HR – smile, it’s a start.

Just when you need inspiration for a blog it pops right up in front of you. I saw this on twitter as one of the many photos from the #cipdldshow posted by @dds180 and it manage to encapsulate for me what HR (catch all title for people stuff, no silos or in fighting in this blog) is all about.

For too long now I have witnessed HR as a miserable, moaning, whining and victim like set of people. You will have heard it at conferences, seminars and the like spouting such stuff as “why aren’t we on the top table” – “line managers are awful” – “we need to be part of the business”, moan, moan whinge, whinge.

From my perspective HR comes from the view that “employees are on the take” and therefore it is our job to ensure they don’t get away with it. So they create policy after policy to ensure those pesky employees are controlled and punished if they dare to break rank.

Think about it. We can’t trust our staff to dress properly so we need a Dress Code (beyond belief!!), we can’t trust our staff to use social media so we need a policy, we can’t trust staff to behave so we need a 40 page disciplinary policy that lists all bad behaviour, we can’t trust staff to do their jobs so we create a 50 page performance management policy and hours and hours of classroom training that most sensible managers try to avoid! I could go on and on and on but you get the picture, right?

I recently read a blog called “What would HR policies look like if they were based on giving?” by Lynda Gratton @lyndagratton and it really struck a chord with me. HR people do see employees as the enemy that need to be controlled with policies and procedures.

I recently told my team that we could probably burn 90% of the policies we have. There were a few gasps and a few nervous smiles until they realised I was actually serious. I would ask any HR person to look at their policies and procedures and a) count them (that’s usually enough to make you gasps!) b) count which ones are created from a lack of trust in employees and then c) decide which ones you could do without. And if you are really brave d) destroy the ones you don’t need.

So how about if we viewed our role, as David suggest 1. Be happy. 2. Be Awesome. 3. Help others be 1 & 2. Can you imagine the shift not just in ourselves but in how others perceive us? People start inviting you to the right meetings, people ask your opinion, you are in at the beginning not the end and most importantly you are valued not just for your HR skills and expertise but for your general skills and expertise, basically you are valued as a human being. Who wouldn’t want that?

How do I know it works – well my most favourite (and frequent) bit of feedback is “you aren’t like a normal HR person”.

Get it?

One last bit of advice – HR people are employees too – so do you trust yourself or are you on the take too?


Life is good

Sometimes life just comes together and all you can do is smile. I have had an exceptionally good day. I had a fantastic conversation with my new Chief Executive, I then headed to London to see the Propaganda, Power and Persuasion exhibition at the British Library and finally I had a great time meeting fabulous people at the SE Thames CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) branch annual business meeting at the gorgeous venue that is the Cutty Sark pub in Greenwich.

So three marvellous things happened in one day. And although it was muggy and humid there were times when the sun shone and when the cloud formation over canary wharf and the dome when it really took your breath away, and made you happy to be alive and a Londoner.

I would recommend the Propaganda exhibition to everyone. The British Library is an exceptional venue. For me it was the first time I visited, yep I can’t believe that! The exhibition got you thinking, what is propaganda? Can I believe propaganda? How insidious is it? How much propaganda am I subject to without knowing it?

However, during the CIPD branch meeting we were very lucky to hear the inside story from Wendy Cartwright, HR Director of the ODA. It was a fascinating story giving us the story, full of passion, values and delivery, all presented with such calm. And right opposite the building Wendy was located in during her time there. We heard about legacy, pride, the enormity of the task, and the people that made it all happen. We really were transported back to the glorious days of summer 2012! Such an inspiration.

So how does that link to the British Library exhibition? Well there was video about the Olympics starring Alistair Campbell, talking about country brand and Tessa Jowell about how then country was united in cheer, happiness and optimism. Now that isn’t a bad thing! I remember it, London, my home town, was transformed! Such a positive vibe all around the city, everyone joining in whether that was watching on TV, visiting the park or having tickets to events. And yes I know, it wants just about London, the rowing was very emotional. So was that propaganda? Some people will say yes, the government wanted to spin some positive, others will say no, it’s the people’s opinion spilling out! Does it matter? Probably not. As long as we enjoyed ourselves! And as long as we claimed the Olympics as an Olympics for the people of the UK.

