A Tribute to Aidan Halligan – Reflections on what he taught me

Sadly, earlier this week, the world lost a man who was fundamentally focused on making it a better place…

Professor Aidan Halligan had done so much in his life it was hard to believe that he was only 57 years old. Most recently director of Well North, he had also been the first NHS director of Clinical Governance, was Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England. and the founding Chairman of Pathway healthcare for homeless people.

For me, as for many others, Aidan was a wise mentor. We met at an event that we had both been asked to speak at for HR professionals in the NHS. I was instantly struck by Aidan’s presence, wisdom and quiet determination and we chatted about shared Irish heritage and an interest in the challenges of leadership. Aidan was Director of Education at UCL and invited me to see the work being done there on Leadership. Over our meetings from that point I learned many things from him and have reflected on just a few of them below.

1. Connect with people, wholeheartedly.

My first visit with Aidan was at UCL’s leadership centre. We wandered the office with Aidan explaining the work being done there, what they were learning and introducing me to the team. In the midst of our wanderings an Irish gentleman stopped us ‘Professor Halligan?’ he said, slightly deferentially. Aidan stopped and focused on the man. ‘You treated my mother’ he said. Immediately Aidan recalled him, his mother and spent a few moments in deeply attentive conversation with the man.

Time in conversation with Aidan was a precious experience. I never saw him check his phone, a blackberry, not even his watch, even though he must have been an insanely busy man. He always paid complete attention to whoever was speaking, stopping only occasionally to take out his notebook and make a note of something in the conversation that had struck him in some way.

Aidan had an ability to be wholeheartedly in the here and now with another person which gave him an ability to connect with other human beings in the most amazing and uncommon way.

‘Its your example that counts, not your rank.’
Aidan Halligan

2. Compassion is Action

It always inspired me to listen to Aidan talk about his work. I recall a lunch meeting, shortly after I had attended a workshop on Compassion Based Mindfulness with the wonderful Chris Irons. Chris has talked about a definition of compassion that only made full sense to me when I next met with Aidan.

‘ Compassion is noticing the suffering of another and being sufficiently moved by it to help them in some way,’

The last time I saw Aidan he was talking to me about Well North. It was in its early stages, but just as with our conversations about Pathways I was struck by Aidan’s quiet, understated, stubborn, determined, kick ass approach.When Aidan set his mind to doing something, it was absolutely unquestionable that something would be done.

Many of us are moved by what we see. Aidan did something about it. Compassion is action.

‘People respect courage and they respect compassion’
Aidan Halligan

3. Begin

After the conversation on compassion I continued to develop a growing interest in how well or otherwise human beings can be enabled to retain their compassion working in organisational environments. I thought it would be fun to bring together a group of people who might have a view or perspective on that to share and discuss. Somewhat naive of me perhaps as there are wonderful organisations and institutions researching it all over the world.

In spite of that , when I contacted Aidan to say that I would like to introduce him to Chris and some others who I thought would be interesting participants in such a debate he didn’t hesitate for a moment to say that he would be happy to join it. I was to let him know the date and he would be there.

I hesitated too long before starting. And now that conversation can’t ever happen in quite the same way…

Aidan didn’t wait, he didn’t procrastinate about whether he was the right person. He began. And took others with him along the way.

‘ We know when we see a leader. They inspire us, and when we are inspired we become determined. And when we are determined we go further. That’s what leadership is about…’
Aidan Halligan

4. Ask the ‘Beautiful Disturbing Question’

Aidan always took time to understand what I was up to at work, at home, in my volunteering. He was always interested in my volunteering at Crisis, my trustee role, and my work initially in the Civil Service and more latterly in the NSPCC. He always demonstrated a keen interest in what I was learning, and shared what he was learning along the way.

He had a skill for asking what the poet David Whyte calls ‘the beautiful disturbing question’ and my thinking benefited on so many occasions from his occasionally perturbing ability to do that.

At a lull in our conversation as I described the fullness of life and work he would always catch me out with the same one. Leaning in and giving me his full attention he would say in his gentle irish voice,

‘And tell me Siobhan, are you happy?

I’m certainly happy that I knew this wonderful man. To have had the chance to learn from him. To have witnessed so many wonderful qualities at play in a single human being. Thank you Aidan.

Standard

Why I’ve joined the Fashion Revolution..and perhaps you might too?

So we probably all have some enduring memories from our childhood holidays I guess?

