Talking SME Podcast: Falling Between Two Stools - Managing Ourselves And Our People
Our latest guest on Ten2Two’s Talking SME podcast is Stuart Hearn, HR and Technology entrepreneur. In this episode we discuss the challenges of managing people in today’s uncertain business environment and how business owners and managers approach the tricky balance they seek between ‘doing the day job’ and effectively managing their teams.
A bit about Stuart
Stuart is an experienced HR and Technology entrepreneur, having founded and scaled two successful HR businesses - most recently Clear Review, which he grew into a multi-million revenue business with a successful exit after 5 years. He now acts as a mentor and board advisor to a small number of HR and employee-based tech start-ups that are making a positive difference in today's world. Stuart previously led a successful people performance management consultancy and was also International HR Director at Sony Music.
John O'Sullivan (00:02):
Hi, and welcome to, Ten2Two's latest podcast. Ten2Two, as you may know, is a specialist recruitment business, focusing on part-time professionals. I'm joined today by Stuart Hearn, somebody I've worked with for a number of years. We are going to talk about people, their performance and their development. An area that Stuart's worked in for many years. Hi Stuart. Thank you for joining.
Stuart Hearn (00:29):
Hello. Good morning or afternoon, wherever you are.
John O'Sullivan (00:32):
<laugh>. Wherever you are in the world, it's morning or afternoon. Stuart, should we kick off by just going through a little bit of your background, what you're doing now, and your sort of journey through your people performance management history?
Stuart Hearn (00:47):
Yeah, sure. So, I've worked in the HR and people space for probably about 25 years. My first job out of university was working kind of a large FMCG company, and we had very bureaucratic HR processes, detail competency frameworks, twice a year formal appraisals and gradings. And we had the old classic rating, that no one could ever get the top one that you were all meant to aim for, and no one ever got it. So I went through all of those kind of formal things. I also had experience after that of working in a company that was almost the opposite of that. So I worked in HR in a music company, in a record company, and we had no formal performance management at all. So there were no annual appraisals. And that was really interesting to see the difference because on one hand, the company performed equally well, and we didn't have any performance management from the company that did all the formal performance and talent management.
Stuart Hearn (01:46):
We performed just as well. On the downside of that, there was a bit of collateral damage. So we were so hands off as a company and allowed people to kind of work in the way that they wanted, and managers to do what they wanted. That there were some issues around the way that people were often treated, some stress issues and things like that. So I kind of had two parts of my career that experienced, you know, two extremes of how to manage people. So I ended up, after that job, forming a consultancy, working around performance and development. Trying to help people fix this really difficult subject of performance management and appraisals. It seemed to be a thing that everybody hated, staff hated it. Management hated doing it, and CEOs and board members were exasperated about hearing about it.
Stuart Hearn (02:34):
So we were often brought in to kind of fix that and try and make sense of it all, which we did very successfully. And after that, I found that we couldn't find any software that would match the way that we thought performance management should be done, which to us was around communication of why things need to be done, what the organization's trying to achieve, what employees can contribute towards that. And then holding their hand through kind of human conversations to actually do the best that they can. That was the kind of performance management we were trying to encourage. Yet all the software on the market was around filling out an annual appraisal form and typing out loads of complicated objectives. So I ended up starting a company called Clear Review, which was software designed to support, what I would call year-round human-based performance management around real-time feedback check-ins as well as objectives, but objectives that are linked to meaningful organizational level objectives, which is where I met you, John.
Stuart Hearn (03:32):
You came and worked for us in the latter days. And I exited that, we sold that business at the end of 2020 during the pandemic. Which was an interesting time to sell a business when you couldn't meet with people. Since then I've been mentoring, startups on how to grow and how to think about the employee side of that, but also how to, grow a startup as I did myself, and help them avoid some of the mistakes that a lot of startups do make. And doing odd podcast like this. Talking about, sharing some of the kind of things that I've learned along the way.
John O'Sullivan (04:11):
And what do you think, you know, through your time on your consultancy and the time at Clearview. What were the biggest changes that you saw in how people were being managed and developed as individuals in the workplace?
