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…

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Go your own way

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, would you want to work there?

Many would.  But some wouldn't.

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

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

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

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

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

*takes tongue out of cheek

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

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

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

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

So what does this all mean?

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

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

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

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

I suspect not very often.

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

Till next time...


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