How many roots have you uncovered recently?

I was listening to the radio on my way home the other night and heard about a great new approach to dealing with low to mid risk domestic violence offenders.  Rather than sending these people off to prison for a few months, the social work team had devised an 18 week programme for these people to be part of.  The purpose of the programme was to change behaviour, and help people manage their anger, essentially through a coaching approach.  I struggled with some of it, e.g. “imagine what you don’t want your child to say about you when they’re 18″ – rather than focussing on the positive and pre-supposing success.  But overall it sounded like an amazing approach and seemed to be working (only 3 re-offenders out of about 70 participants so far – far less than people who get put away).

This story appealed to me because I’m a true, absolute, whole-hearted believer in dealing with root causes – not just putting a sticky plaster over something.

And so the bit that had me shouting at the radio (it’s OK, I was on my own in the car!) was the interviewer saying to an offender – “don’t you think people listening to this will be angry that you haven’t been jailed?”


I would be far happier if my taxes were going on this sort of scheme that raises self awareness and actually addresses the heart of the issue, instead of locking people up in hotels……. sorry, I mean prisons…..

But this then also got me thinking about people at work, what we do, how we do it…….

How many times have you seen a significant performance problem that hasn’t been addressed, that’s led to a breakdown in the relationship between the employee and their manager, perhaps moved into a grievance alleging their manager’s bullying them, that’s impacted the rest of the team because they’re compensating for someone else’s workload, that’s led to a lack of engagement and motivation in the team because they see that ‘somene’ apparently not being talked to about it……….where’s the root-cause solution of support and development for that line manager to lead their team to be great at their jobs, or to find a new job if this one isn’t helping them to be at their best.

How many times have you seen a flaw in a process or system that’s causing employees to do a ‘bad’ job for their internal or external customers because the problem’s been sticky-plastered for years……..where’s the root-cause solution of clearing away the blockages and barriers to get these basics right and help work to feel like one majorly better place to be.

How many times have you seen a leader fire fighting, drowning in work, frantically trying to get everything done that their boss is demanding, on a downward spiral of over-work and stress, making them less effective in everything they do, firmly stuck in operator/manager mode……..where’s the root-cause solution of leadership development to enable that person to set the vision for their team, to get the team excited so delegation isn’t a task, so that people are pulling to be part of it, to coach their team in how they’re going to get there – together!

We have a hugely important role in HR – we can influence all of this, and help release an incredible volume of untapped potential in people every day.  But only if we’re curious, inquisitive and caring enough to dig deeper than the surface problems and challenges we see, to uncover the true root of the issue.  And to then be part of the root-cause solution that fundamentally moves people to a stronger, better place where they can flourish.


My first time……..

Back in the summer this year it was my first time having a hip replacement .

I used to have a rubbish arthritic hip which was sore, inflexible and stopped me doing a lot of things with my kids that I wanted to do.  Now that I’m all better (for a good few years anyway…till I need another replacement) I can look back on that time and think it was absolutely the best thing I ever did.

But of course before the operation I was petrified!  Convinced I was going to die on the operating table and leave two children without a mum, unsure whether the replacement would be any good, unsure whether I should stick with my rubbish hip – at least I knew its limitations and it was familiar.

But I chose to have the op, to jump into the big, black unknown and trust the doctors, nurses and physios around me who would look after me and help me recover afterwards.  To trust that my mum and my husband would step in and be ‘mum’ to my kids while I got back on my feet.

So what’s the point of this?

Well, since my op I’ve discovered that a new attitude (or perhaps an attitude that had become increasingly hidden) – an attitude where I just try stuff.  I’ve always prided myself on a belief that I have a flexible approach to life, that I’m open to new things, and to change.  But I hadn’t realised how much that part of me had disappeared as my arthritis had got worse.  My immobility and pain had caused me to say no to things that I might otherwise have embraced, and to choose routes of least resistance – not just physically but psychologically too.

My new-found, pain-free mobility has released a new me – someone who’s up for giving stuff a try.  So that now, just five months after my first time having a hip op, I’ve also had my first time tweeting, hacking, blogging, conference speaking, #connectinghr -ing, volunteer coaching, and generally exploring…….embracing new opportunities.  After all, what’s the worst that could happen?  And, I have to say at this point, thank you to @PerryTimms, @HRTinker and @dds180 for encouraging me and making a lot of that stuff a reality.

