Wednesday, 26 April 2017

100 not out

I've now done 100 blog posts.  This is a reflective piece on how the blog has developed since it started.

Technically its 101 posts - this one being 101st - but as I only realised after I'd published the 100th, tough.  Noticing I'd passed my century made me look back at the start of the blog and reflect on how far it has come since those early days.

I started it for a few reasons.  I'd had it in mind for a long time, and had actually started work on a blog site a couple of years earlier but got nowhere with it.  What prompted me to get it up and running was a big change in my ex-organisation, and me moving jobs within it.  I realised I didn't want to be in that place (on many levels) any more, and a blog could help raise my visibility and profile within the profession and help me determine my next steps.  I also had loads of (what I thought) were great ideas about HR that my ex-organisation didn't seem to want, so I wanted to share these with a wider audience and help to develop my own thinking and see what happened.

I kept it going for other reasons.  I discovered that people read, and interacted with my thoughts. It helped me to develop them further but helped me make new contacts, new friends, and through all of this become a more rounded professional and human being (or so I hope).

It has attracted some negative feedback at times.  There haven't been many online debates about the content of the blog, but a few times people have come to me offline and in person and asked questions about it.  When I first started it, someone in my ex organisation who was on maternity leave read it and got in touch with her own manager to ask a question about my blog.  At that point it was a new thing, and no-one else in that organisation had come across it.  Suddenly, news of my blog spread like wildfire across the organisation and I was duly hauled in to explain myself.  And yet I'd done nothing wrong, other than perhaps not let the organisation know I was starting a blog and what it would contain.  So I got into trouble and to be honest that helped me move on in lots of ways.

But there's been overwhelming positive feedback, both on and offline, to things I write.  Some very kind and talented people have said some really kind and honest things about what I have written, that has made me realise I might be doing some good and might actually be a reasonable writer too.  Its for those people and others like them that I keep going.  I learn a lot from all the comments I get and enjoy entering into debate with people about my thoughts, as its only through debate that I learn and develop.

Blogging has led onto lots of other things, which I have listed HERE.  These are all great things and I'm really proud of all of them, and there's a bit of a snowball effect as one thing tends to lead onto another.  I'm immensely excited when a conference organiser gets in touch and wants me to speak on a topic because they've read a blog post I've done - or when a journalist gets in touch for a comment because they've done likewise.  I've a massive ego as many know, but it is nice to know people are reading it.

It also surprises me when people I don't expect to say that they read it.  Lots of people in my ex-organisation who I bump into from time to time tell me that they read every post, which amuses and pleases me, even people I didn't expect to bother.  I have found close friends who have admitted to reading it and I also know that my mum reads it (hello, mum).  Quite why, I'll never know - it is aimed squarely at HR professionals and yet it does seem to appeal beyond that.

Here's the posts that have proved the most popular in terms of numbers of reads:
  1. #connectinghrmcr - published October 2015, this detailed my first foray into the #connectinghrmcr world and how I, as an introvert, coped with networking
  2. Tail wagging the dog - published July 2016, this looked at how performance management was changing and what I was thinking at the time about it
  3. The Professionals - published January 2017, this shared my thoughts on the development of the CIPD's new principles
  4. Ignite! - published June 2016, this was a lead in to a talk I was giving at #CIPDNAP16 and hinted at what was to come...
  5. Let's get flexible - published April 2016, this was my views on flexible working and why some organisations struggle with it
  6. The Spark - published May 2016, this covered my developing thoughts on employee engagement and what happens when it is lost
  7. Rhyme Time - published June 2016, this covered the reaction to my rhyming Ignite at #CIPDNAP16 and shared the backstory of it
  8. Moving on - published January 2016, this shared why I was leaving one organisation to join another, and what that felt like
  9. Wedding bells - published August 2016, this was a personal post talking about my imminent wedding to Katie in Cyprus
  10. Bazuka that VUCA...part 1 of 2 - published October 2016, this was an expansion of thoughts I'd shared in a CIPD webinar on the future of HR

I enjoy blogging.  There's no grand plan about when or how I blog, or on what subjects.  I enjoy writing - it helps me organise my thoughts and provides me with a record of them and how they've developed. It enables me to interact with my Personal Learning Network (PLN) and to generate debate and learning via them.  I've learnt loads about HR and leadership by blogging, as it forces me to research and to expose myself to new ideas, and I'm definitely a better HR professional for having started this blog over two years ago.

