Thursday, 22 December 2011

Un-Grump your Christmas

This puzzles me a lot. Grumpy faces of most of the people you bump into on your mission browsing shopping malls looking for this perfect present. TV will on top of that present a program about grumpy Christmas. It was actually fun to watch and I can see where the frustration comes from yet at the end I say one thing. “Get a life”

Now I am not suggesting that people with too many bad memories and/or too much pain related to this time of the year should be seen as grumpy and wrong. All I want to say is that it seems that many others who have no reason whatsoever get this anti-Christmas face as a result of what appears to be fashionable response to Christmas.
Is that You?
Another common misinterpretation of the Christmas is that people tend to focus on that one day when all family is around and presents are opened. Well wrong again, Christmas starts long time before that and it should be never forgotten. How many of us know this strange feeling on the 25th when no one seems to play their natural role.

Christmas is more than just stuffed turkey and well chosen gift. For me nothing beats the preparation time right from the moment when you start thinking about ideal gifts through the planning with your family menu for the day, having fun decorating your house, getting ginger late in the shopping mall and baking cookies together. It is indeed also about chasing your delivery services where no one seems to know where your parcel is, but all in the spirit of Christmas.

Christmas is seriously magical time when some extraordinary things happen with people. Stop for a second and look around when you are in the mall. Imagine that your attitude towards Christmas is soaked by these wonderful gifts you have bought. Now smell it. Is it nice? Think about that as your present will be unwrapped this is the odour your loved ones will get.

So, question to all of you today: 

What kind of whiff would your presents give your loved ones when they open them?

Indeed if you get it right it’s another story ;-)

PS for Ladies: It is maybe me but it seems that women do go this extra mile a lot at the Christmas and if not noted by their close ones risk of frustration taking over is high. I truly admire you all, especially mothers juggling work and all the other stuff. Your effort is not forgotten and Christmas would never be the same without you. Also please let your men play over the Christmas with their gadgets. 

PS for Gentlemen: My Zuzi knows that I appreciate all her efforts. Does yours?  Also make her a breakfast in bed this Christmas, and if she says that you didn't have to do that, smile back but don't believe that she means it for a second. It is an old trap. 

PS for Managers: Christmas party does not make you caring employer. What does we can discuss in a new year, for now I would say one thing. Go and ask your employees don't assume you know what they want and/or need.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

My Favourite Things to Do this Christmas

This post is a lot about myself and won't necessarily enhance your day or Christmas. It's about me and me alone. So if you decide to carry on reading don't complain if you get bored. I have warned you. 

My Favourite things to do this Christmas are:
1.       Being grateful
-          First of all for good health I and Zuzi enjoy.
-          For over 16 years long relationship with person I can’t imagine live without.
-          For my career taking a rollercoaster ride where my skills are being tested really thoroughly.
-          For genuine help and support from some of my colleagues at work when my day wasn’t as I have planned.
-          For my online friends who followed my tweets and my blog for a year now. They were a significant part of my personal revolution this year. (which is still on)
-          For learning so much and feeling no pressure or pain while doing it.

2.       Taking holiday for Christmas
As most of you know, this year I have started my new job. The job, which allows me to have proper Christmas. Just to give you some perspective here, I have been working in hospitality industry for over 17 years. I have spent my Christmas with my family maybe twice in that period of time. While I was very lucky on two occasions to be around the Christmas tree when the spirit was on the peak it is my first Christmas after many years when I am once again learning to enjoy every bit of it.
I am simultaneously writing post about what Christmas mean to me and will share it with you soon.
3.       Food (Cooking and Eating it)
Those of you who know me well don’t need many comments here.
My pallet is one of my favourite sources of happiness.
Not only for Christmas Eve itself. (Christmas dinner in my house is 24th following Slovakian tradition) but rather every single day of my holiday. I love Christmas for many things but creating and eating good food makes it really special. For having this opportunity to live life where I can afford most of the stuff available in the grocery shops really makes me feel blessed. 

