What you can’t see..

Thanks to Sukh Pabial whose blog “the diversity and tolerance conundrum” prompted me to finish this blog which has taken a bit of time and thought to write.

Diversity and Inclusion; this is on the agenda of most organisations – right?

  • What’s our policy?
  • How many people of colour do we have in senior positions?
  • How many women do we have in managerial roles?
  • How do we make our public places accessible?
  • How do we train managers to understand and be engaged in working within the law?
  • What are we doing to understand the impact of Diversity and inclusion to creating an adaptable business?
  • How can we make sure we respect and value the needs of people of differing faiths?

“While many organisations can claim they put diversity and inclusion at the core of their people strategy by covering issues such as interviews and assessment methods … many key activities that would help to create non-discriminatory and inclusive workplaces are less common”. Diversity – Fringe or Fundamental?  CIPD 2012

There are some fantastic people in the field of Diversity and Inclusion providing training us to understand our unconscious bias’ and how we may be prejudiced in relation to internalised beliefs, out of our awareness.

Something is missing

It feels like we have progressed, are progressing and yet –  it feels like something is missing.

I had my own thinking challenged a couple of years ago.  I was at a conference where various people from arts and culture organisations had come together to look at making performance spaces accessible for people with disabilities.  So, I’m thinking of people in wheelchairs, perhaps people with visual impairments.  What remains with me from that conference was the speaker from a theatre company in Sheffield who had recently taken on an old industrial building for conversion as an arts space. They work with learning disabled performers, and wanted a lift that someone who was unable to retain multiple instructions would be able to operate.  Out of 25 lift manufacturers, only two were able to make something that worked for these performers.

My own family experience of disability, and past work with SEND children led to my (incorrect) assumption was that I would “know”  about this subject, and yet – the perspective of someone learning disabled hadn’t occurred to me.  I think it struck me as a powerful example of the ways in which people can be excluded, and how hard, how difficult it is to embrace diversity when we think so much from our own frame of reference.

I read a blog late last year by Tony Jackson which was so beautifully written and which really made me think – it’s about how we exclude ourselves from what might cause us pain, embarrassment, difficulty.  Even abuse.

Let me explain from a very personal perspective;  I don’t have children.  Although I am so fortunate to have special ones who I love, and you know who you are.

My childlessness has met with varied reactions throughout my adult life, and I have been excluded, have excluded myself from, various activities because of the judgements that I know people make about me.

I didn’t enjoy being told that “life wasn’t worth living for any woman who wasn’t a mother”. Knowing that I didn’t have children, but not knowing anything else about me.  At a party.  I’m not sure she meant to be unkind, but I have now had that said to me more than once, so I know it’s a view that exists.  So  there are various places, conversations, groupings that I have excluded myself from .  Unspoken judgements made about me speaking loud and clear.

I facilitated an event recently where all the participants and the client were male.  I was referred to as “the glamorous assistant” at one point  – despite having an equal role with my male co-worker.  The spoken assumption that my male colleague was also the superior.   In another situation, where all the speakers were male –  I was told that they just couldn’t attract women to speak.  My response was – “”””try more, try differently”.

The speaker space – so easily claimed by men (not by all men) makes me think. If I inhabit a place that is traditionally male, what will I have to leave behind of myself to fit in?  Women don’t have as much testosterone so – they use up more adrenalin when there is some type of pressure to perform.  That depletes resources. So maybe I don’t do it.  I prefer to step back, and direct my energies elsewhere. These things may not be a “problem” for me as I have adapted, accepted, got used to them.  They may not be conscious choices – choices operating outside of my own awareness.  I exclude myself. No-one deliberately excludes me.

At the core of D&I work has to be the valuing of difference.. If in our hearts we value difference and want to understand more about it, we don’t need quotas, laws, training because our mindset, our thinking is rooted in knowing there are individual realities.

As someone (and forgive me, I can’t remember, but it was a tweet) who has MS recently said  “inaccessibility is what disables me”.

