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097 | Inspiring HR: the purpose behind it & what to expect if you join
Episode 9711th August 2023 • HR Coffee Time • Fay Wallis
00:00:00 00:18:50

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If you’d like to build your confidence, influence, impact and credibility at work, then the group programme, Inspiring HR, might be just what you’re looking for. In this episode of HR Coffee Time, Fay talks through the purpose behind creating Inspiring HR and what to expect if you join.

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Fay Wallis:

Welcome to HR Coffee Time, a podcast I've made especially for you to help you have a successful and fulfilling HR or People career without working yourself into the ground. I'm your host, Fay Wallis, a career and executive coach with a background in HR and I'm also the creator of the HR Planner.

Today's episode is quite different to my normal episodes because it's about my group programme, Inspiring HR, which I've made for HR and People professionals who are working at a mid or senior level. So their job titles might be HR Business Partner, People Partner, Senior HR Business Partner, Senior People Partner, Head of HR, Head of People, HR Director, or People Director, and they want to build their confidence, their influence, their impact, and their credibility at work. I've never dedicated a whole episode to talking about it before, but I've had a few people asking me questions about Inspiring HR recently. Also, I received a wonderful LinkedIn recommendation from one of the people who was part of the last cohort for Inspiring HR.


A big thank you, Ashleigh if you're listening right now. Seeing the recommendation and reading it absolutely made my day. And what I noticed as I read it was that Ashleigh provided quite a lot of detail about the programme that I don't think I ever share myself publicly, which seems like a bit of an error.

Although I have got information about the Inspiring HR programme on my Bright Sky Career Coaching website, the questions I've been asked about it recently and seeing Ashleigh's recommendation have made me realise that it could be helpful to share some more detailed information about it with you, to help you decide whether it's something that would be right for you, or perhaps for a friend or a colleague.


I've had a few people come on the programme now because it's been recommended by one of their friends, or someone they work with. So I'll get cracking and talk you through the purpose behind Inspiring HR. So why I created it, and what I really hope you'll achieve by being part of it. And then I'll talk you through what to expect from the group sessions and what else is involved if you join the programme.

I hope that you really enjoy listening to it and that it's helpful. Let's start off with the purpose behind Inspiring HR. From coaching lots of People professionals, I started to notice the same challenges and themes kept coming up again and again. All of these people were incredible people, although they normally didn't realize how incredible they were.

They truly cared about doing a great job. They were so committed to their work. They worked hard. They had fantastic ideas for the organizations they were in. They wanted to make sure that they were creating brilliant places to work for everyone who worked there. But there were things that were holding them back and they just didn't feel as confident as they'd like to be.


Some of the things that typically held them back were a worry that they didn't know enough, a feeling they were winging it on some things or weren't as strategic as they should be. Especially when there's so much talk around HR and the People function having to be strategic. They also sometimes felt that their ideas or their voice weren't as valued as they could be or should be.

Or it could also be that there was an intimidating or a tricky person on the senior leadership team that meant they didn't always feel confident speaking up about their ideas when they wanted to, or they found it hard to get buy-in for some of their ideas when they put them forward. Or they may not even put them forward because they were nervous about what might happen or what might be said.

I also saw that they often felt lonely in their role. I've had so many people say to me, oh my goodness, I wish that there was a mentor for me in this business. Someone else who's at a similar level, or who has done this role before, who can give me a bit of advice and reassurance. I originally thought this was just true for people who were in standalone roles, and if you haven't heard the term 'standalone role' before, that is when you are the only HR or People person in the business. Or you're the most senior HR or People person, and you're just supported by one or two more junior-level people.


And actually if you want to learn even more about it, you can hop back to last week's episode because I had two wonderful guests on the show talking about their experiences of being in standalone positions. But anyway, back to the main point. Over time I've realized that this feeling of feeling a bit lonely and how helpful it would be to have someone else to talk to, that actually is the case even if you're part of a large People team. I've seen this crop up again and again now. At first on Inspiring HR I just had people joining who were in standalone roles because that's how I was talking about the programme. But gradually over time I've had people contact me saying, oh, actually I work in quite a big team.


Can I still come please, Fay? And of course, when they've got there and I've heard about their experiences, I've realized just how valuable it is for them to be able to have the support of the group, to meet other people who are like-minded, equally committed to their work, equally have challenges. Just to be able to talk about things with them and bounce ideas around. Because of course, the problem with feeling lonely in your role, without having someone at work you can do that with is you end up feeling that you haven't got anyone you can open up to or to offload, or to ask just for some reassurance and advice.


