Tag Archives: Events

Collaboration, Innovation and Creativity in the New World of Work

9 Nov
Key note speaker at #CIPDACE 16, Margaret Heffernan. Apologies for the typos, I am trying to beat Ian Pettigrew to it this year 🙂
Margaret starts by telling us about an experiment between 2 flocks of chickens. An average flock of productive chickens and a flock where one super productive chicken gets added to the group… After some time we discover that the first flock was more successful, whilst in the second flock, all chickens but 3 were dead…
The productivity of the few had been achieved by suppressing the productivity of the rest. 
A super chicken does not help. for the last 50 years we have run organisations like the super flock of chickens. We have created spectacular talent contests to identify and promote them. We have discovered that the productivity of the few was achieved by suppressing the productivity of the rest. We have done in our schools and companies and we find exactly the same as William Mure found. Aggression, devastation and waste. Why doesn’t it work? We didn’t start this because we thought it would fail… Darwin didn’t say that success lies with the brutest or the most aggressive. He said the most adaptive succeed. Problems are to complex to be solved by super men, or super chickens… Team work is really important. We do need teams to create something different that we haven’t seen before. How do we do that? We all have experience of working in a team that cannot get things done. And some teams achieve anything. So, what is the difference? Tom Malone at MIT tried to figure this out. The most successful teams were not the ones with the higher IQ. Also not the ones with a few IQ superstars. The teams that were really good shared 3 characteristics: 1) Score more highly on test for empathy. You are thinking about each others. Collective minds and intelligence. 2) The really successful teams tended to get the full participation of every members. No passengers. No dominating voice. 3) The really successful teams had more women in them. It may be that women score more highly on empathy… What really matters is what happens between people. In practice this means that one of the salient characteristics of really successful businesses is helpfulness. Not a sexy word, but it means that have a room of super smart people that share their ‘Know How’.

Helpfulness is fast, efficient, safe… everyone has a higher level of confidence and expertise that wasn’t there before. Fundamental to it is the idea of sharing information because that is what people do when they work genuinely together. ‘Social Physic’ has been recommended by Margaret as a book to read. The author discovers that inside every network there are people that seem to know everybody… The more of them, the more the information flows. It flows fast and accurately. As a test he convinces an organisation to do a 10 minute coffee breaks with a group of colleagues. From that group emerges a productivity increase that can be quantified in 10 million dollars. Helpful and collective intelligence of network organisation increases productivity. The productivity of the whole depends on the productivity of everyone, not just a few.
Margaret looks back at her experience at managing companies. She hired some great people, but the company wasn’t quite working out. In the UK she went to the pub with her colleagues after work, but in Boston it was different. So she encouraged colleagues to stand up on a Friday and introduce themselves. It was awkward initially, but Friday after Friday they started building relationships and things improved.
If you really want to measure the health of the organisation you need to test how fast important information flows. You need to start talking seriously the idea of ‘Social Capital’. Of course people work better together and when they work together they develop trust… Why now does this feel so urgent? It used to be that there was a time that we could safely make 5 year plans on pretty accurate fore-plans and predictions. It did work. It was like running a factory. Globalisation happened. A world that is complication is now complex. You cannot predict how complex systems work. You can’t safely make long term predictions. The safe window for accurate forecasting is 2 years. Shorter than it has ever been. All of those management systems based on predictions, won’t deliver. If you don’t create high levels of trust and a shared consciousness, then you cannot get anything done. That is the nature of complexity. Complexity is not chaos. There are certain behaviours that will get more out of a complex environment than others. What are those? They are fantastic listeners and ask fantastic questions. As a leader, try and sit in a meeting and do not say a word. Listening is really critical. Have the courage, patience and discipline to not interrupt. Giving people opportunity to contribute in other areas and not just their area of expertise. Problems are routinely solved by people working outside of the area of expertise. This is the unused capacity we have in our organisations. How do you get all of this fantastic thinking out of the head of these fantastic colleagues. What are the barriers that are keeping people trapped? What is stopping them achieving their potential? Is we stop the debates, we stop the organisation finding solutions. In an unpredictable, complex world, we are going to make mistakes. Of course we are. Complex environments reveal themselves through experimentation. You need to look at the failure and learn from it. Every decision is just a hypothesis about the future.
Are there any organisations that are doing all of this? Yes, Margaret found one in Seattle… Microsoft. It used to be super-chicken central. Scary track record. They needed to think differently about how they did work. Microsoft in the last 2 years has transformed itself spectacularly. They embraced very wholeheartedly the idea that talent and expertise is not fixed. You want a culture where every single person knows that they are there to learn. They understand that the more mistakes they make, the more they learn. Even the CEO at the beginning made a huge mistake…
Expertise alone is a starting point, not an end point. We want colleagues enthused with a love of learning. We have got to revisit and re-frame the issue of diversity. You need to cherish the difference between people. People not like you have a lot more to teach you. We have to prize curiosity. When we are interviewing people, let’s ask them different types of questions. Who got you here? If people think their success is only up to them, then that’s not great… Hiring managers are more like impresarios.
Massive institutional failures have been caused by knowledge that resided in the organisations, but had not been shared. We have to breakdown the bureaucracy and hierarchy. We are facing challenges that are not going to be solved by super men or super chickens. If we are going to build institutions that other people can trust, in a society that trust is normal, then we need to invest in each other. Our greatest success lies on how you connect with each other. The only way for an organisation to grow is by allowing our people to grow.