Physical adaptations are a vital part of inclusion; quotas whilst conflicting for so many of us do have a role to play I believe, and policies can enforce behaviour change – absolutely.   But there is so much about all of us in addition to race, gender, physicality which is invisible.  If we restrict our thinking and acting on Diversity and Inclusion to the workplace and legal compliance, what is obvious – we’re missing something about what it is to be human.

We are all unique, each of us.  I would like to see more conversation, more exploration along with the education.  Only when we create shared meaning are we able to really embrace and rejoice in our diversity and make our spaces – both physical and metaphysical – accessible.

Carl Rogers said –  (exploring whether we need a reality)- “the only reality I can know is the world as I perceive and experience it at this moment”.  He goes on to say, perhaps the human tendency could be “I prize and treasure you because you are different to me”.


I want to know what OD is…….

When I had my first OD job in 1997, I had never heard of Organisational Development.  I was given the opportunity to write my ideal job and – had a new boss at the same time. The ideal job was given the thumbs up by the Exec.  I started to get nervous. And the boss said of my new job “that’s organisational development”. I said “what’s organisational development?”.  She said “it’s about growing the capability of the whole organisation”.  Gulp.  I was about to find out more.

Another beautiful convergence; around the same time,  I met a previous boss for lunch and during our conversation she slid a piece of paper across the table towards me with a sort of secret smile. It was an application for a Msc in organisational Consulting, one she had studied herself and I had seen her transformation. “It’s time”. She said. “Who me?” I said.  “Yes, you” she said.

And so my life with OD began.

The MSc was experiential; glorious, messy and life affirming.  The first educational experience where all the thinking was done by me.  Academic reading was left to me to undertake at my own pace.   We were the T-Group, the lab, the subject of our enquiry, the sense makers.  We were often left to our own devices.  One time, I was working with a group where in our trio, two others, cleverer than me (who said that?) were locking horns on a magnificent scale. I shrugged away my opportunity to learn, my pissed offness, and I went off for a fag break.  I sighed.    I bumped into the tutor doing the same thing. I told him what I was experiencing. He said “whatever you would normally do, – do the opposite”.  So I watched and said nothing.  I swallowed the urge to facilitate, to intervene, to hurry up and I watched and trusted the process. Through that,  they were able to witness themselves.  I began the life long journey of learning what belongs to me, and what belongs to others and what belongs to the system.

I learned what counterintuitive meant, we exploredo chaos and complexity thinking, Klein, self as instrument, covert processes, Gestalt “you go your way, I go mine”.  I believe that the thinking behind the design of this programme was both before it’s time, of it’s time, and drew on the wisdoms and knowledge of the most ancient of times.   I learned about going native – getting drawn into the culture, the system, I learned to see myself as both a participant, and an observer,  inviting others to a shared enquiry to make sense of the madness that is the halls of organsiational life that contains, holds, and at times, cripples our humanity.

In answer to my own question “what is organisational development” I learned it is very much like personal development – where a person can bring what is outside their awareness into their awareness, understand the stimulus driving responses and thinking, and be aware of and connect to their own potency.  Developing organisations is about working within the system with the people within it to discover the connections, to open walkways between the silos, to equip people to do the long walk, and to see the possibilities.

The OD practitioner shares the enquiry and invites meaning making.  It’s simple- yet – as someone said to me last week – simple doesn’t make it easy.

It’s being outside and within, it’s life long learning. It’s about hope that there can be a more humanistic way to be in organisations and that being humanistic doesn’t get in the way of profitability but in fact when you create the conditions for humans to flourish……. good stuff will happen.

OD is somehow on the outside; the edges. We often work in the uncomfortable places.  Doing OD has required courage leadership and humility,  to create space to discuss the undiscussable, to bring to the surface what clings to beneath.  My work has shown me the equality of us all within our diversity.

I’m curious that it can be difficult to describe; I suppose – simple doesn’t make it easy.  I described it last week as like describing love. We all know what it is right?  It’s a universal life energy that connects us all together, and that we crave and need. Put it into a sentence – you might say something the same, you might say something different.  Search for it and you’ll find different meanings that don’t express what love is to me. That doesn’t mean I am right and others are wrong; it just – is.

