Visible

Improv and I have gone another round. 

It and I never seem to encounter each other without some sort of profound learning moment on my part….By profound learning moment, I mean snot and tears on my part. Oh joy.

Improv itself seems relatively untouched by my unravelling; which, frankly, pisses me off beyond measure. It remains relaxed and absolute, generous and expansive in its purpose and process. I on the other hand, wriggle uncomfortably, muttering at Improv suspiciously, giving it the side-eye. Grudgingly knowing that there is something in it, but wishing it were altogether less tricky to be around…mostly wishing it would sod off because I tend to end up visible when I mess with it. I’m awkward around Improv, shy, clumsy, defended…yet even though it’s not an equitable or easy relationship, I can’t quite bring myself to leave it alone….

I see others dance with Improv in very different ways to my ludding side steps. It can bring them inspiration, unlock creativity, confidence, locate words or actions they forgot they had. I love watching those who are an open channel, willing and able to jump in with an idea, an experiment, I love their lightness, their playfulness, their deftness in the moment. I’m all admiration and envy…

Alex and Karen are leading a Jazz Improv session on Zoom with the Gameshift Partners. Over lockdown we’ve gathered every couple of weeks for Extended Hangouts, where we bring our stuff for each other to try. From zen doodling, to walking, to dreaming and meditation, to discussions on inclusion, climate, purpose in organisations, deep systemic change… we bring and cover a world of topics. It has been a profound thread of learning, connection and community for me for months and I love it and being part of it.

You would think Jazz Improv on Zoom would be impossible. but Alex runs the session at pace, he on piano, Karen on Sax, taking us through experiments that show how equipped we are to create in the moment, how errors and omissions create moments of possibility, how connected we can be – even at a physical or digital distance. 

These are the conversations for the here and now, right? The need to be able to respond without knowing what will happen, to take chances. To trust ourselves, to back those around us that are trying. Never has this stuff been more necessary or poignant. Part of me thinks about all my HR/ OD contacts who are heads-down, noses-pressed to the organisational sandpaper, giving themselves a hard time about having The Answer or An Answer and I wish we could find ways to give them time for some of this stuff, these conversations….

And so we work through the experiments and as ever, Improv invites me to dance and I stumble, clumsily and grumpily with it, my reluctance to embrace it the very mirror of a hundred colleagues I know…. And Alex asks for a volunteer for the last experiment and I am resolute that it won’t be bloody me… and at the exact same moment a part of me says: this the practice, step forward, challenge yourself… so I thank my resolution for keeping me safe and I grit my teeth and say Yes.

Alex says he and Karen are going to paint a musical portrait of me. My response is What In The Name Of All That Is Holy Have I Agreed To Here.

I am fear. 

I am NO. 

I am regret…. 

….I am curious.

All I have to do is sit on screen and they will play. It’s simple.

It starts with a soft sax and gentle piano chords and I am holding my body tight, feeling spotlit and stupid. I can see the other Partners on screen. I don’t know anyone well enough for this. I don’t know myself well enough for this….At first I can’t hear the music over my own internal guff, my relentless, defensive chattering…but after some moments, it reaches into me and I smile.. the musical response to the smile is bubbling little piano riffs and I start to giggle, embarrassed but I can hear something in this….and it softens again and I think I sound softer, sadder than I know myself to be… and then I know myself to be sadder and softer than perhaps I admit… and the tears slowly rise and it’s OK and awful all at once…..I have my left hand pressing onto my right shoulder, hiding my heart and I cannot move….

In the aftermath, it takes me a while to speak. Others speak and I’m grateful for the space to find my breath and my words…I’m liquid inside – my solid resolute state melted and swilling about. I will reform differently, less rigid for the rest of the day, maybe even the coming days, maybe even always…..It was a gift. An exquisite gift. One I’d recommend to anyone and everyone – sod Christmas socks or Tik Tok… buy your loved one a musical portrait….let them be bathed in notes and kindness…nothing will ever quite be the same again.

Later, Chris sends through some photos he took and a poem…I find the photos almost unbearable to look at -I’m soft and I don’t recognise myself fully….

Oh to be visible when you are so deft at hiding. What a thing.

The session was run by Alex Steele as part of the gamehift partner network. I thoroughly recommend you check them all out

Finding your voice – #21daysofWriting – Day 14

 

Today’s topic is brought to you by Gina Chapman, who is an all-round good egg & Twitter -type.

When I started all of this, I didn’t know what writing would fall on what date. That a post on “voice” would come on the day of a controversial European Election was definitely not part of the plan.. and yet here it is.

