Archive for September, 2014


Ever organised a party? Ever been involved as a social committee member? Run your own sports/enthusiasts club?

There’s a number of times I have and I know others too. I see this happen in these social gatherings.

1.The host/organiser is in-demand, busy, at the centre of attention the common denominator about why all people are even there. They have often organised the function/gathering for their benefit but mostly for the benefit of others. Let’s call them the epicentres.

2.There are the real supportive types. You know the ones who collect the rubbish at the end of the event so it doesn’t all fall down to the organiser. Ones who raise the toast to the organiser(s) and the reason they’re all there in the first place. Let’s call these the inner circlers.

3.There’s the willing attendees who all appreciate the organiser(s) efforts. They join in and they get from the event what the organiser(s) wanted it to be all about. Let’s call these the outer circlers.

4.There’s the ones who turn up but have somewhere else to go. They put in an appearance. They moan a bit about the price of the beer there. They say the entertainment was a bit duff. Let’s call these the outer rimmers.

5.Then there’s those who don’t reply, don’t turn up, even moan about the location and justify why they shouldn’t spend their time there. Let’s call these the outcasts.

6.Then there’s people who weren’t even supposed to be there. They heard the festivities, and crashed the party. They will often ruin it and take fun in spoiling or leeching from something. Quite literally these are the gatecrashers.

Now we see this on social media and in people trying to change the world of work; HR or their other professional sphere of interest/occupation.

WIth the epicentres, inner circlers and outer circlers there’s a generosity game. Support, doing, effort. There’s challenges too it’s not all nicey nicey.

The outer rimmers aren’t quite so generous but their mere presence alone gives them the right to criticise, chastise and call out others’ acceptance of something they see as lame.

The outcasts are at least voting with their non-presence. They might pollute the conversations around the event/club and they might fire up the outer rimmers with their dischord.

The gatecrashers are just plain takers and spoilers who are the opposite of generosity. They are those who drain the fun out of others passion and enjoyment.

There’s a few people who are epicentres of great things happening in the world of work and I’m going to showcase why we need more inner and outer circlers for these people and convince or further marginalise outer rimmers, outcasts and gatecrashers. We can always have a few more game changers of course.

Amanda Sterling is an independent HR practitioner from Auckland who I just happen to be able to call a friend and a partner in changing the world of work. Generosity is a feature of our Amanda, Always giving up time to run the #nzlead twitter chat. To share with others. Comment and support initiatives, others’ posts; debates around what would make work better. A Game Changer for sure with her partner in this Tash Pieterse.

Angela Atkins is also from New Zealand and is the epitome of Game Changing. Creating HR Game Changer as a conference and community of practitioners to improve all aspects of the HR profession is a selfless crusade which one can only admire and support in equal measure. Generous in giving time, revenue and space to others so that they too can join in and help shape a better profession.

Simon Heath is an artist and blogger amongst other things. His generosity is in his gestures, his words and his artform which supports, excites and illuminates thinking from others.

Gareth Jones is an HR consultant and leader of new thinking. Always having time for others, sharing, being a central force behind creating what we take for granted as Connecting HR. Sure he’s had help but no-one exemplifies what being a socially generous and intelligent professional is more than he.

Peter Cheese is the CEO of the CIPD. He is though, generous in where he spends his time and who wit,h and is committed to making his role not one of steward of a professional body, but leader of a new school of HR. A business-critical, professionalised group of passionate and committed people who really should change the game of work for the better. There’s things Peter has pushed the CIPD and the profession to do that many of us should be grateful for.  I’m not afraid of anyone saying I’m being a creep here.  Peter stands for something better and is putting himself at the heart of that.  Why shouldn’t I call that as good in case a gatecrasher calls me a creep?  Peter needs to know people are with him.

Michael Carty is the epitome of generosity. Sharing is his way and we are all better for an @MJCarty Retweet.

David d’Souza is an unstoppable force of humour, insight and belief in a better way. He gives in ways others may not always appreciate but he is involved in anything that matters.

Neil Usher is a smart, witty and powerful writer and personality who we should all learn from.

Kate Griffiths-Lambeth is a kind, compassionate and thoughtful leader in the HR profession. Joined in that by Dean Royles, Siobhan Sheridan, Robert Ordever, Gemma Reucroft, Alison Chisnell and there’s more.

Kandy Woodfield thinks, shares and acts with considered humanity, intelligence and verve. A model of how to be “social” using digital forums.

