Leadership, Thinking differently

How to Lead a Quest (book review)

The ‘Future of Work’ is very quickly becoming one of those phrases that when I hear I immediately start thinking about what I’m having for dinner.

Not because it’s a dull topic – quite the opposite! As a card-carrying HR nerd I find it fascinating – my aversion comes from some incredibly dishwater-dull speakers at conferences and ‘must read’ LinkedIn articles which espouse the importance of innovation without ever articulating what that means if you’re not a sexy tech millennial start up.

If you get excited by the idea of avoiding obsolescence (which I hope you do), pioneering into new ways of doing things and detest formulaic business books then what you need to be doing is picking up a copy of ‘How to Lead a Quest’ from Dr Jason Fox.

I don’t think I’ve ever described a business/strategy/change book as an ‘exciting read’ but here I am breaking tradition and loudly exclaiming that this book is a must read – especially, if like me, you benefit greatly from someone taking incredibly complex ideas and making them much easier to understand. #ImNotThatSmart

The added benefit of this book is the author actually manages to not only explain those complex ideas well, but make you feel like you’re now one of the smart people in the room for having read it. (I do love feeling like I’m part of a smart people’s club!)

Highlights for me (aside from Dangerlam’s awesome artwork throughout the book which greatly added to my understanding of some pretty imaginative concepts) was the blend of research-based thinking with application to many things that you run into in business when you’re intent on doing things differently.

‘Planning to Fail’ (and navigating the 9 layers of ‘Fell’/Failure Hell) is absolute gold in helping explain the failure you should celebrate (failed experiments), the failure you need to change (process inadequacy), and the failure you shouldn’t celebrate at all (apathy).

I want to provide an insightful critique here (because how else would I feel smart?) but I can’t. This book is perfection right down to the footnotes that appear at nearly the end of every page. For example, when discussing ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ and that your strategy shouldn’t be hiding behind layers of hierarchy or deep within documents on the intranet, Jason notes “[1] If this is the case, if people can’t find a good breakfast – they’ll default to whatever is easily available – like sticking a teaspoon into that dubious jar of peanut butter. Or that old set of performance metrics that is familiar and yet no longer aligned to the new strategy.”

How often has ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ been written about (so many times it is bordering on becoming a work wank word) and yet suddenly it feels relevant. Contextualizing ideas in ways that leads to intelligent conversation is a fine art and one that this book repeats again, again and again.

 

Originally published on LinkedIn

Leadership, Personal brand, PKM, Uncategorized

2016: Year of the Rocket

Well, I’ve been slack – at least when it comes to posting regularly here. But now it’s officially 2016 I guess it’s time to make a whole lot of resolutions I’ve got no intention of keeping and kick off on an unsustainable eating/excercise regime?
In all seriousness though, I am going to take the bull by the horns (or should that be red monkey?) when it comes to 2016. Oh yeah, 2015 was pretty great – in fact the reason I was so slack on the blogging front was because I started a new job (with the same awesome people). But 2016 is going to be even better!
Last year I was inundated with opportunity – so much so that I really had to take stock of what I value and want my life to be full with. I decided that a new job with the same organisation was where it was at, the #PeoplePeopleCU was a great way to connect with likeminded people in Melbourne, I was more active and sought out more professional development both in person and online and I also was lucky enough to meet some really great people along the way.
So how do I improve on 2015?
I’m going to take Dr Jason Fox’s advice and pick a word for the year, last year I picked ‘Build’ and didn’t really tell anyone about it. This year I’m going to go with ‘Rocket’.
Rocket (for me at least) = the year of launching some amazing things and seeing them fly. (Side note: if you don’t know of Dr Jason Fox and his writing/speaking you need to google him. Now.)
I’m really exciting about 2016 and what it holds. This year I’m off to the SHRM Conference in Washington D.C., there are some massive projects at work that are going to require a lot of time and energy and I’m looking forward to more People People Catch Ups and learning from some cool people.
Just before I sign out on my first (hopefully of many) blogs for the year I’d like to say a big thanks to all the amazing people that made my world better last year – there are just too many to mention but I’m so grateful for all of your sharing, caring and general excellence.

