The Winter Solstice has always been a very testing time of year for people in the Northern hemisphere, where most of the mythology surrounding the period originates.
You don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate that, as the light dwindles and the days draw shorter and increasingly colder, it becomes increasingly tougher for everyone physically and emotionally. This is why people cleverly invented many of the traditions we now associate with the time like twinkling lights; the giving of gifts; indulgent behaviour and yes, the focus on goodwill towards one another. Yes, Indeed, it should be a time when people put aside their differences and group together to help one another through into the new year and the green shoots of Spring and renewal.
2023 seems to have been an especially tough year, for many, certainly judging by our cross-sector experience. It has often been made worse by unpredictability and the prevalence of identity politics and the exaggeration of difference to create otherness and perpetuate division in the interests of greed. But decent people know there’s always another, more hopeful and positive way.
The Mosaic proposition and approach to leadership development is based on the understanding that sustainable organisation cultures stem from unity of vision and common purpose. Yet they also thrive on embracing difference and inclusion. And that’s how we should view the unique and important rites, norms and rituals that shine like totems and beacons to steer us through the tough times and changing demands we all face.
2024 will probably not be any easier as the many forces that surround us all remain disappointingly chaotic and unstable. We may not be able to manage them all, but we can all change the way we react to them and, whatever happens, can continue to listen, learn and adapt.
Something else that we can all control is the way we apply our personal agency and energy. Regardless of how different others are and how they bring their traits and habits, norms and preferences to our “table”, if we respond from a place of positivity, respect, kindness and a willingness to try to improve together, we’re half way to overcoming the worst that life can throw at us and will be more receptive to spot the opportunities, the magical moments of lights and inspiration that we’re all capable of.
So our festive message to you, whether you’re reading this as a client, partner, colleague or someone we’ve yet to meet is simple: whatever your culture, belief system, background or aspirations for the future, the team at Mosaic would like to wish you a happy, peaceful, and fulfilling season and we hope that the new year is filled with opportunities to tap into your full potential, whatever role you play.
Here’s to you and your leadership journey and we look forward to sharing stories with you in the weeks and months ahead.
All the very best from Kate, Ian and the Mosaic team.
“Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand they listen with the intent to reply.”
We all know the powerful effect of truly being listened to and heard. Think about the last time you were treated that way.
Remember how it felt?
Amongst other things, it’s engaging, encouraging, and empowering; flattering; respectful and validating.
But if we’re honest with ourselves, as senior executives, when in a conversation, most of our time listening is spent waiting for our opening to make the points we want to make rather than listening to understand. In fact, you’re probably reading this, waiting for affirmation of your belief system rather than challenge as it’s simply easier when life feels increasingly tough. Gotcha!
If we’re not self-aware enough, this tendency to seek echoes gets worse as we move up the organisational hierarchy, and the compulsion to “have answers” increases. And it’s dangerous.
Leadership can feel a lot like having to distil solutions AND make decisions, much of the time. Resources (including patience) are short, tolerance is finite, and the burden is bulky. But how many of today’s problems require solutions from our store of yesterday’s answers? Some, yes. But an increasing number call for fresh thinking.
We all think we can communicate well. Yet effective communication is about much more than receiving or downloading information, and effective communication skills are central to leadership. It is a leadership skill requiring ongoing development.
Excellent communication is about creating a productive environment for a truly positive exchange, selecting appropriate channels and skills, and then following through on what we receive by committing to an action. Most people forget about that last bit. It’s largely about doing something with what we learn, even if that something ends up being a conscious decision to do nothing.
So it makes good sense to listen well.
Yet therein lies the challenge. If we only listen to respond without being truly open to alternative perspectives that could influence and improve our personal viewpoints, then not only are we potentially missing out on the richness that comes with additional perspective, but we also remain locked in that snug echo chamber of our own making. And in that chamber of broken records and cracked mirrors, we run the risk of duplicating the same patterns, including mistakes. In a world that is changing fast, this can be the very definition of stupidity, from a leadership perspective at least.
So, no surprise that the latest trait to feature in our Leadership Reflections blog, taken from our Future Fit Leadership poll 2022/23, is Listening, given that Future Fit leaders listen effectively to understand and then adapt, where necessary.
This month, it’s more than apt that our five-minute blog is a collaboration with one of our most trusted partners and affiliates, the much-lauded Michelle Reid. Rated as one of HR’s Most Influential (2022) People & Operations Directors, Michelle currently leads the people function at the Institute of Occupational Medicine (IOM). She is very much an evolutionary HR head, taking responsibility for her own developmental journey to inspire the evolution of her organisation.
