Sometimes, you hear a speaker that makes you feel immensely humble. This month, I was able to witness two. Ram Charan and Fons Trompenaars stole the show at the HR Summit and Expo in Dubai. (Sorry, Mr Cheese, Chief Exec of CIPD, while your talk was informed and impassioned, it wasn’t in the same league.)
Keep it simple, write lists and practise – three of the key things from Ram Charan’s two-part presentation. He talked about how HR could really work with CEOs – and to be able to do that, you’ve got to diagnosed what’s required to drive the performance of the business. Hence, write lists. And you can only be good at doing this through practice. But possibly the most powerful part of his presentation was his stories – of CEOs (unnamed) he had worked with and companies that succeed and those that fall asleep on the job. He’s also a very humble speaker, walking through the room talking to you in a way where you feel you are having a conversation rather than being lectured at. A brilliant skill in itself.
Connecting opposites – Fons Trompenaars is one of those people that I could listen to time and again, without question. His central thesis is that we need to connect opposites rather than simply move from one extreme to another – and he knows something about opposites, being the son of a French mother and Dutch father, and having worked around the world. Connecting opposites is important in helping organisations to work more effectively together, especially across cultures. But it is also important in decision-making and not jumping from one extreme to another. For example, he asked the question about why organisations centralise? Simply because it’s decentralised. Why decentralise? Because it’s centralised. Organisations are often bipolar in this regard. Take a look at Fons on YouTube; you will love it.
We also had some other great speakers, including Neil Morrison from Penguin, Trish McFarlane, Deiric McCann and Yvonne Agyei from Google. As ever, Google looked like a fantastic place to work (although I’m sure you have to work hard). They even provide a death benefit for your spouse that is 50% of your salary for ten years, and also a stipend for your kids.
The last course, Cheese – It was also good to hear from Peter Cheese from the CIPD, who coincidentally had just set up an office in the region. Peter gave an energetic defence of HR and how it needs to focus on the key areas of value for the organisation – such as wellbeing or diversity or talent management. He’s certainly a great advocate for the profession, and certainly comes along as very business-like in his approach (probably by virtue of his long career at Accenture).
If you get the chance to go next year, it’s worth it. Primarily because they do normally have some great guru speakers that you sometimes only see on a Ted Talks…