Thursday, 22 June 2017

What are you up to on the evening of 13 July?

This blog is about the ongoing review by the CIPD of its Professional Standards Framework, and your opportunity to contribute to this and the future shape of the profession.  Here's a link to the event details on 13 July.

I've blogged twice about professionalism, here on my own blog and on the CIPD site also. I've got strong views on it and had been looking forward to this event taking place so I could contribute in person.

But Sod's law is in full effect and I can't go to it. Any other day or evening that week would be fine, and even during the day would be fine that day but not evening, where I've a prior commitment.

This really frustrates me given the amount of noise I've made about professionalism and the role of HR in this.

I feel like a bit of a hypocrite telling you that you need to go, and having made so much fuss about it all, only to not turn up myself.

The good news is that there are other opportunities to contribute and if you want to do so by emailing to register your interest in other events and via non face to face means if necessary.  I've done that.

But I desperately want to contribute, and want as many people to contribute as can too.

Its important. There's plenty of us in the HR game, and plenty more who need us to get it right for everyone.  We're all workers, employees or in the gig economy - and if we can't rely on HR to be professional and focus on enhancing the employee (etc) experience and creating amazing workplaces, then we may as well all give up and go home.

The importance of understanding what HR is as a profession and how we influence the wider workplace and indeed society through our behaviour, ethics, skills and knowledge cannot be understated.

We're important.  You might not think so, but we are.

So here's a chance to shape what our profession looks like in the future.

For those who say that the current professional qualification isn't fit for purpose - you're right - so come along and help reshape it.

For those who say that the current CIPD is too HR based and doesn't recognise or give equal importance to some of the existing and developing specialisms - you're right - so come along and help sort that out.

For those who say that the CIPD is too London-focused and doesn't do enough around the rest of the country - you're right - so come along and show them that us in the North West have a massive voice and role to play too.

For those who say that there are many hugely talented individuals who operate in the HR sphere who've never felt the need to become CIPD qualified or members - you're right - so come along and help make CIPD attractive and beneficial to those people too.

You're important.  Your views, your opinions, your thoughts and your lovely face.

I'd normally finish by saying See You There, but as I can't make it and am slightly hypocritical I'll finish by asking you to be as open and honest as you can, and to report back to me afterwards.  I'll be contributing in other ways but I'd like to hear your views to help me develop mine.

Till next time...


PS in other news, I've started work dismantling my current shed and that'll be finished in a day or so, so the next job is building the bigger new one.  I've never seen so many woodlice and slugs, but not one spider, not even a dead one.

PPS in other news, far FAR more people have mentioned the shed to me after it appeared in PS in my last blog than have commented on the blog itself. This may say more about what appeals to people than anything else.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

A Perfect Day

Last week I did an Ignite talk at #cipdnap17 on the subject of Work Life Balance and how I go about creating A Perfect Day. Given that it is, by coincidence, Go Home On Time Day on 21 June, the timing seems apt to expand on this. 

I'm grateful to Gemma Dale for publishing her own excellent blog on this subject which made me think about writing this one. 

Read hers, then come straight back here. I'll wait. 

Done? Good. 

My Ignite talk was again delivered as a rhyme, and I really enjoyed doing it. I drew some inspiration not just for the talk but for my whole approach to work life balance from Nigel Marsh's excellent TED talk on the subject some years ago.

My talk was filmed and you can watch it here if you like. 

In it, I'm making, in a fairly haphazard way, a few key points which I'll expand on here. 

1. That there is something that approximates a perfect day for everyone, but it is a rare and unusual thing. Too often we don't make efforts to create it, as we are too busy or (worse) don't realise what we need or (even worse) do realise but do nothing about it. My point was that by making some very small adjustments to your day, and helping others to do the same, our organisations and our families can reap huge rewards. 

2. In HR we could take a leading role in educating managers and employees on the benefits of flexibility. However this doesn't often seem to happen, and even when leading by example I've encountered suspicion and mistrust. But our ability to influence is there and should be used. 

3. The demands of modern family life are often largely incompatible with the demands of the traditional working day and traditional organisation. So one of these sets of demands has to change, and the only one we in HR can realistically influence on behalf of others is the latter. But again by leading by example we can show people how to manage the demands of both. 

