Thursday, July 5, 2012

Society for Human Resource Management Conference 2012

I know I always sound enthusiastic - but truly this was a conference to beat all conferences!  I will do a few blogs over the next month to share some of our key insights and learnings.  When you have listened to amazing keynote speakers and also participated in over 10 concurrent sessions, there is so much to share....

Jim Collins - what can I say!!  He is such a strong speaker and he has the research to back up what he says.   I loved this quote from his presentation: "The single most important strategic pillar of any enterprise is people."  He said that he has spent the past nine years studying why certain companies thrive in times of chaos and uncertainty whilst others do not.  His conclusion - "It all begins with people".
He emphasised just how important it is to pick the right people and to ensure that all the key seats are filled by the right people.  He admitted that this is sometimes up to luck and you might not really know if it is the right person until you give it a try.
The successful companies that he studied that he compared to others who were not great, made conscious decisions and had good discipline.  They also had a high amount of Level 5 leaders as well as highly capable individuals and competent managers.
The X factor that Collins says differentiates Level 5 Leaders from the rest is that they have humility.  There is nothing wrong with having a good dose of what he called "very healthy confidence" - examples being Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  But their ego and ambition is channeled in to a cause or a purpose.  "No single leader by him or herself can make a great company."
He went on to say that leaders also need to have the following key behaviours:

  • Fanatic discipline.  By this he did not mean bureaucracy.  He said that bureaucracy is for undisciplined people.  He referred to the story of Roald Amundson's successful 1910 - 12 South Pole expedition and how this was so different from Robert F Scott's unsuccessful, fatal mission.  "It is all about the twenty mile march" - a metaphor for having the discipline to pursue results and not go too far.
  • Empirical creativity.  He said that creativity is a natural human state but discipline is not.  How can we find this rare combination so that we amplify creativity and not destroy it?
  • Productive paranoia.  He warned us to  prepare for bad stuff before it happens.  The ultimate hedge against uncertainty is who you have on the other end of the rope....
Collins advised us to have a to-list that features the following:
  • Banish the word 'job' and replace it with 'responsibilities'
  • Start a 'stop doing' list and have three top priorities at most
  • Commit to challenging all leaders to become level 5 leaders - we need a level 5 leader generation!

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