So hearing Wendy speak, we got to understand how much sheer hard work, slog, focus, discipline, planning, strategy, vision, values, partnerships and delivery got to make it happen.

So I reckon we should be proud of what HR people can deliver! It’s an awesome story, and we should be inspired by it. As Wendy said, be courageous and deliver!

So after today, life is definitely very bloody good!

What’s next?

It’s been eleven weeks now since I left my job of 5 years and I must say that the majority of the time has been absolutely splendid! If you can, I would highly recommend taking some time out from work and doing stuff that you thoroughly enjoy. Of course we can’t all do this, I was lucky enough to know that i was going to be made redundant, so i saved some cash.

I have spent a great deal of time going to the theatre, seeing contemporary dance and ballet, visiting art galleries, spending time with my mum, meeting new people via twitter, starting a blog (although a bit lax with this), catching up with friends and I have started a beginners Tai Chi course! I even bought a Ukulele and am slowly teaching myself, or perhaps more accurate, just strumming every now and then!

However, every now and then the fear arrives and stays for a couple of days. The fear of “will I ever get a job and what will I do if I don’t”. When the fear arrives it is compounded by searching the websites and seeing there isn’t anything out there that suits my skills, my salary expectations and most importantly, my values. Then you start to lower your expectations and highlight jobs to apply for that you wouldn’t normally consider. And then the phone call arrives from a trusted source at your favourite agency. She mentions a couple of great roles that are a perfect fit. Your spirits are immediately lifted (you don’t even have an interview!), yes there is hope, the right role will arrive soon and the panic eases and disappears.

Your great mood comes back and away you go on more adventures to art galleries, museums, exhibitions, all free mind!

So that has been my last few days and today the phone call arrived. So I can definitely say again, life is good!

If you are in the same situation as me, I hope this rings true for you, remember, something always comes up, hang in there. And in the meantime enjoy yourself, you never know when this great life will come to an end.

What’s next?


So it’s nearly the end of April and let me tell you it has been a fantastic month. I love being a tourist in the greatest city in the world, yes London! As a Londoner I might be a little bit biased but really, this city is amazing! There is so much to see.

So what I have been up to; Streetwise Opera’s The Answer to Everything ( at BFI, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Puz/zle ( at Sadlers Wells, Royal Ballet’s Draft Works at the Linbury Studio and The Tempest at the Globe Theatre.

So let me start with Streetwise Opera’s The Answer to Everything. Based in a fictional conference, Locateco Solutions leads the way in the single person re-homing market, by their proposals to radically re-purpose under exploited brown-field lands and re-direct underactive citizens through their rigorous human energy resource channelling programme (hmmm conference speak!). Just like any conference, I registered, got my lanyard and conference pack and for the duration I was ColinCreek, Coordinating Manager of Special Structures (no ordinary structures for me!). I was invited to wear a tie, the person in front of me just nabbed the orange one (my favourite colour) so I plumped for a pink and blue striped one, which looked beautiful over my sweatshirt. There was much handshaking from the organisers and “welcome to the conference”, “what’s your name, what do you do?” There was also much looking to the audience and “hi, how are you? Haven’t seen you seen last conference, good to seeeee you”. It was pretty much what I had experienced from conferences, ridiculous presentations where the presenter fails to grasp any knowledge of plain English, syntax and audience awareness. Spot on Streetwise Opera! It was part film and part performance (obviously starring homeless performers). There was of course much singing and music including Handel, Schumann, Britten and Vivaldi. And then a little bit of dread from me, audience participation; the “Ten Principles of Good Business” all with actions to accompany the 10. Now I am no singer and I did go on my own, so it is a bit embarrassing singing, badly on your own. However, I stood and mouthed the words. I can’t remember all of the ten principles but here are a few; “feed the photocopier”, “blue sky thinking”, “networking”, “light bulb moment”, “downsize”, “upgrade” and “be the future”. See I told you, just like any real conference! We ended with the Locateco Anthem sung to “Soldiers Chorus” from Faust and by then I was joining in! As the credits rolled I realised just how splendid Streetwise Opera are and what they do, and it brought a little tear to my eye.

