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.


All you need is trust

I’ve read with interest the recent debate about the Yahoo-ha about homeworking. I was going to write a blog on it, but everyone else got their first, so instead I got to thinking about my own attitude to and experience of homeworking.

I’ll start by sharing a great example of it. A few years ago one of my team had twin boys, meaning she had three children under three (brings me out in fear rash just thinking of it). Childcare costs meant returning to the 9-5, office environment was simply not feasible. So I just told her to work whenever she wanted. She works about 16 hours a week from home. I say ‘about’ as I have never checked. I know she details the hours she works in her calendar, but I can’t say I have ever looked at it. If I really wanted to, I guess I could ask IT to check the hours she is logged on, but I think that would say more about me than it would her. The only time I ever saw this particular member of the team was at the twice yearly performance appraisal. Other than that, we largely kept in touch by email. She often worked late in the evenings or on weekends; a complete and total flexible working arrangement. There is one key thing that made this arrangement work: trust.

Now I know many jobs need a physical presence and this example just wouldn’t work. But sweeping generalisations about what people do or don’t do when in an office or at home doesn’t work either.

The thinking about the future of work suggests that a number of trends such as globalisation, the desire to reduce carbon emissions combined with energy challenges, increasing technology, the cloud, emerging economies (I could go on) will lead to increased homeworking over the next few decades. Just saying you want everyone in the office won’t be an option if you want to engage and retain the best talent. On a practical level, the office environment just doesn’t work for some people; people need white space (term shamelessly stolen from Perry Timms) in which to think and create.

You need to trust the people you work with, unless you have a very good reason not to.

My natural tendency is to trust. I don’t need to be asked if you want to leave early because you are off to the dentist. I don’t need to know when you are off to lunch or when you will be back. You don’t need to rush into my office to explain why you are five minutes late and if you are not at your desk I’m going to assume you are doing something useful, interesting or work related. If I spot you in a coffee shop I’ll assume you needed to get out of the office to think. Want to work from home for the day? JFDI. Because I trust you. If this trust turns out to be misplaced, then I’ll deal with that.

All you need is trust. Give it a try.