Archive for the ‘Resources – Managers’ Category

Is your toilet signage discriminatory?

Monday, May 30th, 2016

There was an interesting and thought-provoking Employment Tribunal case last week – one which the CIPD called a “Landmark” judgement.

In short, a transgender woman, Erin Bisson, had contacted a ferry company by phone asking them which toilets she should use. An employee had suggested, “use a disabled loo”. The other toilets on the ferry were labelled “ladies” and “gents”.

Firstly, the ferry company was found guilty of direct discrimination for the suggestion that Erin should use the disabled toilet. I understand that, although can also understand how an uninformed person would suggest that in a non-malicious way in an attempt to be helpful.

Secondly, the company was found to have indirectly discriminated against Erin by having the worded signage on the toilets rather than pictorial representations as the worded signage was “limiting”.

Personally, I have never understood why all toilets are not gender-neutral – they are in people’s homes, they are on trains and planes. It reminds of rafting the Grand Canyon last year and there were no toilets for peeing in, and eventually some men and women were peeing next to each other in the Colorado; there were no issues. But that’s another blog …

On the same day as this judgement, LifeSiteNews reported that, “The New York City Human Rights Commission has released a list of 31 different terms of gender expression employers must use or face $250,000 fines … The fines go as high as $125,000 for misnaming a person’s gender intentionally, and $250,000 for doing so maliciously.” The University of California Berkeley provides a helpful glossary, together with a table for the “pronoun-curious”:

Subject Object Possessive Adjective Possessive Pronoun Reflexive
Female She Her Her Hers Herself
Male He Him His His Himself
Gender Neutral Ze Hir Hir Hirs Hirself
Pronunciation zee here here heres hereself

On the social media front, there are now more than 50 custom gender identifiers for a person to select from on Facebook – accessible through an autocomplete drop-down menu.

Returning to our UK ferry boat finding, one sentence that Erin stated either during the proceedings or after was, “Gender is down to identity, symbols is one way of dealing with this”. This has been picked up by the vast majority of reports.

This comment has also been picked up on a lot of internet discussion groups, the main discussion point being that people don’t understand it. Many firms of lawyers who have also reported on it for their clients give no explanation of what it means for their clients.

The only attempt by someone to explain it that I can find on the internet is ‘BG’ on a Google forum, where he/ she / ze states, “However, whilst the stylised symbols *mean* “ladies” and “gents” they are just outlines. So, someone who is actually a gent (tackle-wise), but looks like a lady, can argue that he/she should undisputedly use the lady’s loo.” A valiant attempt in two sentences.

From a practical implementation and workplace focussed perspective, whilst the UK Government’s published guidance is helpful, I am left with a number of thoughts (and more questions than answers):

  • It is great that society is doing all it can to be inclusive, and both recognise and support all differences within the Equality Act’s protected characteristics.
  • At what point does it become too complicated for your average Jo / Joe to comprehend, learn and apply in every situation?
  • What are the implications for organisations in terms of staff training (I’m delivering some Equality and Diversity sessions in a few weeks and, from previous experience, I can imagine the reactions if I introduce signage on toilets to the session. But perhaps I need to?).
  • Are we losing the balance? Recognising and celebrating diversity is more than protected characteristics. It is very important, but purely focussing on this makes it very two dimensional. We also need to recognise differences between individuals not based on protected characteristics (their motivations, their communications preferences, other innate preferences, etc.) – recognising and valuing both strands is what makes a workplace truly inclusive.

I would value your thoughts?

Paul

 

People remember the way we make them feel …

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

Last week David Bowie sadly passed away. There was much sadness expressed, and some people questioned the level of the impact his death had on others. I had a discussion with a colleague on Facebook as to the reasons why Bowie’s death impacted on people in the way it did.

It was a theoretical discussion. I had seen him in concert, possess many of his albums and have been fascinated by the way he seemed to re-invent himself every 5 years or so. I was immensely impressed by his ability to demonstrate such imagination and creativity. I was saddened but not distraught, as some people seemed to have been.

Then, earlier this week, I learned of the death of Glenn Frey of the Eagles. As such a key member of The Eagles, they can never be the Eagles again now, so they have died too.

