Social Media, HR and Learning and Development

So, can social media be of real use to HR and L&D professionals, or is it all a timewasting distraction?

This question was at the heart of a lively and amusing discussion held last week at Motion with a group of senior HR and Marketing professionals.

In amongst the laughter caused by the knowledge check of the different brands in social media (after all, how many of you know what all of the following really do: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Yammer, Pinterest, G+, Pinstagram, Foursquare…) was a serious discussion about the value, but also the challenges that social media offer the HR and L&D fields.

Some conclusions were as follows:

  • As a means of communicating the brand to the outside world, and particularly to prospective employees, tools like Twitter and Facebook can be of real value
  • As a way of communicating internally, again Facebook, along with Yammer can add a new dimension, whether to general communication, or for particular groups such as participants on a training programme
  • Tools like Pinterest and Shelfari might offer opportunities to share information in energising and interesting ways

As innovation is at the heart of Motion Learning, we’re doing our best to explore these options and introduce them where relevant to the learning and development activities we offer.  We’ll keep you posted on our progress.

The Importance of Resilience

At Motion Learning we run regular taster sessions on a range of topical subjects.  One that has attracted a lot of interest recently has been on the subject of Developing Resilience, and it’s not hard to understand why.

A recent study on reactions to the current global economic crisis highlighted the range of reactions and depth of emotions that are stirred up by the uncertainty we all currently face.  At the same time, the study, by the American Psychological Association, suggested that people have the ability to “bounce back” in even the most challenging situations.  But the quality that enables this to happen is not a simple one to define, or develop.

Our level of resilience appears to be the result of a combination of our genetic make up, our upbringing and experiences, and our own desire to improve.

Whilst looking into this area we came across a number of interesting thoughts and ideas.

  • A piece of research on the impact of  “licking” on rats http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/epigenetics/rats/ which supports what many will instinctively feel, that our level of anxiety is related to the treatment we receive as children
  • The work of Andrew Shatté, and the 7 factors for developing individual resilience.  Some of his thoughts can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iUs3ZEBDjo
  • The enduring value of Stephen Covey’s work, and in particular his ideas on focusing on what we can control, rather than becoming preoccupied with what we can’t control.
  • The work of Bruce Robertson and Cary Cooper, on the opportunities organisations have to create environments which allow employees to cope more effectively with the changes that take place at work
Our view on resilience is that we do have the power to increase our ability to bounce back.  It can take time and effort, but there are specific aspects we can work on:
  • Our mindset
  • Our energy levels
  • Our communication
  • Our focus
In working on these areas, in creating a positive mindset, in ensuring we have sufficient energy, in communicating with the right people in the right way, and in focusing on what’s important, and what we have control over, we can increase our resilience.
It’s not easy, but it’s a hugely satisfying challenge, and one we relish taking on with the people with whom we work.

From the ‘Tweets’ of the Dalai Lama Came a Thought…

So, the Dalai Lama recently tweeted (yes you read correctly!) ‘Developing inner values is much like physical exercise. The more we train our abilities the stronger they become’.

He didn’t even need his allocated 140 characters for this one.

We do a lot of work around values at the Motion Mansion typically beginning with identifying these tricky to pin down beliefs that drive our behaviour both consciously and subconsciously. We’ve spent years identifying the individual values of our team understanding how they determine who we are and what we do. 

So, the tweet above really made me ponder the extent to which as individuals are not only clear about our values, but how we develop them to determine our individual courses of action.

Neuroscientist Mark Robert Waldman from the University of Pennsylvania has a very powerful argument for the development of positive values (which he terms ‘big ideas’) in individuals. He suggests that a ‘big idea’ such as compassion helps us to build a better brain. His research evidences that we can each have years added onto our lives by the development of our own positive ‘big ideas’.   Waldman’s research looks at the way positive and healthy values help us to build a better brain by reducing things such as anxiety and by improving things like our social awareness. He says that by developing our awareness of our ‘big ideas’ and values we begin to align ourselves with them, and this in turn leads to a healthier brain that can be scanned and proven.