Over the past few weeks and particularly the past few days, the “voices” I can find and hear seem less-than-satisfied. I hear anger. Fury. Hatred. I hear people yelling at other people, sometimes on the same “side”. I hear voices of anguish – depression, loneliness, anxiety – our mental health under siege. I hear fear, loathing, despair. I hear brave voices, kind voices who are exhausted because they are shouted down by louder, less kind, more entitled ones.

I hear sensible, informed scientific voices given no credence or space. I hear the very things I thought I and everyone knew – the earth is indefatigably round – questioned and “disproved”. I hear the denial of rights, the dehumanising of each other to the point we are objects, rather than living, breathing, marvellous, daft, dumb, clumsy, striving beings.

It feels like a shit storm.

I want to switch off, curl up, knit for the winter, watch old movies with cups of tea, drink a LOT of gin, go walk in the hills… do anything to escape the madness. But it’s not going to be that way, for a while….buckle in, good people, we are in an epoch of change…Finding your own voice in all of this may require some care.

I can feel my natural hope and optimism being tested. The stoicism I try to find – the thing in me that says I can and will endure, and that to endure in a good state requires certain things of me – can be hard to locate at times.  I have to work at being kind when I can be, without being a pushover. To call out BS with what grace and humour I can muster – and stand within the reaction that comes back (no-one likes their BS being called. Including me.) without getting vengeful or hateful… it takes practice… sometimes I am vengeful and hateful – I tend not to spread that around, when it comes. There’s enough of it about. Keeping my own council is often better for everyone.

In times of such negative emotion it can feel like an act of rebellion or naivety to seek something more affirming to counter the crap. Words like cheerful or happy, joy or fulfilment, contentedness, love – these words are still seen as trite, unimportant and right now, they don’t get a lot of space. We need to find them space.

Reclaiming and living these words, actively, daily might just be the counter-cultural shower we need to wash away some of the current shit. So if I give myself permission for shameless joy and daft laughter, which starts someone else off. If I grin into the wind as I cycle & someone else grins back. If I take such pleasure in that first mouthful of raspberry brownie that I HAVE TO SHARE THE BROWNIE. If I take the bin out for my bonkers old neighbour because it’s a kind thing to do & no-one walks out of that deal worse off. If I send love to my friends who are feeling hopeless or chewed up, in a more useful, active way than “U Ok Hun?” and try to listen or nudge them to a thing that might help or away from the thing that doesn’t. If I vote in a way that represents the things I most closely believe will be better for me and the environment I occupy. If I politely push back at invitations come to Some Big Place to observe a “manel” bestowing mono-cultural wisdom on the less-well informed or say I don’t want to Chair one at some other Big Place and that statement gets traction. If I do these things and a hundred, thousand other things that make stuff better and less hateful and more harmonious…

If I actively participate in not participating in the brouhaha because I don’t do well in those spaces and my voice would weaken… if I write from my heart and put that into the world, with hope and belief that where we are at right now “this too will pass”. If I do these things…I’m not part of the problem, for now.

So maybe it’s not about finding voice, but finding when actions really do speak louder.

 

The Ebb & Flow of Creativity – #21daysof Writing – day 8

This topic comes from Annette Hill, fellow @lndconnect aficionado & Director of Workforce Development at Hospice Care.

“Ebb and Flow are two phases of the tide or any similar movement of water. The Ebb is the outgoing phase, when the tide drains away from the shore; and the flow is the incoming phase when water rises again.” ( Wikipedia)

So.. that sounds about right when I think about my “creativity”

In the ebb –it’s not accessible, it’s fading, draining away. Generally that happens when I’ve not been in touch with it for a while – haven’t written or knitted or drawn out stupid doodly-map things that help me “see” a situation. In the ebb, I feel that loss – a disconnect with something, a bit of joie de vivre fading out. I sometimes try a thing – a blog, a scarf, a project – but I’m sort of unfit & can’t quite do the distance…. In ebb, I’m less free, relaxed, more intense about stupid things. I used to not really notice the ebb- state… basically because I hadn’t fully allowed or enabled the flow.

I would notice the flow of creativity when it arrived. I couldn’t not. It woke me up, some nights. Demanding to be exercised, like a excited puppy. I even blogged at the time about noticing the manic and the mellow.

In full flow it is not to be held in my brain or my body – it needs out. Typed out, written out, sketched out, talked out….whatever. It’s just not to be contained neatly. It wants to spill and boil, grow, spread…My creativity is messy and daft, when I try to be neat and serious. It’s risky and edge-walking, when I want to be safe and secure.

