On the 11th October I’ve attended a DisruptHR event in Manchester. It was in an interesting format as there were 12 speakers who had only 5 minutes each (and they stuck to it!). I think that it actually worked well and we could take something out of this. The next one is confirmed for March 2018- check the details here!

The below is my subjective write- up on the event, that could be summarised as: 

Ways of working– create good habits, make everyday efforts to practice, think about your “why”- the purpose,  and bring value in whatever you do; cover the basics; things progress in daily efforts and practice.

Interaction– the future of work is…human! Support each others, be inclusive, people are our branding and it happens through the way we interact with them, let’s create communities and collaborate, let’s break the silos!

Learn and develop– I am a little bit obsessed with Carol Dweck’ s  growth mindset… and so for me it was good to see her work being referenced to in different presentations. The key messages for me in the learning and development context were: neuroplasticity and ability of our brain to be re-wired, the importance of growing our talents, being curious, aiming for the best, being reflective and purposeful;

Over to the presenters (and my notes):

Ben Gledhill

·         You don’t own the employer brand, your people do!

·         Job ads should be telling your story, don’t copy and paste job descriptions.

·         Social media should shout the EVP.

·         Everyone has an employer branding… it is what your employees are saying about you.

Caroline Dakin

·         I really liked this one: “ My brain has too many taps open…”.

·         You can train your brain- neuroplasticity that talks about ability to re-wire our brain.

·         We need to have good sleep! Yes, we do!

·         Be open to change!

·         Taking care of the protection factors:

1)      Psychological

2)      Physical: habits and practice

Good to think how we design our interaction around these two elements – it is about mentoring, wellness, educating people.

Stuart Blythe

·         Using sport analogy, the conclusion was to recruit the best talent and train them, which will automatically grow succession.

·         The only job of Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola is to find talent and to train them.

·         Clients often say that they would like an easier life and stop fire-fighting; the solution is to have:

1)      Clear vision

2)      Motivated people

3)      Best talent

 The common challenges with this are: fog vision, demotivated people and not the best talent.

Ian PettigrewIan’s presentation was resonating particularly well with me, as he was talking about different concepts, researches and findings in the field of HR and the possible disagreements it may be causing in the HR debate. For example, do we encourage success or celebrate failure; are we driven to help people or “When helping hurts”? Should we listen to our gut feelings or look for evidence based HR? etc.

 The answer is: It Depends! It is all in the context and it is often both.

Sandy Wilkie

·         HR is often found working in silos and not working with other departments, HR included.

·         HR spends too much effort on saying what people can’t do rather than what they can.

·         Quoting after Lucy Adams “stop making the irrelevant more efficient”, let’s create real value.

·         Focus more on enabling rather than creating rules.

·         Quoting after Urlich- we should adapt a more holistic approach to our work.

·         Treat workplace and think about it as of communities.

·         “HR should be beautifully messy”!

And interestingly, it takes the “DisruptHR” to come to a conclusion, that the future of work is …human!

Kate Vokes

·         Let’s talk what success means to us, more than the job title.

·         Simon Sinek and his “Start with why”.

·         Quoting Albert Einstein “Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value”.

·         And a quote I particularly liked… a little bit of a reassurance in our daily struggles… “The ones who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones that do”.

·         Examples of Zappos and their self- managing teams.

·         We should get comfortable in leaving in the shades of grey.

·         Daniel Pink and his autonomy, purpose and mastery.

·         We should think about hierarchy versus network more.

My take on this is to encourage thinking what is our why and what value do we want to bring.


Gary Cookson·         Interesting take on the work- life balance and how those two can interchange through our lives giving spaces for hobby and work, clearing the mind and moving things forward.

·         My take: similar concept to the “Seven day weekend” and to this podcast: http://coachingforleaders.com/podcast/315/

Stephen Russel

·          Stephen talked about “deliberate practice”; used example from the sport day: for business everyday is the match day, we feel like we don’t have time to practice and we loose time, but we should find time to practice and getting better. Long term it pays off. It is like rugby players in training for peripheral vision so they can spot the ball quicker.

·         We should have permission to talk about basics.

·         Check out the Feynman technique.

·         “Champions don’t do extraordinary things. They do ordinary things, but they do them without thinking, too fast for the other team to react. They follow the habits they’ve learned” – Tony Dungry- Super bowl winning coach.

Mark Gilroy

·         Pay attention to the words we choose – i.e. talent pool- which sets a limitation.

·         Talent isn’t fixed, can be leveraged and grown.

·         Carol Dweck and the importance of the growth mindset.

·         Danger of using grids and boxes.

·         Huge importance of the context and talent will flex.

·         Talent isn’t about you versus company, it is about us; it is contagious.

·         Importance of inclusion, curiosity.


NAthan Quriach

·         Tech versus candidate experience- research outcomes.

·         62% graduates candidates would like to have more feedback from employers.

·         Graduate recruiters lack resources, staff and access to an audience to help them achieve their targets and exist in a hugely competitive market.

