Friday, 18 October 2013

Offensive? Moi?

Recent days have shown that there's a long way to go with regards communication and understanding in some of our most high-profile workplaces.

 First we had the minefield of whether it's 'sexist' to offer a pregnant woman a seat, with Equalities Minister Jo Swinson 'forced to stand' in a packed House of Commons after arriving late to a debate. He colleagues argued that at seven months pregnant, she was 'quite able' to stand for 30 minutes and to suggest otherwise was patronising. 

The fact is that courtesy should override any argument woman's stability, and a seat should have been found for Ms Swinson who, for all her reassurances that everything's fine, I am certain would have gracefully accepted in the spirit it was offered. 

God knows I'd have kissed the face off anyone who offered me a seat on a packed train when I was pregnant (or as i remember it, doing an impression of the Queen Mary in full sail.

If the time has come when common courtesy, consideration and respect for a woman in the last (often uncomfortable) months of pregnancy is ruled 'sexist', it's a sad day indeed. 

That's the only advice I'd offer workmates in this scenario- be courteous. If you offer a seat or extra help to a pregnant woman, be sure the situation warrants it and that you do it in the spirit of care and consideration. Fussing about like she's made of spun glass won't make you firm friends, but inviting her to tell you what she needs to be comfortable and doing your best to deliver it is absolutely A-OK.

In other news, England's victory and securing of a place at the World Cup in Rio was overshadowed somewhat by a joke manager Roy Hodgson shared with the team at half time. It was an old NASA joke about the menial role of a human astronaut and a highly-trained monkey to illustrate how certain team members needed to support a particular talent, the Press screamed 'racist', believing Roy to be referring to black player Andros Townsend in less than flattering terms. Roy has apologised for any offence caused and his players have all come out in firm support of their boss.

Frankly, if use of the word 'monkey' is automatically assumed to be racist, London Zoo are in serious trouble- as am I every time I call the dog a cheeky one. 

So how do you deal with this issue at work? I always find it's wise to remember that offence is taken, not given. Give both sides a fair hearing. In most cases the person who made the remark is mortified to think that a comment has been taken to heart, and often able to clarify exactly what was said and why. Don't listen to third parties without speaking to those directly involved: in this example the media were busy being professionally offended while Townsend and Hodgson sat bewildered, wondering what the heck was going on in their names. 

We encounter- and negotiate- tricky situations daily at work, and some need careful handling. 

Some, like those above, just need common sense and courtesy.

Friday, 4 October 2013


I was asked this morning about the idea behind 'brand loyalty.' What makes a consumer loyal to one brand- Quality? Price? Advertising?

Of course it's a mix of all three, but with added ingredients that make the experience of buying that brand (or shopping at that store) feel good.

I'll tell you about two retailers I buy from regularly, and why. This is not an advert, and they've not paid me to blog about them, but they've more than earned some recognition. So if you go and buy from them, I'll be chuffed to have introduced you to two of the finest companies I've yet dealt with.

First up are the team behind Last Exit to Nowhere, an online retailer of clothing with imagination, creativity and humour. Each creation draws on famous movies- but why wear a T shirt reading 'Shaun of the Dead' when you can get one that says 'Winchester Tavern', with a groovy graphic? I love these guys and girls for their wit, great quality gear and excellent customer service. Go seek out their stuff and wear your favourite films with pride. Oh, and happy sixth birthday to them for October too!

Secondly I am delighted to introduce you to Get Cutie, vintage style dresses with added WOW factor. Beautifully crafted (trust me, even the pickiest dressmakers I've met have commented on their great work) and in the most vibrant prints, when I wear one of their dresses I feel so confident I might as well be wearing armour. What nails it for me is the service you get from the team- not just a great product but they are friendly, helpful, and do what they say they're going to do. Ladies, treat yourselves. Gents, they do ties.
Brand loyalty to me means these businesses; not huge, not world renowned, but doing the very best they can and keeping me, their customer, very very happy indeed.

Friday, 2 August 2013

HR- twaddle or what?

"HR is meaningless twaddle from an employee's point of view. HR is a parasite which serves to ensure nothing more than that the business hire and fires legally. Anything else is just faff and flannel, no matter how loudly anyone protests otherwise.

I've seen dreadful corporate decisions and worker treatment, I've been subject to it, and so has my missus. We've both been well paid for such corporate stupidity, in one case my missus had to use the courts but so be it."

