Positive Psychology and Leadership

I’ve given a few Ignite talks, and this is the first time I’ve had it videoed and made available to me.

Have a watch, and let me know what you think.

In particular, I’m really keen to know feedback on my presentation delivery.

What Does Positive Psychology Tell Us About Leadership? | Sukhvinder Pabial | DisruptHR Talks from DisruptHR on Vimeo.

More thoughts on digital skills in L&D

Isn’t just everyone talking about digital skills these days? It’s like the topic du jour for everyone, all the time about everything.

I read a really insightful piece last week about how the Department for Work and Pensions are setting out to become digital innovators. Yeah, the DWP – notorious for finding inhuman ways to treat people who aren’t doing well in society – my words and my judgements, no one else’s. One of the most stalwart of government departments is jumping on the bandwagon of digital, and it makes a lot of sense that they do too. In an age when austerity has driven many public offices to fundamentally re-think how they work, turning to digital is a much needed progression.

And yet, there are still many L&Ders who haven’t moved in step and in line with digital progression – and I’m left wondering (forever) why?

There is no argument from anyone leading on the new world of L&D that face to face training and workshops isn’t still a highly useful form of learning delivery. In fact, it’s still what most L&D departments buy in terms of learning solutions. It can still be relevant, it can still deliver high quality content, and is still a highly engaging form of learning delivery.

What I’m more concerned about is the absolute lack of thinking on how digital technology enables us to provide much more rounded support when it comes to learning delivery, and a lot of it accessible to most L&Ders.

Our understanding of e-learning has come on leaps and bounds from the days of converting slide decks to simple click next training. And we’ve come on from just dumping every piece of knowledge and content into e-learning too. Those methods were never good enough and they still aren’t. We can now develop e-learning where the content comes direct from subject matter experts, in original documents, including video, no longer than 20 mins, and with much improved user experience.

In fact, the technology is now there to break away from e-learning as we’ve known it into what’s called ‘micro-learning’ or ‘bite-size’ learning. This is where you use a short video platform like Vine or Periscope, you capture a short video for how something is done and share it with your network.

We’re now learning that you can provide resources and content to people when it comes to programme / campaign based content and this means not every part needs to be face to face training. For example, instead of explaining models and theories in a classroom, why not provide the source content ahead of time, and use the classroom environment to have a full and proper debate about the content? Instead of running a training course on PowerPoint contstruction, why not send a YouTube video of someone explaining exactly that?

Whats also becoming more and more relevant is how people use online collaboration tools. Sites like Ning, Slack, Basecamp or Conceptboard allow people to contribute to collective information, share thoughts and insights and build and develop their content knowledge.

There’s more that can be done in this space and that I could describe – far more. What’s concerning to me is that there are too many L&Ders who have their head in the sand about digital and its capabilities that they’re just not providing the right kind of support to the people they’re trying to support. Instead they’re offering the same old kind of old solution which is stuck in an old way of thinking and doesn’t consider adult based learning principles or modern models and ways of thinking.

I’m not saying that L&Ders need to know everyone type of digital solution that’s out there, but we do have to better consider the inclusion of a range of learning options when it comes to learning solutions.

Wearable Technology and L&D

I’ve been keeping an eye on the world of wearable technology and how it’s changing consumer behaviour. The most common wearables that people seem to have are things like smartwatches or fitness trackers – Apple watch, Samsung Gear watch, Fitbit, that kind of thing. I have the Samsung Gear watch, others I know have either the above, or variants of the above. What is fascinating about this type of technology is how it gives the user information about their body in a way which is accessible and immediate like never before.

Runners enjoy them for the accuracy of the information. They link to GPS information giving you useful understanding of where you’re running, and how far. The internal mechanism tracks your speed, and, if you want, your heart rate too, as well as the distance.

The smartwatches are useful for scanning notifications and deciding how you want to respond to them. Just a nonsense email? Delete. A message from your partner? Read. A WhatsApp message? Read. An incoming phone call you don’t want to take? Dismiss. A LinkedIn invitation? Accept. All without having to touch your phone. Nice, easy and intuitive.

Of course they can offer other functionality too – telling the time(!), alarm facility, using it for sat nav while walking, controlling your music.

And along the way, there have been experiments with other types of wearable technology. The most obvious of these in recent years was the Google Glass. This year seems to have seen a real focus on VR with the likes of Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR. I’ve seen some of what is capable in VR and it really is impressive – creating 3D drawings, immersing in a hostile environment, thrill seeking. It’s pretty impressive stuff, not quite Holodeck level, but impressive all the same.

