Please?

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I was at  a Napier University Event at the Scottish Parliament last night – I’m alumni of Napier  and it  holds a special place as one of the four Universities in Edinburgh – much of the emphasis is on knowledge & research into practice –  linking students with commerce & work, but with an academic underpinning. It’s a model  that worked well for me when they put me on placement in HR at Russell Athletic and I was shadowed by an excellent HR professional, who really helped me see how the theory needs to be adapted and used lightly to fit with the reality of the HR Practice ( a Twitter conversation I sort of had with @HR_Cass recently about using SWOT & PESTLE lightly… anyway)

Professor Helen Francis is passionate about dialogue. Through Napier University business School and the Edinburgh Institute, she is looking to set up a cadre of practitioners that can work with big business and SME’s in Scotland to improve the quality of conversation, raise the capacity for holding difference and debate in the workplace and get a better working life for the majority of people in organisations. This is music to my ears. I attended her Professorial debut a few weeks ago where she mapped her research and thinking for the future and I got really enthused about what could be on offer here in Scotland. Helen used to tutor me when I studied my CIPD at Napier, back in the day and I have the utmost respect for her, so I sought her out at the Scottish Parliament event we attended last night.

We started talking Dialogue – what fuchsiablue is up to, what Napier & the Edinburgh Institute are up to – and  we reached a conversation about David Kantor’s 4 player model of conversation ( a foundation stone in some of the work we do – much like the GROW model in Coaching or SWOT in strategy). I’m fond of the Kantor model. I like it’s simplicity, it’s fluidity…. so I’m nodding as we talk about how this can be used….

and then we reach a point in the conversation where Helen is talking about a questionnaire and tool to help measure the extent to which folk move, follow, bystand….. and how we can use this tool to analyse conversation in organisations and offer gap analysis to Boards… and I  made this noise: ” nooooooooooooooooooo”  and then I blushed deeply…..

here was my response ( not all spoken out)

Please? Please not another tool to measure and analyse? Not another MBTI/ Here is your box solution?  Please don’t let’s keep going to Boards and pointing out the gaps? Please let’s not do this with Dialogue? My Dialogue is lively and human and contextual. My Dialogue depends on who is in the room, who speaks, who shuts up. It is dynamic and unpredictable. It is emergent and creative and connected and argumentative and edgy. As a practitioner, I want to be able to stand in front of Boards and say quite simply and categorically that you cannot measure the dynamic of a team. You can watch it and nurture it and nudge it and challenge it but you cannot quantify it.

this is about joie de vivre, je ne sais quoi, magic, chemistry – the chemical reaction you have in your body when you are angry or lit up. The chemical reaction I had in my body when I said NO and blushed to the roots of my hair at the boundary I’d overstepped.

Please? Can we just trust ourselves as human beings that we “know” intuitively, intellectually, emotionally – what is going on around us and whether that is right or wrong, with out a measuring stick or a sodding tick box?

And trusting ourselves, can we then go back to leaders and Boards and shareholders and say “you know what? this just doesn’t feel right”

Oh Lord… I can Hear John Lennon again…..

 

1st Anniversary

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At 15:09 on April 29th 2012, I posted the first ever fuchsia blue blog post.… ( I will always be indebted to Niall Gavin @niallgavinuk for nudging me to be brave & publish the thing that Sunday afternoon)

So I’m indulging myself in a wee moment of reflection. As I read back over old posts, I see  snapshots of moments in time – small glimpses  of my thinking – how some of that has moved on, how some of it has remained, how some of it has grown deeper and more solid.

Throughout the year, I have strived to be an authentic voice – blogging what I notice and experience, placing that into the virtual world with some care and hope that it will generate thought, comment  or pause, perhaps.

A massive thank you to all readers, contributors, supporters and challengers.

What next then?