Stuart Hearn (04:25):
I think there's been a huge journey and gradual acceptance that formal bureaucratic processes, whether they're around performance management or whether they're around learning and development, don't actually improve people's performance and development. And I'm hoping, you know, a lot of that education would've been the work that we did at Clear Review, we were very vocal about that and I spoke at a lot of conferences and events and there was companies in the US that were doing a similar thing to us. So I think that's all helped the debates to recognize that, you know, a lot of the processes that companies put in place were based around a lot of the management thinking that happened in the 1950s. There was, if you remember the theory X and theory Y, that McGregor, was kind of famous for in management schools.
Stuart Hearn (05:14):
But theory X being that employees were inherently, I guess lazy and couldn't be trusted and needed to be monitored. And you had to check their inputs. So, what they were doing at work in order to make sure that they performed. And then the theory Y. And these were both theories that he had at the time. The theory Y approach was that actually employees want to do the best that they can. They're inherently internally motivated. So with the right support and the right kind of understanding of why they should be doing it, they will naturally perform the best that they can. So I think a lot of the processes that companies had and the way that leaders were taught were raised based around theory X management. So I think there's definitely been a progression over the last 10 years in, what I would call human-centric management with a focus on wellbeing as well.
Stuart Hearn (06:05):
And that was helped by the pandemic, which I'm sure we'll talk about. That that's the best way to manage and develop people. So I think that's the biggest change. Which I think is really good because I think everyone hated the bureaucracy of lots of form filling. And I think that if we can make things more human focused then. That's great. Obviously, there's a burden there for managers. I think we'll probably end up talking a bit about that. Because it would seem on one hand that there's more for managers to do if they're going to have more conversations with their staff rather than filling out forms once a year. But I've got a view on that, that actually it does save time in the end. It isn't more time consuming for managers. So, but again, we can talk a bit about that a bit later on.
John O'Sullivan (06:43):
Yeah. Why do you think it's so hard for organizations to make those changes? Because I think the, you know, as you say, the difference between that theory X and theory Y. There's still so many organizations that you hear about of all sizes, big and small, where the feedback from employees is still that, I can use the word employee experience, but the policies and the practices and the culture around people operating effectively in the workplace is so difficult to try and guide and to steer. Why do you think it's still so hard?
Stuart Hearn (07:22):
It's a good question. And when I was working at Clear Review, we'd often have this conversation with senior management. So there would be a reticence from senior management to change the way that things were working, even though everyone was saying it's not working and everyone hates the way that we're doing things. And the way it was described to me once, which I really agree with, was that, senior leaders, if they were promoted and got to the top during that more traditional bureaucratic way of doing things, there can be that. Well, it worked for me and it got me to where I am, so therefore it must work for everyone else. I guess my argument was, you got promoted whilst that was going on. It doesn't mean that you were successful because of that. There's not necessarily a cause and effect.
Stuart Hearn (08:08):
You happened to rise to the top and these processes happened to be in place. They didn't lead you to where you got to. So I think it's taken more forward thinking, braver HR leaders to take that leap of faith and say, actually we're going to just stop doing those things that didn't work. You know, stop doing this ridiculous annual appraisal form filling. We just won't do it. And then when enough of those companies did it and then you had companies like us that were shouting about it and showing the evidence to say, look, here's the impact on productivity. Here's the impact on people's wellbeing and happiness, then I think other companies have to follow suit in the end. But obviously we hear of companies that are still entrenched in that, I don't trust my employees. So again, a lot of it depends on the leader and certain leaders are not going to ever want to lean that way.
Stuart Hearn (09:00):
Because there's inherently a distrust of people and you know, there's lots of research about X percent of CEOs of FTSE 100 companies are sociopaths. It's going to be difficult to change a culture where you have a leader that's, inherently entrenched in a certain way of thinking. But I think that's only a small minority. There's a huge amount of leaders who want to do the best and want to manage in the best way that they can. And it's just about educating those people into the right ways of doing things. And it's not complicated, but it might be different to the way that they've been taught on a management course 10 years ago or 20 years ago.
