5. October 2023

‘Never forget to say thank you’: Karen Blackett OBE at HUG

Karen Blackett OBE at HUG by Personio

Today in London, hundreds of HR leaders and other inspirational speakers gathered for HUG 2023, our biggest HR event of the year. Joining us for our third guest keynote of the day was the award-winning CEO Karen Blackett OBE, who shared a number of incredible insights from her impressive career of over 25 years leading teams in marketing communications.

Here are three of the most important pieces of wisdom she had to share with HUG attendees.

1. Be aware of the following when facing change:

There are four big factors influencing organisations going through change, and they can have an adverse influence on an organisation unless leaders manage them well. Here's what to look out for:

  1. We live in a VUCA world. Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity have summed up the last few years of our collective macroeconomic environment, and that won't change any time soon.

  2. Technological developments can bring more stress. AI may be an enabler and efficiency boost, but many are concerned about job loss as generative AI advances in its capabilities. Hybrid work throws another spanner into the works that every employee is dealing with.

  3. With change comes the "Learning Dip." When you learn something new, your performance dips until you get to grips with it. This can trigger four fears. There will be members of your team experiencing these fears, and they can have a huge impact on mental health:

    1. Fear of temporary incompetence

    2. Fear of punishment for temporary incompetence

    3. Fear of loss of personal identity 

    4. Fear of loss of group membership

  4. People downplay, or "cover", their differences relative to mainstream perceptions. This is costly both to productivity and the sense of self.

Karen Blackett on stage at HUG by Personio

2. Manage change factors with these strategies:

To manage those factors that organisations face when changing rapidly, leaders must employ these five strategies:

  1. Check your circle. If the people you regularly go to when you need advice are too much like you, you're not doing enough. Make sure your trusted advisors are as diverse as possible to avoid groupthink.

  2. Focus on behaviours as well as competencies — especially when promoting people. Emotional intelligence is seven times more impactful than IQ when it comes to impacting organisations.

  3. Understand the trust equation. Leaders of organisations going through change need to make sure they have trust in managers.

  4. Allyship is essential. Any organisation changing rapidly has to ensure allyship is in place. Inclusive leadership means you highlight other people — keep those individuals in, ensure they stay and ensure that culturally they land.

  5. Look after yourself. You can only be the right leader through times of change when you're protecting your mental health. Embrace "LOMO" — Love Of Missing Out — switch off your emails, relax, and come back to them reenergised and ready to jump back in.

"I heavily endorse and support sponsorship programmes. It’s about using your privilege and position of power to champion and promote individuals who can make a huge difference. Talk about their talent in a room that they do not have access to."

3. Don't forget that gratitude is everything

Karen emphasised that when organisations are going through a lot of change it feels like everything’s happening at once, so it's essential to acknowledge the small wins and thank the team members who made them happen: "Never forget to say thank you."

Stay tuned as we report live from HUG throughout the day. Still to come – read insights on AI from technology experts Tom Cheesewright and Dan Sodergren.

Anna Jager-Elliott

Anna Jager-Elliott

Anna Jager-Elliott is a Senior Content Strategist at Personio. She enjoys watching trends emerge in the world of work and writing about how they'll affect our day-to-day experiences.

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