Update on the book project: The Foreword

I am really truly honored to have the awesome Perry Timms do the foreword for my book. I couldn’t help but share some of it. Actually I wanted to share the whole thing but it seemed too special for that. You might just have to wait for the book (or pledge if you havn’t yet).

But here is a little excerpt from it which tells you a bit about what the book is about. My favorite is this quote: “Consider it your chart of the uncharted waters. The shield from the elements and the playbook for the forthcoming big game.” Because that’s really it, it’s a guidebook for other people and culture practioners told with the voices of fabulous and talented people from all around the world.

“The Humane Workplace – a field guide to making sense of the world of work and its intertwining relationship with social technologies is how to describe (very basically) the book that Amanda Sterling has written and crafted.


So should you copy and follow everything Amanda has done?

You could; but likelihood is, you’ll take a drop of Gemma Reucroft, a slice of Neil Usher and a dash of Harold Jarche and mix it all up with Amanda Sterling. Names you might not know but should look up on Twitter and on other blogging platforms. Heroes. Practitioners. Consultants. It matters not what we call them. They’re part of our destiny, designed world and denoters of great content.

It’s this excitement about the social world and the practice of being a people and organisation development professional that I share with Amanda. This coming together is like a perfect storm for us. It’s an unnerving world for others mind. This is where this book comes into play. Consider it your chart of the uncharted waters. The shield from the elements and the playbook for the forthcoming big game.”

Please pledge here to make printing my book a reality.


Outside the echo chamber

Yeah, echo chamber. It’s a term I picked up at KiwiFoo to label the internal circle we surround ourselves with, the people who are like us, the people who re-affirm us. KiwiFoo: an invite only unconference event for interesting people that I attended this past weekend. A place I met Kiwis, Aussies, and Californians. I can safely say that I was way way way out of my echo chamber at KiwiFoo.

I’m still confused by the experience. It was confronting, overwhelming, not something I enjoyed; yet inspiring, challenging and rewarding. Alone in a crowd of almost 200 people. Artists, musicians, activists, politicians, scientists, engineers, soft-ware developers, I could go on. Everyone on the innovative fringes of their profession. It felt like I was on the fringe of the fringes. A collection of people with people at the heart and soul of their professions, yet few from the people professions. Conversations where humane work was critical; yet ‘human’ resources doesn’t feature. Interactions where I was uncomfortably stripped of what I stand for, yet built my confidence in the simplicity of what I do. Experiences which took away what I thought I was good at, to leave behind greater confidence.

I think I still need more time to process. Kiwifoo kicked a whole load of dust up for me and I still can’t see through it. Personally I don’t understand how any of the stuff I experienced happens all at the same time! On an intellectual level, let me try and articulate some of the things that KiwiFoo made me think about from a professional stand point.

We think that this concept of the organic workforce is relatively new when actually it’s been around a while, in academia and in the movie industry. It’s not the structure that makes the difference, it’s the underlying culture. That much I think we know. Toxic cultures are toxic, whether they are traditional organisations or in flexible and contractual arrangements. Are flexible structures more relevant now or is it that culture is? Or are they both intertwined?

We think that money is not the be all and end all, yet it’s what makes the world go around. There’s this inherent tension between money and meaning and there probably always will be. There are different ways of navigating and balancing the value of each. Those balancing points are where disruption will happen in organisational culture. But where does the balance become tipped in favour of one over the other?

We think that organisational design is about structure, and yet it’s all about people. Connecting over a common purpose, leadership role modelling behaviours, values, ethics. It’s about relationships, not rules. I think we know this too. In trying to simplify it into something we can understand we remove what makes it truly work. So how can we approach this?

We think that human related practices in organisations are the domain of human resources. But they’re not. People within organisations are taking charge and creating the businesses they want to work for, that are highly productive, making a positive impact on the world and they’re telling their friends about it. HR is not part of this conversation. I wrote a blog a while back about how HR won’t change the world of work. I’m starting to believe the title of that post. So what role do those who are passionate about these things, and not traditional HR, have?

I’d like to go back next year to try again. Because I think outside the echo chamber is the best place to find your voice… or get confused about what you think you know about the world.

Thank you to Nat and Jenine for organising this awesome event!

Change is scary

Gareth and I have just bought our first home. We move in just under two weeks. It’s a pretty big deal for us. We’ve been hunting on and off for years. It’s been challenging to say the least: saving for a deposit to match Auckland’s rapidly rising house prices, finding somewhere that meets our requirements (dog, home-brewery, office, not cramped in), and not becoming financially crippled in the process. But we did it!

