I don’t know what to write – #21daysofwriting – Day 13

Today’s topic is from the delight that is James Wilson – verse 8, particularly, is his.

 

Today I’ve tried some Haiku ( 5-7-5 syllable) poems. They can be deliciously descriptive, but the form means they can be…bloody annoying, frankly….you should try to write one though… the form kind of holds you as much as it restricts.

The creation of these required much taping and counting-of-fingers to figure out the number of syllables in a word. Anyone sitting around me on the train must have thought I was a little odd.

I’ve gone with 13 Haiku for 13 days – the original plan was to write 12 verses  reflecting on each of the 12 posts so far, with a 13th to finish… that just got too complex. Went back to what felt simple.

-1-

I don’t know what to
write except I seem to find
The words from somewhere.

-2-

If I seek words they
Slip through my grasp like water
My job is to wait

-3-

This challenge has been
more giving than it would seem
I have found joy here

-4-

I said I would do
Topics allocated to
Me from all of you

-5-

Writing Haiku is
Deceptively slippery
Each word is loaded

-6-

Now I think I am
Trying to write sentences
Not “proper” Haiku

-7-

So let me try to
Be more artfully wordy
In the next verse here

-8-

V&A London
Artist in Residence found
Making giant shells

-9-

A poem can hold
All of life’s meaning in it
Magnificently

-10 –

An empty bottle
Holds the possibility
Of liquid to come

-11-

I’m trying to find
Luscious, evocative words
And trying too hard

-12-

Each morning begins
With publishing written word
Scary satisfaction

-13-

Thirteen days so far
I can see an end in sight
Beginnings start there

 

 

Trust #21daysofWriting – Day 4

This one is inspired by the very marvellous Kathryn Sheridan – whose work is focussed on “credibility consulting, assessing credibility and building credibility”

———-

This one has been surprisingly difficult and sprawlly… but here goes:

Part of me wants to write about Trust in a work context. 

Part of me doesn’t even know where to begin.

For a long time, I didn’t trust myself, so writing about this stuff is weird.

I think I do now, more or less…. It’s an ongoing relationship…not always easy… but I know, mostly, how to re-build trust with myself when I arse up these days. I know for certain Life’s better when I do.

I look back on the early days of fuchsiablue and I know I felt hollow; under pressure to be successful … trying to seem good.. and fundamentally, elementally hollow. I knew the basics. I flew by the seat of my pants, which was fun..and exhausting. I was surface and a bit shiny.. meaning when anyone knocked me, I was fairly quickly tarnished and damaged. Those who know me from back in the day know how it was for me. A lot of worrying, rictus grin where a daft one would have been better, a bit bubbly, a bit caustic…

I see that same look I used to have in others, sometimes. Typically it’s when folk have just left 20 years of working in X and they are setting up by themselves.. there’s a brittle fragility to some, faking it ‘til they make it… determined… sometimes a little desperate…lots of shiny, surface stuff happening. I don’t mean that in a mocking sense. I just see it. Lots of affirming public proclamations. Mild private panic behind the eyes. Oh. I know that look.

It makes perfect sense. In this context, Some of the things you trust and rely on don’t exist anymore. That Trusted Internal Reputation. That Trusted Title, showing your Trusted Status. That Trusted Salary. This is Organisational currency.. and we can be wealthy within that… but it tends to flatline outside of Organisational Systems. That which was professionally meaningful is socially a bit more “meh”… it’s a kicker… and unless you face into that – the loss, the doubt, the possibility of different – and have a good old look at what’s kicking – it can take you down.

In my coaching life I’ve met variations of this Identity Arrest. Those returning to work after a health episode, for example, feeling changed & suddenly less invulnerable. Their place of work has been fairly static – their personal journey, transformative. It’s disconcerting. Sometimes they no longer trust themselves.. to be well, to be energised, to function, to be as they now are. Sometimes they no longer trust the organisation. Sometimes both are true and fair. The work here, I think, is to build trust in the new self… getting the person to know and understand themselves as they now are – being less fearful, getting familiar with themselves again. The story running can be one of fear: “I might break” 

Yeah. You might. But we are here, now. You didn’t. You haven’t. Trust that. Work within the new world bandwidth.