Of course I'm not new to blogging per se, having had a wildly popular anonymous blog detailing my single man dating exploits 5-6 years ago, and that one really did have a life of its own, but in this blog I'm me - nothing more, nothing less - and its all that's needed.

I'm not sure where the blog is going, other than it will keep going - as long as it keeps getting read and responded to, as it needs that kind of fuel to survive.  Right now I'm enjoying it.

And I hope you are too.

Thanks for sticking with me for 100 posts, and a really big well done if you have read even a third of them over that time.  Thanks for all the shares, retweets, comments, and debates.  Thanks to you for being part of my PLN and helping me more than you know.

Till next time...

Gary

PS in other news, I'm taking part in the Winning Mindset online coaching programme delivered by Jeremy Snape (The Sporting Edge). Its a nice complement to my personal training journey and also how I see HR operating within businesses in terms of organisational effectiveness, so watch out for some blogs sharing some of this content and reflecting on its use.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

I'm only human, after all

This blog is about criticism, both public and private, and its effects on people. It is prompted by some unusual but repeated public criticism of his players by Jose Mourinho, which seems to be a style he believes is both appropriate and effective. 

Let's examine this. 

I should start by saying, again, that I'm a United fan, so I've been watching this closely. I've long admired Mourinho before he came to United last summer and it's been interesting to see his approach to man management. 

In his short tenure as United manager, he has used public criticism and also ostracism to attempt to motivate and manage certain players. 

First Schweinsteiger was ostracised and made to train with the reserves, but not allowed to leave the club. Later, when he had been readmitted to the fold and then allowed to leave, Mourinho expressed regret at the way he had treated Schweinsteiger, but that didn't stop him doing it in the first place. Now, if this was a "real" workplace, this would be deemed bullying, and possibly leading to constructive dismissal when the player left. 

Of course, football isn't real, but let's go on. 

Then Mkhitaryan suffered some of the same treatment but fairly soon after got back in the team and began to play very well indeed. Mourinho took credit for this, saying it took him some time to help Mkhitaryan to learn how to play in this country. In a real workplace, this may also be bullying and possibly racial discrimination too, but of course football exists in its own bubble. 

Then lately both Rashford and Martial have come under fire for their goal scoring records. Rashford has responded with some of his best performances of the season and a few goals, but Martial is still under fire and Mourinho says he listens too much to his agent (union rep perhaps?) and not enough to him. This could be considered good performance management but for the public nature of it, and as such it may be considered bullying too. 

Finally, recently Shaw has been heavily criticised for his commitment and performance, again in public. But Shaw has also responded with some better performances and has been "rewarded" with public praise. 

I could go on. 

Others, he has largely ignored in public, as he feels they give him what he wants and "get him". 

I think treatment like this is more common than we realise in organisations. I've come across examples in my HR career, and have had friends and family tell me stories that would have made my hair stand on end, if I had any. But the difference is that this is usually in private. 

The public nature of the Mourinho criticism has made me wonder though. 

It obviously gets some results, as some players have demonstrated. 

So does the end justify the means?

Is public criticism acceptable if the recipient takes it on board and responds with increased performance levels?

I'm not so sure. 

I have come across semi-public criticism of employees in the past myself and have always been shocked at this. In some cases it has been, like with Mourinho, one of the most senior people in the organisation being critical of an individual in front of others (if not quite as public as Mourinho), but in none of the cases I've personally witnessed has the individual managed to turn things around and publicly respond with better performances. In all cases the criticism has been too much and they've parted company with the organisation. 

And that's sad. Not because they didn't respond in that way, but because there was really no way they could. Real people don't exist in the professional football bubble. When we are criticised, particularly when unjustified and especially in a public way, we react badly in most cases. 

In most cases, we can't deal with it. Criticism, when doled out from a very senior person in a semi public manner, removes most of the motivators from Herzbergs model and reduces the positive effects of any hygiene factors too. It's a massive demotivator, and more so when the individual feels it's unjustified and also, because of the respective positions in the organisation, feels they can't respond. 

