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Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Back to it with baby steps

Back to blogging!

It's been a while since I last blogged, or at least since I last published one! I'm often thinking, regularly writing and occasionally sharing my ideas. But, I've been doubting that what I've got to say could be said better than someone else is already saying it.

But, I've made a decision. I'm going to say it/share it anyway.

Last week I lead a creative writing session at our wellbeing week, and I've been thinking since about some of the fab presentations I saw.
Several people hesitated to share their writing, but did it anyway. And there was lots that was really good. And more than that, it was inspiring.

To feel the fear and do it anyway is something I've tried to apply to doing things. But I've not been so brave of late. Last week I decided to up my game, and today I went for it. Maybe not in a big way, but who said it had to be in a big way?!

I ran a meeting that was a little out of the norm. I wasn't sure it would work, and some might say it didn't. It was good to try though - same is often too safe and too boring. Afterwards, my fab internal comms colleague Kofi Kramo complimented me about my willingness to do something different, to just to something. Whilst some are busy talking about the hold-backs and hold-ups, I (he reminded me) do something.

All these little experiences of late have lead me here, so that's it for now, I'm just putting it out there. My lessons of the last few weeks are to:
- allow yourself to be inspired
- harness what you've done before (you must've taken some bold decisions in the past and survived!)
- listen to your champions
- do something different or brace, but mainly...
- just do something.

It's not really even a blog I suppose, just some rambling, but it is a (re-)start.

And, it might just inspire you to (re-)start something. Please share if it does.


PS - I am not ruling out blogs on the creative writing session (it wasn't all plain sailing) and the madness of my meeting (when I'm over the madness!)

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Wrapping your messages - Internal brand

The brand is not the message, but it matters.

I've been working on an internal branding project and initial presentations have focussed on clarifying why we need it, given that it's a new concept in the organisation. I've found the following useful in explaining it:

Imagine that you've a really nice gift to give... would you choose to wrap it badly in second-hand, flimsy, grimy paper? Highly unlikely.

Now imagine how you'd feel receiving that badly wrapped gift in that shoddy paper, compounded by the fact it's unsuitable for you (or the occasion) eg happy 1st Christmas, green paper... when it's your 21st birthday, it's June and you hate green. Not good right?

I personally think it would be better to give a considered (not necessarily perfect, expensive) gift in especially nice paper as opposed to a nice gift poorly packaged in poor quality paper - at least you'd feel like you were worthy of some effort and you'd have the experience of an 'ooh' moment* when you initially see your wrapped parcel.

Now imagine getting a rubbish gift (by your definition), wrapped stunningly, wonderfully, beautifully in lovely appropriate paper. That's right, it obvious the wrapping doesn't make the gift any better.
And let's not imagine receiving a rubbish present badly wrapped in rubbish wrapping paper!

Would you be excited by a gift that looked like this?
My point (though I'm sure you've already got it!) is...

Internal brand is like good quality wrapping paper... It isn't the gift itself (eg the message) and it isn't pretending to be, but it should make you excited rather than nervous about what you're about to get/hear and reflect the quality of what you're getting into.

So, make sure your internal brand is...
  • Authentic - this is key as it has to reflect what the organisation is (or at least what it can demonstrate it is aspiring to be)
  • Polished - is it good enough in its own right?
  • Appropriate - reflecting the organisation, and for the audience (staff)
  • Consistent - in its application, as well as its quality?
  • Fluid - can it wrap a range of messages, and evolve?

Let's not forget, a great internal brand isn't going to mask poor(ly managed) messages... but let's remember, a great brand will enhance the experience and perception of who you are and what you have to say. And, your staff deserve that just as much as your customers.

Looks good huh! Wouldn't you be curious about what could be inside?
Does your organisation have an internal brand, and how do you ensure it's the full package?


Sunday, 31 January 2016

Month one 2016 - Learn, grow...

...It's been anything but slow!

January 2016 has been busy, busy, busy! So much so, that I haven't done much of the laugh bit in my blog title.

They say variety is the spice of life and its something I agree with, but I've recently given myself a talking to as I've been pushed to accept that there are times when I have to slow down or stop juggling, and focus on one or a few things.

Jack/ie may do 'all' trades but they master none. For me, the impact has been tiredness (yes, I know it's only January) and the dropping of the admin' ball. I can't do it all, well and consistently. That's the (re-)learn bit!

This month I've played all my roles, and there are a few professionally as well as personally.

