decision this will inform and ensure that all feedback is constructive and timely. People can get offended if, in certain intimate situations, you explain that you are disappointed that they aren’t more of a completer finisher.

Above all remember that a disappointing candidate experience will have an impact on your broader brand.

Onboarding/induction – the individual was most likely a poor fit with their previous organisation, so it is worth dealing with any angst from this in the onboarding phase, whilst not dwelling on any painful experiences. Depending on your individual policy you may have a probation period. Be clear with individuals what situations may cause them to fail this probation – bringing particular attention to the fact that they are contractually obliged to refrain from working for a competitor whilst engaged by you.

Next move onto some tiered skills training to get them to match your performance requirements. I would advise against the use of an external coach during the training. The training environment usually cannot comfortably contain a third participant and it can make a significant negative impact on dynamics in a traditional structure.

Alongside this you will be undertaking a cultural induction – letting them know exactly how we do business around here. It is really important to be clear about your own Values and ensure that your recruit will be comfortable with them over time. This is particularly important if you expect them to be employed, longer term, in producing successors within your family business.

Performance reviews – my wife runs these quite relatively effectively for me. I get regular on the spot feedback from her combined with more formal reviews .I know these are formal reviews as

i) I’m expected to provide detailed evidence of having made a contribution and this is given considerable scrutiny

ii) she regularly sets me clear targets at the end of the conversation that are very specific, measurable and most certainly time bound. We differ on whether they are achievable and reasonable.

iii) She will also revisit these conversations (regularly) and refer to agreements made within them over the course of the year.

I’m expecting a performance review right after she reads this…

HR Social – Unicorns, rainbows and pixies

Emotivism – I feel a bit bored of social media without the fighting

Prescriptivism – everyone should fight, because I’m a bit bored of social media

Yes, it’s a trite summary of someone else’s position – but it’s provocative, likely to start an argument and possibly upsetting so it’s actually ok.

————–

Yesterday I read this blog http://goo.gl/IGMvG by Neil Morrison. Neil had been tweeting similar for the past few days, so I thought I would reply. Then some people agreed with Neil, so I attempted to pop their bubbles and things got a bit out of hand. Later on things got even less professional with people attacking each other directly and losing sight of the point altogether. The final comments posted were simply not something you would ever like to see. It was just abuse. I wasn’t involved in them, but as you can see they are personal, distasteful and not fun.

I’m guessing, but I imagine Neil is delighted that he has acted as some kind of provocateur (not delighted about the abuse, but the debate), bringing more fire to the topic of social HR. Stirring up some action, creating a platform for more openness. In contrast, what I was seeing was how quickly things disintegrate when a lack of respect is shown. I saw nothing creditable, no quality of debate, none of the upside that Neil originally posted about. It was like telling everyone in a meeting that from this point on you just need to shout loudest to win. Neil’s view (lifted from his blog) is that –

Social HR should be:

Edgy

Argumentative

Difficult

Provoking

Upsetting

Social HR has become:

Cosy

Warm

Consensual

Boring

Predictable

Guess what – I think the first list paints a picture that is horribly exclusive and the second one a horrible caricature . If the point is ‘wouldn’t a bit more constructive challenge be useful?’ then the answer is normally ‘yes’. However, to think that anything (a business or a group) should aspire to a culture that upsets people and is ‘difficult’ is something that, historically, only people already in power desire.

Since I’ve started tweeting/blogging I have been reliant on the kindness of strangers, the warmth of a community and encouragement from people that I’ve never met to make a contribution. That is how this works, we get excited about first time bloggers because we recognise the bravery in those first steps. People contribute in the hope they have something to offer – quite often it may not be ‘new’, but it will always be a slightly different angle. People do this because there aren’t monsters lurking in the background waiting to leap on their mistakes.  People do this because most people realise that, deliberately upsetting other people is counterproductive, if you want to to get the best from others, rather than just ‘win” the debate. The job of leaders is to move people through the cycle of forming, storming, norming, performing as quickly as they can – not to keep it in storming just because you used to like it that way.

Ignore the words ‘HRSocial’  and you’ll find any group benefits from being welcoming, supportive and curious. If you give support and create openness you end up with ideas. If you shoot down ideas, simply because you want to upset people under the banner of debate, then you are killing thoughts. Steinbeck said ‘ideas are like rabbits, get two, look after them and soon you have hundreds’. We now have hundreds being socialised on Twitter and blogs, it’s harder to track down the ones you might want to keep as pets… but the choice….wow.

Do you know what else kills debate? Crude polarisation. The thought that if we create something ‘warm’ then it can’t have edge and must be boring. Or that consensus means there has been no debate. Or that upsetting people shows that you have edge. That if you aren’t upsetting people they only other option is that you are obsessed with unicorns, rainbows and pixies and would never challenge something you believe to be wrong.  Some of the finest people I’ve worked known have been able to challenge, provoke and shape  my thinking without ever having to upset me. In fact, if they had upset me it is unlikely I would have allowed my thinking to be challenged.

Neil wrote a ten point agenda for change in HR that I really liked. It contains the following parts that I think apply to ‘social’ as well as in business. After all, we are people in and out of the office…

We need to stop saying “no”. Our language, our communication to the business needs to be positive, not negative. We need to be owners of good news. Deal with problems individually, not by memo. Stop sending out dumb emails, if it isn’t positive, don’t send it.

We need to accept that you don’t get influence through control, you get influence through other people’s positive experience of you. Get influence through people wanting you involved not by telling them you have to be.

We need to listen to our employees and our managers. We need to stop seeing them as being “the problem” and start seeing them as being the people that we are here to help. They are the reason we have jobs, so stop moaning about them and start listening.

We need to be more human. We need to get out and talk, interact, spend time with people, we need to be empathetic and understanding, we need to feel. Sitting in the HR department bitching is not going to change anything.

I could sign up for that for being what we need to do on Twitter, with a few tweaks; I can’t sign up for being difficult just for the sake of it. There are other people involved when we are difficult. Those people matter. If you upset someone on social because that is what you think you should do then it is cowardly. You aren’t doing it face to face, you don’t have to deal with the consequences and unlike work they were giving their energy to the conversation for free. Bad form, bad form.

So what’s new?

Neil makes the point that he is bored of reading the same old things, that everyone is still talking about engagement surveys etc.  Well, that’s true, but everyone has a different angle, in fact, when I started blogging I read an article about blogging for HR that inspired me to publish my first blog, it was written by Neil and contained the following

I won’t have anything new to say
Take it from me, there isn’t a single blog post that hasn’t been written before, fact. But there are a million different perspectives to be had on a subject and with the news constantly changing, you get a whole load of potential new topics presenting themselves each week. Blogs that add insight, perspective, thought and challenge are as popular as those that try to be at the cutting edge.

I haven’t read a blog that I haven’t taken something from, even if it is just one person’s view of the world – and I’m always glad they took the time to share their view. I was glad I read Neil’s, it gave me the chance to write this. He’s written some great stuff and I’m glad we have people injecting debate, but I can never be glad when someone is the architect of conflict, because normally it isn’t them getting hurt.

(slight caveat – this isn’t the start of the ‘Dave vs. Neil’ wars to keep people entertained. This is just a counterpoint, similar to the excellent one offered here wp.me/p2YgNX-fq by Simon Heath. Which attracted less debate, but also less bile. Neil actually has been nice to me personally, supportive and welcoming. I just want everyone to have the benefit of that)

If you want to know what ‘social’ constructively might be for I’ve added a feel good video…