So why does Mourinho feel he can get away with it, and often does? Is it because of the results it seems to get?

I'm at a loss to explain it. 

But the criticism must hurt those who receive it. Whenever I'm criticised, be it in my personal or professional life (and believe it or not, I am not infallible) I will always hurt inside, but the way I can tell if the criticism has any merit is the depth of emotions it triggers in me. If I have a strong emotional reaction and keep thinking about it, it usually means there was something to the criticism and I can usually use that as fuel to change something. Is that what Shaw, Rashford and others have felt and done? But if the criticism is unjustified or inaccurate, I deal with it in different ways and have a different reaction to it, sometimes involving trying to show the person delivering it why and how they are wrong, which can often backfire on me. 

I told you I'm not infallible. 

I'm only human, after all, as the song goes. 

And so is everyone else, so if criticism must be given out, and there are sometimes really good reasons why it should, managers should make sure they do so one on one, not in public, base it on the facts so that it is accurate and not subjective, and also be aware of how individuals may respond differently to such comments. Regardless, criticism has a major impact on employee engagement for that individual employee, and therefore must be taken seriously by organisations. 

As for Mourinho and his man management tactics, they seem to be working. He's likely to get away with it. And sadly, most managers doing things like this will also get away with it. 

It's up to us in HR to make sure managers know it's not acceptable to treat people in this way, and to provide guidance on how to treat people as human beings. 

Till next time. 

Gary

PS all quotes now in for our building work and mortgage information obtained too. Approaching decision time about whether to go ahead with it…

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Go your own way

This is the fourth in a series of blogs discussing the concept of motivation and what its sources might be. Its prompted by a conversation I had with Bee Heller, from The Pioneers. Bee asserts that there are seven different sources of motivation, and is writing about each of them on The Pioneers website. 

We decided I'd write a commentary piece about each one on my own blog, and look at what's happened in organisations I've worked in and with - whether the source of motivation Bee's blog discussed has been used to good effect or been neglected; what's worked well in terms of creating an environment that enhances that motivation; and what's not worked so well or undermined that motivation for people? 

Here's Bee's blog on Autonomy. In it she talks about the power of self determination. She highlights three main points.
  • That extrinsic motivation can undermine any intrinsic motivation.
  • That extrinsically imposed deadlines also undermine any intrinsic motivation
  • That choice enhances intrinsic motivation

I'd not argue with those three points to be honest but I'm going to see what examples I can give of how this works in practice.

Bee says that if you give people a sense of autonomy, the perception of self-direction and choice, they are more likely to be motivated by the work they do for its own sake. She then gives some tips for managers on how to achieve this without causing chaos.

And yet look at some of the best examples of true autonomy in the workplace - Google, with their 20% of individual time spent on entirely personal projects; and Zappos, with their system of holocracy.  Both of these are companies that are doing well and which attract an awful lot of people to want to work for them.  Its not like the chaotic nature of things is having an adverse impact.

But, would you want to work there?

Many would.  But some wouldn't.

I've noticed that autonomy is fantastic for many people but others simply don't want it.

I've worked with people who have shied away from autonomy and empowerment, and who, when consulted about things and asked their opinion, have outright said that they prefer it when others simply tell them what's happening and what to do.

But autonomy CAN be a powerful motivator. I worked with a senior ICT professional who took this to the extreme. No-one knew where he was, what he was working on or when he might turn up to a meeting or produce a piece of work. And yet, he was considered a visionary futurologist. When he could set his own goals/targets/deadlines, he was awesome. Unfortunately these often clashed with those needed by the organisation, and so despite his own level of motivation and happiness, he was a source of frustration to others. And ultimately when he began being micromanaged by a new executive, he reacted badly to the lack of autonomy and left soon after, very unhappily, despite the micromanagement being a reaction, admittedly overeager, to the way he'd worked in the past.

So yes, autonomy motivates, but it only motivates the individual and may not necessarily do good things for the organisation.

On Bee's second point about whether reward clouds the motivation, I'd agree. I do a lot of blogging for myself and others, and speaking at conferences. I love doing both and, if you're someone who books speakers or bloggers for conferences, you should know that I am DAMNED good at it. And good looking too. I consider myself something of a Triple Threat.