There are a good many applications for all this technology to working lives. Google Glass had the potential to support consultants in training observe operations in real time, and gain valuable insight into how they happen. I recall hearing from Donald Clark that VR is being used to provide training for care professionals and for police officers from the perspective of service users and from the public. That’s really powerful for insights, reflections and awareness raising. And it speaks to a deeper level of learning which is about lived experience as opposed to intellectualisation of topics like Diversity and Inclusion.

What I’ve been mindful in watching all this unfold is that we’re a long way off these things becoming out and out useful applications to L&D in general. Mostly that’s to do with the cost element and lack of well thought out design for L&D purposes. At present, most wearable technology is too costly to buy in bulk. The money you’d need to spend to buy the technology could be better spent in upskilling L&Ders with the knowledge and skills to design and facilitate better learning solutions.

Also, we have to be mindful that consumer behaviour is fundamentally different to employee behaviour. When I get a notification on my smartwatch, I know it’s something relevant to me and that I instigated. When I get a message or email on my phone, I know it’s likely to be from someone who is contacting me for a reason that is relevant and appropriate (of course there are also the cases of nuisance, but that’s just modern life). Those interactions, and the acceptance of them, is a fundamentally different experience to my work phone. When I receive messages on my work phone, there are a number of factors to bear in mind.

It’s a work phone, so there’s a psychological contract that if I’m being contacted on there, I have to respond. As a piece of work technology, I am also expected to use it to be able to access relevant information. However, if I were given wearable technology to help me do work better, it starts to demand different sets of behaviours from me that need to be fully explored. If it’s a smartwatch, how do I use it to contact people with ease? What permissions are set on it to contact me when I’m in a meeting or working on something important? If it’s ‘micro-learning’ that’s being pushed to me through notifications, how do you know it’s relevant to me at the right time? If it’s a prompt to nudge me to access a learning solution, how do you know you’re not intruding on something else I’m meant to be prioritising?

When your Fitbit or smartwatch gives you information about your heart-rate or your fitness level, that’s useful information that you choose to know about. If it’s provided through work, how will the same tech be used to track you as an individual? What happens to that trust element of work? Do I trust that you’re working even though your smartwatch tells me that you’ve been sitting at your desk for 3 hours? Am I concerned about your wellbeing because I can see that you haven’t been actively mobile for 3 hours? Am I concerned about your health because I can see from your wearable that your heart-rate has increased and you’re likely feeling stressed or something else concerning? Am I also concerned about your workload because I can see that you’ve not responded to anything on the smartwatch for 3 hours?

Like I said, consumer behaviour is fundamentally different to employee behaviour. The intent, basis and usage of wearable tech for personal usage is inherently different to why employees might be asked to use it/wear it.

Wearable technology will start to become available to the workforce in different forms. With each that is adopted, we need to be sure that we help people know why it’s being introduced, what the expectations are from receiving it, how they’re meant to make sense of their interactions with it, and how they choose to use it to enhance performance. I don’t think we’re there yet. There still need to be better thought out reasons as to why wearable technology should be included as part of the L&D offering, and more compelling reasoning on how it can actually enhance performance at work.

Lessons learned in recruiting on LinkedIn

Recently I embarked on some recruitment to hire an L&Der. A while ago, David D’Souza was hiring for someone in his team too, and I was super jealous of how he approached it. I told him I wanted to murderise (totally a word) his approach for myself and he was cool with it. So I wrote a post on LinkedIn looking for an awesome L&Der.

So here’s some stats about how it did:

  • 854 views to date. That’s the best numbers I’ve had on a LinkedIn post. As much as Pulse has changed the nature of what people can and do choose to write about, LinkedIn is still a recruiters platform.
  • People were reading it for all sorts of reasons – I didn’t have 854 applicants for the role.
  • 12 people actually responded directly and applied for the role.
  • 4 were still interested after they found out more about the role and 3 came for interview (the fourth was unfortunately ill)
  • I offered the role and it was accepted – the total time to recruit was 3 weeks
  • I spent no money

Why did I choose to recruit in this way?

There’s a lot written in the world of recruitment about candidate experience, so I wanted to provide the people who wanted to apply with as good a candidate experience as I could. By writing the LinkedIn post, I found that those who applied went through a fairly developed form of self-selection.

First, they liked the approach. It wasn’t a job ad on a job board, although I took elements of what people would need to know about the role and made sure they were there. Second, they saw the role was in social housing. That kept them interested and chose to keep with it. Then, they saw how I described it would be working with me. I’m a good manager and practise everything I preach and advocate about. People got that impression from the post and still maintained an interest. And last they got a sense of the culture of the company from what I wrote. You add all that together, and what you’ve got is a pretty refined process for self-selection. I didn’t have to do any shortlisting, because they got there themselves.

