Category Archives: Uncategorized

Stories for rebel boys

I got started on this train of thought when I was looking for children’s books to add to my new little dudes collection. I came across the book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls which features stories of inspiring women. It’s an antithesis to the traditional, damsel in distress, rescued by a handsome prince, fairy tales – the kinds of stories I grew up reading.

When I found out I was pregnant I pictured having a little girl. Little did I imagine that keeping a kid fed, making sure they have enough sleep, a clean nappy, adequate awake time, feel loved, the list goes on, is hard enough. But, amongst those things, I was going to teach her to be a strong, empowered women.

‘The Future is Female’

I saw this slogan recently and it bothered me.

There are a lot of resources dedicated to raising strong and empowered women and encouraging them to step up. We absolutely need more of this. Women are still under-represented and underpaid in our workplaces.

But what about our boys?

The future is both genders leading beside each other.

Sheryl Sandburg in her book Lean In talks about the role of men in creating the space and opportunity for women to lean in. Emma Watson, in her infamous UN speech, states that to end gender inequality we need everyone to be involved. Without our boys being raised in a way that supports equal space for both genders then the fight for equality will always be lopsided and weak.

Our boys have a privilege. But, as Mark Souter put it, when he tweeted me on this topic, they have a “responsibility associated with that position, to change / use / make room for everyone”.

As a new mother, I don’t know where to start with instilling the right values or creating space for Joshua to grow into the kind of man our future needs. Being a parent is bloody hard.

So if someone wrote stories where boys rebelled against their traditionally defined roles, weren’t scared to show vulnerability and worked in partnership with women, then I’d buy that book.

Because in order to build an equal world our boys deserve and need just as much attention.

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The tweet sized policy manual

Because everyone keeps asking for it…..

On 28th August 2014 we did an NZLEAD tweet chat on 140 character policies. I thought I’d take some of the awesome suggestions, summarise my favourites and out my own spin on them to create a tweet sized policy manual.

Social media 
  • Make social media a positive experience for all. Communicate professionally, imaginatively and respectfully.

Dress code
  • Wear clothes. Ones that suit the job.
Health and safety
  • Look after yourself and those around you.
Alcohol and drugs
  • Be in a lucid state of mind to do your job and, if that’s hard for you, tell us so we can support you.
Confidentiality 
  • Be really careful with people’s personal data. Only tell people stuff if they need to, and are supposed to, know.
Diversity
  • We expect you to make any race, sex, age, or any other defining category of person, welcome and comfortable here.
Grievances
  • If you have an issue or a problem, talk to someone, anyone, to try and sort it out sensibly.
Disciplinary
  • Do great things at work so we can all spend more time making this a great place to work for you.
Attendance
  • Turn up when you are supposed to but, if there is a good reason you can’t, talk to us.
 Performance management
  • If being awesome is proving difficult, we can help you be that with us or be awesome somewhere else.
Performance reviews 
  • Let’s regularly chat about how you’re doing, how you’re feeling and what you need to be awesome.
Learning & Development
  • What interests you? What would help you be more awesome? Now do it.
Vehicles
  • Drive the company car like you own it and you’re paying for it.
Fraud
  • Company money belongs to the company. Be honest and transparent, expect your colleagues to do the same.
IT
  • Remember that we can find anything you’ve done, anything you’ve said and anywhere you’ve been. If you aren’t sure, ask.
Remuneration
  • We pay you what you’re worth balanced with what we can. We reward you when you do well.
Overall
  • Don’t be an arsehole. If that doesn’t work for you, leave.
Credit to Sandy Wilkie,  Gem Reucroft, Angela Atkins, Simon Jones, Richard Westney, Perry Timms whose fabulous tweets I have adapted this from. I’ve tried as much as possible to put a positve spin on them, avoiding ‘don’t’ and ‘no’ and think they still capture the message.
Are their any policy issues not covered here that should be? Or any tweaks to these to make them better?

The space between

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

Viktor E. Frankl

I love this quote by Viktor Frankl. He spent many years in a German concentration camp and came to the conclusion that we can choose our response to what happens around us, that is where our power lies. If it was really simple in far easier circumstances then we’d all live  much easier lives.

My current preoccupation has been the design of leadership resources, specifically focused on having difficult conversations. Knowing yourself, and mindfulness in the moment features heavily. Catch yourself in the moment and make a choice about how you will respond.

Neuroscience research supports this approach. Any difficult situation is stressful, stress triggers a physiological response in the brain, blood starts pumping, adrenaline starts flowing, and our instinctive fight or flight response kicks in. Before we realise it, our amygdala, the primitive brain hijacks our response, we go into fight or flight.

Mindfulness “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations” (Wikipedia, 2017) is a practice primed to catch the moment our cave man (or cave woman) instincts are about to take over. If we’re present, right there and then, we have the power to make a choice about the type of response we want to have.