John O'Sullivan (09:35):
Yeah. Is that then sort of a generational thing? It has to be, apart from the organizations that are more progressive in their thinking and might break their, you know, a leader might break their traditional upbringing and go, actually no, I don't believe that anymore. But do we think it's this sort of generational thing. As new generations of leaders come through that's going to bring that change with it.
Stuart Hearn (10:01):
I think it does. I think you almost have a bottom up approach. So if you've got an entrenched leader at the top, it doesn't mean the change can't happen because if there's enough people saying. Look, we are gonna do it this way and we are doing it this way, and look it works, then people will accept that and especially when the results come as well. But it's interesting with new leaders coming in. Because I remember having a brilliant conversation with one of our kind of larger, global companies that we had at Clear Review and we were talking about our way of doing things and we piloted it in one area and there was some new managers that came on board and they were being told to do it in this new way, which was around monthly check in conversations, giving people feedback as they go along, having shorter term goals that are like, this is what you have to do for the next one to two months, not this is what you have to do for the next 12 months.
Stuart Hearn (10:52):
And I remember the feedback from one of them coming back to us saying. Well, I've never been a manager before, but are you saying that people wouldn't do it this way because it's pretty blooming obvious that this is the way that you should manage people. So I think people that were coming in fresh that had never gone through traditional management training, it was just common sense to them. So I think the more people that come in with this fresh view and are given the freedom to manage in the way that kind of feels natural, are going to change the, the paradigm from from those of us. You know, and I did it myself, when I graduated, went through the management training and there was a certain way that you were taught to manage, but again, it's not natural. And I think the natural way of managing has come to the fore now again, especially because of the pandemic.
John O'Sullivan (11:36):
Yeah. So just thinking about pandemic, I mean, it was such a sort of shock to the system from a business community point of view. Everyone, being at home trying to maintain productivity, you know, the whole thing about performance and development just happening in the office with a bit of bureaucracy around it. What do you think has changed since the pandemic? What do you think that's brought with it?
Stuart Hearn (12:05):
I think the pandemic, for the way that we manage people was a brilliant thing. Obviously there's lots of other very bad things about it, but I think it forced companies to address that issue of trust, which I think was holding a lot of companies back. And I think they couldn't have their eyes on employees every day. Although I know that some companies tried to have like key stroke tracking software but most companies didn't do that. So they had to learn to trust people. And it forced people to think about, well if I can't see people and be with them, how do I know that people are working in the right way? How do I know that everyone's aligned on the right things? So I think it made organizations look at ways of managing performance in the ways that we'd always talked about doing it and say, right, this is what we need to achieve and let's be really clear about communicating what the business needs and what your bit of the business needs.
Stuart Hearn (12:55):
And then you go away and deliver that in the best way that you can and we'll check in with you regularly to check you're okay that you're not being overwhelmed, that you are on track, but effectively we'll leave you to get on with it in the way that you see best. And I think that was a massive step forward and a big learning for organizations when they saw that actually that worked quite well and productivity didn't suffer. In fact, you know, it went up. So I think that was really important. I think on the other side of that, we also learned that we do need to be together sometimes, that we can't work remotely. Working remotely has a lot of benefits in terms of it giving you that time for deep work. And at Clear Review we actually set up the kind of hybrid working from day one.
Stuart Hearn (13:41):
Because I'd had businesses that were all together and I find it personally quite hard in an open plan office to concentrate on deep work and think strategically. But I also get a real buzz off trying to solve problems together as a group. So that that kind of recognition that deep work can be done and is best done probably at home when it's quiet. But recognizing that if we do that all the time, like in the pandemic we had to do it for too long and everyone missed the camaraderie, everyone missed the buzz of of the office. I think particularly younger staff were quite affected by that. We thought people could work from home and isn't it nice for them, but a lot of the younger staff, certainly the ones that were working for us were in a shared flat. So they're having to work on the end of their bed, which is not sustainable.
