Stop Doing Dumb Things – In Pictures

At around 5.30 am on Wednesday morning I woke up and prepared to head off to Stop Doing Dumb Things – the unconference. Today was to be a rare, and for many a first chance, for HR and customer service professionals to come together and help strengthen the links between the employee and customer experience.

In my sleepy state I burned the toast to a frazzle so with my first dumb thing out of the way I headed off into the dark on an empty stomach. Thankfully when I arrived in Vauxhall The Madeira Café was open and I had double egg on toast with bacon. It was delicious.

There’s already loads of content from the event online and I want to say a huge thank you to Martin Couzins for capturing so many pictures, words, interviews and songs and getting them online so quickly. Leonie, one of our guests, talked about different learning styles and how different people communicate in different ways. One size does not fit all. There will be more content and feedback to follow over the next days and weeks, for now I wanted to share with you one learning style, the artwork that Tim Casswell and his team created for us on the day. I’ve included the briefest of descriptions below each picture and you can listen to Tim’s interpretation of this here

SDDT Frame One
Setting the Scene

This first picture is about setting the scene for the day, gathering people’s expectations.

SDDT Frame Two
Distilling words and scribbles and ideas as the day began to emerge

We ran a World Café to help set the day up. Many ideas and thoughts and feelings were expressed. We’re here to try something different. Fear and trust and freedom to express and a whole bunch of other things caught our eyes, hearts and minds.

SDDT Frame Three
Feedback from more detailed conversations

After the World Café people split up and talked about things in more detail. Communication, Value and measurement, Fear and trust, What and why of engagement, What can I do?

What works?

After lunch we spoke about, what works? We could and maybe should have teed this up in the run in to the event. By that I mean just asked guests to think about when and where they’ve seen good stuff going on. The importance of lunching together, to bond and share ideas came up and whenever possible, the importance of face to face dialogue. And when not possible, try skype, or video. And when not possible try the telephone. Use email as a last resort. We struggled to get lots of examples – I think we need to review and come back to this and gently develop it further.

How did the day appear to you?

This last picture was drawn rapidly at the end of the day. Subjects were suggested and Tim put them together in the moment. Some instant reflections on a challenging, useful, enjoyable and emotional day.

Huge thanks to everyone who encouraged, supported, attended, co-created and tweeted the day along. I feel so fortunate and sincerely humbled and motivated to know you.

There will be more to follow including feedback from guests, and more content summaries. For now – any observations and thoughts based on what you see here would as always be appreciated.

Leadership is Like Hairspray. Is She or Isn’t She?

There used to be a TV ad for Harmony Hairspray. The strapline was “Is She – Or Isn’t She?” The idea being the hairspray was so subtle (and remember folks we’re talking back when hairspray was made out of Superglue – true fact) that you couldn’t tell if the lady was wearing it or not.

It’s a bit like that moment when you meet someone who in a leadership sense has “got it”. You know they’ve got it, and you don’t know why.

We can learn lessons in leadership from well known figures such as Richard Branson, Freddie Laker and Greg Dyke. My friend Peter Massey read these articles recently and asked this question:

I was struck by a senior director I met this week – his personal behaviours instantly meant I knew he “got it” – as in people and customers. It was such an instant reaction that I couldn’t articulate it. Can you help identify what the personal behaviours are that give a leader away within the first few seconds?

I think it’s a great question. Maybe the give away is something to do with presence? So in those first few seconds the person you meet makes you feel like they are right there with you. Focussed on you.

To which Shereen Qutob added:

I’d add genuine interest in what the other person has to say; really listening and thinking about what that person is sharing and then asking really good inquisitive questions that shows they’re engaged. Also, not checking their Blackberry every 2 seconds when you’re addressing them is a plus!

Love the Blackberry point. The immediacy of technology tools has delivered a level of rudeness into the humble meeting which we simply wouldn’t have tolerated pre-mobile.

Cue Jonathan Wilson. One of the best thinkers I know. Here’s what he had to say on the matter.

I rather think that there could be several books written about those first few seconds. I agree with Shereen and I’d like to look at how you can tell people show interest that you value. Here are some summary thoughts based on my own experience and research. I use ‘he’ for convenience, but it is not gender specific.

The first thing the observer sees is a physical body. One factor, by no means decisive (but no single factor is decisive), is height. Tall people tend to be seen as more powerful (on average, they earn higher salaries, occupy more senior roles and tend to receive shorter sentences when convicted (more rarely than shorter people).

