Have you ever been bruised?

Of course you have. Continue reading “Bruised”

Solving Unemployment 1930’s Style


I come from a family of hoarders. Well that’s what my parents always told me anyway. When we cleared my grandparents’ house in the 1980s it was a treasure trove of interesting, yet mostly useless, items. Continue reading “Solving Unemployment 1930’s Style”

The Magic Screen


I own an original 1960’s Etch a Sketch that was my mother’s as a child. There’s no particular reason I’ve kept it – you can hardly draw on it any more – other than nostalgia and sentiment. In fact I’d completely forgotten about it until last night, when my two year brought it to me and asked me to put Peppa Pig on it. I found it pretty impossible to explain such a toy in the context of our modern technology without unwittingly making it sound like an incredibly boring and pointless object. Continue reading “The Magic Screen”

Behaviour: HR’s Redemption or HR’s Ruin? #CIPD14


Well this is something I never thought I’d say, but the second day of the CIPD Annual Conference took me on an emotional roller coaster. There couldn’t be a more apt demonstration of one of the messages coming over loud and clear from the event – that our emotions affect our behaviour and we’re motivated by the way we feel.

First up, Laughology (best session title ever) provided for me the answers to the first day’s session by Nick Chater (Warwick University) on understanding behavioural science. Nick talked about the uniquely human action of following unwritten rules. Anything that’s out of the ordinary basically annoys us, hence the reason why we don’t like change. Humans like things to co-ordinate, which results in physical mirroring. While coordination and cooperation are essential to team working and culture, they can also significantly undermine innovation. Our current behaviour is built on layers and layers of past experience – we do something well and we repeat it. Over and over again. The best case scenario is proficiency. The worst is a blockage and resistance to anything new.

Stephanie Davies from Laughology taught us how to challenge those rigid ways of thinking and behaving. With simple physical exercises she demonstrated the difficulty of breaking those established patterns of behaviour that Nick talked about. It’s not that humans don’t want to try something new, it’s that they feel embarrassed to make a mistake while trying, so then revert back old behaviours. With positivity we are better equipped to deal with the problems life throws at us and, more powerfully, if we work together in the spirit of good humour, mistakes can be a source of fun, rather than fear. But if getting your CEO’s buy in to such a radical approach is an unsurmountable object, then the next session may be more up your street.

After having laughed more than I had in ages, I waited in the auditorium for the next speaker, Kevin Murray. Within minutes of his talk starting, Kevin demonstrated to us the power of storytelling. I had a lump in my throat as he explained how his daughter had nearly died in a plane crash. I was practically in tears when he told us about getting to the bottom of a problem manager who was a health and safety bully by discovering the reason for his behaviour was that he had once had to explain to a young boy’s parents why their son had been impaled on his site. Once the manager was encouraged to stop shouting and start telling his story instead, the culture was transformed.

Other #CIPD14 sessions, as well as Kevin’s’, noted how modern communication had changed the nature of leadership, meaning actions are constantly under scrutiny. One wrong move, and a company’s share price can plummet, hence why the value of intangible assets had overtaken that of the tangible. With social media, a customer can be tweeting about a problem long before the company is even aware, with possibly devastating consequences. Rita Gunther McGrath, in her keynote speech, had already highlighted the importance of getting problems on the table as soon as possible. Kevin emphasised this and demonstrated the range of communication styles that either help or hinder this approach. What it boiled down to was authenticity, courage and wanting to make a difference and fix problems.

All of Kevin’s insights are from his extensive research, undertaken to answer questions raised by his intense curiosity. He found out why his daughter’s plane nearly crashed, narrowing it down to faulty fuel parts on a production line in Japan. Then he wanted to know why, although none of the leaders he’d worked for were stupid, some failed and some succeeded. His points seemed almost obvious, but fascinated at the same time. His military stories highlighted how a lack of empowerment had led armies to their doom. Instead, a true inspirational leader has a clear vision and enables others to makes decisions within that framework. When you think about the best boss you’ve ever had, it’s never a micro manager. It’s someone who believed in you and inspired you to achieve more than you ever thought possible.

So, human behaviour has a lot to answer for. It can be our biggest downfall, but also has the potential to be our saviour. The techniques needed are actually pretty simple. We just need the courage to embrace them.

@HRpotential ‘s Top Ten Sound Bites of #CIPD14


Wow. Just wow. What an amazing and inspirational two days. Great speakers, great content and great people.

There’s so many thoughts and ideas whirring round my head, I’m going to need time to digest, to explore, and to blog!