It took me straight back to my childhood. I recalled how my mum bought my dad a radio for his car in the early 1970’s – a car radio was a rarity at the time and I can vividly recall the bright red light that awkwardly and unevenly lit the waveband. The radio was so dad could listen to music as he drove around East Anglia – and The Eagles were his band. He never really took to the often compared Fleetwood Mac – his only other band was the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), but not even they matched the Eagles. Still to this day he loves their music, he loves their sound and he loves their lyrics. When their most recent album was released – “Long Road out of Eden” – he was full of praise for the ‘poetry’ they created in their lyrics, and I bought him Don Henley’s new album “Cass County” for Christmas as it is very much rooted in the music of the Eagles.

I think I have been to four Eagles concerts with him, with roughly five years between each. The last one was in the Summer of 2014, when the picture at the top was taken. As dad was approaching 80 at the time, I thought he might not want or be able to get to another one, so I paid a ridiculous price (he still has no idea how much!) for tickets in the second row from the front. I never thought it would be his last Eagles concert due to one of the band passing away. It was a marvellous concert and he loved it. We both loved it.

The Eagles have been part of the fabric of my life, part of the fabric of my family’s life, from as early as I can remember … me sitting in shorts on the back seat of our Ford Cortina on those plastic type seats cars had then, watching that little red light – and listening to the Eagles. Right through to taking the train last year to Winslow, Arizona – not such a fine sight to see, I can assure you, as my photo might show – due to its connections with the band.

I am distraught. I am gutted. I feel like part of the foundation of my family and its history has been unexpectedly taken away from me.

That discussion I had with the colleague on Facebook? – now I could discuss it based on my feelings.  And that’s the difference between the deaths of Bowie and Frey for me personally.

For Bowie, I remembered what he had done. For Frey, I remembered the way he made me feel. All my memories are based on those feelings.

That is the way it is, and should be – people will always remember the way we have made them feel; happy or sad, angry or elated. Not necessarily what we have done.

We should never forget that.

Paul

 

Breathe’s YouTube channel goes live!

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

Very excited to launch our YouTube channel! I have had so much (yes, so much!) fun in creating my first half a dozen vlogs, and learned so much too. The first few are spoilt slightly due to the sound quality (the Colorado River caused the problem), but I am learning – and have purchased an additional microphone! Two vlogs available at the moment, the others to be released gradually and two more currently in production – one using Lego which has been particularly fun! If you choose to watch any – thank you – and any feedback welcome to help me in my learning!

Paul

Fifty Shades of Red

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

During my rafting trip along the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon we covered 225 miles. Along the way, there were many things that I expected – and there were things that were an absolute revelation to me.

The first revelation was the importance of the Canyon’s geology together with the mesmerising beauty of its different coloured layers, complicated by the constant zigzag of equally evocative fault lines.

The whole of the journey was through Arizona, which I already knew came from the Spanish “Arid zona” – what I didn’t know was that the name Colorado comes from the Spanish for “Colour red”.  And the River was red – in places. It was also many shades of red and many other colours besides. Every morning when I awoke, being only a few yards away, it was both easy and fascinating to check on what nature’s paint palette had created overnight – as its colour often changed from how it was the previous evening.

Its colour depended on the part of the river we were on, the amount of rain that had fallen, the waterfalls, side canyons, washes and creeks that were feeding into it, and the speed of the river (the CFS – Cubic Feet per Second) to name four. Look at these pictures of its different colours.

The very bright blue water is the Little Colorado River – a counterpoint to the usually murky waters of the Colorado.

I also came to appreciate that the colour was one of the aspects of the river that the guides used in assessing how it would be for our rafting that day. It helped them to decide how they were going to work with it.

As I lay be the river one morning, mesmerised by its beauty and power, I started to think about how the Colorado was very like a team.

On the face of it, the same river passes through the same route every day.  A traveller would think like that at their peril. A good river guide treats it as a different river every day, and recognises its changes during the day. And this is what a great manager does with their team.

A poor manager sees the same team coming to work every day, whilst a great manager doesn’t have the same team coming to work every day. A great manager has individuals coming to work who will be different every day – and so the team will be too. The great manager notices those differences and manages accordingly – like a great river guide.

In the Harvard Business Review, Marcus Buckingham highlights his findings from research that started with a survey of 80,000 managers conducted through the Gallup Organization and then continued for two years with in-depth studies of a few top performers.  Buckingham found, “… that while there are as many styles of management as there are managers, there is one quality that sets truly great managers apart from the rest: They discover what is unique about each person and then capitalize on it. Average managers play checkers, while great managers play chess. The difference? In checkers, all the pieces are uniform and move in the same way; they are interchangeable. … In chess, each type of piece moves in a different way, and you can’t play if you don’t know how each piece moves. More important, you won’t win if you don’t think carefully about how you move the pieces. Great managers know and value the unique abilities and even the eccentricities of their employees, and they learn how best to integrate them into a coordinated plan of attack.”

