Corona: disaster or business opportunity?

Is your business plan ready and possibilities being tested? 

For most businesses “global pandemic”  is not a listed concern on the business risk register. Unless your business makes products with an obvious market at these times you mostly hope it never makes the list.  Corona has changed that.  Is it a disaster or a opportunity for your business? 

In spite of some attempts to consign it to the realms of a “foreign” threat, this contagious virus shows total disregard for the usual boundaries of borders, political allegiance, language, or class.  Older people are more at risk, but others are not safe.  As is normal, the poor and already unwell are especially vulnerable. The disease threatens health systems which in turn creates new vulnerabilities of other users. This pandemic touches everyone. And yet, CIPD, UK’s main HR hub noted tis week that only two out of every five businesses have any business continuity plan in place for these highly uncertain times.

Corona means change 

Responding to a crisis, many organisations have Business Continuity Plans. In my experience, these  tend to focus on the protection of data, and the reputation of the business as you attempt to keep things going and return to normal.  These are all a useful basis from which to begin your current thinking. However, they generally ignore the fact that after major events that affect a business and the people in it, nothing is the same.  Shifts take place in internal and external business dynamics and customer attitudes that will force us to change. The disruption of Corona virus presents a potential cause of disaster for your business but what opportunities for change and advantage does it hold?

With Corona, as we all work to reduce the spread and respond to those who fall sick, we can expect months of profound disruption. This will affect the personal and business lives of everyone involved with our businesses. The prolonged nature of the problem will drive many into poverty, including some on our teams. Our values will be challenged and our responses scrutinised. At the same time, it will force changes in the way you work and the inter-relationships you have within and outside the business.

The longer term impact is as yet unclear but within this uncertainty lie possibilities. The story goes that without the 17th century plague, we would not have the concept of gravity.  Isaac Newton discovered it when he was sent down from Cambridge to avoid illness following the closure the university.

From a risk category perspective, disruption from Corona is now a high likelihood/high impact scenario. As we have already seen in Asia and much of Europe, the spread and management of the impact of Corona will test our personal and professional resilience.  

Don’t Panic! 

Business planing in a crisis does not mean that we plan for the worst outcome. Rather we recognise that how we respond could lead to better or worse outcomes. We are at a fork in the road. And there may be more forks further ahead. Even as we may worry and face loss, we have strengths and opportunities as well as assets on which we can and must draw. 

As levels of distress and panic rise in communities around us, it can be difficult to think of taking time to pause and plan. However, it is even more essential that we do this now than at more normal business times. An excellent HBR article gives some great guidance.

Key questions you must ask as you plan for possibilities

Leadership and their teams must follow an agile and adaptable process that enables them to find possibilities within the changes they must make. It has been amazing in recent weeks to see how creative people have become on the use of social media, new ways of promoting and running their business and thinking about how to develop and use their skills even as their worries grow.

Essentially this process asks:

  1. When it’s all over what do we want to look back and say we did well?
  2. Why does that matter?
  3. How is business just now? What’s happening?
  4. What could happen and when?
  5. What must we do?

Why not ask them to yourself now? Of course, each question can be broken down to find out more. Consider is affected and in what way? Ask how the integrity of the business will be maintained. Look for the opportunities that lie within the adversity. The process communicated with transparency can build trust and revisit the values of the organisation as it reflects respect to all the people involved in the business. This is true particularly when hard decisions may need to be made.

Building resilience within

These testing times call for resilience which  can be developed. In her excellent and moving Ted talk, Lucy Hone, gives three key tips for resilience based on her own grave experience of loss. My summary is that they are:

  1. Don’t take events personally. Rephrase the question ‘why me?’ to ‘why not me?’
  2. Practice and become skilled at focusing on where to put your attention toward things that are the good. This will challenge you to reframe negative views to seek out positivity however fragile.
  3. Remember to ask if what you are doing helping or harming yourself (for instance, are the endless news reels of Corona updates helpful)? Stop it if its harming you and refocus on other activities, taking each day at a time.

Use coaching to move forward and through

Good leaders offer direction and inspiration to their teams. They work to protect the business and enable the uncovering of opportunities in the changing circumstances.