See Blog post: What’s your Contribution?  Right now, I’m interested in curating stories and gathering folks’ contributions to the question:

“What is your contribution to being agile or adaptable in your work? What do you bring to your work conversations that is different or useful or necessary?

Please do drop in and comment – so far there are themes of being human, compassionate, honest, curious, appreciating difference, being able to challenge without harsh judgement, holding a lightness of touch and working with humour.

PS: Reasons I love the Twitter community: thank you  to Simon Heath @SimonHeath1 for the following Birthday Blog gift:

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What’s your Contribution?

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“We live in a “vuca”world….it stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous and it is being used as a short hand for what I think of as our new normal. In such a world, there has to be a huge premium for organisations that can understand and respond rapidly to changes or new trends by being agile and adaptable….” Peter Cheese, CEO of CIPD, Welcome note in People Management magazine, April 2013

I read this editorial and was lifted and a little cynical all at the same time. Lifted at the acknowledgement of complexity and ambiguity in organisations, because I experience working in complex, adaptive client environments where politics, budget, tradition, culture, pace, apathy, enthusiasm etc all influence how well or badly something is delivered (if at all). Lifted also because the words agile and adaptable are appealing, somehow – they speak to me of a working environment which is functioning, healthy, where there is a swiftness and smoothness of movement and decisions, where folk can innovate where needed and this is seen as a good thing.

And I’m cynical for all the same reasons. As a consultant, I have the privilege of working with a number of different organisations and cultures simultaneously, so comparing and contrasting what is out there is kind of inevitable. On the whole? I’d say agility is altruistic and that my cynicism is founded in feeling the enormity of the task: How do we make whole organisations agile and adaptable?

In truth, I struggle to get my head round the “whole organisation” question. It feels huge. I’m not sure I can do much with a whole organisation ( Is there such as thing as an organisation? Hmm… another blog post, perhaps) – but I can work with people who will influence and shape their world. I can work to have conversations that can pack a punch across a business….perhaps that is the best anyone can do?

I’m thinking that, as we work in complex adaptive spaces, surely we need complex, adaptive responses? Yes, we need learning technologies and innovations that allow our businesses to be cutting edge and informed… but who will run and ensure that the technologies and innovations work? It’s people. Brilliant, bored, excited, stubborn, pissed off, playful, serious, awkward, destructive, creative amazing people.

What’s my contribution?

My response to a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous is that we must help people live, talk and work in that world well. But this made me think. What do I bring? What am I offering to the Organisational, UK plc, HR/OD/L&D conversation? If the call is being put out for those who will support agility and adaptability, what is my contribution to that?

I’m increasingly taking up a space that revolves around getting people to talk with more confidence and consideration in their day to day work. The Dialogue work I am so passionate about is compelling because it is so simple: in conversation you can advocate a point of view (in favour or against) or you can inquire into what is being presented (asking more, opening up thinking). You might think of it as tell/ask. You might think of it as push/pull. What happens though is there is a dance, a complex, adaptive, ambiguous conversational dance between the advocating & inquiring. We make tiny conversational choices (or great big old bold ones) to advocate or to inquire and these impact and influence those around us.

When you begin to understand your conversational dance moves, you feel more confident, more able to try new moves, more able to dance well with others. It is compellingly simple, elegant, complex and clumsy all at the same time.

Whether it is one-to-one coaching conversations, or group work using dialogue (and I’m about to risk bull sh*t word bingo here), my client work typically revolves around building people’s capacity to be resilient in the face of ambiguity and recognise their own brilliance and staying-power in environments that can feel hostile, volatile or confusing. You get individuals to see their worth, their contribution and the value they bring to the organisational party? You enable people to speak for or against a course of action with some clarity, confidence and conviction? Well then bring on the complexity and ambiguity, my friend, it will not faze.

What I bring is a little old fashioned – my stuff is about communication, talking, relating, being considerate and compassionate in the world. Oh and challenging well. Really well. Being able to put your opposition to an idea across with care and conviction so you are heard. Actually? Perhaps my stuff isn’t old fashioned… perhaps it’s classic.