Here’s what Michelle had to say about listening as a leadership skill, shared in the hope that there are some points of practical use for you:
“You don’t have to work in the people specialisms or to be a senior leader to tell when someone is really listening to you versus listening to respond. It’s really all in the body language and interaction, right? They say communication is 7% words, 33% tone, and 55% body language. The same is true for listening. When someone makes eye contact, they mirror your stance, they gesture or react during what you are saying with verbal cues or expressions, and most of all, when you are finished, they make an effort to clarify their understanding by repeating back or paraphrasing. They don’t rush to judge, respond, or defend. They take the time to understand, reflect, and ask what’s needed or what’s next. The same courtesies should apply when in a pressurised environment like a senior meeting, as they do when in a more informal 1:1 but scaled for the occasion.
Active listening is a skill we all have, to a greater or lesser degree. But it’s something we can all work on continuously. There is nothing worse than being with someone who is distracted, jumps in, scrolls their phone, or seems in a hurry. Totally switches me off; it’s clear they aren’t there in the moment with you, so why should you bother? It’s often a sign they’re abdicating or going through the motions, and that’s especially galling when you work in a support function where it feels like they’re dumping and running.
It’s so important because people have an innate need to be seen and heard. Listening with intent provides that for them. A safe space where they can talk, share, present, vent, cry, or even just be, enables people to feel valued and that they matter. This isn’t just an HR thing. When people feel this, they are engaged, motivated, and perform better, even in tough times. I know this from hard data at work. Excellence is all about the environment and conditions our people work in, and that can be explored, improved, and optimised purely by listening with intent.
Perhaps most importantly, people have the knowledge and answers in an organisation. It’s why we don’t work alone. They are usually at the front line, so listening with intent can give you massive insight and intelligence that can help drive success.
HR departments can help in many ways. There are the usual go-to suspects, training, coaching, and mentoring. We can act as the facilitators of improvement feedback and make the link to leadership performance contracts. But also, data capture is important (pulse surveys and such). Ensuring that soft skills are included as enablers in dashboards and KPIs, etc. We can also help by leading by example and demonstrating the skill themselves so our colleagues follow suit. This may well be our most important step to creating a listening culture.”
Thanks to Michelle. Lots of food for thought, and if you like what you’ve heard and would like to dig deeper or continue the conversation, please take a look at the resources on our site or drop us a line. We’re always listening.
Growth is a welcome word in most businesses as it implies progress and greater demand for the stuff they sell. But it comes with its challenges too. There are the more obvious ones, like ensuring profitability and not just revenue. Then there are the less anticipated impacts of growth, like adapting your leadership style to embrace the fact that with every new colleague, the further the business expands from owner/manager control until soon, remembering names becomes an issue let alone traits, values and preferences, all that good stuff that oils the wheels of relationships.
We encounter this challenge a lot as consultants in the people space. We’ve facilitated growth development programmes for business schools, TECs and Business Links in the past, helping groups of SMEs thrive rather than strive as they grow. We also encounter these challenges when we’re brought in to help owner-managed organisations, or divisions and units of corporations that have grown rapidly or exponentially, trying not to become victims of their own success and desperately wanting to stay true to their roots.
The first step on the journey of evolving to meet the demands of growth often begins with clarifying the organisation’s core organisation development DNA: their values, employer brand, employee journey and leadership culture. We then shine the spotlight on their attitude and approach to diversity, difference and, most importantly inclusion.
It’s an odd word, inclusion. It’s somehow been hijacked by the political correctness lobby, yet it is, has and always will make good business sense.
Inclusive leadership is, quite simply, an approach to leadership and management that has a belief in the importance of diversity and equality at its core. It moves beyond the business case for inclusion (better ideas, better understanding of customers, better employee engagement etc) and proactively pursues inclusion as a core pillar of leadership philosophy, ideology and practice. In short, inclusive leaders actively cultivate the contribution of diverse individuals and teams believing it isn’t just fair and right, but is a more effective leadership strategy.
Cliques and close groups bonded around convergence and similar traits can, of course, be effective. But they have their limitations in fast-changing and evolving markets and environments. The ideal is to engage, bond and empower diverse teams of diverse individuals unified around common values, goals, objectives and ways of working.
We know from long experience that many managers consider the prospect of inclusive leadership as something akin to “herding cats”. As someone said recently, “Much easier to stick to what and who you know!” But if you encounter an inclusion Grinch, try sharing this story.
We were working with an uber-conservative, financial services and legal organisation based in the rainbow city of Brighton, UK. Their core culture clashed with the bohemian demographic and they were finding it hard to attract, recruit, engage and retain sparky, innovative and engaging leaders.
