#PunkHR – the Future for HR? Strong hearts; sharp minds; sweet comms

Posted: December 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

I haven’t blogged on here for a while. Funnily enough, since making the pages of People Management’s Social Media issue in December, I’ve not posted on WordPress but I have found a growing affection for blogging on Tumblr. You can pop over there and have a look if you like. http://perrymtimms.tumblr.com/

They’re shorter posts, not epics like this one. Oops, I’ve put you off this one now probably.  Time for an image to capture your attention again…

So this one is about something which I care deeply about.

The future for HR.

I probably care more about it than I should, but it’s because my career is very very important to me. Important in defining who I am, what I stand for and how I would like to remembered. In fact, my good friend Gareth Jones [on twitter as @garelaos] and I talked about this once and I said I wanted to be known as “the guy who helped bust the heirarchy”. I can think of worse things to be associated with. Better also but this would do. Someone who’s work I admire though has kind of beaten me to it – Dan Pontefract’s “Flat Army” book will do a better job than I could in helping people think beyond pyramidal structures and people in boxes. Still I want to be known as “helped bust…” not “he alone bust them”.

I’ve seen people have a go at Dan’s work. I guess when you put your thoughts out there people will do that even if it’s not adding any value. Shows how clever some people can be. Clever whilst showing off and being a bit of a dork in some cases. I stick to the old saying “if you can’t say something positive…say nothing at all”. Some might say that’s implied support. I call it manners and respect for a perspective someone has on an issue that you don’t share. If it moves me, I will respond.

It’s intellectually lazy and shows very low emotional and social intelligence to just say “you’re a prat and that’s rubbish”. I simply won’t play that game. I would rather acknowledge the view, bring a balanced view of my own – calmly – and suggest an alternative – and normally more positive – slant. I try and take emotional sting out of most, if not all, situations I face where a contrary view is needed.

However, because I don’t rant, rave and let off, it doesn’t mean I don’t get it; that I haven’t got the intellect to get it or I’m some kind of debate pushover.

Which brings me onto not being a pushover about the future of HR and believing others naysaying and deflated view on our prospects.

I believe – like many – that HR has a lot to do as a corporate function to realise its full potential. But then so has IT, in many cases Finance, Marketing and so on.

HR seems to have an over-pronounced self-deprecating approach and a willingness to take body blows from other corporate functions accusing it of not being commercial enough or overly regulatory. Some of that is deserved. We, the HR profession, have some lame, mediocre and outdated people plying poor quality people practices and “getting away with it”.

This will not last for much longer IF we can rally behind the calls for action; stop squabbling over frankly quite stupid arguments and just get on with being brilliant at squaring the people development proposition for our organisations.

By squabbling over stupid stuff here’s one.

“HR people don’t get big data and never will. In fact big data is a big fat red herring and we should all ignore it. I never want to read another article about it. And the CIPD don’t know what they’re talking about here – they just join the “get data analytics” bandwagon as it’s the latest thing”.

What a pointless crock of $hit.

Big data IS around. Some people ARE amazingly good at using data and making fantastic commercial decisions. You WILL read articles on it a lot if it’s a topical and frankly impactful development. CIPD will be like any good institute and try and keep abreast and ahead of changes in practices. It might be the latest thing, it might be over hyped yet it might just be the thing that breaks through the barriers and gives HR a real foothold in the door of influence.

So my point here is repeat of a blog comment I made on Tumblr – throwing intellectual stones just breaks windows of opportunity.

So the first thing we work on is Strong Hearts.

We need to positively encourage peoples’ strength of conviction; belief and determination. If they’re not quite getting something don’t jump on them like a drill sergeant. We’re talking about the tough world of work, business and commerce – sure. Yet we’re in a game where there’s balance between adrenalin and cognition. Successes come from applied minds and determined focus. So instead of terrifying the life out of people for speaking up about what’s important to them, help them line that up for maximum effect. The proverbial quiet word; arm around the shoulder; helpful interventions. It doesn’t mean you’re letting anyone off the hook – it means you’re being considerate of their spirituality, confidence and intelligence.

So my point here is this: help build up those strong of heart not shout them down. This is work and people’s lives not a boxing ring or an assault course.

This then – IMHO and having respect for people like Daniel Goleman and Karl Albrecht who call out the need to be mindful of positive projection and social intelligence – leads me onto the next point.

Sharp Minds.