So, It was from coaching all of these people individually to begin with, and seeing these themes keep coming up that I had the idea of building a group program, which would be a mixture of shared learning, group coaching and group support.

I wanted to create something that would take everyone from feeling not confident, worried about all the things I just talked about, to feeling filled with confidence, realizing that they're doing a brilliant job, having self-belief, knowing how to approach difficult situations, knowing how they can build their strategic skills, knowing how to build relationships at a senior level, how to influence at a senior level. And of course, All importantly, knowing that they have this group of people they can turn to for support and ideas, people who are there for them long after the group programme has finished.

With all of this in mind, I've worked hard at incorporating ways to help the group bond. To make the group a welcoming, warm, and safe environment for everyone who's there. Even though the sessions take place over Zoom, we manage to have a shared group coffee together at the beginning of our first session.


I post out an HR Coffee Time mug to everyone in the group, so we're all sipping from the same type of cup while we chat and get to know each other. We all share what we need from the group sessions to make them as impactful and as helpful a learning environment as possible. So everyone has the chance to share any worries they have, as well as explaining what they really want to gain from the programme.

I learned some great techniques for helping with this from one of the books that I recommended in episode 94: Summer reads: three great books to help your HR career. The book is called The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker, and she had some wonderful advice in there in helping really set up a psychologically safe environment where everyone feels connected.

So I'm very grateful to her for writing that book. It's definitely helped me for setting up that first all important session.


We also have a private WhatsApp group where we can chat and ask each other for advice, or share funny things from outside of work if we'd like to. Claire Cathcart, who was a guest back in episode 76: HR insider tips on how to create an amazing remote working culture.

She gave me some brilliant tips on how to encourage conversation and friendship through virtual channels like WhatsApp.

There's also a coffee chat challenge where I encourage everyone to arrange a virtual Zoom or Teams coffee with each person in the group at a separate time from the group sessions, so they can get to know each other even better. And whoever manages to book in and have all of the sessions before anyone else gets to have a little prize, just for a bit of fun. But everyone always enjoys the coffee chat challenge.

And there are other things too that I've incorporated and I'm always looking for new ideas and new ways of making the programme even better. But hopefully just sharing those few things will help to give you a feel of what to expect, and it will also help to settle any nerves you might have if you're thinking, oh, what if everyone else is brimming with confidence already and way more experience than me? Or what if it's a bit intimidating or scary? I promise none of that is the case at all.


I work really hard at making sure you never feel that way and that you feel welcome and that you can contribute and share and talk and ask for help on whatever you need to. As well as the supportive group aspect of the programme, I wanted to incorporate opportunities for learning around the key challenges that I could see people struggling with.

This means that each week we focus on a different topic in the group sessions. Week one is about setting yourself up for success for the programme, but also for other aspects of work in your career. Week two is all about boosting your confidence. Week three focuses on being strategic. Week four is all about building key relationships, even with people that you might find challenging.


Week five focuses on influencing at a senior level. So that looks at how you influence the entire workforce as well as being able to influence individuals. And finally, week six is all about planning for the future. So giving you the time to reflect on what you've learned throughout the program, how you want to take that learning forwards, and what you want for your career and work going forward.

When I first mentioned Inspiring HR and talked through what I'd be covering in the different weeks with a friend, she said, oh, you've created a leadership program for HR professionals. I hadn't really thought of it like that, and I hadn't realised that's what I'd done until she pointed it out. And actually, if I was going to call it an HR leadership programme, I would probably add some other things into it as well.


But what she said did make sense to me in several ways because so few People professionals I've met have had organizations that they work in invest in their professional development beyond their C I P D qualifications. And I will never ever knock C I P D qualifications. Completing the level seven qualification earlier on in my career was one of the best things I ever did because it hugely upskilled me when it came to understanding the impact that the People function can have, how to identify and solve a business challenge, and taught me those all important in and outs of employment law. But what seemed to be missing for everyone was the professional development that only seems to happen if you work for an enormous organization, the crucial skills that you need to help you build your confidence, like how to influence, how to build relationships at a senior level, how to be truly strategic. No one seemed to be providing that. Instead, everyone just seemed expected to magically know how to do all of this stuff.


