When did you last do something random?

While updating his Christmas list on my phone, my son started playing around with the new iPhone feature where you can select the next word from what the phone suggests. This is what it/he wrote….

Days like this is not the same thing as a result of the year before that is not an easy to play the piano lessons and a great way to go out with my family and friends of a good idea of what is up with my life I love you so much for me I have to go out with a few years and years in a row in my room for a long way toward an amazing job and a great way to go back in time and it will take the bus driver. I just want to see the same thing over and over a month or two days after the game with a new phone is so much better than a fart to go back and the rest is the most beautiful and the first half of the year of high quality of life and the rest of the day before I get a follow back on my way home and I don’t think that I have a great way to go back and I don’t think that I have a great way to go back and I don’t. You are the only thing that would have to go back and I have a good time with the new year with the new version is the only thing that would have to be the first place in a row. I don’t think that the new year with a lot more fun if I don’t TY me to go back and I you have a good time with the same thing to say it was the best of the day before I get a follow back please I need a good time with. I don’t think that the new year and I don’t think I can see it as an excuse for the next. I don’t know how much you love someone else to say it was the best of the year. I don’t think that I can see it as an excuse for the next few weeks and months and the other hand the same as a whole new meaning of a sudden it was the first half of the day I have. I don’t think that I can get it right away with the same thing to say it is not the same……

And so it went on!

I thought this was pretty cool!

And I also thought, how often do we just do random stuff, for fun, just for the sheer hell of seeing what happens.

I don’t do enough. Do you?


I believe in people being the key to success in a business and that success is unlocked by great bosses. I’m an Executive Coach for SME leaders to help create success for you, for your team, for your business.

Get in touch for a chat if you believe in this stuff too and you want your business to be even better – helen.amery@wildfigsolutions.co.uk
or take a look at my website to find out more http://www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk


#CIPD14 – a year ago today…

….I wrote my first ever blog post after #CIPD13 and after encouragement (in Duttons Bar – a good place!) from David D’Souza to give it a go.

Now, a year on, I’m incredibly proud to have lots of amazing, forward-thinking tweeps as friends, colleagues, mentors and challengers and I was fortunate to go to CIPD14 as part of the blog squad.


So last year I came away with positive thoughts about how the profession was starting to move in the right direction but that, for a profession that’s meant to be about inclusion and diversity, the speaker sessions were pretty exclusive and corporate.

This year it was fantastic to see more variety of speakers with more small businesses and not for profits represented. There was more free, quality, fringe activity. And the social media activity outstripped 2013 so those as far away as New Zealand could still connect with what was going on.

Since the end of last Thursday, the thing I’m now pondering is this culture stuff.

I care about cultures that are inclusive, where staff and bosses talk like two adults who are equally worthy of their place on this planet, where collaboration is encouraged, where ideas are actively sought – not just welcomed if they happen to appear, where there’s a clear purpose beyond profit that gives people a reason to be there beyond their wages, where people deliver what’s needed in their job because they see the part they play in the overall success. The kind of stuff that Julie Drybrough talks about here and the sort of Giver culture that Adam Grant talked about.

I truly believe that this place is better for individuals, for bosses and for business. Not just because it sounds like a great place to be, but because it will create a business that’s more able to adapt and change for the benefit of its customers – and that will benefit the business.

Millers Oils put it beautifully by saying they created a strategy about how they wanted the place to ‘feel’ in the future – not about the growth they planned to achieve. They knew the growth would follow. And it has.

But then, amongst all that, there’s a challenge. As Gemma Reucroft wrote about how work, for so many people, is just about getting the money they need and trying to survive until the next month. It’s just about getting by in the hope that they’re treated well enough and that they don’t need to worry about the relatively low level of employment rights they have.

But there’s another world too. A world that Tim Scott and I chatted about. A world where things are just ticking over nicely thank you. There’s no burning platform of market conditions requiring a change in approach. The boss might be of the traditional, hierarchical command & control school but they might also be fair and paternalistic, with a team who know where they stand even if that place they stand in is ‘do as I say, and don’t speak unless spoken to’.

Of course I exaggerate a bit for effect but these are just 3 cultures on a continuum of the workplaces we have today.

And who’s to say which is right or wrong for a particular business, for the market they’re in at that moment in time, for their ambitions for the future? Well, ok, the breaching employment rights bit is clearly wrong!

But the other message I heard at the conference loud and clear, and which I believe to be true, is that the culture of a business comes from the top.

So, if that is true. If we can’t shift anything really, properly unless the person up top buys into it, is the role of anyone involved in making work and working lives better to just do that? Make it a bit better. No matter what starting point you have. Just start, take a bold step tomorrow, and then another, and another.

