The last resort

We draw inspiration from some funny places. The moments, the stories, the experiences that sometimes we even struggle to place can form our thinking, our feeling and our doing. As a kid, I had a collection of Aesop’s Fables, I can’t even remember whether they were read to me, or I read them myself. Or perhaps even both. But I remember the stories.

The one that sticks with me most is the story of the North Wind and The Sun. If you’re not familiar with the fables then you can read more about it here. The message being that gentleness or persuasion is more powerful than force or bluster. A lesson that has stuck with me through life and work.

The organizational context within which we co-exist is becoming increasingly complex, with relationships stretching across borders and boundaries. Inter connecting departments, shared purpose with separate ownership, leadership from within not above.  The world of work is increasingly full of ambiguity.

And faced with ambiguity and complexity, the natural instinct is to create order from disorder, certainty in uncertainty and control the uncontrollable. But the rules of the games have changed forever and the traditional methods of management are themselves ineffective, outdated and the refuge of the ineffective and outdated; the last resort of the inept.

In this increasingly complex and inter connecting world those that succeed are the ones that understand that trust beats control, that persuasion beats force, that collaboration beats independence. We create cohesion not by instruction, but by willingly coming together, we create certainty by collectively defining the future, we create success through self-determination and empowerment.

The future of work bears little resemblance to the past, the environment is changing at such a pace and some will adapt, but many won’t. The scared, ill prepared and ineffective will try to hold it back. The wise will listen, understand, talk, create, co-operate and succeed.

When things are bafflingly complex, only through empowering, respecting, trusting and collaborating will we find the way through.

Only by letting go will we hold on.

The price of greatness

Every day when you wake up, you have a choice.

You continue to have choices throughout the day.

Thankfully, most of us don’t live in totalitarian states, we don’t live in repressive regimes, we have the weight and responsibility of free will hanging over our shoulders. Every action, every interaction, is a conscious undertaking.

Being in HR does not absolve you of this responsibility. Yes, responsibility.


If you don’t have the fight within you to make things different;

If you don’t believe that you can change the working lives of your colleagues for the better;

If you don’t have the guts and determination to lose but then stand up again;

If you yearn more for recognition than success;

If you search for deeper meaning in work yet offer no light to guide the way;

If your inactivity is driven by a desire for permission your proactivity hampered by your lack of courage;

If you seek value in acceptance and shun value in difference;

Then get out of the profession.

There are a million people out there who would gladly put themselves in your place. If you’re not up to it. Get out.

Every morning when you wake up, you have a choice.

Let’s not become self determined victims, scared of taking responsibility for our own destiny.

Nobody asked you to do this job, nobody asks you to stay in it. Will anyone miss you when you’re gone?

Those that have nothing to add, have nothing to add. And nothing will come of nothing.

So speak again.

Unconscious immunity

I can remember at some point in my childhood, my brother and I were having a pointless argument over a pointless topic in only the way that loving siblings can. I can’t remember the specifics, there were far too many brotherly tiffs to record them all, but I know that he was teasing me over something that I had tried to do and failed badly at. And my mother said,

“Those who never try, never fail”

Those who never try….never fail.  Ok so this was said as a rebuke to a 9-year-old evil tempered older brother. But some 30 years or so later I was sat in the US thinking about the future of HR and why we seem incapable as a profession of shaking off the shackles of mainstream perception and the words start to take on a separate but equally  valid meaning.

So many of us out there in the profession are seeking some sort of unconscious immunity.  If we say nothing outside of “the box”, then there is no chance that we will be ridiculed.  If we keep our counsel on subjects that are out of the strictly defined “people agenda” then we will never look stupid. If we don’t talk and stay silent, then we might not look stupid and might raise our credibility.

Of course, when you read this – like me – you’ll think this is a nonsense.  It makes no sense right?  Why would not saying something be more likely to improve your credibility than saying something? But then you are reading this from a rational objective and not an emotional one. And the way that we interact in business and express our views is, in my opinion, more based on the latter than the former.

Saying nothing is a seemingly sure bet.  If you say nothing, you will seldom be wrong. The view on the monthly financial report, the question on the marketing plan, the point on the supply chain strategy that just doesn’t sit right.  Raising them…..well you could be totally wrong and make yourself a laughing-stock. But not raising them………?

Don’t get me wrong, I can be guilty of this myself. Sitting in a meeting and thinking “that doesn’t make sense” but saying absolutely nothing. Not always, but sometimes. And I need to challenge myself to break this habit.  You don’t change anything by staying silent, you change by speaking out.

Very little grows in the shadows, it grows in the glare of the midday sun.  You put yourself out there and of course there is the risk that you may just get something wrong. But let he who is without asking a daft question, throw the first stone.  And you never know, once in a while, you might say something that really changes the game.