·         Organisations lack budget and time to build a positive candidate experience.

·         For grads learning through practice is pivotal.

·         Pick up the phone…- experience on a CV might not convey what you are hoping to see but an honest chat with a candidate could do.


Chris Haynes

·         Key is in the control of attention- what is happening now and not what could have happened.

·         Control circles: what you can control versus what you can’t, what you can influence.

·         Predictable source of pressure: Expectations, Scrutiny, consequences.

·         Predictable responses to pressure: Aggressive, Passive, Escape.

·         Importance of the growth mindset.

Laura Taylor

·         First impressions are permanent and they are accurate at 70%, which happens within first 4 seconds!

·         Smile is a reward!

The night concluded with  an encouraging  video on How to start a movement  

I am looking forward to the March Edition of DisruptHR Manchester!




Managing when you Speak English as a Second Language

translation 1   translating

(Photo: tourist using Polish phrase book in Krakow’s market)

I recently came across a Lifeworks resource for managers titled “Managing Employees Who Speak English asa Second Language” (you can search for it if you have the Lifeworks account). I found this guide useful and quite naturally it made me reflect on my own experience as a non native speaker.

I still remember how 9 years ago it took me at least good 30 minutes before making my very first work phone call in English. It was a very simple conversation I was about to have, but it really stressed me. I now deliver training, always pick up the phone first rather than write an email. After all, I work in HR, and I talk to people on the regular basis. I may not be afraid of making phone calls anymore, but I am still very self- conscious when it comes to my accent and my use of English.

This is my subjective guide on managing ourselves whenwe speak English as a Second Language:

  1. Don’t assume native speakers would know how it is to speak English as a second language. As Wislawa Szymborska wrote: “we know about ourselves only what we’ve been tested”; Unless you were in a situation yourself, it is rather hard to expect that people would just know how it feels, which brings me to the next point:
  2. Help others help you. Raise awareness on how it is for you not to be fluent in English or to be coming from a different country. Don’t be afraid to share your challenges, insecurities that lack of fluency may bring, ask for patience and be patient yourself!
  3. Appreciate that it may be hard for others to understand you- don’t take it personally and do your bit! (see point 4)
  4. Immerse yourself in the language- read, listen to the radio, podcasts, audiobooks. Use dictionaries. Sign up for English lessons, ask your colleagues to correct you, ask for feedback, pay attention to how the words are pronounced. Slow down if need to (something I really need to work on!), talk to people and practice.
  5. Did I mention something about not taking it personally…? Well, as tempting as it may be, don’t just jump into conclusion that if things don’t go your way, it must be only because of your language skills. Be honest with yourself and evaluate the root causes. Ask for help, talk to your manager and HR (of course!).
  6. Expand on the ways you communicate with others and showcase your point of view: write a report, an essay, summarise your points in an email, prepare a presentation, engage with people who can represent you, build on your strengths.
  7. Come prepared to meetings- don’t know the exact agenda? Ask for one!
  8. Ever felt silly about not getting a joke, asking for a sentence to be repeated for you, not being understood? Well, it is good to remember that this does not reflect on your capabilities nor intelligence. Don’t be afraid to ask for the joke to be explained to you (often you will find that there is a cultural context you were missing on), ask your colleagues to speak slower, try different ways of putting your point across, don’t give up and don’t pretend you understood something if you didn’t- you may be agreeing to  or with something you would rather not to!
  9. I would like to believe that longer term, it is not what accent you speak with,  but what you do and how you approach the challenges that speaks who you are.
  10. Engage with people who show interest in your multilingualism, even if you find the question to be very obvious. If someone asks- share your experiences and offer insights. I’ve always had great conversations which started with questions like- do you take notes in English or in Polish? What language are you thinking in? What language do you speak at home? Are your children bilingual? How do you teach them Polish etc.. I actually only recently understood why people asked me if I took notes in English. It was so obvious to me that this was the only way of doing it that I could not see pass it! It was only after having a very interesting conversation with a colleague of mine when I realised people may imagine that when we speak another language, we “translate” it back and “overhear” it into our own language. As my colleague concluded- it isn’t as using google language tools- seeing a sentence in one language to the left and its translation to the right! We just “get it” the same way native speakers do. Unless we don’t, but then we would not be able to take note of it in our language either!:)
  11. Living in a foreign country may make impact your sense of belonging in both. Communicate, engage, immerse, reach out, stay in touch, be patient. Be proud of your own culture, appreciate and embrace the culture you are living in / working with.
  12. I found that being from a different country makes me see certain patterns, behaviours, culture traces as through a magnifying glass. It raises my self- awareness and awareness of others. Isn’t it great to embrace it?!
  13. Be aware of your own biases! And don’t stereotype others (yes, we -non native speakers- can do that too, -let’s not!).
  14. There may be colleagues who would love to take opportunity to exchange their langue skills for yours! In my first UK work, I’ve organised a “language for language” group among colleagues who were happy to teach each others language they spoke, native English speakers included.Get engage in work initiatives on diversity and inclusion. You don’t have one? Start one!
  15. Not to mention organising national cuisine days or treating your colleagues to your national sweets (I do it too- there is nothing like a good culture immersion excuse to eat chocolate!;)

