Leadership, personal

The whole world turned upside down: brain cancer & awesome workplaces

In June this year my life took an unexpected turn. I had my parents (John & Jenny) visit from New Zealand, they said it was to visit Sam and I (but I knew the truth, my 2-year-old was the main attraction).

After an action-packed week of Aquarium and Zoo visits, and tramming their way all over Melbourne they were ready to go home.

One day before they were due to leave, Mum and I took John, my wonderful, kind, generous Stepdad, to the hospital after some headaches and confusion.

The outcome of that long ED visit was a Stage 4 GBM (brain cancer), brain surgery, chemo and radiation. Their short stay, arranged during school holidays, was then extended indefinitely as we fought this. They ended up staying with us an additional 9 weeks.

I cannot help but look at the past couple of months and see some of the best lessons of my life playing out.

The biggest part of that lesson for me was a personal one. Despite his diagnosis, despite the uncertainty and surgery and tears from us all, John has been unashamedly positive.

* Positive because of the incredible care he received at the Royal Melbourne.

* Positive because of the doctors, nurses and staff who took the time to care for him.

* Positive because, despite the circumstances, we had unexpected bonus-time as a family together, with my brothers and sister visiting from NZ and America.

* Positive because of the outpouring of love from family, friends, colleagues, strangers, and ex-students of my parents who sent messages of aroha and support from near and far.

* Positive in continually repeating that he’s lucky, he’s got a great life, and wife(!) and wonderful kids, it could all be so much worse.

John manages to find good in everything, and everyone. (after you meet his Mum, Nana Jean, you know where this comes from). The one nurse who during his time in hospital was a little short, hungover and on her phone? He refused to complain, because “you don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life, she might be having a really hard time”. John is the definition of positivity and love. I’m so fortunate that he came into our lives when I was a kid.

The second biggest lesson was what I experienced, along with each member of my family during a really tough time. My parent’s employers (Devon Intermediate, and Frankley School in NZ) were both amazing. They made organising time off easy and they sent messages full of love and hope. They sent tins of tea and flowers and fruit. They contacted us and asked what would help and listened.

My work (bloom hearing specialists), and, in particular my direct manager, have been nothing but incredible. While I’ve been on the HR-end of many crises, that’s not the same of the overwhelming sense of thankfulness you get when your manager makes it clear that there’s nothing that matters more than being there with your family. When your colleagues forgive your absentmindedness and don’t mention your horrendous eyebags/unkempt hair after another sleepless night. When you are encouraged to do what is right for you and your family, knowing it really is OK.

This post is part thanks, and part encouragement. Encouragement to do what you know is right, and treat others with empathy and love. At the time you might not consider it something monumental, especially when you know someone is going through *big* things. But every message, every small gesture meant an incredible amount to us as we grappled with all we had to deal with during this time, and it won’t be forgotten.

* John & Jenny have now returned to New Zealand, leaving our two-bedroom house very quiet.

Australian HR, Human Resources, SHRM, Social Media & Learning

HR in Australia (Unlike everything else here, it probably won’t kill you)

Everything is more likely to kill you in Australia right? The snakes, the spiders, the great whites…

When I moved to Australia (from New Zealand, a rainforest-filled paradise with amazing beaches… but a small economy) I had a rude awakening – luckily this wasn’t in the form of meeting the wildlife face to face. Despite having heavily preparing for the changes in employment law I would encounter on my transition ‘across the ditch’ I realised there was a lot I didn’t know. There are a lot of facets of HR that are location-agnostic. Sure, there are legislative differences, and cultural/business practice differences. But the core of what we do is understanding both people and organisations and help them work better together – and that doesn’t change across borders. I relied on this in my move, although I think I underestimated how much there would be that I didn’t know.

Now, 5.5 years later, I’m travelling to the USA to speak about lessons learned over my time working in HR in Australia; the good, the bad & the ugly (just kidding, there’s not too much that’s ugly). I’ve learned from some amazing HR practitioners, both in Australia and internationally, I’ve benefited from some (forced) networking and getting my head around social media and I’m excited to share the lessons learned over the past few years.

In a matter of weeks I’m catching up with my SHRM friends, speaking at both the Illinois and Ohio State Conferences. Even though it was just a couple of months ago that I had the pleasure of seeing many of these superstars at the SHRM18 National Conference, I’m even more excited about this trip, reasons being;

– smaller conferences are less overwhelming (There were 22,000 people at SHRM18 – TWENTY-TWO THOUSAND!) and I find it easier to join more conversations, learn from people and you get a better chance of speaking with keynote speakers at a smaller conference

– the speaker line ups for both conferences are incredible – seriously, check them out

– even though I’ll miss my son I’ll get a good week of uninterrupted sleep – win!