My childhood holidays were all in Ireland, the home of my parents. With a good proportion spent in one of the most beautiful places of all Achill Island, County Mayo.

images

One common tradition for us was to spend an afternoon visiting the graves of various relatives, a classic irish catholic tradition. There are some beautiful graveyards in that part of the country but none so beautiful as the one at Kildownet Church a wonderfully peaceful spot with the particular intrigue of being flanked by two mass graves. The second of these the grave of 10 young islanders who lost their lives in the Kirkintilloch Tragedy.

Kildownet-Old-Cemetery.

In the early hours of the 16 September 1937, a fire broke out in a farm workers ‘bothy’ and 10 young ‘tattie hokers’ from Achill lost their lives, dying by asphyxiation when the fumes from the fire in the barn they were all sleeping in overwhelmed them. There were rumours that the fire was started deliberately and that the barn had been locked. Carelessness on the part of the merchants and the ruthlessness of the Irish ‘gaffer system’ were blamed.

A few months later my Dad was born and at the age of 15 he followed his countrymen across the water to Scotland to work in the bothy’s. By then working conditions had improved, farm practices were more closely monitored and my Dad survived and thrived.

Perhaps this story explains a little why, 75 years later, the story of another tragedy in a workforce  across the world touched me.

‘On the 24 April 2013, 1133 people were killed and over 2500 were injured when the Rana Plaza factory complex collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh’ so starts the web page http://www.fashionrevolution.org

Rana-Plaza

The deadliest garment factory tragedy in history. Warnings were given to avoid using the building after cracks appeared in it the day before. Reports said that garment workers were ordered by their bosses to return and the building collapsed during the morning rush hour. Dying as they sought to meet deadlines to produce clothing for the western fashion market.

I was moved enough to start to read a little to try to understand more, and started with ‘To Die For. Is fashion wearing out the world’? by @lucysiegle. What I read was enough to spark me into a complete clothes buying ban for 6 months, ably supported by @perrytimms who took on that challenge too. It was enough to give me time to think and to understand some of my own habits around shopping and clothes.

Not buying at all though seemed potentially counterproductive and frankly also not much fun if, like me, you love clothes. So I started to look for other ways to reconcile what I was learning with my deep love of fashion and design. A short foray of study at the London College of Fashion helped, enabling me to think some more about fashion versus style and the psychology of fashion in a range of ways.

Coincidentally, a few months later, I came across the wonderful David Lilley who runs @liminajewellery

David’s concept is to create individualised jewellery for people that says something about them more deeply. So to work with a person to understand what are the deepest characteristics of themselves that they want to bring to the surface and to display. He then creates a piece of jewellery with you to reflect that. (His website says it so much better than I just did!).

It slotted into place for me that actually my clothes are a reflection of me. On different days I perhaps use them to project different parts of my personality and that I want them to reflect the values that I hold dear too. So if I care deeply about things such as freedom, opportunity, fairness, the rights of children, the environment there is the opportunity to ensure  these are literally woven into the core of the fabric of what I wear. That the warp and the weft in every item reflects the values that I hold dear.

So now I am experimenting with how I change the way that I think about what I wear and how I choose it as a result.

1. Having recently read Stuffocation by @jameswallman I am applying some of his ideas. James talks of switching ‘stuff’ for ‘experiences’ and not necessarily spending less but spending differently. For me clothes still constitute an experience (which might be stretching James’s definition a little!) and so my challenge is to spend better. Be more conscious of the brands that I am buying from and to focus on the quality, ethics and sustainability of what I buy.

2. Raising my awareness. Lucy’s book and others that I have read subsequently have started to raise my awareness of which brands are behaving ethically and which, aren’t. I am taking the time to find out about the brands that I buy my clothes from. I notice that if I find something about their ethics that I am not comfortable with that their clothes stop looking quite so enticing for me. Its a slow process but little by little I am learning more.

3. Supporting those who are doing it differently. There are many wonderful companies out there now doing amazing things with the way that they source and produce their products. Ethical fashion forum’s and directories appear all the time and recommendations from friends have started to f low too. Only yesterday I was pointed to http://www.turtle-doves.co.uk/ who do marvellous things with recycling cashmere jumpers!

Small things, but perhaps it only takes all of us to do a few small things to ensure that someone else’s Mum or Dad gets to live a long and healthy life…

images

 

 

 

Standard

Fundraisers and Forth Road Bridge Painters

Many of the best things in my life have happened when life has, in some way thrown down a gauntlet. This particular glove was thrown by the ever encouraging Megan Peppin (@OD_Optimist) and as it was a cold spring day I chose to accept. She also encouraged me to blog for myself and as if no one else would ever read it. So I will do precisely that. With no apology if it makes no sense to anyone who happens to find it!

