Category Archives: Values

Personality: yours for life or can it be changed?

Recently I was involved in a discussion where we were talking about behaviours at work, and the issue of personality arose. Some would argue that you can’t change your personality, and the way you behave (for instance, in the workplace) is down to your personality and also perhaps to do with the chemical make-up of your brain.

Obviously being in HR, I would protest this- arguing that we are all in control of our own behaviours and that this is something that we can change. For example, cognitive behavioural therapy is a form of psychotherapy (treatment for emotional and psychological problems where a person talks with a mental health professional) that helps a person to change unhelpful or unhealthy thinking habits, feelings and behaviours (Source: Better Health Channel).

The core philosophy of CBT is that thoughts, feelings and behaviours combine to influence a person’s quality of life.


It is said that your thoughts influence how you feel and those feelings then impact on how you behave or react. For example, a situation at work (stimulus) occurs where someone criticises something you have done. You could potentially be thinking:

I’m so angry!!!
She’s always picking on me!
She has no idea what she is talking about!
He was really harsh in the way he said that
Perhaps he’s right; maybe I could improve on XX…
I’m glad that I got that feedback

Depending on the way that you think, this can impact on how you feel about the whole situation and this will dictate your response.

Recently however some have argued to me that if your personality is to react in a certain way, then this is beyond your control and just a part of who you are.

So I went looking for some research on this and found a great article: Sherin, J. and Caiger, L. 2004, ‘Rational-Emotive Behaviour Therapy: A Behavioural Change Model for Executive Coaching’, Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, Vol. 56, No. 4, pp. 225-233.

Here is a key excerpt:

REBT resulted from Ellis’s objective to better understand which specific features of personality caused people to maintain dysfunctional behavioural patterns (Ellis, 1994). Drawing on both Stoic and Adlerian philosophy, he argued that personality was best defined by how people interpret and respond to their environment. He contended that an individual’s emotional and behavioural reactions are determined solely by his or her interpretations of events, not by the events themselves (Neenan & Dryden, 2000).

So the research suggests again that change in behaviour is possible and that personality is not a get-out-of-gaol-free pass for people who react to situations in a certain way. Now the task is to convince them that…

Ellis, A. (1994). Reason and emotion in psychotherapy. New York: Birch Lane.
Neenan, M., & Dryden, W. (2000). Essential rational emotive behaviour therapy. London: Whurr.


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Filed under Change Management, Diversity/Bullying and Harassment, Performance Management, Values

Jann Gray- Winner of Best HR Strategic Plan speaks at 2Discover event

Yesterday morning I attended a breakfast seminar which was hosted by 2Discover in at Martin Place. They had organised for Jann Gray, HR director for Ecolab and winner of ‘best HR strategic plan’ to speak, and it gave everyone present an opportunity to follow the amazing 4 year journey of a company that needed to implement major change or perish to the competitors.

Ecolab is a leading provider of cleaning, food safety and health protection products and services. They employ over 400 staff in Australia and service over 8000 customers nationally.

Jann explained that Ecolab were in a bad situation. They were turning over more than 1/3 of their staff each year, revenue was decreasing and a Hewitt survey revealed a very low employee engagement score.

Quoting Jim Parker- CEO South West Airlines- Jann explains that

“The outcome of a successful strategy is having the right people in the right jobs focused on the right things that lead to the business outcomes required.”

Essentially, it’s the way I see talent management but coming from a CEO it really ties the HR strategy to the impact it has on the bottom line.

I’ll briefly take you through a few of the different pieces of the Ecolab puzzle.

Ecolab puzzle

Revamped recruitment and selection policies

After a review of the types of staff they currently had, and assessing what sort of staff they needed in the future, Ecolab realised they needed to revamp their recruitment and selection processes to ensure they were hiring the right people in the right jobs. Previously they were hiring applicants purely on the basis of the technical ability, industry experience and knowledge of the industry. They then realised that they needed people in the future with leadership potential, not just technical strengths. As a result, psychometric testing was introduced in addition to second interviews with senior management. They then looked to training these hires internally to get their technical ability up to the level required.

Talent management/succession planning

At Ecolab, they conducted a succession planning process using the nine box matrix below to identify leadership potential and leverage this potential to drive performance. While there is nothing ground breaking about this matrix, it was an important part of the strategy that was done well.

9 box grid


Another key part of this HR strategy was setting targets and holding people accountable to these targets. Part of this was utilising a scorecard for each business unit and publishing these results to hold people accountable to these newly defined metrics. For most business units, names weren’t published with scores; however for the Sales team publishing names and results was a motivating factor in achieving performance. This scorecard ensured that people were working on the right things.

Rewards and recognition

Additionally, Ecolab reviewed their compensation to ensure that they were rewarding the right behaviours.