It’s that time of the year again – #CIPDACE16

4 Nov

It’s November and that only means one thing and no, it’s not the Red Cups from Starbucks or the German Christmas Markets popping up everywhere, it’s the CIPD Annual Conference. Wednesday 9th to Thursday 10th up here in chilly (wrap up warm!) Manchester. IMHO, this is the biggest and the best HR conference in the country.

Every year it offers the opportunity first and foremost to think about yourself and your own development. Us HR lot are the first to understand the importance of keeping up to date and learning, but we often forget to take the time out of our busy schedule to do so. We all need some time off to refocus.

This time last year, I was listening to Professor Cary Cooper talking about wellbeing. This prompted a blog post with some practical ideas on how to improve wellbeing at work. I knew last year that I was not leading by example. I realise now quite how badly I was looking after myself. I now know, looking back at how I was feeling this time last year, how much the office routine and my bad practices were really impacting on my health.

Reading the post today made me feel extremely proud of all the small adjustments that I have made and that have now become part of my routine and helped me feel better and perform better. I am mentally more resilient and I am happier. I am taking my lunch breaks, team meetings have been outdoors on nice days, I encourage colleagues to take breaks, have breakfast together and I’ve led by example. I’ve even joined our recently formed workplace choir!

I’ve realised in the past 12 months of how lucky I am to work for a company that will allow colleagues to sing for an hour a week, an organisation that allows yoga classes to go ahead, an office with free fruit around every corner and free breakfast. I know not all of us work for companies like mine, however it does start somewhere and it usually needs to start from the top. Are you a HR Director? Then if you campaign for a choir or fitness classes, you may even get a sign off and approval to go ahead. (please note that you may also get shouted at and lose your job…)  You can make things happen and then you can also lead by example. If you join the choir, this will encourage many more to do so and the company’s culture will slowly start changing. I’m seeing this happening every day. Are you a HR Manager? Then take your breaks, let your guys go home a bit earlier if they have worked hard for you and mainly lead by example.

I am excited to find out how #CIPDACE16 may change my life this year. I am looking forward to catching up with the rest of the blog squad that by using the above hashtag will keep the content coming your way in case you cannot make up your mind on what session to attend. No need to stress about it, we have it covered and you will be able to read up on what you have missed. I look forward to talking some more about change, uncertainty, Brexit, as this is already having an impact on our workforce and I look forward to the more light-hearted sessions like ‘Humour and Happiness for More Engaged and Effective Teams’. And I am really looking forward to hearing my first Italian keynote speaker and getting involved in all the fun events around the conference. Have a look at Gemma’s post here for 10 things to do.


And just in case you need somewhere to reflect on all the great things you have learned or you need to catch up on some blogs on the Thursday night before heading home, Manchester has indeed got German Christmas Markets opening that day.

#connectingHRmcr n.8 + Ian’s 50th celebrations

14 Oct

Tonight was the night of connectingHRmcr and I quickly want to jot this down, before I forget what emotions I felt at this successful 8th Tweetup. I’m probably going to sound like a teenager writing in her diary and I might learn the lesson of not writing anything down past 11pm and after a few glasses of wine, but I don’t want this feeling to go.

It was a while since the last #connectingHRmcr and I was so grateful to see the amount of old and new Tweeps that turned up. It is always incredible to see how naturally this happens. Thanks everyone for creating such a friendly atmosphere. I think you could feel the warmth and love in the room.

This Tweetup was a bit unusual from our previous one as we also wanted to celebrate Ian Pettigrew in a special way. On Saturday he celebrates 50 wonderful years and we had to organise something special for him. We had to give some background around Ian and recognise him not just in front of some of his good Twitter friends, but also in front of strangers that were attending their first ever #connectingHRmcr event.

