Best Behaviour – Empowering managers and HR leaders to coach and align employee behaviour to supercharge growth

Best Behaviour – Empowering managers and HR leaders to coach and align employee behaviour to supercharge growth

Author: Tony Holmwood
Review by: Graham White

My usual approach to reviewing books such as BEST BEHAVIOUR has always been to read the preface first and then to stop and consider what I am in store for. Expectation, when reading new books, is critical to ensure you remain in a state of anticipation. This heightened state allows you the luxury of always expecting more and so every page turn holds a potential new piece of information or clarification about the subject in question. In support of this approach, I also take the opportunity to pre-read a few selected reviews to get a feel for what the “industry” is thinking about the book and to help me identify what revelations and emotional experiences others have felt as they explored the thinking of the author.

In the case of Best Behaviour and the Balanced Behaviour Development Model (BBDM) I did both and found myself gripped with both expectation and scepticism. Having read the preface and reviews, I was left with no doubt of the confidence of the writer that I held in my hands and that he believed he had the solution for many of the ills hampering modern organisations. I don’t ever recall reading a book so self-confident in its content or a writer so unafraid to make promises that will be easily tested. In his own words, Holmwood confirms very early on that his “theories are provocative” and his statements are “big” and “bold”. The preface read like a Scott/Watson “creature of suggestion” psychologically constructed advertisement from the early 20th century which is not a bad thing but does drive expectations even further in a 21st Century where every public promise is analysed to death. I had not even finished page one when I had already been asked to consider am I struggling under the burden of regulatory compliance, am I finding it difficult to keep my employees motivated, would I like to be more respected, and before this first page ends I am assured This book will present me with a strategy that will do this and change the face of HR…….”   

However, I have shelves of books that make similar promises, I am bombarded by articles and papers purporting to offer the same pandoras box of HR solutions. And whilst many are not as emotive or as suggestive as BEST BEHAVIOUR they all still make promises that their pages hold within them the knowledge and guidance that will make it possible for me to transform my workforce culture and “supercharge” growth. Furthermore, many other books promising similar awareness are written by experienced HR professionals and not a chartered accountant. So, what is it about this book that makes it different, why choose this over so many others? Why should I believe that unlike so many before it this publication finally has within its two hundred and fifty one pages the potential to be a tool chest of advice, direction and instruction that will reinvigorate the profession of HR and put it back in its rightful place as the powerhouse of an organisation.

Having read many reviews of this book it is clearly a publication that is turning heads if not opinions. A host of leading practitioners, advisors and thinkers are all looking to this publication as a potential game changer and already seeking to persuade every reader to apply this approach. It is even suggested that implementing the information in this book will give the reader an “almost unfair advantage in their ability to harness people power.” Having worked for almost all my working life in HR I can tell you that this book is not for the faint hearted or weak willed. This book is not just another shelf ornament or something to talk about at the next meeting of your professional body. This book has the potential, if taken seriously to turn your world on its head.

To be clear, this book is not claiming a new eureka moment, it does not rely on a sudden, unexpected realisation of a long-sought solution to the problem of outdated, suspicious panopticon leadership phobias and it does not rely on new revolutionary workplace remodelling. What it does, and does very well is that it takes many of the well tested and extremely powerful tools and techniques of life such as emotional intelligence from the workplace, the home, academia, and health which when brought together into a single strategy within the “Balanced Behavioural Development Model (BBDM), creates a potential roadmap for transformational change and accelerated growth.

It is not my plan to reveal the content of this publication or give away any of its magic bullets. Neither do I want to suggest the readership pool would be a small inclusive HR fraternity, but I would urge every HR professional with a real desire to retake the high moral ground of their organisation to read and digest this book now. To gain most impact from this book I would urge that you read it and then read it again. Only after that can you start to decipher how to overlay the learning onto your organisational and at times personal life design. As you navigate the early chapters you are compelled to mirror yourself to the author and test how your life, public and private has followed or not the hurdles and highs of his. With little difficulty you will read and feel the impact and anguish in the life of Holmwood and how the experiences he has had have all played a vital part in equipping him with the skills and knowledge to produce this publication. There are many moments of brilliance in the book that stand alone as points of learning. As I read the book, I developed the art of capturing these moments on paper to be able to refer back to them and reflect on them at appropriate times.  There are too many to mention but when you read the book look out for the grandmother who revealed to the young future author that the key to longevity was “attitude, gratitude and positive thinking”. As you read about the comparison between HR and IT don’t be surprised to read that “Agile work practices are not only for IT projects”  and my favourite, in the first half of the book is “our mood determines the extent we connect to life (paraphrase)”.

Part one of the book concludes with a truth that sits at the heart of what HR should be attempting to contribute to organisations. “Perception is the lens we view the world through” and whilst the writer has explained much of this perception has already evolved in childhood, we in HR still have the potential to correct any negative flow and redirect our workforce perceptions. In some unique and thought-provoking ways, we reach the mid-point of the book carrying into part two the burden that we need to discover how we can ensure those we lead have the greatest opportunity to develop their levels of perception.

Turning to Holmwood’s perceptive interpretation of the fall of HR don’t be fooled into thinking it reads like a gentle narrative popping up regularly in the text and at times may even feel a little apologetic. The reality is Holmwood confirms the underlying message of BEST BEHAVIOUR is that HR failed when it was needed most. When the first signs of undermining and deskilling were muted HR failed to take a stand. Don’t be surprised when reading the book and reaching the latter quarter that you rush to view and assign yourself and your HR colleagues to positions on the BBDM development stages. And don’t be impressed that you think your above stage one?

HR to its discredit has so far failed to heed the bold call-to-arms for each one of us to halt the rot and to turn the tide of HR’s failing influence. The book does not hold its punches as it reveals that corporate greed and short-termism played a major part in the fall of HR however it also clearly identifies the lack of backbone across the profession as HR leaders flexed to embrace this new interpretation of the value of HR instead of pushing back. Pointing to recorded examples it shows how many of the great global organisations found it very easy to label HR as an overhead or an unnecessary cost, something to cause all of us in HR to hang our heads in shame.

Whilst I would not be so presumptuous to suggest there is only one solution to reengaging with a workforce and stemming the failure of HR to realise the true value of a workforce, I do believe Holmwood like the alchemists of old, has brought together many tried and tested philosophies, research, practical testing and experience both good and bad to create a golden opportunity for HR to retake its place as the champion of transformational change. The damage done to date may not be recoverable but looking to the advice, direction and good practice outlined in this book there is a real potential for individual HR teams to regain their mainstream position as a co-equal partner of corporate strategy.

As a final footnote I am compelled to suggest that this book goes much wider in its influence and whilst its focus and terminology points to empowering managers and HR teams to develop people strategies to enhance workforce contribution, I would also suggest that the book holds many strong themes that would, as easily, be helpful to support and encourage individuals in their personal lives and whole-life development. Consequently, I would commend this book to anyone who feels they have more to give and get from their job, their relationships, their family and their life.

Graham White, Retired HR Director