If you’re an OD practitioner and you find it hard sometimes to describe, I think that’s OK. You may be in a system that is evidence based, so their internal knowing and wisdom is discounted, avoided, ignored  Stay with it.  There’s room for evidence and there’s space too for not knowing and discovering.  OD is a discovery process so of course we’re into the unknown.  OD is an enquiry so keep thinking, keep asking, keep noticing, keep sharing, keep enquiring, keep with it.  Ask the asker what meaning they make of it; that’s OD.

I‘ve written this blog with thanks to Paul Taylor from the NHS Do OD team, and to the CIPD who curated an inspiring set of OD stories last week at their CIPDOD15 conference.   Both have inspired me at a time when it seems that OD has the potential to be diluted through absorption into other functions.   I’m feeling that there is light shining from the NHS with their deep enquiry into OD and systems  – hugely challenging work and it’s a beacon.

Hopes for the Future of HR

Helen Tracey @HR Potential writes a thoughtful and forward looking blog about human resource management.  Her blog here challenges HR professionals to demand truth from colleagues, to encourage openness.

Tonight the CIPD are running an event about the future of work.  I’m guessing this is going to be a hopeful and optimistic event from which some innovative thinking is going to emerge.  I’m not able to make the event because of a rather lovely family reason.

I do have some thoughts about the future of HR – and I’m assuming that the conversation at this event will be about the role of HR in the future of work. Sometimes I hold back thoughts that I think may be perceived as being negative; I guess that  belongs to me.  But sometimes…….. I read a lot of very positive blogs and writing about HR and I think – I think, there is much that needs to change.

I’m using Helen’s blog as a prod to poke my own courage.

It’s a tough job HR.  It can be lonely, people can feel isolated, the work is hard, much of it invisible and I think what lies beneath many of the difficulties of the HR role is something about truth and the system in which HR operates.

The best of us will at times be in situations where we will implement something we don’t agree with; find ourselves being forced to do something counter to our own belief system, being pragmatic – it’s just the way it is.  Is that business savvy?  Am I naive?

I see it all around – people don’t say what they think, feel, believe. Sometimes that person has been me.   We’ll readily offer agreement, but less readily offer an alternative perspective.

  • Is it because we don’t want to be unpopular? Is it because we may be a minority and we have learned to keep it to ourselves? (women, ethnicity, sexuality)
  • Is it because even when our opinion is invited, it is often not valued – minds get made up, consultation looks to validate as opposed to being open to influence.
  • Is it because our thoughts about work are deeply rooted in old systems?

It can be hard to point out “what’s gone bad” when there are heavy investments in making things look good. Retain the status quo. Don’t admit to not knowing, fear. Hard not to give in to greed – convince yourself you deserve it, you have worked hard.

Around half of my working life has been working in organisations that have had some type of failure and I have been working with new leadership to re-energise and revitalise a culture. In every situation before the crash or the steady decline to below mediocrity  – a leadership individual/collusion has ignored, discounted, squashed, covered up front line/back office alarms.

Persig says it so much better than I ..

“Just as a biological immune system will destroy a life saving skin graft with the same vigor with which it fights pneumonia, so will a cultural immune system fight off a beneficial new kind of understanding with the same vigor it uses to destroy crime.”

I have some hopes for the future of HR, that it could be the change that we are looking for:

  • I hope that the future of HR includes a world where because you are a woman your perspective is more highly valued, sought out because you are a minority and not marginalised because of that.
  • I hope that the future of HR will be a move towards systemic thinking and working; an offloading of some of the transactional responsibilities that reinforce the cultural system.
  • I hope that the future of HR will include a rethinking of what is actually needed within organizations. What if the HR function had never existed – take it away – what needs would emerge from what is left?
  • I hope that the future of HR will be a move away from language and systems that reinforce distance – Human Capital, Analytics, EVP, and a step closer to designing workplaces that are focussed on our humanity.
  • I hope that the future of HR is that HR will be something different. I think that trying to change what we have – it isn’t enough.
  • I hope that the future of HR involves the re empowerment and value of management, and the moving away of the idealisation of leadership.  Good strong ethical management – it’s a beautiful thing, and the root, the core, the strength.

