A Twitter story

A while back I decided I was going to get involved with Twitter. It was in part because the company I was working with seemed to be obsessed by it and I wanted in on the action. It was partly because I was looking for a way to connect with other people and talk about things outside of family life and kids.

That was three years ago. In the early days Twitter was a fun distraction. A way to pass the time when time allowed. I tried to find some people I thought I could connect with. Folk in the L&D field, HR field and the likes. It took time and I eventually found some few people that I started connecting with in small ways.

From there it progressed quite rapidly. Suddenly there was a tweetup is Twitter folk who used a hashtag called #connectinghr. There was an unconference which attracted a lot of attention. There were these blogs being written about all sorts of fascinating topics and I started paying attention to them. Even my writing in those early days was mostly just rants and the odd post about something worth talking about. #hrblogs became a core source of finding some brilliant writing.

Then there was another tweetup I decided I’d try attending, and suddenly met all these people. And that’s where life started to become really interesting. These people were actively interested in supporting each other and creating a much more refined community. It was seriously attractive and very compelling. I bonded with various other Twitter users and forged friendships with some, ongoing discussions with others and the network kept growing.

Through all this time I was encouraged. I found my voice in a world I didn’t know I was going to be part of. I grew more confident in wanting to be more involved and supportive where I could.

The time came where I felt there was enough people I had connected with that I could put forth the idea of the L&D community to come together and forge their own path. #ldconnect and #ldblogs was born and we’ve started to really help move the L&D conversation in some interesting ways. Opportunities for partnering and progression have developed with industry bodies and groups.

Somewhere along the line I started to gain a following independent of the mutual I follow you, you follow me thing. It’s been nice to see how that happens. Sometimes I lose followers. Sometimes I gain them. It all works itself out and I just quietly muse about the way these things unfold.

I’ve enjoyed this unfolding of Twitter life. It’s created a sense of purpose I didn’t expect to find, and a way of being I didn’t expect to be. The people are what makes it a continuing pleasure and what motovates me to keep at it.

Tonight was a chance to meet up again with people who use Twitter, and I’ll be doing it in a different way on Monday. It is affirming to know the community still wants tolve forward, and I like being part of it.

In time life will move on and other things will take priority. Until then I enjoy connecting and talking with you all who choose to honour me with your presence and dialogue.


Dear Bureaucracy

Dear Bureaucracy,

I see that you’re aware of this thing called social media.

Apparently it scares you.

Apparently you don’t know how to deal with it.

There are those of us who are actively talking about things.

After all, we could talk about anything.

Some of us have passion.

Some of us fuel our creativity.

We may even have a rant.

Just not about you.

Or the organisation.

Some of us are talking about the important things.

We’re free.

Some of us collaborate.

Some of us act like a family.

We’re all connected.

We’re concerned about making things better.

We want you to know life is changing.

We want to take you with us.

It’s a journey, and we’ll help you to get there.

I know you’re out there. I can feel you now. I know that you’re afraid… you’re afraid of us. You’re afraid of change. I don’t know the future. I didn’t come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it’s going to begin. I’m going to hang up this phone, and then I’m going to show these people what you don’t want them to see. I’m going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.

Tomorrow’s World

Remember that programme? Always about future things that are on the horizon and how life is going to be different. I don’t remember the kind of things they actually showed, but I do remember being impressed by the technology. More so though, it was about the possibilities of what tomorrow could bring. And that, is always exciting.

Fast forward to 2012 and advancements are happening all over the world, and in some respects the corporate world has kept up. How so? Well, look at the changes in presentation formats. Standing and presenting has always been a winner. The aids to support have changed. From slide projectors, to overhead projectors, to PowerPoint, and in more recent times Prezi and pecha kucha presentations.

There have also been advancements in meeting management. The stock and trade boardroom table and meeting has moved to having open space meetings, to all hands meetings, to workshops, to facilitated meetings to appreciative inquiry methods. Those innovations in meetings and group dynamics have largely been a result of organisational development type activities as well as improvements in psychology and understanding team and people dynamics.

Then there’s the stock and trade conferences. Suppliers are asked to exhibit, speakers are asked to provide case studies and consultants are asked to be experts. It worked for a while. Until people decided they needed more and created unconference formats, also known as barcamps and open space events. I know of several fields where they use these formats to engage an audience: HR, Recruitment, Learning and Development, User Experience and Technology geeks. They’ve brought themselves together to create a learning format that creates something highly engaging and collaborative.