*takes tongue out of cheek

So I do these things more or less for nothing, because I enjoy doing them. But what if someone said they'd pay me to blog or gave me deadlines in which I had to blog. I can say with 100% certainty some of the enjoyment would go out of it, as at the moment I am in control and am not doing it for money.

I had a similar situation when I was involved locally in the management side of a sport I play.  I did it for nothing and enjoyed it, and saw a lot of national success too for the teams I managed over a sustained period of time.  And then someone offered to pay me - not much I should add, but a token figure - for taking on some administration for the sport.

And I walked away, I just wasn't bothered any more. I wasn't doing it for the money, just for the love of the sport.  Money made it seem like a job, and I already had one of those.

I also agree that choice enhances intrinsic motivation. I have a friend who was the most senior marketing professional in a place he worked for 12 years.  He had complete control over what he did, when, where and how - and he loved it - and in this case, he was in sync with the organisation too - no conflicts, and lots of success. And then suddenly, the company merged and another marketing professional was inserted above him.  In a flash the degree of choice and control he had was gone, and he soon hated the job in the newly merged organisation.  He's moved on since, but he's fallen foul of similar situations in new organisations, where he's not been able to replicate the element of choice he once had, and he's very unhappy as a result, with motivation on the floor.

So what does this all mean?

Firstly, Bee's right.  If you can do things for the love of them rather than for any reward, then you're motivated more.  If you can set your own path to complete your tasks, and have a large degree of choice, then you're also more motivated.

But how often in anyone's career do we have these things, and moreover, how often are they desirable things for organisations?

Looking back at the people I worked with who disliked autonomy, I suspect they're not alone. Organisations, unless they're Zappos, HAVE to have some element of control over their employees, and that's a shame but necessary in many cases.

But, its not an impossible situation - when was the last time you, as an employee, sat down with someone who works for or with you, or with your own manager, and talked about how much autonomy you'd like to have?  How much control you'd like over what you do?

I suspect not very often.

But maybe, just maybe, that conversation could unlock something for both of you.

Till next time...

Gary 

PS - in other news, its been a hard few weeks at home - lots of change, upheavals and decisions made about futures.  I need a holiday...

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Jack of all trades

In any profession you have to do a range of different things.  Is it better to be good at all of these things, or to be world-class in a few of them and adequate in the rest?

I'm asking because I've recently been giving this a lot of thought, prompted by at first watching Dr Jon Griffiths' TEDx talk on Specialists vs Generalists.  Now, Dr Griffiths has worked for some time at my GP surgery and is someone for whom I have a great deal of respect - he's advised and treated myself and my family for a long time.  But I watched his TEDx talk with interest, because he is advocating the primacy of the Generalist (eg a GP) over Specialists (eg a Heart Surgeon, Paediatrician or other such medical specialist) and saying its better to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" than to be master of just one.

So this made me think quite a bit and I've tried to relate it to both the HR world and the sporting world, which after all are the two main professional worlds I inhabit.

One of my sporting heroes when growing up was Daley Thompson, the Olympic gold-medal winning Decathlete and arguably one of the greatest British sportspeople of all time.  I admired him because his success was based on being awesome at no less than 10 different sports.

In essence, the ultimate generalist.

Or was he?

Years later I heard Frank Dick, who was Thompsons' coach, deliver a motivational speech.  He pointed out that whilst Thompsons' success was based on him being better all-round than anyone else, he wasn't the best in his field in all ten sports.  And he was right - Thompson was truly world class as a sprinter and jumper, but no more than average at things like the discus, javelin and pole-vault.

Thompson himself was quoted as saying "Sometimes you have to resist working on your strengths in favour of your weaknesses. The decathlon requires a wide range of skills." - but tellingly, Frank Dick said different when I listened to him.

He said that he knew Thompson would NEVER be a world class javelin (etc) performer, that his physique and skills could never be improved beyond average level.  So he didn't bother trying to get him to do well in those disciplines, as aside from anything else, Thompson simply didn't have the motivation to do it.  However, he knew (and so did Thompson) that Thompson was beyond world class as a sprinter and long jumper, and in fact could have won Olympic Gold in both those events had he entered them.  And Dick focused on making the gap between Thompson and his nearest rivals bigger in these events, to compensate for and overcome any perceived weaknesses in other events.