We talk about “building” trust because it is just that – small incremental moments. Big risks and small ones. Action. Trial and error. Realisation. Putting stuff into practice in our own way… over and over.

I think this is where Belief comes in. It’s integral part of trust, in my view. If you don’t believe in an outcome, a future, a person, Trusting it or them is slightly fantastical. If I don’t believe I can shift my perspective, if I allow my stubbornness to write the story – if I haven’t got my heart in it, then I’m half-in and suspicious… and things are rarely peachy from that place. When you are trying things out, taking risks, building a picture, it’s wholeheartedness, red-blooded “give it a go”, blind faith and courage that allows you to see how far you really can stretch – and somewhere along the line, you realise you trust yourself to do stuff. 

The good news is you can outsource Belief. A good Mentor, friend etc can hold the belief for you for a while – willing you on, believing in your potential, your fabulousness, your talent, your ability. It only works for a while – it be can exhausted – but if you are willing to take on a pinch of that belief…and then a spoonful, then a ladle-load, then a bucket load, then embody it…. You find you trust yourself, in time.

My way to a place of reasonable self-trust was long and circuitous. I don’t learn quickly. I’m mule-stubborn at times. I used to want everything fast, so lost patience rapidly. At the core, though, I was in a state that some part of me knew sucked and I wanted…no, I needed to be more secure…because the state of constant self-doubt was paralysing and miserable. I went seeking something deeper, more stable and rooted…That’s why it’s about “Personal Development” ….Oh. I have to develop my Person?Yup – and the person I needed to develop was one I trusted.

The Book I Want to Write #21daysofWriting

Thanks to Martyn Clark for the topic

The book I want to write is a long way off. In my head it’s “yet to arrive”.. and of course, it’s not going to arrive, fully ready and publishable, it’s going to take work. It will, in stages, be awful and off-beam. It will be heart-made and contain delicious words – words like unctuous and sizzle, discombobulate and scrumptious; words like agony and ecstasy, like magic, spell-bound and love. 

It will be expressive, full-throated and not everyone’s cup of earl grey.

And as I write all of that.. part of me thinks: Book? Me? Really? the way I use my words? And this way? That’s not proper.

Oh. To be improper.

And of course, such a thing won’t actually “arrive” at all – I’ll have to go find it. The creation of any book, be it fiction or fact, business or sci-fi, cookery or computing, is an act of exertion. Passive speculation doesn’t create pages. Imagination alone does not forge a narrative. Anyone who has published something out in the world has worked that thing to the bone (from fiction to PhD to the “Bloody Annual Report”).  It takes care. Commitment. It takes, I suspect,  research, practice and editing. For me, I also suspect it takes cups of tea and long walks…. Patient friends & family and many pairs of warm socks. 

Such a thing takes self-management, discipline and focus… oh..and a topic.

The #21DaysofWriting challenge I’ve set myself really isn’t about writing a book – it’s about practicing in the foothills before having a hack at a mountain – and perhaps a book or some semblance of something book-y or bookish might tumble from all of this. Or perhaps not. Perhaps my path is to write often. Perhaps mine is a voice of vignettes. Maybe I’m a columnist. Maybe I’m a blogger, not a “Proper Author”. Maybe I’m afraid & I just need to get off my arse and start… oh hold on… maybe I have…

None of that really matters, at this point. What matters at this point is I write. And I write about different things and different thoughts. That I accept the words and topics put before me and I turn those into readable nuggets. This challenge is about that only, for now. For now I’ll be patient and focus on what is in front of me. In 14 or 16 or 21 days from now I might be asking: What next? But for now it is simply: What now?

I set myself a thing. Let me find the joy & the beauty in the thing for now.

I digress. 

