Having a zest for life is at the heart of the PunkHR way…

Posted: May 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

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..!

  1. kendalee says:

    Good point, well made! The mix of ingredients to achieve the life/flow you refer to is a very individual thing and there is room in the world for many variations, all adding value. Some have less of a blur between those W/L elements so perhaps don’t always get your approach. I fail to understand why people/HR/businesses cannot get away from considering quantity in favour of QUALITY input & output when designing and measuring what’s involved in “working hours”. As a manager or client I’d rather have the results of 2 hours of someone’s passion, brilliance and flow than 40 hours of mediocrity, but the current standard job/salary design is still all about hours clocked. This is my own particular peeve about the 37-40 hr thing…

    I think what has to be acknowledged is that when one is a leader and team manager there IS the danger of an implicit precedent or pressure on the team to measure their input & output in the same way unless it is explicitly managed differently. I’ve been on the receiving end of this. Not all leaders are as self-aware or considerate of the value of “alternative patterns” as you are.

  2. Johanna Ratcliffe says:

    You’re certainly a force of nature Perry!! And I’m not even going to ask you to ‘flow’ down 😉

    Great blog, I was only able to make it to the afternoon slot of #CHRU and at first I thought I didn’t take that much away in the short time that I was able to participate, but actually I’ve found myself bringing up many of the discussion points with colleagues since I got back. Lots of the thinking was very much on my wavelength. Funny – never thought of myself as a punk!

    • perrytimms says:

      Johanna, appreciate your visit and comments. I am glad you’ve been thinking. #PunkHR is not about random acts of rebellion, it’s about clear, conscious thought about provoking those things others may not dare to. So the fact that you dared to court controversy, create a degree of disruption and provoke some new thinking, that’s totally #PunkHR. Long may you be tartan and leather in the face of beige crimplene blandness…

  3. Hi Perry, as you know I was lucky enough to be part of that discussion and you did a great job of holding your own and stimulating a good debate.

    I’ve been in work environments where it was expected that you stay until the boss goes home (usually late) and it was not a good environment. However I don’t think it’s any better to say that you have to leave a 5pm because a norm needs to be set (maybe it’s the wrong norm?). Both of these scenarios seem to illustrate a paternalistic and controlling view of the workplace.

    I’ve also worked in places where everyone is treated as a grown up and works their own hours, being in the office for meetings etc but being comfortable to leave when they were done and not feeling pressure to compete on hours put in. These norms are better I think, but what are the conditions required to make it work? I wonder if the power distance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hofstede%27s_cultural_dimensions_theory) in different work places is a factor in this? What else?

    • perrytimms says:

      Thank you John for pogo-ing along to here and sharing your thoughts. I agree about the prevail. I know of HR Recuiters and EmpLaw types as well as OD folks – across many sectors. They have a long-hours approach in many places where they simply cannot be seen to leave their desk before a certain time, where there is forced social gatherings and a general distrust of anything that requires them to be anywhere else other than their desk; in a meeting room or clearly at a client’s premises. As with anything it’s not the total hours that is an indicator of performance (or indeed the volume of email traffic) it’s more about WHAT you achieve in those hours, HOW you go about it and the INSPIRATION and the FOOTPRINT you leave.

      So there’s plenty to look at here isn’t there? Keep the thoughts going…#PunkHR is about attitude and acumen remember…

  4. […] of a Socially Engaged Organisation’.  Many things were discussed (See here, here, here, here, here and here.), but the question that I want to focus on is: what is the case for social media tools in […]

  5. zanzibar says:

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