Sunday, 17 March 2013

Government Health Warning: Social Media Can Seriously Damage Your Self-Esteem

Let's face it, the constant stream of information that flows into your life from the various social media services that you subscribe to makes you feel an abject failure, doesn't it?

You're left cold by the tweets from some of those that you follow urging you to realise that today is going to be simply EPIC, and that by harnessing all your inner energy you can single-handedly begin to change the world.

Unlike some of those with whom you network, you didn't start your day with a 4.98 km run with a pace of 6'04"/km in your expensive Nike running shoes.

You don't have the perfect skin, coiffeured hair and ultra-white teeth that radiate back at you from the social media profiles of most of your contacts.

You feel guilty that you don't have time to read any (never mind all ten!) of the "must-read" articles in this morning's press that your twitter stream tells you are critical for your continued existence.

Your twitter profile doesn't read like many of those you follow: you're not wife/husband to the WONDERFUL (insert androgynous name here), mum/dad to three AMAZING kids, livin' life to the max, one FANTASTIC day at a time.

Nor are you an internationally renowned speaker, strategist and best-selling author (insert link to book ranked 1,786, 493 in Amazon business books here) working with senior executives to transform their businesses (usually by helping them "leverage social media technology to maximise employee engagement").

You are unmoved by the messages in your inbox advising you how to CRUSH your next interview, ROCK your forthcoming performance review and NAIL that salary increase that you know that you deserve.

You never appear on any Most Influential Communicators listings for your chosen profession. Your most profound and carefully constructed utterances create not the slightest ripple in the social media world, while the announcement of one of your contacts that he has burned the toast goes viral. Unlike some of those around you, AWESOME is a word that is rarely applied to you.

You don't even know what Klout is, never mind what your Klout score is. But you suspect that the scruffy IT geek on the train next to you this morning has a better score than you.

The only people who look at your Linked In profile live on the opposite side of the globe, and are clearly still hoping that you can help them get a job; no-one ever approaches you about exciting career opportunities.

Your Linked In profile makes you look like at best a normal person and at worst a washed-up specimen of humanity in comparison to the supreme beings who appear in the "People You May Know" section.

However ...

You may not have 2,000 followers on twitter, nor be networked with 500+ contacts on Linked In, but one pseudo-inspirational, marathon running, keynote speaker with a bestselling book and a clutch of AMAZING kids is pretty much like the next one!

What you DO have is a close circle of friends, acquaintances, colleagues and family members; people who are more significant to you than an @ symbol in a contact list; people who you can trust and rely on both personally and professionally, and who in turn can trust and rely on you.

For your sanity's sake, make this week one where you spend some time with those close to you, and give them some of the attention and appreciation that you yourself crave and thrive on.

After all, that's the only way that you'll make this week truly EPIC!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Three proven techniques for getting you the pay increase you deserve

OK. I'll admit it. I lied.

The headline was just a cheap stunt to attract your attention, but while you're here. please listen to what I have to say and partipate in the debate by voting in the poll over on the right hand side.

I guess that, like me, you will regularly get tweets and Linked In alerts offering you helpful advice on how to secure your long overdue pay increase.

They will be full of tips such as "know your value", "choose your moment", "rehearse what you want to say and practise how you will handle your boss's likely responses." Oh, and also "don't take it personally if your boss says no."

It has to be said that most of the advice originates from the USA, rather than from the UK where we seem to be much more reticent about asking for more. Perhaps Oliver Twist isn't the best role model in that respect.

What I'm puzzled about and interested in is this: how many of us (particularly in the UK) who are in regular paid employment are actually in positions where we can influence our pay progression? I'm not talking about those whose performance may lead to an annual bonus, nor those whose pay will rise incrementally each year, either just as a result of having completed another year's service, or as a result of having met the year's objectives.

I'm assuming (and this is where I may be wrong, so please help me out!) that the majority of employees in the UK are either on a fixed rate for their particular job, or are sat in a grading and salary structure with predetermined increments which can be reached at set times in the year.

So, how many of you (dear readers) are in positions where the request of "Please Sir, can I have some more?" would be met with anything other than a blank stare and a response of something other than "I'd love to, but my hands are tied" ?

Or (perish the thought!) a blow around the head with a ladle.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Aim to be One Of Those Who Didn't Quite Make It

Vienna by Ultravox, together with American Pie, We Are The Champions, All Right Now, Let It Be, My Generation and Wonderwall all have one factor in common:

They never quite made it to the coveted Number One slot in the BBC singles chart.

