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Month: November 2008

5 tips from the recession guru!

Self-appointed recession guru

Do I dare call myself a recession guru?  Why not?  I spent most of life working in a regional centre given to trouble and strife!  If we weren’t rapidly readjusting to major political turmoil, we were adjusting to the effects of drought on agriculture which was our primary economy.  In a good year, the economy expanded 3%.  When the rains didn’t come, we went back 3%.

  • We got very good at scenario planning and not over-reacting.  We were brought up on the phrase: anyone can make money when the markets are going up.  A business person plans for the up and the down.
  • We stopped blaming people.  If weather is the problem, then plan for it!
  • We learned about the economy.  As an HR consultant, my business wasn’t hit in the year the economy went down.  It would feel the pain 2-3 cycles later.  Simply, psychologists don’t work with farmers very  much.  We work with people who supply the farmers and people who supply the suppliers.  It takes a little time for the effects to work through the levels.
  • We learned what the numbers meant.  For the record, a downturn of 7% will have accountants hyperventilating.  Quite often their firms are technically bankrupt and they should cease trading – but if every one is in the same boat, you breath fast and trade through!  Equally I can tell you with confidence that you can survive 100% inflation quite well. At 300% expect people to get seriously ill.  Relax.  We aren’t there yet!
  • And above all we learned to focus.  We learned to sack customers who didn’t pay on time!  It is disconcerting to shrink your revenue, grow your profit and play more golf.  But that is how it works!

Time management

BNET published a good article today on time management.  The centre piece of the article is the busy, busy person who is racing around being busy being busy.

Since I have come to live in the UK, I have been stunned by poor time management.  I am amazed by someone who delegates his time management to a subordinate (usually blokes delegating to gals?).   Beyond a junior levels of management, our tasks aren’t serial, they are interrelated.

Let me give you an example:  I email you asking to discuss something.  You email back to say yes and speak to your secretary.  I write to her (usually).  She consults you (or doesn’t).  She writes back with some questions about time.  I write back.  She confirms.

7 emails to do something you had the power to do in your first reply.  When I confirmed, that would be 3 emails.

The pre-email rule is that any piece of paper should come across your desk once and once only.  You should have been sufficiently clear about your priorities to make a decision whether or not the meeting with me was important to you and how our meeting would move your major project forward.

All else is dross.

HR and the recession

As HR practitioners, we have a major role in a recession:

  • Make sure we are calm ourselves.  Get the HR team taking exercise, working reasonable hours and secure about their own prospects.
  • Back up the people like accountants who are on the front line.  Spend time with them to make sure they are taking exercise, working reasonable hours and calm about their own prospects!
  • Get the conversations about the economy and the company humming.  Make sure managers understand the economy and talk to staff (I’ve heard of Royal Bank of Scotland managers unable to discuss credit derivatives with their staff – don’t be like that please!).  Resource the conversation and support it with social media.
  • Make sure people understand what factors the business must focus on to succeed and keep them focused!

Above all of course, we should be focused.

“Know your Number 1 priority. If you achieved nothing else in the next 12 months, what single achievement would most contribute to the success of your organisation?”

Can we answer this question ourselves?  How many people in the organization could state the No 1 priority for

  • the organization
  • their unit
  • their boss
  • themselves
  • each of their colleagues
  • their subordinates

Remember, any one can do business in good times.  It is the bad times that test our credentials.

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Better CV’s please!

I’m waiting for my client to approve the first case study of Work Psychology 2008 AD and I thought I would ask this question.

Why in this fast moving world do we stress where people have come from?

Does it matter?  Isn’t it likely to be discriminatory anyway?

What I want to know is what they are going to do for me and how we will interact!

Compare our baby boomer world

Mike xxxxxx, CEO and founder of I……… Alliances, has joined ….. as category leader for Business Training. He is the most experienced LinkedIn classroom trainer in the world with over 200 deliveries resulting in over 3,000 people trained. Mike’s LinkedIn profile is in the global top 50.

Neil xxxxx is a leader in the specialist marketplace of supply chain management software. His 17-year success story includes four years as CTO of supply chain and logistics provider . . . . . as it grew from zero to $350 million in revenue.

etc. etc.

with Gen Y in UK

And it’s not for the money.  Ian Jeanes enjoyed being in recruitment despite the trials and tribulations that come with being in recruitment.

“HR HATE you, Managers despise you, receptionists would rather stick pins in their eyes than endure another ‘introductory sales call’ and Financial Controllers see us as an unnecessary cost.

CORRECT?

Well, there are always PROS and CONS in using a recruitment consultant, but what about the PROs and CONS of hiring a new person. Trawling through endless CVs from people who haven’t read the specification, or are looking to change direction and give the job a go but have done nothing to their CV to suggest this. What about those people who apply, then call, then email,, then follow up, then keep calling… and they’re not even that good? Well I CAN TELL YOU that having somebody take all that away from you is an amazing opportunity. It’s like pouring raw meat into shark infested waters and jumping in yourself…. however, this time, you’ve got recruitment consultant chainmail to protect you.

