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Rubber hits the road in Copenhagen


It was almost exactly a year ago today, that whilst on a work conference call, my finger nervously lingered over the entry button of KMD Ironman Copenhagen. With many online entries it takes many attempts to log on and get success first time. However, whilst conversing about some HR matter or other, to my surprise, my entry was complete, accepted and credit card debited. Gulp…..
What middle age crisis was I trying to fix? Don’t most men my age by a sports car or take up golf? With the deed done, the fear excitement, sheer bloody stupidity dawned on me….How was I ever going to complete a 3.8km swim 180km bike ride, and a 42.2 k run all within 15 hrs 45 mins ?
Fast forward 365 days, endless training sessions. cold winter mornings on the roads, early morning swims where I could barely lift my eyelids and back to back Brick sessions 4 hours on the bike followed by runs, looking like John Wayne. And the indoor Turbo sessions… Oh the boredom. How can any sane individual spend 3 hours indoors on a stationary bike? Clearly,driven by an immense goal, obsession and madness takeover.
Here I am with 6 other buddies from Leighton Buzzard who had fallen for the lure of the greatest endurance race.
As Glen and I set off from our apartment on the Copenhagen metro at 530am, the irony not 

lost on us as we bumped into revellers coming back from the clubs and pubs, munching on kebabs and mac as, here we were braced for the Unknown. We had, of course, completed the training, but never could we replicate the 3 disciplines back to back. Swimming with 3200 others was immense, and I hadn’t run more than 15km in training due to an injury.
Crossing the bridge to the start as the sun rose of over the sea, the 10 minute walk to the ‘ village’ was surreal. Music was playing somewhere in the distance, the tannoy announcements lost on the wind, but as we approached, daylight appearing, here we were……the ultimate race. We were very quiet. The nerves were now upon me. Flashing through my head were just the words of my coach – ‘ If you remember 10 % of what I have told you, you will be an ironman’…..maybe but my head was still trying to re,ember 5 % and not collapse with nerves.
7:05 am came and the elites were off…. Another 20 minutes and the masses were in the water.