Generally, people leave managers, not organisations.

In “The Value of a Good Manager”, Peter Drucker itemises the four foundations that employees look for in managers. They are:

  • Managers who show care, interest and concern for their staff
  • To know what is expected of them
  • A role which fits their abilities
  • Positive feedback and recognition regularly for work well done.

The first foundation is all about managers recognising the fifty thousand shades of their teams. And in terms of the Colorado, where the likes of the Little Colorado meet the Colorado (picture on the left), that could be seen as a new member of staff joining the team.

What can you do next? Think about yourself, your skills, your interventions with your staff. Drucker suggests five questions to help you:

  • Do I demonstrate care, concern and interest?
  • Am I clear in talking through what’s expected of my staff?
  • Are people working to their strengths? Do I provide support where staff are stretched? Am I proactive in this?
  • How often do I provide positive feedback and encouragement? It’s far too easy to notice the negative and feedback on this.
  • Am I creating the conditions where people want to work with me?

What colour is your river today, and why?

Paul

Rapid Lava Learning

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Mile 180. Lava Falls Rapid, Grand Canyon. One of the most notorious, if not the most notorious, rapid on the Colorado River within the Grand Canyon.  A snarling, noisy cauldron of churning waters intent on devouring anything or anyone who doesn’t show any respect – and some who do.

For those people like me rafting the 225 miles of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon this is one of the white water highlights. For the guides taking us down the river, this is also a highlight – but even more so a challenge. They know the risk of the boats capsizing, together with the risk of serious injury (or worse) for themselves or their charges if the relevant respect is not shown. They also know that reputations are won and lost on the few seconds taken to navigate Lava Falls. YouTube logs many guides’ attempts to negotiate the rapids – often the ones that didn’t go according to plan.

I had already witnessed our guides ‘scouting’ (this is where the guides leave the boats and walk ahead an up so that they can look down on the rapids to check the prevailing conditions) previous challenging rapids and seen indications of the seriousness and perhaps mild apprehension with which they approached them – tones of voices became more serious, then, as they stood over the rapids the tightening of already recently tightened life-vest straps.

Different guides displayed different signs, and I was particularly impressed by one of the guides in terms of her skills in these situations. Kiki is a woman in her mid-twenties who has guided many parties and regards the Grand Canyon – and in particular the Colorado River – as her home.  She has also never capsized a boat on the river – although she has taken quite a few unintentional swims through rapids – but is aware that capsizing is likely to happen at some point.

I was interested in her approach to navigating Lava Falls and she was kind enough to spend some time discussing it with me the evening before we “ran Lava”.

There were several points of particular note.

Kiki said that Lava Falls enters her consciousness early on in the trip (although the Falls are not negotiated until around Day 12), and often prior to the start of the trip. She described experiencing short “adrenalin bursts” on these occasions in anticipation of the Falls. When I asked how she reacted to these, she explained that whenever she experienced this, she would visualise the Falls and her anticipated route through the Falls (the preferred route can alter depending on a number of factors, but mainly on the water level of the River). Kiki found this a useful process in both making use of the adrenalin burst and in meaningful preparation for the rapids.

She then described how the guides would discuss the Falls the evening prior to running them, and how on the actual day of the event as she approached the Falls she would start to experience some nervousness and anticipation. She recognised that whilst these emotions were understandable, they were also potentially unhelpful, so she recognised and dealt with them.  She achieved this by discussing information and factual aspects about the Falls with her passengers. She explained that this helped expel the unhelpful emotions and focussed her on the cognitive task in hand in a helpful manner.

Having scouted the Falls and returned to her boat to run the Rapids, Kiki described how she monitored her breathing. She recounted how if she then felt apprehensive at all, she would take deep breaths – for two reasons. Firstly because it helped her to refocus her energy and ensure she was in the best physiological state to negotiate Lava, and secondly for a very practical reason – if she did capsize or go for an unintentional swim she would have plenty of breath! The importance of this last point was illustrated by one of the other guides who explained how they were thrown out of their boat, spent 38 seconds underwater in the clutches of the Colorado and were then spat out 25 yards from where they went under.

