Monday, 16 January 2017

This is Your time

Day 48 (Tuesday 17th January 2017)

48% of workers in Brighton are happy - making it the happiest
place in the UK in which to work, according to the 
Work Satisfaction Survey
conducted by LinkedIn in early October 2016
. (Glasgow and Leeds came
2nd at 45%; third were Manchester and Sheffield at 43%; then Edinburgh
at 42%; Southampton and Birmingham were at 41%; with London,
Liverpool and Cardiff scoring 39%. People in Norwich were the least happy
with only a third saying they enjoyed their work. Workers in small
businesses were the happiest. Other important influencing factors included
a person's relationship with colleagues (rated at 55%), doing work
that has a positive impact (44%) and having a healthy work/life balance (38%).

Today's is the final post in this year's Advent Blog series. It has been a privilege being the host and curating some truly wonderful pieces. As in former years, I will produce a summary, once the dust has settled. Before then, I would like to thank all the contributors. We had a number of new voices this year, as well as some "old favourites" and we covered subjects on a gamut of topics, literally from birth to death. A traditional Advent Calendar has 24 windows, but we have doubled that and given people something to enjoy or to ponder through the dark days at the start of January. I find it heart-warming seeing the strength of the community that the Series inspires - encouraging new and shy bloggers, consoling those who had more hollows than heights, celebrating with those who have scaled new heights, and accepting the range of topics and interpretations of the theme. The Series is as much about the readers as it is about the writers. Huge Thanks to you All.

On the day when Gene Cernan, the last man to have walked on the moon back in 1972, has died (he has left a lasting impression on history, quite literally, as his footprints can still be seen), we have a post that urges us all too to make our mark and potentially to influence and change the future. 

We are closing the series on a high with a "call to arms" by Jacqueline Davies, a well known and highly respected HR Director. She cares passionately about the HR profession and the impact it can have on workers and the workplace. In June last year Jacqueline was installed as Master of the recently founded Guild of Human Resource Professionals. (She is the first openly lesbian Master of any City Guild.) Jacqueline has experienced discrimination as well as support and inclusion during her career and she has no qualms about fighting for a fairer world; she was on the Board of the NUS, a Trustee of Stonewall for nine years, and its Chair from 2012 to 2014.

Jacqueline has an impressive career - she has been a Managing Director at Barclays - where she lead the talent and resourcing agendas for the global retail Banking division. She has held significant roles, primarily within the Talent space, for most of the UK's leading retail banks, including Lloyds Banking Group, HSBC and RBS as well as a time in insurance. She is a business writer - her first book, The Truth About Talent, was published in 2010. She is active on social media - you can connect with her on Twitter, her handle is @JacquelineLD.

Most importantly she is a devoted mother and loving wife.


This is Your time

This week I have returned to work after two months sick leave. I've never had so much time off before but as the Dr also reminded me I've never really been ill before. In the scheme of things, a hospital stay with double pneumonia and then the draining, astonishing fatigue that follows is relatively modest but it's left me with a new sensitivity on things that matter. Time to take stock on a tumultuous year where the personal became political again and where our human differences were once again in the spotlight.

So as world leaders gather in Davos to focus on Inequality and as Washington prepares for the Trump Inauguration, I think in 2017 it will be important to return to the things that matter to take the inspiration from Jo Cox, that we have #moreincommon and the outgoing US First Lady Michelle Obama who said in her final speech:

“Our glorious diversity… is not a threat to who we are. It is who we are.”

Michelle Obama giving her final White House speech
Credit: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

In June 2016 I elected by my peers to lead the new Guild of HR Professionals (@GuildHRprofs).

Today's author - the current
Master of the Guild of Human Resources Professionals
Photo credit: Gerard Sharp
At my inaugural dinner I spoke about returning to and being proud of our professional essence - being specialists in humanity. And, that our companies needed our leadership to bring humanity back to work. I've had a growing sense that our profession's now routine emphasis on MI, process and service improvements has distracted us from getting to grips with how we connect people and purpose. It seems to me that all ‘highs and hollows’ in corporates and public services in ultimately pivot on this. From Hillsborough to Saville, from banking failure to vehicle emissions scandals. Every inquiry tells a story of people losing their way – no clear set of values, no incentives to drive activity for the wider or future world and no ways of responding to those with concerns or those impacted. The question I have asked myself is as HR leaders what role do we play?

Little Girl by Sarah Goodreau
We have learned that we need leaders who can learn from this and step up. I believe as a profession we have much to contribute here but we must now go beyond 'serving, advising and partnering'. We must be the standard bearers for the best of what it means to be human. To hold ourselves and others to account and to be provocative when we see integrity or conduct threatened. In this sense our role as leaders is to act in the future interest of our organisations. We need to anticipate the impact of decisions made today on tomorrow’s cultural health, workforce capability and company reputation. This means leading in a sustainable way and it requires us to tune in diligently to the social and political dramas playing out around us.

With this lens I reflect on June 2016, the historical month; when the UK elected to leave the EU, the Orlando shootings where 49 LGBT people were killed and 53 injured, and the murder of Jo Cox. In 2016 social fault-lines seemed to be everywhere cutting across countries communities and families.