Leadership, Personal brand

Mentoring is AWESOME!

I woke up this morning and felt incredibly… lucky. Lucky that I am excited to go to work. Lucky that I enjoy my career and I get to work for an organisation I believe in. Lucky that I have been fortunate enough to have some incredible mentors throughout my career.

(In case you can’t tell, I quite like my job)

In retrospect, the availability of a mentor (which has quite often been a manager for me – but not always) who is invested in my career and development has been the key factor in whether I’ve loved where I work or not. It’s not always about the sexiness of the company – one of the most enjoyable places I ever worked was the New Zealand Inland Revenue Department. This wasn’t because of the focus on tax, but due to the excellent group of people I worked with and the incredible managers I had while I was there.

mentoring is awesome

As well as having benefited a huge amount from some mentors who have been very generous with their time, I’ve also been engaged as a mentor myself – it is an incredibly rewarding thing to do. The success of the relationship (whether it’s an informal or formal relationship) is very dependent on the mentee being proactive, understanding what they want out of the relationship and giving adequate thought to the ask that is placed on the mentor. When I’ve seen formal mentorships break down it is almost always linked to a mismatch of expectations. In saying this – the right attitude of the mentor is also critical: you aren’t creating a mini-me or giving all the answers, you’re giving someone the benefit of your perspective and helping them figure out the journey for themselves.

Acknowledging what both parties can learn from each other is also key – this isn’t a one-way relationship. Many organisations now are seeing the value in setting up ‘reverse mentoring’ programs where executives are mentored by younger employees – often with a particular focus on technology or emerging fields.

Forbes had a great article from 2011 (which is still just as relevant today) which detailed how becoming a mentor can develop your own career. This article references research from Sun Microsystems who found that mentors were 6x more likely to be promoted to a bigger job.

Six times!!!

Mentoring isn’t just great for individuals; MicroMentor cites research which states that mentored businesses increased their income during their programs of up to 83% (compared to non-mentored businesses that increased revenue by 16%).

Your Challenge:

My challenge to you? Commit to becoming a mentor, or being a mentee in the coming year. Whichever path you take commit to reflecting on your journey as you go, whether it’s through a journal, your Outlook or another method, and come back to it at the end of the year. I guarantee that if you have an open mind the amount you can learn through this process is almost limitless.

Leadership, PKM

ARHI National Convention Wrap Up

Wow!
What an incredible week at the 2015 AHRI National Convention – three days of non-stop learning, collaborating, meeting new people, hearing new ideas and being challenged on what is happening in the world of HR and how we need to rise to respond to it. A strong theme that came through many sessions was the changing world of work – due to globalisation, technological shifts and generational changes – and how the business world, and HR professionals in particular, are, and need to, respond. 
A real highlight for me was Julia Gillard who, on top of having a great tale of becoming a laundry expert at school due to her ‘electives’, had an incredibly interesting perspective on the changing world of work and HR’s great opportunity in adapting to the new environment. The global rise of the Asian economies and the massive technological disruptors are becoming an increasingly important driver in the world of work. Julia challenged the attendees as HR professionals to take advantage of the opportunities and changes being presented to us and lead the way in how Australia responds to this change. Our economy is going to have to change in response to traditional sources of employment changing, and we have an excellent opportunity to help ensure that business is ready to adapt. 

Dave Ulrich was an absolute star – I can see why he has been named as the #1 Management Educator & Guru by Business Week (along with a host of other awards and recognition). The message of relationships being much more important than structure hit home for many in the audience (it resulted in a flurry of tweets). 