Nearly 3 years ago Ian and I met for the first time, after being Twitter friends for a while. We had many of the same connections and one desire, to meet our HR followers in person. We had heard of Tweetups organised in London and we went ahead and replicated it in Manchester. Since then we have not only met our followers, but we made great friends and connections. In so many ways, so many of our lives changed for the best. It’s soppy, but true.

People that know Ian, know how positive he always is, in fact every night he looks back at his day and thinks about at least 3 things that have gone well. This is a positive psychology technique that some of us use on Twitter with the hashtag #3goodthings. Our one and only Appreciateologist Dawn (yes, that’s one hell of a job title) came up with the fantastic idea of collating #50goodthings about Ian, for his 50th birthday!

The result was explosive (and OF COURSE we got more than 50!!) Thank you to everyone that took part and I’m really sorry for missing some people out.

ians present

A simple idea + a magnificent technology enabler Mike, who with his design skills came up with the fantastic way of displaying the #50goodthings and there you have it: a perfect mix of thoughtfulness and a true account of who @kingfishercoach is. He is all of it: the great friend, coach, the kind and positive person and the beans on toast, the strategic lattes, Happy Valley and Jake + Sue. That is a testament to how authentic he is both online and offline.

I could see that he was struggling to take it all in and I know how it feels. Sometimes, especially in our profession, from business/personal coaches to HR, we are used to make people feel special, giving them the tools to perform better and encouraging them, by pointing out all the great stuff that they have already achieved. We teach them how to give positive and constructive feedback to their team members to get the best out of them and we try and make them feel that they can achieve absolutely anything. It’s hard to sit back and take in great feedback about ourselves.

I realised this when I was one of the 400 people to be nominated as part of out V-Fest at rentalcars.com. If you haven’t heard what happened, we had a weeks’ long Values Festival to try and define our company’s values. You can read more about it here. One of the activities was to nominate someone that personified the rentalcars.com values and to explain why. Not only I was nominated, but I was one of the 10 winners. I have received the video of the Awards ceremony this week and my face and reaction taught me exactly this. We work behind the scene and we do great stuff and our recognition is our work, but boy it feels good (and weird!) to be properly recognised for it. It’s powerful stuff and it can teach us a lot. I most definitely did not expect that and it has been the highlight of my career so far.
Processed with Moldiv

We are humble enablers, that preach recognition, but are surprised to get it. Well take it all in Ian, enjoy your #50goodthings and all the love and appreciation for you at #connectingHRmcr and all throughout this week. You deserve it and happy birthday!

First day of #CIPD13 as part of the blogsquad

9 Nov

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As Ian Pettigrew realised I think I was feeling the pressure. How can you compete with blog posts that are out the minute the crowd starts clapping the end of the presentation? I’m think of you David… Or how to write better than Gemma or Sukh? So I’ve mainly live tweeted at the event, engaged with the exhibitors there, took pictures and videos on Instagram and interacted with the incredible number of new young and old professionals that decided to open a Twitter account during #CIPD13. I think this was great to see, and an incredible achievement and a legacy for the online HR community.

I did however want to briefly comment on my first day of #CIPD13 and on the opening keynote and a couple of the other sessions I attended… 

Creating The Best Workplace on Earth – Gareth Jones and Rob Goffee 

What a title! Wouldn’t we all want to do that? Wouldn’t we all like to work for this type of company? The keynote started off exciting and positive, analysing the reasons as to why anyone would want to work for a specific company. People are normally proud of working for a company because of its:

– Culture/values

– High performance

– Employer brand

– Engagement

Think of your company and ask yourself, why should anyone work here? Is it because of its culture and values? This has been a popular answer since the 1980s, which makes us think that this might be a modern management fad. It is true that there are different contexts and different values.

You love to work for your company because it is successful, doing well on the stock market, highly performing? Is this always a good thing? Think of Blackberry and how quickly that can change or think of companies like Enron that want to win at all cost…No, no one would like to work for a company like that! Certainly not me! I’d rather feel engaged with the job, find it exciting, fair, motivating and meaningful.

Wouldn’t it be great if you asked someone why they work for your company and they replied: ‘it’s the organisation of my dreams’? No one says that…

Rob and Gareth believe that a ‘dream’ organisation mainly needs to have 6 things. They’ve explained this through the acronym ‘Dreams’.

D – Difference

This meant difference beyond diversity. I want to work in a place where I could be myself. If you can be yourself, you will lose yourself. Is this why there is now, in Europe and in the UK a real epidemic of work related stress? We’re always in work, so you might as well be yourself. I completely get that. I really do. The speakers’ suggestion was to ‘resist the machine’ and ‘close down the department of rules’… I’ll give you a guess as to what that department is… The HR department. The department that has the insatiable desire to wrap process around everything…

Benefits of being different? Commitment, creativity and customer experience. Waitrose is a brilliant example of this as they do not want all supermarkets to be the same. Difference is one of the organisational imperatives. Arup, also believes in making cohesion with shared values, without homogenisation. They want to encourage conflict, while in HR we always try and smooth over conflicts. Don’t kill the characters, nurture characters. Recruit some people that don’t quite fit in.