The book I want to write? Has something about power in it – not formal, forced power.. not the power of being able to beat another down – literally or intellectually…  but the power of connecting, of yielding…relational, convening power. The power of encouragement. The power in seeing a situation as it is – not as it ought to be – and bearing that enough to see through it without outrage. The emotion that the act of bearing can generate on the other side of outrage.

And something about the feminine – curves and sensuality, gorgeousness and intimacy. Quietly owning a space utterly, in the face of being silenced. The power of creation, the ability to speak out with heart about injustice, stupidity, lack-of-connection…watching the puff and the jostling and the small daily offences that add up to wanting to numb-out and run away.. finding the heart and the wisdom, the patience and the energy to stick with and stay.

Such a book has no clear narrative, I suspect – no neat arc. Chapters might kill it… or they may contain the content enough to hold it all together….I guess the job of a writer is to find that stuff.

But in the coming days – when you look at a book – any book ( and maybe the annual report) think about the sheer will and commitment that has gone in to the bringing of that book into being.

#21daysofWriting

Reflective note:

Blimey. That was a bit more of a Start than I intended.

Biggest fear is my clients will now think I’m slightly unhinged, refuse to work with me etc. High expression. Loaded words. I’m colouring outside the lines more than I intended.

It wasn’t easy to write, in some respects…mostly because I was worried what folk would think.

I also think I might want to lighten up…

It’s going to be more of a challenge to publish it – might hit the button and run… 

21 Days of Writing – topics

Right then. I put a shout out on Monday for topic areas as I begin a #21daysofWriting Challenge – starting on 10th May this month until the 31st.

The list of topics ( and those who requested them) are below – I’ve tried to capture everyone & have contacted anyone who missed the 21. The point of this is more about trying to write daily, well-ish and with difference.. the topic areas will hopefully inspire some good stuff….and I’m open to the possibility of tat, too.

At the end of each “piece” I’ll do a wee “writer note” to say how it was for me to write that day.

If you join me for any part, or all of, the 21 days, I’m eternally grateful…and no pressure. This could be seen to be a vanity project… and for me it means something much much more.

So. Have a look at what the coming days have in store:

TopicAsked for by
1The book I want to writeMartyn Clark
2My relationship with my trusted bikeMike Collins
3Better Listening to Random PeopleSarah Sniderman
4TrustKathryn Sheridan @Kathrynsheridan
5What ifAlison Monkhouse
6ColourChristine Locher
7What could we learn from our pets Kez Smith @Hr_Kez
8The ebb and flow of creativityAnnette Hill
9The shift/ day I will never forget@vicki_mallows
10ProcrastinationMichelle Parry -Slater @MIPS1608
11I am from/ Voice/ The FearLesley Moorhouse
12Bees & ButterfliesFiona McBride @fionaMcBride
13I don’t know what to writeJames Wilson @Jw_consults
14Finding your voice@ChayneDaisy ( Gina Chapman)
15The Power of Music@MarkCatchlove
16Exploring the outdoors for facilitationRuth Dawson @ruphusDebelius
17Redundant Apostrophes and how they’ve changed the world@Liz_Kentish
18LoveNeil Baker @NeilBaker
19Dreaming the ImpossibleKrystyna Gadd
20Nature is in dire straits, how do we communicate this to others?Jacqueline d’arth
21ChopsticksAnne-Marie Garner
22Day 22Rhona Graham