The OD Mindset

Organisational Development – Putting Theory into Practice – originally written and published on the Do OD website in 2012. Updated May 2015.
I came to OD, by “doing OD”. It’s work that I love, and believe in. I’m optimistic that amongst the sometimes murky, treacly waters of organisational life, clarity and movement can emerge. When people ask me what I do and I say Organisation Development – I can be met by blank looks!

I wonder if people struggle with understanding and defining OD because it is so often hijacked by more traditional change management methodology and consultancies with their own “right solution”. The dominance of financial modelling too in organisations creates resistance to the natural flow that is OD – perhaps OD’s simplicity is also too sophisticated. Because OD isn’t about answers, or predicting and controlling.

I’ve often heard OD described as “a planned programme to improve an organisation’s effectiveness” (oh for the love of a Gantt chart). We experience the pursuit of competencies to measure and control people’s behaviour, sheep dipping workshops, the promulgation of values.

Organisational Development work can and does utilise these tools and techniques, but doing these things does not mean you are doing organisational development.

So here’s my take on “doing OD”.


The OD Mindset

  • When you’re doing OD – your mindset is shaped by humanistic values and beliefs and the recognition that organisations are complex social systems.
  • When you’re doing OD, you’re working with and connecting the system – asking what is happening, what can we try, how will we know what is happening, how will we know when something has been impacted? You’re probably doing Action Research – whether or not you call it that.
  • When you’re doing OD, you’re drawing on a set of skills, theoretical knowledge and resources to facilitate problem solving, trust building – whatever your intervention, you are grounded.
  • When you’re doing OD, you’re part of what is happening in the system too; you’re an agent of change, an influencer, and a role model. You are connected with the real work.
  • Engaging people in a conversation that cuts across usual organisational boundaries is a core part of doing OD. This often meets resistance. The hurry up, the quick fixers, the taylorists, the accountants, they want concrete, tangible results now. They want a plan!
  • Doing OD includes demonstrating respect for these differing perspectives of varying stakeholders and an ability to hold strong, inviting people to place trust in the process – creating space for the conversations that need to happen. The behaviour mirrors the prevailing culture.
  • Everything is data. The OD mindset is rooted in understanding the connections between behaviour and results and effectiveness. People doing OD bring together multiple perspectives and deepen others’ understanding of the system within which they operate.


OD – how do you do it?

You learn with everyone else.
You are prepared to say the unsayable.
You collect data and share the analysis with the “system”.
You discover together what is revealed, and create time and space for people to make meaning.
You help people hear each other.
You role model transparency, candour, respect, curiosity and courage.
You stay with the difficult stuff.
You don’t jump into solutions; it’s about sense making, seeing at a systemic level what is happening.
You don’t collude with the system so there are times you may feel you are working counter-intuitively or experience discomfort.
You create the conditions for vulnerability and openness to emerge, and the conditions for the only consequences to be progress.
Conversation as a core process

I’m invited to facilitate a strategic planning meeting. To prepare, I start talking with the participants – I find that they don’t recognise and connect to a shared purpose, although in one respect it seems quite clear.

Perhaps this is the work – helping them develop clarity? When I start to enquire a little more, dig a little deeper, what is revealed is that there is a lack of trust amongst the team. It takes time for someone to name it. Perhaps we spend time trust building? When more of the organisational context becomes clear, the potential for more large scale disruption indicates that people are waiting to see what next. This is inhibiting their ability to enter into the planning process in any meaningful way.

The talking and exploring is the intervention. Creating space for people to identify root causes and start working beneath the surface clears the way for whatever the discussion they need to have to happen. It may be counter-interintuitive; as a facilitator it’s easy to get sucked into their task and to know that at the end of a day they have a “plan”. You potentially collude in their problem, avoiding going beneath the surface.
Over recent years, here has been a shift towards recognising how vital it is to pay attention to creating cultures that encourage integrity and facilitate adaptability. More OD functions are being established in organisations in a changing often unstable environment; for HR and L&D professionals, transitioning into OD is challenging and enriching. I am finding more of my time is spent mentoring, coaching and consulting with internal and external change agents, guiding them as they develop their thinking towards the OD mindset.