This is an excerpt from a real Facebook conversation I had last night with a man who's clearly either a) disenchanted with HR or b) hasn't got a grasp of what HR does. Let's put aside the fact that he and his wife have been well rewarded for breaches of their employment rights (his lack of ability to make the connection between the two is astounding whichever way you look at it) but his comments that HR is "twaddle" that means nothing to employees both irks and intrigues me.

I believe the deeper recesses of HR may be a mystery to many employees, but they are generally glad to know who to go to with issues or questions. As for 'twaddle'? I don't understand civil engineering, but I don't have to- there are plenty of great people out there building bridges and airports so clueless me doesn't have to. I don't dismiss what they do as 'twaddle' because it's not what makes my wheels squeal.

I think that's how most people see HR- it does what it does so they don't have to. Not understanding it doesn't make it pointless.

As for 'parasite'? My understanding is that successful parasites thrive because the host doesn't know they're there. HR makes its presence known, no bones about it. They also do well because they take without giving.

Looking at my workload right now, there's plenty of giving going on.

What are your thoughts?

Monday, 29 July 2013

Pay up or shut up

Lots has been written about the Government introducing fees for tribunal claims to be made. I can't rephrase the arrangements or beat the likes of Darren Newman's excellent summary blog here but I can offer a thought or two on the situation.

As someone who has seen employers taken to tribunals and change their practices for the better as a result, I fear the introduction of fees will prevent genuinely aggrieved and unfairly treated employees seeking justice. This in turn will stop companies making the essential improvements needed to retain their staff and get the best from them. I don't see how this stimulates engagement, growth or creates a single job.

I don't think for a second that employers will benefit from this. Employees who have been genuinely unfairly treated will resort to other measures to seek recourse including ensuring everyone they meet knows what a bunch of utter b******s their former employers are. The reputational damage could be huge. They may lose other staff who they've trained and invested in as a result. Some employees who have sought to bring  claims only to fail to raise the cash will feel stumped and may take steps they'd normally never consider to feel justice has been done. 

Employees with what might be considered vexatious claims won't necessarily be 'weeded out'- as in the case of genuine claims, if they have the cash, they get to bring the case.

One thing that does worry me enormously is that employees with a genuine problem and who are unable to pay the fees will suffer in silence; gay or ethnic minority employees who have been singled out for poor treatment, men or women who have been harassed or threatened (and heaven know Twitter's had a hell of a weekend on that front) and anyone else who's been mismanaged, abused or mistreated face a stark choice- pay up or shut up.

I can't predict exactly what's going to happen, but I can guess. What I do know is that since 1971 employees who have experienced discrimination, harassment and abuse and employers who have had to face down false claims or learn the lessons when they have got it wrong have had the reassurance of a fair, free tribunal system- and that has now been taken from them. 

I honestly don't see how this can possibly have a positive outcome for individuals or businesses.

UPDATE: It appears the Unions are also very concerned, with UNISON being granted a judicial review hearing into the issue of fees to be heard in October.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Life could be a dream

This morning I've been chatting with some people about 'dream workplaces.'

"What would yours look like?" I asked. I imagined I'd hear about plush offices in swish locations, soaring glass and steel constructs with top of the range technology, leather sofas, ping pong tables, free lunches and so on.

Every single person I asked replied in the same way.

"Great people", they said.

They couldn't have cared less about what they labeled 'tree-hugging' workplaces with 'fussy' furniture, or 'weird' practices and 'overcomplicated' layouts. They just needed to be around great people to make work worthwhile.

So here are my next questions: Are you 'great people'?

Are you hiring 'great people'?

If not, what are you doing about it?

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Great culture? Don't bank on it

The CIPD just issued a press release with the news that there is still 'much to be done' in the battle to rebuild trust in the financial sector in the UK.

In other news, water is still wet and penguins have cold feet.

However, the press release is of interest because for the first time I've seen financial industry workers' position quoted. 

"Fewer than one in three financial sector workers outside of senior management say they’re proud to work in the sector, almost two thirds of all workers in the sector believe some people in their organisation are rewarded in a way that incentivises inappropriate behaviour, and three in four financial services workers (eight out of ten workers in the banking sector) say they think some people in their organisations are paid excessively."