After I had a fair number who applied for the role, a number dropped out because the salary wasn’t high enough for them. That’s fine – I could have been more explicit about this in the post, but I didn’t want that to be a determining factor in the hiring process. I wanted people to apply because they were genuinely interested in the role.

Interestingly, I had 2 people apply from India. Now, in the spirit of inclusion and not being exclusive I asked these 2 applicants how they thought they could fulfil the role if they weren’t London based. Unfortunately neither responded so I couldn’t progress that any further. Also, 1 person applied from U.A.E. which again was fine, and their inquiry was if the role could be fulfilled remotely. Unfortunately, I couldn’t meet that request and the applicant deselected themself from the recruitment.

I spent some time talking to each candidate once I knew they were serious enough to continue with the application. I got to know them a bit and answered any initial questions they had, or discussion points they wanted to go over. I found that really helpful and useful in helping me get to know who these people were and a sense of their interest in the role and motivation for applying.

I asked each to come in and do a presentation and a facilitation exercise. I didn’t want to interview any of them about their CV – everything leading up to this point was a two-way process of them signalling they were in, and me comfortable with them being part of this recruitment. The two exercises helped me get a real life sense of their capabilities and their performance. We had good and useful discussions about the exercises, their reflections on how they performed, and insights on how and why they used approaches and techniques that they did.

After a three week period, from publishing the job ad to offering the role and it being accepted, the recruitment was complete. I think that’s a pretty good timeline and at no stage did I feel it was forced or did I think I was putting the people under any undue pressure – certainly they all seemed to enjoy the candidate experience from what they’ve fed back to me. And, as I said above, I did this all without spending a penny from recruitment budget.

There were some other reflections I had as this recruitment was ongoing.

My first was trying to determine if the blog post I wrote had any gender bias language in it which would have meant it was written more for one gender over another. I’m starting to learn about gender bias and the written form. Because the applicants were a fair representation of men and women (no transgender people applied that I’m aware of, nor any non-binary gendered people), I don’t think this was the case. If you have a perspective on this, I’d be happy to know this.

I wondered if the candidate experience was as human as I was hoping I had designed it to be. Feedback from all sorts of quarters tells me it was, and I’m mindful that there could just be an echo chamber telling me what I want to hear. I’d welcome if anyone wanted to help walk me through the ins and outs of how it all went down and if it was a human experience.

This type of recruitment is probably quite easy for this type of discreet role. It probably couldn’t be replicated (or certainly not as easily or as quickly) for a high volume role.

I did try and use Recruiter from LinkedIn to approach people directly for applying for the role. One person responded positively and became one of the 3 who came to interview, and the others either declined or just didn’t respond. There were some limitations to using it too in that you have a limited number of credits to contact people directly with. I didn’t pay enough attention to that until I ran out after contacting 7 people directly.

I’m a cisgender, binary, Indian, heterosexual male and here’s why that matters

I haven’t been writing too much about L&D and the world of work lately. In fact, the writing bug has kind of gone away from me. I’m far more concerned at the moment about how there are many people in society who are struggling in dealing with their own emotions and thoughts about people with difference.

This isn’t just restricted to the outcome from the Brexit vote. More and more I’m seeing that people with difference are being targeted and ostracised for no other factor than they are different.

What is becoming starkly aware to me is that there are privileges associated to however we identify ourselves, and often those privileges are taken for granted and we do not fully appreciate the impact of those privileges.

If you’re reading this because of the title of the blog, here’s why the title matters. I’m warning you now, this is quite likely to be uncomfortable reading – particularly if you’re a someone who has never considered they needed to think about these things in this way before.

With the exception of being Indian, I’m about as ‘normal’ as normal gets, and I’ve come to understand that there’s a lot of bias and unspoken prejudice that I have which can impact on others and I may not even realise it.

Cisgender means I identify as the gender with which my biology determines. In my case, that means I’m male because my biology is male, and I self-identify as being male.

If you’re gay or lesbian, you’re still quite possibly cisgender in that you identify as the same gender as your biology suggests – male or female.

Some people don’t identify as cisgender. That is they don’t agree that because their biology may suggest they are a gender, that they actually are. That’s what is called transgender. Also some may not identify as any gender, and that’s called genderqueer or gender fluid.

Binary in the context of sexuality means I’m either masculine or feminine. I am masculine, I am male, I am a man.