As a result it is a vital part of my wellbeing – my mental health, my emotional health… physically, it lifts me and challenges me, but writing means I have to get up and move too….I’m only just beginning to understand how vital creative outlets are… and how, if we don’t have any at all, things can get bad for us…. when I think about my 20’s and how anxious I was – my focus was on relationships and career and travelling and fighting my body & hair for more perfection ( I gave that battle up. To paraphrase Caitlin Moran, “the thing about fighting yourself is, even when you win, you lose”)  – what I wasn’t doing was writing. I’m very egalitarian in my definition of “creativity” – you can find it in cooking, gardening, dancing, coding, accounting – whatever it is that feeds your soul and gives you some semblance of deep satisfaction… the making of a thing, the creation of something.. we are wired to create… I”m not sure I knew that, when I was younger…

These days, my relationship with my creative muscles is somewhat more equal. Where once it would elbow its way in, demanding space, as some part of my brain worked away on whatever mad scheme or blog or facilitated day design or worry that requires attention… like a hostile takeover…. These days, I’m learning to invite it to arrive too – the deal is I  “show up” at my desk or laptop and it comes along too. That it and I both have work to do.  If I catch the flow, it is undeniable and can feel confounding, big. It’s demanding, and impatient – I am, at times, a secretary on dictation: “catch this, would you?”

See  Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED tallk where she articulates this much more thoroughly

So I’m playing with the notion of encouraging flow & reducing the ebb. I’m not Canute. I’m not going to try to reverse any tides… but as try to write every day for 21  days on whatever may come….I can see that the more I talk to it and access it,  the more it becomes a trusted friend, a confidant, a something beloved and precious.

It’s annoying and inconvenient at times… but beloved.

 

Reflection

I had a lot more to say on this one. I was going to get political – about the lack of resources for art and music – but I don’t know enough about all that and the politics might be a distraction. These 21 days, trying to flex my style – trying to be conscious of tone and topic… it has opened up a different part of my creative process ( if I can be so pompous). The want to show up and be disciplined, to practice and attend fully to the writing, as I said I would, not just dash something off means I have to make time and energy for the writing. And I’m happy to. And it’s been more challenging to do that, at times, than access the words… its an interesting challenge.

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

21 Day Writing Challenge

I haven’t blogged since December.

I knew it had been a while, but I hadn’t realised it has been so long…. And when I look at 2018, it was hardly a bumper year for my writing on the blog. That has made me sad – I get a real kick out of blogging and my fuchsiablue voice – it was hard fought for, personally, to publish and “speak” – to show myself and share in that way… why, then, would I stop?

I am writing, of course – mainly personal stuff, not formed for public consumption – raw, rough and reflective – to figure out a situation, a puzzle. To hear myself clearly.

But something is shifting.

Last year I very nearly got to that writer retreat I’ve been so-long promising myself and have been so-scared to do. Since 2012, Blogging has given me confidence – folk being really kind about what they read, about what I wrote – people recommending and complimenting…it’s been good for my soul.. so the possibility of “taking seriously” that I could write started to hold some weight. What if… what if…..?

In the end, Work kicked in and I “postponed” the retreat, telling myself it was always there, I could always do it “another time” – classic avoidance, I realise now. I could have chosen writing over Work.. I didn’t. 

And slowly I’ve come to see how afraid I am of going to the retreat (now re-booked for August) – because what if… what if I’m not a writer? What if everyone is better than me? What if I fail? What if I hate it? The simple act of application means I’ve asked myself to start applying. 

And I’ve loved my relationship with my words and the writing process….what if I arse that up? What if I lose confidence? It’s so comfortable and cosy where I am….

But there has been a wee whisper…A little voice going: What More?

What I’m realising is I’m “naturally” (whatever that means) able to articulate stuff – for myself, for others… but that doesn’t mean I’m a writer – I have no craft, little practice beyond the drills I’m so familiar with. I haven’t tried to stretch myself, particularly. I have this voice, which I worked hard to find and share..and I stopped challenging myself shortly after locating it. I didn’t push myself or try much different. I found a thing. It was more-than-enough that I blogged. That in itself was beyond anything my 20-something self could ever have imagined.

I stuck with that…. which means I might be stuck with that.