So – the Dalai Lama reckons the development of our values is a good idea as do contemporary neuroscientists!

I have a question for you – how clear are you about your individual values? It’s a big question that’s for certain. Think about the deep set beliefs you hold about ‘right and wrong’, about principles that you feel really guide your behaviour. I recall speaking to a lady recently who was clear that ‘duty’ was one of her core values and one that she didn’t even like sometimes – but it always determined the way she behaved.

If you want a list of values to help get you thinking then email us at learn@motionlearning.com and we will happily send you a document out to help you on this interesting path of discovery.

Once you think you’re closer to identifying your values – cross reference them against your behaviour. Ask yourself:

  • What did I do today that was in line with my values?
  • What did I do today that was in conflict with my personal values? How does it make me feel?  
  • How can I develop the use of this value to help it become clearer and stronger?  

At Motion Learning, we have looked at our values and thought about how they impact the was we commit to behaving with our colleagues and our clients. It’s an interesting activity and one which we are happy to share with you. Just let us know if you’d like to find out more.

My thoughts are currently at the stage where I am pondering how leaders might truly support the positive development of their team members by encouraging them to behave in a way consistent with their values.  I’m interested in your thoughts – particularly if those values fail to fall in line with those of your business. What happens then?!

If you fancy following the Tweets from the Dalai Lama he’s on http://twitter.com/#!/DalaiLama

If you fancy delving into the world of the neuroscientists who support the development of positive personal ‘big ideas’ then check out Mark Robert Waldman via the following YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvhCLXEeSDQ

I look forward to hearing from you… and in the meantime I’m off to develop my honesty!

Democracy and Neutrality – The Key to Collaboration?

I recently heard a guy called Jimmy Wales say something that got me thinking… It was long the lines of  ‘imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given access to all of the knowledge within that world…’ Incredible I thought, followed by the realisation that as the founder of Wikipedia, Wales is quite a long way down to road to making that some sort of reality.

So, how do you do something as massive as that? According to Wales – you give them the tools to work collaboratively.

Collaboration – talked about, strived for in many modern organisations. I became intrigued about how collaboration could work in an organisation like Wikipedia bearing in mind that his business employs a tiny amount of people (last piece of information I could find talked about only 1 person actually being on the payroll) and relies solely on what Wales calls a ‘Ragtag band of volunteers’.

Wales gives a number of interesting pointers that he says encourages collaborative working in his organisation. They are:

  • The need for neutrality… if we want to collaborate we have to keep in mind a neutral point of view as this will avoid a ‘war’. In Wikipedia they have a ‘Neutral Point of View’ policy, which encourages a culture of cooperation amongst the band of volunteers
  • ‘Real time’ peer review – something which at Wikipedia notifies people of changes and additions to pages, and a process which enables people to take an idea, add their thoughts and ideas and move it on
  • Constant communication – Wales talks about democratic processes which encourage dialogue and are based around high self set standards

So what if anything can we learn from Wales and Wikipedia that may help our own organisations? Here are a few prompts to get you thinking…

Neutrality – the importance of sharing ideas on a level playing field. The value of reducing the desire to fight – to win or to lose – and instead to listen and to be listened to.

Peer review – building on each others’ ideas in a timely manner, drawing on collective expertise to move each individuals’ thought forward.

Democratic communication – high standards being self set, and ways of working encouraging fair dialogue.

Thought we’d put these ideas to you as collaboration seems to be such a word of the moment. It’s often defined as ‘working together to achieve a goal’ and Wales has a few ideas that may just prompt thoughts of your own….

Service, Emerald Isle Style

A recent weekend in Dublin prompted a question – is the quality of service you receive really affected by the nationality of the person delivering it?

I was very lucky to spend three days in Ireland, travelling briefly to Limerick before staying in Dublin for two nights, and the level of service I received was extraordinary.  From the minute we walked through the arrivals gate and approached the car hire counter, until the moment we got on a bus back to the airport three days later, everyone we met was friendly, cheerful, helpful, and in many cases proactive in the service they provided…

Even when the hire car developed a problem, on the phone and face to face, the people sorting it out couldn’t have been more genuine, more understanding, and more ready to smooth things along.