Leaders who don’t plan and dont communicate their thinking have made a choice – albeit passively!  If you are sitting with no plan or your teams are unclear of what you think and why, consider this consciously, fully cognisant of the potential outcome it supports. Consider your alternatives.  

Being expected to make decisions even when you might be worried and anxious yourself is isolating. You must be supportive even when you may feel you need it more or exhaustion precludes clarity.

Coaching offers the space where in partnership with your coach, you can examine your intentions, have your assumptions challenged, expose your worries and make a stronger more focussed set of decisions to move forward. All this takes place as your are also looking after yourself.

Pick your coach carefully and expect to be challenged in ways that make you better able to plan for the weeks and months of uncertainty ahead…and beyond.  CONTACT ME!

Wishing you continued excellent business and personal health! And as Isaac Newton – finder of possibilities in the midst of disasters – said ““No great discovery was ever made without a bold guess.”




Knowing Me Week 9 Dream For A New You

Knowing Me Week 9 – Dream for a new you!

Dec 2019 From pausing to consider the over-consumption of chocolate, to thoughts of changing career, the solstice is a the season of reflection. Imagining how things can be different is the start change.

This week we will draw on the work of the late Steve de Shazer and I will invite you try something new. Its a bit like magic! 

The time is now!

For northern hemisphere dwellers, 22nd December 2019 will be the shortest day of the year. For the southern hemisphere it’s the longest. The earth’s oceans will swell and fall to their highest and lowest points at this time. This key moment in the year has for centuries been a time of celebration, feasting and reflection. More recently, all over the world people use the New Year to make decisions to reflect on habits and ambitions they want to change.  What are yours?

Are you comfortable? Then let’s go on a journey of the imagination

Although I have referred to yuletide, this exercise is not astrological and can be done at any time of the year.  Take your pen and paper and think about something that gets in the way of your success in life that you would like to change.  (If you have none you may like to run the Knowing Me week 1-8 exercises!).

Once you have thought of something, pause and try to experience it completely: Visualise it – what do you see happening;  listen to it – what can you hear happening; feel it how does it make you feel. Finally, consider how long it has rested within you.

Now, imagine yourself at home, completing all the last tasks of the day and retiring to bed. Notice the details of your actions as completely as possible and watch yourself asleep.

As you sleep, some yuletide magic occurs and that something that you want to change is miraculously gone!  You have no idea how, you just know when you open your eyes that this is so.

Think for a moment and write down: how is life different now on this new morning? Write down as much that is changed that you can think of in detail. Read over what you have written.

As you read, think of your closest friend. What difference would they experience in you after that magic sleep? Write down as much that is changed that you can think of in detail.

Three questions for reflection 

1. Ask yourself if or when you last felt like this new you

2. Thinking about the new you as 10/10 what score you give yourself now between 0-10 of where you stand now.

3. What one thing could you do to move you a step nearer to 10/10

Happy 2020

For more about the project and links to all the previous wonderful weeks look here.  Contact me to take the next step!




Knowing Me – Week 7 Meet your past self

Do you know your past self?

This week 7 of Knowing Me, I invite you to look at your past and play a game testing your memory. Getting to knowing your past self can be fun and enlightening! Would you know yourself at 12? What advice would your 12 year old self give you?   

As you may already know, out  memory plays tricks. We mis-remember and add meaning to events long after they have occurred, fully believing that our later version of events it TRUE.  This fascinating blog explains some more.

Regardless of their slight unreliability, memories can serve you well. They are an important part of your reflection on the present. They help you to understand better the place you now stand and the choices you will make. 

21 questions to start your thinking! 

For this week’s exercise, first ask yourself the questions listed below. Some are things you may not have asked yourself in a long time. They may  remind you of things you love, or are proud of, that you had forgotten about. They may leave you puzzling about the younger person you who has become a stranger.  

When you finish, pause for thought and make some notes.

What has this exercise thrown up for you? How do you feel having completed this exercise?