This goes beyond difficult conversations.

After writing a book and blogging consistently for years, it’s been some time since I’ve written anything. almost a year actually. It got to the point where I felt I HAD to blog, psychologically there was no space for me to choose. So I stopped all together.

More recently, I started a new job. Shortly after which I found out I was pregnant. And since then I’ve felt the most ill I’ve ever felt in my life. The chronic over-achiever in me is balking that I have no control over anything, and I can’t do anything about it. I’m forced to stop and sit in the present because I simply don’t have the mental or physical capacity to be anywhere else. And any movement either way requires a conscious decision around where best to spend my energy.

I have no choice but to be present. And that’s my new space.

 

What it’s like writing a book

Humane-Workplace-cover ebookA few people have asked me recently what it’s like writing a book. I usually tell them to go and read Andy Headworth’s eloquent summary of his book writing experience.

And now I also get the “I’d like to write a book someday” statements. My advice to you, unless you LOVE writing, then don’t write a book.

Thankfully I love writing and relished the hermit like existence that has been my life for the past six months.

I’m also conscious that only crazy nut jobs write a book in six months!

BUT, if you are a crazy nut job as well, and you LOVE writing, then here is how I did it.

Draft One – one month

I took part in an event called National Novel Writers Month (#Nanowrimo). It’s basically an event whereby writers from all around the world spend a whole month writing 50,000 words of a novel or book. It gave me the motivation to just write words, and keep writing words, because I knew I had to have a certain amount of words each day, week and at the end of the month. So, I worked out how many writing days I had that month (taking out weekends and client days) and divided 50,000 by that number. What I ended up with was a target of at least 2,500 words on days I was writing.

Thankfully I wasn’t short on content. The idea behind my book was to take all the #NZLEAD tweet chats and conversations and thread them together. So the logical place to start was with the content on www.nzlead.com. I wrote down a list of all the topics we’d covered and roughly grouped them together under headings (e.g. recruitment, learning etc.). I then methodically worked my way through the topics, capturing and writing down notes on refill paper. Yes, that was my method – old school paper and pen. I ended up with piles and piles of paper. I split up my days by handwriting in the morning and typing up all my notes in the afternoon (after my fingers started to cramp from the pen). If a subject sparked a thought, I didn’t censor it, I just wrote it all down. If a topic linked to more information, or needed further explanation, I followed the links and wrote down the key points from all of that too.

I reached the 50,000 word mark. I ended up with a whole lot of words of nonsense. Truth be told, I had no idea what I was getting myself in for and naively thought I could write a whole, finished, book in a month.

Lesson one: only crazier nut jobs can write a whole book in one month.

Draft Two to Six – One Month (although this was Xmas so I did take some time off!)

November finished – I had a lot of words. 50,665 to be exact. I started hacking at it. I grouped together themes that were related. I didn’t think about it too much. It was more an “oh, this idea is sort of similar to this idea” so I dumped them into the same area. I deleted stuff – duplications, nonsensical ramblings. Towards draft Six I had whittled the whole thing down to about 38,000 words. Each pass through of the document I saved a new version.

Lesson two: be ruthless with cutting. As long as you ‘Save As’ different versions you can still add stuff back in if you change your mind.

Draft Seven to Nine – Two Months

I had been adding some of my own stories throughout some of the writing process. But this was when I really amped them up. I added detail, I moved them around. By writing my own stories, that personal connection helped me get clear about what I was trying to say in each section of the book. They gave clarity to the key themes and that helped me streamline the content further.

It was about this point that I gave it to Richard Westney to have a look at. His feedback changed the layout of some of the chapters and clarified the theme of the book.

I say this part took me two months but I did start taking chunks of time doing non-book related stuff between edits so that I could go back to it with a fresh perspective.

Lesson Three: Take time off between edits otherwise it all makes sense to you – and making sense doesn’t help you edit.

Draft Ten to Thirteen – one month

It was about at this point that I stopped seeing any inconsistencies and the whole thing made sense to me. Which isn’t good because I’d looked at it for too long and couldn’t really see it anymore.

It was time to pass it on to some more critical eyes.

This is where I enlisted the help of my editor friend Tanja and her trusty sidekick Tamara. Tamara started with editing the whole thing for structure and flow. Tanja then delved into more of the detail and picking up on things didn’t make sense. The last edit here was spelling and grammar. I’d worked with Tanja on my masters thesis and she’s just awesome. Tamara and Tanja made a brilliant tag team (in case you need someone to edit your book).

Lesson Four: don’t edit it yourself, get someone else to do it. For the reasons I gave in lesson three.