Stuart Hearn (14:27):
And they wanted to be in the office and have the banter. So, I guess what we learned over that pandemic period were the benefits of homeworking, but also the benefits of the times when you need to be together. And I think where we've ended up, where most organizations seem to have ended up is what I would call this hybrid working, which I think is the ultimate balance. If you can get that right, then it's the ultimate for productivity gives people that flexibility to go to the gym or take their washing in or pick up kids from school and all the things that kind of cause a lot of stress. You take a lot of those stresses away, people will ultimately perform better. So I think that's kind of where we're at. Of course we have organizations that I think have gone back to the old way of doing that.
Stuart Hearn (15:09):
But I think those will be more the organizations that were very entrenched in that theory X management. I need to see people and thank goodness, right. I can get them back to the office so I can see them and I need to know that they're working. But from all of the people I've spoken to. And it'll be interesting to hear about the people you've spoken to John, I haven't heard of a huge amount of organizations doing that. Most organizations seem to have been pretty sensible about where they've landed up with a kind of, you can work some from home, some in the office. And most people I'm talking to seem to be quite happy with their jobs. And years ago you'd talk to people, everyone hated their jobs and if someone loved their job it would be kind of a rare occurrence. But I don't know I'm seeing a lot more job satisfaction from people I just talked to, either through work or socially at the moment. I dunno what your perspective is.
John O'Sullivan (15:53):
Yeah, I think you're right. I think there is. Because, both organizations and employees all went through that change together. I think everyone was fundamentally affected by it. And what I'm interested in is that organizations sort of came out of the pandemic, you know, 18 months ago and they're still working through what they believe that right working pattern is and whether the working pattern is right for the whole company or whether it's a team-based thing. I think, often people will come up with a black and white solution of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday in the office Monday and Friday at home. And what you then find is, some people say, if you want everyone in Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and there's one company in particular in London that spoke to me, went back to their senior leadership team and said, we don't have enough desks for everyone to come in Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. We didn't work like that before. And that was a slight knee jerk. I think just the fact that many companies are starting to evolve that just shows how long that culture change can take. You know, it's not, we are back, we're gonna put this in place and that's it now. It just evolves, evolves, evolves as people understand it a bit more, I think.
Stuart Hearn (17:12):
Yeah, I think there's a logistical difficulty in terms of office space isn't there because I don't think any company wants to pay for a hundred desks if only 50, 60 people are in at any one time. But then that makes it difficult to be flexible and say, just come in when you feel like you and your team want to, but there might not be enough desks on a particular day. So all of those kind of practicalities have to be worked through. But I think they can be with desk booking systems or each team, doing its own thing on certain days. So certain teams come in on certain days because you don't need everyone to be in on a certain day, but the people that you work most closely with, you do want to be there on the same day otherwise it's kind of pointless because you won't get that group problem solving.
John O'Sullivan (17:54):
Yeah, I think it brings a bit of logistics into people management. So if you think about a warehouse and you've got things going in and out all day long and things being moved around shelving units. You think of the big Amazon warehouses, if you've got 500 people and 200 desks and some co-working space in an office, you just need to have a place where people can schedule it. Which wasn't needed before. And that's just a tool now that people need. So I think that's going to be really interesting. You talked earlier about managers and you know, some of the things that I'm reading about the plight of managers at the moment is that they've never had it so hard. That, not only are they busier as individuals now, because organizations becoming more and more efficient at what they do. And many organizations allegedly putting more pressure on people with higher workloads, plus having a team that you can't manage as easily as before because they're not in front of you. Which, we know is a bit of a myth because most of the time managers are out in meetings, they don't see their team.
Stuart Hearn (19:04):
John O'Sullivan (19:04):
From one hour to the next anyway. So it was all of a bit of a myth. Do you subscribe to that view that their jobs are harder in a hybrid environment?