I see them all the time. I see people literally hitting above their batting average when given the right support and guidance. We apply our minds BRILLIANTLY when our confidence is measured and applied like a fuel additive. Too much confidence and we end up with a banking crisis. Too little confidence and we end up allowing others to steam-roller us and something potentially amazing is passed over.

Strong hearts and sharp minds. We need both to increase our impact. So yes, we HR types could do with knowing more about emotional and social intelligence; technology; societal trends; an understanding of finance and the markets; consumerism and marketing; psychology; data analytics; research methodology; health and well-being; brain sciences; reward mechanics and human motivation; learning and development. It’s a people business and that means an ever-evolving and fascinating array of academic and professional disciplines.

HR doesn’t have it easy having to put its arms around such a wide range of “sciences”.

That’s why sharp minds are so important. Find the space for all the things you need to function as a highly regarded professional. That might mean unlearning or forgetting or losing stuff you held in there for some time or you believe is what you need to know. Understanding how you function, learn and what you need to really focus on is not easy. It starts with being intelligent enough to know what to let go. What to give some curiosity time towards, what to understand even if you don’t feel you like/agree with it and what to gravitate towards.

Serious HR professionals need to ensure their mind is kept in the state which can only be described as a mixture of Yoga and Circuit Training to keep the grey cells building and the neurons firing. This constant state of discovery, learning and acquired wisdom is in itself something which creates more capacity to learn and enhance.

Being sharp of mind doesn’t mean you declare how fantastic your knowledge base is like some kind of exhibitionist performer. Your power is in sharing knowledge like a shield around other people; not as a sword to slice through people’s arguments and debates even if they are about right and wrong. You can make a point firmly and with impact that has nothing to do with YOU.

A sharp mind combined with a forceful ego is not a particularly appealing, convincing or useful one. Any relevance of argument is lost in the fog of a volcanic eruption of self-importance.

So, a strong heart; a sharp mind and the 3rd aspect for me is the sweetness of communication.

You may have the heart of a David taking on Goliath. You may have the mind of Einstein tackling the most complex issues, yet if you communicate like Piers Morgan or Simon Cowell you will be a prize pillock.

The art of communication (there is a science too but largely it is an art that can move our emotional state from terror to triumph; from despair to hope) is something we in HR are AGAIN needing to improve on.

Increasingly – in partnership of course with our Internal Comms professionals – HR is helping be the voice of the organisation. And that’s a pretty powerful challenge as part of our quest for importance and impact.

So if we have HR professionals adopting either Spin Doctor-type smoke and mirrors approaches, or clumsy corporate bulletins we have to get this aspect front and centre to make the most of our strong hearts and our sharp minds.

Examples of clumsy, arrogant, insulting, ignorant and petty comms are all over the place – we don’t need to look very far to realise how easy it is to spot crap comms. So learn from that. Understand the intent; realise the poor application of language and structure and work out how you’d never stoop so low. Even under extreme pressure and frustration.

Sweet comms isn’t an analogy for making a symphony out of a throwaway pop song. It is taking the art of communication, the act of communication and the impact of communication taken much more seriously. Don’t be loose, lazy or hurtful with your language.

Make people smile, ponder but not frown. Make them strong not shy. Make them reflect not reject.

So the future for HR? I think a part of moving away from beating ourselves up but not letting ourselves off the hook is to focus on ourselves and those around us in the profession on these 3 areas: –

Strong hearts;
Sharp minds; and
Sweet comms.

You can chuck some emotional, intellectual or linguistic stones and keep breaking others windows of opportunity until the house of practice is all boarded up and condemned.


You can think about the strength of heart you have for something – and if you want others to feel the same, apply yourself to be sharper of mind about it and then be sweet in your communicating about it.

Please give it a go – I’d be interested to know about your successes.

Stay strong, sharp and sweet.  


Image – courtesy of piperbasenji – a dog called Strongheart; an early Hollywood canine star.

  1. Flora Marriott says:

    Great balance Perry. I like nothing better than tucking into some Excel wizardry. And I also thrive on facilitating an incredible workshop. We do need to be ambidextrous in our skill set. Also I really like your positivity. Strong, sharp & sweet is a good recipe.

  2. Hearts, minds and communication. I like it.

    Fav line? “… if you communicate like Piers Morgan or Simon Cowell you will be a prize pillock.”

    Keep writing. Thanks for the plug.


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