Reflective practice, Slow Thinking, Uncategorized

Learning from your mistakes as a manager

“Managers learn from the meaning they give to experience, not from the experience itself, and they give meaning to experience by reflecting”
Sievert & Daudelin 1999

This is a pretty powerful idea – you don’t just learn from your experiences but you learn from reflecting on those experiences. During my career I have seen some leaders make huge mistakes, reflect on them honestly with themselves, learn and grow in to even better leaders because of them.
Likewise, I’ve seen other leaders make similar mistakes, have similar outcomes but due to a lack of real reflection never learn from the experience and thus repeating it many times over.

Alan was a great up and coming manager, he was learning from an excellent people manager who was well respected in the business and eager to take on advice and apply it to his own journey as a leader. A tricky employee issue came up – Steve was a handful in the workplace and with a couple of (minor issues) some mental health issues began to surface.
Alan was eager to do the text book right thing (although maybe was a little overzealous in some discussions) – Steve didn’t take it well and it a long process was entered in to that took a lot of time and effort on the part of Alan’s manager, the business and the HR team.
Heaps of people have been in Alan’s position. Your first few years of management aren’t easy and you will always make mistakes.
Alan’s manager, being a great people manager coached Alan through the process and the aftermath – in a way that set could Alan up for real success with learning opportunities from this difficult situation.

The next point is where the great people leaders and the perpetual managers differ (and I’m sure you’ll be able to recognise people from both camps). What does Alan do next?

A.        Does he think about his role in the outcome, sort through decisions he made and see how they inter played with a mental health and performance issue in the workplace learning how he might deal with a similar issue differently in the future?

B.        Or, does he reflect and critically evaluate, no matter the mitigating factors (the performance issues and mental health concerns) that he had preferences, biases and a limited frame of reference. Does he then take time to reflect on how his responses could have differed at different stages of the process? How may these tendencies play out in other, less similar circumstances? May he learn something from his process, his behaviour that might make a difference with an entirely different situation in the future?

Alan A think’s he’s being reflective and learning from the situation – but his focus is external. What would he change being given a very similar issue in the future?

Alan B is being reflective and will really learn from the situation. His learning and subsequent behaviour change will transcend a very similar issue and will be able to be applied in many future situations.

When you learn a lesson, face a challenge or hit a wall, do you critically reflect? Or do you pay lip service to the process but never really change your behaviour?

Alan A can be called a ‘single loop learner’ – he’s looking at feedback (did something succeed or fail) to help establish what he could try next.

Alan B can be called a ‘double loop learner’ – he’s looking at feedback but he’s asking additional questions which help him get to the root cause, underlying beliefs, values  and assumptions.

If you want to encourage double loop learning in your practise try asking yourself:
Why did I try that in the first place?
What made me think that would work?
When have I experienced similar results?
What has this shown me about myself?

Thinking differently

HR Consulting: What Works (And What Doesn’t)

Over the past 6 months I’ve been talking to a few friends and colleagues who have moved (or in the process of moving) from internal permanent HR positions to the exciting world of consulting.
I must admit, there is a part of me that’s pretty jealous – I’m risk adverse in nature and love the idea of being able to stick with my employer for a long period of time. It does help of course that I have a great employer, but to be fair, a lot of these friends have come from really positive work environments as well and have still wanted to spread their wings.
It used to be there was some stigma around self employed consultants in the HR space – this largely wasn’t helped by (hopefully, now outdated) sales methods of trying to convince every potential client that they needed the package with all the bells and whistles coming to 3x the amount of budget available per year for such services.
The recent change towards conscious consulting – ethical consultants who are genuinely fantastic at what they do and are eager to make life better for the people that make up organisations – has meant a rapid change in the way I, as a permanent employee in a relatively small People & Culture team, engage with consultants.
No longer do I feel the need to decline every invite for coffee, terrified of being hounded for months on end for business that I genuinely don’t have the budget to purchase. I am lucky enough to deal with a variety of consultants who I can call on with a quick question, who value the relationship, and who – when I have a piece of work – I don’t hesitate in getting in touch and completely trusting their judgement as to the best solution for the issue I have.
It’s these types of consultants in the L&D, HR, Project Management and Change Management spaces that I hope signify a shift in the way that the industry is headed. I love the trait that so many of these people share which is a genuine desire to see people, and organisations, succeed and grow. Rather than being concerned with ‘filling time’ or ‘seeming busy’ they are results oriented – which can be a change from stagnant HR teams which seem to be focused on the rules and putting blocks in the business’s way.
I’m lucky to work in a dynamic People & Culture team with great people – but many HR roles do not operate in this environment. Some people (who are incredible operators) really flourish with the freedom (and associated risk) which comes from the nature of a consultancy role. The ability of great consultants to give difficult advice, effectively manage really difficult change process and focus on their real strengths means that those of us in internal roles can bring in a pair of fresh eyes when needed and target people with the specialist skills when required.
I can’t say I’ve got a desire to become one of these fantastic people – but it is time that those of us in internal roles really embrace the conscious consultant, and in doing so, ensure that the values our organisations live by are reflected the people that we do business with.
Personal brand

Hard Truth: I Would Judge You On Your Social Media Profile

Yup, let’s face it. We’ve all done it. Sussed out that new work contact on LinkedIn or Twitter (maybe Google Circles… or not) and judged them a little.

Unprofessional photo (Wearing tinsel in his hair? Really?!)

Mistakes in the description of the copywriter job she had… wouldn’t recommend her to anyone!

A bio written in overly formal wordy language that screams “I THINK I’M AWESOME!”

Yeah, I do it too.

So, like it or not, given that most people will make snap judgements of you, there are a few basic tenents that can translate into a more favourable initial impression online. My top four recommendations to get it right?

1. The profile picture

No, the one of you holding a glass of bubbly at your cousin’s wedding with your significant other chopped out will not do. Nor the picture from 15 years ago when you still got ID’d for alcohol.

Nothing flash is needed: just a semi-professional (or super-professional, depending on your industry) head shot.

The only people who shouldn’t follow this advice in my opinion are children’s party entertainers and spirit coaches (they can go for something a little kookier).

2. Proofread

It kills me how often I see LinkedIn bios with horrendous spelling errors. Just get a friend to read over it. Copy and paste into MS Word and see if anything is underlined red or green. And if it is, fix it.

3. Write in first person

Pop quiz: When someone describes their accomplishments to you at a party, do you sometimes think they come across as a bit of a blow-hard if they speak about themselves in the third person? I certainly do.

Same goes in your social media profiles. You are trying to connect with people, do that by speaking in your own voice, you will come across like a real person and I promise you that is a good thing.

4. Be authentic

Social media is an opportunity for you to make connections with people you might not ordinarily have the opportunity to connect with. It’s a way to tell people a little bit more about yourself and your world in an easily accessible environment.

Use it – but think about how you do it. Just as you are careful with your professional reputation, be careful with your online one. Be yourself, but don’t forget that these are professional mediums. While being true to yourself, your beliefs and your ethics, don’t sell yourself short by endorsing everyone you know for every skill they have listed (can you really endorse Jenny for Strategic Planning if you worked with her at McDonald’s on drive-through when you were teens?).

If you’re going to put your professional persona out online (and I think that is awesome – yay the internet!) just be wary of who is going to read it, and what message you’re sending. Will your future boss, co-worker or client see your online brand as an extension of real-life you? Or are you making choices that could lead to those relationships suffering?