I was interested to read a great post earlier today by @projectlibero ( where he talks about this year being the Chinese Year of the Snake.  One where we shed our old skin and emerge in a stronger fresh covering.  Very poignant for me.

So what about you?

What do you have in your life that’s not great, but feels safe and familiar?

What choices do you have that fill you with fear and dread because you don’t know what the outcome might be?

Who do you have around you that you trust, and who can give you support and strength when you need it most?

What could be possible in your life if you embrace your inner snake and shed that old skin?

Stop…….take a look around…….is what you’re doing crazy?

Today I looked at my sad, crumpled, paper poppy and, as I took it off my coat, I accidentally pricked myself with the pin and threw both in the bin.

What’s it all about? I love the good old paper poppy for nostalgic reasons – standing in the cold and rain in the school playground, while my friend fainted in front of me from standing too long! But really, there must be…..there are…..better poppy options!  So why do the poppy people keep making paper ones that get damaged within about 2 minutes and which are not only ‘lethal’ (possible dramatic licence there!) but are also a waste of metal – how many pins get made and thrown away every year?  Crazy!

It got me thinking about a few other things I’ve been collecting in my head recently – daft things that if we stopped and thought about them we’d think – that’s crazy!

Yellow pages for example, and the BT Phone Book for that matter. I dutifully keep mine each year when I get the new one, sending the old one to the recycling. Friends of mine I know just chuck the new one straight in the recycling and don’t even keep one in the house. Although I may be able to feel smug about my ability to tell other people a phone number if there’s an apocalypse, and no wifi or 3G, I’m not sure we need these anymore. So why is all this paper being wasted? And why are these organisations paying people to trudge the streets and deliver them by hand to people who don’t want or need them?  Crazy!

Another one I came across the other day was a trailer for the BBC show, The Call Centre.  One of the supervisors was saying that he needs to keep things fun for his team because of the drudgery and demotivating experience of being told ‘no’ or being hung up on, repeatedly, every.….single……day. I’ve not watched the show, and no doubt the TV folk chose an especially wacky call centre team to follow, and of course it creates employment for the people who work there which is great, but even so I wonder how many call centres there are around the country where it is actually just drudgery without the fun.  This scattergun approach to winning business is so out-dated – not just because of its random approach of who to call but also because when they do get to speak to a human being they’re using a ‘selling model’ more suited to the 1970′s.

As Dan Pink told us at #CIPD13, customers are more savvy now, we have more knowledge, we aren’t the polite Brits we used to be and we will just hang up on cold callers.  There’s a new way!  One where you as the seller have an intuitive human conversation with me as your customer, you listen to me and understand my needs, you consider what I’m thinking, you help me with the key information to focus on, you talk about my options, you give me the space to choose and you behave like an adult if I don’t choose to buy today – the opposite of that by the way is the childish petulant response of someone who just lost a commission payment…..don’t even get me started on that one!!

So next time you’re doing something for your customers just stop…….take a look around…….is what you’re doing crazy?

Flat as a mountain……reflection from #CIPD13 Conference

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the CIPD Annual Conference, and even to speak on the Thursday about the small part I played in the recent CIPD Hackathon.  It was an amzing event.  The CIPD turned a significant corner about this time last year, when Peter Cheese joined as Chief Exec, and things continue to improve now.  A year ago, I was on the train to Manchester feeling embarrassed that somebody might find out I was involved with the CIPD and HR – we were going nowhere.  This year I was full of pride for what we, as a collective body, are striving to achieve!

But…….despite all that great stuff – and it really is great stuff – there was one piece of feedback that’s stuck in my head and won’t go away.  After the Hackathon session, a delegate told me that the lady he was sitting next to worked in an SME and had commented that SMEs are already doing all these supposedly new Hack ideas, and was asking why these events are always about the large organisations.

Good question!

Big names like Facebook will definitely draw the crowds but, if we’re truly an inclusive bunch who value difference, and if we truly believe in breaking down heirarchicies, giving more people a genuine voice, and working together to achieve more than we could apart, then why aren’t we embracing the experiences, stories and great stuff that’s going on in smaller businesses??  They make up most of the economy and employ most people in the UK!  Imagine what could be possible!