While those outside the City have taken a dim view of banker's bonuses and the perceived 'reward for failure' culture in banking for some time now, it's interesting to read the above figures. They are a huge 'tell' when we consider the levels of engagement and connection employees feel in this sector. Those outside senior management level are clearly as frustrated by their culture as those of us outside the industry are.

Can we hope for a sea change in the finacial sector when these people rise through the ranks? Will the retirement of the old guard and the promotion of the bright young things that frown on reward for bad behaviour mean an end to bonuses for those who gambled the biggest? Will they change the culture?

Will we see less fat cat and more lean, mean, purring machine?

Starting from rock-bottom could be the financial sector's greatest opportunity to reinvent itself and become an industry people would be proud to be a part of.

If the industry seizes the opportunity to really change its ways and not just pay lip service to whatever new regulations it may find itself subject to, it could become a beacon, a great thing to be a part of. God knows there is talent within; but it seems it has to become corrupted to be developed.

As it stands at a crossroads, the financial sector has to ask itself if it wants more of the same, and risk remaining the villain forever more, or if it would like to be something that inspires pride, loyalty and a spirit of connection with its staff and customers.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Making memories

I took a day out yesterday to take part in not-work things. It recharged me and left me glad of the friends I have.

First thing, I spent time in the sunshine up at Epsom Downs racecourse as part of a group of friends who wanted to mark the centenary of the Derby Day that saw Suffragette Emily Wilding Davison rush out into the path of the King's horse, Anmer, bringing down horse and jockey, who escaped unscathed. Emily was not so fortunate, sustaining injuries that led to her death four days later. Emily was the only Suffragette to die during the fight to secure the vote for women, having survived imprisonment, an incredible 49 tortuous force feedings and multiple injuries including a fractured skull during previous protests. 

The recent documentary hosted by Clare Balding, Secrets of a Suffragette, threw new light on Emily's actions on that day. Far from being a mad attempt to take her own life or that of the horse and jockey in the name of her cause, it seems her mad attempt was in trying to secure a scarf in the clours of the Women's Social and Political Union to the bridle of the horse to see it wearing Suffragette colours as it crossed the finishing line. Whether she had no idea of the damage a running horse can do to a human body in its way or merely misjudged matters, we may never know. 

We met at Tattenham Corner, at the point where Emily stepped onto the track and where there is a memorial plaque placed for her. We laid flowers in the WSPU colours of green, white and violet, sometimes said to represent 'Give Women the Vote', more often hope, purity and dignity. My friend Bonnie's son placed them in her memory, and with our thanks.

We also remembered Anmer's jockey, Herbert Jones, who said he never forgot "that poor woman's face" as his ride collided with her. A brave and blameless man, after the 1913 Derby Jones lived his life speaking out for women's rights and sadly took his own life in 1951. We marked his own place in history with flowers in red and royal blue, the colours of his jockey's silks on that day, laid down perfectly by Bonnie's two-year-old daughter.

Apart from gratitude for those that fought for equality, what we also marked yesterday was the memory of a time before women like me could have an interest in politics, let alone a say. Our gathering of women (and one marvellous man) was small, but intense. At one point three female Council candidates and a sitting female Councillor gathered round her memorial plaque and wondered at how far we have come; whilst remembering that there are millions around the word who are still fighting for the right to vote. As Dr Helen Pankhurst, descendant of the formidable Emmeline says: the work of the Suffragettes is not yet finished.

As we stood on that spot, one lady who had stepped out of her wheelchair to stand with us said "Memories are very important. You have to make memories and hold them in your heart, or you make mistakes."

If one comment summed up the occasion, this was it. Without holding close the memories of when times were harder, we cannot hope to truly appreciate what we achieve. Without keeping those memories in mind, we are doomed to return to the same damaging scenarios. Without them we lose what nourishes us, what makes us happy and what we hold onto of one another.

Hold your memories in your hearts and never forget what really matters to you.

Monday, 3 June 2013

P's story

In the interests of keeping the HR for Mental Health potato a hot one, I recently invited a few trusted friends to write pieces for this blog around their experiences of stress at work. Below is the first, from P, a friend I've known for over a decade now, and who is living in the thick of stress created by work right now. P welcomes advice and comment, so please add to the comments if you feel you can contribute.