Recently for one role I scanned under 900 CVs . . .

Check out Branded Jeanes for upcoming HR talent!

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Work psychology: 2008 AD

Do you know what work psychologists do?

Thirty-one years ago, I decided to study psychology.  And for 28 years, I have practiced as a work psychologist.  Can you imagine my surprise when some readers said this blog was their first encounter with my esteemed trade?  So what do we do?

What do we do all day?

I love being a work psychologist and I think it is important for you to know I go to my ‘office’ every day with a spring in my step, looking forward to the people I will meet during the course of the day.   Most of our lives are spent ‘on the road’.  We usually work at our clients’ factories and offices, and we need strong arms to carry around briefcases laden with confidential papers.  When you see us, we are likely to be taking part in some HR exercise – recruitment, selection, or team-building, say.  When you don’t see us, we will be reconciling paperwork, doing computer work, or talking to senior managers about the direction of the company, and ways to organize, lead, up skill, confront challenges, and look after each other.

Why do clients hire us?

We deal with the pulse of the organization.  Ideally, we want everyone to enjoy their work as much as we do.  There is fascination in what we do, but little mystery.  Our understanding of how organizations work has grown in leaps and bounds over the last 100 years.  The last ten years have been particularly interesting as the limits of old ‘mechanical’ organizations have been reached and we’ve begun to embrace the fluidity and flexibility of the internet.

The psychologist’s role is to bring to the party up-to-date information about the way work practices are changing around the world, hands-on experience of changes in other companies, and deep commitment to supporting you as you think through changes in the immediate and foreseeable future.

What is special about what we do?

Just looking at us work is not sufficient to see the value we add.  You can see us talking to people – lots of people do that!  You see the briefcases – a prop?

The key to what psychologists do is deep training and ongoing exposure to work situations around the world.  When we talk with you, we are not asking whether we like you.  Nor, are we are asking about things we want.

Our interest is in accurately understanding your motivation and your circumstances, reflecting them against the changing world of business and work, and helping you work through the mix of emotions you feel as you cast your story in terms of today’s economic conditions – globalization, credit crunch, and new technologies.

This is a complicated process.  Even in the simplest business, we have on the one hand the things we want, and one the other, ‘what’s out there’.  And that gap in knowledge is not all we cope with.  When we really want something, we feel fear and trepidation.  Our job is to stay with you while you work through your anxiety and take the first step towards what will ultimately be success and very deep satisfaction.

Psychologists understand this process, see it is normal, and are there to help steer you through all three questions: you, your opportunities, your emotions.

When we work in most modern businesses, 5, 10, 15, 10 000, 100 000 of us are going through the same process.  When I decide, for example, to pursue my story in certain ways, my actions change your circumstances.   The key to good organization is that the give-and-take between us as we follow our own dreams strengthens us individuals and as a group.  Therein, the discussions we hold with senior managers.

Some case studies next?  Do let me know if I have made it any clearer what we do for a living!

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HRM: Can we meet the pace set by the Obama team?

The bar has raised

Here is how times have changed.  In the early hours of Wednesday morning (British time), Barack Obama got the ‘verbal offer’ for the job as CEO of USA plc.

Friday lunchtime, and I picked up the link to Obama’s presidential-elect website, complete with easy to understand jobs page.

The challenge

How many of us could support a CEO in this way?  Have a CEO website page up and running withing 48 hours giving the vision, the opportunties, the press links, the opportunities and the discussion page for people to reply?

How many employees would dare to reply (a sign of their confidence in us)?

Anyone want to get together to have this skillbase ready for our CEO’s?

I would like to say that by Jan 1, any company who wants a similar service

  • to articulate the vision
  • to embed it on a readwrite website
  • to be able to launch within 48 hours of an appointment
  • to manage the website
  • to be trusted by their employees who are happy to add their visions

could get it from say, three, suppliers.

Who would those suppliers be?

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

PS Update October 31 2009 (11 months later).  I’ve had no takers.  I still believe that being able to launch a website in 48 hours to show employees what they can trust is a measure of an HR department.

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“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day”

A defining moment

The early hours of this morning, Wednesday 5 November 2008, were one those times when we will ask “where were you when  . . .”.

Stomach-wrenching

The long wait for the election results during the night was stomach-wrenching.  I flipped from one service to another, trying to catch the results from whomever broke them first.  Ultimately, I plumped for BBC, who seemed to be ahead of everyone most of the time, filling with intelligent analysis, and giving us good timings.