Anyone who works in an area that requires the recruitment of fundraisers right now will recognise my feeling that it is a little like painting the proverbial Forth Road Bridge. You think you’ve finished, completed the job, only to need to start again.

A recent Guardian Voluntary event addressed the question of ‘Why do Charities find it so hard to attract and retain fundraisers?’ Getting to know the fundraising profession and some of the people in it has been one of the delights of my time in the sector. And has triggered my curiosity in so many ways. A new and developing profession in many ways with all of the perils and opportunities that holds. Passionate people with a drive to help the organisations that they work in make a real difference. And as with any profession, challenged in a wide variety of ways by the ever changing nature of the work and its context. So it was great to have the opportunity to take some time to reflect on my new fundraising friends and how I might better support them to achieve what they do,

A number of things resonated for me in the debate which I’ve summed up in four ways. I always did dislike being imprisoned by the tyranny of the MBA style ‘three things…’ Fundraising is a growing profession, that needs to hold high standards, be open minded and welcoming to attract the talent that it needs and to obsess about how to keep great people in the profession for the long term.

1. Fundraising is a growing profession.

To cut a long story short.. there may not be enough good people in the profession to fill the roles that exist and are continuing to develop. As the nature of fundraising changes and it continues to grow in size, the challenge of attracting great people continues to grow. One twitter user contacted me during the debate under the hashtag sadandtragic saying ‘and these youngsters actually think its a serious occupation.’ Perhaps not surprising that there are challenges with people being able to see fundraising as an active career choice that they might make and a profession to stay in for the longer term…I guess somewhere deep down we all want to be able to feel proud of what we are spending a large chunk of our lives doing. These folks deserve to. And yet there seem to at least be some mixed views about the nature of the fundraising profession, just as there are about many other professions. (I speak as a former banker and a former civil servant.) The panel commented on the fact that ‘not many people set out to work in fundraising’ but instead find themselves in it. Many HR professional colleagues reading this will no doubt recognise that story too.

The changing nature of fundraising also presents opportunities and challenges. As different facets develop, new and different skill sets are emphasised or required. There was a sense in some of the discussions that there has perhaps been too much siloing in the way that fundraisers are being encouraged to develop rather than ensuring more generic understanding and ability to move across different areas of fundraising. Not a new challenge and again one that has been faced by many other professions. As one thing becomes the ‘sexy’ bit of a profession to work in what does that mean to the ‘old school’ bit? What if ‘sexy’ was analytic and ‘old school’ was intuitive – can the same people do both?

2. That needs to hold high standards.

As Moyra Doyle (@MoyraDoyle) from Richmond Associates pointed out it is also a hazardous affair. She sought to provoke the gathered audience with the challenge of ‘thrivers and survivors.’ Her insight was that there are a group of potentially not very good people in the market who are circling around jobs every 18 months or so. Surviving just long enough to move on, always sure that someone else will give them a job. Her view? ‘You need to stop giving them jobs.’ Her challenge created a slightly uncomfortable atmosphere in the room in the way that it does when someone points out something that is a potentially uncomfortable truth. Can the quality of any profession develop if standards of performance and capability are not upheld at some basic level?

So what do we do asked an attendee, if we have been searching for a year and can’t find someone? Do we take the person who can bring in something in the short term or not have anyone and raise nothing. A tough and common challenge, sometimes not even a conscious one. How many of us have sat in interview panels knowing what we are hoping to find and slowly as time goes on starting to work out whether the candidate we wouldn’t have taken at the start of the day might be able to do the role after all. The panel reflected that sometimes we subconsciously slip beneath the standards that we should whilst recruiting and that we need to be conscious of that.

3. Be open minded and welcoming to attract the talent that it needs

A lively debate ensued around the subject of how to attract different kinds of people into fundraising. With a demand based challenge fuelling salary levels in potentially unsustainable ways and driving unhelpful levels of turnover, thoughts turned to how we might attract different kinds of people with the right skill set.

Can you only paint a bridge if you have 4 years previous experience of painting precisely that kind of bridge?

Again some excellent points around the nature of both HR practice and hiring manager mindset excluding people with different types of skill sets, backgrounds and personalities. The question perhaps needing to become ‘does this person have potential that can be developed’ rather than ‘are they are fundraiser with years of successful experience in precisely what I am looking for.’