My contribution to support living in a “vuca” world well and to the request to support leaders and managers to be rapidly responsive and agile, is a constant invitation to the people I work with to be “human” (see above – brilliant, stubborn etc) and to talk well with others. In order to work, my contribution also needs to be supported by those who can add technology in the mix, those who are creative, those who have the capacity to deal with data and finances brilliantly. I am part of the overall system – contributing and relying on others to support or challenge me. In a complex world, I don’t have a panacea or a simple answer( and nor does anyone else, Guru, Thought Leader or “Expert”).

I do, however, have a contribution to make in a “vuca” world.

And I’m interested. What is yours?

 

Further action :

fuchsia blue Exploring Dialogue Sessions are running May 8th & 9th, London

Please comment below or contact me if you want to discuss further.

Further reading :

David Rock’s work on Quiet Leadership (particularly the Dance Toward Insight chapters)

Ronald Heifetz, Martin Linsky’s work on Adaptive Leadership

Margaret Wheatley’s Leadership and the New Science – example of writing here

David Bohm’s Dialogue work ( See article Dialogue: a Proposal here)

 

The Manic and the Mellow

Until last year, I never really thought about creative energy.

If I woke up at 3 am, with ideas whirling around my head, I believed myself to be stressed, out-of-control, that sort of thing. There would then follow much duvet-battling and inevitably, I’d try deep breaths & clearing my mind of busy-ness.  After at least an hour of this messing around I might eventually get back to sleep & wake feeling knackered, beleaguered, fatigued. To me, it was destructive – never generative.

At some point, toward the end of last year, I gave up fighting.

If I woke up and all the world was circling around me – tasks, notions, plans, past, schemes, guilt, niggles whatever – I started getting up and taking them for a cup of tea.

I’d wrap myself up in a soft patchwork quilt, take myself up to my desk-and-thinking-space at FBHQ, switch on the heater, sip my tea and say “Right then. What IS it?” (usually with a good chunk of attitude – I figure the least I can do is let the demons know I am unimpressed by their 3 arrival. Hey –  I’m not a push over)

And stuff would come up and come out – I’d start to sift through what was important, what was not. What needed to be said, what needed to be dealt with…  Often I would write, sometimes I’d draw and map, sometimes I’d stare into space in a vaguely disturbing manner….then stuff would crystalise a little, I’d get sleepy & then I’d rest deeply.

It sort of links to the Rumi poem a few blogs back – Welcoming the crazy as it sweeps through your head; trusting that sometimes stuff comes up- not to push you down, but to push you forward… if it’s there – if it’s going nowhere.. well, surely it’s asking (demanding?) to be dealt with. .. what if it’s there for good-not-harm?

Over the last week, I’ve had four nights bringing in the wee small hours, clasping a cuppa and asking “Right then, WHAT?” in a seriously chippy fashion. Turns out I have an idea which wants some full-on 3D form in the world… It is demanding my attention and even though I have begged it to bugger off  “Dude, seriously. You’re making me look like a bag lady”  this idea is bigger than me – it needs to be heard.

I told one friend I’d been riding the 4am bleary bus to Resolutions-ville & she said “oh.. I love it when that happens. It’s creative. ” Another two friends are now worried about my stress levels and pointing me to meditation & Bach Rescue Remedy.. or wine…  It kind of makes me not want to ‘fess up my manic to them- they will worry about me… think me strange….

My confession is this. I kind of like 4am. It’s quiet and spacious and precious. If that makes me manic, then I can live with that. I believe it also makes me mellow.

The photo is of the beech tree  on the little hillock I pause under every morning on the dog-walk. If I’m ever manic – this is the where I start to mellow my day.

Connection

And the word haunting me at moment seems to be Connection.