It’s a slow process, with me. I lack discipline a lot around my writing, if I’m honest. I put my energy into work and life.. and writing is there, quietly waiting when I need to understand a thing or hear a thing – like the most patient and wise friend – but it’s not something I’m terribly… serious about.. I’ve taken for granted that I can pick up a pen or open a new Word Doc and just fill up the page with stuff – that I can access my head and my heart without vast amounts of anguish  – that for years I’ve been doing just that and actually, I’m fairly well practiced at it now.

And that’s becoming unsatisfying.

Today I’m going to my darling friend Anne-Marie Garner’s book launch. She has been writing Knot, Albert stories for her children (my gorgeous Godson & his beautiful little sister) since they were tiny. She has put in monumental effort to craft those stories, get them published, get merchandise and websites – I have watched her with awe and pride…and a little pang of envy. 

She, who says she isn’t a writer, absolutely is and has. 

I, who would claim affiliation with writing, absolutely haven’t. 

Yeh… I’ve got to face into my own nonsense on this one.

So… I’m off to a writer retreat in August. No excuses. Nothing short of natural disaster will prevent it. I’m utterly, white-knuckle terrified.. and that’s OK.

In the run in to August, I’ve reconnected with Natalie Goldberg’s work. Her wild-mind writing techniques are familiar in my work on the Facilitation Shindig and with coaching clients. This time round working with her thinking, I’m paying more attention to her craft, trying to write in different voices, from different angles, practicing stretching my tone, pace, broadening my vision.

And so it is with this I’m asking for a little help. If I leave myself to my own training regime, I’ll do a variation of what I believe I can do and the true stretch might not happen. So I’m going to try a thing.

I’m committing to some discipline and practice – 21 days of writing. 

No fewer than 600 words, no more than 1500.

I’ll publish whatever I write, no matter what I think of it – but I’m committing to write the best I can on the topic – no half measures, I might not like what I publish, but I have to have put my heart into it.

And so to you , dear reader, I’m asking for topics areas or scenarios – what would you have me write on?

I’m looking for 21 subject matters – I’ll start on Friday 10thMay, finish on Friday 31stMay. I’ll try to write daily – if I’m on a roll, I might write a couple & feed them in of different days – this is about me practicing different “drills” and trying out different subject matters or voices.

I’m going to use the #21daysofWriting hashtag – which is already partially established on Twitter.

You can tweet suggestions or DM me on Linkedin/ email me julie@fuchsiablue.com

It could be a glorious disaster or great fun, hair-pullingly frustrating or cathartic – it might well be all of the above, but let’s see…

What Matters – The Garden Centre Lesson


So after yesterday’s blog,  I start thinking about What Matters in my work. The things I value…The things that serve me well… I haven’t thought much about these in a while… I have an urge to properly pause for a bit and not do anything much other than stay with the question for a while – What Matters?

I give myself the gift of a few hours. I’m easing into the week from the Easter weekend and nothing is pressing too hard. There are other things I could be doing, of course, and I could allow myself to feel guilty for “wasting time” etc – but I’m over that stuff…. This is a lively, active pause, not a vegging-out, mindless one…. Good stuff will come from this…I’m encouraging myself to do as I said I was going to and stop for a while. No sudden moves. What Matters?

I sit on the floor of the office with a cup of tea in hand. The Dog is delighted I’m at her level and wags over to my side, dumping herself unceremoniously beside me….I cuddle her and stare at the spines of books, wondering which one sort of “speaks” to me – where to begin, where to begin? What follows is a period of picking books up, raffling through pages. Noticing what resonates. Noticing where I shudder…. I give myself freedom to just go with whatever. I notice myself fretting about what’s not on my shelves..is my library good enough?… I manage to laugh at myself a little…good enough for who? Who the hell is watching right now? I figure what is there got me this far & I haven’t read half of it cover to cover – there’s enough here, for today.

Through this process, I reach back to points in my learning and my development as a Practitioner where light dawned on previously dark spaces…. I find myself seeking to return to what I have been shown… Revisiting my training: how to reflect and put that reflection into new action. How to take a thing – a moment, a regular occurrence, a block, a belief, a question-  and look at it through different lenses and positions and therefore work with it differently. What Matters?

Turns out that experience matters – I don’t mean Years-Served-Endless-Hamster-Wheel-Clocking-up-Time experience, I mean the lived experience of being in the world. Of being a fully living, sensing, thinking, learning being operating in a fully living, sensing shifting world. It matters to me and for my work… my lived experience impacts me, influences me, changes me.