Speaking of tweeting – social media interactions at the convention were huge. A massive number of attendees were tweeting, sharing and collaborating online – being able to see what was happening in other sessions was great. There is also an incredibly nerdy part of me that loves it when a speaker I idolise retweets or responds to something I’ve shared online. Given the focus on the changing world of work, this was proof that HR professionals are leading the way with engaging online, expanding their personal learning networks and seeing the possibilities of interacting with employees and future employees was fantastic. Many conversations were had with both people I’d met online and those curious about the tweeting. Due to Twitter (and spotting the Soceroos account giving a happy birthday shout out to Ange Postecoglou) we managed to arrange Richard Morecroft lead the hall in singing Happy Birthday to Ange for his 50th. What a legend for turning up to give a keynote!

A summary article cannot be written without reference to my personal highlight of the Expo which was HROnboard’s genius decision to bring in Guide Dogs Victoria ambassadors Ariel and Sparky on Thursday. Many a photograph was taken with the honorary HR pros, who seemed more interested in cuddling attendees than engaging in strategic discussions. 

Many speakers were really active on social media which was fantastic (loved Jon Ingram’s selfie with the crowd after the New HR session). I’m really interested to see how we increase the opportunities for this at next year’s #AHRINC to encourage more HR professionals onto social media and collaborative tools. It is going to become more and more critical for HR professionals to lead the way in engaging with employees (and potential employees) through social media, organisations are looking to us for leadership in this space and we need to take the bull by the horns and own our brand.
I attended the AHRI National Convention as a guest blogger. The post was originally published on the Official AHRI National Convention Blog

Leadership, Thinking differently

The Truth About ‘High Performance Culture’: Is It Just Buzz?

If I had a dollar for every time a manager said to me “I want a high performance team” I’d probably be on a beach somewhere…

Each time I hear this statement a few things run through my head (as I know they do other HR professionals):

  • How would you define a ‘high performance team’
  • Do you actually mean ‘I want to build a high performance culture’?
  • Do you know what you want that culture to value?

As with any buzz phrase in business, sometimes really worthwhile endeavours (like building a high performance culture) get lost in soundbites and false hopes of a ‘quick win’. Gallup research identified six key ingredients to achieve a high performance culture (HPC) and they are anything but quick fixes:

1. Implement an effective performance management process
This can be built using a merit based system to define high performers, setting clear standards and expectations, and articulating shared goals and objectives.

2. Create empowerment and authority
What you really need to make this work is trust and accountability as a good base to be able to respond to the market and drive innovation.

3. Increase leadership capability at all levels of the organisation
Think communication, communication, communication! Organisations with the highest levels of employee engagement share a common mission and purpose with accessible and visible leaders.

4. Develop a customer-centric strategy
How well do the organisation’s leaders connect to the wider business (including brand, people, mission & purpose)? What do they do to ensure everyone is engaged with a customer-centred worldview?

5. Increase communication and collaboration
How critical do your leaders believe people management is to their role? Or do they see themselves as operational managers with people management ‘add-ons’? For organisations to achieve effective communication and collaboration there must be two-way communication throughout the organisation and real intent by leaders to be truly engaged with their people.

6. Enhance training and development
Prioritising ongoing learning for individuals and the wider organisation is critical to continuously improve as a collective. Setting up employees for success is the best way to create a HPC and comprehensive learning and development plans that complement the organisation’s overarching objectives and direction is critical for this.

I’m really excited to hear from Gary Pert (CEO of Collingwood Football Club) speaking at the AHRI National Convention about creating a HPC because working as a team is a critical (if not the most critical) element of a successful sports club. In a sports team you know you have to have a HPC otherwise you may as well hand the win over – so what lessons can we embed in our organisations from those that do it well?

Whether you’re managing a netball or a marketing team (or you’re a HR professional who constantly has to field the question ‘how do I do this?’) what do you need to think about to embed a HPC?