Since FB came into being at the kitchen table in a flat in Edinburgh seven years ago, I have seen myself as lone wolf, freelancer, outsider, Other… and it sort of worked to start with. Sort of…. and then in time, work-life just got lonely and heavy as I tried to do everything myself.. and I kind of drove myself a little nuts, if I’m being honest.

I had no real community in my work-world. I went to networking events to get business (I rarely did get business). I tried to formulate my USP (darkly chuckling to myself at the memories of the wasted ink on THAT particular fairytale) What WAS my sales proposition? Where was I positioning myself in the market? Which important person should I be talking to? A ton of pressure. Trying to speak a language of markets and commerce of which I had an unconvincing pidgin articulation of… Love it.

What has changed is connection. I started talking to and working with people who were less interested in what I did.. and more interested in who I was…and I tentatively began to show people Me. Real me. I experimented with connecting. Risky… and rewarding as all hell.

Over the last couple of years I have been challenged, cajoled, appreciated, told straight, laughed with, laughed at (kindly), questioned, listened to, provoked, pushed, held and.. well.. kind of seen, really… by a host of brilliant, kind and inspiring colleagues, peers and clients. Over countless glasses of wine, cups of coffee, mugs of tea ( non liquid alternatives are allowed) I have experienced the sheer human joy of good conversation and connection. I inevitably leave the conversation feeling energised, warm,  fuzzy (no. not just because of the wine) and I will have learned something, formulated something – seen something new in myself or a situation. It happens every time.

AND it doesn’t have to happen face to face. People offering out their stuff on twitter and commenting on my random tweets. Discussion boards on Linkedin. Sharing music on Spotify. People commenting on the blog. If it’s about sharing, for me,  it’s connection. Being seen. Being heard.

It boils down (mostly) to this: I’m interested in who you are as a person – I’ll be honest, I’m borderline disinterested in what you do (unless you get all lit up & shiny about it, it which case, speak on, good friend). I want to know your stuff. Want to be able to talk to you about mine. Up for it?

And what I want? What I seek and quest for and hope for? More and better connected conversations in work-spaces. Time to talk. Use of dialogue techniques, coaching conversations, facilitated team discussions, café conversations, action learning opportunities…. All those great things where we invite people to speak up and out – where the invitation is to connect. From where I’m sitting work can surely only be a better, more productive (more profitable?) place if there were opportunities for conversation and slow-time to understand each other a little better. Surely? or am I missing something?

And I know I’m getting a bit John Lennon over here – You may say I’m a dreamer and all that.. I get it… but in an ever shifting, rapidly moving world, surely what we need is the ability to connect authentically, as people?

It’s tiny… It’s huge.

ps: the instragram-ed photo is of 2 sugar lumps found at Balgove farm cafe outside St Andrews, having a cuppa following a very cool coaching conversation. The rest of the sugar wasn’t this shape…It felt like a wee gift.

The Kindness List

Here is the Kindness List, written on a train bound for Gatwick a few weeks ago, around about the time I was grappling with some of the learning noted in the last post.

I wrote it in hot pink pen, filling up blank pages and by the end of it, I was grinning like an idiot (and the person sitting opposite was looking quizzical).  As an exercise, writing a Kindness List comes thoroughly recommended.

A couple of weeks after writing it, it seemed a good thing to share with a colleague who was similarly grappling and fighting with workstuff and lifestuff. It made her smile, too.

There’s nothing here that’s particularly profound, new or amazing. It could be longer or shorter, cleverer or more daft. It could be…. But it isn’t.  It’s just a list, offered out kindly, funnily enough. I hope it makes you smile.