Yes – definitely talk to the people at the top about what you’re learning about the changing economic and work environments.

Yes – definitely keep that conversation going, sharing case studies and success stories.

But really it’s going to be down to them if anything is going to fundamentally change. If anything is going to shift and stick in any direction.

So your job, my job, our job is to take the culture in front of us and make it the best we possibly can – to make the working lives within there the best they can possibly be.

For a full roundup of all the #CIPD14 content take a look here. Thanks to Ian Pettigrew for that!

I believe in people being the key to success in a business and that success is unlocked by great bosses. I’m an Executive Coach for SME leaders to help create success for you, for your team, for your business.

Get in touch for a chat if you believe in this stuff too and you want your business to be even better – helen.amery@wildfigsolutions.co.uk
or take a look at my website to find out more http://www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk

#CIPD14 – Give & Take – A Revolutionary Approach to Success

The final session of CIPD14 is the keynote from Adam Grant about the world from the perspective of give and take.  He says that some people take, some match and some give without any expectation of return.  Here’s more of what he says….

Adam’s an Organisational Psychologist and is often asked to go in after members of exec have been fired.  He notices the paranoia in these places where people are convinced that someone is out to get them.

HR leaders play a critical role in fighting paranoia. If you’re already owning that, how can you spread that with others?

In the world TAKERS are great at social loafing and taking the credit for combined effort that they’ve played little part in.

GIVERS are people who enjoy helping others, often with no strings attached, they give generously of their knowledge and make introductions. We like to feel we’re making a social contribution. But we also know there are takers out there so we reserve Giving for those close to us.

Which leads to those who sit in the middle.  The MATCHERS keep the give and take in balance – accounting applies to every relationship they have in life.  Wanting social credits and debits to come to zero.

We all do all 3 of these but we will do one of them more of the time.

Narcissists are the obvious Takers but some Takers are the Matchers and Givers who’ve been burnt too many times – it’s dog eat dog and if I don’t put myself first nobody else will.  The 3rd type is the psychopath – not one that’s being discussed today.

Engineers – what happens to performance if you do more favours than you get back

Medicine – what happens to grades in medical school based on how much you want to help others

Sales – what happens to your revenue if you devote time to helping customers and colleagues

The results – Givers are the worst performers.  They’re so busy helping others they don’t have time to do their own work.  And they also don’t talk about it – they’re modest people.

HR are often Givers – making lives better for others at their own expense. Orgs depend heavily on givers – they’re good citizens – they fuel creativity and innovation – they do lots that’s not in their job descriptions.

Trouble is Givers can just be seen as do-gooders and a sign of weakness.

So, the best performers?

It’s not Takers – they will rise fast, but fall fast.  The Matchers believe in an eye for an eye.  They believe that people’s time will come.  If you’re a true Matcher you’ll want to punish Takers to bring their downfall.  A common approach is to gossip about the bad Taker to ensure they get their just deserts.

However, the other Takers also don’t like Takers.  The people who blow the whistle loudest on the Takers are Takers themselves to remove their competition from the field.

But the thing is, not only are Givers most prevalent in the bottom 25% in performance, they’re also most prevalent in the top 25%!

So how do some do well while others fail?

Example he uses is Kat Cole – being a Giver dropped her performance early on but she gained a breadth of experience which stood her in good stead for the future and enabled her to be a perfect leader for the future who understood the whole business.

Tips to create a Giver culture –

1. Selection – screen out the Takers – Matchers will follow the norm so if surrounded by Givers & Matchers, giving will spread.  So hire Disagreeable Givers – the people who will give the challenge but with the intent of helping the team and the business.

You really want to screen out the Agreeable Takers who tend to kiss up and kick down. You can spot them by the boss references being different to references from peers and subordinates. They spend a lot of time talking about ‘me’ and ‘I’, they’ll take credit for what’s gone well, and blame others for failures.

A way to spot Takers is to ask – how many people steal £10 in a given month? We ask ourselves ‘What do I do?’ and project that out onto others. So Takers will assume others steal a lot too, whereas Givers will assume nobody would ever steal.

2. Redefine Giving – don’t be Mother Theresa of Ghandi – it’s not sustainable. Do 5 minute favours. A small way of adding large value to others’ lives. E.g. tech guy in Silicone Valley focused on connecting 3 people on LinkedIn a day for the last 5 years. He enjoys doing this and, as an introvert, can do this on LinkedIn without lots of conversation. Now as an expert in this, that’s what people come to him for. So focus your giving in areas that matter to you and that you want to spend your time doing.