So let me talk you through the structure of the group sessions and how exactly that learning comes about. How we look at things like boosting your confidence and boosting your influence, and increasing your impact, and being strategic.

Before each group session there's usually a tiny bit of pre-work to do. It will normally only take you between 10 and 20 minutes. I've tried to keep the pre-work to an absolute minimum because I know how busy you are, but by having done the pre-work beforehand, it will absolutely help you get the most out of the sessions. Examples of what the pre-work could be include taking a short online assessment like the DISC assessment, which I've talked about in detail in episode three of the podcast: Building relationships with difficult people at work. And it's also mentioned again in episode 75: What psychometrics are, how you can use them, and why they're so helpful, with Sue Colton. And if you want to know a bit more about DISC, then I'd recommend hopping back and listening to those episodes. But as well as things like doing an assessment like that, you also might have something like a short worksheet to complete, and I promise it's not an awful, boring one.


The worksheets are really there. They're often just made up of questions to help prompt your thinking and assess where you are with something and where you would like to get to.

Then in the group session, I'll normally start by introducing some ideas and concepts just like I normally do with the podcast each week. The only difference is that I have some PowerPoint slides. I promise it isn't death by PowerPoint. I've spent ages designing the slides to be engaging and to not use too many of them.


Again, actually having the podcast has helped me with this. If you've listened to episode 74 of the podcast, How to get better at presenting and feel more confident about it, you will have heard that there was a great book I recommended in that episode called, Everything I know about life I learned from PowerPoint, by Russell Davies.

That has definitely been a huge help in making sure the slides are as helpful and as engaging as possible.

Then after I've introduced those ideas and concepts, there is the opportunity to reflect on and discuss what I've shared in pairs, in breakout rooms, in small groups in breakout rooms, or together as a whole group in the main Zoom room. I also use worksheets with questions to help prompt your thinking and to record your learning and your ideas.

But I try to make sure the sessions aren't too content heavy or worksheet heavy, because so much learning comes from the discussions and the sharing of ideas and the sharing of experiences between everyone. Each group has got their own playlist of songs made up of each group member's favourite song.


So I ask in the WhatsApp group at the very beginning of Inspiring HR for everyone to share a song that they would like to have, that they would like to listen to. Because I know that for lots of people, if they're having to think about something, if they're having to jot things down. They like to have some music in the background. So we have that song list, that playlist playing in the background, whenever there's time for reflecting or completing a worksheet individually instead of in pairs or groups.

So even though I just said after we have the ideas and theory introduced at the beginning, there's then the opportunity to discuss it. Sometimes I'll also give you time on your own to think about it on your own first, before you then talk about it with everybody else.

In some of the group sessions, there is also room built in for people to bring a challenge that they're currently experiencing at work to the group and to ask for advice on how they can solve it.


There's always an amazing energy in the Zoom room when everyone starts building on each other's ideas and suggestions. It isn't just a case of someone saying, This is my challenge. Can anyone help? There are lots of group facilitation and group coaching techniques that are used to help make it a really energized and productive and helpful experience.

So it isn't just deathly silence while everyone sits there thinking, well, I don't know what advice to give.

Once each group session has finished, everyone receives a private recording of the session so they can watch it back if they would like to. And I've heard from lots of previous members of Inspiring HR who have said they've watched the videos back several times throughout the rest of the year to remind themselves of what they learn because we do cover quite a lot in them, so I know it's helpful for everyone to have a record. And for anyone who is super keen to take a deeper dive into a particular topic or extend their learning even more, I also make sure that I send out links to any books, articles, and videos that will let them do this.


th of September,:

for two hours over Zoom from:

If you're listening to this in the future or after all the spaces have been taken, you'll see that there is the option of joining the waiting list. So you'll be one of the first people to hear when I'll be running it again.


Thank you so much for listening all the way to the end of today's episode, especially as it has been quite different to the usual HR Coffee Time episodes.

And if after listening to everything about Inspiring HR, you'd like to join it. I'm looking forward to meeting and working with you soon.

Take care. Have a great week, and I will be back again next Friday with a fantastic guest who shares how she created the first-ever People Strategy for the business she works in.

It's one of several episodes I have coming up for you about strategy, after I've heard from lots of listeners asking me to cover strategy more on the podcast. I really hope you're going to enjoy hearing them.




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