4.       Catching up with blogs
Ever since I’ve started my new job in July this year my heart was crying for some quality time with my favourite bloggers. This Christmas I am hoping to catch up with some of them as this will really make me happy. Also my own blog needs some attention too, there is a lot to tell and I won’t have peace of mind until I share some of my stories from this year.

5.       Reading
Got a Kindle for my Birthday last week. A keyboard version is great and if you ever doubt paying extra for free 3G, you must be mad.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Look Mum...No Hands :-)

I know I have promised you a story of a job hunter and I will get it done I promise. There is a lot to tell and share with you. I am having a great time right now and trying to reflect on my past while there is so much going on in the present could end up very contra-productive. So first thing first. I will tell you about how am I doing right now while the feelings are nice and fresh, and will catch up with the past later on. 

OK By now you are probably wondering why did I choose "Look Mum ...No Hands...." as a name for this post. Those of you who follow my blog for some time, know that I've been going through some crazy years if it comes to my professional development. Those of you trying to convince me that "HRbeginner" is no longer name for me, this is not the post to prove you wrong, I will write one for you too, just another time. 

I would like to shout "look hands" but there is still too much of a wobbliness going on. One thing is for sure though. I don't remember when I have learned to ride my bicycle with no hands, but I remember that it was absolutely crucial for me to learn it as soon as possible. It was almost like riding bicycle itself was not important to me unless I could do it with style. 
Now, of course I have fallen few times and of course I was embarrassed by it. It was there and then when I've learned how important it was to assess my abilities realistically but I've also learned that the risk of riding bicycle with "no hands" was to cool not to risk the fall. (especially when girls were watching....and yes I did fall while they were watching) 

How much of a rational thinking does this include then. I knew I will most probably fall yet I did it anyway. Eventually I have learned to ride bicycle with no hands and it was pretty cool, but I could never thank for it to my rational reasoning or some freaking controlled environment. 

Hence one thing is to learn to assess your ability but another is to be able not to care too much as there might just be a higher principle. :-)

Thanks for reading / listening....

Friday, 24 June 2011

From HR Toddler to Here and Now VI

First time I've met Etienne was at "TRULondon" unconference earlier this year. First thing I remember was his genuine interest to know me and how easy it was to become a friend with Etienne within minutes. After number of random chats (some more, some less related to HR) we have both connected via Twitter and I've been following him and his blog ever since. I am happy to say that his energy and genuine interest in people became on number of occasions for me very inspirational and for that I have included him in my HR Angels list. Etienne calls himself @happyemployee and for me, he is more than that. Any time I come across Etienne, I feel refreshed, and I really do mean it. Following Etienne on twitter you will always find something interesting to talk about and reading his blog will keep you thinking about some great HR trends which he presents in his “happy way”. 
Anyway find out yourself about Etienne and his beginnings. 

While studying psychology and being quite unhappy about it, I got a letter from a colleague. This was back in 1998 when email wasn’t yet what it is today... The letter said something like this:

„I just joined a start-up and we’re recruiting like crazy. We’re a team of part-timers and we need help. Do you want to be the third member of the team?“ So we set a date for an interview, or so I thought. When I arrived, I was introduced to the HR team and shown my desk. Although my job wasn’t very glamorous, it took me less than three weeks to realize that HR was where I wanted to work. And I’m still not likely to change my mind anytime soon.

Learning How To Recruit
My first HR task was to open envelopes, extract the CV and cover letter and add the candidate’s contact information to an Excel file. Soon I was able to do additional things like screening CVs, calling candidates using a checklist, organizing interviews, taking references and writing job ads. And finally, I also got the chance to do job interviews. I must say, this was pretty awesome. And since our team hired up to 30 call center reps per month, I got a lot of practice.

Physics And The King Of The World
One thing I like to remember is how we tested for language skills. The interviews were held in Swiss-German and we tested English and French. To make it easier, I often asked about the last movie the candidate had seen. Back then the majority said: Titanic. Why they liked the movie? Because it’s so sad, and he dies in the end, and it’s so beautiful, and so sad. Boo hoo.There was one exception though. An engineering student was really impressed because he thought they got the physics right when the ship sank. Although I resisted for a very long time, I finally watched Titanic a couple of years later and was reminded of my candidate while the ship disappeared into the icy waters.