Last week, I was part of an unconference and a conference, and I’m left thinking why has the traditional conference not changed its approach. Why are they staying to stock and trade when the new developments create so much opportunity for increased engagement and relevance. At the CIPD HRD conference they’ve done some impressive things to try and improve their format. There’s interactive boards on the floors to help attendees see the conversation happening on Twitter. They trialled a 45 minute unconference discussion. They have tweetups. They have Swap Shops where professionals can exchange skills. And they have free short learning presentations that exhibitors can present some theory and then sell their product. And they have journalists and bloggers present to create buzz (of which I was happily part of and very glad to be too).

But here’s what was missing – learning and development. The conference format is one way with a bit of Q&A thrown in to make it feel interactive. Which isn’t really. With a potential discussion between 60-80 people attending a session, four or five get to ask questions. The only learning that happens is the inferences you make from the speaker’s presentation, and what notes they may (and often not) provide.

What needs to happen is interaction with the content. There were many conference sessions I was sitting in where I desperately wanted to discuss the content but there was just no opportunity to do so. I don’t mean I wanted to discuss with the presenter per se, but the content was certainly of enough interest that more could have been facilitated around it.

Here’s some things that could have happened. The presenters are there anyway for their allotted time. Time can be given later to hold a discussion forum with presenters where you discuss the content. The unconference format lends itself well to this kind of discussion. Attendees can engage in the content they are interested in, and equally learn about other discussions that have taken place. Don’t forget attendees have already paid to attend a session. They’re willing to invest their time for proper development of thinking, which doesn’t happen.

The presentation formats are for too rigid. Why does it have to be a formal presentation, and why does it have to be PowerPoint? I saw no-one and heard of no-one talk about other formats, which is such a shame. Imagine the buzz and engagement around the conference in hearing that Bob from Comapnies R Us delivered a Prezi presentation, or Bella from Organisation Brilliance did the best pecha kucha ever. I want to see and hear that! But instead we have to put up with slides, and videos, and graphics, and fairly boring presentations. “We did this, it amounted to this, you need to consider your organisation, good luck.” I’m being unfair to the many good presenters out there, but there’s just not enough.

There needs to be a much better way of making the content on the day available to the many people not present. Bloggers and journalists help this happen organically and there is a lot of value in that. But what about after? Who’s curating the content? Who’s tracking the conversation? Are presenters encouraged to keep up with the conversations after the event? Are presentations available online and available to be accessed by paying with a tweet for example?

And the exhibitors need some kind of briefing and training from the likes of the CIPD. They need to know what the organisers hopes, objectives, goals, vision are. They need to know what they are and not allowed to do with the attendees. Can they pre-arrange meetings? Can they stop looking bored while waiting for footfall? Can they attend sessions because of the money they’ve paid? Can they do more than plug their products? Are they allowed to collaborate with other exhibitors and do more for each other? I suggested while at HRD that Doug should help both the organisers and exhibitors understand how to stop doing dumb things to customers.

There’s a fair amount here. Some of it I reckon can be useful. Some of it is probably just my own musings. What have I missed?

When things just work – #AltruisticHR

Some time last year I started thinking about my role in the world. There’s a lot of people who are out there doing good. And they’re doing it because they have good ideas, and those ideas find merit, traction, and a way to become more than an idea, they become a reality. So I was thinking about what can I do for the world? Well, I want to do a lot, and there are several things I should be mindful of in developing an idea. So the idea of Altruistic L&D was first born. Through the #connectinghr community I’ve built a lot of good connections and friendships and threw the idea open to them.

The idea was to use the knowledge and experience we have to help primarily the third sector where organisations may not have resources or capabilities to cater for their L&D needs, do some discrete work with them to enable them to do more, and let them carry on. Commercial gain was not part of the package, and it was only about doing good work, because we can. Also, importantly doing work like this was not to take away from consultants/suppliers who can and do deliver work to some of these organisations. Just to provide something they’d like to have, but can’t make happen. The great thing about a like-minded group of people is that there’s no pressure to get things right. If it sounds like it might work, then it might work, but you won’t know until you start talking about it. We talked and helped develop some thinking about what the next steps might be.