1. What did I like to do best when I was 12?
2 What was my favourite holiday memory?
3 What was my favourite food ?
4 What are some chores that I had to do when I was growing up?
5 What did I like most about my best friend at school?
6 Have I ever performed on stage?
7 What did I want to be when growing up (more than one?)?
8 What did I play most when growing up?
9 If I met my 10 year old self what impression would I get?
10 What are 3 places that I have been to and would love to visit again?
11 What key words would you use to describe them?
12 What does my closest friend like best about me?
13 What are/were my parents greatest personal strengths?
14 If I was given a forced vacation for three days tomorrow what would I do?
15 What is a key skill that I have that most people don’t know?
16 What gives me greatest pleasure in life?
17 If I order a meal in a cafe, what will it be?
18 What is irritates me  more than anything?
19 What would  my best friend say are the four most memorable things about me when describing me to a stranger?
20 If my sixteen year old self met me now, what advice would they give me?
21 What is one thing that I wish I was better at?

Do it with friends

If you have friends or a partner you have known a long time and whom you love and trust, the questions can be a great round-table game of mutual discovery. Maybe you could adapt to use in the workplace too. Have fun and please contact me to share the experience!

If this or other exercises have provoked some questions. To find out more about coaching CONTACT ME and we can discuss your ideas.

Please let me know how you got on or improvements you would make to these posts. See you next week!

If you are here for the first time and wonder what its all about, you can find out here. You can follow the exercises of being a blob, meeting your future self in a dream, considered your role models , understanding patterns in our thinking, considered your language and questioned your  values. What?!!







Knowing Me – Week 6 Values

Get to know yourself a little be better every week! If you are here for the first time and wonder what its all about, you can find out here. You can follow the exercises of being a blob, meeting your future self in a dream, considered your role models,  meta programmes! This week we are talking values. Its the real deal. 

Week 6 – Your values are what matters most

What are values?

This Week we are thinking about Values. These  are concepts that can guide our behaviour. Words like trust, honesty, or fun or others like caution, patience or seriousness all describe values and things that might matter more or less to different people.

In the British comic gangster movie Snatch, a trail of dead bodies litters the screen. For Vinny – the hardened gangster –  killing the dog that’s swallowed the diamond they need is a step too far! In other words, his values won’t allow it.

Things get tricky when we try to interpret these words. No assumptions can be made about what people mean when they use them. So, even if we both agree that fun is good, your idea of fun might be very different from mine.  And yet, even with this ambiguity, exploring our values is very useful in getting to know ourselves better.

Values are at the heart of many a misunderstandings, conflict, anger and hurt. They are also central to building relationships, the basis for reconciliation and understanding. 

So what are yours?

This 5 step exercise is a start to exploring our values and reflecting what it might mean in the workplace or at home.  BEWARE! Most of us lie to ourselves when doing this exercise! We get caught up with what we think we should feel rather than what we do. Try to avoid this – and enjoy noticing it when you do!


The list in the table below contains a jumble of many words commonly used to describe values.  As you run down or across the list, choose and write down every one that is truly important as a value to you. Do not overthink your selections and spend long on it. You may think they are all important but this exercise is to pull out your 20 or so top list.

As you read through the list, simply write down the words that feel like a core value to you personally. If you think of a value you possess that is not on the list, be sure to write it down as well. You may have quite a long list!

BenevolencePowerAbundanceEthics; CommitmentEnthusiasmCalmness
PassionIndependenceGenerosityJoyIndividuality; Preparedness; Dedication
Punctuality; ConsistencySelf-ControlZealCaringVersatility; Trustworthiness MindfulnessServiceQualityUniquenessSecurityFriendshipsInclusiveness
Responsiveness; Appreciation; Intuition; Achievement; Cooperation; Fun; Empathy; Inspiration; Autonomy; Resourcefulness;  Credibility; Safety; Individuality; Proactive; Carefulness; Thoughtfulness; Professionalism; Teamwork Reliability; Daring; Fairness; Security; Well-Being; Curiosity; Understanding Dependability; Perfection; Challenge; Stability; Expressiveness; Contribution; Charity; Open-Mindedness; Popularity; Family; Creativity; Happiness; Development; Kindness; Cheerfulness; Balance; Compassion; Traditionalism;Grace; Peace; Warmth; Stability; Playfulness; Love; Freedom;  Knowledge; Honesty; Attractiveness; Resilience; Spirituality Encouragement; Success; Optimism; Diversity; Advancement; Wisdom
Advocacy; Performance; Adventure; Boldness; Leadership; Cleverness; Learning Recognition; Innovation; Risk-taking; Healthy; Usefulness; Acceptance; Responsibility; Decisiveness; Collaboration; Simplicity; Selflessness; Humility; Relationships; Recognition
Ambition; Excellence; Brilliance; Humor; Community; Growth; Intelligence; Loyalty
Flexibility; Originality; Thankfulness; Wealth