Nicky Texeira supports everything, shares all the good stuff and quitely gets on with being a committed and purposeful professional.

I’d love this to be a roll call of all the amazing people I know who are generous AND game changing. You know who you are but this isn’t a post about me naming you all. If you think “I’m one of those people he’s talking about” then it is you.

I suppose I wanted this post to be one of appreciation of the game changing epicentres who are ably enabled by the inner circlers and then supported by the outer circlers.

So to the 0uter rimmers, outcasts and gatecrashers
a)You probably won’t read this anyway.
b)You will think I am some idealistic overly-humanist no hoper and
c)You may try and gatecrash this blog with posts of ridicule, challenge and “oh get real” tripe. Your call but you’ll just underscore how futile your contributions really are.

I do what I do not to win you over but to marginalise you further.

I stand for what I stand for so you won’t gatecrash my party and turn the music off.

I believe in what I believe in and you will never out energise me towards that.

I want to change the game.

I would like as many people as possible to do the same.

I would love as many people as possible to get with those epicentres who are so generous we should appreciate it more.

I believe we will.

Gatecrashers may have plenty of living museums masquerading as work to crash into. And the outcasts and outer rimmers can enjoy being prophets in their very own wilderness.



Indeed, it may be many of them are already doing so and some may find themselves under-delivering due to lame processes and poor frameworks they are operating in.

Let’s look at this though. We see a lot of HR-bashing by itself and the world of leadership, academia, entrepreneurialism and beyond.

I can’t remember ever seeing the headlines from Forbes, Huffington Post, Business Insider, WSJ, NYTimes, The FT, The Economist, The Guardian etc. as follows

Why more startups need to be like corporate HR functions

HR Teams are the most productive and effective element of the corporate machine

Why your HR Director should always be your next CEO

And so on.

This is not without good reason. There are many places peope can point to that HR feels or is dis-enabling; not solving corporate problems and generally causing some degree of lag rather than drive.

OK we all know there are also some terrific examples of where HR has – quite literally – changed its game and changed the game for the business they operate in.

So let’s go with a theory that because mostly there is bad press, it is because the model isn’t effective enough.

Let’s also assume that the model isn’t changing to be more effective because many of the people involved in it aren’t super smart enough to change it and make it better.

OK it isn’t just about a few smart people but if we had ENOUGH smart people they’d work out a great model that others would take up and the HR function wouldn’t be the subject of this lame press.

In my recollection of business, IT used to be the corporate whipping boy in the 1990s and I know ‘cos I was there at the time. It was then Project Management (once the developers/coders changed their game it was then those managing the overall projects that came under scrutiny). Now it seems HR is really up against it.

So I am going to assume that smart folks have sorted out IT and Project Management as HR is the one getting the flak, the kicking and the self-flaggelation. Not entirely I know that’s not the case. But generally I don’t come across Business Posts saying “IT are holding us back” or “Project Management in crisis – where’s the next methodology coming from?” as often as I see HR bashing posts. Smoke/fire?

One caveat here is that I recognise that to many people, HR is only a small player in the culpability stakes of “corporate woes”. The C-Suite and CEOs are the REALLY dysfunctional ones.

Not disagreeing with this sweeping generalisation – that many board rooms are the scenes of crimes against good work – but that feels a little like a “let’s blame them” throw away comment.

I believe if HR ups it game, it can influence the make up and some of the ways of the C-Suite to help create a new way of leading which is more attuned to 21st Century work and life.

CEOs can be powerful and we’ve seen (Manchester United and Apple being 2 recent examples) what happens when a powerful CEO/Leader isn’t there anymore.

I don’t recall a single galvanising force behind TeamGB’s outstanding Olympic 2012 performances though, so I still don’t buy into the “it’s all one person” thing all the time. Anyway, this is not one of those leadership generalist posts.

So this “we’re not smart enough” label – I am taking it on the chin and you might have to also. I would love to change the model but it’s part scale and part I’m not smart enough to REALLY impact on the others who can change it.

I am accepting that not as a false modesty but as a fact to limit only my expectations about the scale of impact I can have immediately. With others with me, I could create that change and that’s certainly part of what I am doing (as well as earning a living). But I need to be smarter and I need smarter people with me.

So I am also labelling lots of you who are reading this in the same way. Not smart enough to change the game of HR.

If you’re narked by this I’m sorry – I mean no offence.

