Hi pioneer

We did it! A weekly newsletter delivered at weekly intervals. Go us.

Of course, this weeks newsletter is inevitably something of an anticlimax… we dont have any new puppy or pregnancy announcements I am afraid. 

However, we do have lots of great content to share. Including some interesting research from MIT Sloan Review on Founders who do not listen to their teams, a couple of thought provoking pieces on effective approaches to D&I and some thoughts on the rhythm and flow of a peopleOS.

Thanks for everyones positive feedback on the peopleOS playbook we released last week. If you have not already downloaded your copy – what are you waiting for?!! It is actually pretty good.

So without further ado…

People & Culture

First up this week, be inspired by another great woman in the People and Culture space, Margaret Heffernan. Heres her Super Chickens TED talk which makes the point that in successful businesses “its what happens between people that really counts”.

One of the great joys of having Ben Ford join our team, is that hes the sort of chicken that goes round provoking lots of interesting thoughts in others. A couple of weeks ago he made the point to me that as its becoming easier and easier for companies to build stuff quickly, they need to resist the urge to just build more stuff and instead use the time for reflection and learning. I would wholeheartedly agree. But having watched Margarets TED talk, I would suggest they also need the confidence to use the time to invest in their “social capital” (a phrase I personally find a bit wafty). Its the links between people that foster innovation, agility and resilience; and if you want to grow your business in the current context, focusing on these things is likely to be a better bet than prioritising efficiency and individual productivity.

Founder CEOs

I came across some interesting research from the MIT Sloan Review this week on the differences between Founder and Professional CEOs. Before I read this article, I think my assumption was that a CEO who doesnt listen to their team would fail. This suggests it might be a bit more nuanced and I can certainly see the risk of Founder CEOs being talked out of particularly disruptive strategies by the grown ups on their team.

My reflection on the Founder CEOs We have worked with, is that those with the most self-awareness have been the easiest to help… but that this requirement for self-awareness works both ways, as in they need to have an accurate assessment of what theyre great at, not just their weaknesses.

Diversity & inclusion

I reckon its impossible to make a comment on 2020 without falling into a tired cliche. So I am going to do what I usually do when I lack the dexterity to articulate something appropriately and share a gif instead…

2020 eh 😳

Without inviting too much controversy, I suspect lots of us are hoping for a return to normalcy in 2021. Biden in the White House. A vaccine. Maybe we can pretend this year never happened.

The one thing I hope doesnt get forgotten is the genuine groundswell for meaningful change in D&I and systemic racism. Over the summer, I think the Black Lives Matter movement stopped us all in our tracks. And rightly so. But as People people, I think its the next few months that will determine whether this actually sticks.

Lots of companies responded to the outrage about events in the US with very genuine and authentic moments of acknowledgement. Lots of companies invested in D&I training for the first time.

But if you have not read this HBR article you should… one-off bursts of D&I or unconscious bias training do not work, or can end up having an adverse effect.

Let me just make sure that sunk in – most of what has happened in companies as a result of all that energy mobilised by Black Lives Matter will not have a longterm effect or will have an adverse effect.

So, if youre a People person who actually wants to make a difference, what should you do? The HBR research suggests that whats needed is an invitation, nudges and support for your people to come together to address these challenges head on.

This First Round Review blog also has loads of practical suggestions and if youre like me, you can walk the cat on the references to read the underlying research…

If theres one thing likely to commit your company to longterm progress on D&I, its investing in data. Thats why we are really excited to have formed a new partnership with Qlearsite, and we will be using their D&I survey to help our clients get the insights they need to make meaningful change and to keep themselves on track.

The peopleOS

Finally for this week, a couple of pieces on the peopleOS…

First, this article from David Sacks on Medium. I appreciate its directed at SaaS companies, but I think the insights have broader application and its worth a read.

Personally I am really intrigued by the notion of the cadence or the rhythm of an organisation. And my hypothesis is that the progress of a scale-up is most often inhibited by the discontinuity or friction of handovers between teams (not what happens within teams). 

Finding a rhythm that promotes the flow of activity in your company seems to me to be crucial and something that I suspect most leadership teams never really think about.

It also gives me an excuse to share one of my blogs about what a great peopleOS looks and feels like – spoiler: its all about flow, but you should read it anyway because theres a Sponge Bob Square Pants gif and everyone loves a Sponge Bob Square Pants gif.

State of flow

Until next week my fellow pioneers…


Founder and distinctly average chicken at The Pioneers