Kindness List

Slow down, girl. Sit with stuff when it comes – there is no need to rush to action or conclusions
Smile. You are happier and more free when you do.
Go easy on the alcohol, kid. Maybe less is more? Something fabulous in one glass, rather than a bottle of crap.
Move your body – you love it when you do and it loves you right back. There is not one single thing wrong with exercise.
Not too serious, hon. Life can be tough enough. A little humour and a wry smile can be a good way to….….just be.
Judges are for courts, beloved – not for your head. Be generous to yourself and others.
Play. Remember to play. Not rough play, but light, daft, silly, messy finger-painting-ooooh-this-is-fun play.
Take a big hot bath with loads of bubbles
Buy good shoes
Get massages
Smile and speak to the people who serve you in shops, bars and restaurants. It Just Feels Good.
Make contact with friends and family – not because you have to, but because you really love seeing folk and being connected.
 That’s mine – What would be on yours?

Monday Mullings

It’s a rainy Monday morning more than half way through the year – I’m wrapped up in a huge jumper, which has been in fairly non-stop use since last October (Yes. It has been washed a few times, thank you.)  I’m grappling with new technology (WebEx) which I know I will get my head round, but I have a strong sense of losing the one-woman-experiential-learner-vs-cheery-American-reassuring-tutorial battle…. Alarmingly, the urge to bang my head softly off my desk is proving quite strong, right now…. Hell, I even actually muttered “grrrrrrrr” at the screen a few minutes ago.

So it’s Monday and I’m cross and I’m fighting… well, myself, mostly.

So here’s the plan. I blog it out – State the fact that I’m bored and restless and feeling a bit dumb and sometimes this Consulting malarkey is lonely.

Hang on. Why do I feel I’m saying the unsayable?

Twitter today (everyday?) is full of people telling me to cheer up, be positive, focus on what good outcomes I want…. and I’m kind of torn.  On the one hand, accentuating the positive sounds like a no-brainer; of course it’s a good thing to do.  No one wants to be within a country mile of Consultant Cross with her Monday Morning Gloominess.  Of course if I dwell on the rain and the fact that I don’t trust Mr Webex’s cheery assurances that the technology will work “effectively”, I’m going to get myself into a funk.

Best avoid that funk, surely and dwell on: “well, at least the reservoirs are filling” or “New learning opportunity – how cool it will be when you’re up and running”.

Or is it?

I mean Really?….Really?

Because on the other hand, surely I need to work with what is real for me?  Surely the only way I can truly know cheer, positive-ness, connection and what a good outcome may be, is by also knowing how I experience gloom, negativity, loneliness and really bollixing things up? If I deny my restlessness, my feeling isolated, my cross-ness; if I “turn that frown upside down” – then what?   Surely I’m closing off some pretty important information?

So if I pay attention to my Inner Grump, this is what it is trying to tell me:  My body today is screaming for sunshine, exercise and social interaction with folk who get me & will (mostly) either sit with my grumpiness, (AKA not onslaught me with “cheer up”) or who will gently laugh at the Grumpy thereby reminding me that I have an actual sense-of-humour I can call on if I’m feeling under-resourced.

My Inner Grump is not advocating I battle with Webex. It’s saying “sort yourself out first and unconvincing tutorials will be a breeze to handle”

I live in Scotland and it’s July – so sunshine is negotiable. But I can get out from my desk and run in the fresh air & allow my restlessness to take me further and go harder than I might do if I were happily pootling along. I can pick up the phone and get connected back to my life. I can make positive choices…. that doesn’t mean I’m going to be Little Miss Sunshine today.

Today, I  might just be grumpy and sit with that – allow it to fuel me in different ways to my joy. I might just fess up to being lonely and allow that to springboard me back towards actual people.

I’m celebrating my cross-ness today. It will serve fuchsia blue & I well.

Showing up

A huge question on my mind already during this Masters process: Where are You?

I’m asking this of myself as I reflect on my first assignment – handed in all neat and on time, with a kind-of-cohesive argument about my views on organisations and change & some nifty referencing. I did as I was asked, reflected on my good bits & messy bits (a little) brought in theory like social constructionism and phenomenology (a little), played with metaphors (a little) talked about my work (a little).

