Tag Archives: confidence

The one with nothing to do

I was recently involved in a conversation about how you prepare people for business continuity/crisis management. One of the comments made in the conversation was that at times (in both simulation and real life situations) people try to do too much or feel the need to do something/get involved. The drivers to this could be many fold but my thoughts at the time was that when it’s ‘all hands on deck’ all deck hands feel the need to be seen to do something (or else feel useless) but probably more importantly when in the grip of the tension and anxiety of such a situation people feel better if they are doing something rather than nothing. One of my colleagues (I think it may have even been my boss) came out with a great quote they had heard which was “he also serves who stands and waits” and I have since found out it’s from John Milton.

In the context of the conversation it was very pertinent and will definitely form some part of the support we give people in preparing for these situations but I have thought about it several times since in the context of management and leadership more generally.

I remember as a younger junior manager that my default setting was doing. In order to be seen to be running the team I had to get involved in every conversation, try and solve every problem and generally make a complete and utter nuisance of myself. With the advance of my grey hair I have become increasingly comfortable not just in holding people to account but more importantly allowing people the space and autonomy to complete their work – supporting them but not becoming an interfering pain in the arse on too regular a basis.

It was another recent conversation that brought the quote front of mind and it was with another senior colleague who was discussing a situation developing in his team. I can’t remember his exact words but he said something like, “there’s always a point like this where it can one of two ways – I’m letting them get stuck into it to see which way they go but I know I’ve got plenty of time to help them course correct if they need to”. I remember thinking how powerful his statement was and how it showed both his experience and his personal confidence at being able to let people make mistakes and knowing when it was necessary (and not just comfortable) to intervene.

There was definitely a lesson for me in his observations and it has already caused me to step back on two different occasions and think about the way I handle something. It also made me think with the triumph of competence over experience in how we assess talent that there was a challenge for those of us in HR roles to understand how this confidence and comfort should manifest in those we support in leadership roles.

Since today I am running an Away Day for one of our senior teams I will contradict myself and get on with a day where it’s unlikely I will have an opportunity to do nothing, but with that said I am sure there will be at least one moment today where I need to let the conversation move on and not stick my facilitation snout into it so maybe a Milton-Moment or two for me after all!


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The one with a positive index

Hands up who’s fed up of financial doom & gloom? Whilst it’s not difficult to validate the doom or gloom what I do find frustrating is that the general behaviour seems to be to jump on the bad news stories and ponder with cynicism any good news stories.

It could be argued (by me if no one else wants to) that inertia and risk aversion will keep the patient alive but with only with a ventilator and the only way to get this back to anywhere near fighting fitness will be some bold moves, courage and displays of confident decisiveness.

The consumer confidence index produced by GfK was flat year on year between January 2011 and January 2012 (although had improved by 4 points from December into January) at the same time the Reed Job Index is 9% higher than it was in January 2011 with only a 2% improvement from December into January.

The Reed index was created in December 2009 (and set at 100) and now sits at 123 but are we in better or worse shape than we were just over 2 years ago? You can probably argue it either way depending on what perspective you take and what data you use but I personally would like to think the worst is over and we now fully understand the problem (fingers crossed) so just step forward those bold confident decision makers….

As part of Reed’s PR effort I had a conversation with Marketing Director of Reed.co.uk, Mark Rhodes and our conversation covered a breadth of information around the job market. Whilst Mark acknowledged the index was based on data from reed.co.uk and I politely alluded to where that would position the data in the market considering reed’s brand we discussed at length the fundamental weakness in an index of this nature as it measures jobs being created not jobs being filled.

If you’ve worked in HR you’ve likely at some point completed the ONS questionnaire on headcount and recruitment which usually in my case involved a chasing call from someone in finance with the threat of punishment for not completing it.According to the ONS there were 29.09million people in employment (between 16-64) in Jan 2011 vs 29.12million people in the same age group one year later. It would take a far greater statistician than I (that’s a long list) to compare the reed job index with the ONS data but the ONS number os 0.03 higher for the January 2012 data.

So Reed produce some good news and what do I do with it? Well not exactly treat it with cynicism but maybe some scrutiny and I wanted to use this to ask some questions:

  • Does increased confidence in employment feel valid to you in February 2012?
  • Do you think more jobs are net being created than are disappearing?
  • Do you think jobs are being created and remaining unfilled? If so, why?

I’ll leave you with those and bid you a good weekend!

What I confess I forgot to ask is how many endocrinologist and lollipop people vacancies they’ve ever had on Reed….next time!

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The one with the good fight

Opposites attract, right?

Well as far as magnets go, yes, but when it comes to organisations it doesn’t always seem to hold. I’ve just finished reading an interesting post from Alison Chisnell, which is well worth a read on why organisations hire for compatibility rather than capability and it’s the following line that provoked this post:

“In my view, organisations and senior management teams don’t have to be harmonious or devoid of conflict and issues to be effective”

I couldn’t agree with Alison more. In fact I personally think the best organisations are rife with conflict but the right kind of conflict.

Some time ago I wrote a post about the gender pay gap and women in senior roles. If you care to read it, it’s linked here but one of the articles cited there said this:

“Organisations benefit from “feminine leadership” with the challenge facing organisations the need for competitiveness, aggression and task orientation (what could be considered male traits) are seen as less valuable than good communication, coaching, being intuitive, flexible and more people orientated in general (stereotypically female characteristics).” (Powell et al, 2002)

It seems to me that some conflict in the work place is about land grabbing, jostling for position, ego, politics and the type of win/lose behaviour that leaves the business fighting itself rather than focussing its energies on resolving issues and improving its position versus the competition.

Positive constructive conflict is good. It takes two (or more) points of view and challenges them to scrutiny to find the best route forward for the business but the focus is on best for the business not best for the individual. Some of the people I have respected most in my career are those who are secure enough in themselves to come out the other side and say “I was wrong, your way is better”.

I once worked with a very strong minded Head of Operations and we would fight like cat and dog in the meeting but once we’d got to agreement we’d walk out of the room, one would buy the other a coffee and get on with our day. It wasn’t personal, it was business. We were MEANT to have different points of view, we saw the world very differently and it was in the conflict between those two views that we got to some great outcomes for the business.

Whether it’s having more feminine characteristics or indeed females in the organisation, improving individual self awareness, giving people confidence to admit they can be wrong or the business being focussed on not indulging in political behaviour I’m not sure. It seems to me the more organisations can fight the good fight and move on to improving the better they will be for it.

A coach once said to me, “you don’t have to be disagreeable to disagree”. He got his bill paid without question but I’m still working on it….


Powell, G.N., Butterfield, D.A., Parent, J.D., (2002) “Gender and Managerial Stereotypes: Have the Times Changed?” Journal of Management, 28(2)


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