Stuart Hearn (19:14):
I would say that there's more workload on a manager. I'll avoid using the word harder. It doesn't have to be harder, but certainly there's more workload on managers than there was say 20 years ago. I don't think this is just in the last couple of years this has been a thing that's gone on probably for the last 10 years plus. And I think where it's come from is there was a, trend HR did it and I know IT did it and finance did it. Decentralizing and devolving to the line, they called it. Devolving to the line managers. And certainly we had it in HR. So HR used to do pretty much all recruitment and then would present the manager with two or three people and then you can just pick one. But they would manage that whole process on behalf of managers.
Stuart Hearn (19:58):
And the things about pay, it was all kind of done by HR. Those over time got decentralized to managers, which was the right thing to do. Because at the end of the day, the manager is going to have to be working with those people. They should really be choosing with support from HR rather than HR choosing. And then there was so many under performances and people had the wrong fit because HR don't know the best people to hire. So if you translate that through to accounting and IT was devolved to people through just lots of form filling, then there was a bigger workload on managers. And I think where managers got a raw deal is that organizations didn't take that into account when looking at how much work they had still as an individual contributor. So, before that period of transition started, you'd have 60% of your role might be be individual contribution.
Stuart Hearn (20:48):
So you've got your own job to do. You are still, if you're a senior manager who's a lawyer, you're still doing law work yourself. And then the other 40% of the time you might be managing a function. But actually if you've got all of those things on you, and then if you've got employee management and the kind of way that we are saying now that employees should be managed and the way that employees are expecting to be managed is more regular check-ins and human face time. That's more time consuming. So I think where organizations have got it wrong is they haven't adjusted the individual contributor time to take into account all those other things that a manager has to do. But there are ways around doing that. Not everyone has to be an individual contributor and a people manager. And we've seen organizations that have offered roles where they allow people to be an individual contributor if they don't wanna be a people manager.
Stuart Hearn (21:43):
In the old days, the only way to get a pay rise was to get to manage a team. And so many people I knew, said I hate managing the team, I hate being a manager, I just like doing my job. But it's the only way to kind of move up the ladder. So I think I've seen more organizations offer kind of parallel career paths. You can take a management one and actually your job then becomes more management and you're not really trying to do as much of the kind of individual, expert stuff yourself. You're becoming more of a manager and then say, actually you are probably best and you want to just be doing, say law. Carry on doing that at a more senior level, mentor people in the organization but don't be a manager. So I think that's the solution is thinking about each individual profile of the people we want to have in the organization and being willing to actually split those roles. Rather than saying everybody has to do both because they don't, it's just traditionally been that way.
John O'Sullivan (22:33):
Yeah. I think that's really interesting that individual contributor, people manager split. Is that something you think organizations should be more conscious about in terms of understanding that division?
Stuart Hearn (22:52):
Yeah, I think people need a more open debate about it because I think a lot of organizations said, but people wanna be managers. I've got all these people that want to be managers, but no, people aren't being honest. I think if they ask these people and say, look, do you really wanna be managers or do you want just the next grade up? Then I think they would really get to grips with what people wanted. Because I think a lot of people don't wanna manage. It is a particular skillset managing people and some people love it and some people hate it. So the people that love it, let's have that contribution. So let's let them do more of that. And then the people that don't like it, let's try and take as much of that away from people as possible. And I think that solves that problem where some people say, I never get any facetime with my manager because they're always so busy. I get five minutes a month. But I think a lot of that isn't necessarily because they're so busy, it's because they're avoiding that bit of the job that they don't like.
John O'Sullivan (23:44):
Stuart Hearn (23:44):
So it's not an easy solution to solve. So it's a bit like the office working and people coming in on different days. Logistically it has to be thought about. None of it is that difficult to solve, but it does take some thought and effort and a willingness to kind of, let's forget everything we knew 20 years ago. That a manager would always have both of these roles and let's look at how we can flex it to maybe 80% and 20% or 90 and 10 or 50 50 or none at all. And a hundred percent. So yeah, I think the more that organizations can do that we'll end up having happier managers who are less overworked and stressed and happier staff.
John O'Sullivan (24:22):
Yeah. That's interesting Stuart. I talked to a company the other day who, are encouraging managers to sort of split their time very deliberately between people management and their individual contributions. So try not to mix the day.