Look at your list and group all similar values together  Group them in a way that makes sense to you, personally. Create a maximum of five groupings. If you have more than five groupings, you will need to make a further choice and drop those least important.


Underline the one word in the group that is for you the most important one. Keep this to one side


Now think about your experiences. Explore them to answer the following (you might need to close your eyes to remember!) making some notes as you do:

      1. When have you been angry?
      2. When have you been most satisfied? 
      3. What do you consider my best experience (when you performed at your peak)?
      4. What types of environments inspire your best work?
      5. What aspects of my personality are most admired by others?
      6. What, if I had my choice, would I never do again if I didn’t have to?
      7. What have been my key reasons for leaving a job?


Look at the five groups and underlined key words from STEP THREE.  Do you see any connection between what you have enjoyed, disliked, succeeded in etc and the values you have identified?  What might this reflection tell you about important aspects of your life, such as work, family, community or friendships? How might they affect the choices you make?

If this or other exercises have provoked some questions. To find out more about coaching CONTACT ME and we can discuss your ideas.

Please let me know how you got on or improvements you would make. See you next week!



Knowing Me Week 5 – mind your language

Mind Your Language

Welcome Knowing Me Week 5!  Knowing your language preferences is a key part of knowing yourself. Have you ever listened and wondered why certain words mean more or less to you?

The language that you use and like can tell you a lot about how you perceive and react to your environment. This usage has been affected by our culture and our upbringing (see this fascinating BBC article to know more on this)

Our journey of self-discovery continues this week with an exercise to look at the words we like and might use to express our feelingsFind a quiet space with a pen and paper and join me.

If you are here for the first time and wonder what its all about, you can find out here. You can follow the exercises of being a blob, meeting your future self in a dream, considered your role models and now its time for meta programmes! What? Read on..
  1. Read the 21 sentences below and mark 7 that appeal most to you. Try to do this as swiftly and fluidly as possible so you tap into your learnt intuition. 
  2. Once you have marked them look to the table below and mark the table with your 7 preferences.
  3. You will then be able to see HOW MANY As, Bs, or Cs you have
No. Sentence
1 The tinkle of the wind chimes tells me that the breeze is still rustling outside.
2 All dressed up and ready to go out she was a vision of glowing confidence
3 The sounds soared throughout the room, while the rhythms echoed in their heads
4 The house seemed to sigh as she turned off the light and felt the crisp sheet rustle
5 As I ran, I could feel the breeze on my back. My feet pounded along the path.
6 On a cold night, I like to relax by a warm fire in comfortable room with a cup of smooth, warm cocoa
7 In the long distance I can hear the whistle of the train.
8 The panorama of the green countryside stretched out clearly below us in the bright sparkling sun
9 There were flashes in the night sky as they drove north on the clear road
10 After a lot of revision she felt she grasped the essentials of  her work and could get a grip on her responsibilities
11 She was bitterly disappointed by losing this opportunity and felt she had been punched in the stomach
12 The shadows danced on the wall as she went up the stairs with the candle
13 The crowd cheered with a thunderous applause as the artist entered
14 With constant practice he was able to put pressure on his fitness and gave a solid performance
15 The crowd of brightly coloured roses around her door always gave the house the appearance of a painting
16 I was very comfortable at work and felt I was on the same wavelength as others in my team
17 I want to create an atmosphere in which they feel free to think and feel and be anything they desire
18 The water in the meadow glistened in the autumn
19 I was alert to the change of his tone. The blood raced through my veins, and I felt prepared for a confrontation
20 It seems crystal clear that if we don’t take steps to save the environment the outlook may be uncertain
21 Their steps were pounding on the pavement as they made their way home as fast as possible