The next #connectinghr unconference came along and we mooted the idea there, and it really gained a lot more attention which was very encouraging, so shortly after, I put a group together on the connectinghr.org site, as a place to have these discussions. As there were more than just L&Ders interested, we changed the title to Altruistic HR, with exactly the same values and ideas in mind. And then we waited.

Sarah Durbs sent out a message about some work she wanted help with for her company, Breakthrough Breast Cancer. Natasha Stallard and I threw our hats in the ring and accepted. It was a clear brief that focused on wanting to develop the facilitation skills of people from Breakthrough. From initial conversations, there was a large interest in doing this type of day’s training. Tasha and I came up with a plan of action, sorted dates with Sarah and today was the day we got to actually deliver on this piece of work.

It was a brilliant day. Natasha and I made a great team to deliver the session, and we checked against each other every step of the way. She brought a great sense of energy to the day, which I sometimes don’t allow myself to express so freely. Her notes were a godsend and made sure we both were on track and kept things to plan. The plan was key to the success of the day as we were able to revise and adapt things as appropriate. And we were open with the group about our role in the day, and how this was an abnormal piece of work by us as we both have day jobs. The group we had were a very receptive group, and this always makes the job of an L&Der that much easier as it becomes delightful to actually do the work, and it was a sheer pleasure to be part of this day. The delegates (12 of them in all), all expressed their key take home messages from the day, and they were so clear about how they could try things differently, inspired to do more, be flexible in their approach to meetings and presentations, and even created a charter for what facilitation looks like for them.

I think there were quite a few contributing factors which made for a successful day. The network and community we’ve developed through #connectinghr enables a great place to seed ideas, gain useful feedback and provide the support to make things happen. The volunteering of Tasha and I to Sarah’s request worked very well and we both made good efforts to ensure we weren’t leaving things to chance. We helped deliver a session where the skills and knowlede gained will only help conversations be better and potentially create a shift in the way the organisation thinks about what it wants to achieve throuh good facilitation. A lot of people not even part of the day were very encouraging in their tweets and even some light debate on the truism of altruism was had.

So there you have it. There are a lot of people, and companies who do this kind of thing, and this is the first time we’ve done this through Altruistic HR. It was a joy to be part of, to work with Tasha, and with Sarah, and to have been able to give something to the group from Breakthrough.

Who are you at work?

There’s been a lot of work done around persona’s we adopt when at work, how it differs to the home environment, and how it differs when we’re with friends. Some people will pretend to be someone in order to fit the environment they’re on. Some people will not know how to act in a certain environment and display behaviours which are either atypical of them, or atypical to others. Some people enjoy their environment and go on to be who they are naturally.

Last week, at the #connectinghr unconference, I was part of a discussion where the question was raised by @gmcglyne – how do you help the quiet people be heard in organisations? It was a good question, which made me think about what we’re trying to get from the question. It brought me to actually consider a different question, which in turn addresses this question. How do you be your authentic self at work?

That, for me, is a very different question with quite a few considerations to bear in mind.

In a recent exit interview, I asked the question, have their personal talents been utilised and developed? The person in question started with us as a junior, and after 3 1/2 years has decided to move on to a different company for a different role. For them, they are just starting their journey of learning to have a career, a proper job and learning about themselves, what they’re good at, and what they’re bad at. They have little awareness of what any of this means, yet. We will all know that this is an ever continuing journey, and is a constantly changing landscape.

Ask someone who has been in a job for life, like many civil servants, and the vast majority will be in roles that have served them well in order they can live a happy life of some description. Self-development may have happened along the way, and progression may have happened along the way, but by and large it’ll be keep your head down type attitude and get on and do a good job.

Consider when someone goes through a change in their personal life. This changes their outlook dramatically. They forget who they are, let alone what they’re coming to work for. People die, houses get damaged, personal items get stolen, marriages break down, it’s all a big mess. And it screws with your head something chronic. How in the world are you meant to operate normally when all this happens?

You remember when Bob got promoted above Bertina? That caused a whole host of politics at work. Unexpected stress for one collective, unexpected joy for another. Somewhere in between, friction and challenges that in some cases helped work to happen, in other cases acted as a direct barrier. Ugh.