We suggested an exercise called “A day in my shoes” as part of their upcoming leadership conference in which the future of the organisation, its aspirations and goals were being showcased at a major arena to hundreds of stakeholders. As preparation for this exercise, we enlisted the heads of their diversity networks (LGBTQ; Disability; Gender; Race; Neuro) as well as a junior colleague who encapsulated the opposite of their core leader demographic, to help devise and facilitate the process.
Volunteers from each group wrote very personal scripts about a typical day in their lives. They then worked with a senior leader to enact that script at a workshop attended by prominent conference attendees to role model isolation and the impact that small acts of inclusive kindness have on their frame of mind, motivation and performance.
There was a great deal of nervousness about the exercise, yet the CEO, HRD and team put on their big person pants and gave it a go.
The workshop was an unprecedented success. All evaluations were top of the shop and the workshop took the participants to emotional ranges they had never experienced at work.
This ground-breaking activity paved the way for much more inclusive relations between the diversity groups and it well and truly landed the concept of inclusive leadership with the senior team who adapted their core processes and behaviours as a result. Since then, recruitment and retention and engagement has improved. “It’s just much easier to talk openly now. I feel seen” said one of the leaders who shared their own difficult journey to being themselves at work.
Of course, Inclusive Leadership isn’t just about embracing diversity. It’s largely about involving and liberating the contributions of team members rather than adopting the command and contol, DIY my way approach. But it’s really important for leaders who need to leverage their fellow leaders and managers in order to grow and it’s a great source of alternative approaches in pursuit of the same goals.
If it’s something you would like to explore, give one of us a nudge via the new website. Do check out what’s new. We have plenty more stories to share.
A recent article* by one of our client and academic partners, Newcastle University, sets out what has become the contemporary view of sustainable leadership. Not surprisingly it aligns contemporary leadership practice with environmental and social conscience. It’s a gradual shift that is resulting from mounting social pressure: as the world becomes increasingly aware of the impact businesses have on the triple bottom line, also known as the three P’s – people, planet and profit.
Dr Joanne James, Director of Executive Education and Dr Jenny Davidson, Executive MBA Degree Program Director at Newcastle University Business School set out what sustainable leadership looks like:
Dr Davidson: Sustainable leadership is all about adopting a responsible approach to the way that we lead, stopping to think about the wider impact of our actions on society and the environment. This might mean considering our wider stakeholder group, the natural systems within which we are operating and their limits.
It’s crucial to begin by exploring and understanding how our individual roles might contribute to tackling global challenges such as climate change and gender inequality and in doing so to recognize the value that our individual actions might bring. Responsible leaders are always looking up and out beyond their role, organization and sector.
Dr James: Leadership education for the future of work recognizes that we are working in volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous contexts (VUCA). Leadership is not a position or an individual person but a series of practices that enables collaborative action towards a common mission. Continuous learning and collaboration with others is central to these practices. As a result, the educational journey for every individual is unique depending upon their context.
Our aim is to reflect our regional ecosystem within our cohort so that all sectors and business types are represented creating a robust network of regional leaders who can collaborate beyond the boundaries of the program.
This is all very laudable, in and of itself and the sentiments are hard to take issue with. But however much of a priority the environmental agenda is or should be, for us, the Sustainable Leadership discussion is at its most impactful when it transcends even the ethical and environmental considerations that too many hard-wired capitalists may too readily discard as uber-liberalism, in this age of polemical arguments. And, in order to obtain the critical mass that the change movement needs, converts are needed from all sides of the political spectrum. To that end, we see and have always seen sustainability through a wider lens that includes and is rooted in performance. In short, the most sustainable leadership practices are those that deliver bottom line results for key stakeholders, because what gets rewarded gets done.
The term sustainable refers to an act or series of actions that not only can be but actually bear repeating; and nothing succeeds like success. If you take a system’s approach to the people processes, including leadership development, you soon understand that success is the result of a series of inter-connected actions or activities that become self-fulfilling because they reward the efforts of the sponsors and initiators. Viewed in this light, sustainable leadership is leadership practice that is about more than greenwash or the flash in the pan act of conscience, the rare act of charisma or benevolence, the isolated action of an enlightened individual, department, unit or group. It’s the product of a leadership system that is clear, outcomes-focused, measured, evaluated, replicated and which becomes common to such an extent that it becomes a leadership culture. It is, in effect, self-sustaining.