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21  

Mainly As – indicates that you have a visual preference (seeing)

Mainly Bs – indicates and auditory preference (hearing)

Mainly Cs – indicates a kinaesthetic (or feeling) preference

 Questions to ask yourself:

  1. What does this exercise tell you about the language you use?
  2. What does this exercise tell you about how you listen to others?


When working with others and needing to build rapport sometimes this is increased to great effect by noticing their sensory preference.

Have fun on this exploration! Nothing is right or wrong, better or worse –  although we may feel it to be so. A key part of becoming self-aware is to think about how you respond in certain contexts. Consider others you work or live with, notice their language. Does it shed light on why you might find it easier to persuade some people more than others?

If this or other exercises have provoked some questions. To find out more about coaching CONTACT ME and we can discuss your ideas.

Please let me know how you got on or improvements you would make. See you next week!




Could your team be even better?

Do you ever wonder if your team is high performing?  If you are sure it is not, do you know why?

Being in a high performing team can be an exhilarating and memorable working experience. It’s output is more interesting and effective than the individuals can produce alone. The collective voice of a team enables diverse views and multiple talents to support performance. Organisations know that strategic impact and efficiencies result to outweigh the additional time and costs associated with that teamwork.

Given their accepted role in business performance, it is curious that time spent in a team so often looks and feels ineffective and costly. Have you ever been pulled reluctantly from what you have felt was your productive work to go to a team meeting that you couldn’t really see the point of?

There are four key areas that high performing teams do well.  When they do, the experience of working together is meaningful and effective: it has a clear and consistent view of its purpose in relation to business to be delivered. Individual members  have a good understanding of their roles and how they each fit in relation to the purpose of the team. Each member knows what others are doing and they support and challenge each other constructively. Lastly but not least, the team  communicates well to other teams and stakeholders building understanding and trust.

What does this mean in more detail?

1.  A  clear and consistent view of its purpose in relation to the business.

Whether the team has been convened for a short-term project or is one that is part of an established structure, it must have a clearly expressed purpose and measures of success. Together they should understand who requires their work to be done and why. If this purpose can be articulated in one clearly understood sentence, so much the better.

Once the purpose is clear, it is more straightforward to create a workable description of what the team must do and the skills it needs to do it. It may even be clearer what it shouldn’t be doing.

Once the purpose has been recorded, it can be routinely checked for relevance. This is of course the “common vision for high performance” argument put forward and defended by several management authors. In my experience, it’s remarkable how seldom teams actually revisit the question of who they are. As work continues, changing circumstances such as external business challenges and turn over within the team may affect the team.   They may learn that the purpose wasn’t as well defined as they had thought. When teams forget to review their purpose together and with others, unspoken assumptions can develop regarding priorities and accountabilities. Without review, a team can miss an emerging need for a new skills, lose sight of their own changing role and miss opportunities for improvement and success.

2.   A good understanding of their roles and how they fit in relation to the purpose of the team.

At the outset, each role needs to be clearly defined and described in relation to the purpose of the team. Each team member – including the leader – will know what s/he is doing and for what they are to be held to account. In addition, different members may have specific roles with the team that cut across their technical areas. These are typically the personality traits identified by Belbin and similar exercises. The team leader and each team member must be clear about what good performance looks in their specific role and how they will measure it.

If you are a member of a team, are you clear about your role and the measure of your own contribution in making the team successful? If you lead a team have you recently reflected on what that role is intending to do? What would the team be justified in being disappointed with in your performance? What aspect of your personal role-preference is used in this team?

3.  Individual members understand well the roles of others and can support and challenge one another for mutual and collective benefit.