Finally, Kiki explained how she reflected on her approach, line and skills after the event – considering what went well and what, if anything she could have done differently – thus maximising her learning for the next time.

The majority of people reading this will not be river guides, but the approaches, behaviours, processes and practices that Kiki so effectively uses are instantly transferable to other situations – she demonstrates a use of Emotional Intelligence beyond her years in recognising and managing her emotions, she understands and applies the principles of being focused and managing her breathing, and she makes the most of every experience by implementing the Experiential Learning Cycle.

Whilst I have written about them before, I think this is a really helpful and practical application of these theories, and it demonstrates how versatile and effective they can be in supporting effective performance – whatever the context.

If I had been training as a river guide, the discussion we had would also have been a good illustration of NLP Modelling. If you want to identify and fully reproduce the detailed skills of a successful person, it is insufficient purely to watch their behaviours – you need to fully explore and comprehend their thoughts, mind-set and emotions in order to achieve their level of excellence. Due to the breadth, depth and quality of information gleaned, the process also accelerates a person’s learning.

And how did we get on? All the oared boats made it through, but the lighter (and more likely to capsize) paddle boat didn’t make it. It capsized, throwing out all seven occupants, however, four climbed on top of the overturned raft to row it through “Son of Lava Falls”, and the three others swam it – with one of the occupants receiving a minor head injury which looked a lot worse than it was due to the amount of blood he lost. A reminder of the power of Lava Falls and the need for the preparation and skills Kiki displayed.

Paul

 

Toxicity of Trying

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

Are these really Andy Murray’s motivational notes? I really do hope they are not – but there has been no denial and they appear to have been written on the back of a letter to him.

Why do I hope they are not? Well, to me they appear toxic. Toxic to a top sports person seeking to be the best they can be (in other words winning every match).

As with all top sports people, I’m sure that Andy and his team pore over huge amounts of performance data to analyse what he is doing, how he is doing it, when he is doing it, etc.  So let’s undertake a little analyse of these motivational notes:

  • There are 61 words on the page
  • These are divided into 10 points
  • There are 4 words – which are either verbs or words with 3 or more letters – that appear three or more times – ‘be’ (4), ‘your’ (4), ‘the’ (3) and ‘try’ (3).

Of that analysis, the last point is the most striking and concerning for me.

Murray is going to ‘try’ to do something.

And almost of a third of the 10 points he is going to ‘try’ to achieve.

The word ‘try’ is one of the most unhelpful – perhaps even toxic – words that can be used in relation to performance management and improvement.

How many organisations publish goals that say they are going to ‘try’ to do something?

In your personal or professional life, what do you mean when you say you are going to ‘try’ to do something? Just say it to yourself now …

It usually means one of two things. Firstly, it could mean that you might have a go, but you’re not convinced that you will be able to achieve it – because of your personal abilities, your belief or your other time constraints. Secondly, it could mean that you have no intention of doing or will to do it, but you add the word ‘try’ in to avoid the discussion around the fact you will not be doing it.

It isn’t even a word that needs replacing – it just needs taking out.

“Try to be the one dictating”, becomes “Be the one dictating”.

“Try to keep him at the baseline make him move”, becomes “Keep him at the baseline make him move”.

How different do those sentences sound and feel without the word ‘try’?

I have worked with a number of people who have struggled to pass exams – I work with them on their personal approach and exam techniques. I am proud of my success in that every person who I have worked with – all who have previously failed the nominated exam – have all passed (or even gained Distinctions) with the work we have undertaken together.

One of the foundations of this approach is that I will not permit the use of the word ‘try’. As I have mentioned previously in one of my blogs, Yoda understand this.

In the Star Wars film, “The Empire Strikes Back”. Yoda, the small and strange looking Jedi Master is training Luke Skywalker. Yoda sets him numerous challenges and tests to help mould the youth into a Jedi. When Luke is given one particularly challenging task, he responds to Yoda that he will ‘try’.  “No,” Yoda retorts, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”

As Murray’s team continues to mould him into the best tennis player he can be, they need to address the ‘try’ – “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Incidentally, Murray lost the match.

You might not be a tennis player, or taking an exam – but the principle is the same – so when do you use the word ‘try’ and what impact can it have for you if you were to drop it?

Paul

Social media – how does it impact on your type?