When I started to feel afraid of going to work last October, I put it down to a gloomy mood created by dismal winter weather. I've never really experienced what I now understand to be Seasonal Affective Disorder, but the feelings I had seemed to tie up with what I read online about SAD. I bought one of those lamps that simulates natural light and an alarm clock that wakes me gradually by illuminating the room as a Spring sunrise would. The lamp seemed to be helpful, but the alarm clock stopped working properly after a week and I've not motivated myself to try to fix it or take it back to the shop. I assume I did something wrong with it. I'm not even convinced about the lamp any more.

It's June now, and my black moods are hitting hardest on days when the sun shines and the skies are blue. Weirdly, I was bright as a button one day last week when it rained constantly.

I work for a large financial company (you would recognise the name, so I won't give it or many specific details that might mean I can be identified by my employer.) I've been there around two and a half years, one of six recruits that joined the department to launch a new product. That's been a great success and we worked well together until last Summer, when a senior member of the team went off sick for a month and I covered their workload. I stayed in touch with them through their leave as they had info I needed and I genuinely liked the person, and wanted to be a good friend and colleague. 

When they returned to work they were swiftly fired. I remember that I expressed my surprise at this news, and asked when a new team member would be interviewed or if work was to be redistributed. Nobody answered. Nobody took the work back from me. I asked our manager to delegate some of it to other colleagues and was told "We're all doing extra things, you know." 

The industry is not thriving at present and I only got this job after being made redundant from a job I loved and had held for almost 9 years. It's not an industry I particularly wanted to find myself in, but I was on the dole for six months and I never want to be back in that position again. It put so much pressure on us; my husband had to work extra hours to ensure we could pay the bills. I decided to focus on getting the work covered and doing an excellent job, hoping this would show them I was able and willing to try new things, and secure my position. Maybe I'd impress them and be promoted?

As time went on I realised my former colleague had been mismanaging their accounts and had left a real mess behind them. Again, I went to my manager and asked for help, or at least for my authorisation levels to be increased so I could close issues quicker. This was refused on both counts. "If you don't know what you're doing bring them to me, I will get round to it." This meant my caseload was artificially higher than my colleagues as I had inherited a bunch of issues that I was effectively being prevented from resolving.

I've stayed later to ensure that cases I need my manager's seal of approval to resolve are prepared and ready on her desk for her to look at first thing next day. I've come in early to make time with her so we can talk through the cases and so I can illustrate to her what I've done so far, and why I need that extra authorisation level so I don't keep bothering her. It's all for nothing. She has made it clear that if any member of the team impresses her, it's not me. 

I hesitate to use the word 'bullying' as I've seen an extreme example of that and this isn't anything like it. I've come back from breaks to find rubbish piled on my desk and my wastepaper basket filled with food waste I didn't put there. Personal items have gone missing, including the photo of my husband and our nephews that sat proudly on my desk. Within hours of that disappearing, an email was sent around about keeping desks 'uncluttered and professional.' Nobody else lost any photos, or sweet packets, teddy bears or the other stuff we accumulate in the places where we are.

I've been yelled at for "interrupting (her) train of thought" when I asked for some help as she wandered around the office playing Temple Run on her phone.

I've been yelled at for not realising it was suddenly my job alone to sign for deliveries- even though I was in a meeting when it arrived.

I've been yelled at, again and again.

This has gone on for months now. My manager barely speaks to me, and in my performance review a 'point of concern' was raised about why my unresolved cases were 18% higher than others in the team. I highlighted that at one time they were almost 90% higher (thanks to covering the work of the sacked employee) and that I'd done well to reduce them by over 80%. This was met with a raised eyebrow and a sceptical "Hmmm..."

I got a bit upset then and challenged her on the fact that I'd repeatedly asked for support and been given none. She acknowledged that I'd asked for support but "not been clear on what kind." Somehow this got twisted and by the time my review report came back I looked like an incompetent, temperamental and fragile character who was struggling to do my job. I emailed my manager and told her I was refusing to sign off on the report as accurate, and heard nothing more until three weeks ago when I was told it had been filed by HR anyway. I'm currently trying to get a sensible answer from them that isn't "Take it up with your manager."

In recent days I've gone in to work to find my email inbox full of new casework, all signed off with the patronising cut-and-pasted message "If you're struggling with this let me know and I will reallocate it to another team member." If I'm struggling, it's because of you and I doubt you're going to help me now. I won't show weakness though, and I haven't yet sent a case back to her asking for it to be given to a colleague.

