Weasel Words – enterprise and community

Weasel words are tricky.

We all think we know what they mean – but in fact their meanings are fluid. While two people may think they are talking about the same thing – often they are not. This is just one of the reasons why trying to make progress on ‘engaging communities in enterprise’ is so tricky. There’s another weasel word- ‘engaging’!

Perhaps one place to start is by collecting the ‘labels’ that people use to describe various ‘communities’ that they wish to engage in enterprise. In no particular order – and garnered from a number of policy/strategy type documents on the subject here we go:

  1. women
  2. people with low educational attainment/skills
  3. people with disabilities
  4. single parents
  5. recent immigrants
  6. people living in neighbourhoods with high rates of worklessness
  7. people living in neighbourhoods with low rates of enterprise
  8. people who have been long term unemployed
  9. black and minority ethnic (BME) groups
  10. incapacity benefit claimants
  11. ex-offenders
  12. people at risk of offending
  13. young people

Feel free to add your own ‘communities of interest’ using the comments box.

  • Can these labels help us with engagement? If so, how?
  • Do they hold clues that can help us to think about our approach to engagement?
  • How we design workshops, leaflets, posters etc?
  • Who we spend time with?
  • Where we choose to go?
  • What do we need to be like personally and as a service if people from these communities are to invite our help?
  • How do we go about winning an invitation?
  • Do the labels serve any purpose when we are face to face with a potential client?

Manager or Cox?

These days I am 6ft 4″ and carry a few extra pounds.

However there was a time when I was 5ft 4″, skinny as a rake and sought after by rowing crews as a cox.  Yes the small person who sits in the back of the boat – barking a very limited range of orders and making small adjustments to direction with a tiny rudder.

Truth of the matter is that as a cox I could achieve very little.  I could urge the rowers to give more effort, or even get them to ease off a little if they are in danger of peaking too early.   I could plot the best course possible.  But that was just about it.

I couldn’t really see what was going on in the boat.  I could tell just how hard the crew was currently working (the stroke rate) and could ask for extra effort in short bursts to try to get the boat ahead of the competition.  I could make some educated guesses at what individuals were doing by watching how their oars moved through the water.

I couldn’t coach the crew.  The coach would usually be be seen on the bank, riding a bicycle and shouting instructions to the rowers.

In terms of really helping the crew to improve performance – well that was out of my hands.  I could just get the best out of them on the day.  I would do this by putting their effort into context.  Keeping them informed about whether we were catching the opposition or not.  About how far we had to go before a bend came into our favour or we reached the finish line.

All I could do was create a context in which the crew were likely to give me more effort.

And I meet a lot of managers who work just like a cox.  They tell good stories and demand more effort in return for prizes.  But they never get their bike onto the river bank to really understand what is going on in the boat.

They miss a lot of chances, that a cox never has, to develop their crew.

Highlights from the World HR Congress

‘Because so many organisations will be competing for the same resources, the (HR) profession will have to manage a marketplace which has changed from one where employers choose to one where potential employees choose.’

Florent Franceur – WFPMA President

I know it is not much of a highlight – but at least it has the virtue of being true.  If you want to recruit and retina good people you had better have  compelling offer – and you had better help them to achieve in their own terms – or they will go elsewhere. Only the whelmers will remain!

We are a reservoir of literally human resources, but we don’t always dig deep enough because it’s inconvenient. Sometimes tidiness and efficiency get in the way of creativity’

Charles Handy

WOW – Watch Out for the Whelmers…

Watch Out for the Whelmer Vampire

Chip Conley has written a great book called PEAK – How great companies get their mojo from Maslow. In it he gives grave warning of the dangers of whelmers.

According to Chip there are three types of recruit in your organisation.

There are the over-whelmers – those people that ‘over-whelm’ you with their energy, skill, passion and enthusiasm. These people are what you need. They provide the foundations on which excellent can be built. However you will need to work hard, very hard, to recruit and retain them. These people have choices about where they work – so why should they choose to stick with you?

Then there are the under-whelmers – those that leave you distinctly unimpressed. According to Chip these don’t constitute a real problem either – because they are easily recognised and managed. As a consequence they either perform or get fired. I only wish it were this simple – but I do get the point. Under performance is easily recognised and can then be managed if you have the courage and commitment to do so.

The real dangers are those people that neither over nor under whelm. These are the whelmers. Their work is OK without being great. Customers are satisfied without being thrilled. Colleagues have kind of got used to the mediocrity. And the over-whelmers will not want to be any where near them as they sap energy and enthusiasm. They are passion vampires.

And this is the pernicious culture killer – mediocrity. If the whelmers are allowed to carve out a quiet life of mediocrity they will drag the culture of your organisation down to their level.

In the words of the legendary Van Morrison:

“You gotta fight every day to keep mediocrity at bay”.

More From Tom Peters

Tom Peters was back in London recently.  Here are some highlights…

“Remember. You are the only human being in the world who can help this particular customer at this particular moment in time.”

“The thing that keeps a business ahead of the competition is excellence in execution.”

“Brand inside is more important than brand outside for sustained success.”

“Make sure that you spend your time on the things you say are your priorities.”

“It’s remarkable how quickly an excellent culture can be torn apart by poor management.”

“Irrelevance comes from always doing the things you know how to do in the way you’ve always done them.”

“If you love your company and love what you do, you will serve your customers better—period!”