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

A few weeks ago I stayed at the Bloc Hotel at Gatwick Airport, and it reminded me that I hadn’t written part 2 of my blog on social media and personality type.

Why did it remind me? Well, the transition from airport to hotel was significant. To access the hotel, all I needed to do was turn off the thoroughfare populated by some excited, some tired, some hurrying people coming from and going to their destinations, and I was immediately in a different environment. I booked in and as I took the route to my room I was suddenly thrust into a dark, quiet, relatively narrow corridor with lighting that only activated as I made my way along the corridor. It reminded me of being at a fairground and suddenly going into an enclosed attraction.

As for my room, it was small, with dark furnishings and no windows or external light, and this impact was increased due to its proximity to the airy and light airport terminal. Whilst the room was small – and possibly more like a pod than a room – the space was used well and it incorporated a lot of high tech equipment. It wasn’t unpleasant.

It immediately occurred to me that it would be the sort of room to divide customer opinion – a little like the NAP Conference on Social media did this year – and this was apparent from a quick visit to Trip Advisor. Whilst many people liked it, many others didn’t describing it as, “Fine for Hobbits”, and “We felt trapped in a tomb with no window”.

I wonder how much the Hotel designers considered psychological type when designing this very different sort of Hotel – and I wonder how much HR leaders are considering people’s psychological type when implementing new technology or social media strategies.

In terms of psychological type, one of Carl Jung’s dichotomies related to Energy Focus. Where is a person’s source of energy? People whose focus is on the outer world of people and activity are energised through interacting with people and are attuned to the external environment. Those who focus on their own inner world, however, are energised by reflecting on their own thoughts, memories and feelings. These concepts have become known as ‘Extraversion’ and ‘Introversion’ through the work of Jung, and the subsequent popularisation of his work by Myers and Briggs.

Turning to Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), one of the Motivational Traits within Shelle Rose Charvet’s ‘Words that Change Minds’ (which is based on work by Noam Chomsky and Roger Bailey) is Motivational Source – is a person externally or internally motivated? There is overlap here with Jung’s sources of energy, but differences too.  Within this model, Internal people tend to be motivated from within themselves, so provide themselves with motivation. They also tend to critique and assess their own work as they are clear on their standards and what they’re using to make the judgements. External people, however, tend to need others’ feedback and without this can become demotivated, and may struggle to continue with their work. Internal people tend not to need feedback from others, as they have their own internal standards – a downside of this being that they can dislike being managed and may ignore valuable thoughts and feedback from others.

The final tool I will refer to is the TMSDI’s Margerison-McCann Team Management Profile. I saw a person’s profile recently. This person was shown at the Introvert end of the Introvert – Extravert Work Preferences Measures. In the overall commentary it noted that this person was in a group of, “… single-minded, determined people, who like to see tasks through to the very end without distractions”, and, “You may tend to distrust people who talk well but offer only opinions, rather than detailed information”.

How does this link to the Hotel design? I would hazard a guess that whether people like the rooms or not is often associated with their Introversion or Extraversion preference – generally introverts could thrive on the lack of external activity, whereas extroverts could potentially struggle with no external energy or opportunity for interaction.

In terms of business, I have previously implemented an office move which took staff from working in small offices to all 35 staff working in one large room. Some people saw this move as really beneficial to them, and thought it would help them be more effective, others dreaded having what they saw would be constant distractions interfering with their work – some of which was linked to the theories and models described above.

How will social media and other technology impact on our Introverts and Extraverts? There will be increasing numbers of people working from home due to the availability of improved connectivity, there are already increasing numbers of internet businesses being opened and run from storage warehouses, the conference heard that at least one company had advertised jobs solely through Twitter, recruiters are placing an increased reliance on LinkedIn, abuse of (or via) Facebook is already a significant foundation and contributor to many internal discipline cases.  What else will have changed in ten years’ time? Will introverts or extraverts cope better with these developments?

HR needs to think through these developments and consider their impacts. Focusing on the home working aspect for a moment, how many organisations consider individual behavioural aspects when deciding whether or how (with what support) a person should be permitted to work from home? I haven’t come across one yet (but there is generally a check as to whether computer screens are at the correct height) – but it should be a key consideration, and would demonstrate a real interest in the diversity of staff.

Social media can make communication more accessible, but it will not deliver the extravert’s energy source. It can also allow introverts to become even less connected.

How are you addressing this?

Paul

 

Living life – with or without social media?