In the assignment, I’ve been a “good” student and a “good” writer – making everything clear and clean and easy….reducing consulting life to a little. A little pinch of dissent, a little work on the relationship, a little contracting, a little event, a little confusion, a little unexpected outcome… the assignment makes my consulting practice look pretty easy – I did this and then such-and-such happened, so then I did this and noticed something of interest…. Tidy.

Yet what I’m presenting is fairly far removed from my actual experience of working with clients and organisations. I don’t experience my work as “a little” anything. I experience profound privilege when a coaching client recounts tales from deep within themselves; my skin goosebumps when I’m facilitating and the sheer magic of folk creating new ideas or battling old baggage unfolds in the room; I feel weary and scared sometimes when working with a client who seem to genuinely believe I have the map to the Holy Grail about my person. This stuff… well it really isn’t little.

Tonight I was listening to a colleague on the course who was giving me a lush and lovely smooth version of a Thing That Just Happened…. And there was something unsatisfying about the tale… all even and calm and neat… and I found myself saying “but where are YOU in this story?” I wanted to know how they felt, how they were, what their woes and their triumphs were. I wanted to hear where in the tale they were utterly, totally present and whether they had to work hard to stay there…..

Good, long and feisty conversation –can you beat it, I wonder?

After talking, I walked across the college grounds and started to see that the question I asked out, was the question I want to ask in…..

Where am I in all of this consulting malarkey, really?

Where do I show up? Where am I impactful? Where am I enough?

And the questions build and continue…..I do so love the questions… and the trick, for me, is to work to ensure I never stop loving the questions…and strive to turn up as fully as possible when trying to answer them.

And I want to know…. Genuinely know… from others out there….

Where are You showing up ?

Doing & Being

I’m battering this down during a tea break at FBHQ.

Fuchsia blue & I are facing a busy June – a smattering of coaching, an Away Day in the Highlands for a Charity ( Partnering the deeply lovely Michele Armstrong from Acorn Principle Plus: www.theacornprinciple.com). There’s a London jaunt – mixing up business (Action Research. Developing Mentors. Exploring the design of an International Manager programme to run in 2013) with the joy of meeting up with friends.. and I SO love going to London – I feel utterly like a country mouse & adore just walking and walking and seeing where my feet take me.

There’s the third workshop in the MSc, with a ton of reading to get through ( which I’m loving) and a load of 360 feedbacks for a Local Authority…..outside of work, there’s about to be a noisy invasion of Jersey friends with new member, Charlotte (too gorgeous). Dad’s turning 71 & my mate Carolyn is taking me out to try to convince me to go to a school reunion (really? really? But why???) ..oh.. and did I mention the triathlon training? Good job June has long days….

I’m mindful this might sound like moaning and/ or bragging here – it’s intended as neither – it just is at it is. A joyful jumble of different types of work and play which will involve me being with great people, travelling loads and talking a-plenty.

And what I’m learning is I need to make some space in all of this to not be too jumpy-about-extrovert. Slow time is important. That all this doing means very little time for being. That my body asks to be nourished, hydrated and rested and when it asks, I am often not listening, and yet it still works to sustain me.

Last week I took the dogs out for a long lunchtime walk. I usually stomp forth with gusto & typically have a head full of to-do-list or reflections. This day, I was sleepy and a bit battered. Long training sessions and generally being busy had kind of worn me weary. So I was walking slowly… looking around with care. Working to be present and notice stuff that I would normally just miss.

And I found this:

My reward for slowing down and paying attention to my body was the discovery of this four leaf clover – rare, a symbol of luck and good fortune. How. Cool. So I thanked the Universe/ cosmos/ Gods of Serendipity/ whatever else your poison is and took the following lesson:

Slow down & you will find gems you’d otherwise have stepped over.

And as I’m about to rattle off to tick through my To Do list, I’m already wondering how long the lesson will hold for.

Does anyone write a “To Be” list, I wonder? (anyone other than Hamlet? :))