Creating the best workplace on earth

I’m listening to the opening keynote at CIPD13 by Gareth Jones and Rob Goffee, who are talking about creating great places to work.

They argue that effective leadership excites people to exceptional performance, and exceptional performance is not a luxury for organisations, but a necessity for survival.

People want effective leaders, and they want those leaders to be authentic. But authentic leadership needs authentic organisations. The new task of leadership is to create organisations in which employees can find their authentic selves, and follow their dreams. People spend most of their lives at work – so employees need to be able to be themselves there.

Leaders must be able to answer the question: ‘why would anyone want to work here?’

Goffee and Jones believe that employees want these things, in their dreams.

– Difference. Not just diversity, but a chance to be different, to celebrate difference. Cohesion without homogenisation.

– Radical honesty. To know what is really going on. No spin. No sanitisation. Share information, don’t hoard it. Tell the truth before someone else does.

– Extra value. To be able to work in an organisation in which your strengths are magnified. Employers and employees adding value to each other. Letting people grow through what they do.

– Authenticity. To know what the organisation stands for. Not a wordy mission statement sitting unread on the corporate intranet but a real sense of where the company has come from and where it is going.

– Meaning. To do work that really means something. Meaning comes from many sources; connections, community, cause.

– Simple rules. To work somewhere free from stupid rules. Have good rules. Simple and agreed ones that make sense to people, and feel fair.

So, could you answer the first question: why would someone want to work in your organisation? And if you are a leader, why would anyone want to work for you.

How does the organisation you work stack up against these criteria?

Can we DREAM of creating a great place to work?

Let HR lead the way.



When I heard that the topic for the Carnival of HR was beginnings, this seemed pretty topical for me, being six weeks into a new job.

I’m sure that you will already be familiar with Tuckman’s stages of group development; forming, storming, norming and performing. If not, follow the link: for a quick summary. This has been the focus of my last few weeks: the beginnings of a new team.

In just six short weeks we are zooming through the theoretical stages. We got the forming out of the way in the first week or so. We were polite, guarded, sounding each other out. Then we did a little storming. Sitting in a room and saying what we thought and felt about where we were today. As the theory suggests, it was a little bit painful at times. Not everyone liked what was said, not everyone was comfortable. But we drew the fabled line in the sand, but for the most part we’ve moved on. I hope.

One of the things that has been critical in our beginning has been the power of getting to know each other. Sharing who we are, our values and drivers, beliefs and triggers. It’s a long process but we have made a start. All those articles and books about being a team, building a team? If you want a team, and you want to get to the performing stage in Tuckman’s theory, then I believe trust comes first. It is your foundation. And to trust me they have to know me.

I took the opportunity to ask my team today what it had been like for them waiting for a new manager to turn up. How they felt on the run up, and what it has been like for them while we have been working through the kind of team we want to be. Two themes came through. The first was being in a vacuum. Waiting, hanging around, not wanting to start something new that the new boss would then come in and criticise, change or tear up. A limbo state. The other theme was described as ‘waiting for Christmas day’. There is a date that gets nearer and nearer. You have a mental list of what you ‘d like to get, but you have to wait to see if it is everything that you hoped it would be, or whether it will be a packet of embroidered handkerchiefs from Marks and Spencer’s. Here’s sincerely hoping I’m not the latter.

As the leader of a team, I believe authenticity is fundamental. I don’t have a work me and a home me, there is just the total me. I’ll admit that when I put my One Direction calendar up in the office (a gift one from one of the HR team) along with my #punkhr poster (courtesy of Simon Heath) it raised the odd eyebrow. But these things are who I am. There have been dozens of books written about making your first weeks in a new job effective, and I’m not proposing to add to this long list. I will say just one thing only. If you have a new beginning, be yourself. As Oscar Wilde said, everyone else is already taken.

Image, as usual, by the fantastic Graham Smith @AATImage.


Things my father taught me

I saw a post recently from @KateGL in which she spoke about her uncle and what she had learned from him.  It made me think about the biggest single influence on me professionally; my Father.

My Father (sort of) retired last year, after over 40 years’ service to his employer.  During that time he went from an engineer driving a van, to the MD.  Not a small feat for someone who left school with no qualifications and went to work down the pit.  When he retired, his team gave him a watch.  It was inscribed with his name, the company name, and the legend: From 1969 to infinity.  That’s some legacy. 

He has taught me many things in my life.  To drive, to tie my shoes laces, he even once tried unsuccessfully to teach me to play badminton (I have zero hand eye co-ordination- it was never going to work).  These are the things he taught me that I take to work every day:

  • You pay back what you owe.  If people help you along the way, treat you well, go the extra mile, you always give it back and then some.
  • Work bloody hard for what you want.  There were no school holidays for me.  No long university vacation.  Oh no.  You’d find me in his office, doing six months of filing and shredding.   They used to actually save it up for me.  (Thanks Carol).  It’s a lesson I’ve taken into every job I’ve ever done, and it has served me well. 
  • Leading means being truthful with people.  Telling them what you expect, holding them to account, and giving feedback – good or bad.
  • Treat people properly.  Fight for them if you have to. 
  • When you start a new job, you don’t need to take your existing deckchairs with you and set them up on day one.  Learn the business; don’t assume you know what’s best because you’ve done it before, or that’s how you like it.  Learn, ask questions, then decide. 
  • Sometimes, you have to be a bastard; it’s just a question of how big a bastard you are going to be.  Those are his words, not mine.  Some people might find them harsh, but they mean you have to be prepared to do difficult things and make difficult decisions, and often you are the bad guy.  Sounds a bit like working in HR to me. 
  • Don’t give up because things are difficult, but know when it’s time to walk away. 

 To me, these lessons equal leadership.  Cheers Dad.    


Photo by @AATImage (Graham Smith)