3. Change your Reward System – what giving behaviours are right for your org & then find a way to reward those.

4. Encourage Help-Seeking – stop people feeling worried about looking vulnerable. The successful Givers ask for help. Plus if people don’t ask for help you’ll have a lot of frustrated Givers in the org who don’t know who they can help. Role model this as a leader so others follow. A great way to do this is to bring the team together and get them to ask questions of the team and how they can use their networks to help solve the problem – a Reciprocity Ring. It also encourages innovation as different perspectives are brought into the challenge. It works because everyone asks so it’s not about being vulnerable. Plus it smokes out the Takers who become more generous. Everyone walks away realising if you act more like Givers you’ll get more help to achieve what you want.

And a final thought, successful Giving cultures have people experiencing Pro-noia instead of paranoia – where people believe others are plotting behind their back to support their success. Sounds like a pretty good place to be!

I believe in people being the key to success in a business and that success is unlocked by great bosses. I’m an Executive Coach for SME leaders to help create success for you, for your team, for your business.

Get in touch for a chat if you believe in this stuff too and you want your business to be even better – helen.amery@wildfigsolutions.co.uk
or take a look at my website to find out more http://www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk

#CIPD14 – The Launch of the CIPD’s MOOC

Massive Open Online Courses are a new way of learning, accessible to anybody, often free, and a fairly quick and easy way for people to access learning they couldn’t otherwise get to.

Among others, established institutions are creating them (although arguably just putting existing taught’ content on an online platform) – start by searching online by your learning need. Or go and see what MOOCs are available and choose which you’re interested in.

The CIPD has now taken up the MOOC mantle and created their own one about Social Media to help the HR community raise their capability and confidence in the social world.  It’s such a key part of the evolution of work – connectivity, learning, empowerment, and more….. – HR must be able to operate in the Social Media world to stay relevant and as an easy way to keep themselves up to date with the latest thinking.

Perry Timms is at #CIPD14 today talking about the creation of the CIPD Social Media MOOC, what it is and why you’d want to access it.

Created by a team across the UK and the world, working virtually on an online studio to create the MOOC – but accessing people who know SoMe and those who don’t so they brought the challenge of ‘but what does that mean’.

The MOOCs structured into 4 modules, it’s interactive and it’s about taking what the MOOC’s telling you and putting it into practice in your life / work with real Social Media tools and channels.

You might know some stuff and not others – you dip into what’s important to you, you’re an adult, you take responsibility for what you need.  If you need the whole thing, of course you can do each module in turn.  It’s up to you.

The Modules – (1) The evolution of technology in work (2) Tools of social media (3) 7 Cs – coping, curation, creation, crowdsourcing, collaboration, community, compliance (4) Putting digital to work (big data, talent metrics, the cloud, etc)

The MOOC’s open to members and non-members of the CIPD but there might be some future content that goes in for members only.


#CIPDMOOC – use this if you’re getting into Twitter to interact with others, to shout for help, to share the MOOC with others.

Get enrolling – whenever you want!

#CIPD14 – Overcoming Barriers to Effective Leadership throughout the Organisation

A topic I’m really interested in as I’m currently exploring this from the perspective of creating a coaching organisaiton as part of my Coaching PG Cert.

So this morning we have Alex Lewis from BAE Systems, Sarah James from Crime Reduction Initiatives and Jamie Ryan from Miller Oils (small business – yay!) and Ksenia Zheltoukhova chairing from the CIPD.

Ksenia starting off by talking about most organisations realising that leaders are seeing they need to make a shift towards leading through authenticity and relationships.  And yet, are the ecosystems of these organisations set up to support this style of leadership?

First Alex saying hello.  BAE have been involved with work CIPD have done with Uni of Bath around trust, and have been involved in the government’s taskforce around engagement.

Alex remembers when he did his CIPD quals a few years back there was a clear distinction between management and leadership.  Now, 20 years on, he believes we expct both from the same person.  Our expectations of our teams have changed too.  Apprentices now struggle with the fact that the manager’s in charge – why should they automatically get the role of running things.  They don’t assume the person who’s their boss has the right to be in charge of them.  They need to earn that by engaging their employees.

Some leaders gets this.  Some don’t.  So to be successful you first need to be clear about what you expect of leaders where you work.

Engage for Success talk about the 4 enablers of engagement – one of which is engaging managers – give people scope, treat them as individuals, coach and stretch them.  Don’t have a gap between what you say and what you do – even if the ‘doing’ is done by a different leader to the one who ‘said’ it in the first place.  It breaks trust.

This is a big ask and leaders need help to be competent and confident.