R – Radical Honesty.

What is going on? What is really going on. Let’s not try and be keepers of corporate secrets. Those days are over. There is the internet, social media, so tell people the truth or they will find out.

I loved the example of the ‘travellers complaint’ as it is true that what annoys travellers the most is to not know why there are problems or delays. What annoys them is what they don’t know.

Do not try and sanitise bad news! Tell the truth before someone else does.

The organisational imperatives of using radical honesty are:

  • Share information, don’t hoard it
  • Use all channels of communication
  • Be proactive, not reactive
  • Be the place where the best want to strut their stuff
  • Let people grow through what they do
  • Think creatively about training. Use clever, modern technology in order for people to develop through their work.


E – Extra Value

When employees’ strengths are magnified. Think of the added value that people can give to an organisation. Think of ‘Loco mobilisation’ during the Olympics. Those volunteers added value.

McDonald’s spends a fortune training relatively unskilled people.

Ducati recruited 150 ‘Ducati nuts’ that use to love stripping down engines at the weekend in order to help them develop their next engine.


A – Authenticity

You know where we’re coming from and what we stand for. Apple for example still has a sense of identity. Brand/culture is actually lived obsessively.

In order to be ‘authentic’:

  • Be vigilant on brand and culture.
  • Be clear about what you do well.
  • Be suspicious about fads.
  • Acknowledge legacy


M – Meaning

The meaningfulness of the job comes from connections to others, community and the cause. So make sure you work on internal and external connections and make sure that you build the right social architectures


S – Simple Rules

Despite suggesting to ‘close down the department of rules’, Rob and Gareth still believe in rules, simple rules. Be different does not mean anarchy as freedom still rests upon constraints.

What do good rules look like? They should be simple, agreed, not complex or imposed. So be vigilant, involve and check and make sure that your rules are fair.

I couldn’t help to carry on feeling that obviously this would be the perfect company to work for, however I can’t think of any that get the entire acronym right. We can work towards getting it mostly done and I think this is great advice for a start-up or an SME. All of the examples in the presentation were of big corporations, however I don’t see how the ‘DREAMS’ acronym could not apply to an individual or a much smaller company. Hard to get all of the acronym done, but of course we can all try and improve, change and one by one make things happen. However this is obviously a testing and difficult agenda.

The good news is that people want to do good work. They want to invent new things. People need to work and it is an insatiable human desire to do good work as it is a defining human characteristic. HR is about doing the right thing. We might have to draw a line from times to times and tell people that yes, we get all the business stuff, but this is not right. Good workplaces, good and meaningful work will equal to better societies. HR can help this happen as HR is in the business of building the organisation of your dreams!


First keynote over, I headed off to see ‘Techniques to Enable Transformational Employee Engagement’ with David MacLeod and Nita Clarke. This was an extremely tweetable and jammed packed session. Find the storify of the session below:


I was then about to head to an auto-enrolment session as it would have been very interesting to find out any tips on how to communicate this to staff, however one of my favourite words caught my eye: ‘networking’. I therefore went ‘speed networking’ which I missed last year and thoroughly enjoyed this year. It was so popular that I think next year it should be given an even bigger space. A couple of tips on ‘speed networking’: remember your business cards, go there to communicate something different and something that people will remember. You have 3 minutes, so be yourself and go for it.

There were so many great blogs and tweets during ‘Leading People through Organisational Change’. Andrew Wolstenholme led us through a great early afternoon session and if you would like to read more about it I’ll direct you to my favourite blog that summarised perfectly the essence of the session.

As every year, I look forward to this conference more than any other business or HR event. I had high expectations for the key note and despite setting the tone for the day, I found that the conversations that followed and the rest of the day (and wonderful evening), was really what made it all special.

In between sessions I was wandering about the stands, taking photos and videos of all the great exhibitors, funny gadgets and great photographers/magicians and initiatives. I kept on thinking how the 60 free learning events are a great opportunity for passers-by to really engage with CIPD and the topics and learn while talking to some of the companies present. Those speakers are so passionate about important topics such as workplace motivation, social recruiting and internal communications that this passion really did shine through.

The first day was over too quickly and I didn’t get a chance to reflect on all those sessions until now. The Centenary Dinner was upon us and this was a lovely opportunity to really celebrate the 100 years of this great professional body and have an incredible time with some of my favourite people.

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