There were lots of highlights, like co-leading the recruitment of Internet Supporters (these geeks were the best!), being in charge of recruiting call center reps in the french part of Switzerland and having my aunt call my mother because she saw my name in the newspaper (that’s how we published job ads back then...). But here’s my absolute best memory: One of the disadvantages of a purely recruitment job is that once you get to know the people a little bit and they accept the job offer, you have to hand them over to somebody else. But one day somebody came to me in the break room and said: “You’re the guy who hired me a couple of months ago. I love it here. Thank you.”

So What Did I Learn?
In the end I didn’t graduate, which is of course something I wouldn’t recommend (“do as I say” and all that stuff). On the other hand I got the chance to do a lot of basic and boring stuff allowing me to acquire very strong HR skills. I mean, lets not fool ourselves. If you want to work in HR, you will always have to deal with a lot of paperwork and other administrative things. It might become less the fancier your job title gets, but it will never disappear. And while recruiting, I also learnt a lot about processes, labor law, social security, data management and reporting.

Love Of HR vs The Dark Side
So in the end, why do I love HR so much? The main reason is because it’s the place within a company where the human element meets the business side. On the one hand you interview candidates or help sort out difficulties between managers and employees, on the other hand there’s a lot of facts and figures. I’m aware that there’s also a dark side to Human Resources. Of course, we’re the ones who make calculations that help the management decide how many people will get fired. And when it comes to this, we’re often seen as the ghouls responsible. And yes, first of all we’re paid to help make the business (financially) successful, not to be nice to people. But I also strongly believe that we’re in a unique position to help our co-workers as long as our hearts are in the right place and we truly want to make a difference.

So as long as I can do interesting stuff and look at myself in the mirror, I’ll definitely stay in HR!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

After The Job Hunt Wave...

What a timing it was..... ONE DAY before my holiday I got a phone call confirming a job offer. Those of you following my tweets gathered the news via my #PetersCountdown where I have released 7 tweets slowly revealing this great news. 

8 months (give or take) is a time I have been hunting my new HR job down. Long,......I know, but let’s just say that there was no family waiting for the piece of meat to be dragged home (as I had a job to pay the bills), and that my time spent hunting was one of the greatest lessons I have learned in my recent life. Anyway, there is much more to come from me on this one but for now, let me tell you this:

Job Hunt is Easy - if you do all the right things!
Doing all the right things - is Hard! (now read Bold only)

While I have great need to talk about my 8 months long job hunt journey, today I want to say something else. It is about coming home from long hunting trip. All gear have been hidden, and while plan for a new, different kind of journey slowly gets its shape, now is the time I am treating myself with some quality time with friends and family. It is about new beginning as well as about reflection where no conclusions are made in rushed manner. It is time I am letting once again my family taking care of me. Time I get fed with food and do things which relate to the period in my life when I was safe from many beasts of modern society. Time when everything was fun as there was no need for complicated agenda full of different categories, and the only higher principle was “Carpe Diem”. It is seriously mind blowing how much I’ve changed (as we all do) over the years and while I am intrigued by why and how this transition happened, I am secretly drafting a plan how to bring some of the "old Peter" back from the past. 

Ok, now, before I go and start getting ready for my BBQ for group of friends, here is what you can expect from me next: 

In my new series “Memoirs of the Job Hunter” I will share every important aspect of this experience. I will talk about my ups and downs, my naiveté and the moments when I have won the respect of other HR professionals. I will tell you what I think about different approaches to job hunting and why in my opinion took it so long.

I will talk about the time I had to fight hungry bear and time when I couldn’t resist the view of the lake in beautiful mountains and spent days enjoying myself rather than pursuing one and only reason I was out there: “hunting for the job”. I will tell you about my meeting with a wizard, who turned out to be a fake, but also about some hidden places where you can find friends who will give you all important stimuli for your important journey.