I guess I am saying that we are ALL to blame for the state of HR.

We are responsible for our weakest links and our inability to change the game for the better. We may have breakaway HR leaders or specialists doing brilliantly or we have people in enclaves smashing performance records all over the pitch.

But that’s not smart enough to have changed our game for the better else we would be better wouldn’t we?

I recall a quote – but not sure who – and it went like this.

The best leaders are the ones who surround themselves with people who are smarter than they are. It’s a tough – but smart – admission of a strong leader to admit they’re not the smartest in the pack.

So I guess my prose here is that we NEED more of our own smartest to come through and join up and change the game (else it’s not very smart to be smart on your own) and we need MORE smartness to come into HR.

How would this work? For me it’s like this.

1.  We’d have people smarter about change, sciences, data, economics, technology to name but a few.

2. There’d then be smart people able to put others’ smarts to work.

3. We’d all learn, be smarter and do more, be better. Or realise we’re not smart in that way and find somewhere else where we ARE smart in the right ways.

I think we’re the only ones not smart enough to admit we’re not smart enough to change our own game.

I’m off to hug a scientist and dine out with an economist. See you in the new game.

Ferns, Freedom and Fiduciary

Posted: September 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

So firstly let’s explain the title.


The Silver Fern is the plant emblem of New Zealand and of course the All Blacks Rugby Union Team.

Freedom is, well, you know that one surely? In this context we’re talking the freedom to be; to do and to learn.

Fiduciary – is a legal or ethical trust between 2 (or more) parties.

So fiduciary first then.

Angela Atkins of Elephant HR in New Zealand hit on an idea. It was the HR needs to change its game. For reasons we probably all don’t need to go too deeply into but because, well, it’s a bit shit in a number of areas. It’s the business whipping boy. The failing function. The challenged corporate entity.

Her idea was to put on a 2 day conference which would have HR and Work/Business impacts to, well literally, give people some insight, energy and actionables to change the game (of HR).

When I heard about this, I loved the thought of it and had a thought that it’s the sort of thing I’d be into if it were held here. And I had a flash of an idea.

We (the UK) run a complementary version of it and segue / link into the event happening on the other side of the world. Time differences dictated that this would be tough to do simultaneously and then the thought of a 2 / 2 days worth of events seemed to be an idea and then to hook up and hangout and share and create connecting thoughts and ideas; actions and realisations etc.

Angela was mighty generous in agreeing and we hatched a plan.

I then met Charlotte Hallaways and Tom Veran from an outfit called Veran Performance who run a super cool HR network for (largely) new to HR careerists called MyHRCareers.

When I shared my idea with them they could see the possibility of this and offered to share the load to make it happen. We talked speakers and concepts and logistics and we set about putting efforts into it.

Great things happened with others lending brilliant support and on 4 September at 10pm UK time, HR Game Changer New Zealand kicked off.

I was up until 1.30am UK time to watch the twitter stream and a load of great stories, debates, case studies, research, challenging hypotheses and presentations set the tone for people in HR to think, feel and do something different to change their game.

Then is was the Poms turn.

With the effort put into the day, generous hosting by Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co solicitors, a cameraman, a graphic recorder (the outstanding Simon Heath) and a group of speakers assembled 60 odd HR, Learning, People, and all sorts of professionals gave their time to come and listen and share, challenge and discuss and ponder and plan what changing the game of HR would actually be like.

So let’s get something right – this was NOT a whinge fest. No navels were gazed at and it was largely a rhetoric free zone.

No woe is us, we’re not understood or people just don’t get HR kind of claptrap.

I had the honour of kicking it off. I talked up the quite perplexing state of work in 2014 that really should have matured, adapted and morphed a lot more than it has to reflect our new state of heightened awareness of what’s needed from a career, a job or some work to do. I didn’t dwell on things for too long, I wanted to illustrate some areas to focus on. I told some stories of games that had changed, organisations that had folded, screw ups in corporate life and I got in a Style Council song “Walls Come Tumblng Down”. And I didn’t mention VUCA or a veruca once.

I handed over to some informed and passionate folks looking at the game of recruitment / and or hiring. What is the best way to find the right people and get in the door those who will give their all in a brilliant way and we make them feel valued, developed and able. What were the answers? Well there’s a wrong being done about the current hiring routines and hit and miss recruitment policies and processes. We talked a lot about alternative ways to check cultural fit and how to spot brilliant people through conversations, referrals, social feeds and to generate enthusiasts who wanted to come and work with our companies for all the right reasons.