Individual roles are understood by sharing, discussing, constructively challenging and supporting each other’s work, including the leader’s, in relation to team purpose and deliverables. This requires active curiosity and communication in relation to the roles of others.  Internal trust and performance is developed through genuine interest and the space to ask questions and support solution-building.  This exercise  may also highlight missing skills and perspectives or identify when there is unnecessary duplication.  With time and practice, the quality of debate improves and time is better spent.

In my experience, and I admit that I have been guilty of this as a team leader, job roles are often poorly explained and even less well understood.  Team members are seldom required to engage fully with what others are doing – and not doing. Team size is sometimes too big and sometimes incomplete.

How well do you understand the roles of others in your team? Ask each of your team colleagues  to write down their understanding of everyone else’s role and the way their own role can help others in the team succeed: the outcome can be fascinating!

4.     Everyone outside the team who needs to know understands the work of the team and trusts it to perform effectively. 

The quality of communication from the team to other teams and those beyond its boundaries is critical for its own success.  If its purpose is clear and coherent internally, communicating this successfully and with consistency to outsiders becomes more likely.  With clearly worded statements, narratives become be still more consistent.  In turn, with clarity comes greater engagement in the work of the team from those outside.  Everyone wins.

I once worked with a CEO whose organisation listed accountability as one of its core values. I asked him if the staff knew what the Executive Team were doing. Transparency was assured, he told me, as all un-redacted meeting notes were on the organisation intranet. Big deal. Low staff engagement scores and productivity suggested that the intranet wasn’t working its magic. Even if you could find the notes and had the hour to spent wading through them, I suspected that few were any the wiser in relation to the purpose and accountability of that team. More importantly  they were unable to see how the work of the team might be relevant to their own work or contribute to its discussions.

The attributes of an effective team are pretty much the attributes of successful individual leaders too. Because a team is more than one person it needs a little more deliberation to get it right and keep it on track.

May your memories of teams be of great collective performance, not endless meetings with too little to show for it!

First draft published on Linked-in 10th June 2019 H.Dodd

Open a conversation with this team tester

The high performance of teams is an art not a science. That said, like good art, teams combine elements that when done well can enable performance (see this post). Because teams are at the heart of every excellent business they have been studied, measured considered and explored. The following 14 points are a summary of many such investigations and may support the analysis of your team:

  • Clear vision and purpose
  • Identity as a team
  • Composed of the right balance of roles to get the job done
  • Made of skilled and effective individuals clear about their roles
  • Constructive and harmonious relationships within the team
  • Effective leadership
  • Individual learning and development of team members
  • Sound processes
  • Open to change and creative
  • Completion- seeing it through
  • Recognition for success
  • Good internal communications
  • Effective communication to other teams and stakeholders
  • Regular review of performance

How are you doing from 0-20 in each area?

Use the following grid mark with an X where you believe your team sits in each area. This can provide a great opening for a conversation about what GOOD or EVEN BETTER could look like!  Once you’re done ask: Could it be better?  Get in touch to discuss your ideas!

0-4 5-9 10-14 15-20
Unclear Clear purpose
No identity Identity
Unbalanced role Balance of roles
Skills shortage Skilled
Disharmony Harmony
Ineffective leadership Effective leadership
Low L&D High L&D
Poor processes Sound processes
Closed to ideas Open and creative
Nothing gets finished On time completion
Un-recognised Recognised for success
Poor internal comms Effective internal comms
No-one knows what you do The work is understood outside the team
Never review/reflect Regularly review


So, about ski jumping…

I know its the time of cricket and tennis, but you may have read in the earlier blog that I sometimes wonder about ski jumping and stretching yourself for high performance.

You see it on Winter Olympics: a young, brightly smiling, deeply concentrating sportsperson in slim lycra and sub-zero temperatures waves from the top of a high structure. They launch themselves with little apparent concern for life or limb and hurtle down a slope in a tight squat, before being launched into the air. Most land a few moments later with delicacy and skill and come to a graceful halt with their skies in a v shape, turning to wave to the crowd and see their scores. I momentarily feel for their parents and then console myself that the parents probably encouraged them. Performance for them is a matter of life and death. Once launched, there can be no doubt.