 Draft Thirteen – Two Months … ish

Lucky draft number thirteen was the one sent to PressGang to do all the final layout for the book. I self-published this book so I didn’t / don’t have a slick machine to do all this for me and had to foot the bill myself. I ran a pledgeme campaign to cover all the printing costs – with the added benefit of pre-selling about 80 books!

I found PressGang quite good to deal with once we got the timelines pinned down (which took a little bit of doing) – expect about six weeks from almost final draft to print.

Simon Heath did my cover art and I had asked Perry Timms to do my foreword some months prior. So the document I sent to PressGang was pretty much a complete word doc. There was a bit more going back and forth point though. Once they laid out the cover, I had to redo my authors bio. I also picked up things I wanted to tweak – it’s amazing what the extra pressure of getting it printed does to your attention to detail.

Lesson Five: Editing actually takes more time than writing a book – just FYI.

I then had to then edit the files that PressGang had developed for the print version into a Kindle version. Thankfully it’s really easy to load a book for Kindle (thank you Tim Scott for the pointers). Unfortunately the print publication was in InDesign and transferring the document back to Word was painful and included re-adding the 163 references!

Lesson Six: If you’re going to do print and Kindle, get it perfect in word first then have it laid out for print.

And here it is, available for pre-order and ready to launch on the 9th July….

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 12.35.03 pmThe book is being printed and will be available as a Kindle E-Book. You can pre-order the e-book here.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 12.37.50 pm

 

 

You can also preorder a hard copy of the book here. 

 

 

 

 

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

Book launch

Thank you again to all the awesome people who contributed to my Pledgeme campaign to get my book published and have a launch party. I can confirm that the launch will be on the 9th June at the Ponsonby Cruising Club. If you’ve pledged then you just need to rock along. If you haven’t then you can still come along by grabbing a ticket over on eventbrite here.

I’ve also re-written the blurb that goes with the book. What do you think?

Without a doubt, technology is changing the way we work and learn. In this environment, it’s easy to think that social technologies are removing human to human interactions. Yet it’s the behaviours that underpin the use of these technologies that really counts. Social technologies can open up greater opportunities for communication, collaboration and thriving communities. It can transform our workplaces. But only if we put people first, if we make our workplaces more humane. 

In this environment, those of us within the people and culture professions; Human Resources, Learning and Development, and Recruitment; have an opportunity to truly shine. But to do this we need to re-evaluate what we traditionally think of as our roles, to change our approach, to step up and be brave. 

This book is a guide for a transformed and people-oriented world of work. It’s the collective wisdom of over three hundred NZLEAD community participants from all around the world. These are people who have people at the heart and soul of their professions and are passionate about creating a better world of work. Their conversations and actions have been captured in over one hundred NZLEAD tweet chats and woven into this book.

It’s about people, community, technology and the humane workplace. 

 

Feedback would happen all the time if… we had trust

A couple of weeks back a guy knocked on my door and asked if he could have a look at some of the noxious weeds on our property. He explained that the Council had just implemented a new policy where they eradicated weeds on properties bordering native bush. He was there to do an assessment. I got quite excited. Creating a beautiful garden is my fun project and I lept at the prospect of some help transforming my jungle into an oasis. So I keenly showed him around.

It wasn’t until afterwards that I realised my naeivity. He hadn’t shown me any ID (I hadn’t asked) and, as Gareth pointed out, it could have been just as likely he was casing the place for a future robery. I’m still waiting to hear back from the council about whether he was legit.

But here’s the thing. I implicitly trust that people have the best intentions. I assume that they are looking out for my best interests and are open and honest people. Unless someone is being an obvious arsehole then, this level of trust is my first and natural response. I apply this same approach to giving and receiving feedback.

I’m naturally inclined to tell people what I think. I usually beat myself up about how to do this in the best possible way – although sometimes it still doesn’t go so well. I am that person who told her friend that her boyfriend was a douchebag and wasn’t treating her right. Unfortunately we are no longer friends but she did go on to marry someone lovely. I’d like to think I’m pretty open about receiving feedback (please tell me if I’m not), and I try my best to not talk about people behind their back without telling them personally what I think (I think I inherited that from my Aunt!).

This doesn’t make me particularly politically savvy. But I am getting better, I think, at recognising when I need to keep my mouth shut and when my values compel me to say something. I have to ask, do these people trust that I have their best interests at heart? Maybe, maybe not. Do I genuinely have their best interests at heart? Maybe, maybe not. Feedback would happen all the time if we just let it – it’s not as simple as that.

Continual feedback doesn’t happen without trust. Trust doesn’t happen without vulnerability. Vulnerability doesn’t happen without safety.

Can I trust that the feedback I give will not be used against me? That I won’t be blacklisted or shunned for saying what I think? Sometimes no. That’s a hard lesson to learn I tell you! I told this story recently. My feedback made the situation worse. It was a lesson that keeping my mouth shut, and moving on to bigger and better things, can be the best course of action.