As I firmly believe my personal development message begins with me, I'm going to challenge myself to slow down for Feb, and here's how I'm going to do it. I'm going to...
  • Think about why I do each thing
  • Look for the overlaps in what I do
  • Be better at using dead time such as train delays (though I usually work through those too!)
  • Practice saying 'no' 
  • Look to the future, rather than do the now by asking myself 'does all you're doing meet your long term aims?'
  • Stop thinking about how much I have on and remind myself I DO have a choice
  • Challenge others to do their bit
  • Ask for support - hence sharing this with you
  • Blog in working hours, rather than after an evening of reflection!
  • Look after myself more and take time out to rest, eat, have fun

I know I can do it all, just not at the same time! That's the growing bit.

Wish me luck... And laughs!

PS - How, if all, have you learnt, laughed and grown this January?

Thursday, 31 December 2015

"It's been a long year" and other reflections

Make your reflections more than chit-chat.

If you're going to reflect in a way that's meaningful, responses to the question: "how was your year (past)?" have to be more than short statements like "it's been a tough year", "it was fun", "it's been interesting" especially if you're asking yourself the question!

Overhearing a recent conversation reflecting on how 2015 had been, I heard the response... "It's been a long year" which struck me as the most silly response of them all. It may have felt like a long year, but the year in real terms had the same 365 days as the year before!

I wanted to ask 'why' and more to help them really understand what their year had been like, but instead I simply accepted that the conversation was just polite chit-chat and nothing more.

It did prove though that an open question won't always get you a full answer and therefore how important it is to ask the right question(s) and probe if you're really interested in reflecting on how a year has gone.

Questions that help us reflect in a meaningful way include:
- What did I learn this year? ("Nothing", is never true!)
- What were the highlights of the year?
- What challenged me this year?
- Why did 'x' go wrong? (Not the negative, self-blaming "why did I get 'x' wrong!")
- How did I get through my problems?
- In what ways have I grown this year?

I'm sure there are lots more questions that help us to reflect with more than a short statement but these are, in my experience, a good set to start with.

The answers to these should help you to understand your year past and propel you forward into the new one - How would you answer them and what are you manifesting for 2016?

Because that should be the greater point - not to stay rooted in what has been, but to use the responses to learn and grow. And so, in keeping with the title of this blog I've one more question... Who or what made you laugh last year?

Happy New Year to you all,

  • Contact me using the 'Contact form' above right
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  • Call direct on: 07887 643807
  • LinkedIn: Denise Sanderson-Estcourt, FCIPD

Monday, 28 September 2015

The trouble with 'Training'

Training vs Learning and introducing Performance

Image from


I’m a huge fan of training/learning/development/performance interventions – it’s been my ‘bread and butter’ for many years and I believe that organisations who do it well will have happy, engaged, productive, capable staff who in turn provide excellent services and results. But whilst learning is something we should aim for as a constant, training should not be done constantly and just for the sake of it.

In my experience if you mention ‘training’ many people will still think of a classroom based intervention. Hence I do prefer the term ‘learning’. When we talk about training, we are lead down the road of asking ‘what training do you want/need to do’ whereas talking learning gives us the better option of ‘what do you want to learn?’– A subtle difference but an important one as one focusses on the intervention and the other the expected outcome.

When I started in this area the role, my role was ‘Training Officer’. Then came ‘training and development’ titles followed by ‘learning and development’ jobs. Recent discussions in the Learning and Development field have suggested that T&D and L&D should in fact be more concentrated on ‘Performance and Development’. It is a view I appreciate because in a work context training should be about improving performance (individual and organisational). It also means, more importantly imho, that training is not seen as outside of wider organisational objectives and agendas.
When we focus on the expected outcome – improved performance being one - we are more likely to choose the right intervention, may save time (away) and it’s often less costly too. I know that suggesting someone reads articles, looks on YouTube, spends time with a colleague or takes on a project is less obvious and may be seen as less prestigious, but it might be what’s really needed.