One of the primary contributing factors, in our experience, is the enlightened application of a balanced approach to stakeholder satisfaction based upon the use of a matrix of stakeholder satisfaction indices. If you measure shareholder, customer, employee, community and partner satisfaction simultaneously and manage the balancing act of ensuring that your vision, strategy and plans get buy in from all of those groups, plugging your leaders into the same success criteria, then there’s a fair chance that the choices you make together are going to be good for the community, your colleagues, customers and the environment.
In recent years, we’ve worked with leaders in sectors as varied as heavy industry, utilities and public sector to help develop leadership competencies and evaluation systems that not only embrace environmental considerations and ethics, with values at their core, but which take a multiple-stakeholder satisfaction stance. Gone are the days of driving shareholder value “uber ales”and at the expense of community and employee satisfaction. But the wise CEO doesn’t treat those communities as mutually exclusive either and ensures that their leadership team acts accordingly and has the will and skill to play the balancing act.
So, while this month’s theme is very much concerned with the ethics of leadership, we never lose sight of the truism that the greatest leaders aren’t martyrs. Sustainability focused, future fit leadership is about sustaining the good works and cultivating a self-perpetuating culture in the leader’s wake. And the surest way to ensure longevity is by being successful and earning the right to sustained influence.
It far transcends great PR and glib talk. It isn’t easy but it can be done, it must be done and increasingly, it’s being done and long may this trend continue.
The pandemic was probably the most chastening social experience since the world wars. Especially for those in frontline leadership roles. If it wasn’t, for you, then you may have an empathy challenge and should probably take a break until the fog clears. Honestly!
Shock and disruption aside, we’ll probably never know the true human tragedy directly attributable to the disease, but it’s staggering. Worse still, we’ll never get to fully understand the hidden toll from the economic pandemic that shortly followed global lockdown’s tail. So, if you remain oddly unfazed by the human catastrophe, you should at least be able to recognise the devastation caused by the disruption to global trading and the subtler impact that Covid-19 and the prolonged contingency working has had on your key workers. And you should be striving to find a way to boost their coping mechanisms….and your own.
From what we’ve seen as consultants, most organisations leaned very heavily on the 20-40% of their colleagues who generate 80% of their outputs, while much of the rest went knowingly AWOL for an extended time, fighting their own insecurities, doubts and fears. Problem is, the same 20-40% have had to pivot several times now to deal with many conflicting demands that have arisen since, as most businesses settle back into old ways of working complete with commute, office and command and control structures. The fact is, the old system is no longer fully serving them.
They’ve also become accustomed to a lot more balance in their lives, have started to question where they get their self-actualisation from, and may have begun to look at alternatives to resuming the old normal. The same, however, can’t be said for the “working dead” who are marking down the days to retirement or redundancy, while making the most of the resources at work I exaggerate to emphasise the point but, I know you know what I mean.
The leadership paradigm has shifted, as has the old-style employer/employee psychological contract. Have you adapted in the same vein?
There’s been a lot of talk about human or humane leadership traits now that the dust has settled. It seems that people grew accustomed to seeing their managers in their natural habitats and quite liked the fact that they could all be themselves a little more, when all faced with a common enemy, an invisible threat that doesn’t discriminate on the grounds of status.
We have had increasing enquiries from leaders and managers concerned about the sustained pressure that their people have been under and asking for fresh approaches to coaching and mentoring that is a little more ethical, responsive and, dare we say, sustainable in this complex new world.
Now, some of you will snort, with scepticism at this point, especially those who recall how certain high profile business schools suddenly started talking about ethics and morality again after the banking thoroughbreds bolted from their golden stables at the turn of the century and almost collapsed global economies. Of course, very little changed other than a few more values and behaviours workshops, equality and diversity management roles, expensive ad campaigns and some re-arranging of top jobs. But this time, things are different. Because this time, the burning platforms has at least singed us all. And this time, there are no “off the shelf” workarounds and platitudes to resort to.
This time, both the leaders and their teams need to change and it isn’t sector specific. To illustrate my point, last month we announced the first of our annual Mosaic Top Ten Future Fit Leadership Traits rankings. As we announced, this will become an annual event, in conjunction with a leading business school (watch this space). We’ve just completed a deep diagnostic of a client’s leadership and management teams and, without any form of consultation, their leaders AND managers, as separate groups, both ordered the top five leadership traits exactly the same with Human, Ethical and Sustainable all near the top. The key point here is that these traits aren’t the pandering, politically correct stuff of the pipe dreams of the past which are feasted upon by the dogs of commercial war and competition, they ARE the traits that will enable future fit leaders to adapt and lead by listening and with empathy, responding and becoming comfortable with increasing ambiguity. Do you really doubt that the world of work isn’t going to become an increasingly complex place? Think leaders will survive by adhering steadfastly to models that applied to simpler times? Are you even the same person you were pre-pandemic? How did you use the time to reflect and dream and change? Intend to stick by those resolutions or, like a stress ball, are you resuming the old shape?