4. Organisations who tell their staff how to work, how to dress, when to take lunch and for how long, what hours to work etc are going about it all in the wrong way. They can't unlock the engagement and discretionary effort they want from their staff unless they change. Too many organisations judge people by how many hours they are sat at their desk, and not by the quality of output they deliver. If someone wants to take an hour or so off to do the school run and help their kids with their homework, and then will log on late at night and catch up, does it really matter as long as their work is done?

5. Working in the evening or at weekends is a personal choice and not one that should be encouraged or expected by organisations. Too many see emails sent late at night or at weekends as a sign of being some kind of workplace hero, as working harder or more than someone else. If you want to do it, fine - but set your emails to send first thing in the morning so you don't impose your lifestyle and working patterns on others. 

6. You are never too busy to spend time building working and family relationships and a coffee catch-up with someone is time well spent no matter what else you need to be doing. Telling someone you're too busy to grab a coffee says less about your workload and more about you as a human being.

So if it's Go Home On Time Day, I suppose this will mean different things to different people. 

And that's ok, because everyone's perfect day is different. Everyone's perception of work life balance is also different. 

But in organisations, as HR professionals, we need to be encouraging people to explore what it means for them. To adopt a trial and error approach and, as I've mentioned before, present successive drafts of themselves. 

We shouldn't judge anyone for trying to get themselves balanced. 

Till next time. 


PS in other news, I've recently built a large climbing frame. I am reminded why I hate DIY and also how poor I am at it. I would happily outsource all of this if I could. And I have a new shed to build next…

Friday, 2 June 2017

If you're happy and you know it...

This is the fifth 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 Happiness. In it, she quotes research that suggest that happy people can be lazy thinkers, too trusting and less persuasive.  She concludes by saying that there is such a thing as being "too happy" in a workplace, and that organisations shouldn't continually seek ways of making people happier, and instead look into a broader range of motivational techniques and tools.


Bee's blog reminded me of this quote from John Lennon.

I have to say I'm more in agreement with Lennon's quote than the quoted research, although I'm no academic and can't quote any contradictory research.  Lennon's quote just feels right.

So what is happiness at work?  How do you know if you are happy, and what happens when you are?

I've been very happy in a number of different organisations and roles.  I can usually tell I'm happy because of a few things.  I'm productive, I find enjoyment in what I am doing, I make jokes and wisecracks, I challenge others to be even better, and more than anything else I find my thoughts drifting to work issues when I'm not at work.  I'd go so far as to say that when I'm happy my performance is sharper than ever.

I do my best work when I'm happy.  And I know many others who do too.  And in fact I'd say that a group of happy workers make for a good team, and can collaborate with each other much better than a group of grumpy workers.


In my Amazing Workplaces talk I say that we don't want a company full of Tiggers, or a company full of Victor Meldrews, we want a happy medium.  And I do hold to that.

So in a sense I do agree that there may be such a thing as being "too happy".  Its acceptable to have and display a wide range of emotions, and I'm conscious that many people will be able to use unhappiness as a motivator too.  Putting such people together with the overbearingly happy is a recipe for disaster.

I've also worked in places and roles where I'm been unhappy, in some cases desperately so.  In a strange way these experiences of being very unhappy both motivate and demotivate me.  In work when unhappy I have definitely been disengaged and not produced my best work, but I've also been able to use my general sense of dissatisfaction to fire me up to do even greater things - even if this is a very limited fuel source.

And unhappy people can be contagious.  Often they will search for someone else to share their unhappiness with, someone they can have a good old moan with about how bad things are.  Neither of these people are too productive when that happens, unless you count moaning as productivity.

But despite all of this I still don't agree with Bee's quoted research that happy people can be less effective in the workplace, or that organisations shouldn't try to make their employees happier.

I often quote the story of when my middle child was aged 3 and she asked me what I do at work.  Its hard to define HR to an adult, let alone a child, so I struggled for a while before settling on this description:

"My job is to make people happy at work"

She went off, satisfied with this, only to come back with her paints and brushes - she told me that painting is what made her happy (and thus, could we do some right now) and she thought - and still thinks to this day - that my job involves getting people to paint in some way.

And I think its still a pretty neat definition of what HR is, and what organisations should aim to be doing.

Make people happy.

From my own experience I know I'm close to giving 100% when I'm happy, but I know that mostly when I'm unhappy I struggle to give even 50%.