Some people don’t identify as either male or female. That’s called non-binary. That means they don’t have a need to identify as either male or female and they can have any sexual orientation. This is markedly different from being gay or bisexual. It also means they do not identify with pronouns like ‘Mr’, ‘Miss’, ‘he’ or ‘she’ they are likely to prefer ‘Mx’ or ‘they’.

I’m Indian. Although, to be exact I’m a British-born Indian. My heritage is from India. I identify with much of what it is to be Indian in terms of my culture and religion. Being British-born means I have a range of opportunities open to me that I may not normally have available to me. The education system, the healthcare system, my employment and so  much more have helped me become a fully committed citizen to Britain, our values and or way of life.

There is a population of people who do not understand how to appreciate the impact of living in a predominantly white country. I’m not talking about the racists or bigots in society. I’m talking about normalised conversations. Ethnic minority families have to have conversations at home with their families and friends about how to integrate well when they’re out and about. When they go for job interviews they have to explain how to dress like a white person, and talk in the Queen’s English, because that’s the norm. When they go to the restaurant, they have to understand how to eat in conservative ways, conforming to social etiquette, and how to be respectful to others around them. When they go to the beach, they do so in an effort to expose their children to normal experiences that white people don’t think twice about but for an ethnic minority may be incredibly uncomfortable. It means when I go to a conference or networking event, I have to be on my best English behaviour because anything out of that norm is met with confusion and misunderstanding.

I’m male. That means I already have privileges available to me, and all I’ve done is just be of one gender. I can raise my voice when with friends and be dismissed as ‘just being a guy’. I can make a sexist remark to women and be dismissed as ‘just what men do’. I can act with prejudice and stereotypes and be explained as ‘such a typical guy thing to do’. I’m probably going to be accepted for a senior job role because I’m a man. I’m probably going to receive a higher salary because I’m a man.

Why does any of this matter?

Because it’s not about treating people as equal. That conversation is now old, redundant and ineffectual. We have strived to treat people as equals, and all we’ve effectively done is teach people how not to offend others. We haven’t helped people understand how to appreciate difference, how to enquire about it genuinely and how to not just accept difference but deeply value it.

Instead we get caught up in conversations like:

” But which toilet will a transgender person use?”

“Does that mean they’re attracted to me or not?”

“But, how do I pronounce Mx?”

“Do they still have their genitalia or new bits?”

“Will we offend by either inviting that person out or not?”

We get caught up in conversations that are less about valuing the person and the difference they have and more concerned about triviality that does not help the individual feel valued.

Or the other end of that conversation tends to be “why does it matter, why can’t we all just be people?”. The sad truth is that we don’t really value each other as people as it stands, so these labels do matter.

Labels matter because people need an identity that they can claim as their own. Our identity is a fundamental part of accepting our place in life. Without that, we can’t be a fully functioning person. For people with difference to that of the society they live in, can and does cause a range of personal decisions and life choices and can and does effect physical as well as mental health.

For most people, they won’t ever worry about things like this. Labels like these will be seen as divisive, and for the racists and bigots as ways to attack those with difference.

My hope is that we can start to understand how these labels can help others find their identity and in doing so help them find ways that they can be their full selves and their best selves in society.

This blog post is to share my own thoughts on the topics I’ve raised. They will be shared by some, and others will find it too hard to discuss well. I respectfully ask that if you find the above difficult and personally challenging that you don’t resort to abuse or attack.

Grace and humanity

Last week, I gave an Ignite talk for the inaugural Disrupt HR London event organised by Katrina Collier. I like the Ignite format because it forces you to have to be clear about your message, your story has to be tight and you are forced to think about images that help move your story along.

But this isn’t about me giving an Ignite talk. It’s about grace and humanity. The day of the event, there was an horrific terrorist attack at an airport in Turkey. 37 people died. In a week of turbulence, cultural instability and economic uncertainty, this was pretty hard for me to just grit my teeth and get on.

So, before I spoke, I asked for a minute’s silence in memory of those who were killed. I didn’t do this because I’m some amazing human being who has abundant love for humans, I did it because I needed to share what I was feeling with others. A complete group of strangers, with friends in the crowd, and with myself.

There’s plenty written about being authentic. I had been thinking all day that I’d not deliver the Ignite I intended to, and instead ad lib something about social cohesion, humanity and heart for each other.

If I wanted to deliver a talk, I needed to be well, release my negative energy in a useful way, and share that power with others. Most of us would have felt sadness at the attack, but most of us would be happy to just move on from it mentally and pretend it’s not relevant because it didn’t happen in our country.