And then Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s Puz/zle at Sadlers Wells. Two hours of contemporary dance and I was excited. The show was a mixture of beautiful dance, music, singing, stage movement and human movement. It really did have it all. And like nothing I had seen at Sadlers for a good while. It is difficult to explain but I’ll try. As the dancers moved about the stage they reconfigured the set, a mixture of geometric shapes, at one point the columns holding up the top shape were kicked away and were held up by the dancers, not impressed, well there was a dancer on top of the shape!!! You could hear an intake of breath from the audience. The dancing was top notch, such beautiful movement mixed with energy and power, quite something. The music perfectly matched the movement and at times I was in a trance with it all (and yes my mouth was open!). You had the singers mingling in with the dancers, and such beautiful singing. When it finished I was left wanting so much more, couldn’t believe it had been 2 hours and a standing ovation so very well deserved! Go check them out next time they are in town, you will not be disappointed.

And so to Draft Works at the Linbury Studio. Draft Works provides an opportunity for dancers to create their own work, the brief is entirely open. Wayne McGregor opened it and I remembered the time we had an away day at Sadlers Well’s and he spoke to us, reconnecting us back to the art. Because they are Draft Works it can be a little hit and miss but for £10.50 you can’t complain! Some of the pieces did nothing for me, whilst others I thoroughly enjoyed and I hope the choreographers get to develop it further. The pieces I really enjoyed were Kristen McNally’s Untitled, the first section. Can you imagine Royal Ballet dancers doing the funky chicken to Vivaldi? Ludovic Ondiviela’s Exordium was about a boy chasing his rainbow, his happiness and was cheeky and quirky. Kenta Kura’s D.M. was fast, furious and powerful and Marcelino Sambe was a fantastic dancer. Kenta’s reaction afterwards was marvellous, jumping up and down, smiling and clapping!! And finally Valentino Zucchetti’s Orbital Motion. I am a sucker for synchronisation in ballet and dance and this had it, beautiful movement and precision. A top night out. Plus I heard “The Beast in Me” for the first time, top tune!

And then to today, The Tempest at the Globe. I am not a big Shakespeare fan (sorry to those who are) but I love The Tempest. I saw Cheek by Jowl’s performance at the Barbican, in Russian, which was fantastic. I wasn’t expecting the same but I was expecting an impish and cheeky Ariel (I named one of my cats Ariel, arh bless, he is dead now). I wasn’t disappointed. Both Ariel and Caliban were brilliant in very different ways. Caliban, aggressive and subservient and Ariel, slightly aloof, impish and subservient. As with the Globe productions it was very funny in parts, made great use of the yard (where I was standing, £5 tickets) and the actors had to put up with the many helicopters flying over. Ariel and his spirits were in amongst the audience, freaking them out as much as the ship wrecked crew on stage. Costumes were amazing, the massive bird Ariel turned into, the dogs that attacked the shipwrecked crew, and Ariel’s make up, spot on. As you can tell, I only really see the Tempest for Ariel. Apart from it being little chilly (I didn’t wear a coat!) and my back hurting, (I can’t really stand for long periods) I really enjoyed it. Perhaps next time I will book a seat, instead of standing.

So next week as ever is a busy one, appointment with an agency (fingers crossed), Hofesh Shechter at Sadlers Wells, networking, dinner and drinks with colleagues of time gone by, an interview (haven’t had one of those in 5 years!) and at last Beckenham has delivered Tai Chi classes!!! And I get to spend some more time with my mum. Marvellous!