In restaurants and bars, waiters and bartenders were encouraging us to try before be bought, and happy to linger and chat when they could.  At the hotel in Temple Bar, which was rammed with party goers on Saturday night, Sunday morning brought another cheerful face, describing the joys of clearing up in the early hours, and enthusing about our choice of venue for eating brunch.

It felt very different from much of the service I receive in London, and elsewhere in England… All of which prompts me to wonder…

  • Are the Irish naturally better at delivering great service than the English?  Or were we just lucky?
  • What has nationality to do with service delivery, if anything?

 

I suspect that there are certain personality types which might make someone more prone to delivering a great level of service;

Extroversion rather than introversion might allow for a more natural flow of conversation

Feeling rather than thinking might encourage empathy and engagement

But to what extent is this true, and to what extend is it the case with nationalities?

I recently came across a study of perceived national characteristics, which suggested that people from a given country have a fairly consistent self image, for example Americans think of themselves as high in neuroticism and low in agreeableness.  What’s interesting is that when results of personality tests are compared across countries, the perceptions aren’t borne out by reality, and in fact American personality scores suggest the opposite to their perception.

So, whilst our perception of ourselves can be inaccurate, perhaps there are national characteristics…  Concepts such as cultural and environmental determinism explore the impact of those factors on our behaviour and emotions, so perhaps cultural and environmental differences are at play when delivering service.

However, I’m not aware of any studies which have been carried out to explore this idea, and see if there is any truth in it.  But perhaps you are?

What do you think about this subject?  Do different nationalities consistently deliver different styles and levels of service?  And if they do, what is the real cause?

It would be great to hear your thoughts…

Caravans and Conversations!

As a person who doesn’t have a dog I’ve always been fascinated by the way in which dogs bring people together. Random strangers happily waltz up to each other and begin having a chat. About stuff… Usually dog related to begin with and then it seems to progress to all manner of areas.

As a person who, until the recent Bank Holiday weekend had never been in a caravan, I was amazed to see exactly the same happening…

Here we were 3 nights for fun in a 1970′s ‘retro’ caravan. On the first day, merrily having supper, we suddenly look up to see a big round cheery face sticking through one of the windows. He was no more than 2 feet away from my plate…

‘Lovely van you’ve got here – what year is it?!’. In true London style it took us a moment to compute that a stranger was a) unexpectedly quite close and b) had asked us a question. Errr… we randomly stuttered and then managed to get ourselves to speak.

This strange event continued FREQUENTLY throughout the next 3 days. People talking randomly to us about tea towels, portable toilets, and the cost of caravans on eBay. We were invited to ‘pop in and have a look’ at lots of other peoples’ temporary homes, and subsequently expected to ask them to do the same. Conversations were had through plastic windows, by water taps and in the communal shower…

The next day, on the tube, with clients in big businesses and it struck me that people don’t really chit chat. The simple conversation around relatively unimportant, but uniting ‘common ground’ seemed to be missing.

Is it because we dont’ have time, because we are not interested or even something we’ve forgotten how to do?

I don’t know, but I do know that although strange at first, maybe there’s something to learn from those that caravan….

By the way – thanks for Zoe from Hazy Days Caravans – if you fancy the same experience give her a call she has a few you can choose from www.hazydayscaravanhire.co.uk!

Leading in Tough Times – What Really Works?

I was recently asked the following question by a colleague:  

What should leaders be doing to get businesses through ‘tough times’? What really works?

Good question – maybe even a million dollar question right now. So, I set about a number of different activities – asking people, reading and researching – to try and find some answers.

Asking questions such as the following proved interesting (it might be worth you asking them of yourselves and your own businesses before you read any further)

-          In real every day life, what behaviours do you see people demonstrate at work when times are tough?

 -       What about the leaders at the very top of your businesses – if you’ve observed them lead your business during tough times have they been doing a good job or not? What are the differentiating characteristics you have seen?