I believe that if there is a platform to talk, we should use that platform to lift people up, raise the thinking, and discuss the important things. If we can do that, we improve things for everyone. There is a grace and a humanity I don’t experience often at formal events. Some people can deliver the most heart warming of talks because they are delivered with grace and humanity. They speak to us at a personal level. 

In organisations up and down the country, we’re all going to be faced with challenging times. With one another, we need the grace to accept that people will react differently to everything that’s happening around them as well as what’s happening personally for them. Where we can we need to see the humanity in decisions we choose to make. Some of those decisions will be about sound organisational decisions, and yet they may feel harsh and cold. If that’s the case, how do we find the humanity in what needs to be done?

I can advocate for such things because I believe in them. We all have the capacity to be graceful and have humanity in what we do. We don’t need to be disassociated or removed when we go through our decision making processes. Life is already enough of a challenge without people having to be cruel and divisive with another. Let’s help each other through. Grace and humanity for the win.

I will stand for inclusion. I will stand against intolerance.

Today, I am morose. More so than the riots we had across the UK in 2011. At the time of the riots I couldn’t understand how to help those who felt actively disaffected by the changes the government was sweeping onto them.

Today, the UK has voted to leave the European Union. I’m finding it hard to process, hard to help myself work through what I’m feeling, and feeling quite sad about what this means for our future as a country. I am British born, proud to be British, and have contributed in every way possible a citizen is expected to. And I have enjoyed being part of a union where peace has been the mainstay, and that we have grown and developed our collective ability to not only be more tolerant as a society, but also more accepting of difference.

And today, I am left feeling that those things are now less important and that those with power are fundamentally challenged in the mandate they thought they had.

I am concerned about the influence of UKIP on the UK scene, and I am very glad that they have no direct political influence in the UK. UKIP have one offical MP so their political power is far less than they would have us otherwise believe. But the rhetoric they’ve been allowed to foster and cultivate has driven many in society to forget that inclusion and acceptance of difference are important.

The ridiculous levels of argument and debate have seen experts reduced to nothing more than pains in the arse because their facts don’t match those of people who have a personal position. It is ridiculous because you would not question a doctor or an accountant or a lawyer on matters of which they know more about. It is their duty to be informed and to present information to helpfully advise others. When we don’t listen to those sound opinions because of nothing more than skepticism, we reduce our ability to be healthy individuals and increase our chances of being distrustful and end up acting out of spite.

People are sharing many reasons for the vote to Leave. This will continue for many years to come. My personal opinion is that we won’t know the true impact of this decision for at least a decade. Why that long? Because regardless of protocol, changes like this take time before those in power decide on how to act next. When they do, and things start to happen, evolution of that process has to happen. There will be implications and consequences that none of us can forecast at this stage or indeed over the next few years. The best that can happen is working a few months ahead at a time. Things won’t settle for years because there won’t be any certainty of anything for years.

This is quite possibly one of the most radical events of change we’ve seen in the Western world since 9/11.

What concerns me, more than anything, is the willingness by some in society to feel they have a voice for intolerance just because they can, and have less capacity for compassion and inclusion. Farage and UKIP have stoked fears amongst the populous like never before and are responsible for the negative attitudes held by their followers. They’ve long campaigned for exiting the EU, and now it’s happened, where will their attention turn to? Their rhetoric until today has been about the immigrant problem – and that’s not going to be resolved before we leave the EU, and certainly won’t be resolved for several years to come.

Which means their attentions turn to those of us in society with difference. Ethnic minorities are now at more risk of exclusion than before because of the rhetoric that had been allowed to be cultivated. The LGBTQ community will face abuse in a way that hasn’t been prevalent for more than a decade. Women will have a harder time to have equal status for no reason other than Farage and his white trope are mysoginists.

And that’s the problem with why we’re at right there. The Leave campaign has largely been led by white middle class men. In that group, where was the representation from the other communitities? They just weren’t there. And because they weren’t there, the Leave campaign couldn’t embark on an inclusive campaign because they had no-one to advise them otherwise.

I don’t accept intolerance. It only leads to people being ostracised, marginalised and made to be the problem. As much as Farage, Katie Hopkins and the likes feed on the fears of people, I know there are many in the Leave campaign who don’t agree with them or their positions. Some are good friends of mine.

I will stand for inclusion. I will lead with inclusion in mind and engage with inclusion as my heart. This is my stand. Come what may in the years to come – I will be known for actively seeking to ensure everyone has a voice, everyone has the opportunity to participate and everyone is included. I will stand for everyone who can’t stand for themselves. I will stand for myself, my family and my friends.

I will stand for inclusion.