  • Make it a priority. In sport you want to win right? So what do you want to do in your organisation? Is having a HPC essential to getting there? Yes? Prioritise it.
  • Define what a HPC means for you. Is it winning every game? Reducing complaints by 50%? Becoming an employer of choice? Once you’ve defined where you want to go it will be easier to zero in on what you need to focus on, whether it’s up-skilling your people, managing your environment or investing in a specific function.
  • Once you know what a HPC means then look at who is doing it well; suss out the competition, look within your ranks – what makes them a success? Is it replicable? Do they display the behaviours you want to embed? How do you emulate them?
  • Are you being realistic about what you’re already doing well? Have you identified a ‘high performing team’ that is actually just a team with a couple of superstars? If those people leave then what do you have left? Luck does not equate a HPC.
  • Plan. Plan. Plan. You can’t do everything at once and a HPC doesn’t happen overnight so where do you want to focus? How are you going to get there? Who do you need involved? How long is it going to take?
  • Get buy in. There are multiple times throughout this process where stakeholder management is critical but if you’re going to change focus or make changes ensure that you’ve got the right people on board. Your shareholders, directors, managers, clients or your fans – they can either support the change or destroy your efforts.

Reference: Gallup 2013 research on High Performance Cultures.

The author will be a guest of the AHRI National Convention and has been asked to write up her thoughts on the event.

This article was originally published on the Australian Institute of Human Resources (AHRI) website.

Leadership, Personal brand, PKM, Thinking differently

Psych Assessments and Personality Profiles: Worth It?


This week’s post is a result of a question submitted through Engage Learn Build. It’s a question I get asked frequently in various forms – from executives looking to evaluate their team or a new hire, managers who feel they should be using psych assessments but don’t know where to start, right through to friends who are wondering what on earth the correlation is between a seemingly random request for a psych assessment midway through the recruitment process.

My response to these questions varies greatly on the why:

  • Why is the decision maker wanting to engage in a psychological assessment or personality profile?
  • Will the tool that is being suggested actually help answer that question? (Quite often the answer is no…)
  • And finally, does the decision maker actually know how to interpret the results, or do they have someone on hand to walk them through the process? (Again, quite often the answer is no).

Question:

Hey Renée, as a leader, the most valuable learning I’ve done has been about myself. Tools like MBTI,  360 feedback mechanisms and TMI profiles (IE creator / innovator, concluder / producer etc) have all made me much more aware about how to get the best out of others, but most importantly made me much more self aware of my own strengths and weaknesses and helped me out plans in place to compensate.

How do you rate the different tools out there for leaders looking to be more mature and self aware in their approach to leading others and what traps and pitfalls should they look out for using those tools?

– Damo

Answer:

I totally agree, I think there is a time and place for these tools (which I geekily love) and I get heaps out of them too. I think for me the key is context. If you’re someone who can go out and take what they need from these types of tools, apply it etc. then it is less important, but I often see people engaging with tools (either themselves or with their teams/organisations) and then not contextualizing it and making it mean something for the individual/group.

Most people don’t naturally do this (it is a skill highly related to EQ) – but as a leader, when engaging others in this space, the context is everything. Ideally these tools should help inform a broader plan rather than be the plan. As for preference I personally have gotten the most out of 360’s, especially when it is a goodie. The Human Synergistics LSI tool is pretty decent and I really like Facet5. Although if you’re looking at team dynamics rather than individual development I’d lean more towards personality trait profiles (MBTI, DISC are all much of a muchness in my opinion) because they’re easy to understand and focus people on understanding how they relate to others – and others relate to them, which when you’re trying to get a team to work together is pretty critical.

The big trap is the idea that any one tool (or often, consultant selling that tool) has all the answers. While most tools are supported by good theory there is a lot of room for error and an element of subjectivity in analyzing results. Some assessments have been developed with sales people in mind for example, where extroversion is an asset – where someone who is trying to cultivate a collaborative leadership style might rate badly but actually still be really effective in their substantive.

My readers might have differences of opinion when it comes to some of the psych and personality tools I’ve listed. But I maintain the most critical part of the equation is the ‘why’, and if the organisation or the manager concerned hasn’t got that figured out then I’d suggest that any of these tools are next to useless.