I really liked the ‘Making a difference” program that Jann mentioned. Ecolab has six cultural values (and yes Jann was able to name all six!) and they wanted to recognise people that were living the values. In order to celebrate their successes, staff are able to nominate people have demonstrated the values through sharing the story. As a reward, the individual received a wine glass with the particular value printed on it. Funnily enough, this inspired staff to obtain a set of six wine glasses because after that you were given a bottle of wine to go with it!

What an effective and low cost initiative that celebrates the success of your people. In conjunction with an EVP like “the solution is you”, it is a winning strategy.

Finally Jann stated that communication was the key to the whole thing and with out communicating the key messages to people at the time they were happening, the strategy would not have been embedded in the way that it was.

So how do we tie this HR strategy to the impact it has on the bottom line? The results speak for themselves.


Congratulations Jann and the team at Ecolab, and thanks to the team at 2discover for presenting a fantastic seminar.

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How important is culture?

According to Human Synergistics “Culture is the way that things are actually done in an organisation.” It includes shared values and beliefs, ways of thinking and norms or expectations of behaviours in the workplace.

Many of our business leaders would be thinking; that’s great (sounds like a bit of HR fluff) but what we really want is results.

Culture is vital to organisational success because it is the principal driver of performance related behaviours throughout the organisation. By creating a constructive culture, organisations can achieve and sustain high performance.

So how does culture come about?

Organisational cultures can be changed, and they can evolve over time. However the major driving force behind culture is actually leadership.

“Leaders set the agenda for the environment in which others operate, and people behave in a way that reflects the impact of their leader. Organisational culture is transformed through managing organisational structures, systems, technologies and the skills and qualities of leaders.”


So if leadership is going to drive the culture we want, which will then elicit the desired performance from our people- what are you doing to engage your leaders?

**Human Synergistics is hosting the 11th Australian Conference on Culture and Leadership in 2009. Visit the website for further information**

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Company Values: Lessons from Enron and One Tel

Recently I was reading ‘Make your Values Mean Something’ which talks about organizational values, what they should be and what is needed to really embed them in your culture. It is a frank article as the author says “If you’re not willing to accept the pain real values incur, don’t bother going to the trouble of formulating a values statement”.

It starts out asking you to review the following corporate values.

Communication. Respect. Integrity. Excellence.

These sound pretty solid and quite similar to other values statements you may have read.

These were actually the values of Enron whom Fortune named “America’s Most Innovative Company for six consecutive years. Employing around 22, 000 people and claiming revenue of nearly $101 billion in 200, Enron filed for bankruptcy in 2001 and the “Enron Scandal” rocked the world with their creatively planned accounting fraud. In addition to being the largest bankruptcy reorganization in American history, Enron undoubtedly is the biggest audit failure. Not much integrity or excellence going on there.

It made me think about organizational values and whether most are formed by what execs feel should be what the company represents, rather than what it actually is. Are companies really living and breathing their values? Are the values really guiding every decision that is made?

Could you pass the Enron test?

More locally, anyone recognise ‘the Dude’ below?


This company used this scruffy surfer to demonstrate that anyone could get a mobile phone, even a lazy layabout. The offices were decked out in electric blue, sunflower yellow and lime green walls featuring ‘the dude’, with a different theme for every floor. The walls were also peppered with motivational messages from beliefs and values such as ‘Add and create value in everything you do’, ‘make it better’, ‘Give your opinions’ ‘A happy team means happy players’. These were the values of One Tel.

Despite these values about making it better and creating value, the corporate culture was rife with fraud in trying to artificially inflating customer numbers up in order to secure bonuses from places like Optus. The following is an excerpt from Paul Barry’s Book on the One Tel collapse.

One long-serving member of the One.Tel team swears that at the end of 1997 he was asked to do a special job: “One of Brad Keeling’s deputies explained that One.Tel was falling short of its Optus targets and that there was a $500,000 bonus to be earned if we hit it.” Keeling then found the young man 10,000 to 15,000 existing One.Tel customers and told him to mail each a new SIM card, complete with new mobile number.

The young team member hired an army of casuals to stick SIM cards on to slips of paper and put them into envelopes. For several days on end they worked until midnight. They did not bother to wait for people to ring in and say they wanted their new number. The casuals simply activated the SIM cards on the computer before sending them out, which automatically connected each one to the Optus network, thus counting them all as brand new connections (source Paul Barry).

I think most of you would agree that this is an extreme example of a company where the values are just for show, but there are hundreds more organisations out there that just stick the values up on a poster and expect employees to live by them. It just doesn’t work that way.

Some key tips:
• Leaders at the top MUST lead by example, living and breathing the values in EVERYTHING they do.
• Ensure your company actions reflect the values statements. Base rewards and recognition programs, recruitment and selection and talent management strategies on them, and stick to it even when tough decisions need to be made.
• Provide training on what the values mean, what behaviours demonstrate your values and what people should do if they see someone not living the values.

Does your company live and breathe by its values and are they truly embedded in the culture?

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