How do people make decisions and respond to issues
given the information available to them?
Image via @PoliticsPunked

I wasn't prepared for the personal impact these events would have. I received calls and mail from HR professionals across the world. I heard stories of fear walking to the tube, of sisters spat at, of dreams evaporated and of others who had become unmoored from previous certainties. These stories showed that uncertainty followed 'otherness', a different colour skin, a different accent, a different gender or sexual identity and we were suddenly more aware of this. I heard senior, experienced folk from these groups express personal anxiety for the first time in years. Across wider social groups I also heard unguarded comments surface some well meant but with divisive undertones suggesting that fear and ignorance was back. It took me back.

I'm old enough to remember a time before 'Diversity & Inclusion' became a key part of our professional repertoire. When outside of work, on early Pride marches we ran down the street to hide from the bottles thrown at us, or where a trip to A&E was sadly too regularly the end of a night out for friends who ‘looked different’.

Changes in the workplace have in many ways helped drive wider social attitudes. I still remember when it was legal to discriminate on difference; when it was commonplace to be overlooked, side lined or threatened at work. I was once made redundant because I had a female partner. I know of many others bullied or sacked because they were different. Even now I have friends who are only just relaxing into being themselves despite holding C-suite positions. Typically this discrimination reached into every part of an organisation's culture or a company's way of treating its customers. Many saw the tide of change as 'political correctness', fortunately many more saw that this made sense to close a talent gap and others just knew it was the right thing to do.

Research has now shown that organisations who got a hold of this agenda first are thriving; knowing, valuing and blending differences makes for stronger teams, innovation and organisations reflecting the constituencies they serve. And yet at the turning of a new year, I am reminded of Martin Luther King's warning that for evil to succeed all it takes is for 'good people to do nothing'.

It is with this in mind that I believe our profession has a crucial role to play - it's not political or politically correct to speak truth to power. We are what we do and at our best we notice potential, we nurture wellbeing and we have powerful conversations that move people and whole organisations forward. I appreciate that we are not always at our best and, to some, I will sound naive. But at the opening of 2017, I don't believe we have much more time to lose, humanity needs us to put humanity at the heart of HR. Let's step up and lead.

You Guys - William Ayot

This is your time
For frosty mornings in towns you will never know,
For resentful receptionists and chirpy secretaries,
For flipcharts and outcomes, for plans and reports,
For too much coffee and too many words.
This is your time.

This is your time
For dressing in the dark and cars to the airport.
For planes and trains and railway stations;
For loneliness, for grief, for embracing doubt,
For keeping hard secrets in the face of love.
This is your time.

This is your time.
For being what your people need you to be,
For managing fear while showing calm,
For being their mother, for being their father,
For holding the line, or the hope, or the dream.
This is your time.

This is your time
For sudden sunlight breaking through the overcast,
For sweet green spaces in concrete canyons;
For the care of strangers, for anonymous gifts,
For learning to receive little acts of kindness.
This is your time.

This is your time.
For standing to be counted, for being yourself,
For becoming the sum and total of your life,
For finding courage, for finding your voice,
For leading, because you are needed now.
This is your time.

John Griffith-Jones Chairman of FCA making the after dinner address
& reply on behalf of Guests at the inauguration dinner for the new
Master of the Human Resources Professionals Guild (today's writer)
You can see Jacqueline sitting serenely beside him,
having just made her own speech. Photo: Kate GL

Humanity is a good thing 

Sunday, 15 January 2017

The blog that it became!

Day 47 (Monday 16th January 2017)

47% of UK children eat confectionary at least once a dayonly 1 in 10
has 5 portions of fruit and 20% have no fresh fruit or vegetables
at all on a daily basis. 
Nearly 40% of Millennials surveyed my Mintel said
 that cereal was inconvenient for breakfast, because they had to
wash up after eating it. 
Less than 60% of suppers in the UK were
cooked at home last year
, compared to 75% 30 years ago. A 2014 survey
by Braun found that 
82% of parents used to do household chores
when young, but of those parents, only 28% of them required their children to do chores

Today is my father's 86th birthday. Yesterday my sons and I went to a Burgundy and Bangers party that he hosted for 28 friends. Great fun. I'm looking forward to next year's event and hope that he has a brilliant day today.

Denise Sanderson-Estcourt, the author of today's post, is an HR, OD and Learning specialist, working at the Royal College of Physicians. Denise describes her interests as Family, Fashion, Faith and Football. She is been a fearless campaigner, raising awareness of and funds for breast cancer, and has even been a glamorous Calendar Girl for the cause. She is also a fashion stylist and image consultant with her own business, Damson Belle - advising individuals on colour, style and cut (hair and outfits) to ensure that they look and feel their best. She is a loving and proud mother of a gorgeous son. Denise is an active blogger with various sites to cover her interests - work, fashion, and health. She lives in London. 

She is active on social media, you can follow her on Twitter (her handle is @DamsonHR).


The blog that it became!