You may be interested to know that alongside Leadership Reflections thought pieces like this one, the team at Mosaic will be launching a podcast as well as running at least four Masterclass Workshops on key themes, this year. The first will be in Spring and will be packed with best practices, on these topics, for the HR, line management and general leadership communities. So, if you, or a friend or colleague would benefit from discussing the challenges you all face in more detail, picking up a few pragmatic tips and techniques or just wants to vent with like minds, do point your contacts towards our blog where news of the events will appear shortly.
Until we next meet, here’s hoping that your planning for the year ahead is going well. Best wishes for 2023 and beyond from the team at Mosaic. It promises to be a time of continued challenge and opportunity, calling for open minds and fresh thinking.
We look forward to continuing the conversation…
This is not only being fuelled by the pace at which technology is merging the physical and digital worlds, demanding more and more functionality from the same biological constructs, people, but it’s also being driven by the rapidly changing and constantly shifting socioeconomic conditions that bring daily influence to bear on organisations and by association us as people.
It’s tough enough rowing in a small boat in this perfect storm with no real sign of land. Imagine being in charge of the flotilla, morally and contractually obliged to steer a course through without losing anyone and emerging ready for the next set of challenges.
If you’re reading this blog, then I suspect you don’t need to imagine. It’s most likely your daily lived reality and we know, because our team has either spent significant time in-house helping to steer as internal change agents or they have been coaching and partnering on leadership programmes as external consultants. We see and hear what leaders across sectors are going through and it’s a time of huge demand and challenge, yet also full of opportunity.
Lewin famously speaks of unfreezing and then re- freezing corporate cultures to ensure that behaviour change sticks. Well, it’s especially tough when the water’s this salty and raging. So leadership skills are evolving. It may be tough to look ahead and through the storm clouds. But that’s part of the job, to remain future fit while doing the day job based on known paradigms…then being prepared to evolve them. That’s how we ensure the organisations, people and communities that we serve remain future fit and ready to sail through whatever conditions might be coming up next.
One of the ways in which we’re trying to help, as leadership coaches, is to keep stock of the forces at play and reflecting on the top leadership qualities required to meet the challenges of the time. We do this partly through critically exploring the hundreds of leadership coaching sessions we have across sectors at the highest of levels, every year. But also by reviewing what some of the more respected consultancy and other thinking houses suggest are future fit leadership traits.
This year, post lockdowns, leading into the current financial, identity, governance, establishment, and environmental influenced epoch, we suggest the following ten critical future fit leadership traits stand out as essential:
- Human, empathic and authentic
- Ethical and sustainable behaviour
- Inclusive coaching style
- Influencing skills
- Listening and adapting
- Evidence and data driven
- Handles complexity well
- Visionary, strategic and commercial focus
- Maintains focus regardless
Interestingly, in our research, maintaining focus was ranked just above visionary and strategic, a reflection of how the best leaders, through times that have uniquely tested everyone at once, have thrived rather than simply survived. And the teams that have been the most resilient have been working for leaders who have clear, balanced, inspirational goals with short as well as longer term deliverables. These leaders have been able to not only ensure the wellbeing of their colleagues in the face of immediate risk but have also taken advantage of down time and confusion to look to the longer term, post crisis and offer hope, purpose, opportunity, and a mission the other side of uncertainty.
There’s certainly some food for thought here for you and your HR teams especially to reflect upon as we enter the last few days of 2022.
We will be repeating this exercise annually and revealing the revised Future Focused Leadership Traits poll around the same time next year when we’re hoping to co-deliver a workshop, as part of our series of live sessions, with academics from a leading University. So watch this space and please circulate this blog to any colleagues and contacts who may be interested.In the meantime, if you have any thoughts, reflections or questions about this or any of our core topics, do drop us a line or get yourself onto our Newsletter mailing list. We publish thought pieces and case studies monthly and will be happy to welcome you to the Mosaic community.
If you’ve been attracted to this discussion piece because you’re hoping for someone to make the business case for equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace, then you’re on the wrong page, literally and metaphorically.
We’ll gladly point people towards papers linked to studies that prove the financial benefits. These range from greater employee engagement through to better decision making, more innovation, happier customers and, quite frankly, respecting the law. But we’re long past the business case stage and hope you are too.
Interestingly, most of the business case pieces were written at least a decade ago. If you really still need a business case to embrace the concept of celebrating difference while creating a culture of inclusion in pursuit of your organisation’s goals, then you may be the wrong person for the job as the ED&I conversation has moved on from “what, who and why?” to “when and how?”. It really has.