6 Word Management Essays

I was sent this by a PMN member who knows that I am a bit of a mangement geek. It is a bunch of essays on management – all just 6 words long! I think they speak volumes about different approaches to management:

  1. Seek understanding, give support, find results
  2. Look, listen, learn. Lift, laugh, lead.
  3. Learned to GTD, teaching others how.
  4. They tried harder but kept failing.
  5. Learned management wisdom, tried something else.
  6. Eventually she understood what really mattered.
  7. Empower the team, hold them accountable.
  8. Facilitate the network, let the net work.
  9. Always learning and teaching, join me
  10. I requested, they failed, I fired.
  11. Challenge your people; pay them well.
  12. I trust you, make it happen
  13. Living to shape minds and destinies!
  14. He tried, sometimes failed,always learnt.
  15. Worked hard, failed alot, succeeded some.
  16. Chaos ensuing, unaccountability ruling, we’re compelling.
  17. I am interested in your work.
  18. Worked hard, failed alot, succeeded some.
  19. I trust you, make it happen
  20. First, take care of your people.
  21. Living to shape minds and destinies!
  22. They tried harder but kept failing.
  23. ‘He tried, sometimes failed, always learnt.’
  24. Empower the team, hold them accountable.
  25. Eventually she understood what really mattered.
  26. Most importantly, learn to ask questions.
  27. Herding Cats, Taming Lions. Why Not?
  28. Your worth is in their eyes.
  29. Demand high standards; measure with grace
  30. I ask questions, you find solutions.
  31. To learn more sooner, fail faster.
  32. Outward transformation begins with internal change.
  33. Let’s squash the competition like bugs!
  34. My success begins with your success.
  35. Share vision. Don’t be an obstacle.
  36. You will rise above and conquer!
  37. Do Plan. Study. Act. Celebrate. Repeat.
  38. Lead by staying out of the way.
  39. One of many; catalysts don’t boast
  40. Life is a journey…so enjoy.
  41. Dare to dream…and dream BIG!
  42. Watch, Do, Teach; Learn, Live, Give.
  43. Orders are easy, Examples are harder
  44. Measure twice, cut once.
  45. Honeydew this, Honeydew that, I’ll watch.
  46. Open hands hold more than fists
  47. Who, What, Why, where, When, How.
  48. My work is their work, succeeding.
  49. Succeed by failing different every time
  50. You’ll be MY boss, one day
  51. Find the “why”, then act. Repeat.
  52. Once knew all. Now know better.

Let me know which ones you like/dislike and why?

I think my favourite is ‘Your worth is in their eyes’ -so true!

And if you know who was the originator/collector of these micro-essays please do let me know so that I can pay them full acknowledgement!

Engaging in Enterprise – phew!

Yesterday I helped to run the first of a series of development workshops for people working on the delivery of the LEGI programme in Leeds under the ‘Sharing the Success’ banner.

The theme of the day was about ‘How can we go about engaging communities in the enterprise agenda’ and was very well received.  We explored a whole range of ideas including:

  • comfort zones
  • a process model for working with clients
  • taking account of the clients efficacy, self efficacy and locus of control
  • managing your own professional development as an enterprise professional
  • enterprise push and pull factors – and how they can be used to influence change
  • attributes and barriers in becoming more enteprising
  • esteem and self esteem

Somehow during the day we also managed to feature: Paul Potts, a moonwalking bear, Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, Piers Morgan and Ant and Dec, horses and jockeys and some very dubious looking blankets.

What came through during the course of the day was the enormous complexity of the challenge.  So many definitions of what ‘enterprise’ is, so many communities, complex community membership patterns and so on.  But the best way to deal with enormous complexity is often to find a few simple truths and principlas that underpin everyhting.  Hence the focus on human growth psychology which ‘works’ regardless of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation etc.

Next time we run this session through we will focus more on how some of these human growth psychology concepts might be applied to specific communities just to make sure that we ground the theory in some practice.

Here is some of the the feedback from the day.  First the good stuff!:

‘I just wanted to say thank you very much for inviting me along to the workshop, I thought it was absolutely brilliant and made me think on a deeper level of what community is all about. The book is great and very inspiring so thanks for that too. I had a lot of fun and it wasn’t one of those meetings where we were talked at it was very interactive and I really look forward to the next one’

‘good networking event for LEGI partners’

‘good style of delivery’

‘good selection of talk and exercises – kept my attention’

‘met new people; found out about other organisations; loved the opportunity to share and learn from others’

‘excellent delivery and content’

‘the whole day was very good :-)’

‘liked the style and format; good exercises and examples’

‘built rapport and gained more info on LEGI partners’

‘opportunities to network and see the LEGI bigger picture’

‘presentations very good.  re-assured about things I did in the past.  learned about innovative ways to deal with disaffected’

‘good mix in terms of style and delivery – light hearted but meaningful tasks – theoretical and practical

‘informative – with interesting ways of getting the points across’

‘good networking, meeting other LEGI partners, more information about enterprise, the activities were educational’

‘liked the interaction, presentations, venue, networking and the presenters’

‘relaxed atmosphere, good content for the first workshop’

‘venue good, content good, food good’

‘liked the mix of activities – fun and engaging’

‘liked the process model and the stages, Boyatzis Model and the group work, the learning from the videos was good and the interaction with other LEGI partners’

‘I liked the exercises that put us out of our comfort zones’

‘I see that many people could really benefit from both you and Anne as I have to admit that I have been on so many workshops and training days but I have to say yours was the best by far’

‘I liked Anne, I think she is very knowledgeable and is a great presenter. She thinks outside the box and  stretches other peoples thinking. I have just been sharing my day with colleagues and telling them how fantastic the workshop was. I would like to include the others from our team if possible onto your next planned workshop as its important that we can all learn as much as possible to benefit the people that we try and reach everyday within our jobs’

And the not so good stuff…

‘difficult to hear at times’

‘food was delicious – but not enough’

‘filthy weather in the afternoon’

‘noise and too cold’

‘venue was good but noisy’

‘more about specific topics – tailor made presentations specific to the areas discussed’

‘food did not fill me – was a bit bland’

‘real coffee’