My time came – a shake of the hand and we are off…. The scandanavian water surprisingly warm, and I’m in…. The first 100 metres desperately trying to hold back – it’s a long day after all. Keep focussed and disciplined was my mantra -I was actually enjoying this. The training was remembered , long slow strokes, keep out of trouble.Even the chaos of the turns were ok. Before I knew the swim finish approached, and a helping hand out of the water, seeing Debbie, Joe and Izzi was a boost and T1….Wow, we really were in the race and all good.
Out of T1 a bit of a blur,I just had to remember keep eating – keep the calories up and only 179km left…. The bike saw us navigate a few km of the flat city of Copenhagen before heading out along the coast…. A tailwind kindly pushing us at an easy speed. So far so good; keep the mantra of keep eating and drinking. 40km in feeling a good and we hit the ‘hills’. Copenhagen maybe flat but the outskirts have a few interesting twists and turns and climbs and the wind turned against us and the weather. The Danish weather is more unpredictable than the British. We suffered a drenching from a storm front,luckily this one only lasted a few minutes. But drenched and wind against – this is now a tougher prospect than the first 90 mins.
Then the turn for lap 2…. I m lapped by the elites who are heading in for T2 as I am heading for lap 2…Motivational?You can say there was a small dip in mood. But ‘keep eating’ keeps the mood up…Knowing that the coastal tail wind was about to bring some relief, lifted the spirits. In keeping with the unpredictability of the weather another heavy lashing of rain was about to give an unwelcome drenching…. But we are on the countdown…
50km to – I had passed my longest ride in training, but I was feeling good. I really did have this – everything was going to plan.The roads in Denmark, unlike our pothole ridden bone shakers, really make biking enjoyable and quick. This really was fun 40km and 30k to go pass by in a flash – one more nasty climb until the home stretch, 10k and we are turning back into the City and the support. Soon enough, we are in the city centre and the noise was incredible. T2 and underground Car Park.I am here, in good time – in all honesty I hadn’t taken any notice of the watch. So no real idea of the pace but I am feeling ok.
A quick drink of the favoured Banana milk – helmet and shoes off – trainers on and we are away – just a marathon to go!
As I’m out of T2 there they were Izzi, Debbie and Joe,right there what a boost. A quick photo and I am away. 4 and a bit laps of Copenhagen. The support is amazing tight streets lined with restaurants and bars tight against the course. In the dark times this is a real boost
I am feeling good but the doubts were there, would the knee hold out – could I sustain a steady pace pain free. Lap 1 ok – I a counting this as 5 separate park runs with a 2k cool down. Lap 1 complete,only 5 parkruns to go. Lap 2 the knee starts to play up but come on we can just walk through the the pain and get well needed nutrition. Respond to the support – and 20k done – 4 parkruns to go….
Lap 3 I see the support crew – clearly they have been for some food and a rest – it’s tough being a supporter….A quick chat and I tell them I have only 3.5 parkruns to go…They think I am stark raving mad but nod and smile as only supporters can. But only 17km to go. We have this nailed. I run past the finish for the 3rd time as the familiar cry is heard – ” You are an Ironman’! 
Only about 12km to go and I see the crew again – Izzi cries ‘Dad the next time we see you, you will be an Ironman…..ok we have this now – I pickup the final wristband, and the home straight 10k left.We wind our way through the narrow streets for the final time and the Danish weather gives us a little boost – a torrential downpour that lasted a good 20 mins. Proper cross country weather, I feel at home as feet are aquaplaning inside my shoes…
The last 6k – of course the quads are super tight now. But there is nothing that will prevent the finish. With 2k to go you can hear the announcer and see the lights – this is it – those months and months of training and here we are _ I turn into the finish and here the infamous words ‘You are an Ironman’ – I see the crew and wow! I did it – it is real. Emotions tumble through me relief, joy and pride and exhaustion. But there was the medal around my neck. Done…. 14hrs 17
Out of the finisher area and everyone is there amazing – all of the people of who have been supportive, understanding and probably thinking I was an idiot but stayed quiet, it’s done. A massive hug – and then the need for a Big Mac…..The hunger was immense.
Was it worth it ? You bet – the best race experience ever. Training loved it ! And I learnt so much. A special thank you to Mark Kleanthous (Ironmate) who tailored the training programmes and always ensuredI kept the faith even in those dark winter days when I doubted in my abilities. We stuck to the plan – and never deviated -never worked about others. There’s a lesson there.
Would I do it again ? You bet…..

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The Dark Days of Dread…..


No one actually told me that Ironman would inhabit my dreams. Normally a sound sleeper, with not much to worry about, I spent the last week worrying (needlessly having spoken to the coach and mentor)….This is supposed to be enjoyable and I guess I forgot my perspective. 

 So below I’ll share the concerns and, of course, the reasons to counter and embrace and enjoy this amazing journey.

My god – I will never finish, everyone else is training loads

Well of course everyone is an individual – if you have taken the right advice, training 12 hour a week with 6 months to go you are setting yourself up for injury or illness, where is the progression?

The bike – I am riding so slowly and I worry I’ll be like a toddler on a trike…

Don’t be an idiot…. Secondly,it is winter, you go slower, the roads are hideous…

These and many other insecurities bubbled up,but of course, if I use the rational part of my brain the below is true;

1) I have probably never been fitter

2) Why would I want peak performance 6 months before an event, Mo Farah does base training in winter. TO build endurance and stay injury free.I might not be Mo but I want both of those things….

3) I can only control what I do and nobody else….Thank god. If my daughter is reading this, I am assured by my coach that a) I won’t die and b) I will finish in a respectable time. Of course by then she will be 18 and will be allowed to buy me a celebratory beer….Although I probably won’t finish it…..

So thanks Coach…My learning focus on this process.Whatever happens – I will end up fitter,healthier and will have learnt lots on the way…..here goes to a relatively easy week 

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Chocolate Biscuits, The Pool and other Ironman Hazards


Last week you may have heard me perhaps complaining about my committment issues (not romantically) although my partners’ maybe be sorely tested when it comes to cravings regarding chocolate. More of which later…

February has brought a couple of challenges, earlier in the month, the stabilisers came off the bike but another stabiliser, the turbo trainer has become a mild obsession. For those not familiar a static bike stand so that you can ride indoors in the winter. Advantages are that you can avoid dangerous icy roads, avoiding crazy drivers. Disadvantages, anyone living in the house or visiting while you are training, leave the room convinced that this middle aged man in Lycra has completely lost his marbles.

