Here’s a quick summary of the sessions I learned most from at the CIPD conference.
1. The golden finish
We got to hear from David Weir (the David Weir), Jean Tomlin, (HRD for London 2012), and Andy Hunt (CEO of the British Olympic Assoc). It brought back all those fabulous memories of the summer, and on a totally self centred note, I was totally chuffed to bits to get to hold one of David Weir’s gold medals. How awesome is that?!
Jean said that the big thing she learnt from the Olympic experience was:
“if you give people in the UK the chance to do something great, then they will step up and do that. And I think it is the same inside organisations. I think that leaders of organisations need to do that to – to really lead and to create the conditions for people to bring their personalities to work and really flourish and do something great. I know we often say those phrases, but I really believe it and I have seen it happen”.
2. Gary Hamel and Andy Rubin
On day one I really loved Gary Hamel’s keynote and later on Andy Rubin’s description of values based leadership at Pentland Brands – both of which I wrote about already
3. Clive Hutchinson, CEO of Cougar Automation.
Clive deploys Robert Greenleaf’s servant based leadership principles in a big way.
“Maybe I went a bit mad. But I want everyone who is in a leadership position to serve their teams. Leaders need to serve the people. The people are the ones doing the work. They are the ones delivering for the customer“.
I’ve highlighted the word customer because, believe it or not, not that many speakers mentioned the word. Clive does a whole ton of interesting stuff like letting people elect the business unit leaders, allowing people to walk away from a team, and he doesn’t have any HR people at all.
“Why do I need HR if my managers are truly serving the people who work for them?”
What was also interesting about this session was that all 3 speakers had really interesting things to say, and Clive’s approach in particular knocked my socks off. But because the session was labelled ‘SMEs…’, only people with an interest in SMEs went to it. In my opinion Clive should have been on the big stage for all of us to hear from.
3. Darren Hockaday, HRD at London Overground Rail Operations.
I loved Darren’s honest, common sense approach and focus on the leadership team getting out and listening to employees. To the extent that the exec team hold meetings on train platforms. And the stats on the improvement in employee and customer satisfaction were really impressive.
4. Stuart Crabb, Head of L&D at Facebook.
I typed a ton of notes during this session and I will try to write a separate post about it next week. The main gist of Stuart’s talk was that as HR/L&D people (in fact, as managers) we must question our own assumptions and upbringing in terms of how we build our companies. Generations of the future will not appreciate working for a company that is built in the image of a Baby Boomer CEO, with a ton of hierarchy and status symbols like big offices. Also Stuart highlighted the need for us to make our companies be places where people can bring their authentic selves to work. This chimed with Gary Hamel’s plea for us to stop creating companies which are completely dispriting for people to work in. Stuart said, movingly,
“We tell employees ‘Don’t be your LinkedIn self from 9-5 and your Facebook self from 5pm; just be yourself’. As a gay man I am proud of being who I am at work. I can say that”.
What this all meant for me
The reason why these speakers stood out to me is because I felt that they all demonstrated the need for leadership (whether it be HR or CEO or whoever doing the leading, including bottom up leadership).
- Leadership in terms of needing to have the clarity of thought to work out how to best construct their companies to enable those doing the work to do amazing work that wows their customers.
- Leadership in terms of having the courage to make that happen, and not to follow the herd and not to be a slave to the way things have always been done, or to be a slave to the ridiculous complex processes of the big consulting firms.
- Leadership, in terms of having the humanity to understand that it is people, with all our messy emotions, who will achieve great things together, if given half a chance.