Hello! It’s good to be back. I’ve not blogged for far too long, but work and circumstances have prevented me – now I have a bit of time on my hands I will try and get a few blogs out before my hands have the time wiped off them again.
Anyway, I have recently finished working with a number of organisations who shall, as ever, remain nameless, but have given me sackloads of grist for my blogging mill, and I will be sharing some of the many lessons I have learned along the way.
Lesson the first takes me to an expression I have heard many times in my career, normally when working in an HR setting:

The cobbler’s children have no shoes

In essence this means that people are so busy telling everyone else what to do that they never do it themselves. In HR this often means personnel records aren’t kept up to date, or appraisals don’t happen as often as they should.
I recently came across an organisation where this was the case on an institutional level. Everyone was a cobbler, and none of their kids had appropriate footwear. No need here for detail, but generally the organisation taught other organisations to do stuff – but there was remarkably little evidence of said stuff happening with their own people.
I won’t go into the whys and wherefores of this particular organisation, there were any number of reasons why this was the case and I may look at some of these reasons in future blogs. What I will discuss in this blog is the inherent danger of having this situation develop.
I have blogged before about the importance of authenticity – here, for example – and the heart of authenticity is doing what you say. It’s not enough to talk, you have to walk it too.
So, if you are going out and about and teaching other teams how to do leadership, then your leaders better be pretty good at what they do. If you are ensuring that everyone has up to date performance development plans then the plans for the people in your department had better be fit for purpose, up to date and delivering what they say they should.
If that isn’t the case then you are not being authentic, and that is not a sustainable position. To say one thing and do another is a psychologically, philosophically, existentially untenable. Check this if you don’t believe me.
But, on a more practical point of view, there is also the PR factor – if everyone else finds out, then where is the motivation for them to do what you say? “If you don’t do it, why should I?” Why indeed?
There has recently been some kerfuffle in the press about Sainsbury’s the supermarket, when someone put an internal poster up in the window where the customers could see it. The poster exhorted staff to persuade customers to spend an extra 50p when they were in store – check it out.
If you are a supermarket in the middle of a massive price war with customers flocking to lower-cost competition in droves, when every advert you put out is how “good food costs less” at your particular shop, then telling those self same customers you are training your staff to try and screw more dosh out of them every time they pop in for a bag of humbugs and some cat food is really going to stick in those customer’s collective craw. It is the very opposite of authentic behaviour, it is disingenuous, hypocritical (and speaks very clearly to the eternal contradiction at the dark heart of the neoliberal assertion of the capitalist paradigm, although I’ll maybe save further thoughts on that for another blog).
If HR is going around the business saying “this is how you recognise good performance” while nobody within the HR department ever gets recognised for their performance (good, bad or indifferent) and the business finds out, you are effectively putting a poster in your virtual window saying “HR: making people do stuff they don’t really need to do”.
If you’re an organisation that tells its customers that doing X is the best thing to do, while not doing X themselves, then what does the poster in their window say?
Have a think: if you are a leader in HR, how good is your leadership? How up to date are the records for your people? Are your development plans in place, fit for purpose and delivering more effective performance? If not, why not? And what would the people you are telling to lead, record and develop think if they knew?