When I started an MSc in Org Change in 2012, I was horrified – and I mean properly Are. You. Kidding. WTF horrified – that it began with Philosophy. One of the first sessions was on Phenomenology (cue about 3 months of me having the muppets’ M-numm-M-nunnh song in my head, only with the lyrics as “phenonmenon doo-doo-do-doo-doooo” – very very bad – if you want a different experience from this explanation, view here)

Phenomenologists argue that there is no one hard and fast, objective reality, that there is simply experience, followed by the interpretation we put on that experience.  So when we were sent off to visit places near Ashridge and a bunch of us went to the same Garden Centre what we found was: We went to the same place but Oh MAN did we have different experiences. For some of us, it was all about the lovely flora & fauna – spring, colours, growth – for others, flowers signified hayfever. For others it was about security cameras, warning signs and signs saying: do this/ don’t do that – human rules on nature. For others it was about the quality of cake and coffee – the welcome and offering. The Garden Centre Lesson: Bottom line? We were physically in the same space but emotionally, mentally and experientially worlds apart.

When we got back together to talk about what we heard/saw/ noticed/ experience it was like we had been to different places. Who was right? What was important? Whose experience was more valid? Powerful stuff.

So experience matters – my experience is just a valid and useful as yours. What I see and experience counts. Even if it’s inconvenient to you.  (actually, as a Consultant…arguably especially if it’s inconvenient to you) If we want to understand the whole garden centre, we can’t just see the roses. If we want to understand the internal Culture, we can’t just data-gather from one source  – (ie Leadership, or Frontline, or Customers, or coachee etc) I mean we CAN… but if we do, we need to be clear on the limitations of that view/ experience.. and not arrange the whole world/ training budget around a single view… ( And yes, we need to layer context on to experience eventually, or no-one gets anywhere… there needs to be a value judgement in there someplace or we won’t make decisions.. but later.)

My training: Notice the phenomena. Drop the shoulds and oughts and coulds. Have the experience. Notice the data (all of it – what you think, feel, sense – bring your whole self in) Sense-make and hypothesize. Create meaning. Reflect on it (either in the moment or after the effect – or, if you are me, probably both)…Notice your bias, your Bubble & blindspots if you can…and from there, can I play with that meaning in order to move on?  Can I offer myself choices: go deeper into the issue, or widen it out or just shift it elsewhere… momentum, progress, perhaps? I’m seeking difference, insight, learning.

I go back because it’s a thing that has served me well – reflective practice – an iterative process that moves me from Here to There – wherever There might be. I know there are good models for reflective practice – interested in hearing from others what they use or value

For me? this is What Matters. Taking my experience seriously.  Taking others’ experience seriously. Data gathering from different sources. Discussion. Iteration. And time for reflection whilst cuddling the dog & perusing books that fire my synapses.

What Matters

Image thanks to @GapingVoid

I took some time off.

Over the weekend, the long Easter weekend and the weekend before, I actually stopped working and thinking about work. Since October, fuchsia blue has been working with Greater Manchester Combined Authority on a piece of culture and OD strategy work. It’s a complex, if rewarding, piece with a lot at stake, a lot to consider and a lot of people and pace in the mix. It matters. It’s taken a lot of thinking through, of working out, of asking and gathering, of showing and telling. Add to that the ever-expanding joy that is the Shindig, and what it needs and deserves from me…. and coaching, facilitating, faculty work…I have felt in demand. Stretched. Not unhappy, but working at capacity….
Some will read that and see humble bragging about busy-ness, others will read other things into it. It’s not intended to be anything more than it is what it is, for me. I make choices and work with them. My 2012 self would marvel at what my 2018 self gets up to – I’m grateful for that. I genuinely love the work I get to do – even when it tests and stretches me… I love the folk I get to work with – and their infinite patience with my frowny face at times. For once, I’ve given myself a little credit for stuff I know, which has kind of felt good…. and still I have felt a loss.

It’s been so subtle, I hardly noticed it – mostly because I’ve hardly stopped. Not properly stopping…. The type of stopping that allows pottering, free-thinking, writing, discovery, possibility. It’s part of What Matters.
I arrive at my desk with a pre-formed to do list, a series of calls to make or things to attend to. I crack through what I can and I prioritise what next or what-not. I’m not bad at it, to be honest… but In this mode, I lose connection – l lose space and being in-touch.. with myself, with others… I sort of fold in for a while and rely on what I know and can access.. it is oddly satisfying – I can click through work at a fair pace. Stuff can get done – but after a while, the “Stuff” loses something important, something that matters – it becomes more transactional, task-based… oddly unsatisfying. And I feel a loss of connection to my creativity and words.