So, of course, life is good, actually it is damn splendid!

What’s next?

I woke up feeling a little bit grumpy today. Sometimes it happens, not very often but it does. The whole am I unemployed, taking a holiday from work, applying for jobs, not getting any bites thing can be very up and down. The majority of the time it is pretty good, going to art galleries, having lunch with friends, hooking up with new contacts, ballet, dance, theatre. And then occasionally I get that feeling. If you are currently unemployed and looking for work, you probably know the one I mean – the “what if I don’t get another job” feeling. It comes straight out of the blue and hits me, hard. I start to feel panicky, how long will the money last? What if it takes forever to get work? Am I looking in the right place? What’s wrong with my CV? If I am not careful then the feeling of doom will quickly take hold and I am then spiralling down a dangerous path of “arhhhhhhhhhgggggggggg”. And then, thankfully, the rational, logical and objective voice steps in and says “enough is enough, get a bloody grip and stop being so stupid” (it can be harsh!) and I begin to breathe more easily (yep, even INTJs have bouts of emotional doubt!). So today was one of those days when that feeling returned, albeit briefly.

During this internal conversation with myself I got a call from my mate to sort out the dates of my visit to Yorkshire. I was sat on the balcony having a cup of tea and she was on her lunch break, needing some fresh air, so she called instead of text (nice!). So now I have a visit to Yorkshire to look forward to in June, and we can all go to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, hooray!!!! I asked her how work was going, and she replied that she is super busy with loads of deadlines. That got me thinking, I am probably ok really. And with that I threw on some clothes and headed to the local park with my ukulele to soak up the sunshine.

And so to some art! I was at the Saatchi gallery yesterday, I didn’t know what was on but there is always something good, weird and brilliant at the Saatchi and it’s free. Two pieces really stood out for me; Gosha Ostretsov’s Criminal Government and Greta Alfaro’s In Uctu Oculi. The first piece was an installation of 5 small cells each with an individual dressed in business attire with weird heads and various forms of mutilation (sounds weird but check out the picture on the website, link below). It was called Criminal Government, corrupt politicians that had been subject to interrogation and torture, the boot on the other foot? It had a strange feeling on me, peering in to the small cells seeing the various forms of mutilation and horror, added to the strangeness was the fact they were wearing suits and ties and all were men. No corrupt female politicians then?

If you want to have a look

The second piece was a short film. It cut straight to a table laid out for four people with food and wine and champagne in the middle of nowhere. Green hills and mountains in the background. Then slowly you could hear birds swooping around and see the shadows on the ground, vultures. The birds flew closer and closer, more and more of them until they settled on the ground, inspecting the table. One jumped up followed by another and another and another until the table was covered in birds eating away at the meal presented. There must have been over 100 birds, fighting each other for the food, wings out to get poll position. It was so noisy, all the birds squawking, their wings flapping, plates and bottles being knocked to the ground. You could hear the film in the adjacent gallery. Finally, all the food is gone and the birds slowly fly away until there are none left. All you have is a table destroyed by the birds and quiet. If you want to have a look

So what’s happening for the rest of the week; CIPD HRD conference the free bit), haircut, sign up for Tai Chi classes, buy tickets for Chorus Line, The Answer to Everything, Streetwise Opera at BFI, mentoring session, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui at Sadlers Wells, and the Royal Ballet’s Draftworks at the Linbury.

Life was a bit dodgy to start with today, but now life is good again!

What’s next?

It’s been three weeks now since I left my job due to redundancy and I can tell you for the majority of that time is has been a pretty splendid experience. It has been great to take some time out from work to……..just think. Yep, just think, one of my most favourite hobbies. I was going to write about something completely different (perhaps next time), but as you can tell my blog is pretty much a stream of consciousness.