By coincidence, on 14 June I'm speaking at the Happy Workplaces Conference in London.  The conference is pretty much what it says on the tin.  I'll be talking about what organisations can do to make their workplace a happy one, whilst still respecting the balance of emotions necessary for an effective workplace.

It will be interesting to hear other attendees views on happiness in the workplace.

Till next time...


PS in other news, I've been clearing out the garage and garden in recent weeks, and am simply amazed at how much stuff I've been able to get rid of. How did we end up with so much stuff?

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The Winning Mindset

I've recently completed The Winning Mindset, a digital coaching programme from Jeremy Snape, ex England cricketer and now sports psychologist. Here's my reflections on the programme.

Jeremy contacted me out of the blue and asked me to participate in the programme and give him some feedback on it, given my interest in all things performance and motivation, and the links between doing so in both sports and business. I jumped at the chance and have really enjoyed the whole 30 day programme.

The programme itself is easy to follow and take part in. Its a 5 minute video clip each day from a famous world-class sportsperson, followed by some analysis from Jeremy, and some links to related material and more videos along with worksheets to complete if you want to embed the learning.

The allure of learning from world-class sports people is obviously what sells the programme, and I have to say the insights are worth it - at least from my perspective given my aforementioned interests.

So what did I get from it?

A lot of the early days were standard coaching stuff about goal-setting. That doesn't make them any less valuable, and for many people they'd have been exceptionally useful, but for me it was going over old ground to a degree. Interesting stuff, but not new. There were insights about envisioning your "World Cup moment" and how you can break down this vision into short and long term goals before fully defining what it is you want to achieve.

This process was quite helpful as at that time I was reflecting quite a lot about what I wanted from my life and career and being prompted to go through this thought process did help me get a lot of clarity about what I wanted in the future and some of the steps I needed to take to get there.

It was also useful to get a reminder of some simple concepts like finding three things you do each day that move you towards your goal, and making sure you do those things first whilst you have more energy, and don't waste the day doing things that don't move you towards those goals.

Something new AND interesting was the idea of process goals, which I found a great concept to explore - however I found I could apply it far more easily to my triathlon training and other sports than I could my work in business.

There were several insights looking at the concept of Mental Toughness. The speakers had a firm belief that it isn't something innate to us that we are born with, but it is something that is shaped by experience and is therefore a skillset that can be developed. I've found this to be true with my own experiences, and I know that some of the things I've experienced in recent times would have broken me in the past, but I've somehow become tougher.

A few speakers talked about making mistakes and learning from them, something I covered briefly in my last blog. Those with Mental Toughness need to be able to start again, rebuild and acknowledge the factors that made them less successful first time round. They also need to be able to make sacrifices in order to achieve their goals, and this really did make me think. Over my career I've made sacrifices in order to be successful, but they haven't always worked out - and this made me think that some of the choices I've made in the past weren't the right ones, and made me resolve to make better ones next time, and to rebuild accordingly.

A speaker said that true Mental Toughness is about being comfortable with who you are, being humble but also being agile, being brave and knowing when to change direction. Hearing this really made me think.

As I mentioned in the last blog, I really loved the idea of presenting successive drafts of one's own performance and its something I've really taken to heart. I'm 41 now, and although I'm much better at everything than I was aged 21 or 31, I also fully expect to be even better by age 51 and 61. Just watch me. Likewise, I talked briefly about isolating any setbacks in their true context, and that's also something that's really helped me.

The programme encouraged me to think about what I'm proud of - and I came up with a decent sized list. It encouraged me to have confidence in my own ability, something that has been lacking sometimes.

We then looked at what champions do that is different from those who are simply good. One factor was being accountable for your own performance, whether that's good or bad. I reckon I'm good at that in sport, and am improving at that in business too. But a key factor was champions accepting a penalty for not achieving their targets, and that's something I've never considered - but am doing now...

Champions also surround themselves with high performing individuals who can give them feedback and hold them to account. This is really similar to Ian Pettigrew's concept of a Personal Board of Directors which I've shared previously, and is something I've tinkered with on occasion but never really put into practice - but I need to...I just need to decide who my Top 5 are. I tried getting some feedback from people as the programme suggested, but most of those I asked really struggled to give me any.