Over the weekend I put work down – the only thing that came close was playing with Storyboard technologies for the sheer hell of drawing stuff – not because I’m designing anything or trying to create something for a client – but because I’m curious.
It felt good.

I feel more restored.
It matters.

In a month that promises an Edinburgh Shindig, an Unconference, attending the ODN Europe Conference, my first ever trip to Shetland with the glorious Scottish Ballet, ongoing work with GMCA as we begin to look at getting folk involved in stuff in a different way, in a month where I begin a new conversation with a new supervisor – my intention is to enjoy the work as it comes. To put down the to do list and do some being. To focus on What Matters.

Wonder how that will work out?

Falling Short….

He’s read another leadership article.. and he falls short.

This time it is about Creating Happiness in the team, last time there was an urge for compassion… or was it the importance of focus? I can’t recall… what I notice is that this reading and observing of things he Should Be Doing is…distracting and sometime debilitating for him.
The article is from a reputable source. It’s backed up with good evidence. It must be right. He falls short. Again. What else is out there?

I’m saying I used to have what I think are comparable feelings when I read lots of women’s magazines (I don’t read them any more)
– Pressure to look amazing (but in a particular frame of amazing).
– Assurances that being yourself is enough (if yourself is more like this incredibly high-achieving glossy person who appears to have it sorted).
– The mind-bending phenomena of both inventing and advising me how to solve an issue I didn’t know I had in one short feature….
Leaving me with mixed messages and a sense of my own massive shortcomings– Wanting to strive to be better, but woefully aware of the impossibility of a large part of the task….helpful-not-helpful stuff.

I’m not sure he’s that impressed with my women’s magazine analogy… but hey, I work with what I have, at times. The invitation to him is to look at what he is being sold here and what he is choosing to take in. What is that doing to him? What are the messages and the subtext to what he is taking on? How helpful is all of this? Why is it so derailing for him, when others might not take it on board so? Where is he in all of this?

It seems like a bit of a theme emerging at the moment with a couple of clients (and friends in informal conversations who have been promoted or moved jobs etc) about Who Am I As A Leader?
Generally, these are friends/ clients who soak themselves in Leadership Stuff…they’ve done courses, read HBR articles, sought out business books and worked hard to keep up that side of their development – but somehow this research is unsatisfying…. For me, it’s because the fundamental question of Who Am I doesn’t get answered… if anything it gets obscured.

The meaningful bit, the part where they get to express with comfort and maturity: THIS is who I am in all of this, as a Leader; THIS is how I can and will contribute, THIS is how I will behave, conduct myself & deliver; THIS is what I won’t do …. that’s the bit there seems to be little time for.

When we design Development interventions, are we really giving people time to hone and articulate their own message? We seem to spend A LOT of time telling people what a leader is or could be or should be…. But what does that mean for an individual? Who ARE they, really as a leader? As a person? What are they bringing? How do they see the world? What culture are they creating around them? And can they get OK with that?

It’s about action and reflection – in whichever order you prefer, but hopefully in never-ending lovely loops – and I can’t help thinking this is the key to much of the behavioural change, confidence and capability building we reach for in our talent programmes and development approaches…. For me, the reflective part – sit down (or wander about) express what happened and why and how and what you chose and what was around you and chew it over a bit and refine it – this is so much more relevant, potent and long-lasting (and less judgemental?) than seeking the answers from an article. He wants to Create Happiness? He can’t do that by reading about it. There has to be action and consideration….and places for that to happen.

So go create spaces virtually and face to face which invite and insist on folk showing up as themselves – where flaws and fears can be thought through, where strengths and successes can be too.
Don’t throw too much content or concept in your programme design – let people bring what they have… it’ll be rich enough.
Work with really good, sorted coaches or facilitators, ones who have done their own reflective work and understand their own stuff enough to be able to sit with others’ fears or brilliance… you’ll know who they are… they’ll be recommended to you by people other than themselves.

And for leaders? Maybe get them to detox from some of the messages that are around. Pick one TED talk a year & mull on that deeply… something like that… it might help them know they are not falling short.

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About me:

I’m a Organisational Consultant, Coach, Facilitator, Speaker, Blogger & Dialogue Guide. Founder of #facilitationShindig Working with people & organisations to improve conversations, relationships & learning – Doing stuff with love.

Find me on Twitter @fuchsia_blue and @Shindiggery1

Facilitation: We Move Folk… or Try To…

Much of the work, when we are facilitating, is about moving people’s “states” – working to move their learning, how they see the world, their current story…. this isn’t something we talk about widely in the training of facilitators… but for me it’s a no-brainer. We move folk… or try to.