I am currently designing a new programme to develop internal OD capability – would you like to work with me and some amazing OD practitioners to build your organisations ability to grow the OD Mindset?  We’d love to come and chat to you – you can find met @OD_optimist or via the website http://www.mppartnership.co.uk

Ooo gimme a nice sandwich

This is my blog post for the feedback carnival, “feedback would happen all the time if…” conceived and curated by Helen Amery.  

Feedback – doesn’t the thought of it it make you shudder? “Meg you did this (insert insincerity of your choice) really well, but when you did this (insert awkward critique) it impacted the time we spent on that, but you are doing valuable work.  Carry on now.” Everyone looks relieved. It’s over. I wonder when we started using feedback as a workplace methodology.  One of those metaphors perhaps to keep command and control alive?  Is it an attempt to mechanise, to simplify, to depersonalise what is  most complex and challenging and beautiful and terrifying for us all – the relational aspects of being human?

One organisation I worked in had a “feedback culture”.  People were given feedback at every opportunity; it seemed to me like an opportunity to freely criticise others without any personal responsibility.  I think it reinforced the cultural norms of avoidance, not broke it down; people felt drained at the amount of feedback.  It looked like an intrusion to me.

When work is designed in such a way that the work itself provides feedback – so I know whether I’ve done good work or not, because I will see the impact of my efforts, then feedback happens all the time. When regular space is made to be together in work as community, feedback within that system will automatically happen, because the more time people spend together, the more that trust builds, so that reflection/reflexivity becomes inherent in feeding the system.  If we’re real with one another, and we have shared aims, know the common ground, we’ll be discussing  how we are as well as what we do.  It’s natural, it happens all the time if the conditions are created for community. Peer feedback – it has the most impact as opposed to the vertical type. – a healthy, trusting, clear sighted community – it’ll mostly happen naturally between us all. Sometimes, I just want to tell you that you did that thing so well, it inspired me to try a bit harder in something I was aiming for.  Is that feedback? Or is it just me sharing how you have impacted me positively. Sometimes, I need to be guided to understand the negative impact of something I said and did on others.  is that feedback or someone sharing how I have impacted someone or something negatively? If we’re regularly in dialogue with each other, then feedback is a natural systemic occurrence. If I’ve got to give you a sandwich, it ain’t feedback.  It’s foodback.

Warning – may contain nuts

I have a close family member who has a food allergy.  It is life threatening.   This means that every meal prepared somewhere else, by someone else, involves a high degree of trust and can create a high degree of anxiety. “May contain nuts” is a joke to some,  and a warning sign to someone with an allergy and an epipen.

So why am I writing about this on my blog?  Because I think about how someone with an allergy is treated a lot, and because I think about the world of work a lot.  Perhaps learning from the one can be transferred into the other.

I never cease to be surprised as the reactions of others;  a teacher whose own child has an allergy told me a story about another child and another teacher, a teacher – who tuts every time the epipen comes out and an ambulance is called.  “What a lot of fuss”.

Advice no 1  Don’t tut when another’s need – for data, for extra care, for extra time, whatever – causes you inconvenience.

It is challenging when others decide to take responsibility “I checked the packet, you can eat it”  It is so much easier in every way when the packet is provided for the choice to be made by the person who is doing the eating and risking.  Every incident is preceded by a reassurance that the food can be eaten. A recent holiday experience where “je ne pensais pas” – peanut oil in the homemade mayonnaise.

Advice no 2 Don’t do the deciding for others about what’s best for them.  Even if you think you are being helpful.

Restaurants – we know the good ones, where they cook it themselves.  A well known pub “we take pride in our home cooking” refused to serve us.  The “chef” was so nervous he came into the restaurant and said he didn’t want a death in the restaurant (!).  He wasn’t confident to cook a steak and a jacket potato, because – actually their home cooking was not prepared by them.

We went to a celebrity chef restaurant where the young waitress came out after our meal, poked the person with the nut allergy and said “so, you’re still alive then?”. And mock wiped their brow.

Advice no 3 Don’t joke about another’s vulnerability if they aren’t joking about it. And even if they are, read the situation.