 -        What about the middle managers and the first line managers in your businesses – again if you have observed them lead during tough times have they been doing a good job or not?

It makes sense to begin by thinking about how humans behave or react to what they perceive as a ‘tough time’. Not surprisingly people talk about reactions to stress, change, challenge, pressure, success, failure… What researchers suggest is there is no one way of behaving to these things. Psychologists such as Carl Jung would suggest that what people often do is behave in a way that might seem either ‘exaggerated’ or ‘abnormal’ to them.

What does make sense, is that a leader who can understand changes in the behaviour of their people during tough times, may be better equipped to adapt their leadership style to deal with these behaviours.

Researchers Susanne Bruckmuller and Nyla Branscombe have an interesting take on what makes a good leader during ‘tough times’. Essentially, a woman… Or at least a leader who displays more stereotypically female characteristics.

Their research published in the British Journal of Psychology is called ‘The Glass Cliff, When and Why Women are Selected as Leaders in Crisis contexts’ and certainly makes interesting reading.

In a very brief summary – their research suggests that businesses are typically headed up by men, and this is typically thought of as a good thing during stable times or times of growth. However people’s stereotyped view of what makes a good leader during crisis shifts and favours typical ‘female’ stereotypes i.e. care, empathy involvement and communication.

Do you see these characteristics in your leaders?

The next interesting set of ideas came from David Dotlich, Peter Cairo and Stephen Rhinesmith who have written an interesting book called ‘Leading in times of crisis; Navigating through complexity, diversity and uncertainty to save your business’

These guys set about talking to a load of business leaders who offered a number of astute observations:

  • The world in which we do business is different – it’s changed and leaders need to as well
  • We have selected and developed a good percentage of current leaders for a more stable time, and that the competence and skills that we need a leader to have at the moment are different

This throws up a whole heap of Learning and Development questions – not least whether we need to re-address and upskill all of our leaders. In their book they go on to suggest that the ‘stable’ world may now be a thing of the past, so we may need to re-address our thoughts about a ‘tough time’ being a passing thing – maybe these times are here to stay…

The book is worth looking at - they offer thoughts on something they call ‘Whole Leadership’ which involves the use of ‘heart, head and guts’. In addition they offer ’9 ways to navigate the perfect storm through whole leadership’.

The final things I want to bring to your attention is potentially the slightly better known work of  Robert Goffee and Gareth Jones

In their work ‘Why should anyone be led by you?’ published in the Harvard Business Review, they talk about ‘Authentic Leadership’. There’s lots of interest in the idea at the moment because it strikes a chord with a dislike of ‘unauthentic’ leaders.  

Authenticity is about being true to yourself, and about revealing yourself to others.  People will think you are authentic if they trust you, which in turn enhances the need for things such as reliability and honesty. 

Goffee and Jones argue that leaders need to know why someone would follow them. They agree that leaders need vision, energy, authority and strategic direction, but also four qualities which go together to make them authentic

  • Leaders reveal their differences and capitalise on their unique qualities
  • Leaders reveal their weaknesses, selectively
  •  Leaders use intuition and senses to gauge the appropriate timing and course of their actions
  •  Leaders practice “tough empathy”, giving people not necessarily what they want, but what they need to succeed

 Goffee and Jones have lots of interesting ideas in their research and believe that ‘authentic’ leaders should never be imitations. They need to ‘know themselves’ and ‘show themselves’. Certainly worth a read.

So, after lots of digging around and talking to people there doesn’t seem to be one answer to the question my colleague asked me. There are however, lots of opinions.

Perhaps stereotypically female characteristics are important, perhaps we need to forget the ‘tough time’ label and accept a new reality, and perhaps we need to think about leading by demonstrating qualities such as honesty, openness and authenticity.

During my conversations one leader said to me – I wish people just leave me alone and let me get on and lead without offering advice all the time.

Maybe that’s a good point too…

Would be interested in your comments.

 


The Motion Vuvuzela

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

The short term memory

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

The view from out East

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.

Pages


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.