I’ll see you on Friday #21DaysofWriting

Shifting

As she steps from one space into another, I am struck by how beautiful she is.
For a moment, I feel my throat catch and my breath shorten.
She is stepping into her future self.
It’s an oft-used coaching exercise – we hang out with the old, move into the here-and-now, step into the future.
We move physically, as well as mentally, verbally, emotionally.
We take our time.
At the start, she is hesitant – looking to me to reassure – is this right? Permissible? Am I saying the right thing? Thinking the right thing? Good Coachee?
Others react differently. They jump in and complete the task. They are sure. Unthinking. Certain. They tell me decisively How The World Is… Oh. OK then.
She is much more tentative, more hesitant.
We all start from different places, I guess.
But now? She’s up and running.
She is almost talking to herself…
And she moves.
Determinedly. Quietly. Furiously.
It’s a hell of a thing to behold.
She’s not some 6ft supermodel. She’s not high flyer have-it-all go getter. She’s not special. She’s not beautiful. She’s not quite right yet.
(She defines herself as what she is not – and she is sure about what she isn’t.
Very sure. Defendedly, properly, rudely sure.
I’ve been abruptly put in my place a few times for my questions…)
Me? I’m less sure. I’m deeply curious about the story she has set for herself – the excellent, binding narrative. The “I am/ I’m Not” story. It’s been written over years.
Carefully constructed and edited…the one that has brought her here.
Half-formed. Half permitted. Half certain (but very certain of the half)
As I watch her resolve to shift (maybe dissolve?) something, I am moved beyond measure.
Eventually, after a long time of silence, of talking to herself and to the middle-distance, she looks at me.
A little shy, a little embarrassed, a little defensive, perhaps – I’ve seen her unguarded.
I don’t say anything….
Then I realise I’m grinning and I might need to explain myself….
And we begin a different conversation.

What’s Possible

What’s emerging as I continue to ask myself and understand for myself What Matters to me in the work I do (see here and here for more) and how I do it is the importance of possibility. I like having choice ( even if it is only the illusion of choice) and I like it when I can see, or magic up, or work to create choice with clients.

Where there are no options, the work feels deadened and empty, stifling and stagnant …. Where I or we can see different ways to do stuff, there is energy, liveliness, the possibility of newness or movement. It’s generative. Guess where I’d rather be?

Working this way requires more, personally, professionally – you have to be invested differently if you are going to create or commit to working with stuff that isn’t the “norm” – you have to recognise and tackle strong stories, well-established personal and organisational narratives, it doesn’t happen on the sidelines, you kind of have to get involved….and possibly that’s not for everyone. You run the risk of being annoying, or wrong, isolated or scapegoated… or knackered… so, you know.. there’s that…but what if you make a difference? Well.. there’s that too…

How it shows up in practice is through questions & hypothesis – Is that really how it is? Really? Really-really? According to who? What if we….? What would happen if…? What if we could…? And then through action – showing alternatives, doing things differently, taking up or creating space otherwise occupied by certainty and establishment, encouraging clients to see possibilities, challenging what presents itself…

So much of the change work – be it with coaching clients or in organisations and systems – is about really getting into the long-held narratives and what they do for folk….genuinely understanding how a position or a story has come into being and why it is so tightly held and so defended (because more often than not, the story is defended passionately: it IS this way. You CANNOT see this situation any other way. You DON’T understand. I AM ONLY permitted to do/say/be THIS way)….and of course, there is a possibility that that is true.. and there is a possibility that it’s just one interpretation and there are other worlds out there to explore….

And in all of this, the creating and realising of possibility, is the need for articulation and repetition. You have to clearly offer alternatives, to show the possibility in multiple formats and languages and they need to be worked through before they will take hold.. otherwise it’s just flaky dreamer stuff…. My working partner, Claire Marie Boggiano, holds firmly to the belief that you have to say or discuss or show a thing “seven to twenty one times” in an organisation before it becomes regarded as possible. Whilst we are not sure of the actual science behind this, we work on this basis and prepare ourselves for have the same conversations, or raise the possibility for alternative narratives time and time and time again until something opens up…

Perhaps this blog is mostly because I’m reading the Art of Possibility by Rosmund Stone Zander and Ben Zander Good summary here – it’s a beautiful read and is helping me see how I can contribute differently in my work…. So far, it’s the story of the Taiwanese Student that has most touched me.

