By: Tim Savage
The Business of People and the Future of Work
The Event: HR Summit and Expo
The Time: 20-22 October 2014
The Menu: 6 Gurus, 60+ Educational Sessions
The Expectation: High
Could it get any better than 2013 where two Giants of the Guru world – Tom Peters and Chester Elton – strode like wise colossi amongst the hungry crowds of more than 2,700 knowledge seekers milling in the Exhibition Halls?
Switched on to transmit, they electrified the environment, sparking bolts of insight, wisdom and know-how out of their enlarged cerebral cortices into the learning vacuum. The crowds, satiated, inspired and weary from the sensory bombardment, walked with renewed purpose, out of the exits at the end of the summit, determined to change the corporate worlds that they had briefly escaped from.
Roll on one year – the anticipation was tangible as I walked over the freshly laid and pristine red carpet, through a forest of booths,where excited providers were putting finishing touches to their knowledge stalls, into the main conference hall.
Studying the agenda for Day 1 and finalising my proposed introduction for the Guru, labelled the No. 1 Leadership Thinker in the World (no pressure!), Marshall Goldsmith. His chosen topic – Building Global Leadership.
The audience of some 350 enjoyed in anticipation for some pearls of wisdom and insights. They were not disappointed .
Marshall peppered the next 130 minutes in a laconic style, illustrating the topic with hand in the air alongside some anecdotes based on conversations that he had had with clients in his CEO coaching practice on their approach to their leadership style challenges. It was similar to golden nuggets collected on the bottom of the pan of insight as he washed their leadership approach with incisive questions and prompts. He highlighted some of the classic challenges of successful leadership such as winning too much, adding too much value, passing too much judgement .
When that did not trigger the appropriate reflection and self analysis , he asked the audience to bet their money on the outcomes of their reshaped understanding of their responsibilities to others, using small amounts of money like 1 dh to induce large changes in behaviour. Then he announced that this money would be donated to charities of their choice, a salutary experience for those used to getting their own way and winning.
“The desire to change must come from within, from the heart.”
“If you can’t think of any behaviour that you would like to change, pick humility.”
“Values are what we do, not what we say.”
“Ask for ideas to improve the future, don’t dwell on the mistakes of the past . Feed forward.”
“It is easier to change behaviour than the perception of the behaviour.”
Being thoughtful of the value of sharing feedback with others prompted by whether it is worth it. The best method is to focus on a couple of things and follow up, ensuring lasting change. Simple but effective stuff.
The daily menu at the conference was punctuated by more brain food presentations including the following:
- Strategies for identifying and developing high potentials as well as the confusion between the classification of high performance and high potential – only 15% are both.
- LinkedIn’s staggering strategic mission to digitally map the global economy to identify the skills gap and help shape the global education offer.
As the audience restlessly scanned the afternoon agenda for more, the ones who left the room to browse the stalls and not attend Karen Darke’s Mega session on “Overcoming Adversity and Embracing Change” really missed out.
“If you want the rainbow, you have to deal with the rain,” was the theme of Karen’s presentation. She, an active sportswoman, was confined to a life in a wheel chair after a climbing accident 20 years ago which paralysed her from the chest down.
The room became still as she took us through the painful challenge of her journey back to regain her spirit via a mind and body numbing month long seated ski marathon across Greenland. She even shared with us some of her motivational slogans like the WIBA, wouldn’t it be amazing, and CATS, capability affirming thought.
She shared the triumph of her silver medal in the 2012 Paralympics , having climbed the mountain of doubt and reached the peak of self belief. The video of her crossing the finishing line hand in hand with her team mate to share a medal and the personal significance of that achievement was written all over her face as we all watched. There were few dry eyes in the house as we were all humbled, moved and inspired by the quiet courage and bravery she displayed and conveyed.
Liz Wiseman opened Day 2 with the Art of Engaging Talent in which she highlighted the themes to be explored with Bill Gates’s statement, “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”
Building on the success of her research which culminated in her book Multipliers, she reminded us that some bosses stifle their employees and some make them shine, both consciously and unconsciously.
According to her, the dangerous assumption of the Diminisher is, “People won’t figure it out without me.” An example of this is the tyrant who creates a tense environment that suppresses people’s thinking and capability.
On the other hand, the contrasting assumption of the Multiplier is, “People are smart and will figure it out.” The Challenger type of leaders define opportunities that cause people to stretch to deliver superior performance.
Rookie Smarts, her latest book, focuses attention on the philosophy that a lack of knowledge can actually develop talent and drive superior performance. It is a mode of behaviour or role that even seasoned veterans can assume.
The theme of the dangers of comfort and talent lingered on to the afternoon session titled Crafting Goldmines of Talent delivered by Rasmus Ankersen, examining the world of high performance athletes to understand the talent identification and development journey and draw beneficial insights to the world of business performance.
Some of the key sound bites of a thought provoking presentation included:
“Constraints make creativity thrive.”
There is talent that shouts and talent that is silent.
Performance = potential minus interference.
“We assume that good results always come from good decisions.”
“Success turns genius into luck.”
10,000 hours of deliberate practice required to drive superior performance .
In depth and regular review and reflection is a critical business discipline – understand what ingredients contribute to success.
The Summit also included 10 Masterclasses offering a rich and varied diet of learning about topics that ranged from The HR Change Agent’s Toolkit to Global Talent Strategy .
The evening of Day 2 was devoted to the recognition of HR Excellence across a number of categories, highlighting the depth of best practices and talent across the region .
Day 3 was soon upon us and the carry over list of new knowledge became even longer. As gurus in the HR World come, Dave Ulrich is right up there. He stimulated us to think about the new business realities and how HR professionals can add value, measuring the impact of how we make a difference in organizations. This also included the importance of analytics linked to good business insights to equip leaders to make appropriate choices and ensure decisions well thought through.
Is our HR Strategy defined by the needs of our customers? It should be.
Do our communication tools link employees and customers? How do we create a leadership brand where leader actions are tied to customer expectations?
The new role of HR leaders should be as architects and anthropologists. Line managers must own their own people. Leaders must create leadership that is the responsibility and strength of a collective not an individual. A leadership brand is an organidational capability that increases confidence with external stakeholders.
Humming with activity in the background of the main events were 60 plus concurrent sessions across 6 learning tracks covering all relevant HR global and local issues of the moment.
Mark Foster shared his former life of competitive swimming across 50 metres with the theme of Inspiring High Performance. Six time world champion, 10 times European champion and 8 times world record holder, he told us a few things about winning and also the importance of mindset, focus, purpose , pride and joy as essential ingredients of the journey.
He used setbacks not as crutches of excuse but as an inspiration to bounce back, transforming FAIL to From Action I Learn.
Keenly observing the lessons shared by all of the speakers and presenters – it all came down to a common denominator : behaviour and do less of or do more of – everyone has a choice.
I leave the last motivating words on the HR Summit & Expo learning experience to Dave Ulrich with his innovative thoughts on Leadership from the outside in: HR helps the company focus on developing a leadership brand, where external customer expectations translate to internal leadership behaviours.
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