I will tell you about times I knew I can rely on what other people said and times when no one but me and my guts feelings were put in test while deciding which path to take. I will also tell you what everything I had to leave behind, once I have decided to go for the job hunt mission.

And as I am back blogging I have also new guest post ready for you, featuring Etienne Besson who will tell us in the series “From HR Toddler to Here and Now” about his beginnings. 

See Ya...;-)

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

ConnectingHR Unconference and Me (2 of 2)

Last week I have attended ConnectingHR unconference and while my previous post tried to disclose some practical view of that event, here I am about to share few ideas which have been resonating with me and all the others ever since we came back home. See Martin Couzins list of posts dedicated to chru and read other's reflections on this day full of fun and joy. 

Best of Both #Connecting & #HR

ConnectingHR community is about both connecting and HR. Yes indeed it is a passion for HR which brought us all together at the first place, but reason for maintaining this connection is way beyond HR agenda.
I know a great place where you could feel it more than anywhere else...

“Believe it or not it’s chru.” 

Snapshot of wonderful drawings produced on the day. 

Questioning point of twitter, my friends and colleagues are asking me:
“… what is the point of talking so much non HR related staff with people you haven't even met yet?”
Well, I could say that it is part of the networking strategy where showing interest in common things such as football, cooking, movies or books, can help you to establish strong relationship with someone who could eventually become your HR buddy helping with all sorts of HR issues. I am sure I am not wrong, nevertheless this is not the primary reason why I connect with #connectingHR folks.

First of all we are not HR full-stop. We are PEOPLE who work in HR and/or love anything related to HR. We still have lives outside of work. Both our professional and private lives are complementing each other all the times.

…..leadership, mentoring, supporting, training, counselling, maintaining good relations, critical thinking and so on....., the ability to do it all can be easily spotted in tweets or blog posts where various people talk about anything they like or dislike, what makes them sad and what makes them giggle. 

Why would anyone go through the stress of not telling it how it feels, and rather choose some carefully selected words ensuring strict relevance and professional jargon?

I feel sorry for anyone who has more than one “mode” switching between office and home. I understand that the professional and home environment can be very different, but I also believe that any organisation should try and copy the family model as much as they can in order to make most of their people by providing them with environment and atmosphere similar to one where they can be themselves.

Now here I’ll need your help, as it does feel as the ability to be able to switch between two modes has loads to do with our success, or shall I call it survival? It seems that the very same reasons behind our ability to survive are the reasons which destroy our identity.

Authenticity is blessing of any professional, and if there is something connectingHR believes in than it is this. We have never enough of it. Once we start to live our lives in harmony with our profession, we are more likely to support our workforce to achieve the same across the organisation.

This brings me to the WLB case...

Work Life Balance is totally underrated and misunderstood by both employers and employees alike, all because we only see it as a set of friendly policies and flexible working practices.

“I believe in WLB as a set of mind which every worker brings to their workplace. It is about how much of themselves they have to leave at home when they go to work.”

Going back to connectingHR unconference, it is this feeling of authenticity with no organisational hierarchy and power exercising interactions and no hidden agendas and nasty politics so often present at our offices, which made my day. No fear to say how you see it, with great anticipation for others to do the same enhancing your learning experience beyond unknown.

When I am connecting it is because I am looking for people to share my feelings with.
Our role of HR is linked to our persona and it is what things we like and how we feel about our contribution to the role, not the procedures and policies what makes us PEOPLE MANAGERS. As One of my HRangels Katherine Connolly wrote in HR Giving Back series 
“Take things personally”

As we all connect talking about anything, there is an enormous sense of belonging created by our very own “who we are and what we believe in”.
The power of community has a lot to do with our deepest desire to belong to people where values, beliefs or even professional roles can be shared. It is our desire to be connected with others. We are social animals after all. What do you think?