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Last Friday and Saturday I was at the CIPD Northern Area Partnership (NAP) Conference in York. I attended some very good sessions, met some new people, and renewed and developed a number of other relationships. It was excellent value for money and extremely well organised – a credit to all those involved.

All this happened face to face. I didn’t tweet once. But many other people did. Did I lose out by not tweeting? Did others lose out by me not tweeting?

The use of social media was a key theme of the Conference. Delegates were encouraged to tweet, the main screen displayed conference tweets at every opportunity, and bloggers were a permanent fixture in the main conference room.

The speakers at the start of the each day had very different perspectives around the use of social media – the first proposed that by using our ‘devices’ and their associated social media capabilities we would live life to the full, and the second that it is only possible to live life to the full by not using them. Their definition of ‘living life’ was very different.

Gemma Reucroft explained how she had become more social media savvy over the past few years, and gave examples of some of the doors it has opened for her and the relationship benefits she has gained.  She talked passionately and convincingly of the potential developments that this will bring to the workplace – the potential (partial) demise of the workplace as we know it, email becoming a thing of the past and recruitment activity taking place exclusively through Twitter.  Early in her presentation she played a video containing a bewildering amount of statistical information about how much of the world’s population use devices (i.e. smart phones), the internet and various forms of social media. For example, if Facebook was a country, it would be the second most populated behind China.

At the start of the second day, Jonathan Cooper presented a completely different perspective on relationship management. He encouraged the more traditional forms of communication, and the benefits of making it authentic. He concluded his presentation with a video encouraging people to put their devices away – look up and not down – and live ‘real’ lives (although it was a little twee and could have been more representative of diverse communities). Whilst Gemma’s video had been very cognitive, this was clearly aimed at the affective domain of learning. The domains of learning targeted by each presenter had strong congruence with each of their themes. Jonathan’s session closed at the conclusion of the piece of film, and as I listened to and looked around at the applause, it was very apparent that a good number of people were clapping with a vigour not previously seen at the Conference – a result of an affective methodology and perhaps by those not ready for the level of social media being presented on the first day?

Gemma had given us all a social media bingo card (see photo) which we were asked to individually complete to give a quick indication of how effectively we were engaging with social media. It wasn’t something that she had created, but a resource she had gained through her use of social media (I’m afraid I missed who, so I cannot give them a mention).

As you may be able to see from the photo, I scored 10 (out of a possible 20). I could perhaps have had an 11th as I check my emails (rather than social media – or are they social media?) as soon as I get up, and a 12th as I have over 100 Facebook contacts if I also incorporate the ‘Likes’ from my company Facebook page.

The highest number in the room was around 13, so I wasn’t far off that number, but I don’t regard myself as engaging with social media particularly effectively.

The bingo card was quantity based rather than quality based. Yes, I have over 500 contacts on Linkedin, but is that a really effective measure? – I know all my contacts, but LION’s (LinkedIn Open Networker) go around linking up with virtually anyone.

A couple of years ago, and I cannot remember exactly why – but we had fun doing it – my son and I created a Facebook page for our dog – Spotty Ackerley. Within a very few days I became aware of how many other animals there are on Facebook – in addition to a whole load of dogs, he has now responded to Friend Requests from giraffes, cats, lions, zebras and elephants to name just a few. He now has over 2,000 friends (to my 44). If Facebook animals were a country, it would be more populated than Hungary.

If some of the questions had been around whether I had gained any work or contracts from my use of social media, whether I had implemented anything at work as a result of social media or whether I had gained any useful information from social media, my overall score would have been significantly reduced – and probably more accurate as to my effective use of social media. Is this not the true value of it?

I only used electronic communication once during the conference. A person sitting in front of me left her glasses’ case on the floor. I went to look for her but couldn’t find her. She had given me her business card, so I texted her with the information (is texting social media?). About 4 hours later I saw her again, and I mentioned the glasses case. She confirmed that she had received my text and that the glasses case belonged to her but she hadn’t yet been to pick it up.

Whilst she had received my text, she didn’t respond to it. As I left the conference the glasses case was still at ‘Reception’ where I had left it. An example of both poor engagement and ineffective use of electronic communication? More accurately, perhaps, it demonstrates that the benefits of social media will depend on a person’s behaviours as well as their technical knowledge. I would also suggest that it depends greatly on a person’s personality type, which I will explore further in my next blog post.