When offering training and/ development, as well as understanding what it is we’re trying to achieve we should also be mindful of how the ‘offer’ of development will be received.
In some cases, such as with those courses that offer time away from the day-job or those of high value, training is seen as a reward or compensation (eg “I can’t give you a payrise, but I can compensate that by putting you on this expensive course”!). In other cases, it is seen as a punishment - your sent on something whether you want or need to, at a time that's not right for you. In the worst cases, it is seen actually a benefit to the manager rather than their ‘subordinate’ - for example where a manager sends someone on a time management course rather than look at workload, a confidence course instead of offering praise and coaching or where a manager doesn’t tackle poor customer service but sends an employee on a customer service course. That's when training, especially on it’s own, is not enough...
...And that last attitude/approach is one that really grates on me!
Whatever the intervention and whatever the reason for it, one thing is for sure – the value must be measured by more than a ‘happy sheet’ or training/learning/development/performance-passionate people like me aren’t happy!

But more than that, it's not about us. What matters is the learner, the organisation and those it serves. And it's best served by people who are developed not just trained.

There, I’ve said it!
What do you think?
- Does your organisation focus on learning or training?
- Do you look for the right intervention to meet an actual outcome?
- Is 'training' used/seen to be about reward, punishment or a lack of management?

Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing your views,

For more:

  • Contact me using the 'Contact form' above right
  • Follow me at: @DamsonHR (Twitter)
  • Call direct on: 07887 643807
  • LinkedIn: Denise Sanderson-Estcourt, FCIPD

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Working with people is like gardening!

Today I was answering a colleague about how long I'd stay in one organisation to make a positive difference, why I'm keen on measuring (eg ROI), and why I don't like just like to 'launch and run'. It reminded me that I used to describe myself as a 'gardener'. Now, I'm no gardener but getting people through change, and a whole range of people practices, is often a bit like being one.

Here's why...
First: You have to pick the right place, time and product - don't prepare an area in the shade to place your sunflower!
Next: Prepare the soil - and yes, this might mean digging up the weeds (old ideas)
Then: Plant the seeds (be they ideas or ambassadors)
Next: Water them - in other words, even when it looks like nothing is happening you still have to keep taking action
And even when they're grown, the work continues - even roses need pruning!
Finally: Share - that doesn't mean cutting them but you could invite people to your garden or send them pictures.

In all this, let 'nature' do it's thing - other people's nature will impact things like energy and pace, but remember that you still need to take action.
If you don't do your bit, nature may give you weeds!

Positive change (eg progress, new skills, improved performance) may not bloom immediately. There may be issues along the way - gardening is hard work, but the rewards are there to see.

The same analogy works for recruitment, developing people, having challenging conversations and more.

And don't tell me that you don't do flowers - you could always plant a vegetable garden instead!

Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing your views,

For more:
  • Contact me using the 'Contact form' above right
  • Follow me at: @DamsonHR (Twitter)
  • Call direct on: 07887 643807
  • LinkedIn: Denise Sanderson-Estcourt, FCIPD

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Profiling - what colour, animal, letters are you?...


...And do you buy it?

At a recent event (#cipdnap15) I was fortunate enough to hear Nigel Risner speak, in part, on the subject of four zoo animals and the need to be a zoo-keeper-style-communicator!

Today I was giving feedback to recruitment candidates using Thomas International tools, a tool I've used over a number of years.

Tonight, this blog seemed obvious!

Categorising individuals and profiling tools get a mixed reception. A senior manager I spoke to recently didn't feel that they were helpful in telling her anything that she couldn't identify herself stating "I've think got pretty good judgement" (meaning I don't need them!)

But whatever you think of them they've been around for a while and I can't see them disappearing from HR use completely.

They provide a more 'scientific' perspective on recruitment, self awareness, development, providing feedback etc compared to our (often biased) human thinking and perceptions. And, in recruitment for example, what one person perceives as good judgement in an appointment is another person's lack of!

Whether a complex system (like Myers-Briggs) or a simple system (like a style personality questionnaire), I'm personally very taken with profiling tools. In my opinion, it's about how you use them, what you combine them with to make decisions and giving people a chance to respond to what they are indicating.

I am under no illusion that they have their limitations but as a conversation starter, I think they are really useful and I can honestly say I've never had anyone suggest that they've been wholly inaccurate when I've provided feedback (excluding my personal denial of the truth some years ago when a profile suggested that I'm talkative!)

What's your view, and what tools do you use when and why?

Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing your views,

PS - In case you're wondering profiles have previously indicated that I'm essentially an influential and extroverted monkey who sits in the hub looking dramatic in a classic fashion!

For more:
  • Contact me using the 'Contact form' above right
  • Follow me at: @DamsonHR (Twitter)
  • Call direct on: 07887 643807
  • LinkedIn: Denise Sanderson-Estcourt, FCIPD