I have long felt that there are other kinds of people in other kinds of roles who’s skills would play really well to what it takes to be a great fundraising professional. But there is no doubt that we need to open our eyes wider to how we might go about recruiting different types of people.

I was reminded of some of the excellent work that I notice Mi5 and Mi6 have done recently on their approaches to recruitment. Challenged in their recruitment model I suppose by the fact that few of us think that we have what it takes to be an intelligence officer (and those who do probably shouldn’t be) they seem to have shifted their recruiting to focus more on the work and on what type of person with what type of skill set might work for them. They have set out to challenge the excluding perception that they are ‘special’ and instead sought to position themselves as being ‘normal.’ Seeking to open up the minds of those who were excluding themselves to the opportunity that might be perfect for them. Perhaps something to be learned from that approach.

4. And obsess about how to keep great people in the profession.

Paul Farthing from the NSPCC raised the point that we perhaps focus too much on recruitment and not enough on retention, making the point that this is probably connected to their being lots of recruitment agencies but not many retention ones. Funny that! In all seriousness only a part of the challenge of course is attracting people and great points were raised about whether enough is done once we have them to keep them. And what that takes to do.

Thinking about his area took me back to another very inspirational session I attended recently by Rob Briner (@robbriner) on the subject of evidence based HR. His challenge could be summed up in two words ‘is it?’ That particular session blew my brains (and my banana guard logic) so significantly that I have yet to risk putting pen to paper about it…but perhaps for that reason at some point I should. Anyway, I digress somewhat but the important question is ‘what evidence do we have upon which to act?’

The challenge with unpicking retention and attrition in any profession or organisation is perhaps understanding whether we have any evidence and if we do what is the quality of that evidence. Why are people joining and leaving, both specific organisations and the fundraising profession itself? Anecdotally I come across more people departing the fundraising profession to go and do something completely different than I have noticed in other professions. A trick of my mind and biases? Or something to inquire about? I am always struck by the difference between what people will say in an exit interview and what they tell their friends about why they are really leaving… Difficult sometimes to get to truly evidence based perspective. And perhaps no professiona really has? Where do Forth Road Bridge painters go to work next and why? Perhaps the Institute of Fundraising know?

I’ll go and ask them…

Standard

With power comes responsibility..or does it?

There are few places better to do some thinking than in a lovely tea shop in the company of a fascinating friend. I treasure the kinds of conversations that happen when there is all the time in the world, no next meeting to get to, no next action item on the list. Just an afternoon stretching ahead, good company…and a nice cup of tea.

Like all good conversations it ebbed and flowed and eddied and one particular stream of thought led us to an observation that we both had long been intrigued by; the ability for an averagely attractive man or woman to take centre stage as a speaker or facilitator and to suddenly become immensely more attractive as a result of being on a stage or in the centre of a circle.

Put a person in a position of power and the adulation that follows can create a heady rose tinted lense that can make the individual irresistible to members of the audience who wouldn’t look twice at them on a night out. I recall once watching a very senior ranking civil servant present to a room who had never met him before as every single woman, and a few of the men in the room fell in limerance..

(Limerance: ‘An involuntary state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person combined with an overwhelming obsessive need to have ones feelings reciprocated’)

My friend and I were discussing the many instances of which we are aware in which people who become gurus or teachers in the field of human/personal development had a whiff of scandal attached to them as a result of the way in which their personal relationships had been conducted. Some example,of being accused of abusing their’power’ and exploiting a student or follower.

So what is the deal with power when we as adults interact with each other? Are ‘gurus’ responsible for understanding what the effect is of their perceived power? Are they more responsible than the other party? What constitutes an abuse of power by a facilitator /guru? What are the responsibilities of the adult individual involving themselves with that person? What responsibility should each of us have and hold for ourselves and our own self awareness?

This is incredibly difficult subject matter in which many factors must be considered, not least the fact that there are vulnerable adults in life as well as vulnerable children. And yet there continues to be a nervousness in many quarters about exploring the subject of ‘personal power.’ Or even mentioning the P word. Let alone debating the responsibility that comes with it.

I was reminded of a quote that I saw not long after the death of Tony Benn entitled ‘Ask the powerful five questions.’

1. What power have you got?
2.Where did you get it from?
3. In whose interests do you exercise it?
4. To whom are you accountable?
5. How can we get rid of you?

The context of the quote was the preciousness of democracy..a conversation for another day. But I found them useful prompts for stimulating my thinking about the power that we all have. And the ways in which we exercise it…perhaps mindlessly, every day.