Leadership, Personal brand, Working in People & Culture

The Balancing Act of Work/Life Balance in the World of HR

I wear many hats as a people & culture professional: strategic advisor, problem solver, sounding board, behaviour changer… but I’m also a friend, a partner, a daughter, a sister. There – I said it. I have a life outside of work!

While I love the variety my chosen profession brings sometimes it is really tiring. Tiring because in people & culture you can feel like you’re a million things to a million people, and it’s impossible to meet all of their needs all of the time. Then, at the end of a day filled with 10 urgent matters and 20 incredibly important ones, I roll on home to my family and try and switch my brain to At-Home-Renée (note: she doesn’t get as much done as At-Work-Renée).

I often have this conversation with other people in our industry – just how do you balance the two when it is so easy to prioritise a job you love over everything else? We are the best at preaching the importance of work/life balance but in my experience we are often the worst at balancing the two.

I’ve gone over to the dark side a few times, getting obsessed with checking emails from the time I wake to when I went to sleep, that little ‘ping’ sound sending shivers up my spine. But I came to a realisation that I did not do my best work when thinking about the office all day every day, I didn’t lead by example, insisting on responding to weekend emails the second they arrived, scheduling work travel in the weekends so not to impinge on my ‘productive’ time. I do my best work when I’m happy, when I can dedicate the time required to important projects and be honest with my colleagues about what I can, and cannot, reasonably take on.

I meditate (I know, it sounds terribly new-agey but I swear by it), I exercise, I don’t have my email notifications ‘pop up’ on my phone and I’m getting better about working reasonable hours. And do you know what I’ve noticed? I’m more productive, I produce better results and I’m a nicer person to work with.

It is really hard to fight the urge to ‘just’ do a few extra hours – because as we all know that is a perfectly reasonable, even required, thing to do occasionally – but as soon as it becomes the norm, then I know I’m straying in to dangerous territory.

How can I extol the virtues to the managers I work with of the importance of happy, healthy employees if I myself am not one? How to I promote the idea of encouraging employees to normally work a regular work day if I can’t do it myself?

I don’t believe being overworked is just dangerous to the person (increased risk of cardiovascular disease anyone?) – but it is also dangerous to role model this behaviour, particularly if you’re the guardian of good workplace practice in your organisation.

I’m always looking for ways to both increase my understanding of how I manage this balance and how I can promote this balance within my organisation which is one of the reasons I am looking forward to Dr Adam Fraser’s presentation at the AHRI National Convention on HR: Loving What You Do. Dr Fraser’s presentation promises to give HR professionals practical tools to switch between different roles and environments with less anxiety and friction.
The author will be a guest of the AHRI National Convention and has been asked to write up their thoughts on the event.

This article was originally published on the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) website.

Leadership

Storytelling: People with a Passion for Making a Difference

Yesterday I attended the YMCA Victoria / AFL SportsReady joint program graduation for a group of leaders within the YMCA. The participants are concluding their YMCA Leadership Stage 2 Certificate jointly with a Diploma in Management and presented their group projects to their peers and guests from the wider organisation.
It was pretty awesome – and I’m not just saying that an impressed colleague – the projects and initiatives presented were genuinely fantastic!
The projects included a joint, best practise Post Natal Depression Program Pilot; combining established programs with an excercise component designed to reduce chances of relapse from 38% (medication only) to 8% (excercise only). Another initiative was around a YMCA Victoria app designed to engage local communities and increase and participation in health and excercise opportunities  – with huge potential to connect more with our members, communities, staff and volunteers.
What I took out of the sessions was a passion that our people have to make their community and workplace better for everyone. It’s the dream of everyone that works in People & Culture to have such engaged and passionate people – and I’m incredibly lucky to work for an organisation that is full of those people.
The challenge for us is getting better at telling our stories, the successes, ideas and passion that our people have for making a difference. Something that doesn’t always come easy to us is shouting the great things that we do from the rooftops; but it’s in that storytelling that we inspire others to make a difference. The sharing of ideas, projects, solutions and passion make it easier for us all to make changes for the better.