The countdown

The countdown to the announcement of California’s results, adding 55 electoral votes for Obama, began.  9 minutes, 6 minutes, 30 seconds, and boom, it was done.

The concession

We waited a decent interval for McCain to telephone Obama, and then McCain came out to give his concession speech.  He was brilliant.  If he had spoken like that throughout the campaign, he might have had my vote.  He was sincere, he was warm, and he showed great leadership setting the stage for working constructively with the Democrats to rebuild America.  I believe his speech will be dissected by students of leadership for many years, along with the magnificant speeches made by Obama.

Winning for the young and the old

Back in Chicago, the groups at Grant Park waited for Obama.  The cameras picked up more than human moments.  Jesse Jackson stood very still, talking to none of cheering party faithful around him, tears rolling down his face.  It was perhaps this image that helped me as a foreigner, understand how this election will heal the wounds of America, that are after all, a legacy of British rule.

The American dream

And then Obama spoke, and spoke to the great American dream – the belief that the US is strong precisely because they recognise their diverse interests.  How important that is to us all!

Awe

This morning, when I awoke around 11am British time, it took me a moment to remember the events of the night, and I found myself not exhilarated but struck by awe.  I checked out the chatter on line, and on Twitter particularly, and was struck by the sense of confusion.  I was not alone.  The only people in the world who treat the results uncomplicatedly are the Kenyans. They have declared Thursday a national holiday.  What dazzling simplicity!

A quiet celebration of a new dawn

I spent a good two hours pondering the gamut of emotions we are feeling and then Twitter threw up this link to a song “Its a new dawn”.  It’s mellow.  Its soulful.

“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, its’s a new life for me, and I am feeling good.”  Thanks @sondernagel.

Today we are mellow.  Tomorrow:

“It’s a new world, it’s a bold world”

_

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Buzzing with expectation?

5 contemporary concepts for understanding why some groups buzz with expectation

Self-styled vagabond, Sam Brannon, asked a good question last weekend on Linkedin.  Are we in a state of learned helplessness?

I’m an inveterate shaper so I am always asking “is what we do important and are we doing the important things?” Because I ask these questions, it is possible I sense learned helplessness more than do others.   But, I am also much more interested in the the opposite of learned helplessness.

  • I love the crowd singing their local hero to victory.
  • I love the buzz of getting a group project done on time.
  • I love the feeling of belonging to an institution worth belonging to.

Indeed my love of that community buzz is key to my professional interest in work psychology and university teaching.  Sam’s post led me to list 5 contemporary concepts from psychology and management that, I think, are key to creating the spiral of group buzz and efficacy.

1 Collective efficacy

If we believe in each other, we add 5-10% on our effective results.  Collective efficacy is a simple yet powerful idea.  When the teachers in a school believe in each other, the school outperforms other schools who have equal resources!

Rule one:  The CEO needs to believe genuinely in his or her direct reports.  That process kicks off their belief in each other and in their direct reports, etc. etc.

P.S Faking doesn’t work.  The pre-requisite of leadership is genuine, heart-felt belief in one’s followers.

2 Solidarity

Rejection is enormously destructive.  Roy Baumeister, who blogs at Psychology Today,  has shown that being rejected by a computer (not even a person) is sufficient to stop us looking in a mirror.   Someone who feels rejected is not going to be feeling efficacious!

Rule two:  Don’t just walk around!  Walk around with a mission to create a sense of belonging.

P. S.  Be hyper-alert to the small minute and accidental ways in which we exclude people.  They are devastating to moral and self-confidence.

3 Personal Leadership

Social media (like LinkeIn) has awakened our sense of being at the centre of our own network.  Everyone is a leader.  The personal leader ‘school’ supports the development of individual leadership (see poet David Whyte).  I am also interested in organizations that recognise that everyone is a leader.

Rule three:  Tell our own ‘stories’ to show how the organization fits in to our personal destinies, and write an organizational story that depends upon our differences and uniqueness.

P.S.  A story that depends on us mimicking the boss defines us as irrelevant (a hole below the waterline for the organization!)

4 Positive psychology/positive organizational scholarship.

The work of Martin Seligman and David Cooperrider has shown the power of gratitude and appreciation.  Positive whatever-whatever sounds like touchy-feely stuff but it is pretty hard core.  Basically, it is an approach where we focus on what works and works well and we discard the rest.

There are good reasons why haven’t focused on what works well as a matter of course.  Simply, if we define leadership as one person knowing what is best, and telling the rest of us what to do, then we are always focusing on a gap – on something negative.

Rule four:  Scrap all the “gap” technology on which management and HRM was built.  Pinpoint what works and do more of it! Then keep the conversation there.

P.S.  Its scary to abandon the idea that we know best.  But when we get the hang of it,  we find out all the good stuff that is happening that we didn’t know about.