Monday, 9 May 2011

ConnectingHR Unconference and Me (1 of 2)

After writing my reflection on CHRU, I have realised that there is more than one message within the text, hence I’ve decided to split it in half. Today I am offering you rather pragmatic post about what I consider no.1 HR event in my Diary. In my 2nd part going online day or two later, I will share some random and key thoughts inspired by connectingHR community and its mission.

What a great place with plenty of day light. 
ConnectingHR Unconference taking place in London last week was the second attempt of fast growing connectingHR community to meet, and scrap all established rules of networking while offering an amazing opportunity to learn and having loads of fun. Venue was like no other place you have ever attended for the purpose of learning and networking. Instead of neatly organised space of hotel conference centre, all happened in what appeared to be a gym where walls and roof had no other meaning than walls and roof do. The space has literally invited imagination of us all to focus on bringing little bit of ourselves in the room to feel the gaps. This natural need for making sense of the place left us to do the job and rather than being influenced by what existed already, this time we have all reached inside and using creative thinking came with some stunning ideas but mainly great atmosphere. As the day progressed, the gym got used to our mission of the day, and we all have participated in redecorating walls with our thoughts and paintings of artists who closely observed the "aura" of the room. 
As far as unconference format goes, I have attended TruLondon this year organised by Bill Borman and can honestly say that the intensity of learning and sharing has been truly revolutionised.

My reasons why you will never miss the TruLondon

Everybody who knows something about learning methods knows that bringing fun into your learning experience is great way not to only enjoying your learning time but also have profound effect on how much more you are going to remember. Rather than bringing PowerPoint slides and using endless amount of flip-chart papers, track leaders (anybody could be one) blended in with rest of the attendees playing role of a topic guard. Starting up with few facts and feelings about some current issues was good enough for everybody else to start bringing their insights on the topic. Throughout the whole event we were all connected with simple but extremely durable string of passion for HR.
Why me?
Simple version: “Because it makes sense”
Peter likes to elaborate:
"Hmm.....where to start....Naaaah only kidding. Seriously there are many reasons why I want to be part of connectingHR community, But number one must be that it keeps me busy growing as HR professional as well as a person."
ConnectingHR is not another attempt to get people networking for purpose of helping to close new deals. ConnectingHR is an idea planted by few which became a phenomenon for many. ConnectingHR puts social case in perspective with business case and it is up to all of us to make sure that it stays that way.

Why You? ...will be there next time?
1. Inspired by Karen Wise: Because you are already jealous that you’ve missed it.
2. You love connecting
3. You love HR (you can see where it is going ;-)
4. You have heard of it so often lately that you feel like you are missing new HR trend called #connectingHR (there it is....I said it again)
5. You want to meet more people who are more interested in “Who you are” rather than “What do you do”

Some of the keywords for this great day out on which I will pick up in 2nd part of my reflection: Authenticity, Organic, Breathing HR, but also Work Life Balance....

Update: Since I have wrote this post, its 2nd chapter has been published and you can read it here: ConnectingHR Unconference and Me (2 of 2)

Thursday, 7 April 2011

From HR Toddler to Here and Now V

Our series continues. This time I am very pleased to introduce you to Alison Chisnell, an HR Director with an exceptional skill juggling her career in HR, being a Mum of twins and sharing it all via her blog "The HR Juggler". Alison’s blog became an exceptional source of inspiration for many professionals and you are more than welcome to find out more about secrets of juggling by clicking here. Alison is also an active member of connectingHR community and contributes to the HR sphere via twitter. You can follow Alison here.

Let’s enjoy HR beginnings of Alison Chisnell.

I never really knew what I wanted to do when I was growing up: careers advice at school tended to point me towards professions that used languages, because that was my most obvious academic strength; but I never fancied being a translator or interpreter. My parents were a teacher and police officer respectively and whilst I knew that I did not want to be either of those, I had little concept of the range of different types of roles and options that were available.
So, I remained open-minded, slightly concerned that I might be too academic for a “proper” job and went to university to study German and Theology, because I thought it would be interesting…which it was! And somewhere along the line of doing a few summer jobs, having a much more career focussed boyfriend who got me thinking about life after Uni and a knowledge that I liked and was good with people, I decided to give HR a go. Fortunately for me, I am the youngest of three children and was able to persuade my elder brother to facilitate a summer placement in HR at his company in my final year at University, which in turn led to a graduate job…phew!