So I am thinking, “what is next for me?”, “what do I want to do next?”, “what will make me happy?” It is all good stuff, allowing my mind to think about the many, many opportunities that are around the corner. I love daydreaming about possible jobs where I will be doing x or y, the people I will meet, the new experiences that I will have, it’s all very positive and can take up quite some mind time. I also have the time to reflect, especially about my family. Losing my nan a couple of months ago I am now in touch (albeit on Facebook) with my cousins again. It has also got me thinking about my mum and dad and what kind of relationship I have with them. People always say to me that I am very lucky to have such a great relationship with my parents (and my sister and brother). I don’t like the word “luck”. There isn’t any “luck” about it. The relationship we have has been worked on for many, many years (I am not telling you how old I am!). We have had some very tough times, difficult times and scary time (like when I came out) but we work hard at staying in touch, spending quality time together, being there for one another and always having a hug and a kiss when we see each other.

So it got me thinking about relationships we have at work. These relationships too are not formed out of luck. We have to work hard at these relationships too. They don’t come easy. We need to understand each other, see things from different  perspectives, compromise and respect each other strengths and weaknesses. Taking people for granted in any aspect of your life won’t give you those great relationships that you need. It takes time, commitment and give and take (yes I am preaching to the converted), but it pays off BIG time. Because of the work I do, HR & OD, I bang on and on and on about the need to develop great relationships to be credible and to get things done (trust is huge) and I think in this day and age (yes I sound old) qualifications etc are a given, but they are nothing if you can’t develop and build great relationships! 

And now to some great ballet and contemporary dance I saw over the weekend.

Friday night I was at the Coliseum to see English National Ballet’s Ecstasy and Death. A triple bill selected by the newish Artistic Director Tamara Rojo. There was much raving about it on Twitter so I was really looking forward to it. I had foolishly booked a ticket in the upper circle, me afraid of heights! I should never go any higher than dress circle! However, being that high up gave me an appreciation of the decor in the Coliseum, it is beautiful. The many faces of theatre, happy, sad, surprised, shocked, the boxes, the ceiling. We don’t build buildings like that anymore! 

The first piece was Petite Mort by the Czech choreographer Jiri Kylian accompanied by Mozart’s piano concertos. And it was phenomenal! Halfway through I realised I had been sitting there with my mouth open, a sure sign that I am enthralled! The movement between the men and the women was pure beauty, strength and precision. The music and the movement cane together beautifully, it was hypnotic. I could have watched it al evening. The second piece, Le Jeune Homme et la Mort I had had a sneak preview via a YouTube link sent by @clouddancefestival and I was not disappointed. For me it was a mixture of opera and ballet, a tragic love story, the young man driven to madness and finally suicide by his lover. It is quite a performance, with some of the moves quite breathtaking, completely in awe of the skill and beauty the dancers can display on stage. The final piece Etudes was a take on a ballet class with the steps getting more and more difficult as the piece progressed. It ended with the drum kit in the orchestra bashing out the music as the dancers bashed out some amazing spinning, jumping, contortions until it could reach no more and bang, it ended! The crowd exploded with clapping, cheering, whoop whooping and whistling! It was quite some show, the short walk back to the station had my mind reeling. A perfect end to the evening! 

Saturday night I was at the Laban to see Tom Dale’s company and their piece called Refugees of the Septic Mind. It was the last show of their current tour and again recommended to me by @clouddancefestival

WOW! I haven’t since a contemporary dance piece that is so current, ever. Without sounding like a pretentious art critic, I will try and describe it. It was raw, urban, futuristic and current, energetic and messy. The movement was fast and furious, tumbling around the stage in perfect time. The stage was made up of large shapes and on to them were projected images of a giant sun exploding, buildings with their glass shattering and amongst other things rolls and rolls of numbers. On top of that was loud music by Shackleton and Vengeance Tenfold which gave it that extra edge of, building the energy and futuristic feel. It was only an hour long piece but it felt like I was there experiencing it longer, in a very good way! I was sat at the front and it felt like it was all for me, I was so engrossed! Each dancer brought something different and complimented each other. I will definitely be joining their mailing list. Apparently they are off to the Edinburgh Festival, if you are going check them out! 