I lie awake at night anxious about what the next day wil bring, and I take two hours to get ready in the morning. I need an hour to get showered and dressed and another to psych myself up to get out of the door. I don't eat breakfast, I can't keep it down. I used to take lunch with colleagues in the canteen but now I run for the door, I'm so desperate to be out of that building for even a short time. I get through every day as best as I can and travel home in a daze to another evening of plastering on a fake smile and not being able to tell my husband I need to get out of there. He cannot get the extra work like he did when I was unemployed and he's had enough pressure on him lately. I will not add to that.

I've been for a job interview and failed miserably. The agency feedback- "They thought you were nervous and inexperienced." The job was almost identical to the one I did for nine years.

I feel my relationship with my colleagues has broken down, and that I am seen as a liability because they don't believe me when I tell them what my workload actually is. The manager has been very good at bringing attention to my unresolved cases stats in meetings, whilst congratulating others on their own achievements.

I remember Niki talking to me years ago about managing stress at work and I didn't really get what she meant. I assumed everyone had stress, but that it was a motivator that kept us buzzing and getting things done. Niki and I have had more conversations about stress at work recently. 

I know I am under it, I am stressed and I am struggling. But I need this job, and I don't want to walk away. 

I don't want to feel like this any more either.


I've promised P some ideas on how she can help improve the relationship with her manager, as well as a few around raising the issues formally. I know, as her friend, that I am close to the fire on this one and would love some ideas from readers of this blog on how she can start to feel better about work and her relationships there.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Bringing myself to book

'Bringing myself to book'. Ha. Geddit?

Prompted by Doug Shaw, I've realised I need to update you all on my earlier blog, where I pledged to read three books that I felt would develop me in some way professionally and personally.

Here goes.

Like Doug bravely admits, I failed to read all three books.

I began with When I Die, the story of electioneer Philip Gould's final battle with cancer that eventually led to his death in 2011. I cannot recommend this book highly enough; profoundly moving and not what you'd consider a barrel of laughs, yet there is humour to be found in Gould's matter-of-fact tone, and his positive approach to his terminal illness is inspiring.

I got about a third of the way through Mediating Dangerously before I realised that it wasn't challenging how I'd do things, merely positing ideas that could potentially prove fatal for a mediation session and has been written by authors desperate to challenge the norms because they could. Quite honestly, I wanted my £20 and three days' effort back.
I am yet to get round to Patrick Lencioni's The Advantage, which I will admit to being ridiculously lazy enough to buy as an audiobook. I will do it, but just not... yet.  The timing is screwy.

So, it's more time in the gym for me then.

However, in my quest to cover all three books I discovered something else- as I read When I Die, a distantly-located Facebook friend was also reading it and kindly paused so I could catch up. This enabled me to discuss the book at length with her both online and via telephone, which gave me two things: a broader perspective than my own on the huge themes Gould addresses, and friendship with someone who'd until now really only been an online contact who I'd met once or twice at events neither of us planned or really made the most of. Now, we have what I consider a 'proper' rather than an e-friendship, and it's one I am enjoying greatly.

So in short, of the three books, it was the one about dying that gave me the most joy.

Weird, that.


With thanks to Tori Rosenbaum for use of her photo. 

Retirement- some news

Daniel Barnett has just released a great summary of the fndings of the tribunal hearing Seldon vs. Clarkson Wright & Jakes, with interesting update on whether employers can ever justifiably enforce a retirement age.

I advise clients never to adopt a policy that enforces retirement at a specific age unless they are prepared for a) a big overhaul in the legislation in their favour, b) a lengthy battle to prove that retirement can be objectively justified or c) that their reasons are unquestionably sound in the eyes of any tribunal court that might consider them. It would take a lot of confidence to adopt a policy that flew in the face of the law, though it is an issue worth monitoring and I doubt this will be the last case that sees an employer challenge the law and retire staff on grounds of succession, retention, planning, collegiality or safety.

With the Seldon result, employers should indeed be careful to consider that there's been any big change in the position, and continue to work in like with the legislation that saw the Default Retirement Age scrapped in 2011.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Shared experience

I've been thinking about work experience. Mainly, the type many of us participated in at school. 

When I was 15 I was sent off for two weeks to work in a primary school almost two hours, two whole buses and a bit of a walk away from home. I thought at this stage that I wanted to be a teacher (actually, that's what my school wanted me to do: I had my heart set on journalism or even joining the Police, but as an A levels and University hopeful they had me pegged as an educator of the future.) 