Recently, we went out.  The waitress was efficient, ie everything was on time, but there was a lack of confidence transmitted to us.  A subtle inference in the tone of voice,  an implied shrug.   Because of this we spoke to the chef – he said “I will cook it, there are no nuts in the kitchen tonight; you can be confident”.

I made a joke at the end of that meal regarding a “low fat espresso”.    My joke.  She came back and explained to us that espresso was “very dark coffee” and ” we could have milk on the side”.  She then leaned in, smiled and revealed it was her first night and she was learning.

When our waitress confided it was her first night; I was able to see behind behaviour that made us roll our eyes a little.  She was terrified; her first customer was someone who could die if given the wrong food. She didn’t know what ingredients were in each dish.  She thought we were genuinely asking for a low fat espresso.    Our experience (the food was utterly delicious) could have been improved 100% by the restaurant manager standing with the new waitress when she came to our table and introducing her, letting us know it was her first night and that she was learning.  It would have set the scene; she could have been honest when she didn’t know, needed to ask or check and we could have been more relaxed.

Advice no 4  Don’t chuck new colleagues in the deep end.  No-one wins.

Where we feel safe to eat is where people don’t joke about the allergy, where people do not expect to make choices on behalf of another about what is safe, where information is offered up about ingredients and where respect is offered to the situation, and – that is all.

Advice no 5 Do please take time to understand and respect another’s unique needs, honour vulnerability. Give the space for others to  make their own choices – they know, we don’t need to decide for them.




HR Summit 2015, potted highlights

This year’s summit took place on 3/4 February in Birmingham and matched my previous experience of having a rich mix of high profile keynote speakers and master classes, relevant and current case studies, and – a real sense of community amongst conference delegates.  People were intent, they listened, and were engaged.

I have shared a storify here which curates some of the curation tweets.  There is some really useful sharing and learning available.

Part of the summit is the celebration of the annual HR Distinction Awards; as one of the judging panel, I was inspired by the submissions; the heart and soul, the energy and commitment of so many teams.  You can read about the winners and those commended here; the total picture was of a profession of hard working energised teams, who’s work often goes unsung. Often what’s in the public domain is all that’s seen – and shared.

Dave Ulrich talked about others’ perceptions of HR – and his thesis is that employees are not the customers of HR – HR’s customers are the customers of the business.  Ulrich asks “are we connecting what HR does to the key stakeholders of the business”. He also says culture is our identity and asks therefore “Will your culture reflect what customers are promised?”  He invites us to look from the outside in.

Nick Kemlsley (not at the summit)  wrote in his paper “A glimpse into the future”  “Those HR functions that can quickly and efficiently adapt what they offer and how they offer it…………will potentially gain more credibility” and goes on to say that successful HR functions will be more focussed on impact than process.

So the challenge for HR is there.  Look from the outside in, adapt, be an influencer, share and celebrate your contribution.  The HR Distinction Awards Ceremony was a happy energised experience; people attending the dinner were in a party mood, there was an air of anticipation as the awards were being announced.   I know what hard work it is working in HR, how much “stuff” gets flung in HR’s direction and it was so good to see a celebration of achievement.  The challenge is not to become a victim, not to burn out, but to stand up for what you believe is right and trust in yourself and it was just so good to see some celebration of achievements.

These events create an intense learning experience – (for me too; I did my first filmed interview with Dave Ulrich!).  There is a challenge too for HR professionals to both keep up with current thinking and be confident to develop their own way. CPD is vital to keep challenging our own thinking, develop and grow our own competence and – why not become a thought leader in your own organisation?

We are all talent

I struggle somewhat with the term talent and have a preference for the world potential – try substituting “growing and realising potential” for “Managing and developing talent”. By inference there is an indication with talent that some are worth more than others – I have seen the nine box grid as a crude sorting hat for those who are “in”, and those who are ”out”.

Is our thinking changing? I was curious about what I would hear/experience/feel at the summit in October, which was examining how employers are thinking differently about talent management to ensure they retain and develop the right people and skills to keep their businesses moving forward.