Overall, we wanted a genuine people-centred approach that worked for all concerned and agreed that game needs changing. More to think about, experiments to contine and more to be done in this space. It was never going to be conclusive but it was going to be something to provoke thoughts.

I use the phrase “tickle the trout” – i.e. Actually tickle the underbelly of a fish to induce a lucid state meaning you could catch it. We need to tickle more trouts in hiring. Not cast wide nets and kill off stock and land any old ugly inedible fish.

We then moved on to one of the most game changing philosophies here – that of changing the game of the constructs of work. Freedom in the work place, self organised teams, leaders that actually lead and inspire and NOT drain and cause mayhem and of alternative approaches to community existence and collaboration that also happens to be work and / or education.

So before anyone jumps on the “Oh that Zappos thing again” or the “it won’t work because” brigade, it fucking does work. I’m not even going to justify why here but we heard 3 passionate displays of belief in a better way to be at work that will equal commitment, results and sustainable life at work. If you don’t think it works, then carry on with your tired old traditional hierarchical stuff and let everyone else democratise work around you before you fall off the cliff into non-existence.

There’s enough ways to adapt a freedom-centred work approach and enough people willing and urging us to do it that I just don’t buy into the deny argument and won’t even enter into arguments about its merits and viability. I’m going that way, others will and others won’t. Leave it at that.

We then had some popup mentoring and chances for people who wanted to change their game and people who had already changed some of theirs to share learning and become potential mentors and mentees for each other. We made so much noise it became a distraction to the normally hush world of a corporate law firm. Sorry about that. It was fun at work at play.

Jo Dodds and I rocked on about the Socialisation of Work and Jo did a grand job setting a really nice scene about social media is about attitudes, behaviours and culture and not just technology and use of digital tools. Jo rightly called out matrix working and project networks as failing in the past as the digital tools weren’t right to support it but they now are. And yet we are stuck in our ways.

I talked about Fons Trompenaars 2×2 around innovation and the chain of growth followed by many start ups. I mapped out use of social and digital into this and tried to make sense of why the socialisation of work is something that once you get going, you need to constantly reincubate and reinvent to keep it fresh and adapted to needs. I also called out the work – not jobs I blogged about in my time to decouple post some weeks back.

We broke for lunch and I was late but we asked random folks what more they needed from their work/jobs It was little things like a radio for construction workers, a little less freneticism for someone in a sushi bar and just recognition, praise a chance to converse about making things better. ALL simple, human-centred things that can change peoples games.

We were then in awe of Siobhan Sheridan’s tale of the failings of people-based systems and processes that led to corporate failures and why we didn’t speak up and call out things that were just plain wrong. Andy Meikle balanced that with insight into the great way Just Giving allows people to input and inverts their pyramid so it’s about front line being served by managers.

We deduced that there is so much “don’t talk about that” “do not raise that or suffer consequences” and generally, whistle blowing and anonymity is tough to believe in when you need to have that “Spartacus” moment and stand by something. We KNOW this game needs changing and sits firmly in HRs court. Again, answers of a definitive nature were hard to come by but something needs doing to really put people in a safe position to stop us “sleep walking into a disaster”.

We had a little more on the moves in learning at work – and Michelle Parry-Slater led us through a history lesson and of how a socialised and very individualised learning agenda is a way of moving from “injection education” to more self-derived, corporately beneficial and outcome oriented learning that helps people be better, feel better, know more and do more of the good stuff. I confessed to being a continuing student of the University of Chaos and long may my social and digital feeds be my preferred learning vehicle. Sharing is the new hoarding. Giving away is the new acquisition and generosity is the new greed.

We heard about the still misrepresented “engagement” piece and how we are seeing (rightly) raised expectations all the time about the employment proposition. We need to change that game.

We heard about managers being SO pivotal in how people feel about their work and how overly mechanised approaches to this just misfire and how the emotionally intelligent and rational approach to being an inspiring manager was so needed in all areas.

We heard about lawyers changing the game literally by gamifying manager skills through an online experience to support managers in times of tricky people matters that prevent costly and lengthy mediations, arbitrations or tribunals.

We had a deeper dive into disruptive technology, data analytics and use, and into performance management. Some great insight and clear opportunities shared but also and more so the continued ridicule of the performance review process that quite frankly the laughing stock in the people management repertoire. All of these games need changing big time.