John O'Sullivan (24:37):
Of one-to-ones things like that. Plus tasks they've got to do. Because the CEO of this organization, was saying that invariably people slightly underestimate how long something's gonna take them to do. So I've got to write this or I've gotta think of a plan for that. Will generally take them longer than they might have thought. So they just squeeze the people management side.
Stuart Hearn (25:00):
Yeah, exactly. I mean another thing I've seen organizations doing is where you have people managers that manage people across function and it's their full-time job. Because I think one of the issues people have is they say. Yeah, but I've got a team of six people and there's some senior level work that needs doing. And there's also six people that need to be managed. Neither of them are a full-time job. How do I manage that? So I've seen organizations have people managers that are cross-functional. So someone is managing and having one-to-ones with a bunch of people that may not be in their own function. And that's an interesting way of solving it. It's a bit like what my children do at school. They have a tutor, that manages their overall wellbeing, checking they're doing okay and checking in with the other teachers.
Stuart Hearn (25:46):
But they're not taking them for the individual subject. So, it's a similar kind of approach. And I think it's interesting and I have seen it work again, it needs thought to make sure that everyone's talking to each other. So the person who is their technical line manager that may not be giving them their actual objectives. There needs to be a check-in between all of those various parties. But it can work. And I think it's an interesting solution for organizations that maybe aren't large enough that someone can just full-time manage a team of 20.
John O'Sullivan (26:17):
Yeah, it's a built like some of the professional services firms. Where, whether it's a legal firm or a consultancy firm, you would have a, for want of a better phrase the line manager. But actually you never do any work with that person because you're always on project teams or on cases with other leaders.
Stuart Hearn (26:34):
John O'Sullivan (26:35):
And therefore there is that, you know, sort of matrix style, where you've got somebody managing you and the quality of what you are doing and and getting feedback from the project managers. So you do have sort of two influences on you.
Stuart Hearn (26:48):
Yeah, exactly. You see it sometimes in smaller companies where you might have two co-founders and one takes on all the people management. The other one takes on all the kind of strategic deep thought work and the work of the company. The other ones taking more managing the people. So again, it can work in small companies too. It doesn't have to be large professional services. Again, it's the same with all of these things. All of these things are actually quite simple to solve, but take some time and thought, but none of them are rocket science complexity that can't be overcome. It's that bravery of let's forget everything we used to know. And if we were starting again right now, how would we set things up knowing the team that we have and starting with a blank piece of paper, how do we set things up?
Stuart Hearn (27:38):
And I always used to try and do that when I was going in for consulting work and it was really, really powerful to go into a company and say, forget everything about performance management. I'm gonna forget everything I ever learnt. Let's forget everything you've ever done before. Let's look at your company and say what does it need? And knowing that, what would we do if we were starting from scratch? And that's quite a powerful way of thinking about any workplace problem, but I think equally powerful for management as well and how we manage and lead people.
John O'Sullivan (28:04):
So, to put you on the spot then Stuart. If you were going back into leading a company, what would be the two or three things in your people management playbook that would be top of the list?
Stuart Hearn (28:20):
Well, I'd do everything we did at Clearview, to be honest. <laugh> I know it might sound a bit, a bit kind of, oh didn't we do well, but I think we did do well. We had an organization that almost nobody ever left us. Lots of people wanted to join, grew incredibly quickly and doubled year on year, year after year. And that's quite hard to achieve. And I think one of the things that helped us achieve that was the way that we manage people. And I know people that have moved on to other organizations and said that it's the best place they've ever worked and I kind of feel like it was. So I think there's so many things that we did. But if I was going to pick three, I'd say it was our approach to managing the work that people had to do.
Stuart Hearn (29:05):
So the approach to managing, you can call it performance, but I just call it getting work done. And that was very much about starting with why, starting with what the organization needs to achieve over the coming quarter. We'd all sit down in a room and talk about, this is what the organization's targets are, in a quite specific way. Then each team would then go away and decide what they needed to do as a team. Again, coming up with some specific measurable goals and then working with themselves to achieve that. Then that might be translated into individual goals or maybe it isn't, maybe it's just team goals. But allowing that autonomy for people to deliver in the way that they think, in the working hours that were best for them, to deliver what the organization needs. So that very much focuses on outcomes rather than measuring inputs.