I’m particularly excited. My parents owned their own home when I was very little. I don’t remember it much, but it was in one of the worst areas of Auckland. After they sold that place and moved north, we lived in rentals. When I moved back to Auckland, I lived with my grandparents. Then I went flatting, followed by more rentals when Gareth and I moved in together. I don’t feel I’ve ever really had somewhere to call my own because someone else has always had ultimate control over my home. So yeah, I’m excited!

But it also feels like a big scary change. Yes, it’s greater freedom – I can knock down walls and paint them if I like and, if I don’t like the garden, I can pull it out and put a better one in, something I fully intend to do. But I can’t help approaching it with trepidation. It’ll be a whole new environment, I’ll have to find a new walking route, a supermarket that I know my way around, yoga teacher that I like. It all seems trivial and silly really, but for all my enthusiasm to travel the world, I’m a bit of a homebody at heart. This change is scary.

I happen to be reading a book about appreciative inquiry at the moment. This positive psychology approach to change recommends visualising the wonderful things about the change. That’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m floating on a lilo in my pool (did I mention we have a pool?). I’m feeding my chickens. I’m digging over my organic vege garden. I’m walking the dog I’ve always wanted but never had space for. But I wish I was there already. It’s the limbo and uncertainty in between that bothers me.

But hey, first world problems ay?! What I want to get across is that change is scary no matter how awesome it is. For now, I’m focusing on the relative peace and quiet before I’m spending every evening and weekend renovating and gardening. Plus, I should really start packing.

Memories from UnfurlingHR

I’ve started on the organising and planning for the next #NZLEAD unconference. I came across what I wrote to introduce the day and welcome people to the event and I wanted to re-share it with you. I put my heart and soul into organising this day and I have some pretty awesome memories from it. It’s more than just a one-day event to me. There is a bigger picture to why I do this stuff. You can also read my recap of the day here, which includes links to what everyone else wrote. 

I’m really honoured to welcome you to the first and not the last NZLEAD unconference.

The world is changing and as people practitioners we need to be at the forefront of this change. But we need to do it consciously. Which is why I’m asking you to put your phones and gadgets down for a couple of minutes.

We are bombarded with so much information, so many contacts, so many ways of doing things, ways that are constantly changing that, to actually make a difference, we also need to find the peace and the path amongst the chaos. To connect with ourselves, with each other, and with what we’re trying to achieve.

To do that, you need to make a choice. That choice, and your actions, are conscious. Not based on blind faith to old ways or caught up in the flood of new ways but an acceptance of what is happening around you and a conscious step forward.  A choice to put aside busyness and reasons not to. By being here, you’ve taken a step in that direction.

This unconference seemed like a natural extension of what we’re doing with NZLEAD. The NZLEAD community has grown from a mutual desire to connect, communicate and collaborate into a force for change within the people and culture professionals around the world. It has done more than I ever expected it would and that is because of you, and others like you. So thank you.

Because this means a lot to me. Because I want my children to grow up in a world where people are treated with kindness, appreciated for their strengths and supported to grow, in their own way, and give back to the world.

Right now, I don’t see it. I see bullying and power struggles by people. I see turf defending, arrogance, close-mindedness, defensiveness. And I’ve experienced first hand what it’s like to be treated like a freak for thinking differently, saying things differently and being different. Something that I’m still dealing with the psychological and physical manifestations of. I am making a conscious decision that this is not for me.

This event is one small step to realise an ideal. Our world needs to be better, our world of work needs to be better, and we, as people and culture professionals need to be better.

And we can. A change in conversation, a change in language. Removing boxes, packaging and labels. Changing the scenery, removing the frills, getting down to simple honest conversations and planning. Small things, each of us small ferns. Unfurling a way of being and doing that helps the people within our organisations really excel.

We can do this together. Social technology now allows us to connect, communicate and collaborate on a scale that we’ve not seen before. And, in little ol New Zealand, we are not alone. Not anymore.

So all I ask of you today is to be here, be who you are, bring whatever you can with you. You, as you are now, are enough to make the world a better place. You will get out as much as what you put in, but whatever you put in is ok.

And please share your learnings from today through social technology, so that our colleagues around the world can come on this journey with us. Do it consciously and with purpose.