Despite the travelling and uncertainty of why I'd been sent there, I enjoyed the experience, mainly because I was working with six year olds (some say I had finally reached my intellectual level, ha ha) and a class teacher who was clearly dedicated to and cared greatly for the children in her care. 

However, it did make me realise I very definitely didn't want to be a teacher.

My daughter got to do possibly the best work experience anyone could hope for- two weeks working with the crew on a Harry Potter film. Again, due to location and working hours on set, she was out for work by 6am and not home til gone 9pm. She was challenged, put straight on a few things, and her ideas were recognised and rewarded where they added to the team's achievements. She did fiddly, fussy, tedious and essential jobs, loaded cameras, made coffee, ran messages, cleaned trailers and fulfilled some pretty ridiculous and ridiculously basic requests.

She says it was the best two weeks work she's ever done, precisely because it was so difficult at times and she felt what she did mattered.

I was shocked when my 14 year old son came home a while back and said he wasn't able to do work experience because "too many people treated it like a fortnight's dossing about." 

I cast my mind back. Three hours travelling plus 7 hours of wrangling 25 six year olds was not what I'd call 'dossing about.' There's a fundamental lack of respect here for both work experience and those participating in it, and I've taken the issue up with the school, who say they're following new Government directives.

We're hearing so much from Whitehall about youth employment (and more relevantly, unemployment) including some seriously half-baked initatives to get work placements and apprenticeships working properly, and so to float ideas like this is bloody ridiculous. 

Last month, the CIPD asked members in its regular mini-poll: Should compulsory work experience be reintroduced in schools?

A total of 886 people voted, and the results were encouraging. 82.17% said Yes, and only 13.43% replied No. (4.40% were 'Not sure', the indecisive little devils.) 
I am in that 82.17% that would love to see students get out there and show us their potential. Reintroducing work experience would be a great start towards tackling the issue so many businesses raise about the 'appalling lack of skills' in our 'unemployable' young people our education system spews forth year on year, but it has to be positive, varied and challenging experience that isn't two week's photocopying, filing or sweeping up the workshop- and that's down to employers to realise. 
Too many employers don't know what they want until they experience not getting it. They expect candidates who are workplace-ready straight from the classroom, without contributing anything to the process that might see us get closer to that dream. Regular readers may recall this is something I've had plenty to say about in the past. 
But you know, this really matters.
Remember yourself at 14, 17 and 20. You didn't know it all- though you thought you did. You had great ideas- but they often went unvoiced, unheard, undeveloped. You had some terrible ones too, and hopefully someone showed you why before you made too much of a mess. 

You had better things to do than sit in dry meetings endlessly talking about things that could be decided in no time with a more energetic, less process-bound approach.  You didn't see why a two hour talking shop was needed to come to the very conclusion that was staring everyone in the face. It was boring, and it stopped everyone doing more fun stuff.
You needed to be managed, monitored, taught and given a talking to when needed. You needed to know what their expectations were. Your attitudes and behaviours were shaped by people taking time to teach you- encouraging, praising, challenging, criticising and developing you. You were a blank canvas, and the image you present today is one created by experience, choices and events. 

Perhaps our focus should be on delivering the best possible opportunities for the next generation to paint their own masterpiece?

Friday, 24 May 2013

What do we want from leaders?

In Kouzes & Posner's‘The Leadership Challenge’ survey in 2003, people were asked what qualities they most needed in leaders.

The most desirable and essential leadership attributes were surprising, with 63% of respondents saying they needed leaders to be Competent.  Only 63% of people felt their leaders needed to be able to do the job to be successful.

68% of people wanted their leaders to be Inspiring;  over two thirds of them want to feel deeper emotions stirred, to feel the fire in their bellies that a motivational and enlightening leader can instill.

The wish for leaders to be Visionary scored a little higher at 75%, showing that three quarters of those surveyed want to see dynamism in leaders, to see those in positions of power have a dream and keep an eye on the future. This clearly links back to the previous point- how many Visionaries can you think of who weren't also able to Inspire?

Honesty was by far the most desirable quality- a whopping 88% felt people with authority should be straight down the line, fair, open and incorruptible. The need for trust is what drives relationships, whether affairs of the heart of in business. Without trust, nothing else has value.

So ten years on, do we think the results would remain broadly the same? Have the turbulent economic times of the past five years changed what we want in our leaders? Have they changed our own management style?