Like my consulting colleagues at Mosaic, I’ve had the pleasure of working nationally and internationally in some very varied and diverse environments, helping develop work cultures within corporate and national cultural frameworks that have been challenging. Bringing change to countries like South Africa and Northern Ireland or implementing values-led leadership in global corporations that touch upon every major geography and which need to be personalised for local employee demographics, isn’t easy. Yet when inclusion is the focus while simultaneously celebrating the diversity of identities, skills, thinking styles and personal journeys that contribute towards that change, it can be an exhilarating challenge. And isn’t that what work should be?
Even when working in one of the ED&I epi-centres of global renown, Brighton, there are still lessons to be learned.
Just before the pandemic struck, I was helping a public sector organisation develop a future fit working culture and, in the process, continuously improve their employee engagement to become an employer brand of choice in a territory where they had an image challenge.
They had enabled the development of over a dozen special interest groups representing the spectrum of what they believed was their core ED&I demographic ranging from BAME through to the Proud Network.
Each group was clearly committed to the needs and interests of their core members and had an Executive lead. But as there was a limited budget for engagement activities, incongruence was never far from the surface and progress generally was a struggle at times.
I was able to help in a number of ways. Useful contributions included:
- holding listening sessions with them all and obtaining feedback from the 70% or so colleagues who weren’t members of any society or group
- providing all groups with a common platform at the annual, very high-profile colleague conference
- ensuring that the top team understood the business case for inclusion using a blend of bespoke data and several talks by prominent lawyers and accountants who had undertaken ED&I transformation journeys and were now advocates
The listening groups demonstrated, very clearly, that diversity wasn’t the challenge. The organisation’s recruitment process had ensured that they were meeting their quantitative demographic goals. Their greatest challenge was retention and inclusion. In short, once they managed to attract a great blend of talented people, they were struggling to keep them and the focus on “difference” was alienating, in some part, rather than unifying.
Having gained senior team endorsement for the conference agenda and the license to innovate, the catalyst of an empty stage for an hour with a collective ED&I banner above it proved to be the challenge needed to unite the groups. A couple of facilitators stood out as natural, inclusive leaders and between us we were able to devise an engaging and inclusive experiential workshop called In My Shoes.
The premise of the exercise was to capture a typical day in the life of someone with protected characteristics or a typical member of a special interest group and to illustrate the challenges they face. These were turned into immersive scripts and then the scripts were exchanged with members from another group who gave some form of performance to bring that day to life. These ranged from reciting poems through to role plays and silent monologues.
The content of the exercises was carefully guarded until the day of the conference and conference delegates got to self-select what breakout workshop sessions they would like to attend based upon the teaser communication provided by the group.
I had to manage a great deal of nervousness within the senior team and HR function, concerned by what promised to be a controversial session. This was on top of the usual performance anxiety of the workshop leads and the night before included tears and tantrums. However, when the bookings opened, it was the first session to sell out.
The conference was as stressful as these totemic events always are, and I had to wear many hats on the day. But I took time out to pop into the ED&I workshop and it was captivating.
The audience was truly inclusive and the performances were both touching and educating. The conference itself was a triumph, but the workshop breakout is the first time I’ve witnessed a session gain universal acclaim, with all respondents giving it maximum satisfaction and education scores.
At Mosaic, as you may well know, we pride ourselves on creating tailored, immersive and transformational strategies and leadership interventions that deliver sustainable results. This modest illustration hopefully shows why we’re so beyond the business case and why ED&I especially is a concept that means nothing unless fine words are matched by finer deeds.
When that balance is reached, magic happens. And when the intervention is part of an OD system where the components complement one another, then it’s the sweet spot. But as with all people initiatives, it takes a lot of hard partnership work and experience to reach that point
This is our 11th blog in this year’s series. Until next time, if you would like a conversation with one of our diverse leadership team about your own ED&I challenges, then we’d love to hear from you.
Best, as ever.
PS. If you would like more case studies like this then you can download specific chapters from Ian’s books by following this link.
Mosaic is more than a brand or logo. It reflects the way we work together, a group of people transformation specialists with varying levels of deep expertise in our specialist areas working together to offer a complete and comprehensive systems approach to transforming leadership practices, especially within the people disciplines.
A system is an inter-related set of variables or components functioning together as a whole. A human resource management system is an integrated and interrelated approach to managing human resources that fully recognizes the interdependence among the various tasks and functions that must be performed and deliberately sets out to ensure that those interdependencies are simultaneously managed.