Another couple of speakers looked at the concept of wellbeing - something I've blogged about a few times. They spoke about being able to switch off and disconnect from work in order to focus on something else important, and vice versa - and these are things I've done well in the past. Its important to schedule downtime into my life and to schedule other things like exercise, family time and of course work. This programme also made me realise that I rarely seem to get a good nights sleep BUT that doesn't seem to be affecting my performance - so how good could I be if I did get a good nights sleep regularly?

Some other useful simple insights were about the importance of preparation. I used to remember something in my teaching days that if you were short of time and had a choice of doing lesson preparation or marking students work, you should always choose preparation every time. There was more to it than that but I've carried that forward into every aspect of my life and work - I always prepare well, it builds confidence and puts deposits into my confidence bank account, and leads to greater results. Similarly, the importance of positive self-talk is not new but the insights gave me some ideas how to use that to structure preparation for important meetings and events, and how to use fear as a motivator.

There were a few speakers talking about the power of visualisation and pre-match preparation, something I do on occasion and it does produce better results, but I only tend to do in sporting situations and it then baffled me why I've never done it in a business situation. So, I promptly did so - and got an amazing result which I'll talk about in due course.

The programme finished by asking us to network and connect with those who we consider the very best in our field, and to talk to them about the secrets of their success. I'm encouraged by this and will seek these people out. If all of a sudden I start asking you questions, you know I consider you one of the very best in your field...

The final insight from the programme asked me to reflect on what are the two or three things I'm currently doing that are delivering the greatest success for me - a version of the Pareto Principle I suppose. I know what these things are now. I know when and where I get a chance to do them, and I know when and where I don't. Its up to me what happens about that though.

So the programme is finished and I've come away from it with a mass of thoughts, ideas and practical tips, many of which I've already begun to put into practice and have begun to generate some interesting and really positive results.

There's more insights now available to me for a period of time and I'll be accessing these as soon as I'm able. I will be able to use all of them in my day to day work with other people, and to help me become even more effective at the various things I do.

I'd like to thank Jeremy for inviting me onto this programme and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in applying the principles of world-class sporting performance into the business world.

Till next time...


PS in other news, my wife, my son and I did a Relay Triathlon on Sunday - obviously I do 7/8 individual triathlons every year but it was their first, aswell as my first relay, and we did amazingly well - we'd all done our own individual preparation effectively, and worked well as a team on the day. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences I've ever had and made me really proud of my whole family, not just those two but my two daughters who came along to support us too. A real family moment. And we want to do more...

Saturday, 13 May 2017


It's been Mental Health Awareness Week  this past week and it's been hard to escape the mass amounts of publicity raising awareness. I've found it really interesting to read so many examples from both famous people and people I respect in my PLN about their struggles with mental health issues. 

It's made me reflect on my own experiences. I don't think I've ever had any long term mental health issues, although I've certainly had some very short term adverse reactions to events, but I tend to be able to spot when these happen and take steps to deal with it. 

I think I'm more fortunate than others in that respect, but I admire anyone who has the courage to talk about their issues. 

My one episode of any kind of mental health issue came when my first marriage broke down unexpectedly and in very public and extremely difficult circumstances. I know for certain I suffered a depressive episode and struggled with lots of things. I've talked before about how my employer at the time and particularly the Chief Executive supported me wholeheartedly. My judgement was very much impaired, I made lots of bad decisions, my mood was all over the place and I didn't think there was a way to recover. 

But time heals. 


Nowadays I can tell when I'm feeling stressed or coming close to anything like a depressive episode. There are headaches, a feeling of blood rushing round my head, and heart palpitations in extreme cases. I'd have trouble sleeping, or staying asleep and would wake very early with my brain very active. If any two or more of these or other symptoms show themselves, I know I'm getting stressed and I know if I do nothing about it then it would make me ill. 

So I tend to do something about it.

Sometimes it's about doing something physical to expend some energy. I'm lucky enough to be fit and active and I use that to help me in times of stress. It gives me time to think as well, which helps too. 

Sometimes it's about talking or writing. I find both incredibly useful to manage my emotional state. I'm a big believer in the power of counselling and other similar techniques, although I was brought up to think that men shouldn't show emotion as it was a sign of weakness, and I should hide it all away. 