This is not the blog I'd intended to share. That one (drafted weeks ago) will for now, remain a long, disjointed reflective letter to self.

Instead this is the blog I can write right now. The one that I feel I can share, that talks about where I'm at in this moment.

Writing about the highs and the heart stuff wasn't that much of an issue.

At work, we've had a focus on celebrating success, so thinking about work highs (brand, putting OD on the map, some great training organised and training delivered that was well received) was no issue.

Thinking about life's highs was also a nice experience - the family holiday, re-learning how to ride a bike, most of the time with my son (parenting isn't always a joy!) and seeing the lantern exhibition - an unexpired pleasure, with said son,  would all be on the list. Such things also speak to the 'heart' bit - family time, downtime, fun time, bright things, learning and creativity for example.

Magic Lantern Festival at Chiswick House, West London

The writing about the "hollows" however was a different story - as a usually open person, the block felt like an odd, self-challenging situation. Somehow I just can't get the words around that theme so as to make sense from my head to the page. In truth, I'm not yet brave enough to go into the memory of the heavy hollows that I found myself in last year.

I've struggled therefore to write on all three aspects of the title (and that was feeling like a bit of a cop-out to me), and so I nearly submitted nothing at all.

But thanks to kindness and patience from Kate and a bit of a talking to (by me from me), here I am, sharing something written on a long train journey home.

The hollows piece may show up at some point, but for now I'll just share what I knew was the summary point of my previous attempts to write on the hollows part of the original blog:

  • Sometimes your heights are swiftly followed by your hollows - I think to keep you grounded.

  • Sometimes your hollows lead you to heights (of sorts!) for example how, for me, attending a funeral last year lead to reconnecting with much loved but long (emotionally) lost family.

  • Sometimes your hollows lead you to your heart's needs and dreams and other such things.

  • Sometimes your hollows lead to you seeking help and finding the heart in others.

  • But always, always the heart will get you through the hollows and to your heights, if you'll go with it.

So there you have it.

The blog that wasn't going to be is now this blog, you see!

And finally, the lesson for me in finally submitting this is...

Doing something over nothing = Feeling like a failure averted!

Saturday, 14 January 2017

The choice is yours

Day 46 - (Sunday 15th January 2017)

46% of the UK's electricity was generated by clean energy sources,
according to a report released in July 2016 - this was the first year
when power generated by low-carbon sources outstripped coal.

Richard Westney has one of my favourite job titles (although it sounds onerous - Director of Humankind (OK, perhaps the 'of' should be 'at"). Richard lives and works in New Zealand - on the North Island - in the cultural and legislative capital Wellington and the rolling vineyards of Wairarapa. Quite a contrast to where he started his HR career - in the smog and grey of London.

I have met him in person at Tweet-ups in the UK, when he has been over visiting family and I can vouch for him being a delightful companion and a very decent fellow to spend an evening with. He is an experienced HR professional and tries hard to give back to the profession (mentoring and advising others) as well as continuing to learn and grow himself. He established the Wellington HR Meetup and is involved in the Association of People Professionals. He is active on social media - you can hollow him on Twitter (his handle is @HRManNZ) and he writes an excellent blog: Up The Down Escalator


The choice is yours

The end of the year is always a time of great reflection as these series of personal posts prove.

We often get carried away looking back and thinking too much about the bad things, the learning, the regrets and the heartbreak that shaped our year and not enough about the good things. 

So as you look back, I would suggest there are three questions to ask yourself from both a personal and professional perspective. Effectively your heights, hearts and hollows.

1. What did I achieve these last 12 months? 
2. Who/what did I waste my energy on? 
3. What didn't I achieve that I should have done and why? 

Once you've answered these you can plan for the coming year.

I don't personally believe in new year's resolutions. They are just bland statements with no accountability. Think poor performer saying "yes, I'll be much better" who then goes off and does exactly the same thing. 

I am a fan of goal setting though. Not targets or numbers that can be ticked off a list, but big hairy audacious ones that can be broken down into smaller components. In order to achieve A, I need to do X,Y and Z to get there. 

  • So what is it you want to do differently or change in your work or personal life?
  • What is the BHAG you are working towards that may only be partly realised?
  • What are the knowledge or skills you are lacking to get there?
  • What obstacles could get in the way that you need to overcome? 

My advice is to think of your life as a project. It's always a work in progress (the scope constantly changes) and you need a project plan, some risk management and resilience to keep going.  But you have lots of choices in how you live your life.

You also need an element of bravery. How we treat other people says so much about us.  As I've grown older I have realised that it's not what you say to people that you end up regretting the most, it's what you don't say to people. Good and bad. For those of us who have lost close family and friends this year I am sure we will all have things we know we should have said that we never got around to saying. 

If you care about them, are proud of them or they have really pissed you off, then say so. Don't be left with that hollow feeling when suddenly they aren't there and too much was left unsaid. 

I came across a JK Rowling quote while writing this which I thought was the perfect way to finish and summed things up nicely. 

"It is our choices that show what we truly are, not our abilities."

On that note I hope you manage to have an amazing 2017 and not an average one. The choice really is yours to make.