Have you ever looked away from a homeless person in the streets perhaps exercising your power in a way that dehumanises them?

Have you ever snapped at a customer service person in a contact centre perhaps exercising your power to treat them that way because ‘the customer is always right.’

Have you ever withheld approval from a child that you know desperately wants it from you, perhaps prolonged their unhappiness?

I feel sure that at some stage in life I have done all of the things above and more. I have experienced some of them too. I don’t profess to have any single answer to the question of the way in which people considered gurus and teachers go about managing their lives..the many situations that I have read about I am sure have many facets and dimensions to them.

So my conclusion for myself is as follows. I am responsible for reflecting on the use of power, how I am using it and doing so mindfully and positively. I believe that we all are. And so perhaps we need to stop running humbly away from the P word and accept that we all have it, we all use it and as Tony suggested we should all reflect on what we are doing with it.

Standard

Scarlet

Lets call her Scarlet… Lets call her 20… Neither of these things are real. But she is, she exists. And I met her on Christmas Day. 

‘What kind of a way is this to spend Christmas’ she chided her man gently as they sat warming themselves from the cold outside. It wasn’t the chiding that caught my attention so much. It was the unmistakeable wobble in her voice. A mixture of deep down distress and on the edge fear. As I looked more closely I saw a beautiful young woman, dark blonde dreadlocks, delicate piercings. Piercing eyes. Scared eyes… Someones baby. Wrapped in layer after layer of clothing to keep her warm from the cold outside. Swaddled. 

Amongst all of the people at the Crisis Centre that evening, Christmas day evening, this young woman and her man immediately caught my attention. They had been pointed out to me by a first time volunteer who thought that they looked like they needed help. He was right. As humans, when we take the time to look, it isn’t difficult to see when people might be in need of help. He had taken the time, to notice. To be there to witness them. 

They wanted somewhere to stay for the night. Her man looked wild eyed, part with fear, part with who knows what. They argued. I noticed the judgements filling my head. Not wrong of me , just human. Judgement helps us to find our way in a complex world. Without it we would soon be weighed down with all that the world asks us to take in, to process. Perhaps the best we can hope for is the ability to notice the judgements, to suspend them, to put them to one side. Not to be driven by them. To be alive to them. Awake. 

I noticed my own fear rising the longer that I spoke to them about the situation they were in. A growing understanding of the danger they felt. Whatever had brought them to where they were they should not be on the streets tonight. I told them Crisis could find them a bed. She asked only for a sleeping bag. Declared herself too scared to go to a centre with people that she didn’t know. Alternated between slow tears and shaking her head slowly in shocked disbelief at the situation she was in. Slowly as we talked she started to make eye contact and to share her fears, both with her words and through those ‘windows to her soul’. She didn’t want to be near ‘druggies’, she was scared she would be raped. She was scared that her man was becoming more agitated. They needed to leave, they must leave she said. Back to the streets. 

Eventually, I’m not ashamed to say, I begged her. She said she would think about it. I left them to smoke. 

Somewhere else in the country that night was someone I know very well indeed. A similar young woman, of a similar age. Also with no home to go to. And whilst I didn’t know Scarlet’s story I do know hers. 

Her parents separated when she was 17 and she reacted badly to the split. As their relationship disintegrated so did hers with them. She dropped out of college and after moving between the two of them for a little while found herself in a relationship in which she thought she was in love. He was bad, really bad. Abusive and clever about how he abused. Slowly she was cut off from all around her and with nowhere to go once their relationship ended. Her relationships with all around her broken.

She found herself in a hostel, surrounded by people using drugs and threatening. Bullying and abuse a part of her life. She sought solace by moving to be with a friend that she thought she could trust. Lost her hostel place, too young and naive to understand the implications of what she was doing. Only to find that her welcome there on the sofa could only last so long and that her friends good will could not extend to Christmas. She found herself with nowhere to go. Hostels full. No place at the inn.

A normal girl, from a normal family, with normal problems. It can happen to anyone. It really can happen to anyone.

In London, Scarlet and her man finally agreed to take the bed that had been offered to them. She thanked us gently as she left on the transport to take her to the night shelter. The volunteers who had been working with her and her man sighed a collective sigh of relief that at least for tonight they were safe.

Somewhere else in the country another young lady was offered a bed by a family friend kind enough to take her in. She too safe..until tomorrow. 