Stuart Hearn (29:53):
I think it's a really, really important thing. Once you have that culture set up, you're setting up this culture of trust and then so many other things tend to fall into a place. So wellbeing is really important. because wellbeing gets in the way of people performing. Because if they're stressed or they're upset about stuff. But if you've had that culture of trust from the way that you manage the work that people do, people will just will show up and tell you their problems. We did some great things like Wellbeing Wednesdays, but I think they were like nice to haves, but without those people still showed up and talked about problems they had. So I think that's key. I think instilling a sense of fun is really key as well. So we made regular time in the diary to do fun stuff and not forced fun where you are trying to pretend that it's some team building, because I think a lot of companies, they save the fun stuff for Christmas parties and team building, but just do stuff regularly because it's fun.
Stuart Hearn (30:52):
Because people need to have a nice time and enjoy their work. And I think whenever we did that and it didn't have to be expensive, we did crazy golf, we did darts, we did pizza making. Whenever we did that, it just boosted the mood and morale. And in small companies, managers can often be too busy to think about that. So one of the things we did at Clearview, we'd let that be employee owned. So we had a small group of people that were in charge of organizing those things and that was brilliant because they knew what people wanted and then it happened. Whereas, if I was the one who was organizing it, it probably wouldn't have happened because I was busy doing other stuff. So that's two of the things. I think the third thing is making sure you do get that work home and office balance right.
Stuart Hearn (31:34):
One of the things that I always loved that we did at Clear Review, which is a really simple thing to do, is a lot of companies let people work from home on a Friday. And one of the things that I noticed when I was in that situation, working from home on a Friday is that the week always ended on a bit of a low. Because you've finished at five o'clock and then you kind of close your desk and you're like, well okay, I guess that's it then. Whereas, when you were at the office, sometimes you'd go down the pub on a Friday or there would be, you know, going out for a little something after work and everyone's offloading about their week having a bit of fun. So you'll remember this, we used to do what we called weekend wind downs.
Stuart Hearn (32:11):
So finished a little bit early on a Friday, we'd all get on a Zoom call. People would be allowed to have a beer if they wanted to. And then you are kind of recreating the virtual, going down the pub after work and people could offload about their week, talk about the things that have annoyed them, talk about things that they've been really happy about and just generally sharing. And that was a really magical thing. Only one thing that we did, I think made a big difference in the organization. So I definitely do all of those again. I dunno, you ran a few weekend wind downs. You chaired a few those, did you like those? You brought a bit of fun to those.
John O'Sullivan (32:43):
I still do them. Stuart <laugh>.
Stuart Hearn (32:45):
Oh, do you? There you go.
John O'Sullivan (32:46):
Yeah, there's some great thoughts there. I think it sort of covers the whole gamut of really what it takes to manage a team. And I think that sort of informal, you know, sort of managed spontaneity of just being able to, talk and, what I find from a number of organizations is that there's no small talk anymore. So they get on calls and you are straight at it and you finish and you are off. There's no familiarity. So, sometimes I'll get on a call and have a couple of minutes with somebody just catching up and it just looks like I'm sort of wasting a bit of time. But it's what I would've done in an office.
John O'Sullivan (33:31):
If I'd been with people and I think that, trying to find a way of recreating that is important. And I think that, you know, no agenda, chat about something, have a theme or whatever that might be, just to get the conversation going. I think is great. So Stuart, I think we're out of time now, so we'll be getting the hook around the neck pulling us off stage. So I'd just like to thank you for coming on and sharing your experience and your thoughts. Wish you luck with the companies that you are supporting right now.
Stuart Hearn (34:05):
Thankyou John. It's an absolute pleasure.
John O'Sullivan (34:06):
And we'll stay in touch. So thank you very much.
36 min read
October 17, 2023