Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Hacking love


   I posted earlier about the hackathon I’m participating in at the MIX.

We’re now developing a small number of hacks focusing on developing communities of passion and I’m participating in one on the need to create more love in the workplace (together with Lisa Haneberg and KC Ramsay).

I think this is another agenda that’s missing from Enterprise 2.0, HR and other conferences.  Yes, the use of tools, technologies and management approaches all help to create effective working relationships within an organisation (and don’t get me wrong, that’s a great start!), but there’s still a need for more – if organisations are really going to act to their full potential (rather than groups of individuals going their own ways, and acting against each other as much as they to for each other, and therefore for the organisation as a whole).

I’m not sure what we’re going to come up with, and I’m aware that for many organisations, love may be a step too far to take (although at the same time, I don’t think this has anything to do with current stage of development etc, and everything to do with ambition and willingness to take a risk).

So there are a couple of hacks being developed which I think will be really useful too.

So for example, Josh Allan Dykstra is working with a small team (I think team is the right term here, rather than community) of people to develop a hack looking at building a strengths based environment.  I think there’s a good overlap with love here, though with the use of rather softer language, and perhaps less, though possibly rather more achievable, ambition?

Josh notes:

“A strengths-based culture does encourage (and help people) to love each other for who they are. But it goes further than that, because it also helps people love THEMSELVES for who they are -- while at the same time providing an architecture to help SUPPORT them in the kind of work they are most passionate about.”


And Deborah Mills Schofield’s team is focusing on applying the classic virtues (courage, temperance, prudence, justice, faith, hope – and love too) to specific tasks or projects within a community of passion.

Deborah notes:

“the virtue of ‘love’ can be applied to really understanding customer needs - a passion for really meeting the unmet/unarticulated needs by living their world, understanding their challenges & obstacles etc so you can create a really meaningful solution.  'Love’ for employees can result in creating career development paths, training & education, health & wellness, etc. options for an energizing and meaningful workplace and work.”


(I hope Josh and Deborah don’t mind me copying their comments from a semi-public and into a fully public place – do let me know if you do!).


I really like these ideas, and agree with Josh’s point on the need for people to love themselves before they can love each other at work – ie an organisation needs to be human (treating people as people) before it can be social (focused on relationships) – a point I made again just last week.  (My write-up on Visa Europe refers to one of the best examples I know of on this.)

And I really like the idea of applying the classic virtues at work.  I’ve never been a fan of traditional organisational values.  I accept they can sometimes be very motivational and impactful, but suspect that in the majority of cases they are seen as corporate and manipulative – as well as often inauthentic and, as Deborah says, nebulous.  They’re also not part of the language of people we need to move towards.

I also think Deborah’s focus on specific tasks or projects provides a good point to start this sort of journey, through I worry slightly that the desire to ‘take as much of the personality / emotion out of it’ will reduce the impact of what can be achieved.

I’d like to see organisations incorporating the classic virtues – including love - as a central focus within their whole people management architecture eg within performance management for example.  Not for assessment and particularly not for compensation, but just to ensure the organisation (formal and informal) is actually paying interest to how human someone really is at work.


These and other hacks will be appearing on the MIX shortly – look out for them there.



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Sunday, 12 June 2011

Social leadership at Cisco


  Ealier on, Phil Smith, CEO, Cisco UK & Ireland has talked about leadership and social networking at Cisco.

Globalisation, technology and the next generation workforce and changing the way that people work in organisations.  It’s a big social change, although technology has made the change much easier.

Cisco use social networking tools for communications within the company also also externally, eg in graduate recruitment for building relationships with the best students and creaming off the best before the milk round.  These relationships are sustained through onboarding etc.

As for those companies that don’t allow social networking, Phil suggests using technology within a company is a management issue – you can be on the phone all day just as much as you can be on Facebook.

Next generation working also requires an inclusive culture.  People feel they want to work in Cisco because their talents will be respected and developed.

Their programme is ‘More Together’ which does focus more on inclusiveness than diversity.  The best teams focus on everyone’s contribution rather than just on minority groups.

So for example his executive team have recently participated in a goldfish bowl exercise, sitting round a group of brave women having a facilitated conversation about some of the difficulties they were experiencing.  Executives do get shielded but in this exercise they just sat and listened.

Executives area also reverse mentored.  He has a 21 / 21 year old chap who mentors him and helps him understand how others would communicate.

All of this helps Cisco to develop social communities and quickly assemble dynamic teams.


Also see my other posts on Cisco:



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Social leadership at GE


   (My notes from Susan Peters, CLO, GE at the Economist Group’s Talent Management Summit)


GE’s talent management roots can be traced back to the 1950s, however they’ve been reviewing some of this, asking whether the company would be in a different place now if some of this had been different too.

Plus they know leadership requirements will continue to change through to 2020 and beyond. For example, organisations are needing to get much flatter. Susan wonders about middle management – and worries about it too as it’s such a big part of organisational structure. Managers need to turn into coaches but their role may disappear.



You can always find people who can aggregate, but people can get performance feedback from a wide range of sources eg anonynous twitter based coaching (gen Y are totally cool with this). It requires a different style of management – with more letting go.