I have no idea what my children think, but thank god they haven’t yet told me. As for my girlfriend, very supportive yet probably pondering the merits of going out with someone obsessed with staring at the wall on a stationary bike quoting motivational mantras. I feel a bit like Gareth Cheeseman for any of those familiar with Steve Coogan.

This weeks major challenge has been the diet. I have been relatively good since Xmas. Alcohol intake reduced hugely, being very good wit a nutritional diet (clearly obsessed I have made a food diary and had it analysed) and hydration. I have managed to avoid the nuttier end of the spectrum, I have no truck with crazy foods or fads or supplements. I am a realist and whilst the merits of a healthy  lifestyle are obvious, I m not going to suffer the opprobrium of friends and family who are desiring a burger and chips whilst I munch on quinoa or alfalfa hoots.

So the challenge….Chocolate biscuits… It seems I am a crazed man when faced with this temptation. Trainspotting  lime addiction is being sorely tested. Like a junkie I am driven to nearly any means to procure them.  Bingeing is not even adequate. Boredom ennui..  And starvation may well be a normal response to this increased level of training.However, as mentioned earlier I am testing my partner’s love and resolve because being the purchaser of said biscuits, she isn’t really getting a fair share. For this I am truly sorry. However, she can be consoled there is no way I could ever be cheating on her. I am too obsessed with Heart Rate zones and wondering what my VO2 max can be ….With Valentine’s Day looming she is in for a treat….

So the title suggests I have something to say about the pool….. I don’t …..125 lengths this week and not even half way through the week…Next week I might be able to get the damned armbands off. Is the sense of mania, boredom and fear coming through ? I hope so…
Until next time.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Jon-Hull5

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Winter nights/Mornings are they worth it?


A rainy Sunday evening in late January, 5 degrees. Today has already seen 90 mins on the turbo trainer and it’s double up day….what sane human being would venture out? All procrastination tactics have been deployed, tax return done, laundry done, shirts ironed, even prepared dinner ( healthy of course). Yet….a dogged 30 mins awaits.

It’s times like this that you read so called ‘ inspirational quotes’ do it for the charity blah, blah blah… I don’t wish to appear dismissive, but this type of event is ultimately self centred. I am a big supporter of the charity Kids Out, that I am raising money for but…this is really about the individual. Do I have the dedication, perseverance ( stupidity if you ask my kids) to take this on? So I venture out…

Having done a few marathons in the past, training for an Ironman teaches you something different. Patience – this really isn’t about beating the body and try not to squeeze a minute here or there. This is really about listening to your body and focus sing on the process. The aim is to ensure we arrive at the start line, healthy and fit so that you can finish in that condition. After all sweating about a few minutes over half a day or so seems pure madness. Also, the training can teach you humility. We all have one weaker discipline. This means we have to work carefully and learn new skills and change mindsets

I am now descending into new age hippy reflection. The training is potentially different for everyone but focus, discipline and humility are incredibly important. So I did make it out for that run. The initial positive was that I lost my frustration with HRMC, it meant my partner didn’t have a grumpy boyfriend on Sunday night. Equilibrium was restored.

If you think my blog was descending into sanctimoniousness  – sorry….However, just to put your mind at rest – I did have a glass of wine or two as reward….

Please comment or share and if you want to donate to a great charity , any donation is welcome

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Jon-Hull5

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My Ironman Journey begin….


Whatever it is that has inspired our small group to do this, I don’t know but the hard work begins here….

Ironman Journey has begun so  rather thinking about buying a sports car or other such extravagance the hard yards start here. August 20th Copenhagen. Over the years I have completed a few marathons – but and Ironman……

So since New Year, instead of looking to sample the local ales on business trips, you find me scouring the local area for swimming pools and or running routes. So far averaging 6 hours of focussed training per week and Pilates. In equal measure excited and daunted. I am an ok runner and Swimmer but cycling…Well at least I don’t need stabilisers. This is a whole new world.

