Values and behaviours. They passed into the lexicon of human resource best practice some time ago. We’ve nearly all got them. A set of desired ways that we want people to behave, at our place.
Alan Watkins, at his CIPD session ‘Being Brilliant Everyday’ says we have got it all wrong. Because you can’t tell people how to behave. They just don’t listen. Even if they make some changes they don’t sustain. Watkins says we are all too focused on behaviours, especially leadership behaviour. When we do so we are effective saying stop this and start that. Whatever that particular thing is. What we don’t not tackle with this approach is that thing underneath: how people feel. And this is where the difference happens. You can put what words you like on your website. Align behaviour to your reward strategy. Do plenty of embedding activity. But if people don’t believe it, feel it, they just won’t do it.
We are fundamentally driven by our emotions. And we take them to work with us, too. The only problem is, we aren’t that great at understanding them or even recognising them. There are around 34,000 emotions. But according to Watkins when pushed to name the emotions that they’ve felt in the last week, most people can only come up with about a dozen.
I’ve blogged before about feelings at work. About how HR needs to remember how the people stuff that we do makes our employees feel. Because when we go to work we don’t leave this stuff at the door. Only there are plenty of people that aren’t comfortable with talking about emotions. Much better to talk about objectives. Or budgets. Or strategy. Anything but that fluffy stuff.
You can’t tell people how to feel. When someone tells you that they are worried what is our default response? ‘Don’t worry’. Newsflash. That doesn’t work.
Oh. And by the way. Pressure stops the brain working.
Recognising emotion, understanding how feelings drives behaviour, is a key leadership skill. Or at least it should be. Because this is where the difference happens.
As for HR, we need to push it, develop it, lead for it. At our place. Because this is people stuff and people stuff is what we do.
Watkins left one last thought in the room. When someone comes into your HR office, do you stop to understand how they might be feeling? And do you help them move to a more positive state, or do you drain them?
One to reflect on, maybe.