GE also expect corporate social networks to be as prevalent in ten years time as the internet is today. And mobile will be to the next 10 years what laptops have been to last 10. All of this is important as social media is not about the technology – it’s about the way people work.


(That last one says you will be hired and promoted based on your relationship capital – see my recent post on influence.)


It’s all supporting a continuing and massive change in the way we lead…

GE’s review of leadership and talent management started in June 2009 when they got together with an eclectic group of thought leaders (two academics and a millennial, futurist and historian etc) to ask whether their leadership DNA was where they wanted it and what is leadership today?

This led into some research leveraging the Senior Executive Development class talking to 170 entities around the word (including the Boston Celtics, Chinese communist party etc) asking what they are thinking leadership is and what they are doing about it – a bit like drinking from a firehose.

In late 2009 they decided rather than publishing this to engage GE leaders in dialogue about it. So in 2010 they invited academics to dinners on innovation strategy, leadership etc with ten company leader and set up sessions at Crotonville asking what does it mean to you to be a 21st Century Leader and what do you want your leader to be like? There was a Leaders in Residence programme in which leaders took a week out of their job to teach, including fireside chats, one-to-one coaching etc: where people got the chance to discuss what they saw as the gaps.


(Notice Susan’s yammer messages popping up at the top right of this pic.)


By the end of 2010, leadership had been reframed by hanging contemporary definitions on the existing values.



One thing that helped employees to get it was to talk about leadership development in same way as product developing – you wouldn’t want to use the same cell phone as five years ago because your expectations have changed – the same with leadership development. You don’t want to be the same person you were five years ago, and you wouldn’t want to work for someone whose skills and perspectives haven’t changed.

The updated values are used in GE’s differentiation matrix etc and they have a two-pronged approach. Firstly, development happens through on the job experience although it often happens in unplanned way too (eg HR will learn by planning a downsizing or a layoff, but it’s when someone breaks down in tears in your office that you get real experience). Secondly, leaders are given assignments beyond what they should be doing. They’re then held accountable and are given feedback.

GE also bring together intact leadership teams of 15-20 people for four days to teach strategy, learn and do. And a programme called Leadership Explorations is also provided as there are lots of senior executives who have not been in training programmes for some time. This consists of 2 – 3 days studying matrix management, the 2020 workforce, innovation, strategic networking etc.


Also see these two previous posts on GE’s leadership, talent management and social networking:




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Saturday, 11 June 2011

Social Business at the Economist’s Talent Management Summit


  On Thursday, I attended the Economist Group’s Talent Management Summit yesterday. You can see my blog posts from the sessions at Strategic HCM:


My first conversation with one of the delegates was with Tina from the US. We got talking about social media (I was just back from the Social Business Forum in Milan) and, emphasising the vital role of ‘social’, I remarked that though talent is important, I expected to find a bit of a vacuum around the potentially larger agenda of how talent is enabled to work together. How wrong I was! - I think I probably got more out of this conference from a social business perspective than I did from the day before (which emphasises why I think Enterprise 2.0 type conferences are still FAR too technology based).

Firstly, we had some good inputs from Rafael Ramirez at Said Business School at Oxford and Santiago Alvarez de Mon at IESE who talked about the need to understand the collective, rather than just the individual, future.

Two examples are:

- Barcelona’s football academy which selects your boys (Messi was there at 14) and teaches them how to play football, but more importantly, teaches them attitude, and develops a belief about playing as a team, not as individuals. Barca has a higher proportion of home grown talent than any other football club and a different culture, or attitude to work (also see this post on socialism in football).

- El Sistema – a system of orchestras in the poor parts of Venezuela which teaches kids to play instruments and which has found that children learn better when they play together than when they try to learn individually.


In business terms, leadership as a transformation of society – so you need to be in touch with society. Or if business is about relationships, then leadership is the quality of that relationship.

But there’s no relationship without the art of engaging people in courageous conversations, so we need to locate the point, in the organogram and in time, where courageous conversations are going to happen.

Leadership is not power. It’s trust, patience, respect, concern for the other, raising intriguing questions, and empathy: forgetting about myself and being in touch with you. But it’s impossible to be in touch with someone else if you are not in touch with yourself.

And its outcomes are trust, engagement, energy, inspiration…

Speakers provided some good business examples of collective futuring too. Eg Deborah Baker, Director for People at BSkyB (pictured) noted that leadership has become increasingly collaborative and team focused, as organisation structures have shifted to become less hierarchical, flatter, matrixed etc.

It’s about empowering others, and developing others. Reinforcing Santiago’s (or was it Rafael’s – sorry) point, Deborah noted that leaders can’t develop others unless they’re developing themselves. They need an understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses to get the best out of others.


I love these points about there needing to be a focus on the individual before there can be one on each other.  As I’ve posted before, organisations need to be human before they can be social.  See this case study as an example.


More coming up from Phil Smith, CEO, Cisco UK & Ireland and Susan Peters, CLO at GE.




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Thursday, 9 June 2011