5 Globalization

Globablization has changed economics and shifted where and how we can make a profit.  We have to work harder now to create value that produces a penny of profit.  Working with this constraint produces fantastic results as we see in V.J. Prahalad’s value at the bottom of the pyramid.

The principle used by large companies to rethink their process is this: abandon the idea of trying to sell more and more at a better and better price.  Rather, ask what is needed at what price, and work backwards to what we can supply.  The ability to ask questions about the world outside the organizations is a key aspect of successful business teams.

Rule 5:  Forget about being a leader!  Ask how to develop a community who are interested in what we do.

P.S.  We do need to honour the community’s needs and trust it to honour ours (complete the circle).  When we don’t have this loyalty to each other, a buzz is not possible.  We simply don’t have the conditions for a high performing organization.  This is not the day!

[CSPPG : cheerful squirrels prepare parties toGether]

Everyday use of these concepts

I use all these ideas in running everyday projects, like university courses. I know students do better when they believe in each other.  My job, as I see it, is replacing their initial dependence on me, with, a strong belief in each other, a belief in their project of studying together in this year & in this place, and a deep pride in how they came to be here and how they will move on together.

That is the buzz of expectation that the whole world feels tonight with the US galvanized to get out and vote (or is just to get a free cup of coffee from Starbucks?).  That is the buzz we get when our favourite team makes the finals.  That is the buzz we get when you couldn’t stop us going to work even if you tried!

Have a winning week!

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5 businesses encountered this week (and it is only Tuesday)

I love being a work psychologist

I became a work psychologist because I love learning about organizations and what people do. What makes a business tick?

It’s only Monday and here are five picks of whom I have encountered this week (and it is only Tuesday!)

Geographer who locates supermarkets (location, location, location)

Valuer of cars in Russia (great when it freezes and plenty of work until the insurance market matures)

Broker of Nepalese art (deep relationships with artists = supply chain management)

Furniture retailer in Sudan (steady as she goes – continuity and cost leadership)

Retail banker in Sri Lanka (get that customer served – be reliable and dependable)

What I do (my core competence, if you like)

HR always seems so obvious to people in the business.  If it works well, it becomes part of the “taken for granted” set of value assumptions in the underwater part of the cultural iceberg.

Non-formally trained business people take for granted what they do, twice over.  What they seems natural, it also seems childish not to know.

The fun of being a work psychologist is drawing out the assumptions business people have held for so long that they haven’t mentioned them or talked about them to anyone for a long time.

What is it like to have a conversation with a work psychologist?

I am having fun. What do business people gain from talking to me?

  • My interest is a mirror where they can see how their business runs.  They enjoy the experience and are reassured and steadied as they work in other areas that may be shaky.
  • Talking aloud to an appreciative listener allows them to put into words what they have been acting on, but not thinking or saying.  Often we don’t realize what we think until we say it aloud in the presence of someone else.
  • The principles of what they are doing are now out in the open where they can inspect them, consider them, and consider how relevant they will be in the future.  The valuer in Russia, for example, has trained valuers in distant city so he can take advantage of the current boom in valuing assets.  He also knows the boom will peak in a few years.  He is perfectly aware of both facts but may allow the situation to drift if he does not say what he knows aloud in front of someone else.

Why a psychologist and not someone else?

A business person talks to many people – their banker or their associates at the pub.  Why and how are we different?

  • We draw out the assumptions about HR.
  • We are trained to challenge gently, and reveal those long taken for granted assumptions that operate like the underwater part of an iceberg – essential to the visible business but deadly if forgotten.  A friend or banker is concentrating on what they need to hear, not on what the business person needs to hear themselves say.
  • We deliberately restate assumptions clearly so they are on the table for discussion and sharing with other people – new employees, bankers, and people we are talking to during times of change.  A business person talking to a psychologist in any setting, say a conference, a training room, an interview, should come away feeling invigorated.  They should feel clearer about what is important to them and confident that the important things are being attended to.

And it is only Tuesday!  This is a great job.  People are endlessly fascinating when they are talking about a job they love and do well.

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3 conflicting views of management and the recession

RECESS RECORDS

 

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1

Hmm, my little survey of our reactions to the credit crunch show surprising optimism.  Briefly we haven’t been hit yet, we are doing little planning and we expect to use the recession to leap ahead.

2

Management gurus such as Henry Mintzberg believe that we have less of an economic crisis and a massive management crisis – our structures don’t allow good decision making.  Very much in the lap of HR?

3

And Watson Wyatt report HR responses to the crunch/recession.  Cut back on costs including training.

Is that all that is necessary, and possible?  Tidy up a little and slow the economy by spending less?

UPDATE: For an HR Managers perspective on the Recession, I have written a summary on a new post.

UPDATE:  Best to carry on living, but with verve and vigor!  Step into your dream and make it happen in spite of the recession!

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