In contrast to the heady new experience of the CIPD Annual Conference, I’m back in the “true” North (Sorry Manchester you can’t claim that one!) in my pyjamas. Thankfully my ever patient husband is here to listen, and to ground me!

So after a long discussion I’m ready to share with you my top sound bites of #CIPD14!

1. “Sometimes the most inspirational thing a leader can do is listen” Kevin Murray @kevinmurray (Good Relations Group)

Kevin Murray’s session was one of my favourites of the conference. His storytelling was very engaging and evoked real emotions from the audience. Thankfully Amanda Arrowsmith (@pontecarloblue) helped me snap up the last available copy of his book! In this sound bite he really brings home the importance of listening – really listening, and demonstrating that you are really listening – as a key leadership quality.

2. “Fundamentally the heart of HR is understanding human behaviour.” Peter Cheese @Cheese_Peter (CIPD Chief Executive)

Peter is the perfect example of the type of modern leader Kevin Murray describes. He communicates his values perfectly and is totally tech savvy. Understanding human behaviour was a key thread running throughout the conference and Peter summed it up here in his opening speech.

3. “Success is a moving goalpost so don’t pin your hopes on it” Stephanie Davies @laughology

Stephanie Davies warned us against confusing happiness with success. We think if we are successful we will be happy, but it’s an ever changing feat. We need to find happiness in other things.

4. “Everybody in the organisation needs to know and understand its intent and be empowered to make decisions within that framework” Kevin Murray @kevinmurray (Good Relations Group)

Kevin talked about leadership as enabling people to achieve more than they ever thought possible. A very powerful notion that leaders need to sit up and listen to.

5. “Some people create happiness when they walk in a room, and some when they walk out. Choose which one you want to be.” Stephanie Davies @laughology

You might have heard this one before but there’s no way I could exclude it from my top ten. I’m guessing it’s the most tweeted quote of the conference, no doubt because it’s so true! And Stephanie’s probably the most talked about speaker. Truly brilliant.

6. “It’s the quality of output, not the number of hours put in that people should be concentrating on.” Ian Cutler (Willis)

Ian’s case study on agility reminded us that we need to shift our focus and forget any preconceptions about flexible working.

7. “We no longer have a shared purpose. We distinguish between the people who matter and the people who don’t” Norman Pickavance @NPickavance (HM Revenues and Customs)

There were some great viewpoints in this session about the future challenges of the UK’s labour market. Here Nick warned about focussing on those identified as talent, at the expense of others.

8. “Think of your organisation as a magnet for talent, not a trap for talent.” Rita Gunther McGrath@rgmcgrath (Columbia Business School)

Rita’s keynote speech was a standout moment for me at the conference. Funny and engaging, she really brought home how businesses need to deal with the short-termism of today’s economy.

9. “Everybody knows who is a good person to have in your team – once you’ve worked with them.”  Nick Chater @NickJChater (Warwick Business School)

Nick Chater is a great speaker, he clearly has a knack of putting theory and scientific findings in a business (and human) context. In this sound bite he brings home the limitations of traditional recruitment processes.

10. “The new contract will be created around individual skills” Rita Gunther McGrath @rgmcgrath (Columbia Business School)

Once again Rita hits the nail on the head about how modern workforces are starting to operate. Employers are complaining they can’t fill vacancies, but is that because they’re following the wrong approach?

What were your highlights of #CIPD14 ?

Remember bloggers are only human 🙂 I couldn’t attend all sessions and I didn’t have a dictaphone…if you feel your quote is misrepresented please contact me

#CIPD14 Buzz Word: Collaboration


Having now attended three sessions at the CIPD Annual Conference, there’s already some key links emerging. Interesting really as this is inherent to the nature of the common thread I’m seeing. Links between people and links between businesses are creating a powerful concentration of skills that were traditionally disparate. It’s this power that is driving the most innovative companies today.

Traditional networking, consisting of circulating the room, churning out small talk and collecting business cards that are quickly discarded afterwards, is dead. Networks are building pyramid style from connections between individuals, to connections between departments to connections between companies. It’s competitive advantage squared.

Everyone needs to realise this. There’s still too many barriers that need to be smashed, and quickly. Unfortunately the senior leaders who are crying out for innovation are also the ones preventing it from happening. There’s too much focus on rigid structures and rigid job roles, and an associated mistrust of remote and flexible workers.

No longer can HR be the lone voice calling for agility. We need to use our networks. We need to collaborate.