So I reflected on this in light of Griffiths' talk also.  The two are slightly conflicting - Daley Thompson appears at first glance to be a jack of all trades, master of none - but in fact he's not.  He's master of several, and adequate in others.  Working on his specialist skills was the key to his success.

And this is at the heart of the strengths-based coaching model which I'm very interested in and which I've discussed at length with Ian Pettigrew in this podcast.

But what does it mean for HR professionals, who are often sub divided into specialists and generalists?

In my HR career, I've been both.  I started out as a pure L&D specialist before picking up some OD work/skills and then moving sideways into generalist HR, and my last three roles have encompassed all possible aspects of HR (including L&D).

But does having a specialist skillset mean you cannot be a good generalist?

I don't think so.  Its definitely possible to be a good all-rounder, like Griffiths says.

But, can you be world-class as an all-rounder?  I'm not sure.  I think you can be world-class at several disciplines within a generalist role, and no more than adequate at others.

What I'm saying is that HR generalists are a bit like Daley Thompson.

Focusing on one or two specialist disciplines doesn't mean you're rubbish at the others though.  You HAVE to be at least adequate otherwise you wouldn't survive in the role.  But in terms of development and performance focus, I subscribe to the Frank Dick/Daley Thompson school of thinking:

- Focus on being world class, and constantly improving, on the things you're already good at and enjoy - make the gap between you and your peers as big as you can
- Don't ignore the things you don't enjoy, ensure you perform adequately at them, but accept that you might never be world class at some things and so don't waste time trying

And this links us nicely back to Griffiths' TEDx talk.  He advocates being a jack of all trades, master of none.

I disagree.  I think be master of some trades, and good enough at others.

And yet this can lead to some organisational problems.  I've seen people (including some good friends) managed out of organisations because even though they are very good at some aspects of their role, they are not sufficiently good enough at other aspects and its those aspects that the organisation REALLY wanted them to focus on.

But that says more about fit within the organisation.  It doesn't mean that those people aren't good at their job, it just means the organisation needed different things.  In essence, they were asking Daley Thompson to win Gold on purely his javelin skills, but weren't interested in the fact he could set world records at the long jump.

So, performance-wise, what really matters?  What are you ultimately judged on?

If you're a generalist HR professional and considered world-class at, say, employment law, but only adequate at talent management - does the world-class employment law knowledge outweigh the adequate talent management skills?  Which matters more?  Is the overall performance picture affected more by the higher end of the skillset or the lower end?  Will the professional get better by focusing on their higher end or lower end skills?

And, ultimately, if the organisation wants Daley Thompson to be really good at javelin and doesn't care how good he is at the long jump, do they consider themselves to have an awesome decathlete (based on the overall picture) on their hands and celebrate that, or do they consider themselves to have an average javelin thrower and take appropriate action?

Discuss.

Till next time...

Gary

PS in other news, my summer sports are starting to get going again now and the world seems a lot brighter - and busier - as a result.  I'll be spending a lot more time outdoors until early October...

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Man (Utd) Flu

I support Manchester United, and watched the game vs Chelsea this week. United had striker problems, and it was reported we were short because Rooney and Martial were injured, Ibrahimovic was suspended and Rashford was ill. 

But then Rashford made some kind of recovery during the day, made it from Manchester to London, and played (and played OK too). So was he ill in the first place or was it mind games from Jose Mourinho? Let's assume he WAS ill and let's explore the implications of this. 

So he's ill and notifies his employer that he can't come to work that day. One of two things has then happened. Either a) during the day he has recovered sufficiently to come into work later on or b) his employer has got back in touch, explained how desperate they are, and asked him to come in despite being ill. 

If the former happened, then this shows great flexibility on the part of both employer and employee. 

Or does it?

You'd have to question whether Rashford was, initially, really as ill as he reported if later on he could feel better enough to work. Did he overreact initially? Was this a case of the Man Flu? Or Man Utd Flu?

But also, just as illness can come on one suddenly, it can also lift suddenly, and both sides can be applauded for having the flexibility to review the original "off sick today" decision. This is something I think all employers should do. 