The path Downhill is all too easy to take. The uphill path of return is much more of a challenge. We all deserve some help with that. 

http://www.crisis.org.uk

 

 

 

 

 

Standard

Thoughts from the road – Bhutan, Blind Belief and Bankers

So it has only taken visiting one of the most beautiful countries in the world to finally inspire me to start to blog. Many months ago now a good friend and coach of mine Jane Sassenie said ‘ I think perhaps its time that you stopped putting stuff into your head and started letting some stuff out of it.’ In saying so she put her finger on something that I had long been feeling, that perhaps I wanted to write some stuff of my own, and somehow offer a little release to the pressure cooker of my mind. So hopefully reader you will indulge my humble musings, poor grammar and idle banter. It is intended to offer some outlet for my own thoughts, and if it serves to stimulate one or two in your mind then all the better. 

So back to that beautiful country… Bhutan. Nestled in the Himalayas, a Buddhist country celebrated for many things, not least its focus on Gross National Happiness as a measure of ‘success for us as humans.’ As a Western, English born – Irish bred, raised Catholic just in the process of leaving the Civil Service to start a new role in the Charity Sector, it was bound to offer some food for thought. So much fortunately that I was happy to survive for the entire two weeks on a diet mainly composed of red rice and fried cabbage whilst avoiding the Ebi Datse (Chillies in cheese) that is the country’s national dish. I had of course smuggled in a box of Jaffa Cakes that added to the dietary delights on offer…. 

There are so many thoughts to share from the days of walking, visiting monasteries and dhzongs and watching the wildlife that it is almost impossible to know where to start. It was a country of completely different experiences and beliefs completely outside of my own.

Everywhere that we went my wonderful guide shared colourful stories of how monasteries had been developed, rocks that were the heads of saints and customs and practices that I must be sure to follow. I was overwhelmed, and in the evenings found myself thinking about the stories that he shared, the underlying philosophies and beliefs and how those differed or were similar to my own. 

As we were walking one morning to the Temple of the Divine Madman (its worth a look he was quite a character en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chimi_Lhakhang‎) I found myself thinking back to an old colleague of mine, Shobna. We had been asked by the newly arrived US CEO to establish a series of diversity networks. It was proving somewhat challenging to get people involved, partly a credit to the organisation as there was a genuine sense of involvement and inclusion, but Shobna helped me to understand things from a different perspective when she said ‘ which diversity network do you want me to join, the one for women, for BME or for LGBT? I am all of those things, and what I expect from an organisation is to be valued for the totality of the difference that I bring.’ She helped me to develop a sense that if I were to focus on diversity of thought, style, belief and approach that perhaps that offered a fundamental philosophy that could guide me in ensuring that I garnered true value from all of the people around me. 

I tend to a view that Diversity matters because of the opportunities for innovation, creativity and growth that it offers to us as individuals and organisations. The chance to truly experience and learn from all that the world has to offer. But as I walked with my Guide I was conscious that it was not always easy to maintain the ’empty cup’ of a learners mind. My Western belief systems  and behaviours seemed to intervene without my even realising it and without being mindful I would quickly lose the opportunities to look at things in a different way. I was conscious of the range of simple moments in which I have lost similar opportunities or not made the most of the different perspectives in the room. Shutting down random avenues of enquiry too quickly, failing to indulge the moments of humour that could lead to inspiration, not drawing in the quieter person in the room, failing to make the most of the fresh perspective of a new starter or a person from outside of my specialism. And yet here I was, in a different country, with an entirely different belief system to that with which I had been raised, allowing my cup to be filled over and over again with the challenge of those behaviours and beliefs and seeking to understand what I could learn from them. 

I have sometimes thought that the HR Profession is awash with beliefs and values that could too easily go unchallenged, reducing us to a profession that dishes up a standard recipe regardless of organisation, vision or strategy. Another great teacher I have had the chance to learn from, Karen Legge writes beautifully in her book HRM Rhetorics and Realities about the dangers of falling into blindly following our own belief systems as individuals and a profession, without challenging where they have come from or their relevance to organisations today. 

There are many things that I will bring back with me from Bhutan I know, photographs of the Singaporean Personal Bankers on pilgrimage with a Tibetan Lama, a set of prayer beads to remind me of the many monastery visits, a hastily done recording of the young nun that I came across on a hillside practicing her prayers, an empty Jaffa Cake box….

Mostly though I hope that I bring back the openness to challenging my own values, views and beliefs and the rhetoric of my profession. And a desire to help to create organisations that enable our ‘ success as human beings.’  Image

Standard