The stories told showed that there are organisations who are focussed on inclusion and diversity – not as a tick box, but as a way to enrich and deepen the resources in their leadership. I was encouraged to hear how much good work is taking place, and how much commitment there is to creating opportunities for people to grow. Great work is happening out there, that is respectful to individuals, and aligned to employer brand and strategy.

I’ve shared some personal take outs here/trends I hope will stimulate some thought.

Candidate and employee experiences rule the world – Rethink

Rethink Talent talked about the employee centric focus on recruitment; they described the evolution of workforce over the last fifteen years as developing from “materialistic” to “employee centric” in 2014 – with attention being given to family friendly policies, work life balance, more homeworking and output. Their view is that there is a gap between the old Personnel model and the current HRB/shared services and into that gap falls loss of individuality. They say, candidate and employee experience “rule the world”. Their use of technology to recruit Skype engineers virtually has enabled recruitment to fit around the employees and their requirements.

Using Apps and Neuroscience – Hay “Coach in a Pocket”

Hay shared their work on using technology to boost leadership performance. Their description of current HR and L&D trends identified – smart technology, 702010, student centric learning, a focus on ROI and blending learning. We’re seeing more and more development of apps; and Hay have developed a Group Leadership Development App which has utilised neuroscience to focus on habit change – contemplation – bring to consciousness your habit, planning to change, take action and maintain.

Neuroscience appears to be explaining what we already knew, some old knowledge, perhaps making sense for those that value the quantitative?

“Everyone is talent” BBC

Karen Moran from the BBC started with a picture of the Great British Bake Off team – who knew that a programme about cakes would prove so popular? Creating the conditions for innovation against a backdrop of a bureaucratic culture is a major challenge and Karen and her team have focussed on creating a strong employee brand, and working to have a deep understanding of engagement drivers across the BBC. Work on values has underpinned this work and they have co-created a set of guiding principles “our values will inform our decisions….”

A reminder for their leaders is “when you are living the best vision of yourself, you inspire others to live the best versions of themselves”. I heard care and heart in their leadership development mindset. Their work includes steps to building capability, sharing of a leadership promise, a leadership academy, actively promoting women into leadership business. They showed us an application of the nine box grid where all, including the lowest level of performers are offered development opportunities –“potential for more”. That word potential….

BBC’s work on talent attraction is now starting with schools; they have a strong employer brand and can identify clearly the various routes through which potential employees can work with the BBC. This is where we see the Diversity and Inclusion work in action. They are not limiting their view of “talent” to the right school, graduates or the existing network.

“Keep calm, and love data”

Karen Moran gave us a detailed case study of an integrated talent and leadership strategy, with practical implementation, grounded in an understanding of the culture and how leadership development and growth of potential is a key lever to creating an adaptive culture. This is the way to do it!

Rising stars – De Vere Hotels

Mike Williams from De Vere demonstrated how having limited financial resources engendered creativity and energy. Previous cost reduction strategy had gone too far; engagement was low and people had not been invested in. The new strategy was around “customer intimacy” – engagement and development became priorities.

Some of the key takeaways are that the work was clearly aligned to strategy and brand; successes and achievements are celebrated – and clear criteria for success have been established and shared. People are developed through provision of “talent toolbox training”, development days and development programmes. NVQ providers were assigned to each Hotel encouraging staff to learn and develop. Results Mike shared with us included significantly increased engagement through people being coached; a culture of achieving potential and internal promotions. Trust in leadership had increased and they have increased job applications by 16% illustrating the impact on attracting more employees to their brand. Customer service ratings have improved by 20% and 65% of the most successful hotels are run by their “rising stars”. Mike also shared data on significant cost savings and budgetary reductions that was directly correlated to their increase in engagement through investing time, resource and attention on development and building relationships.

Strengthening and diversifying future leaders – Diageo
“Cultural curiosity”

Diageo offered us their perspective on developing future leaders, accelerating growth, what they’ve learned and measuring the impact on their business. I don’t have comprehensive notes because much of their session was video footage of people involved in their programme telling us their story. I got absorbed!