My own approach, based on a total of zero sick days across my entire working life, is that there shouldn't be an approach of all or nothing when a person is ill. If someone is not going to be able to do 100% of their duties, then it's preferable, in my view, if they do even 10% as that's better than 0%. 

Of course there are complications in that some illnesses are best kept out of the workplace for fear of spreading to healthy workers, but assuming the individual can work remotely or across a different timespan then this kind of flexibility should be encouraged. So if an individual like Rashford has been ill over the weekend and needs a few extra hours to sleep it off before coming into work, but is willing to work later on and do less than 100% of his normal duties, then I say that's a good thing and better than him taking the whole day off sick and doing 0%. 

Recently someone I know was quite ill and could potentially have worked from home but would have had to go into the office to collect something first, and didn't want to do that because of how it would have looked. That says there's something about a culture of presenteeism that still needs to be tackled. The same person also felt that they COULD work in between bouts of being ill and confined to the bathroom, but felt that this sporadic approach to working was not helpful to the organisation and chose to take the entire day off sick as a result. Again, this says something about individual and organisational approaches to work that only working 7-8 hours/day in one go is considered "work". 

Here's the thing. It's not the only way. 

And what if the latter scenario about Rashford is true, in that he was pressured by his employer to come in because they were desperate?

If the employer did ask Rashford to reconsider his "off sick" stance, which he obviously did, then this may be considered bullying and potentially something that could contribute to a deterioration in Rashford's health in that he was asked to come in and perform at a very high level despite feeling ill which could have made him much worse. 

But, possibly, it also says something about employee engagement and openness in the workplace in that the employer and employee could have adult-adult conversations about choices and flexibility, and the employee felt passionate enough and connected enough to his organisations goals that he could be persuaded to come in despite feeling ill. 

Perhaps we will never know the full story. 

I do think that organisations should be able to have grown up conversations with their staff without that being considered undue pressure or bullying, but also that both sides should build in enough flexibility and understanding in their relationship that occasional illnesses, and different ideas on what constitutes work under "normal" and "unusual" circumstances. 

Ultimately, Rashford reconsidered his decision, played, but United lost, so perhaps all this is for naught if the organisation doesn't achieve its specific goals from asking the employee to reconsider…

Something to think about. 

Oh and another thing. If you are ill, talk about it in grown up terms. You are not "an ickle bit poorly".  Small children get "an ickle bit poorly". Adults do not. Adults get ill. Sorry to rant but one manager I used to work with would regularly use this phrase to describe themselves and their team when unwell. 

Till next time…

Gary

Ps in other news, my PT course is going well. I passed the L2 Gym Instructing course and am halfway through the L3 Personal Trainer element now. It is really brilliant and I'm learning loads about nutrition, anatomy and physiology and how to structure a training programme. I've got great people who've volunteered to help me throughout and I'm able to apply my learning on both their and my own training. Watch this space for further developments.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

The Special One

This is the third in a series of blogs discussing the concept of motivation and what its sources might be. Its prompted by a conversation I had with Bee Heller, from The Pioneers. Bee asserts that there are seven different sources of motivation, and is writing about each of them on The Pioneers website. 

We decided I'd write a commentary piece about each one on my own blog, and look at what's happened in organisations I've worked in and with - whether the source of motivation Bee's blog discussed has been used to good effect or been neglected; what's worked well in terms of creating an environment that enhances that motivation; and what's not worked so well or undermined that motivation for people? 

Here's Bee's blog on the subject of standing out from the crowd, quite the opposite from her previous blog about fitting in.  In it, she points to research that says: 

1. People who don’t conform can be perceived as higher status and more competent. 
2. Going against the crowd gives people confidence  
3. Being able to express themselves authentically makes people more engaged and committed to their organisations.  

Bee then argues that people’s motivation to belong and fit in has a stronger influence on their behaviour than their desire to feel significant or special, because people worry about being different in case they’ll feel like the odd one out. For this reason, Bee says, managers need to put extra effort in to encouraging nonconformity, making it ok for people to be themselves and be different; they need to help people identify the unique ways they can contribute to the group; and they need to celebrate the diversity and variety of strengths within their team.

