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A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles



There are moments of serendipity in life. Some come quickly, some work on a slower burn.  Some are obvious and some……well they take you a lifetime to realise.  Life is twisted and complex, lightness and darkness, it is baby kisses and sinister sneers. But it is all that we have, all that we need and has a richness that can take your breath away.

It is 2008 and my life is not what it should be. I know that, but I am caught in a series of events, behaviours and habits that are continuing to propel my ship down the river without a captain or course. The rocks that should exist in my life are instead crumbling pillars. Whether at home or at work all I experience is frustration, disappointment and inequity of reward for effort. Days are a fuzzy haze that roll into one another, tasks get completed, work gets done but without any sense of achievement.

The Company is a big FTSE100, the place where I have spent most of my career. I’ve risen through the ranks. Around me I have the best team of people who I have ever worked with. A real collection of talents. We’ve been delivering fantastic results. Not just by my standards, we are being recognised externally.  But inside I don’t really care anymore. The company and I have been going our separate ways for a while.  The only thing that keeps us together is the financial impact of being apart. It would be messy and of course there are the kids to think about too……

I am gliding in a sort of free form, uncontrolled, headless career suicide kind of way. From the outside it probably looks ok. Senior management role with a big company, share options, final salary pension, company car and a month’s worth of holidays a year. But the truth is I’m not moving and more and more the people who I see around me are alien. Whilst we are delivering, they are getting promoted based on politics and the schmooze. Whilst we are adding value, they are building empires and castles on sand.

If you do what I do the calls from headhunters are not uncommon. But, nine times out of ten the role isn’t right, the location isn’t right or the package isn’t right. The other one out of ten, you’re not right. Sometimes, however,……sometimes we laugh in the face of statistics and something amazing happens. On this particular occasion I was a wild card, because they had trawled their industry and failed to find a hire.  They on the other hand were a trophy to assuage my ego….to show that people still wanted me, still valued me.  The funny thing was though….well, we kind of hit it off.

When I resigned, the Group HRD pulled me into his office and in no uncertain terms told me that I was committing career suicide and that I should seriously consider my decision – a conversation that reinforced more than anything else my decision to leave.  The MD would not meet my eye and shunned me for the period of my notice…..draining the last drop of respect that I had for them. And in September 2008 I upped sticks and left.

The two years have been up and down.  It hasn’t been the easiest period of time to be in work never mind to be an HR Director.  The first six months I felt like a fish out of water….not least because that is exactly what I was. The purging of the corporate world from my every sinew was slow and painful and confusing.  In March 2009 I started writing a little blog called L’enfer c’est les autres as a way of expressing what I was going through and how I was starting to think. In November that year it became My Hell is Other People.  Through the blog and through Twitter I have met many people who I am proud to have beside me and to call my friends.

I’ve started to think differently about the world of work, about HR and about people. I’ve remembered the importance of creativity in the way in which we approach our lives and I’ve relit the creative flame within myself.  I don’t do things the way most HR Directors do things……and I’m ok with that. I don’t think the way that the journals tell you to do……and I’m ok with that.  I’m finally starting to feel and be me……and I’m ok with that too.  And so, thankfully, is my business.  A little while ago, for the first time in their long and illustrious history and in  they took the step to appoint their HR Director to the main board.

There are moments of serendipity in life. Without the hard times there wouldn’t be the good times. Without the sadness there would be no joy and without failure there would never be success.

Thank you all for your support and help on the way. x

10 Comments leave one →
  1. 11/22/2010 09:12

    Nice words on a Monday morning.

  2. 11/22/2010 09:13

    Holy crap – you’re not me are you? Only more important and grumpier…?

    Good work – keep it going 🙂

  3. Sukh Pabial permalink
    11/22/2010 09:48

    Congratulations to you good sir. *standing ovation* 😀

  4. 11/22/2010 11:22


  5. robjones_tring permalink
    11/22/2010 12:00

    Oh Captain, my Captain!

  6. 11/22/2010 12:17

    You owe me a drink then!

  7. 11/22/2010 13:35

    Thank you!

  8. 11/22/2010 14:13

    Serendipity is a curious thing alright. Without having seen your post today, I was writing mine. It’s not a personal story, but it shares some of the gratitude and hope you express here.

    Thank God you don’t do things the way other HRDs do, or the way the journals do!

    And well done on your successes over the last couple of years. It sounds like they haven’t been easy, but I suspect if they had been, you’d’ve been bored!

    It’s good to connect with you 🙂

  9. 11/24/2010 10:17

    @farscapedev – Thanks….I can be touchy feely sometimes!

    @Doug Shaw – We are one……….

    @Sukh Pabial – Thanks 🙂

    @Stephen O’Donnell – Ditto 🙂

    @robjones_tring – Are you asking for the arse grab again?

    @Henry – Give me a date and it is on me.

    @Etienne – Welcome!

    @Christine Livingstone – Bless you… was lovely to read what you wrote too. Serendipity indeed…..


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