So Movement is an interesting one – as humans we can be as stubborn and immovable as donkeys. We can be deeply entrenched, utterly unable or unwilling to shift our position or thinking…. And yet we are predictable, persuadable, biddable, impressionable….so somewhere in here is possibility.

I’m clear, when I facilitate (and coach), that I mostly cannot move you if you are not open or able to be shifted. Your life experiences, your wiring, your world-view are there and if you choose to remain within those – if the defences are up – there is little I can do.
I can learn how to persuade and influence. I can make a good case, rationally and emotionally, for a shift. I can ask good questions. I can create experiences and conversations that compel. I can create a little smoke & put you in front of mirrors (not so much my style, but it’s out there, if you pay attention) I can set the environment and the “tone” which give you the opportunities to shift. I can set something up that is as enticing and beguiling as it is possible to make a thing… and still you have to meet me someplace toward it – you need to move.
(and even if you move.. you might move back… so long-term sustained states are better than short term fixes?)

I suspect when we design stuff, this shift of state is what we reach toward, consciously or otherwise.
I’ll come back to this in a bit….

I’m a social scientist by training. Sociology taught me a lot about understanding social systems. We as humans pull toward being interconnected, interacting, joined-up-in-more-ways-than-we-act, social. We influence each other – someone commits an act of terror in London, there is a wider social ripple that effects us all. Someone restructures the organisation… new team and power dynamics run….
We can’t live without cause and effect – movement is inherent in all of this – changed states, shifts and patterns.
Systems are, by their very nature, dynamic. They move and respond in order to survive and thrive. Bits waste and fall out of favour (atrophy) bits develop (emergence). It’s a dance of sorts.

When you facilitate, in the room, it is no different. You work the system, often dancing in the moment, whether you know it or not.

If you work with a group from a single Organisation, folk replicate the system the come from – they carry the rights/wrongs/ culture of the place they come from. It’s in their thinking and actions, in their behaviours and their energy – the system you work with in the room is an echo of a wider system. What is favoured one place, is a bit “meh” elsewhere.

For example, if you’ll forgive the broad-brush stuff, when I’m working in Oil & Gas sector in the Middle East, I might get a repetition of engineering thinking in the room, Sector thinking (lots of emphasis on safety), the cultural mix of Northern European liberalism, Ex-pat nomads and Middle Eastern conservatism, … brought under a shared purpose of pulling oil out of the Gulf safely, which is where the cultural differences must be dropped a little. What might be valued/ permitted in this room is expertise, proven theory, certainty, formal process and action – creativity and innovation might be viewed with a little scepticism… or flat fear.

In a UK Local Authority, the emphasis might be more on social thinking – systems, social care, social justice – what might be valued/ permitted in the room might be freedom to explore ideas, acknowledging complexity, collaboration, creativity and relationship-building… formal process and theory-based slide decks and definitive answers might just not work.

Or when working with a group from lots of different systems, an Unconference or a cross-sector workshop, I know that individuals tend to replicate the social system they know – the norms and behaviours from their world – and group work here can be more hectic, less settled for a while, especially if norms and permissions collide…..

None of this is right or wrong .. You mostly roll with it- but going back to the point above, if you are looking for the shift, if you want to successfully facilitate Movement (of learning, ideas etc) understanding the System & what it tolerates, values or rejects can greatly help your design & approach… and you can’t absent yourself from it – you will have an impact on the group you work with…

Movement & The Facilitation Shindig

we’re going to work with the theme of Movement at the May #FacilitationShindig. I’m going to use a couple of things to explore Movement in and around the system.  (If you don’t know about the Shindig yet, have a look at www.FacilitationShindig.com or follow @Shindiggery1 ) Broadly, a breakdown of what we’ll cover looks like this:

  1. As with every Shindig, one of the core principles is It Starts With You – we’ll look at what moves you and what keeps you grounded. The system is about to get mobile around you in the room – you need to be a stable point, not dragged about by others’ stuff – to be able to stand, relaxed, open, not-anxious, curious…
  2. Practical activities help you do that (be organised, understand your “flow” etc) and we will focus on physical elements which help – practices of physically centring and re-balancing. I’m drawing from Embodied Work from my teachers in this field, particularly Wendy Palmer and Amanda Ridings. Wendy looks at the physical, embodied nature of being in the world and asks how we can actively connect to our strength dignity, and warmth. In the room it is this: can you connect to the Good Stuff and extend it out, extending your personal space, creating a felt-sense of calm, inclusion etc ?
    You can find out more about Wendy’s work here:

  3. Beyond-self. Looking at understanding and moving the system. We’ll look at mapping – using 3D System Sculpting – and some stuff around movement in the room (what do we need to think about/ try when we move folk round? What happens if we are faced with physical restrictions?)
  4. Finally we’ll look in to and use Constellations – roughly speaking, this is about experiencing where we stand in relation to each other, to the sytem, to a situation or a pattern – looking at it from a number of perspectives.