These are interesting points and I would agree with the points made by Bee's research, in that being made to feel special, and somehow unique or different, can be a strong motivator. I would, however, disagree with Bee's assertion that this motivating factor is secondary to the need to fit in or belong.  In fact in all the workplace examples I can think of, including the ones I'll talk about below, being recognised as special or unique has been an exceptionally strong motivator.

I'm including just two here but I do have others.

Firstly an example supporting Bee's research.  An Executive Director I once worked with really stood out as being quite different to anyone else in the organisation.  He was creative, inventive, innovative and other such words.  He thought constantly about the future, but as a consequence not about the present.  He was awesome at initiating new things and bringing new ideas into the organisation, a real blue sky thinker, but unfortunately not at seeing them through to fruition or (often) thinking about the practicalities of implementing his ideas.  He was the only such person in the organisation and yet, irrespective of his position of authority, he was perceived as having a higher status and being more competent than others in the organisation, including other people at the same level as him.  He also was very vocal about his ideas and enjoyed being isolated and having to argue his position - he gained confidence from this and always came across as supremely confident.  And because the organisation gave him time, space and freedom to develop his ideas and express them in very public ways, backing him, he became very committed to the organisation and its causes, a true organisational champion and defender.

He was also one of the most annoying people I've ever worked with, but also someone who despite all that was a good friend too.

So in this example, I'm supportive of Bee's research points.

But I do disagree that the desire to fit in outweighs the desire to be seen as special.  In this I distinguish special from different.

In my other example, an ex colleague has had a torrid time at work.  He's recently joined a new organisation, leaving somewhere where he had built up a great reputation for professionalism over many years and where he was respected for what he brought to the organisation.  He's a very senior finance manager and was the most senior finance professional in his last place, and in theory he is too in his new place, judging by job title and what he tells me is on his job description.

But he's not. Others higher up in the organisation he now works for have done his new job previously and hold similar qualifications, even if they're doing different stuff now.  And it means the professional recognition he got from being the "number one" isn't there any more, and this is made worse by his new peers going to the mentioned higher-ups for financial advice and guidance rather than him, as his job title would befit. He's lost the status that came with being the most senior finance professional.  He no longer feels special or unique, and these were things that motivated him massively.  It looks like he's being sidelined, treated as one of the crowd, and its visibly getting him down - he's lost a lot of confidence, professionally, because he's not respected for his professional opinion.

He also tells me he's also quite different from the new organisational culture. He is used to a command and control style of culture, where manager make decisions in isolation without consulting much and certainly with little communication.  As the senior finance lead he's used to purely managing finance, without interference from other managers, and without having to get involved in other stuff.  His new organisation is the opposite - it has a very open style of communication, expects a very consultative and engaging approach from its manager and as senior finance lead he's expected to get other disciplines involved in his projects and to work with others on their projects too.  His attempts to blaze his own path and do what he's used to have led to some light ridicule within the organisation, and a lot of peer pressure to fit in and do what everyone else does.  He's reacted badly to that, and wants out.  He's demotivated and depressed as a result.  

He also says that when he does try to express his own ideas, and to do things he instinctively knows are right and will work, he is regularly challenged and questioned and his motives doubted, as if he's working against the organisation and is treated very much as an outsider for being even in the slightest bit critical of his new organisation.  He has stopped doing these things now, not because he is motivated to fit in, but because the organisation has drained him of all confidence.  Knowing him well, I know he wants nothing more than to be respected for his professional knowledge, be able to operate as a leader in the way he wants to, and to be able to express his ideas and opinions openly.

He doesn't get that in his new organisation, and after just a few months he's looking to leave.

So in this example the desire to fit in is not outweighing the desire to be seen as special (or even as different). My ex colleagues motivators are purely about being seen as special and to be respected for that.  If he were motivated by the desire to fit in, he'd fit in, and he wouldn't be unhappy or looking to leave.

But Bee also points out that managers need to recognise when people ARE different or unique, and to lead teams in a way that encourages that diversity.

This I do agree with. In my previous organisation we recognised the uniqueness of the Executive Director, and encouraged him.  And that worked.  In my ex colleagues previous organisation, that also seemed to happen from what I know.  In his new organisation, conformity is the rule and those who are different are singled out for ridicule and other subtle attempts to undermine confidence.

And sadly I've got other examples where this happens too.