The next things that the observer sees are proportionality and symmetry. Proportionality begins with genes and is maintained by behaviour. Because it takes time to change and maintain body shape, it is a good indicator of self-awareness, self-esteem and sustained personal discipline. Most of us have a ‘better side”. Some are better than others. Symmetry is mostly genetic and is a strong indicator of genetic health and integrity. I don’t approve that physical qualities affect how people assess ‘leaders’, but research show that it does. What matters more is what the leader actually does to lead.

Having seen and judged the body in milliseconds, before consciousness has had chance to kick in, the observer sees posture. Leaders tend towards typical postures. Leaders tend to hold themselves quite straight and tilt their head very slightly backwards, e.g. Barack Obama, Maggie Thatcher, (feminine seducers tend to dip their head and look from underneath, e.g. Princess Di). Looking (slightly) down one’s nose is a leadership behaviour that people accept in context and detest as arrogance in other contexts or if overdone. Engaging conversationalists also tilt their head very slightly to one side.

The next thing that the observer sees is the leader’s gaze. Leaders tend to hold relatively sustained gaze that still scans almost constantly, pausing to focus on the subject of interest, especially people of interest. The ability to sustain gaze that shows continuing, real interest, despite competing forces inspires a belief in those being listened to that they have something important to say to someone whom they believe is important.

Humans have evolved to look at eyes and gaze and to read minute details as part of their ability to form community. Most of this is done quite unconsciously. Much of a leader’s power to influence comes from their ability to use their eye movements appropriately. Some of that is genetic, innate and automatic (pupil dilation). Some is unconsciously learned – and this feels intuitive and innate even though it is not.

Then the observer notices the leader’s movements, occupation of space and the management of space between themselves and those in their physical presence. The leader enjoys more personal freedom of space than his followers and takes more liberty entering other people’s space, which they allow him to do.

They will then hear the leader expressing himself clearly and demonstrating a clear grasp of the issues facing the group he leads. He will frequently do this by asking questions that show his understanding and direct his followers’ attention to significant matters. It is the role of the leader to express, direct and extend his group.

Most of all the observer will notice that the leader’s posture, gaze, behaviour, tone, pace and intonation are consonant with each other, with the group and their common context. They are thus mutually self-reinforcing. They demonstrate the leader’s awareness of himself and of the situation and self-confidence that he and the group can handle the situation well. It is this confluence that inspires people and that enables you to see in a few seconds that he has “got it”.

Wow. And lest we forget, a leader ain’t much good without a few followers. John Schonegevel reminds us:

Fascinating stuff. But before we get too carried away by first impressions, let’s remind ourselves that it takes at least two people; every leader needs at least one follower! So there is much more to the dynamic. And every subsequent interaction also has an impact. I suggest that too often we miss out on the importance of ‘consistency’ as a key leadership quality.

Some interesting answers to the question. And as always we’d love to hear from you. How do you know that someone’s got it – in the first few seconds? Is She or Isn’t She?

photo c/o Auntie P

Love Song

“Just for you, here’s a love song, and it makes me glad to say it’s been a lovely day and it’s OK”

I was motivated by Mervyn Dinnen’s recent post, Beautiful Noise. In the spirit of sharing I offer you a Love Song….actually I’ll leave the song to The Damned. Here are four recent blog posts I really enjoyed and would like to share with you.

Love this idea. Normally I don’t much care for quotes. “I’m not insensitive, I just don’t care” – Homer Simpson. But then I read this by Alison Chisnell and I came over all…motivated. What I love about this story is the sense of involvement to reinvigorate what might otherwise be seen as a rather tired method.

Yeah I know – Thanksgiving was last Thursday. But I’m writing this now and I didn’t want you to miss out on this lovely giving of thanks by Matt Chevy. Matt’s an interesting guy busy making his own way in the world. Matt designed my website and he has a good way with words.

And here’s an ask from TheHRD for some retail love. Not love of the shopping, but love for the retail staff. I’ve worked in retail so I appreciate the request for some festive love and understanding. And Callum Saunders’ follow up comment is great!

I love to read real life examples on leadership. You don’t see many of these about. Gareth Jones wrote a piece called Lessons in Leadership based on his experience of Greg Dyke which fits the bill for me. Great vignettes on managing others, engagement, you and responsibility. Visible leadership, spot on.

Love it.

PS – welcome back FlipChartFT – punk’s not dead 🙂

I’ll be the ticket if you’re my collector
I’ve got the fare if you’re my inspector
I’ll be the luggage if you’ll be the porter
I’ll be the parcel if you’ll be my sorter

Just for you here’s a love song
Just for you here’s a love song
And it makes me glad to say
It’s been a lovely day
And it’s okay

I’ll be the mail you’ll be the guard
I’ll be the ink on your season ticket card
I’ll be the rubbish you’ll be the bin
I’ll be the paint on the sign
If you’ll be the tin