I can’t wait to share my learnings and meet more SHRMers at these conferences. If you’re heading along and would like to find out about something in particular message me – I’d love to chat. I hope to see you there!

 

Difficult Conversations, Human Resources

Getting Uncomfortable in HR: Adapting to our Changing World

This article was first published at Blogging4Jobs.com

We hear it a lot: the world of work is changing. Often we hear it at the beginning of a big sweeping statement about how we need to become more ‘responsive’, more ‘agile’ and that because Google, Facebook and Snapchat are doing something new with their approach to employment then you should be too.

At first I thought this was another one of those ‘Death of HR’ things (google that phrase – you’ll have fun for hours) – but then after a bit more research, reading and interviews I realised that I’d been looking at it all wrong.

We shouldn’t just throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater because everyone else is ditching their performance reviews (or whatever everyone’s talking about at the moment) – we at least need to look into what they’re replacing it with, how they’re supporting their people in the change and does throwing the baby out work for us in our context? But when the research stacks up we do have to start thinking differently about how HR happens and what value we add as the people-people of the organisation.

I recently spoke to Michael Haywood, co-founder of LiveHire, about the changing world of work and how HR needs to adapt. It was really satisfying to speak to someone who, instead of waxing lyrical about an inevitable need to change (really? Of course we need to change and evolve, calling it out as a new trend is decidedly old) he focused on what has already changed, what changes are probable, and what the world of work, and HR, needs to think about to respond.

Michael and the team at LiveHire are part of a new wave of antipodeans taking on the world through innovative solutions to changes in the world of work, joining HROnboard, Atlassian and Culture Amp in global domination. Much like the globalisation of the workforce, HR solutions are going international too, proving that geographic location is in no way a barrier to the world of globalising HR.  As a New Zealander, it’s great to see colleagues in the USA be able to access some of our best and brightest (well… some of Australia’s best and brightest, but we’ll take some of the credit due to proximity,) as we’ve enjoyed HR solutions from the USA for years.

Globally our issues are similar – managers are worried about the next generation and how they ‘just don’t get it’ #socratessaiditfirst, we have increasingly diverse and contract-based workforces, and we’re all transitioning from wanting to do HR differently to needing to do it differently.

Social media & the internet are great playing field levellers: knowledge-based workers can now be in far more control of their destiny through identifying potential employers, being able to find the good, the bad and the ugly out about them online, before using user-centred platforms to register their interest and put the ball in the employer’s court.

HR practitioners in knowledge-based workplaces need to respond accordingly. It’s not just a matter of using a few new buzzwords, it’s getting comfortable with changing some of our fundamental assumptions born from the way we have operated in the past. And then, advocating for, and leading change within those organisations that are slower to adapt to make sure they don’t get left behind.

 

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.

Slow Thinking

Genuine Space to Think Big

This past couple of months has been pretty standard of any new year – I, like many others, get all excited and motivated at the seemingly limitless prospects of a new year – the projects, the cultural change, the lofty goal of happier, more productive people.

No matter the quality of planning somehow we always have the same problem, there just aren’t enough hours in the day, week, month, year, to accomplish all that we want to.

It’s easy at this stage to step back and disengage, or step forward and attempt to drown myself in endless tasks – neither of which will ever help me achieve my goals.

Ensuring I have the time and space to do the slow thinking necessary to really make a difference – to me, my organisation, my colleagues and my stakeholders – is exactly the thing that facilitates success. But it can be the hardest thing to accomplish and unfortunately is the easiest time to ‘borrow’ from when things get hectic.

It’s for this reason that I’m so looking forward to the 2015 AHRI National Conference. Not only do I get to hear some incredible speakers (The Honourable Julia Gillard anybody?…) but I get to meet hundreds of people facing similar issues to me, find out how they’re dealing with them, learn from them – not to mention the incredible group of speakers who are guaranteed to get me thinking differently.

I’m always signing up for formal learning (uni papers are verging on an addiction) and breakfast seminars (a combo of free food, networking and learning something new?! I’m there!), I love learning socially through blogging, twitter and trying out new technology. But I’ve never found anything that replaces the incredible lineups, networking opportunities and genuine space to think big than conferences on the scale of the AHRI National Convention.

Being in the same room as the thought leaders whose theories and passion are constantly used as inspiration, their lessons learned being discussed, hearing their unique point of view and maybe having the opportunity to talk to them? Nothing beats that and it can’t be replicated through technology or via a book no matter the expertise of those telling the story.

