Monday, 1 August 2011

Farewell and Welcome!

We have moved!

If you are looking for the latest update from my blog I have migrated over to Wordpress for the foreseeable future – nothing personal against Blogger, just wanted to see how the other half live for a while.

So come check out our new home with the same same funny and relevant information for HR and L&D practitioners alike:

So it is farewell to Blogger but welcome to Wordpress. See you there soon!


Wednesday, 6 July 2011

What Steve Martin could teach us all about presenting training

Facing large audiences on your own, with no place to hide... trying to get their attention when they were wishing they were somewhere else... wondering if there is an agent in the audience who might be able to get you booked on to the Graham Norton show as the C-list act next to Tom Jones and that guy from Sherlock...

Steve MartinImage via Wikipedia
Steve stretching his act
Ok, so stand up comedy and presenting on training courses do not necessarily share all of the same traits and pitfalls – and, despite your best efforts, it is unlikely you will end up on prime time Friday TV for your groundbreaking application of Kolb’s Learning Theory you did in a seminar last week (though I would love to see you prove me wrong!).

But I was struck when reading Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up about some of the similarities between the two fields, as well as some of the things that we could apply when presenting in front of audiences. So with this in mind here are three quotes from the book that I think are food for thought for any other L and D professionals (I use the term
“professional” loosely in my case):

"Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naivete... that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do".

I think if we all knew how poorly we were to perform the first time we presented in a new setting, covered a brand new topic or subject we might become paralysed with fear. Rather than let that over take you just accept it as part of the process - you have to start somewhere so why not right here, right now?
If you are going to take on a new skill or approach you will be racked with doubts – ‘Does this make sense? Am I making progress? Will anyone actually care about the end result?’  Embrace the uncertainty as part of the learning process – after taking part in it you will be better informed about what works and what needs tinkering in future instances.

They say the best place to get run over is in the middle of the road, so don't be afraid to get out there to places where your experience makes you naive and make you have to apply what you have been learning. A litmus test of your experiences is no bad thing.  Also bear in mind that if it is the first time no one will have seen it before to draw a comparison and what are the changes of someone going on the same course twice that you will lead on? Even if they do you will be better prepared for when it occurs, so look forward to that returning client not as a critic to fear but a partner in your development process.

"(I) never let them know I was bombing... make the audience believe that I thought I was fantastic, that my confidence could not be shattered"

This, if mishandled, could come off as being really insincere if you go over the top. However, people need to buy in to you and that you are confident in what you are presenting.

At the same time this can reinforce your own confidence – as Prop Joe said in the Wire when asked why he was wearing a suit when coaching the East side during the West-East Basketball game, his reply was “Look the part, be the part” (with a couple expletives thrown in to boot).

In terms of leading courses and presenting in general remember: no one has seen the rehearsal, no one knows about the great one liner you forgot to include - so no need to draw any attention to it.

"In psychoanalysis, you try to retain a discovery; in art, once the thing is made you let it go."

This is not one of Martin’s quotes but came from a conversation in the book with, as you might have already guessed, a pschoanalysist.

I have included it here as I think it is important to remember at some point you need to let yourself go with the flow of critiques and criticism that might come your way. Keep in mind anything that does is a review about one point in time of your skills  - it is not a permanent condition, use it as a means to move forward.

It worked for Steve!
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Monday, 27 June 2011

CIPD Centre's Conference 2011: Keele's Most Thought Provoking Quotes

I came back from Keele and the CIPD's 2011 Centre's Conference at the end of last week. I had never been to a CIPD conference, or Keele for that matter, so it was something new in terms of travel and professional experiences from the off.
Staffordshire Moorlands (UK Parliament constit...Image via Wikipedia
Keele - a recent CIPD hotspot. Literally!
It also have some really interesting seminars and lectures for everyone present, a lot of it having to do with application of CIPD assessments for students and lecturers alike, with my interest being on the intermediate level information.

There was also a lot of talk about the HR Professional Map from the CIPD. And when I mean a lot of talk I mean a tsunami of feedback on it - not all positive but at least the CIPD were willing to consult and take it on board, no? (cue furrowed brows and shakes of the head from my audience)

Anyway, overall I enjoyed the sessions at the conference and there were some speakers who really got me going to scribble down what they were saying at different points. So here are my most thought provoking quotes from the sessions I attended - apologies in advance to the speakers if it is not verbatim, my mind and writing was playing catch up with all the good stuff you were saying :) :

"Getting learners to act as creators and co-creators of new sources of information is proving key... it generates artefacts which benefit their own learning, as well as being of use to their peers who follow in footsteps"
Dr Keith Smyth, Edinburgh Napier University

"How you leverage entrepreneurship in your staff and organisation and engage with it is key in the knowledge economy we live in... this spirit is a move away from the 'policy hugging' that can be seen in HR, but sometimes you need to step up, make a judgement call on an idea and see where it takes you"
Perry Timms, Big Lottery Fund

"Previously you would provide students with the information, set out the format, ask them to go away and learn it. Now we can see them coming forward much more as co-creators, having a hand in driving the process - what does this mean as our role as educators?"
Julia Fotheringham, Edinburgh Napier University

"Patrick! What are you doing here?!"
My former (and slightly surprised) CIPD lecturer from Croydon College

My lecturer's quote aside, the others came from seminars that had a social media spin to a lot of their content. I am not sure what that might say about either the conference content or my mindset in terms of what I found interesting but maybe a sign of some of the L and D avenues that are growth areas, or a flash in the pan? 