What do you look for in leaders? What qualities do you feel driven to display as a leader?

What are the best examples of leadership you've witnessed?

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Talent unchained

I was asked yesterday to write an expression of interest for a client who's going for some major works with a client of their own. The brief boiled down to three bullet points:

• your experience in serving our residential and commercial markets
• your company’s business principles or code of conduct
• your financial track record and projected growth

The first part seemed easy, as they've worked with this client for some nine years now and it seemed a matter of listing projects both completed and ongoing.

Then I realised that's what every other company sending in their own statement would do, so I chose five representative samples- projects around the city, one with commercial premises involved, two multi-occupancy properties, a family home, a foreign embassy. I then wrote a little about each project, including whether they'd finished on time and to budget, whether there had been any resident issues on the site and what had been done to resolve them, and what awards each site had won, if any.

The client has a strong belief in doing good business, in working with strong values and a definite vision and purpose. I was part of the team that defined those values and I drive theit strategy in environmental, corporate and social responsibility. I've been introduced to their clients as 'the conscience' of their business, which was one of those moments you want to frame and hang on the wall.

Give all that, the second section almost wrote itself. 

The third section was harder- I sought information from their Financial Director, the fantastic Andy of Azure who helpfully sent me exactly what I needed so I could drop it straight into the piece.

It wasn't until I'd checked it over and sent it to their MD for him to review that it hit me: in doing this, I was being asked to play a major commercial role in their business.

Me. The HR person. An outside agent, being charged with summarising their company so they can pitch for £8m of business.

If I could have high fived myself, I'd have done it and not cared who was looking.

We're told HR has to be relevant and commercial, supporting the overall business aims. So many of us try to do just that on a daily basis. It's really nice when you realise you've succeeded.

A chat with Katharine Duff earlier had us both celebrating breaking beyond the traditional role we fulfill. She has been asked to write a client's blog for them, testament to her ability beyond HR, and we found we were referring to ourselves as 'talent unchained.'

Joking aside, I do feel something's been released here that's uncovered a whole new facet to the Treacletiger/ client relationship.

I may let it run free for a while.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Alastair, our newest recruit

Regular readers will remember the puppy drama that unfolded over Easter week.

So, one pup will be coming to join us at home. Safe to say we've picked the boldest, naughtiest and funniest of the bunch- although come to think of it, I think he picked us in the moment three weeks ago when he sat down in front of me, looked up and wagged his tail.

There really was one heartbeat between "We can't possibly have a dog" and the deal being sealed.

He is a Border Terrier with a Kennel Club name that is long, posh and impossible for me to remember, and so has been known as Alastair Darling since he was born due to his glorious eyebrows. He shall of course be known simply as Alastair, or occasionally "c'mere, pup."

We're very excited to be welcoming him home this weekend, and I can't wait for the first walk in the rain. No, really.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Ask yourself this...

Yesterday I opined that employers should stop making excuses and make a start on boosting employee morale, security and engagement, regardless of their inability to fix the wider issues we face with the economy, social change and so on. 

I also got a little cross over on Twitter that so many businesses aren't bothering to address this issue, leaving themselves exposed and with a potential ticking timebomb of disengagement, stress, ill-health, anxiety, fear and lost talent on their hands.

'Unhappy employees are unproductive employees', I tweeted. It seemed to strike a chord, with two conversations springing from this; one agreeing with my point, and one challenging me on it. 

The challenger stated: "I've got employees who'd rather be elsewhere, but they do their jobs. They're productive."

My response: "And how much more would you get out of them if they weren't resentful of every moment spent in the workplace? How much more would they do and how much better would they be to have around if they liked being there, liked their colleagues and liked you? They're not productive right now."

He came back: "But I get what I need from them. What's wrong with that?"

"Absolutely nothing," I replied, "providing you're happy to get what you need and none of what you'd like."

"Like what?"

"Information. Answers to these questions: 

Who's your talent? Who can step up? Who's the best ambassador for your business? Who'd do your job if- forgive me- you got hit by a bus? How does your Company look to your clients? Does it seem a good place to work? Why should they buy from you? What do competitors think of you? Are they envious because you do something they don't, or is it the other way around? How's your reputation in your market?"

He's gone quiet. I hope he's thinking about this, and has gone in to his workplace today with a different perspective. I also hope that his people have a great day at work, and not just do what's needed.