I consider myself to be a lucky person, in my choice of career as in many other things.  Looking back at my younger self now, I can also recognise that doing things that I am interested in intellectually and remaining open-minded about where things are leading are key elements of what have always motivated me, just as much then as now.  I have never had a five year plan and when I sat down with my very senior, first ever boss, before starting my first HR job, I was mightily relieved when she said that she had never had one either and didn’t consider it a pre-requisite for working in HR.

There are two things that really strike me when I think back to the very early days of starting in my first HR job. Firstly, remembering how I felt when sitting down with my boss for the first time to set objectives. I had no idea how to achieve what was being described, felt that it was probably quite beyond my capability and experience, but I was willing to give it a go and was, in hindsight, quite fearless and undaunted in agreeing to whatever was asked of me. I recall quite clearly saying “OK, yes….I don’t know how to do that, but I’m happy to try” and feeling hugely excited, inspired and motivated by the challenge of finding my own way to do things in a supportive environment.

Secondly, I vividly recall the nature of some of the objectives, especially those around my personal development, which really set my expectations for what HR should be about. In my personal development plan, I was targeted on work shadowing a different one of the managers in my business for at least one day a month. This meant that I went out on the road with the engineers, visited the network management centre, attended team meetings, sat in on interviews, listened in to calls and from the very earliest point of my career, strived to understand the nature of the business that I was supporting. This desire has absolutely stayed with me and I always enjoy stretching my brain to understand exactly what makes the business people around me tick, what their priorities are and what decisions they have to make on a daily basis.

So, that is how my HR career began: an interest in people, an open mind, an attraction for things I find mentally stimulating, a willingness to have a go and a mandate to get involved in and try to better understand all the different parts of the business.

I’ve really enjoyed trawling through the memories and trying to make some sense of them in this context….thank you for letting me share, I hope I can play a part in inspiring you to do the same!

Friday, 1 April 2011

From HR Toddler to Here and Now IV

Following post comes from Christine Livingston, HR professional, coach and writer with seriously strong expertise in people development. Christine is supporting professionals on their way to realize their potential, challenging and inspiring them to achieve a different kind of work relationship. In Christine’s own words:

“I'm on a mission to help you create the kind of relationship with work that's life-giving and meaningful; rather than soul destroying and meaningless”
You can find out more about Christine and her contribution to HR world by looking at her website

Christine can be also followed on twitter @Coblyn  

I am handing pen over to Christine now:

My excitement for my first grown up HR Manager role faded as I got to know my Business Partner.
There I was, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to prove to the world what a difference good HR could make. There he was – let’s call him Bob - all results and bottom-line driven, and not giving a toss about what I had to offer.

These were different times to now. The economy was mushrooming and the company I was working for along with it. We were recruiting like there was no tomorrow. And to Bob, HR meant one thing: bums on seats.

Which was too bad because I could see other things we ought to be paying as much attention to: low morale, high absence and turnover figures, to name just three.

He knew there was pressure in his system, he told me, but it was all caused by vacancies. And if I could just forget the fluff and hire people, all would be well.

This was so not what I’d expected of a generalist HR role.

I so wanted to go to my HR Director and tell her that she’d oversold me the job. On the other hand I was buggered if I was going to let Bob get the better of me.

So, I hung in and hatched a plan.

Delivering “bums on seats”

I don’t know where it came from, but I had the idea that instead of fighting him, I’d more than meet him. If Bob wanted recruitment, recruitment would be what he’d have. The kind that would knock his socks off.

So, I asked to meet with him, to go through in detail what he needed. I then asked for his feedback on how he found HR’s support for his recruitment efforts.

 “It could be faster,” he said. “You guys take too long.

“Also, I get complaints from my people about interviewing people who are obviously unsuitable. That’s a waste of time. You could work harder to make sure unsuitable folks rarely reach us.”

