The 7 qualities of exceptional practice

  1. Creativity – Whilst it might seem a strange one to start the list with, the ability to bring creativity into design and problem solving is one of the aspects that really sets exceptional practitioners apart. We can all suggest something we’ve done before, but can we imagine the new?
  2. Empathy – I’m really clear that this is different to sympathy – the cross that the profession has to bear. I’m talking about the ability to put yourself in the shoes of others and consider the evidence from their perspective and to understand their lens.
  3. IQ – Sure, I know this isn’t fashionable, but I see a simple link between intellectual horse power and performance. It isn’t enough on its own, but without it you’re surely going to struggle.
  4. Curiosity – The people who excel are fascinated about learning more and constant discovery. They ask questions, explore and see opportunity in every circumstance. They’re restless and intellectually always on the move.
  5. Structured – I’ve written many times about the benefit of systems thinking in the world of work and the ability to structure and think systemically is key. This doesn’t mean that you need to be PRINCE2 qualified or an engineer, but you need to understand how things fit together and how to get started.
  6. Courage – This manifests in different ways, in the ability to have brave conversations, the comfort in being vulnerable and the drive to constantly want to do more and be better. Courage means that we address ourselves as well as others.
  7. Humility – Most of our practice is not about us and we need to be ok with that. We need to bathe in the glory of others, be proud of the contribution we’ve made and enjoy the success that we help build. Our gift is helping others to be the best they can be, not owning it for ourselves.

Back to reality

I am first and foremost an HR practitioner. That is the job that I’m employed to do, that I’ve trained to do and that I’ve fulfilled for the best part of two decades. Every day, every morning I get up and go in to work to practice my profession. The following day I come in and I see the results and the impact. I see it year after year. I was with my last company for nine years, I’ve been with my current company for over five years.

When we get things right, I get to see the results.
When things go wrong, I take responsibility.

That is the responsibility beholden on the practitioner to do what is organisationally sustainable, what is culturally achievable, to fulfill their mandate as an employee and as the temporary guardian of their remit.

As an outsider, you can talk. You can make proclamations. You can enthuse and criticise, propose and deny. You wake up and all that is left of the previous day’s noise are the final echoes reverberating around the empty stadium of your mind. You rarely see the results and never accept the failures.

Innovation, revolution, chaos and new agendas are so much easier when you only have responsibility for your self image.

If I have a wish for 2014, it is for an honest, open conversation, practitioner to practitioner, about how we can make the working lives of our employees better and at the same time improve the performance of our organisations. Without the guff and the noise of those that have no responsibility other than for themselves.

I want to hear about how we might incrementally improve things for real, not rip the rule book up in our dreams.

If you’re a practitioner I’m interested in what you’ve done, where you’ve done it, what you’ve learnt from it and what you would do differently. If you’ve got strong views but no evidence of achievement, my question to you is, why not? Why can’t you demonstrate what you believe? What are you doing to find an organisation where you can work, long term, to deliver that vision?

2014, let’s make it the year that the realists, the pragmatists, the grafters take back the agenda. Let’s make it the year that those who are delivering change, every day, lead the conversation.

Debate is helpful, ideas are good. And even better when they’re focused on delivery and grounded in reality. Let’s make this the year where we move the conversation back there.