Let’s think differently

Last year I started some musings about needing a business set of philosophies that help guide and direct behaviour in working environments. I called it Intelligent Behaviours, and my follow up post on behaving intelligently (yes, I know, not very clever post titles). I’d like to venture some further thoughts on this thinking.

In those posts I talked about what it means to think about Intelligent Behaviours, and subsequently how it relates to topics such as Diversity, and managers thinking about absence management differently. So let’s discuss what this could mean for HR. And I include all parts of HR in this.

I should highlight that the idea behind Intelligent Behaviours is to encourage and foster a future way of thinking. This is not an attack on what’s happening now, more a desire to see things done differently. That’s not restricted to HR by any means. Every business area could do well thinking about this. And I’ll get round to discussing every business area. Today, simply, I start with HR.

So, relax for a moment, this isn’t about a new competency framework, engagement strategy, or new fangled policy on performance management. This is about saying – what does thinking intelligently about the situation you are facing tell you? And then how can you behave accordingly to that? My line of thinking is this – we have company policies for pretty much everything, and in honesty, everyone knows a policy is a big pile of nonsense. It’s only purpose is to have some fallback mechanism that says “oh you can’t act in that way because the policy says so”. In other words “you and I are both so infantile, neither of us trusts the other, and here’s the piece of paper that proves it”.

How, with any reason, and with all the will in the world, can we display employee engagement, if your first port of call is to have a policy or process in place? Think about it. Before you’ve even started something exciting, you’re already creating contingencies and thinking of mitigating circumstances. And then when you’ve launched into it, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be ‘effective’ and nothing more. Forget engaging, or even better, ‘social’, it just becomes – standard/best practice.

Why have we allowed ourselves to do this? Well, aside from the fact there’s a horrid litigious culture encouraged by daft no win no fee claim companies, and aside from the fact as a nation we are more concerned with productivity than we are innovation, HR has just become a safe place to be really. Sure, there’s exciting things happening out there like talent management programmes, OD initiatives galore, high fliers programmes and the like, but they’re just the emporer’s clothes dressed up as something new. As a profession, we’ve become too transfixed with policies and process, and don’t think enough about just letting things happen.

Hold on! I’m not advocating a free for all workplace with no guidance. I’m advocating better thinking about why we’re doing the work we’re doing. And I’m certainly not talking changing the rules when it comes to complicated arrangements like Union discussions or redundancies or mergers and acquisitions. Although, I think we can use Intelligent Behaviours to moderate those in different ways too. Let’s take some examples.

Let go of the tendency to say or default to “I know the answer to this, our policy says X.” Instead, encourage discussions on “I know how to solve your problem, and it’s easy”. My take on this is people don’t care about what the policy states, they just want to know a problem can be solved. Also, reject the urge to say “let’s check the policy on that”. You’re only encouraging a culture of deference to a piece of paper. I want confidence in you, not the process or the policy.

Let go of the tendency to follow best practice, or follow the old edict of “it’s what we’ve always done”. Are you so uninspired by your daily routine that the best you can resolve to do is “right, that’s a grievance, let’s pull out the ACAS guidance and ensure we don’t fuck up the process”. Really? Is that what you care about? Or do you care about resolving the situation as amicably as you can? Or better, do you care about leading a discussion where both parties ultimately leave the discussion with better appreciation of what happened, what needs to happen next, and assurances they will carry on?

Let go of the tendency to be critical and shooting down ideas because you think you are politically sensitive to the culture. In others words, you haven’t got the gumption to champion the idea proposed to you, nor the faith in that person to deliver it, and you are just looking for a get out clause “it’s a good idea, but Bob won’t like it because of this, and Bill has had an ulterior motive of that”. Let it happen. See what the result is. Give the right coaching and advice that will produce the desired result.

You can call this common sense, you can call it blue sky thinking, you can call it bollocks thinking. Personally I think we’ve just become too focused on “the way we’ve always done things” and that does not foster intelligence in our thinking, nor in our behaviour. Hungry now, need to go get some lunch.

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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

2 thoughts on “Let’s think differently”

  1. I applaud the sentiment, as I found out in a previous role, ignore processes at your peril. Even if it’s for the right reason. In the UK courts at least, ignoring what the proper process is, what the manual says, can cost you money. Lots of money.

  2. Hi Clare, thanks for taking the time to comment. Oh, I know this is only pie in the sky thinking, it’ll be far from anything resembling reality, it’s just personal musings about how we could do so much better if we weren’t so concerned about process and the courts.

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