My questions are these: How do you come to know you can do a thing that for most of us would be certain death? At what point do you realise that this is the sport for you? Are there piles of dead and or broken would be ski-jumpers offering grim lessons to all trainees? Of course, part of the answer will be in training and skills development, related fitness and interest. In addition, I imagine you start with small jumps and build upwards.

All that said and done, I am guessing, a jump would have to be high enough to enable the flight and landing that keeps it safe. At this point it becomes a leap of faith that you must really really want to take! The beauty of the jump, the smiles on the faces of those that do it and even those that don’t win is testimony to how rewarding it can be.

Is this what is meant by The Stretch Zone? While we might not all aspire to the risk and splendour of ski-jumping, all of us have things we want to do that seem out of reach or make us nervous at the thought. Can we take a leaf from the books of the ski-jumpers who have the skills and have the training and know their stuff and then do it inspite of the risk!

Have you done such a thing? Please share your experiences below! 


Square pegs need a square hole

How often have you heard it said that for a company the people are the most important asset?  Talent acquisition and retention is essential for business success and yet we are failing to tell them what to do and why.

According to yesterday’s People Management update: Three quarters of UK workforce unsure what skills their job requires. (You can read it here).  The study found that many workers neither know which skills they need for their work, nor how best to improve their skills now and for opportunities in the future.  The study size was admittedly small but the confusion described isn’t surprising to me. I would go further and suggest that it is not only that the skills are unclear but, more importantly, the core purpose of roles and what success might look like.  This amounts to a misuse of talent and resources. It could be avoided in my view by a clear description of the role as it relates to the purpose and aspiration of the business where the job sits.

Not knowing what you are supposed to be doing, which of your skills is most appreciated and where you are going from here can be demotivating. Worse it can lead to a loss of business performance, turn-over, costs, missed learning and the loss of talent.  And if you don’t know, it’s because of one of two things: either the boss hasn’t clearly explained it, or, worse, s/he doesn’t really know.

Enter the Job Description

At the heart of this necessary exchange sits a key communication document: the humble Job Description or, JD.  Most commonly in my experience, this important document tends to be pulled out of a drawer when conflicts arise, when a restructure is in the air or a replacement is needed. Often it is overlooked when annual objectives are set and reviewed. Day to day work is allowed to drift from the original phrasing until one day re-reading it comes as a surprise.

It’s odd when companies invest heavily in communication of company strategy and performance for wider marketing purposes, that the the JD, which provides the direct link from the business to the companies “key asset” is often neglected by comparison.   A good JD – do not read ‘long’- serves two important functions. First, when enticing talent and developing the teams, it can clarify leadership minds as they work to attract talent from the marketplace. Second it provides a critical basis for managing and supporting the experience of the post-holder. It enables the development of the role and a democratic basis on which assumptions about the role in relation to business performance can be reviewed.

In reality this key document which is used to access our most expensive and complicated resource – people- is often poorly thought through, poorly written and routinely under-used. Within its lines should be the clear rationale for the investment in relation to the realisation of business aims. These must be described in such a way as to make sense to the holder of the JD and their manager. Even the lowest paid workers will cost several thousand pounds and should be part of the business’s success. Regardless of job type, workers have minds and ideas and initiative that can be used to build improvements to the whole business.

List of tasks or inspiring directions?

The JD I was reviewing was turgid. Swollen with details of stuff to do, and with no clarity of how these activities clustered around the core purpose for doing them. Almost certainly there will be omissions. Hence the need for that awful little catch-all sentence: ‘and anything else the manager might reasonably expect’ which I routinely delete. The hapless job holder, assuming one can be found, and their manager will struggle to define and agree the priorities within the role, wasting important start-up time.  More importantly, if a job holder is held to account on a set of activities the opportunity for discussion on innovation, inventiveness, feedback and change is much harder than against higher level outcomes.

A further study,  CIPD research published in October 2018 found almost half of UK workers reported being mismatched to their roles, with 37 per cent over-skilled and 12 per cent under-skilled. Better work on this key building block could reduce the pain and cost associated with these mis-matches.