ABP Conference 2017 - review and key highlights

This is the third year that the conference and awards have been rolled into one event.  The formula continues to excite, as it takes an overall theme and considers various angles, through keynotes and breakout sessions.   Bolting on to this were the presentations given by the awards finalists, with the buzz of anticipation pervading the atmosphere in anticipation of the awards.  Whatever the interest, here there was something for everyone, a unique learning experience combined with an unrivalled opportunity to network. 

The ABP is grateful to the following sponsors and supporters for their generous support:

*            Platinum Sponsor: PSI Group, main conference sponsor andthe technology partner of the ABP

*            Gold Sponsors:    JCA Global, specialists in Emotional Intelligence in Business

                                           CDP Leadership Consultants, Auditors and Leadership development

                                           Cognadev, creation of value and meaning by bringing talent to life

                                           Mentis Consulting, Distributors of the Hogan Development Survey

*            Additional support from Oxygen, Meta and the School of Life

The keynotes:

A roundup of speakers included some challenging and controversial presentations which developed the "Dark Side" theme and which engaged those of us at the conference:

*            Richie Boucher, formerly Chief Executive Officer of the Bank of Ireland, spoke of his experience of the dark side of leadership in a financial crisis.  At the height of the crisis, he was seriously ill in hospital, yet managed to continue to provide leadership and that all important element of confidence in the Irish banking system when in reality there was none and there was a serious risk that the financial edifice could come tumbling down bringing with it the Irish economy and more besides.   The situation could be described as dark because with very few people to trust, he had to display a facade of business as normal and provide instructions to maintain confidence while appropriate alternative structures were put in place. 

*            The conference was honoured to be paid a visit by Professor Robert Hogan who spoke about Helping Leaders Manage their Dark Sides.   Talking about how he arrived at his subscales in the Hogan Development Survey (HDS) he gave as background longstanding unease at the widespread use of personality profiling, especially by those with limited skills and experience in the area and over-reliance on the results of this profiling.  The evidence is there to show that behaviour is largely a function of situational constraints, and the Dark Side provides an indication of how leaders react to these constraints and how likely they are to fail.  In short there are three main factors concerned with extended behaviour, the first is intimidation and bullying, the second has to do with charm and seduction, the third [category] is something like false compliance and antisocial behaviour.  He said that he did not totally debunk profiling as results do provide useful information and indicators but his model provides an additional tool in the armour of the HR professional.

*            Professor Stephen Reicher of the University of St. Andrews directed our attention to the Dark Side of Politics, the rise of so called Populism and the unexpected election of Donald Trump.  We had an overview of the psychology of groups, the elastic nature of the relationship between leaders and groups, and how insecurity can lead to the rise of Authoritarian Leadership.  He gave a fascinating overview of how leaders are skilled entrepreneurs of identity, how they identify groups, how they manipulate the sense of shared identity, how they classify for us what we want to hear and our values, and build the group "cooperation" into a sense of strong values which ultimately becomes a social process.   The groups then become a source of a shift in the balance of power and increasingly large wedges between groups result in increased intolerance and polarisation.  Debate is not overtly stifled, but those who contest are increasingly subjected to ridicule and a process of intimidation, resulting in cementing of entrenched views in the groups which develop a myopic monoculture.   The Dark Side of politics can then flourish with the disappearance of checks and balances and ambitious and ruthless individuals can wield power with increasing impunity.  The situation can only be reversed by widespread changes of attitudes to an within these groups.   

*            Professor Fiona Patterson of City University, and Founding Director, Work Psychology Group, talked about career inequality and how, despite 40 years of equal opportunities legislation, inequalities can still exist and how only 5% of director level appointees in large companies are female.  She recalled a number of well rehearsed arguments, such as women preferring collaboration, different preferences and interests, gender stereotyping (how would a man feel working for a woman), the fact that advertising perpetuates stereotyping (Yorkie and Fairy Liquid advertisements) and self-doubt about their own abilities. However, what was different about this presentation was a discussion about the Diversity and Inclusion debate and how it has failed to initiate change.  Setting of targets has not worked, unintended consequences are being created (Apple, Facebook), and the gender issues have not been reflected in organisations' real working environments.   In conclusion, better leadership is required and the general debate needs to feed and learn from businesses who have addressed successfully individual elements of the D&I agenda.

There were four streams from which delegates could choose in the break-out sessions:

- The dark side of leadership - these sessions were dedicated to sharing research and insights into when and how dark side traits flourish; how these leaders influence and win favour as well as how best to spot and manage those with a dark side.

- Disruptive talent and innovation - this consisted of examples of how psychology is being used in new, innovative and disruptive ways alongside papers sharing research and insights into disruptive, game changing behaviour

- Managing the dark side: diversity, well being, resilience - the question was asked: is it realistic to imagine we will never operate in a world without a dark side?  How can psychologists help others work with others and environments which at times present challenges?  

- Workshop stream: due to the popularity of workshops last year, an entire stream was dedicated to this practice.  Please see the dedicated page on our workshops here: /events/conference-and-awards/conference-workshops.aspx

The awards:

As in previous years, the standard of the entries for the awards was high and it was challenging to decide on winners in each category.   We were privileged to benefit from eminent people in our industry who judged the awards.  The winners of each category were:

*            Excellence in assessment; Ali Shafrooshan, a&dc with Gillian Goss, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service

              Identifying talent to support and revolutionise a modern Fire and Rescue Service

 

*            Excellence in Change Management: Rose Padfield and Emily Sun, the Padfield Partnership

              Enabling large-scale organisational transformation through people

 

*            Excellence in Coaching and /or Training: Nicola Jones and Jane Armytage, Athena Professional

              Growing Future Talent at City & Country: The Graduate Programme 2014

 

*            Excellence in Innovation Assessment: Capp & Co Ltd. for Barclays

              Barclays’ Immersive Recruitment Process

 

*            Excellence in Employee Engagement: Claire Jordan, Cummins

              Six Significant Conversations for Engagement

 

*            Excellence in Performance Improvement: Antony Roscoe, Kier Group

              Kier wished to return to a more holistic view of behaviour, culture and performance improvement 

 

*            Excellence in Wellbeing, Health and Inclusiveness: Harriet Western-Williams and Rebecca Milner, Arup

              Transforming the driver workplace to reduce road deaths

 

*            Excellence in Innovation in Business Psychology: Diana Barea, Accenture

              Accelerating Onboarding at Accenture in 30 Tiny, Digital Steps

 

and the Chair's choice for Excellence in Business Psychology

 

*            Excellence in Wellbeing, Health and Inclusiveness: Harriet Western-Williams and Rebecca Milner, Arup 

 

In conclusion, the Conference has proved yet again that Business Psychology is centre stage in the improvement of  organisational effectiveness, through the application of psychology and related disciplines in the workplace and that the industry can rightly celebrate its achievements.  We look forward to welcoming our community to the next major conference in 2018, but in the meantime the ABP continues to offer remarkable value through its workshops and training events.