I like to have my tea black (and green), I like fish and chips on a Friday. When speaking in English, I tend to overuse plural forms (apparently so), I speak fast thinking it masks my accent, but it really only magnifies it… I don’t always like to answer “fine” when asked how I am, but I like how useful it is to use “how are you” to start a conversation…I talk with my family and friends in Polish, I read and write mainly in English. I find it so hard to speak about work related aspects in Polish, as all sentences and words come to me in English first, even thought that with a Polish accent. As much as I sometimes feel trapped in my accent or the two realities, I could not be more grateful for the opportunities, perspectives and insights my multilingualism brings to me! And I could not be more grateful to all my British colleagues over the years for being patient, understanding, accepting and ever so helpful with me!

Making train connections. And connecting.




I was recently travelling on a train from London. The train was full, there were delays and cancellations, I’ve managed to get a sit though. Maybe there was something about the unusual (?) situation with many trains being cancelled, maybe there was that mixed sense of gain and lost when we heard that the train was declassified (but could not be bothered to change the sit after feeling happy to get one in the first place), maybe it was just the right moment and place, but a magic happened and I made a connection with other co-passengers whilst connecting trains.

It was four of us- strangers who happened to sit next to each others- chatting, smiling, advising, asking, answering, sharing, listening.

It felt so good! Even better than checking the Facebook feeds (Sic!). We all talked about how nice this spontaneous conversation made us feel!

In fact, there is something special about making connections between people, and Jan Hills from HeadHeart+Brain actually called social connection a “super power”- check the full article here. She says:

“Our well-being depends on connections with others: this is a primary need in the brain. (In other words Maslow got his hierarchy of human needs wrong: physical needs followed by safety needs, followed by social needs… Social relationships are as essential as food, water and shelter.)”.

Whilst I am not actively encouraging to talking to strangers, this train journey did remind me of how special making connection can be, and how good it makes us feel. Placing this reminder in a HR context, and quoting after the article, these are examples of how the need for social connection plays out in business policy and practice that is worth exploring:

Trust in the workplace


Social rewards



Connecting trains got me also to my destination, and on the way I found a dose of inspiration – more in the video. 

sparking connections











Happy Mother’s Day!

Today it is a mother’s day in  Poland, and as I am a mother and I am Polish, I thought of treating myself by giving the beginning to this blog I’ve been thinking about for quite some time now…

Speaking about parenting, who hasn’t seen yet that BBC interview about South Korea with kids crushing it?

The kids entered the room whilst their daddy was busy making a live TV appearance. Other than noticing the kids, has anyone noticed that the dad was filming while, essentially, working from home? He had that flexibility as he had his wife taking care of the children (even thought it din’t quite go according to the plan) whilst he was being filmed.

I do not know the background story, but it all looks very familiar to me- me and my husband swapping the caring duties between ourselves so the other one can fulfil the work and personal commitments. I am also very familiar with the kids entering the room I would rather them not to (for various reasons, not necessary for needing to give a BBC live interview),  just as in the below example. This is when they decided to check on what’s mummy up to whilst I was preparing a video for my work (I had the luxury of this not being a live streaming though):

My personal experience tells me that without the support of my husband, I would have struggled in managing the work, family and personal commitments. Knowing that his employer shows an understanding to the family life interruptions is as important to me, as knowing that so does mine. However, the CIPD report “Labour Market Outlook “from December 2016 found that employers create further barriers to balancing work and care commitments through lack of additional provisions. “For instance, just 30% of respondents said their organisation proactively promotes flexible working options to employees who have caring responsibilities, and only 11% say they have a childcare policy covering the range of support available to working parents”.

Quickly, a remake of the interrupted interview has been made. This time it was a mother version who dealt with the situation in a slightly different manner:


It seemed that the implied message was that working mums are better than fathers at managing work and family life, multitasking and having it all under control . I won’t be debating this topic, especially after sharing the appreciation to the shared caring responsibilities. However, it is interesting, how different we, females, can be when it comes to affronting challenges at work and in the motherhood.

When we become first time mothers- without any prior experience nor qualification in  the matter- we just do it. Each day we take on the everyday challenges and deal with them. We seek advise when we need to, and say- no, thank you- if we don’t. We listen to the intuition when we feel like it, and we educate ourselves if we want to. Even if there are moments of self- doubt, we don’t stop moving on. However, we do not tend to execute the same approach at work. We often do not take on challenges in a fear of being “caught” of not knowing it all, or not being good enough.  This phenomenon actually has a name and it is called an “impostor syndrome”.

Fully aware of its existence and having a full appreciation to my motherhood experiences, I take on this step of allowing myself to become vulnerable and confront my fears to see where this experiment can take me to when it comes to learning outcomes!

Happy Mother’s Day!