People can be blind to other perspectives, closed, walled, invulnerable. Trust diminishes, safety evaporates, feedback dissipates.

Trust is humanly chaotic. Feedback is a degree between rawness and political manoeuvring.

But if you never speak up when behaviour clashes with your values, stand up for what you believe in, tell people what is on your mind, even if it’s not popular, then behaviour will not change. Should you override concerns about trust to get rid of noxious weeds?

Or does that mean you just get robbed?

These are my reflections on feedback for the #feedbackcarnival. You can find more information about it here

Why I wrote a book

I’m about to publish a book. It’s a little scary. Will people like it? Will they enjoy it? Am I allowed to be say those things? By the time it’s out there it will be six months of energy and determination in creating those pages. Yet the content took a lot longer. The book captures over two years of NZLEAD tweet chats. But it’s still more than that. Writing it was cathartic. It was a way for me to re-frame a negative experience into hope and purpose, a way to reflect on a personal learning curve.

This story starts many years ago. You see I was probably a bit cocky about my skills and how much I could take on. And take on alot I did. I pushed myself really hard through university and beyond, I worked full time and studied full time. I worked my way up and across the career ladder, I loved my job and took immense pride in it. I did really well at just nailing everything. Get stuff done, make things happen, that was my thing. Then I decided to leave the role I had been in for nearly four years because I felt like I was ready for the next challenge. I didn’t have anything lined up. I had left jobs before and easily stepped into something.

Unfortunately I ended up unemployed for 6 months. I spent every week scouring job ads, talking to recruiters and every other week being rejected. I took temp work to fill the gaps, to get me out of the house, reception and PA work, my sense of self-worth plummeted. I didn’t know what to do when I had nothing to do, nothing to measure my worth against. I didn’t know who I was anymore.

I was finally offered a job that fit my skills. I actually had the choice of two roles. My instincts were screaming at me, but my head prevailed. An awesome culture, a well-known brand, great career prospects, innovation and a great team. That was the package my head told me I was walking in to – that was what my experiences and education had taught me was the right path. I was so pleased to just have something to measure my worth against again, that I ignored the voice inside of me.

It turns out that my manager wasn’t interested in what made me me, and my instincts were entirely correct. It’s much easier to look back on these things in retrospect. I spent 12 months in a situation where I felt like a freak for the way I thought, the way I spoke and the way I worked with my colleagues. I walked in with so much hope that my sense of self worth was to be restored, only to have more of it stripped away. I hated the thought of giving up, I didn’t want to relinquish hope that I could influence my situation and change it. But after trying everything I could, my only option left was to leave. My health was suffering. I was exhausted, crippled with anxiety and depressed.

Yet, for months more I battled on, expecting that the freedom of being on my own, of doing something that I loved, of starting my own business, of going on holiday would cure me. But it didn’t. Funny that!

What it sparked though was a journey of self-care and self-acceptance. A journey I’m still on I might add. I wish I had been treated differently, both as a candidate and an employee. I wish I had treated other people differently, I’m not the best version of myself when I’m under stress. But most of all, I wish I had treated myself differently. Then maybe this lesson wouldn’t have been such a painful one to learn. I feel like I’ve spent the last few years wading through mud and still have more days than I’d like where I feel stuck. Thankfully they’re becoming fewer. I’ve been putting a lot of priority on meditation, mindfulness, self reflection, and self-discovery. I’ve gone from doing it all, to recognising that not doing everything is a good thing. Some things happen for a reason right?

I almost told this story in my book. But I decided that I wanted the book to be about the things we’d talked about and done with NZLEAD – all the positive and awesome stuff – the vision for humane workplaces. Because that has been what has kept me dragging my arse forward. These are workplaces whereby technology can help people be their whole selves and demonstrate their uniqueness. Where our trials are a demonstration of our strength, not our weakness. Where there is a sense of community and purpose. Where our workplaces are more humane.

I know there will be some people who don’t get why I’m sharing this, and might judge me for for my perceived weakness. But I also know that there will be many who find hope and inspiration from my story. My intention, in sharing this with you, is to explain why I wrote this book and break a mould of human silence that is stopping us from being our true selves. My book is not just grandiose ideas of what HR, L&D and Recruitment can do to respond to the changing world of work. But a mirror of my personal reflections on leadership, the expectation and design of work and drawn from my first hand experience of where some of this stuff that we currently let slide, and silently endorse, within the people and culture professions has a very hidden dark side.

Please hit me up for a coffee or a Skype call if you’d like to share your stories with me – I’d love to hear from you.

And please pledge for my book to be printed in hard copy. Particularly if you also believe in better and more humane workplaces.