So in summarising,

The world is a more complex and ever changing place with rapid shifts and unforeseen moves that means we need to be a constantly reinventing function to not only thrive but just survive.

We should “grab the arc of change and move it towards us” by being more inventive, bold, compassionate, considered and well, human in the way we do people stuff.

We need to make the digital and social technology tools work for us, with us and be on that game like never before.

We need to make case for more HR acumen in data, in crafting a performance culture which is measured and techncally supported yet human and organic and personalised.

We finished with Simon Heath’s utterly amazing artwork.


We tried to hangout online with New Zealand and we had some audio issues but we waved and exchanged knowing glances.

We went away full of gusto, imagination and belief.

We need the change the game of HR.

It’s my party and I’ll blog what I want to

Of course this could look like a shameless way to get Birthday-based salutations but honestly it’s not.

Neither it is an emo-blog of epic pondering proportions where it’s all about me and how I feel and so on. It’s not.

It IS though a look back/look forward thing.

I’ve clocked up over 24 million minutes in my life so far. Each one, precious of course. Many of them used in ways that – with hindsight – I’d do something differently with given them back again.

My favourite quote is from Vince Lombardi who was Head Coach of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers. A small town in Wisconsin. He took a group to new levels of overachievement. The quote is

The measure of who we are, is what we do, with what we have.

What we do, with what we have.

So looking back. Life has been good and bad around me and the world generally. Losing loved ones, seeing people around the world continue to be evil to each other and the struggles and challenges people I care about face.

Looking forward though is a bit of an obsession of mine and helps me through the troubling times and that it’s love that will see us through.

Love for things is easy to say and not so easy to do. It is though, what sets us apart from the rest of the animals on this planet. We can – to some degree anyway – rationalise and understand our love. Maybe not control it, but understand it and appreciate it.

Sounds like an emo-blog? Stick with me.

Throughout many of the those 24 million minutes, I’ve taken in a lot about the world. Here’s some of the headlines during that time.

Munich; Entebbe; Arab-Israeli conflict; Elvis; Iran; Olympic boycotts; Afghanistan; Lech Walesa; Thatcher; The Specials; Riots; Terry Waite; Pink Floyd; Miners Strikes; Wapping; Northern Ireland troubles; Housing Boom and Bust; Glasnost; Berlin Wall; Nelson Mandela; Tony Blair; Gulf War; 9/11; 7/7; Recession; Tsunami; 2012 Olympics; Syria.

A lot of suffering. Yet hope; promise; resilience.

We live in a world where there is still SO much cruelty. So many people struggle to live and yet some just arbitrarily take it away from others.

Yet hope, promise, resilience stands firm. We come together to grieve – even to avenge – but to overcome. It’s love that helps us do that.

The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.

So the looking forward to this is about channeling your love. Using the energy that love gives you to achieve things for the better.

If we all stop and think about it there’s people we love (not the obvious ones like life partners and kids and stuff) and things we love doing. Love of things we want to stand by and a love of leaving a lasting impact to be remembered by.

People. They come and go in your lives and blood relatives and chosen partners don’t ALWAYS qualify in the “best in class” category. But nevertheless, we have emotions about people. We love them. Not in an attraction way in an appreciative way.

Let that happen. Don’t deny the love you feel for others.

Things. Whether it’s hobbies, vocational or academic study or work related things. We love doing certain things.

Spend as much time as you possibly can doing things you love. Don’t talk yourself out of labours of love.

Legacy. Whether it’s writing a book, creating a foundation, mentoring someone. We love leaving a mark and lasting impression.

Think about legacy as not an act of vanity but an act of generosity and bravery in making a difference. You may love it and enjoy it but that’s not the only reason you want to do it; giving is the truest and most useful form of self-gratification there is.

If we spent more time doing stuff we love, it makes all the hardships being experienced elsewhere something we no longer deny or resist or hide from but maybe do something about. When we have “enough of our own worries” we can hide in those shadows and let evil people have their way.

We hear it from eminent sources of infinite wisdom like the Dalai Lama and increasingly it’s not some 1968 hippy ideal. Love and a more mindful, thoughtful and generous way of being should be a feature of our lives.

So looking forward then is about letting people you care about know that.

Spending time on what you love is a glorious way to live.

Giving to others and leaving a legacy is a measure of true success.

The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.

Spend the vast majority of your millions of minutes in love.