He thought for a moment about what else to say. And then smiled as the ££ signs lit up in his eyes.

“And, of course, it could all cost me less.”

“How much less?” I asked. And he gave me a number. I thought that his ambition would cut the corner on quality and said so. But I committed to making sure the whole thing began to run more cost-effectively.

Getting smarter

Over the next few months, I coached my team on their interviewing skills and we got smarter about some of the tactics we were using in putting candidates forward to managers.

We also got more organised about which agencies we were using for what, struck preferred supplier deals, and got our advertising agency to negotiate harder with newspapers and magazines on the costs for advertising space.

And we got more joined up about how we were communicating our efforts back to the business. Even if sometimes they were reaping no reward. Over the course of about six months, we’d made big inroads into hiring better quality people, more quickly, and for less.

These things alone began to improve the quality of my connection with Bob.

Building trust

In tandem, I’d noticed too, early on that he liked data. Give him a spreadsheet, a sales forecast, or any form of analysis and he’d engage. Talk to him emotionally, and he was gone. So, I started to get very structured about how I gave him any updates.

In particular I had my team create the HR equivalent of the monthly report he had all his business managers do. In mine I put stuff like headcount, approved vacancies, new starters, leavers, recruitment costs, percentage turnover, and exit interview analysis. It may be that all this stuff is par for the course in your management team now, but it certainly wasn’t then.

I began to get invites to his management meetings. At first it was just to update on recruitment, but I made it my job to learn offline as much about Bob’s business as I could, so that I could take part in the general business discussions and not just wait till invited to say something about the current state of vacancies.

It was only when we’d met Bob’s recruitment needs and more, and he was ready to concede that things in his area were still feeling pressurised, that he began to invite a wider conversation. That’s when the monthly reporting, together with analysis my team had been doing from exit interviews, and all the informal feedback I and they had been picking up from the front line started to come into its own.
Leveraging trust

Bob gradually began to listen to me more about other things. I persuaded him, for example, to agree to pilot some development workshops with his managers and team leaders. In practice these were informal group coaching sessions in an off-site meeting room. But the results were good. Many of these people had been promoted long before they were ready, in the heat of a business boom. They lapped up what we had to offer them, saw their own morale boosted, and ploughed this back into their teams. The pilot got great feedback, and Bob was happy to commit a small budget to a wider roll out.

One of our biggest HR issues was reward and the final coup was persuading Bob to make a strategic investment in his payroll. I can still remember the day I sat with him and his senior people as we went through each person in his area with a fine tooth comb, deciding who would get what, and what message each person would be told as they were advised of their new salary.

Delivering change

In the end it took 18 months, but working together, we delivered some great results. Turnover came down from mid 20 percents to 5 percent per year. People were happier and less stressed. The business’s results were outstanding.

But I knew I’d really, really cracked it with him when he invited me to speak to all his managers at one of their sales conferences about strategic HR, and on introducing me said that he considered his area lucky indeed with its HR support.

Who was I really trying to convince?

I’d always thought that the villain in this story was Bob.

But writing this, at the same time as writing Hero Or Failure: You Decide on my own blog, has made me wonder who I was ever really trying to convince – him or me.

See, I’d been able to play around a bit in my more junior HR roles, but in my first position of significant responsibility, I was keen to prove that I was potent. To myself, as much as to anyone else.

And, there are some lessons I learned from the whole thing that have stayed with me till today.

  • First, meet a client where he or she is. Then show that you are value added by exceeding their expectation of you.
  • Second, talk your client’s language. Bob got numbers but turned off to zeal. Sometimes you have to channel your message in ways that allow it to be heard.
  • Third, be patient and wait.

I guess in summary that what I did was allow myself to learn from Bob.

And that last point is, for me, vital in any kind of work that involves working with people. We can think we’re very smart and know the answers. And, of course, we will always have something valuable to add to the equation.

But sometimes we need to get out of our own way, and listen to the person or people we’re working to allow them to teach us how to do that.

Pay enough attention, and they’ll show us the way to success that enables us all to win.