In summary, they have:

• Accelerated the progress of people moving into leadership roles through targeted investment in key interventions
• Built a diverse range of current and future global leaders – varied in gender, origin and experiences
• Created one mind-set to building future leaders – senior leaders will be active sponsors and fully engaged in early career development
• Facilitated Global connectivity – more collaboration between markets of early co-ordination and talent movement

They are rotating leaders into unfamiliar territories and providing stretching assignments to challenge thinking at an early stage of their career development. Cultural curiosity is one of their criteria for people to enter the talent pool – in my experience the most effective leaders are curious about themselves, about others, about how things work. Diageo are building a future, knowing they have to be adaptable and flexible in a fast changing world. I was inspired hearing the stories of young people; often coaching and development comes late in a career when it is more likely that we have internalised a particular view of ourselves and the world that will be deeply ingrained. Create good habits and insights early on; and those will provide a strong foundation for constructive approaches to leadership as the leader matures.

You’re alive, Bod. That means you have infinite potential. You can do anything, make anything, dream anything. If you can change the world, the world will change. Potential. (Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book).”

There is no “right” way as each organisation is made up of a unique context, unique relationships and challenges. Creating the setting for potential to be realised is an organisational imperative. I think there are some guiding principles to be drawn from these case studies that cut across sector, organisation size and design.

• Technology creates the opportunity to collect and use data in ways that weren’t previously available to us
• Technology also allows us to connect and share knowledge at an accelerated pace
• Leadership Development and Talent Development needs to be designed with the cultural context in mind
• Internal sponsorship and involvement (there were many examples of this that I haven’t shared) is an essential component
• Diversity and inclusion is at the heart of any decent talent programme, and it includes different experiences, ages, gender, origin, educational differences. True diversity recognises potential everywhere.

“We are all talent”.

Management, the new leadership by Meg Peppin

In July, David Goddin invited guest bloggers to write something in response to the statement “there is no such thing as management”. It was a great series which you can read on David’s blog; this was mine.

People Performance Potential

Welcome to the 4th week in this series and the 7th guest blog post in response to the statement that “There is no such thing as Management”.

Today’s post comes from Meg Peppin (@OD_Optimist). Sharing her own experiences,  I like the sense of balanced management versus unbalanced leadership her piece conveys. I hope you enjoy reading it!

Management, the new leadership

Amongst the writing about leadership we often read about authenticity and humility; I don’t believe that these are the preserve of those highest in the hierarchy, with the most seniority. Leadership can and does come from all levels within the organisation, although when I have worked with senior people who can inspire great things in others – they are both authentic and brave enough to be humble.

Somewhere there has been some contamination of leadership ideals; egos have been fuelled by huge financial gains, and the more money people…

View original post 424 more words

#CIPD14 – reflect, connect, eggs, bloggers and the art of conversation

I am delighted to be at the conference this year both as a participant tweeting from the various sessions, and working with my colleague Doug Shaw where together, we are hosting some fringe sessions. Attendance to all sessions is free and open to anyone attending the exhibition or conference.  You can discover more and reserve your place here.

To explain a little more, our Reflect and connect sessions run briefly for 30 minutes and are a really relaxed and informal way to come and meet fellow practitioners.  We have both experienced the awkwardness that can sometimes be felt as a lone attendee so wanted to create a space for people to come and say hello.    We are also running an evening session exploring the Art of Conversation (there may be a glass of wine involved) and a breakfast session session building on an experiment we ran last year that we have called “HR Unscrambled”.   Please do join – we’d love to see you and develop some good conversation.

I’ll also be participating on a panel discussing paths to membership, and  – doing some open space facilitation with Andy Lancaster – and I’ll be tweeting too. A busy couple of days.

It feels that there is a good energy flowing into the conference this year and so much opportunity to participate, connect and learn.  There is a  fabulous “blog squad” of bloggers who regularly write about people and organisational issues – the squad will be attending a sessions and tweeting and blogging throughout the two days, so anyone who can’t make the conference can still participate. You can do this through following the hashtag #CIPD14 and watching out for blogs published by the blog squad both during and after the conference.

So, maximum opportunity for participation, whether in person or through the social media channels which the CIPD facilitate – another reminder – #CIPD14.

Hope to see you either in my time line @OD_optimist, or in person  – tweet me and let’s meet.