Being exposed to, and having the opportunity to learn about issues, trends and new information in my field that I’m not across is invaluable. I don’t know what I don’t know and one of the benefits of being in an industry which recognises the importance and necessity of ongoing professional development is not lost on me. While I try to keep up with general industry changes, case studies and new research, I rarely venture past my bread and butter – generalist business partnering, learning & development and organisational development – and with these areas being so broad I know I’m constantly missing information. I’m looking forward to hearing from experts in other specialties, not just for curiosities sake, but to help me deliver better solutions to my stakeholders.

What I’m excited about most of all? Dedicating time to having more big picture conversations with people who I don’t yet know. Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down in the issues that dominate your working week – and taking time to learn from others who are accomplishing incredible things is a pretty great way to help you do the same.

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 Institute of Human Resources (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.

Facilitator

Team Retreats – What’s the Point?

Team Retreats I was recently asked to participate in a specialist department’s retreat – I know I know, ‘retreat’ is often a catch-all we use to either shove a tonne of information down unsuspecting employee’s throats or a flowery-feel good waste of time (and often company funds). But then I spoke to the team manager and to be honest I was inspired about the refreshing point of view and clear objectives this manager had set for her team. It made me reflect on the potential for these types of sessions when they are approached in (what I think) is the right way. The ‘Right’ Way? The ‘Right’ way is not:

  • Using the retreat for an excuse to get the team together to pump out work – actually, you can do this in the office, or in a planning day type situation
  • Using the retreat to do naff team building activities with no real objective or purpose. Yeah – team building is great, but if you’re spending 2 days of your team’s time offsite there should be real purpose to your plan

But the ‘Right’ way can be:

  • A good understanding of what issues in the team/work performance need to be addressed
  • Thought through objectives for the retreat – what is realistic to address/accomplish and what is not
  • What is the plan longer-term – addressing topics at a retreat is well and good, but if you don’t have a follow-through plan (and actually action it) you may as well not bother.

I’m off on Tuesday afternoon to observe how this team accomplishes their objectives – they are working to Lencioni’s The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, which I’m really enjoying so far as at tool to help identify issues and provide a discourse to address them in a safe environment. I’ll keep you posted!

Difficult Conversations

Difficult Conversations in the L&D Universe

Everyone’s an Expert

L&D has a slightly co-dependent relationship with HR. If we’re in-house often we’re a part of a wider P&C team – and many of our colleagues have started their careers in more HR focused roles. HR often writes the book on ‘having difficult conversations’ – but sometimes it’s really hard to have them in HR/L&D spaces due to the heavy emotional investment our stakeholders have in the solutions proposed.

Because everyone’s an expert on training/learning when we’re developing a solution we are often put in situations where we have to have what can seem like incredibly difficult conversations with our stakeholders.

Those Sticky Situations

Situations where, depending on the stakeholder, we have to have these difficult conversations include;

  • A course isn’t the solution to everything dammit! While our understanding of how adult learning works has changed considerably over the past couple of decades, many stakeholders still have a training-centric view of how we can meet their needs. This isn’t always a recipe for success – if you never deliver on what they’re expecting (even when they haven’t declared what this is) then the relationship can suffer.
  • Sometimes a stakeholder’s own learning preferences can overshadow the learning solution for the target audience. If the decision maker is, for example, an avid reader, then their expectations of how much pre-reading is reasonable may not be a match for the learning group.
  • The cost of learning solutions can also be a bone of contention: e-learning systems and modules can cost significant money, while longer term they work out cheaper they still can’t be used as the whole solution.

The most important step for getting this right? Find out what they want – what they really want – at the beginning. Often they won’t know, but it’s your expertise that will help draw out the real drivers, which I’ve found are rarely the ‘objectives’ listed in your initial discussion.

Mitigating ‘Difficult Conversations’ During the Project

When your stakeholders are coming to you with pre-conceptions about your area of expertise and passion:

Do

  • Take every opportunity to educate
    • Invite them to relevant events
    • Demonstrate the level of your expertise
    • Learn with them
  • Recognise their area of expertise
  • Offer possible solutions rather than just stating problems
  • Don’t be afraid of saying “I don’t know” and then finding out
  • Include them on the journey

Don’t

  • Explain to them just how wrong they are (however tempting)
  • Push a solution they don’t want at them
  • Give them a solution where they don’t understand how you’re meeting their needs.

Like any potentially difficult conversations in business, it becomes easier if you know what the other party is wanting and how they expect this to happen. Often in L&D we have to persuade people that their ‘how to get there’ isn’t the right/only way… but it’s easier to do that if you really understand what their expectations and needs are at the beginning.