At the beginning of a Semester, Ben Zander (world renown conductor with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestera) is working with the best-of-the-best-students in a special programme at a Conservatoire. He wants to get them to produce the best possible performance, to get them to commit heart and soul, beyond the technical requirements of the music, their instruments, their current state. He wants them to make mistakes – and in doing so, overcome and grow – he wants them to lose their fear of errors. He makes the decision to award every student an “A” at the beginning of the semester – he tells them: Every one of you will get an A in this class. Now I need you to go and write me a letter telling me, in detail, why you have earned this A… what you do , how you feel, who you are now as this A student. This is a letter from your future self to you now… what more does that person know? What are they doing or how are they being differently from you now?
How delicious….how compelling…. What a terrifyingly wonderful invitation.

The Tiwanese student is confused by this “getting an A” for seemingly nothing. He writes to Zander:
“In Taiwan I was Number 68 out of 70 students. I come to Boston and Mr Zander says I am an A. Very confusing. I walk about, three weeks, very confused. I am Number 68, but Mr Zander says I am an A Student….. I am Number 68, but Mr Zander says I am an A. One day I discover I am much happier A than Number 68. So I decide I am an A”

There is the possibility – a lifetime of an owned narrative of being number 68 good enough, turned into something else entirely by the possibility things might be better/ different for you than that and then the active choice to embrace the possibility…It’s a beautiful thing. It’s powerful as all hell.

No wonder this is part of my What Matters in my work.

image thanks to https://www.pexels.com/photo/abstract-art-blur-bokeh-285173/

The Resilience Illusion in the Volatility Apocalypse

We live in a world where change is constant.. Our society has become a place where uncertainty, change, agility, volatility, ambiguity is the new normal. Our leaders are required to develop resilience….

I don’t even know what this stuff means any more… if I ever did.

We bluster on about leadership like it’s A Thing. With traits. Is this true or simply driven by a whole industry devoted to codifying behaviour and selling stuff that might make you more effective in a leadership context… possibly?
If leadership is anything, it’s probably more an action, an intention, an experience.
Try making a qualification out of that.
Leadership is more often about power and circumstance. It’s sometimes earned, sometimes taken. It’s complicated and important…. not something to take lightly… and I’m damned if I could codify and sell it – but then this is why I’ll never be a rich woman.

Perhaps we are living in a volatile world but it’s richer than that…..am I alone in getting bored with the fear-mongering of this particular now-familiar rhetoric? It’s giving me nothing…. If I look around, I can see volatility, for sure… and if I looked for certainty, for routine and rhythm, for predictability and cause-and-effect – I can find that too… but that’s a lot less juicy, I guess.

The subtext to the “volatility and ambiguity” trope seems to be that in order to “survive” we need leaders to be more resilient and tough-minded – It seems these people alone can survive the uncertainty apocalypse…
Nice. Neat.
I’d like to buy that… only I really can’t…it feels cold.

Seemingly we need leaders with resilience – as in bounce-back-ability – What is valued is your ability to recover in the face of lifestuff, your ability to perform your duties without falling over, your ability to work within uncertainty, to navigate your way through and cope- I get that, get how it’s useful…. and good on you if you have it, or if/ as you develop it….
As one who sees herself as pretty resilient, I know there are times it is a good friend to me…But possibly less-so for the people around me……because…what about everyone else? Whilst we are busy being resilient and pushing through, what happens in our wake? To the folk around us? What about the thousands of employees these resilient power-rangers lead? What if non-leaders aren’t resilient?
Who cares?
Seriously… I’m asking…If leaders have built up their resilience and tolerance to uncertainty who cares or notices those who haven’t?
What if leadership decisions (from a place of being resilient and able to cope) are really really bad for most people?
What if decisions made by a bunch of people who have mental and emotional toughness are horribly skewed and inconsiderate?
What if this push for resilient leaders is actually causing some of the divisions we see within our organisations and society? What if our leaders are actually creating volatility and uncertainty, just in the way they are being?

What I can see as being valued in business circles, which concerns me greatly, is a slightly more complex version of the rough-tough Just F*cking Do It leader that we blatantly pointed at as an unreconstructed, damaging, command and control horror show quite some time ago. It was a lot about: cut through. Be Strong. Get It Done. Crash about a lot. Don’t stop. Don’t listen… and folk got hurt.
Now it’s a little more insidiously dressed up: be resilient, be mindful, cope….and is organisational life much better?
I’m not really sure about this.