The date for the next event is the 11th May. Tickets etc. will be available soon but if you’d like to be involved in making it happen then tweet me or comment here. 

Words can change the world

“Words and ideas can change the world.” Robin Williams

It’s something I need to believe. That NZLEAD has an impact, no matter how big or small the conversation. That the words we say create ripples of change. We don’t know where these ripples will end up but together they make a difference.

I met some really wonderful ladies yesterday. All of us building our own contributions to the world. All of us believing that the little things we do add up. That what we do makes a difference in this world.

Because it’s those little things that we hold on to to keep the enthusiasm, positivity, hopes and dreams alive. Those little things that others might dismiss as nothing and others might package up as their own.

Only we know the little things we do. Only we create our perception of the world.

But through our words, you might see it too. Then we can change the world.

2015 intentions

Ever since I was in my early 20s I would write down my goals for the year and stick them somewhere I could see them. You might call them New Years resolutions, but I was quite serious about writing SMART goals and achieving them. I usually knocked off more than three quarters of my goals and at the end of the year would take some time to assess what went well, what didn’t and what I’d to differently next year. This year I haven’t really written any goals. For the last couple of years my tried and true method hasn’t worked for me so I’m trying something different. There are some specific things I’d like to achieve but for the most part I am setting intentions. These are my intentions.

The first thing I intend on doing is finishing off writing my book. I’ve taken ideas from two years of NZLEAD tweets, mashed them up with my own background and experience, and produced a narrative about the world of work. I’m thinking of calling it People First: How Technology Can Make Our Workplaces More Human, or something along those lines. It’s on track to be finished and self-published at the beginning of March.

The book sets the scene from what I plan to do this year. In 2014 I mostly focused on social technology and what it could do for HR, Recruitment and Learning and Development. What I found was that many people wanted training in how to use the social technology and, although this will remain part of what I do, in 2015 I will be putting more focus on the behaviours that underpin the authenticity and transparency that social technology enables. What fits with this, and floats my boat, is leadership development, coaching, learning communities, innovation and creating cultures where people can truly shine. So I’ll be adjusting my sails and, without too much prescription, seeing what blows my way.

To help me with this I’ll be putting a lot of work into growing my skills in methods that support people to think differently: appreciative enquiry, positive psychology and creative facilitation. So I can help businesses and individuals, as well as bring to life some cool stuff I have in the works for NZLEAD. For a start another unconference. I intend on threading a lot of positively, light, forward thinking and growth into everything that I do. Which means I need to thread this through my life too.

The last couple of years have been challenging but have given me many opportunities for learning, reflection and growth. I look to 2015 with a lot of optimism. I’ve been putting a lot of effort into practices that help me be stronger, more grounded and kinder to myself. I intend on making these practices a priority in 2015 not just because they make me feel awesome but everything else just seems to fall into place when I do.

2015 is already off to a fantastic start for me. I have an almost finished book; I’m so totally honoured that I got invited to attend KiwiFoo this year which is an invite only unconference for people doing interesting things; I’m putting a draft vision for NZLEAD together which I’d love your feedback on, but I’m already pretty excited about it; and, something that has been a bane of frustration for quite a few years might actually be coming to fruition this week! Watch this space 😉

2015 is going to be badass.

A blog about more writing

I’m not going to lie to you, I’m pretty stoked.

My neck hurts, I’m struggling to articulate anything intelligible on a Friday and I’ve still got masses of writing, re-writing, writing again, and editing before it’s even something worthy of sharing with people for first thoughts.

But I also have to say that I got pretty excited about the themes that have come through 2-years of NZLEAD tweet chats, conversations with awesome people and other inspiring and thought provoking stuff. Reading between the lines, connecting ideas together across multiple tweet chats, challenging my own thinking, teasing out thoughts, telling stories, bringing the messages to life. I’ve been like a pig in muck over the last month.

And, it’s far from over, I’ll be spending the next month pretty much re-writing those 50,000 words. It’s probably going to be more intense, but waaaay more fun. Because all the tedious stuff is done and now it’s time to get creative.

Anyway, just wanted to say LOVING IT! AND….

I WON NANOWRIMO!!! Which means that I get to pat myself on the back 😉 AND….

There will be a book with some seriously cool shit about the world of work and the future of the L&D, HR and Recruitment professions released in Feb/March next year… AND…

THANK YOU to everyone who has given me enthusiasm and support!

Don’t know what I’m on about? Check out my blog about writing.