That said, we are not conventional HR consultants. Why? Because our consultancy team favours long and deep, cross-sector experience and expertise above the normative experience of the CIPD training ground. Our team have all held frontline, corporate roles in the past as training, communications, consultancy or change agent professionals within the private and public sector. We have all undertaken continuous professional development with institutions as varied as Russell Group Universities or the best business schools and we are all writers, thought leaders and creatives, respected for our original approaches and focus on the bottom line.
Just as we blend together, we understand that HR, Operations and the people functions must synchronise their specialist functions if sustainable organisation transformation is to be achieved of the type that satisfies all key stakeholders and which delivers sustainable positive outcomes. Miss one element and the whole system collapses.
The Mosaic OD System has seven component parts, including:
We talk about employee engagement as a system equivalent to a leaky bucket that needs all elements to be covered to function properly. The same applies to the OD system. Each of the seven stations or enabling disciplines must be addressed simultaneously and be covered in the OD strategy and plan, or the system will break down, compromising the results. They may not all sit under HR or be performed by a single function (Comms often sits elsewhere and marketing is key to the employee life cycle/employer brand, for example). But they must all be simultaneously worked upon and continuously improved. That’s down to leadership and understanding that what gets measured gets done, which is why points 7 and 1 can be interchangeable as the initiation point for the system.
Mosaic is able to offer both consultancy and bespoke workshops majoring in each of the seven stations within our system. We will shortly be publishing a programme in which we invite cross-sector client representatives to attend specialist sessions dedicated to each station, complete with experts with a unique take on the subject to share best practices and resolve challenges.
If you’re interested in forming part of one of these webinars, do let us know. Numbers are restricted to ensure quality dialogues, so please do drop one of us a line responding to this blog using the enquiries form below if you’re interested.
It looks like the next couple of years are going to be an extension of the pandemic challenges as the financial tsunami hits; leaders and managers are going to continue to be tested. The practical support of a small, facilitated network outside of the day job may just be what you need.
We’d love to continue the conversation…
Think of a system and what comes to mind?
Hopefully some form of activity, pursuit or device with several component parts but where they are complementary and, when operating correctly, work together in order to achieve a desired outcome.
Countries have economic systems or legal or governance or education systems.
Organisations should be one big system of people and processes working together to achieve a vision and strategy and plan. But get beneath that level and systems are trickier to see, especially within the so- called softer skills.
Units within organisations, however, do have functions and ideally these functions or disciplines should work together to operate their system in pursuit of their strategy and plan. Comms and HR should be no different but often are. Why? Well, it’s partly because what they do is harder to measure and manage and partly because of the people they employ who, let’s be honest, like to hold onto notions of intuition, gut and art and resist process management and the science of their functions. Be honest, they do! Sadly, in a world of KPIs, agile and continuous improvement, this makes projects based on the people functions harder to lead and manage using tangible data.
Talent Management is a case in point. Some view it as a skill. Others delegate it to specialists. Some devolve or outsource it. But few take responsibility for it as a system. So it remains elusive, inefficient and a source of much malcontent.
Our Mosaic model of Talent Management suggests that there are seven fundamental steps or stages or components in any Talent Management system. None are rocket science, yet fail to address any of them or take your eye off one in favour of another and…the system fails leading to disengagement and employee churn with the best ones leaving first. But take a comprehensive strategy with a few punchy goals in each area and ensure that a single team owns them all and it can be one of the most powerful systems in the HR space, especially in devolved structures where HR reps live on and at the front line.
You may think of yourself as a “Compensation and Benefits” specialist or you may have “Learning and Development” experts within the HR team.
Unless you have covered at least these seven bases, however and more importantly have a systemic approach underway at line manager level, there will be fundamental failings across the employee life-cycle and that will eventually lead to culture, engagement and performance problems. It’s like having a great sales force but awful marketing. Lots of creative energy wasted because nobody is priming the talent pump at the right time.
If you would like to know more about this model or our approach to systemic talent management, we’ll be glad to share case studies. Or why not sign up to one of our masterclasses or even a coaching course?
However you decide to address your talent management challenges, we hope that you’ve found the last five minutes……… or so thinking through the issues, with us (via this and our other blogs) a useful investment of your time…
Until next time…..
Kate and the Mosaic team.
So, the “new age radical liberalism” has spread to organisations now, it would appear. Critics are claiming that performance management processes are dead, yes, dead. But before you cancel those achiever awards, bonus systems and outcome dashboards or start Googling “participation trophies”, allow us to de-bunk the madness.