Does “resilience” include valuing connection, relationship, generosity, empathy, compassion? Probably not, because surely being some of these things makes you less resilient? You become wide open to the full consequence of a massive restructure where folk lose jobs.. what that does to people, to the culture.. or you begin to notice the huge pay differences in your organisation. That realisation can be deeply deeply disturbing in a way … because what can you do? Your leadership power, your influence, your personal resilience suddenly has a limit…best to mindfully crack on, rather than address the mess fully?
It’s the red pill/ blue pill conundrum. Open up? or Close down?

If you are open, you are, typically, less resilient.. that makes sense, right?…. you feel…. you empathise… things hurt…it stops you in your tracks….it’s deeply human, very very disconcerting and takes a lot longer to work through than just cracking on..
And it is BLOODY inconvenient….. but the truth is from there – from a place of being humbled, a place of empathy and understanding, you see a way to look after you & yours AND work hard to offer the very best for the folk you lead and affect.. Things get simpler. You can get bigger.
I think a little less resilient is good.
Only you can’t tell folk that… they have to experience it…. it’s the most annoying Catch 22 of my professional life.

My favourite leaders are those who deploy their resilience to connect-not-distance. In the face of organisational bastardness they pile in and hold open spaces for ethical, social and relational debate. They challenge with heart and head. They put themselves in the picture, not remove themselves from it. Those are folk who look into themselves, hold themselves accountable, and they grow…. these are not leaders who wait for a Public Inquiry or the Shareholder meeting to rap them on the knuckles for being unfair, unethical or uninclusive. These are leaders who use their powers partly to personally crack on, but partly to stand within their Boards and decision-making spaces, saying “I know we can, but should we?” Or “I think we need to listen to the staff/ residents/ folk whose lives will be fundamentally shifted by this decision”
I genuinely think more of this would go some way to addressing some of the bonkers societal things we are currently witnessing… including volatility and uncertainty.

My favourite coaches and facilitators insist on leaders “showing up”… the best I know don’t sooth and calm and encourage their clients to ignore the gaping holes in front of them. They don’t encourage resilience, they insist on cracking the neat facades & pushing for the red-pill of personal honesty. They know that deep wisdom, proper resilience, comes from facing into the truth of a situation… and living with what lies beyond … they challenge clients to look, to listen, encouraging more honesty, courage, self-reflection and personal accountability.

Then there are the L&D / OD people who are prepared to take risks with Leadership Development and put leaders right INTO the consequences of their decisions, not shielding them from it… Often they get push-back. Often this means it’s good work. This is where we need to be resilient… where we need to equip ourselves and work on ourselves and be a positive part of a solution….

I guess what I’m saying is, there are multiple ways we can make a positive difference to our organisations and to wider society. It’s not about sealing ourselves off. It really really isn’t.
It’s resilience, not from a place of “it hurts and it’s gnarly and I don’t want to look at it” but from a place of – “this hurts and it’s gnarly and we face into it and contribute to it getting better”
Never have we more needed the tools and time for these conversations.

Surely this is leadership for volatile times..where the illusion of resilience is held lightly…. Where we value personal maturity, ethical conduct and an inability to just F*cking do it… where we don’t resist, but we yield and listen…..and we appreciate that uncertainty is certain, so at least that’s one less thing to concern ourselves with…

——

Addendum:
I’ve frequently facilitated conversations between Boards and the folk they are there to serve….it disturbs and inspires. After one recent session, a very cross Non-Exec approached me at the end and said he’d hated the process because “I really don’t like to have to listen to all of this…”
We didn’t get into conversation, but I rather hope he slept badly that night having heard what he did…I asked the Chair (who also didn’t particularly like to listen to all of this, but understood the need to and the poor decision-making that was happening, precisely because they weren’t listening) to talk to him later… to see if this listening thing had made an impact on the Non Exec.. or if he chose to be resilient to the dissent and crack on….