I am motivated by the economist – Tim Harford ( you listen to a lot of podcasts in indoor winter training sessions on the bike) that this type of disruptive nudge (messy he calls it) prompts us to change behaviour and improve. Since entering the event in August – I have become a bit more focussed, a bit better organised and certainly healthier. I sleep better and I do think a bit differently. My daughter is not convinced that a man of my age should be entering these events. (Thanks Izzi) but in for a penny in for a pound….

So to help me keep my eye on the prize I have decided to raise money for Kids Out. A great charity helping disadvantaged youngsters throughout the UK.

So rather than rattling a tin… would you be able to spare a few quid?

https://www.justgiving.com/account/your-pages/Jon-Hull5

 

 

 

 

 

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INTERNAL RESOURCING FUNCTIONS – AN ENABLER OF ORGNISATIONAL COLLABORATION – USE THE POWER


War for Talent, Strategic Resourcing, should HR have a seat at the table? (I guess it depends on the table). Article after article seems to peddle the same myths about talent shortages, perhaps the same people that keep repeating myths about Generation Y and Z having vastly different needs to previous Generations, mainly because of Facebook and Snapchat… (The idea of the ‘GIG’ economy for them is frightening for very rational economic reasons). I will try to make the case here that by having a great Internal Resourcing function, we can dispel some of these myths and show how Resourcing really is an enabler of collaboration within organisations and can deliver the talent needs sustainably without having to rely on outdated myths and poo research from self-styled consultants.

Many of the papers and articles from whatever angle seem to undermine or snipe at the great work that In House Resourcing teams have done since their evolution in the last 15-20 years. The critics seem to be either afraid that organisations are taking control of their Talent and Resourcing needs, finally taking control of their supply. This ultimately threatens the plethora of consultants looking to sell the next set of ‘Emperors New Clothes’.

So it is finally time to mount a defence of our place the world and I aim to demonstrate the real power of an Internal Resourcing function, I hope to demonstrate, is the ability to break organisational silos and enable collaboration across the divisions.

It goes without saying that Resourcing must fulfil the orders… Get the basics right, through good process – yes this important. Without standardisation and technology, there can be no improvement or metrics. Most Resourcing functions aim to do this and the output just depends on their stage of evolution. Often, for an HR function this is first cab off the rank in terms of centralisation, standardisation and this level of change. This cannot be underestimated and is a fundamental building block of creating such an offer. This change is always painful, not least for the multitude of suppliers (Agencies, consultants etc) whose ways of working are disrupted for the long term.

Once the foundations are solid, this enables Resourcing to become a change agent and enabler. When I was first at Deloitte, (many years ago), thorough some market research we realised that the supply of newly qualified accountants in the UK for their roles would never match the true supply. So far nothing ground breaking here, however we suggested joint scouting trips across South East Asia and India to fulfil this need. Knowing there to be equivalent qualifications and standards and good language skills. So far, so normal…

However, the blocker to progress here was challenging the organisational silos. Several regions feared the big cities might get an over supply, leaving the smaller regional offices with no candidates. This view is understandable, but with market and candidate knowledge, their fears were allayed. But the major prize here was fostering collaboration between these teams in order to improve the organisation. Through presentation of the data and stakeholder engagement this happened. Resourcing was the only department with this insight of the market and, crucially of how the business behaved. We had sight from above the organisation and the market to see what was really happening.

We see this now in Carillion. The competitive landscape for certain skills is seen to be a business limiter. Money spent on external searches, wasted hiring efforts and almost distressed hiring was the norm. However, by analysing the market and internal data, we influence a different way of approaching the behaviours of hiring Managers both within and cross functions. This has some interesting effects – outcomes change, cost is driven down, time is reduced but more importantly a proper discussion and sharing of ideas and talent begins to happen. Because the leadership isn’t fighting fires any longer there is a more considered view of what the needs really are; the focus becomes quality and timing.

In addition, Hiring Manager across functions are able to take a view in ‘what is good for the business’ Where skill sets might fit and think about internal talent or even future talent needs, rather than fighting the next recruiting crisis. One reality of modern business, the biggest headache is finding relevant talent in the right timescales.

Insight the Resourcing world can also spot organisational design flaws… Failed hires in certain areas, with the right questioning can expose structural flaws. Often the candidates have the right skills but the organisation is poorly designed not allowing great candidates to operate to their potential.