And to end the weekend, Spurs beat ManchesterCity in a thrilling match, scoring 3 goals in 7 minutes (in the last 15 minutes) to come out 3-1 winners! Therefore, the Champions League is back on! Yes, I had a sore throat afterwards! And I didn’t even text my dad to gloat!!

Yep, life is pretty good!

What’s next? cont……

So I went and signed on on Wednesday and had a lovely chat with the job centre person. He was looking online for me for a job, we were talking about where and I mentioned I had done a very short stint in Kosovo and Addis Ababa, he mentioned Saudi Arabia, I told him I probably wouldn’t fit in there! He found a role at a Law firm and I mentioned that they always ask for professional services experience and that it was difficult to move from the public/voluntary sector into the private sector. Is there still that view out there by private sector workers that us public sector workers are slackers? If there is, well *big sigh*. And then I signed and left. My money should be through in a couple of days. 

There is something about the job centre that makes me feel guilty and a little bit like begging for money. I know they are trying to help but I really can look for a job on my own. I don’t need the CV advice session (next week), I don’t need you googling random HR jobs for me and I can’t use your database job search tool and I REALLY do not want to upload my CV on to it. If you know anything about marketing and job search I need to target my search, find the fit, match my skills and experience to the role. Sending out random CVs to random roles will do my reputation no good at all. But I get it. I have to jump through the hoops for my £70 odd quid a week. I only signed on so my national insurance would be kept up to date, although it is unlikely that there will be a state pension when I retire, if I live that long! Don’t get me wrong I am pleased that I get any money, but treating everyone the same really doesn’t work. What does Doug Shaw say; “stop doing stupid things to customers”? I wholeheartedly agree!

So after the experience of the job centre, a call from an agency and searching for jobs online I needed some replenishment of the soul. I went to see Light Show at the Hayward Gallery. I had been meaning to go for ages, but was waiting for the children to go back to school. I was very pleased that it cost me £8 to get in (instead of the £12) because I was unemployed. However, I used to be able to get in for free. 

WOW, what a fabulous exhibition! Just so you know it has been extended to 6 May, so plenty of time to check it out. Open late on a Thursday and Friday and weekends are usually sold out, so book early. 

There was so much to see, I was there for a good couple of hours. My favourite piece was Carlos Cruz-Diez 3 rooms of colour. Slowly walking from one room to the other you can sense the shades of the colour changing in intensity. Standing in certain places in the 3 different rooms gives you a sense of the colours changing and the rainbow creating itself on the wall.  The cubes on the ceiling also change as you move displaying the different colours. I was also entertained by an impromptu display of contemporary dance by one of the other visitors and her friends. Olafur Eliasson’s combination of strobe lighting and water was spectacular. The strobe lighting gave the effect of the water suspended in the air, each time displaying a different shape. It took a while to get used to the strobes and I couldn’t stay for long but it was very much worth it. And finally, Jenny Holzer’s piece displaying text from declassified government documents in a flashing circular display was mesmerising. Take a seat and sit back and watch the conversations. There is much more to see than the three I have highlighted.

Afterwards I popped into Tate Modern. I wanted to see the Lichtenstein again. First time I saw it it was mobbed and therefore difficult to see and take in the pieces. It also left me and my friend a bit cold and flat. A disappointment, which was immediately overturned by a visit to Wahaca! Anyway as I said I wanted to go back and see if it could change my mind. I am afraid to say, that it didn’t. I appreciate the skill and precision in his work but it left me feeling a little flat, again. I was really excited when Tate announced this retrospective but I am now disappointed.

And to top off the day, I had dinner and chats with my mum. Life is good!