Having a thick skin


In New Zealand at the moment there is a high profile harassment case which is polarising the public, despite none of us knowing what actually occurred.

The public reaction is an interesting glimpse into the psyche of a nation that prides itself on being first to give women the vote. When it involves a man’s career over a woman’s, the choice seems to be that the man’s career is more important.

It also highlights that an organisation “following a process” can end up at a point it probably didn’t intend to get to. Allowing a high profile executive to “leave with dignity” (and I can imagine the conversations that occurred) following findings of serious misconduct has been conducted publicly, providing a forum for the allegations to be rationalised.

The right to “privacy and confidentiality” of the complainant has left her without a voice.

The core of the issue though, is how we expect people to treat each other in the workplace. I have been in the workforce for a long time, long before sexual harassment had a label or a law covering it.  Most of my career has been in a male dominated environment and I will say that, for the most part, I have been treated with absolute respect as an equally valued staff member and colleague. There was sexism, and some behaviour that could be considered to be harassment.

One of the best descriptions I ever heard about sexism is that is is like a cloud, you can see it, you may even feel it, but you cannot touch it or grab hold of it. Much of the behaviour that contributes to harassment is the same.

It is the joke that if you complain about you have no sense of humour, it is the patronising language that is “just what I say, I don’t mean anything by it”, it is the body language, touching and close proximity that is uncomfortable but isn’t visibly threatening, it is the mild flirting that is ‘harmless”. Harassment is likely to be a combination of all of these behaviours.

What is the result of this behaviour? In most instances it doesn’t escalate to a dangerous level, it is often carried out by “a good guy” and doesn’t result in criminal behaviour.

It does result in the recipient feeling uncomfortable, they may question why they need to put up with it and they may leave for another job, they may not be able to have a good working relationship with the person because of this discomfort and fear of where it is going next, they may be absent on days when they feel most vulnerable, it may result in sub optimal performance.

Are you doing everything you can to make sure everyone in your organisation feels valued, has the opportunity to contribute equally and relishes the opportunity to come to work to make a difference?  Or do you expect people to harden up, learn how to take a joke and develop a thicker skin?



Postcard from the beach



Wish you were here….

No, not really. I am enjoying a well earned break at the beach. I arrived with books, a little bit of work to catch up on and no plans to do much except relax. My days have settled into a lovely beach routine, walks along the beach, afternoon naps, cups of tea and simple food.  My idyllic lifestyle comes to an end in a few days and then I will be back to reality.

How can I take some of this holiday feeling back to reality?

A beach holiday (for me anyway) is a about paring life back. Not trying to do too much, enjoying simple things like a walk along the beach, letting things happen when they happen.  I am going to try to take some of this home with me to keep that holiday feeling going for a little bit longer.  These are my promises to myself.

1. Appreciate the simple things in life– stop and appreciate the view, a good book, the strangers who smile and say hello.

2. Just sit and look – make time to switch my brain off, appreciate the view, just sit and enjoy the moment

3. Get outside – on a daily basis get out in the fresh air, walking in the rain, wind or sunshine is invigorating and good for the soul

4. Get enough sleep – one of the bonuses of a holiday is the excuse to have an afternoon nap and a sleep in, which is not always possible in real life. I will do my best to remember the feeling and plan for a good night’s sleep.

What promises would you make to yourself to keep that holiday feeling going?



Creating a community

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-outstanding-teams-concept-image8223520 Last week I attended two events which gave me pause for thought.

As mentioned in my previous blog, I attended Unfurling HR, an unconference organised as an extension of the  on-line NZLead community, bringing HR related professionals together from around the globe.

The second event was a weekend at Puniho Pa, participating in a marae visit with my Te Reo Maori (Maori language) class.

The juxtaposition of these events, involving the most traditional of New Zealand communities and one created from new technology; highlighted to me how important our communities are. At the unconference we participated in an event that advanced our thinking, created learning opportunities and enabled us to develop friendships and networks for the future. We worked as a community to create those opportunities. At the marae, we were welcomed as visitors and left as whanau (family).  We worked together to prepare food, clean up after ourselves, learn, entertain and create opportunities to develop friendships and networks for the future.

For each event I felt that I had participated in something special.

I can’t help thinking about what would happen in organisations and businesses if we created something equally special in the world of work. What were the common threads in my two special events that we could transfer into our workplaces.