Clearly, social media has a part to play in our lives – both at work and away from work – and it is a method of engagement, as is face to face engagement. The theme of the Conference was “The Business of HR … making a difference”. As individuals, we need to be clear on what constitutes effective use of social media, how its use can make a positive difference at work and what quality it can bring to our relationships – if  we are to use it effectively.

How do you use social media differently from how you used it six months ago?

Paul

 

Re-United – the 1992 Committee

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

© Reuters

Music bands reform on a reasonably regular basis – usually with the aim of making as much money over as short a period of time as possible. As I write this, Fleetwood Mac are soon to tour with Christine McVie back in the line-up, re-creating the band as it was for the Rumours album, and there is talk that Oasis are about to reform after five years apart. Similarly, Monty Python are taking the same approach in July this year – quite openly with the exactly same financial objective – with their “One down, five to go” shows.

And in the same way that Monty Python are down to 5 out of its 6 members, through the sad death of Graham Chapman, Manchester United’s  Class of ‘92 are too, but in a different way. Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt have bought Salford City FC, keen to offer support to a local football venture, whilst David Beckham is creating a different vision in Miami.

More immediate than that, however, is their re-united presence at Old Trafford. The short reign of David Moyes is over and Ryan Giggs is in charge. Phil Neville – one of Moyes’ assistants – has been retained; he’s not to blame apparently, he can’t be – he’s a part of the Class of ’92 – what is now being referred to as the 1992 Committee. Paul Scholes has returned this week, too, and Nicky Butt is more involved. That only leaves Gary Neville, but he may well be there commentating for Sky whilst also being part way through his football coaching badges.

The scene is set – for a thunderous atmosphere at the game against Norwich later today. But the logic and theory for such an atmosphere doesn’t add up – it is completely irrational. Giggs has far less experience as a manager than Moyes, and is apparently not being considered for the permanent role. His lieutenants do not have much more experience. So what do they have? They have three things.

Being the 1992 Committee. They are that home grown crop of players who were central to United’s successes between roughly 1995 and 2010. They are the history that the supporters yearn for – they played completely differently to how Moyes’ teams played. They are seen as the saviours – both potentially on the pitch and because the rumours are that they are leading a bid to buy Manchester United back from the Glazers. In the week we have celebrated St George’s Day, they are returning to slay some dragons.

Symbolism. Giggs moved his pre-match press conference back to the time and place that Sir Alex held them. The news channels were running a picture of the four of them together – Giggs, Scholes, Phil Neville and Butt – there could have been more as there are more coaches (for example, the goalkeeping coach who has been retained as he has helped De Gea considerably). But just the four in the photograph.

Use of Emotional intelligence. When exploring EI in speeches, I often use Henry V’s St Crispin’s Day monologue, or some of Barak Obama’s, but what about Ryan Giggs’ press conference?

“I am proud, I am happy and a little nervous” (Self-awareness).

“My mind-set is on Norwich first and then the remaining three games”, and It’s been a frustrating season and I want to end it on a high” (Self-management).

“I can’t wait for Saturday – I know the place will be rocking and know the fans will be behind us” and “My philosophy is the Manchester United philosophy,” (Social awareness).

“I’d like to thank David [Moyes] for giving me my first chance in coaching” and “I trust the players, I know what they are capable of and I want them to go out and show it against Norwich” (Relationship Management).

He was clear and passionate about what he wants to achieve: “I want players to play with passion, speed, tempo and be brave, with imagination, all the things that are expected of a Manchester United player. I want to see goals, tackles, players taking players on and getting the crowd up. I want the passion that should come with being a Manchester United player”.

Whatever happens during the game, the atmosphere and build up will be electric. Not for any rational reasons – purely for emotional ones. It will demonstrate the power of emotion attachments and symbols. Who knows what the result will be – I don’t (and I have published this before the game) – but it has huge potential based on emotional motivation.

Will it be another example of how dreams, potential and belief can be brought to fruition in completely irrational ways?

My son was in a class of 18 two weekends ago at St George’s, the FA HQ. He was on a coaching course. When the un-named guest speaker arrived, it was Ryan Giggs – to be assessed for his UEFA ‘A’ Coaching qualifications. (As an aside, I wonder whether he will have been more nervous for that or his first game in charge?).

I asked Alex whether he said anything to Giggs at the end of the session; “I just shook his hand and said that I hoped he got his goal for the season … (Giggs is the only person to have scored in every season since the Premier League was introduced in 1991) … and he said that it would be good but he was running out of games”.