Either way hope they were as thought provoking as I suggested!
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Monday, 16 May 2011

How to make sure starting a new role is a success

How to ensure you exit an organisation well? Work hard, tie up your loose ends and, most importantly, make sure of a soft landing wherever it is you are going next

So you have worked hard in a role and exhausted the development opportunities it has provided. You have now found that next step up in what is a crazy recruitment market and are looking ahead to that next position whilst looking to clear out your in tray. Is it time to put you feet up and relax as your last day in your current role approaches, planning your leaving party in between? Not quite.

Being someone who is about to move roles, I understand the wish to take it easy after having jumping through the hoops of a recruitment process – it is a ‘buyers’ market out there, so you are certainly due credit. However, the truth is that this was most probably the easy bit and the part that needs some real graft is how you make a success of your initial introduction in to a new role.

With this in mind I have been taking advice from colleagues and peers about how to plan a start in my new role and the famed 100 day plan that people talk about so often (the mega mind theory and all that does come in handy for instances like this). Here are 3 common suggestions that came up from more than once:

1.      Culture – process or person driven?
Ah culture. Not always concrete and not necessarily having a uniform set of criteria that you can transfer from one place to the next (‘They have a vending machine here I see – but what conclusions can I draw from the fact they have Twix but no mars bars? Let me just get my employer culture scorebook out for a moment…’) but you know it exists. And you need to get a sense of what it is about, and fast, to get going when you arrive in post.

Do people get things done by following the correct process or is it about knowing who can move that task that is stuck in the mire by a couple of quick conversations with key individuals? Or maybe people look for means to get more from processes and procedures over an entrepreneurial spirit?

This is not to say that one approach is better than the over but you need to be aware of which is in place where you are going otherwise you might be swimming against the (cultural) tide.

2.      Even Superheroes have double identities
Batman does crazy stuff in his evenings but during his 9-5 Bruce Wayne was going by the title of millionaire rather than superhero. He can fill both roles but you might not realise it on first sight. Tying in with the cultural aspect above, if it is the case that you can get things done by speaking to the right person at the right time; you need to find out who is Batman on the quiet.

Ditch any pre-conceptions about hierarchy or job titles. Sure the Director might have the authority to sign off on what you need cleared but you might be way down on their list of priorities. However that Office Manager who has worked at the company for 25 years might know of a little known alternative route to get the job done.

So you have found a solution to the immediate problem as well as building bridges with a key contact. To top if off you have not had to bother the Director in the first instance – so they can get on with out having you pester them with something that can be delegated. I bet Batman wishes people did this more often, he could probably give Alfred the weekend off if it were the case.

3. 3 is the magic number

You are going to meet a bunch of people in those first couple of weeks and, aside from learning what they are about in keeping with the above, you want them to get a sense of what you are about as well.

If there were 3 things that you wanted them to know about you or your career to date? It might start to prompt some personal ice breakers with your new colleagues ('You were a stunt double for Ralph Machio in the Karate Kid? Me too!') as well as give them a sense of what your strengths are from your professional experience to date.

It also might make it easier to ask for help (which you will need in those first few weeks) if people know you are new to an aspect of your role/ the industry the employer is based in/organisational culture etc. So remember it is good to talk - not too much mind, you dont want to be labelled a chatterbox!

Not exhaustive but hopefully some useful ideas to get you going - think I have missed something glaring out? Get involved via the comments below!


And always, always, always remember...

Because if - despite everyone's best efforts - the above tips do not work and things go very Apocalypse Now down the river, you might have to get in touch with them again. Fingers crossed you do not have to but it is nice to be nice - so be grateful because that is being nice!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

If HR did dance movements…

Yes it is the carnival time once again, arribaaaa!!!!!!!!!

Excuse me but this is a carnival of HR if you don’t mind, so please calm down before we proceed. For this months theme we have been asked to think about how organisations or people are represented or influenced by different styles of dance.

('Carnival of what?!' I hear you cry - Carnival of HR. For more details check this out)

It made me think of how most dances are pretty structured in that there might be certain moves that you need to include, which seems to be especially the case in ballroom dancing (I never thought I would say it but thank you to Strictly Come Dancing for providing an education in this regard). On the other hand you have the likes of break dancing which are very abstract and much more off the cuff.

However, racking my brain for what to come up with for the carnival I felt that in the cases of the examples above they were either to restrictive or too abstract to be representative of the work HR professionals have to undertake. For example, one would not expect a dancer to win plaudits in a ballroom competition from ceasing a fox trot to start spinning on their head as it would not match up - though I am sure we would all love to see what Craig and Len made of that (US readers this is another Strictly reference - last one I promise).

Yet in HR you are expected to take on roles which create amusing contradictions and often put us in these difficult situations. We are the people employees turn to when they have a problem whilst at the same time acting as a wing of management and progressing the interests of the organisation. It is expected that we take on both a strategic and operational function.

We coach and help staff look for means of improvement and development opportunities, yet also get involved with representing/acting as an authority or adjudicator when people have not met the standards expected of them - such as instances of disciplinary and grievance, performance management cases and so on.

You might be reading this and thinking ‘What is he talking about? That is not my reality of HR!’ and you would be correct – I have no idea what your experience in the field is and how that contrasts with mine, either as a custome of HR or participant in the industry.

This, in some ways, proves my point – HR is, to go back to our carnival premise, a circus with a very big tent and one in which we all bring our own definitions and expectations of what the function should do and how its place in the organisation.

A combination of the abstract and the logical; a function that is able to provide an approachable and human element to what it does, whilst being a source of legislative, procedural and strategic information on which an organisation can depend.

How best to represent this in a dance? I think this guys version of the robot does it the most justice

Disagree that this is representative of HR? I would love to hear your thoughts – in the interim I hope you enjoy the video!
(NB – forget the two guys dancing at the beginning – it is when the orange jumper starts moving that the real fun starts)