Yes, some HR departments are literally tying themselves up in emotional knots afraid to so much as whisper the words “accountability”; “results” or even “objectives” for fear of being castigated as performance pushing bullies.
Sadly, I kid thee not.
We have had several requests to help HR leads (in certain sectors, it must be said) adapt their so-called appraisal systems to rescue their besieged line managers and release their line reports from the emotional strain of assessments that apparently compromise their mental health. And we’re not just talking about the alleged infamous brittleness of Gens Y&Z. This movement has become an all-encompassing challenge for all branches of the working family.
Let’s face it, individual performance review processes have had a very bad rap in certain quarters down the years. And to some extent, it’s been justified.
As an employee, consultant, or coach, you must have heard at least some, if not all, of these moans down the years. Maybe you’ve used them yourself:
- Our PM process is just a laborious annual form filling exercise, a SOP for the auditors and IiP police
- My manager is useless at it
- We don’t work with objectives
- If your face fits the process doesn’t matter
- I’m responsible for my own development and training not the organisation
- What’s the point as there are no performance rewards or consequences?
- It actually de-motivates as it’s just a case of going through the motions
Is it any wonder, therefore, that some organisations are threatening to abandon the performance review process altogether, for good?
Nirvana for HRDs who have to deal with the issues? Not really. And certainly a nightmare for CEOs, FDs and Performance Directors.
What is an organisation if not a group of people brought together to deliver a common purpose?
Purpose = goals and linking organisational goals to individual goals is at least chapter 1 in the book of leadership 101. But it requires both process and behaviour to exist in equilibrium as much as support and challenge, and therein lies the problem. As any decent Investors in People assessor will tell you, many problems come down to poor process. And as many leadership coaches and culture specialists will tell you, show me a performance management problem and I’ll show you a leadership problem at line management level, a behavioural dilemma.
Our senior team has been instrumental in designing PM systems and facilitating the adoption of PM systems across sectors for decades, whether part of a comprehensive Organisation Development programme, leadership programme, or one-off.
We would point to what we see as abdication on the scale we’re talking about here as extremely troubling and will be very interested to learn more about how the purpose, mission, vision, values, and goals of the aforementioned businesses are translated at an individual level at any or all stages of the employee life cycle from recruitment through to departure if there was no PM process in place. Put it this way, we’ve yet to meet a sustainable and grown-up business where this approach works.
Sure, there’s plenty that are woefully inadequate, or which cause more damage than good, alienating large swathes or provoking the churn of the wrong type of employee. But these are issues that can be fixed, provided the leaders are prepared to address process, behaviour and culture altogether.
At its simplest, the performance management process is the interface between the organisation’s goals and each individual’s job. It’s where they and their line manager evaluate their relative contribution, recognise achievement, and addresses any capability or competency shortfall. It’s supposed to be a virtual safe space; an appreciative tool and a mechanism for facilitating powerful conversations that in turn become productive relations. The process shouldn’t be an echo, torture or virtuous chamber and, when delivered well, it’s essential not disposable.
Let me end by sharing a story that cutely sums up the main point: people work better when they have a purpose, goals, and the right feedback.
We moved house recently. As we inspected the work of the decorator, we came across many coloured pieces of paper. Upon closer inspection, they were Post Its, little messages left at problem points critiquing the decorator’s work. Each was numbered and they included short messages like “Late night?” “Call yourself a professional?” and “Perhaps I’ll employ your guide dog next time.”
I was shocked and raised these with the painter when I bumped into him. But I was surprised by his reply:
“Oh, those are our love letters, as we call them. Basically, our team has set a maximum number of snagging points per job. We’re targeted on snaggings as a team by the site manager. Basically, he inspects when we’re done and if he finds a problem, he leaves a note and a witty message. At the end of the week, we buy a pint for the painter who has the fewest notes but also buy one for the manager who comes up with the wittiest way to describe a snag. It’s a bit of a win/win. We all take pride in our work and aim for zero notes, it becomes a bit of a giggle.”
Me: “Surely that doesn’t work for everyone?”
He: “No. Other teams use a different system. But this sort of feedback is normal and natural to us. It works for us and, by the way, this site team has a reputation for being a great place to work.”
A very simple example. But it’s an important and interesting lesson in linking corporate goals to individual targets and adding an appropriate human touch.
So instead of acting as slaves to a dead process or abandoning accountability all together…. why not take a lesson from the painters and develop a system and set of behaviours that works for your culture?
“Yes, yes, we know that your business is far more complex and the people far more needy, but the principle of starting with two or three simple goals that can be readily measured, can be handily fed back and actually mean something to the person doing the day job, is a pretty sound one. Try it. You don’t even have to call it PM!”