So we are looking at Movement – in every sense of the word – and how that fits in our practice as facilitators and what more we can do with the dynamics we work with and are influenced by.

register your interest for the event on the 4th May click here

 buy a ticket for 4th May Movement session click here

 

 

 

Organisational Structures & Leading through Relationships

organizational_charts
I’m thinking about structures. Organisational structures and restructures and the way we organise ourselves at work – how we plan, decide, action… you know, that configuration-y stuff. Partly, this has been sparked by recent work around matrix stuctures, and partly by reading this article on how to build a self-managed organisation.

Top down, hierarchy? Matrix working? Self-organised systems? Which is best?

It kind of strikes me that they all survive or fail through relationships..and how we get information to each other effectively (aka that illusive catch-all “communication”)

Mostly, I suspect, if a group of folk get together and are unable, unwilling or ill-equipped to have the types of discussions, the information sharing, the good will and trust that generates good outcomes and understanding… it sort of doesn’t matter how the hell you organise them.

I have some sympathy with top-down hierarchical structures, at times. There is an apparent simplicity and obviousness to the process- I tell: you do – which is tidy and neat. Only… it never really works that way. Not properly and consistently…but I still like the story on occasion – the illusion of control and orderly lines…..

Then I remember the start of my leadership journey, back when my top-down authority extended precisely to the lines in my team….on paper. Off paper, my team did what was needed, irrespective (at times) of my decisions. I’d have been annoyed, but often what they ended up doing was better than anything I was coming up with – that’s when I started to let go a bit, listening properly and asking them stuff… Potentially, I grew up a bit.

My reality? Of a role in HR, then L&D/ change? I never had one of those jobs that demanded instant respect… whatever they may be…. If I wanted my authority or opinion to matter beyond my direct reports, I needed to actively build my network, my credibility and my usefulness. Frustrating as this has been, at times, that reality has been.. well, kind of character building.

Now I work in a world where any “leadership” I take or show has to be negotiated through others. There is no top-down hierarchy here…and that comes with its own set of stuff. Credibility and respect have to be earned. Collective models for leading and decision making can be bloody time consuming – building relationships, developing the ability to gather views and hold everyone to a core intent; whilst acknowledging that, actually, at some point there will be a series of corridor conversations, email, DM’s etc that support or detract from that core intent… and working to do whatever is required to make the thing happen anyway, surfacing the gnarly bits where you can either through direct action or subtle means….

If you are in a self organising team, or working in a matrix structure, your capacity to lead and influence is awarded or denied by those around you – a constantly shifting morass of opinions and relationships.. no-one is in charge so everyone is in charge, but the authority to be in charge might well depend on your confidence and capacity to talk a good game….that can feel or stressful and actually a little thankless – where do you get recognition if you lead in this model? To “take the lead” or be awarded it through circumstance of expertise, or opinion or function necessitates  you are slightly “out there” – apart from others…. yet in a collective structure – you can’t be “out there”leading  and also “in here” with everyone… it’s paradoxical and not for the faint hearted. How do we help folk hold that paradox?

Being held up as leader, or actively taking the lead and being “out there” means a risk of being misunderstood or maligned – beyond your immediate team or the folk who really know what you are up to. Some times it’s worse…. Sometimes you are venerated and revered… pedestals are, I suspect, precarious. For me, this is the stuff we need to think about and design learning interventions for – how to work with uncertainty and hold your authority in a unstable operating environment.

So what am I saying? for me, however we structure ourselves to plan, organise or act, it always comes down to the core stuff –, the need to build relationships– to develop and maintain our abilities to listen, to articulate our viewpoint (kindly, if possible), to work to remain open-minded. It’s about striving to develop our maturity, our capacity to work with uncertainty and our commitment to have positive intent to those around us.

This is not about structure, or technology or revolution or disruption.

This is about committing to developing the core skills we already have to relate and committing to designing Learning Interventions in our organisations that deeply support that for the long term.

Organizational Charts drawing by Manu Cornet, http://www.bonkersworld.net