Perhaps, just perhaps …

Paul

De-briefing animals, drummers and Shakespeare

Monday, April 14th, 2014

W. C. Fields said, “Never work with Children or animals”. Is this a brilliant aphorism, or did it just indicate he didn’t have the best skill set for such situations? More importantly, how applicable is this to learning methodologies?

In my last blog post, where I described how to get the best out of the use of actors as a learning methodology, one of the points I covered was the importance of the de-brief and how to structure it in order to maximise the learning.

The de-brief itself is too often seen as not being particularly important. This is evident from events I have attended where it has been implemented poorly. This results in reduced learning, varying degrees of frustration for the learners and ultimately a failure to gain the benefit from the financial and time investment.

I have seen horses, drums and Shakespeare used to name just three methodologies – and in cases where these have been used, I have seen some poor quality de-briefs.

These interventions are “Low reality, high process content” learning methodologies. In other words, the “Low reality” indicates that the methodology has little or no relevance to the knowledge or skills of the participants (e.g. shop managers working with horses, office managers learning to play drums). This means that the individuals feel little or no group pressure to succeed in front of colleagues as they are not situations they would face in the workplace. It also means that there is a level playing field in that there is no workplace knowledge or skills required in order to take part. These factors also make the methodology “high process content”. This means that the methodology can lead to a rich seam of learning due to the removal of the described pressures – the result being relaxed participants whose inhibitions have been removed. The participants immerse themselves in the task. This type of methodology is particularly powerful in terms of self-development and team development, and will often focus on attitudes and behaviours.

The use of actors to assist the same managers to be more effective when conducting interviews or running team meetings (as described in the previous post) would be an example of the opposite methodology – “High reality, low process content”. The reality is high, because the situations are tailored to the managers’ work situations through, for example, context and language. The process content in these situations is low as they are predominantly about knowledge, understanding and skills – how to complete the task more effectively. There is less potential for profound self-development and less likelihood of a person changing their awareness of themselves due to participants generally being less relaxed and a little more inhibited – because they know their peers may well be assessing their workplace competence, and the intended focus is around a workplace activity.

Both methodologies are powerful; but for different reasons, and the correct type needs to be chosen. And as previously mentioned, it’s the de-brief that is the key – and one type is generally a lot easier to debrief than the other …

The “High reality, low process content” tends to be the easier to debrief. This is because there is a script, probably some models or theories to include, and it can be predicted to some degree as to the potential outcomes and learning points.

Little of this anticipated de-brief content is available for the “Low reality, high process content” methodology – if de-briefed effectively. The facilitator or de-briefer has to work with the ‘live data’ generated – and this is where many of the providers of this type of activity fall down. They often plan on what they expect to come out of the activity and even have their learning points ready prepared – thus making what happened in the activity fit within their debrief. This can devalue the methodology, and confuse the learners as it doesn’t fit with their experience – thus making any learning less meaningful.

As Abraham Maslow pointed out, “lf you only have a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail”.

Why does this happen?

1)      The facilitator is concerned that perhaps no ‘live data’ will be generated, or they will not be able to make the duration of the de-brief worthwhile – which leads to them deciding on the strands for the de-brief or creating the learning points beforehand. As a consequence they do not listen to or see what is really happening during the activity.

2)      The facilitator has a situationally dysfunctional mind-set. They approach the methodology with an “I need to handle” or “I must handle” mind-set. This leads to them adopting the approach described in point 1 above. In order to de-brief it well, the facilitator requires the skills and confidence to enable them to have the “I can handle” mind-set. This leads to the intrapersonal discussion that there will be ‘live data’ and they will be able to de-brief great learning, thus meaning that they don’t script themselves. They approach the de-brief objectively and with an open-mind, using only data generated. And they usually end up having to decide what not to include – rather than worrying about how much there will be to de-brief – as there are so many potential learning points.

Perhaps in the acting world, Fields was correct – certainly for situations where there is a strict script. There is, however, a strong case for using methodologies which generate unpredictable learning – but the time, place and facilitator need to be right.

Next time someone offers you a wonderfully innovative methodology, don’t get carried away by the methodology itself. Spend time checking on the skills of the person who will de-brief it – then you will find out whether it has the potential to be a wonderful methodology or just a frustratingly wasted investment.

Paul