  • Aroha-In Maori, this means so much more than its English translation of love.
  • Teamwork– everyone participated, contributed and shared
  • Learning – pushing the boundaries, stretching comfort zones
  • Inclusiveness – everyone’s contribution was asked for and valued
  • Fun – laughter, not taking ourselves too seriously, and a little bit of mischief

How cool would it be to work in a place that did this all the time?


Unfurling HR – conversations for change

koruLast week I attended the Unfurling HR Unconference organised and facilitated by Amanda Sterling of NZLead. The fern was used as a metaphor for unfurling, unravelling and re-positioning the people and culture related disciplines in organisations. It was an inspiring and motivational event and I have included links to other blogs with feedback about the unconference below.

I participated in discussions about leadership, personal development and the internal brand. As a consultant I couldn’t resist putting my feedback into a stop-start-continue format with suggestions for organisations and HR.

  Organisations could…. HR could….
  • Leaving all the people stuff to HR
  • Leaving all the compliance stuff to HR
  • Creating a consumer brand disconnected from the employee experience
  • Tolerating poor people management practice
  • Taking on all the people stuff
  • Taking on all the compliance stuff
  • Creating employment brands
  • Tolerating poor people management practice
  • Ensuring all managers are trained how to manage people
  • Supporting personal development for all staff from day one
  • Supporting a culture that is living the brand inside as well as outside
  • Developing leadership across the board
  •  Facilitating processes to ensure all managers are well trained
  • Facilitating personal development plans for all
  • Collaborating with marketing and others to develop the culture that supports the brand
  • Identifying leadership qualities that support the culture
  • To look for better ways to do things
  • To collaborate with HR to create stronger organisations
  • To recognise the knowledge and experience of their people related teams


  • Having challenging conversations about doing things better
  • To learn about the business and how they can best add value
  • To learn from each other and share knowledge widely in their organisations

Thoughts from other attendees- #unfurlingHR created a lot of food for thought.

Amanda Sterling – Reflections from #unfurlingHR – what next

Megan Borrie – #unfurlingHR – Baking these things in

Richard Westney – Off the beaten Track

Angela Atkins – #UnfurlingHR

Vaughan Rivett – Attending my first unconference

Jonathan Hagger – One quick recap

PS- this event will inspire at least one more blog from me,  so watch this space.

Lessons about change


If you work in any organisation where people are involved, you will have seen change.

You know the cliches ; there is nothing more constant than change, the more things change the more they stay the same, if you’re not changing you’re going backwards…..

Books have been written about change,  careers have been advanced or lost on the back of change projects and still we get it wrong again and again (mainly because we underestimate Point 1 below). I have compiled a list of lessons I have learnt about change – what are your lessons?

1.     Change is all about people.

  • Never underestimate the importance of people to ensure you successfully navigate change.
  • If they are on-board  it may work
  • If they are not all on-board it will not
  • Restructure is all about people
  • Culture is all about people
  • Mergers are all about people
  • Assessing and responding to people needs strong leadership
  • There is no place for wishy washy leadership or “nice” people who don’t want to address issues

2.     People need to know where they are going

  • Leading change requires you to understand the end goal and the reasons for change.
  • Context is important
  • Leadership is the ability to articulate and reinforce the vision
  • Communicate the compelling opportunity (not the burning platform as we all used to do) 

3.     You cannot over communicate

  • You must communicate with honesty and good intentions
  • If you prevaricate you will get yourself into trouble
  • Telling people the tough news is tough, and you may get immediate backlash, but they will appreciate it more than being strung along
  • Planning sessions, training, change workshops  where staff have not been told why they are there, or what the end goal is – never achieve the desired results.
  • Constantly reinforce the vision and the story behind the change – take every opportunity

4. Understanding organisational culture is important

  • For some, the current culture and way of doing things forms a strong powerbase and change is a threat.
  • Culture takes a long time to change

5.     Be prepared for things to go wrong

  • Things do not always go according to plan
  • People have not all read the same textbooks or gone to the same seminars as you
  • If you understand points 1-4 – you will recover more easily.
    • If you have a goal of taking care of people you will find the right solution
    • If you know and can articulate the story you can bring people back to the purpose
    • If you have communicated openly, honestly and fully , you can apologise and move forward
    •  If you understand the culture you can figure out what went wrong and why.