This means I do struggle to show emotion, and do keep it all internal, so talking and writing gives me an outlet. 

Whilst I have times of difficulty nothing has come close to the depressive episode around my divorce, although I know that if I didn't have coping mechanisms I'd be in greater difficulty. 

I also am more aware now of situations that can cause me stress. It's usually when people think something about me that is untrue, or argue with me from a position I can't understand, or when I feel a very strong sense of injustice. These situations create some of the symptoms I've described so I have to try my coping mechanisms. 

An alternative is to avoid these situations altogether but that's not always possible, and another technique is to not let them stress me, but that's easier said than done as well. 

I read an interview in HR Magazine this week with Alastair Campbell  talking about his own mental health issues. He mentally rates each day at its outset according to how he feels it is going to go from what he knows he is doing that day, on a scale of 0-10. He says he is comfortable if his days are no lower than 2 and no higher than 7 but he struggles if he knows days are going either side of those scores. 

I quite like this approach. He's planning ahead, and if he knows he's in for a 2 day, he knows he has to plan out his coping strategies and to be honest on reflection I can see that's what I have been doing, albeit without any scoring mechanism to quantify it. I'll always schedule a run after an event I know may cause me some difficulty, and it does help. Or I'll make sure I make contact with someone I can talk to during the day. 

I've also read about some places, e.g. in France, where companies can't send emails after a certain time and employees can't read emails whilst on holiday. When I first heard about this I didn't think it was workable, but over time I've come to appreciate what a good move it is in terms of mental health and work life balance. 

I blogged here about my experiments with it and I've continued them. When I'm off work for anything more than 24 hours I deactivate my email from my phone and tablet so I'm not disturbed. And I try my best each evening to switch off my work communications and focus on other things like family, and I'm mostly successful in doing so. 

There was once a regional union official who used to send me very abusive emails late at night. He would never send these during the day and in person he was not as nasty either. But he seemed to get a kick out of sending these because he knew the effect it would have on me (a very negative emotional reaction because it hit all the triggers I mention above and I had no available coping mechanisms due to the time of night, and he knew that), and he would also cc in the Chief Executive and as many other union officials as he could, which would further exacerbate my stress reaction and is a part of the reasons why I'm so anti cc. 

These experiences taught me the downsides of using email late at night, and I often encourage managers who do need to complete work and send email themselves late at night to set them to send at 8am. They get their bit done but without the negative impact or intrusion into someone's home life. 

I'm halfway through The Winning Mindset digital coaching programme via ex England cricketer and noted sports psychologist Jeremy Snape and it's really good. Highly recommended. I'll do a longer blog on it when it's finished but a few of the daily coaching episodes have focused on mental health and in particular how to develop mental toughness or resilience. 

It's been interesting to hear from world class athletes and their coaches about how they manage work life balance, how they manage their mental state and how they cope with setbacks or criticism. 

One thing I particularly liked was a top athlete suggesting that you shouldn't view mistakes or bad experiences as something to dwell on, but instead view them as successive drafts of your ever increasing performance. 

Another was to put setbacks and such things in context. Rarely do setbacks affect your entire life, usually just one portion of it and often they're no reflection on your whole self or your direction or anything, they're just one isolated bad incident that is already in the past and therefore it shouldn't affect your sense of self worth. 

Really good stuff and I'm enjoying the coaching programme and have got a lot from it. Watch out for another blog on this soon. 

But I still can't shake the feeling that I'm not supposed to be anything less than strong and focused all the time. That as a man I should never have emotions and certainly shouldn't ever feel like crying. I'm a senior manager too and I still often think that's not what we do. 

Those kinds of views are wrong but they are what I was brought up believing and what many people still do believe. It's only through campaigns like Mental Health Awareness Week and the stories shared by those a bit braver than me and those who have gone through tougher times than me that I can even begin to feel it's ok to talk about feeling stressed and being less than my best from time to time. 

In this blog I've tried to explain how I cope with difficult times and how it's been helpful to read others stories and to learn from external sources too. 

I hope that I'm able to help others in doing so. 

Till next time…


Ps in other news, I've had the wetsuit out today and have been open water swimming for the first time since last August when I caught a nasty bug doing so. I felt great except for the first few minutes when I had brain freeze. Glad I'm back in the open water. 

Mental Health Awareness Week

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...


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. 


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