So my initial question becomes quite difficult to answer. How do you be your authentic self at work? And what does it mean to be authentic? And who cares if you’re being authentic? And does being authentic mean you’re actually working at your best? And is being authentic actually beneficial to the company?And what responsibility does an organisation have to help you be authentic?

What responsibility does an organisation have to help you be authentic? Interesting. We (as in organisations) will try to help you have a good recruitment experience. We will try to ensure you are onboarded well (read this post by @JulesJ85 for a good account of where this goes wrong). We will try to have good performance management systems in place. We will try and think about how we reward and recognise your efforts so that you can feel motivated to do more work for us. Isn’t this enough? If we’re able, we may try and offer some learning and development so you can feel like you’re being invested in. Are we now also meant to try and help you be authentic?

What personal responsibility is there to be authentic at work? If I’m a generally positive person, and all smiles and sunshine, why is this a more acceptable set of behaviours to display? What happens when I’m down, feeling grumpy and generally angry at the world? That’s me being authentic too, so why should I have to play down the set of accompanying behaviours? And what if I don’t agree with the way projects are being managed or the way a team is doing their work, am I not meant to comment and contribute? How about when I’m actively supporting a change to happen, regardless of how it seems it will be received by others?

Now, I’m all bought in to the idea that we should be authentic at work. The problem is, very few of us understand what this means. Further, few of us will make the efforts for it to happen genuinely. Most will just carry on and do work, because that’s all they need to do. I’m mindful the self-help books will espouse that authenticity is the key to success. There are, though, a set of behaviours which enable authenticity to happen. So, my take home message? Be yourself. At your peril.

My Dad’s Gonna Beat Your Dad Up

In what I think was one of my first blog posts, I wrote about the need for L&D to be a separate entity in a business to HR, with a different reporting structure and hierarchy into the senior exec team. Oh my how times have changed. That was almost two years ago I made that assertion. I think there are some in the L&D world who would still strongly agree with this assertion too.

But this is nothing more than a measure of who provides the better perceived value. In times gone by, training was either a function of the Operations team, or provided on an ad hoc basis by experienced people in a business who knew this learning needed to be shared with others. Learning theories and development theories have been around for decades, and influenced much of how schools developed curriculums, and how we understood the types of parenting skills many of us use today. Think about simple acts such as praise and recognition of efforts in children. Although an intuitive positive act to make, there are tangible differences you can see in children who receive praise, and those who do not.

And in times gone by, what was the old personnel department, with stereotypes around being the people who listened and helped staff, this progressed to the multi-faceted discipline we see today. Long gone are the days that HR was seen as a safe, non disruptive part of the business. Now management degrees focus on the need to understand HR and its processes and how important they are in guiding the development and growth of a business.

So have I changed my thinking on this? Do I now believe that L&D should report into HR and just zip up? Well, here’s the thing. Being an L&Der means I have to know my craft. And if I’m doing a training session on Interviewing Skills, or Assessing Competence, or Understanding Diversity, as part of all that I have to know about elements of employment law, legislation on discrimination and company policies and procedures. If I’m training on leadership/management training, I have to be able to advise on techniques that are appropriate for the business and in line with our practices.

Equally, if HR needs to advise someone on development or coaching, they have to understand some skills that L&D practise regularly – coaching/feedback/mentoring. And if they are running a workshop, or presenting, they need help and development on facilitation techniques, and presentation techniques.

There are plenty of places we can look at to make a call of differences. And they will all be valid. But, for better appreciation of skills, and for a better focus on people development in all regards, there are far more opportunities than there are challenges. Which is why you should come along to the next #ConnectingHR unconference on Thursday 20 October, at the Spring in Vauxhall, London. People from the complete spectrum of HR (Hr generalists, HRDs, L&D, Coaches, Facilitators, Business leaders, and more) come along to discuss and help each other understand what needs to be better, and how we can make it happen together. If you’re on Twitter, follow the hashtag. There are daily tweets/events/blogs happening that include the hashtag and help to spread the word. If you’re interest is really peaked, check out the connectinghr.org site and sign up to be able to interact with this ever growing, ever inclusive group of people.

And about that L&D/HR divide? We’re all afraid of what we don’t know. Some of us get excited by what we don’t know. I, for one, am driven to have an ever more, ever successful collaborative approach in L&D and the business.