Trust is critical for effective change, encouraging innovation, continual improvement.

Work by the Uni of Bath with the CIPD has identified 4 drivers of trust –

1. Ability – they’re competent, 2. Benevolence – a concern for others and treats all team members as individuals, 3. Integrity – principles encompassing fairness and consistency, 4. Predictability – principles to work by to make it possible for staff to make their own decisions.

So, 1. Define what you expect of leaders, 2. Understand and address the key barriers – e.g. competence and confidence, 3. Integrate any change for leadership to bring it into a wider change that provides a context – this is where we’ve been this is where we are and this is where we’re going.

Now up is Sarah from CRI.  Their business operates with leaders who are capable to be autonomous to make decisions.  They created management competencies – assessed people in development centres (360 degree, competency interview, desk top exercise) and they then attended a development programme which is now ILM accredited.

As well as capability, capacity was a barrier to effective leadership – going from managing team to checking water supplies for legionaires disease.  Their CEO changed and the new one restructured the business into 3 sections under 3 directors, supported by areas of expertise e.g. bid writers.

Finally, Jamie from Millers Oils, they’ve been around for a long time and Mr Miller who started the business

Mr Miller had a very autocratic style – what Mr Miller said was what you did. But then the final Mr Miller died in the early 2000’s and the business decied they needed a change.

They introduced a management development programme but they discovered it wasn’t working. The barriers? No clear purpose, no clear values, no clear expectations of managers.

So they involved the wider business team in answering these areas. They asked lots of questions such as why do people come to work. For most people it wasn’t about self worth, it was just about getting money. And they just expected to do as they were told and to work hard, and they wanted to use their skills or intellect for the money they were given. It was the fair deal they’d always experienced with Mr Miller.

But now in today’s world, you can buy these commodities for a quarter of the price – you can go to Kuala Lumpar and easily find people who’ll work hard and do as they’re told, AND they’re also accessing education.

So to step ahead in the new world you need people to think for themselves. But staff were suspicious – Will they listen to me? Will my manager not just take the credit? If I just do as I’m told I won’t get into trouble.

They wanted people to think for themselves, come up with new ideas and get passionate about coming to work.

They focussed on the feel of the company, rather than the size of the company. Instead of deciding how much they wanted to grow by and in which markets, they thought about how they wanted it to feel to work there.

They looked at the physical aspects of how people worked to get them working together, and created opportunities to break down the ‘invisible’ barriers.

They’ve removed the role of Operations Manager so others could be involved in operations and come up with better ways of doing things – ops has improved significantly.

They’ve removed the Health & Safety Manager so others are part of the health & safety forum and take responsibility for safety, making it important to them – not just assuming that one person was doing it all.

They’ve helped the teams to see what success looks like and given them the tools to achieve that success well.

They did away with sales commission – hooray hooray!! Too many sales people make decisions for the good of their commission, not for the good of the business. They also did away with the Sales Manager. They’ve given them the tools to do their job now and they now have increased sales through a professional sales team.

They changed the development review – by asking the team what they wanted. They introduced a 360 degree system that the team designed and put in place and which is much more engaging.

They asked the teams what target they would set for the year. The targets the team members set were higher than the managers would have done, and when they meet challenges they come and ask for help.

Of course they’ve met barriers in this change, and they’re all learning. They’ve used CIPD research and have recognised that they’re not the only ones who are experiencing these challenges – which is helpful to know.

Some of the barriers –

  • A lack of willingness to believe in others
  • Managers not willing to let go and create an environment of coaching and empowerment to innovate – it’s a tough balance between using your expertise (which got you promoted to manager) and enabling others to participate, rather than dominating the conversation with your expertise
  • Cynicism from those used to ‘them and us’ – management will do anything to get one over on us, they don’t care about us workers
  • Some people don’t want to think for themselves – but when they start it they find they enjoy it and then want to do it more
  • Lack of patience – the early adopters of change struggle to understand why others haven’t and they can lose faith. Part of a leaders role is to coach these people to be tolerant of those who haven’t quite got it yet to keep the early adopters on board.

And so their journey continues. With the pace of change, the board at Millers recognise that they need everyone involved or else they can’t keep up. The board can’t do this on their own, and wouldn’t want to because it doesn’t get the best results.

Q – what’s the ONE thing that makes the difference with overcoming barriers – you need to give people a reason why – and ideally you create that reason why together by bringing the context everyone sees together in one place.  CRI found they already had the Why but they needed to create capacity for leaders to lead.

