I might be pushing it a bit trying to link EVERYTHING I come across to #PunkHR but on 16 May 2012 at the Connecting HR unconference, it was a bit like a load of punks (or Mods, or Soulsters or Rockers) coming together for an alldayer. So there is a link.
AND what Gareth Jones aka @garelaos has done (with support from others) is to create an environment where some enlightened minds come together in pursuit of making/finding a difference. And the environment – both physical and situational – is perfect for where a number of those features I’ve tagged as #PunkHR come together. Energy, creativity, challenge, controversy, bounce and wanting to be different. And belonging to a movement. ConnectingHR is of course a movement. It predates #PunkHR by some years. It is TOTALLY punk, but it’s got a nice rebelliousness about it. And a zest for what we in HR, do.
Whether it oozes Punk is not the main thrust behind this blog. What I intend to do is namecheck, generate more interest in #connectingHR.
Punk itself started as an underground movement. I’m sure when it went overground some purists would moan and not want to be a part of that anymore. But going overground is almost inevitable for movements. It’s progression and therefore it shouldn’t be decried. Punk probably did get watered down for mass consumption by those who were playing at being a punk, but the hardcore founders and new disciples retained their integrity as boundary-breaking warriors pushing back on bland, disconnected mediocrity. The ConnectingHR movement and it’s new found disciples are the latter. Real Punks. Not mail-order types.
This fantastic group of people who clearly care so deeply about the world of people, work and the combination of the 2 blew me away today. I’ve seen some fabulous people like Clayton Christensen, Daniel Goleman (and even met Patrick Lencioni, Marcus Buckingham and Kjell Nordstrom). Forget these guys. What I saw, experienced and took from today will stick with me every bit as long, and influence every thing I do, like Fons Trompenaars use of dilemmas, Costas Markides take on the knowing / doing gap and Malcolm Gladwell’s stories of the battle of Chancersville or Spaghetti Sauce.
I get Open Space technology. I get World Cafe. I get graphic recording. All great components beautifully mixed into the day. We had brain food of 7 minutes from a rolling cast including @dougshaw1; @philclothier; @mirandaash; @jamiepr1; @floramarriott; @workessence; Mike Silverman and Gareth himself.
I tweeted like I never have during that opening exchange. It was like downing 5 pints of beer in the first pub of a 10-stop crawl. I literally bust my tweetability. I was immersed in these 7 minutes vignettes – some a little longer – but whilst this is a traditional start to something so Punk, hold up as we had a Ukelele singsong (call that Punk-Skiffle if you like); one presenter who didn’t present himself but did it via a YouTube video – this was not totally your normal presenting.
We then broke into groups and started our conversations and table-cloth recording and we hit on a GREAT topic. Via a journey around the digital connectivity or lack of between white and blue collar workers, we hit on contracted terms and via a discussion about the lack of a traditional working day/place for many people (and please find the Forbes @work state of mind report – great insight) we eventually found our way to work/life balance.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not disrespecting W/L balance, it is something that is a huge step forward in making sure manipulative employers do not inappropriately “sweat their assets” – i.e. people. My angle is this. I love what I do for a living almost beyond comprehension. It’s not necessarily where I am doing what I love, it’s that I AM doing what I love which is critical to me. So I rarely switch off. Even when I’m relaxing, I’m reading Hamel, Haque, Heath. I am relaxing when I’m researching MiX; TED; Mashable; and reading blogs by our great online HR commentators. To some people that’s work. To me that’s my undying appetite for insight and stimulus into things I’m fascinated about – people and the world of work. I also work on the move; on trains, in hotel rooms, at airports. I work from home, do a little Sunday evening shift.
I do all of this not because I’m under pressure from anyone else and certainly not because I put myself under any pressure. It’s something I love doing, want to do as much of it as I can and it genuinely excites me and makes me happy.
So then along comes some well meaning HR colleague who says…”Don’t you think you should go home earlier sometimes?” “Doesn’t all that travel and stopping away from home ruin your free time?” “I hope you’re not creating a precedent of a long-hours culture that your team will unwittingly replicate?”
So how does that make me feel? A well intended, work-life balance stimulated suggestion/recommendation?
OR a complete lack of comprehension of my desires, my ability to self-regulate; of enforcing a counter-intuitive protocol on me and a generally destructive thing to suggest to me. To me that’s the equivalent of saying to David Beckham “why do you practice taking free kicks so much? Go home and spend time with your family”. He loves what he does for a living and his determination to succeed through applied energy and honed skills makes him happy AND a successful footballer. Sure he’s a family man too, but to suggest he overpractices or that he should “chill out a bit” is missing the point about him. He’s a Punk.
Dan Pink sums it up for me – when he talks about Mastery, Autonomy and Purpose. Those are the things that matter to me. I work to a philosophy – give away all you know and it will come back ten fold. My slant on that philosophy though is in two parts:
holding knowledge as power is a falsehood. Sharing knowledge is real power;
I enjoy the act of learning so much that giving away everything I know gives me the space and drive to go and find more.
So a well-meaning conversation on W/L balance becomes a stress-inducing response that I’m some abnormal freak of nature and I SHOULDN’T put as much into my work as I do. I just simply refuse to accept that point of view. I am very self aware and know myself, I am comfortable in my own skin, I know what makes me tick and where to balance ALL aspects of my life. I have all the checks and balances in place and to suggest to me otherwise is a tad on the insulting side for me. Just as saying someone who works an alternative pattern (I don’t like the term part-timer either) can’t possibly do a certain job – that too is an insult and overly assumptive. I think there may be another blog on designing of jobs – WHY do we insist on every single job starting from the point of 37-40 hours? Anyway, moving on.
So we had a terrific discussion where I was very much “on the couch”. I stood my ground and people could see my passion for what I do and how much that is who I am. I agree I am fortunate this is the case. I also assert though that I have MADE IT THAT WAY. Because I adopted an attitude, an approach that was not “settling for the norm”. Because I created my OWN movement to get what I wanted out of a career. And because I recognised how energy was something I had in abundance, fuelled by being happy with my life and how I choose to live it.
That is ALSO what PunkHR is about. I’m sure of it.
Doug Shaw so eloquently said it – “if it’s not about a work/life balance issue, maybe it’s more about FLOW?” Now that is something I can work with. Flow. Brilliant as ever Doug.
So when asked to feedback about our marvellous discussion a phrase came to mind which summed me up. That I am simply a LIFEaholic. I’m addicted to life.
To suggest I am a workaholic is wrong, it insults me and infuriates me. To suggest I am a lifeaholic is spot on and I’d love you for making that connection.
PunkHR is me and I like to think I am PunkHR. Pogo on..!