Perhaps there is some justice to American Pie being nudged off the Number One slot by Harry Nilsson's Without You (and also that memorable pop classic Son of My Father by Chicory Tip).

Possibly Abba's The Name of The Game and Mull of Kintyre by Wings are of equal artistic merit to We Are The Champions by Queen. Abba and Wings made it to Number One in 1977, Queen didn't.

But novelty track Shaddup You Face by Joe Dolce occupying the Number One slot instead of Vienna by Ultravox does seem a miscarriage of justice of epic proportions. "One of the biggest chart injustices of all time" is how the Official Charts Company's Managing Director describes Ultravox being denied the top slot.

So what's all this got to do with HR and business management?

Read and learn!

It's quite clear that Joe Dolce nudged his way into pole position by some utter fluke of circumstances. There won't be many readers of this blog who will recall any of his follow-on singles like "Pizza Pizza," Reggae Matilda," or "You Toucha My Car I Breaka You Face."

Yet all of our focus is on Vienna as The One That Should Have Made It But For Some Obscure Reason Didn't.

But go into any High Street book store (and especially into the book store in the departure lounge of an airport) and you'll notice that although the shelves of the Business and Management section are crammed with the biographies of the rich, famous and successful (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson to name but three), books in the "The One That Should Have Made It But For Some Obscure Reason Didn't" genre are decidedly thin on the ground.

Yet in many cases the likes of Jobs, Gates and Branson would themselves admit that they owe a massive amount of their success to the intervention of Lady Luck. "You need lucky breaks to be successful," says Richard Branson; "Luck played an immense role. I was born at the right place and time," Bill Gates has said.

So why do we seem to hold up the mega-successful in the business world as role models to be envied and emulated, when chance played so much of  factor in them getting to where they are?

Sometimes it's Those Who Didn't Quite Make It that we should be learning from as much as Those That Did.

After all, wouldn't you rather be Midge Ure than Joe Dolce?

Oh Vienna ....

Friday, 1 March 2013

Make sure you ask the right questions!

Although I had no idea that such places existed, I recently stumbled across an online discussion forum for Air Traffic Controllers. I guess like most of us they need a place to debate what is on their minds in what is without doubt a stressful and critical job.

But I was actually very alarmed at what I read there.

Rather than debate about pilot safety issues, and how emerging technology can be harnessed to improve performance within their roles (which was what I was expecting, to be honest) the most lively debate seemed to be about whether it was acceptable for Air Traffic Controllers to use over-familiar terminology such as "love" and "darling" when speaking to pilots as they descended into busy airports with their aircraft filled to capacity with passengers.

I'll have to admit that I found such a debate a bit of a worry. These are the people into whose hands I entrust my personal safety every time I set foot in an aircraft, and I was disappointed that such an important group of people were using a public forum to discuss something that is, in my view, trivial and inconsequential. I guess that I was expecting something a bit more serious and significant from such a critical profession.

OK. There's only one further thing that I need to say about what you've just read: not one word of it is true.

If there is a discussion forum for Air Traffic Controllers (as I'm sure there is), I have no idea where to find it, and I'm sure that any issue that they discuss will have a lot more (deliberate pun alter) gravity than the use of over-familiar terminology with their pilots.

But what sadly is true is the fact that there are numerous HR discussion forums (some within the broad confines of the CIPD's website) where one of the most active debates over the last few weeks has been whether it is acceptable to put kisses (xxx) at the end of a business e-mail.

The debate has attracted more comments than all the discussions on performance management, finding mentors for top talent in large organisations, and the application of recent thinking in neuroscience to employee learning put together.

I'm not saying for one moment that there isn't a place for such trivial questions as whether a sign-off snog is acceptable in some circumstances, but surely it's not in an open forum such as the ones described above.

As an HR profession we are judged as much by the questions we raise as the answers that we give to them. If we wish those around us (many of whom are already sceptical of the contribution that we bring to the workplace) to believe that the most pressing issue of the day for HR is e-mail sign-off etiquette, then fine.

But if, as I hope we do, we'd actually like to be thought of as a profession that is raising some serious and significant issues that are worthy of public debate, we need to be careful of how we portray ourselves in public.

Ask a trivial question, and people will regard you as trivial. Ask a serious question and people will be more likely to take you seriously.