Whatever the slick consultants say, there is no other way of doing this sustainably and efficiently unless the organisation takes control of hiring centrally and crucially feeds this back to the business.

The snipers can criticise technology, process, and criticise the brand blah blah…Without a sound organisation, trying to implement anything is just a pipe dream. My consultant friends until you understand the organisational landscape, you are thinking in silos of your own product or service, exactly the sort of behaviours our beloved function is trying to mitigate in our businesses.

In environments where more is expected with less, where insight is king, Resourcing has the data and insight to influence the business, we just need the confidence to take it.

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Is Education Really Failing Business?


Our graduates aren’t fit for work and if we don’t resolve these problems UK plc will lose competitiveness with the emerging economies’ Many of our graduates aren’t ready for the world of work… You may think this sentiment is a recent phenomenon… In reality, business was saying the same thing 20 years ago when I graduated.
In a business landscape that is increasingly difficult to navigate for business and the new entrant – what is the answer? Over the last 20 years successive UK governments have tinkered with our education system with the aim of making it more ‘rigorous’. For politicians this has meant a greater focus on exam results which of course means more success right? The result. A generation of students who know how to pass exams, stick to formulas and making their schools climb ever higher (or not) in the league tables. They want to get right answers.
Whilst our politicians reach for ever simpler answers to complex problems it seems businesses (and educators of all types) have to wrestle with real problems whose solutions may exist in shades of grey. Although our schools like to teach people the ‘answers’, in our dynamic world there is always ambiguity and decisions that call for calm judgement. Sometimes the boss might need to be challenged and disrupted. However, we continue to tinker with an education system designed in the 19th century that is not set up to deal with 21st century problems.
Our research at Carillion suggests that degree class or grade is not the best predictor of success in the roles offered in our business. In reality a whole host of other factors are much better predictors of a successful graduate. These are behavioural as well intellectual (soft skills). They include the ability to build networks across different teams and departments, the intrinsic drive to achieve, and the ability to find solutions to problems (this is not the same as knowing the answer to a problem). In fact knowing how to find the answer might well be more important than actually knowing when navigating your way through large organisations and different roles.
If this is true in the graduate roles, it is equally true in more senior positions. The skill to make judgements based on limited information, managing people in changing environment can’t be taught…..or can they?
I recently attended the launch of new company, MACAT. They believe (backed by some research) that ‘Critical Thinking’ is the missing link for most of our workforce, not just graduates. Simply defined Critical Thinking is an approach to problem solving, analysis, self awareness and ability maintain curiosity and have the confidence to ask great questions leading to better decisions. The early research suggests that it can be taught or learnt, and when people engage with it, the benefits for business and the individual are valuable.
This is not some new ‘tech’ company that is selling a platform, a host of great minds from the Academic world are arguing the case. Tony McEnery (Dean of Lancaster University) and an expert on Critical Thinking suggests that allowing room for making mistakes and experimentation is the key to innovation, creativity which is good for business and society, yet our education system stifles this.
Whilst it is without doubt the UK needs students to have some rigour in education and improve our uptake of the sciences, this does not mean we discredit or undermine a broad based education in the Humanities.(Sociology, History, Philosophy). These subjects are concerned with inquiry questioning and ambiguity and as suggested earlier we need people to operate in environments that are less predictable, more volatile and more uncertain. In certain jobs technical skill is important – but without the creativity, challenge and bravery business never innovates. Think of James Dyson and Richard Branson (he left school at 16).
It might be easy for business to say that that our education system is failing our students. Maybe we might turn the question around. Is businesses failing our new workers? Do we really know what we are looking for when we recruit graduates or do we rely on tried and tested ways of selection or do we actually measure what we know will be successful in our specific business. If we put a bit more thought into this, we may get great people suited to our environments and we will set people up to succeed. In addition, do we foster environments for them where they can explore, make mistakes and therefore challenge themselves and ultimately our businesses to be truly innovative and cutting edge.
Will future governments be brave and create a rounded education that might be fit for the 21st century? Our children may know how to pass exams in order to keep the schools in their place in the league tables, but are we equipping them with the skills and the desire to continue learning for their whole lives?
Will companies such as MACAT challenge and change the way enterprises, governments and educators approach learning and helping economies become more productive? I guess we have to wait and see…

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