So my view is also that organisations need to recognise diversity, difference and respect those who bring new ideas or different ways of working to the organisation, no matter what they are.

In terms of my ex colleague, he'll leave soon anyway.  I wish him all the best in his quest to once again become "The Special One".

What do you think? Does the desire to fit in outweigh the desire to be recognised for being special and unique?

Till next time…

Gary

PS in other news, I've been at my own organisation now for a whole year - its been the quickest year of my life!

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Going Live!

Recently I've noticed a number of incidents in my personal, professional and sporting lives linked to live video. In all the cases it was Facebook Live but the principle applies across all social media. In this blog I'll discuss my observations and the implications I see for the workplace. 

The only one of the events to get national media coverage was the Antonio Brown incident HERE. Brown went Live at a half time team talk and got into trouble for it. He apologised and said he let his emotions get the better of him and didn't think, and was trying to share a moment with fans. In this case he was sharing a video of what was his own workplace, an American Football team, and so breached all kinds of privacy rules. 

The other incidents are closer to home for me. Two are sport related. Both of these involved drunken groups of players and fans celebrating well earned victories but in both cases someone on the live video, not the person filming and whose account it was broadcast from, said some very offensive and discriminatory remarks. Both live streams were stopped and the post deleted, and the account holder apologised in both cases. In one case, the person who made the remark was banned by the sports governing body. In the other case both the person who made the remark AND the account holder / filmer were both banned by the governing body. The account holder is particularly aggrieved because they had nothing to do with the remark, deleted the post and apologised immediately, but they've been banned for bringing the sport into disrepute by even going Live in the first place because of the potential risks. 

The third case is a more personal one where a friend got into trouble for repeatedly going live on nights out and getting some of his other friends into trouble with their respective partners, having caught them chatting away to other women. In this case there is very much a blurred line and I think all parties are in the wrong but it opens up a can of worms about the use of Live video in the workplace.  

I've only ever gone live twice, both times at conferences where I was blogging but couldn't capture the intensity of the speech I was listening to. The first time a man fainted as I pressed Live so I stopped, not wanting to be live for such an event. The second time passed without incident but I felt guilty that I was broadcasting, for free, something the organisers had rightly wanted people to pay to attend. So I stopped. Although I don't mind anyone live streaming any talk I do, it hasn't happened yet as far as I know. 

This has major implications for the workplace though. What would you do if an employee went Live during a meeting? It could potentially breach all kinds of privacy rules and confidential information so you can rely upon that, but what if no confidential information is being broadcast? What if it's something like an away day or a whole company briefing by the Chief Executive like a rallying cry? 

The employee may be sharing it for those other employees not present and to give an insight into the company they work for. It may even help the employer brand that they do so. But it might not. Would the people speaking behave differently if they thought they were being broadcast? I'd hope not as authenticity is very important no matter what the context. And you shouldn't say or do anything to any group that you wouldn't be comfortable being broadcast to a wider audience, so most leaders will be OK in that regard. 

But what if the broadcast reveals something unsightly about the workplace, it's culture and its leaders? I can imagine it could just do that. 

What if a site like Glassdoor suddenly offers the ability for employees at a company to go live anonymously? 

I think they should. 

Live video offers no hiding place for anyone. But if you've got something to hide, that says more about you than it does live video. 

I can see usage becoming widespread in sport both from fans and players. I can also see it becoming more common, if not quite widespread, in employment. 

Consider a Live broadcast by an employee secretly filming a manager bullying a colleague.  Who is in the wrong here?  The filmer by breaching workplace rules and privacy?  The manager for bullying?  Or the organisation for allowing this to take place?  Who gets disciplined?  Who suffers?

Of course, some things HAVE to be confidential but if no statement has been made about that then is the subsequent discussion fair game? I think it probably is. 

It means the lines between what happens in the workplace and what is seen by the outside world will become very blurred indeed. 

Is that a good thing? If you're a great employer with fantastic leaders in an amazing workplace, yes it is. If you're not, be prepared for more people to find out about that. 

What issues do you see? Do you see it as a good thing or not? And can we do anything about it, even if we wanted to? 

Till next time… 

Gary 

PS in other news, my son (15) has his first girlfriend and bought his first valentines present this week. I suddenly felt very old and am not quite sure what, if anything, to do.