Q – have any gender specific interventions been put in place to support leaders? – Millers were under utilising the people available to them in the past and haven’t done anything specific to encourage women but interesting that a lot of the leaders of the future are women. CRI also haven’t done anything specific and although their exec is male, the level below that is predominantly female.

I believe in people being the key to success in a business and that success is unlocked by great bosses. I’m an Executive Coach for SME leaders to help create success for you, for your team, for your business.

Get in touch for a chat if you believe in this stuff too and you want your business to be even better – helen.amery@wildfigsolutions.co.uk
or take a look at my website to find out more http://www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk

#CIPD14 #streetwisdom

I was really gutted I missed out on the Sheffield Street Wisdom a few weeks back so I was delighted that David D’Souza was bringing it to #CIPD14.

All I knew about it was that you came with a question
You walked around
You tried to find answers.

I believe in mindfulness, I know the power of our subconscious mind and I even know the difference a good walk can make to my own creativity and problem solving.

And yet I still wasn’t convinced that Street Wisdom would really answer my question.

But it did. I slowed down, I stopped and observed, I allowed those things to show a meaning.


I’m not religious but this stuff echoes the times when people say their God has given them a sign to take a certain path.

And maybe Street Wisdom is the modern day version of connecting with others, connecting with your environment and finding your way – something which the majority of people used to do in their church/temple/mosque….

What I do know is that it makes a difference – different differences depending on your starting point, your question, your mindset – but it makes a difference.

If this stuff can help us take one step towards better workplaces, one step towards greater innovation, one step towards feeling more balanced, grounded and clear – then it’s really worth it.

Want to experience it too? Give me a shout and I can help make it happen.



I believe in people being the key to success in a business and that success is unlocked by great bosses. I’m an Executive Coach for SME leaders to help create success for you, for your team, for your business.

Get in touch for a chat if you believe in this stuff too and you want your business to be even better – helen.amery@wildfigsolutions.co.uk
or take a look at my website to find out more http://www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk

#CIPD14 – Managing Strategic Change While Developing a Passionate HR Team

Graham Salisbury from ActionAid UK talking to us about this – what went well and what was a challenge.

Context of the org in the past – 200 staff with 60% turnover(!), inadequate HR governance, poor payroll controls, scrutiny from Border Agency over work permits, lack of leadership in HR (team of 5) and no time to do anything except transactional basics. They were hidden away at the back of the office and the team didn’t welcome visits unless appointments had been made! One of their big challenges has been lack of clarity over the focus of the charity and the direction they want to take.

Not been an easy journey, lots of mistakes were made, they stumbled – but they got up and carried on anyway. It’s important to Graham that others can also learn from their learnings and to bring the reality that we’re all human, we all make mistakes and it’s better to share that than try and gloss over it. Hooray to that!!

The organisation acknowledged a need for change. Julie started by bringing in an interim change manager to create a clean sweep. This person brought in systems and processes but what Graham found was that the impact of the way this change was done meant that he had to re-build a lot of relationships within and with HR, and repair some of the damage to heal the emotional bruises.

One of the changes they made was an updated pay scaling approach – and which they tried to do quickly and simply. The change wasn’t right, employees were incredibly unhappy with it but rather than defend what they’d done, Graham and the team said sorry that they’d got it wrong and instead worked with the union and some of the wider team to create something better.

Pay and reward is now one of the best results on their staff survey!

What would stop you from involving more people from your organisation in creating your HR practices and processes where you work?

One of Graham’s first jobs was to stabilise the HR team, making some fixed term team members permanent. He also worked to share stories with managers to demonstrate the capability of the HR team. He’s keen to show that HR in third sector are passionate, engaged people who achieve great things and we should be shouting about this stuff more outside the organisation. And often we just need to look at what we have, not always going outside to find something new and shiny.

ActionAid launched an apprenticeship programme to change the dynamic from an org that was heavy with white females with MAs. They’ve now recruited 3 apprentices from the local community who are gaining great experience – the HR apprentice had the chance to meet Boris Johnson the week.

Graham’s encouraging the ActionAid team to use Ulrich’s latest book to develop their ability to be strategic, their ability to change, etc. Even if you just get 10% better than that’s great – doesn’t have to be perfect. And look to your own networks to find new ways to connect and collaborate. It’s easy to forget what’s right in front of us.

So how do you give your HR team a boost – just for them, with the rest of the org, outside where you work?

I believe in people being the key to success in a business and that success is unlocked by great bosses. I’m an Executive Coach for SME leaders to help create success for you, for your team, for your business.

Get in touch for a chat if you believe in this stuff too and you want your business to be even better – helen.amery@wildfigsolutions.co.uk
or take a look at my website to find out more http://www.wildfigsolutions.co.uk